T&S Has Been Excommunicated!

January 14, 2004 | 59 comments
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At least from the blogrolls over at Doctrinal.net and Hugh Roper. Both Hugh and Doctrinal.net cite to a talk by Elder Glenn L. Pace condemning “excessive intellectualism.”

Elder Pace goes on to say:

    While it would seem the search for and discovery of truth should be the goal of all Latter-day Saints, it appears some get more satisfaction from trying to discover new uncertainties. I have friends who have literally spent their lives, thus far, trying to nail down every single intellectual loose end rather than accepting the witness of the Spirit and getting on with it.

From the context of Elder Pace’s talk, it is not clear what the antecedent of the “it” we are to be getting on with is. I am assuming that he means something like living gospel centered lives, following counsel from the prophets, and serving in the church and community. If what he is saying is that how we live is more important that what we abstractly think, I agree. I also agree that it is a mistake to postpone a faithful life until we have “nail[ed] down every single intellectual loose end.”

However, I have to confess that I enjoy exploring the foundations, implications, and meanings of Mormonism. For a variety of institutional reasons – which I happen to think are quite valid – the church in its teaching and curriculum tends to focus on only the most basic and elementary teachings. As it happens, I think these tend to be the most important facets of our religion. However, they are not the only ones. Furthermore, I take it that we are rather explicitly taught that Sunday School is not to exhaust our engagement with the gospel. “Verily I say, men should be anxiously engaged in a good cause, and do many things of their own free will, and bring to pass much righteousness; for the power is in them wherein they are agents unto themselves. An inasmuch as men do good they shall in nowise lose their reward.” (D&C 58:27-28)

B.H. Roberts, a long-time President of the Seventy, once said, “I love the gospel of Jesus Christ. It satisfies me completely. It appeals to the intellectual side of my nature, and offers me priceless gifts. Gifts worthy of a God and worthy of a son of God to receive!” One of the reasons that I believe in Mormonism, one of the reasons that I love the Restoration, is its capacity to throw up fun, exciting, and fascinating intellectual knots. Such “problems” as polygamy, authority, spirit fluid, and the precise location of Kolob are part of what makes the church true for me. It is part of what makes being a Mormon so dang much fun. The Lord’s table is filled to over flowing, all are invited to the feast, and there are good things to eat for all.

I think that we’ll keep the link to Doctrinal.net on the blogroll.

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59 Responses to T&S Has Been Excommunicated!

  1. tyler durden on January 14, 2004 at 7:14 pm

    do they still sing ‘search, ponder, and pray’ in primary these days. it seems lately that many latter-day saints want to skip (and even condemn) the searching and pondering and think we should just rely on the praying. sadly though, most don’t even do that anymore.
    now many lds say its wrong for “trying to nail down every single intellectual loose end rather than accepting the witness of [Elder So-and-so] and getting on with it.

  2. Logan on January 14, 2004 at 7:24 pm

    I absolutely love visiting Times & Seasons. Like it is to Nate, it is very meaningful to me that we have a religion that is open to and holds up well against such scrutiny and exploration.

    Also, I’m glad that you’ll keep the link to doctrinal:net. While I see things differently than do dp and Hugh, I respect their diligence in “work[ing] out [their] own salvation with fear and trembling” (Mormon 9:27). I think it shows courage for them to follow their conviction.

  3. Mardell on January 14, 2004 at 9:49 pm

    I have often noticed that some mormons think that the church organization is perfect beacause the gospel is true. Well they need to remember that the church is run by people who are not perfect. Therefore, some of the things that happen in our church are not perfect. After all we believe the only perfect person who ever lived on this earth was Jesus Christ.

    They need to remember that the gospel and the Church organiztion are two different things. And just cause someone might think that their ward does not work like is should, have been offended by church leaders or have different oppinions the other members. Does not mean that they have lost their testimonies. On the other hand if people let it dammage their tesimony they already have a weak testimony. We need to rember that if someone elses opion changes your testimony for the worst then maybe you need to work on getting a stronger testimony.

    Times and Season I admit is intellectual but what is wrong with that? Has the lord not told us to gain as knowledge in this life as humanly possible. You can not learn much with out asking questions.

