The Chosen: Introduction

This is the second in a series of guest posts by our friend John Dehlin.

As some of you may know, we are holding an online, multi-part book club discussion around Chaim Potok’s first novel: The Chosen. This is the first discussion post of the series. Expect 2 or 3 posts per week over the next few weeks until we all become sick and tired of Reuven and Danny.

To kick off the discussion — I want to start with what (for many of you) will be the most obvious question.

Without giving any of the major plot points or the ending away (for those who are still getting up to speed) — what parallels have you considered so far between:

a) Hasidic Judaism as portrayed in this book and your experiences with Mormonism, or
b) Any character/event in this story, and characters or events in your LDS experience thus far.

I’ll start with a few of the obvious ones:

— Hasidic Rabbi = LDS Prophet
— Talmud = Book of Mormon
— Kosher = Word of Wisdom
— Orthodox dress, curls, yarmulke = modest dress white shirts/ties, short hair, no facial hair, one earring only (for women)
— Persecutions on both sides (though admittedly disproportionate)
— The baseball game = BYU sports
— “Remember why and for whom we play” = “Remember who you are and what you stand for…return with honor”
— “The Chosen” vs. “The Gentiles” (on both sides)
— “Apikorsim” = Mormon liberals/intellectuals/apostates
— David Malter = Is there a parallel within Mormonism for David Malter?

What parallels have you considered? Any plot points remind you of moments in your own church experiences? Please feel free to share personal stories if you are able/willing.

Next post will be about Chapters 1-3 — and will be posted by Friday — so read up!

Shalom!!!!

Comments

  1. Hasidic sect = Utah/Mormon Corridor Church vs. Apikorsim = “Mission Field” Church. It struck me that the key difference was the intentional cultural isolation of the Hasidic sect whereas the Apikorsim were more integrated and in some ways pragmatic. The Hasidic sect viewed that as falling away (inter-faith mixing?).

  2. A few more supporting items on Apikorsim:

    Here’s how the book defines it:

    “Apikorsim — A Jew educated in Judaism who denied basic tenets of his faith, like the existence of God, the revelation, the resurrection of the dead. To people like Reb Saunders, it also meant any educated Jew who might be reading, say, Darwin, and who was not wearing side curls and fringes outside his trousers. I (Reuven) was an apikoros to Danny Saunders, despite my belief in God and Torah, because I did not have side curls and was attending a parochial school where too many English subjects were offered and where Jewish subjects were taught in Hebrew instead of Yiddish, both unheard-of sins, the former because it took time away from the study of Torah, the latter because Hebrew ws the Holy Tongue and to use it in ordinary classroom discourse was a desecration of God’s Name.” p. 28

    Also:

    “Currently the term is used to describe anyone holding heretical or heterodox views.”

    http://www.themystica.com/mystica/articles/a/apikoros.html

    Hawk — I like the Morridor angle.

  3. John Mansfield says:

    There’s the role of WWII pulling the religious community into the life of the nation.

  4. Clay Whipkey says:

    One disconnect for me on the parallel is that in the LDS church there is no equivalent of the Orthodox Jew. The parallel of the Hasid, and the way he views the Orthodox as “apikoros” (apostate) is relevant… but Orthodox Jews have their own community and support system that is pretty strong. Mormon Apikorsim are left to wander in the wilderness of the bloggernacle, Sunstone, or the DAMU.

    That’s probably where it breaks down the most for me. It would a lot easier to appreciate the necessity and beauty of the Mormon Hasid if the Mormon Apikoros had a home to which he could retreat.

  5. Another thing that doesn’t turn up so clearly in the book is the nuance of the non-Orthodox community–there are also Conservative and Reform Jews, and people who self-identify as secular Jews. There’s nothing like that in Mormonism; we still think of Mormon identification as essentially binary, as John’s (highly problematic, imo) lumping together of intellectual/liberal/apostate makes clear.

  6. The baseball game = BYU sports

    I’ll be proudly wearing my red “Apikoros” shirt to this weekend’s game.

  7. I have to admit that seeing the parallels like this leaves a bad taste in my mouth. Yes, there are kosher laws, but I am not able to presume that they mean the same thing to a Hasidic Jew as the Word of Wisdom means to me. I was hoping the list was tongue in cheek.

  8. Norbert – that’s an interesting point. While kosher laws differ in meaning from the Word of Wisdom, they are both a cultural manifestation of an individual’s choice to comply and observe a religion. They are both taken for granted within the culture (the meaning is not necessarily dissected by adherents). To “break with” those traditions is in essence symbolic of rejecting that religious community (on some level). Both are “forbidden,” and could be seen as a temptation to become more worldly.

