Satan’s troll farm

If Satan hired a Russian troll farm, what would the Mormon corner of the Internet be like?

If Satan hired a Russian troll farm, we would have little discussion of Mormon history, ancient or modern scripture, or church doctrine on the Internet. Instead, we would focus on past mistakes, the inadequacies of scripture, and flaws in church doctrine, as we lurched from one crisis, controversy, or moral panic to the next, never finding time for any but the most divisive issues.

If Satan had a troll farm, we would face regular calls to disavow various teachings, present and past leaders, and each other. Sock-puppet “conservatives” would pop up to scold us for using the word “Mormon,” label any doubter as an apostate, and generally do whatever they could to convince the casual observer that conservatives are essentially Mormon takfiris (but in fact, these “conservatives” would hate Zion and its teachings, not promote them).

If Satan had a troll farm, sock-puppet “progressives” would pop up to chide anyone who thought commandments should be obeyed and covenants should be honored as ignorant bigots, and generally do all they could to convince the casual observer that progressives despise the church and reject its teachings (when in fact these “progressives” would only care about race, class, gender, or sexuality to the extent that these issues generate controversy, and care about the people most directly affected only secondarily, or not at all).

The “progressive” and the “conservative” trolls would not be unable to find common ground, however. They would be united in their disdain for the church as an institution and in full agreement about the inadequacy of the prophet, who would be accused both of straying from the purity of Joseph and Brigham, and of failing (though lack of inspiration) to enact the obviously necessary reforms. The trolls would agree that the church was foundering, that vague doubts and fervent religious feelings are both good reasons to avoid attending church, and that anyone expressing even the most anodyne support for the church should be labeled as either blinded by hate, an organizational drone rather than a true follower of Jesus, or both. There would be Mormon-themed leak sites whose agenda was not truth and transparency, but the advancement of influence campaigns against the church. There would be whole communities devoted to reinforcing feelings of doubt and applauding disaffection as they savored the latest controversies and ridiculed church members not yet enlightened enough to apostatize. Of course the “progressive” and “conservative” trolls would not only deny that there was such a thing as trolls, they would call “anti-Mormon” and “apostate” false and hurtful labels that should be banned from civilized conversation altogether.

In short, if Satan had a Russian troll farm, the Mormon corner of the Internet would look much as it does today.

* * *

Sometimes, we troll ourselves. We amplify our own divisions when we should pull together, we casually discard teachings that should unite us, we aim to outdo each other in throwing each other under the bus. I’m trying to do better, but I have been that guy. I try to ask myself, before posting something, if it could just as easily have been written by Boris Satanov, recently of St. Petersburg but now tweeting from the Ninth Bolgia. Maybe you could ask yourself if what the world really needs now is another let’s-complain-about-our-bishops open thread.

I don’t think it’s only us trolling ourselves, however. Thanks to the Senate reports, we know that real-life Russian trolls exploit real divisions and play to people’s willingness to believe the worst about their opponents. It’s just as easy to play on people’s reservations about church members, even among other church members. There’s unfortunately an audience ready to believe and retweet without question anything that might reflect badly on the church, and there really are people who loathe the church and cynically hide behind fake personas. Some claim to be active church members (who just happen to think that a video on an anti-Mormon YouTube channel is what’s needed to open our eyes). Others launch whole websites to “present information about Mormon topics” (we declined to add them to our blogroll as they requested, back in the day when blogrolls were a thing). We regularly get commenters who are outraged that we are not outraged, and upset that we are not fighting among ourselves over something they are certain we should find controversial. Lest I be accused of both-sidesism, I do think most trolling attempts play to “progressive” issues. Existing fault lines are easier to find, and trolls by their nature find it harder to mimic an authentic conservative voice. (I’d guess, though, that since Pres. Nelson’s remarks, it’s predominantly been trolls who have scolded anyone else online for use of the word “Mormon.”) An unhappy fact of online life is that an unknowable percentage of participants in any given conversation are not arguing in good faith.

