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 Post subject: Pondering The Future: Secular Mormons?
PostPosted: Thu Dec 09, 2010 5:33 pm 
Kiskumen’s post touches on something I’ve been thinking of for a while. I suppose “cultural Mormonism”. What struck me was Dr. Kish’s reference to “my people”. I guess converts like myself really can’t say the same, not that this bothers me at all, since my origins are Catholic, but I wouldn’t call them “my people”. I think we all know about secular Jews, but without further ado, do you think we could see a similar evolution in Mormonism, to accepted secular Mormons”?, or do they already exist in Mormon subcultures like “dialoguers” and “sunstoners”? I realise that Jews have a strong cultural indentity apart from religious beliefs, and as far as I know they don’t practice excommunication. That could be the one significant barrier for future possibilities here.

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Baptism (and many other rituals from other religions) are not recognized under Halacha, so they have no validity in changing a person's religion from the Jewish perspective. That means that even Jews who voluntarily undergo conversion to other religions may be considered unobservant apostates, but they won't be considered non-Jews. Your status within Judaism might change, but your religion won't. Once you are a Jew, you are always a Jew unless your Jewish status is somehow revoked by Jewish law. The question then emerges, 'under what conditions does Halacha recognize that a person is no longer Jewish'? This is what led us to the discussion of Spinoza.


Jewish Excommunication


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 Post subject: Re: Pondering The Future: Secular Mormons?
PostPosted: Thu Dec 09, 2010 6:00 pm 
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There was a discussion about this on NOM a while ago:

http://forum.newordermormon.org/viewtopic.php?t=18387

The thread starter talked about his
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hope that I could somehow salvage a meaningful, ongoing connection to my Mormon heritage, even when I know the church isn't true. I understand that I would always be Mormon in some way (Dear Wife and I both have long Mormon lineage), and have a deep nostalgia for the quirky culture and people. I know many Jews who don't believe, and I wanted to be like that. I wanted to openly disbelieve (and maybe even talk about some of the crazy history) but still be part of the close-knit community based on my heritage and shared experience.

I now realize how naïve my expectations were. It can never be like the Jews with us. In our church, the tie that binds is belief. It doesn't matter how much I've sacrificed for the church in the past. It doesn't matter how deep my Mormon family history goes. Lesser belief is valued less, and nonbelief is regarded as a threat and an enemy. Those who show the most outward signs of belief (paying on gross, filling multiple callings, properly dedicated and dressed, etc.) are regarded as more trustworthy. Others less so. If I don't believe, I can't be myself and still be part of the community. How tragic.

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 Post subject: Re: Pondering The Future: Secular Mormons?
PostPosted: Thu Dec 09, 2010 7:07 pm 
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Interesting topic, Ray A. And I agree with the person Blixa quoted. At least in my life time I do not expect this to change.

One has only to ask what the opposite of a Mormon is, within Mormon Culture (Anti-Mormon) compared to the opposite of being Jewish (Gentile) to begin to see the difficulty. I suspect that there are few people (and most importantly Jews) who would intuitively say, "Anti-Semite" if asked what the opposite of being Jewish would be. Yet while calling non-Mormons who live in Utah "gentiles" is common, I submit that few Mormons would intuitively suggest it as the opposite of Mormon.

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 Post subject: Re: Pondering The Future: Secular Mormons?
PostPosted: Thu Dec 09, 2010 7:28 pm 
Thanks Blixa and honor, for your input. I'll have more to say, but ponder this: The Jews represent 0.2% of the world's population. There are about 13-14 million Jews worldwide, roughly the same population as Mormons. While they have been around for thousands of years, they didn't exactly have it easy (Holocaust anyone?). Yet their accomplishments, individually and collectively, have been phenomenal:

List of Jews

And most of these accomplishments have come from "secular" Jews.

The Mormon pipe dream that will probably never happen as long as it remains insular and over-protective, even apparently veering more towards Scientology-like religion than Judaism:

The Gospel Vision of the Arts: By President Spencer W. Kimball

But there are some flickering lights of hope on the horizon, which I discuss later.


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 Post subject: Re: Pondering The Future: Secular Mormons?
PostPosted: Thu Dec 09, 2010 8:21 pm 
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I used to call myself an ex-Mormon, but it never quite felt right--besides, I never completed the process to have my name removed from the roles of the Church. Now I am satisfied with calling myself a Cultural Mormon, hence the name of my blog. Actually, to be more precise, I'd call myself an agnostic secular humanist cultural Mormon... but there is not much of a ring to that.

