Sunday, June 17, 2012

Destroying testimonies since 1979

John Dehlin, founder of Mormon Stories, recently posted on his Facebook page, "I just want to go on record as saying that 20th and 21st century LDS apologetics (FAIR, FARMS, Maxwell institute) will go down as destroying more testimonies than any other single Mormon influence. That's what happens when you blame the victim, or give very poor and evasive answers to credible issues.

In other words, I think that Daniel Peterson is talking actually writing about himself and his followers in this article."

I read the article, and the part that most stands out to me regarding this is, 
"Alma 'did go about secretly with the sons of Mosiah seeking to destroy the church" (27:10). It's very doubtful, though, that they would have openly admitted that their goal was 'to destroy the church.' Perhaps they wouldn't even have admitted it to themselves."
From some other sources around the interwebs, I have found out that there is apparently a larger dialogue/brouhaha going on here; apparently (apparently) Peterson's article is actually in reference to people like Dehlin, and the Maxwell Institute, from which Peterson was recently fired, has a disparaging article about Dehlin that was going to be published, so this statement by Dehlin wasn't made completely out of the all seems quite complicated. 

So do apologetics do more harm than good?  For me personally, what I have checked out on FAIR has not affected me much, but I am not impressed with the website.  Their defense of some potent criticism strikes me as weak, and I am not satisfied with their answers.  At least they do recognize the criticisms, and I appreciate their efforts in trying to refute them.  Mormon Stories podcasts have been much more helpful and validating to me.  This could be an unfair assessment of FARMS, etc., but MS seems to be more objective, as their intent is "exploring, celebrating and challenging Mormon culture through stories" as opposed to apologetics which definitely have an agenda (i.e. proving that the church is true).

I attended a conference at UVU in March called Mormonism and the Internet with a friend, where John Dehlin (whom I really admire) was one of the speakers.  Author Joanna Brooks also spoke, and after her talk I asked a question during the Q&A session.  My question was about how to properly judge the veracity of texts on the internet, such as quotes that are reportedly by church leaders, and if the general consensus is that the person indeed said it, even if they didn't, is it treated as if they did say it?  In the latter part of the question, the emphasis is more on quotes becoming 'canon' than on being reflections of the leaders who said them—is it an accurate portrayal of what Mormons believe?  For example, even if Brigham Young didn't actually utter the quote about being offended, the way it's bandied about in the church makes it seem like it's a belief even if it wasn't literally spoken by Mr. Young.

Continuing, after I asked my question, a guy in the row in front of me turned around and recommended that I check out FAIR.  Later at the same conference, another man handed me a FAIR business card.  A few weeks later, my bishop also recommended the web site.  These three men seem to have been helped by the website, but I have not.

By the way, on the subject on the veracity of texts on the internet, I always try to find original sources of quotes, hopefully from LDS sources (even if I have to dig).  If I bring up something by Packer that I read on the internet, no one is going to even discuss it because there is no proof that he said it.  On that note, I recently found several LDS sources for a talk Packer gave called "The Mantle is Far, Far Greater Than the Intellect," and I am going to read it now. It's not even that I trust the church's sources more than others'—having it from an LDS source gives it a seal of approval that it's not just made-up 'anti,' and objectively speaking, I'm not going to just trust a transcript of a talk that I find randomly on the internet.  I wouldn't trust it if someone else brought a similar source to me.  

Like I said, it's not even that I trust the church more—they could edit (out) material too.  I mentioned when I responded to Kimball's Love vs. Lust that a quote I had seen that referenced the talk as its source was never mentioned, and I acknowledged that it could have been edited out.  Anyway, what I'm trying to say is that I actually try to find church-approved materials not out of loyalty to the church but out of a desire to find The (objective) Truth and to also be able to use these sources in discussions. 

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

There is but one with whom she has heart to be gay

(Title is an excerpt from Tennyson's Come Into the Garden, Maud.)

Facebook debates usually drain me at least partially and exasperate me at least a little.  I used to not speak up, but I realized that I have an opinion and just as much right to express it as anyone else.  Mind you, I don't comment on everything that I could—I pick my battles.

This past week, I was involved with a rather one-sided debate that actually left me a little...gleeful.  Maybe it was because I was on the side that had the upper hand?  It was actually around five to ten people against one, which seems a little unfair.  But that one kept fighting (and he had every right to).  It was at once exasperating and actually humorous—the arguments the guy kept spitting out were, in my opinion, so absurd and textbook fundamentalist religious.

You might have guessed from the title that the debate was about gay marriage.  What started it off was one guy's incredulity that Mormons could actually be in support of gay marriage.  He seemed completely taken aback by the possibility because, he said, wasn't supporting gay marriage also supporting the actions that follow gay marriage (i.e. gay sex)?  To him, it seemed, what he thought was wrong and what should be illegal were the same: if you didn't approve of gay marriage, then it obviously should not be legal for anyone.

If you would like to read the conversation, I have saved it for posterity here (the commenter to be on the lookout for is in dark blue; I am in light pink).

After I took those screen shots, the conversation continued; but before I could record the following comments, the guy went through and deleted all of his comments.  I hope it was because he took back what he said, or at least because he realized what he said could be interpreted as offensive.  Before he deleted his words, he had apparently compared gay marriage to public nudity, which, predictably, caused a negative reaction.

The main reasons I found this debate so intriguing was that the guy couldn't have come up with better stereotypical, narrow-minded religious arguments.  Please take care to note that I am not saying that all religious people automatically have narrow-minded and stereotypical arguments—not in the least.  This particular guy was just like a stock character, and I kept thinking that you just couldn't make up better examples of silly points.  

When people provided him with evidence that contradicted his claims, he said that they were obviously misinterpreting their sources or taking things out of context (...).  He even bore his testimony of the blessings that couples could receive from a temple marriage (not really the most appropriate or effective thing to do on a thread about legalizing gay marriage).  He also had his facts about the church wrong: He insisted that a man could not be sealed to two women simultaneously unless he was doing so without church approval, and he held that the church's stance on homosexuality had never changed.  He posed the question, Who are we to change God's law?  Again, he seemed to think that the laws of the land and the laws of God were one in the same.  

I do feel a bit bad saying that I was gleeful about the affair.  I think a big reason is that he provided me with proof of someone who ignored logic and reason in favor of (false) long-standing beliefs.  See, I told the hypothetical doubters in my mind, these people actually exist!  These aren't just caricatures!

Please again take care to note that I am not putting all religious people/all gay marriage dissenters into one group, i.e. a group with this guy in it.  He is an example of an extreme that unfortunately exists.  He is not an accurate (or positive) example of the LDS church, though he definitely represents some views that a lot of members probably likewise hold.  If you oppose gay marriage, I don't hate you.  I just hope you don't use the same arguments that this guy does.

Extra credit: Read a friend's post about the same conversation (the thread was actually on her wall).

Edit: I forgot to mention that the guy left a nice, charitable parting comment: "For something nice to say: God bless all the Gays and Lesbians of the world. May the country's laws be changed in their favor."  Hooray for him!