I’ve been struggling to articulate to myself the difficulties that true blue Mormons have with new order Mormons. I’m not satisfied with what I’ve been able to come up with, and I hope you will be able to help me work through this.
The struggles of Mormons going through a faith transition to become new order Mormons or ex-Mormons is well documented within the bloggernacle. Through online communities they are able to find support and understanding that they may even be afraid to ask for in their families and congregations.
My concern in this post is the true blue Mormon. Are new order Mormons justified in being hesitant to come out to them? While some saints will be welcoming and loving of all people who want to be affiliated with the church in any capacity, I think a great deal of regular saints feel threatened by new order Mormons, and as a result have less than charitable reactions.
I can think of three areas in which a regular saint may feel threatened by a new order Mormon:
1. By being selective about which doctrines and practices to believe and adhere to, the new order Mormon is in effect denying the authority of the church (and by extension, God) to guide or mandate them in those aspects of their lives. This is seen as an act of blasphemy, and may be a taken as a personal affront by those who have sacrificed their personal preferences to live by the church standards.
2. A regular saint may be concerned that the new order Mormon may not be willing or able to carry his or her weight in the day to day work of the church. If they are selective about what to believe, they may be selective in how to serve, or may be seen as otherwise unreliable or untrustworthy. After all, if a true blue Mormon has difficulty making the necessary sacrifice to serve in time consuming and often tedious church callings, and they are only able to get through it because they have their faith to motivate them, how can they expect someone who lacks faith to be able or willing to carry their share of the load? The fewer people who contribute, the more work it is for those who do.
3. A person who has lost a traditional testimony, who has found an uneasy balance with their own faith and doubt may represent an implied threat to those who have not entertained doubts. The very fact that someone has expressed doubts about their faith, maybe even lost their faith, is itself a threat to the believer’s faith. It can be the start of an existential faith crisis. Our belief is so much a part of our identity, that to even think about questioning it is uncomfortable. Our faith defines who we are, how we view the world and our place in it (NOMs who have already gone through this process know exactly how painful this can be). Having a “faithless” person in close proximity can be terrifying to the faithful person whose faith is not perhaps as rock solid as they would like it to be. So the new order Mormon represents an existential threat to the faith of the true blue Mormon.
I freely admit that my analysis may be completely wrong. As I said, I’m still trying to understand this myself. Feel free to correct my list or add to it, but keep in mind the comment policy: we should respect belief and not call others’ righteousness into question.
Interesting discussion, Rachel. I think it is also a function of how confident versus how insecure in the faith a reacting Mormon is; whether the reacting Mormon lives within the Mormon Corridor, surrounded by similar Mormons, or lives in “the mission field” (dated term, but I’m not sure what the new term is) and is more used to people cycling in and out of the Church; and whether their family example has raised them to be intolerant and mistrusting of fringe or ex-Mormons or more tolerant and understanding. I particularly stress the family issue when fringers or exes start complaining about how badly their families allegedly treat them — stop blaming my church for your family problems!
So the worst case (in terms of ability to handle disaffection in another) would be an insecure Utah/Idaho Mormon who comes from an intolerant family.
Good call on the family dynamics, Dave. Our families can be the source of our greatest joy and our greatest sorrow.
For me part of the question is ordinances/temple. My assumption is that NOMs would no longer have temple recommends, and then that creates a real divide in families, and in worship and belief.
Interesting. I’m happy to see this post because I think the bloggernacle needs more reasonable discussion of this topic.
I want to suggest rejecting the labels TBM and NOM, or whatever substitutes one might like (I think Iron Rod and Liahona were used for a while.) I think there is a little NOM in the bluest TBM and a little TBM in the most foyer-ish NOM. One thing Facebook has made me aware of: that ultra-orthodox person at church who scares me because of his rigidity . . . watches football on Sunday. That totally NOM person I friended because I met her on a blog . . . got totally weepy over a saccharine testimony post. We might do better to have more conversations about actual behaviors and attitudes and practices and fewer about labels which, unsurprisingly, tend to divide people.
Now that I’ve argued against labels, I’m going to use them to respond to the rest of your post. :) Your concerns by number:
(1) We are, every last one of us, selective about doctrine and practice–this isn’t unique to NOM and I’d add that it probably isn’t fair to blame them for a difficulty that would exist in LDS community even if they didn’t exist.
(2) I’ve encountered *plenty* of TBM who don’t follow through on their commitments to their callings–NOM hardly have the market on that cornered!
(3) But threats to faith are also presented by the TBM who leaves his wife and six little kids, the TBM who gets caught by the police for fraud, or even the TBM who is revealed to be flawed. The NOM challenge to faith may be real, but, again they don’t own the genre.
There is one issue you didn’t mention that I think is, for me at least, a concern with the increased presence of NOM: the impact on how/what we teach our children. I think the Joanna Brooks phenomenon is, in general, a good thing for the Church (which is not to say that I agree with every specific position she has taken; I think most of the value of her brand is in her ability to speak to the media, but that’s another post), but I must admit to cringing when a CNN report on her said, if am recalling this correctly, that she teaches youth Sunday School in her ward. It made me think about my own kids, who are trying to negotiate the boundaries of faith and practice, and how complicated it would be to try to disentangle Sister Brooks’ practices and beliefs from orthodox church practice and beliefs if she were their teacher every week. Now, ultimately, I think my kids’ faith could be richer and deeper for having had that experience of sorting through, exploring, and evaluating these things . . . but it’s work, and it’s murky, and it’s complicated, and, frankly, I’d rather take a nap on a Sunday afternoon than spend three hours talking to my kids about why it is OK for Sister Brooks to ___ when I don’t want them to ____. But, of course, in this case, her example would force me to be the better parents by having that conversation.
So maybe we should be thanking the NOM for making us do the heavy lifting of thinking about our beliefs?
What an incredibly thought-provoking article! Although I consider myself a TBM, I have to plead guilty to the occasional Sunday afternoon football game or a quick trip to the store for something we had forgotten to pick up on Saturday for our Sunday meal. Recognizing our own shortcomings, we need to respect the views of other members and not judge. The thing that kind of scares me however, is the idea that we are becoming a “cafeteria-style religion”, picking and choosing what suits us, thus denying the authority of the church. Great post. Prompts elf-reflection.
anon-I think a NOM could continue to be a temple recommend holder if they still feel they can answer the temple questions appropriately. The category is very broad and may include people who acknowledge that polygamy is a major if understated part of our current doctrine and consciously reject it, but are otherwise faithful members, people who feel a strong connection to Heavenly Mother (if they talk about it, they move into the NOM category), and people who disregard the Word of Wisdom. As Julie points out, the TBM/NOM is not an either/or category; it’s just a useful shorthand so we can have a conversation.
Julie-I agree with everything you’ve said here. I originally wrote 4 pages trying to sort out these ideas, including objections and rebuttals, and I wasn’t even close to having a clear and coherent understanding of the issues. The fact is that we’re all complex people, with complicated relationships to each other, and it is all to easy to misunderstand. Blame is almost never fair, but we still do it it. I think it’s good to try to understand the factors that play into creating judgment.
Given that “we are, every last one of us, selective about doctrine and practice,” won’t we always be disentangling the Sunday school teacher’s practices and beliefs from orthodox church practice and beliefs, whoever it is?
Yes, Peter, in fact I think we have an obligation to do just that. We believe in personal revelation and that we are each accountable for our own testimonies.
As has been stated many times on T&S, we’re a church that cares more about what you do than what you believe. That’s why people with unorthodox beliefs can still get temple recommends as long as they obey the Word of Wisdom. Or why we love semi-active members who still show up to their Den Leader calling every week, even if we didn’t see them at Church.
And we’re less concerned about what you’re doing behind the walls of your own home as long as you’re letting the HTs and VTs come through the door once in awhile.
I’d like to at least chime in here and say I appreciate discussions about this topic. I wish more TB’s would at least somehow diminish their ignorance about what NO’s are, what Internet Mormons are, how the online dynamics work with both TB and NO Mormons, etc. I consider myself quite “NO” and my bishop has no idea where I am coming from. I don’t articulate things well, and I really wish he could at least realize that I have a community in which to vent, bounce ideas off of, communicate with and share concerns, life events, crises, etc.
Anyway, of all the interesting posts I come across, book reviews on certain topics and this always seem to trump the others, so thanks.
Dave & Julie, I think your comments very insightful on this issue. There’s something important to add, however: the betrayal of a friend is more intimate and painful than the betrayal of an acquaintance, and analogously the heretic is harder to abide than the heathen. The stakes are simply different. There are aspects of the betrayal that are the same, but then there are aspects that are very different. This is true for all religions, but particularly for those that facilitate close-knit community or have a claim (explicit and/or practical) to peoplehood. When I embrace my identity as largely constituted by my being part of the (literal) people of God, then I have a much greater stake in how that people evolves. Outsiders and the explicit challenge they bring will always have a role to play in this shaping of identity, but their role is as that of an outsider. It’s already a difficult thing to in a sense submit one’s identity and to try and negotiate and work out that identity and understanding in the midst of a group of those who are doing likewise – for the reasons you bring up, because everything on Rachel’s list is also an issue for the church even without NOMs. But it’s a much more difficult thing, however, (or at least, we experience it so) to submit to those whom one feels are trying to play an inside role without sharing the fundamental commitments around which (at least as one understands it) the community is explicitly meant to revolve.
I think this is another way of trying to say what’s going on with Julie’s Joanna Brooks scenario.
There’s another analogy that I think sheds some light on this (though, like all analogies, there are some significant differences as well). I work daily within the constraints imposed by my academic discipline and its attendant professional culture. I have to submit myself to the evolving rules and practices of this culture, and particularly to the disciplined barrage of criticism that my work receives from my peers. Part of what makes this barrage constructive is the trust I have in the shared training and goals. Sometimes this is difficult, especially since there are significant differences of opinion in philosophy on what (and who) makes good philosophy and on what the relevant questions/research interests are today. Outside criticism can also be very valuable, particularly in certain fora. It would be an altogether different scenario, however, if members of my department became (explicitly or secretly) skeptical of the entire project of philosophy (perhaps feeling more of a kinship with physics or linguistics or english or theology), but continued to try and play an insider’s role. Or to make the analogy simpler, it wouldn’t work for a philosophy journal to turn its peer review responsibilities over to members of other disciplines.
I would play off of 3, but with a variation. As you say:
I would phrase things a bit differently…many people who are experiencing doubts/questions/faith crises are really shaken up about that process. In their search for answers, they are a real burden on everyone else around them — because the questions they have are really critical to them (e.g., a crisis in faith is a crisis in the definition of who we are…so in some ways, trying to resolve questions is about self-preservation.)
This burdensome aspect really isn’t anything that anyone else wants to take on, of course.
I fit the description of a new order Mormon (NOM). Given that less than half of the current Church membership can be classified as active — and even less than that as temple-going active — it would seem that members who don’t believe or live all of the teachings of the Church are in fact in the majority. As has already been pointed out above, we are each of us somewhere on the TBM-NOM spectrum.
I think there’s a natural segregation of the membership into active/inactive which can be explained by the self-selection bias. Those who feel comfortable attending and participating according to the standard scripts mostly choose to stay, while those who feel like they have no outlet for expressing their questions or doubts mostly choose to leave. But in the middle, there’s a gray area of individuals who may appear to be active on the outside, yet who have lost some or all of their beliefs on the inside. Because of the stigma associated with expressing doubt in the Church, they remain silent. From what I understand, many of these individuals choose to stay in order to maintain harmony in their marriage, but given the choice, they would rather leave.
In my experience, the three dynamics you’ve identified in the OP are accurate. In relation to the third, I understand that Erenst Becker’s book “The Denial of Death” touches on a similar idea, namely that believing members tend to feel uncomfortable around formerly believing members because of the existential threat posed by nonbelief. In other words, we tend to feel more secure in our beliefs in the afterlife if everyone around us holds those same beliefs. However, when our beliefs are challenged by others rejecting those beliefs, we tend to feel fear related to death. Psychologists have shown that when a person is primed subliminally to think about death, then that person is more likely to be hostile toward others who hold different religious beliefs.
I find your comments very interesting regarding outsiders/insiders and the dynamics of those roles regarding a community. I think of the beginnings of not only the Restoration in the Latter-Days, but also the dynamics when “Christianity” began after Jesus’ death; how it was a Jewish evolution that eventually was forced out with those community dynamics you speak of. The Orthodox Jews and Jewish-Christians and the gentiles could not reconcile differences and so parted ways. I am sure there were many “crises” when this took place. Also, during Joseph Smith’s time especially, but throughout our history up to the current day, we’ve had insider’s play roles outside of the normal parameters, and we as a people have dealt with them on a personal level (interpreting what they are and how they fit in our personal faith) and on a communal level (what the church ultimately does with them (i.e., D. Michael Quinn, etc.).
I just think it is a complex analogy you present and I’m not sure how to digest it.
I find these labels so damaging. I don’t see how to have a conversation about this without getting into a debate over who qualifies as what. And the TBM label is most often used pejoratively so I look at it and see a mindless sheep who can’t think for themselves. And to the words that I find un-useful, “traditional” is high on the list. What is a “traditional testimony”? What is a “regular saint”?
I think it is entirely possible to have a conversation without those labels. The advantage of the shorthand is far outweighed by the baggage that they bring.
I think we are all on a unique path through life. Period. And what is going on with others around us should not threaten or bother us in any way. Loved Elder Holland’s talk at last conference.
And we all are selective in what commandments we follow. When I was Relief Society president, I was a total slacker at family history, which I have spent time on in other seasons. I tried to make decisions based on the promptings of the spirit rather than my own personal preferences, but still.
Julie, I am sure that some of the parents in my ward are horrified that I am teaching their children. But I truly do pray for them and that what I teach will be the message that the Lord has for them, and I follow the lesson manual and teach from the scriptures. Very little of my personal philosophy gets transmitted. More than I think, sure, but probably less than the parents fear.
