Skip to content

John Dehlin, Joanna Brooks, and the Secret (Combination) Mormon Stories Cabal

March 13, 2012

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.

Advertisements

From → Uncategorized

57 Comments
  1. Andrew, I loved the post. I’m not sure what to add, but I agree with CNN. When I go to any “news” site (or ESPN for that matter), the comments are a cesspool. Even our wacky our commenters at W&T are better than most of the people who comment at the big sites.

  2. MH,

    There’s no real question that CNN/Denton are right that most comments sections are absolutely terrible. I think what was more interesting is how Denton shoots down a lot of potential ideas, but doesn’t even touch some of these.

    Most sites simply aren’t willing to have active community managers for comments sections — which can be an informal thing when a community is smaller (like ours), but must become more of an official thing when you have so much daily traffic.

  3. Seth R. permalink

    The problem is that lots of un-moderated commenting boosts a website’s traffic, and consequently its standing.

    So the news organizations have little desire (or manpower) to really police their comments sections. They’ll do a token effort only for the most vile comments. But for the rest – there’s just no motivation to go after them. Even if they did have the manpower (with shrinking newsroom budgets) to do so.

  4. Seth,

    Based on the comments that make it through on various news sites, I’m wondering what these “most vile comments” are — because they must be truly fearsome things.

    I wonder about the idea that unmoderated commenting boosts traffic…the people who are reading the article would be reading it regardless of the comment discussion…and since the discussions are so poor, it’s not like people are *staying* to have conversations…rather, it’s a bunch of people one-offing their soapbox issues.

    One question would be: why does every site *need* to have a comments section? It’s become really popular to add a comments section everywhere, but if organizations don’t have the manpower to police it, then maybe they should concede that commenting is just something they shouldn’t play with.

  5. Andrew,

    This is a really good post. I just read that Meridian article last night because Chris Bigalow posted it. I do worry that unofficial spokespeople for the Church do tend to promote their idea of Mormonism. I have a friend who grew up with Joanna who can related to some of what she say about the culture, but not how she interprets it today, as i guess Prof. Hancock disputes as well.

    One of her problems, as I have stated at W&T is that she has an incomplete Church experience, having never been through the Temple, so it not a good judge or oracle of all things Mormon.

  6. Jeff,

    Some of the comments actually did say some of the same things you mention: Joanna’s experience is pretty incomplete not having been through the temple, for example.

    So, I think three are good points like that to make. At the same time, not being an oracle of *all* things Mormon doesn’t make someone completely worthless for cultural commentary.

    Preferably, there would be more, well-spoken Mormons who can provide different stories just as eloquently and prolifically as Joanna does…the multitude of voices would be better than none at all.

  7. Seth R. permalink

    Actually just about every news story on Mormonism attracts about 3 (on average) anti-Mormon commenters who make multiple posts. I don’t pay much mind to the pro-Mormon commenters, but there seem to be multi-posters among them too.

  8. Eh, based on my experience Andrew, these comments are fairly tame. I heard this kind of thinking growing up all the time – in an Eastern US ward. Mormon vilification is still pretty nice – compared to most other prominent news sites.

  9. Seth,

    I guess you would be reading the comments of said news stories, so you would know better than I do…

    Christian,

    Yeah, I actually picked some of the better comments of the group, but the discussion on the whole was pretty obnoxious. I definitely think that non-Mormons news sites are way worse than anything coming from Mormon-specific sites, but that’s not to say that it’s really good discussion overall.

  10. My very favoritest part of Joe’s comment is when he suggests that John Dehlin is the leader of the Bloggernacle.

    I’m still giggling.

  11. Jack, YES.

  12. Joe permalink

    Wow Andrew, I didn’t think that my one post would cause someone like you to practically write a whole article on it. And for the record, I meant what I said. It is not satire. And it is silly that you frame it as a “secret cabal.” There was nothing conspiratorial in my words. I am deadly serious that the Middle Way Mormonism is Apostasy Lite. It doesn’t matter that Middle wayers are sincere. They have no regard for the fact that they are mingling with apostates, and that they are preaching a social gospel rather than a gospel based on conversion. Everything I said is serious. And it is evident that all you have been able to do to respond is to mock it.

  13. Joe,

    Thanks for commenting.

    it can be surprising the things we can say that people most latch on to…the comments we like best, some others may not find at all interesting, but the comments we write on spur of the moment, thinking little else about it…those can go viral.