  4. Clark Goble on January 14, 2004 at 10:09 pm

    I actually think undue “intellectualism” is bad. Perhaps it is my science background, but I think it is easy to get caught up in speculation or issues and forget about the empirical testing. Put an other way, intellectualism can easily focus on the subjective to the detriment of the objective, problems to the detriment of solutions, and so forth.

  5. chris g on January 14, 2004 at 10:48 pm

    Since I just started reading T&S a couple of weeks ago, I was rather surprised at this. I think comments I have seen have all been pretty moderate, and have really helped me with my spirituality. I do agree with Elder Pace’s comments indicating that excessive intellectualism can become a pursuit unto its own. Coming from a strong science background, what my family finds light dinner talk others may consider anything but. Thus other people’s judgements will be based on this relativity (as they should be). I think goiong off the deep end in any pursuit is unhealthy, especially if it leads to tearing down things God has established. I would also add that the opposite end of the spectrum, zealotry, is perhaps equally as dangerous. Some people have a propensity for one extreme or another. Personally I find being aware of my weaknesses, and avoiding addictions a good strategy. People will always err on one side or another. Walking the thin line to salvation is a difficult thing to do.

  6. Frank on January 15, 2004 at 12:15 am

    Nate you say the “church in its teaching and curriculum tends to focus on only the most basic and elementary teachings.” How do you know that the teachings the church focuses on are “basic and elementary”? What’s elementary and basic about things like prayer, revelation, teaching by the spirit–just a few of the topics to recently have been discussed in my ward. We could spend decades discussing and learning about these three subjects alone.

  7. Clark Goble on January 15, 2004 at 1:26 am

    Nate, one should point out that only a few years ago the King Follet Discourse was part of the course of study in church…

  8. Nate Oman on January 15, 2004 at 1:29 am

    when?

  9. Clark Goble on January 15, 2004 at 1:38 am

    It was two lessons in a RS lesson manual back in the early 90’s. I *think* that was prior to the current lesson track. Unfortunately since those lesson manuals are just quote books when I have books with more quotes and are the sources they take them from, I didn’t keep mine.

    Anyone else have a better recollection? I don’t want to embarrass myself again like I did with my memory of Griggs in the Anchor Bible Dictionary. (grin)

  10. Clark Goble on January 15, 2004 at 1:56 am

    Unfortunately I can’t find the contents of old manuals anywhere on the net. I did find a similar topic and discussion in the 1997 priesthood/relief society manuals.

    “The doctrine that God was once a man and has progressed to become a God is unique to this church.” (_The Teachings
    of Brigham Young_, p. 34)

    I also found that the entire discourse (well the edited version without the bit of babies in the resurrection) was published in the April 1971 Ensign. In ’94 Pres. Hinkley quotes extensively from it as well as Lorenzo Snow’s couplet.

  11. Clark Goble on January 15, 2004 at 3:13 am

    I just read Elder Pace’s comments. I think they were directed more at Sunstone like symposium and those *critical* of the church. I can’t recall much here that has been vaguely critical nor anything undercutting the brethren. None of the whining sessions that Sunstone was famous for in the early 90’s.

    Those appealing to that talk have missed the context as well as the meaning of the talk in my opinion.

  12. Aaron Brown on January 15, 2004 at 4:20 am

    Would someone please explain to me what the word “intellectualism” means?

    Mormonism is often accused of being a “cult.” In response, many LDS like to point out that this appellation isn’t very useful, since “cult” is a term that tells us little about the religion it purports to describe, but much about the attitude of the speaker employing it towards that religion. I often wonder if the term “intellectualism” (and its variants) isn’t precisely the same kind of term. I don’t know how “intellectualizing” differs from “thinking critically” or “thinking deeply,” but I do know it is often used pejoratively, and I know the person utilizing it disagrees with the conclusions reached by the person he is applying it to.

    Oh how refreshing it would be if religious disagreements were always met with substantive critiques and rejoinders, rather than meaningless labeling. But I suppose it’s easier to insinuate that “intellectuals” must be engaging in some kind of per se inappropriate exercise than it is to say “I disagree with your conclusion about so-and-so, and here’s why…..”

    And yes, I know that all of the above will be dismissed by some as an example of the very “intellectualism” under discussion. I also suspect (consistent with the above) that those who feel this way will be unable to support their views with serious arguments.

