The Angel and the Internet

September 10, 2010 | 56 comments
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A few years ago, the confluence of the Mitt Romney campaign and Proposition 8 (and to some extent Harry Reid) focused sustained national attention on the church and its members. The church’s profile has only continued to grow since then, raising a variety of questions about assimilation, retrenchment, and the future of the flock.

Mormonism has long inhabited a liminal state between cultural insider and outsider. Armand Mauss’s pioneering work The Angel and the Beehive charts the church’s uneasy relationship with mainstream status, a cycle of ebb and flow driven by the specific benefits and drawbacks on each side of the spectrum. If the church is too peculiar, it will suffer in its growth prospects and place in society. At worst, disrepute can lead society to treat such a church as a threat to be eradicated (a possibility of which Mormons are quite aware). This creates strong pressure to assimilate in order to avoid social costs and reap the benefits of societal acceptance. However, this raises the question of whether the church community can gain respectability without giving up its distinctive cultural and doctrinal markers — and so, as Mauss notes, the community adopts different strategies at different times. At times the organization and its members may embrace assimilation, while at other times they feel a need to “reach ever more deeply into their bag of cultural peculiarities to find either symbolic or actual traits that will help them mark their subcultural boundaries.”

The assimilationist impulse is currently in ascendancy, and its accelerating pace is fueled by the possibilities of new technologies — particularly the internet — which can provide new avenues for communication. The new media activities of both the institutional church and of individual church members are overwhelmingly assimilationist.

For instance, the church has just launched its new website at Mormon.org and the related ad campaign, both of which are designed to showcase the normalcy and folk-next-door-ness of church members. Meanwhile, the past several months have seen a cascade of new internet writing both inside and outside of the already-packed bloggernacle, ranging from a blogging apostle (!) to a wave of new high-profile internet commentary from Mormon women. These new media expressions of Mormonism provide expand the dialogue about Mormonism while also providing easy points of entry for outsiders to engage in the discussion.

The widespread blossoming of Mormon content in new media also raises a variety of concerns about boundary maintenance and community identity. Quirks and inconsistencies in permitted Mormon.org profile content highlight some of the tensions. The assimilationist impulse is to channel new media spontaneity in a Mormon direction. The widespread democratization of information fostered by the internet means that everyone has a story to tell, in a sort of global fast-and-testimony meeting. But who is the bishop empowered to turn off the microphone if a speaker should deviate too far from community norms? Who owns the soul of Mormonism?

In many ways, Mormonism seems poised to break out of its regional shell and embrace a future as a truly national (and even global) religion. But going national may mean abandoning cultural or political views that seem as Mormon as the hill Cumorah. Two years ago, Mormon scholar Melissa Proctor wrote that “Latter-day Saints want to be accepted as part of the mainstream, but they want to be accepted into the mainstream as Latter-day Saints.” Those two goals (and the tensions between them) continue to frame the current debate on assimilation — and ultimately will determine the fate of the angel in an age of the internet.

56 Responses to The Angel and the Internet

  1. Christopher on September 10, 2010 at 8:08 am

    Nice post, Kaimi. THe internet certainly adds an additional wrinkle to the topic.

    Do you see it as an either/or? My sense is that Mormonism will continue to exist with the sometimes uneasy tension brought about by the assimilationist and separatist impulses, ebbing and flowing back and forth as the moment demands, just like the movement always has. There’s an element of pragmatism to Mormonism, I think, that helps maintain that pattern and will continue to do so.

  2. Chino Blanco on September 10, 2010 at 8:09 am

    Perhaps it’s not so much that Mormonism is somehow now “poised to break out of its regional shell” but rather that it has already outgrown the tired assimilationist vs. revanchist model that otherwise astute Mormon observers continue to rely on to describe its development.

  3. Eduard A. Erdtsieck on September 10, 2010 at 8:25 am

    Who owns the soul of Mormonism?

    The priesthood! The Prophet and the Twelve hold the keys in preparing for the pure peace offering to God in these latter-days. We have Jesus, Christ promise that they will not fail in that duty. It is their hallowed responsibility if we are to keep the confidence and blessings of God. The plot to kill the Messiah was hatched in the secret chamber of the High Priest Caiaphas in the Temple of Herod in Jerusalem. His outburst reflected his impatience, when he could not find adequate false witnesses to make their priesthood trial of Jesus ring true. That betrayal will never happen again.

    There is a lesser priesthood, which functions at the stake and ward level. I respect and honor their position as representatives to bring into reality the power of heaven on this earth. To heal the sick and bring comfort to them who suffer and to carry out the 3 point mandate set by our Prophets. That is as it should be.

    And that is where it ends. In my opinion, there are too many Alpha males among them to make them see the political abominations of our national leadership. They are a timid bunch among the corrupted lions, who lead our nation away from the Constitution. They are in pursuit of the theory of Darwin and in seeking acceptance and assimilation rather becoming that “peculiar” people that Mormons once were.

  4. b on September 10, 2010 at 8:55 am

    Eduard,

    Whether or not you like it, things are changing – and some of it is coming from the Prophet and Quorum of the 12. Did you know the church now has 4 focuses?! I’m sure, as always, you mean well, but you’re not an Alpha male, are you, with all of your unquestionable insights and political tribalism? Good thing I don’t hear anything from priesthood leaders that support your concluding remarks – unless Glenn Beck is your leader. Kindly, b.

  5. Chino Blanco on September 10, 2010 at 8:59 am

    Interesting comment, Eduard. First time I’ve seen Alpha males called out for being too timid. In any case, it’s not only the LDS leadership who’re on board with the whole Darwinian project:

    Hi, I’m Jason Call … I can believe, as science has clearly demonstrated, that Evolution happened, but still believe in a God who created the heaven and the Earth in whatever manner he saw fit …

    So, speaking of wrinkles … Jason’s a Mormon. Go figure.

