09 April 2008

We Got 4th Place!!!1!!!1!!!ONE!!!

Congratulations to Dartblog for winning the America's Future Foundation inaugural college blogger contest. Thank you to AFF and all the judges involved. We remain gratified, if no richer(!), by our inclusion in this prestigious libertarian/conservative blog contest.

One last time, a plug for our fellow former America's Future Foundation College Blog competitors: Finally, thank you friends of Lybberty, for all your support and encouragement. We know it sounds trite, but we couldn't have gotten this far without you.

If you have tips, questions, comments, suggestions, or requests for subscription only articles, email us at lybberty@gmail.com.


Ben Treasure said...

Coming from a good friend and political foe, I thought I would extend my congratulations. Regardless of your placing in this competition, I respect your ability and willingness to debate the merits of your arguments with both tact and candor, in this forum and others. It would surprise me if your competitors had the same social aptitude outside of their virtual reality, and I am sure your ability in this capacity will pay off tremendously in the future. Keep it up.


Danite said...


Thanks for giving us something to read and think about on a daily basis. It is much appreciated.

I know you intend to keep on posting, and I have a request for coverage of a certain topic that you have avoided. It would be really interesting to hear your thoughts about the recent raid on the FLDS compound in Texas. They, like us, are children of the book and are doing their best to follow the teachings and example of Joseph Smith. How do you feel about such government intrusion?

For all those who are interested in this case, I HIGHLY recommend you read Under the Banner of Heaven, by Jon Krakauer. This might help you understand the roots behind the fundamentalists.

RD said...

Danite's question is important. However, Krakauer's book is, in my opinion, a pretty low quality discussion of a very real problem.

Danite said...

I would be really interested to hear your reasons for feeling that way RD. I thought the book was awesome.

RD said...

I read the book when it first came out, which was several years ago. Perhaps it's time for a reread. But, I felt that the book was researched and written with an agenda, and the stories and facts were hand-picked to assist that agenda. Krakauer wants to demonstrate that faith makes people do crazy things, and he's right, but he makes generalizations and assumptions that are inaccurate. The book had an air of sensationalism - like something written by a journalist instead of a historian. There was no attempt at objective treatment of a complex subject. So, while the questions he raises are valid, I don't believe that his treatment of the subject contributes anything useful to the dialog. I don't trust Krakauer's agenda any more than I trust the FARMS people who probably responded to him.

I feel that this problem is pervasive in the world of politics as well. This is why I don't read books by Glen Beck, Sean Hannity, Al Franken, Michael Moore, etc (though I have in the past). Those writers approach the subject with an agenda. I prefer books by professionals who are subject to the criticism of the scientific community, and who have arrived at conclusions based on research, rather than doing research based on a priori conclusions. While not perfect, this system requires better research and more objective analysis. Give me Stiglitz, Kagan, Sachs, Chomsky, instead. While they are still biased like everyone, they are more accountable.

That all said, Danite, your request is very valid. The Church of the turn of the century is not without blame in the proliferation of fundamentalist groups. We had a really hard time letting go of polygamy, didn't we? Two manifestos, two apostles forced to take the fall, dishonest testimony before Congress by JFS, and several other things made the line where polygamy was supposed to stop very fuzzy. We left a lot of confused people.

Further, I think another thing you may be getting at is that while members of the Church like to criticize and mock the fundamentalists, we were no different. Warren Jeffs ran from the law for polygamy and got caught hiding out in Nevada. George Q. Cannon ran from the law for polygamy and got caught hiding out in Nevada. I don't like the leaders of these groups, but the followers believe in their faith just as much as we believe in ours. We should be sensitive to that. I think your request for more open dialog is very valid.

RD said...

Where are my manners? Kudos to Jake for providing this great forum. The articles are informative and the discussion is very enjoyable. Keep it up Jake, and thanks for the plugs to Pendulum.

Danite said...

Thanks for the response RD. I do have some thoughts, but I'll wait until my head is a little more clear. (I wish I could find some of Brigham's original sour mash recipe, but JD will have to do for tonight. Cheers, and I'll respond manana.)

Danite said...


I understand what you were getting at about Krakauer having an agenda, but I think we disagree about the agenda he was pursuing. I don't feel that his purpose was to show that faith causes people to do crazy things. In fact, the final chapters of the book deal with the trial of the Lafferty bro's and the testimony cited in the trial is a broad and fair look at the realm of faith and sanity. The conclusion seems to be that faith in the supernatural really doesn't have any bearing on a person's sanity or rationality. Sure, Krakauer is an agnostic and writes from that lens, but I felt he treated the faithful pretty fairly.