  9. Steve Evans says:

    Agreed, Norbert. I think we do a major disservice to the text when we morph hasidim into Mormonism.

  10. Duke of Earl Grey says:

    #6. We’re going to kill you apikorsim.

  11. Norbert — You were right. The list wasn’t meant to suggest solid parallels. I do think that some LDS grasp on to these types of parallels — but I certainly see many, many differences and breakdowns in the comparisons as well.

    But I do, for some reason, see much of my own LDS journey inside this book, and in some ways really relate to what Danny, Reuven and David are experiencing and exploring in the narrative.

    So this opening exercise was meant to see if others felt similarly — and if so…why?

    Did any of you see/feel parallels to your own LDS religious journeys within this book? If so….how?

  12. Rameumptom says:

    I don’t think I would relate the apikorsim to the liberal/apostates in the Church. In Judaism, there are several factions that from the outside are still considered Jewish – including humanist forms.

    If anything, the apikorsim would equate to other LDS factions, such as the Community of Christ (RLDS), Fundamentalist LDS, Strangites, and polygamous groups. It could also include many who stay Mormon for social reasons, while unsure of their testimonies. They all have a connected beginning, but have separated as groups (not individuals, as we usually see with apostates) along the way.

    I can just imagine a ball game between some conservative Mormons and some liberal CoC!

    Interestingly, later as Danny discusses the books he secretly reads in the library (Hemingway, etc), we see that he devours them as if they were a new gospel. Or an addition to the old gospel that he and Reuven (as well as other religious Jewish boys) are expected to study and live by. How many Mormons seek a new gospel, or long for the sealed portions of the Book of Mormon, or add Bruce R. McConkie to their list of canonized scripture? Who quotes only from General Conference talks, and who wishes to add quotes from the most recent Sunstone or FAIR Conference?

  13. Kristine said, “…there are also Conservative and Reform Jews, and people who self-identify as secular Jews. There’s nothing like that in Mormonism; we still think of Mormon identification as essentially binary”

    Really? Nothing like that?

    There are no self-identified secular Mormons? Really?

    There is nothing analogous to Conservative Jews (which I take to mean somewhat progressive and non-literal) within Mormonism? Nothing?

    “We still think of Mormon identification as essentially binary.”

    Do we? I’m not so sure about that. Not in my experience, anyway.

    I see orthodox Mormons….jack Mormons…liberal Mormons…moderate Mormons…secular Mormons….every day. All around me. And they do tend to cluster in groups. Many of them may not have brick and mortar religious homes — but they have online homes, and they have social homes.

    It’s true that we’re a young faith — so these groups have yet to gain critical mass. But I see a very wide spectrum in my Mormon associations. Very wide.

  14. Clay Whipkey says:

    Rameumpton, interesting twist about other sects.

    One nit to pick, though. Bruce R. McKonkie would actually be an equivalent to a Gaon, which is a rabbi (of a certain historical period) which ruled on the undetermined meanings of the Talmud. Thus the Geonim defined how to interpret the Talmudic mysteries.

    While McKonkie was privately discredited, and his opus Mormon Doctrine revised, he is often treated with the same kind of reverence amongst Mormons today. It seems that at least once every year I see a teacher reference MD (with book in hand) in a lesson.

    I don’t think reading McKonkie would make you an apikoros. Just the opposite, actually.

  15. One of the things that makes literature meaningful to us is when we are able to put ourselves into the story in some way. I understand what Norbert is trying to say, yet I think it is a valuable exercise to relate our Mormon culture and journeys to both Danny’s and to Reuven’s. I did identify with both characters to some extent.

    On page 154 of my copy, Danny tells Reuven about some of the things he has discovered in Graetz’s History of the Jews. Danny realizes that his Hasidic history is not as pristine as he has been taught. For the first time, he encounters the idea that Dov Baer, who invented the idea of the tzaddik, may have had some corrupt motivations. The history book describes the perversity of Dov Baer expecting his followers to bring him rich gifts, and calls this “vulgar and disgusting.”

    He [Danny] looked up from the book. “That’s pretty strong language, ‘vulgar and disgusting.'” His eyes were dark and brooding. “It feels terrible to have a great scholar like Graetz call Hasidim vulgar and disgusting. I never thought of my father as a priest of Baal…
    I never knew about any of these things…
    It’s awful to have someone give you an image like that of yourself…
    I never knew about anything like that. When my father talks about Dov Baer, he almost makes him out to be a saint…”
    He shook his head again, and the earlocks danced and brushed against the ridge of his jaw and the hollow of his cheeks. “What an image it gives me of myself.”

