Brief, random thought

Um, hi, my name is Kristine, and I’m an intellectual. However, what I mean by “intellectual” isn’t much, really. I mean that I am inclined to approach life head first, to under-emote and over-think, to go to the bookshelf instead of the refrigerator or another human being when I need comforting. (Admittedly, I am not a pure intellectual–I have a great many books with Cherry Garcia-stained pages).

But here’s the thing–I’m no more proud of being an intellectual than I am of having brown eyes or being 5’3″. It’s not a trait I have much control over, and it’s certainly not something I earned. I don’t expect everyone to be like me in this way, any more than I expect everyone to have the scary Haglund eyebrows or like Cherry Garcia more than Chunky Monkey. (Again, not a good example–I have to confess some slight sense of superiority to anyone who thinks Chunky Monkey is best. Come on!!)

That said, I also don’t expect people to think less of me because I’m built this way. It always comes as a rude shock when someone at church makes a disparaging remark about faithless or proud or arrogant or apostate intellectuals. I may, in fact, be faithless, proud, arrogant, and apostate (usually not all at the same time), but it’s not because I’m an intellectual, real or “so-called.” In fact, if I ever manage to become humble, patient, virtuous, kind, or faithful, it will probably be by applying my intellect to the project of being a Christian. Some people have good instincts, or native faith, or the gift of tongues to help them approach God. I don’t, much, and I have to do it with my brain.

And that is all I mean when I say I’m an intellectual. But perhaps you do not think that word means what I think it means…

Comments

  1. Steve Evans says:

    Kristine, how does being an intellectual affect your approach to matters of faith?

  2. Well, for instance, I have this hilarious journal entry from when I was twelve and bearing my testimony of chiasmus…

    To somebody with a different temperament, I’m sure that seems weird or even show-off-ish, but it was totally authentic for me; that really was how I started putting together a testimony.

  3. Steve Evans says:

    Several friends with similar ‘intellectual’ bents have expressed to me an inability to feel the spirit in the typical Romantic fashion that we often talk about. Instead, they speak of finding God in their intellectual processes, or gaining an appreciation for Him through a more distant, less emotional process. Nate seems to be that sort. What say you?

  4. Well, I’m not as smart as Nate, so I do need to wear waterproof mascara sometimes, but yeah.

  5. “It always comes as a rude shock when someone at church makes a disparaging remark about faithless or proud or arrogant or apostate intellectuals.”

    Kristine, people say stupid things all the time. Intellectuals (I consider myself one although I don’t have an advanced degree) are no more likely to be faithless and apostate than somebody who is not an intellectual. Check out all of our apostles with advanced degrees — I would categorize almost all of them as intellectuals.

    I agree with you that an intellectual testimony is extremely important. That’s what keeps you going when you are not feeling the Spirit for one reason or another.

    I would like to add that one thing I’ve learned about myself is that obedience is extremely important for me because I have a tendency to over-intellectualize some things. For example, I can come up for no good intellectual reason that it is OK for me to drink a Coke but not to drink coffee — I just have to be obedient and take it on faith and not drink the coffee. Just my two cents.

  6. Steve Evans says:

    Geoff, you’re not an intellectual without advanced degrees. We have STANDARDS, man. We’re credentialed. We’re legit.

  7. I’m sorry Kristine, but the best Ben and Jerry’s is Heath Bar Crunch.

    What I’ve come to typically discover about members talking about “intellectuals” is that there is a certain subgroup of people who think they are superior to the common “sheep” of the church because of some bit of information which they have and feel that the average membership does not have. It’s not the knowing that’s the problem, so much as it is the feelings of superiority. Elder Scott basically talked about the same at conference. And of course, I am superior for having known that, yadda yadda.

  8. Actually, it’s Coffee Heath Bar crunch, but that would open a whole ‘nother discussion :)

    I think that feeling of superiority is called “pride,” and it’s an equal opportunity hazard.

  9. Steve Evans says:

    Again, Kristine – a good post, except for the moment where you toy with the idea that something could taste better than Cherry Garcia. The reader can only suspend disbelief so far.

  10. Thanks for this, Kristine. Two thoughts:

    It always comes as a rude shock when someone at church makes a disparaging remark about faithless or proud or arrogant or apostate intellectuals.

    It always strikes me as rude, but after several years in BYU student wards, rarely shocks me anymore. I’ve yet to encounter such attitudes in my new ward in Virginia. I’m a bit surprised to hear it exists enough in Boston for you to publicly acknowledge it like this.

    Actually, it’s Coffee Heath Bar crunch, but that would open a whole ‘nother discussion

    Coffee Heath Bar Crunch is good, but if we’re voting on best B&J ice cream that challenges Word of Wisdom interpretations, I vote Dublin Mudslide. :)

  11. Aaron Brown says:

    Ben & Jerry’s is just plain gross.

