Hit and Miss

June 22, 2012 | 29 comments
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I’m not quite up to creating original content today, so I’m going to link and comment to a few posts and articles that caught my eye. It’s really amazing how much coverage Mormonism is getting lately compared to a few years ago.

Bloggernacle posts:

  • Believing Christ, Revisited, a series at Feast Upon the Word Blog by Joe Spencer discussing Stephen Robinson’s classic book. I think it’s about time they shortened the blog name to Feast Upon the Blog, don’t you?
  • Review of the Patheos Guide to Mormonism, by Keven Barney at BCC. This Patheos guide is authored by Steven Taysom of JI. The short guide uses a standard template, covering origins, history, beliefs, rituals and worship, and ethics and community. It might be worth sampling some of the other Patheos guides.
  • How do we offer pastoral care? at ZD. This is a real weakness for Mormonism and a real problem for those who need quality pastoral counseling and don’t get it. Four comments? This topic deserves a hundred comments.
  • Do scientists understand the origin of life? at Science Meets Religion. I’m just happy that, despite fifty years of misguided commentary by CES blockheads, LDS scientists are still fighting the good fight and deign to contribute to the Bloggernacle.
  • What are we Mormons building online? by Andrew S at Wheat and Tares. Kinda longish, but it’s always worth reflecting a bit on the nature and function of LDS online communities. Apparently Sunstone is going to kick this around at an upcoming panel. It would be nice if a solid Bloggernacler showed up on the panel to defend our turf.

Off-Bloggernacle posts:

  • Why Mormons flee their church, at USA Today by journalist Carrie Sheffield (who attended BYU then spiraled out of the Church after a failed attempt to deal with the usual doctrinal and historical issues; read her story here). Hey, I’ve got more sympathy for former Mormons than the average member, but if you’re going to then write about that exit experience as a journalist, remember Journalism 101: get the facts right and don’t let overt bias overwhelm your story. The fact is that the LDS Church has a year-to-year membership gain: every year more people join than leave, a terribly relevant FACT not noted in the story which carries a headline with a BIASED and loaded term (“flee”) that misleadingly suggests an ongoing net loss of membership. Perhaps this explains why subscribers are fleeing mainstream media publications? They actually *are* suffering net subscriber losses, likely because they typically don’t get facts straight and too often let bias drive their stories. The Church will still be growing when the only place you can find newspapers is in a museum.
  • Mormonism isn’t like a string of Christmas lights, at WaPo by Melissa Inouye, critiquing the “one strike and you’re out” approach to dealing with LDS doctrine and history. This article at the Deseret News gives some biographical information on Inouye: she is “a Latter-day Saint who holds a PhD from Harvard in East Asian Language and Civilizations and who currently lives in Hong Kong.” Nice work, Dr. Inouye.

If you like this sort of thing, Modern Mormon Men does a similar post from time to time: see here for the most recent post. It’s really clever how they anticipated my use of the “Off-Bloggernacle” term.

29 Responses to Hit and Miss

  1. Andrew S. on June 22, 2012 at 2:43 pm

    This post is definitely a “hit” IMO.

    As for the Sunstone panel — unless something comes up in their schedules — we should be having Rachael and Kaimi (both from here) as “solid Bloggernaclers” (unless you doubt either of these folks’ credentials…) There are a few other names being tossed around, but it really just depends…

  2. Michael on June 22, 2012 at 3:33 pm

    Why not just “Feast Blog” … hmmm, I might just take that.

  3. Dan on June 22, 2012 at 4:44 pm

    Dave,

    get the facts right and don’t let overt bias overwhelm your story.

    you mean like your comments here toward her? Like this

    The fact is that the LDS Church has a year-to-year membership gain: every year more people join than leave,

    I guess it depends on what you mean by leave. Obviously if you mean have their names removed from the record, then yeah, you’re right, there are more baptisms than there are excommunications. Surely Elder Marlin K Jensen understand this, but yet he said, as she quoted, that members are leaving “in droves.” So what does “leaving” mean?