    I’ve cut out a lot of the quote to highlight Danny’s reaction to discovering some of the unsavory parts of his history, and how it affects him personally. Some of us Latter-day Saints have experienced this incredulity and disillusionment when we discover that our history has it’s dark side. It was meaningful to me to read Danny’s attempt to reconcile his planned future life and his ancestral background with a Mormon perspective.

    Which things will stay and which will go? For Danny, what will he hold on to and what will he reject? It’s not an easy journey to take.

  16. I know what Kristine means though. There does seem to be a legitimation processes through things like temple recommends that separates us into inside and out. Both of my advisors were jewish and self identified as such although I’m not sure either one believed in God, but they felt comfortable in being jewish that was largely defined by their own ways of defining that relationship. We do this too, as you point out, but the church has ways of defining in and out for us. It has a stamp of approval that plays out in ways that put up barriers that I sense as being boundary making. When they say for example, “Come back” they mean on their terms.

  17. John, there are many people who think of themselves as a different kind of Mormon–Jack, liberal, Liahona, conservative, mainstream, whatever, but for the purpose of official or quasi-official groups, there’s really only active and inactive. I think we’re decades (or maybe a century or three) from having the kind of well-established subgroups as Judaism, unless, as mentioned above, you count the many Restoration churches that split off in the pre-Utah period and polygamous branches of the Mormon tree. But really, the parallel just doesn’t hold–there aren’t any Liberal or Reform Mormon congregations you can go to if you don’t like your local ward (The SLC UU congregation doesn’t count!).

    In a way, I think that’s one of the best things about Mormonism as currently constituted. Especially in the US, where we’re able to easily isolate ourselves from people with different opinions or practices than ours, it’s good to be forced to learn from and love people I disagree with.

  18. Re: 13

    I see orthodox Mormons….jack Mormons…liberal Mormons…moderate Mormons…secular Mormons ….every day. All around me…
    It’s true that we’re a young faith — so these groups have yet to gain critical mass. But I see a very wide spectrum in my Mormon associations. Very wide.

    And yet you so easily lump large swaths of this diversity into the apikorsim as liberals/intellectuals/apostates.

    It’s difficult to take such a binary list seriously. If it wasn’t meant to suggest solid parallels, then perhaps taking a step back and teasing out a little more nuance would be helpful. Even if the book doesn’t.

  19. John Mansfield says:

    The book ends with a young man shaving and buying a new suit as he prepares to leave his home to be a “holy man” in a gentile world. Sounds like a pretty Mormon ending.

  20. To me, the Hasidic Jews seem like a small subset of active Mormons on the very conservative end of the spectrum. Malter’s Orthodox sect seems to be much more in line with the attitude of the largest segment of active Mormons, who are generally observant and believing, but who are open to truth from all sources, and are more comfortable interacting with the secular world. I don’t see prominent analogues to apostate Mormons in the book yet.

  21. Rory,

    Let me tease it out a bit.

    In my experience, I could see (and have seen) LDS apologists (say…Bryce Hammond, Daniel Peterson or Lou Midgley) look upon certain Sunstone Mormons (let’s say Grant Palmer or the Toscanos) w/ the same level of contempt and scorn that Danny’s baseball team felt towards Reuven’s team (and vice versa).

    In other words….to some orthodox LDS, many Sunstoners have historically been viewed as Apikorsim.

    Is that more clear as to a potential parallel? I can see it, anyway. It resonates with me and with my experiences.

  22. CE — David Malter becomes this type of figure for me. Some in “The Chosen”, but it becomes even more clear in “The Promise” (the sequel). So keep going, and let me know if it becomes more clear for you.

  23. This is why I think this is an empty exercise. Do the different sects of Judaism tell me anything meaningful about Mormonism? Not really. To pretend it does diminishes the historical context of Judaism to the point of absurdity or obscures the nature of differing opinions within Mormonism. (For, after all, they are differing opinions, not groups who identify with different religious leaders, many of whom have inherited their religious authority.)

    Does the novel say something about my religious experience? Probably, but it does so on a level of individuals seeking for spiritual truth in a complex world, and I don’t need to liken Judaism unto myself to make the novel speak to me.

    But I’ll save those details for the posts dealing with specific chapters.

