Are Citizens of the Bloggernacle Liahona Saints?

May I assure our colleagues at BCC that the team of bloggers that Dialogue is fielding is not designed to overwhelm this site with our posts but, given the multitude of other duties that distract us, simply to assure that we make at least one appearance a week. It goes without saying that it is my turn this week.

For my purposes today I will clarify that what I assert about the Bloggernacle also applies to all kinds of computer-based Internet communication, including not only blogs, wikis, and podcasts but also email groups, chat rooms, and instant messaging. My recent introduction to blogging has led me back to a hypothesis that I formulated about a decade ago when I first began to participate in email groups. People who inveterately communicate via the Internet on topics devoted to a treatment of Mormonism that is affirmative or at least respectfully objective tend to be, or eventually turn into, liberal Mormons. Or, to put it more softly, since the term “liberal” has acquired a pejorative connotation among the vast majority of Latter-day Saints, they are or tend to become Liahona Saints.

The term “Liahona Saint” was coined by Richard D. Poll in an essay, “What the Church Means to People Like Me,” published in Dialogue in 1967, only a year after its founding. In his articulate, gently persuasive essay, Poll also coined a term for another kind of Mormon, the “Iron Rod Saint.” Both figures come, or course, from the Book of Mormon, the Iron Rod being a figure in a dream of Lehi and the Liahona being a compass which God provided Lehi and his party in their travel towards a new land. Poll pointed out that there was a degree of opposition between the two figures, just as there is a degree of opposition between the two kinds of Latter-day Saints whom the figures represent: “To the person with his hand on the rod, each step of the journey to the tree of life was plainly defined; he had only to hold on as he moved forward….The Liahona, in contrast, was a compass. It pointed to the destination but did not fully mark the path; indeed, the clarity of its directions varied with the circumstances of the user.”

The two images stand for differing approaches to Scripture, said Poll. “Do the revelations of our Heavenly Father give us a handrail to the kingdom, or a compass only? The Iron Rod Saint does not look for questions, but for answers, and in the Gospel–as he understands it–he finds or is confident that he can find the answer to every important question. The Liahona Saint, on the other hand, is preoccupied with questions and skeptical of answers; he finds in the Gospel–as he understands it–answers to enough important questions so that he can function purposefully without answers to the rest” (108). Obviously, Poll identifies himself as a Liahona Saint. But he also confirms the validity of the Iron Rod Saint, emphasizing that both the Iron Rod Saint and the Liahona Saint are “involved Church members who are/…each deeply committed to the Gospel…” (107-108).

As I say, I believe that the persons who create, comment on, or otherwise frequent the Bloggernacle are on the whole Liahona Saints. I’m not sure that all of them know they are Liahona Saints. It is entirely possible that a generation of young, thoughtful Latter-day Saints have grown up without meeting the term.

Given that the Bloggernacle consists of numerous blogsites (the precise number depending on who is counting), I could refer to any number of blogs to substantiate that its frequenters are Liahona Saints. To keep things brief, I will refer to a couple of posts on BCC.

On October 25, Ronan James Head posted a blog consisting of several questions for a Catholic friend and of answers from that friend (“Questions for a Catholic: Part I.”) The questions were blunt, reflecting common Latter-day Saint conceptions of Catholicism. Later commentators also posted questions. The Catholic friend answered with good humor, yet he proved unyielding in defense of his faith. Obviously, he was as sincere and as steady in his convictions as his Latter-day Saint counterparts. My take on the questions, the answers, and the comments of readers was that they added up to an ecumenical exchange that promoted respect and good will among persons of differing religious traditions. It was the kind of exchange one of the founders of Dialogue, Eugene England, called for in the first issue of the fledgling journal in 1966. “We must truly listen to each other,” Gene wrote, “respecting our essential brotherhood and the courage of those who try to speak, however they may differ from us in professional standing or religious belief or moral vision” (“The Possibility of Dialogue: A Personal View,” 1, no. 1 [Spring, 1966]:10).

Another post that illustrates my point was posted on BCC by Karen Hall on July 29. (“Keep Sweet“) Karen reports having watched a TV documentary about a polygamous woman and her children who had escaped from an abusive polygamous marriage. Feeling uneasy over the contribution her own polygamous ancestors may have made to a pathologically subordinated role for women, Karen argues that “submissiveness, in a spiritual sense is not a female trait, and therefore it seems illogical that it should be so closely related to femininity.” Having brought up femininity, Karen poses the crucial question of her blog: “…what is femininity? And once defined, what is its value? Is femininity a necessary spiritual trait? Outside the realm of sexual attractiveness, is it even a worthwhile trait?”

Over a two day period responses to the blog grew to thirty-three comments, some of them profound and searching, others lighter and more personal, all of them making for variety and interest. For example, Comment 20, posted by Heather, begins: “I see femininity as a myriad of positive attributes often first associated with women, but I don’t see femininity as a weakness. Rather, when used properly–like any trait which can be handled for good or ill–femininity gives women strength.” Taken in its entirety, this blog–Karen’s original statement and the varied responses–adds up to intelligent discourse of a high order.

I think Richard Poll, had he lived to look in on the blogging world, would agree with my assessment of the foregoing blogs. However, I am not sure he would support my hypothesis as a general truth. It is easy to point to Internet groups who use its speedy communication to advance a starkly conservative or even anti-intellectual intent. Yet it is my conviction (based on faith, perhaps) that over the long haul discourse liberalizes. If Latter-day Saints engage in a persistent exchange of ideas, they evolve spiritually. So I believe that the denizens of that particular part of cyberspace called the Bloggernacle are, generally speaking, true Liahona Saints.

Comments

  1. (Let’s see if this goes through this time — apologies if you see duplicates: talk to typepad.com)

    Thanks for the insight, Levi. I know that I credit my exposure to eMormonism, starting with Mormon-L in 1992, with opening my perceptions to a broader understanding of the diversities of sincere Mormon faith and a greater willingness to listen to other seekers and to question authority. IOW to converting me to a more Liahona approach to the church and its members. Sometimes I get quite embarrassed when I stumble across some old Iron Rod post of mine, especially since I considered myself quite liberal even before email Mormonism changed my life.

  2. Levi,

    Thanks for the discussion. I have heard this analogy before and so it is a good to know where it comes from. But I have to admit to having trouble figuring out if it has any value. I mean, I understand that there are different kinds of people, but do the Liahona and the Iron Rod, as presented in the Book of Mormon, typify those kinds? It seems to me that they do not. Rather, the two things are largely symbols of the exact same kind of saint– one who is faithful and diligent.