    And furthermore, you’re attacking her with the “journalism 101″ cudgel, but you notice where this piece is at? Yeah, in the Column section, NOT news. Opinion. Just like your opinion that her opinion sucks.

    Finally, what’s with the attack on newspapers, and what does it have to do with the price of tea in China? You prove by LINKING to her piece that newspapers are alive and doing just fine, in another format, on the web. You didn’t create an image of her article from a hard copy that you received in your mailbox. You took it from their WEBSITE!

    Personally i don’t think her piece is well written, but your attack against her is lame and seems more based on a reflexive desire to protect the church rather than the truth.

  4. KLC on June 22, 2012 at 4:49 pm

    Speaking of reflexive Dan…

  5. Ardis E. Parshall on June 22, 2012 at 5:03 pm

    More people than ever are reading newspapers these days, but that doesn’t mean they’re “doing just fine” when revenue — you don’t pay for (most of? any of?) those online papers you read, Dan — is failing, papers are closing,and staff are shrinking. Dave’s point about subscribers is true and makes a good analogy. One consequence of declining revenue is a tendency for even respectable newspapers to make the most of what they do have by writing provocative and not terribly responsible headlines.

    I’ve already seen all your linked stories, Dave, but am always glad to see roundups like this to be sure I’m not missing something that one of the good guys recommends.

  6. Dave on June 22, 2012 at 5:16 pm

    Dan, Dan, Dan. The central point of my commentary on the post is that “Mormons flee their church” is misleading — it is. There are factual scenarios where one could use the word “flee” and not be misleading, such as the negative net flow of subscribers for most newspapers. I know how upset factual statements can make you, and I apologize if that has happened here. If I repeat this feature again, I will include on your behalf a section titled “wildly speculative liberal political posts.”

    The story identified the author as a journalist, which naturally gives the narrative (published in a newspaper) more credibility, but also implies a duty to journalistic ethics concerning things like facts and general veracity. If journalists feel entitled to be as misleading in their published statements and claims as the average commenter in their unmanaged comment sections, they ought to make that disclaimer explicit.

  7. Adam G. on June 22, 2012 at 6:02 pm

    Dave B.,
    I really enjoyed this post. Be lazy more often. ;)

  8. Dan on June 22, 2012 at 10:44 pm

    Dave, Dave, Dave,

    since we’re being snippy,

    The story identified the author as a journalist,

    Um, no, the story identified the author as a “writer”.

    The central point of my commentary on the post is that “Mormons flee their church” is misleading — it is.

    um, it isn’t misleading. She quotes a general authority, who ought to know about the matter. Or are you suggesting Elder Jensen doesn’t know what he’s talking about?

    I know how upset factual statements can make you

    i welcome factual statements dude. But you don’t provide many.

  9. Dan on June 22, 2012 at 10:50 pm

    From the article that the “writer” links

    http://uk.reuters.com/article/2012/01/30/uk-mormonchurch-idUKTRE80T1CP20120130

    Jensen, the church’s official historian, would not provide any figures on the rate of defections, but he told Reuters that attrition has accelerated in the last five or 10 years, reflecting greater secularization of society. Many religions have been suffering similarly, he noted, arguing that Mormonism has never been more vibrant.

    “I think we are at a time of challenge, but it isn’t apocalyptic,” he said.

    The LDS church claims 14 million members worldwide — optimistically including nearly every person baptized. But census data from some foreign countries targeted by clean-cut young missionaries show that the retention rate for their converts is as low as 25 percent. In the U.S., only about half of Mormons are active members of the church, said Washington State University emeritus sociologist Armand Mauss, a leading researcher on Mormons.

    Sociologists estimate there are as few as 5 million active members worldwide.

    Hard NOT to conclude that members are “fleeing”. Not that i would use that word, but it’s pretty clear that Elder Jensen has said that attrition has ACCELERATED.

    So that’s a swing and a miss for Dave.

  10. Dave on June 22, 2012 at 11:42 pm

    Dan, I think you have all the makings of a fine journalist.

