Thursday, August 30, 2007

All right, I'll start a thread about the Mormon blog post... —gvonk

Hi, long-time listener, first-time caller. I've even read Ken's book, though admittedly I checked it out from the library. Embarassed Well, somebody has to offer the drive-by ex-Mormon commentary, right? Here's my thought after reading the post and the replies so far: Maybe this is just so obvious that no one's saying it explicitly, but isn't there a difference between poking fun at an idea versus an ethnicity?

And I do get that the two are hard to separate. Culturally I'm still as Mormon as any of the guys I play ball with in the cultural hall, even if my name isn't on the records anymore (except I don't have that special light in my eyes, naturally). But seriously, what's the justification for giving religious ideas special protection from criticism? I thought the Hitchens piece was great; it hit some important topics but could still be easily dismissed by believing members because hell, if he can't keep "Lephi's" name straight what can we trust him to get right? Wink

I do agree, Ken, that there seems to be an increasing acceptance of taking shots at Mormon beliefs recently. Did you catch the opinion pieces in the school papers at Cal State Fullerton and George Washington University? And admittedly I spend a disproportionate amount of my time discussing uniquely Mormon issues versus the absurdity of a global flood a few thousand years ago or what have you. But that's my world. That being said, the big argument from the evans over who's a "real" Christian is pretty damn funny.

Bottom line, it just doesn't feel unethical (or even unkind) to me to try to point out when I think an idea is flawed, whether it be religious or not. I put the kid gloves on when I'm talking to members about how to deal with what they've learned, because that's people. That's real. But if the subject is Joseph Smith's skill as translater of ancient Egyptian, different story.

Oh and by the way, Ken, the exmo community needs a new celebrity spokesman. Tal Bachman's been keeping the seat warm for you, but he's a little too strident to reach the Mormon consciousness. (C'mon, Tal, you would have strapped a bomb to your back?) Brandon Flowers wouldn't be interested enough to step into the role, and Donny seems too entrenched. Mr. Deity is making a move, but it's not too late. Help us, Ken Jennings, you're our only hope.
Ken Jennings wrote:
I guess I'm ex-Mormon in the sense of "someone who was once a Mormon at some time in the past." Unfortunately, that time has continued right up until the present uninterrupted. Do I still qualify?

I definitely don't want to be read as saying "no religion should be criticized." I especially don't want to be read as saying "my religion, uniquely, should never be criticized."

I do want to be understood as saying:
1. Mormons shouldn't be made indiscriminate targets of snark and insults that would sound disrespectful if applied to other religious traditions.
2. The criticisms should be substantive--writers can't just take it as given that everything about Mormonism is patently crazy and work from there. You should probably explain that crucial first step first, or it sounds like bigotry, whether it is or not.
I guess the question is do they really have to be equal opportunity offenders for it to be OK? What if they just think Mormonism is weirder than Christianity as a whole? It could also be a proximity thing: Trey Parker's first girlfriend was Mormon (language warning in linked interview).
One's stated sexual orientation is not an Honor Code issue.
That's at least progress. Your post made me go back and look at the revised code, and I may be mistaken but I think this part has been softened as well:
When students' ecclesiastical endorsements are revoked or students are disfellowshipped, excommunicated, or become disaffiliated from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, the bishops and/ or stake presidents are required to convey that change of status to the Honor Code Office. In turn, the Honor Code Office informs students of any actions taken related to their university status.
That last line seems to open the door to a person resigning their LDS membership and staying in school. There are lots of BYU students in the online community who have become disaffected but keep quiet until they can graduate or get their transcripts sent elsewhere. (No, I'm not one. I actually teach on BYU campus a couple times each semester, but they tolerate me because I'm such a nice guy and I do it as an unpaid guest lecturer.)

Good post, shelberry. Just a minor clarification:
shelberry wrote:
As a counterpoint to the excommunicant who believes that women should hold the priesthood ...
Actually I think the argument is that women do hold the priesthood, although I'm sure she wouldn't dispute that they also "should." Michael Quinn (also shown in the PBS documentary) has written on this subject as well.
polarea wrote:
I heard it phrased another way once, something like: Mormons are interested in genealogy because if they research their ancestors then they can retroactively baptise them and make sure they get into heaven. Or something to that effect. Thanks for the update on the Mormon perspective, and the explanation of "sealing".
Baptism is one of the vicarious ordinances performed for deceased ancestors. It doesn't really "make sure they get in" from a Mormon perspective, it's more a matter of opening the door. I'm no longer Mormon, but this proxy baptism for the dead thing still makes sense to me. If you believe God requires baptism to enter his kingdom, then you'd think everybody would need to have a chance at it. Still, from a numbers perspective, it's quite the daunting challenge for Mormons if the hope is to someday have ordinances done for every person who's ever lived. Maybe they could generalize a bit more, like "Brother LaVerle, I baptize you for and in behalf of all the people who've ever lived in the country of Uganda ..."
freddi wrote:
There just ended up a full tilt religious war, essentially, "My religion's better than yours and you are going to go straight to hell if you are Catholic." Do the Mormon's get vilified like that in a "public debate forum"?
I think all religions get it in the public forums, if not from other faiths then from the "unaffiliateds." Mainstream Christians do occasionally target Mormons, like the big DVD campaign from the folks at Good News for LDS, where they went door to door in Mormon communities and left copies of their Jesus Christ / Joseph Smith production. Another Christian group that's big on "educational" videos for LDS is Living Hope Ministries. The production quality of these videos is pretty good, but they're of course very one-sided and you have to endure the sales pitch at the end, which always feel a little like, "Now that we've shown Mormonism's claims are improbable at best, let us introduce you to our own equally indefensible beliefs!"

In my experience most Mormons who become disaffected don't join another Christian group anyway, so one wonders why they go to the effort to produce things like this.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

More wikivandalism

I just came across this little gem while reading up on the participants of the PBS special "The Mormons." Who knew Grant Palmer, little known author on Mormon origins, was briefly the richest man in the world in 1997?

The page has since been fixed, but the vandalized version apparently got saved in the snapshots of the list I was reading. I gather this stuff happens a lot, but this was the first wikivandalism I've run into, so thought I'd share.
Ken Jennings wrote:
Wow, LDS seminary teachers must get paid better than I thought.

What about this final line in the article on Kenny Rogers' "Coward of the County"?

"Many believe that the song is an allusion to the policy of appeasement practiced by Britain in the 1930's. Tommy represented Britain, The Gatlin boys were Germany, and Beth was Poland."

Personal theory? Straight-faced put-on? Vandalism?

pikeprof wrote:
small point-but LDS has a lay ministry-there are no seminaries

You're right, at least in the traditional sense. We sort of appropriated the word, though. There actually are LDS "seminaries" attached to middle and high schools in LDS communities. Students can use an hour of release time to attend the seminary. It's not training for the ministry, just general religion classes.