  6. Dan on September 10, 2010 at 9:46 am

    Eduard A. Erdtsieck does not speak for me nor does he define how I see Mormonism. The more we get away from Eduard’s type of Mormonism the better for Mormonism.

  7. Chino Blanco on September 10, 2010 at 9:59 am

    Dismiss Eduard at your peril, Dan.

  8. TMD on September 10, 2010 at 10:44 am

    What does assilimation mean, these days? I think everyone used to think that it meant moving towards mainline protestantism, but mainline protestantism has lost all vibrancy and is increasingly tiny (the famous death by liberalism). There’s just nothing left to move towards anymore. Does it mean moving towards the evangelicals? Moving towards Catholicism? What does assimilation mean anymore?

  9. Brian Jones on September 10, 2010 at 10:48 am

    Is Mormanism changing and assimilating or is the nature of the “mainstream” changing to become more inclusive, tolerant and diverse?

  10. Brian Jones on September 10, 2010 at 10:50 am

    Eduardo
    I think you might have an ambiguous pronoun in that last paragraph. I am not clear on who “they” is.

  11. Chino Blanco on September 10, 2010 at 11:08 am

    At the risk of overstaying my welcome here, I’d like to lay my cards on the table re Kaimi’s post: For a while now, I’ve left my inchoate quibble with Armand Mauss’s well-known assimilation/retrenchment cycle on the proverbial shelf, but I think I’d like to finally flesh it out (and I’m thinking that mormon.org is an example of how Mauss’s model has outlived its usefulness). But I’m an amateur, so any help/insight from brighter lights would be appreciated (noting that it’s been reassuring to see other commenters apparently pondering the same question here).

  12. Jerry on September 10, 2010 at 11:33 am

    Chino Are you saying we are a doomsday cult/religion? pounding the fear drums? The sky is not falling the constitutio is working the way it was intended to work. The government may not be exactly like any one wants but it is exactly what we as a 350 million member community wants it to be. And since we are not a 3rd world dictatorship we accept politicians and leaders we didn’t vote for and wait until the next election to get more of what we want.

    I do think each time we get a change in the prophet we get energy going out to be more mainstream and while it’s not all bad I really think all of those commercials are horrible. If you have to tell somebody you are just like the kid next door that means that they can’t see it and it’s not obvious. I would prefer we say what we are and not point out that in past we have acted odd.

  13. Chino Blanco on September 10, 2010 at 11:51 am

    Jerry: Not at all. Quite the opposite. I’m suggesting that you’ve reached a point where discussing your assimilation vs retrenchment has become pointless. We might as well be discussing Mormonism in the context of disestablishmentarianism, because Mauss’s model has become just as (ir)relevant to any discussion of contemporary Mormonism.

    By the way, if the purpose of this post was to foster a useful discussion, I think Kaimi has done us all a disfavor by conflating the new TV ad campaign and mormon.org. As it turns out, I don’t take such a dim view of the air campaign as you do, but I do think it’s worthwhile to keep that separate from what’s happening at mormon.org, which is altogether much more interesting and less benign.

  14. Tom O. on September 10, 2010 at 11:54 am

    Re the reaction to Eduard:

    I always have to laugh as the “inclusionists” to want people like Eduard to hit the road….

    Reminds me of the great words of wisdom of the Solomonic Michael Scott: “This is an environment of welcoming, and you should just get the hell outta here.” (Season 1, I believe the “Diversity Day” episode)

    Like it or not, people with a conservative mindset are/will be part of the Church — or is that just a little too much inclusion for some people to bear?

  15. Chris H. on September 10, 2010 at 12:05 pm

    Tom O,

    I tend to think it is not an issue of ideology but ….

  16. Chino Blanco on September 10, 2010 at 12:09 pm

    Equate “conservative” with “schismatic” at your peril, Tom O.

  17. Bob on September 10, 2010 at 12:16 pm

    #11: I still like Armand Mauss’s thinking. But I do believe the Church is today trying to assimilation/retrenchment at the same time. This is splitting the Church(?)
    The thing that strikes me the most is today’s ideas in Mormonism that “Jesus is my friend” and “I too can get Revelations”. ( This is the assimilation). And the Church wants to back the BoM, and Priesthood 100%. ( That’s the retrenchment ). ** All of this is only my opinion.

  18. Chino Blanco on September 10, 2010 at 12:26 pm

    Any talk of “splitting the Church” on my part has been specifically directed at Eduard.

    I think it might be interesting to read the present post side-by-side with Nate Oman’s Are Mormons American? Can They Be?

    Nate ends that post with a flourish: “A punch line is not persecuted, but he is also not quite a full citizen.”

    Note that Nate wrote that in 2006, before the appearance of one Glenn Beck on the national scene. The same Glenn Beck that, oddly enough, goes unmentioned in Kaimi’s post.

  19. Chino Blanco on September 10, 2010 at 1:18 pm

    Starship Troopers was rated R, wasn’t it? If so, I suppose this’ll be lost on most of the folks here:

    “Comic relief guarantees citizenship. Would you like to know more?”

    Q.E.D.

  20. Dave on September 10, 2010 at 2:18 pm

    Fine discussion, Kaimi. Some readers might not remember that T&S did a 12 Questions interview with Armand Mauss in 2004. Here’s a link:

    http://timesandseasons.org/index.php/2004/04/12-questions-for-armand-mauss-part-two/

    While I agree there is a continuing public relations effort to make Mormons look normal (and that most Mormons are fairly normal), I don’t really agree the institutional pendulum is swinging from retrenchment to assimilation. There are too many institutional controls in place now that weren’t there two generations ago: Correlation; the Strengthening Church Membership Committee; temple recommends as prerequisites for employment at LDS universities. Then there’s the politicization of mainstream LDS culture, which signals to more and more Mormons, including some local leaders, that being a good Mormon means being vocally Republican and being anything else is a form of dissent. (I know that’s not official policy, I’m just saying that’s how some members understand what’s going on.) It sure doesn’t feel like an assimilationist mindset to me.

