Category Archives: thoughts

These posts are me going on and on about one thing or another.

Introverts have challenges but they’re not oppressed. Prove me wrong (please).

This is a reworking of something I posted on reddit last night in response to someone’s question about why introverts are the subject of discrimination.

I’m not an expert in prejudice-against-introverts research (if that exists) but a few (admittedly quick) searches aren’t turning up anything about that (link here to a google scholar search). I think it’s at least 50% probable that there is some research like this, somewhere, but until I find it the evidence I can see around me does not seem to suggest that introverts are the targets of systematic prejudice or discrimination or negative stereotyping.

On the other hand, there’s certainly a lot of assuming that introverts are a marginalized class of individuals. I should probably put “introverts” in quotes because introversion is a dimensional personality trait, not a category. Even with dimensions, of course, categories can arise; people who all have similar values on some trait might “cluster” in terms of other things, like correlates of the trait, outcomes, life experiences, etc. So that’s still possible, but I don’t have that information so I continue to think in dimensional terms: everyone has some “amount” of introversion: some people have lots, and others have only a little. I’ve included measures of introversion/extroversion in some empirical studies (N=400-1,000) and it’s a quite normally-distributed variable. Other researchers find the same. The vast majority of people have “medium” levels of introversion.

Despite the (apparent to me, right now) lack of evidence, lots of writers of scholarly and quasi-scholarly literature insist that “introverts” (OK, I made my point about dimensions; I’ll stop using the quotes, but it hurts me to do so) are marginalized, in some cases implying that they experience discrimination similar to racism or misogyny. The evidence presented by these introvexperts, (dorky label, just go with it), tends to rely heavily on lists of cultural messages (e.g., common sayings, famous quotes, familiar experiences) critical of traits associated with high-introvert personalities and demonstrations that many benefits in our society are more difficult to achieve for people with very high levels of introversion.

I don’t think any of the above adds up (yet?) to the conclusion that introverts are an oppressed social group, for at least four reasons. Details for each after the “more” link:

  1. There might not be any empirical research documenting such discrimination or oppression
  2. Alongside the lists of introvert-negative/extrovert-positive social messages it’s fairly easy to make large lists of the opposite—introvert-positive/extrovert-negative social messages
  3. Difficulties for people with a particular characteristic do not necessarily imply discrimination or oppression
  4. The overall tone of the “in defense of introverts” messaging is not totally consistent with the message that introverts are systematically disadvantaged or that equality is the motivation of the messages.

Continue reading

Trump Voters: I blame you.

Actually, I think “blame” is the wrong word. Better: I hold you responsible.

It feels like many Trump voters wish the rest of the country wouldn’t hold them responsible for the things Trump is doing, as the backlash intensifies and settles in for the long haul. I still see posts and tweets from Trump voters that seem to be saying, “why are you so upset at me?” or “Why isn’t your criticism ‘balanced’ to include [Obama/Clinton/protesters]?”. But the criticism should not be “balanced” like that, and the nation absolutely should hold you responsible for Trump’s behavior, for some good reasons (none of which are “you’re a bad person”).

  1. You are the main hope for change.
  2. You won.
  3. It’s your mess.

Explained below. Continue reading

We live in TrumpNation now.

It’s the day after Trump won the national election. Most people I know (because I know a lot of liberals) are in shock. I’m disappointed, uncertain, worried, kind of sad, but not in shock. This always felt like it would happen. Of course I can “believe this could happen.” The kind of people ultimately responsible for Trump’s win are the kind of people I grew up around, much of my childhood and adolescence. Rural Arizona, suburban Utah, rural Montana, rural Washington. Farming towns, mining towns, ranching towns, logging towns. Sarah Palin painted these places as the “real America,” and my stomach turned when she did. Populist candidates know they have to pander to rural America to get the votes they need. Sure, there are some lovely people in rural America, but when they appeal to that demographic they’re also appealing to the kind of people who made some of my childhood and adolescence a living hell. I don’t use that term lightly. I can’t really compare myself to holocaust victims or kids in Sudan or Syria, but it was 100% awful for me. At the time all I knew was my own kind of misery. I didn’t compare it to anything except memories of life without the misery, and it was infinitely worse. Continue reading

