The Dialogue Diet

Faith crisis–often leading to faith transition–is a “thing” these days. Someone innocently does a google search, travels down some online rabbit hole, and soon discovers weird–sometimes really weird–stuff about the Mormon past. These substantive issues are troubling enough on their own, but pretty soon they cease to be the primary issue. Rather, the fact that the person was never taught about these things at Church becomes the dominant issue. The person feels as though she has been lied to all of her life. The image she has constructed in her mind of a church that never changes, where everything is perfect, where the prophet has afternoon tea with Jesus Christ himself every Thursday afternoon in the temple, comes crashing down around her shoulders, as she considers for the first time the very human institution that is the LDS Church.

Those who have gone through an experience like this often toss around a brief list of issues as a sort of shorthand for the longer list of problems the person has encountered that has fractured her faith, often something like “multiple first vision accounts, polyandry, Book of Abraham, a stone in a hat, City Creek Mall.” Is there anything that can be done to help these people?

(Let me be clear that if the person feels enlightened by the experience and is happy about her new found knowledge, good for her. My concern is that most people who go through this experience don’t seem to be happy about it at all.)

I like the interview scene between Morpheus and Neo in 1999’s The Matrix.  Morpheus offers Neo two choices, represented by a blue pill or a red pill:

This is your last chance. After this, there is no turning back. You take the blue pill – the story ends, you wake up in your bed and believe whatever you want to believe. You take the red pill – you stay in Wonderland, and I show you how deep the rabbit hole goes. Remember, all I’m offering is the truth – nothing more.

In our case, the problem is that there is no blue pill. I’ve known a lot of people who would give a lot to be able to go back to their previous ignorant–and happy–experience with the Church.  But once you’re online reciting a list like the one I quote above, it’s too late–there is simply no going back, as much as one might want to do so. You can’t crawl back into the womb. You can stay where you are, continuing to recite the list as a shorthand for all the Church’s foibles and failures for the remainder of time, or you can take the red pill. And the way one takes the red pill is by going all the way down the rabbit hole, not by reading and studying less, as one might assume, but just the opposite: by reading and studying even more, as counterintuitive as that might seem.

Folks who recite “the list” seem to believe that the list is impregnable, that once one becomes enlightened as to the items on the list, a happy and continued faithful engagement with the Church is now impossible. But I don’t accept that premise at all. I happen to know a lot of people who know all about the list, and yet remain committed and engaged members of the Church. And when I think about people who fall into this category, the common characteristic that comes to mind is that they tend to be exceptionally well read.

One who comes to recite the list has almost always gained her knowledge via the internet. And the internet is great; one can learn a lot from it, and I am indeed a fan. I spend a lot of time on the internet; this blog post itself is but a little bit of internet fodder. But if that is the only source of one’s knowledge base, then one’s knowledge is going to tend to be superficial. This reminds me of these famous lines from Alexander Pope:

A little learning is a dangerous thing;

Drink deep, or taste not the Pierian spring:

There shallow draughts intoxicate the brain,

And drinking largely sobers us again.

Think of some of the lions of Mormon scholarship, people like Richard and Claudia Bushman, Laurel Thatcher Ulrich, Armand Mauss, and many, many others. They manage to maintain a productive relationship with the Church precisely because they are so well read in Mormon thought; there is nothing at all superficial about their engagement with the literature.

But I realize it’s not very helpful to tell some poor soul who has stumbled upon a lot of weird stuff in our history and scripture and doctrine and practice to become like Richard Bushman. For most people that is just not a practical option.

As I’ve thought about this, I have come up with an idea that might be helpful for people troubled by their internet-based discoveries about the Church. I am going to call this the “Dialogue diet.” What I propose is a program of reading (with some skimming and skipping allowed, of course) the entire print run of Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought. (You can start at the beginning and work your way forward, or start with the most recent issue and work your way backward, I don’t think it really matters very much which direction you go.) My thinking behind this is as follows:

  • Just telling someone to “become extremely well read in Mormonism” is less than helpful. Your average member simply would have no idea where to start on such a quest, and the task would seem so overwhelming as to be self-defeating from the start. Reading Dialogue from stem to stern is at least a very well defined task.
  • Reading the entire print run of Dialogue is a lot to bite off and chew, I acknowledge, but the task is not insurmountable. I know this because it is something I myself did when I first encountered the journal; I went back to the very first issue and read it in sequence from there. (I realize there are many more issues in print now than when I did this, but still in my view it’s a doable task.)
  • Except for the most recent two years, the prior issues are all conveniently available electronically at the Archive on the Dialogue website.
  • Doing this exercise will have several positive effects. First it will provide the reader with extensive substantive knowledge, in long-form, footnoted journal articles as opposed to overly superficial internet postings. It will provide a model for how faithful Saints engage challenging issues. And one will begin to realize that one is not alone, that there is indeed an extensive community of Saints that know about these issues yet retain their faith and engagement with the Church.

There are of course no guarantees. One might finish this exercise with one’s faith crisis entirely intact. But if one is sufficiently motivated to give this little diet I’m suggesting a shot, I do believe it has the potential to give you a sense of equanimity about the Church itself and the issues that so trouble you now.

While reading the entire print run may seem like a faddish diet, rather like something you would find in a grocery checkout line, it has the potential to put you on the path of making a dent towards gaining that Bushmanian type knowledge that seems beyond your grasp right now. My guess is that somewhere along the way you would broaden your reading to other journals and to books as well.  And engaging Mormon scholarly literature to that extent will give you context and perspective so that you will no longer look at the issues that originally troubled you with a “list” approach, but with a far deeper and more integrated approach that would allow for religious faith to continue to flourish, should that be your desire.

Consider, for example, the current issue, Volume 44, No. 4 (Winter 2013), which hit my mailbox a week or so ago. There’s a lot of content here, but let me highlight three main items:

William V. Smith, “Early Mormon Priesthood Revelations: Text, Impact, and Evolution.” Wait–do you mean to tell me that early Mormon priesthood evolved over time? Of course it did. But this is a serious-minded, sober, scholarly take on the subject, rather than a supermarket tabloid approach. Bill (full disclosure: he is a fellow BCC perma, as is the editor of the journal, Kristine Haglund) treats the subject very carefully, utilizing to full advantage new scholarly insights from the Joseph Smith Papers Project, in 84 pages with 152 endnotes. Reading about the evolution of Mormon priesthood with this kind of substance is a very different experience from reading something superficial, and possibly polemical, on the internet.

Seth Payne has a piece that happens to be directly relevant to the subject of this post: “Ex-Mormon Narratives and Pastoral Apologetics,” with some excellent advice with respect to those to whom this post is directed.

There is also Gregory A. Prince, “An Interview with Rabbi Harold Kushner.” I would like to quote here just the beginning of the interview to give you some of the flavor of it:

Prince: Let’s start by considering the question of how religions understand themselves in relation to other religions. I think if we had enough data points we would probably find that most, if not all religious traditions at some point in their maturation process either said, “We are better,” “We are the best,” or, “We are the only.” I think that the ones that I would consider the more mature have softened those stances.

Kushner: Yes, due to reality.

Prince: The Mormons immediately populated the top one and have been very reluctant, or incapable of vacating it.

Kushner: My take on that was to say, “Our religion is the best” is like saying “Our baseball team is the best.” It’s not a statement of fact; it’s a statement of loyalty.

Prince: Yes, and “My family is the best.”

