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October 01, 2007

Comments

ungewiss

It seems quite clear that the issue is self preservation, and not the preservation of truth. Apparently some things that are true aren't very useful.

If you think of the Church as God's vehicle on earth, it is disturbing to think they would kick people out for pursuing truth. But if you think of it as just another huge organization trying to maintain growth, it seems reasonable they would dismiss vocal dissenters.

In any event, your blog shouldn't raise any ire. If you were flying off the handle about unsubstantiated conspiracies, as many sites do, there might be more reason to be concerned.

dpc

I think that there are time, place and manner considerations that can have an impact on the type of ‘damage’ being done. If the Mr. Lamborn is actively proselytizing at church and is disrupting services (causing arguments, etc.), it is wholly different than posting your ideas on a webpage and letting others discuss them. But who knows? We don’t really know exactly what is going on in Arizona. We only have a short article in the newspaper. I can only say that I doubt that it’s a wholly evil church versus a sincere and honest seeker of truth. I’ve heard often enough on this blog and other places that the black/white, good/evil duality is a falsehood. What’s the shade of grey in this story?

Plus there is a difference between talking about facts (Little evidence shows that Joseph Smith was persecuted about the First Vision as a youth) as opposed to conclusions (Therefore, the First Vision didn’t happen or didn’t happen as Joseph Smith claimed it did). The first statement is not particularly damaging, the second one may be more damaging. But the second statement is not an unavoidable conclusion of the first. There is not some kind of ineluctable logic that leads from a historical fact to a religious conclusion. If the gentleman from Arizona is teaching his conclusions, regardless of how sincere he believes them, that is not necessarily teaching the ‘truth.’ And I don’t think that any members of a private organization have an obligation to give a platform to those who seek to teach conclusions that might undermine the unity and purpose of that organization. I’m not sure what basis anyone could argue that a church claiming to be led by God is acting unethically when it is acting the same way as any self-interested rational organization would. I haven’t heard any good argument yet, only flowery language about ‘doing the right thing’ which is a blatant appeal to emotion and is so philosophically suspect that I am surprised any educated person would still use it as a justification.

Equality

"I’m not sure what basis anyone could argue that a church claiming to be led by God is acting unethically when it is acting the same way as any self-interested rational organization would. I haven’t heard any good argument yet, only flowery language about ‘doing the right thing’ which is a blatant appeal to emotion and is so philosophically suspect that I am surprised any educated person would still use it as a justification."

You are arguing that the "one true and living church on the face of the whole earth" should act in the same way as any other corporation? I think it should act differently. The Church of Jesus Christ ought to operate on the principles of love, compassion, mercy, forgiveness, tolerance, respect, understanding, patience, forbearance, etc. Those virtues are not necessarily what an economically driven corporation would have as its guide to action.

As for your statement about "flowery language about 'doing the right thing' are you referring to something I've said in my blog or something else (because I didn't use those words)?

I agree that we don't know the whole story about Lamborn. It's not clear exactly what he was saying or doing with the information he had, though it appears from hi comments he may have been acting as a sort of "missionary" to those in his ward. It's not clear whether he simply raised questions, shared facts, or sought to persuade people in person in church that the church was "not true." I agree that the church has a right to set some limits on what its members can say and do and still retain their membership. I guess the question for discussion is what are those limits.

andrew

Great post, E. The question of what is allowed to be said to other members about real Church history and doctrine is one that has weighed heavily on me, especially as I teach a Sunday school class on Church history.
Do I bring up Fanny Alger? Or 8 versions of the first vision? In some cases, I feel a moral obligation to teach history as it is, not as some people wish it were.
As an active and mostly faithful member, I appreciate your blog and love the stimulus and critical thinking that you employ here.

Cut s dean

That was very interesting, dpc.

This sentence: “There is not some kind of ineluctable logic that leads from a historical fact to a religious conclusion.” Aren’t some facts so well documented that conclusions, whether religious or not, become, or nearly become, axiomatic? I agree with your example of the First Vision, but there must be other well documented (weighty primary sources, etc) facts in Mormon history that allow us to reach religious conclusions. A possible example may be Joseph Smith denying publicly and privately his polygamy. Assuming this can be documented accurately to reasonable belief, can’t we then conclude something either about the man who said he was acting by revelation or about the God sending the revelation?

