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 Post subject: Re: New Interpreter Article a flop: Don't bother reading it
PostPosted: Thu Apr 04, 2019 7:57 pm 
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That is what I think is changing. It was presented as much like Christianity, I agree, but it has many unusual aspects that now are much easier to find. The surface appeal that led to converts in the past (dishonestly, in my opinion), is much harder to maintain now, and in my opinion fewer people go into baptism without doing some research.


I don’t know how I feel about the charge of dishonesty. Sure, some dishonesty. More conviction and ignorance than dishonesty. The thing that has repeatedly surprised me is how clueless GAs were about Church history problems. That really tells you something.

There are some people who would say that a religion is its history, and some who would say that the history helps us understand where a religion has come from. Increasingly, I fall into the latter category in the question of Mormonism. Anyone who honestly thinks that a religion should not change or look very different hundreds of years ago than it does now is being, I think, naïve.

But the real point you are making is almost irrefutable. The growth of religions like the JWs and Mormons is really stagnating because online research brings you to all the quirky stuff really quickly. I agree that change is happening and that Mormonism looks weirder now than it did. I don’t think it looks e-meter Xenu weird, but, yeah, weirder than it did.

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 Post subject: Re: New Interpreter Article a flop: Don't bother reading it
PostPosted: Thu Apr 04, 2019 8:17 pm 
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Reverend, up until now we've been talking scripture and tradition, consumer trends etc, and as I said I think it can hold its own, and that takes into account my mission experiences with how people received the Book of Mormon. (they just didn't comprehend the Mormon domino logic that if you kinda-sorta think the Book of Mormon is true, that first domino triggers a fell swoop binding you to get baptised, pay 10% and totally uproot your life) but we've neglected to take into account how the leaders represent the Church and how people perceive the Church based on its leaders.

From another thread,

Elder Renlund wrote:
Two balls were one too many for our puppy and it is the same for you


I'm afraid, Reverend, that the news is not good.

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 Post subject: Re: New Interpreter Article a flop: Don't bother reading it
PostPosted: Thu Apr 04, 2019 8:31 pm 
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You raise a great question, Dean Robbers: How is it that people follow the logic of LDS conversion? You are saying they don’t. I believe you.

And here is where I concede the argument in part. Gadianton P. Robbers, in his inimitable fashion, has gotten me to change my mind by making a very simple but insightful observation.

To accept the logic of Mormon conversion is to abdicate voluntarily anything like a logical train of thought. You are moving forward and embracing bad thinking because you want to, and at that point it might as well be UFOs, e-meters, Democrats, or any other big conversion.

None of it is logical. None of it is coherent. If you don’t want to take the leap from rationality to seeming “sense”, then you will be left with the impression that it is too stupid to accept. There are, however, people who, for complex reasons, wind up abandoning reason for a strange kind of intuitive satisfaction. “I know it does not make sense, but I want to believe. I like this for X reason. There must be something to this.”

And here the weirdness may not matter at all. There is an appeal to some of the teachings of Scientology. It is a lot of wish-fulfillment and bad psychology, but much of it can sound attractive to people seeking something meaningful in their lives.

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 Post subject: Re: New Interpreter Article a flop: Don't bother reading it
PostPosted: Thu Apr 04, 2019 8:51 pm 
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Gadianton wrote:
...
From another thread,
Elder Renlund wrote:
Two balls were one too many for our puppy and it is the same for you

I'm afraid, Reverend, that the news is not good.

However, it's good news for me: I had a severe case of mumps as an adult, and effectively lost one (ball, that is).

So I'm comforted by Elder Relund's apparent assertion that one is enough.

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 Post subject: Re: New Interpreter Article a flop: Don't bother reading it
PostPosted: Fri Apr 05, 2019 7:44 am 
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Kishkumen wrote:
So, there are still a lot of Christians around, regardless of the perceived background you and I think is there or not. I would say that still lends Mormonism some cultural advantage over thetans and Xenu. But that’s my opinion, and I am not finding the arguments to the contrary on this thread very persuasive.


There are four issues, it seems to me:

1. Would a reasonable person attempting to be objective conclude that Mormonism's similarities to Christianity are greater and more significant than those between Scientology and Christianity? Almost certainly yes.

2. Do those similarities make Mormonism's narrative more plausible than Scientology's narrative? Probably in the abstract, but "plausibility" in terms of religious conversion depends on the person. For those who aren't converts, both are obviously implausible.

3. Did a Protestant Christian background make Mormonism more plausible in the past than some other background would have? Almost certainly yes.

4. Does such a background make Mormonism inherently more plausible than Scientology in 2019? Doubtful.

Talking about now and talking about our impressions of how people react to Mormonism and not about Mormonism as an abstracted system, my impression is that people react a lot more like Physics Guy than like than your ancestors. Just yesterday I was listening to a politics/culture podcast wherein Mormons were referenced as really nice people and an example of how religion provides strong social cohesion that can weather broader economic and political shifts, but the host felt the need to say "even though, oh my god, they believe some very weird ____—have you actually read what Joseph Smith wrote and the kinds of things he was seeing at 14?" A Catholic community in Chevy Chase, MD and some Dutch Reformed Church in Iowa was also discussed, but without any such editorial comment. Even Christians perceive Mormonism as deeply different.

