Why I Signed the Radical Orthodoxy Manifesto

Dan Ellsworth is a Latter-Day Saint consultant and writer living in Charlottesville, Virginia.

The Radical Orthodoxy Manifesto became public almost a week ago, and if we are not reacting to every criticism and every blog comment about this project, it is not out of lack of conviction; it’s more about mental and spiritual health.  Online discussions so often generate vastly more heat than light, and it’s not a healthy impulse to try to account for every criticism by every single person.  There is a lot of wisdom in the phrase “Don’t read the comments.”

When I first heard about the Radical Orthodoxy project — the manifesto and its accompanying essays — I was ecstatic.

Why?

I don’t think it’s news to anyone that there are cultural forces, particularly in the U.S., pulling people into homogeneous ideological camps of intersectionality on the left and authoritarian ethnonationalism on the right, and for many Latter Day Saints and Mormons, these cultural trends are becoming the lens through which they view the restored gospel, instead of the other way around.

On the ideological right, this results in a fortress/bunker mentality that prizes uniformity and intensity: The World is out to get us, so we need to close ranks, build higher walls and answer each “attack” with a devastating, demoralizing counterattack.  On the left, this tendency results in the creation of an imaginary, de-Judaized woke Jesus who eschewed any conceptualizations of holiness, practiced this thing called “radical inclusion,” and presently serves to affirm every aspect of the progressive worldview.  We need to pit Jesus against reactionary ideas among us, especially outdated notions of gender and sexuality, the historicity of scripture, and the non-egalitarian idea that the church has been given any kind of unique authority in God’s plan.

And in practice, to answer our cravings for neat lines of tribal identity, we divide into well-defined camps with common lingo and shibboleths:

Affirming, empathetic, inclusive, validating, equality, credentialed, rational, informed, flying a rainbow flag

Versus

Loyal, true, defender, zealous, faithful, sin-loathing, and flying the DezNat flag.

So, as adherents to the ideas in the Radical Orthodoxy manifesto and its supporting essays, in which camp do we fall?

We reject the premise.

Eugene England famously wrote that 

The Church is as true as—perhaps truer than—the gospel because it is where all can find fruitful opposi­tion, where its revealed nature and inspired direction maintain an opposition between liberal and conservative values, between faith and doubt, secure authority and fright­ening freedom, individual integrity and public responsibility, and thus where there will be misery as well as holiness, bad as well as good. And if we cannot stand the misery and the struggle, if we would prefer that the Church be smooth and perfect and unchallenging rather than as it is—full of nagging human diversity and constant insistence that we perform ordi­nances and obey instructions and take seriously teachings that embody logically irresolvable paradoxes—if we refuse to lose ourselves wholeheartedly in such a school, then we will never know the redeeming truth of the Church. It is precisely in the struggle to be obedient while maintaining integrity, to have faith while being true to reason and evidence, to serve and love in the face of imperfections and even offenses, that we can gain the humility we need to allow divine power to enter our lives in transforming ways.

In this statement, Eugene England asserts correctly that the purpose of all of our engagement with the church and the gospel, is to become transformed by God.  Not “affirmed.”  Not “validated.”  Not “comfortable.”

If we are conservative-leaning in temperament and worldview, that means that our engagement with the gospel will often pull us uncomfortably — sometimes even miserably — in the direction of “typically liberal” values like fairness and empathy for the vulnerable.  Likewise, If we are liberal in our temperament and worldview, our engagement with the gospel will often pull us uncomfortably — sometimes even miserably — in the direction of “typically conservative” values such as order and trusting deference.

All of this tension and discomfort is by design, and to embrace this discomfort, rather than operate predictably in ways that reflect tidy cultural divisions of left/right, liahona/iron-rodder, is a commitment at the heart of orthodoxy.

This is why having sweet-and-kind Marvin J Ashton and law-and-order Ezra Taft Benson counseling together to discern the mind and will of the Lord for the church is not an aberration; it is precisely the arrangement most likely to reveal God’s heart and God’s intentions.

Speaking of Elder Benson, One of the quotes I share most often is from his opening press conference as president of the church.  It brings me to tears virtually every time I read it.

My heart has been filled with an overwhelming love and compassion for all members of the Church and our Heavenly Father’s children everywhere. I love all our Father’s children of every color, creed, and political persuasion. My only desire is to serve as the Lord would have me do.

I’ve had several conversations with people who witnessed this transition, and a typical reaction was Who are you, and what have you done with Elder Benson?  More recently, President Oaks’ declaration that Black Lives Matter left a lot of people stunned.  It was inconsistent with all of our expectations of what he might say, which we believe to be a sign of the workings of the Spirit at the highest levels of the church.

A commitment to orthodoxy means a willingness to be constantly surprised and amazed, and to have our perspective upended.  Chesterton wrote that

This is the thrilling romance of Orthodoxy. People have fallen into a foolish habit of speaking of orthodoxy as something heavy, humdrum, and safe. There never was anything so perilous or so exciting as orthodoxy. It was sanity: and to be sane is more dramatic than to be mad. It was the equilibrium of a man behind madly rushing horses, seeming to stoop this way and to sway that, yet in every attitude having the grace of statuary and the accuracy of arithmetic.

This speaks to another reason I am happy to be associated with the other signatories: even with our firm commitments to literal interpretation and assent to the three tentpole proclamations, there is an immense amount of diverse and fresh thinking being applied to these historical narratives and gospel concepts.  If I want a predictable intellectual exercise of gospel interpreted through the lens of contemporary political and intellectual trends, I can spend time in progressive or DezNat/fundamentalist venues.  If I want a less predictable, more interesting exercise of engaging with the gospel on its own beautiful, breathtaking, mind-expanding terms, I look to scholars and commentators who are very open about their personal conversion and commitment to the restored gospel.

Many people on this site and elsewhere responded to the Radical Orthodoxy manifesto with outrage, emotional flailing, and even narratives of conspiracy: the radical orthodoxy manifesto is a cover for hatred, bigotry, and misogyny.  Or, as we hear at the other end of the spectrum, the manifesto is a vehicle for more subtle delivery of the kind of apostate scholarship that produced the gospel topics essays and currently guides the Maxwell Institute.

Really?

Wouldn’t it be accurate to say that these reactions are so much projecting?  And why?  Do we need to be villains in your minds?  Is there only one ideological camp or the other?  When I retweet a DezNat-supporting account because that individual posted something really insightful, does that make me DezNat?  When I hit “like” for a BCC post on Facebook because it presents a thoughtful and compelling viewpoint (and yes, I do that from time to time), does that make me a Progmo?  Why the need for precisely two categories of people?

Finally, I want to address four instinctive and predictable reactions to the manifesto, observed among progressive-leaning commenters.

  1. This is exclusionary!

Here again I’ll invoke Chesterton:

Every act is an irrevocable selection and exclusion. Just as when you marry one woman you give up all the others, so when you take one course of action you give up all the other courses. If you become King of England, you give up the post of Beadle in Brompton.

It is true that there are behaviors that we engage in, as religious communities, that exclude people.  I recently wrote an essay to address this challenge.  It is also true, however, that we are often not passive recipients of our sense of exclusion from communities, especially when we make firm ideological or other commitments.

In past years, I approached every gospel concept as a jump ball between the online commentariat and the church.  In recent years in particular, learning better how to receive revelation has become my primary spiritual goal, and I know from experience that the revelatory seasons of my life in the past have been characterized by the devotional basics, and wholehearted commitment to the church and serving people around me.  And, very specific diet choices about media and commentary that I consume.  For me, seeking revelation also means abandoning the intellectual scrupulosity that obsesses over every possible take on every issue before making soul-level commitments to God and the kingdom.  One of my choices has been to stop following BCC and most other blogs.  In doing so, I drew lines for myself based on my own observations and perceptions.  I don’t feel comfortable participating regularly at BCC because the blog and its commenters simply have very different objectives than I do.  Have BCC or other blogs excluded me by promoting commentary that I often find objectionable?  Not in the least.  If I feel excluded, it is because I have drawn the lines of my own exclusion, based on my own sense of how my online activities affect my spirit.

As often as not, we are the authors of our own exclusion, based on our decisions to embrace commitments and priorities that rival those of the people around us.

  1. This isn’t loving!

If we define love as never articulating or naming an intellectual/spiritual stance, then correct: this is not a loving endeavor.  But that is not an honest, realistic, or even healthy definition of love.  “Progressive,” “LGBT-affirming,” “open-minded,” “cultural,” “faithful,” “converted,” “critical scholar,” and even “Mormon”… these are all labels that represent stances.  These labels are neither good nor bad, neither exclusionary nor inclusive; neither loving nor unloving; they are just descriptive.

Among the people who have voiced support for Latter Day Saint Radical Orthodoxy, there are church members who have been observing with extreme discomfort the ideological left in the church, with its uncritical adoption of every secular progressive trend contra the doctrines of the restored gospel.  They have also been observing with horror the right’s syncretism of the restored gospel with some of the worst elements of right-wing politics, as well as the right’s refusal to seriously engage with important shifts in prophetic emphasis to address issues like racism and political anger.  People disillusioned with these trends at the ends of the spectrum are happy and relieved that there is a label for our stance, and relieved to find in the fog of war people alongside us with whom we can share ideas and testimony, and trust that things we share will be received with a believing Latter-Day Saint epistemology.

