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Satan and Satire: On the Narratives of Excommunication and “Persecution”

It is my experience that when satire makes your blood boil, it is because it tells a truth that is really uncomfortable for you. As I anticipated, my recent satire has generated a lot of controversy and the people I expected to be upset are, well, upset.  One commenter in particular has zealously defended John Dehlin, and as I was beginning to respond to some of her comments, I decided that it would be better to just to write another blog post rather than let this get buried in the comments section.

One constant theme I keep hearing from Dehlin’s camp is that this was “too far,” or “over the top,” or “counter-productive.” Productivity, however, is a matter of intended ends. If the end is build bridges, smooth things over, or rally people in “solidarity,” then yes, this is very much a counter-productive approach. But none of those things was the point. The intent was to make a point about the narrative that Dehlin and his followers have long been pushing, and to make it in a way that dispassionate reason cannot. Now, before you jump to the conclusion that I cannot make my point through reasoned analysis because my point just won’t stand up to such scrutiny, let me just explain that is not the case. I can make my point that way, and to prove it I am going to in this post. But I am not the first one to make this point through reasoned analysis, and I doubt I will be the last. Yet, the narrative has persisted. Satire is a powerful tool that can to be used to reach far more people, and often times makes a point far more effectively. And it does so specifically by going “too far” or “over the top”—that is the method of satire.

Satire also has the power to reach more people—especially more people who actually fall into Dehlin’s camp. Think I am wrong? Well, I’ll bet that this blog post will get far less traffic than the original satire. Woefully less. Why is that? Because Dehlin’s camp tends not to pay much attention to this sort of thing. They all come and read a controversial satire, because to them, it is a chance to reinforce another part of their narrative—that of the mean, nasty, and insensitive apologist. Posted only 2 days ago, it is already my post with the most hits—garnering more than 50% more hits than the previous leading post, which had been accumulating traffic for over a year. And it generated way more conversation (I think before this, one post got like 14 comments once). Go ahead and look through this blog. You’ll find it tends to be pretty sober, discusses various arguments for various things, highlights books to read, etc. There are couple other satires, and those posts also generated more traffic than others. Way more people want to see the apologist when he gets “mean and nasty” than when he is actually engaging with their cherished beliefs.

Again, I ask, you think I am wrong? Prove it. Prove it by actually reading and thoughtfully commenting on this post, sharing this post with others, even—especially?—if you are sympathetic to Dehlin’s narrative. Prove me wrong by getting this post more traffic than the satire. I’d love it if that could happen, but I won’t be holding my breath. A sober discussion of the evidence just does not get that kind of attention, especially from those who disagree with it.

Okay. So, now that that is out of the way, let’s talk about the narrative that Dehlin is promoting, and has been promoting for a long time. Note the opening paragraph of the NYT article:
Mormon leaders have moved to excommunicate the prominent founder of an online forum for questioning Mormons, charging him with apostasy for publicly supporting same-sex marriage and the ordination of women, and for challenging church teaching.
The article goes on to acknowledge that this is not actually what the formal letters say about his excommunication. It cops out of this by saying it was “far more general than the specific list of accusations that Mr. Dehlin said he was given verbally in meetings with his regional leader.” But if you actually take a look at the August 7, 2014 letter (which I have extracted for your convenience), we find not a more general list than what Dehlin is claiming, but a more detailed, bulleted list of the reasons. And while I don’t doubt that other issues came up in their private talks, including same-sex marriage and Ordain Women—as Dehlin details in his August 10, 2014 response to President King—these go completely unmentioned in the letters. In fact, in a correspondence from August 11, 2014, omitted by Dehlin (open and honest, right?) in his press release, President King feels it is necessary to clarify that while in private he has been willing “to engage in a discussion on all of the issues that you chose to address during our lengthy conversations,” he feels “my true concerns may have not been clear.” He then goes on to reiterate the same concerns in official letter from August 7. In short: Dehlin’s support of same-sex marriage and Ordain Women are only peripheral to the real issues, which are outlined in the letters, and which are pretty much indisputable apostasy. But that does not suit Dehlin’s narrative well, so he emphasizes points he knows are going to attract media attention.

It is also clear that Dehlin is doing more than merely “asking questions,” or “thinking rationally,” as some would have it. He is in open rebellion and is openly trying to harm the Church. Don’t believe me? Well, read on.

In response to my satire, Monica Pignotti, a zealous—I would even say fanatic—follower of Dehlin stated:
John Dehlin has never said others should believe what he believes. When asked, he has honestly stated from time to time what he currently believes or does not believe about the church. He has also repeatedly stated that he supports people, regardless of what they believe about the church. All he ever wanted was open discussion and for all the facts about the church to be available, rather than just the correlated version that even insults the intelligence of some faithful, active members I know.
This is the narrative. But it is not the facts. What Dehlin has actually said is quite a bit different. (Hat tip to the anonymous poster at DearJohnDehlin for having collected these quotes for the rest of us!)
In my experience, anyone who is smart, who has looked at the evidence, and who is not willing to concede this [the truth claims of the church] — almost always has some set of forces bearing down upon them (e.g., familial, social, financial, psychological) that prevent them from being able to acknowledge this reality.
He has also stated:
The evidence summarized in http://cesletter.com shows pretty conclusively (to me, and many others) that neither the Book of Mormon nor the Book of Abraham are translations of ancient records. An analogy would be….if we found a photography of Abraham Lincoln wearing an iPod, we would know for sure that the photo was a fake. The evidences against the Books of Mormon and Abraham are equally troublesome (or even worse) for anyone willing to seriously consider the evidence
He feels that, “evidence honestly leaves no room for plausible doubt…it’s overwhelming,” and “In my view, anyone willing to fairly review the evidence, with an open mind, will conclude that the Books of Mormon and Abraham are NOT what they claim to be. At all. They are not translated ancient records. They are fiction. Authored by Joseph Smith.” Of those who still believe in these truth claims he says:
But because the familial/social/financial/psychological stakes are so high if you were to leave the church….you remain. And you make excuses for the books (They make us feel good! They teach some important truths! Plus…there’s still a very, very remote and purely philosophical chance that they are true!!!).But you are not acknowledging that at their core, these books are based on a deception. Likely because deep down, it makes you really uncomfortable to admit this.
Now, tell me, does that sound like someone who genuinely respects and supports people who choose to believe in the Church’s founding narrative? Like, at all? Who just believes people should “have the facts” and decide for themselves? He unequivocally states that there is no way a truly rational person could possibly disagree with his point of view. I must be an idiot, or dishonest, or psychologically impaired by my need for something—family support, financial assistance, the ego boost I get for laboring for free to defend the Church, or something—because I know the same evidence and I think that Dehlin is utterly and completely wrong.