It seems to me that, as you did while a believer, you are imagining Mormonism already as a Christian variant—most non-Mormons do not naturally do that—seeing its points of continuity with traditional Christianity, and then concluding that other people with a Christian background would more easily latch on to those points of similarity, thus increasing Mormonism's plausibility and supporting the claim that the general Christian cultural background noise makes Mormonism generally more plausible. That's certainly what the self-styled "Church of Jesus Christ" assumes—or at least hopes—and someone with a Christian background who already wants to join Mormonism for whatever reason has a lot more material to work with in Mormonism than Scientology if they want to build those connections. As an abstract system compared side-to-side, I would agree, but it doesn't seem to me that that is how people in the United States generally approach Mormonism.

I'm sure that it works that way with some people, but in my (admittedly subjective) impression, it's actually the points of difference that most strike people, especially those with a Christian background. Mormons set themselves as different, whether they want to not, simply by forbidding coffee and beer, so already that primes even sincerely curious people to react to Mormonism as a different entity from other kinds of Christianity. The fact that the Church has to amplify their Jesus-ness with name changes is indication that most people don't see that Jesus-ness; the fact that the Church wildly misunderstands the kind of Christianity most people are coming from and what little effect their cosmetic changes have on those people also tells just how differently Mormonism is perceived. And you can gauge the popular image of Mormonism relatively easily. When, for example, Bill Maher or Christopher Hitchens trots out the absurdities of Mormonism to the guffaws of the audience, they use it as a mic-dropping foil: "now, tell me how the virgin birth is more logical!" In short, the otherness of Mormonism can safely be taken for granted. Scientology similarly is perceived as weird if not as a contrast to Christianity in the same way. In short, the similarities that you think make Mormonism more plausible are generally ignored by most people and exploited by some only to infect some other kind of Christianity with some of Mormonism's apparent strangeness. All I have ever heard when non-Mormons talk about Mormon beliefs as they perceive them is just how weird they are, as if it were like Scientology. I have never heard anyone say, "yeah but it's like Methodism [or what have you] in this respect or that respect." I have heard Mormonism discussed as if it were like Scientology, but I've only ever heard it discussed as similar to Christianity when a polemicist wants to make a point against Christianity.

I also think Scientology functions differently; they don't attempt sell you a plausible story. They give you that later on, after you already have gone through their self-help regimen to the point that you accept its validity and the authority of the people administering it. But when we're talking about plausibility in the abstract, we are talking about people doing Google searches out of some curiosity, not individuals who are feeling their way into a new lifestyle and a new worldview. In that latter case, it is impossible to know what makes something plausible in a general sense, and we can only talk about abstract intelligibility as a potential factor that might make a religious narrative plausible, but there's a lot that happens before that. Individual contexts and needs ultimately determine that. In the former case, the Google searchers, I think it is hard to say that people find Mormonism any more plausible or any less weird than Mormonism, at least judging from the reactions I see in the media and in my own interactions with people who are not Mormon and don't know that I was one as a child and teenager.

If we are talking about how weird either is to people in the present day who aren't interested already in converting, then I'd say there's not much difference in the perception of the general population, at least in the observation of someone who hasn't been around Mormons for nearly 15 years.

I'm not trying to use my subjective impressions in this discussion as a club with which to hit Mormon belief or to demean the sincerity or religious feeling that believers have, and I do not think the Church is anywhere near Scientology in terms of institutional abuse of its members (although admittedly I only get what I know about that from Leah Remini and some Youtube videos of an ex-Scientology PR guy). I just don't see in my experience or in what few statistics there are examples of Christianity serving as a feeder for Mormonism. I see a lot more of what Physics Guy is saying, and I think that kind of sentiment is only amplified by a cultural environment in which Christianity and religion in general are declining as institutions and as social forces. I don't think even a lot of Christians (at least outside the south and rural areas) put that much stock in their religious myths and will admit that, say, the Virgin Birth is weird and that they think miracles are just stories. I imagine (and that is all I can do) that the only kind of Christian who fully buys into the "weirdness" in Christianity is the one least likely to join Mormonism.

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Sufficiently to go from no church to millions of adherents, which is a helluva lot better that the 20,000 or so Scientologists.


The numbers I see with a Google search—must be true!—range up to 55,000, so they are doing about as well as Mormons were after 50 years but in a considerably more difficult religious environment than Mormons faced.

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LOL. Hilarious. I feel as though MormonDiscussions.com must be one of the worst places to conduct anything approaching a functional discussion. Yes, I KNOW that they attack JWs and Catholics. I remember that quite well. In fact, I mentioned the JWs above as being even closer and hence more threatening to Christians than Mormons. But this really supports my point, I think. And I am sorry, but if you take the full panoply of anti-cult ministry outlets, they are spending much more time on Christian-like sects, including Mormonism, than Hinduism and Scientology.

