My Problem with “Liberal Mormons”

I am currently suffering from extreme sleep deprivation, which puts me in a caustic and curmudgeonly mood. This means, of course, that I shouldn’t blog. I am likely to say mean and indefensible things, like what follows.

Who am I talking about when I talk about “liberal Mormons”? First, I am not necessarily talking about Mormon Democrats or the huge hordes of Mormon socialists (although a disproportionate number of those who I am talking about fall into these categories.) Nor am I talking about Mormon intellectuals per se, or those of all stripes who are interested in Mormon Studies. Rather, I am talking about that vast and motley crowd of self-proclaimed “critical thinkers” who like to get ostentatiously worked up about the “human” side of Church leaders, the “problems” of Mormon theology, the “dark side” of Mormon history, and confidently posit naturalistic explanations of every conceivable Mormon phenomena under the sun. I am talking about the people who like to endlessly and publically stew about what their Sunday School teacher didn’t tell them. I am talking about people who think that Steve Benson is an insightful critic of Mormonism. You know who you are. I am talking about you.

My problem with these folks is not that I think they are spiritually dangerous wolves in sheep’s clothing wreaking havoc amongst the flock of the faithful. Indeed, I generally object to this kind of rhetoric. It simply feeds into the “liberal Mormons'” sense of their own self-importance. Nor is my problem that they are “intellectualizing themselves out of the Church,” or that they are the “learned who think that they are wise.” I am not a good enough Christian to get consistently worked up about the salvation of these people. Go to the gold fields of California and go to hell for all I care. (To paraphrase a great man.)

My real problem with these people is that they are boring and insulting. First the boring part. The majority of these folks don’t have anything to say. They are simply a reaction against the conservative, orthodox core of Mormonism. They are completely derivative in the way that a mirror is derivative of that which it reflects. More often than not they only succeed in being interesting during the first flash of recognition of their existence. It’s all down hill after than. I think that many “liberal Mormons” implicitly recognize this fact given the pompous way in which they like to reveal their existence to less enlightened souls. You know the “Molly Mormon, you don’t know the secrets that I know that would blow your world apart”-smuggness that I am talking about. The obsession with the discovery narrative and the revelation of the secret is an implicit acknowledgment that other than novelty there is frequently no there there.

My second problem is that “liberal Mormons” are insulting. There is this constant assumption (stated or unstated) that the world is divided between those that are ignorant and those that are snarky, critical, and angst ridden. Those who do not stew in the concerns of the “liberal Mormons” are assumed to be victims of deception — the Brethren (play sinister music here) have kept these people from learning the “objective truth” — or alternatively, they are victims of self-delusion — it is only some psychological dysfunction caused by years of brain washing that keeps them from realizing the “truth.” And of course, there is always the possibility that those who disagree with the “liberal Mormons” are simply too stupid to understand the implications of the data. Hence, folks like myself get to occupy one or more of three unappealing boxes: deceived, deluded, or dumb.

So there you have it. My problem with the critical herd. The good news is that the indictment is not universal. There are “liberal Mormons” who say unexpected or interesting things. There are “liberal Mormons” who don’t assume that those who disagree with them are ignorant or self-deceived. (Or at least they successfully hide their belief.) The problem is that there are not nearly enough of this kind of “liberal Mormon,” and their presence is not enough to improve on the generally sorry showing of the group as a whole.

118 comments for “My Problem with “Liberal Mormons”

  1. April 2, 2004 at 5:54 pm

    Nice post Nate.

  2. April 2, 2004 at 5:57 pm

    Can we throw libertarian Mormons in there too?
    I’ll admit that the narcissism bothers me (of both groups). But I’ll be quiet about it now.

  3. April 2, 2004 at 5:59 pm

    I have serious problems with libertarians (whether Mormons or not) too Geoff, but politics isn’t where Nate is going with this. At least I hope not.

  4. William Morris
    April 2, 2004 at 6:08 pm

    I think where liberal Mormons went wrong is in buying too much in to the same superficial assumptions as the multi-culti, pc, fuzzy new age crowd. If anything, I wish liberal Mormon discourse was more rigorous and more strongly rooted in classic liberal humanism. That at least could lead to some interesting work.

  5. Randy
    April 2, 2004 at 6:28 pm


    Perhaps this is my own defense mechanism kicking in, but I can’t get past your definition of “liberal Mormons.” Your definition, as I understand it (“that vast and motley crowd of self-proclaimed ‘critical thinkers’ who like to get ostentatiously worked up about the ‘human’ side of Church leaders,” etc., etc.) includes all sorts of people across the political spectrum. You seem to acknowledge as much. Assuming you do, then I don’t understand why you use the term “liberal” (unless it is to get more attention than your complaint otherwise would). Why that descriptor? The risk, it seems to me, is that as we try to discuss the issue, people don’t always make the nifty distinctions you do. I already sense this possibility becoming reality in William’s comments (just why exactly is multi-culturalism inconsistent with the gospel?). I don’t want to put words in William’s mouth; perhaps he is not saying the things I think he might be. Just seems to me that defining the debate in the way you have chosen gets us off on the wrong foot.

  6. John H
    April 2, 2004 at 6:31 pm

    Well, as one who doesn’t mind defining himself as a “liberal Mormon,” I’ll weigh in.

    First, I agree with many, if not all of your criticisms. However, you might be careful about lumping people in any kind of category. You did a nice job of clarifying the group that you are identifying and providing definitions of who they are. However, many people will glance over your criteria and simply accuse all “liberal Mormons” of doing what you assign to what I believe is a pretty small (but obnoxious and vocal) group of people.

    Of course, I’ve heard the mirror problem before – that liberal Mormons are nothing more than a mirror of the conservative Church. I couldn’t agree more. However, many of the “bad” things that people love to accuse liberal Mormons of are also in the conservative Church, so the mirror needs to be used both ways. Some examples:

    You say liberal Mormons love to overemphasize the “dark” side of Church history and the “human” side of the Brethren. I’d argue conservative Mormons pretend there is no such thing. They won’t go so far as to say Church leaders don’t make mistakes, but they never want to talk about it let alone believe there might actually be value in examining the human side leaders exhibit. That is, unless it’s time for apologetics. Then when we hear about past racism from Church leaders, it’s all about how they’re only human and a product of their times. A very valid argument, to be sure, but one that I don’t think should be only grudgingly dragged out when it’s convenient. Of course, they also believe all Church history is a morality play with heroes and villains. There’s no complexity, no depth, nothing. Sunday School isn’t for learning new or interesting ideas, it’s the equivalent of repeating the third grade over and over and over and over and over and over again.

    You say liberal Mormons like to endlessly stew about what the Sunday school teacher didn’t tell them. So very true. But no less true than the conservative Mormons who love to stew about what the Sunday school teacher did tell them. After all, we’re all Latter-day Saints, that must mean we all feel the same way about politics, doctrine, obedience, etc. That guy has some nerve offering an explanation or saying something I don’t agree with!

    Overall, you paint liberal Mormons (again, all too accurately) as pompously proud of themselves for their knowledge – as if they have all the answers and if only others knew what they knew. A troubling smarter-than-thou attitude to counterbalance the equally troubling holier-than-thou attitude exhibited by conservative Mormons. And just as their are liberal Mormons who proudly puff themselves up because of their knowledge, there are the conservative Mormons who proudly and boldly announce their ignorance to the world. “I don’t read the paper” cried one woman in my ward. “It’s too depressing and all about the evil world.”

    Conservative Mormons can always retreat to the “I know it’s true” testimonial, so they don’t need to read X book or X article or have information about much of anything.

    I want to make it clear that my use of the term “conservative Mormon” applies to a small group of people and not just those who consider themselves “conservative” and “Mormon.” Such a broad label obviously isn’t fair, anymore than the broad label “liberal Mormon” is.

    The only other point I’ll address is the smugness of “You don’t know the secrets that would blow your world apart.” Again, I think that’s a very extreme representation of a very small group. But there is some truth to the fact that I’m guilty of telling people that I’ve read some things that they haven’t. But I can sincerely state that it isn’t out of a desire to be superior or to freak people out.

    No, it’s part of my continuing quest for acceptance in a world that I want to be a part of but where I’m constantly shoved off to the side and practically out the door. See, if I disagree, or have different ideas about Church history, or different opinions about doctrine, it’s all over. There is no graceful way to have different ideas when dealing with “conservative Mormons.” If I have a conversation with someone over, say, polygamy, and they discover that I don’t feel the same way they do, often the conversation shifts. We’re not talking about a difference of opinion anymore. We’re talking about me and my faithfulness. I’m suddenly the topic – not polygamy.

    So saying you’ve read something is a defense mechanism for some of us. It’s our way of saying, “Look – I don’t disagree or have different feelings to rock the boat. I’m not trying to be an apostate. I’m not trying to lose my faith. I’m no different than you. I’ve lived a life of choices, I’ve chosen a path, and this is where I’ve ended up, for better or for worse.”

    There is a desire to let people know their Mormon view of the world isn’t as perfect as they think. It isn’t to hurt anyone’s faith – I’d feel awful if I drove someone away based on what I said. But maybe if someone understands that Church history isn’t perfect, that Church leaders aren’t perfect and do disagree, that doctrine has evolved, etc., then maybe there will be more room in their mind for people who don’t fit into their perfect view. Because if things aren’t as perfect as they thought they were, then maybe there’s room in the Mormon tent for someone like me after all.

  7. Adam Greenwood
    April 2, 2004 at 6:33 pm

    I like a little bloodymindedness as much as the next fellow, probably more. Good work, Mr. O. Of course, my dreams of a McCarthyite Terror were just a wee bit dashed when I saw you didn’t name any names (the enemies list!), use invective (the Reformation!), or summon up the Danite bands (uh, Danite bands!). Maybe next time.

    Anyway, suppose you were to summon up a little charity, Nate, and care for the fate of these souls. Might it not be true that this continued fascination with the church and all its darkness serves as a route to reconversion? My instincts tell me that moving on to other things is probably for the best, spiritually, but I remember C.S. Lewis’ passage in the Great Divorce about the damned souls who trek to Heaven to gibber their hate one last time, and who are sometimes saved because of it. Admittedly, I can’t think of anyone in particular whose bustly ex-Mormonism has brought them back.

  8. April 2, 2004 at 6:33 pm

    Nate, I used to be one of the “liberal Mormons” you describe. I think some of your characterizations are apt, though some are a bit overdrawn. I like to think I no longer fit the description as much as I once did (though perhaps that’s for others to say). I agree with much of what you say, but I want to focus on a couple points of potential disagreement.

    You say you don’t view “liberal Mormons” as “spiritually dangerous wolves in sheep’s clothing wreaking havoc amongst the flock of the faithful” and that to view them this way “simply feeds into the “liberal Mormons'” sense of their own self-importance.” But the reality is, Nate, that many, many other Church members DO see them as spiritually dangerous in the way that you describe, and when “liberal” members of the Church see seemingly overblown hostility to some Church history “discovery,” or some mild insight regarding a Church leader’s imperfection, it doesn’t feed into feelings of “self-importance” as much as it does feelings of “Gee, if my fellow members can’t take these softballs without freaking out, then maybe there really is something incompatible with being a faithful Mormon and being an historically informed one.”

    You may find many of the “discoveries” that “liberal Mormons” like to stew about to be “boring” or mere “novelties,” but I think it’s fair to say that many, many Mormons do not. Rather, they often find them wildly controversial, “apostate,” and worthy of avoiding like the plague. The reality is, the fact that someone as smart, educated and informed as “Nate Oman” finds some data point uninteresting or unenlightening tells us very, very little about how your average Mormon will process and understand such things.

    There’s a lot more to say here, and these are just some initial ramblings…

    Aaron B

  9. April 2, 2004 at 6:34 pm

    Randy: I am fine with another term. Let’s call them “snarks.” I chose “liberal Mormon” because that is a way that in my experience these folks frequently self-identify.

  10. April 2, 2004 at 6:36 pm

    Oddly enough, I recently posted about my problems with liberal Mormons, but I used a different (though by no means exclusive) definition:

  11. April 2, 2004 at 6:36 pm

    Adam: Be careful. My inter-mural Ultimate frisbee team at BYU was named “The Danites.”

  12. April 2, 2004 at 6:36 pm

    Nate: I couldn’t agree more…although I actually dislike uninformed conservatives even more than propagandist liberals (regardless of, but especially because of, their religious views)

    John said that CMs “never want to talk about it”.

    Yup…exactly. Why talk about something that we all know about & isn’t faith promoting?

    John also said: “…let alone believe there might actually be value in examining the human side leaders exhibit.”

    Um…no, not exactly. Examining the “humanity” of Church leaders should help us relate to them; and realize that we can grow up and conquer problems too. But focusing on their negatives doesn’t accomplish this very well. rather one- and short-sighted approach, IMO.

