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A talk on the Great Apostasy? I humbly submit President James E. Faust, Restoration of All Things. Saturday morning session of General Conference - April 1, 2006.

I've never really cared much for this trend in the Church. Currently, it seems to be the focus of our Priesthood authorities, so I'll go along with it. But I've always been far more inspired and motivated by the "grand narrative" than the "intimate conviction" aspect of my religion.

I also worry that the personalizing of the Gospel is partly being motivated by the general self-centeredness of modern society.

I get enough "me, me, me!" messaging in popular media and I don't care to hear it endorsed at the pulpit. To me it seems clear that you can never be "self-actualized," never feel your own "self-worth," never really feel good about yourself until you have a great cause to unite with.

I think the Church risks spoiling the kids by doting on them as much as it has been recently.

Little more Brigham Young please!

I also don't care much for the way testimony meeting has gone in the modern church. The "tender sniffles" at the pulpit are really a turn-off for me and seem overly self-indulgent.

That's just as likely due to the fact that I'm a cynical crank of course ... But all the emotional energy spent by people wondering if they are "self-actualized" seems an utter waste to me.

Are you happy?

Who cares?! Get to work and contribute already and quit moping!

Seems like I'd like Armand Mauss. I'll have to check him out.

I think that it makes a lot more sense for us to discuss the aspects of God that we have first-hand knowledge of, rather than aspects for which we have second-hand testimony at best. (Remember that old-line Mormonism was in no way adverse to speculations about doctrine for which there was no clear evidence one way or the other.) And I have to wonder if the Spirit of the Lord might be offended at being described as "tender sniffles..."

Only if it was really the "Spirit of the Lord." I've seen one or two examples where I'm pretty sure it was self-manufactured and had nothing to do with the Spirit.

But only one or two. I typically have no way of distinguishing.

Dave,

As far as the missionary discussions, the pendulum might be swinging back the other way. The new missionary discussions give the Great Apostasy a prominent place in the very first discussion, much more prominent than in the previous discussions. Even more striking, the new discussions put much less emphasis on identifying spiritual feelings in investigators, and more on the missionaries recognizing spiritual guidance themsleves. John-Charles Duffy talks about this in his excellent Sunstone piece, and in his podcast interview with John Dehlin.

Actually Dave, I think Brigham Young's view towards philosophy is very much a distrust of grand meta-narratives. He takes a very pragmatic and "humanistic" approach to the world. There are narratives, but they really are never the grand narratives one expects in systamatic theology. And those who did embrace such things (such as Pratt) weren't looked upon favorably by Brigham Young. I think he just felt for fallibilism too much.

Regarding Mauss, I think we went through a period (largely IMO due to Protestant influence) where we trusted grand metanarratives. This could be seen both in the scientism period of LDS thought (say 1900 - 1940) and the literalist and absolutist phase (say 1930 - 1980).

But the other tendencies were always present.


Having said all this, I think what Lyotard means by distrust of narratives and the more vague and general sense it is frequently used in religious conversations is a bit different.

Dave, I'm not sure my understanding of postmodernism matches with what you say here:

"a preference for narrative over logical exposition; an emphasis on subjective, emotional response over rational analysis; an emphsis on narrow perspectives over "grand narratives."

Granted, postmodernism is an incredibly difficult topic to contain in a simple definition, but I see Lyotard as saying that a postmodern incredulity is not only limited to the metanarratives, but also the petite narratives. It is not an emotional response over a rational analysis, but quite the opposite - a system based upon power and efficiencies.

I think Lyotard argues that in postindustrial society the nature and use of knowledge changes. This change, a result of the subversive nature of scientific inquiry, creates a “crisis of narratives” and a delegitimation of previously held truths whose foundations lie within those narratives or metanarratives. (This is bad for religion)

Once the de facto legitimation of a truth based upon metanarratives is removed, into that vacuum moves a new legitimated way of thinking – this one based upon power. In essence, Lyotard traces the move to postmodernism as de facto narrative legitimation subverted by science (or rational inquiry). Science then legitimates itself through efficiencies and power. The final result is a new de facto legitimation based upon this self-perpetuating power and force.

The aspects of Mormonism that fit a postmodern mold would more likely be those elements that are based on efficiencies rather than narratives. Such elements might include correlation, our building architecture, and the use of business management principles for the administration of the church.

There is one aspect of Lyotard's work that I think applies here (I haven't seen the original article that prompted this post, but it may cover this) - Lyotard's concept of paralogy and the conversations on the various LDS blogs.

To the extent that these conversations are open and the language and terms are allowed to be defined locally, it is a great example of this concept. It is also where I think your desription of Mauss and the tendency for the "tender sniffles" may fit under the postmodern umbrella.

Thanks for the thought-provoking post, it's a difficult one to nail down!

Here's another cultural indicator: the rise of LDS historical fiction over the last two decades, which has become much more popular than actual history. The novels place sympathetic but fictional characters in the middle of LDS historical narratives modeled after but not particularly bound by actual events. The fictional characters interact with characters fashioned and named after real historical characters. Sort of a 'based on a true story' approach in print, trying to borrow credibility from real history but unwilling to abide by the canons of historical writing.

That's not particularly postmodern though Dave. Postmodern fiction is usually more very self-aware and self-reflective. Things like Fight Club more than Work and the Glory.

Hey Seth, I agree with you about the self-manufactured bit, but I think the scope is much larger.

Darren,

You're being a bit cryptic. I'm not sure what you mean.

Seth, I think they are all self-manufactured.

I agree. "Tender sniffles" in my limited experience have little or nothing to do with the influence of the Spirit -- if anything they tend to detract from that influence, on others at any rate.

I love being a member of that church. It's a bummer that you think you understand, but you don't. Those General Authorities are true living prophets on this earth and I respect them. They will be blessed for all the good they do. :)

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