Martin’s book is just one book. To take it as representative of all anti-cult ministry activity is classic cherry picking. I would feel rightly charged with the same had I not already acknowledged mea sponte the JW situation.


What book or other resources do you think is more representative? Cherry picking would be taking one or a few facts in support of a conclusion in the face of an overwhelming amount of other facts that undermine that conclusion. Martin's is not just one random book. It's the counter-cultist bible (uh, well, the other one). It's been in print for a four decades, endorsed by prominent evangelicals, edition after edition, for a reason. And I don't see a host of other facts undermining what I'm saying, though it is my subjective impression on this side and yours on that side. Since that's all we have, I also deduce my impression from that fact, at my local Christian bookstore anyway, there is almost nothing about Mormonism. Or Books-A-Million, obviously owned by evangelicals: you can get a lot of "Problems with Islam, written by an Anti-Cult Christian" stuff but nothing on Mormonism beyond "One Under Gods." Or even look at Barnes and Noble, where the Islam section is often spiked with that kind of stuff. Islam is a big topic of concern. You dismiss that as racism, which it might be (though that's not the word I would use myself), but that's kind of my point: their activities aren't just or even largely about perceived theological difference.

In any case, I just don't see how they are a useful metric for the views of anybody but fundamentalist or evangelical Christians, few to none of whom are converting to Mormonism anyway.

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 Post subject: Re: New Interpreter Article a flop: Don't bother reading it
PostPosted: Fri Apr 05, 2019 9:34 am 
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Symmachus wrote:
I just don't see in my experience or in what few statistics there are examples of Christianity serving as a feeder for Mormonism.


So, you would assert that most people who have joined Mormonism over its nearly two centuries of history were not Christian. Fascinating.

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The numbers I see with a Google search—must be true!—range up to 55,000, so they are doing about as well as Mormons were after 50 years but in a considerably more difficult religious environment than Mormons faced.


So, in your view, the fact that the Mormons lacked mass electronic media as a means of conveying their message, not to mention modern means of travel, for the first 50 years of their history is not to be factored into a measurement of the two groups' relative success. Nor is the fact that the Mormons were chased from state to state, had their way of life targeted alongside slavery in the Republican Party platform, and had the US Army sent against them to be taken into account. We will instead credit the self-reporting of the Church of Scientology of having many, many members as a reliable measure of their demographic success.

Honestly, I don't think it is at all clear what these "up to 55,000" numbers even mean. Is this a reference to e-meter consultations? Quit smoking treatment groups?

At least the use of baptism as the basis for membership shows clearly a person's intention to join the Mormon community.

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Cherry picking would be taking one or a few facts in support of a conclusion in the face of an overwhelming amount of other facts that undermine that conclusion.


It is still one book, chosen to represent a multi-media cottage industry.

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 Post subject: Re: New Interpreter Article a flop: Don't bother reading it
PostPosted: Fri Apr 05, 2019 4:25 pm 
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Your combativeness is puzzling, my dear Reverend.

Kishkumen wrote:
So, you would assert that most people who have joined Mormonism over its nearly two centuries of history were not Christian. Fascinating.


I struggle, in light of our interactions over the years and in light of what I wrote in my last response, to discover why you would misread me in this way. If I didn't know better, I'd say you were more interesting in playing "gotcha" than having a discussion. In my last post, I attempted at the beginning to isolate the various strands of the discussion, and then I focused on the last one. You are tangling them up here (as you do elsewhere) with the result that you attribute to me views I don't hold and misread my statement as a claim I was not making.

The quote you hone in on is from a point about conversion and its relation to plausible narratives in 2019 (#4 on my list). I gave plenty of blatant cues that that was what I was talking about. The sentence was not relevant to the role of Christianity in conversion to Mormonism since 1830. I'm talking about the current moment. And in this moment, no, I do not think a person's knowing something about the Christian narrative is going to make Mormonism more palatable and its narrative more plausible, and at the same time I doubt that Christians committed to traditional Christian narratives are likely to convert to Mormonism. So, no, Christianity is not a feeder at the present moment for Mormonism in the sense that Mormonism's similarities to Christianity, real or imagined, are not the factor you think they are. It is incidental as a factor in converting to Mormonism because for most people Christianity is incidental.

Your claims assume too much about the power of narrative and also that plausibility is something rationally discovered before the fact of conversion rather than something emotionally invented after it. The age of converts who came to Mormonism because it represented the Christianity they had always been looking for is long gone. And if we are honest, those of us who grew up Mormon saw those people—former Methodists and Baptists or whatever who as Mormons were curious about the physics of Atonement and the location of Kolob, in short the weird, non-traditional parts—as conspicuous outliers. Everyday run-of-the-mill Protestants like my grandparents stopped converting in significant numbers probably in the 1980s. In my growing up Mormon (mostly in different states outside of Utah), I rarely met a convert, and those I did meet seemed weird and were probably the sort of people to be interested in Scientology as much as Mormonism, if the weather was right. Maybe I was just unlucky.

