Let's stop the insanity, people, and take a step back. (Image courtesy of Shutterstock: http://tinyurl.com/oo2grf4)

Let’s stop the insanity, people, and take a step back. (Image courtesy of Shutterstock: http://tinyurl.com/oo2grf4)

It’s time for a bit of a Friday rant.

I’ve been thinking quite a bit these last few months about blogging, and why blogging is so exhausting sometimes. It’s not usually because of the writing itself. Research and writing are demanding, but I don’t find them enervating per se.

It’s because of the emotional energy bloggers need to expend in dealing with comments. There are some toxic people out there, and many of them, I am embarrassed to say, seem to be members of my own religious tradition.

I used to have a policy of just allowing all comments to stand on my blog. (And when I was at Beliefnet I didn’t have a choice about it.) Since I was trained as a historian, it was important to me to preserve all conversations in their entirety for the future. All of our public discussions about the issues of our day, whether that’s women’s roles or theology or same-sex marriage, are important and worth keeping, I thought.

And that was how I dealt with people’s rage, by convincing myself that all of the voices in online conversations expressed a variety of viewpoints that were important for understanding our time and culture.

However, when I came back in March after three months off for my mother’s illness and death, something kind of snapped within me. As much as I like communicating with thoughtful and civil readers, whom I imagine to be the silent majority, their voices seemed outweighed by the vociferous, livid few. Since March I’ve been deleting comments from angry Mormons, angry ex-Mormons, angry evangelicals who hate Mormons, and angry random guys who blog from their parents’ basements while wearing only their underwear.

For all I know these could all be the same person.

And I’ve become more aware, as I read other religion blogs, how spiritually poisonous the blogging culture can be:

  • Ex-Mormons tell Mormons they’ve never met that they are wholesale idiots for believing.
  • Evangelicals tell Mormons that they reject the Bible, worship a totally different Jesus, and are going to hell.
  • Mormons respond in kind that there is only one religious truth and, gee whiz, it just so happens that they own the patent for it. Go figure.
  • And then those Mormons tell other Mormons whose opinions they reject that any holders of those opinions should be excommunicated, lose their temple recommends, or just quit the Church already because they clearly hate the prophet.

In December this came to a dangerous head when the woman who founded the “Wear Pants to Church Day” initiative actually received death threats.

Death threats. From fellow Latter-day Saints.

For wearing pants!

And all of the people in the examples above go to church and consider themselves followers of Jesus. How is that possible? How did we raise a generation of Christians who feel it is not only acceptable but somehow an obligatory duty for them to call each other terrible names?

Let’s stop the insanity, people. Here are some basic rules of how to act like followers of Jesus online:

  1. Disagree with a position. Back it up with evidence, links, or quotes. Then STOP. Don’t end the comment with an insult. And please don’t quote the other person’s position and say “LOL.” Mocking other people’s ideas with the digital equivalent of the point-and-laugh is not exactly the height of mature behavior.
  2. Don’t speculate on your interlocutor’s eternal fate, temple worthiness, or intelligence. And finally, a catch-all rule:
  3. Don’t say anything online that you would not say in person to this person if you met him or her in church.

Let’s rise above, people.

You shall know them by their fruits.

 

72 Comments

  1. What is desperately needed is a process of social change that brings social pressure for changing the way in which we respond to each other, as well as an ethical system that people agree to in such engagements. This is precisely what is being put in place by the Foundation for Religious Diplomacy with its pledge for participants, The Way of Openness rules of engagement, and its online World Table of Religions. More to come at www.religious-diplomacy.org.

  2. Laurie Eichert

    Yay, Jana! I think social media has somehow released the demons that live inside of us. Thanks for reminding us we need to rein them back in. My breaking point came during and after the election of 2008, when filthy, horrible accusations were flying around and I ended up unfriending some LDS people from my FB account. It was the ignorance as well as the mean-spiritedness I couldn’t take. Thanks for setting some boundaries. Let’s see if we can all live within them!

  3. I especially love your rule #3. I would add another basic rule: Let it go. When you are the one being attacked in the comment section, when someone responds nastily to something you’ve said, don’t respond. Just let it go. It is not worth spreading ugliness around.

  4. Jana: Excellent rules. A good reason, by the way, not to blog anonymously. I note that you don’t include among the nasties Mormon and secular progressives who can be smug, histrionic, and convinced that the ideological space to their right is inhabited purely by drooling masses of Glenn Beck disciples and Colbert Report punch lines. After ten plus years hanging about Mormon blogs I can testify that it’s a type that exists in bulk.

    • Dwight A. Hurst

      Can we agree bad behavior and incivility are not ideologically driven?
      I’m with you Nate when it comes to anonymity. If online comment sections would require participants to use their actual names the level of discourse would be elevated immediately.

      • I’m not convinced that the end of anonymity would solve the problem. Some of the most vicious comments in the great pants debate, including a comment from a BYU student that was widely viewed as a death threat, were posted in a public forum on Facebook, where most participants use their real names.

  5. Come on Jana. I gotta depart from you on this one. Be careful smugly tying Mormons to death-threats, or Evangelicals to hate-speach. Honestly, you get what you pay for on anonymous blog sites. Neither faith condone or promote such behavior. I mean, anonymous chat rooms and comments are akin to walking into a dark room with a bunch of people with baseball bats. You have no idea who you really are dealing with. Many likely have psychological disorders, low intelligence, are socially inept, riddled with personality disorders, or just may just be a group of 13 year olds. Who knows? And I could probably make a sound case study that those who engage in the past-time of on-line posting at all are a self-selected group largely comprised of those categories (and yes, I see the irony as I myself comment here, haha). Show me a person who comments on more than an occasional article, and I’ll show you a person who has never achieved anything of substance in any category in their lives. And to infer that what gets pecked out by anonymous geeks in their mom’s basement on the topic of religion, represent even in the slightest, any position of any religious persuasion may risk undermining your credibility a little. It may be seen as a little irresponsible as well. I think with a little deeper thinking you have the ability to present this with slightly less sensationalism and a more realistic depiction of what’s at play. Keep up your good work-

  6. Blogging while angry is the new road rage.

    But say, when it comes to attacking people and institutions, LDS leaders have been at the forefront of nastiness:
    http://bit.ly/MormonsNeverCriticize

    Granted, that doesn’t excuse bad behavior from others towards Mormons.

    Incidentally, explaining the differences between Mormon and Christian doctrines is not a form of bullying. It is part of a (hopefully) honest, intelligent conversation in which the participants examine the evidence presented by either side.

    • D. Michael Martindale

      Explaining the difference is not what she’s talking about. It’s the diatribes involving words like “cult” and “not Christian” and “going to hell” that are the problem.

      Discuss the differences in doctrine all day if you want. Point out where you think their doctrine errs, present your evidence to support your case. These are civilized activities.

      Ostracizing a religion as a cult and not Christian when they believe as much as you do that Jesus is our divine redeemer, simply because they have some different perceptions of Jesus than you do, telling someone they’re going to hell when Jesus clearly said we have no business judging one another, is bullying.

  7. Bryan got it right on this one. Anyone can claim to be anything-or hold any religious beliefs- on a blog. I know one guy who loves to to go on blogs and claim he is a Mormon, and then spew real hatred toward other Mormons. He has never been a Mormon, and laughs about how he is portraying them to a gullible public. He claims they are all hypocrites anyway so it’s okay to for him to pretend to be a hypocritical judge of “fellow” Mormons and their temple worthiness, etc., to show who they “really” are. And I’m sure the same holds true for others who claim to be Evangelical, Catholics, etc. Death threats for wearing pants to church from fellow Mormons? And your proof that they are fellow Mormons? I agree with all your guidelines. Hate from any quarter has no place among people of faith – all faiths- but we need to be careful about taking claims of membership in any church- or no church- with great scepticism when made online.