  13. April 2, 2004 at 6:42 pm

    Nate, I think you’re just trying to create a thread that will get more comments than the homosexuality threads.

  14. April 2, 2004 at 6:45 pm

    John: My problem is running into “liberal Mormons” who insist on treating me as though I am one of the “conservative Mormons” you painted simply because I am: (1) thoroughly at home in the church; (2) happy and contented with my membership; and, (3) not hyper-venillating about the same things that they are. “If you would only read Quinn or David Brueger you would think differently…” I am told. I have read Brueger and Quinn already. Calm down. When Tom Kimball informs me that I will be just like him in ten years because “you are reading,” the claimed inevitablity of the conversion grates. ( ) Or it at least it grates to the extent that I am supposed to take it seriously.

  15. Kaimi
    April 2, 2004 at 6:46 pm


    As one of this blog’s more-or-less perceived liberals, I guess I should weigh in. And generally agree.

    I strongly dislike people who think that others hold their views out of ignorance, or wrongheadedness, or being duped. Liberal Mormons who think that active church members are all dumb or misguided should be a little less arrogant.

    As, of course, should Mormons of all other stripes. A while ago, when I made an argument, another person said something along the lines of “I can’t believe how you’ve been suckered in by society and the liberal media.” My response to that is the same as that to liberals who think conservatives are dumb or duped — I’m capable of forming opinions myself, thank you.

    The world would certainly be better if we recognized that many different political and theological views may be reasonably arrived at –rather than assuming that people holding views different than our own were too blind, too stupid, or too arrogant to realize that they were wrong and we were right.

  16. Susan
    April 2, 2004 at 6:46 pm

    I’ve heard you complain about the “discovery” narrative before. Isn’t the missionary narrative a version of a discovery narrative? I’m a little unclear just what you are complaining about.

  17. John H
    April 2, 2004 at 6:47 pm

    lyle said: Yup…exactly. Why talk about something that we all know about & isn’t faith promoting?

    And here we have exactly the problem. Because it isn’t fair or right for the “conservative Mormons” (for lack of a better label) to control or dictate what IS faith promoting. Take anti-polygamy legislation and the Church’s response to it. You may not find it faith promoting that Joseph F. Smith lied under oath to Congress during the Reed Smoot hearings. I do – I admire him for it and admire his loyalty to his beliefs.

    It’s ridiculous for me to be told to I can’t talk about something or write about something (especially outside of a Church setting) just because you don’t like it.

    What strengthens one person might harm another. How many people have gone to the temple and been lifted up and inspired? How many have gone and never come back because they were freaked out by the ceremony. I met at least a dozen on my mission alone.

    But when someone like Michael Quinn writes something that might trouble someone, all the blame is thrown on him and he’s accused of apostasy and of harming the faith. But if someone has a negative experience in the temple, how often do we blame the ceremony? Never, of course. No, it’s obviously the fault of the person. They clearly didn’t have enough faith or didn’t have a strong enough testimony, etc.

  18. April 2, 2004 at 6:47 pm

    Jim: Sssshhhh. Be quiet or everyone will figure it out!

  19. April 2, 2004 at 6:50 pm

    John: There are legitimate criticisms to be made of Quinn qua historian and there is a tendency to assume that any an all criticism of him is over-heated apologetic nastiness.

  20. April 2, 2004 at 6:53 pm

    Mom: Fair enough. I have even pointed out that there is a paralell between the discovery narrative and the missionary discussions. My problem with the discovery narrative is that it frequently has nothing of interest to say about the underlying discovery. Frankly, this is a frequent problem with missionary discovery narratives as well. The missionaries are good at telling a story about how one comes to know the Gospel is true. They are not nearly as good at articulating what exactly that means or why it is so great. It is a wonder anyone joins the church at all…

  21. John H
    April 2, 2004 at 6:58 pm

    I accidentally hit the wrong button – so sorry if this is posted twice:

    Nate writes: My problem is running into “liberal Mormons” who insist on treating me as though I am one of the “conservative Mormons” you painted simply because I am: (1) thoroughly at home in the church; (2) happy and contented with my membership; and, (3) not hyper-venillating about the same things that they are.

    Nate, I couldn’t agree more with your analysis. I don’t particularly like that attitude either. But once again, if we hold up the mirror the reflection is there.

    I’m tired of running into “conservative Mormons” who (1) Can’t understand that there are people who aren’t thoroughly happy in the Church. It seems like such a painfully narrow attitude to think that just because you’re happy with something, everyone else should be. It’s seems a lot like thinking sushi is good and getting infuriated when someone else doesn’t like it.

    (2) I’m tired of running into “conservative Mormons” who automatically view me with suspicion when I so much as utter anything they haven’t heard before. No, I’m not trying to annoy you. No, I’m not trying to shake your faith. I just wanted to have a conversation. Silly me. (Sorry, my sarcasm meter is broken.)

    (3) Speaking of hyperventilating about the same things, guess what – I don’t support a constitutional ban on gay marriage. I’m not all that worked up about it. I just don’t care. Sorry.

    Ok, once again my apologies for the sarcasm. Please know that I’m not mocking you or trying to take frustration out on anyone. It’s just my way of reflecting my feelings sometimes. I hope I haven’t offended anyone.

    Once again, if we hold up the mirror, we can’t just focus on the warts in the reflection while ignoring the pimples on us.

  22. April 2, 2004 at 7:02 pm

    John: People who dislike sushi are simply morally inferior. Dah!

    Kaimi: You are simply so brainwashed by the liberal media that you don’t know that you are brainwashed. The fact that you are unaware is simply evidence of how good the brainwashing has been. It’s alright. People suffering from false consciousness are to be pitied rather than criticized… ;->

  23. April 2, 2004 at 7:06 pm

    John: In all seriousness, I appreciate some of what you are saying. One might put it this way. “Conservatives” think that those who disagree with them are faithless and immoral. “Liberals” think that those who disagree with them are ignorant and deluded. My problem is that I really don’t see these as symetrical problems. I don’t mind so much if someone views me as faithless and immoral. However, I have so many intellectual insecurities, that I deeply, deeply resent being thought ignorant and deluded. There is also a fair amount of personal arrogance here. I often times don’t think that the “Liberal Mormons” are the sharpest knives in the drawer, if you know what I mean… ;->

  24. April 2, 2004 at 7:07 pm

    I think John does a nice job articulating some of my thoughts on this subject so I won’t repeat what he said except to say that I think Nate’s version of “liberal Mormons” can be a stage that we pass through instead of a permanent position. I was once a very dogmatic Mormon and was just today reminded, much to my chagrin, on closed email chat by my MTC companion that I was the one in the MTC who always had all the answers for everything. After that dogmatic stage, I went to graduate school, read some texts, experienced some trauma and became a “liberal Moromon” (which I would call proud and/or angry–not liberal). During this stage I was as sure of myself as I had been in my dogmatic stage–but sure in the other direction.

    These worldviews might be characterized by the kinds of texts I was reading:

    Adolescence and Pre-mission: Bruce R. McConkie, Joseph Fielding Smith

    New Haven: Fawn Brodie, Mike Quinn

    In the last three years or so this has sort of worn off as I’ve continued to serve in the Church. I think it has to if you stay active and committed as a member. I got to the point where I could recognize that the Gospel is actually at home in the Church–that the Church is an institution and as such is imperfect, but that what I know about the Gospel has come from my membership in the Church and that the Church is actually very effective in teaching us how to love and serve each other. Of course part of this tempering is that I have read still other texts by people like Gene England, met people like Claudia Bushman and Laurel Ulrich and learned that there were other option besides dogmatic or angry/smug.

    Often people stay in the dogmatic stage or the angry and/or smug stage permanently, but I think there are serious costs associated with both worldviews. I like the idea of thinking of these as stages because I think we can and do change our approach to things as get older and have more experience.

  25. April 2, 2004 at 7:14 pm

    I also agree with John and Melissa’s comments.

    I guess I am unable to see how the things Nate hates about “liberal Mormons” are characteristics unique to that group (whatever he defines that as).

  26. Kaimi
    April 2, 2004 at 7:16 pm

    Now isn’t rabble rousing much more fun than posting about stuffy corporate law, anyway? So, let me tell you about why gay women who had abortions and voted for the ERA should be allowed to hold the priesthood . . .

  27. April 2, 2004 at 7:18 pm

    John: Thanks! I’m glad to have written something to further the conversation. I think you have a good point re: historical facts, however…the tone in which they are delivered & attitude of the approach can make all the difference…and frankly, whether a Prophet lied under Oath…I’m not sure how important that is for EVERY SINGLE member to know, or even everyone in a given ward. Please note, I’m not hyperventilating or thinking you are apostate for saying that a Prophet lied.

    re: Quinn. Given that he felt it more important to write what he wanted rather than follow Church counsel…I think that explains why folks aren’t sure if they want to read/hear his arguments.

    re: Sushi & the Church. One is food. The other is the Kingdom of God. If you like/hate Sushi…no one is going to get in a tizzy. If you like/hate/criticize the Kingdom of God…is a different matter.

    re: new things that others don’t know/haven’t heard before. Thanks for sharing! i had no idea that the Prophet had lied under Oath before. Given the historical context…it does sound rather faith promoting; and regardless…is very interesting. Share away! :)

  28. Gary Lee
    April 2, 2004 at 7:19 pm

    I suppose I would call myself a liberal Mormon. And I don’t like people who exhibit all of those unpleasant qualities attributed to “liberal” Mormons, no matter where they find themselves on the spectrum. However, I call myself “liberal”, not because I think I am smarter or better informed than my conservative brothers and sisters. I am liberal precisely because I don’t think I understand very much at all. I am full of questions and few answers. I don’t think I have it all figured out. I just can’t make sense of many of their opinions (usually stated as incontrovertible, even self evident, fact), so I have been forced to come up with ways of looking at the Church and the Gospel which are sometimes different from theirs. But my liberalness has nothing to do with smug arrogance (that might explain other elements of my behaviour, but not this one), and much more to do with my inability to see what they see and to feel the sense of certainty that they feel.

  29. Aaron Brown
    April 2, 2004 at 7:21 pm

    I have a long-winded story about gays and same-sex marriage that I want to share. Who’s game?


    Aaron B

  30. April 2, 2004 at 7:21 pm

    Steve: Come on! John agrees with me! Furthermore, there is a difference to the kind of annoying things that “conservatives” do and the kind of annoying things that “liberals” do. Personally, I DO think that the things that “liberal Mormons” do — giddy recountings of more or less well known facts as though they are secrets (let me tell you about Adam-God), reverence of Steve Benson, etc. — are unique to them.

  31. April 2, 2004 at 7:22 pm

    Um…hm…can we play bubble-gum-in-a-dish to decide whether Kaimi or Aaron gets to tell their stories first? :)

  32. Kaimi
    April 2, 2004 at 7:24 pm

    What’s with Steve Benson? Isn’t he a political cartoonist of some sort? The name is kind of familiar; I’m not sure if I’ve seen any of his stuff. (Does he do other things? Or just draw cartoons?) (And, does my lack of much knowledge about him mean I’m not one of the target audience of your rant?)

  33. April 2, 2004 at 7:27 pm

    Steve Benson. Grandson of Ezra Taft Benson. Made a point of being an “empty chair” in the Benson family. Does Cartoons & stories for an AZ newspaper (AZ New republic?)

  34. April 2, 2004 at 7:27 pm

    Aaron and Melissa — who both admit to being recovering “liberal Mormons” — give me hope. (I was actually thinking entirely of Aaron circa 2001 and when I was writing this post.)

    I remember Dan Peterson telling me his theory of Mormon history. He said that there are basically three versions. The first version is Sunday School where everything is sweetness and light and God is a primary protagonist in the story and admittedly flawed individuals strive to do his will. The second version is the Tanners. Everything consists of dark hidden facts, God is banished from the story (except perhaps as a brooding presences behind the Satanic influence REALLY at work in Mormonism), etc. Finally there is the third version, which is essentially the same as the first version but it has a lot more fun stuff in it…

  35. April 2, 2004 at 7:30 pm

    BTW, I am kidding about Aaron…

  36. Kevin
    April 2, 2004 at 7:34 pm

    Lyle asked, “Why talk about something that we all know about & isn’t faith promoting?”

    If the truth fails to promote faith in something, then why should that something be the object of our faith?

  37. April 2, 2004 at 7:38 pm

    Kevin: Does that mean that our discussions of Newtonia physics should center solely on their in ability to account for the phenomena used to justify quantum physics or relativity?

  38. April 2, 2004 at 7:44 pm

    Nate: “Steve: Come on! John agrees with me!”

    Nate, I wasn’t disagreeing with your overall rant.

    Not sure where you’re going with this thread, I guess. You’re angry, I guess, at some kinds of behavior by liberals, but your anger is nothing really new and takes a large swath in a fairly hurtful way. Aren’t those the behaviors you claim to dislike?

