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Defining, Declaring Our Faith


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Another fascinating article that I wanted to share…containing Orson Scott Card’s take on Jon Huntsman’s wishy-washy response to the question of his membership in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

I would like to hear your thoughts. In order to avoid having the thread be shut down, please refrain from posting your partisan political leanings. I know that sometimes this is hard. I will try hard to do the same.

Defining, declaring our faith

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Some of the men Joseph was traveling with hid, but Joseph continued about his business — carrying wood to the campfire. One of the intruders pointed a cocked pistol squarely at his head and declared, "I'm a killer of Mormons, boy. Are you a Mormon?"

Young Joseph looked the man squarely in the eye and boldly answered, "That's tough to define. There are varying degrees."

No, wait. I remember now. What he actually said was, "Yes, siree, dyed in the wool, true blue, through and through."

Incredibly funny.

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Mormonism is not one of those coercive religions that punish former believers who change their minds and leave.

Certain folks on certain other boards notwithstanding, I suppose.

Here's another interesting article in Mormon Times:

Military service in Afghanistan bonds father-son team

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But I can't help feeling a little puzzled about someone who says his relationship with the church is "tough to define." What can that possibly mean, except that he no longer accepts the church as the sole authorized representative of God? Mormonism has a small but clear set of tenets which you must accept to be a Latter-day Saint. The nature of God, the Atonement and Resurrection of Christ, the authenticity of the Book of Mormon, the Restoration of the gospel by Joseph Smith, the authority of the living prophet.

Having these beliefs doesn't mean we are necessarily good at keeping all the commandments — we all vary in our degrees of righteousness. Nor does it mean that we deny the goodwill of believers in other religions.

But declaring our faith is what makes us part of this community of believers, and denying it removes us from it. In that sense, there are no "cultural Mormons," and no "varying degrees."

I think this idea that members of the church must pass a litmus test of orthodoxy like the one Card describes in order to be a real Mormon is exactly what makes it complicated for somebody like Huntsman to describe whether or not he is a Mormon. Apparently, Huntsman isn’t orthodox enough for Card to consider him a “member of the community of believers,” despite how Huntsman is in fact a member of the church that accepts and reveres some of the things the church teaches and stands for.

I honestly don't think Huntsman fits neatly into a box--when the question presumes everybody does, how do you answer?

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I think this idea that members of the church must pass a litmus test of orthodoxy like the one Card describes in order to be a real Mormon is exactly what makes it complicated for somebody like Huntsman to describe whether or not he is a Mormon. Apparently, Huntsman isn’t orthodox enough for Card to consider him a “member of the community of believers,” despite how Huntsman is in fact a member of the church that accepts and reveres some of the things the church teaches and stands for.

The editorial was careful to neither affirm or denounce Huntsman's membership. I read Card as criticizing the comment, "that's tough to define" -- that the comment was cowardly and not one that one who self-identifies with Mormonism should give if he wishes to be honest and not misleading. In that, I quite agree -- the comment was cowardly.

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I think this idea that members of the church must pass a litmus test of orthodoxy like the one Card describes in order to be a real Mormon is exactly what makes it complicated for somebody like Huntsman to describe whether or not he is a Mormon. Apparently, Huntsman isn’t orthodox enough for Card to consider him a “member of the community of believers,” despite how Huntsman is in fact a member of the church that accepts and reveres some of the things the church teaches and stands for.

I honestly don't think Huntsman fits neatly into a box--when the question presumes everybody does, how do you answer?

Card describes the majority view, but this orthodoxy is not nearly as universally accepted as he suggests.

Pew Forum poll 2008, Mormons:

57% My religion is the one, true faith leading to eternal life

39% Many religions can lead to eternal life

3% Neither/ both equally

1% Don't know/refused

http://religions.pewforum.org/portraits

BTW, anyone find it ironic that he would say Mormons don't punish former members while offering a scathing indictment of the lack of commitment of an existing member. Yeah, right. If you say so.

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The editorial was careful to neither affirm or denounce Huntsman's membership. I read Card as criticizing the comment, "that's tough to define" -- that the comment was cowardly and not one that one who self-identifies with Mormonism should give if he wishes to be honest and not misleading. In that, I quite agree -- the comment was cowardly.

