The Land of “Make Belief” and Alma 32

By: Andrew S
February 8, 2011

Alma and the ZoramitesI’ve been a big fan of blogging about Alma 32. I have a thought experiment, two part to a greater analysis, a counter-metaphor, and those are just the post I’ve remembered!

The other night, I had the opportunity to explore the topic again…but this time in auditory format on Mormon Expression podcast.

The story actually goes way back, and I was excited to go on the show. Once upon a time, Glenn (whom you may remember from his edgy testimony as reported by himself or by Adam F) wrote a guest post here about making belief and having hope. I was skeptical about what he could accomplish with “make belief,” and thought that really, he didn’t make beliefs.

The potential to talk about that excited me for the podcast, and ironically, it probably caused me to derailed the podcast episode since I was asked a question about belief as a choice and couldn’t remember any of my good analogies…so I’m hoping that Glenn Ostlund will edit everything to salvage the episode.

Notwithstanding (or, who am I kidding — especially because of) that, I felt the discussion went in ways that I wouldn’t have planned…I say “planned,” because I wrote notes of stuff I would’ve liked to cover.

So, THIS entry is about MY notes. You’ll just have to listen to the podcast episode to hear what we REALLY talked about — which was just as good, but different.

The outline notes for the podcast were first to summarize the first part of 32nd chapter of Alma. The setting is this: Alma and Amulek are reaching out to poor people. These poor people have been kicked out of the Zoramites’ synagogues because they are poor and the Zoramites want to have rich, wealthy people speak at the rameumptom.

One collection of verses that I now find quite interesting are verses 9-12.

9Behold thy brother hath said, What shall we do?—for we are cast out of our synagogues, that we cannot worship our God.

10Behold I say unto you, do ye suppose that ye cannot worship God save it be in your synagogues only?

11And moreover, I would ask, do ye suppose that ye must not worship God only once in a week?

The reason I find this interesting is because I immediately thought of other people who are “cast out of their synagogues,” so to speak — and not necessarily for being poor or whatever. In a way, those who are excommunicated or disfellowshipped are cast out of their synagogues (or restricted in some way from what they can do), BUT they can still worship God, obviously. Maybe I’m biased by John G-W‘s and Steven Fehr‘s cases (and now I have to get around to listening to Fehr’s episode with Mormon Expression), but in these cases, you have people who clearly do not let excommunication slow them down one bit.

But I digress. Alma 32 is HUGE in Mormonism, and it’s because there are a few “just-so” traps that make the internal logic air-tight. (I say this with love and charity: WHOEVER wrote this [there -- you can believe what you want] was very clever to cover all the bases.) The first trap is in verse 13.

13And now, because ye are compelled to be humble blessed are ye; for a man sometimes, if he is compelled to be humble, seeketh repentance; and now surely, whosoever repenteth shall find mercy; and he that findeth mercy and endureth to the end the same shall be saved.

Stated in other words…If you repent, you will SURELY find mercy…and if you find mercy and endure to the end you will be saved.

The trap is two-fold. Now, you can be compelled to be humble and seek repentance…but only those who repent shall find mercy. (Don’t find “mercy”? That means you didn’t repent, even if you sought repentance.)

Even if you find “mercy”, you must endure to the end. So, not saved? Then you didn’t endure the end!

“Enduring to the end” is what makes these scriptures unfalsifiable. As I hope to point out.

In the podcast (ooh, a preview!), we stuck around verse 21 for a while, and particularly the part “which are true”. Can someone not have faith in something that turns out to be untrue? What would we call that then? What would we call that in the moment, and what would we call that in hindsight? How can we distinguish faith from the unidentified sister concept if all we currently know is the “hope for something unseen” part?

Anyway, then eventually we got into the real meat of the post…seeds, and stuff.  Verse 27:

But behold, if ye will awake and arouse your faculties, even to an experiment upon my words, and exercise a particle of faith, yea, even if ye can no more than desire to believe, let this desire work in you, even until ye believe in a manner that ye can give place for a portion of my words.

As a second sneak preview, at this point, our interviewer Glenn asked us what we thought about “desire” and “belief.” And then another podcaster, Lorin, said something to the effect of: “Well, absolutely. This is a self-fulfilling prophecy. If you desire, then you will eventually believe.”

I had to challenge that. I wonder two things: 1) can you choose to desire to believe something? 2) Just because you desire to believe something, does that mean that belief is something you can successfully choose?

The above claims are claims I make a lot, because I am skeptical that we can choose our desires, or that desire is enough to enable us to choose belief. But then Glenn pressed me to provide a specific example to this instance, and I blanked out. Man, it was bad. I hope he edits it all out. I guess you’ll hear in the next week or so.

But, let me think in typing about a few.

For the first point, I usually bring up the example of other religions. I personally don’t desire to be a Muslim. I imagine that this is because I have a very westernized sense of desire in certain things. I’m not sure that I could just choose to desire the things that Muslims desire, or desire to be a Muslim.

BUT even supposing that I figured out how to do that, I could desire all day and never come to be personally persuaded to believe that Muhammad encountered the archangel Gabriel. It might be that I would come across data (whether something objective or something subjective) that eventually convinced me…but I could not choose whether I were convinced or not.

There is some process in my brain that maybe I’m just not educated enough to know how to tap into…well, this process evaluates data that I come across and spits out responses to “me”. I don’t choose how this process operates. I am unaware if I can tamper with it.

I can change the claims that I’m evaluating (we got into that in the podcast, and I was not really expecting that), so that the claim might become something I could swallow better (a regional Book of Mormon geography rather than a hemispheric one: for which we would “expect” different physical evidence), but still, I can’t just choose to say, “OK, I buy that in 3…2…1…There!” Or, I can choose to say that, but it won’t do anything other than allow myself to hear myself talk.

Anyway, I digress (again). I don’t think that the Alma 32 analogy requires a belief that one chooses to believe (or chooses to desire to believe). All it requires is that one will be willing to experiment. To take an action. And I think that actions can be chosen.

planting a seedVerse 28 makes sense to me, especially when I strip away the spiritual aspects for a second. Say you have someone who is not a farmer and doesn’t know anything about plants. If he is given a seed, he might be highly incredulous about the idea that he can put the seed in the ground, water it and then have that tiny seed turn into something else (especially something majestic like a tree or beautiful like a flower.)

