John Dehlin on the Immorality of Mormonism!

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Re: John Dehlin on the Immorality of Mormonism!

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fetchface wrote:
Meadowchik wrote:Good intentions has no bearing on whether their actions are immoral or not...

I find statements like this puzzling in the extreme. To say there is a huge disconnect between us is an understatement.

ETA: Perhaps Physics Guy can see why I am getting stuck on basic concepts that are not that interesting to discuss.


What is puzzling about it? Have you ever had a moment in your life when you are just going along doing a thing, and someone alerts you to danger and gosh darnit you realize you're in the process of doing something dangerous and harmful?

Your puzzlement puzzles me ;)

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Re: John Dehlin on the Immorality of Mormonism!

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Meadowchik wrote:What is puzzling about it? Have you ever had a moment in your life when you are just going along doing a thing, and someone alerts you to danger and gosh darnit you realize you're in the process of doing something dangerous and harmful?

Your puzzlement puzzles me ;)

So....being mistaken is immoral? I don't agree with that either.
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Re: John Dehlin on the Immorality of Mormonism!

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Physics Guy wrote:At least in my understanding, Dehlin's complaint about the official Mormon story was not that it had supernatural elements, but that it was contradicted by available historical evidence, which Mormon leaders have sometimes concealed or distorted.


Butting back in and following along, I have to wonder still how this kind of generalization doesn't implicate all of humanity for being immoral?

Again this diverges for me from the theme of this thread. I don't mean to call the Mormon Brethren immoral just for teaching supernatural beliefs per se. The concern is that they failed to publicize evidence that they themselves either knew or should have known.


And if in their mind the evidence isn't evidence at all? That the evidence for any given bit of history is really found elsewhere? Again with the first vision. If they see the official version as the best rendition of history, then what's the point of the other stories other than they are incomplete or a little confused? Every parent fails this test, every professional...I mean everyone, on Dehlin's standard. It renders the whole concept of calling people immoral moot.

The problem is also, millions of people attest the paying of money and giving of time to the Church is best. If Dehlin thinks they are immoral on the basis that they are lying to convince people to give them money, then it'd make sense. But that is not what is happening. They aren't lying by favoring the official version of the first vision, or for thinking Joseph really was inspired by God to come up with the Book of Mormon. They think it's all true, and they think some people if not all people are benefitted best by the truths that they hold.

It doesn't seem like this discussion has gone anywhere, really. It's just people disagreeing about their disagreement.

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Re: John Dehlin on the Immorality of Mormonism!

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fetchface wrote:
Meadowchik wrote:What is puzzling about it? Have you ever had a moment in your life when you are just going along doing a thing, and someone alerts you to danger and gosh darnit you realize you're in the process of doing something dangerous and harmful?

Your puzzlement puzzles me ;)

So....being mistaken is immoral? I don't agree with that either.


I wasn't done, just setting up a hypothetical. It wasn't a trick question and I'm interested in your answer to both questions.

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Re: John Dehlin on the Immorality of Mormonism!

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Stem wrote:Every parent fails this test, every professional...I mean everyone, on Dehlin's standard. It renders the whole concept of calling people immoral moot.


How does every parent and professional fail this test? I think I asked you pages ago for a specific example, did you answer?

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Re: John Dehlin on the Immorality of Mormonism!

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Stem wrote:They aren't lying by favoring the official version of the first vision, or for thinking Joseph really was inspired by God to come up with the Book of Mormon. They think it's all true, and they think some people if not all people are benefitted best by the truths that they hold.

The leadership cut pages out of Joseph Smith's letter book containing the 1832 account of the first vision and hid them in a safe, pretending they didn't exist. When the rumors about their existence came out and the Decker's presented what they had come to learn about it, they hid and denied it until they couldn't any long when pressure mounted to provide the original source for scrutiny, then returned them back into the journal and allowed a BYU graduate to review and write on the content of the letter. They then continued to portray the official version from the Wentworth letter and Joseph Smith's History as the only text in both faithful as well as supposed "textbooks" used for institute and seminary students.

