Liveblogging “Mormonism and the Internet” at Utah Valley University, Day One

Mormonism and the Internet Livestream Feed

Schedule of events here.

List of participants here.

Readings and Resources here.

The conference kicks off today at 8:30 a.m. MDT

Liveblogging in the comments below.


  1. UVUtv’s station has some funky country music going on right now.

  2. Live stream is working. Conference is late starting, as usual for any Mormon studies event.

  3. Fifty viewers on the live-stream. Proud to be one of them.

  4. Researcher says:

    I didn’t catch the name of the man who is giving the introduction. Anyone know?

  5. Boyd Petersen

  6. Jim Faulconer admits he doesn’t quite get involved in the internet.

  7. Faulconer: his writings are much more available to a broader audience on Patheos then they could have ever been in print.

  8. Researcher says:

    Faulconer: writing … a form of addiction…

  9. Faulconer: impossible to figure out your audience with so many possibilities.

  10. Faulconer: “people on the internet can be surprisingly mean.”

    You don’t say!

  11. Ardis: (playing off of old anti-drug ads) “If you don’t talk to your kids about Mormon history, who will?”

  12. Wishing I could listen from Kyrgyzstan, but the live feed isn’t working too well here.

  13. Researcher says:

    Nice. I enjoyed Faulconer’s musings about why he is on the internet.

  14. Ardis Parshall, riffing off of the drug campaign: “Parents, if you don’t tell your children about Mormonism, who will?”

  15. Researcher says:

    Oh goodness. Thanks for the shout-out, Ardis. [Blushing.]

  16. Researcher says:

    Ardis has described the greater Mormon virtual world and is now discussing the community at Keepapitchinin.

  17. Ardis give a good overview of trolls.

  18. Researcher says:

    Ardis: the silent community of people who read but don’t comment; the people who arrive by googling (her posts about bandlos, dressing the dead, names of particular people in Mormon history)

  19. Researcher says:

    Ardis: mentions new site

  20. Patrick Mason: the bloggernacle has changed the face of Mormon discussions.

    He’s also hesitant to offer a lot of critiques of the blogs, because his mistakes would soon be trumpeted throughout the internet.

  21. Researcher says:

    Pat Mason: …with all the bloggers here, if someone doesn’t like what I say, the whole world will know about it in 30 seconds…

  22. Ardis, I enjoyed what I was able to hear of your words and I look forward to reading a transcript later. Thanks Reseacher for your additions too.

  23. Researcher says:

    Mason: reviewing his study of graduate students and their use of the bloggernacle

  24. Over a hundred graduate students surveyed, and over 80 blogs were mentioned as read regularly. This shows both the broad and fractured nature of the bloggernacle community.

    Only five blogs were listed by more than five people: FPR, JI, FMH, T&S, and BCC (by far the most).

  25. I was going to say that Patrick doesn’t have an online presence, but he will now with the new Peculiar People column on Patheos.

  26. Most graduate students who participate in the bloggernacle are not in Mormon Studies-related fields.

  27. Researcher says:

    Mason: balkanization in the blogs, polarization, internet Mormons vs. chapel Mormons; graduate students concealing participation on the blogs, don’t want to be “tainted” in the job market; but some say that the blogs help construct a method for explaining Mormonism

  28. Patrick Mason is awesome. That is all.

  29. Researcher says:

    Mason: overwhelming male participation; blogs strengthening feminism

  30. Discussion of why men dominate a lot of the academic-ish blogs.

  31. Researcher says:

    (These are comments and themes appearing from his study.)

  32. Researcher says:

    Mason: No single published work of Mormon scholarship will get two million readers (hits?) like BCC did last year

  33. More important question is not what the bloggernacle does for Mormon studies, but for the Mormon mind.

  34. I admit sometimes feeling quite nervous about my blogging becoming an impediment to future professional opportunities. Anyone else?