  24. John Mansfield says:

    Worry too exclusively about the religous elements of the book, and you’ll miss a fine story of fathers and sons.

  25. On a deeper level, Potok’s pairs echo the psychoanalytic theory of Jacques Lacan. Lacan was a French psychoanalyst and student of Freud’s works. His most famous contribution to psychology was his formulation of what he called the mirror stage. According to Lacan, there is a crucial stage in human development when, as infants, we first see ourselves in a mirror. This marks the first time in our lives, Lacan explains, when our interior sense of ourselves is associated with an external image of ourselves. It is a moment of important identification, when we begin to develop a sense of our own identity. Lacan argues that we need external images, reflections of ourselves, to define our sense of who we are. The parallels in The Chosen are structured in this way. The complements and contrasts in the world are mirrors the characters use to develop their sense of the world and themselves.

    This quote came from sparknotes
    http://www.sparknotes.com/lit/chosen/themes.html

    I think that by looking at parallels between judaism and mormonism we can view ourselves from an outside reflection and see the compliments and contrasts in our own religion.

    I think that by looking at parallels between Judaism and Mormonism we can view ourselves from an outside reflection and see the compliments and contrasts in our own religion.

    I saw many parallels to my own spiritual journey. I was raised in a very orthodox Mormon home and was very binary in my thinking. That made it much harder for me to accept and understand the nuances of our religious history than someone brought up in an open environment much like it is harder for Danny to keep an open mind while Ruven seems to have an easier time because of his upbringing.

    I related to what BiV said about Danny finding out about unsavory parts of the history of his people.

    I saw parallels to having an experience change my world view and all of a sudden seeing things in a different light just like Ruven when he is in jepordy of losing his sight and then eventually gains it back again only to see the world differently.

  26. John (24) — I agree, the father/son story is profound. I anticipate this coming up for sure in future posts.

    Norbert (23) — It’s cool if you and others don’t see meaningful parallels in this book w/ your LDS experiences. The comparison is not at all empty for me (obviously) — but sorry if it is meaningless to many of you.

    I really felt it, though.

  27. Steve Evans says:

    John, I don’t think what you and Norbert are doing are necessarily inconsistent. I don’t think Norbert’s comments require us to reject all parallels between Judaism and Mormonism — rather, it’s just a commonsense check on our natural tendencies to Mormonize other religions in order to help them make sense in our lives.

  28. Clay Whipkey says:

    Not insignificant is the way boys react to each other’s unstereotypical sides as they discover them in their first friendly conversation. Reuven is surprised to learn that Danny doesn’t want to be a rabbi and he studies unauthorized materials voraciously. A lot of us can relate to that, because some of us have gone from TBM to heterdox or we have discovered new heterodox friends among the faithful.

    But there is also the other side. Danny is surprised to see learn that Reuven actually has a deep love for his faith and he actually wants to be a rabbi in spite of his freedom to do anything he chooses. I think this parallel is mostly missing in our culture. Mormons often assume that a religious liberal is also a moral liberal. There are a lot of religious liberals who are actually *more* spiritual and faithful than they were when they were more loyal to the institution, i.e. more orthodox.

  29. I think Norbert’s distaste for drawing too many parallels could be the beginning of an interesting discussion about Mormons’ too-glib identification with Jewish tradition and practice–after all, we believe we’re adopted into the House of Israel, and somehow that tempts us to assume a familiarity we have not earned (and which we i discard when the discussion turns to condemnation of the pettiness of Mosaic law). We should be careful.

  30. We really need to define what we mean as “liberal” here, particularly in sentences like this:

    There are a lot of religious liberals who are actually *more* spiritual and faithful than they were when they were more loyal to the institution, i.e. more orthodox.

  31. Steve,

    I think I may have been more guilty of trying to Jewify Mormonism. :)

    Kristine,

    I’m just curious — where is the danger for you in drawing these parallels? Isn’t that a core component of art (books, movies, poems, etc.)… To draw parallels to one’s own experience?

    Why careful? What’s the meaningful risk to you?

  32. Clay Whipkey says:

    Nitsav (#30):

    I am using the term “religious liberal” as someone who disconnects from the ideas of a One True Church, or any kind of concentration of God’s favor or authority in a specific church. I.E. adopting a liberal, or flexible, definition of religion… which kind of requires a rejection of authority to define it for you. That probably sounds similar to “agnostic”, but I guess I think of agnostic as someone who is ambivalent about religion in general but allows for the outside chance that some higher power exists. I think of religious liberal as being at least slightly more interested in religion and God, but just not particularly loyal to a hierarchy or human authority.

