Thinking about Mormonism and “critical thinking”

…Or, my re-view of Philip Lindholm’s book, “Latter-day Dissent”

I read the news today, oh boy. The New York Times has a little series on Mormonism, tidbits from five writers, “What is it about Mormonism?” It presents, for the most part, highly caricatured pieces of polemic. (Maffly-Kipp and Reiss hold their own, however.) Elsewhere, Tricia Erickson recently published a scare-all book warning America about the dangers of a Mitt Romney presidency. She’s appeared on various news shows and in articles as an expert on Mormonism. Here she is at something called One News Now:

“I grew up as a Mormon bishop’s daughter, so I know how they think; I know how they program their members…Mormonism is no different than any other cult. It’s very likened to Islam because they’re not really allowed to have critical thinking.”

She cites her mo-credentials to back up the claim that Mormonism doesn’t allow “critical thinking,” just like Islam. Yes, those scary Muslims. One of my grad courses this semester is “Contemporary Islamic Activist Intellectuals.” This presents an odd spectacle. I’m a Mormon, surrounded by Muslims, all of us engaging in critical thinking about Islamic intellectuals. Clearly, there must be more to the story than what Erickson lets on about. Or are Mormons a bunch of uncritical dupes?

Websites like “Mormon Scholars Testify” answer: no. To be Mormon does not mean to be without critical thought. But the existence of the site might also hint that certain insecurities or anxieties felt by some members of the Church in terms of negotiating faith and reason. Pointing to the high rate of Mormon college graduates doesn’t address other important questions, including what sorts of degrees we’re seeking, or how often women don’t complete higher education. Still, MST has an impressive number of engaging testimonies from women and men equally committed to Mormonism and critical thought. Clearly, there must be more to the story than what MST as a whole (though not individually!) lets on about.

This back-and-forth between those who claim the Church doesn’t countenance intellectual thought and those who counter that Mormonism has produced (and still retains) many highly intellectual folks isn’t new. It continues with Carrie Sheffield’s column in yesterday’s Washington Post, A Mormon church in need of reform.” Sheffield lists her mo-credentials and says the LDS Church opposes critical thinking. As proof that Mormonism isn’t rational she cites critical “geneticists, Egyptologists and even the Smithsonian Institution,” without mentioning that other geneticists, Egyptologists, and other thinky-minded people might have reasonable responses to criticism. The column simply reaffirms the tension rather than exploring its roots, breadth, or depth. Thus, in my view, it isn’t a good example of the “critical thinking” Sheffield herself champions.

But this must be because she isn’t a disinterested spectator. She relates how she’s been hurt by being ostracized by family members and friends because she doubted Mormonism. I don’t know all of the particulars of her situation, or how she manifested her disbelief, or if she shares any of the responsibility for hurt feelings back then. I hate it when such things do happen, but I also deny that such things are a necessary outgrowth of Mormonism. I deny it largely because of my own personal experiences, much like Sheffield grounds her editorial in personal experience. Faith crises happen. How we handle them differs. How we handle them demands careful thought. This problem at its root isn’t unique to Mormonism.

Sheffield laments that Mormonism doesn’t offer a reform-type movement like she sees in Judaism, one where she might feel more comfortable given her beliefs, to participate as a Mormon without various doctrinal or cultural impediments. I’ve found room in places like the Bloggernacle, Dialogue, and the Maxwell Institute where robust conversation happens. I’ve tried to contribute by writing blog posts, doing research, and putting together podcast interviews with some of my favorite Mormon intellectuals. I’ve made some downright amazing friends in the process and I’m thankful for them. I don’t check my brain at the door when I enter the Church building, either. But I try to be careful when I offer differing perspectives, and I see a need for more humility on my part. (Much more could be said about this. Hopefully later.)

Sheffield adds: “Perhaps someday the church will not excommunicate, fire and demote people who want honest, church-wide dialogue about Mormon history and doctrine.” Of course, this statement assumes that if you work for any Church entity and haven’t been excommunicated, fired, or demoted, then you must not be interested in honest, church-wide dialogue. She says she hopes for a modern-day Luther to act the part of reformer to Mormonism. Any cursory look at the Protestant Reformation contrasted with today’s LDS Church and surrounding culture would easily demonstrate the problems with such an comparison. I won’t trouble with that here.

