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  1. Pardon the interruption, but if one disregards the apocalyptic lucubrations, then wouldn’t it now be unnecessary to reconcile them with the facts of modernity?  I haven’t listened, and my apologies in advance if my comments are unnecessary, but did the following make it into the discussion? http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5HYATuH18iA and http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qMxe73iJPbo

    1. Pinker’s book and the discussion of it by Michael Shermer in Scientific American did get some play. Turned out that no one on the panel really felt the real need to go overboard in trying to demonstrate the “world getting worse” idea isn’t based in genuine data. Pretty much introduced and asserted within 10-15 minutes with the bulk of the discussion more on broader framings, particularities of Mormon or religious spins on that general meme, and ideas with practical applications for presenting a healthier worldview.

          1. Just so long as we keep it lively;)

            btw, yet another article on how the world is getting better. http://articles.chicagotribune.com/2012-01-08/news/ct-oped-0108-chapman-20120108_1_murder-rate-rick-santorum-moral-relativism

  2. I loved this podcast! I’m inherently a pragmatic optimist. I thought while listening, this should be a high council talk or general conference talk. You had perfect panelists!

    The part that struck me was the levels of concern, first family, if all’s well there, then our tribe, our state, our nation, our world. I look forward to the day we all are concerned about orbiting space junk and solar system pollution!

    “I’ve got to admit it’s getting better, a little better all the time”

  3. I’m in the middle of the podcast right now. 

    First, here is the clip that I have to imagine Dan heard about where we look at different ‘golden ages’ to see how golden they really were (it is a must see):http://www.thedailyshow.com/watch/tue-january-5-2010/even-better-than-the-real-thing

    Second: I love to use this section from Mormonism in Transition when discussing different views about the ‘end times.’ It really highlights those two seemingly paradoxical views we hold. 

    “After Heber J. Grant became church president in 1918, Smoot and the Republicans began to face a new style of church administration. President Grant willingly allowed a greater degree of diversity in the open political discourse of church leaders than had Joseph F Smith. As a result, Anthony W. Ivins, Stephen L Richards, B. H. Roberts, Charles W. Penrose, and others became active in Democratic politics without fearing official censure such as B. H. Roberts had received under Joseph F. Smith.In the League of Nations controversy, for instance, the tables were turned and Heber J. Grant’s moderating influence, rather than the good will of various members of the Council of the Twelve, preserved Reed Smoot from censure. Briefly, a number of the general authorities were upset with Senator Smoot’s antileague stand. In part, the differences developed over scriptural interpretation and the feelings about the millennium. President Grant and a number of the members of the Twelve like Orson F. Whitney, Anthony W. Ivins, Stephen L Richards, George F. Richards, Richard R. Lyman, and James E. Talmage saw the league as a means of spreading Christianity throughout the world. Richards said that the league was inspired of God, and Talmage addressed a congregation in the Tabernacle calling upon members of the church to support Wilson and “his inspired work.”With Smoot, however, were several of the Twelve together with the church’s presiding bishop. Bishop Charles W. Nibley thought Talmage’s address “mere rot.” Smoot said that the scriptures proved that war and pestilence would continue until the Savior brought peace. Opposition to the league in the Twelve came from David O. McKay, Rudger Clawson, and Joseph Fielding Smith.Many members of the church and of the Twelve were convinced that Smoot and Nibley, who were most vocal, were out of harmony, and Smoot was afraid that his chances for reelection in 1920 would be hurt. Stephen L Richards and Anthony W. Ivins were particularly vehement in objecting to Smoot’s opposition to the league “against the decision of the Council,” and particularly his use of church scriptures to support his position.”- Mormonism in Transition, pg 52

    1. Hadn’t seen that Jon Stewart clip. Fantastic. Thanks, Geoff!

      Enjoyed that description from the Alexander book, too. Definitely these tensions have been with us always… 

  4. This topic bought to my mind John Dehlin’s interview of Dr. William Bradshaw.  I found Dr. Bradshaw’s comments concerning the Church’s portrayal of the world as an evil place among his most moving.

    This interview can be found here:

    The pertinent segment  runs between 24 min to just past 28 min.  I would recommend the entire interview for anyone who has not heard it.

