Junior Ganymede
We endeavor to give satisfaction

Todd Compton and New Order Mormon Standards of Truth

February 23rd, 2010 by Bruce Nielson

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.

I came across the following recently that illustrates the problem:

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.

Comments (91)
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February 23rd, 2010 17:01:12
91 comments

Adam Greenwood
February 24, 2010

Could you elaborate on the Todd Compton thing? Email me if you prefer.

And, yeah, as to your general point, as you well know I hear you loud and clear.

An issue of that ilk originally led to the creation of this blog, did it not?


gst
February 24, 2010

I thought the tone of that FAIR presentation was a bit smart-alecky and off-putting.


Bruce Nielson
February 24, 2010

Well, I didn’t see it. I only read it. So I must have read in a less smart-alecky tone.


gst
February 24, 2010

Well I too only read it.

And I make my comment as one who generally supports FAIR’s aims.


Bruce Nielson
February 24, 2010

“An issue of that ilk originally led to the creation of this blog, did it not?”

Yes, I suppose you’re right. This is going to be a real challenge for both communities for a while, I think.


Kaimi
February 24, 2010

Interesting thoughts, Bruce, and a helpful explanation of where you’re at.

One concern which I hope you’d address, is how this theory should intersect with reasonable expectation of privacy? There are a *lot* of components of people’s lives that we don’t know. It’s likely that 50%+ of any given ward member’s men have occasional or regular issues with porn. Do we want to know each person’s issues? Is Bro. Smith obliged to point out, before teaching EQ, that he looked at Playboy last month? This may be an appropriate topic for discussion with Bro. Smith’s bishop, or wife, or best friend, or marriage counselor. But how much do we really want to open the conversation? Is everyone in the ward entitled to know it?

I have friends with concerns or doubts about portions of LDS doctrine or culture or its application, and in my observation, it’s normal to talk about these kinds of things with one’s friends, close family members, and the like. Many folks are just fine talking about their beliefs in a safe space.

On the other hand, discussions with strangers on the internet are anything but a safe space. Internet interlocutors can be incredibly hostile and cruel. And there are many amateur apologists in those ranks.

If I’ve got a friend who has doubts about some aspect of church doctrine, should I really encourage her to openly discuss them in the ward or on the internet, thus opening herself up to whatever cruelties the peanut gallery sees fit to inflict on her? Personal belief is a very personal and sensitive topic, and folks may be understandably hesitant to expose their private thoughts and feelings to attack and ridicule. Why cast pearls before swine?


Tom Haws
February 24, 2010

I think the idea of “fully believing” is nuanced and complex. For that reason, I like the phrasing used at the Stay LDS forums:

Traditional Believers instead of TBMs
Heterodox instead of unbeliever

The idea is that seeing things differently doesn’t necessarily translate to disbelief. It’s just different belief.

I have no doubt Todd Compton believes just as fully as do you, even if he puts his reliance and emphasis on different aspects of the religion.


Kaimi
February 24, 2010

As a side note, Bruce, I find your example a little odd.

You cite Greg Smith:

“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.”

You then characterize Todd’s actions as immoral.

I think it’s an odd definition of morality to state that declining to elaborate on one’s views about the divinity or non-divinity of polygamy is an immoral act. Or especially, that giving an answer and then blocking follow up interrogatories from a FAIR polemicist.

People frame their beliefs in their own language. Others trying to pin them down often do so for some adversarial reason.

Greg Smith’s own article seeks to pre-emptively block any interrogation about his own sensitive spots. Take a look at his footnote 33:

“I’ve no doubt that someone out in cyberspace will immediately point to all this as “cognitive dissonance” in action. I was (in their telling) faced with an irreconcilable problem, fell back on emotion, and got relief. Well, if that just-so story helps them sleep better at night, they are welcome to it. (There—we’ve solved their cognitive dissonance.) But, none of them are in my brain. None of them knows about the deep intellectual and moral comfort and learning that my research has brought me which was quite unexpected and unlooked for. And, of far more importance, they apparently do not know what it is to be clasped in the arms of Jesus, or to hear the still small voice of the Father while in mental or emotional darkness. I can pity such people, but you must pardon me for not crediting their armchair psychoanalysis of someone they have never met.”

Greg is right to characterize his own belief in his own language, and to tell critics to go bug off. Only Greg knows his belief.

Similarly, none of you are in Todd’s brain. Or mine. Some folks (cough) seem to think they know what others are thinking, like Greg’s critics who he pre-emptively engages. But if I can borrow a line from Greg, I don’t much credit the armchair psychoanalysis — or for that matter, the armchair PPI — of someone I’ve never met.


Bruce Nielson
February 24, 2010

“I have no doubt Todd Compton believes just as fully as do you, even if he puts his reliance and emphasis on different aspects of the religion.”

It would be nice for him to explain this rather than give duplicit answers like the above.

Kaimi,

No one is armchair psychoanalyzing you. But I have asked you to explain what unique truth claims of the LDS Church you *do* believe and you declined to answer at all. Yes, this does bother me and, to me, calls your integrity and motives into question.

I don’t see how this is anything but a decision to not allow your beliefs to be criticized while participating on the bloggernacle and openly criticizing other people’s (often cherished) beliefs. If you are willing to stick your neck out and explain your own beliefs (thus opening yourself up to equal criticism as you give out) then I will honestly not care what you believe, I’ll only see it as a valid part of the ongoing dialog. John Dehlin finally did this and I respect him greatly for it. In my opinion, the highest compliment I can pay to John is to take his beliefs and criticize him back. It means I’m taking him and his concerns seriously (which I do.)

I do not see how the rest of your examples are at all relevant to that core problem I’m expressing. How does privacy issues have anything to do with this? Are you only privately raising issues with other people’s beliefs or faith? Or are you doing it on the internet sometimes quite openly? You choose on your own what subjects you are going to remaining private on.

Let’s use Todd as an example. He decided to specifically write a book where he specifically took a stance on the issue of polygamy and marshaled his best evidence that it was non-divine. This was a strong theme throughout the entire book.

In and of itself I see nothing wrong with this. But he has now given up the moral right to not explain what he personally believes as an alternative. Failure to stick with this rule doesn’t make him courageous. But in any case, there is no privacy being violated because no one forced him to take a stance in the first place. He could have, as you pointed out, stayed quite private with his beliefs. But to setup a situation where you can criticize without being criticized really is cowardly. It violates my sense of “rightness” on how dialog should (or must, if it’s to be productive) handled.


Bruce Nielson
February 24, 2010

I am using the word “criticism” throughout and I believe this is the right word. But it occurs to me that some people associate this with contention, which is not my intent in this case.

Perhaps it will help to realize that I’m speaking in the Popperian sense of conjecture and refutation. Maybe “refute” or “attempt to refute” would be a better way to express myself.

In any case, what I am specifically accusing Compton of is refutation without offering conjectures of his own.


Kaimi
February 24, 2010

Bruce,

A lot of scholars in this area engage in various “I’d rather not talk about it” exercises.

Take a look at Rough Stone Rolling. Richard Bushman conspicuously avoids drawing conclusions on a number of controversial topics.

To use your own topic here — RSR deals with Joseph Smith polygamy. Does Bushman think that polygamy as practiced came from God? Does he think that it has other explanations? On that issue, and several others, Bushman sets out some facts, and then steps back and lets the reader decide how to interpret the evidence.

Is this a bad thing? Is RSR a bad book (or immoral) because Richard Bushman refuses to check off either Box A, “It came straight from God’s mouth” or Box B, “Joseph made it all up”?


Laura Compton
February 24, 2010

Blog posts are such a hard way to communicate with one another, aren’t they?
The immediacy of comments and innuendo-based on tidbits of information from one side or another aren’t always the best way to explain nuanced belief, and there’s always the added pressure to express yourself quickly and succinctly before the conversation gets out of hand. Not to mention the reality that whatever you write will be available to search engines as long as the technology exists.

Greg’s paragraph was the end result of some very long and detailed discussions on a Mormon-related email list where he popped in to the community to explain himself and then popped right back out again even before the discussion was complete. Todd is not a part of that online community, but I am.

The larger discussion Greg inserted himself into centered around taking quotes out of context in order to prove a point or support a hypothesis. Greg’s presentation was seen as an example which fit into that larger discussion, as he used language to describe Todd’s view of Joseph’s polygamy which Todd would never use. When he was advised that the group was discussing his FAIR presentation, he came to the table and rather impatiently demanded the group (and I, in particular) address the specific questions related only to his paper separate and apart from the larger discussion in order for him to notate the web version of his presentation. Unfortunately, in his eagerness and zeal to get a quick answer and be done, and in my need and desire to have a more in-depth discussion, the conversation with him within the group ended. He was able to connect with Todd outside of the group, but I cannot speak to those conversations, as I was not part of them.

Beginning a discussion with a chip on a shoulder, whether on a blog or in an electronic community or in real life really is not an effective way to reach understanding and communication. It kind of puts everyone on the defensive first, needing to justify their own points of view and defend themselves.

Certainly charges of immorality are strong and I suspect that anyone who’s had a chance to speak with Todd about his religious views would really accept “immoral” as an accurate descriptor. (Of course, I’m biased, so take that for what it’s worth.)

I wanted to just provide a little bit of background for Greg’s summation. I may try to come back some time on Friday when my IRL life is more flexible. There are certainly things here I might like to discuss, but I don’t have the time to give the discussion justice and the attention it deserves.

