On the Possibility of Inter-Ideological Group Blogging

From its inception, Times and Seasons has been a forum for relatively diverse political, theological, and applied approaches to Mormonism. There are limits on the group’s diversity, of course. All of the group members are and have been, in some way or other, faithful members. However, we vary in our ideas of what Mormonism means. Some of us self-identify as more traditional, others as more progressive. Some of us adhere to belief structures that are more “Iron Rod” in nature; others to belief structures that are more “Liahona.” Politically speaking, some of us are Democrats and others Republicans and others disgusted by both major parties.

It has always been thus.

The first four members of Times and Seasons were Nate, Adam, Matt and myself (who one might label, very incompletely, as being an analytic libertarian-centrist, a social conservative, an analytic libertarian-conservative, and a left-leaning centrist). The blog was born out of a series of lengthy conversations on the LDS-Law listserv, mostly about abortion and same-sex marriage. (Some things never change). There was much disagreement on the list, and many heated exchanges between various list participants. But after repeated and lengthy listserv exchanges (which I still have saved on file somewhere), I noticed a trend. Three particular members of the list were less inclined to jump to knee-jerk responses and invective, and were more inclined to make reasonable, intelligent, thought-provoking responses. Not to say that I agreed with these folks — I thought they were all wrong on substance, on a regular basis. (They seemed to think the same about me). But it was clear that they each put a high value on the norms of civil dialogue. Because of that approach, we could discuss issues intelligently and at length, despite substantive disagreements, without the conversation degenerating into garbage.

Eventually, the four of us began e-mailing each other on a private list; soon thereafter, the idea of a group blog came up. The rest, as they say, is history.

Throughout its development, I’ve loved the fact that Times and Seasons was an ideologically diverse group. That diversity, in my eyes, was one of the primary reasons we founded the blog. Our permament roster, I hope, reflects this continued ideological diversity. Our guest list does so as well. Where else can one find a guest list that ranges from Susan Staker to Joseph Stanford, with stops in between for Dan Peterson, Fred Gedicks, Jeff Lindsay, Damon Linker, Richard Bushman, and Greg Prince, along with dozens of others?

This environment is an oddity; most group environments tend to attract like-minded folks. It’s generally not hard for most us to have conversations with people who think just like we do. Conservatives typically have easy access to other conservatives; liberals to other liberals; theologically orthodox Mormons to other orthodox Mormons; more heterodox Mormons to other more heterodox Mormons. Birds of a feather flock together; that’s the norm.

At its best, Times and Seasons offers more than that status quo. It offers a chance to have friendly, intelligent discussions across ideological divides. One can talk abortion with Matt or with me, knowing that we hold different views; one can talk same-sex marriage with Russell or with Adam, literary theory with Nate or with Rosalynde, and so forth. At its best, this kind of environment is a place to hone and refine one’s own ideas, to send them into discussions with others who may disagree, and to come away with broader appreciation for and respect for opposing views, even if one still disagrees on substance. At its best, Times and Seasons offers dialogue — real dialogue among faithful members of differing approaches and ideas.

There are potential downsides to such a configuration. The views of others can be frustrating. It may take self-control not to respond harshly to opposing views; it may require empathy and intellectual focus to see the ideas of others for what they really are, not for caricatured straw folks. It can be frustrating to see one’s own views attacked and criticized, particularly when they relate to issues one views as important. It can be a struggle to prevent the back-and-forth from becoming a grim war of comments.

And frankly, an inter-ideological environment makes a few specific demands of its participants. The crucial one is this: It is vital that each of the group members and conversation participants prize dialogue. A commitment to maintaining the atmosphere of dialogue must trump partisanship.

Thus, it is deceptive to say that an inter-ideological blog environment is welcoming to all. It is not. There is a group that is systematically going to be excluded from and marginalized from such blog conversations. That group is comprised of those people who are not willing to place the norms of civil dialogue above their substantive beliefs during blog conversations. If a conversation participant feels that his or her views on X — abortion or same-sex marriage or feminism or apologetics or whatever — override the norms of civil dialogue, then s/he is not going to fit well in the inter-ideological blogging environment. Not because his or her ideas on [abortion, SSM, etc] themselves are in any way wrong, but because s/he is not willing to put civil dialogue at the forefront. Those who don’t fit in well are the crusaders: Those who think that a holy writ from the Pope (“go free the Holy Land”) justifies pillaging and plundering their way across Europe and sacking and burning Constantinople. (Or in the blog context, one who believes that a substantive difference of opinion justifies personal attack and invective.)