    Reading Alma 37, it appears that Alma sees the Liahona as a simple and straightforward thing. One that will lead us in a “direct course” to Eternal
    Life if only we are wise enough to follow its counsel. Meandering is the result of slothfulness and a lack of diligence. So while its clarity did vary with circumstances, those circumstances are the exact same ones that determine the value of an iron rod– namely did you pay attention? Are you faithful and diligent?

    Furthermore, the Iron Rod did not reveal itself to its users entirely. They followed it through mists of darkness. Thus in both cases, the path is straight, we follow by faith and diligence, and we cannot see the whole path from the beginning but must have faith.

    What exactly, then, is the distinction that comes out of the scriptures from the two? They seem remarkably similar. Or is the distinction not supposed to have a scriptureal basis at all, but rather just an expropriation of the symbols for another purpose?

  3. Levi, nice post! Let me rush in to assert that our Blog community is pretty diverse and definitely contains some iron rod types amid the (hypothesized) Liahona masses.

    With respect to your central claim that discourse liberalizes, I think that’s worthy of some thought. What is being a Mormon other than wave after wave of discourse? We read church discourse in magazines, we hear it at General Conference and in other church-wide satellite broadcasts, we experience three hours (!) of it each week on Sunday, we subject each other to it during home and visiting teaching, we create it for ourselves in Family Home Evenings. Has exposure to this torrent of discourse tended to liberalize Mormons, in comparison with (say) non-religious folks? I’m not really convinced that it has…

    Instead, I wonder if we could distinguish among kinds of discourse. In particular, it seems to me that there is a great deal of difference between what I’ll call “deliberative discourse,” in which the central goal is to expose oneself to different ways of viewing the world, and “identity-reaffirming discourse,” in which the central goal is to reassure oneself that other ways of viewing the world are wrong.

    Clearly, liberal people (in the classical, semi-Lockean sense of people who are interested in promoting individual autonomy and diversity) are more likely to seek out deliberative discourse, whereas nonliberal people may be more comfortable with identity-reaffirming discourse. So the fact that participation in the blog world is voluntary and that people self-select into it makes it hard to conclude that our discourse liberalizes. On the other hand, I expect that persistent exposure to deliberative discourse will have a liberalizing effect on nonliberals.

    So, as the blog world grows over time, can we expect it to retain its current focus on deliberative discourse, or will the entry of large numbers of nonliberal folks swamp our discussion with identity-reaffirming discourse? I worry that, in this as in so many other things, the “bad” (from my point of view, of course) will eventually drive out the “good” and not the other way around.

  4. Frank, Poll seems to have originally intended this distinction as sociological as much as theological. But he also relies on the very feature you’re pointing out: these two symbols aren’t symbols of good and evil. Instead, they’re different kinds of symbols of good. The compass points you in the right direction but leaves you to figure out your own path over the mountain right in front of you. The iron rod guides your every step. These are, in my opinion, nice symbols of a really-existing difference in spiritual styles among faithful Saints.

  5. Levi,

    Great post.

    I am a big fan of the Bloggernacle, and not just because I blog here (and therefore have a vested interest), but because I really value the community of Saints that call the Bloggernacle home.

    I think some ‘Nacle denizens, though, would prefer to think of themselves as “Iron Rod Saints” but only because of a problem of semantics. Inasmuch as “Liahona Saint” is perceived to equal “liberal,” a word that can be used perjoratively, there will be a few who disagree with your conclusions.

    But, as you say, this is probably missing the point, or simply a case of getting hung-up on labels. The truth is, the majority of Saints in the Bloggernacle seem to be friendly, faithful members. We can talk honestly about seer stones, for example, without the bile you would find on some boards, and with an overwhelming willingness, I feel, to give the Church and its history the benefit of the doubt. We are Saints who seek faith and understanding (to paraphrase the mission of a certain Mormon organisation). Of course, I am speaking of the Bloggernacle in general.

    Inasmuch as Bloggernaclers are willing to discuss things beyond our “Sunday School” parameters, they are all “liberal,” regardless of their own religous or political bent. So, I agree with you on this point. But do you think one can be both a Liahona and an Iron Rod Saint, just as Lehi was? Are we not both, to some degree or another? Active participation in the Church will always require some holding of the Iron Rod when the mists of darkness swirl. At other times, the Liahona guides our way.

    Again, great post, and welcome again, Dialogue, to this continued endeavour.

  6. I was introduced to this dichotomy not by Doctor Poll but by that nefarious Iron Rodder, John W. Redelfs. I no longer believe that this is a dichotomy that works (for a different reason than the one articulated here, see here). Mostly, this is because I think that the implications of the Iron Rod mentality of robotic obedience/blind faith are absurd and somewhat condescending. It denies people who do not make questioning everything their byword the ability to experience the full profundity of religious life. Fundamentally, I don’t believe in Iron Rod Mormons in the sense that Dr. Poll or Bro. Redelfs believe in them. We all (in my experience of faithful saints) seem to believe that there are answers, even if we don’t know them all. We all grope blindly toward them with the little info and guidance we receive. I know that everyone has an out-of-control RM story or something, but those seem to be the exception (don’t they?). Anyway, my point is that I don’t believe that some people believe themselves so blessed in obedience and knowledge that they have some kind of primrose path to perfection. The implication that some people do is a tad insulting IMHO.

  7. RT,

    I don’t see any evidence in the scriptures that the compass left you to figure things out. That mountain thing you mention isn’t in the scriptures is it? In fact, in the original Liahona story, Nephi is told exactly where to go (which mountain) in order to find food. And the discussion in Alma does not at all make the Liahona out to be something that leaves you to figure out the details. Or maybe you see something there that I don’t?

  8. First, I think that it is important to recognize what we mean by “liberal.” RoastedTomatoes makes this point, though I’m not sure that classical liberalism is truly interested in promoting diversity. It is just that the terms are confounded. Most everyone believes in liberal democracy and liberal education.

    I think it is also easy to polarize the liahona and iron rod appellations so that they are mere caricatures. I happen to agree that with Frank that the liahona and the iron rod are scripturally similar. However, I think that there is a valuable analogy that can be drawn with the limited distinctions between the media.

    Primarily, the liahona doesn’t always work. It works on faith and righteousness. It allows for deviation in the path. The iron rod does not. Once you let go, you are hosed.

