The Trouble with Manifestos

Or “Manifest Manifestos manifesting meh”

We seem to be in an era of bold conservative statements in the church and its environs. There is the recent manifesto on Radical Orthodoxy, put out by the Givens family and their programming friends. A couple of months ago there was the Utah-based, cowboy-conservative, actually-fascist Ride to Reclaim America manifesto. I’m sure there have been others. Who knew what Marx would reap all these years later?

In this piece, I’m going to focus on the Radical Orthodoxy manifesto, both because it has “Mormon-famous” signatories and because it isn’t actually fascist. In fact, it goes to some ends to distinguish itself from alt-right Mormonism, in spite of having some signatories from that corner of the internet. But, unfortunately, it winds up misdiagnosing the problem with the Mormon alt-right and, as a result, throws support their way. I’d be surprised if there is a single member of DezNat who disagrees with anything in this manifesto.

Of course, it is hard to disagree with most of it. It has clearly been worked over in the editing room as it’s assertions are of the blandest and least controversial variety within Mormonism. Stating that you support the Brethren and Jesus Christ, while feeling free to express your intellectual curiosity in Mormon theology, isn’t a bold statement of truth; it’s the ticket of admission to the proverbial high priest’s quorum discussion (well, that and appropriate anatomy).

The manifesto seems to declare the distinctions between its adherents and the alt-right’s adherents in two clauses. First, it states:

Radical orthodoxy is radical because it promotes bold exploration beyond what is familiar, and therefore rejects the obstinateness of fundamentalism. It is willing to revisit many facets of our received paradigm in order to apply the revealed doctrines and principles of the Gospel to the unique challenges of today. That includes—under the tutelage of modern prophets—a revolutionary reconsideration of traditions, paradigms, and applications of the Gospel inherited from prior generations.

The problem distinguishing yourself from those fundamentalists is two-fold. First, if you are advocating “fierce fidelity to revealed truth” elsewhere in the document, which they do, then you are just arguing over which portions of Mormon doctrine and culture are sacrosanct. Second, you are arguing, albeit inadvertantly, that the alt-right’s “fundamental” reading of the gospel is possible. When someone from DezNat memes “Brigham Young did nothing wrong,” they aren’t exhibiting loyalty to Brigham or tradition, they are being bigots. There is a difference.

The second clause is as follows:

We love all of God’s children and we cultivate a soft-hearted temperament that rejects the spirit of contention towards those with different views, even while we vigorously defend the truth.

While the age-old position of the tone police is well-respected throughout the internet, there is no-one in Mormon rhetoric, sincerely or insincerely, who doesn’t claim to reprove betimes with sharpness, but with an increase in love thereafter. Thanks to Elder Bednar’s talk on offense, the difference between contention and “vigorously defending” isn’t even in the eye of the beholder, but rather in our own mysterious hearts. How dare you get offended at my entirely-justified rebuke of your false doctrine!!

The truth appears to be that the Givenses and their crew are trying to stake out a space in Mormon rhetoric where their approach to Mormonism (question whatever you want, so long as you agree with the Brethren in the end) becomes the new standard. But that was always the standard; they’re not adding anything new or useful to the conversation with this. And, ultimately, the alt-right trolls among their signatories and their friends will use it as cover to spread their hatred further in the church.

Comments

  1. Cynthia L. says:

    It’s the Chicken Patriarchy approach applied to the whole of the church and its doctrine. The last two paragraphs of ZD’s analysis of Chicken Patriarchy apply perfectly well here too.

  2. keepapitchinin says:

    The alarm bells for me come in with collecting and publicizing “signatories” is that it becomes a movement-within-a-movement of those who self-proclaim a more faithful status than Church members at large: “we stand with prophets/Deity; if you don’t stand with us, you don’t stand with them.” Political causes promote themselves this way; believers do not.

    I know a few of the signatories personally and respect them; many others I know from reading their writing over the past ten or fifteen years, or through watching their social media involvement. I would much prefer to follow their *individual* leads in bearing testimony and teaching truth, than in seeing them support a more-faithful-than-thou clique. I’m sorry, dear friends, but this reeks of posturing more than of discipleship.

  3. I suspect, but cannot know, a family dynamic somewhat different than what is suggested by John C’s reference to “the Givenses and .. their crew.” Only one Givens is listed as an author.

    Though I doubt that some of the signatories with whom I’m familiar through their writing intended their signatures as posturing, I would not be surprised at posturing from some others.

    I do wonder what motivated the creation of the document and its publication with added signatories. I also wonder why the authors chose to use the “radical orthodoxy” designation for their position statement, as it is generally used to describe the movement founded by Anglican John Milbank and others. In the document, these authors neither acknowledged that common, prior use of the term nor distinguished their LDS version from it. If they explained elsewhere, I haven’t yet found it.

  4. True, Wondering, but Fiona and Terryl are listed as signatories and I rather suspect this is an attempt to signal something more than familial support.

