Fundamentalist Assumptions

This past Sunday I continued my occasional efforts at a small scale inoculation of the Saints in my GD class. (Recent forays into this have included discussion of the stone in the hat and the different sources for the First Vision.) I used Alma 7:10 as my entry point, which begins “And behold, he shall be born of Mary, at Jerusalem which is the land of our forefathers….” I asked the class where Jesus was born, and they said “Bethlehem.” So why does the BoM say Jerusalem? There were lots of comments along the lines of my own comment, that my son tells people in Utah he is from Chicago, whereas in fact he is from Hoffman Estates. But no one in Utah has heard of Hoffman Estates, but everyone knows Chicago. It has been over five centuries since Lehi and his family left Jerusalem, and Bethlehem would be a meaningless allusion to the people of that time and place, but Jerusalem figures prominently in their origin story (yes, the Lehites had an origin story, sort of like The Avengers!) and would have been meaningful to that particular audience.

I suggested that when you come across something like this, the first thing you need to do is breathe. I mentioned that I’m a fan of mixed martial arts and watch the UFC fights, and if you listen to the directions from the coaches you will often hear them telling their figters to breathe. That seems kind of weird; have they all of a sudden forgotten to do what comes naturally? But in a fight you’re in a stressed situation, and it is easy to forget to breathe properly, at a time when your body desperately needs to efficiently bring oxygen to your muscles. So if you come across something you don’t understand at first, breathe, relax, don’t freak out, remain calm.

If it is something like this, which is a hoary mainstay of old sectarian anti-Mormon polemic, you’re likely going to need to reframe the information. In this case, the person putting this forward as an argument against the BoM is implicitly suggesting that Joseph Smith didn’t actually know that Jesus was born in Bethlehem. That proposition strikes me as extremely implausible; the nativity is only the most popular Bible story there is, and it is hard for me to believe that Joseph didn’t know such a thing.

Someone in the class mentioned our usage of “Chicagoland” (sort of like “Zombieland!”), which is not limited to the City proper but includes the surrounding area. We were at the time 35 miles outside the city limits, but we were also definitely in Chicagoland. And I suggested that is the key to understanding this usage, for it places the birth in the land of Jerusalem, not the city. Tell El Amarna letter #287 reports that “a town of the land of Jerusalem, Bit-Lahmi [Bethlehem] by name, a town belonging to the king, has gone over to the side of the people of Keilah.”[1] This is consistent with the usage of the BoM, that Bethlehem is within the land of Jerusalem (Jerusalem anciently was metaphorically spoken of as a mother, and the surrounding towns as her daughters.)

To this point, this was all pretty pro forma stuff. But then I suggested for a moment that we pretend that none of the foregoing existed or mattered, that the use of Jerusalem here really is a mistake. I told them that I wanted to use this to introduce the problem of fundamentalist assumptions in the Church. In our tradition, I use “fundamentalist assumptions” as a rubric to refer collectively to a belief in prophetic [and perhaps other church leader] infallibility and scriptural inerrancy. I suggested that these things were not actually the doctrine or belief of the Church, but that our people tend to act as though they were. I shared the old joke, to the effect that Catholics are supposed to believe that the Pope [speaking ex cathedra] is infallible, but no one really does, while Mormons are not supposed to believe that the Prophet is infallible, but they really do. Church leaders, as much as we honor and respect them and observe their counsel, are not perfect, unless they happen to be named Jesus Christ. I opined that if we could magically teleport President Monson to the class, he would blanche at any suggestion that he were perfect.

On the surface this seems like a super orthodox position; it sort of seems more faithful to believe this. But it isn’t true, and we shouldn’t put our faith in that which is not true. Humans are by definition fallible and capable of error. And if we assume that our church leaders are perfect and incabable of error, we end up with a very fragile, glass-like faith.

To understand why, consider this simple syllogism:

A. Prophets are perfect and infallible and incapable of error.

B. Joseph Smith said Jesus was born in Jerusalem, not Bethlehem [remember, this is not actually an error but for purposes of this discussion I’m treating it like one).

C. In fact, according to the New Testament at least Jesus was born in Bethlehem, not Jerusalem.

D. Therefore, Joseph made an error.

E. Therefore, Joseph is not a true prophet.

Do you see how that works? Scriptural inerrancy and prophetic infallibility are overbeliefs. All it takes is one mistake for the whole tower of cards to come crashing down around you. If that in fact were a mistake and I encountered it, I would probably observe “Oh, look, Joseph said Jerusalem where he should have said Bethlehem, isn’t that interesting,” and gone on about my business. But to the fundamentalist, that simple mistake becomes a dealbreaker, and his faith is shattered.

I suggested there is nothing wrong with honoring and respecting our leaders; they are good men and women who sacrifice much for our benefit and in general do a wonderful job guiding the Church. But if we’re going to put them on a pedestal, let’s make it a pedestal like this (I place my hand at knee level), not like this (I place my hand as high as I can reach, and I’m 6’5″), because if someone falls off a pedestal like that bones will be broken!

As has been my consistent experience, no one had a problem with any of this, and at that point we continued on with the regularly scheduled lesson.

[1] James B. Pritchard, editor, Ancient Near Eastern Texts Relating to the Old Testament, 3d ed. (Princeton, New Jersey: Princeton University Press, 1969), 489, translation by W. F. Albright and George E. Mendenhall; cited by D. Kelly Ogden, “Why Does the Book of Mormon Say That Jesus Would Be Born at Jerusalem? (I Have a Question),” Ensign (August 1984), 51–52.


  1. Or the fundamentalist could believe…
    C2 the adversary’s servants got a copy of the original NT pages and changed them from Jerusalem to Bethlehem for a wise and cunning purpose.

    C3 erring scribes made a mistake in the uninspired translation of the NT. Since we know the BoM is inspired we can give precedence to it.

    I prefer your reasoning though :)

  2. There was a time where I would have never believed that such a thing could shatter a person’s faith, but I have lived long enough, and in enough different places to absolutely believe it is so. That makes me even more sad.

  3. Re: #1

    I don’t know if you are joking but those are actual explanations/justifications I have seen used for certain discrepancies. You know, something in the lines of “that must have been one of the simple and precious things that were removed from the scriptures, thus now is being restored…”

  4. Manuel – Ya I know they were actually used by JS and in the BoM themselves in regards to other topics, so they can’t be fully discredited. I’m not saying they would be better than what’s presented here though.