I will say, though, that the Church is a big place and when everyone works together to improve one another’s lives, we make beautiful music. But when the piccolos are the only ones screeching away at the top of the scale insisting everyone must play the same notes they do, the cellos and french horns (not to mention the tubas) are lost. If we insist everyone be at the same point on the belief spectrum, we really deny ourselves of some beautiful richness and harmony that we all desperately need.


Laura Compton
February 24, 2010

And if anyone would like to read more specifically about Todd’s thoughts on Joseph Smith’s polygamy, or the reasons he came to write In Sacred Loneliness, he discusses much of that at his website: http://www.geocities.com/Athens/Oracle/7207/


Kaimi
February 24, 2010

One quick follow up question, Bruce. You write,

“I personally went through years of intense and unnecessary pain due in part to Compton respresenting himself as a fully believing Mormon,”

How in the heck does Todd’s orthodoxy or heterodoxy cause you intense and unnecessary pain?


Kaimi
February 24, 2010

Okay, one *more* quick follow up: Laura is awesome. I don’t know the details of the Greg exchange, and it’s helpful to have the background here. And amen to her point about piccolos and tubas. :)


Bruce Nielson
February 24, 2010

Laura,

I’ve already read through the site and found Todd failed to explain his beliefs on just about any thing relating to polygamy or his beliefs about the LDS Church in general. It left me a lot more confused then where I started at. It took quite a while for me to realize he was intentionally not explaining himself and what that most likely meant.

I respect your point that Greg probably didn’t handle this that well either, though after reading Todd’s site, I am not exactly holding out hope that Todd intends to give a nuanaced answer (or any answer) to the legitimate question being asked.

However, if what you are saying is true, then I will look forward to Todd’s explanation of what his beliefs are on this and logically related topics in the future.

Kaimi,

This seems a bit obvious, doesn’t it? We are on a guard based on our preceptions of other’s biases. This is a well developed and necessary human trait (I suspect an evolutionary adaption based on the reality of the difficulty of gathering accurate information) and getting around it through misrepresentation of one’s self is immoral.


Bruce Nielson
February 24, 2010

“I will say, though, that the Church is a big place and when everyone works together to improve one another’s lives, we make beautiful music. But when the piccolos are the only ones screeching away at the top of the scale insisting everyone must play the same notes they do, the cellos and french horns (not to mention the tubas) are lost. If we insist everyone be at the same point on the belief spectrum, we really deny ourselves of some beautiful richness and harmony that we all desperately need.”

The fact is that I’m asking the tubas to show up and play and not merely undermine the piccolos off stage.


Kaimi
February 24, 2010

Err, Todd was immoral because he didn’t put you on guard?

So you’re saying that if you had known that Todd was a sneaky anti-Mormon you wouldn’t have read (or perhaps wouldn’t have believed) ISL. But since he didn’t tell you of his sneaky anti-Mormonness (tricksy hobbitses, we hates them forever!), you read ISL, and this caused you pain.

And Todd really needs to stop doing this, and should be very open about his anti-Mormon-ness, and blog at ToddHatesMormons.com. And perhaps republish his book with a subtitle: “In Sacred Loneliness: A Book that I personally hope will destroy the testimony of anyone who reads it.”

Okay, I’m being a little over the top, here. But what exactly *would* satisfy your particular views on morality? And how would those steps change your own intense pain over JS polygamy? Todd’s orthodoxy or heterodoxy doesn’t change the validity of the documents he’s discussing.


Adam Greenwood
February 24, 2010

It would tend to confirm BN’s point a little less if you didn’t describe honesty as “your particular views on morality.” Some of us would like to think that its pretty much the moral consensus, but it looks like in NOM precincts that isn’t the case.


Kaimi
February 24, 2010

So it’s your view, AG, that an author who writes about JS polygamy is dishonest (or perhaps immoral) if they decide not to publicly conclude one way or the other on the issue of whether there was explicit divine approval for the practice?


Bruce Nielson
February 24, 2010

Kaimi, are you really making the argument that we’re talking only about objective facts and not interpretations as well?

Besides, I admit I do have concerns over interpretations, but that isn’t actually my main concern.

My main concern is what John Hammer once called “dropping people off a a cliff.” If you write a book specifically meant to undermine one tenant of a faith (i.e. polygamy is stated as not being from God within the book) and you do so presenting yourself as a Believer (also stated within book) I think not explaining how you integrate those two together and how it affects your other beliefs is immoral.

I’m not necessarily suggesting he needed to do it in the book — though in all honesty, I think he should have if he intended to make his beliefs on non-divine polygamy so prominent throughout.

But as of this date, can anyone tell us what Todd actually believes about the unique truth claims of the LDS Church?

We do have a right to understand what his point of view is and to discuss it (conjecture and refutation style) back and forth. This is a natural question that deserves an honest answer.

I can’t see this as moral, Kaimi, I’m sorry. I wish it were otherwise.

If Todd really is a believing Mormon and he had assisted me (through explanation, even if on his website) back then in understanding where he was really coming from, it might have made a huge difference in my life and mitigated years of pain. I was never a lover of polygamy, so helping me see it as non-divine, yet still believe in God would have been so helpful.

But if he really doesn’t believe any of the unique truth claims of the LDS Church, but is really just a vague deist or atheist, then I don’t believe it’s okay to claim you’re a Believer (or imply it) and then only give half the story like he did.


Adam Greenwood
February 24, 2010

The official position of this blog is that hosting a website at geocities is proof-positive of immorality. By their own websites shall ye know them!


Kaimi
February 24, 2010

Bruce,

To follow up on my last comment (and referring back to my prior question):

Where does this leave Richard Bushman?


Bruce Nielson
February 24, 2010

“If they decide not to publicly conclude one way or the other on the issue of whether there was explicit divine approval for the practice?”

I’m not sure I agree with this either, but it’s not nearly as bad as what Todd actually did.


Kaimi
February 24, 2010

I am officially opposed to dropping people off a cliff, be they orthodox, New Order Mormons, historians, polygamists, or otherwise. I make occasional exceptions for Canadians.


Bruce Nielson
February 24, 2010

“Where does this leave Richard Bushman?”

As a good example of how to handle this correctly.

“I am officially opposed to dropping people off a cliff, be they orthodox, New Order Mormons, historians, polygamists, or otherwise”

I hope that’s true, Kaimi. I really do.


Kaimi
February 24, 2010

I’ll answer my own question with one more thought, and then I’m out of here. I have to go play piano at a baptism. (Really!)

I attended a talk by Richard Bushman, maybe 5 years ago, where he talked about writing RSR. An audience member asked why he hadn’t taken a stronger position one way or the other on polygamy. And he said something along these lines. (And this is my several-years-old recollection, so I’m probably mangling it.) He wanted to write a book that was accessible and helpful to both serious history students and faithful church members. He realizes that those are different audiences with different interpretations. And where possible, he tried to avoid making characterizations that would cause either group to dismiss the book. He felt that reaching both groups was important. RSR would give important history from the side of a non-critic; and it would also expand the discussion for church members. So where possible he tried to avoid statements that would unnecessarily set off either group. That’s my recollection of the answer, more or less. (I’ve got the talk notes in my files somewhere, but I’m not quite sure where.)

I think that’s a legitimate goal. Bushman was writing a book for two audiences, and those audiences had different needs and different goals, and like many authors, he chose to make his writing accessible to as many people as possible. And this meant avoiding unnecessary line drawing or assertions that would alienate either group.

You see where this is going, don’t you? :)

I don’t know the details of Todd’s orthodoxy or heterodoxy, and I can’t speak for him. But it’s normal for an author to avoid assertions that will alienate segments of their readership. If Todd had said, “polygamy fits easily with belief through the following 1-2-3 process” then one segment of his readership would dismiss him as just-another-apologist. If he had said, “polygamy proves beyond doubt that Old Joe was a fraud,” another segment of readers vanishes.

Just like Richard Bushman, I think that Todd took a middle route. He set out facts and some conclusions, but he avoided unnecessary discussion of some of the contentious meta-issues where there would be no answer that would not alienate a significant segment of the readership.

One can quibble about whether Todd (or for that matter, whether Richard Bushman) succeeded in that middle-way approach. But it seems like a natural enough approach to take.


Laura Compton
February 24, 2010

A few questions after skimming through and then it’s dinner time:

1 – Bruce, have you spoken with Todd directly or have you tried to do so? I think I know how you can reach him.

2 – Todd’s book is long. Perhaps you could point out one or three or five specific places within the book where there are claims about the divinity of polygamy, just so those who haven’t read the book can see for themselves what you mean and so they can read those passages in the full context of the text.

3 – Piccolos are pretty loud and tend to have lots of 16th notes. When they take a few bars of rest and listen real well, they might notice the other instruments in the orchestra are, in fact, playing, in key and in tune with what the composer had in mind. Sometimes its hard to hear those low, long, drawn-out notes.

4 – Does it really do any of us any good to sound like 4-year-olds? “I’m a believer.” “No, you’re not.” “Yes, I am.” “No, you’re not.”


Bruce Nielson
February 24, 2010

Kaimi,

I can’t agree with your analysis at all for many many reasons. I do not see how taking a theological stance on a single issue — one that can’t be easily connected to the rest of Mormonism not less — is somehow an attempt to appease two audiences. Daynes and Bushman both tackled that problem and showed how it can be done. Todd didn’t in my opinion.


gst
February 24, 2010

Kaimi, while you’re at the baptism, pleade make sure that the convert is fully versed in the various approaches to the issue of Book of Mormon historocity, and gender equity issues in the Priesthood. Thanks.


