Episode 12: Inoculating the Saints (with Kevin Barney, Blake Ostler and Mike Ash)

With this episode we begin a 3-part series dealing with the idea of “Inoculating the Saints.” This first episode hails from the 2007 Salt Lake Sunstone symposium. The abstract reads:

Would fewer members leave the Church if they were taught about the stickier issues of LDS history and theology in faithful, institutional settings rather than stumbling upon them on the Internet or from other sources? Perhaps fewer members would feel “betrayed” by the Church when they encounter troubling information after being in the Church for years without being taught about discrepancies. But were the Church to more proactively engage in “information inoculation,” would so doing better serve faith and spiritual growth? What should the role of the Church as an institution be in doing this versus that of LDS independent and apologist groups? In the lead-up to the 150th anniversary of the Mountain Meadows Massacre in September, 2007, we are seeing a few Church-directed efforts to teach members about this terrible episode. Are we seeing an institutional shift in the way they will engage challenging issues from now on?

The speakers on this panel include:

  • CHARLES RANDALL PAUL, Ph.D., Panelist director, Foundation for Interreligious Diplomacy; board member, Society for Mormon Philosophy and Theology
  • BLAKE OSTLER, attorney; author, Exploring Mormon Thought: The Attributes of God and Exploring Mormon Thought: The Problems of Theism and the Love of God
  • KEVIN BARNEY, attorney; author of numerous articles on LDS scripture and theology; member, FAIR board of directors
  • MIKE ASH, owner and webmaster, MORMONFORTRESS.COM; author, “The Sin ‘Next to Murder’: An Alternative Interpretation” (SUNSTONE, November 2006)

A big thanks, as always, to Clayton Pixton for providing the wonderfully inspirational bumper music for this podcast. 

In the subsequent 2 Mormon Matters episodes, our panel will discuss this panel presentation, and the idea of inoculation.

If you enjoy this presentation, please check out other past Sunstone presentations here.

Comments

comments

40 comments for “Episode 12: Inoculating the Saints (with Kevin Barney, Blake Ostler and Mike Ash)

  1. Doug G.
    August 26, 2007 at 8:18 pm

    First let me say that I enjoyed the presentation and listening has inspired me to attend the next Sunstone Symposium. I also have a better feeling about Kevin Barney after hearing him speak. I had perceived him differently from reading some of his posts on other sites and at FAIR.

    I believe the church has tried to inoculate its members for many years as some of the guests mentioned. I’m in my mid forties and still remember attempts by my high school seminary teachers to touch some of these sticky matters in church history. For me, the most damage done to my testimony wasn’t from the correlated history taught in Sunday school and Priesthood meeting or the milk before the meat mentality employed by CES. My anger was kindled when I learned that the inoculation administered was either deliberately or ignorantly deceptive in substance. It’s the notion of teaching 49 truths to get one lie believed.

    Please allow me the following examples:

    1. My seminary teacher taught us about polygamy in 11th grade but insisted that due to the horrible mobbing of the saints and the number of widows created thereby, polygamy became the Lords way of helping these poor unfortunate women survive. We also learned that many women wanted to be sealed to Joseph Smith, even if they were married to other men, to ensure their exaltation. These were spiritual marriages only and would not be valid until the next world.
    Can you see why this type of inoculation actually did more harm than good? Imagine my surprise when studying the actual history of the practice…

    2. Mountain Meadows was discussed one day in our class and the teacher spoke of this Missouri wagon training moving through the territory bragging about how they’d run the Mormons out of their state and soon they’d be back to drive them out of Utah. Some of the Dixie saints along with the Indians took matters in their own hands and killed this ruthless band of Mormon killers despite the prophets warning to let them go in peace.
    More problems with my trust in men called by our leaders to teach young impressionable minds…

    As John Dehlin said in “Why They Leave”, bad apologetics can drive searchers of truth out of the church. This creates a much bigger problem for FAIR and FARMS as the things they write seems to migrate into the main fold of the church in-order to help answer tough questions. If the people are going to be truly inoculated, they need the whole truth, nothing but the truth, so help me God. (for my lawyer friends:) It’s kind of like going to confess to the Bishop for some serious deed and then failing to fully confess. Confession is good for the soul and the church in some cases… If that can’t be done then we better forget the idea of giving the members the serum.

  2. Ann
    August 26, 2007 at 9:15 pm

    I’m an editor here, which is a good thing. I can edit my comments. So I am. They were unkind and inappropriate and thoughtless.

  3. Kevin Barney
    August 26, 2007 at 9:23 pm

    Doug G.,

    I certainly agree that bad apologetics can be a problem, as in the examples you cite.

    You seem, however, to mean to convey the impression that the examples you give are characteristic of what you’ll find on the FAIR website. If that was what you meant to say, I disagree. I don’t know anyone associated with FAIR that would put forward any such argument as what your seminary teacher made.

    To illustrate the difference, for a FAIR apologetic on polygamy, see Greg Smith’s “Polygamy, Prophets, and Prevarication”:

    http://www.fairlds.org/Misc/Polygamy_Prophets_and_Prevarication.pdf

    For a FAIR apologetic on MMM, see Gene Sessions’ FAIR Conference presentation on that subject:

    http://www.fairlds.org/FAIR_Conferences/2003_Shining_New_Light_on_the_Mountain_Meadows_Massacre.html

    You may disagree with these presentations, but they are not the kind of simplistic, “bad” apologetic you illustrate with your examples. They are substantive attempts to deal with hard issues from a perspective of faith, which is what apologetics is.