  5. Fabulous! I was raised by a mother who thought (and taught us to think) in very black and white terms. If the prophet is really a prophet, then the tie he picks out to wear at conference is inspired as well. I am trying to break the cycle of many things I was taught, and to teach my children the way you seem to be teaching your SS class. Thank you for expanding my horizon.

    By the way, I heard an interesting discussion between two people who were from Chicagoland. One person said he was from the Rockford area which I gather is pretty far away from Chicago but he just told people when he was at school that he was from Chicago because it was easier. The other person said he was from Northern IN and he told people he was from Chicago too. They were laughing and decided between the two of them that Chicago probably ended somewhere in a corn field in central IN.

    ‘O Little Town in the land of Jerusalem’ doesn’t seem to have quite the same flow when you try to sing it, does it?

  6. There was a time where I would have never believed that such a thing could shatter a person’s faith, but I have lived long enough, and in enough different places to absolutely believe it is so. That makes me even more sad.

    I feel the same. An excellent lesson though (going back to the OP).

  7. KerBearRN says:

    I love how you slipped the UFC reference in here. If it were my post to write, I might have gone for a Spongebob anecdote. Or maybe something about Metallica. ;)

  8. Excellent lesson, Kevin. It seems s obvioius to some that it’s hard to remember that it isn’t to others.

  9. Kevin Barney says:

    No. 7 KerBearRN, I like to slip bits of pop culture into my lessons (such as my allusion to the Avengers). It seems to help keep the class’ attention.

  10. I’m glad your lesson went over so well. My question is, does a lesson like this change how people think at all or does it remain an abstract idea to class members with no real application? People will swear up and down that the prophet is infallible, yet if someone says they disagree with something a current or past prophet said (with the possible exception of past racist statements justifying the exclusion of blacks from the priesthood), people act as though that someone confessed to eating small children, or else they rush to the defense of the principle or quotation in question as though it couldn’t possibly be wrong. It seems like people are OK with the general idea of imperfection, but they refuse to acknowledge it in an instance when they’re actually confronted with that possibility.

  11. Great fun Kevin. Thanks. Always appreciate your GD adventures.

  12. Geoff - A says:

    A number of people in my ward including the Bishop and his wife are in the you can not question anything a church leader says category. She was the GD teacher for a while and whenever someone disagreed with her the following Sunday the Bishop would give as talk in Sacrament backing her up. 6 weeks in a row was the record.

    I believe it is part of the “I know the church is true” and “the church” includes anything else I believe. So if you question anything I say you are in a state of apostasy. Their faith however is not threatened by anything they just ignore anything that doesn’t fit their version of the Gospel. Anything they can’t explain is deciet by the devil.

    I’m not sure how they do this but they do. Every good decision is inspired and if they make a bad decision they are not responsible for the consequences that is the devil. In some ways it must be great to have no doubts or questions, but it does not fit my view.

  13. John Taber says:

    And some (intermediate) editions say “at Jerusalem, which is in the land of our forefathers.”

  14. Geoff – A, I’m glad I’m in my ward instead of yours :-) and I appreciate your thoughts.

  15. Chris Kimball says:

    That’s an great lesson. Thanks for posting. It’s a good example of benefits from blogging for all of us who couldn’t be in the class in person.

    I think there are several problems with the infallibility idea, of which the fragile, glass-like faith is a very important one. Without intending any ranking, others that come to mind are:
    2. It is asserted that nobody except a higher ranking church leader has the authority, responsibility, or privilege of saying that something is wrong. Therefore, (it is argued that) all the rest of us are obliged to act as though every word from the leader’s mouth is absolute truth, until and unless we receive authoritative testimony to the contrary.
    3. A typically un-examined assumption is that leaders are right 99% of the time, that errors are possible but rare and unusual. When in fact, if one were to posit a 66% accuracy rate (for example), that would be an incredible record lending itself to rapt attention.
    4. Leaders themselves have a strong desire to be right. Obviously there is a natural human fear of failure at work, but I suspect (and true almost universally among church leaders I know personally) the stronger motive is a sincere and abiding desire to serve in the best way possible in accordance with God’s will. But for whatever reason, there is an observable tendency to backfill, rationalize, explain and justify, in order to make it appear to the audience, and perhaps more importantly to the speaker, that a prior decision or statement was correct.

  16. It’s funny, because for me one of the things I love best about Joseph Smith was his recognition of his own short comings and errors. It makes him insanely human in a world where others try to either make him an angel or a devil.

    I have heard people say that the prophets/ leaders are correct, and what you should be praying for is to know that they are correct. Terrible.

    Geoff-A I could never live in your ward. Good luck with all of that, friend. :)

  17. Great stuff Kev.

  18. If only our house was 1 mile to the East I could still enjoy your teaching every Sunday – now I have to live vicariously. I often wondered what was going through your head when I taught GD Kevin.

  19. If only you could be cloned and correlated into all the wards’ GD curricula….sigh….

  20. larryco_ says:

    “…infallibility and scriptural inerrancy. I suggested that these things were not actually the doctrine or belief of the Church, but that our people tend to act as though they were.”

    Although I’m still not brave enough to enter into “the stone in the top hat” discussion with my SS class (even though it gives the story a sort of Fred Astaire elegance), I did dabble in some mild OT scholarship when discussing Joshua. Some in the class had privately expressed concern – and rightfully so – about the book’s depiction of God having the army of Israel slaughter women, babies, old people, kitties, puppies, etc. in all of the villages they plundered. I pointed out the following:
    1. The Book of Joshua was not written by Joshua, but was written hundreds of years later by scribes. The scribes did not really try to hide this fact, using phrases, such as, saying that individuals could see the stones set up to mark the crossing of Jordan “to this very day”, something we might say concerning the Anasazi site Chaco Canyon.
    2. Ancient scribes were propagandists, not historians. My god can beat up your god was a popular theme throughout the ancient near east, and the scribes of Israel were not immune. For a people whom history shows were constantly dominated by other nation’s armies, the concept of a “golden era” from the past when you were the bad boy on the block was very appealing.
    3. Even though the Articles of Faith gives LDS’s the out with “as far as it is translated correctly”, we tend to be so literal that we would make a Southern Baptist blush in our reading. In the case of Joshua, it is not only taken literally but it is justified by saying that it was okay because “those people were pagans”. Hello, the whole world was “pagan” except for the pinpoint on the map where YHWH had chosen to reveal himself! And it was their home villages to begin with.
    4. I pointed out that I realized it is a dangerous practice to pick and choose what scriptures to believe and what not to, but I have a method to my madness. When trying to make sense of God’s dealings with mankind, I use the following sources: the NT, the OT, the BOM, the D&C, modern-day prophets, the Holy Ghost, and my own research, logic, and belief. If all of these line up except one, then that one becomes suspect. In the case of Joshua (and other god-initiated attrocities), I don’t see Jesus commanding to slaughter the Romans, Nephites to kill Lamanite women and children, Mormons to decimate Missouri, Jazz fans to anniliate Laker’s fans, etc. That, combined with the complete lack of archealogical evidence and my personal revulsion of the events, inform my personal opinion.