Has Times and Seasons always succeeded in maintaining a healthy forum for inter-ideological blogging? No. It’s hard not to let one’s own ideological preferences take charge at times. Sometimes I do better at controlling this tendency and sometimes worse; the same applies, I think, to many around here. Sometimes the tenor turns negative; other times it improves. Maintaining a healthy inter-ideological forum is not easy.

I still think that maintenance of a forum for inter-ideological blogging is vital. It’s the reason I’m here; it’s the reason I started with the group to begin with; it’s the reason I put time and energy into the blog; it’s one of the fundamental reasons that I make comments and posts. Times and Seasons has no official mission statement, and this post is nothing more than my own thoughts; still, I conceive of the mission of Times and Seasons as fostering a forum for intelligent inter-ideological debates. It’s why I’m here, and the day I think that the blog can no longer function as an inter-ideological forum is the day I’ll leave.


I’ll close my post by opening the floor. What do our readers think? Is inter-ideological dialogue a worthwhile goal? How can we do this better? What are we doing right, and what should we be improving on?

50 comments for “On the Possibility of Inter-Ideological Group Blogging

  1. July 10, 2006 at 8:28 pm

    I’ve enjoyed the things I’ve read on this blog. I know that when people comment on my blog and express opposing views, my first reaction is to become upset that they don’t see things the way I do, and I immediately think they are wrong.

    But after taking time to ponder, and interpret their point of view, I gain added perspective. Sometimes that perspective reaffirms my initial position, and sometimes it opens my mind to a new door that I otherwise would have not encountered.

    I am grateful for debate, and for civilized discussion about such a variety of topics. I hope we can all do our part to let that continue, maintaining a common bond of (virtual) brother/sisterhood that unites us all.

  2. Julie M. Smith
    July 10, 2006 at 8:35 pm

    There’s no point in a blog that is inner-ideological. I’ve read some, and it they consist of (1) preaching to the choir and (2) the occassional troll showing up and getting the snot knocked out of him. They’re boring, and they don’t require their participants to think or refine their arguments.

    However: us inter-ideological blogs need to figure out how to be more charitable in our disagreements. I’ve been dismayed at some recent bloggernacle efforts (not at T & S) to shut down the conversation as soon as an opposing opinion shows up. That’s a great way to turn yourself into one of those boring inner-ideo blogs . . . So I don’t think the iron hand is the solution, but I don’t know what is.

  3. Kaimi Wenger
    July 10, 2006 at 8:53 pm

    I share your feelings that inter-ideological blogs are valuable, Julie, but I don’t know if I’d go quite so far in downplaying the value of other blogs. Many less ideologically diverse blogs do just fine. I mean, T&S is probably the most inter-ideological blog on the nacle, except for maybe Purim — does that mean that everyone else is a failure? Clearly not. Other blogs have different missions and different environments, and may thrive. I don’t see anything wrong with blogging with birds of a feather. It’s just not why I started out here, myself, and it’s not _us_ here at T&S.

    And very much agreed that we need to be more charitable in disagreement. Of course, that’s always easier said than done. I started out with this group precisely because they could disagree charitably. I don’t know that we’ve always lived up to our potential in this regard since then, but it’s absolutely something to strive for.

  4. July 10, 2006 at 10:00 pm

    Interesting. I think that there are many that see inter-ideological blogs as plain liberal. That is too bad. I consider myself a pretty conservative Mormon, but I imagine that there are many that would disagree because of the dialectic I employ.

    That said, I am most sadden by our community when we are mean or self righteous. There is plenty of blame to go around. It is difficult to turn the other cheek, especially when it seems that people don’t recognize that they are being mean or self righteous. God have mercy on us all and bless us with charity.

  5. Bored in Vernal
    July 10, 2006 at 10:10 pm

    People, I am soooooooo bored in Vernal, I think I would shoot myself if I hadn’t discovered this blog a few months ago. I love the difference in ideas and opinions. It seems like everyone in Vernal has the _exact_ same opinions on everything. I’m sure that isn’t really true, but they may be so hesitant to be discordant in any way that they agree, and agree, and agree. It’s very interesting to me to read the blogs and then to have people discuss and give their thinking. I, for one, certainly don’t mind a bit of heated debate. In fact, I like it. I think you have all been quite charitable with each other. It amuses me when I see a little bit of sparks flying. Don’t stop!

