Discussions of Mormons and Mormon life, Book of Mormon issues and evidences, and other Latter-day Saint (LDS) topics.

Saturday, March 26, 2016

Professor Explains Why Mormons Don't Like Trump (and My Thoughts on Dissent)

I apologize for stepping into political topics in this post, which I prefer to avoid most of the time here. I especially apologize to supporters of Donald Trump, for I do recognize that there are intelligent, faithful people who feel he is right on enough important issues to merit their support. I can say the same about supporters of any other candidate as well, and do not wish to say anyone is a bigot, criminal, or idiot for supporting another candidate, no matter how dangerous and deceitful they may seem to me. Politics is a complex, emotional field and there are many different decisions that good people can make (or, in more cynical words, just as there are many ways to deceive the very elect, there are even more ways to deceive the "very electors," or something like that).  

A reader here at Mormanity asked me to comment on an article that initially resembled (but wasn't) just another critic of Mormons looking for faults in the things Mormons do. A Harvard-trained professor at Emory University, Dr Benjamin Hertzberg, wrote what I consider an unkind piece for the Washington Post deconstructing Utah's rejection of Trump not as a vote for religious liberty but more as a desperate if not deceitful attempt to look mainstream by fearful Mormons who allegedly might not really be so supportive of religious liberty for others. In "Utah’s Mormons rejected Trump and picked Cruz. Here’s why," the professor applies what must be Ivy League mind-reading skills as he explains what Utahans were really thinking as they overwhelming rejected Trump in the recent Republican primary.

First, let me note that Hertzberg does not share the refreshing outlook of Mike Donnelly, the Catholic man who is Deputy Chief of Staff for Senator Mike Lee, who finds a community founded on kindness and service in Utah that he believed would thrash Donald Trump on election day (see "Why a Catholic Loves Utah–Especially on Caucus Day" at Meridian Magazine).  Hertzberg also doesn't share the positive response exhibited by Damon Linker writing for The Week with the intriguing title, "The GOP needs more Mormons." Linker lists six reasons why Mormons may not like Trump (these may not apply to all of you, but they fit me fairly well and a majority of my LDS friends and family): (1) we aren't angry people; (2) we object to vulgarity; (3) we generally dislike Trump's "garish lifestyle"; (4) we respect the law and distrust those who might set themselves up as authoritarians above the law; (5) we like immigration reform and have a positive view of immigrants (many of us want more legal immigrants and recognize how much they can contribute to our society); and (6) Mormon's don't hate Muslims.

On that last point, in my small circle of LDS friends here in China, Trump's anti-Muslim rhetoric seems to be an especially important factor in their dislike of Trump. You can't just trample the Constitution and deny religious liberty to a whole class of people. Mormons tend to get this. We can easily see that this is dangerous. So I cannot vote for Trump. That doesn't mean I want to embrace radical socialism or any other flavor of Big, Bigger, Biggest Government -- the lessons of China's painful history, especially the Cultural Revolution, have much to teach us about what happens when you stir up a generation to think that progress and prosperity comes by seizing other people's stuff.

When a Muslim worship hall (not yet a full-fledged mosque, as I recall) came to the Fox Valley near Appleton, Wisconsin a few years ago when I was serving as a bishop, I took my older sons with me to attend to the opening ceremony and public house. I wanted them to meet some of my Muslim friends and to appreciate the goodness in this other faith. More recently, on Christmas Day while in Hong Kong, our youngest son actually recommended that we visit a mosque there that we saw on the way, and we had a wonderful and memorable experience there (and I'm looking forward to what will be my third visit the next time I'm in Hong Kong at the end of April, hoping to meet my new friend from Yemen). I was proud of my son's willingness to learn about and respect another great faith. In my experience, typical Mormons generally respect other faiths, including Judaism and Islam.

Such points don't seem to count for much to Hertzberg. What's really driving the Mormon vote — as if all of Utah were just one big Mormon block, acting in lockstep — apparently is fear, coupled with a lack of courage, and certainly not any kind of genuine, principled concern about religious liberty:
As members of a minority religion, those in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints are stuck in a Catch-22: They are bound by their well-developed fear of persecution to appear as American as apple pie, all the while preserving their radical religious particularity. It is this predicament, rather than a principled concern for religious liberty, that best explains Utah’s caucus results....
For a minority religious group such as the Mormons, religious liberty is both a necessary condition for their survival and a continuous threat to it. Without it, they could potentially be subjected to coercive restrictions... With it, however, Mormons have to deal with continuous and relentless historical examination of their founding theological claims and the ever-present fear that their youths will either leave the faith or radically reshape the way it is practiced and understood....
It is deeply mistaken to understand Utah’s decision ... as motivated by some principled Mormon concern for religious liberty.

