Elite Religion and Common Religion

April 28, 2004 | 144 comments
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Recently, I’ve been thinking about the topic of elite religion versus popular religion. In particular, it seems that the development of FARMS and other intellectual centers of Mormon studies has resulted in a division of sorts. On the one hand, Mormon studies scholars believe in a world where the Nephites lived in a tiny section of Central America, where the Hill Cumorah is somewhere in Guatemala, where the flood was a localized event, and where Joseph Smith was polygamous and polyandrous. On the other hand, most church members believe in a world where the Lehites covered the Americas, the Hill Cumorah is in New York, the flood was worldwide, and Joseph’s polygamy is never mentioned. Common church members believe the prophet is never wrong; elites believe the prophet may have opinions that are incorrect (such as men on the moon). Common members believe that women have never held any type of priesthood; elites point out early church instances of women wielding priesthood or quasi-priesthood authority. And so forth. Bridging this chasm are church leaders, who sometimes seem to favor one worldview, and sometimes another.

It seems the more that FARMS scholars research and write, the more that apologists respond to anti-Mormon attacks, the further away they move from the common beliefs that constitute and underlie lived Mormonism for most actual members. Is the church dividing in two? Is FARMS Mormonism even the same religion as the one I hear in Sacrament Meeting? And, if not, why? — and who, if anyone, needs to change?

On the one hand, this seems similar to common misperceptions about law that I notice as an attorney. Many people in the United States believe that the Constitution or the laws contain rights or provisions that aren’t there. I have had conversations where others have invoked a “constitutional right to happiness” that doesn’t exist. I’ve had discussions with people who think that a popular vote carries greater authority than a constitutional provision.

These kinds of statements show that many people simply don’t bother to educate themselves about topics. And society is governed by the laws as they really exist, not the laws as the public perceives them.

On the surface, the elite/common differences seem similar. But I’m not sure that these two phenomena are really the same. After all, there is a correct answer to “does the constitution contain a right to happiness” (it is “no”). We can go to the document and verify this.

On the other hand, is there really a correct answer to “did the Nephites live in Central America, or all over North and South America”? What are we to believe when a FARMS scholar states that evidence shows that the limited geography hypothesis is correct, but a general authority refers to all Native Americans as Lamanites? Is the elite religion correct, or the common religion?

And, until (if and when) ideas like the limited geography hypothesis are endorsed by church leaders, can we (should we?) hold these out to non-members as being indicative of church belief? When someone asks me “what do Mormons think of Native Americans?”, should I refer them to Sorenson’s articles on limited geography, or to the Book of Mormon introduction? (I’ve brought this topic up before, and have been told by elite-religion advocates that elite-religion views should be shared, because those are more correct. But if they’re really more correct, why aren’t they more widespread as church doctrine?). We certainly get angry when non-members refer to schismatic Mormons as Mormons — but should we be equally upset if they attribute to us beliefs that are in fact widely held by members?

At the end, I remain confused as to how I’m supposed to assemble this little structure called church beliefs. My daily and weekly contact is with members who have simple common-religion beliefs; blogging puts me in contact with many elite-religion advocates. I would like to use the scholarly insights of elite religion to bolster my everyday beliefs. But I must confess that I haven’t found any easy ways to blend these with the weekly church attendance and church doctrine as I try to live it as a member.

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144 Responses to Elite Religion and Common Religion

  1. Julie in Austin on April 28, 2004 at 3:51 pm

    Tremendous post, Kaimi. If you don’t get a lot of comments initially, it is because we are going to have to think about this one for awhile.

  2. lyle on April 28, 2004 at 3:57 pm

    Kaimi: are you looking for a synthesis of the two? A way to combine the best of both? Is there really a difference between “elite” and “common” views on the inhabitants of the Americas. Can’t both be correct & co-exist? Or is this just another example of knowing more & more re: less & less or Vice versa?

  3. David King Landrith on April 28, 2004 at 4:16 pm

    The church has a threefold mission; viz., proclaiming the gospel, perfecting the saints, and redeeming the dead. When it comes to understanding pre-scientific or non-academic history, I seems to me that the church needn’t and shouldn’t have an “official” position. And so I don’t see a fundamental tension between advocates of different understandings. Call me naive or conveniently blind, but it seems to me to be a sideshow.

    Now to comment on the sideshow: I find it interesting that most Mormon self criticism focuses on analysis of the Book of Mormon and early history. To the extent that there are issues brought up with the Bible, they are generally restricted to the Pentateuch. I have seldom observed Mormon intellectuals attack (say) the New Testament with the fervor or interest with which many of them pursue Book of Mormon studies, though the New Testament is not without its scientific or academic problems and the apologetics written on its behalf are generally very shoddy.

    I’ve often wondered whether this is because Mormons recognize that some people question whether Mormons are Christian, and going after the New Testament the way they go after the Book of Mormon would only lead to more questioning. Is this the case? If it is, does this make the Mormon intellectuals intellectually dishonest, disinterested for self-interested reasons, or just academically different from other Christian intellectuals?

  4. Dave on April 28, 2004 at 4:25 pm

    Kaimi,

    I’ve seen similar comments using the terms Internet Mormons and Chapel Mormons (which avoids some of the connotations of the terms elite and common). Here’s a link:

    http://www.fiber.net/users/drshades/imvscm.htm

  5. Kaimi on April 28, 2004 at 4:37 pm

    Yep, that’s a very similar analysis. (Though I’m not sure that we come to the same conclusion). And I should note that some (many? all?) of these ideas came up on a very early T & S thread, way-back-when. See http://www.timesandseasons.org/archives/000118.html . (There were other comments made on this thread when it was on the blogspot site; those used to be available on our old site, but it looks like they’re not there now).

  6. lyle on April 28, 2004 at 4:39 pm

    This also reminds me of Adam’s comment re: The Proclamation on the Family.

    http://www.timesandseasons.org/archives/000673.html#010060

  7. Aaron Brown on April 28, 2004 at 4:50 pm

    Great post, Kaimi. I myself complain about this problem all the time. My particular version of it has often taken the following form:

    It irritates me when certain Mormon apologists (at FARMS or elsewhere) dismiss anti-Mormon claims as “attacking straw-men,” when all these men of straw seem to be inhabiting my ward.

    I recognize, as Nate Oman once memorably said to me, that “you can’t judge the intricacies of Calvinism by the content of Baptist pop music.” That is, there are various levels of sophistication within any belief system, and it is, in some contexts, only fair to grapple with a system in its best and highest form. But this depends on what it is your’e trying to grapple with. If “elite religion” and “common religion” really aren’t the same (as Kaimi has posited), then it is only fair to treat them as separate phenomena, and not necessarily legitimate to defend the one by invoking arguments that really only can defend the other.

    Incidently, I am in the habit, when asked “What do Mormons believe about X?” of saying “Some Mormons believe _____, while others believe ______.” I do this with almost every topic, to one extent or another.

    Aaron B

  8. clarkgoble on April 28, 2004 at 5:05 pm

    I sometimes wonder if people are quite as naive as some portray them as. Certainly there are many who couldn’t even tell you much about the basic “plot” of the Book of Mormon. They also, as Kaimi points out, are ignorant of law. I think a significant portion of the public can’t name or identify important figures like Condi Rice, Dick Cheyney or so forth. Rather than making categories we might just say, “people are ignorant.”

    I think Kaimi is trying to make a larger point when he speaks about what effectively are truths about the matter. However his constitutional example is a poor one. After all the meaning of the constitution is primarily what the supreme court says it is. He brings up the joke of the right to happiness that isn’t in the document. But we have a right to privacy which is used to decide case law which also isn’t explicitly in the text.

    If we speak about facts which are plain versus more interpretive stances like the limited geographical model, we really face problems. Clearly many facts we take for granted are like this.

    Regarding the strawmen that Aaron brings up. Perhaps these strawman are part of your ward. But would you allow attacks on science based upon the understanding of the public of science? The problem is that there is a big difference between what essential accepted things entail and what people understand by them. By focusing in on uncritical (and typically unconsidered) understanding rather than what is logically entailed, you’ve attacked a strawman.

    The average lower division physics student when asked to draw the curve a falling object takes, gets it wrong. Anyone who judges falling objects based upon the erroneous ideas of these sophomores simply is attacking a strawman.

    If we speak about what Mormon theology *is* then I think we must separate it from what ignorant members may believe. Just as when we speak about what science teaches we *don’t* ask what individual uninformed people within the sciences think. For instance you wouldn’t go to a physicist to ask about biology or biology to ask about science. While we are a lay church, it doesn’t follow that everyone is informed on theology.

  9. clark on April 28, 2004 at 5:18 pm

    One more example of why appeals to lay members by critics of the church *really* bothers me. On my mission we encountered a *lot* of baptists and taught them. I can honestly say that outside of those who’d been to theological school, not one believed the trinity. They almost to a person believed something fairly similar to what Mormons believe.

    Now suppose I said, “baptists don’t believe in the trinity.” Then I made the obvious corrollary that baptists are therefore heretical. That would be a strawman. But this exactly what I think Aaron’s position is leading to.

  10. Kaimi on April 28, 2004 at 5:25 pm

    Clark,

    So, if someone asks, “Do Baptists believe in the Trinity?”, what is the correct answer?

  11. clark on April 28, 2004 at 5:29 pm

    The answer should be, “yes,” since that is entailed by the formal official beliefs of the baptist organization. If you ask instead, does this individual believe in the trinity, the answer is more complex. Afterall they haven’t really reached a postion to understand the question.

    The problem is the problem of vagueness. People believe in vague ways which come into a more determinate fashion as they become educated. The problem is that those making these judgments are ignoring the issue of vagueness and are treating all judgments as if they were equally determinate.

    For instance if I ask someone if they believe in gravity, they believe in gravity even if they get the description of the motion wrong.

  12. John H on April 28, 2004 at 5:31 pm

    I’d suggest that the Brethren have already endorsed the limited geography theory. I think the “Mistakes in the News” section on the Church website was a remarkable development – linking to FARMS articles on DNA and the Book of Mormon that endorse limited geography.

    Kaimi’s post was superb, and I’m wondering what’s going to happen when common religion and elite religion clash, which I see happening more and more around the Book of Mormon.

    When the teacher in Gospel Doctrine tried to point out the limited geography theory as he was introducing the Book of Mormon this year, hands went up quoting Joseph Fielding Smith and other Church leaders. How will people reconcile limited geography, as it becomes more well-known, with things like Zelph, prophecies of the “promised land” (ie, what is the promised land if the BoM only took place in a small location) prophecies about Native Americans as Lamanites in the Doctrine and Covenants, etc. The “elites” as Kaimi labels them, have most likely already found ways around these dilemmas, but what will the “commoner” do when they encounter these issues?

  13. jeremobi on April 28, 2004 at 5:38 pm

    Great post, Kiami, though I’d include church leaders’ positions as elite opinion. Hard to think of a more elite group than the GAs. All this means is that if church leaders espouse mass/popular religious ideas, then an elite LDS worldview lacks unity on a regular basis. No big deal, really.

    You’re comparison of elite/mass beliefs with legal understanding can be stretched to any social field of study–economics, politics, sociology, whatever. We all have opinions, but very few of us, elites included, are informed. Even intellectual elites are rarely well versed in anything other than one specialty.

    Another aside: “When someone asks me “what do Mormons think of…?”

    I used to complain that I had to spend too much time correcting the mistaken beliefs of my non-LDS co-workers and friends based on their interaction with other LDS people. I now feel that attitude was poor.

    It seems the only honest response to this kind of questions is ‘I have little idea what other Mormons believe. My guess is they think all kinds of things. But I believe this…’

    My wife and I use this response even in our own family. When the little kids come home from school or primary with any number of fuzzy ideas, we explain that some families believe one thing, others another. Some act one way, others another. We tell them that is okay, but in our family we believe this…

  14. jeremobi on April 28, 2004 at 6:00 pm

    “you wouldn’t go to a physicist to ask about biology or biology to ask about science. While we are a lay church, it doesn’t follow that everyone is informed on theology.”

    True enough. We don’t live Plato’s ideal. But how many GAs are theologians? How many of us believe we can make informed comments on economic, political, legal or social themes, yet are not trained economists, political scientists, legal scholars or sociologists?

  15. BDemosthenes on April 28, 2004 at 6:13 pm

    I’m wondering how the geography of the BOM, the extent of the flood, or the nature of polygamy beyond what’s revealed in D&C 132 are even that terribly important to anything that actually matters. Why are these rather minor doctrinal quibbles even significant (and are they more or less significant than the ‘average American’s’ knowledge of anything)?

    Alternatively, while I’ve done a limited amount of reading relating to each of those issues, I don’t know that my mind is made up one way or the other regarding any of them. Perhaps the dichotomy isn’t so cut and dried between ‘intellectual members who all believe X, Y, and Z,’ and ‘commoners who haven’t been exposed to X, Y, and Z, and thus remain ignorant.’

  16. Aaron Brown on April 28, 2004 at 6:19 pm

    Clark said:
    “Now suppose I said, “baptists don’t believe in the trinity.” …”

    The problem here, Clark, is that you’re assuming that people are inquiring about an organization’s “official” beliefs when they ask that question. That may be what they’re asking, or it may not be. On its face, the question may simply be inquiring as to what adherents of a particular faith are likely to believe when they are encountered.

    For example, let’s say I want to know what “Catholics” believe about birth control, or being “pro-choice.” The “right” answer, to you, may be that Catholics are opposed to birth control and abortion because the Pope has said so. But many Catholics I have known don’t agree with this. Maybe they “should,” but that’s a different issue. Lots of American Catholics are pro-choice, and think that the Pope should “stay out of the bedroom.” It simply would not accurately answer my question to tell me that Catholics are “opposed” to these phenomena.

    In addition, sometimes the disjunct between “official” beliefs and “popular” beliefs is not a self-conscious act of dissent, but a failiure to think through the implications of issues (as you rightly point out). I know lots of Mormons who believe in “pre-destination.” They don’t SAY they believe in it, when asked, but the belief is theirs all the same. I know this because of the things they say.

    I guess my point boils down to this: “What do Mormons believe?” can mean more than one thing. I realize that in the context of say, anti-Mormon literature, the question of what the Church “officially” believes is more relevant to what the anti-Mormons’ purpose ostensibly is — to debunk the Church’s theology. But many people who ask questions about others’ faith are not always seeking a technical, theological elaboration.

    Aaron B

  17. Dave on April 28, 2004 at 6:23 pm

    John H. makes a key point: in the past the common and the scholarly perpectives on Mormon history and doctrine have been effectively compartmentalized. That is now breaking down–illustrated nicely by the LDS.org links to FARMS and DNA articles. What does this portend for the future?

    Many attribute the progressive failure of compartmentalization to the Internet. That’s too simple. I’d go a step further and attribute it to the higher profile of scholarly Mormonism, both the supportive FARMS school and the more independent voices in publishing (Dialogue, Sunstone, Signature Books, and Univ. of Illinois Press come to mind). The general media is now better informed, and is likely to consult these “scholarly Mormonism” sources for information on even a general interest story, rather than cite only an “official” LDS publication. Once this “scholarly Mormonism” perspective becomes commonplace in general media discussions, both the average Mormon and LDS leaders will find themselves confronting issues which, in the past, have been discussed only in fairly limited “scholarly Mormonism” forums.

  18. Adam Greenwood on April 28, 2004 at 6:28 pm

    Kaimi’s dilemma isn’t just a function of FARMs, the internet, and the rise of Mormon studies. In a church that believes in personal revelation, some members will always have beliefs and knowledge that surpass what the rest of us hold.

  19. Nate Oman on April 28, 2004 at 6:29 pm

    Dave: I suspect that you are on to something here. I also think that a large part of it is simply that in the past Mormons were a really, really, really small group and frankly weren’t big enough for people to get interested in. With growth, we become more interesting…

  20. Clark Goble on April 28, 2004 at 6:32 pm

    Dave, I think the divide is breaking down simply because populations are becoming more educated. For instance most people in my ward have gone to college. Was that true 50 years ago? While one certainly can compartmentalize ones college education, and it is possible to go to BYU and take only “fluff make me read my scriptures” CES classes, I think many don’t compartmentalize like that. Indeed many professors at BYU I’ve talked to always say how their students consider these things important issues.

    Regarding Aaron’s comments, I tend to agree Aaron. There is a distinction between the theology of an organization and the social beliefs within that organization. However I also think my comments about vagueness still apply. Many confuse vagueness and ignorance with belief. (Pollsters in particular – but that’s a different topic)

    I think though that most of these questions that I’ve encountered clearly are conflating the theological and social. Further most times I encounter it the question is used as a kind of attack. It need not be anti-Mormon. But it often ends up being various attacks on theology.

    Even if someone is more innocently asking what Mormons believe, an informed Mormon should both say what most Mormons socially believe and what the actual position of the church is. Further I strongly believe that leaving out the issue of vagueness is very misleading.

  21. jeremobi on April 28, 2004 at 7:00 pm

    Clark: “Even if someone is more innocently asking what Mormons believe, an informed Mormon should both say what most Mormons socially believe and what the actual position of the church is. Further I strongly believe that leaving out the issue of vagueness is very misleading.”

    Hmm…I don’t know any Mormons so well informed that they could honestly say what most Mormons socially believe. We just don’t know that many people. And my sense is we don’t know those around us half as well as we think we do. A cursory review of the history in the Mauss books and comments on this site, moreover, might suggest that the ‘actual position of the church’ is quite often difficult to discern.

  22. Dave on April 28, 2004 at 7:32 pm

    Clark,

    I was a little loose with my use of the term “comparmentalization.” I wasn’t referring to the mental compartmentalization some people use to keep conflicting ideas separate in their own minds. Instead, I was referring to institutional separation, whereby most “Mormon studies issues” were confined to journals average Mormons don’t read, conferences average Mormons don’t attend, and books average Mormons don’t buy. Discussion of those issues is now beginning to spill over into mainstream publications and forums.

    But I think you’re correct that it is also partly a reflection of rising education levels.

  23. Clark Goble on April 28, 2004 at 7:32 pm

    Jerem, I agree. However we must thus acknowledge our fallibilism in knowing. i.e. what individuals believe and what the church believes is in excess of what we know. I think that the concept of vagueness resolves a lot of this.

    However even if we acknowledge that what we should do is beyond our capabilities, I think we should try as best we can. So long as we don’t get trapped by a narrow dogmatism (which I think both sides often do) we should be fine.

  24. Nate Cardon on April 28, 2004 at 8:38 pm

    I suppose that it’s the difference between levels of concern. As a self-titled political afficianado, it is very important to me who is appointed to the DC Court of Appeals, and I am concerned about what the government is doing in the Klamath region, despite the fact that I have no “salient” interests in the region. I wouldn’t expect the average American to care about such issues, and I don’t think it’s necessary that they do.

    For Mormons, I don’t think it’s particularly important where precisely the Book of Mormon took place: that’s not really a doctrinal point, and the answer (or my belief about the answer) doesn’t affect my salvation. That being said, I care about where the events of the Book of Mormon took place. I care about a proper understanding of prophetic proclamations versus the opinions of the men who happen to be prophets.

    Should our answers to these questions matter? Not really. They’re not necessary to salvation, though they may aid our understanding.

  25. Kingsley on April 28, 2004 at 8:48 pm

    Kaimi: The examples you give of issues currently dividing “elite” and “common” Latter-day Saints do not seem to be very fundamental, at least not to the point of causing major schism in the Church. If the issues were more like those dividing FARMS, say, and Signature Books, e.g. is the Book of Mormon history or fiction, the word “chasm” would obviously be justified; but when the historicity of the Book of Mormon is assumed by all, debates (even strong ones) within that assumption are more a sign of health than otherwise. Angels and golden plates make for fairly strong parameters. I am not saying that arguments within those parameters are trivial, only that they differ in kind from arguments that really threaten the unity of the Church.

    In my experience, most Latter-day Saints do not believe that the prophet is “never wrong,” only that he’s usually right. He spends more time talking about debt and adultery than men on the moon. Again in my experience, most Latter-day Saints are capable of dealing with ambiguity in doctrinal and historical matters, so long as it comes from a more authoritative source than “the quorum’s token intellectual” (Grondahl cartoon). For example, when President Hinckley responded to a nationally televised query about blacks and the priesthood with “Look, that’s behind us now,” or when he told various reporters that “we just don’t know much” about deification, the response from “common” members was, for the most part, perfectly liberal and sane. “But why should the source’s authority matter, so long as they’re speaking the truth?” Well, it shouldn’t. You can kind of sense, however, when you’re being spoken to as a commoner. And, right or wrong, you resist it. Especially in a democratic society, where the elite are pretty much self-proclaimed.

  26. Susan on April 29, 2004 at 12:16 am

    I’m interested by the sense of a clear boundary for what lies “within” the fold that seems to organize this discussion. The Book of Mormon example is interesting. If I compare what Joseph seemed to believe about Book of Mormon geography with the FARMS notion of limited geography, I see a pretty big gap. For me the gestures of setting aside what Joseph said in certain contexts and coming to a more “informed” limited geography view and setting aside what Joseph said in certain contexts and coming to the conclusion that there is little historical evidence for the BM story don’t feel so very different. Both seem on a continuum to me. Both rely on evidence and draw conclusions. Both approaches require setting aside certain things Joseph said.

    I well understand that there is a high wall erected between the FARMs approach and the final one I describe. On one side you’re inside, on the other you’re outside. But from an experiential perspective for many (me included), those two places are very, very close. For me that wall no longer has the kind of substance it once had.

  27. Jordan Fowles on April 29, 2004 at 12:36 am

    Personally, I am all for studying as much as I can and getting some (fairly strong) personal opinions on things, but also sticking as closely as possible to the “mainstream” (if it can be located) when discoursing with others.

    After all, I do not build the foundation for my testimony on what I (concededly perhaps naively) call “FARMS” fluff- my testimony is based on feelings and impressions that the Book of Mormon is the word of God (no matter where it geographically took place- the impressions that confirm this belief don’t rely on the venue- it could have been in outer space and I would still have the same feelings…), that Joseph Smith had a vision that Spring day (exactly which version is the “correct” one doesn’t trouble me), that the Priesthood is the power of God (whether or not it has been exercised by women (on which I have a personal opinion), based on the miracles I have seen worked in my own life through it), and that we still have a prophet on the earth today (regardless of what he may say about the man on the moon…).

    But once I have this foundational testimony established so that nothing I find will shake it, I see nothing wrong and even find it quite exhilerating to get into the “elite” stuff. I like to think about things from lots of perspective.

    This has nothing to do with this post necessarily, but I really like to consider how God might have used humans to accomplish the miracles we read about in the Bible (like perhaps having one of Lot’s party kill Lot’s wife for looking back and burying her under a pillar of salt- thus she turned into one, etc..)

  28. Kingsley on April 29, 2004 at 3:34 am

    Susan: It is interesting to note just how little Joseph drew upon the Book of Mormon in his sermons, letters, etc. Terryl L. Givens describes how the early Saints (including Joseph Smith) consistently used the Book of Mormon as a divine sign of the Restoration rather than as a doctrinal or moral guide. They didn’t go very deeply into the book itself. This might be rather a stretch, but I wonder if it’s possible to say that Book of Mormon studies (especially since the Ezra Taft Benson era) have advanced, in certain important ways, even beyond Joseph Smith, Brigham Young, etc.

  29. Gary Cooper on April 29, 2004 at 1:09 pm

    Kingsley,

    I think you are exactly on target with that last thread. I pay less attention to what Brigham Young said , for example, on doctrinal matters than I do to Gordon B. Hinckley. The reason is not just because Pres. Hinckley is alive and Pres. Young is dead. Another huge reason is that today’s generation of Church leaders have advantages that the the first generation did not. Today’s leaders have been raised in a culture that is thoroughly “mormonized”, whereas men like Brigham Young had to constantly wrestle with their old, Protestant upbringing and traditions. Today’s leaders have learned from the mistakes of the past, and have also been trained since childhood to study the BoM and other restored Scripture, etc. The result is that they are better able to get a handle on correct doctrine and procedure.

    Now having said that, let me point out one particular concern I have about the “divide” between “elite” and “common” camps in the Church. One thing that really sticks in my craw is the tendency, perhaps not always intentional, on the part of the “elite” to, in exposing and talking about failures or mistakes or foibles of the early Brethren (or what they perceive as such), to denigrate the character of these good men. I think that I am in good company with the vast majority of the “common” members when I say that I love and admire Joseph Smith and Brigham Young, and one of the reasons that “intellectuals” in the Church tend to be judged harshly by other members is because the “common” members perceive, rightly or wrongly, that the intellectuals are telling them (with revelations of Joseph’s seemingly strange interpretation of polygamy, or Brigham’s black restrictions to priesthood, etc.) that we SHOULDN’T love and admire Joseph and Brigham and others. As a convert, I can well understand that when someone first joins the Church, they have a ton of things to work on and change in their beliefs and practices, and they make a lot of mistakes and errors along the way. I see no reason to expect Joseph Smith to act any differently that any other Protestant convert would today after they are baptized, so how often do we say, “Bro. Smith, welcome to the Church. You’re first calling will be to serve as Church President.” The same is true of Brigham Young and all the other early Brethren.

    That brings me to a final point. I think “elite” opinion and “common” opinion are headed for a collision, at least potentially, and a great danger is that “elite” opinion can fall into Phariseeism. The downfall of the Pharisees is that, in their devotion to scholasticism, they eventually came to the point of viewing prophets as only mere messengers, but viewing PROFESSORS OF THE LAW as more important, because the professors could take the message of the prophets and pull out new meanings and applications, thus providing MORE light than the revelations themselves. This is not far removed from the Protestant view that reason is a more sure guide than revelation.

    I am grateful for the fact that I am as aware as I am of the foibles of the early Brethren, and the convoluted nature of how some of our doctrines and practices and folk beliefs have come about (so I guess I may be among the “elite”, as most of those who contribute here at T&S probably are). But, this knowledge enhances my testimony and my character, Like John Taylor, I am glad to see the faults of Joseph Smith (for example), because I have my own faults, and if he could have faults and still have the the Spirit and still be saved, then I can, too. I have simply experienced too many miracles, too many revelations, too many positive and confirming spiritual experiences, and enough expereinces combatting genuine spiritual evil (no need to give details) to persuade me that the Church isn’t true or that Joseph and Brigham weren’t what they said they were. The “common” members may get a lot of things wrong, and may not be as fully informed as some of us here would like, but as a general rule they experience the Gospel on a personal and very real level, every day, and if the “elite” are not careful, they run the risk of seeming to tell the “common” that what the latter experience spirtually is not “real”, or is misguided. That just won’t fly. Armand Mauss’ comments here at T&S were very informative, for example, but sometimes the tone of what he said came across in a way that I could see “common” members being turned off, which would be unfortunate since he has some very important things to say.