    Anyway, wouldn’t you say that if Middle Way Mormonism *is* Apostasy Lite, then that can be a bit conspiratorial? Not that *you’re* the one conspiring, but that the *Middle Way Mormons* are being wolves in sheep’s clothing? You say that they are “sincere,” but do they sincerely believe they are “Apostasy Lite.” If not, then isn’t the discrepancy between what they present themselves and what they actually are…isn’t that where the conspiracy lies?

    But continuing on.

    You say, “they have no regard for the fact that they are mingling with apostates.”

    …is this a bad thing? Why?

    they are preaching a social gospel rather than a gospel based on conversion.

    Couldn’t it be said that originally, the church was about community and friendship first and foremost. After all, it’s not about creeds, right? “Friendship is the grand fundamental principle of Mormonism.”

    I know all you think I’m doing is mocking here, but my confusion here is that in your zeal to establish a boundary for Mormonism and to warn others of “lite apostates,” you seem to be 1) making Mormonism smaller, not bigger, and 2) trying to criticize actions and activities that don’t even seem all that bad.From your original comment, you wrote:

    compassion should outweigh concerns such as mingling with those who are critical of the brethren and who are bitter against the Church.

    So, Mormonism is more about not mingling with others who are critical of the brethren than it is about compassion? Does Mormonism not really adhere to the parable of the 99 and the 1?

    I mean, that’s why I didn’t know if you were serious. Normally, Mormons want to assert they are Christian, but if you want to go there, then you should probably at least TRY to advocate for compassion, reaching out to those who don’t fit the norm (which, for the church would include those who are critical and bitter…why are they bitter? maybe it’s because they deal with people who don’t want to “mingle” with them because they are different.)

  14. Joe permalink

    I certainly think that people can *personally* maintain their membership in the Church if they please for social reasons. But now they are making it a public advocacy group for doing that. That is a dangerous thing to publically suggest and advocate that people *ought to not have to strive to be converted.* Because if the middle way really truly would have any value, it would be to keep people in the Church *until* they can find a way to become converted. Unfortunately, they will never do so unless they can find *faith* again. The middle way, as defined by Dehlin et al, does not really advocate for any path to regain faith, only to reframe one’s social reason for membership. Furthermore, now Dehlin is advocating for people to make *any* “honorable” choice, including leaving the Church. He is advocating now that people should break temple covenants by not being loyal to the requirements for maintianing a Temple Recommend. One of those requirements is to not sympathize and agree or affilate with apostate movements or ideologies. There is a temple recommend question to this effect. And he advocates that people can re-frame the answer to questions in the temple recommend interview that are quite clear what their meaning is. If someone ceases to believe core claims, they ought to expect that the privileges of the Temple are no longer available to them, as their affilation with apostates now *should* disqualify them to go to the temple. I only know that it cuts the very heart out of Mormonism to advocate for a merely social thing without the conversion. There is no point unless there is a new pathway for conversion. Those of us that are into the Church for the benefit of salvation and the salvation of the rest of the human race see this as dangerous because the whole point is true conversion. There is nothing conspiratorial about this understanding. And there is nothing conspiratorial about the fact that middle wayers that are advocates for Dehlin’s thinking are in effect wolves in sheeps clothing without the *intent* of being so. Hiram Page certainly was sincere, but was an advocate at a certain point for revelations from the wrong source. This is why people can be wrong without intending to be wrong. But they are still wrong nevertheless. And the effect of their wrongness is the same as it would be if they had bad intent.

  15. Joe permalink

    Oh, and I don’t know that there has been any dialogue between Middle-Way-ers and Church authorities to try to find a way for this movement to be “legitimized” under the guidance of Church leadership. There are other special-needs groups in the Church that are either run by the Church or have Church sanction with Church representatives specifically delegated with responsibiliies to them. Special-needs mutuals, the Genesis Group, Evergreen, and so forth. If you want this movement to be “Mormon” and you want it to represent something that goes after the 1 versus the 99, and for it to show compassion, then it ought to be something that involves the Church Authorities, looking to them for guidance, or at the very least, advice. Church Authorites ought to have a say in it, and involvement in it. From the very start, as far as I can tell, no such effort had been made by Dehlin’s group, or by those who look to Dehlin as the godfather of their intellectual ideologies. I could understand why they would try to go at it alone if the Church in the end refused to have anything to do with it, or have any advisory role to do with it. But as it stands, I would dare say that no such effort has been made. If there has been, then I’m wrong, but I do see a void here of people with special needs, and Dehlin has sought to fill that void without at least some kind of dialogue with authorities.

