Your Friday Firestorm #7

Two quotes this week:

There are disadvantages to official nonparticipation in events where Church doctrines, ordinances, or practices are discussed. In some instances, the overall presentation will be decidedly inaccurate or unfair because the position of the Church and the knowledge of its leaders are not presented. In other instances, a volunteer will step forward to present what he or she considers to be the Church’s position. Sometimes these volunteers are well-informed and capable, and they contribute to a balanced presentation. Sometimes they are not, and their contribution makes matters worse. When attacked by error, truth is better served by silence than by a bad argument.

In any case, volunteers do not speak for the Church. As long as Church leaders feel they should not participate in an event where the Church or its doctrines are discussed, the overall presentation will be incomplete and unbalanced. In such circumstances, no one should think that the Church’s silence constitutes an admission of facts asserted in that setting.

Individual members of the Church may also confront difficult questions when they are invited to participate. The question is more complicated when the invitation does not relate to a publication or a lecture on a single subject, but to a group of articles, a series of publications, or a conference or symposium with a large number of subjects. One article or one issue of a publication or one session of a conference may be edifying and uplifting, something a faithful Latter-day Saint would wish to support or enjoy. But another article or another session may be destructive, something a faithful Latter-day Saint would not wish to support or promote.


Elder Dallin H. Oaks, “Alternative Voices”: Ensign, May 1989 (Report of 159th Annual General Conference)

Therefore, let us beware of false prophets and false teachers, both men and women, who are self-appointed declarers of the doctrines of the Church and who seek to spread their false gospel and attract followers by sponsoring symposia, books, and journals whose contents challenge fundamental doctrines of the Church. Beware of those who speak and publish in opposition to God’s true prophets and who actively proselyte others with reckless disregard for the eternal well-being of those whom they seduce. Like Nehor and Korihor in the Book of Mormon, they rely on sophistry to deceive and entice others to their views. They “set themselves up for a light unto the world, that they may get gain and praise of the world; but they seek not the welfare of Zion.”

Elder M. Russell Ballard, “Beware of False Prophets and False Teachers”: Ensign, November 1999 (Report of 169th Semiannual General Conference)

Discuss away.

Comments

  1. Sometimes these volunteers are well-informed and capable, and they contribute to a balanced presentation. Sometimes they are not, and their contribution makes matters worse. When attacked by error, truth is better served by silence than by a bad argument.

    skin color and pre-mortal sin anyone?

    The Second Quote makes me think of the “Ancient American” magazine… ugh…

  2. One article or one issue of a publication or one session of a conference may be edifying and uplifting, something a faithful Latter-day Saint would wish to support or enjoy. But another article or another session may be destructive, something a faithful Latter-day Saint would not wish to support or promote.

    Hmmm. That sounds like the sacrament meetings in my barrio.

  3. Seems to me that some apologetics can fall into this category.

    Be aware, that a lot of bloggernacle conversation can run afoul of this problem. Everyone here is a volunteer. Most of us have good intentions. And many of us absolutely butcher the doctrine on occasion. There’s a lot of room for sophistry on these blogs.

  4. Elders Oaks and Ballard have hit the nail on the head. Contention is of the devil, plain and simple. When people are more interested in promoting themselves than serving others, their intentions are selfish and ultimately harmful to themselves and others. These fringe groups are all about being smarter than thou, thinking that some bit of esoteric knowledge matters, when it doesnt. What matters is actually doing good. Publicly preening over how clever you are is the way of academia, not the way of godliness.

    Matt W., you can cherry pick one point, but what about all of the rest of the morass of contention these fringe groups champion?

  5. ED,
    Any reason to contrast godliness with academia, rather than construction work or lawyering or hedge fund managing?

    Just curious.

  6. Maybe they were thinking of the John Birch Society.

  7. Seth R., yes, yes and yes.

    Sam B., because symposia are the fora of academics and not construction workers, lawyers or fund managers who attend trade shows. But, lets not get hung up on semantics. I will drop the “academia”, how about “Mormon intelligentsia”?

  8. Steve, I love your timing!

  9. Steve Evans says:

    Mark — timing? Oh, THOSE symposia. Sheer coincidence, I assure you.

  10. Interesting, because I just recently listened to the second of these two talks through LDS Voices podcast, and was thinking about it a lot. I’ve not read more than a couple of issues of Sunstone, and only a few articles from the Dialogue archives, but I’ve read a handful of Mo-blogs for a year or so now, and I’m just not finding a lot of teaching things contrary to what the Church teaches. I’ve found some folks with different opinions about matters of policy and practice, and folks willing to talk about history in ways that the Church doesn’t, but I don’t see a lot of folks insisting on any doctrine that’s contrary to the core doctrine of the Church. I’m much more apt to see a lengthy discussion of “what is real doctrine,” frankly.

    I’ve been seriously considering asking one or more of the Apostles to follow a handful of blogs for a while to see what goes on here, and if it’s worthy of serious warning against. I’m not seeing anything like that.

    Yesterday, also through LDS Voices podcast (this is not a paid commercial for LDS Voices, btw) I listened to a talk by Hugh B. Brown where he spoke about how we should have some flexibility in our positions and should be ready to adjust them in the light of new facts as we become aware of them. Really good stuff. I think that fits in well with these ideas these brethren are talking about.

  11. Brother Dorito,

    When people are more interested in promoting themselves than serving others, their intentions are selfish and ultimately harmful to themselves and others. These fringe groups are all about being smarter than thou, thinking that some bit of esoteric knowledge matters, when it doesnt. What matters is actually doing good. Publicly preening over how clever you are is the way of academia, not the way of godliness.

    Those are all good points, and you are no doubt correct to point out that there is a great deal of self-promotion, pretension, and preening on display. But I don’t think there is any more of that at, say, Sunstone than in the church at large. My mission was full of self-promoters, and GD classes all over the church are venues for phony oneupmanship where people try to outdo one another. I think people deserve whatever potshots come their way when they climb the rameumptom.

    So, I agree with you that doing good is what counts. But I disagree with your definition of fringe groups. If a fringe group can be identified by its frequent Zoramite behavior, the entire church is a fringe group.

  12. Mark, what do you make of the image from these talks of Korihors within the Church?

  13. Oh, I agree completely that there is no shortage of sophists and bozos who bring about darkness and spiritual destruction and who don’t care about the damage they cause. I think those people can be found not only at symposia and at publishing houses, but in every ward and stake in the church.

  14. Interesting that the link is to Sunstone, which seems to get the bulk of the criticism – it could have just as easily been a link to today’s FAIR conference.

    These talks are from a different time, even though they are just 18 years and 8 years ago, respectively.

    Today it seems that the new media is much more wild west than these conferences or symposia or magazines could hope to be. The gatherings are rather tame by today’s standard, considering they are fairly structured and moderated. Organizations such as Dialogue, FAIR, Sunstone, etc., seem to be cognizant of the criticism and, with the exception of the occasional rogue comment, tend to carefully cultivate a place of exploration without crossing the line. It is not unlike the moderation that BCC employs, or tries to employ.

    You do have to hand it to these organizations, though – the writings are public, open, and accountable. You won’t find strong words conveyed by individuals hidden behind anonymous monikers.

  15. a random John says:

    Does anybody have the text of the “An Olive Leaf” article from the April 2006 issue of Sunstone written by a certain Dallin Oaks?

    Also the Armand Mauss response to the “Alternative Voices” talk is worth reading.

    Steve, I’m sorry if I’ve thrown any water on this fire.

  16. Mark IV, yes, of course, that kind of behavior can be found anywhere people are found. Human behavior is what it is, and it is greatly flawed. But, aca…oops…I mean…the Mormon Intelligentsia take it upon themselves to dig into the minutiae, hold it up as their standard, and then tell us we are fools for believing so naively. Give me a break. Hey, I have my personal interests and dig deeply given the available time on topics of interest. There are a lot of topics I dont care about. If that makes me naive, then lets move the conversation onto something I know something about so I can defend myself from the petty ego battle that will ensue. Because, isnt that what it boils down to most of the time? I am smart and educated and right and you are dumb and uneducated and wrong, so listen to me. Blech. These symposia are magnets for pseudo-intellectual self-promoters.

