Deconstructing Mormonism  : RfM
A discussion of Tom Riskas' book "Deconstructing Mormonism: An Analysis and Assessment of the Mormon Faith." 
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Posted by: tomriskas ( )
Date: September 25, 2013 01:20AM

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Posted by: thingsithink ( )
Date: October 12, 2013 08:29PM

I think you shot down a potentially interesting and fun discussion with some excessive censorship early on.

In my earlier posts, I predicted your apparent desire to control of the conversation was going to be a problem. It's too bad because I think it could have been a great discussion.

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Posted by: tomriskas ( )
Date: October 15, 2013 08:18PM

Thanks for the link lemm0n. I have (finally!) read this lengthy review with interest.

Assuming that you shared this review with a genuine interest in my thoughts, I will briefly share those thoughts in this reply.

The reviewer's entire argument, from my perspective, could perhaps be best characterized as a sophisticated betrayal of doubt, given a seeming disavowal or denial of the literalist, physicalist and undeniably dogmatic teachings of Mormonism, as well as his retreat to the "mystic", "metaphorical","mythic" and "archetypal" realms of religiosity.

As an argument, I consider this one-sided review to be both an attack on a "straw man" (falsely characterizing, and associating my analytical approach as merely and exclusively "positivism") and a "red herring" (i.e. a mis-direction of my argument to his 'straw man').

I also found the reviewer's argument riddled with several additional telling and significant problems. These include, in my judgment, various "ad hominem" attacks and attempts to "poison the well" though misrepresentation, as well as "limited depth" in his review of my psycho-social assessment of mormonism, defensive (evasive) intellectualizing,the use of question-begging scriptural exegeses,the fallacy of reduction based on "false choice" ("Sophic" vs. "Mantic" and Barbour's "religion vs. science"),"redefinition" or "equivocation" of the Mormon concept of 'God'and doctrine of deity, the ad hoc "spiritual fallacy" of insisting that something meant to be taken literally is actually 'spiritual' (whatever that could possibly mean beyond merely and exclusively a purely human, neuro-psychological experience interpreted metaphorically as such), and various "non-sequiturs" arising from all the above.

As for the reviewer's turn to the "mythic", archetypal or humanistic approach to religious experience, and to theistic religiosity in general, I would respond that there is no credible denial of the patriarchal, authoritative (and authoritarian) stance of the church regarding its foundational, and yes, "incorrigible" doctrine of deity. regardless of how vague, evasive and guarded the church has been in discussing and affirming such.

What I found interesting, and perhaps telling, was this reviewer's insistence on engaging in "God-talk" but his or her evasion of the questions asked regarding such talk. The reviewer is critical, for example, of the fictional Mormon involved in my "Instructive, Deconstructive Conversation" but does not (cannot? will not?) answer the questions of the also fictional "Objective Outsider from Another World". Nor does the reviewer attempt to answer any of the summary questions posed in Chapter 8 except to dismiss them as mere "positivism".

Also, the reviewer speaks of 'God' repeatedly but never bothers to address the questions about 'God'that would establish, in principle, the justifiability of a belief in the existence such a being (if indeed such god is a being) as a factual reality.

The reviewer also speaks of "revelation" and "spiritual experience", but not what the source of such experience is, and what the human criteria are by which we might be able to distinguish such experiences from purely natural, human, psychological experience originating in the human brain?

Finally, the reviewer speaks of his or her "faith" as "trust and commitment compatible with considerable doubt about particular interpretations", but leaves the reader wondering what the object of such faith is, apart for just 'God'. In other words, "trust and commitment" to what or who, specifically, and "considerable doubt" about the "particular interpretations" of what exactly? Official church doctrine? Official church history? official church policy? The interpretations of key scriptures and doctrines, or god's will, presented by the church's (and god's) chosen prophets, seers and revelators?

Mormonism as a theistic life-form consists of its own language games and corresponding and diverse web of beliefs. These beliefs are not balkanized from other life forms within our global culture, or from critical inquiry as to their justifiability as alleged truth claims.

What we're looking for here is not "proof" or "evidence" or "verification" or "falsification" as the reviewer wrongly takes from DM. Nor are we dealing with "models" and "paradigms" as the reviewer I think also wrongly suggests. What we are dealing with, as I make abundantly clear in the book, is the question of the warranted assertability, or justifiability,of beliefs held and represented as truth claims. If all we're dealing with here is metaphor, mythology or poesis then there is no need for justification. But mormonism is neither of these as a belief system. Nor is it regarded as a "model" or "theorem" open to, or tolerant of, radical interpretation, loyal dissent, or even the pursuit of dialogue, unforced consensus or "creative realism" as the "September Six" (and I'm sure many others) found out (and have since found out) the hard way...through excommunication or dis-fellowship.

