Liberal Apostasy and a “Journey to the East”

July 2, 2014

hermann_hesseHermann Hesse’s novella Journey to the East can be read as an allegory for our current struggle with apostasy and excommunication.  It is the story of an older man named H. H., who recalls his youthful participation in a religious group called The League.  He has fond memories of his experiences in the League, in spite of the fact that he later became disillusioned with the group.  He wonders whatever became of the League, and sets off to see what happened to it.  To his surprise, the League still exists, and when he finds it, he is brought up before a tribunal and chastised for his youthful misunderstanding of the League’s mission.

Central to the plot is H. H.’s recollection of an old friend named Leo, who was the happy-go-lucky servant of the League.  When H. H. is called up before the League’s tribunal, he is surprised to see that his beloved friend had actually been the grand master of the League all along, although H. H. had not recognized him for who he was.  This epiphany (that the greatest shall be the servant of all) inspires H. H. to repent and reenlist, this time with a greater appreciation of the true mission of the League.

I think many disillusioned Mormons might feel a bit like H. H., including myself, when I ponder my own distance from the orthodoxy of the church.  We may have fond memories of our former faith in the church.   We may see it all as part of a beautiful dream with a sad ending.  But whatever amazing feelings we once had towards Joseph Smith and his incredible story eventually fell apart as we examined the church’s current state of correlation, cover-up, and status quo.  If we look back at President Monson, we probably remember enjoying his funny stories and easy-going manner.  But then we became frustrated because he really was not much of a prophet, and even the faithful never really mention his banal sermons in sacrament meeting.  In the end, even though he was a good man, he failed to really lead the church or make any significant progress.

But if our path leads us back to the church, we may one day find that we had been seeing it wrong the whole time.  President Monson’s sermons, which seemed repetitious and shallow, were actually the meat of the gospel.  Perhaps there was no deeper and more meaty doctrine than “whoso shall enter the kingdom of heaven must become as a little child.”   President Monson’s personal stories of service and following the were actually the highest expression of godliness and truth.  Yet we were looking for something else, for signs, for rational appeal, for progress, for learning.

Misunderstanding Gospel Growth and Knowledge

president-monson-with-pigeons-biographyIn church we hear:  “The more you attend the temple, the more truths will be revealed to you.”  But this is obviously not true, because when you talk to the old folks at church who go the temple every day, they often seem to have shallow and uninformed notions about the gospel.  They know as much about the tokens and signs as a novice going through for the first time!   But if you read the bloggers at BCC and Patheos you’ll find intelligent, liberal members who have lots of enlightening things to say about the endowment.  They are true truth collectors, and isn’t Mormonism all about receiving all truth, no matter where that truth comes from?

This is the crux of the rebellion at play.  Liberal bloggers often seem to know more about the church than the leaders and orthodox do.  Not only do they know the history and gospel better, they seem to have better ideas about how to implement gospel truths.  Yet for all their gifts, these liberal intellectuals are shut out of leadership and influence within the church itself.  They must patiently bear with the priesthood, and at a certain point, they are going to get fed up.  Seriously, in the 21st century, how long does it take our priesthood leaders to get over themselves and their stifling correlation and start adopting meaningful reform?

The Limitations of Reason

220px-Emanuel_Swedenborg_full_portrait18th Century mystic Emmanuel Swedenborg lived at the height of the Enlightenment, a time when Protestantism and science were throwing down the authorities of the past.   He spent the first half of his life engaged in science and invention, becoming one of the great rational thinkers of the age.   But later in life, he came to a new understanding of truth that would challenge his former reliance upon reason and intellect.  He had a vision of the Three Degrees of Glory (one of the reasons why anti-Mormons say Joseph Smith borrowed his ideas.)  He called the three degrees the Celestial, Spiritual, and Natural Kingdoms.   In the highest, the Celestial Kingdom, angels do not use their minds to reason about things.  They only do this in the lower kingdoms.  He described it this way:

The Celestial angels do not reason about truths of faith, because they perceive them in themselves; but the Spiritual angels reason about them whether they are true or not.   The angels in the Lord’s celestial kingdom receive Divine truths at once in their life, and not first in memory and thought, as the Spiritual angels do.  Consequently they have Divine truths written in their hearts, and they perceive them, and as it were see them, in themselves; nor do they ever reason about them whether they are true or not.  They are such as are described in Jeremiah: “I will put my law in their mind, and will write it in their heart.  They shall teach no more everyone his friend and  everyone his brother saying, Know ye the Lord.  They shall know Me, from the least of them even to the greatest of them.”  And they are called in Isaiah: “Taught of the Lord.”

So according to Swedenborg, we should aspire to a state where we receive truth not in our mind, but in our heart.  A state where we are “in love to the Lord, and consequently are nearer and more closely conjoined to Him.”

I wonder if I have been misjudging some of the simple old folks who attend the temple every day, who don’t seem to use their intellect much.  They just “know.”  Are they in a Celestial state?  And if they are, would I even be able to recognize it when I myself am in a Spiritual state where I reason about everything?

Jeff G: “The Gospel Is Dumbed Down Because We Are Smart, Not Because We Are Stupid”

I’ve always been a vain and prideful person.  How have I managed to stay in a church that requires so much humility?  By seeing myself as “a step ahead” of my fellow liberal Saints who struggle with correlated Mormonism.  I’ve “transcended” their petty concerns and reached a point of enlightenment where I can be intellectual, and STILL willingly submit to “the weak things of the world, the unlearned and despised” priesthood leaders.  I’m SO enlightened that I can be completely tolerant of intolerance and embrace any paradox or contradiction.  Pretty amazing huh?  So my version of Mormonism still allows me to be insufferably condescending even as I am submissive to those I see as beneath my intellectual heft.  Jeff G. called me out over this attitude at Millennial Star the other day, and I’m grateful to him.  I was sparring over one of J. Max Wilson’s posts, and I wrote “the gospel is adapted to the capacity of the weakest saints.”   Jeff G. responded with this thought:

Yes, the gospel is simple and adapted to the weakest, but this in no way legitimizes our moving beyond this gospel in any meaningful sense. I’m not sure if Nate intended it this way, but this way of framing things makes it seem like the weakness to which the gospel is adapted is that of the intellect, sophistication being the antithesis of simplicity. This, in turn, would suggest that the “meat” that comes after the milk can be found in the disciplined study of theology, church history, etc. I reject all such suggestions.

The gospel is not dumbed down because some of us are stupid, but because some of us are smart. The simplicity of following our ordained leaders is precisely intended to sideline any kind of scholarly or dialectical discussion of God’s dealings with us. The deeper truths are supposed to be found by approximating rather than distancing oneself from the Lord’s priesthood leaders.

I find Jeff G.’s notion paradoxical and beautiful.  It is hard for me to explain exactly how it could be true that the “gospel is dumbed down because we are smart” but I think it has something to do with the limitations of reason, and our ultimate journey to the Celestial Kingdom, where reason will be transcended.

Questions:

  •  Are we liberal bloggers missing something in simple, correlated Mormonism?
  • Are there limitations to reason?  Is there another way to learn and receive truth?
  • Do you agree with Jeff G. that the Gospel is dumbed down because we are smart, not because we are stupid?

69 Responses to Liberal Apostasy and a “Journey to the East”

  1. Howard on July 2, 2014 at 11:24 AM

    Isn’t Mormonism all about receiving all truth, no matter where that truth comes from?

    In your dreams Nate! The church has been caught in the pride cycle, has crested in hubris and lies and is finally beginning to reluctantly to repent after being caught red handed talking trash (example – see “prophets” explanations for banning blacks). How can I say this? Because by it’s own description of itself one is lead (taught) by illusion to believe a lot of inflated self serving (faith promoting) things that are then replicated by it’s members idol worshiping delusions and many of those things are simply, clearly and demonstrably not true! (example – see 1949 Q1 statement).

    It’s time to clear away the smoke and mirrors and start paying attention to the man behind the curtain, dose he have any new gospel truths to share with us or is wiggling one’s ears while helping widows sufficient?

    The church is positioned near the middle of the stages of belief. The next step is doubt and since they resorted to lies, spin and obscuration they have pushed many members needlessly into this abyss.

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  2. mnshep on July 2, 2014 at 11:59 AM

    I went for a walk this morning with a friend that I love greatly. We talked about OW and the way that discussions of Mormonism unfold online, about dissatisfaction in our wards and about failed utopias and lack of curiosity among humans of all faiths. Some of our talking was in an echo chamber, some of it was venting, some was in disagreement. It was lovely and refreshing and I came away wanting to be both a better complicated, liberal, universalist Mormon and a better simple, conservative, correlated Mormon.

    I think that all too often I’m guilty of creating false binaries. Conservative vs Progressive Mormons, faith vs reason, truth-seeking vs correlated. I don’t think that I or other liberal types are going to have much success in making the church a better place (either externally or inside our hearts) unless we learn to relate and be more like our “simpler” (if we can be so condescending) brothers and sisters.

