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The Bulwark’s February Blog Review

Oh say, what is truth? ‘Tis the fairest gem
That the riches of worlds can produce,
And priceless the value of truth will be when
The proud monarch’s costliest diadem
Is counted but dross and refuse.
Yes, say, what is truth? ‘Tis the brightest prize
To which mortals or Gods can aspire;
Go search in the depths where it glittering lies
Or ascend in pursuit to the loftiest skies. ‘Tis an aim for the noblest desire.
The sceptre may fall from the despot’s grasp
When with winds of stern justice he copes,
But the pillar of truth will endure to the last,
And its firm-rooted bulwarks outstand the rude blast,
And the wreck of the fell tyrant’s hopes.
Then say, what is truth? ‘Tis the last and the first,
For the limits of time it steps o’er.
Though the heavens depart and the earth’s fountains burst,
Truth, the sum of existence, will weather the worst,
Eternal, unchanged, evermore.

—John Jaques


The John Adams Center 
addresses the intersection of “faith, philosophy and public affairs.” Increasingly the discussion of these matters is taking place on the internet. While much valuable information and serious argumentation appear online, we also see a profusion of questionable claims and weak reasoning that often go uncontested. The John Adams Center has resolved to do what it can to raise the level of discussion on blogs and other internet sites that deal with our issues, beginning with those sites of special interest to Latter-day Saints (Mormons). Though keenly aware of our own fallibility, we intend to stand as a “firm-rooted bulwark” of rigorous thinking open to revealed truths, providing an evaluative overview of relevant internet activity, recommending serious and sound contributions (“fairest gems”) and fairly but frankly calling attention to what seems to us defective (“dross and refuse”). Along the way we may amuse ourselves and others from time to time, deliberately or not. Below you will find a review of such internet discussion.

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Our Ms. Brooks — A New Way of Being Mormon?

 

The irrepressible and unavoidable Joanna Brooks has found the secret to near-constant exposure in the media: represent the possibility of Mormons becoming just like the rest of us regular Americans — that is, “different” from those other, orthodox Mormons. She pops up recently at the Huffington Post (in connection with the publication of her The Book of a Mormon Girl) to model for us the possibility of a “different way of being Mormon.” Ms. Brooks characteristically makes a number of eminently reasonable remarks countering media views of the Church in the areas of race, the status of women, and treatment of homosexuals. And there is this refreshing outburst on the touchiest of subjects:

There’s a lot of tension and shame about our polygamist past — I think disproportionate shame. I mean, come on, it’s polygamy — it’s not the end of the world.”

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Joanna Brooks’ way is a different way “not steeped in orthodoxy,” not overly concerned with “a literal view on many things,” such as whether she is sealed to her family for eternity, etc. God is merciful, and eternity will take care of itself; religion is a matter of individual “conscience,” and her conscience guides her in drawing on the LDS tradition, as well as on her husband’s Jewish tradition. If there were a “Reform Mormonism,” like Reform Judaism, that would suit her just fine.

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Joanna Brooks continues to carry the torch for those looking for a way to be liberal Mormons in the now quite advanced and ever-progressing sense of “liberal.” This is a path that will become more attractive all the time to many LDS struggling to practice their religion in a world of shifting ideological and moral sands, a world in which “literal” beliefs in temple ordinances and the moral standards that go along with them will seem increasingly peculiar, backward, and unfashionable. In that sense, it becomes easier every day to be a liberal Mormon. In another sense, it will be getting harder and harder. For many of those attracted to this liberal Mormon solution to our contemporary challenge, the adjective will prove to be much stronger than the noun.

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Mormonism in the Modern World

 

If Mormons are “besieged” by the modern age, a concern Elder Marlin Jensen is reported to have discussed in a religious studies class at Utah State University late last year, then the solution suggested by the authors (and certainly not by Elder Jensen) is simply for the Church to become modern. As always, an analogy between the standing of blacks in the church and that of homosexuals is simply assumed, and the path of progress from the inclusion of one to that of the other seems clear. I’ll trust the authors to keep Elder Jensen and his colleagues informed on the true direction of progress.