But some days it feels like more than mere human wickedness. The rhetorical performances of Korihor’s greatest hits are too on-the-nose. The Nehor whisperers, trying too hard, deplore Gideon’s inflammatory tone. The doomsday statisticians brigade is just too eager to find evidence of a shrinking church. Overconfident, the Iron Rod imposters try to stoke unrest against the prophet among the devout. On the worst days, it feels like half the comments are written by bots hosted on a server farm in hell. (Hell, it turns out, resembles nothing so much as the online comments section of the Salt Lake Tribune.)

31 comments for “Satan’s troll farm

  1. Anthony Diaz
    February 11, 2019 at 12:40 pm

    This was spot on.

  2. Clark Goble
    February 11, 2019 at 12:43 pm

    Dead on. Great post.

  3. KLC
    February 11, 2019 at 12:44 pm

    “Sometimes, we troll ourselves.”

    When LDS blogs appeared almost 20 years ago we seemed like brothers and sisters discussing, joking and occasionally arguing about things in our family but all loyally attached to our family. Now we seem like a bunch of siloed strangers just arguing with each other.

  4. Seth R.
    February 11, 2019 at 12:48 pm

    “In short, if Satan had a Russian troll farm, the Mormon corner of the Internet would look much as it does today.”

    Yeah, I was going to say… don’t we already have that on the subreddits?

  5. James Olsen
    February 11, 2019 at 3:06 pm

    Solid Jonathan. Thank you.

  6. John W
    February 11, 2019 at 3:15 pm

    Your post was referenced on the ex-Mormon subreddit. People laughed at it, but mostly it hasn’t seemed to garner much attention, at least not yet. And I don’t see anyone posting comments on this blog from there, yet. Some trolls, I guess. They don’t really care.

  7. John W
    February 11, 2019 at 3:44 pm

    “The Nehor whisperers, trying too hard, deplore Gideon’s inflammatory tone.”

    Didn’t Nehor kill Gideon? I object to the metaphor. Come on, man. Ex-Mormons and progressive Mormons are simply driving hard arguments. No one is killing anyone. Spare me the exaggerations.

    “Korihor’s greatest hits”

    Korihor was supposed to have the freedom to believe and say as he pleased on the basis of there being “no law against a man’s belief”, wasn’t he? And then he was bound, carried and forcibly removed from the land of Jershon, taken before a judge, who was also a high priest, who had him bound again, placed in the “hands of officers”, and brought before Alma as well as someone else who was both the governor and the chief judge of the land (conflict of interests?) to essentially be interrogated and forced to confess that he was deceived under duress. Korihor was a victim of an oppressive government that claimed to allow freedom of belief, but didn’t actually practice it. How dare he try to engage people in discussion and persuade them through reasoning to reject their religious traditions. You treat Korihor as if he were this really bad guy. I fail to see what he was doing that was wrong.

  8. February 11, 2019 at 6:31 pm

    Nice, so true!

  9. Truckers Atlas
    February 11, 2019 at 11:37 pm

    This is a good nudge for me to do better. Thanks for this.

  10. JoshuaGlenn
    February 12, 2019 at 9:02 am

    Using the word “Mormon” is a victory for satan though. Just because you identify people( and/or Russian trolls) like to point it out And use it as a way of belittling an argument does not make it any less true. It is modern day revelation that using that word offends God.

    Why keep using it? It discredits yourself as you are ignoring direct recent revelation from God through the living prophet! You openly defy the prophet for ease. Why?

  11. JR
    February 12, 2019 at 9:46 am

    JoshuaGlenn, Are you a satirist or a gold-plater or merely a troll? What President Nelson said was “To remove the Lord’s name from the Lord’s Church is a major victory for Satan.” He did not say “Using the word ‘Mormon’ is a victory for satan…” President Nelson also stated that “if we allow nicknames [for the Church] to be used or adopt or even sponsor those nicknames ourselves, [The Savior] is offended.” He did not say “using that word offends God.” Nowhere in the OP is the word “Mormon” used as a nickname for the Church. Thank you for providing an example of the sort of thing the OP decries. If you were serious, your post would discredit you as you are ignoring the actual statements of the prophet and purporting that he said something other than what he said. Why?

