D. Smith is a Sinner

A really big sinner, in my book.  Now, I don’t know really much at all about the personal life of D. Smith, nor do I really care.  But I do know a bit about his public scholarship and other writings, which reveal a grave sin, a seriously grave methodological sin.  As an anthropologist, Smith has converted the object of his study into, an Object, incapable of any real form of subjectivity.

This review is in response to a recent blog post D. Smith put up in which he critiques the enterprise of Mormon Studies.  Smith casts a highly negative view of the entire enterprise, from its participants, to its funders, to its publishers, which result in his belief that Mormon Studies is in an extremely dire situation whose redemption is far, far off.  The evidence?  D. Smith had to self-publish his own book blasting the beaurocracy.  D. Smith doesn’t have a job because he is a Mormon and wrote about Mormons.  D. Smith once got an essay rejected from Patheos.com.

Let me be clear.  I share many of the overall concerns with D. Smith about the present and future state of Mormon studies.  We agree that the lack of doctoral programs in Mormon Studies poses a problem for the future of the field. We agree that graduate students who do enter this field may face difficulty finding employment, whether they study at fancy schools or come out of official Mormon Studies programs (though this account is greatly exaggerated and ignores all the people who have done it). We also agree to a certain extent that scholarship on Mormonism is a little suspect for some in the academy, though this too I think is greatly exaggerated. We agree that there is some disagreement about what exactly Mormon Studies is.  There have been whole conferences on this topic, so raising these questions here is not particularly new.

What is new is Smith’s particular account of how power operates in Mormonism, what he not-so-innocently calls the “Corporation,” or even more derisively, “the Correlated Fruit Company,” and his particular treatment of Mormon bloggers, scholars, and regular members who march, or will march, to the singular beat of the Correlation drum.

Smith seems to relish his “professional suicide,” in choosing to self-publish his Book of Mammon, a polemical indictment of the bureaucracy of the Church.  He turns his doctoral research on the history and development of “Correlation,” at once a movement, a discourse, and a disciplining practice, into something which is inhuman, abstracted from human behavior, a Corporation.  There are no humans here, only automatons.  There is no humanity, only the Corporation.  Subjects are simply COBs, TBMs, and “agents.”  He offers us no glimpse into the heart, humanity, or explicable worldview of his objects, just reifies their status as the Other.  Further, for Smith, there is no religion in the Church, no “spirit” in his terms.  Mormon actions are only manifestations of the discourses of Corporation or Correlation.

Smith suffers from the classical problem in anthropology of situating oneself properly in relationship to one’s object of study.  Now, the precise way in which to do this is up for debate within the field.  The older models of a detached objectivity have indeed come under attack for both the colonialist privilege that is implied in the position of “observer,” as well as the failure to account for one’s own situatedness.  Others have taken a controversial approach of insinuating oneself closely to one’s object of study, such as the case of Karen Mcarthy Brown in Mama Lola, who is initiated in voodoo as part of her ethnographic study.   Jonathan Z. Smith’s sympathetic account of the Jonestown Massacre, which restored the robbed humanity to those “cult” members in “The Devil in Mr. Jones” provides the foundational charge of religious studies to explain religious subjects as humans.  This is the ethos of the responsible scholar of religion.

In making Mormons the object of his study, Smith must attempt to navigate these treacherous waters, especially as one who putatively belongs to the community, the “insider-outsider.”  While admitting that there is room for disagreement about the precise relationship that the observer should have with respect to the object of study (in this case Smith’s relationship to Mormons and Mormonism) I submit that where Smith ends up in this relationship easily falls outside of acceptability.  He seems to long for a time when the subjects of anthropology couldn’t speak back, couldn’t speak for themselves.  He wishes that Mormon Studies “was not guarded by its subjects.”  Oh, the simpler time when anthropologists had free reign over their subjects and could freely publish whatever they wanted about them.  (Because, what is apparently preventing Smith or perhaps some other unnamed professional scholars of Mormonism from publishing his work on Mormons in those Correlated-guarded presses like Yale, Oxford, Indiana, UofU, and even Signature is other Mormons?) Smith comments that one reviewer described his work as “throbbing invective.”  Though the reviewer is unnamed, this impression is not difficult to derive from Smith’s prose, not only in Mammon, but in the blog post in question.  Not exactly the approach scholars should take toward their subject, but when you’re Smith, invective defines the approach.

While anthropology and ethnography are often in the business of describing and accounting for the humanity of the “other,” Smith’s writing is designed to produce Mormons, “COBers,” and Mormon Studies scholars as the Other!  At every turn he seeks to rob them of agency and humanity, in the grasp of “Correlation,” which like the panopticon, disciplines from afar.  For instance, “let me explain why the Amateur is, in fact, an agent of the Correlated Fruit Company, otherwise called the Corporation.”  The “Amateur” (in context, someone without the PhD in Athropology from ritzy school X) is nothing but a passive “agent” in the service of an agentless discourse.  [Try disagreeing with him and he will instantly identify you as a Amateur and an agent of Correlation!]

This thesis is not only true of the reified and homogenous “Amateur,” but is true of the scholars and the bloggers as well.  The major thesis that Smith advances here, and elsewhere, is that “online venues not directly funded by the Corporation’s widows’ mites would increasingly self-Correlate.”  This indeed is an interesting idea, one which it would be great if he had any evidence.  He doesn’t.  It is, of course, his imagination of “the future,” and perhaps should be treated as such.  The problem is that he believes that this is a future that is already present.  Even Mormon scholars are drawn like moths to the flame of Correlation’s power: “[Mormon Studies] is often an auxiliary of the Public Relations Department…”

This account of power, however, is undercut in his own analysis of Mormon scholarship.  Though this escape from power is only temporary.  It will, Smith prognosticates, eventually be subjected to Correlation.  He seems to simply dismiss the challenges to its authority offered by Mormon Studies: “To create a “faith” that seems free of official propaganda, or a “community” where the “mind” is valued, in short, to design a falsely secular solution to spiritual malaise; to change the course of the Church, that is, until one gets a Red and High Seat; to enrich the gospel with unofficial resources (“Hegel, Whitehead, or Peirce, anyone?”) that are all too easy to Correlate; to write a navel-gazing thesis; to be a big fish in a small pond (“Given this, let me mention Bakhtin/Kant/Foucault, but not face any terrifying thoughts”); to revise our History in the image of the Present…” This is as much credit as he ever gives to Mormon Studes, a “false solution,” waiting to be coopted by the Church, something which strokes one’s own ego and fails to face “any terrifying thoughts.”  Don’t be coy; tell us what you really think!

Yet, Smith acknowledges Mormon Studies as aimed at “change,” (whether this is really the goal of scholarship about Mormonism remains open to serious debate, though this point is key to getting at what Smith sees as so wrong with it).  Quickly, the myth of the all-powerful, agentless Correlation must be reasserted.  Smith doesn’t tell us that he is the wizard behind the curtain, insisting on its authority even while admitting it doesn’t have any authority here.  He must quickly turn to a petty typographical mistake in Flake’s work as proof that Mormon scholars simply aren’t up to the task of resisting “Correlation.”

The problem, of course, is that not only is the kind of account of human behavior and of the operations of power empirically problematic, but it is not even an accurate account of Foucault’s understanding of the multiplicity of power, that discourses are constantly in flux.  Or de Certeau’s account of the tension between discourse and practice.  Or Butler’s treatment of the irreducibility of power to normative discourse because of the persistent threat of resignification.  Or pretty much any analysis of power that sees the kind of totalitarian homogeneity that Smith sees in Mormonism as ultimately fictitious.