    • Not all online interaction is anonymous. In the case of one death threat (there were others), it happened on Facebook. He was verified to be a BYU student and reported to the Honor Code and University Police. http://thestudentreview.org/threats-shut-down-facebook-event/

  8. Hooray, Jana, especially for this one:

    “Don’t say anything online that you would not say in person to this person if you met him or her in church.”

    I often think of something like this when I think of angry rhetoric directed in wild generalities at the ‘lifestyles’ of women who’ve chosen abortion, or people who are LGBT. Unless you know and love someone who has lived that reality, it seems (from my POV) that there is little chance you can temper your speech and attitude it with the empathy and compassion that I think Jesus would call us to embody and emulate.

  9. Don’t say anything online that you would not say in person to this person if you met him or her in church. –

    Unfortunately, a lot of these people would say these things to the face.

    When I was door knocking once, we met up with a guy on the street who clearly hated us because we were members of the church. He was a former baptist missionary and I was surprised at the amount of hate that came from him. It was painful for him to even say a few words to us. I thought about how sad it is when people take from a religion ideas and apply them in a way that makes them hate others when it is exactly opposite of what Christ taught. We can agree to disagree and still be caring and kind to each other.

  10. I get bullied very frequently by homosexuals and liberals online. I am not religious and don’t typically post comments about religion, which seems to be their biggest complaint, but it is not out of the ordinary for liberals to wish for my death. I find it strange that so much time is spent demonizing religious people as if they are the only ones who participate in online bullying.

  11. A few weeks ago my daily scripture reading brought me to this passage from the Book of Mormon: “And it came to pass in the twenty and ninth year there began to be some disputings among the people. … Some were lifted up in pride, and others were exceedingly humble; some did return railing for railing, while others would receive railing and persecution and all manner of afflictions, and would not turn and revile again, but were humble and penitent before God. And thus there became a great inequality in all the land, insomuch that the church began to be broken up” (3 Nephi 6:10, 13-14). It was deeply disturbing to realize how much our society currently resembles that of the Nephites on the downward curve of their “pride cycle.” I’m praying that more of us will decide to receive railing with humility and penitence before God rather than turn and revile again.

  12. Good article. I do quite a bit of internet commenting. I agree with your 3 points.
    I try to remember the person I reply to is a child of God. They have reasons for what they say, be it good or not so good reasons. They have human feelings. Others who read will see me as something of a representative of the Church even though I am not. Treat all as if they are a tender family member and/or precious and beloved investigator of the gospel. The real trolls are few.

  13. I agree whole heartedly, and have been through the same things myself on my blog. In fact, I left Facebook because it was too much of a temptation to respond with anger and abusive language to those who posted angry, abusive stuff.

    But here’s my question: Posts (and policies) like yours above will only be listened to by like-minded people who value virtue and compassion in communication.

    What about those who don’t? What about those who continue to be “trolls” and bullies and just downright mean?

    Do you have any criteria on when to respond, if at all? Just delete everything they say? Block them? I ask honestly, because I myself honestly struggle with the proper reaction.

    • Jana Riess

      Those are great questions, Nate, and I am still trying to figure this out. My bottom line so far is that personal attacks on individuals are not OK. I have not, however, deleted any comments that are sarcastic about other people’s *ideas*, or that call those ideas ridiculous without crossing the line and calling the *person* stupid or ridiculous.

      I think that repeated aggressive commenting is also a form of bullying. I have banned one commenter (a Mormon) who kept coming back to the site and attacking every person here who disagreed with him; even when some commenters pointed out that he was behaving like a bully, he simply couldn’t see it, and continued to post very aggressively. Within hours after banning his email address, nearly identical comments came in from someone with a phony email address. At least those were more civil, however.

  14. I feel your pain Jana! This is EXACTLY why I went to a pre-moderated comment policy when I started Bread’s Bread explaining:

    “Sadly, we find that the current state of public discourse to be disappointing. And we have found far too much Internet discourse to be downright appalling. Civility and the ability to disagree without being disagreeable seem to be lost to today’s society. Until that changes Beggar’s Bread will pre-moderate all comments.”
    (see http://beggarsbread.org/moderation-policy/ )

    And I confess to taking a fair share of fellow Evangelicals to the woodshed for their behavior on internet discussion boards – as have many of my colleagues.

    That said, and at the risk of throwing stones at glasses houses, I’m particularly encouraged by your article because I haven’t seen the same level of “woodshedding of our own” on the Mormon side of the divide. I hope that your article marks the start of a positive trend in that direction.

    For example, back in the days when I was foolish to post regular on AnswerBag (a site I do NOT recommend for those interested in civil discussion BTW) I quite literally cyber-stalked by a Mormon who felt it his calling to ad-hominem and insult me both publicly and in private. To my surprise, when I asked him if his Bishop would approve of his behavior he replied, “Here yeah go Fred … Knock yourself out.”

    So I did.

    And to my surprise his Bishop saw nothing worse with his Ward Secretary’s very public Internet behavior (that’s right the person in question was in a pretty high calling in the local Ward) – even though I provided some salient of his Ward Secretary’s “best” work.

    When I then asked for the name of the local Stake President from the Bishop the “line went dead” and I got this reply from the aforementioned Ward Secretary instead:

    “Myself and Bishop [name withheld] Talked with the stake president and we all agreed it best to ignore the likes of you. The stake president has no desire to get involved with your thin skinned psycho babble.

    Go ahead, pretend to be holier than thou, I’m not participating in your obsession, other than to set the record straight when you spout off your tripe.”

    So I think you can understand why I found your article as encouraging as I did the firing of LdS Apologist Daniel C. Peterson – who made a career out of ad-homineming, belittling, insulting, and character assassinating Mormon Critics – from The Maxwell Institute.

    There seems to be a fresh wind blowing over the Mormon side of the divide in this area and I hope that it lasts.

    I say this knowing full well that much more work needs to be done on the Evangelical side of the divide as my colleague Tim noted well in this 2012 article: http://beggarsbread.org/2012/03/03/an-open-letter-to-fellow-evangelicals/

    So, tell you what Jana (and any and all Mormons reading this) if you all will continue to address and confront the behavior of misbehaving Mormons on your side of the divide, we’ll do the same on ours (I say to myself and any and all Evangelicals reading this) – and, maybe, just maybe we can get some of this long standing mess cleaned up!

  15. Raymond Takashi Swenson

    Most of the really crazy people I have ever known have been at church, because they’re the ones I am around. It doesn’t come out as much in a school or work environment, but because we are taught to regard everyone as a child of God, we put up with a lot in fellow church members. When I was a tour guide at Temple Square (before they called full time missionaries to do it) I ran into some people who were offensive, both Mormon and not. One of my fellow guides told me she wouldn’t have been able to keep her temper in responding to some of the meaner things people said; I realized that my first year of law school had trained me to think and speak without my emotions getting in the way.

    It seems to me that we ought to train our youth in Aaronic Priesthood and Young Women classes, and in Seminary, to be calmer and more reflective in the way they speak to everyone, including those who are provoking them. We need to take the focus of our thoughts off ourselves and our own emotions. By keeping a broader, longer range perspective, we would remember that God values everyone we meet, and we should have the same kind of basic love for them that Christ has. By always remembering Christ and his atonement for all, we will be prepared to receive whatever message God may have for them. And some of them may recognize in their hearts where the message originates.

  16. I feel your pain Jana! This is EXACTLY why I went to a pre-moderated comment policy when I started Bread’s Bread explaining:

    “Sadly, we find that the current state of public discourse to be disappointing. And we have found far too much Internet discourse to be downright appalling. Civility and the ability to disagree without being disagreeable seem to be lost to today’s society. Until that changes Beggar’s Bread will pre-moderate all comments.”
    (see http://beggarsbread.org/moderation-policy/ )

    And I confess to taking a fair share of fellow Evangelicals to the woodshed for their behavior on internet discussion boards – as have many of my colleagues.

