Resolving the Conflict between the TBM and the ExMo

guestAnti-Mormon, apologetics, blacks, doubt, joseph, LDS, Logic, Mormon, orthodox, questioning, resolutions, theology, thought 50 Comments

Today’s guest post comes from Ulysseus, a frequent commenter at Mormon Matters and elsewhere in the b’nacle.  His website can be found here.

To take a line from Shakespeare — a pox upon both your houses. The Ex-Mos and TBMs continue to argue past each other and never the twain shall meet. While the thought of a kind, loving heavenly being comforts and then closes the ears of the believer, the list of inconsistencies, logical disconnects and “anti-Mormon” cliches assuages and then closes the ears of the non-believer.

Unless you frame your debate, it will continue to be unproductive, each side creating their own echo chamber of reinforcement until the cacophony makes it impossible for anyone to hear what is going on.

Here is where I would propose to take the discussion: How do you reconcile the conflicts? To quote this guy I once read, “By proving contraries, truth is made manifest.” Bonus points if you can tell me who said that. The discussion then moves from cliche and rote response to a value and factual discussion in an attempt to find common ground.

For example: Blacks and the priesthood. The Word of God is for all of God’s children. You are punished for your own sins, not Adam’s transgressions (or Cain’s.) Racism is a rampant cultural and historical phenomenon which prompted violent conflict between those who thought racism violated God’s law and those who believed their race was chosen by God to rule over the lesser beings (both sides used religion as the basis for their beliefs — one of those contraries Joseph was talking about.).

The argument came to a head in the spring of 1820 (bonus points if you know what else happened in the spring of 1820) in the United States with a Missouri Compromise. The Compromise held the Union together for about forty more years until war broke out, but the entire time temperatures were broiling on the race issue in the United States. Northern (upper state New York) abolitionist leaning religions moving south into Missouri and southern Illinois were not well received.

Not surprising that depending on your viewpoint the ban on blacks holding the priesthood came from:
a) false doctrine;
b) the human capacity for self-deception while striving for self-preservation;
c) individual racism of some church leaders;
d) conforming to the current societal norms; or
e) some other reason arising out of the factual scenario.

The anti- and the pro- both believe that the whole racism thing was a bad idea, they just get there different ways. Conflict resolved, sort of.

So who is right? How should we define, the capital T, “Truth”? I’m going to come clean right now — I’m in the Joseph Smith camp on this one, at least for how to determine Truth. The reason I’m in the Joseph Smith camp is that he is also in the historical philosophical tradition of the American Enlightenment and the scientific method and he made one of the first attempts to apply that philosophy to religious thought. Joseph Smith also had a strong sense of American individualism — study it out and figure it out for yourself. How he succeeded can be argued, but I love the empirical, scientific approach to religion. (To avoid numerous digressions into atheism, geology, cosmology and science, I’m only talking in this post about applying an empirical, scientific approach to internal subjective experience.)

The scientific method gives us a mechanism for creating hierarchal judgments on different hypotheses — the hypothesis that is the most consistent with all the data is the most correct, the most true hypothesis.

Another way of saying this is Truth is inclusive. If you draw lines that exclude, you don’t have the Truth, you’ve left something out.

Joseph Smith believed this and it shows in his theology, for example eternal progression and baptism for the dead. He wanted everything included and this is a huge comfort point for believers. It leads to a Mormon mother’s common belief that a non-believing child can eventually end up in the temple and end up included, despite the past. What a comfort that must be to her, based on her own world view.

So I am looking at TBM’s hypothesis which says “my view is right because it is more inclusive, God’s plan provides eternal salvation for all mankind, even Ex-Mos.”

The conflicting Ex-Mo hypothesis is “my view is right because the reality and data coming out of the religion is that the religion does exactly the opposite of include all mankind, it excludes everyone except the elect.”

So there are the two contraries, how do we manifest Truth. In the spirit of Johnathan Swift, let me make a modest proposal: Eat the children to stop the famine (sorry literary joke that I couldn’t resist).

Seriously, the TBM’s hypothesis fails because despite the efforts of the Church at inclusion theologically, the reality is countless people feel excluded and some are even forced to be excluded by a process known as excommunication. Just makes the whole “one heart, one mind” thing seem a little narrow and false.

The counter hypothesis and its proponents equally fail because it fails to include the large group who devoutly believes. This makes it equally weak and equally vulnerable to attack by those believers.

My proposed hypothesis, neither of you are correct. I’ve studied it out. Thought about it. Prayed about it. I came up with the answer that neither of you were true. (Told you I was in the Joseph Smith camp).

Comments 50

  1. I recall a man at the association of mormon letters talking about this, but I can’t remember the name. I believe terryl givens said something similar.

  2. Come on folks — Joseph Smith. Plus Eugene England used at the front of his book, “Dialogues with Myself”. Apparently conflict resolution means no one comments on the substance, only the mystery.

  3. Is there really a point to ExMo’s and TBM’s discussing the issues? They just make each other angry. Seems to me, it’d be better if they’d just give each other a modicum of respect and leave each other alone.