That's not intentional deceit?
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Re: John Dehlin on the Immorality of Mormonism!

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fetchface wrote:
Meadowchik wrote:What is puzzling about it? Have you ever had a moment in your life when you are just going along doing a thing, and someone alerts you to danger and gosh darnit you realize you're in the process of doing something dangerous and harmful?

Your puzzlement puzzles me ;)

So....being mistaken is immoral? I don't agree with that either.

I like Jonathan Haidt. There are a number of threads on this board down in the Spirit Paradise forum on the book, The Righteous Mind, going back to 2013 I believe. I read his book The Happiness Hypothesis when transitioning out of Mormonism back in the mid-2000's and have a fair amount of respect for his popular writing and public presentations. They provide important perspective on breaking down the barriers and biases we apply to our own thinking and force us to question why we assume we are right and others are obviously wrong.

What Haidt doesn't do is provide an introduction into how to go about reasoning morally once one understands this. That requires going beyond Haidt and diving into ethics.

A person can act in good faith and be mistaken and do harm to others. How unethical a morally reasoning person might view their behavior would largely depend on what approach to ethics one favors. The need here being to form a consistent ethical view from which to reason morally.
Last edited by honorentheos on Tue Feb 04, 2020 10:24 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: John Dehlin on the Immorality of Mormonism!

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Meadowchik wrote:
How does every parent and professional fail this test? I think I asked you pages ago for a specific example, did you answer?


Well I apologize. I've been in and out. I likely missed some.

no one's comprehensive enough in our daily lives to tell the whole story, to provide evidence for every possible counter argument. We just don't do that. If someone makes a decision based on a failure to give it all, and the results of that decision turns out bad for that decider, is it really the information provider's fault?

That's often the role of professionals in the world--decide what is the best way forward. If that decision is made and it turns out bad is the professional immoral for their bad predictions? I mean he/she might be bad and the job, but I don't know that it means they are immoral. The problem here is, of course, millions of people see the benefit of the Mormon leader's perspective. While it turns out bad for millions, there are tons of possible factors that may have little to do with whether the first vision is best represented by the official version or not.

If I teach my child a lesson based on my history and there are other pieces of evidence that might bring into question my own memory on that history I tell, is it immoral for me to use it without alerting my children of the other evidence (like my sister disagrees with a piece or two of the story I tell) if one of my children benefits and the other suffers as they base their life, at least in part, on the lesson?

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Re: John Dehlin on the Immorality of Mormonism!

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honorentheos wrote:The leadership cut pages out of Joseph Smith's letter book containing the 1832 account of the first vision and hid them in a safe, pretending they didn't exist. When the rumors about their existence came out and the Decker's presented what they had come to learn about it, they hid and denied it until they couldn't any long when pressure mounted to provide the original source for scrutiny, then returned them back into the journal and allowed a BYU graduate to review and write on the content of the letter. They then continued to portray the official version from the Wentworth letter and Joseph Smith's History as the only text in both faithful as well as supposed "textbooks" used for institute and seminary students.

That's not intentional deceit?


Ok. 10 pages or so ago, I referenced this same story (like I how you mixed up Ed Decker with the Tanners) and said, yes, this to me is evidence of at least one person being culpable and showing at least one instance of immorality.

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Re: John Dehlin on the Immorality of Mormonism!

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fetchface wrote:If a person is a Flat Earther, they genuinely think that there is some explanation for [the photo of Earth from space] being false. They may not know what it is, but they truly believe that it is false. If that is what they truly think, we cannot expect them to run around sharing the photo with everyone when they are trying to pitch their beliefs. To do so would not be moral from their point of view, it would be sharing disinformation.