  21. Another problem with assuming infallibility is that is delegates thinking, pondering and even praying upwards. Those who believe it tend to let the prophet do more than just the talking – they let him do the thinking too. It is too narrow a view for those who have been promised the gift of the Holy Ghost. Where is infallibility supposed to kick in – at General Authority level, apostleship, first presidency, or prophet only? It is ridiculous to expect greater faith, obedience, revelation or perfection just because someone holds a certain office in the church.

    Two caveats. First, I’ve heard people accused of believing in infallibility just because they accept a certain belief that others don’t. This has happened even in cases where it is clear the person doesn’t accept that the church or its leaders are infallible. That is, those rejecting certain beliefs can assume that those defending them just must be fundamentalists – and believe in inerrancy, even when they actually don’t. Second, and relatedly, the recognition of fallibility can be used to reject any controversial belief … especially those that are more faith-dependent and do not have outside or independent verification. We can reject any belief by saying the prophets made a mistake. We can be religious Quineans – any position is potentially revisable or rejectable.

    The lesson is a good one – it is a shame Kevin had to use a made-up example – maybe a real example would have been too contentious as it plays right into the need to breathe than he points to. With a real example there might have been someone gasping for air in the class! The joke contrasting the pope with the prophet is a good one. I will use that here in Ireland! ; )

  22. For a time, I studied the law of witnesses for no other reason than that I found it interesting. I remember hearing Elder Nelson talk a lot about them and he even said that whenever a prophet quotes another prophet, he is leaving his second witness. Another time Elder Nelson gave a twist on that statement and said something along the lines that if a prophet speaks and his statement is never quoted or repeated by another prophet, then he is speaking as a man and not a prophet.

    This has helped me greatly with obscure quotes that are credited to Brigham Young or other prophets that haven’t set right with me. None of the offensive quotes have ever been repeated by another prophet so I have no problem classifying them as personal, non-prophetic quotes. My mom would think I was a heretic if I attempted to share this with her. Was Joseph Smith infallible? No. Was Joseph Smith a prophet of God? Yes. Insert any other prophet’s name, biblical or modern day, and the answer would be the same for me.

  23. Kevin,

    Great stuff. I think that the beginning part of the lesson was one of the key points. As soon as there’s some sort of anachronistic or troubling part of the religion (such as your example), it seems that people are so quick to offer up the explanation that you gave (WELL X + Y + Z and LA DI DA ERGO THEREFORE SEE?!?!?). And your UFC analogy is spot on – how often do we just step back and breathe? How often, when the clinch seems to be setting in, do allow ourselves to relax and re-asses our game plan? How many times to we need to back out of a situation (or a bad clinch) and re-evaluate, and say “OK, how else can I go about tackling this situation?”

    And while I’ve never heard the pope/prophet infallibility joke, that’s one I’m going to incorporate into my repertoire, since there’s more truth in that outlook in the church than people want to admit.

  24. Nice work Kevin. KC, I don’t think that paradigm will fly.

  25. imo the “never quoted twice” rule of thumb leaves just as much thinking and praying to another person as does “the prophet is infallible”. I think the point is if we do not feel peace in our hearts about something that is said from the pulpit we are supposed to search it out, pray about it, etc… Our divine nature, and the gift of the Holy Ghost entitles us to it, and demands that we use our agency, not the agency of another person.

  26. Kevin Barney says:

    Alain, I always enjoyed your lessons!

    My use of a faux mistake was intentional and strategic. This is a simple one (sort of like Joseph misspelliing the name of Symonds Ryder) and it is easy to see it as a mistake. But I started by establishing that it is not in fact a mistake, because I wanted to focus on the issue of fundamentalist assumptions and not the specific example. If I tried to use an actual mistake, people would be tripping all over themselves focusing on that and trying to harmonize it. Imagine how this might have gone if as my example I tried to use Adam-God! First, most people wouldn’t know what I was talking about, so I would have to explain it, and it’s a very complicated thing, so just the explanation alone would take the entire class, and then I’d have people arguing that Brigham didn’t really believe that, and so forth. It would have been a disaster. But using a very simple, counterfactual example like the Jerusalem/Bethlehem thing basically took the nature of the “mistake” off the table so that we could actually focus on the real issue.

  27. In defense of the fundies:

    Sure, Pres. Monson would blush at the implication that he’s perfect, but that doesn’t stop every last one of the other GA’s and auxiliary leaders from implying a (very close to blind) infallible allegiance to his words. Or – “yes, of course past prophets were explicitly wrong concerning a variety of matters, but that can NEVER apply to the prophet today”. Or – “Yes you should pray for confirmation of the prophet’s words, but and answer that the prophet is wrong is not from God”.

    In other words Kevin, what you’re teaching is extremely important for a mature and proper understanding of the role of the prophet. So, why do you have to go “off-manual” to teach it? Why can I find it taught in GC only as a side note and in rare of cases? The fundies seem to be simply taking the manuals/GC talks and local direction at face value. And remember, not everyone has a Kevin Barney in their ward. The fundamentalist assumptions are all that some people know how to make. (no thanks to the sometimes muddied voice of modern revelation)

  28. EHS I would agree with you entirely, except for the fact that the members don’t live in the ward buildings. How can people go throughout their daily lives and not know how to think? They are never exposed to anything that leads them to believe that human beings are habitually fallible? I do agree that Prophet worship has to stop. It is wonderful to be inspired by great men, but worshiping them is total nonsense, and screams of blasphemy to me. I just now saw a picture on Facebook where all the past Presidents of The Church up to and including Thomas S. Monson were wearing white suits in the Temple and a horrible superimposition of each individual’s head. Oh my it was so creepy I wanted to die. Add to that, the comments and I am teetering on the verge of vomiting. In short, the manuals, and GC talks are no excuse to not have a brain….imo of course.

