I am a Mormon

I am a Mormon and I reject all adjectives and sub-categorizations. I have no respect for attempts to conventionalize them. Regardless of what individual members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints believe, how they approach scripture, history or politics, they are my people, my fellow-citizens and my kin.

One hundred and fifty years ago, two of the largest personalities in Church leadership were Brigham Young and Orson Pratt. They were each powerful and influential and had each taken Joseph Smith’s teachings in dramatically different directions. At one point Young was so frustrated with Pratt that the First Presidency and Twelve held council over him. Pratt offered to resign his membership in the Quorum. And yet, despite their erstwhile antagonism, when Young had a job that needed intellectual finesse, it was frequently Pratt that he called. A public announcement of polygamy, or a new edition of the Doctrine and Covenants, and Pratt was Young’s man.

The differences between Young and Pratt were chasmal by today’s standards. They grappled over the fundamental nature of God—what Joseph Smith declared was essential and basic knowledge for salvation. Yet when Heber C. Kimball, Young’s faithful lieutenant, walked into the office on October 1, 1860 he declared:

[T]here were men that were trying to ride down Br O[rson]. Pratt; but it would not do, he Br Pratt, was a man of unusual firmness. He said the President [Brigham Young] remarked the other day [that] if Bro Orson was chopped up in inch pieces each piece would cry out Mormonism was true. [1]

I take comfort in the reality that the individual in the Church with whom I have the largest divergence is likely closer in perspective to me than that same person and Brigham Young. And if we can claim Young together, we certainly can claim each other. Orson Pratt did not start a therapy group for ALDS (Atomist Latter-day Saints, or perhaps Anti-Adam-God Latter-day Saints), perhaps because in his core, he viewed himself as an essential feature of the body of Christ and the Kingdom of God. Though Young prevailed in his disputes with Pratt while he lived, some of his points of divergence are now viewed as heresy. In certain ways, Pratt won the victory of history. But this is only something that one can say outside of their lived experience. It is essentially irrelevant to them as people and as Saints.

I know that I am deeply frustrating to some members who take a fundamentalist approach to scripture and presentist views of history. My hope is that with time, as we serve together, they will come to love me (though not because I am deserving) and their growing empathy for me will obviate any tendency toward antipathy. [2] I have found that as I have better understood and loved my fellow Saints, any frustrations with them have withered. This is not to say that I still don’t get bugged or that the prophetic itch doesn’t need scratching on occasion. However, I am willing, regardless of what you believe or what you do, to hail you as a brother or sister in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, and in token or remembrance of the everlasting covenant, in which covenant I receive you to fellowship, in a determination that is fixed, immovable, and unchangeable, to be your friend and brother through the grace of God in the bonds of love, to walk in all the commandments of God blameless, in thanksgiving, forever and ever.

_____________________________

  1. Fred C. Collier, ed., The Office Journal of President Brigham Young, 1858-1863, Book D (Hanna, Utah: Collier’s Publishing Co., 2006), 148, October 1, 1860.
  2. I generally agree that feminist critiques of self-sacrifice undermine traditional conceptions of atonement theory. However, Mormon atonement theory, rooted in dynamics of empathy, where suffering isn’t substitutionary but rather empowering, is a refreshing alternative. The spirit knoweth all things, and yet Christ suffered according to the flesh, so that he could know according to the flesh how to heal us. I don’t believe that suffering is salvific per se, but inasmuch as it infuses our souls with empathy, it does empower us, like Christ, to be healers.

Comments

  1. Amen brother Stapely.

  2. Agreed.

  3. britt k says:

    great post

  4. so are the RLDS and FLDS also your brothers without adjectives and subcategories? what about the Strangeites? What about an LDS member who openly disbelieves?

  5. Wonderful stuff.

    J., while I love your historical musings, I do wish you would do more posts along these lines, especially your footnote #2.

  6. “Regardless of what individual members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints believe, how they approach scripture, history or politics, they are my people, my fellow-citizens and my kin.”

    hm, I believe the above quote clearly limits the use of the term “Mormon” to members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and not the various splinter groups that have formed around it and sometimes choose to use the term as well.

    Stapley – Thanks for posting this! I love that I can be a Mormon right alongside my Mormon friends who adhere to a different strain of Mormon thought, and that this makes us better, not worse.

  7. I want to be a Mormon the way J. is.

  8. Jonathan M says:

    Tremendous post. So well put. My wish is that we all (I include myself) could be (or may become) as tolerant as Bro.Stapley.

  9. Thomas Parkin says:

    Hurrah

  10. Amen – and amen! This is perfection in print.

  11. Thanks all, I appreciate it. Though, Jonathan, many will view this post as an exercise in intolerance. And I’m fine with that.

    hm, and to some extent, Alex: There are many people who claim some sort of Mormon heritage, that wouldn’t fit in the description of Mormonism outlined in my post. The CoC (formerly RLDS), for example, do not claim the appellation. I like “Prairie Saints” for the various groups that didn’t come west, but that is my own shorthand. I don’t know if the 120 or Strangites claim Mormonism or not. As far as openly disbelieving goes, well, it just depends. If someone doesn’t believe a particular thing and yet can reciprocate my sentiment, then cool. I’m definitely not hip on the apostasy porn that prances about as inclusive Mormonism.

