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: steve benson ( )
Date: May 19, 2013 11:18PM

. . . to ruthlessly debunk his book.

Some of those attacks, to me, smell very fishy.

Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 05/19/2013 11:18PM by steve benson.

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Posted by: backyardprofessor ( )
Date: May 19, 2013 11:51PM

I think it is entirely right and proper for us to see the philosophical underpinnings of both Riskas' book and all other philosophy. Tom surely has not written the last and final book on the issue has he? For sure there will be others way better informed than all of us who actually do disagree with Tom. So what? The point is discussion, not simply praise. If we are to learn, it is necessary for us to understand our weaknesses as well as strengths. Stopping discussion has me seriously suspicious. That is simply the wrong way to go. I think that the more informed we are, the better chance we have of seeing reality. But stopping a discussion based on disagreement of the book? If I were the author, I would certainly welcome all and any discussion, both positive and negative. It's obvious there simply HAS to be a 2nd book sometime, as this first one is simply too difficult. So why not take this opportunity to learn together and perhaps have a much stronger 2nd edition?
I just finished Richard Carrier's book "Why I am Not a Christian." It is a simply straight forward, very hard hitting steam roller of a book. It took one hour, and there is absolutely no question at all what he ever meant. For the information to be effective, it must be understandable. This, I would hope, is one of the reasons we are discussing Tom's book, to make it easier to grasp. There is much of it I cannot even repeat because it is difficult to grasp. Yes, I have read it, but that doesn't mean I comprehend it even at 60% yet. If we aren't interested in understanding a maximum amount of information about it, then perhaps I will simply set it aside and move on to other ideas.

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Posted by: Nightingale ( )
Date: May 20, 2013 02:25AM

BYP said: "The point is discussion, not simply praise."

Tom never said he wanted only praise. In fact, to the contrary, he said he wanted discussion for the purposes of mutual learning.

Among the first posts to this dedicated forum were those that, unfortunately, were in the category of personal attacks, not about the material in Tom's book. Some of those posts have been removed, as per RfM policy. Perhaps you didn't see them.

Perhaps Tom is just stepping back until this new forum gets itself sorted out, moving through its newbie or growing pains. Wise man, to parcel out his time so efficiently and to maintain his focus so well.

The issue isn't about Tom or anyone else dictating that only positive comments are being solicited - quite the opposite. The question is how the discussion is framed. Nobody wants to deal with jerks. And many don't want to even read their posts. That is what it's about. I've already said that there are bound to be some aspects that I don't agree with. There are some comments that Tom has posted that I don't agree with. Tom didn't shy away from that type of challenge. It's merely a request for courteous discussion. That is actually a basic RfM guideline anyway (regardless of its undeserved reputation to the contrary).

I think that as more people read the book we can spend the time in actually discussing its material rather than having advance disagreements about how to discuss it. But I just wanted to make clear that nobody here ever advocated for gentle little chats, Tom especially.

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Posted by: rt ( )
Date: May 20, 2013 10:15AM

backyardprofessor Wrote:
> I think it is entirely right and proper for us to
> see the philosophical underpinnings of both
> Riskas' book and all other philosophy.

Mr. Stak had me going for a brief while too, until I noticed that he didn't point out any actual flaws in the book because of an alleged over-reliance on Nielsen. He only accused Tom of not being sufficiently aware of criticisms of Nielsen and challenged him to prove that he was.

It was a very devious ad hominem, plain and simple. Kudos to Tom for not falling for it.

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Posted by: Uncle Dale ( )
Date: May 19, 2013 11:58PM

steve benson Wrote:
> . . . to ruthlessly debunk his book.
> Some of those attacks, to me, smell very fishy.

Well, he appears to be at least dropping by to chew the fat
with us a little. Whether that leads into the depths of the
book again, or not, we'll have to wait and see.

One way to avoid attacks is to set up a full private forum,
very closely moderated. I've already advocated that.

On the other hand, such strict moderation will inevitably
give others the impression that RfM does not allow free
criticism of ideas and personalities. Maintaining free
speech depends very much upon the inclinations of the
speakers. I do not know how to get past the problem.

