The Question Of Translation: Or, How To Write Correlated History

How can we rewrite our history to make it understandable to US Today?

This is an often asked, and rarely answered question I’d like to give a try at answering.  My main concern is that anyone be able to:

1.  Identify a problem area of Mormon History (particularly when it comes to one’s “faith”)

2. Look over the published literature most readily accessible to one’s eyes

3. Write a book/blog/article which confirms exactly what we’d like to believe about that problem area, which is: Not a Problem Area, Perfectly Normal By Our (secular/orthodox/business) Best Practices Today.

My inspiration for this important task by which we Mormons might set about erasing our own history was a review of a book by a Mr. Brant Gardner.  Now, first, the good thing to know about Mormon Studies is that one need not actually bother reading a book before:

1.  Writing about the book in public

2.  Using the (title of, summary of, or whathaveyou from the) book for one’s own argument, posturing, and rounding up of friends on your side, and

3.  Calling the author names that would make one’s primary teacher faint.

The great thing about this is that one can draw from those who’ve also not read a book, save a little cash, and simply argue against or for another person’s summary of a book (as arguing against the book itself), a book they’ve apparently not read.  So long as one’s community, or peers, all conspire in this magic circle’s drawing, you see, no one need ever read carefully anyone’s book, and we can all pretend to have read everything published, because we can trot out a “like” or “don’t like” which can align us personally with others we also like.

I mean, is there really a difference between what a book argues, and someone’s summary/emotional reaction/kneejerk response to having had that book (or some part of it) before his eyes.  I didn’t think so, either.

Thus, one can “do” history just by going over the representations of texts, because what really matters, you see, is that the “ideas” are preserved from text to metatext to meta-metatext, ad nauseum.  That is a way to begin revising in a Corralated Way.  Begin with the mind, and ignore all the other stuff, and make a lot of presumptions and guesses that otherwise require careful research to resolve.

My example of how to do this correctly is a blog post regarding The Abridging Works, which apparently provoked Mr. Gardner to post his version of what I’m saying about “translation,” after having “gone over” the book (an essay concludes the book, “On Translation”).  The ensuing “debate” was fruitless, as expected.

Now, I admitted in my reply that I’ve not read Gardner’s book, though I fibbed a bit and said I planned on reading it, sometime.  Sure.  But why read his book, when I can read this summary of how a person reacted to reading his book?  This guy liked it, so should I (unless I don’t like that guy!).  What was the book about?  Well, that’s why it’s in a book, you see, because it’s too complex to summarize in a review.  Got it?

What I get from the review is that Mr. Gardner says that the “idea” of the Book of Mormon was deposited into Joseph Smith’s head, in the from of “mentalese” which was then translated into English.  This seems like a perfectly sensible claim (when dealing with something attributed to the Gift and Power of God, where does ‘sensibility’ end?  Isn’t finding that line the starting point?  Anyway).  Mentalese competes with another winner: that Moroni whispered the words into Joseph’s ear.  I don’t think I need to point out the problems of the “whisper game theory,” which is only possible to believe at a certain level of abstraction, the same level which can treat “the Bible” as a word which refers to a single thing, an idea; rather than, say, a many times translated, revised, commmented upon, collection of things which have “the Bible” as part of their title.

Ahem.  Let me point out the historical and logical problems of the Mentalese claim, whether made by Mr. Gardner, or by a guy who read Mr. Gardner, or by anyone who’d like to just up and fill in what was never explained by the guy who experienced it, namely, Joseph Smith.

First: What is the point of the all the hullabulloo regarding the “Gold Plates” if the Mentalese transcript was downloaded into Smith’s brain?  Though the plates were often not physically in front of his eyes, that Joseph had the plates (for a time) does seem fairly important.  Several fellows in the published BoM made quite a stink about preserving the records, hauling them around, keeping them from so-and-so.  And the two stones set in a bow?  Gardner (channeled through the review of his book, ironically) apparently dismisses the stone/s as nothing more than a mind-focuser; but they are called “interpreters”, and were thought to be rather important when it came to interpreting ancient records; that is, of course, if the ostensible downloaded Mentalese version of these tales is to be believed.    In fact, at no point in the published BoM do we have anthing like a theory of Mentalese, which is sort of a problem, in itself.

In fact, one might argue that it was the plates which evidence suggests were “deposited” into a hill, rather than a Mentalese text being deposited into a brain.  But perhaps it’s all symbolic, and Cumorah really means “perietal lobe”, while the hole in Cumorah really was the Pineal Gland.

But if that’s the case, then what were the 3 witnesses seeing, Joseph Smith’s mind?  I think this sort of theory has been trotted out before, but not by apologetics.

One sort of deposit precludes the other being necessary.  Indeed, if such a Mentalese text could be deposited into Smith’s brain, why not simply deposit it into everyone’s brain (including Martin Harris, Oliver Cowdery, you, me, and so on)?  What about those lost pages from the Book of Lehi?  A Brain Fart?  Forgetfulness, projected onto Martin Harris?  Ah, psychobabble is so good to trot out, and yet, sometimes hides an iron fist in its velvet glove.

In fact, why not simply download the entire archives of Heaven, mentalized into Mentalese, for all to access?  We’d need a search engine, I suppose, but there’s no doubt some form of Google-Mentalese could be drawn up.  And it’d save us publishing costs, having to turn pages, manuals being written, Sunday School lessons on the meaning of a word/phrase from the BoM, talks about it, CES, Missionaries…in fact, I’m starting to see there are many good reasons for depositing the Mentalese edition of the BoM into everyone’s head, whether they want it or not.

Well, what if we aren’t all worthy of such a deposit?

That may be, but now we’ve complicated the question in a way we don’t complicate it when handing out printed texts; does a missionary ask whether an investigator is worthy to hold and read the BoM?  It is an easy thing to trot out speculations to support an initial speculation, and the further we move into Mentalized Abstactions, the easier such a path is to tread.  The end point, of course, is a single universe composed of my mind, contemplating my mind.  Not reality, in other words, as we’ve come to understand it.

Second: What is Mentalese?  I know computer guys like Gardner would have it that language is merely a vehicle for carrying thought, something like a screen for our software, but the evidence is against against such a crude, mechanical perspective.  I am not a computer, are you?

Language seems to be essential to symbolic and creative, inventive and artistic thought of the sort we attribute to most (or some, or a few) humans, and by essential I mean, without it there is no such thought.  Other kinds of thought are possible when language is not present (and never acquired), but not the sort that humans do all day long.  Keep in mind we invented computers, theories of language, philology, calculus, and a few other things my computer refuses to do for me.  Language (as spoken) is another word for a sort of thinking.

That is to say, the “language” we speak shapes the thoughts we have (this is something I’ve demonstrated in my dissertation by doing a history of Mormon theology, though I’ve written what amounts to another book on the subject, not yet finished).  Gives form to airy nothings.

So, though some would like to believe in Mentalese, it remains nothing but a way to fill a hole; that is, a guess based in part on Chomsky’s “deep structure”, a notion which accounts for some of language learning, it seems, but hardly gives us an explanation of language as a spoken, social reality.  If there is indeed no such thing as Mentalese (whatever one calls it: a psychological entity that resides outside language as a social reality), then there is a real difficulty with positing that as an avenue for delivering the Gift and Power of God, that Word.