    In short, I think the divide between “elite” and “common” in the church could become a real problem, but it does not have to. Charity and a soft, gentle touch on the part of “elites” will help. I this gentle touch here at T&S, and I certainly see it with the Brethren, but not always from other sources.

  30. Gary Cooper on April 29, 2004 at 1:29 pm

    Oops, I meant to say, “I see this gentle touch here at T&S,…”

  31. Kingsley on April 29, 2004 at 1:42 pm

    Gary: Also, it’s probably just plain irritating to know that Brother X over there thinks of you as a commoner. At least as irritating as knowing that Brother Y, a McConkie-ite, thinks of you as hellbound for believing there was life before Adam. And that brings up an interesting point: Is there really a difference between those who believe that, because of their fundamentalism, they’re part of McConkie’s “inner circle,” and those that believe that, because of their intellectualism, they’re part of an elite?

  32. Gary Cooper on April 29, 2004 at 2:56 pm

    Kingsley,

    Nope, there’s no difference–in both instances we are dealing with Pride, of the false variety.

  33. Kingsley on April 29, 2004 at 3:26 pm

    Is it possible for LDS intellectuals to think of themselves as, well, intellectuals, as LDS athletes think of themselves as athletes? I realize that there is an elitism about the latter group as well, but mental prowess for some reason seems to bring with it a sense of moral superiority which would be absurd in relation to any other sort of inborn prowess.

    Perhaps I’m not saying this very well. Athletes don’t expect their neighbors to be athletes because athleticism is so obviously an innate gift that not everyone possesses. Intellectuals, on the other hand, seem to think that the ability to retain a strong testimony in the face of ambiguity, complexity, etc., is something that everyone would have if only they’d pull their heads from the sand. But isn’t that ability an innate gift as well? Most Saints have a very practical view of the Church, just as most people have a very practical view of their bodies—both are vehicles for getting you from point A to point B. You maintain health by being active. “Active” means eating, sleeping, playing, working, etc.—not six days of weightlifting and wind sprints and a highly personalized diet engineered by scientists in preparation for the big game on Sunday. The athlete, of course, finds meaning in his suffering and joy in its fruits. For Joe Regular, however, the same routine could mean death (no matter how basically healthy he is).

    Is it possible (or right) for intellectuals to view their lot in a similar way, to views themselves first and foremost as Latter-day Saints who happen to be born with particular gifts, so that their elitism isn’t tied to morality or even to the Church, but is something, in a way, outside of both—however much it privately augments both? Can they appreciate the non-intellectual’s practical preoccupation with the living Church, with practical activity, and realize that forcing their mental routine on Joe Regular could result in drastic consequences? The athlete is particularly constituted so that extreme physical duress is pleasurable and even holy. The intellectual is particularly constituted so that extreme mental duress is pleasurable and even holy. Both, perhaps, are accidents—resurrected bodies and fully-functional brains may even the playing field. In the meantime, let’s eradicate the idea of elite Saints and common Saints and put plain Saints (with differing, inborn, morally neutral abilities) in its place.

  34. Gary Cooper on April 29, 2004 at 3:41 pm

    Kingsley,

    You hit the nail on the head.

  35. Matt J on April 29, 2004 at 4:19 pm

    That is an interesting point, Kingsley. However, I think your example of an athlete is quite extreme. There are as many of the super-athletes you describe as there are super-intellectuals in the church. I don’t think there are any of either group in my ward. There are people, though, who are more athletic (or who exercise more or eat better) than I. I appreciate their encouragement and example of how I could improve my life. They could just be quiet about their lifestyle, but then we’d never learn anything from one another. Same goes for those who know a lot more about intellectual things, or those who are more charismatic than myself. I don’t think it helps me to say I wasn’t born smart or athletic or out-going and not try to improve. Striving to use our bodies and minds and talents to their fullest capacity is not morally-neutral, in my opinion.

    I agree with you and Gary that problems arise when the more-gifted start looking down on and judging those around them as inferior. There is also the risk of resenting or envying the more-gifted because of their talents. So, your last sentence is good — we do need to describe different groups of people using some sort of vocabulary, but we should avoid labels like ‘elite’ and ‘common’.

  36. Dave on April 29, 2004 at 4:21 pm

    That was quite a speech, Gary, complete with shouting (the standard use of caps in online posting). I’m a little unclear about what exactly is the focus of your concern.

    Granted, I think the terms “elite” and “common” are misleading, and to be honest I don’t think anyone chatting at T&S or in Mormon Studies more generally really defines themselves as “elite.” I pointed out in an early comment in this thread that others have used the kinder terms “Internet Mormons” and “Chapel Mormons” for the same purpose. We could as easily use “people who like to read history books” and “people who are too busy to read or who are completely uninterested in the subject” if they weren’t so ungainly.

    Apart from this terminology issue, I disagree with your general point that those with an interest in the historical details of events surrounding the life of Brigham Young or Joseph Smith are merely stirring up trouble. The truth claims and religious legitimacy of the Church are based largely on historical narratives of events from their lives. It’s quite appropriate to come to a better understanding of those events and the people who were involved.

  37. Kingsley on April 29, 2004 at 4:48 pm

    Matt J: I did not mean that the way in which we use our gifts is morally neutral, only that it is arguable that one gift (intellectualism) is morally superior to another (athleticism).

    The example is extreme, but I think it can be broken down usefully to more practical levels.

    Perhaps it comes down to intellectuals (on whatever level) being a little more cautious in how they spread the wealth. After all, an athlete would have to get you on a treadmill before he could subject your unprepared heart to extreme duress; an intellectual can do the same thing to an unprepared testimony with one flippant remark in Sunday School.

    An unintellectual testimony is not necessarily the same thing as a weak testimony, just as a house without stout doors is not necessarily the same thing as a weak house. You want to be careful you don’t violently smash in the door of an otherwise beautiful house.

  38. Kingsley on April 29, 2004 at 5:13 pm

    Matt J:

    Sorry, one more thing: sharing a recipe for a healthy salad or offering a good workout tip is far less complicated than, say, bringing up Joseph Smith’s polyandry in Sunday School. I was referring more to the common (to my mind) assumption amongst intellectuals that very complex, very touchy subjects are just perfect for introducing Sister Jones to the joys of abstract thought.

  39. Gary Cooper on April 29, 2004 at 6:10 pm

    Dave,

    Sorry for the caps. When I use a word processor I make heavy use of italics and underlining, and that is impossible here when one posts. So, capitalization is all that is left to me. You’re right that this gives the impression of shouting, so I’ll try to avoid that, because I was not intedning the caps to be understood as shouting.

    I also did not mean to imply that the mere study of the details of early church history was “stirring up trouble”. Rather, the problem I see (and I’ve not seen this much at all from any of the regulars here at T&S, but I have encountered it from other sources) is where the grim details are simply thrown out to the rest of us, complete with pejorative judgements about church leaders, past and present. The overall tone seems to be negative in those instances. In addition, those of us who are quite knowledgeable about church history may sometimes not be careful about the way in which we bring up such details, inadvertantly giving the wrong impression. (Which has been addressed by some other posts here at T&S.) I hope that clarifies my point.

  40. William Morris on April 29, 2004 at 6:43 pm

    Gary [and others}:

    A quick note on Internet protocol for what it’s worth:

    I believe Kaimi or Adam has mentioned this before, but a generally accepted way to show emphasis on the Web is through the use of *.

    Thus, “…that we *shouldn’t* love and admire…”

    And as someone who does editing and layout for both print and Web, I shudder in horror at this sentence: “I make heavy use of italics and underlining.” ;-)

  41. Gary Cooper on April 29, 2004 at 6:57 pm

    Thanks William. Now perhaps I can also begin to work on my nagging habit of using run-on sentences…

  42. Ethesis on April 30, 2004 at 5:22 am

    Gary,

    I really liked your point:

    “The downfall of the Pharisees is that, in their devotion to scholasticism, they eventually came to the point of viewing prophets as only mere messengers, but viewing PROFESSORS OF THE LAW as more important, because the professors could take the message of the prophets and pull out new meanings and applications, thus providing MORE light than the revelations themselves. This is not far removed from the Protestant view that reason is a more sure guide than revelation.”

    That was very well said.

    On the other hand, I’ve known a fair number of atheletes that felt they had a moral superiority to those who were not as atheletic.

    Interesting dyanmic there.

    I’ve got a lot to think about.

  43. Kingsley on April 30, 2004 at 6:38 pm

    Ethesis:

    I wonder, though, if an intellectual’s moral smugness has more potential for harm than an athlete’s, Sunday School-wise.

  44. Ethesis on May 2, 2004 at 1:16 am

    Kingsley:

    Well, the Book of Mormon condemns men who are learned and think they are wise … but doesn’t get too much into atheletes, other than the great and spacious building and the worship of false gods.

    Interesting point.

    I’ve got a small problem, in that I know a couple of pro atheletes, one from brief contacts in law school, the other from passing in the hall, and both are surprisingly respectable people. On the other hand, I’ve known a lot of atheletes who were worshiped by those around them (including those in the Church) and who did as much harm as any “intellectual” who was pretty much ignored by the Sunday School Crowd.

    My favorite group of those (intellectuals) was the “Children of Ephriam” a group that tried to get Salt Lake to approve a seperate ward for themselves. They had pretentions of intelligence, but were generally pretty dense by my standards (though my wife told me to quit tormenting one of them).

    Hmm, you can tell I’m rambling. I actually think both groups can fall into several traps of associating virtue with their accomplishments (have you ever heard Stephen R. Covey speak of how the athelete with the most virtue always wins {with the analog for virtue being “desire”}? I wrestled a season, earned a j.v. and a varsity letter in the same season, had six pins under a minute, lost a total of four matches, and quite honestly can say that desire had little to do with who won the matches I had).

    Too late. I’m rambling.

    But it was a good question, it deserves a better answer.

  45. Dr. Shades on May 5, 2004 at 5:50 am

    Some people feel that “Common Religion” / “Chapel Mormonism” exists merely because many members are ill-informed.

    But if you read the scriptures and listen to the prophets’ voice, then it becomes clear that God is a member of the “Common Religion” and is a Chapel Mormon.

    See why the distinction bodes ill?

  46. tom on May 5, 2004 at 9:47 am

    Then why did President Hinckley invite FARMS (the deuterocanonical writings of so-called “Internet Mormons”) to become an official part of BYU? So they could squelch their unorthodoxy? Put the kibosh on spreading false doctrine?

    Scriptures are not self-interpreting, especially when the reader does not share the worldview, culture or language of the writer. I’d question the idea that the scriptures are the purview of “chapel mormons” when it seems like “internet mormons” are the ones reading, studying and discussing them.

    I’d have to disagree with you. But then, I’m on the internet:)

  47. lyle on May 5, 2004 at 12:56 pm

    Yet…what value does the ‘elite’ have? Assuming they do have a better “understanding” of doctrine on Points A, B & C than the ‘common’…

    what value does that provide the ‘elite’?
    do they ‘live’ the gospel better? more charitable? etc?

    do they teach, explicit or by example, to the ‘common’?

    it would seem that if the ‘elite’ really want to be elite, they would be strategic & be as common (a la Clinton/Bush) as possible & inspire/teach from a position of equality/respect given…

  48. Bsix on May 5, 2004 at 3:43 pm

    Interesing comments. Thank you for your thoughts.

    I’m going to disagree. I sense that you, and others are seeing a phenomenon, but overstating the significance of what is happening. I personally do not believe that there is a wide chasm developing between so-called “elite and common Mormons” in terms of signficant LDS beliefs.

    In fact, a discussion on a subject very similar to this has been taking place on a couple of the “elite Mormon” message boards. Internet Mormons vs. Chapel Mormons.

    There has been an online survey (of sorts) identifying the differences between internet Mormons (elite?) vs. chapel Mormons (common) on these academic apologetic boards.

    Zion’s Lighthouse Message Board:
    http://p080.ezboard.com/fpacumenispagesfrm69.showMessage?topicID=362.topic

    Fair-LDS message board:
    http://www.fairboards.org/index.php?showtopic=3560

    Interestingly enough, there seems to be a pretty wide degree of agreement on basic LDS doctrine from so-called Internet Mormons.

    I think that observations that there is a chasm, or a new Mormonism, are somewhat reactionary.

    Regards,

    Six

  49. Gadianton on May 5, 2004 at 4:47 pm

    Kaimi has made an excellent observation. Clark counters that Book of Mormon geography isn’t essential to Mormonism. If he’s right, this cuts Dr. Shade’s point that the Brethern, and prophets of the past have all been “Chapel Mormons.” After all, we all know that Joseph Smith taught that a prophet is a prophet only when speaking as such. And we can all certainly accept, that some things the prophets have said are not essential to mormonism. For instance, not all Chapel Mormons would insist there are people living on the moon (although I’ve known a few in fact who have–one btw, who went to college on a NASA scholarship).

    But Clark’s point doesn’t settle the matter, it only raises the question, who defines what is and what isn’t essential to Mormonism? Who decides what the prophets of God are allowed to get wrong?
    Who demarcs the territory of the prophets, and the “well educated” Mormons? It seems to me, the territory of the prophets is shrinking.

    The position of prophetic fallibilism doesn’t solve the problem for Internet Mormonism, but rather, allows all of us who are members of the church to honestly investigate our own commitments to the church and to the world. Education isn’t the issue. Hugh Nibley for instance, with all his learning and apologetics, seems to hold a number of naive positions. This isn’t a result of being ill-informed on the issues, but rather, a deep-seeded commitment to the restored church.

    And it goes deeper than some of the more obvious issues like BOM geography and the important issue of lineage or the flood. Can we come to a true understanding of the BOM and Mormon doctrine by reading the word of God, prayer, and studying the writings of our church leaders, or to get to the real heart of the matter, do we first have to understand Martin Heidegger and Emmanual Levinas?
    Do we believe in the Book of Mormon as TRUTH from GOD, or do we believe it is truth, errr, as a “narrative?”

    The territory of the prophets shrinks every year. While we can’t set the demarcation in stone, we can easily see that the scriptures are clear on the matter of the wisdom of the world verses the wisdom of god and his prophets. Have the scriptures ever said the wisdom of the prophets will perish? But then again, maybe all that is just part of the narrative, and can’t be taken seriously by the educated elites.

  50. tom on May 5, 2004 at 4:53 pm

    Even “TRUTH from GOD” has historical context, and that’s what scholarship tries to get at.

  51. clark on May 5, 2004 at 5:21 pm

    A few thoughts:

    “The downfall of the Pharisees is that, in their devotion to scholasticism, they eventually came to the point of viewing prophets as only mere messengers, but viewing PROFESSORS OF THE LAW as more important, because the professors could take the message of the prophets and pull out new meanings and applications, thus providing MORE light than the revelations themselves. This is not far removed from the Protestant view that reason is a more sure guide than revelation.”

    However I think that the only difference between a prophet and a “scribe” or “rabbi” is what is used in ones hermeneutics. Look at our prophets. How much is unique, and how much is pulling out new meanings and applications from scripture. The problem is resovled when one realizes that it is the scripture that is important. Reason *alone* is insufficient. (Which, based upon the talmudic and midrashic writings I’ve read, most Jewish scholars agreed with at least in principle – witness the similarity of Jesus’ teaching with many other religious teachers of the era)

    BTW – nit picky issue – Scholasticism was the philosophical movement by monastic groups from the end of the ancient era up through the renaissance.

    To “Shades” I disagree that the prophets are chapel Mormons. But then I disagree entirely with the distinction of chapel Mormons and elite Mormons. I think it a misleading taxonomy at best. I think the real taxonomy is more a political one of those devoted to the Church as a political entity and willing to recognize themselves as fallible and those who are not. And that does correlate very strongly with the brethren.

  52. clark on May 5, 2004 at 5:24 pm

    Regarding Levinas, Heidegger, and so forth. I think they are useful for understanding how things work. I don’t think they are pertinet at all for being a Mormon. But I think that this too is a result of trying to conceive of Mormonism simply as a collection of propositions one must assent to. I think that a poor way of conceiving it which leads to just these sorts of poor taxonomies.

  53. Gary Cooper on May 5, 2004 at 5:38 pm

    Gadianton,

    I like that last thread of yours, which states your case very nicely and, I think, correctly. However, you’re note *really* a “Gadianton”, are you? I should think, with that thread of yours, that “Helaman” might be a better moniker for you!

  54. Dr. Shades on May 5, 2004 at 8:01 pm

    Are you an Internet Mormon or a Chapel Mormon?

    Take the test at the following site and find out:

    http://p080.ezboard.com/fpacumenispagesfrm69.showMessageRange?topicID=362.topic&start=23&stop=23

  55. clark on May 5, 2004 at 8:06 pm

    I’d say that test has lots of question invoking the fallacy of the false dilemma.

    http://www.nizkor.org/features/fallacies/false-dilemma.html

  56. Dr. Shades on May 5, 2004 at 8:34 pm

    Thanks for telling us that, Clark, but in order for your post to be of any use to us you’ll have to tell us which *specific* questions fall into that category.

    Which are they, if any?

  57. Clark Goble on May 5, 2004 at 9:36 pm

    Take (1) for example. When science contradicts prophets why must only one or the other *always* be correct? For instance prophets said there was no beginning of time. Then we have the big bang and science says there was a beginning. Then we have science talking about bubble universes and suddenly we’re back to the earlier views. It seems there is no right answer to this one.

    Same with (2). Is it *always* one or the other?

    (3) is the same – either the terms are *entirely separate* or they mean the same thing. Couldn’t they be different but with some overlap?

    How about (9) where most Mormons would say truth comes by the spirit?

    It’s a very problematic and poorly phrased set of questions. Further it tries to reduce Mormonism to propositions accepted. As I said, I think that fundamentally wrong.

  58. Jettboy on May 7, 2004 at 7:51 pm

    I think we are avioding the true demarcations that *have* had actual schisms. This is between the “believing” Mormon Intellectuals and the “Cultural” Mormon Intellectuals. On one side is FARMS who, despite some very specific scholasticism, hold to the divine and orthodox view of the LDS Church. The other side is Sunstone and Signature books, who seek to undermine the faith by presenting naturalistic and, at best, agnostic views.

    One of them is defending the faith and the other to destroy it, or change it into a Liberal Protestant Community based on humanistic ideals. FARMS is subject to, and often encouraged by, the leadership of the LDS Church. The other often sees the leadership (and many common members) as in the way, ignorant, and to be scoffed at.

    As long as we are thinking of FARMS as elite rather than common, the true problems are going to be ignored. I believe that they are *protectors* of the common. They may have come to the conclusion, that I agree with, that the history behind the Scriptures are more complicated that even Joseph Smith understood. However, at least they believe its a history come from an actual living prophet of an actual living God.

  59. jeremobi on May 7, 2004 at 8:28 pm

    “As long as we are thinking of FARMS as elite rather than common, the true problems are going to be ignored. I believe that they are *protectors* of the common.”

    Help me out here. One group of intellectual elites protects the faith and another detracts (counter-elites)? Aside from the questions of why you might categorize FARMS as positive and Signature Books as negative, how does your stated purpose of each elite group make FARMS truly common? In ‘protecting’ isn’t it more likely that FARMS perpetuates elite status?

  60. Jettboy on May 8, 2004 at 12:56 pm

    No, as FARMS explains why the “common” is the correct. And the “common” is that God exists, the Book of Mormon and Bible is the literal word of God and not some literary fabrication, Miracles are as real as science, angels as actual manifestations, and most importantly that this is the True Church of God with real Authority. *That* is as “common” (or what I think you really mean is orthodox) as there is. They might do so in ways that seem to change our understanding of traditional views on scripture, by not by demanding a repudiation of the basics.

    Signiture Books and Sunstone deny all of those things. They reject *all* Scripture as fabrications made by pious frauds, miracles as viewpoints and personal psychological self-illusions, angels as pretty much what the miracles are, and that the LDS Church and its authority are either man-made institutions that should change with whatever liberal philosophy carries the day or in apostacy against true spirituality (i.e. read humanism). They are as far from the “common” of LDS belief and understanding as you can get. In fact, time and time again they castigate, make-fun of, discourage, even demonize the “common” members of the Church as diluted and mind-controlled simpletons who are uneducated idiots that just need to “see the truth of the lies” to gain entrance into worldy acceptance and humanist enlightenment.

    The difference is between re-evaluating our understanding of the literal truth of God, The Church, and Scriptures that are accepted by the “Common” members; and rejecting literalness altogether for a more universal, liberal, and socially controlled construct that sees God as a simple philosophical idea and not a reality outside of the mind.

  61. Juliann Reynolds on May 8, 2004 at 2:06 pm

    Jettboy, I agree with your representation of FARMS. You present this in a way that had not occurred to me. However, Sunstone is a very mixed bag. Some do work for both Sunstone and FARMS so you really can’t draw such rigid conclusions. However, I remain disappointed in Sunstone for the sometimes poor and uninformed scholarship that they allow in their publications.

    I do not think this is a matter of “elite” and “common” at all. It is a question of worldview and training. Too many belittle scholarship as being unnecessary to religion but it sets a neutral standard by which we can most effectively communicate when we leave the believing community. Almost without fail, those who criticize Mormonism are mired in a fundamentalistic paradigm. They set up a strawman church to attack and that church must believe in inerrancy (“The BOM says….”) or infallibility (“But your prophet said this…”). The argument becomes a battle for *truth* dressed up in pseudo-scientific clothing. Even “common” LDS, when pressed, will not try to prove *truth*. They generally state it as an internal more mystical way of knowing. In LDS thought, *truth* cannot be transferred it must be experienced for oneself. It is the critics (and Sunstone does have its share of these) who are eternally stuck in the Enlightenment and think that you can come to a universally valid conclusion about history or religion by using “facts” as a euphemism for *truth*. Every accusation against Mormon theology ultimately ends up as little more than a petulant cry of “false prophet!”. Not a very sophisticated beginning for those who claim to be the intellectuals in today’s post modern world.

  62. Daniel Peterson on May 8, 2004 at 6:28 pm

    I’ve been out of the country, and will be here only for a few more days before I leave the country yet again — despite all of the criticism they’ve taken recently, it’s still hard to keep ahead of the FBI — but, as somebody who has been somewhat involved with FARMS for a while, I would really like to comment on portions of Kaimi Wenger’s opening note on this thread. (I haven’t had time to read through the others, and may not ever have the time, so I apologize if what I say is redundant.)

    KW: “Recently, I’ve been thinking about the topic of elite religion versus popular religion. In particular, it seems that the development of FARMS and other intellectual centers of Mormon studies has resulted in a division of sorts.”

    I suspect that there are, always have been, and ever will be theological differences between reflective believers and unreflective believers, between the educated and the uneducated (e.g., between the dual-doctorate holding phenomenologist Karol Wotylja [aka John Paul II] or the Thomist Etienne Gilson and, say, an illiterate Quiché Mayan woman in the Guatemalan Péten), between serious readers and non-readers. Is this news?

    KW: “On the one hand, Mormon studies scholars believe in a world where the Nephites lived in a tiny section of Central America, where the Hill Cumorah is somewhere in Guatemala [the typical belief is Mexico, actually -- near Veracruz], where the flood was a localized event, and where Joseph Smith was polygamous and polyandrous. On the other hand, most church members believe in a world where the Lehites covered the Americas, the Hill Cumorah is in New York, the flood was worldwide, and Joseph’s polygamy is never mentioned. Common church members believe the prophet is never wrong; elites believe the prophet may have opinions that are incorrect (such as men on the moon). Common members believe that women have never held any type of priesthood; elites point out early church instances of women wielding priesthood or quasi-priesthood authority. And so forth. Bridging this chasm are church leaders, who sometimes seem to favor one worldview, and sometimes another.”

    Bridging this chasm, actually, are shared beliefs in the existence of God, an embodied being who intervenes in human affairs, whose Son atoned for our sins, who offers eternal life to those who accept and live by the fullness of the Gospel, who called and continues to call prophets (including those in the Americas), whose Son rose from the dead on the third day (and, among other things, appeared to the Nephites in the New World), who appeared to Joseph Smith in the Sacred Grove, who sent the angel Moroni to direct Joseph to tangible golden plates in a hill near his home, who offers the faithful exaltation, etc., etc. These are hardly side issues; they are the basic doctrines of the restored Church, and everybody at FARMS, so far as I know, holds them in common with all of the other mainstream members of the Church.

    KW: “It seems the more that FARMS scholars research and write, the more that apologists respond to anti-Mormon attacks, the further away they move from the common beliefs that constitute and underlie lived Mormonism for most actual members.”

    I live and function in an ordinary Latter-day Saint ward, and I’m aware of no chasm between myself and my fellow ward members. Matters of the precise microgeography of the Book of Mormon, on which some (though, I know for a fact, by no means all) of my neighbors may hold somewhat different views than I do — to the minimal extent that they pay such subjects any real attention at all — pale into insignificance compared to the very considerable doctrines that we hold in common.

    KW: “Is the church dividing in two?”

    Of course not.

    KW: “Is FARMS Mormonism even the same religion as the one I hear in Sacrament Meeting?”

    I haven’t heard much speculation on the location of Zarahemla in my sacrament meetings lately. Nor, in fact, ever. I’ve never heard a sacrament meeting address devoted to Fanny Alger or the origins of plural marriage. But I have heard innumerable sacrament meeting talks devoted to faith, to the hope of eternal life, to the idea of living prophets, to the atonement of Jesus Christ. And, on those topics, as I’ve said before, those at FARMS hold very much to the views of those unaffiliated with FARMS.

    KW: “On the other hand, is there really a correct answer to ‘did the Nephites live in Central America, or all over North and South America’?”

    Presumably, there is. It is the answer that corresponds to historical reality.

    KW: “What are we to believe when a FARMS scholar states that evidence shows that the limited geography hypothesis is correct, but a general authority refers to all Native Americans as Lamanites?”

    You are to believe both. Those at FARMS do, anyway.

    KW: “Is the elite religion correct, or the common religion?”

    It is important not to multiply fictitious points of conflict between them. (And, in any case, I find the notion that they constitute two distinct “religions” wildly overstated, and, to be candid, somewhat offensive. I am neither an apostate nor an agent of some covert Fifth Column.)