  35. The tension Mason is describing between democratizing research and knowledge in Mormon studies versus professional training is a fascinating subject for further contemplation, imo.

  36. Researcher says:

    Three excellent speeches.

  37. His commentary is great, but we need to remember that he’s talking about grad students and grad studies, and doesn’t really apply to all blogging.

  38. Researcher says:

    Taking a break. Waiting for someone to make a face at the camera like that Australian kid at a recent general conference.

  39. Killer conference so far. So glad they are streaming it.

    Although this break is killing me: can barely hear all the mingling going on, and I wish I could be taking part!

  40. Researcher says:

    Agreed, Ben.

    Now they’ve cut the video and audio feeds, but I don’t know if the elevator music is any better. : )

  41. lesmblake says:

    Did anyone else fail to get the TV stream up and running this morning? Wondering what is wrong with my setup here.

  42. Researcher says:

    When you pull up the link:

    you have to click on the “UVUEVENTS” button on the left side. The regular UVUTV is running something else.

    Also, you might need to update or switch browsers or browser utilities. (It’s been years since I’ve done tech support, so good luck if it’s something technical.)

  43. Has it started again yet? I’m still getting elevator music.

  44. Not yet

  45. And we’re live again.

    Also, I blame the conference for not getting anything done this afternoon.

  46. lesmblake says:

    @Researcher, thank you. Looks like I might be out of luck, however. I tried three different browsers and just get a blank black screen. I can watch archived material though, strangely enough.

  47. Ben, I’ll relay messages for you to everyone here.

  48. Brooks: difficult to get used to the speed of the internet and the patterns of digital narratives.

  49. I love that this is being streamed – and for free! Major kudos, everyone. This is fantastic.

  50. I agree that it is so nice that this is being streamed! One suggestion for next time in case the organizers are following this thread: add a direct feed from the computer video so you can switch over to the slides and make them more visible, or at least zoom in on the slides when the speaker is referencing them. Also, the stream has a very occasional odd Max Headroom effect where the stream hiccups and the last second or so is repeated. But I hate to complain really since it is so nice to be able to attend.

  51. Seems like she has been reading Daymon Smith’s dissy.

  52. Peter LLC says:

    lesmblake–I had to wait several minutes watching a black screen before the live feed popped up, so try giving it some more time.

  53. This is an excellent keynote from Joanna.

  54. That was absolutely fantastic.

  55. Great piece by Joanna. Well done. Shows more of the rigor that lurks behind her more popular-themed columns at RD.

  56. Joanna turns the question around on the fellow from missionary publishing…

  57. Wow.

  58. Most of the blogs keep just talking about polygamy, race, lgbt, and stuff, says this dude. Friggin never read my book reviews, dammit.

  59. profile police seriously calls Bott a “scholar of Mormon studies.” Nearly everyone in the conference laughs.

  60. #60, I was listening/watching at home, and I loved seeing the expression on Joanna’s face when he said that. Priceless.

  61. #60, it was funny until he clarified, accurately I think, that many Mormons would actually perceive him that way because he teaches at byu reEd dept.

  62. Lady says she’s terrified that part time students are in charge of vetting online profiles!

  63. #63, after my experience it doesn’t surprise.

  64. First question is about the LIMIT of scholarship, etc. Because there aren’t already giant cultural limitations enough…?

  65. Mason: “I wonder when Mormonism become afraid of truth.”

  66. Next question regards when Mormonism became afraid of truth. When did knowledge and truth become antithetical to faith, whence the fear of our history?

  67. Oops, it’s actually Patrick. Nicely put, too.

  68. Mason: Mormonism “has adopted secular modernity” to understand truth “without even knowing it.”

  69. Ardis says no one begins with themselves, they look at Robert E. Lee or king whoever from the past. They discover family story from great aunt Maude isn’t true their whole family tree falls apart. People don’t get to know the basics and piece things together from the start. She’s blogged about this before, no? Excellent points.

  70. *begins with themselves in regards to genealogy, she’s comparing history with genealogy work.