    Haagen Dasz is way better. It’s clearly European (half-Scandinavian, half-Hungarian it would appear from the name), ergo very sophisticated, which means it’s a better fit for self-described intellectuals anyway.

    AB

  12. People have strange ideas about Boston :) The church here is very much like the church everywhere else. Really.

  13. I was basing my comment on what other former and current residents of Boston have told me, and my general impression that wards in communities with a larger number of academic-minded folks (grad students, professors, etc). are generally less suspicious of “intellectuals” because they have regular interaction with academics who are not faithless or apostate, and no more proud or arrogant than others.

  14. Here is a Chiasmus that was appropriate
    (a) Make the heart of this people fat, (from eating B&J Double Chocolate Fudge Brownie)

    (b) and make their ears heavy, (So that they do not hear their tummies calling for B&J Double Chocolate Fudge Brownie)

    (c) and shut their eyes; (In the ice cream section)

    (c’) lest they see with their eyes, (and buy all of the B&J Double Chocolate Fudge Brownie)

    (b’) and hear with their ears, (Others enjoying the delectable essence of pure ice cream joy)

    (a’) and understand with their heart, (That B&J Double Chocolate Fudge Brownie is truly the best)
    and convert [return], and be healed. (Is. 6:10)

  15. California Condor says:

    Ben & Jerry’s is overrated.

    Best off-the-shelf ice cream: Dreyer’s (Edy’s).

    Best parlor ice cream: Baskin Robbins.

  16. #3–Throw me in with them. I always feel far more spiritually moved when I feel that I have learned something or been made aware of how we can act in better ways. In a few rare instances I have felt the “spirit” in the typical way, but, generally, I actually feel very turned off by emotion.

  17. but, generally, I actually feel very turned off by emotion.

    I think it’s important for us each to realize how the Spirit works for us, but let’s not dismiss those who may ‘feel’ the Spirit as simply emotion — tears, etc. I think it’s easy to conflate the two, but they aren’t always one and the same — just as ‘thoughts’ aren’t always inspired or moved by the Spirit.

  18. I have nothing to say about the post content, but I am fascinated with its form, specifically the role of dialectic lubricants (my coinage, is there an official word for this?), such as Ben & Jerry’s ice cream, that moderate a discussion just as graphite rods moderate a nuclear reactor.

    When one commenter feels the topic is getting too heated, obscure, or off topic, (s)he can go back to ice cream until the discussion rights itself.

    I have noticed this pattern elsewhere: Jesus drawing in the dirt while bystanders decide whether to stone an adulteress, or Captain Ramius (Sean Connery) in Hunt for Red October asking the very nervous Jack Ryan (Alec Baldwin) what books he had written during a near-mutiny.

    A frequent sub-pattern is the old Molehill out of a Mountain technique: we might disagree with the existence of God, but we better agree on whether V8 tastes bad. Presumably once we have made V8 our common enemy, the God-thing will sort itself out in due course. I have personally witnessed firsthand how effective such diversions can be in catalyzing new encounters.

    I wonder if this technique is more prevalent in Mormon discussions than non-Mormon ones, and if so, is it subconscious or by design?

    And for the record, true lovers of marriage equality favor Hubby Hubby!

  19. I’m an intellectual-wannabe. Unfortunately, being from Moab disqualifies me in principle. I try. I read all the right books and have embraced all the proper attitudes and vocabulary, but nothing seems to let me wash clean the red-dirt that runs through my veins. At odd moments I find myself looking at trailer parks with longing and the knowledge that I know how to set one up bubbles out accidently and in the most inappropriate times. In conversations I mispronounce French words and have no ear for correcting myself. Since I am afflicted with spelling defective disorder (SDD-my coinage) my intellectual gifts are glossed over by a veneer of coarseness and unrefined vulgarity that bespeak my humble roots. Grammar and punctuation have suffered from my ill-breeding and commas have, especially, mystified me and their use remains an, inscrutable riddle. As a result my writing gets just enough attention to have it disregarded. I don’t think in real time so my verbal repartee appears stilted and ill-timed and my response to serious topics comes after, at least, a five minute lag and I therefore often remain silent when I really have things I want to say. In the end my intellectualism is subverted by long summers spent exploring canyons and running rivers rather than attending to matters of erudition. I am in effect ‘Steve the Obscure.’

    I’ve never even had any kind of Ben and Jerry’s anything. I am an ice cream pleb who feels it a treat to have mint chocolate chip Breyers. In short I am someone who longs to be an intellectual but who knows it is nothing but a dream.

  20. Antonio Parr says:

    NOTE TO STEVE EVANS:

    No. 11 writes:

    “Ben & Jerry’s is just plain gross.”

    I trust that this kind of apostate writing will lead to, at the very least, a public shunning? You must keep the doctrine ~pure~.