  4. Kevin
    August 26, 2007 at 10:44 pm

    An imaginative, beneficial application of your Sunstone leadership, here, John. Ever since I learned about Joseph translating through a peep stone I’ve felt a desire to learn more about the sticky questions for two reasons. First, the real world is remarkably interesting and, second, I want to learn on my own terms and decide what it means for myself.

    I strongly resonate to the notion of inoculation. The story of the stalwart woman in the small Illinois ward who talked herself out of the Church reminded me of the story from your own Mormon Stories interview of the prominent church family in Texas who left over the issue of Masonry’s influence on the temple ceremony.

    When I talk up Mormon Stories to other people I always mention the great benefit I’ve gained from the segments on Masonry and the temple and my enlarged understanding of blacks and the priesthood.

    I look forward to the follow up discussions on this topic.

  5. August 27, 2007 at 1:31 am

    I didn’t find Blake’s presentation to be at all sanctimonious. I enjoyed all of the panelists, thanks for making this available gratis.

  6. August 27, 2007 at 10:12 am

    Ann,

    Tell us how you really feel…

    Seriously, there is a follow-up to this? Can you give some details (teasers)? I am about 1/3 of the way through this and have about a zillion comments (I know you’re all thrilled, aren’t you) which I’ll put up on my blog, well, sometime. Maybe I should wait until the follow-up comes out, though. Ann, why have you been relegated to time-clock operator? Was it something you said?

  7. Ann
    August 27, 2007 at 11:03 am

    I regret my hasty comments made in the heat of the moment. I am a passionate person. It’s part of my charm.

    (Blake, I remember your comments from Saturday night, and I’m really sorry I went off like this. It was unkind of me. Please accept my apology.)

    Yes, we recorded a follow-up to this podcast with John Hamer, Blake, and David King Landrith that is probably just awaiting chopping up and editing. It’s almost 90 minutes, so it will be two (more) episodes. The Sunstone recording is the groundwork for the conversation that follows. I think it’s a very good show. I listened to the Sunstone podcast after we recorded, and there is some redundancy, but I think the tone and content are different enough that each has something unique to offer.

    If you’ve got a blog post in the making, you may want to also do a three part series!

    I’ve been time-keeping because it was my idea to try to keep us on track by having a non-participating person monitor the conversation for time and meanderingness. The moderator might be able to do it if he wasn’t also monitoring sound levels and everything else about the recording process. John wanted me on this show but I wasn’t prepared (in that I hadn’t listened to the Sunstone presentation). So I kept time. If I’ve said anything that ought to keep me off the show, it apparently hasn’t deterred John D., because he wants me to come back next week.

  8. August 27, 2007 at 11:08 am

    I heart Ann Porter.

  9. August 27, 2007 at 11:19 am

    I heart everyone.

    Since I missed this session, thanks for making it available. Great session.

  10. Doug G.
    August 27, 2007 at 6:34 pm

    Kevin,

    Thanks for your response. I should have clarified myself better in regards to where bad apologetics come from and to what extent. I certainly wasn’t saying that FAIR had any involvement in the miss information I was given as a youth or that your organization would ever be that blatantly misleading in inoculating the members. The examples were simplistic and extreme to illustrate my point. Interestingly, the article you sent me to by Gene Sessions includes a statement about his seminary teacher giving him bad information as well. Perhaps its true, most of the false doctrine in the church does come from high school seminary teachers?!?!? (That’s a joke)

    I still stand by my statement at the end of my post, you folks have to be very careful in the information you put out. For example, in the latest Ensign Bro. Richard Turley makes a statement that would lead most believing members to think that it took BY many years to understand the extent of the settlers’ involvement in the massacre and take appropriate action. He also fails to mention that BY was one of the nine men originally indicted in 1874. My compliments to Bro. Sessions at FAIR for stating that there was a deliberate cover-up and Brigham was certainly a big part of it. Complicity after the fact may have made him just as guilty as if he ordered the attack in a court of law. (I hope Bro Sessions’s membership is not in peril)

    I’m not trying to debate MMM or any other sticky point of history with you in this format, I’m just saying that even in the church Ensign this month we have an example of deliberate miss information used by an apologist to try and inoculate the saints. I believe it damages testimonies and ultimately weakens the church when people actually discover the truth. At least that’s been my experience…

  11. Naismith
    August 27, 2007 at 6:46 pm

    I was surprised to hear an hour-plus discussion without acknowledging the decades of work done by social scientists regarding Social Inoculation Theory (first espoused by W. McGuire in 1964 in “Inducing resistance to persuasion: Some contemporary approaches.” In L. Berkowitz (Ed.), Advances in experimental social psychology), or at least a mention of the work of Michael Pfau, who has been perhaps the leading advocate of this approach (Nuances in Inoculation: Theory and Applications, 2002).

    I’m not claiming to be particular knowledgeable about this stuff; I only have a master’s degree and had to study in whatever college town my husband dragged me to, but I learned about this theory in 3-4 different classes at 2 different universities, so I think it is pretty well respected. Thus by ignoring any reference to the body of existing research, the panel came across as arrogant, and provided fuel for the oft-heard notion that Sunstone folks are pseudo-intellectuals who like hearing themselves talk, but lacking serious academic rigor.