Kushner: Yes, right. “My mother is the best cook.” it’s not factual.

Prince: My mother was–I don’t know about yours.

Take that snippet, multiply it by about 10,000, and that would be the potential impact on one who were to accept my suggestion and try the Dialogue diet. I really believe that such an effort has the potential to mature the perspective of someone who only recently has been exposed in a superficial way to problematic issues in Mormonism’s past.

Comments

  1. Should I take my before and after bikini pictures? (Great idea, I plan on doing just this even though I am not experiencing a faith crisis/transition)

  2. Kevin Barney says:

    Bikini pictures, whether before or after, are always welcome.

    To be honest, this is sort of a rip-off from Hugh Nibley, whose scholarly practice was to read the entire run of a journal in his subject area. That is why I did it with Dialogue, and it was a very good experience for me, thus my recommendation that others give it a shot.

  3. As an alternative, put the word to the test. Not the word of dialogue but the words of the prophets. Give your free time over to the gospel, striving to serve God, by serving your fellow man. Study the words of the prophets and scriptures and seek to emulate and expand their teaching in your life. Exhort those around you to to better and get out and visit and teach and serve and learn with others. Be charitable to those suffering and help strengthen those who the Spirit prompts. Don’t assume you have all the answers but that the Lord does and he’ll provide the light for you that will guide your path and give you direction. Attend your meetings, reach out to those you don’t recognize, invite them no your home and strive to preach the gospel by example and by word. Living a life like that sounds like you’d be well on your way to living a consecrated life. A life that the winds and waves of historical controversy could never overturn as long as you stayed on that path (dare I say held to the rod?) .

    But if you’re not willing to take those steps of discipleship this posts advice seems OK to preserve intellectual faith I guess too :)

  4. I’d like to bear my testimony that I know this blog post is true. Dialogue, Sunstone, and the Journal of the Mormon History Association helped me a great deal during a time of questioning and bewilderment, even pre-Internet. In particular, an article written by Robert Rees and published in Sunstone (“Forgiving the Church and Loving the Saints”) changed my entire worldview and made it possible for me to open my mind and heart to many things that had upset me in both the history and culture of the Church. Amen, Bro. Barney.

  5. Thomas Parkin says:

    A+ stuff. Amen and amen and amen.

  6. melodynew says:

    This is a great suggestion. Dialogue has enriched my understanding of the gospel, helped me see the church more clearly, and has affirmed my testimony in a lot of ways.

    Because my spiritual and cultural evolution in Mormonism (and necessarily rapid initial “growth spurt” – now called a faith crisis) began over twenty years ago, it was a relatively private matter. There was no Internet. Just a helluva lot of garbage I became privy to that blew my mind. I was fortunate to have an LDS counselor and a few great bishops, stake presidents, and their wives along the way who became dear friends to me and who shepherded me through several years of grappling with hard truths.

    One thing that became apparent was this: in the process of watching my ideas and innocent beliefs about the church crumble before me, I had to find ways to re-build as I went. At least that’s how it was for me. It wasn’t like a total demolition and rebuilding. It was more a renovation. I never abandoned the structure, either internally or externally. As one brick fell, I found a more stable brick to put in its place. Error was replaced with truth, one concept at a time. So, my spiritual and emotional framework remained intact. And I count myself fortunate that I had a firm foundation in Christ and a solid connection to God through prayer.

    I think your suggestion about Dialogue could provided the materials for a good remodel during just about any one’s faith/transition/growth process. A different metaphor than a diet, but the same idea. Thanks for this post.

  7. Kevin Barney says:

    I like your remodel imagery.

  8. “I happen to know a lot of people who know all about the list, and yet remain committed and engaged members of the Church.”

    Indeed. Kaimi made a comment about this kind of thing long enough ago that I saved it.

    “But if that is the only source of one’s knowledge base, then one’s knowledge is going to tend to be superficial. ”

    Preach.

    When I came off my bookish mission, I did something like this. Went down to the new BYU library, sat down in an aisle, and started flipping through the ToC of every issue of Dialogue, Sunstone, BYU Studies, and the FARMS Review of Books (I think.) I read whatever caught my eye, which was lots.

    “Your average member simply would have no idea where to start on such a quest,”

    There’s a book called Jewish Literacy: The Most Important Things to Know about The Jewish Religion, Its People, and History. I’ve often thought we should have something similar for converts, but really all LDS who don’t read beyond the Ensign and Deseret Book. You know, a page on MMM, polygamy, Brigham Young, the priesthood reformation, etc., with several citations for Further Reading. Kind of a shortened, broader, less correlated Encyclopedia of Mormonism.

    Problem is, most people don’t like to read, don’t have the time to read, or both. It’s our sound-bite, click-bait, short-attention-span culture.

  9. I love the Prince / Kushner dialogue. I lived within the friendly confines of Mormonism for over 15 years generally taking the same view (and reading a lot of Dialogue). But in the end the church never seemed to bridge the gap between what I “interpreted” it’s truth claims to mean and the black and white words that came from the pages of instructions and the mouths of leaders. As I exited the church I had the opportunity to correspond with a GA who my wife had was acquainted with. This was my final sentiments in the communication: ” Someday (and I am a young 46), maybe I can find identity in the Mormon church once more. If a time comes when one can openly question the literal historicity of the Book of Mormon or the Book of Abraham and yet participate in a worthwhile discussions of its message… I may return. And who knows, forty years ago I could have seen myself writing this same type of letter to a church leader explaining that someday if the church admitted their leader’s statements on blacks were baseless and deplorable…. well, you see my point-“

  10. (Long comment in the queue.) I think this would be good, provided people could get all the way through. Reading cutting-edge Mormon thought in 1970 may well be superseded by 2005, or even 1990, on many topics.

  11. DQ- While I’m a big fan of scripture study, the fullest, deepest kind of scripture study requires, ironically enough, reading a lot of things that aren’t scripture, that provide context TO scripture. Mormon history, doctrine, and thought are the same way, and Dialogue (among other journals and sources) provides that.

  12. Kevin Barney says:

    Good point, Ben, it might be better to go from the beginning to end as I did, rather than backward, so you could see the development in ideas and on issues over time. (I released your comment.)

  13. I think that something lurking behind many faith crises that can’t be remedied simply by reading more is the lack of a reason to develop a more nuanced faith.

    In other words, when folks like Bushman continually talk or write about why they stay, they say things like, “I stay because I like the person I become when I stay.”

    (note that when disaffected folks read these sorts of comments… Especially since Bushman recently had an “ask me anything” that r/exmormon sponsored… Many disaffected folks don’t appreciate that. They say, “but what about (historical issue x)?” When people say, “I don’t have faith in the history of the church,” This doesn’t really get through to everyone. If you CONCEDE that x event actually happened, then that is all that matters and no apologetics can fix that.)

    Really, Bushman et al have other reasons to participate than the historical issues. They may feel personally improved by association with the church, may feel interpersonally interconnected with the community of saints, etc.

    But for many people – especially people undergoing faith crisis – these things don’t apply. They don’t have the community resources (and to be fair, someone raging about in the throes of faith crisis will probably not be all that fun to hang out with) to justify staying.

  14. I’ve tried this diet and I highly recommend it.

  15. Kevin Barney says:

    Andrew S., yes, what I propose is certainly not a cure-all. But it would, I think, tend to engender some nuance in those who are willing to try it. Then the issue is not a simple did x event actually happen or not, but rather one of *understanding* x event. But yes, some people will never get to that point.