What’s more, when I read those statements, as a believer, I absolutely do not feel like he supports me or respects me and my right to believe and interpret the evidence differently from him. If I were in a faith crisis and wanted to maintain faith, I certainly would not feel comfortable turning to someone who said those kinds of things about my beliefs. And I would not recommend family members who were struggling either.

His opinion of Church leaders is not much better.
To me, this is perhaps the most insidious and damaging thing about 21st century LDS authority. After almost two centuries of often egregiously disappointing behaviors, LDS church leaders still expect church members to equate the church’s will with God’s will. So damaging. And so disappointing. We deserve better. You deserve better.Advice is fine. Suggestions…ok. But please stop insulting (and damaging) us by perpetuating the idea that you speak for God. You don’t. You do your best…and sometimes your best is helpful, and sometimes it is very, very damaging. And so it is more important than ever that we learn to discern for ourselves.What we need is an article that says, “We’re really, really sorry. And we’ll try to do better. And we can learn from you as much as you can learn from us.”
So this is not someone who is simply asking questions. This is not someone who privately holds some unorthodox beliefs. This is someone who openly propagates the views: (1) That the Book of Mormon—the “keystone” of the Mormon faith—is merely “bible fan fiction,” as is the Book of Abraham. He does not even opt for the “oh, well, it is inspired fiction,” bit. He straight up considers them hoaxes by Joseph Smith. (2) That anyone who denies this view does so for purely irrational reasons. (3) That the witness of the Holy Spirit is simplynice emotional feelings and nothing more. (4) That the Church as an institution does more harm than good, and has done so for pretty much the entirety of its existence.

It is with these facts in mind that I read comments like this, from Monica: “Many people are posting testimonials about how John's work encouraged them to stay in the church. John himself wants to stay in the church,” and I wonder: Sure John may want to stay, but to what end? Why does he want to stay? Why do the people he’s “encouraged” to stay want to stay? And, just because someone wants to stay, does that mean that we, the Church, as both a community and an institution, should let them? (After all, didn’t Satan want to stay in heaven, too?)

What if I joined a feminist group, but then I repeatedly and publicly talked about how wrong the group was, how misguided they were, and how much harm they did? What if more people were taking my accusations seriously because I was a member of the group, so hey, that must mean there is merit to the views, right? After all, I wouldn’t criticize my own group unless it was justified, would I? Should that organization let me stay just because I want to? I can’t imagine anyone thinking an organization should allow people stay under those circumstances. Especially if I wasn’t paying my membership dues, or fulfilling any of the responsibilities expected of a member of the group. And yet, when it comes to the Church and vocal dissidents, like Dehlin, that is exactly what everyone thinks the Church should do.

It’s absurd. And that was the point of the satire—I expect everyone to see how absurd it would be to insist that God let Satan stay in heaven, and so it strongly illustrates—yes, in an over the top way—the absurdity I see in everyone who puts up a “I Stand With John Dehlin” picture on Facebook.

But what about all the other people who will leave if John Dehlin is ex’d? Well, what about the 1/3 of heaven’s hosts who left with Satan? I am saddened that some might feel more loyalty to John Dehlin than to Jesus Christ and his chosen servants, but I think we can legitimately ask the same questions: to what end do they stay in the Church? And should we really want them to stay? The Lord wants all people to come unto him— but that is just it: they must come unto HIM. Not to John Dehlin. This is not the Church of John Dehlin of Latter-day Saints. Would you expect the hypothetical feminist group to want to keep a bunch of members who were more loyal to me (after I have publicly criticized the group as explained above) than to the actual group leadership, and even the groups actual cause? Why should they?

I am not trying to be rude. I am not trying to be harsh. And I am not trying to kick anybody out of the Church. I couldn’t, even if I wanted to, and if you choose to leave because of what I am saying, then I must wonder why you let such an irrelevant blogger hold so much sway on your life’s choices. But I think it is legitimate to ask why we—those Saints who believe in the Restoration—should let people who are not loyal to our cause, and are in fact more loyal to someone who publicly fights against our cause, remain within our midst? Is our community really healthier if we let them stay?

The knee jerk reaction to all of this would be to throw your hands up, and defiantly announce, “Alright, fine. If that is how you feel, then I am going to leave. It’s clear that you don’t want me here anyway.” But I would hope that some of you could fight past that reaction and thoughtfully engage these questions. They are important questions, and they are questions almost no one in the Dehlin camp wants to think about, consider, or engage. Am I wrong? Prove it. Show me that you are willing to seriously, thoughtfully, and dispassionately discuss these issues—the real issues involved in the choice to discipline John Dehlin and other dissidents in the past and future.

A Post Script on ad hominem


Because I know it is bound to come up—if much of any conversation is generated at all from this—I would like to preemptively discuss ad hominem. It is important that this whole conversation—pro or con—is ad hominem, that is, “about the man.” More accurately, it is about the image and narrative of the man that he himself is publicly trying to perpetuate in order to generate sympathy toward him and his cause. And as the public—not just as Latter-day Saints, but as the public—we have a legitimate right to question and challenge that narrative, to investigate it, and ask ourselves if he really merits our sympathies. He is the one who has made the public appeal, inviting members of the interested public to respond to his and Church’s actions. He is hoping for support, but we the public—and I, as a member of the interested public—have a right to deny that, and to respond with disagreement. So please spare me the accusations of fallacious ad hominem

Comments

  1. Excellent commentary Neal, I'm glad you are pursuing this issue. You speak for a lot of frustrated people.

    I'm sure this will not get nearly as much attention as your genius satire.

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    1. I have nothing else to add. If this were Facebook, I'd just "like" it.

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    2. Neil: Like!
      James: Like!
      Yakko: Like!

      This article sums up the sad truth rather well.

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  2. Neal,

    I know nothing about you. This is, in fact, the second of your blog essays that I've had the opportunity to read. I'm not going to make this long, I'd just quickly like to respond to a few of the issues you've raised in respect to John Dehlin and the impending disciplinary council.

    First things first, however. You should be aware that I am a non-practicing, born-in-the-church "mormon". I served a mission (during which I held several positions of leadership), was married in the temple, held church callings for years (again, leadership), regularly attended the temple, etc. Several years into my marriage I learned for myself that the church is not true. After seeking guidance from the Lord I came to know that Joseph Smith was not a prophet. For me, this confirmation of the Spirit was sufficient to prompt my own personal exodus away from the church. Since my departure I have found happiness in ways I had never experienced before, and I feel as though I am closer to God than ever. Leaving the church was the second-best decision I've ever made, inferior only to the decision to marry my wife.