So, this man must at least be willing to experiment. He must be willing to take an action…and then proceed with the necessary actions…for example, if he waters the plant and then waits a minute…sees nothing happening and then gives up…then he hasn’t really done his part of the bargain. But if he can put in the time, suspend disbelief for enough time, then eventually, there will be confirmation. The seed will begin to sprout from the ground (even if it doesn’t look like a tree or a plant yet), and he will at least know: hey, this seed is good. This method is good.

So, conceptually, the idea of “casting out by unbelief” the seed is not difficult to understand. Conceptually, the idea of something beginning to enlarge is not difficult to understand.seedling

The problem comes in the first trap (enduring to the end) that I’ve previously mentioned…and the second trap, that I briefly alluded to from verse 28.

Casting out by unbelief.

Now we have two reasons in the logic chain to blame for the seed (the Word) failing to take. 1) The person didn’t endure to the end and 2) they cast it out by unbelief.

Conceptually, these two seem very reasonable. But these also have no bounds and so minimize the potential for alternative conclusions. “The end” could be any time. “Unbelief” could be anything. (That is why I love the story of the boiled seed. No matter how much time that stereotypically named Chinese kid was going to work with that seed, it just wasn’t going to go anywhere.)

The scriptures say something that is shockingly applicable: compare verse 28 and 32. If it is a good seed, then it will swell, enlarge, enlighten, and become delicious. If it doesn’t grow, it’s a dud and throw it out.

If people could really read verse 32, understand those implications, and accept them, then I think we’d be in a better world. 32 allows for the possibility that maybe the word won’t grow. And if that is the case, throw it out.

The problem is in statements like those from 13 and 28, and then from 38. People can rest safely behind the idea that if the seed doesn’t grow, it’s because of the choices of the planter. They didn’t endure to the end; they cast it out by their unbelief; and they neglected the tree so that it could not get any root.

Verses 39 and 40 become the conclusion that nearly every member takes.

But I’m going to say it like this: you don’t (and CAN’T) choose for the “seed” to enlarge your soul, enlighten you understanding, or become delicious to you. It may or it may not, but it’s not because you chose for that to happen, or because you wanted it badly enough, or because you worked hard enough for it or long enough for it.

And supposing that the seed is not enlarging, enlightening, or becoming delicious. Suppose it’s tasting pretty bad, and it’s reducing, and it’s dimming instead. There is something you’re going to have to make a choice about…but that’s about actions. Are you going to CHOOSE to endure in that status quo to some unspecified end on the off chance that things could turn around? Or are you going to CHOOSE to divert your energies and resources to investments that prove to have better returns for you?

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104 Responses to The Land of “Make Belief” and Alma 32

  1. Mike S on February 8, 2011 at 8:19 AM

    Great post. This is fundamental to my relationship with the Church. There are many things which I can choose to do (and have done so). I chose to go on a mission. I chose to get married in the temple. I chose to go to seminary. Etc.

    And I still choose many things. I choose to go to church each Sunday. I choose to read the Bible and BofM. I choose to pray. I choose to follow the WofW and pay my tithing. Etc.

    But then there becomes the part I CAN’T choose, which is the crux of the whole matter. Despite trying hundreds of times over the decades, I’ve never received that answer that, for me, this is all true. I’ve never received that answer from God that the LDS Church is the path I’m supposed to follow.

    And so I’m trapped by Alma 32. Is my lack of answer that I’m just not hanging in there “long enough”, even though it’s been over 4 decades? Is my lack of an answer that I’ve casted it out “with unbelief”? Or is my lack of an answer something else? Maybe another path back to God? Or maybe something more akin to what I think Andrew’s resolution to the dilemma might be?

    I don’t know.

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  2. brandt on February 8, 2011 at 8:26 AM

    Andrew, I think that we all could have made that podcast a 3-parter if we really wanted, because you’ve brought up so many different things in this post that it’s got my mind racing.

    - Sometimes, I look at this “choosing” thing in different lights. One could say that they cannot “choose” to believe the truthfulness of the Church’s claims because of this-or-that. On the other hand, one could choose to believe the Church’s claims IN SPITE OF this or that, actively choosing to believe. The question then becomes, “What is truth?”

    - Second, I’d like to figure out exactly what “the end” in “endure to the end” is. Is it death? Is there some probationary period after we die? And what about the concept of a calling and election made sure?

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  3. Course Correction on February 8, 2011 at 9:02 AM

    Thank you for pointing out verse 32–one we Mormons often overlook. The seed may not be good–or not good for us at this particular time.
    This is much like the Buddhist wisdom that no matter who presents a teaching, if you try it out and it doesn’t work for you, it is not true for you.

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  4. Andrew S. on February 8, 2011 at 9:17 AM

    re 1:

    Mike,

    I guess another thing I would look at is this. Sure, you can’t choose what answer you get to the church through prayer, etc., But you also can’t change (beyond actions you take) how the church impacts your life. So, supposing that living a Mormon life (and aspiring to a Mormon life) improves your life and brings it value, meaning, and goodness, then I think it is still something worthwhile.

    My fear is that people go through a Mormon way of life that makes them miserable, thinking that they just need to endure longer in misery.

    re 2:

    brandt,

    Yeah, and if the podcast had been for Mormon Stories, it might actually be a multi-parter :). I actually like that Mormon Expression tries to contain things though.

    With respect to your scenario, that still doesn’t make sense to me. I don’t see how one says, “In spite of this or that, I’m going to CHOOSE to believe.”

    I don’t doubt that different people can be faced with similar information, and yet one person will be persuaded one way and the other will be persuaded differently. I don’t doubt that many people believe in spite of this or that. BUT I don’t see where the individuals *chose* their reactions to such data…so I don’t see where the individuals *chose* to believe in spite of this or that.