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 Post subject: Re: Pondering The Future: Secular Mormons?
PostPosted: Thu Dec 09, 2010 8:40 pm 
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The problem for NOMs and such is that there is no cultural identity for Mormons. It takes time to develop those. Stick around for a few more centuries NOMs, then you will have a point. Until then, it's all wishful thinking.


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 Post subject: Re: Pondering The Future: Secular Mormons?
PostPosted: Thu Dec 09, 2010 8:47 pm 
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Mike Reed wrote:
I used to call myself an ex-Mormon, but it never quite felt right--besides, I never completed the process to have my name removed from the roles of the Church. Now I am satisfied with calling myself a Cultural Mormon, hence the name of my blog. Actually, to be more precise, I'd call myself an agnostic secular humanist cultural Mormon... but there is not much of a ring to that.


My feelings are similar to Mike's. I never resigned. While most people would call me an "ex-Mormon" and I sometimes even let it slide or even claim it, I really don't feel like an ex-Mormon so much as a cultural Mormon. I am a product of Mormonism, and the Mormons are my people. At the same time, I never felt completely one with my people. I always felt most in my element as something of an outsider. Half of me feels like I could go back to Church tomorrow, even though I really don't "believe" most of what the LDS Church teaches outside of the basic moral principles and that one can engage the "divine" in some way through prayer, pondering myth (through scriptures), and ritual. I see Mormonism as one of many ways to be a spiritual person in the world, and not necessarily the best. But I am a Mormon of some kind, and I always will be.

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 Post subject: Re: Pondering The Future: Secular Mormons?
PostPosted: Thu Dec 09, 2010 9:11 pm 
Muslims and Jews do not practice anything even near like Mormon excommunication. "Shunning" in some form is practiced, but this would have to come from the more orthodox believers, who are by no means a majority. There wasn't some "disciplinary council" to decide whether Einstein was worthy to remain a Jew, even though it seems very clear that he was a pantheist, and no worshiper of "the God of Abraham". He simply did not believe in a personal God, though Spinoza was subjected to what Einstein escaped.

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If this understanding of Jewish law is correct, then it would be possible for a Jewish community to exclude an individual from membership in the social organization of its society, and it would even be possible for the State of Israel to withhold the right of return from that individual, but the individual himself would still be considered Jewish.


How does a Mormon, fully born and bred into the culture from birth, suddenly say, "I'm an ex-Mormon"? Does an American who settles in Australia, and lived there for 50 years say, "I'm an ex-American"? Or, "American by birth, Aussie citizen by choice"? Paul was a Roman citizen, but never denied his Jewishness. And to the Jews, he was a heretic, just like his Master.


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 Post subject: Re: Pondering The Future: Secular Mormons?
PostPosted: Fri Dec 10, 2010 7:05 am 
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Haven't cultural Mormons been around for a long time? They are derogatorily called Jack-Mormons, and condemned for their sinful behavior. The problem with cultural or secular Mormons is that Mormon culture discourages independent thinking. They carry that with them when they drift away from the Church. Jewish culture encourages independent thinking, and intellectual pursuits. Thus the great Jewish thinkers, both secular and religious. Can cultural Mormons leave behind the negative aspects of Mormonism, and embrace the positive?

Denial of one's cultural heritage means that one refuses to take a look at how it influences the individual's life and thinking. It also can lead to substance abuse, because of shame issues.

I am here thinking about some TBM-ish thinking and behavior in myself, in the past, acquired through osmosis and social pressure, some of it good, some of it bad.

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Last edited by MCB on Sat Jul 02, 2011 7:36 am, edited 1 time in total.

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 Post subject: Re: Pondering The Future: Secular Mormons?
PostPosted: Fri Dec 10, 2010 9:45 am 
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MCB wrote:
Jewish culture encourages independent thinking, and intellectual pursuits. Thus the great Jewish thinkers, both secular and religious. Can cultural Mormons leave behind the negative aspects of Mormonism, and embrace the positive?


Oddly enough, I like to think of some of the arguments I have with apologists like debates between rabbis, except in this case the other rabbi treats me like total crap and impugns my character almost constantly. It should be a civil discussion, but in this context (LDS debates) people are rarely capable of maintaining civility.

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 Post subject: Re: Pondering The Future: Secular Mormons?
PostPosted: Fri Dec 10, 2010 10:26 am 
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I doubt that there's such a thing as a true "ex-Mormon." The Church leaves such an indelible and powerful stamp on its members that it's hard to imagine anyone ever fully "leaving" or ever fully sloughing off the influence that the Church has had on their lives.