  5. I read this the other day and I honestly don’t get it. What’s the point? Why gather signatories? Is there some debate or conversation about this going on that I am not aware of? Sincerely asking, not trying to be snarky. It just struck me as really bizarre.

  6. I respect many of these writers. I don’t get it either. Seems like pushback over some of the recent abortion debate prompted drawing new blurry lines in the sand. It’s a philosophical word salad that may comfort those who draw up Des Book publishing contracts.

  7. I’m comforted to see so many puzzled comments above. The radical orthodoxy manifesto is most obviously a form of virtue signaling. But to what end? It’s hard to picture anybody being included or excluded from a conference or a job or a publication by sole reason of signing or not signing. And if there were such a place, that would be tantamount to schism.

    I can take it personally, as in taking a signature as an indication that a signer does not want me in the conversation. I’m sure that’s true of some. But I didn’t need a document to know that. And I have enough prior knowledge and experience to know that is not true of all. So again, what’s the point?

  8. I’m involved in this effort, and I’m not surprised to see how it has been misunderstood and misrepresented. We have supporting articles (linked on the main page) that flesh out the guiding principles in the manifesto, and I recommend going through those.
    A couple of points to consider:
    1) If it’s so bland and uncontroversial, then why has the alt-right/DezNat crowd raged against it, with intensity comparable to the progressive response?
    2) You assume a lot about motives and intentions in this post. Why not engage with the authors directly, in a ten-questions or similar format? Do you honestly assume that your feelings and gut reactions are that reliable a guide to reality about other people’s motives and intentions?

  9. The problem with radically believing that you should follow everything the brethren (meaning the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve Apostles) proclaims means that you have to find that you agree with stances that were patently harmful, wrong and bigoted, such as the Racial Priesthood Ban. In regards to my own life, trying to live according to their proclamations nearly killed me, when I tried for decades to subsume my identity and expression as a transgender woman to the policies and proclamations propagated by them. However, I still believe they are prophets, who have received divine keys to minister the covenants that will ultimately bless all generations of the earth. I believe it makes more sense to believe in their divine authority, but to also believe that they often mess things up, just like I mess things up in my life. I believe there is grace sufficient for the whole process. I was denied access to the temple initially only because I made choices to proceed with social and medical transition. I refuse to believe that those are inspired changes, and they were traumatic for me, but I also feel peace that my choices have saved my life. it is well to question what you want, but if you stand with the brethren in all things in the end, it can be dangerous. The consequences can be more than just painting yourself into an unsustainable corner that you cannot agree with in the end. Dialing down again and again on always acting as if modern revelation were an exact data dump from heaven, would have us believing that blacks could only have the priesthood if they had first repented of some sort of hereditary sin arising from Cain murdering Abel. It would also have (quite literally) killed me in my circumstance. I hope to be able to return to covenants someday, but not at the cost of oppressions that are harmful.

  10. Thanks, Dan Ellsworth, for pointing out the links to the supporting articles. I’ll read them — and not only to see if they answer any of my questions.

  11. I get that the term “radical orthodoxy” is intended to be a paradox, and that the purpose of the document is to promote a more humble approach to living the gospel. In other words, you can (and maybe you should) remain loyal (orthodox) to the institutional church, while actively
    expanding your gospel and secular knowledge (radical) to gelp orhers. The problem is that both of those words are so socially and politically hyper-charged these days that the message gets lost in the rhetoric.

    Perhaps a better word combination might have been “open minded obedience”, “curious humility”, or “mindful discipleship” or something else along those lines.

  12. A couple of hard truths about this discussion:

    Any criticism of the Manifesto from someone in the camps the authors are seeking to distance themselves from is going to be perceived as reinforcing the need for the Manifesto, regardless of how legitimate the criticism is.

    A primary reason for signatories is because the authors are nobodies; meaning that beyond a small corner of online Mormondom no one knows who they are, and even within that small corner there are few people that take them seriously.

    As pointed out in the OP, the Manifesto actually says nothing more than “I really really believe in the Church, and will play within the parameters of whatever sized sandbox they determine.” It’s a confession to nothing new, and little more than an attempt to distance the signers from the perceived ills of liberals and alt-right folks. They’d be better off re-branding Mormon Scholars Testify, but if they took that route the authors of the Manifesto would actually have to gain some genuine credentials first.

  13. Drawing political lines in a religious community is inevitably destructive.

  14. “Radical orthodoxy is a Christian theological and philosophical school of thought which makes use of postmodern philosophy to reject the paradigm of modernity. The movement was founded by John Milbank and others and takes its name from the title of a collection of essays published by Routledge in 1999: ‘Radical Orthodoxy: A New Theology’, edited by Milbank, Catherine Pickstock, and Graham Ward. Although the principal founders of the movement are Anglicans, radical orthodoxy includes theologians from a number of ecclesial traditions.”

    I haven’t yet read the 1999 book. Are the authors and signatories of the Manifesto signing on to this school of thought, but merely with an LDS twist?