  12. Wow, this is a really great post and the analogy with Brigham Young and Orson Pratt is perfect.

  13. Stapley, some of the things you’re addressing have caused me to reflect on my own experience. My maternal grandfather’s last ordination was to the office of Teacher in the Aaronic Priesthood, yet he was a dedicated genealogist and occassionally spoke in sacrament meeting though he seldom attended, and I have special memories of him leading the extended family in prayer. My mother married outside the church, but became drawn back into it a decade later when a diligent Primary presidency invited my sister and me to start coming, and I spent those teenager years in a ward with many people who some years came to church and some years didn’t, but were generally happy to have home teachers come around or to stuff a deacon’s fast offering envelope full of quarters. Later as an adult, it was instructive to understand through personal acquaintance that among the men I saw every Sunday were some with a smoking or gambling or drinking habit.

    The point of this is that I don’t get the drama about how living with Mormonism on personal terms, not quite the ones the bishop would most wish for you, is pioneering new ground. I liked when a random John cut through Jon Huntsman’s tortuous explanation of his relationship with the Church, and the interpretations of so many as to what he meant, to say that Huntsman, like many people we know in our wards and families, is in Mormon parlance “inactive.” Now an adjective like inactive is a dividing category, but it’s a fluid one and an old and familiar part of Mormonism.

    (P.S. The comment box is pretty difficult to use this morning.)

  14. lrwhitney says:

    In a number of areas the official LDS Public Relations Department (actually schooled and tooled by Madison Avenue Ad Agencies) is running an “And I’m a Mormon” campaign as a test. If the church doesn’t of course protect the brand nickname, it will be up to Tre Parker and Matt Stone, and pastel-bonneted, butt-ugly, inbred gaggles of old crones and teen polygamist wives in some Texas compound, or some chubby dork sitting on a seedy couch surrounded by his collection of “sister wives” in a welfare-supported trailer circle in southern Utah to represent “Mormonism.” (I’ve got about eight thousand more words to appy to the topic, which can be found at my blog: Religion for Mormons and other Idiots. I discuss at length the above campaign, its failings, and do some skewering of Glenn Beck, the Osmonds, and the Book of Mormon Musical while I’m at it.) It’s really a question of who’s going to control the public face of Mormonism, which in turn determines the character of the recruited Mormon population. Once you get out of that valley, it’s a big wide world. It’s not about creating Mormons from infancy in a carefully controlled environment by screening out all other cultural influences, it’s about bringing the gospel to a world who doesn’t really care if you’re Brigham Young’s forty-fifth-removed grandson, or Donny Osmond’s nephew.

  15. thebookofarmaments says:

    AMEN. This is fantastic. I sometimes think that the various Mormon terms only serve to alienate people further, rather than agitating for change/acceptance from within. I love this post.

  16. Mansfield, my family has some of that going on as well. It is much easier to stay Mormon if you don’t go to Church for a decade if you live in Ephraim, UT, as opposed to San Fransisco. I think this is where Mormonism as kinship is a useful model. That said, I don’t think “inactive Mormon” works. These people are Mormon who are also inactive, I think.

    lrwhitney, you just seem like you are being a jerk.

  17. Amen. I’m proud to stand as a Mormon with J.

  18. SLO_Sapo says:

    Thanks so much. It’s this kind of stuff that keeps me going when I sometimes feel estranged from my fellow Saints over political and social issues. I particularly liked: “I don’t believe that suffering is salvific per se, but inasmuch as it infuses our souls with empathy, it does empower us, like Christ, to be healers.”

  19. This post makes me feel like I’m in the minority, since I believe D&C 19:16 means what it appears to me. eg “… I, God, have suffered these things for all…”

  20. Stapley, several scriptures came to mind, but this one in D&C 84:109 seems appropriate:

    109 Therefore, let every man stand in his own office, and labor in his own calling; and let not the head say unto the feet it hath no need of the feet; for without the feet how shall the body be able to stand?

    Glad to be a fellow citizen with someone like you.

  21. Thanks, J. Stapley! There is always Hope. And I agree fn. 2 is very good.

  22. “apostasy porn that prances about as inclusive Mormonism”
    Well-said, sir.

  23. J Stapley, I agree wholeheartedly with your sentiment and I have thought many times on the exact example you gave. I just don’t know how far to take it.

    As you illustrated, as different as Brigham and Orson were, their shared commitment was even greater. Mansfield’s examples are of people with different levels of commitment, yet a common core, even if only cultural. Alex even extended it to people of a different commitment but a common core (eg., Strangites and others). But isn’t the third true only because there’s no current conflict?