Instead, I want to look once more at a similar call recently issued in Philip Lindholm’s book, Latter-day Dissent: At the Crossroads of Intellectual Inquiry and Ecclesiastical Authority. (I previously reviewed it here.) Lindholm interviewed several members of the “September Six,” a group of scholars who were disfellowshipped or excommunicated due to various publications, statements, or activist-style approaches to problems they experienced with the Church. The book made me deeply uncomfortable with excommunication in general, but it also seemed to speak from a different intellectual and cultural climate than the one I currently swim around in. It doesn’t seem to notice any differences today compared to 1993. Lindholm’s introduction is the only real analysis the book provides. (The rest of the book consists of interviews.) His intro concludes: “Perhaps one day, the ecclesiastical Church will decide that enforcing doctrinal conformity in public restricts from coming forth the vibrant spiritual community to which it aspires. Perhaps not” (xxv).

The trouble I see with Lindholm’s “perhapses” is that they don’t rise above their own perspective. They propose a false dilemma. Problems there be, but disagreements over diagnosis–let alone prescription–are ongoing. Lindholm’s introduction and the overall book then is perhaps best viewed as a primary, rather than a secondary, source. The very questions Lindholm asks and the respective responses by interviewees reveal things about the circumstances of real people on the ground, but the perspective is limited. If the book (or the WaPo opinion piece by Sheffield) is treated as a secondary piece, as an accurate overview, I see it as problematic because of this inherent near-sightedness. They tell us part of the story, but they make no attempt to account for confounding variables. They avoid complexity in favor of simple narratives–some of the very problems they attribute to the LDS Church’s handling of its history or doctrine. They seem unaware of some of the best of what Mormon thought has to offer on these questions (work by people like Armand Mauss, Richard Bushman, Eugene England, etc., not to mention all the thoughtful people doing thoughtful work that doesn’t engage directly in the question of the relation between faith and reason but by its very existence testifies to some compatibility). Perhaps what is most odd in all of this is that critical reasoning, in terms of making use of or applying various intellectual models, isn’t really employed by Sheffield, Lindholm, or Erickson to help understand these circumstances. My ongoing training in religious studies keeps reminding me that there is usually more to the story, there are many ways to analyze the story.

This is why I question the use of “cult” models to understand the way Mormons live, or to describe the family troubles that sometimes appear when faith crises occur. Why not use comparative models on issues like nationalism, tribalism, etc. which may shed as much light? There are a multitude of models to choose from to dissect these problems, today more than ever, and if religious studies is supposed to suggest any one thing it suggests the need for multiple approaches. How could Philip Lindholm, a fellow who has earned seven academic degrees, miss that? Lindholm actually quotes Armand Mauss in his introduction, but fails to acknowledge that Mauss has advanced an interesting model to describe the cultural pendulum swings of the LDS Church. Mauss’s work directly engages the issue of how the LDS Church responds to and interacts with its surrounding culture. Mauss is another one of those critical-thinking Mormons, to boot. Mauss revisits his “retrenchment” framework in the most recent issue of Dialogue in his article “Rethinking Retrenchment: Course Corrections in the Ongoing Quest for Respectability.” Ironically enough, Lindholm’s book is reviewed in the same issue. But the gap between Lindholm and Mauss yawns as wide as ever. And it goes without saying that neither of them are likely to be quoted in your average Sunday School lesson.

Of course, Mauss’s work doesn’t make for very sexy news copy on opinion pages. It seems the Lindholm-esque story is more likely to appear in the news these days. (In response to the NYT a friend of mine said “Honestly, they can’t do better than two people who write Mormon exposes and a fringe playwrite?”) But Mauss is still worth the read. At least, as far as my critical thinking skills suggest.

Comments

  1. wondering says:

    Sheffield doesn’t say the church “opposes critical thinking,” she says it “values unquestioning obedience over critical thinking.” If you are going to discuss the Sheffield piece, I think it is important to quote her accurately.

    I wonder what you think of her story where a “high-ranking Mormon leader who told me to quit reading historical and scientific materials because they were “worse than pornography.”

  2. I agree it is important to quote her accurately. Since it was a description not a quote I leave it as it stands because it’s accurate to her overall piece. Regarding “high-ranking Mormon leader,” be imaginative: what do you think, given this blog post, I might say about that “high-ranking Mormon leader”? I’m interested to see what sort of impression I’m giving.