Obviously, the reasons why people convert can be difficult to locate, but I also think religious narrative is not as compelling a factor in the culture now as it was in the past and that therefore the overlap, however influential in the past, is not much of a factor. Maybe there are some converts who are looking for a deeper Christian experience and find that in Mormonism. But consider that most converts to Islam according to Pew also were brought up in a Protestant tradition—something like 70 %. If the narrative mattered so much, we wouldn't expect that, but clearly there are other factors at play. In the developed world, people join Mormonism for the same reasons they join Scientology, and for the same reason they buy gym memberships and do yoga: they're looking for personal fulfillment from the experience. How closely the narrative matches up with that of their grandmother's religion, which they have only been nominally exposed to in comparison to their grandma, is probably not that relevant. Certainly not as relevant as you are making it out to be, although we agree it was probably much more relevant in the past, when people were passionate about the age of baptism and everyone generally accepted the reality of miraculous stories in the Bible to some degree. That just not so today in most of the developed world. A Christianity where a gay priest marries two men and posts a sign outside that says #blacklivesmatter is not a Christianity where the traditional Christian narratives have much purchase. Personal fulfillment is the order of the day, and if converts get the personal fulfillment in the experience, they will discover a way to make the narrative plausible. Numbers on their own therefore tell us next to nothing about the inherent plausibility of religious narrative. If you want to know how it sells in general, one must look elsewhere, which is what I did in my last post.

That Mormonism doesn't provide personal fulfillment is why it has a really hard time retaining people, and why a lot of millennials like myself who grew up Mormon have checked out. I have written about this before here, but my claim from a few years back that younger Mormons are more troubled by the social aspects of the Mormonism than by the discrepancy between Egyptian grammar as we know it and the Book of Abraham—by problems with the narrative—is being born out by Jana Riess's work, though I think she still misses a lot. In this, Mormons aren't unique. The expectations that people bring are just different. The fact that Scientology can get converts at all is amazing, from the perspective of competing narratives, but it's not surprising when thinking about what people in the west expect to get out of a religion. Narratives actually turn them off, no matter how much overlap there is. In that environment, Mormonism doesn't look all that different from Scientology, as I discussed in my last post.

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So, in your view, the fact that the Mormons lacked mass electronic media as a means of conveying their message, not to mention modern means of travel, for the first 50 years of their history is not to be factored into a measurement of the two groups' relative success. Nor is the fact that the Mormons were chased from state to state, had their way of life targeted alongside slavery in the Republican Party platform, and had the US Army sent against them to be taken into account. We will instead credit the self-reporting of the Church of Scientology of having many, many members as a reliable measure of their demographic success.


If you have to write "so, in your view" before weaving together a straw-man, then you are not writing my views. You responded to my point that most people who have ever been exposed to Mormonism have obviously found it implausible, despite their being members of societies that were largely Christian. Your response was that Mormonism has had more members than Scientology does now, which is just a non sequitur when we're talking about the whether a Christian cultural background in 2019 makes Mormonism seem more plausible. I think my response illustrates that, but I state it here for you just so we're clear.

(incidentally, stepping outside of a presentist mindset, if we were to be looking at Mormonism in the 1880s, where it had tens but not hundreds of thousands of adherents, many of whom were nominal, and was facing state persecution, we might be forgiven for thinking that Mormonism had less a chance for success, despite its semi-Christian narrative, than Scientology does today, despite not having a Christian narrative, although they do have that cross!).

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It is still one book, chosen to represent a multi-media cottage industry.


A standard book in a field is a representative gauge, however incomplete. You are welcome to suggest a better gauge. Other than reasonably assuming that a widely sold book that has been reprinted continuously for forty years represents something significant, I am guilty only of offering my subjective impressions, which I outlined. They could be wrong. I don't know what equally subjective experience you are basing your impressions on.

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 Post subject: Re: New Interpreter Article a flop: Don't bother reading it
PostPosted: Sat Apr 06, 2019 2:00 am 
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The fact that Mormonism did grow as big has it has, in spite of the impression it now makes on me, is the main thing that interests me about Mormonism. How did that happen? It's a puzzle and I don't have firm theories. My best guess as a starting point is that a lot of 19th century Americans were somehow primed to accept a lot of Mormonism as familiar tropes. To a certain taste, it might have seemed that Mormonism was finally the pizza that had ALL the good toppings.

Past that early boost phase I guess there must have been some growth as an isolated theocracy in Utah. I know almost nothing about this phase. It doesn't get discussed much compared to the Joseph Smith era. I know there were settlers who struggled to get to Utah but I don't know how important a factor they were in the growth of the church. Then in the past thirty years there has been this long era of weirdly steady linear growth in membership which has recently leveled off. I don't know what has been happening here, either.

Clearly a lot of people have seen more in Mormonism than I have, though. To me it seems not only fake but obviously fake, but I realize that the fakeness cannot really be so obvious in any objective way, or nobody would have joined the Mormon church. Hence my interest in Mormonism as a phenomenon. What brings people into it? What keeps people there?