    In Mormon terms, I’m talking about someone who has no qualms in *not* following the prophet if they don’t happen to agree.

  33. Clay’s definition of someone who has no qualms about “not” following the prophet if they don’t happen to agree is interesting since the “prophets” meaning the FP + 12 often emphasize different things. So, we all align with one way over another. Liberals stress over it (perhaps feel it too much) while conservatives align with someone equally conservative, ignoring those more moderate voices, and don’t stress over it enough.

    In the book, though, Danny is the one who stresses over it. He’s raised conservative, but he knows it doesn’t answer every question he has. Reuven, OTOH, is raised liberal and doesn’t stress over it like Danny. He is more concerned for Danny’s spiritual path than his own. He can actually enjoy the journey since he’s not backed into a corner.

  34. I think mainstream Mormons are more like Orthodox Jews than like Hasidim. I’d say the Hasidim are actually more like fundamentalist Mormons, with their “frozen-in-time” clothing, belief that other Jews have gone more or less astray, mistrust of change, extremism in following commandments, and so on.

    Obviously, though, a very large difference is that Hasidim are accepted as “legitimate” (in many ways admirable, but bordering on fanatical, and a little “cultish” with their Rebbes) by the Orthodox, while mainstream Mormons consider their own fundamentalists to be apostates.

  35. John, the risk is that, in looking for what is universal in these stories, and/or trying to find Mormon parallels, we will fail to see or appreciate the richness of Judaism in itself. And we’re potentially diving into a nasty, centuries-long history of Christians seeing themselves as the more enlightened heirs of that tradition and Jews as merely proto-Christians. (This is part of the reason why it is so offensive to Jews when we perform proxy baptisms for them).

    I’m not saying you’ve done this, only that Mormons sometimes do, and we should be careful not to.

    I like the way Norbert said it–what’s universal is the individual quest for faith and truth; the institutional context is less generalizable. [yeah, I’m the one who made the snotty post about elegant language–generalizable? sheesh]

  36. Uhhh . . . I say anyone can say the book means anything they want–to them–as long as they have reasonable examples to back up their assertions.

    On some level, it doesn’t matter what Potok meant. Or what the different sects of Judaism mean or don’t mean. If John (or anyone else) reads the book and sees parallels between Judaism and Mormonism, then they’re there–at least for him.

    I’m not worried (at least not presently) about losing the richness or nuance of Judaism. I’m worried about me and my family. And we’re Mormon.

  37. Steve Evans says:

    LOL, Heather. I guess you’re right! Caveat lector, though — people can back up their assertions with reasonable examples and still be completely wrong.

  38. Yes, Steve. But who decides what’s “wrong” and what’s “right”? I hate it when people makes these kinds of claims about literature. Once it gets written, it’s open to interpretation–anyone’s interpretation. And an individual’s life experience will of course influence the way he/she interprets a book.

    So how could we say that one person’s interpretations (and, by default, life experiences) are wrong?

    Forgive the deconstructionism rant.

  39. Steve Evans says:

    Heather, it’s not deconstructionism if we start saying that the WoW is a kosher law just like the Hasidim do. That’s called “plain wrong.” Even the most ardent of pre-college deconstructionists can see that sometimes the reader is being a dolt. I admire lit-crit ardor as much as the next guy, but your argument — that interpretations = life experiences, and that therefore all interpretations are valid — is not a winning one.

  40. Unfortunately, I don’t have the time to read all of the responses, so I will make an overall comment about this post and a general response to #11:

    Chaim Potok is my all-time favorite author. About every year or so, I re-read most of his books. Thank you for discussing “The Chosen,” a book that resonates so deeply with me and my own religious experiences. I have had profound insights almost every time I read about Rueven or Davita or Asher Lev.

    The father-son relationship in “The Chosen” is almost identical to my relationship with Heavenly Father. I know He is there, I know He cares about me, but His silence has caused me so much pain. Now I see that this silence was necessary – I had to work through the pain, loneliness, and despair so that I would be humble and completely dependant on His will and grace.

    I could go on and on. I always take notes in the back of my copies of Potok’s books, keeping track of the life-changing insights I’ve found about God, my own personality, our mortal responsibilities to God, etc. Again, thanks for choosing this book!

  41. One last comment today:

    Last year for my birthday, one of my good friends gave me an autographed copy of “The Chosen” that she found on eBay. That was a precious gift to receive!