  16. DQ – You said, “Study the words of the prophets and scriptures and seek to emulate and expand their teaching in your life.”

    With all due respect, not all of the “words of the prophets and scriptures” should be “emulate[d]” or “expand[ed]” in our lives. Reading Dialogue (and other similar material) is helpful to separate the wheat from the chaff of prophetic and scriptural utterances.

  17. MikeInWeHo says:

    Thanks for this, Kevin. I remember reading Dialogue way back in the stacks of the Grad Library in Ann Arbor in the mid-80s. My continued fondness for (and ersatz association with) the Mormon faith goes back to that period of my life, right after my brief membership in the LDS church. It will be interesting to see what the future brings!

  18. melodynew says:

    I should also add that I had a rather profound moment of enlightenment during that difficult period of my life. While praying to the Lord, (railing at Him, actually) I cried out, “But this is my church! How am I supposed to deal with all this?!” His characteristic response, was not a direct answer, but a statement of undeniable truth to my heart: “No, Melody. This is MY church.”

    Inherent and unspoken in that message was this: God is in charge. He knows the beginning from the end and I can lean on his ample arm if or when I am crumbling inside. I can witness my own spiritual collapse, rebuild as I am able, and be content to know that He will bring us all through our individual and collective crisis intact. Praise Jesus. Jesus saves.

  19. Thanks for the shout out, Kevin. I think you are right, that this is an avenue for many to settle into a nuanced faith and something like this might be part of a strategy to come to grips with their shock and awe state of mind. Moreover, even if the approach doesn’t yield a return to active participation, it can preserve some good feeling about the institution in many cases, all things being equal. I think the church is beginning to come to grips here with their own new entries into the web: josephsmithpapers.org, history.lds.org, lds.org/topics, and a now rapidly growing online catalog for the Church History Library. Hopefully, this more robust approach makes its way into church teaching materials. Dealing with ancient scripture will be a major hurdle.

    The cohort of younger people who seem to find less relevance to their lives in the church may find a part of their reasons for leaving in “event x”, but the picture there is more complicated for church leaders and the members who have children who have left, or are leaving the faith. Anyway, great ideas in the post.

  20. Kevin Barney says:

    A friend wrote me privately to suggest I warn readers that the Dialogue diet may not be for everybody, even those who sincerely want to become well read, and that if a reader’s spirit begins to be bruised and battered by the process, she shouldn’t feel that her only choices are to continue the diet or surrender to her faith crisis. There are other paths to education that might be more congenial to some. My friend suggested that I could offer to help such a person find a way that might suit him or her better, an offer I readily hereby extend.

  21. Kevin, thanks for the post. So church history has never bothered me. Nine or ten years ago I found Father Raymond Brown’s intro to the New Testament on Amazon. That darn Amazon and their “you might also enjoy…” introduced me to various historical Jesuses, theodicy, Q, the documentary hypothesis, new Pauline perspectives etc. I was always okay with the non-Sunday school early Mormonism/Joseph. The non-Sunday school early Christianity/Jesus has been for me crushing and a much tougher pill to swallow. Is there a diet for this?

  22. Just a fun piece of Dialogue Journal trivia. A lawyer named Dallin Oaks was among the founding board of the magazine, back in it’s inception, and was it’s editor for a year or more. Interesting how life moves along.

  23. eljamaki says:

    I am one of those being tumbled and tossed as I learn more and as I take a closer look at what I truly believe. I feel like I’ve been living my life on automatic for so long. I have been trying to sort doctrine from tradition and culture. It is a frightening time and I often feel like the veritable rug has been pulled out from under me. I followed your suggestion and have read the introduction by Claudia Bushman in the very first issue from summer of 1971. I turned 8 years old that summer and being 50 years old now, her introduction could have been written yesterday. I feel like I’m finally going to get the long drink you speak of and will continue to read and learn. Thank you for your support, it makes a big difference.

  24. Kevin,

    For those that want to do like the P90x version of your spiritual workout (this seems a better analogy to me than “diet”), is there a Best of…or Essential Dialogue reading list or compilation that you would recommend looking at. I may actually take the challenge and plowing through for my spiritual edification during church lessons. The OT while potentially fascinating is not so fascinating with orthodox teachers . So I have some productive time to burn in church and would like to use it for something spiritually productive. Even “Most Important/Best Article” each year or issue might be a good, more manageable way for people to take a first step. I think I would enjoy this at the moment then plowing through Turner’s biography of BY at the moment.

  25. I resonate with your idea, Kevin. As I’ve learned about the messy, organic nature of the church and its history I’ve had less of a faith crisis and more of a deepening belief in the power of Jesus Christ to bring goodness and salvation to us all. From my own experience I concur with your idea of learning more is better than trying to hold things together on a superficial level.

  26. Kevin Barney says:

    Kade, I love Raymond Brown’s stuff!

    I happen to have an article on the documentary hypothesis in…wait for it…Dialogue! I would also recommend David Bokovoy’s recent book on the subject, which I reviewed here:

    http://bycommonconsent.com/2014/02/23/authoring-the-old-testament/

    On Q, I think there is some material in the book Jesus Christ and the World of the New Testament. From my own NT Footnotes project, see the section on Source Criticism and the “Synoptic Problem” here:

    http://feastupontheword.org/images/4/41/04_Textual_Studies.pdf

    On theodicy, I’m partial to a speech David Paulsen gave at BYU on Joseph Smith and the Problem of Evil:

    http://speeches.byu.edu/?act=viewitem&id=337

    (That’s just the tip of the iceberg; there has actually been a fair amount written on Mormon approaches to theodicy.)

    On the new perspective on Paul, I know a lot of Mormons are fans of N.T. Wright on this subject. I don’t know that there has been a whole lot written from a specifically LDS perspective, but here’s one example:

    http://www.patheos.com/blogs/faithpromotingrumor/2010/02/discussion-and-implications-of-the-new-perspectives-on-paul-npp/

    On the historical Jesus you might find this lesson from the Mormon Sunday School useful:

    http://www.mormonsundayschool.org/077-the-historical-jesus/

  27. Kevin Barney says:

    rah, there is something along the lines of what you are looking for. Go to the Dialogue website, here: http://www.dialoguejournal.com/

    and at the top of the page click on “Topic Pages.” That will give you a collection of Dialogue articles on various topics.

  28. Thanks for this post, Kevin. I’ve known about Dialogue for a while now, but have only briefly read a couple articles. Now I really want to dive in and read as much as I can. Much appreciated for this suggestion

  29. Millenial_In_GenX_Body says:

    “but with a far deeper and more integrated approach that would allow for religious faith to continue to flourish, should that be your desire

    Executive Summary: It’s really not my desire, and I am no longer interested in Mormon religious practices. However, I completely agree that your suggested course of action is entirely warranted, and for some it could certainly result in the more integrated approach you suggest (those are probably my favorite kind of mormons!).

    What I’d like to ask of you, the bloggernacle, plus the church membership and leadership is to offer a respectful path in either direction. That is, when you ask people to read all of Dialogue or when church members ask my kids to read the BOM and pray about it, can we please present two equally valid paths? Can we say something more like “if you do this and feel like you want to continue in the church, we’d be happy to have you, if not, then we wish you well in your other endeavors”? Or better yet, as many paths as there are people, “if you want to continue in the church now or in the future, that’s great, we’d be happy to have you whenever, but we respect and love you no matter what”. This would apply to the Dialogue Diet, Moroni’s Promise, decisions about serving a mission, callings, etc.

