Sunday in Outer Blogness: Questionable Taste Edition!
I wanted to call this one “party edition” — as an attempt at ironic commentary on how weird some of this “10 year anniversary of 9/11” media moment is. But then I thought perhaps that would be poor taste as well, so I went with “questionable taste”. That said, a lot of people reported on parties (and other social gatherings) this week — it’s good to see that life goes on. And let’s not let the story of Labor Day get lost in the shuffle.
This was also a big week for great videos — I can’t decide which of these I like best! Maybe that last one. Many people would be happier if we could cut down on the gender indoctrination. (In related news, Orson Scott Card tried to improve Hamlet with a generous dose of homophobia.)
The other big theme this week was social interaction across belief lines. When it comes to your less-believing kids, you can follow the prophet or follow your heart. The CoJCoL-dS has decided to stop labelling people “inactive”, but the Mormon History Website is still going strong at talking shit about ExMormons. Not that exmos are full of compliments about believers or anything. Andrew S has some great analysis of the dynamic between liberal Mormons and former Mormons. (And as wide as the faith/non-faith divide may seem, other issues like food can be just as passionately controversial.)
And in fun Mormon history and trivia, you all know about Joseph Smith’s famous niece, right?
Sorry to have been so scarce this past week, right after announcing an open thread, but I think I’ve wrapped up most of the personal stuff that was eating my time — and I’m ready to get back to my favorite hobby! I hope you’re doing well this week too!
“The other big theme this week was social interaction across belief lines.”
Heh. No doubt. Have you seen this yet? Best. Mormon.org. Profile. Ever:
Memo to the Mormon History Website: Checked Mormon.org lately?
Yeah, that profile is amazing! How did that get past correlation?
I’m not sure I understand the question. Per last week’s public affairs briefing, the LDS church has never suggested that the disaffected are somehow outside the fold. That some so-called Mormons may have once speculated that such a distinction exists is now a topic for scholars to discuss and perhaps even chronicle in their capacity as private citizens.
Of course! What was I thinking? lol/*headsmack*
When I was much younger, I read a book by Vonda McIntyre in which a character tried to “improve” Shakespeare for modern audiences: “Shall I kill myself or not? That’s what I keep asking.” It was played for laughs.
Now OSC decides that joke should be played straight (or not straight, in this case). Is he losing the ability to know what’s funny and what’s not? Has he become so insular in his conservatism that he really can’t write true speculative fiction anymore?
Personally, I’m not going to find out. There’s lots of books out there by better authors, and life is too short to waste time on him anymore.
Chino’s link to Mormon.org is hilarious. I mean, really? Can I submit my profile for publication on that site? It would be awesome!
Speaking of links, I’d encourage folks to take a gander at that Wheat & Tares discussion that chanson linked to:
Jesse Stay, the Social Media Architect for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, is over there complaining about how members use their blogs to complain about the Church.
Chino — That discussion is amazing! I agree with your assessment of it in the sidebar link. I just regret that I’ve been so crazy busy this week that I haven’t had time to jump in earlier. But I will remedy that as soon as I can.
OK, I posted two comments each on Andrew’s two posts.
I can’t believe that “Social Media Architect” on the W&T post, particularly his comment #98. So, basically, he promises to (privately) listen to any ‘naccler feedback on church policies, but tells them to please shut up with all of the public critique, which the public has no business hearing/discussing.
It makes me wonder what kind of effect a faithful member could hope to have by writing a private letter to the church hierarchy (critiquing correlation, for example). I somehow imagine such a letter would be silently filed somewhere, especially if the member in question didn’t have a popular blog and threaten to use it…
So true. I used to read a fair amount of speculative fiction in high school, and a friend recommended Ender’s Game to me. Even at the time, it didn’t sound interesting enough for me to bother with it, and there’s no way I could read & enjoy it now, after all the crazy homophobic articles I’ve read of his.