  42. Heather, if my life experience led me to believe all secrecy is of the devil, and thus ‘read’ Mormon temple worship as Satanic, is that a valid reading?

    (I’m obviously not claiming John is doing anything like this, but I want apply your theory.)

  43. Eric Russell says:

    Norbert, whether or not it’s a valid reading depends on the strength of the arguments presented when making such a claim. For what it’s worth, I think someone explaining the LDS temple experience in terms of real satanic ceremony (if there is such a thing) would be a fascinating read.

  44. If someone’s life experiences tell them that temple rituals are Satanic, then that is a true interpretation for them even if the rituals were not intended to be Satanic by the creator (Creator?). For that individual, the only way to change the truth is to add new life experiences which will adjust the perception. We can’t expect to argue people out of what they truly believe.

  45. Steve Evans says:

    Nora, let’s not confound things here. No one is questioning the existence or validity of a personal interpretation. But calling that person’s interpretation “true” is just misusing the word. They may indeed believe their interpretation, but that does not affect its truth.

    In other words, your first sentence is bunk.

  46. Clay Whipkey says:

    If John gains a better appreciation for the WoW by relating it to kosher laws, or for TBMs by relating them to Hasidim… more power to him.

    I think a lot of folks just have a hard time seeing how Judaism and Mormonism are really paralleled enough for John’s experience to be a common one.

    I have found Potok intriguing because of the loose parallels… i.e. I can relate to the questions the characters are dealing with in a quest for religious identity. But the parallels separate at key points which make the answers mostly irrelevant to my own experience.

  47. Clay, I like that last paragraph of yours a lot. Thanks.

  48. Yeah, Clay, I feel the same way.

  49. OK. That’s what I meant. Clay just said it better than I did. :)

    FWIW, I don’t think that reading The Chosen helps me understand Mormonism. But I do think it’s INTERESTING to compare my own experiences as a Mormon to the experiences of the characters in the book. That’s all.

  50. Rameumptom says:

    Clay, on #14, I’d have to say that while many LDS view McConkie as a tsaddik, especially when he held power in the 70s/80s, much of that power is diminishing.
    How many members today believe in his “7 Deadly Heresies”? How many LDS consider themselves good members, but believe in evolution? Yet, McConkie would have considered them apikorsim of sorts.
    For me, Reading his books in the 1980s was very different than reading them today. His forceful, authoritative, and unapologetic voice tends to turn me off; as it does not seem to allow me the option of thinking for myself. While an apostle, I agree with Pres Packer that the difference between him and me is that he is a special witness of Christ and has apostolic authority to guide/govern the Church. But we both work through the same Holy Ghost, and both are able to receive revelation on things.
    I’m not sure the Church would run the same today if Elder McConkie were still alive as a senior apostle.
    Even with that, there are members who fully embrace the JFS/BRM view of the world without question, and are eager to condemn as heretics those who are more open to ideas. And I’m not talking about those “leftists” who love Sunstone, Signature Books, and Dialogue! ;-)
    I’m fairly conservative and a strong believer in following the prophet. But we have a Hasidim in our own Church, as well as secular Mormons and everything in between. And sometimes those groups do not always get along as they should….

    Prop 8 discussion, anyone?

  51. Clay Whipkey says:

    Ram (#50),

    McKonkie’s influence on Mormonism is like The Beatles Influence on rock music. You can’t take a Nickleback album and parallel each song directly to the Beatles, but with the Beatles Nickleback would simply not exist. There is a chain of influence. Someone who influenced Nickleback did what they did because of the influence of the Beatles, or perhaps one more layer removed. Nickleback probably has no idea that it has been influenced by the Beatles.

    With Mormons, McKonkie was so influential and authoritative that he defined the landscape of Mormonism. Even if a modern Mormon isn’t thinking of the 7 heresies, McKonkie’s influence is still felt as they struggle against the culture to reconcile evolution. McKonkie’s definitions of Mormon Doctrine make it easier to hold his beliefs than to disagree (even if it is gradually getting easier to disagree). And these modern Mormons probably don’t think directly of McKonkie when they feel that struggle.

  52. For the love of all that is holy, can we spell his name correctly? McConkie with 2 C’s!!Ahem…

    On the De-McConkification of the Church.

  53. I actually think bunk is in the eye of the beholder, too.

    We are the sum of our experiences, good and bad. We interpret new experiences from the base of the old. That interpretation becomes truth to us. I think part of the fun in reading this book together will be in seeing how many truths we can find.