    I think, “What is truth?” is a good question, but with my subjective model, it becomes a less important question. More important than “what is truth” is “what do we perceive as truth?” or “What are we persuaded to believe is truth?” We simply are trusting that our perceptions or persuasions are in the ballpark of reality.

    I’ve always interpreted “the end” as death, but a probationary period could also work. Basically, I try to analogize it to old folk doctrine about race or modern folk doctrines about sexuality: for people who believe that race or sexuality will change by the power of Christ (or whatever), when does that happen? Some people assert, “It can happen in this life time, if you are faithful.” But many others assume that as soon as you are resurrected, your new body will be (insert new trait here.)

    Now, I don’t believe in all those changes, BUT it gives a benchmark for “the end.”

    Calling and elections made sure are an issue that I haven’t researched much (especially how it CONTRASTS from ideas about predestination or other calvinistic ideas.)

    re 3:

    Course Correction,

    I think many people just aren’t comfortable with the idea of “true for you” or “true for me.” We want to say that certain things are universally, objectively true — they are true for everyone.

    So, if someone is Mormon and they believe Mormonism is true for *everyone*, then they are going to instead pay attention to the verses that say, “If this seed doesn’t grow, it’s your fault.”

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  5. [...] have a surprise post early this week at Wheat and Tares: The Land of “Make Belief” and Alma 32. (To clarify, remember that I normally write every other Saturday morning. I will also have an [...]

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  6. Mike S on February 8, 2011 at 10:16 AM

    #4 Andrew S

    So, if someone is Mormon and they believe Mormonism is true for *everyone*, then they are going to instead pay attention to the verses that say, “If this seed doesn’t grow, it’s your fault.”

    Earlier in my life I ascribed to this viewpoint. I just figured my lack of an answer was, as you described, my own fault. As I’ve gone through life and met amazingly spiritual people in and outside of the Church (including spiritual people who don’t even necessarily believe in God per se), I have felt much less confident in the “universally, objectively true” nature of the Church.

    This does make me approach Alma 32 a bit differently. Perhaps for some people, the LDS Church is the correct path for them. Perhaps for others there is another path.

    In any event, my journey has made me much, much more open to that possibility.

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  7. Thomas on February 8, 2011 at 10:18 AM

    Re: “casting out by your unbelief,” the problem is the saying “the Lord has his own timetable.”

    Therefore, the Alma 32 experiment isn’t falsifiable. If you don’t receive a spiritual confirmation, there are at least two possibilities: (1) The seed isn’t a good seed; or (2) you’re just not far enough along on the Lord’s timetable to receive the promised confirmation.

    The only way to completely eliminate (2) is to endure until you’re safely dead. But then — if it turns out that it really was #1 — it’s too late to try a different seed.

    And so this is a recipe for going through life without any assurance that you’re on the right track.

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  8. Thomas on February 8, 2011 at 10:19 AM

    The above claims are claims I make a lot, because I am skeptical that we can choose our desires.

    The easy way around this is to adopt Calvinist predestinarianism. Those whom the Lord elects to save, He imbues with a desire to believe saving doctrines.

    The rest of you vessels of wrath, fitted for destruction, are out of luck.

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  9. Thomas on February 8, 2011 at 10:26 AM

    Earlier in my life I ascribed to this viewpoint. I just figured my lack of an answer was, as you described, my own fault.

    Me, too. For all the Church’s goodness, its faith model accepts doing collateral damage to those for whom, for whatever reason, the Moroni 10:4 formula doesn’t work as advertised.

    Now, being a good conservative, I am pleased to accept that the natural man is an enemy to God, lower than the dust of the earth, and think that a healthy serving of guilt is good for a person.

    But guilt can obviously be overdone. And when you are constantly confronted with the possibility that notwithstanding your absolute best efforts, there is still some unrecognized wickedness in your character that is blocking your ability to be convinced of things said to be critical to your salvation — the overall effect is harmful.

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  10. JP on February 8, 2011 at 10:30 AM

    Very stimulating post Andrew S. Just a few comments:

    1. “can you choose to desire to believe something?” You use a good example with Muslims. The most predictive factor in WHAT we believe is WHERE we are born, and WHAT our parents believe. If you were born in Afghanistan or Iran, you would probably be Muslim. Did you choose to believe in Islam? Likewise, isn’t the same thing true of being born “in the covenant?”

    2. “Are you going to CHOOSE to endure in that status quo to some unspecified end on the off chance that things could turn around? Or are you going to CHOOSE to divert your energies and resources to investments that prove to have better returns for you?”

    That is a very good question. I struggled wiht my own faith crisis and eventually chose to divert my energies elsewhere. Mormonism was, for me, a bad seed. I can see how it’s a good seed that works for many other people. I give them that, and wish them well. But it’s frustrating when others in the church can’t allow others, like me, to conclude differently than them. It seems that it’s a zero-sum game: for me to be happy outside the church, it threatens their happiness within it. If they are right about the church, then I must be wrong and unhappy. But if we can all realize that our religioius beliefs are personal, that religion doesn’t need to be zero-sum, then the world would be a better place.

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  11. Paul on February 8, 2011 at 10:37 AM

    #4 Andrew S: “I think many people just aren’t comfortable with the idea of “true for you” or “true for me.” We want to say that certain things are universally, objectively true — they are true for everyone.

    “So, if someone is Mormon and they believe Mormonism is true for *everyone*, then they are going to instead pay attention to the verses that say, “If this seed doesn’t grow, it’s your fault.””

    I’m not sure where this fits in this discussion, but I think some also have an experience that they observe that it IS (or SEEMS, at least) true for others; therefore, it may also be proven to be true for me.

    That certainly was my attitude during times that my testimony was developing. And in my case, my willingness to wait on the Lord’s timetable was based on how credible I thought the witness of those others was.