Good points Julie. Although to be fair, I cringe at some of the stuff people who consider themselves believing Mormons teach, too, so the issue of our children and youth learning things that may injure their testimonies (Creationism, anyone?) is not unique to NOMs, either.
But I completely agree that few people can—or for that matter should—completely categorize themselves one way or the other.
In relation to the first dynamic listed in the OP, consider the case of blacks and the Priesthood. Pre-1978, many general authorities made authoritative statements that race was causally related to righteousness in the pre-mortal life. Post-1978, however, those statements are now dismissed as being merely a product of the racist times in which they were made. So if a pre-1978 NOM were to have rejected the idea that race is a measure of righteousness, would they also then have been rejecting the authority of God? I don’t think so. I don’t think it’s correct to equate denying the authority of the Church with denying the authority of God. In fact, becoming aware of just how human the Church and its leaders are can precipitate a faith crisis that may eventually cause one to self-identify as NOM.
I think a great deal of regular saints feel threatened by new order Mormons, and as a result have less than charitable reactions. What business is it of their’s what another Mormons believe? Yes, threatened is probably the right word! Conservative orthodoxy is pharisaical in nature replacing the spirit of the gospel and facilitating one’s personal relationship with God with enforced outward behavioral signs of conformity to the letter of the law and to cultural (tribal) markers and a brokered relationship with God. Some call them the “faithful” but if the research referred to in the links below regarding instinctual behavior is true they may more accurately be called the fearful and sometimes even the hateful! Fear and disgust of other beliefs and behaviors (tribes) motivates them to exclude and defend.
Thank you Silhan, I liked your post.
(Not a fan of labels, but using them for shorthand and even coining a new one . . .)
A subset of the TBM is the class of those who need and want and believe that it ALL FITS, that everything makes sense (about the Church). I run across “all fits Mormons” (AFM) all the time. For any AFM who thinks and reads and talks, maintaining the “all fits” position is real work, whether or not ultimately correct.
All this to make the observation that just about anything a NOM says adds to the workload for an AFM and sets up a natural antagonism. I’d even posit that it is only (mostly?) the AFM who are bothered by NOM, recognizing there are a lot of TBM who do not maintain or need to maintain an “all fits” position and who are (therefore?) not particularly bothered by the NOM.
To begin, I am, as far as labels go, more of a NOM. I have to play a little devils advocate and say that everyone has a bit of fear when it comes to beliefs. Just because I am very much in the minority when I go to church on Sunday, doesn’t mean I don’t feel threatened when it comes to my personal beliefs. It just so happens that I am a minority and we tend to focus on the majority of church-goers.
By way of labels, yes I agree. Those who fit into the AFM category usually can’t maintain that for too long without espousing at least a little bit of selectivity into what they try and make fit.
Also, on the other end (i.e., those that blatantly ignore or avoid issues so as to not have to “fit” them into their worldview, I posit that those TBM’s that ultimately disagree with those things they are ignoring or avoiding are doing so because they know those things don’t fit into their worldview, or that they cannot make sense of them one way or another. These people would be uncomfortable with NOM’s if prodded. They prefer to have no confrontations either with their faith or with their community.
Sure we all have insecurities but if you read the information you will see that the emotions of fear and disgust is more related to conservative attitudes.
1. A lot of nommery involves, for lack of a better word, deceit. I don’t think anyone is too ‘threatened,’ to use your loaded word, by someone who is having faith struggles and is open about it. But a good deal of the NOM ethos seems to be that the most important thing is you, the individual NOMMer, finding some accomodation that works for you, and if that involves being honest about your lack of belief to your family and church, great, but if not, thems the breaks.
2. Its a conflict of visions. Faithful Mormons believe that the Church is true and that its true doctrines, genuinely sacred history, and uniquely efficacious ordinances is what the Church and Church participation is fundamentally about. NOMs don’t. You don’t have to psychologize faithful Mormons or infantilize them like you’ve done in this post to see why that creates conflict.
3. Sociological. Its a defensible and I think true belief that institutions, especially religious institutions, tend to fall apart as they lose focus and their core spiritual commitments. Its also defensible and I think a true belief that institutions tend to adapt to fit their participants. So the more Mormon participants who don’t buy into Mormonism, the more danger that the institution in practice, especially on the ground level, will become thinner and less committed to anything thick. Water instead of blood. You won’t understand the faithful Mormon mindset if you put the Church in a vacuum where mainline Protestantism and Spirit of Vatican II Catholicism never happened.
I agree, just trying to keep things balanced. A “leftist” or “moderate” attitude is generally one of open-mindedness and inclusion, yet in the vein of realizing everyone not only picks and chooses what they believe and what they leave behind, as well as the fact that we are all in completely different places in our testimonies, we have people who consider themselves TB yet are very inclusive, and we have those who consider themselves NO, yet espouse a very exclusive and fearful attitude, I don’t care what the articles say, especially regarding politics, as that has little to do with this discussion.
1. You seem to interpret the “selfishness” from the fact that it is a minority issue. Personally, that’s how I see it. How else are we supposed to talk about it? NOM’s are excluded on many levels, but it is a legitimate thing to bring up these issues because that defines our faith.
2. Just because there is a conflict of visions doesn’t mean you can’t talk about it. Your interpretation of “infantizing” TB’s doesn’t jive.
3. I think you are taking it in the wrong direction here. Let’s take for example my NOM belief that the “sacred history” involves the pretty picture of Joseph Smith having one version of the first vision. I want to talk about and embrace the three versions and be forthright and honest about them, not rationalize the other ones away. I personally think this is a good discussion to have, not one to be ignored or brushed under the rug. I flat out disagree that the NOM mindset, in general, could be the ruin to the LDS church as a whole.
I won’t use labels, because those offered here don’t fit my posting, but it sometimes seems to me that for some, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is a gathering in the gospel of Jesus Christ and the priesthood restored to the earth with authority, while for others the Church is a social organization of, by, and for men and mankind. Within each of these two broad categories, there are some who are comfortable and some who are uncomfortable.
I’m not sure what you are replying to. I didn’t mention anything about selfishness or minorities in my first point, anything about not talking in my second, and nothing about painting a pretty picture of church history in my third. Perhaps we have pretty different understandings of what a New Order Mormon is?
“may represent an implied threat to those who have not entertained doubts.”
That’s just insulting towards those of us that have entertained doubts (and still do occasionally) but are faithful, believing Mormons who buy the strong truth claims made by the church. In fact, nearly all the TBMs I know have or have had doubts. They just overcome/overcame them and don’t publicize it (though they do discuss it in church or private setting on occasion).
All in all, I agree with Adam G. on this. This post, whether intentionally or not, makes TBMs look infantile and fearful and the NOMs mature and brave.
(@dallske – read “The Churching of America” by Finke and Stark. Adam is right on this, NOMs due threaten the viability of the church because the more liberal churches become, the less viable and less dynamic they become).
I was maybe being too brief and skipping some arguments to get to my points.
” …a good deal of the NOM ethos seems to be that the most important thing is you, the individual NOMMer, finding some accomodation that works for you..” i.e.: selifishness.
“…You don’t have to psychologize faithful Mormons or infantilize them like you’ve done in this post to see why that creates conflict.”
Your interpretation here, to me, says that we don’t have to have this discussion in this way because of your interpretation. I.e., we are talking about it.
In your third post, I was merely giving an example of where we differ and how a NOM persepective wouldn’t be destructive. It it that hard to see how MY example can or cannot be a response to your post, without you having first included MY example? How else can one use an example?
#24 Water down the gospel? I thought that was correlations job! So you would rather partial believers (from the orthodox viewpoint) were outside the church? Would Christ agree?
I disagree. Just because a book says so doesn’t make it so across the board. This church started out quite liberal. Only around 1900 and afterward did we really become institutionalized and corporate. There are many aspects to this church that make it effective and successful and to discount the ability to be dynamic BECAUSE of the left and not in spite of it, to me, shows ignorance. Also, a church doesn’t have to necessarily be “liberal” or “conservative”. A moderate church is quite dynamice and quite viable as it espouses a wider range of beliefs.
Also, how do you see it as an insult? No one is discouraging or downplaying the importance of finding one’s way and defining one’s testimony through this dynamic both in the public forum and the private.
Here are excerpts from the links I posted in 18:
Biology and political orientation: Persons judged by both themselves and others as being more fearful, even in nursery school, are more likely to have, or to have in the future, more conservative views…What is familiar may be less threatening than what is unfamiliar, which has been argued to explain why conservatives are more suspicious of change than liberals…Conservatism is associated with being more sensitive to disgust…Liberal participants were better able to accept changes or conflicts in established patterns…The tendency of conservatives to block distracting information could be a good thing depending on the situation.
Political movements have more to do with hatred than with compassion…Hate is what motivates tribes to form alliances, it is the unrestrained joy of the anticipated battle with neighboring tribes, it is blood lust, it is the fear that is covered up in an excitement of final conquest, and it can be kept alive over very long periods of time. It is only released or put aside when the enemy has been vanquished and the threat is no longer present. Hatred can last for a few minutes or a lifetime…Hatred is our innate motivator to fight back, and it is not activated unless we experience the emotion of fear or disgust…hate resides in the old reptilian brain, and how fear can flood the brain with neurotransmitters that heighten the state of aggression and hate, until it becomes learned and internalized. Once we come to hate the other, however that hate was activated, it will not go away easily…Hate is a deep emotion, molded by evolution to keep us from harm. It can only be activated if a real harm or a perceived harm activates the system – whether through individual experience or mass-media propaganda – and the feelings are internalized for varying lengths of tenure…We can’t just reason away disgust, our pattern recognition minds find meaning in how others behave and how they appear. And these emotions existed before language, science or even before postmodernism. We are still just apes with an enlarged neocortex…humans are not very inquisitive, do not think for themselves, but rather follow tradition, including accepting what is currently hated and feared. Intelligence has not transformed us into scientifically empirically based explorers of the truth – most people are tied to the status quo.
I don’t know how NOM’s react to that label (although since at least a portion of them coined it, it’s probably acceptable), but I really detest the TBM label — it’s a pejorative epithet applied to us by those who have left us, in spirit at least, and seem to feel that their leaving is something that grants, or should grant, them added stature. We’re nowhere near ready or willing to turn the intended insult into an acceptable thing, the way we’ve adjusted to “Yankee” and “Mormon.”
In actual church service/life, believing members do not always act according to what they know (someone used the shopping on Sunday illustration) and may sometimes go beyond church doctrine in what they teach (that recent Sharing Time example of telling kids they weren’t modest if they wore something other than that elbow-to-neck-to-knee costume she found somewhere). That’s irksome but easily recognized and dealt with. What isn’t so easily recognized or dealt with is the NOM teacher of children or youth who doesn’t believe in the importance of temple marriage, so instead of teaching the doctrine teaches that temples are nice and all that, but it’s also fine to settle for something less because there are so many good people who have happy marriages despite having omitted the temple. Or who teaches any number of other ideas that, while perhaps not blatantly false doctrine, tend to lower and weaken and treat as unimportant our highest LDS ideals.
Another area “in which a regular saint may feel threatened by a new order Mormon” is online. I suppose I’m the bloggernacle poster child for expressing irritation and hostility to NOMs who invade what have been my favorite bloggernacle sites. A thread like the current one is fine for everybody to participate — but when posts invite discussion of some topic from the point of view of active, practicing, believing Mormons, it’s worse than annoying when NOMs show up and change the dynamic. They’re always talking on (and on and on and on) about creating safe spaces for them to explore their questions and declare their disbelief, but they often refuse to let *us* have safe spaces to discuss our belief. When a post invites discussion about how doctrine X or practice Y defines us as Mormons, and a NOM shows up to say, “Well, wait a minute, you’re assuming that doctrine X is true or that practice Y is a good thing. Let me tell you why it’s false and how it destroyed my family,” that’s disruptive and destroys the whole thread. We can no longer talk about Mormon life. We’re reduced to arguing, once again, for the bajillionth time, the truth claims of the church with people whose current lives are built around the rejection of those claims. *That’s* the real threat posed by NOMs to regular Saints like me. (And I’ll quite readily admit the likelihood that there are obnoxious believers who invade NOMspace thinking that if they bear their testimonies repeatedly in the most naive and annoying manner possible, they will reconvert everybody. I’m no threat to NOMs in that respect because I don’t hang out in their territory. I would be grateful if they didn’t hang out in mine, or at least would permit us to carry on our discussions without their disruptive input.)
I think the difference is what you term believing members have church, VT and HT etc. as protected space and NOMs do not. Btw many TBMs self identify as TBMs on the bloggernacle so they don’t seem to mind.
Speaking for myself and only myself, my argument with those who identify themselves as NOM is not that they are experiencing a crisis of faith it is that doing so changes their behavior. Some, not all of course, disrupt family gatherings and upset other family members by talking to excess about the wonderful new things they are learning about the origins of the church. They are not satisfied with being social Mormons who like the standards and culture of the church, no they want everyone to read and believe all the classic literature that denigrates and “exposes” the disreputable foundations of Mormonism. They hold the irrational belief that anyone who reads these books will become like them. They adapt their actions and words to fit what they think their listener will accept. They will not let it rest. At best they are confused and are struggling. At worst they have made up their minds and are duplicitous in the extreme. They have an agenda that must remain hidden.
In short I think #24 hits the nail right on the head. Thanks Adam
That’s not the difference at all, Howard, unless you expect to bar all believing Mormons from associating with one another online. And “TBM” remains unacceptable to me and many others — if you apply it to me, I will automatically assume that you intend to insult me (which is less an assumption and more a demonstrated fact, now that you have been put on notice that I find the term offensive).