The logical problem is this: one poses a hypothetical process (depositing in Mentalese) in order to explain a positive, end result.  The process involves a guess which cannot be refined inside the argument it is placed; one can hide this circularity by drawing on hypotheticals from respected disciplines, and without also drawing on the disputes and serious conflicts entangled with the positing of the hypothetical inside the discipline.  That is to say, when one takes a word from a discipline, be sure to not take all the arguments that specialists have over the word’s utility.

Thus, one should draw from summaries, wikis, and popular writings (but cite authoritative texts!) that mention scientific hypotheticals (String Theory/Quantum Physics/Fractal Geometry/Mentalese/Arc of Culture…), and treat these as facts for the plucking and stuffing together.   At a certain point one’s argument requires more hypotheticals, which reaching a certain number become so entangled that they begin to form a seeming coherent, solid, indisputable mass.  You’ll seem like a genius, being able to put together String Theory, Hopi Kiva Rites, Sumerian Philology, and Organic Chemistry.  And who could dispute such a genius?

Such movements in a text, moreover, are not summarizable in a layman’s review, though the words are recitable (e.g., the review of Gardner’s book mentions Mentalese and Eidetic Memory, without engaging with their referents’ existence).   Boo-ya!  Send the book to readers not versed in Mentalese, and hope they haven’t had the download of Celestial Physics/Psychology yet.  Let others then circulate the image of one’s genius by way of summary, and let their sense of humility or playing nice preclude the curtain’s pulling back, for all those who come across the metatexts that stand for one’s book.

So, future Correlated Historian, use words that are circulating popularly, but don’t, for heaven’s sake, muddle up one’s lumping together of these terms by engaging in the fact of their hypothetical nature; and the historical, discplinary reasons that gave rise to the discussion of the hypothetical.  Don’t mention things like: Mentalese was invented on analogy with Esperanto, and was brought forward to free psychology from Skinner boxes; that is, as a hypothetical product of hypothetical deep structure/grammar of the brain/hypothetical mind, which black box was necessary in order to account for the fact that children learn language in a way Behaviorism cannot explain.

So, a black box; a black box (placeholder) rather quickly becomes an actual thing, and five times removed, we end up with using it as an explanation for how the BoM was translated, and that explanation, while not passing muster with linguists or psychologists, is easy to put over self-proclaimed Mormon Studiesists.

But there is a rationale for doing this kind of folk history, and that concerns the way Mormon Studies interfaces with Correlation.

The justifications for Correlation in the 1960s were two: the gospel will be taken to the sort of people who have  a hard time “getting it” (you know, ‘those’ kind of people…”ethnic” types once called Lamanites?); second, that the “gospel” until that decade was a perfectly coherent, ordered, and developed field, so that everything publicly attributed to Joseph Smith through David O. McKay was already Correlated, for it was all in the mind, and in the mind of God.  So, why Correlate?  See point 1: the “lamanites” (and to save money on printing).

Now, keep in mind that correlation would be irrelevent if Mentalese existed, and could be used as a solutions-delivery method by God, The Prophet, or anyone else; even to ‘ethnic’ types.

So, here we have the irony: the existence of the COB, of Correlation, and of the Corporation all are signs that Mentalese is nothing but a hypothesis, and a poor one at that.  The irony is that the supposed existence of a mental language is precisely what is relied on as all the products of Correlation are churned out.  That is: If they can strip down the material to a notional core (seventy words, for example), this can trigger the same notional core in one’s mind, and the Mormons will all be perfectly correlated, one heart, one mind, et cetera, and so on.

But nothing of the sort goes on.  It’s scripts circulating for performance of Mormonness inside some community of usage.

We have people writing books that draw from texts, and from summaries of texts, and reviews of texts about texts…and at no point do we ever seem to have the same notions about the initial text itself.  Brigham Young once said that the BoM would be very different if written a few decades after 1830.  That suggests something not downloaded, except in the vaguest, most generalest sense; in the same sense that anti-Mormons would claim was the source of inspiration for the BoM itself: Ethan Smith’s book; culture; mental problems.  So, ironically, a “mentalese” perspective ends up at the same place an utterly secular guess begins, which is: it’s all in his mind.

As my dissertation attempts to explain, the re-reading of linguistic action as something like Mentalese in Mormon history was both a theological and politcal turn: polygamy can be “believed in” but not “practiced”, intelligences are not discrete, agentive, communicating lifeforms, but rather qualities of mind, for a few examples.  This conversion of speech into “thought” (in fact, “thought” like “sincerity” are merely genres of speech) was precisely the cause of our misunderstanding of our own theology and history, which misunderstanding and relegating to “the mysteries” gave more than a little oomph to the initial editorial committee Lee started calling the Correlation Committee.  So, we find ourselves back inside the hamster wheel of Correlationism.

An alternate theory of translation, it seems to me, ought to be begin with how children read, and with the basic parameters necessary to produce an interpretation deemed “correct”, and that gives us a representation of a book called “the most correct”.

Keep in mind that, one, Smith apparently spoke the words written by a scribe; and two, the published BoM was “correct,” but that what it came from was called the “most correct.”  That gap between the two – the published BoM and the thing written on the plates – is pretty good evidence that Joseph Smith was no mere passive recipient of a thought-ebook-download, and that our ideas about revelation are too easily squished into our ideas of Ideas.

So, how to write a Correlated History?  It’s all in the mind: start with abstract nouns, trot out a few authoritative sciences represented in a few popular, NOVA-circulated words, treat one form of a word as the same thing as another form of a word (“faith” always means “faith”), and with this gooey mess look for all the holes in history you’d like to fill.  Then send your book to others with the same holes, and let them send out stripped down “notional cores” of one’s book.

What is a Mormon? From an anthropologist’s view

Part One of a New Series!

Free Lessons in How to view Mormons like an Anthropologist

Before embarking on a comparison of Tolkien Studies with Mormon Studies, and the “logic” of amateurs and professional practices, I think it might be helpful to outline where I’m coming from.  Hence:

LESSON ONE: The Articles of Faith, in quasi-legalese, of Any Ethnography of Mormonism

1.  “Mormon” is a word with no single, non-discursively dependent referent.  That is, unlike the word-thing relationship between, say, table or chair, Mormons as a referent of “Mormon” do not exist without the word.  This is another of saying “Mormon” is a cultural “construct,” though in a more careful, and analytically fruitful way.  Now we can follow how the term “performatively” creates what it refers to, and the speakers of it likewise as potentially being also what is picked out in the utterance…

2.  To use the word “Mormon” to refer to a person is to put them into a class of things by virtue of some criteria said to be unique to that class.  Where did the class come from?  See Article I.  So, by virtue of usage, and one’s encounters with usage (say, in family circles, in the media, or at a church; let’s call them “communities of usage”), one decides that a certain quality is seemingly unique to whatever one hears referred to as “Mormon”.  That quality is inevitably bound up with speaking (in whatever modality: writing, gesture, etc.), but also the performative effects of speaking are registered to some other seemingly non-discursive creator, such as, spirituality, mentality, faith, region, class, gender….this is a misunderstanding that anthropologists read as a sign of a “native” perspective which then warrants explanation by way of data elicited from the “native” (but not exclusively from them, as they cannot “see” all the complex processes by which they came to be a “native”, as it were).

