Sunday, March 06, 2005

Observer Effects and Attitudes

Anti-Mormons don't get it. They do not engage LDS people in normal ways, but then they draw conclusions from the reactions of the people they pester. Here is a fun link to several great examples of this attitude, and the truly narcissistic view they have of Mormon interactions with them. They are seemingly baffled the Mormons have the nerve to say they are Christians. They JUDGE the Mormons in the harshest of terms and apparently possess a gift of divination, for they KNOW the only reason the Mormons won't interact with them is because their true righteousness crushes the false Mormon system of religion.

It is called observer effect and bias. Start with your "discovery" already firmly in mind. Negatively interact with the environment, and then pretend your anecdotal assaults on Mormonism and their chilly response to "drive-by insults" constitute the norm within the LDS people. Of course ignore the studies and surveys of active LDS people which accurately reflect their attitudes, understanding and level of commitment to their beliefs.

Sadly, what we see in most anti-Mormons is simply a conversion from one horrifically unhealthy life destroying compulsion to another. Whether it is sexual sin, pornographic addiction or good old mind-numbing pride, it is easy to see these ministerial muppets for the unChristian practioners they are. Why do they assault the Mormons? Because they love them! That is why they use terms like "Mormon Repugnance", "inauthentic dialogues", "confrontational evangelism". Even talking with people who think this is normal makes one want to take a bath afterwards.

They just don't get it: They are still sick, lost souls. Transferring one severely bad addictive behavior to another compulsion means you are still sick. I have personally spoken with many of the "stars" of anti-Mormonism. Some I believe are just frauds who have figured out how to make a living and boost their pride. Some seem to do it to cover up their sins. But many, many seem to be sick people who really do not understand how 12 step programs work. They show up like lemmings every 6-months to Temple Square or the LDS Pagent or Temple gate. Throw a few uninformed words onto a web page or blog somewhere and you get the kind of pernicious passionate know-nothing who feels the fact that 500 people frowned at them or told them to go home translates into a widespread trend among 120,000 conference goers. Average length of conversation which went into opinion formation: 2-seconds. Average amount of study of non-Anti-Mormon scholarly materials? 2-seconds. Average time they kept an open mind: You guessed it: 2-seconds.

I will be at Temple Square during conference in April for at least a few sessions. Sadly, I know there will be several of the usual group of uninformed anti-Mormons confused that the Mormons won't stop to hear their sophmorish deridings of the LDS faith and their "true" god. Truly unBiblical god, but then, they will not stop and speak with the Mormons who will politely but thoroughly walk them through the scriptures to show them the error of their ways. When someone tries, they have one answer: "You are just trying to waste my time."

Such is the observer effect. Define the end at the beginning, and then expound your parochialisms. As if handing out brochures and studying poorly researched material made you an expert. You couldn't pass a bone-head math class with that kind of suspended intellect. Which is why the observers still haven't figured out why the Mormon masses have truly figured them out. The effect of being observed.

See you at the gates. Peace.


Aaron Shafovaloff said...

I was disappointed that you didn't interact with the actual content of my blog post, namely that the content of Mormon allegiance to the label "Christian" and to the Mormon identity is primarily atheological. I think you will find sympathy with this assertion in LDS folks like Jim Faulconer.

Grace and peace. I pray God would grant you the grace not to slander. God is, after all, capable of actually granting "repentance leading to a knowledge of the truth" (2 Timothy 2:25).


"We are from God. Whoever knows God listens to us; whoever is not from God does not listen to us. By this we know the Spirit of truth and the spirit of error." -1 John 4

"Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways! For who has known the mind of the Lord,
or who has been his counselor? Or who has given a gift to him
that he might be repaid? For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen." -Romans 11

Bob the Anti-Anti said...

I find this an interesting response. I would have interacted on your blog, but the blog says it is closed and not accepting new posts or comments. I was trying to promote the larger concept here, namely, it is both unscientific and unrighteous to judge the LDS people based on highly flawed data gathering techniques.