    Aaron B

  13. Brent on January 15, 2004 at 9:36 am

    I too “enjoy exploring the foundations, implications, and meanings of Mormonism.” I think what causes concern is when such exploring, implications and meanings conflict with worldly “knowledge” and/or movements. We believe in absolute truths. Some of these truths conflict with worldly philosophies. What Clark calls “undue intellectualism” seems to be when one places undue emphasis on worldly philosophies and beliefs. Not intending to start a tangential comment thread, let me just cite one example–homosexuality. The scriptures and words of modern day prophets are clear on the issue, yet many, even at this site, seem to over intellectualize the issue because our doctrine clearly is not viewed favorably by the world. For me, the most intellectual exercise is to fully understand what are the truths we believe and how do they work together and what are God’s purposes. Once those “rules of engagement” are in place, then its on to see what their implications and meaning are vis a vis the world. For me, it all comes down to foundational principles. Intellectualizing from a solid base is great.

  14. Grasshopper on January 15, 2004 at 11:18 am

    Brent,

    While I believe there may be some absolute truths, in a church with continuing revelation, it is risky to point to a particular truth and call it absolute. Who knows what the future holds in terms of modifying the Church’s position on purportedly fundamental issues (such as plural marriage or the priesthood ban)?

    I also think that many who have questions about issues such as homosexuality do not intellectualize *because* the doctrine is not favorably viewed by the world, but because they really have questions about it. (For an example of this (specifically on the issue of homosexuality), see Eugene England’s remarks to Affirmation: http://www.affirmation.org/learning/on_living_the_gospel.asp )

    In other words, not all intellectual inquiry toward the world’s “hot button” issues are driven by worldly concerns. Inquiry into the same subjects may just as well be driven by a true spiritual desire for further understanding, especially in the context of a changing church.

  15. Nate Oman on January 15, 2004 at 11:28 am

    I don’t think that I believe in absolute truth. I believe in God(s), revelation, and the kingdom. One doesn’t need absolute truth for any of these things.

    I also believe that college football should have a tournament.

  16. Matt Evans on January 15, 2004 at 11:38 am

    The statement “there are no absolute truths” contradicts itself.

    The only question is which truths are absolute. Their existence, by definition, is real.

  17. Brent on January 15, 2004 at 11:48 am

    Grasshopper, my point is that we hold certain doctrines to be true. We also believe in revelation and in living prophets. With all due respect I question the sincerity or logic of those who claim that inquiry into subjects like homosexuality “may just as well be driven by a true spiritual desire for further understanding” when the Lord, through his earthly representatives has already spoken directly on the issue, and when myriad other truths shed light on the topic (i.e. exaltation only through marriage covenant, eternal nature of gender, etc.). To me, it seems more like people want the church and its doctrines to conform to their beliefs and preferences rather than the other way around.

  18. tp on January 15, 2004 at 11:57 am

    Brent, I think the notion of “absolute truth” is a worldly philosophy that is inconsistent with the Gospel. This notion was introduced by Plato and Aristotle, not the Bible or Book of Mormon. It is inconsistent with the notion of continuing revelation and contrary to the teachings of the prophets. My point here is that I think the nature of the disagreement isn’t about the principle of following the gospel rather than following the world (on that everyone here agrees), rather, the discussions have often emerged on the basis of what the substance of that principle is.
    I take Joseph Smith seriously when he says: “We should gather all the good and true principles in the world and treasure them up, or we shall not come out true Mormons.”

  19. tp on January 15, 2004 at 12:03 pm

    Matt, nice use of Anselm’s ontological argument to prove the existence of absolute truths. You may be right that it works (though I have my doubts), but the problem is that even if you can prove the existence of something, you cannot determine the nature of it from its existence alone. For instance, if I prove that the number 4 *exists* that does not tell me anything about what constitues that set (apples, oranges, or proofs for the existence of absolute truths?)

  20. Adam Greenwood on January 15, 2004 at 12:05 pm

    What would be the point of continued revelation, of ‘here a little and there a little’, if there weren’t something fixed towards which we were moving, or else some fixed thing by which the inadequacies and possibilities of a certain age could be known?

    Nonetheless, putting that aside, I think some of you underestimate how difficult it is for those of us with a certain world view, and who want a educated forum in which we can flesh out that world view and explore its implications, to find that we’re constantly having to defend it.