    When it comes to Sunstone, what am I supposed to do/think/say when they have exmos on their staff? Shall I think, “Oh, how open-minded of them!” or should I think “Hmmmm, what is their agenda?” Or should I suspend judgment and rate everything based upon its own independent merit. Naturally, the last would be ideal, but in a world of media deluge, one has to pick and choose, and when a group like Sunstone consistently follows a particular track with reasonably clear political and social agendas, then the ideal is cast aside for the pragmatic and I dont read it unless something compelling comes out, which is almost never. Sorry, but I am too cynical to consider an exmo at Sunstone to be someone without an agenda. Can FAIR be just as bad? Absolutely. Look at the antics of some of those yutzes when they come on the Bloggernacle.

  17. The “Olive Leaf” piece is available here.

  18. a random John says:

    Why am I not surprised that Justing comes through once again?

  19. OK, so I just read through the Sunstone reprinting of a General Conference talk by Oaks, they retitled an Olive Leaf. And, I guess I am dense here, but what is the point/intended message/subtext of them doing so? I read that and think, “OK, Oaks is saying its what we do that really matters” and then think “so that is a repudiation of Sunstone’s intellectualism and politicization of the gospel message because they are trying to shoehorn pop culture into the Church”, which is non sequitur. No capice. Please advise.

  20. Joshua A. says:

    This thread made me think of a certain book that was not commissioned by the LDS church but was written by a volunteer. This book is viewed by many as a definitive canon of LDS beliefs and practices, as well it might be, given its title–“Mormon Doctrine.”

  21. Ah, now we are seeing some of the embers glow – we may get a firestorm after all!

    Dorito – since we’re casting aspersions here, perhaps you should check the facts. To my knowledge the staff at Sunstone are not “exmos”, though activity rates vary from fully active to not so much. Pretty typical for any ward, I’d say.

    It’s fairly easy to lampoon a caricature, but it isn’t noble or praiseworthy.

  22. a random John says:

    ED,

    I think the point is that the fact the he would submit anything at all to be published there is a step back from his 1989 position.

  23. Is anyone else picking up on the irony of #4 starting out with the statement “contention is of the devil, pure and simple”?

    ED,

    If you really believe that, why are you consistently contentious in your comments here?

  24. Mahuph, go to sunstoneblog.com and you’ll see Jana and John Remy, both exmos, are listed as contributors. I never said “staff”. I have no idea if their staff are members, non-members or ex. I do know both John and Jana from the Bloggernacle.

    arJ, did he submit it or did they solicit it?

    Jacob, my soterilogically-challenged friend from NCT, in the event you havent noticed, this is the “Friday Firestorm”. So, whether or not it is ironic, or fitting, that is in the eye of the beholder.

  25. Maluph: “Interesting that the link is to Sunstone, which seems to get the bulk of the criticism – it could have just as easily been a link to today’s FAIR conference.”

    You gotta pay closer attention, Maluph.

  26. Peter LLC says:

    I agree with the Apostles. It’s time to ban the self-appointed volunteers and professionalize this thing called mormonism.

  27. a random John says:

    ED,

    I have no idea. I’ll ask next time I see him if appropriate.

  28. ED – Didn’t say staff? Comment 17, paragraph 2, first sentence.

  29. Peter LLC says:

    soteriologically

    I’d have to say that ranks right up there with Adam Greenwood’s almost reckless use of concatenation in mixed company.

  30. Mahuph, mea cupla. I should have said “contributors”, as that is what I meant. As stated previously, I have no idea whether the paid staff proper are members or not. And you really should mouse over the word “away” up there at the top after the “Discuss” before Steve gets all sarcastic on you.

    arJ, fair enough, but the assumption is he submitted it? And if so, then it is perceived to be a public retraction of his seeming rejection of Sunstone’s raison d’etre in the 1989 quote? I guess

    Peter LLC, I dont think that is the Apostles intent, but in the event it was, what would professionalized Mormonism look like? Brown suit from Mr Mac? CES in the head?

    Joshua A, comment 20, are you familiar with the history of the first edition of that text and how it was reviewed and removed from shelves and so on?

  31. Nick Literski says:

    #16 Extreme,
    Not to be nasty, but let’s be direct here. Sunstone is beside the point. You’re too cynical to consider any “ex-mo” to be “someone without an agenda” to destroy all vestiges of LDS-ism. From your comments in other threads, it seems you suffer from George W. Bush syndrome when it comes to LDS membership—-if they’re not with you, they’re with the enemy.

  32. “before Steve gets all sarcastic on you.”

    Too late, biyatches!

    ED, you’re on a witchhunt here. You seek moral purity and spotless records from anyone who would dare publish or speak concerning the gospel outside of official Church auspices. That’s a dangerous and reckless perspective! We’re all sinners here. Does it matter if some of the more prominent Sunstoners are not practicing members? So what if John and Jana have more fun with the Friends than reading The Friend ?

  33. Here’s an irony. Dallin Oaks was one of the founding editors/supporters of Dialogue. Read about it here.

  34. Nick, guilt of the former, not guilty of the latter.

    Steve, witchhunt? Nah. I seek the free and fair publication of unbiased information for all interested parties to peruse and decide upon independently. A lot to ask for, I know, but that is my personal agenda. I dont care whether exmos have fun or not, but there is no way I am going to sit there and take their opinion without a heaping helping of salt. Facts and data are one thing, someones opinion of them is another. I prefer to drink my water upstream.

  35. Nick Literski says:

    ED (so much more appropriate than Extreme…),

    Do you take the opinion of LDS “without a heaping helping of salt?” It seems you do, from your comments in the bloggernacle. I actually don’t believe for a moment that you’re interested in “the free and fair publication of unbiased information for all interested parties to peruse and decide upon independently.”

  36. ED,

    I prefer to drink my water upstream.

    You’ve said that before; it reminds me of a creative writing prof I had (a prominent poet, editor of one of the major poetry journals in the U.S., but it’s been years and I don’t remember his name). He decried the tendency he’d seen of aspiring poets to not read poetry, arguing that they didn’t want their expression of poetry tainted by others’ ideas. He argued that, by attempting to create their own hermetically sealed world of poetry, they wrote sucky poetry.

    History and theology are shared pursuits; it’s great that you like original sources, but original sources aren’t self-explaining. Sometimes it’s helpful for us to get others’ perspective, whether or not we agree with them, to better situate and clarify our own ideas.

  37. “You gotta pay closer attention, Maluph.”

    Yep.

    /s/

    Steve’s Biyatch.

  38. Peter LLC says:

    16:

    in a world of media deluge, one has to pick and choose, [...] the ideal is cast aside for the pragmatic and I dont read it unless something compelling comes out, which is almost never.

    34:

    I seek the free and fair publication of unbiased information for all interested parties to peruse and decide upon independently.

    I’m not saying the one comment necessarily rules out the other, but I call BS. A strategy of predetermination–to put your view of “ex-mos” charitably–hardly squares with your purported ideal, which seems to be an early victim of less than divine considerations like, uh, your lack of time and patience.

  39. Hermano Dorito,

    Whether Dallin H. Oaks submitted the text or whether it was solicited doesn’t matter, does it? He could have refused permission to publish and he didn’t, and that is significant.

    Like you, I find myself wondering sometimes what you have to do to get yourself kicked off the Sunstone board. Make a donation to Mitt, maybe? But I’m not unduly concerned about the Remys’ presence there – I don’t think there is any subterfuge or agenda involved, and, as far as I know, they’re both good and charitable people, and doing good is the point, right?