  39. April 2, 2004 at 7:54 pm

    ya know…its been awhile since every single ‘recent comment’ has been directed towards just one post…

  40. April 2, 2004 at 7:54 pm

    What swath? I offered a clinically precise definition of my use of the term “liberal Mormon.” Furthermore, you claimed that I didn’t identify any behaviors unique to those that I was criticizing. On this I think that you are wrong. I did.

    My point is that I want to blugeon “liberal Mormons” into admitting their many sins. I also want to point out what I think is a fundamentally vacuous way of talking that is masquerading as intellectual profundity.

  41. April 2, 2004 at 7:55 pm

    The problem I keep having as I read this thread is that I’m not sure who (besides Quinn, Benson, and a few other ex-communicated members Nate has mentioned) Nate would characterize as “liberal.” In fact, I think the use of the “liberal” term is mostly a ploy to generate controversy among visitors to T&S (as Jim says). There are many of us who consider ourselves to be “liberal Mormons” who look nothing like the caricature Nate presents.

    I think most of us can agree that the traits you describe are characteristics of an annoying person. So why discuss it? Does anyone here think of him or herself as annoying “liberal Mormon”?

  42. April 2, 2004 at 7:58 pm

    Or perhaps you should have just called this post…”My Problem with Apostates.”

  43. April 2, 2004 at 8:00 pm

    Brayden: I am not sure that I would exactly categorize Quinn as a “liberal Mormon” in the sense that I have outlined. I do think that the type I describe is more common and more closely correlated to a certain intellectual approach than folks are admitting. I am not simply describing people who are jerks. I am describing people who are jerks in a particular way and who think that they are being critical and insightful when in fact they are simply being insulting bores.

    (Of course, Steve et al would probably apply the insulting bore label to me, as is their right. Sheesh! I need sleep.)

  44. April 2, 2004 at 8:03 pm

    Nate – Do you have a bone to pick with BCC? Is that what this is about? ;)

  45. Randy
    April 2, 2004 at 8:05 pm

    Nate says “there is a difference to the kind of annoying things that ‘conservatives’ do and the kind of annoying things that ‘liberals’ do.” Perhaps I am the only one, but these terms are still throwing me for a loop. I like Nate’s idea of using the term “snarks.” If I were to substitute the term “snarks” for “liberals” and “anti-snarks” (for lack of a better term) for “conservatives,” I would have no objection to Nate’s comments. But Nate, aren’t you trying to say more than that? (If not, then this is a pretty dull discussion isn’t it?)

    One need look no further than the past comments made on this site to prove, decisively I think, that both “conservative” and “liberal” (as typically defined) Mormons can be snarks. The topics change, but the allegations of ignorance and delusion remain the same. Have you really never listened to a “conservative Mormon” engaging in a “fundamentally vacuous way of talking that is masquerading as intellectual profundity”? Be serious.

  46. April 2, 2004 at 8:06 pm

    Nate, I’m pretty familiar with the condition you’re describing, and basically agree with your condemnation of it. But if Quinn isn’t a “liberal Mormon” under your definition (“discovery narrative,” “hidden knowledge,” etc.), then I honestly don’t know who would.

  47. April 2, 2004 at 8:20 pm

    I like the “other” Nathans definition here, which is more descriptive and def. not pejorative:

    “Obviously we’re not just referring to Mormons who are politically convervative vs. Mormons who are politically liberal, although there’s considerable overlap between the political and faithful continua. In the simplest terms, “conservative” and “liberal” in this context bear a resemblance to their use (or one of their uses) in relation to Christianity in general, to wit, a liberal Mormon is one who has adopted a semi-skeptical eye toward the truth claims of the Church. A hardline conservative Mormon will consider just about everything to be eternal doctrine; a liberal Mormon will consider just about everything to be cultural practice. “

  48. April 2, 2004 at 8:23 pm

    Nate — I didn’t want to flatter myself into believing I was a major source for your angst, but I guess you’ve confirmed it (or are you really just kidding?)! I’m now having flashbacks to some specific incidents between us on LDS-law that – if everyone will indulge me – I want to relive for a moment…

    I recall recommending Buerger’s “Adam-God” article in Dialogue to you, after reading your own writings on the subject. I surmised (correctly, I believe) that you were unfamiliar with it. I don’t recall trying to throw it in your face like a “know-it-all,” but maybe that’s how I came off. Anyway, I then remember subsequent writings of yours, where you pooh-pooh the article as having nothing intellectually interesting to say (although you admired Buerger’s abilities at fact collection). It seems to me that, in light of what I took to be your prior unfamiliarity with some of the issues surrounding Adam-God, your reference to “giddy recountings of more or less well known facts as though they are secrets (let me tell you about Adam-God)” is problematic. After all, if the obscenely well-read Nate Oman wasn’t up on all the ins and outs of the AGT in 2001, it’s hardly fair to act like everything was or is “more or less well known.”

    Next, I also recall an incident in the very, very early days of LDS-law when someone bragged about Joseph Smith’s amazing prophetic insight into modern medicine, as “evidenced” by the Word of Wisdom, and he drew what I felt was a dubious conclusion based upon this claim. I debunked the claim in standard fashion, which led to your bemused observation that some people are way too preoccupied with forcing their “insights” upon the unschooled Mormon masses. Whether or not I came off as overbearing in this particular case, my point was directly relevant to the poster’s argument, and was hardly a gratuitous cheap shot designed to showcase my intellectual pretentiousness.

    Is there a point to reviewing this ancient, forgotten history? I guess it is this: There is no question that certain “liberal Mormons” can come off as unnecessarily caustic and smug when they share their views. It’s all in the delivery. But I believe the issues that often preoccupy them are (1) not nearly as well-known as the Nate Omans, FARMS authors, and other faithful Church history buffs would like to believe, and therefore, neither “boring” nor trite to most listeners; and (2) are issues that can be profoundly relevant to how we understand the Gospel, the Church, the Church leadership, and the relationship between them. (I should elaborate more on what I mean here, but that’s all for now.)

    Aaron B

  49. Kevin
    April 2, 2004 at 8:27 pm

    Nate, point taken. I was assuming the common usage of the phrase “not faith promoting”, i.e. as a euphemism for “faith damaging”.

    I going to try to get some extra mileage out of your Newtonian vs. modern physics example:

    Most people never learn anything beyond Newtonian physics because it’s sufficient for most practical problems. This is a legitimate approach, and those who have the inclination to delve deeper are not justified in putting the Newtonians down as unintelligent or unenlightened. But it would be just as wrong to cast a moral judgement on the modern physicists for pointing out holes in Newton’s theories.

    As John said above, it’s a holier-than-thou vs. smarter-than-thou jihad.

    Great post, BTW.

  50. April 2, 2004 at 8:28 pm

    I knew it: this is actually all about exorcising demons from list-serves past.

  51. Kaimi
    April 2, 2004 at 8:59 pm

    Incredible — this thread received 32 consecutive comments. (I.e., no other thread received any comments between 1 and 32 of that stretch).

  52. April 2, 2004 at 9:01 pm

    ‘that vast and motley crowd of self-proclaimed “critical thinkers”‘

    No kidding. My favorite was a bunch of them trying to tell Elder Oaks that he needed to listen to them on spiritual matters since they obviously had such strong intellectual credentials …

    Of course not a one of them could have been admitted at Chicago, none-the-less taught there.

    “My real problem with these people is that they are boring and insulting.”

    “Hence, folks like myself get to occupy one or more of three unappealing boxes: deceived, deluded, or dumb.”

    “who like to get ostentatiously worked up about the ‘human’ side of Church leaders”

    You know, I started with reading Joseph Smith on the topic of the humanity of the leaders of the Church and their foibles. I also read the Old Testament and paid attention to what I was reading.

    Of course it made me wonder at the choice of the word “Zipper” and a lot of other things.

    ?Admittedly, I can’t think of anyone in particular whose bustly ex-Mormonism has brought them back.”

    I think this is the real criticism of the entire mess, it isn’t bringing anyone closer to Christ.

    ‘Let’s call them “snarks”‘


    “Steve Benson” is a cartoonist who used to see things in a very pro-LDS black and white world view and was always the center of attention. Now he sees things in a very anti-LDS black and white world view that makes him the center of attention. He does work with some devout LDS types. His basic complaint is that his grandfather should have ceased to be prophet because the current President of the Church didn’t need to grow any more …. oh, and that the same person hadn’t grown enough …

    “I am describing people who are jerks in a particular way and who think that they are being critical and insightful when in fact they are simply being insulting bores.”

    Nicely said.

    BTW, a long time ago, I wrote an article on the topic:

    Wish I’d come up with “snarks”

  53. Mary
    April 2, 2004 at 9:15 pm

    Melissa, I really like your idea/theory that maybe the pride and smugness is a stage. Thanks for sharing your thoughts on your own experiences, I appreciate it.

  54. April 2, 2004 at 9:16 pm

    Nate, I wouldn’t call you an insulting bore. At least, not to your face :)

  55. Julie in Austin
    April 2, 2004 at 9:31 pm

    I agree with Melissa and could definitely point to the same three stages in my life.

    I want to add: it seems like people can spend their entire lives in stage one, but I am thinking that if you make it to two, but not three, you’ll leave the Church sooner or later. I can think of many people who fit this.

  56. April 2, 2004 at 10:26 pm

    Aaron, I think one problem is that even when those of us reasonably well read on topics are missing some facts, it is rather rare that those facts really shake up the issue. I can’t think of too many times that has happened. It’s been a fair time now since I last studied LDS history in any depth. There is a *lot* I don’t know. But I stopped buying as much simply because all the little facts and particulars ceased adding much to my theological and spiritual understanding. Perhaps that’s what Nate means by “boring.”

    It’s boring the way my own fascination with minutiae of philosophical issues is boring to someone not interested in philosophy. I recognize that most of the issues I see as significant in philosophy of Mormonism aren’t to most people. I rather doubt they will change anyone’s mind, even though I find them significant. I think I’d be in error to assume they would.

  57. April 3, 2004 at 2:30 am

    I have a problem with Nate’s post because it stereotypes, generalizes, and/or oversimplifies. Nate’s way of thinking is akin to “iron rodders” vs. “liahonas”. In other words, there are only two types of Mormons. No matter which one you are, you MUST have all the evil characteristics of your particular group.


    If I shop on Sunday it must be because I’m purposely breaking some “promise” I made to God and further guaranteeing my place in hell.

    If I refuse to fill up the car and walk ten miles to Church instead… I must be ignorant, stupid, and silly.

    Come now; be fair. Let’s think of this as a spectrum instead of trying to relate it to a two-party system.

  58. April 3, 2004 at 3:32 am

    I don’t think Nate meant a sweeping taxonomy like that Bob. I note he put “Liberal Mormon” in quotes, perhaps to distinguish it from Mormons who are liberal. And, as some others have said, there are lots of pretentious condescending “Conservative Mormons” as well. (Note the scare quotes to distinguish these from Mormons who are religiously conservative, like myself)

    What is funny is that these groups tend to truly be hypocritical in how they attack each other. But never quite realize it. Both are rather annoying to be around.

  59. April 3, 2004 at 8:38 am

    Aaron: Ah those halycon days at the beginning of the ldslaw list! I had actually forgotten about our Adam-God tussle from oh so long ago, as well as the endless Word of Wisdom discussions. It seemed that it was impossible to get a group of Mormon lawyers to actually talk about law! Your points are well taken, of course, so I should probably be less testy. Of course, I should probably simply get more sleep, but alas it is not to be. 5:55 am and I was out of bed this morning. Yikes!

    BTW, I honestly was joking about you being the inspiration for the post.

  60. April 3, 2004 at 9:51 am

    What about the NT verses comparing talking about the Kingdom of God like a body; i.e. perhaps we need both “Liberal Mormon (L-hand)” and “Conservative Mormon (R-hand)” & the moderate soft-underbelly (or is it a six-pack?) . . .

    just a thought

  61. Susan
    April 3, 2004 at 12:44 pm

    I’m way back at your comment about three approaches to history (I’ve been out of touch, flying between Seattle and Sacramento). To me these look like trick answers on a quiz. There needs to be a fourth term or at least the option “none of the above.” Basically the choices are faithful but uninformed, faithful but informed and this: “The second version is the Tanners. Everything consists of dark hidden facts, God is banished from the story (except perhaps as a brooding presences behind the Satanic influence REALLY at work in Mormonism), etc.”

    In the interest of fairness, complexity, honesty, etc., all of the things we value, let’s make sure that a fourth term is always in the discussion.

    I would say that my post of last week (far too obtuse I’m sure) on “Intimate Enemies” was trying to get at precisely this dynamic. You even see it here in this definition amazingly enough–connecting up someone who doesn’t agree with you with the ultimate evil enemy, Satan. Surely there’s a better way to discuss Mormon history than allowing, even encouraging, the discussion to turn on these loaded terms.