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 Post subject: Re: Pondering The Future: Secular Mormons?
PostPosted: Fri Dec 10, 2010 10:38 am 
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Doctor Scratch wrote:
I doubt that there's such a thing as a true "ex-Mormon." The Church leaves such an indelible and powerful stamp on its members that it's hard to imagine anyone ever fully "leaving" or ever fully sloughing off the influence that the Church has had on their lives.

Good point. I'd say that this is mostly true for those with Mormon ancestry and raised in the Church. But I think an exception could be made for many converts, who later decide they don't believe it anymore. For them, I think it is possible to truly become ex-Mormons. Do you agree?

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 Post subject: Re: Pondering The Future: Secular Mormons?
PostPosted: Fri Dec 10, 2010 11:07 am 
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For them, I think it is possible to truly become ex-Mormons. Do you agree?
I have never been Mormon. To my knowledge, none of my ancestors were ever Mormon. However, by osmosis, I internalized some TBM-ish ways of thinking and acting. If a nevermo can claim such a dynamic, surely an apostasized convert can see that, too. However, if that convert came from a culture never significantly influenced by Mormonism, my suspicions are that he/she would not stay long enough to even self-label in terms of Mormonism at all.

I could be wrong in this.

So, all in all, I think the ex-Mormon term should be exclusively reserved for "legal" status; excommunication and excommunication by request.

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Last edited by MCB on Sat Jul 02, 2011 7:34 am, edited 1 time in total.

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 Post subject: Re: Pondering The Future: Secular Mormons?
PostPosted: Fri Dec 10, 2010 11:48 am 
Mike Reed wrote:
Doctor Scratch wrote:
I doubt that there's such a thing as a true "ex-Mormon." The Church leaves such an indelible and powerful stamp on its members that it's hard to imagine anyone ever fully "leaving" or ever fully sloughing off the influence that the Church has had on their lives.

Good point. I'd say that this is mostly true for those with Mormon ancestry and raised in the Church. But I think an exception could be made for many converts, who later decide they don't believe it anymore. For them, I think it is possible to truly become ex-Mormons. Do you agree?


I agree with both statements, with some qualifications. If I had entirely thrown off Mormonism I wouldn’t have posted on Mormon-related boards for ten years. Catholicism never had such an effect on me. The interest that remains, though, is not Church related. I never read Church magazines; not the least bit interested in what GAs or other Church leaders have to say (unless it’s controversial, such as Oaks has a knack for), and going to Church would bore the life out of me. The Mormon subcultures still interest me somewhat, but then I no longer read their publications either, except for the odd back issue. I have no family Church ties and I’m fully ex-Mormon in every sense of the word. Mormonism is still of interest to me for the role it plays, or may play in a “much grander scheme of things” (a Dawkins’ phrase, incidentally, from his conversation with Francis Collins). For me Mormonism started out as the king of beasts, and ended up as the mouse that roared. It has lost all of its openness and daring, and great figures like B.H. Roberts have faded only to be replaced by “hewers of wood and drawers of water”, or “disciples pure and simple”, in contrast to Roberts’ vision of a great intellectual/spiritual revolution. The banal, defensive and judgemental apologetics is another sign of a serious intellectual famine in Mormonland. It that sense it has “dumbed down”, with espionage committees, excommunications of “so-called intellectuals”, tighter and tighter rules and regulations, and listening to men in suits at General Conferences whose every teleprompter word can be predicted with almost pin point precision. It’s all about “feelings”, and gone is Joseph Smith’s grand vision of “digging up new things for my hearers”. When are we going to hear something like the King Follett Discourse in modern times? Probably never. But I believe Mormonism plays an overall role in the larger scheme of things. As more Mormons come to prominence in various fields, even “secular fields”, it will be very interesting to observe how Mormonism adapts and changes. By that I’m not suggesting total accommodation to “worldly values”, but perhaps more refined Glenn Becks, and many more Elna Bakers and Harry Reids. I think in this sense Mormonism has an interesting future.


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 Post subject: Re: Pondering The Future: Secular Mormons?
PostPosted: Fri Dec 10, 2010 11:55 am 
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Mike Reed wrote:
Doctor Scratch wrote:
I doubt that there's such a thing as a true "ex-Mormon." The Church leaves such an indelible and powerful stamp on its members that it's hard to imagine anyone ever fully "leaving" or ever fully sloughing off the influence that the Church has had on their lives.