Mormonism's derivative relationship to protestant Christianity may partly explain why some people were drawn to Mormonism, but it may also partly explain my inability to see any genuine elements in Mormonism. Perhaps I'm just familiar enough with Christianity myself that there's an "uncanny valley" effect, where Mormonism is close enough to something I know that the discrepancies seem disturbing. Perhaps an equally derivative knock-off of Buddhism wouldn't seem so fake to me.


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 Post subject: Re: New Interpreter Article a flop: Don't bother reading it
PostPosted: Sat Apr 06, 2019 8:07 am 
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symmachus wrote:
The age of converts who came to Mormonism because it represented the Christianity they had always been looking for is long gone


I wouldn't go that far when I said that Christians would go with Mormonism over Scientology at the first discussion level of either. None of the Christians I had as investigators were looking for the true Christian church, I mean, those pamphlets or auxiliary sources about "which church is right" I don't recall ever connecting with anyone. You cringed when you got to the part in the third or fourth that reveals only Mormonism is right and hope the investigator didn't really catch that part. For most of them, Christianity is vaguely familiar, they're not going to a church right now, these missionaries are young and optimistic and listen to my problems, the book of Mormon is kinda-sorta like the bible -- it seems all right. probably 75% would be weeded out with the south park level overview. Back then there was no internet -- or barely an internet. The chick tracts and so on wouldn't really connect because they were too focus on specific theological points the typical open-minded investigator didn't lean towards. But even then, boy, the amount of effort to get someone to church is really significant. But of the few baptisms I was vaguely connected to, I can't think of any investigator brimming over with certainty that they'd found the restored Gospel, or they found the church that hit all 17 points they'd scribbled out in a notebook ten years ago, or because Mormonism was even the ideal family venue. I'm not sure any of them could have passed a multiple choice test where questions about the church's exclusivity were pitted against other reasonable options, even as representing what the church teaches of itself. I can't for the life of me believe I would have got the same people to try auditing. I think most of them saw it as a good church like a lot of churches, but this church is the one who sent the missionaries to me, not that other church.

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That Mormonism doesn't provide personal fulfillment is why it has a really hard time retaining people


that was another constant problem on my mission, is that the Christian fellowships had far, far superior youth groups. I spent quite a bit of time with youth ministries because I had a youth pastor I got along with very well who was trying to convert me and so he'd come to my meetings and I'd go to his. I'm sure there are clique elements and similar drama as anywhere else, but there was a much greater emphasis by everyone to be inclusive of others. That stuff actually crossed the line of what felt cultish to me more than anything at a Mormon service, which is generally pretty dry and incredibly boring. Everyone is suffering through it.

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 Post subject: Re: New Interpreter Article a flop: Don't bother reading it
PostPosted: Sat Apr 06, 2019 9:51 am 
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Physics Guy wrote:
The fact that Mormonism did grow as big has it has, in spite of the impression it now makes on me, is the main thing that interests me about Mormonism. How did that happen? It's a puzzle and I don't have firm theories. My best guess as a starting point is that a lot of 19th century Americans were somehow primed to accept a lot of Mormonism as familiar tropes. To a certain taste, it might have seemed that Mormonism was finally the pizza that had ALL the good toppings.

Past that early boost phase I guess there must have been some growth as an isolated theocracy in Utah. I know almost nothing about this phase. It doesn't get discussed much compared to the Joseph Smith era. I know there were settlers who struggled to get to Utah but I don't know how important a factor they were in the growth of the church. Then in the past thirty years there has been this long era of weirdly steady linear growth in membership which has recently leveled off. I don't know what has been happening here, either.

Clearly a lot of people have seen more in Mormonism than I have, though. To me it seems not only fake but obviously fake, but I realize that the fakeness cannot really be so obvious in any objective way, or nobody would have joined the Mormon church. Hence my interest in Mormonism as a phenomenon. What brings people into it? What keeps people there?

Mormonism's derivative relationship to protestant Christianity may partly explain why some people were drawn to Mormonism, but it may also partly explain my inability to see any genuine elements in Mormonism. Perhaps I'm just familiar enough with Christianity myself that there's an "uncanny valley" effect, where Mormonism is close enough to something I know that the discrepancies seem disturbing. Perhaps an equally derivative knock-off of Buddhism wouldn't seem so fake to me.


Mormonism at 16 million is still pretty small and only about 5 million or so go to church. It has a conspicuous missionary force and uses P.R. well to get its name out there. The American Mormon church had a lot of growth post WWII, possibly due to America conquering the world? Desperate people love a winner and possibly saw joining an American church as a way to move up? I don't know how American evangelicals are doing in S. America now, but were effective back when I was a missionary in Brazil. So, maybe attaching oneself to a perceived winner has something to do with it?

Also, just being the one that is there trying to convert an indifferent public, may have a lot to do with the growth of Mormonism. Sales go to the aggressor and the constant presence of missionaries is bound to have some results, despite the doctrinal nonsense Mormonism has.