  21. CC,
    Sorry, but no. Best off-the-shelf ice cream that I’ve had? Ciao Bella. And best parlor ice cream? Most recently, Georgia’s in Andersonville. But, in any event, it isn’t a chain–the best parlors are little individual places with knock-out ice cream.

    And Aaron’s right–I had B&J recently for the first time in a long time, and it’s not nearly as good as I remember its being.

  22. If you’re not drinking your ice cream, how can it be a “hot drink”?

    That’s not even a close question.

  23. I am a non-intellectual over emoting intuitive (and occasional naturalist) who prefers gelato. You people are way smarter than me, but I typically have more funny.

    Variety, my friends. It’s all about variety.

  24. California Condor says:

    Gelato is inferior to milky American ice cream. I regret that gelato is so trendy. I guess some people just follow the crowd.

  25. BTW, I for one really do enjoy the ‘intellectuals’ in the church. I find it refreshing to parse ideas that I just wouldn’t come up with on my own. That said, some of y’all are kinda messed up–hence, I am often grateful for my intellectual mediocrity. Seriously.

  26. I am, in fact, so intellectually inferior–I did not even know gelato was trendy. Hm.

  27. Best off-the-shelf ice cream: Blue Bell.

    They eat all they can and sell the rest. What other ice cream company can say that?

    Given I’m allergic to chocolate, pralines and cream or vanilla bean …

    I try. I read all the right books and have embraced all the proper attitudes and vocabulary, but nothing seems to let me wash clean

    I spent a lot of time in trailer parks growing up too.

    Used to be I could only discuss the better varieties of ice milk artificial flavors.

    With my perpetual diet, it is mostly discussing better yogurts (I like Cascade and Greek Gods, a little Fage).

    ;)

  28. Renee, it’s true–I do not bring the funny, and I’m awfully glad that there are “non-intellectual over emoting intuitive[s] (and occasional naturalist) who prefer gelato” around!!

  29. Why, oh why, do intellectuals insist on making things so complicated? If only they would get over their pretensions and the pride of The World they would stop trying to impress others with complicated and fancy-pantsy names and brands. Chunky Monkey, Cherry Garcia, and Coffee Heath bar are derived from rock music and word of wisdom violations, and as such they are all tools of the adversary to mislead us from the wonderful simplicity of vanilla.

  30. m&m (17), you make an important point. It took me a long time to get over feeling bruised by the general consensus that tears are good and people who don’t cry in testimony meeting aren’t “spiritual” and I wasted a lot of time resenting people who I thought mistook emotion for the spirit. I do think that oversentimentalizing is a major temptation in church culture, and that sometimes we do make that mistake, but I have also, finally, learned that I can’t get inside anyone else’s lacrymal ducts to see if their experience is authentic any more than they can get in my head. Real, mutual respect for all kinds of modes of feeling the spirit is terribly important.

  31. Bruster’s is by far the best here.

    I don’t think I count as an intellectual since I have only an undergraduate degree, and it’s in engineering, a yeoman’s field if ever there was one. We’re the sons (and daughters) of Martha, plugging along keeping the trains on time, the electricity flowing in the wires, the food on the grocery store shelves.

    But I have leanings in intellectual directions sometimes.
    I think my first religious experience ever was with number theory or geometry. There’s something about such pure and perfect realms that invokes the inhabitance of God. I like to read for fun, and I’ve read enough that I don’t have much patience with mediocre books anymore. So I range through time and place looking for the very best. It’s an aesthetic preference, though, not any sort of snobbery, truly. I just can’t bear books that are badly written or trite or dull. I’m spoiled by having read good writers like Dostoyevsky or Nevil Shute. I just don’t enjoy books unless they’re well-written, brilliant, and serious in intent (even if the intent is to be seriously funny).

    But I don’t ever read literary criticism, because I disagree, often deeply, with what the critics say, and I don’t feel they add much to the art. If anything, they take away. I like to read reviews, though. That may be somewhat contradictory. I don’t find as much interest in some of the liberal arts scholarship as is common in bloggernaclia. I’d rather know details about the physical universe, about science, than what seem to me sometimes like the minutiae of the systems of human beings. We’re just one species on one planet in the galactic backwaters. We’re interesting, but I disagree with the Greeks that man is the measure of all things. I’m more a science geek, I guess.

    On the other hand, I do think ideas are extremely important. I think discussing ideas, discovering ideas, and seeking out widely divergent ideas are essential to living a full life. I think deep down, my ethics and morality are dependent on a lifetime of reading and thinking about all the things I’ve read, pondering what they mean to me, and talking about them with others. I can’t even think who I would be if I hadn’t done that. There’s an essential freedom that is denied us if we don’t have freedom to think. And without seeing what others have thought through the years, we can’t really position ourselves truly, we can’t know what we really think if we haven’t run essentially the full gamut of human thought. So in that sense, I am an intellectual. And in the sense that I want to know, to understand, how the world works, how the universe is put together. I find most everything interesting, just for the sake of knowing.