    I think education of any sort will tend to “liberalize” individuals. That is the primary difference between neo-cons and the religious right (as I see it). And what we have in the bloggernacle is some sort of dialectic, which is as I see it quite educational.

  9. I’ve long railed at the dichotomy of “iron rod vs. liahona.” The only thing worse is the recent “chapel Mormons vs. internet Mormons.” I think both dichotomies are misleading and unhelpful. I think the biggest problem with the former dichotomy is the metaphors. As Frank pointed out, both liahona and iron rod seem pretty similar metaphors. Indeed contextually I think both Lehi and Nephi would have seen parallels between the iron rod in the vision and the liahona – both of which led them through the wilderness.

    My bigger problem with the categories though isn’t the horrible twisting of the metaphors, but the connotations given them in the 90′s, with “liahona” typically being equated to those with more doubts and criticisms of church doctrine. (I recognize that this wasn’t always intended – nonetheless the dichotomy quickly obtained this connotation)

  10. Rather than using euphemisms, wouldnt it be more instructive and useful to simply be more explicit in terms? For example, being politically liberal is a lot different than being socially liberal is a lot different than being morally liberal, intellectually liberal, and so on.

    What the title “Liahona Saint” intended to convey is a sense of being intellectually liberal, and not necessarily any other kind of liberal.

    Rather than arguing over whether “Liahona Saint” or “Iron Rodder” are useful terms, wouldnt it be easier to just say that participants on LDS blogs tend to be more of the intellectually liberal types who tend to be more inquisitive than dogmatic, irrespective of their political/moral/social views?

  11. All I can say, as a member of an older generation, is that Poll’s original article was a real “aha!” moment for me, and the dichotomy he described remains meaningful (to me, of course). I’ve lived in far too many wards where the whole level of discourse centered around quotes of authority, implicitly validating the “when the prophet speaks, the thinking is over” paradigm, rather than any significant amount of studying it out in one’s mind to seek answers to gospel issues.

    One of the attractions of the Bloggernacle and its predecessors has been the infrequency of appeals to authority and the willingness of most participants to approach topics in open discussion mode.

  12. What exactly is an “intellectual liberal”?

  13. Primarily, the liahona doesn’t always work. It works on faith and righteousness. It allows for deviation in the path. The iron rod does not. Once you let go, you are hosed.

    J., the “faith and diligence is obviously true of the Iron Rod as well”, letting go and just following the “path” discussed in 1 Ne 8 is the equivalent of ignoring the Liahona.

    As for allowing deviation in the path (or sin), surely Lehi’s dream is not making the claim that there is no repentance. If that were true, it would be obviously and dramatically wrong, and so I think the more obvious and charitable interpretation is that repentance was just not addressed in the limited vision– not that it does not happen. We know that the account we have is not the whole dream, after all.

  14. An “intellectual liberal” would be someone “who tend[s] to be more inquisitive than dogmatic”. In the Mormon sense, it is someone who asks what the commandment means and why it is there, wanting to discern the spirit of the Law. Whereas the “intellectual conservative” would be someone who quotes a GA or MoDoc and says “Thats what they said and thats what I believe”, more dogmatic than inquisitive.

  15. I’m not sure letting go of the iron rod entails being lost forever. After all, following the metaphor, one can retrace ones steps and get back to the rod. It’s not a point emphasized in the presentation of the vision by Nephi, but seems to be naturally entailed by the metaphor.

    The problem is that those who let go of the rod lose their way. However one could easily point out that if one were to let go of the liahona and leave it behind one would have a hard time finding it again as well.

    I think though, we simply have to avoid pushing metaphors too far. As Frank says, surely we don’t want to push Lehi’s vision the way some seem to.

  16. “Dorito,” I’m not sure inquiry and dogma are the polar opposites that seem to be portrayed. Consider science at a minimum for instance. It seems scientists are being pretty dogmatic about ID. It doesn’t mean they don’t inquire. So this definitely is an other reason the dichotomy bothers me. It purportedly divides based upon a division that simply doesn’t work.

    To expand, based upon your explanation, even most people I know who quote McConkie still inquire. They just inquire while being dogmatic about McConkie’s views – much like the scientist who is dogmatic about ID, but continues to inquire about say elements of evolution in the brain.

    But bringing in McConkie is important. Back in the 90′s when the dichotomy was most popular it did appear to be a way of kind of bashing those who gave more authority to GAs than perhaps some who were more critical of them. That’s perhaps why back then I became so infuriated by the dichotomy. I felt like I could both value the GAs in perhaps a way some would call dogmatic yet simultaneously inquire.

  17. OK, Clark, then what do you propose as an alternative taxonomy? You cant shoot something down without suggesting a viable alternative, smartypants.

  18. Sure I can. I think the whole desire for a taxonomy on these issues is misplaced.

    It’s a way to avoid dealing with the arguments themselves. (IMO)

    As I mentioned to RT on a related thread at his blog. There are two kinds of people. Those who divide everyone into two groups and those who don’t.

    But at least that divide is based upon a characteristic had or not had. Most dichotomies I see don’t even do that. They make a dichotomy where group A has property x and group B has property y, without considering whether x and y are mutually exclusive.

  19. Just to add to the above, since that came off harsher than I’d intended. (Apologies – the perils of internet writing)

    RT in his thread pointed out dichotomies are useful if they help us see something we wouldn’t otherwise. It is not at all clear to me that these dichotomies do that. Further, it seems that the distortions they bring far outweigh any clarity they offer.

  20. Like I said, I agree that the analogies are similar. I maintain however that there are certain aspects that make for an interesting comparison. While we have an example of a prophet that used the Liahona unsuccessfully, it doesn’t seem that we have a similar example for the iron rod.

    …and again, I agree that the labels have been abused.

  21. J,
    The unsucessful prophet would be…Laman?

  22. There are two kinds of people in the world: Those who divide the world into two kinds of people, and those who don’t.

    The bipolar classifications (metaphors?) linger because they do highlight a relevant aspect or feature of Mormon thinking and culture. I think the Iron Rod/Liahona labels capture different attitudes about rules, and rules abound in Mormondom. There are easy critiques of those who get too wrapped up in rules, but there are also sophisticated defenses. And people oppose rules for various reasons, too, not all laudable.

    I think the Internet/Chapel label, obviously, turns on openness to information sources outside one’s own little community or belief-group. There aren’t many who will stand up and say, “I’m a dogmatic, closed-minded Chapel Mormon!”, they’ll just say they’re happy with what they have and maybe note that the signal-to-noise ratio on the Internet can be pretty low. On the flip side, some “Internet Mormons” devote their entire life to the information-gathering stage, conveniently avoiding the commitment stage. To some Internets, commitment is a Chapel Mormon thing.