    This post is saying something to me, something simple and complicated, and I’m not sure how to interpret it yet, how it should manifest in my life. But I’m going to mull it over.

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  3. Hedgehog on July 2, 2014 at 12:17 PM

    I enjoy President Monson’s talks about service to others. I think that probably is the essence of the gospel. You know, loving others and all that. I don’t think it’s what is often taught in the correlated lesson plans etc. however, where there are so many things we claim to know as a church, that explain life, that we have answers to. That gospel isn’t especially simple – the simple bit is being expected to accept it as presented.
    So, I am all for simplicity, but I suspect so much of what we’re taught is trappings of one sort or another, the purpose of which may be to get people to engage, but that probably matter little in the end.

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  4. Meg Stout on July 2, 2014 at 12:27 PM

    Hi Nate,

    I enjoyed this.

    As I’ve been studying the transition between Joseph Smith and the Quorum of the Twelve, it’s clear that many individuals had been deceived. There were only two bodies that represented strong members with a clear vision of the New and Everlasting Covenant.

    The first body was the Quorum of the Twelve. Even though there were individuals in the Quorum who were messed up (ahem, William Smith), Brigham and the rest had shown during their service in Britain that they could lead by the spirit. They had shown by the acceptance of plural marriage and probity during the terrible sexual scandals of Bennett and his followers that they were willing to put the Kingdom of God as revealed to His servant above all.

    The second body was the Relief Society. Even though the majority of the Relief Society leadership were aligned with doing all things required to support the Kingdom of God, Emma Smith, leader of the Relief Society, was willing to pervert the nature of plural marriage, making it into a sexless series of ceremonies with only eternal significance.

    In a way, Emma was our Eve. She partook of the fear of the world and was unable to accept God’s doctrine as revealed through His servant (her husband). I submit that her husband, Joseph, our Adam, refused to be parted from his Emma.

    When you stare hard enough at Joseph’s plural marriages, you realize that the great secret isn’t that Joseph was banging every nubile woman in Nauvoo. The great secret was that he was not fulfilling the command to actually take plural wives (versus engaging in ceremonial unions).

    If a woman being raped isn’t protect from pregnancy (c.f. Todd Akin’s theory that legitimate rape can’t get a woman pregnant), then the explanation that no children were conceived because Joseph’s plural wives were “nervous” completely fails to explain the lack of children. [There's an alternate explanation for Sylvia Lyon's deathbed words to her daughter that doesn't involve Joseph being Josephine's biological daughter, and the DNA data does not confirm biological parentage where it should.]

    At any rate, Emma’s reluctance to accept a core doctrine critical to the success of the restoration was one of several reasons Joseph could not officially turn to Relief Society to carry on the work upon his death.

    So when Joseph learned he was the target of a conspiracy in which hundreds of men had sworn an oath to kill him (March 24, 1844), He immediately told members of the Quorum of the Twelve about the threat (Wilford Woodruff’s journal) and two days later conferred the keys of the kingdom on this faithful group of men.

    Even though the twelve are not infallible (c.f., Albert Carrington), they collectively represent a cadre of individuals who value the good of the kingdom above all things. Those inducted into the Quorum are already demonstrated to be wholly dedicated to God, and their alignment to the ways of God is refined as they continue to serve in the Quorum.

    That doesn’t mean Mormon culture and folkways are aligned to God in all things. I’m appalled that no one else appears to have viewed the historical information through rational eyes. It’s truly obnoxious that the supposedly informed view of Nauvoo is limited to unsorted rumors taken out of context, mixed with mythology swallowed whole.

    But if you’ve felt the power of God, and trust that He is in control, it is possible to delve into the facts and find the honorable Joseph we believed in when we were young and “uninformed.” An honorable Joseph who conveyed the keys to the only body of individuals who had shown promise to carry on the legacy that could save all mankind.

    By the way, had fun with my mirror last night, validating my hypothesis that a distant shooter with a mirror could have created the “light like lightning” phenomenon described at Carthage. I suspect at the final judgement we will find that Francis Higbee was a very, very bad boy.

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  5. Meg Stout on July 2, 2014 at 12:32 PM

    Gah – of course Joseph wasn’t Josephine’s biological daughter. The other way around.

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  6. SilverRain on July 2, 2014 at 12:49 PM

    Nate, thank you for posting this.

    There are many times when I’ve heard someone explain something either online or in person, and I’m like YES! That’s the perfect way to explain it! It is something I know, but have never tried to explain, and never had words for.

    That is one reason I like the Bloggernacle, even though I now do much more reading and listening than posting or commenting. It gives me a chance to put a verbal framework around what I know to be true. The verbal frame never encompasses the entirety of truth, but sometimes it can outline it enough that people can begin to see make it out.

    I see people spend so much time on the history, trying out theories, buttressing those theories with facts, basing parts of their testimony on that history. While I find it all interesting to a point, (and, don’t get me wrong, I’m glad there are some people who can spend time ferreting it all out, because I certainly have no inclination for it, and it does seem to help some people,) it is ultimately a waste of time to me, personally. I think history and scripture can give us a framework to understanding how God interacts with His children, but it can never fully encompass how God interacts with US as individuals.

    And, of course, if we’re not careful, we begin to use history and scripture to define (rather than merely frame) our experience with deity. We begin to think that our interpretations of what has happened to others are the fulness of the Gospel.

    But Paul had it correctly: the true scriptures, the true gospel, is not found in history, but in the writing of the Spirit upon our hearts.

    The “letter” is the scriptures, the Church history, the testimony from others, and our own intellect and understanding of those things. It is necessary to act as the pilot light to light our own testimony: to define our own being in relation to God. If we mistake the pilot liight for the true testimony, however, we will never become the way God knows we can become. The “letter,” the pilot light, is not the goal, it is only a means.

    The “spirit,” or the goal is for us to each become living scripture, living testimony, to have the principles of God written on our hearts. That is the substance and work of God. There is a point when studying history, picking over scripture, parsing between policy and doctrine, serves more to distract from the gospel than to teach it. An intelligent person has to learn humility to recognize the weaknesses of their own strengths.

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  7. Jeff Spector on July 2, 2014 at 1:07 PM

    I don’t find the Gospel dumbed down at all. I see it was an onion, with multiple layers. One can be just as happy at the upper layers initially as those who progress and peel away the layers and dig deeper. The Gospel get no truer, but our understanding grows deeper which actually makes us more obligated to serve others and .share what we know.

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  8. Jared on July 2, 2014 at 1:44 PM

    Interesting post and comments. Thanks

    As I read the Nate’s post I thought of Dallin Oak’s thoughts on how strengthens can become weakness.

    We are dual beings: spiritual and intellectual. The problem comes when we have a intellectual PhD and an 8th grade spiritual education. The tension created by this conflict can be warring and wearing.

    My experience in the bloggernacle leads me to believe that many have some degree of testimony but few exhibit the qualities of conversion. I think it takes a crisis to make the leap. In a crisis, the intellectual side can be exhausted when a solution is not found. This leaves only faith and whatever spiritual strength is present.

    One of my relatives is in this situation and has sought me out for several priesthood blessings. He is dealing with the death of his spouse and a variety of health issues brought on by grief and anxiety. In both blessings, I felt impressed to rebuke the power of satan. I was initially concerned about doing this because he might feel insulted. But to my surprise, he told me he felt instant relief.

    I told him if he wants to develop his spiritual nature to match is intellectual side he would need to follow Heavenly Fathers counsel found in the scriptures. He practices Buddhism though raised LDS. He agreed to read and pray about the Book of Mormon–in the name of Jesus Christ.

    He and his wife would never do this after leaving the church, but now he is desperate and willing to revisit the faith of his youth. He knows about some of my experiences and in his crisis he has laid aside his disbelief.

    Note:

    I still wonder if Howard is a baptized member of the church who has read the Book of Mormon and served an LDS mission? Maybe Howard will answer. Is Howard a guy or gal? Gay or straight? Just curious. Please ignore my questions if this is offensive in any way. I won’t ask again.

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  9. Howard on July 2, 2014 at 2:19 PM

    Well honestly it’s none of your business but since you keep inquiring and by doing so implying my CV may not be up to your standards I will answer; Yes Jared, I am straight man and I was baptized twice the second time was more than 30 years after excommunication which happened 5 years after the fact of adultery that occurred after leaving my marriage for good but before the divorce was final. I have read the BoM while communing with the spirit and I was taught many wonderful things including the BoM is actually inspired fiction. I did not serve on a mission, I chose not to after serving on a 2 week mini mission and being dismayed by watching my senior companion being told by a Bishop in Phoenix to not proselytize anymore poor people in his ward!

    No you please answer. What that hell does my sexuality have to do with it?

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  10. Adam g. on July 2, 2014 at 3:24 PM

    “We shall not cease from exploration, and the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started and know the place for the first time.” – T. S. Eliot

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  11. New Iconoclast on July 2, 2014 at 3:29 PM

    #4 I’m appalled that no one else appears to have viewed the historical information through rational eyes.