  6. Kaimi Wenger
    July 10, 2006 at 10:27 pm

    Just to be clear, I’m not intending this post as a criticism of other blogs. There are many different ways to run a blog, and I don’t claim to have the best model.

    Rather, this is an answer to a question that I sometimes get: Why do I blog with people who differ from me ideologically? Wouldn’t it be easier otherwise?

    And my response is, of *course* it would be easier to have less ideological diversity. But the ideological diversity is the reason I blog. I disagree a lot with my co-bloggers on substantive issues, yes.

    Wouldn’t have it any other way.

  7. Randy B.
    July 10, 2006 at 10:32 pm

    I agree with Julie that we need to do a better job of being charitable in our disagreements. Let me suggest one relatively minor idea along these lines:

    We would all do well, I think, to offer course correction to those with whom we _agree_ as quickly and forcefully, perhaps even moreso, as to those we _disagree_.

    It’s easy to defend our friends from personal attack and invective; less so our perceived rivals. Yet our response to such conduct, it seems to me, ought to be the same.

  8. Michael McBride
    July 10, 2006 at 10:35 pm

    At its best, Times and Seasons offers more than that status quo. It offers a chance to have friendly, intelligent discussions across ideological divides. … A commitment to maintaining the atmosphere of dialogue must trump partisanship.

    Nicely said Kaimi.

  9. July 10, 2006 at 10:35 pm

    Kaimi: I wonder to what extent there is a value of having an ideologically heterogenous blog vs. having an idealogically homogenous blog that respectfully engages blogs with differing views.

    As for being welcome or not at the blog, I have come to the conclusion that a blog is best thought of not as an open forum a la Hyde Park or a tightly-knit group like a family or inner circle of friends. A blog is a cocktail party. Some of the people at the cocktail party are your close friends, some are acquaintances, some are strangers. There is a high premium set on interesting and polite conversation, and one expects a certain amount of shunning of those who don’t play by the rules of cocktail party conversation, eg you must be interesting, you must not be a bore, you must not be a jerk, etc. etc. Finally, the hosts of the cocktail party always have the right to kick out gate crashers and drunks.

  10. sideline
    July 10, 2006 at 11:22 pm

    Doing right: interesting topics
    Needs improvement: I haven\’t regularly kept up with T&S in the last year so my grievance may or may not still apply. There is definitely a clique or inner circle. There are sometimes commenters who may say patently offensive and/or vulgar comments but will only be chastized if those comments are directed at the inner circle. If they are directed at anyone else, the target is left to defend themself alone or even may be told they\’re overreacting. Additionally, well thought out comments not from the inner circle are often ignored yet if a similar point is made by a member of the clique a hearty round of agreement follows.

    You may not see it; those on the inside rarely do. I don\’t speak this as sour grapes. I was an observer to this, not a victim. Take it with a grain of salt or take it under advisement and try not fall into this trap. It is an easy role to fall into. We tend to gravitate towards our comrades. Step outside of that. Continually reach out to listen to and respond to others. Also, don\’t stand for outrageous or obnoxious comments and be consistent in that stance. Enlightened discussion is no place for rudeness or vulgarity.

  11. July 10, 2006 at 11:40 pm

    Egads, Nate! I hope you’re wrong about this being a cocktail party. I hatecocktail parties. They mean standing around trying to figure out how to fit into an on-going conversation without being embarrassed because you’re not part of the in-group. (Hmm. I suspect that many coming to T&S or any of the other parts of the bloggernacle for the first time will indeed have the cocktail-party experience.)

  12. July 10, 2006 at 11:46 pm

    Kaimi, I don’t know that ripping a title from p. 97 of the Summer issue and using the word “dialogue” (with its antique spelling no less) eight times in the post is going to be enough to wrest the mantle of Dialogue from BCC!

  13. July 11, 2006 at 12:01 am

    I’d agree w/ previous posts that mention the less-than-charitable views on other blogs towards those of differing opinions. I commented on one such blog recently, only to be told, after a harsh rebuttal of my views, that I was not welcome back. This was/is a prominent blog in the ‘nacle. It’s sad to see those would probably welcome others with open arms in the chapel do not do so elsewhere.