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The main reason “Mormonism” stands out in our “modern times” as a “weird” religion is that it is actually a religion: Mormons really believe that God speaks to man and intervenes in human affairs. God’s dealings with mankind are not just a tradition to be respectfully mingled with others as far as the demands of modern life allow. Those “reform” minded Mormons who crave the acceptance of the modern world should count the cost before striking the bargain. Carrie Sheffield seems to have made her choice.

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For those facing this crisis of faith, however, the choice often appears to be driven by a craving for transparency, honesty, and, above all, reason. These individuals have become so engulfed in contemporary notions of reason that they no longer question their own premises of a dogmatic skepticism. They expect religion to conform to their own rules of evidence, which necessarily shut out some of the most beautiful and illuminating aspects of the Gospel and distort man’s relationship with God. Such members wed themselves to a truncated reason that is cut off from the possibility of revelation or anything that might be recognized as faith in a Being who sees farther or more clearly than His fallen children.

 

JAC refuses to think that the squashing of faith is the victory of reason, just as the extinguishing of reason is not the victory of faith. Those confronting questions about issues in the LDS Church’s history would do well to follow the advice the John Adams Center’s Daniel Peterson gave in a recent interview with the Deseret News. Peterson says that the problem often is not that there are not answers to our questions, but simply that we have not yet done the work to find them. In these situations the best course is to “calm down and then wait. Look around. There may already be an answer out there. Just because you don’t know about it instantly doesn’t mean it’s not there.” Fortunately, there are many quality resources available for Saints looking for answers, including the LDS Newsroom, FAIR and the quality work of Peterson and JAC friend Terryl Givens.

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In another thoughtful post, Brooks urges that it is “Time for Mormons to Come to Terms with Church History.” Speaking of polygamy and other controversial issues, Brooks makes the following observation:

The culture of shame and silence that surrounds these subjects within Mormon culture means that many Mormons learn about them for the first time from strangers on the internet, in venues ranging from anti-Mormon websites to scholarship by respected Mormon historians. …

Many have yearned to engage candidly and forthrightly with all of its aspects and dimensions. That time is now. The scrutiny brought on by this election season demands an open approach to Mormon history and controversy and it can’t arrive a moment too soon.”

 

Brooks does well to point out the dangers of not preparing members for such attacks related to Church history. LDS should remember, however, that there’s always a balance to be struck between planting spiritually destructive ideas in the minds of maturing members and leaving members vulnerable to anti-Mormon ambushes. It is difficult, if not impossible, to know when healthy inoculation becomes the needless placing of stumbling blocks before members who would otherwise never share these intellectual interests. Even if it were possible to walk this fine line, should we expect the Church to do so in settings meant to provide spiritual growth? Is there not a tradeoff in teaching why things aren’t true rather than teaching what is true? And how might the Church address these charges in a way that does not foolishly play the game of the Church’s enemies or accept their flawed assumptions?

Two things seem clear: 1) the ubiquity of new media, available to everyone at the click of a mouse, even to children almost before they learn to talk, raises new challenges for the nurturing of minds and souls in the Church. 2) A simple appeal to “straightforward” transparency is inadequate. What information? Whose version? When, and how, or in what context?

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There is no neutral supply of purely objective information out there that we can simply link to. But we will no doubt have to do more to engage the honest perspectives on Church history and other topics that are out there.

Speaking of honest engagement with difficult issues, we applaud the courageous efforts of FAIR and others to provide guidance that is at once faithful and compassionate to LDS with same-sex attraction and to those who care about them. It takes courage these days to counsel obedience along with compassion, and to report instances of successful, i.e. chaste coping with the great challenge of this attraction.

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An Improved Mormon Image in Media?