    So I don’t think the pendulum will be swinging back toward assimilation for a long time. Of course, one could argue that’s a good thing — it’s not like the present mainstream culture to which we would presumably assimilate represents any sort of moral or social ideal.

  21. Chino Blanco on September 10, 2010 at 2:39 pm

    … at Harvard Business School, female students note ruefully that attractive male classmates are invariably associated with one of the “three Ms”: the military, the management consultancy McKinsey or Mormonism.

    The Matrix was also rated R, wasn’t it?

    Pendulum boy: Do not try and swing the pendulum. That’s impossible. Instead… only try to realize the truth.
    Neo: What truth?
    Pendulum boy: There is no pendulum.

  22. JOHN WILLIS on September 10, 2010 at 4:18 pm

    I think the women at Harvard Business School are better off than the single women in the Washington D.C. area who complain that all the good men there are gay, married or work for the government and most are all three.

  23. Chino Blanco on September 10, 2010 at 4:48 pm

    John – The first two are completely understandable complaints (gay, married), but if single women in D.C. really are complaining that the remaining good men are unattractive simply because they “work for the government” … I’d have to wonder why they hadn’t bothered to explore other locales? Are these gals equally horrified at the thought of settling down with an academic or stockbroker?

  24. john willis on September 10, 2010 at 4:56 pm

    Maybe the women in the D.C. area are just too picky.

  25. Chino Blanco on September 10, 2010 at 5:05 pm

    Precisely. Maybe it’s time to sort out issues on the intramural level before vying for a spot in the Oppression Olympics.

  26. Bob on September 10, 2010 at 5:23 pm

    #18: Chino, “splitting the Church” was not referring to your comments, rather my thinking that trying to both assimilate and retrench at the same time may be causing splits in the Church.

    #20: I agree “institutional controls” have powers that fight against assimilation or change. We already know the names of the next 2 or 3 Presidents of the Church, and that they will be old. That leads us back to what the internet and other things might mean to the common members.

  27. Chino Blanco on September 10, 2010 at 5:27 pm

    Heathers was rated R, too, wasn’t it? Pity, because Christian Slater delivered one of the deepest lines of our cinematic lifetimes in that flick:

    J.D.: People will look at the ashes of Westerburg and say, “Now there’s a school that self-destructed, not because society didn’t care, but because the school was society.”

  28. Chino Blanco on September 10, 2010 at 6:12 pm

    Bob – Re #18: There’s a third option available that doesn’t involve banging one’s head against the inscrutable paradox of simultaneously assimilating and retrenching. Too much Mormon language and POV remains stuck in an outdated notion of the LDS project as “the Church triumphant that will sweep the earth” (to paraphrase Bushman). Such a project necessarily thrived on external threats to maintain momentum, but the contemporary reality is that Mormonism’s best hope is to “salt the earth” (again paraphrasing Bushman) – not conquer it.

    Re #20: I know your reply was not addressed to me, but for the record, Dave’s got it spectacularly wrong here. The Strengthening Church Membership Committee? Seriously? As a bulwark against what, exactly? As critical as I am of the LDS leadership, even I don’t ascribe such petty motives and freely allow that they’re more interested in institutional vitality than they are in institutional control at the level of any SCMC.

    Dave’s blindspot is that he has no idea what J.D. is referring to in Heathers. It’s not that the LDS project risks annihilation at the hands of a less-than-ideal “society” but that the Mormon church itself has become “society” and the time has come to find solutions to the attendant societal woes afflicting the body of the church.

  29. Armand Mauss on September 10, 2010 at 6:19 pm

    Thanks, Kaimi, for keeping alive references to my 1994 book among the younger, blogging generation. I agree in the main with your observations, as you can see from the piece I wrote for Patheos last month : http://www.patheos.com/Resources/Additional-Resources/Mormonism-in-the-New-Century.html .

    Yet I think you exaggerate when you speak of the new “ascendancy” of the assimilationist motif, and I disagree with those respondents (above) who think my basic model is obsolete. See the post in #20, above. I wrote what is quoted there in 2004, before we started seeing the new Public Affairs thrust now underway. It seems to me that most of what I said in 2004 still applies, even though retrenchment might be on the wane in some respects. In my 1994 book, I did not distinguish adequately between the INTERNAL membership of the Church, where all the retrenchment has been taking place, and the EXTERNAL audience, where an assimilationist posture has been dominant since the turn of the 20th century, in one form or another.

    We will know that retrenchment is truly in retreat when we are no longer expected to accept the literal historicity of the Book of Mormon; when the Family Proclamation has been modified to make it more assimilationist; when missionary service is no longer considered as the “normal and expected” choice for boys of 19; when Correlation has been loosened to permit local adaptations in curriculum; when the curriculum no longer assumes literal (and near-inerrant) interpretations of scripture; when the mission of CES includes reconciliation of faith and reason, rather than only sheer indoctrination; and when we are no longer told regularly over the pulpit that ours is the only true and living church on earth.

    HOWEVER, if and when those developments occur, will the Church and the Saints be better off for it? That is an entirely different question, and one with which the General Authorities must grapple every time a new Public Affairs initiative seeks to make Mormons and their religion appear more “normal” and less “weird.”

  30. Chino Blanco on September 10, 2010 at 7:47 pm

    Thank goodness I only called Armand’s model obsolete in comments #2, #11, #13, and #21 (not that #21 really counts – it was pretty oblique as jabs go).

    In any case, as I’ve now posted here and elsewhere:

    Good grief, I’ve just spent several hours raking a guy over the coals who I now actually admire for his final comment. This is me bowing out at T&S. That said, I did have a final smart-alecky question for Armand about how aggiornamento is supposed to work for Mormons when ressourcement is obviously not an option.