  12. Jason
    February 12, 2019 at 10:34 am

    My question for the blogger. Do you know what the word “Troll” means?

    Most of us use the word “internet troll” to indicate someone who is pushing something provocative, not because they ‘are interested in honest criticism, or because they believe it; but because they want the attention.

    The way you use the term “troll” in this video leads me to believe that you don’t know the difference between honest criticism of the church, and trolling. And there is a big difference!!

    Please, for your own sake learn to distinguish between the two!!

  13. Not a Cougar
    February 12, 2019 at 5:19 pm

    Jonathan and Jason are both right. Moral outrage and verbal hand grenades are the tools of choice in online “discussion.” That being said, not all (and probably not most) grenade-tossers are trolls.

  14. Got Worn Out
    February 12, 2019 at 6:57 pm

    Very well said; I applaud this. I’ve never run a blog site, but once upon a time I had a website dedicated to LDS hymns. I was constantly dealing with members writing and criticizing me that I spent too much time with hymns in the hymnal and not enough time campaigning to “liberate” LDS congregations so they could sing hymns from outside the hymnal . . . while at the same time getting other letters condemning me for believing that hymns outside the CURRENT LDS hymnal even existed in the world. It was amusing at first, but it got old.

  15. Sch
    February 12, 2019 at 7:13 pm

    I’ve spent some time in my life trying to understand, hear, and see God in my life. I’ve spent no time at all trying to see Satan. We know so little about satan. Anyone can claim that anyone who they don’t like is a tool of the enemy. It’s not helpful. I believe that humans are capable at being awful all on their own. I didn’t find this post to be helpful. It seems to me that the post simply suggests that everything is shallow and hateful. Including, I guess, this very response

  16. Chet
    February 12, 2019 at 10:07 pm

    Was this post prompted by a recent post at BCC on the topic of “research?”

  17. February 12, 2019 at 11:53 pm

    So, to catch up with a few comments.

    John W.: Ex-Mormon, anti-Mormon, progressive Mormon, and troll are not synonyms, do not fall along some spectrum, and do not have overlapping interests. Be sure not to read the post with that assumption in mind.

    Also, Nehor: Murdered Gideon. Nehor whisperer: “While Gideon’s excess may be deplorable, don’t you think we need to try to understand the place of pain that shaped his worldview, and how the Nephite religious elite was implicated in the injustices that formed his experience?” Be sure to distinguish these two as well.

    I do use the word “Mormon” with trepidation and regret. I lack the talent and creativity to find a suitable replacement. I try to avoid such stylistic abominations as “Mormon church,” however. Also, thanks to JoshuaGlenn for providing a fantastic example of an Iron Rod impostor. The voice is way off, but that just shows you how hard it is to impersonate an authentically conservative Mormon voice.

    Not a.C.: It’s an open question how common actual trolls are. It doesn’t take many, though. With just one “person” lobbing grenades from the left and another “person” from the right, it’s easy to reach the conclusion that lobbing grenades is just a normal part of the conversation, or that the whole point of the conversation is to lob grenades. Rejecting that conclusion also requires you to make the uncomfortable assumption that every person you respond to online, whether antagonistic or friendly, has a probability less than 100% of actually existing in real life. It gets old after a while, as Got Worn Out mentions.

    Chet: No, this post has been in the works for a while. But it gets at some of the same problems mentioned there. It’s unfortunately the case that the Internet is flooded with bad health information and misleading political reporting. Why do we assume that the information about the church available online doesn’t suffer from the same problems? The thing that gets overlooked about research, serious research, is that it’s hard. It requires painstaking acquisition of background knowledge and specialized skills and digging through sources to which there is not convenient access. Doing serious research is good because it gives you some perspective on how history gets written, and some sympathy for authors who try to write it. But it’s impossible for anybody to research everything. Most of us can seriously research at most one narrow point. Trolling hides good information behind a cloud of useless information, and makes it more difficult to communicate with each other. It’s one reason we can’t have nice things, or at least discuss useful topics.

