On being peculiar

I’ll come right out and say it: I’m not interested in being peculiar. Not for it’s own sake. I’m interested in doing what is true and doing all I can to be more like Christ, but I don’t really care to go out of my way to display my removal from the ‘world.’ I have no desire to identify myself as starkly different from my non-Mormon neighbors and friends beyond the application of rock-solid gospel truths applied in my life.

Truth be told, I generally like ‘the world.’ I find that most of my friends and neighbors are good people and have the same desires I do. I agree with Elder Ballard:

For the most part, our neighbors not of our faith are good, honorable people—every bit as good and honorable as we strive to be. They care about their families, just like we do. They want to make the world a better place, just like we do. They are kind and loving and generous and faithful, just like we seek to be.

I don’t see ‘the world’ beyond the confines of the church community as inherently harmful to my salvation. As a result, I prefer to reject behaviors and social markers which create a barrier between my neighbors and me without directly defying my faith in and allegiance to Christ.

Kevin Barney wrote a post explaining how we got the phrase ‘peculiar people’ from scripture, through the KJV, and that the original meaning was closer to ‘a people owned by God.’ I am very happy to belong to that group, to be peculiar in that sense. But the idea that we as church members would seek ways of intentionally distancing ourselves from others leaves me cold.

I’m not suggesting we tailor the commandments or the covenants we make to fit general cultural-bound moral standards; but at the same time, we ought not invent new commandments, or reshape the existing ones, to create a false sense of identity. Christ already laid out the rationale by which the sheep and goats would be separated: let’s not invent any others.


  1. Amen, brother Norbert. Amen, and again, Amen.

  2. I agree with you about not going out of the way to be peculiar. But I think it might be noted that one of the applications is that a lot of members are peculiar.

    My husband and I are both nerds, dipshits, geeks, wierdos, whatever you call those outsiders from high school with the thick glasses and pocket protectors.

    But in the church we are normal, accepted, given leadership positions, and treated like we are children of God. Like we are normal.

    And a lot of the people I see attracted to the church would be considered “peculiar” in the world as well.

  3. Read the New Testament some time. Many of the sayings of Jesus and almost all of the Letters emphasize that the “world” is a nasty, horrible place that we need to break away from. I tried to find where “In the World and not of the World” came from, and discovered that isn’t scripture. In fact, it seems not to be scriptural.

    How far should the scriptural injunction go to leave Babylon and don’t associate with the World? Hard to say sometimes, but there are times it seems to suggest all the way. The best examples of reaching the goal of building Zion are when the Saints form their own communities and take as many willing along with them.

  4. Jettboy,

    We appreciate insights from people who actually read the New Testament. Thanks for taking time out of your busy schedule of feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, taking in strangers, and visiting the sick to come here and enlighten us this morning.

  5. The best examples of reaching the goal of building Zion are when the Saints form their own communities and take as many willing along with them.

    Seriously? You must be kidding…

  6. And thanks for the thoughtful post, Norbert. I really think that Mauss’ Angel and the Beehive thesis is a helpful way of understanding the ebb and tide of church culture’s relationship with the surrounding environment.

  7. Tracy M, what are your thoughts on Enoch’s city, also referred to as the City of Holiness, and as Zion?

  8. Read the New Testament some time.

    I’ll assume this isn’t as rude as it sounds. The irony of being that nasty when referring to the words of Christ is too great to be possible.
    The hard thing to reconcile with your idea of isolation in respect to Christ’s teachings is his example. He doesn’t create a enclave and invite the righteous in after careful screening: He’s out there among the people.

  9. I’ve never thought of “the world” as being non-members. I’ve always thought of it as being worldliness. Not people.

    The whole notion of only associating with other Mormons is really foreign to me. I forget that there are actually people out there who do that. (Are there really?)

  10. Aaron Brown says:

    I completely agree with you, Norbert.

    I’ve tended to see Mormon peculiarity as an impediment to Mormon missionary efforts, and to the ability of LDS people to create a repoire with others that might lead to missionary successes. There are certain LDS traits that make me think, “Gee, what a wonderful quality for a parochial, Rocky Mountain sect that just wants to be different, and has no universalist aspirations!” Problem is, we DO say we have a universal message for all the world … one that is desperately needed.

    But maybe others don’t see this tension as I do. Perhaps Mormon peculiarity, in its many forms, draws attention to us, and makes people want to know more than they otherwise would. But I kinda doubt it.


  11. John, aren’t we counseled by our most recent prophets that gathering is not necessary for the establishment of Zion? I need to focus on the purity of my heart, not erect rtificial borders on top of or aside from that effort.

    Susan, I agree. But the idea of maintaining behavior that makes us peculiar in the wider community seems to suggest that we are drawing a line between us and them, rather than eliminate worldliness in our own hearts.

  12. Kevin Barney says:

    I freely acknowledge that I personally struggle with the aggressive boundary maintenance notion of remaining peculiar and apart that some in the Church emphasize. I can relate to Norbert’s concerns.