If we can’t draw logical conclusions from well documented historical events, what can we believe? When I read your quote above (“ineluctable logic…”), I thought of the first sentence of the Protean chapter in Ulysses where Dedalus questions whether he can trust the visible (“Ineluctable modality of the visible.”) or the audible. Dedalus suggests we may only know by knocking our sconce against a brick. It may be that to not reach a conclusion on many parts of Mormon history is to beat our head against Berkeley’s wall.

But it may be that you are right: “…who knows?”

SML

This post is very thought-provoking, E. Well done. I loved the quote by Hugh B. Brown, and also like the question you raise:

just what is it about Lamborn that makes him a "danger" to his fellow saints?

I think the threat he poses is actually the truth. He probably comes across as reasonable, and rational, and honest. That is scary, because that is the kind of people that others follow. Much like you. Your blog could be considered dangerous by the church also because your defenses of your position are reasonable and you don't wildly throw out facts that are outrageous, rather you tell it like it is and give your point of view with reason and deep thinking that people respond to.

If only the church were as open and forthright, I'd likely still be there today.

LDS Truthseeker

That's one of the best posts you've put up Equality - kudos. I wish that those of us that are disturbed by historical issues of the church could openly talk about them in church. By not discussing them and persecuting those that do, it makes it seem much more likely that the critic's issues are mostly factual. Lies they would dispute but the only way to combat truth is to not allow anyone to talk about it.

Here's the document that Lamborn was distributing to interested church members. (Forgive the lines as the document format got a bit messy when I converted to html)

http://www.mormonthink.com/lamborn.htm

dpc

I read about half a webpage of the Lamborn document and then I saw how fast he played the Hitler card. Godwin's law proves itself yet again. That alone is enough to remove any doubt as to his creditability as a sincere sharer of the truth. Any honest person must reject guilt by association arguments. People who make such blatantly bad arguments ought to be exposed to public ridicule and shame. The fact that Hitler espoused (or rejected) a given viewpoint, says nothing about the viewpoint itself. Hitler was a vegetarian. Does that mean that vegetarianism is evil? Of course not. Something is good or bad in itself, and not bad merely because a bad man believed it. Genocide is wrong because it is wrong to kill innocent people; genocide is not wrong merely because the Nazis practiced it. Is Lamborn arguing that you can never trust emotion because Hitler thought you should trust emotion?

I also found it interesting that there is no place for NOMs in Lamborn’s view. No middle ground. No nuances. After all, he clearly shows by irrefutable, well-reasoned logic that ‘when someone stands and “bears testimony” of [Joseph Smith, the Book of Mormon, or continuing revelation]…they are asserting’ horrible, nasty means things, irrespective of their own personal belief and understanding. Good to see that Lamborn hasn't lost his 'the Kingdom of God or nothing' thought pattern.

Like I said, there is a vast difference between arguing over facts and arguing over conclusions. You can’t dispute the facts, but you can dispute their significance and impact. Lamborn is not just sharing true facts, he’s also sharing his conclusions and I think an organization can remove such a person if they are disrupting the organization. Dissent is not damaging, but antipathy is.

Equality, as for your post, I believe the attributes you listed describe the followers of Christ and not necessarily the church. An organization of forgiving people does not mean that the organization is (or ought to be) forgiving. It may seem so on an intuitive level, but on a strictly logical basis, the conclusion does not follow from the premise. Besides, Jesus wasn’t against getting rid of those who offend you (i.e. the church organization. See Matthew 5:29; Mark 9:45). Plus I feel you are being inconsistent in your reasoning. As far as historical issues are concerned, you want the church to value rationalism and intellectualism, but when it comes to the functioning of the church organization, you would reject what social science has taught us about organizational psychology and structure in favor of a clearly irrational position. How would you account for the difference? Lastly, on a prior comment somewhere, somebody on this site told me that the Church should ‘do the right thing’. I’m 99.99% sure that it wasn’t you.

SML, Your comment brought to mind something I’ve been wondering about for a while. What effect would reforming the Mormon Church have on those who had left or have become disaffected?

