Saturday, April 23, 2016

Why people like Jeremy Runnells and John Dehlin are a force for good

Last week in this space, I talked about how all excommunications were not alike and how we should not commit the fallacy of false equivalency by making it seem that all those who have criticized the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints are all the same. Since that time Jeremy Runnells, author of Letter to A CES Director, has had his disciplinary council and resigned from the Church rather than being excommunicated (he must have read last weeks post). He, or someone who was there, managed to record the whole thing and it can be listened to and partly seen here.

It is not my purpose this week to critique the CES Letter; others have done it and perhaps I will in the future as well. Rather, my purpose this week is to show that we actually owe people like Jeremy Runnells and John Dehlin (host of Mormon Stories Podcast) a thank you (by we I mean active, believing, academic, Mormons).

Recently, I was watching British philosopher and theologian Richard Swinburne being interviewed by Steve Porter, who asked Professor Swinburne about the so called "New Atheists." Swinburne responded that while the New Atheists were not advancing anything new in way of argument, they were getting well-known oppositions to theism out in the open and making theists take seriously the reasons why they chose to believe in God, which Swinburne said was a good thing.

This week, Elder L. Whitney Clayton of the Presidency of the Seventy gave the commencement address at Brigham Young University and said "The faithless often promote themselves as the wise who can rescue the rest of us from our naiveté. One does not need to listen to assertive apostates for long to see the parallels between them and the Corihors and Nehors and Sharoms of The Book of Mormon. We should disconnect immediately and completely from listening to the proselytizing efforts of those who have lost their faith, and instead reconnect promptly with the holy spirit. The adversary sees spiritual apathy and half-hearted obedience as opportunities to encircle us with his chains and bind us, and he hopes to destroy us. We escape his chains as we voluntarily chose to bind ourselves instead to God."

On the surface, Elder Clayton has a point. We don't need to presume that just because someone is a popular objector to restored gospel that anything they are saying is true, or that they really care about those that they disagree with. Certainly this is true in the sense of the three antichrists that he mentioned.

However, like the New Atheists, people like Jeremy Runnells and John Dehlin are a force for good because they are making well known objections to Mormon theology and history more well known among the general public. Frankly, this in some ways is a breath of fresh air because Mormons generally don't know their theology and history very well, and these criticisms coming us have to check ourselves, our history, and our testimonies, which is never a bad thing.

Were it not for Runnells and Dehlin, the essays about polygamy, the priesthood, and the female relationship to the priesthood may have never come out. While those essays have many problems, they are a start towards greater transparency, and in this generation the Church will need to be completely transparent and honest, which it should have done all along. For their help in making the Church more transparent, Runnells and Dehlin are owed thanks. That is not an endorsement of these two men, but it is an endorsement that there are real questions that deserve answers rather that dodging. Since it seems that they forced the Church's hand in some ways, I am grateful.

20 comments:

  1. The printing press made us all readers and the internet has made us all publishers.

    Because the church couldnt control the message it wanted to send before the internet it chose silence knowing its enemies would craft their own message and twist everything the church said.

    But now that the internet affords the church to publish its message directly to the reader it is blooming with information and history like a flower in the spring.

    This is the reason why the church has taken a new direction that started over 10 years ago.

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  2. You are right that there are real questions that are deserve answers and not dodging, but the real problem and the one newspapers and media around the world should be investigating is FRAUD. The Church has over-simplified and misrepresented their message for decades - they have flat lied, and lied repeatedly and still do. They have, and still ARE misleading in their message and teachings. This is the real heart of the issue and couple this with the Church's lack of transparency and it is very, very, troublesome. Spiritual feelings should NEVER trump facts and yet this what the Church's leaders ask its members to do every day - horrible really, as tithing is paid because member's believe it is the "one true church" a unique claim in Christianity. It's this simple: this "unique claim" is the difference, and can in fact be disproved by the preponderance of historical evidence and fact nearly all from the Church's own historical and scriptural sources and documents, all of us should endorse Runnells and Dehlin! and, the Church should be legally forced not just to answer every claim but to completely disavow all proven false claims and fundamentally change their message and teachings, refunding all those who paid tithing believing in their fraud - this would be the real act of integrity and honesty on the part of the Church. This is what Volkswagen just did this week - they are paying for their fraud and admitting it. If they can do it, the Church can to.

