(Frequently-Occurring Misconceptions)

In the years since I discovered the Internet Mormonism/Chapel Mormonism dichotomy, many misconceptions have arisen regarding it.  This page corrects each of them.

  1. "This model is incorrect.  Most Chapel Mormons I know have e-mail and surf the Internet, and me and all my Internet Mormon friends attend church in the chapel on Sundays."

    This is by far the most frequently-occurring misconception about the Internet Mormonism/Chapel Mormonism phenomenon.  I have corrected my Internet Mormon friends on this very, very often, yet they turn around and repeat it continually, which indicates that they harbor this misconception purposefully as a means to avoid having to deal with the facts head-on.

    The correction, of course, is that The Internet Mormon/Chapel Mormon model never referred to the physical places that they inhabit, as I clearly spelled out on the main website.  Once again, The Internet Mormonism/Chapel Mormonism model refers only to the venues in which these incarnations of Mormonism are promulgated, conveyed, shared, and evangelized.  Chapel Mormonism is taught and promulgated in church and in General Conference; Internet Mormonism is taught and promulgated on message boards and on apologetic websites.

  2. "This dichotomy is incorrect.  We Internet Mormons just know our religion better and/or are more educated than Chapel Mormons.  It's not our fault if the less-educated ones repeat their mistaken ideas in church.  If everyone studied their religion as much as we have, then everyone would be Internet Mormons like us."

    The correction is that, since the prophets and the apostles are staunch Chapel Mormons, then "the Lord's mouthpieces" themselves know their religion less well and/or are less-educated than the Interent Mormons.  Chapel Mormons don't hold Chapel Mormon beliefs because they don't comprehend and understand the words of the prophets; they hold Chapel Mormon beliefs precisely because they do comphrehend and understand the words of the prophets.

  3. "This whole thing is just a re-invention of Richard Poll's 'Liahona/Iron Rod' model."

    The correction is that Poll's Liahona/Iron Rod model simply examined degrees of zealotry among individual Chapel Mormons.  Although the first part of his essay focused strictly on how willing the Liahona/Iron Rod groups were to accept the church's teachings without outside confirmation, the final part of his essay hinted at the strictness with which the Liahona/Iron Rod groups might--or might not--observe the actions advocated by the Brethren (e.g. those regarding attending church each Sunday, paying a generous fast offering, etc.).

    So, again, the Liahona/Iron Rod model is about degrees of zealotry among Chapel Mormons only.  The Internet Mormon/Chapel Mormon model is about entirely different sets of beliefs.  Neither model overlaps in any conceivable way with the other, all "red herring" diversions notwithstanding.

  4. "The Internet Mormon/Chapel Mormon discussion is just a way to marginalize apologetics so that the apologists' arguments can be dismissed."

    The correction to this misconception is that the Internet Mormonism/Chapel dichotomy was discovered while trying to comprehend and understand apologetics.  If the resulting and ongoing dialogue was merely an attempt to marginalize apologetics--and the Internet Mormonism that it's interchangeable with--then so many of us wouldn't have spent so much time identifying it and analyzing it.  On the contrary, the ongoing discussion of Internet Mormonism has drawn much greater attention to it than would have otherwise been the case.

  5. "In Mormonism, we have a wide umbrella of beliefs.  There aren't just two groups into which everyone falls."

    The correction is that, as I clearly pointed out on the main website, "A spectrum of belief is probably common in most religious traditions[.]"  Mormonism is, of course, no exception.  At the same time, having words and concepts is far, far better than not having them.  For example, there is a wide spectrum of beliefs between "liberal" and "conservative," yet the terms are nevertheless helpful--no one thinks that the mere existence of a spectrum between liberalism and conservatism means that the two concepts should be scrapped and that we should stop using the words.  So it goes with the concepts of "Internet Mormonism" and "Chapel Mormonism:"  Scrapping them would be just as senseless as scrapping "liberal" and "conservative," spectrum or no spectrum.

  6. "The points of divergence between Internet Mormons and Chapel Mormons are only ancillary.  All church members agree on core LDS doctrines, so there is no real dichotomy."

    The correction is that although the individual points of divergence between Internet Mormons and Chapel Mormons may indeed be more or less ancillary to the overarching principles of Mormonism--such as the divinity of Christ, the role and mission of Joseph Smith, etc.--the reliability of the prophets and apostles most certainly is not ancillary.  The first list on the main website represents teachings on which the prophets and apostles have clearly, consistently, and unambiguously fallen upon the Chapel Mormon side of the spectrum.  For each of those items, Internet Mormons essentially believe that the Lord's mouthpieces are mistaken.  Since every religious principle unique to Mormonism originally proceeded from the mouth or pen of a prophet, the question of whether or not the prophets and apostles can be trusted to consistently convey the truth is at the very heart, soul, and center of Mormonism.

    (A second rejoinder to this misconception is that the LDS Church and the FLDS Church also agree on core LDS doctrines such as the divinity of Christ and the role and mission of Joseph Smith, yet even so, nobody would claim that there isn't a dichotomy between the two groups.)

  7. "Many of us apologists took the test and came out as Chapel Mormons, so there is no such thing as Internet Mormonism."

    A number of years ago I posted a survey online, inviting people to declare where they fell on the Internet Mormonism/Chapel Mormonism spectrum for all the items in the first list and then average their results.  As stated above, several online apologists (and erstwhile Internet Mormons) claimed to have taken the survey and scored as Chapel Mormons.  Some also claimed to have given the survey to other apologists on other websites, only to have them score as Chapel Mormons as well.

    The answer to this is that only a single responder actually posted his results.  None of the other claimants posted their results, simply hoping that we'd just "take their word for it" without verification.  To make matters worse, the survey assumed that the respondents' answers would correspond to the way they have actually argued online.  Internet Mormons themselves usually know the "right" answer when a gun is pointed to their heads, thus making a comparison of their survey results to the actual things they have written online vis--vis Mormonism all the more important.

  8. "People who believe that the Flood was only local, that Adam was not the first human, etc. have been around a lot longer than the Internet itself has.  Therefore, there's no such thing as Internet Mormonism."

    Before the Internet, Mormons with such beliefs typically harbored them in silence.  Thanks to the Internet, Mormons holding such beliefs finally have a venue through which they can express these beliefs freely.

    With that in mind, the correction to this misconception is similar to the correction to misconception #1:  "The Internet Mormon/Chapel Mormon model never referred to the physical places that they inhabit.  The Internet Mormonism/Chapel Mormonism model refers only to the venues in which these incarnations of Mormonism are promulgated, conveyed, shared, and evangelized."

  9. "The terms 'Internet Mormon' and 'Chapel Mormon' aren't descriptive enough or are otherwise inaccurate.  We need more, better, or different names."

    While not exactly a misconception per se, it's nevertheless an objection to the Internet Mormonism/Chapel Mormonism model.  The response is that, by naming the different venues in which these two brands of Mormonism find their outlets and their expression, these two terms--"Internet Mormonism" and "Chapel Mormonism"--cause the specific corresponding beliefs become obvious almost immediately.

    Other terms could of course be used--such as "Follow the Prophet Mormonism" vs. "It Was Only His Opinion Mormonism," or perhaps "Local Flood Mormonism" vs. "Global Flood Mormonism"--yet they are measurably more ponderous than the elegant, streamlined terms "Internet Mormonism" and "Chapel Mormonism."  In addition, and perhaps most importantly, the latter two terms have stood the test of time.

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Internet Mormonism vs. Chapel Mormonism