    Here’s from her Wikipedia page: “Carrie Sheffield is a writer and political analyst based in New York City. Sheffield is a former editorial writer for The Washington Times, a reporter for Politico, and The Hill newspaper. In 2009, Sheffield won funding from Harvard University to serve as a correspondent for The Jerusalem Post in Israel.” So she’s a JOURNALIST.

    Have you ever seen a disgruntled Mormon running from a chapel on Sunday as one might run from a burning building? That’s fleeing. If you’re describing someone running away from a tsunami, fleeing is a descriptive word. Used to describe someone leaving the LDS Church, it’s a misleading term at best. Your admission that you would not use the word suggests that you, in fact, AGREE WITH ME on that point. Thank you.

  11. Dan on June 23, 2012 at 8:02 am

    Dave,

    No matter what she says on her wikipedia, in the article in USAToday, they have her down as a “writer” in the Opinion section. She’s NOT a journalist. Just like Charles Krauthammer is NOT a journalist. Oh and “fleeing” churches is actually a common term, Dave. Consider this book. Or just do a google search for “fleeing churches” and you’ll see it’s quite a common term. It’s not meant to be literal, as if someone is literally running for their lives out of a building. Seriously, Dave. You may disagree with her, but the only reason i am commenting on this is that you’ve wrongfully attacked her. I wouldn’t use the word fleeing personally, but I agree with her usage. And she backed up her argument with an authority from the church.

  12. Dave on June 23, 2012 at 8:49 am

    Yes she IS a journalist, Dan — that’s just a fact. I’m right and you’re wrong. Just read her bio. And your defense of her misuse of the term “flee” (while at the same time noting you would NOT use the term) is simply inconsistent. Yes, people have a right to speak their mind even if they’re wrong, but that doesn’t mean we are obliged to agree with them. If they are misleading people to further their own agenda or to justify themselves, it is even more troubling.

    How about if I described people joining the LDS Church as people “swarming” to join the LDS Church? That image is equally misleading. I just don’t see why you feel inclined to defend what you admit to be a misleading (as you wouldn’t use it yourself) term.

    Her citation to Elder Jensen does not justify her misleading assertions. LDS leaders have always been concerned about those who leave (not “flee”) the Church. Elder Jensen’s discussion of the problem is in the same vein and is nothing more than a candid discussion of a topic that has always been of concern to LDS leaders.

  13. Dan on June 24, 2012 at 6:53 am

    Dave,

    Yes she IS a journalist, Dan — that’s just a fact.

    She may be, but you are now moving the goalposts. Here’s what you said

    The story identified the author as a journalist,

    The story did NOT identify her as a journalist. The story identified her as a writer. YOU identify her as a journalist from external sources, NOT from the story. Don’t move the goalposts just because you dislike what she wrote.

    How about if I described people joining the LDS Church as people “swarming” to join the LDS Church?

    Not a bad usage. I personally wouldn’t use it, but i wouldn’t make a ruckus if someone else uses it. And i wouldn’t attack you if you did. That’s what OPINION people are free to do. NOT journalists.

  14. R. Gary on June 24, 2012 at 7:41 pm

    Re: “fifty years of misguided commentary by CES blockheads”

    Really!!  Do you honestly believe that for the past fifty years, eight Church Presidents and 36 apostles have been completely powerless to wrest control of LDS Seminary and Institute manuals away from a rogue group of misguided blockheads?

  15. Ben S. on June 24, 2012 at 8:20 pm

    I think they’ve been occupied with more important things, Gary.

  16. Seattle Jon on June 24, 2012 at 8:44 pm

    Appreciate the head nod at the end, Dave. Keep up the good non-original work!

  17. R. Gary on June 24, 2012 at 8:47 pm

    Of course, Ben. There must be a million things more important than teaching correct doctrine to the next generation.

  18. Ben S. on June 24, 2012 at 10:08 pm

    They should stop traveling and teaching in person, and instead handwrite all the Institute manuals as God dictates.

    I was at an event with Elder Eyring. He told a story about meeting with a group of Stake Presidents, and was asked a question. He gave an expansive answer about what they should do. One responded, “That partly runs against what the Church Handbook of Instructions says.”

    Eyring’s response? “Really? Well then do what the Handbook says.”