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  12. Andrew S. on February 8, 2011 at 10:41 AM

    re 6:

    Mike,

    I guess I’ve just seen posts/comments from people (especially Jared) who say, “Well, even if other people have other spiritual experiences, they don’t have the best ones or the fullest understanding. Only Mormons can/do.”

    re 7:

    Thomas,

    That’s my point — thanks for pointing out another phrase that really fits into it. Essentially, you’re wagering your life for this, and if you’re wrong, well…you’re dead.

    re 8,

    Seriously, after I learned a bit more about Calvinism, it started making a TON more sense — experientially — than Mormon emphasis on free will/moral agency. That’s ultimately why my blog name is Irresistible (Dis)Grace. I can swallow, “I’m reprobate and so the Lord’s ways will seem foreign/despicable/illogical to me” a lot more than, “I’m not trying hard enough no matter what I do” or “I just need to wait more.” Although I guess I don’t like the idea of being fitted for destruction that much more :)

    re 9:

    The interesting thing is that, once again, the Calvinist model goes well with the idea of the natural man being an enemy to God. I think the guilt is a bit different in Mormonism, in that in Mormonism, you are a god in embryo. You are not a separate “species,” so to speak, from God. So if you aren’t on the path of righteousness, you should feel guilty for squandering your birthright.

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  13. Andrew S. on February 8, 2011 at 10:50 AM

    re 10:

    JP,

    1. The most fun part about this is that even as where you grow us is a good indicator of what you believe, even this isn’t 100%. For example, growing up in the church obviously doesn’t mean you’re guaranteed to believe it. While you’re soaked in the culture, there could be something personality-wise that makes you chafe at every step. I think that THIS is interesting — that while in many ways, we are reflections of our cultures…in other ways, we can be very different and opposed to our cultures.

    2. I see this both ways, unfortunately. There are some in the church who are really improved by it, and they can’t see that that might not be the case for others (and so they view leaving as a loss, or as a degradation in standards, or whatever)…but there are also some outside of the church who have really been hurt by it, but they can’t see that the church may work perfectly well for others (and so they might view staying as being a lack of integrity, or whatever).

    I guess this gets back to the urge to find “universal” or “objective” truths. we want to believe that something is generally or universally true.

    re 11:

    Paul,

    I actually completely agree here. And I think that can be both beneficial and harmful (depending on the person). For example, seeing the church work for so many, but not for me, I grew more depressed because I had to wonder what was wrong with me that I couldn’t make it work.

    Now, I am at a position like this: I’m pretty sure the church works for some people. I’ve seen it and I can’t explain it. I don’t think it works for some of the reasons that people will say (divine intervention/inspiration/guidance), but nevertheless maybe that is the case.

    Nevertheless, even if it could one day work for me, I need to worry about my health, my well-being, and my safety first.

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  14. SilverRain on February 8, 2011 at 12:55 PM

    I think this is interesting, but makes two mistakes according to my way of understanding it. You equate belief to faith, and seed to fact.

    You also don’t take into account that in this parable, the “goodness” of the seed is proven in the relatively short term. The “enduring to the end” happens after you’ve already had some confirmation of the goodness of the seed, and your belief has become faith.

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  15. Glenn on February 8, 2011 at 1:04 PM

    I just got as far as:

    “[there -- you can believe what you want]”

    and I don’t need to read anymore.

    I win.

    Woo Hoo for me!

    :)

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  16. Paul on February 8, 2011 at 1:07 PM

    #13 Andrew S – The older I get, the more I realize that experiences like yours exist and I also cannot explain them.

    When I was much younger (and more idealistic) it was hard to hold in my head the idea that two people could have such different experiences with the same data. But, in fact, my best friend in college and I did just that; he went one way and I went another.

    It is for me like the blind man healed by the Savior. When queried about the power by which Christ healed him, the man only related his expeience: “He answered and said, Whether he be a sinner or no, I know not: one thing I know, that, whereas I was blind, now I see” (John 9:25). All I can do is speak to my experience, and allow others to do the same.

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  17. Glenn on February 8, 2011 at 1:59 PM

    Andrew (and the rest),

    You will just have to wait to see exactly how I handled your self-described “I blanked out. Man, it was bad.” I have been preaching a lot about charity lately. You’ll just have to tune in to see if I really practice what I preach. :)

    But Andrew, one question that arose as I thought back on this after wards : What do you do with “denial” – and by this, I especially mean “Self-denial.” I mean, I know that David Brent is a fictional character from BBC The Office, but is there a better example of someone believing he is something he is not just because he WANTS to be that person? His belief makes it real for him, as evidence by his hilarious music video “If you don’t know me by now…” even if everyone else sees him in a completely different light. He sees what he wants to see – believes what he wants to believe.

    As for your hypothetical Muslim example – well — I have experienced things differently – actually – and you can hear it if you want to. I mentioned the Japanese convert on the podcast who baffled me at that time and baffled me to this day. Well, there was another convert who had an even more amazing story. Maybe listening to an earlier podcast with this other Japanese convert (Kaboh) would shed some light into the role desire plays in a conversion. And if you do, listen for his experience feeling the holy ghost. What did he do in order to feel it? What did it start with and how far back did it start? Was he skeptical, doubtful, prideful – was his ground rich and fertile or shallow and dry? Clearly he was converted, but how? What influenced in the choices he made, and what impact did that choice have on his life? I could give you the answers now, but I’d rather have you listen. It was the first interview I did on Mormon Expression, and the guy is a freaking stud. And it addresses many of these questions without even trying from the lips of a guy who actually experienced it. And he Japanese – not cut from the western belief-conversion expectations that might beg for a certain traditional narrative.

    Cuz I was there, I saw it, and I’m going to say it like this: he DID choose for the “seed” to enlarge his soul, enlighten his understanding, and become delicious to him. It happened, and it made such an impact that it has carried him throughout his life — through good and bad times, through times of extreme joy and devastating despair — simply (or complicatedly) because he wanted it BADLY ENOUGH (which I think is key) – and he got it (how?), and he worked for it, and sacrificed for it, but he got it – however you want to explain it – and I can’t – and he wouldn’t like it if I tried to from my current non-supernatural point-of-view, and no I haven’t attempted to – but he got the hope and the belief that he wanted. Take a listen:

    http://mormonexpression.com/2010/04/episode-53-glenn-ostlund-interviews/

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  18. Andrew S. on February 8, 2011 at 2:35 PM

    re 14:

    SilverRain,

    Thanks for the comment (you were in mind when I’ve been re-reading Alma 32 recently since your discussions elsewhere).