    That being said, there are many other blogs that I frequent, this one included, that do much better at this. I appreciate hearing other peoples’ points of views and opinions on differing subjects, because as our Vernalite noted, sometimes all we hear is the same beliefs expressed by everybody. Whether I agree or not, I’m open to hearing other people’s opinions and trying to understand why they think that way.

  14. July 11, 2006 at 12:54 am

    Hey Connor, if that blog happened to be Purim then I beg you pardon. I know you were given a lashing there but you know, at least you weren\’t ignored. :)

    I think the cocktail party analogy is a good one, if for no other reason than it describes the ever-changing mood and chemistry of discussion. Perhaps a cocktail party in the center of Hyde Park? You know, to explain all the commentors and interactions with other cocktail parties?

  15. July 11, 2006 at 1:26 am

    It was through T & S I first discovered this online commuinty we call ‘nalce. I’ve enjoyed most of what I’ve taken the time to read over the years here. Not every post interests me, and I’m sure that’s true for everyone. I agree with and like the idea that T & S should be and should remain an ideologically diverse group. It makes for more interesting and diverse posts as well as comments. I respect all of the permanent bloggers here, for their faithfulness first and foremost, but also for their academic and intellectual credentials and the reconciliation of the two. I don’t agree with all of you all the time–but it’s a fascinating and fulfilling experience to read, think through an ponder the posts and the comments. At times it can be and has been a very spiritual exercise.

    All too often, though, the bloggernacle can be a very nasty place. I still think the best approach to the nastiness is what Jim F. has penned and has served many blogs in the ‘nacle as their comment policies. I just think they need to be re-read from time to time, not only by the bloggers but also the commenters.

    Thanks for a great blog, and for the little history lesson behind it all.

  16. manaen
    July 11, 2006 at 2:39 am

    Kaimi, I appreciate your comments, but respectfully disagree: I see T&S as a relentlessly mono-ideological environment. This ideology is well expressed in:
    Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets. (Matt 22:37-40)
    While we cannot agree with others on certain matters, we must never be disagreeable. We must be friendly, soft-spoken, neighborly, and understanding. (Pres. Hinckley, GenCon 10/2003)
    All the bloggers here hold Christ’s ideology that His two great commandments come before all else — and each of you is consistent in this ideology.
    T&S is the first blog I found in the ‘nacle and always feels like my home because of this uniform adherence to what’s accepted here as the greatest priority.

  17. DKL
    July 11, 2006 at 9:56 am

    I can see what you’re driving at here, and I’m reminded of Elwood P. Dowd’s remark to the effect that conflict is good for conversation.

    That said, I believe that it’s a mistake to pat yourself on the back for being so broad minded and diverse. There remains a kind of enforced orthodoxy here, and it is, at intervals, a bit stifling. The success of Times and Seasons does not, I believe, relate to the “diversity” of the outlooks among the bloggers. Rather, I think it has to do with the outlook and style of a small subset of its perma-bloggers. Specifically, at reasonably regular intervals (presumably between the obligatory posts about gay marriage and abortion), members of this subset are able to approach topics in such a way that they somehow realize the intellectual opportunities afforded by some aspect of the orthodoxy they are espousing (as opposed to being constrained by it).

  18. Adam Greenwood
    July 11, 2006 at 10:38 am

    I laughed at Kaimi W.’s self-description as a centrist. Everyone wants to be a centrist! Except for Matt and me, so maybe the descriptions of who’s a centrist and who isn’t pretty accurate.

    To serious stuff:

    I think Kaimi W. is right that blogs can be good without being inter-ideological debates.

    I disagree that T&S is, in practice, a forum for inter-ideological debate. I wouldn’t go so far as DKL, but I agree that while we have lots of inter-ideological debate here some ideological viewpoints are excluded, deliberately.

    I also disagree that T&S’s purpose is or should be to foster inter-ideological debate. I like it sometimes myself, probably more than I should, but I can see how conservative readers can get turned off. Presenting orthodox and unorthodox ideas on an equal footing, as equally valid, is already taking a side. Probably can’t be helped, but there it is. I don’t know if this is what DKL has in mind, but what I like most are the attempts to take orthodoxy as a starting point and move from there. The more the blog is about debate, the harder this is to do. I really appreciated the commenters who’ve respected limits on discussion that allow this kind of development of orthodox views. The recent thread on the morality of gene tampering for kids with homosexual views was interesting and helpful, which it would not have been had it turned into another debate over orthodox views of sexuality.