What I see instead is the fearful calculus of a minority religious group that has legitimate concerns about the likely implications of the GOP’s increasingly punitive policies toward the religiously different — but does not have the courage to embrace their particularity and leave the party entirely. To do so would be to admit what is obvious to students of Mormonism: They are radically different from the mainstream of American Protestant religiosity. So instead of proclaiming their own difference, they stay, effectively, in the closet: They support the marginally more respectable Cruz over the brash and aggressive Trump. [emphasis mine]
It is a mistake, he argues, to see Utah's rejection of Trump as a vote for religious liberty since, he argues, Cruz has serious gaps in that area, too, and the lesser known, less liked John Kasich would be the right choice, he says, for a vote actually based on respect for religious liberty. Since Utahan's preferred Cruz, the only Republican candidate with a serious chance to compete with Trump, they must not really be for religious liberty.

I know some of you are going to say that I'm once again way out of my league in criticizing the  political thinking of a Harvard-trained professor of political theory, but when I talk with actual voters about how they vote, I notice that very few of them are willing to "throw away" their vote the way I often do and vote for, say, a third party or a remotely trailing candidate with little chance of winning. To me it seems that a majority of voters will select the lesser of two or three evils in order to support a less objectionable candidate with a chance of winning. That may sound crazy in the halls of Harvard, but it's what I see on the streets of American towns.

So yes, perhaps Kasich might be a better choice to make a statement on religious liberty for a well-informed voter (do they still have those these days?) willing to simply vote for the best candidate on the list. Actually, more Utahans voted for Kasich than for Trump, but many more supported Cruz, the only Republican candidate with a chance of beating Trump. Kasich has only won his home state, nothing else, and is a distant fourth behind Trump, Cruz, and Rubio. Is it implausible that making a "practical" vote for someone with a chance to stop Trump was an important factor for many voters? To portray the overall outcome in Utah as the result of a perverse "fearful calculus" to make Mormons look mainstream without actually being very tolerant people strikes me as the kind of harsh bias and skewed mind-reading  we often find in anti-Mormon writings, where everything Mormons do can be cast in negative light and precious little credit given for what others can readily see as good.

At that point I had to wonder about Hertzberg. What makes him tick, or rather, what makes him so ticked about Mormons? In Googling him, I was quite surprised to see that he had been a professor of political science for a couple of years at BYU. In fact, he's LDS, which surprised me. Then came a critical insight. Very shortly after the LDS policy on children in gay marriages came out, he published a harshly critical piece on CNN.com in which he boldly states that he must stand against the Church. In "Mormons' unChristian policy on LGBTQ," published Nov. 13, 2015, just a few days after the policy was published, he declares that Mormons should "loudly and publicly object to the policy and demand its immediate retraction," and calls the Church's explanations for the policy "disingenuous." He urges dissent, and declares that he's doing it out of love for the Church and as means of sustaining its leaders:
Some will think that by publicly dissenting from the new policy I am not sustaining the First Presidency and the Twelve. Nothing could be further from the truth.
I dissent because I love Mormonism, and I cannot bear to see its leaders cause so much unnecessary suffering and harm. I dissent because obedience now costs too much, to my moral integrity, to the church, and to the families of Mormons whom I love.
This is certainly his right. Many of us struggled with the policy when it came out. Some have waited patiently to understand it and to better understand what the Church's concerns are. Some have reacted too quickly and harshly, in my opinion, and Hertzberg's prompt reaction of loud public dissent may be an example of that, though I am confident he is genuine and that he views his actions as loving and courageous.

Of course, we have to make our own personal choices in these difficult matters. I fear, though, that his anger or frustration over the same-sex marriage issue may have led him to become too critical. This has happened to many I know when they become frustrated or critical on one issue, that can then affect their approach to other issues as well.

Regardless of where Hertzberg is in his attitudes, which may be more benign that I gather from his interpretation of Mormon voting, I wish now to speak of the general issue of disagreement and dissent. 

I have a little experience in dealing with Church leaders and decisions from above that I object to. What I have learned over the years is that I rarely do wrong when I am charitable, when I assume that those in leadership positions with whom I may disagree are not acting out of vile hatred, fear, ignorance, and other evil motivations. This took some time for me to learn as I dealt with some painful circumstances when I served in some past leadership positions, but it has been a vital lesson for me.

We are rarely wrong when we take some time and consider that there may be reasonable thinking behind the actions of our mortal, fallible leaders, and that while they may sometimes be in error, the error is usually not because they are idiots and mean-spirited bigots, though few men are free of the many errors in thinking that can pervade human society in every generation. We are rarely wrong when we keep our objections, however well founded, and even anger to ourselves and wait for an appropriate opportunity to discuss concerns with our leaders. We are rarely wrong to be patient. And we are rarely right when we take our indignation to the public, however righteous we think we and it are. There's something about the psychology of going public and all the encouragement and attention that it brings that makes it very easy to step over the threshold from good-faith feedback to "kicking against the pricks." There's a reason for Christ's wise counsel: "in your patience possess ye your souls" (Luke 21:19), and I urge caution to those who want to stand as loud and critical dissenters. That's my view, anyway. 