Where did the name “new order” originate as applied to Mormons? When I saw the title of the post, I was convinced it was about extreme right wing Mormons. For Europeans, and I assume for all who know world history, “New order” evokes Nazism.
insult is just a pyschological defense. One grabs the moral high ground and hides behind to express supposidly socially acceptable outrage at their obvious victimization (that isn’t).
Funny – re comment 6: I don’t believe polygamy is a major part of our current doctrine (and I reject it outright as an eternal principle), and I feel a strong connection to Heavenly Mother (and talk about her regularly), and I have never considered myself anything other than an active, temple-worthy faithful member. I also in no way consider myself a NOM. I don’t think either of those positions are contrary to any current doctrine. Neither of them are even a factor in the temple interview questions. What are you saying? You have to believe in polygamy to be an active, faithful TBM?
Your post and Adams #24 is somewhat a representation of that fear and borderline hate that is spoken of. Merely because it goes against the current cultural grain and is drastically minority in nature doesn’t mean “it must remain hidden” merely because you see an agenda. Conservative’s have had free reign with an “agenda” for years, when one isn’t necessarily promoted by General Authorities.
Thank you for #34. I have been a casual spectator of the online scene for years, yet only go by post titles that interest me. Only on occasion will I notice, from frequenting a certain blog enough, which ones are more geared toward “TBM’s” and which ones are geared more toward “NOM’s”.
While I consider myself more conservative/orthodox than the above description of NOMs, I do not feel this necessarily means I subscribe to the pharisaical “lack of spirit of the law” characteristic that some appear so ready to ascribe to TBMs. I do not have any issue with the existence of NOMs within the church; on the contrary, as I try to do with my fellow (for lack of a better term) TBMs, I also try to love NOMs–not thinking of them as such, but as my brothers and sisters–with the charity described by the Apostle Paul in the NT (and in Moroni 7). What I do take exception to is NOMs allowing their NOM-hood to leak out beyond themselves into their teaching of others, as has been discussed above. There is a difference between tolerance and advocacy/promotion, of course, and I believe that the minute one knowingly attempts to counter the words of the current Apostles and Prophets and to influence others within the church to do the same, this equates to some degree of apostasy. If it doesn’t, then what is apostasy? Lds.org defines this way: “When individuals or groups of people turn away from the principles of the gospel, they are in a state of apostasy.” If people continue to focus on perceived flaws in the teaching of the current church leaders and preach their own ideas as superior to/more inspired than those of the Brethren, then yes, I view this trend within NOM-dom as damaging and undesirable. But what sayeth other T&S commenters?
Thank you for the clarity, Howard. I have no questions about your position on anything of interest to me.
In reading through all of the comments, it seems as if there is one fundamental question that begs an answer… what exactly is “Truth?”
Let us first come to an agreement as to it’s definition. Only then can we have an honest discussion regarding the nature of the dynamic between “TBM” and “NOM” positions.
Thanks for the post. I find it frustrating actually. When one finds many beliefs one grows up with and espouses to be false, etc., it is really hard to listen to others at church talk about it as if this unearthed truth didn’t exist in your world. You want to let people know what you found out because that is part of it, find others to discuss it with. It is almost like we see TB’s as in the dark, either knowingly or not. NOM’s don’t see it necessarily as a disruptive dynamic, just as a deeper, more thought-provoking discussion. NOM’s don’t really want to cause trouble, they just find value in the discussion. It also isn’t apostasy, per se. It is talking about “truth” that has been found and happens to go against a current teaching or at least implied teaching.
I don’t think it’s right for anyone to define another’s apostasy. Perhaps this could be done by the SP and High Council during a court of love but to assume someone’s apostasy based on what you believe is a very slippery slope!
I think that is WHY we have such a discussion: TB’s and NO’s cannot and will not agree on what “truth” is. Also, the topic of “truth” may be irrelvant to many TB’s (no offense) because the “truth” of an evolved revelation over the past so many years doesn’t matter to a TB, as long as the current interpretation is clear. Where we’ve been and how we got here isn’t necessary for current practices, is maybe one way of articulating it.
In my opinion, anyway, “truth” seems more important to NOM’s than to TBM’s. This is not to say that NOMs’ priorities are necessarily superior, its just that “truth” trumps other things.
Thank you for your comment. I appreciate it. I sense I fit some/(much?) of the TBM mold described above, yet I feel comfortable with and even enjoy discussions–albeit more in a private/one-on-one setting than in a Sunday/”at church” one–with “NOMs” on issues they feel are thought-provoking or potentially controversial. Asking questions is different than claiming to have a testimony of and promoting (in some cases) positions that go against those of the people who speak to us in General Conference. Could you provide some concrete examples of ““truth” that has been found and happens to go against a current teaching or at least implied teaching”? I think it would be worthwhile to highlight what trends or issues we sense are defining the Gestalt of the “NOMs” vs. that of the “TBMs.”
Cheers from Europe.
The core of the issue is that problematic word “know.”
“I know the church is true.”
People convinced they “know” find it difficult to tolerate those whot think differently from them. If they “know,” that means any difference between what they believe and what someone else believes is prima facie evidence that the other person is in a state of apostacy.
At this point, even if the person who “knows” wants very much to be compassionate, understanding, accepting of the person who is “apostate,” he will do it from a position of condescension. Deep down he “knows,” but the other person is broken.
Such an attitude will be easily detected, and will easily offend the “broken” person, no matter how cmopassionate the condescending person tries to be. I know–I’ve experienced such a person.
And it all comes from the rather arrogant conviction that one “knows.” Well, I’m here to say, no one does “know.”
I was a believing, practicing Mormon for half a century, so it’s not necessary to explain to me how you “know,” if you’re feeling inclined to do that right now. I already know how you figure you “know.” In fact, there’s pretty much nothing about the Mormon experience I don’t know.
In the end it all comes down to faith. Faith that the spiritual experiences you’ve had came from God and were not manufactured by your own psyche–as psychologists will tell you the human mind is capable of doing. Faith that a spiritual experience, even if it came from God, really meant what you think it means, and that you haven’t been pre-biased by the teachings of the church to interpret spiritual experiences in a programmed way that’s favorable to the church’s claims.
You do not “know.” You may have a strong conviction based on spiritual experiences that you’re willing to base your whole life on, and that’s cool if that’s your choice. But you do not “know,” so you have no business looking down on others who have decided differently from you what truth is and how to find it.
If “true blue” Mormons woud simply accept this and stop being condescending toward those who decide differently, it would make the whole problem a lot easier to deal with.
dallske, I appreciate your tone and courtesy and hope that mine will match yours, even while I say that the dynamic you describe in #45 is exactly why I object to NOM participation in the Bloggernacle. You say that people like me don’t value truth, and that you’ve “unearthed truth” and that you want people like me to know about it because we don’t have it. If your “unearthed truth” has to do with anything in the historical realm, it’s a very safe bet that you cannot bring up anything — and I mean ANYTHING — about which I am unaware, or have not reconciled to my satisfaction (a mighty high standard, by the way) and have moved beyond. So when I’m having an online discussion with other believers about, say, some aspect of the gospel as outlined by Alma, and a NOM shows up to say, “wait a minute! You’re talking as though Alma were a real person and not the creation of a pedophile who wrote a fictional story while gazing into a hat!” it doesn’t matter that said NOM believes he is giving me a needed lesson in “unearthed truth.” What matters is that he HAS been disruptive, and that he has sidetracked a discussion from one that builds on the foundation of LDS truth claims, turning it into yet another tedious and probably contentious debate about the foundation itself.
Don’t assume believers haven’t investigated those claims as thoroughly as you think you have. We’ve examined them so thoroughly that they are unspoken givens. We’re not in the dark. We have moved beyond the points that still entangle you.
Got it, D. Michael. Nobody can “know.” And you KNOW this to be true.
Adam (24), while I admit to playing in psychology, I did not intentionally infantilize people of faith. On the contrary, I’ve run across so many NOMs who consider TBMs close-minded, spiritually immature, or harshly judgmental that I wanted to explore and defend the believing position. I have great admiration for those who are blessed with the spiritual gifts of knowledge and faith.
Wilfried (38), I don’t know who coined the term “New Order Mormon.” There is a political connotation, and I think about the United Order whenever I hear it. I do think that NOM has fewer pejorative connotations than “True Blue Mormon” has, partly because it is a name that at least part of that group has adopted for itself. It is useful to set them up as opposing sides for a discussion, but clearly that kind of dichotomy is toxic in real life interactions. If we impose an “us vs. them” mentality on the members of our wards and families, we will have contention. Rather than pushing that division, I am trying to use the words to understand the dynamics of existing tensions, in the hope that we can find some resolution. I am fully aware that just by talking about it I am perpetuating it, but I don’t see any way around it in the conversation.
Ardis (#50): Love it. Spot on. Thank you. “I know that Ardis is True.” :)
Rachel, if you want to explore and defend the believing position, you have no real choice but to limit the discussion to believers. You see what has happened here — the non-believers show up and respond negatively to (politely in many cases, but disputing) every comment by a believer. Rather than wearing ourselves out in pointlessly responding to challenges that change by the minute, most believers won’t speak up, and those who do, get tired. I’m in the tired camp. I’m going away now, too. Good luck at defending the believer’s position when the non-believers drown out the discussion.
Ardis (50) Some believers have examined our history and doctrine and found a reconciliation and others haven’t. I would hazard a guess that believers who become NOMs were in the second camp and their particular form of reconciliation is what moved them into the NOM group.
D. Michael (49) I can remember getting hung up on the word “know” in young adulthood after trying really hard to know with certainty and failing. I have chosen to embrace hope and faith and try to live in accordance with what I believe. And I’ve let go of my hang ups about knowing in my own right or being annoyed by others who testify that they “know beyond the shadow of a doubt with every fibre of their being.” For the most part their are just expressing their faith in the parlance of our culture, and that expression should be taken in good faith.
Ardis (54) Thanks for coming by and contributing. Have a happy Independence Day.
Simply put, true believing members’ world is the church and its hierarchy. It is the source and final arbitrator of truth. To accept anything less than that, especially to accept that one can be a full LDS and NOT be true believing is perhaps the most threatening person to a true believer.
I have deep friends I’ve had for 30 years in my ward. they know that I’m unorthodox, but for me to say that the vast majority of mormon doctrine is completely made up stuff would shake them off their toes.
I really try to share, but when I have a discussion with a close friend who is also a democrat like me, and he says that Adam and Eve are literal and won’t budge from it… and he’s a scientist… sheeze. what am I to do? Shove the ‘truth’ down his throat?
That (#55) may be, Rachel, but while I have made no claim that everyone should be easily able to move through and beyond anything that is a problem, dallske is defining those things as “unearthed truth” that people like me haven’t yet encountered. Big difference.
I just want to say that I think this is a really important conversation — so I want to thank you for it, Rachel. I also want to say that I think Ardis makes really good points. Ardis – I appreciate your frankness and perspective.
As an outsider allow me to suggest pushing for a policy change: Require that membership be renewed every year. Let the requirements for retaining membership be the same as for gaining membership in the church. That way, if someone decides not to participate in the community, or if someone decides to participate as a guest/non-believer, they can simply decide not to renew their membership.
Quick question: Do T&S and BCC both define themselves as orthodox or true-believing LDS blogs? Are there T&S or BCC permas that, for example, do not view the Book of Mormon as an historical document, or who do not view the LDS church as “the one true church?” I guess I’m wondering to what extent T&S and BCC permas are NOMs….just by another name.
#45 & 47
I agree. Very well stated.
I don’t think the two camps will ever agree on what truth is. I used to be firmly and staunchly in the TBM camp. I actually never had a problem with anyone who believed differently. I could discuss all kinds of ideas and had no problem with others believing and worshipping the way they liked, both in and out of the church.
For years, when encountering “things” that were troublesome to other individuals, I simply put them on my shelf. I always simply maintained the belief that someday, in the hereafter, it would make sense and work itself out. Until then, it didn’t matter since my testimony was built on what the church taught and continues to teach as the principles and “truths” of the restored gospel.
At some point, that shelf gets too heavy and crashes. The cog dis simply becomes too great and one is actually forced to give honest examination to all things “truthful.” No more rationalizing things away. A deeper, more honest examination, discussion, and search for what is really “truth” becomes the order of the day. The information age is here and facts can’t be ignored or swept under the rug anymore.
It’s not pleasant, and I think that it’s just easier and less painful for most people to ignore it. The implications of undertaking that examination are so wide reaching so, people tend to keep their heads in the sand.
The presence of NOMs threatens to upset the apple cart because of it.
I have to say that while I have never particularly liked Ardis, and we’ve had run-ins when I was at the peak of my emotional, confusing, and suicide-inducing faith crisis and she was condescending and unkind both publicly and privately, I believe she is spot-on here with her points about giving believing Mormons safe spaces. We would never trounce into Papua New Guinea and bully them out of their belief that masculinity is transferred through semen from men to boys, just as we object to European Christians spreading their message (and violence) through colonialism. Why would we bust in on discussions amongst Mormons, particularly when we should be able to remember when we were as faithful ourselves? I agree that some discussions make themselves open to input from any person, but some do not. If their beliefs are doing no harm, do no harm. That should be an acceptable standard to everyone. If Mormons believe that they should knock door-to-door and otherwise do missionary work to tell people what they’re doing wrong and what they could do right, they should be able to understand non- or ex-Mormons stepping in to do the same. But not every discussion warrants this and not every Mormon practise is harmful.
Forget NOM’s coming out to TBM, it’s scary for a moderate to come out to either group.
Mostly, I’m with Ardis.
John, I wouldn’t dream of speaking for my co-bloggers, but neither the TBM nor the NOM labels mean anything to me and, frankly, they strike me as grossly reductive and inaccurate as applied to me or anyone I know. So I would reject labeling us as NOMs by a different name, unless the definition is so broad as to be meaningless, in which case, I don’t care.