  63. Daniel Peterson on May 8, 2004 at 6:36 pm

    It may be worth mentioning that I took “Dr. Shades’s” quiz designed, purportedly at least, to distinguish “chapel Mormons” from “internet Mormons,” and that I came out a “chapel Mormon.” Yet I would imagine that, for the purposes of his polemic, I should be one of the paradigm illustrations for his mythical new “internet Mormon church.”

    It’s tough when the data refuse to conform to the pet theory.

  64. Kaimi on May 8, 2004 at 7:29 pm

    Dan Peterson,

    I’m not trying to suggest that you are an apostate, or part of any Fifth Column. I don’t think that Farms-ists are apostate.

    I’m just struck by the impression that, if I read a FARMS review, it seems to be speaking an entirely different language than that I hear from most church members. It’s not a fifth column issue — it’s that Farms and the typical church member are ships passing in the night.

    And while I realize that FARMS is very proud of its recently acquired “official” legitimacy — affiliation with BYU, links from LDS.org . Not to downplay those advances, but it still appears to me that FARMS occupies the same niche as, say, the Genesis Group — not unofficial or apostate, but largely neglected and ignored by established church leadership. And despite its modest successes, the language and ideas of FARMS — limited geography hypothesis, for example — has yet to seriously break into the common lexicon of memebrs, or into the lay-member’s discourse of General Conference talks, Sunday School manuals, and so forth.

  65. Kaimi on May 8, 2004 at 8:29 pm

    Dan Peterson,

    I’m still thinking through your response. I don’t know if I explained or made clear the disconnect that I see.

    Not only is FARMS finding different answers than most members, they’re asking different questions. And they aren’t just superficially different — rather, FARMS focuses a lot of time and energy on questions that most members would never even think to ask, because it would be completely foreign to them.

    Most members don’t even know or acknowledge that Joseph Smith was a polygamist. If asked about it, they might mutter an answer, and then rapidly change the subject. In contrast, FARMS recently spent pages in detailed conjecture over the question of just how many of his polygamous wives Joseph Smith actually had sex with. That’s the kind of question that is completely foreign to the rank-and-file membership. Could you ever picture a high council speaker’s talk, or a Sunday School lesson, or a General Conference talk, on just-how-many-of-his-polygamous-wives-did-Joseph-Smith-actually-have- sex-with?

    And it seems like it’s the difference between worldviews. The rank-and-file member thinks that everything is fine and dandy, just as laid out in the Sunday School manual. The FARMS-ist has decided that everything is not fine and dandy as laid out in the Sunday School manual; there are detailed and scholarly critiques of the church, and those critiques must be met with detailed and scholarly responses.

    But it’s not clear that church leaders accept that premise. Indeed, it seems like most church leaders actively foster a belief that everything is fine as laid out in the Sunday School manual. So FARMS-ists spend their time addressing the DNA problems of Native Americans, but most members are unaware that there _are_ any DNA issues — and church leaders seem happy to foster that state.

    So it’s no surprise that FARMS comes across as speaking a different language — you exists to answer concerns that many church leaders and most members don’t acknowledge the existence of. (Begin “Men in Black” theme now . . .)

    Of course, the divisions aren’t solid, but I think they’re real. And, as I stated above, it seems that church leaders are more than willing to let FARMS do its own thing, answering anti-Mormon critiques, but the official position is still that no valid critiques exist. (Which, if true, kind of renders irrelevant the whole FARMS enterprise).

    Finally, I’m concerned because an attitude that I’ve seen from FARMS-ists (readers and participants) is that other church members don’t know about or agree with FARMS ideas out of ignorance. That reaction bothers me. I think that church leaders’ continued refusal to more openly endorse FARMS ideas is strong evidence that it is quite possible to be educated, intelligent, serious about the church, and still not be a limited-geography, two-hills-Cumorah-not-one, FARMS adherent.

    I don’t mean to be critical of your life’s work or anyone else’s, but, as stated above, I am still trying to resolve the question of how it all fits together. And I haven’t yet arrived at a satisfactory answer.

  66. Juliann Reynolds on May 9, 2004 at 12:45 am

    Kaimi says: Indeed, it seems like most church leaders actively foster a belief that everything is fine as laid out in the Sunday School manual. So FARMS-ists spend their time addressing the DNA problems of Native Americans, but most members are unaware that there _are_ any DNA issues — and church leaders seem happy to foster that state.
    —-

    I am rather astonished by your comments. Particularly this one since the Church’s own website has links to FARMS articles on DNA. I also don’t know why you would use the word “ignorant” which has a rather unpleasant connotation when the real issue is merely one of information. There are many areas in which I am simply uniformed. Yet there are few areas in which I don’t have complete confidence that I could access information and become more informed. That information does have to exist and be accessible, however. I don’t feel that I am lacking or on a lower form of intelligence because I am not up to date on science when I speak to a professional scientist or I am a little dense when talking to a lawyer about legal matters. I’m sure glad they know what they do, however, and I certainly am humble enough to listen whey they do talk about what they know.

    I am disturbed by what I am certain is an unintended dismissal of Mormons who are, at any given moment, uniformed by *choice*. I don’t enjoy Mormon history or BOM exegesis. I love New Testament, however. That is where I spend my time. As the need arose, I learned Greek and then Coptic. But the need had to arise. A year ago, I had never thought about DNA and Lamanites. The first time I heard of the Murphy ruckus and geographical theories, it took a few minutes of reflection and an automatic “makes sense..whatever” emerged. I have randomly surveyed at least a couple of dozen ward members and this has been their immediate reaction…except for one who asked for the articles I had when he learned of the controversy and says he is still thinking about it. In other words, the “FARMS” stuff is a big shrug for most *until the need arises*. They are just glad it is there and that somebody is minding the store while they go about the real business of life.

    Don’t be so dismissive of those who have no interest in being weekend wannabe scholars.

  67. Kaimi on May 9, 2004 at 1:30 am

    Juliann,

    I’m puzzled by your comment, or rather at it’s direction at me. I thought I was clearly stating that I _don’t_ approve of FARMS scholars treating non-FARMS-adherents as if they were ignorant. If I wasn’t completely clear, my bad.

    Other commenters (both in this thread and elsewhere) have suggested that church members don’t generally subscribe to FARMS ideas out of ignorace. I think that the issue is a lot more complex than that simple explanation.

  68. Daniel Peterson on May 9, 2004 at 2:55 am

    Kaimi,

    I’m even more dismayed now that you’ve responded to me. I simply don’t see the pride and condescension in those affiliated with FARMS that you claim to see.

    Thinking of the people on the FARMS board of directors, I see past and present bishops and stake presidents who, as such leaders typically do, give many hours of service each week to ordinary members of the Church, never demanding or asking that they toe some sort of “FARMS line.” I’ve never encountered the dismissal of other members of the Church as ignorant that you ascribe to us.

    I come from an entirely non-academic family. Neither of my parents had a bachelor’s degree; my mother didn’t attend college at all. None of my aunts or uncles went to college. I worked construction through high school and into graduate school. I’m painfully aware of many flaws in myself, but arrogant academic elitism is not among them.

    I’m aware of no “pride” in our affiliation with BYU. The “merger” with the University did not occur at our initiative. Quite the contrary: We resisted it for a considerable period, consenting to the union only when asked to do so by an authority that we did not feel we could refuse. Even now, though it has turned out considerably better, thus far, than we had feared, we still regard it as something of a mixed blessing.

    Does FARMS speak a different language than that heard in sacrament meeting? Of course. By design, FARMS does not publish devotional material. Does that mean that we reject devotional approaches? Absolutely not. We are active in the Church. We teach Primary and Sunday school, raise children, give talks in sacrament meeting, serve as youth leaders, hold Family Home Evenings, send kids to summer camp, sing hymns, offer prayers, lose parents, conduct funerals. And we do it all in pretty much the same way that Latter-day Saints everywhere do such things.

    Why on earth would you ever expect the language and substance of scholarly treatments of Mormonism — whether in connection with FARMS or in connection with the Mormon History Association or the Deseret Language and Linguistic Society or the Association for Mormon Letters or the Assocation of Mormon Counselors and Psychotherapists — to sound like the language of sacrament meeting? Who has ever suggested that the precise nature of Joseph Smith’s marital relationships be a topic for a sacrament meeting talk? Nobody at FARMS, I can guarantee you. If you think that it’s somehow our goal to have discussions of Book of Mormon geography or the origins of plural marriage thrust into the center of Mormon devotional life, I can see why you imagine us to have failed in that. But such a thought has never entered any of our minds, and we would be horrified if sacrament meetings and Sunday school classes became academic seminars.

    I can’t see why you think the Church should publicly endorse (or publicly reject) the two-Cumorahs theory, or limited geographies. (I would, however, note that the publication of a two-part synopsis of John Sorenson’s geographical views in the Ensign, a couple of decades ago, written by himself, certainly suggests that the Brethren are not opposed to such views. Which is, as I know from personal conversations, absolutely the case.) These are not the kinds of issues to which the teaching authority of the Church should be dedicated. There are far more important and fundamental topics that need to be addressed, such as faith, repentance, and the atonement of Christ. I could, if I wished, cite numerous examples of appreciation, on the part of the General Authorities, for FARMS in general and for many of the things that it has done. But they have not offered, and we have not sought, any kind of official imprimatur. (Indeed, one of our concerns when the idea of an affiliation with BYU first arose was that such a link would bestow a quasi-official status on our publications that we did not want.)

    I’m very fond of an image that Stanley Kimball used, years ago, in a small gathering that I attended. He spoke of three levels of Mormon history. Level A, he said, is the Sunday School version. Everything on Level A is obviously good and true and harmonious. Level B, however, is the anti-Mormon version of the same story. (He specifically mentioned Jerald and Sandra Tanner.) On this level, everything that you thought was good and true and harmonious actually turns out to be evil and false and chaotic.

    He noted that the Church typically seeks to keep its members on Level A or, at least, feels no institutional obligation to bring them to a deeper level. Why? Because souls are lost on Level B. And, though Level C might be academically more desirable, it cannot be accessed without at least some exposure to Level B. Were he in a leadership position, he said, he would probably make the same decision.

    Once members of the Church have been exposed to Level B, though, he said, their only hope is to press on to the richer, more complicated version of history that is to be found on Level C — which, he contended and I agree, turns out to be essentially, and profoundly, like Level A. The only cure for bad historiography is better historiography. The only remedy for bad anti-Mormon arguments is better counterarguments.

    (Had I been the one formulating Stan Kimball’s three types of historiography, I would have used the Hegelian “thesis,” “antithesis,” and “synthesis.” The schema is overly simplistic, of course, but I think it contains a great deal of significant truth.)

    Not everybody needs Level C. But some do, whether because they are troubled by Level B or because they find Level A insufficiently nourishing in some way. Many good saints will live their entire lives on Level A, and they will be saved. One of the finest members I have ever known could probably not have located 2 Nephi in the Bible, if you know what I mean. But he was always the first at the widow’s house to help, and the last to leave. Even in my dim adolescent brain, I gradually came to realize that he was worth ten of us cleverer but less serviceable types.

    Nobody at FARMS is claiming to be the hand that has no need of the foot. That is a false and rather insulting charge.

  69. Juliann Reynolds on May 9, 2004 at 4:25 am

    Kaimi: I’m puzzled by your comment, or rather at it’s direction at me. I thought I was clearly stating that I _don’t_ approve of FARMS scholars treating non-FARMS-adherents as if they were ignorant. If I wasn’t completely clear, my bad.

    Other commenters (both in this thread and elsewhere) have suggested that church members don’t generally subscribe to FARMS ideas out of ignorace. I think that the issue is a lot more complex than that simple explanation.
    —-

    I apologize if I have synthesized other posts into yours. Since I have a bit of contact with FARMS, I can say without reservation that there simply is no such attitude. To see it so casually thrown out tells me that (1) you have had no extensive dealings with them or (2) you are projecting other people’s feelings onto FARMS. I can think of no other reason for such an inaccurate assessment.

    When a few of us started a ragtag organization that set out to make information accessible to lay people like us, it was some of those FARMS guys who came to support us at the first conference. We listened to each other. No one else came. They hung in there with us and have offered every support that was at their disposal. What is most amazing to me is that they are as close as an email or a phone call. To *any* serious inquiry.

    My organization receives many emails asking for help with some cut & paste accusation that has left them speechless. (What one person could *ever* keep up with it all!) After what I have experienced in dealing with people whose faith is under assault, I’m really offended by this caricature of those who *do* join forces and keep up with it all for the benefit of others, Kaimi. I don’t mean to be unduly critical but you need to spend some up close and personal time with a few FARMSers. Have you ever thought of the time, money and raw sacrifice and hanging on by your fingernails that it took to build and maintain an organization like FARMS? You don’t do something like that out of arrogance…you do it out of love of your God, your church and your people because you receive so much from *them*.

  70. Dr. Shades on May 9, 2004 at 4:49 am

    I’m sure that FARMS and your organization (FAIR?)were put together and continue to operate under the best of intentions. But your INTENTIONS are not Kaimi’s concern.

    If the scriptures and the prophets are any indication of the mind of God (and Mormons are in quite a pickle of they aren’t), then God is a Chapel Mormon. In other words, God is NOT one of the Mormons who has moved to level C. God is NOT one of the Mormons who has achieved “synthesis.” God is NOT a member of the “elite religion.”

    Once more, if the scripturess and the prophets are any indication of the mind of God, then God believes that Noah’s flood covered the entire earth. God believes that the Lamanites were inded the principal ancestors of the American Indians. God believes that the Hill Cumorah was in New York.

    Now can you see why this issue isn’t as simple as “everyone would agree with FARMS if they just did their homework?”

  71. Dave on May 9, 2004 at 6:13 am

    One can say some nice things about FARMS: If the Church is going to sponsor apologetic scholarship, these seem like the right people to do it. And they are one of very few examples of independent “pseudo-intellectual” movements within the Church that have come to be endorsed, even embraced, by senior leadership.

    One can also make come criticisms: I find the rhetoric and tone that characterizes the FRB book reviews I have read to be a real problem–it is inconsistent with the claim that there are Stake Presidents, etc., on the board, therefore their good intentions are beyond question.

    Sunstone is at least very sensitive to its problematic role as a vehicle for voicing social or religious criticism from (generally) within the fold. FARMS, on the other hand, shows absolutely no awareness of any problematic features of its role as a vehicle for voicing conservative apologetic responses.

    I think that’s the general point of Kaimi’s post–there ARE some problems with the role FARMS has come to play, and no one at FARMS shows ANY awareness of the problem. Their response, if queried, is to give a sophisticated response denying there could possibly be any such problem. Call beam control, there’s a perception problem here.

  72. Jettboy on May 9, 2004 at 11:07 am

    “Sunstone is at least very sensitive to its problematic role as a vehicle for voicing social or religious criticism from (generally) within the fold. FARMS, on the other hand, shows absolutely no awareness of any problematic features of its role as a vehicle for voicing conservative apologetic responses.”

    Sunstone is not sensitive to anything. That is their problem. If they were as sensitive as you say, half the stuff wouldn’t have even been published. Although they are interesting, I believe they are mostly spiritual trash built on a house of worldly cards. Most of those who write for them shouldn’t even be in the Church. Just to make my point absolutely clear, how many people who contribute to FARMS has been excommunicated publically? How many who have been excommunicated (if there has been) *still* write for FARMS?

    Sunstone never apologizes, they never indicate they do not hold official positions of the LDS Church (in fact, they often demand that the LDS Church and its members conform to their pet theories or they are worthless idiots or egomaniacal false leadership). They are the most egotistical, melodramatic, and damaging vehicle in existance. They are basically no better than Tanner and Tanner, other than hiding behind “objectivity” labels that really don’t apply. The one major reason I read them is to see where the enemies of truth are at the moment.

    FARMS, on the other hand, is build completely with an understanding that they *are* conservative, or at least orthodox. They do not, and never have, stated they are anything other than conservative — and often label themselves such within individual articles . In fact, I would go so far as to say that they don’t have to acknowledge such because it is such a given. I do find it funny that you are labeling them as conservative when the whole premise of the argument is that, in the strictest of senses, they are not.

    Mostly I think we are dealing with two or three seperate issues at hand. One; social conservatism or liberalism, two; religious orthodoxy or unorthodoxy, and three; intellectual pursuits. They have become conflated into one large whole in this converstation, making it difficult to decide what issue we are really talking about. Therefore, I admit up front that what I have said is mostly dealing with part of the story; orthodoxy that does determine to a degree our political leanings.

  73. Kaimi on May 9, 2004 at 11:14 am

    Dan, Juliann, et al,

    I don’t mean that your intent is to belittle other members. But statements about informed and uninformed members can certainly give that impression. And this seems to apply to both FARMS writers, such as Dan, and the group of members that typically reads and discusses these ideas.

    Let’s look at a few statements in this thread:

    Dan writes:

    “I suspect that there are, always have been, and ever will be theological differences between reflective believers and unreflective believers, between the educated and the uneducated (e.g., between the dual-doctorate holding phenomenologist Karol Wotylja [aka John Paul II] or the Thomist Etienne Gilson and, say, an illiterate Quiché Mayan woman in the Guatemalan Péten), between serious readers and non-readers.”

    Clark writes:

    “If we speak about what Mormon theology *is* then I think we must separate it from what ignorant members may believe. Just as when we speak about what science teaches we *don’t* ask what individual uninformed people within the sciences think. For instance you wouldn’t go to a physicist to ask about biology or biology to ask about science. While we are a lay church, it doesn’t follow that everyone is informed on theology.”

    These statements don’t seem anomalous to me. I was told on another occasion that all “informed” members believe in limited geography. And so forth.

    Again, I’m sure that this isn’t intentional. But the very way that Dan phrases it — “Once members of the Church have been exposed to Level B, though, he said, their only hope is to press on to the richer, more complicated version of history that is to be found on Level C — which, he contended and I agree, turns out to be essentially, and profoundly, like Level A.” — suggests some of the potential problems. It’s as if FARMS believes that it is doing Einsteinian physics while everybody else is putt-putting along doing Newtonian stuff (I’ve heard this Einstein/Newton analogy used before, in an intended positive way).

    And is there any way to _not_ be condescending with that view? (“We’re doing the stuff others haven’t gotten to yet”). I’m not sure. Perhaps I’m just overly sensitive, but I think that there is a real problem. It’s one of the things that I dislike about FARMS.

    On the other hand, I should note that I continue to like a good deal about FARMS. But I still think that there are concerns with how it fits into the universe of Mormonism.

    P.S. Dan, this is twice now that you have ended your comments by refuting statements that I didn’t make. “I am neither an apostate nor an agent of some covert Fifth Column” and then “Nobody at FARMS is claiming to be the hand that has no need of the foot.” I have made neither of those statements, and I don’t think I agree with either of those sentiments.

  74. Daniel Peterson on May 9, 2004 at 12:36 pm

    Kaimi:

    I’ve been responding to what I regard as the implicit (and not so terribly difficult to see) logic of your claim. If I belong, even incipiently, to a different (metaphorical?) religion or church than do the vast majority of Mormons — and this was, in fact, the possibility that you raised to open this thread (the disaffected polemicist “Dr. Shades” takes it even further, suggesting [purely for rhetorical effect, of course, since he himself rejects the revelations given to Joseph Smith] that I belong to a different church than God) — then I am, at least metaphorically speaking, an incipient or current apostate from Mormonism. And if I do so more or less surreptitiously (which may well be the case, since, notably, I’ve never devoted even one of my own sacrament meeting speeches to such topics as Joseph Smith’s sexual practices or the precise geographical coordinates of the Jaredite city of Lib — supposedly central doctrinal points of my own distinct religious faith), then I must be, for whatever reason, at least a tad disingenuous. The term “Fifth Column” does not seem inappropriate for such people as I seem to be, if such I am. (Or perhaps I’m just a coward. How else to explain my reluctance to testify to my beliefs?)

    I don’t see, Kaimi, how there can be anything even slightly controversial about Stanley Kimball’s perception of three levels in the understanding of Mormon history — which I heard from him before FARMS existed, and which scarcely applies solely or even primarily to the types of topics that FARMS usually treats. Surely you don’t mean to suggest either that complexities untreated in Sunday school (such as seeming Nauvoo polyandry, multiple accounts of the First Vision, Amerindian DNA, and the like) don’t exist. Surely you don’t mean to claim that every member of every Gospel Doctrine class in the Church already knows about these things. And surely you don’t intend to claim that the vast majority in the Church devote much if any serious attention, ever, to the reading of academic studies of early Mormon history or to dedicated study of the scriptures in the original Greek, Aramaic, and Hebrew, such that their notions on these topics should be accorded equal status, on points of scholarly interpretation, in academic venues, with the views of those who have? (Should my views on molecular biology or civil engineering or contemporary accounting practices or, for that matter, potato farming, be granted any hearing at all?) Is it Professor Kimball’s suggestion that the best academic/intellectual way to deal with such complexities, once encountered, is to work through them, that you find objectionable? If so, I hope you will explain why. Is it the suggestion that, all things otherwise being equal, knowing more about a topic is better than knowing less? I’ll admit that I would find a denial of that seemingly self-evident idea puzzling, but I’m willing to be instructed. You might begin by explaining, if greater knowledge and more sophistication regarding a topic is not, on the whole, preferable to less knowledge and less sophistication, why I cannot, right now, open a law practice.

    As for Dave’s post, two quick responses: (1) There is, as the saying goes, no disputing about taste. I personally find the persistent complaints that I hear from certain quarters — not all; I recently heard the evangelical theologian Clark Pinnock compliment Lou Midgley on the “sweet and lovely tone” of his essays in the FARMS Review, “particularly in view of the provocations” (I’m not making this up) — about the supposed nastiness of FARMS extremely overwrought. Of course, this may simply be because I’m a moral leper. In any event, however, such complaints, even if their validity be granted for purposes of discussion, apply at most to only a very small proportion of the hundreds of essays that have appeared in the FARMS Review, which itself represents only a small proportion of the total publishing output of FARMS. (2) Those leveling accusations against others should probably not simultaneously lecture the targets of their criticisms on the subject of motes and beams.

  75. Daniel Peterson on May 9, 2004 at 1:32 pm

    Permit me to make a clarification:

    I do, unapologetically, believe that it is better to know more and think more about topics worth knowing and thinking about.

    However, lest I open myself to further charges of intellectual elitism and disdain, let me also add that I believe it’s better to attend the temple than not to attend the temple, to work on the welfare farm than not to work on the welfare farm, to spend time with one’s children than not to do so, and to devote hours to community service than to live in selfish isolation.

    I also recognize that time devoted to academic study and reflection is time necessarily taken away from temple service, welfare work, family, and community labors. There are many competing goods. The goods of the mind are among them, but intellectuality and knowledge are not the only goods, and, indeed, are not the greatest goods.

    In this life, we simply can’t do everything. (Perhaps that’s one reason why the atonement is inescapably necessary.) Temple attendance subtracts from time available for community service; genealogical research distracts from scripture study; family time diverts from work in the cannery; time spent on the Web distracts from all of them. Those who spend time serving the poor will gain the reward of having served the poor, but they will probably gain a lesser blessing of scriptural knowledge. Those who gain the reward of deeper knowledge of the scriptures will probably not gain the same degree of blessings for having served the poor.

    There are many goods. I see nothing to be gained by any suggestion that those who have chosen to devote substantial time to knowledge and reflection in the context of the gospel somehow constitute a different faith or smugly view themselves as a self-constituted elite, any more than do those who have chosen other paths of service to God.

    The spiritual danger of pride exists everywhere, too. Perhaps that danger is greater for intellectuals, but it is also possible to take pride in one’s superior charity, one’s impressive collection of genealogical materials or endowment numbers, and one’s deeper humility. Pride is a particularly insidious threat, it seems to me, just when one is accusing another of it.

  76. lyle on May 9, 2004 at 2:12 pm

    Dan hits a homer. Even before ‘specialization’ was co-opted as a term of capitalism, we all had talents. If certain folks have an academic talent…how can it be less than righteous for them to magnify it?

  77. Clark Goble on May 9, 2004 at 3:42 pm

    I agree with most of what Dan has said. I guess my question Kaimi, is how does having more information or at least more fleshed out views (even if they are in part hypothetical) entail one be condescending. I just don’t see how recognizing that others haven’t thought about something as being condescending. Perhaps you don’t intend it Kaimi, but it really seems like you’re adopting a kind of anti-intellectualism. That to seek to know is *intrinsically* prideful. I just don’t see how that must be. If you mean something else, could you perhaps clarify it?

    As to Shades, clearly his view follows only if one adopts a conservative protestant like hermeneutic of prophecy. Since that isn’t a position within Mormonism, it seems he is attacking a strawman.

  78. Ben McGuire on May 9, 2004 at 3:57 pm

    I have a few rambling comments for this thread:

    I have read several comments here and in other forums where this theme has been raised recently, and it makes me wonder –

    The typical Israelite practicing popular religion in ancient Israel, before the Josian reform, probably worshipped either YHWH or Ba’al (or perhaps both) along with Asherah, the consort of YHWH (or Ba’al). All three of these were represented in the temple of Solomon in Jerusalem before they were removed in the Josian reform. The Asherah worship was so culturally ingrained, that after her removal from the temple, individuals in Judah blamed the destruction of Jerusalem and deportation to Babylon on the abandonment of her worship.

    Were those Jews who favored a stricter monotheism an elite religion within the common religion? Does it matter that those “elitists” later became normative Judaism? (Who were in turn redefined by still later “elitists”?)

    One thing that also comes to mind is that the LDS faith is a convert driven faith. How many members today are converts? Half? More than half? We have had many issues come and go where the common view has changed as the basic make-up of the church has changed. How many really question the notion of pre-Adamites as believed in the 19th century?

    I have a rather fun article (fun because it represented someone’s notion of scholarship in the mid 19th century):

    Debow’s review, Agricultural, commercial, industrial progress and resources.
    Volume 30, Issue 2 (1868)
    Hereditary Descent; or, Depravity of the Offspring of Polygamy among the Mormons
    pp. 206-216

    The main thesis is that because of polygamy, the children of polygamist families had (in the course of a single generation) degenerated into a new “lesser” race, complete with distinctive features and attributes. It notes for example that the original characteristics are lost:

    “The older men and women present all the physical peculiarities of the nationalities to which they belong; but these peculiarities are not propagated and continued in the new race; they are lost in the prevailing Mormon type.”