  62. John H
    April 3, 2004 at 2:08 pm

    Well put, Susan. I had meant to respond to the “three kinds of history” post as well.

    Those three seem like a very narrow definition to me, and it makes it all to easy to lump anything one doesn’t deem as faith promoting into the Tanners lot. Agree with Dan Vogel and his writings, disagree with him, think he’s great, think he’s terrible – it doesn’t matter. Throwing him in with the likes of the Tanners is not fair, IMO. Same goes for Michael Quinn. He is miles apart from them. He’s contacted often by Tanner-types for endorsements of different evangelical publications on Mormonism – he always turns them down.

    My biggest problem with Dan Peterson’s definition, however, is it’s only designed to include him and those who agree with him. There’s fluffy Church history on the one hand, for which he is bored with or finds uninteresting, then there’s the Tanners on the other, which is just anti-Mormon. But in the middle is the interesting Church history that he espouses. Very limited, IMO.

  63. April 3, 2004 at 2:42 pm

    Well, “”iron rodders” vs. “liahonas”” has always seemed too narrow to me, and to miss the point. I don’t think Nate is missing the point.

    But, I think there are about five archetypes:

    I think I’ll quote myself (grins) about the types we often meet who stick out of the crowd (with the note that Jacob seems to have valued the crowd above those who stuck out, and noted that their tender feelings were precious to God, no need to go about disabusing people of being tender …)

    First, the Sadducee (or modern Liahona). This is a person who trusts to their own sophistication to weed out error and superstition from “what really matters.” Often they are violent in dealing with those who disagree with them, forceably (either with physical or verbal violence) reacting to the “superstitious.” (cf Acts 4:1-4; read the style and editorial voice of Secret Ceremonies).

    Second, the Scribe (or modern Iron Rod). This is a person who takes a legalistic approach with many rules (used to judge others). They pay tithe of mint and anise and cumin and omit the weightier matters of the law: fairness, mercy and faith. (cf Matthew 23:23).

    Third, Zealots (or modern Mollies). People whose strong political agenda has replaced their religion. Marxist Christians, and others (of both the right and left wings) typify this well. Such feel that every conflict can be solved by force, either physical or intellectual.

    Fourth, Publicans (or modern “MBA”s). People who find their religion in business, often intending to “do good” “after” they have made “enough” money.

    Fifth, Harlots (or modern Jacks). These are people who live in the world, seeking its pleasures, and often victimized or exploited by others.

    Christ joined none of these groups, but taught them all to leave their focus for true religion.

    True religion and undefiled involves obeying religious law — but with emphasis on the weightier portion of fairness, mercy and faith.

    It involves following the spiritual compass and “higher” law: –but in such a way that leads to greater sacrifice and effort (rather than as an excuse to do less). (The commandment says “Thou shalt not kill, but I say unto you, that he that is angry with his brother…” typifies the higher law).

    It involves action to change the world for the better: — but individually, without offense or violence, rather than by mass struggle or attack.

    It involves living in the world: — but not being of the world, choosing to have one master, even Christ.

    Finally, it involves learning from physical life: — but also being in control of that life rather than at its mercy.

    Taking this position I find it easy to define the core of living a religious life and to find it rectified with the New Testament and the Old. The codes of the Old Testament are a schoolmaster to lead a people to Christ (Galatians 3:24). That is, the Old Testament law existed to create and preserve the proper milieu for the coming of the Messiah (thus Romans 10:4).

    While Christ gave some specific instructions to individuals (e.g. Matthew 19:21), the broader warning implicit in the examples is often clear (cf Matthew 19:23-26, espec. 26). The heart eventually chooses to follow wherever long term attention is placed (Matthew 6:21-23).

    (quoting from

    BTW, it is seeking that higher law with tenderness towards others and their feelings that I consider “keeping the faith” and how I would define the phrase in LDS culture.

    Stephen R. Marsh
    (my LDS website)

  64. April 3, 2004 at 3:03 pm

    The comment on libertarian mormons was tounge-in-cheek (though some can be annoying).
    Regardless, carry on folks.

  65. Paul
    April 3, 2004 at 3:41 pm


    You uniformly get way too much credit! Your definition of “liberal” in this post is bizarre. I agree with many of your sentiments, I simply think it applies to you better than nearly everyone I know.

  66. April 3, 2004 at 3:59 pm

    John and Mom: I think that you are being a bit too defensive. I am not accusing Quinn and Vogel of being Satanic or of being fellow travelers with the Tanners. Nor am I trying to identify “intimate” enemies. I thought that Dan’s remarks were another way of stating Melissa’s idea that what I have labeled “liberal Mormonism” may be a stage. From it one can move towards exit from the Church or one can “get over it” in some sense. This does not suggest that everyone who leaves the Church is necessarily the kind of shallow and pompous type that I have identified with “liberal Mormons.”

    Finally, while I didn’t express it well, I think that Dan’s remarks to me were meant to characterize the reactions of Latter-day Saints within the Church to the Mormon past. I don’t think that he was offering it as a taxonomy of historians. I realize that within certain corners of the Mormon (and post-Mormon) intelligensia Dan Peterson is viewed as an irredeemably mean, deceptive, and close minded person. My personal experiences with him have been entirely different.

    BTW, one of the facinating games to play with the footnotes in Quin’s revised edition of _Mormonism and Magic World View_ is to watch the way in which Dan’s designation shifts back and forth between polemicist, apologist, and scholar based on the extent to which Dan agrees with the particular point that Quinn is making…

  67. April 3, 2004 at 3:59 pm

    John and Mom: I think that you are being a bit too defensive. I am not accusing Quinn and Vogel of being Satanic or of being fellow travelers with the Tanners. Nor am I trying to identify “intimate” enemies. I thought that Dan’s remarks were another way of stating Melissa’s idea that what I have labeled “liberal Mormonism” may be a stage. From it one can move towards exit from the Church or one can “get over it” in some sense. This does not suggest that everyone who leaves the Church is necessarily the kind of shallow and pompous type that I have identified with “liberal Mormons.”

    Finally, while I didn’t express it well, I think that Dan’s remarks to me were meant to characterize the reactions of Latter-day Saints within the Church to the Mormon past. I don’t think that he was offering it as a taxonomy of historians. I realize that within certain corners of the Mormon (and post-Mormon) intelligensia Dan Peterson is viewed as an irredeemably mean, deceptive, and close minded person. My personal experiences with him have been entirely different.

    BTW, one of the facinating games to play with the footnotes in Quin’s revised edition of _Mormonism and Magic World View_ is to watch the way in which Dan’s designation shifts back and forth between polemicist, apologist, and scholar based on the extent to which Dan agrees with the particular point that Quinn is making…

  68. April 3, 2004 at 4:02 pm

    Paul: I agree that I get way too much credit. The defintion was deliberately meant to be bizarre, or at least provacative. I am wondering however, how it applies to me. I don’t think of my self as angst ridden or Steve Benson-smitten.

    Arrogant and pompous, I will grant you ;->…

    Say hi to Dana for me…

  69. April 3, 2004 at 4:05 pm

    I don’t think Nate fits his own definition, which was “that vast and motley crowd of self-proclaimed ‘critical thinkers’ who like to get ostentatiously worked up about the ‘human’ side of Church leaders, the ‘problems’ of Mormon theology, the ‘dark side’ of Mormon history, and confidently posit naturalistic explanations of every conceivable Mormon phenomena under the sun.”

    Obviously, leaders have a human side, Mormon theology has problems, and Mormmon history has a dark side. Per Nate, “liberal Mormons” are those who get “ostentatiously worked up” about these issues, which he doesn’t and most (all?) here don’t either.

    Perhaps we might distinguish between noisy liberal Mormons (those who get ostentatiously worked up) and quietly liberal Mormons (who are interested, even concerned, about such issues).

  70. Susan (aka as Nate's mom)
    April 3, 2004 at 4:31 pm

    I don’t see my comment as particularly defensive. I’m honestly trying to find a place to stand in this conversation. It’s difficult when the various options for talking about Mormon history seem so polarized. I certainly wasn’t attacking Dan. I was responding to the three terms of the paradigm you presented (and providing fair attribution, I thought). Since, as I blogged last week, I see myself on a path that has more continuities than discontinuities with that point in time when anyone would have considered me within the fold, I was looking for a place to stand. I couldn’t in the terms you suggested. I had to mark none of the above. And I would think (if we’re talking about those within the tradition), finding a place to stand is a reasonable quest.

    So my question is the same one–and a real, not rhetorical, one. How do we find a way of talking about Mormon history (a topic I find infinitely interesting) without getting caught up in these polarized terms turning on within/without?

    By commenting on the “Satan” language, I was only pointing to how extreme the imagery was in the paradigm’s third way. . . . That’s why I use the term “intimate enemies” as well. Just hoping we’ll pause to consider the options our structures of thought allow, encourage, foreclose.

  71. Paul
    April 3, 2004 at 5:01 pm

    Alas, I should have read through all the comments before I posted mine. After further review, I see better that Nate uses a thoroughly esoteric definition of “liberal,” one that I still find bizarre (and indeed, provocative).

    There is no doubt that the phenomena he describes exist. I just was startled and confused as to why it was dubbed “liberal.”

    I didn’t mean that you’re angst-ridden or somehow otherwise discontent, just boring and insulting :) (Lest ye take offense, and I can’t imagine why you would :), know that I place myself squarely in the same category.)

  72. John H
    April 3, 2004 at 5:39 pm

    I’m NOT being defensive Nate – you are! Don’t tell me I’m being defensive! :)

    I hope my smiley face conveys that I’m just kidding. Actually, I appreciate your clarification of Dan’s comments. I didn’t mean to sound like I was criticizing him – and the three views of history do make good sense.

  73. April 3, 2004 at 6:25 pm

    I also don’t think Nate fits his own definition, but does anyone [fit his definition]? It’s easy to say, “you know, THOSE people”. Who again? I’m trying to figure out if I’ve met a “liberal” (or snark) Mormon by Nate’s definition… If I have, it’s more likely to have been on this site than anywhere else (standard Seinfeld disclaimer: not that there’s anything wrong with that). But as I was trying to imply in my earlier comment, it’s easy to put Mormons into two groups and then to have a discussion where it’s understood that those discussing the two-group phenomenon must be in some mystical third group of innocent bystanders.

    BTW- Ethesis, I enjoyed your lengthy comment.

  74. Kristine
    April 3, 2004 at 7:35 pm

    Nate, a few things:

    1) As one would expect of you, you’ve cleverly described the typical foibles of an eminently mockable and overly self-important group. But couldn’t you do a similarly witty and scathing and slightly caricatured riff on “my problem with Harvard Law alumni” or “8th circuit court officers,” or “FARMS personnel” ? The fact is that you’re probably bringing more raw intellectual horsepower to the game than 99.95% of the population, and you are thus doomed to spend a good deal of time being annoyed with people around you who are slower to recognize and insightfully analyze the facts at hand than you are. Suck it up, man! I imagine there are compensatory benefits.

    2) In the specific Mormon studies context you reference, you had the great good fortune of early exposure, and got to make all your ostentatiously worked up observations about the standard liberal Mormon topics when you were 13 and everyone expected you to be a dork anyway. Or maybe at that point you were the arch-conservative defender of the faith–doesn’t matter–either way (or both!), you got to move through the dogmatic and ridiculous phase of Mormon studies when you were young enough to be given the benefit of the doubt.

    3) I think there are actually very few liberal Mormon studies type who get permanently stuck in the puerile phase you describe. People tend to either get over it or leave. Yes, there are the folks you describe hanging around the halls at the Sunstone Symposium, but the faces change from year to year, or at least from decade to decade. The ones who have been around a while are, by and large, more interesting than you give them credit for. And at church, let’s face it, there are a lot more obnoxious conservatives, who get to see themselves (and be seen by most around them) as loyal, stouthearted defenders of the faith against the liberal barbarians, than there are liberals running around trying to burst the Mollys’ bubbles. As Julie has pointed out, the people who don’t get past that phase tend to burn out pretty fast.

    Still, every group needs to be reminded of its typical foibles every once in a while, so I suppose you’ve done a service. How about you do conservatives next week?

  75. April 3, 2004 at 10:42 pm


    You wrote that “within certain corners of Mormon intelligensia Dan Peterson is viewed as an irredemably mean, deceptive and close-minded person.” You made it clear that your own experiences with him have been entirely different from that and I wanted to second that whole-heartedly. Further, I have never known anyone that thinks Dan is anything less than brilliant.

  76. April 3, 2004 at 11:09 pm

    “I didn’t mean that you’re angst-ridden or somehow otherwise discontent, just boring and insulting.”