In the OP I was looking at why a regular Mormon may be uncomfortable with the very idea of NOMs, outside of any personal interaction. Clearly how discussions are conducted on both sides contribute to how we feel about each other. To be defensive, in your face, adamant, and/or superior about your position will generally provoke a reaction in kind from those who feel attacked by your content as much as your tone.
Seems like your frustration should be directed at Rachel then, for authoring this post. No?
I think that true believing Mormons should be exposed to New Order Mormons and their concerns. I was devastating to discover that the top leadership had been covering up parts of history. I wish my mother had shared with me her disgust of Brigham Young and the fact that she questioned her faith at one point. Only hearing the whitewashed version of history leaves one feeling betrayed when they stumble upon older church books and magazines and discover that there were some questionable practices.
My experience with NOM’s has been pretty positive mixed in with some negative. I went through a faith transition and found the NOM community to be excellent in helping me come to terms with my experiences and still remain an active member. What I found disheartening about the NOM community is their lack of acceptance in the political realm. It is overwhelmingly dominated by politically liberal people, which is fine, unless you are conservative or even libertarian minded. If you come out as a conservative you are immediately labeled a sheep and blind follower of the brethren. I saw it over and over again. I think the NOM movement has a lot of potential, but a lot of what they preach (tolerance, open mindedness, etc.) is not practiced. It seemed more like a separatist movement than an open minded discussion of ideas, like they claimed.
Rachel, I think part of the problem is that some of us do not know what you mean by a “regular Mormon.” Mormons are all different. None of us fit into a label.
If you want to talk about certain behaviors that are problematic, then discuss the behaviors without throwing the labels around.
Of course the problem with labels is that they so often are used to exclude. “Working mother” implies that there are non-working mothers somewhere. “Regular” implies that those who don’t fit a particular mold are irregular.
I have been acquainted with bishops who do not claim to “know,” but only believe. I have known lots of people who served in leadership who have gone through seasons of questioning and/or non-believing. The church is a pretty big tent, in my experience. Why the need to categorize and exclude within the tent?
Interesting post and subsequent discussion.
#49’s Michael makes the interesting observation that he dislikes the surety of people who claim to “know,” then goes on to assert himself that he “knows” all about my faith because he has been a member of my church for half a century. He’s annoyed by aggressive invocation of knowledge but then aggressively invokes his knowledge.
It also ties into what Ardis has artfully been saying here, that it is bothersome to deal with condescending people in general. The condescending NOM type will assume I haven’t been led to the unvarnished truth courtesy of some podcasts and blog posts, else, I wouldn’t still be Mormon. On the other hand, condescending TBMs can assume that “apostates” act in bad faith, or protect themselves by building psychological walls of resistence.
But there’s a problem in my comment. Those focusing on the problem of labeling might be interested to read my manifesto against “TBM” (in which I also criticize labels like “apostate”). The labels themselves are inevitable, they manifest that there probably IS something worth talking about here, and they embody some of the most deeply-rooted problems in such a discussion in their exclusionary and reductive ways. (John Dehlin’s quick litmus test for T&S and BCC is a good example of the sort of reductionism I’m talking about.)
Here’s the manifesto, let’s Bloggernaclecanonize it:
We are all different, Naismith, and I thank God for that. Perhaps a less problematic way to approach this would be to look at the tensions between those who celebrate differences and those who are more comfortable with conformity. Both ways of being are authentic to fundamental human needs and we must find a way to harmonize those needs rather than making them sources of conflict within whatever social group we are a part of.
Rachel, I think you stated the answer in post no 8. I think you all in the heavy Mormon corridor may used distinguishing labels more than I have heard here in Texas.
I rarely see the extreme examples of blog take over you describe in 50 at least on BCC or TS or FMH. Usually, they kind of get ignored anyway if they are caustic like that. And it is really unfair to point to the discussion on this thread as a take-over. For heaven’s sake the question is how TBM and NOMs can interact. Should only TBMs be allowed to speak on that issue.
To the more general point of labels – I think it is only respectful to refer to people by labels that they themselves identify with and recognize. I completely agree that some people use TBM perjoratively which is disrespectful, but definitely not ALL mean it this way and I definitely know some people that embrace that label. I can get on board with decreasing the use of such labels. In fact I pledge here and now NEVER to use the term in bloggernacle discussion to refer to anyone! Categories can only be so granular anyway. I am not really sure what the boundaries of the NOM label include and they are probably contested anyway. My question for everyone here is what would you propose as an alternate language to discuss these different belief boundaries when the discussion is appropriate? I hate the “conservative”, “liberal” language. I am more comfortable with discussing as orthodoxy and heterodoxy on a continuuem. But then the question is what is considered orthodoxy. That is a hard question in Mormondom. Its part of our charm really. Anyway, any concrete suggestions out there?
As anybody that spends time on the bloggernacle and trying to administer these communities know, the policing of boundaries is just a difficult problem. The moderators have all the tools to delete posts, block users, set norms etc. There is nothing stopping you creating a new one that only accepts comments or participation from people in whatever boundaries of orthodoxy you desire. Heck, make it invite only if you want and they can decide apriori whose views are welcome. If you can create an engaging community this way that would be great and you should do it!
BHodges, had I read your manifesto before, I doubt I would have used TBM. But what should I have used instead for the purposes of this discussion? I do think that while labels can be useful for a discussion, they are more likely to be harmful in real life. So, John, I can’t see anything that the permas here or on BCC have to gain by answering your challenge to self-identify.
Sam: Despite disagreements regarding the details of possible TBM and NOM definitions, I think certain general principles are not all that hard to agree upon. And BTW, thank you, Rachel, for bringing up what I believe is indeed an important subject (I agree with John on this point). To be sure, both TBM and NOM types could stand to increase their level of charity towards those in the other camp. As Ardis pointed out, those who struggle or have given up struggling with “difficult” faith issues can and, in my opinion, should recognize that there are plenty of TBMs who have as deep a knowledge as any questioning/intellectual NOM of the full scope of LDS doctrinal particularities (although I do not claim to be one of these TBMs with such an extensive knowledge/research background). TBMs should love their neighbors despite what their neighbors believe or endorse; that said, loving someone does not mean never countering efforts perceived to detract from faith, just as loving ones teenager does not mean simply endorsing every effort that teenager feels compelled to pursue. The Savior was the perfect balance of Justice and Mercy, and while we are light years away in terms of our own development, we cannot shy away from standing for something when we feel strongly about it, even in a pluralistic society where our views may be unpopular. You can love someone and strongly disagree with and even reject their claims.
Rachel, the problem I see is that the labels become short-hand for things that don’t actually exist, or they are useful to the extent that they gloss over a good deal of difference in order to allow our sustained analysis of something that actually exists less in reality than in the constructs we’re analyzing. I agree that we need to come up with words to use when we talk about different personalities and different family/social/religious dynamics. But the labels TBM, NOM, etc. are fraught with so much baggage, and with a still-growing mythology behind them that I find largely pernicious, so as to render them too problematic. What we’re really talking about involves the fundamental ways we as people deal with individuality in community–something Ros. Welch talked about on her blog the other day, although I’d attenuate her analysis in certain respects. The labels are useful to discuss because people really are using them, but the discussions should point out, perhaps above all else, that there is something quite more muddled behind them. Just discussing the problematics of the labels, as you indirectly do and as some of the comments do, can be quite a useful exercise. And since some people really do self-identify by using the labels (NOM perhaps more than TBM) it is legit to use them in a discussion, but perhaps with an eye to de/re/construction.
Language is hard.
In my understanding, the term New Order Mormon means: “An LDS church member who no longer believes some or all of traditional LDS doctrine and/or theology.” Examples of non-belief could include: historical book of Mormon, historical Book of Abraham, polygamy, the Mormon God’s tendency to curse the less valiant with dark skin, the idea of “one true church with exclusive authority”, etc.
Ardis seems to long for a place in the bloggernacle where she can engage in faithful discourse without being disrupted by NOMs. This seems totally reasonable. My understanding, however, is that both BCC and T&S have NOMish perma-bloggers (based on the definition listed above….unless I am mistaken)….and so I wonder if this is part of the problem. NOMish permas attract NOMish commenters?
Maybe there needs to be more traditional believing LDS blogs “out there” where traditional belief is a litmust test for all participation: permas and commenters alike. Then maybe Ardis can have her wish? Isn’t this what The Millennial Star tries to be? BCC and T&S have never quite fit this bill, as I understand it…which is probably the main source of Ardis’ frustration.
Back to Rachel’s original point — I think that NOMs definitely threaten believers, and vice versa. Seems like both deserve to have their own spaces for community, and that both would benefit (at times) from exposure to each other…but in moderation.
Great post and I have (mostly) loved and learned from the comments. Everyone seems to have brought their Sunday manners, which has made all the difference. But I’m still challenged trying to figure out which group I fit into the best. (The story of my life) I see each label as descriptive rather than perjorative, so it’s good to know that it bothers some other folks. Point noted.
My experience in general is one of compassion for those who don’t fit in or are negotiating fundamental conflicts; not surprising since I’ve been there, done that. I see a very messy church, despite the best efforts of our leadership and membership to tidy it all up, and there’s always a few people who get stuck in those bogs we can’t seem to get rid of. (The bogs, not the people) What irks me most is seeing someone who can’t or won’t muster compassion for a struggling soul–unless I adjust my lens and see the intolerant one as a struggling soul too. Sometimes I think the Lord deliberately allows this messiness in the church just so we’ll have plenty of opportunities to practice applying the love that helps us bridge our divides. The most painful sorrow I’ve felt in my life is when that love just isn’t there. The failures in family dynamics, the unacknowledged connection to the ward community, these are what creates the pain that leads to divides and labels.
There’s a reason why loving one’s neighbor is labeled by the Lord as the Second Great Commandment, above making sure that there are no pings in the church engine. But when someone sees their engine-tuning efforts as their observance of the First Great Commandment–that creates a fundamental conflict, which may need some of the proverbial “heavy-lifting thinking” and a hefty application of love, usually by both parties. I think that makes the Lord happy. Of course, sometimes all that is needed to bridge the divide is a simple application of Sunday manners. (See Ardis above.)
Rachel – I’m not challenging T&S or BCC permas to self-identify. I’m basing my question on the permas that I know in real life.
In my understanding, the term New Order Mormon means: “An LDS church member who no longer believes some or all of traditional LDS doctrine and/or theology.”
John, to this you need to add “…no longer believes…and defines oneself over and against a perceived community of ‘TBS’s’, or misled or naive people who are being fooled by a Church that lies to them about their history. Typically a catechized list of grievances is invoked including polygamy, the Book of Abraham, etc. Such self-definition usually occurs through social ties forged at online communities or through various other means which helps aid their transition from a constructed prior self-identity to a current self-identity in a way that alleviates anxiety and helps manage familial and friendship stresses. Such a person also tends to do missionary work for their new-found views.”
John, Ardis’s frustration stems not from the inability of blogs to gather the right people as much as it stems from the inability of certain people to detect the tone of a conversation, people who insist on shoe-horning the discussion into their own perceived narrative–and it’s frequently a narrative that assumes gullibility, bad faith, or wrong-doing on the part of the people they are addressing. They become one-note musicians who are dedicated primarily to discuss themselves and their own experiences despite what the overall blog post to which they are responding is discussing.
TBS should obviously read TBM. I had no intention of asserting that anyone has been maligning the television network which gave Conan O’Brien a home.
John, sorry I read a challenge into your request. Chalk it up to another case of someone online reacting to what they inferred from a comment, not the comment itself or the commenter’s intent.
Laura, I think the labels are not so much a Utah thing as they are an internet thing. Which could be another post: How do the ways we categorize ourselves and others online have anything to do with real life interactions?
Mommie Dearest, thank you. I wish I were better at living up to the truly charitable ideals you expressed.
And thanks all around for the very civil discussion. It’s nice to be able to go about the Fourth of July festivities without worrying about fireworks on the thread.
Blair – I totally agree that such NOM’s exist, are quite vocal, and that such engagement is not very constructive. But not all NOMs are like that. Not even close. And I think you’d agree with me that there are many strident traditionally believing voices as well. All of us could probably work to improving our level of discourse. I know that I certainly could. Behold…my attempt.
I totally agree that such NOM’s exist, are quite vocal, and that such engagement is not very constructive. But not all NOMs are like that. Not even close.
I don’t claim that all “NOM’s” are like this. In fact, I’ve argued quite explicitly against the notion that any such label (NOM, TBM) can do justice to diverse individuals, even though common elements are evident in the ways various groups communicate outwardly.
Blair – Fair enough. So you’re not crazy about Rachel’s original post then?
The people once labeled NOMs are generally not able to discuss their position in or near church or with most members outside of church, the people once labeled TBMs of course can and do. Some of the people once labeled TBMs do not want to hear the the once labeled NOM position voiced on the blogs they frequent either. Basically some of the people once labeled TBMs seem to functionally identify more with the concept of orthodox than they do the congregations that self identify as Mormon. Being exclusionary by nature they seem to wish for a smaller tent or at least a restricted voice for the once labeled NOMs. Believe what you will but remain silent and observe in the way your are told. You may be seen but not heard!
A problem here is that the OP defined the issue as how or why “a regular saint may feel threatened by a new order Mormon.” That sort of pushes the problem onto regular Mormons. The OP and discussion sort of ignores the obvious fact that, in fact, some NOMs are threatening — not particularly because of their mere existence, as if most active Mormons are tender little flowers that can’t stomach the idea that someone believes otherwise, but because: (1) they often tend to believe and accept information critical of the Church rather *uncritically*; (2) they often come to view bad behavior as a right to which they are entitled; and (3) they buy 100% into the narrative of their own personal enlightenment from pre-NOM faithful ignorance. This from people who, for example, don’t seem to have read a book on LDS history until their mid-30s, blithely unaware that they seem to personify the willful ignorance they project onto the Church.
