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Peeves

I’ve never really understood the expression “pet peeves.” I love my pets. I don’t love my peeves. But I have a lot more peeves than pets. So, that said, here are some things bugging me at the moment.

1. I just read this article, where Ordain Women leader Kate Kelly comments on podcaster John Dehlin’s likely excommunication from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. She asserts that Dehlin “is facing a church trial for supporting marginalized Mormons and the ordination of women.”

This is factually inaccurate.

The LDS Church keeps strict confidentiality about the reasons for its discipline, yet Dehlin has chosen to publish the letter from his Stake President that specifically outlines why he faces excommunication. (I don’t want to link to it, as I have no interest in sending any traffic Dehlin’s way, but Google will back me up on this.) The letter does not mention, either directly or indirectly, Dehlin’s support for the ordination of women or support for marginalized Mormons as reasons for discipline. It does mention the fact that Dehlin has very publicly and repeatedly rejected every foundational truth claim upon which his church is built. Specifically, John Dehlin has repeatedly and publicly stated that he believes there is no God, that Jesus was not only not the Son of God but that he likely wasn’t even a historical figure, and that Joseph Smith and the Book of Mormon are both abject frauds.

I wish John Dehlin no ill will, and I think he is entirely welcome to believe what he wishes. It so happens that I have many friends who believe there is no God and no Christ, that Joseph Smith was a con man, and that the Book of Mormon is 19th Century fiction. In fact, there are many fine people believe such things, so John Dehlin will find no shortage of companions and allies who share his point of view. I am not even remotely upset that he believes these things, and his difference of opinion with me is not at all peeve-worthy.

Here’s the problem that earns peeve status.

The people I know who believe the things John Dehlin believes are not Mormons. They have no desire to be called Mormons. They certainly don’t expect that a church filled with Mormons should endorse their belief that Mormons are part of a massive theological delusion. Yet, somehow, Dehlin – and Kate Kelly, if this article is to be accepted at face value – both think The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints should allow people to remain members of said church while they are publicly and passionately fighting against it. On his website, Delhin himself puts it this way:

“One can be Mormon or claim a Mormon identity without necessarily adhering to the teachings or doctrines of any religious organization. We can retain the label ‘Mormon’ but remake it and redefine it in the public mind as a mere cultural label.”

Or, in other words, John Dehlin does not wants to stay Mormon so much as he wants to fundamentally change what a “Mormon” is.  He is not trying to stay a member of the church; he is demanding that the entire church declare itself meaningless. Were he to succeed, he would diminish what it means to be Mormon for every Mormon on the planet.

This peeves me to no end.

The church welcomes a much wider diversity of thought than Dehlin and Kelly suggest, but it should not and cannot continue to accommodate those who are actively working to destroy what it means to be a Mormon. Whether or not his name is on the church’s membership records is largely irrelevant at this point. It’s obvious that John Dehlin has made the decision not to be a Mormon, and he doesn’t get to avoid the consequences of that decision by making all Mormons less Mormon in the process.

2. Hey, did you know Glenn Beck thinks it’s terrible when Mormons mix religion and politics?

“There is something really wrong in Utah. There is something really, really wrong,” he said. “Remember, it was the Mormons, the two Mormons Smoot [and] Hawley, they were two Mormons that brought us the Smoot-Hawley Act which brought us the Great Depression.”

Yeah, great. Just another instance of Glenn Beck not letting the truth get in the way of a good story. Not sure this is as deliberate as when he manufactured a meeting with my father out of thin air, but Willis C. Hawley of Smoot-Hawley Tariff fame wasn’t a Mormon. And he was from Oregon, not Utah. So when our pal Glenn complains about Utah Mormons mixing politics and religion and cites a non-Mormon and non-Utahn as one of his key examples, he’s once again making stuff up.

But it gets better – or worse, as the case may be. “Sometimes [Mormon] theology can go and mix with politics and go wildly wrong! When Mormons go bad, they go really bad. They go socialist. They go socialist. They mix the Gospel with government.”

Good heavens. So, SO peeved.

To hear this man complain about mixing Mormonism with politics is to witness a white flash of hypocrisy so potent that it could make Spock go blind.

spock-is-blinded(That above image is from the episode “Operation: Annihilate” in which Spock goes blind during an experiment designed to keep people from being murdered by flying pancakes made from plastic vomit. Look it up.)