  4. Some questions are easier than others. All Mormons have to do is stop treating their relatives who have left the church as if they were radioactive — as if every time the mormons reached out to the evil exmormons was some kind of proof of the mormons goodness and the brothers/sisters/random other family members as not only evil but proof of the mormon’s superior position — the problem would go away instantly. My theory. It will never happen. Too much fun to be self-righteous. As support of my position I give you the latest poll by Gary Lawrence (mormon mormon mormon) referenced somewhere else on the bloggernacle that says for every two non-mormons that has a positive perception of mormons, there are five (5) that have a negative perception. That whole self-righteous thing doesn’t travel well.

  5. Yeah, and you can count Gary Lawrence’s own son as one of those five, marmot. Lawrence hates his own gay son so badly, that he was willing to head up anti-gay political activity for the LDS church in not just one, but TWO different ballot initiatives. Such an evil man!

  6. Martin,

    Well, if we accept that we just aren’t going to care about each other and interact with each other, this is fine.

    But what if the point is that we *must* care about each other and interact with each other, and learn — somehow — to move past or through being angry.

    unfortunately, it can’t just be one side or the other. It has to be both sides working in tandem. I don’t know if that will happen.

  7. Martin, the thing about ExMos and TBMs is that they usually are swimming in the same pool. The fight between the groups is a family quarrel with all its ferocity. The thing is you have to literally have to live with your family and quite often it contains both ExMos and TBMs. Leaving each other alone just won’t work.

    Matt — See #3 probably posted simultaneously to No. 5, but you win the bonus points. Congrats.

    Marmot, the problem with your theory is that you are being self-righteous in your assessment of the TBM crowd (that whole mote and beam thing they talked about when I was growing up), but you are right that “the whole self-righteous thing doesn’t travel well.” Remember with a little compassion that there is a fine line between superiority and insecurity.

  8. I think the problem is much like politics. There is a vast middle ground, but the fringes on either side get the most press – be it liberal or conservative / R or D / etc. They also seem to talk the loudest, but be the least likely to actually listen to what anyone is saying.

    The same thing here. There is a vast middle ground in my experience. Many people still affiliating with the Church appreciate what it does for them. They may not follow everything. But they are still willing to love their fellowman, go to Church, serve in a calling, etc. They take what they get out of Church as a facet of their lives. For “middle ground” people who have left the Church, it just may not be for them – nothing more or nothing less. They may not hate any particular thing. They may not be offended. They may just not care.

    The problem comes in the extremes. There are TBM members who expect everyone to be two-feet in, all the way. This includes people who pester “inactives” who clearly don’t want to be pestered. This includes family members who talk about “doom and gloom” for their less active or inactive family members. This includes people who talk down about someone with a tattoo or 2 sets of earrings as “nearing apostasy” and disregarding the prophet. They “know” that the Mormon way is the only way back to God. They “know” that everyone who doesn’t agree with them is in the clutches of Satan or has been deceived and would only be back on the “true path” if they would follow all of the LDS commandments.

    The other extreme is the ExMo. He (or she) tries to “expose” the problems with Mormonism. He talks about the problems with polygamy or JS or whatever. It is the family member who drops off “anti-Mormon” books at still believing family members’ houses. It is the person who talks about the Church as a “cult” or some other inflammatory way. They know that everyone in Mormonism has been deceived as a sheep and would only see the “true path” if they were willing to see the “truth” behind Mormonism.

    Both of these extremes get a lot of press. They will never meet.

    My proposal – Ignore the TBM. Ignore the ExMo. Focus on the middle. Accept that the Church is an instrument to help people in their personal relationship with God. Different people need it to differing levels. For some people, it acts as their primary way to touch the divine. They tend to be “more active”. For others, it serves a purpose, but they also feel the divine in other aspects of their life. Focus on the middle.

  9. Revelations 3:16: So then because you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spew you out of my mouth.

    You avoid the contraries and live in the middle ground you are mush. You can debate and debate hard, but not if the ground rules aren’t clear. I set up some ground rules in my post — the more inclusive of the data, the more true. What do you base your belief system on?

    Mike, imagine a physicist saying he would ignore the extremes. If our physicists said that we wouldn’t have relativity or quantum mechanics. Ignoring the outsides is just as invalid as the ignoring the middle.

  10. Look to the scriptures for the answers to the questions raised in this post.

    The Lord solved the problem when He revealed D&C 76. We get to use our agency as we please but we can’t escape what we become as years and decades of choices mold us into an eternal personality.

    We’ll go to the “kingdom” we’re most comfortable in. Each of us will even acknowledge the fairness of the plan.

    While here on Terra firma some TBM and Ex-Mos will continue to misunderstand one another until they acknowledge each others right to be who they want to be. This is usually accomplished by the time each is in their 50’s.

    I say we respect each others right to be who we want to be as long as it meets the Oliver Wendell Holmes test: The right to swing your fist ends where the other man’s nose begins.

    Extra Credit

    ..”by proving contraries,” truth is made manifest,”…

    History of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, vol. 6:428 B.H. Roberts
    Letter: Joseph Smith to L. Daniel Rupp

  11. I’m sure it comes with the whole “every knee bending” and “every tongue confessing” territory.

    yeah, I think someone talked about stuff like that way back when.

  12. Ulysses: I agree that the extremes are where the interesting physics takes place. Unfortunately, I think that getting the extremes of TBM and ExMos together will take as much as effort as a Grand Unified Theory, and may take even longer to find. Perhaps God knows what the religious GUT is, but I’m afraid we are stuck muddling around with our Latter-day String theories.

    I think the majority of us are stuck in the boring world of Newtonian religion. We may not capture the extremes, but for day-to-day life experiences, I still think the middle ground captures 99.99% of our existence.