    That said, and at the risk of throwing stones at glasses houses, I’m particularly encouraged by your article because I haven’t seen the same level of “woodshedding of our own” on the Mormon side of the divide. I hope that your article marks the start of a positive trend in that direction.

    For example, back in the days when I was foolish to post regular on AnswerBag (a site I do NOT recommend for those interested in civil discussion BTW) I was quite literally cyber-stalked by a Mormon who felt it his calling to ad-hominem and insult me both publicly and in private. To my surprise, when I asked him if his Bishop would approve of his behavior he replied, “Here yeah go Fred … Knock yourself out.”

    So I did.

    And to my surprise his Bishop saw nothing worse with his Ward Secretary’s very public Internet behavior (that’s right the person in question was in a pretty high calling in the local Ward) – even though I provided some salient of his Ward Secretary’s “best” work.

    When I then asked for the name of the local Stake President from the Bishop the “line went dead” and I got this reply from the aforementioned Ward Secretary instead:

    “Myself and Bishop [name withheld] Talked with the stake president and we all agreed it best to ignore the likes of you. The stake president has no desire to get involved with your thin skinned psycho babble.

    Go ahead, pretend to be holier than thou, I’m not participating in your obsession, other than to set the record straight when you spout off your tripe.”

    So I think you can understand why I found your article as encouraging as I did the firing of LdS Apologist Daniel C. Peterson – who made a career out of ad-homineming, belittling, insulting, and character assassinating Mormon Critics – from The Maxwell Institute.

    There seems to be a fresh wind blowing over the Mormon side of the divide in this area and I hope that it lasts.

    I say this knowing full well that much more work needs to be done on the Evangelical side of the divide as my colleague Tim noted well in this 2012 article: http://beggarsbread.org/2012/03/03/an-open-letter-to-fellow-evangelicals/

    So, tell you what Jana (and any and all Mormons reading this) if you all will continue to address and confront the behavior of misbehaving Mormons on your side of the divide, we’ll do the same on ours (I say to myself and any and all Evangelicals reading this) – and, maybe, just maybe we can get some of this long standing mess cleaned up!

    • FredWAnson,

      Just so you know, a “Ward Secretary” is not “a pretty high calling.” He’s just the fellow who makes the bishop’s appointments.

      • Fred W. Anson

        And? So Ward Secretaries are allowed to be Internet bullies because of their low standing in the Mormon Hierarchy?

        Never-the-less this case went all the way up to the Stake President level and they did nothing in clear violation of the then living Prophet’s (GBH) public declarations on how to treat outsiders and critics (see my post elsewhere in this thread).

        • @FredWAnson

          “And? So Ward Secretaries are allowed to be Internet bullies because of their low standing in the Mormon Hierarchy?”

          No. Simply that a not high calling is not a high calling. I’m opposed to credential inflation.

          And since we’re on the subject, I point out that you have not quite got around to telling us what, precisely, it was that the Exec Sec said that was so ghastly. All we have is your own reaction thereto. Nobody should judge him a “bully” just because you choose to call him that.

          I’m interested to know why you would suppose that his bishop would take it upon himself to censor his online communications. Are you perhaps under the impression that bishops routinely regulate every aspect of a Latter-day Saint’s life, or at least of his public communications? Is that how things work in EV-land?

          There is no evidence before us that anything the Exec Sec said to you, either in public or in private, was in any way incompatible with anything President Hinckley said. All we know is that you choose to interpret it as being contrary to how you choose to interpret President Hinckley’s counsel.

          And that really doesn’t mean a whole lot.

    • FredWAnson,

      You wrote:

      “So I think you can understand why I found your article as encouraging as I did the firing of LdS Apologist Daniel C. Peterson – who made a career out of ad-homineming, belittling, insulting, and character assassinating Mormon Critics – from The Maxwell Institute.”

      You know Fred, there is more than one kind of incivility. Using “mean words” is one kind. Couching defamatory false claims in polite language is another.

      Professor Peterson did not make “a career out of ad-homineming, belittling, insulting, and character assassinating Mormon Critics.” Every word of that claim is false, including “a” and “and.”

      Furthermore, since you have failed entirely to support it in a rather long (and less than irenic, from your side) exchange on Dan’s own blog, it seems to me that this would be a good opportunity to retract it.

      • Fred W. Anson

        Well Kiwi57, it was Mr. Peterson who chose to make me a target in a blog article on his web site rather than doing so here. So that behavior alone bespeaks bullying.

        As for not proving my case there, the consensus everywhere but there seems to be quite the opposite – sadly Dr. Peterson and his disciples are too blind to see it. And they – including you I add – proved my point in spades via their behavior there.

        Finally, Dr. P reopened the door for my reentry into the discussion via his final comments so, I will be walking through that door again soon.

        That said, may K suggest that you take your dog back to that fight rather than unleashing him here? That would be the polite and considerate thing to do.

        Thanks.

        Further

        • @FredWAnson:

          “Well Kiwi57, it was Mr. Peterson who chose to make me a target in a blog article on his web site rather than doing so here. So that behavior alone bespeaks bullying.”

          How did he “make [you] a target?” By quoting the words you chose to post? If typing those words on a computer screen makes you a target, didn’t you type them first?

          And why did you choose to attack him behind his back? Doesn’t that likewise “bespeak bullying?”

          (Incidentally, I’m not certain you’ve used “bespeak” correctly.)

          “As for not proving my case there, the consensus everywhere but there seems to be quite the opposite – sadly Dr. Peterson and his disciples are too blind to see it.”

          Actually the “consensus” of which you speak is nothing more than a manufactured — one is tempted to say fabricated — reputation, generated by Dan’s implacable enemies and uncritically accepted (and repeated) by those predisposed to do so.

          It is a “consensus” that exists only among those of a particular ideological bent. Which is to say, it is not a consensus at all.

          “That said, may K suggest that you take your dog back to that fight rather than unleashing him here? That would be the polite and considerate thing to do.”

          Given that you chose to attack Dan here, it seems a bit rich for you to demand that your attacks remain unanswered here.

          Kind regards,
          Kiwi

          • Kiwi57, I didn’t post the content of what the secretary said because to do so would have been both inappropriate and indiscreet.

            Further, that Ward Secretary has already appeared here under an alias (the one he used during our exchange) and had his say. The decision to disclose what he said “back jn the day” is, therefore, by all rights his not mine.

            Despite your continuing personal attacks (not to mention cyber-stalking) I won’t be goaded into inappropriate behavior.

            However, you are behaving very much like the type of bully that the article described. May I suggest you stop?

            Thank you.

          • Kiwi57, lets be clear here: Daniel C. Peterson is a public figure. He’s for 23-years he was the director and/or one of the most influential members of what’s considered the premier LdS Apologetics organization in the world – so much so that his name is nearly synonymous with the words, “LDS Apologetics”.

            He’s also a tenured BYU Professor with a number of published works – including regular contributions to the Deseret News and other LdS publications. He’s also a well known and popular LdS lecturer.

            He is in fact so well known and so influential that there’s a Wikipedia article on the guy: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Daniel_C._Peterson

            He’s so well known and so influential that when he loses his job articles are written about him: http://www.sltrib.com/sltrib/news/54358137-78/mormon-institute-studies-peterson.html.csp

            So when some unknown plain vanilla Evangelical guy makes a few passing comments – in fact, the SAME comments that have been made about him for decades now – in the comments section of a dead, two-month old blog on the same Religion News blog site that the famous Dr. Peterson is a contributor for what does he do?

            Does he just move on and say, “Oh well! I guess that’s a part of the cost of fame”?

            Does he reply on that site before a neutral/mixed audience in an even dispassionate tone giving his side of the story without engaging in the very behavior that he’s being criticized for?

            Does he write a blog that discreetly critiques the content of these and past comments without getting personal and without engaging in the very behavior that he’s being criticized for?

            No to all the above.