    Paul, you are the one reading the stuff on this site. Presumeably that means that I am just insulting… ;->

  77. Heather Oman
    April 3, 2004 at 11:30 pm

    “The fact is that you’re probably bringing more raw intellectual horsepower to the game than 99.95% of the population, and you are thus doomed to spend a good deal of time being annoyed with people around you who are slower to recognize and insightfully analyze the facts at hand than you are. Suck it up, man! I imagine there are compensatory benefits”

    Couldn’t have said it better myself, Kristine. But… Although by and large what you say is true, please realize, Bloggernacle-ites, Nathan is very adept at faking this intellectual stuff a lot of the time. I myself have heard him parrot back something to me in an extremely intellectual tone, only to have me holler back at him, “Hey, *I* was the one who told *YOU* that!”

  78. Kaimi
    April 3, 2004 at 11:43 pm


    1. You’ve gone from “think Benson is an insightful critic” to “reverence for Benson.” Is that the same?

    2. So you dislike arrogant people. That’s not exactly unique. As others (e.g., Kristine) point out, you haven’t articulated a reason why arrogant liberal Mormons are any worse qua arrogant liberal Mormons than they would be just qua arrogant people generally. As for using the loaded term “liberal,” it carries lots of baggage. Don’t start turning into Ayn Rand on us — where all liberals are bad, cowardly, selfish people while all conservatives (err, objectivists) are selfless, brilliant, and sexy to boot.

  79. Kaimi
    April 3, 2004 at 11:55 pm

    By the way (as if this thread needs more discussion), a bit of discussion of this post has been going on over at BCC — starting off innocuously enough, Kris mentioned that she had deleted a possible comment, someone said “are you self-consoring because of Nate”, and it was off to the races.

    See, e.g.,


    I must say, I’m a little surprised at the relative lack of response from the usual quarters. BCC’s response is muted and peripheral, and there’s no word at all from Sons of Mosiah, Dave’s, Orson’s Tele, Sievers, Clark, and A Soft Answer. (Of course, I think most of those folk are in this comment thread).

  80. April 3, 2004 at 11:58 pm

    “But couldn’t you do a similarly witty and scathing and slightly caricatured riff on “my problem with Harvard Law alumni” or “8th circuit court officers,” or “FARMS personnel”?”

    Yikes! There is a limit to the number of offensive, over-broad, snarky, unpleasant, arrogant, witty skewerings that I can do at once. Give me time. The “My Problem with Harvard Law Alumni” post is in production!

    Seriously, this is not a real argument. First, I didn’t claim that “liberal Mormons” were the unique target of my ire. They are simply the target that I happened to pick. (The same thing can be said of Kaimi’s bizarre accusation that I am slipping into Randianism … what?!?) While I admit that my use of the term “liberal” to describe these Mormons is idiosyncratic, I don’t think that it is indefensible. The particularl kind of person that I talk about is likely to self-identify as a liberal, even if not all self-identified liberals have the characteristics that I sketched.

    Finally, I think that there is some value in my riff beyond simply the fact that it got a post into the “Most Popular Posts” in two days, and it relieved some inner-need I have to let out my snarky side from time to time. Here it is. The sorts of people that I describe are used to getting criticized. They are generally criticized in one of a couple of ways. They are told that they are evil. They are told that they are faith-destroying. They are even sometimes subjected to the tender-mercies of apologetic bashing. I have rarely seen them indited on account of being intellectually boring. I thought it was a point worth making…

  81. April 4, 2004 at 12:03 am

    “I also don’t think Nate fits his own definition, but does anyone [fit his definition]? It’s easy to say, “you know, THOSE people”. Who again? I’m trying to figure out if I’ve met a “liberal” (or snark) Mormon by Nate’s definition”

    Bob: First, this post was not directed at anyone on this blog in particular or even at the sorts of discussions that occur here. I am simply talking about a type of person that I have run into in lots of circumstances from BYU to Boston. Second, at least some of the other people on this blog (e.g. Russell, who virtually never agrees with any of the thoughts that belch forth from my addled brain) recognize the type I am describing. Third, I suppose that I might lay your criticism to rest by naming names, but there is a limit to how mean I am willing to be, even in my meanest moments…

  82. Kaimi
    April 4, 2004 at 12:25 am


    First, I agree that there is value to pointing out the boringness of many “liberal Mormons.” That may be the best part of your post.

    Second, I was trying to suggest that your broad-brush approach is perilously close to Randian in its rhetoric. (Not necesasrily in its substance). (So I basically said that you had taken a page from Rand’s rhetoric book — hmm, is that better or worse than being accused of taking a page from her substantive book? I’m not sure).

    I knew what I was trying to say, but I probably didn’t connect enough of the dots in the text, so here goes:

    One of the (many) things I dislike about Rand is that she creates characters who have good personal attributes, plus her political views, or who have bad personal attributes, plus views opposed to hers. She asks the question, “Who do you prefer — the honest, hardworking, intelligent, conservative-libertarian, or the scheming, manipulative, selfish liberal?” And then she acts as though the reader’s identification with her heroes is a result of their political ideals — she says, “See, I told you conservatve-libertarians are better than liberals!” (Meanwhile, I just want to cry out “but what about the honest, hardworking liberals?”)

    Similarly, you start off by saying “This is what I dislike about liberal Mormons,” and by the time you’re done, you have established that you dislike people who are liberal-arrogant-smug-patronizing Mormons. Like Rand, it looks like you’ve stacked the deck.

    And you’re engendering the same visceral reaction in readers — and people say, “wait a minute — what about the liberal, not-smug, not arrogant Mormons?”

    (I really think it stems from your choice of the word “liberal.” Your definition seems to be a moving target, it’s very unclear whether you’re talking about Janice Allred or about Steve Evans and Kristine Haglund Harris).

  83. Kaimi
    April 4, 2004 at 12:28 am

    So, after I comment, I see Nate’s new comment about this being targeted towards no one in particular around here — good to know. (Whew!).

  84. Grasshopper
    April 4, 2004 at 1:08 am

    Heather reassures us:

    “please realize, Bloggernacle-ites, Nathan is very adept at faking this intellectual stuff a lot of the time.”

    Aren’t we all.

  85. April 4, 2004 at 3:23 am

    Nate–if I’m sleep deprived does that mean I can write with invective and then later say–“but I was sleep deprived.” BTW–Paul only reads because I turned him onto your blog, not because he find you interesting:)

  86. April 4, 2004 at 3:23 am

    Nate–if I’m sleep deprived does that mean I can write with invective and then later say–“but I was sleep deprived.” BTW–Paul only reads because I turned him onto your blog, not because he finds you interesting:)

  87. April 4, 2004 at 3:26 am

    Sorry for the double post and incorrect punctuation. I’m sleep deprived!

  88. Ethesis
    April 4, 2004 at 9:56 am

    “I have rarely seen them indited on account of being intellectually boring. I thought it was a point worth making…”

    I think it is an excellent point.

    When I was younger the snarks I knew were snarky, they were booring and they were, for the most part, extremely shallow in their snarkyness. I’ve mentioned the “intellectuals” who tried to lean on D. Oaks.

    There he was, fresh from running Chicago’s law school (on an interim “acting” basis, not as the dean), doing some serious legal writing, and these snarks were publishing in what could be called informal journals “paying their dues” as they would have put it.

    But they seriously felt that they had intellectual depth.

    I was amazed.

    Not that I’m any happier with some of the modern scribes (I changed the word up since the one that would usually get used still applies to a Jewish intellectual movement today). Self Righteous types who will tell you that Lehi was sleeping in a pup tent and commuting into Jerusalem to do his home teaching while the boys were trying to get the Brass Plates.


    But I still remember reading the Tanners, filled with all caps, completely out of context and completely missing the point (I opened a book of my brother’s at random — and he was never a snark, btw, just curious — and the sections not in all caps refuted the point the excerpt was cited for. My first thought was, gee, this stuff refutes itself).

    How I’d like a legitimate discussion about something. Such as how as of 1979 every one of Lee (from the Mountain Meadows Massacre) decendants was active in the Church. Or how, though he felt he had been set up as the fall guy, he also wanted his children to know that the Church was still true and that they needed to be true to the faith.

    That would make for an interesting discussion. Does anyone get to points such as that one?


    When is the last time you’ve seen a snark talk about pre-adamic man from the textual points that indicate that the history in the Bible is of one geographic area on the earth? And that the “earths” (vs. the worlds) in the text are various lands on the world?

    I guess I could go on, but Nate makes a great point about how purile many snarks are.

    It may be a defining point that seperates a snark from a critical believer.

    I can think of scores of times I’ve heard general authorities call on us to be critical believers, but not once where they called on us to be snarks.

    I can think of liberal thinkers in the mold of B.H. Roberts, Talmadge (who was funded by the Church to give a series of talks in favor of evolution to make sure the saints knew the point was open) or Nibley (who has preached on pre-adamic man and written on the pro side of the ledger).

    But Nibley is rarely a snark.

  89. April 4, 2004 at 12:03 pm

    Kaimi says “I must say, I’m a little surprised at the relative lack of response from the usual quarters. BCC’s response is muted and peripheral, and there’s no word at all from Sons of Mosiah, Dave’s, Orson’s Tele, Sievers, Clark, and A Soft Answer.”

    First, let me say how flattered I am not only to be mentioned, but to get a familial abbreviation!

    I haven’t participated in this discussion primarily because I’ve been too busy on my blog following the progress of American Idol contestant Jon Peter Lewis, and also because I didn’t really think Nate’s post it applied to me. I consider myself politically kinda liberal but pretty docile when it comes to doctrine and pretty ignorant when it comes to history–only recently did someone disabuse me of my previous assumption that “Kinderhook Plates” referred to a stoneware pattern (badum-bum, thank you folk, tip your waitresses…). Academically, I am interested in “gospel as cultural practice” but I don’t think that my recognizing the church as a culture while I’m wearing my scholar hat excludes me from recognizing it as the Restored Truth from a personal standpoint. I really have no interest in uncovering foibles or scandals among the brethren or speaking out against policies; I do think, however, that the non-doctrinal aspects of church culture are open to, and deserving of, critical dialogue.

    Which brings me to my next point: I’m concerned about assigning the term “snark” to the kind of “liberal Mormon” Nate’s complaining about. One can be snarky about church culture, Utah culture, etc., while still upholding docrine, observing one’s covenants and following the brethren. I reserve the right to employ full snarkiness when discussing, say, my home town city council’s recent decision to erect a statue of John D. Lee on the town square (he was a city founder and very talented irrigation engineer–you know, before all the cold-blooded murder): it was an unbelievably stupid thing for them to do, and I don’t feel compelled to mince words in calling them on it. Snark away, I say!

    Don’t flatter the apostates by wasting such a lovely word on them.

  90. April 4, 2004 at 1:54 pm

    I haven’t posted too much about this on BCC or elsewhere because I just haven’t had too much to say about Nate’s idea. There are enough other interesting things going on out there (with G.C., etc.) that I wanted to move on.

  91. April 4, 2004 at 2:44 pm


    Thanks for your response. I suppose I’m a novice at this whole “intellectual” Mormon thing. I respect your decision to withhold names. But for someone like me just being a “regular guy”, do you find it ironic that before reading your post here, I a) thought this site was quite full of “liberal” Mormons and b) thought “liberal” Mormon could be a good thing?

    I guess I’m saying that your outward defining of “liberal” Mormon is making me rethink my vocabulary usage. I’ll have to come up with some more descriptive words for people of this site rather than defaulting to the word “liberal”. You made me think, Nate, how dare you!

  92. ed
    April 4, 2004 at 4:22 pm

    Nate says: ” I have rarely seen them indited on account of being intellectually boring. I thought it was a point worth making…”

    Well, I’ve seen them indicted for this more than once over at ZLMB:

    Therefore, I find your point to be intellectually boring! (But still not as boring as nearly everyone over at ZLMB.)

  93. Aaron Brown
    April 5, 2004 at 4:25 am


    I don’t know if you (or anyone) is still reading this, but I was wondering if you’d care to prepare a post sometime on the “problems” you have with Mormon libertarianism. I imagine I’m not the only one who’d be interested…

    Aaron B

  94. April 5, 2004 at 11:22 am

    I second Aaron’s request…

  95. Matt J
    April 5, 2004 at 5:26 pm

    I am joining this discussion way too late, but I’m going to try a summary of Nate’s problem.

    The “liberal mormons” bore you because they are trying to tell you something you already think you know. They insult you because their delivery assumes (or insists) that you don’t really know what you thought you did.

    My hunch is that a lot of the pet topics of these mormons are not known to the majority of people in the church. That is where they get the power to wow their listeners. If the supposedly-shady aspects of mormonism were discussed more openly and frequently among non-“liberal mormons”, then that power might be diminished.

  96. April 5, 2004 at 7:14 pm

    For those of us who live outside of the world of the Mormon intellectual, there is a simpler kind of snark running loose in Zion, which I’ve always referred to as the “debunker.” For any BYU graduates, how many times did you run into someone who delighted in testifying about the dark underbelly of Provo..”Dude, if you only knew what’s really going on in this town.” The problem is not the debunker’s belief or knowledge of facts that challenge a more orthodox or optimistic view of the church, it is his obsession with finding those who subscribe to the optimistic position and debunking them. In other words, the motivation isn’t the knowledge, but the disabusing others of their naivete.