Equality

dpc said:
"As far as historical issues are concerned, you want the church to value rationalism and intellectualism, but when it comes to the functioning of the church organization, you would reject what social science has taught us about organizational psychology and structure in favor of a clearly irrational position. How would you account for the difference?"

Hmm, I'll have to think about that for awhile and get back to you. You raise a good point.

On Lamborn's document, I have read it and think that it contains a skeletal summary of a number of issues with church history and doctrine that are troubling. I don't think Lamborn, when he wrote it, intended it for widespread public dissemination--it was just something he came up with to collect his thoughts and share them with close friends and family. I agree that parts of it are a little hyperbolic, but I understand why that is the case.

I think the more interesting thing about the Lamborn story is not his document (which really contains just a summary of the information available in books and online about the church--information that the church does not generally include in the correlated materials) but rather the way his local church leaders reacted to him when he came to them with his questions. I suspect more will come out on that in time.

For example, one fact that I find extremely disturbing is that Lamborn went to his Bishop and met with him and told him of his doubts in confidence. His bishop inquired about who he had shared his concerns with and Lamborn told the Bishop that he had spoken with his five brothers. Shortly after that interview, his brothers (who live in different wards from Lamborn) were each visited and interrogated by their Bishops about the nature of their communications with Lamborn. This is troubling on a number of levels. Other details about Lamborn's court of love are likely forthcoming, and I suspect when they come out, it won't paint a pretty picture for the church.

SML

DPC ~

You wondered "what effect would reforming the Mormon Church have on those who had left or have become disaffected?"

I am unsure how it would affect those already disaffected...some people become disaffected, and after much deliberation and soul-searching decide to return to church after they weigh the options for themselves, pro vs. con. I personally don't foresee myself returning because the cons I see are too overwhelming.

However, I think that if the church were reformed from this point forward that it would be a much better and open place for existing and future members to grow in. I am of course talking about openness, honesty, as well as serious changes that I don't foresee happening in the near future such as actual acceptance of gays, equality for women, and tolerance and acceptance of those who are not living the narrowly outlined ideal life as written in "The Family: A Proclamation to the World." I would love to have the church be a safe place to raise my daughter so she'll feel self-worth and know she's equal to her brother in potential and ability. I would love for the church to openly accept my gay brother as the awesome and worthy human being that he is. I would love to be able to attend the temple without having to gain written permission from my non-member husband first. I would love for my friend who has facial piercings and spiky hair to feel comfortable and not judged if he wears a blue shirt and earrings and goatee to church. I would love to have known that Joseph Smith had issues of sexually desiring others outside the bonds of matrimony, so that when I found myself having and acting on those same feelings at age nineteen, I wouldn't have remembered all those morality lessons and felt like a worthless, vile sinner, which I was not.

Unfortunately, the only ones capable of making such changes are the First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve, and they seem to have their eye on business and not on little people like me who find church unbearable.

I appreciate you for asking me what I think.

Figaro

Good post, Equality. I appreciate the essay at the close. I hadn't seen that before.

Equality

Update:
I recently met with a ward leader over the area in which I live, and he clarified for me that the "damage" described was not to any specific person in the ward, but the "damage" comment was simply an expression of concern about the impact my blog could have on potential readers. I thought it only fair to offer that clarification, since I was apparently operating under a misconception when I drafted the initial post above.

D Stoker

"I think it should act differently. The Church of Jesus Christ ought to operate on the principles of love, compassion, mercy, forgiveness, tolerance, respect, understanding, patience, forbearance, etc."

I disagree and I think with such thinking one would be endlessly frustrated with the LDS church or any other human being for that matter.

Yes, the Church of Jesus Christ ought to operate on a different level, and that is always the expectation, but the historical record, whether in the old testament, new testament, book of mormon, early mormonism and modern mormonism, shows that the population within the church and house of israel are just as likely, if not more so, to be caught up in sin, make poor choices, and otherwise susceptible to mistakes and poor judgement. Maintaining a zion, utopian society takes an enormous amount of concentration and energy. We should not be surprised when members fail to meet the ideal.

Individually, the question becomes if one will repent of his own mistakes, forgive others of theirs and continue to strive for zion. When such behavior is done collectively then the church can move from a temporary earthly institute to the ideal society of zion.