  29. An Imperfect Saint says:

    I loved your example and it’s elegance. I think that a thinking, skeptical, feeling, praying, searching membership is the greatest gift we can give the church, the world and Heavenly Father.

    Since we have been called to participate in the Gospel Essentials class for this year, I don’t get all the lessons in GD. I have enjoyed reading and contemplating your comments here.

  30. Kevin, I think it was an especially great idea on your part to actually walk the class through a simple syllogism. I doubt I’d ever seen such a thing until later in my college career and plenty of folks don’t encounter explications of logic like that perhaps ever. So you picked an unloaded example to focus their minds on the principle (contra-fundy) and taught them a bit about why such contradictions make us uncomfy to begin with. Because of faulty assumptions in many cases.

    (EHS, I sympathize with your observations re: the manuals, especially the most recent George Albert Smith manual.)

  31. I guess as far as I am concerned truth is truth. And yet, the “here a little, there a little” principle doesn’t require me to assimilate every prophetic word right now as my understanding of truth. I can take a nugget, apply it, and later testify to it. (And later, I can go back to the same talk learn a different revelatory message.)

    For that matter, every word the prophet speaks isn’t going to be prophetic unless I can have the Holy Ghost confirm to me that it’s true. Things that aren’t quite right (for me, right now) don’t really add to or detract from my testimony.

    Overall, the prophet’s words certainly help to bring the Spirit, and help open the lines of communication between my heart and God. This is one of the reasons I prefer an Eyering type talk to a Monson type talk (and yes, people love the Uchtdorf talks), as the story-telling doesn’t help me connect to God quite as effectively as the doctrinal talks.

  32. Meldrum the Less says:

    I read a book about the Amish recently and have borrowed an idea from them that changes my perspective.

    Our LDS community like the Amish faces enormous change and not all of it is positive. One response is to ignore the changes, but even the Amish have not been able to remain entirely unchanged. Another is to rebel and start over, or to reject both the methods and the long-term goals of the community. About 1/3 to 1/2 of Amish youth do precisely this and the amount of hemorrhaging of our members is hard to measure. Another approach is to persevere outwardly but inwardly to withdraw from any change and our widespread apathy (flakey Mormon casserole) is hard to ignore.

    The common practice for most of us living in the shadow of the Reniassance and the Scientific Revolution was described in my book on the Amish as “innovation.” This was defined as when you continue to accept the long-term goals but in response to new conditions you change the short term methods in ways calculated to best reach the original goals. This sounds great in theory but the new unproven methods might not work any better than the old ones. The Amish reject innovation as generally too dangerous except in the smallest increments and the innovations they do accept border on the ridiculous. Maybe dark buttons instead of hooks or narrower brimmed hats by 1/2 an inch.

    What keeps the Amish from not gradually assimilating (like many of the Mennonites have who began from a similar position) is more than resistance to change. It was described in my book as “overconformity.” In the face of change the methods are clung to even more tenaciously with little logical regard to whether they actually will reach the ultimate goals. The author of my book pointed out many examples of Amish rejection of innovation by moving in the direction of overconformity. The overconformity usually had little or no logical connection to the threat posed by the change. This is how they manage to remain distinctive; they do continually change but in ways that overconform to their original methods to achieve their same ultimate goals. The Amish today are not the same as they were even 50 or 100 years ago.

    What struck me the most in my book is that many members in the LDS community have responsed to recent change in ways that seems to me to be quite similar to the overconformity response of the Amish. What is today described as “orthodox” has little actual resemblence to the Mormonism of my youth or even less to that of my father now in his late 80’s but with a sharp memory intact.


    With that windy introduction, I will attempt to understand what happened to me several years ago when I was teaching Gospel Doctrine and when I dabbled in some of the same tactics as described above. Several of my ward members were thrilled at my innovative approach and my willingness to tackle fresh ideas and controversies that had recenly reached their awareness.They still tell me how much they wish I was teaching and how much they miss it.

    A change in the Bishopric resulted in no more teaching callings for me for over 7 years. Those larger numbers of members in my ward who seem to fit this description of “overconformists” or “the orthodox” coupled with a few of their most extreme manifestation I describe as “Nazi Mormons” have silenced me and all like me. We are not called to teach, and our comments are generally ignored or ridiculed. (Except we have this new young guy who seems to be flying below the radar for the time being.) In my observation our discussions and lessons are even more narrow and extreme in support of the party line than they have ever been before. Overconformity rules the day in my ward.

    i do not pretend to be the only innovator. Not even in the top 5 in my obscure ward which would include a former Black Panther and later Baptist preacher. But many of us moved away or died or went inactive. At some point we might have had one of the more progressive wards in the area. But not any more. We ride the Iron rod.

    Perhaps I was (or we were) too ham-fisted or lacked the social skill and tact that Bro. Barney might possess. No matter, I predict (sadly) that within a decade or less Bro. Barney will be on the back row with me. My experience leads me to say to all who attempt innoculation or innovative or progressive teaching: watch your back side!

    I hope you do not have small children. I remain thoroughly amazed at the hatred and bitterness that seemingly saintly orthodox primary teachers could direct towards the sassy children of the guy with too many disturbing ideas out there. I falsely assumed that growing awareness of the need for change would create in a general way pressure for innovation. I never realized that increasing the awareness of the need for these changes might increase the motivation for overconformity among the orthodox. Our little efforts at innoculation seem to have had the opposite effect that we intended, causing some increase in awareness in a few but also causing a far stronger drive for overconformity in many more.

    This represents a paradigm shift for me. I now believe that very little gradual change is going to happen in the authorative Priesthood-driven LDS community without a significant mindshift towards innovation starting at the very top and moving down. Our efforts at grass roots innoculations or enlightenment run a great risk of failure because of this enormous tendency towards overconformity by the majority. This is so obvious in the Amish and not all that subtle among us Mormons.

    Different forces might come into play on the Internet, where the overconformity seems to be centered at certain websites and there is no way to rein in and make the entire Bloggernacle conform or behave. Here in the ether of the computer is our venue, not at the ward house at this time. But some of us think we must try and so I wish you and your children the best of luck, Bro. Barney.

  33. StillConfused says:

    Too bad Joseph Smith didn’t have the internet (wikipedia, google and the like) when he was writing the book of mormon.