At some point or another we each build up enough confidence
and talent to fend off attacks, while also dealing with
valid criticism -- at least most of us move in that direction.
I do not suppose that is to be expected of a guest, in his
initial, solicited appearance, who has not readied himself
and his ideas for aggressive challenges and interrogation.
If I were such an invited guest, I'm sure I would have a
difficult time maintaining my cool. I would be grateful for
friends like yourself who wanted to help. But, sooner or
later I'd have to apply that Outsider's Test to my own
deeply-held conclusions -- even to ex-Mormonism and ways
to obtain the status of an ex-Mormon. Not a walk in the park.


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Posted by: steve benson ( )
Date: May 20, 2013 01:00AM

... debate on matters reasonably related to Mormonism (which includes discussion of similarities between the LDS faith and other religious systems), but these board policies draw the line at (among other things) Mormon trolls, profit-driven huckstering, general politics and over-the-top personal attacks.

Tom, in my opinion, was, in this specially-created forum, suddenly swooped down upon in short order by agenda-driven Flying Monkeys, courtesy of the Wicked Witch of the West. I wouldn't be surprised if the "West" in this case included launching points from inside the Intermountain West, if you know what I mean.

I say be prepared for more of it.

Tom is right at this point to be wary and to now be holding back. He's one helluva smart guy who does not tolerate fools easily. I wouldn't be surprised if he may seriously be considering spending his time elsewhere in more worthwhile pursuits, if this kind of ruthless ragging continues from certain unfiltered (and suspect) quarters.

Edited 6 time(s). Last edit at 05/20/2013 02:10AM by steve benson.

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Posted by: Chickdeario ( )
Date: May 20, 2013 01:13AM

Why do you appear to be so invested in generating hype? Mr. Stakhanovite is not LDS. He is exactly who he claimed to be.

Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 05/20/2013 06:45PM by Susan I/S.

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Posted by: steve benson ( )
Date: May 20, 2013 01:23AM

. . . brought it up, where's your "street cred" here?

You are focusing on Stak (whose presence in certain other internet forums is known). I am focusing on agenda-drivers. One of them may well be you, a board Mod-God wannabe who suddenly appeared out of nowhere, having either switched handles (yet again) or developed a burning overnight interest in a book that evicerates Mormonism.

In response to an inquiry from an RfM poster as to your background, you curtly shot back:

"Of what relevance is that . . .? I've posted on this board on and off, for over 15 years, under perhaps 3 screen names. In fact, this is the first board I ever posted on when first investigating Mormonism. That led to a year long e-correspondence with Donna Banta.

"Does that name ring a bell of you?

"Perhaps the last time I posted here for any length of time, was on threads having to do with the BoM Authorship topic and the work of Craig Criddle, a long time friend and whose work I support and admire.

"Does that name ring a bell to you?

"Do I need to establish street cred . . . ?"

("Re: TomRiskas quit the Deconstructing Mormonism Board," posted by "Chickderaio," on "Recovery from Mormonism" discussion board, 17 May 17 2013)

Yes, you do need to establish street cred.

Who, exactly, are you?

What's your personal background on, and investment in, Mormonism?

Ever posted a meaningful bio on RfM?

What brings you here?

Why do you keep switching board handles?

Why are you so secretive?

And why are you so defensive?

Talk about "generating hype." Do your part to diffuse the drama by being straight up.

Edited 8 time(s). Last edit at 05/20/2013 02:07AM by steve benson.

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Posted by: Darkfem ( )
Date: May 20, 2013 02:14AM

There were also several extremely derogatory posts from anon trolls that I noticed. Admin has removed them. There may have been more I didn't see.

Mrstak is a boor but not necessarily a primary concern in my view.

This discussion may need to be moved to a private board in order to facilitate anything resembling productive engagement.

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Posted by: steve benson ( )
Date: May 20, 2013 02:22AM

. . . they swarm this site under different covers.

Tom seems to realize this possibility. Good for him. He's no dummy.

Edited 3 time(s). Last edit at 05/20/2013 05:45AM by steve benson.

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Posted by: tomriskas ( )
Date: May 20, 2013 03:55PM

Hello All,

I have read all the postings above, and have reflected and considered thoughtfully how I would like to proceed, if there is still sufficient interest in my doing so, which there seems to be.