    Okay, so that's out of the way. I want you to know I found your satire piece to be brilliantly composed. It touched precisely upon the feelings I've had about John Dehlin, specifically in regards to his supporters who are hell-bent on framing him as the victim of religious tyranny. I cannot understand on which basis their arguments rest. Even more difficult to comprehend, interestingly, are John Dehlin's motives for maintaining (event fighting for) his membership in a church in which he clearly does not believe. It's a perplexing narrative to say the least. The only thing I can figure, and this is purely speculation here, is that there is some correlation between media exposure and the number of downloads his podcast receives. I don't think that's an irresponsible assumption to make.

    John Dehlin and his supporters do not have the right to demand specific behavior out of an organization for which they have no claim of ownership. Conversely, the church has every right to divorce itself from those individuals whom are in open opposition to it. It is ridiculous we even are having this discussion.

    Thanks for your commentary.

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    1. Thanks Tyler. I appreciate your thoughtful comments. I am glad you have found happiness and closeness to God. I am personally sorry that you were lead away from the LDS Church to find it, but I respect your choices and will not question what you feel the Spirit led you to do.

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  3. Great post Neal. I too am baffled by Dehlin's supporters, but I have to believe that rationale isn't a strong factor when emotions are so highly wound. I believe that Dehlin preys on emotion ('everything is so hurtful, so very, very damaging and hurtful, and destructive of trust, etc.'), and thus a lot of his support comes from emotional arguments, rather than logical (not that the two are mutually exclusive, but they certainly can be at times). Anyways, great post. The only thing I'd add, is that after the quotation of his opinions of Church leadership, commentary regarding his clear rejection of one of the foundational claims of the Church (prophets and apostles do receive revelation from the Living God), further illustrates his hypocrisy in terms of supporting individuals who sustain Church leaders.

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  4. I had no idea that this blog (or whatever it is) existed! Thank you ever so much for your intelligent, thought provoking, satire! I feel very validated in the entire follow-up as well! Looking forward to more articles that sharpen my senses right along with my testimony!

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  5. I took the bait and read your post. I'm willing to have a rationale discussion. I apologize in advance for the length. It is so long I had to post it as two comments. Sorry...

    I am willing to concede many of your points above regarding John and his beliefs, as well as there being enough reason for the Church to excommunicate him. He clearly does not believe in the Church's truth claims and has admitted he doesn't even attend Church on Sundays. Many have quickly pointed out that it doesn't make sense that John would even want to stay. It doesn't seem like there exists any sort of mutual relationship and in a closed system consisting of only John and the Church I could see why excommunication would be necessary. Nevertheless, I still believe the Church is being short-sighted if they do decide to excommunicate him. Let me explain.

    You may disagree with this next paragraph, but the reality of the situation is the Church is losing a lot of members. Marlin Jensen said, "since Kirtland we’ve never had a period of—I’ll call it apostasy—like we’re having right now, largely over these issues." Members are realizing that the narrative we were told growing up is not 100% accurate. The number of first vision accounts is now 4, not 1, all of which give differing details. The Book of Abraham is not a direct translation from the Egyptian papyri nor written by the hand of Abraham. Joseph Smith didn't just teach others about polygamy, but lived it himself as well as the practice of polyandry. The Lamanites are no longer the primary ancestors of the American Indians, but simply among their ancestors. Joseph didn't translate the Book of Mormon by reading from the gold plates. Instead, he put a stone in a hat and then his face in the hat to vocally deliver the Book of Mormon to his scribes.

    (All of the information in the previous paragraph comes directly from lds.org and the new essays put out by the Church. So let's please avoid any talk of those things being anti-mormon lies.)

    If we are being completely fair, the truth is that all those things I mentioned are new to a lot of people. Probably not for everyone, but a large majority of the members. And learning new information that contradicts current beliefs can be difficult to comprehend. Some are able to reconcile the differences and others just can't handle it.

    I am one of those individuals that had trouble reconciling the new information. Whether you feel like it is real or not, the reality is that I felt lied to, I felt hurt, I felt deceived, I felt taken advantage of, and I felt like I wasn't told the whole truth. I felt like immediately jumping ship and renouncing Mormonism. Worst of all, I felt alone. I felt like I was the only one having a hard time.

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    1. For the record, after his off-the-cuff "apostasy" comment, Elder Jensen went on to state for the Washington Post, "To say we are experiencing some Titanic-like wave of apostasy is inaccurate."

      http://www.washingtonpost.com/national/on-faith/mormons-confront-epidemic-on-online-misinformation/2012/02/01/gIQApULJiQ_story.html

      Just FYI for those interested.

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  6. Part 2...

    But I couldn't leave the Church. It's not that simple. First, I didn't want to leave. Everything I had become was because of the Church and I was really happy with the person I had become. Plus, I had been in those discussions about people who left the Church because they read "anti" material. It was always a discussion about how they weren't faithful enough or how it was their fault for leaving. But that wasn't what was happening to me. It's not my fault that the story of Joseph Smith translating the Book of Mormon never mentioned a stone in a hat, that there are only pictures in the Ensign of Joseph reading and turning the pages of the gold plates. For whatever reason, I hadn't been told the real story. That is not my fault.

    This is where John Dehlin enters the picture. His Mormon Stories helped me see that there were others struggling just like me. There were others who had found a way to stay in the Church even after learning these new realities. I found that it's okay to be an unorthodox Mormon.

    The truth is that John has helped many members stay members of the Church. I know that seems counter-intuitive. Why would someone who doesn't believe in the Church's truth claims encourage anyone to stay? The reason is that for some people, that is the healthiest option. John recognizes that. He has created a place where big tent Mormonism actually exists. He also recognizes that for others the best option is to leave the Church. I have a feeling that is the part the Church really doesn't like.

    By excommunicating John, the Church is by proxy telling those of us on the outskirts that we are not welcome. You may not see it that way, but that is the message being received. It has nothing to do with us being loyal to John. It has everything to do with our own conscience and relationship with God.

    I believe the worst part of this whole ordeal manifested itself in your readers' comments of your previous post. There is this idea that if you can't conform, it is just better for you to leave. If you can't state that you believe the Church and all it's claims are true, then there is no place for you here. That is simply unfortunate.

    I'm sure it is unlikely that anything I said here you will find agreeable. I'm okay with that. We can disagree. More than anything, I just wanted to make anyone who reads this aware that it is not as simple as removing an unbeliever from the fold.