    Cheers.

  31. WJ on September 11, 2010 at 12:15 am

    Armand, perhaps this is detailed in your book, but I’m curious if there has been a time in Church history, specifically during the assimilation periods, when in fact the church has denied the historicity of the Book of Mormon or the claim that the church is the only true and living church on the earth?

    The other evidences you cited that indicate whether a full assimilation is afoot, e.g. changes to CES, missionary service, and curriculum, while significant, seem to be rather less controversial and disruptive to Mormonism’s core claims. CES and curriculum are purely matters of policy and utility. And while missionary service has a doctrinal basis, there doesn’t seem to be any clear doctrinal outline as to how it must be conducted.

    But if the authenticity of the Book of Mormon and claims to sole priesthood authority are abdicated, it seems that in our efforts to assimilate we may simply give everything away. The Book of Mormon’s relevance is that it is an authentic record. But if its merely a compilation of fictional stories that espouse good moral principles (which would seem to make it an inherently contradictory work), then its value would be highly diminished, perhaps even less valuable than the Bible, which despite its follies, is based on real historical events. If its merely moral education we’re after, it seems we’d be just as well served resorting to “Full House” re-runs or a variety of other outlets.

  32. chanson on September 11, 2010 at 2:28 am

    Mauss @29 — I agree with your assessment that the church’s internal strategy and external strategy are different (w.r.t. assimilation/retrenchment). But I think you miss the heart of it if you ignore where these cultural trends are coming from. To what degree are these strategies bubbling up organically from the members, and to what degree are they dictated from on high?

    We will know that retrenchment is truly in retreat when we are no longer expected to…

    “Expected”? By whom?

    I know that the prophet himself is believed to be guided by the Lord. However, the church’s internal and external communication (manuals, ad campaigns, etc.) and even some policy decisions are made in a wholly non-transparent manner by bureaucrats in the COB. Members are expected to essentially agree with (and especially not criticize) whatever communication is broadcast from the COB — but meanwhile, the members can hardly guess what it’s going to be next. Here we are attempting to analyze and speculate about the church’s cultural strategies, yet, meanwhile, it’s not even clear who’s driving this train (if anyone).

    when Correlation has been loosened to permit local adaptations in curriculum

    Loosening control over the curriculum would be “assimilationist”? How?

    Here’s where I think it’s most obvious that your analysis is missing something important. The rigidly-correlated curriculum prevents local units both from assimilating external doctrines and from “retrenching” by choosing to teach and emphasize uniquely Mormon doctrines.

  33. Bob on September 11, 2010 at 10:34 am

    I don’t believe it’s all internal thinking that makes changes.
    I think history shows when Mormons have made changes to assimilation/retrenchment, there has been a strong external force pushing them to change. Pushed from Far West, pushed from Nauvoo, pushed from Polygamy, pushed from the Mormon Village, pushed from the Priesthood Ban, etc.

  34. Armand Mauss on September 11, 2010 at 11:06 am

    To Chino (#30) : I felt no hot coals. Any old professor will tell you that he’d rather be criticized than ignored. The objective of a successful religious movement or organization is neither aggiornamento nor ressourcement but simply a continuous struggle to maintain optimum tension between too little and too much conformity with the surrounding culture, so that both its existence and its unique identity can be maintained.

    To WJ (#31) : I agree with your observation that Book of Mormon historicity and the claim to be the only true church are core beliefs and not easily subject to modifications in either doctrine or church policy. I was speaking, as it were, in extremis, just to make a point. I certainly don’t expect those two (or any other) core beliefs to be abandoned in any future “assimilationist” trend, and no – there has not been a time in LDS history when these two core beliefs have been abandoned or even compromised. However, there certainly have been times when they have been deemphasized. There was a wonderful essay by Noel Reynolds some years ago, with a title like “The Restoration of the Book of Mormon,” in which he argues that during much of the 20th century the Bible was the preeminent basis for LDS teaching, both in the auxiliaries of the Church and in missionary work – to the near exclusion of the Book of Mormon (until the “retrenchment” era from the 1960s on). Also, whenever our public discourse assures the outside world (e. g.) that “we don’t want you to give up any truth you already have but only to learn of the new truths that we can offer,” our own members hear that too, and we run the risk inadvertently of watering down the “only true and living Church” claim that we expect our members to embrace.

    To Chanson (#32) : “Expected by whom?” Expected by Church leaders and by most active members. And “loosening Correlation” would permit local adaptations (e. g. in stakes with more highly educated members) so that a degree of “outside literature” could be brought into our teaching in Sunday School, Relief Society, Priesthood classes, and even CES – as so many of the wonderful Church-published lesson manuals used to do in the 1920s – 1950s. You have to be an old geezer like me to remember those good old days. Did such manuals have an assimilationist intent and consequence? You bet they did! Was that good or bad? Your call.

  35. Eduard A. Erdtsieck on September 11, 2010 at 11:09 am

    I am deserving of all criticism. That is why I do not hide behind pen names. What I say that I believe and my mind is open to change. I am not much into fault finding and unless a concept can withstand opposition it will fade into oblivion. The Gospel of Jesus, Christ as explained through the voice of Joseph Smith will not change, not one iota.

    The point I made was for the lesser priesthood: “To heal the sick and bring comfort to them who suffer and to carry out the 3 point mandate set by our Prophets”. Where is this to be done – among our congregation or in the community? The lesser priesthood does great things within the congregation, without any doubt.

    But who really are the sick in need of healing? Our self-dealing Congressmen and Senators. They’ve sold the voters false doctrines – survival of the fittest. Their survival comes first. They have separated US from God’s blessings. Hopeful for a short time.