Bruce Nielson
February 24, 2010

Laura,

I’m disappointed that I just gave some a complex nuanced answer to yours and Kaimi’s questions and you ended up choosing to take it all as:

“Does it really do any of us any good to sound like 4-year-olds? “I’m a believer.” “No, you’re not.” “Yes, I am.” “No, you’re not.””

I feel that you just typecast me to a comfortable stereotype without actually reading my real concerns.


Johnna
February 24, 2010

I’m just amazed that your are putting Todd’s name in the title and making him your example of deception, because he refuses to characterize polygamy as a mistake. You want him to be a cartoon, to tell simply untruths for you? That seems immoral to me. It looks like you’re scapegoating him.


Kaimi
February 24, 2010

False alarm, baptism is at 7:30, not 7 like I had thought. You’ve got me for a few more minutes. :)

Bruce, I’m wondering if you could elaborate on your conclusion that Bushman did it right, but Todd didn’t.

Citing Greg (who you cite), Todd’s exact error was this:

“Todd cordially declined to definitively state whether he believed Joseph’s revelations on polygamy reflected God’s will or not.”

You then call this course of action immoral.

But Bruce, I’ve got RSR open, right in front of me. And RSR *does not* take a position on whether polygamy was God’s will, either.

Bushman makes a number of statements in his discussion of plural marriage in RSR. He notes that ploygamy was disturbing and caused anguish to participants; he discusses various instances of polygyny and polyandry; he talks about the damage of secrecy; he notes the ties between plural marriage Joseph’s theology of family. Bushman’s two major points — both based on the evidence — are that the lust hypothesis is incomplete, and that for Joseph polygamy was more theological than romantic.

I could find no statement one way or the other in RSR as to whether Joseph’s revelations reflected God’s will. If I’m missing one, please let me know.

The closest I find is Bushman noting that Joseph treated polygamy as being based on revelation: “To him, the words came from heaven.” (438). That’s not a statement from Bushman one way or the other on Greg’s question, is it?

So how is it that Todd is immoral, while Bushman “showed how it can be done”? Neither answered Greg’s all-important question, did they?


Kaimi
February 24, 2010

We’re having a woman perform the baptism, gst. The confirmation will be performed by her wife. (Wife #3 or #4, I forget which.)


Bruce Nielson
February 24, 2010

“1 – Bruce, have you spoken with Todd directly or have you tried to do so? I think I know how you can reach him.”

I owe you a better answer on this. Give me a second.


Bruce Nielson
February 24, 2010

Kaimi? I feel like you aren’t even trying to communicate.

Right now I’m feeling like no matter what I say you’re going to alternate back and forth between trying to make this an issue of facts (ignoring entirely the real role interpretation plays in history) or an issue of Todd (even to this day, even on his own website, even when asked directly) just not wanting to take a stance in his book because he wanted to write to two audiences.

I don’t buy it and I don’t believe you do either.


Bruce Nielson
February 24, 2010

“1 – Bruce, have you spoken with Todd directly or have you tried to do so? I think I know how you can reach him.”

Laura, I would love to talk to Todd and pierce the veil of secrecy that seems to surround him. Perhaps I have assumed wrongly that he put that veil there. Or perhaps there is no secret at all and I just missed it all somehow. I do think getting some straight honest answers about his beliefs would go a long way.

If you are right in what you are saying about Todd, and also about Greg, then I would have to say that I jumped to conclusions in assuming that Todd’s answer was an NOM-style attempt to avoid explaining his beliefs. While I still feel that is an issue for others, Todd would be an inappropriate example of it if you are correct. I’m open to this possibility and I’d love to be proven wrong and be able to hold Todd up as a good example of someone that believes in the unique truth claims of the LDS Church while dealing with difficult issues.

I agree with Todd on this much:

“History, despite its wrenching pain
Cannot be unlived, and if faced
With courage, need not be lived again”

It’s just I think it applies to him too.

Will Todd be willing to give me honest answers even if they are uncomfortable?

In particular, I will first be asking which unique truth claims of the LDS Church he believes in. If he answers that, I’m going to be fine with the rest. If he refuses to answer or tries to avoid the question then nothing else will matter and it will be a very brief conversation.

If he promises to not avoid dialog through circuitous answers, I’d love to sit down and do lunch with him or call him or whatever. Just warn him what the first question will be and that it will be a very short discussion if he isn’t honest and upfront with me on that first question.

I would love to find out that Todd is really trying to be forth right in representing himself as a believing member of the Church (since he states he is in the book.) If he really is, I promise to write a whole blog post apologizing to him (though I might mute that apology a bit over wondering why he didn’t just explain himself better) and explaining what he really believes about the unique LDS truth claims for the whole world to see.

I really enjoy alternative and speculative view points on LDS doctrine, so I doubt (no matter how wacky his way of piecing it all together with the unique LDS truth claims) that I’ll have problems with any explanation he gives me. I’m extremenly open on this front.

Please understand, I really don’t care if he believes in the unique truth claims of the LDS Church or not. I asked John Dehlin that same question once and he answered me truthfully (Edit: I had said John didn’t believe in the unique truth claims of the LDS Church but valued the practices, but John wanted himself represented instead as having “minimal investment” in the LDS truth claims, so I’m accomodating his request)and I have no issues with him at all. I like what he is doing and think he does fine work. (J. Max and I argued over that in our last conversation in fact.)

I only had concerns over not believing in any of the unique truth claims of the LDS Church but claiming to be “believing” (his word) in a religion. That word has fairly specific implications that I’m sure Todd is aware of. It would imply the wrong thing about someone that does not believe in any of the unique truth claims of the Church.

My sincere fear has been that Todd has been using a trick I’ve seen NOMs on the Internet use whereby words get redefined past the breaking point. “Believing” almost universally implies a heck of a lot more than merely thinking a religion is a good religion to practice and teaches (some) good ethics and thus is inspired just like all belief systems are. If that is what this boils down to, then I was right to hold this up as an example of undermining trust.

If I have misunderstood Todd, I most certainly do owe him an apology. If I haven’t, I would really like to set the fact straight on his real beliefs. Either way, I think this would be worthwhile. Even if it turns out that he does give circuitous answers to avoid having to say, that would be an answer in and of itself.

How can I contact him?


Adam Greenwood
February 24, 2010

I am officially opposed to dropping people off a cliff, be they orthodox, New Order Mormons, historians, polygamists, or otherwise. I make occasional exceptions for Canadians.

Fixed it for you.


Bruce Nielson
February 24, 2010

Kaimi,

If I might offer a bit of an olive branch.

I think you and I can put this on hold. There is an offer on the table for me to speak with Todd directly and I have accepted it.

It seems as pointless for me to guess as his beliefs now as it does for you. I’ll just ask.

That really does seem fair.

I look forward to, in the future, being able to print my apology.


Kaimi
February 24, 2010

I’ll take that offer, Bruce. I would like to continue the discussion — I don’t think you’ve answered some of my questions — but let’s put it on hold for now.

Adam,

Orthodox are far too annoying to simply *drop* off of cliffs or bridges. They should always be *thrown* off. Preferably in the vicinity of Kazad-dum.


Bruce Nielson
February 25, 2010

Fair enough, Kaimi.

But I do want to add that you haven’t answered my question about which of the unique truth claims of the LDS Church you believe in. Fair answers deserve fair answers.

But so much is determined by Laura at this point, that we should hold off and await further answers to resolve the main point of either dispute or misunderstanding.


Kaimi
February 25, 2010

Bruce,

I’ll mention one other point, not about Todd but about me. It’s true that you asked me some clarifying questions on this blog, and I haven’t replied to that question. Let’s talk about that.

I do talk to friends of mine about my belief, all the time, including sometimes in great detail. There are some safe spaces in which I’m willing to discuss these things ad nauseum. However, as you mentioned earlier in this very thread, “We are on a guard based on our perceptions of other’s biases.” I don’t see this blog as a safe space to discuss my beliefs, Bruce. In fact, as may be clear, I am very much on guard at this blog.

On this blog, I’ve been publicly accused by your co-bloggers of all sorts of things. I’ve had multiple posts dedicated to attacking my heterodoxy. I’ve had my beliefs repeatedly mocked and repeatedly mischaracterized, always in ways casting me in a negative light. I’ve seen discussions made public that I thought were made in confidence, done for the express purpose of attacking me.

I’ve repeatedly asked my own clarifying questions in response, which have been ignored or brushed aside with rude retorts. Your co-bloggers have made clear, in repeated statements, that they don’t believe anything that I say directly about my belief. They’ve also made clear that they have no intention of engaging in conversation with me, and that they generally wish only to attack and to discredit me.

I’ve answered multiple questions about myself at this blog, and in one case I engaged in a protracted Q&A with one of your co-bloggers. After answering 8 questions in increasing detail, I finally bowed out of the discussion. You immediately asked another batch of questions (after I had expressly said “I’m done”) and you have since used my lack of answer in that thread to imply negative things about me.

It’s very clear to me that things that I say (or things that I don’t say) will be used against me. This has been shown repeatedly to be a hostile forum for me.

I have, in short, no reason to think that anything positive for me would come from any further discussion on this site about my beliefs. However, I do have substantial reason to think that any such discussion will result in a personal attacks on me; a barrage of follow up questions intended to discredit me; distortion and mockery of any answer that I do give; and negative implications and inferences if I decline to answer further follow ups.