    I’m not quite sure about your two disagreements. I don’t think I quite equate faith to belief…rather, recognizing that faith is described in the scriptures as hope (in things unseen, which are true), I then say question whether hope leads to belief. So, I think that MOST people say “If you hope, you can believe,” but on the contrary, I say, “Just because you hope doesn’t mean you will believe.” So you might be in the instance of having faith but not belief!

    I also wonder, however, whether you can choose to hope.

    I’m more intrigued by your second disagreement. I don’t see where I equate seed to fact. I think that equating the seed to the Word (which the scriptures do), then entails claims about certain facts (facts relating to the well-being, the spiritual elevation of people, etc.,) but once again, this is a multi-step process to go from one or the other.

    I don’t think, additionally, that I “don’t take into consideration” that the goodness is proven in the short-term. I simply note that if the goodness is NOT proven in the short-term, the scriptures have easy ways to redefine the short term (in the same way you can redefine the “short term” for proving the growth of a seed…waiting ten minutes isn’t enough.)

    So, here’s the question:

    What if you don’t get a confirmation of the goodness of the seed. According to the scriptures? When can you say you didn’t get a confirmation? (This is where the problems arise, IMO.)

    re 15:

    Glenn,

    I concede the entire post. Good game, no rematch.

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  19. Andrew S. on February 8, 2011 at 2:46 PM

    re 16:

    Paul,

    I’m pretty much at the same point…but it’s not all that satisfying to leave it like that. It’s basically saying, “We’re different. We don’t understand each other. Game over.”

    I don’t like that.

    re 17:

    Glenn

    hehe, now I’m really worried. :)

    I guess I can’t say much in specific about your Office character, since I don’t watch much TV. But here’s what I would say about self-denial or denial.

    “Denial” is the reaction from something in your brain telling you that you are not convinced. If you are aware of the sense of denying yourself, then that is a sign that YOU are aware of what you are (not), regardless of your actions.

    It doesn’t matter how others see you. But if you see yourself as x, then you are x. If you don’t see yourself as x, but you “want” to see yourself as x, that’s where you have the dissonance and the denial. What I’d say is, if you have dissonance and denial, you can’t just choose for that to evaporate. (To state contrary, if you DON’T have dissonance, you can’t just say, “Well, now I’ll have dissonance.”)

    I actually listened to the interview with Kaboh a loooong time ago, but I’ll clearly have to relisten since…my memory is like goldfish’s.

    I guess, in response to your last paragraph, I’d have to wonder, “So, for the people who just don’t get an answer, after years and years, is ALL you have to said to them that they just didn’t want it BADLY ENOUGH?” So, the people for whom it works…they really DID work hard enough and wanted it badly enough, but tough luck to everyone else?

    This seems convenient, but unlikely to me. Rather, it seems to me that some people HAVE the potential already. They aren’t then conjuring up anything from scratch. They may be developing a potential, or exploring pre-existing inclinations, but it doesn’t seem like they are choosing to rewire everything wholesale.

    anyway, still, I’ll get to re-listening so I can answer more in depth.

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  20. Justin on February 8, 2011 at 2:50 PM

    recognizing that faith is described in the scriptures as hope

    I do not recognize this. I see three ingredients to faith — with the first two ingredients activating the third ingredient:
    the word of God (seed), belief (passive acceptance of the word of God), and the Spirit.

    Of the first two, it is belief that is a person’s main role in the process of obtaining faith. The more belief, meaning the more passive acceptance of all the word of God a person has obtained — the greater faith he/she will obtain.

    The word of God plus belief on that word causes the word of God (which is the seed of faith), to instantaneously start to grow. When the dormant seed of faith (the word of God) starts growing, it is knows as, or called, faith.

    Thus, a definition of faith is the word of God, planted and growing in the hearts of humans.

    As soon as belief occurs on that word, the third ingredient (the Spirit) comes along and generates faith in the individual. There is no waiting period. This is a formula just like any recipe or scientific equation. It happens immediately and suddenly and continues to grow as long as belief keeps the faith planted firmly in the heart of the person.

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  21. Glenn on February 8, 2011 at 2:59 PM

    re: 19

    Andrew, I don’t know why some people are able to choose to believe to the point of conviction and some people are not.

    Why do people convert to or from any religion? Why do stage-hypnotists continue making dozens upon dozens of dollars each year, even in a down economy? Why do birds suddenly appear every time you are near?

    These are all unanswerable questions, because only God knows, and everything happens for a reason.

    But why are we debating? You already told me (re: 18) that I won.

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  22. brjones on February 8, 2011 at 3:19 PM

    Justin, this brings us right back to the beginning. Your comment indicates that you believe that anyone who hasn’t received faith through the HG has been deficient in either his obtaining the word or passively accepting that word. That’s a harsh judgment on those who claim to have tried with all their might to receive answers to prayer. For example, unless Mike S is a liar, he has been passively accepting the word for decades. But your formulation doesn’t really allow for anything other than user error.

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  23. Paul on February 8, 2011 at 3:59 PM

    #19 Andrew S: “We’re different. We don’t understand each other. Game over.”

    I might say instead: “We’re different. We don’t understand each other yet.”

    But I agree, it’s still not satisfying (yet).

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  24. Andrew S. on February 8, 2011 at 4:28 PM

    re 20:

    Justin,

    I’m just saying…there is a verse that explicitly describes faith as the hope in things unseen, which are true. Hebrews mimics this by saying faith is evidence of things unseen, substance of things hoped for.

    Faith becomes an engine to pursue belief and knowledge (where as one grows in knowledge of a certain thing, then one loses faith in that certain thing, but then must have faith in other unknown concepts).

    From glancing over your post, I actually think my disagreements are not major. For example, you say that there are ingredients to activate faith. But this doesn’t mean that faith is not hope in things unseen, which are true. Rather, what you are proposing is that hope is activated by certain ingredients (hearing the word, for example).