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    1. "The Church should be legally forced not just to answer every claim but to completely disavow all proven false claims and fundamentally change their message and teachings, refunding all those who paid tithing believing in their fraud"

      So I hate to burst your bubble, but someone already tried doing this.

      Wanna know how it turned out?

      http://www.bbc.com/news/uk-26666144

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  4. LDSFraud -- you have got to do better than merely asserting without support as if it were given. Give us some concret examples so that I can show that the Church has had discussions in scholarly journals among informed individuals long before Runnells and Dehlin claim to have broken the news. What we have is not fraud but those who simply ignored what was there already, done their study with accountability, did not do their own looking. What we have are uninformed who become partially informed from jaundiced folks like Dehlin and then want to blame the church for their own indolence. I know because every time I see this charge of fraud I point out responsible discussions that had taken place long before Dehlin and Runnells entered the picture and the charge is then that it should be taught in Sunday School instead of scholarly publications. That of course is asinine.

    The choice made by the Church was not silence, but to leave it to those who were informed enough to deal with the evidence. So it is time for you to get specific now isn't it? In fact, just throwing the discussion out there to those who do not have the background to assess the evidence is irresponsible -- and that is what Dehlin and Runnels do (just like you) assert the conclusion from their very sparse accusations without considering the context, the scholarly discussion. Let me use the important word again -- irresponsible.

    This also answers Tarak's claims that such irresponsible discussions are good for the Church and we owe a debt of gratitude. If the discussion had been carried on at half the intellectual and scholarly level that the New-Atheists engaged he may have half-a-point. But Dehlin and Runnells are miles away from that level of intellectual acumen and scholarly prowess. In fact, they make it appear that they are fully informed, make it appear that they are responsibly discussing the issue when they ignore informed and well-taken responses, misinform by failing to understand the issues they are dealing with (at least in part because they simply lack the skill-set and knowledge to do so) and generally assume that they have presented a decisive case in all of their discussion when the truth of the matter is quite different. And sometimes we just do not have a decisive response because not all questions have ready and undisputed answers. Life is actually like that -- except for arrogant judges like Runnells and Dehlin.

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    1. And you can't see your own arrogance?

      Here is the simplest, purest argument against the divine mission of el profeta, Joseph Smith: He used his position to further his amorous desires.

      That he succumbed to his lust is not surprising, and that he tried to disguise what he was doing with a supposed cloak of righteousness is also no big surprise.

      But in order to answer critics, and soothe those who feel the need to believe, an amazing amount of "...intellectual acumen and scholarly prowess..." has to be expended. And at the end, the believers are told to just hang on and it will all be explained...later.

      Mormon Apology, mopology, is a great hobby and if you enjoy it, good for you. But seriously, your arrogance is really something to behold!

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    3. Bert,

      Blake Ostler has published three volumes on Mormon theology, has published in peer-reviewed journals on the subject, and is perhaps the best theologian the Church has. While the Church may at times not be direct in answering questions, this is not true of Blake.

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    4. Hey Bert Bananas,

      Does the phrase "begging the question" mean anything to you?

      Might want to look that one up.

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  5. Bert: Really? Except for your own arrogation of the right to be judge, jury and executioner what supports your charge of arrogance? Perhaps you could look take a look in the mirror to get a reflection of your own judgmentalness. Behyond that, I noted that you did not offer a single real instance to support the LDSFraudsters thesis. You did however make an unsupported assertion that is now time for you to back up. With whom do you claim JS had an amorous relations to further his desires?

    I see claims made like this all the time by people who think they know something about an issue they really know little about. They do not know the source documents or what really happened. They lack even a basic understanding of what occurred.

    So let me just jump to the conclusion here to show how this kind of ignorance-thinking-you-know-it-all really works. I hear all of the time that JS had sex with two 14 years olds who he forced into marriage. It is an easy accusation to make -- but it is false. First, JS was not married to two 14 years olds; rather, he was sealed (with consent of both the girl and her parents). Second, immediately after the sealing ceremony each of the girls left with their parents to return home. Third there is no evidence that the girl and JS were ever together for conjugal purposes and a great deal that they were not. Fourth, the real ceremony was a sealing -- but not just of a young 14 year to JS. Rather the sealing was of the entire family of the girl. JS did these sealings because he loved the girl's parents so much. So what is an expression of holy love gets warped into a lustful and manipulative act by folks like Runnells and Dehlin -- and now you. My response? The blind willingly leading the willing blind to hell. I trust that is something we can all agree is not a desirable state of affairs.