There is no question that we love you- those of you who agree with us, and those who don’t. I would personally love to dialogue with any of you about your concerns, and if I could, I would happily welcome you into my home and share a meal.  If we the adherents to LDS Radical Orthodoxy can’t persuade you that our views are worth embracing, then we hope that we can still remain both friends and frequent partners in dialogue.

  1. I believe X.  Am I orthodox?

I would gently push back on the premise of this question.  Yes, we are firmly committed to what we call the three tentpole proclamations of the church, and you’ll notice that in Jeff’s illustration, the center tentpole is The Living Christ.  But even affirming the reality of each of these proclamations, there is an incredible amount of work to do in exploring robust and mature definitions for terms, and understanding what these teachings and principles look like in our lived experiences.

A better question would be, how did you arrive at your position?  What decisions did you make along the way?  What epistemology did you employ?  Did you account for the witness testimony of the people around you?  Did you seek revelation, and if so, how did you discern it?  It’s a normal tendency to want to categorize this or that specific position that we hold and use those categories to arrive at a descriptor for our stance, but orthodoxy is much more about the process.  And as we see regularly in surprising pronouncements and declarations at the highest levels of the church, orthodox processes of inquiry produce outcomes that don’t always map neatly onto our culturally-informed categories.

  1. This isn’t radical!

Yes, it is.

To promote atomized and individualistic appraisal of the church’s core doctrines and teachings, but then to also insist that we come together and function as unified Zion when it comes to social issues, is wholly predictable behavior that is typical on the ideological left.  To promote absolute individual autonomy when it comes to all social issues but then insist on full cohesion and uniformity in all our perceptions of every church teaching, is likewise just predictable and typical behavior on the ideological right.  To constantly parse scripture and prophetic teachings for self-serving purposes, and for wielding them like a club against our political opposition, is common cultural practice at both ends of the spectrum.

By contrast, to affirm that the core doctrines of the church are factually true and confirmed by the witness testimony of people around us, but to also affirm that there is a vast amount yet to be done in defining terms and sometimes even making difficult and painful adjustments to our paradigms, is countercultural.  To consistently evaluate our politics, our epistemology, and our lived experiences in light of the restoration, and not the other way around, is countercultural.

The only radical and unsettling stance, capable of simultaneously producing both innovation and unity, is orthodoxy.  

Beyond the initial manifesto and its supporting essays, we are also contributing articles to Public Square, and blogging at Nauvoo Neighbor and Latter-Day Saint Philosopher.

Comments

  1. My deepest thanks to BCC for publishing this. I consider it a courageous act of bridge-building.

  2. meh, you can *say* you love people until you’re blue in the face but if your version of loving includes telling them that their same-sex families aren’t real families or that their eternal gender role is to submit to an all-male leadership, that’s not love.

    a lot of what you say here resonates with me and I appreciate the explanation but family proc is just a line that love can’t cross.

  3. I don’t know why anyone would want to re-fight last century’s culture wars in Mormon scholarship when there are so many more interesting things going on in Mormon Studies. But if you do decide to stir that fetid pot again, don’t. you. dare wrest Gene England out of context in support of your nasty little line-drawing exercise. He was forced out of BYU and the last decades of his life were blighted by attempts to enshrine precisely the kind of pinched, narrow orthodoxies this manifesto seeks to enforce again. How dare you pretend he could be on your side of this?!

  4. Here is some crucial contextual material for that quotation from “Why the Church is As True as the Gospel” that shows how fiercely England would have opposed your usage here:

    “I also thought of my essay when some at the annual confer­ence of Affirmation: Gay and Lesbian Mormons in September 1998 told me, in tears, of their struggle against overwhelming odds to be active Mormons—rejected equally by the gay com­munities, which stereotype the Church as homophobic, and by their own leaders and ward brothers and sisters, who stereotype all gays as immoral, even devilish. The message of “Why the Church Is As True As the Gospel” certainly applies to the minorities in the Church, whose efforts to belong and serve are made even more exasperating by the hostility, uneasiness, and even sentimental patronizing by the majority. But the es­say’s main message is to that majority, who set the cultural tone of the Church. We are the ones who must constantly remind ourselves that the Church is not a place to go for comfort, to get our own prejudices validated, but a place to comfort others, even to be afflicted by them. It is a revealed and effec­tive opportunity to give—to learn and experience the meaning of the Atonement and its power to change us through uncon­ditional love. It is a place where we have many chances to re­pent and forgive—if, for a change, we can focus on our own failings and the needs of others to grow through their and our imperfect efforts.”

  5. “…homogeneous ideological camps of intersectionality on the left and authoritarian ethnonationalism on the right.”

    *RECORD SCRATCH*

    Wait, what? How can these two “camps” be remotely considered at all equivalent to one another?

  6. Meg Conley says:

    Hi!

    As a woman who has been attacked by Deznat, I am kind of shocked that you went to all this work writing this piece and then….equated retweeting a Deznat-supporter with liking a BCC post? These are not two similar extremes. Neither BCC, nor any of its writers, has ever told me I was going to hell or directed sexually harrassing tweets at me, for example! When you retweet a deznat supporting account it may not make you deznat but it makes you something.

    Maybe I should be your ideal audience. My many-wayedness never satisfies the ideologically driven.

    But.

    All of this? This boundary marking, this approved center way making? What is the point? We don’t need a center way, we need a Christ-centered way. A document expounding on *that* – and what that actually entails physically, mentally, emotionally, spiritually, financially – would have made everyone mad, if that’s what you were going for! It also would have felt radically Mormon in a way I can begin to comprehend in the context of Joseph Smith’s vision.

    What a loss. For you. For me. For my children who will be impacted by this movement that is not a movement, this camp that is not a camp, this self-anointed orthodoxy that situates itself between two ridiculous poles – Deznat and what, John Dehlin? – that are purely of this moment. Of this country. Of a certain class and color of people. It’s all so small.

    I’m honestly gutted. I love people who signed this.

    You say you’re worried about the fact that Mormonism is being divided into camps but then you’ve set up a tent.

    Can’t we see? Why can’t we see? I need us to see.

    Mormonism can’t be fit into a tent, it’s a universe.

  7. @Anon @Meg ditto to that, if these signers view those positions / acts as somehow equivalent then I am really not living in the same universe as them, let alone in one camp or another.

    I would add that I don’t understand the scare quotes around things like “LGBT-affirming”. It’s not a “label or a stance” as this post claims. It’s a belief and a way of behaving consistent with that belief.

  8. I agree with Elisa. You can’t say that you love someone and totally invalidate their experience of life. And a proclamation that invalidates some people’s whole life experience is not from the Jesus that I worship. But then I quit worshipping “Mormon God” because I found him to be unloving and quite a jerk. You say that the church isn’t there to validate us, well, you sound like the church has done a fine job of validating your life. But my experience is that the church totally invalidates some people. So, I begin to think your definition of “validate” is different than mine. Yours seems to be to give permission to be and think any way one wants, which to me is permissiveness and lack of proper boundaries. My definition of validate to to say that the best a person can do is good enough. Who God made them to be is acceptable to God.

    After all that I have read about your manifesto, I think that it is just a declaration that “my brand of cafeteria Mormonism is more righteous than your brand of cafeteria Mormonism.” Bleh, how boring and common. Maybe Elisa and I should get together and write up a manifesto to say that our brand of cafeteria Mormonism is more righteous than yours.

  9. Thank you Meg, for this: “We don’t need a center way, we need a Christ-centered way.”

    This Radical Orthodoxy bit seems to do nothing more than define the gospel based on the philosophies of men–identifying two opposing (but not equivalent!) camps and staking out a position in between them. Nothing about this ideology appears to be anchored on the Savior, revelation, or the gospel, but rather it attempts to find the mean between two human philosophies.

    I appreciate the author’s willingness to outline the profoundly non-revelatory goal of this project!

  10. two ridiculous poles – Deznat and what, John Dehlin? – that are purely of this moment. Of this country. Of a certain class and color of people. It’s all so small.

    Agreed. Meg. This manifesto is not reflective of a global church.

    Though I note that one of the signatories had the expansion of the church around the world on her mind earlier this year:

    China gave the world a virus. The #ChurchOfJesusChrist is giving China a temple. And President Nelson is the prophet to do it. I’m in awe of God’s grace and power.

    So they are aware of the broader world beyond the scope of the manifesto; it’s just pressed into service to make the same partisan arguments politicians have leveraged to sow division and discord and distract from the work necessary to solve complex problems.