It is common for dissenters to claim that their public criticism and denouncements are done to help the Church (though calling it a manifestation of actually "sustaining" our leaders is a bit unusual). It is common for them to call it an expression of love for Mormonism. They probably mean it. But while the GOP may need more Mormons, as Damon Linker suggests, sometimes we Mormons could use a little less love.

I hope members who feel a need to publicly criticize their Church can apply patience and faith rather than becoming vocal critics. I also hope that America will learn the lessons of history and come to its senses in preserving not just religious liberty but the many precious liberties meant to be preserved by the Constitution which gave us a small, weak Federal government, with vast powers reserved to the States and to the People, not in the hands of an autocratic executive (and his appointed cronies) able to launch wars, change or ignore laws, spend at will, and do thousands of things our Founders sought to prevent. May the blood they spent in bringing us liberty not be for naught. 


Anonymous said...

You're engaging in a sanctimonious witch hunt, Jeff, and you should be ashamed. How dare you question someone's faith and paint his entire output with such a broad brush?

Jeff Lindsay said...

Anonymous, help me out. I'm responding to Hertzberg's very public statements. He's the one who is painting Mormons with a broad brush, questioning our motives and commitment to religious liberty (because they overwhelmingly didn't pick the #4 candidate, or because Mormon Republicans didn't all become Democrats), and questioning Mormon intentions and Church policies. At CNN, he is the one declaring that he wishes to boldly and loudly dissent against the Church. I'm having a hard time finding the witch hunt here.

I'm also not clear on how his "entire output" entered into the fray. I only considered two widely read works of his that together point to an attitude I see at odds with sustaining and strengthening the Church. I don't know where his relationship with God is--I'm not trying to read his mind, but his relationship with the LDS Church is obviously strained. That's not me on a witch hunt--that' him declaring his loud and vocal dissent.

My final paragraph did express hope that Hertzberg would regain what he appears to be losing (evident in his criticism of the Church and Mormonism--I didn't say what it was he's losing for I'm not sure, but something's going on, based on these two articles of his, and it's not a healthy progression for the LDS faith, IMHO). However, I've made that more general now, hoping that members in general when tempted to dissent will exercise patience and faith to cope instead of becoming vocal critics. My discussion on dissent is meant to be for all of us, not just aimed at him, and I've also clarified that with a sentence added before that discussion. And again, people are free to adjust their faith as they will and to dissent as they will. But for those interested in preserving their LDS faith, public shaming of the Church leads to rapid changes and what I would call loss, in my experience. I hope he'll come through this and be OK, and I wish the same for America in a time of great concern.

Mormography said...

If dissent should occur in private, why is “All those opposed” asked publically? A little disingenuous?

Why did Mormons overwhelming vote for Cruz? It is a great question. If Mormanity’s the viable-lesser-evil-hypothesis is correct, then those same Mormon’s will vote Trump in the general election.

As for the rest of this post, it is classic Mormanity hypocrisy. The post lacks the charity it urges. Yes, Hertzberg (an atypical last name for a Mormon), unlike The Economist or The Atlantic, did not use hard data to ground his assessments, but neither did Mormanity. Mormanity oversimplifies Hertzberg’s hypothesis to state Mormons are just fearful, then in almost the same breath Mormanity admits he pre-judged Hertzberg as just angry and frustrated (“ticked”). When Trump suggested a moratorium to Muslim visitors, I exercised charity and assumed he meant Middle-Easterners, Mormanity somehow falsely concluded, “trample the Constitution and deny religious liberty to a whole class of people”.

Regardless of why Mormons overwhelming supported Cruz, the Evangelical favorite, the déjà vu humor was astounding. Mormons staunchly fought for the Evangelical’s Prop 8 in California. The Evangelicals did not even say thank you and then gleefully watched Same-Sex-Marriage proponents relentlessly exposure the Mormons on the Internet.

Another hypothesis I have heard is quite the opposite of Mormanity and Hertzberg. It is neither a vote against intolerance nor a vote out of fear. It is sucking up. Mormon’s are culturally disposed to kill the Evangelicals with niceness, sucking up to them with the secret hope of converting just a small fraction of a percentage of them, which is also the reason the Evangelicals dislike them some much.

Anonymous said...

There is a reason God and his prophets have been and are so emphatic about studying the Book of Mormon and how it is written for us in our day.

The major conflict in our day is between the Statists (kingmen) and Libertarians (freemen) [Alma 51:1-8; D&C 98:5 134:2]. The Statists are completely infected with secret societies that murder for power and gain [Ether 8:23].