He does have a PhD, did he tell you?  Strangely, as he offers evidence for the failure of Mormon Studies, Smith puts forth his own failures as the key evidence.  When his “analysis” is rejected by two LDS editors at Patheos (one a trained religious enthnographer), it is because they too are simply passive agents of the COB.  When he is rejected from his employment for the Church, it is somehow related to his hazy memory where he was “warned never to do any actual work,” because, we are to understand, had he done “actual work,” he would have disrupted the monological “Narrative.”  When he is rejected from full-time academic work, it too is because of Mormonism, his own and that of his scholarship (never mind all the Mormons who are able to travel these waters just fine.  Only D. Michael Quinn is worthy of mention).  When his self-published book fails to be a runaway hit, reviewed in the papers and radio stations, and is not embraced by those who care “what really goes on in the headquarters of the religion of the majority of Utahns” (though he insists that what “really” went on may be fact or fiction.  He won’t tell you.  You decide!), it is just because most of the reviews are dullards.  None of these failures could possibly have anything to do with one D. Smith, according to D. Smith.

Does the issue of beaurocracy in the Church deserve real scrutiny?  Yes.  Does a critical analysis of correlationism warrant sustained research and attention?  Absolutely. Will an approach like that offered by D. Smith be taken seriously by scholars, especially scholars of religion?  Hopefully not.  For until Smith actually understands Derrida’s notion of iterability, and the ways in which the power of the church he sees as so monological is always tenuous and subject to resignification, which coincidentally, is precisely the point needed to restore humanity to his subject, his account of the Church and its power will remain woefully undertheorized. I wish for his repentance, not to return to some spiritual state, but to return to academic sense, to stop pretending as if it is anthropology that has led him to where he is when he is abusing the role anthropologists have as guardians of the humanity of human beings, to impart humanity to its subjects, not take it away.

130 Replies to “D. Smith is a Sinner”

  1. I think I’m in love with you, TT. Everything I thought and felt while reading D. Smith’s recent post, and more, is set forth here elegantly.

    And say, did you know that D. Smith has a Ph.D.? If you don’t know that, and even if you do, he is happy to remind you of that. Early and often. Because he has a Ph.D. A Ph.D. has he. Don’t forget: he has a Ph.D.

  2. Okay, I am still not happy with this review. Especially the tone. I just don’t have time to rework it this week. My apologies to D Smith for the over the top parts.

  3. Love the Derridean ending. “For until Smith actually understands Derrida’s notion of iterability, and the ways in which the power of the church he sees as so monological is always tenuous and subject to resignification, which coincidentally, is precisely the point needed to restore humanity to his subject, his account of the Church and its power will remain woefully undertheorized.” Classic. LOL

  4. After reading this post and then having read the original D.Smith post, I think D. Smith has accomplished one substantial thing. He has totally discouraged me from making a presentation at the upcomming MHA conference. Sadly, I am an “amatuer” and am now completely put off from contributing to MHA’s low standards. I have had four book reviews published in the MHA journal and always thought it was a good group. (Shows you what a low brow I am.) By the way, I loved Smith’s BCC posts last March and I bought his dissertation. He didn’t seem so angry in those days.

  5. I agree with you that Dayton Smith is reaching too far. Without question, the brethren have tried to assert control over Mormon studies. Without question, most of us have witnessed censorship and self-censorship in the academy and on the Internet. Clearly, conformists are more likely to obtain employment than critiques of the Church.

    But in the end, Mormon culture is not autonomous but operates within the context of a host culture that provides considerable resources to Mormon critics such as the rule of law, religious freedom, and a market economy.

    On the other hand, it should not be too difficult for any open minded Mormon to appreciate with Daymon Smith’s frustrations. Also, if you deliver a diatribe, it actually makes sense to establish your credentials. Otherwise, your attacks are too easily dismissed.

    Having only read Smith’s essay, I think that it is a rich text. He needs to teach more diligently and explain his insights better.

    As he improves his presentation and makes his points more explicitly, his analysis will shift and he will arrive at more reasonable conclusions. To achieve any of this, Daymon Smith needs an empathetic audience that provides him with feedback.

    And he needs to respect his readers, especially, if they do not get it because they provide Smith with an opportunity to improve the quality of his argument.

  6. Hellmut,

    “On the other hand, it should not be too difficult for any open minded Mormon to appreciate with Daymon Smith’s frustrations.”

    I do. I live with them. But I am also the problem. Liberals and bloggers seem to get the brunt of his angst. I am not sure if he know us very well.

  7. I have read Daymon’s dissertation and thought it was excellent, and I attended his session at SSSR in 2008 in Louisville, and thought that was excellent as well. I have not read the Book of Mammon. My reaction to the post at latterdaymainstreet was similar to my reaction to Colbert’s testimony before Congress. Colbert’s testimony was outside the normal (normative) style for Congress, but I thought it was quite effective in making Colbert’s points in an ironic, reverse way that takes some unraveling. I am not an anthropologist, and have not read much anthropological writing (yes I am an amateur). Perhaps Daymon’s points are made in the language or style of linguistic or other anthropology. Or perhaps they were a sort of Colbert style. The points I could understand I agreed with in part, but questioned in other parts. I suspected there was some hyperbole and a fair amount of wordplay that went over my head or was beyond me. But I think the piece is a valuable one for prompting energetic thought in dissecting his meaning, identifying the points made, and responding to them.

  8. Turning the D Smith sword of cynicism against him, eh? Well, I’m halfway though the Book of Mammon. It’s slow going at times. Just from his own account, I would surmise that D. Smith might be somewhere on the autistic spectrum, which may have prevented him from understanding why his behavior could get him fired.

    That’s not to say he should have been fired. He probably would have done some great things at the COB. The system is stacked against D Smith types – people with an acute sense of injustice and a tendency to tell it how it is. I feel bad for him, and if I were a middle-management cobber, I would hire him back.

    Also, I really enjoyed his interviews on Mormon Stories.

  9. Long time lurker, first time commenter.

    I am an undergrad anthropology student. After Daymon Smith’s guest posts at BCC I went ahead and read his dissertation. Though there were a number of conclusions he came to that I disagree with and sources I really wasn’t a fan of, I really really enjoyed reading it. I mean really really really enjoyed it. Its exploration of Sapir Whorf and hermeneutics in a Mormon context was really entertaining to me. So despite the warnings about the writing style I had seen I went ahead and ordered The Book of Mammon from amazon. In all honesty I have to admit I was a bit underwhelmed.

    The book is written in such a bizarre and disjointed way that I am not surprised it was largely ignored. He openly calls it a work of fiction so I wonder how it’s even supposed to fit into Mormon Studies in the first place. One section of the book seemed to appear to be written from the point of view of a computer with membership record data on it. (ie the font changes and the computer refers to itself in the third person as an algorithm roaming the COB.) Words are blotted out as if these were top secret government documents. Names of General Authorities are changed (and he calls GAs “Generic Authorities”). President Hinckley becomes Bilbo B Booting because of the 6 bes talk, President Benson becomes Ezred Z. Pinkertonzz, Elder Ballard becomes Rusty Ballock or something like that. Then there’s comments like this: “I believe the logo “CTR” was forged by mysterious beings deep in a cavern under the Salt Lake Temple.”

    Even though I am a faithful believing member, I feel some empathy to what he’s presenting but the problem with the book isn’t that it’s inflammatory. It’s that it’s just not written with a scholarly prose. I found a few parts of it entertaining, but I can hardly go to it as a resource or take much if at all seriously. How can I when the preface says “This book before you is entirely a work of fiction which matured in the mind of the author, and in no way, place, time, or manner should what is indeed fiction be regarded as anything other than fiction.”?

  10. Hellmut,
    You’re a class act! I totally, 100% agree with you. Smith has amazing potential if he can get out of his own way.
    On the credentials thing, I guess I just come from a culture where xredentials are established in the argument, not listed. It just rubs me the wrong way. But otherwise, I think you’re spot on and really appreciate your thoughtful comments!