  34. Meldrum the Less says:

    Or in fewer words;

    First week: Bro. Barney gives lesson on seer stone in hat.

    Next week: all deacons required to have white shirts and white pants; young women skirts and sleeves required to be 4 inches longer; minimum dating age raised to 20 years old; Fast Sunday extended to 2 days; Bethelem retroactively annexed to Jerusalem in lesson manual.

  35. Meldrum the Less says:


    i am trying to figure out why you would say that at this point even if you believe it to be accurate. According to my Amish “overconformity” theory, comments like this will only cause believers who are not wondering to further solidify their support of the good ship Mormonism in ways not necessarily rational and definitely not progressive. So, it is paradoxically a faith-promoting comment from the strong TBM perspective and probably will increase motivation for overconformity. Like half the people reading this will shut off their computer in disgust and go out and do some home teaching or something even thoughit is still pretty early in the month. But somehow but I doubt you intended it to be such. Now I am confused even more than usual.

    Most likely it will shut down all discussion right after my point I thought was really good, even though I lack the ability to make it concisely. (According to the principle of don’t feed trolls). Which is highly unfair to me and unfairness leads to anger. Which leads me to making comments threatening violence and that gets me kicked off the site. And for good reason since at a younger age they were not idle and I was inclined to carry out said threats.

    delete delete delete…

    Are you happy now? Or just joking and I didn’t get it?

  36. Meldrum, I’m sorry to hear you have encountered such opposition and recognize how demoralizing and frustrating this can be. As a member of the same Stake as Kevin and a former Gospel Doctrine and Seminary Teacher in his Ward, I’m not very worried for his opportunities to teach and his efforts to innoculate. The fascinating thing is that the Stake Presidency has recognized the need to elevate the understanding of the adult members and delve into a deeper knowledge of the scriptures, doctrine, and Church history. As a result they started an adult continuing education course that is taught on Tuesday nights where members are given the opportunity to learn the “meaty” details from teachers like Kevin. This is not the institute course material, with which I am quite familiar, but more akin to a magnified focus on a particular gospel topic with extended exploration of all available resources and references.

    This is innovation if I’ve ever seen it and it’s happening where these types of changes have often occurred, at the Ward and Stake level.

  37. The use of a faux mistake was wise because the use of a genuine and substantial mistake would lead to denials, doubts and distractions – a total disaster. But this also shows how ‘theoretical’ the whole discussion was – people could nod agreeably because nothing substantial was at stake. The shame was not on Kevin. The ‘most correct’ book on earth explicitly disavows infallibility – so why not use an actual example of a mistake in the book? Because people don’t want to hear about ‘real’ mistakes – just inconsequential or innovative ones.

  38. Saying something is “the most correct book” is not the same as saying it is infallible. If JS meant to call it a perfect book, he would have. Kevin Barney’s ecample was genius because it got to the point without losing people down all sorts of rabbit holes. He planted the seed, and whenever his students are ready to (individually) they will understand the lesson.

  39. Meldrum the Less says:


    It brings gladness to my heart to hear of these events.

    However, if my theory is correct, it would seem that we did not move from a majority of overconformists to almost none with any influence. There might be a back-lash at some point. I could also hope hat maybe “my” theory applies to the Amish but not so much to us Mormons.

  40. Saying it is the most correct book is the same thing as saying it is NOT infallible. Several passages in the book warn against believing that it contains no errors – it contains the errors of men. Kevin’s wasn’t an example of actual fallibility. But the lessons he drew from this incorrect illustration of an incorrectness were correct. My point is that the book says it contains incorrect things – the errors of men – so why not use them? Well, because Kevin’s example could avoid the sting of a real mistake – plus, since we all know it was merely an illustration – he could go straight to the point. But why not understand that his point is one actually taught in the Book of Mormon itself – although without the concise syllogism! It just means we need to do better homework with the book – surely something God expects of those with agency.

  41. Melissa says:

    This puts me in mind of a minor thread of disagreement that has been running through the GD class in my ward. It started way back with “The Psalm of Nephi” and has been very quietly running under the surface until we arrived at Alma. There is a very vocal segment of our class that scoffs at any notion that a prophet could ever have committed any really grievous sins. When discussing the Psalm of Nephi, there was a distinct schism between those who felt the Psalm was very personal, was a real genuine cry of anguish from Nephi’s soul on his own behalf, and those who felt that it was more of a poetic sermon, intended for a general (sinful) audience, and that Nephi really didn’t have anything to repent for. I was, and still am, decidedly in the former category. When we arrived at Alma, our teacher referred to him at one point in the lesson as “a wicked priest of King Noah,” which apparently caused quite a stir – I was sadly absent that Sunday, but I got the followup email in which the teacher tried to address his meaning. I inquired of the husband (who is much more faithful than I) what the dustup had been about, and apparently the vocal segment had argued that Alma was more like a Junior Wicked Priest, that he was a newbie who hadn’t engaged in any wickedness just yet, which made me scoff out loud. So the other wicked priests just picked a total innocent to join their ranks? Not likely.

    Anyway, my point in this is that the belief of prophetic infallibility runs deep and strong, back in time and even against the doctrine of repentance. And I think Meldrum is really on to something with his overconformity theory. We used to have an AWESOME GD teacher. He got really metaphysical and his lessons were never, ever boring. Lots of novel ways to look at things. When he taught EQ, he was once openly heckled in class with a “Stick to the manual” callout. I miss his lessons.

  42. Geoff - A says:

    Are you in the US or a distant place? Your title seems British. I have a sense that the further we are from SLC the more overconformist the leadership become. Bishops and SP seem to be chosen for their conformity, with the consequences both of us have experienced. Like yourself I am not invited to teach or give talks.
    I think this started with Area Presidencies. The last liberal Bishop I had was before this time.

    Alain and Kevin seem to belong to a different church as does Mike S. I think they are in Utah and Idaho and I don’t know whether they have an area Predidency or deal directly with the leaders. Do you.

    We quite often have messages from Bishop and HP Group about unity. You can achieve unity bu including all with the same core beliefs, or by excluding all those who don’t completely agree with you. Fundamentalists prefer the second.

    If you, like Meldrum and myself feel excluded, it is very difficult to remain active.

  43. An Imperfect Saint says:

    I am not sure that the physical proximity to SLC is the big issue, I think it has more to do with the political and socioeconomic diversity in an area. I live relatively close (600ish) miles from SLC but live in an area where there is a fairly wide variety of political views, and having a minority opinion is kind of hard to distinguish because so many people have a plurality of opinions.