    I share your concern about the silly grandstanding and self-congratulatory hokum that often manifests itself in the form of melodramatic martyrdom. “Even though the church sucks and is so, so, difficult for someone as enlightened as I, I have nonetheless chosen to stay and bear the heavy burden that membership in this hellish organization imposes on me. Oh, what a good boy am I.” That attitude deserves to get absolutely hammered, and ridiculed without mercy wherever it is found. But I really don’t think that is the prevailing attitude. I think these are mostly good and decent people who are trying to make sense of their lived experience.

    And you have really GOT to stop referring to people like me who might occasionally drop in on FAIR or Sunstone conference as “Mormon Intelligentsia”. We might be so-called intellectuals, but cold caffiene exits our nostrils in a very un-intellectual way, even in this ankle deep kiddie pool that is Mormon studies.

  40. Not to be an intentional threadjack killer, but from Mr. Parser: I can’t find a single sentence in the original quotes with which I disagree. I read them twice, the second time very slowly, and I just can’t find one.

    Is there a particular sentence or paragraph or idea that anyone believes is incorrect – or are we simply going to discuss our own opinions of a particular group of people?

  41. Joshua A. says:

    ED–
    Yes I am aware that the first edition of “Mormon Doctrine” was found to be unsatisfactory. That does not, however, mean that subsequent editions were either a) commissioned and authorized by the LDS church, and b) free of error. I do believe, however, that the publication of religious literature by not only Mr. McConkie, but other general authorities of the church under their own names and completely disclaimed as being their own opinions, not representative of official LDS doctrine, etc., is quite germane to this discussion. I believe that a Professor Dallin Oaks once wrote a scholarly article with the thesis that the destruction of the Nauvoo Expositor by Nauvoo Mayor Joseph Smith was justified. Does this mean that abatement of the press is an official Church position? Shall we believe that Cain walks the earth in the guise of Sasquatch because another volunteer author, Spencer Kimball, publishes it in “The Miracle of Forgiveness.” Is it official LDS doctrine that all Jews are laboring under curse of God following the crucifixion of Jesus because James Talmage wrote it in “Jesus the Christ” (which wascommissioned by the Church)? Or should, as I personally believe, Church members take the disclaimers listed in the first few pages at face value and accept this literature as the (likely, but not necessarily informed) opinions of the authors?

    By the way, Steve, great thread.

  42. Nick Literski says:

    Joshua,
    Yes, abatement of the press is an official LDS church position. The difference is they now *buy* the press, rather than smash the press and pie the type. Hence the disappearance of Bookcraft, for example.

  43. Matt Thurston says:

    Ray (#40), I’d agree with most of what is written in the two original quotes as well, with the caveat that they apply to all men/women as representatives or speakers for God, regardless of their official or ordained role in the LDS Church or any other organization. We should carefully consider what we read in books/magazines/internet or hear delivered at conferences and symposia.

    That said, I consider the term “false prophets” and “false teachers” a little melodramatic and polarizing. Though I’ve disagreed with some statements made by LDS apostles or prophets, as well as many ex-Mormons, I extend them the benefit of the doubt that they are speaking from a place of sincere belief and experience, that they are not intentionally trying to deceive. I’d never label them “false.”

  44. Adam Greenwood says:

    Extreme Dorito = Awesome.

    So do some of the other commenters, but I’m not going to name names. I’m no snitch.

  45. Matt, I agree in general – with the disclaimer that I really have met a few people I would label as “false prophets” and “false teachers” – especially defined as those who don’t care a wit about being right but preach solely to gain fame or fortune or to tear down the faith of others. I’ve met more of the latter than the former, but I’ve met both.

  46. Matt Thurston says:

    Dorito,

    Most of the Sunstone staff and board of directors are not “ex-Mormon,” though you’ll have to define what you mean by “ex.” Two or three are inactive, but I don’t think any of them have been excommunicated nor had their names removed. (Not that that would matter.) Most are active in their local wards and have callings. Two are former mission presidents. That they possess varying degrees of belief goes without saying, just as it does for any ward congregation.

    But really, all of that is academic. One’s activity or belief or membership status with respect to the Church is not a criteria for employment, membership on the board of directors, or participation in the symposia, magazine, or blog… really, all that is required is a belief/adherence to the Sunstone mission statement:

    The mission of the Sunstone Foundation is to sponsor open forums of Mormon thought and experience. Under the motto, “Faith Seeking Understanding,” we examine and express the rich spiritual, intellectual, social and artistic qualities of Mormon history and contemporary life. We encourage humanitarian service, honest inquiry, and responsible interchange of ideas that is respectful of all people and what they hold sacred.
    Thankfully, such a motto attracts a variety of interesting Mormons, ex-Mormons, and never-been-Mormons to symposia like the one being held next week in SLC.

  47. Thomas Parkin says:

    “I extend them the benefit of the doubt that they are speaking from a place of sincere belief and experience”

    Over the last few years I’ve come to see sincerity as a real problem. I don’t give people an a priori nod on their assumed sincerity. Rather, I’ve come to think that our capacity for deceit and self-deceit knows few bounds, and that real sincerity is out of most of our grasp on a moment to moment basis. I’m coming to believe that that a semantic line should be drawn between strength or even genuineness of conviction and sincerity. More than just, ‘I really mean it,’ I think we need a term for ‘I really mean it, and I have really abased my own biases in the process.’ And I submit sincerity as that term. I want to more closely align sincerity with humility, I suppose.

    This is partly due to a long consideration / argument with a friend, which has occurred over several years. I began at your position: giving everyone the benefit of the doubt concerning the the genuine nature of the development and expression of their views. He came in and said, basically, not only do people lie, they do not believe what they think they believe. This accords with the long process I’ve been through to even begin to accept the more distasteful aspects of my personality as being real, you know, facts. It is also partly due to contemplation of Moroni 10.

    This doesn’t annul real friendshipship, forbearance, listening, patience, understanding, etc. It doesn’t make everything a fight over the character of one’s sparring partners, either, since we are all, mas o menos, in the same boat. I’m always trying to be more interested in getting really at something than in enhancing or entrenching my own opinions. It is in the attempt to find that interest that I slowly discover my own insincerity.

    ~

  48. Matt Thurston says:

    Seth said, “Be aware, that a lot of bloggernacle conversation can run afoul of this problem.”

    I agree. Can anyone point to a topic or panel presentation at the upcoming FAIR and/or Sunstone conferences that would be considered off limits in even the most conservative corners of the bloggernacle?

    Also, don’t you think the leaders of the Church are much more concerned about the Bloggernacle (and the greater online community) than they were ever concerned about Sunstone or Dialogue? What is a magazine with a few thousand subscribers and a symposium with a few hundred attendees to a medium that attracts and penetrates every household?

    The topics are the same, only the medium has changed.

  49. Eric Russell says:

    “Does it matter if some of the more prominent Sunstoners are not practicing members?”

    Good question, Steve. I think it’s situational dependent. If the presentation being given is an objective, scholarly paper on some aspect of Mormonism, probably not. But when presentations are actively soliciting for grass roots action to make changes within the church, then yes, I dare say it does matter.

  50. Matt Thurston says:

    Mark IV (#39): “Even though the church sucks and is so, so, difficult for someone as enlightened as I, I have nonetheless chosen to stay and bear the heavy burden that membership in this hellish organization imposes on me. Oh, what a good boy am I.”

    That was really funny. And yes, such an attitude is taxing, if not insufferable. But there are equivalent expressions of back-slapping, self-contratulatory grandeur that occur in standard LDS testimony meetings that are equally insufferable.

    By the way, are you going to Sunstone this year? I’d love to meet you in person.