    Meg,

    Not “no one.” Fantastic comment.

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  12. Meg Stout on July 2, 2014 at 3:41 PM

    Hi Howard,

    Your sexuality is none of our business. However there is an established history of people with sexual objections to the Church’s stance (Francis Higbee, John C. Bennett, Austin Cowles, William Law, Albert Carrington, John W. Taylor, Richard R. Lyman, Sonia Johnson) who have damaged the Church.

    This is why people will jump to the conclusion that someone who is questioning the Church must necessarily be a secret sexual deviant, such as the completely inappropriate suggestions about the folks who are currently in the news.

    My high school humanities teacher used to say “Who potty trained you?” Which was a memorable way of stating that we wonder, at times, when interacting with someone to whom we owe the pleasure of the experience: their parents (by extension their prior Church experience, e.g., mission, baptism, conversion) or they themselves.

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  13. Jared on July 2, 2014 at 3:49 PM

    Howard,

    I’ve never before asked anyone about their background. I decided to ask you because I was interested to know more after reading your comments.

    You communicate very well and I wondered if you had the advantage of being female–generally they write better than men.

    I’m not sure what CV stands for, however, my interest had nothing to do with standards.

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  14. Meg Stout on July 2, 2014 at 3:51 PM

    In case you were wondering:

    1) Francis Higbee wanted to bang whores at Warsaw – not cool with the Church

    2) John C. Bennett wanted to enjoy illicit intercourse with anyone he could convince to submit not cool with the Church

    3) Austin Cowles was unwilling to accept plural marriage to the point of conspiring to kill Joseph – not cool with the Church

    4) William Law wanted to get away with adultery – not cool with the Church

    5) Albert Carrington figured it wasn’t sex if it couldn’t get a woman pregnant – not cool with the Church

    6) John W. Taylor figured the manifestos weren’t binding on him – not cool with the Church

    7) Richard R. Lyman figured if he loved and planned to marry a second wife in eternity, it was OK to bed her in mortality – not cool with the Church

    8) Sonia Johnson eventually rejected “patriarchal” sex, and rumor had it that was a factor when she was excommunicated. If rumor is correct, her sexuality would have potentially had bearing on the Church decision.

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  15. Meg Stout on July 2, 2014 at 3:54 PM

    Jared,

    CV is the abbreviation for curriculum vitae, Latin for the path (running) of life. It’s basically a resume, a summary of the job seeker’s employment history, qualifications, education, and some personal information.

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  16. unendowed on July 2, 2014 at 4:40 PM

    Interesting post. I’m both inclined to agree and somewhat nervous about it, for reasons I can’t quite put my finger on.

    For me, I can see my shifting perspective on the Gospel, and the interplay between “complicated” and “simple,” through this metaphor:

    Before my Faith Crisis (TM), I saw the gospel as being like a braid of strings or wires. There are just a few elements, and they work in harmony, and it’s all very simple.

    My Faith Crisis started when my eyes were opened to complication–look at all this history! Look at the context! Look at the way the Church has changed, look at alternate interpretations of scripture, look at cultural norms that influence doctrine, look look look everywhere. And I despaired, because clearly the gospel is NOT simple; it’s complicated and huge and changing, and how can I have a testimony of something that’s not at all what I thought it was?

    But now I’m coming around to simplicity again (at least on some days). But the simplicity is not found in handwaving all the “extra,” “new” threads. The gospel is a braid, but it’s rope, it’s hair. It takes the hundreds-thousands-millions of strands and arranges them into a greater whole, the simplicity of which does not undermine the complications and messiness of the individual strands themselves.

    Those awesome old folks with their simple testimonies do not necessarily believe in a simplistic way because they see only a braid of wires. They have “simple” testimonies because they have had time to synthesize the complications of life into a super-structure that can be expressed in the same words we hear in Primary.

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  17. Nate on July 2, 2014 at 4:55 PM

    Meg, you seem a little out of control today. I like talking about sex as much as anyone but I don’t know how discussion of this post veered off topic so fast. Not that I’m not guilty of it myself sometimes. :)

    Anyway, about Howard. I write many of my posts with Howard specifically in mind, because Howard and I see the gospel in much the same way, that is to say, with an emphasis on what I would call the mystical or spiritual. And we both are trying to find ways to deal with being members of a church that seems, from our perspective, to not reflect the the same kind of spirituality we have experienced. Howard is very critical of the church’s shortcomings in this regard, but I have a different approach, which is that the church is purposefully imperfect and oblique in order to promote faith and humility, which would not be nescessary in a self-evidently perfect church. In my posts on this theme, I keep wondering if I will break through to Howard, but I haven’t succeeded yet. I think it is because Howard has had real, powerful spiritual experiences with the Book of Mormon and the like, which don’t reflect correlated Mormonism, and he simply can’t reconcile this paradox. I acknowledge the paradox, but don’t feel a need to resolve it.

    mnshep, thanks for your comment, and I’m very happy that you found something to mull over in the post. It’s good to know when I’ve managed to break through the echo chamber.

    Hedgehog: “I am all for simplicity, but I suspect so much of what we’re taught is trappings of one sort or another, the purpose of which may be to get people to engage, but that probably matter little in the end.” Agreed. You are probably right that most of it is trappings with a temporal purpose, but yet always indirectly related to something important and real in the end.

    Silverain, great comment to which I heartily agree: “I think history and scripture can give us a framework to understanding how God interacts with His children, but it can never fully encompass how God interacts with US as individuals. And, of course, if we’re not careful, we begin to use history and scripture to define (rather than merely frame) our experience with deity. We begin to think that our interpretations of what has happened to others are the fulness of the Gospel.”

    Jared writes: “In a crisis, the intellectual side can be exhausted when a solution is not found. This leaves only faith and whatever spiritual strength is present.”

    This is true, and I think it is one of the reasons why most people never escape liberal apostasy. Liberals are generally successful, educated people who can probably figure out how to live just fine without the aggravation of being attached to a conservative church. To do that, they would have to hit rock bottom, which probably won’t happen. Your chances of returning to church are much better if you go off whoring and become a drug addict.

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  18. Nate on July 2, 2014 at 5:01 PM

    unendowed, thanks for bringing up the rope braid metaphor. I’ll have to think about that one. It’s similar to the Body of Christ metaphor. Some strands, (like the polygamy strand), seem to me on the one hand to weaken the whole. But I could be wrong. Maybe strands like that served to refine the whole, separate the wheat from the chaff, and in the end made the whole stronger.

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  19. Howard on July 2, 2014 at 5:15 PM

    Jared wrote: You communicate very well and I wondered if you had the advantage of being female–generally they write better than men.

    Jared, Meg would disagree with you due to my typos, punctuation and occasional misuse or words. But my ability to meditate deeply to understand concepts especially with regard to human nature and spirituality and then wrap (inadequate) words around those concepts comes from the spirit, it’s a spiritual gift. D&C 85:6 and 3 Nephi 11:3 describe an experience I know very well although the shaking stopped long ago, it does with experience. You revere the spirit, if you’d like to know more Google kundalini, ignore all the new age hype and read about the ancient spontaneous experience as you read keep in mind that what is known as kundalini is a manifestation of the Holy Spirit so don’t be put off by reading about this eastern experience. The process of spiritual enlightenment makes a man more like a woman in the sense that he becomes open to his feelings. This process exposes manly men for what that is, an emotional and psychological block and blocks from all sources interfere with spirituality and the ability to hear and understand the spirit. Kundalini (not ordination) prepares a mortal body to receive revelation and visions.

    I am not the only one with this mission, there are many others. Joseph wasn’t an Oliver because he was a shaman. Once you accept this and research shamanism (which isn’t easy btw) you find (almost) all of the weirdness of the JS story explained including what you would consider his failures. Olivers cannot quite hear divine telepathy so they must feel it in Morse code, that works okay for innocuous administrative stuff but over time error creeps in and eventually you’re significantly off course as the church as been as demonstrated by it’s 180 degree course reversal on blacks. Well intended Olivers tend to err on the side of caution if piety is good more must be better until your beyond the mark and Coke becomes evil.

    So the funny thing is that we’re all allies Nate, Jared, Meg, Adam G, JMax, Jeff G, Bruce, hawlgrrl, New Iconoclast, Ji, even Silver Rain though she’d probably deny it and many others. Many of you perceive me as an enemy of the church (I’m not, though they might agree with you), most of you just want me to shut up so where we differ is in how to help the church and I’ve been asked to use my gifts to call a spade a spade because TBMs and Olivers can be delightfully deaf dumb and blind about it. I returned to the church (Adam G) after many, many years not because I missed it (I didn’t) or because it’s true (it isn’t, it is both true and false and in-between, the gospel is true the church is just a delivery system for the gospel so stop conflating it) but because I was directed to by the spirit in preparation for this blogging assignment.

    You have yet to explain what gay has to do with it Jared.