  15. Hi Dan,
    After spending a couple of hours looking through the tweets, I’ve seen one rage rant, a few accusations that Spencer Marsh (whom I don’t know at all) is insufficiently faithful, and a lot of meh. That’s been about the progressive reaction as well, so far as I can see. I guess you’ve staked out a careful middle where most who disagree can look at it and say, “It’s fine, I guess.” Congrats!

    “Do you honestly assume that your feelings and gut reactions are that reliable a guide to reality about other people’s motives and intentions?”
    WIth DezNat? Yes. With these folks? Mostly (this isn’t my first rodeo when it comes to reading the works of Nathaniel, J. Max, and Mr. Thayne). But all that being said, what motives do you see me inappropriately maligning in the OP? I’m happy to be corrected. The Big Three are, of course, welcome to defend themselves as well.

  16. As a general matter I have no objection the idea of trying to remain faithful to the things that we as church members are committed to accept as authoritative while remaining open-minded and willing to question tradition. It’s something that I affirmatively try to do.

    But I fundamentally disagree with any definition of LDS orthodoxy that goes beyond the boundaries that the church itself sets up and enforces. If we have to err, I’d much rather err on the side of overinclusion rather than underinclusion. Similarly, I’m also extremely wary of attempts to define or enforce orthodoxy by anybody that hasn’t been called of God by prophecy and by the laying on of hands and sustained by the membership of the church with authority to do so. I guess for me it boils down to this: while some boundary maintenance may be inevitable, it should be done sparingly, with a light touch, and probably in private as opposed to in public, and practicing it should be strictly limited to those who have authority to do so. The consequences of introducing division into the body of Christ are too severe to risk doing so unnecessarily.

    I assume that the authors would say that they’re not attempting to define or enforce orthodoxy in any manner different from the way the church does. I guess I have to wonder, though, if they’re not, then how is this not duplicative of what the church already does?

  17. Right now we’re living in the most productive and interesting period ever for Latter-day Saint history and theological scholarship. Very few of the people who signed this manifesto have contributed any of that work. Overwhelmingly, the work we see from these signatories is about defining what constitutes faithful scholarship–not actually doing the scholarship.

    That’s why John C.’s assessment is exactly on point. The manifesto is about defending a certain kind of political conservatism in a corner of Mormon academia that has become disturbingly amenable to the alt-right. Having read the work of many of these signatories for decades now, I believe that many of them helped lay the groundwork for the alt-right among our people. I don’t think most of them foresaw where their work was leading, but that’s not especially relevant to where we are now. If these LDS scholars and aspiring scholars are disturbed by their present association with the alt-right, their best course of action would be to spend a long time studying what they see in their mirrors.

  18. IIRC, Orson Scott Card coined the term “radical orthodoxy,” at least in its LDS context, in an essay called “Prophets and Assimilationists” found in A Storyteller in Zion.

  19. To follow up on Kristine and Jared: for however bland and uncontroversial it might be substantively, in the authors’ implementation it amplifies the worst in Mormon culture’s clickishness and boundary policing. Among other things, signatories are added “at the discretion of the authors.” Which means that even if you want to be a Radical Orthodoxist you have to get by the gatekeepers to be in.

    That seems, as Kristine pointed out, particularly destructive in a community that sets baptism as its sole boundary (and even that boundary isn’t absolute: we welcome and embrace plenty of people who choose to attend but choose not to be baptized).

  20. BlueRidgeMormon says:

    So as others have pointed out, these times – – of gospel topics essays, Joseph Smith papers, LDS scholars on center stage instead of on the fringes – – these are times of abundance for those of us who value both faith and intellect. Which is great. While we used to need to speak of the different accounts of the first vision cautiously and carefully, we can now teach it right out of CES manuals. The difference between the old “Truth Restored” and current “Saints” is striking.

    Nevertheless that also means it’s somewhat inevitable that we have reached the “boundary maintenance” portion of the program for Mormon intellectuals. Which (in my view) is less great, albeit predictable. I guess it’s a bit crowded in the pool now, as opposed to the old days. I’m someone who has enjoyed (and continues to value) the writings of many of the “signatories”, and am even a close friend of one of the underlying article authors (wasn’t that an epic Rush concert Dan?)… But i’ll confess I do find this whole thing a slightly strange exercise in boundary maintenance among the intelligentsia, and it’s probably irretrievably self-referential. Not sure what the purpose is, really.

    And while I’m friendly to the “position” staked out by the authors, if not the title (I’d prefer “mindful discipleship”), I think it also attempts to “systematize” something that’s highly personal and ineffable. Grappling with faith and reason is endlessly engaging for some of us, and I love reading the developed thoughts and musings of others who enjoy some of the same puzzles I do. But trying to develop some kind of unified theory of how it all “works” strikes me as impossibly futile – – something I observed, for instance, when recently teaching early morning seminary for three years. Some of the youth saw no conflict between science/reason and scriptural accounts, they saw the limits (and differing purposes) of each, and they even thrived on intellectual engagement with the questions/tensions raised, particularly as it pertained to what it all meant for how to live one’s life. But other youth genuinely struggled with even the subtlest suggestion that Noah might not have fit two of every species in existence on one boat, in any literal sense. Which for me only reinforced the conclusion that figuring out one’s way “through” a mindful, scholarly faith journey is profoundly personal – – although the perspective from other can/might sometimes help.