  51. Just a few thoughts as I’m ramping up in my new role as Executive Director of Sunstone….

    –I’m not aware of any exmos on the Sunstone staff. I am quite active in my ward, and hold 2 callings. Dan Wotherspoon (editor) is very much active in the church and pro-LDS. Carol (Sunstone’s secretary) is very active in her ward. Allen and William are definitely not “exmos” either. I haven’t spoken w/ Allen or William much about their beliefs, but Dan, Carol and I are definitely believers (though perhaps not 100% orthodox/traditional). The vast majority of Sunstone’s board members are active in the church, and (as Matt mentioned) some are former Mission Presidents, etc. Even Jana (as I understand it) is still LDS (not an exmo).

    –My guess is that there are prominent permabloggers on most of the mainstream ‘nacle blogs that are anywhere from semi-active to largely inactive. Maybe even here at BCC? Do we really want to go down this rabbit hole? Reminds me a bit of the McCarthy hearings.

    I can say also (for the record) that I am pro-LDS, and that every discussion I’ve ever had w/ the leadership team and board of directors at Sunstone (and I mean EVERY one — for over 2 years now) has followed our motto: “Faith seeking understanding.”

    Sunstone, at its core, is pro-Faith, pro-Mormon, and pro-LDS (in my opinion). Occasionally there have been, and continue to be a few voices that express frustration or even criticism with the church or its culture, but I imagine that this is not much different from the range of comments welcomed on this blog, or even in select fast and testimony meetings churchwide.

    I’ve spent the past few weeks interviewing or speaking with past and current Sunstone editors and supporters (Elbert Peck, Scott Kinney, Peggy Fletcher Stack, Bonner Ritchie) and even with some strong dissenters (like the Toscanos, Maxine Hanks, etc.). I completely agree that in the late 1980s and early 1990s Sunstone (in my opinion) drifted somewhat from its core mission/values. But I will also say that over the life of Sunstone, faith and the “celebration of Mormonism” have always remained at the center of Sunstone’s soul. Finally, I can say with confidence that Dan Wotherspoons (over the past 5 years) has made exceptional strides in ensuring that conversations at Sunstone stay constructive (with a few exceptions).

    I hope that some of you (at least) will give Sunstone a chance (or maybe even a 2nd chance) if you haven’t been willing to do so in the past. Sunstone has a rich heritage of constructively mixing thought with faith — and I know that as a leadership team, we are 100% committed to continuing this tradition.

    I am *very* excited about the past, present and future of Sunstone.

  52. Wotherspoon….not Wotherspoons. Sorry Dan!!!!

  53. Thomas Parkin,

    That is a great point, and eloquently stated. To become aware of one’s capacity for delf-deceit is very humbling.

    But I draw a different conclusion. I think we have no choice but to assume the best, or, in your words, give an a priori nod to sincerity. Of course it is often false. Of course it can mislead. But we don’t know that until some time has passed. We needn’t be overly concerned if someone turns into a cul-de-sac. If their search is honest, they will find their way out again, and will have learned something in the process. And if someone keeps turning into the same cul-de-sac over and over, well, then we can draw some conclusions about their sincerity and integrity.

  54. Matt Thurston says:

    Thomas (#47),

    I 100% agree, but I assume you are applying that same degree of caution to the sincere beliefs and opinions of everyone. Certainly LDS apostles and prophets have no less capacity for self-deceit and bias than the rest of us.

    Or do you afford them greater cerebral and spiritual abilities?

    It was interesting to hear Blake Ostler in a recent Mormon Matters podcast suggest that many LDS General Authorities were still at the basic/primary “first level naivete”. If Blake is right, I wonder how many these “first level naivete” general authorities have really “abased [their] own biases”?

  55. Matt T.,

    Sadly, I blew my Mormon Intelligentsia budget going to SMPT and MHA in the Spring, so unless I win the lottery between now and next Wednesday, I won’t be able to make it. But I met your father at MHA, so I guess I know you by proxy. Maybe next year.

  56. I appreciate Thomas Parkin’s comment deeply, but I agree with Mark IV – in that I personally must give someone the benefit of the doubt as to sincerity, specifically because I want them to do the same for me. I don’t know how many people have told me and others, in essence, “You can’t be serious. You have to be brainwashed. There’s no way you can believe that.” Not once in that situation has it been possible to learn from each other – since the very possibility is rejected by the assumption.

    I am NOT saying that sincerity should grant a measure of immunity from criticism. Some of the people with whom I have discussed politics, religion or any other topic who were the most sincere also were those with whom I disagreed the most strongly. Their sincerity didn’t change that one iota. I can question them about their beliefs and practices, but I only question their sincerity if I see hypocrisy or inconsistency and subterfuge – that is repeated or unexplained.

  57. Matt, I hope you weren’t completely serious in your last comment. (#54) I always will argue against infallibility, but that was WAY over the top.

  58. Matt Thurston says:

    Ray (#57), how was I over the top? I’ve read my comment three or four times and I don’t see it. One of the great things about the Mormon faith is the idea that prophets and apostles are normal “men” like the rest of us, that they are subject to the same foibles or weaknesses as are all men, which includes, I assume, “self deceit and bias.”

    In the second paragraph I was merely quoting the opinion of another person.

    I am not criticizing the Brethren. On the contrary, I’ve stated that I extend them the same respect and good will I extend all men with respect to their opinions and beliefs.

    I don’t know, to suggest that normal men are susceptible to self-deceit and bias, but that prophets and apostles are not, seems to border on idolatry.

  59. Nick Literski says:

    Great discussion here about sincerety. I’ve experienced the full range, from Mormon extremist to having my name removed from the records of the LDS church. I’ve observed what I think is a very disturbing pattern. It goes something like this:

    Nick the Uber-Mo: “The sky is blue!”
    Some LDS: “Interesting observation!”

    vs.

    Nick the Ex-Mo: “The sky is blue!”
    Some LDS: “You’re an Ex-Mo, so the sky must really be bright red!”

    Yes, I’m oversimplifying a bit, but it reflects the unmistakeable, and very sudden difference which I’ve observed. I’ve been working on a history book for about four and a half years now. Several of my good LDS friends who encouraged my work, upon learning that I had chosen to leave the LDS church, immediately expressed their concern that as of that moment, most LDS would reject the research and writing I’m doing—not because of the content, but because of my membership status.

    I recently went through this sort of experience with a fellow blogger, in which I pointed out a first-hand source and explained that some critics of the LDS church were completely misrepresenting it. I explained why the source was actually very positive in regard to Mormonism. Unfortunately, the fellow blogger railed on me at length, insisting that I must be taking the source out of context, and very nearly suggesting that I was lying about the quotation in the first place.

    By all means, expect people to back up what they’re saying, but a seige mentality that insists “anyone who leaves the LDS church must be out to get us” is silly.

  60. Matt Thurston says:

    Furthermore, I didn’t say they were decieved or biased, only that they had the same capacity for self-deceit and bias as all men. At least I hope so, or the Plan of Salvation isn’t fair.

  61. Matt Thurston says:

    On the subject of sincerity, Laurie Maffly-Kipp wrote an interesting Sunstone article a year or so ago about the sincerity of Joseph Smith, and whether or not Mormonism’s eternal truths and/or its adherents faith were dependent on Joseph’s sincerity. It dovetails with the phenomenon that Nick is describing in #59.

    http://www.sunstoneonline.com/magazine/issues/140/140-28-36.pdf

  62. Joshua A. says:

    Nick, I don’t believe a word you say. :)

  63. Matt,

    Again, I have expressed over and over and over again that the tendency to deify and whitewash church leaders is wrong and carried terrible consequences. To say (or imply), however, that our “apostles and prophets” (there usually are only 15 at any time) have no more spiritual ability than the average member – and that “many” of the GA’s are at the “first level naivete” (making it seem to be a comparison to brand new converts) – and that “apostles and prophets” have “no less capacity for self-deceit and bias than the rest of us” is a step I won’t take.