  71. Researcher says:

    Mason: we don’t have to be afraid of our history.

    Ardis: people don’t want to start from the beginning. They don’t want to do the groundwork. They want to explore the limits of knowledge without laying the foundation.

  72. Ardis: Internet “scholars” want to see the edges, without research to understand the edges.

  73. Rather than thinking we were stupid, we’ll look to others to blame them, says Jim. There seems to be some truth there.

  74. Wade Englund says:

    Mason: “I wonder when Mormonism become afraid of truth?”

    Is it “truth” that they are afraid of? Or opinions masquerading as “truth”?

  75. Researcher says:

    Faulconer: modernist tendency to think there’s only one way to know. When our knowledge is challenged, instead of thinking that we were stupid, we look for other explanations. A serious problem — naive scientism with which we approach our history and questions of faith.

  76. Naive scientism with which we approach our history and questions of faith, says Jim. YES. As far as him not wanting a theology, I think we DO already have theologie(s), so just not wanting an official theology doesn’t fly, people treat Gospel Principles manual, etc. as a theology. Mormons often operate on the assumption that there is a complete theology within the church and they simply don’t know it all.

  77. Jim F: There is a naive scientism in which we approach our history and faith.

  78. Researcher says:

    Question: is the church hiding things? (Actually, statement. The church is hiding things.) I’m waiting for the question.

  79. Questioner says she feels she has been deceived by the church based on the white-washing. She fears anti stuff too because it is biased, like the church’s stuff is biased. Her Q is where to find that truth, middle ground.

    [I’d say, there is no such thing as “just telling the story in a truthful way” strictly speaking, and one of her problems is hoping for someone else to do everything for her]

  80. Patrick: read dialogue and JMH.

    Joanna: listen to mormon matters podcast.

  81. Patrick says Deseret Book wont sell them, people dont know or trust them perhaps as a result.

  82. Joanna says to look at the fear in the light of day and analyze it.

  83. Researcher says:

    AEP: Crowd-sourcing on the blogs can help

    JF: In the end, the onus is on you to decide what is truth.

    AEP: Spend some time at the Church History Library. Look at primary sources. See what’s available.

    JB: Questioner’s use of word “fear.” Where does the fear of revelation come from. Are we trained to feel shame about polygamy. Fear can be replaced with resiliency or hope.

  84. Researcher says:

    PMason: Narrative has developed to defend the characters due to early attacks on Joseph Smith’s character.

    JF: deconstruction is not destruction.

  85. Researcher says:

    Question: how to take online participation into real life.

    PMason: most of time off-line. Blogs can be self-selective if we never hear things we don’t want to hear. Wards force you to deal with people different than yourself. Notes Eugene England, Why the Church is as True as the Gospel.

  86. Researcher says:

    JF: the blogs can result in some classism. We need to be exposed to people different from us.

    AEP: online all the time. Safety valve. Provides life of the mind.

    JB: inactivity. The internet helped me come back to activity. There were places where feminists were talking online.

  87. JB: (After crying): “I just bore my testimony of the internet”

  88. Does anyone have a question I can relay?

  89. I’m loving seeing some of this live and actually seeing these folks on the panel.

  90. Jim F: “When I told my mission president’s wife that I was going to study philosophy she started to cry.”

    I had a similar experience.

  91. Jim says keep on “thinking strange things and doing the right stuff,” accrue social capital in order to keep on in the church, is Jim’s response, but this doesn’t fully address how to levy criticism, propose alternatives, etc. within the church environment itself.

  92. BHodges via the narrator!

  93. We just completed the online loop.

  94. My wife gets mad at me when I don’t speak up.

  95. break for lunch

  96. We should hold a dual online reception in Second Life in that crazy Zarahemla location to match the one at the Orem Institute.

  97. Starting up again…

  98. 120-150 in attendance. About 120 watching online this morning.

