We now know, thanks to multiple reliable sources, that a Dan Peterson-led verbal assault on "Mormon Stories" host John Dehlin was successfully averted thanks to the intervention of one of the Apostles. But a lot of questions remain: Was DCP the principal author of this attack? Was it really "100" pages long? And what did it say?
FARMS / The Maxwell Institute has always been the front line for attacks on critics: if a full-blown character assassination takes place in the pages of the Review
, you rest assured that this has the status of orthodoxy amongst the lower-tier Mopologists. Bearing that in mind, I cannot help but wonder how the cancellation of this "hit piece" on Dehlin will play out in the Mopologetic "farm system"--i.e., FAIR. On a separate thread, I pointed out that some of the FAIR personnel had cyber-stalked John Dehlin and harvested a comment of his off of Facebook in order to portray him in a negative light on a FAIR Wiki entry. Ultimately, somebody--probably Wiki Wonka, imo--thought better of it and deleted the comment.
Clearly, this demonstrated that there is a great deal of hostility among the FAIR volunteers on the topic of John Dehlin. Perhaps readers here recall a bit of a get-together and UVU, where Dehlin appeared on a panel. Interestingly, it seems that Allen "The Slug" Wyatt set up a kind of "gotcha" situation, where with the camera rolling, he seemed ready to catch Dehlin in all his "evil"http://www.fairblog.org/2012/05/02/look ... ment-76459
Allen Wyatt wrote:
On March 29, 2012, Utah Valley University hosted a fascinating conference entitled Mormonism and the Internet. Perhaps the most interesting exchanges, for me, were those in session five of the conference, which was a panel discussion among John Dehlin, Scott Gordon, and Rosemary Avance. UVU has just posted this particular conference session online, and I just watched it again.
Rather early in the panel discussion, I asked a question of John Dehlin, as a follow-up to his presentation earlier in the day.You can hear my question beginning at about 13:05 into the video:
People often study the same facts or issues and come to vastly different conclusions—some have their faith strengthened, while others have their faith destroyed. To what do you attribute this difference in outcome, and why do you feel that the stories of those who have suffered a negative outcome should be privileged over those with a positive outcome?
Dehlin gives a rather lengthy reply, but Wyatt finds his answer unsatisfying, and he immediately assumes that Dehlin is prevaricating:
Allen Wyatt wrote:
At first I thought that John was being evasive; he didn’t really answer my question which was how people can study the same data and come to differing conclusions.
Does he have a point, though? Dehlin, in his response, lays out a whole set of different reasons why people would approach the "study" (strange word choice, no?) of unpleasant Church history and doctrine in different ways. He explains that people come to different conclusions largely because of their personal situation within the Church: especially the extent to which their life station allows them to fully "question" the Church's truth claims. (For example, Dehlin implies at one point that it is probably impossible for BYU professors to openly and honestly question the Church's claims, because their employment is dependent upon their obedience.)
Wyatt wraps up his inquiry/attack with a series of rhetorical questions:
So I thought I would pose the question here that John raises in the middle of his answer; the one that he seems to obliquely answer by his own faith journey: What happens when a person looks honestly at the facts or issues of Mormonism? Does honesty demand that such questions inevitably lead to a loss of faith, or can one be honest and remain a member of the church?
So, whereas Dehlin's repsose confronts an array of problems and issues, Wyatt has worked to reframe all of this as a kind of black-and-white war, where anyone who stays in the Church is "dishonest." It appears that Wyatt is less interested in actually exploring the issues, and more interested in painting Dehlin as a villain, and in continuing the war with critics. Besides, I think the answer is fairly obvious, and that Wyatt already knows it: the answer is, "Yes." A clear example of this would be Terryl Givens, who appeared on Dehlin's podcast and openly admitted that the Church has basically lied by omission, and that people have every right to feel deceived if they don't learn about, say, polyandry until their forties (or whatever). Someone like Wyatt or DCP would never admit this, though. They may say that there are "problems" with CES, or something benign like that, but they would never, ever acknowledge the sense of betrayal that so many people feel--and this is what Dehlin has been trying to address and correct.
In any case, it is interesting to watch these attacks on Dehlin playing out. Perhaps the most telling thing on the thread was the first comment, from none other than Mike "Tuffy" Parker, of SHIELDS fame:
Mike Parker wrote:
An important side note is that John Dehlin’s study — which he refers to when he speaks of “our data” — was not rigorously done. Instead of polling random former Mormons, he solicited responses from ex-Mormons who follow his podcast and run in the same circles with him. The bias here, from a polling standpoint, is enormous.
in short, his data tell us nothing because his survey sample is homogeneous and voluntary.
Ah. So *that's* it. This is why Dehlin is threatening to them.
The Mopologists have always, always relied on the tactic of insisting that the "sense of betrayal" that I described above is false. We have seen evidence for this again and again: they accuse questioning posters of being trolls. They do what Wyatt did and insist that "smart people can still believe!" (hence "Mormon Scholars Testify"). They paint disaffected members as sinners, lazy, stupid, etc. So Dehlin's study--regardless of its methodological flaws--must be incredibly threatening to them, since it could potentially demonstrate just how real and concrete the problems actually are. If the study's results are true, it takes away one of the Mopologists' main avenues of attack. So of course Wyatt, Parker, Smith and others are freaking out.
And "Tuffy" Parker's criticisms seem somewhat overblown. Yes, it is a problem that the survey was "voluntary" (has there ever been a legit social science survey that wasn't
techincally "voluntary"?), but I don't know why Parker is assuming that the sample set is somehow *not* indicative of wider trends in Mormonism. He complains that "[Dehlin] solicited responses from ex-Mormons who follow his podcast and run in the same circles with him," though it's not quite clear why Parker thinks this, or why it amounts to a legitimate criticism. As far as I can tell, Dehlin has an enormous audience that encompasses both believing LDS and ex-Mormons. He attracts people like Richard Bushman, Mike Quinn, and Terryl Givens as guests, so I see no reason to assume that the only respondents were "ex-Mormons ...[who]..run in the same circles." I bet that Parker himself listens to the podcast, so, again: Who is he talking about here?
In any event, it will be very interesting to see if these "farm team" Mopologists will be able to restrain their anger and hatred, or if they will step up their attacks on Dehlin.