  13. ”by proving contraries,” truth is made manifest,”??? why do we think a catchy phrase is of value in and of itself? Just because ideas are tenacious, doesn’t mean they’re worthy. Also, doesn’t every TBM look at everyone out side of the church as an exmo? (of course not in the literal sense…) How many meetings and lessons focus on “being in the world and not of it” or how we are a “peculiar people”. This segregation thinking, seems tribal, and excludes real engagement in the marketplace of ideas. I certainly can see why great care is used to create this ideology, since the hammerblows of science and modernity so easily detonate mormon theology when the two meet, but to think that minds attuned to reason and evidence will make peace with bad ideas is naive, and we shouldn’t be satisfied with bad ideas either. This all reminds me of Richard Feynman’s approach to nature, ending with “if you don’t like it, that’s too bad” found here

  14. I am in the Mike S camp on this. It is the extremes that we usually hear. Most people are more charitable. And our agency dictates we all get to make our own way. whether anyone else likes it or not.

  15. As hesitant as I am to take on a poster who’s apparently got Joseph Smith, the American Enlightenment, the scientific method, and American individualism mustered in his camp, this is me commenting anyways … 😉

    You say you’re “only talking in this post about applying an empirical, scientific approach to internal subjective experience.”

    Fair enough. But oddly enough, the only other mention of internal subjective experience occurs in your last sentence, when you give yourself a high five for having proved your “hypothesis” through study, deep thought, and prayer.

    Thing is, I’m left wondering if you really needed a couple of loosely-drawn TBM and ExMo caricatures to achieve your solipsistic triumph?

    For all your talk of resolving conflict, it sure seems like you’re trying to stir the pot.

    Or maybe I’m just disappointed because has had an ongoing series on the future of major religions, and the most recent group of articles is on Mormonism, and maybe I’d hoped you’d be addressing something like this concern:

    “Mormon theology has the difficult task of elucidating how religious and spiritual knowledge are reliable, compared to empirical and technical knowledge gained through the scientific method and the assumptions of naturalism. To date, few Mormon thinkers have developed a consistent explanation of Mormon spiritual experiences and how they provide reliable knowledge. However, elucidating an epistemology of spiritual experiences within the Mormon tradition seems to be a primary task that must be undertaken to provide a basis of commitment to Mormonism. Mormonism has tended to simply adopt an uncritical fideism where believers simply accept the assertions of faith on faith and the validity of spiritual experience without critical thought.”

    Comparing the above passage to your post, what I really like about the quoted author’s approach is that he explains the challenge rather than obscuring it behind a bunch of tiresome triangulation (i.e., TBM and ExMo bad whereas my newfangled Mormon third way = good).


    As it turns out, I’m a reader who’d actually be interested in some frank Mormon talk “about applying an empirical, scientific approach to internal subjective experience.” But, frankly speaking, that’s not what you’re bringing here, is it?

  16. #7 Nick and #8 Andrew S — Due to the commenting mechanism at MM and the fact that I leave my reply window open for an hour and a half as I piece meal my replies, I missed your earlier comments.

    Nick — Lawrence is the type of character that illustrates my point. If the hierarchy for determining Truth is inclusion, Lawrence looses by expelling his own son (insert prodigal son reference here). You don’t even have to call him evil.

    Andrew S — You seemed to first encapsulate what has become a theme in these comments — despair over the two sides every meeting. I have one thing I want to say to that right now: You spend too much time on MM. There is no structured discussion, no ground rules, this is chaos pure and simple. You have to pick the audience for your comments and run with it. My usual tone is snark to some degree or another, but it is not to endear myself to about 4/5 or 7/8 of the audience. This is an echo chamber, where the echo is “despair” at agreement.

  17. Jared and his brothers (12,13 and 14): Jared, your response was actually anticipated and included in my original post when I discussed Joseph Smith’s inclusive theology. Here is the problem with that response: You really, really, really piss off the ExMos. This isn’t an indication of righteous persecution. They are upset for the same reason you get upset at them — you aren’t listening to them. Just like the ExMos ignore your scriptures, you ignore their historic arguments. You can’t be self-referential in your argument if you are going to cross boundaries. The dogmatic “the scriptures say” won’t work if you are going to actually interact.

  18. Re Chino
    I think the quote you mention is an interesting one. I’ll take a shot at it, as this question hits squarely on many issues near to my heart.

    I’ve been reading/listening to a lot of philosophy lately. The problem is, when one gets right down to the details there is NOTHING outside our subjective experience. The Cartesian thought experiment is a pretty good argument for that. And going further, we don’t even know (from the Demon argument) what the causes of our subjective experience are. But, according to Descartes, we think, therefore we are (which is about all we can “deduce”). As a scientist/engineer I absolutely take it for granted that causation is real, but it’s a completely inductive argument, as is the scientific method, as is everything else.

    When it comes right down to it, the scientific method is just as subjective as religious experience. Now don’t misunderstand me, I think there is a difference, but that difference is again an inductive argument couched in numbers and inference (which we accept as valid). To a practical individual perhaps that is enough (it is for me) but to the absolutist the arguments are still inductive, and hence still fallacious. When couched in this light, I see no reason why the religious mystical experience of one, as a mechanism for determining truth, is any less reliable than the scientific method based on “empirical evidence” (which of course again is purely subjective at the end of the day).