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    1. I wasn't attempting to support anything except my contention that you are guilty of arrogance. I'll add that my opinion extends to recognizing that without arrogance, mopology is not a lot of fun.

      As to the proofs that you offer regarding JS's sexual purity, I prefer what I know of human nature rather than the contortions mopologist exhibit to support their opinions... oops, I mean 'facts.' I admit that I have zero proof that JS had his way with any female other than Emma. But in my pedestrian, every day mind, and having no need to support one special contention, it is easy for me to shrug my shoulders, spread my hands and ask, "which makes more sense?"

      It's all in the approach to the issue. I'm approaching it from the POV of someone who doesn't care what the answer is. Others approach it from the POV that they already know the answer and are just looking for how to arrange their facts.

      Sometimes I wonder how much 'raw' intelligence is necessary to assemble the clues? I think that the more clues, the less we need to rely on intellect. Again, I see mopologists as great fidgeters of the facts.

      There will never be any peace between mopologists and those who denigrate the Holy SLC Church, and neither side will lose any sleep over it. You can yodel all you want about the hell that awaits those who disagree with you; we'll all just keep on keeping on.

      But I sincerely think you are way too serious! At least as a mopologist! Remember, it's not your fault if I don't accept what you say and wind up washing Celestial nappies in some Terrestial laundry.

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  6. well, I now wonder about all the deleted comments. I know I don't understand enough to talk about any of this. I only know that I have read the Book of Mormon. It is not a novel. If it is truth, then Joseph Smith Jr, is a prophet who translated it. Bottom line, black and white. Any other issue is just not debatable to me. It is amazing to me, that so many attack JS, and yet do not deny that the Book of Mormon brings men to Christ. Interesting blog, and interesting comments to say the least.

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    1. I don't know about the others, but my 'deleted' comments were because for some reason, each of my posts duplicated itself. The first time I thought, 'oh, I must have accidentally hit "publish" twice. But the second time I made sure I only hit it once, but then came back over an hour later and found a duplicate post, with a time stamp 40 minutes later than the original. Weird, huh?

      The BofM brings men to a church that does not exist, in the sense that you could review the BofM and from its pages construct the mormon church. No first presidency, no indication Christ's New World 12 apostles continued after he left (except for the 3 Nephites, one of whom I played pool with in a bowling alley in Las Vegas, in 1960), no wards, no stakes, no General Authorities, only one temple, with no word as to how it was used, no temple marriages mentioned, no mention of three heavenly kingdoms, with the highest being our goal, and women of any note. No general conferences, no tithing, no word of wisdom, no eternal marriage. And finally, no Lamanites, from whom the book was written. So yeah, a very holy book, only you can't find the church it describes. All you can do is take the leap of faith and accept as true and spend the rest of your life defending that decision, which frankly is pretty easy as long as you ignore what people once lauded about the church: The Glory of God is Intelligence. Now the glory of ghawd has become "We can explain that!"

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    3. I hope that whatever I say will makes some sense. I never believed that the Book Of Mormon would do what you describe in the 2nd paragraph. It feels like what you are describing would be in essence be re-inventing the wheel. Most of what you describe, I recall finding that in the Old and New Testament. Organization. Even Moses was having a tough time doing everything until his father in law offered advice.

      When Jesus was conducting His mortal mission, he was organizing how things operated. I don't at this moment have the time to refer to Bible references, but I can at a later time, if you would like.

      The Jews know now, they should have a temple and a Messiah. We have both. Nobody that I have ever known said that the BoM claimed to organize the LDS church as we know it today. Line upon line. Tithing is talked about in the OT, eternal marriage in the NT. Moses, I don't believe, lead a large group of people for forty years without some sort of organization of them. So part of all this, has been done for hundreds of years. It is not new.

      I honestly fail to understand, why all the attacks on the LDS church, but I don't see them on other churches. Even C S Lewis wrote in Mere Christianity that we were made for something more. He didn't have the D&C to understand, that he was right, and I don't know of another church that has the knowledge that the LDS church has. If I remember correctly, the Word Of Wisdom, was advice, BY made it a commandment.

      I don't ever recall any LDS prophet claiming to be perfect and without mistakes. Where else do you learn why Jesus is call the Son of Man, and understand that it is referring to Man of Holiness, Elohim, not Joseph?

      Where else is the clarity of NT John 5:19.

      If the LDS church is a fraud, where does one turn to for eternity? Singing and drumming harps? or just dead?