  3. Many people seem to want “critical thinking” to mean “rejecting fundamental Church dogma under the guise of impartial scholarship.”

    It would seem that telling someone, “go find out for yourself” entails a basic encouragement of critical thinking, no?

    As for her story, that doesn’t jive at all with my experience and sounds slightly embellished ( ALL historical materials? really? D&C to the contrary “obtain a knowledge of history” (93:53)). I can imagine one making a similar narrower comment, perhaps. “Establishing a paradigm is all about deciding which examples to generalize from.” The fact that all her paradigmatic examples are negative suggests either terribly bad luck in her church experience (and I know one of her Seminary teachers, so I doubt it), or else that she’s chosen to make the bad examples representative of all Mormonism.

    Blair, excellent post.

  4. Furthermore, that phrase leaves us more questions than answers.

    • Who was this etherial “high-ranking Mormon leader”?
    • What position does/did he hold in the Church?
    • Why does Sheffield feel the need to use the slur “Mormon” to describe him?
    • What, besides “worse than pornography,” did he actually say?
    • Which “historical and scientific materials” was he describing?
    • What led him to describe them that way?
    • What did Sheffield say that led him to make the statement?
    • Did he suggest any other “historical and scientific materials” to counter the offending claims?

    The list goes on and on. As BHodges said in his original post, there’s a lot more going on here than an unbiased treatment of the Church as a whole (if such a thing even exist). Sheffield’s piece is an opinion piece that using one person’s seemingly myopic version of events to describe a religion, culture, and experience supposedly shared by millions, despite the fact that millions (myself included) will happily point out that her descriptions bear not even the slightest resemblance to their own, respective realities.

  5. oops… *that uses. Dang autocorrect.

  6. Of course we emphasize faith more than science. You can’t prove a testimony. There aren’t answers to every question, and most church leaders certainly aren’t well versed in the scholarly aspect of church history, so it should be no surprise faith, prayer, and receiving an answer from God is emphasized. I don’t think this is a bad thing. Nonetheless, it is of course disturbing to hear anecdotal stories of ostracism in the course of doubts over our history. I don’t have much experience with that, so it’s hard to offer a perspective.

  7. Well, a “high ranking” Mormon Leader once told me that I was awesome. Anyone who disagrees is clearly going to hell.

  8. Oh, thanks for writing this Blair. I was hoping to get to it, but I just will not have the chance. You rock (clicking the “notify me” button and ready to roll). .

  9. Wow, I wish I had known that the Church is a cult that prohibits critical thinking before I taught those philosophy of religion courses at BYU where we looked at every argument for God’s existence pro and con using the best arguments on both sides. I wish I had known that before we took on the problem of evil and religious diversity and evolution and cognitive science and critical scriptural biblical scholarship from the best statements and arguments we could find anywhere. I wish I had known the Church didn’t allow critical thinking before teaching all those classes looking at arguments against existence of the soul and life after death and revelation and the superiority of the naturalistic world view.

    If I had known that the anecdotal evidence and fact, yes a given and established fact, that Tricia Erickson and Carrie Sheffield had actually been kids with Mormon parents to cement their authority to pontificate on the issue of Mormonism’s absolute ban on such thinking, I would have stopped before I taught all that stuff. I wish I had known that their vast generalizations without any other source or a shred of competent evidence were in fact legitimate judgments rather than just their own biases and prejudices and generalizations that constitute the closed mindedness against which they claim to be authorities. I just wish I had known.

  10. Jeff,

    • Who was this etherial “high-ranking Mormon leader”?
    • What position does/did he hold in the Church?
    • Why does Sheffield feel the need to use the slur “Mormon” to describe him?
    • What, besides “worse than pornography,” did he actually say?
    • Which “historical and scientific materials” was he describing?
    • What led him to describe them that way?
    • What did Sheffield say that led him to make the statement?
    • Did he suggest any other “historical and scientific materials” to counter the offending claims?

    My mission president banned missionaries from reading FARMS material because of an author’s “ridiculous” claim that Joseph Smith translated the Book of Mormon using a stone in a hat. He became a seventy a year later. I doubt his calling miraculously translated his ignorance away.

    Read Joseph Fielding Smith’s (A prophet, seer, and revelator!) writings on scientists, and especially evolutionary scientists.