    One big reason I joined the church is that we’re urged to learn as much as we can about everything. The church I was attending before I found The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints was a Pentecostal church where I heard a sermon one day about how it’s not good to learn too much lest we lose our faith. That completely did it for me, it showed me I did not belong there.

    I have heard the odd LDS rant against intellectualism, from time to time, but it seems to come from the periphery, and not from the heart of our teachings. There is just too much direct apostolic and prophetic teaching to the contrary for it to bother me much. For my part I do highly approve of intellectualism, and think it’s an important part of our world and our religion. It boggles me that some people reject it. Isn’t that something like saying “thinking is bad”?

  32. Tatiana, I think (hope!) Steve had his tongue firmly planted in his cheek in that comment about degrees. My sense is that intellectual temperament is only roughly correlated with the pursuit or attainment of academic credentials.

    And I believe you’ve just written a manifesto–it’s lovely :)

  33. StillConfused says:

    I am intellectual. I don’t really do emotions much. For me, that meant church was confusing (no burning of the bosom or other “feelings” that are so stressed). As an intellectual type, church services can get a little dull as they repeat the same subjects over and over. I think some in church viewed me as less righteous or spiritual or whatever. However, I was the one who ran a charity in my spare time so I didn’t really care much about their thoughts.

  34. Aaron Brown says:

    Seriously, gelato is bad, bad, BAD. Somebody ought to devote a post to this, because it’s that important.

    AB

  35. Kristine, I know Steve was kidding. I almost didn’t post because his post was so funny and apt and covered it all. But I do still feel undereducated because of having no advanced degrees. I’m tempted to go back to school. I’m also keenly aware that my only liberal arts knowledge comes simply from reading for fun, and not from studying what scholarship there is about the books I read. So that’s a limitation. Also, I’m entirely self-taught in those areas, which obviously leaves huge gaps.

    It’s nice to listen in on you guys talking here. I enjoy getting exposure to all your ideas. I hope you never feel alienated in the church, for I think “ur doin it rite”.

  36. Haagen-Dazs, a made up name, is so sophisticated that it got its start in the Bronx:

    http://www.haagen-dazs.com/company/history.aspx

  37. Aaron Brown,

    If you were a true intellectual, you would have spent summers strolling the shores of Lago di Garda thinking deep thoughts, popping in to Zanoni’s and appreciating the superiority of gelato handmade by Italian artisans. You philistine, you.

  38. It’s not a trait I have much control over, and it’s certainly not something I earned.

    This is such an interesting point. It raises two questions for me:

    1) How much generally should we be blamed or praised for our temperament? As you suggest, since it’s out of our control, perhaps not at all. I guess this goes along with the oddity of, for example, GAs praising women as being “naturally nurturing” (because if it’s so natural, why praise?) (setting aside the question of whether that’s true or not).

    2) Do you think there’s some part of being an intellectual that you control? I mean, even though you’re inclined that way, you could push yourself with more study or suppress it by mindless watching of football. (I say this as a pseudo-intellectual who is held back by my mindless watching of football.) It seems to me that there’s some part of it under your control. You might view it as developing a talent and maybe people at church who call you a “so called intellectual” see it as indulging in a bad habit, but isn’t there something more to it than temperament?

    Sorry–I don’t know that either of these issues really has direct bearing on your post. Just my random thoughts in response to your random thoughts, I guess. :)

  39. Mark, (#29), or Prudence–is that you? Did you possess Mark to send us a message? Give us a sign, dear Prudence McPrude!

  40. California Condor says:

    Peter LLC,

    In most cases, food products are better in Europe than they are in the United States. One of the rare exceptions is ice cream. Another one is snack foods like potato chips / corn chips. In Europe I have encountered snack foods that smelled like dog food.

  41. Latter-day Guy says:

    11, Mmmm… Baileys Irish Cream flavor in the freezer at this moment. Chiasmus, nothin’ –– that little carton contains all the proof I need of an omni-benevolent deity. Häagen-Dazs: every spoonful a testimony meeting.

  42. Latter-day Guy says:

    “…mindless watching of football…” I suggest that the appropriateness of your adjective depends on what you mean by “football”. I have three (rabid) younger brothers who would take (possibly violent) exception if this comment referred to the LFC.

  43. Aaron Brown says:

    Bill, I know. I was waiting for someone to say that. While you enjoyed a fleeting moment of thinking you were smarter than me, and basked in your opportunity to disabuse me of my foolish notions, I now get to inform you that I’ve known all along, and that I smugly derive satisfaction from my Prophet-like ability to predict the content of your trite observations. Isn’t being an intellectual fun?