  16. Joe,

    I don’t think that they are saying that “people ought not strive to be converted.” I think what they are saying is that, if you’ve had a faith crisis, if you for whatever reason cannot believe, if you can’t for whatever reason take the church at face value 100%, then you shouldn’t necessarily give up on the church and on Mormonism. I don’t see how that gets turned into a bad thing.

    Because if the middle way really truly would have any value, it would be to keep people in the Church *until* they can find a way to become converted. Unfortunately, they will never do so unless they can find *faith* again. The middle way, as defined by Dehlin et al, does not really advocate for any path to regain faith, only to reframe one’s social reason for membership.

    I think in some cases, you’re not going to go *back* to your old faith. You can’t go back. So, the issue is how can you reach a second belief, a second faith. And that’s where this thing comes again. You’re not being converted to your old faith, but you’re being converted to a new way at looking at Mormonism and seeing the value within it. But it seems that to you, since it’s not the literalistic, traditionalistic faith, it’s bad.

    Furthermore, now Dehlin is advocating for people to make *any* “honorable” choice, including leaving the Church. He is advocating now that people should break temple covenants by not being loyal to the requirements for maintianing a Temple Recommend.

    I think that Dehlin has certainly progressed in his thoughts over the years. At first, I think that he thought that he could present the church in a way that it could work for *anyone*. But over time, he has begun to realize that for some, the church is just not going to work out. That’s why I think he emphasizes people determining what their own most honorable choice is this.

    As far as the temple recommend thing…his entire contention is that a lot of what surrounds so many rules and ideas in the church are cultural rather than doctrinal…so that you can cut away the cultural preconceived notions while still following the requirements. And let’s think about it: the contention here is that people have these faith crises because of all of this cultural baggage to the church. So why would it be bad for someone to cut away that baggage?

    And there is nothing conspiratorial about the fact that middle wayers that are advocates for Dehlin’s thinking are in effect wolves in sheeps clothing without the *intent* of being so.

    You don’t get what I’m saying. But I’ll try in vain to say it again: the very idea of a “wolf in sheep’s clothing” is a conspiratorial idea. Wolves who wear sheep skin to prey upon other sheeps — that’s exactly something that a secret combination or a cabal would do. To assert that of someone is to assert a secret combination or cabal. You don’t have to intend to conspire to be a conspirator.

    For whatever it’s worth, it’s ok if you think John is a conspirator without intending it. It’s not too controversial an opinion…

    Oh, and I don’t know that there has been any dialogue between Middle-Way-ers and Church authorities to try to find a way for this movement to be “legitimized” under the guidance of Church leadership.

    It makes sense why not. The entire middle way Mormon movement is founded upon the idea that to reveal their position would cause them great losses in the church or with their family. If they reveal they can’t literally believe, they risk divorce, etc., So, it really makes a lot of sense that they aren’t trying to have too much open dialogue with Church authorities.

    Consider…every few months or so, John gets investigated by someone in his ward/stake for what he does with Mormon Stories. He goes through the heartache of having to defend his membership, etc.,

    So it really makes sense he isn’t trying to proactively jeopardize his membership.

  17. Joe permalink

    Actually, Andrew, its a mix of good and bad. Its a duality. Its good for people who want to stay on social terms, as you say, who shouldn’t care about temple worthiness anyway, as certain core beliefs are required to answer temple recommend questions. Its “better” for them not to leave the church and maintain their membership, than it is to give it up. On that point, I agree. On the point that they should re-frame without any intent to become converted again, I say that is bad. So it’s a mixed bag of good and bad. Just like it is bad for someone to be Mormon just out of fear of hellfire, as fear is a bad thing to base obedience on, but it is better than having one leave the Church, as they may end up converting. Pragmatically, in some sense, people that don’t believe anymore aren’t losing much if they do leave the Church entirely anyway, and then again, if they change their mind, they can always be re-baptized. But that is from a pragmatic viewpoint, not a loyal, faithful viewpoint. I guess what I’m saying is, the people who are faithful, who get caught up in it get shaken, and then Dehlin’s options are the only thing he has to offer them. And I stress again, that he has made no effort to try to see if the brethren would be willing to organize something to serve those types. Your points are vaild, but that is because it is a complex mess. But I also say that my points are also valid, but only because of the duality of the complex mess.

  18. Joe,

    Keep in mind that “people who want to stay on social terms” includes, “People who don’t want to risk having their wives, children, leave them.”