  18. A.A.C.
    February 13, 2019 at 12:27 am

    Wow. You really hate these people who disagree with you. They must have hurt you very very badly. The best advice seems to be to not read the comments. Unless these are family members of yours, ignoring them seems best. If they are family, then you have to decide between having relationships with real people, or winning on ideas and trashing human beings.
    Are you willing to destroy family members so you can “win”???

  19. Jason
    February 13, 2019 at 12:52 pm

    Jonathan, your response to the comments is a tad disingenuous if you ask me. I wasn’t the only person who pointed out that you conflated all criticism of the church as being trolling in the article. Not to mention you claimed in article that: ” Of course the “progressive” and “conservative” trolls would not only deny that there was such a thing as trolls, they would call “anti-Mormon” and “apostate” false and hurtful labels that should be banned from civilized conversation altogether”

    You are clearly projecting a bit here. As an Ex-Mormon myself I take no offense to being called an “apostate” or “anti-Mormon” when I’m criticism the Mormon church on “progressive” issues. I don’t particularly feel the need to launch ad hominem attacks myself, because the facts of the Mormon Church’s troubled history do most of the speaking for themselves, with no actual need of embellishment.

    You however, do seem to be attempting to justify the use of this form of Ad-Hominem, and you also seem to be attempting to dismiss all criticism against the church as being ‘in bad faith’, by associating it with trolling. Again you say very loudly in the comments that

    “Ex-Mormon, anti-Mormon, progressive Mormon, and troll are not synonyms, do not fall along some spectrum, and do not have overlapping interests. Be sure not to read the post with that assumption in mind.”

    But I’d never have come to that conclusion by reading the actual text of your article. Perhaps you can blame it’s lack of brevity for your message being insufficiently clear, however my personal suspicion is that you do not particularly distinguish between honest criticism from within, or without of the church. This suspicion is based on the above article, while it is a single data point and therefore not foolproof, you seem to be an experienced writer/blogger who generally says what he aims to say, and implies what he means to imply. That leaves me with the question: “do you legitimately not know thee difference between trolling and honest criticism, or do you know the difference and not care?”

    And lols I’m not really going for the “gotcha now you gonna get it” motive here. I would have called you out on this one just as much when I was a member as opposed to now when I am a non-member because of my fervent belief that if you have the truth, you don’t need to play fancy word-games or try to smear your opponent’s reputations by calling them “trolls” or “anti-Mormon” or “progressive critics” or what have you. All you need to do, is point out the facts, logic and evidence in your argument’s favor and let them speak for yourself.

    And lols Look at that. Not a single emotional hand grenade thrown in your direction. Not a single called name, not a single insult. A few questions as to your motives, but if you have honest ones surely you should be able to provide evidence, logic, and facts to support your statements without resorting to throwing and emotional hand grenades, or firing an labels such as “apostate” back in my direction

  20. Steve
    February 13, 2019 at 2:09 pm

    Jason- And you still fail to understand who he is talking about and what type of behavior he is talking about

  21. Jason
    February 13, 2019 at 3:42 pm

    Steve. You are correct. I do fail to understand why he is talking about, and what type of behavior he is talking about. In my first comment, I stated that I do not feel that his article uses the word “Troll” using the standard definition. I asked him what definition he was using, and how he distinguished between trolls and those offering honest criticism.

    His response was to make an empty assertion:

    “Ex-Mormon, anti-Mormon, progressive Mormon, and troll are not synonyms, do not fall along some spectrum, and do not have overlapping interests. Be sure not to read the post with that assumption in mind.”

    He is free to make that statement, but I do not see that said statement is supported, or supportable by the article he actually wrote. I would be very pleased if he, or you could give me a technical distinction between “Ex-Mormons, Anti-Mormons, Progressive Mormons, and Trolls” because by my reading of the article, he seems to be lumping all criticism, honest or dishonest as “Trolling”.

    Perhaps that is not his intent. In which case, he needs to clarify his intent by offering actual definitions of the distinctions between these groups, rather than just making empty assertions claiming that he does distinguish between these groups. Alternately, he could cite specific passages in his article that make the distinctions clear. I am unable to find such distinctions in the article he wrote, so if you have some insight into these distinctions, by all means explain them to me.