    I ultimately cannot agree with your interpretation, because you equate the seed with faith, when the seed equates with the word. One has faith to plant the seed, yes, but that doesn’t make the seed the “seed of faith.”

    re 21:

    Glenn,

    It makes sense to me why people convert to or from any religion. They are personally persuaded to convert to such a religion.

    Now, I think to be more precise, I should say I also think I know why people begin to believe in any religious precept. It makes sense to me that some people believe to the point of conviction and some people do not. They are personally persuaded (convinced) that way. They are personally persuaded to believe in such precepts. In that way, when you mention “conviction,” my explanation is a bit tautological. Oops.

    So, note that I can account for a change in religious beliefs, or a change in religion, or a change in any beliefs. These questions are not mysterious and without answer from my perspective.

    BUT I don’t account for this by saying that an individually consciously chooses to change his beliefs. He does not consciously choose to be personally persuaded. He may read something or see something and experience something, and as a result be persuaded or not — but he doesn’t choose the persuading reaction.

    So your question seems not only unanswerable, but absurd. I don’t know how some people choose to believe to the point of conviction not only because I don’t know the mechanics, but because I don’t think the premise happens.

    We’re still debating because even though I told you you won, I can’t choose to believe it. :) You have to convince me.

    re 23:

    Paul,

    I think, “We don’t understand each other yet” is a little more satisfying in that the journey is perhaps as important as the destination. It’s only not satisfying if I don’t believe that (and if you or I don’t believe that, can we CHOOSE to start believing otherwise? I’m skeptical. :) )

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  25. Justin on February 8, 2011 at 4:29 PM

    brjones:

    Yes — the above [#20] formula is according to the scriptures and is therefore true for all people [in my world-view].

    Therefore, if one feels that he/she is acting according to that formula and is not seeing the desired result, then that would only indicate “user error”.

    Two suggestions based on common themes I see for people who aren’t acheiving results according to the stated formula:

    1) Praying to know if the Book of Mormon is true, according to Moroni 10:3-4 — when that scriptural formula requires that a person ask if the Book of Mormon is not true.

    2) A person “trying with all his/her might” — remember belief is passive. Personal effort casts the seed out.

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  26. Thomas on February 8, 2011 at 4:37 PM

    1) Praying to know if the Book of Mormon is true, according to Moroni 10:3-4 — when that scriptural formula requires that a person ask if the Book of Mormon is not true.

    If one’s eternal salvation comes down to semantics, then the only proper conclusion is that the Almighty is either a lawyer or an English major.

    “If these things are not true” is a rhetorical flourish, like “Know ye not…?” instead of “Do you know?”

    Correct me if I’m wrong, but the premise here seems to be that if you pray asking whether the Book of Mormon is Not True, and you don’t receive a mystical confirmation that it is Not True, then the absence of such confirmation means that Not True is untrue.

    Is that good reasoning? Are there any other explanations for one’s failure to receive a Not True confirmation?

    Doesn’t that argument require accepting the premise that God reliably answers questions by sending mystical confirmations of one side or the other?

    For the record, I have prayed to know (among other things) whether the Catholic Church is not true. I didn’t get an answer one way or the other in that case, either.

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  27. Justin on February 8, 2011 at 4:38 PM

    Andrew:

    you equate the seed with faith
    Was I unclear in saying [#20]: “the word of God (seed)” or “the word of God (which is the seed of faith)” or “the dormant seed of faith (the word of God)”

    Seriously speaking — was it the definition of faith as “the word of God, planted and growing in the hearts of humans“?

    Faith does not equal hope. They are related. Only when a person has obtained faith [according to the scriptural formual] may he/she have hope for things. Thus, without faith, there can be no hope [but faith is not equated with hope].

    Faith indicates that you have the power to do something — hope is passive, like belief if.

    One has faith to plant the seed, yes, but that doesn’t make the seed the “seed of faith.”
    One has a desire to plant the seed [word of God], one has belief in the seed [word of God] — but one does not have faith until after the seed [word of God] has been planted in the right-brain-heart of a person and then belief on that word moves the Spirit to act upon that seed to cause it to grow.

    I actually think my disagreements are not major.
    This is good to hear.

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  28. Justin on February 8, 2011 at 4:44 PM

    Thomas:

    I think that interpreting the not as a rhetorical flourish is more likely to lead me to conclude that God is an English major.

    Correct me if I’m wrong…
    Yes, it would seem that the presupposition of this text is that the Book of Mormon is true — otherwise you would not be asking if it were not true.

    Perhaps it would not be the best missionary verse b/c of this?

    Asking if the Book of Mormon is true presupposes that it is not — and therefore the asker is not asking in with faith doubting nothing — thus people largely do not receive an answer according to this formula.

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  29. Andrew S. on February 8, 2011 at 4:50 PM

    Justin,

    Seriously speaking — was it the definition of faith as “the word of God, planted and growing in the hearts of humans“?

    Basically this. I think this implies the wrong directionality (e.g., you have faith after the word of God is planted and growing?)

    I’m actually going to concede both points, based upon closer reading of Alma 32:21 and Hebrews 11:1…

    I guess my disagreement more isn’t with the ingredient mix, but still with how you get those ingredients (especially belief). Which was more central to my point.

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  30. Justin on February 8, 2011 at 5:01 PM

    I guess my disagreement more isn’t with the ingredient mix, but still with how you get those ingredients (especially belief). Which was more central to my point.

    To then bring my comments back to the OP, you asked “Can you choose to desire to believe something?” — however, there is also a related question: “Can you choose to believe?”

    First, I’ll answer the second related question: No, belief on the word of God is a gift of the Spirit. In fact, it is one of the best gifts given to the church according to D&C 46:8,14.

    Now to answer the first question [which you asked in the OP] — If we don’t believe the word of God, [but have a desire to believe it], then the Lord sends the Spirit to give us the gift of belief, and if we do not resist the Spirit, then we suddenly find ourselves believing the word of God, having accepted the best gift of belief on the word of God.