    I find it very easy to believe that a high-ranking Mormon leader is capable of saying terrible and ignorant statements.

  11. Also, I am tired of Mormon apologetics (and I am not saying that Blair is doing this, but I see the seeds of it in the comments already) that discount the experiences of many as not being due to the Church, but being the result of rogue members and leaders. It reminds me a lot of the BYU-Idaho skinny jeans incident. So many were wanting to just point to the testing center and rogue employee as the soul source of the problem. However, they failed to recognize the larger problem: that BYU-I engendered an atmosphere at the school where some “rogue” employees not only felt that what they were doing was okay, but that it was the right thing to do and what the school would have them do.

  12. “I find it very easy to believe that a high-ranking Mormon leader is capable of saying terrible and ignorant statements.”

    Sure, I would almost expect it. Of course, that is because I have special meetings with unnamed Church leaders all the time.

  13. An excellent example of critical thinking indeed. Great post, Blair.

  14. I think things are changing for the better in 1993 we had the September Six today President Beck is taking questions from Mormon Mommy Blogs. Nice to see the women leading this renaissance.

  15. #11 – In repsonse to your last sentence, did you read anything here that disagrees with it? Just saying.

  16. The BYU-Idaho skinny jeans incident is actually a perfect example. One, skinny jeans were not the issues. Two, it was an internet sensationalized isssue. IT WAS NOT POLICY…It was an idiot student employee. I taught at BYU-Idaho for 4 years. There is no shortage of such idiots in Rexburg.

    Of course, there are serious gender isses wrong with the church. Duh. But the tight jeans incident was a distraction.

    The best part about being a liberal Mormon is when you get called an apologist for disagreeing with the DAMU.

  17. Steve Evans says:

    “The best part about being a liberal Mormon is when you get called an apologist for disagreeing with the DAMU.”

    Unbanning you was a good idea, methinks. This is wisdom.

  18. #16, I read into Jeff’s questions a skepticism that any such encounter occurred as Sheffield described it.

  19. Don’t even get me started on Sally Denton. Her “scholarship” is about as reliable as the National Enquirer.

  20. #17,

    Chris, I have no idea how your comment is responding to anything I claimed. In fact you are perfectly embodying the criticism I am making. Perhaps you should read it again.

  21. Jeremy Jensen says:

    I’ll just add my voice to those who love this article. Best thing I’ve read on the bloggernacle in months.

  22. Steve Evans says:

    Loyd, at least do us the honor of posting original comments, not your facebook leavings!!

  23. I didn’t like the Sheffield piece that much either, though I always try to interpret these as an expression of how much pain and hurt the individual has felt. Given the experience of people I know personally, her account of her meeting with a church official (I would guess a 70) is possible. I know of a very recent type of interaction that was similar in many ways and in a context where the person was trying as hard as possible not to be antagonistic. Given the people I have seen shunned and hurt by their families for just holding *some* unorthodox beliefs I could easily imagine some family being very hurtful. I think it is fair to say that such things are happening systematically enough that it is affecting a sizable number of people and it should be of concern to the church. However, to say this completely characterizes the church or even the majority of it is inaccurate. I know many families that accept and love people regardless of their activity and beliefs, many church leaders who would never give the counsel or anything that could be interpreted that way etc.

    My fear in all this is that appears that the church is interpreting a lot of what is going on as people getting “wrong” or “anti-mormon” versions of history and ergo all they need is to hear the “right version”. When in fact there are a lot of people in, leaving and out of the church that are really asking for the church to acknowledge and deal with the past in a straightforward way. Was the priesthood restriction a wrong-headed policy of man or a decree from God? Do we believe polygamy is the eternal order of heaven or not? I think the Church could even just say very clearls “we, the leaders, don’t know” or “reasonable saints could come to different conclusions on these issues”. Even something that would take a lot of pressure off.

  24. Steve, I will try not to let you down.

    the narrator, I must still be misreading it.

  25. Steve, after posting them on FB I saw this post and found them suitable for here and for different persons. Am I really required to spend the time rewriting them solely for the purpose of having them be *different* to please you?

  26. Steve Evans says:

    Yes! Amusing me should be your central concern.

  27. #25

    “IT WAS NOT POLICY…It was an idiot student employee. I taught at BYU-Idaho for 4 years. There is no shortage of such idiots in Rexburg.”