    The only big trend I have seen in our area in GD teachers is that people who teach in their professional lives are likely to be called as teachers in GD and the Sunday school classes for teenagers.

    I am sorry that your experiences have been so disheartening.

  44. Geoff, we live in the Midwest in the suburbs of Chicago. We have an Area Presidency. We also live in a fairly diverse Stake.

  45. Funny that I stumbled onto this post, because I’m pretty sure that I have a family member in your Stake Presidency. So Meldrum, I’m pretty sure that no one is going to get in trouble for being honest about Church history. I think that they realize that the intellectual needs of everyone are not completely met by basic Sunday School lessons and that raising questions is generally a good thing. And I think calling Rockford Chicago is pushing it!

  46. “I have a sense that the further we are from SLC the more overconformist the leadership become.” This has not been my experience in Chicago or New York.

  47. Stephanie says:

    Keep ’em coming, Kevin. This GD teacher loves to hear what you’re up to.

  48. I would not dismiss Geoff A’s comments about distance from SLC, I believe he is in Australia which is quite a bit farther than Chicago or NYC. I think he is identifying something that I have felt here in Southern CA, the increased involvement of the area presidencies in day to day running of wards and stakes. The church has definitely become more hierarchical over my lifetime and I think Geoff correctly identifies increasing hierarchy with decreasing tolerance for diversity of belief. It may be that this trend is much more prominent in places very far from the core.

  49. “I have a sense that the further we are from SLC the more overconformist the leadership become.”

    In my experience, this only happens with Utah transplants – trying to keep us all in line. *Us* being the the raised in “the mission field” degenerates.

  50. Ben S (#24) & EOR (#25) Thanks for your feedback. I’m still trying to formulate all of my thoughts on this topic and I appreciate your input.

  51. Meldrum the Less says:

    Geoff #42:

    Meldrum is a Utah Mormon name, all the way. Originally of Scottish derivation, Meldrums hail from “the 4th of 5th ” wherever the heck that is in jolly old Scotland. The first Mormon Meldrum ancestor raised chickens on some of the property now occupied by the BYU campus in Provo Utah. Family lore contends the church never did tear the old Meldrum chicken coops down, they just remodeled them into Helamen halls. The reason the grass on BYU campus grows so green is half a century of Meldrum chicken poop. Since that faith promoting time, Meldrum descendants have tried hard to fertilize the church in various ways. Current efforts include the work of:

    Meldrum the Great referring to Rod Meldrum of heartland Geography fame.
    Meldrum the Wise referring to Jeff Meldrum PhD at Idaho State of human foot evolution and Sasquatch fame.
    Leaving the title of Meldrum the Less for me to claim.

    I have been exiled to Georgia USA these past few years, although i might be even further out there in ways not entirely geographical.

  52. “i might be even further out there in ways not entirely geographical.”

    Where is gst when you need him?

  53. In order to stave off brain rot in between semesters I am taking a series of Independent Study courses through BYU. The class I am taking now had a lesson today where I was reading from a 1971 GC talk by Harold B. Lee. In this talk, President Lee was discussing what a terrible state “the World” was in, and how youth were facing the toughest time in history (sorry Dark Ages or Black Plague, the hippies have you beat!) Anyway I got to thinking that the talk sounded a lot like ones you see from the 80’s or 90’s or today (Radio, ftw!) and it reminded me of the don’t let your children experience the World rhetoric that is common among fundamentalist belief structures.

  54. Meldrum the Less says:

    Maybe this thread be dead. If anybody is still out there.. I contemplate the ramifications of the overconformity idea and wonder what is to be done about it?

    For example in Melissa”s ward (#41) with the infallibility-prophet stream of interpretation flowing through the sunday school course, what would be the wise plan of action? A few decades ago I would have blasted them in class, boldly and unashamed, mixing in some of the language of J.Golden Kimball. A more mellow part of me would suggest inviting the strongest voices over to the plantation for dinner and perhaps around a back yard fire with a simmering stack of Dutch ovens producing mouth-watering whiffs of the culinary delights soon at hand and our kids bouncing on the trampoline together, I might challenge them gently.

    But if these direct courses of action are more likely to result in overconformity, and in ways that might bite my children in only a few short weeks, is the gentle approach a wise course of action? I never figured out why one member of my Bishopric came so unhinged at typical teenage sass, when he slapped my then 13 year old daughter in the face at church hard enough to knock her to the floor. He had eaten at my table and been the seemingly agreeable recipient of my gentle approach on several occasions.. Perhaps a coincident? Perhaps not.
    But then are we to sit silently and wait to die?

    And what about the next logical step, a theory of “over-NONconformity?”

    (You might have seen hints of it in our youth.Take that perfect little boy camping, who is the son of the strictest parents in the ward. Why is he such a flaming fire bug? Why does he try to burn all his gear and the entire forest down? How many gallons of lighter fluid can such a boy squirt into a campfire before he gets bored? Apparently more than 4.)

    One advantage of the authorative LDS church is that if the leaders get behind any activity then the way is paved in gold. Bro. Barney seems to have this advantage and I am painfully aware that I did not. So then the question becomes, how do we influence the thinking of our local leaders in what they will allow? How do we gain their support in what we teach when they typically never attend our classes? (Maybe an advantage in my case.) Rumors about great happenings in other stakes? I get such a kick out of J at #45 who says he knows my leaders and states that I am safe when in fact he does not know them all as well as he thinks; since they have “lovenly” kicked my ass on many occasions and effectively quashed me already for being honest about church history and many other more critical issues.(Notice past tense.)

    If we suddenly find ourselves a leader, the responsibility becomes enormous. I doubt I could now shoulder that which seemed light when I was cluelessly younger and by extension doubt that many others can do any better. If most people are going to blindly follow you as their leader and you really don’t know what you are doing, then how is that not the blind leading the blind? The workability of a lay priesthood in light of the overconformity theory is not apparent to me any more.

    (I feel so much like a pathetic adult-child begging a domineering & unreasonable parent, not the Kingdom of God.)

  55. #54 – Fwiw, I believe strongly in the concept that there must needs be opposition in all things – not necessarily because it is “God’s will” but more because it simply “is”.