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 Post subject: Re: New Interpreter Article a flop: Don't bother reading it
PostPosted: Sun Apr 07, 2019 5:26 am 
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Physics Guy wrote:
Mormonism's derivative relationship to protestant Christianity may partly explain why some people were drawn to Mormonism, but it may also partly explain my inability to see any genuine elements in Mormonism. Perhaps I'm just familiar enough with Christianity myself that there's an "uncanny valley" effect, where Mormonism is close enough to something I know that the discrepancies seem disturbing. Perhaps an equally derivative knock-off of Buddhism wouldn't seem so fake to me.


A knock-off of Protestantism like Methodism or JWs?

Thanks for sharing these thoughts, P.G. I would love to hear more about what you find to be fake in the world of religion. What confers the impression of authenticity in your mind? Are miraculous claims viewed as more fake? More authentic?

I also find interesting your implicit assumption that Mormonism is not Christian and that its relationship with Christianity is uniquely bogus. JWs not so much? Please fill me in.

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 Post subject: Re: New Interpreter Article a flop: Don't bother reading it
PostPosted: Sun Apr 07, 2019 5:37 am 
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I can't for the life of me believe I would have got the same people to try auditing. I think most of them saw it as a good church like a lot of churches, but this church is the one who sent the missionaries to me, not that other church.


Thank you, Dean Robbers. As always, a sober, measured, and insightful set of comments. Thank you for setting a good example for me.

To me this is the basic issue. For those who are more casual and pragmatic in their church needs, Mormonism seems at first glance to be a wholesome church and a reasonable option. Lots of people who have joined did not care that much about “the one true church” or “primitive Christianity.” They wanted a decent church and a nice, friendly community. The fact that Mormons appeared to tick the box of Christian surely helped them feel OK about joining.

I don’t believe that we at MormonDiscussions.com represent that view well at all.

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 Post subject: Re: New Interpreter Article a flop: Don't bother reading it
PostPosted: Sun Apr 07, 2019 7:54 am 
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Symmachus wrote:
I struggle, in light of our interactions over the years and in light of what I wrote in my last response, to discover why you would misread me in this way. If I didn't know better, I'd say you were more interesting in playing "gotcha" than having a discussion. In my last post, I attempted at the beginning to isolate the various strands of the discussion, and then I focused on the last one. You are tangling them up here (as you do elsewhere) with the result that you attribute to me views I don't hold and misread my statement as a claim I was not making.


I apologize, dear consul. I was being careless. I should have been more polite in the way I responded. Had I done so, I would have framed my responses as questions, not something that looked like me attributing positions to you that you obviously don't hold.

I think, truth be told, that I am simply kind of tired.

Symmachus wrote:
I'm talking about the current moment. And in this moment, no, I do not think a person's knowing something about the Christian narrative is going to make Mormonism more palatable and its narrative more plausible, and at the same time I doubt that Christians committed to traditional Christian narratives are likely to convert to Mormonism. So, no, Christianity is not a feeder at the present moment for Mormonism in the sense that Mormonism's similarities to Christianity, real or imagined, are not the factor you think they are. It is incidental as a factor in converting to Mormonism because for most people Christianity is incidental.


Fair enough. I think I am starting with a Bergerian notion of the underpinnings of our culture that make something seem more or less "fitting the bill" on the surface. I have a hard time seeing how millennia of Christian tradition do not give a church of "Jesus Christ" some kind of advantage. Whether we like it or not, there is a pretty strong culture of the church-attending family, and Mormonism does provide one way of pursuing that lifestyle.

Symmachus wrote:
Everyday run-of-the-mill Protestants like my grandparents stopped converting in significant numbers probably in the 1980s.


I would give it another decade or so, but you may be right.

Symmachus wrote:
Obviously, the reasons why people convert can be difficult to locate, but I also think religious narrative is not as compelling a factor in the culture now as it was in the past and that therefore the overlap, however influential in the past, is not much of a factor.


I agree with that up to a point. I think it is the overall cultural package of the moral, clean-cut, Sunday going church that is more important than the details of the narrative. But the narrative isn't negligible in importance either, imo.

Symmachus wrote:
That Mormonism doesn't provide personal fulfillment is why it has a really hard time retaining people, and why a lot of millennials like myself who grew up Mormon have checked out. I have written about this before here, but my claim from a few years back that younger Mormons are more troubled by the social aspects of the Mormonism than by the discrepancy between Egyptian grammar as we know it and the Book of Abraham—by problems with the narrative—is being born out by Jana Riess's work, though I think she still misses a lot. In this, Mormons aren't unique. The expectations that people bring are just different. The fact that Scientology can get converts at all is amazing, from the perspective of competing narratives, but it's not surprising when thinking about what people in the west expect to get out of a religion. Narratives actually turn them off, no matter how much overlap there is. In that environment, Mormonism doesn't look all that different from Scientology, as I discussed in my last post.