Good point. I'd say that this is mostly true for those with Mormon ancestry and raised in the Church. But I think an exception could be made for many converts, who later decide they don't believe it anymore. For them, I think it is possible to truly become ex-Mormons. Do you agree?


Sort of. The thing that you can't escape--regardless of whether your are deeply entrenched in an "ethnic" sense, or whether you're someone who only very briefly converted after being charmed by the missionaries--is Mormonism's place in the culture. (And here I'm speaking mainly of US culture; this may not apply so much in other places in the world.) The fact of the matter is that the outside world will always judge your Mormonism---even if you were a member for a very short time. If you were a convert for a very brief time, *you* may be able to fully "let go" in your own heart and mind, but you can't escape the judgments, preconceptions, opinions, etc. of the outside world, which tends to view Mormonism in a very negative light. So in that sense, I think that even converts are sutured into "the tribe," as it were.

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 Post subject: Re: Pondering The Future: Secular Mormons?
PostPosted: Fri Dec 10, 2010 12:09 pm 
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In looking at what labels I might consider myself:

Ex-Mormon
New Order Mormon
Secular Mormon
Jack Mormon
Cultural Mormon
Social Mormon
Internet Mormon
Mormon
LDS

None of these truly identify with me except perhaps the term Enlightened Mormon.

From a secular standpoint Enlightened means full of comprehension while a spiritual standpoint it means having received revelation.


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 Post subject: Re: Pondering The Future: Secular Mormons?
PostPosted: Sun Dec 12, 2010 5:49 pm 
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Ray A wrote:


I really like President Kimball's usage of the quote:

George Bernard Shaw, the Irish dramatist and critic (1856–1950), summed up an approach to life: “Other people,” he said, “see things and say, ‘WHY?’ But I dream things that never were—and I say, ‘WHY NOT?’”

This could stand fairly well as the grand key to understanding secular Mormonism.

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 Post subject: Re: Pondering The Future: Secular Mormons?
PostPosted: Sun Dec 12, 2010 6:30 pm 
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moksha wrote:
Ray A wrote:


I really like President Kimball's usage of the quote:

George Bernard Shaw, the Irish dramatist and critic (1856–1950), summed up an approach to life: “Other people,” he said, “see things and say, ‘WHY?’ But I dream things that never were—and I say, ‘WHY NOT?’”

This could stand fairly well as the grand key to understanding secular Mormonism.


That is quite odd, Moksha. I suspect Kimball never read that line in context. It does not occur in any essay where Shaw is "summing up an approach to life," but rather in one of his plays in Back to Methuselah. It occurs in the first play, set in the Garden of Eden, and is spoken by the Serpent to Adam and Eve. Yes, it is the Serpent that dares to dream of things that never were and ask "why not?"

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 Post subject: Re: Pondering The Future: Secular Mormons?
PostPosted: Sun Dec 12, 2010 6:54 pm 
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Blixa wrote:

That is quite odd, Moksha. I suspect Kimball never read that line in context. It does not occur in any essay where Shaw is "summing up an approach to life," but rather in one of his plays in Back to Methuselah. It occurs in the first play, set in the Garden of Eden, and is spoken by the Serpent to Adam and Eve. Yes, it is the Serpent that dares to dream of things that never were and ask "why not?"



Rofl! I guess that's what Kimball gets for "quote mining"!

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 Post subject: Re: Pondering The Future: Secular Mormons?
PostPosted: Sun Dec 12, 2010 6:57 pm 
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Doctor Scratch wrote:
Blixa wrote:

That is quite odd, Moksha. I suspect Kimball never read that line in context. It does not occur in any essay where Shaw is "summing up an approach to life," but rather in one of his plays in Back to Methuselah. It occurs in the first play, set in the Garden of Eden, and is spoken by the Serpent to Adam and Eve. Yes, it is the Serpent that dares to dream of things that never were and ask "why not?"



Rofl! I guess that's what Kimball gets for "quote mining"!


Much like the wretched use of Lytton Strachey by whoever ghosted Standing For Something.

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 Post subject: Re: Pondering The Future: Secular Mormons?
PostPosted: Mon Dec 13, 2010 6:23 am 
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bumping for Moksha of who it can perhaps be said, like Blake did of Milton, is "a true poet & of the Devils party without knowing it.”

(not so much for Kimball and other GA's whose ghostwriters consult famous quote anthologies without ever apparently encountering the original works)

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