Dear LDS Church: Yes, it absolutely is punishing children for their parents’ actions

My testimony situation (i.e., lack of such) isn’t, as far as I can tell, about the LDS church’s many anti-inclusion policies or the many statements made by church leaders that can be seen as insensitive, tribal, reactionary, etc. However, I won’t blame anyone who leaves the church over this new policy change. It really is mind-boggling to me how people claiming to lead the church established by Jesus could have made these rules. I suppose, if I still felt connected enough to the doctrine to need to decide where I stood vis-a-vis the church, I might need to tell myself that the modern church, just like ancient Israel, is capable of being led by people who make really, really questionable decisions.

In typical adorable-yet-horrifying-native-Utahn naive fashion, lds.net both summarizes the issues and clarifies my reasons for being taken so very far aback, in a blog post defending the changes (note: copy-pasted on 11/7/2015, 5:45 a.m. EST):

The first change edits the definition of apostasy. The new definition adds that entering a same-sex marriage constitutes apostasy.

The second change requires that for children of same-sex couples to be baptized they must be adults, and specifically reaffirm their testimony of eternal marriage.

Continue reading

The System Of The World and How It Always Wins

There were times, as a child and young adolescent, when I spent many carefree years just being me. I was encouraged to do this, so I didn’t hold back. I wasn’t always happy doing this, and the world’s responses were sometimes negative, even brutal. But sometimes they were positive. There were people who liked how I was, or at least I thought there were.

Then I grew up. Continue reading

Land of the Touchy

So. I’ve given up my beloved job in the very far southness of this land and taken one in its northeastness. Most things about this new job are just fine/great. However, I think there’s a larger proportion of really irritable, sensitive people in the administration and service sectors of this school. Actually, I don’t know if that’s true, but that’s what it feels like.

Here are the ways I have apparently annoyed/angered/hurt individuals so far:

  • Asking if there were any unused surplus computers available for my research.
  • Telling students to come see me personally for advice about whether X class is ‘the best choice right now.’
  • Asking whether I could hold my statistics course in a computer lab.
  • Requesting administrator rights on my office computer so I can install programs and, um, remove icons from the desktop.
  • Most recently: submitting a request to the IT department to get a VGA cable for the room I teach in, so I can connect my laptop to the projection system.

To be a bit more fair, I don’t know whether the admin rights request annoyed anyone, but I was warned away from asking by several people, and since I made the request (no answer, yet) I’ve heard from various third parties about it, as if the request were some monumental thing–it’s not, because I know others have requested the same thing… and the IT guy with the VGA cable: I have heard that he’s just irritable in general.

Still, I heave a huge sigh. I feel like any request I make, or even tentative question I ask, has about an 80% chance of being met with concerned, worried, or openly annoyed faces and phrases like, “I don’t know… we’ve never done it like that before,” or “there’s no rule against it, but I wouldn’t if I were you.”

Sigh. The adjustment continues. Luckily, my faculty colleagues seem to be pretty high-quality people, though admittedly they include a good dose of the expected diversity of faculty quirks. which mostly makes them more awesome, as a group.

Professors: Advisers to the royalty

In Olden Times, kings and queens and emperor types had advisers. Well, maybe; I don’t know–I’m not a historian. But what matters for this particular piece is that we have stories about them having advisers. We apparently like to believe they did. We have stories about kings and queens listening to their wise advisers, being used by malicious advisers, being made foolish by foolish advisers, and so on. I’ve been interested, since I was a kid, in the stories of royalty trying to use their power and authority to guarantee a certain kind of advice. They fired (or beheaded) advisers who didn’t tell them things they wanted to hear, or only selected advisers who were lickspittles in the first place, or used threats and bribes to try to ensure royalty-favorable answers to all questions. We understand that these kings and queens were letting their short-term, selfish desires override more important long-term concerns. We can watch, in the stories, as the kings and queens shoot themselves (and, of course, their subjects) in the foot when they refuse to make a place in their court for the advisers with the unpleasant messages. We want to scream at them that they need to hear–and even bankroll–the kind of thinking that makes them feel uncomfortable or guilty or confused. But they don’t listen to the audience. They fire the advisers, they burn them, they throw them in prisons, they threaten their families. Continue reading

