Following our ironclad policy of posting opposing viewpoints only if they’re funny, we post the following, which we have received from Aloysius Miller aka Kaimipono Wenger aka the Great Oz. Kudos to the reader who can spot all 7 of the edits we made before posting, just because we could.*
Because the scope of my personal belief has been raised in posts here and elsewhere, I hereby present this brief discussion, All About Me.
Q. Are you witty like Adam?
A. Alas, no.
Q. Have you ever posted at The Foyer, as Adam claims?
A. Yes. I’ve posted there under the handle, “Cafeteria Mormon.”
Q. What is that board?
A. It’s a message board where mostly former Mormons talk about church and other issues.
Q. How did this chain of events come about?
A. It all started a couple of years ago when I was grading exams, and looking for a badly needed diversion. I saw a foyer link to a nacle post, and followed it back. I then got into an argument there about whether Terryl Givens is a real scholar. (My opinion: He is.)
I started out with the handle The Blogger of Nacle, and later adopted the simpler Cafeteria Mormon handle.
Q. Is it true that the folks over there eat babies?
A. Not very often.
I’ve had a number of interesting discussions at The Foyer. There are many good people over there, and I’ve made a number of friends in the group. (Hi there, Wry, Equality, Linc, Bel, Fig.) Their conversational norms are a little different than the nacle. And like any community, they’ve got some members who I like more than others. There are even a few trolls.
The truth is also that I’ve been a little less active over there lately. I haven’t posted there for at least six months; and even before then, my postings there had tailed off significantly, with very little since last summer. There are various reasons for this. One was fit — I liked many people there and enjoyed some of the discussions, but I did clash at times with community norms (I often come across as an apologist in Foyer discussions). A second reason was time — I barely have time for the blogs that I blog at.
Q. Do you agree with Adam’s characterization (points 82-88 or so in his multi-point brief) of your Foyer postings?
A. I believe that some of Adam’s summaries are accurate, and others are very inaccurate.
Q. Is it true that you used cuss words in some of your Foyer posts? Do you cuss in real life?
A. I have been known to cuss from time to time, especially when hammer-thumb accidents happen, or when someone else is wrong on the internet.
Q. Did you tell Adam your Foyer identity?
A. Yes. I told him on the T&S backlist, and requested that the information be kept in confidence.
Q. He did ask you before posting it then, right?
A. (Cough, cough.) (Crickets.) (Cussing.)
Q. Your beliefs sound pretty heterodox. Are you a Cafeteria Mormon?
A. If I weren’t, I probably would have picked a different handle, no?
As my friend Mark Brown has stated, we’re all cafeteria Mormons, but only some of us admit it. I do find the label helpful, because to me it means that I try to draw on the good in LDS culture and theology to help build myself and my family, and to help us come closer to the Divine. I’ve discussed (at the Foyer and elsewhere) some of the many good things that I draw from the church.
My own belief system is somewhat heterodox, yes. It is complicated, as beliefs often are, and a fair amount of my belief is personal and private, and relates to personal spiritual experience. However, I’m happy to discuss the general contours.
In general, my soteriology is substantially more universal than an orthodox LDS soteriology. (I’m using theological terms and I think I’m using them correctly, but I may be wrong). That is, I don’t see the church as an exclusive conduit to God. I think it can be a very effective conduit to God. However, I reject the claims that the church is a sole avenue to God.
I realize that those claims are a standard part of Mormon theology, and so my rejection of them makes me heterodox in that sense. I don’t believe that exclusivity claims are foundational to Mormonism. (If they were, then my rejection of them would make me effectively not a Mormon.)
However, I view the core of Mormonism not about saying what other churches don’t do, but about asserting what Mormonism can itself do. That is, I see the foundation of Mormonism as a positive framework — “this is an avenue which can take you to God” — rather than as a claim to exclusivity. (And I do think that there is a lot in this view that is consistent with statements from Joseph Smith, Brigham Young, and other prophets, though obviously many of their statements give support for more orthodox views on exclusivity as well).
Corollary to my universalist soteriology is a belief that Mormonism isn’t for everyone. It is a useful tool for approaching God, and works well for many people. However, I don’t believe that everyone must fit into the Mormon mold in order to commune with God; and I think that, for some people, other faith traditions are probably a better fit.
I also recognize that other approaches to Mormonism (including some very orthodox approaches) work very well for some people. I have no intention of trying to disrupt their spiritual equilibrium. I think that the statement from Alma is correct, that we should not seek to interrupt others’ rejoicing. I don’t begrudge others their approach to the church or to God. I think that my approach — viewing Mormonism as a conduit to God, and seeking to draw the good from it — absolutely brings me within the umbrella of Mormonism.