    Exactly. That is the apologetic: It wasn’t policy it was a rogue employee. If similar things happen in other places, it’s not BYU-I, it’s just that there is no shortage of such rogue idiots in Rexburg.

    The same apologetic occurs when people have terrible experiences in Mormonism as Sheffield and hundreds of others claim they experience: It wasn’t policy of The Church it was a rogue member. If similar things happen in other wards and stakes, it’s not The Church, it’s just that there is no shortage of such rogue idiots in Mormonism.

    The larger problem is not the rogue employee at BYU-I, but that BYU-I engenders an atmosphere at the school where some “rogue” employees not only felt that what they were doing was okay, but that it was the right thing to do and what the school would have them do.

    Or, the problem is not just that many rogue idiot Mormons are causing these experiences that Sheffield and others recount, but that these “rogue” “idiot” Mormons not only feel that what they were doing is okay, but that it is the right thing to do and what The Church would have them do

  28. Narrator: “The larger problem is not the rogue employee at BYU-I, but that BYU-I engenders an atmosphere at the school where some “rogue” employees not only felt that what they were doing was okay, but that it was the right thing to do and what the school would have them do.”:

    And just what is this ethereal “atmosphere” that you claim makes BYU-I or the “The Church” an utterly unique breeding ground for such rogue idiots?

  29. Hyperbole and innuendo, two great tastes that go great together! I hope that people look behind those articles masquerading as legitimate insights into modern Mormon culture and do their own critical thinking when it comes to Mormonism. But after wading through the readers’ comments of these articles and others like them, I’m afraid that will not be the case.

  30. #29

    Blake, I never said that BYU-I or The Church are “an utterly unique breeding ground for such rogue idiots.” I didn’t even come close to implying that. To the contrary, I believe that rogue idiots are generally equally dispersed through all groups and institutions.

  31. Me too.

  32. Let me add that this apologetic is not exclusive to defenders of The Church and defenders of BYU-I. The same apologetic occurs with almost any group. Tea Party apologists do the same with their rogue idiots. The Occupy Movement apologists do the same with their rogue idiots. The problem is not just in the rogue idiots, and we shouldn’t pretend that dismissing the idiots absolves the organizations and groups of responsibility. Rather the questions must be asked and pursued of what these groups and organizations are doing and preaching that makes these rogue idiots feel that what they were doing is okay, but that it is the right thing to do and what their group/organization would have them do.

  33. #24, rah: My fear in all this is that appears that the church is interpreting a lot of what is going on as people getting “wrong” or “anti-mormon” versions of history and ergo all they need is to hear the “right version”.

    This is an interesting point, rah. I think we’re already seeing these types of room-allowing comments from apostles, though they need to trickle into General Conference and church lessons and CES as well. See Holland and Oaks (never noticed that possible pun before!) in the Mormons documentary interviews, for example.

    But I try to keep in mind that things aren’t always going to be framed like I personally think they should be, doctrines won’t always fit my own views, social policies won’t always be comfortable. As a believing member of the faith, then, I don’t think it is a good idea to demand change but refuse to conceive it outside my own predetermined pattern. (The church has to say polygamy was false or else I am out of here, for example.) I’m interested in the overall climate that makes crappy reactions and relationships possible, the sorts of things Sheffield talks about. Blake’s experiences counter the claims that no critical thinking is allowed of Mormons, but they don’t seem to play a heavy part in the overall institutional Church which seems to present a pretty baseline gospel to the membership. The recent article talking with Elder Jensen suggests that the church is trying to take specific steps to provide better information to people on history, I wonder if anyone out there has seen any of this stuff, where it will be available, when we can expect it. I expect it will be slow in coming. I think some of the internet folks overestimate the reach of their particular crises of faith in terms of how big of a defection is going on and what the causes are.

    narrator: I see your point about dismissing people just because our own experiences are different than Sheffield’s described experiences. I think what Jeff was suggesting above is that she gave us a very trope-filled piece, which doesn’t mean she didn’t experience those things, but it doesn’t give me enough details to know where the process broke down for her. The reason I wrote this post was to suggest that we can trade counter examples all day (MST vs. Lindholm or Sheffield, for example) but these exchanges overlook the fact, yes I’ll call it the fact, that things are different in the church today for intellectuals than they were in 1993. Look at Ben S,’s great post up there that he shares with his students. What if those sorts of things were instituted more thoroughly in Institutes around the country? Well, he didn’t wait, he took it upon himself to do it, and he’s making a difference there. That’s all he can really do. I try to do that sort of thing in my own way.