            Instead he, as I put it directly to him on his blog site yesterday:

            “… devoted an entire blog article based on a few comments made in passing back in June. That fire was dying (or perhaps dead) it was YOU who decided to throw a log on it and apply lighter fluid and match to it.

          • @FredWAnson:

            “Kiwi57, I didn’t post the content of what the secretary said because to do so would have been both inappropriate and indiscreet.”

            While mentioning it — and labouring to convince us that it was so bad and cruel — was just hunky-dory.

            Got it.

            “Further, that Ward Secretary has already appeared here under an alias (the one he used during our exchange) and had his say. The decision to disclose what he said ‘back jn the day’ is, therefore, by all rights his not mine.”

            If he cares.

            The bottom line is that your accusations against him, as with those against Dan, remain unsupported by any evidence.

            “Despite your continuing personal attacks (not to mention cyber-stalking)”

            Personal attacks?

            Did I introduce your name into a discussion where you were not participating, and hold you up as an example of all that is wrong with the “other” I am trying to demonise?

            I trow not.

            And “cyber-stalking?” In which universe?

            Are you referring to the fact that I followed Dan’s link to the original article he was discussing (something I frequently do even when you’re not participating) and chose to reply to you here? Is that what you mean by “cyber-stalking?”

            If so, then how do you distinguish that from your own flurry of comments on Dan’s blog? If my comments here are “cyber-stalking” then why are your comments there, not?

            “I won’t be goaded into inappropriate behavior.”

            No, you seem to manage that without any “goading” at all.

            “However, you are behaving very much like the type of bully that the article described.”

            Thank you for your invaluable opinion.

            “Kiwi57, lets be clear here: Daniel C. Peterson is a public figure.”

            And that means that you’re entitled to bash him behind his back, holding him up as an example of the “other” you are trying to demonise, shower him with unsupported false accusations, and to do that with utter impunity?

            And that he has no right to reply except in a forum of your choosing?

            Is that really what you intended to say?

            Have you paused to consider how your arguments appear to others?

            Kind regards,
            Kiwi57

        • The behavior that I’ve just described in my last post does bespeak bullying (and, yes, I AM using the word correctly – look it up, I did as a reality check here’s the link: http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/bespeak )

          – He, this famous public and influential figure, named names – mine.

          – He, this famous public and influential figure, selectively used quotes – choosing to gloss over the most notorious example of his behavior: The “Metcalfe is Butthead” article that he edited and approve for publication in the FARMS Review of Books.

          – And he, this famous public and influential figure, did so in a venue where he knew that the audience would be sympathetic and biased in his favor: His blog site.

          What he did was the equivalent of calling a less powerful, less well known kid onto his “turf” where: a) He knew he already had backing, and; b) He knew if that kid was stupid enough to show up (and I admit I was that stupid) they could gang up on him.

          And now it appears that you’re not content with that. You’ve now jumped sites and are cyber-stalking me, taunting me, and threatening to bring the fight here.

          So Kiwi57, tell me, who ARE the REAL bullies here mate – the guy who made a few well known, oft repeated comments, or the guys who are now cyber-stalking and attempting to character assassinate that guy for making them?

          • @FredWAnson:

            “The behavior that I’ve just described in my last post does bespeak bullying ”

            Not to anyone not predisposed to uncritically accept the accusations against him.

            “He, this famous public and influential figure, named names – mine.”

            Only after you named names: his. Right here.

            And “famous and influential figure?” That’s even more credential-inflating than claiming a Ward Executive Secretary is someone with a “high calling.” He’s well known in certain rather limited circles of interest, and that’s about it.

            “He, this famous public and influential figure, selectively used quotes – choosing to gloss over the most notorious example of his behavior: The ‘Metcalfe is Butthead’ article that he edited and approve for publication in the FARMS Review of Books.”

            An article you have clearly never read. I say “clearly” because in fact there is no “Metcalfe is Butthead” article. There never was. The article contained a hidden acrostic.

            And, in case you weren’t aware, when the article was published, the acrostic was no longer there.

            Thank you for admitting that an article written by someone else and published only after the acrostic was removed is “the most notorious example of his behavior” you could find.

            “And now it appears that you’re not content with that. You’ve now jumped sites and are cyber-stalking me, taunting me, and threatening to bring the fight here.”

            “Cyber-stalking” you? See above.

            “Taunting” you? How?

            And “threatening to bring the fight here?” Really?

            You were the one who made the first unprovoked attack; and you did so here. So it only became a “fight” when someone responded? Do you really imagine that you are entitled to poke, prod and outright hit someone as often as you like, and you’re a harmless victim the moment they hit you back?

            “So Kiwi57, tell me, who ARE the REAL bullies here mate – the guy who made a few well known, oft repeated comments, or the guys who are now cyber-stalking and attempting to character assassinate that guy for making them?”

            “A few well known, oft repeated comments?” Do you suppose that if you merely repeat gossip started by others, you’re exempt from supporting it?

            “Attempting to character assassinate?” Good grief.

            Do you own a functioning mirror, Fred? The only attempt at character assassination I can see anywhere in this site starts like this:

            “LdS Apologist Daniel C. Peterson – who made a career out of ad-homineming, belittling, insulting, and character assassinating Mormon Critics…”

            Kind Regards,
            Kiwi57

          • @Kiwi57, regarding the “Metcalfe is Butthead” incident:

            The Daily Herald (Provo Utah), March 9,1994:
            “SALT LAKE CITY— Independent Mormon scholar Brent Metcalfe is shaking his head over a practical joke…

            “Metcalfe edited the 1993 ‘New Approaches to the Book of Mormon,’ published by Signature Books, which raised the hackles of many traditional scholars into the scripture that is foundational of the Mormon faith.

            “Indeed, the Foundation for Ancient Research and Mormon Studies, or FARMS, planned to release on Wednesday a 600-page book rebutting the essays in Metcalfe’s book.

            “And thereby hangs the tale.

            “According to Metcalfe, the rude message was to have been spelled out in the first letter of the first words of the opening paragraphs of an article written for the FARMS book by William Hamblin, a history professor at Brigham Young University.

            “‘The coded message was to have read, ‘Metcalfe is butthead,’ Metcalfe said. He said he learned about it from someone who had seen the article.

            “Metcalfe said that according to the, er, scuttlebutt, FARMS learned about the encryption just as the volume was going into print, quickly halted the press run and rewrote and reprinted the offending pages.

            “But FARMS editor Brent Hall would not confirm that Tuesday.

            ” ‘The book will be out tomorrow. The book that will come out tomorrow will not have that,’ Hall said. ‘We had some problems with the book — footnote problems, binding problems, and an article that we thought needed some revision, which was done.’

            “Was the article Hamblin’s?

            ” ‘That was the article,’ Hall said….”
            — Associated Press

          • And as the Tanners noted at the time:
            After reading that the demeaning comment “was hastily edited out after the ‘Review’ had gone to press,” we closely examined our copy of Review of Books on the Book of Mormon, vol. 6, No. 1, to see if any remnants of the acrostic remained in the book. To our surprise, we found that even after the article was revised, twelve of the original eighteen characters remained (see pages 434-442 of the F.A.R.M.S. publication). In this particular acrostic the first letter of each paragraph was used to form the words. (It should be noted, however, that if a paragraph was part of a quotation from another source, it was not counted as part of the acrostic.)