  11. PeterLLC, Jasmin happens to be a good friend of mine. I worked alongside her for awhile, and she’s a good person. I wish you knew her as I did. Please don’t employ a single line, in a single tweet, as representative of all of her views; as what Eugene England called spectral evidence, that kind of evidence that “reduces the most precious eternal beings in the universe, children of god with infinite capacity who are constantly changing, to static, partial beings. A specter can never properly represent the whole being—which is one reason we are warned not to judge and that we will be judged (that is, will judge ourselves) the same way we judge: partially. Human beings cannot be reduced to an action, a political or intellectual position, a quotation in a newspaper, an essay or story they have written. Each of those, even if clearly and fully seen (which is impossible, since we always see only partially, from a particular point of view), is still only part, a static part, of what is a constantly dynamic, complex, failing, and repenting potential god. We are never less—and actually much more because of our infinite potential—than the complete sum of our history, our stories, a sum which is constantly increasing, changing, through time.”

  12. He didn’t say anything about the author’s character or worthiness; he didn’t even name her. He cited a public statement and interpreted it responsibly. This is nothing like what England was talking about in “On Spectral Evidence.” (which everyone can and should read here: https://www.eugeneengland.org/selected-writings/personal-essays

  13. Dan, I find this to be bearing false witness: “On the left, this tendency results in the creation of an imaginary, de-Judaized woke Jesus who eschewed any conceptualizations of holiness, practiced this thing called “radical inclusion,” and presently serves to affirm every aspect of the progressive worldview.”

    And this is an extremely uncharitable way to characterize what people you personally find “too liberal” believe. (Though it’s a strawman for sure.)

    Here’s a radically orthodox suggestion in response to this point: it would be radically orthodox to follow Jesus and not make this kind of false characterization of other Christians’ beliefs.

  14. Mark Brown says:

    The proximity to DezNat is an absolute deal breaker. It poisons the entire project, and no explanations or declarations of good intentions can remedy this failing.

    The comparison of ethnonationalism to “liking” a link to BCC is both ridiculous and offensive, and reveals a huge blind spot.

  15. Bryan S, I get that people are complex. It should go without saying that simply echoing the “China Virus” line introduced into popular discourse by our outgoing president doesn’t undo all the good she and other signatories have undoubtedly done. I don’t think I’ve suggested otherwise.

    I think the tweet is relevant, however, to the extent that it speaks to the support that signatories provide to a manifesto that positions itself as an antidote to a “polarized and contentious world.”

  16. “If we are conservative-leaning in temperament and worldview, that means that our engagement with the gospel will often pull us uncomfortably — sometimes even miserably — in the direction of “typically liberal” values like fairness and empathy for the vulnerable.”

    Dan, if I understand you correctly, this sentence reveals that your understanding of “conservatism” or “being conservative” means opposing fairness and empathy for the vulnerable, is that correct? If so, what is the value for “conservatism” at all, especially for devout Christians? What are we trying to “conserve” if we don’t believe in Jesus Christ’s literal, radical empathy. Has American “conservatism” changed so much through the Gingrich/Fox News years that “fairness” or even “fairness for the vulnerable” are no longer considered actual core principles of Conservatism?

  17. Dan, I’m aware that members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints who pride themselves on being “conservative” politically (in the very temporally and geographically specific context of contemporary American cultural “conservatism”) and religiously have a fondness for quoting Chesterton. What concerns do you have that the faith to which you adhere would be considered heretical by Chesterton, and that your beliefs and activities as a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints would not be considered “orthodox” at all by him but rejected entirely as not only false and heretical but existentially dangerous to what he would see as “Orthodoxy”, as well as entirely ludicrous?

    Ironically, however, someone you would likely label as a “liberal” or a “progressive” member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints who subscribes to Krister Stendahl’s principles or rules of “Holy Envy”, on the other hand, can quote Chesterton with a completely clear conscience, aware that Chesterton would have viewed our beliefs and ordinances as the antithesis of the Orthodoxy he was describing while at the same time being genuinely possessed of a profound degree of Holy Envy for precisely that Orthodoxy cherished by Chesterton. This is ironic because the more “conservative” or dogmatic the religious perspective of a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, the less that member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints should be able to quote Chesterton in good conscience, because that “conservative” faith is more likely to emphasize (and historically has emphasized) more centrally the actual falseness of Catholicism and its priesthood and sacraments — the very Orthodoxy referred to by Chesterton.

  18. It’s probably just me, but your manifesto seems to be one more sign of someone trying to steer the Church to be more orthodox in a mainstream Protestant kind of way, in spite of so many obvious differences. I applaud you for your courage in trying to engage in dialogue here, and for BCC in giving you a venue, but I find little in what I have read in support of your manifesto that seems all that open to real dialogue. Joseph Smith said “In proving contraries, truth is made manifest.” I find little room for contrary views in your orthodox paradigm so far.

  19. Ironically, the manifesto, and the responses to it in blogs and comments, have inspired me to recommit to a resolution that is totally unrelated to Christ or even religion: that I will never use a big word where a diminutive alternative would suffice.

    More on topic, I would second Elisa’s comment.

  20. “diminutive”

  21. Wondering says:

    Dan, Thanks for the explanation. I’m not sure I understand all of it. Maybe if you ever do read comments here you will clarify.

    It seems to me that at least sometimes you use idiosyncratic, not-ordinary-English definitions of “radical” and “orthodoxy.” You wrote, “A commitment to orthodoxy means a willingness to be constantly surprised and amazed, and to have our perspective upended.” Your special use is emphasized in your declining to deal with the question of whether a belief (other than your “three tentpole proclamations”) is “orthodox.” Instead you state, “It’s a normal tendency to want to categorize this or that specific position that we hold and use those categories to arrive at a descriptor for our stance, but orthodoxy is much more about the process.” And “The only radical and unsettling stance, capable of simultaneously producing both innovation and unity, is orthodoxy.“ In each case, I think by “orthodoxy” you mean your particular version of “LDS Radical Orthodoxy” which, when it’s convenient, exalts process and new revelation over statements of belief. (And which is, in my view, not the only stance capable of producing both innovation and unity.)

    The “tentpole proclamations” in contrast are statements of beliefs. As to them perhaps you use “orthodox” in its ordinary English meaning.

    Do you equate those three proclamations with “core doctrines of the church”? With the “restoration”? [fn1] Some would disagree – possibly including the Book of Mormon Christ whose limitations on what is His “doctrine” might exclude some of the Proclamation on the Family, at least. (Yes, I know all the Q15 at the time signed it. Now we have a Q15 that includes apostles who did not sign it, and, as far as I have yet been able to determine, have remained silent about some of its statements. For all I can tell, even some of the signers may have changed their minds about some of it and remained silent about the change.)

    Your explanation of your use of “radical”[again fn1] seems to me to claim that it is radical only in its “countercultural” rejection of two extremes and a supposed current, American culture dividing the world of people and their opinions/beliefs into only those extremes. While there is a lot of talk like that, most of the people I know and their beliefs do not fall neatly into one of those extremes. Instead, they are much more varied and complicated than that kind of talk would suggest. Yours seems to be a very unusual use of the word “radical”. The word is usually applied to either or both the extremes rather than a purported middle. It’s almost as if the term “radical orthodoxy” had been appropriated with intent to confuse rather than explain the authors’ particular version of a middle ground.

    If you choose to clarify, please point out where I have misapprehended your use of “radical” and “orthodox.”

    BTW, my experience of revelation and impediments to revelation does not match your reported experience. And the doctrines of the church (core or not) are not uniformly confirmed by the witness testimony of people around me. Some lack any testimony of some doctrines — positive or negative; some would claim specific negative testimony by the spirit. Accordingly, despite carefully considering how I arrive at my tentative (or firm) positions and accounting for the witness testimonies of the people around me, and seeking revelation, I do not come out in the same place the authors of the LDS Radical Orthodoxy Manifesto appear to. Perhaps the differences are exactly what the Lord has intended for us at our present respective stages. I’m not about to start declaring who is orthodox or who is not. 😊

    [fn1] “By contrast, to affirm that the core doctrines of the church are factually true and confirmed by the witness testimony of people around us, but to also affirm that there is a vast amount yet to be done in defining terms and sometimes even making difficult and painful adjustments to our paradigms, is countercultural. To consistently evaluate our politics, our epistemology, and our lived experiences in light of the restoration, and not the other way around, is countercultural.”

  22. Have you, or any of your fellow signees, ever stopped to ask whether you might be part of the problem of polarization instead of arrogantly imagining yourselves as the solution for everyone else?

  23. Wondering,

    I appreciate your thoughtful engagement with what I attempted to do in this post.

    “While there is a lot of talk like that, most of the people I know and their beliefs do not fall neatly into one of those extremes. Instead, they are much more varied and complicated than that kind of talk would suggest. Yours seems to be a very unusual use of the word “radical”. The word is usually applied to either or both the extremes rather than a purported middle.”

    This is my experience as well; most people do not fall into the extremes. But they are being pulled there increasingly. Even so, this project is not necessarily a rush to the middle. It’s an affirmation that the core doctrines of the church are the basis for the most exciting and innovative (yes, radical) approach to discipleship. And I agree that witness testimony is not uniform. There are many things that people around me have experienced, that I have not. And vice versa. But I believe that in any stake of the church, for example, there is enough specific, credible witness testimony to validate most or all of the core doctrines of the church.