  34. Narrator: I’d say that rogue idiots are “rogue” precisely because they are idiosyncratic and an exception. Perhaps their rogue behavior is a matter of free will and not some inevitable consequence or even fault of some other entity or person that ought to be held accountable. That is the simple fact that both Erickson and Sheffield just can’t quite seem to get.

  35. BHodges: Well, I tried to get everyone in the Church to take my philosophy of religion course, but there was a general lack of interest – -fostered I’m sure by capitalism and the need to make a living and the entertainment industries that constantly tempt others to engage in more enjoyable but less-mind-engaging pursuits. Dam_ that Harry Potter!

  36. Blake, I tend to favor that market/media explanation over the conspiracy theory stuff, the idea that a bunch of church leaders are sitting around thinking of ways to lie to church members about history to discourage anyone from learning stuff.

  37. #37

    ” the idea that a bunch of church leaders are sitting around thinking of ways to lie to church members about history to discourage anyone from learning stuff.”

    I think the idea is more that Church leaders are ever realizing that they set up certain narratives as the “must be true or everything is false” narratives, and upon realizing that the more accurate historical narratives differ from their official versions don’t quite know how to bridge the two without undermining the much of their own basis of authority.

    But, if we take Elder Packer’s own word for it, your parody of it may be true as well.

  38. Reading the news today I was surprised to find this article: http://www.reuters.com/article/2012/01/31/us-mormonchurch-idUSTRE80T1CM20120131. It reports that Elder Jensen has said that the Church hasn’t prepared members for the controversial issues in its history, and that they are going to try to address this through a program called “the Rescue.” It might be true that the Church hasn’t always been the best at emphasizing critical thinking, but I don’t think there has been any malicious attempt to hide things.

  39. I agree with those who say that the church doesn’t object to (or even encourages) critical thinking in general, BUT ONLY so long as that thinking does not lead to conclusions that contradict some fundamental teachings. And it is hard for me to see how you would disagree with the idea that the church “values unquestioning obedience over critical thinking.”

    Many commenters have pointed out that their experiences have been different than the ones Sheffield describes. But have you commenters actually been in a situation like hers? I mean, have you reached conclusions rejecting (say) BOM historicity, or something equally fundamental? If so, I’d be interested in hearing how you and your new beliefs were treated by leaders, by your families, and by members at large.

  40. #40 – They have treated me with respect and/or sympathy, mostly – probably because I’m fully active, smiley with everyone, prone to laugh and make stupid jokes, not confrontational, not trying actively to convert anyone to my view, etc. – and, therefore, not seen as a threat in any way.

    Generally speaking, they love me because I love them.

  41. mapman–THANK YOU for sharing that Reuters article. It’s both fascinating and timely.

  42. Stan Beale says:

    There is a strong aversion to critical thinking by a fair number of church members and leaders, but it varies from individual to individual and issue to issue. Let me give four examples where it can be quite egregious.

    1. Faith promoting rumor. Many members will never question the validity of something if it appears to support the faith. My favorite was a local rumor in the Northern California area. Supposedly no grass could ever grow on Governor Boggs grave in Napa. No one I ever asked had ever seen it or could cite a source for that claim. If you google a picture of his grave, you will see that there is plenty o grass around it.

    2. Biblical literalists. The earth was created 6,000 years ago. Science be dam*ed.

    3. The Three O God (omniscient, omnipresent, omnipotent). I had a very short discussion with a high Counselor the other day about global warming. It was a quick debate once he stated that global warming was not a problem. God would not let it happen.

    4. If a General Authority has an opinion, it must be true. What really bothers me about this one is that it can shake the faith of members if they believe it and then can be shown later that it is wrong (e.g. Joseph Fielding Smith saying he believed that man would never go to the moon).

    Does that type of thinking define us? Of course not. We just need to remember for many it is not a problem, for some it is a tendency and for a few it is a proclivity,

  43. I do not believe the Book of Mormon to be an ancient record. I have not ever had a church leader, church member, or family member ask if I did…including the two GA’s that interviewed me for employment at Church schools.

    Of course, since Steve Evans is an agent of Boyd K. Packer, this might all change.