  30. Millenial_In_GenX_Body says:

    Boring Details: I didn’t take on the full Dialogue Diet (just read about it tonight!) but did something similar. I produced a list of what seemed to be the generally accepted “major volumes” on mormon history and mormon literary fiction (compiled mostly from work and suggestions by MHA and AML authors/members), and I actually read the volumes, too!

    I went through much of the standard faith crisis script. This includes the endpoint that some reach of simply being bored (i.e. having little continued interest in Mormonism and few remaining negative or positive feelings for it).

    When I finally felt like I had enough experience and understanding to start reflecting honestly on my own feelings and beliefs (in my early 30s, sorry I’m a late bloomer, it happens), it was fairly clear that much of my life direction to that point was based on just obediently doing what I was taught. After entertaining the idea that perhaps the church wasn’t all that I thought it was, I no longer felt pressure to do things that I probably never wanted to do in the first place (e.g. activities associated with the organization of the church, not things like encouraging peace on earth good will toward men which I certainly support and strive to do).

    I feel like a Millenial in a Gen X body. I’m just not interested in religion, though I am very interested in ethical/moral living and perhaps spirituality. Can the church be OK with that? I’d be happy to simply part ways with the church, but my wife does not share my outlook, and based on my review of literature from the Friend and other children’s manuals plus my own experience with a less-active father, I believe that my kids will feel antagonistic toward me because of ideas like “no priesthood in the home”, “lazy/immoral/ inactive”, etc. Can’t we all just be friends and allowed to be ourselves? (Cue music from Frozen…)

  31. This is the sort of thing that works for someone like me, who likes to read. Someone like my daughter, who doesn’t, won’t be able to benefit from this approach. Which I guess is why I’d better get started on those back issues, so I can pre-digest it all for her…

  32. As someone who has been doing exactly this sort of thing (minus the Dialogue fetishism) for the past few years, I’d like to pitch in my two pennies:

    At this point in my “journey” I believe that I am very well-read in all matters of Mormonism, and I’m also fairly well-versed in the broader spectrum of Judeo-Christian belief, practice, and history. I’ve drunk deep from Pope’s proverbial pond (apologies to Maxwell, heh). In addition I have maintained my devotions, serving in full fellowship in the church and doing my best to be a part of the fold. All that said…

    It’s not the history, or the weirdness, that makes this such a challenging place in which to be happy. Every religion has skeletons in the closet, and every religion is a little bit weird. Big deal. No, what makes this so hard is “the Church” itself. By which I mean: the majority of members, the majority of the leaders, and the general cultural milieu of LDS Living (for lack of a better term).

    Maybe this is a geography problem; maybe being the kind of member I am and living in Utah is not a good combination. I honestly don’t know. What I do know is that I get up every Sunday, hopeful and ready to have a great time at church, participating and discussing and working with my brothers and sisters in Christ, only to go home 3 hours later, discouraged and frustrated by the naked display of bigotry, fear, and partisan politics.

    I keep my mouth shut most of the time, I’ve learned that lesson the hard way a few too many times. Once I dared speak out against a single Church policy that literally had NOTHING to do with any doctrine found in any book of scripture. What did I get? Unceremoniously removed from my calling as a Sunday School teacher, and my wife was harassed in private messages on Facebook by one of the other “brethren” in the ward, warning her that her husband was on a path of apostasy.

    Just like the Bushmans I haven’t rescinded my testimony, but in my neck of the woods even attempting to inject a little nuance into the discussion, even in the most tactful way possible, is a pointless and painful exercise.

    I can reconcile my knowledge and my faith. Can the church reconcile me? So far it doesn’t feel that way.

  33. Kevin, this is a helpful suggestion, especially because it gives us time to let the crisis settle. However, like RJ, I wonder what you might recommend for someone who is not a reader. Part of the challenge with this approach is an aesthetic one, someone people are simply not all that moved by the written word and underlying this suggestion is an assumption that words will help us see the world differently.

  34. Kevin Barney says:

    Aaron R., yes, this is definitely a reader-centric suggestion. You are quite right that many members simply are not readers. Ideas people may have to benefit those folks are on-topic for this thread.

  35. John Mansfield says:

    For those who have tried both, how has the Dialogue diet compared with the BYU Studies diet?

    BYU Studies tables of contents

  36. While now decades old in blog-years (2006!), this back-and-forth between Robert Rees and Nate Oman is a useful read. I fully grant that in 8 the years since and new editorial leadership, the descriptions may no longer apply. If you’re starting at the beginning and reading all the way through, it is valid, however.

    http://timesandseasons.org/index.php/2006/05/oman-on-rees-on-oman/

  37. A Dialogue diet sounds like a good approach; I’ve been thinking about the root cause of all of this for a while. To me, it comes down to a naive or unthinking approach to what is a really fundamental part of our intellectual development–disillusionment.
    Every stable society has a ritualized approach to such crises of faith, and that approach, that disillusionment and reconciling with it, usually takes place in early puberty, when a person “becomes an adult.” I took a class at BYU on Native American literature and the professor brought this topic up and explained with a (probably reductionary, especially with my retelling of it) example from the Hopi: When a young Hopi male is invited into the kiva ceremony for the first time (around fourteen years of age), he has been taught from birth that the kachina, who appear at the beginning of the growing season and leave at its end every year, are divine (or otherworldly) beings, that they helped the Hopi in a time of famine to learn how to grow corn and are the reason for the Hopi’s continued existence. When the young man enters the kiva, he’s expecting to meet those otherworldly beings for the first time. Instead, he sees the costumes stored there, and realizes (if he hadn’t already) that the kachina are his father, his uncles–the “elders” of his community. And he needs to make a decision: does he perpetuate the same “deception,” or does he strike out on his own (because he can’t continue in the same community if he sees this as a deception).
    1 Corinthians 13:11 is useful here; there’s plenty of “childish” thinking that we can point to when we become disillusioned: Why did our parents tell us what they told us about Santa Claus, for example? What’s the greater good in believing that particular myth? Having been myself disillusioned about that, I still perpetuate it, because I see a greater good there–and much of Western civilization must as well. That a lot of the “good” lately revolves around Toys R Us extracting money from my wallet doesn’t–or shouldn’t–detract from the larger messages that belief in a higher power who gives us gifts that we don’t deserve, or that sacrificing our own comforts to give others comfort, is a worthwhile endeavor.
    By the same token, disillusionment can be, if understood as the impetus to deeper study, deeper understanding of WHY we were told what we were told, a powerful experience. We’re losing too many lately, though, because we don’t understand disillusionment or how to turn it to our good. Too many respond as they did when they found out the “truth” about Santa Claus: You lied to me! I can’t ever trust you again! And then a lot of pouting. Too many never get to the important question: If this isn’t about literal truth, then what IS it about? As one teacher put it, “Many of the truths we cling to depend greatly on our point of view.” A Dialogue diet seems to me to be a good approach, one that would prompt those kinds of questions. An important moment in my own development came when I read Dostoevsky’s Crime and Punishment while on my mission (I had a fairly liberal–in some things–mission president, and a companion who couldn’t walk much, so we stayed inside doing phone surveys a lot). I did, as I think many who read that do, identified strongly with Raskolnikov, even at the moment when he kills the old pawnbroker with an ax. Trying to reconcile that with simultaneously being an ordained minister of the gospel of Jesus Christ took a while–but it was a good thing to have wrestled with. And really, that’s what this is about–wrestling with the Lord like Jacob or Enos. For me at least, it’s much more interesting to wrestle than to walk away from the contest and declare victory.
    Sorry in advance (if you’ve read this far) for the long comment–as I said, this is something I’ve been thinking about for a while.