3.  There is no definition of “Mormon” which is not itself derivative (and creative) of the existence of that class; which class is itself derivative from the existence of the word.  That is to say, every definition of “Mormon” is itself creative of the class of things it would define, and the definition itself derives from the thing it creates by way of usage.  All the “parts are in motion,” though appearing stable from any “native” perspective.  Hence, when looking narrowly in space or time, one can be confounded into believing that “Mormon” actually refers to some language independent thing or person; but this belief is untrue, though compelling and seemingly beyond doubt.  The result (and proof of the essentially sociological-discursive source of the existence of the referent of “Mormon”) are practices designed to “purify” the “authentic” class.  Correlation is one example, but there are many.  Another result (and proof) is the existence of schisms aimed at uniting a more criteria-singular class (“we are gay Mormons”).

4.   The existence of modifiers of the word “Mormon”, such as liberal, gay, true blue, true believing, reformed, uninformed, faithful, worthy, jack, doubting, correlated, uncorrelated, utah, and so on, are proofs that the word “Mormon” works its “magic” by virtue of bringing together relational terms, in a sort of three-card monte.  That is to say, more discrete sociological sub-classes of “Mormon” attempt to give definition to the term, and rationality to the class, and attempt this by drawing on sociological and cultural categories which are independent of the class of things ‘sensed’ to be drawn in by the term “Mormon”.  Thus the demonstrable fictiveness of the term “Mormon” is occluded by posing “essentially” different subclasses which can claim adhereents who can then offer their usage, and their “communties of usage”, of the term against the stereotype of another subclass.  Ethnicities and nationalities are formed by the same “logic”, though these ground their fictive existence in “the body” or “territory” or some other seemingly tangible thing.  “Mormon” is utterly discourse-dependent, and so tends to generate and rely on the generation of subclasses in order to hide the basic truth of its existence.  So it happens that as a result of the discourse-dependent nature of the term, and of classes of persons said to be referred to by this term, sociological categories emerge within distinct “communities of usage”; such groups have as a primary interest the continuance of misunderstanding of the discourse-dependent nature of their being.  Having an alternate, opposed, subclass of “Mormons” is of primary importance in furthering that misunderstanding.

5.  The ways and means of forming new “subclasses” or of “purifying” the class of things referred to by “Mormon” depend on the technologies of communication, and on the relative capital required to acquire, maintain, and control these technologies.  Communities of usage can be enlarged in this way, though at the risk of exposing the essentially discourse-dependent nature of their being.  Hence, many “cheap” ways of performing “Mormonness” emerge, ways which are easily ranked according to their status and validity, as defined (implicitly, of course) by those in charge of the community of usage.  Other “communities” emerge which claim to exist “outside” Mormon circles, and this is, too, a matter dependent on the processes described above.  No blog, for example, has a way to derive a definition of “Mormonness” that is not itself derived from pre-existing values attributed to “fashions” of speaking.  Over time Mormon blogs, like any other discourse-dependent community, develop ways to regulate the boundaries within which Mormonness is performed.  As a result, technologically “new” communities of usage typically extend the cultural dynamics previously at work, rather than alter them.

6.  Capital, econonic or cultural, plays a describable, analyzable role in every community of usage.

7.  As a result of Articles I-VI, the term “Mormon Studies” is a “native” classification of a particular way of “speaking” or of producing texts; the subject being “Mormons” or, more abstractly (and thus releasing the user of even the slightest methodological accountability) “Mormonism”; and the subject being treated within existing, “Mormon”-independent genres common to what might be called “academia”.  What is easily acquired from academia are those things that are now said to give Mormon Studies its being; this is a matter of capital, largely, and its increasingly unequal distribution.  In reality, however, the structural and discourse-independent processes which make scientific inquiry possible are not easily acquired.  Given, moreover, that the terms discussed in these genre-imitations, and their seemingly “natural kind” classes there treated, in fact result from the native’s conflation of “orders” of usage, classification, and definition, it is then true that “Mormon Studies” as a word used to describe the production of texts is a word derived from the same processes which construct and maintain “communities of usage”.  The Study of Mormons/Mormonism are thus not independent from the same forces described above.  Such communities, to repeat, have as their primary function the surveillance and sanction of the use of the term which gives them “being”, and for this reason how one “speaks” (and so “performs” Mormonness), in the most general sense, is of principle concern.

These Articles are a stable beginning for actually understanding how “Mormons” and “Mormonism” can be understood from a position that is not itself derived from the communities that use the same terms.   That is to say, any position which privileges one native community’s use of “Mormon” over another is a position bound up with the power, capital, and other “forces” (let’s say, for now) that generated the misunderstanding among speakers, a misunderstanding that the term’s referent is not dependent on language, but is somehow a “naturally” existing thing.  Translation: to define “Mormon Studies” without defining “Mormon” from criteria independent of the processes which make the term a sociologically living thing is merely to use the capital, power, and force of, say, academic genres to do what “fundamentalist”, “liberal”, “true believing”, “X-Y-Z” Mormons have been doing for many decades.  As a result, Mormon Studies is merely a translation of Mormonism into another sphere, and by that translation, a non-circular understanding of “Mormon” itself becomes an impossibility.

Part Six: Amateurs Are Maggots?! On Mormon Studies

Part Six
of Interviews With Myself

Amateurs Are Maggots!?!  On Mormon Studies

Daymon, the basic
question I have is this: why do you hate amateurs so much?

Right. I think maybe I’ve not made myself clear on this point. The
word “amateur” is neither pejorative, as folks with advanced degrees
might have it; nor positive in evaluation. It is just a word that describes
persons who don’t make the majority of their income from the practice of
researching and writing about Mormonism. That’s it.  And so it allows the discussion of “Mormon
Studies” to be introduced to practical matters of economy and culture.  Hence we can proceed to some analysis
concerning the production of Mormon culture.

So, why do you hate
amateurs?

Jeez. I don’t hate amateurs. If I said Mormon Studies was
populated with Mormons, would that be used against me?  What if I wasn’t a Mormon? “You hate
Mormons!” I’d hear.  Identity
politics can be played in many ways.  Particularly when the identity has no
definition, but many which circulate and oppose one another:  What is a Mormon is answered differently by
different Mormons.  So there’s one
problem with Mormon Studies: it lacks a subject with definition.  That is different from, say, Women’s Studies,
African Studies, even Jewish Studies.

But they argue about definitions all the time.

Right, and that generates a lot of articles, books, and so
on.  But their subject is grounded in
something other than the act of speaking: “Mormon” identity is
speech-dependent.  It comes about by
virtue of the magic of pronouncement, either from a representative of an
institution, or from one’s own self-identification.  And how one defines “Mormon” shapes how one
reacts to “Mormon Studies,” and how one reacts then shapes where one speaks to
other “Mormons.”  The construction of
“Mormon Studies” has not resolved the basic problem that “Mormon” as a way to
classify research activities is inherently bound up with pragmatics, with ways
of speaking and the effects of speaking and writing.  Field-external sources of “power,” say, cultural
or economic capital, can then wield field-shaping influence.

Could you explain that?
“Mormon” is a speech dependent identity?

Not yet.  Later.  Look, I’m looking at what is called Mormon
Studies as an anthropologist.

Ah, so that’s, why you
hate amateurs?

Fine. Yep. I do. Just because I’m evil. If I can see past the
burning boiling hatred, I might try to explain why I think amateurs are,
potentially, a strength in the study of Mormonism.  What seems clear, however, is that Mormon
Studies was and is held to be cast in the image of academic disciplines. But
there may another way to view Mormon Studies, as something other than an
academic field.  Look to Maggot.  Farmer Maggot.