    Meg, I’m a life coach, “Who potty trained you?” isn’t a nice question, it translates to why are you stuck at 2 1/2 or 3 years old!

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  20. Jeff G on July 2, 2014 at 5:58 PM

    Howard,

    “most of you just want me to shut up”
    Well, yes, but only for the right reasons. Isn’t that what we are all trying to do by arguing with each other – get other people to stop believing and saying certain things?

    Nate,

    Of course I find much of what you say encouraging and in pointed in the right direction. I get uncomfortable, though, in the way that its mild anti-intellectualism is packaged. You seem to see my anti-intellectual point as an intentional paradox within a larger intellectual framing from which we can gain a certain amount of humility. I, on the other hand, want to smash the larger intellectual way of framing things altogether, paradox and all. There are, however, innumerable gossamer threads which hold this intellectual frame together and no way (that I know of) of dissecting them all at once since doing so flagrantly violates the moral principles that the world constantly reinforces within us.

    That said, I appreciate the hat tip. It’s not often that my ideas get positive feedback outside of M*. ;-)

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  21. Howard on July 2, 2014 at 6:19 PM

    Jeff G: I, on the other hand, want to smash the larger intellectual way of framing things altogether, paradox and all. The way this is done is to commune with the spirit in ongoing revelation and as soon as you do you find that reasoning is very much alive and well, what’s different is that the reasoning is applied to God’s (not necessarily the same as the church’s) frame of reference. Your ways are not my ways and while that is so it is not irrationally so. That which brings mortals back to studying it out in their minds and asking if it’s so. There is nothing wrong with studying it out, what is typically missing is the asking and a parsed spiritual conformation which may or may not fit with the church’s position on the issue. When it doesn’t it is simply one of Elder Oaks’ exceptions.

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  22. cadams on July 2, 2014 at 6:19 PM

    “But if you read the bloggers at BCC and Patheos you’ll find intelligent, liberal members who have lots of enlightening things to say about the endowment.”

    Really? Where?

    Over the years, on the Bloggernacle, I’ve heard intelligent guided discussions about the mysteries, from the likes of Bryce Hammond (mysticism, etc.), from Geoff (multiple probations, etc.), from Steve Fleming (Platonism, etc.) There are other examples. And off the Nacle, I’ve heard intelligent speculations from Kerry Shirts some years ago.

    As far as I know, these are all orthodox members of the Church, not ‘liberals.’

    What have I heard from so-called liberal members? Nonstop whining about feminist issues, racism, apostasy, Joseph’s secret double life in Nauvoo (all of which I’ve heard in a much more intelligent form in scholarly histories), etc. What enlightenment is there in a discussion about the endowment when you flat out don’t believe it’s true?

    Anyways, loved the Hesse analogy.

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  23. Ken on July 2, 2014 at 7:30 PM

    “Are we liberal bloggers missing something in simple, correlated Mormonism?”

    Yes, you are!

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  24. Meg Stout on July 2, 2014 at 8:00 PM

    Hi Nate and Howard,

    Sorry, Nate, if I went a bit far with the sex stuff for your tastes. Though this points to the value of correlation… LOL!

    Hi Howard, I forget when I’ve chided you for grammar, though I’m sure I have (possibly repeatedly). I really do put significant value on proper English and good spelling. And then I pull a stupid like confusing Joseph and Josephine…! It was awesome hearing your explanation of why you’re back, and the calling you feel you’ve had to this blogging mission. I feel the same way about my “calling” to tell the stories associated with Elvira Cowles and my Welling ancestor who married John W. Taylor. For years I had no idea how God could possibly want me to investigate stuff like that (“But I *like* being a member of the Church” I had told Him). But now I understand.

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  25. Howard on July 2, 2014 at 8:53 PM

    Meg,
    Thanks for sharing, I have ancestors that go back to handcarts, some that were near Joseph and others at the Battle of Crooked River, I enjoyed many profoundly spiritual guided experiences while doing genealogy.

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  26. hawkgrrrl on July 2, 2014 at 10:41 PM

    I read your post and immediately thought of Walt Whitman’s “When I Heard the Learn’d Astronomer”:

    When I heard the learn’d astronomer,
    When the proofs, the figures, were ranged in columns before me,
    When I was shown the charts and diagrams, to add, divide, and measure them,
    When I sitting heard the astronomer where he lectured with much applause in the lecture-room,
    How soon unaccountable I became tired and sick,
    Till rising and gliding out I wander’d off by myself,
    In the mystical moist night-air, and from time to time,
    Look’d up in perfect silence at the stars.

    OTOH, as Nate put it “Liberal bloggers often seem to know more about the church than the leaders and orthodox do.” Ken’s every comment confirms that. Let’s not substitute leader worship and unwillingness to seriously engage in subjects for the other extreme of being too intellectual or using rationality to excess.

    I tend to think of the church the way the gay lovers struggled in Brokeback Mountain. “I just can’t quit you.”

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  27. Nate on July 3, 2014 at 3:35 AM

    Jeff G: “You seem to see my anti-intellectual point as an intentional paradox within a larger intellectual framing from which we can gain a certain amount of humility. I, on the other hand, want to smash the larger intellectual way of framing things altogether, paradox and all.”

    Rather than “smash,” I would say “transcend.” God gave us our reason for a reason. It is the foundation upon which all of us build our initial understandings of the world. And this includes the orthodox. Even fundamentalism is a purely intellectual framework. A typical orthodox member sees the church as self-evidently rational, firmly vindicated by apologists, and therefore does not need to exercise faith in it per se, at least regarding his personal testimony of the work. But he does exercise faith in the application of the gospel in his own life, which presents numerous difficulties for him. He is a striver.

    But for the liberal member, faith is first required to transcend what he sees are the absurdities of the church itself, because his reasoning has failed to vindicate the church’s truthfulness.

    Reason is important to the orthodox, because it supports conservative apologetics, which frees him to focus his faith upon application of the gospel in his life, which is the true and meaningful challenge. And reason is important to the liberal, because through reason, he guides his life in a high-functioning way, getting an education, being smart, etc. Then he focuses his faith upon the paradoxes of life: the absurdity of belonging to a conservative church, the humility required, dealing with the depression and meaninglessness of modern life.

    So I guess I see intellectualism as a nescessary crutch, or perhaps one of the legs of a stool. Not the whole story, but part of it.

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  28. Stephen R Marsh (Ethesis) on July 3, 2014 at 6:54 AM

    I enjoyed the comments very much. They were as fun to read as the essay.

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  29. New Iconoclast on July 3, 2014 at 6:56 AM

    Hawk writes, OTOH, as Nate put it “Liberal bloggers often seem to know more about the church than the leaders and orthodox do.” Ken’s every comment confirms that.

    Can I confess to a small, harmless crush, here? :) As a humble student of the devastating one-liner myself, I bow in the presence of the Master.

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  30. Jeff G on July 3, 2014 at 12:19 PM

    Nate,

    You misunderstood… and the fault was all mine.

    I don’t want to smash reason altogether, just reason as the larger framework within which we situate our entire worldview. The scriptures insist that reason should never have that position, not in this life anyways. That position is reserved exclusively for the prophecy and priesthood which structure the gospel. Thus, it is good to have reason as a useful tool within a larger gospel framework, but never the other way around.

    When I hear that reason is indispensable such that any kind of mental activity or intentional action within he world (at least any justifiable kind) must automatically be some kind of human reason, I cringe. This presupposes that revelation is just one subset of reason among many and that priesthood authority must be cashed out in terms of good reasons. Precisely none of these ideas find support in the gospel, only in the Enlightenment thinkers which have structured the modern world around us.

    The approach I adopt is as follows: Reason is able to problematize anything. Thus, why not use reason to problematize reason itself? This line of thought (in my experience) reduces human reasoning to one particular and historically situated culture or set of mental tools which he can choose to use in our lives. This, in turn, allows me to fully accept that to be learned is good, so long as this learning is constrained by the gospel and not the other way around.

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  31. Howard on July 3, 2014 at 1:15 PM

    Jeff G: That position is reserved exclusively for the prophecy and priesthood… Prophesy and priesthood are two very different things sometimes they coexist sometimes not but it is clear that priesthood is not necessary for prophecy. The first vision occurred in 1820 but the priesthood wasn’t restored until 9 years later yet Joseph was already hard at work as a Prophet, Seer and Revelator! So prophecy and priesthood seems conflated in your view when they obviously shouldn’t be.

    Common members (Olivers) need reason in order to receive spiritual confirmation, study it out and ask. If you take that away you’re leaving them to blindly follow their church leaders who have been demonstrated at times to be blind guides. Your use of logic to eliminate reason fails both logically and practically.

    Please point me to the scriptures you are referring to.

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  32. Jeff G on July 3, 2014 at 1:37 PM

    Howard,

    I know we’ve been down this path before, but I’ll give it a whirl all the same.

    Prophecy and priesthood are no more in competition with each other than drinking water and pipes are. One is the pathway through which the other flows. Priesthood is the way in which prophecy is structured and this in contrast to a more modern perspective in which dialectical reasoning is the way in which we structure prophecy by way of equal and open communication.