    I also really like the personal essays.

    Update: On the other hand, can anyone really be a centrist who favors reparations for slavery and thinks they’re constitutionally required?

  19. bbell
    July 11, 2006 at 11:12 am

    I like the….

    Book reviews
    Opportunity to discuss controversial ideas with other LDS without the constraints of having to see that person at Church next week.
    Interaction with non orthodox, non TBM, LDS people not in my ward that would get mad at me otherwise for my TBM opinions
    Anything written by Wilfried

  20. July 11, 2006 at 11:15 am

    From what I’ve seen, there are those who are sufficiently dissatisfied with T&S views diversity that they go and create other LDS blogs that are more ideologically or politically single-minded.

    When I first encountered the bloggernacle I was excited about many of the discussions that were taking place. It was something new to me to see so many LDS people in one place expressing such a variety of viewpoints.

    I still think the ‘Nacle has that diversity. Now that I’ve become accustomed to seeing various points of view, I’m wondering what other purposes the ‘Nacle might serve.

    I think there might be a few “camps” in the ‘Nacle now. There are those who routinely peruse the group blogs and comment on them but ignore many of the others. I also think there some who have become weary of the same discussions happening over and over at the group blogs and maybe prefer to persue a few personal blogs. This is just an impression I’ve gotten over time.

  21. Aaron Brown
    July 11, 2006 at 11:17 am

    In what sense is Adam Greenwood a “social conservative,” while Matt Evans is not?

    Aaron B

  22. Adam Greenwood
    July 11, 2006 at 11:24 am

    Aaron B.,


  23. July 11, 2006 at 11:25 am

    Dialog is overrated. It has some value, but the transcendent virtues often ascribed to it are a bit much. The content of an idea should matter more than the discussion of the idea.

  24. Frank McIntyre
    July 11, 2006 at 11:26 am

    I enjoy debate and discussion immensely, especially with people who disagree with me. On the other hand, this is not limitless. T&S is pretty much a forum designed to meet the preferences of active, faithful LDS members. It is not really here to cater to evangelicals, polygamist fundamentalists, former members, atheists, or cheese haters– to name a few.

    Not that we don’t enjoy hearing from some of these people, just that they are not the group T&S caters to. And I’m okay with that. If I want those discussions, they are readily available all over. If those people have interesting things to say, then we are happy to hear those things. But “interesting” is defined by what is interesting to active, faithful members of the Church.

  25. greenfrog
    July 11, 2006 at 12:01 pm


    And let me tell you, Adam looks good in ’em.

  26. Seth R.
    July 11, 2006 at 12:11 pm

    One thing that would probably help is making the original post on this thread about a fifth of the size it is right now.

    Seriously, I’m not THAT flush for time.

  27. s
    July 11, 2006 at 12:28 pm

    That said, I believe that it’s a mistake to pat yourself on the back for being so broad minded and diverse. There remains a kind of enforced orthodoxy here, and it is, at intervals, a bit stifling.

    I’m going to have to agree with DKL on this one. I think my perception of this may have to do with the fact that I’m most decidedly liberal (i.e. not anywhere near Kaimi’s “centrist”) and a feminist to boot. I regularly jump into conversations here on T&S (especially those that relate to gender) because I want my perspective represented, but I often end up feeling somewhat pummeled by the time I get to the end of the conversation.

    As for possible solutions or improvements? I don’t know. I know that part of the problem is that I’m overly sensitive to calls to repentance as well as other people’s tones (and I need to work on not getting too emotionally caught up in discussions, which can be hard). I can certainly understand the blog being wary about certain forms of unorthodoxy; this is a site for faithful Latter-Day Saints, after all, and you do want the blog to be gospel- and Christ-affirming. But there does seem to be at times an underlying hostility to certain liberal/unorthodox perspectives–including those of faithful members–and for that reason I sometimes find it difficult to respond here.

    P.S. I do value what you are trying to do here, and I do enjoy the blog.

    P.P.S. Thanks for making this post Kaimi–you’ve asked some great questions.