            Below we show the original message Professor William Hamblin wrote and the way it was later altered in an attempt to cover up his vindictive attitude toward Brent Metcalfe. The reader will note that in the modified version we have shown letters that have been changed with asterisks:

            METCALFE IS BUTTHEAD

            MET***FE I* BUT*HEA*

            It seems evident that those who were more sensible at F.A.R.M.S. realized that Hamblin’s so-called “joke” could have a very serious effect on the foundation and scrambled to correct the problem. According to Brent Metcalfe, the book had already gone to press when the encrypted message was discovered. William Hamblin seems to have realized that he made a very serious error in judgment and tried to pacify Mr. Metcalfe by claiming it was only a joke:

            “I am writing to apologize for my private practical joke. Whenever I write a paper Dan Petersen [Daniel C. Peterson] will be editing, I always include a joke or two for his enjoyment — fake footnotes, comments about space aliens and the golden plates, etc. The acrostic was simply a light-hearted joke for Dan’s amusement….” (Computer message by William Hamblin, dated March 14, 1994)

            Brent Metcalfe wrote the following concerning Professor Hamblin’s attempt to belittle him:

            “When I heard rumors that William J. Hamblin, FARMS board member and BYU historian, had a caustic encryption in his review… I summarily dismissed them. Surely no legitimate scholar would stoop to such an inane level. However, it seems that I underestimated Hamblin’s ‘scholarly’ prowess. In the latest ‘Review of Books on the Book of Mormon’ Hamblin had the first letter of succeeding paragraphs spell out the message:

            ‘METCALFE IS BUTTHEAD’

            “I say ‘Hamblin HAD’ because the ‘Review’ has gone back to press to rectify Hamblin’s demeaning remark. I have been told that Daniel C. Peterson, FARMS board member and ‘Review’ editor, approved its inclusion — I am unaware of other FARMS board members who may have known. Frankly, I’m stunned. Hamblin and Peterson’s behavior is contrary to all Mormon ethics I was taught.

            “Do Hamblin and Peterson’s methods typify the brand of ‘scholarship’ FARMS, BYU Department of History, and BYU Department of Asian and Near Eastern Languages cultivates and endorses? Evidently some have shifted from apologist to misologist.” (Computer message by Brent Metcalfe, dated March 8,1994)

            If BYU professor Daniel C. Peterson did approve the publication of the rude statement, as Metcalfe claims, this would mean that at least two members of the F.A.R.M.S. Board of Directors were involved in the so-called “joke.” In this regard, it should be remembered that Professor Hamblin acknowledged that he always included “a joke or two for his [Peterson's] enjoyment…. The acrostic was simply a light-hearted joke for Dan’s amusement.” Hamblin apparently believed that Professor Peterson would find the “joke” amusing.

            …Both Hamblin and Peterson seem to be very skillful in making ad hominem attacks on those with whom they differ. Since Professor Peterson serves as editor of Review of Books on the Book of Mormon, he sets a very bad example for contributors to that publication. Anyone who examines the articles written by Daniel C. Peterson, William Hamblin, Louis Midgley, and some of the other Mormon scholars will see that they have sometimes been mean spirited in their attempt to save the church.

            Although Metcalfe is a powerful debater, in the book he has edited he has not used the vitriolic type of approach which appears so frequently in Review of Books on the Book of Mormon. Professor William Hamblin accused Metcalfe of “academic immaturity” on page 522 of his response. We feel that Hamblin should take a careful look at his own writings. If we had written the tasteless acrostic mentioned above and had directed it at William Hamblin or Daniel C. Peterson, we would never hear the end of it. These scholars certainly use a double standard when they deal with those they perceive to be enemies of the church.”

          • Kiwi57, a good first start in proving that you’re not a troll and/or an Internet bully is if you would start using your real name.

            You asked, if I’ve self examined here. I find that a curious question coming from someone who hides under an alias and who has done nothing but attack, attack,attack after coming over from another website to a web page (this one) that, apparently, he knew nothing about until the original person of interest – who I have noted several times now is a famous and influential figure – brought to the attention of his supporters via a blog article in which he engaged in personal attacks on this author.

            Yet this author is supposedly the one engaging in bullying behavior here?

            I find that interesting. And, yes, I’m sure that others here do too.

            Thanks again.

          • Thank you, Fred. I know all about that article. I have read it several times.

            It is a serious article that makes a serious point, but I won’t try to distract you from your personal attacks by attempting to discuss that point with you.

            What I will point out is that you have produced a screed of material that ultimately supports what I already said: there was no “Metcalfe is Butthead article.” There was an article that contained a hidden acrostic that was edited out before publication.

            Incidentally, the Tanners’ speculation about what may or may not have been going through the minds of unnamed people at FARMS when the decision was made to edit the article, is evidence of precisely nothing. Opinions, you see, are not data.

            If you want to prove that Dan deserves the opprobrium you’ve been heaping upon him — first here, behind his back, and then at his own blog — then I suggest you produce something he actually wrote, as opposed to the irrelevant opinions of others about something someone else wrote. For example, if you can find something Dan wrote that is as vicious as the rant you so happily quoted from “Steve K,” then we’d have something to go on.

            Incidentally: weren’t you the one who tried to argue that it doesn’t matter how biased someone is or isn’t, if their arguments can be examined on their merits?

            Doesn’t that also apply to someone’s identity? Especially when there’s no question about where they are coming from?

            Regards,
            Kiwi57

  17. The Book of Mormon says, “He that hath the spirit of contention is not of me [saith the Lord], but is of the devil, who is the father of contention …

    29 For verily, verily I say unto you, he that hath the spirit of acontention is not of me, but is of the bdevil, who is the father of contention, and he stirreth up the hearts of men to contend with anger, one with another.

    30 Behold, this is not my doctrine, to stir up the hearts of men with anger, one against another; but this is my doctrine, that such things ashould be done away.

    • Respectfully Paul, the problem that we Evangelicals have with that passage from the Book of Mormon is that it contradicts the Bible and the example that Christ (cleansing the temple, contending with the Pharisees, etc.) and His disciples gave us:

      “Beloved, when I gave all diligence to write unto you of the common salvation, it was needful for me to write unto you, and exhort you that ye should earnestly CONTEND for the faith which was once delivered unto the saints.”
      — Jude 1:3 (JST)

      “…we were bold in our God to speak unto you the gospel of God WITH MUCH CONTENTION.

      For our exhortation was not of deceit, nor of uncleanness, nor in guile:

      But as we were allowed of God to be put in trust with the gospel, even so we speak; not as pleasing men, but God, which trieth our hearts.”
      — I Thessalonians 2:2-4 (JST)

      And speaking from personal experience I’m more than a little bit tired of Latter-day Saints trotting out that BoM passage simply because someone disagrees with them. Speaking from personal experience Mormons typically seem to use this passage as a means of shutting down meaningful discussion with those with legitimate concerns and/or criticism of the the LdS Church.

      In other words (and ironically) this passage often tends to be a form of passive-aggressive contention and very little else from what I’ve seen.

      • HarryStamper

        Hi Fred….you claim the Book of Mormon contradicts the Bible. And in general evangelicals claim Mormons are not Christian because some of our fundamental doctrines contradict the Bible. It’s stated as if it were fact….I believe it would be better to say the Evangelical community “interprets” certain passages differently…..usually our differences are over certain interpretations. For example, one of the most basic teachings would be…”who do you worship…what is the nature of God…?” Most Christians teach God is a spirit…..John 4:24 “God [is] a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship [him] in spirit and in truth.” Mormons believe God is a Man of flesh and bone. But the Bible also teaches…Genesis 1:26 ¶ And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: Genesis 5:1-2… In the day that God created man, in the likeness of God made he him; 2 Male and female created he them; Exodus 33:11 And the LORD spake unto Moses face to face, as a man speaketh unto his friend. Luke 24:33-43….(Resurrected Christ appeared to the eleven Apostles) 37 But they were terrified and affrighted, and supposed that they had seen a spirit.
        39 Behold my hands and my feet, that it is I myself: handle me, and see; for a spirit hath not flesh and bones, as ye see me have.

        From these scriptures it’s not far fetched to believe God has a body….yet Joseph Smith was vilified probably the most because of this teaching.

        • From Jana’s superb article:
          “Let’s stop the insanity, people. Here are some basic rules of how to act like followers of Jesus online: #1. Disagree with a position. Back it up with evidence, links, or quotes.

          Implicit in that most basic rule of dialog and debate is that one always stays on topic and responds directly to what the other person has said with countering evidence, logic, and reason.