    At various places in the discussion, I kept waiting for a reference to the literature. When someone asked how to “test the vaccine,” I wanted to shout, “Efficacy of inoculation strategies in promoting resistance to political attack messages, Pfau et al., 1990.” Because there are ways of quantifying effectiveness.

    Also, one point that comes out in the literature, that didn’t get mentioned in the panel, is that inoculation works even against arguments for which specific counterarguments have not been offered. In this respect, it is much more powerful than other persuasive approaches and would make it even more desirable in a church setting.

    I loved the comment about the adult daughter who had questions about JS & polygamy, and the admission that she had blown off the discussions as a teenager, because that has also been my experience, and it was my reaction to the earlier comment that parents should be teaching their children about these issues. The catch is that when they will still listen, they are still too young to comprehend complex issues; when they get older and could wrap their brain around it, everything I say is stupid.

    I thought the panel were incredibly sensitive to the thoughts expressed by questioners.

    As a gospel doctrine teacher as well, I gave much thought to the usefulness or possibility, and I think that I do introduce some of this, when it fits without taking much time away from the lesson. In our study of the New Testament, there have been several places where the gospel accounts conflict, and when we look at these discrepancies, which are sometimes resolved by the JST, I also point out, “Isn’t it interesting that those who criticize Joseph Smith for having so many various versions for the First Vision have no problem accepting different versions of (whatever)?” And if they aren’t aware of discrepancies in the 1V accounts, they can talk to me after class.

  12. Mayan Elephant
    August 27, 2007 at 7:48 pm

    Ann, your first comments were spot on. right on the money. your apology is rejected completely.

    i just had to laugh when i heard “i taught the philosophy of religion [at BYU]” and then i wasnt laughing about the story that involved the death of a child.

    ostler is not sympathetic to anyone that feels betrayed. in fact, he goes one step further and blames the person for not doing what he did in the 9th grade. lunacy. what about converts that hear six discussions? there are countless reasons for people to not have done what he did in the 9th grade, though, he has no room for any of them.

    that said, i am giving ostler the benefit of doubt here. perhaps, he prepared more coherent and reasonable words, but his human memory failed him completely and this is just one of many variations he will ultimately share from his notes. after all, if seeing god is as confusable as observing a car accident that happens in about 1.2 seconds, then his original talk must have been superdy duperdy confusable.

  13. Benjamin G
    August 27, 2007 at 10:04 pm

    Just in response to the article posted by Doug G, I am a much younger male and have gone through the seminary program much more recently(not to call you old:) and I to was taught many of the same things about church history. I was also told that polygamy was necessary because of all the widows etc…and it got me thinking. How, after so many years and a different school and teachers all together, was I taught the exact same deception on church history without it being planned by someone in the CES program. Maybe side-stream doctrine has gotten so bad that we just allow it to be taught by our seminary teachers figuring most of our kids wont study and learn the truth anyways. Fine for all those blind followers who blindly accept all they are taught but very damaging for truth seekers who study to learn the truth for themselves. Me.

  14. Carlos
    August 28, 2007 at 8:09 am

    Ann & Mayan,

    I actually think that Ostlers presentation was by far the best ones, with real thought provoking issues.

    And Mayan: you’ve completely missed the points made. Because of that you should listen to it again -or many more times. His 9th grade example was refering to people who have grown up in the church and then at 30 something say: oh, shit, church never told me about josephs’ many wives!

  15. Clay
    August 28, 2007 at 9:37 am

    I get the point Blake was making, and I still did not appreciate the style. Yes, obviously you can do some digging and find some church sources for information on tough issues. However, the only way you get to that stuff is if you either know the issue exists or you just read 1912 Improvement Era’s for fun. Correlated Sunday School will not introduce the tough issues for you to go searching about. Here’s a news flash, too, the church does not want Bro. Ostler the gospel doctrine teacher bringing up polyandry or early peepstone treasure-seeking, etc. If you do that, you are violating the instructions in the front of your teacher’s manual. I will agree with an ancillary point to his talk… the important and productive thing for someone who has encountered the “disease” is not how you got it, but how do you live now that you have it.

    Side note: I noticed a trend in more than one of the talks in the session. The use of red herrings. Speaking of bad apologetics. Obviously they are all brilliant men, and I would have no doubt that in real life they are very good and sincere people, but I noticed the effort to throw out topics that distract from actually addressing the things that are tough issues specific to the LDS church. The fishiest of these herrings were the point of the Catholic Popes scandals, and Blake’s story of the father just watching his daughter get killed by a truck because he thought it would interesting. In both cases they were presented for shock value to make the point that the things disaffected Mormons call tough issues are nothing compared to the grander problems with faith and religion in general. Again, it conveys the message that they think people are only adversely affected by tough LDS issues because of immaturity or laziness. Is that better or worse then when people think you get there because you want to get drunk and cheat on your wife?

    I’m eagerly awaiting the follow-ups, hoping that there’s some ‘splainin’ being done.