Passion wanes

I could say “nobody tells you this will happen,” but I think I was told often. In fact, that’s one reason I never wanted to grow up. I knew things about adulthood (a few too many things–no, not those kinds of things… well, some of those, but that’s not what I mean). I had a pretty dismal picture of maturity from a young age. Right now, I’m talking about passion. Passion wanes. Not just sexual passion; passion. Continue reading

Pornography, Modesty, and LDS Pharisees

The teaser: maybe we should be chastising men who wear nice suits to church, drive nice cars, or demonstrate “leadership.” Okay, on with my rant du jour.

We Mormons are kind of obsessed with pornography: lamenting its terrible influence, warning about its dangers, etc. Porn is bad, no question. However, I worry that we members place too much emphasis on personal spirituality and not enough on the consequences of pornography consumption to others, and that both ends of that imbalance have bad consequences. I also worry that “personal spirituality” means, as is too often the case, male spirituality. This is going to veer right on into the modesty issue, BTW, which is kind of predictable.

The more I read, see, and think, the more I feel that our pornography-centered moral panic is problematic for several reasons (in roughly increasing order of rantiness):

1. Misinformation.

I think porn is a terrible thing, but not necessarily for all the reasons we often claim it is. There have been a lot of misleading or false claims repeated on this issue; we pile extra, often made-up “reasons” for opposing pornography use on top of the very good real reasons. To clear the air: pornography does not make people gay, and it probably doesn’t turn anyone into a rapist or child molester*. As always, I have problems with agendas being pushed using falsehoods. Now that we know these have little or no empirical support, we should stop parroting them as if they were irrefutable truths.

2. Woman-blaming and control.

It would be inaccurate to claim we’re exactly like Saudi clerics blaming insufficiently-burqua’d babies for child molestation, but when we perseverate on the modesty issue, we’re arguably dipping our toes in that pool. There’s a direct connection between our pornography obsession and our modesty obsession, perhaps best exemplified by some members’ love of repeating the claim that immodestly-dressed young women “become pornography.” I’m one of the many people currently on the bandwagon of criticizing our over-emphasis on modesty in women. I think such over-emphasis leads to bad consequences, independent of any benefits it may bestow, and no matter what motivates it. Research and boatloads of anecdotes convince me that these consequences can include increases in blaming victims of sexual abuse and in sex-based prejudice. The modesty/porn panic also leads, I think, to a subtle but real transfer of social power from women to men in the church. If women’s modesty is seen by members as causing spiritual problems, exclusively to the men of the church, then it stands to reason that the men (or other leaders) may feel entitled to regulate women’s (or young women’s, or single women’s) behavior to protect the community. The way we approach the porn and the modesty issues can lead to social control of women, backed by a feeling of righteous justification. Not too different from an ultra-conservative Muslim cleric insisting that women “invite seduction” by showing both eyes through their niqab, eh?

3. Navel-gazing Pharisaism. Continue reading

Sylvia Plath: RIP 50 years ago

I guess this is (pretty close to) the 50th anniversary of Sylvia Plath’s death. Sigh. I fell in love with her writing when I was a teenager and never stopped being punched in the gut by it. I got a nice quotation from Paste magazine:

“Why are we conditioned to the smooth, strawberry-and-cream Mother-Goose-world… only to be broken on the wheel as we grow older and become aware of ourselves as individuals with a dull responsibility in life?”