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    1. Just to clarify. Because I know it's prob going to come up. The essays the church came out with were a lot to take it for sure.

      But if I'm not wrong the urim and thumim (stone in a hat) are mentioned in the Book of Mormon. And unless my parents were privy to more information than most Mormons the method of translation has always been those stones in a hat. It shouldn't be new.

      I was just confused on my own part of Maybe there was new news on this subject I missed in the church essays? Either way your other points are valid and though learning these things are not hard for me i have loved ones whom it is hard for.

      I'm sure Neal will be happy with your response being well thought out.

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    2. My goal was to not discuss the accuracy of the information I mentioned above. We could go back and forth with it forever. But because you brought it up, I do want to clarify. The urim and thumim mentioned in the Book of Mormon are not the same as the stone in the hat. This stone refers to a stone that Joseph found years earlier while digging a well. The urim and thumim were found with the gold plates, sword of Laban, and breastplate of Laban. The way Joseph describes them is that they were connected to the breastplate.

      Again, that is where the confusion lies. The story has always been that Joseph used the urim and thumim to translate the Book of Mormon. The latest version of the story is that he used this different stone to translate the Book of Mormon by putting it in a hat.

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    3. Hi Unknown,

      I appreciate your comment. I understand that there are many not unlike you. I understand that sometimes a lot of this new information can be overwhelming. I think the Church could do better, and is getting better, and helping in that regard.

      Your own comments, though, reflect exactly what I have a problem with. Like many others, you talk about "staying members of the Church" as if simply staying in the Church is an end in and of itself, and the sole and most valued end for me and the Church. What I am trying to make clear is that this is not the case. I want people to stay members of the Church, yes, but not solely for the sake of staying the Church. Membership in the Church is not an end unto itself. It is means to an end, namely salvation and improving our relationship with God and Christ while hear on earth. So long as a person genuinely seeks THAT end, I am more than happy to make room for them in the Church, even if I think some of their unorthodox views are misguided and publicly say so. Hence, while I recognize that you and many others WANT to stay, I must ask, to what end? And, should we just let anyone who wants to stay, stay? Or, are their legitimate reasons for removing people from a community, even if they do not want to go?

      This may surprise you, but I actually do think that is it better--indeed healthier--for some people to leave the Church. It just think it is odd that when an apologist says something like, "Look, if you don't believe what the Church is teaching, maybe it is better if you just leave," they are considered rude and insensitive, but then you yourself justify the fact that John leads some people out of the Church by saying that sometimes it is healthier to just leave. I guess part of my concern is that sometimes he gets people to stay who would be better off outside the Church while yet helping others leave who could have not only stayed but even had their faith restored had they just found a better guide for their "faith transition."

      While I don't doubt that John has done some good, I don't think that merits giving him a pass on all the damage he has done to the Church, and to individuals. And he HAS done damage to individuals and families. Yet he refuses to accept accountability for that, all while demanding such from the Church.

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    4. I appreciate your response and understand where you are coming from.

      There are definitely legitimate reasons why a person should be removed from a community. It is very possible those reasons fit in the example of John Dehlin. I do believe, however, that the Church will be doing more harm than good by excommunicating him. Rational people can disagree.

      Correct me if I am wrong, but it sounds like our differences stem from the purpose of the Church in an individual's life. As you said, you see it as a means to achieving salvation. That is completely understandable. Mormon theology is clear that salvation can only be attained through ordinances (whether in this life or the next) proprietary to the Church. If an individual believes that, I can understand why it would be perplexing to hear of anyone that wants to stay who doesn't believe it.

      The reality is that people belong to and remain in the Church for a number of reasons; doctrinal, familial, social, moral teachings, etc. I'm suggesting we let the Church be whatever it is for each individual. I know that is exactly what you are saying you don't want to have happen. You don't want the Church to be watered down and turned into simply a place for the community to gather.

      People are looking for a reason to stay. But people like you are telling them there is no reason to stay if they don't believe. And so they are. I'm telling you that is a bad thing. But it sounds like you think these are acceptable losses. At least we better understand each other now, even if we do disagree.

      One last thought. The difference between an apologist and someone like John suggesting someone should leave the Church stems from the motivation behind the statement. Not always, but most of the time that suggestion from an apologist is motivated by a desire to protect the Church from the individual. Again not always, but most of the time a suggestion from someone like John is motivated by what is best for the individual. I understand that you may not see that as a problem. I'm sure many members feel like it is sometimes necessary to defend the Church even from its own members. I just wanted to explain why an apologist can be "considered rude and insensitive" even if saying the exact same thing John would say.

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    5. Hi Unknown,

      I agree that we are coming to better understand each other. I can, on some level, get the desire to stay for what I will call "nostalgic reasons," though that may not be necessarily accurate. It looks like you sense the same thing I do, though: in letting the Church be "whatever it is for each individual" we are fundamentally transforming the nature of the community, and whether you meant this or not, I completely agree that it is a "watering down."

      For some years I have had an argument boiling in the head, based on some things I learned while reading Rodney Stark's The Rise of Christianity. I've been lazy or distracted to do the leg work on it to fully flesh it out, but the essence of the argument goes like this:

      According to Stark, part of what lead to the rise of Christianity was its high community standards and its insistence on doctrinal purity (i.e., worship one God and disavow all others, total commitment to Jesus Christ, etc.). In short, it required full dedication of heart, might, mind, and strength to a common belief and cause. These high community standards filtered out "free riders" who reap the benefits of the community, but do not put as much back into it. By ensuring group cohesion and high commitment level from everyone in the community, ever person's overall experience is improved, and everyone reaps the benefits. Competing religious systems at the time (namely paganism) lacked these features. In fact, paganism had basically no lines drawn, no real rules of what one should do or believe, and you could basically worship whichever gods you wanted, and ignore the ones you didn't like. In short, it was basically whatever the individual wanted. The fact is that kind of religious system failed to actually foster community at all, and people were benefiting little from it.

      There is more sociological literature that could flesh this out, but basically what you are proposing is something that will diminish the returns we ALL get from Mormonism. When a faith goes that route, it loses its vitality. It has happened to Judaism. It has happened to liberal protestntism. It happens to every religion that takes a laissez faire approach to belief and does not require commitment from its adherents. I do NOT want that to happen to my faith, my religious community. And I think we are ALL worse off if it does. Hence I think even those who want to stay for nostalgic reasons are better off if the leave, form their own communities where greater commitment to shared values can generate the kind of benefits they need. (And in truth is this not already happening? Less-orthodox Mormons are creating their own groups and go on and on about how much more fulfilling their online community is. So why maintain ties to the less-fulfilling community in the first place?)