Mormons, as the reviewer knows well, make "truth claims" about gods, intelligences, spirits, angels, devils, and the "Plan of Salvation", including the pre-existence, creation, fall, atonement, resurrection and eternal life. They make truth claims about "kingdoms of glory" and "perdition", and about the nature, literal efficacy, necessity and power of prayer (including the "True Order of Prayer"), as well as of faith, repentance, ordinances, covenants, commandments, and obedience and self-sacrifice (which are also covenants). And they make truth claims about the reality revelation and confirmation from god and the "spirit" concerning the "Truth" of their beliefs. They do all this all the time, and in every way they practice or "testify" of their faith to each other or non-members.

Moreover, as the reviewer also knows well, such truth claims are considered authoritative (even if subject to change through putative "continuing revelation") and are also consequential socially and psychologically in the Mormon authoritarian programs designed to condition or indoctrinate its members from birth to accept fundamental mormon beliefs as "True", to seek spiritual "confirmation" of such "Truth", to be faithful and obedient to such "Truth" to the end of their lives, to adhere to church standards, and to eschew doubt ("put it on the shelf"), make faith a decision, and not challenge church leaders, etc.

This cannot be refuted in the main, regardless of how believers (in this case the reviewer) choose to interpret scripture, or how they choose to re-form the faith and the scriptures as "salad bar" believers (or perhaps as hopeless, intellectual idealists who can't let go and move on, as our reviewer seems to be).

So lets cut through the reasoning fallacies and intellectualizing in this review -- as well as your unwarranted declaration of its 'decimation' of DM -- and stay focused on the therapeutic, analytical process I espouse in the book, and the true purpose of such a process, as articulated plainly in the Introduction and Chapter 1 of the book.

Thanks again for the link.

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Posted by: lemm0n ( )
Date: October 18, 2013 12:10AM

Thanks, Tom. I was genuinely interested in your comments.

Quick question: you called the review "one sided." Is that inherently wrong? Since your book is, of course, one sided.

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Posted by: tomriskas ( )
Date: October 18, 2013 01:48PM

The answer to your question is in the sentence you refer to. To offer a one-sided argument, in the way I use the term "one-sided", is not to argue for a particular point of view against or instead of another. Rather, it refers to the nature or type of argument made.

The reviewer's attack of the "straw man" of his making made his argument one-sided, as well as fallacious on the basis of the other stated reasoning fallacies as well. This is also true, I would add, with respect to the faith the reviewer was defending; a created, personalized and distorted version of mormonism that the reviewer has concocted to seemingly allay his acknowledged doubts, and a metaphysical version that is, by my lights, equally unjustifiable as well, particularly if the reviewer's concept of god, the way he uses 'God'in discourse and practice, is some metaphysical reality in the tradition of Whitehead and other "process theologians".

In short, the reviewer's argument of DM consisted of a "Baroque" defense of a self-concocted faith against a self-concocted attack. All the "fancy footwork" was merely shadow boxing.

An effective, balanced (i.e. two-sided or multi-sided) review can't effectively respond to, much less "decimate", the conclusions of the analysis and psycho-social assessment of Mormonism presented,in this case, in DM without first demonstrating a correct, in depth understanding of the assumptive basis of analytical process presented and utilized, and the analysis and assessment made.

Beyond this first requirement, such review must then present a well-reasoned response that "validly" critiques such process and analysis and assessment, and argue for an alternative conclusion without employing, in this case, the reasoning fallacies enumerated (as well as others) in the Introduction, and the "apologetic approach" and "evasive possibility strategies" presented in Ch. 2.

From my perspective,any reviewer that fails such well-accepted standards of argumentation and review, and opts instead to concoct a one-sided, apologetic review, lacks intellectual integrity.

Hope this answers your question.

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Posted by: lemm0n ( )
Date: October 14, 2013 12:42PM

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Posted by: thingsithink ( )
Date: October 15, 2013 01:20AM

Right, mormonism does not have the instructions on how to get out of the box written on the outside of the box as Riskas claims, does it?

The reviewer quoting George Albert Smith:

"Even to imply that members of the Church are not to do their own thinking is grossly to misrepresent the true ideal of the Church, which is that every individual must obtain for himself a testimony of the truth of the Gospel . . . ."

You get your very own testimony of The TRUTH (well, the truth of the gospel that is).

See, there are the instructions. Plain as day. On the inside of the box.

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Posted by: tomriskas ( )
Date: October 15, 2013 01:08PM

I assume you're being facetious, right? Otherwise you wouldn't participate in this forum, right?