What about journals?
And endowed Chairs? And research? And people saying “Mormon” at
conferences? And, and, and –

Get a hold of yourself, there, boy-o. Anyone can start a journal,
or a blog; and a few endowed chairs do not a discipline make.  In fact, an endowed chair is often a sign of a
lack of academic credibility, and also a way to control the direction of
“Mormon Studies” from within the Ivy Tower; a sort of secular “priesthood” with
all the trappings of priestcraft, perhaps.
Buying cultural capital with economic capital, rather than acquiring it
through the traditional channels by which academic posts develop.

Whoa!  My testimony is hurting right now.  Can we stop?

What are signs of Mormon Studies are all the things which require
either little capital and lots of time, ambition, and, maybe, loneliness (e.g.,
blogs, online ‘journals’, publishing with apologetic venues); or lots of
capital and little background (e.g., funding of endowed chairs): those things
people point to as evidence of a thriving Mormon Studies, as a burgeoning
respectability within academia.  We have
long been seeking respectability, and this is merely the latest, upper-class
effort.  A sort of elite PR, let’s
say.  But I think it may be something
different from an academic discipline, like a —

Hold on.  So, you want to make it out to be like all
the other “studies”, and want to be the President of Mormon Studies,
right?

Huh? No. What I think is necessary is a Mormon Studies which is
grounded in, say, Mormonism, rather than, say, academia. Would a Mormon Studies
proponent ever present on anything driven by the methodology of
“seership”? Or would he ever claim to have seen some ancient text in
vision, and then, published on it in a bible studies journal? Or what about the
use of spirit guides to give us a new history of New Deal? Or a revelation from
Moroni regarding DNA? Never. So, what is called Mormon Studies is a
“Mormonism” rarified, bleached out, fluffy version translated into
the categories of academia.  That’s one
reason it’s like Fundamentalism.  And
like that sect, only a few benefit from the labors of many.

Who benefits from the supposed existence of Mormon Studies?  People benefiting from the claims of an
existing Mormon Studies are those who can funnel real or cultural capital, floating
around Mormonism, back their way: that is, graduate students applying for
fellowships and grants; academics looking to fluff up their cv’s, or escape the
administrative track, and a few authors. Some folks at the COB, perhaps,
looking for a little academic cover to keep them employed despite the ongoing
paranoia of too much history hurting a people’s faith.

Everyone else, maybe, is a patsy in their game: all the amateurs
whose work would be called, say, doctrinal, spiritual, or otherwise fitted into
existing genres of Mormonism, instead find their work swallowed up by the
privileged few who’d claim a Mormon Studies, and make it seem distinct from
apologetics, at least, to those who don’t like apologetics.

So, you don’t hate
amateurs?

No. I despise efforts to remake every aspect of our religion so
that it is respectable to some other power.
We’ve been at it too long, with the complicity of “leaders”
who just wanted to make it into a business. Make it evangelical, vaguely
Christian, feminist or misogynist, pro- or anti-homosexual, corporate, just a
topic for dry historical inquiry, a lame “community,” whatever; but
for god’s sake, the ambition seems to be, don’t let it be Mormonism with all
its kookiness, magic, potency, and demands for charity, honesty, humility,
sacrifice, empathy, serious and cautious working out, and immense discipline;
and truth, don’t forget.  No, this isn’t
Daymon the anthropologist, so much as Daymon the Elder’s Quorum teacher,
talking.  No, for some reason Mormonism
must be translated constantly into the categories of some other tradition: an
academic field, a political party, an economic justification for corporate
capitalism, a monstrosity of a corporation, a chance to play-act at being nice,
whatever. By dumping the term Mormon Studies onto anything of intellectual
value done by Mormons, or about Mormons, or about the products of Mormons, a
handful of folks have merely severed another part of Mormonism away, for their
own benefit and counsel.

So?

So.  Mormon Studies is in
the service of Correlation, for it provides an “outlet” for Mormons
to publish without really dealing with Correlation, all the while still under
the soft regime of Correlationistas, but with the added poison of schizophrenic
Mormon Neo-Con Liberals in Academia (I’m joking, friends!), who can say things
in the name of Mormon Studies that wouldn’t be speakable at Sunday school.  But that’s where the chairs, and journals, subtle
priestly guidance, paranoia of being outside proper speaking circles, and
highly capitalized bodies come into play, as regulators of the genre.

So, what do you think
should be done about all the amateurs? Genocide, or exile?

Look, I’m here now as an anthropologist, not a problem solver. But
maybe I can point to what I would do. Lawyers generally have done good work in
Mormonism, and I don’t mean at the COB. They’ve brought a level of rigor, a
depth of reading, a care for argument into what was previously left to guys
writing pamphlets in order to recruit plural wives, or to ex-Mormons trying to
save your souls, or to overweening “leaders” looking at a red chair,
or to a few academics who thought the Mormons quant enough to be studied in the
same way Native Americans were, in a sort of salvage ethnography. There are
some real gems of scholarship from the early 1900s, from the early 1840s, from
the early 1990s, and everywhere between. What I don’t see is why these must be
named and classified as Mormon Studies, except because it is something which
makes sense inside academia. You don’t need credentials to do good work, but
credentials help when applying for grants, fellowships, chairs, and the like;
all of which are given life through a framing of Mormon Studies, which field is
watered largely by the work of amateurs, who then are excluded from the same
fruits there cultivated.  Amateurs can
present at conferences held at BYU, UVU, Yale, and Claremont, but how many are
offered positions?  Participation is not
always Participation.

So, you don’t hate
amateurs just because they are amateurs, and the word “amateur”
doesn’t hide contempt?

Ah, at last! We can get to the starting point, at last.  There is a logic to the entry points of
Mormonism as a research subject, as a cultural field with products made by
humans.  One could go to graduate school,
and either study Mormonism from some academic perspective, or merely add to
one’s training a few excursions into Mormonism, all the while mostly working
on, say, The Meaning of X, Y, and Z in A Foreign Place or Time.  Or one can enter into the research strictly
as an amateur.  Now, amateurs can do
certain kinds of research very well, the sort that makes demands on time, for
example, by sitting in the archives or just reading everything one can
find.  Here we can begin to identity how
the matter of “genre” (by that I mean, “Mormon” is a speech-dependent thing,
just as a kind of literature is), how genre interfaces with matters of text,
economy, and the production of “knowledge” as a cultural product.  There is a logic to this practice, which I
will outline soon enough, alright?

OK.  Another promise.

I will get back to the whole baptism and Holy Ghost discussion,
eventually.  But first we will wander
over to Farmer Maggot’s Farm, which should not be confused with Maggie’s Farm.  Maggot may have something to teach us about divisions
of labor in Mormonism: specifically, how amateur and professional scholarship
can intersect, and do so without the intervention of a priestly caste, highly
capitalized chairs, and a massive corporate headquarters concerned not only
with copyright and trademark, but also what you say, how you dress, who you
touch, where you tithe, and how you read.
Perhaps Tolkien Studies and Tolkien Fanzines together more closely
approximate what is called Mormon Studies; Jewish Studies or Gender Studies may
not be the most accurate analogs of Mormon Studies.

The basic link? 