So I have a fair amount of sympathy with the critique Ardis outlined. One has to be fairly dense not to recognize the endless criticism of mainstream Mormons by NOMs as a convenient alternative to self-criticism, which is a rare activity by NOMs. Having achieved enlightenment, that activity seems unnecessary compared to the urgency of sharing that message with those ignorant Mormons (the ones who were reading LDS history while you were failing algebra in college).
Not that I don’t have sympathy for the plight of the NOMs. I’m not minimizing the issues. I just reject the phony self-congratulatory narrative NOMs have embraced for themselves and that John has popularized.
Your experience has not been mine with NOMs. Yes, there are some angry ones (and they are not unique) but the way you paint them is a bit over the top. Seems like the labels lead to fear-mongering and name-calling. I agree with the multiple posts above that concur there is a little of both labels in all of us. And, I’d like to point out, unlike God, we are not all the same yesterday, today, and tomorrow and we all change as we navigate our lives. Some of my posts would appear TBM and others more NOM. I’m a mixed bag for sure! I’m guessing I’m not the only one.
Dave – Those are all fair points. I agree that many NOMs (myself included) have acted as you describe. It’s a real problem, and I’m working to change my own behavior. Thanks for the feedback. Sincerely.
I don’t want my comment #89 to make those used to discussions in the NOM-echo chamber think I am categorically rejecting John’s Mormon Stories project(s). Here’s part of a comment I posted over at DKL’s critique of Rosalynde’s critique of Mormon Stories:
Julie: you’ve further assisted the overall argument that the labels themselves are very problematic. What I’m describing to John has less to do with a label and more to do with a behavior we’ve encountered in various blog discussions.
John: Blair – Fair enough. So you’re not crazy about Rachel’s original post then?
I’m not sure what you’re asking, but my responses to the OP suggest that I have problems with the labels, and the link I provided gives more info on that.
I also hate the labels because they obscure at least as much as they illuminate. I am not even sure what to call myself, but I am certainly unorthodox in at least some of my beliefs.
If you are no longer a believer, you are certain to elicit a hostile reaction the minute you proceed on the assumption that if other people only knew what you knew, they would believe what you believe. And if they don’t, they are engaged in self deception. That is patently false and you are no more immune to self deceptive rationalizing than they are. There is nothing more annoying than one who must breathlessly announce to the world that they have discovered all kinds of information that just has to be shouted from the rooftops so that others can now extricate themselves from the shackles of their blind faith. It is particularly offensive to people who have indeed thought seriously about these issues for many years before the newly enlightened soul had his epiphany. Some people just can’t seem to help themselves, even on this thread. Please at least admit that it is possible to be a well informed, intelligent, honest believer. If you can’t proceed from that assumption, don’t be surprised when you are met with hostility.
And yes, it works both ways. It is equally annoying when believers do it to those who do not, or who no longer share their faith.
I don’t think that numbers 1 and 2 in the OP are factors at all, but I do believe that number 3 is a real issue. Most believers don’t fear the unbelieving or unorthodox among them as long as they are not missionaries for NOMness. The primary exception is when a close friend or loved loses their faith. When that happens, there is great potential for a radical change in the relationship. Believers can sometimes interpret another’s loss of faith as a personal rejection. On the other hand, former believers often assume that they will be rejected and act accordingly, or become frustrated with their believing friends because of their perceived blindness. This can then create serious rifts, and each side will blame the other.
Blair-There are two points about the labels: 1. they are inadequate and as such, always partially inaccurate, and 2. they may fuel antagonism.
What I’ve learned from this discussion is that it is natural for those who are uncomfortable within a group to break off and create a new identity for themselves. In the process of doing that, they create oppositional labels for themselves and the group from which they’ve split. It’s a version of the -ites of the Book of Mormon and is divisive and potentially destructive to both groups. It does not further the cause of Zion, of creating a diverse yet unified community.
I am sympathetic to the challenges faced by New Order Mormons, perhaps similar but less intense than those experienced by so-called “younger evangelicals” trying to carve a space out for rethinking various doctrines and practices within evangelicalism.
In addition to the challenges the NOMs face as they attempt to carve out an image in Mormonism and the local ward, it is interesting to note that there are those who still consider themselves culturally Mormon and yet who also make a transition journey into more traditional forms of Christianity. I will be discussing this in connection with the Transitions resource produced by the Western Institute for Intercultural Studies at the upcoming Sunstone Symposium. In my presentation which focuses on the journey of immigrants rather than the specific destination, I will note that much focus has been given to the study of conversion, but not much to religious switching, disaffiliation, and reaffiliation. The lessons learned from producing resources that meet the needs and challenges of religious immigrants should send a message to religious institutions and individuals about the need to be more understanding and supportive for those making the journey of transition.
you are no more immune to self deceptive rationalizing than they are. Given the church’s indoctrination from childhood and it’s clear white wash of church history, if one was raised in the church I wouldn’t be so sure this statement is correct. Please at least admit that it is possible to be a well informed, intelligent, honest believer.. Sure I know many.
I’m one of those who went through a huge faith crisis. I hardly believed that God even existed. But there were a few thin threads that kept me connected to the church. And now that I’m regrowing my faith and making better sense of it all (not *perfect* sense by any means) I’d feel a little ticked-off at being lump in with the NOMs.
I guess — somewhere deep-down I really wanted to understand why Mormonism was true in spite of my doubts. Forgive me while I pat myself on the back, but when Nephi was faced with killing Laban he didn’t use his intellect to talk himself out of it. He reasoned as to why he should go through with it not why he should distance himself from it.
Nephi is probably the most intellectual prophet in the BoM. Lets try to follow his example and use our powers of reason to recognize the beauty of our journey in the gospel rather than flaring up over all of the nasty little things we have to deal with along the way — as did his brothers.
To all, (in particular TB’s, mainstreams, conservatives, etc., especially Ardis):
I apologize for any incomplete or mis-articulation on my part. I also apologize for using labels either for myself or for others loosely. I want to be clear that I am not necessarily a fan of them either, but recognize their convenience at the same time their inaccuracies, etc.
I have enjoyed this back-and-forthing from all and must admit that I don’t often participate, online mormonism is much more of a spectator sport for me than anything else. I am often enlightened but don’t offer my two cents.
To reply to Ardis’ question about my last post about unearthing truth:
I realize that many mainstreams, TB’s or rightists will have a well-rounded education in regards to the full truth our church history has to offer. I will argue that I believe your ‘average’ mainstream/TB/Rightist is less informed than your online M/TB/R Mormon. Even though the online Mormon world has been around since the mid-90’s and has greatly impacted how this ‘corporate’ knowledge is not only shared but streamlined and disseminated to the ‘masses’, this world still seems to be, imho, a liberal/leftist/moderate/NOM world, or at least popular with those type of Mormons, compared to the M/TB/R type.
With this world, seems to come a certain attitude, I think, where more often than not you have or seem to have more of an inclination to communicate honestly, openly and with all. I would argue that the troublesome from all groups seem to be the ones with less experience or inclination toward this type of communication. They either just want to make trouble/waves, or want to share their misery.
Personally I am grateful for the courteous, honest, open, willing and insightful human beings who try and share perspective. I just wish sometimes what we see online could translate to more than a summation that takes place in the foyer, very quietly, between two saints that share a sliver of common ground.
Perhaps those who have just discovered for themselves the “real” Mormon history wouldn’t feel such a strong need to preach it to others if it were already more widely known and openly discussed in the Church?
I really appreciate posts bringing up this particular topic. Ultimately, I choose to believe we all want to follow the admonition of Christ and actually be able to love one another, therefore, we need to understand people within the complete spectrum of faith that we have in the community.
I do have a recommendation for the original post though. Unlike other people, I do think labels are necessary to address topics that apply to behavioral aspects of significantly large groups of people. We would not be able to address this type of topic without them, nevertheless, labels can mean many things to many people.
People need to understand how to approach topics that are inherently going to have generalizations over a group of people. One cannot speak of certain topics on an individual by individual basis, therefore, I support your use of labels. Thus, when we speak of a group, the reader must understand these are general trends perceived by the author, and not disrupt the analysis with the fallacy of “that’s not true because I know someone who… etc.”
Having said that, I recommend you briefly (or as you deem necessary) state your particular definition of the labels for the purposes of the original post. I find this especially necessary with labels that may be rather vague and that may have different definitions to different people. That makes it easier to the reader to understand where you are coming from and provide further feedback.
Now my comment:
I think you may want to rethink point number one. As a “New Order Mormon,” (as I infer I am per reading your post), I have never believed I pick and choose what God wants for me. This is because I do question the authority of the Church and the guidance of its leaders as the absolute mind and will of God. In fact, I reject this notion. Therefore, and perhaps pretentiously, I believe I will follow the Church according to my own personal relationship with God and His guidance.
I will always weigh my own responses from God, my own feelings in my heart, my own discernment, my own efforts to feel the Spirit, my values, my experience and my consciousness against any and all guidance received from Church authorities. If I feel there is something wrong, undesirable, un-Christian (non reflective of the Love One Another admonition), or I can simply not feel good about it for reasons that I don’t understand but that somehow my heart does, then I am not going to follow this guidance.
I am not going to participate in another allegorical Mountain Meadows Massacre. I am not going to participate in another allegorical un-Christian behavior against ANY of my brethren like the Priesthood Ban, I am not going to allegorically follow a deviant lifestyle (like polygamy) simply because a man tells me to do so. I am not trying to be extreme with these allegorical examples, but I want to get my point across.
I, as a “NOM,” am committed to be more objective and more responsible regarding my actions. I am not going to be one of those who excuse themselves with “I felt something was wrong but I was being obedient to my leaders.” That is simply not going to happen. I am not going to assume a man’s advice is the will of God. I am going to find out for myself whether it is or not, and I will act accordingly.
This then, is not denying the authority of God, because that is exactly the point: I don’t believe the will and guidance of Church leaders is necessarily the absolute parallel of the will of God. Therefore, the “by extension” premise does not really exist. I don’t doubt leaders act in good faith to be inspired and direct according to the will of God as much as they can, but realistically, they are still human beings and they are affected like anyone else by their human limitations, their own ability to receive inspiration, their own background and understanding of things (which may not be adequate when applied to other people in other circumstances and with different backgrounds), etc etc etc.
Just needed to provide you with this perspective. I can only speak for myself, therefore, I, as a “New Order Mormon” do not believe my leaders are Gods or that they will always, 100% of the time, will lead me in the exact way God would want them to lead me. I feel, I need to be responsible and do my own part in finding out whether the guidance is truly inspired or not.
Thanks Manuel. You’re the first person to call me on the bad logic in the “by extension” premise. It does not necessarily follow. I wrote it because many people assume it does and that is a factor in their level of discomfort.
I considered defining the groups and labels more carefully, but I knew people would take issue with whatever definition I used. Instead of creating definitions at the outset, the labels with all their inadequacies and messiness have become defined through the thread of the conversation. I have learned more about the connotations of words by allowing others to bring their understandings of them to the discussion, which I worried may have been more limited had I placed strict boundaries on them in the beginning.
I do love your assertion that you are not picking and choosing, that you are acting in good faith as directed by God. I fear we too often forget that although we may have an idea of what God’s plan is for us personally, our personal plan is unlikely to be identical to God’s plan for anyone else.
Rachel – I guess I would recommend consideration of a #4 to your OP:
4. NOM’s sometimes communicate in angry, condescending, threatening, and insulting ways to traditional believers — which makes constructive dialogue between believers and NOMs more difficult (and threatening).
Of course I believe that there are reasonable explanations as to why some NOM’s communicate in this way — but I believe that NOM’s (and all of us) would be well served to attempt to communicate more constructively (as Manuel and some others model here).
By the premise set up by Rachel as quoted below, I think your number four is more tangential, as it would well be argued as a common threat to both sides, given by the other.
“My concern in this post is the true blue Mormon. Are new order Mormons justified in being hesitant to come out to them? While some saints will be welcoming and loving of all people who want to be affiliated with the church in any capacity, I think a great deal of regular saints feel threatened by new order Mormons, and as a result have less than charitable reactions.
I can think of three areas in which a regular saint may feel threatened by a new order Mormon:”
My apologies. Should have read more closely.
Number 1 of the original post says “This is seen as an act of blasphemy, and may be a taken as a personal affront by those who have sacrificed their personal preferences to live by the church standards”
Maybe I’m being too literal but taking blasphemy as a personal affront seems blasphemous because then one would be God, right?
Secondly to be affronted because someone else is getting off easy seems to have “prodigal son’s brother” all over it.
I think this is one of the issues believing mormons have with non-believing mormons is that the believers are under a religious obligation to forgive and play nice, while the non-believers are under no such obligation.
So, as a non-practicing atheist, what sense can be made of the fact that I somehow believe that Ardis is in a state of sin for her exclusionary desire while the NOM’s are not.
“Nothing real can be threatened” – A Course in Miracles
I have a very strong testimony that Joseph was one of the great Prophets, that the BoM is inspired fiction and that the brethren are lessor prophets. Does this make me a believing or non-believing Moromon? Should I be able to discuss my beliefs in church? If not, why not?
As I consider number 2 and 3 they also seem to be based on a lack of faith.
For example, how can a believer resent having to work harder in God’s work because others are slacking? Isn’t service the greatest joy? Won’t justice obtain in the afterlife?
Number 2 would only make sense if the regular forces were concerned for the welfare of the NOM’s. That the NOM’s will be missing the opportunities for service and growth.
Number 3 also a “traditional testimony” is one built to withstand the greatest possible peer pressure – individual to its core.
All of these seem overly defensive reasons for the threat from NOM’s.
They all seem too similar to NOM’s being the voice of prophecy in calling people to repentance for a lack of faith, a lack of believing wholeheartedly in the agency of their neighbors. Rachel just can’t be on the right track here.
#107. That’s abolutely true wayne! Thank you.
Since I’m not that familiar with the paradigmatic criteria of TBM’s versus NOM’s I’ve got a few questions that will help get the feel of the group on the issue.