    JT

  5. This discussion focused mainly on the individual psychological affects of the “evil world” messages that the Church has propounded, with more or less fervor, since its inception as a millennial movement.   The exception was James’s reference to a long history in the West of using Apocalyptic doctrine as a means of group identification and preventing group dissolution into the rest of society.

    I think this group-level (or institutional-level) “framing” needs far more attention. I suspect that Mormonism taps into a deep reservoir of culturally selected social psychological mechanisms that serve the institution first and the individual either second or at the individual’s expense.  I suspect that the central role sexuality plays in Mormon moral constructs can also be understood at this level – that is, in terms of the leverage it has on individuals in service of the institution*.

    I have found it important to face what social psychology is revealing about the human condition – that human beings express an evolved suite of unconscious cognitions that can subsume personal well being in service of the group. Because they are unconscious they leave these people susceptible to abuse by institutions, that will act as amoral self-interested agents, especially when stressed.  

    Because people find “end of times” thinking gratifying for its cognitive ease and apparent meaningfulness, it blinds them to the same collateral damage that all forms of narcissism abide.  While group-centric cognitions may have served our survival in the Pleistocene, it isn’t playing well on a a small, shrinking, and stressed planet.  What I fear most in Mormon and similar protracted fundamentalist Christian “end of times” prophecies is their self-fulfillment.  I cannot think of a stronger moral argument against such a religious mind-set. Yes, Brother Packer seems to be putting off the millenium for a few generations.  But he should be expand his thinking, and moral sensibilities, beyond bevies of Mormon grandchildren to a suffering planet.

    Thanks for a this very interesting and thoughtful discussion.

    JT

    * One can apply this perspective to almost every dimension of Mormon doctrine and practice. “Positive psychology” was mentioned in this conversation as well as TED talks.  Professor Jonathan Haidt (University of Virginia) does work on innate moral systems and identifies moral dimensions that distinguish liberals from conservatives.  His TED talk on this subject is posted here:

    http://www.ted.com/talks/jonathan_haidt_on_the_moral_mind.html

    1. How great is this comment?  Great podcast pointing our how the world is evil mindset is unhealthy and not based on real data or logic.  This is bad thinking and it should not be passed on to our kids.  The church is the only beneficiary of such a worldview.  Teaching our kids the world is evil and Satan and his billions of spirit henchmen are out to get  them only pushes kids further into the Mormon bubble.  The attitude promotes elitism and intolerance.  How can anyone really benefit from the incredible breadth and depth of this diverse world and its occupants when the evil and scary world is either going to end or cause them to lose their testimony or drop their standards at any moment?  How much of the richness of life then is prematurely judged and dismissed?  And let’s not kid ourselves.  The world does translate to all non Mormon people of all countries, cultures, religions and sexual orientation.  Also,why would any tbm even bother with the world when Mormonism contains ALL the truth, ALL the keys to happiness and contains everything they need to be happy.

      It should be no surprise that we wind up socializing and interacting pretty much only with other Mormons.  (of course I live in Gilbert AZ so, you know)  Just think of all of the value in other cultures and religions and people that not only passes by without experience but is literally judged as not being as good or worthy of respect.  Well, I am not passing this crap on to my kids. 

      The debate of whether the church is “true” or not can carry on and will carry on.  Personally, I don’t see how it is much of a debate at all but well, what are you gonna do?  However, bad ideas just don’t need to carry on and they don’t need to be passed on.  Bad ideas just need to die off.  Bad doctrine needs to be abandoned over time.  The Church has shown the capacity to abandon bad doctrine when it will benefit them.  However, abandoning the evil world doctrine or at the very least abandoning the relentless indoctrination of this doctrine upon our youth does not benefit them at all.  In fact, it only benefits people like my 15 year old daughter and 13 year old son, so, um, I am not holding my breath.  I do wish these pod casts would cross the line and talk more about how these doctrine specifically benefit the church etc.  Of course, I acknowledge how doing this would affect the pod casts ability to create “space” for these kinds of discussions in the first place.

      At least bad thinking like this is being exposed.

