Um, uh–the LP version

Steve asked what I’m going to say on the Sunstone panel. I really don’t quite know; I *told* Dan Wotherspoon that I wasn’t sure I had much to offer, so they’ve been forewarned. (I’ll try to at least wear something interesting, so I can be decorative). But here’s my hypothesis, such as it is:

I think that there isn’t really much difference between “Internet Mormons” and “Chapel Mormons.” I think Internet apologetic battles may sway a few people around the margins, but I don’t think there’s any real effect on what’s going on in the pews and in Sunday School. People self-select on the internet, just as they do with print media. People who only read the Ensign and Deseret Books stuff will not stray from People who would read the stuff thrust into their hands on Temple Square will take a peek at the Tanners’ website just out of curiosity. People who like FARMS will hang out at People who like Dialogue and Sunstone will probably glance at timesandseasons from time to time. People look for code words that make them feel comfortable.

I’m sure I’m missing something–I’m a bit of a Luddite and I don’t get out much :) So all of you smart people please fill me in!!


  1. “Ah yes, if it isn’t happening in New York, then it just doesn’t matter. Right? (And I was born there but I still find that attitude rather despicable.)”

    What??? puh-leeze.

    John, I know what you’re talking about, but you can’t possibly be serious in trying to apply that to me. If you look at the context in which I provided my initial comments, you’ll see that it wasn’t a NYC-superiority issue. Your other points are interesting, but completely misplaced here, I think.

  2. “I think that there isn’t really much difference between “Internet Mormons” and “Chapel Mormons.” “

    It’s been my experience that most active “Internet Mormons” who have been steeped in Mormon studies for a long time think this way.

    At the same time, I can’t help but think that many (most?) “Chapel Mormons” would be aghast, frankly, at what some “Internet Mormons” believe (e.g., “what do you mean the Introduction to the Book or Mormon is ‘simply wrong’?”). Assuming that Chapel Mormons would feel this way, how can we say there isn’t much of a difference between the two?

  3. Julie in Austin says:

    “People who like FARMS will hang out at People who like Dialogue and Sunstone will probably glance at timesandseasons from time to time.”

    Kristine, don’t you think that some people who *wouldn’t* pick up D. or S. would go to T & S? I think we are a little more mainstream.

  4. Ah yes, if it isn’t happening in New York, then it just doesn’t matter. Right? (And I was born there but I still find that attitude rather despicable.)

    There was a time not long ago, when the other stake presidents reported to the president of the Salt Lake Stake. Don’t fall in to the same trap.

    That sort of view can even work against you. I had a stake president at BYU who thought I’d walked through my Aaronic Priesthood ordinations because I received them in a place where the Church is “less developed” relative to Provo.

    He said right out that in Utah, they call only the best for leadership, but everywhere else they just make do. I thought it wouldn’t be wise to tell him my mother had been ward Relief Society president at age 25 (in Manhattan Ward of all places.)

  5. Also, apparently those mormons interested in “whores” and “rameumptoms” will find their way here as well.

    That’s one thing I like about the potential of the internet for Mormons — the possibilities of accidental connections. I mean, think of how the bloggers came to be on BCC, and you can see there’s happenstance a-go-go (or as I like to put it, the Hand of the Lord has brought us together to fight for liberal rantings).

  6. As usual, I’m so long-winded I can’t get what I have to say in one post. For those few who actually care, here’s the rest :)

    They focus on issues of “right vs. wrong” and might make comments each week on a topic such as gay marriage, despite the fact that they don’t have anything new to add and everyone in the room already knows the Church’s position on the issue. In other words, voicing their beliefs to sympathetic listeners helps them feel validated.

    In most wards (at least every ward I’ve ever been in), the majority of people appear to fit in as neither Internet Mormons or as Chapel Mormons. They sit quietly in Gospel Doctrine or Priesthood. (It’s typically the same 5, 10, or 15 people or whatever that are making the comments, having the discussion, and generally controlling the discourse.) This “silent majority” is perhaps representative of what Mormonism is in many ways – they fulfil their callings, attend Church, go to the temple, etc. They make things happen. Yet, ironically, it’s the two minority groups that control the discourse and create the discussion in classroom settings on Sunday.

    Ok, with all those new definitions and explanations in mind, I see potential (and have witnessed in my own ward, even if it isn’t a widespread scenario) for conflicts between the two groups of Internet Mormons and Chapel Mormons as I’ve defined them. I’ve actually stopped and thought about this a lot more since reading everyone’s comments. I realized that if I think about the people in my ward who do speak up in my gospel doctrine class, it’s the same dozen people week in and week out. Therefore, it isn’t really correct to label an entire ward “Internet Mormons” or “Chapel Mormons” as Dave pointed out. But I still see the stage being set for conflicts between those groups who I would argue control the discourse in the average ward.