Recent History: Guns Will Not Safeguard Our Freedom

Dear Gun Rights Advocates,

In general, you tend to emphasize personal freedom and liberty and whatnot in your defense of gun ownership–gun ownership is as much a God-given right as breathing or the profit motive. However, you generally have a keen understanding of the principle that individual liberty must be tempered when the human consequences of that liberty are great, so when you are confronted with the negative consequences of large-scale and generally unregulated gun ownership, it becomes necessary to either tone down the gun-ownership rhetoric or show that gun ownership has benefits that outweigh the negative side effects. Of course, the first option is out of the question so your answers, at least in my Facebook feed, to the dangerousness of gun ownership seem to fall into these categories:

  1. There aren’t any real downsides to large-scale societal gun ownership
  2. I need my guns for self-defense against criminals (related: Gun ownership deters crime)
  3. Guns are our defense against tyrrany and loss of constitutional freedom [this one is my focus, here]
  4. Looks like we got ourselves a librul gun control nut on our hands maybe you need a little time at the business end of my .357 to clear your head, if ya knowuttamean. Continue reading

Pants and Mormons

I don’t have anything new to add to the substance of the (apparently raging) debates about pants day or whatever it was that was planned for feminist-leaning ladies in the church. I have empathy and sympathy for most of the people who are or were in on that little consciousness-raising plan, but I also think I understand some of the backlash.

What I really wish is that, somehow–though maybe it wasn’t even possible–this could have been done more subtly, less divisively, and (this is the part that doesn’t seem realistic) in a way that didn’t attract the more extreme elements on both sides who have serious chips on their shoulders. I wish it could have been done in a way that didn’t make this event a target for people so insecure about their own faith that they are terrified of stripping away the thick layer of conformity insulating their testimony, or people so angry that resentment of patriarchy insulates theirs.

It seems to me that this could have been something much more interesting, and less dramatic, than it appears to be becoming–a moment in which some women in the church exercised a prerogative granted to them on paper (most of the time) but often denied verbally, violation of a rule that doesn’t really exist officially but is enforced through social influence. It could have been Jennifer Aniston looking her manager in the face and saying, “Yes ,I’m wearing the minimum number of pieces of flair. That’s all I’m wearing. You keep saying that’s all I’m required to wear, so that’s all I’m wearing. I’m going back to work, now. Let me know if this failure to break rules will have any official consequences.”

Maybe the answer was just to not make it a discrete event at all, but an ongoing trickle of behavioral information through the church. Maybe, like I suggested above, nothing could have kept this from becoming trench warfare on the bloggernacle (as it apparently is).

Anyway, it’s a mess. Like most nasty messes, it reveals more about the players than it does about the issues. From what I’ve seen, it’s revealed the petty meanness of several people on both “sides” (why did there have to be sides?) of this issue (sigh… I guess it’s an issue, now). It has revealed deep insecurities in authoritarians and feminists alike. But mostly it has revealed a fairly large number of people who, as far as I can tell, didn’t want it to become something so divisive.

How to Lose Friends & Alienate People — Facebook Edition

I’m supposed to be grading papers, but instead I’m blogging this. I use the term blogging very loosely, because a website that never gets read can’t really be accurately called a blog. But sometimes writing here helps me get my thoughts together and–as long as I back up regularly (!!!)–this might be a nifty adjunct to my nonexistent journal.

Anyway, I argue about politics on Facebook. This has had predictable (but mild) consequences until now: a few people blocked me, a few others quietly ignore anything I say that’s even faintly politically colored, etc. This Fall, however, in the leadup to the 2012 Presidential elections, it got ugly. I try not to post truly nasty things. I don’t post that Fox News watchers are idiots, or that Republicans are fascists or what-have-you… even though I occasionally get these kinds of sentiments from a few of my FB friends, directed at anyone deemed insufficiently conservative. In discussions, I try to be fair, but I also don’t tend to let things go by that make no sense. I try to make my focus more on the process and quality of thinking than on the endpoints of the issues themselves. This has lost me some friends–at least three, by current count. Continue reading

Facebook political arguments

I recently reconnected with a high school friend. As can be expected, we have become very different people from our 17-year-old selves in the past few decades, and we immediately began arguing on Facebook. After a few arguments, it became painfully clear that this was an exercise in frustration. Although I worry this will damage our relationship (which I value despite his rhetorical style), I felt the need to post the following reply to the latest of half a dozen or more of his arguments that exhibited evasion and classical rhetorical errors. It sounds pretty uppity of me–and maybe it is–but I want this recorded because I went to the trouble (a couple of hours, at least) of working some things out for myself about how I think and how I think thinking should–and should not–should be done, at this point in my life. I also think it will be useful to smack my ego down in the future to see what an insufferable twerp I can be on FB.