    So I don’t think either of these labels capture much about the B’nacle “community.” There are plenty of Iron Rodders here. And while everyone who participates is plainly online, most appear to be active and committed to chapel attendance as well.

  23. John,

    I think you’ve got something there. Clearly Laman was not a successful prophet.

  24. Dave, I’m not at all sure I agree with you regarding rules. At best it relates to how people rhetorically react to rules. However it has been my experience that often leaders who were most stringent in public rhetoric were most open in private and vice versa. (Not that that is always true)

    My point being that rules are simply far too complex to apply things in that fashion. One person who might be a hard line about everything might react differently to say discussion of birth control, but simultaneously take public disagreement over the issue as inappropriate.

    I honestly just think that the dichotomies are misleading. Further they carry far too much baggage.

  25. Boris Max says:

    Some of the above posts treat both the iron rod and the liahona as metaphors. Of course, they have become metaphors in the context of this discussion, but in the text itself only one–the iron rod–was a metaphor, while the other–the liahona–was a real object that actually impacted peoples lives in an immediate way. If you take the Book of Mormon literally, then, can you create an equivalent dichotomy between the two? Wouldn’t the liahona be a better way to conceptualize how God guides us since it actually lead people somewhere and wasn’t one symbol in a complex tapestry designed to express the conflict in Lehi’s family? Great and spacious building, anyone?

    If one were a mean, leftist mormon, she or he could then use the dichotomy in an unequal way: “iron rodders” are victims of false consciousness, living in a dream world. Liahona people, on the other hand, are dialectically engaged with God in the real world, sometimes getting it right, sometimes getting it wrong, but always in touch with the thing itself.

  26. Am I the only one who’s ever talked about people I know via the Internet while bearing my testimony? I’m the biggest dork in my ward by far.

    I agree with Clark on this. I don’t think these kinds of labels are useful. And if I had to be forced to choose, I’d probably rather be an iron rodder.

  27. Rosalynde says:

    I’ve always loved the Iron Rod and Liahona as symbols of sainthood, for their poetry and resonance as much as anything (Frank’s objections aside, which, I’d suggest, derive at least as much from the BoM’s own amibiguity on the nature of the instrument as from distortion on the part of the deployers).

    But I think they work much better as tools for formulating group and individual identity than as tools for performing meaningful analysis; that is, they’re much better at determining who belongs inside and outside of particular groups than at describing the groups themselves. I’ve never, for instance, heard somebody who self-identifies as an “Iron-rodder” deploy the rod/liahona distinction, and it’s not difficult to figure out why: the distinction itself is constructed so as to privilege the “Liahona” half, and thus, predictably, it’s used by “Liahoners” as a way to determine who’s in their group and who’s out. It’s perfectly natural that Poll’s essay appeared in an early issue of Dialogue, itself a primary vector of constructing the identity of the “Mormon intellectual.” Even RT’s reformulation in #3—and RT, you’ve got to know that I think you’re one of the smartest folks around—is intrinsically biased toward the question-askers and deliberators: I think it would be abundantly apparent, from the very terms of its ideological construction, in which camp RT considers himself. But, with respect, I’m not sure it tells us anything else very substantive about the ways in which kinds of people seek information and form conclusions.

    If the Bloggernacle is primarily about building community, as Ronan suggests—and, of course, building community requires as much exclusion as inclusion—then perhaps devices like the Iron Rod/Liahona will be useful rhetorical tools for doing so. But if the Bloggernacle is primarily about a collective production of ideas—more think-tank than cyber-ward—than I think we’ll find them unhelpful (if still lovely).

  28. I think that labeling saints as one type of member or another is silly. One some issues I am a Iron Rodder and on other issues I am a Liahona. Most people are probably the same.

    Example: On my mission with mission rules I was a Liahona and served a succesful mission

    On moral issues I am a Iron Rodder.

    Silly labeling serves nobody and only divides us.

  29. Charles Wallace says:

    Boris,

    While the Liahona was a real object, the Book of Mormon itself transforms it into a metaphor. Alma 37:

    “And now, my son, I have somewhat to say concerning the thing which our fathers call a ball, or director–or our fathers called it Liahona, which is, being interpreted, a compass; and the Lord prepared it….
    And now, my son, I would that ye should understand that these things are not without a shadow; for as our fathers were slothful to give heed to this compass (now these things were temporal) they did not prosper; even so it is with things which are spiritual….
    And now I say, is there not a type in this thing? For just as surely as this director did bring our fathers, by following its course, to the promised land, shall the words of Christ, if we follow their course, carry us beyond this vale of sorrow into a far better land of promise.”

  30. Charles Wallace says:

    I have always felt that the Liahona Member/Iron Rod Member analogy is pretty questionable. As Frank has pointed out, they clearly symbolize the same thing.

    Though there are clearly a few exceptions, it seems that those who most often love, connect with, and perpetuate this ridiculous stereotype are those who self identify as Liahona members. They love it because it makes them out to be superior, “intelligent” members, while it relegates those they perceive as “Iron Rod” members to an inferior “blind faith” caricature. Sure, both are “involved” and “deeply committed,” but coming from a self identified “Liahona”, saying so so just oozes with condescension–a nice pat on the head for the ignorant “Iron Rod” members.

    The stereotype is primarily concerned with ego and legitimizing the practice of criticizing the leadership of the church and resisting authority. It has little to do with truth or charity.

  31. Providing labels always does this. People categorize themselves and others based on what they want to be, and what is most important to them.
    Person A self identifies as a Liahona Saint because he/she *hates* people who don’t understand and learn about what they believe.
    Person B self identifies as an Iron Rod Saint because they feel that “questioning” doctrines is something people who don’t have testimonies do.
    Person C self identifies as a Liahona saint because they love reading about Church history and all the cool little things people tend to gloss over.
    Person D self identifies as an Iron Rod Saint because they love the idea of having an unbendable testimony and feeling no need to question their beliefs.

    I think these (and many other) labels are a way to justify being critical of other people for things we disapprove of or a way to praise ourselves for the things we’re proud of. As I recall Christ shied away from labels.