  44. Phish Food.

  45. Antonio Parr says:

    41 – “Mindless watching of football” -

    More apostacy. There is no “mindless” watching of football. All football watching is an act of sublime intellecutalism, especially when it occurs hour-after-hour on Saturday (college football), with a Sunday revival necessitated by the fact that “Brother” so-and-so plays for whatever team is currently on TV, and we need to support LDS athletes who play in the NFL.

    These are not mindless acts. Trust me, they are very, very calculated, and require great thought when explaining to one’s spouse why one is planted in front of the TV all day when there are chores to be done.

  46. CC,
    You lose all credibility by placing BR and Edy’s in front of anything, including gelato. Not to mention that you’re wrong—there may be American ice cream that is better than gelato, but there isn’t.

    That said, Georgia’s (which you can’t try unless you come to Andersonville) is far better than BR or B&J or Edy’s, although not the best neighborhood ice cream that I’ve ever had.

    And that can be both intellectually and emotionally proven.

    (And it’s not true that European food is inherently better than American food; there’s a lot of good Italian and French cuisine, but the worst pizza I’ve ever taken a bite of and then threw away the rest of the pizza in spite of the fact that both I and my pregnant wife were starving was in Brussels. And my wife is pretty willing to eat any pizza. Best cuisine, though? High-end Mexican, preferably not in New York.)

  47. But to the point of the OP—I certainly agree; I’m more interested in and touched by a more intellectual discussion of the gospel. I don’t consider that a better way to experience religion than a more emotive way, but I can’t do the more emotive. Which presents a minor dilemma now that I’m going to be teaching EQ; I don’t want to be (and will avoid being) iconoclastic, but I want to bring in some serious discussion and analysis of the subject matter of the lessons.

  48. Ziff, those are good questions. I think what I was describing here was more temperament than talent, but I certainly think some people have intellectual gifts they are obligated to develop. (I don’t, really, as far as I can tell–I’m bright enough for most practical purposes, but there’s nothing I can uniquely do that seems like it might matter). We’re all commanded to love God with all of our mind, which suggests to me that all of us are to think as well as we can, regardless of our temperament.

    For me, practically, this means taking the odd math class here and there and doing logic problems like calisthenics to make up for my massive deficiencies in those areas, and it has some influence on the subjects I spend time and effort thinking about.

    My patriarchal blessing makes much of the idea that our strengths can be used against us, which I have taken as an injunction to seek the perspective that comes with balanced development–that is, I think that while my temperament (like everyone else’s) has characteristic strengths, it also comes with predictable pitfalls and it’s my duty to try to avoid those by diligent effort at virtuous things that don’t come easily (watching football, for instance :)).

  49. John Mansfield says:

    I think it is a matter of where people find threats coming from. Once in Baltimore, a woman was sharing her concerns about her neighbor’s atheism. She wasn’t able to repeat any of his arguments, but the fact that he could make them shook her faith, especially since — he was a retired navy chief. When she revealed that credential, I refrained from retorting, “Lady, in your neighborhood being a CPO may be a big deal, but I don’t think it counts much against the PhD I’m working on.” Good thing I didn’t say that, too, since most CPOs have thought and worked their way through much more substantial challenges than most PhD students have dealt with.

    At any rate, the average person’s experience with a public intellectual is with someone who has explained away faith, not someone building it up. The believing intellectual may feel improperly condemned by others’ overly broad generalizations, but the non-intellectual believers aren’t making up their stereotypes out of thin air either.

    There have been Sundays when I have come home tired from another tirade against faithless science. All I can do is let my fellow saints know about the nature of the work I’ve done and about the many co-workers I’ve had who are religious people, and try to balance out the experience with those who do use science as a club to beat on faith.

  50. Aaron, I actually knew that you knew, and was just waiting for your boastful triumphalism to appear. Clearly, your use of “clearly” was the tip-off to an ever-so-clever snark. Even the misspelling of the name was ironic! My post was for those not in on the secret knowledge.

  51. Here is what makes BCC the greatest blog in the world.

    This is the only place I can think of where you can eat ice cream while watching football and be considered an intellectual.

  52. Stephanie says:

    I’m another intellectual wanna-be. (And Blue Bell IS the best ice cream. I’m a transplant to Texas but a true convert)

  53. “(And it’s not true that European food is inherently better than American food; there’s a lot of good Italian and French cuisine, but the worst pizza I’ve ever taken a bite of and then threw away the rest of the pizza in spite of the fact that both I and my pregnant wife were starving was in Brussels. And my wife is pretty willing to eat any pizza. Best cuisine, though? High-end Mexican, preferably not in New York.)”

    I had an identical experience in Holland. I don’t know what they’d done to it, it’s not easy to ruin a pizza………..