    I am fatigued by having the title a “peculiar” people, that was associated to Mormons stripped by Glenn Beck. Where does the Article of Faith fit in his scheme of political reforms?

    I am wearied by the Warren Jeff’s polygamists, another worshipper of family pleasures and solely interested in perpetuating his personal DNA.

    What the Beck’s and Jeff’s versions of Mormonism tells me is, that the lesser priesthood, not the Aaronic Priesthood, is not getting it. Perhaps it is enough to bring healing of the sick and lessen the suffering within the congregation, but when our Constitution is in jeopardy; should we not have other things to do than defend Beck and Jeff?

  36. MainTour on September 11, 2010 at 6:29 pm

    Eduard – I define that group as part of the Secret Combinations of our lifetime of which the Book of Mormon gave us very stern warnings.

  37. Dan on September 11, 2010 at 10:41 pm

    Eduard,

    But who really are the sick in need of healing? Our self-dealing Congressmen and Senators. They’ve sold the voters false doctrines – survival of the fittest. Their survival comes first. They have separated US from God’s blessings. Hopeful for a short time.

    This is just utter poppycock. Dude, grow up.

  38. chanson on September 12, 2010 at 2:29 am

    And “loosening Correlation” would permit local adaptations (e. g. in stakes with more highly educated members) so that a degree of “outside literature” could be brought into our teaching in Sunday School, Relief Society, Priesthood classes, and even CES – as so many of the wonderful Church-published lesson manuals used to do in the 1920s – 1950s. You have to be an old geezer like me to remember those good old days. Did such manuals have an assimilationist intent and consequence? You bet they did!

    Right, so what you’re describing is a power struggle over who’s leading the cultural trends.

    The correlated meetings and manuals — with their careful avoidance of controversial uniquely Mormon doctrines — hinder the rank-and-file from having discussions amongst themselves about Mormon theology and doctrine. Loosening correlation would allow some local units closer to assimilating with mainstream Christian ideas and practices, but it could also potentially allow some local units to embrace, teach, and emphasize more unique doctrines and practices. Correlation puts the breaks on movement in both directions.

    My point is that — if you’re going to analyze cultural trends — then the ways that they’re originated and spread should be a critical component of the theory. This is especially true in the CoJCoL-dS because the degree of top-down cultural direction is significantly greater than in most churches, religions, and subcultures.

    So the CoJCoL-dS has one advertising face and a different internal face — is that typical of religions and other subcultures? To what degree is it the result of different communications strategies devised by various managerial committees within the COB?

  39. Eduard A. Erdtsieck on September 12, 2010 at 6:50 am

    The Christian answer has been {A} to adapt to the demands of the greater community for understanding – a Nicean solution or {B} to reformation. Reformation essentially addresses our own misconception on what our congregation believes. What is the outcome for the latter? – lexicon, a book of words!

    I know that my idea of timid alpha males seems contradictory, but look at Jesus of Nazareth and Joseph Smith. Both were constrained and pointed at Faith as the way to God. Both were murdered, because they threatened the fiefdoms of self-dealing alpha males and were murdered in the prime of their lives.

    The emaciation of the US Constitution is a very serious matter, because it gave inalienable rights to minorities under a universal God. The Constitution was founded by a group of god-fearing entrepreneurs during a period in our history, when inequality was profound. The restoration of the Gospel by Joseph Smith would not be complete, if it were diluted by another creed or effort at reform.

    For me the Constitution is as sacred as the Doctrine and Covenants, because they are God’s instruction to our generations. The idea of inalienable rights for all mankind appeals to me, because it gives meaning to the crucifixion and the assasination of 2 great spiritual leaders. Their right to worship in mortality, as the Lord commanded, was abbreviated.

    Lest we despair, saying: – – then it could not be done. I am listing a few examples were it was done. It took foresight and courage, but it was done.

    Queen Esther gave a feast to tell, her husband, King Ahasuerus about Haman’s secret order to kill the Jews.

    Daniel, Shadrag, Meshach Abed-Nego refusal to partake of King Nebuchadnezzar’s meat and wine were thrown in the lion’s den and furnace. They survived.

    Alma in King Noah’s Court believed the teachings of the Prophet Abinadi; organizes the opposition against the king by continuing the doctrines of the Church as proclaimed by the prophet. He met with persecution by the king and awakened a movement among his people.

    Helaman leading 2000 stripling warriors defended the Anti-Nephi-Lehies’, who faced slaughter, because of their oath refusing to shed blood or bear arms.

    What do they have in common?

  40. Bob on September 12, 2010 at 10:01 am

    #38: Chanson, I visited your blog__others should too___well done!

    Cultures change because events happen. Efforts to stop the changes from the inside mostly fail. The only real question is does God control the events?

  41. Eduard A. Erdtsieck on September 12, 2010 at 12:17 pm

    Bob, your question “does God control the events” is the right one to ask? Because it leads either to increase Faith in God, our Father in heaven or to “strange” gods. The truth is not confirmed by two or three witnesses, but by the testimony of the Holy Spirit. Jesus addresses this question throughout His mission. Let me recall 3 of them.

    First, the parable of the sower. He explains how difficult it is to spread Gospel knowledge under the various conditions in the world, because the tares were part of the eco-system.

    Second, the parable of the talents. Talents were given out in various amounts to a number of people. The Giver of the Talents had to leave, but said he would be back after a time. What interested me about this parable was the dialogue between the one, who received the single talent. When the Giver asked why he had not done more with that talent; he answered: I know that you are a hard master and I was afraid, because you reap where you have not sown and you gather where you have not strawed. The Giver suggested with firmness, then you should have put your talent with the money exchangers.

    Third, the parable of the sheep and the goats. Jesus addressed the issue between Him and the Herodian Temple priesthood. His disciples wanted Him to unseat them, but He used an interesting terminology in addressing a future act by Him. Calling Himself the “son of man” He prophesied of an unspecified day in the future, when He would put His sheep at His right hand and the goats at His left.