  6. Our lesson today in Elders Quorum was on Monson’s talk on “Stand in Holy Places”. Our instructor just couldn’t get past the how evil the world is now part. I just wanted to argue. I made my point then suffered through the rest of the lesson. How do you all do it? It just drove me nuts.

  7. I really liked all the discussion on the dangers of black and white thinking that I think prevails in the church. When we frame the world as an evil fallen place, we tend to treat both the Earth and its occupants that way. This is represented in our art and politics. I think it is much more healthy to frame our world as a good place where most people are trying to be decent. Mormons need more allies. Pres. Hinckley talked about this in his support of Christian Churches who combat pornography. I would personally love to see our church reach out ecumenically to other congregations, especially with our youth who often feel isolated in their Mormonism at school and with non-mormon friends. It took me a good 30 years to get over some of those feelings of isolationism. The time for circling our wagons is over! Any other good ideas in how we can accomplish this?

  8. This is turning into a great conversation. Thanks, all! Let’s keep it going. I’ll try to weigh in for real tomorrow when I have some time again…

  9. I’m just starting the podcast now, but had a quick comment; the ‘world getting worse’ message isn’t just limited to Mormonism; every time I open my issue of National Geographic each month I come away feeling that we’re all doomed!

    1. Definitely! The more fringey elements of the environmentalist movement in particular seem to have an apocalyptic mind set that impairs the discussion on what to do about the environment. It would also seem as if some on the right view the current conflicts with the terrorists within Islam as apocalyptic, particularly with regards to nuclear weapons. These extremists on both sides make national discourse tremendously difficult, if not impossible!

  10. I’m just starting the podcast now, but had a quick comment; the ‘world getting worse’ message isn’t just limited to Mormonism; every time I open my issue of National Geographic each month I come away feeling that we’re all doomed!

  11. Awesome thought provoking stuff.  The good old days are always past as far as coging it (Cloud Atlas word).  If people are able to reflect on the 30s or early 40s as the good old days (some people’s childhood years), then I’ll believe that’s for sure.   

  12. The world is evil is in a way just another road the church allows their members to drive on.  The funny thing is all the roads that we are allowed to drive on lead us inexorably to a couple of conclusions.  One, you are different and two, you have something special nobody else has.  

    You are different so you (tbms, especially youth) need to stick together, be friends with each other, marry each other etc…………and the church can provide this for you.  You have something special (the church/testimony/the truth) that is CONSTANTLY under pressure to be taken from you by..(satan, internet, tv, books etc)  and the church is the only way to keep this special gift from being taken from you.

    For me, the problem is not just that a dependency on the church is being created.  The problem, especially when I set it against the backdrop of raising teenage kids, is that I don’t want my kids to feel like they need to rely on an institution to be happy, safe or find answers.  They need to develop this on their own.  I also feel like the world is evil mindset can very easily stunt my kids emotional and intellectual development.  I mean if the world is that bad and people are that influenced by Satan and my kids really are literally living in enemy territory, then they won’t feel it is safe to venture out and try new things and trust people of other religions, orientations or general viewpoints.

    For my kids, the Church has not earned the right to massively stack the deck in their favor.  They don’t get to frame how my kids must see the world and those in it.  What they do get is a fair chance to influence my kids with the product they are offering.  The Church has to compete in a fair marketplace with my 15 and 13 year old.

    How is the Church doing?  Well, not that great.  My son would rather read his subscription to National Geographic than the Book of Mormon.  He has read and prayed about it but not under the paradigm that there is only one answer (its true), no manipulation and not surprising, no spiritual witness or not great feeling while reading it.  (reminds me of that New Era article last year about the girl who reads the BofM like 5 times and prays about it and never gets an answer it is true, somehow the story is supposed to be faith promoting) My daughter would rather study so she can get great grades to achiever her goals than go to that weeks YWs on most weeks.  They are allowed to choose if they want to go to things like baptisms for the dead and guess what, they think it is a little creepy and they don’t go.  My son does not mind doing fast offerings because it is a service that helps people.  They think for themselves and self direct their lives as much as kids can at that age.  The point is they are in control of the playing field.  Not their “choices” in a Church paradigm but the actual playing field.  I don’t want an institution defining the playing field (evil world, satan, you are at risk etc) and then limiting the choices to be made on the playing field by only approving of a narrow band of acceptable “right” choices.  