Maybe we should not expect the rank and file Flat Earthers to be pulling out the Earth photo at the start of every conversation. But what if Flat Earthers look for guidance to the leaders of the Flat Earth Society, and these leaders have known about the space photos for years? What if they know the photos aren't simply fakes? What if the best they can say is that in their hearts they are somehow sure that what the pictures seem to show isn't real?

In that case I think they owe it to their followers to let them know that there is this seemingly impressive bit of counter-evidence and that all the leaders have against it is a feeling. The leaders can perfectly well then go on to testify as passionately as they want about how their feelings are right. The followers now have all the information the leaders have, and can make up their own minds. At least some of the followers may well choose to trust their leaders' feelings and join them in hoping that the photos will someday be explained.

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Re: John Dehlin on the Immorality of Mormonism!

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Stem wrote:If I teach my child a lesson based on my history and there are other pieces of evidence that might bring into question my own memory on that history I tell, is it immoral for me to use it without alerting my children of the other evidence (like my sister disagrees with a piece or two of the story I tell) if one of my children benefits and the other suffers as they base their life, at least in part, on the lesson?

It's not about teaching history. It's about deriving authority from an assumed basis. If you told your children about your advanced knowledge in medicine and portrayed yourself as having a special knowledge regarding medical concerns, and relied on this to advise your children to not vaccinate their own children when they were of age while discouraging them from reading the research on vaccinations, that's immoral. If one of their kids dies from measles, you would be culpable. If they dodge that bullet, it doesn't lessen the immorality of your actions and deceit.

It's the use of deceit to claim authority leading people to make significant life choices rather than supporting their access to information so they can make informed decisions that have these impacts that ties this to a question of morality.
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Re: John Dehlin on the Immorality of Mormonism!

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Stem wrote:
honorentheos wrote:The leadership cut pages out of Joseph Smith's letter book containing the 1832 account of the first vision and hid them in a safe, pretending they didn't exist. When the rumors about their existence came out and the Decker's presented what they had come to learn about it, they hid and denied it until they couldn't any long when pressure mounted to provide the original source for scrutiny, then returned them back into the journal and allowed a BYU graduate to review and write on the content of the letter. They then continued to portray the official version from the Wentworth letter and Joseph Smith's History as the only text in both faithful as well as supposed "textbooks" used for institute and seminary students.

That's not intentional deceit?


Ok. 10 pages or so ago, I referenced this same story (like I how you mixed up Ed Decker with the Tanners) and said, yes, this to me is evidence of at least one person being culpable and showing at least one instance of immorality.

Sorry about the mix-up. I was going off the top of my head to recall which of the groups from that era was behind the research and publication of the existance of this alternative first vision account. My mistake.

But either way, you are excusing the role of the institution when you can claim it was the act of an individual (which i would dispute in this case) while also arguing it's the fault of the institution while individuals mean well when you claim some people are just going with what they believe. That looks like you are just trying to defend a position and shifting the argument for the sake of expediency.
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Re: John Dehlin on the Immorality of Mormonism!

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Stem wrote:
Meadowchik wrote:
How does every parent and professional fail this test? I think I asked you pages ago for a specific example, did you answer?


Well I apologize. I've been in and out. I likely missed some.

no one's comprehensive enough in our daily lives to tell the whole story, to provide evidence for every possible counter argument. We just don't do that. If someone makes a decision based on a failure to give it all, and the results of that decision turns out bad for that decider, is it really the information provider's fault?

That's often the role of professionals in the world--decide what is the best way forward. If that decision is made and it turns out bad is the professional immoral for their bad predictions? I mean he/she might be bad and the job, but I don't know that it means they are immoral. The problem here is, of course, millions of people see the benefit of the Mormon leader's perspective. While it turns out bad for millions, there are tons of possible factors that may have little to do with whether the first vision is best represented by the official version or not.

If I teach my child a lesson based on my history and there are other pieces of evidence that might bring into question my own memory on that history I tell, is it immoral for me to use it without alerting my children of the other evidence (like my sister disagrees with a piece or two of the story I tell) if one of my children benefits and the other suffers as they base their life, at least in part, on the lesson?