Mixing Mormonism and politics?! Glenn Beck’s entire existence is predicated on mixing Mormonism with politics! And not just any Mormonism and politics – he taps into the very worst of both worlds to produce a Cleon Skousen/John Birch society paranoid nightmare that has God sending tsunamis to Japan because of gay marriage.

Beck is famous for predicting ridiculous things, so I don’t feel bad about making a few Beck-centric predictions of my own. Prior to his “Utah-Mormons-like Willis-Hawley-are-socialists” rant, Beck made cryptic rumblings on his Facebook page about a “crisis of faith” that involves rejecting “men of the cloth” in his own church.

Now, I have no hard evidence for what I’m about to say, but if Glenn Beck has taught me anything, it’s that evidence is the enemy of wisdom.

I think it likely Glenn Beck has had a negative experience with one of his local church leaders, perhaps a bishop, who, hopefully, asked him to tone down the apocalyptic hooey and stop saying dishonest and/or crazy things. Given that Beck’s instability correlates directly with his messianic delusions, I think he’s currently chafing at the limitations of reasonableness imposed by church membership. The day is not far distant when Beck parts company with the Mormons in order to have an unfettered hand to practice his unique brand of moonbattery, which will likely lead to him becoming an outspoken enemy of the church to which he now belongs.

You read it here first.

3. I have other peeves but I’m tired of writing. So you only get two peeves. But that’s more than you had before I started, so don’t get all peeved on me.

Wrong about being wrong
Brian, Beck, and Bitterness

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13 Comments

  1. Spot on re: Dehlin.

    Your infatuation with all things Glenn Beck is both disturbing and mildly intoxicating.

    I think you’re above publicly predicting another man’s apostasy (evidence or no evidence).

  2. John Dehlin has been on his way out of the church for years, and at this point, he has certainly made his own bed. As you point out, he does not accept any of the foundational doctrines of Mormonism. But your assertion that Dehlin has the ability to somehow “make all Mormons less Mormon” or “diminish what it means to be Mormon for every Mormon on the planet” is just bizarre. John Dehlin has been doing what he’s been doing for several years now, and it has had no bearing on what it means for anyone to be a Mormon. Why you are taking that angle on his situation is puzzling. There are literally millions of less-active Mormons, for example, whose names are on the rolls but whose lives do not reflect any of our doctrines or values. For many (not all) of them, even though they no longer accept our doctrines, if someone asked about their religious affiliation, they would respond that they’re Mormon–but I have never felt that these people diminish what it means for me to be a Mormon. In commenting on the possibility that some within the Church do not accept the ancient origin of the Book of Mormon, for example, Elder Holland told PBS, “We’re not going to invite somebody out of the church over that any more than we would anything else about degrees of belief or…steps of conviction.” The reason letting Dehlin retain his membership at this point seems unreasonable is not that his beliefs (or lack thereof) could somehow diminish what it means for the rest of us to be Mormon; the problem is that he continues to use his internet forum to publicly criticize and attack the core doctrines (and the leadership) of the church, all while amassing a following of his own. That’s what makes him different from the millions of members of the church who no longer affiliate with us or accept our doctrines, but whom we ourselves still call Mormons when we report membership totals in General Conference.

    On Glenn Beck, please do yourself a favor and let go of all your bitterness over Beck’s statement about your dad during the 2010 campaign. It amazes me that you’ve let that issue fester for so long. No one knows for certain why Beck said what he did about looking your dad in the eyes, but his comment did not affect the outcome of the race. In a recent Facebook thread where you repeatedly attacked Beck as a “liar” who had embarrassed the church, I couldn’t help but feel that your behavior in that Facebook thread was at least as deplorable and embarrassing to the church as you think Beck’s comment was on that radio show. Since you’re predicting Beck will leave the church, frankly, it seems at least as likely that your own faith in Christ will be damaged or diminished over time by your unwillingness to forgive another person and your insistence on frequently attacking another member of the church in a public way. Good grief, just forgive him and move on.

    • I appreciate your thoughtful comment.

      You’re absolutely right about John Dehlin i.e. it is not his lack of belief that is the issue; it is his active and public prosecution of that lack of belief. Certainly he does not have the capacity to make all Mormons less Mormon, but he has devoted his life to this Quixotic quest, and his public efforts in this regard have made it impossible for him to remain in the church.