  54. Steve Evans says:

    Nora, if bunk and truth are both relative concepts in the eye of the beholder then I want no part of either.

  55. “The father-son relationship in “The Chosen” is almost identical to my relationship with Heavenly Father. I know He is there, I know He cares about me, but His silence has caused me so much pain. Now I see that this silence was necessary – I had to work through the pain, loneliness, and despair so that I would be humble and completely dependant on His will and grace.”

    Angie — Love that. Bless you.

  56. Did any of you see/feel parallels to your own LDS religious journeys within this book? If so….how?

    I personally felt your list was rather parochial. Mormonism is increasing in places other than the Wasatch Front. Further, my own experiences growing up in Utah felt much more nuanced than the initial parallels you drew. In fact, I identified more with Reuven, though I probably grew up in a more “orthodox” home. Still, my “baseball team” seemed much more like Reuven’s.

    In my experience, I could see (and have seen) LDS apologists (say…Bryce Hammond, Daniel Peterson or Lou Midgley) look upon certain Sunstone Mormons (let’s say Grant Palmer or the Toscanos) w/ the same level of contempt and scorn that Danny’s baseball team felt towards Reuven’s team (and vice versa).

    In other words….to some orthodox LDS, many Sunstoners have historically been viewed as Apikorsim.

    I think it’s pretty poor to say that LM, DCP and BH are “apologists” out for the blood of “sunstoners.” That’s a stretch. It could be argued the other way, the “sunstoners” could be shoe horned into a stereotypical Hasidism who have their own expectations, rules, etc. which are used to measure the so-called “apologists.”

    So far I am enjoying the book, but the parallels you list seem very forced imo.

  57. Rameumptom says:

    Steve, on #54, doesn’t that concept apply to the BYU Police Beat, as well?

    I can just imagine GST pushing both bunk and truth in one statement, and all of us readers crying, “Amen!” to it all!

    BTW, does anyone know if the following incident will find its way into Police Beat #11?

    http://deseretnews.com/article/0,5143,705264612,00.html

  58. Steve Evans says:

    Rameumptom, the answer is no.

  59. Rameumptom says:

    How did I do that? How did I put Police Beat Round Table and Chaim Potok’s Chosen together in one thread????

    Is the Bloggernacle affecting me too much?

    Seriously, I think both have a relation. The Chosen and PBR both attempt to view real life situations from different perspectives. Hasidic Judaism seems very strange for Reuven, as he walks down the street with Danny. Only 5 blocks means walking into a new and different world, which is both fascinating and frightening.

    So is PBR. Many of us have at least visited the Y, yet there are strange things that occur in Helaman Halls (or as a friend called it: Raising Hell Halls) that can only be truly appreciated after having been seen through the eyes of a few alumni with too much time on their hands. It is fascinating to imagine the things that can happen on the other side of campus, or on the Provo Temple grounds (see link above #57).

    Think of the tensions shown at a BYU/UofU football game. Anything different than at Danny and Reuven’s baseball game? Don’t BYU alumni think UofU to be a bunch of apostates? Are there grudges held between the BYU French and Spanish majors? Engineers and Chess club players?

  60. Steve Evans says:

    Are you just testing out the theories about how far a reader’s interpretation can be strained before it’s just completely bogus?

  61. I think in reading a book it is useful to draw parallels between the story and our own experiences. But I think it is also important to think about the story without trying to place it in our own culture and placing our own world view on it. My husband is Jewish. I was raised LDS. Growing up I read all of Chaim Potok’s book and felt a strong connection. I felt like Mormonism and Judaism were so closely connected. I saw the connection in the way the religion permeated every aspect of the Hasid’s life. I saw the connection between priesthood authority and the Rebbe. I still see many connections but I feel like writing about what is different because I think we can learn from that too.

    I would say that Hasidism and the LDS Church are both fundamentalist. However, Hasidism is only a very small sect within Judaism, the majority of which is not fundamentalist. Outside of Hasidism the Rebbe would not have any particular authority. Judaism does not have an authoritarian structure like Mormonism. Rabbis are teachers. Their authority comes exclusively from their knowledge. Rabbis often don’t agree with each other. It is central to Judaism to debate and question. If a Jew does not agree with the Rabbi they can move on to another synagogue. This is not the case in Mormonism. There is no way to legitimately be an orthodox, conservative, or reform Mormon. Ultimately if one is to be considered a “good” Mormon there is one authority to look to, and a list of expectations that must be met. In this way Danny Saunders is in the same boat as an LDS person who no longer can believe in the standard LDS way. It is painful for him to think of how to be part of his people when he does not think like them. The difference is that while Danny’s neighbors and family might consider him an apostate, most Jews would not. In Mormonism if a person cannot fit into the Church there is really nowhere else to go. If they cannot accept the authority of the Church they can’t go find another Rabbi. There is no other place for them to study The Book of Mormon and the entire Doctrine and Covenants. There is no comparison between the different sects of Judaism and Mormonism.