  11. Everyone else,
    your comments were awesome too!

    JHayes, thanks for your thoughtful comment and reading of the text. I hope this won’t be your last comment! You’ve got great stuff to say!

  12. it would be nice if books and articles stood on their own merits alone, regardless of their press.

    but even in that utopia, the review process prior to publication would still need to be respected.

    i hope the author finds work.

  13. I should add I enjoyed his thesis much, much more than I did the BCC discussion. And I enjoyed most of that discussion. There are definitely places we disagree but I think we use a similar theoretic scaffolding in some ways. It’s interesting where we do come to such different conclusions.

  14. A bit of hardship would go into making oneself into Mormondom’s Hunter S. Thompson.

  15. Bravo TT! Totally, Hi-Five!! He’s a Sinner!! Na, Na, Na.

    Why not rite yer own history of Correlation, after you’ve entered a doctoral program, then work at the COB, write another book, publish an article or two, teach anthropology for a few years, and then you can totally show him! Naw, why not just posture before a few other apes?!

    I mean you don’t need to have accomplished anything in order to prate about and satisfy eight readers that you are The Man. You just are The Man!
    You’ve written on a blog, if that doesn’t warrant some snooty college to give you a degree or two, well, that’s because they are biast! Use more exclamations!!

    Can’t wait until the TT collected works come forth from Cambridge University Press. Amen.

  16. D.,
    You seem to have an awfully inflated sense of how important your accomplishments of being laid off from a job that you self-described as not doing any “actual work,” self-publishing a book, and having worked as an adjunct actually are. Seriously.

    So, I guess that is a no, you’re not really going to engage the arguments, just continue to insist on how we should all listen to you because you are D. Smith, PhD? I was hoping for better.

  17. Daymon, why are you making this into a banana-length competition? And to take a swipe at TT’s arguments because he doesn’t dangle his digits is to grope at deceptively low hanging fruit. So to speak.

    UPenn is good and all, but damn, it doesn’t need to be shouted from the rooftops all the live long day.

  18. From the original thread at MSP, in case it gets deleted:

    D. Smith writes:
    TT (or FI),
    You bonobos are always good for a larf!
    I’ll notify your keeper to up the banana rations, for you don’t even seem to understand a simple request to ask a question. What exactly is your problem? I mean, other than stupidity? A grudge? Didn’t get into the associate of arts program at Utah Technical College?

    Why Not:
    1. get into a graduate program
    2. write a dissertation about the true history of Correlation
    3. teach anthropology for a few years
    4. publish in peer reviewed journal
    5. accomplish something, anything, intellectually
    6. at a minimum, learn to read
    then we can have talk like adults.

    Translation for Bonobos:
    TT = F**king Idiot (who can’t even get his initials correct)

  19. just saw the latest comments at msp.

    i fear that this whole exchange will only reinforce things for the author and his more loyal readers.

    a shame. because the issues are important.

  20. Ruh roh.

    I am guessing that there are several around these parts that didn’t really have their (hot)dogs in the fight until Daymon started asserting that he has composed TRUE HISTORY. Perhaps an historian, preferably with a PhD from a school approaching the imposing summit of UPenn (for it certainly knows no peer) would care to unpack TRUE HISTORY for us?

  21. It is amazing that a person who got as far as to write the dissertation he did could publically become so unhinged. This is celebutard-level self-destruction on display here. Just wow.

  22. But seriously, enough with the comparisons of one’s program and alma mater. It is unseemly and kind of lame.

  23. I’m still curious about why D. Smith thinks everyone ought to read his self-published book, which he says contains both fact and fiction (shall we call it “faction?”).

    (Sorry it took me so long to get this comment through correlation. :D)

  24. Masterfully done, TT. This carefully thought out and excellently argued post makes me think of that model teacher who writes comments about not just the piece the student writes, but the piece the student *should have written*. You sift through the self-aggrandizing-yet bitter tone and address the substantial point of Smith’s post better than he does. And on top of it all it is entertaining to read. Thanks for posting this.

  25. Thanks for providing me with all the ethnographic material I will ever need for the argument about the problem of the amateur/bloggist in Mormon Studies.

    Seriously, I am in your debt. I thought this sort of material would be difficult to elicit.

    The actual post about Mormon Studies can be read at MSP.

  26. d.,
    I’d warn you against professional suicide in your use of this material as evidence for your assumptions, but it seems you’re not opposed to that.

    In any case, I really, honestly, am willing to engage you on the intellectual issues I’ve raised in response to some of your work. I will be here.

  27. TT,
    First of all, I have a lot of admiration for you and your scholarship. You are genuinely on my short list of favorite blogernaccle authors. And I can also understand (as I think most of this blog’s readers can) your anger at the situation, if only on behalf of your friend and colleague. But it is because I so respect your work that I find myself a bit disappointed in this post. I suspect that a reader whose only awareness of the existence of Daymon’s book came from this review would probably walk away thinking that the Book of Mammon was: 1) a book that portrayed itself as a standard, participant-observation-based ethnography (that fell well short of the methodological and theoretical standards of that academic genre); 2) a book mostly about Mormon Studies, but that says something about Church corporate bureaucracy; and 3) a book which contains virtually no new or useful or relevant empirical data or any arguments at all. Of course this is a blog, and not an academic journal. Nevertheless, it strikes me as a bit ironic that the charges of irrational anger and failure to meet the expectations of an academic genre are leveled in an anger-saturated review in which the book in question is not, in fact, reviewed.

    If I were a no-dog-in-the-fight outsider, I don’t think this post would qualify as counter evidence to Daymon’s (admittedly invective laden) claims that Mormon Studies scholars are opting to heap dismissive scorn and personal insult rather than critically engaging his work. I’m sure this discussion will give readers ample excuse to dismiss and ignore Daymon’s work, and if that’s your intent, I can’t really say that I blame you. Heaven knows I have a hot head (especially when it comes to defending friends), and I’m also more than aware of how satisfying group exercises in collective self-congratulation at the expense of a common enemy can be. But I also confess I had come to expect better from you. This feels to me, at best, like an intemperate act of professional pettiness and, at worst, like something designed to cruelly play on someone’s weakness and vulnerability in order to provoke him into something that can be freely and openly mocked.

    Anyways, I’m not excusing anyone’s bad behavior, and I definitely don’t want you to take this personally. I just happen to also have a close friend to whom this debacle is causing considerable personal pain. That is all.

    Carry on.

  28. This is hugely disappointing. I really liked Mr. Smith’s podcast interviews. They showed a huge degree of familiarity with the subject matter, a lot of nuance, interesting…

    Even I cited to them, and I’m known as an “apologist” in some quarters. I was really hoping for good things from Mr. Smith.

    Instead, I’m treated to the spectacle of a guy self-destructing his professional career, and throwing online temper-tantrums (see comment #22). What on earth happened?

    The publishing business is rough in general – LDS or not. If you’ve got a PhD, and you’ve got a worthwhile subject, then for heaven sakes, do what it takes to get a decent publisher to pick it up. If you can’t get a university press, or some other established name to take it, then alter it, re-write it, re-think the thesis, or just plain persevere…

    But for heavens sakes, DON’T go online to whine about how nobody appreciates you. Rejected authors are a dime a dozen in America. Everyone has a great book idea and think the world owes it to them to get it out there.

    Well, the world doesn’t owe you or me, or anyone else jack-squat. And nowhere is this more true than in the world of publishing.

    And don’t bother self-publishing an academic work. It has zero credibility.

    All it says is that you couldn’t survive the peer-review and editing process, and your book probably isn’t a good use of limited reading time. I don’t owe it to Daymon Smith to read his self-published book. And neither does anyone else.