As applied in the current political climate it is interesting that Newt Gingrich said, Trump "hasn't been through the initiation rights and doesn't belong to the secret society." [https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dO-NA73FsW8] Additionally, "Trump's foreign policy views challenge GOP orthodoxy in fundamental ways." [http://www.politico.com/story/2016/03/trump-clinton-neoconservatives-220151]

The implication from Newt is that Mitt Romney has been through the initiation rights [Alma 37:27] and is, along with most members of the Church as implied from the Book of Mormon, a member of the secret societies or supporter(s) who partakes of the ill-gotten spoils [Hel. 6:38-39]. And the recent voting regarding Trump should not be a surprise given Utah's record with Ron Paul in 2008 and 2012. It seems very clear that they are too attached to the secret of Mahan [Moses 5:31 & 49].

Glenn Thigpen said...

I am going to have to do a lot of praying before I cast my vote in this coming election, even more so than usual. That is all I have to say about that.
On dissent, I think that you are correct on eschewing public displays and forums to voice any disagreement with new or changes in existing policies.
It is a moral imperative that we, as faithful and believing members of the Church to apply as much effort in understanding or accepting those things as the brethren do in crafting them.
President Henry B. Eyring in the current First Presidency message on the LDS main site has an instructive message on the subject.
I think that all too often when we hear a message or polcy that we do not agree with that our reactions are just that, reactions and often emotional responses. Once that happens, it is really difficult to distance oneself emotionally, humble oneself to the point where revelation can be received, and put in the time, prayer. and effort to actually receive communications from the Holy Ghost.
The meme is that our prophets and leaders are not infallible, which I do not dispute, nor do they. However, it goes without saying, that none of the rest of us are infallible either. If we do not put at least as much sincere effort in trying to obtain an answer as those brethren do, we have not a moral leg to stand on in voicing voicing dissent.


James Anglin said...

@Mormography: If Donald Trump were asking for a cookie at recess, he would be entitled to charity. He is asking for the US Presidency. He is not entitled to charity.

Muslims are adherents of a religion. According to the Pew Research Center, only about 20% of Muslims are in the Middle East (including North Africa).

Mormography said...

James Anglin. Not sure what your point is. It sounds like you agree with me that Mormanity urges charity, but does not exercise it.

In this context I believe Mormanity is using the word charity to suggest giving someone the benefit of the doubt, looking from the individuals point of view and core point in order to engage in constructive dialogue. Oohh, that is right, never mind, u r not likely to understand how he is using the word.

I think I disagree w u in that merely asking for a cookie at recess entitles one to it.

Mormography said...

James -

Setting aside that it is antithetical to see the word “entitled” next to “charity”, and acknowledging that you have essentially conceded that you are only here to be contrarian, I think your point is that you do not agree with Trump’s politics. As Mormanity pointed out, no one agrees with any high-level politician’s politics, being high-level politics is about choosing the lesser of two evils.

It is not just a lack charity. It is outright false to claim a moratorium on Muslim visitors is to “trample the Constitution and deny religious liberty to a whole class of people”, even if it is moronic -- attempting to determine which mythology is floating around inside of someone’s head, moronic. As recently as last year, the US Supreme Court upheld not only that visitors do not have a right to due process, but also that the courts are not even authorized to review consular adjudications.


Of course, tomorrow if the Supreme Court wished, it could put stare decisis aside and overturn constitutional interpretation. However, if the Court allowed foreign groups arbitrary power to force entry into the nation it would also deteriorate the nation’ sovereignty to a degree.

Though obscure to most Mormons, Mormon theology has a strong justification for extreme immigration discrimination. According to Mormon legend, Enoch built a city allowing only the righteous of one heart and mind in. God rewarded the city for its extreme form of immigration policy by taking it into heavy.

Anonymous said...

Hi Mormography,

I have to say that your comment about the City of Enoch made me chuckle. Most likely it was a tongue in cheek comment and I actually can't wait to use this in in Sunday School or priesthood. You even managed to put "obscure" and "strong justification" in one sentence without failing to see the contradiction by doing so.

Of course, furthering this tongue in cheek comment, one could say the same about Noah's ark, the Exodus, killing off the firstborn Egyptians, the ceremony of feet washing that Jesus did to his disciples, Lehi's journey to the New World, etc.


Anonymous said...

The high rate of immigration into this country lessens the likelihood of assimilation, increases the likelihood of balkanization, decreases the likelihood of maintaining already weakened constitutional adherence. The country has chosen to continually increase immigration rates over the past 50 years, for various reasons. It boils down to political power, of one stripe or another. If it continues at current rates, the country will become a different country, not the one people are currently attracted to. Lame corrupt lunacy.

Mormography said...
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Mormography said...

Steve -

Touche, I take your point well. Does this adjustment clear it up? "Mormon theology has a strong justification for extreme immigration discrimination. Though obscure to most Mormons, According to Mormon legend, Enoch built a city …”

Obscure -- Like many Catholics are not accustomed studying the Bible, many Mormons would have to think for a moment about the canonical City of Enoch, though not as obscure as something like the contradictory and non-canonical Adam-God Theory that Brigham Young in fact taught. Do you have a better word for this?

