Thursday, March 22, 2012

On Mockery and Name Calling

There was an interesting discussion yesterday at BCC about "Teaching Lesson 6, ‘Sustaining Those Whom the Lord Sustains’ p.1." BHodges has segregated the Chapter 6 George Albert Smith quotes into "Quotes while serving as President" and "Pre-presidency Quotes." My participation in the discussion began with a simple question and eventually included four more comments.

I'm publishing all five of my comments below, along with a few comments from the BCC crowd. You are invited to read what I had to say in an environment free from caustic mockery and name calling, then point out any lapses in logic on my part. This post contains at least a dozen links to the original BCC conversation. So if you have the stomach for mindless sarcasm you are welcome to join the discussion over there.

R. Gary Says: (comment #37)
March 21, 2012 at 5:40 pm

"The first header said 'pre-presidency quotes,' but it was supposed to be quotes while serving as president."

After current FP/12 approve quotes to be in Teachings of Presidents of the Church, what's the difference?

J. Stapley Says: (comment #39)
March 21, 2012 at 6:13 pm

R. Gary, that is a fascinating question. I'm assuming from the phrasing of your question, that you don't think that there is a difference. What is it about being published in a manual that renders the context of a precise teaching of no consequence?

R. Gary Says: (comment #40)
March 21, 2012 at 6:24 pm

The name of the manual? Its publisher? Its stated purpose?

BHodges Says: (comment #42)
March 21, 2012 at 6:55 pm

After current FP/12 approve quotes to be in Teachings of Presidents of the Church, what’s the difference?

The FP/Q12 approved the manual, and I suppose that includes the footnotes with dates in them. In this instance I'd imagine they didn't check up on the original sources or else they might have noticed that a particular quote was taken out of context in a confusing way. Regardless, the citations with dates are there in the manual. Why not take them into consideration since they're in the manual?

(Also, a prize goes to anyone who points out the reason why such a distinction might bother R. Gary, based on his hobby horse of anti-evolutionism.)

R. Gary Says: (comment #43)
March 21, 2012 at 7:47 pm

BHodges: Apparently, you didn't get the memo.

At one time, the Church did make a careful distinction between the teachings of a Church President and the teachings of the same man before he became Church President. Apparently, you didn't get the memo about that policy change.

The Style Guide for Publications of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 1972 (second edition 1978), Section 13, gives instructions on "Proper Use of Latter-day Saint Titles." Regarding the title "President," the Guide says:

13.1 "Members of the First Presidency of the Church and President (and Acting President) of the Council of the Twelve are addressed as 'President.' "

Regarding retroactive application of titles, the Guide says:

13.11 "When a General Authority is quoted or mentioned in a story, he should be referred to by the title he held at the time of the statement or event."

Accordingly, in the 1978 edition of Gospel Principles Chapter 39 on Chastity, Spencer W. Kimball was referred to as "Elder Kimball" even though he had been, since 1974, Church President.

By contrast, the 2009 edition of Gospel Principles demonstrates a policy change regarding retroactive application of titles for Church Presidents. The 2009 Chapter 39 now says "President Kimball" even though the quoted material was published in 1969 when he was still properly addressed as "Elder Kimball."

The same policy change was apparently in place for the 2007 MP/RS manual where more than 80 quotations from his 1969 book are published by the Church as Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Spencer W. Kimball.

Apparently, the difference between what is taught by the Church President as President and what was taught the previous year by the same man is no longer significant in Church published manuals. In the examples cited above, Spencer W. Kimball's teachings are all President Kimball's teachings whether published before or after he became "President."

P.S. There is an Introduction in each of the ten Teachings of Presidents manuals, with instructions for MP/RS teachers. I can't find where it says to teach from the footnotes.

BHodges Says: (comment #44)
March 21, 2012 at 7:56 pm

LOL @ arguing the style guide is inspired of God.

Can you find any instruction not to teach from the footnotes? (specifically, by pointing out the actual dates!)

You crack me up, R. Gary.