CD @6 — I was thinking the same thing! 😉
I for one have been really shocked that Jesse Stay commented on my post. (It truly must be the most important post in the bloggernacle! Either that, or my posts have been flagged by the SCMC for a while…)
That being said, I’m getting a less-than-hopeful vibe here. The two major takeaways seem to be
1) the church helps people on its own terms. So, if you want to provide suggestions, email Jesse or go to one of these pre-existing efforts (even if they don’t seem to fit what you have an issue with, and even if they seem just to be a way to get free labor for church efforts.)
2) the church cares about minimizing bad publicity. The danger of blogs is that people can realize they are not alone. But if you email Jesse, you don’t know how many others emailed him, and Jesse and the church have no incentive to tell.
Andrew — quite the feather in your cap, that’s for sure!
I still can’t get over his wacky comment @98:
And it just makes me wonder why I wrote a post for the public to hear complaining about all the dog-poo on the sidewalks in France, instead of silently and discretely petitioning the French government about it. Wow, what was I thinking???
But seriously, if it’s a great mystery to him why people would want to discuss issues with their friends rather than email him personally, how did he ever get to be “Social Media Architect”? Call me crazy, but if I were hiring a “Social Media Architect”, I’d pick someone who actually has a clue about how people use social media.
He wrote “Google+ for Dummies” (among a few other books.) I mean, I guess it’s entirely possible to be good at social media from a “astroturf” perspective, rather than a grassroots one.
Stay’s approach is a reflection of the way the church works with people in general. Unlike a lot of churches, it doesn’t really have a tradition of public “outreach” ministries that try to help people where they are. You won’t find many Mormon rescue missions, or homeless shelters, or truck-stop chapels, or soup kitchens, or whatever.
The LDS approach is to get people out of their old communities and into the church, where they are to assimilate into a new community. It “invites people to church,” where it can deal with them on its own terms rather than theirs. (Not that there’s necessarily anything wrong with that — I’m trying to be descriptive, not prescriptive.)
So it’s only natural that their guy on the internet wants to get people to talk with him privately or use official LDS sites rather than him and/or his minions actually reaching out and publicly interacting with Bloggernaclers (much less Outer Darknessers) on their own sites on a regular basis. That’s just how the church rolls.
Andrew @13 — yeah, astroturfing is pretty clearly his area of social media expertise. I just have a hard time believing that he “genuinely wants to know why” people would want to use the Internet to have discussions on topics of their own choosing. I think he just genuinely wants to know how to get them to knock it off.
Kuri @14 — Yes, it’s pretty clearly an extension of the same correlation-style mentality. Stick to the manual in class, stick to conference talks in Sacrament Meeting, stick to the assigned program of meetings, activities, and assignments. I guess that type of micromanagement appeals to some people, but it’s hard to stamp out people’s urge to lead the discussion and talk about what they want to talk about.
Wow, that’s who he is? He added me on Google+ and I was like “Who the hell is this guy?” so I looked at his blog and read a fantastically naive post about why he believes and I figured he was just some clueless marketing weirdo who knows somebody I know. Well…
Carson — How funny! Maybe instead of hiring the guy who wrote Google+ for Dummies they should have tried to get the guy who wrote Google+ for Smart People.” 😉
Some choice quotes from Jesse Stay:
I am in awe of the power of the church and in religion in general to make educated and otherwise intelligent people say things like the above. If you made statements like that to them upon any other topic or in any other context they would see your error immediately. What’s more, many of them will actively seek to understand and filter out their own confirmation bias when it comes to their academic work, yet when it’s about their “beliefs” suddenly none of that could possibly apply. Anything and everything that confirms their beliefs is in and anything that disconfirms them is out. Any criticism that makes them uncomfortable is Satan and any criticism that pads their comfort zone is constructive and helpful. For example, here is what happens to Jesse when he opens his mind to questions:
The above could easily have been written as satire by an ex-mormon and then called an over-the-top strawman argument by the likes of Seth R. It’s amazing, really.