As for the content of your blog, I allude to the fact your statements are unfounded from a sociological standpoint. Theology is the study of God and God's relation to the world. You apparently feel that studying the words about God is more important than actually studying what God wants us to do and being obedient to those words. That is the only explanation for someone who has probably never spent family night with an LDS family, or worked in a cannery to provide goods for the poor, or label any of the other good things Mormons do as "atheological". I can certainly say that you are "atheological" since you apparently find it impossible to interact with the large volume of theological writings I have posted in this blog. Since you fail to engage, let alone refute, anything I have written, and it is almost all around theology or LDS history, I can with equal confidence to your assertions about the Mormons say the same about you. But then we have an eye for an eye, and the whole world is blind.

I have seen and reviewed several studies that show the LDS individual commitment to personal religious observances is very important in their lives. This comes from their practical theology of actually knowing God and His will, and not just studying the hollow words of a workless life. This is stuff like personal scripture reading, personal prayers, attendance at Church, paying tithing and fast offerings, volunteering time to visit the sick, poor or neighbors, (You know, like James taught "Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, [and] to keep himself unspotted from the world.") lack of drug use and addiction, and especially sexual purity.

The numbers, sadly, are not what they should be. That being said, they are dramatically better than society at large, and any religious section you wish to select. For example, pre-marital sexual activity among the active LDS is about 1/4 that of the population at large and Christian organizations. Since sex and pornography use are very directly tied to implementing closely held religious values, it is highly flawed to say Mormons lack religious appreciation at a theological level. They do what they do because they are obedient to that being they understand to be God. Sex and pornography are especially telling of the type of hypocrisy you accuse the Mormons of having. Again, Utah, and particularly Utah County which is over 97% LDS, has the lowest rate of abortion for any state or County in the USA. This compared to any supposed "religious" area of the country. Idaho, again highly LDS, has the 2nd lowest. Sexually transimitted diseases, another good indicator of unmarried sex, is likewise among the lowest in the US. What values do you think drive people to not kill their unborn Children? Since there are fewer un-married people having sex in Utah, it is not that hard to find a correlation if you think it through.

But let's take your aetheological perspective: Since you say Mormons are religious only for cultural reasons, then your hypothesis would mean more Mormons would abort their out of wedlock children to avoid social and cultural castigation. But that is not happening. The only reason to go forward with a pregnancy in an environment where premarital sex leads to accidental pregnancy would be a sense of valuation of the unborn above social approval. That means God is more important than man to those LDS so engaged.

The level of charitable giving in Utah is nearly 3-times the national norm, and the highest in the USA, according to the IRS. Giving in the LDS Church is a STRICTLY private exercise (no passing the plate or telethon commitments). We must again ask what makes you think they are performing the painful task of financial giving when they can opt out any time they want? If giving were only cultural, and not a personal religious observance of their belief in God, then people would give and serve less.

Lastly there is the issue of missions, scouting and service. Again, Utah leads the nation. Fully 1/4 of LDS young men GIVE 2 years to service, where they engage in hours of personal study and prayer, as well as proselyting and teaching, every day. About 15% of those young people leave their missions early due to health, emotional or commitment issues. A small percentage stick it out and then later fall away. But less than 10% of returned missionaries fall into inactivity, and less than that lose their faith. Since the 1970's, more than 650,000 people have served full-time missions, so finding some ex-missionaries who have lost their faith is not impossible, it is just blown out of proportion to reality.

You feel you are the only one studying theology hard. You take as proof that no Mormon studies as hard as you since they don't see the things you see, therefore Mormons really are not believing in God but LDS culture. Can't you see this is just narcissisitic non-sense based on unrighteous judgement? I am sure your "pure religion" in your local church back home is teaching the members to visit the sick, the poor, the widows and keep themselves pure, right? Does that make them atheological airbags? The abscence of such activity makes them a false religion, so you can pick the measuring tool however you like.

So let's spin this in a more likely way fitting the evidence you cite. People ignore you because they are obeying the Saviours admonition to not engage in pointless strife. They are attending General Conference because they, like the children of Israel gathering to Moses, want to be obedient to the word of God uttered by His prophets. Mormons are Christian, as they teach and believe in the Jesus of the Bible, not the Neo-Platonic Christ of Athanasius and the Trinitarians. Then you ask some person a question which seems so out of context, you deride the fact they don't immediately understand your over-thought-through thoughts. Very self-righteous and prideful. You are basically aserting everyone should be understanding the context of your unexpected questions. Ever been asked your name and not been able to remember it immediately? If not, you will, and then we can assume you really don't know who you are, based on the harshness of your current judgements. You even site me as someone "out of touch" with LDS people, when you know less than nothing about my relationship or interactions with the LDS community.