    At what point do we cross the line from brother to apostate? The latter term exists specifically to separate. At some point, I disagree with my brother to the point I don’t consider him my Mormon brother, but simply my brother, because regardless of our common roots, his commitment has become contrary to mine.

    I was thinking about this as the latest venture of a certain individual popped up who bears me no ill will, claims to embrace the “good parts” of Mormonism, and yet, from my perspective, is actively tearing at it from within.

  24. Doesn’t this make you a big tent Mormon? ;)

  25. “At what point do we cross the line from brother to apostate?”

    I think that is the heart of the discussion. When does someones view become “apostasy porn”? When someone becomes liberal (my mother in law would say so)? When someone disagrees with the Church’s position on homosexuality? When someone disagrees with the Church’s exclusivity claims? When someone disagrees with many of the historical claims of the church but still finds it to be an effective framework for spiritual development? To me it seems like everyone one disagrees with the Church, only to different degrees.

  26. Steve Evans says:

    Well said, Bro. Stapley.

  27. Chris Gordon says:

    Thank you, J. Stapley. And thank you to the commenters who brought up the point that the gap that needs to be bridged isn’t necessarily among the different “brands” of church-going Mo’s but between the church-goers and the non’s. We’re all part of the same body.

    It’s a little off-topic, but a thought once shared with me by a comparative government professor that has really impacted my political thinking is that you could make a similar post entitled, “I am an American.” We listen to politicians wax rhetorical about how these debates are about the fundamentals of what it means to be an American and often have no appreciation for so many countries whose right is fascism and left is communism and they’re still trying to hammer out an identity.

  28. Martin and JohnE, I think it is much less about what particular belief or practice is viewed atypical or aberrant, and much more about how one approaches the community.

  29. A beautiful mormonifesto, particularly your last line. Thank you. (That statement by Heber C. Kimball is great.)

  30. I would also suggest that it is also about how the community approaches the individual. I love the LDS Church. I’m happy to call myself a Mormon. Yet, I am functionally inactive and cannot be part of my local ward community or attend any activities with my husband (a member of our stake presidency) because of active members (and ward leaders) who refuse to accomodate my disability (asthma & chemical sensitivity). I have found much more welcoming and empathetic sisters and brothers among those who are on the fringe, those whom some of you would call apostate.

  31. Great post!

    While reading, I thought about the saying, “the greater my island of knowledge, the greater is my beach of wonder”.

    As I see it, the Lord is going to judge us on how we apply the basic knowledge of the gospel, not the stuff on the beach. What is the basic knowledge of the gospel? I answer this question with a question: are we diligently working on acquiring the gift of the Holy Ghost to fulfill our baptism covenant? It doesn’t get any more basic than that.

  32. Stephanie says:

    Excellent post.

  33. Patricia Lahtinen says:

    What is apostasy porn?

  34. J, thank you for this. There was only one thing missing from the OP that kept me from shouting hurrah, but you covered it in comment 11:

    “I’m definitely not hip on the apostasy porn that prances about as inclusive Mormonism.” I couldn’t, of course, speak to your own views on what this constitutes, but for me, this type of thing has been salient of late and it seems there’s even an event about it taking place here soon.

    So, Hurrah!

  35. it seems there’s even an event about it taking place here soon.

    Not “here” at BCC, of course… :)

  36. Ha, no, not “here” here. Just in a manner of speaking.

  37. J, thanks for this.

    It is interesting to me how doctrinal fine points fade away in the sunshine of the welfare farm or the sweat of the welfare cannery. Our levels of gospel understanding and our accounting of gospel hobbies matter little when we band together to load the moving van or car for a single mom’s home.

  38. observer fka eric s says:

    Very enriching, thank you for your sentiments–which I share with you, brother.

  39. don't know mo says:

    I am a 51 year old life long, active member of the LDS Church. I have very much enjoyed the posts and comments here at BCC over the past 9 months or so since I first discovered the blogernacle. I am one of those who has been amazed and discomfited by the complexities of church history I discovered online. While I continue to sort out my testimony in light of all this new information, I remain active and serving in my ward. That said, I certainly don’t believe in the naive way I did 9 months ago. I will be attending the “event” taking place here soon. Some of the above comments infer that that association disqualifies me from being Mormon. Good to know.

  40. Nicely done, J.

  41. Outstanding . . .

  42. Again, thanks all.

    don’t know mo, I don’t think anyone here is saying that disqualifies you from being Mormon. I also realize that faith transitions can be painful and I’m sorry if you are feeling like you are in a whirlwind. Here is the thing though: I’m reticent to call your former beliefs naive. They were certainly different, but naivete is often a matter of perspective. For example, I find many of the beliefs offered by those at the event you are apparently attending to be extremely naive.

    Patricia, you know what they say. Hard to define, but you know it when you see it.

