John Dehlin on the Immorality of Mormonism!

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Re: John Dehlin on the Immorality of Mormonism!

Post by Maksutov »

Even the peep stone that the Book of Mormon was translated with was stolen. :lol: :lol: :lol: That's Mormon morality for ya.
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Re: John Dehlin on the Immorality of Mormonism!

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Even crying evils have been complex, though. Or at least they have seemed so to people involved, even when later generations have found the moral issues starkly clear. So I don’t feel that complexity alone can be a Get Out of Jail Free card. It’s a card that even monsters can play.

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Re: John Dehlin on the Immorality of Mormonism!

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Physics Guy wrote:Even crying evils have been complex, though. Or at least they have seemed so to people involved, even when later generations have found the moral issues starkly clear. So I don’t feel that complexity alone can be a Get Out of Jail Free card. It’s a card that even monsters can play.


So declaring that an immoral act is being perpetrated, you hold who to be responsible? What is the clear good of turning on a dime to teach scholarly history in Sunday School? Various goods and evils will inevitably be weighed in the process of seeking answers and reasonable people will draw different conclusions in weighing them. To say that what is going on is simply immoral is either to be bold in declaring your opinion or rash in jumping to conclusions. No one who stands back and weighs all the factors will find it easy to join you in your conclusion. Others will not join you at all. The latter are not obviously the moral midgets.
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Re: John Dehlin on the Immorality of Mormonism!

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I have found Jonathan Haidt's research valuable in helping me realize that others prioritize their moral principles differently than me and it doesn't make them bad people. I disagree with their priorities but I think they are attempting to prioritize the principles that are important to them.
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Re: John Dehlin on the Immorality of Mormonism!

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I have an idea that power brings greater responsibility. I’m not sure how that works, exactly. Somebody making decisions that will affect many others is still just a person like everyone else, doing the best they can.

But perhaps the point is precisely whether they are really doing the best they can. Most of the time, I think, none of us does. Making decisions is hard, and if the consequences either way are not great then I think it’s okay not to work as hard as you in principle could to pick the very best option. You don’t have to consider unlikely scenarios or go to great lengths to research every issue. You can just pick something that seems okay and get on with your life. You’re not really doing your best to decide but that’s fine.

When your decisions affect other people, however, I think you do have to do more. A decision that would be fine for one person might be immorally lazy or cowardly for someone in power.

The other people also have their own viewpoints and values. If you have power then when you only choose according to your own principles, you are imposing your principles on those others. I think that demands that you have to obey some kind of higher principle.

Exactly what, I don’t know. But I think power makes a difference.

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Re: John Dehlin on the Immorality of Mormonism!

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I think that the majority of the top leaders genuinely believe that if they fail to correct a misconception in someone's mind, and that misconception leads to them being a more faithful member of the church, this is a good thing since they will be more likely to return to God. The end result is a major factor in the morality of the action for them.

For them, it is as if we are all members of a weird school that is threatening to give us one written test to determine whether we inherit millions of dollars or get executed on the spot. They are our tutors trying to help us pass the test. They know that the test only has some simple mechanics questions as far as physics goes, so are they going to teach us the esoteric theories of physics? No, they are going to stick to basics and actively discourage their pupils from looking at that more complex information. Never mind that this gets you closer to the truth, the truth isn't the goal. Getting to the right side of the absurd punishment/reward is. The stakes are too high to waste any time!

Okay, so maybe that analogy isn't perfect but I hope it illustrates that a lot of "immoral" systems are propped up with ridiculous background beliefs that make their results perfectly moral if you accept the underlying assumptions.

We can say that it is immoral to hide the truth, but is it immoral to hide the truth from someone if you knew the truth would get them killed? How much less immoral would it be if it helped them avoid eternal punishment?

I hate the way the truth was hidden from me and I don't think the church leaders had any right to do that, but I can also understand the calculation being made on the other side of that.
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Re: John Dehlin on the Immorality of Mormonism!

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fetchface wrote:I think that the majority of the top leaders genuinely believe that if they fail to correct a misconception in someone's mind, and that misconception leads to them being a more faithful member of the church, this is a good thing since they will be more likely to return to God. The end result is a major factor in the morality of the action for them.

For them, it is as if we are all members of a weird school that is threatening to give us one written test to determine whether we inherit millions of dollars or get executed on the spot. They are our tutors trying to help us pass the test. They know that the test only has some simple mechanics questions as far as physics goes, so are they going to teach us the esoteric theories of physics? No, they are going to stick to basics and actively discourage their pupils from looking at that more complex information. Never mind that this gets you closer to the truth, the truth isn't the goal. Getting to the right side of the absurd punishment/reward is. The stakes are too high to waste any time!