    One of the hardest points of disagreement is around the family proclamation, and I get it. I had an extremely hard time with that proclamation for about 15 years, and it was one of the reasons I almost left the church a few years ago. I have experienced a 180 degree change of heart towards it, and part of that process was the result of witness testimony from marginalized people who I expected to hate it like I did, but instead affirmed it with specific personal experiences.

    As for the specific term “orthodoxy,” I was brought into this effort after the terms had been chosen, but I think it represents that devotion to core principles and a consensus around epistemology. To John F.’s point- yes, Chesterton employed it in the service of a specific religious commitment that he held, but we borrow and repurpose other people’s thoughts around faith — employed in the service of their respective commitments — all the time.

    Thanks again for the dialogue.

  24. So I guess I would be considered left-leaning, but also someone who is worried about the unhealthy aspects of performative wokeness (especially as an escape from dealing with the complexities we find ourselves in by creating a default orthodoxy that doesn’t require personal assessment-just adherence to certain opinions,) but the opening comparison with flags was…erm…a bit of a flag in terms of how things were being viewed.

    “And in practice, to answer our cravings for neat lines of tribal identity, we divide into well-defined camps with common lingo and shibboleths:

    Affirming, empathetic, inclusive, validating, equality, credentialed, rational, informed, flying a rainbow flag

    Versus

    Loyal, true, defender, zealous, faithful, sin-loathing, and flying the DezNat flag.”

    The rainbow flag is not the equivalent of the DezNat flag. The rainbow flag is associated with a group’s desire to *be* as many have been trying to not let them be or even kill them, and that identity (being LGBTQ) is not one that requires a certain stance against another group to belong to. It’s like how BLM is not the same as ProudBoys. One is an affirmation of a group’s right to exist amidst being literally killed, but makes no claims that others do not have a right to exist. The latter is a group/identity that exists because of opposition to other groups existing in a way that they don’t like and perceive as threatening. In both latter cases, the groups need an enemy or perceived threat to define themselves and fight against. If the enemy goes, the group identity likely does as well. The former two groups (GLBTQ community and BLM) became really unified as a response to threats, but their identities as GLBTQ individuals, or black individuals would still continue even without an outside threat (and I also acknowledge there are a lot of complications and that members of these communities have wide-ranging opinions and not all black people support BLM, but they do share many of the same concerns and risks and cannot change their identity.) Now while it’s absolutely true that there are many on the left who also fall into this “addiction to an enemy” problem, the genesis of their causes are often coming from a different place than the current alt-right. I share the author’s concern with some of the methods and culture the left is cultivating, but I do think there are some important differences before claiming them as a parallel or mirror of the alt-right.

    That leads me to my other concern: One thing I worry about that I have seen in many “both sides are too extreme” discussions is that it often results in a flattening of a lot of the nuances present in these issues by making them more superficial and easy to dismiss as though they are just two sides of the same crazy coin. And occasionally they are, but most times they are not. We just really like binaries.
    And I’ve seen people who believe they are “middle ground” thinkers so much that they reject anything that comes from certain camps as “oh that’s just extremists”, and it actually becomes a way to dismiss real problems and concerns and stay comfortable. I don’t get that impression from the author, but I have seen it happen with others IRL and it concerns me. Ironically it becomes an excuse to NOT engage and be challenged, because anything beyond a certain range of comfort is considered “extreme”, and good people aren’t extreme.

    I think for me there are some deeper questions that go beyond just being frustrated with extremism. How can I understand what is happening in the community and what I can do to heal it? I have rarely found proclaiming my superior stance doing much to heal rifts, as much as I (honestly) love doing that. I have found meeting people where they are at while holding to my values with integrity does a lot.
    So in that sense, what is really going on at the heart of the alt-right movement in Mormonism? Why is there so much fear and anger at a time when we are more prosperous and safe than we have ever been as a people? Is this generation living out unacknowledged traumas? Or it is that political orthodoxy has replaced religious orthodoxy? Do we no longer have a strong sense of identity, so repeat old patterns to create one? Are we not challenged enough so we create new enemies, or have we never resolved the old feelings of threat? Are our rituals and sense of belonging not strong enough to create a feeling of purpose?
    Might the left be mirroring the same behaviors they grew up seeing in the church without realizing it? Is there a desire to belong or to control, and how could those both be assessed? How can one create a community that is accepting without using shame? Is it possible? Does the left know how to address pain and trauma without passing it on or creating more?
    These questions I find far more interesting and important than “where exactly do the tent-poles lie?”

  25. “On the left, this tendency results in the creation of an imaginary, de-Judaized woke Jesus who eschewed any conceptualizations of holiness, practiced this thing called “radical inclusion,” and presently serves to affirm every aspect of the progressive worldview.”

    Really?

    I’m not the most eloquent person, but just wanted to note that this is a super unkind thing to say.

    You ascribe a fairly harsh, inflammatory set of beliefs to people who think differently than you. But then you claim to have the “correct” way of viewing/living the gospel.

    Why would I follow anything you say when you choose to characterize others in this manner?

  26. The mission of Christ is simple: “Love God, love your fellow man.” Why complicate it? The manifesto is an attempt to create a group between the ultra-conservatives and the progressives. Great, now we have a third groups, one with an oxymoron title.

    What is really needed is an effort to bring the two original groups closer together. One way to do this to agree on the facts. The ultra-right is basically anti-science: anti-mask, anti-vaccine, global warming disbelievers, anti-evolution, biblical literalists, anti-GMO, etc. Ironically, the ultra-left has started to agree with the ultra-right on some issues. Strange bedfellows.

    In order to overcome the differences between the two groups, the Church leadership needs to come down strongly on the side of science. This is necessary if the two groups will ever start moving closer together. It is also important for keeping young people in the Church.

  27. Quinten Sorenson says:

    PeterLLC,

    I honestly could not imagine a more stunning way to misread that tweet than to see it as “pressed into the service to make the same partisan arguments politicians have leveraged to sow division and discord and distract from the work necessary to solve complex problems.”

    Let’s start by actually quoting the whole Tweet:

    China gave the world a virus. The #ChurchOfJesusChrist is giving China a temple. And President Nelson is the prophet to do it. I’m in awe of God’s grace and power. I feel humbled and compelled to do and be better. #GeneralConference is life changing.

    Now, tbh, that doesn’t really sound much like it is being used to sow division and discord to me. When I consider the atmosphere surrounding coronavirus in April 2020 (honestly, only 8 months later, it already feels so very foreign), this sounds like someone trying to appreciate the fact that when so many throughout the world were directing a lot of anger and racism toward China and the Chinese due to a virus which originated there, the Church was, instead, trying to extend the highest gospel blessings and covenants to the people of China. She’s awe-struck and humbled by such an overt act of love during a time of such “division and discord.” She feels compelled to do better at extending such love to others around her, even in politically charged and polemical times. In doing so, one might even argue that she is not trying to “distract,” but rather draw attention to exactly the kind of work that is needed to solve complex problems in this world.

    Of course, it is hard to fit all that into a single tweet, so misreading is easily possible. But one might hope for at least a little effort at reading charitably, rather than automatically seeing division and discord so automatically.

  28. Dan,
    First of all, publishing this isn’t a courageous act. BCC faces no consequences for doing it. It’s just a blog post.

    Second, this post demonstrates that you didn’t understand or didn’t care about my objections to the manifesto. The second is understandable, but I get the impression you think you understood me. I wasn’t saying that I thought you were secretly trying to provide cover for the alt-right; I was saying that you were doing it irrespective of your intentions (which I assumed were relatively noble). There’s nothing in the manifesto to which a DezNat must object. That you think there is means that you have failed to understand not just the folks to the left of you, but those to the right as well.

  29. Oh, that Dan Ellsworth. The one that thought reading a couple of books about Isaiah meant that he was smarter than all the leading scholars on Isaiah. Not too surprising that he would try and fail to co-opt language of the left (e.g. intersectionality) in a poor attempt to defend the RaDiCaL mAnIfEsTo and make it look like a more appealing potato than it really is. It still has the dirt, the rot, and the fungus that made the farmers throw it away. You should too, Dan.

  30. The assertion that “China gave the world a virus” is polarizing and contentious. But I’m not the one you need to convince that a tweet assigning responsibility to China for the COVID-19 pandemic is actually an expression of charity.

    Back in early March 2020, for example, the WHO admonished the world:

    DON’T – attach locations or ethnicity to the disease, this is not a “Wuhan Virus”, “Chinese Virus” or “Asian Virus”.
    The official name for the disease was deliberately chosen to avoid stigmatization

    I can’t imagine how appreciation for General Conference or the gospel in general would inspire someone to disregard such obvious advice, so I assume it didn’t. What I can imagine is that if the church had cast its and China’s respective roles in such terms—you give us a virus, we give you a temple—no one would be building a temple in China in our lifetimes.

    The rest of the tweet would have been a fine testimony on its own, and I think the author rightly assigns President Nelson a key role to play in seeing the Shanghai temple project through for reasons highlighted in this article.

  31. Mark Brown says:

    This might seem like a small, nit-picking objection, and in a way, it is. But it really bugs me nonetheless.