A voluntary society loosely affiliated; research that is mostly
text-corpus driven and so offering a few comparative routes of research; certain
easy entry points for research, and yet highly technical scholarship; journals;
podcasts; for-credit courses at major universities; and a membership not
determined by matters of biology, ethnicity, rituals, or even belief in the
truth or falsity of statements made “inside” the community.  Both have their Maggots and their Nazgul, as
well.  But there are telling differences.

Tolkien Studies versus
Mormon Studies?

You got it.  Grudge Match.  Next time.

On Mormon Studies, Apologetics, And Other Fundamentalisms

On Apologetics,
Mormon Studies, and Other Fundamentalisms

Part Five of Interviews with Myself

 

I want to address,
Daymon, an issue that some of your research, I think, maybe talks about, or
something.

OK.  What is that?

This Correlation
business.  It’s a good thing we have all
these  outlets now for Mormon culture,
and that with blogs, journals, and scholarly research we have a way to thrive,
faithfully, and not be reliant on those guys at Correlation.

Look, Daymon, this is the problem with scanning someone’s
research, particularly when it explores the cultural processes by which social
imaginaries are formed –

Social what?

I can’t get into it here.
But, the problem is that one can read my research from a correlated
perspective, and believe one understands it, and yet, extend the frontlines of
Correlation in the very act of misreading.
That is to say, one cannot simply announce that this text, article, or
word is now free from Correlation; or presume that one’s cultural work, because
it wasn’t run through the COB, is not itself a patchwork of Correlation.  You’re just being fooled by names for things,
and missing what they refer to.

But doesn’t that lead
to the paranoia that everything is Correlated?

It could, and sometimes should, but only if one doesn’t
really understand the dynamics by which Correlation sustains itself, and merely
sees the results and has some notion about what it is.  A lazy reading, in other words, has as its
fruits that sort of paranoia.  But an
informed reading can give one directions for escaping a seemingly
all-encompassing eye.

So, how do we get
outside Correlation?  Isn’t it proof that
we have journals, blogs, and conferences, that Mormonism is thriving as an
intellectual marketplace?

 

Is the existence of parasites, maggots, and bloating gases
evidence that a corpse is alive?  There
may be life there, but a corpse is a corpse.

What are you saying?

Let’s take the basic assertion that there is a Mormon
Studies.  Just because one has the name
of Mormon Studies, that is no reason to assume it is the same sort of thing
that other people call “X Studies”.  Anymore
than, this article is or is not Correlated, so that means I can read something
else into the text.  This is a point, an
argument even, that I made in an article posted on this site (Bananality of Mormon Studies).  Unfortunately, the post was taken over by a
proponent of Mormon Studies, who proved something: in the action of reading my
work as a way of reading my soul (the review of me/my work was titled, D.Smith
is a Sinner, though later it was admitted by the author that he hadn’t read
much of what I’d actually written).

 

Proved what?

That what folks call Mormon Studies is nothing like, say,
African or Jewish Studies.  That is, peer
reviewed by tenured or tenure-track faculty whose primary focus is the
research, its progress and regulation by factors outside the immediate sphere
of the researchers themselves.  There are
always personal politics in academia, but there is also, always, original
research.  That is, a complex interaction
of dependencies and independencies which ensure that, over time, consensus can
be used as a sign of an increase in knowledge on a subject.

Consensus is a sign?

Yes, but not always.
In Mormon Studies we have carved out many little circles for finding
consensus, and taken these as signs of increased knowledge of the subject at
hand.  But this is not the case.  For example, I recently read a blog post that
listed all the journals devoted to Mormon Studies, in one fashion or
another.   The conclusion, hastily given
and poorly thought out, was that this is a sign of a thriving intellectual
community.  Hardly so.  It could be; if there was just sooo much
research being done on a subject, that no single journal could publish all the
results.  But that isn’t the case.  What we have are hobbyists and amateurs,
pulled from a potential market of maybe a million readers, who get on a
hobby-horse, and write about it.  Mere
quantity means nothing, but a sizable market.
Their inspiration typically comes from a single journal, which is then
the target site for publication.   But
given enough people, and donors, or enough wealth aggregation, and a
potentially unlimited subject matter vaguely glossed by the phrase Mormon
Studies, given all these, one should not be surprised that many journals exist
which have as their purpose the publication of texts which contain the words
“Mormon” in them, and which have citation expectations, and a passive narrative
voice.  Merely imitating various
scholarly genres, and the market makes the self-deception possible.

So, consensus?

Yes, well, consensus within a community of scholars – a
combination of academics, professional researchers at labs, policy makers and
so on – is taken as a sign of more or less certain knowledge.  Evolution, in one form or another, for
example, cannot seriously be doubted, and even if certain soft points exist in
the overall claims of the theory, that is precisely why it is called a theory,
and not a fact.  A fact names a single
proposition which describes a simple reality, easily evidenced to the senses; a
theory names a series of related facts, and so by its nature cannot be grasped
at a glance.  So the “truth” or
validation of a theory is only the thing left over after many attempts at
breaking it, at disproving it.  The
consensus stands in where the “truth” is merely silent, and gives pointers to
new students, journalists, and the like, who’d like to start to understand the
subject.  What is missing in Mormon
Studies, among other things which would make it a legitimate scholarly
endeavor, is this arrangement that consensus induces reason to believe in a
theory, because consensus is manufacturable here, by means other than invalidation
over a long period of time.

I don’t get it.

I can’t make it much simpler for you, but I will provide
examples.  But don’t get bogged down in
what are pedagogic exemplars, and confuse them for evidence I am marshalling
for the theory.  OK?

Got it.  Not really, but go ahead.

 

Fine.  I can’t teach
you everything to be learned by cultural anthropology, but I can analyze
Mormonism, if you let me.  Look at Mormon
Fundamentalism as an example of Mormon Studies.
The same processes are at work, and indeed, the only difference is that
they called themselves Fundamentalists (on a poorly understood analogy with
Christians), rather than Scholars.  But
look at the details, and not the names.
When the imagined community of Mormons turned plural marriage into a matter,
into a sign, of belief in Mormonism in general; and then, in public, a few
speakers imagined to be “leaders” publicly renounced this relationship by which
plural marriage was a sign of authentic believers, it made it possible to form
a coherent group which could imagine itself, and I mean by that any individual
“member” could imagine the group as existing, thinking, and so on; so the group
could imagine itself within the sign-relation previously accepted by
Mormons.  But in order to maintain
consensus, and thus, oblige the imaginary as something which could passively
compel the sign-relation to continue, they had to sever certain communication
points with the other Mormons.  So they
“broke off,” physically moved away sometimes, mostly stopped reading certain
journals, paying subscription fees, and participating in the rituals.  And so, they become, over time, a place where
new consensus could be seemingly found.
That is, became a distinct culture (though actual consensus is
irrelevant; what I’m talking about is imaginable consensus, keep in mind).

OK.  How is that like Mormon Studies?

 

It isn’t like it, it is very much the exact same thing, but
from a different era.  An era which, in
fact, made possible the abuse of scholarship as a way to form “break off”
cliques, though now without the veneer of religious purposes.  Mormon Studies is merely the latest
translation of the basic process of cultural division and reformulation; the
process is the same, but the names we give it differ.  But don’t be fooled by names.  Look to what is named, and you’ll see that
Mormon Studies is a breed of Mormon Fundamentalism.

Because they break
off?