    I believe that the question you pose about belief is a vital one b/c although there are actually three ingredients to faith, the first two ingredients activate the third ingredient and can be looked upon as the foundational ingredients of faith. Of the first two ingredients, it is belief that is a person’s main part in this process — thus making it the central [or key] part in this formula.

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  31. Andrew S on February 8, 2011 at 5:14 PM

    re 30:

    Justin,

    I guess the follow-up question would be about the mechanics of:

    If we don’t believe the word of God, [but have a desire to believe it], then the Lord sends the Spirit to give us the gift of belief, and if we do not resist the Spirit, then we suddenly find ourselves believing the word of God, having accepted the best gift of belief on the word of God.

    Many people have answered something about the Lord’s time table with respect to this. Do you agree that this process may work on uncertain timetables (between, say, desire and gift?) You say that as soon as belief comes, the Spirit generates faith (no waiting period). But can there be waiting period elsewhere in the process? Or is *any* waiting period sign of user error, as it were?

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  32. JP on February 8, 2011 at 5:16 PM

    Justin: How exactly does God give us the gift of belief? The way you describe it, is sounds like he offers everybody this gift in some magical way, and if we accept – hey, magic, presto – we believe! So, what are the mechanics of giving and accepting the “gift of the spirit?”

    And then the follow up question would be why God doesn’t offer the gift of the spirit (or at least why there seems to be a higher rejection rate) to people in Africa, the Middle East, Asia, and most of Europe? And if we are talking about Mormon belief, why does God mostly offer it to people living in the Great Basin area? Seems like God would be an equal opportunity belief-maker if He somehow gives belief as a gift to people.

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  33. Mike S on February 8, 2011 at 5:47 PM

    This discussion reminds me of the book: Mother Teresa: Come Be My Light. It is an amazing book about the multiple decades Mother Teresa struggled with a distance from God, while at the same time keeping going in what she felt He would have her do. It is an amazing story of perseverance which gives me hope. Here is a brief excerpt:

    Lord, my God, who am I that You should forsake me? The Child of your Love — and now become as the most hated one — the one — You have thrown away as unwanted — unloved. I call, I cling, I want — and there is no One to answer — no One on Whom I can cling — no, No One. — Alone … Where is my Faith — even deep down right in there is nothing, but emptiness & darkness — My God — how painful is this unknown pain — I have no Faith — I dare not utter the words & thoughts that crowd in my heart — & make me suffer untold agony.
    So many unanswered questions live within me afraid to uncover them — because of the blasphemy — If there be God — please forgive me — When I try to raise my thoughts to Heaven — there is such convicting emptiness that those very thoughts return like sharp knives & hurt my very soul. — I am told God loves me — and yet the reality of darkness & coldness & emptiness is so great that nothing touches my soul. Did I make a mistake in surrendering blindly to the Call of the Sacred Heart?

    If such an amazing person can feel this way, perhaps there is hope for the rest of us…

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  34. Justin on February 8, 2011 at 6:59 PM

    Andrew #31:

    Many people have answered something about the Lord’s time table with respect to this. Do you agree that this process may work on uncertain timetables (between, say, desire and gift?) You say that as soon as belief comes, the Spirit generates faith (no waiting period). But can there be waiting period elsewhere in the process? Or is *any* waiting period sign of user error, as it were?

    The Lord does not work according to a “time-table”, but according to the faith of the children of men. The only waiting period lies between our desire to believe [what many people will term their "belief"] and when the right-brain-heart has been sufficiently yielded to the Spirit so as to allow Her to deposit the gift of belief.

    There are certain signs that follow them that believe so as to allow a professed believer in Christ to discern whether they still only have a desire to believe [which they will typically still call "belief"] or whether they have belief — meaning the actual best gift of the Spirit.

    I, for example, still apparently only have a desire to believe that Jesus is the Christ and that he was crucified for the sins of the world — b/c I cannot raise the dead, heal the sick, etc. There is obviously some “user-error” on my part [resisting the workings of the Spirit in one way or another] that has prevented the word of God [seed] from germinating in my right-brain-heart. Thus, I therefore also lack faith.

    This is also the situation among all of the LDS that I have come in contact with — for no one I know has demonstrated that they are in possession of the gifts of the Spirit [perhaps only that manifestations have happened to them or that lesser manifestations of the best gifts, etc.]

    JP #32:

    How exactly does God give us the gift of belief? … And then the follow up question would be why God doesn’t offer the gift of the spirit (or at least why there seems to be a higher rejection rate) to people in Africa, the Middle East, Asia, and most of Europe?

    First: God gives the best gifts of the Spirit according to the pattern outlined in the scriptures. They are gifts obtained by faith. As a starting point, I would suggest you read thru D&C 46 — the section that is about the best gifts God has given to the latter-day church.

    Second: What makes you think that the rejection rate among the Great Basin area is significantly better than in the other areas you listed. In my response to Andrew above, I noted that: “This is also the situation among all of the LDS that I have come in contact with — for no one I know has demonstrated that they are in possession of the gifts of the Spirit.”

    God’s offers are to all human beings.

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  35. JP on February 8, 2011 at 8:06 PM

    You didn’t answer my questions:
    1. If God gives gifts of belief to people, how is it done?
    2. Why is there a higher percentage of belief of Mormonism/Christianity in places like Utah/Nevada/Arizona Vs. places like Asia/Middle East/Africa?

    If God gives the gift of belief to people (in your view) why do these people not get a chance to accept? If we all get an equal chance to accept belief as a gift from God, then why is there a disparity of belief in these regions?

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  36. Apmex on February 8, 2011 at 10:14 PM

    JP:

    Because that “higher percentage” you reference in the Great Basin largely place their belief or faith not in God, but in an institution. By default, your “higher percentage” is highly skewed.

    Additionally, who is to say that the spirituality people in Asia/Middle East/Africa isn’t the way that God is working through them? Does western Mormanity have the market cornered on the business of faith or belief? I find much to admire with those who practice eastern forms of spirituality, and there is a lot that they offer which Mormons wholly reject simply because it doesn’t come through the institution in which they place their belief and faith.