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    6. Hey unknown.

      Thanks for the reply. I wasn't arguing points. I was wondering if my own knowledge was outdated and it seems it is. I have some reading to do now. Thank you! Also good responses and discussions. I hope you stick around to give your input in future essays.

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    7. Seth,

      I know you weren’t arguing points. I just wanted everyone else to understand that I wasn’t either. Thank you!

      Neal,

      Thank you for sharing that information from Rodney Stark. I had heard something similar previously, but never so succinctly. It does make a lot of sense and I feel like I agree with the gist of the argument. There is one aspect, however, that I feel is dangerous and currently showing in many members of the Church.

      Not always, but too often when someone leaves the Church, they become ostracized by their family, friends and neighbors. It is currently happening way too often with gay LDS youth who come out to their parents. Many times they are kicked out of their home. Some LDS parents don’t let their kids play with non-LDS kids.

      I have really struggled to understand why things like this happen. Why do we create this US vs. THEM mentality? And why as professed followers of Christ are we so willing to label anyone not conforming as one of THEM? As you stated above, it sounds like it is because of this fear of the Church losing its value. I’ll admit that it is very possible that everything you said is true and the overall experience would be diminished. That seems to be a very real thing for a lot of members. Just be aware of how that looks and feels to THEM. It comes off as arrogant, unloving and selfish. Please don’t take that the wrong way. I’m not saying that is who you are. I’m just trying to explain how it feels to someone on the outside, but especially to someone who was once on the inside.

      I appreciate the discussion we have had. I’m not trying to necessarily convince anyone to my way of thinking. My goal has simply been to show what they other side is thinking and why.

      Thanks!

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    8. Hi Unknown,

      No hard feelings here, Unknown. I understand what you are saying. I know that faith transitions of all stripes can be taxing on family relations. I think there are a lot of complicated reasons for that, and it really is a discussion for another time. Sufficeth to say, at the personal and family level, I think we should all work hard on all sides to be as understanding, accommodating, and tolerant in these circumstances, realizing however that every situation is different and there is a myriad of complicating factors. Hence, I would try to never judge anybody for how they are handling such a situation.

      Delete
    9. "According to Stark, part of what lead to the rise of Christianity was its high community standards and its insistence on doctrinal purity (i.e., worship one God and disavow all others, total commitment to Jesus Christ, etc.). In short, it required full dedication of heart, might, mind, and strength to a common belief and cause."

      Neal, when do you plan on writing this up as a blog post? I think there are some fundamental principles here that ought to be explored and discussed. What other literature do you recommend in conjunction with Stark's? Thank you.

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  7. Hey Neal. Long time huh? I just wanted to thank you for your posts. I've followed your essays for a long time and enjoy them. You know me and my background. The thing that's changed is it's been a long time since I've been to church. But for some reason i am still compelled to defend the church when people learn of my LDS up bringing and champion the ordain women group and now Dehlin to try and rile up a response. I just wanted to say that your thoughts and questions are on point. They deserve to be discussed and answered. I hope by someone who is respectful.

    Thanks Neal.

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    1. Seth, buddy, always good to hear from you! Thanks for the comment of support. If you are still haunting South Jordan or thereabouts, we might could get some lunch sometime.

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    2. Indeed I am! I'd love to get some lunch. Would be good to catch up.

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  8. I don't know you but thank you for your efforts. This made for great late-night reading for someone who is and has been perplexed by the far-too-abundant fawning such a figure has received. Frankly, I'm mystified that so many have been unable or unwilling to see "things as they really are" when it comes to this man. I consider this another in a long line of unfortunate but predictable episodes which will ultimately serve as a pre-Millennial sifting. I hope those who can still be recovered (i.e. honest seekers of truth) will be recovered. Hopefully they will find your blog and others like it and be willing to give them due consideration.

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    1. "I hope those who can still be recovered (i.e. honest seekers of truth) will be recovered."

      Do you realize how condescending that statement is? I understand that Mormons believe they belong to the one true church and many believe all truth can only be found within the walls of Mormonism. But it is simple arrogance to assume all those that leave the Church or even question it are not honest seekers of truth.

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    2. You read into that statement your own prejudice, Unknown. That's not what Muddyshooz said. Indeed, precisely the opposite, the statement in fact *presumes* that some (unspecified) proportion of those affected *are indeed* honest seekers of truth.

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  9. There are more than 4 different recorded accounts of the first vision, some written by Joseph, some told to others who wrote it down. If you had an interesting experience years ago, and were telling it to different people, at different times, and in some cases having time to write it down, the most natural thing would be variations about the details you emphasize. My mother was a teenager in Nagoya, Japan, when 300 B-29s dropped napalm on the city. There are variations each time she talks about that time.
    The various First Vision accounts have been widely published since about 1970, including in tbe Ensign. If you did not learn it early on, either you or your immediate teacher were not paying attention.

    The papyrus scrolls recovered in 1967 were published in full in the Improvement Era, with duscussion by Hugh Nibley. They were NOT the core of the collection, and the scroll that was identified as the basis for the Book of Abraham had red ink words, which the recovered one does not. Have you read Nibley's books on the Book of Abraham? The full books are online at maxwellinstitute.edu. The data has been there for decades. If you are surorused, you were nit paying attention.

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    1. So we are clear, I was not attempting to argue the validity of each of the first vision accounts or anything else I stated above. I was simply stating that what I was taught as a youth is not consistent with what I am being taught now. Unfortunately, you continue to blame the one being taught for not paying attention. So I ask a simple question. What are the current missionaries teaching their investigators? Are they readily admitting and teaching about all the first vision accounts? Or are they sticking to the one in Joseph Smith - History? When these new converts find out about the multiple accounts, will you stick to your reasoning that they just weren't paying attention? I hope not.

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    2. Your demand on the church to teach all four visions is ridiculous... Would u like the missionaries to teach historical context and who each record were given too and the context... They can type first vision in LDS.org to learn all about the accounts. Most investigators don't understand or remember 1/2 of the basic first lessons we taught when I served a mission

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    3. Yousef Tim,

      First, I never stated that I wanted all of the accounts taught by the missionaries. I was addressing the issue of the learner being accused of not paying enough attention to know that more than one account exists. I brought the missionaries into the discussion because they are the ones constantly teaching investigators about the Church.

      Second, your argument about the information being available at LDS.org is not substantial. Many of the Church’s current investigators do not readily have access to the internet. Consider your same argument in terms of a math class. Say the teacher willfully avoids teaching his students one of the concepts found in the textbook, but then tests them on that same concept. When the students protest and claim the teacher’s actions unfair, she simply responds by saying, “The information was available online. You could have easily searched for it.” Seems a little shady, right?