  38. AnoninIdaho says:

    “Maybe this is a geography problem; maybe being the kind of member I am and living in Utah is not a good combination. I honestly don’t know. What I do know is that I get up every Sunday, hopeful and ready to have a great time at church, participating and discussing and working with my brothers and sisters in Christ, only to go home 3 hours later, discouraged and frustrated by the naked display of bigotry, fear, and partisan politics.”

    You’re certainly not alone in this. I prospered in my ward outside the Mormon Corridor, which had a diverse and welcoming membership–I even served in a prominent leadership position in that ward. A few years later, I’m in the Mormon Corridor and stuck in a ward where I’m quite likely the only active member of the ward who’s ever voted for a Democrat, and it’s a struggle. We spend an entire lesson on how to strengthen our families talking about the evils of gay marriage–when we should be talking about how to strengthen our families. There’s a fair amount of racial bigotry too, mainly among the older members, and most the ward believes a good Mormon can’t be a Democrat. I still attend, but it’s getting harder and harder. I regret moving back to the Mormon Corridor, and particularly this part of the Mormon Corridor, but leaving would most likely thrust my family back into poverty.

  39. I can’t thank you enough for this post. I have been so confused with the mass amount of information I have come across in the last few years. I can’t wait to get started!

    Also, melodynew thank you for sharing your experience.

  40. Christian J says:

    @BenS and others who lament the click-based reading that so many of us engage in, a Twible style version of Dialogue would be useful. Or a podcast with rough overviews of the main thesis of various landmark dialogue articles.

  41. “The dangers I speak of come from the gay-lesbian movement, the feminist movement (both of which are relatively new), and the ever-present challenge from the so-called scholars or intellectuals. Our local leaders must deal with all three of them with ever-increasing frequency.”

  42. Kevin, Many thanks for the post. Even though I resolved many issues I might have had by tackling them in the early years of my Church membership and, having not been indoctrinated with (by accident or on purpose) the perfection mantra, I have always been interested in the details of history, so it was an easy study for me to expand that to Church History after I joined. Being exposed to critics of the Church was also the major motivator as I researched their claims largely against the Prophet Joseph Smith.

    Not having been in Mormon country probably also helped :)

  43. wreddyornot says:

    Alas and alack, I agree, Kevin, and I say voila and hoorah.

    By the late ’70s into the mid-80s, I already knew of various troubling LDS histories that I shelved and only un-shelved when I felt I could address them in a more balanced way. But my craw got a near-fatal stab by the concept of perfect foreknowledge (omniscience) as it related to agency, and I didn’t need to shelve it; I needed it addressed. I went to the UofU library and discovered DIALOGUE, in particular an article by Blake Ostler, “The Mormon Concept of God.” I read it, photocopied it, and took home. I subscribed to DIALOGUE then and have since (except for a year or so when a family illness diverted my time to read and renew it).

  44. Kevin Barney says:

    wreddyornot, I’m glad you mentioned that article, because it also addresses a Mormon theodicy, which was an issue mentioned upthread.

  45. The meme itself, “I ran across this list and realized that all these years I have been lied to and betrayed,” includes directed guidance for interpretation that channels participants into a “chicken little” experience. You get a bump on your head. What does that mean? Do have only one possible answer or might the situation actually offer multiple choices? Must it be “The sky is falling! I’ve been lied to by those I trusted!” or could it be, “Oh.. that is interesting. I did not know that. Either my teachers didn’t know, or I wasn’t listening or paying attention. I wonder where I can go to learn more?”

    Or, with experience, the same data can result in, “Yeah… I know about that already. You should read this essay at FAIR, or this chapter of Rough Stone Rolling. or this essay in BYU Studies or Dialogue or the late lamented Review, the Interpreter or the Joseph Smith papers, or Kofford books, or Sunstone, or even this or that article in the Improvement Era or Ensign.”

    In returning from my mission in 1975, I basically fell into the prowl the stacks, and search the back issues of BYU Studies and Dialogue and Sunstone and Improvement Era and Ensign, and whatever else I could find, The only crisis of faith I ever had came from reading a Dialogue essay, and within three days, that triggered my first publication in LDS letters, my own Dialogue essay on “New Wine and New Bottles.” While I wasn’t initially prepared for something I read (an essay by Anthony Hutchinson on the four LDS creation accounts), it turned out that few days pondering unearthed a memory from my reading of Hamlet’s Mill that helped me resolve it nicely. And it was my earlier prowling through Nibley that led to Hamlet’s Mill.

    I’ve benefited from several Dialogue essays, but based on my own experiences, I’d recommend a wider reading than just that to get a broader handle on the LDS dialogue. And I’d consider things like The Perry Scheme of Cognitive and Ethical Growth, to which I was introduced by Veda Hale and Ian Barbour’s brilliant little book Myths, Models, and Paradigms: A Comparative Study of Science and Religion.

    FWIW

    Kevin Christensen
    Pittsburgh, PA

  46. We had Stapley come and talk in our ward on Sunday about church history and these same issues, and the recommendation he made for a light version of this diet is to go to lds.org/teachings/gospel topics, and start reading there. He specifically mentioned the essays on race and the priesthood, translating the Book of Mormon, and a couple of others. For the average members, who may be distrustful of Dialogue, et all, this is at least a good start.

  47. Kristine says:

    “I’ve benefited from several Dialogue essays, but based on my own experiences, I’d recommend a wider reading than just that to get a broader handle on the LDS dialogue.”

    Heavens, yes! I doubt Kevin meant to endorse Dialogue *exclusively*, and if he did, I will call him to repentance forthwith :)

  48. anonymous says:

    I think I’ve achieved some level of equanimity regarding doctrinal and intellectual questions and a tolerance for if not acceptance of ambiguity and messiness. What I struggle with is the community aspects of the religious experience after having been through the process of re-defining my faith. Now I feel like I have very little in common with the average church member. Now I disagree with them even on practical things, like how to raise kids. On the whole, church is a negative spiritual experience for me. I force myself to tolerate it, but I am not engaged and don’t know how to engage with them on their level. I hate having to constantly listen to ideas I don’t agree with, while not feeling free share my thoughts in return. I have largely withdrawn from the community even though I attend weekly, have a substantial calling, and have a recommend.

    Kevin,
    You made an offer to help find a path that would work for other people. I would sincerely like recommendations on how to replace the social/community aspect of my faith that was lost during my faith transition. This journey has happened as a private intellectual pursuit that has been kept secret even from my own family. I find the culture so afraid of diversity of thought and to be very arrogant and judgmental. I no longer feel I have much in common with those I constantly associate with and feel if they knew my thoughts they would reject me. I really do love the people in my ward, but I don’t feel like one of them like I used to. I plan to accept your challenge of reading Dialogue (how many hours of reading is this), but I think that will only create additional distance between myself and the local community. Maybe I am wrong and there will be some unforeseen insight which will help me feel valued. I think the answer lies in finding something else to connect with the community over besides truth claims, but I don’t really know what that would be, especially when the culture insists that the truth claims are so darned important.

  49. Kevin Barney says:

    If one is going to undertake a balanced project of increased Gospel study, then yes, of course one should read more widely than just Dialogue itself. I personally read all the journals and as many of the new titles that come along as I can manage (it’s getting harder every year).