    As one very embarrassing example, even after I was accepted at BYU and knew I was going there, for a time I let people think I was planning on the University of Illinois (where I eventually would attend for law school). Particularly in high school I found it daunting to be the goodie two-shoes Mormon boy all the time.

  13. Nibley is rolling in his grave right now.

    “Babylon and Zion cannot mix in any degree. A Zion that makes concessions is no longer Zion… As there is no compromise between the Two Ways, so there is no mixing of Babylon and Zion; God will not tolerate any concessions by Zion… That meant a total renunciation of the world and its ways: ‘It is useless for us to expect the favor of the world. We have been called out of the world, therefore the world hates us. If we were of the world, then the world would love its own, and we should have no trouble with them.'” (“What Is Zion?”, CWHN 9:30-32).

  14. Norbert, your post is interesting and worthwhile. There’s a tension in many the things we should aspire to that isn’t served by served by opening up half of our scriptures and Ensigns and throwing the other half away. You write that “he doesn’t create an enclave and invite the righteous in after careful screening.” For the present moment, that’s true, but I’m sure that mulling it over for five minutes, you can think of times when the Lord has and will separate his followers. Jettboy’s idea, which was disparaged by a couple other commenters, is not a radical reading of scriptures and church history.

  15. I agree with Bryce’s quote of Nibley. This sounds more like an attempt to get people to like us, than an attempt to be right with God.

  16. Researcher says:

    #13 If it’s a choice between reading Nibley and Norbert, I’ll read Norbert any day.

    We love our neighbors and have recieved as much if not more help from them in the past year and a half than from our ward members. Hopefully when we are a little less needy we will be able to give more back to them when they need it.

  17. The only problem I have with Jettboy’s comment is that it promotes a sort of flee-to-the-compound mentality. We turn our backs on the wicked world and give it up as a bad job.

    But I don’t like Norbert’s idea of simply smiling at our neighbors and agreeing not to bring up uncomfortable subjects either.

    Let’s get one thing straight here. Our job is not to create a nice little society where Babylon and Zion make good neighbors. Nor is our job to load up the SUV and run away with our tail between our legs.

    Our job is to make Zion triumph over Babylon. We aren’t here to be buddies with Babylon. We are here to annihilate it.

  18. Some of us have it backwards. Whatever peculiarity we have should be a natural outgrowth of differences between living gospel principles (many of which are shared by others, in which specific cases differences won’t be that great) and violating those principles. But some seem to court peculiarity aggressively as though extremes in behavior and appearance are proof that they are living the gospel. That’s like deliberately provoking persecution, or seeing it where none was intended, as evidence that they are righteous. Men may revile you for His name’s sake; men may also revile you because you’re revolting.

  19. John, we are counciled by our prophets today to make Zion where we are. We are not told to withdraw from the world. How do we love others when we errect barriers between Us and Them? How does our missionary effort go forward if we seclude ourselves from the world? How are we following the Prophets if we call this:

    …The best examples of reaching the goal of building Zion (where) the Saints form their own communities and take as many willing along with them.


    I wasn’t being disparaging in my first comment- was really incredulous, and kind of thought the comment might be tongue-in-cheek.

  20. Men may revile you for His name’s sake; men may also revile you because you’re revolting.

    My favorite new quote. I wish I had waited to post my bumbling response, and just gone with this. I heart Ardis.

  21. Mark Brown says:

    Bishop Glen L. Pace who used to be in the presiding bishopric said that the LD Saints will never be the salt of the earth as long as they stay together in one big lump in their meetinghouses. I think the parables about the salt of the earth and the leaven in the loaf are instructive here.

    Norbert, I know just what you mean. This earth is sometimes so beautiful, and our relationships with others here can be so deep and fulfilling, that it almost seems presumptuous to expect more.

  22. Norbert. I guess the question is where is the line? What behaviors and social markers should be rejected? Answers to this question would really flesh out your post.

  23. Mark Brown says:

    bbell, the Savior associated and socialized with adulterers, thieves, and drunks. That’s good enough for me.

  24. It’s heartening that people have a high regard for following current Church leadership. For those that think Jettboy’s concept is strange, I have a question: from the scriptures, which are the best examples to you of righteous communities (not individuals)? For myself, I think of Enoch’s city, the Nephites after Christ’s visits, and the disciples after Pentacost under the apostles’ leadership. There are degrees of separation and banding together with these three examples.

  25. John, all of that’s true, but we’re not living in those circumstances today.

  26. Mark Brown says:

    John it isn’t that it is strange. I actually agree that in the scriptures and even earlier in this dispensation that is how we did it. But now we don’t, and haven’t done it for the last hundred years or so. I think it is clear that the current understanding is that we are to build Zion where we are. Do you see it differently?

  27. I tried to find where “In the World and not of the World” came from, and discovered that isn’t scripture. In fact, it seems not to be scriptural.