  16. Matt Thurston
    August 28, 2007 at 11:04 am

    Naismith,

    No need to knock Sunstone folks as “pseudo-intellectuals who like hearing themselves talk, but lack serious academic rigor,” because three panelists failed to read the same sources you read in college. Sunstone welcomes academic and non-academic folk who enjoy discussing issues related to Mormon culture. I enjoy an academic point of view, but I’d also die of boredom if every issue discussed was reduced to stilted academese and an endless citation of sources. And I’d hate to make a presentation on some subject in the future and have to worry about pedants in the audience scoffing because I failed to cite McGuire or Pfau. Cut them some slack.

  17. Mayan Elephant
    August 28, 2007 at 11:38 am

    Carlos,

    oh, so i get it. you may be right, i did miss the part where the discussion was narrowed down to 30-something people that were born in the church, exclusively. well, in that case, it all makes perfect sense, sorta. maybe need to have another panel discussion for 40-somethings, converts, 50-somethings, teens, etc.

    no doubt, none whatsoever, ostler was by far the most thought provoking.

  18. Ann
    August 28, 2007 at 1:08 pm

    I especially liked Kevin’s point about discovering problems: that at some point the problem is no longer the problem; the problem is the feeling that you’ve been lied to. That describes my experience to a T. All the apologetics in the world won’t fix that problem, it will only exacerbate it.

    Direct discussion of difficult issues at appropriate times/ages within the church curriculum could be a huge benefit. You wouldn’t have to hit ALL the problems, just a few significant ones. Developing that culture of openness in our regular lessons could go a long way toward preventing that feeling of being betrayed, even if someone discovers / happens upon data that they haven’t heard before. The idea that things are rarely as simple or straightforward as they seem could be woven into the curriculum, giving people the foundation for exploring nuances rather than needing answers, dammit.

    When? Youth Sunday school (for Pete’s sake, take a month before you talk about the presidents of the church to talk about polygamy and its variants, the translation process, how the doctrines of the 19th century have evolved over time (this is my pet peeve, that people insist that everything is exactly the same, just that we don’t really UNDERSTAND what they taught back then), multiple first vision accounts, and how 19th century frontier life and rhetoric shaped the course of events like Haun’s Mill and the MMM. Or distribute it during the year (do a new topic every time you switch to a new prophet. work them in to the time frame, if possible.)

    And then, do the same thing in Gospel Essentials for converts.

  19. August 28, 2007 at 1:40 pm

    I won’t steal my own thunder from the blog post I am preparing, but one thing that bothered me about the Sunstone presentation was there was very little discussion about how to inoculate along the lines of what Ann suggests. A lot of time spent talking about why inoculation wasn’t really necessary or wouldn’t work anyway. The church very successfully indoctrinates its members with a corpus of knowledge about the church’s doctrines and history. How does it do it? If people have the idea that there was polygamy int he early days of the church but it was only because Brigham Young wanted to take care of widows, they do KNOW something about polygamy. The problem is what they know just isn’t so. But chances are, they got the idea from their activity and involvement in church programs somehow. So, if the church can successfully indoctrinate people with mistake ideas about church history, why couldn’t it succeed in indoctrinating members with correct ideas?

  20. a random John
    August 28, 2007 at 1:48 pm

    I have to say that the tone of Blake’s presentation is very off-putting, at least at the start. I’m very happy for him that he had access to 60 year old magazines when he was 14. I didn’t, and it is noteworthy that it was in old magazines rather than recent ones that he found this information.

    Not only did I not have access to such sources but some of the information that I had available was inaccurate such as Mormon Doctrine or Doctrines of Salvation. In fact Sunday School manuals direct teachers to not discuss OD 1 & 2 themselves or the issues around them but to focus exclusively on the idea of continuing revelation. Why not present info on Elijah Abel and the fact that the ban didn’t originate with Joseph Smith? Why not dispell some folklore?

    One issue that Blake hints at but doesn’t fully address (and that Kevin’s example also hints at) is that we have a lay clergy. If I have a question about an issue and I take it to my bishop the odds are that he will give an inaccurate answer or have no answer. While Blake had encountered and had knowledge of difficult issues at a young age most leaders in the Church have not. Kevin’s example of the woman concerned about the Sabbath makes this point very clear. For Blake this question is laughably silly, but they culture of Sunday School is such that even such a simple question might not have been addressed. Imagine if her question had been about masonry and the temple.

    It is unfortunate that there has not been a space in the official Church to discuss difficult issues and for people to express and work through doubts and concerns. Sunday school, RS, EQ, etc are currently not a space for this because the culture of these meetings is such that difficult issues are verboten. I think this is odd because I think working through issues can be very faith promoting. Institute should be a venue for such discussions but often isn’t in my experience. Blogs are great for some of these discussions, though home to much junk as well.