    (@Andrew S) BTW, Andrew, I have thought a lot about, and investigated the discussion we recently had on your thread. I think I see things a bit differently now.

    Back to Chino
    So my answer to the question would be to cast doubt on the supposed “empirical, scientific approach” that can be applied to subjective experience. What we’re really saying (which, again, I think is valid, but we ought to admit that it’s still fallacious) is that folks who accept their spiritual experience as some sort of truth should apply OUR definition of “empirical, scientific approach” to their subjective experience. But, at the end of the day, our approach is still inductive and still circular. What would be a better approach to tackling this problem would be to couch our certainty properly. If one has had a subjective spiritual experience then one should proclaim that one believes it to be true FOR HIM or HER (which is all that can be reasonably claimed). The problem then, however, is that scientists should be equally cautious.

  19. @15 Mike, I’m glad you replied and I really liked the Newtonian religion quip. In analyzing how are comments disagree, I’d go back to my original post and the proving contraries, truth is made manifest. So let me take a crack at it:

    Mike: Most people, by their good nature, are inclusive and generally, kind and not on either extreme of the believing/non-beleiving spectrum. This happy middle ground is where I’m going to stay. The Newtonian religion/belief is safe and predictable.

    Me: A lot of people are hurt and are alienated and they are usually found on the extremes or caught between extremes in the believing/non-believing spectrum. Newtonian religion/philosophy is fine, but it misses out on the awesome power of Einstein-ian Relative Religion/Philosophy or the beautiful uncertainty and unpredictability of Heisenberg-ian Uncertainty Religion/Philosophy.

    So how do we resolve this conflict?

  20. re: #18 Chino Blanco: “I’m left wondering if you really needed a couple of loosely-drawn TBM and ExMo caricatures to achieve your solipsistic triumph?”

    Aren’t they a little more than caricatures? I mean, c’mon–you’ve spent time on here to meet some fundamental TBM’s, you’ve spent time on other sites with rabid ExMos, haven’t you? There are absolutely fundamentals on both sides that do portray themselves as a little silly. I think bringing these types of individuals to the fore illustrates the point nicely. Two completely contrary viewpoints–“We are inclusive” vs. “You are exclusive”. It seems that when you show people the extreme, they are more likely to self-examine (or maybe I’m just optimistic).

    I don’t see the poster as self-congratulatory; but yes, I see him as absolutely stirring the pot by saying “none of you are right”. Stirring the pot? You bet. Was he supposed to tip-toe around eggshells, be disingenuous by using Mormonese in one camp and bitter “Cult talk” in another? I don’t know, I get what your point is, I do. But I also see where Ulysseus is going.

    He isn’t pointing to Mormonism and saying “You’re right/wrong” (which might irk some TBM’s); he’s not pointing to leaving the Mormon Church as “right/wrong”(which might irk some exmo’s). He’s indicating the ACTUAL inability to get along between the two “houses” and saying that THAT, in and of itself, is wrong, whether you are Mormon OR Non. He doesn’t have a “newfangled Mormon way”. It’s plain and simple. “Why can’t we all just get along?” (No, Sherlock Holmes didn’t say that. ;))

    What I see Ulysseus doing is pointing out the behavior in both camps as, yes, caricatures, so that we can see what a lack of communication gets us, and where.

  21. #16 JTJ The “proving contraries” mantra is really not all that different from Thomas Kuhn’s The Structure of Scientific Revolutions. Compare the data to the theory and find out where the theory doesn’t fit the facts and it is in that space that revolution occurs. Again, applying the standard of inclusion to determine the Truth, tribal thinking is by its nature exclusive and not true. Mormonism has dual currents with almost as strong a theological foundation for ignoring tribal boundaries as for enforcing them. The “True” aspects need to be emphasized and the faulty exposed. TBMs often find themselves caught in this paradox without much escape.

    You add a nice clip to Richard Feynman, who I’ve always enjoyed, but please remember the ground rules I set out at the beginning — I’m not talking modern science here. We want this discussion to be about internal, subjective experience and resolving that conflict when the internal, subjective experiences diverge.

  22. Chino, Chino, Chino,

    First, congratulations on being the first to comment on what appears to be my smug, self-righteous conclusion. I left that there to see who would respond because I do like stirring the pot. (To expand on the metaphor, stirring the pot is what keeps things from burning.) I left it like that because when someone called me on it, I wanted to say, “Guess what, I don’t know the ultimate answer.” I just know that as the battle wages, the current positions are wrong. No beings from heaven have come down to enlighten me. I know that a lot of people are in subjective pain because of both positions. This is my salvo in how to deal with ideas, feelings and experiences that are deeply personal and meaningful, but conflict with the ideas, feeling and experiences of those close- and not so close — to me.

    The blacks and the priesthood example was how both TBMs and ExMos have reached the same subjective conclusion on race and religion and how they got there in different directions, so I disagree that I don’t address internal subjective experience.

    Finally, don’t you just love academics. They don’t obscure with tiresome triangulations, they obscure with fifty cent words. Holy hell (or heck, depending upon your persuasion) that was a mouthful. Let me paraphrase, see if I get this right: Rather than relying on blind obedience, Mormonism would be a stronger religion if Moroni 10:4-5 could be fully incorporated into the religion, thus explaining contradictions with science. That isn’t an exclusive Mormon problem. Insert Catholic or Baptist or Muslim or Hindi or even Atheist and it works equally well.

