In my last post I introduced Jurgen Habermas’ book The Structural Transformation of the Public Sphere and argued that it is very relevant to us in the bloggernacle. More specifically, I argued that just as how during the Enlightenment independent people came together in a public forum so as to engage in critical debate which eventually served to erode the perceived legitimacy of their state authorities, so too us within the bloggernacle come together as independent persons in this public forum so as to engage in critical debate which can – if we are not careful – erode the perceived legitimacy of our church authorities. The bloggernacle is largely characterized by the same three traits that structured the public sphere which Habermas sees at the center of democratic politics: Open accessibility to all, equality amongst interlocutors and all topics are open to critical discussion. My point in that post was not to accuse anybody in particular of undermining the authority of our leaders so much as it was to warn us all how easy it is to seamlessly and unnoticeably slide from “a public sphere in which the [priesthood authority is] merely represented before the people [to] a sphere in which [church] authority [is] publicly monitored through informed and critical discourse by the people.” (p. xi) In this post I want to articulate the subtle steps by which this transition can happen. (more…)
I worry that the bloggernacle is a crucial cog within a cultural machine that takes prophetic religions and transforms them into secular and therefore apostate institutions. I worry that the same mechanisms by which modern intellectuals overthrew feudal society are also attempting to secularize the church today. (I have a strong suspicion that a very similar process characterized the transition from apostles and prophets to theologians and state authorities in the early church.) I will follow Jurgen Habermas in calling this mechanism, “the public sphere.” Let me first give a very brief description of the role that the public sphere played in the overthrow of feudal society before I articulate the rather obvious parallels which I see in the bloggernacle. (All references are from The Structural Transformation of the Public Sphere, Jurgen Habermas) (more…)
Human reasoning is pretty much indispensable in our daily lives as human beings. Not only are we allowed to engage in human reasoning, but we are actively encouraged to do it…. Unless it contradicts the teachings of our priesthood leaders. Priesthood authority trumps human reason.
“We feel very sure that you understand well the doctrines of the Church. They are either true or not true. Our testimony is that they are true. Under these circumstances we may not permit ourselves to be too much impressed by the reasonings of men however well-founded they may seem to be. We should like to say this to you in all kindness and in all sincerity that you are too fine a man to permit yourself to be led off from the principles of the Gospel by worldly learning. You have too much of a potentiality for doing good and we therefore prayerfully hope that you can reorient your thinking and bring it in line with the revealed word of God.”
-12 November 1947 Letter to Lowry Nelson, First Presidency, Archive.org (more…)
“And behold, others he flattereth away … and he saith unto them: I am no [prophet], for there is none.” (2 Nephi 28:21)
“When we reject the counsel which comes from God, we do not choose to be independent of outside influence. We choose another influence… Rather than the right to choose to be free of influence, it is the inalienable right to submit ourselves to whichever of those powers we choose.” (Henry B. Eyring, Ensign, May 1997, p. 25)
Discipleship and Euthryphro’s Dilemma. At one point in His ministry, Jesus taught a doctrine which seemed patently absurd to his disciples – so absurd, in fact, that many of them turned away from Him at that point. In so doing they were using their trust in doctrine to constrain their trust in a prophet. Jesus then turned to the Apostles and asked if they too would leave to which they responded, “Lord, to whom shall we go? Thou hast the words of eternal life.” In so doing they were using their trust in a prophet to constrain their trust in doctrine. We all must also pick and choose who or what we follow in our lives. By picking a ‘who’, we necessarily also choose a ‘what’ and by picking a ‘what’, we inevitably also choose a ‘who.’ Many times we frame the decisions we make in terms of ‘what’ so as to occlude, disguise or otherwise repress the ‘who’ which necessarily accompanies any such choices. While I am willing to concede that our motives for doing this are not always so sinister in nature, I do want to suggest that – contra Euthyphro’s dilemma – there is no deep, intrinsically binding or non-question begging reason for prioritizing doctrines over prophets in our lives. (more…)
This is THE lesson that I have learned regarding my misguided departure from the church. I had worked myself into a position where the values and standards of the gospel had become a second language to me – second to the values and standards of liberal democracy. The latter had taken the place of the former as my default mindset, the habitual patterns in which I automatically and uncritically thought, spoke and acted. Through years of training and practice, I had come to evaluate and measure the church and its values according to those of liberal democracy at a deeply intuitive and emotional level rather than the other way around. I had come to feel more repugnance, offense and moral indignation at the thought of somebody violating my liberal democratic values than if they had violated those of my Mormon upbringing.