  42. Jim F. on September 12, 2010 at 1:45 pm

    Eduard, why do you believe that the US Constitution is as sacred as the Doctrine and Covenants? Do you have some authoritative basis for that claim?

    And when you say that it is, to which Constitution do you refer, the one we presently have, the original one (sans amendments), or something in between?

    All: I apologize to all for the threadjack, but Eduard take a point of view that I think is growing in numbers in the Church.

  43. Kaimi on September 12, 2010 at 4:53 pm

    You mean, like this, Jim? http://www.mcnaughtonart.com/artwork/view_zoom/?artpiece_id=353

    Gotta love the original constitution, a document personally blessed by Jesus. It set out separation of powers, provided a political structure, disenfranchised women, recognized slavery, set out slaves as 3/5 of a person, and the constitution itself contains almost no protection against any kind of government overreaching.

  44. Dan on September 12, 2010 at 6:20 pm

    Eduard,

    What do they have in common?

    Dunno, but…honestly I have no idea what you are even talking about. I’m guessing you want us to think you’re an Abinadi facing down the evil King Noah who has fattened himself by gutting his people of their fortunes….or something…Who knows what that has to do with the Constitution. You make charges toward the “self-dealing Congressmen” who “separated us from God’s blessings.” You don’t offer evidence of how Congressmen can separate individual, free citizens of this country from God’s blessings, or even of how they are starving the Constitution of its meat. You’re like the stereotypical crazy man on street with a double sign hanging around his neck one side saying “repent” and the other side saying “the kingdom is at hand.” You use these words, like the crazy street dude, without having the authority to make such charges, because, not being a prophet, you don’t actually see the future to warn us about impending doom. You’re essentially a false prophet and no one should give heed to your words. You show a startlingly low understanding of the Constitution you apparently care about, or even the system which you chide. You’ve drunk your own kool-aid too much, and, honestly, once again, need to grow up.

  45. Stephen M (Ethesis) on September 13, 2010 at 6:37 am

    Funny, it wasn’t that long ago that to be a “real” Mormon you had to be a Democrat …

  46. Bob on September 13, 2010 at 8:09 am

    #45: Still is.

  47. Jonathan Langford on September 13, 2010 at 8:16 am

    Chanson: Good point (#32): “The rigidly-correlated curriculum prevents local units both from assimilating external doctrines and from “retrenching” by choosing to teach and emphasize uniquely Mormon doctrines.”

    On a broader point: As a creative writer, it’s my perspective that assimilation and celebration of cultural uniqueness aren’t necessarily as opposed as we sometimes think. Humans are quirky. Showing the quirkiness of Mormon life and thought may, ironically, make it easier for people to see, accept, and feel sympathy with us.

    This is something I’ve become more aware of as a result of my experiences with the publication of my 2009 novel, No Going Back–a novel which was intended for primarily Mormon consumption, which included an awful lot of the detail of Mormon life, and which at one point presents pretty bluntly the distinctly Mormon doctrines of (a) a married God and (b) humans becoming gods themselves. And yet a recent non-Mormon reader commented that the book shows Mormons as “just regular people.” I’ve had similar comments from other non-Mormon readers.

    My point: True acceptance on a human level doesn’t necessarily come from trying to look like everyone else. Rather, it can come from displays of difference–and from showing the common humanity that underlies those differences.

  48. Chelsea on September 13, 2010 at 8:46 am

    “My point: True acceptance on a human level doesn’t necessarily come from trying to look like everyone else. Rather, it can come from displays of difference–and from showing the common humanity that underlies those differences.”

    I refer to this as the Big Love approach. It often works.

  49. WJ on September 13, 2010 at 10:52 am

    Jim, sidestepping for the moment Eduard’s claim that the constitution is equally as inspired as the D&C, you seem concerned that this point of view is growing in the church, and I’m guessing that by your challenge to Eduard, you intend to stamp it out. My question is why do you view the belief that the constitution is an inspired document to be a pernicious one (if in fact you do)? And if you view the constitution as an uninspired document, what is your authoritative basis?

    And lets just go with the original constitution, the one without any amendments, including the 14th, the Bill of Rights, and so on. Just the bare-boned document ratified by the states (though, of course, with the promise of a Bill of Rights already in the air).

    Perhaps Kaimi has supplied your first answer, i.e. that the constitution is not inspired, and perhaps pernicious, because it disenfranchised slaves. If this is the case (and correct me if I’ve created a straw man), should we be concerned that some members consider the priesthood as inspired even though it at one time excluded most of the tribes of Israel, the gentiles, or blacks? Or is it possible that they both have been positively added to over time, all the while being inspired?

    I think it would be a mistake to equate “inspired” with “perfection.”

  50. Jonathan Langford on September 13, 2010 at 11:41 am

    For me, there’s a critical distinction between “The U.S. Constitution was inspired” (which I accept) and “The U.S. Constitution is as sacred as the Doctrine and Covenants” (which does not seem to me to be supported by LDS teachings).

    There’s a critical difference between “inspired” and “scripture,” in my view. Part of that difference relates to the point that WJ makes: that we don’t have any expectation that inspired things are necessarily perfect. We also don’t believe that scripture is necessarily perfect (see, for example, the admission in the Book of Mormon that there might be errors there), but it seems to me that we can’t really accept it as scripture unless we accept that it’s free from major error. That’s a higher bar than merely saying that something is inspired, or (which I think more accurately reflects LDS teachings about the U.S. Constitution) that the creators of a particular document were inspired.

    Eduard’s statement that the U.S. Constitution “gave inalienable rights to minorities under a universal God” does not reflect the language of the original Constitution, which (a) does not mention God, and (b) does not mention inalienable rights. It wasn’t until the Bill of Rights was enacted that there was any substantive mention of individual rights in the document. And characterizing the framers of the Constitution as “god-fearing entrepreneurs” shows some ignorance of who many of them actually were.