Carson — I hear you. I wrote a post about helpful fly-by critics who are incensed by the existence of discussions they personally don’t find interesting or useful.
That top quote from Jesse Stay (about what blogging “accomplishes”) particularly illustrates a failure to grasp the various reasons for social interaction. It’s like he thinks the CoJCoL-dS is IKEA, and if you have a complaint, why would you tell your friends about it instead of calling the IKEA service/complaints hotline to get the problem fixed? But it’s not an either/or proposition. When we had a problem with a defective part on a bed (and then a string of amusing mishaps trying to get the correct part delivered), of course I told all my friends about it, but I also called up IKEA complaints line — otherwise the problem would never have been resolved.
Another difference is that IKEA publishes the number for their complaints line right in their catalog, and (whatever negative opinion you might have of the company), you can feel fairly confident that giving them a call will likely resolve the problem. What if you’re a believer and you try to call up the church’s complaints line a reasonable complaint like “I’d like the CoJCoL-dS to acknowledge and repudiate the leaders’ racist statements of the past.” Do you imagine you’d get anywhere with that? Good luck.
Besides that, probably a lot of discussions that he views as “contention and confusion” are discussions where people are actually trying to brainstorm and come up with positive solutions. A group discussion has the advantage that people can bounce ideas off one another and build on one another’s ideas in a way that isolated discrete missives to the hierarchy can’t. It also helps people feel less alone in their struggles. And, ideally, a church should be more like a community than like a corporation (with The Spirit as a pre-packaged product that people buy from corporate HQ).
Another difference is that IKEA won’t permanently ban you from purchasing their products if you’re openly critical of them…
I agree with most of the comments here. Initially, I found it strange that Stay presented himself as a point-person to get things done, as if one could literally email him and affect the Church. But then it clicked after seeing his distinction between “doctrine” and “process” (the former can’t change, but the latter can). What he sees as a mandate from Heaven that church leaders have or “doctrine,” the rest of us little people see as “process.” Then of course, there’s plenty of little people who have trouble differentiating between the two — the TBMs who are in a state of disenfranchisement (by which I mean, the Church is not a democracy) who are going to continue to vent on their blogs and continue to do “harm” to the Church.
I’m curious if what’s happening is a bunch of COB-inspired social media overhead not working quite the way Stay thought it would. He cites LDStech.org or Create.lds.org as places to implement change when, actually, they’re about doing free media/tech work for the Church. While Mormon.org worked well for what it is, what the COB really wants is correlated digital arts across the web. But I don’t think Stay is the person to oversee this (if “social media architect” is really his position), since he seems to lack basic social psychology knowledge.
Haha. Love it!
Alan, I agree. What’s troubling is that ANY disagreement can be called a “doctrinal” disagreement and then dismissed.
Hey, Andrew S., I hope you do get around to posting a series that builds on your recent post at W&T. What follows is something I’ve posted all over the place, so if you’ve seen it before, all apologies (of course, the first graf is verbatim from an email I sent you):
And what happens next, I don’t know. But it won’t be happening in the Bloggernacle, at least for me. My sense is that maybe it’s time to reach out to contacts in the COB and make it worth their while to spill the beans on the dysfunction that is their day-to-day. Or some other long-term project besides commenting here at this admirably cowardice-free blog.
Unfortunately, I was going to edit the series history/sociology into the bloggernacle, but I didn’t do it when I had all my great ideas, so now the series is kinda directionless.
Uh, so far you’re batting 1.000 by the most important metric (the personalities you’re gossiping about are all showing up to drop off their $0.02). Success!
+1 to that.
I missed that stEvans (maybe I can make that nickname stick?) drove by with a zero-content comment. Scott B has been dismissive as well; he’s learned well from the BCC clique how to care without looking like he cares
Chino @24 — I agree with that sentiment and with the other points you made on Kaimi’s thread about Joanna Brooks. It’s kind of the flip-side to Andrew’s quote from Kiley about the church not changing: it appears that it has changed — in terms of corporate PR moving into the driver’s seat, and less room for the fun stuff that makes people enjoy being Mormon.
And speaking of Joanna, all this controversy appears not to have slowed her down! In a recent “Ask a Mormon Girl” she’s covering one of the CoJCoL-dS’s most embarrassing questions: Why doesn’t the church allow US couples to have a family-inclusive civil wedding — in addition to a temple ceremony — the way they do in countries that require civil/public weddings?
I’m looking at the guidelines cited on the Temple Wedding Petition page:
The thing that jumps out at me is that in case #1, it does not say “A couple is discouraged from choosing to hold their temple wedding in foreign country (in order to hold a family-inclusive civil wedding ceremony alongside the temple sealing)”. A lot of Mormons live in the American Southwest, and wouldn’t have that much difficulty arranging a destination wedding in Mexico. I’d be tempted to help set up a special travel-and-wedding planning agency for LDS temple destination weddings in countries where you can also hold a civil ceremony to include your non-member/less-active/underage family members.
Of course now that it’s been pointed out online, they’ll probably update the CHI to discourage destination weddings…
Yeah, the intransigence on that issue is especially mind-numbing, but hey, it’s cool to be reminded that Mormon Girl moved to FMH. I wonder if Andrew S. is gonna get around to talking about them? What’s been going on over there these last few years seems much more interesting and important than all this boys talk about storming the BCC Bastille. That Remembering the Forgotten Women of Joseph Smith series is something else.
It is definitely in the plan (although I’d have to do the most “research” into it)
@30 — I like that series, too! I wonder if they’ll let me do the guest post when it comes time to remember my great-great-great-great aunt…?
Hmmm… I wonder if I should do a blog series on “Remembering the Forgotten Husbands of the Forgotten Women of Joseph Smith”… I don’t know why just the wives get the website and blog posts. Seems kind of unfair to me
dpc — That would be a really fun follow-up! There were some interesting characters. Are you offering to do a series for us? 😀
It’s very tempting, although it might not be as salacious as the forgotten women because there won’t be much speculation on whether Joseph Smith had sexual relationships with the husbands as well (I’ll leave that to Dr. Quinn)
Andrew, that was a great post, I really enjoyed it. I’m still wading through the comments, which I consider a bit masochistic of me, and I’m wondering if Jettboy is real or is a poe? He thinks mormonism should be more like islam?
Jettboy is real. Not only is he real, but he is not alone. That’s why in my series, I’m going to be trying to make a case that even though people of the Bloggernacle and people of Nothing Wavering (where Jettboy “comes from,” so to speak) follow the same religion, really, they have little in come.
I’m just starting to become acquainted with the “Nothing Wavering” aggregator myself — they seem suspiciously cross-linked with the Bloggernacle, considering that J. Max said that not linking to the Bloggernacle was one of the requirements for admission. Also, Ardis is in “Nothing Wavering”…? After she found an official church publication so crappy that she cried? And not just silently to herself, but dared to publicly blog about it?
I guess I don’t understand the rules…
One thin I find interesting about Ardis’s article is that even after she criticizes that publication, she goes throughout her comments hedging and qualifying every criticism she made.
That being said, I think that one of the arguments in favor of trying to bridge the gap between bloggernacle and Nothing Wavering IS the fact that there is so much overlap. So, in some ways the distinctions are arbitrary.
@40, yeah, but even though there’s a lot of overlap, the difference is there. I’ve recently subscribed to the Millennial Star, and I can’t get over the impression that those guys are living in some alternate reality — one that does not enjoy the same laws of physics as our standard universe.
Right. which is why I disagree with the argument to bridge the gap between Nacle and NW and wrote the post saying that the Bloggernacle and, say, Outer Blogness, have far more in common, when it counts.
re your w&t post: I read your analysis and felt it to be spot on with what I experienced. The first disaffection followed by a second. I’d go back to Mormonism if it was an organization that ACTUALLY worked as a community-building charity and didn’t require you to believe in the myths AND, perhaps, operated like those restaurants who asked you to pay only what you thought the meal was worth!
I totally get where Chino’s coming from! If the Mormon Church wants to build a better organization, then who better to ask what to change and how than the people who have an idea of how GOOD organizations run, or people who will honestly address the flaws of the organization? The Mormon Church runs an outdated (top-down) model that is only relevant to the needs of people in a certain demographic in the US.
As for Jettboy, did anyone ever tell him that within Islam there are liberal/progressive elements who may not believe in the literal teachings of the Koran but still fall under the umbrella of being Muslim? Same with Judaism. You still get to be Jewish even if you don’t believe or practice.
So you’ll go back when the Mormon church becomes the Lion’s Club? Don’t hold your breath on that one, buddy. But then again you probably wouldn’t want to be associated with an outdated “top-down” organization like the Lion’s Club anyways.
And are you trying to argue that successful business men have no idea how to run a good organization? How many multinational non-profit organizations have you run? If you feel that the organization is beyond salvation, what do you propose as an alternative? Which organization do you benchmark? I always hear a lot of griping, but I never hear any good, practical solutions. As intellectual and adroit as disaffected Mormons and ex-Mormons claim to be, I’m surprised they haven’t come up with anything concrete by way of proposal.
Let’s look at the ex-Mormon world and its ability to manage its own affairs. The guy running Post-Mormon.org (TM) doesn’t even know how to properly manage the bank accounts over there. It would take a pretty dull person not to realize that his “full disclosure” financial statements are unaudited and that he possesses sole signatory rights for the organization. I can hear the rejoinder, “He’s totally spending the money the way he says he is because he like totally publishes a spreadsheet about it on the internet!” If you believe that, I know a prime spot for real estate development down in the Everglades… Not exactly the type of non-profit to which I’d turn over money.
It kind of depends on what the goals of the organization are. But — even if you grant that the CoJCoL-dS is a business — the lack of market feedback (or, failing that, public accountability) is a problem for producing goods and services that work, as discussed here.
And, while a lot of successful organizations are hierarchical, the lack of market accountability has led to a culture where the leaders are going a bit overboard on information control — to the point of harming their own best interests. (Review the above thread for why and how.)
44-Isn’t comparing the Utah LDS church to a site like postmo a strawman, comparing apples to oranges? The LDS church takes in millions in tithing each year. It owns a significant amount of property. How much of each, we really don’t know because the leadership hasn’t published the financials since the 50s. Comparing a relatively small organization to one with (allegedly) 14 million members is like comparing a small community like Shanksville PA to the entire United States and expecting them to have the same transparency.
With that said, maybe you have a point about publishing independent financials. I can’t say.
chanson – I don’t disagree with you at all. But I would like to see concrete proposals on how the disaffected would remedy the perceived shortfalls on information control. Insteading of saying the church should be more open with its history, I would like to see a proposed Sunday School/Priesthood/Relief Society manual that is appropriate for several generations (18-80) and education levels, easily translated into a multitude of different languages, sensitive to numerous worldwide cultures, etc. I’m reminded of the Bible passage where Jesus says the Pharisees require numerous burdens while refusing to lift a finger themselves. It’s easy to be the armchair critic, but it’s a lot harder when you have to sit down and hash out the messy details. That’s not to say that the current manuals are perfect, but I can understand where the church leadership is coming from and the difficulty of the task they have to remedy. If you’re going to complain, fine, but at least present a practical, easily implemented (for the most part) solution with the criticism. And when I use, the word “you”, I mean it generally and not you specifically chanson! 🙂
Aerin- I didn’t mean to make a comparison between the two. I was commenting on the idea that some disaffected and exmormons maintain an air that they have solutions to the problems when they in fact are oblivious to their own shortcomings that mirror the church. And given the state of the current of the accounting world, I don’t know if independent financials would be *that* much better. 😉
I just wish that the people complaining about accounting practices would take the time to offer up solutions to improve them.
Would you propose that I write that manual? Schedule those meetings? I would give it a shot if I was welcome to speak in church or felt I had any real authority. As it is, I hope that by speaking my own truth, here, that I will find a community of people who can identify with my experiences, whether or not they are TBM. I was merely stating that my experience of disaffection(s) had similarities to Andrew’s. I also see where Chino is coming from: maybe there is something worth salvaging from the LDS church, if only they would listen to the people who are leaving, as to why they are leaving and not blame it on an unwillingness to be righteous, humble or any other nonsense that gets peddled.
As to the top-down model…A church is not a business, otherwise wouldn’t it be a business? The reason I think that so many DAMUites put trademark symbols and call it the Morg is that it ‘feels’ like the church is running its organization and meetings like a visit to McDonalds (easily recognizable brand, food tastes pretty much the same the world over, and you don’t have to think about the meal deal you want to order), and it has done so for a long time (at least since the late 1970s). A church, in my view, is less like a machine and more like a body. It’s supposed to have a heart and a brain, not just an engine and an instruction manual. I know that really sounds cheesy, huh?
This sentiment is an indictment from me, but it would be a compliment from my TBM mother who makes it a point to visit wards and branches in other countries whenever she travels outside the US and loves the fact that the same hymns are sung and the testimonies sound the same, etc.
It’s a point of view and my point of view is that I see that there is such a whitewashing of LDS history and a deliberate editing of stories, and the goal is that ALL of the stories and ALL of the lessons will be fit for everyone. Where, then, is the richness of interpretation? Where is the multi-layered approach that speaks to everyone about different things and allows them to debate the ideas internally? I don’t want to be told what to think. I don’t want to be told what to say. I know it might be an easier way to have complete lessons delivered on a Sunday, especially now that people seem to be more time-poor than ever, but maybe other churches get it right with paid clergy who speak from the heart.
As for when will I go back to church? That’s tough to say. I think there is some good in attending an event where other people congregate and talk about the society they wish to build, the way they hope to behave, the ways in which they can help each other out. The prerequisite for being a Christian, generally, is to believe in the resurrection and divinity of Jesus Christ. I don’t believe that. I cannot speak anything other than my truth about that, and so I don’t think that it would be a good thing to impose myself on a community that did have some belief about Jesus. It tends to hurt feelings, and I’m not about deliberately winding people up.
Culturally, I might attend the Mormon church if it was similar to the Jewish faith. One doesn’t necessarily need to have or purport belief in order to participate in the rituals of Judaism. The ritualistic acts serve to bind a community together and remind them of their collective history. The Mormon church does not allow my participation in rites, therefore, how else can one build memories that form a loyalty to a collective culture?
Also, I’ve never attended the Lion’s Club, so maybe that’s a bad comparison, dpc? I have attended a few different types of church/synagogue/mass, however. They were all okay, and there was definitely a difference in culture from each congregation (Episcopalian versus Anglican; conservative versus reformed Jewish), but they didn’t really speak the ‘language’ of my religious upbringing.
dpc. Here is a practical proposal. Let the Church print lesson materials but allow the local unit to determine how those materials will be used, if at all. Let the church provide guidelines for meetings but the local unit will determine to what extent they will follow the guidelines. I grew up in a very small ward back when Sacrament Meeting was in the evening. The opening exercise and the administration of the Sacrament took about 15 minutes. Three speakers later we had barely consumed an hour. But Salt Lake insisted Sacrament Meeting was to be one and a half hours. So that little ward struggled to stretch out the meeting to that length, which meant ab out half the ward had to speak each Sunday. Thus, from a pretty good one hour meeting we went to a dragging ninety minutes, because we desperately wanted to do what SL told us God wanted. So more local control.