    The reason I bring that up is that I believe the character and motivation transfer closely to the snark, which is simply the better-educated cousin of the simpler debunker. I have no problem with the beliefs of my less “orthodox” friends, who prefer to think more critically about church heirarchy, history, doctrine, etc. than I do. My problem is that they wish so often to be the cool, informed person that is able to show why the simple believers are foolish.

    Many here have said that while the snark is guilty of intellectual pride, the conservative is guilty of religious pride. But I think the two can be distinguished in that the snark lives to prey on the the non-combatant…the middle of the roader who belongs to neither camp. John’s first post (waaaaay up at the top of the thread, last paragraph, for example) seems to be an example of a person looking outwardly for ways to educate others beyond their sad, native simplicity. Whatever knowledge a person attains is admirable. But as soon as they undertake a mission to deepen the ‘complexity’ of others’ beliefs, there’s a problem.

  97. April 5, 2004 at 9:43 pm

    Actually I think I did comment, Kaimi, both here and elsewhere. (Although I’m too lazy to look up all the links)

    My opinion is that Nate is dead on. I think perhaps the terminology is problematic, but then I do tend to notice it among the liberal “intelligentsia” more than conservative literalists. But as I said in my original comments if you can find them, it is among conservatives as well.

    I’d characterize it as those who think people just disagree with them because they haven’t examined evidence. It isn’t really arrogance per se. I’ve seem fairly humble and non-beligerant people with this position. Where it gets annoying for regular folks is people who seem to think Mormons are deluded. I hate it when Evangelical critics do this. As if no one could know about Danites, hermeticism, or so forth and still be Mormon. It is even more annoying among those arguing for a more “lax” view of LDS conceptions of reality. Perhaps because they are critics from within Mormonism.

    For some reason conservative Mormons only get annoying in the same way regarding R-rated movies, not wearing garments while at the gym, and perhaps hiking/climbing on Sunday. They just don’t have as many issues.

    Now if you get to politics then there are plenty on both sides. But I’ll leave that discussion along for now.

  98. Mike
    April 8, 2004 at 11:38 pm

    I have enjoyed this post and the resluting comments, but the original post and the discussion over how one defines “liberal mormon” have made me chuckle.
    I have heard more than a few times the definition of liberal mormon as being “those people involved in sunstone” Thus, for obvious reasons the original post title and author make me smile

  99. Ethesis
    April 11, 2004 at 2:47 am

    Quoting from the comments on the congruent discussion on BCC (I’d have posted a link, but couldn’t get my browser to display one):


    Well, as an apostate who until recently hung out on the web almost exclusively with other apostates, I see two very reasonable reasons for believers to have this POV.

    One is that some people, when they leave, lose their compass and begin indulging in a variety of sins of greater or lesser magnitude. For example, someone leaves the church, decides that the WofW is no longer binding, and begins drinking occasionally. The perception of the believer to this scenario is that the apostate left because he had a word of wisdom problem.

    I recently read a story of a guy who lost his faith and went kind of nuts, cheating on his wife, many varieties of WofW violations, etc. When he “came to himself,” he still no longer believed, but was able to save the marriage.

    The other reason for that POV can be summarized in a little LDS hymn, “Keep the Commandments.” “In this there is safety, in this there is peace.” If people who leave ARE keeping the commandments, then nobody is safe from apostasy, and people want very much to think that this can’t possibly happen to them.

    I haven’t believed for almost two years now, and I mostly heard the “they must be sinning” stories from other apostates. It’s actually good to know that they aren’t just paranoid.

    People want to protect their paradigms.
    Ann | Email | Homepage | 04.08.04 – 4:25 pm | #

    I’d blame JSmith and the NT, both of which blame signseeking on adultery.

    I’d also blame my personal experience. I’ve noticed that, for me, sin and guilt lead to a quarrelsome, cynical temper and, oddly, a tendency to abstract thinking divorced from experience and empathy. Extrapolating my personal experience to others, I feel that Ann’s causal arrow can run the other way. We humans are neither fish nor fowl, you know, neither lords of our passions nor always slaves to them.
    Adam Greenwood | Email | Homepage | 04.08.04 – 4:43 pm | #

    Good topic. My two cents: Growing up in the church, I heard countless times that the reason people leave the church is because they find keeping the commandments too difficult. And it wasn’t the commandments to plant a garden and keep a year’s supply that people were referring to — WOW and morality transgressions were strongly implied. And to be honest, if anyone I grew up with left the church for intellectual reasons I did not know about it (no one ever gave an “exit testimony” in sacrament meeting or in a youth class or anything of the sort). But plenty of people “went inactive” all the time. Many of them probably just stopped believing in the church, but didn’t want to broadcast their nonbelief in order to avoid gossip, excommunication for apostacy, etc. When people disappeared from church because of adultery or unwed pregnancy, the word inevitably got around. That may be one reason why the sexual impropriety-apostacy link was forged in some folks’ minds.

    Now that I am apostate and know lots of other apostates, I know that plenty of people leave the church because they stop believing that it is true. No one (to my knowledge) believes I left for sex-related reasons. I think the same is true for most apostates.

    Mormons aren’t the only folks who sometimes make this connection. I notice in my internet travels that people who leave the Scientology, fundamentalist Christian and Jehovah’s Witness folds are frequently accused of “sexual deviancy” by believing members. It is an easy way to discredit the legitimate criticisms that an apostate has. “Don’t listen to him — he got involved in some freaky stuff and is trying to justify it in his own mind.” In Mormonspeak, “don’t listen to him — I heard he has morality problems. He drove the spirit away a long time ago and left himself open to the influence of the Adversary.”

    Another possibility, less common I’m sure, is that someone who already has doubts engages in some sort of “sin” and decides that it does not feel like a sin at all, and that precipitates his/her loss of faith in the church. I.e., “I’ve been told my whole life that masturbation is a terrible sin. But I don’t think I believe that it is. Maybe I’ve been lied to about that and a bunch of other stuff.” Or, “I was told that if you have premarital sex, the guy will lose all respect for you, and you will hate yourself. But we have been dating for a long time and, despite some fooling around, our relationship is as strong as ever, and I don’t hate myself at all. Maybe those old men in Utah don’t know what they are talking about.”
    Wendy | Email | Homepage | 04.08.04 – 5:01 pm | #

    I’ve never paid attention to church gossip so I never noticed this connection. It sounds like what a lot of LDS members would do. I’d like to comment on what Adam said about sin leading to abstract thinking divorced from empathy and experience. I’m getting a PhD in philosophy so I do abstract thinking for a living, I also teach it. I’ve examined the church from my academic perspective and find myself more impressed with its truth than I was before when it was an emotional belief. The gospel is so simple, beautiful and effective as a way of life. It delivers what it promises. No works of man, philosophies or otherwise can compare to the gospel of Jesus Christ. No other works are so comprehensive, consistent, universal and applicable to real life. When compared to man’s philosophy, the gospel is clearly divine. We haven’t even come close to coming up with anything of such magnitude. I know many people will want to disagree with me. Ok. But abstract thinking is NOT directly related to apostasy. God gave us the ability to think and it’s ok for us to use it. If Joseph Smith hadn’t been critically analyzing the words of the preachers around him, he never would have gone to the woods to ask God for the truth.
    JL | Email | Homepage | 04.08.04 – 5:32 pm | #

    Do you ever get the feeling that some Mormons (not any of us, of course – standard disclaimer) just have to know what’s going on behind the scenes? And later if they find out that so-and-so was drinking and/or fornicating, they say to themselves, “I knew it!” Are Mormons perhaps jealous? Does a lightening bolt need to strike the sinner? Maybe these are the same guilt-driven Mormons who just wish *they* could fornicate and/or drink. I may be way off base, but this is fun.
    Bob Caswell | Email | Homepage | 04.08.04 – 7:53 pm | #

    Bob: you’re right, Enquiring minds want to know. I think we love to assume the worst in others, it makes us feel better about ourselves without needing to actually work.
    Steve E. | Email | Homepage | 04.08.04 – 8:13 pm | #

    I had a conversation with a friend of mine today who has yet to decide if he is going to serve a mission. There are those who are aquainted with him, but are not in his ward who assume that because he wasn’t active in the Church anymore.

    I thought raising the bar was supposed to eradicate conceptions like that. I guess it takes time.

    Kim Siever | Email | Homepage | 04.08.04 – 11:13 pm | #

    I agree with those who have suggested that it’s an easy way to discount people’s intellectual problems. And it’s doubtless true in some cases.

    Also, I suspect that a _lot_ of members are working through issues of serious sin, either personally, with their family, with the bishop, or through formal channels. Just my hunch, based on observation, listening to stories here and there, and so forth. I suspect the number may be as high as 50%.

    Of course, the 49% of those who don’t leave the church for intellectual reasons tend not to have their secret revealed. But, if brother X decides he doesn’t believe in the church due to Adam-God, it’s easy to blame that on his sexual issues, while not mentioning that brothers A, B, C, D, E, F, and G all have the same issue, and haven’t left the church.
    Kaimi | Email | Homepage | 04.08.04 – 11:16 pm | #

    I have a theory: Sex is more interesting to most people that theology or history. Why make the boring thing into the causal element when you can make it into a much more interesting story…
    Nate Oman | Email | Homepage | 04.09.04 – 1:45 pm | #

    I think that either you are all nuts, or that I am just as naive as can be.

    Other than from a few very intolerant people (who would be intolerant with or without the “mormonism”), I have never really heard people accuse those who struggle with various aspects of church doctrine of sexually sinning somehow.

    And as far as that goes, in my experience the ones who seem to have been struggling with these sorts of “sin on the side” have been the really pharasaical types.

    But I don’t think there is any patterned way of telling just who is struggling with sexual sin. And I don’t think many Church members claim that there is. At least not that I have noticed.

    I always think it is funny when people bring up all this stuff they have supposedly “observed” about mormons. Some individuals may choose to label people a certain way, but that in no way makes it a “mormon” phenomenon, at least not until it gets mythologized in venues such as these.
    Jordan | Email | Homepage | 04.09.04 – 4:15 pm | #

    “I think that either you are all nuts, or that I am just as naive as can be.”

    Those conclusions aren’t mutually exclusive of each other…

    I really have heard such speculation before when people have been excommunicated, so I’m not mythologizing, at least. It’s not uncommon in the context of people leaving the church for various intellectual reasons. But you’re right, there’s no “sin-dar” or way to detect who’s unrighteous.
    Steve E. | Email | Homepage | 04.09.04 – 4:20 pm | #

    Actually, there is a “sin-dar,” but I keep getting it confused with my “gay-dar,” so it isn’t really very reliable.

    That’s why I keep thinking everyone’s gay.

    Aaron B
    Aaron Brown | Email | Homepage | 04.09.04 – 4:41 pm | #

    Aaron B .. that one made me laugh (my gay-dar is useless, I remember a guy we hired in my old firm “how couldn’t you tell I was gay?” he asked me one day. Well, I couldn’t. He was amazed we hired him even after we discovered he was gay, given some firm experiences, but my response was “what the heck does being gay have to do with their other problems?” He couldn’t answer me and was a great employee).

    But it has a bit of truthy to it.

    In that

    “”Aaron, I’ve been a Bishop for a long time, and I’ve seen a lot of people struggle with intellectual concerns. In my experience, it usually comes out later that most of these people were using their concerns as a cover for sin or other LDS lifestyle issues that they had.””

    Lots of people start having problems with the Church following other problems. Bishops encounter that a lot. An awful lot.

    Not to say that there are not other paths to losing the faith, but sin leads the pack by a huge margin.

    So, in many respects, it is the sin, especially the more common ones, that is seen as the driving force.

    Though “rebellion is as the sin of sorcery …”
    Ethesis (Stephen M) | Email | Homepage | 04.09.04 – 5:05 pm | #

    I have a quick comment on this intellect V. sex issue. I have masturabated since I was 14. Had premarital sex at 19-23 with three different girls, and married the third one. All of this while being a true blue believing mormon. I have been married for 27 years and never cheated on my wife. I don’t drink, don’t use any form of tobacco or do any illicit drugs. And I haven’t been to church in any bona-fide way for 18 years. I have huge intellectual issues with the mormon church. What I don’t see is any connection between sex and questioning the church? Or am I just being naive here?
    Ken S. | Email | Homepage | 04.10.04 – 12:35 am | #

    Jordan | Email | Homepage | 04.10.04 – 12:50 am | #

    Aaron Brown | Email | Homepage | 04.10.04 – 3:58 am | #

    For those that question what my point is. There is not a correlation between disbelief in the church and ones sex practices. There are plenty of people cheating on their wives or whatever, who are true believers. There are many others who live what the church would deem to be morally clean lives, who question the churches veracity, and leave. I think it’s just a defense mechanism used by believers to explain people leaving the church, that allows them to stay in their cocoon and not question.
    Ken S | Email | Homepage | 04.10.04 – 8:24 am | #


    There is often a connection between a spiritual disconnect and an intellectual disconnect.