  21. Brent on January 15, 2004 at 12:06 pm

    Let me ask what I think are some relevant questions to this discussion. I think where people have issues with intellectualizing is when intellectualizing takes the form of questioning or critizing the church or priesthood leaders or established doctrine. (I guess there is also some concern about excessive speculating on matters which haven’t been revealed, but these appear less troubling to most unless such speculating runs afoul of church doctrine.)

    What is President Hinckley? What do we believe about the Quorum of the Twelve and the First Presidency? If they are what our doctrine purports, prophets, seers and revelators, and if President Hinckley is God’s spokesman on the earth, then what individual obligations do we have with respect to their teachings? How does one square intellectual conclusions or arguments that run counter to revealed truth, either based on canonical pronouncements or the teachings of living prophets without calling into question the antecedent belief in a prophet? I don’t pretend these are easy questions, especially for people who for whatever reasons really struggle to accept certain teachings. Again, my main point is that I think there has to be a foundational set of principles guiding our intellectual efforts.

  22. Brent on January 15, 2004 at 12:12 pm

    Taylor, I don’t know that it is accurate to say our doctrine doesn’t support the existence of absolute truth, nor, as Adam points out, would such a concept be inconsistent with continued revelation. President Kimball often spoke of absolute truth and mentioned one which we all can surely agree upon–the existence of God. The word “truth” if it means anything has to have some element of absoluteness to it. There really can’t be two truths that contradict one another. One or both will have to be false, if it or they contradict the way things “really are.”

  23. Nate Oman on January 15, 2004 at 12:12 pm

    Matt: Cute argument, but it doesn’t work. At best it proves the existence of truth. That is not something that I questioned. I don’t doubt the exitence of truth. What I am skeptical about is that “absolute” part.

    Adam: Truth may be adaptive. That is, it may consist less of ever better statements that correspond to some underlying reality and rather be about ever better ways of getting along in the world, where “getting along” is defined in the broadest possible sense to include theoretical as well as practical issues.

  24. Nate Oman on January 15, 2004 at 12:22 pm

    The comments at Doctrinal.net and Hugh’s are both hopping. FYI:

    http://www.doctrinal.net/index.php?p=21&c=1#comments

    http://www.hughroper.com/archives/000163.html

  25. Matt Evans on January 15, 2004 at 12:43 pm

    My argument is just a corollary of Decartes’ proof on the limits of skepticism.

    If a “truth” isn’t absolute, then it’s contingent: it may sometimes be true, sometimes not be true. Whatever factors determine when Truth A is true or not true of necessity pre-ground Truth A. Those factors are “true”. If those factors are in turn contingent upon other factors, then there may be an infinite regress of contingent truths. But this set of infinitely contingent truths must be absolutely true.

    Reality exists. Reality CANNOT not exist. Truths that are congruent with reality are absolute.

  26. Brent on January 15, 2004 at 12:45 pm

    I know I have exceeded my comment limit, but let me make one other observation. We, as mortals, are limited in our ability to recognize truth. My last comment got me thinking about the discussion Luke Skywalker has with Obi Wan Kenobi in Return of the Jedi. (Now I have revealed myself to be a Star Wars geek. So be it.) Luke asks him why he didn’t tell him the “truth” about his father, Darth Vader. Obi Wan says he did tell him the “truth,” from a different point of view. He then explains through which point of view, his statement about Darth Vader murdering Anakin Skywalker was “true.” I don’t know why I mention this, but it seemed relevant.

  27. tp on January 15, 2004 at 12:45 pm

    Matt…sounds like the philosophies of men… :)

  28. tp on January 15, 2004 at 12:54 pm

    For a moving account of a Mormonism without claims to absolute objective truth, read the Literary Critic at the Metaphysical Elders:

    http://elders.blogspot.com/2003_11_09_elders_archive.html#106876394606028474

    His post is in repsonse to a lecture by Terryl Givens, and embedded in a discussion about that lecture, but just keep reading. In fact, read everything the Lit Crit has to say. While I often disagree, he (or she?) is always interesting.

  29. Ironic on January 15, 2004 at 12:58 pm

    When I logged onto T&S today, I was informed that I would be subjecting myself to “Quite possibly the most fallacious, yet voluntarist, onymous Mormon group blog in history.” I guess I can’t say I wasn’t warned.