    This is interesting because of its views on race – defined in a way that seems somewhat foreign to the way we use it today. In the same article, the author also gives the theory of human races as he understands it (and then where he places the new Mormon “race” within that theory):

    “After these inferior or first races were created (it may have been millions of years) Jehovah Elohim, translated LORD GOD in our version, formed the superior or Adamic man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life. He subsequently formed the white or Adamic woman from a part of the body of the man, nearest the heart, viz.: the bony case enclosing it, instead of forming the Adamic race, male and female, from the start, as the inferior colored races were created.”

    This was a part of the cultural background. And it seems evident that members of the church believed it, even prominent leaders. We do not have much discussion over the notion of pre-Adamites today. But it seems that it would have been possible to make such a distinction between elite religion and common religion over any such controversial issue back then. Did it divide the church? Did it create two new churches?

    As pre-Adamites are no longer really a part of the cultural environment from which we draw converts, it seems to me to be less and less likely that this will ever be raised as a serious point of contention again.

    A couple of moths ago, I had a rather animated debate with an LDS member who insisted that using any translation of the Bible (other than the KJV) was to put oneself on the road to apostacy. We have, I believe, because of our being largely a convert church, many groups of people (maybe minorities) who have specific teachings which are not universally (or perhaps even widely) believed. There is a great deal of difference between Joseph Smith claiming that his German copy of the New Testament (presumably Luther’s translation, discussed in the KFD) was the most accurate translation he knew of, and this member claiming that anything but the authorized KJV (I am not sure this individual knew the difference between the 1611 and the Oxford edition which we use today) put one squarely on the road to sin. I would think that this individual might also be considered an elitist in his own fashion.

    Among LDS, the notion of a literal world-wide flood is seeing a reduced following. In my own unit, in Northern Michigan (mostly converts), I would say that reading a literal world-wide flood is represented by a minority of the members. This is in part parallel to the fact that our cultures are largely rejecting this world-wide flood. Perhaps this transition will precede a LGT for the BoM replacing a hemispheric model. These are for the most part, people who have never considered the issue of LGT versus Hemispheric model. Is the period of elitist verses common religion on this point already over, and the elitist point of view has already begun replacing the common point of view. Religion evolves. Sometimes Common Religion holds out, sometimes elitist religion wins.

    Thankfully we no longer carry many of the perspectives of early 19th century America that have been phased out of our common religion. But, one wonders what would have happened if every new idea was viewed as suspect and by nature not a part of religion because it is not a part of the common religion’s heritage.

    It should not be the role of the polemicist to categorically define which new notions and movements within the LDS faith constitute an “elitist” position, and which ones don’t. If the polemicist argues for this, then it is the polemicist who is attempting to divide the religion, and who is doing so across lines which are (at least as I see it) arbitrarily drawn.

    One of the things that I hope for is that the Church begins to recognize its lay theologians as being able to participate in discussions with its “official” theologians (our general authorities). This was a painful process for Catholicism, but they have, in many ways, become better for it. Kudos go to those who pioneered the role of scholarship within the Catholic Church (Like Raymond Brown or Roland Murphy). For them, it literally took a Papal Encylical (Divino Afflante Spiritu) to help promote the value of those who are the “elitists”. Whether or not it happens for LDS, these “elitist” are important in defining the faith as a whole.

    Ben

  79. Juliann Reynolds on May 9, 2004 at 4:14 pm

    Kaimi says: “And is there any way to _not_ be condescending with that view? (“We’re doing the stuff others haven’t gotten to yet”). I’m not sure. Perhaps I’m just overly sensitive, but I think that there is a real problem. It’s one of the things that I dislike about FARMS.”

    I am…speechless! This requires a conclusion that everyone must do everything equally well or face the accusation that they are “condescending” by specializing.

    You also said: “These statements don’t seem anomalous to me. I was told on another occasion that all “informed” members believe in limited geography. And so forth.”

    And this is the problem I see with armchair critics who do not specialize. Have you interviewed anyone? Have you done any surveys? If you are content with “I was told” …why does that make the other guy common while doing the same thing?

    I approached two more people at church today. Since the political football here seems to be who gets to condescend and speak for all these common folk, I figure the only place one can get a representative sample is at church where, by definition, all the mystical common folk hang out. I asked a nurse by profession and former bishop’s wife about pre-BOM occupants. She immediately brought up Jaredites, etc., and said that just because we didn’t have records didn’t mean other people didn’t exist. I refined the question to eliminate all BOM people (I was sloppy). She repeated the same thing…just because we don’t have records…. I then asked a member of the bishopric, a CEO. He said it didn’t matter one way or another and was much more (pleasantly) interested in my involvement in all of this. I have informally interviewed at least a dozen ward members to date. Again, the *only* one I encountered that had any resistence to the idea of a LGT was one person and even that was “I’ll have to think about it”. I’ve had one other (who has background)say he believed the LGT before the controversy…another who has no professional education said he had always thought there were other inhabitants (with these folks I have to endure the condecension as they look at me like some kind of dufus for asking such an obvious question). So far, I’m running over 90% of common folk who just shrug. They don’t *care* one way or another! It would be really, really nice if just one person would pop up with some statistics before they throw out what their Aunt Molly thinks as evidence.

    The other disconnect I am having is from my own experience in a beyond liberal religion dept. of a private college. There seems to be a rather frighteningly pervasive attitude by those who should know better that liberal scholars are either secularists or that they do not do service for their own believing communities (since to do so is to apparently lose your claim to being a real scholar in some minds). This is where I find truly disturbing condescension. I am currently looking at my annual schedule for continuing *ministry* studies of a consortium of theology schools (Claremont School of Theology, Episcopal Theological School, etc.) I sometimes attend a session or two and will this season because Marcus Borg will be teaching. Are you willing to apply these same unflattering descriptions to *him*?

    Why or why not?

  80. Kaimi on May 9, 2004 at 7:00 pm

    Wow, lots of replies from lots of folks.

    Dan, I agree that there are many things to be done.

    Ben McGuire, I agree with your statement that “One of the things that I hope for is that the Church begins to recognize its lay theologians as being able to participate in discussions with its ‘official’ theologians (our general authorities).” I would like to better understand how the puzzle pieces fit together.

    Also, I didn’t mean anything negative about either group by using the labels elite and common religion. They seemed like adequate descriptors, but each word does carry some connotational baggage, which I do not mean to adopt. My statements could just as easily use the labels “Group A” and “Group B.”

    Juliann and Dan,

    You both suggest that I’m arguing against specialization or knowledge generally, and jump to slippery-slope arguments. Let me suggest that there is a substantive difference between claiming superiority in one’s understanding of an accepted holy writ, and claiming superiority in some other specialized area. Mormons are all commanded to study the scriptures. We aren’t all commanded to study law or interior design or chemistry. So asserting, “I know more about the Book of Mormon than anyone in my ward” is substantively different than saying “I know more about organic chemistry than anyone in my ward.” Indeed, doesn’t history suggest that claimed superior understanding of holy writ is a common route to social elite status (and/or being burned at the stake)?

    Juliann,

    I’m just a dilettante, with no empirical evidence at all but my own observations. (My bio here makes clear that I’m a lawyer; I post here in my spare time). I haven’t conducted any surveys or done any regression estimates.

    In your response, however, you don’t exactly roll out survey evidence of your own. Do you have such evidence? (It would be interesting to see how many members believe in limited geography, I’m not sure of that information myself). Or, as I read your comment, are you just critiquing me for not having run a survey, and then playing my-anecdote-trumps-your-anecdote?

  81. Daniel Peterson on May 9, 2004 at 9:13 pm

    Kaimi:

    To be perfectly honest, I’m not exactly sure WHAT it is that you’re criticizing. I would very much appreciate clarification, since everything I’ve thought of to this point as a possible exegesis of your position seems (to me, at least) so transparently false.

    That anybody at FARMS (or anybody else, for that matter) is going around saying, or thinking to herself, anything remotely like “I know more about the Book of Mormon than anyone in my ward” seems to me an assertion demanding evidence rather than a self-evident truth. Granted, somebody in every ward presumably knows the scriptures best, just as somebody is presumably the tallest and somebody is presumably the richest. But that, surely, isn’t what you’re unhappy about. (It makes little sense, in any event, to be angry at the logically inevitable.)

    It is also true that those who write on, say, Book of Mormon geography, typically feel (and may even say) that their understanding is better than alternative understandings. But this, too, seems virtually inescapable. If I don’t think my idea on x is preferable to other, competing, ideas, why do I hold it? Nobody ever offers up a theory or interpretation with the preface “This is no better than any other.” Anybody who did would be wasting both trees and the time and patience of her reader(s).

    It also does not seem to me that there would be anything egocentric or arrogant in having the thought cross one’s mind, after, say, a systematic reading, tabulation, and analysis of the geographical data contained in the Book of Mormon, that one knows more about that subject than other members of one’s ward, if nobody in the ward has ever given the topic even ten minutes of sustained consideration. If such a student didn’t know more than uninterested others on that particular subject, it would be genuinely astonishing. But nobody that I know at FARMS would ever for a moment imagine that knowledge of minute geographical data represented a superior knowledge of the Book of Mormon in the ways that most fundamentally count (e.g., spiritually, and in terms of moral insight and life-governing power).

    Please make specific what you intend. I will frankly admit that your charge, thus far and to the meager extent that I’m able to make tentative sense of it, seems to me both baseless and slanderous.

  82. Aaron Brown on May 9, 2004 at 11:11 pm

    This Kaimi-Dan-Juliann exchange in interesting, but I wanted to respond to a couple other loose ends on this thread:

    Dave said:
    “One can also make come criticisms: I find the rhetoric and tone that characterizes the FRB book reviews I have read to be a real problem–it is inconsistent with the claim that there are Stake Presidents, etc., on the board, therefore their good intentions are beyond question.”

    Whatever other concerns I have ever had with FARMS, I have never found this “problem” to be that much of a “problem.” Granted, maybe I just haven’t read the right book reviews — but I have read a lot of Peterson and Midgley, for example, and I find their writing styles very enjoyable. Even when I find myself disagreeing with Midgley about something, I enjoy his prose. Yes, the heat coming out of the Review is often more intense than I would employ, were I the writer, but I think the substantive merits of the arguments presented are really separate questions, and overheated rhetoric isn’t necessarily incompatible with substantive argument. I can think of only one book review I’ve read in recent years (though maybe I’ve just forgotten others) that really rubbed me the wrong way, and it involved pious posturing that I thought detracted from the merits of argument the author was putting forth.

    Dave said:
    “Sunstone is at least very sensitive to its problematic role as a vehicle for voicing social or religious criticism from (generally) within the fold. FARMS, on the other hand, shows absolutely no awareness of any problematic features of its role as a vehicle for voicing conservative apologetic responses…. I think that’s the general point of Kaimi’s post–there ARE some problems with the role FARMS has come to play, and no one at FARMS shows ANY awareness of the problem.”

    I frankly have no idea what you’re claiming here. By Sunstone’s “sensitivity,” perhaps you mean that Sunstone is self-aware of how controversial it is perceived to be by the leadership and membership. Of course that’s true — how could it not be? But I don’t see what this allegedly analogous “problem” is over at FARMS. What exactly are you talking about?

    Jettboy said:
    “Sunstone never apologizes, they never indicate they do not hold official positions of the LDS Church (in fact, they often demand that the LDS Church and its members conform to their pet theories or they are worthless idiots or egomaniacal false leadership). They are the most egotistical, melodramatic, and damaging vehicle in existance.”

    Well, your post could probably win the “T&S Most Melodramatic Post Award,” if such awards were being given. Seriously, there is a point at which strong criticism can become so rabid and over-the-top as to descend into farce. Your comments fit the bill. There are a number of criticisms one can make about various Sunstone authors, but your condemnations are so overbroad and exaggerated that you sound like someone who has spent a lot more time reading criticisms of Sunstone than actually reading Sunstone. They “never indicate they do not hold official positions of the LDS Church”? PUH-Leeez!

    To the extent there are those at Sunstone that fit your scathing descriptions (and there probably are some), they must surely LOVE critics such as yourself. Your overheated rhetoric is very unlikely to persuade; it is more likely to be used as Exhibit A for how critics of Sunstone so often can’t communicate calm, measured critiques. There are better things to aspire to than becoming the Ed Decker of Anti-Sunstonism.

    Aaron B

  83. Clark Goble on May 10, 2004 at 12:17 am

    >

    Kaimi, just to second Dan’s comments. Isn’t there a *huge* difference between claiming to know more about the Book of Mormon, including its spiritual application, and claiming to know more about BoM geographical issues, linguistic issues or the like? Surely when we are commanded to study the scriptures, the command isn’t about geography, linguistics or the like. Rather it is to study them to apply them in a practical way in our lives. So I guess I *don’t* see how the more academic questions the BoM may raise really relates to those commands.

    I’ve enjoyed studying the scriptures in terms of structure, context and so forth. But I fundamentally don’t consider that practical scripture study, anymore than I think studying Heidegger, Levinas or others relative to theology is really applying theology in my life.

    Perhaps there are some who think such matters are essential to scripture study and the religious life. However I personally think few who do study these things do. At worst they enjoy new ways to study the scriptures so that they don’t get bored. At best they recognize that these are superficial issues not exactly pertinent to ones salvation. The things we are to study in the scripture are those things related to our salvation and the salvation of others.

    That’s why I find the attacks in terms of this dichotomy, exemplified by “Dr. Shades,” so hilarious. They fundamentally misunderstand what Mormonism is about. They instead try to make Mormonism into some factual study about the context of scripture, whether there were universal floods and so forth. Yet it seems to me that this is the *least* important thing in the scriptures and I think *all* prophets agree on that point.

  84. Kaimi on May 10, 2004 at 12:58 am

    Clark, Dan, et al,

    You fellows sure seem to have a lot more energy to put into this subject than I do. So, let me just lay out again my basic ideas one more time, and perhaps we can end this agreeing to disagree.

    We’ve gotten into a sub-discussion of a potential problem in viewing members as informed or uninformed.

    Both of you have downplayed the significance of whatever geographic knowledge or theories that are produced by FARMS. I find that a curious statement — if this isn’t particularly significant knowledge, what is the point of the research? Also, I’m hesitant to accept easy explanations of the insignificance of knowledge, especially scriptural knowledge, and especially in a church that emphasizes the importance of knowledge — teaching that the glory of God is intelligence, that whatever intelligence we have in this life rises with us to the next life, and so forth.

    From what I’ve seen, the FARMS approach (including as set out in comments in this thread) divides members into “informed” or “educated” members who ascribe to certain theories, and “uninformed” or “uneducated” members who do not. This implies that all informed members ascribe to those theories. And if a member states, “I don’t believe in the limited geography hypothesis,” that member is placed into the uninformed category.

    I simply don’t agree with that approach. Nothing anyone has said so far has changed my position on this. I don’t think that members who fail to subscribe to FARMS theories should (or accurately can) be automatically characterized as uneducated, uninformed, or ignorant.

    And, as to the general issue, I still think that the two approaches — what I have termed elite and common religion — have significant differences; I have not worked out in my mind how to fit together some of the different and perhaps contradictory pieces of information.

    Finally, Dan, I’m relatively sure that I’ve stayed light-years away from the tort of slander throughout this discussion. (Actually, for written statements, the common-law tort is libel, not slander, but I’m also pretty sure that I haven’t libeled anyone here).

    It’s been an interesting discussion for me, and I’m still working through these questions in my mind. I still have more questions than answers, but I’m used to that.

  85. Daniel Peterson on May 10, 2004 at 1:41 am

    Kaimi: “You fellows sure seem to have a lot more energy to put into this subject than I do.”

    I’m exercised on this subject because, in my opinion, your charges malign not only me and my work with FARMS but many of my friends, who do not deserve such condemnation.

    Kaimi: “We’ve gotten into a sub-discussion of a potential problem in viewing members as informed or uninformed.”

    A topic that you have raised. It isn’t a theme of primary, secondary, or even tertiary importance in the publications of FARMS.

    You surely aren’t prepared to claim that all members are equally well informed with regard to the scriptures, ancient history, and the history of the Restoration, are you? If you acknowledge differences in levels of sophistication and information, don’t you have precisely the same problem that purportedly afflicts those at FARMS? And if you fault those affiliated with FARMS for their supposedly elitist attitude, don’t you do so from a position that you feel is superior to theirs? (If not, what ARE you doing?)

    Kaimi: “Both of you have downplayed the significance of whatever geographic knowledge or theories that are produced by FARMS. I find that a curious statement — if this isn’t particularly significant knowledge, what is the point of the research?”

    To say that something is not of the highest importance is not to say that it is unimportant. I don’t, for example, regard my career (or yours) as being on the same level of importance as faithfulness to Gospel covenants. That by no means implies that I regard academic or professional credentials as utterly without value. (Isn’t my sin supposed to be that I pridefully take inordinate account of such things?)

    Kaimi: “Also, I’m hesitant to accept easy explanations of the insignificance of knowledge, especially scriptural knowledge, and especially in a church that emphasizes the importance of knowledge — teaching that the glory of God is intelligence, that whatever intelligence we have in this life rises with us to the next life, and so forth.”

    Of course knowledge is important. (I’m trying desperately to figure out where I’m expected to be on this issue. On the one hand, I’m supposedly an elitist for thinking myself better than other members of the Church because I know more about some relatively peripheral things than they do. Or something like that. I grow dizzy. On the other hand, I’m criticized because I don’t believe that the specialized knowledge that my colleagues and I seem to possess on certain subsidiary topics makes us better than other members of the Church.) But there are many kinds of knowledge, most of which (e.g., Australasian botany, particle physics, Ural-Altaic linguistics, tensor analysis, etc.) I don’t control. And there are specific kinds of knowledge (e.g., of the nature of God, the atonement, faith, moral laws) that it is more salvifically urgent to possess. And, as I’ve been at pains to say several times, nobody at FARMS, to my knowledge, claims any corner on or special access to those saving kinds of knowledge. We have certain skills that have specific utility, much like carpenters. And pretty much on the same level as carpentry when it comes to salvation.

    Kaimi: “From what I’ve seen, the FARMS approach (including as set out in comments in this thread) divides members into “informed” or “educated” members who ascribe to certain theories, and “uninformed” or “uneducated” members who do not.”

    This is emphatically NOT “the FARMS approach.” Nobody at FARMS dwells on a lovingly crafted and self-aggrandizing dichotomy between the “informed” or “educated” elite (themselves) and the unwashed masses of the “uninformed” and “uneducated.” I can think of no FARMS publication that focuses on, or even prominently emphasizes or features, such a dichotomy. This thread, this discussion, has raised the issue in a way that FARMS simply does not; it has elicited comments from me on relative levels of education and sophistication that, to the best of my recollection, have no parallel whatever in anything I’ve ever published, simply because I don’t generally think in those terms. FARMS exists to foster and distribute research about the scriptures, not about the pop-sociology of social status in Mormondom.

    Kaimi: “This implies that all informed members ascribe to those theories. And if a member states, “I don’t believe in the limited geography hypothesis,” that member is placed into the uninformed category.”

    Please cite me a publication from FARMS that is focused to any significant degree (or, really, to any degree at all) on such judgments. This truly is a straw man.

    Kaimi: “I simply don’t agree with that approach.”

    I simply don’t either.

    Kaimi: “Nothing anyone has said so far has changed my position on this. I don’t think that members who fail to subscribe to FARMS theories should (or accurately can) be automatically characterized as uneducated, uninformed, or ignorant.”

    Nothing has changed my opinion, either. I find this charge appallingly misguided, factually untrue, deeply unjust, and ironically judgmental.

    Kaimi: “Finally, Dan, I’m relatively sure that I’ve stayed light-years away from the tort of slander throughout this discussion. (Actually, for written statements, the common-law tort is libel, not slander, but I’m also pretty sure that I haven’t libeled anyone here).”

    “Slander” is not solely, and, in common usage, is not principally, a legal term. And it is my sad conviction that you have indeed, with no basis in fact and no justification, slandered a number of people (faithful fellow members of the Church) whom I value and respect.

  86. Ben Huff on May 10, 2004 at 1:43 am

    Kaimi, did you or didn’t you say that FARMS folks are condescending?

    I don’t mean to make you an offender for every little word, but I don’t think I’m picking on isolated words here; I think I’m picking out central themes of what you have been saying.

    ” I thought I was clearly stating that I _don’t_ approve of FARMS scholars treating non-FARMS-adherents as if they were ignorant.”

    Are you or aren’t you alleging here that FARMS scholars view “non-FARMS-adherents” as ignorant?

    Either my knowledge of English is very poor, or you are alleging this, and this is a rather unflattering allegation. And by the time “non-FARMS-adherents” include church leaders, it becomes extremely unflattering. I don’t think it is at all unreasonable to call such an allegation slander, when it is false.

    I think you should acknowledge what you have said, not just deny you said it. If you want to retract it or modify it, I’m sure everyone will respect that choice, and what’s more, appreciate it.

  87. Dave on May 10, 2004 at 6:52 am

    To Daniel Peterson: It’s great you come by to make comments here. I make general comments, not personal ones, especially to “distinguished visitors” who come by and participate in the T&S dialogue. So after complimenting FARMS for the good things it does, I suggested FARMS gives no consideration its own role in LDS dialogue and that maybe it should. That’s not “leveling accusations against others,” and certainly not you personally. How can you pull a personal accusation out of my unremarkable statement that FARMS (like any other earthly institution) is subject to flaws and should perhaps reflect on that from time to time?

    Likewise, replying to Kaimi that “your charges malign not only me and my work with FARMS but many of my friends, who do not deserve such condemnation” puzzles me–he made general comments, not “charges,” and nothing was directed personally at you or your friends.

    Maybe FARMS gets too much fan mail from Mormons who hang on every word that FARMS publishes. But surely Mormons can have a dialogue about the role of FARMS and whether “the development of FARMS and other intellectual centers of Mormon studies has resulted in a division of sorts” (quoting from Kaimi’s original post) without being suspected of questioning the good character or good intentions of the dozens or hundreds of FARMS-affiliated scholars and contributors.

    Aaron: I was unclear in my earlier comments. I guess one aspect of what might be problematic about FARMS is exactly what Kaimi raised in the original post, whether such Mormon-themed scholarship “has resulted in a division of sorts.” Daniel Peterson responded that “[n]obody at FARMS dwells on a lovingly crafted and self-aggrandizing dichotomy between the ‘informed’ or ‘educated’ elite (themselves) and the unwashed masses of the ‘uninformed’ and ‘uneducated.'” But just because FARMS doesn’t dwell on the dichotomy doesn’t mean there might not be one. It’s a question that deserves some reflection, I think.

  88. Kaimi on May 10, 2004 at 9:03 am

    Ben,

    I noted some comments that I felt showed this phenomenon above, see http://www.timesandseasons.org/archives/000739.html#011421 . Others have stated they don’t see any problem. Perhaps it’s a question of perception, and if I’m the only one perceiving anything, that’s great.

    Dan,

    Yes, I first mentioned this topic on this thread. It was and is a little thing that bugs me. I don’t think about it a lot, but I notice it when I read comments like the ones I just referenced above, and it bugs me.

    I’m amazed at how much time and energy we’ve both spent on this. You’ve suggested that there is no actual condescension. As I just noted to Ben, perhaps it’s a matter of perception. If I’m the only one bugged by such comments, that’s fine with me. (In fact, that’s probably better for everyone involved). And I’m the only one who has said that on this thread (Dave has kind-of agreed, I think).

    It appears that we’re in a pattern here. I said that this bugged me, and you wanted a detailed explanation. I mentioned some comments on this thread and my thoughts, and again you wanted a more detailed explanation of why I thought that way. I’ve been asked for detailed explanations as to why it bugs me, and then for detailed explanations about those explanations. And now for further explanations.

    I don’t have the time or the inclination to keep crossing swords with you on this. I think I’ve stated my concerns pretty well (though as laid out in several comments, so perhaps a little fragmented in form right now — perhaps I’ll do a detailed write-up on it at some future date). For the moment, I’m content to say that I perceive a condescending attitude, and that that bugs me.

    And you’re, of course, free to disagree.

  89. Gary Lee on May 10, 2004 at 10:32 am

    I used to be partner in a large law firm. One of my best friends at that firm came under some criticism by some members of the management committee who thought his share of profits should be reduced for a variety of reasons. I, and my friend, thought that his critics were dead wrong. We had many good arguments to support our view and I was angered when those arguments were unsuccessful, and his pay was in fact reduced. He taught me a valuable lesson, when he said “I disagree with the action taken by the committee. However, I know them to be fair minded, reasonable people. They have their reasons for their perceptions and I must respect that. I can complain all I want and try to demonstrate why they are wrong. However, the mere fact that they have formed those perceptions tells me something, so I will accept their criticisms without further argument and try to address their concerns, rather than convince them that they are unjustified in their opinions.”

    Kaimi has reacted negatively to an impression gleaned from reading certain FARMS material. When reasonable, fair minded people who share your core beliefs tell you they have a negative impression of some of your work, I think it is best to pay attention rather than accuse those critics of slander for voicing their opinions.

  90. Daniel Peterson on May 10, 2004 at 10:35 am

    Dave:

    I would not — how could I? — object to a general comment along the lines that FARMS, like every other human institution, has flaws to which it ought to devote attention.

    That isn’t my objection. My objection is to the specific accusation (and that is precisely how it comes across to me), repeatedly leveled by Kaimi and to a certain extent echoed by you, that FARMS is guilty of elitist condescension toward the vast majority of other members of the Church, branding them as ignorant and preening itself on its superior knowledge of the scriptures.

    But there IS no “FARMS.” Corporate personality, while a useful legal fiction, remains a fiction. If “FARMS” is condescending, that means that some specific individual or group of individuals affiliated with FARMS is condescending. (If the charge is to be at all fair, it must be a rather generalized one, and, therefore, must refer to a more or less representative group rather than to a solitary and atypical individual.)

    I simply see no such condescension.

    As I’ve said, the group of allegations leveled here against those affiliated with FARMS seems to me largely if not wholly without factual basis.

    For example (from you): “I suggested FARMS gives no consideration its own role in LDS dialogue.” But how could you possibly know this? I observe the workings of FARMS from an exceptionally good vantage point, and have done so for most of the organization’s history, and my perception is that very few days go by without at least some consideration being given to precisely that topic.

    Would a dialogue on the role of faithful intellectuals in the Church (including those affiliated with FARMS but, to be fair, also including some of those who present papers to the Mormon History Association and other such organizations) be valuable? Yes. Always. Self-critical introspection is endlessly worthwhile. Is there a potential problem with intellectuals and scholarship in a church claiming to be led not by intellectuality and scholarship but by prophetic revelation? Absolutely. Most Latter-day Saints who give the question any attention at all have long thought that such tensions played a role in the so-called “Great Apostasy.” I agree, and would add that scholarship and intellectual elites seem to have played a role in similar deformations of both Judaism and Islam, as well as in other religious movements that I know less well.