    Which is why (to stick with the example of Dan, since he’s active on the comments here), I personally enjoy and geek out on his “foundational” linked article on epistemology…. but I also recognize that it easily fails the challenges raised by a few of the commenters on the article, as well. In the end, this is fun stuff we do: we engage our minds and our spirits and we try to make sense of it all. But Venn diagrams and manifestos that define and lay out the proper path or balance between questioning and orthodoxy? Meh. It’s ultimately too personal and defies the sort of systematic categorization and analysis being attempted here. What works for you may not work for me.

    And the risk, of course, is that the architects of the boundaries essentially alienate some of their would-be allies, as illustrated already in this very comment stream. I will openly confess that (other than those of a few of the published authors) I don’t know many of the names being thrown around, and nearly all of the subtleties and nuances and fault lines being referenced here are lost on me – – which i suspect simply tells me that I’m not the intended audience for the statement about radical orthodoxy in the first place. I don’t even know who to root for here, since I don’t have a dog in this fight. But like all boundary maintenance, it looks like it just puts people on one side of the line or the other, and I’m not sure to what end. When the former Sunstone crowd reaches a certain critical mass, the infighting begins! That’s all this looks like to me.

  21. I’m puzzled by both the manifesto and the response to it. Coupled with the previous exchange of posts and responses regarding abortion. All valid posts; all interesting responses, but the whole thing makes me wonder: is there some sort of bloggernacle turf war going on? Or an I just seeing patterns in mist?

    Someone pointed out it is weird that the manifesto requires approval to add signatories. Also interesting that OP here associates the manifesto with alt-right (without naming names, so I’m not sure which signatories OP is referring to). This would be a potential guilt-by-association fallacy, were it not for the fact that the writers of the manifesto are supposedly exercising discretion in allowing new signatories. If the authors are exercising this discretion, one would assume that the association as signatories means something.

    All in all, like many others here, I’m not sure what to make of the whole thing. I had to read the manifesto multiple times to try to parse it out, but it doesn’t look like anything new, really. And I’m not sure about the desnat or alt-right association or support. I don’t see much detail in the post here. I really don’t know what to make of this yet.

  22. It is mostly a Millenial Star reunion, no? Ok, M* and the conservative wing of Times and Seasons. I mostly just wanted to be on a thread with SmallAxe for oldtimes sake. This all has me missing 2007.

  23. Also, I can think of a number of people doing radical orthodoxy. Joseph Spencer and Adam Miller come to mind. Not on that list.

  24. Christopher says:

    My first reaction was that this doesn’t strike me as orthodox enough for J. Max Wilson.

  25. stephencranney says:

    A manifesto signer here. There’s a lot of speculation here about motives, so for what it’s worth, I was approached and asked if I wanted to sign the “manifesto.” As also noted, it was pretty bland and uncontroversial, so I didn’t see any reason not to. After seeing who else signed on I suspect that this is in part an attempt to corral together like-minded people who fall in the niche of right-of-BCC, but-left-of-Millenial-Star. I don’t see why this should be a problem for anyone. We all enjoy having tea with like-minded people every once in a while.

    I do know that there’s been some concern in various circles that the online LDS discourse is dichotomized between people who are opposed to the Church on hot-button social issues and those who stick to Sunday School soundbites, when there’s a strong demand out there for a third way, and I suspect this group is trying to cater to that demand. Again, this should not be a threat to anyone unless they feel that the social left deserves a monopoly on intellectual LDS discourse. (E.g. I suspect that some of the strong reaction to Givens’ abortion piece a few weeks ago stemmed from this sense of threat, but I won’t speculate too much about motives).

  26. “We love all of God’s children and we cultivate a soft-hearted temperament that rejects the spirit of contention towards those with different views, even while we vigorously defend the truth.”

    Implicit in this statement is the notion that the authors are absolutely convinced they know exactly what the truth is and that any thing contrary to their formulation is an imperfect expression of the truth, at best. While I do believe in the notion of a singularly eternal, unchangeable truth, it is arrogant to presume that any human being—even a prophet—or collection of human beings knows what that is in its fullness, especially since, as Hugh B. Brown once observed, Mormons do not have a monopoly on truth.

  27. My primary concern with this Manifesto of “Radical Orthodoxy” is a question: Would this position allow the publication of Dr. Lester Bush’s “Negro Doctrine: An Historical Overview”?
    Without the (likely unorthodox) conclusions of Lester Bush, would we have moved past the conclusions of Brigham Young?
    While I recognize that evaluation in hindsight is “cheating,” this is an example where the general authorities of the church were either complacent with this policy rooted in racism or examples of “obstinate fundamentalism” that the manifesto eschews.