    And in answer to your question to me: “But, frankly speaking, that [applying an empirical, scientific approach to internal subjective experience is] not what you’re bringing here, is it?” You are wrong.

  23. Hey jmb275 – Thanks for responding. I’ve got no quarrel with your postmodern reading of our situation. As it turns out, it’s precisely *because* I’m down with what you’re describing that I find this post so tiresome. Regardless of what we believe, we *all* face the same challenge when it comes to “couch[ing] our certainty properly.”

    My point is simply that this particular challenge has always already been in the mix prior to any (real or imagined) struggle between TBMs and ExMos, so why even bother pretending the answer can be found in “Resolving the Conflict between the TBM and the ExMo”?? As far as I can tell, the poster decided to adopt this tactic simply because he’s eager to prove the worth of the bizarre proposition that “By proving contraries, truth is made manifest.” The nearest “contraries” he had at hand happened to be “TBMs” and “ExMos” … and so we get this silly post.

    Anyways, as it turns out, we all face the same challenge when it comes to describing our various certainties, so there’s really no need to frame this as a contest with outsiders (which is exactly what Ulysseus is doing in his post and later when he tells a commenter that: “You spend too much time on MM”).

    Ulysseus: Get a grip and stop trying to use us ExMos as foils and inspiration for your half-baked theories.

  24. @Ulysseus
    I loved the post. Here’s my take on the solution to the problem. I try to actively straddle both worlds and validate both sides. I go to church, hold a TR, serve my fellows in the callings I’m given, and play the role of an insider. And I’m sincere about it. I try to help people see that I’m on their side, because I am. In church I try to gently offer ideas and opinions that often flow counter to the cultural quirks and falsehoods, but not to the point of insulting or insinuating that I’m right and they’re wrong.

    On the other side, I fully acknowledge what ExMos are talking about. I’ve lived the Mormon culture and know how it is. I can relate to the historical issues and acknowledge that they’re problematic. I can acknowledge that I seriously struggle with many of the beliefs, and frankly, just don’t believe some of what I’m “supposed” to believe.

    In this way I suppose I myself am trying to be the bridge. I try to do this on a personal basis with an inactive returned missionary in my ward who struggles with many of the things I struggle with. I think (I hope) I am siding with you in the “inclusion” principle – that is, I’m trying to reach out and include everyone, as they are, validating them and their position.

    But here’s the problem, at least for me. It’s painful. It’s hard to do it. Each week at church is difficult for me. It’s REALLY hard to straddle two worlds that feel diametrically opposed. And sometimes it feels like I do this at the expense of my own personal growth. So maybe my approach is not a good solution, I dunno.

  25. My point is simply that this particular challenge has always already been in the mix prior to any (real or imagined) struggle between TBMs and ExMos, so why even bother pretending the answer can be found in “Resolving the Conflict between the TBM and the ExMo”?? As far as I can tell, the poster decided to adopt this tactic simply because he’s eager to prove the worth of the bizarre proposition that “By proving contraries, truth is made manifest.” The nearest “contraries” he had at hand happened to be “TBMs” and “ExMos” … and so we get this silly post.

    Yeah, I see what you’re saying, but I guess I took away a different point from the post – inclusion! “Proof by contraries,” to me, was just the appetizer, but the main dish was inclusion, and that, arguably, could be the solution to the eternal struggle between any opposed “mo’s.”

  26. JulieAnn – You write: I see him as absolutely stirring the pot by saying “none of you are right”.

    If the point is to reduce conflict, it would seem that a more diplomatic expression might be: “I’m right, and here’s why.”

    Everything else is simply provocation.

  27. Ok, Chino, some of us have a day job, so this will be brief:

    My so-called “half-baked theories” and tiresome and silly post was exactly what your academic paragraph called for — oh if they have ears, let them hear.

    Also, Chino, you responded perfectly for the counterpoint to my TBM caricature of Jared and read D&C 76. You are my ex-Mo caricature who dismisses anything that has to do with Mormonism as “silly” and “tiresome” while spending his Mormon on Mormon matters.

  28. Chino–you seem to have the idea that Ulysseus has an agenda other than pointing out that the current dialog between “us” ExMo’s and TBM’s doesn’t work. Maybe you don’t want it to work? You are an ExMo and you’re on MM with a bunch of TBM’s. Maybe you like the constant conflict with no resolution? Why would that be? If that isn’t the case, then why aren’t you open to learning a new way to dialog?

    In the past I have come across as acerbic and confrontational. JMB pointed this out to me and I realized that if I come across that way, no one will hear what I have to say. Maybe I’m not very good at it, yet, but I’m trying. I’m trying because TBM’s are my friends, neighbors and family. I want to be able to have peaceful discussions, even heated ones, but discussions nonetheless, not yelling matches with closed ears and open mouths.

    You seem to want Ulysseus to point out that Mormonism just can’t hold up to scientific method, therefore he shouldn’t even be using scientific methodology as part of his platform. To me, directing all of your ExMo energy about Mormonism into one “silly” post seems a bit….silly.

  29. Chino–I don’t recall reading “I’m right” into his post at all–where did you get that? Was it based on his attitude or just the fact that he “did it their way”? If anything, his post was mildly chastising. In saying “none of you are right”, I think he hoped to provoke, yes, but provoke to thought, not to closing minds further. Just my take on it.