  43. Amen to that last statement, J. And I’ll go further and say that anyone who reads my comment and takes from that that attending that event disqualifies you from being Mormon has serious reading and comprehension issues.

  44. nice new comment box!

    excellent post Brother Stapley. Well reasoned and well argued.

  45. don't know mo says:

    J Stapley, a whirlwind is apt. I appreciate your response.

  46. I am compelled to stand-up and clap! Very well said! Bravo!

    tDMg

  47. Love this.

    Thank you for this!!

  48. Wow, J. Maybe I should stop posting and let you just say it better than me. Thank you.

  49. home slice says:

    A good reminder that our convictions, even if slightly diversified, should bring us together rather than divide us.

  50. I think I hear J saying that advancing new categorizations and subdivisions within a religious body may reify rather than heal differences. I think I hear him saying that sharing the simple name Mormon could be healthy for those on both sides of multiple polarities. I agree with what I hear him saying and think of Paul’s wonderfully enriching metaphor of the body of Christ. One way to read proposals for new subspecies of Mormon is as a centrifugal force pulling the digits from the viscera, the limbs from the brain in the body of Christ. I believe that for all sides in the inevitable tensions that arise when different people share a church community it is overall best to resist the temptation to create intricate taxonomies that split instead of merging.

    And I agree with J in resisting the temptation to characterize common beliefs as naive merely on the grounds that they are not historically rigorous. The only belief that is not naive in some respect is utter nihilism, and nihilism is pretty thin gruel.

  51. Excellent post, J…couldn’t agree more. We should recite your first paragraph out loud the way young women do with the YW theme.

  52. J (42) writes

    “Patricia, you know what they say. Hard to define, but you know it when you see it.”

    Interesting invocation of Potter Stewart’s well-known description of his own test for deciding what was considered obscenity in First Amendment case law.

    Perhaps less well-known is that Stewart’s phrase (“I know it when I see it”) comes not from a majority opinion but from his concurrence in Jacobellis v. Ohio. As a relatively minor part of a concurrence, the IKIWISI test was never used by the court itself to make any determinations. And less than a decade later in Miller v. Caliifornia, the court overruled Jacobellis and imposed a multi-prong objective framework for deciding obscenity cases.

    Thus, the history of IKIWISI suggests that this kind of test is not actually useful in determining what is obscene. It was never used by the court in that determination, it was suggested by one justice in concurrence, and the idea was completely repudiated by the court a few years later in Miller.

  53. Can’t speak for J., but IMO, if his invocation of the phrase was about finding a legally binding definition for “apostasy porn” then I think that background would have more relevance. But since it’s actually about J’s personal feelings about the matter, how it worked (or didn’t) in jurisprudence seems of very little relevance to me.

  54. What a wonderful article. It is unfortunate, from my personal perspective, that the beautiful message of the article is then sullied by using such a charged term as “apostasy porn”. There seems to be a veiled inference that this is the upcoming mormon stories conference or other gatherings like it….. If I am incorrect in my interpretation, please don’t hesitate to let me know and I will gladly stand corrected. I don’t agree with everything contained in mormon stories (and other similar sites) but I have found incredible value in the work they do (interviews with Richard Bushman, Greg Prince, etc…) and know that the work they do is helping many individuals remain engaged in the mormon faith. Calling these efforts “porn” is hurtful and divisive (in my book).

  55. I am a Mormon and I reject all adjectives and sub-categorizations. I have no respect for attempts to conventionalize them. Regardless of what individual members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints believe, how they approach scripture, history or politics, they are my people, my fellow-citizens and my kin.

    Not just amen, but a-freaking-men!!! I so so wish that we could all just be viewed as essential elements of the body of Christ without always measuring each opinion against the yardstick of modern church policy or modern science or anything else.

    Bless you Brother Stapley!!

  56. Clay Whipkey says:

    J,
    Throughout your post you really present a narrow view of the kind of people who are struggling to share a Mormon identity. Your example of Young and Pratt draws the line in that the common ground still has something to do with a core level belief/faith in the Kingdom of God, and/or the Lord Jesus Christ. This is fine, and I readily acknowledge that the disaffected-but-still-active often create more division than is necessary, either by imagination or by self-fulfilling prophecy. I support the argument that if you believe in some basic principles and doctrines of the gospel, like Jesus/Atonement, priesthood, Heavenly Father, etc. you can find a way to bridge across a ton of other issues… because amongst the body of what the interwebz would call TBMs lies a vast spectrum.

    But… I say that you are applying a narrow view here because you leave out those that can’t get on board with the core. I’m talking about when someone doesn’t feel any connection to Mormonism as a religion at all, but they do feel it with Mormons as a tribe. Where do they fit? Or perhaps rephrased, how do you define “Mormon”? What are the minimum requirements? I keep running into people who want to tell me I have no right to it at all (unless I start believing in ______ and attend church again).