 

@XXXXXXX, this is the way many of our discussions on FB have gone, as far as I can tell:

1. You sometimes make assertions about the way things are, about the way they should be, etc.

2. I sometimes challenge those assertions.

3. You defend your assertions by stating things that sound like principles.

4. I question those principles by extending them outside the narrow domains in which you applied them.

5. You tell me my extension is invalid for a variety of reasons, often abandoning your defense of what I originally thought was a principle.

Principles, by nature, tend to apply beyond narrow domains. They don’t apply to every domain, but their limits need to be clearly spelled out and make sense. Those limits, as important parts of the principle, need to be subject to rationality- or reality-testing. Increasingly, however, I have become frustrated talking to you about political things because it seems that what you present as principles really aren’t, for you.
Continue reading

Being married to an LDS feminist

I’m married to an LDS feminist, and it is an interesting experience. By interesting I sometimes mean threatening, terrifying, depressing, and confusing. Also thought-provoking, exciting, stimulating, and enlightening. To my knowledge, my wife has never burned a bra, painted a sign (except to harass the other team at a hockey game), or marched on Washington. She didn’t get into feminism because of delayed college-aged adolescent rebellion against authority structures or conformity to her liberal sistren. In fact, calling her a feminist in the context of this piece, without clarification, is actually a bit misleading and reductionist, because I don’t think she is primarily a feminist; I think she’s primarily a person who cares deeply and thinks carefully. And that’s why (I think she would agree–I didn’t ask her before writing this) she has become the flavor of feminist that she is.

Continue reading

Kali, Shiva, Evolution, and JHVH

I grew up with the standard Western-centric, Christian-centric, Mormon-centric view of pretty much everything (though tempered by my father’s consistent call to critical thinking and occasional iconoclasm), so when I learned about non-Christian religious beliefs, the process was tinged with paternalism and a noble-savage mentality. But perhaps one of the few true insights I’ve had in my adult life is that the vast majority of people are at least as smart and good as I and my clan are, and they usually have reasons–good reasons–for their beliefs and actions.

So, Kali and Shiva. In many non-Christian religions the main gods are both creators and destroyers, and these two are nearly the prototype of that kind of god. They manage both life and death, in the endless cycle of the universe. Their postulation and veneration indicate a recognition that these processes are tightly intertwined. I suppose I thought, for years, that the worship of such gods indicated an overly brutal or cruel perspective on life–in other words, an inaccurate worldview–but now it seems to me that these myths are, instead, an indication that those who shaped them were simply paying very close attention to the world. The world, of course, is cruelty, all the way down. It is a vale of tears. It is injustice and death and pain. It’s other things, too–nice things–but we often (these days) focus on those things in church. I’m struck by how fully the Hindus appreciated the bitter side of existence. Continue reading

Gender and Brain Lateralization?

Here is some rampant, unsupported speculation: Maybe there’s some kind of case to be made for brain lateralization as a metaphor for gender abilities/roles/specializations/uniquestuffs. You know, say that one side was like “male” and the other was like “female.” No, seriously; dig it:

  • Specialization obviously occurs.
  • There’s some nature going on, but obviously some nurture, too. Separating the two effects can be difficult.
  • The apparent specialization effects that appear when averaging across lots of individuals often disappear when you look closely at any one individual. In other words, variation is more consistent than consistency.
  • Because of the above point, any interventions or even statements regarding individual specialization are likely to be misguided without really getting to know the individual(s) in question, first.
  • Popular belief about specialization is (a) ridiculously simplistic, (b) sometimes inaccurate, and (c) highly resistant to change.

I know, right? It works… at least as far as I’ve taken it. I’m not sure how much farther the metaphor can be pushed, though.

Patriotic Sex versus Patriotic Violence: LDS Preferences?