You are right regarding such examples as the Book of Mormon and its many immigration anecdotes and mythologies all continuing the strong, strong justification of discriminatory immigration. Yes, the evolving world of Mormonism is now leading to contradictions making things that used to be obvious to all Mormons, less so today. Jaredites, Lehi, Columbus (not mentioned by name), are all were led to America via divine discriminatory immigration plans. Plans that sometimes even involve skin color. Divinity explicitly forbade Enoch from allowing Blacks into the City of Enoch. You acknowledge that most Mormons are not aware of this fact by mentioning Sunday School, which of course it is a silly distinct given the new essays are addressing significant items officially ignored for 150 years and much of what Mormons believe is not even found in the key stone canon.

It appears the root of our disconnect is your discomfort with the canonical concepts of Mormonism and desire to turn a blind eye and play dumb with them.

Mormography said...

Steve -

Seeing as you concede the City of Enoch is not something taught in Sunday School, ergo obscure, it is uncertain if you concede the obvious, that Mormon theology has strong justification for immigration discrimination, something you term tongue in check. Chuckling to facts, it appears that this is you playing dumb, turned into denial, turning into delusional.

The entire premise of the Book of Mormon is that America is a land set apart by Divinity for special people. The City of Enoch was just an obscure (though canonical) example immigration theology, the Book of Mormon itself is full it. So, yes strong justification stands, along with the City of Enoch being an obscurer reference as you demonstrate.

"And behold, it is wisdom that this land should be kept as yet from the knowledge of other nations; for behold, many nations would overrun the land, that there would be noplace for an inheritance"

"Whoso should possess this land of promise, from that time henceforth and forever, should serve him, the true and only God, or they should be swept off when the fullness of his wrath should come upon them."

Mere excerpts of a running theme ...... To deny the strong justification for immigration discrimination is borderline delusional.

Anonymous said...

Hi Mormography,

You like to assert your opinions as facts and make sweeping generalizations on top of it.

- I did not conceded that the City of Enoch is obscure. Out of the thousands of pages of scriptures, I will concede that emphasis should be placed on being loving than whether there is a talking donkey.

- Out of the exclusionary examples that I referenced, all but one were from the Bible so the argument can be made that religion in general is exclusionary but this isn't new, is it? After all, the majority of Christian religions require baptism to become a member, other ceremonies are required to become a member of other faiths, swearing an oath is required to become a citizen of the US, IV League universities allow only well connected students into its classrooms, etc.

- Since the above examples are evidences of exclusionary practices, one could make the argument that society in general has strong justification codified for immigration discrimination.

- The City of Enoch is not obscure, there is not "strong justification" for immigration discrimination in the Church, the history of the Church confirms this as well (perpetual immigration fund ring a bell?), and lastly, moving this conversation from the light hearted to the serious, you have no idea what delusional is about until you have met someone who is delusional. This mental illness cripples the person affected who has a hard time maintaining social relationships and is sometimes one step away from being homeless because of this debilitating condition.


PS - Utah opens its borders to refugees coming from the Middle East, most of whom will most likely be Muslims. You can keep making the argument that Utah should not being doing this but you will come off sounding like a bigot if you do.

Mormography said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Mormography said...

Ha, yep delusional, talking donkeys and all. Perpetual immigration fund, let see ... in exchange for becoming Mormon, the Mormon church paid the expensive passage to America and only a super minority repaid the passage amount, hence the perpetual part was not so perpetual was it. Converts bought and paid for, sounds like discriminatory immigration to me.



PS After overcoming your debilitating illness, can u please show me where I ever, ever claimed Utah should or should not do anything. Seems to me u would have been better off pointing to the BoM centuries of peace w interracial marriage turning "skin of blackness" into brown.

Mormography said...

I invite all that have witnessed Steve’s disingenuousness, to read Mormon Canon Moses 7 for themselves. Regardless of current Mormon practice or political position, the fact is Mormon Canonical Concepts are full of nation building references and corresponding immigration policy. Discomfort with facts does not turn them into opinions.


V. 11 And he [sic He] gave unto me a commandment that I should baptize ….

V. 12 And it came to pass that Enoch continued to call upon all the people, save it were the people of Canaan (v. 8 a blackness came upon all the children of Canaan)

V. 19 And Enoch continued his preaching in righteousness unto the people of God. And it came to pass in his days, that he built a city that was called the City of Holiness, even Zion.

V. 23 And after that Zion was taken up into heaven,

Jeff Lindsay said...

You may be glad to hear that Mormons preach to everyone where it is legal, regardless of race.

Mormography said...

Who said differently?

Mormography said...

The most interesting item from the exchange above is that Mormanity did not come to Steve’s defense.