    “Woke Jesus”.

    What do “woke”, “virtue-signalling”, and “SJW” have in common? 1)They are all epithets, and 2)they are all very loosely defined. These words are used almost exclusively by people on the right, and they are used mostly to mean “things I don’t like about librulz”. They are terms of derision.

    It’s a small thing, but the fact that you see the use of that term as non-problematic is very revealing.

  32. lastlemming says:

    In a officially apolitical Facebook group, all of whose members lean left, the administrator described Ken Jennings as “the most woke Mormon.” She was signaling to the group that Ken is OK, knowing that most of the member consider “Mormon,” not “woke” to be the epithet. The left embraces “wokeness”, is not above applying “virtue-signaling” to behavior on the right (numerous examples on this blog), and uses “SJW” ironically to piss off the right. The latter two are, indeed, terms of derision, but they are not the term Dan used.

  33. Truckers Atlas says:

    To me the manifesto is so hedging, ambiguous, and noncommittal (see Wondering’s critique of terminology for one example) that I am tempted to do the exact opposite of what its authors want and give it the label of postmodern. And when I say postmodern, I’m referring to its more negative, perhaps misunderstood connotation as employed by modernists or even romanticists like, say, T-Bone Givens.

  34. Dan, what impact has the Radical Orthodoxy Manifesto had on you? What are you doing differently now that you have signed it? Is there something that you were going to do, but now haven’t done or done differently because of it? What impact are you hoping it will have?

  35. It appears that the 50% of members who believe trump won the election, would be happy with this manifesto.
    Those who believe in truth, science, honesty, and integrity would not.
    My simple evaluation.

  36. At first I was mildly amused when individuals who were almost entirely ignorant of African American culture or vernacular sought to demonstrate credibility by the use of the word “woke.” I knew that they were filtering its usage through a very white lens but whatchagonnado? Now I know that it will be used to destroy imaginary straw men or, more often, be used as cover for another RW screed, albeit masked in a cloak of sincerity. From here on, when I find it in a LDS “think piece” I will feel free to ignore the article in its entirety.

  37. Xander Harris says:

    Dan,

    That’s twelve nopes-a-noping from me, my dude.

    You’ve dressed it up nicely, but all this seems like thin cover for making sure teh gayz don’t do the gay stuff.

    I am honoured to have been boundary-maintenanced right out of your radical orthodoxy.

    Xander

  38. The other chad says:

    Entirely too much ado about literally nothing. A few months from now all of us will be amused that we invested any time in reading and responding to this forgettable nothing burger.

  39. TL;DR

  40. Mark Brown says:

    lastlemming, a quick Google search shows that “Woke Santa” is a term used within the last 48 hours by the likes of Ben Shapiro and Steve Crowder. Totally apolitically and without derision, I’m sure.

  41. your food allergy is real says:

    So we have a tribe on the right, a tribe on the left, and now a third tribe somewhere in the middle-right (maybe?), complete with a confusing name and a manifesto with signatories (allowed at the discretion of the authors).

    If you’re trying to solve the tribe problem, this isn’t it. You haven’t rejected the premise, you’re playing right into it.

  42. your food allergy is real says:

    Meg Conley said it much better than I did above

  43. Blood Brothers says:

    This post reminds me of a song I used to listen to in high school called ‘Trash Flavored Trash’ by the Blood Brothers. I imagine that other peoples’ responses to that song are similar to mine regarding this post.

  44. Dan, I appreciate your response — for what it said and did not say in response to my questions.

    BTW, In view of your experiencing “a 180 degree change of heart towards” the Proclamation on the Family, I wonder whether it is possible for you to have a further change of heart towards it, whether or not a full 180 degrees. Does making it one of the tentpoles of your public “orthodoxy” make it more difficult to permit such a change of heart even if the Brethren or the spirit or the testimony of others around you suggest it?

    In view of historic changes in doctrines of the Church — or at least teachings of prophets of the Restored Church — I wonder if fidelity to the Church might be better founded on a conviction of prophetic callings [which do not entail infallibility] and of the Church being [all, only, or part of — whatever] the church of Christ, rather than on a particular statement by some of those leaders which had/has its own historic context and potential for change. It seems to me that your emphasis on process would allow such a further change of heart, but also that making that Proclamation one of your tentpoles entails a substantial risk of your rejecting any such process or prompting or testimony with respect to it.

    Maybe the Manifesto is intended by some, even if not you, to declare a commitment to inerrancy of those tentpoles, to reject the process as to them, except only the process of parsing their language and defining or redefining or acknowledging flexible/multiple definitions of their terms. The “tentpole” approach seems to fly in the face of JS’ objection to creeds:
    “I want to come up into the presence of God, and learn all things; but the creeds set up stakes, and say, ‘Hitherto shalt thou come, and no further’ …” If so, then perhaps it is not consistent with the “restoration” or with “core doctrine” (both undefined terms). I wonder how the Manifesto will be used.

  45. Wondering, thank you so much for your thoughtful, thorough responses that echo clearly every crashing feeling in my heart.

    My only departure from you?

    I don’t wonder how the Manifesto will be used. I know how it will be used. I know how it will be used because 1. It’s tent poles have already been used against in me in Twitter DMs from people angry I am critical of it. 2. Because I am a woman in the church – a bisexual one at that! – and things like this are always used as evidence when I am told: I will never have the priesthood and that is right. My sexuality is a quirk of mortality and that is right. I am subservient to my husband now and in the eternities and that is right.

    This will not stay within Mormon Studies forums. It will be read by sunday school teachers and bishops because of the names attached to it. It will be read without nuance or question because that is how most readers read. And then it will be implemented with certainty. As it is used to draw boundaries within the church, within wards, within families, the people drawing the boundaries will feel generous. Because it’s been signed by the people who gave them The God Who Weeps.

    I still cannot get over the fact that we need a theology of the table and you’ve given us a tent.

    It’s illustrative, Wondering, that Dan responded to your (truly fantastic!) comments but not to any of the women who signed their names while expressing: dismay at his incomprehensible comparison of Deznat to this space, concern for their children, or fear of further entrenching the Proclamation based on their experience as faithful women in the church who have had that document thrown at their heads every Sunday for years. (Did any of us express horror over approved signers that are Deznat adjacent and have spearheaded campaigns of fear at church institutions, yet? We should have.)

    That was thoughtful engagement too, Dan. You’re just already too far inside your tent to see it.

  46. The inability to take women seriously is really striking. Thanks for pointing it out, Meg.

  47. Wondering may be a woman! But I wonder! If Wondering is a woman and she’d signed a female name, would she have gotten a response?

  48. @Meg Conley, bravo.

    I too was wondering how on earth it’s supposed to be comforting to all of us concerned about the anti-woman, anti-LGBTQ foundations of the manifesto that a man married to a woman has personally come to terms with the family proclamation. (I’m also so confused at why that’s even a tentpole when it’s not doctrine and when we are all familiar with its less-than-inspired-or-inspiring origins.)

  49. Wondering: I just thought I’d note that, concerning what you propose to be the so-called /usual/ meaning of /radical/, your def. of this adjective is actually the **2nd** one found in the oxford dictionary, while the **first** is: “(especially of change or action) relating to or affecting the fundamental nature of something; far-reaching or thorough.”

  50. K.L. yes, oxford doesn’t necessarily reflect most common current American usage. However, you’re right that the authors could have meant to be saying something “fundamental” about “orthodoxy.” However, I didn’t see Dan doing that when he wrote “innovative (yes, radical)”. I’m still not sure I understand what any of the authors mean by “radical” or “orthodoxy.”

  51. K.L.
    This is a tangent: I didn’t double check the order of definitions of radical in the OED, but I will take your word for it. However, it’s my understanding that the OED (and Merriam-Webster) list definitions in chronological order; the first definition is the earliest sense, not the “most accurate” or “most popular” (assuming those could be measured).

  52. CoViD reached U.S. shores in environs of Seattle last February. In the following month, a British Broadcasting Corp. report read: “Wuhan officials attributed the new figure to updated reporting and deaths outside hospitals. China has insisted there was no cover-up. It has been accused of downplaying the severity of its virus outbreak.” In April, someone or ‘nuther happens to mentions in a tweet in April that the outbreak came recently from China. How is in the hell is criticizing this politically-incorrect terminology then — especially inasmuch as that more ACCEPTABLE expressions only became adopted SUBSEQUENTLY to this time frame — not a perfect example of wokeness? Full disclosure: I myself admire the ends achieved by such fervor. Nonetheless, I think the process being adopted towards these ends needs rethinking.

    (Although I’m neither completely pro- nor anti-woke, at least in ALL its permutations, nonetheless I find it useful to very occasionally to use this mocking expression. “Mormons” believe in the Book of Mormon. What to do when talking about a cultural ferment of people advocating for the collective progress and an awakening to more-enlightened, purifying mores? Well, that’s pretty wordy; so, when I want to describe the more educated and cultured nowadays who tend to agree with the ends sought by the Twitter-shamers, university censors, cancel-ors of today” (even with regard trespasses engaged in, inadvertently)” I simply say… Woke! After all, at one time, people described the folks who abolished the theatres of London as /Roundheads/ or the people of New England who were scandalized by the May pole of Merrymount as /puritans/.)