  22. Steve
    February 13, 2019 at 5:11 pm

    A social media troll, by definition, is someone who creates conflict on sites like Twitter, Facebook and Reddit by posting messages that are particularly controversial or inflammatory with the sole intent of provoking an emotional (read: angry) response from other users.

    He was probably using the term as it is generally understood.

  23. Jason
    February 13, 2019 at 11:15 pm

    That’s my understanding of that word, but that’s not the usage I read in the text. Try this one:

    “The “progressive” and the “conservative” trolls would not be unable to find common ground, however. They would be united in their disdain for the church as an institution and in full agreement about the inadequacy of the prophet, who would be accused both of straying from the purity of Joseph and Brigham, and of failing (though lack of inspiration) to enact the obviously necessary reforms. The trolls would agree that the church was foundering, that vague doubts and fervent religious feelings are both good reasons to avoid attending church, and that anyone expressing even the most anodyne support for the church should be labeled as either blinded by hate, an organizational drone rather than a true follower of Jesus, or both. There would be Mormon-themed leak sites whose agenda was not truth and transparency, but the advancement of influence campaigns against the church. There would be whole communities devoted to reinforcing feelings of doubt and applauding disaffection as they savored the latest controversies and ridiculed church members not yet enlightened enough to apostatize. Of course the “progressive” and “conservative” trolls would not only deny that there was such a thing as trolls, they would call “anti-Mormon” and “apostate” false and hurtful labels that should be banned from civilized conversation altogether”

    This paragraph right here, seems like it sweeps in all criticism of the church as being trolls. Seriously. When you talk about the effects of trolling, what’s the difference between an honest critic who thinks that the Mormon church is in desperate need of reform, and a troll? What’s the difference between someone who honestly sees the church as having a problematic, bigoted, sexist/racist past and a troll, when you phrase it like this?

    The church has a lot of “problematic issues” that are really, really honestly heartfelt, and this paragraph, for all of the prior one’s proper usage of troll seems to throw the baby out with the bathwater, nad add to it some people who are decidedly not trolls.

    While I’ll admit that I’m not super bothered by the term “anti-mormon” or “apostate” I wear my apostasy as an ex-mormon with pride, these are classic thought-stopping techniques that are designed to deflect criticism, rather than answer it honestly. That’s my issue here. He starts with a somewhat real issue, then extends it past it’s logical conclusion and into devaluing honest criticism.

  24. John W
    February 13, 2019 at 11:16 pm

    Jonathan, sure I see the difference between Nehor and a Nehor whisperer, but I don’t think it helps your argument. First you come of I the OP and in your response to me as suggesting that Nehor would be on the side of many ex-Mormons who might sympathize with Nehor’s reasons to get in an argument with Gideon. What Nehor taught bears little resemblance to what Ex-Mormons and progressive Mormons are talking about. Nehor founded his own church, advocated that preachers shouldn’t have to work normal jobs to get paid, promoted the idea that all will receive eternal life, and got rich from preaching, which he flaunted. These are most certainly not common themes in the ex-Mormon community and ex-Mormons most certainly aren’t criticizing the LDS Church for not teaching that preachers should receive pay and salvation for all. Of anything The common criticisms of the LDS Church are for being like Nehor in its teachings and practices (top leaders are paid by tithing, lavish temples, etc.).

    The Book of Mormon doesn’t say why Nehor got in an argument with Gideon, but it can be inferred that it was over his ideas of getting wealthy from preaching and telling everyone that they would be saved. Nowhere in the BOM account does it say that Nehor was pained by what the Nephite church was preaching. I simply can’t imagine today’s ex-Mormon community deriving much sympathy for Nehor. And he was a murderer. Seriously, what ex-Mormons and progressive Mormons sympathize with murderers? As annoying as some ex-Mormons might appear to you, I can’t imagine one ever justifying the murder of an LDS leader because that person felt pained and wronged by the church. Good grief!