    Not scriptural?

    Try John 17:9-16.

  28. “John, all of that’s true, but we’re not living in those circumstances today.”

    So I guess it’s OK to ignore those accounts Tracy?

  29. Sometimes I find myself saying “Baa! Baa!” and “Meh! Meh!” in the same breath. Am I a sheepish goat or a goatly sheep?

    We don’t have to try harder to be weird and exclusionary. Our behavior separates us plenty. I didn’t drink wine at a BBQ recently which went by without comment, but when I chose a diet Pepsi instead that brought up plenty of peculiar conversation.

    Kindness, love, and perhaps a little humor is my goal in my relationships with others, members or non-members. I was peculiar before I ever became Mormon. No doubt I shall remain so. That doesn’t mean I have to be nasty and judgemental.

  30. Ugh, Seth, come on.

    Today, we are not called to live in exile. We are not called to live in isolation. We do not have the afterglow of having the Savior recently bless each of our children. We are to do the best we can, where we are.

    This is a great example of blog comments being far snarkier than a face to face conversation would be.

  31. Peculiarity for its own sake is not Zion. The righteous communities for which we have examples in the scriptures did not achieve their righteous standards by shunning people they judged to be less righteous than themselves. They did it by shunning worldliness. The image of packing up an SUV with worldly goods and moving into a gated community with a bunch of likeminded snobs could not be further from the ideals envisioned in 4 Nephi.

    The idea that privileging the standards of the goats-and-sheep parable or the Savior’s own standards of acquaintance and friendship over some Branch Davidian impulse to cut ourselves off everyone who won’t live up to our standards makes Nibley roll in his grave is positively ludicrous. The quote proffered in #13 is not about isolation. The governing metaphor for removal from the world is not the gated community; it is the temple, where we make covenants to eschew the ways of the world. The isolated gated community full of splendid food storage, pearly SUVs, and a bunch of people who consider themselves, in isolation, to be the salt of the earth is the antithesis of Zion.

  32. Martin Willey says:

    Agreed. Peculiar means unique, or even better, “owned by the Lord.” Peculiar does NOT mean distant, insular, cliquish, judgmental or unkind.

  33. Nibley taught that the expression “in the world and not of the world” is actually a misreading of scripture. It is a contradiction of terms.

    “You cannot be ‘in the world but not of the world,’ ‘for all that is in the world . . . is not of the Father, but is of the world,’ and that in the most literal sense (1 John 2:16)” (CWHN 9:32).

    “Incidentally, the expression ‘in the world but not of the world’ is not found in the Bible at all. We try to justify ourselves. ‘We’re being in the world but not of the world.’ Oh, no. In the epistle of John he tells us you cannot be in the world without being of the world. Come out of the world. We like to have both today. As Brigham Young said, there is nothing in the world more painful and hard-that will tear you apart like trying to have it both ways at once… Oh, I know, some people think you can do both, but you can’t. Oh, there’s all sorts of rationalization if you want to live in the world. That’s what it is, I assure you. This has bothered lots of brethren; I can tell you that.” (Teachings of the Book of Mormon, vol. 3, 73.).

    “I live in the real world, don’t I? Yes, and I have been commanded to ‘come out of her,. . . that ye be not partakers of her sins’ (Revelation 18:4). It is not given ‘unto you that ye shall live after the manner of the world’ (D&C 95:13). Well, then, you must be ‘in the world but not of the world.’ That happens to be a convenient para-scripture (we have quite a few of them today), invented by a third-century Sophist (Diognetos), to the great satisfaction of the church members, who were rapidly becoming very worldly. The passage as it appears in the scriptures says quite the opposite: ‘For [whatsoever] that is in the world. . . is not of the Father, but is of the world’ (1 John 2:16)” (Approaching Zion, 164-65).

  34. I’ve never thought of “the world” as being non-members. I’ve always thought of it as being worldliness. Not people.

    For the win!

  35. Yay, Brad!!

  36. I was talking to a woman at church who was moving to Texas, and she was concerned that there wouldn’t be many church members, and she was used to living in large LDS communities. I said, “Well, it’s good to meet people outside the church, too,” and other people looked at me like I was nuts, like I’d just said, “It’s good to try smoking crack.” So I know that some people really aren’t interesting in having meaningful relationships with non-LDS people–not really sure why, whether it’s fear of being corrupted by their “worldly values” or just thinking they can’t have deep friendships with people who don’t share their faith, maybe both–but I think those people are the minority.

    I find that my biggest obstacles to forming meaningful relationships with people outside church have to do with the busy lives we all lead, whether in the world or out, and how isolated we all are from each other. I would never meet anyone if church didn’t force me to interact with others, which is how I came to have only LDS friends at this stage in my life. Growing up, that was never the case for me. None of my close friends was LDS, and I went to a college with no LDS students, and frankly I miss interacting with non-LDS people (no offense to the LDS people, whom I love). I just wish there were more opportunity to do so.