    The negative social price they pay for not conforming their lives in every way like the other kids in the ward is an acceptable price to pay for them having self esteem that is independent of an institution, having the ability to question anything and follow the answer wherever that leads, the ability to view the world based on what they read and see and experience as well as the ability to change this view as they change, the freedom to spend their time doing what interests them and fits their life goals and on and on.

    Going to Young Women in Excellence night always depresses me.  Each year, regardless of the passions and interests and intellect of the graduating girls, they all wind up going to UT or Idaho to college.  Is the world so evil that we have to keep our kids in a tbm bubble until they graduate HS and let them out of the bubble long enough to make a mad dash up to Provo or heaven forbid Rexburg?  For as different and unique and amazing as these girls are, it sure is a coincidence they all do the same thing after they graduate.

    sorry for rambling, really.

  13. The world is evil is in a way just another road the church allows their members to drive on.  The funny thing is all the roads that we are allowed to drive on lead us inexorably to a couple of conclusions.  One, you are different and two, you have something special nobody else has.  

    You are different so you (tbms, especially youth) need to stick together, be friends with each other, marry each other etc…………and the church can provide this for you.  You have something special (the church/testimony/the truth) that is CONSTANTLY under pressure to be taken from you by..(satan, internet, tv, books etc)  and the church is the only way to keep this special gift from being taken from you.

    For me, the problem is not just that a dependency on the church is being created.  The problem, especially when I set it against the backdrop of raising teenage kids, is that I don’t want my kids to feel like they need to rely on an institution to be happy, safe or find answers.  They need to develop this on their own.  I also feel like the world is evil mindset can very easily stunt my kids emotional and intellectual development.  I mean if the world is that bad and people are that influenced by Satan and my kids really are literally living in enemy territory, then they won’t feel it is safe to venture out and try new things and trust people of other religions, orientations or general viewpoints.

    For my kids, the Church has not earned the right to massively stack the deck in their favor.  They don’t get to frame how my kids must see the world and those in it.  What they do get is a fair chance to influence my kids with the product they are offering.  The Church has to compete in a fair marketplace with my 15 and 13 year old.

    How is the Church doing?  Well, not that great.  My son would rather read his subscription to National Geographic than the Book of Mormon.  He has read and prayed about it but not under the paradigm that there is only one answer (its true), no manipulation and not surprising, no spiritual witness or not great feeling while reading it.  (reminds me of that New Era article last year about the girl who reads the BofM like 5 times and prays about it and never gets an answer it is true, somehow the story is supposed to be faith promoting) My daughter would rather study so she can get great grades to achiever her goals than go to that weeks YWs on most weeks.  They are allowed to choose if they want to go to things like baptisms for the dead and guess what, they think it is a little creepy and they don’t go.  My son does not mind doing fast offerings because it is a service that helps people.  They think for themselves and self direct their lives as much as kids can at that age.  The point is they are in control of the playing field.  Not their “choices” in a Church paradigm but the actual playing field.  I don’t want an institution defining the playing field (evil world, satan, you are at risk etc) and then limiting the choices to be made on the playing field by only approving of a narrow band of acceptable “right” choices.  

    The negative social price they pay for not conforming their lives in every way like the other kids in the ward is an acceptable price to pay for them having self esteem that is independent of an institution, having the ability to question anything and follow the answer wherever that leads, the ability to view the world based on what they read and see and experience as well as the ability to change this view as they change, the freedom to spend their time doing what interests them and fits their life goals and on and on.

    Going to Young Women in Excellence night always depresses me.  Each year, regardless of the passions and interests and intellect of the graduating girls, they all wind up going to UT or Idaho to college.  Is the world so evil that we have to keep our kids in a tbm bubble until they graduate HS and let them out of the bubble long enough to make a mad dash up to Provo or heaven forbid Rexburg?  For as different and unique and amazing as these girls are, it sure is a coincidence they all do the same thing after they graduate.

    sorry for rambling, really.

  14. The world is evil is in a way just another road the church allows their members to drive on.  The funny thing is all the roads that we are allowed to drive on lead us inexorably to a couple of conclusions.  One, you are different and two, you have something special nobody else has.  