But this is not how I experienced it at the time. Precisely because of the way in which I had internalized the values of liberal democracy I uncritically experienced these values as given and beyond question. The values of liberal democracy were just “obviously” good and true. Thus, when I decided to measure the truth of the church by the values of liberal democracy, I simply experienced this process as asking “is the church true?” – an honest and innocent question. When I evaluated church policies and doctrine by the standards of liberal democracy, I very genuinely felt that I was asking “is this position right?” Similarly, when a person violated the rules of liberal democracy they were a bad person, but when another person violated the rules of Mormonism they merely had a different perspective on what was right. The very act of internalizing the rules of liberal democracy had also repressed them and the more strongly I endorsed them the more I placed them beyond question or constraint. Liberal democracy, in my mind, was not simply a tradition or perspective, but universal and timeless truth – a standing which should have been reserved for God and His church.
With hindsight, I can say with absolute conviction that one does not simply lose one’s testimony, even if it genuinely feels as if that is what is happening. Rather, one actively – albeit uncritically – beats down and erodes one’s testimony. Through training and practice, we gradually chip away at our testimonies with the hammer of the liberal democratic values we are taught in school, on t.v. and in internet forums. As we choose to evaluate and navigate the world around us by the tools of liberal democracy rather than those of the gospel, the latter not only atrophy from disuse, but are purposefully displaced by the former in their relentless take-over and re-programming of our minds. I cannot say it emphatically enough: the tradition of liberal democracy is not neutral, passive or benign when it comes to our religious convictions or any other set of competing values. It is a god which is no less jealous or hungry for the souls of men (or women) than any other.
As people in the bloggernacle critically evaluate and take inventory on their testimonies, I sincerely hope that they do not fall into the same trap I did. Our testimonies do not lose their power, except in their struggle against some other power – typically that of liberal democracy. If some such issue is placing your testimony of the church at risk, why not critically evaluate and take inventory on your testimony of that issue? I know that it can be difficult and counter-intuitive to do, but instead of judging the church for it’s lack of concern for feminist issues or it’s lack of appreciation or tolerance for open debate or some other way of measuring the church by liberal democratic standards, let’s instead measure such movements, values and institutions by those of the Lord and His prophets. To paraphrase Jacob, to be a liberal democrat is good, so long as these values and standards are constrained by the counsels of God and His prophets rather than the other way around.
(Note: This post was written almost entirely before Elder Oaks’ talk regarding the nature of priesthood. Sadly, I have not given much thought to the relevance which that talk has to my own thoughts on this subject.)
This post is not about the Ordain Women movement. Quite some time ago, I posted a critique of the Ordain Women organization wherein I suggested that even though the movement is about faithful LDS women, that does not mean that it is actually for faithful LDS women. Rather, I suggested, the movement is actually by and for humanistic intellectuals. In that post, I repeated what has become almost a cliché for those who aren’t fully on board with OW: It’s not that I am against women being ordained to the priesthood, it’s just that I object to the OW organization and the tactics they employ. In that way, I attempted to sideline the inevitable accusations of misogyny which such a post provokes so as to look at the conflict that OW presents between intellectuals and priesthood authority (patriarchal or otherwise). In this post, however, I wish to do the exact opposite: I wish to sideline any thoughts or preferences concerning the nature of the Ordain Women in order to focus exclusively on the ordainability of women.
Overall, the authors found that the relationship between sadism and trolling was the strongest, and that indeed, sadists appear to troll because they find it pleasurable. “Both trolls and sadists feel sadistic glee at the distress of others,” they wrote. “Sadists just want to have fun … and the Internet is their playground!”
So the basic take away I get from this is that chronic internet trolls are pretty much sadistic psychos. (Seems like an apt description of some of the rabid anti-Mormon trolls I have encountered over the years.)
Anyhow, three cheers for active moderation of comment sections! We may not make trolls cease to exist, but we can at least keep these psycho sadists out of our own blog comment sections with a little effort.
(P)recap. The purpose of this series on intellectuals within Mormonism is bring the analytic tools of intellectualism against itself so as to help Mormon intellectuals recognize and perhaps second guess the choices that they actively make when they unnecessarily place themselves at odds with the church leadership. To review, the first post identified the specific kind of intellectualism which the scriptures warn us against. Briefly, the intellectual will be the person who holds that:
Any speech act can legitimately be called into question by any person, at any time and that a legitimate answer to that question cannot invoke any person’s position within society.
In the second post I articulated the ways in which Mormon intellectuals will not only tolerate, but actively embrace prophecy within their worldview. In summary, the Mormon intellectual has no trouble negotiating a kind of compatibility between their intellectualism and their prophetic religion, since all doctrines can still be called into question and subsequently (dis)confirmed by God at any time. In this way, the position which priesthood leaders have taken on any given issue becomes largely irrelevant to the position which Mormon intellectuals will take on the same issue.