    There is a definite connection between sin and a spiritual disconnect, though there are other causes for spiritual disconnects.

    Something that really hit home to me almost thirty years agon on my mission was that if people would read, pray and conform their lives somewhat more to the commandments, the Spirit would speak to them.

    If it spoke to them, their other issues usually resolved. If they didn’t, especially if they didn’t pray, they had issues.

    I saw it again and again.

    Bishops see similar things over and over again. Someone has issues. Sure enough, they have a spiritual disconnect and it generally has as either a symptom or a cause a pattern of sin.

    So, it isn’t directly causal (i.e. sin and you will have intellectual issues with the Church), but intermediate, i.e. have problems and a spiritual disconnect will also be there.

    Your story, to someone who has that perspective, reads as:

    I engaged in sexual activity with three women, eventually married one of them. Then, when I encountered issues, instead of the Spirit helping me resolve them, I drifted away and haven’t been back for 18 years.

    Oh, and I think you are all in a coccon and if you only had sense you would wake up like I did, deny God and Christ, reject the Spirit and join me.

    I’m not saying that is what you mean, but that is how someone would read it, much like you read the common observation that sin and issues go hand in hand as silly pap or self-comforting.

    Which makes it difficult for some people to discuss the topic without seeing it as a personal attack (no matter where you are on the topic).

    So … if you deal with people having problems with intellectual or spiritual issues, what are the things to look for.

    1. Some of them just have issues. Send them to read “Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Repair” which is about going crazy from trying to solve a mental puzzle without all of the parts and help them realize the Spirit will help with the emotional turmoil that goes with the mental turmoil.

    2. Some of them have foundation issues … i.e. they believe things that aren’t doctrine and those conflict with reality. That is a common problem, though it doesn’t often show up on blogs (for example, someone who believes that whole wheat bread is required by the Word of Wisdom … or that women should never speak or work outside the home or …. no amount of faith will help rectify those beliefs with challenges because they are wrong).

    3. Many lack spiritual strength or experience, often because of sin. They may be, or think that they are, “true blue” LDS believers, but they don’t believe enough to avoid serious sin. The typical read, pray, conform to the requirements Christ sets out (if any man will do my will …) generally puts them back on track.

    4. Sometimes there are cases that don’t fit in neatly to general rules.
    Ethesis (Stephen M) | Email | Homepage | 04.10.04 – 10:17 am | #

    I don’t think it is a “defense mechanism” at all- it is a way of church members trying to rationalize their loved ones’ bad choices for them. They don’t want to admit that their friends and loved ones are simply caught up in the web of pseudo-intellectualism from their ivory tower in the fantasy lala land of academia. It seems much more rational that if they are leaving the church, at least they are doing so because of some sort of uncontrollable passion, some moment of frolicking.

    Unfortunately, Ken, you are only too right. There is no such correlation. I don’t see such a correlation, and I am a faithful church member. People do leave because of their “heightened” intellects disconnecting them from reality. When people “intellectualize” their way out of the church, I guess that’s their business, even though it’s too bad. It would be much “sexier” if these “epiphanies” WERE caused by sexual transgression.

    It would actually be convenient to have something else besides pseudo-intellectualism and bad logic to blame apostasy on, but I don’t buy it.

    These people’s apostasy is due to nothing more than their own pedantic b.s. as they pontificate from ivory towers in the lala fantasy land of academia- a land I have hopefully left forever after several graduate degrees.

    It is not because they have been sexually sinning. You are right, Ken.
    Jordan | Email | Homepage | 04.10.04 – 10:26 am | #


    Yes, the bs’ers are a group of their own, though a small one, it does show up in cyberspace in a disproportionate way.

    There just isn’t any way to politely discuss them.

    Not, as I look at it, it may not be necessary.

    You wrote a good post.
    Ethesis (Stephen M) | Email | Homepage | 04.10.04 – 1:29 pm | #

    I’m glad you liked it Steve, but part of what I was trying to say was that it WOULD be nice if people leaving the church could blame their apostasy on sexual sin, because at least that is a TANGIBLE thing.

    But the intellectual reasons people come up with are just irresponsible. And unfortunately, most of these people haven’t committed sexual sins, so there really is nothing rational to blame their apostasy on.

    So we, as members, invent sexual sins for them to try to make sense of why anyone WOULD ever leave. But we can’t do that- when people leave, it just doesn’t make sense. That is what we have to realize.

    And with that, Steve, I doubt you will agree.
    Jordan | Email | Homepage | 04.10.04 – 2:27 pm | #

    Hey, let’s not confuse Ethesis (Stephen) with Steve (me). I’ve been (silently) agreeing with most of what you’ve said all along!

    I guess a lot of people leave the church for reasons that those of us in the Church just can’t understand, so we make adultery or overblown intellectualization stuff up in order to render their reasons more tangible. It doesn’t work, really.
    Steve E. | Email | Homepage | 04.10.04 – 2:48 pm | #

    Well, everybody’s been pretty polite about the apostate participants up until now. I had rather hoped we could talk without name calling. It’s apparent that this is not the case.

    Ann | Email | Homepage | 04.10.04 – 8:09 pm | #

    Jordan, that’s unfair. There are plenty of intellectual issues that are not “irresponsible.” It’s not irresponsible to be troubled by the way women are treated in the church, or gays. The history of priesthood denial to blacks is intellectually troubling, as is the history of polygamy, as is the Mountain Meadows Massacre… It’s a long list. The fact that you (and I) find that there is a core of truth to the gospel and some integrity in the institution that makes it worth getting past those intellectual problems does not erase the problems. They are real, and they are significant. Pretending otherwise does no one any good.

    Ann, don’t leave. I assume apologies will be forthcoming. They are owed.
    Kristine | Email | Homepage | 04.10.04 – 10:32 pm | #

    I think that this is a fascinating topic. I liked Kaimi’s comment an awful lot. From my experience I would say that a majority of members are dealing with serious sins. That is what makes it so easy for Aaron B’s bishop to make the fallacious argument that disbelief is _caused_ by sin. I have very little confidence in the ability of bishops to judge correlation (whether or not they are in possession of a lot of evidence) much less determine that a correlation is causal. That’s not the skill we look for on their resume when we hire them.

    In addition, I must respectfully disagree with Jordan. I don’t agree that “when people leave, it doesn’t make sense.” If anything, it’s religious belief that doesn’t make sense. I’m not saying following religious guidelines or going to church. That often makes pretty good sense. But the reason we use the word belief and faith is that religious doctrine is non-sensical, in an ontological sense.

    Also, let’s remember that doubt itself has a role to play in religion. Religion doesn’t require us to believe everything. In fact, often as missionaries we must cast doubt on certain religious beliefs. So the problem is other religions could accuse our converts of losing their faith, even ascribing it to sin. The argument that sin causes doubt lacks logical coherence as much as it lacks evidence.

    Frankly, I believe that trying to explain apostasy as the consequence of sin is probably going to very hard to prove. Besides, there are the sincere doubter counter-examples that many of us are aware of. Unless we are arguing that this “apostasy is caused by sin” is a statistical truth it takes a single exception to disprove it.

    Finally, while sinning is a bad idea, it’s best not to accuse the doubter. Believers should remember that their faith is a gift. I hope they don’t think they get to take credit for it. I think the church needs the doubters in the church. They/we probably have some gift the believers don’t. Let’s not having the fingers poking out the eyes for being different.

    Ann: I must have missed the name calling. But regardless, your views are very appreciated. I hope the ignorant won’t drive you away.
    Steve Cannon | Email | Homepage | 04.10.04 – 11:03 pm | #

    Sorry- i hope I was not the guilty “name-calling” party. I just get annoyed at “members” and “non-members” alike who try to excuse away apostasy, for whatever reason.

    “They must have been sinning…” just doesn’t cut it. The only thing that can ever truthfully be said is that the person leaving the church did not like some aspect of the doctrine (meaning did not agree with it) and thus made a conscious decision to leave. It has nothing to do with “sexual sin” or logic in that sense in most cases- it is a matter of personal preference.

    I was just trying to say that people on both sides of the fence hide the ball here. Mormons say that it must be sexual sin. Ex-mormons say that the religion was illogical and build pedantic fences around it. I suspect the the real reason is usually rooted in personal preference.

    That is not meant to be offensive to anyone, except maybe those on both sides who hide the ball by calling it one thing or another.

    I am truly sorry if that offends anyone. It wasn’t intended to. I didn’t think I had condemned anyone here, mormon or not.
    Jordan | Email | Homepage | 04.11.04 – 12:03 am | #

    By the way- I really agree with what Aaron says in the original post- painting anyone with a broad brush is bad.

    Calling the “falling away” a matter of personal preference is not painting with a broad brush, because everyone has a different personal preference.

    To each his own.
    Jordan | Email | Homepage | 04.11.04 – 12:08 am | #

    I guess personal preference is one way to put it. Like ice cream. I happen to be a fan of vanilla. But you like chocolate.
    Steve Cannon | Email | Homepage | 04.11.04 – 12:42 am | #


    I frankly have no idea what you’re trying to say. I’m obviously with you on the “it isn’t really always about sin” bit. But what does it mean to say that apostasy isn’t really about “logic,” but is really about “personal preference”? Are you seriously suggesting that because you find staying in the Church to be “logical,” that no one else could possibly genuinely think otherwise? That strikes me as very naive. As Kristine started to point out, there are 1001 arguments and issues, historical or otherwise, that one could sincerely make or believe that could convince one to leave the Church. The fact that you or I don’t see things the same way as the apostate doesn’t change that. To relabel these decisions as mere “personal preferences” and to suggest that they are obviously “illogical” is to make the same mistake that my Bishop (arguably) was making. That is, it is to refuse to take the apostate’s proferred reasons for leaving at face value, and to try to replace them with reasons that you happen to find more convincing. Like those who would reduce everything to sex, I think your comments are telling us more about your own inability to understand the apostate then they are about the apostates themselves.

    Of course, maybe I’ve misunderstood what you were trying to say.

    Aaron B
    Aaron Brown | Email | Homepage | 04.11.04 – 1:21 am | #

    Interesting stuff in this thread. Too bad the comments don’t support direct linking (at least in my browser).

    Most of those who leave just drift into inactivity. Do some home teaching of those who don’t show up and you will get a broad view. I’ve done a fair amount of that over many years and we need a better way to distinguish between:

    jack and
    ex-LDS as well as
    never and non-LDS (referring to teach of them as a different type).

    Guess one size really doesn’t fit all.

    Appreciated the posts.
    Ethesis (Stephen M) | Email | Homepage | 04.11.04 – 1:42 am | #

  100. Andrew Miller
    April 15, 2004 at 11:54 pm

    As a Liberal Mormon I think that you do well in pointing out some of the hypocrisy that some of us get into, and your right. I myself have been attempting to rid myself of certain aspects of my liberalism, but what you must realize is that the Prophets of old clearly intended us to think for our selves. Joseph Smith, before he died was even woried that the brethren were putting too much trust in their leaders. Joseph F. Smith offered us the following, “We talk of obedience, but do we require any man or woman to ignorantly obey the counsels that are given? Do the First Presidency require it? No, never” (JoD 16:248).

    Brigham Young said… “I am more afraid that this people have so much confidence in their leaders that they will not inquire for themselves of God whether they are led by him. I am fearful they settle down in a state of blind self-security, trusting their eternal destiny in the hands of their leaders with a reckless confidence that in itself would thwart the purposes of God in their salvation,”

    So when you point the finger at all so-called liberal Mormons just remember our inspiration, that it doesn’t come from non-Mormon sources.

  101. john fowles
    April 16, 2004 at 1:21 am


    It seems to me that your comment implies an old liberal accusation–that “conservatives” don’t think for themselves. Maybe you could explain that one to me?

    I think that LDS should be “liberal” to all in the same way that Christ is liberal to us. In the same vein, however, we should take the same view towards sin that he does. In your opinion, and I mean this as a sincere question, how does an LDS liberal love the sinner and hate the sin (or to put it in less cliche words, “look upon sin” with the least degree of tolerance)?


  102. Randy
    April 16, 2004 at 11:12 am


    All Andrew need do to rectify that problem is to engage in the same definitional game that Nate has. Let’s just define “conservative Mormons” as those Mormons who don’t think for themselves. Let’s further limit the definition to include only self-righteous, holier-than-thou, ignorant and lazy slackards (or worse!) who “settle down in a state of blind self-security, trusting their eternal destiny in the hands of their leaders with a reckless confidence that in itself would thwart the purposes of God in their salvation.” Finally, let’s limit the definition yet again to include only those “conservative Mormons” that are boring.