    (yeah, I know I’m being a troll…)

  32. Charles, has it occurred to you that your comment “stereotypes” Liahonas in much the same way that you depict others as stereotyping Iron Rodders? At the least, this suggests the labels do communicate something useful. If they were irrelevant, people wouldn’t be arguing about them almost forty years after they were first coined.

  33. Sultan Of Squirrels says:

    Interesting blog. I’ve never heard of iron rodders, or liahona members, and I’d probably have to agree with those that don’t like it as an analogy. I think people are people and they ALL do things differently. It doesnt really matter if you ask more questions or prefer to listen, and I think everyone probably does a bit of both. just my opinion.

  34. Dave,

    I think we can all agree that there is information conveyed about that person when a person up and claims that they are a “Liahona Mormon”.

    But that does not mean that the categories L/IR actually are a useful way to categorize members. Nor does it mean that they have anything to do with the actual Liahona and Iron Rod accounts.

    Thus, an alternate taxonomy might be:

    1. Members who like to call themselves Liahona Mormons.

    2. Members who like to call themselves Iron-Rodders

    3. Members who like to call other people one of the above.

    4. Members who think the categorization L/IR is not particularly well though out or useful.

    And so on. Likewise, there are some people who like to call themselves Marxists. That does not mean they actually know anything about Marx. But it does tell you something about them, even if it won’t tell you much about Marx.

  35. Well said Rosalynde. Nietzsche’s got nothing on you. It’s all just hidden power structures. (grin)

  36. Frank, clever trick, but you can deny the substantive content of any statement and turn it back on the person making the statement. So “Mars is the fourth planet from the Sun” says nothing about the planet, it just means the one uttering the phrase hies metaphorically to Mars as opposed to Jupiter or Venus. Mormon apologists, too, have been known to make unwelcome substantive arguments into commentaries on the speaker. But just ignoring the content of a statement and opining on the character of the speaker doesn’t refute the content.

    It seems to me that the test for these simple bipolar classifications isn’t whether they are complete descriptions, but whether they manage to shed a little light on something of interest to those inclined to reflect on Mormon culture and community. Orthodox LDS discourse uses similar labels: “Active” or “inactive.” “Jew” and “Gentile.” “Nephites” and “Lamanites” (people were always one or the other).

  37. A. Nonny Mouse says:

    All this discussion of liberal vs. conservative ideology, which the metaphor/dichotomy/symbolism of the liahona/iron-rod taxonomy and this post seem constructed to highlight, reminds me for some reason of America’s political system, probably because of the un-educated, crappy connotation I internally have for the terms ‘liberal’ and ‘conservative’. This makes me wonder if the reason why I think the labels are stupid is related to the reason why so many folks from my generation are dissuaded from voting and disillusioned by the system — we just don’t believe anybody who labels themselves in a polar way, because they’ve got to have some ulterior motive for doing so, and because polar opposites tend to not be so useful for describing folks…

    Perhaps not-so-interestingly, when I first read the Richard Poll article, I was more of an Iron-Rodder, though I probably would have said that I was a Liahona Saint, because I wanted to be one, very desperately. Now, I’m relatively more of a Liahona Saint, though, given the choice, I would much rather align myself as an Iron-Rodder.

    Like bbell said above (#28), I think the problem with the notion of a dichotomy or taxonomy here has to do with the notion that Nate Oman was talking about on the seerstone thread yesterday: everybody’s experiences with different parts of their lives are different, and very, very heterogenous: nobody is a pure liahona or a pure iron-rodder.

  38. Rosalynde says:

    But Dave, I think you prove Frank’s (and my) point: all the categories you list—active/inactive, jew/gentile, nephite/lamanite—are used by one group to name those who are not in their group. This is an important sort of ideological work to do—but it’s a rather different sort than the work of analytically describing inactives, gentiles, lamanites.

  39. Rosalynde said what I was about to. (Good thing I hit refresh before typing) But I think you really have to ask what the purposes of the labels are and how they are used. Merely saying they they shed light is unhelpful if they shed a distorting light.

    I also simply don’t think that the labels you offer are on par with the dichotomies we’ve discussed here. It seems that the distinctions for the labels you offer have very clear and relatively unambiguously objective properties. Do you go to church meetings or don’t you. Do you live in this nation or not. Do you belong to this religion or not. It’s hard to see how liahona or iron rod could be judged so clearly. Indeed it’s hard to make sense of what properties are even in question since, as I mentioned, the properties ascribed as paradigmic of one are unrelated to those of the other.

  40. I agree with Clark. I’ve never been able to resolve this comparison in my own life because it doesn’t make sense to me.

  41. This is a wonderful post, but I’m a little disappointed in the direction it has headed. I think such points as labels can be bad and the analogy breaks down eventually are all pretty obvious, aren’t they?

    The ultimate point of Poll’s essay was that both the IR and L approach are legitimate, valid, and saving. In doing so he wanted to foster better understanding between members who favor one approach over the other. That’s precisely what makes Poll’s insight still useful today 38 years after his essay was written.

    Poll’s goal, I believe, was not to deliver a tool that would create identity or taxonomy, it was to provide a tool for better mutual understanding. If we use Poll’s categories in the way I believe he intended they can be very useful.

    If we try and make his terms synonyms for other things than they can be useless if not harmful. However, in my opinion, the fact that so many have sought to co-opt his terms and equate them with more loaded dichotomies such as liberal/conservative proves that he was on to something very real in our faith and culture. You can’t argue that the ideas aren’t useful, but yet are powerful enough to gain privilege for one group over another simultaneously. If the terms are powerful that proves their usefulness, doesn’t it?

    At the very least the use of Poll’s terms over nearly a 40 year span illuminates how Mormonism continues to validate two seemingly contradictory ways of receiving and following God’s directions and revelations. Contemplating the paradoxes of our faith is something that has always been extremely fascinating and useful for me.

  42. Brian,
    Atomic bombs are powerful. Are they useful?

    I think that you are right in that Bro. Poll was trying to foster understanding. And I agree that most of what we are dealing with is the fallout from misuse of his terminology and ideas. However, if this, like say communism, has always been misused, why shouldn’t we scrap the discussion? Who argues the merits of Nazi-ism anymore?

    (ps. I am not saying that the Liahona/Iron Rod insistents are Nazis or Communists. I am saying that the usefulness of this debate may be vaguely similar to the usefulness of a debate on those discarded topics)

  43. What Brian G. said.

    And, come on. Of course atomic bombs are useful–the problem is we don’t like the consequences of their use.