  21. Mayan Elephant
    August 28, 2007 at 2:11 pm

    this whole debate is frustratingly goofed up. am i the only person here that feels like they just listened to a circular debate about how to inoculate youth and members from ‘X’, where X is described by one camp as ‘the truth’ and the by other camps as, well, ‘the truth?’ and in the middle of that, we have ostler saying if you didnt learn the truth, its your own damn fault because anyone could have figured it out if they had just asked.

    could it possibly be true that the truth, if given in large doses, could be costly and harmful and scary? (perhaps this is dehlins take, given his role in setting up the debate) i do not sympathize with that argument, whatsoever. i get the consequences of a mea culpa could be severe. so what? big deal?

    this all seems very very simple to me. the institution should either tell the truth, or, tell its constituents that it is not telling them the truth. what is so hard about that? either option is fine. really. i know there are some that are saying that the second option is a straw man. it is not. if the church has the facts, and chooses not to disclose them for whatever reason – say so. big deal. get a lawyer to do it. hell, that could be blakes new job as a lawyer. “my client, the corporation of the president, has asked me to explain that they have detailed records related to church history which they do not wish to disclose. thank you. i am not taking any more questions.” walks away from camera. while walking says, “that is available in public documents, my client does not wish to disclose any details. no comment. no comment. no comment.”

    so, here we just experienced a debate about what to do to get the information out, without misinformation. i have an idea – ask hinckley to do it. ask monson to do it. ask packer to do it. ask oats to do it. ask nelson, pickle man, holland, all of them. has anyone tried that? i doubt it.

    nelson started talking about peepstones, but he has since forgotten and lost his job as a spokesmen on the topic. why not ask him to change the curriculum and give a conference talk about it? wouldnt that do more than a debate with ostler saying its the members fault for not knowing? wouldnt that do more to prevent 30-something members from claiming the church didnt tell them the truth?

    it just cracks me up to no end to hear these debates, among members, about what we should do. when we all know what most active members will believe – what the leaders ask them to believe. generally, f the leaders asked them to believe that joseph smith was led like a lamb to slaughter on trumped up charges, they will believe it. if the leaders want members to believe that joseph smith used peepstones in a hat and had 34 wives, they will generally believe it. if the church wants members to believe joseph smith used a urim and thummim and that polygamy was practiced by young and his peers to save widows, they will believe it.

    so, who wants to call hinckley?

  22. zionssuburb
    August 28, 2007 at 2:31 pm

    I find it interesting, and know from other discussion areas, that Kevin has credited Blake’s expansion theory of the BOM as saving his testimony of the BOM.

    On the apologetics topic, anyone who thinks that Blake or Kevin are part of any _Bad Apologetics_ hasn’t read enough of either, or has written that group off all-together discouting anything before it’s read.

    I was happy to see the opinions expressed in the panel, Ash, covered what has been termed elswhere as the ‘dumbing down of the mind’. Statistics show that people aren’t interested, many people I go to church with have no concern or interest to know. Kevin covered the betrayal/disillusion felt by many as difficult issues are learned, and Blake provided the view that many feel, that it’s your own fault if you hadn’t learned about it by then. All-in-all a great panel that I believe covered the panorama of experience in this area. Those focusing on Blake over the whole are missing, what I think was a great session.

    The thing about innoculation that I keep thinking about is how it happened for me.

    Has anyone ever listened to the Living Scriptures Audio Dramatized Church History? With Card writing the story line a wonderful narrative is achieved that is enjoyable, much better than a video. Leaves things to the imagination. It doesn’t cover MMM, it doesn’t cover the treasure digging, but doesn’t puritanize the early leaders also, warts show, polygamy is there. Enough for me as a boy, even younger than Blake, at the time, to bring up issues in my home for discussion with my father. I am also lucky that my father has been a subscriber to Sunstone and Dialoge, he also had Books, Shipps, Brodie on the shelves as well. I grew up in a safe environment in which I could express doubt, discuss difficult issues, etc… However, my Father, NEVER said, here son, let me teach you about the MMM, let me explain to you about Polyandry, etc… I did that out of a need to know and understand.

    I also remember a class that I took at USU. Ken Godfrey taught an Institute class called, “Difficult Issues in Mormon History” Bro. Godfrey passed out a topic list and we voted on the lessons we wanted to hear. It was a great class.

    John – since you’re up in Logan, maybe Bro. Gofrey could provide you some valuable material for continuing the discussion of innoculation.

    Let’s all try to keep this idea in the fore-front of Mormon Studies, we need these people, and there’s rarely a real need for them to leave

  23. August 28, 2007 at 2:39 pm

    I’ve been inoculated for measles, polio, chicken pox. Never has it been suggested that I should be innoculated for truth.

  24. zionssuburb
    August 28, 2007 at 2:47 pm

    Mayan, how would you incorporate these questions into the need of the Church to continue to meet the needs of the members all throughout the world. Some of this discussion is very Utah/MountainWest/NorthAmerica centric. In Latin America do you think the saints really need to be told in Sunday School that Joseph Smith used peep-stone, or had polygamous wives, or should we find a way to improve their lives through opportunity, like the Perpetual Education Fund. Are we worried that someone learn about the MMM or that temples are brought to the people and buildings to meet in, or that local Priesthood leadership be trained, do we spend the priorities of the General leadership of the church in teaching difficult issues, or brining training to the world. Do we send Apostles out to Europe, Chile, Phillipines, or have them create curriculum with real history instead of sanitized history.

    In the Business I’m in, our Growth rate has been exponential, much like the Church. We have to concentrate and prioiritize our projects and tasks to meet the most vital needs and most highly visible items, with the priorities that the General Leadership has been working under teaching the Gospel, Brining the Covenant relationship of many to God, bringing the Priesthood into the homes of more people on the Earth, maybe the unsanitizing, and the unpuritinizing of our History message has been considered less important.