    I don’t feel comfortable saying that my spiritual ability is the rival of any of our prophets and apostles, nor do I feel comfortable saying that my capacity for self-deceit and bias is as low as any of those 15 brethren. (I believe there still is a level of capacity in them, but I think it is lower than mine.) I know of a few GA’s in my life who were bad examples of believers, but MANY as “first level naive”? I wouldn’t go that far – not even close. I wouldn’t even say that of the vast majority of Bishops and Stake Presidents I have met, and nearly all (if not all) of the GA’s have been Bishops and SP’s.

    Finally, just because you are quoting someone else doesn’t mean you can blame them and excuse yourself. You passed it on and signed your name to it in a manner that endorsed it. Doing that made it yours.

    I don’t disagree with the basic premise that our leaders are fallible, imperfect sinners. I don’t idolize them in the slightest, but I don’t equate them with myself and other average members, either – especially when it comes to the FP and the 12. I still think what you wrote is over-the-top.

  64. Nick (#59) – Amen. (Man, I just agreed with Nick. Whatever will I do now to repair my image – in Nick’s eyes?) :-)

  65. Matt Thurston says:

    Ray, I just don’t think we’re that far apart, despite the fact that you still think my comments “over the top.”

    Is it demeaning to suggest that any member of the church can have the same spiritual ability as our prophets and apostles? Wouldn’t they agree with that statement? I’m curious what others think.

    As for the first or second level naivete, this is another issue altogether. And I didn’t realize that quoting someone else also made it my opinion as well. Must we agree with (or “own”) everyone or everything we quote? Can’t we quote someone for conversation’s sake?

    Having said that, I’d be happy to own Blake’s quote as my own, with the caveat that it is probably impossible to know if some general authorities are first level naivete or not. But I don’t think it beyond the realm of possibility. Unlike you, I’ve known bishops and stake presidents for whom I’d guess were first level. This isn’t a qualitatively “bad” thing either, in my opinion.

    I’ve got a few other thoughts on this subject but I gotta run…

  66. Matt, Re-read my comment carefully.

    Your paragraph #2 – I never said “can’t”. Paragraph #3 – Context can dictate endorsement; yours did, original disclaimers notwithstanding. Paragraph #4 – I said “vast majority” – not “all”. The original context implies “bad”; thanks for the clarification.

    On the basic issue, we are in agreement. I said as much. I objected to the way that the phrasing implied no distinction whatsoever between us and our prophets and apostles. I agree it isn’t as wide as too many members assume, but I also think there is one. None of us live up what we wish we could do; all of us fall short and need God’s grace to grow; all of us have areas of self-deceit and bias (PH and race, anyone?); it is folly to simplify a leader’s humanity simply to encourage veneration; etc.

    Having said all of that, part of my acceptance of mortal men as prophets and apostles is an acceptance of a generally higher level of spiritual ability (not “capability” but “ability”) – honed by years of diligence and service and spiritual experience. I know that they are human, just like I am, but I also choose to believe that the sum total of their experiences knock off some of the rough edges that still cling to me. I tend to believe that they are a little more in tune with the Spirit than I am, if for no other reason than the sum total of their experiences – based on the sum total of mine. My own Bishops and Stake Presidents tend to be a bit more in tune than I am, even if it is only because of their callings at the time.

    Part of why I see things the way I do is that I believe in the power of the laying on of hands to bring additional insight and “spiritual ability” – over and above one’s natural ability. I have seen it happen to me in my callings; I have seen it happen to my leaders; I have felt it in application to our apostles and prophets. It’s not that they are more spiritual naturally than anyone else, but that their calling gives them real and powerful insight to which I am not privy. I really believe that. I believe they still can make terrible mistakes and hold incorrect beliefs, but I also believe they can have unique insights and see many things more clearly than those of us who have received the same calling and attendant blessings.

    I don’t mean this as a direct comment about you – honestly, but: I would rather err on the side of that perspective than on the side of the alternative, since I have seen the alternative lead too many people I love to question prophetic authority and leave the Church. Yes, I think either extreme is dangerous, but I would rather be slightly off center on this side than slightly off center on the other one. We probably are quite close, but it’s a distance that is important to me. I respect the basic point you are making, but I choose to phrase it differently – especially in a public forum like this.

  67. Change to “many of us who have NOT received the same calling and attendant blessings.”

  68. ED (#24),

    Oh, I see, so serving the devil is “fitting” if someone puts the word firestorm in the title of a post. Of course, this discounts the fact that a firestorm need not be contentious, rather, it could simply be a lively or intense discussion. It also ignores the fact that you are contentions on every post regardless of the title. So, I sticking with it being ironic rather than fitting.

  69. Ray, I fervently disagree. Your spiritual ability is not one iota less than any of the prophets and apostles, nor is their capacity for self-deceit and bias any less than yours.

    Have you reached the limits of your abilities? Have they? Have any of y’all done a better job magnifying those abilities and minimizing those capacities? Totally not my call. But they are fully human, no more or less capable of spiritual greatness than you are. That they may have moved further along the continuum is not due to any inherent differences in their abilities.

  70. Ann,

    I am perfectly content with “fact” that I am less intelligent than someone else.

  71. Ann, as I said to Matt, please re-read what I wrote. (This is why I over-stress parsing when dealing with the words of others. I don’t like being accused of saying things I didn’t say.) The following is going to be quite direct. Sorry, but . . .

    I have said more than once that there is no “inherent difference” between myself and someone who becomes an apostle or prophet. I said, quite clearly actually, that they are just as “fully human” as the rest of us. I even said I don’t like the tendency to “deify” our leaders. I differentiated between “capability” and “ability”. I said that “the totality of their experience” and the “laying on of hands” associated with their “calling” is a major factor in my perspective.

    I shouldn’t have to defend a position I did not take. I can’t help it if you disagree with what I didn’t say. If you want to critique what I did say, let me know.

  72. BTW, Ann, if you only read my first comment and reacted to that one, please read #66 before you respond.

  73. Nick (35), it seems like you have already decided what I believe, so why bother to ask? Go grind your axe on someone else.

    Sam B (36), I completely agree, but will always prefer original source material to the opinions of others. I own tons of commentaries and pick through them as I see fit, but never defer to them.

    Adam (44), you really know how to hurt a guy…jk…I think.

    Matt (46), thanks for the info. I dont discredit the potential value of their input, and like I said, in an ideal world all would be taken on face value, but the world isnt ideal, and anything from an exmo or politically charged source starts out with one strike against it unless vigorously recommended by a source experience has taught me is reliable.

    Nick (59), it isnt a matter of everyone who leaves the church is out to get us, it is a matter of knowing you left the church. People leave for a reason, whatever it is, and that colors people’s attitudes, beliefs and feelings, just as it does yours. Expecting us to ignore that and view exmos as objective is as absurd as us expecting you to accept GAs as objective. You have a particular viewpoint, Nick, and that is pretty transparent. As such, why in the world should I ignore that when reading your stuff? I shouldnt.

    Jacob (68), your characterization is grossly inaccurate, to say the least, and shows your only reason here is to attack my person. As such is the case, who, then, is genuinely filled with the spirit of contention? I am addressing the topic, you are addressing my person. You call me contentious, I call you hypocrite.

  74. BTW, thank you, John Dehlin, for your thoughtful input.

  75. NoCoolName_Tom says:

    Strangely, I am reminded of several prominent men who each were ex-ed from the Church in a very public and painful manner, men like Oliver Cowdery, David Whitmer, and Martin Harris. As I have learned in countless GD, seminary, and Institute classes, these men defended their testimony of the Book of Mormon even if they didn’t hold to their testimony of Joseph Smith.

    I never remember a teacher saying, even once, “These men were not members of the Church at the time, so we need to take what they were saying with a grain of salt. We can’t be exactly certain of their motivations in dealing with non-members about the Book of Mormon.” No, we hear of their firm testimonies, with their membership status being used to indicate the level of belief these men had. They are praiseworthy examples.