      Finally, yes I do think the missionaries should be teaching all accounts of the first vision, or at the very least include all the details from each of them. I think everything from the first vision accounts to the real Book of Mormon translation process to Joseph’s participation in polygamy/polyandry should be disclosed to the investigators, not just the watered down version they are being currently taught. What does it matter if they don’t remember any of it? At least let them make that decision for themselves. You and I are well aware of the dedication and sacrifice that will be asked of them if they decide to be baptized. Knowing that, how is it fair that we don’t disclose that information? Do you ever wonder why the retention rate of recent converts is so horrible? This is a huge factor. People don’t like to find out they had information withheld from them. They tend to lose trust in the people/organizations that did the withholding.

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  10. For the record I clicked on your second post before even reading the comments on the satire. And while it may be true that satire brings in a lot of buzz consider also that this post has less commentary because usually people don't have the time or the attention span for more of the same.

    Anyhow, while I do agree with you that John Dehlin has purposely highlighted certain aspects of why he is having a church disciplinary council to attract increased media attention I disagree with you that he is trying to harm the LDS church. I believe he is simply advocating for honesty and transparency from the church to its members. I'm sure you can admit after working with apologetics that the majority of Mormons remain unaware of the hard issues even those covered on lds.org let alone the those covered by John's interviews with Real Mormons. And I'm talking about mormons steeped in LDS history from Utah not to mention the now majority of the members from outside the U.S. Correct me if I'm wrong but I don't think J.S.'s polygamy with other's wives and 14 year olds, the errors from the King James bible in the BOM, the "we hope the book of Abraham is scripture but it sure wasn't literally translated" admission, or other things are part of the criteria to learn about before entering the waters of baptism and being encouraged to pay a 10% tithe. This seems a tad unethical.

    While your Satan example was admittedly clever and perhaps you are right and I am one of the third to be cast out consider that while we do not have evidence for the occurrences of pre earth life we do have examples of individuals advocating for social reform before their time, Ghandi, Martin Luther, Martin Luther King Jr., Susan B. Anthony, Jesus, etc. So while John Dehlin might seem like a scary heretic to you consider that he may just trying the HELP the church, Help them rip the band aid off on some of the uncomfortable issues and finally start to heal. While he may have issue with the traditional doctrine he has remained a member because of a tireless hope for more of the umbrella church that has been mentioned in some of the above commentary. Perhaps he thinks their is room in the church for questioning mormons, ignorant of the issues mormons, women mormons, LGBT mormons, even apologetic mormons. So before you cast me into outer darkness with the devil Brother Rappleye perhaps consider me a Sister united in righteous desire and let us all consider putting EACH OTHER before theology.

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    1. Annie (I assume you are not Brett, since you are a Sister):

      First, I'm going to try not to get distracted with asides on what you consider "a tad unethical," but just want to state that for the record, I disagree.

      Now, you think I should consider "his post has less commentary because usually people don't have the time or the attention span for more of the same." While there is some merit to this suggestion, that very thing is part of the issue. People don't want to take the time or give the attention to long, boring things that, they anticipate, just say the same thing they have already heard over and over again. They want something juicy and short. But when that is what you provide they all flock to it but then condemn for being exactly what they want.

      In regards to his just trying to help, I am sorry but in light of his own statements and behavior I just don't think that can be maintained, at all. The DearJohnDehlin blog documents some this behavior going back to September of last year:

      https://dearjohndehlin.wordpress.com/page/2/

      Other's, like Greg Smith, have documented it in the past. He is not a reformer ahead his time. He is in blatant and open apostasy.

      And I am, by the way, all for making as much room as we can for those with different view points. But limits can only be stretched so much before group cohesion and identity is completely lost. When I person believes the direct opposite of everything a group teaches and constantly promotes the opposite that a group teaches, then I think that group has a legitimate right to say that person is no longer a member of the group.

      Delete
  11. I apologize for the numerous grammatical errors. Its late and I'm passionate.

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  12. Neal, you give your satire far too much credit. It certainly did not make my "blood boil". I was just astounded at your insensitivity and lack of understanding of people who are going through faith transitions - I would have expected better from an apologist.

    And I am far from being a "fanatical follower" of John Dehlin. In fact, in the two years I have been on his FB group, I have challenged and disagreed with him a number of times, but unlike true believing fanatics in the church, he didn't get defensive and does not kick out people who do not agree with him. Just because I made an accurate statement about what I have observed in him over the past few years, does not make me a fanatic. Perhaps you are projecting.

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    1. The satire said exactly nothing about people going through faith transitions. If a person took it as insensitively directed toward them, I would suggest that their "transition" is already complete.

      Thanks for the clarification. I'll retract my "fanatical" comments if you'll retract yours directed toward me. As for John Dehlin not getting defensive at disagreement, well, you story is interesting in light of the many, many others who have been censored by Dehlin for voicing diagreement. Some of those stories have been collected at: https://dearjohndehlin.wordpress.com/2015/01/16/john-dehlin-and-censorship/

      There are no doubt many, many more. His tendency to delete and block those who descent within his own community has been commented on and documented several times.

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  13. What you neglect to mention are the dates of his statements about the BOA and BOM, which were made in January 2015. I am not aware of him making statements that strong prior to the ones you quote, so obviously his statements from January 2015 could not have been the basis for the August 2014 letter, unless he has found some way to time travel. His SP's letter was in August 2014, five months previous and also, this was not the letter convening the disciplinary council so it is not evidence of what charges have actually been brought against him. Let's get the timeline straight.

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    1. Actaully, the statements come from October and December. And he has made PLENTY of statements just like it. His stake presidents August 7 letter quotes some of them, and the quotes I share are consistent with the items his SP emphasized.

      And yes, the August 7 letter, and the August 11 reiteration ARE evidence of the charges being brought against him. That was the whole point of the August letter--to give Dehlin a heads up of the charges and some time to repent if he so chooses. The SP's letter from January makes it clear that he has monitored his activities since that time to see if he would comply with the requests made in August. It mentions "recent public declarations" which means statements made since August (such as the ones I quote) are indeed part of what is being considered. It is not a matter of getting the timeline straight--it is a matter of understanding the process that the letters represent. It is clear from the letters that the continuation of the August charges ARE what he is being disciplined for.

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  14. Regarding your hypothetical feminist group, in my experience, there are many different, often conflicting types of feminism and most groups allow for spirited discussion and debate. I doubt anyone would bat an eyelash if someone chose to criticize a particular organization who was a member. It happens all the time.