  53. These comments have been disheartening. It’s a thoughtful post, well articulated. You don’t have to agree with it, but the vitriol–particularly by permabloggers–has left me feeling numb. If we can’t get smart people to engage in *civil* discussion on a middle way without breaking out “how dare you’s” and “you’re bearing false witness,” I’m not sure I how I can expect the average member to do so. The comments seem to be tacitly proving may of Dan’s points.

    If you’re wondering why smart people on the right, or even center, don’t come here as often as they did 10 years ago to engage in thoughtful discussion, I’d posit this as Exhibit A. Perhaps that isn’t a priority any longer. Maybe I’m deluding myself that it ever was.

  54. Jimbob what are some of the multiple examples of vitrol for you? I ask that sincerely not to mock your response. I’m trying to parse our where I might be biased because of my own viewpoint and not see something. I am OK with strong disagreement, but it’s hard to see where that edges into vitrol.

  55. PieFace,

    I think jimbob is talking about my comment objecting to the invocation of Gene England.

  56. In April, someone or ‘nuther happens to mentions in a tweet in April that the outbreak came recently from China.

    Well, that “someone or ‘nuther” also happens to be a signatory of a manifesto by “disciples of Jesus Christ [who] are called to hold fast to the revealed truths of the Restored Gospel in a polarized and contentious world.” However, I’m happy to concede if you are arguing that the manifesto, its signatories and their public musings don’t warrant the attention we are paying to it and them.

    How is in the hell is criticizing this politically-incorrect terminology then — especially inasmuch as that more ACCEPTABLE expressions only became adopted SUBSEQUENTLY to this time frame — not a perfect example of wokeness?

    You are wrong about the timeline—our outgoing president was already stirring the pot in March, the same time as the WHO tweet about stigmatisation I cited above was published.

    Since you’re interested in chronology and context, allow me to recall that I cited the “China gave the world a virus” tweet to illustrate the narrow focus of the manifesto and its signatories. Does that one example knock my point out of the park? No. But I already explained that I think it’s relevant “to the extent that it speaks to the support that signatories provide to a manifesto that positions itself as an antidote to a ‘polarized and contentious world.'”

    Anyway, the assertion that “China gave the world a virus” isn’t polarising and contentious because I’m woke and said so. If the tweet’s author, you and others can’t see the problem with the statement in the context of the church’s efforts to build a temple in Shanghai, well, that just underlines my original point about the narrowness of the manifesto’s scope.

  57. Jonathan the mere muggle says:

    As a young teenager, I once asked my Sunday School teacher — during class — how to determine the gender of the soul in cases where the physical body is ambiguous. I blame 9th grade biology for teaching me about Klinefelter Syndrome and androgen insensitivity.

    The “obstinate fundamentalist” answer to this is that ambiguity of sex does not exist, and that asking about it is blasphemous and perverted. The “progressive” answer is that asking is not only blasphemous and perverted, but also misogynist, homophobic, transphobic, queerphobic, racist, and violent (because it suggests gender binary and references the hateful Proclamation on the Family).

    My Sunday School teacher gave me the “obstinate fundamentalist” answer, though it obviously could have been worse.

    I would much have preferred a “radical orthodox” approach both here and in general.

  58. @Jonathan the mere muggle
    What would the LDS “radical orthodox” approach to your question be? (My interest lies more in a demonstration of whatever LDS Radical Orthodoxy is meant to be than in the particular question.)

  59. are there two Josh H’s on this board. I’m one of them and I just noticed another who posted above. Can we fix this?

  60. What really interests me is all the emphasis hereabouts on semantics. Perhaps it is because I don’t subscribe to any particular political category (although I vote Democratic), but, I myself didn’t even need to resort to a dictionary to understand Dan et al’s meaning of /radical/ to be “uncompromising.” Sure, mine aligns with dictionaries’ definitions of the term, even though it’s not the one “usually” used in current politics—– but: So what!

    >>>>>“Even though we have lost yardsticks by which to measure, and rules under which to subsume the particular, a being whose essence is a beginning may have enough of origin within himself to understand without preconceived categories and to judge without the set of customary rules which is morality.” —Hannah Arendt, “Understanding and Politics,” Essays in Understanding.<<<<>>>>/Wondering/ –> If the tweet’s author, you and others can’t see the problem with the statement in the context of the church’s efforts to build a temple in Shanghai, well, that just underlines my original point about the narrowness of the manifesto’s scope.<<<<<

    Sighs.

    /Wondering/ elevates "enlightened" thinking as end-all, be-all. Certain others (I dunno. Maybe Dan and/or the Givenses?) posit instead: Perhaps human endeavors such as the Enlightenment AREN'T perfect manifestation of "what's enlightened." We'll term the first POV position A and the second, position B. From (A) it's easy to think it absolutely impossible for "enlightened," progressive thinking to be anything but contaminated if it should be tried to be "intermixed" with anything "reactionary." However, from (B) it's just as easy to believe that ultimate enlightenment can involve elements thought reactionary by adherents of whatever systems of human "enlightenment" (trademark pending).

  61. @Jonathan the mere muggle, you’re making the same grossly exaggerated mischaracterizations of progressives (and probably fundamentalists) that this post does. It’s not helpful or productive.

    There may be a few folks on either extreme end of the spectrum who would respond that way but the vast majority I know would not. (And since you admit you didn’t actually get that response from a “progressive” you’ve got no real example of that happening).

    If you have to totally demonize and polarize both sides in order to say that each are totally polarized and therefore you are on a noble project to reject polarization … well your project is doing the opposite.

  62. K.L., I think I understand you even less than I understand the LDS RO Manifesto and Dan. I may be getting closer to understanding Dan. But your comments have made it clear enough to me that I’m getting further from understanding you. I’ll give up on that. Thanks, anyway.

  63. The most sublime of human endeavors those that aim at … with their never fully achieving them, philosophically speaking … such superlatives as /perfection/.

    A Venn diagram: At the apex, put the sphere for “the Church.” Choosing its design arbitrarily, every 72 degrees counter-clockwise, place spheres for “Progressivism,” then “Idiosyncratic Inspirations,” then “Reactionaryism,” then “Antiquated Practices,” until there are five, all together. Since this is BCC, I’ll color the head sphere of “the Church” … true blue; and, the left-arm sphere of “Progressivism,” the whiteness of light!

    Is there any conflict between the two? Sure. Some think white without any blue is best. (Some non-LDS progs might sense things this way.) (I suppose some folks might think vice versa, as well.) In any case, where the two come together, it’s turquois! (Hey! That’s you here at BCC!)

    But, when we throw in more spheres, things get even more complicated: The left-foot sphere, “Idiosyncratic Inspirations” is a warm yellow; the right-foot sphere, “Reactionaryism,” bold-and-fiery red; the right-arm sphere, “Antiquated Practices,” plain black.

    Some folks hate it when they see certain influences represented by whatever color. If one become enamored of things tinged in plain black (say putting the Journal of Discourses above current leadership), the resulting greyness can represent a type of “absolute” orthodoxy, of a particular sort. Over reliance on the yellow sphere of Idiosyncratic Inspirations can lead to a type of heterodoxies or praxis–or even certain types of orthodoxies.

    Ditto with the red sphere of Reactionaryism. BCCers seem especially aghast at this possibility. (For more neutral language than /reactionary/, I can cite the right’s insistence in certain instances that individual rights not be overwhelmed by the collective.) Can there be ANY intermixing of “red” that could conceivably be thought unobjectionable?

  64. Jonathan the mere muggle says:

    @Elisa — Thank you for your reply. I apologize for any confusion, but I did not intend to characterize people at all, neither progressives nor fundamentalists, but only ideologies. People are often better than their principles.

    My hapless Sunday School teacher was good person evidently made extremely uncomfortable by an unexpected question. Drawing on obstinate fundamentalism was simply the best he knew in this particular case, and quite different from his ordinary behavior.

    Though no progressives spoke up that day in Sunday School, I have spoken with and read many since then. That progressivism deems the Proclamation on the Family “homophobic” or “misogynist” seems uncontroversial, particularly since you (or another “Elisa”) and others described it as such in comments above using typical progressive language.

    Finally, I learned about “Radical Orthodoxy” only 2 days ago, so it is not my project, though I’m flattered you’d think so.

    I appreciate your response and would be happy to continue when my time allows.

  65. jimbob makes some good points. The truth is, the more patiently and intelligently a traditional viewpoint is defended, the more it boils the blood of those on this blog. You know it’s true — you’re not really bothered by a random, “you’re all going to hell” commenter, but when you see someone lay out an argument that might even use non-sympathetic voices to support it’s own view point (what’s wrong with that common rhetorical use of dissonance/bridge building?), the weeping and gnashing starts.