  7. Dave, I love it. I hadn’t made that connection to iron-rodders discussions but I think you’re right on. Of course, yours is the type of comment which is a total conversation killer — after all, why discuss internet vs. chapel mormons if we’re just inventing the distinction? Did this distinction (or the thread) strike you as particularly unsophisticated?

  8. I agree with Randy. Doctrinally, and politically, too (from what I’ve seen), internet mormons are more…. extreme? what’s the word I’m looking for?

    Chapel mormons simply don’t have access to the at-length conversations that internet mormons do, and as a result seldom/never manage to express or develop their ideas (no matter how wrong-headed some of them may turn out to be).

  9. I dunno John, your last comment re: Symposia doesn’t have a lot of replies yet…. :)

    I understand what you’re saying. It is tempting to think that chapel mormons simply haven’t had the chance to explore and challenge their faith with other people the way you can in the internet. This seems a little too easy to say, however.

  10. Kristine says:

    I should have been more clear–it’s not that I don’t think that Liahona/Internet/MoStudies Mormons aren’t different from your average John Larsen in the pew, it’s just that I think the internet doesn’t notably change the proportion of L/I/MS Mormons to non’L/I/MS Mormons in the average ward. In some ways the internet makes Mormon studies kinds of questions more accessible (you don’t have to subscribe to “apostate” magazines to find out what’s going on), but I don’t think very many people radically shift their orientation to doctrinal issues based on what they read online. In other words, I think the Kaimis of the world are somewhat rare, and I also think that Kaimi would likely have stumbled into Mormon Studies via print media or conversations with folks like Aaron or Nate or Steve E. sooner or later. Possibly the Internet made it sooner.

  11. D. Fletcher says:

    I think there is an obvious difference, perhaps not between people, but how their ideas are head, how often, and by how many.

    When one expresses an idea in Church, it’s heard by a small group of people, and remembered by very few (even yourself).

    When one expresses an idea in a Blog, it remains to be read for a long time, might be read by thousands of people, and stays there for a reference. It’s like publication.

  12. I think you’re definitely onto something, Dave. Perhaps some redefining is in order here, to help clarify what I mean.

    Maybe we should be defining “Internet Mormons” as those Mormons who go online in search of Mormon issues, topics, discussions, etc. An “Internet Mormon” isn’t just the sweet old lady who visits everyday to do her genealogy. It’s the bloggernacle community, the folks at FAIR and FARMS, it’s the people on Mormon-L, Mormon-Library, etc. They don’t have to be people who are constantly looking for an argument or anything, but they are sufficiently exposed to different ideas (be they from liberal Mormons, anti-Mormon, etc.) to know about certain issues, such as limited geography, etc.

    Because this crowd tends to enjoy being online, and being part of email lists, blogs, etc, they tend to be the type that like to have their views and voices heard. So they may also be the type that speaks up in Church, but not necessarily.

    For our purposes, let’s define “chapel Mormon” as somewhat similar to the Internet Mormon – they like to hear their views heard and so they might speak up a lot in Gospel Doctrine, Priesthood/Relief Society, or bear their testimony fairly frequently. These people might fall into two sub-categories: Those that are well-read in Church literature and those that are not. Those that are well-read will tend to quote Joseph Fielding Smith and Bruce R. McConkie the most frequently since their books are those that are most readily available, and their most popular books are designed as a Frequently Asked Question format or an encyclopaedic format. (At Deseret Book, Answers to Gospel Questions, Doctrines of Salvation, Essentials in Church History, Mormon Doctrine, the Messiah Series, A New Witness For the Articles of Faith, etc. remain in print, while the printed teachings of most other Church leaders, such as David O. McKay, are long out of print.) But they will quote others as well, but most likely only from “approved sources” such as writings of General Authorities. These well-read chapel Mormons use the writings and words of General Authorities to answer questions in class, clarify issues, and otherwise put out the “final word” when issues arise.

    Those that are not well-read tend to speak up to protect their own image of the Church, or to defend cultural but not necessarily doctrinal beliefs. They might insist drinking Coke is wrong, or that every prophet has said not to see R rated movies. They tend to focus on those black and white issues that help them feel comfortable with their world. They differ from the widely read Chapel Mormon in that those that are better read have an interest in learning new ideas, and seeking out new information, even if only from official channels. Those that are not well-read are a different personality type – they enjoy the comfort of hearing the same issues repeated as it helps them feel secure in their beliefs. They focus on issues of “right vs. w

  13. I’m not an internet Mormon – I’m only a blogger out of guilting from Steve (and because I like it), not because I ever blogged before. I also think there are a lot of people lurking on this site who aren’t your typical Dialogue/Sunstone readers. So, I’m not sure about your theory. We always self select on media intake, secular or otherwise, but I don’t think it’s any more pronounced in this realm.