  30. You’ve inspired me. Day jobs truly are nice. Maybe I’ll post something over in the DAMU describing how the existence of night and part-time laborers proves how lucky I am to hold down a solid 9-5 gig. I don’t actually have to enjoy my job, I’m just blessed not to be one of those pathetic losers. Rock on, brother.

  31. JulieAnn – My bad, apparently. That said, I’m not the one suggesting we all chart a course for some place called “inclusion” … I simply meant to point out that – if that’s your desired destination – declaring everyone wrong might not be the best first step for getting there.

  32. #22 Ulysseus: ” Me: A lot of people are hurt and are alienated and they are usually found on the extremes or caught between extremes in the believing/non-believing spectrum. Newtonian religion/philosophy is fine, but it misses out on the awesome power of Einstein-ian Relative Religion/Philosophy or the beautiful uncertainty and unpredictability of Heisenberg-ian Uncertainty Religion/Philosophy.

    So how do we resolve this conflict?”

    I suppose that I am currently in the camp of jmb, which is much like String Theory. It sounds like you’re aware of that, but for the sake of discussion, string theory jams Einstein and Heisenberg in two parts of a large matrix and basically says: “coexist”. To work things out requires some mental gymnastics and 10 dimensions – wonderful things to think about during a boring Church meeting, but somewhat unwieldy. And I don’t know that anyone really knows where string theory will end up, or if it really does describe our world.

    I, too, try to be a massive matrix. I know all about JS marrying young girls and other men’s wives. I know all of the problems and anachronisms of the BofM “translation”. I know that BY’s racism was formally instituted into our doctrine for over a century. I know that the revelations that changed fundamental things in our church (polygamy, blacks & the priesthood, women praying in Church, gory parts of the endowment, etc.) we all coincidently received during times of societal pressures. I predict that something similar with happen with Prop 8 issues. I completely sympathize with the ExMo arguments, and have probably read more books on the subject than most of them. Yet at the same time, I stay. I don’t know why? I do see the good that people in the Church are trying to do. I see a community, that for it’s faults, tries to make the world a better place. I go to Church. I have callings. I hold a TR. I was born into the Church.

    It’s completely baffling to me why I do this, to be honest. But I suppose, like the proponents of string theory, that if I go forward it will all someday come together and make sense. My mindset in many ways of my life is more Buddhist including non-duality which doesn’t make me resolve things into black and white. I live in a world of a non-collapsed wave function religiously. So, my resolution of the problem is a non-resolution. II sympathize with people who are honest about the paradoxes. It’s my own personal flaw, but I can’t stand militant ExMos although I agree with them. And I can’t stand self-righteous TBMs, although I also understand that they must necessarily be right if the LDS Church is what it claims to be.

    So, while there are problems with the Church, and while I am skeptical about many things, my approach to my faith follows the advice of the Dalai Lama: “bloom where you’re planted”. There is much good in the world away from the extremes. That’s where I choose to live my life.

  33. re 19:

    Ulysseus, that is an interesting characterization. It’s funny how you put it that way, because I would say that the despair I feel is not from so much time at Mormon Matters, but instead, so much time at *other* sites and realizing that, for all its imperfections, Mormon Matters is one of the only sites that does try to reach across the two sides (and still, it isn’t always pretty). I find it really interesting that you say MM has an echo chamber (even if it is “despair at agreeing”), but I guess that could be one way of putting it. I guess what I feel like is that this echo chamber of chaos, lack of structure, etc., is far better than the echo chamber of walls and gated communities found at certain other sites…

  34. I think the answer is a real simple “just be nice.” Unfortunately, the ultra-orthodox true-bluers (of which there are few, if any around here) are very defensive and the ex-mos are very, very bitter, does not make for a great meeting of the minds.

    So, it is Rodney King time for everyone, or else, the usual result will happen.

  35. I really appreciated jmb275’s comment (#27). I spent a number of years in a similar situation, orthoprax but not orthodox. It can be a painful place to be. People do it successfully usually have an orthodox spouse who makes it worthwhile.

    I left the fold, and there were negative consequences for me with my family. I now yearn for better relations with my TBM family members than I have. I’m highly motivated for reconciliation, but it’s my experience that the Church’s fundamentally sectarian nature motivates them to stay away from me. I know that it’s always a two-way street, but that’s my perception of how it’s playing out. (Yeah, the gay part doesn’t help matters either, esp. after the divisive Prop. 8 campaign.)

    I participate on Mormon Matters because I hope to have the substantive, sincere conversations about matters of faith that my family won’t have with me. Pathetic, possibly but nonetheless true.

  36. JMB – “It’s REALLY hard to straddle two worlds that feel diametrically opposed. And sometimes it feels like I do this at the expense of my own personal growth.”

    I feel you on this. Don’t run away from this tension though. That “straddling two worlds that feel opposed” does not have to be at the expense of your growth. In fact, it can actually really enhance it! Use this tension or uncomfortableness or whatever else you feel in between here, and learn to sit with it. Be mindful, let it soften you.

  37. #40, #41: I do understand the tension that you feel, but it is actually unavoidable.