    What I had in mind was the type of person I see from time to time post on some Facebook group, reciting the list, where it seems clear to me that this person has been exposed to these issues only recently and only electronically at that, and so very likely superfically, without exposure to any actual dead tree scholarship. My sense is that such a person could benefit from more substantial reading, but it’s very unlikely that this person is going to go to the trouble of doing so. So my Dialogue diet idea was something I thought might work for that person, because it’s charmingly quirky and it’s well defined (as opposed to dumping massive bibliography on someone) and it really wouldn’t be that hard of a thing to do. In other words, it’s an easier way to get some substance than just turning someone loose in a library, but if one is up for a broader approach then of course I’m all for it. My thought, as I expressed in the OP, is that if someone starts on this journey, then she likely will broaden her horizons on her own naturally as she goes.

  50. Kevin Barney says:

    anonymous, your community question is actually a harder one to deal with in my view than an issues-oriented concern. I live in the Chicago area, and my local church community is fantastic, very open and friendly and nourishing. I realize there are places in the Mormon corridor where that is not the case. I wish I had a good thought for how to deal with that. I am also involved in online Mormon communities, and that kind of thing might be helpful, but I realize it’s no replacement for a ward family where you feel at home. Do any commenters have any suggestions along these lines?

  51. it's a series of tubes says:

    how to engage with them on their level

    Anon, perhaps this was just phrased poorly, but it seems you’re, shall we say, “looking down on” your fellow members of the body of Christ. Perhaps in addition to Kevin’s suggestions, a little charity for them is in order?

  52. Kristine says:

    anon, I don’t know if it will be helpful to you, but for reasons I can’t entirely articulate, this interview with John Durham Peters was tremendously helpful to me at a moment when I was going through something like the struggle you describe: http://dialoguejournal.com/wp-content/uploads/sbi/articles/Dialogue_V40N04_43.pdf

    Also, of course, Eugene England’s “Why the Church is as True as the Gospel” which is on my read-twice-a-year spiritual maintenance list :) http://www.eugeneengland.org/why-the-church-is-as-true-as-the-gospel

  53. Kristine says:

    Anon, one more: https://www.dialoguejournal.com/2010/narnia%E2%80%99s-aslan-earth%E2%80%99s-darwin-and-heaven%E2%80%99s-god/

    This really brought me up short when I heard it. I had grown up with a scientist, among other scientists’ kids, and had no trouble accepting the idea of evolution as the likeliest mechanism of creation, and I have always been snobbishly baffled by and rudely dismissive of people who get hung up on age-of-the-earth kinds of questions. This sermon made me want to repent of that and other related snobbishness. I’m still hopelessly arrogant, I’m afraid, but I do think I’ve gotten better at trying to account for beliefs that differ from mine, and maybe seem less clever than mine, in a way that is sympathetic and tries to imagine the richest possible interpretation of those beliefs.

  54. Kristine recommended exactly what I was going to suggest: Eugene England’s essay. His dissection and evisceration of the concept that the gospel is true but the Church / people may not be has changed my perspective on the diversity or lack thereof that one encounters in the pews every Sunday.

  55. I think a valuable project would be to gather some best-of lists in line with some of the frequently cited trouble spots. A list of articles on JS and his seer stone, on polygamy, on blacks and the temple/priesthood restriction, on the Book of Abraham, and so forth. The FAIR wiki has already done something like this, but I would be interested to see some lists which include even more from Dialogue and JMH, or even some great Bloggernacle pieces.

  56. I would also recommend Bro. Rees’ essay titled “Forgiving the Church and Loving the Saints” (which I mentioned way, way upthread), and here is a link to it: https://www.sunstonemagazine.com/pdf/087-18-27.pdf It is available many other places as well. I cannot overstate how it changed almost everything about the way I looked at the people around me, in and out of the Church. I hope it helps.

  57. it's a series of tubes says:

    Kristine, thank you for the link to the Peters article. That was fantastic.

    “It seems to me that Paul’s argument is that, if you have higher knowledge, you should prove it by your higher kindness, rather than by exposing or insulting or belittling people”. So well put.

  58. Kristine says:

    iasot–part of what I love about the interview format is that right after giving such good advice about not belittling people, Peters catches himself doing exactly that, and gently calls himself out. His words become both admonition and performance of engaging difference generously.

  59. anonymous says:

    Thanks Kristine, I’ve just read all three essays. I’ve read Eugene England’s before. Maybe I just don’t get it. I like the unedited version of Elder Poelman’s talk “The Gospel and the Church” better. I’ve also like Richard Poll’s talks and subsequent essays alot.

    The interview with Peters was really insightful Thank you for that. I’m not sure I understood everything being alluded to, I will have to read it again, probably multiple times. I think that get’s closest to addressing my concerns. The standard answer in the church is to serve others, but you have to serve in ways the you feel are meaningful. I think in the church we do a lot of artificial serving. We split wards for example to make sure there are enough callings to go around. So doing a calling that could have been done more efficiently had the ward not split just to make me feel needed doesn’t do it for me. The real service to me is in getting to know people personally and then validating them, but their are structural limitations in the church that make it difficult to get to know individual people’s authentic selves. I really disagreed with the portion he talked about how people say they are pushed away from the church when really they just want to act a certain way or want to hang out with certain people. I feel pushed away from the church, but am choosing to stay despite that. Feeling pushed way isn’t just some rationale for behaving a certain way. How does he explain people like me who stay and self muzzle themselves, despite feeling rejected and pushed away.

    The article on Darwin brought back some thoughts I had earlier this month when I heard that gravity waves were discovered. Einstein predicted gravity waves 100 years ago based on a hypothesis of what happened within fractions of a second after the big bang and used math and an understanding of quantum mechanics to make a prediction that he thought we would never have the technical precision to measure and now we have evidence that prediction was true. It’s hard for me to reconcile a personal God with that kind of evidence. I’ve always struggled with the idea that God would help me find my keys while allowing a number of really horrific things to happen to others. I guess I believe in a much less personal God than most Mormons.

    IASOT,

    I don’t think I’m arrogant, at least no more than most, although I could be wrong. I think I have a great deal more knowledge about the history of the church than the typical member of my ward does,. I don’t see how pointing out that we have different levels of knowledge about historical issues is a demonstration of a lack of charity. If anything it seems charitable not to introduce them to topics they may not be prepared to handle. I enjoy conversations with people I don’t agree with, including people I don’t agree with who are less knowledgeable than me about a particular topic. But in my local day in day out lived experience of the church I don’t feel like there is much freedom of expression. It’s hard to develop personal relationships without that. Maybe the answer is that you can serve people without that connection and it can still be meaningful, but you can forgive me for mourning the loss of feeling that.

  60. The Darwin article was fairly interesting, until he got to the evolutionary God as not personal but “the ground of being itself, to the creative and fecund power source in the depths of nature, to the value structures and potentialities that the world manifests.”

    There you go where I cannot follow.

  61. Kristine says:

    anon–I’m glad there was at least maybe a little something useful in those suggestions. A good illustration of difference, too–you and I are probably more similar than any two random Mormons, but what speaks to me is still not necessarily going to speak to you.