  28. July 11, 2006 at 12:42 pm

    s.: As long as both you and Adam feel like you are operating in an ideologically hostile forum, I think that we’re doing about right ;->

  29. Mark Butler
    July 11, 2006 at 12:44 pm

    s (#27),

    Typical complaint goes like this “doctrine X doesn’t make any sense in this enlightened age of reason and so it is prima facie uninspired”. Generally speaking, Latter-day Saints do not know God’s reasons for all things, just have faith that he has them.

    That leads to an odd mismatch where someone is trying to take down a doctrine on rational grounds, but the defenders of the orthodox faith lack the necessary information to defend it on strictly rational grounds, leading to a never ending frustration on both sides. All we can say is that given time, fidelity, and experience God shall make known his reasons, but we proceed based on testimony, inspiration, and the “fruits test” for now.

  30. July 11, 2006 at 12:45 pm

    “Specifically, at reasonably regular intervals (presumably between the obligatory posts about gay marriage and abortion), members of this subset are able to approach topics in such a way that they somehow realize the intellectual opportunities afforded by some aspect of the orthodoxy they are espousing (as opposed to being constrained by it). ”

    I sincerely hope that this is true.

  31. s
    July 11, 2006 at 12:47 pm

    Heh, Nate. :) (I realize that creating a place where both conservatives and liberals can come and not be completely turned off is difficult.)

  32. Adam Greenwood
    July 11, 2006 at 12:52 pm

    “As long as both you and Adam feel like you are operating in an ideologically hostile forum, I think that we’re doing about right”

    I think we’re doing about right when I feel that I’m in a squishy forum.

  33. bbell
    July 11, 2006 at 12:53 pm

    My perspective on this is that I rarely if ever run into anyone who is active and contributing LDS in my day to day LDS life in my ward who is willing to verbally espouse in public unorthodox views. My exp prior to T&S is that those with unorthodox views were typically inactive, trending to inactivity, or in the closet about their views.

    This makes T&S interesting to me.

  34. s
    July 11, 2006 at 1:00 pm

    That leads to an odd mismatch where someone is trying to take down a doctrine on rational grounds, but the defenders of the orthodox faith lack the necessary information to defend it on strictly rational grounds, leading to a never ending frustration on both sides. All we can say is that given time, fidelity, and experience God shall make known his reasons, but we proceed based on testimony, inspiration, and the “fruits test� for now.

    I think you make an interesting point here, Mark, though I don’t always think the disagreements always fall down the lines you’ve sketched out (i.e. the “rational” unorthodox and the “anti-rational” orthodox). Many of my complaints are very much based on my own personal experiences and inspiration (moreso than rational argument), and I think that the church tries to include rational argument into its own discourse (sometimes more successfully than others).

    But you’re right that it can be difficult to introduce rational argument into an equation that is so focused on inspiration, intuition, and feeling. Especially when the rational argument is a critical one, and it’s criticizing the status quo/orthodox.

  35. Mark Butler
    July 11, 2006 at 1:27 pm

    s (#34), I agree the division is not always so clear cut. I also view that it is a necessary part of spiritual growth to try to understand, by degrees, the reasons God has for what he does, to the point of developing theories, or a largely private, albeit tentative theological understanding, and refining that rough hewn understanding by study, inspiration, and experience.

    That is rationality to me – I have working theories for just about every gospel doctrine out there – however sometimes there has been a paradigm shift, a key to understanding that not quite revolutionizes some of the things I understood before. Now the problem is that this type of knowledge is approximate by nature – the necessary evidence to make a compelling argument simply isn’t publically available, and no matter how true something is, or how much scriptural evidence there is for a concept, some people will inevitably complain that it isn’t according to the faith they were brought up in.

    Hence the abomination of creeds – they are a barrier to further revelation and inspiration on a subject. Can’t even talk about some of the most apparent doctrines of the scriptures in private because people have shut their eyes and ears to the very suggestion of certain prominent themes in the scriptures. Intuition itself usually isn’t very persuasive, unless the other person instantly recognizes the value of an idea. Rationality, likewise, can only work where people are a little open minded to unconventional, though consistent scriptural semantics – the possibility that there might actually be something worthwhile in them.

    I must admit, that I think that if an argument cannot be made from the scriptures or baseline metaphysical principles, I am inclined to discount it. Someone wants to persuade me of a theological principle and they cannot come up with any scriptural argument at all?