      I have to push back, however, with regard to your assessment that my comments about Glenn Beck were “at least as deplorable” as Glenn Beck’s own falsehood which he shared with millions of people. For that to be accurate, my comments would have to have been at least as untrue, which they weren’t, and have at least as widespread an impact, which they didn’t. Given those factors, my comments wouldn’t have have matched Beck levels of deplorability even if they had been entirely motivated by half a decade of festering personal bile, which – and you may not believe me here – they weren’t.

      Don’t misunderstand me. I’m not trying to pretend I’m above pettiness and incapable of holding grudges. If you’ve read this blog for any length of time, you’ll have encountered plenty of personal admissions to my failures on that score. I also won’t try to convince you that I’m actually a huge Glenn Beck fan in disguise. I do think, however, that one can personally forgive public figures and still find it necessary to hold them accountable for the public damage they do. Forgiveness requires an abandonment of hatred, not an acceptance of ongoing error.

      Consider my comments about John Dehlin. John Dehlin, to my knowledge, has never lied about my father or any member of my family. I have no reason to have any personal animus toward him. Yet the public nature of his quarrel with the church makes a public response both appropriate and necessary.

      By the same token, Glenn Beck is one of the most visible and influential Mormons in the world. His impact on my community is massive – much larger than that of John Dehlin. Since he is both dishonest and delusional, his impact is largely negative. It is altogether appropriate and necessary for people to publicly respond to that negative impact in order to mitigate it. I don’t think the fact that I have had a bad personal experience with Beck disqualifies me from calling attention to his nonsense.

      Ironically, your criticism of my response to Beck on Dan Peterson’s Facebook thread is similar to the response Dan Peterson gets every time he mentions John Dehlin’s name. People assume every time Dan brings up Dehlin, it’s because he’s still bitter and angry about Dehlin’s role in Peterson’s troubles with the Maxwell Institute. Now I don’t know Dan Peterson’s heart, but I don’t think judging Dan Peterson’s – or Jim Bennett’s – motivations is a useful exercise. If what we say is true, it doesn’t become less true because of why we say it.

      • Thank you for your thoughtful reply. I do read your blog often and enjoy it and your Deseret News columns a lot. I can certainly take your word for it if you say you have personally forgiven Glenn Beck for the incident during the campaign. I have just been surprised–and a little disappointed because I respect you–to see you bring up that specific incident repeatedly, both here on your blog and in that Facebook thread. I am not above pettiness or incapable of holding grudges either, so I hope my comment didn’t seem self-righteous or convey any sense of moral superiority. “There, but for the grace of God, go I.”

        I also agree completely that you have every right to comment on John Dehlin and Glenn Beck and any other public figure. I have no problem with that–it’s what they’ve both signed up for. With Beck, it was just the very personal nature of your attacks on that Facebook thread that was disturbing to me. I don’t pay much attention to Glenn Beck and agree that at least some of what he says is way off base. But I met Glenn Beck once at the “Mormon” speech Mitt Romney gave at the George Bush Presidential Library in 2007, and he was very gracious and seemed like a nice guy. More importantly, he is a fellow Latter-day Saint, so I want nothing but the best for him and his family. I wish you would criticize him and his public discourse as you see fit, without the air of personal animosity and bitterness and without repeatedly dredging up the incident from the campaign.

        Thanks again.

        • Do we know each other, Nate? Specifically, were you in my seminary class?

          The reason I keep “dredging up the incident from the campaign” is not to be petty, but rather to call attention to a fact that is directly relevant to Beck’s public integrity, and a fact that the general public ought to know and would otherwise not know.

          Glenn Beck said a number of personally nasty things about my father in that interview which I could recount for you, but you’ll notice those remain un-dredged. I don’t need to call attention to Glenn Beck saying my father is a poophead, because such judgments are largely matters of opinion, not fact. I’m not interested in the kind of name-calling exchange that would demonstrate the kind of pettiness you’re rightly concerned about here.

          The story I recount – that Glenn Beck deliberately manufactured and perpetuated a story about a personal meeting with my father that never took place – is told to highlight Beck’s demonstrable lack of credibility. People who call public figures liars usually do so without evidence. I have evidence to back up my accusation. That’s relevant to a discussion about a public figure who relies on the public trust.

          In other words, Glenn Beck calling my father a poophead does not make him a liar. Glenn Beck saying “I met with Bob Bennett, and he looked me in the eye” does. A public figure who makes up stories to prove his points ought to be called to account for doing so.