  14. If it makes you feel better, rumor has it the stake leadership reads BCC on occasion. All you have to do is post something scandalous/apostate, and you’re calling-free.

  15. John — whose comment are you referring to? Mine? If it’s me, I decline to mention for fear of getting a calling, but Christina (and the other Manhattanites) know which stake it is.

  16. John H, I’m afraid I’m going to have to disagree with the way you’ve defined “Internet Mormons.” Here’s the way I described them at :

    *Chapel Mormons will typically try and bend the facts to fit the prophets, while Internet Mormons are far more comfortable bending the prophets to fit the facts.

    *When the apologists contradict the prophets, Internet Mormons almost always go with the apologists, while Chapel Mormons almost always go with the prophets.

    *Internet Mormons believe that the words “Lamanite” and “Native American” refer to two entirely separate cultural and linguistic groups. Chapel Mormons believe that the words “Lamanite” and “Native American” are interchangeable.

    *Internet Mormons believe that Noah’s flood was a localized event, covering only a certain area. Chapel Mormons usually believe that Noah’s flood was a global event, covering the entire world.

    *Internet Mormons believe the Lehite colony landed in a New World filled with Asiatic inhabitants. Chapel Mormons believe the Lehite colony landed in a New World devoid of inhabitants save, perhaps, for at least one remaining Jaredite.

    *When discussing prophetic utterances, Internet Mormons often say “it was only his opinion.” Chapel Mormons almost never say “it was only his opinion,” believing that a prophet’s words and God’s words are essentially one and the same.

    *Internet Mormons believe that FARMS is correct and that the Hill Cumorah was located somewhere in Mesoamerica. Chapel Mormons believe that Joseph Smith was correct and that the Hill Cumorah was located in Western New York and was the same hill from which he retrieved the Golden Plates.

    *Internet Mormons believe that the only real and binding doctrine in Mormonism is that found between the covers of the four Standard Works–all else is mere conjecture. Chapel Mormons believe that real and binding doctrine is that which is accepted and believed by the majority of the Saints (in practice, this means that they accept the overwhelming majority of what they learn in church and in the church’s official publications in addition to the four Standard Works).

    *Internet Mormons tend to want to “filter” a prophet’s words through both his likely cultural influences and his limited sphere of knowledge. Chapel Mormons tend to take a prophet’s words at face value.

    *Internet Mormons believe that a prophet’s words may not apply to at least some of the people he’s addressing. Chapel Mormons tend to believe that a prophet’s words apply to everyone he’s addressing.

  17. Kristine says:

    Julie, yes, T&S is a little more mainstream, but really only a little. Both Sunstone and Dialogue are generally a lot less radical than people who don’t read them think they are.

  18. Kristine,

    I think that the Internet, by its accessability, broadens the scope of the pre-Internet Internet Mormon crowd.

    Until recently, I was a solidly chapel Mormon. I had never read anything published by FARMS, Dialogue, Sunstone, or any other sources. I had a vague suspicion of Sunstone types as being all a bunch of crazy apostate feminists.

    I certainly marched to the beat of my own drum. I can be extremely intolerant of sloppy reasoning, like the false dichotomy that Sunday School teachers seem to enjoy so much. I watched Buffy, made friends with gay people, and engaged in other activity that would probably have categorized me as a liberal Chapel Mormon. But chances are I would have simply stayed in that square — a little disappointed about the need to occasionally check my brain in at the door for Sunday School, but unwilling to really get into rebellion or apostasy — absent the easy access to information of the Internet. (I.e., I had more or less fully segregated intellectual and spiritual engagement).

    The Internet, and its open information sources, have provided me with a third option, which I’ve enjoyed tremendously. And now, here I am.

  19. Mormons love simple dichotomies. That’s the best explanation for why this Internet vs. Chapel Mormon question (or Iron Rod versus Liahona Mormon) seems so popular.

    A question for reflection might be why Mormons, who are often well educated and sophisticated in other ways, seem so willing to embrace such an oversimplified view of Church membership or of the motivations of Church members.

    There are two kinds of people in the world: Those who split the world into two kinds of people and those who don’t. Mormons are plainly in the first group.