  28. JD, great question. In effect it goes to the meaning of “radical.” In other words, when in the course of evolutionary change in the Church does it become permissible to investigate and talk and write? If always after-the-fact that lends a very shallow meaning to “radical.”

  29. Friend, if you’re going to call people alt-right, name them and justify the charge. Because it comes across like you’re making a very serious accusation casually just for rhetorical flourish.

  30. Friend, DezNat is alt-right and it only takes a little perusal of Mormon social media to discover which of the signatories mimic them and court their friendship. I’m not alleging a vast conspiracy here.

  31. You said some of the signatories were alt-right. Who? Who on that list are you under the impression shares a worldview with Richard Spencer?

  32. I said some of the signatories hang out with Deznat. They court friendship with the alt-right of Mormonism.

  33. Art,

    John does not say that.

  34. Guys, I can read. It’s right here: “the alt-right trolls among their signatories”.

    Again, who’s the alt-right troll on the list?

  35. I think alt-right adjacent is more accurate.

    Gerald Smith is an active blogger at Millennial Star, an alt-right blog. A number of the others realize that right-wing extremists are influential in the Mormon market. That coziness is more what John is getting at from what I understand. But I could be wrong. Most of the people on that list are “no enemies on the right” types. Alt-right might be less than accurate. Of course, I don’t call DezNat alt-right. I just call them Nazis.

  36. If we went with “right-wing troll” rather than “alt-right troll,” I would be willing to name names. But, of course, I am a left-wing troll. I have a few friends on that list (okay, just one). But most of this is weird boundary management.

  37. “Millennial Star, an alt-right blog.”

    Fellas, you gotta get out of your echo chambers, this is beyond silly. The people at Millennial Star do not believe in an ethnostate or anything remotely close to it. They have given no reason for anyone intelligent to suspect they do. It doesn’t benefit anyone to just make stuff up like this so please stop.

  38. Art,

    I have been around these parts a long time. I know what I know. I am talking to right-wingers like you, not much of an echo chamber, eh. Also, narrowly defining “alt-right” to the point that in encompasses nothing is an interesting trick. But I don’t fall for it. One more thing: When responding to me (I am fat, but still a singular person), why the hell are you addressing me as “fellas.” Is the part of some new Mormon passive-aggressive BS that I have missed the development of?

  39. Chris,
    Defining alt-right, a term of known provenance, as conservative so that it encompasses everyone to your right is an interesting trick. But I don’t fall for it.

  40. Art,

    You are clever. I don’t think it is the best label. I do have a label for you. But I don’t want Steve to ban me. Goodnight y’all.

  41. Art,
    I’ve been clear and continued to clarify. I’m tired of this.

  42. Read it. Thought about it. Will now ignore it. I dislike the creation of clubs or cliques.
    Wouldn’t want to sign because apparently there are entrance requirements. I’ll stick with the “children of God” club. No one can toss me out of that one.

  43. Art,
    I’ve thought about it and decided that you should get a more thorough response. Not a better one, but a more thorough one.

    As the second paragraph, I make clear that, when I am referring to the alt-right throughout the piece, I am referring to DezNat, which I consider to be the Mormon-flavor of the alt-right, both because major adherents to that hashtag are actually racist, sexist, etc. and because they borrow the alt-right’s tactics: lots of memes, lots of Pepes, lots of “ironic” offensiveness. I then continue to connect my use of DezNat and my use of alt-right throughout the rest of the piece (see paragraph six, for example). Then, in the final paragraph, I only use the term alt-right, without also using the term DezNat. I had thought that, by this point, I’d established a pattern sufficient to indicate that I was referring to DezNat with that, but I have either failed to account for your lack of contextual reading comprehension or your deliberate obtuseness. Which it is, I cannot say.

    I can say that there are members of the signatories list who regularly interact with DezNat folk on twitter. It doesn’t take much to find them. Good luck, Friend.

  44. After reading the linked articles on the radicalized orthodoxy website, it appears that this group is really about fighting against softening toward LGBT, softening toward a non-historical BoM, softening toward a non-divine Jesus. (I don’t know that I’ve ever seen progmo’s argue that last but I suppose the manifesto writers had to get Jesus in there somehow.)

    My guess is that Givens article abort abortion is an example of how they will do that. And really, I imagine many sunday-attending LDS want this and would prefer a hard line in the sand to make progmos leave.

    I find it funny that they even use the idea of a ‘big tent’ to do this. It’s also interesting to note that while the manifesto claims to be centrist, the three poles holding up their ‘big tent’ are all related to progressive ideas with nary a mention of fundamentalist ideas. Since the tent poles seem to be more actionable than the manifesto itself, I imagine that the chastisement of fundamentalism is really about being branded as fundamental themselves rather than actively doing anything about fundamentslists.