    While it’s true that each of these men held views that were not orthodox, and possibly “heretical”, to the Church, they are held up as modern-day examples for our youth. Why can’t we afford modern ex-Mormons the same respect and accept that they are still good people who hold to what they believe to be true? Sort of a “innocent until proven guilty” sort of thing in dealing with what they say (obviously some have proven themselves to my mind [Ed Decker]). Otherwise, we fall victim to a perpetual cycle of ad hominem fallacies. As Mormons we don’t have a monopoly on the truth, and I ask why can’t we accept that some of that truth might come from those who used to be among our numbers, unlikely as that might seem to some?

  76. ED (#73)

    Nice try, you are the one who has decried contention in this thread, I merely pointed out that you are incessantly contentious. As to hypocrisy, you might try looking up “projection.”

  77. I, personally, want a new ex-Mormon.

    http://sunstoneblog.com/?p=218

  78. Jacob, get on topic, or I will open up both barrels on you. When it comes to self-promoting jerks who use dubious methods to promote their private interpretations and shore up their pride, I have no problem taking my gloves off. When it comes to deliberate and honest discussions of the Scriptures or Mormon history, I keep the gloves on. You are incapable of the latter. You butcher the Scriptures to forward speculative interpretations which are little more than proof texts for your pet doctrines. So, if you want to say that I am incessantly contentious when addressing arrogant self-promoters of dubious pet doctrines, I will accept that, Jacob. But saying I am that way all the time with everyone is a lie. Jacob, you get what you deserve. Should I be more charitable with you and people like you? Yes, but, I have always had a problem turning the other cheek. Maybe someday I will do better. Today is not that day. And while you are picking at mote in my eye, start working on the beam in your own. And get on topic.

  79. Mark IV, from #39,

    And you have really GOT to stop referring to people like me who might occasionally drop in on FAIR or Sunstone conference as “Mormon Intelligentsia”.

    Allow me to clarify my position. I wouldnt necessarily consider attendees to be “Mormon Intelligentsia”, I would consider presenters to potentially be classified as such. It is usually pretty obvious who is trying to present information, and who is trying to promote themselves and their private agenda. It is the latter who I would consider part of the “Mormon Intelligentsia.” When it becomes more a matter of who is right, than what is right.

  80. It has been my experience that I can sincerely and convincingly speak about the church, especially to non-members, only when I use my own language and refrain from relying on official church publications. I do not think that any of us can really be representative Mormons who speak for the entire body of the church, because we are all individuals with different understandings of the gosepl and different experiences. I can’t speak for “the church.” I can only speak about my view of it. I find that people appreciate when I speak from my own perspective, and that by doing so I invite more conversation because I am addressing them as one individual to another.

    On a more general note, I think the value of “balance” is frequently over-rated. When one side of the arguement has more weight behind it than another, then I am not at all sure that it is fair or ethical to be balanced.

  81. Matt Thurston says:

    Ray (#66), I understand what you are saying…

    There is no question that the opportunities and attendant experiences that accompany the callings of Bishop, Stake President, Apostle, and Prophet allow for a kind or sort of spirituality that ordinary men are likely not privy to. Their opportunity and experience gives them a unique spiritual perspective I do not possess.

    But I think the same could be said of all men and women, regardless of their religious beliefs. I’m just not ready to call their degree of spirituality and understanding qualitatively better or deeper than other men by virtue of their callings. That some may possess greater spirituality and understanding than other men, even most men, I can accept, but not because they are bishops or apostles, but because they are spiritual men who have shared wisdom or truth that has touched my life.

    I think this will really drive my point home and illustrate our difference of opinion: I’ve learned a lot from Gordon B. Hinckley, and I’ve learned a lot from Paul and Margaret Toscano. I do not favor the former over the latter by virtue of his calling, or the latter by virtue of their degrees. If any man or woman shares wisdom that speaks to my soul and is confirmed by the Holy Spirit, then I accept and treasure that wisdom as a gift from God. As such, my beliefs and sense of truth resemble something of a patchwork quilt. You no doubt receive wisdom from all corners as well, but you give added weight to the wisdom of apostles and prophets, especially when an idea or teaching conflicts with the teachings of the church.

    I apologize if I have mischaracterized your beliefs.

  82. who seek to spread their false gospel and attract followers by sponsoring symposia, books, and journals whose contents challenge fundamental doctrines of the Church.

    I find this comment by Elder Ballard troubling. It seems to assume that the intent of those who explore their experience or ideas they’ve wrestled with is to gain followers and to damage the Church. And I conclude that Elder Ballard doesn’t comprehend the particular variety of striving for understanding that animates “so-called intellectuals”.

  83. Thanks for the clarification, Matt. I could have written almost all of what you did in the last comment as my own perspective.

    As to the last sentence of the 3rd paragraph, it is accurate as it relates to Gospel and Church issues. I would not accept automatically BRM’s view of history and genetics over a geneticist or historian I respect and admire. I would not accept GBH’s view of nanotechnology over a leader in the field. Frankly, I would not accept Elder Nelson’s view of stem cell research over a leader in that field. The only exceptions to these examples are when each issue is discussed in relation to salvation of the soul – and even then, if I felt that the apostle was explaining a personal opinion, I would give less weight than if I felt they were speaking for the Church.

    In “worldly” matters, I give more weight to worldly experts; in “spiritual” matters, I give more weight to “spiritual” experts – whatever their religion or denomination (I listen to religious programs often when I travel – both to understand the apostasy better AND to learn from others’ perspectives.); in “overlapping” issues, I give more weight to our apostles and prophets pretty much every time.

    Just to illustrate, my favorite book of all time dealing with the life of the Savior “in mortality” is “Jesus Before Christianity” – written by Albert Nolan, a Catholic Priest. It is a truly fascinating perspective. One of my favorite books about temples is “Temple Theology” – written by Margaret Barker, a Methodist minister. It is an incredible perspective of the centrality of the temple to ancient Jewish worship and theology. I defer to our current apostles and prophets as to the modern application of these topics in our lives, but I respect deeply the works of others in trying to understand the overall issues in question.

  84. gillsyk, That’s extrapolation I don’t see – not at all. Perhaps that’s because I don’t feel like it’s pointed at me, but I just don’t read that into it.

  85. Extreme Kurtimus Prime: Jacob, get on topic, or I will open up both barrels on you.

    Har!

    Oooohhh Kurt… errr… Snarkimus Prime… errr… Extreme Dorito, the most contentious chap in the ‘nacle but first to decry contention as being Satanic, is now threatening to open a can of blog whoop-hiney on Jacob J. Classic.

    Seriously Kurt, it’s time to consider upping your meds.

    (I don’t like to see sane bloggers like Jacob treated so shamefully is all…)

  86. Interesting choice of quotes.

    I personally find that Elder Ballard’s address is better read in entirety. It represents warnings about false prophets and false teachings in the Church. Perhaps there is some good reason for avoiding that point. For example, we navigate carefully around Ballard’s preceding paragraph, which might tend to compromise the social agenda of certain people.

    Even better material is to be found in some of Elder Ballard’s following pronouncements —

    False prophets and false teachers are those who declare that the Prophet Joseph Smith was a duplicitous deceiver; they challenge the First Vision as an authentic experience. They declare that the Book of Mormon and other canonical works are not ancient records of scripture. They also attempt to redefine the nature of the Godhead, and they deny that God has given and continues to give revelation today to His ordained and sustained prophets.

    I find these points, and some of those Elder Ballard lists in the following few paragraphs of his talk, serve as a very reliable litmus test.

  87. Geoff,

    If you think juvenile name calling is going to accomplish something, aside from ingratiating yourself with Jacob, you are mistaken. All it does is show you and Jacob will grasp any opportunity whatsoever to resort to ad hominems. If you guys had anything substantive, you would use it. Hey, if you two think character attacks somehow strengthen your horribly speculative soteriology, knock yourselves out. At the end of the day, you are just deceiving yourselves.