Also corollary to my universalist theology — or perhaps in conjunction with it — is a belief that there is much positive in many different faith traditions (including the LDS tradition, but others as well) and that I personally can benefit from learning how others approach the Divine. I believe in seeking for righteousness in all places. (And there is *definitely* support for this idea in the writings of Joseph Smith.)
Q. Have you been hiding this heterodoxy from us for all these years?
A. I confuse the unwary by using words like soteriology. And I hide the ball with lengthy and detailed personal posts like this one: http://timesandseasons.org/index.php/2005/12/why-do-i-believe-and-what-do-i-believe/ .
Q. Do you have an axe to grind?
A. Actually, the ancient Mayans used stone adzes instead, so when it says “axe” in the Book of Mormon, we should read it that way.
But no, I don’t believe that I have any particular adze to grind. There are aspects of church culture that I find troubling, yes. Sometimes these merit discussion and analysis, and I enjoy having these discussions on the blog. I learn things from discussion, and I find support from friends. I do try (probably not always successfully) to keep these discussions respectful.
I was the original drafter of the T&S comment policy, which states:
“As a general matter, Times and Seasons is a forum for believing members or for others who are willing to respect members’ beliefs. Commenters do not need to believe in the Church, but comments that suggest that all believers are per se unintelligent or uninformed are not welcome. On the flip side, it is also unacceptable to call into question a commenter’s personal righteousness.”
I still strongly support that approach. I don’t wish to impose my beliefs on others, or to tell them that their own approach to communing with God is wrong. I’m no expert, and I’m still learning about communing with God — and I expect that I will be for the rest of this journey
Q. Are you trying to lead T&S to hell? Are you trying to de-convert people?
A. I don’t speak for my co-bloggers as to matters of belief. I’m sure that many (most? all?) of them disagree with me on my more heterodox views. I’m not in charge of T&S, and I certainly don’t wish to impose my belief system on any of my co-bloggers.
In general, I want to respect people’s different approaches to the church. I recognize that my own approach to God is personal and eclectic, and I don’t claim that it’s right for everyone. I don’t wish to disrupt others’ approaches to God. I have never (and will never) post statements at T&S like “the church is not true.” I also try to avoid direct statements saying that church doctrines are wrong, even in areas (such as same-sex marriage) where I have been critical of some specific legal statements. (I.e., I have never posted that “church doctrine on same-sex marriage is wrong.”) My goal of respectful discussion is an aspiration and I’m sure that I miss it sometimes, but it is my goal.
Q. Are you active in your ward?
Q. What callings do you hold?
A. Elders Quorum instructor, ward photographer, choir accompanist. Until late last year, I was also ward organist and substitute primary pianist. (Yes, five callings.) And home teacher, of course. M. only has one calling, but it’s a big one — she’s the ward YW president.
Q. When was the last time you gave a Book of Mormon away to a non-member, with your testimony?
A. Middle of last year.
Q. When was the last time you participated in a ward service project? Helped a family move in or out of the ward? Spoke in church?
A. Service project (scout project — weeding a big field at the state park), last Saturday. Moved someone, about four months ago. Spoke in church, a couple months ago.
Q. If you’re the one corrupting the youth of Athens, why did Adam have to drink the hemlock?
A. I switched the urns when no one was looking.
(1). To my recollection, KW’s statement that he asked me to keep his Cafeteria Mormon secret is simply false, though that doesn’t matter much
(2). KW is trying to make it sound like the main issue here is his universalism (i.e, his idea that Wiccanism is just as true and just as false as Mormonism). It isn’t. I could work with a universalist coblogger if he weren’t preachy about it. Its the lack of belief in the Book of Mormon and Joseph Smith that crosses a line for me. Its advising someone who rejects the gospel to accept a calling in the bishopric and then advising that person on how best to push that person’s agenda in that position. If blogging were a service project then maybe I’d care more that you find your local Mormon ward a more convenient venue for doing service than your local coven. But it isn’t and I don’t.
(3) Saying that most Mormons are cafeteria Mormons is a slur on most Mormons. Most Mormons believe the gospel, believe the Book of Mormon, believe in Joseph Smith, believe the prophets are prophets, believe the Church is true, and believe in the reality of the priesthood. Most Mormons try hard to accept and understand what the Church teaches and don’t feel like they get to pick and choose what’s true and what isn’t in our doctrine and theology.
*This was a joke.