Steve cannot decide if the City Of Enoch is or is not taught in Sunday school. Steve displayed emotional irritation at the fact that the Mormon Canonical Concepts are deeply involved with national building and population migration constructed in a discriminatory manner by Divinity. His only retort was that all immigration is discriminatory (not an actual retort) without addressing Divinity’s involvement. Steve’s vast ignorance on the subject was displayed when his only supporting evidence of PEF (which of course does nothing to address the Canon) actually contradicted his position.

When Mormanity interjected, he essentially confessed, indicating that the Canon does not apply to current proselytizing efforts, which of course was never argued against.

Neil Montague said...

How on earth can he claim Cruz is a bad choice for religious liberty? Is he unaware that Cruz has fought and won multiple cases before the supreme Court on religious liberty? I've never even heard kasich mention it

Brooks M. Wilson said...

Hey (hi has been used) Mormography,

You write, "If dissent should occur in private, why is “All those opposed” asked publically?" and then conclude, "A little disingenuous?"

Dissent and opposed do not mean the same thing although there is overlap. Using online definitions from Google, Dissent means "hold or express opinions that are at variance with those previously, commonly, or officially expressed." Opposed means "eager to prevent or put an end to; disapproving of or disagreeing with." Lindsay defines dissent as,"becoming vocal critics," placing emphasis on expressing opinions." Assuming that Lindsay accurately expresses the opinion of the LDS church, calling for opposition rather than dissent is not disingenuous.

I don't know why Mormons in Utah overwhelmingly supported Cruz over Trump but I believe that you miss possibilities. For example, today, I like Kasich better than Cruz, Cruz better than Clinton and Clinton better than Trump. For me, a vote for Cruz will not transfer to a later vote for Trump. In addition to ranking candidates, I also have a minimum standard and candidate must achieve. Trump does not meet my standard.

Elise Hahl said...
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Elise Hahl said...

I thought that Ben's article was interesting, the rebuttal here was interesting, and that they both deserved air time.

Still, I thought that questioning Ben's relationship with the Church went a little too far. I know him and his family. He descends from Auschwitz survivors, so he has a unique perspective--one which certainly justifies concern about nationalistic impulses that could ultimately hurt certain minority groups. I remember his Sunday School lessons--he was always challenging assumptions by asking whether WE were the bad guy. It was uncomfortable but it made you think. It definitely got everyone to participate!

I think there's room enough in the Church for this perspective. Maybe we even need it. Remember that most of the Israelites of the New Testament didn't realize the Savior had come.

That said, I'm not going to defend everything Ben said in the WaPo piece. It seemed more of an opinion piece than a careful argument, and it stood on certain questionable assumptions. (For example, if it's true that Mormons are voting out of concern for their American-ness, why would they choose a self-proclaimed socialist over Trump in a one-on-one matchup, as polls suggest? Or why do Utah Republican voting patterns represent the Church?) To me, this article is kind of like one of Ben's old Sunday School lessons. He's throwing a hypothesis out there that feels a bit threatening, but gets us to think.

I would have appreciated it if we could have just evaluated his arguments on their own merits and left the Church relationship part out of it.

Mormography said...

Brooks M. Wilson – So, if Hertzberg had said, “publicly opposing the new policy” vice “publicly dissenting from the new policy” Mormanity would have been OK with it? I am sure Mormanity would not agree with you. The fact is Brooks, publicly asking, “All those opposed” where opposing is taboo is disingenuous. Are you going to look up “disingenuous” and “insincere” and split hairs on those now?

You make a great case for the instant-runoff ballot. The American forefathers were very weary of political parties, what they called “factions”. They preferred either no factions or many, many factions in order to negate the power of any one faction. Unfortunately, for them, what they created unintentionally ended up with two distinct parties, worse than the parliamentary system with multiple parties.

The instant-runoff ballot where voters rank their preferred candidates the way you do would eliminate the need for primary elections. The idea did not exist at the time of the American founding. As great as the instant-runoff ballot is, political parties would probably still exist, as they serve the need to solve information overload with simplified branding.

Brooks M. Wilson said...

Let me try again. Lindsay opposes public dissent such as but not limited to publishing what he views as harsh criticism of church leaders and to some extent the policies they implement, protesting at church events and inviting the media to cover the protests. Raising your hand when asked for those who "are opposed" is not. Saying you disagree with a policy in a church class is not. Telling a friend that you disagree with a policy is not. Mormons, as a whole, like decorum and believe in following convention. Hertzberg broke that convention.

Would Lindsay disagree with my distinction? I don't know but I suspect most practicing Mormons would not.

There is another distinction between public dissent and the practice of sustaining or opposing when asked from the pulpit. The general leadership of the church does not give members a chance to acknowledge support or opposition to policy decisions. It is not a democratic institution. Dissenting from a policy is far different from being "opposed" to a person called to be a Sunday School teacher up to being "opposed" to sustaining the prophet. While focusing on the difference between dissent and opposed may have been hair-splitting, the real differences in the manner in which disagreement with church policy is expressed is not. You probably knew that when you wrote, "If dissent should occur in private, why is “All those opposed” asked publically?"