    Yes, Joseph received the 1st vision before he was ordained to the priesthood, but he wasn’t allowed to organize a church for which he could give official and binding revelations until after he had been ordained. Lot’s of people throughout the ages have had visions like that of the 1st vision, but we don’t consider them relevant to our lives because such people do not in any way have priesthood authority over us.

    Us members do not need logic or reason in order to constrain our obedience to the prophets. We need personal revelation which constrains both our reasoning as well as our obedience to the prophets. My position entails not a smaller, but a much greater need for personal revelation in order to guide our individual and freely chosen association with the priesthood leaders.

    But disassociation from the prophets is very different than disconfirmation of the prophets, in that I can receive prophecy to disassociate with the prophets and the church they are authorized to lead, but I cannot receive prophecy which disconfirms the prophets leadership of the church since I am not so authorized. So disassociation and disconfirmation seem conflated in your view when they obviously shouldn’t be.

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  33. Jeff G on July 3, 2014 at 1:45 PM

    To be honest, my primary aim is not to argue that you ought to accept my model of revelation. My much more modest aim is to show that my model is in fact consistent and thus a viable option. This, in turn, forces a choice upon us, a choice between worldviews which reason would tell us does not, or at least should not exist. The acknowledgement of this choice in itself shows that reason is not unavoidably and necessarily the larger frame within which our beliefs and behaviors must be framed and evaluated. Our beliefs and behaviors – including those which we called reason – can be framed within the larger framework of a different worldview. Once it is acknowledged that such a thing is possible, reason has already lost much of its potency..:

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  34. Howard on July 3, 2014 at 3:16 PM

    Jeff G: Priesthood is the way in which prophecy is structured… Structured? What do you mean by that? Priesthood is a license, priesthood authority is a stewardship, neither prepare one to receive revelation. If you’re not a Joseph you’re an Oliver at best and that requires studying it out in your mind. “Official and binding?” So the BoM isn’t official or binding?

    Us members do not need logic or reason in order to constrain our obedience to the prophets. You don’t need logic or reason to constrain your obedience to a homeless man or to someone like Bernie Madoff, actually there have been a number of men ordained to the priesthood who turned out to be junior Bernie Madoffs! We need personal revelation… Indeed! And that comes from studying it out in your mind and asking and if you can do that once why stop there? Why not attempt to confirm anything that concerns you?

    My position entails not a smaller, but a much greater need for personal revelation in order to guide our individual and freely chosen association with the priesthood leaders. How do you in vision this occurring without studying it out and why should this be a one time confirmation, they aren’t infallible so why not confirm anything they say that bothers you?

    I cannot receive prophecy which disconfirms the prophets leadership of the church since I am not so authorized. Sure you can, you have stewardship for yourself and according to BRM you are entitled to know what they know.

    ….aim is to show that my model is in fact consistent and thus a viable option. This, in turn, forces a choice upon us… This is true of demonstrating the BoM could be inspired fiction.

    Our beliefs and behaviors – including those which we called reason… I don’t share this view rather since humankind does not behave rationally I see reason as a tool that steps away from human belief and behavior.

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  35. Kristine A on July 3, 2014 at 3:50 PM

    all I know is that I’m a much better person (read: kinder, gentler, more forgiving and loving, etc.) after my faith transition when I trended ‘liberal’ than I was in my certain orthodoxy beforehand.

    Here’s how I see it . . . . there are different world views and/or paths. Both ultimately (should) lead back to the same destination. We are all different types of peoples, we are individuals and maybe the path I was on earlier was best for me then and life has bumped me to my current path that is best for me now.

    It’s not that I’m relying on my own arm of reasoning – my life’s path brought me here where I am. I cannot conceive of a way I could have lived through what I did and stayed in the Church without seeing things differently.

    Do I think I have all the answers? No. But wrestling and struggling with questions feels like it’s good for my soul right now.

    Why does one path/worldview have to be the “right” path/worldview and the other “wrong”? Why can’t it just be what’s best for me now?

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  36. Howard on July 3, 2014 at 3:54 PM

    Moreover, the Church exhorts all people to approach the gospel not only intellectually but with the intellect and the spirit, a process in which reason and faith work together”.

    It looks like the chuch just defined it for
    you.

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  37. Trevor on July 3, 2014 at 4:06 PM

    There might be a chicken-and-egg thing going on here, worthy of consideration.

    I often “intellectualize” or engage in theology precisely because the “normal” way that others live their religion doesn’t work for me. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it, right? I think many (most?) Mormons are in this boat. Why dig deeper if it just works?

    But for me, if it feels broken, then maybe there’s some fixing or interpreting that can be done. Rather than just discard it, I look for other ways of viewing or living a gospel concept.

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  38. Stephen R. Marsh (Ethesis) on July 3, 2014 at 7:06 PM

    Howard — I enjoyed the background information on you. I have to admit, if I were to ask you a personal question I would ask you if you can stand between heaven and earth.

    Silverrain — I’d love to use your comment as a blog post at Ethesis. May I?

    All, again I’ve very much enjoyed this thread.

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  39. Jeff G on July 3, 2014 at 7:28 PM

    Howard,

    The issue basically boils down to how we coordinate our individual and differing experiences with God’s revelations to us. Suppose we go back in time such that you feel inspired that the church ought to end its priesthood ban immediately.. The church leaders, however, feel inspired that the time has not yet come. Who do we believe? Of course we could just say that both sides need to study and pray harder until unanimity is reached, but there are no guarantees that this ever will or ever ought to happen. Besides, time is a precious commodity. So what do we do?

    One way deciding this would be to structure the church such that a completely open discussion as equals in which whatever person – or whatever combination of the two people – with the most convincing reasons behind their interpretation of God’s will (given to them by inspiration) wins out. I see your worldview as basically advocating something along these lines and I totally reject it. I see this as a clear case of human reason constraining revelation.

    Another way would be looking to see which of these two people has the authority to receive such revelation and go with their interpretation of God’s will (given to them by inspiration). In such a case, no reasons need to given or responded to, thus allowing inspiration to stand unconstrained by human reasoning. This is my worldview which I advocate and you seem to totally reject. I see this as a clear case of God’s will trumping the human reason.

    Thus, priesthood and reason are two separate and incompatible ways of structuring the revelation which God gives to us in the plural.

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  40. Howard on July 3, 2014 at 7:39 PM

    Stephen,
    At the end of my training I enjoyed an unhurried 2-3hr out of body experience that concluded with the choice stay or go back. The body itself is a very heavy tax to bear but I’m here to help. Being present in the present provides a great offsetting comfort so that’s were I reside most of the time, half way between two nanoseconds, it’s a place called eternity.. Fear and anger dropped to about 10% of what they were. The loss of fear is concerning at times. I have no fear of death but, prefer not to physically suffer on the way out, but will if that is my cross because I don’t intend to miss a second of it! As you can tell I’m neither fish nor fowl in body and that makes mortal life kind of a strange place to be. The church and it’s members are far too focused on the tangible trappings (idols) of religion and strict obedience it is of little importance beyond this place. The natural man is not the spirit, the spirit disavows the unloving actions of the ego and natural man, obedience beyond learning a discipline is just training parts of you you will leave behind. “Judgement day” is loving acceptance and parental therapy aimed at resolving dissonance with all. Having a foot on both sided is draining so I’m more like 80% here but that can be varied as needed.

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  41. Stephen M (Ethesis) on July 3, 2014 at 8:16 PM

    Ah, but can you stand?

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  42. Howard on July 3, 2014 at 11:07 PM

    So you meant it in a different sense, how astute. Yes, the question takes me back a few years, I have stood not as an armed angel but as Aaron must have to return balance, smoke rose and the experience explained much.

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  43. Howard on July 3, 2014 at 11:23 PM

    Jeff G,
    You assign far too much weight to authority and far too little to power. Authority doesn’t bring God’s power but God’s power implicitly *comes with* the authority to use it in righteousness!

    The church is led by Olivers not by Josephs. God doesn’t simply tap them on the shoulder and ask for a 1 degree course adjustment because they can’t hear him! Instead they must perceive that they are off course and by the time that happens they are way off course. Then they must agree as a quorum what Y/N question to ask God! In addition they are men and men are fallible and they come with biases and old men come with more prejudice than young men. And it’s months of work to ask so who wants to ask for something they disagree with to begin with? As a result secular society has been catching on much faster than our prophets.

    If the church was led by Josephs you wouldn’t be experiencing these grass root attempts to fill the huge leadership vacuum that currently exists because there wouldn’t be a leadership vacuum and questions like these would be answered by God as we go along.