    I have been thinking how much easier it would be to get to know my neighbors if I could just casually say, “Hey, why don’t you come over for some coffee?” I see people say that on TV, so that’s how it must work in real life, eh? “Come over for some apple juice” just doesn’t have the same ring to it.

    (No, I’m not hoping that the Church rescinds its no-coffee rule. I just wish I were less socially inept.)

  37. Dude, Bryce — no one here is defending worldliness (though I can think of an Adam-Smith-worshiping blog or two to direct you to if you really want to vent spleen).

  38. James McMurray says:

    I prefer to reject behaviors and social markers which create a barrier between my neighbors and me without directly defying my faith in and allegiance to Christ.

    In my mind, it is impossible to draw such strong conclusions about Norbert’s position when he did not elucidate specifics (i.e. Bryce’s #13). I mean, I agree that animal sacrifice is best practiced OUTSIDE the block meeting time (“Get to Sunday School, young man!”), but seriously, I’d have to agree with Norbert’s theory while admitting my application of this theory may differ from his or anyone else’s.

    To me, covenant-based rejections of the world are different from culturally-based rejections. How we go about drawing lines between the two are as personal as our decision about what constitutes honoring the sabbath, etc. that (for me at least) are in a fluid state of refinement and adjustment? (“line upon line”)

    This whole topic also gets at underlying tension between “fleeing Babylon” and being a “light unto the world.” My question to that is this: How do we effectively love our neighbors and be good member missionaries if we fundamentally and absolutely reject “the world” (and to some degree and by extension, those around us living “of” it; to me it is impossible NOT to conflate the two, at least to some degree)?

    Can Elder Ballard’s statement in the OP be reconciled with Nibley’s statement in #13? To me, Nibley is rejecting both covenant and cultural differences wholesale, while Elder Ballard is allowing that (AMAZINGLY! I know, shocker…) the LDS church hasn’t cornered the market on being good. My own reasoning is that this (and other recent) statement of Elder Ballard’s are inviting us to make that distinction.

    Now that I’m thinking about it I don’t think Elder Barllard’s counsel require reconciliation with Nibley in the first place….

  39. Robert Emery Rundquist says:

    #24:You used 3 cities that are based only in faith, not history (?)
    Examples of efforts for have “righteous communities “, in history, have all been failures.

  40. Really Brad?

    “Truth be told, I generally like ‘the world.’… I don’t see ‘the world’ beyond the confines of the church community as inherently harmful to my salvation.”

  41. Steve Evans says:

    Since when does Hugh Nibley matter?

  42. You’re tilting at windmills, Bryce. No one here, least of all Norbert, has advocated embracing Babylon. Furiously quoting Nibley quoting Brigham Young over points no one is contesting is the internet equivalent of weeping and gnashing teeth.

  43. Norbert is talking about people, not the unrighteousness of Babylon. The inability to distinguish the two is Phariseeism. Nibely would agree with me on this one.

  44. Ex. 33:16 (Moses asks who the people of G-d are going to be that he will lead. He suggests that the way to know would be having G-d with them and seperate from other people. G-d agrees.)

    John 17 (The whole chapter is about how Christ worked hard to gather those in the world to be saved out of the world. Particularly vs. 14-16 indicate that those who follow Jesus are not of this world, even if they live in the world.)

    Alma 5:57-58 (There is no ignoring that those who follow Christ are commanded to become seperate from the wicked. More importantly, the implication from the blessings is that those who will be saved because they seperate themselves are members of the Church and not just good people.)

    Col. 2:6-8 (Believers walk in the ways of Christ and not in the rudiments of the world.)

    James 4:4-7 (To be friends with the world is to be an enemy to G-d. As with all of the above, this has to do with behavior. However, the negative behaviors for followers of G-d are always identified as the world’s at large.)

    Romans 12: 1-3 (The faithful shouldn’t think of themselves above another, but they should act differently from the world. Seperation is a way of life, but that way of life does seem to imply a physical demarcation as the end product.)

    D&C 53:2 (Although a revelation to one individual, ironically to someone who did fall away, it still has general relavance. The commandment is to forsake the world. Not much ambiguity.)

    Two points. First, it is true that behavior and faith rather than disengagement from living with other people is at the heart of our peculiarity. However, it is equally as true that there have been times when G-d has physically commanded a seperation from the world by His people; the Saints. One was with the Children of Israel out from Egypt, another was Enoch’s Zion that eventually left the world, and most recently was during Joseph Smith’s time in at least Kirtland and Missouri. We are not in one of those times, but that isn’t to say we aren’t getting called out. I would say the Saint’s goal is to seperate our hearts enough from the world to be worthy of getting called to form our own society. Too many of us care too much for the world, morally or otherwise.

  45. “Since when does Hugh Nibley matter?”

    You guys make me laugh…

  46. Steve Evans says:

    Last time I checked Bryce, he was no prophet, seer or revelator. I’d put my stock in one of our actual leaders.

