Sunday in Outer Blogness: Theology and Doctrine Edition!

What do Mormons believe? Seems like nobody really knows. I could swear they were once the church of modern-prophets-filling-in-the-Bible-gaps-with-concrete-answers. Then “correlation” came along and stamped out all of those (controversial!) specifics, and replaced them with a short list of vague warm-fuzzies like “faith” and “tithing”. But that hasn’t stopped the folks of Outer Blogness and beyond from tackling a whole bunch of theological and doctrinal issues this past week!

Do certain utterances have quasi-magical properties? God: Is He all-powerful or bound by pre-existing natural laws? Is He Omniscient? My guess is that — in Mormon theology — God is not omnipotent, but the Mormons hate to emphasize the ways that Mormon doctrine differs from other Christians (regardless of whether the typical Christian belief makes sense or not). They get into enough trouble with the Christians over quibbling points like whether Muhammad was a true prophet. Faith: What is it anyway? Is is make believe & hope? Can you just choose what to believe? Does the actual truth matter at all? Of course, the practical-doctrinal questions are about sex: who can have it, who can’t, and what are the consequences (like the challenges of parenting).

To answer these questions and more, let’s consult the sacred texts! You might analyze some of the original versions of the revelations that came to be the Doctrine & Covenants. Then there’s that semi-secret/sacred book we discussed last week, the CHI. Outer Blogness has practically turned into an online Rabinnical school, with all the Talmudic-style texual analysis this book has been subjected to! Here‘s the line-by-line analysis of what it says about masturbation and pornography. Naturally the parts on homosexuality were scrutinized, backwards and forwards. Of course, if poring over the details of actual texts is too boring, you can speculate about promised or rumored sacred texts instead!

But, hey, let’s not just pick on the Mormons. The big Catholic news is that the Pope has OK’d condoms!! (For non-procreative sex such as male prostitutes — no specific word, though, on whether they’re recommended for pedophile priests). And don’t forget the Unitarians, the Humanists, and the Jedis!

In addition to the discussion and debate, there were — as always — fascinating personal stories! Invictus Pilgrim has a whole series on growing up gay and Mormon! Paul has a fascinating tale of the one (Mormon) friend he had while growing up as an outcast in a small town. LittleMissAttitude had a weird week (including mishies and Christmas carols). Tracy M. got a taste of what it’s like to have her life treated as “an object lesson in failure.” And Insana D. tells a real-life tale of “Sandy and Danny from Grease only Danny in this case did not have a sweet bone in his body.”

(Also note some great political discussions: how analysis of countries’ actions in war can get you branded an Islamophobe or Anti-Semite. The CoJCoL-dS and Prop. 8: are they proud of their own actions or ashamed? And don’t miss the new G. W. Bush library!!!)

I’d like to close with the one discussion question that wraps it all up: Are young people leaving the LDS church in droves, and, if so, why? I started to compose a response on that thread a bunch of times, and couldn’t. I thought I knew when I started typing, but trying to put words to paper… It hit me that it defies any one simple explanation. What do you think?

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chanson

C. L. Hanson is the friendly American ExMormon atheist mom living in Switzerland! See "letters from a broad" and the novel ExMormon for further adventures!!

16 thoughts on “Sunday in Outer Blogness: Theology and Doctrine Edition!

  1. Heh. :-) “Talmudic-style textual analysis.” I’ve been thinking that as well.

    I’m also reminded of this:

    “Bridey, don’t be so Jesuitical,” said Sebastian, but I knew that this disagreement was not a matter of words only, but expressed a deep and impassable division between us; neither had any understanding of the other, nor ever could.

    – Evelyn Waugh, Brideshead Revisited

    I quote this because I think it’s applicable (oh the irony!) to Mormons and exMos alike but also because I love any excuse to use that delicious word “jesuitical.” :-)

    (BTW, how many GAs can dance on the head of a pin?)

  2. Thanks SLK! I should mix it up with references to the Jesuits at times, but you how much the (ex)Mormons love to be compared to the Jews. πŸ˜‰

  3. chanson, I dunno. Did you try “E-mail digest” near the top of the sidebar (which is actually a link to feedblitz.com) or under “Street Prophet Feeds” way, way down? They both appear to work for me, but there are multiple choices involved and I haven’t explored them all. (Confusing, I know.)

    I could check with the tech guy at DailyKos, but we’re in a sort of limbo until that site rolls out v4 (we share most of our code with them) so if there is a problem it’s not likely to be fixed right away…

  4. Way to go, chanson. As soon as Bye, Doggone Dissent noted your link, they shut down the conversation. πŸ˜‰

    As I mentioned over at r/exmormon: Man, that routine has gotten old. Speaking of stuff that turns the youth off from the church: nervously shutting down conversations was near the top of my list of pet peeves when I was a kid. It’s so very tiresome having to deal with TBMs who can’t abide an open-ended discussion. It creates a pressure-cooker environment for those exceptional kids who are thinking seriously about life, the universe, and everything.

    Memo to Mormons: If you’re wondering why you’re coming out on the losing end of the conversation, maybe it’s because only one side is actually doing any talking. As long as you refuse to step up and participate in unrestricted discussion about topics that you’d rather avoid, your kids will find somewhere where they can.