    Your analogy shows how accustomed you are to being in a church where such discussion, debate and challenge is so taboo. There are many other organizations out there who don't operate that way and welcome their critics, even if they are members. Another example that comes to mind is the International Cultic Studies Association who has members who are deeply critical of them and their purpose. They even have apologists whom they welcome as members and speakers at their conferences. Not all organizations are so threatened by disagreement and challenge. The fact that the Church is, is something I have a great deal of difficulty getting past.

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    1. This is just plain nonsense. Yes, every group has some discussion and debate within their ranks--including the Church. But no group would ever just stand by as one of its members publicly and deliberately smeared the group over and over and over.

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    2. Why would u want to be part of a church, just to criticize it. Facts don't matter in your narrative. Obviously there is plenty of discussion within the church, see the recent bokovoy, gee, hamblin, peterson discussions. But discussions is different than pure criticism, and there are plenty of organizations for that but the church need not host them

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  15. Went do my posts get deleted but yousef Tim, who claims to be Jesus Christ gets his blogs published? Frustrating

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    1. Randy, I am not sure what you are talking about. I have not deleted any comments from any one. I have a pretty light hand when it comes to moderation (comments do not even go through an approval process). I checked the spam folder and there wasn't anything there either. If you made comments that did not come through for some reason, I am sorry. Feel free to try making them again.

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    2. Where have i claimed to be Jesus Christ??? I have expressed doubt on this blog. Spiritually, both in faith and acts, I am weak. however, I understand the purpose of a religious institution, and I dont believe me. Dehlin wants to be part of one

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  16. i have no idea why Randy thinks I think of myself as Jesus Christ?

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  17. This was an excellent follow up to your previous post. I'm adding you to my blog reading list.

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  18. Great blog Neal. I just came across it from Daniel Peterson's Patheos posts and I'm subscribing. You are a great, logical writer that needs to become more in the mainstream.

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  19. I am an active ex-Mormon. Like several others here in the comments, I was born and raised in the church, completed seminary, honorably served a 2-year mission, married in the temple, and served in several leadership capacities before I came to the conclusion that there is more evidence against the church’s claims than there is for them. I left the church several years ago –well before the CES Letter or John Dehlin’s Mormon Stories were out there. However, at the time I made my decision to leave, I was aware of all of the historical and doctrinal issues as well as many of the church’s cultural/social problems now raised by both John and the Letter.

    Anyway, I just wanted to say that although I agree that John’s stance is rather confusing (he is like a black anti-segregationist joining the KKK and then complaining about how screwed up the organization is), someone like John with access to the media is the only way that the church can be improved in strides instead of small baby steps. For example, as we all know, it took tons of time (and tons of social pressure) for the church to finally let blacks have the priesthood. The essays recently released by the church throw all of the past prophets under the bus by claiming that the teachings of past prophets are merely “theories” (“Today, the Church disavows the theories advanced in the past that black skin is a sign of divine disfavor or curse, or that it reflects unrighteous actions in a premortal life.”) when such teachings were actual doctrines taught over the pulpit and even in the scriptures (e.g., 2 Nephi 5:23). The main reasons that the church decided to lift the ban in 1978 were because of social pressure regarding their athletics program; the risk of the federal government pulling the plug on academic funding (such as student loans); and the issues of congregations in places like Brazil becoming dysfunctional since most of the members there had some black ancestry. Long story short, the church was receiving lots of bad publicity, and so in order to avoid imploding, it decided in a board-meeting-esque manner to admit that the prophets aren’t infallible; although it didn’t explicitly state this, it implied the fact by its actions.

    Despite the fact that John Dehlin’s motives may not be pure and he doesn’t have any right to tell an organization that he does not own what to do, sudden improvements to the church can unfortunately only be made by bad publicity. Many members (my parents included) say that it is preposterous that homosexuals or feminists will get their way, but in the upcoming decades, I think they will all be surprised to see what unfolds if they live long enough to see it.

    Lastly, I think you would be surprised by how many ex-Mormons read arguments in their entirety. Many of us are afraid to make uninformed assumptions about people and their positions after having been raised in a homophobic, masculocentric, white-supremacist church (no offense intended).

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    1. Certainly, this depends on what, exactly, a person considers "improvement" for the Church, and I don't really agree with appears to be considered "improvements" to you. In any case, I disagree that "bad publicity" for the Church to move forward.

      And I am sure there are plenty of ex-Mormons who read arguments in their entirety. It just doesn't tend to be the same ones as those who are most actively promoting their causes online.

      (And surely you can't seriously think it is okay to list off a string of clearly offensive and inflammatory adjectives and then expect no offense to be taken just because you said non was intended? Frankly, I doubt such a comment can be made without intending offense. I have a pretty light-hand when it comes to moderation, but anything else like that will be deleted.)

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    2. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

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    3. What you have stated about the Church is not fact, but an interpretation of the facts. What I said did not "prove" your point, but you interpreted that way. If you don't understand the difference, I suggest you find a local university and audit some classes on historiography. I could do you some good.

      You have bought into a narrative about how history works that is largely ideological (i.e., "progress marches on") and some reading in the philosophy of history could do you some good.

      Now, if you can make comments that are reasonable, rational, and respectful, and that show a modicum of humility (i.e., recognizing that rational people can in fact disagree and that the way you have come to see the world is not the only reasonable way to see the world), then you may make your comments without them getting removed.

      Have a nice day.

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    4. It is sad that you have to resort to deleting comments instead of addressing the points raised in them. Let me try to rephrase my comment so that it doesn't get deleted this time:

      First, the church considers homosexuality a sin. There are a ton of prophets and apostles who have spoken over the pulpit and in official church literature about this topic. For example, Boyd K. Packer condoned hitting gays in "To Young Men Only," and Spencer W. Kimball said that homosexuality was just a step away from bestiality in "The Miracle of Forgiveness." I apologize for using the 1st offensive adjective above, but in my opinion, this is what I thought the word meant.

      Second, men are the only ones who can hold the priesthood within the church. Additionally, many members, my former self included, wonder why we never talk about our "Heavenly Mother." As a child, I was always told that it was because she is so revered and sacred that we do not talk about her. I later realized that it is because, based on the teachings of Brigham Young and the other founding prophets, polygamy is *necessary* for exaltation. Accordingly, there isn't just one "Heavenly Mother," but a countless number of "Heavenly Mothers." The church still practices spiritual polygamy (a husband can be sealed to multiple wives, but wives can be sealed to only one husband). I apologize for using the 2nd offensive adjective above, but in my opinion, this is what I thought the word meant.