I am interested to learn of all of these Scientology converts. How many are there? What induced them to take the leap? I am not aware that we have good information, and it is my sense that the Church of Scientology prefers to keep it that way. This suggests to me that the gap between claims of membership/conversion and the reality is vast.

So, I guess I am pivoting here. I am so used to thinking in terms of narrative that I have forgotten the more important factors involved in the overall cultural context. With a fairly strong tradition of families going to church together, the idea of the e-meter session is less appealing than perhaps attending a Mormon meeting, no matter how drab.

That the church attending family is less appealing than it was goes without saying. That is true. But I don't think Scientology is offering a lifestyle that really ticks off many boxes culturally speaking.

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A standard book in a field is a representative gauge, however incomplete. You are welcome to suggest a better gauge. Other than reasonably assuming that a widely sold book that has been reprinted continuously for forty years represents something significant, I am guilty only of offering my subjective impressions, which I outlined. They could be wrong. I don't know what equally subjective experience you are basing your impressions on.


I still disagree, respectfully. Choosing this one kind of book results in a distortion of the data, imo. Let's consider all of the memoirs of those who leave Mormonism that are to be found in this sector of Christian books. How many "I was a Hindu" memoirs do these bookstores sell? Some, but not as many.

I visited an online Christian book outlet and typed in "Hinduism," "Islam," "Jehovah's Witness," and "Mormon." My impression of the search results is that the level of hostility manifested in the titles from most to least ran as follows; 1) Jehovah's Witnesses; 2) Mormonism; 3) Islam; 4) Hinduism.

Maybe I am just seeing what I want to see, but I do not see in the available books as much overt hostility toward Islam and Hinduism as I do toward Jehovah's Witnesses and Mormons.

Now that I think about it, though, one big reason for the difference is the aggressive posture of proselytization that Mormons and JWs have. The need for "Answers to Muslims" is not going to be nearly as urgent as "Answers to Mormons," because of the lack of Muslim missionaries running around ringing the doorbell.

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 Post subject: Re: New Interpreter Article a flop: Don't bother reading it
PostPosted: Sun Apr 07, 2019 8:50 am 
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Quote:
I think it is the overall cultural package of the moral, clean-cut, Sunday going church that is more important than the details of the narrative. But the narrative isn't negligible in importance either, imo.

I would disagree somewhat with this, regarding the package possibly outweighing the narative. From the outside, the Amish way of life also looks moral, with clean-cut, family and church oriented lifestyles, but it doesn't take much additional information to realize how different a life they live. People know enough about Mormonism today that IMO a similar assessment takes place. Those outer markings don't outweigh the strangeness that leads a nevermo to put Mormonism closer to scientology than to Protestantism.


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 Post subject: Re: New Interpreter Article a flop: Don't bother reading it
PostPosted: Sun Apr 07, 2019 9:13 am 
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Lemmie wrote:
I would disagree somewhat with this, regarding the package possibly outweighing the narative. From the outside, the Amish way of life also looks moral, with clean-cut, family and church oriented lifestyles, but it doesn't take much additional information to realize how different a life they live. People know enough about Mormonism today that IMO a similar assessment takes place. Those outer markings don't outweigh the strangeness that leads a nevermo to put Mormonism closer to scientology than to Protestantism.


I would say that the Premodernity of the Amish community is a bigger strike against it, Lemmie.

:lol:

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 Post subject: Re: New Interpreter Article a flop: Don't bother reading it
PostPosted: Sun Apr 07, 2019 9:22 am 
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Kishkumen wrote:
Lemmie wrote:
I would disagree somewhat with this, regarding the package possibly outweighing the narative. From the outside, the Amish way of life also looks moral, with clean-cut, family and church oriented lifestyles, but it doesn't take much additional information to realize how different a life they live. People know enough about Mormonism today that IMO a similar assessment takes place. Those outer markings don't outweigh the strangeness that leads a nevermo to put Mormonism closer to scientology than to Protestantism.


I would say that the Premodernity of the Amish community is a bigger strike against it, Lemmie.

:lol:

And I would say that you are so familiar with Mormonism that you don't realize parts of it stand out as being every bit as weird as wooden buttons and buggy wheels. :cool:


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 Post subject: Re: New Interpreter Article a flop: Don't bother reading it
PostPosted: Sun Apr 07, 2019 10:26 am 
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Lemmie wrote:
(rev)I think it is the overall cultural package of the moral, clean-cut, Sunday going church that is more important than the details of the narrative. But the narrative isn't negligible in importance either, imo.(/rev)
I would disagree somewhat with this, regarding the package possibly outweighing the narative. From the outside, the Amish way of life also looks moral, with clean-cut, family and church oriented lifestyles, but it doesn't take much additional information to realize how different a life they live. People know enough about Mormonism today that IMO a similar assessment takes place. Those outer markings don't outweigh the strangeness that leads a nevermo to put Mormonism closer to scientology than to Protestantism.