    What a way to spend your student loan money.

  29. I am going to go ahead and apologize for my previous snarky comments–I was being jerky. After a good workout at the gym and a delicious dinner with the family, I now read my earlier words with some degree of embarrassment.

    Sorry, Daymon et alii.

  30. Wow, first the Elder Jensen thread and now this! I’m starting to LOVE this place! Remind me to let Andrew S win the next (first) time we play Civ 5 multiplayer; he was right about FPR.

  31. Brad —

    Defending a friend — even beyond the degree to which he deserves your defense — is understandable. But your charges of TT being guilty of an “intemperate act of professional pettiness and, at worst, like something designed to cruelly play on someone’s weakness and vulnerability in order to provoke him” are ludicrous.

    People around here are annoyed with DS, and justifiably so.

    DS is happy to blame anyone and everyone for his troubles. It’s the fault of editors, of Correlation, of the “Church” (i.e. the Corporation), of Mormon studies, of former employers, etc.

    This has nothing to do with The Book of Mammon. Maybe — just maybe — it is indeed a work of genius that offers penetrating insight into the inner workings of the LDS Church. Maybe it’s simply too brilliant to be appreciated in his lifetime, like so many works of genius.

    Daymon —

    Nobody is stopping you from following the path that leads to an honest reputation in his chosen field. Publish academic articles. Stay on the job market. Present at conferences. Get involved in professional societies. If you’re patient, work hard, and your ideas are any good, you’ll get the recognition and, God willing, a suitable professional position.

    But going around attacking the church, writing postmodern gibberish, bemoaning the state of Mormon Studies, and blaming everything on others — and then wondering why nobody is engaging with your ideas… (after you’ve lost any credibility of being able to write about Mormonism in an even-handed fashion) — really? seriously? you wonder that people have a less-than-favorable impression of you?

    [Comment redacted to protect the innocent…]

  32. Staight arrow,
    Let’s not exaggerate about the virtues of my VCR repairmanship skillz to any great degree. I am but a low man on any totem poll.

    Internet debates a bit like screaming yes, Yes, YES! all night, but feeling ashamed in the morning. Let’s all take a step back and hit reset and see if we all can’t salvage a bit of our dignity here. D. Smith deserves more, and we deserve more from ourselves.

  33. An uncomfortable read on both sites. I thought D.’s BCC series was some of the best the bloggernacle has to offer (sans the subsequent comments) and his Mormon Stories interview was equally interesting. I hope the correlation work can be prepared for publication.

    I also sincerely hope that D. will take a breather and think about how he’s going about his business. I’m not in academia, but my hunch is that humility and respect are attributes that would be helpful both in crafting a work and in building relationships with people who can support you in the journey. And, of course, it’s good for the soul.

  34. Chris H made a great point at MSP when he asked who exactly these amateurs are that he has issues with. It seems to me that Daymon is demanding that everyone who wants to be anyone in Mormon studies should have a PhD in a relevant field before publishing anything. I understand the sentiment. Its a sad fact that Mormons love to consume bs, faith promoting or not. Look how many people Rod Meldrum has convinced of his heartland model for BoM geography being a community college dropout and quotemining everything under the sun. The problem though is when you take this sentiment to its logical conclusion you’re going to shut out people like Edward Kimball and Greg Prince. (Ironically I am pretty sure both are cited in both Daymon’s dissertation and The Book of Mammon, although Prince was cited incorrectly in the dissertation.) Fine maybe Kimball and Prince were halfhearting their work so to speak but their work is among the best of Mormon studies and I would go so far as to say the Prince’s David O McKay and the Rise of Modern Mormonism is one of the ballsiest Mormon studies books out there.

  35. I was mostly just asking for clarification, I actually share a number of Daymon’s concerns.

    I think that we are winding down this post a bit. I think that we should keep the comments to questions of clarification as all sides step away from the combat.

  36. JHayes, I’d have to disagree with the characterization of the McKay and Kimball biographies as “Mormon Studies”, but there we go with that elusive definition again. Both are fantastic biographies, books, etc. But neither employs any particularly analytical or theoretical frameworks or really engages larger themes, IIRC. Excellent works in the sense that they are exhaustively researched, well written, etc. But by “Mormon Studies” I’ve always thought of an area of study that belongs to the Academy and is engaged in by those in the academy and from time to time the heartful “amateur” who may work or study in an unrelated field but who has the ability to build off the advanced work they’ve done in another discipline and master another one one of, say history, in which they received little or no formal training.

    Just my 2c.

    I read over DS’s post and as has been said, he makes some points that have been made elsewhere, but a lot of the rest of it is puzzling to me like where blogs enter the picture at all in talking about Mormon Studies. That I know of no blog, not even the Juvenile Instructor, claims to be an outlet for strict academic work, and few in the bloggernacle fancy that they are academics or that such is necessary to blog, etc. I also don’t know what The Book of Mammon has to do with anything in Mormon Studies, being a work of fiction and not a formal anthropological or otherwise academic work. I also don’t know if DS is aware of a whole host of people who did their dissertation work either principally on Mormons or in which Mormons figured prominently and have now landed tenure track positions at universities (I’m thinking principally of historians). And I admit to being unclear about what kinds of parameters he’s set to discuss the relative merits of Mormon Studies MA programs. Maybe
    what I just mentioned is one thing and DS is talking only narrowly about those who graduate with Mormon Studies MAs. True enough there is no Mormon Studies PhD, but there are Religious Studies PhD programs, which would serve to broaden even further the experience and training of those Mormon Studies MAs and only, IMO, better situate them to make meaningful academic contributions in the study of Mormonism. Again, just my 2c, and I’m open to correction by the better informed.

    In the end, I think DS would do well to keep the extended metaphors and self-aware zaniness to a minimum as I think they get in the way of his message and come off as a bit contrived rather than naturally witty.

    I think its sad that this conversation deteriorated so incredibly since these are important issues, but I’m sure there will be other chances.

  37. Sorry, Chris, I didn’t see your post til now. Though I do think most of this is a call for clarification.

  38. T.J.,

    Your comment is fine. I hope that we can have some discussions soon about these issues. Keep an eye out.

    I am mostly excited because all of the grad seminar I had to take in the philosophy of social science and academic inquiry are all the sudden useful.

  39. I don’t feel bad about the conversation deteriorating – at least not for the sake of “discussion of Mormon Studies.”

    The quirks and challenges of Mormon publishing have been discussed in detail on the bloggernacle several times before (A Motley Vision, for instance, has posted extensively on the subject). The coverage has been pretty good, and fairly intelligent – such that I don’t feel all that heartbroken about the lost opportunity in this thread.

  40. You mistake my meaning Chris.

    I didn’t say the deterioration wasn’t regrettable from a standpoint of blog tone, or personal relations.

    I said I wasn’t bothered about the lost opportunity to discuss Mormon publishing. It’s been covered intelligently elsewhere, and can still be covered intelligently here.

    And I personally was kind of excited to see what DS was going to come up with after listening to his podcast interviews at Mormon Stories. And then he self-destructs his career like this….

    Yeah, I am pretty disappointed about that.

  41. I am not sure that biographies benefit from theoretical frameworks. Don’t get me wrong, I love philosophy and methodology but we shouldn’t wear that stuff on our sleeve. They work best when they are elegantly submerged in the foundations of our essays and papers.

    By the way, narrative history is an accepted methodology that generates a lot of value. I am afraid that we cannot reasonably exclude biographers from any field of study and that includes Mormon studies.

  42. I don’t read Chris’s remarks about amateurs literally. They appear to be an expression of frustration.

    Chris has good reason to be frustrated. Mormon studies scholars are in a difficult position, especially, if they do quality work.