  36. Aaron Brown
    July 11, 2006 at 1:34 pm

    “Dialog is overrated. It has some value, but the transcendent virtues often ascribed to it are a bit much. The content of an idea should matter more than the discussion of the idea.”

    Huh? In my experience, the content of my ideas is enriched and improved by the dialogue I have with others who both agree and disagree with me. I know from experience that if I am dialoguing only with myself, I tend to fool myself into believing I have insights that are much more profound than they really are. And I know plenty of other folks who are operating under similar delusions.

    Discussion of an idea will usually improve the content of the idea. Those who think otherwise with respect to their own ideas are probably deluding themselves.

    Aaron B

  37. Adam Greenwood
    July 11, 2006 at 1:37 pm

    Aaron B.,
    you mistake John Mansfield’s meaning. He’s saying that dialogue is only an instrumental good, but is often reverentially treated as an end in itself.

  38. Mark IV
    July 11, 2006 at 1:45 pm

    All of the group members are . . . faithful members.

    Sorry Kaimi, but you are going to have to provide some proof of that assertion.

    Frank thinks prophetic counsel is like a roulette wheel, and now you, Nate, and Jim display a disheatening familiarity with cocktail parties. I feel as though I have fallen into a cesspool of sin.

  39. Julie M. Smith
    July 11, 2006 at 2:31 pm

    Re Kaimi in #6: I think you and I agree but are just talking past each other: while the perms at M* or BCC may have less ideo variation than those at T & S, the commenters more than make up for it and contribute to making the blog itself interesting.

  40. July 11, 2006 at 3:41 pm

    Aaron Brown, I agree with your point that putting an idea in front of others helps us to perceive its shortcomings. I’m just skeptical about the Socratic Method, this idea that asking one question after another and talking, talking, talking for millennia is a path to wisdom. I think that cold facts are more important than what anyone has to say about them or about his own and others’ thoughts.

  41. Kaimi Wenger
    July 11, 2006 at 5:21 pm

    Wow – lots of responses. Hmm, let’s see.

    Randy (7) — agreed. We need to be intellectually honest, and that means correcting our friends for their misstatements as much as we do our opponents. Easier said than done, as a general principle — but important.

    Nate (9) — a cocktail party? Like Jim, I hope it’s a little better than that. But I agree that there are a lot of similarities. Hopefully we’re able to keep a friendly party going. And as for throwing out gatecrashers and drunks — does this mean we have to evict Frank, or is his drinking purely medicinal?

    Christian (12) — my future posts will focus on the Sunstone of civil conversation, on the BYU Studies that interest me, and on life as a Playboy. . .

    Guy (15) — thanks for the kind words — very much appreciated from a nacle regular like you.

    DKL (17) — not trying to pat the back so much as articulate a mission statement of my own, though I suppose the line between mission statement and back patting is always a little blurry. I hope we can continue to post on interesting topics, at regular intervals, in between our regularly scheduled flame wars and decisions to ban you.

    Adam (18) — we all want to be centrists, just like we all consider ourselves part of the same ideological wing as Nate, Jim and Rosalynde. (And I don’t think that reparations are constitutionally required — constitutionally permitted, yes).

    More to follow.

  42. Kaimi Wenger
    July 11, 2006 at 5:32 pm


    The substance of your comment (18) is quite interesting, and presents a different sort of approach than my own. You write: “Presenting orthodox and unorthodox ideas on an equal footing, as equally valid, is already taking a side.”

    Of course it is. It’s a commitment to dialogue, and a rejection of the exclusive positions on either side. That’s a substantive position, yes. But it’s also the only one that opens the floor to the discussion between people of different views.

    Perhaps the real question is how each of us define the limits of acceptable discourse. There are statements that are not acceptable here under anyone’s calculus — “all Mormons are stupid” and such. Other statements may be outside of one person’s definition of acceptable, but within others’ definitions.

    And your comment also highlights the fact that we’re here for different reasons. I’m here, first and foremost, because I enjoy discussion across ideological lines. You’re here to explore the ramfications of orthodoxy. The two goals are not mutually exclusive, but nor are they completely overlapping.
    The meta questions that then come up are several: How is the blog’s mission or goal decided? What is the ideal resolution when two members have contradictory goals, or goals that clash in one or more areas? How should we respect other bloggers’ goals or ideals? Who ultimately decides these issues? and so forth.