JV

Equality said:
"I think it should act differently. The Church of Jesus Christ ought to operate on the principles of love, compassion, mercy, forgiveness, tolerance, respect, understanding, patience, forbearance, etc."

D Stoker said:
"I disagree and I think with such thinking one would be endlessly frustrated with the LDS church or any other human being for that matter.

"Yes, the Church of Jesus Christ ought to operate on a different level, and that is always the expectation..."

D Stoker, can you elaborate on how you disagree with what Equality wrote? It appears that you actually agree with him on this point.

-JV

D Stoker

I'll try to clarify. If I understand correctly Equality believes the church should act according to those ideal principles and if it does not it is evidence that it is a fallen church, not worthy of his fellowship, and begs for all its faults to be pointed out and ridiculed.

I agree that those principles are the ideal and the way the church ought to act and I don't think anyone would disagree with that. However, I do not believe the failure to live up to those ideals is evidence of a fallen church but instead evidence of fallen man. The church knows it is functioning below the ideal, their unique scriptures have the descriptions of the ideal in 4th nephi and the d&c, an d it is obviously not behaving in that way currently. Their own scriptures also talk about the whole church being under condemnation and unworthy of greater light God wishes to share with them. The church is a temporary structure precisely because the entire membership is not living those ideals. In mormon vocabulary the distinction is that of Zion and the Church.

So, I'm arguing that finding faults, in this case faults of the stake president or Mr. Lamborn, is not some grand revelation. It is already known that men, in all positions in the church, are fallible, I think most are honestly trying to do right, but fallible as the next man. The solution or how we ought to act is to repent ourselves, be forgiving, and seek to establish those ideal principles more fully.

JV

D Stoker,

Can you explain what you mean when you say that Equality thinks the Church "begs for all its faults to be pointed out and ridiculed"? Do you have an example of Equality ridiculing the faults of the Church or its members?

Regarding your last paragraph, above, are you suggesting that when we see imperfection and injustice in the actions of Church leaders, we ought to simply avert our eyes and mind our own business, rather than speak up? Is it ever appropriate to stick up for people who are hurt by those actions? How will a Church leader ever address his own faults (or even know they exist) if everybody pretends they don't see them?

Do you believe it is possible that the Church could ever be a "fallen" Church?

-JV

D Stoker

I am referring to the general spirit of his telling of the story. So, for example in this post:

"I find it interesting that President Molina was ready to make the excommunication of Lamborn public until Lamborn beat him to the punch, at which time it suddenly became "a private matter." "

The general spirit of his depictions of the two people involved is to belittle Molina and exalt Lamborn. They are not balanced depictions, they leave no room for forgiveness or fault of both parties. Molina might be a blockhead, or he might have realized his first decision was not kind, he might have numerous people in his office who's faith has been shaken from this gentleman's who don't have the resources or ability to sort through all the competing voices. Lamborn may have been particularly conforntational when he spoke with his bishop and stake president. Lamborn could be pushing his views on members in the ward. Why choose to react to the story by belittling Molina and exalting Lamborn when you could give both the benefit of the doubt and move on to reconciliation and progress?

In regards to my last paragraph, no I do not advocate averting our eyes or sweeping things under the rug but I think there is a right and wrong way to go about it. I have had issues with a bishop which it took a while for me to forgive, I eventually talked to him about it and we solved it between the two of us. I think he is an good guy who made a poor decision on one occasion. Well, that sounds a lot like me. I have written a letter to Salt Lake on an issue but I did not do it in a spirit of fault finding and I was able to have a civilized exchange and my opinions were heard.

When there are victims or people who feel hurt one can support them without disparaging the other party.

Is it possible for the Church to ever be "fallen", yes the Book of Mormon is a tragic tale of just that. My mission was spent in an area where the church had "fallen", people let trite 'disputations' along ethnic, friendship lines divide them to the point that they all left and stopped trying to live the commandments. Is it possible for the institution of the church to be fallen? Only if the members are, that is what the church is. This is more true in the Mormon Church than in most bureaucracies, every one is an equal member but asked to serve in different capacities at different times, from the prophet to the door greeter in a small branch.

JV

D Stoker,

Equality said:
"I find it interesting that President Molina was ready to make the excommunication of Lamborn public until Lamborn beat him to the punch, at which time it suddenly became "a private matter."