    Perhaps “Open Mormon”, or any other adjective or sub-categorization, is ultimately not the right way to foster this larger-than-the-LDS-church definition of “Mormon”. But the problem in the short term, in this very moment, is that there are too many strong voices drawing the circle that leaves folks like me out that I am forced to draw a different circle that keeps them in. Maybe right now I have to draw it with a different ink, but the hope is that someday we can erase their smaller one and redraw and even bigger one in a shared ink.

  57. “I am a Mormon and I reject all adjectives and sub-categorizations.”

    “apostate porn”

    “naive…..extremely naive.”

    OK

  58. Julie, let’s be clear, J.’s only elaborated on his phrase as “I know it when I see it.” I believe I’m the only one on this thread that’s drawn some vague connection between that phrase and the upcoming Mormon Stories Conference. If you read the comment again, I didn’t equate one with the other and I don’t say that anyone going/participating is practitioner of a. p. that masquerades as inclusive Mormonism. But frankly, I find much of what’s on Mormon Studies and similar venues distasteful. Even the Bushman interview you mention, to me succeeded despite the best efforts of the interviewer. You get Richard Bushman in front of the microphone and he’ll hit it out of the park no matter who’s throwing him leading and misinformed questions. I do respect Joanna Brooks a great deal. I’ll say that much.

  59. Nice post. I’m not sure I agree entirely, however. I didn’t ask to be born into a Mormon household. I didn’t have any say in how my parents raised me. In fact, I don’t think I was mature enough to take ownership of my spiritual trajectory until well into adulthood. Regardless of what I now believe–or the spiritual paths I choose to follow–I believe that my childhood experiences make me Mormon, or at least give me the right to claim a degree of Mormonness. I don’t agree with the notion that somebody sitting at a disk in Salt Lake has the right to decide whether or not I’m Mormon, or that my degree of Mormonness depends on whether or not my name appears on a list somewhere. Sure, that guy sitting at the desk can decide whether or not I’m a member of TCOJCOLDS, but that’s as far as I willing to let him go. . .

  60. I loved this too, minus the comments that unfortunately seem to be running contrary to the spirit of the OP, i.e., to unify rather than divide o_O

  61. If Pratt had lived around, say, September 6th 1993, and expressed similarily divergent ideas than the prophet, how do you think that would have gone over? I think this is a key problem with your premise.

  62. #61 – Not based on the actual post itself and what J says in it.

    I can’t see anywhere in the post that implies Orson should have been excommunicated if he’d lived in our modern time. J’s point is exactly the opposite, in fact, so I see no “problem with your premise” in that regard.

  63. Eric Russell says:

    I love it when BCC gets NOM bombed.

  64. Jared T, if you have one of the best guys in the world at your disposal, you wouldn’t want to ask the toughest questions you can think of, so you could see how he deals with those things? Heck, that [Richard Bushman] MS podcast was done way back when Dehlin was still active in the church and still mostly a believer, if my memory serves me right. Anyway…

    Look, some of the comments by Stapley seem to reveal an unappreciative attitude toward the Mormon Stories crowd that isn’t evidenced in the original piece. This unfortunately mars the spirit of good will that’s there.

  65. fyi, Eric, if I’m being accused of being part of the supposed “NOM bomb”, I’ve never been associated with them (not that I necessarily have anything against them)

  66. Michael says:

    The fact that the Church tried to trademark the term Mormon, but its application was rejected, seems relevant here. (http://tarr.uspto.gov/servlet/tarr?regser=serial&entry=78161091)

    In practical terms, Mormon describes Thomas Monson and my bishop, of course, but Mormon also describes me, a church-going, Sunday School teaching agnostic. Mormon describes Anne Wilde and Kody Brown, too. People outside Mormonism tend to view all of us as part of the same family. Within the Mormon family, we draw distinctions so that the Church President and its Bishops are clearly in one group, and Anne Wilde and Kody Brown are in a different group. People like me and Clay (#56) fall in a different group (or perhaps in different groups), but the argument about which of us in the Mormon family are Mormon, and which are not, is meaningless in the bigger context. While we are arguing over which of us are Mormon, our Christian neighbors are questioning whether we are Christian. Words, words, words.

    I’m Mormon. I believe that God exists in people’s minds to add a sense of control in an unpredictable world. I believe that the LDS Church is led by sincere people with good intentions. I believe that divisions among Mormons are the result of people’s natural need to make distinctions among one another. I believe that I am a Mormon, and will always be a Mormon, despite what some would call my heresies.

  67. Wow, sad says:

    “Many will view this post as an exercise in intolerance. And I am fine with that.” In my opinion when church membership is flatlining (if not headed in the other direction) opinions and hardline attitudes such as this one can only hurt those on the fringes of the faith and push them further away. I think your sentiments are more representative of “what would man do?” than the alternative. I want to stand up and say they do NOT in any way represent the way I feel or seem in any way Christ-like to me. You are correct in your observations that Mormonism is an exclusive religion and always has been but I can’t see how propagating those feelings will do anything other than hurt our efforts to grow and include more people, rather than lose more souls for the cause of “standing for something”.