    But I would also suggest that many if not all of those who post here at Times and Seasons constitute a part of the Church’s intellectual elite too, and that pointing fingers from this ivory tower at those in another place within the Church seems remarkably un-self-critical.

    In your final paragraph, addressed to Aaron, you have conflated one item in Kaimi’s basket of allegations (the fostering, by FARMS, of a potentially distinct Mormon “religion” centered on such themes as the Limited Geography Theory and the precise character of earliest Mormon polygyny) with my response to a related but quite distinct accusation (an attitude of prideful elitism characteristic of those affiliated with FARMS). My reaction to the second, I readily grant, is somewhat indignant. I think the indignation is justified. I find the charge both grave and strikingly unjust. My reaction to the first was to observe that holding to minority positions on tertiary issues like the location of the Hill Cumorah scarcely constitutes a “new religion” when those who advocate that position share with their co-believers a conviction, held against unbelievers, that there WAS a Hill Cumorah in which literal records were deposited by literal Nephites, a portion of whose writings appeared miraculously in the nineteenth century at the foundation of a church established by God, empowered by divinely restored priesthood authority, and led by prophets.

    As to Kaimi’s latest response, I can’t decide whether I feel like I’m on the Twilight Zone or simply caught in a case of entrapment. The proposition that there are greater and lesser degrees of intellectual sophistication in the Church regarding issues of scriptural interpretation and LDS history seems to me so utterly uncontroversial as to be banal. I presume that Kaimi doesn’t deny it. (He has had the opportunity on several occasions to affirm that all members of the Church are equally knowledgeable and sophisticated on such topics, but has not availed himself of it.) Does that make him arrogantly elitist? I wouldn’t think so. Do I recognize varying levels of sophistication and knowledge in the Church, too? Yes. Does that make me arrogantly elitist? Apparently so, since my explicit recognition of those “greater and lesser degrees” here in this discussion, prodded by Kaimi’s charges, though virtually or entirely absent from anything I’ve ever written and from anything FARMS has ever published, is now being adduced against me as confirmatory evidence of my own elitist condescension, and that of FARMS. Why I’m guilty of a moral lapse for the mere recognition of transparently obvious fact, and Kaimi is not, is, I’ll admit, beyond me.

    But then, much of this discussion appears to be beyond me.

    It’s Monday, though, and another week of opportunities for self-aggrandizing intellectual elitism opens up before me and my friends. There is much to do.

  91. Jettboy on May 10, 2004 at 10:47 am

    I don’t believe its hyperbole. I believe its absolutely true what I have said about Sunstone. And I HAVE read Sunstone almost every month for the past eight years. This is not coming from uninformed information, or reading other’s critique. These are the facts as I see them

    Now, try to refute them and not me.

  92. Daniel Peterson on May 10, 2004 at 10:53 am

    Gary Lee: “Kaimi has reacted negatively to an impression gleaned from reading certain FARMS material.”

    Has he? I would like to see references to specific passages from published FARMS material in which ordinary members of the Church are dismissed in the condescending and morally objectionable way he describes.

    I am not confident in his judgment on this matter, since the passages from this discussion itself that he adduces in support of his charge do not appear to justify his claims. (Moreover, for what it’s worth, one of the two people he has identified as representing the arrogant condescension of FARMS in this discussion — Clark Goble — isn’t even affiliated with FARMS, so far as I know. Which is, by the way, unfortunate. I’ll have to try to recruit him over to the Dark Side.)

    Kaimi: ” When reasonable, fair minded people who share your core beliefs tell you they have a negative impression of some of your work, I think it is best to pay attention rather than accuse those critics of slander for voicing their opinions.”

    I’ve paid attention. I’ve tried to understand Kaimi’s accusation, and his basis for it. I can see no genuine basis. I do not think he’s being reasonable. Defending oneself against criticism always exposes one to the risk of illegitimate self-justification and moral blindness. I recognize that. I’m not sure, however, that the alternative, that of granting the validity of even grossly unfair criticisms against oneself and one’s colleagues, is inevitably to be preferred. You would not, I think, feel yourself obliged to concede every catty criticism made against your wife; I feel no obligation to submit to every criticism made against the leaders of the Church.

    I don’t doubt that Kaimi is, on the whole, a reasonable, fair minded person who shares my core beliefs. If that obliges me to take his criticism seriously, however, the fact that I myself am (I think) a generally reasonable, fair minded person who shares HIS beliefs should oblige him to pay equally serious attention to my conviction that his charges against those affiliated with FARMS are unfair and objectionable.

  93. Juliann Reynolds on May 10, 2004 at 2:43 pm

    Ben says: I noted some comments that I felt showed this phenomenon above, see http://www.timesandseasons.org/archives/000739.html#011421 . Others have stated they don’t see any problem. Perhaps it’s a question of perception, and if I’m the only one perceiving anything, that’s great.

    Now I’m really getting confused. You make blanket statements about “FARMS”…and use a comment made by a contributor on *this* board to confirm your prejudice? And that is supposed to be satisfactory to anyone who has objected to your slams?

    Since we are all supposed to be so honest about how we “feel” (evidence be damned), I feel surprised with a growing sense of disgust. One of the mistakes the outlandish critics of Mormonism continue to make is in thinking they can talk about our families, our neighbors and our friends with impunity as if all of these people live in a faraway time on a faraway land. (We had one such instance on a message board where an older gentlemen was staring at a gratuitous accusation that his grandfather, a well known Mormon figure, was a murderer). I’m sorry to see that sort of thing here, as well. Anyone who is familiar with me knows that I have nothing against a good brawl but I was hoping for something different here.

    Kaimi, you have done nothing but speculate on the innermost feelings of anyone who is involved with FARMS. It’s ugly and undeserved. You have offered no evidence, no documentation, no support of any kind except how you “feel”.

    (And for those who are condemning Sunstone, perhaps you should start looking at them as real live people, some of whom may be here, as well. I don’t agree with most of what comes out of Sunstone (some even makes me “feel” angry) but I have great respect for many of those who participate. Since coming to know people like Armand Mauss and his “feelings”, I have modified any harsh global comments. “Feelings” like *respect* and *dignity* come to mind.)

  94. Steve Evans on May 10, 2004 at 3:13 pm

    It’s disappointing to see the level of invective being used on this thread. What started out as a fairly straightforward inquiry into the proper role for intellectual Mormon studies seems to have degraded into nonsensical attacks on FARMS, Sunstone and other groups.

    Even more discouraging, I think, is the way that personal impressions have been both portrayed as canonical and attacked as illogical on all sides. People have been taking this thread quite personally and responding in kind. Grow up!

    If anything, the way the arguments have been going on in this thread remind me why I don’t believe in any real conflict between ‘Elite Religion’ and ‘Common Religion’ in the LDS Church: because given the right topic, both the elites and the commoners behave little better than a high school debate team.

  95. Rob on May 10, 2004 at 3:40 pm

    I think we may have moved beyond the usefulness of this thread. What would be interesting is more actual data, rather than accusations.

    I would like to see:
    A good sociological study of CES teacher ideologies and practices.

    Something on privately held theologies of LDS general authorities in comparison with those in stake and ward leadership.

    More surveys on beliefs correlated with position, church employment, etc.

    We all have a ton of anecdotal information from our own experiences. While there may be value in sharing these in the Blogernacle (are we capitalizing this yet?), when it goes beyond sharing and leads to acrimony, it stops being enlightening.

    So, maybe we can share some personal GA theology experiences…seminary teacher experiences…even FARMS experiences, if that will help us understand each other better. Only after getting a more objective view of privately held or publicly espoused theologies and practice will we be able to determine if and what form any possible elite vs. common LDS religion might take.

    I’ve got some good GA mission stories…anybody wanna swap?

  96. Juliann Reynolds on May 10, 2004 at 3:43 pm

    Steve says “Grow up!”

    Well, that beats “sticks and stones…”, I guess. There is *no* way to stop this sort of thing once it starts. That is where this becomes an interesting exercise in where we draw the line on double standards.

    The problem, Steve, is that this *is* intensely personal. Come on! Your wife is an arrogant snob and abuses your children! But don’t you dare take that personally.

    Come on, let’s just do a group hug, sing “Love at Home” and bash the United Nations instead. Anybody here a delegate?

  97. clark on May 10, 2004 at 3:45 pm

    Steve, sometimes disputes get heated, although I honestly don’t think this one has. I think that Kaimi raises an important issue. I just think that if we adopt his approach it leads to rather problematic consequences.

    The problem is that it seems in discussions with people we *can* know whether they are informed about the issues. If we know that, then I don’t see how Kaimi’s comments can apply unless we deny our knowledge.

    Now certainly if we were to go around *telling* people that I think charges of condescension might be in order. But as I think Dan said, none of us do that. The topic only comes up when some, such as “Dr. Shades” try to bring out a dichotomy amongst the members. If someone *asks* why we think some might have naive views regarding certain elements of scripture, I’m not sure how we could respond except via some variance of the ignorance answer.

    The issue to me is that I simply don’t know *how* to adopt Kaimi’s position without being very duplicious. (i.e. say they aren’t ignorant when they are) I think condescension arises only in connection to *how* we might do this.

    Put simply, I think the label of being condescending relates to the “how” of what we do and not the “what” of what we do. Kaimi, I think, is focusing in on the “what” rather than the “how.” The problem then becomes that to become informed is, in his logic as presented, to be condescending. That’s very problematic.

    To answer Steve, I don’t think this is simply a “bash” or the like. (Although I think “Jetpacks” comments on Sunstone probably rise to that level) I do think it a serious issue within LDS intellectualism that needs resolved. Further it relates to all sides in the various intellectual debates.

  98. Aaron Brown on May 10, 2004 at 3:52 pm

    I don’t know that I have much of value to add to the Kaimi-Dan-Juliann exchange, but here are a few random observations (motivated perhaps solely by my desire to see my thoughts in print…)

    I quite liked Kaimi’s initial post (as opposed to some of his subsequent comments), and I think that Dan Peterson read too much into some of his statements. Perhaps this was justified, though, given that Kaimi asked:

    “Is the church dividing in two? Is FARMS Mormonism even the same religion as the one I hear in Sacrament Meeting?”

    I took this as hyperbole; Dan obviously did not. I presumed that Kaimi wasn’t implying that the “core doctrines” of Mormonism (as enumerated above by Dan) were the dividing line between “elite” and “common.” I doubt anyone, including Kaimi, believes that varying beliefs about Book of Mormon geography are as central to the faith as many of our collective beliefs about Christ.

    Kaimi also said:
    “We certainly get angry when non-members refer to schismatic Mormons as Mormons — but should we be equally upset if they attribute to us beliefs that are in fact widely held by members?”

    This statement could be read as Kaimi analogizing the differences between FARMS and your average Mormon Joe to the differences between Mormonism and its various schismatic off-shoots. This would indeed be offensive, but once again, I didn’t read Kaimi this way. I thought he was merely comparing the appropriateness of typical emotional responses in the two scenarios: Many LDS understandably get upset when their beliefs get confused with those of Mormon-schismatic sects. Many educated members also get upset when Mormonism is assumed to embody the beliefs of its average members, rather than its more informed intelligentsia. The latter response isn’t as appropriate as the former, since it is fair (if not necessarily always accurate) to draw conclusions about Mormon theology based on the beliefs of its active members (but not its schismatics). This strikes me as an uncontroversial assertion (and one that I discussed at more detail earlier in this thread).

    Having said this, I agree with Dan and others that Kaimi’s subsequent discussion of “ignorance” is troubling. A description of a person as “ignorant” can be a neutral, empirical observation, or it can be a pejorative, condescending one. My sense is that Kaimi is confusing the two, which has led to all the fireworks. Then again, maybe he really does see condescension towards average members from the FARMS authors, but I must confess that I really don’t see where he’s coming from. In fact, (at the risk of exposing myself to the fireworks), my own past frustration with FARMS appears to be exactly the OPPOSITE of Kaimi’s. That is, I have been frustrated that FARMS authors have, on occasion, been too harsh on anti-Mormons for “getting Mormon doctrine wrong,” given that most Mormons I know, including myself, have historically held views closer to the anti-Mormon portrayal than the FARMS portrayal. Whatever one wants to make of my observation, I raise it only to point out that it is completely incompatible with Kaimi’s allegation that FARMS condescends to common members. Rightly or wrongly, my take has been that they do exactly the opposite – they do not very often acknowledge that common members’ beliefs are so different than their own on this or that issue. This is the opposite of saying they treat common members as ignoramuses.

    Kaimi – here’s a question for you:

    You have written elsewhere about your frustrations with an Elders’ Quorum instructor that preached the tired canard about the Word of Wisdom being ahead of its time. You obviously believe (as do I) that your instructor was mistaken. You obviously believe that he is “ignorant” in his understanding of 19th Century health. I don’t know whether you have a “condescending attitude” to him, or merely dispassionately think he’s mistaken. But does your (correct) observation that he’s mistaken automatically make you condescending? Or is the question of your condescension a separate question? I think this is the same question on the table with respect to the FARMS authors. And assuming it is a separate question, I don’t know what you would point to precisely to illustrate FARMS’ condescension towards the common member.

    Aaron B

  99. clark on May 10, 2004 at 4:33 pm

    Aaron, I see your point, but think the problem with focusing in on the average lay member to determine theology is that typically no consideration is given to strength of belief or vagueness. Thus a person with very vague and weak beliefs regarding the location of the hill Cumorah is equated with someone who’s read and studied a lot on it.

    I truly think that is an improper methadology and it really bugs me when people do it. (Whether they be critics of the church or not)

  100. Gary Cooper on May 10, 2004 at 4:59 pm

    Rob,

    Umm…I have some GA mission stories too, and I’d like to swap ‘em with ya…Let’s wait until the firefight’s over, though…Wouldn’t want to get caught in the crossfire!

  101. William Morris on May 10, 2004 at 5:51 pm

    A minor sidenote in this discussion:

    I think what this discussion — and all others of the FARMs vs. Signature/Sunstone ilk — reinforces for me is the need for a stronger place for literature in Mormon discourse.

    Not that I think that that’s going to happen. Nor that that I believe literary discourse in *un*problematic — it brings its own set of biases and problems. And I fully recognize that there are many who don’t find value (or much value) in this way of narrating the world.

    –BUT–

    The one thing that literary discourse can do is “divorce”(to a certain extent) some of these issues of orthodoxy/liberalism/neo-orthodoxy or elite/common or faithful/apostate from the concerns of “truth”-finding and historical fact and dramatize the strengths and weaknesses of various approaches to living the gospel and relating to the institutional church. And in doing so, make it much easier to give a nuanced, non-essentializing spin on modern [and not-so-modern] Mormonism.

    Part of the problem with the FARMS/Sunstone world, and the emphasis on history, sociology and theology is that it tends towards the spectral appearances the Gene England warns against — identifying people and/or groups by your perceptions of their beliefs or political stances and treating them — the whole them — as that perception in how you think and speak of them. Literature, if done well, can flush out the specters and show us complex characters. And I think we could all use some engagement with those types of characters every once in a while.

    Granted, there is a bit of the same liberal/conservative divide in the Mormon literary community. And very few works so far have been able to navigate the waters between didacticism and polemicism [even if those polemics are well-written]. Yet, I still hold out hope for a sort of middle approach to Mormon literature. [And that's a whole other loaded topic that doesn't belong here]. As well as the hope that there will be readers for it should it gain some traction.

    NOTE: For a definition of this middle approach see: http://www.aml-online.org/irreantum/3-kinds.html

  102. Jared on May 10, 2004 at 5:57 pm

    I say amen to Steve. I seriously doubt that Kaimi meant to personally attack, let alone slander, anyone. Kaimi referred to FARMS because he had an honest question about its role as an institution. However, those of you associated closely with FARMS took this as a personal attack. Perhaps Kaimi and all of us should be more careful to realize that when we speak of instutions such as FARMS or Sunstone, we are really speaking about a group of individuals who do have feelings. However, Juliann’s equating an attack on a think tank to attacking Steve’s mother is not quite an apposite analogy. In other words, I get her point and I largely agree with it, its the tone I have a problem with.

    Kaimi made an observation that he fully admits is based primarily on his own perception. I think it is entirely appropriate to disagree with him and to point out facts he should look at to alter his perception. But how are you ever going to change Kaimi’s mind that certain people FARMS act in condesceding way when that is exactly how you choose to respond to him?

    I happen to disagree with Kaimi. To me the divide he sees is more often than not between those who care and those who could care less about mormon studies. Dan is right that there are limits on the amount of time people have to devote to various activities. To many, the niceties of Sorenson’s geographic theories are far less interesting than whether BYU will ever win a national championship again in football. I know we are all encouraged to study the Gospel, but that “study” has much more to do with where we stand in our relationship with Heavenly Father than where Lehi was standing when he reached the promised land.

    This thread has, however, only reinforced my own perception that certain people affiliated with FARMS are in fact condescending, not to the “average Joe” member, but to anyone who dares to disagree with them. Of course I recognize that its a common trait with academics in general, but in a discussion between members I would hope for a more charitable tone.

    I apologize if this post offended anyone. I assure you that no slander (tortious or otherwise) was intended.

  103. Nate Oman on May 10, 2004 at 5:58 pm

    What fun this is…

    I have to confess that when I read Kaimi’s original post, I thought that it was rather overdrawn. I consider myself to be a fairly regular Mormon, and I consider myself to be a moderately active student of Mormon Studies. I don’t percieve myself as belonging to anything close to two separate religions.

    I also think that some of the characterizations made of FARMS are rather unfair, but I freely admit that I may be a bit overly sensitive on this point, since I know a few of the FARMS-ites personally, and have found them to be otherwise. I think that some of the stuff that has been published in the FRB has been intemperate, and on occasion I think that some of the responses to anti-Mormon articles (and yes, Dave, there is such a thing) have perhaps had a bit too much fun scoring rhetorical points.

    I find Dave’s valorization of Sunstone a little odd. I think that Jettboy’s rant is WAY over the top, and I can think of any number of fine people and fine pieces that have appeared in its pages over the years. Dave, however, writes:

    “Sunstone is at least very sensitive to its problematic role as a vehicle for voicing social or religious criticism from (generally) within the fold.”

    I have no doubt that Dan Wotherspoon is well aware of the problematic position that his publication occupies. On the otherhand, Sunstone’s institutional sensitivity has not precluded it from publishing an ill-advised rant or two over the years. Toscano jeremiads at Sunstone symposia attacking in the harshest terms the good-faith of church learders come to mind.

  104. clark on May 10, 2004 at 6:12 pm

    I’ve not read Sunstone in *years*. To be honest I’ve rarely read Dialog in years. Last year doing some research for an article on LDS epistemology I went through them all in the BYU library and I was frankly shocked at what the quality has reduced to. For all their snippingness during the early 90’s when I was at BYU they at least had the occasional article I felt was solid.

    However, to be honest, I stopped reading FARMS review of books around the same period. I personally find that there are articles that I do find valuable there – but not enough to pay.

    The one common theme I found is that both sides often didn’t try to consider the connotations of their words, intended or not. For instance doing a Freudian analysis of the shape of the Church Office Building doesn’t exactly endear one to others. Likewise there were several uses of Tillich by FARMS that I thought carried some unfortunate connotations. (Although in a discussion I must admit that in their context they probably didn’t intend such matters) After years of this, I think both sides tend to be a little sensitive, precisely because discussions have gotten heated.

    I have to admit that I’ve been in my fair share of heated arguments as well. And probably a few of the charges of “consdenscending” applied to me were apt (although probably no where near as many as were applied – at least I hope)

    I’d love there to be a middle way where one attempts more objectivity – meaning focus on the issues of fact and less issues of tone. I think rhetorical points are all too easy to make, and I’ve done it more than my fair share myself.

  105. Kingsley on May 10, 2004 at 6:47 pm

    William Morris writes: “Part of the problem with the FARMS/Sunstone world, and the emphasis on history, sociology and theology is that it tends towards the spectral appearances the Gene England warns against — identifying people and/or groups by your perceptions of their beliefs or political stances and treating them — the whole them — as that perception in how you think and speak of them. Literature, if done well, can flush out the specters and show us complex characters. And I think we could all use some engagement with those types of characters every once in a while.”

    A Shakespeare class with Brother England made me aware that he tended to turn people who disagreed with him politically into “specters” more often than not. For instance, he routinely summarized the Sunday School tone in Utah as “racist, sexist, and homophobic.” In other words, *most* Utah LDS were racist sexist homophobes. How could he possibly know the hearts and minds of thousands of people he’d never met? Well, Utah is a politically conservative state and political conservatism has these things built into it etc. He was always humorous about it, and gentle and polite in his chiding; perhaps that’s all you can really ask for.

  106. Kingsley on May 10, 2004 at 7:03 pm

    Lionel Trilling was a big proponent of the idea that literature, by introducing us to complexity, would make us more tolerant of the other fellow’s ideas, more basically charitable, etc. But even for Trilling there were certain (usually political) lines not to be crossed—a “go there and you’re no longer my brother” sort of thing. It’s hard, in fact, to think of a more passionately divided group than Trilling’s (at least in the end).

  107. clark on May 10, 2004 at 7:42 pm

    Slightly tangental, but I’m not convinced that literature introduces us to complexity. If anything I think it the opposite in which the universe of the text is largely ruled by the author – thereby reducing complexity. Characters appear only in terms of the role they play in the story. Contrast this with reality where we can examine any figure – even minor figures – and unlock a rather extensive set of complexities.

    History and reality are always far more complex, comprehensive and multifaceted than anything in any novel. A great example of this is, to me, precisely the things FARMS analysis bring out in the Book of Mormon. Far from simplifying it, the quest regarding historical questions brings out many aspects of the text that hide complexities we’d not notice in reading it like a work of literature.

  108. Daniel Peterson on May 10, 2004 at 8:02 pm

    Jared: “This thread has, however, only reinforced my own perception that certain people affiliated with FARMS are in fact condescending, not to the “average Joe” member, but to anyone who dares to disagree with them.”

    As I’m the only person here affiliated with FARMS, I take it that I’m the miscreant intended.

    Thank you for asking. Yes, my experience here on Times and Seasons has been exceptionally pleasant.

    Jared: “Of course I recognize that its a common trait with academics in general, but in a discussion between members I would hope for a more charitable tone.”

    Mea culpa. Defending one’s friends and colleagues against unjust moral condemnation is an extraordinarily uncharitable thing to do.

    Cet animal est très méchant,
    Quand on l’attaque il se défend.

  109. William Morris on May 10, 2004 at 8:19 pm

    Sure.

    But history [or most history -- or at least history as it seems to exist in Mormon discourse at the current time] is still doing it all in the service of some ideal truth. It gets trapped in its own interface with what can be known from the documentations that’s available.

    And I’d say that literary criticism — and more importantly — literature itself comments on texts in ways that bring out hidden complexities.

    Does Bulgakov’s rewriting of the character of Jesus during passion week in _The Master and Margarita_ bring less complexity to the picture of Christ than some historical treatment of messianic figures in post-Babylonian exile Israel? For me, the answer is no.

    Comprehensive — yes. Multifaceted — maybe. More complex — perhaps on the level of individual works to a certain extent, but on the field of discourse. I’m not so sure.

    The universe of text is ruled by the author — but history is trapped in the universe of the text. Sure it borrows from other disciplines, but those borrowings still have to fit in the overall narrative that is being developed.

    So for instance, an individual author can only create out of his own experiences, absorbptions and psychology. But he has a certain freedom of narrative. FARMS is trapped in it’s overall narrative — that textual and material evidences show that the Book of Mormon is a work of ancient scripture. I think it’s a valid narrative to be trapped in.

    Of course when it comes right down to it, I’m distrustful of those who make too much of literature. I don’t think that it makes you a better person — a more tolerant, charitable person. I don’t think that reading necessarily translates to action. I do think, however, that engagement with works of fiction, and especially characters in works of fiction, can help nuance one’s world view. And by characters, I don’t mean only those found in realist novels [a trap that too many of my fellow students in literary studies fell into, imo. Becoming too enwrapped in the faux-psychology of characters to separate themselves from the text].

  110. Steve Evans on May 10, 2004 at 8:34 pm

    Daniel,

    Like others, I’ve been sorry to see the personal attacks on this thread. But you don’t need to be so deeply hurt, or resort to the level of sarcasm as in your last post. While you’re certainly entitled to interpret them this way, characterizing the posts here as “unjust moral condemnation” is making a mountain out of a molehill. You’re among friends here, believe it or not, and among fellow Latter-Day Saints.

    I’m not agreeing with what’s been said about FARMS, but it’s difficult to accept what you have to say when your comments are laced with such high-level emotion. Look, I’m no expert in Mormon Studies, and I have no real dog in the race in this subject. I hope that you won’t feel too personally offended, and instead stick around and see that T&S (and the rest of the LDS blog community) may be in fact worth your time.

  111. William Morris on May 10, 2004 at 8:37 pm

    To speak more directly to the issue:

    One of characteristics of apologetics, imo, is that it more easily accretes/adheres to the official discourses of the Church than other discourses because it is dealing more explicitly with issues of scripture and theology and because it uses terminology that has much in common with what I’m calling “official” Mormon discourse.

    This is not necessarily a bad thing. But I’m not convinced that it’s an entirely unproblematic thing either. Apologetics sets its terms in relation to attacks against official discourse and/or perceived gaps in official discourse. In doing so, it does a valuable service. But it can also create, imo, a cycle of replying and defending and shaping texts in response to that traps Mormon discourse in a rather limited sphere.

    Luckily, Mormon discourse is a field with competition and cross-fertilization. But I sometimes wonder if apologetics and self-help discourses would benefit from greater competition from some of the other subsidiary discourses [subsidiary to official discourse].

    One of the strengths and weaknesses of literary discourse is that by definition and tradition it keeps itself more separate from official discourses. There’s a certain virtue and power in that, I think.

  112. Daniel Peterson on May 10, 2004 at 8:57 pm

    I’m not deeply hurt.

    It’s the principle of the thing.

    But I’m very surprised. I’m surprised that such an unpleasant and (in my view) serious allegation is being made by Latter-day Saints against fellow Latter-day Saints, co-believers who do not deserve this treatment and are not guilty of the charge. I expect these things from anti-Mormons and from alienated critics of the Church, but I’m quite dismayed at encountering this sort of flack from “brothers in the Gospel.” (Talk about divisive!)