 

Lane Williams notes a subtle and positive change in the media coverage of Mormons, pointing to a number of examples, and most notably an article in the February First Things magazine on “The Mormons’ Jesus.” Readers unfamiliar with this publication may not recognize the significance of this event. First Things is the leading journal of religion and public life for conservative and intellectually serious Christians. Catholics are dominant in its leadership and its pages, but it seeks to be ecumenical and publishes excellent articles from Protestant, Jewish and Orthodox perspectives as well. Its founder, the recently departed Richard Neuhaus, was a convert to Catholicism and a great intellectual and spiritual force. But, firmly grounded in high-church theology and ecclesiology, he had little patience for start-up operations like the LDS. (Like so many others, he assumed a very early “cut-off date” for revelation.) The fact that the excellent LDS scholar Terryl Givens has recently been added to its editorial board and that First Things has now published an article acknowledging the Book of Mormon’s “obsession” with Christ strikes us as a very significant event in our efforts to be understood by traditional Christians. To be sure, the author, Stephen Webb, reports finding the Book of Mormon “boring,” in the venerable tradition of Mark Twain. He perhaps needs Grant Hardy’s help understanding the complex structure and embedded literary complexity of the book. In any case, if the book should turn out to be true, then whether it suits our taste will turn out to be quite irrelevant.

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The Politics of Freedom

Mormon Heretic at Wheat & Tares rightly argues that the Salt Lake Tribune’s attempt to extract a doctrine of strict separation of religion and politics from D & C 134:9 is simplistic. Also at Wheat & Tares, Hawkgrrl scrutinizes statements at the LDS Church Newsroom in order to raise the question of “Institutional Freedom vs. Individual Rights.” Apparently ignoring the newsroom’s intention to lay out general principles as concisely as possible, the author provides us with the expert service of going over each clause of the official statement like an English prof grading a student paper, complaining of vagueness and demanding more specific examples, etc. But he or she does provide us with a number of interesting examples of the tension indicated in the title, including, notably, that of CES hiring policy. The author concludes by framing what is indeed a fundamental question about the meaning of our rights: “Do you agree that organizations need to be protected as well as individuals?” The Bulwark definitely agrees, and points out with Elder Oaks and with Cardinal George, among others, that if religious freedom is reduced to a purely individual right of “conscience,” then it will be crushed by the organized interests claiming state power on behalf of other “rights.” See the article for examples.

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Two posts at Flunking Sainthood (“Mormons Cheering for Romney” and “Romney–the Mormon JFK?”) raise the ever-more-timely question of the likely consequences for the Church of a successful Romney candidacy. Most of the Mormons we know indeed seem to assume that it would be good news for the Church to have a Mormon president. We hope this is true. There is a sense in which all publicity is good publicity in this area, since the public attention provides the opportunity to explain who we are and what we believe in. Of course, not everyone will like what they see, but that goes with the territory of proclaiming a restored truth, doesn’t it? The real concern underlying many secular citizens’ discomfort with Romney’s candidacy is the simple fact that he actually believes in a destiny that transcends this life and in an authority higher than human power. For citizens that really take Christianity or any other religion seriously, this might stand out as an asset. But I’m not holding my breath.

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And we would have to hope and pray that Romney would be a good and successful president. We are convinced he is a decent and extremely competent person, but it should go without saying that this is no guarantee of presidential success, especially in our trying times. And if he were not so successful, then we would have to hope and pray that the image and reputation of the Church did not suffer for it. Or, if it must, that we will have the strength and courage to continue to strive to be examples of the believers, however trying the times.

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While we cannot be sure what a Romney president would mean for the LDS Church, Connor Boyack is sure it would be a bad thing for free government and that Rep. Ron Paul is the GOP candidate best suited to honor an LDS view of the Constitution. We have explained our reservations about the libertarian reading of our Founding and LDS teachings. Along these lines, Frank Kirkpatrick is right to call our attention to the problem of the common good but wrong to assume that the expansion of the current model of the welfare state is the only way to conceive this, and that a religious law of consecration translates simply into more government spending on behalf of that model.