    Also, “apostasy porn”? C’mon. You must know that much of what you consider “porn” is simply church history and we are better off accepting it and moving forward (as the church has done the past 30 years) than to thumb our noses at it and pretend labeling it with derogatory names will make the problem go away.

  68. Chris H. says:

    I am liking this more and more.

    Jared T.: Have I told you lately that I love you?

  69. I have one problem with your analogy. The church today is very different than the church of Young and Pratt. One of those differences is that difference of opinion is not allowed.

    In the 1850’s and 60’s, two speakers in General Conference could completely disagree with each other, but not today. In fact, if you offer an opposing vote to a sustaining you will be ushered out of the meeting. Yes, you are less different than the theologically most distant member of the church than Young and Pratt, but that is because the church has purged those who do not subscribe to a narrow orthodoxy.

    Let’s take Mother in Heaven, for example. If you write or preach about her, you are excommunicated. If I got up in testimony meeting and said that I love my Mother in Heaven and pray to her, the bishop would get up and refute me (at least my bishop surely would) and I would probably be called in for “counselling” that included a threat of disciplinary action if I continued.

    So, until the church allows the same latitude of doctrinal opinion as it did in the late 19th century, I don’t buy your analogy. The reason people call themselves “large tent Mormon” or “Open Mormon” or “uncorrelated Mormon” is that they have doctrinal differences of opinion (maybe Mother in Heaven, maybe the literalness of scripture, whatever) that is certainly less different than Young and Pratt, but they are not allowed to express those opinions in church.

    (Although too deep for this conversation, an analysis of rejected answers to “I’m a Mormon” submissions would shed some interesting light on this.)

  70. The a key component of the post centers around the idea that BY and OP were able the sharply disagree on FUNDAMENTAL theological issues, in the open, and still live in the same Mormon world. Im not saying that J said he WOULD have been ex’d, I think it is telling that he didn’t, because it defies reason to think Pratt wouldn’t be ex’d in today.

  71. Vin, there’s a difference between asking “tough questions” and asking leading questions and chuckling incredulously when one of the best guys in the world doesn’t validate your own worldview. Big. Difference.

  72. 67,
    Having been part of the conversation where the term “apostasy porn” was first coined, I can say pretty definitively that we are not talking about uncomfortable historical events in the Church. The term applies to actions and behavior and attitudes in the here and now.

  73. Jared T, I’ll have to go back and listen to them. I don’t remember that kind of skepticism being present. I do recall it happening in the entertaining interviews with Paul Toscano, however :)

  74. It really was a lovely piece until I read some of the comments by the author. How sad.

  75. And what if you had used Brigham and Emma as examples in disagreeing on fundamental issues? Did Brigham consider Emma a Mormon? Did Emma consider Brigham? Do we today consider Emma to have been a Mormon?

    IMO, you are setting up an arbitary boundary for what it means to be a Mormon.

  76. I reaffirm my earlier comment that I want to be a Mormon the way J. is.

  77. “Apostasy porn” is a pretty divisive phrase. I know it may be hard to define, but it seems like I and many other people fail to understand how the author could write an inclusive article but then use that term to tell people they are not included in the inclusiveness. Please qualify your usage of “apostasy porn.” What makes Mormon Stories apostasy porn? Why is BCC not?

  78. Clay Whipkey says:

    Aside: the effort to draw the bigger circle, or erect the big tent, has too much momentum to stop now anyway. It is simply going to be another matter of moving along with progressive society or standing by the side of the road shaking your fist and complaining about the “better times” of the past when there was more segregation and the lesser people stayed in their proper place.

    But to the fist-shakers I extend this invitation: you are welcome to share a common Mormon identity with me. You’ve earned it, as have I. We are brothers and sisters. When someone tells me, “Your brother sure seems like a jerk”, I will not disavow our association or invalidate your right to the shared identity.

  79. This post and especially the comments make me think of this one Jewish guy. His religion very strictly dictated who was in, who was out, and especially who was worth and unworthy. But he spent his ministry including those who were marginalized and excluded, and he even taught that the Kingdom of God is more about those who were rejected by the institutionalized religion than those who felt theirs was the only way to live that religion.

  80. Jared T. says:

    Chris, not often enough :)

    Vin, being skeptical in the face of a Paul Toscano interview is not an accomplishment.

    BTW, what I find so compelling about the OP is that (as I read it) fellowship in Mormonness is tied to belief and covenant regardless of how diversely defined that belief or commitment to covenant is. And I think some here are shortsightedly fixated on the “apostasy porn” comment when they should be focusing on the line right before-when asked what about those that openly disbelieve-if they can reciprocate his feelings, then cool.