No apology needed. I just wanted to invite you to answer my question again since you were back. Thanks for answering.

So, you give some examples and frame the claim as a moral obligation to provide all possible reasons for every possible counterargument. I don't think that has been my position, though, nor do I think it is accurate to the Dehlin quote.

I think society has loads of examples where entities are held accountable for providing information that is correct within some degree of accuracy. Those little nutrition labels. Rental contracts. Municipal statutes. Passing through customs and answering the requisite questions when crossing international borders. Marriage vows. Medical agreements pre-surgery. But none of those situations require total disclosure of any and all possible known and unknown difficulties the other party might encounter in the agreement.

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Re: John Dehlin on the Immorality of Mormonism!

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Stem wrote:
Physics Guy wrote:At least in my understanding, Dehlin's complaint about the official Mormon story was not that it had supernatural elements, but that it was contradicted by available historical evidence, which Mormon leaders have sometimes concealed or distorted.


Butting back in and following along, I have to wonder still how this kind of generalization doesn't implicate all of humanity for being immoral?

This reads to me as though you think most of humanity conceals or distorts historical evidence, but I don't think most people are in any position to do that even if they wanted to do it. So I'm guessing you mean something else. Can you rephrase the question?

Every parent fails this test, every professional...I mean everyone, on Dehlin's standard. It renders the whole concept of calling people immoral moot.

I'm not quite sure which test you mean, here, but I'm guessing it's the test of whether or not leaders share all their evidence with their followers.

I agree that if we want to sustain a charge against someone, then one way to do it is to mount a sky-high horse and adopt an impossible moral standard that no-one at all can fulfill. Then we'll have an easy time maintaining that our accused has failed to meet our high standard, but it's just dumb, because just as you say, we've rendered the whole issue moot. I'm not sure what the name of this fallacy is, but it is one.

I don't think that Dehlin has done this, however. First of all the Mormon leaders really have been in a position of high moral authority, from which the things they've said—and the things they haven't said—have strongly affected many other people's lives. Demanding a higher moral standard from people in power like that isn't just a debating ploy that could apply to anyone. Only a small number of powerful people are potentially subject to this kind of moral charge. And I really think those people should be held to a higher standard.

Secondly it's not such an impossible standard that is being demanded of these leaders. The current group has gone a long way farther toward meeting the standard than some of their predecessors did, by posting the essays on the Church website. And it could probably go further still I think, without any real retreat, by acknowledging outstanding problems and then simply declaring that the Brethren still believe the Church is true.

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Re: John Dehlin on the Immorality of Mormonism!

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Meadowchik wrote:I wasn't done, just setting up a hypothetical. It wasn't a trick question and I'm interested in your answer to both questions.

I believe that if you are honestly mistaken and accidentally cause even great harm, that you have done nothing immoral. You have made a mistake.

I believe that if you intend to increase harm in the world and act accordingly, you are acting immorally. I also believe that you can act in ways that you know cause harm and be morally justified if you believe that you are minimizing harm overall. Like, amputating a finger to save the body for example. Or maybe variants of the trolley problem for something more morally complex.

I think that not taking a person's own worldview into account when evaluating the morality of their actions is not fair to them and not very illuminating either. For example, anti-vaxxers genuinely believe they are minimizing harm, so are they acting immorally? I don't think so. I think they are gravely mistaken and that the consequences of their choices are horrible, but I think they are doing their best with their current beliefs and acting in a morally consistent manner with their beliefs.

I also think that I probably still carry some false beliefs that incorrectly inform my moral decisions and I have to be ever vigilant to correct those. I think it is always a danger to think that you have finally arrived at the correct worldview. I think my worldview is much better than it has ever been but it may not be totally perfect yet.
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Re: John Dehlin on the Immorality of Mormonism!