You seem like a nice and sincere guy, Bruce. But I am extremely wary of engaging in any detailed discussion about my personal belief in an overwhelmingly hostile forum.


Kaimi
February 25, 2010

And an unrelated side note: The baptism went well. She was a 15-year-investigator (!) who finally decided to commit. A family in the ward sang a special musical number. After her baptism, she talked about how she had wanted to draw out the moment — she had asked the old bishop to baptize her kind of slowly — but then she was so excited, she forgot to take a breath.

It was the third baptism I’ve played at in the past 2 weeks. I think that the missionaries like me. :)

I also gave a talk about the Spaulding theory. (Kidding!)


Bruce Nielson
February 25, 2010

““We are on a guard based on our perceptions of other’s biases.” I don’t see this blog as a safe space to discuss my beliefs, Bruce. In fact, as may be clear, I am very much on guard at this blog. ”

Kaimi,

I am very sympathetic to what you just said above and to the rest of your post as well.

I suppose that’s my point. We have a right to be on our guard based on known biases. Misrepresenting oneself is thus a breach of trust and a dangerous one.

I feel like I have a legitimate concern (about hiding beliefs in general and maybe Todd in particular) that is worthy of discussion and I’m doing the very best I know how in raising it and having dialog on it. As I admitted to Laura, I can see that I might be wrong in my original assessment about Todd — though I am by no means convinced of that at this point and to be frank, have concerns about how Laura handled herself here so far. (i.e. calling me shrill indirectly, seemingly missing my point and turning it into a debate about me not wanting “heterodox” beliefs in the Church, making this a matter of proof on my side when all she has to do is tell us what she, or Todd, actually believes, etc. Such things do make my suspicious, as they should.)

But I completely hear you on the whole “hostile forum” thing and I’m going to admit my sympathies to you on that point.

That is what I left Mormon Matters, actually. It had nothing to do with any concerns about the blog in general (which I still very much believe in, btw), only that I was on a hostile forum and people often made it very clear to me and it was difficult or impossible to express myself there without threat of everything I said being taken out of context and warped beyond reason. In other words, my concerns with Mormon Matters wasn’t the blog itself or (most) of the bloggers but the community in general.

In fact, I think the bloggernacle as a whole is hostile to certain valid points of view that need to be discussed and this deeply concerns me.

I think “hostile forums” have a duty to properly represent their biases and part of the reason why is so that (as you pointed out) you can be on your guard and won’t have your words used inappropriately out of context, etc, and also so that you can assess them from their bias point of view.

Anyhow, I’m open to dialog with you on how to bridge this gap between you an me. I dislike the fact that you have been hiding your beliefs, but with this further explanation, I’m going to give you the benefit of the doubt on this.

But I don’t really have a solution yet. (Though I’ll think on it.) I don’t feel like I can bring up my concerns — which I think are at a minimum valid for discussion, even if I turn out to be wrong about them in the end — except on a blog like this. You don’t feel like you can discuss your beliefs openly here. It seems like a legitimate concern on both sides.


Vader
February 25, 2010

“making this a matter of proof on my side when all she has to do is tell us what she, or Todd, actually believes”

This is kind of the bottom line. When the question is asked, “What do you actually believe,” and the answer is evasive, there is reason for concern. Just to be very clear: “I don’t know” is not an evasive answer, if it’s actually the case.

For the record, I am not a sock puppet for Bruce Nielson, Adam Greenwood, gst, or anyone else. I am a separate and distinct individual :) whose employer has made it very clear that I am not to spatter my real identity all over the Internet. I think my employer is wrong but can’t afford the luxury of ignoring its wishes.

I call myself an orthodox Mormon, but it’s not quite as simple as that. For example, I am of the opinion that organic evolution was part of the creative process, a belief that would have been quite heterodox thirty years ago and is still a bit off the mainstream now. I try to be pretty honest about such things and will not be evasive if asked about them. But I also believe that there really is a God, that His Spirit has spoken to me, that He spoke to Joseph Smith and gave him unique authority, that the Book of Mormon is an actual record (however imperfectly recorded, trasmitted, or understood) of an actual group of people, that the ordinances of the Gospel are absolutely required to receive the real associated blessings, and so on. It’s on the basis of these latter things that I label myself orthodox. There are aspects of Mormon theology I don’t understand or otherwise struggle with, but I am willing to be up front about it. I don’t emphasize these things, because of my faith that there is an answer consistent with Mormonism’s unique truth claims (even if I don’t know that answer yet) but I don’t lie about them.

I think this is all Bruce is trying to say, though I could be mistaken and certainly don’t want to put words in his mouth. Whether the shoe he has constructed fits anyone else here is not something I am the least interested in getting into. I am no one’s bishop; “court jester” is a better job description.


Bruce Nielson
February 25, 2010

Yes, that is what I’m trying to say. Evasive answers from public individuals that are already actively part of the dialog is my concern. We have a right to ask where someone is coming from and to expect an honest answer. What you believe matters in matters of belief.

Vader, I have appreciated you very open candor about your beliefs. It’s been obvious to me from the beginning that there is no evasiveness in you. :)


Bruce Nielson
February 25, 2010

I feel like I need to express my position more fully.

My concerns are specifically with people that fall into the category of “no longer believing / having faith in the specific truth claims of their religion” while actively working to undermine that faith in others that still do believe. If they do this “above the board” I see it as legitimate dialog. If they hide their real beliefs while doing so, I do not. I do not believe privacy is a defense once you’ve gone public.

I did read the link where someone named “Cafeteria Mormon” had encouraged someone that specifically said they no longer believe in the LDS church to accept a call in a Bishopric rather than first explain his beliefs to those extending the call and letting them make the choice.

I can definitively come down on this as being a serious trust issue for me and thus immoral in my opinion. This was largely my motivation to come out and start expressing my growing concerns (unpopular though my views might be) over this growing tendency for some “NOMs” (or whatever is the proper label, I care not) to hide their real beliefs but take advantage of their privacy in a way that affects others publicly.

I don’t see how anyone with a moral sense can not see a problem with this, even if they aren’t quite sure what the right answer is.

I am not sure I have the answers either, because Kaimi is right that we generally want to protect privacy and beliefs are usually a private matter. But I don’t think I can live with myself and not oppose behavior like this either.

I honestly don’t have a good answer yet. That’s why I’m interested in dialog on this with others that feel differently from me.


Johnna
February 25, 2010

I’m still don’t get why Bruce thinks any book, including Todd’s book, should start out with a faith statement, included or separately published. If you need to dismiss a book, why not dismiss it on its ideas? If you need to look outside the book to establish the agenda, maybe there is no agenda, or at least not the one your accuse it of.

Also, I fail to see Todd Compton’s work as having a purpose to undermine the faith of others. That one of his books had such affect on Bruce, I am very sorry, but I really don’t see him justified in blaming Todd Compton for that. It’s not like Compton’s making this stuff up. His books and articles, to me, show great respect for people of faith gone before us.

I hope Todd won’t meet with Bruce to answer whether or not he is a member of the communist party whether his testimony can be graphed on Bruce’s chart.


Vader
February 25, 2010

I’ve not read Todd’s book. Does he mention his Church membership anywhere in it?


Seth R.
February 25, 2010

Kaimi,

I’m not dogpiling in here. I don’t particularly need you to comment on your beliefs here, nor do I think it’s relevant to the topic. And I’m going to stay out of this whole liberal vs. conservative poo-flinging contest that’s been going on in some corners of the bloggernacle (at least on this thread).

But I wonder why you chose the words “FAIR polemicist” as if it were some sort of derogatory term. I’m confused what you meant by it.

Do you mean to imply that anyone who is affiliated with FAIR is automatically of a certain theological stance and stripe? Are people from FAIR considered to be automatically conservative? Biased? Illegitimate? Polemical?

This seems to be what you were implying, whatever your real thoughts on the subject.

Would you consider Kevin Barney (who has written quite a bit of material for FAIR) to be a “FAIR polemicist?”

Is working for FAIR or contributing to FAIR, in your mind, just a little bit “ghetto?” Or not worthy of serious and unbiased academics?

I’m not trying to mind-read here. I’m just giving you an opportunity to clarify. Because the way you used the term sounded like quite the slur to me.


Bruce Nielson
February 25, 2010

If memory serves, he refers to himself a both a practicing and believing Mormon.


Adam Greenwood
February 25, 2010

Its dishonest to pose as a solid, orthodox Mormon while engaging in public discussion with the Mormon community if you are not, in fact, a solid, orthodox Mormon.

Its dishonest to write something designed to persuade Mormons against some item of Mormon orthodoxy (e.g., that polygamy was inspired), without being upfront that you are trying to persuade. The “just stating the facts” pose is dishonest if you are hoping to persuade.

Human nature and self-deception being what they are, if you are writing on a topic of concern to Mormons, where you happen to believe different from most Mormons, and you tell yourself that you aren’t trying to persuade, you’re probably kidding yourself.

That any of the foregoing applies to Todd Compton is not at all clear to me. The evasiveness of his answer does sound a warning bell, but this is all pretty second-hand info.

Also, as Johnna points out, asking for faith statements at the beginning of books might be a bit much. I think we can take Bruce Neilson’s concerns seriously without going to far in the other direction.