  81. I should have clarified: The post itself was excellent, and I would add my “Amen” to the core sentiment. But the comments, seriously folks.

  82. “Also, “apostasy porn”? C’mon. You must know that much of what you consider “porn” is simply church history and we are better off accepting it and moving forward (as the church has done the past 30 years) than to thumb our noses at it and pretend labeling it with derogatory names will make the problem go away.”

    You do realize who you’re talking to, right?

  83. “In fact, if you offer an opposing vote to a sustaining you will be ushered out of the meeting.”

    Only if you won’t sit down and stop shouting after the vote is concluded.

  84. I actually quite liked the OP and its message of inclusivity but it seems based on the comments that the author isn’t actually as inclusive as I thought. Can’t we all just love each other as brothers and sisters and stop trying to tell each other who is “Mormon” enough? As evidenced by the story in the OP, there is more than one way to be a Mormon. In fact, the title of the talk Carol Lynn Pearson is giving this weekend is called “No More US and THEM.”

  85. pinkpatent says:

    If you have to work this hard to convince me that you love me, it makes me think you’re actually trying to convince yourself.

    Good luck with that.

  86. Jared T. says:

    Pinkpatent (and co.), ditto.

  87. Jonathan [J. Stapley] is one of the most careful, balanced, thoughtful, imaginative, fair and fearless scholars in Mormon studies. [conflict of interest disclaimer: This comes from someone who for a job has had to read several of his articles several times for several publications over the past several years. But you can take it as a testimony, if you like.]

  88. Jared T., I actually remember the podcasts more the way Vin remembers them. Things were different back then. The tone changed with time until the seeking and questioning turned into an exploration/exposition of problems, and then even further until it became the tone of one with authority.

    Faith journeys can be very difficult, and there’s no shame struggling while you’re on them. In fact, I’d say there are those in the bloggernacle who are in one continuous struggle. But when you come to the mountains, and there are two guides, one offering to lead you over the top and the other offering to lead you around, and both claim theirs is the best way, it’s a significant choice. There’s no guarantee they’ll get you to the same place. If brothers choose to follow different guides, they may still be brothers, but they won’t be traveling together, and that can be hard. Their kinship remains, but you can bet they won’t feel happy with their brother’s guide.

    I thought Stapley’s. post and comments were right on.

  89. Brent, your endorsement is the first place in this set of comments that the name Jonathan appears in reference to Mr. Stapley, so its use may be a bit too obscure for those readers who don’t already know Stapley’s worth in Mormon studies.

  90. 89–right on. I do mean Mr Jonathan Stapley

  91. In the post and in the comments, J. outlined his objections. They are:

    1. A fundamentalist and naive worldview, or a presentist reading of history, combined with

    2. An antagonistic approach to the community.

    Many of us are often in the naive, fundamentalist, or presentist categories. That is the natural order of things, and it usually requires effort if we want to get out of those categories. My understanding of the original post is that the author takes exception only when a person thinks he has transcended those categories but hasn’t, really, and nonetheless cops an attitude towards the institutional church.

    BCC fave Thomas Parkin recently commented that sometimes we think we have left the cave and the shadows behind when we have really just underestimated the dimensions of the cave, and moved to different part of it.

  92. Steve Evans says:

    “There seems to be a veiled inference”

    Indeed.

    J.’s presently indisposed, so I’m here to help moderate comments. I can say that all of your extremely helpful and novel insights regarding Big Tent Mormonism, Open Mormons, faith journeys, NOM, the Mormon Stories podcasts and other upcoming projects are amazing but seriously not really welcome right now. Please try again later. Or Else.

  93. Martin:
    Interesting analogy, but IMO there is not a single path in Mormonism. There are ultra conservative, liberal, moderate, non literal, super literal, and a thousands of other paths within Mormonism and they’re all intertwined. There is not one true Mormon path.

  94. Jared T. says:

    Martin, congrats on having a different recollection. I asure you, having discussed this recently with a few sharp people, that i’m far from the only one who feels heard it that way. And I find the point that this interview was early, and so it wasnt like the later stuff just odd.

  95. Steve Evans says:

    P.S. I’m sure a thread devoted to the notion of apostasy porn will be established soon, to the delight of all. But this is not that thread.

  96. Isn’t Mormon a sub-categorisation of Christian anyway, which in turn is a sub-category of religious, or a believers? So where do you draw the line as to what is the meta-category which covers all the sub-categories? All language is forms of categorisation and sub-categories and most nouns come from adjectives, and its often difficult to say which is which. To say that you reject them seems absurd, and means you reject the core point of your own argument, as Mormon is just as much an adjective and sub-category as those that appear within it.

    That said I liked the use of Orson Pratt and Brigham Young to highlight the point of tolerence of diversity and difference, it just made me sad that the comments reflect that the author clearly isn’t as tolerant as he claims in the piece to be, and that two its a very limited scope of tolerance as it applies only to members of the Church of Jesus Christ if Latter-day Saints who adhere to the author’s own conception of what a Mormon is and have the same covenants. I guess the point is that no matter how different people maybe we are all part of the all-inclusive family of God and as such we should tolerate and appreciate everyone within it, without resorting to labels in any shape or form to divide us.