    As an overall strategy to controlling norm boundaries within the church, it’ll be interesting to see how it works out.

  45. This is such an unabashedly male/patriarchal document. There are women signatories, but it’s dripping with the righteous testosterone. This is man cave stuff. Or cave man stuff. Not sure which. Yet, I don’t mind in the least that they set out this type of manifesto; it’s good to clearly define your approach to life. And it’s very difficult to do that. But this surely doesn’t float my boat.

  46. John C-

    Although technically correct, you are giving your readers a very misleading impression that I need to correct. You write: “there are members of the signatories list who regularly interact with DezNat folk on twitter”

    This is correct. What you leave out is that these interactions are generally very adversarial. Indeed, the preponderance of DezNat reaction to the LDS RO manifesto has been derisive and hostile. (Which was not a surprise.)

    Stephen Cranney (a signatory) commented above that:

    there’s been some concern in various circles that the online LDS discourse is dichotomized between people who are opposed to the Church on hot-button social issues and those who stick to Sunday School soundbites, when there’s a strong demand out there for a third way, and I suspect this group is trying to cater to that demand.

    He’s absolutely right. Our view is that mainstream, General Conference-version of our faith is not only compatible with but invites proactive exploration and engagement with gospel principles. As such, we are not motivated by opposition or reaction to things we disagree with but by embrace and adherence to the things we agree with. We are not interested in picking fights with anyone. That being said, we’re also neither surprised nor overly saddened that the reaction to our effort from the far-left and far-right have been generally negative.

  47. John C.: I’ve read your post several times, and I don’t understand your distress. You seem to have no substantive disagreement with the Radical Orthdoxy manifesto. You call it bland and uncontroversial. A manifesto by actual fascists didn’t motivate you to say anything, but you cannot refrain from denouncing three bloggers who announce, “We should think creatively and follow church leaders”? I don’t get it.

    You advance the theory that the Radical Orthodoxy manifesto is a rhetorical power-grab (?) by the Givenses (??) that somehow advances the Mormon alt-right (???). I hope you approach fast and testimony meetings with more charity than that – because that’s all this is, three people trying to formulate what they think is true. You might as well suspect the six-year olds of promoting terrorism every time they say they’re thankful for their families.

    In particular, in your post, you claim that there are “alt-right trolls” [understood as “DezNat trolls”] among the signatories. When pressed on this, you have retreated to the claim that some signatories “regularly interact with DezNat folk on twitter.” It’s still a claim that you are unwilling to substantiate. If you can’t back up your original claim by identifying which signatories are DezNat trolls, you should retract it. As a signatory, I believe I have standing to make that request.

    I assure anyone who’s wondering that my signature was not “posturing,” whatever that’s supposed to mean. I have nothing to sell, no favor to gain, no advancement to look forward to that will be assisted by my signing the manifesto. My signature means no more and no less than it does when I publish a blog post: here’s an idea I agree with and am willing to stand for. If you can’t abide the Radical Orthodoxy manifesto, I encourage you to put your energy into formulating what you do stand for, and signing your name to it. I might even agree with you, too.

  48. Jonathan,
    I didn’t realize that I came off as distressed. This isn’t a distressing document per se; it is pretty bland and uncontroversial. I’m more concerned about the uses it could be put to by people engaged in boundary maintenance, but as it isn’t remotely authoritative, it hardly seems worth the trouble of worrying about that. In the end, I’m mostly irritated by it, which motivates quite a bit of my blogging.

    As for the actually fascist manifesto, ask my in-laws if I was quiet about that.

    If this was just three people trying to formulate what they think is true, it wouldn’t require a manifesto. Manifestos are for missions and movements, not for idle daydreaming. And I do think that, whether or not it was intended, this will give cover to DezNat types to impugn the orthodoxy of those with whom they disagree. They can easily claim the Givenses as fellow travelers if they decide to; all it takes is a commitment to think creatively and follow church leaders. There’s nothing in that which contradicts their self-deluded understanding of the gospel.

    Jonathan, I can state definitively that I don’t believe that you are an alt-right troll, nor do I think that you are amongst the DezNat. If everyone so offended would like to appear in the comments and ask for my repudiation, I’m happy to oblige when appropriate. That said, you are trolling right now.

  49. I think this goes along with boundary-policing, but it seems to me that this is a little bit of a “TBM’s, you can trust us and what we write because we will never go astray from the brethren and therefore we will never lead you astray.” And I get that, I know it’s important for some people to go to active, believing, “radically orthodox” (? Still think that’s a super weird term for what they are describing here?) Mormons for their reading and they want to stay away from people who might lead them astray.