 

Not simply that.
Fundamentalism in Christianity was grounded in a way of reading the
Bible – the King James Version – which required closing communication channels
that seemed “outside” the faith: namely, the voice and writings of bible
scholars and biologists; those who questioned the referentiality of the tales
(and so, their authorship), and those who supplied new tales of origins.   And
Fundamentalism was merely a strain of Protestantism, but rather than pose a
text against the priest, they posed a text against the latest cultural
authority who spoke from a position of power, in a language difficult to
understand.  Now in Mormonism it works
rather differently, in the particulars, but the process is the same.

I’m listening.  Really, I am.

 

Sure.  Anyway.  New spaces for reading “consensus” were
generated by Mormons in the 1930s, and theses were called sects, or
religions.  New spaces were generated in
the 1960s, in part due to the low cost of paper, the ease of attending college,
a boom in young adults, and other utterly non-spiritual factors; in the 1960s
new spaces of consensus were manufactured, and these were the journals that
became the basis for people to claim the existence of Mormon Studies.  The name, like that of Fundamentalism, came
long after the cultural divisions were securely in place.  And the approach to reading, publishing, and
citing texts is very much the same in Mormon Studies.

But Mormon Studies is
different from apologetics, like FARMS.

 

Not anymore, and the fact they changed their name to Mormon
Studies Review merely gives the game away.
The name means nothing, obviously, except that most names are not owned
by some party who controls the usage.

Huh?

Nevermind.
Branding.  Anyway. The first
unofficial, seemingly scholarly routes for writing about Mormonism and reaching
some sizable public (by that I mean, consisting of persons unknown, and of too
many persons to ever really know them all; hence, generic notions stand in as
“people” or a “church” or a “community”), the first ones were vaguely
conceived; once blatantly apologetic spaces appeared, the seeming scholarly
nature of the other spaces was secured.  Like
the editorial page making objectivity a possible reading in other articles.  Just like the polygamist fundamentalist
Mormon sects made possible the seeming normalcy of non-polygamist Mormons.  Whatever the notions found outside Mormonism,
and remember that most Americans don’t distinguish polygamists from other
Mormons, whatever these views of Mormons, Mormons could conclude they were themselves
mainstream, normal, super-patriotic Americans, because at least they weren’t
like those Mormons.  Just so, Mormon Studies could posture it
wasn’t like FARMS, and when it was clear that something like Correlation
existed, now the posture is that, We Aren’t Correlated!  Funny, and foolish.

What about consensus,
then?

Each little group requires a demonized alter ego group:
membership is found in the relationship among the “members,” and also in the
reading of different groups as being distinct.
Inside each group, as most anthropologists would tell you, the
differences are almost non-existent.  Yet
each group is certain those other guys are totally different.  Consensus in Mormonism is manufacturable in
ways it isn’t inside, say, academia, in particular, in the sciences.  So we cannot read “consensus” as a sign of
anything other a seeming agreement in a small circle.  More often than not, however, consensus is
merely a fiction read from the non-public presence of dissent.  Since long before Correlation we’ve made
statements uttered in public the default for what is real, and so, a consensus
can be manufactured merely by public relations.
If one disagrees, one does so silently, or as an individual; because the
public spheres of Mormonism are not designed for individual dissent.  To dissent publicly, as an individual, is to
speak for oneself, and not for the “group”.

I see.

And so, the trend after Correlation has been to quote some public
utterance, for this is a sure way to cover one’s ass, and to indicate that one
is not speaking as an individual, but as a member of a group.  Enunciating the “mind” of the group, as it
were.  But this has nothing whatsoever to
do with the truth, so much as ability to mobilize capital which can be used to
buy or manufacture new public spheres for the manufacture of consensus.

But there’s lots of
dissent, and it isn’t all consensus in Mormonism.

 

Obviously!  But that’s
the point, is that the reality of things hardly matches up to the diagrams of
them, which images are then presupposed, acted against, and by reacting, given
life, even if founded on untruths.  Many
dissenters in Mormon Studies merely founded new public spheres, so that their
“dissenting” voices were protected by the new seeming consensus of the new
community, and thus, what was once a dissenting voice becomes another orthodoxy
in another circle.  And that is both
Fundamentalism and Mormon Studies.

What about
apologetics, though.  Doesn’t that differ
from Mormon Studies?

 

Not really.  Here’s
why.  An apologist has a stake in
research resulting in one outcome, versus another.  They hardly convince anyone other than the
already convinced ,and so, their research takes on a ritualistic feel, a sort
of cultic power, because it borrows much from the priestly circles, and not
merely by defending them.  If the
research doesn’t come out the preferred way, it doesn’t get published in the
apologist’s journal, or presented at their conferences.  That is the basic criteria, and that differs
from science.  Controversial findings are
difficult to publish in the sciences, but not if they are founded on
recognizably good methods, with good records and data, and rely on sound
reasoning.  These become championed by
increasing numbers, particular by those not at the top of the field, until the
theory is accepted.  But in apologetics,
the voices are already scripted, and there can be no negotiation, and there is
no interest in “compromise”.

And that’s
Correlation?

No.  That scripting
and silencing is merely the most obvious thing one can name Correlation, and
it’s easy, because it sounds evil to discriminate between voices.  But Correlation in Mormonism, is more
profoundly, a way of imagining consensus, of imaging reactions to a text, that
a text (or a statement, talk, or whatever) says something about the speaker,
about his or her soul, and so, every text is not merely a conglomeration of
statements about the subject at hand.   But
also, and more importantly, a sign of something about the speaker: about his or
her spirituality, obedience, or any other intangible thing referred to by
abstract nouns.  Literally, a text can be
made to index anything about the speaker, in principle.   That’s culture.  And in Mormonism this is what Correlation
does, but without giving any firm way of reading a public text as a sign of a
speaker’s qualities.

I don’t get it.

I can’t teach you everything about Correlation here.  You’ll have to read, and think, carefully on
your own.  But look at it like this.  What are the standards for getting something
“past” Correlation?

I don’t know.  Purity of doctrine, truth, and so on?

 

Not at all.  There are
no standards, except that it doesn’t contradict a Correlator’s interpretation
of his little book of official sayings, officially constructed and handed out
by Correlation.  That’s it.  It’s very vague, and badly done, and that is
the point: there are no standards, which means this.  Paranoia, imagining of what the standards
are, and so, self-Correlation is the norm.
That is, one must imagine what the text is going to say about oneself,
as read by persons both known and unknown.
Thus, the clearest way forward is to quote already published
authorities.

That’s what they do in
science.

 

Literature reviews are totally different.  That is, when done correctly, a matter of
demonstrating coverage of reading, so that one isn’t merely duplicating
previous research.  In Mormon Correlation,
citation is a way of ensuring that one is duplicating previous findings.

In Mormon Studies?

 

It depends,  sometimes
more like the scholarly method, sometimes more like the Correlation way.  Sometimes in the same journal, sometimes in
the same article or book.  That’s the
problem.  But look.  My point is that Correlation is not a word for a single bad or good thing, which can
then be removed, undone, or foisted upon someone; but rather the word merely
names a small sample of a wide phenomenon in Mormonism, which is itself
commonly found in American culture.  The
existence of the word makes it possible to imagine one is or is not
Correlated.  But the problem is this:
people, individually or collectively, are not correlated, or correlatable; only
texts are.

Doesn’t that mean by
having non-correlated channels for distributing texts, we can get beyond
correlation?