It didn’t affirm or denounce Huntsman’s membership specifically, but it did specifically denounce the membership of cultural Mormons. And from what I can tell, Huntsman is in fact a cultural Mormon. Given the conflict between how Huntsman presumably doesn’t pass Card’s community-of-believers test, yet is in fact a member of the church, it seems to me that he did in fact give an honest answer.

And given how he probably anticipated the criticism he’s now getting for his answer, it doesn’t seem particularly cowardly—just honest.

Card describes the majority view, but this orthodoxy is not nearly as universally accepted as he suggests.

Pew Forum poll 2008, Mormons:

57% My religion is the one, true faith leading to eternal life

39% Many religions can lead to eternal life

3% Neither/ both equally

1% Don't know/refused

http://religions.pewforum.org/portraits

And this doesn't even include the people who the church considers Mormons, but don't self-identify as such.

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The editorial was careful to neither affirm or denounce Huntsman's membership. I read Card as criticizing the comment, "that's tough to define" -- that the comment was cowardly and not one that one who self-identifies with Mormonism should give if he wishes to be honest and not misleading.In that, I quite agree -- the comment was cowardly.

Misleading? How so? He offered more insight into the depth of his faith in Mormonism by that answer, than had he simply answered "yes" or "no."

Cowardly, I suppose, but only if he is a TBM, and is denying his deep commitment to Mormonism to play well to non-mormon voters. But, I don't think that is the case, as I know for a fact that his two oldest children graduated from Judge Memorial Catholic High School in Salt lake, and he is raising his youngest daughter as a Buddhist.

So I guess I can't agree with you that the comment was either cowardly or misleading.

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BTW, anyone find it ironic that he would say Mormons don't punish former members while offering a scathing indictment of the lack of commitment of an existing member. Yeah, right. If you say so.

I don't feel that a scathing opinion is punishment. If it were, many ex and former Mormons punish me with their scathing indictment of my intelligence. Wasn't there a guy on this message board who said he'd never hire a Mormon because he felt their belief in God compromised their good sense, judgment, and overall intellect?

To be sure, we tend to get miffed when people quit the Church and then go on in public denigrating the faith. But that's hardly punishment.

Also, you defend the Book of Mormon Musical as being harmless, but then accuse Mormons of punishing former members by way of harsh opinion? Is there really a difference here?

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Misleading? How so? He offered more insight into the depth of his faith in Mormonism by that answer, than had he simply answered "yes" or "no."

Cowardly, I suppose, but only if he is a TBM, and is denying his deep commitment to Mormonism to play well to non-mormon voters. But, I don't think that is the case, as I know for a fact that his two oldest children graduated from Judge Memorial Catholic High School in Salt lake, and he is raising his youngest daughter as a Buddhist.

So I guess I can't agree with you that the comment was either cowardly or misleading.

The interviewer who asked the original question seems to side with the misleading interpretation:

And as for whether or not Huntsman still belongs to the Church of Latter-day Saints, I know less than I did before I asked him. ("I'm a very spiritual person," as opposed to a religious one, he says, "and proud of my Mormon roots." Roots? That makes it sound as if you're not a member anymore. Are you? "That's tough to define," he says. "There are varying degrees. I come from a long line of saloon keepers and proselytizers, and I draw from both sides.") [source]
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I think this idea that members of the church must pass a litmus test of orthodoxy like the one Card describes in order to be a real Mormon is exactly what makes it complicated for somebody like Huntsman to describe whether or not he is a Mormon. Apparently, Huntsman isn’t orthodox enough for Card to consider him a “member of the community of believers,” despite how Huntsman is in fact a member of the church that accepts and reveres some of the things the church teaches and stands for.

I honestly don't think Huntsman fits neatly into a box--when the question presumes everybody does, how do you answer?

There is no orthodox litmus test (the closest would be a temple recommend). I know people who have left the church but still live its precepts, and members who remain members but have no real belief in its doctrine. Both could technically call themselves members of a sort.