    If he insults you, I am sorry. Don’t take it personally, take it as an expression of his frustration.

  43. Hellmut, thank you for the feedback. I don’t think that I mean to exclude narrative history or biography en toto from being important to academic work or being important academic productions, though I can understand if it reads that way. Nor in my references to theory do I necessarily mean for it to be overt as opposed to interwoven, as you say (though comeon, who doesn’t love a straight theoretical read? [grin]). I’m unsure of the idea that theory doesn’t (can’t?) benefit (I read: inform) biography.

    I think it goes back to the question of what Mormon Studies is and what we mean by these books in particular and their relationship to Mormon Studies. Are they good books that can inform the academic study of Mormonism (Mormon Studies, for all intents and purposes) or are they works of (products of) Mormon Studies? Or is the distinction nonsensical? I say they can certainly inform, but I don’t know if they are products, given my admittedly narrow definition, generally, of work typically done in the academy. Is this a wise or proper assessment of these books? Pehaps no. Does it marginalize or is it unfair or elitist? Perhaps yes. All of this, of course, recognizing that even work in the academy varies in its sophistication and methodology and also recognizing that the definition of Mormon Studies is, to some degree, contested.

    Regarding #59, I’m not sure how frustration with amateurs is really on point RE Mormon Studies, again, coming from the perspective of Mormon Studies being an academic pursuit. Maybe I could get some clarification. Publishing and getting recognition in the academy-in professional journals and at professional conferences, getting tenure track jobs-while doing Mormon topics is hardly unheard of. Getting rejected at Patheos or the Salt Lake Tribune, or at Greg Kofford books, much less Deseret Book or Signature Books, I think, is hardly a determination of the state of Mormon Studies. I don’t know, help me out here. Where (I ask not in an accusatory way, but simply cuz I don’t know) has DS published portions of his dissertation in professional journals? I’d like to see him work it up to be published at a University press. Maybe he’s doing that, I don’t know, but I hardly think that the gatekeepers at Oxford Press, for example, are pawns of Correlation. But maybe I’m wrong. Not landing a job is not unheard of for lots of great scholars in this market in a lot of different disciplines and for a lot of different factors. I just don’t know about this idea that Mormon studies people that do quality work are somehow this oppressed group “in a difficult position.” In a difficult position in relation to what? Thanks in advance.

  44. I can understand a bit of the scholarly/popular distinction and how it would cause frustration. The problem really is that Mormon Studies are there only to the degree there is interest. That means publishers even doing some academic stuff will be biased by interest. I think that this is as true of Oxford Press as anywhere. (I can’t say, of course, for sure. But looking at the titles they’ve published it seems an element) Move into some of the other areas and then that really has a more significant effect.

    Of course Mormon Studies are hardly alone in this. It happens in every field. And if you happen to do doctorate or post-doc in a subfield that isn’t as popular you’ll have a more difficult time finding a job. I’ve had this happen to friends in physics, philosophy and other fields. When you consider how many graduate students there are for every college professor job (and for the humanities that’s about the only place to find a job) it’s just a fact of life that the majority won’t get a job.

    Now I think this is the hidden scandal of academia. They don’t really make clear that most all those people in graduate studies are wasting their time unless they are doing it for their personal enjoyment. Throw in even more esoteric subfields and it just gets worse.

    The silver lining is that most people don’t get jobs in their major and even in the recession the job opportunities for college grads isn’t that bad. However you kind of need to get creative and just accept the reality of this.

  45. My sense is that Daymon’s MSP piece was essentially arguing that Mormon Studies is not a discipline or a sub-discipline but a genre. Whatever the other deficiencies of the post (and I admit there are several), this strikes me as an important and original insight, not reducible to the problem of amateurism, the verities of publishing, the status of blogs, etc. How has Mormonism been constituted as an object of historical and social scientific inquiry? How is “Mormon Studies” (whatever that is) reflexive or generative of that constituting process?

  46. In other words, there is an implicit argument in Daymon’s piece about the nature of academic disciplines and academic genres, how they are made, how they co-articulate and mutually constitute. Situating Mormon Studies (however outrageous the execution) within those discursive dynamics is important.

  47. TT, your post is infantile, consisting of little more than ad hominem attacks and straw men. After reading Daymon’s piece and yours, along with the comments following each, I conclude that you haven’t laid a finger on Daymon’s argument. Indeed, it is not even clear from what you’ve said that you understand his argument. The only thing that your post makes clear is that you think that you’re quite clever, but alas, your post doesn’t justify this conclusion either.

    From time to time, this blog does have insightful content, but too often you guys are just concerned with appearing clever, and the unfortunate result is un-substantive posts and comments where you spend an inordinate amount of time giving each other virtual high-fives and patting each other (and yourselves) on the back. Sadly, this thread is all too demonstrative of this tendency.

  48. DKL,
    I have consistently stated that I am willing to discuss the substantive parts this argument, and I am even willing to be convinced that I have misunderstood some key points. If you are willing to make actual arguments, demonstrate where I have misunderstood something, and explain why my critique doesn’t apply, I am all too willing to engage these issues.

    Accusing me of ad hominem and misunderstanding, without demonstrating either claim, does not, however, constitute an actual argument. But then again, I am not sure you really understood either the original post or my response since you haven’t yet demonstrated your grasp of the issues, only asserted it.

  49. Interestingly, DKL’s response is basically that TT is mean, and further that TT missed the point of D.Smith’s post. By not directly engaging TT or providing a single example DKL’s comment is closer to qualifying as “ad hominem” than TT’s post, although not in a precise technical sense. (The more technical sense being that the premise of an argument is declared invalid based on the character or reputation of the person advancing the premise. Of course, TT’s post does not exemplify this fallacy. The comment about male porn stars comes the closest to exhibiting ad hominem, but that might have been deliberate on DKL’s part, who knows?).

  50. This is how stupid TT and Blair are: I posted a comment roundly denouncing this thread and this blog, and they responded by saying I have not offered an argument and that I am guilty of the ad hominem fallacy.

    Of course, a round denunciation is not an argument, and where there is no argument, there is no fallacy. Such are the unfortunate consequences of scrambling to answer a comment that genuinely touches a nerve.

    Justifying myself to the likes of you two is, frankly, beneath me.

  51. TT, if you are only now realizing that I should step down, then you are dimwitted indeed. Everybody who’s anybody knows that I should have stepped down ages ago.

  52. Step down from what??? I am dimwitted and I really want somebody to explain why and down from what DKL ought to be stepping. Please?

  53. oudenos, it is a pretty obscure attempt at humor on my part. Fortunately, DKL’s attempt at intellectual posery and hollow accusations are funny enough to stand on their own. If he ever wants to stoop down to our level by making actual arguments instead of “round denunciations,” I’m sure he’ll be taken seriously. Yet, somehow I doubt it. He must still be smarting from his public embarrassment at my hands 4 years ago: http://bycommonconsent.com/2006/09/20/why-did-jesus-and-paul-not-condemn-slavery/#comment-50543

    I think that was the last time we interacted, and it is a hilarious read for old time’s sake.

  54. “Chris H. regularly cites the fact the DKL regularly calls for Obama to step down.”

    But TT beat me to it. I am way off my game today.

  55. Holy smokes, I just skimmed the aught-six dust up between TT and DKL. Epic. I had no idea that you guys had such a history–2006 was a hair before my introduction to the nacle (this introduction can completely be blamed upon g.wesley–thanks a lot g.wesley).

  56. Thank you, Seth R. It’s nice to know that I’ve been witty frequently enough to have created such an expectation.

  57. DKL is up to something… He was also making laughably absurd comments over at 9Moons.

    I am guessing he took a dare or lost a bet or something. Or maybe he realized he lost all reasonable claims to being “the most reviled bloggernacle commenter” a long time ago and is trying to get bring back his glory days.