BHodges Says: (comment #45)
March 21, 2012 at 8:01 pm

Referring to presidents of the church in the president manuals as "President" is almost certainly for simplicity's sake. I'll say "almost" in order to avoid any sort of R. Gary dogmatism. So as to avoid annoyingly switching between elder and president all over the place in the manual.

Remember how Elder Ballard said we aren't "Mormons," then there was mormon.org? Maybe things aren't as clear-cut as you desperately want them to be, my friendly friend.

R. Gary Says: (comment #49)
March 21, 2012 at 8:34 pm

BHodges: Nice deflection. Do you really think anyone besides yourself reads "inspired" into the Style Guide quotations?

The practice of the Church constitutes the official interpretation of the Church's policy. The '70s manuals were consistent with the Style Guide as seen in the 1978 Gospel Principles manual. The new manuals are consistent with a changed policy as seen in the 2009 Gospel Principles manual and in the Teachings of Presidents series.

I'm sure you can speculate as to the reasons for the policy change as well as anyone else can speculate. But the policy changed.

Regarding mormon.org, do you mean Russell M. Nelson's talk, "Thus Shall My Church Be Called," (Ensign, May 1990)?

It was President Gordon B. Hinckley who changed that policy in, "Mormon Should Mean 'More Good'” (Ensign, Nov. 1990).

Mormon.org came later. And I think Elder Nelson had no problem following the latest counsel from President Hinckley in preference to his own former counsel that was updated by Hinckley.

Ardis E. Parshall Says: (comment #51)
March 21, 2012 at 8:45 pm

R. Gary: I saw some "no parking" and "loading zone" signs in the underground Church Office Building parking garage recently. As Church publications and official Church policy, those signs were personally approved by an apostle or member of the First Presidency, right? My question is, is the yellow striping, which conveys meaning but without the use of actual text, likewise inspired?

Left Field Says: (comment #52)
March 21, 2012 at 8:46 pm

A deacon in my ward happens to be a future president of the church. I'm keeping careful record of everything he says so his inspired words can be properly cited. You'll be pleased to know that he has rescinded that annoying "one at a time" clause in Section 132:7. Joseph famously said that a prophet was only a prophet when he is speaking as such. Now we know that a prophet is a prophet even before he becomes a prophet.

R. Gary Says: (comment #54)
March 21, 2012 at 9:09 pm

Ardis: It is very likely, if the yellow lines happen to be painted on brick paving, that they are inspired.

Left Field: Was your deacon sustained by the Church in October Conference as one of the "prophets, seers, and revelators"?

Cynthia: Suppose Elder Nelson's May 1990 talk is reprinted by the Church after he becomes Church President (it could happen)?


Anonymous dgl said...

I think BHodges was originally referring to Pres. Packer's quote in April 2011 conference:
"Obedient to revelation, we call ourselves The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints rather than the Mormon Church. It is one thing for others to refer to the Church as the Mormon Church or to us as Mormons; it is quite another for us to do so." This was right as we were self-publicizing the "I am a Mormon" campaign and mormon.org. People got the impression that Pres. Packer wasn't thrilled with the PR direction.

I'm confident that no retro-active authority is meant to be gained from this "policy" change. And simply saying it's the policy of the church, therefore someone who was an apostle was actually speaking as the President they would become, doesn't make it so. Wouldn't you agree that such a change would be significant enough to warrant some mention or discussion, you know, beyond a style guide?

If you really are convinced that a current apostle is speaking right now with an authority that only Pres. Monson holds, why not just write to SLC and ask?

3/22/2012 04:58:00 AM  
Blogger BHodges said...

Hi, R. Gary. It seems to me you're missing the entire point of my noting whether quotes were spoken before or after President Smith became President Smith.

Had you actually read the chapter in the manual you might have noticed this quote from the lesson's introduction on page 57:

As the teachings in this chapter demonstrate, George Albert Smith understood the heavy burdens carried by the First Presidency, even before he became President of the Church. He taught the Saints that their loyalty and faithfulness can help ease those burdens, and he exemplified this principle during his service in the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles.