That is a very unChristian thing to do on your part, and frankly it appears to me that your activities lack sincerity, which means your assertion about LDS spirituality is in all likelihood your self evaluation of your own motivation for religious involvment. It is most typical that people Judge others because that is what is going on in their own life.
But since God's will is for all men to be saved if they will obey, I rejoice that the decision to save you or not has not been made yet. You can turn to God and be saved, just like I have done. I just hope you will stop being so envious of the fact that the Mormon Church is working so hard to promote the salvation of mankind, and maybe you can motivate the lazy unconverted of your own sphere of influence to obey God. Galations 4:16.

Bob the Anti-Anti said...

I realized after reading through my response that it sounds like I wrote my original statements with Aaron's blog in mind. That is not correct. I say I alluded to the fact that his comments were in error because there was at least one statement found at his website I cite, but I really was commenting on the general approach of blogs, including Aaron's, which I find to be off the mark., which I have directly challenged and analyzed on several occassions, is another in this type of blogs I see lacking in depth of research and seemingly satisfied with repeating arguments of others, and then claiming the Mormons don't respond to them. As if most Mormons care about another foundationless repetition answered elsewhere needed to be responded to. As two non-LDS scholars have previously observed, anti-Mormons are basically losing the war of thoughts and not even knowing it, since many of the simple arguments normally offered by anti-Mormons such as or Aaron are answered in depth and with a degree of thoroughness that anti-Mormons have been unable or unwilling to interact with.

So apologies if I appeared to be saying I wrote my original comments with Aaron in mind. I meant my comments reference arguments such as Aaron, but not necessarily Aaron directly, since I was actually writing about the issue of anti-Mormons not understanding their perceptions are skewed and their conclusions flawed because of the way their interaction actually pollutes any type of conclusions they make about the population of Mormons generally. My response to Aaron's comments specifically are those found in my immediately previous comments. Since those comments were originally written, a study by the University of North Carolina has been published comparing LDS and other religious youth, and youth in general. The results indicate the LDS youth are by far the most committed to their faith in terms of their personal religious practices of any relgious group studied.

Assertions that Mormons are aetheological are just that, assertions. Any measurement of the spiritual understanding and commitments by LDS youth, as a subset of all LDS, indicate a greater level of theological commitment and honesty than others. Aaron, if you don't like this non-LDS study of religious commitment and theological understanding, then find a measurement you think would be confirming of your assertion, and then let's see if someone has measured that in an actual study. Otherwise I think you should maybe back away from saying Mormons are only doing what they do out of social pressure.

As one bishop told me from Pennsylvania a couple of years ago when I directly asked him if his young people served missions due to social pressure, he responded "Out here in the mission field, none of the kid's friends are pressuring them to serve missions. When they go on missions, it is because they have a testimony." Kids going on missions are ripped out of their "cultural" setting by going wherever they are called, and I can tell you having seen hundreds of missionaries, they may go because mom and dad wanted them to, but they stay because they are converted to God and His Gospel. The few missionaries I see online who talk about having served and then later falling away from the faith almost universally say they were not sure if what they were doing was correct. I wish they never would have gone, just because they are phonies to go out and convert people to something they are not actually convinced is true. But their lack of sincerity is why they ascribe a similar lack of sincerity to the Mormon activities generally, which is a false paridigm. I am unaware of Jim Faulconer's perspective, so if you have a specific thing he has said in mind, please pass it along. Since he is still alive, we can always send him an email and ask him if he does think all Mormons are aetheological in their approach to understanding the Gospel. Maybe he wrote that in a comment or exchange with Mormons on "Times and Seasons" with all those aetheological intellectual Mormons there. (Hopefully you can recognize my attempt at irony since the fact he is writing and interacting on theological issues, and is a Mormon, creates a logical impossibility that all Mormons are aetheological in their approach, since he certainly is theological and LDS.)