Bruce Nielson
February 25, 2010

I feel I’ve said this already, but to be clear, I started this thread to illustrate a more general problem about public criticism of other’s beliefs and the need to be public with your own beliefs if you do this. It sure seemed like Todd was dodging a honest and valid question, but hopefully it was all just a misundestanding like Laura is saying.

If Laura is correct, he is going to talk to me directly and he also plans, in the near future, to make his beliefs public on whether or not polygamy was inspired of God. I look forward to that.

I appreciate those that have taken my concerns seriously rather than just dismissing them through polemics and misrepresentation of what I actually said.


BHodges
February 25, 2010

Kaimi: Is “FAIR polemicist” different from “FAIR volunteer and sometimes-wiki editor”?


Kaimi
February 25, 2010

As I’ve said earlier, I believe that the request to Todd to ” make his beliefs public on whether or not polygamy was inspired of God” is a higher standard than that imposed on, among others, Richard Bushman. Please, point out to me any statement in RSR that shows Richard’s belief one way or the other on the divinity of polygamy. The farthest he goes is that Joseph Smith thought polygamy was inspired.

This is a well known aspect of RSR. Jan Shipps said:

“He never follows things to their final conclusions to say this did or didn’t happen,” said Jan Shipps, a non-Mormon scholar of Mormonism at Indiana University-Purdue University in Indianapolis who admires Professor Bushman’s work. “He simply tells the story the way that Joseph Smith and his family and followers tell the story.” (See http://www.nytimes.com/2007/07/28/us/28religion.html?_r=1 ).

In a T&S interview about RSR, Bushman is similarly guarded about polygamy. He never says that polygamy came from God. He does say that Joseph believed that polygamy came from God. (see http://timesandseasons.org/index.php/2005/12/12q-on-rsr/)

This is not meant as a criticism of Bushman or of RSR. I like Bushman’s work a lot, and I like RSR a lot.

But it seems like you’re holding Todd to an unrealistic standard. Either that, or you’re giving Bushman a free pass for the question. (And you may have reasons for doing that, such as the fact that Bushman’s treatment tends to be more favorable than Compton’s.)


Kaimi
February 25, 2010

Seth and Blair, stop being so polemical. :)

Seriously, though, I don’t believe that all FAIR folk are engaged in polemics. However, it happens in a number of cases. Greg’s article and its note seeking to discredit Todd based on Todd’s belief is a form of polemics.

I don’t mean this in the vernacular sense, where polemics is often used as a synonym for “mean or rude discussion.” I mean it more formally. Greg’s commentary was specifically directed at New Mormon History polygamy writers, and the point of the article was, “those folks are _wrong_.” Greg is specifically writing in opposition to Todd (and Smith and Van Wagoner). This means that he is engaged in polemics.

I don’t intend any implication that Greg’s discussion was excessively aggressive or the like, or that FAIR in general is excessively aggressive. (Except for that shifty-eyed fellow Kevin Barney.)


Bruce Nielson
February 25, 2010

Sorry, if it seemed like I was trying to hold Todd to a different standard. I had throught Laura had said that Todd had only avoided Greg’s question because he wanted to put it into his own words, but apparently I read her wrong because I can’t find anywhere she said that. I think I misunderstood the following: “in my need and desire to have a more in-depth discussion, the conversation with him within the group ended. He was able to connect with Todd outside of the group, but I cannot speak to those conversations, as I was not part of them”

I had thought that meant we’d be seeing a response in Todd’s own words.

So I am apparently mistaken that Todd was going to clarify publicly. That’s too bad, but I wasn’t trying to force it I had honestly thought she had said it.

That’s bad when you can’t remember things from even yesterday. ;)

But there was still a clear offer to talk to me personally and that’s still quite good if he really intends it.

(And thank you, Kaimi, for nicely pointing out my mistake, I do appreciate it.)


Adam Greenwood
February 25, 2010

If we’ve reached the point where we’re just repeating what we’ve said earlier, I’m going to have to doubt that much open-minded discussion is or was happening in this thread. Maybe its time to move on to other things.


Bruce Nielson
February 25, 2010

Kaimi, two of you, from the beginning, have taken a stance only about ‘what is said in the book’ as if I said such a thing. But in fact I never did.

Bushman has said quite a bit off the record about polygamy, including responding to the question about whether or not it’s a mistake (as was asked of Todd who didn’t respond.) Bushman also writes quite a bit (don’t have the quote handy) about his views of polygamy and what he learned from it, apparently spiritually. To say nothing of going public about believing the gold plates existed, that they are a real translation of real history of people that actually existed, etc. All of which he has been quite public about. Bushman is in no way hiding his views and beliefs when asked, so your reference back to RSR seem besides the point to me.

Bushman is a near perfect example of what I’m talking about. He wrote a controversial book (which I loved) but has been open about his beliefs and does not hide them when asked. The fact that his beliefs happen to be rather “believing” is not even the important point here. I don’t think Fawn Brodie is guilty of anything because she was open about her beliefs and didn’t hide them either. She has every right to explain her point of view so long as she isn’t hiding your own beliefs on the subject. Both seem to understand the moral need to respond honestly to questions about where they are coming from and what their beliefs are.

Since my point from the outset is that it’s not okay to publicly criticize other people’s beliefs while hiding your own (whether or not Todd is an example of this) I fail to understand why you keep referring back to RSR and what Bushman said there as a counter example when it’s clearly irrelevant to the point I have articulated.

Kaimi, do you really not see the issue I’m articulating here? Do you really believe it doesn’t deserve to be both discussed and in some way addressed?


BHodges
February 25, 2010

Greg’s commentary was specifically directed at New Mormon History polygamy writers, and the point of the article was, “those folks are _wrong_.” Greg is specifically writing in opposition to Todd (and Smith and Van Wagoner). This means that he is engaged in polemics.

I got a different message from Greg’s presentation. The message I got was “here are some problematic interpretations from historians on the subject of polygamy. Be careful with sources and with those who use them.” I also thought it was good of Greg to allow Todd to update, clarify, any points, etc.

Except for that shifty-eyed fellow Kevin Barney.

Don’t feel bad, I’m wary of that fellow too…


Johnna
February 25, 2010

AG said: “Human nature and self-deception being what they are, if you are writing on a topic of concern to Mormons, where you happen to believe different from most Mormons, and you tell yourself that you aren’t trying to persuade, you’re probably kidding yourself.”

But to the extent there might be any persuasion in what you write, wouldn’t it be in the text? Tracking down the author’s unstated thoughts seems problematic to me.

Maybe it was all that 1980s-style text criticism I did, that makes me believe it ultimately misleading to interpret a text based on the author’s life. How does this cover cases of sincere mainstream-believing Mormons who meet your criteria but write cruddy, damaging texts? Like that horrible pro-afterlife-polygamy book that had billboards in Utah a few years back? Pamphlets on the food storage apocalypse? the mixed blessings of relationship advice by Helen Andelin. Sure, I’ll say “no wonder” when I find out some book or blog was written by that kind of person, but I think we’re in for a world of misdirection if we think to decide whether or not to accept a text based on the author’s life, particularly their personal faith life, outside of how that worldview is extant in the book/blog itself. There are no texts outside the scriptures, that I would embrace without reservation anyhow. Wouldn’t that be a more effective way to guard the soul?

And who gets to decide whether my private, now public, beliefs pass muster? Also, a writer isn’t the same person from book to book either, even with a couple years between. I’m more interested in Compton’s methodology and criteria, which he is pretty up-front about, than some possible private belief which has not textual evidence, but which apparently I’m supposed to be suspicious of.

I didn’t find Todd’s declaration of belief or practice–but the seven tiny-margins introduction does include the sentence: “Any flaws in the book are, of course, my own. In a project this extensive, some errors are inevitable–I welcome information leading to corrections.”

I think polygamy is complicated, and maybe for that I don’t find Bruce Nielson’s “honest and valid” question to be fair. Polygamy has enough negative side effects for me to truly hate it. Partly because of the way Todd Compton speaks about it, I’m not able to dismiss it as wholly uninspired, or to draw the rug out from under the saints who practiced it. If it can be a muck to talk about whether the way we structure our wards is inspired, if there are some (clearly outweighed) negative consequences from marriages, particularly other people’s marriages, mine being great, then how much more difficult to demand some kind of blanket endorsement of polygamy, which is what I think you’re asking for. Because I’m gathering that “inspired, but…” would be an example of weasly NOMness to you.

In the wrong hands, this suspicion is going to have me giving up my volunteer slot webmastering at Segullah, for fear any of my own beliefs are “off” and being transmitted in the HTML. Perhaps I should stop speaking to my children about my testimony. Srsly guys, can’t I just relax, enjoy the banquet, trust the Holy Spirit and my ability to perceive?


Johnna
February 25, 2010

ack! comment too long! so embarrassing.


Johnna
February 25, 2010

Bruce,

why is this about guilt–you exonerate Fawn Brodie of guilt. Why isn’t about which books to trust and how far to trust them? NMKMH was a book with problems. I’m more interested in being clear on how that book is wrong or misleading, than I am in judging Fawn Brodie.

How much more so for that author, let’s say we have one who really is a NOM, who by choice of practice and stated faith, is your brother in the gospel.


J. Max Wilson
February 25, 2010

I have been watching this discussion with interest since Bruce posted it, especially since he mentioned his conversation with me. Bruce and I clearly don’t agree on everything, but we do agree on a number of things.