    If an Apostle with a PhD can be unaware of policy important enough to be laid out in the Handbook, then I don’t have any illusion that the Institute manuals from the 1970s that quote scholarship from the 1890s represent detailed Apostolic will and involvement.

  19. R. Gary on June 24, 2012 at 11:11 pm

    Wow, Ben. That would be proof positive that none of the FP/12 even care what a few misguided blockheads say in Seminary and Institute manuals. If that were true, those publications would be fraudulent, not actually Church approved. But they are not fraudulent. They were prepared and published under the direction of the FP/12. And the completely overhauled 2009 Book of Mormon manual affirms the older manuals regarding the origin of man.

  20. palerobber on June 25, 2012 at 10:45 am

    every year more people join than leave

    that’s not true unless you measure “leave” by name removal instead of self-identification, which would be silly.

    still, i agree about the bad headline.

  21. palerobber on June 25, 2012 at 11:12 am

    @ Ben #18

    doesn’t your reply here just go to R. Gary’s larger point? why exactly is it so difficult to get institute manuals to actually reflect official church doctrine on evolution? it’s weird.

  22. clark on June 25, 2012 at 12:07 pm

    Dan (3) I guess it depends on what you mean by leave. Obviously if you mean have their names removed from the record, then yeah, you’re right, there are more baptisms than there are excommunications.

    Even by self-identification studies the Church is growing. It’s just not growing relative to the population growth of the country. i.e. it’s not growing fast enough to significantly change the percent of the population that is Mormon.

  23. clark on June 25, 2012 at 12:10 pm

    palerobber (21) why exactly is it so difficult to get institute manuals to actually reflect official church doctrine on evolution?

    Not just on that point. There are lots of head shaking sections in the manuals. At least the Book of Mormon one got a bit of an update. However the other ones are at least as bad, if not worse. (D&C manual I’m looking at you) Why they haven’t had an update in something like 40 years is frankly mind boggling. Especially considering how much new scholarship has come out on LDS scripture the past two decades. (Often funded by the Church!)

  24. Dan on June 25, 2012 at 12:38 pm

    clark,

    Why they haven’t had an update in something like 40 years is frankly mind boggling. Especially considering how much new scholarship has come out on LDS scripture the past two decades. (Often funded by the Church!)

    As with all monopolies, where there is no competition, there is no drive to excel. and you get stuck with things from 40 years ago.

  25. Sonny on June 25, 2012 at 12:53 pm

    Dan,

    As with all monopolies, where there is no competition, there is no drive to excel. and you get stuck with things from 40 years ago.

    Using that logic the Church never would have ‘drive’ to improve lds.org and other internet offerings, which continually get better and better.

    I think it simply comes down to resources and priorities.

  26. Ben S. on June 25, 2012 at 6:13 pm

    Palerobber, that presumes there IS “official doctrine”, does it not? I’d much prefer that manuals represent the accurate spectrum of LDS views on a topic when there is no clear revelation.

    Gary, apparently the FP and QottT approved of Dan Peterson’s joke too, since it was going to be printed and distributed all over the world in multiple translations. I’ve heard that story from his own mouth, but that was the first place I found online via google. It cuts pretty strongly against your view that we should take Church manuals with such high authority and involvement.

  27. Dan on June 25, 2012 at 8:40 pm

    Sonny,

    Using that logic the Church never would have ‘drive’ to improve lds.org and other internet offerings, which continually get better and better.

    Ah, but with the internet the church DOES have competition. If the church did not put its name out there, get a decent website, and be proactive, then all your top google searches for “Mormon” would end up at anti-mormon sites. Competition!

  28. Sonny on June 25, 2012 at 10:06 pm

    Dan,

    I had a feeling you would reply as such. I’m talking specifically about resources for members and not resources for non-members to learn about the Church (like Mormon.org, etc). And this improvement started WAY before the church learned much about SEO (search engine optimization).

  29. Dan on June 27, 2012 at 4:18 pm

    i’m also talking about resources for members. If the church puts out crappy material, members are going to search the internet for better stuff. Thus there is indeed competition on that front.