I had a long conversation with J. Max recently about just why I generally like NOMs and even agree with a lot of what they say and do and feel they (potentially anyhow, if not in practice yet) could do the LDS Church a real service.
But there is one thing about that culture that has bothered me a lot, and it creates a huge divide that I don’t believe is bridgeable until addressed by them.
NOMs widely accept that it’s okay to hide (or worse, lie about) what they believe from Believing Members while actively undermining the faith of others through criticism. I have numerous documented cases of this now and it seems to be a very wide spread problem within that community.
Now, honestly, I can understand someone studying a Faith (including the LDS Church) and coming to the conclusion it’s not true and believing something else is true instead. If such a person then went on to try to “help others find the truth” it seems legitimate to me. I just can’t complain. I abhor deception, of course, but so long as the person is properly representing themself and are staying factual, I have no complaints whatosever. (I would hold up Owens and Mosser as great examples of this.)
I can also understand believing you don’t know anything for certain and acting that part. By definition this does not include the ability to claim you know for certain some theology isn’t true. Having concerns with an explanation (for that is what a theology is) isn’t the same as knowing it to be wrong. Only an alternate explain (i.e. alternative theology) can truly disprove a faulty explanation entirely.
And, as I insisted to J. Max, I’m completely sympathetic to hiding your beliefs because you want peace with your believing family members. This seems prudent and wise to me if that is your personal choice.
But I just can’t deal with hiding your beliefs while also actively criticizing other people’s beliefs. It doesn’t matter even if you are right, it’s still an immoral thing to do.
Following the FAIR Conference, Greg Smith corresponded directly with both Todd and Laura Compton after hearing that Todd felt his views relative to Joseph and polygamy were misrepresented. In the ensuing correspondence Greg clarified his understanding and expressed a willingness to add clarifications that fairly represented Todd’s views on the matter…. Despite repeated and pointed requests for correction and clarification… Todd cordially declined to definitively state whether he believed Joseph’s revelations on polygamy reflected God’s will or not. He would only say that the word “mistake” was not one that he would have used. He declined to provide any better description or wording.
I personally went through years of intense and unnecessary pain due in part to Compton specifically refering to himself as a “believing Mormon,” so I’m probably not the one to fairly judge him and what he’s done.
But I feel I can judge an answer like the above as wrong and maybe even immoral.
Updated: In fairness to Laura, she feels Greg just didn’t give Todd a chance to put things into his own words, so I may have jumped the gun. However, see comments below for full nuanced understanding of this thorny issue that isn’t really resolved as of yet.
Update June 04 2011: As suggested in the thread below, I did email Todd and talk to him. He was unwilling to answer any questions about his beliefs about the LDS Church’s truth claims. He initially said that the reason why was because they are complicated and he didn’t have time. I then asked him to simply tell me if he honestly believed that the people in the Book of Mormon were real people or if they were not real people. This is, obviously, not a time consuming questions. He refused to answer the question.