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Physics Guy wrote:Maybe we should not expect the rank and file Flat Earthers to be pulling out the Earth photo at the start of every conversation. But what if Flat Earthers look for guidance to the leaders of the Flat Earth Society, and these leaders have known about the space photos for years? What if they know the photos aren't simply fakes? What if the best they can say is that in their hearts they are somehow sure that what the pictures seem to show isn't real?

In that case I think they owe it to their followers to let them know that there is this seemingly impressive bit of counter-evidence and that all the leaders have against it is a feeling. The leaders can perfectly well then go on to testify as passionately as they want about how their feelings are right. The followers now have all the information the leaders have, and can make up their own minds. At least some of the followers may well choose to trust their leaders' feelings and join them in hoping that the photos will someday be explained.

What if the LDS leaders know that the church is false? You are describing a leadership that is not true believers. I don't think that is the case with the LDS church. For one, I think they would do some things much smarter if they were deliberate fraudsters.
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Re: John Dehlin on the Immorality of Mormonism!

Post by Meadowchik »

fetchface wrote:I believe that if you intend to increase harm in the world and act accordingly, you are acting immorally. I also believe that you can act in ways that you know cause harm and be morally justified if you believe that you are minimizing harm overall. Like, amputating a finger to save the body for example. Or maybe variants of the trolley problem for something more morally complex.

I think that not taking a person's own worldview into account when evaluating the morality of their actions is not fair to them and not very illuminating either. For example, anti-vaxxers genuinely believe they are minimizing harm, so are they acting immorally? I don't think so. I think they are gravely mistaken and that the consequences of their choices are horrible, but I think they are doing their best with their current beliefs and acting in a morally consistent manner with their beliefs.

I also think that I probably still carry some false beliefs that incorrectly inform my moral decisions and I have to be ever vigilant to correct those. I think it is always a danger to think that you have finally arrived at the correct worldview. I think my worldview is much better than it has ever been but it may not be totally perfect yet.


I can agree with most of that, and I share the thought that vigilance is necessary, and that arriving at perfection is a naïve conclusion.

fetchface wrote:I believe that if you are honestly mistaken and accidentally cause even great harm, that you have done nothing immoral. You have made a mistake.


As I said, I was setting up a hypothetical and wasn't done. So I wanted to get both our heads into a similar situation, hopefully to find some common ground.

Once upon a time I had a vegan teenager. She was vegan for moral reasons, so essentially she believed in abstaining from eating animal products due to her beliefs about animal cruelty involved in their production. As her mother, I agreed to support her in her convictions and I made the effort to provide her with enough vegan food choices so she could eat balanced meals that were vegan. She was expected to cook for herself more, with the food I provided, but I also prepared vegan recipes. One day, however, I was making something that was meant for her and I mistakenly put milk in it. I might have not noticed and then served her the food with cow milk, but I remembered before I was done cooking. That was a very frustrating moment. All that effort, and I would not be able to serve this batch with my daughter. Ugh. I admit that I did weigh my options. Could I just "forget" that I realised my mistake and go along as if it was as understood?

Would it have been immoral for me to serve her cake with milk while saying it was vegan when I thought it was vegan? Not necessarily.
Would it have been immoral for me to serve her cake with milk while saying it was vegan when I knew it was not vegan? I think so.

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Re: John Dehlin on the Immorality of Mormonism!

Post by Stem »

honorentheos wrote:It's not about teaching history. It's about deriving authority from an assumed basis. If you told your children about your advanced knowledge in medicine and portrayed yourself as having a special knowledge regarding medical concerns, and relied on this to advise your children to not vaccinate their own children when they were of age while discouraging them from reading the research on vaccinations, that's immoral. If one of their kids dies from measles, you would be culpable. If they dodge that bullet, it doesn't lessen the immorality of your actions and deceit.[/quote[

ok. I agree with that.

It's the use of deceit to claim authority leading people to make significant life choices rather than supporting their access to information so they can make informed decisions that have these impacts that ties this to a question of morality.