  47. Bryce, no one has more respect for Nibley than I do. Approaching Zion was the most life-altering, non-scriptural work I ever read, and he was a close personal friend of mine in the years before he died. The only thing making him roll in his grave is you trying to use his words to condemn those of Elder Ballard.

  48. Again, you make me laugh considering the barrage of criticism I’ve got over the last couple weeks by quoting “actual leaders.”

  49. Considering the “barrage of criticism” you’ve endured recently for quoting “actual leaders,” your willingness to throw Elder Ballard under the bus to take a shot at Norbert makes me laugh.

  50. Since when did anything Nibley say throw Elder Ballard under the bus? You’re making that claim, not me.

  51. Jettboy (44), the reason you’re taking the o out of God is…

  52. Bryce may be tilting at windmills, but quite of few of the others (including Norbert) are beating up straw men.

    Really, I don’t see any movement among the church leadership to have the membership be deliberately bizarre or “peculiar” – however, as I have found, merely not drinking tea, coffee or wine sometimes gets you funny looks at parties.

    Just being a practicing Mormon will cause one to be ‘peculiar’ without any extra effort required.

  53. Who needs the world? We seem to be doing perfectly well savaging ourselves without their input. What a lovely time we would all have at the ward picnic …

  54. Norbert writes a post articulating sentiment that flows directly from a straightforward reading of the Elder Ballard quote included in the post, and you express your disgust by going all gospellink-cut-and-paste on him with the Nibley. It’s obvious your target was Norbert and not Elder Ballard, but you can’t always control the shrapnel.

  55. Look out!

    It’s Bryce Haymond!

    Everyone prepare to dogpile!

  56. Lol!!

  57. Steve Evans says:

    Hey man, I’m just an observer here. I’m not the one dispensing any barrages of criticism on you over the last “couple weeks.” But I’d point out that a barrage of criticism isn’t always a sign of being correct.

    Re: Nibley, I remember being in my 20s and reading him voraciously, denouncing the materialism of my family and pledging myself to work, knowing the lunch would be free! Later I began to realize that in some ways Nibley was a quintessential ivory-tower intellectual, making a living by writing books on topics that pleased him, teaching classes when he felt like it and reading whatever his whimsy set him to read. Nice work if you can get it, but it’s not too hard to decry Babylon when you’re ensconced in a tenure track paid for by the Church.

  58. Steve Evans says:

    Jami (#51), he’s Jewish.

  59. Ok, so let’s throw Nibley under the bus then…

  60. Steve Evans says:

    Ardis, you bring the potato salad with the Strychnine and I’ll bring the green jello with cyanide.

    There must be records somewhere of people that fall deathly ill from food consumed at Church linger-longers, potlucks and picnics. I can’t imagine it’s a short list.

  61. MikeInWeHo says:

    re: 44

    Jettboy is being clever and copying some very religious Jews who write God as G-d in English. They do this to follow the pattern of the Tetragrammaton in Hebrew, wherein the vowels are not used. Or something like that. (Right, Kevin?)

  62. Ah! I th-ught maybe he didn’t want any-ne t- be able t- G–gle G-d thr-ugh his c-mment.

  63. MikeInWeHo says:

    Oops, sorry. If Jettboy is Jewish then he’s just doing what he’s s’posed to do.

  64. Steve Evans says:

    His keyb-ard is br-ken

  65. Steve Evans says:

    actually Mike, you’re right in your #61, I was just condensing it into snarky form.

  66. Thomas Parkin says:

    I hardly know where I find myself, since I’ve rarely found a group of people with whom I really felt I belonged. I have pretty much always felt really really peculiar, though not for my Mormonism. I’ve always loved this bit of Byron, from Manfred:

    … From my youth upwards
    My spirit walk’d not with the souls of men,

    The thirst of their ambition was not mine,
    The aim of their existence was not mine;
    My joys, my griefs, my passions, and my powers
    Made me a stranger; though I wore the form …

    Because of that feeling, which I don’t want to over dramatize, but which is very real for me – which I’ve had inside the church, outside the church, on the ‘naccle, in my family, with my friends – I feel a great deal of sympathy for Enoch’s people who find, at a certain point in their development, that they ‘are strangers and pilgrims’ on the earth.

    Acknowledging my own subjectivity and that the tension between what I am and what I ought to be is as much as for anyone, I really believe that the true disciple of Christ develops motivations that put him outside the currents and momentums of a telestial world. That their ambition is not his, that the aim of their existence is not his, etc. To the degree that we care about the rewards of this world, we haven’t sufficiently understood. We can’t serve God and Mammon. We have to let a lot go.

    But one can be overly pessimistic. I was recently talking in this vein with a friend of mine, and he told me that these ideas made him despair (his word) some because he loved the world. The best I can explain is that we are meant to love our experience here, and love other people, and that a fallen world is not black at its root, but only fallen, and that there are infinite number of things to love, that teach us, that expand us, that are ravishingly beautiful and good, etc.