    On a more serious note, I find this web blog to be an oasis in the desert. My biggest problem with the site is that it diverts too much attention away from getting in my billable hours at work. Unlike Hugh and Doctrinal.net, I have found that exploring my intellectual curiosities and questions with others at T&S has only strengthened my testimony of the gospel. I am glad that there are others who feel the same.

  30. Dave on January 15, 2004 at 12:59 pm

    Let me add my vote supporting T&S and the pleasant and enlightening conversations I observe and participate in here. But it would seem someone (dp? Elder Pace?) has struck a sensitive nerve. Why so touchy? It’s odd that many Mormons regard thinking or dialogue as an activity that requires justification or apology.

    It’s not like there is a Mormon doctrine that decries thinking. “The glory of God is intelligence” and “to be learned is good if one hearkens to the counsels of God” are the authoritative pronouncements here. So even Mormon scripture (not noted for progressive positions) suggests that anyone who preaches ignorance as the path to divine enlightenment is obviously off base. Thus, in my opinion, those advocating ignorance, if intended as counsel regarding how you or I should approach life, shouldn’t be taken seriously. On the other hand, if an individual decides (for himself or herself alone) not to participate in reflective dialogue, that’s their choice and it shouldn’t be criticized.

    The problem we face is a practical one, how to maneuver around those who preach ignorance, rather than a philosophical one, the need to justify and defend thinking and dialogue as a social activity.

  31. Matt Evans on January 15, 2004 at 1:01 pm

    For behold, and lo, the Lord is God, and the Spirit beareth record, and the record is true, and the truth abideth forever and ever. Amen. D&C 1:39

    And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free. John 8:32

    And by the power of the Holy Ghost ye may know the truth of all things. Moroni 10: 5

    And truth is knowledge of things as they are, and as they were, and as they are to come. D&C 93:24

  32. Brent on January 15, 2004 at 1:16 pm

    . . . for the Spirit speaketh the truth and lieth not. Wherefore, it speaketh of things as they really are, and of things as they really will be . . . Jacob 4:13

  33. cooper on January 15, 2004 at 1:37 pm

    I have enjoyed this site since its’ inception. I do think there have been moments when the has been a “leaning to the negative” situation.

    As stated by others, we are to be intelligent, thinking, accountable beings. We do not live in a vacuum. To be able to correspond with others, with the same belief systems in place, has been refreshing. No I don’t agree with everything or everyone, however expanding one’s thinking to include new possibilities within “our boundaries” is good.

    Or I could simply be like the Borg and say: “Resistance is futile, you will be assimilated.”

  34. Nate Oman on January 15, 2004 at 1:44 pm

    Dave: So if they say it, we can criticize it (they ought not be taken seriously), but if they do it, they ought not to be criticized?

  35. lyle on January 15, 2004 at 1:48 pm

    Brent,

    I liked your star wars analogy. Of course…’tis a rather self-serving version of truth telling on Obi Wan’s part. But then again…this reminds me of the legal/political professions as a whole. lol.

  36. brayden on January 15, 2004 at 2:09 pm

    I have been reading and commenting at blogs for some time now, but until just recently I had avoided immersing myself in the Mormon blogosphere because it seemed (to me) redundant and not very interesting. I hope noone takes offense to that. Honestly, I hadn’t read enough Mormon blogs to actually form a good opinion about them.

    T&S sort of changed my perspective on this though because what I found here was a group of people who were interested in thinking about things and discussing them in ways not normally found in a Sunday School classroom. If T&S discussions took place in Sunday School, there probably would be no need for a forum like this. But unless you live in Cambridge, you’re not likely to find a concentration of well-educated people who all have similar interests in discussing more academic trains of thought in relation to scripture and Church doctrine and/or policy.

    That said, I don’t think Hugh or dp are wrong in deciding to cancel their subscription to T&S. One of the points made in a recent T&S discussion (http://www.timesandseasons.org/archives/000250.html) was that if a person realizes that he or she has personal weakness, they should avoid situations where that weakness might be exploited. In addition, we should never argue with the Spirit when it tells us a situation is bad. Some people may not find this type of environment conducive to their spiritual health. If the Spirit is telling you that this is not the best place for you to hang out then you should probably listen.

    I haven’t felt that at all. In fact, T&S has reinvigorated my interest in gospel study. Not to get too personal here, but sometimes it is easy to get caught up in the routine of scripture study and prayer and lose the sense of purpose that God intends we have while doing these activities. T&S really has injected my spiritual curiosity with a dose of energy and helped me to make my scripture study more intense and meaningful. Okay, that’s a little gooshy but true (not absolutely I suppose).