So what was his agenda? Well first, I think he was trying to write an interesting story that would sell books. Under the Banner of Heaven was not intended to be a dry historical record, but rather a readable story that illuminates aspects of the history that contribute to his treatment of mormon fundamentalism. He got a few things wrong, but if you go to the LDS website and read the official church response to the book, you will likely see that the church's treatment of Krakuaer was less fair than Krakauer's treatment of church history. The reason a lot of LDS people don't like the book is that it doesn't even pretend that Joseph was a prophet, and instead shows how his teachings have given rise to so many splinter groups with bizarre results. For example, Joseph taught that any man can receive direct revelation from God, but the interesting side effect is that those who are most zealous can use this as a tool to justify almost anything. If you add the polygamy and subjugation of women to this formula, you will likely have human rights abuses and severe manipulation. If you go further and understand the role of the Danites, the blood oaths, the revenge oaths, and the wild wild west in general, you get an interesting picture of how Joseph's teachings were revolutionary and provided (whether intentional or not) perfect ground for religious fundamentalism and violence.

RD, I would ask you the same question that I have asked a good friend of mine who attacks any book that doesn't paint mormons in a rosy light- What are the incorrect conclusions of the book? With this particular friend, I asked him his opinion of Fawn Brodie and he railed on her for poor historical scholarship, but then couldn't point out a single thing he disagreed with her on. (Note, Brodie got things wrong also, I know.) In other words, his opinion was probably formulated for him by others and he had adopted a generic stance masked as high-minded historical scholarship. I also asked him about Quinn, and he told me that Quinn was such a poor scholar that non LDS conferences wouldn't even allow him to speak. I trusted him, but then found out that the conference he was referring to was actually boycotted by BYU, and for this reason they dropped Quinn. You RD, of course have actually read the book and have a real opinion, but I still would like to know what conclusions you thought K got wrong, in addition to the theme about faith causing people to act crazy, which I don't think was a theme at all.

Also, I am always open to suggestions of better books that deal directly with this issue. Can you point me to a better read than UTBOH that deals directly with early mormonism and the road to modern fundamentalism?

The problem, as you already stated, is that most mormons don't want to believe that their faith is of the same substance as the fundamentalists', or that their roots are not intertwined. In fact, the argument could be made that these fundamentalists are living closer to the original intent of Joseph Smith than the now much watered down PC LDS church. The truth is that as mormons, we are all products of fundamentalism, but most just don't realize it.

Speaking of hints of fundamentalism still in the church, my younger sister recently got engaged to a gentile and my mom told her that she better not be hoping for a reception, because this was no celebration. (ie. no celestial marriage) My incredulous friend repeated the story to his mother, who said she felt the same way. I told my sister that if she actually knew what went on in the temple, she wouldn't even think twice about choosing love over Joseph's "sacred" masonic social controls. The sad part is that the believers are the one's who are punished for their belief, in the form of fear and disappointment for their loved ones. Co-opting the family and marriage ceremony was a brilliant double edged sword. Too bad so many people have been hurt by it. At least we're not marrying adolescent young plural wives in the temple any more. We can thank the FLDS group for showing us what would have happened if the church hadn't abandoned some of Joseph's more destructive and self-serving revelations.

RD said...

These are valid points, but I think I'll need to read Krakauer's book again before I have a thorough discussion of it. I read it before my mission when it first came out, and my memory of it is hazy.

Lest you think I'm like your other Mormon friends, I have long defended Quinn and his scholarship. I've read both of his "Hierarchy" books and learned a lot. In fact, I think his quality of scholarship far surpasses Krakauer's. Quinn is a casualty of the BKP-led purge of 1993, and it's unfortunate that we lost such a valuable asset to the Church. He provided an important service before he was ex-ed.

Your sister's experience is unfortunate. That is probably all too common. I know that wouldn't occur in my family, but it probably would in many others. You raise important questions about social controls. Often when we become disillusioned with something, as many people have with the Church and its teachings, we have a tendency to swing to the opposite extreme. I don't know you, and you seem like a solid investigator of truth. But, like the Mormons who refuse to believe anything they hear form someone outside the Church (and there are many like that), please don't react in the opposite way, refusing to believe anything that does come from the Church.

I have struggled with the question about 'social controls' also. I can see ample evidence of that. What I don't see, however, is a motive. What would be the Church's motive for maintaining social control, if it is not spiritual reasons? What do the Church leaders gain by having this control?

Jud Wooters said...

Get ready for an Instalanche ... Glenn Reynolds just put a plug on his website.