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Philosophy and the Role of the Mormon Intellectual

 

James Faulconer posts thoughtful and faithful essays weekly at Patheos.com. A particularly important recent post treated a question dear to The Bulwark’s heart, “The Responsibility of (Mormon) Intellectuals.” He rightly recognizes that intellectuals are (at least) as subject to error and to the temptations of vanity as other mortals, and that, the Church not being a democracy, and, further, unlike other churches, not providing any privileged hierarchical status to a specially educated elite, intellectuals should consider their own views that oppose those of Church authorities with a double dose of skepticism.

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What then should be the role of the intellectual in the LDS Church? Faulconer’s advice here is excellent and refreshingly rare:

What, then, ought Mormon intellectuals to do? The first answer is “What everyone else does.” Sit in the pews with your families and friends. When you find a speaker boring or inept, remember that others frequently find intellectuals boring and inept, and love the speaker through (rather than in spite of) the talk he gives. Clean the chapel, do your home teaching, set up chairs when needed.

Serve thoughtfully and faithfully where you are called to serve, not expecting special methods for intellectuals, special callings to suit our talents as we perceive them, or special classes to meet our “needs.” Fast and pray often. Take part in the rites of the temple. Be thought of as Brother or Sister So-and-so rather than Mormon Intellectual So-and-so. In other words, we should do what everyone else does: stop thinking that we are special; be ordinary and learn to love ordinary life.”

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This is beautifully said and most welcome. But I wonder if my friend doesn’t go too far in what follows:

The place of the intellectual in the LDS Church is not to serve some purpose, to bring something about, or to change affairs any more than the place of any particular non-intellectual in the Church is to bring something about by means of their professions, personal passions, and interests. Whatever her other callings and good works in the Church, as an intellectual the intellectual is to be one who does not bring something about, who does not change affairs on purpose, who has no purpose, who simply is an intellectual beside, to the side of, what she does for the Church.

So: anything that is good in itself has no purpose beyond itself; strictly speaking, it is good for nothing else. That means as intellectuals (though not as ordinary members) Mormon intellectuals should, likewise, be good for nothing else.”

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This postmodern talk of the “uselessness” of philosophical speculation I find somewhat attractive, but also vulnerable to distortion and abuse. Jim seems to hold that the good of philosophy is like some utterly detached aesthetic play — like playing the violin, it can be lovely, even fulfilling I suppose, but not in a way that connects with any general human concerns (religious, ethical, political). But I agree with Socrates that philosophy begins with questions that arise from examining opinions, and opinions always have an orientation to some good and a political dimension. There is indeed a playful dimension of philosophy, but it can never be fully separated from the serious dimension: the connection with “how should I live?” which is inseparable from “what is the best city/community/regime?” and from “what is Good?”

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In all our thinking we are ultimately seeking better to understand what makes life worth living, and thus how our lives should be ordered as individuals and communities. To be sure, we need free space to think critically, humbly and tentatively about such matters, but we should not imagine that our thoughts — especially our public thoughts — are without consequences for our community’s understanding of the good.

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So I do think a kind of intellectual responsibility is unavoidable, and that we neglect (for academic “gratuity,” for example) at our — and our community’s — peril. The supposed “I just happened to be thinking about…” kind of speculation concerning eternal homosexuality that we considered last month is a case in point. But set that aside to reconsider the problem more generally.

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It is true that intrinsic goods such as that of thinking in one sense appear discrete and self-contained, making no claims on other goods; but in another sense the question of how to combine or rank or coordinate goods is irrepressible, natural. This is the subtle lesson of the opening pages of Aristotle’s Nicomachean Ethics, I think.

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So, for example, how can we believe the good of knowing is really good, without believing (even without the scriptural warrant that might be cited) that it is somehow eternally good, at least partly constitutive of the Good? By our very activity as thinkers we are in a way asserting a claim regarding the good. And so we must take responsibility for managing this claim, reconciling it with the claims of obedience to authority, for example. Otherwise, we risk contributing by our fiddling to Rome’s burning.