If so, to those who do think this way I would ask that they please explain how such "instructions" enable Mormons to "get out of the box" of mormonism (or, alternatively, out of the "double-bind" of mormonism).

Also, I would ask what such folks think GAS would say to the "September Six" ( and other "intellectuals" in the church who were excommunicated or dis-fellowshipped from the church for doing "their own thinking"?

And I would also ask what exactly such a "testimony of the truth of the Gospel" is, and what specifically the source of such "truth" and "testimony" is, and what the specific truth-conditions of the "truth" of the existence of such a source are, as well as the alleged 'truth' (or 'Truth') of such gospel?

But I'm not asking you these questions, right?

Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 10/15/2013 01:11PM by tomriskas.

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Posted by: lemm0n ( )
Date: October 15, 2013 01:48PM


Have you read the review?

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Posted by: tomriskas ( )
Date: October 15, 2013 08:21PM

I just did, thanks. See above posting.

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Posted by: notnewatthisanymore ( )
Date: October 16, 2013 11:54PM

Wait, so you post a review that is laden with FAIR style "academics", opinions, pseudo-science, non sensical Mormon god talk, and a plethora of logical fallacies and you are crowing about riskas book being "decimated"?

The only reason you like that review is because it positively resolves your cognitive dissonance. It merely is another example of confirmation bias. "It decimates it because the spirit told me it did".

Nice try. I would be more impressed if these apologetic jokers could turn out a decent argument, instead of the same old drivel they keep drumming up, all amidst a pat on the back fest. Telling each other they did so well to be the "lord's defenders". If these "academics" are the best your god can come up with, he is kind of pathetic. Maybe some BYU scholar can stick his head in a hat and translate up some better arguments directly from Elohim?

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Posted by: tomriskas ( )
Date: October 17, 2013 06:41PM

Got it. Thanks. Just getting used to the "thingsuthink."

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Posted by: thingsithink ( )
Date: October 15, 2013 10:27PM

Yes, I'm being facetious. I think the instructions that the mormon church writes on the inside of the box are part and parcel of the box.

The mormon church instructions are:

"the true ideal of the Church, which is that every individual must obtain for himself a testimony of the truth of the Gospel . . . "

Its not "obtain a testimony of your truth or of the truth." The instructions are to obtain your own testimony of the "truth of the Gospel."

That's the entire joke. You get Your testimony. It's your OWN testimony. It's of the Truth. BUT - its got to be the truth of the gospel.

That is the box. In my opinion.

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Posted by: amongthetombstones ( )
Date: July 27, 2016 08:27AM

It's especially ridiculous to claim that every member creating their own testimony means that they're all thinking for themselves, when the church has the exact same process for everyone. No deviation. Control the conversation. Control where they start, control the direction, and control the conclusion. Control what parts of the truth they get, and in what order. Do not base your decision on evidence, (even the damning evidence that the church admits semi-openly, which can only be justified by an already believing member [making the fact that they leave that out until you're in even more revolting]) and then ask the spirit for confirmation, literally circumventing 100% of the apparently "required" thinking.

There can be no room for deviation in the church. Even your personality must match Gods at the end of the journey leading to your own Godhood.

About 3 years late to the party, but it was so obvious I had to say it.

Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 07/27/2016 08:29AM by amongthetombstones.

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Posted by: wondering ( )
Date: November 09, 2013 05:06PM

Well Said

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Posted by: andyj ( )
Date: October 28, 2014 03:11PM

Do you know where I can get some legal representation /assistance with this ? Mormon Pastor neighbor taking me to court .. a restraining order. Nov. 9, 2014 court date in Smithfield, NC. Pastor is successfully proselytizing young children from nearby Christian homes. 919-801-5936, Andy

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Posted by: bneff ( )
Date: February 17, 2015 12:24AM

Does truth come from reason and academic study or from God? Are we not all in a box? If one starts from a place of disbelief in prophets, revelations, new scripture, and temple ordinances (the Bible is full of such things) he is just in a different box.

If reason alone could guide one to God he would need neither faith nor God nor the Bible.

I know The Book of Mormon to be the word of God and Joseph Smith to be His prophet. I have yet to see an honest and humble seeker of truth come to any other conclusion after careful study and prayer on the matter. I willingly choose to climb into this box and frequently evaluate my options. It's the only box yet that feels right for me.

If anyone is curious about the beliefs of the Church of Jesus Christ of Later-day Saints they should talk with the missionaries. These 18-25 year-olds are ordained ministers who will share what they believe and listen to what you believe. As a former missionary myself, I assure you there is no prohibition on learning about others' religions. However, we don't try to teach what other religions teach, we leave that to the ordained ministers of those religions.

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