I've never seen either Scratch or Darth express something "from the heart" as you just did. But I know you are an honest person. I've associated with you long enough to know that. Passionate, stubborn at times (aren't we all?), and opinionated (aren't we all?). And I know, and believe, that you have at heart the welfare of others, and that at least you would genuinely like to see attacks stop. I also firmly believe you have an open mind, but not so open as to absorb everything as "truth", but you're not inclined to mock that which you may not fully understand, or may not have fully investigated.
I don't see anything even near that sort of sincerity in Darth or Scratch. They are here overflowing with agendas.
Ray, I consider you a friend. I feel I can take your admonitions as they are intended, in the right spirit, if you will. I am grateful that you continue to see that I am trying my best to work things out. I don't think that process ever ends, by the way. It only goes on in different modes. You are still trying to work it out. Darth J is still trying to work it out, and so is Daniel Peterson. We are all trying our best, I believe. I am silly enough to think that there are very few sociopaths out there.
I do believe, however, that there are destructive situations that can bring out the worst in people and end in tragedy. Maybe MDB is one of them. I think it is, in some ways, risky territory to walk through. I may have already, in some respects, done irreparable harm to certain aspects of my life by persisting in this hobby. If that is true, however, I would imagine it is because I angered someone out there who thinks that I deserve to be hit hard for doing what they perceive to be "fighting the truth." That is what I see as the real risk. That and the fact that I have spent way too much time on this.
Do I think that my immortal soul is on the line here? No. Why? Because I believe that God is much bigger than that. I believe God is much more merciful than that. I certainly do not think that doctrines should be used as weapons to marginalize and to ostracize others.
While I understand the utility of a certain kind of boundary maintenance, and that in practical terms all human organizations will have their leaders, etc., I think that here we see self-defense gone very much awry in how it is turned even against people who are more or less on the same "team." And I think those who engage in this excessive boundary maintenance have gone too far. I am far from the only person who thinks so. Obviously people much smarter and more faithful to the LDS Church share my view.
But it makes no sense for this to be conceived of as being a personal problem. One cannot see it as a matter of a few bad apples. I think it is more the case that it is a problem that only a structural/organizational solution can ameliorate. It is obvious to me that at the present time there simply will be a spirited, aggressive defense of Mormonism against external critics, because, as the campaigns of Mitt Romney have made clear, American culture has not fully embraced Mormons as belonging to the human race on the same terms as those in the realm of the normative and privileged. LDS apologists are there to hit back against that.
But the other side of it, the preservation of group integrity on matters of doctrine, is something else. Only in a very insecure sect does one find insiders savaged in ways that are too close to the treatment dealt to external enemies. In my view, this is one of the reasons ex-Mormons call Mormonism a cult. Having been treated like pariahs when they started to have problems with the Church, now that they are outsiders they easily join the chorus of those who recognize that the tactics for dealing with turncoats in Scientology or some other marginal group are not that far from what they experienced, and they reach an understandable conclusion. Precision in terminology is not a sufficient antidote to that problem.
But I say that the Church can do something about that that will work. They can't control how local ward folk respond to internal dissent, but they can surely do something about how they deal with it. If their answer is to unleash the rhetorical skills of Greg Smith on John Dehlin or Laura Compton to do what he has honed his skills for, then I think it is fair to say that they will set the tone for how others, the lesser lights, the Schryvers and Droopys of the world, treat struggling members. And, as we have seen, it is not pretty, and it does not lead to altogether positive things. I would say that the anger and negativity of this board cannot simply written off theologically as the influence of "Satan." I think it is also a function of the way the Church allows its apologists to savage fellow members.
It is the Golden Rule on an organizational level, right? And the self-preservation mechanisms of the apologetic set move them to attack my personal tone and personal faith, and what have you, in a bid to distract people from considering what I have to say as having any value at all. Of course, that is simply a distraction. If the LDS Church does not permit its daughter organizations to support the publication of these kinds of attacks, it will be an incremental improvement on the situation. Not a sea change of some kind, but it will diminish the sense, however erroneous, that there is this conspiracy at work between the apostles and the apologists, in which the apologists serve as the attack dogs who abuse and harass members the apostles can't afford to attack in the open for fear of bad PR.
I think that these things are worthy of serious consideration.