Interesting. Where you saw ridicule, I saw a comment highlighting the actions of a Church leader who seemed to have just been caught bullying a member of his flock. Lamborn was purged from the Church by President Molina, who then threatened to go a step further and ostracize Lamborn from the larger LDS community. There appeared to be a power imbalance, and President Molina was ready to use it.

How does one talk about what happened without disparaging President Molina? Perhaps, to some extent, the mere act of supporting a victim can mean casting the "other party" in a negative light. In fact, just describing why somebody is a victim reflects negatively on the other party. Whatever term we use to describe the other party, it will be a euphemism for "victimizer". Why is it so important to spare the feelings of a victimizer?

D Stoker said:
"Is it possible for the institution of the church to be fallen? Only if the members are, that is what the church is. This is more true in the Mormon Church than in most bureaucracies, every one is an equal member but asked to serve in different capacities at different times, from the prophet to the door greeter in a small branch."

Please expand on what you mean by your statement "This is more true in the Mormon Church than in most bureaucracies." Aren't all other bureaucracies comprised, top-to-bottom, of people too? If you are saying that the difference is that in the Church everyone enjoys equal status, I would ask you to explain that too. I would be particularly interested to hear why you think the prophet does not enjoy a higher status in the Church than the door greeter in a small branch. How do you explain the hymn "We Thank Thee O God For a Prophet" being sung in Gordon B. Hinckley's honor? Does the Church provide the door greeter with a chauffeured Lincoln Town Car to ride to Church meetings in? Doesn't that say something about the equality of status amongst members the Church? In principle, is a less extreme example--say, Stake President vs. Beehive Secretary--any different?

-JV

dpc

"Interesting. Where you saw ridicule, I saw a comment highlighting the actions of a Church leader who seemed to have just been caught bullying a member of his flock. Lamborn was purged from the Church by President Molina, who then threatened to go a step further and ostracize Lamborn from the larger LDS community. There appeared to be a power imbalance, and President Molina was ready to use it."

Nice theory, but it doesn't fit the facts. Lamborn was informed at the end of his disciplinary hearing what he wasn't allowed to do at church once he was excommunicated (couldn't pray, couldn't give a talk which is nothing unusual). Lamborn got angry and said he would do that kind of thing anyway and would sue the church if they tried to stop him. Molina said that he would tell everyone in the stake that he had been excommunicated, not to shut him up or ostracize him, but to to enforce the action that had been taken. If Lamborn hadn't become belligerent, I doubt that Molina would have threatened to tell the members of the stake. Lamborn went to the newspaper to try to humiliate the church. You can try to paint Lamborn as the innocent victim and Molina as the evil bullying religious leader, but it's not as black and white as that.

JV

Nice theory yourself, dpc.

You seem to have more facts than I have seen. Can you tell me where you got them? Maybe provide a source for your new factual assertions like (1) Lamborn becoming belligerent and angry immediately following his excommunication and (2) threatening to sue to be able to pray and give talks; (3) Molina's specific intent in preparing to have the excommunication announced throughout the stake (not to ostracize, but to enforce his judgment); (4) Lamborn's specific intent in going to the newspaper (to humiliate the Church).

Your new facts aren't reflected in the news reports I've seen. For example, from what I've read, the letter President Molina sent Lamborn explaining the planned announcements did not mention enforcement of his decree at all, but it did point to the "nature" of Lamborn's excommunication and involvement with the community. Similarly, in an interview during that time, President Molina said he planned the announcements because Lamborn was a "danger" to the Mormon community. Your "enforcement" concept is a new one to me.

One other fact you assert (well, technically, imply) in your post is that I have tried to "paint Lamborn as the innocent victim and Molina as the evil bullying religious leader." I actually don't know what "innocent" means in this context, and I have never even come close to applying that label to Lamborn. Maybe you think "relatively powerless" is synonymous with "innocent"? Because I think I did paint Lamborn that way. And President Molina "evil"? Nope. You are not going to put that word in my mouth.

I think I can see why you would want to mischaracterize what I wrote--it gives you that "it's not as black and white as that" punchline, which must have been satisfying to write. I must say, however, a good postmodernist such as yourself shouldn't be resorting to that kind of distortion to make your point. (What was your point?)

-JV

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