    I’m sorry that you perceive me as unacceptably sarcastic. I prefer to call it irony. I preferred to use irony rather than to say what initially came to my mind. I’m frankly sorry that I ever joined in this discussion, though it has been eye-opening. I don’t know how I’m supposed to have reacted to the fairly blanket depiction of those affiliated with FARMS as proud and condescending elitists. And, now, having been personally condemned as condescending for stepping in to contradict that ugly charge against my friends, I’m truly at a loss.

    As for sticking around, I really can’t see much point. This has been a depressing experience for me, and I’ve got plenty of other things to do.

  113. clark on May 10, 2004 at 9:00 pm

    William: “The universe of text is ruled by the author — but history is trapped in the universe of the text. Sure it borrows from other disciplines, but those borrowings still have to fit in the overall narrative that is being developed.”

    The difference is that for literature, there is but one text – that of the author. For history there are numerous texts, each analyzing the public phenomenas. So the author’s text is far more univocal than the pluralism within history. History is far more a dialectic between all the historians. Within literature there always is the dialectic between author, reader and text, but in a far more limited fashion.

    I can’t, for instance, ask in any reaonable level of objectivity about what clothing Hamlet wore. I can’t discuss hidden influences in Hamlet’s behavior due to the economics of his environment. I might be able to ask that about Shakespeare – but then that begs the questions of the relationship between author and writing. Is it relevant to Hamlet the story what influences there were on Shakespeare? And can I discuss them the way I might discuss the role of art on Hitler’s political philosophy?

    I remain firmly convinced that literature will never rise to the complexity and nuances of history – if only because so much in literature is left vague and unstated. With history there is always “reality” to further interrogate and provide new texts. With the novel, that is much, much more limited.

    That’s why, as I said, FARMS offers so many more complexities to the Book of Mormon. What does knowing more about the Hebrew context or the mesoAmerican context add to the text? Compare this to those who make it fictional and for whom the only context that matters is the 19th century.

  114. William Morris on May 10, 2004 at 9:25 pm

    Clark: “History is far more a dialectic between all the historians.”

    I think literature feels the phenomenon you describe and that’s why literary analysis [and to a certain extent literary production] has turned more towards history in the past few decades.

    It would also seem that we’re talking about different complexities [and you're more sure about your complexity than I am about mine ;-).]. That is, your complexity has to do with reasonable objectivy and lived experience. I think my complexity has more to do with the dialetic between the author, reader and text — and specifically how that relationship and particularly the “type” of language that gets deployed in literary discourse add nuance to one’s view of the world — and other texts. Of course, I’m still trying to figure out how to do that without resorting to the psychologizing that I poo-poo above.

    And there’s something to be said here about intertexuality, but I’m not solid enough in my literary theory in that area to say it.

  115. clarkgoble on May 10, 2004 at 9:42 pm

    Intertextuality is always at play. It is just that for historians it is far more significant. Further there is that question of reality and the lack of control. That is present in literature in terms of the horizon of meaning that makes literature possible. i.e. when I speak of a car in a book of literature I make reference to real cars outside of the book. However within history that is far more pronounced because ideally what the history is *about* is beyond the reader or author. Within literature there are far more constraints because what it is about is, at least in theory, within the text.

    Thus the difference is one of degree. But it remains an important one. I could, for instance, intepret John Donne’s “The Flea” in terms of his own personal relationship. However how true to the poem would I be? I seems that there is a difference between the poem and John Donne’s life.

  116. William Morris on May 10, 2004 at 10:08 pm

    “Within literature there are far more constraints because what it is about is, at least in theory, within the text.”

    And that is the power and danger and weakness of literature. It creates a semi-closed field of narrative — a story — and attempts to capture readers in it by virtue of its rhetorical-poetical force.

    What makes this difficult in the realm of Mormon discourse — and to tie this back into FARMS and Mormon literature — is that we are a scripture-based people. Scriptures mingle history and literature.

    As you say, there is a difference of degree. What I’m suggesting is that it is easier for FARMS-level discourse to get tangled up in that field of Mormon discourse. And that’s fine. But I’d like to see some of the tempering effect of literature come into play. And specifically, how we [meaning us saints of the latter-days] thread the Gospel into our lives via the medium of holy texts.

    Apologetics can add nuance to the reading of scripture. Literature can [attempt to] dramatize how the reading of scripture intereacts with lived experience. And because of the contraints of literature [including its tradition of ambiguity and vagueness], while that lived experience is fictional, if written well, it can illuminate the Mormon experience in ways that apologetics can’t.

    I’m bracketing off apologetics too much from history here. I realize that FARMS does both. And I’m not one to judge how successful they are at either.

    What I am saying is that Mormon discourse — at least as represented in what seems to get published, read and commented upon — misses something by not supporting literature more fully.

    The question, of course, is if Mormon discourse truly can support literature and in turn if that literature can enliven or enrich the field as a whole. But that’s a whole other discussion [my short answer: perhaps and even if so -- probably only in a limited way].

  117. Juliann Reynolds on May 10, 2004 at 10:56 pm

    Jared: Perhaps Kaimi and all of us should be more careful to realize that when we speak of instutions such as FARMS or Sunstone, we are really speaking about a group of individuals who do have feelings. However, Juliann’s equating an attack on a think tank to attacking Steve’s mother is not quite an apposite analogy. In other words, I get her point and I largely agree with it, its the tone I have a problem with.

    ::::sigh:::: I don’t even know Steve let alone his wife and how in the *world* you can take that seriously along with a comment about group hugs and singing Kumbaya escapes me. However, I did put grin symbols in these things

  118. Jared on May 10, 2004 at 11:15 pm

    Professor Peterson,

    I sincerely apologize for the personal criticism I made in the prior post. You are quite right to point out that my statement was precisely the opposite of what I was trying to encourage: curteous dialogue among fellow followers of Christ.

    My charge was essentially that you were overreacting. I have read your reply and I understand now that you were reacting to a perceived personal attack on yourself and your dear friends and colleagues. That is not how I perceived it, but then again I am not affiliated with FARMS (except as a subscriber) so I can understand that your perception would be quite different.

  119. Kaimi (Admin) on May 10, 2004 at 11:40 pm

    All,

    We try to maintain civility around here, despite our substantive disagreements. So let’s all remember to keep the comments civil. Personal hostility and ad hominem attacks are not permitted. We don’t want any “flame wars” in the comments here.

    I’m speaking as a blog administrator here. And I’m not suggesting that anyone has crossed any lines, just that the tone of comments in this thread has escalated, and I prefer to stop any flame wars before they start. We’ve all seen that they can get out of hand very fast.

    Thank you.

  120. Daniel Peterson on May 11, 2004 at 12:04 am

    A week or two too late, Admin.

  121. Clark Goble on May 11, 2004 at 12:14 am

    As you say, I don’t think FARMS actually avoids literature issues. Indeed some of its focus has been on poetry, structuralism and the like. Nibley’s works, published with FARMS, has interesting literature bits and pieces.

    I guess I’m not sure what the literary aspect entails. I love literary criticism – often more than the literature it criticizes. And I’d love for there to be an Atler for say the Book of Mormon. But I think we do reach that way. Of the main forms of literary criticism I think many have been applied to the Book of Mormon. Richard Rust, who used to write a column for AML published a book on this as I recall.

    So don’t take this as a criticism. I think the reason I find the historical approach as more complex is because history can be both historical and literary, while literature has a much harder time being historical.

  122. Ben Huff on May 11, 2004 at 12:23 am

    Kaimi, as someone who is in danger of falling into the errors you caution against, I would like to hear your suggestions for how to talk about those who disagree with me but are not aware of my reasoning.

    I don’t think it is unflattering for me to say of someone that he or she has not read my (few and obscure) publications. Nor do I think I am being unflattering to say someone has not thought about a particular tertiary question, even though it may relate to something important like the Book of Mormon or Joseph Smith. There are too many of these tertiary questions for it to make sense to expect everyone to think about them. But apparently some people get the impression one is being condescending when one says about something one has thought about quite a bit oneself that some other person has not thought about it, has not read up on it, does not know about it, does not care, or whatever.

    What should I say?

    I’m puzzled because I don’t know what to say that would be more harmless.

  123. Juliann Reynolds on May 11, 2004 at 12:33 am

    Kaimi: We try to maintain civility around here, despite our substantive disagreements. So let’s all remember to keep the comments civil. Personal hostility and ad hominem attacks are not permitted. We don’t want any “flame wars” in the comments here.

    I’m speaking as a blog administrator here. And I’m not suggesting that anyone has crossed any lines, just that the tone of comments in this thread has escalated, and I prefer to stop any flame wars before they start. We’ve all seen that they can get out of hand very fast.

    Not to beat a dead horse, but I am new here. I truly do not understand this continual beating around the bush when a good many people are obviously bothered and obviously expressing it. I keep hearing “tone” and “civility” and, frankly, all I can see is that if you manage to wrap your personal insults in civil words and lots of disclaimers while you fly under some “tone” radar, you are home free.

    I’m not trying to be a pest. I am genuinely trying to navigate the social-semantic maze and the continual reference to this “tone” thing is mystifying. Is it a euphemism that I’m supposed to supply the meaning to?

    Help? Somebody?

  124. Jared on May 11, 2004 at 12:54 am

    Since I have been inadequate in expressing exactly what I mean by “tone,” I thought I’d include this small excerpt from President Hinckley’s October 2002 conference address:

    “We can lower our voices a few decibels. We can return good for evil. We can smile when anger might be so much easier. We can exercise self-control and self-discipline and dismiss any affront levied against us.

    Let us be a happy people. The Lord’s plan is a plan of happiness. The way will be lighter, the worries will be fewer, the confrontations will be less difficult if we cultivate a spirit of happiness.”

    All I’m asking for is a little more courtesy.

  125. Adam Greenwood on May 11, 2004 at 1:12 am

    This is Mormonism, Juliann R. Learn by sincere imitation. If thinking of tone as “wrap your personal insults in civil words and lots of disclaimers” helps you, then go for it. I might prhase it differently, but I think you’ve got the essence.

  126. Ben Huff on May 11, 2004 at 1:40 am

    Kaimi, the recent heat has been focused around your criticism that FARMS folk are habitually condescending to most Church members and even to Church leaders. But this is straightforwardly an ad hominem allegation. When this has been the substance of the discussion, whatever one may say about tone is beside the point.

    I have invited you to take this criticism in a constructive direction by offering alternatives to the ways of talking you object to. Can you?

  127. Juliann Reynolds on May 11, 2004 at 1:43 am

    Wow, Adam…that was one of the more skillful personal assaults that I’ve seen yet. You questioned my religious standing with a condescending personal slam within your first two sentences. And with such civility! [insert winky emoticon] I think I’m getting a better idea of how it works now.

    Back to my question:

    The Dean of the Religion Dept. of Claremont Graduate University considers FARMsters and what they produce more than adequate for inclusion in a Mormon Studies program.

    What would the naysayers recommend to her instead?

  128. Juliann Reynolds on May 11, 2004 at 1:49 am

    Perhaps I should add…the statement from the Dean that one of the reasons CGU felt it was time to open a Mormon Studies program was that LDS scholarship had flowered in the past decade. Publications she named were journals coming out of BYU/FARMS (ISPARTS).

  129. brayden on May 11, 2004 at 3:53 am

    Wow, it just took me fory minutes to wade through the entire comments section. How did I miss out on this spat? I really need to increase my T&S uptake (or not, if I want to remain productive).

    I’m willing to bet that this comments section has more words in caps than any other on T&S. I’ll toast to THAT!

  130. Kaimi on May 11, 2004 at 8:30 am

    Juliann,

    You state that tone is a mystifying “maze.” Yes, tone is not always clear-cut. But your maze analogy seems to overstate the difficulty. Hundreds of T & S commenters of diverse ideological views regularly manage to get it right. (And you’re a FAIR author — surely you can discern tone. Can you tell no difference in tone between the original post and a Tanner screed?)

    Apply a few principles — respect for other posters and commenters being paramount (you’re new here, but not to the internet, and these are ideas that many message boards and blogs use). If you have trouble posting in a non-offensive tone, you can follow the first rule of message-board or blog posting — lurk for a while, read others’ posts and comments to get an idea of what tone is generally acceptable.

  131. Randy on May 11, 2004 at 10:24 am

    Juliann,

    I may have missed it (this has been long conversation), but I don’t recall anyone commenting on this thread that the work being done by BYU/FARMS was not sufficiently scholarly to merit academic study. Perhaps you could point me to the accusation you seek to refute.

    The question raised in the original post, at least as I understand it, is whether this fairly recent development of academic study within Mormonism might lead to something of a division among members. Stated a bit differently, the issue is not whether FARMS has produced work “adequate for inclusion in a Mormon Studies program,” but whether this work may have unintended consequences as to the membership of the church (presumably a question not considered by Claremont). Like others, I think Kaimi’s argument about a divided church is a bit overwrought (I think Stanley Kimball’s perception of three levels is closer to the mark), but I see no offense in raising the question. On this point, thou doth protest to much, me thinks.

  132. Nate Oman on May 11, 2004 at 10:41 am

    Ben writes: “Kaimi, the recent heat has been focused around your criticism that FARMS folk are habitually condescending to most Church members and even to Church leaders. But this is straightforwardly an ad hominem allegation. When this has been the substance of the discussion, whatever one may say about tone is beside the point.”

    I second this.

  133. Rob on May 11, 2004 at 10:42 am

    My vote for Daniel Peterson as next guest blogger. And lets back off the attacks and get back to something interesting and informative. I, for one, would like to get back to the original post on this thread. Are there in fact actual differences between understandings of BOM geography? And if so, does that indicate a learned/unlearned or elite/common dichotomy? What about the sociology of the whole BOM geography debate? And is this similar to other doctrinal or other debates in Mormondom? There were a lot of assumptions and questions in the original post that might still make for productive discussion.

  134. Randy on May 11, 2004 at 10:57 am

    I’m with Rob. I don’t mean to detract from the big picture questions, but there is something that Dan said that has left me a bit puzzled. In responding to Kaimi’s question “What are we to believe when a FARMS scholar states that evidence shows that the limited geography hypothesis is correct, but a general authority refers to all Native Americans as Lamanites?”, Dan said “You are to believe both. Those at FARMS do, anyway.”

    I’m not sure I understand how this is possible. Dan, if you are still around, I’d be interested in your thoughts. If not Dan, anyone else know what he was driving at? These seem to me to be somewhat irreconcilable positions.

  135. Daniel Peterson on May 11, 2004 at 11:23 am

    I’m still around. I’m an addict, I guess. (Fortunately, I leave for Malta on Saturday, and that should break the cycle.)

    I don’t know how general the attitude is at FARMS, but for those whose position on the subject I know, the stance is this: The original settlement of the Lehite area was, as a close reading of the Book of Mormon text mandates, a limited one. Moreover, there were other, initially non-related, peoples in the Americas. However, even a low rate of exogamous marriage will, over a surprisingly short time, lead to interrelationships on a very large scale.

    A Yale statistician named Chang published a study, some years back, arguing that every contemporary European whose presence there doesn’t stem from recent immigration is a decendant of every resident of Europe in 1000 AD who had grandchildren. Or something to that effect. (It’s been a while since I read about his work.)

    Analogously, it seems likely that every Amerindian today (or virtually every one; there may be some exceptions — perhaps the Inuit, for example) would be a descendant of every resident of the Americas in 600 BC (a much longer period than Chang’s) who had grandchildren. And specific trade and migration patterns now becoming visible to archaeologists seem to provide at least some detail as to how this might have come to be the case.

    In the current issue of the FARMS Review, Matthew Roper and Brian Stubbs offer articles relevant to this topic.

  136. Rob on May 11, 2004 at 11:37 am

    Maybe this isn’t the place to bring this up, but I’m hearing increasing numbers of troubled members saying that they are tired of the mental gymnastics required to hold on to their faith. While I personally can buy this reconciliation between the limited geography theory and the lamanite ancestroy theory for Native Americans, I think some members miss the old days when things appeared much simpler. Rather than an elite vs. commoner theology, is this just a case of dissonance moving from the A to B to C phases of understanding? If so, how can we help transition people as quickly as possible from A to C, or is this even a good thing? Do we need these kinds of trials of our faith, now that the days of being tarred-and-feathered or sod-busting for Zion are in the past and don’t provide a source of faith testing? And is faith testing even a valid concept, or a justification we make when we struggle?

    And while we’re on this one, the cloud that seems to be looming greatest on my spiritual NEXRAD seems to be the growing evangelical criticism of Joseph Smith’s angelology and charges of conjuring and sorcery, nephilim, etc. I think this might take a lot of members by surprise if we aren’t ready to counter these charges. What’s the latest on these charges from those with more time to look into them?

  137. Randy on May 11, 2004 at 11:42 am

    Dan,

    I appreciate your thoughts. Still, it is one thing to be somehow distantly related to a group of people, it is quite another to be “principally” related to them. The introduction to the Book of Mormon does not state that most American Indians can trace back their ancestry, at some point, to the Lamanites. It states that the Lamanites “are the *principal* ancestors of the American Indians.” How does one square this statement with the limited geography hypothesis?

  138. Kaimi on May 11, 2004 at 11:46 am

    Nate, Ben, et al,

    I could certainly be wrong, but don’t believe I have introduced any fallacious ad hominems. My original claim was that there is a disconnect of sorts between elite and common religion. _If_ it is true that elite religion practitioners regularly view common members as uneducated, then that seems potentially relevant to the original claim.

    My second point, as the discussion has developed, was that it is potentially harmful and divisive to view common members as uneducated. I tried to make this point in as non-personal a manner as possible. I don’t know if I succeeded. I focused on statements made in this thread that I thought exemplified this approach.

    As it turned out, this discussion became a bit exercised. I didn’t particularly like the level of discourse, though I was part of it (unfortunately, I sometimes have difficulty walking away from an argument). Neither did our community; three different reader e-mails in one day made clear that T & S readers were disturbed by the level of argument. We have worked hard to attain a certain level of community here, and I don’t want to alienate our readers.

    I’ve tried to end the discussion of this subtopic on my part, by stating my position and then noting that I’m done talking substantively about that issue. I think others have done the same (closing remarks, so to speak), and I would like to close the chapter on that subtopic. Ben, you have an interesting question, and I hate to leave it hanging, but I just don’t think that reopening this sub-topic will be fruitful.

    (One final note — as an attorney, I’m trained to try for the settlement. If it makes everyone more comfortable, I’m happy to settle on something general that we can likely all agree on. Perhaps, “An attitude that other church members are uneducated or uninformed, to the extent that such attitude may exist among any other discrete group of members, can be potentially divisive.” Is that something we can all live with?)

  139. Nate Oman on May 11, 2004 at 12:21 pm

    Kaimi: I don’t think that Ben was claiming that you were making a fallacious ad hominem. A fallacious ad hominem has this structure:

    1. Person A argues for proposition X.
    2. Person A is a bad person.
    3. Therefore proposition X is false.

    There are other, simpler forms of ad hominem that are not necessarily fallacious. They have this structure:

    Person A is bad.

    What I meant is that you leveled charges at a particular group of people claiming that they were arrogant, condescending, elitist, etc. I didn’t notice that you anywhere made the inference that therefore the claims that they make are false. Thus, I don’t think that you are guilty of any ad hominem fallacies. Rather, I took the point to be that when you argue that a discrete group of people are guilty of some set of failings, one shouldn’t be too surprised when they get defensive about stuff. Cf. “My Problem With ‘Liberal Mormons’,” http://www.timesandseasons.org/archives/000620.html

    That said, I agree with your settlement offer and would give everyone a big hug if it wasn’t for the fact that I am tearing up so badly I can’t see the screen. Also, y’all are scattered across the country and my co-workers would look at me oddly if I was to hug my computer screen. I love ya!

  140. Juliann Reynolds on May 11, 2004 at 12:22 pm

    Randy: I may have missed it (this has been long conversation), but I don’t recall anyone commenting on this thread that the work being done by BYU/FARMS was not sufficiently scholarly to merit academic study. Perhaps you could point me to the accusation you seek to refute. The question raised in the original post, at least as I understand it, is whether this fairly recent development of academic study within Mormonism might lead to something of a division among members. Stated a bit differently, the issue is not whether FARMS has produced work “adequate for inclusion in a Mormon Studies program,” but whether this work may have unintended consequences as to the membership of the church (presumably a question not considered by Claremont).

    ———————

    Claremont is primarily concerned with serving the community. Respect for the believer is a prime objective. The burgeoning scholarship is important because it makes our theology accessible to the outsider. I ask the question because of comments like these from Kaimi:

    It seems the more that FARMS scholars research and write, the more that apologists respond to anti-Mormon attacks, the further away they move from the common beliefs that constitute and underlie lived Mormonism for most actual members.

    Is the elite religion correct, or the common religion?

    And, until (if and when) ideas like the limited geography hypothesis are endorsed by church leaders, can we (should we?) hold these out to non-members as being indicative of church belief?
    —-

    Again, for those who believe this to be the case, what do you recommend that CGU use? Surely you are not suggesting that they use publications which are not indicative to LDS belief…? I am not goading, I am *asking* a direct question based on direct statements. And if you condescend to answer me, I will actually take your responses to the Dean.

    [You will have to explain to me why my questions are protesting too much. I don't get that one anymore than the very selectively used "tone" thing. If some would stop tap dancing around direct questions and just *answer* them without the way too thinly disguised derision which appears to pass for tone around here, board wars die down. Just some advice from a veteran of message boards. ]

  141. Restoring Lost Comments on November 25, 2004 at 10:38 pm

    [Restoring Comments Inadvertently Lost in the WP transfer] :

    Juliann,
    This from the CGU website: “The faculty employs a rich diversity of critical methodologies for the study of a wide variety of texts, practices, and traditions from across the globe and from many different eras. The school offers masters and doctoral degrees as well as research opportunities in Hebrew Bible, History of Christianity, New Testament, Philosophy of Religion and Theology, Women’s Studies in Religion, and Theology, Ethics, and Culture. The various programs of study in religion are designed to prepare students for careers in research, teaching, and intellectual leadership.”
    Also this: “Members of the department are widely recognized for successfully combining traditional modes of scholarship with new methodologies in the social sciences and the humanities. Because of the interdisciplinary nature of academic programs at Claremont Graduate University, students and faculty in the field of religion may avail themselves of a broader forum of inquiry, including literature, history, education, and philosophy.”
    Assuming that this is what CGU is all about (which I trust that it is, given that it is how it self-describes), I think its decision to establish a Mormon Studies program based on the work of FARMS and other LDS scholars is both commendable and worthwhile. (Please let me know if this is not a direct enough answer to your question.)
    Kaimi’s original post asks whether or not the development of the academic study of Mormonism may present unintended consequences–a division into elite and common members. Whether or not one agrees with his conclusions (or, more accurately, his worries), I don’t think anyone here has asserted or implied that CGU should start teaching the equivalent of Sunday School lessons in lieu of the current curriculum.
    That is why I say you protest too much–because you are defending an accusation that was never made (i.e., that the work of FARMS is not sufficiently scholarly to merit academic study at CGU). At least I assume that this is the accusation you are defending against given your defense of FARMS as “adequate for inclusion in a Mormon Studies program.”
    Perhaps I have assumed incorrectly and that you are defending a different accusation. If so, please let me know.
    Comment by: Randy at May 11, 2004 01:16 PM

    *****

    Kaimi, I think the only real issue is that you seem to think it wrong to think various individuals as ill informed even if they are ill informed. That’s what I’m having a bit of a cognitive dissonance over. How am I to reconcile this?
    Regarding the intro to the Book of Mormon. That is a relatively recent addition. I suspect that the “principle ancestors” bit will be removed in a future addition. I agree that it is unfortunate.
    Comment by: clarkgoble at May 11, 2004 01:16 PM

    *****

    Randy: “It is one thing to be somehow distantly related to a group of people, it is quite another to be “principally” related to them.”
    In the sense that Lehi is, say, ninety or more generations in the past, any living Amerindian is at most “distantly” related to him, whether one posits other people in the land upon Lehi’s arrival or one doesn’t.
    The usual sense of the phrase “distantly related,” however (at least as I hear it), implies lack of direct descent. That is, I’m “distantly related” to my fourth cousin (whoever she may be), but I’m not “distantly related” to my greatgrandmother. I’m directly descended from her.
    In positing Lehi as the ancestor of the Amerindians, people (I think) quite frequently have an unrealistic picture in their minds that a moment’s thought would prove untenable. I have two parents, four grandparents, eight greatgrandparents, sixteen greatgreatgrandparents, and so on. The numbers mount up very rapidly. Yet, although my ancestors number, quite conservatively speaking, in the thousands, no one of them is any less my ancestor, and I am no less the descendant of any one of them.
    Another way of looking at the matter is to consider the case of the “Israelites.” Obviously, Jacob, or Israel, was a pure “Israelite.” Genetically, however, his sons were only 50% “Israelite.” And what of his grandsons, Ephraim and Manasseh? Joseph didn’t marry an “Israelite”; he married an Egyptian. So Ephraim and Manasseh were 25% Israelite, genetically speaking. And so it goes.
    Randy: “The introduction to the Book of Mormon does not state that most American Indians can trace back their ancestry, at some point, to the Lamanites. It states that the Lamanites “are the *principal* ancestors of the American Indians.” How does one square this statement with the limited geography hypothesis?”
    Some believe that the “principal ancestors” statement can be reconciled with the scriptural and ethnohistorical facts. (Scott Woodward, a BYU DNA researcher who has sometimes been involved in this issue, tells me that he’s comfortable with it, though I have not had the time to hear his argument on the matter.) I personally make no effort at reconciliation, though I wouldn’t mind such reconciliation proving feasible. As things stand, though, I think the statement simply wrong. At a minimum, it’s misleading. I believe it is unfortunate and expect that it will be rectified. It goes beyond what the Book of Mormon text says. I’m told by a reasonably reliable source that it was written by Elder Bruce R. McConkie when he was serving as a member of the Church’s scripture committee that was supervising the preparation of the new edition of the Book of Mormon, and that it was retained by him despite the warnings of one or more other members of the committee. (Robert J. Matthews, the former dean of religious education at BYU, is the specific objector I’ve heard named.)
    Comment by: Daniel Peterson at May 11, 2004 02:10 PM

    *****

    One of the several problems that I’ve had in making sense of Kaimi’s position stems from what I take to be his implicit claim that the recognition of differing levels of knowledge and sophistication among Church members (at least on matters related to scripture and Church history) is in itself reprehensible and divisive, so that virtue in this regard consists in believing, or, minimally, professing to believe, the obviously counterfactual proposition that such differing levels do not exist. But that strikes me, in its turn, as an endorsement of either intellectual error or intellectual dishonesty, which (I’m confident) is not what he intends to advocate.
    Comment by: Daniel Peterson at May 11, 2004 02:29 PM