    One minor thing about the Peters–what I like about the section about disaffection is that it goes beyond the “justification for sin” thing we often hear. I think he’s actually saying (almost?) that religious affiliation is more an aesthetic and epistemological decision than an ethical one. He’s saying that we have some intuition about which communities will be the most fruitful for us to construct religious/spiritual knowledge with, and that it is often that intuition that drives disaffiliation, perhaps at a not-quite-conscious level. Or maybe I’m reading my own biases into his few words on the topic :) It still might be wrong, but I think it’s much more subtle and interesting than the stupid “oh, you just want to drink beer” sort of condemnation. And I think his formulation certainly allows for the possibility that one might choose to override that aesthetic intuition for the sake of other ethical commitments (such as those to family, or a structure in which to give service, etc.).

  62. Kristine says:

    Ben S–just to be clear, I don’t entirely agree with Waldman, either. I’m not endorsing his theology.

  63. anonymous says:

    “what speaks to me is still not necessarily going to speak to you.”

    and what speaks to me tomorrow, may be different than what speaks to me today. In all sincerity, thanks for spending the time to share those. My brain is overloaded by reading so much complex stuff in such a short time. It will take me a while to digest it all. I do agree with your more charitable reading of what Peter’s was saying as people’s motivation for leaving the church. I wish he would have phrased it better (hard to quible when it was an interview though.) Have you read any of his books and are they very accessible?

    Villate,

    Thanks also for that really long article. I read it as well and will have to read it again later as well.

  64. Kristine says:

    His books are terrific. They’re meant for academics, but they give me hope that the academic discipline of Communications is on the right track, because normal humans can understand them. And even where the conceptual ground is tough going, his prose is a delight.

  65. Kristine says:

    Blair Hodges has a terrific podcast and bibliography here: http://www.lifeongoldplates.com/2010/11/fair-podcast-episode-5-john-durham.html

  66. Molly Bennion says:

    Anon,

    While I agree it’s very helpful to connect with other members where we can, if not doctrinally or socially, in service, it is heartbreaking to feel alone at Church. Of all places. I’ve been fortunate to have been able to live in inner cities with university communities much of my life. My ward is quite open and inclusive, We all know we view things differently and most embrace that. Sometimes newbies struggle a bit, but we try to greet them with such love that even they usually come to accept the challenge to love neighbors who differ. So, if you can, seek such an environment.

    But if you need to be in a more traditional place, speak up gently but honestly when you can. It’s a great way to connect with like minded people. Your comment doesn’t have to threaten anyone’s faith. Asking how people process God’s destruction of innocent baby boys in Egypt or a simple addition of Biblical archeology will identify you as someone looking for more. In this way, even in the most conservative wards, I’ve always found at least 1 person with whom I could talk freely, explore ideas and feel support. Frequently people have thanked me for speaking up; we are rarely as alone as we seem. If you’re fortunate to find a small group of people eager for a community within the community, think about starting a book group or fireside group. I have done that for about 30 years and met so many fascinating people, many of whom express loneliness in their own wards and all of whom want to explore more deeply. They have enriched my spiritual life immeasurably.

    My best to you. It isn’t always easy but, for me, it’s been so valuable to stay active.

  67. I have two major criticisms of the thesis (as I understood it) of this blog post:

    1. The author gives examples such as the Bushmans and others who have studied Mormon doctrine and history at a scholarly level and remain involved with the church, this seems to me to be cherry picking examples that support the point of view being portrayed in the post. What about Grant Palmer or the many others who have also studied with great effort, care, and thoroughness Mormon history and doctrine and have chosen to leave the church. Point nullified, in my opinion.

    2. Having some apologist or random internet person say the solution to your faith crises that occurred because of finding out just a tiny bit about the story the church isn’t teaching and would rather you didn’t know is to consume mass quantities of scholarly work and a multitude of points of view on the issues that the church pretends don’t exist doesn’t seem right for two reasons. First, the church does not encourage this solution and in fact discourages studying outside of the material it produces for its members. Second, this type of binge consumption once the horses have escaped the barn seems rather disingenuous when what should be occurring is a continual exposure and discussion of this material throughout your time as an active member – if the material is of any value at all why is it only recommended after the crises has occurred rather than as a means of preventing the crises from ever being setup?

    This is why I don’t like to hear that a little learning is dangerous and what is needed is significantly more. The church actively works to make sure no learning occurs that hasn’t been highly sanitized, simplified, and modified by the institution which then sets up the scenario the author of this post leads with.

  68. The Church discourages searching outside its materials? Says who? It discourages teaching from outside material in Church-sponsored Sunday classes and seminary, certainly — and I’ve unfortunately seen way too many examples of why that’s a very good thing — but it discourages reading good books and literature? You’ll have to provide citations on that.

  69. Kevin, as owner and proprietor of this blog I’m glad I commissioned you to write this piece.

  70. Kevin Christensen says:

    As Thomas Kuhn points out “Anomaly emerges against a background of expectation.” Change your expectations, and the same information that seems terribly disillusioning can seem completely matter-of-fact, no problem.

    When I read Grant Palmer’s book 11 years ago, I was prepared enough that every page annoyed me. Every page brought to my mind sources he overlooked or abused. I’d read sources that he did not mention and knew things about sources he mentioned that he wasn’t telling me. This ties into what Jesus said about the seeds in the parable of the sower. It’s not just the seed that determines the nature of the harvest, but soil and nurture. In Mark, Jesus comments, “Know ye not this parable? How then shall ye know all parables?”

    One key for me is my definition and expectations of “the Church.” For me the church is the whole gathering, not just the institutional arms. To me, Dialogue and Sunstone and Journal of Mormon History and Van Hale, and the Anonymous response to the Tanners, and all sorts of books and journals, and members are just as much “the Church” as some person working at the church trying to produce a manual with limited resources. In my experience within the church “Seek and ye shall find; knock and it shall be opened unto you,” is entirely apt. I’ve never read a scripture that says, “Blessed are they who sit like lumps, for they shall be spoonfed, and never caught off guard, and never, ever disappointed by anyone.” Tony HIllerman titled his autobiography, “Seldom Disappointed.” He’d been taught by his mother,”Don’t expect too much and you won’t be disappointed.” I’ve also learned from Recovery Literature that “Expectations are pre-meditated resentments.” A lot of recovery work involves “Dismantling the grievance story.”

    What I have seen in the church as a whole gathering is a determination by the best scholars to go to the first hand, eye-witness contemporary accounts, and make them available. The Joseph Smith Papers and the Mountain Meadows books and, going back further, Nibley’s An Egyptian Endowment, or the immediate publication of the papyrus photos in the Improvement Era, all strikes me as remarkably open. The complete opposite of suppression. So, of all the examples available, from which examples should a person select to generalize from? Which examples should be paradigmatic of the church as a whole? Such choices have consequences in the way we subsequently see and experience Mormon life.

    Just saying.

    Kevin Christensen
    Bethel Park, PA

  71. Chris MacAskill says:

    The comments here are so positive, and I admire you all so much for being able to put it all in perspective. As an investigator 40 years ago, I had read the Journal of Discourses and B.H. Roberts’ History of the Church, so I knew of a lot of stuff. Some of the things the Prophets said about blacks just galled me because I grew up in a black neighborhood, all my friends were black, and I didn’t know any white kids.

    But I proceeded with the attitude that Catholics have been so successful with, “Forgive the Church and Love the Saints.” And I was able to hang in there through being Bishop, High Councilman, Gospel Doctrine and High Priest’s leader, stake young men’s presidency, 4 kids married in the temple, etc. And I read it all from Dialogue to Bushman to Givens.