      Personally, I generally never have these discussion, because I believe that each should believe whatever floats their boat. But I have a dear friend, completely lose her testimony. She is not saying anything I have not heard for the past 40 years. So she is right or I am. There is not a middle ground.

      The Book of Mormon, is a testimony that Jesus of Nazareth, is the Messiah who came to feed His other sheep. I guess from what you are saying, too bad, He didn't lay out a complete plan for that you describe. Is it too simple to believe, that the restoration happened, line upon line?

      I am very curious why people who leave the church, find it sooo painful. If they believe it not church, then just move on? I hope you will shed light, where I miss-understood.

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  7. Ramona, if you follow the counsel of church leadership, you will abandon your friend, maybe not in terms of her earthly needs, but as a friend in whom to confide: She is an apostate, and nothing good can come of a continuing relationship with her.

    If she's like many apostates, she neither seeks to sin, nor was she offended; she gave up belief in the mormon church as a guide to heaven because she came to believe that it does not function in that capacity.

    I believe you are correct when you say that regarding the church, there is no middle road. The driving force behind retention of a testimony is faith. And the easiest way to maintain that faith is to NOT study things. The majority of people who 'study' do so for the purpose of learning, of reaching conclusions. There is a very visible, not to mention vocal, minority of 'students' who do so with the sole purpose of finding a way to explain that the natural conclusion of a particular study is not the logical conclusion normal people reach, but rather, "...here's a likely explanation of how this could be viewed in a light that allows for continued belief in the mormon church!" Of course of religions have apologists. FAIR mormon is the equivalent of Catholic Jesuits...

    I personally don't care what people believe and I'm aware that all of us have prejudices, so it's no big deal to me when I meet people who don't like me, for one or more of various possible reasons. So I tend to hang with people who like the things I like.

    Be as mormon as you like, but treat your apostate friend like you'd like to be treated. That's about as foreign a concept to hardcore mormons as taking a six pack of beer to General Conference.

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    1. Bert, my friend abandoned me as an active LDS member due to falling out with 13 yr old girls. I only learned through other friends that she has lost her testimony of JS. I have relatives that have left the church and continue in justifying why the church is a fraud. We still associate. We don't talk religious things because let all men worship as they will.

      I have studied church history for years. So when a lot of these come up, I am not surprised. But again my testimony is based on the BoM. JS during his life was accused of being a fallen prophet. Two months before his death, he said as much. JS was not perfect but I am not his judge.

      I intend to write my friend. She is crying that someone show her biblically why LDS is true. I do not think I can change her mind or yours. But she nor you can change mine. We are not encourage to not associate with apostate but seek to bring the lost back home. Didn't Jesus seek after the one lost sheep? He didn't say the sheep was bad just lost.

      I have read so many posts lately trying to understand all the "pain" that Mormons feel when they leave and how liberated they feel. I have many active member friends with inactive or ex-communicated that they do not abandoned them. In Alabama , I don't think we have as many openly apostates as Utah so maybe that is why I don't have these issues.

      But anyway, thank you for your time in replying to me.

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  8. Ramona, if you follow the counsel of church leadership, you will abandon your friend, maybe not in terms of her earthly needs, but as a friend in whom to confide: She is an apostate, and nothing good can come of a continuing relationship with her.

    If she's like many apostates, she neither seeks to sin, nor was she offended; she gave up belief in the mormon church as a guide to heaven because she came to believe that it does not function in that capacity.

    I believe you are correct when you say that regarding the church, there is no middle road. The driving force behind retention of a testimony is faith. And the easiest way to maintain that faith is to NOT study things. The majority of people who 'study' do so for the purpose of learning, of reaching conclusions. There is a very visible, not to mention vocal, minority of 'students' who do so with the sole purpose of finding a way to explain that the natural conclusion of a particular study is not the logical conclusion normal people reach, but rather, "...here's a likely explanation of how this could be viewed in a light that allows for continued belief in the mormon church!" Of course of religions have apologists. FAIR mormon is the equivalent of Catholic Jesuits...

    I personally don't care what people believe and I'm aware that all of us have prejudices, so it's no big deal to me when I meet people who don't like me, for one or more of various possible reasons. So I tend to hang with people who like the things I like.

    Be as mormon as you like, but treat your apostate friend like you'd like to be treated. That's about as foreign a concept to hardcore mormons as taking a six pack of beer to General Conference.

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