Here are a few questions. I’m interested in whether the answers to these questions are a good proxy for NOM status versus TBM.
1. The Church should be more transparent in its finances and release a complete accounting of assets, liabilities and cash flow?
2. It’s appropriate for a Bishop to ask a minor if they masturbate?
3. Church is more boring than other activities church members do when they are not getting paid for it?
4. Most church members use language in Sunday School meant to communciate clearly and express their true feelings?
“Should I be able to discuss my beliefs in church? ”
Yes, but only in hushed tones and never on Sunday.
Lol! Thanks Martin!
“I have a very strong testimony that Joseph was one of the great Prophets, that the BoM is inspired fiction and that the brethren are lessor prophets. Does this make me a believing or non-believing Moromon?”
That’s easy. If you have ever paid full price for a book by one of the “minor prophets” at Deseret book, you are a believing Mormon, if not, well don’t count on waking up any time soon after you pass on.
Martin (106) To interpret something as blasphemous or to take it as a personal affront are two different possible consequences, not contingent upon each other. There is a bit of the prodigal son mentality, which while not admirable, is natural, and something most of us need to work to overcome. I do think your comment “I think this is one of the issues believing mormons have with non-believing mormons is that the believers are under a religious obligation to forgive and play nice, while the non-believers are under no such obligation” is right on.
On a moderator note, I must ask that you refrain from stating that another commenter is in a “state of sin.” That is not acceptable according to this blog’s commenting standards and does not contribute to a constructive conversation.
As for your comment #107, I may well be on the wrong track. Reason #2 probably stems from my personal experience serving in the church. I can’t say that I resent others for not serving, but I would appreciate more help and support.
“If your “unearthed truth” has to do with anything in the historical realm, it’s a very safe bet that you cannot bring up anything — and I mean ANYTHING — about which I am unaware, or have not reconciled to my satisfaction (a mighty high standard, by the way) and have moved beyond.” – Ardis Parshall
That’s an interesting conceit coming from a historian. I prefer this one’s attitude:
“I find the more I find out, the more I need to find out.” – Dale Morgan
Rachel for the heads up on the comment policy. I didn’t mean to be commenting on the personal righteousness of anyone. It was lazy writing on my part. Here goes an attempt at appropriate revision.
Ardis said “Rachel, if you want to explore and defend the believing position, you have no real choice but to limit the discussion to believers.” So, according to her,defending the believing position to unbelievers is impractical. Bt why in the world would one need to defend the believing position to believers? This strikes me as similar to saying that the only practical way to preach is to preach to the choir, its too tiring otherwise.
Now, to try to make the best sense I can of her point, it obviously is difficult to discuss things with people who do not share a similar number of premises.
This does relate to your original post in the following way.
I think one threat of NOM’s for the others is that they are attempting to re-write the unwritten rules. The NOM’s may want to undermine the confidence people have that when they take something for granted in the church context. To make up something at random, let’s say its that Jesus was born of a virgin. Some NOM might say “We’ll of course he wasn’t. That’s just a metaphor, she was spiritually a virgin but everybody knows virgin women don’t give birth to men.”
Furthermore, they are often unwritten rules because its often a question of emphasis. For example, why is it that so few people want to take “love thy neighbor as thyself” as the part of the bible that most deserves to be interpreted literally.
What percentage of prayers have you heard in church that contain language directed at those that are spitefully using others?
This shift in emphasis is threatening because to use BHodges terms, if you get enough one note musicians playing, then the tune begins to change. I mean you may even get guitars and drums in the chapel.
Personally, I have never understood the fetish for focusing on mormon history as any kind of test of faith. However, the idea that more church members are beginning to actually engage and question their beliefs and the role of tradition and authority is so wonderful. Its so exciting, even biblical and historical.
Its not the possibility that history doesn’t square with any official story that challenges my faith, its that the 21st century church seems so tame, unthinking, even non-revelatory that its less and less meaningful in today’s world. I mean how do kids these days know Gog from Magog when we’ve got so many choices for who the “other” is: the communist Chinese, liberals, Muslims, pornographers, atheists, post-Christian Europeans, secularists, Evangelicals, polytheists, radical conservationists, supporters of socialized medicine, anti-mormons, the media, the new media, social media, drug lords, Latin American communists, the BCS, free-loaders, bureaucrats, etc.
Its hard enough keeping all this straight without some darn NOM’s coming in and messing with everyone’s head about being non-believing mormons.
Re: Yvonne S’s comment 36, I will give you the first part–NOMs can and do become evangelical at times about their newfound knowledge, though in fairness, it’s the same thing Mormons are asked to do to all of their friends, and to do so with some persistence, because they believe they have “the truth.” I put that in quotes because “truth” means something very different depending on whether you’re in or out of the Church, or trying to find a middle way. It’s a pretty human thing, I think, for people to want to share something they believe is valuable with people they care for. Whether that person wants to hear it (or is offended, or thinks they’re crazy, or whatever) is another matter.
However, I dispute this part: “They hold the irrational belief that anyone who reads these books will become like them. They adapt their actions and words to fit what they think their listener will accept. They will not let it rest. At best they are confused and are struggling. At worst they have made up their minds and are duplicitous in the extreme. They have an agenda that must remain hidden.”
Again, this is something a non-believer could say about a believer, and the believer would consider the speaker to be wrong or naive at best and malicious at worst
True believers, rightly, don’t want to be condescended to by NOMs. They don’t want to be seen as naive or dim. But your above statement is highly condescending, in my opinion. You assume that NOMs are a) duplicitous, and b) struggling and confused (the implication being they just can’t see the real truth?). This attitude is a pretty shallow reading of a NOM’s path, I can assure you. It’s fine not to like the behavior, but assigning motivations and emotional states when you don’t know them just isn’t fair.
Ardis commented about NOMs coming in and mucking up the discussion–I’ll confess I wasn’t aware T&S was a TBM site. Like John, I had also noticed some NOMish leaning posts, and I wouldn’t have felt like I was crashing someone else’s safe place. I’d like to know if this is such a place, and if it is, I’d be happy to respect that and refrain from commenting, and just read the posts instead.
To the anonymous out-of-context critic in #116: Sometime words mean exactly what they say. The “you” of my comment was not a generic substitute for “one” or my claim an empty boast about knowing all there is to explore in Mormon history; my statement referred to dallske, the person I was addressing who claimed, “When one finds many beliefs one grows up with and espouses to be false, etc., it is really hard to listen to others at church talk about it as if this unearthed truth didn’t exist in your world.”
It’s a safe bet that *dallske* has not “unearthed” any shocking historical claims of which I am unaware. Internet denizens who claim to have left the church because they learned the “truth” about church history (virtually always because of conveniently furnished materials on the internet; I have yet to hear such a one support a claim to having lost faith after having done anything that could be considered primary or even rigorous secondary research *other than on convenient anti-Mormon websites* which they have swallowed hook, line, and sinker) are extremely unlikely to have “learned” anything about Mormon history which is not also known to me. When they bother to cite illustrations at all, they’re the same, same, same, same tales over and over again, and their descriptions of those incidents betray a laughably weak familiarity with them.
But by all means, feel free to twist and distort my words to join the other handful of NOMs here who feel free to make nasty personal remarks. You hide behind anonymity — although I’m guessing you’re either Will Bagley or a wannabe buddy of his, given your choice of Dale Morgan quotation — so of course you don’t have to stand by your words, ever. Neither does Natasha, or Martin James, or anyone else with an incomplete or generic identification.
To be clear, I may peruse, research and read material online, but I prefer to “unearth” my truths from books, well-researched, well-documented, by authors who have shown at least a little competency with their ability to produce such a volume as to take up my time. I didn’t mean to lead on or imply that my “NOMmery” was internet-surfing based.
I think that rather than using TBM and NOM, it would be more productive to think in terms of orthodoxy (correct belief) and orthopraxy (correct behavior). The LDS church, like many religions with strong authority claims (Catholic, Orthodox Jewish), places heavy emphasis on orthopraxy, but less on orthodoxy. The bulk of the Church’s disciplinary actions (guessing here, but I think its true), are focused on people who violate the behavioral norms of the church. Members are free to be as heterodox as they wish, as long as they don’t challenge the Church’s authority (e.g. the September 6), or start acting in heterodox fashion (teaching Heavenly Mother in Sunday School).
So, each Mormon can be placed somewhere along two axis, Orthodox-Heterodox, Orthoprax-Heteroprax. The more extreme the difference between two individuals, the less likely they are to “get along”–an O-O is unlikely to consider an H-H to be a Mormon at all, for example. On the other hand, O-O and H-O can get along fine, depending on what specifically the O-H believes and how firmly they share their belief.
What we need is one of those online quiz things (like the “what is your political affiliation thing?”), so people can determine their orthodoxy and orthopraxy scores. Then, instead of saying, “I’m a NOM”, they can say “I’m 70% Orthoprax and 30% orthodox”. And someone who is “99% O-O” can just ignore that person (and vice versa). [And yes, this last paragraph is largely a joke, but it would be more useful than TBM and NOM.]
I’ll apologize again for any personal nasty references. Since I’m not interested in Mormon history, I had never heard your name before and was only interested in your comment as an abstract example of a certain type of thought not as a “real” person. Heck, I don’t even know if you are male or female, young or old, or any of the other dichotomies of reality that people care about.
Similarly my interest in being provocative or even absurd in these comments is only the likely forlorn hope that when I go to my real ward on Sunday the discussions will be more forward looking and speculative and less based on heterodox jargon. This is why your experience of the noise of unbelievers is so foreign to me. Where I discuss mormonism, my ward, no one identifies as a non-believer.
I have read your often impressive contribution of LDS history to blog discussions. Given your claim of being familiar with and having resolved to your own high standard of satisfaction almost all church history issues aren’t you in a somewhat unique position to help others resolve these issues to their own satisfaction?
To clarify the abstract type of thought I’m referring to, I’m referring to thought that purports to be grounded in LDS principles, but isn’t long suffering, meek, charitable, childlike and lovely.
Courage all! The time of our probation is short and the rewards that await are great!
Martin James, thanks for 117. Points of emphasis fluctuate over time within the church; think about the way the Word of Wisdom changed from lifestyle advice to temple worthy requirement, or the push to read the Book of Mormon, or the current emphasis on modesty. Those shifts are acceptable when they come from the top down and are seen as authoritative or even revelatory. What you seem to be describing is a way in which the shift comes from the bottom up, through large numbers of individual members reinterpreting and changing the dialogue. It’s a good point.
As for commenting, all are welcome so long as they respect the commenting policy:
I believe we can have a conversation within these parameters wherever we fall on the TBM-NOM spectrum.
For Ardis, dallske, and anon: let’s calm down and assume the best intentions for others’ comments. Ardis, you make such strong statements that others are naturally inclined to respond. Recognize how you attract attention, and if you like, take it as a compliment. Others, please respond to the ideas presented and not allow your response to devolve into a personal attack. It weakens your case and lowers the tone of the discussion. And then I end up writing chiding remarks like this or deleting a slew of comments. It’s not a great outcome for anyone.
Douglas Hudson, I think your orthodoxy/orthopraxy graph is an excellent idea. We are defined by both our actions and our beliefs, and your approach removes the problem with charged labels. So who is going to write the quiz? :)
The two Axis approach is an excellent idea as it brings more clarity to the discussion but there are still important and sizable grey areas; who decides what will be considered correct and what is important within that correctness? Some will be more Ortho than others. Also by definition Orthos seek to exclude Hetros while many Hetros are seeking inclusion. The real problem is the spirit of the law has been lost to tribal warfare about the letter of the law!
“I have yet to hear such a one support a claim of losing faith after having done anything that could be considered primary or even secondary research *other than on convenient Anti-Mormon websites*.””
Really? Then you need to get out more. While there are definitely some people who fit your caricature there are many, nany who do not. That claim of yours is the equivalent of someone else saying “I have never met a believing Mormon who kept the faith after what could be considered primary or even secondary research from the objective historical sources.” As you have said yourself we know that is utterly false because you and many others like you exist. So why this horrible perjorative treatment of others who make good, best faith efforts to dig into church history and simply come to a different conclusion? It is *exactly this type of elitist condescending treatment* which can send sincere questioners for the exit. This narrative that anyone who investigates church history and comes away with partial or no belief is just a stooge of “convenient Anti-Mormon” propoganda is hurtful non-sense. It comes off as “well if only you were as smart as me, Ardis, then you would truly understand…” Of all people, those such as yourself that have dug into church history should understand that people can come to different conclusions about truth claims. Its muddy, incomplete and messy. And to be honest I am getting the sense that very few people can meet the “as smart and educated as Ardis” criteria that is implied in your over reaching statement. At least that is how I *feel* reading what you write here (and in other interactions). Whether it is justified or not I think it is important that you know this is how you make a lot of other people feel so that you can decide if that is what you really want. It isn’t helpful not is it accurate.
I completely respect your level of knowledge and your belief which emanates from that knowledge. I am sure I don’t know as much you do, few people probably do. I do know quite a bit, however, and I have tried to use this knowledge to construct a faith/life I feel I can live with integrity. I am sure it is different than yours in many respects and similar in some. I guess I feel sad because I get the sense when you write and respond that you may reject me as a Mormon or see me as uneducated, dull and deceived even after spending what free time I could reading and understand, trying to find a way to stay in the church with some integrity and belief. I thought maybe I had done that but apparently people like me are but annoyances to the true, educated believers like yourself. So many you need your own moniker TETBs – Truly Educated True Believers. Maybe the church should just be for you.
Howard and Martin James, you both cross-posted with my last chiding remark. Thanks for raising the tone on your own.
rah, I sympathize with the pain I read in your comment. Please don’t get discouraged; we all have struggles with the church, whether it is with the doctrine, culture or other people.