          Digressing (aka “thread drifting” or “rabbit trailing”) into unrelated issues and topics can be a form of fight baiting and/or shifting the playing field to one’s perceived advantage and/or personal agenda. And I’ve seen both Mormons and Evangelicals play that card far too often in our discussions. Therefore, I don’t “play” when I see this tactic.

          The topic of this particular thread is 3 Nephi 11:29&30 (the BoM passage that Paul cited) so let’s stick to it without digressing or drifting Paul’s thread – sound like a plan?

          Big thanks.

          • Dwight Rogers

            Fred, I think that Harry is making the point that one can set one scripture off against another as if they contradict when, in fact, they need to be taken in context. Or, another way to say it is that we need to understand all the scriptures and how they fit together.

            For instance, I think you have a point in citing Christ’s cleansing of the temple and contending with the Pharisees etc… I recall that multiple times He used some strong words against the Pharisees. He also said “Think not that I am come to send peace on earth: I came not to send peace, but a sword. (Matthew 10:35)

            All of these are from the Bible. Yet in the Bible we also find the following:

            Titus 3:9
            9 But avoid foolish questions, and genealogies, and contentions, and strivings about the law; for they are unprofitable and vain.

            Romans 14:19
            19 Let us therefore follow after the things which make for peace, and things wherewith one may edify another.

            Matthew 5:9
            9 Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God.

            Proverbs 15:1
            1 A soft answer turneth away wrath: but grievous words stir up ange

            Proverbs 25:15
            15 By long forbearing is a prince persuaded, and a soft tongue breaketh the bone.

            These Bible passages agree with the Book of Mormon passage about contention. So, both the Bible and the Book of Mormon are right on the point of avoiding contention.

            Regarding Dan Peterson: You claim that he uses ad hominem attacks against his critics or the critics of Mormonism. I have followed him a lot and I don’t see that. I have seen him use a kind of mocking or sarcastic approach when the original material by the critic started out with that tone. This approach would be in keeping with Proverbs 26:5 which says “Answer a fool according to his folly, lest he be wise in his own conceit.”

            I have consistently seen Dan point out the non-historic and non-factual statements made by critics of Mormonism. Dan used better first-hand sources rather than the third hand and out of context sources the critics typically use.

          • Dwight thank you for your post, it was quite good. However, please allow me to respond on a few points:

            You wrote:
            “So, both the Bible and the Book of Mormon are right on the point of avoiding contention.”

            Well, show me the Bible verses that say that contention is ALWAYS of the devil as the Book of Mormon does and I might be persuaded. The Bible makes no such claim.

            Rather the Bible demonstrates that there’s a balance in this area – as combining your proof texts and mine clearly demonstrates. In summary, sometimes contention is appropriate and some times it isn’t – it depends on the situation and context – THAT’s what the Bible teaches us. it doesn’t teach us that ALL contention is of the devil and, therefore, those who engage in it are agents of Satan. Nor does it deny that SOME contention of the devil, in fact it even states SOME contention is godly and some isn’t.

            Further, I feel like you’ve ignored and avoided my main point: Once again:
            “…my observation is that most Mormons inappropriately use 3 Nephi 5:29&30 as a means of trying to shut down serious public discussion. Public disagreement and debate in and of itself isn’t “stirring up the hearts of men to contend with anger” it’s just public discourse, nothing more.”

            On the issue of Dan Peterson, I’ll just say that your stance runs contrary to what those on the other end of the behavior that I’ve noted (as well as their friends and colleagues) have reported. I will point to the same Exhibit A in this regard that everyone else seems to: The William Hamblin “Metcalfe is butthead” episode which occurred while Peterson was FARMS editor. For those unfamiliar with the incident here is a very brief synopsis from a neutral source:

            “Under Peterson’s editorship of the FARMS Review he was involved in an incident, along with William Hamblin, where they personally disparaged an independent researcher that had been critical of the LDS Church, Brent Metcalfe. Metcalfe himself, Jerald and Sandra Tanner, and others pointedly criticized Peterson and FARMS scholarship in general over the incident. According to Peterson, the board of directors were displeased with the incident”
            https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Daniel_C._Peterson#Controversy_over_personal_attacks

            As the Tanners noted at the time:
            ” If BYU professor Daniel C. Peterson did approve the publication of the rude statement, as Metcalfe claims, this would mean that at least two members of the F.A.R.M.S. Board of Directors were involved in the so-called “joke.” In this regard, it should be remembered that Professor Hamblin acknowledged that he always included “a joke or two for his [Peterson's] enjoyment…. The acrostic was simply a light-hearted joke for Dan’s amusement.” Hamblin apparently believed that Professor Peterson would find the “joke” amusing.”
            http://www.utlm.org/newsletters/no86.htm#Wolves In Sheep’s Clothing

            Finally, please remember that it was a planned, lengthy article on Mormon Stories founder John Dehlin – that allegedly was filled with ad-hominem attacks and attempts at character assassination on John – that ultimately led not only to Peterson being fired as Maxwell Institute editor but a complete overhaul of the institute.

            So my critique of Peterson stands.

            This isn’t to say that Peterson isn’t a nice guy – several of my friends and colleagues who know him personally have told me that he is. However, it seems that often his passion for defending the Mormon faith blinds him to Christ’s clear teaching …

            “Ye have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbour, and hate thine enemy.

            But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you;

            That ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven: for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust.

            For if ye love them which love you, what reward have ye? do not even the publicans the same?

            And if ye salute your brethren only, what do ye more than others? do not even the publicans so?

            Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.”
            — Matthew 5:43-48, The Joseph Smith Translation

            … and often seems to turn him into a fanatical bully.

            Gordon B. Hinckley, on the other hand (see my other post), not only “got” Christ’s commands in this area, he challenged Latter-day Saints to remember and obey them.

            Perhaps someday Mr. Peterson will too.

            Thank you again for your post, it was quite good and I appreciate your time, effort, and civil tone.

      • trytoseeitmyway

        I wonder if leading into a false accusation with the phrase, “[t]he problem we Evangelicals have with that passage …” ought to be within or outside the guidelines. Probably, a claim to express the views of a very un-monolithic group (evangelicals – by the way, it is not a proper noun and is therefore uncapitalized) by one who lacks a delegated or ordained authority to do so should be avoided. The accusation here is false because it claims, unreasonably, that there is some contradiction or inconsistency between a condemnation of “the spirit of contention” (3 Neph. 11:7) and the idea of contending for one’s faith (Jude 1:3) or preaching “with contention” (1 Thess. 2:2-4). Any fair reading – let’s emphasize the word “fair” while we’re discussing guidelines of respectful interfaith discussion – of the New Testament passages shows that, there, “contending” is the same as preaching or declaring the gospel, as distinguished from the type of interpersonal rivalry, bitterness or hatred that is condemned in the passage from the Book of Mormon. For example, the same passage in Thessalonians that refers to “speaking the Gospel of God with much contention” explains that the apostles in doing so were “gentle . . . even as a nurse cherisheth her children” (v. 7). That is vastly different from someone who “stirreth up the hearts of men to contend with anger, one with another” (3 Neph.). This is obvious from context and from, as I say, a fair reading of those scriptures.

        So, if “we Evangelicals” truly object to criticism of “stirring up the hearts of men to contend with anger” on the grounds that somehow the Bible tells them to do so, “we Evangelicals” need to understand that the Bible says no such thing. And the guidelines of genuine interfaith conversation ought not to permit “gotcha” games as opposed to good faith efforts to understand and fairly portray another’s belief before condemning it.

        • Well ignoring the loaded language and rhetoric in that post let me address the main assertion:
          The accusation here is false because it claims, unreasonably, that there is some contradiction or inconsistency between a condemnation of “the spirit of contention” (3 Neph. 11:7) and the idea of contending for one’s faith (Jude 1:3) or preaching “with contention” (1 Thess. 2:2-4).