  58. oudenos, I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I enjoyed participating. Having just re-read it, I’ve come away with the exact same impression that I had at the time I participated; viz., TT spends most of his time asking questions, failing to answer my questions, and then claiming that I didn’t answer his questions. (ECS’s opinion doesn’t count; she was very angry with me due to this exchange that we’d had just a few weeks before, and she remained anxious to insult me for several months following it.)

    On a side note, re-reading that exchange reminded me of how I used frequently to post non-sensical links to Married to the Sea cartoons. It’s been too long since I did that. There is no better time to insert the following two cartoons than here and here.

  59. DKL 82: “You used to be so smart.”

    After spending some time rereading our old conversation this morning, I wish I could say the same about you. 🙂

  60. Regardless of whatever mistaken views you harbor about the quality of your performance in that argument, your post here is trash — plain and simple. This just isn’t the sort of thing that demonstrates a reasonable level of intelligence. It’s a bunch of pedantic nonsense — too much pedantic nonsense; your post is practically unreadable for it’s excessive length — with barely enough childish pull quotes to allow you to privately fancy that you’ve said something interesting.

  61. DKL,
    Let’s just summarize what you’re doing here:
    Step 1: Make inflammatory accusations about how stupid I am.
    Step 2: I ask for you to make actual arguments.
    Step 3: You continue to assert things without evidence.
    Step 4: Wait for me to get pissed.
    Step 5: You call me a hypocrite and claim the high moral ground.


  62. TT, arguing with idiots (or, as you would say it, “actually arguing”) is a waste of time. I’ve been speaking with authority on topics on the ‘nacle for nearly 10 years, just as I spoke with authority in 2006 during our earlier exchange on BCC about components of Jesus’s teachings that can be found in the Talmud that included actual citations. It’s only by pretending that this history doesn’t exist that you’re able to maintain your otherwise insane pretense that you’re actually offering something to the exchange, that you’re not just way out of your league in any area about which you try to pick a fight with me.

    Having said that, for the benefit of the many people here who may not understand the weight of authority that I bring to these issues, I’ll indulge you, and I’ll explicate Daymon’s argument in a simplified form, so that (a) you may finally have a chance to understand it, and (b) you may actually have a chance to see that I am correct in pointing out that you haven’t laid a finger on it.

    Daymon contended that non-Mormon venues of information about Mormonism (viz., the bloggernacle and especially the “Mormon Studies” community) function as though they were subject to the standards of correlation. His reason for this is that the boundaries of correlation are vague in two ways.

    The boundaries for appropriate content are vague.
    The boundaries that define when it is necessary to adhere to appropriate content guidelines are vague.

    These vague boundaries have the social consequence of causing members to (a) focus on playing it safe when it comes to what to say and when to say it, and (b) feeling generally squeamish about saying the wrong thing at the wrong time. Daymon’s His examples of this are as follows:

    Mormon studies chairs are not chosen according to who is best qualified, but are chosen by benefactors, who are well heeled Mormons whose choices illustrate the social consequences of the vagueness of correlation boundaries
    Mormon blogs, which are eager to demonstrate their faithfulness and overcome the dubious stature that they have by default, thanks to the social consequences of the vagueness of correlation boundaries

    Regarding #1, this is incontrovertible. The Wall Street Journal published a piece on Michael Quinn’s inability to get a job in Mormon Studies, in spite of the fact that he is among the foremost scholars of Mormon History, because the Church has exerted its authority to excommunicate and thereby silence him. Examples of this sort are easy enough to multiply.

    Regarding #2, this is not as obvious as #1, but it is surely true. The typical response to anyone who makes a comment that actually sees to engage some church leader’s ideas as though they were ideas to be engaged — as opposed to medicine that must simply be swallowed — prompts responses of the type, “Why are you even a Mormon?” Recently, with Boyd’s poisonous talk about the gays, we’ve seen how the bloggernacle is as uncomfortable speaking truth to power as any bishopric or stake presidency.

    Thus, Daymon sees correlation as exercising a stranglehold on Mormon Studies, the bloggernacle, and any other communications medium wielded by faithful members. Right or wrong, this argument is both interesting and original.

    Having read your post, I conclude that you haven’t laid a finger on this argument. As I said earlier, TT, you have failed to address any component of Daymon’s argument. It’s not even clear from what you’ve said that you understand his argument. The only thing that your post makes clear is that you think that you’re quite clever, but alas, your post doesn’t justify this conclusion either. In fact, the only conclusion that your post justifies is that you are tirelessly self-congratulatory in spite of your manifest ignorance.

  63. DKL,
    Hooray! This is a great start to a perhaps fruitful discussion on these important topics. I think that you do a good job summarizing some of the points that Smith makes. I might have some minor disagreements with your view of his position, but in general these are all concerns that I think are well worth raising, many of which I noted that I agreed with in my OP.

    Now, you’ve asserted that I’ve misunderstood and failed to make a substantive argument against Smith. You seem to think I’ve only tried to be clever, so I get the impression that I have not made myself clear. I’d like the opportunity to clarify, but I have no idea what needs clarification or whether any clarification is needed. Would you mind summarizing what you think my argument is, to demonstrate that you’ve properly understood it before dismissing it?

  64. Just to clarify, I am going to defer discussion on both #1 and #2 until after I hear from you what you think my argument is. While I have not addressed these issues so much, I think they are worth clarifying some common misperceptions that you repeat here.

  65. “…this argument is both interesting and original.”

    i would grant the former. this is not unique to mormonism or mormon studies.

  66. TT, Your method of conceding points wherein you say, “Attaboy — good job” is just silly.

    Regarding your offer to have me rewrite your post so that it’s logical, transparent, and interesting: I decline.

    I’ve already offered the summary of Daymon’s argument that you should have offered, but seem incapable of offering. It’s too much to ask that I write the post that you would like to have written, but seem incapable of.

    But if you want to disagree with my assertion that you haven’t laid a finger on the argument, and offer evidence from your post, I’m all ears.

    g.wesley, there’s room for disagreement on that issue.

    From my point of view, I don’t see a lot of conferences like JWHA, MHA, or Sunstone in many other religions that are comparable to the size of the LDS church, and I have it on good authority that the Methodists have nothing comparable.

    Within the JWHA, MHA, and Sunstone, I’ve seen some discussion on specific instances of the influence of correlation. I also don’t think that it’s unusual to acknowledge the ubiquity of correlation standards in sources that are not actually correlated. But I don’t recall a lot of discussion about what causes correlation to have such a pervasive influence. Can you point me to examples? Perhaps I just missed out on it.

  67. DKL,
    Well, it is hard to have a conversation with you if it is not clear where it is that we disagree, so I suppose we are back to square one with you prancing about flailing your arms and shouting.

    Perhaps the reason that you don’t see me “laying a finger” on the arguments that you have gleaned from Smith is that you don’t understand them, I have not made them clear, or that I am arguing with Smith on points other than those that you raise. My suspicion is that all are true to some degree.

    If I could put it most succinctly, I object to Smith’s theory of the operation of power in the discourse of correlation, which I believe leads him to strange conclusions about his theory that Mormon scholars and bloggers are agents of correlation. Except when they aren’t, which his theory of power fails to account for. Such a claim does not constitute a denial that they never are, only that Smith has a homogenizing view of the discourse of correlation that doesn’t account for change, and doesn’t account for the various ways that this discourse may be redeployed, played with, resignified, resisted, or any other countless ways in which it, in its iterable vulnerability, fails to produce the uniformly “correlated” subjects that he imagines.