    If we only understand the one principle and fail to understand the other, we become like a one-winged bird where we are meant to be whole. We must leave Babylon behind, but, at least for now, we must also engage Babylon. If our hearts are in Zion, then we will make odd Babylonians.

    */waxing rhapsodic*


  67. Let’s pretend Norbert wrote a post, citing Nibley voraciously, about eschewing all forms of worldliness and withdrawing from the whore of Babylon.

    Raise your hand if you think Bryce would have used Elder Ballard quotes to expose Norbert’s unrighteousness.

  68. Steve Evans says:

    TP, weren’t you just yesterday getting all uppity about being naive and rhapsodic?!? All you needed was a Little Tramp outfit…

  69. James McMurray says:

    And hey, what about those of us who are just peculiar Mormons??

  70. Tengent:

    Yes, I picked it up from my Jewish aquantances on the Internet. It isn’t to be cute. It is from my genuine respect for the Jews. One of the questions I should ask them is if adding the “O” by a Gentile is at all offensive. Maybe if it doesn’t bother them then I can stop the drop because I always get sarcastic responses from Mormons and other Christians. It seems to be offensive to others who are not Jewish to not include the “O.”

  71. Mark Brown says:

    Brad, your comment # 67 was wicked.

    I shun you.

  72. So explain, then, the substitution of “e”s for “a”s, as in “tengent.”

  73. I shun you.

    My work here is done.

  74. Brad, I am a bad speller when it comes to Internet dialogue. No surprise there.

  75. Steve Evans says:

    switching “e”s for “a”s is e custom emong meny raligious paoplas, perticulerly in tha Wast.

  76. Latter-day Guy says:

    RE 61, Thanks for the clarification. I thought for a moment it might be some kind of strange abbreviation for “godd**n” and I was a little concerned.

  77. LOLOLOLOL!!!!

  78. Latter-day Guy says:

    Tracy, you mean “L-L-L-L-L,” don’t you?

  79. Aaron Brown says:


    But when he was at BYU, Nibley read every single book in the HBL Library, cover to cover! That’s got to count for something!


  80. Aaron Brown says:

    “Men may revile you for His name’s sake; men may also revile you because you’re revolting.”

    Ardis, this really is awesome. It should be a bumper sticker, and then I’d put it next to my “Jesus loves you; Everyone else thinks you’re an *sshole.”


  81. This post is struggling with symmantic difficulties. I’m not sure why Nobert refers to his non-mormon neighbors and friends as ‘the world’. I think the church=non-world is a bad formula. Indeed one of my struggles with the endowment is when it makes giving all to the church the equivalent of building up the Kingdom of God.

  82. Mark Brown says:

    A few years ago, a Christian/Country and Western musician hit some road bumps on his way to the top of the charts and blamed it on anti-Christian bigotry on Music Row in Nashville. A critic responded by saying “You are not disliked personally. Your music is disliked because it sucks.”

  83. Steve Evans says:

    “symmantic difficulties” = troubles with Norbert Anti-Virus?

  84. Ardis’ comment #18 is awesome.

  85. MikeInWeHo says:

    re: 70
    Check for yourself, but I can assure you that your Jewish friends don’t take offense at use of the letter O by gentiles, any more than they take offense at the deeeeeeeelicious cheeseburger I am about to consume.

    I prefer being closet-peculiar. If my friends in WeHo knew how much time I spent in the Bloggernacle (or that I was in here at all) they’d think I was nuts.

  86. Mike’s a closeted Mo!

    (…is that in bad taste? ;)

  87. Mark Brown says:

    He’s in WeHo but not of WeHo.

  88. Norbert, thanks for this post. I think it’s heart-felt and necessary.

    One of the struggles that even good members can have in the Church (or even average members like myself) is the realization that the church doesn’t have exclusive rights to righteousness, or that our weirdness does not automatically make us better than others. The converse (or, maybe, corollary) to this truism is that people both inside and outside of the church are complex persons, capable of both good and evil. While God may be all good and the devil the source of evil, people are never that simple.

    While I certainly like to believe that Church members are above average in many ways, we’re also a pretty tiny minority of the worldwide population. The idea that we are much, much better than everyone else leads to a pretty dismal worldview. And I share your view that any effort put to making us appear strange for the sake of peculiarity seems like wasted energy that could have been used for something else.

  89. MikeInWeHo says:

    LOL…That’s true, actually.
    I had a hard time deciding what to put on my Facebook page in the religion section of the profile. I settled for “Ask Me.”

  90. Steve Evans says:

    Greg, but what about the sense of community that comes from having a distinct value set and manner? It would seem to me that much of the appeal and lasting strength of Mormonism stems indeed from a common identity and a sense of distinctiveness.

  91. Steve, I just don’t think that requires us to be weird. Peculiar /= weird.

    Besides, when I hear the “peculiar people” trope, it always reminds me of a history book I read on slavery in high school called “A Peculiar Institution” and it makes me wonder why we’d want to be associated with the antebellum South. So I’d just as soon abandon the word “peculiar” altogether.