  97. Q: “So where do you draw the line as to what is the meta-category which covers all the sub-categories?”

    A: “Are we human or are we dancer?”

  98. lawlz

  99. lrwhitney says:

    I just fall back to my observation, not being Utah product myself, although I have all the pioneer credentials I need from parents and grandparents to put my people on handcarts crossing the plains–that 90% of the boring, testimony-crushing rubbish called “Mormonism” is nothing more salvational than provincial Utah culture. When you start talking about inactivity because some guy’s home teaching stats are down to 50% it’s just a case of rating busywork over Christian fellowship. Home teaching didn’t even exist in the early 1960’s, it’s one of many “programs” the church runs to keep its faithful from doing anything constructive on their own, because leadership believes the average member can’t be trusted to keep out of trouble, or from fellowshipping non-Mormons who may be inherently more creative or interesting, it the rank-and-file isn’t occupied 100% of the time on “approved” or rather “required” meetings, activities, assignments, and personal religious observances. This includes church basketball, Roadshows (now apparently on the wane in my area because of too much competitiveness and hurt feelings) and all the Scouting, Young Women’s, Relief Society dinners and fund raisers you can cram into every free moment of the week. if you don’t make all those “committments” you are considered “inactive,” or rather, “less-active,” in the latest euphemism.

    Perhaps however, you just have a life of your own to live. As God intended.

  100. and #99 relates to the post and comments how?

  101. Steve Evans says:

    Some people just like to whine, I guess.

  102. I’d forgotten about #14. That really does explain #99.

  103. Home teaching didn’t even exist in the early 1960′s

    That’s because it was called ward teaching, the successor to block teaching, the successor to just plain teaching. That program, albeit with slight variations in name, has been a staple embodiment of the gospel mandate to watch over and serve members since about the time your people were crossing the plains with (not on, I hope) their handcarts.

    The rest of your whinefest is almost as accurate.

  104. This is seriously ridiculous. Mormonism is not a tribe, people. Get real. Mormonism was founded and prospered and continues as a profound revelation that means to draw people together (no matter their birth) and bind them to Christ, as Christ was bound to the cross. However imperfect the execution due to the humanity of the subjects involved and that at all levels of its organization, Mormonism doesn’t exist without *some* however diverse, however vague, however confused, however troubled, however hard to define, however aspiring, *faith* and *belief* and *covenant*. But that false and malignant segment that would have it be otherwise are those who would destroy what makes Mormonism Mormonism. They’re not about “big tent” Mormonism as much as they are about “no tent” Mormonism-which is no Mormonism at all. Those reading J’s post as anything but very inclusive are having to work quite hard (yet delightfully effectively) to write themselves out of the Mormonism he’s talking about, IMO.

    And those that self-servingly cite Jesus Christ as a model of inclusion neglect to remember that Jesus, as expansive as his reach was (and yes, it was), also spoke in “us-them” terms at times and was also about the business of bringing people by “narrow roads” to his Father.

  105. J has created a new subcategory: the J Mormon, who is opposed to Mormon subcategories. I look forward to the first J Mormon Conference. Please post a link to the J-Mo Podcast.

  106. Steve Evans says:

    Dave, I think the J you’re referring to is Jesus.

  107. This post is filth, and trying to use a conflict between 2 powerful men as a model for defining conflict between lowly members and their “betters” in the church hierarchy is blindingly idiotic.

    In a way, J, your post encapsulated much of what is wrong with Mormon culture; viz., a steadfast refusal to validate legitimate grievances. You can’t just tell people, “this is how Mormonism works, look at Brigham and Orson.” In private industry, it’s bad customer service. In a church that preaches love, it’s perverse.

  108. Mommie Dearest says:

    I voluntarily join the subcategory of people who loved the OP. The comments, as always, have been revealing.

    Here’s my take: Parley and Brigham had completely different approaches to the restored gospel, often in ways that were in direct conflict, but they both realized that they shared one thing that was important enough to override the differences: their devotion to the restoration. The last paragraph of the OP is most revealing in showing how the cited example of Orson/Brigham relates to the author’s struggles to find unity in modern church culture filled with wildly divergent individuals. I went back and re-read it a few times, and the theme of the paragraph is love–how the love of our covenants can enable our love for each other to be made stronger, in spite of the inherent (and rather normal) human differences we all have. So, Christian love ends up being the solution, after all.

    In my mind, all of the comments that follow illuminate this idea in one way or another.

  109. DKL, reducing the post to “a conflict between 2 powerful men”, or positing a similarly wretched reduction of “the conflict between lowly members and their betters” is what’s blindingly idiotic.

  110. Thanks, everyone.

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