    If you have a problem with a church member saying, “I believe in the general conference version of this church” the problem is you. Their goal is clearly to articulate sound principles surrounding their belief and provide others who are like minded but lacking in linguistic creativity to formulate it as such. It’s a great concept, because it’s it’s possible that most BCC bloggers (or at least it seems clear from the tone and writings) don’t believe in the general conference version of the church.

    I actually enjoy reading BCC from time to time because it allows me to see how intellectual quasi-faithful (from my perspective) view things. It’s a middle ground between the hostile secular perspective, mingled with faith. Maybe that misses the mark, but the difference in perspective is helpful in seeing how the church messages are interpreted. Doesn’t make it correct, or mean I agree with it. And always there are elements of truth in it. Usually, just weighted with exactly the same kind of bias or myopic vision that the apostles are accused of.

  66. A Turtle Named Mack says:

    Stue, I’ve been reading BCC for…a long time. I wouldn’t characterize much of what I read, and none of those who author posts, as quasi-faithful. Obviously, that’s all relative and you indicate that your assessment is merely from your own perspective. However, I consistently find that this is a place for faithful saints to explore their beliefs (and faith) in an effort to navigate a VERY complex world where doctrine/teachings/policy/morality are not always in harmony. Engaging in this community has only served to increase my faith, and faithfulness. It really is possible to see contradiction, to recognize human fallibility, and to disagree with interpretation and remain faithful. What I typically see here (there are exceptions) are faithful attempts to engage with the gospel of Jesus Christ and the Church and to create a space for exploration that increases understanding and testimony. Don’t just come here to see how the heathens think. Consider other perspectives, listen to diverse voices, and engage with others who really are faithful.

  67. Dan, after reading the manifesto and this post, I’m pretty sure the tl;dr on why you signed this is that you want your ideas and worldview to be seen as relevant and worthwhile. Which is understandable!

    But almost all manifestos are unnecessary, and so is this one. Look, if you want your ideas to be valued, you’ve got to be compelling, and if your ideas aren’t already being taken seriously, a manifesto isn’t going to help.

    The thing is, I do think these ideas are taken seriously among the lay membership of the church, just not on Twitter. Most of the church isn’t progressive or DezNat, and is also never going to know about this document. Putting it on the internet for the exact audience who most disagrees with it to tear it apart reeks of persecution complex. 80% of the church agrees with you. You aren’t radical, you’re just aiming commentary at groups whose… validation you want? Or disagreement you want? I’m honestly not sure, but the real question is why?

    It just feels kind of desperate for attention. Which you got! But, I can’t imagine you’ve changed anyone’s minds or gained additional respect for the people signing it. If anything, the weight of some of those names is tarnishing the reputation of those who are more well-regarded. There are signatories who have been extraordinarily kind to me, and one is even an old friend. And yet, here I am thinking less of all of them, not for the content (it’s not like I didn’t already know what these people think), but for the sheer silliness of this endeavor.

  68. @Jonathan the meer muggle: Thanks for your response. Yes, I’m the one who said the family proclamation is anti-gay and anti-woman in response to the RO manifesto & Dan’s specific explanation here, and I stand by that, but that response was specific to this context: someone on a blog claiming to be a Mormon scholar who ought to be familiar with the historical and social issues surrounding that document and the harm it caused and causes to people, and is nevertheless (1) equating flying a pride flag on the one hand with DezNat on the other and scare-quoting “LGBTQ affirming” like it’s a fake PC label, (2) pledging absolute loyalty to that document, while (3) repeatedly claiming to “love” LGBTQ people. I’m going to call that out because I don’t think Dan gets to credibly claim he “loves” people just by saying so if his actions and creed are the opposite of love. But — if someone asked the kind of question you asked — and I love that you asked that, and I wish that more people would be thoughtful and ask questions like that — my response would be very, very different.

    I would probably start with, “That’s a great question – what do you think?” If I were in the capacity of a Sunday school teacher rather than a blog commenter — in which capacity I don’t think it is appropriate to preach my own views to students if they contradict the official Church position — I would probably add that if I as a parent ever faced that decision I would face it with a lot of prayer, as it would be a really tough situation, and that I would hope that all members are aware of these possibilities and therefore sensitive to some of the difficult questions our teachings about gender raise in the real world (where biology can be more complicated than “male” or “female” and where some people sincerely feel that their biological sex doesn’t match their eternal gender and some people also feel like their sexual attractions aren’t the norm for their gender), and that our main objective as disciples of Christ should be to treat all people with love and respect no matter their gender identity or sexual orientation. And maybe I’d read the “all are alike unto God” scripture. And then I’d probably think about it some more during the week and see if I could offer any additional thoughts the next week since I wasn’t all that prepared when you ask (“I don’t know, I’m going to look into that” is always a great answer).

    So again, my point is that — as an unashamed and pretty far left progressive when it comes to these issues — I am pretty shocked at the caricature Dan draws of progressives and would caution against adopting that and thinking that the “Radically Orthodox” answer to your question is the only productive one. He created a straw-man “progressive” and I felt that your comment bought into it.

    And yes I didn’t mean to imply that was “your” project, that was I guess the royal “you’re” ;-) if there is such a thing.

  69. Do not use my father’s (Eugene England) name and words in vain.
    Seriously.
    He would never approve anything like this “manifesto”.
    You dishonor him and his life by linking his words to your attempt to justify your own unwillingness to challenge your paradigm.
    And thank you, Kristine, for your comments! It is important to see how dad was willing to listen to those who were deeply impacted by harmful rhetoric, and wrestle with being a part of a truly Christlike response. If he were still here, I think he would be listening to the heartbreak of his queer loved ones, and those who do not fit into the binary gender roles that some would elevate to divine status.
    God is so much bigger than this.

  70. Stephen Hardy says:

    Many thanks to Kristine and Jody

  71. Amen to that Stephen

  72. Per cultural memory, the great Eugene England was not ONLY “progressive” (by the standards of his eral) but also a faithful scholar and loyal Church critic.

    Was he progressive?

    I just surfed at random to a Chad Nielson’s Aug. 20 T&S post where England had a conversation with LDS leader Jos. Fielding Smith in which Smith replied to England’s inquiries with the admission: “No, you do not have to believe that Negroes are denied the priesthood because of the pre-existence. I have always assumed that because it was what I was taught, and it made sense, but you don’t have to to be in good standing because it is not definitely stated in the scriptures. And I have received no revelation on the matter.”

    OK.

    More! (from the lede @ his wikipedia bio): “England described the ideal modern Mormon scholar as ‘critical and innovative as his gifts from God require but conscious of and loyal to his own unique heritage and nurturing community and thus able to exercise those gifts without harm to others or himself.'” Further on, the article reads, “According to historian Claudia Bushman, ‘the McConkie-England disagreement revealed the division between theological conservatives and liberals within the believing camp and, in a larger sense, the tensions between authoritarian control versus free expression.’ In the last decade of his life, England felt increasingly under fire for his work, which led him to retire from BYU in 1998.”

    Sounds like England was also criticized as insufficiently “anchoared” and thus liable to be tossed in whatever the current era’s winds of waywardness. (Or some such. I dunno.) But, what should be made of intellectual folks who may NOT be so progressive? They’re slipping toward regressivity & traitorousness to foundational principles of the Acacemy? Are these the type of terms by which England characterized the likes of the intellectually inclined Jos. Fielding Smith?

    * * *

    [Bonus random quote I’d googled]: >>>>>>>”. . [B. F.]Cummings discussed what he called ‘the clash between institutional authority and individual integrity and between the imperative of blind obedience and the claims of reasoned belief.’ With considerable forthrightness, Cummings spoke of a problem which is for many the most anguishing problem in Mormon experience—the struggle to maintain individual integrity, to be true to ourselves in the face of pressures to obey, to conform, to overlook what seem to Cummings and others to be ‘clear fallacies or even tyrannies in the strictly authoritarian pattern,’ especially to keep faith with ourselves in the face of misunderstanding, hostility, even ostracism from our brothers and sisters and disapproval, even disciplinary action, from those in authority over us in the Church. I BELIEVE THAT ISSUE IS INDEED CENTRAL to Mormon experience and literature but in ways that are, in my view, less troubling and at the same time more challenging than Cummings suggested. he saw the problem, at least in terms of our own decisions, as essentially a simple one, though the consequences might be difficult and complex: CLEARLY WE ARE TO CHOOSE INDIVIDUALLY REASONED BELIEF OVER BLIND OBEDIENCE, the honor of self over the demands of the group, or what Cummings at one point, referring to the examples of B.F. Cummings and B.H. Roberts, called ‘individual initiative on behalf of personal integrity in the face of hierarchical hostility or indifference.’ ” — Eugene England, “Obedience, Integrity, and the Paradox of Selfhood,” Dialogues with Myself: Personal Essays on Mormon Experience.<<<<<<<

  73. It’s late for this comment thread, but I’ll drop in my thought anyway (just so I can quote myself later, perhaps?)

    The Proclamation on the Family is one of the hot buttons in the Manifesto. My general view that context matters is particularly relevant with respect to the Proclamation. At its issuance in 1995, I saw the Proclamation as intentionally and aggressively anti-marriage, and also fundamentally anti-LGBTQ by enshrining a gender binary. However, there were legitimate arguments and debates about what the Proclamation really means (apart from its firm stance on marriage), for two decades. Until the Exclusion Policy of 2015 showed the world. I believe that no reversal or disclaimer can reverse the reveal. Now we know.