    I happen to agree with John C. that the usefulnes of the debate of whether the L/IR metaphors holds on the edges is fairly low. I’m very interested, though, in the questions that Levi originally raised. We can address these without getting bogged down in a discussion that’s happened before and doesn’t really add much to our understanding.

  44. Brian…amen. I found Poll’s ideas to be useful in helping me understand how I process information, and somewhat comforting in publicly recognizing pluralism in the church.

    Also, I disagree with the idea that these labels are pejorative. Personally, although I would probably consider myself a Liahona mormon, considering the differences makes me wonder in which ways I’m an iron rod Mormon, and embracing that kind of faithfulness as useful in my life and my own personal spiritual health.

    *One thing about these here internet Mormons is that they’re so darn defensive!* :o)

  45. Brian,

    I think my complaint is not that there are not different ways of doing things, but rather that those different ways pointed out by Poll don’t seem to have any basis in the scriptural accounts of the Liahona and the Iron Rod. So to the extent that the dichotomy gets used, it encourages people to think about these scriptural symbols incorrectly. So it fosters false thinking about the scriptures.

    And as I think John C. points out, the original distinctions were quickly co-opted to simply mean liberal and conservative or intellectual and dogmatic or deliberative and identity-affirming, or orthodox and unorthodox. Well, we already have those terms, so no need to create duplicates by forcing a poor interpretation on the scriptures.

  46. Ditto Brian.

    We all know this is true: that some Mormons like these lively internet debates, some Mormons are blissfully unaware of them, some Mormons have no interest in them, and some Mormons think they’re a tad dodgy.

    Otherwise faithful Latter day-Saints do have different approaches in how they discuss and think about their religion. This is worth thinking about, and if our labels are a blunt instrument, well, so be it.

  47. This is worth thinking about, and if our labels are a blunt instrument, well, so be it.

    Ah yes, my brother once called me a “Joseph Smith Mormon.” I chuckled because isn’t that what all of us should be? He said it’s because most of my theology comes out of the KFD, which the church seems to shirk more often than not. So I agree here in that labels are sometimes helpful, but not always.

  48. Taxonomy doesnt have to be dichotomous (e.g., iron rodders ver liahonas), and you dont have to hate labels because they arent useful.

    Take personality type labels for example. At the uninformative-and-almost-useless end of the spectrum is the Personality Colors Test. On the other hand, you have the Myers-Briggs personality inventory, which is about as rigourous and informative as these kinds of things get, and its really quite useful.

    OK, so the Liahona versus Iron Rod is a rather blunt instrument. Point granted. How about someone, or even we, the self-anointed critics of all things dichotomously taxonomic, come up with something more useful for categorizing Mormons along the lines of Myers-Briggs? And, Clark, you old contrarian, dont you duck out.

  49. ExDor, if the Myers-Briggs classification really is a meaningful analysis, then that should be the instrument. The question then becomes: how do the various MB types map onto religious experience or practice in the LDS context? Of course, you first have to convince your audience that MB isn’t just psychobabble in a slicker package (my understanding is it is just a dumbed-down version of Jungian analysis) or that personality typing really tells us more about religious orientation than Liahona/Iron Rod talk.

  50. Interestingly there was a study last spring where many bloggers (primarily at more technical political blogs) took the M-B test and put up the results. It was for a study of blogger personality. Here’s my results along with some comments on the test.

  51. Dave, the M-B and its variants are the least “psychobable” of the lot, so if you demand a psychobable free means of generating social taxonomy, then you may as well reject social taxonomy altogether. For the purposes of classifying Mormons, you would want to alter the M-B somewhat to include typical LDS things which are indicative/predictive of “Mormonness” or the Mormon subculture.

    CLark, that one you link to is rather complex, I doubt the average Bloggernaccer would submit to anything that long. But, it is illustrative of the sort of thing that would be more useful than a simplistic dichotomy of Iron Rodder versus Liahona. Now, all someone(s) has to do is come up with it.

  52. Levi Peterson says:

    May I respectfully submit that the abundant and lively comments on this blog substantiate my thesis regarding Liahona Saints and the Bloggernacle?

    Regarding the terms “liberal Mormon” and “conservative Mormon” (which have figured in some of the foregoing comments), one of the ways a friend of mine distinguishes between them is this: liberal Mormons are willing to consider arguments against their position, whereas conservative Mormons prefer not to consider arguments against their position. I’m not sure I agree with his distinction.

  53. John Mansfield says:

    Do Liahona Saints consider Nephi one of their own?

  54. I don’t agree with the distinction either, Levi. For instance by that definition Dan Peterson and Louis Midgely (and myself) are all liberal Mormons. I’m not sure too many would apply that label to us.

  55. Levi,

    I have to agree with Clark on your lables. By your definition I become a liberal mormon. That would not be correct.

    Again I repeat that it is really hard to label committed LDS people like this. Most of the differences are personality or style related

  56. Frank,

    I understand where you’re coming from, but I’m of the opinion that Poll understood the scriptural record. His key point is that if one is faithful ultimately both the Liahona approach and Iron Rod approach can get you to the same place. This matches nicely with the scriptural fact that both the L and the IR were predicated on obedience and faith. I think Brother Poll understood that very well.

    Your point is very well taken though, because it puts a spotlight on different pitfalls that people who prefer one or the other approach run into. I’m thinking of the Liahona type that wanders off into sin and justifies it by telling herself that she’s taking the long way around, or the Iron Rod type who clutches firmly to the rod, but refuses to realize that what he actually has his hands on is not the Word of God.

    Having said that, I still think we’re not getting to the most interesting question raised by Brother Peterson which is whether the bloggernacle moves people toward the Liahona-like approach, because I think it does. Hugh’s comment way back at the top being a fine example. Granted, as Levi suggests the bloggernacle may just attract people predisposed to the Liahona-like approach but are not yet consciously aware of that fact.

  57. Clark, do you really think that you are not considered a liberal Mormon. I don’t know enough about Midgely, but I think of Peterson as a liberal Mormon as well.

  58. A small point — Levi, so far all of your evidence is drawn from posts at BCC. While this is a fine blog with a diverse readership, it could hardly be said to be representative of the bloggernacle as a whole (I don’t think any one blog can).

  59. Levi’s second example just proves the point. Is there any way of reading that that isn’t insulting to “conservative” Mormons? I assume that this is why he prefers Poll’s distinction, which is, at least, less insulting.