  92. Steve Evans says:

    What’s the difference, then, between peculiar and weird?

  93. Peculiarity emphasizes uniqueness. Weird is a pejorative term.

  94. Mark Brown says:

    The position that has been advanced here with support from Nibley has ironically reminded me of my favorite Nibley quote. When he says BYU, just substitute the church, or the bloggernacle, or your ward, or even your family.

    “I can see two totally different pictures of the BYU, each one a reality: From one direction I see high purpose, sobriety, good cheer, dedication, and a measure of stability which in this unquiet world is by no means to be despised. Then by shifting my position but slightly I see a carnival of human vanity and folly to which only Gilbert & Sullivan could do justice, with solemn antics before high heaven that make the angels weep. Why take sides or contend? Both of the pictures are genuine!”

    “Some Reasons for the Restored Gospel,” 7

  95. I’m not sure why Nobert refers to his non-mormon neighbors and friends as ‘the world’.

    It seems to me that the idea of peculiarness for its own sake makes that assumption. If the wording caused the jump from not lording my righteousness over my neighbors to embracing ‘Babylon’ then I apologize.

    Ardis said what I wanted to say very well.

  96. Eric Russell says:

    I think of the same thing as BTD Greg with respect to ‘peculiar.’ From the wikipage on “Peculiar Institution” –

    “It was in popular use during the first half of the 19th century…at the time this expression became popular, it was used in association with a vigorous defense of this institution as a good thing.”

    I think the early saints were proud of being a “peculiar people” because, at the time, being peculiar was something to be proud of by definition.

  97. Catching up on 96 comments, but Ardis’ #18 matches Norbert’s initial point about peculiarity being tied to Christian discipleship, I think. I don’t want to be peculiar for peculiarity’s sake; I have no problem being peculiar for Christ’s sake.

  98. Let’s talk in terms of statistical regression, modeling and prediction for a second.

    If you were to take the membership of the church, partial out all weirdness/peculiarity due to personality INDEPENDENT of religious affiliation (we’re talking in theory here- this step might be kinda hard in reality), and then partial out the peculiarity directly caused by covenant keeping (as in not drinking, no premarital sex, Sabbath worship… the things on the temple recommend), it would be a wonderful world if there were no more variance in peculiarity left over. However, i read Norbert as lamenting the fact that in his experience (and mine) there is still LOADS of variance in peculiarity remaining.

    While we’re in terms regression/modeling/prediction mode, anybody want to offer up what they think predicts the type of peculiarity Norbert and I regret?

    Here’s my stab: I would guess that if you plugged just these demographic variables into a predictive model, you’d explain a big percentage of the variance (across people) with: having lived in Utah >10 years, BYU attendance, being an RM, having converted from a charismatic or born-again faith, far right-winged political stance. Anybody else? Oh, and if you pronounce the words creek or fork as “crick” “fark”.

    ps- i’m not intentionally being critical of anybody who those variables describe, as half describe myself.

  99. Martin Willey says:

    I only have 2 of the 5 predictors listed in Comment 98. But I am pretty sure I am more peculiar that that would suggest.

  100. Marjorie Conder says:

    #66. Thomas Parkin–Wow and thank you. I too do not want to be a “drama queen” but this post resonated with my soul and says things I have looked for a way to explain, even for myself.

  101. Marjorie Conder says:

    I only fit one of the demographics in #98 (a lifetime resident of Utah.) It is hard to see oneself as others see you, but I hope I’m “peculiar” in the way the gospel enjoins us to be–but not also weird.

  102. Anon this time says:

    #61 and others: I have been told by a not very religious Jew who doesn’t use the O that it is because they have been instructed not to take the name of G-d in vain and anything that is written could be destroyed which would also destroy the words in it. That was an awfully long sentence; I hope it made sense.

  103. I don’t have to try very hard to be “peculiar” here in the east. Just refuse to make jello shots for my kid’s high school graduation or refuse to eat the port wine cheese. Nobody seems to resent me for it, however. I guess they know everyone has their own set of peculiarities (sp?) and mine are actually pretty harmless.

  104. Norbert lives in Finland, and takes saunas naked. That’s one way of not being peculiar. If he were to turn down coffee with a lecture on the WoW, he would be peculiar. (He could still turn down the coffee, but skip the lecture.) For me, the peculiarity I eschew is ensnared with self-righteousness and a need to do things in a visibly Mormon way–always aware that every member should be a missionary. I really dislike hearing someone’s account of calling their neighbor (or some rock star on an airplane) to repentance. If such an event happens, it should be a private event, not to be shared in any sort of self-congratulatory way.

    But since I live in Utah and often dress in fully Mormon clothes–not only my temple clothes but those I wear to the MTC–, there are places where I advertise who I am and what I believe. In the proper setting, I’m happy to look a little strange.