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  44. Nate on July 4, 2014 at 2:15 AM

    Howard, your out of body experience reminds me of something I heard a NDE expert say. Apparently, people who have NDEs, one of two things happen to them aftewards. Either, they sort of loose their angry, controlling nature and become much more mellow and accepting of things, leading to a much higher quality and enjoyment of life. Or, they lose too much ambition and traction in life, because what they experienced was too transcendent. I’m not suggesting either of those things happened to you, but I am wondering if people who have really intense spiritual experiences beyond the norm, if this perhaps can be its own challenge. The rest of the world sees through a glass darkly, and their earthly and gospel paradigms are built around that reality.

    It’s fine to say that the church is led by Olivers, not Josephs, but maybe there is a reason why God calls Olivers in our day. Maybe one Joseph was enough for one dispensation. Maybe if we had a whole string of Josephs, it wouldn’t work because the people couldn’t handle it. As it was, Joseph, with his Law of Consecration, Polygamy, Polyandry, and all the rest practically destroyed the church before it was even started, and it took much more practically minded prophets to give it some stability which then allowed it to expand across the world. I think you are just going to have to accept the fact that the mortal church is pathetically materially minded, and that’s just the way things are. One day maybe things will change, but perhaps the church is in an expanding, consolidating period which is necessary in order for it to exert broader influence when the Millennium comes. Who knows?

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  45. Howard on July 4, 2014 at 6:36 AM

    Nate,
    I know many who have had OTBs and NDEs, it’s more like their ambition and traction in life becomes attached to far more important things. Of course intense spiritual experiences are beyond the norm, statistically how else can they be viewed? But don’t forget that is how the church was restored.

    I’m not suggesting the church *should* be led by an unending string of Joseph’s I’m just pointing out the folly of believing and behaving as if it were! Can you deny that this is the case? But the loss of Law of Consecration, Polygamy, Polyandry holds the church back because members are not challenged by those principals to progress from their childish selfishness (often hidden to themselves while enabled by our materialistic world and the church’s implied prosperity gospel) toward a Christlike selflessness and no replacements for that challenge have been provided. More practically minded prophets may have given it stability but they left it in a regressed position had to reverse course on blacks and will again on women and LGBTs but right now it’s just marking time by marching in place going nowhere fast!

    Personally I am quite content to leave the church to those who prefer dark glasses, braille and idols but God won’t have it and that is why activists have arisen, they are carrying God’s message into the church because it’s hasn’t been herd by the Great blind guides.

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  46. Howard on July 4, 2014 at 6:39 AM

    heard

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  47. ji on July 4, 2014 at 9:16 AM

    Howard,

    It is one thing to note that there isn’t as much open revelation these days as in the days of the Prophet Joseph Smith. It is another thing to say it is because Joseph’s successors are blind guides. Even in Joseph’s day, people called him a fallen prophet (a prophet once but not anymore).

    There is another possibility — look at D&C 88:46-61 (and 62) — what do you think? Look at this earth as one of the Lord’s kingdom’s.

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  48. Howard on July 4, 2014 at 10:12 AM

    Ji,
    I like your scriptural reference and of course given enough time that will come to pass but if great inefficiency doesn’t matter what is the purpose of being a member at all? Shall we look at it as LDS Prozac or an LDS pacifier?

    Don’t be offended by my use of blind guides. Wasn’t Oliver a blind guide compared to Joseph? The point is the illusion they cultivate of Great Leadership given their demonstrated error only works on a slumbering congregation of “believers”, a congregation that generally lacks the motivation, awareness and intellectual curiosity to seek further light and much of this is not their fault it is the effective result of LDS indoctrination that functions like a mild dose of mental chloroform.

    Nate argues correctly that a string of Olivers delivered much needed stability but after a 170 years of Oliver leadership it has accrued a price of regression, codification, abstractness and paralysis. Where is Joseph’s “I teach them correct principles, and they govern themselves.” today? The vitality of a thus saith the Lord religion has given way to the boredom of the 3 hour block and the busy work of an LDS checklist.

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  49. ji on July 4, 2014 at 11:12 AM

    I’m not a believer because I’m slumbering.

    I don’t lack motivation, awareness, or intellectual curiosity.

    I don’t feel mentally chloroformed.

    At least, that’s how I see it. What I see working in me is faith, hope, and charity, all in and of Jesus Christ. A great many correct principles have been taught, and we’re governing ourselves based on those correct principles while always being ready to learn more.

    I don’t want to be a slothful servant, and I don’t want to demand a sign. I have enough for now, and for now I sustain and support others in their callings. I’m content to wait on the Lord. In the meantime, I want to strengthen faith, hope, and charity, in myself and in others.

    I’ll bow out now, having said all I can say.

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  50. Howard on July 4, 2014 at 11:47 AM

    Ji,
    I agree you’re not but take a look down the pews. Did you see BoM musical? I put “believers” in quotes after the song I Believe. Relevant lines:

    And a Mormon just believes

    You cannot just believe part way,
    You have to believe in it all.
    The problem is doubting the Lord’s will
    Instead of standing tall

    I can’t allow myself to have any doubt
    It’s time to set my worries free

    I Believe; that God has a plan for all of us
    I Believe; that plan involves me getting my own planet
    And I Believe; that the current President of The Church, Thomas Modson, speaks directly to God
    I am A Mormon
    And dang it! a Mormon just believes!

    I Believe; that God lives on a planet called Kolob
    I Believe; that Jesus has his own planet as well
    And I Believe; that the Garden of Eden was in Jackson County, Missouri
    You can be a Mormon: you’ll feel it
    And you’ll know it’s all true: you just… feel it
    You’ll be a Mormon
    By gosh!
    A Mormon just…
    Believes!

    It’s funny!!! People laugh through it. I couldn’t stop laughing! It’s parody and the parody works because it is simultaneously true and ridiculous!

    Now I know that people can believe in the unbelievable as the result of a spiritual conformation, because I’ve done it. Let’s call this kind of spiritual knowledge gnosis. When I’m critical of LDS “believers” in quotes I’m not talking about gnosis, I’m talking about what everyone is laughing about during the musical, the childish naivete and lack of questioning and critical thinking that leads one by way of LDS mind dimming indoctrination to seriously believe the utterly ridiculous!

    I hope you can find the humor and openness to laugh at this without offense or finding it sacrilegious because it truly is funny and it’s healthy to laugh at ourselves and our oddity of culture.

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  51. Nate on July 4, 2014 at 5:06 PM

    Interesting analysis of the song Howard. The thing about the song, is it really is not very Mormon because Mormons never say “I believe.” They say “I know.” The authors of the song were really writing about religious belief in general, which has a certain unexamined naivete as you say. But LDS “knowing” is closer to the gnosis you describe, which comes from a spiritual feeling or revelation. It might not be a very powerful, or it might be based on emotions for some people, or sometimes just a culture of certainty. But people do get spiritual confirmation of the truthfulness of the gospel all the time in the church today.

    I think people like Ji get perpexed at your dismissal of our modern prophets, because they have felt real spiritual feelings confirming their words. They see these men describe real spiritual experiences (however modest they may be compared to Joseph Smith) and they think you are being unfair. I think it is a bit offensive to describe our modest faith in our modest spiritual experiences as “naive” even if it is on some level. We are all only doing our best. We wait upon the Lord for the grace of His presence, and He gives that presence out unevenly, and not solely based upon righteousness or works. If you have a special spiritual gift, it is not because you were nescessarily more worthy, or worked harder for it, but because of God’s grace to you, and your own very individual personal journey. But if God keeps his distance from someone else, that it by no means that person’s fault. “My spirit will not always strive with man.”

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  52. Howard on July 4, 2014 at 6:09 PM

    Wow Nate you are asserting some things I didn’t say or imply or even think! I’m not critical of anyone’s spiritual confirmation. OTOH I am critical of manufactured and indoctrinated testimonies such as those found in the bearing or repeatedly whispered in children’s ears.

    The musical was a characterization not a documentary. LDS knowing IS the gnosis I’m talking about. I’m not dismissing modern LDS prophets rather I’m describing them without the carefully hyped illusion that leaves many neive members with the impression they are Josephs with a hotline to Christ.

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  53. Nate on July 5, 2014 at 8:33 AM

    “I’m not critical of anyone’s spiritual confirmation. OTOH I am critical of manufactured and indoctrinated testimonies such as those found in the bearing or repeatedly whispered in children’s ears.”

    OK, now I think I understand. You are critical of the culture of testimony bearing when it is unrelated to spiritual manifestation. That is a fair criticism. I think it comes from this idea that “a testimony comes from the bearing of it.” But its evolved from that into a culture of overconfidence. Hyped up indoctrination and rote testimony have an air of communist style propaganda, but its all part of this “teach up a child in the way they should go.” It is a very concious superimposing of values by parents and leaders upon their flock.

    I personally think it is good, because I think that humans are like sheep, who need people to rule over them. As you’ve seen from some of my other posts, I believe in heirarchies and dominions. I believe gnosticism is by definition, an esoteric path for the few. For the rest, they need propaganda. They need leadership. Gnostism is for those who have eyes to see and ears to hear.