When those interested in proceeding with informed dialogue and discussion about the book have confirmed that they have in fact completed reading the Introduction, FP and Chs. 1 and 2 of the book, inclusive of all footnotes, and I have been notified of that fact by Susan or Steve, I will issue a summary statement in a new thread ("DM Forum Opening Remarks and Discussion") within the dedicated DM Forum.

In this new thread I will first summarize the philosophical premises of, and rationale for, the underlying approach used in the book to deconstruct mormonism and other forms of theism. This summary statement will also include a brief preemptive treatment of those published and other "P"hilosophical (cap. P) criticisms of this approach that I am presently aware of. Finally, it will include a statement of what I consider to be the purpose and boundaries of our ongoing engagement.

After my opening statement I will open the thread to questions, comments, suggestions and reactions in an effort to reach some reasonable consensus on the proposed or amended purpose and boundaries, including what we might consider to be relevant and irrelevant postings in any given thread(s) pertaining to designated portions of the book.

When this new opening thread is closed I suggest we then proceed to open a series of separate threads within the DM Forum, for Chs. 3-8, the Epilogue, the PPS and Appendix A, respectively.

These threads would, again, be attended "only" by those who have read the designated chapter or section of the book, inclusive of footnotes, and those interested in relevant dialogue and discussion.

Please let me be clear, so you can decide if you want to proceed or participate. I am only willing to participate in this dedicated forum with those who are serious about understanding this book and contributing to mine and others' understanding. I am NOT interested in litigating the book, defending the book or its resources or, again, engaging in argument or debate; something that can be done in other forums within RfM.

This does not mean, as has been implied, that I am only looking for "praise" or agreement. Nothing could be farther from the case.

Nor should it imply or be taken to mean that am I closed to the possibility that my thinking and work is anything like "the last word" on the deconstruction of mormonism or theism, as I use the term, or that my views, interpretations, understandings, commitments or approach cannot or will not evolve through the process of serious and civil inquiry and discussion we engage in; inquiry that not only confirms, establishes and expands understading of the book itself, as it has been written, but explores alternative possibilities, understandings or perspectives. Such learning and development on my part will most certainly be the case, and I expect and welcome it.

The principle idea here is that we cannot credibly react to, modify, argue against or accept that which we do not adequately understand. The book is of no value to anyone, and opinions about it are of no value to me or anyone else, until and unless we have individually and collectively exercised due diligence (done the heavy lifting) of first understading, as best we can, its underlying assumptions, foundational premises, demonstrated practice, and fundamental arguments, along with the stated premises and support for such arguments.

Everything else that would go on in this dedicated forum would be, from my perspective, merely a side slow, and a waste of time, and anything said about the book, pro et con, would be, to me, and in the words of Bob Dylan, nothing more than "idiot wind". (BTW, this is why Kerry Shirt's review of this book was so impressive to me and others. At least he read -- and reread -- and struggled with the damn thing!)

In closing, while I don't agree with all that my former colleague Stephen R. Covey wrote or taught on the topic of personal integrity and effectiveness, much I do agree with, at least in principle. One of his suggested "habits of effectiveness" that I happen to agree with (though I regrettably don't practice as much or as well as I could and should) is to "seek first to understand, then to be understood." Another, related "habit" would be the value of creating "synergy" in pursuit of "third solutions" (not either/or, but both/and) in getting to meaninful change. The point not to be missed here is that to create synergy in amending or taking this work to the next level, whatever that might look like, we must first seek to understand.

This forum is dedicated to that endeavor. By endeavoring to "seek first to understand, then to be understood" by respectfully playing back our understanding of the shared views, feelings and stated assumptions of the author and others, and listening as well to one's own reactions and assumptions to what has been shared and confirmed, mutually respectful and informed dialoge and discussion ensues, and we create the conditions for synergy required to learn and, in turn, enlarge our understanding and "circle of influence" as we engage with others.

I will await notifaction from Susan or Steve re: if and when you would like to proceed, if at all, and as specified above, or as modified by consensus.