Okay, so maybe that analogy isn't perfect but I hope it illustrates that a lot of "immoral" systems are propped up with ridiculous background beliefs that make their results perfectly moral if you accept the underlying assumptions.

We can say that it is immoral to hide the truth, but is it immoral to hide the truth from someone if you knew the truth would get them killed? How much less immoral would it be if it helped them avoid eternal punishment?

I hate the way the truth was hidden from me and I don't think the church leaders had any right to do that, but I can also understand the calculation being made on the other side of that.


I think one can speculate endlessly on any individual leader's personal motivations for deception, but we don't have to judge their character to evaluate whether an action was good or bad, or honest or immoral. I realised that I had personally experienced someone lying to me and about me consistently in a way that affected me importantly, and that such action is wrong. If anyone did that to me, I would not be able to trust them as a friend or as a prophet.

So at the end of the day, it doesn't matter whether Joseph Smith thought he was doing something ultimately good. He lied to people on a consistent basis in ways that affected their lives in matters of great importance. That makes him untrustworthy whether as a friend or as a prophet.

That, to me, is at the essence of the immorality. Who knows if leaders have wrestled with the moral hazards of how the church has communicated and miscommunicated over the generations? I don't care what any one of them thinks if they do not take enough care to maintain actual moral authority of the office as much as maintaining the current appearance of moral authority.

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Re: John Dehlin on the Immorality of Mormonism!

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Meadowchik wrote:I think one can speculate endlessly on any individual leader's personal motivations for deception, but we don't have to judge their character to evaluate whether an action was good or bad, or honest or immoral. I realised that I had personally experienced someone lying to me and about me consistently in a way that affected me importantly, and that such action is wrong. If anyone did that to me, I would not be able to trust them as a friend or as a prophet.

So at the end of the day, it doesn't matter whether Joseph Smith thought he was doing something ultimately good. He lied to people on a consistent basis in ways that affected their lives in matters of great importance. That makes him untrustworthy whether as a friend or as a prophet.

That, to me, is at the essence of the immorality. Who knows if leaders have wrestled with the moral hazards of how the church has communicated and miscommunicated over the generations? I don't care what any one of them thinks if they do not take enough care to maintain actual moral authority of the office as much as maintaining the current appearance of moral authority.

But surely you understand that a deception can be moral or immoral depending on the context. For example, I would happily tell a lie to save Anne Frank from the gas chamber, even though I think honesty is a very important moral principle. It would be immoral not to. Context matters, and in the case of Mormonism you have a whole bunch of fake beliefs adding context. They may not be objectively real, but they are real to the people taking them into account.

Each of us stacks our moral principles in order of importance and we use them to try to make the best decision. I can't help it if others have their principles out of order, but I can appreciate that they are following a process. I can also disagree with their order, as I do with the church leaders. Boyd K Packer had his moral principles out of order.

And I wasn't trying to discuss Joseph Smith. I think he was a knowing deceiver at his core. I think his behavior was driven by an underlying personality disorder. I'm talking about Joseph Smith's current-day dupes leading the church, who are more normal people selected for more guardian type personalities.
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Re: John Dehlin on the Immorality of Mormonism!

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fetchface wrote:
Meadowchik wrote:I think one can speculate endlessly on any individual leader's personal motivations for deception, but we don't have to judge their character to evaluate whether an action was good or bad, or honest or immoral. I realised that I had personally experienced someone lying to me and about me consistently in a way that affected me importantly, and that such action is wrong. If anyone did that to me, I would not be able to trust them as a friend or as a prophet.

So at the end of the day, it doesn't matter whether Joseph Smith thought he was doing something ultimately good. He lied to people on a consistent basis in ways that affected their lives in matters of great importance. That makes him untrustworthy whether as a friend or as a prophet.

That, to me, is at the essence of the immorality. Who knows if leaders have wrestled with the moral hazards of how the church has communicated and miscommunicated over the generations? I don't care what any one of them thinks if they do not take enough care to maintain actual moral authority of the office as much as maintaining the current appearance of moral authority.

But surely you understand that a deception can be moral or immoral depending on the context. For example, I would happily tell a lie to save Anne Frank from the gas chamber, even though I think honesty is a very important moral principle. It would be immoral not to. Context matters, and in the case of Mormonism you have a whole bunch of fake beliefs adding context. They may not be objectively real, but they are real to the people taking them into account.

Each of us stacks our moral principles in order of importance and we use them to try to make the best decision. I can't help it if others have their principles out of order, but I can appreciate that they are following a process. I can also disagree with their order, as I do with the church leaders. Boyd K Packer had his moral principles out of order.