    Anyway, keep up the good work. There’s a reason Times and Seasons is on my blogroll.

  37. Kaimi on January 15, 2004 at 2:47 pm

    A conversation my wife had with a relative:

    Her: “My husband is writing about church stuff on Times and Seasons web site.”

    Relative: “Times and Seasons? That’s almost apostate.”

    Note: The relative has never read the blog. Until my wife mentioned it, had never heard the name. (Couldn’t have — we just started it a few weeks before that conversation took place). All this person knows is that I’m discussing church topics online.

    I don’t know if this person confused Times and Seasons with some other publication (Sunstone?).

    Or it may just be that writing about church topics online, and discussing them with other people, is automatically assumed to be apostate.

  38. Ironic on January 15, 2004 at 2:50 pm

    And you wonder why some of us have “sensitive nerves” . . . .

  39. Ironic on January 15, 2004 at 2:50 pm

    And you wonder why some of us have “sensitive nerves” . . . .

  40. tp on January 15, 2004 at 3:31 pm

    Brayden, I think you are absolutely right that people should avoid things that they don’t feel right about. I also agree that it is entirely possible that T&S might not be good for someone’s spiritual health. I don’t object to someone decided to no longer read it. I just find it insulting to condemn the contributers here as doing something wrong. If it is not for you, fine, but just don’t try to justify it through labeling the people here as “those who have little or no apparent testimony of the restored Gospel.” Nothing could be further from the truth.

  41. Adam Greenwood on January 15, 2004 at 4:03 pm

    Taylor,
    For the record, I think both sides have maintained a fair amount of decorum, but unfortunately I think the defenders of T and S have been more condemnatory than the ones who are going to stop coming here.

  42. clark on January 15, 2004 at 4:13 pm

    That’s probably true Adam. It seems odd that anyone would worry about whether anyone else reads them. I mean, heck, I *know* people probably don’t read my blog that much and that some think me pretentious or overly complex. But it’s a way of looking at issues I’ve not found elsewhere and wanted available. (As much as to work things through in my mind as at least have some of these issues available for googling)

    At the same time I’ve probably written in a way that could be misunderstood. I don’t want to indicate that those who choose not to read here are the “extreme right” or “extreme left.” (Categories I used in the other thread on this topic) Heavens, there are lots of things I don’t read simply because they don’t excite me.

  43. Taylor on January 15, 2004 at 4:19 pm

    Adam, you may be right. It is just a pet peeve of mine when I see members of the church question other members’ testimonies. I probably take it too personally, though I don’t think that I was the object of their distaste. To me it just comes across as really self-righteous and judgemental. A testimony is so sacred and fragile that I get offended when it is questioned or belittled, especially by someone who is claiming to be righteously indignant.
    I don’t mind if people disagree. Perhaps this is the heart of the matter. Some people are scandalized that members of the church might have different opinions. I remember one EQ lesson that Nate taught that different LDS positions on something-or-another in order to start a discussion. It was unfortunate that some people were shocked that different GA’s had different points of view!

  44. Nate Oman on January 15, 2004 at 4:34 pm

    Ah yes! How I remember the days of battling reactionary zealots in that nest of intellectual myopia, The Cambridge 1st Ward…

    Interestingly, I recently taught a lesson using a similar structure in the Little Rock Ward. I laid out the different theories of intelligences (Roberts/Brigham v. McConkie/Pratt). A little bit of uneasiness followed by a great discussion.

  45. lyle on January 15, 2004 at 4:38 pm

    Nate,

    If you have a file with your lesson on intelligences…please feel free to attach it to me. :)

    thanks,
    lyle

  46. Renee on January 15, 2004 at 5:43 pm

    Moderation in all things. ’nuff said.

  47. JWJ on January 16, 2004 at 2:04 am

    Nate and co. may have stopped reading this long thread, but I’d like to chime in on T&S. This is a wonderful blog. It has encouraged me to see wide-open intellectual discussion, whole-hearted Mormonism, and friendliness go together so well. It has been especially nice to see this happening in large part outside of the traditional halls of academia (a bunch of lawyers!). Very good job.