    *****

    Dan,
    Again, I greatly appreciate your comments. Let me take this back to Kaimi’s question: “What are we to believe when a FARMS scholar states that evidence shows that the limited geography hypothesis is correct, but a general authority [e.g., Elder McConkie in the Introduction to the Book of Mormon no less] refers to all Native Americans as Lamanites?” Given your latest explanation, I don’t see how we can “believe both.” As you say, the statement of Elder McConkie is “simply wrong.”
    Frankly, as someone still in the process of understanding “Level C,” I have much symphathy for Kaimi’s self-described state of confusion “as to how I’m supposed to assemble this little structure called church beliefs.”
    Comment by: Randy at May 11, 2004 02:47 PM

    *****

    Perhaps some of the discussion here is flowing from an (unconscious?) assumption like the following-
    The Church (or Deseret Book) publishes what’s important about the Gospel. Therefore, FARMS/Sunstone/name your group here, since they publish things notably different from those sources, represent an alternate “gospel” in competition with the “official gospel” (as articulated by the Ensign or General Conference).
    That, at least, is how Shades and some members would like to categorize things. (I’ve heard anecdotal stories from trustworthy sources that indicate a few BYU religion professors think that FARMS is attempting to “co-opt” the gospel the same way Islamic fundamentalists have hijacked Islam, or Greek philosphy “perverted” Christianity. In other words, they’re preaching an alternate version that threatens or competes with orthodoxy (Shades’ “Chapel Mormons”)
    I suspect Kaimi is articulating a a lesser version of this idea, though with loaded terminology.
    For myself, I don’t see such competition. I think many members are ignorant of Deuteronomic reforms and post-manifesto polygamy and theoretical Book of Mormon onomastics, but I also think that that ignorance doesn’t matter. Mostly.
    Instead, I see different needs being met. I see FAIR and FARMS as defending the orthox basics of the gospel, particularly modern prophets (Starting with Joseph Smitha and all that flows from him being a prophet) and the Book of Mormon. (I see Pres. Hinckley’s invitation for FARMS to join BYU as evidence that the purveyors of “Chapel Mormonism” read and approve of their stuff. I have good sourecs that tell me Pres. Hinckley wishes more members would read similar things on their own.) I see Sunstone and Dialogue as providing a community for those struggling who need some kind of way to blow off theological steam (though I think they have gone too far in teh past and may again.) For those who are happy with their lessons, their KJV and DEseret Book, good for them. Wish I could be so content. I think the Church is starting to recognize the different needs people have, as evidenced by the embracing of FARMS at BYU, the writing of the MMM book, and some other things. I recall a Dialogue article about European members who wanted more LDS literature (written by a Belge linguistics professor, if memory serves, significant to me because I served in Belgium.) The visiting general authority was asked about it, and replied that the scriptures and Ensign shoudl be sufficient for anyone. The irony was that his wife was reading a Hugh Nibley book, and the son had a Jack Weyland novel.
    Comment by: Ben S at May 11, 2004 03:04 PM

    *****

    Randy, I don’t think that there is anything wrong with a GA being wrong even if, overall, in theological pronouncements they are typically right. Further I don’t think a typical member is being irrational by taking McConkie at his word. However they are ill informed, both of the facts as well as the range of GA opinions on the subject.
    Does this lead to a divide? In certain ways. There are those familiar with the issues and those who aren’t. What I object to with the “chapel vs. internet Mormon” dichotomy is the usefulness of this way of understanding. As I mentioned, it simply ignores issues of vagueness and strength of belief. Further it confuses issues which most agree are peripheral with core issues.
    Comment by: clark at May 11, 2004 03:06 PM

    *****

    I should have added, that FARMS meets the need of members looking for *orthodox in-depth scholarly discussion of LDS scriptures.
    *lest we quibble about what constitutes orthodoxy, I would clarify by saying that no one reads JBMS or FRB expecting to find arguments againt the BoM or Joseph Smith whereas one regularly finds such in other LDS journals.
    Comment by: Ben S at May 11, 2004 03:09 PM

    *****

    Dan,
    I hadn’t seen your second post when I posted. Sorry to seem like ships passing in the night. As to your second post, I agree with you that Kaimi almost certainly was not advocating intellectual error. I think his original concern (I’m putting aside some of his later concerns) relates to figuring out how to reconcile certain intellectual and “common” views of church history and the scriptures. As I noted above, I have some sympathy for that concern. I must admit that I feel a bit different — in a way that is hard to describe — now that I know some of the things I know. These things have not weakened my testimony, but I do look at things differently. I don’t find this to be a problem on Sunday, but it is only because I really don’t think about these things on Sunday. Instead, the focus there is on the basics (e.g., faith, the atonement, etc., etc.)–particularly in my ward in downtown Atlanta. On Sunday, I feel perfectly at home among the members, both the elites and the commoners; we are all reading from the same sheet of music. During the week, however, I feel like my reading and studying of the limited geography hypothesis, the Adam-God theory, etc., etc., pull me further away from them rather than closer to them. I suppose this is a fault that reflects more on me than on the value of studying these issues. In any event, I say all this to confess my confusion, like Kaimi, “as to how I’m supposed to assemble this little structure called church beliefs.”
    Comment by: Randy at May 11, 2004 03:18 PM

    *****

    To correct Daniel Peterson, Kaimi never called anyone or anything “reprehensible,” that’s your term. Kaimi merely noted seemingly inconsistent beliefs among different groups within the Church, raised the possibility that some division of one sort or another might be a result, and professed that he was “confused.” He’s certainly not alone in that reaction.
    Randy and Ben S seem to have brought some sanity to the discussion. Randy notes that confusion is perhaps the appropriate response given the inconsistent statements he cites in his post. And Ben S sounds the hopeful note that members are starting to realize that the Mormon umbrella is wide enough to allow people with differing views to happily coexist in friendly fellowship. I think that’s a necessary development because the differing views are not going away anytime soon. I’ll cast one vote for the “bigger Mormon umbrella” model.
    Comment by: Dave at May 11, 2004 03:32 PM

    *****

    Randy: “Let me take this back to Kaimi’s question: ‘What are we to believe when a FARMS scholar states that evidence shows that the limited geography hypothesis is correct, but a general authority [e.g., Elder McConkie in the Introduction to the Book of Mormon no less] refers to all Native Americans as Lamanites?’ Given your latest explanation, I don’t see how we can ‘believe both.’ As you say, the statement of Elder McConkie is ‘simply wrong.'”
    I think a solid case can be made, once the initial assumption is granted that there were Lamanites in the first place, for the proposition that all or virtually all Amerindians are descendants of the Lamanites, in a genetic sense. (The term “Lamanite” has other, non-biological, senses too, though, so the argument for Lamanite genetics may well establish more than an advocate of the Book of Mormon really needs.)
    Elder McConkie’s error, if I’m correct, is not in saying that Amerindians are Lamanites, but in describing the Lamanites as the “*principal* ancestors” of today’s American Indians. What, exactly, that would mean grows less clear the more one thinks about it, but it seems to suggest something that, based on the facts of pre-Columbian ethnohistory, seems demonstrably inaccurate.
    Randy: “Frankly, as someone still in the process of understanding ‘Level C,’ I have much symphathy for Kaimi’s self-described state of confusion ‘as to how I’m supposed to assemble this little structure called church beliefs.'”
    So do I. In this life, even with the benefit of the restored Gospel, we see through a glass darkly. My objection was never to that part of Kaimi’s position.
    I objected to the notion of two different religious faiths, as wildly exaggerated and factually untrue. But that, too, is merely an interesting topic for discussion. More seriously, I objected to the characterization of my friends and colleagues at FARMS (together with myself) as prideful and dismissive elitists. That charge seems to me both untrue and quite astoundingly ugly. (I’m mystified by the fact that Dave seems to think it acceptable.) It is unfortunate that a serious and legitimate topic of discussion was accompanied by what I continue to regard as a generalized but baseless slander.
    Comment by: Daniel Peterson at May 11, 2004 03:40 PM

    *****

    Dave: Whatever! Kaimi didn’t have to use the word “reprehensible” to accuse FARMS folk of something reprehensible.
    That said, Kaimi has backed off of those accusations, to pretty much the position you describe, which is a quite civil position.
    Kaimi, I’ll happily grant a) that there are difficulties and dangers in thinking of some group of church members as informed and another as uninformed, and b) that among the dangers are a) divisiveness and b) that if one considers oneself part of the informed group, one may seem condescending (or even become condescending, if one takes inappropriate pride in being informed). I also sympathize with your difficulty feeling sure how to avoid the danger of seeming or being condescending when one regards oneself as among the informed. My post on “Come Join the Ranks” expresses a very similar anxiety (on which more in a moment). (In saying this I take myself to have accepted your settlement : )
    I’ll add, Kaimi, that your sense one *can’t but be* condescending in regarding others as less informed seems a sufficient explanation for your impression that FARMS folk *are* condescending. I think in this case the condescension was something you entirely read in, but understandably given you are wrestling with the original question of this thread.
    Dan, perhaps you can regard the unflattering things Kaimi said as stemming from his own difficulty working out how one can regard others as less informed than oneself without being condescending (a reasonable difficulty more or less present in the very start of this thread), and thus excuse them. Emphasis thus rests on his, “is there any way to _not_ be condescending with that view?”
    Comment by: Ben Huff at May 11, 2004 04:12 PM

    *****

    Dan,
    I agree, as I noted above, with your objection to Kaimi’s notion of “two different faiths.” Frankly, I think Kaimi’s description was intentionally exaggerated so as to engender discussion. Like you, I don’t see a sharp distinction between elitests and commoners, particularly at church. Still, I do feel that a study of certain historical matters pulls me in a very different direction than, say, an intense study of the scriptures alone. This feeling is hard to describe. I have studied several strictly gospel topics at length and never felt like I was distancing myself from others at church–even those who were “less informed” than I. I most certainly do feel this way when I study other subjects related to church history, particualrly when the conclusions reached seem inconsistent with the words of the General Authorities.
    I cannot imagine that I am the only one who feels this way. As someone who has spent countless hours in the thick of these things, I wonder what your thoughts are.
    On a final note, I understand your more serious objections to Kaimi’s comments and your desire to desire to defend your friends and colleagues. I hope that won’t derail the discussion we’ve been having as it has been very insightful and helpful to me and I suspect others.
    Comment by: Randy at May 11, 2004 04:25 PM

    *****

    Even though I have given up on trying to read through this entire thread that I just stumbled upon, I can not resist jumping in. I would just like to say that I love being a communicant of a non-creedal religion, one where practice is more important than belief, where orthopraxy usually trumps orthodoxy (I don’t care what they believe if he’s willing to be the Scoutmaster, she’s willing to be the nursery leader, etc.). Kaimi ends his initial post with the question of what constitutes “this little structure called church beliefs.” That is the beauty of it — it is in fact a very little structure. I believe that the reality is that there is as much variety in beliefs amongst “chapel” Mormons as between “FARMS” Mormons and any given set of “chapel” Mormons. Within extremely broad boundaries set by our non-theologian prophets acting in council, there are a broad range of interpretations and I say hurrah!
    I see the challenge not as what is the correct belief, but rather what we must do in our own searches for truth within the Restored Gospel, and how charitably we can share those searches with others. An example:
    (1) Many ignorant Church members contrary to overwhelming evidence think that all American Indians are only descended from Book of Mormon peoples vs.
    (2) You know, many Church members believe that there are reasons to think that the American Indians have other ancestors in addition to the Book of Mormon peoples.
    And now for my theory — “lamanite” or more properly “lehite” should be thought of like “israelite” — a group of peoples who have received prophetic promises which can include peoples who are not direct descendants of the original recipient of the promises. So if a prophet says all American Indians are Lamanites, then the Book of Mormon promises apply to all American Indians regardless of their ancestry, and the ancestry becomes a strictly academic (in the colloquial sense) question.
    Warm hugs to all my brothers and sister(s?) on this fascinating thread.
    Comment by: JWL at May 11, 2004 04:29 PM

    *****

    Randy: That is why I say you protest too much–because you are defending an accusation that was never made (i.e., that the work of FARMS is not sufficiently scholarly to merit academic study at CGU). At least I assume that this is the accusation you are defending against given your defense of FARMS as “adequate for inclusion in a Mormon Studies program.”
    Perhaps I have assumed incorrectly and that you are defending a different accusation. If so, please let me know.
    ——
    I was merely asking a question. There are consequences to positions. Language shapes the way we think. This is an ivory tower (that is not a criticism) discussion that I think has ramifications given the growing interest in Mormon Studies (As Phillip Barlow said…”it’s a magnet for scholars because there is so much room for interpretation”).
    The statements being made had nothing to do with “scholarly” and I don’t think I asked about that. They had everything to do with “FARMS” not accurately representing the real beliefs of Mormons. This was stated repeatedly.
    I am quite familiar with CGU. I hope to be finishing an MA in New Testament soon (or jumping into the Mormon Studies). They are not only establishing a program about Mormons but several other world religions, with the same goal of remaining faithful to the community of believers.
    Again, discussions like these are always interesting on an intellectual level but as I said, there are real life implications to the words being said. Thus, my question.
    Comment by: Juliann at May 11, 2004 07:30 PM

    *****

    Dan & Juliann:
    Aaron Brown made this extremely insightful comment: “It irritates me when certain Mormon apologists (at FARMS or elsewhere) dismiss anti-Mormon claims as ‘attacking straw-men,’ when all these men of straw seem to be inhabiting my ward.” What are your reactions to that statement, and do you see how it fits in with the phenomenon that Kaimi is describing?
    Jared writes: “Perhaps Kaimi and all of us should be more careful to realize that when we speak of instutions such as FARMS or Sunstone, we are really speaking about a group of individuals who do have feelings.”
    And since we all know how impeccably polite and civil FARMS is toward the people with whom they disagree, we should all take that advice.
    Juliann Reynolds writes: “The Dean of the Religion Dept. of Claremont Graduate University considers FARMsters and what they produce more than adequate for inclusion in a Mormon Studies program.
    What would the naysayers recommend to her instead?”
    _Gospel Principles_ and _The LDS Church Almanac_. To understand what Mormons believe, it is best to study *what Mormons believe,* not what a select and limited few Mormons believe. N’est-ce pas?
    Clark Goble writes: “Kaimi, I think the only real issue is that you seem to think it wrong to think various individuals as ill informed even if they are ill informed. That’s what I’m having a bit of a cognitive dissonance over. How am I to reconcile this?”
    Here’s how to reconcile this, Clark. Ill-informed members are that way *BECAUSE OF* the scriptures and the prophets, _not_ *IN SPITE OF* the scriptures and the prophets. Now do you see what Kaimi is getting at?
    “What I object to with the ‘chapel vs. internet Mormon’ dichotomy is the usefulness of this way of understanding. As I mentioned, it simply ignores issues of vagueness and strength of belief. Further it confuses issues which most agree are peripheral with core issues.”
    Then you must not believe in the Great Apostasy. After all, Christianity is made of different churches which share core beliefs.
    JWL writes: “Within extremely broad boundaries set by our non-theologian prophets acting in council, there are a broad range of interpretations and I say hurrah!”
    In that case, why didn’t Joseph Smith just say “hurrah” instead of going to the grove and praying?
    “And now for my theory — ‘lamanite’ or more properly ‘lehite’ should be thought of like ‘israelite’ — a group of peoples who have received prophetic promises which can include peoples who are not direct descendants of the original recipient of the promises.”
    My ancestry is British, German, and Dutch. Therefore, I, too, am not a direct descendant of the original recipient of the promises. So, according to your theory, I guess I’m a Lamanite, too.
    Once again, folks: ILL-INFORMED MEMBERS ARE THAT WAY *BECAUSE* THEY FOLLOWED THE PROPHET, NOT BECAUSE THEY *DIDN’T.*
    Comment by: Dr. Shades at May 11, 2004 08:18 PM

    *****

    Dr. Shades: Wow, caps and italics! If you go over to the “Mormon Nominated for D.C. Circuit” thread, you can see where Kaimi tells how to bold and underline, too. Then you could really get your point across!
    Comment by: Kingsley at May 11, 2004 08:32 PM

    *****

    Shades,
    As I stated above, we’re trying to discuss things nicely here. Your comments have a few good points, such as the use of Gospel Principles as evidence of what Mormons believe. However, you’ve also made some inflammatory statements that are likely to elicit inflammatory responses, ad nauseum. Please lay off of making inflammatory statements.
    If you have questions, please see the T & S commenting policies at THIS LINK.
    Comment by: Kaimi at May 11, 2004 08:41 PM

    *****

    “Here’s how to reconcile this, Clark. Ill-informed members are that way *BECAUSE OF* the scriptures and the prophets, _not_ *IN SPITE OF* the scriptures and the prophets. Now do you see what Kaimi is getting at?”
    I’m fairly confident that while this is your belief, that it isn’t Kaimi’s.
    “Then you must not believe in the Great Apostasy. After all, Christianity is made of different churches which share core beliefs.”
    Obviously Mormons share a belief that other forms of Christianity are missing important core beliefs. The problem is that the points of disagreement between Mormons you focus in on aren’t core beliefs. Further they are points where even the GAs don’t agree. And that’s what I find dishonest about what you do.
    Comment by: Clark Goble at May 11, 2004 08:42 PM

    *****

    Wow! I go away for five or six days and everything blows up. My thanks to Dan and Ben Huff for holding down our part of the fort while I was gone. It is really tempting to take us backwards. After all, I’ve also got things to say about the argument that was going on back there. In spite of that, I’ll resist. But there is part of Kaimi’s question that I think has only briefly been discussed: “I remain confused as to how I’m supposed to assemble this little structure called church beliefs.”
    Why assume that we need a coherent construction of church beliefs? Of course there are some core beliefs that we have (though they turn out not to be easy to identify). But as JWL said, it is nice being a communicant in a non-creedal religion, nice because it doesn’t require us to have any more than that core. The rest doesn’t have to fit together into a belief system because for non-creedal religions, religion isn’t a belief system.
    This theme is, of course, my hobby horse, so I’ll resist a second temptation by dismounting here: if you insist on coherence, I can (and, unfortunately, will) go at it with the next guy, but when we start creating such things, we aren’t really describing anything like “the essence of Mormonism”; religion doesn’t need such an essence.
    Comment by: Jim F. at May 11, 2004 08:42 PM

    *****

    “Here’s how to reconcile this, Clark. Ill-informed members are that way *BECAUSE OF* the scriptures and the prophets, _not_ *IN SPITE OF* the scriptures and the prophets. Now do you see what Kaimi is getting at?”
    I’m fairly confident that while this is your belief, that it isn’t Kaimi’s.
    “Then you must not believe in the Great Apostasy. After all, Christianity is made of different churches which share core beliefs.”
    Obviously Mormons share a belief that other forms of Christianity are missing important core beliefs. The problem is that the points of disagreement between Mormons you focus in on aren’t core beliefs. Further they are points where even the GAs don’t agree. And that’s what I find dishonest about what you do.
    Comment by: Clark Goble at May 11, 2004 08:44 PM

    *****

    Hi folks,
    Humans are extraordinarily complex. As useful as categories can be, I’m not convinced that labeling devout LDS “elite” or “common,” “chapel” or “Internet,” and so on captures the complexity of belief. That said, Kaimi surely has a valid point.
    Take, for example, Mike Whiting’s FARMS-sponsored lecture on DNA and the BoMor (29 January 2003). Mike’s PowerPoint presentation was followed by a panel of specialists who entertained questions from the audience. A portion of the ensuing exchange is instructive:
    Q: Jose—native Peruvian: Dr. Whiting referred to the statement in the preface to the Book of Mormon that the Lamanites are the principal ancestors of the Native Americans, I thought somewhat condescendingly, a[s] mere commentary. I want to know exactly what the weight of the scientific evidence does to that statement. Does it support that statement? Does it contradict that statement? With the state of the science right now should there be a different statement?
    It seems to me, I’m left with the impression that it contradicts that statement and if that’s the case will you join me in requesting the Church leadership to remove that statement from the Book of Mormon? Because it is now as we speak being used in the entire American continent as a missionary tool to lure members into the Church, perhaps under the mistaken impression that they are the descendants of Lamanites.
    I am Peruvian. I grew up believing that I was a Lamanite. I am now overwhelmed with the surprise coming from the science, coming from the archaeological evidence. We don’t know where the Book of Mormon took place. We don’t know where the Lamanites are. If we don’t know who the Lamanites are how can the Book of Mormon promise to bring them back?
    It’s an identity crisis for many of us that has to be understood. If it’s misunderstood then it’s going to come back to haunt the Church, in my opinion.
    A: Dr. Whiting: At this point I would agree that the current scientific evidence suggests that the Native Americans have the Asia genetic ancestry. I am not in a position right now to argue that point. In regards to will I write a letter to General Authorities? I don’t think I will but I think you are certainly welcome to, uh, welcome you to [see here].
    A clearly frustrated audience member followed up:
    Q: (unknown person): I think it’s a little unfair to leave this fellow in the back of the room (referring to Jose from Peru) hanging. (audience applause) One of the things that is unfair to me, maybe you can comment on it, Dan or someone else, is who are the Lamanites? Because we have to have a definition of who the Lamanites are, before we can throughout the statement that they are not the principal ancestors of the American Indians. If the Lamanites are by a broader definition are everyone who is not a Nephite, in the Book of Mormon, then there is no problem with that statement. Do you have any further insight on this?
    A: Dr. Whiting: Probably not. (audience chuckles) [see here, emphasis added].
    A few minutes later, I did what I almost never do at a FARMS-hosted venue—I offered a comment, ending with a reference back to the Peruvian gentleman’s remarks. The audience response? Another ovation …
    Q: Brent Metcalfe webmaster of Mormon Scripture Studies: The other gentleman made a very good point … that … classifying and identifying what constitutes a Lamanite is a huge issue. … [T]he Book of Mormon … is very specific on this. … [I]t does in fact make very specific biological sorts of claims. For example, in Nephi’s vision in 1 Nephi chapter 13 one of the things that [Nephi] is told by God … [is] that the seed of his brethren will be preserved; that they will exist on into the last days, so that the Gentiles can bring them the Book of Mormon and tell them of their heritage—their noble Lamanite heritage. But then Nephi is specifically told that a mixture of his seed would also be preserved. Now that makes absolutely no sense to me because basically what we are arguing is that Lamanites can be anything—it can be anything that is non-Nephite—because Nephi is being told that his own seed will in fact be preserved in the last days, so that they will … discover their original identity, and that they are Israelites, effectively. That to me is a huge statement that I see … being glossed over. I don’t know any of your genetic backgrounds. I don’t know how many of you are Amerindian or not (up on the panel), but I do think that this gentleman had a good point and it doesn’t deserve to be just glossed over. (audience applause) [see here, emphasis added].
    A young BYU student (who had earlier shared that he was a returned missionary) shook hands with me as he departed the room and thanked me for articulating an issue that he felt was poorly handled by the panelists. Other BYU students and a couple of BYU professors made similar comments to me as they were leaving the lecture.
    To me, it appeared that those who had orchestrated the event had woefully misjudged the willingness of attendees to blithely embrace a revisionist view of Lamanite-Israelite ancestry where Amerindians owe maybe 1/100,000th (or some other meaningless figure) of their biological heritage to the BoMor’s founding Israelite immigrants, if they owe any portion at all. (Keep in mind that some of these folks probably grew up, like I did, with the notion that a worthy male had to have at least 1/16th African ancestry to be considered “Hamite” and fall under the priesthood prohibition.)
    It is this disconnect between LDS schools of thought that I think Kaimi was attempting to capture (though I invite Kaimi to correct me if I’m mistaken). And despite the energetic bantering on this thread, this disconnect remains elusive.
    Now back to my regularly scheduled projects …
    Best regards,
    Brent
    Comment by: Brent Metcalfe at May 11, 2004 09:35 PM

    *****

    Juliann, Dan, now Shades….. is this T&S or ZLMB??? Sheesh!
    Comment by: Steve Evans at May 11, 2004 09:46 PM

    *****

    There goes the neighborhood.
    Comment by: Daniel Peterson at May 11, 2004 10:06 PM

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    Juliann,
    I don’t mean to belabor a tiresome discussion, but I am interested in your comment about CGU’s “goal of remaining faithful to the community of believers.” What exactly does that mean? The vast majority of Mormons, for example, “believe” exactly what is printed in the Introduction to the Book of Mormon regarding the American Indians. If CGU is going to be “faithful” to this community of LDS believers, must the school ignore those FARMS publications that suggest that the Introduction is, as Dan says, “simply wrong.” What if a student wanted to write her dissertation on the limited geography hypothesis? Disallowed on grounds that it is out of step with the views of most members? What if someone wanted to devote his dissertation to some new, unflattering, and entirely plausible theory of Mormon history. Forbidden on grounds that the leaders of our church might not approve?
    Surely this is not the case. CGU undoubtedly wants its students to both “play niceâ€? — i.e., “remain faithful to the community of believersâ€? — and “play smartâ€? — engage in a thorough, thoughtful, and even critical study of the religion in question. I don’t see how such a study of Mormonism could take place without considering the views of LDS scholars like those at FARMS. Accordingly, I don’t think it makes any sense, practically speaking or otherwise, to ask for suggestions about how CGU should go about restricting the Mormon Studies curriculum. Indeed, the notion of such a limitation is entirely inconsistent with the very purpose of such a course of study.
    One final point. You take the position (or so it seems) that FARMS “accurately represent[s] the real beliefs of Mormons.� But as Kaimi implies at the outset, this merely begs the question. The work FARMS is doing often leads to conclusions that are inconsistent with what most members, and even some GAs (e.g., Elder McConkie), believe. Given this predicament, how do we decide, as a practical matter, what the “real beliefs of Mormons� are? Just how confident are you that the “real beliefs of Mormons� (whatever that means) are contained not in the Introduction to the Book of Mormon but in the latest edition of the FARMS Review?
    Comment by: Randy at May 11, 2004 11:35 PM