    …but I guess that would be having too much compassion for apostates. 😉

    On the point that they should re-frame without any intent to become converted again, I say that is bad.

    I still think you have this framed quite differently than how the people undergoing a faith crisis would see it. You are framing it as: “They don’t want to strive for a testimony. They don’t strive to become converted again.” I think the real case is, “They have striven, and it is not forthcoming. In fact, in many cases, it may be debilitating and stressful. For them to put that aside is the most psychologically healthy option for them. The question is, once they have put that aside, should they put the church on the whole aside or try to find new ways of interacting with the church?”

    It seems to me that you would rather people either have a literal, traditional faith *or* completely leave. And I mean, if you or anyone else wants that, then that’s fine…but then don’t start wondering why a whole bunch of people are leaving the church, angry at it. It’s because that way of thinking that you’re promoting creates that sort of environment.

    Pragmatically, in some sense, people that don’t believe anymore aren’t losing much if they do leave the Church entirely anyway, and then again, if they change their mind, they can always be re-baptized. But that is from a pragmatic viewpoint, not a loyal, faithful viewpoint. I guess what I’m saying is, the people who are faithful, who get caught up in it get shaken, and then Dehlin’s options are the only thing he has to offer them. And I stress again, that he has made no effort to try to see if the brethren would be willing to organize something to serve those types. Your points are vaild, but that is because it is a complex mess. But I also say that my points are also valid, but only because of the duality of the complex mess.

    But when you contrast the pragmatic and the faithful viewpoints, you put them against each other. And that’s ok if you want to do that, but when you do that, you answer your own questions. Why doesn’t Dehlin try to see if the brethren would be willing to organize something to serve those types? Because it’s as you say: he is coming from a pragmatic viewpoint and the brethren are coming from a faithful viewpoint. Because those viewpoints are at odds with each other, then not only will the brethren not agree with Dehlin’s methods, but they will see them — as you see them — as “lite apostasy,” something that should be limited or eliminated rather than encouraged and supported.

    it seems like you and the church don’t want more members of the church. No, you just want more believers in the church. If they can’t or don’t believe, then their only value is if you can maybe convince them to believe.

  19. Seth R. permalink

    I guess my problem with Dehlin is that he really is not “middle-of-the-road” as he claims.

    When’s the last time Dehlin ever expressed anything other than incredulity at a pro-Mormon argument? When he interviewed Teryl Givens, Dehlin sounded utterly shocked and bewildered that anyone intelligent could actually believe LDS faith claims. He really and completely believes LDS faith claims are ultimately a pack of nonsense, but patronizingly wants to find a place where we can still hang out together and set that aside.

    That’s not “middle-of-the-road.” That’s picking a side and then asking for the other side to compromise it’s values so that his own side doesn’t have to feel uncomfortable – all the while painting himself as some sort of objective third party without vested interests on either side.

    And that just isn’t true. Dehlin picked a definite side a long time ago. It literally drips off his statements and interviews. And his website MormonThink is really just as anti-LDS as the Evangelical run “Mormonism Research Ministries” is. They’re both anti-Mormon. They both think LDS faith claims are completely illegitimate, they both eagerly buy into most of the anti-Mormon material out there. They both present an utterly one-sided account of the field of Mormon studies. They both completely ignore the faithful scholarship and answers being made, or dismissively sneer at it and refuse to even give it the time of day. They are both utterly biased and partisan.

    But they both pretend to be “nice” about it in the hopes of being more effective at the mission of discrediting the Mormon faith.

  20. Seth,

    That’s why i would say that I don’t think it’s controversial to think that there’s something more conspiratorial behind John…I mean, there’s another post here about whether Mitt Romney is “pragmatic,” a “flip flopper,” “liar,” etc., but honestly…we could be having that same conversation here.

    But the thing I would say is that it’s not entirely clear that he cleanly aligns with the anti-Mormon or even post-Mormon ideas…and that’s why he gets bad press on both sides of the spectrum. While I do think his position has been changing over the years in one direction (e.g., he doesn’t even personally identify with things that he had originally begun, like StayLDS), there is the fact that even if he isn’t faith-promoting (at all), he is advocating enough for keeping people in contact with Mormonism that doesn’t really fly well with people who would rather that everyone stopped doing anything with it.

  21. Joe permalink

    Andrew, you say:

    “I think the real case is, “They have striven, and it is not forthcoming. In fact, in many cases, it may be debilitating and stressful.”