  99. Quickmere Graham says:

    Dehlin doesn’t know if he’s a doctoral candidate or not….

  100. Dehlin quotes the Jensen “Kirtland” apostasy comment without the interesting follow-up.

  101. Which follow-up?

  102. re # 86, that is an excellent point by Patrick Mason.

  103. You mean the aftermath? Or what he said immediately after his comment?

  104. A shout-out to the ill-conceived MormonThink.

  105. Briefly, why ill-conceived?

  106. Listening to Dehlin makes me realize how significantly helpful online Mormon communities have been in my faith journey

  107. Makes me wonder which has helped more people: Mormon Stories or FAIR?

  108. Helped more people to what? :)

  109. This FAIR speaker is being far to polemical IMO

  110. How about FAIR Mormon Stories? ;-)

  111. Good point, Trevor. Considering Dehlin’s reference to averted suicides, I would say, “which has literally saved more lives?”

  112. Tod — clever.

  113. Avance is shaping up to be the best paper of the conference.

  114. Wade Englund says:

    “which has literally saved more lives?”
    Are you referring to spiritual lives?

  115. Quote of the day: “DON’T Google Joseph Smith.” Represents the impact of the internet today.

  116. Wade — no, physical lives.

  117. Physical lives are so insignificant in comparison to spiritual lives. You have to look at the bigger picture.

    People who kill themselves go to a better place. Better damned in life than damned in eternity.

    Am I right, or am I right?

  118. Wade Englund says:

    Ben, Is that the role of Apologetics?

  119. He’s not really striking the right tone, especially following on the heels of John’s presentation. This third speaker should give an interesting perspective between those two speakers.

  120. WOOT John Durham Peters alert, John Durham Peters alert!

  121. Wade Englund says:

    What is the “right” tone for this conference or session?

  122. This parallel of conversion vs. de-conversion narratives is very interesting

  123. Good one, narrator.

    Wade, no, but since Dehlin brought up stories of desperate members that were considering suicide, I thought a comparison would be interesting.

  124. This is an interesting paper so far, but it seems like she’s painting in very broad strokes here, collapsing a lot of the distinctiveness of differing online temperaments into a dichotomy I’m not sure holds up well. Also, distinctions about “literal” belief start to get fuzzy depending on how far you zoom in.

  125. Interesting comparison of structural/functional similarities of former and current Mormon testimonies, deserves further study, too.

  126. I think her point is that the broad strokes provide a master narrative template for which testimonies start to conform. Several years ago I saw a great presentation about coming out narratives that made a similar point.

  127. Not to be overly pluggy but I explored some of those issues in an old FARMS Review piece on Shawn McCraney.

  128. Rosemary’s paper was tremendous. Really great stuff. Hope to hear more from her.

  129. I think there’s something universal about that particular narrative, which is why it works for conversion stories across cultures around the world, as well as de-conversion stories. It’s the narrative of enlightenment, and it clearly works well for millions people.

  130. TheNarrator, if you’re still around, I have a question I’d like to pose to this panel. I wonder if any of these three could comment in the problem of selection bias that these online communities creates? It was talked about briefly earlier in the other panel and here with regard to Eugene England, but this seems like a good place to bring it up again. What are ways they recommend of avoiding selection bias, or of even allowing selection bias to creep in (mostly for Mormon Stories for that one-FAIR has an obvious up-front bias that John Dehlin’s work doesn’t have)? Do they find that people who stick too much to one online community have difficulty discussing things with people from other online communities?

  131. @CarlC just like people who only get their news from Glenn Beck have difficulty discussing things with others? Yeah, I think it’s definitely the case.

    Some people roam around these communities and so experience a diverse range of opinion, but others focus solely on echo-chamber-type groups.

  132. I hang out in the Mormon Stories groups and I find it to be much more of an echo chamber than John Dehlin (by his own admission) wants. Was just curious what these 3 would have to say. It’s not that people have problems discussing thing as they find they stick around with general narratives that reinforce their own.