  5. Chino — Wow, that’s unfortunate! And they were getting some really great answers, too!

    If they ask a question like “why do people leave the church?” you’d think they’d be happy to be here on the Internet where they can get real answers from people who have actually left the church. Maybe they didn’t really want to know, though…

    Hellmut — totally!

  6. I haven’t done a hardcore textual analysis of anything lately, my last was a book review of Jesus, Interrupted on my blog. I miss college. :(

    I generally don’t foray into the world of Mormon theology beyond what it means in the lives of Mormons (which is by far easier to make a statement about). That’s the funny thing, I keep hearing Mormons spout out “you will know them by their fruits” and yet the fruits I keep running into are less than laudable.

  7. That “why young people leave thread is interesting.
    In the end, no one really knows. There’s no data. Sure there’s antecdotal evidence (I can think of plenty). But the LDS church isn’t really interested in why. If they were there would be a very different discussion.
    That’s not to sound overly entitled. But personally, if I’m going to sacrifice for something, I want to be sure of it. I also want to know I’m valued, that my opinion matters.. Or other people whom I agree with are being listened to.
    Being a cog just doesn’t cut it for many people. As it is, it’s almost a dysfunctional relationship. The corporation takes, with no accountability or choice.
    But to the original question and ensuing comments, there’s no way to discuss this without the facts. So everyone has their opinion, but no one knows. In the end, it comes down to a personal decision that each bic mormon makes. One size simply doesn’t fit all and it hasn’t for a long time.

  8. Nicely stated, Aerin.

    I suppose the more disappointing aspect (at least for me) is that it’s not only the institutional church that doesn’t really want to hear the reasons why, but also Mormons themselves.

    Try telling a Mormon “Ur doing it wrong” and two things are bound to happen (usually in quick succession):

    First, they’ll shoot the messenger la BCC and then they’ll bear their testimony la Ardis Parshall.

    And what gets lost in the ensuing sappy sharing time is the memory of any mention of an actual problem in Zion. Well, here’s the thing, Zionistas: Mormon youth are not fleeing your church b/c they haven’t heard your powerful testimony, but b/c too many Mormon adults are narcissistic tyrants who can’t stop talking about their personal conversations with Jesus for long enough to notice that the kids rolled their eyes and hit the exits as soon as it became apparent that the grown-ups were too self-absorbed to bother making the church interesting for anyone other than themselves.

    As has been noted at BCC (of all places): the Bloggernacle won’t save you. Of course it won’t. But then why do so many Mormon bloggers believe that bearing their testimonies to their online fan base will somehow contribute to saving their missing youth IRL?

    Ur doing it wrong.

  9. I want to give the Mormons the benefit of the doubt, but then I foolishly went and read the comments on Ardis’s testimony thread. This one — about deleting comments from those whose testimony experience wasn’t the same as Ardis’s — unfortunately made my irony meter explode:

    I admire your courage in deleting the comments and posts which attack. I think that many of us, in the information age have forgotten both courtesy and a willingness to be wrong, or to allow others to make different decisions than we have.

    Unless I’m misunderstanding this, and the commenter meant that second sentence as a critique of Ardis

  10. Addressing the person whose alternative view was just deleted by the blog administrator, the commenter says

    I think that many of us, in the information age have forgotten both courtesy and a willingness to be wrong, or to allow others to make different decisions than we have.

    That one just about pegs my irony meter, too. In fact I had a hard time with that entire thread, including Ardis’s original post.

    I read a lot of Bloggernacle blogs and even try to participate respectfully on occasion. These folks can be thoughtful and articulate. They represent the progressive wing of churchgoing Mormons, and as fond as I am of them it’s still difficult to establish dialog. It’s a bit like the situation with my own TBM family. :- )

    (I’ve *never* seen comments deleted or commenters permanently banned from any Outer Blogness site, even when the comments lack courtesy. It’s one the the things I like about Outer Blogness.)

  11. MoHoHawaii — I love your contributions on the Bloggernacle. I think your comments generally stand out as especially thoughtful and constructive.

    I hate to turn this into “dump on Ardis day”, but I think her thread really illustrates why it’s better to avoid deleting comments, even ones that go against the commenting policy. Ardis can say anything she wants about how terrible the comments were that she deleted. Since we can’t read them, we can’t judge for ourselves whether she’s actually representing them correctly. And, after reading this discussion, I tend to doubt she is…

  12. FYI, LDS Inc. is actually trying to figure out why so many people are leaving. At the conference I recently attended there were researchers from Church Headquarters there. One was doing double-duty – she was attending the conference and conducting interviews in the city of the conference for her project: Interviewing disaffected youth to figure out why they are leaving. The short answer: political stuff like Prop. 8 and boring services. The researcher wouldn’t go into detail about her findings, and they won’t ever become public (that’s not how LDS Inc. rolls with its research), but I think it’s interesting that they are taking the time to try to figure this out. Whether anything will change as a result of that research project, I don’t know. But some scholars do know why people are leaving. Just an FYI.

  13. ProfXM — I never doubted that the COB has people working on this problem. Why wouldn’t they? They’re a corporation, and they’re losing market share and income. Also, you might want to add your 2 cents on the new thread about this. :)

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