  105. Thomas Parkin says:

    #68 Steve,

    Sour grapes because I had you down on the matte about your lovely little talk. The big difference between yesterday and today is that yesterday it was the rhapsodizing of a pinko traitor, who you must never believe, and today it was yours truly.

    Anyway, here is to my point:


  106. I think most of the comments are well said, but most people commenting also are much more educated and cosmopoitan then the average member. So I don’t think this will change much over the next 100 years.

  107. mistyped: should be: “cosmopolitan”

  108. #83 is priceless. If only I had such quick-wit. Why am I such a misfit? I am not just a nit wit. Just because my nose glows, why don’t I fit in?

  109. Steve Evans says:

    Good one JT!

  110. Thomas Parkin says:


    Sour grapes cause I didn’t let you re-inflate.


    Thanks. For me, it’s probably at least partly because we never stayed in one place very long when I was a kid. I was always the outsider – if ever I got close to fitting in a really becoming a part of something, we moved again. Not that there isn’t a lot of upsides to that – I wouldn’t trade my gypsy family for anything.


  111. Martin Willey says:

    105: I hate that crap about how we participants in the bloggernacle are more educated, cosmopolitan, sophisticated and smart than the “average member of the church” (whoever that is). It is just another artificial division that moves us further away from Zion – – just like peculiarity for peculiarity’s sake.

  112. “I hate that crap about how we participants in the bloggernacle are more educated, cosmopolitan, sophisticated and smart than the “average member of the church” (whoever that is)”

    Me too. It’s really just the permas.

  113. Thomas Parkin says:


    The bad grammar and convoluted syntax of my posts would all alone provide powerful evidence against a bloggernaclists are smarty pants argument.


  114. Thomas–I am a gypsy at heart. It came in my genes. My dear dad has rarely spent a summer in the U.S., but now is tied to dialysis machines three times a week. I think it drives him crazy. Of course, I stand out wherever I go because I tend to be taller than others around me (in Third World countries), and very white. I do love doing everything I can to let those I’m living with know I love them. I was blessed to know the first three LDS converts in one area of Guatemala, and when I have spoken of them in a Patzicia chapel–telling my own memories which are so full of love–I become somewhat less peculiar. I love being able to speak Spanish. Dad speaks at least twenty languages. (He will never say how many, but I’ve personally heard him in a bunch, from Russian to Chinese to Finnish, and a bunch of dialects from sundry countries.) I have been feeling restless lately. This summer kept me in Provo, and my wings are itching.

  115. P.S. The above post should demonstrate that even people who claim to know how to write are capable of terribly repetitive posts. Most of us recognize our grammatical/punctuation/logical errors–right after we hit “submit.”

  116. 110, 111:

    I know you hate it. But is it true?

  117. Martin Willey says:

    Trevor: I have no way of knowing. And neither, might I say, do you. Without putting to much effort into it, I can rattle off the following: In my ward there are the obligatory doctors and lawyers, but also a federal judge, a PhD in psychology, a German (him) American (her) couple, a British (him) American (her) couple, a Norwegian (her) American (him) couple, a woman getting an advanced degree in piano performance, a couple of college professors, a nationally recognized marathoner, two or three architects, etc. Of course, I do not know how many, if any, of these regular (if not average) members compare.

  118. Martin Willey says:

    Last sentence should read: Of course, I do not know how many, if any, of these regular (if not average) members are bloggernacle participants.

  119. Eric Russell says:

    Martin, when listing people with educational or professional accomplishments, why do you include people who have married foreigners?

  120. 116:

    Do you then take exception to 98 as well?

  121. Martin Willey says:

    Eric: I was listing people who might be seen as “cosmopolitan.”

    Trevor: I thought 98 was kind of silly. See my comment 99.

  122. Thomas Parkin says:

    Yeah Margaret – totally get that. I get a really fierce wanderlust. Describe it as homesickness for places I’ve never been. :)


  123. Martin,

    If we don’t know, what was the point of making the list?

    Also–do you consider your list representative of the “average mormon”?

  124. Martin Willey says:

    Trevor: You used the term cosmopolitan, and I was responding to that. Sorry if it was not clear. I think my ward is pretty average for its geographic location, but I don’t really know who the “average mormon” is. That is why I am leery of statements about what the “average mormon” is like. Even in my ward in the center of Mormondom, I see a lot of smart, interesting people.

    I think we have exhausted this line of discussion, don’t you?

  125. I was just intrigued that you reviled against the notion the the bloggernacle is not representative of the active church membership. We may end at your pleasure.

  126. I think Steve must be putting errors in my post before they show up. I meant “that the” not “the the”. Sorry for the mistype.

  127. Why is everyone so hostile toward “The World”? It’s my favorite radio program.

  128. I was talking to a woman at church who was moving to Texas, and she was concerned that there wouldn’t be many church members, and she was used to living in large LDS communities

    Stay away from North Texas then. Or Houston. Or even Austin. No Mormons here.