    Regarding whether or not the bloggernacle makes us more “liberal” or “liahona” (inserting the caveat that I still don’t like the distinction), I think that there is already self-selection going on. Why would you publish anything in an open forum if you were’nt encouraging discussion. I suppose I should change that to why publish any thing after you have received your first negative reaction. We don’t come here to have everyone agree with us; we come here to learn. Using Poll’s definitions/perceptions, I don’t generally believe that Iron Rod Mormons exist. I definitely don’t believe that they participate in the bloggernacle.

  60. Please forgive my typos and misspellings. I am tired, cranky, and far too reliant on spell-checkers.

  61. Let’s just put it like this. When everyone at FARMS is considered liberal Mormons along with those of us who have Pres. Benson and Elder Packer as our favorite GAs, then something is really screwy with the terminology.

  62. Brian,

    My problem is that the distinctions do not have anything to do with the Liahona and the Iron Rod. Maybe I am missing something, but as I pointed out at the top of the thread, I don’t see it. So maybe you can explain how do the differences relate to actual differences between the L and the IR. I have browsed the article and it seems a like he is explicating a divide between liberal and conservative, or between believer and skeptical believer or what have you.

    But the Liahona and the Iron Rod are not the right symbols to bear that division. As Alma’s exposition makes clear in Alma 37, the Liahona is a simple thing that leads us in a direct course to God. The language he and Nephi both use to describe the Liahona is clearly what Poll would call “Iron Rod” language. Thus the Liahona is the wrong image for this group.

  63. Fratello Giovanni says:

    Digging into back issues of Dialogue:

    I was carefully explaining to the children at dinner last night about Richard Poll’s Iron Rod vs. Liahona Mormons. I had just gotten them to understand the distinction and was about to launch into a lengthy peroration on the subject, when Lisa (age six) said simply, “We’re both.” That was of course exactly the point. The value of Poll’s exercise lies not in labeling ourselves one or the other, but in pointing out both necessary aspects of our gospel life. If we aren’t both, something is wrong.

    Douglass F. Taber
    Newark, Delaware

    My sister Lisa now goes by her first name, Emma, and is expecting her fourth child.

    As for myself, I typically feel like a Liahona in a group of Iron Rods (say, Gospel Doctrine class), and an Iron Rod among Liahonas. I figure I must be doing something right, even if it isn’t always that comfortable.

  64. Poll’s dichotomy doesn’t work for me at all. If anything, one may draw a distinction between the brass plates and the liahona–I mean, if you really REALLY want to. The image of the “iron rod” doesn’t necessarily qualify the ways in which we may encounter the word of God.

    I think the only “good” that has come of Poll’s essay is that the liahona types now have a means of judging all those who don’t understand them as cold hearted iron rodders.

  65. I know what I’m going to take away from this discussion: Rosalynde (#27) said she thinks I’m one of the smartest folks around! She’s wrong, of course, but I’m still considering having the quote made into a badge that I can wear around…

    When I proposed distinguishing between deliberative and identity-reinforcing discourse, I didn’t intend to claim that identity-reinforcing discourse isn’t useful. Indeed, it seems that it’s entirely necessary some times. I just get bored with it relatively quickly. By contrast, deliberative discourse is what I need, all the time, in infinite quantities…

    I am willing to say that the intellectually liberal (i.e., Enlightenment-political-theory-and-epistemology-based) position of valuing individual autonomy and wanting to build arguments on logic and evidence rather than on tradition is normatively positive to me. That’s a bias I’ll admit up front.

  66. Roasted Tomatoes, you are one of my favorite foods. I could put that on a sticker for you if you want.

  67. Frank,

    I doubt I can make the categories more meaningful to you if they’re not already, especially if you’ve read Brother Poll’s essay, but I’m willing to try.

    What you, I, and Brother Poll all have in common is that we see the great similarities between the L and the IR. They both represent the word of God, are prepared by a loving Father for his children, and mark a direct route from point A to B.

    The Book of Mormon does explain many differences between the IR and the L, however. First, for the L to function obedience and faith are prerequisites. In contrast, it is after one has the IR in their grip that one must “hold fast.” Lehi’s dream describes masses of people getting lost before they even get a grip on the rod (and it’s important to note, masses of people getting lost after they get to the end of the rod as well).

    So a Liahona-like approach when faced with a challenge, question, or obstacle is to obey first, not always understanding why, and wait for the direction to arrive. In contrast an Iron Rod-like approach is to hold fast to what they know and press forward step-by-step. Both reactions amount to obedience and going in the direction God intends, but the methods are different. I’ve used both approaches in my life and I’m sure most of us have.

    Much more than the L, the IR is presented as a way to avoid danger and threat. Getting lost in the mists of darkness is the consequence of losing your grip. So one might say L saints are more likely to run risks and perhaps get lost than IR saints who fear the confusion of mists. You could generalize an IR approach would be to wisely use the Gospel to avoid problems beforehand, whereas a L approach would be to go to God for direction in the event of a problem, not knowing where to hunt for food, being the prime scriptural example.

    Also interesting is that the IR is not described as an instrument of new revelation whereas the L would have words appear on it and the words would regularly change. Does this mean an L-saint is more open to new and different info? Maybe. However, before I’m accused of offending IR-saints, the words were often chastening and Father Lehi himself reacted with fear and trembling to what he read there. Hence, you could say L saints need more chastening.

    So these are just some of the ideas I have based on the information the Book of Mormon gives us to how there are distinct approaches to incorporating the gospel into our lives. Like I said, I’m skeptical you’ll find the ideas useful, but you asked, so there you have it.

    Incidentally, I don’t really see Brother Poll using words like liberal and conservative in his essay, and I’m not sure he’d call Alma and Nephi’s words “Iron Rod language,” but I’d be interested in hearing what you mean by that.

  68. Brian,

    Forgive me for jumping in–

    I think the iron rod is all inclusive. No matter how you look at the symbol it simply suggests that adherence to the word of God will lead to a particular end. It doesn’t matter if it means that we must hang on to what we already know of the word, or if it means that we must seek further enlightenment from the word. It’s still the word of God that leads us along.

    Now I think the Liahona has something a little peculiar about it. Its function in the lives of Lehi and his followers was different from (say) the brass plates. However(!), if we view Lehi’s exodus as a universal pattern, then the Liahona takes on a broader function or purpose symbolically (IMO).

    My two cents worth.

  69. Brian,

    Thanks for answering. No, I don’t find these compelling. I think we are not really getting them from the text, but rather from Poll’s own philosophy.