I have a habit of trying to point out logical problems in ideas by suggesting counterexamples. I know proof by analogy isn’t ultimately very valuable, and I know not everything can be demonstrated (or disproved) by examples, but it still seems valid at least as a way of illustrating — in ways people can understand immediately, if I do it right — the problems with certain ideas.

So, back when Mel Gibson’s “The Patriot” was the hot movie, I got several versions of an email circulated by well-meaning LDS people (I have just briefly tried in vain to find a copy of it on the internet… but if anyone reads this they might remember it) alleging that some general authority had, in the case of this movie, suspended the “R-ban,” encouraging people to see it. Because it was so patriotic and authentic and historical.

Well, the movie was R-rated for good reason: violence (IMDB’s parents’ guide gives it a 9 out of 10 for violence & gore). I personally spoke to many people at the time who had given their own R-ban a temporary leave of absence so they could see it. I think it’s pretty clear that we were willing to overlook the violence because of the redeeming quality of portraying historically accurate events important to the founding of our nation (the US, in case this is not obvious).

So I was saying  to my Wif this morning that we should reignite that email chain but this time claim that certain “patriotic” parts had been “censored,” and that good patriots should demand that they be put back in (Note; this was silly speculation and I do not actually intend to do this). Then the email would explain that the “censored” parts were things for which many Latter-day Saints who consider themselves patriotic would probably not suspend their no-R-rated-movies policy. You know, sex scenes.

Gibson’s most violent scenes (famous for their unrestrained brutality) were, as I understand, largely speculation, though it was a war; horrible things happened. But plenty of things that fall outside our internal filters did actually happen, and they involved the men and women we consider responsible for the birth of our nation. How would Mormons’ reaction to Gibson’s film have been different if the one of the important, historically accurate events was, say, a graphic-type sex scene between Thomas Jefferson and his slave, Sally Hemmings? Or a brutally graphic (you know, Mel-Gibson-style) scene where American colonists murder, rape, and destroy the homes of Native Americans, under orders (or in some cases simply with the inaction of) some of our revered founding fathers? What about a zany sex romp scene involving Benjamin Franklin and one of his alleged mistresses?

My suspicion is that no, the Church membership (in general) would not be open to either (a) sex or (b) immoral actions by the Founding Fathers being depicted in any detail (or perhaps not at all) in movies, no matter how historically accurate those depictions might be, and no matter how important the events might have been to the founding of our nation. It seems to me that we don’t need as much censorship as we sometimes think we do; we self-censor very effectively as it is.

Massive Nick Thread on fMh

So my loving wif has been describing to me an EPIC (or epic-esque) thread on feminist Mormon housewives. It was dominated by a guy named Nick who had some issues. Big ones. And it captured both our attention (honeypie’s and mine). I made word clouds of Nick’s comments and the general thread, for some kind of comparison. I don’t think this exercise really illuminated anything, but it was fun. What I would really love to do, though I don’t want to take the time away from real research to do it, is to look at the functional or other kinds of patterns in Nick’s communication with the fMh crowd, and theirs with him. I personally found his comments to be low in insight (as would be expected from someone wrapped up in his own problems), occasionally sexist, and frequently patronizing. But my heart went out to the guy, anyway; he has a very, very long row to hoe.

Here’s Nick’s word cloud, made of only his comments (with quotes excised).

Wordle: Nick

Here’s everyone else’s comments (Nick’s not included). I wasn’t gonna do this b/c it’s 1am and dude, I’m tired. But this is fun/compelling quasi-analysis. Sorry it’s a different style. I know that makes it a bit harder to compare.
Wordle: nick_noNick

Finally, Here’s the word cloud for the general thread, nick’s comments mixed with everyone else’s.
Wordle: nick_thread

Not sure I see any deep meaning here, but make of it what you will. It was a fun exercise. For my job I may eventually have need of some very-smart text analysis software; I think I’ve found something to test it on :)

Update: Because this is so much fun (and preferable to the other work I need to be doing this weekend), I did one more thing: a word difference cloud, if you will. The hacked-together list of words in colors (below) represent the magnitude in relative frequency difference between Not-Nick and Nick in word usage. That is, words used a greater percentage of the time by people besides Nick are blue, and if they are used a lot more frequently than Nick uses them, they’re really big. I made the more-frequently-Nickish words green.