    Given this handy definition, Andrew can now safely say that “conservative Mormons” do not think for themselves. If you are uncertain of this, re-read the definition! The fact that none of us have ever met this caricature of a Mormon, or have only met a small handful of them (but not on this blog!), shall give us no reason for pause. Instead, we will press forward as if we have made had some unique insight into the nature of “conservative Mormons.”

    We could do that, of course, but it would be entirely unproductive.

    John, I happen to like your definition of “liberal.” I suspect (though I am not certain) that I might also like your definition of “conservative.” Perhaps it is the case that there is greater overlap between these two definitions, properly understood, than some suppose. Seems to me that that would be a more productive conversation than the one we’ve been having up ’till now.

    I would say more, but have to run.

  103. john fowles
    April 17, 2004 at 9:10 pm

    Randy–I also see much overlap there. It seems to me that most people are pretty much in the middle, liberal to those they know, conservative with their own money, supporting freedom, but perhaps skeptical of behaviors or opinions that seem abnormal, contrived, or pretextual.

    I never got an answer out of Andrew for my questions. But I really am curious. . . .

    Kaimi, you defined yourself as somewhat liberal on one of the other threads. Maybe you could satisfy my curiosity on these points:

    “It seems to me that your comment implies an old liberal accusation–that “conservatives” don’t think for themselves. Maybe you could explain that one to me? . . .

    In your opinion, and I mean this as a sincere question, how does an LDS liberal love the sinner and hate the sin (or to put it in less cliche words, “look upon sin” with the least degree of tolerance)?”

  104. Mike
    April 20, 2004 at 12:31 am

    I don’t think that Andrew is necesarily saying that all “conservative mormons” don’t think for themselves. He does say that there is a danger in not thinking for yourself, and simply that for him to act or believe in a way the conservative mormons do would requie him to not think for himself.

    thus, some one who is a liberal mormon may feel that others may actually be thinking for themselves and coming to different conclusions (conclusions they themselves may or may not be seeking)

  105. Toby
    August 9, 2004 at 6:06 pm

    It is funny how one of the author’s two complaints against liberal mormons is that they are boring yet this brief essay was so boring that I could not even finish it.

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  108. Ed
    January 6, 2005 at 9:51 pm

    I don’t know if anyone mentioned this already, because I didn’t have time to read 107 messages.

    I am a liberal Mormon by your definition of the word. But I think that you have over-simplified things. For example, to say that we feel superior to the True Believer is not entirely true. Many of us have families full of true believers. In fact, many liberal Mormons would leave the Church altogether, if it were not for these conservative family members.

    Some of us have lost our testimonies, often for intellectual reasons…we just don’t find it logical. I think you would agree it is fair enough, considering the incredible claims the LDS Church makes. It is natural for a logical person to have doubts.

    Unfortunately, leaving the Church is not really an option for every apostate. They may risk alienating their parents and siblings…or in the case where their spouse is a conservative Mormon they might risk divorce. Remember that in this Church “Families are Forever”, and if you stop believing you have just destroyed your eternal family from the point of view of your conservative family. It is sad when a religion that seeks to unite families can have a dividing effect.

    The result is that many apostates feel pressured to stay in the Church and become liberal Mormons. They have to twist their beliefs around so that they might fit, in some way, into the the LDS belief system, so they can justify being Mormon to themselves.

    So they are not really changing the orthodox beliefs…they are coping with PRETENDING to be orthodox. Its a unique situation, I think…one that the LDS Church is particularly vulnerable too because of its emphasis one eternal families.

    There is a name on the Internet that some of these people have adopted: New Order Mormon…and they have a website:

    I would encourage you to read about them.

  109. Milt Neeley
    April 28, 2005 at 10:32 am

    It seems that Nate is as borish as the Liberal Mormons he writes about. At one time I was counted ammoung the true believers, I was as judgemental and condesending as Nate. Anyone who would critisize the leaders must have some kind of personal problem. It was a joy to see how closely I was living the only true gospel on the face of the earth. Why couldn’t gays just change to straight. Why did people get divorced, didn’t they know all they had to do was pray harder? A person who was single must like being single and didn’t fully comprehend the eternal family. People in other faiths didn’t have the dedication that mormons have.
    By no choice of my own I was forced into a position of outsider. I didn’t know I was an outsider but with time I came to realize I no longer fit into the norm of mainstream mormon. I was put with the misfit mormons. I learned to love my fellow misfits and found them to be down trodden by people like my former self, who out of a lack of understanding, condemned those who were different and did not fit the mold.
    Conservative mormons are proud of their humility and their loving ways. However as one apostle stated our God is a discriminating God and so are his chosen children.
    If we liberal mormons are borish, it is out of self preservation. It is a defense mechanism to be pompous and arrogant in our liberal views. Either we misfits lay down and allow ourselves to be kicked for our differences or we point out that there have been differences in the church all along. There are plenty of misfits mormons who have layed down and admitted that they are not worthy to lick the dirt off of the righteous members shoes. The rest of us survive by standing up and showing that we are not all that strange after all. That the church is imperfect and so are we and everyone in it.
    Many of us do not fit in the mold and I am not sorry for this.


  110. Ian Cook
    October 17, 2005 at 6:08 pm

    I realize that this is a bit late for this discussion. The thing is, I have been thinking about this discussion for a while and I cam on this thread through a search engine. I wanted to put my thoughts down somewhere, so I figured here was good enough.

    First off, I consider my self a Democrat. I am also a Mormon. I don’t think I fall under the Liberal Mormon category.

    Anyway, my problem with “liberal Mormons” is somewhat like the author of this blog. I think that some of these people spend more time reading history and the weaknesses of church leaders. While I agree that many of the church leaders were and are imperfect, this shouldn’t be the subject of a Sunday school lesson!

    We go to church to learn about Christ and his teachings. That should be the main focus! Not how Brigham young was a racist!

    At the same time, there is some smugness to most members of the church. They feel that their opinion should be the gospel. I was in priesthood the other day and someone thanked God for our wonderful President. I was at a ward activity the other day (sitting at the table with someone formerly of the stake presidency) and they began Democrat Bashing. Someone wondered how you could be a good member of the church and a Democrat. I typiclly grin and bear it when the topic comes up, but I couldn’t keep quiet. I brought up Senator Harry Reid. One guy (probably in his late 20’s) basically said that “All democrats are for Abortion” To which his wife (who immediately figured out that I was a Democrat, her husband wasn’t all that quick) said that not “all” democrats did. Anyway, the topic was soon changed.

    One of the reasons my Dad quit going to church was because of how most people in the church would constantly push the Repubican agenda. I personally have learned to ignore all the self righteousness of the members of the church and worship for myself.

    I personally feel that most people within the church are good people, and are trying to do the right thing, but they go about it in different ways.

    Those “liberals” need to stop pushing their “the church is not perfect” agenda, and those conservatives need to become more accepting of other opinions.

    I think we could get along more swimmingly that way.

  111. Abe
    January 7, 2006 at 4:10 pm

    First, to whomever wrote this blog… what exactly is your problem with critical thinking? It seems like an necessary aspect of life and an important skill for one to possess. Neglecting to think critically is why the naive are fooled and the vulnerable get taken advantage of.

    Secondly, to all… one of these comments about the blog said that basically, that if you are in disagreement with a conservative than you are immoral and faithless. In turn, if one disagrees with a liberal than they are ignorant and diluded. I know too many “conservatives” who have crossed moral lines (cheating on spouses, greediness, racism…) and I know too many “liberals” who respect anyone’s opinion and ask nothing but the same in return (no mean-spiritted backlashing or insulting, or at least, very minimal…). Point being that conservatives are not the bad guys, liberals are not the bad guys. It could be that the judgemental people are the bad guys. Conservatives may call a liberal immoral because the liberal enjoys sex and drinking and drugs (although who knows of a good old fashioned, womanizing conservative who hasn’t been piss drunk and before). People should not squable over petty sins. Far be it from me or anyone, to decide what is an unforgivable sin and what is even considered a sin at all. I also cannot see how anyone (including myself, a religious man) can judge someone or condemn someone for being “faithless”. Let’s face it, on the surface, religion is hard to swallow. It entails stories, believing without seeing. I cannot blame someone for not buying into something they cannot be empirically and totally one-hundred percent sure about. We have all had our doubts, faith is something that is developed and accepted, no one is bad or evil purely for not accepting or believing in something unseen. The only realistic evils I think can be established are ones that directly effect others in a severley negative way, such as murder and rape. But if someone enjoys harmless sex with another, willing partner(s); or drinking with his buddies and livin’ it up for the sake of good times… these are not the evils we should worry about. Sure they can be mistreated and abused to evolve quickly into something evil (abusive drunk/sexoholic). Anyway, Conservatives… leave the critical judgements to your god or whatever god there may be or not be. Liberals… just because you don’t agree with someone or vice versa, does not make you smarter or more right than them. Live life how YOU see fit, and try not to severely hurt someone physically or emotionally.

    Incase anyone was wondering, I am LDS. And for all my Hebrew friends out there, Toda & Shalom.

  112. Abe
    January 7, 2006 at 4:23 pm

    As far as I am concerned, a liberal is someone who is in favor of freedom of thought and speech. Given this, is it unacceptable to think of God as a liberal? He did give us Free Agency. When the government imposes too much power over people they should be ashamed. A Republican government is stereo-typed (with good reason) as a religiously political breed. How can one consider themselves a “good christian” when supportive of any overpowering establishment, which takes peoples’ free agency away, one unnecessary law and one crooked politician at a time. The term liberal-mormon is not an oxymoron or a controdiction or even an odd pairing. And liberal-mormons are not members “with no testimony” (this is a descriptioin I am too acustomed to hearing). Now I don’t see myself as a true liberal, but the essential idea of freedom is something I do endorse.

  113. Jim F.
    January 7, 2006 at 8:10 pm

    Abe, you need to read more carefully. Nate put said “self-proclaimed ‘critical thinkers,'” putting “critical thinking” in blogs. He doesn’t disagree with critical thinking. In fact, his post is an exercise in critical thinking. He is taking aim at those who anoint themselves as critical thinkers, allowing the anointing to be enough. He made it quite clear that his post has nothing to do with politics or being an intellectual.

  114. Mike B
    January 8, 2006 at 1:52 pm

    #108 “It is sad when a religion that seeks to unite families can have a dividing effect.”

    Not sure where to begin on this one. Perhaps I shouldn’t, because it might not come out nice. Any dividing effect is the result of personal choices, not due to religion. The non-member/inactive father who can’t attend his daughter’s temple wedding can either blame his daughter for choosing to get married there, or himself for not becoming temple worthy. He cannot legitimately blame the church or religion (though he can he really “legitimately” blame his daughter?). Same thing here. I’m sure someone else can articulate this much better than I can

    This kind of comment says much more about the person making it than it does about the church.

  115. Ann
    January 8, 2006 at 3:59 pm

    #114, of course it’s possible to blame the church, because it’s simply unnecessary. Allowing a civil ceremony immediately prior to a temple sealing, which is not only permitted by REQUIRED in some countries, would solve the “problem” entirely.

    Of course, with the family’s support and a little creative thinking (and by leaving the church out of it, because I think some bishops would not approve), a family “wedding” is entirely possible after the ceremony. You just have to do it somewhere other than the church. The late LDSMan, founder of the NOM board, told his daughter “You aren’t married until you and your beloved have your union blessed by your daddy.” And then, did exactly that, in what he described as a warm, loving exchange of promises and blessings in their own back yard, where everyone was allowed to be there (not just the endowed grown-ups).

    Where there are good relationships within the family, and a desire to be inclusive rather than exclusive, it’s possible to have a wedding that’s meaningful for everyone, not just the “worthy.”

  116. Jack
    January 8, 2006 at 6:11 pm

    “You aren’t married until you and your beloved have your union blessed by your daddy.�

    What if your daddy don’t like your fiance? And don’t leave a blessing? You gonna let a little thing like that keep you from marrying whoever feel like marrying?

  117. Mike B
    January 9, 2006 at 12:13 am

    #115: “of course it’s possible to blame the church, because it’s simply unnecessary.”

    “Unnecessary” from whose point of view? Such a person is certainly free to blame anybody, including the church. Some call that “freedom of thought” and “freedom of speech.” Which means that you are free to criticize the prophet for neglecting to create an officially accepted exception. And since we’re all free to think and say what we please, I guess, upon reflection, my comment in #114 was completely meaningless. Sorry to have wasted space here.

  118. Mike B
    January 9, 2006 at 12:20 am

    #115: “Where there are good relationships within the family, and a desire to be inclusive rather than exclusive, it’s possible to have a wedding that’s meaningful for everyone, not just the “worthy.â€?

    I guess I never stopped to consider the possibility that the young bride who wanted so badly to be married in the temple also had an express desire to exclude her non-templeworthy family members, as well. Seems a little paradoxical.

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