Not at all.  By text I mean, the way signs AND their
interpretation are put together; that is a text.  A fundamentalist way of reading assumes that
a text is independent of the translation of it, and so, you find
fundamentalists in every stripe are those who insist they need not defend their
reading of a text, because their reading is IN the text.

In a way, it is.

Yes, and that is why it seems true to them.  But the truth is more complex, and it is that
every interpretation is found in the text.
By definition.

So every text means
anything?

No, no, no.  By “text”
I mean the interpretation of a seemingly independent sign-configuration, to be
technical.  So, yes, all
“interpretations” are found in the text, by definition; but that merely means
that we ought to spend our time justifying our reading against another’s, and
in finding rationale for justifying such, which can be used by persons capable of
devising alternate readings of a text, or, giving alternate texts from a single page
of writings.  It should compel our
charity, not our desire for purity, orthodoxy, and so on.  But it doesn’t give reason for “anything
goes,” or “it’s just opionions.”  That simplification makes the law a matter of power, and that is just as
dangerous.  We can come to agreement
about how to read a text, and that is what academic disciplines are: lines that
describe how agreements are made concerning “texts” that range from laboratory
results to English literature and the like.
That doesn’t exist in anything called Mormon Studies, that basic
agreement about how a text is to be read, argued about, and so on.

Consensus?

When we look for consensus in that way, then we have moved
toward creating a rational, mature Mormon Studies.  That is not topical, or subject driven, or a genre imitation.   But
rather, any “study” is an exceedingly difficult achievement only a few times seen in the
history of humanity.  That science is now
so prevalent is merely a sign of the power of the truth, and not a sign of the
inevitability of consensus as a way of getting power.  Think how scarce real science was, say, two
hundred years ago.  A rare
accomplishment, just as democracy is.
Calling something democracy is no more a guarantee of democracy, than is
calling something “X studies” a sign of scholarship.

Consensus?

When, however, we demonize alternate interpretations as
evidence of perverse spirituality, or defunct souls, then we are merely looking
to break off and form our own little sect.
All of Mormon Studies, so called, is mostly Sectarianism, for that
reason.  Having a public venue for saying
the word “Mormon,” inside the confines of an imitated genre (e.g., scientific
essay, personal essay, memoire, and so on), is not a sign of the existence of
Mormon Studies.  It merely means that
there are enough people around to provide the capital required to keep the
space from collapsing (and given an ever widening gap between rich and poor,
fewer people are needed in order for a public sphere to inflate, and that is
one reason why wealth inequality is dangerous).
And enough people to seem like a community, that is, to be greater than
one’s personal sphere of friendship, to seem like it is composed of strangers,
strangers who can stand in and carry stereotypes.  Like totems, that is.  ‘We are this kind of people’ – that sort of
imagining is possible only when generic people exist, and generics can only
exist where one is not personally familiar with everyone claiming
membership.  Wards, for example, don’t
have “identities” the same way that churches, nations, and corporations
do.  Notice, also, that “corporate
culture” only became a term after corporations had branch offices, and more
employees than anyone could every know, in a lifetime.  Generic persons become the blank pages on
which consensus can be inscribed.

And that is the truth
of Mormon Studies? 

 

The truth?  No.  But, this is why the internet has boomed that
particular sect of Mormonism: because identities are utterly opaque, ambiguous,
and the number of members of a community often explicitly identified (e.g., 1456
users; 17 currently online); and start up costs are minimal.  The numbers are there, but not anything else
by which actual persons could be known.
And so, the genericizing of people, and their carrying of a stereotypes,
is ramped up like never before.  So is consensus
so much easier to imagine, as one can merely start a new blog, a new journal,
or conference, online, because the start-up costs are so little, compared to
what they were in the 1960s, or, the 1860s.

And so, consensus?

 

No longer a fair sign of anything, except the cheap start up
costs of public spheres where consensus can be postured at, and our inability
to have empathy and to understand one another.
Mormon Studies must develop around a different logic than that which
makes science something a student can step into, and be trained in, and
contribute to.  One cannot merely start
up a biology journal, and get contributors, and seem to be on the same level
as, say, Nature.  Though financial start up costs are minimal,
of course, there is vast cultural capital which must be present; think-tanks
and corporate funded “institutes” have the money, try to buy the cultural
capital, and sometimes succeed, but often at the cost of doing actual research.

You mean, the money
corrupts the research?

No, I mean, the cultural capital is at last acquired, and,
lo and behold! The journal accidentally publishes real research, despite what
the funders want, because there is an institutional framework in place that
came along with the cultural capital.
Propaganda cannot play with the sciences for very long before it becomes
either a joke or converts to doing legitimate work.  Nothing like that exists in Mormon Studies.

And so?

And that is where Mormon Studies falters: we have no way of assessing or
reading Cultural Capital, except, by and large, if something seems “authorized”
or “approved” by “the Brethren” or “The Church.”  That, my friend, the lack of cultural capital
being generated outside certain channels, and the ease with which financial
capital can be marshaled to give us new public spheres like blogs, that is why
there is no Mormon Studies.  What counts, for, say, Dialogue, is not convertable in FARMS.  There is no unifying currency.

You seem to have a
problem with amateurs.  What’s your
problem?    

 

You see, Mormon Studies thrives on amateurs, who have
hobbyhorses, and but little grasp of the process of scholarship (a grasp which
takes many years of practical labor to understand).  They provide the capital for inflating public
spheres, and the audiences for the imagining of a public where consensus can be
found.  And they inflate the number of
publications any single, new student would seemingly be required to read before
writing on a topic, without providing any institutionalized support for that
reading.  Grad School gives stipends for
students to get their feet under them, to let them read and not produce anything.  Mormon Studies lacks any institutional
support, unless you are being trained for seminary or institute, and those have
their own problems, of course.  So, as a
result of the ease with which amateurs can “enter the market,” indeed are
forced to do so as amateurs and not as professionals; and the low costs of
starting up oneself as a Mormon Scholar; there is very little direction to the
entire endeavor, very little progress that can be pointed to, and, yet, many
journals, articles, blogs, conferences, and books exist.  Hence, occupations with high wages, and some
downtime, are those most likely to produce Mormon Studies articles.

Lawyers.

And software folks.
And retired guys.  Old ladies.  Bingo.  All driven by intellectual property
litigation, copyright, IRAs, Finance, Social Security, and so on, just as the American economy
has been for three decades.  One doesn’t
find auto workers or clerks writing on the Book of Mormon, or theology, or DNA.  But one also doesn’t find many biologists
doing actual research on DNA and the Book of Mormon, so much as writing off the
cuff editorials on the subject, stuffed with enough to sound like the science
they regularly do.  And one doesn’t find
those articles being published in scientific journals, so much as in Mormon Studies
venues.  And all these amateurs inflate
the public spheres, and at a certain point the barriers for new amateurs to
enter into the sphere become too great, and then, another journal shows up.  The start up capital is easier to acquire
than the cultural capital, you see.  And
so the number of “members” of each sect is fixed, like any ward, and so every
Mormon journal and group-blog plateaus, because the start up costs for a new “sect”
are minimal.  It’s not like you’re
apostate if you start a new blog, rather than a new church.  But the difference is mostly in the words,
and not in the realities.  Got it?

I do.  Sort of.

Corpses are fertile, you see, but all the parasites,
maggots, and so on, are not signs of life.

So, are you saying
amateurs are maggots?