          I and the Evangelicals that I know (and far more than I’ve observed) would respond that we are both contending for our faith and preaching with contention in our dialog with Mormons so the Bible passages that I cited are applicable. Any Evangelical who disagrees with me can feel free to jump in – after all, this IS a public discussion.

          Now I’m not denying that some Evangelicals are often guilty of the behaviors you complain about in your post. However, as I pointed out in my other post such behavior tends to get called out (sometimes publicly sometimes not) by other Evangelicals in one form or another (please see the links in my original comment as well as John Morehead’s for some examples of this).

          I have not only not seen this on the Mormon side of the divide but seen other Mormons actually egging their hostile and overly aggressive peers on in behavior that’s very much in keeping with criteria that you established in your post as qualifying for a 3 Nephi 5:29&30 type condemnation – yet no condemnation ever seems to come (with apologies to Jana whose post is a notable and welcome exception).

          Never-the-less and in the end, my main point still stands: My observation is that most Mormons inappropriately use 3 Nephi 5:29&30 as a means of trying to shut down serious public discussion. Public disagreement and debate in and of itself isn’t “stirring up the hearts of men to contend with anger” it’s just public discourse, nothing more.

          Suggestion: If you want to use a verse with overly aggressive Evangelicals may I suggest this one:
          “Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect”
          — 1 Peter 3:15 (NIV)

          I don’t think that’s an admonition that any Evangelical would disagree with even though they might not be fully complying with it at the time that it’s given.

          Thank you.

          • trytoseeitmyway

            So, I’m still a little uncomfortable with assertions like “most of my friends do the right thing but I still see your friends trying to shut down debate” or “egging people on” or whatever the claim might be. Can’t you just stay away from personalities altogether? Just a suggestion. Finger-pointing is so tiresome. 1 Cor. 13:1-3.

            Thank you.

          • @TryToSeeItMyWay, two points:

            1) I’ve admitted that some Evangelicals engage in the type of behavior that we’re discussing and other Evangelicals have done so as well.

            2) I’ll stop pointing at the lack of woodshedding of errant, online Mormon bullies when I actually see some woodshedding going on. Jana’s article is refreshing because for the Mormon side of the divide it’s so rare and unique in this regard.

            I’m merely reporting the facts as I (and many others have seen and publicly reported them – Jana’s article being a case in point) and I’m speaking in broad generalities as much as possible to keep it depersonalized and objective – so I find your accusations rather flawed and hollow.

            Thank you.

          • trytoseeitmyway

            As a great man once said, “There you go again.” You don’t want to learn, you don’t want to change, you feel perfectly justified in all of hour comments, no one can tell you anything else. I totally get that. That’s just the kind of guy you are. So, you know, why bother? Right? You generalize unspecified and unsupported individual cases into broad statements about “the Mormon side of the divide,” but can’t imagine that you might be engaged in finger pointing as you do it. You want to claim credit for unspecified “woodshedding” of some evangelical or other on unspecified occasions, but when someone the likes of Richard Muow actually acknowledges the unfair and unfounded criticisms of so-called countercult ministries, you go on the attack AGAINST him and against his kind, thoughtful and peacemaking words. On account of his words being too kind, thoughtful and peacemaking, don’t ya know. (“EMNR respectfully yet strongly disagrees with Dr. Mouw’s generalizations about evangelicals misrepresenting Mormon beliefs and practices.” http://beggarsbread.org/category/richard-j-mouw/) (See also, http://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2012/july-august/rich-mouw-on-why-evangelicals-need-to-listen.html). You had the choice to join Dr. Mouw in “woodshedding” unfairness, but you chose instead to try to “woodshed” him for doing so.

            So, go ahead, have the last word. Because you’re a wolf in sheep’s clothing. Matt. 7:15. Decrying bullying while you act the bully. I’m done.

          • @TryToSeeItMyWay
            This is an interesting.

            First, you attempt to reprimand me with, “Can’t you just stay away from personalities altogether?”Then in a later post you reprimand me for being me for being too broad, overly general, and not specific enough. If that’s not enough you went to the time and effort to go on a dirt digging expedition so you can launch a litany of personal attacks on me.

            And I’m the big mean nasty hypocrite here?
            Interesting.

            Now regarding Mr. Mouw I think that I and other Evangelicals have been pretty clear regarding our issues with him – one need only read my articles to see this (those curious will find mine and those of others here http://beggarsbread.org/category/richard-j-mouw/ ). Suffice to say your version of the Richard J. Mouw story unfairly represents those issues and the reason we (after all I’m certainly not alone in my criticism of the man’s work and behavior in Mormon Studies) have taken him to the woodshed repeatedly.

            However, were a Mormon to publicly misrepresent and slander fellow Mormons as Mouw has his fellow Evangelicals I certainly wouldn’t be using your criticism of that Mormon’s behavior as leverage for mounting personal attacks on you – rather, I would be commending you.

            Further, since we have past history that predates this forum I find your comment, “You want to claim credit for unspecified “woodshedding” of some evangelical or other on unspecified occasions” extremely disingenuous given the fact that you’ve seen me do it with several misbehaving Evangelicals.

            Overall, and in general, your last (and I DO hope that you were sincere in stating that it will be your last) post was probably about as fine an example of the type of behavior that Jana was editorializing on as one could hope for.

            Thank you.

  18. I find it is the ex-Mormons who are the real bullies–particularly the women who leave the Mormon Church because it does not ordain women, and them become fervent Roman Catholics, when that church also does not ordain women.

  19. I do not necessarily see a problem with online anonymity. If one is doing a serious blog, such as the RNS blogs, then one should use or include their real name. But if one is just doing comments, a reasonable moniker (such as mine, if I may say so) is not out of bounds. The fact is that, as Prof. Riess made clear, any violator of the “house rules” of civility can be deleted or banned anyway, whether the violator uses their real name or a moniker.

    My experience has been, if people know the moderator’s specific expectations, they find a way to conform. It is always to be hoped that moderators will apply their house rules across the board, with no favoritism given to any side.

  20. uhhhhh……..How did you see me in my underwear? Did I leave my web cam on? Was I wearing the Cheeto stained Tshirt?
    I usually only respond to things I am passionate about. Like most people you need to throw a rock at me to get me to move most days so when one of my relatives makes a facebook post of a blog I think is silly or abhorrent or whatever, or I am just having a bad day I will pull up my tighty whities and put on the cheeto shirt and rant to feel better. I guess seeing my angry post is a risk of being a blogger. I am gonna go have a bowl of cereal and try to chill now.

  21. My Dad taught me that civility is getting your point across without stabbing someone. Not an easy feat, but making the effort really pays off.

  22. Rule number 1 of reading a blog or news post with the word “Mormon” in it… DON’T read the comments. You can comment (and I do, a lot). But you don’t read them. There’s just nothing good there. I once answered a question on a blog post in the comments, so everyone reading could have the answer. I was attacked by an atheist for quoting “dead men from the iron age” some Mormons for quoting the Book of Abraham, rather than the Book of Mormon (which the answer wasn’t in) and someone else of unnamed affiliation seemed to think my mother was a less that desirable person for raising such a no-it-all.

  23. “While we cannot agree with others on certain matters, we must never be disagreeable. We must be friendly, soft-spoken, neighborly, and understanding.”
    — Gordon B. Hinckley, GenCon 10/2003

  24. A 1000 “thank you’s” for that wonderful quote from Gordon B. Hinckley. He actually had quite a lot to say on this topic – and it’s wisdom that I think that we all would be better off (probably none more than I) if we heeded it:

    “We must not only be tolerant, but we must cultivate a spirit of affirmative gratitude for those who do not see things as we see them. We do not in any way have to compromise our theology . . . We can offer our own witness of the truth, quietly, sincerely, honestly, but never in a manner that will give offense to others.”
    (President Hinckley, LDS General Conference, April 2005).