I think that Johnna and Kaimi have mis-characterized Bruce’s point. I don’t think that Bruce is saying that brother Compton is deceptive just “because he refuses to characterize polygamy as a mistake.”

I’ve read Rough Stone Rolling but I haven’t read brother Compton’s book, so I can’t evaluate well the comparisons. I don’t have my copy with me, but I felt that Brother Bushman made it clear that while he personally believed in the church, the fairest treatment he could give to the Prophet Joseph was to present the various viewpoints concerning his claims, both believing and doubting, and then see how well they corresponded with what Joseph’s actions and words demonstrate about how he viewed himself.

Brother Bushman transparently declared himself a believer and then articulated a methodology for how he would attempt to approach the subject fairly despite his believing bias.

Motivation matters and being transparent with bias is a demonstration of integrity. That is why when someone at Slate writes an article criticizing an Apple Computers product, they often say for full disclosure that Slate is owned by Microsoft.

It is dishonest to claim the title of “believing” in order to gain the trust of the believers so that your criticisms are more palatable, when the reality is that you don’t believe by any definition that those believers would normally accept.

If you are honest, you would explain what you mean by “believing” and be willing to identify what it is about the church you do believe.

Brother Bushman gives the impression that he is operating under a definition of belief that harmonizes with that of most believers. If there is any doubt about this, I would look for declarations of his beliefs. If I were unable to find them, I would wonder why. And if he refused to offer any clarifications when asked, I would take that to mean his definition of belief must fall outside the norm.

Getting bogged down in the specific of whether brother Bushman believes that Plural Marriage was a mistake is myopic. Even if he does believe it was a mistake, he openly believes in a host of other assertions of the church.

Is that equally true of brother Compton?

To repeat something I wrote to Bruce: true hypocrisy is not to fall short of ideals that you truly believe but nevertheless fail to live up to perfectly. True hypocrisy is to give the appearance of belief, to go through the motions when you do not believe, in order to deceive (Ancient Greek ????????? hupokrisis: answer, stage acting, pretense). For me the whole Orthodoxy vs Orthopraxy distinction is a clever justification for the kind of hypocrisy Jesus condemned. Were the pharisees condemned because of their overweening religious zeal? No. He condemned them because they hypocritically gave the appearance of religious zeal while secretly conspiring to murder Him directly contrary to the very law to which they pretended fealty? Who are the real modern Pharisees then? Advocating “Orthopraxy” to conceal Heterodoxy with the intent to slowly change the church from the inside out is hypocritical.


Bruce Nielson
February 25, 2010

“…then how much more difficult to demand some kind of blanket endorsement of polygamy, which is what I think you’re asking for.”

“I think that Johnna and Kaimi have mis-characterized Bruce’s point”

Johnna,

I feel you have been attacking a strawman.

I would appreciate it if you addressed the actual issue I raised, which I specified as being whether or not a person can morally criticize other people’s beliefs while not exposing their beliefs to equal criticism and whether or not privacy is still morally allowed once you’ve gone public.

If this moral dilema hasn’t occured to you before, then I’m glad I raised it even if you disagree with me on it. Can we at least agree it’s worth discussing?

It’s clear I’m not the only one that sees this as a moral issue. I would prefer that you stop attacking the strawman and find out just why it is that several people find this so concerning.

In any case, I don’t feel I asked for a “blanket endorsement” of anything.


BHodges
February 25, 2010

For me the whole Orthodoxy vs Orthopraxy distinction is a clever justification for the kind of hypocrisy Jesus condemned. Were the pharisees condemned because of their overweening religious zeal.

I find the praxy/doxy distinction not only useful, but true too. ;)


John Dehlin
February 25, 2010

“I asked John Dehlin that same question once and he answered me truthfully (he doesn’t believe in any of the unique truth claims of the LDS Church, but believes strongly in the practice and value of the Church)”

Bruce — This is not true. I never, ever said this.

I will admit now that I am minimally invested in the church’s truth claims. I find them to be relatively un-knowable at the end of the day. And at times I have serious doubts.

But I never, ever have told you, nor anyone else, nor do I feel in my heart that I actively disbelieve the truth claims. I basically put them on the shelf…and focus what I do know…which is that love is a good thing, and that we should do more of it.

Just for the record.

Ever.


Bruce Nielson
February 25, 2010

I am sorry if I mischaracterized you, John, but I was explaining what I thought you told me when I asked. You really set me at ease when I did, but now I just don’t know any more. I find this very concerning. It was an honest question and I thought an honest answer. I feel very bad.

I think the answer you just gave above fairly good however, and an equivalent answer from others would go along way.

Maybe the word “disbelieve” is the wrong word (though ‘belief’ is what I asked) and maybe that’s why you’re taking exception now. Words are a struggle. What I am really asking is not whether you know them to be false (that’s not what belief means) but really if you choose to believe in the religious sense — i.e. have faith in them which, to me, means something very much like “be invested in them.”

In any case, my apologies, but this was an honest recounting of what I thought you told me. I’m hoping this is just concern over a word and I’ll be glad to reword if that is the case. I really did think of how you handled it (or what I thought I heard anyhow) as a great example of how to be forthright in how one represents oneself.

Updated: I changed what I originally said to match how John wants it said. I’m leaving the original text in John’s post. Public mistakes should have public fixes.


Johnna
February 25, 2010

Bruce, I can agree to the idea it is immoral to hide your beliefs for the purpose of undermining the beliefs of others. However, I have a hard time believing this can be accomplished as a practical matter. It seems the undermining would reveal the point of view. I don’t believe this is the widespread problem you report it to be. Certainly I have a problem with you making Todd Compton your test case. He’s a real person who attends church in my area. I don’t think he would be influenced to stop attending by all the negativity you are heaping on his name, but surely you can see why this is all making my stomach turn. I suppose he and Laura have more experience with his “celebrity” status than I do.

He’s a practicing member of the church. I don’t think it’s appropriate for you to cross examine him on that. I think it’s far more Pharisaical, and immoral, of you to be publicly condemning him (save he qualifies himself on your public terms) than for him to be quietly practicing, and have dared to written a well-researched book.

Adam goes on further to say that whether or not we intend, any communications will have the effect of persuading other people to our own worldview. Therefore, people who are quiet about their lack or difference of faith will be unintentionally doing harm should they communicate at all. I find this to be an unnecessary burden to impose on the body of saints. Take for example, a member who thinks that evolution was a process that not only is happening now, but happened in the past and can explain much about the biology of various creatures, perhaps even including humans. Such people are probably the minority of the practicing members of the church, but a substantial minority. Should such saints recuse themselves from speaking and writing on the gospel? On their mormon lives? I’m sure Gary would have it so, but that’s not the standard the church asks of its members. Furthermore, I hate to see members chased out of the church for seeing any validity in science. Yes, I’m picking the least controversial difference in belief that occurs to me.

I would have no interest in your question, except that lately I found out one of my favorite mormon posts was actually written by someone whose beliefs and practices are substantially different than mine. I was, frankly, very upset. I was unnerved. I worry that I expose myself to being led astray. But after reading you say these things about Todd, who is a known quantity to me, I’m also noticing that there was nothing in the appealing post that contains any of the scam views I disagree with. So, the lesson I’m taking is I need to consider if the text is valid to what I know about the gospel–I can’t depend on the unknowable character of the writer.

The vulnerability of mormons to scams by other members is well-known enough to be a cliche. If someone’s peddling a bad investment in money or doctrine, isn’t the most effective defense to know the business model? If you don’t like Todd’s book, say so, but don’t take it into his backyard and turn it into some kind of evil scheming.

If you can write the polygamy history that accounts for all we know about it and makes me feel all comfy and happy about polygamy, go for it. In the meantime, don’t blame Todd Compton for the difficult things in our history.


J. Max Wilson
February 25, 2010

Such people are probably the minority of the practicing members of the church, but a substantial minority. Should such saints recuse themselves from speaking and writing on the gospel? On their mormon lives?

Of course not. But if their belief in Evolution leads them to reject a belief in God altogether, then if they intend to write about Mormonism they should make that fact clear (especially if they are going to be writing about why they think Mormons should believe in Evolution).


Bruce Nielson
February 25, 2010

Johnna,

I really really appreciate that you gave your honest opinion on the topic.

“Should such saints recuse themselves from speaking and writing on the gospel?”

I think you’re not quite understanding what I am saying yet. I think J. Max’s response to you hit the target.

And also, as someone that does believe in evolution, I do feel I have a duty to explain myself when asked questions.

Also, since I specifically corrected myself about Todd and offered to let the record be set straight, I think you owe it to me to not pound me on this until we know more. If I erred in Todd’s case, I’m going to publicly apologize and will do so gladly.

But for just a moment, I think you need to ask yourself this, what if Todd Compton does no longer believe any of the unique truth claims of the LDS Church and that did inform his view on polygamy and he did, at least in part, write his book to try to persuade Mormons that polygamy was just an experiment made up by Joseph Smith that failed? (I might be remembering wrong, but I think he actually says that polygamy was just Joseph’s experiment or something to that effect.) I know this is a purely hypothetical scenario, and a worst case one to boot, but as of yet, we don’t know what the truth is, so this can’t be ruled out yet.

Is it okay, under that hypothetical circumstance, for him to say *in his book* that he’s a practicing and “believing” Mormon? Are we at all concerned for the naive believer that then thinks this is really a “believing Mormons” (as I understood that word at the time) best understanding of polygamy?