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  54. Howard on July 5, 2014 at 9:09 AM

    There is a big chicken/egg problem with manufactured testiomines and church propaganda because the manufactured testimonies are built on sand and often do not survive the debunking of propaganda and we’re seeing that problem play out now. In addition so called “true” churches that promote propaganda are hypocritical at best and potentially even evil even without intending to be. And strict hypocritical churchs produce hypocrits. While the flock needs guidance from a Shepard it should be done in truth and righteousness not by means of easy lies and cover ups justified by some ideal end result.

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  55. Howard on July 5, 2014 at 9:26 AM

    Paul Dunn 1Q70
    When confronted with evidence that several of his stories were either completely falsified or substantially embellished, Dunn admitted that the stories were not completely true, yet continued to defend his use of the stories: “I haven’t purposely tried to embellish or rewrite history. I’ve tried to illustrate points that would create interest. [I was] simply putting history in little finer packages.”. Dunn compared his stories to the parables of Jesus—although they were not true stories, they were nevertheless valuable means of teaching gospel principles.

    Was he guilty of doing anything different than the church correlation dept. routinely does?

    Oh, what a tangled web we weave: When first we practise to deceive.

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  56. ji on July 5, 2014 at 12:09 PM

    As I understand, there was a difference between Paul Dunn’s stories and the Savior’s parables. Paul said “I went…” (or whatever verb fits) but the Savior said “a certain man went…” The Savior used the third person — that makes all the difference.

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  57. Howard on July 5, 2014 at 1:37 PM

    I agree Ji anonymous makes use of fiction as a teaching method and as Paul Dunn points out fiction is often better than truth. In D&C 15 we learn of endless torment that isn’t, indicating a divine deception because it is more express and how that works upon the hearts of the children of men. So here we have an example of the end justifying means perpetuated by God but Olivers aren’t Gods are they and they don’t have a hotline to Christ do they so the problem of escalating faith promotion over truth is where to stop. Pretty soon we’ve diverted away from Christ’s teachings and Joseph’s teachings because of our schizophrenic false behavior/belief, we behave as if living prophets are infallible while stating that they are not! Over time since truth is seen as relative a lot course error accumulates and we convince ourselves the building Zion is literally a bricks and mortar construction project! It’s only a few short steps from there to TSM’s “Let’s go shopping!”. Truly the church is adrift and a significant part of this is due to Olivers rationalizations to the point of losing sight of truth.

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  58. ji on July 5, 2014 at 2:32 PM

    Howard,

    So what should we do? If the church is adrift, should we abandon it and swim to another boat? Or should we stay aboard? If we stay aboard, do we sustain the captain, or mutiny and get another? This is a serious inquiry — you’ve been sounding the alarm, but what is the appropriate action in response to your alarm?

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  59. Howard on July 5, 2014 at 3:40 PM

    Yes that’s the right question! My mission is to call a spade a spade and I’ll be committed to the church’s survival as soon as it cleans up.

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  60. forgetting on July 5, 2014 at 4:01 PM

    Nate, this was excellent.  Thanks.  I am a bit late to the conversation I see, but may I still make a few observations?

    Howard: in general, I have a lot of respect for many (most) of the things you say, and I think that you and I have some very similar approaches to the Gospel and religious discipleship.  I am curious though how you can be so often critical of the presidents of the church for giving the very message you would have them give: How is that?  I do hear the current president teach a lot about service (per earlier comments of others, including Hedgehog (hiyas!)), but that is not the only thrust, or the focus, of his counsel.  Over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over I hear him teach, suggest, exhort, and/or plead with the saints to always be listening to the Spirit.  So much of what he says can be wrapped up as “I heard the Lord say/suggest/prompt this action and I followed.  Here are the results.”  I am sorry that the packaging is not the way you would have it, but his message is the same as yours.  “Listen to and follow the Spirit.”  I hear them constantly asking us to begin to reliably receive revelation.

    Lately you have used this Joseph and Oliver comparison, and in a way you are delegitimizing the Olivers as you pound this point over and over (and over).  Both are valid processes, and both will get a woman or man to heaven.  As olivers gain spiritual confidence then they will move to being josephs.  It is not an either or situation.

    We are often critical of our leaders because the do not make the same choices we would, for example the city creek and other recent construction projects.  Funny thing about those projects, I see the Lord guiding the decision making.  If they are studying it out in their minds with the best plans that they can prepare (aren’t we all fallen man?), counseling together, and then asking the Lord, it seems He is approving many Great and Spacious Buildings. It might not be ideal considering the poor and how worldly these buildings are, but I still see strong purpose behind it.  If anything, it is a good reminder that we are the House of Israel and behaving as such.  “… and the multitude of the earth was gathered together; and I beheld that they were in a large and spacious building, like unto the building which my father saw. And the angel of the Lord spake unto me again, saying: Behold the world and the wisdom thereof; yea, behold the house of Israel hath gathered together to fight against the twelve apostles of the Lamb.” 

    Do you think the Lord or the leaders won’t give us the desires of our (the body’s and/or leader’s) hearts according to our asking – and behaviors?

    Also, it might be that it isn’t the ‘oliver’ method that is the problem.  We have been placed under a condemnation that has not yet been lifted.  I don’t think the heavens are closed to the Twelve or the First Presidency as bodies; individually as men isn’t for me to judge.  It might be instead that the Heavens are closed to ‘us’ as the body of the church.  What more can they teach until we repent?  It would be the basics that lead us back to full fellowship with the Lord.  More mercy and not less for these men.  Their garments will not be washed clean as long as we as a body refuse to harken directly to the voice of the Lord.

    You say that Joseph was a shaman – perhaps, though I don’t recall him having a drum (grin, yes I am splitting hairs).  He practiced shamanic principles to be sure, but I am not sure even he would have taken that title for himself.  The current Twelve and Three also practice shamanic principles, especially in how they address and teach the body (see my comments about city creek above). You just might not like what they are teaching, or is it the how?  “And the disciples came, and said unto him, Why speakest thou unto them in parables? He answered and said unto them, Because it is given unto you to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it is not given. For whosoever hath, to him shall be given, and he shall have more abundance: but whosoever hath not, from him shall be taken away even that he hath. Therefore speak I to them in parables: because they seeing see not; and hearing they hear not, neither do they understand.  And in them is fulfilled the prophecy of Esaias, which saith, By hearing ye shall hear, and shall not understand; and seeing ye shall see, and shall not perceive:  For this people’s heart is waxed gross, and their ears are dull of hearing, and their eyes they have closed; lest at any time they should see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and should understand with their heart, and should be converted, and I should heal them.  But blessed are your eyes, for they see: and your ears, for they hear.  For verily I say unto you, That many prophets and righteous men have desired to see those things which ye see, and have not seen them; and to hear those things which ye hear, and have not heard them.”

    Nate: “I personally think it is good, because I think that humans are like sheep, who need people to rule over them. As you’ve seen from some of my other posts, I believe in heirarchies and dominions. I believe gnosticism is by definition, an esoteric path for the few. For the rest, they need propaganda. They need leadership. Gnostism is for those who have eyes to see and ears to hear.”

    We are sheep like but not sheep, we can change, that is the nature of being human.  Sheep, however, are true to their natures by not changing.  In our youth and spiritual immaturity we need the structure and hierarchy.  We might even need that propaganda you like. However, there must come a time that we have to decide to turn our full hearts to the Lord alone.  “When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things.”  Our choice to do so. 

    If we can’t do this (growing spiritually mature) we risk blurring lines and hurting ourselves spiritually, or even physically.  Structure and hierarchy are important, they are the supports for the building, but they are not the Foundation.  I will set aside the personal damnation or stagnation that comes from being dependent on another man, and ask you to consider how these kind of church teachings can hurt us outside of the church structure.  I mistook the source of salvation for most of my life and it nearly killed me.  There was a time where I was very much dependent on my leaders. This is from someone who was, even then, by nature more of a free spirit, but at that time of my life I felt that the priesthood chain was more important than even my ego, reason, or promptings from the Spirit.  I don’t think others would make this mistake, but it does follow right along with Hawk’s post a while back (was it at this site first?), and more recently elsewhere posted, on being too trusting.  Not too many years ago I put more trust in my doctor than I should have.  He had been my Elders’ Quorum President and was then later a Bishop in another ward.  I thought that made what he was saying about my medical condition more legit.  He even counseled me about it spiritually in his office.  The Spirit had different advice for me, and it took a pounding for me to see/hear this.  My doctor was wrong, and when I was finally admitted to the hospital with serious damage from cysts, lesions, and calcifications all over my brain it was a pretty strong wake up call that trusting in the arm of flesh, priesthood leader or not, is still trusting in the arm of flesh.  I made a mistake I don’t think others would, doctors are not our bishops, but my decisions were directly impacted and influenced by the current church emphasis of Obey, Structure, and Hierarchy.  

    Finally, the Gospel is not dumbed down, even when it is taught in a basic way.  If we feel it is then it says much more about our hearts, and says nothing about our teachers.  We should be hearing or seeing differently if there is lack in our lives.