Well, orthopraxy should be fairly easy to define–you could use the Temple recommend requirements, for one thing. With the LDS Church, heteropraxy is likewise easy to define–breaking the Words of Wisdom, publicly denouncing the Church, etc.
LDS Orthodoxy, on the other hand, is much more difficult to define, partly because, I think, the Church deliberately avoids creating doctrine or canon as much as possible. And this is at the root of some of the issues we see in this thread. Disagreements over orthodoxy are, I expect, inevitable, given the lack of doctrine.
Where these disagreements become nasty, though, is when they conflate Orthodoxy and Orthopraxy. After all, people can debate endlessly over the number of Heavens or the location of Kolob, but since one’s position on those topics is very unlikely to raise Orthopraxy issues, (unless you are Brigham Young), they are unlikely to become heated. But when discussing sexual issues, or women’s issues, or anything that brings into question the authority of the Church leadership, well, then you start veering into areas that could potential be heteroprax, and THAT is when discussions become arguments.
Where does this leave us? Well, discussing orthodoxy in purely hypothetical terms, leaving aside the question of whether heterodox ideas lead to heterodox behavior, would allow for discussions on controversial issues without defensiveness; i.e., have a discussion where raising an idea does not automatically bring ones faithfulness into question, and where defending the position of the Church doesn’t automatically brand one a “TBM”.
The hard part, of course, is that for a lot of people, especially the “NOMs”, their heteropraxy, and the Church’s reaction, is the driving force for having the discussion in the first place, which naturally brings them into conflict with more Orthoprax Mormons.
Is this really you?
“Internet denizens who claim to have left the church because they learned the “truth” about church history (virtually always because of conveniently furnished materials on the internet; I have yet to hear such a one support a claim to having lost faith after having done anything that could be considered primary or even rigorous secondary research *other than on convenient anti-Mormon websites* which they have swallowed hook, line, and sinker) are extremely unlikely to have “learned” anything about Mormon history which is not also known to me. When they bother to cite illustrations at all, they’re the same, same, same, same tales over and over again, and their descriptions of those incidents betray a laughably weak familiarity with them.”
So, there must not be a legitimate reason at all why anyone would leave the Church? If they “knew” as much as you know, they would remain in the Church and be like you?
I think I just lost any respect I had for you (not that you care obviously). Here is my two cents to this statement: you may spend most of your life (and the rest of your life) in a library researching history, and yet, about those who leave the Church, you are most likely clueless. Furthermore, I have several times caught you imposting your own personal biases on historical events, just like any other “denizen” out there.
I just want to express my sadness of what you seem to have become per your comment above.
There seem to be some scriptural advice on such issues, none of which suggests a threat.
The story of the Good Samaritan warns against the danger of labels.
The parables of the Prodigal Son and Laborers in the Vineyard warn us that we should worry about ourselves, not other people. Others are not a threat to us, nor a mirror to aggrandize ourselves.
Do “regular” Mormons believe in the scriptures? If so, why would they be threatened?
On point one of the OP, I am not clear how someone else’s blasphemy is an affront to me. I agree that when the assumption is made that those who believe are unenlightened, it can be insulting. But there mere belief or lack thereof does not affect my own testimony in the least.
On point two, it seems to make two assumptions. One is that self-identified NOMs don’t serve in the kingdom. This is not true, in my experience. They may not teach, but they serve as great webmasters, scoutmasters, secretaries, activities leaders, and visiting teachers. There are various motivations to serve. I am involved in several worthwhile civic organizations in which faith has no role in the sacrifices that folks make to serve.
But the second point on resenting them for not sharing burdens is that being too much of a zealot can disqualify one from service as well. We see this a lot, that the seemingly most faithful members do not get called into leadership. We don’t know why, of course, but we can guess how disastrous it would be if they tried to actually act on their stated notions of how Things Should Be, offending many in the process. Of course what more often happens is that extremes are temporized through the influence of the Spirit. But still, we’ve seen a lot of zealots not get the callings where they could have great influence. So if we wanted to be offended at not sharing the work, we would also have to resent those who are so pure that they won’t have internet in their home or ever go into a store on Sunday, even for a member who needs a prescription filled.
I wish we would stop talking about a “TBM-NOM spectrum” as if it exists. It is only real in your mind if you want it to be.
“I will argue that I believe your ‘average’ mainstream/TB/Rightist is less informed than your online M/TB/R Mormon. ”
And that is why they hate you. You’re not debating doctrine or practice, you’re complaining about the same 10-15 topics year, after year, after year. Being “informed”, to you, is possessing a full inventory of complaints. You realize that very little of this “online” knowledge is actually new, right? It’s been around for decades.
I’ll take some of the little old ladies in small Utah towns over some of the NOMs I’ve met, when it comes to knowledge of the gospel and its controversies.
Manuel – I think what Ardis doesn’t like is how those who question automatically assume everyone else must question as well. It’s those that leave that assume that everyone else *must* axiomatically be an idiot.
If NOMs are those who don’t believe (as Dehlin defines), then what about those who question? Is there a middle-ground label?
I have wondered often about the difference between me and so many who publicly struggle with issues. Many here would probably label me a TBM, though I have deep struggles with many of the catch issues, the same as most of those who think of themselves as NOM. I have noticed a few things, but haven’t really thought them through beyond simply noticing trends.
1) I have never expected the Church to have all the answers. My parents made it clear when I was a child that the ultimate relationship is between me and the Savior, and HE is the one I answer to, in the end. I’ve always known that the Church is made up of people who are generally doing the best they can with what they have. I am a practicing member of this Church because this is where He wants me. Period.
It seems like many people who become disillusioned expect perfection in the institution. They conflate “God’s Church” or “The Only True and Living Church” with “The Flawless Church.” It always seemed to me that the entire point of the Church is imperfection, so that we can help bear up each other, and be challenged by each other. Any historical mistakes that come to light don’t really matter beyond what I can learn from it to try to do my part in preventing recurrence.
2) I have never, NEVER “shelved” an issue. There is something baffling to me in that whole concept. Whenever I’ve had something that troubles me, I examine it frequently, polish it, research it, fast about it. Sometimes I have felt by the Spirit that it doesn’t matter right now. Then I let it go, turn it over to the Savior to handle. I don’t stick it on a metaphorical shelf. I keep my beliefs fairly tidy that way.
3) I don’t publicize my doubts. I don’t trust the public to have any good intentions for me. For every hundred of those genuinely seeking, there is always at least one predator out there waiting to take advantage of my weakness. Most of them are relatively indistinguishable from genuine fellow Saints. What I do is discuss them with people I trust, including the Lord.
4) I always assume I have something to learn about the difficulties in my life. I absolutely refuse to go through personal pain without coming out on the other side with a gold nugget, no matter how small. I don’t let myself rail against “unfairness” for long.
5) Because my relationship with the Savior is mine, I allow others to have their own relationships. I try to only speak to them when He moves me to. I try to allow everyone their own place on the map. Because I love them, I won’t often stand by while they make choices that I see hurting them, but I won’t stop being there for them simply because I don’t agree. There is a balance between judgment and compassion. Neither is complete without the other. It seems that many people involved in this false dichotomy between “TBM” and “NOM” feel they have to choose one or the other.
But anyways, that is what I have noticed. I don’t think there is really any difference between the characterized versions of “TBM” and “NOM.” They each have their dogged religion, and refusal to allow others to be different. They are both insecure in their own beliefs, and seem to need to be validated by others’ agreement. They are both threatened by the existence of level-headed people who believe differently, so they demonize and belittle. It’s kind of like the Sneetches.
And, unfortunately, just like the Sneetches, there are those masquerading as friends who are more than willing to pocket their capital. It’s up to us whether we learn from it or not.
I get that. Except she does it by pretty much doing the same thing? “These idiots don’t know half what I know…” Ugh.
I don’t think either “TBMs” or “NOMs” actually exist. While some NOMs may take that label voluntarily, frankly, if they don’t follow the Orthopraxy of the church, then they aren’t Mormons at all. Or at least they are only as Mormon as the polygamists and the Strangites (any of them left?) And if they do follow accepted practice, then they are simply Mormons, regardless of any unorthodox ideas they may have.
Likewise, while some “TBMs” may take that label as a reaction to NOMs, it is an term without any actual definition.
I have yet to hear such a one support a claim to having lost faith after having done anything that could be considered primary or even rigorous secondary research
If I were a betting man I’d wager that most members have done nothing that could be considered primary or even rigorous secondary research. At the risk of “twist[ing] and distort[ing] [your] words,” I wonder what is to be gained by insisting that a legitimate crisis of faith be footnoted when the requirements for membership boil down to age, sporadic attendance and a basic desire to live the gospel as one understands it.
Who hates me? Are you assuming I am a public NOM, or a public internet Mormon? Are you assuming I “complain”? Which common, well-known topics do I complain about year after year? Please enlighten me as to who I am exactly, since I have tried to concede the fact that these labels don’t exactly fit.
Also, just because I am an “internet” Mormon, doesn’t mean you get to assume you know exactly how I process this online information, how it is integrated into my “library” research, and how vocal I am and where I am vocal about it. If you don’t like my over-generalizations, so be it, say it that way. I’d much rather NOT discuss things with ‘your type’, so please keep your conversations with the elderly who enjoy talking your ear off anyway.
I could relate to Dave’s comment all the way back up at number 1. I consider myself a believing Mormon (I personally do not feel offended if someone wants to call me a TBM, but I doubt the label as pejoratively used is fully descriptive), and I do not feel threatened by those who self-identify as NOMs. I think Dave’s comment sort of outlines why. I feel secure in my faith, and like Ardis, I think it is highly doubtful that someone is going to raise an issue I am not already thoroughly familiar with. I live far removed from the intermountain corridor. And my family dynamic is an easy-going one, one of live and let live on matters of religion. Of my five siblings, only one remains a believing member, and neither of my two children is engaged in the church. (Actually, if Joanna had been their SS teacher, maybe they would still have an interest). But in our family that hasn’t led to drama or angst; it is what it is, and the family bond remains loving and strong. If you decide you don’t want to be Mormon anymore, in our family you just stop being Mormon; that doesn’t mean you’re no longer welcome for Easter dinner or whatever.
Here is my concern with your grid.
If we consider the “Church” as the praxy of the churchgoers and not just of the Church leaders, then it is my experience that expressions of doxy quickly lead to praxy responses.
This occurs in a couple of ways. For example, if one says in Sunday School that Kolob is a myth and there is no telestial kingdom, in fact the word, has no meaning its just mumbo-jumbo, (all theoretically matters of doxy with no inherent praxy), one would quickly acquire a reputation with real live praxy consequences.
In other words, expressions of doxy alone are considered praxy by the rank and file members. Shorter version, its not polite (praxy) to make a big deal about disagreeing with any part of orthodoxy.
The second problem is just that since “sustaining church leaders” is so open-ended heterodoxy and heteropraxy are conflated. If for example, one says that the proclamation on the family is bogus (heterodoxy) and one says it too publicly and too frequently then one has committed heteropraxy by questioning the authority of Church leaders.
Now I have seen this gambit played out by a temple-recommend holding brother that wore a pony tail. The Bishop came to him and said Brother James, I’m trying to get the young men to avoid extreme hair styles and they say “But Brother James wears his hair long why can’t we?” The Bishop asked my brother what he should tell them. My brother’s response was “tell them when they pay 25 thousand a year in tithing they can wear a pony-tail too.”
So, on the one hand a pony-tail and supporting the Bishop are both praxy, but the right to redirect the Bishop in this context seems both doxy and praxy.
Its cold comfort to most of those with heterodox views to be told that you can believe whatever you want, just don’t make a big deal about it.
I would really, truly be grateful, if you could take a look at my questions in 111 above and see how the responses to these questions play out on your grid and if you think they do correlate with typical clusters of people on your grid. And, if you feel comfortable disclosing it, where you come down on those issues.
I’m going to try and focus on responding to the OP as opposed to the comments. But no promises.
1. While some may take it as blasphemy, it may also be taken as a potential precursor to apostasy. While that may seem a trifle hyperbolic, as someone who has been in areas where entire congregations have apostatized due to bishops who decided to pick and choose which doctrines and practices to adhere to and then influenced their congregations accordindly, it is a real possibility. This isn’t just a perceived threat. It has happened. And the comment about nothing real being able to be threatened is less than fortune cookie wisdom, it’s hilariously and demonstrably untrue.
2. I was previously unaware that this was a concern. It seems a trifle…beside the point? The only time I see it being an issue (for me, obviously others have their own concerns) is if this occurs in church leaders. And that’s more due to spiritual matters and possible consequences, which points back to number 1, than the actual physical level of service given. I can’t judge people’s effort with any degree of accuracy, since I don’t know what they’re capable of (or may be going through), so it’s less of a threat and more of “you run at your pace and I will run at mine, my friend”.
3. Again something that I am, perhaps alone in, not understanding. A crisis of the faith is an intensely personal thing. Many people (not necessarily all) experience it and have to make their own accommodation with that. What a person thinks does not threaten me. What they say and do as a result is another matter.
There are other things that make me wary when I hear them, due to personal experience.
A.) Comments made by people that seek to minimize or avoid responsbility for their own inflammatory comments or behavior (i.e. insults are only psychological defenses blah blah blah) I immediately distrust people who make those statements. Is that right or wrong? I don’t know, but I have often seen that those who distance themselves from any accountability for their own behavior are about to unleash some particularly obxnoxious behavior upon me. And I have no desire to be involved with them.
B.) People who absolutely refuse to allow me my own beliefs (i.e. you say you know, but really you don’t.) I know what I know and you know what you know. If we disagree, at the end of the day, someone will be right and someone will be wrong. Perhaps we’ll both be wrong. But in any case, arguing with me about something as inherent to my faith as my testimony (however expressed) is useless and self-defeating. Worse, it’s normally just a rhetorical ploy to play to the crowd. It’s not concerned with sincerely convincing me of a perceived error. It’s grandstanding. So I check out.