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More generally, the very language we use is inevitably borrowed from a world structured by contending (political) claims about the good, that is, about what a good or fulfilling or admirable or truly human life consists in. Philosophy or thinking requires a distancing from these claims, but the distance is never absolute.

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Now, to return to my earlier theme:  in the modern world the good of thinking is dominantly construed in a certain way, that is, as instrumental to the progressive mastery of nature in view of the “freedom,” comfort and security of our common humanity. “Technology.” All of our disciplines are structured by an orientation to this imperative. Philosophy ought to be an exception; it ought to make it possible to question this technological imperative to serve comfort and limitless individual “freedom.” But to do so is far from simply gratuitous, since it involves taking seriously other claims about the human good. In the case of LDS “intellectuals,” as I have suggested, it ought to involve helping to reconcile the life of the mind with respect for religious authority. But this is a positive task, and not simply a gesture of uselessness.

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Jim makes an eloquent case for the humility of faithful reflection. So let me point out that there is always something problematic in the claim of humility, in fact in the virtue of humility as a way of naming our own activities. Humility should condition and raise a question mark in our own hearts over all that we can do, but this should in no way conceal from ourselves the fact that we are doing something, affirming something — effectively taking a position on what matters and what is of worth. In this sense, a kind of pride is inherent in any action, and thinking is always thinking together at some level and thus is not exempt from the world of action, of affirmation. And in the first instance, to the degree that we pursue thinking in any way that goes beyond straightforward instrumental calculation, then we are already enacting our conviction that thinking is somehow good, and we are obliged to think about how it is good, in relation to what, and how this goodness stands with respect to other real or asserted goods. We are at least proud enough to stand for something, and if we do not reflectively assume this “pride,” then this does not make us humble so much as un-self-aware.

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Pride is the rule, humility the blessed exception. But humility that wants to be the rule is prouder than pride itself. Tocqueville: I would give several of our petty virtues for that one vice, pride.”

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But let’s not call it “pride.” Let’s call it “standing for something.”

 

 


Comments (8)

  1. Jim F

    February 6, 2012 at 2:22 pm

    Ralph, playing the violin isn’t utterly detached aesthetic play. (Kant was wrong.) Be careful or those who appreciate music are likely to beat you up.

    I agree that my position can be distorted or abused, but it is impossible to say anything that cannot be. Indeed, I think that your own writing about what I said is a distortion. You ignore that I qualify my admonition to uselessness with “as intellectuals (though not as ordinary members).”

    As a teacher of philosophy I ought to be serious about what I teach, but as a member of the Church I ought not to have expectations that my seriousness has any particular use. If the Church chooses to use it. Great. If not. Great. The use is not for me to decide or expect.

  2. Michael Towns

    February 6, 2012 at 7:55 pm

    Good essay. I really enjoyed reading it and discovering your blog. Why can’t CNN do a profile on you instead of a hyper-progressive liberal like Joanna Brooks? Oh wait, I figured it out. You’re a white male conservative. You’re nothing special.