    “[There] should never be any cause for self-righteousness, for arrogance, for denigration of others for looking down upon others. All mankind is our neighbor. . . . Regardless of the color of our skin, or the shape of our eyes, of the language we speak, we all are sons and daughters of God and must reach out to one another with love and concern.”
    (President Hinckley, LDS General Conference, April 2005, Ensign May 2005, 102).

    “As we recognize our place and our goal, we cannot become arrogant. We cannot become self-righteous. We cannot become smug or egotistical. We must reach out to all mankind. They are all sons and daughters of God our Eternal Father . . . . And as we go forward, may we bless humanity with an outreach to all, lifting those who are downtrodden and oppressed, feeding and clothing the hungry and the needy, extending love and neighborliness to those about us who may not be part of this Church.”
    (President Hinckley, LDS General Conference, October 2001)

    “As I have said before, we must not be clannish. We must never adopt a holier-than-thou attitude. We must not be self-righteous. We must be magnanimous, and open, and friendly. We can keep our faith. We can practice our religion. We can cherish our method of worship without being offensive to others. I take this occasion to plead for a spirit of tolerance and neighborliness, of friendship and love toward those of other faiths.”
    (President Hinckley, Pioneer Day Commemoration, July 2001)

    “But we shall go forward, returning good for evil, being helpful and kind and generous. I remind you of the teachings of our Lord concerning these matters. You are all acquainted with them. Let us be good people. Let us be friendly people. Let us be neighborly people.”
    (President Hinckley, LDS General Conference, April 2001)

    “Let us as Latter-day Saints reach out to others not of our faith. Let us never act in a spirit of arrogance or with a holier-than-thou attitude. Rather, may we show love and respect and helpfulness toward them. We are greatly misunderstood, and I fear that much of it is of our own making. We can be more tolerant, more neighborly, more friendly, more of an example than we have been in the past. Let us teach our children to treat others with friendship, respect, love, and admiration. That will yield a far better result than will an attitude of egotism and arrogance.”
    (President Hinckley, LDS General Conference, April 2000, Ensign, May 2000, 87)

  25. When I was 8 years old, an Adventist family moved across the street. I remember people on the street gossiping about how strange these people were: No caffeine, No cigarettes, AND them went to church on Saturday! But the family included a precocious 5 year old and we would often play together. Then one day she got VERY serious, sang “Yes, Jesus Loves Me”, looked deep into my eyes and told me, “the devil is tempting you because you go to church on Sunday.” I laughed, she looked confused, and then I realized it was just plain rude to laugh at her. And that was when I first begun to realize just how weird everyone can be.

  26. Pardon me for entering this discussion late. I was aware of Jana’s cogent post only through reading Dan Peterson’s blog today (8-19). I have to clarify the issue of “contend” as stated by Rev. Anson. While contend implies a fight, when we are asked to contend for Christ, we are, in my view, to act as advocates. I am a firm believer that contention is of the devil, but if we use that as an excuse to withdraw from all discourse with those who we disagree, we are missing the point. Conversely, if we use the word contend to justify a lack of civility when engaging we are also missing the point. Some may say that Christ chased the money changers out of the temple with a whip to justify their contentiousness. We all should remember that Christ was the only perfect person to walk the earth and could keep his anger in perfect control. I’m not even close to that ideal and I doubt anyone else who comments here is either. I hope no one takes that as an ad hominem attack! Thanks again Jana.

    • In the interests of honesty, and while I appreciate the honor that I assume was implied by the title. I’m not a Reverend, just a just boring plain vanilla Evangelical Christian with a passion for and interest in Mormon Studies.

      BTW, those who are interested in the Daniel C. Peterson blog that Mr. Ross referred to in his post will find it here:
      http://www.patheos.com/blogs/danpeterson/2013/08/mormon-and-evangelical-bullies-online.html

      And thank you for your post Mr. Ross.

  27. Having been referred to this blog article by a friend, I find I too would like to comment.

    First, what the heck is civil discourse and who defines it? I think that everyone is or has been guilty of an ad hominem attack at one time or another because it is in our nature and sometimes we get provoked.

    Rodney (above) said that to remember that Christ was the only perfect person and could keep his anger in perfect control, but what does that have to do with internet conversations? I haven’t heard of one report of anyone getting whipped during an internet exchange, but perhaps I’m not up on all the latest technology.

    If you read the letters of Christ’s apostles, they were hardly civil as some would define it in today’s world. What I see is just a lot of whining. I guess that some would call what Peter and Paul and John and James and others wrote in the New Testament as “spiritually poisonous” too.

    Jesus told the Pharisees they were going to hell. (Matthew 23:33) Peter told false teachers that they were “depraved” and that they bring the truth itself into “disrepute”. (2 Peter 2) He also says that they have “eyes full of adultery, they never stop sinning; they seduce the unstable; they are experts in greed” and are “an accursed brood!” Ouch.

    Evangelicals and Ex-Mormons think that Jo Smith was a false teacher and so that applies to him, while Mormons reverse it and have taught that every other faith has no authority and therefore offend God by acting in his name and that therefore applies to them; and that they are speaking evil of the “Lord’s Anointed” if they dare to criticize them.

    Paul said that “Cretans are always liars, evil beasts, & lazy gluttons.” He then says to “rebuke them sharply that they may be sound in the faith”. (1 Titus)

    All of this it seems, must be tossed out so that we can live by some made up code of niceness that gets thrown in the faces of those that (for whatever reason) have their own opinion of who is right and who is wrong. That is why there is religious discourse, because people don’t agree! Granted, it’s better when people are nice, but not everyone is.

    To condemn everyone, because some people take things too far is simply disingenuous. The thing is, this list:

    *Ex-Mormons tell Mormons they’ve never met that they are wholesale idiots for believing.
    *Evangelicals tell Mormons that they reject the Bible, worship a totally different Jesus, and are going to hell.
    *Mormons respond in kind that there is only one religious truth and, gee whiz, it just so happens that they own the patent for it. Go figure.
    *And then those Mormons tell other Mormons whose opinions they reject that any holders of those opinions should be excommunicated, lose their temple recommends, or just quit the Church already because they clearly hate the prophet.

    Has nothing at all to do with people who make death threats. I’m an Ex-Mormon and I’ve had Mormons call me every name in the book. Everything that is critical of Mormonism is “Anti-Mormon” in the worst way. That word has become a slur. So what? The last I checked, the Constitution gives people the right to free speech. And I’m no saint either when it comes to discourse. But a lot of times that comes out of people who come at me and make fools out of themselves. Some people are not worth being nice to. That is why we are told to rebuke them sharply. Proverbs is ambiguous about how to answer fools:

    4 Do not answer a fool according to his folly,
    or you yourself will be just like him.
    5 Answer a fool according to his folly,
    or he will be wise in his own eyes. (Proverbs 26)

    Take your pick. Everyone who has a blog or a website has the tools to dictate what is appropriate for their individual forums. If you don’t like it, fine, but comparing free speech and opinions to violent threats is disingenuous.

    The thing is, with this kind of discourse it is hard to know what is in a person’s heart or what their attitude really is since you can’t see them. There is no tonal expression, no inflection, and everything sometimes, is taken the wrong way. A Mormon can quote something completely without guile to an Evangelical and make them furious, and vice versa.

    If you don’t like the comments that you think are so “spiritually poisonous”, then put up rules and enforce them if you don’t want those kinds of comments. But don’t whine about it, and don’t call normal back and forth religious dialog “spiritually poisonous”. I’ve had lots of conversations with lots of people and I’ve never yet felt threatened by any of it. And yes, I’ve gotten death threats. I’m still laughing at them.

  28. This article is a perfect example of why the internet is not and likely will continue not to be civil.

    Whose ox is being gored? Why, everyone’s–except the author’s. No feminist or liberal Mormon viewpoint is mentioned. The critique is all addressed to opponents.

    When ‘be civil’ is just another way of saying ‘shut up’ (now with 50% more syllables!), its little wonder that actual civility is on the decline.

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