    I also believe that the lay ministry with which we struggle is both the glory and the downfall of the LDS Church – being a prime example of opposition in all things and the extremes that opposition creates. I wouldn’t change it for the world – until I’m tempted to do so by being in a ward that exhibits the absolute conformity extreme. What stops me from wanting it to change is having experienced the other extreme and just about every stage between the extremes. When it works, it truly is glorious to behold.

    Uniformity (and demanding it) is the easy way, and I try to remember that when I’m frustrated the most and not chalk it up to something more insidious or nefarious than a reliance on the natural (wo)man by someone who doesn’t understand and can’t implement a more ideal leadership paradigm. When good people do their best, sometimes it still isn’t good – but they are doing their best. (The leader who slapped your daughter is an entirely different thing altogether, but there are unacceptable extremes even at the unavoidable extremes within such a structure. Imo, he should have faced church disciplinary action and possibly legal charges for something like that.)

  56. KaralynZ says:

    Unfortunately, Meldrum, my response to over-conformity has been to become inactive. The Church has so much good in it but I agonize about subjecting my children to an environment that quashes thinking for themselves.

  57. KaralynZ says:

    And if a Bishop or anyone else slapped my child in the manner you describe I would be calling the police and filing assault charges.

  58. I agree about reporting physical abuse!

    I worry that a lot of time leaders don’t report all kinds of physical, mental, emotional and sexual abuse. I think it is even more important that as “average members” that we don’t assume that leaders are going to do the reporting that needs to be done.

    I know this has gotten pretty far off topic, but #54 reminded me of several experiences as a teenager that I watched helplessly. I had no idea what to do, but at least two of the times there were other leaders present.

    I also have seen a lot of the “fire bug” type kids come through the scouting programs I have worked in as an adult. Twice I have had to report a situation. My experience corresponds to yours, it is usually the most strict families that create the chance for that kind of rebellion. I don’t know all the reasons for that, but it is certainly something for all youth leaders to be looking for.

  59. Great post… so relevant and applicable!

    I have had little success with similar efforts to “inoculate” those in my ultra conservative and orthodox ward/neighborhood in Utah County (when I have substituted to teach gospel doctrine lessons, when I was instructor for the HP group, and in various lessons/trainings/comments made in meetings when I was in a bishopric for several years)… With the exception of one prominent ward member who repeatedly treated me badly, everyone else was always civil and kind to me and my family, at least as far as I know (while I did often feel ignored and/or tolerated)… and pretty much I think everyone just kept on thinking the way they have always thought… I have seen some members become more entrenched in their over-belief orthodoxy, but most seem to have just disregarded me and my comments and continued on with life as normal (maybe they felt a little sorry for me for what they perceived as my lack of faith/testimony?!). I also have had little-to-no success with my immediate family (also generally ultra conservative and orthodox LDS). The only person it has seemed to work with at all has been my wife (over many years of marriage)… I have seen her go through the entrenched over-conformity phase, but slowly over time, with countless discussions, she has started to come around a bit…

  60. Meldrum the Less says:


    Just an amusing scouting story as an aside.

    We have these two 12 year old boys, best friends in the non-LDS scout troop. The father of one is pretty strict but also kind. The father of the other is gone and his mother is not very good either. These two boys are always causing trouble and they set a garbage can on fire in the church following a camping trip. (Passed off requirement …? No.) Older boys put the rapidly expanding fire out but they couldn’t hide all of the evidence very well and didn’t tell any adults. The church officials found out and they were already about fed up with us because of previous vandalism. This was a very serious matter.

    The boys in our troop fear most going before the Senior Patrol Counsel (the 8-10 of the elected leaders from a troop of 60-80 boys). They fear it far more than anything related to any adult and that is where the matter was referred. The two quivering boys were brought in with heads bowed abjectly and made their apology nearly in tears to the SPC and awaited their punishment. The buck’s patrol leader suggested that we build a chair with leather straps and electrocute them to death. Adult leaders in the back of the room gave this suggestion the swift silent two thumbs down sign and the senior patrol leader wisely asked for other suggestions. The “world-famous” bullfighter’s patrol leader suggested sending them on a 20 mile night hike alone with my son who was a beastly 17 years old at the time.

    The two guilty boys begged: Could we just be electrocuted instead and get it over with quickly?

  61. Meldrum, it sounds like we have a lot in common, if you want to check out my blog, and email from there, I would love to swap funny stories. I grew up in a scouting family (as in parents, especially my mom, who always had official or unofficial callings in scouting, and did a lot of work at the council level) and so I wasn’t surprised or horrified when I started getting scouting callings. My husband grew up outside the church, and he was in a troop with 100+ guys. They had a similar structure where the older boys ran most of the troop and were the ones that did most of the discipline. Anyway, if you wanna talk more,

    Anyone else is of course welcome to check out my blog, and talk about scouting, or whatever else you want to talk about!

  62. bemasuja says:

    Question: Which is worse, a GD class, or a G-D class? Sorry, I couldn’t help myself. My son tells me that G-D is lost on his generation (he’s my youngest, aged 29). I could theorize on the reasons for that, if it’s true… But continuously hearing GD in my (editor’s audio-tuned) mind as I read along, kept making me laugh.

    I have loved reading this thread, and empathize with the condition K Barney speaks to. I also empathize with those who’ve experienced persecution or near-persecution because of their questions, beliefs, or ways of thinking. In my own experience, praying praying earnestly praying before I teach a lesson, and praying constantly for inspiration in responding to beliefs I find repugnant or even moderately upsetting either in a class or in daily life, has been my salvation. Right now I live in a wonderful ward in Utah Co full of the best-hearted people you could ever hope to know. They are pretty much ultra-*orthodox*, but would never think of deliberately alienating anyone. They just go on as if nothing had happened. It pretty much drives me crazy.

    Change will only come when we persist in speaking up, mildly and humbly. It’s not just *their* job, but ours too. I was once called into my bishop’s office for a word I used in a Sacrament Mtg talk (even tho’ it’s a word that shows up with some frequency in the O.T.). I did challenge him gently, and when he asked me what I thought a bishop should do to maintain a spirit of respect and reverence, I said I felt that forgiveness of (perceived) flaws, and helping people feel safe, are primary. I also apologized (why not?), and thanked him for caring so much about our ward. Not too long after that I was called into the Primary presidency (yes, through his agency). But another of the results of praying has been to remind me that even though I’ve sometimes been blessed with surprising inspiration (believe me, these answers wouldn’t have come from my own inclinations) in responding to a nutty idea/comment, it’s not my job to fix everybody.