    I wonder if these differences come with age. Judaism has learned over thousands of years that survival necessitates having diversity. The LDS Church is still very young. It is holding together through conformity. So, what happens to a Danny Saunders in the LDS Church? What if they can’t answer the temple recommend questions believing literally enough? Where do they go?

  62. Clay Whipkey says:

    In Mormonism if a person cannot fit into the Church there is really nowhere else to go. If they cannot accept the authority of the Church they can’t go find another Rabbi. There is no other place for them to study The Book of Mormon and the entire Doctrine and Covenants.

    Are you sure? It seems to me that the Community of Christ (RLDS) is pretty much exactly like this. I think there is a stigma that is cast upon the CoC because of that one-true paradigm that Mormons have been raised in. There is the appearance that there is no legitimate “Liberal Mormonism”, but this is a young religion. It will just take time for people to see that they really do have alternatives.

  63. Rameumptom says:

    Steve, #60 – No, I’m not making it bogus. While the Chosen stays fairly stern in its makeup, there are light moments. That is what life is about, both stern and light moments.
    Your PBR is as much a part of Mormonism today as many other things. It is on the lighter side of things.
    Yet, we also see the stressors, as well. Imagine growing up in an Orem neighborhood. Your great-grandfather accepted the gospel in Europe, was disowned by family, and trekked across the world to Nauvoo and then Utah.
    This Pioneer heritage is implanted in many members’ minds, as they seek to add to that heritage. Sons are expected to grow up to be missionaries, and perhaps continue the family tradition of a bishop/stake president in every generation.
    If you were the oldest son, expectations of continuing the tradition could impose huge stress. What happens if the oldest son, the Chosen, then fornicates as a teen and is excommunicated? Or struggles over whether he should go on a mission, because that is what is expected? Or attends college, and finds out that many of the things he learned as he grew up were wrong or troubling (i.e., Joseph Smith marrying a 14 year old)?

    Suddenly, we can see in the LDS world view some of the issues facing the Jewish youth.

    Yet there is a lighter side. How does a killer baseball game first divide, then bring people together? How does LDS basketball have people wanting to kill each other on the court, only to be friends later on? I don’t think we do justice to the book if we ignore this issue, either.

  64. Clay,
    You are right about the Community of Christ. However, this is the dilemma I see. For many Mormons the Exodus story to Utah and the stories of the Utah pioneers are an enormous part of their spiritual identity. I could be wrong, but I don’t imagine the Community of Christ sings; “Come, Come Ye Saints” or talks about the Martin Handcart Story. The advantage Judaism has is that there are thousands of years of shared identity. The Community of Christ and LDS Church severed so early in their history that much of what a member of the LDS Church considers their identity won’t be found in the Community of Christ including temple worship and parts of the D&C.
    Danny Saunders is faced with a terrible dilemma which I think is similar to an intellectual Mormon in many ways, especially the stress of disappointing his family and community. The difference I perceive is that he can find another spiritual home which will have the same scriptures, the same morning and evening prayers, shabbat service, holidays, etc. In Judaism fundamentalism is the minority and liberalism is the rule (I think about 80% of Jews are conservative, reform, reconstructionist or secular, all of which are considered the liberal spectrum of Judaism). In Mormonism the majority are fundamentalists, liberals are the minority. Does this difference make a difference in Danny’s journey vs. a GA’s son?

  65. Clay Whipkey says:

    Mary, very good points. I guess I sometimes underestimate the identification with pioneer heritage. I am a convert, and I just don’t get into it at all. That there are not more liberal LDS switching to CoC all the time baffles me, but this is a great point I hadn’t really considered.

    In Mormonism the majority are fundamentalists, liberals are the minority. Does this difference make a difference in Danny’s journey vs. a GA’s son?

    I think this would explain why someone like Danny, who veers out of his fundamentalist community is still able to be very religious in a positive way, and often when a Mormon becomes disaffected the path leads to bitterness/pain to an extent. It is very difficult for Mormons to find a community that supports both liberal thinking and respect and reverence for tradition.