Jeez.  Yep.  That’s what I’m saying.  I’m a bad person.  You can read as much on many reviews of my
writing.  Thanks for demonstrating the
basic problem of Mormon Studies.

NEXT TIME: Why
Archaeology Can Prove Nothing, And Amateur Mormon Apologists Who Read
Archaeology And Then Trot It Out, Are Unwise..

On The Tradition of a “Small and Large Plates” Division

One of the more controversial findings from my study The Abridging Works is that the tradition of Small Plates of Nephi and Large Plates of Nephi is, well, just tradition.  The evidence against this traditional division is considerable, as I argue in an essay in the same book.

What do I think is more correct?  The “Small Plates” are called “The Plates of Jacob” and Nephi seems to not ever mention the size of plates.  What about the reading of Nephi which finds “ministry plates” and “reign plates”?  Clearly this division could not have come about until he was well into his reign; I think the textual evidence indicates Nephi engraving plates for at least three different records; and that the start-and-stop nature of 1 Nephi through 2 Nephi 5 is a symptom of Nephi’s re-writing; and also, more importantly, of the fact that these plates were not originally part of Mormon’s “Abridging Plates,” that is, of the “Golden Plates”.

That is one outcome of reading in a way presented in The Abriding Works: What is now called 1 Nephi and the first parts of 2 Nephi were not, it seems, part of the “small account” which Mormon attached to his record.  Where did they come from, then?

I cover in The Abridging Works the historical and textual evidence for a second acquisition of plates from Cumorah.

Conversation with Mitt

Hi Folks.  I’ve got Brother Romney on the line, and he’s here to answer your questions.

Ask Mitt Anything (TM) is brought to you by TradeAmericaPriceShifters Inc.

Q:  So, Mitt, I mean, President Romney, what are corporations?

Mitt: Corporations are People, too, my friend.

Q: Well, I mean, what are they, really?

M: They represent the people, and are the people.  And are people.

Q: Well, how could that be?  I mean, we don’t vote for them.

M: Ah, but what about the market?  Everytime you purchase something, you vote.

Q: But what if I have no money, or not as much as you inherited?

M: Not so many votes, then.  See, it works this way.  Those with more money get more votes.  It’s just like –

Q: Don’t say it.  Consecration?

M: Exactly.  God gives us more ‘votes’ because we’ve done more with our votes.

Q: But you inherited your votes.

M: And grown many, too.

Q: Not enough, apparently.

M: What was that?  You little —  Update…Softward Mitt2.011.  Barack Osama Osama Barama beebebebep.  Am I right, guys?

Q: Huh? What was that?

M: Ask Mitt Anything is brought to you by HedgeFundManagersForTaxReliefGOUSA.

Q: Let me ask, then, what is a corporation?

M: Corporations are people.

Q: What about an individual one?

M: A corporation are people, too, my friend.  I don’t know how many ways I can speak the truth to power, here, but geeezoo-guy, come on.

Q: That’s the point, isn’t it?  A corporation isn’t individual, so it can’t be human.

M: Human, who said anything about humans?  I’m talking about people.  And corporations are people.

Q: Yeah, I heard that.  Can I ask you another question?

M: Ask Mitt Anything is brought to you by –

Q: Here goes: Do you know what people are?

M: Of course.  I am one of them.  I am one of  those people.

Q: But people and corporations are different.  For one, people can be incarcerated, conscripted, executed, and so on.  They die, have fingerprints, dental records, and so on.

M: Well, that may be the point, you see?  Corporations are exalted people.  Having received the blessing of faith, they are beyond the human notions of justice.  No bodies, no prisons to hold them.  They are redeemed from Hell, existing everywhere and nowhere, without passions and parts.  But the important point I want to make is that Barack Obama is a [insert negative categorization].

Q: Sorry, did you say, “insert negative categorization”?

M: Sorry, did you say, “insert negative categorizzz—Input: reboot.  Mitt2.011.  Yes, as I was saying, before this gentleman interrupted me, Corporations are people.

Q: I don’t recall…anyway, what I was trying to ask, Brother Romney, is whether you see any real difference between the two?

M:  I don’t see any difference.  Other than the exalted part.

Q: Can corporations marry?

M: If of distinct genders, of course.  How else can they raise a loving family in the safety and nurturance of a home?

Q: I think that was a question.  And I don’t have a corporate sponsor.

M: And that was an answer.  The only answer.  Get a corporate sponsor for yourself.  That is the answer.

Q:  Not really, no.  How could corporations have distinct genders?

M: Didn’t God make them different?  I mean, hello, someone must’ve missed the maturation seminar in fifth grade.  Am I right, guys?

Q:  So, do corporations need baptism?

M:  Baptism is the gateway to Heaven, my faith is this, and like all Christians I believe it.

Q: So, is that a yes?

M: Well, some people say it is, and others say it isn’t.  The important point I want to make to distinguish myself from the field is that corporations are people.

Q: So are corporations Christian?

M: Some are.  Some aren’t.  That’s why we at the Corporation of the President of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints proclaim to all the world, that it is our responsibilty to teach the gospel to all corporations, irrespective of criminal activities, war profiteering, tax evasions, pollutions, downsizing, upgrading, forefronting, backing, and so on.  All brought into the House of Israel.

Q: So, you’re on a mission?

M: Like all faithful Latter-day Saints, I embrace the call to serve among the corporations of the world!

Q: How does one convert and baptize a corporation?

M: Ah, ah, ah.  It’s the Spirit that does the converting.  I’m just there to deliver a messaging solution.

Q: Message to whom?

M: To who.  To the corporation.  Am I the only one listening here?

Q: I mean, who does the Spirit preach the gospel to, when teaching the corporations of the world?

M: To the head of the Corporation, of course.  He’s the patriarch.

Q: So you mean the CEO?

M: Those are people. I mean the head of the corporation.

Q: Which is what? What other word can you use for that thing?

M: The patriarch.

Q: What about baptism?

M: Like I said –

Q: Nevermind.  What about baptism for the dead corporations?

M: Only at the temple, and under proper authority, as the prophet teaches us.

Q: So, you can baptize dead corporations?

M: Just as easily as dead people.  Speak the name, for an in behalf of, say, the East India Corporation, name of Father, Son, and so on.  Done.

Q:  And what happens, then?

M: They are redeemed.

Q: And?

M: And go to heaven, just like any other person.  Look, I’m tired of all this discimination against corporations.

Q: So, this is, what, like a civil rights campaign?

M: It is the civil rights movement for our century.

Q: And you are the Martin Luther King, then, for corporations?

M: Who?  Look, I don’t know much about your liberal professors, but when it comes to rights, I say we get back to the constitution.

Q: Which one?

M: What do you mean, the American one.

Q: No, I mean, the one before the Civil War, or after?

M: Huh?  Hello?  Uploading….Hah, hah, hah.  Uploading….Yes.

Q: Yes, what?

M: This guy can’t take yes for an answer!  Am I right, guys?  I mean, come on.  That’s all I have time for, thanks.

Q:  Mitt, one last question?  Is it true that there is one corporation who is, in fact, a person: President Thomas S. Monson, who is the Corporation Sole called the Corporation of the President of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints?

M: Yes.  He is both a corporation and a person.  This is my faith, and it shouldn’t be an ithmus test for president.

Q: He is the only member, then, of that church.  What church do you belong to?  There’s only two.

M: Time to shut down.  Trademark Romney 2.011.