I do not think this is as difficult as you are making it out to be. Such a person (which may or may not be Todd) would have numerous options available to them. They could not write the book, they could admit they don’t believe in it, they should say something like John (“I am minimally invested in the church’s truth claims”), or heck, they could just not represent their “belief status” at all in the book! (Though that would still leave a problem when people later want to ask them about what they really believe, as would be natural.)

The issue here is misrepresentation and evasion. I do not know if Todd fits that bill or not, I merely thought he did because of the quote. I am human. If the quote was bad, my source was bad and I am glad to be wrong.


Dave
February 25, 2010

Some people seem to think that, with enough practice, they can learn to judge their neighbor properly.


Vader
February 25, 2010

I don’t think judgment has come up until now. Bruce has made it pretty clear that he doesn’t have a problem with people expression beliefs different from his own — as long as they’re honest about it.

I haven’t seen him tell anyone they’re going to Hell.


Bruce Nielson
February 25, 2010

For the record, I’m a universalist. I believe all are saved.

I do not believe God penalizes people that do not believe in the LDS Church (even rejecting all of it) if they did so doing their best to follow God’s will.

I was just telling Adam G. today that I realized this might make me different from some Mormons and I felt I had a duty to be upfront about this and also to explain myself when asked even over something seemingly innocent like this. I am trying my best to follow my own standards on this because I made a choice to be public rather than private on my personal beliefs. I don’t get to hide behind “privacy” any more unless I wish to stop being public first (and then I’d still be responsible for anything I previously wrote to explain myself if asked.)

This was never a heterodox vs. traditional issue, I’m afraid. Not that those aren’t legitmate labels in many cases, but they are beside the point to my actual concern.


Johnna
February 25, 2010

Bruce said: (I might be remembering wrong, but I think he actually says that polygamy was just Joseph’s experiment or something to that effect.)

You’re remembering wrong.

Bruce, You had a string of if-statements about a hypothetical Todd Compton (Todd Compton Prime?) Sodd Bompton?), statements for me to evaluate relative to a conclusion about what it would be okay for him to do.

I’m not sure what you mean by “unique truth claims.” Do you mean tenets that we LDS believe and no one else does? (which would be a difficult set to establish, imo). Do you mean beliefs that the LDS church is uniquely salvific? (Does everyone use salvific the way Alonzo Gaskill does? That’s how I use it. I think.)

Though I’m not sure you really are a Universalist, or if you’re pulling my leg. I was very Universalist a couple years ago. I’m tend to drift around on some of these theological approaches, so I just cling to my orthopraxis and not worry.


Bruce Nielson
February 26, 2010

All religions have unique truth claims and shared truth claims that overlap with other religions. The unique ones are the ones that make that religion a separate religion. To not have faith in the unique truth claims of a religion is to not really believe in that religion as people would normally think of the word in it’s religious context.

I suppose there are also liberal religions that are formed around practices and rejection of other’s beliefs instead of on believing their own beliefs. But even then, there are still “core beliefs” (even if unspoken) that you can’t generally violate and stay in good standing.

I don’t really agree with you that unqiue truth claims of the LDS Church are difficult to establish. Coming up with a complete list might be, but that’s why I asked to list *any* at all.

Even just something like historicity of the Book of Mormon captures it pretty well for Mormons all by itself. A person that doesn’t “believe” (in the “invested” sense) in the historicity of the Book of Mormon, for example, is not a bad person. But I don’t expect them to refer to themselves as “a believing Mormon” either without a lot more explanation of how they are using the word “believing” differently from normal usage.

I see the burden as on them to not mislead people. This is about self labeling in a non-deceptive way.

“I just cling to my orthopraxis and not worry.”

I don’t really have a problem with this if it works for you. It doesn’t work for me personally because my brain just isn’t wired to not ask questions and seek answers or at least attempt at answers.

I always worry, though about “orthopraxy” mixed with definitive stances on what’s not true. I don’t see how that adds up to orthopraxy. Maybe I’m missing something. (I’m not talking about you here, I’m just talking in general.)

Johnna, I don’t mind you tell me I’m wrong. Really I don’t. I’m wrong about a great many things. And I really appreciate how you have changed your tone in the last few posts and aimed right at what I’ve said now. (I like it when people attack what I actually said, even if they disagree with me strongly.)

I hope we can both agree to disagree over this amicably.

I think I might owe you an explanation on one issue you raised that I will do in a future post. If you ever want to talk to me directly (you know, in case you want to be even more pointed) let me know. ;)


Johnna
February 26, 2010

So, I found my copy of ISL, and found the footnote. I’m not sure if it’s a background statement by Todd Compton, or one by Bushman that Compton is agreeing with. That’s the page 629 footnote “I am a practicing Mormon who considers himself believing but who [blah, blah, blah]… I do accept non-absolutist incursions of the supernatural into human experience.”

You want the whole thing, read your book. Or google the phrase. I am not interested in discussing the relative merits of Todd Compton’s private faith.

At this point, I think he’s provided more than enough information about where he’s coming from. If he’s a believer and his book isn’t orthodox enough for you, then his book and any worldview that leaked into it isn’t orthodox enough for you. Even if he somehow, against the odds, actually privately agrees with you on all understanding of doctrine, you’d still need to evaluate his book.

I see the benefit to you, and any benefit to the sum of all other readers, afforded by the opportunity to cross examine Todd Compton and make him answer (or he’s immoral!) until you are satisfied as to his degree of acceptable faith to be quite small. You’d still need to evaluate the book. You can still dismiss the book, even for spurious reasons. I see the intrusion and detriment to Todd, on the other hand, to be great, as he is most invested of any of us in his personal life and life of faith, and has the most to lose or gain, as he continues to choose to identify himself as mormon and attend his ward, and have a mormon family.

Compton states in the Intro, under “Supernatural” that he’s not doing that usual history-critical thing where you dismiss all supernatural as nonfactual and ignore it. He explains how he’s going to present the supernatural material because it is certainly relevant and real to the people in the history. It reads pretty much like the Bushman strategy to me.

Todd Compton also says why he wrote the book, right in the intro. He was going to do an Eliza Snow book, but as he came across her references to Joseph’s other wives, he thought some work on the wives would be a useful contribution to the field of Mormon Studies. Which it is.


Johnna
February 26, 2010

fwiw, I’m noting that we just cross-posted, and that’s why the above comment has almost nothing to do with Bruce’s comment that comes before.


Todd Compton
February 26, 2010

Bruce: First, of all, as I remember what happened, Greg had a footnote supporting his contention that I called polygamy a “mistake” – since that is not language I would use to express my position, I looked up his sources and felt that they did not support his statement about me. Then he kind of demanded that I bear my testimony on the subject, in his terms, and in his forum. However, my view of faith is complex, so I didn’t want to give him a quick, in my view oversimplified response. I will probably end up writing a book on the subject, to be called An Approach to Mormon Faith. Sorry – the Missouri book, the Hamblin book, and the book on the Beatles will probably come out first.

However, in thinking of a response to Greg, I realized that I’d already said a lot of it in my response to Anderson, Faulring and Bachman, on my web page. I’d recommend that you go there. I’d say, really generally, that I have faith (in my view), but it’s definitely a liberal faith. I’ve been really influenced by people like Lowell Bennion, Leonard Arrington, Eugene England. I believe, for every aspect of religion, ethics, compassion, love, justice is at the heart of things. For example, ritual can be good, but only if guided by authentic love. In addition, there are enormous complexities in the historical and textual record. In addition, all Mormon leaders are three-dimensional human beings, not perfect; in Arrington’s language, they are not marionettes with God pulling the strings. All these things contribute to my liberal faith. The question is, can a conservative (I mean that in a descriptive, not negative, way) like yourself accept a liberal (as I describe myself, for lack of a better word, or a three hour explanation of my complexities) as having authentic faith? A broader question is, should a conservative church accept liberals as full, valued members?

I’ve usually been pretty clear that my faith was liberal, not conservative. And I’m aware that many conservatives do not consider “liberal” faith to be authentic faith at all.

By the way, I don’t consider myself an outstanding church member. You might call me “less active” at this point. I hope to become more active in the future. (Once again, it would help if I were to give you a three hour explanation for context.)

As to your response to In Sacred Loneliness, I do sympathize that the information in the book caused you pain. But I believe, as I wrote in my response to Anderson, Faulring and Bachman, that truth always deepens our faith, in the end. In other words, if we are to have a full, mature, faith, I believe we need to deal with “problems” in church history, examine them fully and honestly. Doing so only makes our faith richer and more stable. For this reason, I applaud people like Gregory Smith and Brian Hales who are working on books dealing with Joseph Smith’s polygamy, from a conservative viewpoint.

By the way, all of this negative focus on me, not on my book, is getting close to the ad hominem fallacy. Even if I were some quintessence of evil, if my footnotes add up, the historical problem still remains. Ad hominem is never an impressive argument.

Bruce, feel free to contact me at toddmagos [at] yahoo [dot] com if you want to talk to me further.

Oh, and thanks Laura, Kaimi and Johnna for your eloquent words of support!


Adam Greenwood
February 26, 2010

Todd C.,

thanks for being somewhat honest about your “liberal faith” and inactivity.

Your are being somewhat less honest, unfortunately, about the whole cry of “Ad hominem.” That’s blatantly false. Bruce Neilson isn’t saying that the facts in your book are somehow untrue because you are a bad guy. He’s saying that its wrong for you to position yourself as a believing Mormon to people who you very well know think that your definition of “believing” is full of crap. Full stop. Whether you have done this or not, I do not know, but that’s what the argument is.