    But I think this bugs me a little because I’ve been thinking a lot about how one of our biggest problems in the church is that we tend to privilege ideas based on the identity of the speaker instead of the goodness or trueness or validity of the idea. We generally do that by church rank (the higher the rank, the more acceptable the idea) but this strikes me as a way to carve out a “trust us” club outside of church hierarchy. Again, I totally see the value of that for people who want “trusted” sources (meaning, active believing LDS sources). But I think it feeds into a culture of not evaluating ideas based on their merits and discounting anything that doesn’t come from a TBM source and I don’t think that’s super healthy overall. Let your ideas stand on their own merits.

  50. Nathaniel,
    I disagree with your characterization of your interactions with DezNat as adversarial, but maybe we’d disagree with each other regarding who constitutes DezNat. When I’ve seen said interactions, I’ve found them to be patronizing, which I don’t think is the same thing. Nor did I find widespread discussion and hate of the project amongst the DezNats when I went slogging through their crap the other day. But I may very well have missed more than the one or two founts of hatred that I did find. Just as many of them were intrigued and apologetic (in the defensive sense). I cannot say definitively where the DezNats come down on the project, but, my guess, is that they will quickly see it as another way to assert their influence, in spite of your best efforts.

    “Our view is that mainstream, General Conference-version of our faith is not only compatible with but invites proactive exploration and engagement with gospel principles.”
    This is obvious and understood by even we bloggers on the left side of the aisle.

  51. Chris Henrichsen says:

    “This is obvious and understood by even we bloggers on the left side of the aisle.”

    But we are apostates when we do it. That is the difference.

  52. This reminds me of the Harper’s Letter on cancel culture.

  53. John C-

    You have not responded adequately to the contentions that I and Jonathan Green raised with your characterization of the signatory list containing “alt-right trolls”.

    Me: “Our view is that mainstream, General Conference-version of our faith is not only compatible with but invites proactive exploration and engagement with gospel principles.”
    You: This is obvious and understood by even we bloggers on the left side of the aisle.

    No one who follows BCC sincerely believes that this blog supports the General Conference-version of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

  54. Dan, Stephen, Jonathan, & Nathaniel: Boundaries maintenance (via commenters’ bans etc.) for BCC but not for thee.

  55. Yep, apostates.

  56. Ah, Nathaniel, I’ve responded as adequately as you’re going to get and I know you know who I’m talking about so don’t play coy.

    But please, call me a liar some more. That’s conducive to gospel discussion.

  57. Billy Possum says:

    A data point for you, Nathaniel:

    I have followed this blog for several years and I sincerely believe that it supports the General Conference version of the Church. Sincerely constructive criticism is not antithetical to support.

    I hold a current temple recommend, served a full-time mission, graduated from a Church university, and am currently active in my ward. I also graduated high in my class from a T14 law school and clerked for an appellate judge. Read: I’m neither a fool nor an apostate.

    Do you care to retract your glib misstatement, for the sake of readers like me who’d like to be able to discuss our beliefs here without having our intelligence insulted?

  58. BlueRidgeMormon says:

    Wow, that didn’t take long! Fascinating.

    And as indicated earlier, I just don’t understand much of what this “turf war” is. But I do find it bizarre – – all the accusations and virtue signaling etc. Are there others who enjoy intellectual Mormonism and go to this and other blogs for something interesting to read, but are equally baffled by 100% of this desire to carve out niches and sub-niches? Or is it just me?

    I will say, +1 on Elisa’s comment earlier (10:29am). A big reason why I likely remain befuddled about all this is that I’m more interested in the ideas themselves, but much of the disagreement here seems to be about the “who is in which camp” debate. In other words, what masquerades as a conversation about ideas is really just about sorting and determining underlying author identity and self-selection in an in-group/out-group sense. And yes – as Elisa points out – perhaps some of that is natural. It seems to be a dominant feature of LDS culture that the question of “who” to trust dominates any devotional/intellectual setting, rather than direct engagement with the ideas themselves. But that’s always so slippery, isn’t it? Think about how orthodoxy itself has evolved, and what it actually entails, especially with respect to particular ideas (or practices, or doctrines, or policies). Apparently, all that’s required for something to become “orthodox” is for one of the (preferably higher-up) brethren to say it. That’s it. But as a practical matter, what that actually means is that (for instance) ideas that got many of the September Six in trouble in the 90s are now institutionally codified in the gospel topics essays and CES manuals and therefore “orthodox”. Viola! Problem solved. Except… this poses a challenge to the usefulness of “radical orthodoxy” since “orthodox” is always a moving target. Privately grousing that 3-hour church was too long/redundant/unnecessary would be considered fringe and prohibited by a “radical orthodox” view…. until President Nelson himself says, “hey, church is too long/redundant/unnecessary, so let’s shorten it.” And then it becomes a celebrated example of why it’s so Wonderful To Be Led By A Prophet. But I guess in that sense, if so-called Radical Orthodoxy just reduces to Follow the Brethren, it’s a concept that’s already well understood, isn’t it? Unless it’s NOT really about that. Instead, it’s appears to be ultimately about determining and labeling who to “trust” and which voices are worth listening to in the first place. Based on one’s proximity or friendliness to progmos or DezNats or who you voted for or some other way of discerning some underlying agenda that’s about the person rather than the ideas themselves.