Suppose a new serum is about to be injected into a patient who will be dead in just a few hours without it. Suppose the patient is tired, and the television is turned off, and while the television is off, breaking news hits the world of serious allegations that the company that invented the serum had been abducting people with certain traits from their real lives and mercilessly experimenting upon them until death. The allegations are credible enough that the company is barred from producing any more of its product while investigations get underway. Now, do we administer the serum? Suppose the patient is a child? A mother of five?

I don't have a great answer.

- what if, in the example, a sales representative for the company had been informed of the information leak and dispatched to the hospital. The representative finds himself in the room with the patient, and steers the conversation with the patient towards all the things the patient will do once out of the bed and how truly miraculous the timing was for the patient to get to be the first, and then on cue from headquarters, suggests that the patient rest, and then turns off the television, right before the breaking news announcement?

- a company executive makes a public statement that the news so far has only been one sided and a great many points will be clarified when they release their own briefing of what was really going on. They believe in transparency. They are absolutely certain that while what went on in the past is being misrepresented in important ways, nothing at all controversial would have been taking place for years. He pleads with those ready to take the serum produced thus far and still legal to administer, that this is going to be a real rabbit hole, and more research isn't the answer. Take the serum and get well.

- A self-appointed PR guy then writes an article commending his executive. He polishes up the executive's plea saying that this is a life and death -- an ultimate concern of sorts; and he goes through some reasoning that may or may not make sense saying that ultimate concerns can't be resolved by more research, there just isn't time, these patients need to act now: you either take it or don't; not choosing is choosing. But there is a startling and very dark implication to what this PR guy is saying even though he is not coming right out and saying it: Because the problem is intractable, there is no point in the patient even considering the allegations since they can never be demonstrated one way or another with absolute certainty. Since the patient was planning to take the serum with full confidence, the serum is proven to work, the corporation is justified in suppressing the narrative of the serum's discovery.

Mormons may be good people while the narrative questionable, we might agree that the good of Mormonism therefore surpasses the narrative, but the biggest problem to me is that from an outsider multicultural perspective that does seems pretty good and accommodating; I'm fine with it as long as we're not implying that Mormons should be sheltered from the narrative. I think it's indisputable that knowing the narrative does make a difference to Mormons on whether or not they wish to remain Mormon, and that's why Oaks and DCP are tying themselves in knots.

It's a real problem that there are about ten true statements that I could make that neither Oaks ro DCP would likely disagree with, that if the words were ever to come out of my mouth in front of my siblings and close relatives, I would either ruin my relationship with them for good, cause a huge uproar in their personal lives, and or both.

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 Post subject: Re: New Interpreter Article a flop: Don't bother reading it
PostPosted: Sun Apr 07, 2019 11:03 am 
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Why did Mormonism grow so big? Because it was an integral part of a colonial movement that became rooted and unusually powerful in the absence of countervailing powers in the Western USA. Logistics, politics and economics, not supernatural phenomena, account for this.

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 Post subject: Re: New Interpreter Article a flop: Don't bother reading it
PostPosted: Sun Apr 07, 2019 3:05 pm 
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Kishkumen wrote:
I also find interesting your implicit assumption that Mormonism is not Christian and that its relationship with Christianity is uniquely bogus. JWs not so much? Please fill me in.

Mormonism is a remote outlier on the Christian scatter plot. The JWs are also an outlier, but they merely interpret the Bible differently from everyone else. Not even the Jehovah's Witnesses have gone as far as creating whole new Scriptures in which a figure named "Jesus Christ" appears, quotes the New Testament verbatim, and then goes wildly out of character. Or declaring that various New Testament figures appeared in the flesh to authorize their founder.

What other religious movements would you say have a relationship with Christianity whose bogosity equals that of Mormonism? What more would a religion have to do for you, beyond what Mormonism has done, to have a uniquely bogus relationship with Christianity?


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 Post subject: Re: New Interpreter Article a flop: Don't bother reading it
PostPosted: Sun Apr 07, 2019 6:30 pm 
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Lemmie wrote:
And I would say that you are so familiar with Mormonism that you don't realize parts of it stand out as being every bit as weird as wooden buttons and buggy wheels. :cool:


Sure.
:rolleyes:

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 Post subject: Re: New Interpreter Article a flop: Don't bother reading it
PostPosted: Sun Apr 07, 2019 6:34 pm 
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Physics Guy wrote:
Mormonism is a remote outlier on the Christian scatter plot. The JWs are also an outlier, but they merely interpret the Bible differently from everyone else. Not even the Jehovah's Witnesses have gone as far as creating whole new Scriptures in which a figure named "Jesus Christ" appears, quotes the New Testament verbatim, and then goes wildly out of character. Or declaring that various New Testament figures appeared in the flesh to authorize their founder.

What other religious movements would you say have a relationship with Christianity whose bogosity equals that of Mormonism? What more would a religion have to do for you, beyond what Mormonism has done, to have a uniquely bogus relationship with Christianity?


I would say JWs and Unitarians. Neither one is Trinitarian. Unitarian Universalists are barely even Christian in any recognizable sense. The JWs are stranger than you let on, with their idiosyncratic, poorly regarded translation of the Bible, popularly known as "The Green Dragon."

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