And also I do not appreciate this New Order Mormon pack mentality, where if someone questions a “Mormonism” that doesn’t believe in the Book of Mormon, the First Vision, etc., as more than metaphors, all of sudden people who never read the blog are getting indignant in the comments.


Johnna
February 26, 2010

1. I read the blog, as you and your stats know. Though I consider visiting here to be a character failing like visiting that main street plaza blog. I don’t believe in what you’re doing; I’m gawking.
2. I’m not a NOM, fwiw, but I am very personally invested in letting members continue to attend church and raise their children LDS. To the extent being private about their faith facilitates that, I’m for that.


Kaimi
February 26, 2010

Pack mentality?

Todd and Laura Compton are not regular JRG readers, that’s true. But Adam, the OP names them both by name and makes statements about what they personally believe. I’d think that they would be permitted to enter the conversation without accusations of pack mentality. Do you really disagree with that idea?

(And the same for John Dehlin, who is also commenting in direct response to Bruce’s repeated statements about John’s personal belief).

Where exactly is this pack?


Kaimi
February 26, 2010

Seriously. Let’s review who has commented here:

Adam, Bruce, gst, Vader — all presumably non-pack.
TotalNathan – semi-regular JRG commenter, and on Bruce’s side anyway.
Tom Haws – not a regular JRG reader, and against Bruce. Hey, there’s your first pack member!
Johnna – JRG reader (and commenter! see, e.g., http://www.jrganymede.com/2010/02/12/ye-cannot-behold-with-your-natural-eyes/ )
Seth and BHodges – both nacle regulars and frequent participants in FAIR discussions. Neither of them is “getting indignant in the comments,” except perhaps at me. They’re both here solely for the threadjack of clarifying what I meant about FAIR.
J Max – presumably not a pack member
John Dehlin, Laura Compton, Todd Compton – all mentioned by name by Bruce, all replying to his assertions made about their beliefs
DMI Dave – I don’t know if he reads JRG regularly (I think he may read it semi-regularly). But possibly your second pack member.

That’s it. All 81 comments come from that list.

Yep, watch out for those NOM types, quite the pack they are.


gst
February 26, 2010

I don’t read this crappy blog. I just blog here.


Adam Greenwood
February 26, 2010

Johnna, sorry if it sounded like I was talking about you. No offense meant. I appreciate your comments, including your comments on this thread.


Vader
February 26, 2010

For me, it’s not that complex.

Do you believe the Book of Mormon is an actual record, however imperfectly written, transmitted and understood, of an actual historical people? Do you believe that the First Vision was a conversation with beings existing outside of Joseph Smith’s mind?

Since there seems to be some semantic difficulty here, let me explain that by “believe” I mean that you are sufficiently convinced of it that you are willing to act on that belief in ways that you would not if you did not believe it. That is what I mean when I say I believe it.

And “I don’t know” is an acceptable answer as long as it’s honest.

On the original question (as I understand it): When an author on a controversial Mormon topic makes the claim in his writings, however briefly, that he is a Mormon, he is making an appeal to authority. He is, at a minimum, strongly suggesting to Mormon and non-Mormon readers alike that what he writes is reflective of the Mormon community, of which I am a member. That means I have some skin in it.

There are ways to qualify the statement of affiliation that remove the appeal to authority, of course. One can state “… but I’m not presently active” or “… but my views here should not be taken as representative of mainstream Mormon beliefs.” I’ve used the latter phrase myself when something I’ve written was speculative.

Not that I write much heavy stuff. I did write a fairly heavy bit on “The Diversity of Perfections” some months back that a couple of the regulars here made happy noises about, but which otherwise attracted no attention except from someone who called me a crazy Mormon crackpot. I did not consider that a particularly fruitful discussion, and I’ve stuck to the role of “court jester’ since. Which is not to say that my occasional statements of faith are not completely serious.

My temperament is such that I prefer to live and let live. Don’t think the First Vision was anything but a metaphor or the Book of Mormon anything but inspired fiction? Fine. You go off and believe that, and let me believe in them in a rather more orthodox fashion, and I hope I never have the burden of conducting a worthiness interview with you. But don’t attach the fine words “liberal” and “conservative” to our respective beliefs, because that’s not accurate. “Orthodox” and “heterodox” are the accurate labels.

I am not terribly acquainted with the “Mormon liberals” one of you listed. I have heard Eugene England state that he does not believe there will be polygamy in the world to come, but that was many years ago, he didn’t make any particular statement on whether he thought in this life polygamy was commanded of God to Joseph Smith, and I have no idea what he believes now. I have also read him speculate that the Atonement was a metaphor staged for our benefit, to impress us with God’s love, rather than any actual settling of accounts. I have not read him write that faith in Jesus Christ is not essential and I don’t know what his present views are. I am actually kind of inclined to agree with him on polygamy in the world to come; at least, I’m willing to consider it a realistic possibility; but I’m not willing to believe the practice was not God’s will and I disagree with England’s essay on the basic nature of the Atonement. However, I have never heard or read anything by England that suggests he is “liberal” as you just defined it. My point in all this is that I would be careful about claiming too much affinity with England or the other “liberals” you named if I were any of you.

I don’t want to psychoanalyze Bruce at a distance, but I think I understand which of his nerves is being hit here. An awful lot of faith-destroying rumors are published by folks who declare their lifelong Mormonism as a credential. Palmer and his DNA criticisms of the historicity of the Book of Mormon come to mind as a recent example. Bruce (and I) would like to strip them of that credential. Bruce has gone a step further here, in suggesting that some literature by folks who insist that they are still faithful Mormons is also faith-destroying, and they should be called out for their heterodoxy. Whether that’s right or fair is of course the question before the forum. I think Christ’s warning about sheep in wolve’s clothing makes it clear that it can be right and fair, but just where the line is drawn is of some interest, enough to keep me from keeping this whole discussion at arm’s length. (Otherwise I would be inclined to not touch it with a ten-foot pole.) I do not care particularly which side of the line Todd Compton is on; he is not in my ward, I am not his spiritual leader. I have not read his book and do not plan to; if I ever find time to read a polygamy book, which is doubtful, I will probably go with More Wives than One, which I am told by friends I trust, who are more Gospel-scholarly than I, is the better book. I might have preferred that the discussion of where the aforementioned line is drawn be based on hypotheticals rather than concrete examples, but then the discussion might never have gotten off the ground.

Would I be comfortable with a Bishopric member who believed the Book of Mormon was inspired fiction, or that the First Vision was a devout hallucination, or that the Priesthood is a metaphor and there isn’t really a Book of Life in Heaven that records our saving ordinances? Frankly, no. I don’t know if any of you have these beliefs, and I would in any case be delighted to be relieved of any such concerns; but when Bruce reports that Kaimi encouraged a man who allegedly has such beliefs to accept a Bishopric call, and Todd Compton responds to questions about his beliefs with talk about how “complex” his faith is and how he’s thinking of writing a book on how we approach faith, I have concerns. I believe those concerns are legitimate.


Bruce Nielson
February 26, 2010

“By the way, I don’t consider myself an outstanding church member. You might call me “less active” at this point. I hope to become more active in the future. (Once again, it would help if I were to give you a three hour explanation for context.)”

Todd, you just almost completely disarmed me. I would love to hear your three hour explanation too. I’m going to contact you within the next couple of weeks.

Kaimi, I know people (and you probably in particular) are going to think I’m crazy, but I think this was an incredibly worthwhile and fruitful discussion far more so than just about any I had ever been in elsewhere on the “bloggernacle.” It has helped me a lot and both intensified (in some ways) as well as modified (in other ways) my point of view, which is the nature of a fruitful discussion.

For what it is worth, Todd’s answer was straight up enough that I now basically believe him that the quote about him that I was complaining about lacked context. This, I suppose, does not fully address all my concerns, particularly the claim of ‘believing’ in the book that also lacked enough context for a young believer to understand properly. (This is a two way street, you have to give context in both circumstances, not one.)

But when you address 80+% of my concerns like this in such a straightforward manner, you deserve full benefit in my opinion (especially since you are offering me a full explanation offline).

I do disagree with Todd that I was “ad hominem” attacking but I think Adam successfully explained that point so I won’t belabor it. I am going to do a future post (not about ISL or Todd) where I’m going to discuss my separate concerns with characterizing people’s legitimate concerns as ad hominem attacks.

I’m going to close the comments now that I feel this thread really has played itself out fully in miraculously productive ways.


Bruce Nielson
February 26, 2010

Vader,

You commented while I was writing my last. Your analysis, as always, is superb.

I did want to add one thing. Eugene England is a great example of what I think of as a “heretrdox believer.” He basically believed everything and all of it, he just fit it together differently than in traditional ways. I think a key point with England (at least back when he wrote his article on polygamy) was that he affirms it came from God. But heterodoxical beliefs aside (ones I don’t necessarily disagree with) I don’t think there is any doubt that England had the right to hold himself up as a believer without in any way throwing people off.

[...] God the way you’d suspend disbelief for a play that you know is fiction, while Bruce Nielson spars with the NOMs over the dividing line between privacy and integrity. But as Bodhi describes, explaining yourself [...]

[…] three weren’t the only sources. I could mention DougG, Joe Geisner, Matt Thurston, Todd Compton (from his book and website), Kaimi Wegner, TT and several others who, while shy about their […]

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