    The underlying problem: if you actually accept all of the teachings of the Church as well as all the statements of the prophets and apostles through the years, etc., the only logical conclusion is that of the “uber” TBM:
    – This is the only ultimately true Church
    – Accepting the ordinances of the LDS Church are the only way back to the highest level of the Celestial kingdom (ie. we’ll all ultimately be “Mormon”, in this life or the next)
    – Following all of the little non-doctrinal things that have been talked about in conference are a proxy for your “spirituality” (ie. white shirts, earrings, etc.)
    – All problematic historical issues with the Church are actually God’s will to “test us” and we need to ignore them
    – Someone who is not “fully in” the Church is being waylaid, deceived by Satan, and needs to be careful because they are on their way to apostasy.
    – Etc.

    The issue causes tension because of how the Church is set up. You can occasionally find a bishop who isn’t uber-TBM, but they seem few and far between. Once you get to the stake president level and above, it is extremely rare. And to “advance” in the hierarchy, you have to “out-uber” the other uber-TBMs. Because a general person in the Church really has no say about really anything, if you are not a TBM, there is an inherent underlying tension. It may not be immediately obvious to investigators, and it may take years to fully realize it, but it is how the organization is run.

    So, options are to resolve the tension by becoming TBM or ExMo, or to sit in a state of the unresolved middle, hoping that you can help others in the unresolved middle. The beauty of this website is that it provides such a place.

  38. If anyone is serious about wanting to get along with a “TBM,” here’s a hint: Don’t call them that. It is generally used as a pejorative, and I feel like slapping people who call me that.

  39. #20 Ulysseus–

    I should have been more clear in my comment #12. You took it has saber rattling with the scriptures. The audience I had in mind while writing my comment wasn’t ex-mos.

    I am real big on agency. I associate with all kinds of people in business. Gays, ex-mos, ex-cons, GA, evangelicals and etc. They all know I am active Mormon. Religion is seldom part of the discussion but when it is I have always been respected and given respect. Let a person believe what they will, if they have integrity then I can deal with them in business.

  40. 11. Ulysses, being independent, not moderate, is a solution to the lukewarm problem. Understanding truth, but also understanding what you don’t know, another answer that help us to be truth-seekers and keeps us away from the apathy label.

    16. JTJ. Seems the problem lies not just in where segments put their trust, but also where they put their doubt. TBM’s put their faith in scriptures, in a prophet, and in the culture to some extent. EXMO’s put their faith in modernity, in science, in establishment thought, philosophy, nuance, etc. To EXMO’s dogma is phooey, but to TBM’s, modernity and science are part of the grand scheme of the human power struggle that never ends because it’s not rooted in morality, and thus requires skepticism. If we were to doubt our own certainties, maybe we could actually move to great synthesis of understanding.

  41. Sorry, I quit my day job and went on vacation for the weekend, so I’m a little bit behind, so pardon me for lagging in the discussion.

    First, jmb, I seem to miss posts because I begin a comment and never really completed it until six other people had posted and I don’t see it if I don’t refresh. You, MoHoHawaii and Mike both talked about the struggles you have straddling both worlds. I get that completely and it was really what I was addressing in my original post (which I’m guessing is why it got selected for guest post status). The pain and struggle I hear moves me. I’m fortunate in that my familial structure has allowed me a little more latitude than some people, so it is easier for me to straddle. I really don’t have the answer, just like String Theory doesn’t quite work to resolve the polar opposites of physics. I just don’t see that if we are going to be intellectually honest that we have to try and work out a resolution, painful and difficult as it might be. Extremes are easy, resolution is hard, but it is where advancement and growth takes place.

    MoHoHawaii — the gay thing is tough, but the religious doctrine can be exclusive there is much that is inclusive. For what it is worth, I’ve made a lot of headway with my TBM family simply by talking their “language” and quoting scripture when necessary to make my point. New Testament has lots of great stuff on tweaking dogmatic religious authority. Don’t believe me? Well then if you are sinless, go ahead and stone me.

    Andrew — I think Mormon Matters is certainly not the only echo chamber, just a different one and certainly the least harmful, but it will amplify the despair at resolution noise.

    Jeff and Chino — To paraphrase Eloise Bell in her critique of Mormon culture, Nice ain’t always so nice. I know that wasn’t very nice, but nice is such a nambsy pambsy sort of word that elicits visions of fake condescending smiles or Wal-Mart door greeters.

    And Chino — I mean a philosophy or belief system that is inclusive of all the data, not “inclusion” in the sense of Zion where all are of one heart and one mind — kind of like equal opportunity and rights, not literal equality.

    Mike, I appreciate your list of TBM traits that can make discussion with them difficult and more importantly because of their placement in the lay clergy makes life difficult within the faith. The Ex-Mo could have a similar list of traits that limits discussion, but doesn’t have quite the same impact within the culture, because by definition they are out of the culture. I, like Jared, who corrected me correctly btw, believe in agency because that is an inclusive philosophy, but something drives me to want to know answers.

    Naismith — I truly am sorry, truly, believe me. Don’t slap me, just tell what acronym you would like.

    And so aptly named, denying Peter, I agree — a little bit of doubt can go a long way.

  42. “To paraphrase Eloise Bell in her critique of Mormon culture, Nice ain’t always so nice. I know that wasn’t very nice, but nice is such a nambsy pambsy sort of word that elicits visions of fake condescending smiles or Wal-Mart door greeters.”

    Therein lies the problem. It would be that you don’t want to be nice? It does not have to be either condescending or phony, unless that’s what it is.,

  43. It’s an interesting criteria for the debate, but as an Ex-Mo I offer to reconcile your argument over Truth with the bigger existential question that feels to me like it eludes the parameters of your debate.