    PS. Anybody who thinks European icecream is not up to par has obviously never tried Movenpick!
    http://www.moevenpick-icecream.com/

  54. Jay Hinton says:

    I’ve always seen calling oneself an “intellectual” the same as calling oneself “humble.” It’s something you don’t really call yourself. You let others call you that. The moment you self-apply the moniker, it becomes invalid.

  55. But Jay, that’s only true if you think of being intellectual as virtuous, or being “an intellectual” as an achievement. I was at pains to point out that I think those are mistaken uses of the word.

  56. My favorite pizza ruining experience was on my birthday on my mission. A lovely Indian couple followed the recipe exactly with for one notable exception-they sprinkled curry powder on top.

    I love curry, crab curry is a favorite..very hot, but curry pizza?

    oh and intellectuals…a fine line isn’t it? ecuation is valued, knowledge is salvation, if we know enough “”none will hurt or destroy”, yet those who are learned and think they are wise…WO.

    “to be learned is good IF [you] hearken to the counsels of God”

  57. This post resonates with things I’ve been thinking about recently. I’m an intellectual who is slowly learning that her intense emotional sensitivity is not only more deeply ingrained, but oftentimes, more useful for certain things (when it’s not causing its own set of problems). Though when my emotionally sensitivity runs up against strong sentimentalism, I tend to experience large amounts of emotional dissonance.

    The question of temperaments and how we perceive/deal with them is an interesting one.

  58. Antonio and Latter-day Guy, regarding mindless watching of football, I was only trying to say that my own football watching is mindless, not that anyone else’s is. :)

  59. P.S. Breyer’s mint chocolate chip. Though my current favorite are gluten-free ice cream sandwiches I can get at Whole Foods…

  60. Jay Hinton says:

    Kristine, I understand you think those are mistaken uses of the word. I’m just not sure the rest of the general population agrees with you.

  61. If I every find myself in Texas, I’m definitely going to have to try Blue Bell, having read its praise many, many times.

    And, thanks to this discussion, I’ve remembered that over Thanksgiving, when I’m in Ohio, I’ll have to try Graeter’s. Steingarten writes that Cincinnatians praise it as the best ice cream ever, he apparently tried it, but never offered his take on whether or not it lived up to the hype.

  62. Steve Evans says:

    OK fine, if we’re playing that game — gjanduja at Berthillon in Paris is the best ice cream in the world.

  63. Jay, yeah, hence my lame TPB reference :)

  64. Aaron Brown says:

    Oooooh, everybody, Steve has been to Paris(!), no doubt pursuing pretentious intellectual pursuits of one sort or another.

  65. Actually, Kristine, you’re way too funny to be an unadulterated intellectual. But on a more serious note, I couldn’t help but detect a certain sadness behind the mirth. #30 “Real, mutual respect for all kinds of modes of feeling the spirit is terribly important.” I agree, Kristine, and also think that Mormon culture (miserably) lacks the abundant categories of life’s experience. In fact it seems to deny entire regions of the human spirit. The categories of real life go way beyond the discredited duality so unconsciously embraced by Church members: intellectual vs. emotional; or the mind vs. the spirit. The temptation is to throw all the nuanced modes of feeling (i.e. the romantic, the imaginative, the sublime, the striver, the blissful mourner, the wistful) into the simple category of “emotional.” How woefully inadequate! Likewise, I can’t countenance separating these aforementioned categories from that of “intellectual.” Even though the Mormon experience is so often unbearably and brutishly oversentimentalized, that sentiment has yet to grow out of adolenscence.

  66. I actually think I love books more than Ben & Jerry’s (Cherry Garcia Rules!), but any pretensions at being an intellectual were squashed after being diagnosed as an adult ADD sufferer. I had so many things to say, but there is a squeak in my chair that I can’t isolate, so I’ll get back to this as soon as I finish reading the headlines on cnn.com.

  67. I think that most of the time when you hear LDS people talking about “intellectuals” they have in their heads a strawman.

  68. My name is Steve and I think I’m a pseudo-intellectual.

    I haven’t advanced degrees or any degree for that matter, but I am pursuing a professional Architecture license regardless. I don’t watch independent films, rarely indulge in B&J Icecream and am extremely bored by all spectator sports.

    I do feel emotions lest anyone think me to have a positronic brain, but I rarely let them break the surface. Stoicism is a trait I’ve admired since I first learned the word in 6th grade social studies, however when my emotions do break the surface they tend to flood and I can’t make them stop. I am an overly empathetic person. I have an uncanny ability to feel things from other’s perspectives and sometimes the weight of it breaks my emotions free. The spirit rarely plays on me emotionally however, instead I just feel it as a more or less constancy in my life.

    I’m bored with the usual church lessons that rarely change, and prefer to spend my second 2 hours of church time holed up in the Clerk’s Office getting real work done. I read a lot and watch The Joseph Smith Papers on BYUTV in my spare time, though I know I could never afford them or the time to actually read them.