    We tend to pour much (justified) praise on our most brilliant faithful minds, such as John Taylor, Orson Pratt, BH Roberts, Truman Madsen, Hugh Nibley. But then sometimes we recoil when we actually see people doing the kind of hard intellectual work which fills up the lives of such people. There is no doubt that some Saints (who are disposed to love truth) will continue to do such work at any rate. But comments like Hugh’s used to sadden me, because they caused me to think that this work would go on mostly alone and in private.

  48. Matt J on January 16, 2004 at 3:11 am

    This may also be too late in the discussion, but I wanted to chime in my appreciation to this site. I find that exercising both my mind and heart leads me to a greater appreciation of the spirit and my relationship to God. I am very grateful for that rare seminary or institute teacher that wasn’t afraid to teach the less than pleasant parts of mormon history or some of our changing doctrine. They usually prefaced what they had to say with ‘Better you hear it here among believers than from anti-mormons.’ One of the dangers in labeling anyone who asks tough questions or has different opinions as intellectuals to be avoided is that it may drive those intellectuals into discussions with people that have a much less favorable view of the church. Maybe that’s the intent–to get as many potential wolves as possible away from the sheep.

    I do understand some of the logic behind not wanting to intellectualize too much. The church teaches that we must all learn about god and study it out and pray and eventually get our witness to the truth. We are promised as much by the scriptures and our leaders. But when we do so and don’t get confirmation of certain principles or practices, we are told that we are too prideful, listening to ourselves, or simply unwilling to repent. We should keep studying and praying until we get the right confirmation. If this happens a few times, it starts to feel pointless because if I don’t agree with the leaders it just means I’m going apostate or it erodes my confidence in my ability to receive communication from God. Additionally, there is a thought that if the brethern haven’t given a recent talk on something, why should I be worried about it? Surely I don’t have everything mastered that’s been taught even in the last general conference.

    These two attitudes can lead one to simply wait on the brethren for all that needs to be learned. It can then be scary to hear from someone who is trying to apparently out-do the brethren. I know I’ve felt this at times and have had others describe the same thing.

    Anyway, thanks for site. I hope more people come and contribute.

  49. Kaimi on January 16, 2004 at 11:51 am

    David Sundwall makes the astute observation that this kerfuffle (his word, and not a bad choice), may be due in part to the misunderstandings that can arise between the two types of saints, Liahona saints and Iron Rod saints.

    See http://www.asoftanswer.com/archives/000089.html

  50. Brent on January 16, 2004 at 12:17 pm

    Kaimi, thanks for the link. Interesting and thought provoking discussion (or kerkuffle).

  51. JWJ on January 16, 2004 at 6:28 pm

    I know this discussion is going on somewhere else, but here’s my say.

    Sundwall: “The Iron Rod Saint does not look for questions, but for answers, and in the Gospel–as he understands it–he finds or is confident that he can find the answer to every important question.”

    This essay equates the Iron Rod with the Word of God, but then says that Iron Rod saints look not for questions, but for answers. I think that this is inconsistent. Holding to and loving the Word of God means living not only in its answers but also its questions. Those who leave out the latter seem to be mislead by the Iron Rod’s status as metaphor–like all metaphors, there are similarities and stark differences between the type and the thing itself. The Word of God is surely straight and true, leading to eternal life. But you can’t get a knot on your head getting hit by it, and furthermore the Word of God is more diverse, complex, and many faceted than a simple iron bar. Those who say, “Hold to the iron rod and forget all these endless questions” understand the ethical life of the church but not so much the iron rod, I think.

    The Liahona is interesting because it is a type as well as an actual object which existed. I love the Liahona, but see it as only capturing one aspect of the Gospel–the good news of Christ, and his truth, offers us more than simply which direction we should be heading.

    So, call me an Iron Rodder, properly understood.

  52. Nate Oman on January 16, 2004 at 7:38 pm

    JWJ: “wide-open intellectual discussion, whole-hearted Mormonism, and friendliness”

    From a bunch of lawyers no less! Shocking! What IS the world coming to… ;->

  53. Jim F. on January 16, 2004 at 8:54 pm

    I just want to point out that we are not ALL lawyers. Perhaps the leaven of the non-lawyers is what makes it work!

  54. Greg on January 16, 2004 at 9:12 pm

    Undoubtedly so, Jim.