    The thing that concerns me about this is that it seems to me to reflect (in an extreme way) an all-too-frequent tendency among those who exalt the Constitution’s “inspired” status: that is, they read into the Constitution all kinds of things that aren’t actually there. It becomes a mirror of their own political beliefs, at the cost of its actual original meaning. Case in point: I recall the candidacy of Bo Gritz in 1992, which simultaneously proclaimed the Constitution as inspired (and not needing amendment) while also proposing abolishing the U.S. postal service, which is specifically established in the Constitution. I also find irony in the position of those who believe that because the Constitution was inspired, it shouldn’t change. Don’t we believe in continuing revelation? Then why can’t (and shouldn’t) there be inspired changes to an inspired document?

  51. b on September 13, 2010 at 11:55 am

    I believe Mohammed was also inspired, just like the framers of the Const. If, Eduard, you are willing to grant the same level of inspired-ness to the Koran as to the Const. then we can talk. But that’s just me being pig-headed.

    Even if you did, however, Eduard, that doesn’t rectify your lack of coherence or your fear-mongering.

    President Faust wrote: “However, we claim that God’s inspiration is not limited to the Latter-day Saints. The First Presidency has stated: “The great religious leaders of the world such as Mohammed, Confucius, and the Reformers, as well as philosophers including Socrates, Plato, and others, received a portion of God’s light. Moral truths were given to them by God to enlighten whole nations and to bring a higher level of understanding to individuals. … We believe that God has given and will give to all peoples sufficient knowledge to help them on their way to eternal salvation” (“Statement of the First Presidency regarding God’s Love for All Mankind,” 15 Feb. 1978).”

    Bottom line: the world changes, revelation changes. Hold your white horses a bit.

  52. Eduard A. Erdtsieck on September 13, 2010 at 12:21 pm

    The point Ms Wenger made, that the Church profile has continued to grow is a fact. Consider the propositions in my state, California – legalization of lottery to pay for education. It really didn’t, our school districts have not only funding cuts, but the more heinous deferrals of funding, which means districts have to pay interest to stay solvent. In California we no longer educate, many district’s are near bankcruptcy, giving the appearance of education, when in fact the educational process has diminished. Prop #8, the Marriage initiative is also failing and NOT, because it wasn’t worthy, but those who provided the evidence in Court were Christian cultists. Now, we must vote on a proposition to free marijuana users from the stigma of their habit.

    Why are worthy ideals loosing popularity among the public? These ideals are actually popular, but the deck is stacked against the voters. It is our lawmakers, who are no longer paying attention at the public’s behavior by allowing it to be taxed, while they exempt themselves and their friends from taxation. They are self-dealing, because in the last 20 years they have stopped being public servants. Lawmaking has become the most lucrative personal business. The Tea Party movements is evidence that our State and National leadership have gone their own way.

    The Constitution is a political intrument and it describes ways to amend it, if it is needed. A “leadership gone their own way” is not a constitutional problem and yet there are many, who are beginning to belief that dropping some amendments or changing it would help.

    Dan, I am glad you ask: what do the 4 situations, I listed, have in common? These men and woman faced an intractable situation that could have caused their ignominy or death. First, they appealed to likeminded people in the community. A free society allows for the expression of fairness or justness. Second, through prayer and fasting and pondering their dilemma; they were inspired by the Holy Spirit. Third, they called on God for assistance. God can reduce the density of the veil to allow miracles to happen.

    The story of Queen Esther is inspiring, because she is a Jew, who became the 2nd wife to a powerful king. Haman, a trusted Advisor did not like Jews and could not stop the king’s re-marriage. He wanted to hurt her, by secretly conspiring to kill Mordechai, her trusted mentor. But as secret lawmaking go; the implementation of this law would kill all the Jews. She called for a feast to tell, everyone there, of the outcome of Haman’s law. The call for the feast I think was inspired by the Holy Spirit. Think about her worst option, a powerful king, his trusted Advisor and a beautiful Queen. A beautiful Queen will never win in any other setting than the way she did it.

    I belief Mormons should base political re-action on the Wenthworth letter or the Articles of Faith. It was the document that caused Joseph Smith’s assasination. Religious value are not taken seriously, especially by lawmakers, because they are skilled observers of behavior and have learned to take advantage of voters inattention.

    The Prophet’s letter to Mr Wenthworth, a newspaperman did the opposite, it informed the world what the politcal impact would be, if the doctrines of Mormonism were to be realized. Joseph visited with President Van Buren in Washington to appeal for Constitutional protection for his congregation and was told, there would be no federal intervention to assist in the local disturbances, unless a Judge of federal Magistrate ordered it. Then governor Ford of Missouri signed the extermination order against all Mormons in that state.

    Who will take up the cudgel and go to Washington and demand in the name of a universal God to stop dividing the nation and abide by the Constitution? I don’t have the answer, because I am now in fantasy land. In the US increasingly everyone has a right to to enact their own fantasy, but for the Mormons, Christians and Muslims – will they have a place to live in righteousness?

    If your answer is: send the Prophet or the Twelve. Well, that’s not a way for a universal God.

  53. Thaddeus on September 13, 2010 at 1:25 pm

    Eduard,

    It’s “Why are worthy ideals losing popularity…”

    And I couldn’t agree more with your final assessment:

    “I am now in fantasy land.”

  54. Dan on September 13, 2010 at 5:08 pm

    I agree with Thaddeus. You’re in fantasy land, Eduard. Time to wake up to reality.

  55. Raymond Takashi Swenson on September 13, 2010 at 7:46 pm

    I think because of the unique nature of LDS doctrines and teachings, assimilation and retrenchment are directions we must pursue simultaneously.