    Actually, I say that *they* are the ones that decided it wasn’t forthcoming. If they would have stayed and had enough patience, and stayed faithful, it would come. I reject that statement out of hand. Because the fact that someone gave up before it did come is simply put that they gave up and didn’t have enough faith. And then they still expect a miracle because they gave up. Sorry, but I have absolutely no sympathy whatsoever with that particular statement, because all of us that have striven until we have gotten that witness know that is entirely false. Because we had to pay the price to get it. Now to tell me that people gave up before paying the whole price should get a pass because they gave up too soon is something I absolutely reject. Because the promise is unto all. Period. I stand by that statement. I have no sympathy whatsoever with the notion that people have an excuse for not being patient enough.

    Seth R., I absolutely agree with your statement that Dehlin is *not* middle of the road as far as the side he has chosen.

    • Beth Arrow permalink

      Nonsense. 4+ years of trying, laying myself bare in prayer, keeping covenants, study, prayer, obedience, sacrifice. Not one further spiritual witness or answer to my prayers. 4+ years of trying. No miracle to renew my faith. Study only brings further doubt. You do not speak for me.

      • Seth R. permalink

        You don’t speak for me either. Study brought a deepening of faith in my case. And not because I got some vision or spiritual manifestation either – I’ll tell you right now, I didn’t get those. But I’m satisfied with my choice to remain faithful to the grand vision that was revealed through Joseph Smith – even after I knew all the details about him.

  22. Joe permalink

    what evidence is there that MormonThink is Dehlin’s site? I think you mistyped. You must have meant Mormon Stories.

  23. Joe permalink

    Andrew you say:

    “It seems to me that you would rather people either have a literal, traditional faith *or* completely leave. ”

    I am the most untraditional Internet Mormon that I’ll bet you will ever meet, with one of the most complex faiths you will ever see. But I have only re-framed things on the periphery. Because it is only peripheral things that need re-framing. Core claims have always been true, and that is all that will ever matter. So when I know everything there is to know that Dehlin knows, and I have chosen what I have chosen, and I know many people like me, I don’t have much sympathy for the notion that it cannot be done or that it is not forthcoming. Because there are many people like me, and there are many people that will continue to become like me. That is not to toot my own horn, only to say that in practice, if it were true that it was not forthcoming, then all internet Mormons would be apostate, and there would be none like me at all. And it is simply not true that it cannot be done. What *is* true is that when confronted with the skeletons evident in the Mormon closet, one’s worldview will never be the same. One’s simple testimony of core claims, however, need never suffer. It is always a *choice* to give up. It is always a *choice* to believe or not to believe. Period.

  24. Seth R. permalink

    Perhaps I did. Although I thought Dehlin was involved in MormonThink at one point.

    My experience is that MormonThink is a website that pretty virulently anti-Mormons like to cite when they want to appear fair-minded.

  25. Joe,

    Actually, I say that *they* are the ones that decided it wasn’t forthcoming. If they would have stayed and had enough patience, and stayed faithful, it would come.

    Well, the Mormon answer here is really convenient. If you don’t get a confirmation, then you just need to wait more! Even if it means you’re suffering until your death.

    I reject that statement out of hand. Because the fact that someone gave up before it did come is simply put that they gave up and didn’t have enough faith.

    This is an interesting conundrum. Someone has a faith crisis…by default, that means they don’t have enough faith. So you blame their not having faith and not being able to get it (or to get it back)…on their not having enough faith?

    And then they still expect a miracle because they gave up. Sorry, but I have absolutely no sympathy whatsoever with that particular statement, because all of us that have striven until we have gotten that witness know that is entirely false.

    I don’t think they expect any miracles. In fact, they are NOT expecting miracles, and planning accordingly.

    I am the most untraditional Internet Mormon that I’ll bet you will ever meet, with one of the most complex faiths you will ever see.

    Actually, I think Seth R. or John Gustav-Wrathall has that title locked. And they do it a whooooole lot better than you.

    That is not to toot my own horn, only to say that in practice, if it were true that it was not forthcoming, then all internet Mormons would be apostate, and there would be none like me at all. And it is simply not true that it cannot be done.

    No one is disputing that it cannot be done. NO ONE is saying that ALL internet Mormons will lose their testimony or become apostate. But YOU are the one saying that anyone, internet Mormon or otherwise, can gain, hold, or keep a testimony.

    Let me toss a different idea: have you ever thought that how things work for *you* isn’t the same as how things work for other people? That one size doesn’t fit all, and as a result, different people can legitimately come to different conclusions about this?

    It is always a *choice* to believe or not to believe. Period.