  20. Nice comment Kaimi. Ditto on all that.

  21. See, I remain genuinely surprised that people don’t think there’s much of a difference. Granted, there isn’t when it comes to fulfilling callings, belief in Jesus and Joseph Smith, etc.

    But I’ve even seen in my own ward, divisions and arguments over these issues. Someone who is an “internet” Mormon mentioned the limited geography theory in Gospel Doctrine. Immediately a hand shot up and a man quoted Joseph Fielding Smith and argued that limited geography is absolutely false.

    Of course, these divisions don’t manifest themselves much – but when they do, I think they have the potential to be pretty intense. I know some have argued that there are more important things that connect us as Latter-day Saints. I’d agree with that in principle. But the reality is, a lot of Church members just do not deal well when they hear people saying things about the Church they don’t agree with. So if an Internet Mormon comments that a statement from a Church leader was only that leaders opinion, it probably won’t be too well received by others.

  22. So Christina, are you neither chapel mormon nor internet mormon? It’s not like the chapel is what led you to the Bloggernacle — that was more of a social tie, ancillary to the chapel. Hm.

    plus you SHOULD feel guilty…. when was your last post?? (glares at monitor)

  23. So If I surf FARMS and BCC during sacrament meeting via my wireless pds, am I a chapel or an internet mormon? :)

  24. Sorry, I didn’t mean to derail the conversation. To give Kristine something to work with, maybe we can expand the psychological horizon by taking the Internet and Chapel categories as a starting point and adding some extras:

    Parking Lot Mormons. Skipping out on SS and Priesthood. Those not so valiant but still hanging around.

    Gymnasium Mormons. Those for whom the primary lure of church activity is sports programs. Doctrine is irrelevant, although the standards for calling fouls matter a lot.

    Deseret Bookstore Mormons. Those whose definition of the faith flows from fictional books and anecdotal stories that circulate in LDS culture, rather than scriptural texts and teachings.

    I’m sure I could come up with more if I tried harder, but the serious point of such an exercise (not that I’m being that serious here) is to figure out what attribute is driving the polarity of a “two kinds of people” categorization, then fill in the center part of the spectrum or add extra dimensions.

  25. There is clearly some truth to what Dave says. But even if we put the strict either/or dichotomy aside, we are still left to explain divergences of opinion and to decide whether those divergences matter. Some disagreements, say whether drinking Coke is against the word of wisdom, don’t really matter all that much (at least to me; I realize, though, that some would take issue with this). Other disagreements are more significant, or at least seemingly so.

    Most members, I think, would be shocked, if not outraged, at the notion — held by some so-called Internet Mormons — that a former President of the Church may have taught, during general conference, a now rejected doctrine regarding the nature of God. Similarly, as I note above, most members will probably continue to believe in the Introduction to the BoM as opposed to the latest edition of FARMS review when it comes to the ancestry of the American Indians. Do we just ignore these points of disagreement? If not, do we just call them irrelevant? How can we call them irrelevant if many (most?) Mormons would not?

    It seems to me that those who claim that there are no distinctions to be drawn here are attempting to define Mormonism in a way that suits their worldview (e.g., Mormonism is a big tent that accommodates all views in question). Nothing wrong with that, of course; I think I lean towards that same worldview. But surely it is fair to point out that other (many? most?) Mormons reject that definition of Mormonism.

    In some respects, this debate seems roughly analogous to the debate over whether Mormons are Christians. Clearly we think we are; others clearly think we are not. I’ve got no problem disregarding what other churches think on this issue–I am convinced that I am both Christian and Mormon. But even if I ultimately prevail in defining what it means to be Christian, the differences between Mormonism and other Christian religions remain.

  26. Well, I think I’m both – I go to church and I hang out on the internet – aren’t we all? Or maybe I missed the place where Kristine defined the terms. What is a chapel Mormon?

    I will someday post again, although since my last blog inspired my compassionate service leader to volunteer me for a leadership position to the RS president (grrr, grrr), I’m a little gun shy.

  27. Which stake presidency would that be? There are over two thousand, after all.

  28. Wireless PDA, sorry.

  29. Wow, this is kindof why my daughters were never allowed to ake standardized tests in school.


    Mormons seem to have a need to do this. It is silly.

    Kristine after I read your first comment I was confused as to who I really was. I have read stuff at the Tanners place, I have read and purchased things from Deseret book and farms, I have skipped RS on purpose, and found the boggernacle after spending ten years on the net reading other people’s pages. I am a college educated, technical school certified, who chooses to be a laborer also. So I guess I am unique! Hahahaha.

    Not. The only thing I really know for sure is that I gave birth to girls, no sons, because I didn’t have a testimony of the scouting program!