Since the lesson itself explicitly calls attention to this division I'm confused as to why you, the biggest manual literalist I've ever encountered, would take issue with this.

I've tried to imagine why this bothered you so much. I could be wrong, but perhaps you believe I’m arguing that statements George Albert Smith made prior to becoming president of the Church are somehow less “true,” or less important, or less binding than those he said after becoming president of the Church. Of course, I’m arguing no such thing. Nor is the manual, I presume.

3/22/2012 11:03:00 AM  
Blogger R. Gary said...

BHodges: It was a simple question. "What's the difference?" And the entire BCC crowd flew off the handle. Now is the above comment your answer?

By the way, it wasn't my idea to change Elder Kimball's title in Gospel Principles to President Kimball. Though I confess that I did previously make the distinction with as much zeal as I now question it.

Thank you for leaving most of the mockery and sarcasm home. Come again.

dgl: God doesn't call as prophets men who teach false doctrine. If today's FP/12 want's to gather a collection of a latter-day prophet's teachings from the time he was called as an apostle and put them in a book titled Teachings of Presidents of the Church, who am I to start pointing out which quotes are from "Elder" So-and-so and which are from "President" So-and-so?

3/22/2012 11:28:00 AM  
Blogger BHodges said...

It was a simple question. "What's the difference?" And the entire BCC crowd flew off the handle. Now is the above comment your answer?

People are probably reacting as much to you specifically as they are to the question. We're familiar with your perspective on these things, and we know you'll often go off on your own and make silly response posts like this one. Again, I'm confused as to why you are taking issue with a division that the manual itself calls attention to. The manual points out that the chapter includes teachings from before and after he became President of the Church. Is it OK that the manual does this? I didn't suggest that anyone refer to President Smith as "Elder," either, so it's unclear to me what that has to do with my post. I noticed you didn't really respond to these points.

3/22/2012 01:02:00 PM  
Blogger R. Gary said...

I've already invited people to read your post for themselves. I believe my comments over there and my post here both speak for themselves just fine.

3/22/2012 01:20:00 PM  
Blogger BHodges said...

Well to me they don't speak for themselves just fine, that's why I asked you for clarification.

3/22/2012 01:51:00 PM  
Blogger R. Gary said...

Apparently, nothing I've ever said speaks to you "just fine." I have no evidence, based on our previous exchanges (including yesterday and today), that clarification is even possible with you.

3/22/2012 02:41:00 PM  
Blogger BHodges said...

Have faith, R. Gary. I'm trying to be reasonable. Did you notice the manual points to the distinction?

3/22/2012 06:17:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

There's definitely some mockery going on here, but not name calling. If one makes silly arguments, and someone (like Ardis) points out how the argument fails, they aren't mocking the person as much as the argument. Besides, you went way out of lines for arguing against the footnotes that got "correlated" and approved...


3/22/2012 06:26:00 PM  
Blogger R. Gary said...

Okay. I'm having faith, and I too am trying to be reasonable.

Your original post has a 218 word section about the pre-Prophet quotes. These quotes represent 82% of President Smith's words in Chapter 6. Your post has a 687 word section about the post-Prophet quotes. These quotes represent only 18% of President Smith's words in Chapter 6. This section of your post actually quotes almost half of President Smith's post-Prophet words as found in Chapter 6.

The pre- and post-Prophet status of each quote is not highlighted in the footnotes which contain only standard citation information, including the publication dates.

It is true that the introduction to Chapter 6 mentions George Albert Smith's awareness throughout his entire apostolic ministry of the heavy burdens carried by the First Presidency. But I can't find any reference to this in your origonal post.

Your post highlights the pre- and post-Prophet status of 21 quotes in Chapter 6.

I disagree that the footnotes were intended to explain the difference between pre- and post-Prophet quotes. And I disagree that the manual otherwise highlights which quotes are pre- and which quotes are post-Prophet.

Pre and post. What's the difference, my friendly friend.

3/22/2012 08:44:00 PM  
Blogger R. Gary said...

psychochemiker: Ardis' specialty is smooth sarcasm, very smooth.