  3. Ralph

    February 9, 2012 at 12:25 pm

    Thanks, Jim, and Michael.
    Jim: I can see why you would think I’m making too much of your rhetoric of “uselessness.” But I think our disagreement re. the role of “intellectuals” is quite fundamental, and rests on a difference re. the role of ideas in society — a difference on the old theory/practice question. The influence of philosophy — or let’s say, of ideas –in our world is massive, whether we like it or not. We are both critical (like Strauss, and like Heidegger) of the sway in our world of a certain view of humanity in relation to what is beyond us (nature, God, Being…), a view that privileges “freedom” understood as boundlessness and as mastery. The tendency to interpret the Gospel from this point of view is a pervasive, and growing in a new generation’s longing for a modern, tolerant, inclusive “reform” Mormonism. Too many Mormons with a reputation for being smart, highly educated, “intellectual,” etc., actually abet the influence of our dominant consumerist, liberationist culture — and get nicely rewarded for it, in various way. I don’t see how, as we philosophize, we can avoid confronting this pervasive and seductive tendency. Nor do I see how we can be neutral concerning it — neutrality seems hardly different from endorsement in this case. I have never thought of being useful in terms of coming up with some idea or program that the official Church would want to endorse, adopt or whatever. I think I can be useful by pointing up the frailties of progressive “rationalism,” by showing that it doesn’t deserve the authority of reason.
    So maybe this is the root of the difference between us: I see an unavoidable question (whether reason = “progressive” “rationalism”) with implications for the very meaning of religious belief and practice (as well as for our practices more generally: familial, political…) as framing our philosophical discussions, whether we like it or not, whereas you perhaps see this as one interesting question among many. The main way we must be “useful,” I think, is to help break the spell of this specious rationalism, a frame of thought that threatens real harm among those we teach and otherwise influence.

  4. Jim F

    February 10, 2012 at 12:09 am

    Ralph, I don’t think I either said or implied that being useless meant being neutral. If by “useful” you mean “teaching that there must be–and are–alternatives to contemporary understandings of things,” then we agree. I certainly don’t think that the question of what modernity is and what implications it has for religious belief and practice is “one interesting question among many.” I’m not sure where you got the impression that I do. I think you’re reading things into that column that aren’t there–and that are contradicted by the things I have written and the things I teach.

  5. Ralph

    February 11, 2012 at 5:44 pm

    RCH: Jim, it seems I am fated to discover again and again that we agree after all and that I have somehow fabricated our disagreement. But alas I have nagging doubts about our consensus.

    First, I was probably not clear enough from the outset about where I definitely agree with you, as distinguished from where I an not sure I agree.

    “as an intellectual the intellectual is to be one who does not bring something about, who does not change affairs on purpose, who has no purpose, who simply is an intellectual beside, to the side of, what she does for the Church.”

    As a statement of the LDS intellectual’s stance toward the LDS church, I not only agree, but I applaud you for saying this so clearly and so well.

    But where I still am not sure we don’t differ in some significant way is in the fact that you seem to apply this more generally to the role of the (LDS) intellectual in society, or with respect to practice (ethics, politics) in general. I agree that we should not aim to “change affairs” in the sense of changing the Church, but I do not think that we can avoid responsibility for the ethical & political implications of our ideas more generally. I am not arguing for a transformative role for intellectuals (the intellectual engage [supply accent]), but recognizing that in engaging fundamental ideas we cannot help but come to terms with fundamental alternatives faced by our society and our communities.

    ” anything that is good in itself has no purpose beyond itself; strictly speaking, it is good for nothing else” –

    which I think makes a lot of sense as a guideline for theologizing without presuming to affect Church teaching. But you seem to be making a larger claim about the good of thinking, which I have already questioned (and which we agreed is a big question worth careful discussion). I think the good of thinking is always implicated in views about the goodness of “ordinary” (non-theoretical) life, and that the most careful thinking cannot avoid taking this into account in thinking about its own goodness. (Allow me to mentin that this is the central theme of my Responsibility of Reason.)

    So, when you say:

    “the responsibility of the Mormon intellectual is, first, not to allow our intellects to separate us from the other members of the Church and, second, to work at being intellectually useless and, thereby, good for the Church on its own terms.”

    I agree heartily with your first conclusion, and endorse the humility of accepting our being “intellectually useless” insofar as Church teachings and policies are concerned. But I took your argument to imply a more general “intellectual uselessness,” as in “Mormon intellectuals should be good for nothing else.” But do you mean only to imply: “good for nothing else in terms of Church policies and teachings”?