  55. Renee on January 18, 2004 at 8:51 pm

    I finally got around to reading the posts at these two sites. I find it disheartening that some commented on those sites blasting the authors for their views. T&S is all about personal views so why that same courtesy is not afforded to others is baffling.

    The talk of Elder Pace did not say to become a zombie and not think. Yet it seems that’s what some people read. They missed a valuable point.

  56. Aaron Brown on January 19, 2004 at 5:16 am

    Renee,

    Had the authors at “these two sites” advanced thoughtful arguments as to how the content of T&S constitutes or contributes to “inappropriate intellectualism,” you might have a point. Had they initially specified what particularly bothered them, and distinguished it from other parts of T&S, a different reaction would have been in order. But they did not. One of them simply pasted a block quote from Elder Pace’s talk, and then treated the applicability of the quotation to T&S as a given, without even a perfunctory explanation. The other seconded the motion, also virtually without argument. I, for one, believe that a thorough “blasting” can be appropriate in certain contexts, and that this was arguably one of them.

    To repeat a prior point that I made, I think that pejorative dismissals of “intellectualism” are often nothing more than a smokescreen, masking an inability or unwillingness to engage arguments. Condemnations of “intellectualizing” usually strike me as acts of empty labeling masquerading as substantive warnings. If horrible, unfaithful, heretical ideas are ever put forth here or elsewhere, by all means, let those inclined to expose them put forth vigorous arguments that do so. But those that choose not to do so should not be given the benefit of the doubt as to whether they’ve got anything meaningful to say.

    Aaron B

  57. Renee on January 19, 2004 at 11:03 am

    Aaron, I respect anyone’s right to an opinion here and I respect the right of those 2 posters to point to an opinion that they favor. I’m simply disappointed that same respect is not afforded by some of the commenters. Frankly, while you obviously disagree with my observation, your response confirmed what I was saying.

    To repeat: The quotation did not say to become a zombie. No one, as far as I can see is saying don’t ever think. But that seems to be the interpretation of some. Why is that? Would someone please point out where those quotations said “never think”?

    If that is not stated anywhere then why all the fuss? “Thou doth protest too loudly.”

  58. Aaron Brown on January 19, 2004 at 8:43 pm

    Renee,

    With all due respect, your post manifests considerable confusion on a couple of crucial issues. You said:

    “I respect anyone’s right to an opinion here and I respect the right of those 2 posters to point to an opinion that they favor.”

    No one has failed to respect anyone’s “right” to their opinion. Everyone has a “right” to an point to whatever they want. But no one has a “right” to voice their opinion without some expectation of rebuttal or response. This is particularly true when the opinion offered is indiscriminately dismissive of others and devoid of supporting argument. The problem here is your unfortunate framing of the issue as one of “rights,” and this is muddling it considerably. “Rights” talk has the tendency to do that.

    “I’m simply disappointed that same respect is not afforded by some of the commenters.”

    This is nonsense. You appear to want to grant certain opinions a “free ride” from criticism. Why? It is an open question whether the opinions offered are worthy of respect. For reasons already given, I maintain that they are not.

    “Aaron, Frankly, while you obviously disagree with my observation, your response confirmed what I was saying.”

    As your observation mischaracterizes the nature of what has taken place, yes I disagree with it. My response confirms nothing, unless what you’re really trying to say is that “when someone gives an opinion or makes an assertion that piously invokes a G.A. quote, they should be given special treatment.” It sounds to me like that’s what you’re really saying. I disagree.

    “To repeat: The quotation did not say to become a zombie. No one, as far as I can see is saying don’t ever think. But that seems to be the interpretation of some. Why is that? Would someone please point out where those quotations said “never think”?”

    This misses the point. I am not arguing about the content of Elder Pace’s talk, per se. I am arguing about the way in which the quotation was employed by doctrinal.net and Hugh Roper. A very different issue.

    “If that is not stated anywhere then why all the fuss? “Thou doth protest too loudly.””

    Because that’s not what the fuss was about to begin with, as I’ve said. I doth not protest at all, except against the coddling of those who throw charges of “intellectualism” around like a loose cannon, or who casually make collective judgments about other people’s testimonies.

    (I expect to receive my “T&S Lack of Decorum” award from Adam any day now.) :>

    Aaron B

  59. Adam Greenwood on January 19, 2004 at 9:09 pm

    Done. And deserved.