    If you are able to “lay a finger” on my methodological objection, please do. Because honestly, I really, really hope to be wrong about what I see as Smith’s framework. Otherwise, I’ve grown really, really bored with your warrantless accusations and hollow posery, that everyone but you seems to see right through.

  68. FWIW, and I am eager to clarify this point, I do not think that DKL has accurately represented Smith’s argument, and I suspect that Smith would be somewhat embarrassed by DKL’s oversimplification of a rather more sophisticated understanding of both the state of Mormon studies and of how “correlation” operates, let alone DKL’s entire miss of Smith’s point about the nature of Mormon Studies. For those who are interested, I invite them to do a close reading of Smith’s original piece, and not rely on DKL’s hatchet-job summary.

  69. I have it on good authority that the Methodists have nothing comparable.

    If by “conferences like JWHA, MHA, or Sunstone,” you mean annual conferences sponsored by organizations devoted to the study of a particular denomination’s history, theology, philosophy, worship, etc., then your assertion (and the good authority you have it on) about the Methodists is incorrect.


  70. TT, you’re understanding of my summary is as almost as inept as your understanding of Daymon’s argument.

    I couldn’t have been clearer that I’m talking about the argument that Daymon makes in his post, which is a small part of the overall post. As I said, my purpose was to “explicate Daymon’s argument in a simplified form.” I was not pretending to explicate or simplify Daymon’s entire post.

    So you’re not just setting fire to a straw man, but you’re also demonstrating that you’re fundamentally lacking in the basic abilities to (a) comprehend Daymon’s post and (b) differentiate its component elements.

    Chris H: my assertion was that I had something on good authority. The question of whether my authority is correct is an altogether different one, though your reflexive conflation of these two things is illustrative of the larger problems that you and your co-bloggers seem to have maintaining cogent arguments.

    Anyway, concerning this get-together studying Wesleyan history and culture: Do they have a “Why We Stay” session? Is there such a thing as Welseyan-oriented literary criticism? What about Welseyan folklore and Welseyan myths — is there a Welseyan take on Sasquatch? Do they have sessions about whether this or that Welseyan celebrity is a good Wesleyan?

  71. If I’ve simply missed it somewhere in the OP or comments (entirely possible), please feel free to call out my poor reading comprehension … but at this point, I’m mostly wondering why there hasn’t been more frank speculation here regarding why the editors at Patheos.com chose not to publish Daymon’s essay?

    As far as I can tell, the nearest attempt happened in TT’s final graf in the OP. But considering all the Sturm und Drang that’s ensued, it seems like there ought to be more than that single paragraph on which to hang a verdict re Daymon’s rejected essay (a graf that I admittedly have a hard time reading without a chuckle … the appeal to Derrida reminds me too much of Daymon’s line from his MSP post: “Given this, let me mention Bakhtin/Kant/Foucault, but not face any terrifying thoughts”).

    I’m curious: Was there anything about Daymon’s essay beyond the question of its “tone” that justified its exclusion from the Patheos series on the future of Mormonism? FWIW, I’ve read all the published FoM essays and my sense is that a certain predictable “tone” obscures some awfully controversial claims.

    Until someone persuades me otherwise, I will continue to suspect that once the Patheos.com folks had actually read Daymon’s essay (after already announcing that it would be included in the FoM series), they were immediately terrified. Because it didn’t sound right. For whatever reasons. And as I said, I’d be curious to hear some speculation about what those reasons were. Or is that sort of thing frowned on in these parts?

  72. To clarify, it was me, not Chris H., who chimed in about Methodist/Wesleyan Studies:

    Anyway, concerning this get-together studying Wesleyan history and culture: Do they have a “Why We Stay” session? Is there such a thing as Welseyan-oriented literary criticism? What about Welseyan folklore and Welseyan myths — is there a Welseyan take on Sasquatch? Do they have sessions about whether this or that Welseyan celebrity is a good Wesleyan?

    Yes. I’m not sure, though Methodists actively participate in conversations about a Christian literary theory and surely draw upon Wesleyan theology in making their contributions. Yes and yes. I doubt it. And I’m not sure (though I had a long conversation on a plane ride with a Methodist lay minister a year or two ago that focused quite a bit on debates within her congregation over whether or not George W. Bush was “a good Methodist”). I’m not entirely clear why Methodist Studies has to mirror Mormon Studies in every particular, though, to be something “like JWHA, MHA, or Sunstone.”

    I’m not trying to pick a fight, here. Just thought I’d chime in on a point I happen to know a thing or two about.

  73. DKL: all I was saying was that when you mentioned the Methodists, I thought to myself: “I wonder if my fried Christopher whose studies Methodists will chime in.”

    He did and it made me happy. That is all.

  74. I’m mostly wondering why there hasn’t been more frank speculation here regarding why the editors at Patheos.com chose not to publish Daymon’s essay?

    My speculation is they didn’t publish it because they thought it sucked. And of course as editors they have the right to not publish essays they deem to be sucky.

  75. Christopher, you make a good point about the fact that Wesleyan studies needs to mirror Mormon studies. Members of the LDS church tend to be a more insular and more hierarchically directed then Wesleyan traditions. Joseph and Hyrum are also much more controversial than the Welsey brothers. These combine to give Mormon studies a highly unique flavor. I think that one could construct a plausible argument that Sunstone and the more culturally-oriented aspects of the MHA and the JWHQ are unique to Mormonism in the same way that the 3-hour block is.

  76. @108: Some Russian guy whose name tends to pop up in conversations after mentions of Derrida and Foucault have failed to produce the desired shock and awe.

    @107: Hey, Capt. Obvious: But why did it suck? I mean, I’ve read a lot here about why Daymon Smith sucks, but I’m still unclear on exactly why his rejected essay sucked. And if it’s not too much to ask, when you reply, can you focus on how his essay sucked compared to the others that apparently passed muster?

  77. Really? Derrida produces awe? Never would have guessed that.

    I do not think any of us here can read the mind of the folks at Patheos. To be honest, it is just Patheos. Not sure what the big deal is.

  78. Chino Blanco, you raise a good point. I think it’s pretty odd that they didn’t publish it. Patheos re-printed a bloggernacle piece of mine without even asking permission. It’s also pretty odd that Geoff comes into the argument guns blazing to make nonsense points and pretending that I’m “up to something.”

    Chris H, people who pretend to understand Derrida are also under the misconception that he produces awe — hence their motivation to pretend that they understand him.

  79. DKL,
    ZZZZZZ. Boring as ever. Your “round denunciations” and general opinion of us without having to actually stoop to making an argument about why my methodological critique doesn’t apply have been duly noted. (You’ve repeated them ad nauseaum at this point). I am positive that anyone who respects your assessment of these issues has been thoroughly convinced.

    I am not sure what, if anything, speculation on this issue would accomplish. I’ve no doubt there are more sides to this story than Smith’s, who admits he was trying to sneak something by the editors (“its author hoping the Portal Keeper would post it without a glance”). This episode is evidence of what, exactly? Some larger point about Mormon Studies? Probably not.

    As for my reference to Derrida in my final paragraph, it is a response to Smith’s reference to Derrida in his final paragraph.

  80. @112: Thanks for making my point, which was that smart hipsters know to keep a (relatively) obscure Russian handy just in case some wiseass starts making cracks about those passé Frenchies.

    Further to #112: Suddenly, you’re not sure what the big deal is. Hmmm. Is there any particular reason you waited until the comment count here went into triple digits before mentioning your lack of interest in the subject of the post?

    @113: Yeah, it’s odd. That said, I think this thread is equally odd. Why does it require wading through so much misdirection here just to get a few simple answers?

    @114: I can relate to the lack of impulse control, but considering how long the thread has gone already, aren’t such shenanigans getting just a little tired?