Thanks for your continues interest and participation.


Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 05/20/2013 04:27PM by tomriskas.

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Posted by: steve benson ( )
Date: May 20, 2013 05:53PM

You can (and should) line things up with Susan I/S of Admin about moving ahead (since I am not a board mod nor in any other way a part of Admin).

You can directly contact Susan at:

Forward! :)

Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 05/20/2013 05:54PM by steve benson.

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Posted by: tomriskas ( )
Date: May 20, 2013 06:37PM

Thanks Steve, have done so. Hope to be back in business soon.


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Posted by: steve benson ( )
Date: May 20, 2013 06:46PM

Tom Riskas appears to be back onboard, but in control of the wheelhouse, in consultation (and, of course, as it should be) with RfM Admin.


Hopefully, he can deal with any pooping Mormon seagulls that may wish to dive-bomb his boat.,900868,901582#msg-901582

Link to the above announcement, now posted on the other board:,901832

Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 05/20/2013 06:48PM by steve benson.

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Posted by: Nightingale ( )
Date: May 20, 2013 07:00PM

Happy to read the re-boot. I like it when things are organized.

But just about this part here:

"[I am not interested in] engaging in argument or debate; something that can be done in other forums within RfM."

Re discussing the book elsewhere on RfM - maybe not. Sus I/S (Admin) has already requested that we confine such posts to this sub-forum.

I was planning on answering a couple of comments or questions related to the book (pre-read), addressed to me or in answer to some of my posts, that have been left dangling on the main forum, that I just haven't got back to yet. I don't like to just not respond. But my understanding was that Sus wanted all DM-related posts to be on the DM sub-board from that moment on.

I try to follow all stated rules and have a strong aversion to being inadvertently inappropriate. Maybe in some groups that means I'm polite, in others it may mean I am as yet unrecovered - from a number of things probably. Now it seems that if I post in the main forum to respond to those previous book-related comments, I am in danger of not following a directive by Sus. If I bring it over to this forum, I'm in danger of being the central figure in the "idiot" brigade. Neither option is all that attractive to me.

[OK, kind of kidding - I do understand Tom's intentions and directives and focus. Maybe the best (only?) solution is to post such content here anyway, knowing Tom won't be participating - which is fine, as it's pre-discussion, as far as I'm concerned - and take the risk of being dismissed as only so much [idiot] noise. I'll have to live with that. Unless I can get over my OCD tendencies to answer every question or remark directed at me or my own posts and just let it all go. That is the easy way out at this point].

Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 05/20/2013 07:01PM by Nightingale.

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Posted by: tomriskas ( )
Date: May 20, 2013 07:31PM


Suggest you and others tie up loose ends and clear the air in this or previous threads, if you must. As far as I'm concerned re: this dedicated forum Sue and Erik so generously set-up, the first legitimate thread will be the new one I begin "after" I am informed by Susan that those who will be participating have agreed via email or in some other way to the terms and conditions of participation specified above, i.e. have confirmed that they:

1. have in fact completed reading the Introduction, FP and Chs. 1 and 2 of the book, inclusive of all footnotes

2. are serious about understanding this book and contributing to mine and others' understanding

3. will not engage in polemics or debate, but will instead keep the inquiries, comments, thoughts, and offerings civil and RELEVANT to the topics of the various threads as outlined

One final word, if I may re: my stated preference for dialogue and discussion (including probative discussion) instead of polemics and debate.

As I have stated before in a different posting, I am not interested in debate because I consider debate argumentative and not productive or conducive in fostering mutual understanding, and/or in self-reflectively creating new perspectives and insights. With debate we tend to compete to win and not lose an argument. With dialogue (and, to a lesser degree, discussion) we seek for shared meaning, and to enlarge the circle of understanding though the creation of greater insight and knowledge through vertical inquiry into underlying assumptions, the use of language, and our own reactions.



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Posted by: thingsithink ( )
Date: May 22, 2013 02:38AM

I have my tea and crumpets waiting for the first thread.

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Posted by: Darkfem ( )
Date: May 20, 2013 08:04PM

Thanks, Tom, for taking the time to work this system out and for sticking with us! I look forward to the re-boot!

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