    You are different so you (tbms, especially youth) need to stick together, be friends with each other, marry each other etc…………and the church can provide this for you.  You have something special (the church/testimony/the truth) that is CONSTANTLY under pressure to be taken from you by..(satan, internet, tv, books etc)  and the church is the only way to keep this special gift from being taken from you.

    For me, the problem is not just that a dependency on the church is being created.  The problem, especially when I set it against the backdrop of raising teenage kids, is that I don’t want my kids to feel like they need to rely on an institution to be happy, safe or find answers.  They need to develop this on their own.  I also feel like the world is evil mindset can very easily stunt my kids emotional and intellectual development.  I mean if the world is that bad and people are that influenced by Satan and my kids really are literally living in enemy territory, then they won’t feel it is safe to venture out and try new things and trust people of other religions, orientations or general viewpoints.

    For my kids, the Church has not earned the right to massively stack the deck in their favor.  They don’t get to frame how my kids must see the world and those in it.  What they do get is a fair chance to influence my kids with the product they are offering.  The Church has to compete in a fair marketplace with my 15 and 13 year old.

    How is the Church doing?  Well, not that great.  My son would rather read his subscription to National Geographic than the Book of Mormon.  He has read and prayed about it but not under the paradigm that there is only one answer (its true), no manipulation and not surprising, no spiritual witness or not great feeling while reading it.  (reminds me of that New Era article last year about the girl who reads the BofM like 5 times and prays about it and never gets an answer it is true, somehow the story is supposed to be faith promoting) My daughter would rather study so she can get great grades to achiever her goals than go to that weeks YWs on most weeks.  They are allowed to choose if they want to go to things like baptisms for the dead and guess what, they think it is a little creepy and they don’t go.  My son does not mind doing fast offerings because it is a service that helps people.  They think for themselves and self direct their lives as much as kids can at that age.  The point is they are in control of the playing field.  Not their “choices” in a Church paradigm but the actual playing field.  I don’t want an institution defining the playing field (evil world, satan, you are at risk etc) and then limiting the choices to be made on the playing field by only approving of a narrow band of acceptable “right” choices.  

    The negative social price they pay for not conforming their lives in every way like the other kids in the ward is an acceptable price to pay for them having self esteem that is independent of an institution, having the ability to question anything and follow the answer wherever that leads, the ability to view the world based on what they read and see and experience as well as the ability to change this view as they change, the freedom to spend their time doing what interests them and fits their life goals and on and on.

    Going to Young Women in Excellence night always depresses me.  Each year, regardless of the passions and interests and intellect of the graduating girls, they all wind up going to UT or Idaho to college.  Is the world so evil that we have to keep our kids in a tbm bubble until they graduate HS and let them out of the bubble long enough to make a mad dash up to Provo or heaven forbid Rexburg?  For as different and unique and amazing as these girls are, it sure is a coincidence they all do the same thing after they graduate.

    sorry for rambling, really.

  15. FIFA and SOPA being considred, economy getting worse and worse, foreign debt growing, political correctness, nuclear threats, divorce rates rising just to name a few things………..I didn’t listen to the podcast, but the creators of this website are obviously trying to nitpick things to make the church look bad

  16. Pingback: 085.1: Living Righteously in a Wicked World; OT Lesson 8

  17. Pingback: 085.2: Living Righteously in a Wicked World; OT Lesson 8 (Study Notes)

  18. I really appreciated the insights of this podcast. The evidence truly shows the world, by most measures, is getting better and is soooo much better than in most of history for most people. That said, those who have tried to have an honest discussion about LDS church history are met head on with “why are you bringing up those negative things? that is all in the past, let it go, focus on the good and positive the church is doing now…” Which is really ironic because it comes from the same people who listen to the hate-radio and the “world is so wicked and bad out there.” It’s simply a strange paradox of passive-aggressive group-think. I’m not sure how to go beyond chit-chat with people who have a world-view that is so closed to anything beyond LDS culture as good. I liked the suggestions about reframing and lived experience and the progress of humanity…but it sure doesn’t seem to click with those I’ve talked to. They just push back harder about how things are getting worse, and as you note, so much is centered around sexuality. Thanks for some sanity.

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