    You criticize me for what I do, when you do it yourself. Now that is classic, Geoff. You are a real piece of work.

    That apology you issued after the last crap fest I participated in on your blog is obviously as empty as the logical arguments behind your soteriology.

    Oh, yeah, and since you missed it, Geoff, this thread is about GA comments on symposia. Kinda funny how you discourage threadjacking and personal attacks on your blog, but go and do it elsewhere. Another classic.

  88. Steve Evans says:

    Jim, the quotes, like any sound bite, are best read in their entire context. I’d agree that those points could be used as a litmus test, but for what? To what end? If someone doesn’t believe that the Book of Mormon is an ancient record, then what? They’re a false teacher/prophet? The implications of your comment are disturbing, I think.

  89. Does anyone else see the irony of this dispute occurring on this particular thread?

  90. Disturbing? Perhaps rightly so.

    The objective of testing is obvious in the context of Elder Ballard’s talk — discerning false prophets and false teachers, and rejecting what they promote.

    And perhaps even more disturbing, to some, is the implication that these threats come from within the Church, obviously from those claiming to be true believers.

  91. Jim,

    One of the big problems is that true believers themselves are the source of most of the silliness and harmful teachings.

    Think about it. 99% of the wacky doctrines and false teachings that I have heard came straight from the mouth of a CES teacher or mission president. Sunstone is pretty small potatoes compared to that.

  92. Extreme Kontentious Kurtimus Prime,

    Although I am not above ad hominem attacks on occasion (like repeatedly calling you a nutjob and a troll cuz I truly believe you are), I don’t recall Jacob J using them. He certainly hasn’t used them in this thread. Pointing out your blatant hypocrisy in your comment #4 is hardly an ad hominem attack after all. Do you have evidence to back up up your ridiculous accusation that “Jacob will grasp any opportunity whatsoever to resort to ad hominems”?

    And I was serious about the meds thing…

  93. I have no authority on this blog, but I would like to request that y’all knock it off. A firestorm is one thing; this is quite another – even given the irony.

  94. Jim, 86,

    They declare that the Book of Mormon and other canonical works are not ancient records of scripture.

    A general authority, B. H. Roberts, was pretty close to that position.

    They also attempt to redefine the nature of the Godhead…

    Brigham Young and Adam/God is about as radical a definition of the Godhead as you are likely to ever find.

    …they deny that God has given and continues to give revelation today to His ordained and sustained prophets.

    That is precisely what Joseph F. Smith did a president of the church when he testified before the U.S. senate in the Smoot hearings.

    If you are using Elder Ballard’s statement as a litmus test, you just declared two prophets of this dispensation apostate.

  95. Joshua A. says:

    Yes, Steve, I think I could go with the idea that someone who purports to be a prophet/teacher of truth and yet denies the veracity of scripture is indeed a false prophet/teacher. That doesn’t necessarily mean that they have become such intentionally or that their will is to deceive. Perhaps they themselves have been deceived. But there’s a great tendency, especially among the more intellectually inclined in the church who are generally not satisfied with regurgitated Gospel Doctrine lessons week after week, to chase the latest intellectual fad and people do indeed get lost. I think that these signposts are a good check not only on others, but on ourselves. If I’ve been on a long intellectual journey and found myself at the conclusion, for instance, that the President of the Church’s direction is just plain wrong…Well, that’s a darn good sign that I’ve taken a wrong turn somewhere. I think that for me personally that would be the most appropriate end to which to use this litmus test.

    And Ray, I don’t know if this is the irony you’re referring to, but I think it’s strange that a guy/gal who calls him/herself “Dorito” is complaining about being called names…

  96. Joshua, I guess the problem as I see it is not with the idea of a litmus test per se, but rather the content, ramifications and practical effects of such a test. I hate the idea of us labelling each other with such sledgehammer epithets as “false prophet” because someone follows, for example, a limited geography model of the Book of Mormon. So the idea of using Elder Ballad’s points as a litmus test is hazardous both in its implementation and its ultimate meaning — it could too easily be an excuse for us to forsake unity in order to keep our sepulchres whitened.

  97. “Sometimes these volunteers are well-informed and capable, and they contribute to a balanced presentation. Sometimes they are not, and their contribution makes matters worse. When attacked by error, truth is better served by silence than by a bad argument. In any case, volunteers do not speak for the Church.”

    “The question is more complicated when the invitation does not relate to a publication or a lecture on a single subject, but to a group of articles, a series of publications.”

    I intentionally have not opined more directly on the irony – simply pointed it out. My own comments might fit both categories, so I am not pointing at anyone in particular. (OK, I am, but not exclusively.) I really do think the thread has illustrated some of what Elder Oaks described.

  98. Steve Evans says:

    Indeed, Ray, you are right to point out that your own comments might fit both categories.

  99. I know, Steve. That wasn’t a throw-away line. :-)

  100. Joshua A. says:

    Our sepulchres? :) That’s something to which each person much speak for him/herself.

    I understand what you’re saying Steve, and it’s rough to bludgeon someone over the head with a title like “false prophet.”

  101. If you are using Elder Ballard’s statement as a litmus test, you just declared two prophets of this dispensation apostate.

    To paraphrase your earlier offering — “true believers” themselves are often the source of false and harmful teachings. Exactly the point of Elder Ballard’s warnings.

  102. Geoff,

    You need to pick up a dictionary and look up what “ad hominem” means. Allow me to assist you, click here. As Jacob’s comment addressed me and not the topic being discussed, it is an ad hominem. The only reason you two are here is to attack me so as to settle old grudges from when I exposed the two of you on NCT as a couple of speculators who are grossly ignorant of the Scriptures. Neither of you have said anything on topic in this thread. It doesnt get any more ad hominem than that, Geoff.

    What you truly believe is irrelevant. You also truly believe in multiple mortal probations, the eternal progression of sons of perdition, and a whole host of other absurd things. Anything you add to it is just as dubious.

    I find your repeated tie-ins to SnarkerNacle most entertaining, Geoff. You never had any problems with it at all when it was listed on the MoArch, and loved how much traffic was driven by it to your beloved link site (unless of course you were lying to me about it all that time you were telling me as much yourself, which, at this point, is probably not impossible for me to believe). You also never had any problems with me, until I came onto NCT and pointed out your pet doctrines are Scripturally untenable. So, what it boils down to is you had no problem with me as long as I was useful to you. Now that I am a liability to you, you turn on me and suddenly have an epiphany that I am in need of medication. How convenient. Well, Geoff, given your utter lack of training or experience in the mental health professions, and your obvious bias against my person, I am afraid your opinion on the matter is about as substantive as the content of your blog. As such is the case, I really have to wonder if you are not, in fact, a text book case of this “projection” thing Jacob is making reference to.

    Oh, and yes, the subject of this thread is still the GA quotes on Mormon symposiums. If you would care to discuss that, it would be much more pleasant than watching you self-flagellate in such a masochistic fashion.

    Joshua,

    I think it’s strange that a guy/gal who calls him/herself “Dorito” is complaining about being called names

    I am officially banned here at BCC, and the monkier “Extreme Dorito” is from the thread wherein I was banned. Despite a number of requests to be officially reinstated I have not been. Instead, I am unofficially unbanned by virtue of a software upgrade wherein the list of the banned was lost. Given that status, I choose to participate under that name to reflect my pseudo-unbanned status.

  103. Eric Russell says:

    Kurt, attacking someone for their soteriology is below the belt, man.

  104. This is an inevitable part of any disagreement with Kurt (aka Kontentious Kurt, aka Extreme Dorito, aka Mr. Snarkernackle) — the minute anyone dares question him his head explodes and he launches into some unhinged tirade wherein he projects all of his inner rage and venom onto the person foolish enough to question him. These wild-eyed screeds always consist of a couple of things too:

    a. Some mention of an imagined glorious past victory he had over the impudent dissenter in the past. (In this case he keeps carrying on incoherently about soteriology in ways that none of us comprehends)
    b. He flings as much mud at the character of his attacker as he can muster and impugns them with nothing but nefarious intent throughout their lives. He especially thinks anyone who ever asks him to put a cork in it must be the vilest sort of hypocrite for ever having let him speak in the past.
    c. In his insane tirades he always madly defends his perfect mental health.