C. The Ayn Rand Gambit. By this, I refer to anyone who attempts to redefine terms that are almost universally understood in heretofore unknown ways in order to win an argument. This doesn’t just happen with “NOMs vs TBs” or whatever the heck we’re calling them. But I’ve already seen instances of it in the comments to this post. This is something that is not done inadvertantly, so when I see it, I know that there is some kind of agenda, even if that agenda is merely winning an argument. Merely expressing one’s viewpoint is no longer the primary concern. Thus, I lose interest.
But I digress. I liked the post, Rachel. Thank you for it.
In case it needs clarification, this is from point 2 of the T&S comment policy: “As a general matter, Times and Seasons is a forum for believing members or for others who are willing to respect members’ beliefs.” So Ardis is quite right to think of T&S as a place where commenters don’t need to justify their accepting the church’s truth claims. There are other forums out there for interfaith dialogue.
Some of our posts explore the boundaries between culture and religious commitment. Some of my own posts have tried to poke around the boundaries of the Book of Mormon’s historicity, for example. That shouldn’t be taken as a sign of allegiance to or interest in New Order Mormonism, whatever that is. As many others have pointed out above, the instinctive association of study, inquiry, or questioning with something besides plain old Mormonism is highly irritating.
Yes, the open expression of certain kinds of heterodoxy are considered heteroprax. In general, though, it is only those that openly challenge the authority of the Church. Do a google search for “funny testimony meetings” or “mormon folklore” to get an idea of the truly bizarre things that can be said by Mormons without becoming heterodox.
You may find it cold comfort, but the simple truth is, in an authoritarian church like the LDS, that’s pretty much the only comfort you’re going to get. But at least the LDS church doesn’t burn heretics at the stake!
With regard to 111, I have seen all of those questions discussed (online) by orthodox/orthoprax Mormons. My answers are not relevant, because I’m not a Mormon, just an interested observer.
An interested observer who respects members’ beliefs!
I haven’t had time to read all of the comments, but I thought the OP was very interesting. I found the second point the OP made to be rather frustrating. I lost my testimony a couple of years ago and I am very active in fulfilling my calling. I don’t know if the people I work with who don’t pull their weight in their callings are NOMish or TBMish. It doesn’t matter to me. I just wish they would either do their share or not accept the calling.
I found the third point the OP made very interesting and I appreciated it very much. In response to some of the comments I’ve read, I have to admit I am discouraged and only feel further justified in not being more open about my lack of belief. First, I do have familial problems and my problems are actually fed by some of the doctrines of the Church and I will leave it at that. Losing my testimony was one of the most harrowing things I have ever been through. I would consider it an act of violence on my part for me to be the catalyst in bringing about that pain in someone else and so I don’t say anything. I don’t speak up at family gatherings. I don’t speak up at church. I let you continue to believe as you wish without destroying something that is meaningful to you.
I continue to go to church and pull my weight even though I no longer believe. I do it because I like the clean lifestyle my children are being taught. I also do it because my husband makes huge sacrifices for us. This is one I can make for him. Someday, I’d like to be open an honest with him, but, as I said, we have many problems and the culture of painting non-believing or struggling members with such a broad swath of black only discourages, rather than encourages, my feeling safe to share something that leaves me so open and vulnerable.
I generally like and agree with your analysis. I think Joseph once defined orthodoxy with the Articles of Faith, why do we need more than that? Orthopraxy seemed less of a big deal then, no record of white shirts, cap sleeves, on time HT or VT being required or if he was enjoying a glass of beer as he wrote it, but he may have been! Since then the method of succession and calling of leaders has insured less revelation, more inspiration and more pharisaical stuff as the more orthodox and more orthoprax lead the church. The problem with this is prophets are men and inspiration is colored by their own attitudes and thinking so orthodoxy and orthopraxy naturally becomes tightened in pharisaical ways over time as a direct result of their personal bias. Some embrace this pharisaical gospel interpretation because it matches their own biases and because their bias is also exclusionary they want the church to be an exclusive club just for them and people who think like them. NOMs are saying they believe some, maybe even all of the gospel but the church has been caught red handedly lying, and they don’t buy some or all of this pharisaical stuff. Some of them still want to participate in the church but the more staunchly orthos passive aggressively silence the known hetros by controlling and limiting their topics in meetings and by quietly blocking them from teaching and leadership positions. In my experience the orthos are way less tolerant of and less Christian toward the heteros than the other way around. What should be done with the less orthos? Should they or their voice be excluded from the church? Would Christ agree?
A Church has the right to define orthopraxy however it wishes. Members of the Church who are unhappy with the common practice can, of course, try to reform the Church, but they have no inherent right to do so, nor do they have the right to demand respect for their heterodox beliefs/practices from the orthodox/orthoprax.
The only right a person has regarding their Church is the right to leave, and that has only been true of certain countries at certain times. Consider the Medieval Catholic Church, or certain (but not all) Islamic countries today, where leaving the Church, or even questioning it, is a capital crime.
Again, this may be cold comfort, but such is the reality of belonging to a Church that emphasizes the authority of leadership.
You said “While some NOMs may take that label voluntarily, frankly, if they don’t follow the Orthopraxy of the church, then they aren’t Mormons at all.”
I’m having a hard time following this. Let’s take a a young man, say age 25, who has been to the temple and attends church regularly but has a less than fully orthoprax past.
Said RM, meets and old friend and smokes a few joints on the weekend.
Now, let’s play out 2 scenarios a NOM scenario and a TBM scenario.
In the TBM scenario, he feels some remorse, vows to not do it again and doesn’t for one year. In the NOM scenario, he feels little or no remorse and doesn’t do it again for one year.
Now, in what way, did the heteropraxy make them “not mormon” Were they both non-mormon while stoned? Or or they both mormon because the heteropraxy was rare (once per year) or is the NOM one not mormon because the heteropraxis was confirmed by heterodoxy? I can’t really match the doxy up with real world praxy.
And are church going mormons that don’t choose to pursue temple attendance orthopraxy “not mormon”. This is certainly a heterodox use of LDS membership.
I can’t make any sense of it.
J Town, thanks so much for your well-expressed comment. I love the sentiment “you run at your pace and I will run at mine, my friend.”
Douglas, good point about funny testimony meetings. Although I think even those have been toned down now that we’ve had a few years of instruction that testimonies borne in sacrament meeting are supposed to be simple and focus on Christ. Because I wasn’t raised around many Mormons I missed out on a lot of Mormon specific folklore and belief. It is fun to discover it as an adult.
Mother Mary, my heart breaks for you. The pain of losing a testimony or realizing that you must let go of deeply held righteous expectations is terribly wrenching. (I felt this for myself when I had to accept that I would not be able to have the 5 or 6 kids I’d always wanted for myself, for my family, and because church expectations. It was a terribly painful struggle, letting go of what I had thought was a righteous desire, and it affected my entire outlook on the church, the gospel, and my testimony.) I hope you’ve found some peace, some resolution. I’m glad the church still has some value for you.
As for this:
AMEN. Could it be, contra to the supposition of #2 in the OP, that NOMs who do accept callings would be more conscientious about serving because they would not feel obligated to accept every calling whether they are interested or capable of serving or not?
I tend to be along the lines of Ardis on history of the Church. Are there issues? Of course. But my testimony of the gospel does not rest on the Church’s historicity. If history led me away from the LDS Church, then it would lead me away from all Christian religion.
BTW, I have an advanced degree in History, so I know how to research primary and secondary documents. If I read Ardis correctly, she tires of those who are shocked that the Church has some questionable or negative history – as if Joseph Smith descended into mortal history from a celestial cloud. The material has been available for decades from many sources, many of which are faithful members of the Church. Perhaps those who use such as an excuse to leave should consider researching why Richard Bushman, Ardis Parshall, and me still retain our membership in light of history?
I think the labels, btw, are fairly useless. They lump a bunch of people into such a broad group that it is meaningless. I do not consider Joanna Brooks and John Dehlin in the same category, for example. I wouldn’t mind taking Joanna’s Sunday School class. Dehlin is a self-proclaimed atheist, I would be bothered if he was teaching in church.
I am guessing for me that how I treat a person who questions or leaves the Church is partially dependent upon why they question/leave and their demeanor in doing so. If they remain friendly and supportive of those remaining in the Church, I have no problem. If they seek to help others leave the Church, either through aggressive or passive methods, then I don’t think there’s as much of a chance of maintaining a positive relationship.
Here’s the thing: violations of orthopraxy that no one knows about are not relevant for this discussion–you aren’t going to be considered a non-Mormon if no one knows you smoke a joint now and then.
So, for the purposes of this discussion, let us assume that the violation WAS known by other Mormons. The question then becomes, did the “sinner” follow orthopraxy in dealing with the sin? If both people stopped using weed, then it doesn’t matter (for the purposes of determining Mormon status) whether they were truly repentant or not. They are still Mormon.
You don’t have to actually believe any of the Mormon Orthodoxy to be considered a Mormon; you just have to follow the accepted orthopraxy. Part of that orthopraxy, of course, is pretending that you do believe.
So, as I said, “New Order Mormon” is a contradiction in terms. One either follows accepted practice, in which case one is a Mormon, or one doesn’t, in which case one isn’t. Unless “New Order Mormon” refers to a splinter sect of Mormonism, but that is not the impression that I get.
Welcome back SilverRain!
J Town wrote: the comment about nothing real being able to be threatened is less than fortune cookie wisdom, it’s hilariously and demonstrably untrue… insults are only psychological defenses blah blah blah)…Is that right or wrong? I don’t know. Perhaps you should find out!
I’m coming really to this discussion. But I must say one thing:
If you go to the New Order Mormon forum, the participants mostly no longer believe the historicity claims of the church or feel obligated to observe the church’s behavioral codes. In fact most of them do not want to be associated with the LDS church (many of them aren’t at all), but feel obligated because of family reasons. The participants on the NOM forum mostly do not disclose their identities and most of them actually seem to be quite quiet about their disbelief to other LDS, only voicing their true beliefs and doubts online.
The NOMs you seem to be describing in the OP, Rachel, are more liberal Mormons who may be a bit more vocal, but are still attached to the LDS church. I don’t know if NOM is the right term. But then again I, like many on this board, am uncomfortable with the nomenclature and categorization.
…coming really late to the discussion…
Rachel you said “Although I think even those have been toned down now that we’ve had a few years of instruction that testimonies borne in sacrament meeting are supposed to be simple and focus on Christ.”
One strand of NOM belief would say this is an example of the LDS church becoming less mormon.
I assume there’s a point to your creative cutting and pasting from different portions of my post in such a way that obscures what the “right or wrong” question that I posed was actually relating to, but it escapes me. Would you care to clarify?
Douglas wrote: you aren’t going to be considered a non-Mormon if no one knows you smoke a joint now and then…Part of that orthopraxy, of course, is pretending that you do believe. Well said. These concepts are not lost on members creating a uniquely Mormon version of hypocrisy.
Martin James, 157:
The problem is that “NOMs” don’t have the authority to make that claim, within the context of the LDS Church. And Mormons have no obligation to respect claims made about their faith by those without authority.
If you want to reform a Church with strong authority claims, you either do it within accepted parameters, or you need to be prepared for a lot of pushback, often unpleasant. Or you could split off, ala Martin Luther.
No mormon I know would agree that a weed smokin’ mormon is not a mormon just because he smokes weed and doesn’t feel bad about it. No one. An inactive mormon, or a fallen mormon or a jack mormon but the dude’s still a mormon!
Being Orthoprax while secretly being heterodox is hardly unique to Mormonism. As I mentioned above, Catholics and Orthodox Jews, just to name two, face very similar issues to the ones discussed here. In fact, the Orthodox Jews HAVE split into different sects over such issues: Modern Orthodox, Ultra-orthodox, etc.
Also, I don’t think its hypocritical for a non-believing but orthoprax Mormon to criticize someone else for not being orthoprax. Belief and action are separate things.
Sure. Not obscure, I cut and pasted to limit what I was addressing to your comments about my comments. Both of these concepts speak to expanding one’s autonomy not avoiding responsibility and they are wonderful lessons well worth learning.
Thanks the for expression of sympathy. I personally am not in pain, though. I am very happy with where I am at and have never personally experienced the acute faith crisis/transitions others have. My own faith has transformed over time of course. What I did there was channel the pain I see of so many around me. Pain which is made more acute and drawn out by attitudes such as Ardis employed in that comment. I love many people, my lovely, sincere, smart, educated wife for one, whose wresting with faith issues hasn’t been so painless. When I see caricatures drawn like Ardis’s here, I see my wife in my minds eye and I it makes me angry to be honest. She couldn’t be more wrong or more hurtfully condescending. I like to think the best of people. I would hope that Ardis doesn’t intend to make people feel this way. But often we all (me included) need to have someone tell us from time to time how our actions/words make others feel.
I do believe for fighting for a more inclusive, broader tent Mormonism which recognizes people of all different education-levels and modes of belief. I personally feel that such an approach lies at the very heart of Joseph Smith’s spiritual worldview with which I so identify. I am a completely legitimate Mormon and will be here until someone kicks me out. I just get frustrated when I see so many Mormons apparently looking to make other Mormons feel less legitimate and inferior because they don’t meet their particular definition of orthodoxy. It is having horrible ramifications all across the church I love.
It is at the very heart of the OP. Community boundaries are being constantly drawn and redrawn. The construction and definition of labels are integral to this process. Because I care deeply about the church I care deeply about this process. The TBM and NOM labels appear to have become more harmful than helpful. It is naive to think we can operate without categories and labels. So I relaunch the earlier question I asked. What do people propose to replace them with?
Thanks for the discussion everyone. This thread has proven how inadequate and inflammatory labels can be. I will certainly be more careful about them in the future. I’m closing this thread down, but I’m sure there will be similar conversations in the future.