Non-democratic institutions have channels to process dissent, the church included. Alderks, Jenne Erigero. “Effecting Change in the Church,” SquareTwo, Vol. 7 No. 2 (Summer2014) provides an example of such a channel. That the church has thrived without the threat of violence since its founding provides prima facie evidence that it adapts to dissent. I believe that most of that dissent is private and not public

I like your information about the instant-runoff ballot. I am not sure that our two party system effectively eliminates factions. Factions seem to live within both parties, some thriving and others stayin alive. I will admit that my particular faction is barely stayin alive.

Mormography said...

So it is or it is not taboo to vote opposed?

Let me try again. Fact is, the LDS church is not a democratic institution (as you state) and it does not like dissenting voices either during a fake vote, in a church class, or when telling a devout friend. It would be much more honest to just do away with asking all those opposed and hold a “court of love” for Hertzberg. You probably knew that when you wrote about dissent.

Your statement “That the church has thrived without the threat of violence since its founding provides prima facie evidence that it adapts to dissent.” Is kindaof a bizarre stretch of the words thrive and dissent.

The LDS Church today is not the same church it was a 100+ years ago. Assimilation is a key reason. The core belief and practice of polygamy stopped after threat of extreme violence. Fundamental changing core beliefs and practices may be surviving, but is an odd definition of thriving. Today the LDS Church’s exaggerated claims of proselytizing success lags behind other proselytizers such as the Evangelicals, Jehovah Witness, etc. While this is surviving as a proselytizing entity, is not necessarily thriving.

The Church continues to exist, ergo “adapts to dissent” is weak reasoning. Kinda of like stating, Bob Jones U. allows black students “provides prima facie evidence that it adapts to dissent.” More like, provides prima facie evidence it wants to keep its tax-exempt status. Or how about this one, Islam continues to thrive today “provides prima facie evidence that it adapts to dissent.” More like it has high fertility rates growing its base.

Brooks M. Wilson said...

You persist in mixing apples and oranges when comparing Hertzberg's vocal dissent of church policy in "Mormons' Unchristian Policy on LGBTQ" and sustaining those called to positions within the church and no, it is not taboo, nor is it infrequent. It seems to happen every conference.

You state that the church "does not like dissenting voices," a rather unremarkable observation given that few organizations do, I can think of none offhand. The question is if an organization adapts to dissent. We both agree that the church has adapted.

You call the sustaining of officers a "fake vote." It is not a vote and those who are opposed to sustaining a local officer or the prophet of the church know that it is not.

You claim that the church exaggerates proselytizing success. This is simply false. Every person baptized is a member of the church and has been since 1830. It is not meant to reflect growth of the number of people attending meetings. If you wish to measure growth, you can use the growth in congregations as a proxy.

Is the LDS church growing relative to other religious organizations? The answer is yes and that is why you limited discussion to Evangelicals and Jehovah's Witness and other proselytizers. Even there, you probably get the facts wrong because you do not apply the same set of critical standards of evaluation to these organizations. First, Evangelicals are not a well defined religious organization. It is a term loosely used to define religious organizations that hold a certain set of changing beliefs. According to the National Association of Evangelicals, these beliefs do not include attending church meetings. They do not include proselytizing either.

When you talk about growth of the Jehovah's Witnesses, how are you measuring growth? Their published data includes publishers and Memorial Service Attendance. To which do you refer? Both can produce measures of growth that are OK, both can be lead to exaggerated claims of growth and neither measure membership growth. Finally, and most importantly, why must the LDS church the criteria of very rapid growth relative to other proselytizers to be described as thriving? Why not measure by the commitment of members using contributions as a proxy?

I will leave a discussion of assimilation to another day.

Mormography said...

You persist in being disingenuous.

Because something happens does not make it not taboo. It is a “fake vote”, because as you noted it is a not a vote, but even in LDS Conference you will sometimes here “the vote is noted”. There was never a question, be it about dissent or adaption. There was a statement of fact that the “All opposed” “fake vote” is disingenuous, something you are clearly being disingenuous about, further demonstrating the culture attitude.

You claim the church does not exaggerate proselytizing success. This is simply false. To help you understand, the church’s magazine in the early 2000s announced a million members in Mexico. The Internet filled with Mormons describing how inaccurate the membership rolls are, with people that cannot be found, unknown addresses, and extremely weak baptism requirements. The now excommunicated John Dehlin spoke out against the unscrupulous baptism practices when he was young missionary in Guatemala. Your preferred channels of dissent ended with Dehlin finishing his mission in another mission. Census data from various countries, including Mexico, then proved these claims to be accurate showing LDS Church membership data inflated by three fold. Interestingly enough, the same census data showed the Jehovah Witnesses were vastly under-reporting their membership. This was all discussed over a decade ago, given your background, it is difficult to believe you are not familiar with it and easy to believe you are being disingenuous.