    Look Kurt, here’s how it came down in this thread to us sane folks. You made a absurdly hypocritical comment about contention in comment #4. It was a silly thing for you to say because you are obviously one of the consistently most contentious participants on the Bloggernacle. You gave yourself the title “Kontentious Kurt” after all. (At least I assume it was hypocritical since you don’t seem to consider yourself Satanic…) In comment #23 Jacob J called you on the hypocrisy of your #4 and asks:

    If you really believe that, why are you consistently contentious in your comments here?

    In classic Kurt style you turned wild-eyed and snarled back a totally unrelated and false personal attack on Jacob (soteriologically challenged? Gimme a break) instead of sanely admitting — “yeah, I guess that was a bit ironic in retrospect wasn’t it?”

    By comment #32 even Steve was telling you to cool off a bit but you of course are never wrong so you let him know in no uncertain terms. (Why he allows you to troll this site still is beyond me.)

    Things escalated a bit between you and Jacob when he was silly enough to not lay down and take your abuse until you decided to really unleash the full headcase power of Kurt with “both barrels” of ridiculous and unfounded personal attacks no less in your comment #78.

    I lost my cool upon seeing my sane friend Jacob being attacked again by a bully and nutjob like you and jumped in to call you all sorts of rude names like, for instance, crazy, insane, looney, nutjob, headcase, and hypocrite. And of course I pointed out that I think you are in serious need of some of those wonderful modern meds that we have in 2007 to help mentally ill people like you get past your problems.

    You are of course right that I am no mental health professional. But as I see it, questioning you mental health is the most charitable way for me to think about you. If you aren’t seriously unbalanced in some way then the only other explanation is that you are just an incredible jerk who is completely morally culpable for being so consistently hypocritical, vicious, unforgiving, contentious, and cruel via your Snarkernacle site and your various online personalities.

    Since I have told you all of this privately in the past and since you still want to try bullying me and my friends here in public I feel ok about telling you these things in public again too.

  105. Aaron Brown's Mom says:

    Yeah, agreed that Kurt really is being contentious. One might even say he is the MOTHER of all contentious contenders.

  106. Eric,

    It is not below the belt when it is the only reason Jacob came onto this thread. Jacob, and Geoff, are looking to settle scores from old arguments about soteriology from NCT. No other reason for their being here, as is evidence by their lack of on-topic comments.

    Geoff,

    If comments provide evidence of someone being in need of psychological help, #104 is it.

    You and I both know you are being fabulously disingenuous in your characterizations. Our falling out and your distaste for my behavior only started after SnarkerNacle got kicked off of MoArch (against your wishes) and I pointed out on NCT that you and Jacob are ignorant of the Scriptures and your speculations on soteriology are dubious. Prior to that we were friendly, very friendly in fact, and it is obvious to me now that your motives then were to drive traffic to the MoArch, have SN target people you dont like and to curry gentle treatment for yourself and your blog. Bad on me for not seeing through your veneer. It is only after I ceased to be of use to you that you started your private attacks, out of bitterness that I would expose you on your own blog and out of a desire to distance yourself from your past promoting of SnarkerNacle to the MoArch. In other words, Geoff, your only motive here is to protect and promote yourself at my expense.

    If your comments in 104 are the most charitable you can be, well, Geoff, there really isnt anything more I can add to that. The irrational hate oozing out of you is evidence enough of where you are at.

    Prudence McAaron,

    Nothing like wading into the mire to work in some cheap shots against an old adversary, eh? Love you too, babe.

  107. ED,
    Have you actually paid attention to the scriptures you claim to know so well?

    (Also: Have you tried the ice cream yet? What do you think?)

  108. Steve Evans says:

    Geoff, ED, please restrain yourselves. There’s no need for such bickering, no matter how satisfying it may seem.

  109. Sam B,

    On the first question, I do about as well as anyone else around here, which is to say, “Not at all.” On the second, no, I havent seen it at the local groceries, unfortunately.

  110. ED,
    On the first, fair enough. On the second, my heartfelt condolences.

  111. Since this thread has devolved to basic poo slinging, can I say that I totally do not get the odd article on Cleon Skousen in the sideblog? What is the point? Romeny once took a class from Skousen so he’s a conservative extremist in sheeps clothing? Or is it just a pointless, I know dirt about something and I can sell it for an extra dime? I don’t get it.

  112. Matt,
    Either’s possible, but I think the writer’s assuming that Romney likes Skousen’s though, based on this part of the article:

    “You and I share a common affection for the late Cleon Skousen,” the radio host says. The former governor agrees, affirming Skousen was his professor and when the radio host professes his fondness for Skousen’s book The Making of America, while he acknowledges he hasn’t read it, Mitt quickly says “That’s worth reading.”

  113. Skousen’s thought

  114. D. Fletcher says:

    About Sunstone and Dialogue, my theory (pretty much unmentioned by anybody but me) is that the intellectual “wing” of the Church was thrown for a loop by the frauds of Mark Hoffmann. One of the Symposiums I attended in the early 80s was almost completely focused on the Salamander letter. Once this was revealed to be a hoax, everybody was suddenly paralyzed in their intellectualism.

  115. StillConfused says:

    To the fellows up above — lighten up dudes! Such crankiness is not appropriate on a site that is all about the love. Time to kiss and make up.

  116. Aaron Brown says:

    “Time to kiss and make up.”

    Isn’t promotion of homosexual activity and cross-dressing a violation of our comment policies?

    Aaron B

  117. Here’s an irony. Dallin Oaks was one of the founding editors/supporters of Dialogue. Read about it here.

    I have a family member who was involved in Dialogue’s founding. And he’s apparently moved on. If you’re going to start dropping names of founders from 3-4 DECADES ago, shouldn’t they still be affirmed supporters today?

    You’ve said that before; it reminds me of a creative writing prof I had (a prominent poet, editor of one of the major poetry journals in the U.S., but it’s been years and I don’t remember his name). He decried the tendency he’d seen of aspiring poets to not read poetry, arguing that they didn’t want their expression of poetry tainted by others’ ideas. He argued that, by attempting to create their own hermetically sealed world of poetry, they wrote sucky poetry.

    Outstanding analogy. Applicable to many a field.

  118. StillConfused says:

    Hey, if gals can kiss and make up (some men even fantasize about that), then it is time for men to step up to the plate…. with a video camera.

  119. If you’re going to start dropping names of founders from 3-4 DECADES ago, shouldn’t they still be affirmed supporters today?

    I see it differently, queuno. I don’t see that as a claim that people should still support the same causes they supported forty years ago. We all change, and our perspectives change. I think it is simply a matter of acknowledging that, at one time, this was important to Dallin Oaks. It would have been silly for us back in the early 70’s to make judgments about Elder Oaks’ worthiness, and it is just as silly now for us to jump to conclusions about the ultimate righteousness or worthiness of people who find Dialogue useful.

  120. Mariano MARINI says:

    I found the topical very interesting, but I see that the comments tooks another direction. So execuse me if I go back to it.
    I’m an italian member and in this mission’s land most of the members tent to accept as ‘revelation’ ALL mormon speaking, even those of ‘soccer matter’ (if this has some meaning in english).
    I know exactly what it is a revelation and inspiration; so I distinguish very clearly, when I speak or teach, between my opinion and inspiration and ‘Church doctrine’.
    Usually I doubt on those who pretend to be inspired 100% of the time.
    This is not a way that some people, even local leaders, think and act.
    For this I appreciate the clearness made by First Presidency, with a letter, and Bro. Oaks in the topic.

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