    Oh, I see…I won’t try to disabuse you of your notion that belief is chosen. I’ll just say that, as long as you think this is the case, you will be unable to understand many others.

  26. Seth R. permalink

    Well, I don’t consider talk of “better” that productive.

    But it does seem that there is some wiggle room – even under the scriptures. That passage in the New Testament where Paul says that the “body of Christ” has many different members. You know… the whole “eye cannot say to the hand ‘I have no need of thee'” passage.

    For instance, it says that “to some is given to believe in Jesus Christ. To others is given to believe on their words.”

    So basically, a personal direct belief in Christ isn’t demanded or expected of everyone. For some, simply believing on the words of others is sufficient.

    That’s basically me. I don’t have as strong a direct belief in Jesus Christ or the LDS Church as I’d like. But I do have confidence in those around me. And that’s good enough for me as far as I’m concerned. Furthermore, there are variations in my strength of belief in different aspects of the LDS package. For instance, I’m far more convinced of the prophetic calling of Joseph Smith than I am of the prophetic calling of Ezra Taft Benson (just an example). Something that often causes people who have difficulties with Joseph Smith’s behavior to scratch their heads.

    So I’m OK with nuance and degree. But what I’m not OK with is someone trying to secure himself a place where he can condescendingly sneer (albeit with a kind smile) at the rest of the flock. Which seems to me to be what Dehlin is doing. It’s kind of antithetical to the idea of having a flock in the first place.

  27. Joe permalink

    You say: “Well, the Mormon answer here is really convenient. If you don’t get a confirmation, then you just need to wait more! Even if it means you’re suffering until your death.”

    Actually, your “not expecting a miracle and planning accordingly” is what is convenient. Again, that is called lack of faith. I understand these people very well, because for a moment in time, I did “give up” once upon a time. And it wasn’t until I turned around that I got the miracle. Actually yes, the Lord expects us to be faithful until death without a miracle if that is what it takes, until we patiently and *faithfully* wait for it. David O. McKay did it for many years. *Even until death if necessary*. And all are left *without excuse.* Please spare me the charge that I cannot understand what is going on. Everyone has no excuse for lack of faith. Nobody has a pass. Everybody is in the same boat, with the same commandments to keep. Middle way Mormons have no excuse. The faithless have no excuse. Sometimes there is no way to sugar coat it.

    Job 13:15:
    “Though he slay me, yet will I trust in him”

  28. Stuart Hall permalink

    Brooks real problem is that she would like to turn the LDS religion in a culture or ethnicity. As an ethnic studies professor perhaps she thinks this is a way to shed her “white privilege” a bit and become one of the lovable, marginalized, people she gets paid to lecture about.

    Unfortunately for her, that is not going to work because Mormonism in America is a largely white religion whose members are really not that different than other white people. For that reason, “White Girl Stories” would have been a better title for the book.

    Since Mormonism is a religion (and not something immutable like race or ethnic origin) it is fair to ask the question of whether someone believes in enough central doctrines to qualify to be able to speak on behalf of the other members of that religion. I personally have an affinity for certain ideas from Buddhism and Hinduism but I don’t run around claiming to be a Buddhist or a Hindu. If Brooks does not believe in the atonement or that Thomas S, Monson is a prophet, seer and revelator than she should probably not call herself a Mormon.

    That does not mean she is a bad person. It just means she is something other than LDS.

  29. Seth R. permalink

    Stuart, having lived among other white American Protestants, I can tell you the “WASP” group is not really all that homogenous, and yes – Mormons are very different from the rest of them.

  30. Stuart,

    Well, this is definitely a new psychoanalysis of Joanna Brooks. But even going that route, I think you miss the intersectional aspects here…so race is one dimension where someone can have privilege, but it is different than things like religion, culture, ethnicity. It is entirely possible to have racial privilege, but have other sources of oppression.

    I don’t think it’s controversial to say that Mormons lack certain social privileges as a result of religion. And fringe Mormons — whether you even consider them Mormons or not — certainly lack certain privileges both when compared to society at large and when discussed with other Mormons.

  31. Seth and Joe, John Dehlin has actually met with a member of the Twelve to discuss middle-way Mormonism, among other things. He talked about during session #253 of the 2012 Sunstone Symposium in SLC, “Family Values: Coping as or with a Borderland Family Member.”

  32. I should add, one of the things that he said the apostle said (he was asked not to reveal his name) in response to the question, “Do you really want people like us in the Church?” His answer was an emphatic yes.