You are free to define thriving in any way that makes you feel better. If commitment-of-members is the definition, then the FLDS are thriving. At any rate, your new definition of thriving changes your “prima facie evidence” for it from “adapts to dissent” to commitment-of-non-dissenters. I will take your new definition as conceding.

Some organizations are big-tenters and some are small-tenters. When John Dehlin asked Mormanity if the LDS Church could be a big-tenter, Mormanity answered no, citing Paul. Trying to minimize the small tent nature of the LDS Church to “few organizations” like dissent is disingenuous.

Brooks M. Wilson said...

I am being honest in my opinions. Google defines vote as, "a formal indication of a choice between two or more candidates or courses of action, expressed typically through a ballot or a show of hands or by voice." I did read the definition before posting but not carefully enough. I was wrong; a sustaining vote is a vote. On the larger issue of whether it is fake, I must conclude that it is not. There is a procedure put in place and that procedure is generally known. When a person, not an issue, is presented for a sustaining vote, those in the congregation can sustain or oppose. A member can oppose if they know of a disqualifying behavior. Those opposed meet with a designated authority after the meeting to learn if there is a disqualifying behavior. If there is, the name might be removed from consideration.

An opposing vote is not taboo and therefore infrequent but infrequent because members rarely know of disqualifying behaviors and because leaders, who are in a much better position to know disqualifying behaviors, don't call those individuals to hold positions of authority. Frequently, someone in General Conference both dissents by yelling and votes to oppose. They are asked to consult with their local leader. You seem not to like the procedure and call it a fake because: you don't know what it is intended to do or don't like the outcome. That does not make it a fake.

Membership records count people who have been baptized and who have not been removed from the records of the church. They are not exaggerated or falsified. Using the records to note milestones does not exaggerate proselytizing success because all the records conform to church procedure. Membership records are used to minister to members. For every article written by the church about growth, there are many more hours spent locating and ministering to all members. Nor does the church generally distinguish between growth caused by birth and by baptism.

You simply note that there are not as many members who regularly attend or associate with the church as there are members. Those are two different things. It is therefore not surprising that census records differ. I will repeat, the Jehovah's Witnesses do not report membership numbers so they cannot be compared with census numbers.

Bad practices by missionaries are not encouraged by the church. When they occur, they are generally noted by a missionary, bishop, stake president, etc. One of my sons told his mission president of bad practices and was made a zone leader to stop them. I didn't encounter any during my mission. I suspect that my experience is the most common. All this points to the fact that the church adapts to dissent.

My definition for measuring the ability of the church to adapt because of dissent did not change. Committed members dissent all the time. I frequently report my dissent to the correct authority and change is frequently made. Committed members are much more likely to dissent than uncommitted members. The uncommitted members are not at church.

Mormanity can represent his opinion as to whether the church is a big-tenter or small but he does not represent the church. Nor do I, but I conclude that it is a big-tenter because it will baptize, with few exceptions, anybody who can pass the baptismal interview.

Mormography said...

Disingenuous assessments, false assertions, and many contradictions. You have made up your mind and do not want to be confused by facts or rational dialogue. No point in having a conversation with you.

Brooks M. Wilson said...

Something about pots and kettles comes to mind.

Mormography said...

Prove it.

If that were true, you would have provided examples. After a lengthy back and forth, you admitted you were wrong on the original and simple item in question, only showing a discomfort with the word “fake”. As the vast majority of Mormons will tell you and contrary to your false assertion, after publically asking, “All opposed”, there is no public request to “consult with their local leader”. In General Conference, the opposed are difficult to identify, ergo no one asks them in private to “consult with their local leader”. As those observing you who are not Mormon have already figured out if consulting with the local leader is the answer, then there is no utility to asking all opposed publically, other than waving a Saddam Hussein style election result of 99.99% percent support. If the Mormon’s public “All opposed” is not disingenuous, then neither was Saddam Hussein’s.

Sighhhh … Here is another example of your false assertions, which by the way, you asserted emphatically by saying, “I will repeat”. The Jehovah Witnesses OWN website has an entire explanation of why census numbers are higher than their officially published numbers. https://www.jw.org/en/jehovahs-witnesses/faq/how-many-jw-members/ I found this in 60 seconds, meaning you did not even try. For all those observing Brooks, please appreciate why I say there is no point in having a conversation with him.

You wish Mormons to be simultaneously special and mainstream disingenuously whitewashing ALL nonmainstream characterizations, failing to realize how this incessant reflex stops you from being convincing to anyone but the choir, as the non-choir observing this thread is realizing.

Ohh that is right Brooks, you Piled it higher and Deeper (PhD). At this level and given your latest rejoinder … I am rubber you are glue whatever you say bounces off me and sticks to you.

Mormography said...

That is what I thought.

The kettle heard the fire crackle and then had an imaginary conversation with a pot.