  133. People who are in greatest need of an alternative (read: online) community are often the ones most likely to participate. From what I see, recently de-converted Mormons are the ones feeling the greatest lack of validation and community, hence their proclivity for monopolizing group conversations.

  134. Give me truth, but only if it fits my predetermined narrative – Scott Gordon

  135. The same goes for the other side as well

  136. Why does anyone still speak as though it were possible to be “objective” in matters of faith? It makes for terribly unproductive discussions.

  137. “Why does anyone still speak as though it were possible to be “objective” in matters of faith? It makes for terribly unproductive discussions.”

    Because, to a certain community, it makes you sound more authoritative. Echo chambers, etc. Sigh.

  138. CarlC, sorry I got selfish and used my own question.

    And I have no idea how Scott was responding to it.

  139. Unplanned moment of humor when John Dehlin, incredulous, asks, “So you’re saying FAIR seeks objectivity?”

  140. Insightful explanation by John Dehlin as to why change takes so long in the Church.

  141. @CC, totally. I really wish we could get those authorities’ comments on the record.

  142. Why does anyone still speak as though it were possible to be “objective” in matters of faith?

    I dont know. I like what NT Wright has written about this and apologize before hand for a long but imho very relevant and important insight:

    “There is no such thing as Neutral’ or ‘objective’ proof; only the claim that the story we are now telling about the world as a whole makes more sense, in its outline and detail, than other potential or actual stories that may be on offer. Simplicity of outline, elegance in handling the details within it the inclusion of all the parts of the story, and the ability of the story to make sense beyond its immediate subject-matter: these are what count.….When, therefore, we perceive external reality, we do so within a prior framework. That framework consists, most fundamentally, of a worldview; and worldviews. as we have emphasized, are characterized by, among other things, certain types of story. The positivist and phenomenalist traditions are wrong to imagine that perception is prior to the grasping of larger realities. On the contrary, detailed sense-perceptions not only occur within stories; they are verified (if they are) within it. The crucial thing to realize is that what the positivist tradition would see as ‘facts’ already come with theories attached; and theories are precisely stories told as the framework to include ‘facts’…where before the Western world has tended to divide knowledge into ‘objective’ and ‘subjective’, a less misleading way of speaking would think in terms of ‘public’ and ‘private’ knowledge. The publicness of certain sorts knowledge is not threatened, but rather enhanced, by the fact that particular people are doing the knowing. The hard-and-fast distinction between objective and subjective must be abandoned as useless. If anyone, reading that sentence, at once thinks ‘so there is no such thing as objective knowledge’, that merely shows how deeply ingrained the positivist tradition has become in our culture, just at the moment when its perpetrators have finally admitted it was wrong. ….assuming for the moment a Christian worldview, to be argued in more detail on another occasion, we can at least say this: knowledge has to do with the interrelation of humans and the created world. This brings it within the sphere of the biblical belief that humans are made in the image of the creator, and that in consequence they are entrusted with the task of exercising wise responsibility within the created order. They are neither detached observers of, nor predators upon, creation. From this point of view, knowledge can be a form of stewardship; granted the present state of the world, knowledge can be a form of redeeming stewardship; it can be, in one sense, a form of love. (If misused, it can of course become the opposite of all those things: knowledge may be seen as a gift designed to be used in stewardship.) To know is to be in a relation with the known, which means that the ‘knower’ must be open to the possibility of the ‘known’ being other than had been expected or even desired, and must be prepared to respond accordingly, not merely to observe from a distance.