  33. Seth R. permalink

    Carl, I know Dehlin likes to make knowing inferences to his alleged meetings with general authorities and their approval, etc.

    But until names are named that can be confirmed or denied, my stance is to simply ignore these declarations of his as irrelevant.

    Anyone can claim anything they like on the Internet. As they like to say on other forums “pictures, or it didn’t happen.”

    • Seth, I spoke personally with John Dehlin after the session about this and I believe him. I asked him why the apostle asked him not to reveal his name and he said that the response was (paraphrasing) that “we aren’t yet ready as a people for frank discussions of our weaknesses or challenges.” Like I said, I really believe John’s sincere about his position and is telling the truth about the meeting he had. It’s perfectly OK to disagree with him or his approach (I certainly have on many occasions) but I think he is coming from a position of sincerity.

      I’m mainly posting this in response to Joe’s claim (https://irresistibledisgrace.wordpress.com/2012/03/13/john-dehlin-joanna-brooks-and-the-secret-combination-mormon-stories-cabal/#comment-8263) that no effort for dialogue between the leadership of the church and the Mormon Stories movement had been made.

    • I would also add that the recent Dan Peterson dismissal debacle provided strong evidence that John Dehlin did exercise personal influence with a member of the Twelve to prevent the attack piece from being published. It’s not surprising that he would have such contacts, considering his connections and family relationships. His brother was Church CIO for a while. So I don’t find it unlikely that he has had some contact with church leadership.

  34. Seth,

    I’m inclined to agree with Carl on assuming that John Dehlin’s shoutouts to anonymous general authorities are probably backed up by something real. Bridget Jack is also bound to secrecy about identity, but on the apologetics panel at Sunstone, if I recall correctly, during one of the question/answer session questions, she did confirm as far as she knew that a general authority had been involved in it.

    I think what this shows is that the leadership of the church, much like the church membership itself, isn’t lock step aligned with one another. However, since it still wants to present a united front, names and identities must be protected.

    I think your skepticism here is really arbitrary. I don’t want to invoke Holly Welker or anything, but on other issues, you default to certain positions as a matter of faith even though evidence is lacking, but here, NOPE. PICS OR IT DIDN’T HAPPEN (when you know or should know darn well that pics would be counterproductive for what John Dehlin is trying to do.)

    • Seth R. permalink

      Maybe you’re right. I guess I’ve just encountered too many instances where critics take advantage of areas where church authorities are bound by secrecy to tell their own favorable rendition of events. To I tend to be a bit jumpy whenever the same sorts of narratives pop up.

      • There’s no reason for the Church authorities to be bound by secrecy in the case of the discussion John Dehlin refers to. Their anonymity is completely voluntary.

        I personally think it would only help to have an apostle on record saying that those who wonder are still welcome in the Church. It demonstrates how insecure the authorities are about the maturity of the members (or else how insecure they are about their standing in the quorum) that they don’t allow themselves to be referred to by name in cases like these.

        • Well, if one apostle speaks, he is speaking out of order. the “binding of secrecy” is because the entire quorum and first presidency do not agree…The fact is that as long as no one says anything publicly, no one will see them as insecure…because most members will not have any idea…remember, most members (and ex-members) DO think that the Q12 are lock step in alignment with one another.

          • Of course, that hasn’t stopped plenty of apostles previously, but I do believe that they are trying not to make such mistakes again. On the other hand, it seems like the message could be worded in a very benign way that did not shake peoples’ faith.

          • Right, the fact that you recognize that these were “mistakes” is telling.

            I think a WHOLE LOT of things about how the church operates that more liberal/uncorrelated folks find disappointing is a result of the church trying not to shake peoples’ faith. (This is why we don’t see broad repudiations and refutations…things just slip in and out, for the most part. The church only really goes for public repudiation when there’s media flak — like with the Randy Bott drama.)

            (p.s., i totally regret that my blog has nested comments instead of comment numbering.)

          • OK, you’ve made me think. Perhaps it is better for the maturity of the church to have quorum members disagreeing with each other publicly. I used “mistake” though, to refer primarily to their way of thinking about it.

  35. Seth,

    The issue I see is that both sides do exactly the same thing. The entire Dan Peterson conflict is one side using their GAs to combat the other side’s claim to institutional imprimatur…

    If you want to be jumpy about anything, be jumpy about the fact that church authorities are bound by secrecy, even when they may have a diverse array of opinions. Or be jumpy about the fact that everyone in the know — apologists, whomever — will take advantage of this, rather than one person or another.