    I understand that some people would like to affirm the Proclamation in its pre-2015 arguably ambiguous state. But I don’t see that space existing. What might have been argued in 2014 is not available in 2020. To claim the Proclamation as a “tent pole” in 2020 is to take sides. Any middle there might have been no longer exists.

  74. It’s important to articulate the context of this manifesto in terms of the political state of affairs at BYU and among people in the Mormon intelligentsia who are most connected to BYU. Of course, this is only part of the larger context, but it helps explain some of the strongly negative reaction to the manifesto.

    Remember earlier this year when BYU changed its policies in an effort to end the shaming of LGBTQ people on campus? The change was swatted away by people higher up the chain, but the fact that it got approved in the first place surprised a lot of people. It showed that many people—maybe most of the people—who are working every day at BYU to run the place understand that changes are needed there. People like me were pleasantly surprised by this policy change. Many of those who signed this manifesto were frightened by it. For them, this manifesto is part of a struggle to hold the line. It’s terribly important to this group of people at BYU to define gay-shaming attitudes as the normal, sensible position.

    Abstract discussions about the intellectual principles of the manifesto are well and good. Again, there’s more to the manifesto than just this political issue. But those who put their names on it need to recognize the immediate political purpose for which it will be used: a program to whitewash anti-gay animus.

  75. It appears that the 50% of members who believe trump won the election, would be happy with this manifesto.
    Those who believe in truth, science, honesty, and integrity would not.
    The elect lead astray?
    My simple evaluation.

  76. I like opposition of “orthodoxy” with “radical.” Because, according to my point of view, capital-C conservative people SO OFTEN seem overly beholden to THE STATUS QUO.

    The expression seems to speak to me about finding some kinds of ways or another to discover NEW ways that don’t “throwing the baby out with the bath water.” (Or some such as that.)

  77. With apologies to eugene england’s daughter, who commented within this thread above, but it seems to me that during the civil rights era eugene wasn’t all about burning the house down. I grant I’d imagine him unlikely to, say, join PRO-the-status-quo / “COUNTER”- 60s demonstrations. But, it’s likely if he HAD adopted too high of a profile in the prog. direction, he would have been fired.(*)

    Well, let’s see. He retired from the Y in 1998 (the year he’d published in sunstone “Becoming a World Religion: Blacks, the Poor – All of Us”). But it was back in **1990** when eugene had published there “Are All Alike Unto God?: Prejudice Against Blacks and Women in Popular Mormon Theology.”
    ________
    (*)I see that gary bergera & ron priddis mention that WAY BACK IN 1965 eugene “and Clifford Gledhill contributed a scholarship fund for Nigerian students but Harold B. Lee ‘protested vigorously over our having given a scholarship at the BYU to a negro student from Africa’ and the fund was discontinued.” [Wilkinson jrnl, 3Mr1965; trustees min.s, 31Mr1965.]

    =======
    IN NINETEEN SIXTY-EIGHT, IT MADE national headlines when 14 U. of Wyo. black football players wished to boycott playing byu. By 2020, the Church was partnering with various of these Black 14 members in performance of charity work.

  78. With apologies to K.L., can we all agree that K.L. Is the worst? I think that can bring us together.

    My favorite part about the original post and pretty much all the work ever done by the primary signatories of the manifesto is that they often claim that their passive aggressive treatment of others is civil. Deniability is the best part about being passive aggressive. I have never found the need for that deniability.

  79. Hah: It should be uniformly agreed, even by me, Chris Henrichsen, that I’m a doddering fool!

    Any hoo: Sort of coming full circle, in a manner of speaking (in light of that terryl & fiona seem MOST famous for their 2012 book-length treatment of “The God Who Weeps”), what follows is a quote from a piece by rebecca england, “A Professor and Apostle Correspond,” about her father’s 2010 journal piece “The weeping God of Mormonism.”

    * * *
    >>>>>”In his 1993 essay ‘On Spectral Evidence,’ England[…]begins to give shape to[…]lessons he was to have been learning from his interactions with Elder McConkie, wondering out loud if he may have violated his own integrity by so readily promising to be silent when faced with McConkie’s reprimand.

    //////////// CERTAINLY IT IS POSSIBLE FOR AN INDIVIDUAL AMONG THE BRETHREN TO ASK ME TO DO OR BELIEVE SOMETHING I SIMPLY COULD NOT, AT LEAST IN GOOD CONSCIENCE. As Elder Boyd K. Packer explained in a devotional address at BYU in 1991, safety lies in the motto, “FOLLOW THE BRETHREN, NOT THE BROTHER.”////////////

    >>>>>”Using that idea as a springboard, England reflects on ‘one of the most troubled times of [his] life [when he] failed to make the distinction between Brother and Brethren’ and reviews his intentions in contacting McConkie[…]. He then reflects further on his promise of silence, his efforts to be obedient and open-hearted toward this general authority, his concerns about publicity, and his eventual decision to break his silence after McConkie’s death.

    ////////////It was certainly not my prerogative to publicly challenge or oppose Elder McConkie’s ideas, especially while he was serving as an apostle. But neither did it any longer seem right for me to remain silent about what I understood to be an important and official teaching of the Restoration[…]so in 1989 I published an essay in Brigham Young University Studies[…].////////////<<<<<

  80. “To promote atomized and individualistic appraisal of the church’s core doctrines and teachings, but then to also insist that we come together and function as unified Zion when it comes to social issues, is wholly predictable behavior that is typical on the ideological left.”

    This is evidence that Dan does not understand liberalism, progressivism, or any left leaning ideology beyond mere caricature. This whole piece is condescending: “Hey lefties, come over to three tent pole Mormonism, where you must subscribe to orthodoxy, but we throw in the possibility of very moderate and regulated change. Isn’t that all the radicalism you need?” This is a sign of how polarized we are. These manifesto signers are so far right that they see not just change, but the mere possibility of any change in the slightest, as radical and revolutionary.

  81. I have a bumper sticker that seems appropriate here: CURB YOUR DOGMA

  82. When examining (present-day) “Deseret” nationalism, a question to ask is whether DezNates tend to take devotional aspects of their mindset as seriously as they do the ethnic identity/political ones. A snippet about so-called /Christian/ nationalism from christianitytoday.com from a review of a book on the subject by two sociologists, “Taking America Back for God”: “[R]eligious commitment is not always a vector for Christian nationalism. In fact, Christian nationalism ‘often influences Americans’ opinions and behaviors in the exact opposite direction than traditional religious commitment does’ (p. 20). This dichotomy—between Christian nationalism and religious commitment—is animated by survey questions that clarify the moral priorities of each group. Statistically significant predictors for religious practice include caring for the sick and needy, economic justice and consuming fewer goods. For Christian nationalists, on the other hand, these moral priorities are either statistically insignificant or negatively associated.”

  83. josephbstanford says:

    Someone needs to write a history of how “orthodoxy” in LDS discourse moved from being a pejorative and negative (the embodiment of an ancient apostasy) to being a positive and desirable trait of steadfastness in the LDS church (for example, as used by Neal A. Maxwell). If someone has already written the history, please point me to it!

  84. I finally read Nathaniel Given’s “What Led Me to Radical Orthodoxy” posted at publicsquaremag.org. It was interesting to note that the factors he says led him to that position are sometimes the same factors that have led others to reject the Proclamation on the Family as a “tentpole” of Mormonism’s “big tent.” For at least some of them, that rejection is “ltimately…about love. Love of truth and beauty. Love of our brothers and sisters from all backgrounds, religions, races, perspectives, and identities. Love of God.”

  85. In peggy stack’s article on the radical orthodoxy manifesto in the salt lake tribune, among others’ reactions she mentions: Latter-day saint theological critic adam miller’s finding little to disagree with unless, as miller said, one “read[s] specific ideas into it”; “Overall, it’s fairly banal.” USU mormon studies chair patrick mason supports an effort to find “a center path between what they see between the errors of unbridled progressivism and recalcitrant fundamentalism” — esp. one which might provide a “hedge” with regard deseret nationalism etc., mason’s adopting a wait-and-see attitude as to the manifesto’s & the radical-orthodoxy rhetoric’s impact: “It may be a nothing-burger,” “or the start of something massive.”

  86. Brian Darsow says:

    The manifesto amuses me. Yet another attempt to assume away the problems that are purportedly resolved. For example, tell me how a faithful Mormon today can participate in intellectual life at a professional level in the modern world without compartmentalizing, for instance? They just say they DON’T compartmentalize without saying how this is accomplished or what this really means. Nice dodge. Same with asserting both that the modern church is not morally behind the times and that the Church’s traditional teachings on sexual morality should be accepted. These stances are not mutually compatible unless you already assume a particular brand orthodoxy. The post author says he rejects the premise you have to be one type of orthodox or another, but the manifesto does not indicate any new paradigm to permit this kind of rejection.

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