I combined several groups of similar word forms. Those are represented between curly brackets {}.

sexless {woman} listening it’s sex {try} {feel} like out {say} {thing} {want} change even great home must mutual really {sexual} statement {way} {word} what around being better did didn’t each find {get} having {he} herself how {intimate} life lot love may month mormon {need} now often own part patriarchy people person physical please problem same situation something that’s then through whether wow advice again agree always back before best between both can’t case certainly come common community {control} culture day different discussion {do} duty either enough ever every experience express fact family feminist few first form general {go} hard help here hope just kids kind know level long maybe much neglect off others pressure pretty probably put raise rather read relationship responsibility right see simply someone sometimes spouse still subject suggest temple thank these though thought {time} too two understand us {use} we’ve week where while why without work world wrong yet {don’t} abusive address anything care comment desire {give} good hear {husband} man {mean} never notion once point reason seems sense {sensitive} sexuality she’s should sure take together very years yes another blog church etc {marriage} our possible tell {them} comments {issue} least let many men nothing {obligation} well think {wife} believe {make} idea important might matter

Method notes/examples: this method will show a more head-to-head comparison, though it has disadvantages, such as possibly exaggerating small differences in relative frequency. To illustrate what I have done, consider the forms of “you” (you/your/you’re). These are predictably dominant in comments by people besides Nick (a full 5% of wordage!), while Nick used this word group less (1.9%). The difference between those (3.1%) is one of the largest in the word collection, and not-Nick used it much more frequently than Nick did, so it would be big and blue. By contrast, forms of “I/me” (I/I’m/I’ll/I’ve/me/my/myself) were used more often by Nick (5.8% versus 3.4%) so {I} is in big, green font. All quibbles with the method are probably accurate, but I probably won’t have time to go back and revisit this. Oh, and I left out {I} and {you} because they were just massively disproportionate, as well as very predictable, in relative frequency difference.

Who will run the Church in ten years?

I sometimes wish I could go get a new PhD in something else–in this case, sociology or anthropology, to study LDS people. I’ve been having some odd thoughts about de facto succession of leadership and participation in the church. I feel, lately, that I have seen a pattern emerge from time to time:

  1. Apparently doctrinally-orthodox member distances him/herself from the church
  2. Apparently doctrinally less-orthodox member distances him/herself from the church
  3. #2 comes back
  4. #1 does not

Of course, it could be my imagination, but this combination of those factors seems to happen a disproportionate amount of the time (not necessarily a majority of the time, though). My seat-of-the-pants hypothesis is this: What if this reflects an underlying difference in styles of belief? Members in category 2 (from the list) might have more of a willingness to acknowledge doubts and uncertainty, or to question orthodoxy, than those from category 1. These differences could lead to different reactions when faith-challenging events occur: A few category 1 members might find that their less-considered faith is fatally threatened by such challenges, while more of the category 2 members, despite initial distancing due to the doubts and disillusionment activated by the challenges, may find that their intellectual foundations (built through years of questioning, doubting, and resolving those things) provide them, ultimately, with answers that lead them back to the Gospel.

This is a standard question among many people of faith, and it assumes a lot of things I really can’t back up with data (so it’s rank speculation). But it feels like at least a hypothesis worth pursuing. But I’m not done yet.

The real kicker, for me, is that–if the process I’ve imagined is really happening–the membership or leadership of the Church may gradually come to be represented more and more by those in category 2, with interesting implications. For example, I think (again, no data) that this style of belief may be favored more by people ultimately drawn, for a variety of reasons, to more liberal social-political views, more intellectual pursuits (higher levels of traditional education?), and a less purely-emotional approach to faith.

The results may or may not be good for the Church in the long run; I don’t know. But this is interesting. The world is run by those who show up for the meetings. The Church is the same way.