  44. Help, the church hasn’t given me the tools to decide whether I agree with this post!

  45. Chris H., that is interesting. I wonder what would have happened if you had volunteered your view on the BOM to the GA interviewer? Do you ever volunteer this view in church settings, or just on the internet?

  46. Like Clean Cut, I found the link from mapman in #39 very interesting.

    Has anybody here heard anything about “The Rescue” project, or the new packet of materials for “pastors?”

  47. “Do you ever volunteer this view in church settings, or just on the internet?”

    #46 – I have shared heterodox perspectives in classes, in HPG meetings, in Sacrament Meeting talks, in Stake Leadership meetings, online, etc. I’ve never been reprimanded for it by a church leader (except once, when I wrote something online that was sarcastic and badly misunderstood by some people – which was my fault completely, and the reprimand was correct), even though plenty of people have disagreed with me plenty of times. Also, I post on the internet using my real name – with a link to my personal blog that includes my full name (if someone wants to contact me). My internet participation never has been anonymous, so there really isn’t any difference between my comments here and my comments at church – except that “The Church” can read what I write online.

  48. Nice work, Blair.

  49. wondering, see my #2. (comment, that is.)

  50. #47: I’ve heard of it. There are a number of ongoing efforts to identify issues, outline ways to introduce information that informs honestly and leads to responsible scholarly sources of information and a range possible responses.

  51. “I wonder what would have happened if you had volunteered your view on the BOM to the GA interviewer? Do you ever volunteer this view in church settings, or just on the internet?”

    No, I do not view it as something I must confess. I am not evangelical in any way and I have little interest in proselytizing my views so I do not feel any impulse to convert others to my view. I do not view those who view that Book of Mormon as literal or historical as being wrong or being historical. That does not work for me, I am happy that it works for them.

    Does only saying this on the internet make may some sort of wimp? Maybe. But I to be honest I have no need for the supposed champions of truth whether they take the form of The Ensign or Mormon Stories.

  52. Chris H, if you don’t believe the Book of Mormon to be an ancient record, do you mind me asking what you believe? Forgive me if you’ve already discussed this somewhere else. If so, can you point me to that discussion?

  53. medstudent,

    I appreciate the question. However, I really do not have a developed theory about the Book of Mormon that I am ready to throw out. Addtionally, this is not my forum and I should likely not make this anymore about me than I already have.

  54. Chris H, It’s too bad I do not have a way to share, but a friend of mine gave me a copy of the most wonderful videos of antropological lessons given on the book of mormon (I’m not certain what venue they were given at, but it looked like a University classroom), and all the scientific data the authors have accumulated, with pictures of sites and other things that corroborate many stories that are mentioned in the BOM, specially the ones about the wars. Not only that, there is also a genicist among them who conducted a very detailed reseach of DNA of the american indians mentioned in the anthropological study above and the findings are awesome. They mentioned how certain haplo-x DNA strain or something (I cannot remember the scientific jarga) that shows that it is linked to people of Hebrew descent contradicting all the junk you see on the internet. I was completely fascinated by it. They mentioned all the scientific journals where you can find the DNA information, show copies of the sources they used. Very scientific and professional.

    I just don’t know how people cannot get a hold of information like this. It will really make a great difference. The info is out there if you really look for it.

  55. CJL: you’re likely taking about Rod Meldrum’s outfit, which, in my view, is terribly inaccurate. The best LDS geneticists I’ve seen working on this issue have concluded convincingly for the present that DNA neither proves nor disproves the BoM as an ancient record. I’m all for making a case for ancient authenticity, but Meldrum’s work is not the place to go.

    http://maxwellinstitute.byu.edu/publications/review/?vol=22&num=1&id=793

  56. Here’s Perego on the DNA question. Excellent article:

    http://maxwellinstitute.byu.edu/publications/review/?vol=22&num=1&id=796

  57. Sheffield’s column irks me, not because I don’t think its an accurate way to depict the entire Mormon culture (which I don’t), but because she strikes a note that I know still exists amongst us. I like your post Blair, but I know not everyone in the pews would support your views, and that irks me. I think there are still many many Carrie Sheffield’s in the pews, and some will leave us and say the things, and some will stay with us believing the same things. I think your voice, and the voice of many others, is desperately needed to bring further light to our religious culture.

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