    The critical realism offered here is therefore essentially a relational epistemology, as opposed to a detached one. The stories through which it arrives at its (potentially) true account of reality are, irreducibly, stories about the interrelation of humans and the rest of reality (including, of course, other humans). Furthermore, the crucial stories themselves are, of course, a vital element in the relationship both between those who share a worldview (who tell one another stories to confirm and fine-tune the worldview) and between holders of different worldviews (who tell one another stories designed to subvert one another’s positions). This model allows fully for the actuality of knowledge beyond that of one’s own sense-data (that which the ‘objectivist’ desires to safeguard), while also fully allowing for the involvement of the knower in the act of knowing (that upon which the ‘subjectivist’ will rightly insist). Such a model has, I believe, a lot of mileage. It may serve as something of an Ariadne’s thread to guide us through the labyrinths of New Testament study.

  143. The feed just cut out for me.

  144. John Dehlin gets applause from the audience on his appeal for more honesty in the portrayal of controversial historical issues.

  145. Scott Gordon’s answers are not convincing, and the audience is not buying it

  146. Nevermind, it’s back. Carry on. Hopefully I didn’t miss too much fireworks.

  147. Back to what Jim F was saying, it is wrong to assume that religious truth is found in scientific modernism.

    Both John and Scott are falling for it.

  148. Wish the feed didn’t come back. Things are spiralling out of control.

  149. Scott is talking about the role of the manuals-how they’re not to teach history. But he’s failing to realize how the fact that the church membership do get their a lot of their history from the manuals and sunday school. He is saying the church ought to be better about portrayals of certain events, but still makes the point about the role of the manuals is more faith-building and “treat your [wife] better.”

  150. It’s been very interesting to have a non-Mormon scholar’s perspective here.

  151. Watching an academic conference, and a Sunstone Q&A session broke out.

  152. Yeah, they need to end this, now.

  153. @Ben P I noticed the same thing. The audience seems most interested in that realm.

  154. I’m starting to feel a little bad for Scott. What’s the feeling like in the room itself? . . . because through the internet it just feels . . . awkward.

  155. Scott just claimed the Church has no position on evolution. Don’t let R. Gary know that…

  156. We could never have enough non-Mormon scholars’ perspectives.

  157. Rosemary confesses to being mystified at what constitutes doctrine

  158. Oh good, the non-Mormon scholar is finally weighing in on the difference between authoritative statements and just the things apostles say that are still given much weight. Her confusion is good, because it points out how difficult it is to sort these kinds of issues out.

  159. I’m back, but the liveblogging doesn’t give enough details! When will recordings go live?

  160. FYI Dave Banack also blogged this conference here:

  161. StillConfused says:

    Sad I missed the afternoon session… clients actually make me work sometimes

  162. Doesn’t look like Patrick Mason’s Eugene England Lecture is being streamed live.

  163. Mason: traditional narratives of War in Heaven describe an unfavorable God who hungers for power and uses violence for his ends

  164. Mason: If mortality is training for godhood, then we should emulate Gods persuasion through love, than humanities coercion through power

  165. Mason: Book of Mormon is a tragic narrative exemplifying the futility of violence.

  166. Wade Englund says:

    Has anyone counted the number of times the word “narrative” was used so far during this conference?

  167. Mason: Early Mormon revelations are clear: violence is Satan’s realm.

  168. #168. Welcome to academia.

  169. Mason: I’ve never heard Kimball’s talk on war quoted in Church.

  170. Want more papers on Mormon pacifism, check out

  171. #171: Nibley likes (liked) to quote it a lot, though.

  172. As did Eugene England.

  173. Mason: God can make treasure of junk, but he doesn’t want us to make junk to transform

  174. #175 was in response to the claim that war opens countries for missionary work.

  175. Thanks to everyone who posted here about what was going on at the conference.

  176. Thanks for the liveblog!

  177. Researcher says:

    Oh that was fun to help comment on the proceedings. I only got to see a couple hours yesterday, and don’t know if I’ll be able to see any of the conference today due to the time difference and prior commitments, but I like the concept of web broadcasts — I’ve also participated in a few in the congenital heart defect community.

    Perhaps the MHA and other organizations of interest to the Bloggernacle community could consider broadcasting at least a few sessions of their conferences as well.

    And thanks to UVU for hosting this very interesting conference.

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