    FINALLY, you say you’ve encountered too many instances of critics (snip snip snip)…but this is begging the question. The whole question of institutional imprimatur is about who is a critic vs. who is not. as the general authorities aren’t lock step in agreement, the answer is a whole lot murkier.

    • This is a brilliant observation. The institution naturally develops its own defense strategies that achieve its objectives as effectively as possible while minimizing risk. For example, since apostles standing out on hot-button issues has caused them problems in the past, they now usually remain aloof from partisanship while Seventies stay very politically active (I know of at least one who is actively campaigning for Romney right now) and become the front line attack dogs for different issues. These tactics emerge organically. They are often not even fully conscious of them.

      • Or rather, I don’t think that the leadership is fully conscious of the tactics as they emerge.

  36. Seth R. permalink

    I think in general – people who stand as representatives of an organization are constrained in how forthcoming and candid they can be. Members of Mitt Romney’s campaign entourage may have all kinds of extreme, interesting, or quirky personal views. But they can’t express them – because it might misrepresent what they want the “Romney” campaign brand to mean. When I did work for FAIR in the past, I had to seriously tone down my own unique approach to Mormon theology in favor of something more measured and responsible. And often on blogs or forums where I am the only Mormon around, I have to repeatedly draw a distinction between my own views and what I think Mormonism – for fear of misrepresenting the rest of my fellow Mormons.

    A member of the Quorum of the Twelve understands that he represents the religious hopes of millions of Mormons around the world. As such, he can’t just favor his own personality and preference when he speaks. He has to speak for all.

    So yes, I think there is a real worry among the Quorum of the Twelve about stating views that they know many nice believing Mormons would be upset by. A figurehead has to act like one.

  37. Seth,

    But here’s the problem…when the Quorum of the Twelve withhold or hide their views to instead have only one message, then they STOP speaking for all, and then only speak for one group.

    In other words, there are Mormons like John Dehlin or Joanna Brooks or whomever else who are currently not represented by the Quorum of the Twelve in any public way. Consequently, JD and JB and people like them have to be public in an unofficial, grassroots way. When people like Dan Peterson or Ralph Hancock protest that JD and JB are going against the prophetic mantle (insisting that in the church, we don’t have room for grassroots) — the folks like JD and JB point out that there are general authorities who appreciate what they are doing.

    But because we don’t get to hear that directly from the GAs, we don’t get to hear the GAs speak for all — including the liberal, uncorrelated, or otherwise unorthodox Mormon.

    Put in another way…so, you say that representatives of an organization have to be careful of misrepresenting what the campaign brand means — whether this is the “Romney” campaign or the “CoJCoL-dS” campaign…but here’s the thing, by only presenting publicly in a unified, lock-step manner…they misrepresent the campaign brand to mean that everyone is always in agreement in every issue, and that there no dissent occurs in the upper levels.

    If you want to oppose the idea that Mormons are all automatons and “Morgbots,” it’s not enough for YOU to troll around non-Mormon internet boards to present Seth R Mormonism (because you are one guy, and one guy who doesn’t have a lot of institutional authority.) it’s not even enough for John Dehlin and Joanna Brooks to go on TV and make websites and campaign, because although they have a sort of media savviness, they too do not explicit institutional authority.

    Nope…for an organization about whom tone is set at the top, the tone must indeed be set at the top.

    • Completely agree. John Dehlin’s impressions of his meeting with the unnamed apostle were that they are also frustrated with how hard it is to change things in the organization, yet I believe this is because they tie themselves to a policy of unanimity that generally puts them in gridlock mode until the recalcitrant die off. It would be cool to see an upstart apostle decided to accelerate change by taking a policy of public disagreement. As long as it was a progressive apostle and not a neo-orthodox guy like McConkie 🙂

Trackbacks & Pingbacks

  1. Main Street Plaza » Sunday in Outer Blogness: Out of Control Edition!
  2. Intelligent Mormons just can’t seem to get a break…from other Mormons « Irresistible (Dis)Grace
  3. What Puts the Mormon in Mormon Girl? | Wheat and Tares
  4. The Three Great Myths of Correlated Mormonism | Sarah's Mormon Musings
  5. Zelophehad’s Daughters | Joanna Brooks, Ralph Hancock, and The Book of Mormon Girl
  6. 26 A Mormon in the Cheap Seats: Joanna, Mr. Hancock, and Mormonism Lite
  7. Escaping from Lost Tribes | Wheat and Tares

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: