Like many others, my experience of “chapel Mormonism” was very much you are either all the way in or you’re out.
Sure, you can be a hanger-on as a low down, lazy, second-class Mormon who doesn’t have a Temple Recommend, and would be lucky, depending on the Bishop, to bless or baptize his own kids. But who wants that? No, the idea is that you toe the line, put your shoulder to the wheel, drink the Kool-aid, live with “honor” and respect, and get on that hamster wheel of callings and being an instrument of the Lord in the ward, i.e., do whatever anyone asks you to do and do everything you can to be obedient “with exactness” in following the counsel of church leaders.
(I’m saying all that and it just sounds like brainwashing, but THAT’s what it’s like to be in the LDS church, at least as I have found it “in the mission field” or outside of special havens along the Wasatch Front or Maxine Hanks’s or Joanna Brooks’s wards.)
A number of the timesandseasons/bycommonconsent “bloggernacle” educated Mormons–many of whom seem to common folk like me to fall somewhere along a NOM spectrum of belief–like to appeal to Dalin Oaks’ “Alternate Voices” talk (1989), taking it as showing how enlightened the LDS leadership is (–see sociologist Armand Mauss’s discussion of it, with Oaks’ agreement). They’ll point to one of their main gurus, Mauss, and conclude that no one should blame the LDS church for being an authoritarian mind-control organization bent on restricting and hiding information about its past because the LDS church is flexible, liberal, and open, and all this talk about a crisis, of an exodus from the LDS church, of people like Hans Mattsson feeling betrayed, is just over-blown. The LDS church has hidden nothing and has never told members to avoid anything that conflicts or might seem to conflict with official church doctrine and policy.
From Oaks’ talk, I don’t get the idea that “alternate voices” are simply okay, that the LDS church is all that flexible. In the Youtube video, his “Leader’s” voice thrums with authority and dire significance under that single dome of light on the otherwise dark Gen Conf stage, acting like a prophet warning and counseling the people. Alternate voices are still basically risky to check out and potentially dangerous (from the TBM point of view). Oaks is still basically scaring people about alternate points of view. In fact, when he says in the talk that “Members who listen to the voice of the Church need not be on guard against being misled,” he’s just lying. The church is not perfect. (See the recent Times and Seasons blog post, “An Information-Rich Gospel: Correlation and the Growth and Maturation of the Church, with pertinent discussion thread post. Mauss is cited in comment 95.)
For too many Mormon accommodationists, ameliorists, “liberals,” the LDS church is quite acceptably flexible; indeed, the church is largely just misunderstood. This is the perspective of some relatively privileged Mormons whose cultural and heritage roots are so deep that reading Dialogue or Sunstone was a staple in their homes growing up. They don’t seem to understand Mattsson or other exmos’ anger about feeling betrayed.
Maxine Hanks writes,
“[T]he negative story that emerged from 1993 wasn’t objective or accurate, it was born of fear, anxiety, reaction, supposition and media hype. It was one-sided – we didn’t have a dialogue with input from both sides.
“I agree that rhetoric from Church leaders pre-2000 pushed conformity while discouraging public disagreement. Yet that rhetoric wasn’t simple or unitary, it was complex, and included opposite suggestions as well — about personal conviction, authenticity and actualization. The cautionary or condemnatory language was perhaps more intense, because it was negative and personal.”
How are “authenticity and actualization” any part of a church that essentially forbids open doubts? She acts like everyday Mormons can just call a time out on their church involvement and callings, and investigate alternative ideas and practices, self-actualize, and explore their own “shifting paradigms,” and somehow, LDS church discipline, consequences, and pressure from family won’t be immediately brought to bear on that person. What church is she talking about? I’m getting the impression that there’s one church for chapel Mormons (she speaks of the “lay church”), one church for Internet NOMish Mormons, and one church for those cognoscenti who have achieved some sort of intellecual hall-pass from the GAs, e.g., I think of David McKay personally calling off Sterling McMurrin’s church court. Think McKay would have done that for Lyndon Lamborn?
“Yet as I’ve gone back and revisited talks from the past, I’ve often been surprised by the presence of positive or empowering or nuanced messages coexisting along with warnings and denouncements.
“The Church focus on personal or inner knowledge didn’t strike me as ‘individualism’ – which is a fascinating reading – but as spiritual epistemology. Yet this was accompanied by talk about social responsibility – relationships with God and family and church. The lay church has an uncommon emphasis on community.
“What was indeed fractured and worsened via 20 years of fallout was the sense of community once held by us, the liberals and feminists. –Maxine H.”
I don’t understand how she can ignore, beyond her narrative centered on herself and her experience, what has happened to everyone else who has become disillusioned, disenfranchised, disaffected with the LDS church precisely because of its handling of its history: “I agree that troubling info about the Church has been around for decades, readily available in many forms.”
“For decades,” and the Internet isn’t a huge catalyst today for faith crises in the LDS church? Really? How many exmos have we heard of who recount their experience of leaving the LDS church in the 50s, 60s, 70s, 80s, and even 90s, and how they had no community, no easy access to resources?
“Those disciplined [in the early 90s] were deeply or intensely ‘processing and grasping the complexities of the Mormon story.'”
And she’s talking about university people, Mormon scholars, struggling with the information they were uncovering, in the 1980s and 1990s. So if a Swedish businessman, Hans Mattsson, or anyone else who isn’t a professional historian or scholar, discovers some of these things and feels betrayed, that person “thirsting for knowledge” just needs to process the lies, disgust, and resulting nausea better:
“I completely agree that faith crises and mass disillusionment have been overly simplistically attributed to ‘the internet’ as the culprit or cause. There are multiple causes, and the internet is secondary.
“A primary cause is simply our thirst for knowledge and understanding about life, accompanied by shifts or collapses of our paradigm(s)- the psyche’s need to learn, individuate. We evaluate our beliefs via new information ongoing, or take refuge in our beliefs, for a time. Also, the group or cultural psyche has a collective trajectory, voiced in public discourses.”
And because LDS church leaders have been so wise, even in the 90s, to preach self-acualization and authenticity, then no one should be angry with the LDS church.
That seems to be her basic conclusion. All of the anger is misdirected. People leave the LDS church misguidedly (because, I guess, it goes without saying that there’s no good reason to leave). It’s very frustrating to read these sorts of apologetic remarks that minimize the pain the LDS church causes in its abuse of power.
And don’t get me started on the uses of selective history to sell the LDS church to converts who can trundle along for years and years before they start to figure out there are numerous problems with this organization that they’ve given their lives, families, and money to. The LDS church has to figure out how to give investigators a clear view of the truth, and of course that would have to begin by abandoning the claims to historical truth of the Book of Mormon.
See Hanks’s recent comment to the David Knowlton’s blog post: http://stormsandpower.blogspot.com/2013/07/the-contemporary-crisis-in-mormon-faith.html#more