But there is definately a test as to whether you consider yourself a member of a community or not. You ask yourself that question. If you say no, then of course you have removed yourself from that group, if you say yes, then of course you are a member. Huntsman (and we assume he is being honest) reflected upon whether or not he would call himself a member. He chose to demurr, which is cowardly in the sense that he is either not being honest with himself or is not being honest with the reporter.

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I don't feel that a scathing opinion is punishment. If it were, many ex and former Mormons punish me with their scathing indictment of my intelligence. Wasn't there a guy on this message board who said he'd never hire a Mormon because he felt their belief in God compromised their good sense, judgment, and overall intellect?

To be sure, we tend to get miffed when people quit the Church and then go on in public denigrating the faith. But that's hardly punishment.

Also, you defend the Book of Mormon Musical as being harmless, but then accuse Mormons of punishing former members by way of harsh opinion? Is there really a difference here?

I suppose a bad opinion is the equivalent of waterboarding right? :rolleyes:

Double standards abound when it comes to those who don't like the church.

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There is no orthodox litmus test (the closest would be a temple recommend). I know people who have left the church but still live its precepts, and members who remain members but have no real belief in its doctrine. Both could technically call themselves members of a sort.

But there is definately a test as to whether you consider yourself a member of a community or not. You ask yourself that question. If you say no, then of course you have removed yourself from that group, if you say yes, then of course you are a member. Huntsman (and we assume he is being honest) reflected upon whether or not he would call himself a member. He chose to demurr, which is cowardly in the sense that he is either not being honest with himself or is not being honest with the reporter.

Whether or not he was being honest depends upon how his answer aligns with what is in his heart. Is he really a "very spiritual person" but not that "religious"? Is he really proud of his Mormon roots? Does he really think that it's tough to define whether or not he's a Mormon, because he really thinks there are varying degrees?

I believe he was in fact being honest. Unless there is a scandalous excommunication or official resignation, he is in fact on the records of the Church as a member. But, it appears that he doesn’t fully embrace the “small but clear set of tenets which you must accept to be a Latter-day Saint.” So according to where the church draws the line, he’s a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, but according to Orson Scott Card’s criteria, he isn’t a Latter-day Saint.

Is he a member? Some people clearly are and others clearly aren’t, but as Orson Scott Card proved, there are in fact varying degrees in the middle which can make it hard to define. I have no reason to doubt that Huntsman was being honest when he stated that he’s on the margin.

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I don't feel that a scathing opinion is punishment. If it were, many ex and former Mormons punish me with their scathing indictment of my intelligence. Wasn't there a guy on this message board who said he'd never hire a Mormon because he felt their belief in God compromised their good sense, judgment, and overall intellect?

The term "punishment" was used in the context of the voting booth.

I see the article as an open and public condemnation of Huntsman's character, simply because, as a member, he did not toe the party line. As Huntsman is running for office, an article questioning his character is as close as you get to "punishing" someone at the booth, without actually entering into the voting booth.

Also, you defend the Book of Mormon Musical as being harmless, but then accuse Mormons of punishing former members by way of harsh opinion? Is there really a difference here?

Technically, I simply cast doubt on accuracy of his assertion that Mormons would not punish a former member at the ballot box. I just don't believe the statement is true.

As for the BOM play. I haven't seen the play, and have never commented on its contents. But, unlike Spiderman, I don't believe anyone has been harmed by the play. People who haven't seen the play, have complained, but I don't think they have been harmed.

I don't see how these issues are even similar, such that my opinions are inconsistent.

Double standards abound when it comes to those who don't like the church.

Not everyone is as good and pure and consistent in their thoughts as you Jeff.

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The interviewer who asked the original question seems to side with the misleading interpretation:

I disagree with the interviewer. His answer tells me that he is still a member on the roles, but that he is not "a dyed in the wool, true blue, through and through."

His answer also told Orson Scott Card that it means that: "he no longer accepts the church as the sole authorized representative of God" Since he noted "What else can that possible mean ...?"

Answer this question, please:

Has he not imparted more information about his faith than had he answered "yes" simply because he is in fact on the membership rolls?

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As far as I know Huntsman is not Peter, and has not been instructed to deny thrice.

Secondly, "its hard to define" is a copout answer, a simple "Yes I am a member of the LDS Church" would have sufficed, it then would be up to the interviewer to flesh out more concrete answers.