          This is why, incidentally, I’m finding the brouhaha over Brian Williams to be fascinating. Many are saying “just forgive him for making up his story about being shot down in Iraq.” Okay, fine, but does forgiving him restore his credibility? Brian Williams is likely a very nice guy in person, just as you found Beck to be personable in your 2007 meeting. But that’s entirely beside the point, which is – if Williams made this story up, what other stories has he made up? The latest candidate for a false Williams-ism is his assertion that he saw a dead body floating in the French Quarter after Hurricane Katrina. There will likely be many more. (False Williams stories, that is, not floating dead bodies in the French Quarter.)

          If Williams makes up stories, than how can those who rely on him to report the news believe anything he says?

          Similarly, I was astonished when Beck lied about meeting my father because it called into question every other factual assertion he has ever made. If he was willing to so cavalierly make up a story about Dad in passing just to emphasize a minor point, he was likely willing to do it on any number of other occasions, too. And if Glenn Beck, like Brian Williams, simply makes stuff up, he shouldn’t be trusted about anything else, either.

          Imagine, for instance, if one of the helicopter pilots who knew Brian Williams wasn’t telling the truth were told to “move on” and not call attention to it because “you just hate Brian Williams.” Well, maybe he does hate Brian Williams. But isn’t it still appropriate for him to him to call attention to the facts, regardless of his personal feelings? Doesn’t the public deserve to know that Brian Williams makes stuff up?

          Because of my knowledge of the incident with Beck, I’m in a position to demonstrate that accusations about Beck’s dishonesty have a solid basis in fact. I think I have a responsibility to bring that to light.

          • As far as I know, we’ve never met. I grew up in Holladay, Utah, and attended high school there. After graduating from BYU, I moved to Texas for graduate school and have been here ever since.

            I’ve been watching the Brian Williams situation with a lot of interest, too. I agree that his credibility has suffered irreparable damage. First it was the helicopter in Iraq, then a dead body after Katrina, then a puppy he rescued from a flaming building (I’m not making that up). Now another story about nearly being shot down in a helicopter in Israel in 2007 has come to light. It is beginning to look like Williams is a pathological liar. How could he possibly retain his position as the face of NBC News?

            In any case, if you are serious about feeling a sense of responsibility to bring Glenn Beck’s past mistake(s) to light, all I can say is I’m glad there isn’t anyone in the world who feels the same sense of responsibility toward me! It’s been good talking with you!

          • Nate, you just publicly accused Brian Williams of being a pathological liar! By your own standards, that makes you “at least as deplorable” as Williams himself. Why do you let this fester? Why can’t you just let it go?

            In all seriousness, Beck’s pathologies exceed those of Williams, and the fact that he’s a very prominent Mormon adds an extra measure of embarrassment for the church as a whole.

            I don’t think you have to worry about people highlighting your mistakes until you start earning a seven-figure income by hawking apocalyptic nonsense with a rancid religious spin that is unquestionably accepted by millions of followers.

  3. Trying to make some sense out of this I found this sentence perhaps most meaningful:

    Now that my career is effectively over I can look back on all of those things driving home, if you will, feeling very good about them. So I would say to somebody, don’t compromise your principles. Minor things, maybe, yeah –- a minor vote here or there to make the constituents feel okay, fine.

    http://www.nbcnews.com/id/39069041/ns/politics-the_exit_interviews/t/exit-interviews-sen-bob-bennett/

    He was not in it for the constituents (me), but for principle; and that’s a fine thing but his disrespect or disregard for those nasty little things called “constituents” is what probably allowed a lawyer of all things to be elected. Sam Granato would have made an interesting senator.

    What would I do? Do I stick by my principles or do I represent my constituents? I think there’s a subtle difference between the House of Representatives, where these persons are most definitely supposed to represent their constituents even if it goes against their personal convictions; and the senate, which is perhaps better serviced by persons with honor and principle.

    Back when senators were appointed by states there weren’t constituents per se; you could ignore consituents but not your home state legislature. Now you can ignore the legislatures but you’d better not ignore constituents.

    The caucus system allows for some strange outcomes, but I can see where it may be better than a free-for-all where money will probably always win. As it is, the winner is likely to be the person whose delegates have time on their hands to play at politics combined with intense single-issue interests. My buddy was running for a state office and the people that came to his delegate-seeking meetings were not typical Utanians.