  25. Steve J
    February 14, 2019 at 10:00 am

    This paragraph right here, seems like it sweeps in all criticism of the church as being trolls. Seriously. When you talk about the effects of trolling, what’s the difference between an honest critic who thinks that the Mormon church is in desperate need of reform, and a troll? What’s the difference between someone who honestly sees the church as having a problematic, bigoted, sexist/racist past and a troll, when you phrase it like this?

    Wrong, you are reading into it what you want. Obviously, the manner in which you engage and the purpose in which you engage someone or group would be the difference “what’s the difference between an honest critic who thinks that the Mormon church is in desperate need of reform, and a troll.”

    I have a feeling that because “(you are) not super bothered by the term “anti-mormon” or “apostate” (you) wear (your) apostasy as an ex-mormon with pride” that somehow that is blinding you from a clear distinction between an “honest critic” and a “troll”… It seems like many other people can easily see the distinction.

  26. Steve
    February 14, 2019 at 10:02 am

    ” As annoying as some ex-Mormons might appear to you, I can’t imagine one ever justifying the murder of an LDS leader because that person felt pained and wronged by the church. Good grief!”… Well, I agree not murder(except some possibly mentally ill individuals) some extreme people are willing to cross many norms of decency and respect…

  27. Mhb
    February 14, 2019 at 1:34 pm

    John W,
    Nehor was teaching a populist kind of belief. Much the same way modern day intellectualists attempt the same using philosophies that are contemporarily popular. The content of the teaching certainly changes, but the pattern is the same: my will, not thine, be done.

    Anti/ex Mormons might not think the shoe fits, but they’re wearing it nonetheless.

  28. John W
    February 14, 2019 at 5:17 pm

    Mhb, intellectualism has historically pushed against the grain of what has been popular and continues to do so today. It is not in the business of confirming but constantly challenging predominant ideas. Galileo, Copernicus, and Darwin all published ideas that were deeply unpopular in their respective times. It is actually rather ironic that today’s LDS populations have come around to accepting their ideas.

    Your claim is based on the idea that what the LDS leaders teach is unpopular but true nonetheless. Aren’t the LDS leaders’ teachings extremely popular in Utah, parts of Arizona, Idaho, and California? Couldn’t it just as well be argued that the LDS leaders are promoting a sort of populism and preaching what their masses of followers want to hear and confirming their pre-existing biases? Couldn’t it also be argued that the LDS Church is preaching to enrich itself, riches that it flaunts with its construction of lavish, multi-million dollar temples around the world? Bear in mind that the leaders are instructed not to just pass around a collection plate and ask for anonymous donations. They exert high pressure on individual households in the Mormon belt to pay thousands of dollars each year through tithing settlement, a procedure in which families are asked to go personally before a bishop who asks them in front of a printout of yearly personal tithing records if they are full tithe payers, and who are instructed to withhold temple recommends from those who are not, thus possibly causing rifts within families for one not being able to attend a wedding or baptize a child? Could it not be argued that the LDS leaders sort of resemble Nehor in a way, at least in the sense that you are arguing intellectuals to resemble Nehor?

  29. Brian
    February 14, 2019 at 6:00 pm

    The discussion of Nehor reveals what I see as the main fault of the post: one man’s troll is another man’s truth-teller. It could easily be argued that Satan’s “trolls” would write posts like this one to cause conflict, or that these “troops” would only write faith-promoting and black/white stuff. I mean, I know a lot of people who have left because that’s how they were raised. Would such posts be the work of trolls as well? Like most of Jonathan’s posts, I admire the motion of the it, the desire of it. Greatly. But, I also have concerns. It seems that, too often, things get pushed ‘too far’ (or not far enough, depending) and end up reading like an attempt to “put people in their place.” Perhaps the best way I can think of right now to describe what I mean is that the idea seems to be controlling the post rather than the other way around.

  30. February 15, 2019 at 10:14 am

    I’m getting back to this conversation late, and unfortunately I don’t have time to respond to everything as I should.