  25. Clay
    August 28, 2007 at 3:16 pm

    zionssuburb,
    I’m not calling the speakers bad apologists, just that the use of red herrings is bad apologetics. You can write 100 excellent papers and the one cheap shot is still a cheap shot. When people say apologetics sometimes does more harm than good it is usualy in relation to the condescending or argumentative tone that just doesn’t feel like the “right side” of the argument. Granted, critics are usually as bad or worse in tone, so ultimately you are left with no good side at all. Just frustration and confusion.

    Also, you talk about the effort the church should put forward and what might be an ineffeicient use of resource as if the sanitize and sometimes innaccurate or misleading materials just appear out of thin air. There are massive resources expended on updating and creating those materials each year. Church-funded and produced films and DVD’s sent for free to every Ensign subscriber clearly depicting Joseph running his finger along the gold plates translating. Maybe learning about seer stone translation wouldn’t be such a surprise if the method was just *not shown*. (There is testimonial evidence of seer stone translation, but none at all for reading the plates. Not that it couldn’t have happened, just no evidence for it.) You are right that it might be a wasted effort to go out and create harsh truth materials worldwide, but how about saving some of the current effort by NOT creating unsupported or wrong versions? Personally, that is all I would ask of the church at this point. If you don’t like the real story, fine, don’t tell the story. Just don’t tell me a false story. That… is the root of the damage.

  26. August 28, 2007 at 3:38 pm

    Zionssuburb wrote, “In Latin America do you think the saints really need to be told in Sunday School that Joseph Smith used peep-stone, or had polygamous wives, or should we find a way to improve their lives through opportunity, like the Perpetual Education Fund.”

    When such a Latin American member is brought before a church disciplinary council because she has slept with someone out of wedlock, and feels horrible and repents for that sin. . .when she endures the agony of confessing to her bishop, and endures the scrutinous stares of her friends in the congregation as she doesn’t take the sacrament for a year, and as she is unable to substitute teach in primary when someone asks her because she’s not “worthy”. . .and THEN she finds out Joseph had extramarital sex with other women behind Emma’s back. . .yes, she might consider it valid to know beforehand about Joseph Smith’s polygamous wives.

    When the entire concept of that Latin American woman’s place being under the presiding authority of her priesthood-wielding husband, and such authority is brought to this earth by a man who says he saw Jesus only, or was it Nephi, or angel Moroni, oh, wait, no, it was God the Father and Jesus together. . .the same guy who translated the plates by using a rock in a hat ~ it might be important to her on some deep level, yes.

  27. August 28, 2007 at 4:01 pm

    And why is truth “Utah/MountainWest/NorthAmerica centric”?

  28. zionsuburb
    August 28, 2007 at 4:39 pm

    I am not of the opinion that the Church lies. There is a wide variety of opinion of the level of forthrightness the Church is responsible for when it comes to history, I’m not on either extreme myself. I believe that most of the problems in this area come from uninformed members teaching other uniformed members, not that the Church itself is responsible. I think it was Kevin who mentioned that maybe it’s the Church artists that need to learn a little history.

    Again, my personal experience in the Church (and being in Utah) is similar to Blake’s in this discussion, and it is hard for me to understand or see the point of view of those who have experienced a deep feeling of deceit or duplicit actions that are many times attributed to the Church (rightly or wrongly). It’s not that I don’t want to understand or need to, but my personal experience isn’t similar.

    I wasn’t trying to convey that _truth_ is Utah/MountainWest/NorthAmerica centric, only the _issue of innoculation_ and the problem we’re trying to fix with the discussion, that is, members learning about things they consider to be questionable and losing faith as a result.

    I’m not sure that as the Church moves into Globalization that resources should be prioritized for this effort. Maybe there are already organizations to handle these issues, Sunstone, Dialogue, BYU Studies, FARMS, FAIR, Signature, The Blogs, all serve very useful purposes.

    Sometimes I think we start to kid ourselves that what we care about deeply is cared about by church members everywhere, I’m not sure that is the case. And experience has shown me that people in the Kansas City (where I’ve spent my adult life) area don’t really care about the Documentary Hypothesis, or about the Dead Sea Scrolls and their contribution to Biblical Scholarship. They don’t really care to have an analysis of the versions of the First Vision, or the MMM.
    These are all things I think are vital to being a Mormon, others apparently don’t share that opinion.

    Again, this is a very important discussion in my opinion and efforts should be made in this direction, I personally like the idea of an institute class for each Stake, for those members who want to know. I’ve always thought that areas with a study group serve a very useful purpose, it takes those in the very small percentage on the fringe of the Church (either liberal or conservative) and give them a forum out of the earshot of those who don’t really care to be there while it’s happening.

    I think many have already put forth the what can we do thoughts, what are our other options?