      Third, as I mentioned in my comment that you deleted, the scriptures and past doctrines are full of "white and delightsome" statements. The Book of Mormon clearly states that dark skin is a curse. I apologize for using the 3rd offensive adjective above, but in my opinion, this is what I thought the word meant.

      As I also mentioned in my comment that you deleted, I am not trying to be offensive, especially not towards individuals like yourself. Almost my entire family is still Mormon, and I actually have made a lot of new friends who are LDS. My wife and I actually just had a devout LDS couple over for dinner last night. Even though Mormonism is still a huge part of my life, trying to have conversations with active Mormons is difficult because they get upset when outsiders and "apostates" use accurate labels to describe some of the church's teachings. It is neither my opinion nor my fault that the church taught the things I mentioned above. Unfortunately, because apologists play the persecution card any time someone tells the church's history as it is, Mormon scholarship is not taken very seriously by the rest of the academic community.

      Lastly, you completely ignored another point in my last comment about changes within the church. I pointed out that the only major doctrinal changes that have occurred in recent years were implemented as a way of dealing with bad publicity. Here is a list of some of them: in 1978, the church removed the ban on blacks and in the priesthood; in 1990, the church removed the blood oath from the endowment ceremony; in 2005, the church removed the "naked touching" from the initiatory ordinances; and most recently, the church released a series of essays addressing topics that the church has actively avoided (and, in some cases, denied) until the release of the essays. All of these changes were (arguably) made because Mormonism wants to stay relevant, and in order to do so it has to appear socially acceptable. All of these changes were, in my opinion, "improvements." The only recent big changes that don't appear to have been the result of bad publicity are the laying-off of a bunch of janitors in 2010 because the church began using its members to clean its chapels and temples for free, and the lowering of the requisite missionary age in 2012. If you are truly interested in having a conversation, I'd be interested in hearing about major revelations/changes the church has introduced that weren't brought about by social pressure.

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  20. If you have to work this hard to defend a piece of satire, it obviously wasn't very good satire.

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    1. Well, I certainly agree that satire looses some of it's....shall we call it impact?... some of it's impact once it is explained. But I really did not "have" to explain it, nor did I really work all that hard to write this up. Nonetheless, there are plenty of great and wonderful things that have to defended with great effort. And satire has a tendency to polarize and rile people up, so I don't my choice to further explain my reasoning necessarily diminishes the original work of humor.

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  21. Great satire, and a great write up...Leah, hundreds of articles on the germ theory of disease have been written, does that it a bad theory? Volume of writing on a topic doesn't make it good or bad

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  22. I have not read your blog before, Mr. Rappleye, but ran across a link to it elsewhere. I read your satire and some of your other posts, including this one, and wanted to comment.

    For the record, I was BIC, RM, BYU grad, Salt Lake Temple married, ward and stake leadership, temple supervisor and sealer, legal counsel to the LDS church, in which capacity I met with Pres. Hinckley personally. I am acquainted with John Dehlin and several current General Authorities. For many years I was an apologist like you, devouring Maxwell Institute and FARMS materials, debating and defending the LDS church in person and on line with friends. I’ve been where you are, know how you think, know your apologetic priorities and tactics.

    I resigned from the LDS church on principle, at great cost to family relationships and while I still held a temple recommend, when I realized that feelings aren’t facts, when I let the evidence speak for itself instead of trying to shoehorn it into pre-approved conclusions. I am satisfied that all credible evidence is overwhelmingly against the LDS church’s claims of authenticity and authority. I was never “offended,” I didn’t “want to sin.” I left on principle when I realized it could not possibly be what it claimed to be. I and my family find ourselves far happier outside Mormonism than we ever were inside.

    With that background, I read your satire and some of your other material. I thought the satire mildly amusing, if a bit puerile. You are no Jonathan Swift. It did not offend or upset me any more than does your tut-tutting about “apostates” like myself allegedly forfeiting some slate of eternal blessings by leaving Mormonism. My own study and analysis has gone beyond that in your blog, so I’m not disturbed or threatened by your reasons for remaining where you are. People’s paths differ.

    I wish, Mr. Rappleye, that you could comprehend two things. First, the damage the LDS church will do to itself, its silently questioning members, its PR, and its baptism rates if it blows off its foot by ex’ing John Dehlin. I believe his motives are good (e.g. his Web site “staylds.org”) and his purposes proper: greater understanding, inclusion, and honesty within the LDS church. I believe this is how those outside the church view it too, and if he’s punished for it, the LDS church will seem even more insular, arrogant, intolerant, and head-in-the-sand than it already does. Obviously the LDS powers that be care more about squelching public discussion than about honestly engaging in it. This is a poor decision.

    Second, I wish you could comprehend just how tiny is the teapot in which this tempest has been stirred up. Sure, there is media attention at the moment. But it will fade quickly and the real world will go back to ignoring the tiny backwater that is Mormonism just as it normally does. Having been where you are, I know the perspective from which you view that world. I assure you it is more narrow and limited than you can imagine. I genuinely feel sorry for you and wish you had a bigger and better perspective. That said, I respect your right to choose what to believe, and will not presume to debate any of that with you.

    Meantime, I’ll continue to watch this little kerfuffle play out. It’s like a Kabuki drama or an old melodrama: stock characters, the plot well-known and the outcome certain. You strike me as preaching to a very zealous choir, Mr. Rappleye. It’s been interesting to have a look at the script.

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  23. I'm glad the church is thinking about excommunicating John Dehlin. Not because he deserves it...but because of all the attention it draws to the history the church hides from it's membership. If the Brethren were smart..they'd rethink this. LOL

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  24. it is sad that John is likely going to be excommunicated. There need no be more people with the conviction of belief to actually act according to their belief.

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Many of my (few) readers have probably already seen the new video by Book of Mormon Central on Nahom as archaeological evidence for the Book of Mormon, starring my good friend (and co-author on a related paper) Stephen Smoot. If you haven’t, check it out:


As usual, comments sections wherever this video is shared have been flooded by Internet ex-Mormons insisting this not evidence for the Book of Mormon. I’ve actually had a few productive conversations with some reasonable people who don’t think Nahom is, by itself, compelling evidence—and I can understand that. But the insistence that Nahom is not evidence at all is just, frankly, absurd. So I’ll just go ahead and preempt about 90% of future responses to this post by responding to the most common arguments against Nahom/NHM now:
1. The Book of Mormon is false, therefore there can be no evidence, therefore this is not evidence. First, this is circular reasoning. It assumes the conclusion (Book of Mormon is false) which the evidence pre…