    But I guess I just never had a clue what Hugh Nibley’s politics were. Did anyone? And in my BYU days, ages ago, you could seek and find interesting stuff to read and think about, if you wanted to, whether it was in Richard Poll’s old essay about ‘Iron Rod’ vs ‘Liahona’ Mormons, or particular classes like Robert Matthews’ course on the JST that was sourced from (then) the RLDS Bible, or Eugene England’s essays, or Monte Nyman’s work on Isaiah (mainstream) that wasn’t so different from Avraham Gileadi’s (controversial), or Lowell Bennion’s books, or the packed classes of Susan Black, who you always sensed was fearlessly presenting a more historically accurate picture of Joseph Smith than the current “orthodox” mainstream version. You could read Dialogue or Sunstone. And all of this stuff was thought provoking. And you did sense that these things were all sort of “fringe”, in that each of these experiences felt intellectually alive and challenging in a way that the typical Book of Mormon or Missionary Prep class or Stake Conference did not. But part of the fun (as well as the intellectual/devotional challenge) was the very act of needing to sift through the ideas themselves, and determine for yourself what you made of them. No labels or clearly delineated camps or manifestos needed! Maybe Nibley was off base some times, who knows. England’s essays in Sunstone were deeply engaging, but turn a few pages and other (more ex-Mormon) perspectives in that same publication were perhaps off-putting and unconvincing to someone of active faith, like me. And part of the enterprise itself – – that of being an intellectually engaged Latter-day Saint – – was in fact the search and the sifting and the ruminating. And to be candid, that’s how I continue to approach the modern-day bloggernacle. I find it stimulating at times, infuriating at others. I find a lot of interesting stuff that engages me both intellectually and devotionally…. I find ideas articulated that usefully question why the church/brethren do things a certain way… and I also find a lot of disaffected, overly critical stuff that doesn’t interest me much. It’s all in the mix, and the messy-ness of it requires a kind of engaged, mindful discipleship that (at least to me) is the very point. Others will certainly find a different mix of ideas either compelling or alienating… fine by me.

  59. Yog Shoth-hoth says:

    1. At one point, the “Givenses” (apparently, some sort of underground cabal from the way John C. uses that term) were the darling of the progressive left, treated as if they were some sort of New Order Mormon sleeper agents. Now they are alt right DezNat trolls. Quite the accomplishment there,

    2, John C. hates being implicitly called out as a liar, but has no issues calling Jonathan Green (one of the more moderate, reasonable, and sensible voices in the ‘Nacle) a troll. He seems to dish it out explicitly, but can’t take it implicitly.

    3. Rather than accept the signatories at their words (and still insisting that the “Givenses” – seriously, I swear I saw them open for the Spin Doctors back in 2002 in Chicago – are behind it all, despite all the evidence to the contrary), John C. clearly possess telepathic skills to rival those of Professor X.

    4. This post contains at least double the virtue signaling and five times the boundary maintenance of the manifesto under consideration. Also, coming from a blog where commentators are regularly deleted or banned merely for being to the right of Steve Evans – well, a lot of the complaints about boundary maintenance in the post and the comments ring hollow and hypocritical.

    5. Physician, heal thyself.

  60. BlueRidgeMormon says:

    btw Yog and others – – I would completely agree that boundary policing is problematic here, there, everywhere! Definite problem on BCC from my perspective. (I would call it a bug, not a feature.) But boundary policing in one camp hardly solves the problem of boundary policing in another. Rivaling fiefdoms with strong boundaries seems utterly uninteresting.

    Incidentally, while my profile is nearly identical to Billy Possum’s, I would openly admit that I find plenty of ‘disaffected’ stuff on BCC that I don’t love, intermingled with the more “General-Conference version” stuff (as I guess we’re calling it now) that Mr. Possum accurately recognizes. But I guess my lengthy point earlier is that this is ok with me. We’re all grown ups and it seems silly that we need our blogs or websites curated or microtargeted such that they only present stuff we know we are going to agree with! Where’s the fun in that?

    Anyhow is all this just a RO vs BCC melee? Is that what a bunch of us have stumbled into? Meh.

  61. The manifesto seems to me “building a fence.” (Some strictures in orthodox judaism – derived from Deut. 22:8 w rgd when building a house to be sure to build a fence around the roof to avoid guilt should someone fall from it – are metaphorically “fences” constructed to keep folks from straying too far from the straight and narrow. Eg “peyot” (side curls) help avoid violating the torah’s injunction against shaving the “sides” of the head, and so forth.)

    Whereas it seems to me that BCC folks try to effect needed change within the church by “walking the line.”

    I suppose both are predictable approaches. Who’s to say which one is “better” than the other?

  62. Yog,
    I appreciate that, as you’ve chosen to be a fool, you are at least up front about it.

    And with that, we shut this puppy down. Tip your waitress on the way out, folks.