  29. Mayan Elephant
    August 28, 2007 at 5:22 pm

    whoa whoa whoa there mr. zionsrhubarb, you got me all mixed up.

    let me catch my breath here for a minute. first, what she said. why in salty desert is this a mountain west, north american thing? in the last 24 hours i have talked to mormons on two continenents that are not north american. so there.

    as far as i know, one message of the church is that it is the same all over. at least that is how i told the story during my mission. it would be a double whammy boot to the head to think that the missionaries are lying about that too. it is condescending and just whack to consider the accuracy of the message and foundational basis of the church to be less important for those that are not in utah. wow. i am assuming there is no racial basis for your comment, but clarification would probably be helpful.

    perhaps you are implying that the members of the church, or converts, are not stable enough to handle the truth. maybe that was a good reason to send holland to chile and oaks to the Philippines. certainly, you are not in any way implying that the complete population of those countries cannot be subjected to truth, so i am assuming your assessment is unique to the current members. again, clarification on your views of the church versus the countries you mentioned would be beneficial.

    all the examples you mention, of goals and construction and buildings and quantifiable improvements and priesthood are fine. they are part of the global expansion. but, i would hope you agree with me that any of it, if it were to come at the expense of peoples happiness and real life benefit, are not worth it. would you rather have unhappy people in a nice church? or happy people in a park? the perpetual opportunity fund is another red herring here. first of all, they only loan interest gains. there is little work being done there. secondly, where is the integrity in telling someone you will loan them money but they must believe a lie, or say they believe a lie?

    this is the same old nonsensebullshit argument again. its good. its bad. its good. its bad.

    how bout we cut to the chase. can we. let me put it this way.

    so what if the church loans money to someone or builds a church, if the person they are loaning money to or hosting in church could wake up one day, read a new book or internet site, and find themselves completely railroaded by TRUTH? who cares? so what if the church is ten times bigger than it was a year ago, if the price is a bunch of busted up families, disappointed parents, scared teenagers and depressed spouses? do you honestly think it is worth it if the church is big? unreal.

    Here we have this debate, at sunstone, about inoculating the saints. you, zions, come on here and say the church is too busy to figure that out? i think that is really a poor explanation.

    too bad Episode 12 wasnt the same people talking about “how to reduce LDS divorces. how to reduce LDS suicide. how to increase volunteerism among youth.” i think we all know what happens to many families when one spouse accepts the one true first vision and another spouse dismisses all nine. again, the issue is NOT the number of visions and whether or not the spouse should have stumbled across that gem in the ninth grade, mr. ostler. the issue is, if both people had gotten married with the same truthful information, they wouldnt be betraying one another because they feel betrayed by a church.

    damnit. the betrayal is real, ya clowns. its not something one should flippantly dismiss as their own effing fault for not listening to a jackass dad in family home evening. the church tells people way too often that anger is bad. there is a horrible association with anger and contention and the devil. with that one exception of jesus in the temple where we draw the line and say how anger is ok if it is righteous. how bout this – anger is ok if you feel it. deal with it. ask yourself why you got it in ya bones. dont believe some yoyo that says its bad when all he knows is how to tie a double knot on his silk tie and tell people to repent.

    for me, and a bunch of other folks i have talked to, anger is internal. its in your body not just in your head. ask yourself, what are the pros and cons of anger. basically, my take away is that anger helps us establish boundaries. at some point, we become angry when something or someone has crossed into the red zone. the anger subsides when the threat is further from our boundary. sometimes our boundary shifts and the anger increases or decreases. sometimes the threat moves and increases or decreases our fear.

    we respond differently to issues related to people, spouses, church, whatever you want when it is far away versus when it comes close to home. when ostler says – the book of mormon may have taken place in the other dimension (no response) when he says that we are lazy and idiots for not figuring out that the correlated story was incomplete, i rage because i dont have the space for it and it exceeds my tolerance of indecency.

    so, if you want to change the way people accept these truths, i suggest you change the allowances given to those that are hearing it for the first time or dealing with it daily, regardless of what grade they are in. this is not about the technique or agent of delivery. it is about people. lives. marriages. and oh so much more. if you want to help soften the blow, then show them there is a safe place in the church and among the saints for those that feel betrayed. show them that they are welcome there and nobody is going to accuse them of being weak for not having figured it out earlier. and more, you need to tell parents and siblings and spouses that is ok to forgive them and allow them space and peace in their seperation from the church if thats what they choose, because the prophet and apostles would tell them the same thing.

    for now there is not a statistical report of divorces or resignations in general conference so we can all pretend that all is well, and growing, in zion. if nobody seems to care that it may be otherwise, we should just carry on with the he said she said about polygamy and first visions and stuff.

  30. KW
    August 28, 2007 at 5:26 pm

    zionsuburb, I also learned the gospel and church history from Orson Scott Card through the Living Scriptures audio tapes and I feel they are the best resource available for teaching correct paradigms for what it means to be a prophet and how God works with people. A few months ago I went to Deseret Industries and bought the New Testament on cassette for $9 and we listen to it now as a family.

  31. Mayan Elephant
    August 28, 2007 at 5:32 pm

    hey zion. i dont fault the church either. and i dont fault the streets and i dont fault the flowers. i dont fault the wind and snow. i dont fault the churches, banks, theaters, barbed wire fences or pretty little birds.

    like you, i fault people. though, i fault the informed people that are not fully disclosing what they know, a lot more than i would fault someone who is not informed, and lives on faith that all they need to know is available in the scriptures or conference talks.

    and damnit you guys. damn you. what about the single mom, raising two kids in davis county? what about that? she doesnt have enough money for sunstone. or dialogue. or your $%#%$ books. what is she to you, zion? just uninformed? that is just rotten. and rotten for everyone to not have risen up and given blake a monumental wedgie for suggesting as much. the single mom that works her ass off to keep two kids in school, trusts her kids in the care of scoutmasters, bishops, young women advisors. takes them to church every week. pays tithing and fast offerings and pays to a perpetual piece of fund. and she trusts that her kids are getting the truth, and she is too. and you are telling me its her fault if she feels betrayed or disappointed when she finds out it was all a pack of lies or misinformation. and what about her and her kids? what if the kids leave the church and she stays? or she leaves and they stay? lemme guess, dumb woman shouldnt have been so lazy, right?

    zion – you want my suggestion? Stop. Stop. Stop blaming the victims and excusing the leaders. Start Start Start asking the leaders to change it from the top to the bottom.

    and if you change but your leaders do not – leave. that will make them listen more than these silly apologetics.