  81. I am not sure what, if anything, speculation on this issue would accomplish.

    As I mentioned several times in my #104, I’m curious about the reasons the essay was rejected. If you’ve no doubt there are more sides to this story than Smith’s, please just humor me and present one of them for my consideration.

    Otherwise, if you feel that’s not germane or worth your time, I hope you don’t mind if I go ahead and outline why I think the essay was rejected.

  82. Chino,
    Let me guess. Because it speaks the unmediated truth, a truth which is too hard for benighted Mormons half-educated Mormons to hear.
    Again, even assuming Daymon’s side of the story is completely true, this is evidence of what exactly? It really just seems to be a pretty minor incident, in a relatively small corner, of a few particular individuals’ divergent standards of a good entry into the series. I’m just not sure that all the worrying about it tells us anything important at all besides idle gossip.

  83. Chino,

    Was the entire subject of the post Patheos? That is what I do not get. Why is Patheos such a controversy?

    “…smart hipsters know to keep a (relatively) obscure Russian handy just in case some wiseass starts making cracks about those passé Frenchies.”

    I have no idea what that means.

  84. The reason why I talk about philosophers is because they interest me. The COB does not. I know that this may bring down the scoffers upon my head, but I love ideas. I really do not have an agenda. Daymon took cheap shots at my friend, the portal keeper at Patheos. I really do not care about Daymon’s work because it does not interest me. Chino cares about it because it helps to further his agenda. It is not out of any concern for Daymon.

  85. TT: Guessing games? C’mon. Are you incapable of dialing it down and responding to a sincere request from a commenter here on your blog?

    I’d like to hear why you think Daymon’s essay was rejected. Not what you think I think about why it was rejected, but what you think.

    Your review is in response to a guest post that Daymon penned for MSP. As it turns out, the first two comments (one of them mine) over at MSP under Daymon’s post happen to mention FPR by name and suggest that readers click over here for some side-by-side reading.

    In other words, to use your lingo, I think it’s obvious that I don’t view FPR as the Other. That said, what I had hoped FPR might be is a place for our readers to find divergent views on Daymon’s post.

    But the hoped-for divergence has instead become a diversion.

    If Patheos.com had accepted Daymon’s essay, the post at MSP would never have gone up, and we wouldn’t be here having this conversation. But that’s not what happened.

    What happened is that we’re here. So can we talk about the whys and wherefores? Or is that somehow off-limits?

  86. Chino,

    Chris’ comment doesn’t mean it is “off-limits,” just that he is not particularly interested in this issue. He’s right, however, that this is a pretty minor instance hardly worth the status of major scandal that you seem to think it is, asking us to come up with unprovable theories for why it happened. So, basically, we could all sit here and come up with our own theories, or conspiracy theories, and we still won’t get anywhere, so what is the point, really?
    And speaking of not answering sincere requests, what exactly do you think this episode is evidence of again?

    I hope you don’t mind if I go ahead and outline why I think the essay was rejected.

    You are certainly welcome to do so. I just thought I could guess what it would be. If my guess is off, please elaborate on what you think is really going on since you’ve offered.

    I do not have access to the version that was rejected since Smith’s blog (http://correlationism.wordpress.com/2010/08/09/post-one/) only offers a “synthesis” of the versions that had been rejected. In my reading of the first few of the 9 parts he put up on his blog, the thesis takes forever to get to since he spends a ton of time on the past, the evidence presented about correlation being a radical break from pre-1950’s Mormonism seems overstated, it is full of brash, sweeping statements about the real agendas of named and unnamed figures, sarcasm, and excessive use of metaphor (i.e., “Brother Content, Sister Cost, Brother Priesthood, and, of course, Sister Discursive”) for the short, prosaic piece that was requested. My best guess is that the editors asked him to tone down some of these things. If you haven’t noticed, Smith’s choice of writing voice is not always appreciated. Seeing how Smith reacts to criticism, and from his own account, he seems to have accused the editors of beings “Correlated” if they dared to suggest anything to him, and the relationship was then over. So, I think a combination of a piece that wasn’t particularly well-suited to the forum and a personality who is prone to reacting angrily to criticism probably led to the decision that the piece as presented was not publishable.

    Thanks for shedding some light on the centrality of the Patheos affair in Smith’s motivation to attack Mormon Studies. It is quite revealing indeed that vendetta seems to have been behind it, and why he put his own story forth as the prime evidence for the problems with Mormon Studies. I am still not sure that this episode tells us much of anything about the state or nature of Mormon Studies. It reveals a lot more about Smith.

  87. There’s another side to the Patheos story that Daymon isn’t telling.

    But until others with more say over the website bother to say something about it, I’m not going to say anything either.

  88. Chino,
    But the hoped-for divergence has instead become a diversion.

    I agree completely with this assessment, actually. I feel like a broken record, but I really am willing to discuss the substantive issues that have been raised, and I am more than willing to admit that I am wrong even on fundamental points if someone will engage in a constructive conversation. No one seems willing to do so yet.

  89. Quick clarification: I’d said before that Patheos ran a bloggernacle piece by me without my permission, and now I’ve been reminded that I actually did give my permission, and I cannot account for how I had forgotten that, but I apologize to the editors of Patheos for the accusation and to readers here for leading them astray about this.

    TT, I suppose you intend to upset me by reminding me that I’m boring, just like you’d hoped to upset me by reminding me that I should step down. Regretfully, you’re behind the times on this one as well. The bloggernacle knows exactly how boring I am — boring enough that I’ve never once been missed on a single blog that has banned me or a single facebook friend that has “unfriended” me (and there are many…) — and they’ve known for a lot longer than you’ve been blogging. And nobody but the truly boring would spend this much time reminding readers of how boring they are. As far as reminding me of how boring I am, well, you might just as well remind me of how stunningly handsome I am, since both of these are equally evident to the casual and the careful observer. If you really want to get under my skin (and it’s not terribly difficult) then I suggest you consult someone who knows me.

    Back to the argument at hand: If you’re going to post something on a weblog, then you’ve got to be prepared for casual comments expressing opinions about your post — including negative ones. Moreover, if you’re going to attempt to take on the arguments of an individual, and if you’re going to write something laced with hostility and contempt, and if you’re going to invite comments on it, then you shouldn’t be taken aback by comments laced with hostility and contempt toward you. This is my “methodological critique” of your post and the childish, churlish behavior exhibited in both your posts and the response to it.

    You presumed to make the post in the first place, it’s you, first and foremost, who’s on the hook for whether it’s substantive, interesting, and accurate. You’re the one who opened this up for comments (there’s a checkbox for that), and it won’t do to complain that my comment is somehow out-of-line because it calls you to task for its tone. That’s the nature of blogs. It’s OK to be wrong on your argument, but if you’re going to be such an utter bombast about it, then you’d better be darned sure that you’re not wrong. If you hope to avoid that in the future, then you should be more aware of the limits of your ability to understand and critique reasonably sophisticated arguments, which I’d say are quite severe.

    At this point, I’ve offered a simplified summary of Daymon’s argument, which you’ve sloppily mischaracterized as a summary of his entire post. You haven’t bothered to argue that my summary is inaccurate, but have just roundly denounced it. My original assertion that you haven’t laid a finger on Daymon’s argument remains undisputed by argument. Like your post, there’s just so much bluster with no substance to back it up.

  90. This is getting old and I am going to bed. If anyone has any thoughts about the subject of the OP, namely theories of how power operates in the discourse of Correlation, please send them to the email address found on the “Author List” page. Views which engage, either critically or favorably, the actual topic of this post will be posted.

    All the rest of the drama and lame accusations are, as Chino said, an unfortunate diversion. I did not, nor could have, predicted the direction that the conversation went. I wanted to have a serious discussion about the nature of discursive power, but alas, we got this instead.

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