    *****

    Dan, could you give us a few more sentences on the ethnographic details that in your mind count against the idea of the Lamanites’ being the principal ancestors of the Amerindians?
    It seems to me we should look more at issues of culture than genetics if we want to look at the scientific evidence regarding this idea. Brent’s point about the seed of Nephi and the seed of Laman notwithstanding, in the later parts of the Book of Mormon, Nephite or Lamanite affiliation is primarily political and religious. This is true even before the coming of Christ, but especially after. After a couple hundred years of one united Christian society without “-ites” (4 Ne 1:17), the Book of Mormon society splits on religious and political lines into Nephites and Lamanites, based on whether they sympathize more with Laman or Nephi (or Jacob or Lemuel or whatever) as a role model or whatever (4 Ne 1:37-8). “Lamanite” may have a meaning a bit like “Confucian” (which applies in varying degrees to several East Asian cultures).
    In that light it seems Dr. Whiting’s comments about Asian genetic background is not to the point. Rather, we should be thinking about culture in evaluating the claim that the Lamanites are the principal ancestors of the Amerindians. Or at least a mixture of genetics and culture. If we look at American culture over the past 1600 years, do we see evidence one way or another?
    Comment by: Ben Huff at May 11, 2004 11:40 PM

    *****

    The most obvious fact at the moment counting against the idea that today’s Amerindian populations literally (that is, biologically) descend principally or even solely from the Near Eastern Lehites is that typically Near Eastern genetic markers — specifically, those characteristic of Hebrew groups — have not yet been identified among them. Instead, typically east Asian or northeast Asian markers have been identified.
    But this is hardly big news to those who have concerned themselves with the subject previously, as blood types and certain other physical characteristics already pointed in the same way, and since the archaeological record makes it patently obvious that substantial populations inhabited the Americas prior, even, to the advent of the Jaredites, and that such populations existed in large numbers at the time when Lehi arrived.
    It is virtually inconceivable that the typically Near Eastern or Hebraic markers could simply have disappeared altogether from an isolated population, being replaced with markers typical of certain regions of east Asia. (That said, however, we must admit that we know nothing whatsoever about the genetic characteristics of Lehi’s wife, Sariah, who could possibly have been DNA-anomalous — genetic statements about large population groups are generalizations, and may or may not hold in any particular individual case — and who may or may not have been of purely Hebrew descent. And it is her mtDNA, along with that of the even more mysterious daughters of Ishmael, that is relevant to the question of the genetic character of the “Lehites.”)
    Your point about the extrabiological character of Lamanite identity is precisely correct, and very relevant to this issue. It is not required that every Lamanite be genetically related to Lehi through Laman; such is not necessarily the case even in the Book of Mormon itself. We ourselves speak of adoption into “Israel,” which confers the same covenant blessings as does blood lineage. Arab tribes routinely adopted new members, and probably still do among the Bedouin; after a generation or two, the matter of adoption is irrelevant and forgotten.
    I myself lean strongly toward your view that Lamanite identity rests upon a mix of genetics and culture. In fact, I can scarcely see how it could be otherwise.
    Even in my own neighborhood, this is obvious. We have people living across the street from and next door to us who are of pure Norwegian ancestry, pure Italian descent, and pure Chinese genealogy. They all speak English, and their culture is not that of Norway, Italy, or China, but that of England as modified by the American experience.
    Comment by: Daniel Peterson at May 12, 2004 12:13 AM

    *****

    Ben, I think though that the prophecies that Brent rightly focuses in on relate to the period of covenants prior to the unification. I agree that Lamanite is primarily political and find the assumption that it is genetic to be anachronistic at best. We don’t even find within the Book of Mormon the views on what makes an authentic Jew (i.e. Jewish mother) that we find in the old world. Indeed that racial perspective seems absent. That’s not to say there isn’t a strong xenophobic and racist quality to Book of Mormon societies. But they certainly don’t appear to me to follow what we see in the Old World. (I once tried to find them in the Book of Mormon, but found the task futile — indeed little is discussed about marriage and lineage details outside of Jacob’s condemnations of polygamy)
    So I actually think Brent raises a good point (although I suspect we’ll disagree on the solution).
    The question is, of course, an analysis of what seed means in the Book of Mormon. I agree that 1 Ne 13:30 ought to be read as implying other inhabitants. I also think 1 Ne 14:2 implies some doctrine of adoption by which someone becomes “number among the seed.” Yes that’s is a prophesy of the last days, but what is important is that notion of adoption. I think we can read 2 Ne 1:5 as a parallelism implies that all brought to this land are his seed. Although clearly that is open to many other readings. There are lots of other scriptures that can be read as adoption as well. (2 Ne 4:11. 2 Ne 10:19)
    I’d add that the Nephite appear to allow adoption to go the other way as well, such as in 2 Ne 5:23 where those who mix with the Lamanites appear to be numbered as Lamanites.
    I also think that the notion of seed in the Book of Mormon must be understood two significant sermons: that of Jacob 5 and the grafting allegory as well as Mosiah 15 and the adoption imagery there.
    Comment by: Clark Goble at May 12, 2004 12:26 AM

    *****

    Ben, I think though that the prophecies that Brent rightly focuses in on relate to the period of covenants prior to the unification. I agree that Lamanite is primarily political and find the assumption that it is genetic to be anachronistic at best. We don’t even find within the Book of Mormon the views on what makes an authentic Jew (i.e. Jewish mother) that we find in the old world. Indeed that racial perspective seems absent. That’s not to say there isn’t a strong xenophobic and racist quality to Book of Mormon societies. But they certainly don’t appear to me to follow what we see in the Old World. (I once tried to find them in the Book of Mormon, but found the task futile — indeed little is discussed about marriage and lineage details outside of Jacob’s condemnations of polygamy)
    So I actually think Brent raises a good point (although I suspect we’ll disagree on the solution).
    The question is, of course, an analysis of what seed means in the Book of Mormon. I agree that 1 Ne 13:30 ought to be read as implying other inhabitants. I also think 1 Ne 14:2 implies some doctrine of adoption by which someone becomes “number among the seed.” Yes that’s is a prophesy of the last days, but what is important is that notion of adoption. I think we can read 2 Ne 1:5 as a parallelism implies that all brought to this land are his seed. Although clearly that is open to many other readings. There are lots of other scriptures that can be read as adoption as well. (2 Ne 4:11. 2 Ne 10:19)
    I’d add that the Nephite appear to allow adoption to go the other way as well, such as in 2 Ne 5:23 where those who mix with the Lamanites appear to be numbered as Lamanites.
    I also think that the notion of seed in the Book of Mormon must be understood two significant sermons: that of Jacob 5 and the grafting allegory as well as Mosiah 15 and the adoption imagery there.
    Comment by: Clark Goble at May 12, 2004 12:27 AM

    *****

    Hi Clark,
    You’ve identified some pertinent issues. For a few of the reasons why I consider them unsound, see my essay:
    ï‚· Brent Lee Metcalfe, “Reinventing Lamanite Identity,” Sunstone 131 (March 2004): 20–25.
    My best,
    Brent
    Comment by: Brent Metcalfe at May 12, 2004 01:22 AM

    *****

    Kaimi,
    You may or may not be happy to know that this post has made it as a link on Shades’ chapel/internet Mormons page. Unfortunately, Shades currently believes you to be a woman. I suppose we all make mistakes.
    Comment by: Frank McIntyre at May 12, 2004 01:34 AM

    *****

    Randy says: You take the position (or so it seems) that FARMS “accurately represent[s] the real beliefs of Mormons.� But as Kaimi implies at the outset, this merely begs the question. The work FARMS is doing often leads to conclusions that are inconsistent with what most members, and even some GAs (e.g., Elder McConkie), believe. Given this predicament, how do we decide, as a practical matter, what the “real beliefs of Mormons� are? Just how confident are you that the “real beliefs of Mormons� (whatever that means) are contained not in the Introduction to the Book of Mormon but in the latest edition of the FARMS Review?
    ——–
    Then the real belief is contained in *both*…isn’t it? To say that journals have to “represent Mormonism” is, I think, a fundamental misunderstanding of how liberal scholarship works in the secular academy. This was my objection to the characterization of FARMS that I was seeing on this thread. There seems to be a pervasive expectation that LDS scholars are suspect when it is not considered unusual and certainly not inappropriate for Protestant, Catholic or Jewish scholars to “believe”. It would be considered highly inappropriate to even bring that up let alone make an issue of it.
    According to Dean Torjeson, the academy has a role to play in legitimatizing Mormonism. “It won’t be trivialized anymore.” She compared this process to what she had encountered as she left her field of Patristics and turned to the once trivialized field of women’s studies. I would suggest that as an appropriate analogy to use when formulating what you might expect from a liberal approach to Mormon Studies (keeping in mind that Women’s Studies should not be stereotyped as a “position”, either.) She expects that CGU will establish a model for the study of religions that other schools will use. They hope for the following:
    1. A place where study of religion involves all
    religion.
    2. A study of religion that is faithful to the
    religion that practices it.
    3. Outsiders study the religion in a way that is
    responsible to the community.
    In her words, “we start with historical not theological.” The commitment is to evaluate but be balanced. **Any presentation must include what all positions are and who holds them. **
    This continues to be the downfall of critics of Mormonism, in my opinion. They refuse to acknowledge the range of opinion in LDS thought. Since FARMS publications spend a good deal of its time responding to such caricatures, it already starts with a leg up. I do not see nor have I heard LDS scholars ever refuse to acknowledge a range of practice or belief in lectures or conferences. In fact, much of the Yale conference was spent deliberating systematic theology vs our historical meta-narrative approach. CGU is certainly not unaware of the theological tensions, thus, they will begin with a historical approach rather than a theological one. While they want a study of religion which is faithful to those who practice it, they also want to go from tolerance to actual understanding. She used Robert Millet and his traveling road show presentations with his Evangelical partner as an example of how to do this.
    Part of the problem I see is that few seem to understand how liberal our theology is. Since we tend to be social/political conservatives we just assume we are theological conservatives. Torjeson does not see us as conservative. In response to your “CGU undoubtedly wants its students to both “play niceâ€? — i.e., “remain faithful to the community of believersâ€? — and “play smartâ€? — engage in a thorough, thoughtful, and even critical study of the religion in question.” The answer is that a liberal approach would be to analyize and understand *how* the LDS community has defined and positioned prophecy (or whatever)and what that contributes to the community… not to decide whether we do it right, good or bad or together enough, which is where this discussion seemed to have begun. Where this will likely fall into place in an academic setting is that participants will have to define their terms and set parameters rather than jumping on “Mormonism” as being a meaningful descriptor.
    Comment by: Juliann at May 12, 2004 01:54 AM

    *****

    Brent, this probably isn’t the place to discuss your paper. As I said, I agree with the issue you raise. I don’t agree with your conclusions with regards to the issue. In particular I disagree with your reading of 2 Ne 1. I see that as primarily a reference to future events which renders it irrelevant to pre-Lehites, since those people were already here. i.e. It explains why there weren’t more major influxes until the Europeans after Columbus. You also don’t address the issues of adoption I raised.
    I also think that if adoption is present within the text then the meaning of “descendent” may very well not imply direct descent. (Since by definition adoption is making one who isn’t of ones seed into ones seed) Since your paper doesn’t address the issue of adoption, I don’t really see it being that relevant to my points. Regarding 19th century views, if we don’t take them as infallible then your argument also becomes somewhat moot.
    Comment by: Clark Goble at May 12, 2004 02:02 AM

    *****

    Regarding the primary issue, we appear to have descended back into the conflations I thought we’d clarified earlier. When we speak of Mormon theology, are we speaking of what various groups who happen to be Mormon believe? Or are we speaking about the “what” of their beliefs? If the former, then all these complaints may well be relevant. If the latter, then I think all Mormons would acknowledge that their beliefs attempt to reference some external reality and it is that external reality that counts and not their beliefs regarding it.
    I suspect very few people would deny a healthy fallibilism towards their beliefs. Most recognize that there is much more to learn and the byword of “line upon line” seems held by most Mormons.
    So, let us please be clear about what we are discussing. In my mind those who make the beliefs (vague or otherwise) of lay members dominant and of prime concern are implicitly denying that the reality Mormons seek after is relevant to us theologically. i.e. it adopts an anti-realist view of theology.
    To return to the analogy I provided earlier, no one would say that the world is what scientists think it is but recognize that scientists are attempting to discover what is really out there. Thus scientists can discard old beliefs without really taking it too seriously. Yet somehow this is not allowed of Mormons by some. It seems unfortunate and always doomed to lead to misunderstandings and strawmen.
    Comment by: Clark Goble at May 12, 2004 02:09 AM

    *****

    Hi Clark,
    Thanks for your response. Unfortunately, I don’t have as much playtime for Internet forums as I’d like.
    I encourage you to read my Sunstone essay. I do address the issue of adoption, and my concern for 19thC BoMor interpretation focuses almost exclusively on what Joseph Smith claimed to know via divine revelation—the ostensible source by which he dictated the BoMor. If you consider Joseph’s interpretive revelations “fallible,” then I assume that you also consider his revelation of the BoMor itself “fallible”—and I’m left wondering why on earth you’d appeal to such a fallible revelation as evidence of anything.
    Just wondering.
    Best wishes,
    Brent
    Comment by: Brent Metcalfe at May 12, 2004 02:17 AM

    *****

    Brent, I do consider the BoM fallible as does the text itself. (See Ether 12 which is read by many Mormons as implying fallibilism)
    I reread your article, but I don’t find the issue of adoption satisfactorily addressed. Your answer to the issue of adoption simply is, “such suggestions, however, have no real explanatory power since both the Amerisraelites and the pre-Israeilte Jaredites fail to mention indigenous ‘others’ and the Amerisraelite narrators exhibit no difficulty recognizing the Jareites as non-Israelites who formerly inhabited the promised land.” (p. 22) However this begs the question and at best appeals to the argument of silence. Further it avoids the issue of identification which significantly determines whether one is or isn’t identified with a particular group. The Jaredites were interesting precisely because they weren’t identified with a group the way the other indigenous peoples were (with the Lamanites).
    I can understand not finding this model persuasive. But your argument against it really doesn’t engage the model at all.
    Comment by: Clark Goble at May 12, 2004 02:37 AM

    *****

    I put a longish discussion of what I see as the underlying issue up on my blog.
    To me the fundamental issue really gets down to what the purpose of theology is. Is it to produce words to which we must assent? Or is it to produce actions and habits which we are coming to acquire? The former view is fundamentally wrong. It tends to ignore meaning and replaces it with words and then pretends that the words are the meaning. It also ignores intentionality in terms of ends. What counts theologically isn’t what we are attempting to do, but what words we happen to have as a resting stop in our quest.
    Comment by: Clark Goble at May 12, 2004 03:14 AM

    *****

    Hi Clark,
    Thanks again for your response and for sharing your opinions.
    Well, we certainly differ on what it means to beg the question and to argue from silence. My arguments in my Sunstone essay are framed by what the BoMor does say, not by what it doesn’t say. You may convince me otherwise if you can point to even one BoMor passage that identifies a Lamanite or Nephite as an Israelite by virtue of “adoption.” (Frankly, I don’t think you can.)
    It strikes me as astonishingly precarious to build an argument on confessions of fallibility from fallible “ancient” prophets whose fallible words are only known through a fallible revelatory process. (Does that help clarify my point?)
    But more to the point of this thread, no one has yet addressed the disconnect between the various LDS schools of thought.
    And with that, it’s time for bed …
    My best,
    Brent
    Comment by: Brent Metcalfe at May 12, 2004 03:15 AM

    *****

    Brent, while you discuss what is said, in the passage quoted the argument is clearly framed in terms of what is not said. As I said, I read the other passages differently than you do.
    As to your worry about building arguments built on a chain of fallible positions. Welcome to the world of science. We have no problem doing that. Over in my blog, I frequently make appeal to C. S. Peirce who adopts a rather strong position of fallibilism.
    As I’ve said many times, most criticisms of Mormon theology end up resting on a position that denies the place of fallibilism in LDS theology. If one brings in fallibilism, as I think is necessary, then most of the arguments lose a lot of force. (Which is not to say that good points aren’t made at times) This is fundamentally why I think some want this taxonomy of “Chapel Mormons” to exist. It is a way of brushing away the issue of fallibilism. (IMO)
    Comment by: Clark Goble at May 12, 2004 03:21 AM

    *****

    Brent writes: “Unfortunately, I don’t have as much playtime for Internet forums as I’d like.”
    If you sincerely mean this (i.e. if it’s not what it seems to be, a copout), why jump into such forums in the first place? Why approach someone engaged in conversation deeply meaningful to them, challenge its meaningfulness, and then, once a rebuttal begins, back away protesting that you just don’t have time for such idle chatter? It seems boorish, to say the least.
    Comment by: Kingsley at May 12, 2004 03:53 AM

    *****

    Brent says: My arguments in my Sunstone essay are framed by what the BoMor does say, not by what it doesn’t say.
    —-
    This is an indefensible position in scholarship, particularly since the advent of methodology brought in by women’s studies. It may be an explanation of what *you* are doing but it does not serve as a rebuttal to scholarship on the topic.
    Comment by: Juliann at May 12, 2004 03:59 AM

    *****

    Dave says: I detect a subtle shift in tone and style, away from dialogue and conversation, toward the obnoxious habit of snipping the weakest sentence from another’s post and critiquing it with little reference to the balance of their argument. IMHO, it’s a lazy habit calculated to offend rather than enlighten.
    I sincerely hope the self-justificatory sniping is confined to this rather unusual thread (which, by the way, is poised to hit No. 2 on the all-time comments list, about 40 comments short of No. 1).
    Comment by: Dave at May 12, 2004 05:21 AM

    *****

    Dave, I’m not sure that is happening. I think quotations often are picked so as find a representative text. Of course we can debate how representative it actually is and that is always a fair criticism. However the alternative to this is to speak in broad generalities which make discussion difficult. As to whether this is self-justifying, I’m not sure it is. Hopefully it is designed to be explanatory. That not everyone will agree with the explanation seems sure. I’m not sure the effort to explain why one feels the way one does about a text is misguided though.
    It all depends upon ones perspective I suppose.
    I’d also add, that when one is replying, unless one at least provides a trace of what one is replying to it gets very confusing. Especially if one is replying to something said earlier on in the thread. So I personally find quotes very helpful and not a “lazy habit calculated to offend.” That’s why, in email, I use them rather frequently.
    Comment by: Clark Goble at May 12, 2004 06:06 AM

    *****

    Dave, this is the second time that you have dropped in to rate someone else’s performance rather than contributing anything to the topic itself. Are you willing to consider the possibility that that might be just as obnoxious as what you are accusing others of?
    What would you like to see addressed that you think was unfairly left out?
    Comment by: Juliann at May 12, 2004 06:29 AM

    *****

    If I was still a “laymember” of the Church and not steep into Historical and Doctrinal study’s but simply having a “basic” witness of the Gospels Truth, and I read FARMS and FAIRS materials there wouldn’t and never has been a “divide” between the two thought processes and understandings.
    In otherwords, as a “laymember” there would be nothing conflicting between my views and those of FARMS.
    FARMS would simply be the more well thought out and accurate views of what I already know, in otherwords Level C or the “Synthesis” of my understanding.
    Thus, this whole discussion is quite unnecessary.
    And the fact that there is a slight difference between Level A and Level C, does not change the fact that they are still the same.
    And there are many members who are at Level A who ARE informed, but simply have other talents and interests, and hence do not magnify Level C.
    Thus, Elite and Common Religion/Chapel Mormon and Internet Mormon MIXES and BLURS between the two, so there is no either or.
    Level A and Level C are exactly the same. One is simply more “detailed” than the other.
    By the way, I’ve actually been ALL three Levels, as well as not religious and being religious and spiritually minded at other times.
    The Church is True, Line upon Line, Precept upon Precept…. to those who have the Faith to really find out, despite the stumbling blocks. ;)
    Comment by: leeuniverse at May 12, 2004 01:25 PM

    *****

    So, Lee, if someone were to come up and ask you, “Where do Mormons believe the Native Americans come from?”, how would you answer?
    How would the prophet answer?
    How would everyone else in your Ward answer?
    How would FARMS answer?
    Last but not least, how would Joseph Smith answer?
    Then tell me whether or not there’s any difference between A & C.
    Comment by: Dr. Shades at May 12, 2004 02:19 PM

    *****

    Hard to imagine, but humor me:
    If “Dr. Shades,” an average Church member, a Latter-day Saint apostle, and a typically prideful FARMS elitist were conversing together, and an interviewer walked up to them and asked the following ten questions, whose answers would most frequently make him the odd man out? Would there be any basis for claiming, from his answers to the following questions, that one of the three remaining after the subtraction of the “odd man out” actually belonged to a wholly different religious faith than the other two?
    (1) Is there a God?
    (2) Is Jesus Christ divine?
    (3) Does redemption come through Jesus Christ, and Jesus Christ alone?
    (4) Were there literal historical Nephites?
    (5) Were there real gold plates?
    (6) Did Joseph Smith see the Father and the Son?
    (7) Did John the Baptist, and, later, Peter, James, and John restore the priesthood?
    (8) Do the contemporary prophets and apostles of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints hold the keys of priesthood authority on earth?
    (9) Is there life after death?
    (10) Was Jesus physically resurrected from the dead?
    (Other such questions available on demand.)
    Comment by: Daniel Peterson at May 12, 2004 02:39 PM

    *****

    Juliann, no I didn’t rate anyone’s performance; I did not name names nor did I give anything resembling a rating. What I did was make a personal observation about a shift in the tone and style of recent posts, particularly in this rather unusual thread.
    It is possible to disagree without being disagreeble, although it takes some practice. For example, Nate has been disagreeing with me since before T&S even started (and he does an embarrassingly good job of it) but he has never been disagreeable. Personally, the only way I’ve found to purge my posts of my own obnoxious remarks is to hit the preview button and review my posts two or three times before posting, taking great care to remove gratuitous comments or loaded terms that are likely to offend. I think it is worth the effort.
    Clark, I agree it can be useful to use a representative short quote as a point of departure. It only gets objectionable if the quote is unrepresentative, or if someone parses an entire post into little chunks, each of which gets its own mini-rant of a commentary.
    On the other hand, restating another’s argument rather than cutting and pasting even a representative quote forces one to think through their argument and possibly see things from their point of view. That can be an enlightening exercise.
    Comment by: Dave at May 12, 2004 02:49 PM

    *****

    Dr. Shades,
    I wonder if you are the same “Dr. Shades” of “exmormon.com” fame? If so, I wonder why you would even bother with a site like T&S. Why’ll not every person who participates here is a believer, the vast majority are, and I would suppo

  142. Aaron Brown on November 25, 2004 at 10:47 pm

    Kaimi,

    Was the loss of these comments really “inadvertent”? Given that a thread must have at least 140 comments (presently) to make the “Most Popular Entries” on the sidebar, and given that the comments just “happened” to be lost after 140, and given the “heat” generated by this particular thread, I had assumed you had intentionally deleted the later comments so as to preclude this thread from qualifying for the sidebar.

    Aaron B

  143. Kaimi on November 25, 2004 at 11:02 pm

    Aaron,

    Truly inadvertent. You’ll notice that every one of the threads that lost comments lost them immediately after a comment with a long string of dashes: “——”

    That happened because Movable Type uses strings of dashes to export entries. The import program saw long strings and read them to mean that a particular post was done. It then looked for the next post (introduced through known tags), and intervening text was lost.

    It did happen to more of the longer threads. I suspect that this is because they are more likely (having more comments overall) to have at least one string of dashes somewhere that will get read as an end signal.

    (Side note — I think there is a moderate amount of thematic unity to the threads that errored, and I think I know why. As I’ve gone through this process, I’ve learned who writes with dashes. It’s the same commenters, over and again, whose comments caused certain threads to import improperly. Of course, this isn’t to assign blame — there’s no way that they could have known that their comment style would intriduce some errors into a future software transfer — but it does explain somewhat why many of the threads on similar topics seem to have had errors: It’s largely because they were attracting the same particular commenters.)

  144. Dr. Shades on January 10, 2005 at 2:52 am

    Daniel Peterson writes:

    Hard to imagine, but humor me:
    If “Dr. Shades,� an average Church member, a Latter-day Saint apostle, and a typically prideful FARMS elitist were conversing together, and an interviewer walked up to them and asked the following ten questions, whose answers would most frequently make him the odd man out? Would there be any basis for claiming, from his answers to the following questions, that one of the three remaining after the subtraction of the “odd man out� actually belonged to a wholly different religious faith than the other two?
    (1) Is there a God?
    (2) Is Jesus Christ divine?
    (3) Does redemption come through Jesus Christ, and Jesus Christ alone?
    (4) Were there literal historical Nephites?
    (5) Were there real gold plates?
    (6) Did Joseph Smith see the Father and the Son?
    (7) Did John the Baptist, and, later, Peter, James, and John restore the priesthood?
    (8) Do the contemporary prophets and apostles of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints hold the keys of priesthood authority on earth?
    (9) Is there life after death?
    (10) Was Jesus physically resurrected from the dead?

    Okay, now humor me:

    If a Latter-day Saint apostle and a FARMS elitist were conversing together, and an interviewer walked up to them and asked the following questions, would the answers harmonize?

    (1) When science contradicts the prophets (regarding the age of the earth, for example), which/who is right?
    (2) When LDS apologists (F.A.R.M.S. and F.A.I.R., for example) contradict the prophets, who is right?
    (3) Do the terms “Lamanite” and “Native American” refer to two entirely separate cultural and linguistic groups, or are the terms interchangeable?
    (4) Was Noah’s flood local or global?
    (5) When Lehi arrived in the Americas, were there lots of non-Jaredite Asiatic inhabitants already present?
    (6) When discussing the words of the prophets, is God displeased if we say “it was only his opinion?”
    (7) Did the Nephites make their last stand against the Lamanites on a hill in Central America or on a hill in New York?
    (8) Is binding Mormon doctrine to be found between the covers of the four Standard Works only, or can it be found elsewhere?
    (9) Which is most likely to lead us to the truth: To “filter” a prophet’s words through both his likely cultural influences and his limited sphere of knowledge, or to take his words at face value?
    (10) Do a prophet’s words apply to everyone he’s addressing, or do his words sometimes not apply to some of the people he’s addressing?
    (11) If a married couple uses birth control, is God displeased?
    (12) Did human beings evolve, or were Adam & Eve the first–and parentless–humans?
    (13) Is a prophet a foreordained man of the highest moral caliber, or is he not necessarily any better than his societal average?

    Someone else writes:

    I wonder if you are the same “Dr. Shades� of “exmormon.com� fame?

    As far as I know, I’m the only “Dr. Shades” of any “fame,” exmormon.org or otherwise.

    If so, I wonder why you would even bother with a site like T&S.

    Because someone e-mailed me and pointed out that this discussion was taking place, a topic about which I have some interest.