    I cringe more than feel the spirit in Testimony meeting, yet I know this work is true. I have a testimony of the gospel simply making sense (warts and all) compared to other philosophies. I have had witness after witness that even in its imperfection this is Christ’s church and I belong here.

    As for Ice Cream, most brands are good enough, and I can’t afford B&J, so why bother. No ice-cream (not even B&J) available to me here in the states can compare to the straziatella flavored Italian Eis I bought as a missionary in Germany for 1 mark per tiny scoop at the vendor carts. Nothing else compares, so I may as well buy Blue Bunny at Walmart since I can buy large quantities within a budget. Its quantity over quality now I’m afraid.

  69. What I am trying to say in #66 is that so called intellectuals are an easy target to criticize. This is because they are unknown unnamed targets. Its much harder to criticize somebody that you know because even so called LDS intellectuals who are active in your ward have callings and teach your kids in primary.

    I prefer Blue Bell for mass produced Ice Cream. I esp like it since the non-union retailer whose name dare not be mentioned has lowered it price for a half gallon from $6.99 to $3.98 and the price has been that way for a couple of months.

  70. “if I ever manage to become humble, patient, virtuous, kind, or faithful, it will probably be by applying my intellect to the project of being a Christian.”

    Kristine, I love your post but I’m not sure this part is true. I have always found that, to make any progress in those areas, I have to forget the rational approach and focus on things like obedience, service, love, etc. If there is an intellectual road to charity, for example, I haven’t ever seen it.

  71. Took me a while to adopt the “intellectual” title to myself because of all the baggage that comes along with it. Finally I resigned myself to the fact that I fit the personality type Kristine describes (don’t ready Mormon history, so I could have misjudged…).

    Every personality type has its most likely route of exit from their covenants. For intellectuals, they stop hearkening to the counsels of God if they reason him away or latch onto inconsistencies they identify. Other personality types will find other reasons to leave. Our numbers are few in a typical ward (and probably in most communities), and no one likes to point out their own worst-case-scenario, so we get a disproportionally bad rap. I keep my covenants by directing my personality type in the right direction; I abandon them by directing it in the wrong direction. I didn’t choose my personality; I choose my direction.

    I can put up with anti-intellectual attitudes just fine, but it is unfortunate that sometimes talents go unutilized or underappreciated as a result.

    Oh, and I like cookies.

  72. Those who look down their spiritual noses at intellectuals are wrong, but they come by their attitudes honestly. It’s hard to understand an intellectual approach to the gospel when we have scriptures like this:

    “And whoso knocketh, to him will he open; and the wise, and the learned, and they that are rich, who are puffed up because of their learning, and their wisdom, and their riches—yea, they are they whom he despiseth; and save they shall cast these things away, and consider themselves fools before God, and come down in the depths of humility, he will not open unto them.”

    -2 Nephi 9:42

  73. When I’ve heard people disparage intellectuals I think they’re usually taking umbrage with the idea that you can disprove spiritual truths through scholarship. Not so much that people experience the spirit in “brainy” ways. If pressed, I can’t imagine that anyone believes there’s a wrong way to feel the spirit.

    By the way, the most intellectually touching (if that’s an emotion!?) thing I’ve read in a long time was Mark Nielsen’s essay in the latest Dialogue. I can’t stop thinking about it – just brilliant.

  74. #69, #71 MCQ, good points, but I wouldn’t be so quick to discount the function of rationality in the multitude of areas that are not typically considered rational. Rationality is the space through which nearly every aspect of conscious life flows. In one way or another, it colors nearly everything.

  75. MCQ, I actually don’t think it’s a contradiction at all–I’m horrible at getting inspiration and I don’t readily intuit when someone is having a hard time, so I have to think hard about who might need me, or where my skills (such as they are!) are usefully applied. It’s not necessarily warm fuzzy charity, but I think it counts for something. And occasionally thinking my way into acting charitably works, and my feelings catch up.

    Emily, I loved that essay, too–one of my favorite things so far. Glad you liked it! (Write a letter to the editor that I can publish, so Prof. Nielson will know his piece was appreciated)

  76. Cort, fortunately, you will be appreciated everywhere you go because you are not just an intellectual, but a tenor!

    (And hi!! I miss you–we’re doing Tallis for Stake Conference)

  77. At any rate, the average person’s experience with a public intellectual is with someone who has explained away faith, not someone building it up. The believing intellectual may feel improperly condemned by others’ overly broad generalizations, but the non-intellectual believers aren’t making up their stereotypes out of thin air either.

    I think this combined with the kinds of scriptures such as in 71 explains a little why sometimes there is hesitancy or lack of trust about intellectualism.