    To get back to Jason, as Steven says, I really am using “troll” with its generally accepted meaning. Jason cites several paragraphs of the original post that he reads instead as saying, “Ex-Mormons are trolls.” But notice the structure of the my post; it’s always: if A, then B. Which is not the same at all as saying: A = B. “If a triangle has two 75-degree angles, the third angle is 30 degrees” does not imply that 2 x 75 = 30.

    And I don’t think Jason is a troll at all. He seems quite sincere and admirably willing to state what he believes. So why is he so convinced that I think ex-Mormons are trolls? And why is he arguing about it on this site? If his neighbor was holding a Bible study session at home, Jason doesn’t strike me as the type to burst into his neighbor’s living room and proclaim, “God is dead,” as if his neighbor’s Bible study group had never even considered the idea.

    I think that Jason is being trolled. Someone, somewhere, gave Jason a pointer to this post with the framing that I think ex-Mormons are trolls. That’s the prior assumption he entered the room with, and why there’s such a failure to communicate. Just like Russian trolls would intentionally try to set opposing camps at each other – in real life, on the streets, in simultaneous demonstrations if possible – someone hates seeing Jason leave the church in peace while a half-dozen people say “nice post” to each other on some far-off corner of the Internet. And so the troll does whatever he can to put everyone on a collision course.

    John W, on the other hand, takes Korihor ventriloquism beyond ironic citation, beyond knowing self-parody, to something that approaches performance art. For all of John W’s comments, he’s never gotten around to stating what he himself believes in. He’s caught up on the latest ex-Mormon discussions and quick with a link, so I’m pretty sure he’s not currently serving as his ward’s Gospel Doctrine teacher. But in contrast to Jason, John W. isn’t willing to take responsibility for what he believes in. He only wants to ask questions about other people’s beliefs. At times he’s strangely rigid in his literalism (as if a Nehor whisperer must mean defending murder, rather than, say, regrettable acts of arson against LDS meetinghouses that nevertheless are openings to a conversation about how much power the church wields in Utah, and how it’s hardly surprising that the omnipresent buildings become targets for people with legitimate grievances, and as long as no one was injured, isn’t this an opportunity to step back and reflect on how the church shoves its views on people?). Once he has hit upon the most uncharitable reading, he will cling to it and accuse people of moving the goalposts if they point out that an illogical narrow reading was not primarily what they had in mind.

    And to answer John W’s question: No, the suggestion that our prophets and apostles are the real Nehors is completely ridiculous – as if God couldn’t make up his mind between Alma and Nehor as to who should lead his church! – and your paragraph suggesting they are is a concoction of half truths and howling errors. Seriously, Copernicus? Far from being a staunch defender of intellectualism against the masses, he was a church official whose cosmological ideas started being popularized by astrologers even before he published them, alongside a PR campaign led by some of the major religious leaders of the day. See my article from a few years back in the Journal for the History of Astronomy. Maybe it’s time to find a new hobby?

  31. John W
    February 15, 2019 at 12:11 pm

    Jonathan, again with this idea that Korihor was this smoke-and-mirrors type of trickster (his arguments seemed fairly clear to me, whether you agree with them or not). Sigh.

    I browsed ex-Mormon Reddit’s responses to the St. George fire, which is still under investigation, so it has not been determined that it was caused by arson. Anyhow everyone seemed to be against arson. So again I fail to see your point.

    On the suggestion that the modern LDS prophets are the real Nehors, I only said that it could be argued to be as much if we are only looking at preaching popular ideas for money, but didn’t overtly defend the argument (after all, Nehor did kill Gideon, so there is no comparison between Nehor and the LDS Church, similarly there should be no comparison between Nehor and ex-Mormons as you are arguing, or between Nehor and modern intellectuals Mhb is arguing). I was responding to Mhb, who was claiming that the intellectuals who challenge the teachings of the LDS Church are the real Nehors because they teach what is popular. This is absurd since what the LDS Church teaches is quite popular in the Mormon belt and that what many of the leading intellectuals teach and have taught has gone against the grain of what is popular. Copernicism was most certainly unpopular among Catholic clergy when Galileo promoted it.

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