  43. Adam Greenwood
    July 11, 2006 at 5:39 pm

    “we all want to be centrists, just like we all consider ourselves part of the same ideological wing as Nate, Jim and Rosalynde.”

    Neither Matt nor I consider ourselves centrists nor want to be. You wanting to be a centrist probably makes you a centrist of some kind whatever yours view are. Thanks for the reparations clarification.

  44. s
    July 11, 2006 at 5:43 pm

    Mark (#35), I engage in a similar rational process, though I don’t have working theories for all gospel doctrines–I’m often profoundly perplexed by the gospel and its teachings. But I do concur that my own rationality also plays a part in my own spiritual development and growth (and I’m glad it does).

  45. Kaimi Wenger
    July 11, 2006 at 5:44 pm

    BBell (19) — nice to see what brings you here; I’m glad it’s working for you.

    Danithew (20) —

    Frank (24) — exactly right that the blog is best viewed as a diverse group, within limits. We want to include many views here; but some views (such as cheese hating) are detrimental to the forum, and so are necessarily going to be excluded.

    Your own definition of the blog as covering material “interesting to active, faithful members of the church” is probably very close to my own. However, it’s necessary to recognize the broadness of those terms — a lot of relatively heterodox Mormons are ones I would consider faithful members of the church. One doesn’t have to have a testimony of every facet of orthodox Mormonism to be faithful (see, e.g., Roasted Tomatoes’ post at BCC).

    Seth (26) — bill it to office general, or perhaps CLE. Or client development.

    S (27) — sorry to hear that you feel outnumbered. Even with recent departures, we’ve got a few around here who consider ourselves feminists and try to weigh in as such.

    “There does seem to be at times an underlying hostility to certain liberal/unorthodox perspectives–including those of faithful members.” I can think of comments where people on one side or another of an argument took a beating. Sometimes these are hard to avoid. I like to weigh in on topics, but can only do so so much, and the same goes for the rest of us. (I regularly get e-mails saying “why didn’t you disagree with [X] on [post]?” and the answer is often that I was busy doing other things.) And truth be told, I’m sure the same happens in the opposite direction as well — Greg and Kristine and I catching Frank unawares and outnumbered on some thread and hitting him over the head with a mallet.

    Nate (28) — Agreed.

  46. s
    July 11, 2006 at 5:52 pm

    Kaimi, you’re definitely right that people at the ends of the spectrum (and that goes for either end) are more likely to take a beating. And I know there are other feminists around (if I were the only one, I can assure you that I would not be posting). I guess I just am expressing that I often end up feeling quite beat up around here, though maybe there are others of different ideological bents who feel the same. (And like I said before, I’m sure some of it has to do with my own emotional tendencies and sensitivities.)

    P.S. I don’t want to be a centrist either.

  47. Frank McIntyre
    July 11, 2006 at 6:10 pm

    “Greg and Kristine and I catching Frank unawares and outnumbered on some thread and hitting him over the head with a mallet.”

    Go for it :)

    As for what constitutes “interesting” to faithful active members, surely this is up in the air and not really interesting to discuss in the abstract. In general, I like to think that we hit a reasonable mix for enough people to make it worth doing. Those who don’t like our mix will probably leave and find something that interests them more.

  48. Téa
    July 11, 2006 at 6:12 pm

    Kaimi, what effect will the “Changing Times, Passing Seasons” have on the possibility of inter-ideological dialogue group blogging here at T&S?

  49. July 11, 2006 at 6:23 pm

    Mark IV (#43): If you are just discovering that I am a sinner, then you do not know me very well.

    Kaimi (#46): I had no trouble with this post until you mentioned that you were trying to write a mission statement. Yikes! I hope we don’t want one and I’m sure we don’t need one. For one thing, if the point of this blog is inter-ideological dialogue, then Wilfried and I are, at best, on the fringe of the group. His wonderful vignettes are neither inter-ideological nor dialogue, nor are my study notes for the Sunday School lessons. Please, I pray you, don’t let this be a mission statement!

  50. Kaimi Wenger
    July 11, 2006 at 8:28 pm


    It lessens the inter-ideological blogging possibilities somewhat. Reason #317 to be sad about the recent departures.

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