And I wasn't trying to discuss Joseph Smith. I think he was a knowing deceiver at his core. I think his behavior was driven by an underlying personality disorder. I'm talking about Joseph Smith's current-day dupes leading the church, who are more normal people selected for more guardian type personalities.


Lying to save innocents from genocide is not anything close to lying about information that is supposed to matter to someone's relationship with God. One's a clear choice. The other is gray, where instead of being honest about the gray, the church fails to fully disclose stuff that really matters to the people making major decisions about their own lives.

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Re: John Dehlin on the Immorality of Mormonism!

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Meadowchik wrote:Lying to save innocents from genocide is not anything close to lying about information that is supposed to matter to someone's relationship with God. One's a clear choice. The other is gray, where instead of being honest about the gray, the church fails to fully disclose stuff that really matters to the people making major decisions about their own lives.

Well, I wasn't trying to say one was more or less clear than the other. I was simply trying to state that context matters. Was I successful at making at least that point?
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Re: John Dehlin on the Immorality of Mormonism!

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fetchface wrote:I have found Jonathan Haidt's research valuable in helping me realize that others prioritize their moral principles differently than me and it doesn't make them bad people. I disagree with their priorities but I think they are attempting to prioritize the principles that are important to them.


Agreed.
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Re: John Dehlin on the Immorality of Mormonism!

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I'm amused at the parallels in this thread and the Dershowitz defense.

Calling an act immoral, universally without regard for person or position, is an essential trait of a pluralistic society. The US Supreme Court has established this precedent when it comes to arguments for religious exemption from the law for good reason, demanding all be equal under it. A belief in human sacrifice does not excuse murder. A belief in plural marriage as a sacrament does not excuse bigamy. If the act of hiding the facts to maintain power isn't immoral because the party doing so believes it's in the interests of those being deceive, well then. Enjoy the Dershowitz defense as it lays waste to liberal Western society. We will never agree that the issue is one of personal belief. It's not about religion being in a special category. Its about institutions of authority versus individual liberty and just application of a standard of moral behavior.
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Re: John Dehlin on the Immorality of Mormonism!

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fetchface wrote:Context matters, and in the case of Mormonism you have a whole bunch of fake beliefs adding context. They may not be objectively real, but they are real to the people taking them into account.

The context is the church has/had information that it chose to withhold from it's membership that keeps them compliant and ignorant. That's not protecting Anne Frank. That's telling people Dachau was a family summer camp.
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Re: John Dehlin on the Immorality of Mormonism!

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honorentheos wrote:I'm amused at the parallels in this thread and the Dershowitz defense.

Calling an act immoral, universally without regard for person or position, is an essential trait of a pluralistic society. The US Supreme Court has established this precedent when it comes to arguments for religious exemption from the law for good reason, demanding all be equal under it. A belief in human sacrifice does not excuse murder. A belief in plural marriage as a sacrament does not excuse bigamy. If the act of hiding the facts to maintain power isn't immoral because the party doing so believes it's in the interests of those being deceive, well then. Enjoy the Dershowitz defense as it lays waste to liberal Western society. We will never agree that the issue is one of personal belief. It's not about religion being in a special category. Its about institutions of authority versus individual liberty and just application of a standard of moral behavior.


Thank you for this clarity.

Jonathan Haidt was cited earlier as a reference for understanding people's beliefs. In his book The Righteous Mind, he focuses on how people believe and change their beliefs, but he does not make the book about assessing character, which is what seems to be attempted here: "They don't think it's wrong, therefore they are not doing something immoral." The whole point of Haidt's book is about understanding why we believe, so if acting on belief is inherently moral, the entire premise of his book is rendered meaningless.

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Re: John Dehlin on the Immorality of Mormonism!

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Meadowchik, I don’t think that fairly represents what I am saying or Haidt’s work.
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Re: John Dehlin on the Immorality of Mormonism!

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honorentheos wrote:I'm amused at the parallels in this thread and the Dershowitz defense.

Calling an act immoral, universally without regard for person or position, is an essential trait of a pluralistic society. The US Supreme Court has established this precedent when it comes to arguments for religious exemption from the law for good reason, demanding all be equal under it. A belief in human sacrifice does not excuse murder. A belief in plural marriage as a sacrament does not excuse bigamy. If the act of hiding the facts to maintain power isn't immoral because the party doing so believes it's in the interests of those being deceive, well then. Enjoy the Dershowitz defense as it lays waste to liberal Western society. We will never agree that the issue is one of personal belief. It's not about religion being in a special category. Its about institutions of authority versus individual liberty and just application of a standard of moral behavior.


It is interesting to watch you attempt equate things that really don’t equate very well. Some of the things you accept as simply obviously immoral are still contested. For example, you say bigamy is obviously immoral. A whole lot of people would not agree. Many would argue that the Constitution should protect the right of consenting adults to enter into a contractual relationship of their mutual choosing. Where is your obvious immorality now?