    On the other hand, I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to forgive myself for not having reported the severely abusive mission president under whom one of my children worked (even tho’ there are good reasons to fear the potential responses of the Missionary Committee). On the other hand (now I’m feeling like Tevye), I had no qualms at all about *breaking the rule* and calling my son every week during the last quarter of his mission. It is just weird that there are fewer checks on mission presidents than on any other higher calling in the Church.

    So anyway, this has been a thought-provoking GD discussion.

  63. bemasuja (62) your son is incorrect, I am almost 32 so I am part of his generation and G-D is not lost on us. Also, if it were me, I would be more inclined to see a calling in the Primary as punishment more than anything. :)

  64. bemasuja says:

    Yeah, I checked with one of my other kids and it wasn’t lost on her either. For the life of me I can’t understand how I overlooked that part of his education.
    At the time, I enjoyed the calling in the Primary Pres’cy, especially since by then my bishop had mysteriously decided i could do no wrong, and welcomed my “creativity”; but of course that wasn’t my point.

  65. bemasuja says:

    Oh, and btw, if I were to see any child slapped as described in one of these posts [I’m too lazy to look back and find the poster], I would call the police immediately. Thank Heaven for cell phones.

  66. Melissa says:

    Why don’t I speak up? I have a husband and two kids. I can handle blowback, but won’t put the husband or kids through it. The oldest will be a deacon in two years. I also cowardly justify my silence by telling myself “the uber-righteous already consider me a fake Mormon anyway, so they won’t listen to a thing I say.” I also can’t go toe-to-toe with some of them in quoting either scripture or arcane points from ancient general conference addresses. So I quietly express my disagreement to those in my general vicinity, but I only raise my hand when I can miraculously pull an actual scriptural reference out of the worthless part of my brain where data like that is supposed to rest. I firmly believe that, given my questionable gospel cred (only two kids, wildly dyed hair and a tendency toward bald-faced truth about my faith and family) my statements will carry no weight with my ward unless I have a hard scriptural citation behind them.

    KaralynZ, I feel you, sister. I question all the time if I’m making the right choice in bringing the kidlets to church every Sunday. There is SO MUCH good, but so much to feel deeply uncomfortable about.

  67. it's a series of tubes says:

    Meldrums hail from “the 4th of 5th”

    I believe you may be referring to the Firth of Forth :)

  68. bemasuja says:

    I believe Meldrum was making a little joke.
    Some of my ancestors come from near that Forth fiord, and I’ve been known (and groaned at) for similar word-play.

  69. Meldrum the Less says:

    Thanks for helping out with the Scottish geography. If I could only come up with some witty retort….
    But I think the joke is my memory playing one on me. (Fifth of fourth instead of fourth of fifth?)
    My next burning question, do they make good scotch whiskey there and sell it in fifths?

    Melissa and all y’all: what exactly is a “fake Mormon?” Like, am I fake?
    One with genuine doubt, weakness and faith? One with unquestioned sappy certainty?
    Maybe neither?

    Like me or not- it is my church.
    I refuse to be kicked out. I refuse to kick myself out neither. I am the church, part of it anyway.

    Maybe those missionaries should have thought about it some more before they came preaching around the Firth of Forth in the 1800’s (and more than a dozen other places) and having us haul those damned pitiful handcarts across the plains, etc., if they think I am “fake” and someone else is not.

    I read somewhere the number one thing people look for in a church is AUTHENTICITY!

    As for the kidlets (seeing it from the other end of the cycle): The kids soon learn how to take care of themselves. Parental influence is about 10 times as strong as anything in the ward house. That which does not kill them only makes them stronger. Sometimes they wreck holy havoc with the over zealous types and it is satisfying to watch them fight, even be bruised and sometimes go on to win their own battles. If the parents on one side of a continuum pull their kids out, the average shifts in the opposite direction and it is so much the worse for those who stay or return. But it would be inaccurate to describe it as anything except a battle.

    I say gird up your loins and take them kidlets to church and pray for those who spitefully might use them and persecute them. Cause they will be the ones needing it, probably sooner than later, when it comes to youth.

  70. I’ve been off surviving a week-long family reunion.

    Meldrum, I’m not leaving, even if there has been many a Sunday morn (especially in the years we’re 9-12!) when I have groaned at the thought of enduring another group worship. I feel the same way – it’s my church too. I won’t be run off. And truth be told, there are actually a LOT of us rolling our eyes and biting our tongues at the vocally hyper-righteous segment. I need to remind myself that I am not as alone as I often feel I am.

    What constitutes a “fake” Mormon? I just pulled that term out of thin air, and have to admit I have no criteria for it. Ironically, I won’t fake what I don’t feel – I don’t bear my testimony because my testimony is weak and uninspiring. It’s a downer! I don’t currently have a recommend because I’m still wrestling with God and am not at peace with the church as it currently exists on earth. I don’t believe modesty has much, if anything, to do with clothing. I am a peg that fits nowhere and the vocal conformists don’t care for that. I’m probably still carrying some teenage baggage that blinds me occasionally and makes me leap to assumptions about what others think of me. But I am again reminded of what I said above – I’m not as alone as I often feel I am. And I can think of several people who have come and gone in our ward who seemed really drawn to me and felt comfortable with me, maybe because I refuse to put on a veneer of perfection. Those who are drawn to perfection can flock to the “perfect.”. I will happily be friend to the flawed! Birds of a feather. Hello, fellow bird.

  71. Hank Hill: So, Gilbert, how do the Saints look this year?
    Gilbert Dauterive: Oh, I am more familiar with sinners than saints, my dear. And sinners always look good.

  72. Meldrum the Less says:


    Y’all sound bona fide to me.

    One thing that helps is what is called the smorgaboard approach. Since I admit that I can’t do it all or maybe even half, then I am allowed to pick the good parts I an and want to do. If YM is toxic then I don’t take my teenage boy to it. When the early morning seminary teacher is really good I throw the full weight of my effort and creativity in that direction. (I take credit for the concept of Bermuda time. Seminary doesnt start at 6:00 am, it starts at 9:00 am in Bermuda. And its 3:00 in the morning in Bermuda, get to bed you rascals.)

    When to speak and when to be quiet is the most difficult question. The book I read also talked about the power of silence in the Amish community. The level of communication in their family and community has so much depth that silence is powerfully deafening. We have so much noise and so much phonyness and flakiness that silence is usually golden. Ah, well.