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Jeff K., on 20 May 2011 - 09:59 AM, said:

Double standards abound when it comes to those who don't like the church.

Not everyone is as good and pure and consistent in their thoughts as you Jeff.

Of course from you that is merely an endorsement of a double standard. Given the source of the above comment, I feel more confident that I am on the right track.

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Quote

Also, you defend the Book of Mormon Musical as being harmless, but then accuse Mormons of punishing former members by way of harsh opinion? Is there really a difference here?

Technically, I simply cast doubt on accuracy of his assertion that Mormons would not punish a former member at the ballot box. I just don't believe the statement is true.

After technically it is merely an attempt to justify the double standard.

By the way, you don't punish people at the ballot box, you vote for the person you feel most comfortable with in power. The presumption that somehow voting your opinion is punishment on another is little more than Orwellian ignorance making itself manifest.

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I thoroughly dislike the idea of religious Litmus Tests to being a member of any religion.

I do not like the old man being called up for erring in doctrine. It looks to much like the Methodists. And not like the latter-day-saints. Methodists have creeds which a man must believe or be kicked out of their church. I want the liberty of thinking and believing as I please. It feels so good not to be trammeled." Joseph Smith

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After technically it is merely an attempt to justify the double standard.

I have no idea what you are talking about. Nor do I understand why you feel the need to go negative.

But since you think I have expressed a double standard, please tell me then what two contrasting opinions have I expressed on this thread, and which of the two contrasting opinions do you agree with. If you disagree with both, then doesnt that mean you also have a double standard.

By the way, you don't punish people at the ballot box, you vote for the person you feel most comfortable with in power. The presumption that somehow voting your opinion is punishment on another is little more than Orwellian ignorance making itself manifest.

It was Card, not me that defined the term "punished" as to voting against a candidate. I was simply using the term, as defined.

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I thoroughly dislike the idea of religious Litmus Tests to being a member of any religion.

I do not like the old man being called up for erring in doctrine. It looks to much like the Methodists. And not like the latter-day-saints. Methodists have creeds which a man must believe or be kicked out of their church. I want the liberty of thinking and believing as I please. It feels so good not to be trammeled." Joseph Smith

The litmus test is and will always be a personal view as to whether or not you are connected to the "community". When asked for his personal view, Huntsman waffled on the idea.

Your quote by the way is the right to believe and think as one wishes, not have membership and think and believe as one wishes. Joseph Smith would be the first to call you on thinking or acting in a way contrary to doctrine. Does that make it a litmus test?

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I disagree with the interviewer. His answer tells me that he is still a member on the roles, but that he is not "a dyed in the wool, true blue, through and through."

His answer also told Orson Scott Card that it means that: "he no longer accepts the church as the sole authorized representative of God" Since he noted "What else can that possible mean ...?"

Answer this question, please:

Has he not imparted more information about his faith than had he answered "yes" simply because he is in fact on the membership rolls?

It is misleading not because of the paucity of information but rather because of the ambiguity of it. Among the various ways one could interpret Huntsman's answer:

  • I'm a practicing member, but I don't want non-LDS thinking about me in those terms -- as a Mormon
  • I'm not a (practicing) member, but I was raised Mormon and I carry several cultural traits
  • I'm a "practicing" member but don't believe in several of its core tenets -- you know the things an investigator must subscribe to before being baptized (e.g. such as the list Card gave)

There should be no doubt whatsoever that the phrase was ambiguous as clearly evidenced by the furor it caused all centered around the question, "So, is Hunstman a (practicing) Mormon or not?" Indeed, Huntsman's answer didn't clarify things for me, personally. And I still don't know if he really identifies with Mormonism. Contrast that with other LDS political figures, from Reid to Romney, they make it clear. Card's thesis is quite simply don't dither in declaring one's religious affiliation. It may seem politically expedient to try to identify with both sides but in the end it will get you nothing. I believe that thesis to be true.

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I thoroughly dislike the idea of religious Litmus Tests to being a member of any religion.

Because we should baptize any ol' person who wants to be a "Mormon" irrespective of what they believe. Here's an icecream cone -- go stand in the pool by that nice fellow. :diablo:

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