    But there came a point where I couldn’t do it anymore, not and feel good about myself. Maybe the tipping point became young men shooting themselves in our stake, I don’t know. I loved the church and the saints, but my conscience is finally clear and I’m onto things like serving kids with cancer, where I don’t have to forgive the church for truly awful things, or carry it on my conscience.

  72. I did have a diet of dialogue along with original source documents but still left. I was so frightened of anti Mormon I only found sites like those 6 months after leaving. When I left the LDS church the word ‘faith crisis’ in the UK had not been mentioned or discussed. I’d no idea I was part of a mass problem. Things have changed in just 28 months dramatically. It’s openly discussed – even if rather negatively, I think it comes down to this. All religions have complicated pasts but I agree – the ‘ being the best’ can create problems (much arrogance sometimes and unpleasant behaviour by believing members who don’t question, towards those in faith crisis). Perhaps whether people leave or stay is based on whether the LDS feels a ‘safe place’ for the individual. And whether it’s a positive thing in their lives. I am very much a free spirit. I hated the control and did not want to be part of a ‘tribe’. I’m not the norm, most people do want to feel they belong somewhere. I think if the church is still positive – regardless of the issues – people stay. If the net positives are out weighed by the negatives, without the truth claims, people appear to leave. Whatever the LDS say publicly the UK has been hit very badly with people leaving – full tithe payers, temple recommend holding, calling serving. Sacrament meeting attendance has been declining for years. No families have joined the LDS since the 90’s in the wards I’ve attended. It’s a tough way to live in the UK when you are such a minority. Dialogue diet or not I don’t think it will help this side of the water.

  73. Regular reading of Dialogue or Sunstone may work for people who want to stay, want to BELIEVE, and want to feel like there are other people who see the “warts and all” issues in the Church. However, for many, it’s just draining to read people drone on and on about things that you think amount to little more than an interesting academic exercise. It’s like reading in-depth academic papers about Tolkein’s work or Greek mythology. It’s interesting if you’re into that kind of stuff. But if you’ve decided that you simply don’t believe much of what Joseph Smith wrote or preached, reading more about it is akin to reading a deep analysis of any other form of fiction.

    I’ve got no beef with it. It’s just not my thing. I’ve done it. My review of the diet… “Meh.” But some of my good friends still read every issue from cover to cover. We sometimes have enjoyable discussions based on something they’ve recently read.

    Personally, it takes up way too much of my time that I could otherwise spend doing charitable work. I’d rather stay on as a social member (helping with food drives and visiting shut-ins, and even teaching children that “Jesus loves me”), meanwhile accepting the fact that no periodical, no matter how well written, can adequately address my doubts. For someone to suggest that it’s the magic elixir to cure my skepticism or that my understanding of the doctrine is somehow not sophisticated enough at its current lowly state, is insulting and arrogant.

  74. Thanks for the suggestion. I need something as I’ve been smack dab in the middle of a faith crisis for a couple years.

    I would add an additional phase (that I’m currently in) to what you said…

    After feeling so betrayed at being lied to I’m now in the phase (from my convert husband and others) of why did you believe it in the first place (priesthood ban explanations, first vision, etc.) when clearly it wasn’t right. This places the blame back on me and the former believers now doubters. This makes me so frustrated because I was taught to believe my entire life. I was raised singing “follow the prophet.” But now I should have known the entire time to take it all with a grain of salt and if I didn’t it’s my fault again?

    How to overcome this phase??

  75. From the post: “… the fact that the person was never taught about these things at Church becomes the dominant issue. The person feels as though she has been lied to all of her life. ”

    I feel this point of view involves just a wee bit of conceit–that there exists a particular Church history curriculum that the LDS Church “should” be teaching in Sunday School, Seminary, Sacrament meeting, or wherever else, such that person A, or any other random person, will not wind up feeling that he or she has been “lied to” just because the Church did not teach or disclose on a big billboard with flashing neon lights at the front of every chapel every Sunday every nook and cranny, dot and tittle, every nuance, and any and every whiff of anything that anyone has every said or done in the Church’s past that could even remotely be considered controversial, or otherwise, darn it, the Church could not possibly be true.

    Who gets to decide the who, what, when and where of what constitutes a sufficiently rich version of Church history such that no one will have been “lied to”?

    What utter nonsense.

  76. Wow Greg D, victim blaming much? Way to minimize and denigrate the feelings of others.

  77. Jason F, you assume I think people who feel they have been “lied to” are victims. I do not. People get to feel the way they feel. I cannot make anyone’s feelings wrong or invalid. But no one is a victim–not very curious and lacking in perspective, perhaps, but not a victim.

  78. J. Stapley says:

    Looks like we got an inbound link from one of the disaffected sites.

  79. Mb,

    According to Ian Barbour, one of the defining experiences of religion is the experience of “reconciliation and reorientation.” (See his Myths, Models, and Paradigms: A Comparative Study of Science and Religion. It’s available online in a couple of places, as pdf, htm, and Kindle, as well as paperback.) Reorientation is a change of thinking, a change of paradigm. Reconciliation is a change in feelings. So it’s of interest to me that the D&C talks about how God speaks to “mind and heart,” how in 3 Nephi Jesus called for the sacrifice of a broken heart and contrite spirit, that is, a willingness to offer up our feelings and our thinking. Prince Buddha is tempted by Fear and Desire, his binding view of the way things are (that is, what he fears) and his compelling views to want he wants (what he feels.). The alternative to making a sacrifice of a broken heart and a contrite spirit is to insist that one’s current thinking cannot change (as Joseph Smith described it, a rigid attitude that says “Hither to thou shalt come, and no further”, and that one’s desires cannot be compromised (as George Bailey says to Mary, expressing his resistance to social commitment and its attendant personal sacrifices, “I want to do what I want to do!”). If our thinking, our processing of information in present modes is painful change is called for. A reorientation. If we are conflicted in our desires, change is called for. A reconciliation, which happens to be a word used in modern New Testament translations to express “atonement.”

    Even without respect to specific religions, and specific questions about LDS traditions, some changes in thinking and feeling can and should happen as part of Cognitive and Ethical Growth. in the late 1990s, when I participated on the AML-List, Veda Hale introducted me to the Perry Scheme via this email. I’ve found it remarkably helpful, worth reading and pondering.

    http://dl.dropbox.com/u/22100469/Perry%20Scheme.pdf

    She’d done a Sunstone presentation on Levi Peterson’s Canyon’s of Grace and used the Perry Scheme as a framework to understand the character arcs in the story. Perry himself developed it to study how students from provincial communities responded to the pressures of a diverse University environment. I think it provides a wonderful model for dealing with the kinds of concerns that always appear in crisis of faith discussions.

  80. In my past life on the disaffected sites, I used to say that I was a perfectly contented and innocent convert until I married into a large collection of Sunstones and Dialogues from the 1980s. So to the premise of the article, I add a very loud YMMV.

  81. The difficulty in putting some of the historical issues to the side is compounded by a couple of things:

    1. The Church has some very rigid statements about truth and restoration which often allows very little room for, “they were wrong” statements.

    2. We call things “historical” like it has little to do with the Church or the Gospel. But, for example, the First Vision and the Priesthood have very different origins that what is taught – and these are foundation teachings.

    Sometimes when the world breaks apart it’s difficult to find the courage to keep looking.

  82. Kevin Barney says:

    Thanks all for your thoughts. I think perhaps the conversation has run its course, so I’m going to turn off comments now.

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