    The simple fact is that most Christians have no idea what we Mormons believe, and the little they know is often false because of the deliberate distortions taught by their pastors.

    A project to make people understand that we are indeed Christians is ALSO an affirmation of our distinctiveness, because our distinctions make us MORE Christian in our doctrinal emphasis than someone who relies solely on the Bible or on Christian tradition.

    While we LDS accept the Book of Mormon, D&C and Pearl of Great Price as scripture in addition to the Bible, the fact is that the doctrine taught in all of those books is Christian doctrine, about the fundamental nature of the Atonement to salvation and our reliance on Jesus Christ to save and exalt us. Our added scripture points back to the Old and New Testaments with direct quotations (including the whole chapters of Isaiah and Malachi) and paraphrases (in Moses and Abraham) and commentary (in the BoM and D&C) explaining the Bible and its doctrines. As the BoM states in its title page, it boldly declares that Jesus Christ is the God of the whole earth, not just of Palestine 2,000 years ago. The visit of the exalted Christ to the Nephites is a declaration that Jesus is the risen Messiah and the incarnate Jehovah, who promises to return again to wind up the mission of the earth he created.

    There is no reason that a book named after a prophet (Mormon) can’t be scripture–after all, all of the prophetic books in the Old Testament are so named, as are the general epistles in the New Testament. There is no reason that a book named after principles (Doctrine and Covenants) can’t be scripture, just as a book titled Revelation is accepted as such.

    While many Christians, especially Evangelicals, like to talk about how wonderful it is to have JUST the Bible to rely on as their guide to God, the fact is that many Christians regard it as primarily an ancient book that has little direct relevance to modern life and which embodies a naive picture of supernatural beings being involved in our daily lives. Mormonism threatens that watering down of the authority of the Bible and its supernatural world view because it offers angels and Gods who appear to modern men “in an age of railways” as Charles Dickens put it. For many Christians, including professional clergy, the immanence of the supernatural that Mormonism trumpets is a threat to their ability to tie the Bible down in a net of modern Enlightenment interpretation and allegorization.

    I increasingly suspect that another aspect of Mormonism that threatens many traditional Christians, especially professional ministers, is the fact that Mormons have learned how to have a growing church without a class of professional clergy. Mormons mirror another threat to traditional congregations, the “house churches” that see no need for paid ministers, and even find them to be a relic of Roman paganism that conflicts with the earliest Christian practices.

    The more that we Mormons emphasize the strength of our devotion to Christ and the Atonement, the more it becomes apparent to other Christians that our Christian devotion is based on premises that threaten their approach to living as Christians, with our de facto ministerial calling for all worthy adult male Mormons, turned into a de jure one for missionaries, bishops, and other leadersm and our emphasis on the embodied, living Christ who is actively intervening in the affairs of humanity in the midst of the Last Days before his immanent Second Coming. Mormons deny the kind of Steady State Christianity, the business as usual that is the standard approach of most Christian denominations, no matter how much they may talk about Rapture.

    So it is impossible to talk about what joins us to other Christians without talking about what makes us distinctive. Indeed, the closer we get to living with and working alongside other Christians in any social or community endeavor, including political issues like Prop 8, the more we cannot avoid communicating to them that we see the calling of Christians as a duty of self-discipline and self-sacrifice, in which the focus of our efforts is not on repeatedly affirming our own status of being saved, but on offering salvation to the rest of mankind, living and dead, starting within our own families and ancestors.

  56. Eduard A. Erdtsieck on September 14, 2010 at 10:32 am

    The man with the answers, I am not. The One, who has the answers, Jesus, Christ is still not saying what is coming in our political future. But I accept that I am a “crazy dude” on the street with a sign “Repent” on one side and the “kingdom of God is coming” on its opposite. You don’t have to accept my interpretation, I am just another voice on the Internet.

    I understand this about the Word of God; the more I ponder them the more questions I have. Should I stop pondering; do I now give up seeking answers? What moves me? In addressing the issue of light/knowledge, Jesus and His Prophet Joseph, do not measure it in finite terms. Their measure is the idea of “Fullness” of knowledge. I think Joseph Smith spoke of it as “line upon line; precept upon precept”.

    Two documents that have been vital to the US being a priveleged receiver of God’s blessing are the Doctrine & Covenants and the US Constitution. Often the word that creates confusion is the verb “inspired” and “inspiration”. These words point to God as its source, but do not reveal the different paths each took to be part of our national history. In talking about the Constitution I think of it as the founders being “motivated”. Understanding its differing paths returns us to the concept of universal God. Ignoring it leads us to strange gods.

    The Doctrine & Covenants are strict rules for those called by God to organize and serve in His Church. There are other rules for those who in Faith desire to make their peace offering by repenting. The foot prints of the Holy Spirit are always present; to listen and obey the Father’s commandments. To emphasize that this is an important place; God, the Father appeared in person at the side of His Son, Jesus. It is His place and that is absolute. He is the Master of the household and we are children of God. He promotes the well being of the family.

    The US Constitution is the expression of the highest ideals by its founders and the people who approved it. The founders were wealthy, intelligent and well educated men, whose concept of what God is differed from each other. They all had a dislike for religious authorities, not what is in the scriptures, but the bloody outcomes of the reformation. They thought they were part of the UK, but the king considered them as a source of income for his wars.
    The people who approved the Constitution had escaped or knew someone who was oppressed by the intolerance of authority. The freedom they enjoyed “motivated” them to interprete the scriptures very generously. They thought everyone should be so lucky and enjoy it.

    The US Constitution is not a religious instrument. It is political, an instrument for granting rights. They knew slavery was oppresion, but found comfort that it was part of the scriptures. Many believed it was wrong, but had hope it might be corrected later.

    The essence of their political movement was to grant inalienable rights under a universal God in hope that He would take care of the freedom as they knew it.