    1. Faith and Obedience are obviously the reasons why one grabs the rod. Thus it is entirely analogous to the Liahona. You have faith, then you follow the instruction. The idea that Liahona types “obey first” without knowing why is not from the text. The IR passed through mists of darkness, thus one did not know where one was going either. Nor is it clear that with the Liahona one had to show some extra amount of obedience prior to it working relative to the IR. Both tools require you to believe in them and obey them for them to work.

    2. The Liahona a) led Nephi to food b) led them to the parts in the desert that were fertile c) and led them across the Ocean. So clearly it is about avoiding danger as much as the IR. And it is explicitly about going in a direct course. In fact, this is exactly the language Alma uses: “Therefore, they tarried in the wilderness, or did not travel a direct course, and were afflicted with hunger and thirst, because of their transgressions.” Thus obeying the Liahona avoids hunger and thirst. In the scriptures, their difficulties and lack of guidance were the result of sin, not “circumstance”.

    3. Brian, the IR is the “Word of God”. How could the symbol possibly be more like the Liahona’s words of God? Both of them give us the Word of God, one was literally in writing, the other was a representation of the Word. This distinction you make is antithetical to the very meaning of the IR.

    In Poll’s essay, he claims that the Iron Rod was a clear path, but the Liahona did not clearly mark the path. This seems to be his thesis distinction. This is simply not true in the text. The IR path was not perfectly clear, it went through mists of darkness. The Liahona only failed to guide them, according to Alma and Nephi, when they failed to be faithful. But if one is not faithful to the IR, and lets go, then it will not help you either. Thus both instruments work by faith and neither reveals the end from the beginning.

    As for Iron Rod language: Here is a cut from Poll, “Implicit in all this is the confidence of the Iron Rod Latter-day Saint that our Heavenly Father is intimately involved in the day-to-day business of His children…The Liahona Latter-day Saint lacks this certain confidence.”

    Now, for just one example, look at the quote above from Alma. Or read the whole passage and the ones with Nephi. Clearly both Nephi and Alma, describe the Liahona exactly as showing that God is intimately involved in the day-to-day business of His children. In fact, I can’t think of many types in the scriptures that more obviously shows this intimate involvement than the Liahona. It is the very symbol and type of that involvement. That is why Alma brought it up hundreds of years later– to show how God really is involved in our lives, but we cannot see it unless we have faith and are diligent.

  70. The path is “strait”, not “straight”.

  71. Well, I knew it was a long shot, Frank. I gave it the ‘ole college try.

    I actually find your ideas very persuasive. The IR and the L are so similar to be nearly identical for all practical intents and purposes. I’m now completely convinced that there is only one meaningful distinction in the Book of Mormon between the Iron Rod and the Liahona and that is that one is a non-existent dream symbol and the other is a real physical object. So taking into consideration your analysis and that hard-to-refute fact I conclude that all members of the Church must be Liahona Saints, including, of course, you. This in turn proves Brother Peterson’s suggestion that everyone who frequents the bloggernacle is a Liahona Saint as well, and goes a long way toward explaining why I enjoy both the bloggernacle and Church so much.

    So, thanks.

  72. I’m here to give.

    Have a good weekend.

  73. Bloggernacle!

  74. From a literary point of view, the Iron Rod is just an ordinary phallic symbol [edited]. The Liahona, on the other hand, is round–like an egg. It represents the feminine approach. As far as the Book of Mormon, the Liahona is real and the Iron Rod is just a dream.

  75. First Banner of Heaven, now the Iron Rod as a phallic symbol. I’m actually learning to respect DKL.

  76. Thanks, John H. Just don’t get me started about the Rod of Aaron.

  77. Aaron Brown says:

    Gee, thanks DKL. I knew I had a reputation, but I didn’t think it had made its way all the way to you.

    Aaron B

  78. Aaron Brown says:

    “From a literary point of view, the Iron Rod is just an ordinary phallic symbol. The Liahona, on the other hand, is round–like an egg. It represents the feminine approach.”

    So, you’re saying that Iron Rodders are real men, and Liahonas are sissies? I’m offended at your simplistic, crass generalizations, DKL, and I think you should apologize at once.

    Aaron B

  79. Aaron Brown: I knew I had a reputation, but I didn’t think it had made its way all the way to you

    Hat’s off to you, Aaron. You’re definitely more comfortable making yourself the butt of homo-erotic jokes about yourself than I am.

    Aaron Brown: So, you’re saying that Iron Rodders are real men, and Liahonas are sissies? I’m offended at your simplistic, crass generalizations, DKL, and I think you should apologize at once.

    I appreciate the humor in picking this portion of my comment out as offensive. I also appreciate the humor of trying to put me in the position of defending a feminist interpretation of scriptural allegories. Good one on both counts.

  80. Brother Peterson, I don’t consider the words “liberal” or “intellectual” to be a bad word. I’m a Mormon, I consider myself politically liberal, and I’d be proud to be considered an intellectual, but I do not consider myself a liberal Mormon. I love your books for the same reason that I love everything that Brother England said (even when I disagreed with him). You’ve helped me understand myself, my faith, and my spiritual journey. I guess I don’t understand what that has to do with liberalism. Most of the folks I knew that called themselves Liberal Mormons at BYU, seemed to think they were mighty superior. I never got that feeling from you or Brother England. Aside from you, sir, most of the folks that call themselves liberal mormons are what I’d call Latter-Day Saducees. I reckon you know the sort that I’m talking about. The Sadusees deny the spirit and the basic doctrines; they turn their eyes towards institutional power and suck up to the occupiers. To be a Saducee Intellectual, is like being a Libre Penseur you just have to believe the A, B, & C and disbelieve D, E, & F.

    I’m not nuts about pitting the Liahona against the Iron Rod. God doesn’t exactly give us both at the same time, and say, choose; which ever one will guide you through. If there’s an iron rod to guide us (through mists of darkness, wasn’t it?), seems like it would be mighty silly to let go of the rod and take the scenic route through the mists of darkness, counting on that Liahona. Can you read a Liahona through mists of darkness?

    On the other hand, I guess the Liahona does figure a lot more in the book of Mormon story than the Iron Rod. And that’s probably for the reasons you said, that it’s adaptive to our circumstances.

    I guess what throws me off is that we’re pitting them against each other, and talking about Iron Rod Saints and Liahona Saints, and it just reminds me a little of some being of Apollos and other of Paul. Shouldn’t we be using all of our gifts and divine resources in order to be Saints? Isn’t there a time for answers, as well as a time for questions?

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