    Now, I have to admit there is a further complication, because if it is true that our teaching (our critiques of modernity, to take a non-arbitrary example) has practical implications (critiques of fashionable and powerful ethical and political claims), then it seems we are at least potentially involved in “changing affairs.” Moreover, the affairs we’re changing are not irrelevant to the way the Church is understood in relation to ideas and practices in our wider practical environment.

    But let me be more concrete and less diffident: if we criticize the modernist assumptions of late-liberalism (ever-expanding rights, notably), then we help our LDS students and readers preserve a space for religious beliefs and practices that these assumptions threaten. So in that sense we are acting in a way that we might hope would benefit the Church and its members, we are “changing affairs” in a positive sense, but not by advocating that the Church change its policies or teachings.

    If we differ (and I am always pleased to learn that we do not), then perhaps this difference is discernible when you say, “We should be good for nothing except what the Kingdom demands.” I wonder whether your view of “what the Kingdom demands” is different from mine — more determined, that is, by general and explicit demands (Church teachings, callings, requirements), and not by any special responsibility of thinkers or philosophers or “intellectuals.” My view might seem in a way less rigorous and in a way more. I think we have practical responsibilities (to in some way “change affairs” by criticizing unfounded assumptions inhospitable to our religious beliefs) that are not explicitly determined by Church authority, responsibilities that are not shared by all members of the Church. I think that, as we both understand, the question of modernity is “not just one question among many,” then this understanding charges us with a practical responsibility to show the blind spots, the partiality, the partisanship of modernity and thus to support the possibility of living in the modern world without being altogether of it. There is, I grant, the risk of pride and presumption in assuming this responsibility, a responsibility that does have religious implications, but I think we need to run the risk (while never forgetting it, of course).

    So, whereas you say:

    What, then, ought Mormon intellectuals to do? The first answer is “What everyone else does.”
    I say, no, there is more that we need to do to be “anxiously engaged in a good cause.”

    You say:

    And being an intellectual doesn’t make a person more morally insightful than others. Knowledge about the world does not imply virtue.
    But I say: this is all too true, “empirically,” of contemporary intellectuals, but I agree with Plato & Aristotle that there is a link between seeing clearly and having a well-ordered soul. And if the gospel is true, then it should affect the way we understand the world. There has to be a deep connection between theory and practice.

    There, I hope I have made it clearer where it seems to me we agree and disagree. Naturally I would be happy to discover that our disagreement is even narrower than I thought.

    I will add, as a kind of epilogue, something that you should set aside if you think it muddies the waters or just gets things wrong, and take into account only if you think it’s fruitful: It does seem to me that our difference (such as it is, if it is) on the usefulness of LDS intellectuals is related to the theological issues surrounding grace or gratuity. I am in a very broad sense more Aristotelian and Thomistic, impressed by continuities between natural goods and faculties and religious goods, or graces; whereas you (and Adam, if I get his drift) seem more … Jansenist, or let’s say Pascalian (like Marion, probably), in emphasizing the gap between nature and grace. No?

    Thanks for reading. –RCH

  6. Typical Mormonism Fallacy | Wheat and Tares

    February 16, 2012 at 4:04 pm

    [...] as reported in the CNN article shouldn’t be new to you, but I was intrigued by a comment that Ralph Hancock was quoted in the article for: Who she is and what she believes rankles Ralph Hancock, a political science [...]

  7. Scott

    March 14, 2012 at 6:49 pm

    I am curious about the underhanded, but quite clearly disrespectful, arrogant and condescending paragraph heading “Our Ms. Brooks.” It’s a nifty little rhetorical move, along with the co-opting and twisting of Joanna Brooks book title in the accompanying graphic, to cast “Ms.” (says the founder of an all-male group) Brooks as a dilettante unworthy of the more serious thinkers of which Mr. Hancock approves. The possessive “our” implies that Hancock and his cadre of men readily and easily subsume the diminutive thoughts and experiences of Joanna Brooks into their own expansive and authoritative grasp of “wie es eignetlich gewesen ist” (und sein soll).

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    April 9, 2012 at 12:18 pm

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