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  61. forgetting on July 5, 2014 at 4:48 PM

    Howard: “… we behave as if living prophets are infallible while stating that they are not! Over time since truth is seen as relative a lot course error accumulates and we convince ourselves the building Zion is literally a bricks and mortar construction project! It’s only a few short steps from there to TSM’s “Let’s go shopping!”. Truly the church is adrift and a significant part of this is due to Olivers rationalizations to the point of losing sight of truth.”

    If you would like to suggest that the current prophet should have the same shamanic role as Joseph, then you should at least be willing to give him credit when he does act in a shamanic role. What he did there was called heyoka. Think it through, he knows perfectly well this behavior lacks the dignity of the office of President and High Priest.  That’s why he did it.  Heyoka. 

     It is also heyoka when he wiggles his ears. Opposing sides of the same coin.

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  62. Howard on July 5, 2014 at 5:34 PM

    forgetting wrote: how you can be so often critical of the presidents of the church for giving the very message you would have them give. With the exception of occasional portions of Packer and larger portions Oaks and a couple of modesty talks I’m *generally* not very critical of the *content* of GC messages except that they lack meat, a lot of it is boring and with the notable exception of Uchtdorf the regulars are quite unconvincing about rejoicing in the gospel given their flat affect and depressed sounding and looking delivery. While we are encouraged to seek the spirit we are not taught how but we are taught misleading folklore like the spirit is bearly decernable – no, that’s just where one begins! The spirit flees if you’re not “living the gospel” LDS speak for following the church’s rules – TOTAL B.S.! So yes we’re encouraged to follow the spirit but how do Peter and Molly learn how to do that?

    But I’m more concerned about the indoctrination that discourages critical thinking and encourages (blind) obedience, that layer after layer suppresses YW’s sexuality while holding them responsible for YM’s thoughts. I have chosen not to raise my 10 year old daughter in the church for these reasons and also due to the subtle misogyny. Concepts that invite and accrue error like: it’s wrong to criticize even when the criticism is true. That one cost the lives of my gggrandfather and 2 of his kids in the Willie Handcart Co. The brethren by their own voice have self serveingly set themselves as unaccessible, unaskable and uncorrectable. If they were Josephs I would find this dangerous but arguable, but given they are Olivers it insures error and invites unrighteous dominion. They have usurped common consent called for in the D&C!

    I’m not delegitimating Olivers, Oliver Cowdery was legitimate and at the same time it is clear he wasn’t a Joseph. This is why the analogy works so well. As olivers gain spiritual confidence then they will move to being josephs.. This is not true, if it were you would be able to offer an example. Josephs are trained by divine intelligence. But Olivers grow well beyond where they are if they’re willing to do the work and one day maybe one will be chosen to become a Joseph. Until then look for Josephs outside the church for even if they begin inside the church the Pharisaical hierarchy will expel them fearing competition. See the parable of the 10 virgins.

    It might be instead that the Heavens are closed to ‘us’ as the body of the church.. This is a method of switching the blame for weak leadership onto the members. The heavens have been open to me since 2003 and trust me they remained open while my sins would have easily qualified me for excommunication had I been a member at that time.

    Do you think the Lord or the leaders won’t give us the desires of our (the body’s and/or leader’s) hearts according to our asking – and behaviors?. I’m not sure what this question actually means, care to elaborate?

    What more can they teach until we repent?. The church needs to repent. We can be taught to live the beatitudes and they can replace the OT focus on strict (and blind) obediance.

    Priesthood power is shamanic, priesthood authority as it is being used in the absence of most of it’s power is Pharisaical. Return the power that was lost to both men and women and I’m on board!

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  63. Howard on July 5, 2014 at 5:38 PM

    Heyoka! Lol! Why didn’t I think of that!

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  64. forgetting on July 6, 2014 at 1:12 AM

    Howard: “This is not true, if it were you would be able to offer an example.” I can’t offer examples from the brethern. I think that is the only example that would satisfy you. In fact, the only example I should offer is me, myself, forgetting, Ron. I can’t know any other woman or man’s heart, nor can I know their minds. I also cannot know how they receive revelation. I do know that I was once what you would have called an oliver, that is not true anymore. We are not locked into one mode. Neither are they.

    “It might be instead that the Heavens are closed to ‘us’ as the body of the church.. This is a method of switching the blame for weak leadership onto the members. The heavens have been open to me since 2003 and trust me they remained open while my sins would have easily qualified me for excommunication had I been a member at that time.”

    I am not placing blame or shifting blame. We, individually, are entitled to the revelations of heaven as long as we, individually, meet the conditions for revelation, thus the heavens being opened to you – and others. We, collective we, really are under condemnation still (a huge part of that is for not believing the heavens are open, oh the twisted knot that makes). Kinda sucks, but there it is. We, collectively, behave in a way that might preclude us, collectively, from new light and knowledge. I am unwilling to place all of the burden (the disgrace as many seem to think) of no new revelations, the silence of the heavens, and weeping angels on a small body of men, or even a single man, alone. No, not when there are additional valid reasons outside of their competence as revelators and their assumed worthiness. We, collectively, still take lightly the Book of Mormon; we, collectively, do not live by the principles found in it. That is the reason for our condemnation. We all need to do better, and then maybe the heavens will open to the collective we as well as to the individual we. In fairness to the ‘us’ or ‘we’, that collective condemnation includes those we say sit at the top of this organization, or do we believe they get a free pass from the Lord because of their callings?

    It is an imperfect church that raises up imperfect women and imperfect men. Imperfect men and imperfect women will stumble. A true stumble will (should) cause us to turn ourselves completely over to the Lord, and in doing so we will be led and taught directly by Him alone, as I believe you have learned. It is in and through it’s imperfections that the Church guides us to perfection. That’s what stumbling blocks are for. 

    That is not a license for some of the obvious failures we have as a culture or church, by the way. We would be wiser to strive for impeccability and authenticity rather than perfection. That alone would clear up many of our current problems. 

    “Do you think the Lord or the leaders won’t give us the desires of our (the body’s and/or leader’s) hearts according to our asking – and behaviors?. I’m not sure what this question actually means, care to elaborate?”

    It was rhetorical, but I can see I failed. The Lord gives us according to the desires of our hearts. We are behaving as a pretty worldly people just now. The desires of our hearts have been given to us, thus malls, skyscrapers, iPads and messenger bags, Hurrah! Polly put the kettle on and we’ll all have tea. I hope we stumble soon.

    “Priesthood power is shamanic, priesthood authority as it is being used in the absence of most of it’s power is Pharisaical. Return the power that was lost to both men and women and I’m on board!” and “Heyoka! Lol! Why didn’t I think of that!”

    You often use sharp words, so I don’t know if you are being genuine, or subtle, or other about heyoka. Seriously though, if you truly believe that priesthood power is shamanic then why are you dismissing other powerful aspects of this practice and only focusing on the revelatory experience? There has been subtle heyoka off and on since the condemnation was placed on us, either as guided by the Lord through the ‘olivers’, or directly by the occasional wise and sage man, (cf. David O. McKay), or both. 

    Of course shamanism also encompasses other methods of community guidance.  There is also revealing and concealing, veiling and unveiling; concealing to reveal, revealing to conceal. So, as you say, priesthood is shamanic and who knows, they might be doing just that.

    Forgive the typos and what-nots, it’s late. 

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  65. Howard on July 6, 2014 at 6:06 AM

    forgetting,
    Namaste. I bow to your understanding of the interplay of the individual and the collective. Moses understood it: Enviest thou for my sake? would God that all the Lord’s people were prophets, and that the Lord would put his spirit upon them!. Unfortunately today’s church muzzels it! Follow the prophet! Follow the prophet. Follow the prophet! He won’t lead you astray, he knows the way! Where have they led the sheep? To the condemnation you speak of! And where are the leading them today? Nowhere new, just marching in place. Are the sheep to find their own way out? We read of 40 years in the wilderness but it has been so much longer for this tribe. Some are awakening and finding peers even organizing into small collectives as they seek light. But the great ones travel underground in darkness and are protected from their fear above ground in the ligjt by those with guns and they spin illusion into power and money as they colonize the flock and blame them for the loss at the top. Buildings have become better than lives in this prosperity gospel built on spin and lies. How can God condem sheep who blindly follow and believe when the shepards act this way?

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  66. Howard on July 6, 2014 at 8:11 AM

    Jesus said unto his apostles colonize and tax the sheep and build a mall for them from your profits to worship as Aaron did a calf because of their great love of things and bind them into servitude by spinning their childish naivete into a make work list of activity that distracts them from actually knowing me and instead binds them to you that you might enjoy great adoration and worship for in the land of the blind the one eyed man is king!

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  67. Stephen R. Marsh on July 6, 2014 at 3:37 PM

    forgetting, I enjoyed your comments. Howard, drop me an e-mail some time.

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  68. Howard on July 6, 2014 at 4:35 PM

    Stephen,
    I wasn’t able to locate your email address, feel free to contact me at the address I use to blog here.

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