3/22/2012 08:48:00 PM  
Blogger Jared* said...

Gary, the difference for me is this:

By obscuring the difference between the two, the editors made GAS sound like his own cheerleader, telling us about how inspired, prepared, free from error, and undeserving of criticism he was.

When I first read the lesson, it left a bit of a bad taste in my mouth, for this and other reasons covered by BHodges. However, I instinctively recognized that it was most likely the fault of the editors. I'm glad that BHodges confirmed that for me.

3/23/2012 12:04:00 AM  
Blogger R. Gary said...

Jared*: I don't see where George Albert Smith sounds like his own cheerleader in Chapter 6. And I doubt BHodges confirmed that for you, he didn't even mention it.

3/23/2012 01:25:00 AM  
Blogger Jared* said...


I'm not sure if you understood me, so let me restate:

In my view, if you read the lesson under the assumption that GAS was speaking as Church president, you get a different flavor than if you recognize that in many cases he was saying nice things about previous Church presidents (because he was not yet president).

What BHodges confirmed for me was that the editing had blurred the distinction. Thus, although I think GAS comes off in this chapter as sounding a little self-serving, I blame the editors, not him.

3/23/2012 07:43:00 AM  
Blogger R. Gary said...

Jared*: You're kidding. This is the tenth volume in the series and you're just now discovering that both pre- and post-Prophet quotes have been included all along?

3/23/2012 07:49:00 AM  
Anonymous Jeff G said...


Without trying to speak to who's in the right, I can't help but pick up just as much sarcasm in your comments as there are in BHodge's. Don't get me wrong, I find a certain charm in it, it being one of the reasons I think we all frequent those blogs we are bound to disagree with.

Unfortunately, Jared's take on the manual seems to apply to your blog as well. You preach an awful lot of "follow the prophet" followed quickly with "if I'm with the prophet, who are *you* following?". I think a lot of people take this how Jared took the GAS quotes.

3/23/2012 03:14:00 PM  
Blogger R. Gary said...

Jeff G: I'm always glad to hear from you. Do you realize it's been seven years? "Adam and Eve: How," March 22, 2005. "Evolution and the Atonement," April 11, 2005. I really enjoyed those conversations, How did we do it? How did we discuss those topics so civilly when our points of view were (and are) so far apart?

The mindless sarcasm is over at BCC; just follow any of the comment links in my opening post and enjoy. BHodges left most of his mockery and sarcasm home at BCC. I've appreciated that.


BHodges: I will publish your comment later. Please be patient.

3/23/2012 04:56:00 PM  
Blogger R. Gary said...

BHodges: The comment you left on my blog yesterday has now been published here. Some of my thoughts are included also.

3/24/2012 02:16:00 PM  
Anonymous Jeff G said...

Ha! That has got to be the first time that anybody has called my form of engagement "civil". ;)

It did take me a long and frustrating time to figure out what exactly your position and argument was regarding evolution, after which I came around to agreeing with you... to some extent.

If I interpret you correctly, I think you are making a parallel argument about following the prophet:

1. In the world in which we now live, the church cannot openly and strongly assert "follow the prophet to the letter" or "once the prophet has spoken, the thinking has been done", etc. Such would not be good for the church.
2. Thus, the church (perhaps) has no official stance in favor of such claims.
3. However, the church has no official and binding stance against such claims either.
4. Finally, if one gets passed all the litigious nick-picking, it becomes clear that the church really is in favor of such claims, even if they don't come out and say so openly.

If this is basically your thought process, Gary, than I think you're probably right. I think that all of these claims are roughly true.

However, somebody who takes logical consistency and logical entailment seriously is going to have some serious reservations.

3/24/2012 03:39:00 PM  
Blogger R. Gary said...

Jeff G: It's true. I've never met anybody else who goes so far out of his way to disagree without being disagreeable. You are just a "civil" kind of guy. Now to the topic of following the prophet. Yes, I suppose you could say that my position on that subject runs roughly parallel to my position on evolution. Thanks again for your comments.

3/24/2012 03:51:00 PM  

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