While the Mormon intellectual can fully embrace the first leg upon which Mormonism stands (prophecy), he will have serious difficulties embracing the other leg: priesthood authority. In this post I want to articulate the tensions that exist between intellectualism and priesthood authority, for I believe it is these that are the primary source of contention between the former and Mormonism. (more…)
I assume that most people in the bloggernacle are aware of the Liahona/Iron Rod distinction wherein those who surrender personal responsibility by following the prophet (like the Iron Rod) are contrasted with those who accept a more robust kind of responsibility by following their own spiritual promptings (like a Liahona). This metaphorical distinction, I submit, is nothing but the philosophies of men mingled with scripture – a clever sophistry which serves to undermine the prophets by democratizing priesthood authority. (more…)
(Love ya, Gary!)
It’s not terribly difficult to guess ahead of time which bloggernacle threads Gary (of NDBF fame) will comment in and roughly what his position will be therein. This is due to a number of factors: his overall consistency, the forthright, no-nonsense articulation of his views and (most of all) his staunch adherence to positions which tend to drive intellectuals crazy. Gary is by no means alone in proudly flaunting these traits as a badge of honor but to me he serves as the perfect poster-boy for all Iron-Rodders if only because he is one of the most patient and likeable of the bunch.
First, I’ll give a little history regarding our interactions in the ‘nacle. Those who have known me for a while are well aware that I take science fairly seriously and have always had a particular interest in Darwinian evolution. I’m sure you are also well aware that Gary has always been quite unimpressed by both, to put it mildly. After many frustrating exchanges between us in which I frequently allowed sarcasm and mockery to take the place of patience and charity I finally thought that I had figured out what Gary’s core argument really was. (more…)
The title of this post is a direct quote from a recent visitor here at the Thang. The observation came in response to a chilly reply I gave to one of her* comments. Of course “Jenny” was right. I often do come across as kind of mean to strangers on the web these days. I don’t know if running a blog for more than five years makes everyone jaded and suspicious about newcomers but it seems to have had that effect on me. I admittedly find myself warily sizing up newcomers and barely being able to hide my sneaking suspicion that this anonymous new visitor is A) an internet troll in disguise, B) a moron, or C) both.
The sad reality for anyone that runs a Mormon blog is that option C) proves to be the case too often. So I find myself a little jaded. How about you? Has blogging made you “kind of mean” and jaded, especially with strangers on the web… yet?
* Her handle was a female name but of course on the internet no one knows…
(See what I mean about being jaded?)
Ok, I’ll come out and say it. I never really liked the Niblets and was disappointed to see them claw their way out of their rotting grave again this year.
I have some right to say such a thing since if I remember correctly it was my Mormon Archipelago pals and I who started and named the stinky little awards at the end of 2005. (You can mostly blame Ronan).
To me the Niblets are like another tradition I don’t like — white elephant gift exchanges. The odds of hurt feelings (especially when there are desirable gifts) makes the risks of ruining the party higher than the potential fun of the game. See this thread to decide for yourself how the latest iteration is panning out.
What say you? Do you love the Niblets or are you with me on this one?
I am trying for something devotional here. A fire and brimstone sermon to myself, if you will…
One thing I loved about my high school freshman year of Catholic History was the chapter on the Spanish Inquisition and discussing the horrible things done then. It opened up discussions of religion which I had never before considered and helped me gain an understanding of and frankly a dislike of those evils which had come before. But this acknowledgement of evil was not enough to keep me in the fold. Confessing to evil isnâ€™t enough. It only makes you guilty. (more…)
Questions like this one don’t create any anxiety for me these days. I blame it on my creeping universalism.
By creeping universalism I mean this: I just can’t bring myself to believe in permanent divine punishment anymore. I know some people believe in it and I don’t begrudge them their beliefs — I just think they are wrong. Don’t misunderstand — I believe in divine justice. That is largely why I don’t believe in permanent punishment. If our souls are eternal I just don’t think there is anything we could do in 70 years here that would warrant infinite punishment. So I think people pay in some fashion for every sin they refuse to repent of; I just think that process won’t take forever. So when someone asks if I will end up in the highest kingdom of heaven (whatever that means) I feel confident in saying “yup”. I just think y’all will end up in the same condition too. (Heck, I now vaguely suspect we may have always been in that condition before our sojourn here on this planet as well…) That is what I mean by my creeping universalism. (more…)
As has been mentioned in a couple of other bloggernacle blogs (Julie at T&S, sidebar at BCC, and live on-location reporting from Steve H. at Splendid Sun among others), Elder Ballard just encouraged the graduating class at BYU-Hawaii to start a blog.
No, I’m not kidding.