But it's not deceit if they believe it. They claim authority, I think, because they believe they think God endorses them and their claims to authority.

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Re: John Dehlin on the Immorality of Mormonism!

Post by Stem »

honorentheos wrote:Sorry about the mix-up. I was going off the top of my head to recall which of the groups from that era was behind the research and publication of the existance of this alternative first vision account. My mistake.

But either way, you are excusing the role of the institution when you can claim it was the act of an individual (which i would dispute in this case) while also arguing it's the fault of the institution while individuals mean well when you claim some people are just going with what they believe. That looks like you are just trying to defend a position and shifting the argument for the sake of expediency.


I get ya, and I do think as a representative of the organization Joseph Fielding Smith acted immorally, thus bringing such a charge on the Church. I don't think that one incident is enough to qualify all leaders since.

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Re: John Dehlin on the Immorality of Mormonism!

Post by Stem »

Meadowchik wrote:
No apology needed. I just wanted to invite you to answer my question again since you were back. Thanks for answering.

So, you give some examples and frame the claim as a moral obligation to provide all possible reasons for every possible counterargument. I don't think that has been my position, though, nor do I think it is accurate to the Dehlin quote.

I think society has loads of examples where entities are held accountable for providing information that is correct within some degree of accuracy. Those little nutrition labels. Rental contracts. Municipal statutes. Passing through customs and answering the requisite questions when crossing international borders. Marriage vows. Medical agreements pre-surgery. But none of those situations require total disclosure of any and all possible known and unknown difficulties the other party might encounter in the agreement.


Surely the Church itself provides information within some degree of accuracy. But what we're talking about here is often debatable issues of history. As it were none of us were there, and none of us know precisely what happened in each case. And as it is, millions of Mormons would likely swear by the benefit of following the Mormon leaders.

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Re: John Dehlin on the Immorality of Mormonism!

Post by Stem »

Physics Guy wrote:This reads to me as though you think most of humanity conceals or distorts historical evidence, but I don't think most people are in any position to do that even if they wanted to do it. So I'm guessing you mean something else. Can you rephrase the question?


Everyone has history to tell. That is the perspective in which my comment comes. We all use history to tell our stories and perhaps to emphasize our priorities and lessons. "once I ran away from a bear and that means this to me....you should do that.."

I'm not quite sure which test you mean, here, but I'm guessing it's the test of whether or not leaders share all their evidence with their followers.


I guess so.

I agree that if we want to sustain a charge against someone, then one way to do it is to mount a sky-high horse and adopt an impossible moral standard that no-one at all can fulfill. Then we'll have an easy time maintaining that our accused has failed to meet our high standard, but it's just dumb, because just as you say, we've rendered the whole issue moot. I'm not sure what the name of this fallacy is, but it is one.

I don't think that Dehlin has done this, however. First of all the Mormon leaders really have been in a position of high moral authority, from which the things they've said—and the things they haven't said—have strongly affected many other people's lives. Demanding a higher moral standard from people in power like that isn't just a debating ploy that could apply to anyone. Only a small number of powerful people are potentially subject to this kind of moral charge. And I really think those people should be held to a higher standard.[/quote]

I agree. But again, millions of followers will attest to the notion that following these leaders is best for their lives and for humanity, if they, but did it too. To me that brings into question Dehlin's point. If he had a point, then we'd assume Mormons would be worse off if they followed their leaders. I don't think that is necessarily true, proven, and may not really be provable.

Secondly it's not such an impossible standard that is being demanded of these leaders. The current group has gone a long way farther toward meeting the standard than some of their predecessors did, by posting the essays on the Church website. And it could probably go further still I think, without any real retreat, by acknowledging outstanding problems and then simply declaring that the Brethren still believe the Church is true.


I can agree. The Church is far better served, I'd say, by openly acknowledging the issues that many have found, over the years, to be troubling.

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