Remember, the question is not what you and I find immoral, honor, or even what many Americans have long assumed was immoral, but what we can conclude is inherently, universally immoral. Some would in fact argue that laws against bigamy are an affront to Western liberal values of our day.

I do not find it to be obviously immoral that a church would not teach the totality of its history in proselyting or devotional services.

Moreover, the issue becomes more complicated when comparing the actions of an individual man with those of what is essentially a committee. Dershowitz is defending the misconduct of a single president in a particular system. The idea that an elected official would compromise national security in pursuit of the goal of re-election is, for me, an easy question to decide, as without a certain degree of national security, there is nothing left to protect.

Here we are talking about the myth that a culture has told itself over generations, one that is used to foster faith in certain values and rites. There is no doubt in my mind that certain people are culpable for hiding history along the way. But that is different from saying the Church’s actions have been clearly immoral. The Church’s actions, collectively speaking, have been all over the map. The cost of doing a bad job of dealing with the changing demands of a modern information society is obvious, but it is also something that many are dealing with.

At the same time it is important to acknowledge the positive steps that some Mormons and among them Church leaders have taken.

Complexity is not an excuse. That said, understanding complexity tempers what might otherwise be overly harsh judgment. I see an understandable but intemperate desire to condemn utterly the LDS Church, where I would like to see more understanding for the foibles of the Mormon people. The cost of the former might be forgetting the humanity of the latter.

So let’s by all means resolve not to hide history because we individually know it to be wrong in principle. At the same time, let us maintain sufficient imagination and compassion to understand the complex landscape of competing values that can result in a flawed historical narrative. Let’s give credit to those who see the flaws and endeavor to correct them, recognizing that rushing to change also has a cost. Many here might not consider that cost worth reckoning, but we can at least, I hope, sympathize with and not rush to condemn those who do.
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Re: John Dehlin on the Immorality of Mormonism!

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Kishkumen wrote:Meadowchik, I don’t think that fairly represents what I am saying or Haidt’s work.


Earlier fetchface said

"I have found Jonathan Haidt's research valuable in helping me realize that others prioritize their moral principles differently than me and it doesn't make them bad people. I disagree with their priorities but I think they are attempting to prioritize the principles that are important to them."

So while Haidt really illuminated why people believe and how they change beliefs, he doesn't really deal with how people measure up to a standard of goodness. His book was about understanding the belief process, not about evaluating a person's goodness.

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Re: John Dehlin on the Immorality of Mormonism!

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What about the issue of power, though?

If some people choose to live in a polyamorous compact, I can’t see how I have any ground to condemn them. But if religious leaders were using their authoritative preaching to groom all their community’s girls for polygamous marriage to old men, I’d call that wrong.

Leaders aren’t just living their own lives according to their lights. They’re making other people live according to the leaders’ lights. This makes a difference.

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Re: John Dehlin on the Immorality of Mormonism!

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Physics Guy wrote:What about the issue of power, though?

If some people choose to live in a polyamorous compact, I can’t see how I have any ground to condemn them. But if religious leaders were using their authoritative preaching to groom all their community’s girls for polygamous marriage to old men, I’d call that wrong.

Leaders aren’t just living their own lives according to their lights. They’re making other people live according to the leaders’ lights. This makes a difference.


I like the river metaphor for life: we're all born into a moving river. We cannot see where it came from, we cannot see indefinitely where it leads, none can. However, some are bobbing for air at the surface, trading water or swimming, while others may be in boats, and others at the wheel of the boats full of other people.

So if you find yourself with your hand on a boat's wheel, eventually you figure out that others are affected by your own actions, and you cannot just blame the river for the boat or the wheel, or your position. You have power over them and therefore a moral obligation to the people in the boat.

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Re: John Dehlin on the Immorality of Mormonism!

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Jesus, all I'm saying is that if you have wacky beliefs, you can cause great harm to others with the best of intentions. Indeed, if you don't question your wacky beliefs, you will be mostly blind to the harm you are causing, often justifying the harm you can see with some vast imaginary good.

Never in my wildest dreams did I think this would be a controversial point to argue.
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Re: John Dehlin on the Immorality of Mormonism!

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Meadowchik wrote:So while Haidt really illuminated why people believe and how they change beliefs, he doesn't really deal with how people measure up to a standard of goodness. His book was about understanding the belief process, not about evaluating a person's goodness.

I seem to remember him stating that he, a left-leaning guy himself, gained an appreciation for the moral reasoning of conservatives through his research. I gained a similar appreciation and learned a lot more about why conservatives think and feel like they do, and are prone to be manipulated in certain ways (not that liberals aren't).
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