    Truth (Capital “T”) is an IMPERIAL CONCEPT and that’s why Ex-mo’s like myself won’t accept it of any Religion, much less our own former dogma (even in saying so, I acknowledge that I do not speak for an entire group of people whose only unifying factor is their DIS-belief in the same thing, but for myself and others who agree with me as ex-mo agnostics).

    The whole process of arguing against the logic of Mormonism (as you pointed out, Joseph Smith did encourage logic to be applied in seeking “the Truth”) is very Descartian and that’s solid footing for a philosophical debate that comes to a head rather simply.

    e.g. “How can I trust ANY STIMULUS from outside the Self? If I can’t, then I trust the Self and acquire truth as it consistenly validates itself and modify my perception when that conclusion is no longer consistent.”

    See, if you tell a Taoist that there is a God and he lives on Kolob and has a portal system to run faster than the speed of light to the Earth and visit 14-year-old boys and impregnate teenage girls in a quasi-incestuous “pre-ordination”, maybe he will say “Okay” because the existence of your belief doesn’t offend his own. 

    It doesn’t? No, because it doesn’t INVALIDATE his own. But tell a Mormon that God appeared ONCE to Muhammed and they will eat your flesh.

    But what if I prayed to God and he made me feel Catholicism was true? By Joseph’s logic, does that invalidate my parents’ Mormon beliefs? Does it make my Mormon friends into liars? 

    By suggesting that you must take Moroni’s promise or Joseph’s infamous passage from St. James as the EXCLUSIVE path to know the Truth, Joseph and his followers accept a faux-descartian search for the Truth that immediately invalidates the method for anyone who can see the tampering of mere mortal men.

    e.g. “MY EXTERNAL STIMULUS feels so good! It then ergo trumps YOUR SELF-CONTEMPLATION by nature of it’s extra-personal origin, regardless of any contradictory evidence. It came from outside of me, feels good and seems like a good thing, it must have come from God.”

    That’s just plain illogical! People who blindly followed Hitler felt that God had ordained his mission. People who commit acts of terror for Islamic terror groups feel a passionate mandate for Jihad and the hand of Allah in their divine mission. By validating one’s “Godly stimulus”, one must logically validate those of others and yet a Mormon cannot do that.

    “That’s the Devil disguised as an Angel of Light.”

    Guess what, Joey? That bosomy-burning is the only Tom Cruisian Lie-Detector you’ve got in that quiver! How do you validate your own warm-fuzzies over someone else’s? Your own logic over evidence in the contrary?

    EXAMPLE: “If I know I exist because I can question my own existence (Cogito Ergo Sum), how do I know that this planet really is the epicenter of the Universe and the lights of the Heavens revolve around it?”

    Obviously, you can’t – modern science as yet consistently proves that this isn’t true. In fact, though it may have seemed for millennia of Western Civilization that this was the widely-accepted rotation of the Cosmos, it was only considered Truth by reason of the persistent lack of technological data to prove otherwise. 

    Actually quite scientific. Nonetheless, wrong. We think.

    Of course, others had hypothesized that our planetary system was actually a Solar System – some Greeks had even hypothesized that the earth followed an elliptical orbit. But without Technology to disprove the false hypotheses and prove this hypothesis, how can it be relied upon without significant advances in technology/mathematics? Again, it can’t be until that information is consistently available.

    So, if I say the World is Round because the horizon is round and retreats at the same pace that I move toward it, regardless of speed or direction, I have a valid point and you would need to show the fallacy in it to break the consistency. But if you say “Maybe you’re near-sighted”, I’m going to give you my bull$#!% face. If I then say “Well, it’s consistent with what we see from outer-space when photographs are taken from the lunar lander or from orbit” and you say “Only if you buy into that all that stuff isn’t made up in Hollywood”, I’m going to see that you have no data to disprove the consistent logic and soon I will wonder

    “Whose paying this guy to come up with stupid answers?”

    I see a motive beyond the inquisitve search for “the Truth”. I see a disintegral and dishonest yet completely human need to maintain some normalcy in spite of evidence in the contrary.

    Okay, so suppose I have an organization that control Tens of Billions of dollars (hypothetically-speaking, of course) from contributions and activities of millions of people who see “the Truth” through this very pseudo-scientific methodology, what might I do to reduce attrition in that number?

    Would I say, “Don’t read what ur critics write about us – it’s the great Adversary trying to deceive you with arguments that make sense.”? I suppose if I want that money, I just might. If I want to persist in power, I might say “Don’t listen to what you hear from the ‘arm of flesh’, listen to your heart.” I would say “Never miss your weekly meetings, even if you are on vacation and always seek out your leaders’ counsel when you are thinking doubting thoughts”.

    “Question with boldness even the existence of God; because, if there be one, he must more approve of the homage of reason than that of blindfolded fear” — Thomas Jefferson

    1. “Tell a Mormon that God appeared ONCE to Muhammed and they will eat your flesh.”

      Dude. What kind of Mormons do you hang out with? The fact that God certainly appears/appeared to prophets outside of the Mormon tradition is built into the doctrine. There are articles in official church magazines that celebrate the similarities between Islam and Mormonism. Mormons are more willing to believe that God appeared to Muhammed than any other major faith besides Islam itself.

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