  32. KW
    August 28, 2007 at 5:40 pm

    When I experience anger it is usually unnecessary and is often the result of my self deception. When I am closed to the possibility that I am contributing to my emotional state and I therefore give others responsibility for my feelings of betrayal, it has only exacerbated my problems. Terry Warner’s writings on this topic have provided me with a deep and lasting paradigm shift which has improved my relationships considerably and opened me to feeling greater peace.

    I occasionally notice some members of the church act in ways that I feel are unhelpful in addressing individual concerns or needs, so I do what I can where I can. Institutionally I would like to see the church take a position on being proactive and I see signs that we are moving that direction. I had a good discussion with the head of the Church Archives and he stated that as a result of scientific surveys of the membership, they will be addressing issues that many (or some) find challenging through official publication. The recent article on MMM represents this new paradigm shift.

  33. Mayan Elephant
    August 28, 2007 at 5:44 pm

    “he stated that as a result of scientific surveys of the membership, they will be addressing issues that many (or some) find challenging through official publication.”

    shakes. head.

    maybe next time someone might scientifically survey their conscience.

    kw – i believe what you say here. i think the temple changes also came as a result of similar surveys.

  34. Capt Jack
    August 28, 2007 at 5:45 pm

    ZS said:
    “In Latin America do you think the saints really need to be told in Sunday School that Joseph Smith used peep-stone, or had polygamous wives, or should we find a way to improve their lives through opportunity, like the Perpetual Education Fund.”

    CJ:
    Yes, they need to be told.

    ZS said:
    “Are we worried that someone learn about the MMM or that temples are brought to the people and buildings to meet in, or that local Priesthood leadership be trained, do we spend the priorities of the General leadership of the church in teaching difficult issues, or bringing training to the world.”

    CJ:
    Why is this some either-or, zero-sum game? Manuals are printed now. Money is spent for instructional materials today, even as temples are built and “the stone rolls forth”, building chapels and lending money for vo-tech careers. It wouldn’t be that big of a deal to print manuals that present the nuanced picture of church history that Bro Ostler learned about on his own.

    It would take no more money than is currently being spent.

    Members in Latin America have enough challenges as it is: abysmal retention of converts, social prejudices, discrimination at work. The least they deserve is an opportunity to learn things that rich North Americans learn.

    There is a danger for the church in not innoculating; internet access is growing at a tremendous rate throughout the developing world. Members and their children are going to learn about post-Manifesto polygamy, seerstones, and treasure digging. The only question is who is going to present the material: you guys or the opposition at some evangelical “ministry”.

  35. Mayan Elephant
    August 28, 2007 at 5:53 pm

    uh oh. shouldnt have done that. if you need to delete it all you can. woooopsie.

  36. Lunar Quaker
    August 28, 2007 at 6:03 pm

    The church has been very successful at teaching its members what it wants them to know about its doctrine and beliefs. Ask any born-in-the-covenant Mormon to describe the doctrines of the atonement, the plan of salvation, eternal marriage, etc., and you are likely to get a response that well approximates the official church view. On top of that, born-in-the-covenant members have a wealth of experience and scriptural knowledge that serves them well in their callings and in family settings.

    Blake Ostler thinks every member of the church should be a scholar of church history. Or, at the very least, he thinks they should be explorers of esoteric historical facts, and to have done it early in life, maybe even in the 10th grade like he did. He wants them to hear about Fanny Alger through the grapevine, and then go to a library and learn all about it on their own, without any encouragement from the institution.

    Is is the church’s responsibility to make its members aware of the facts. What if every institution expected its members to just “know” things without any encouragement whatsoever (and in the case of the Mormon church, in the face of open discouragement)?

    If a cashier that has been happily working at Wal-Mart for 10 years were to discover a disturbing fact she had never known about the company, say, that the clothing sold is manufactured by small children at abusive sweatshops in China for 5 cents a day, isn’t she justified in getting angry and quitting her job? Should she have been expected to have found out about the Chinese sweatshop by doing some investigative sleuthing on her own? Should she have sent Christmas cards to the Walton family?

    If the church really wanted the members to know about these things, then they would know. If the church has never hidden any difficult truths from its members, why would you be having this inoculation discussion in the first place? It certainly isn’t due to slothful negligence.

  37. August 28, 2007 at 6:05 pm

    I have posted my comments to the first 15 minutes or so of the podcast over at Equality Time: http://www.equalitysblog.typepad.com
    This is a good discussion. More later.

  38. August 28, 2007 at 6:06 pm

    Closing comments for a bit…waiting to hear from the panel if they want to keep this discussion going. I’ll be back soon w/ the decision.

Comments are closed.