    When we moved to our current ward, my hubby felt that some held him at arm’s distance, and we think it’s because of their negative experiences with scientists. I think as people have experiences with ‘intellectuals’ with testimonies, they might not lump everyone together in a negative light.

    And, not to pick on Steve G., but comments like “I’m bored with the usual church lessons that rarely change” to me can add to the problem.

  78. John Mansfield says:

    Maybe believing intellectuals need to spend more effort in Sunday School looking for ways to bash Martha Beck, touchy-feelly, emotional-personal-narrative type apostates.

  79. Mansfield, that’s a good point.

    There is certainly some spititual danger in intellectual pursuits, as we are constantly reminded. But there is also danger in the ersatz spirituality of emoting, about which we are never warned.

  80. Nathan (64, 73), just so. Glory be for dappled things…

  81. #71 MCQ I think scriptures like 2 Nephi 9:42 have nothing to do with an intellectual approach to the gospel; they are about pride. Assuming they are equal is simply a misunderstanding. I think you are right, it is usually an honest misunderstanding, but it is caused by a difference in personality, not by scriptures.

  82. Kristine. I constantly try to ignore the emptiness I feel because I no longer get to sing the likes of Tallis with good friends. Miss you too!

  83. I disagree with the notion that intellectualism can somehow be a spiritual danger. An intellectual is defined as: “intelligent person, somebody with a highly developed ability to reason and understand.” Key word there is reason – which is the ability to think logically. If God didn’t want us to learn, to think, to reason, to chose, he would have made us jellyfish, not humans with brains.

    I agree with Nathan about Mormon culture missing the big picture sometimes. I feel we so narrowly focus our attention on the stories of the Book of Mormon, the teachings of the Bible, and the latest Ensign article or conference talk that we miss a whole world full of important and useful knowledge. Not just useless facts and stuff – but knowledge that can strengthen the values we live by, and help us be happier more successful people.

    The truth is we need more intellectual thinkers in the church. I realized just how different I am from the typical member when I recently began studying church history in depth and I came across some things that really bothered me. Wanting to get some perspective from somebody I could trust, I reached out to my family with some of my questions. I wanted to talk about some of the events in detail in the hopes of getting some insight from them. Here are some of the responses I got back:

    “I don’t know what good the facts are going to be.”
    “All that matters is your testimony – just pray and that’s all you need to do”
    “By your fruits ye shall know them”
    “We don’t need to know all the facts behind Joseph’s life”
    “Read and pray, seriously, it ALL hangs on that.”

  84. And by the way, I testify that Ben and Jerry’s is the one and only true ice cream. You don’t need to try any other ice cream, or compare the ingredients or manufacturing processes of other brands. Just read my testimony and the truth will come to you.

  85. I’m an intellectual,
    But I can change,
    If I have to,
    I guess.

  86. There is nothing wrong with being an “intellectual.” However, there is a danger in over-thinking things. There is also a danger in looking at the Church as an institution of man. Many members become apostates because they have some disagreement with the General Authorities. Proposition 8 is a great example. People all have political views, but we as members of the Church must realize that God WILL NOT allow His people to be lead astray by the prophets.

    I have been called “closed minded” many times because I do what I’m told and do not question the prophets on major subjects. My faith has been tested many times because I fail to remember one point: History repeats itself. Does anyone honestly believe that this has not occurred before? We must not let Satan sully our thoughts with countless petty ideologies and become distracted from the Work.

    We live in extremely difficult times. The Nephites, Jews, Jaredites, etc did not have to deal with the widespread convincing lies and secret combinations that we have to counter. We must not look too deeply into these lies and lose our faith. Sometimes I think that the most difficult thing about life in the last days is simply soldiering on, defending ourselves against the fiery darts of the adversary.

    I’m not saying that the ancients didn’t have their share of challenges, but come on, which do YOU think is harder, fighting a physical war, or fighting an intellectual war in which you have to contend with endless lies and all you have is the truth?

    We as members of the Church are set to a high standard, we are to set our views aside and listen and follow the prophets. I think when push comes to shove, and the real tribulations begin, there will be a dividing; those members who follow the prophet, and those members who have become too consumed in the world and become enemies of the Church because of their own pride.

  87. “Many members become apostates because they have some disagreement with the General Authorities. Proposition 8 is a great example.”

    Sean, I think you are mistaking the straw for the camel’s back. Such a member had already left the Church in her/his own heart and only needed the courage to make it public. And most likely the reason was not too much pride, but too little.

    In any case, I as a gay man take no pleasure in such a divorce. Hopefully in the next world, we will not have to choose between our own happiness and that of others.

  88. Excellent point.

  89. Mary L. Bradford says:

    Did I miss something? Hasn’t anyone mentioned the one true and only gelato made and sold by Gene England’s son Mark and his wife Katherine? This would be the one and only true DIALOGUE GELATO–In Sugarhouse in Salt Lake.

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