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  37. Bishop Rick on February 8, 2011 at 10:14 PM

    Man, what a bunch of hooey. Its either true or false.
    Why the need for all the mystical gifts and standing on one leg when asking if its true or not?

    Common sense should tell you if its true or not.
    Put that other leg down.

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  38. Andrew S on February 8, 2011 at 10:55 PM

    re 34:

    Justin,

    At some point, it seems like it’s just a black box. Like here:

    I, for example, still apparently only have a desire to believe that Jesus is the Christ and that he was crucified for the sins of the world — b/c I cannot raise the dead, heal the sick, etc. There is obviously some “user-error” on my part [resisting the workings of the Spirit in one way or another] that has prevented the word of God [seed] from germinating in my right-brain-heart. Thus, I therefore also lack faith.

    You can’t do x, therefore you just plug and chug: “there is user-error on my part. I am resisting.”

    Once again, Calvinism seems a lot more sensible here. If you have grace, it is (ultimately) irresistible. If you don’t have grace, it’s not “user-error” that your nature is contrary to God.

    I wonder, though, have you seen Bored in Vernal’s latest post on spiritual gifts and cessationism at FPR. That kinda ties in to what you were saying about LDS people just not seeming to receive the best gifts.

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  39. LDS Anarchist on February 9, 2011 at 5:11 AM

    If people could really read verse 32, understand those implications, and accept them, then I think we’d be in a better world. 32 allows for the possibility that maybe the word won’t grow. And if that is the case, throw it out.

    Andrew, in verse 32 Alma is not talking about the word of God seed. He is talking about any generic seed. Alma always refers to the word of God as a good seed that will always grow in ground that isn’t barren. This is why he doesn’t fear to have anyone experiment with it. Everyone is guaranteed to have the seed grow, if the seed is planted and the ground is not barren.

    Soil cannot be hard, it must be soft. The soil the seed of God is planted in is our hearts. There is nothing wrong with the seed. It is our hearts that have the problem.

    Also, enduring to the end does not mean remaining in a state of unhappiness, ever waiting for some fruit to blossom from a seed that “is not enlarging, enlightening, or becoming delicious”, that is “tasting pretty bad,…reducing, and…dimming.” Enduring to the end means to endure (or remain) in a state of sanctification until the end of probation. Or, endure in a state of mercy (justification) until the end of probation. Or, endure in a state of cleanliness (purification) until the end of probation. You first get into these states of sanctification, justification and purification and then remain in them until the probation ends. This is the meaning of the expression. Not that you have to endure boredom, unhappiness, sorrow, and little to no evidence that your beliefs are true.

    If you endure to the end of your probation, the prize is the fruit (everlasting life). But waaaay before that fruit has matured and is ready to be picked and eaten by you, you will receive the gifts of the Spirit, for this is how your faith is exercised, and it is through these gifts that the word is nourished. Again, you must nourish the tree by your faith (through the gifts). There is nothing bad-tasting, reducing or dimming about the gifts. There’s nothing “un-fun” about them. They are given to gladden our hearts while exercising our faith. Nourishing the tree is intended to be a joyous engagement for mankind, not drudgery.

    Everything in the gospel is designed to bring us happiness and joy, even in the midst of persecution. If the word is not growing in your heart and the gifts manifesting, the problem does not lie with the ever-good seed. It always lies with the hardness of the soil.

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  40. Andrew S on February 9, 2011 at 7:16 AM

    re 39:

    LDS Anarchist,

    I would say Alma is talking about ANY generic seed (e.g., a class of items), of which the word of God seed is one specific member of that generic class. Now, OF COURSE, I think that theologically, Alma is going to feel inclined to say, “Well, the word of God ALWAYS works.” That’s the good Mormon answer, after all. Your explanation of why it wouldn’t work is the good Mormon answer for why it apparently doesn’t always work — which I guess is fine: just call the ground barren and be done with it, but it gets to the same end result.

    To put it in a different way:

    To export the problem away from the seed to the barren ground is OK, because then you say, “Can barren ground soften itself?” A Mormon free will/moral agency system will say, “Sure, it can!” But apparently, that’s not the case for many people.

    I mean, you want to say what enduring to the end really means. OK, I think these are good LDS answers. BUT then you have to account for those who do remain in a state of unhappiness, with a seed that is not enlarging, etc., For whom sanctification doesn’t feel all that great or distinguishable from any state (if they even have it).

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  41. Mike S on February 9, 2011 at 7:29 AM

    #39 LDS Anarchist

    If the word is not growing in your heart and the gifts manifesting, the problem does not lie with the ever-good seed. It always lies with the hardness of the soil.

    I have read accounts of and have talked to people who’s experience with “non-LDS seeds” has been every bit as profound as the “LDS” type. Their testimonies that God absolutely wants them on their path, and the spiritual confirmations of their paths have been as meaningful as any I have heard in my 4+ decades as a Mormon.

    So, do you accept the fact that “good seeds” that come from God can be other religions, or do you think that the ONLY 100% “good seed” is absolutely the LDS way? And, if so, what do you make of people who have planted other, non-LDS seeds, who have seen them grow, and seen that they were good?

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  42. SilverRain on February 9, 2011 at 7:30 AM

    Andrew #18— Wow, I’m flattered. ;)

    Well, in retrospect, I might have placed some context around what you are saying based on what I have seen many make of similar arguments.

    Let me attempt to clarify a little. I’m not very good at explaining this in typewritten format, so please bear with me.

    First of all, I think that the standard “definitions” of faith that we usually use (hope in unseen but true, etc.) aren’t really definitions, but are meant to be starting points. From what I have found in the scriptures and in my own life, faith is more closely defined as a power. Not just any power, but THE power by which God accomplishes His ends on this earth. This is not a concept that is easy to explain. I would direct you to study Ether 12 and D&C 76 to best get what I’m trying to say. The desire to believe is not what makes the seed grow, but it is a starting point.

    In other words, Alma is not trying to say what you believe so many other people interpret that parable to mean, which is if it does not grow, you did not desire enough.

    I believe that what Alma was trying to show by his parable is that it is not enough to simply believe that the seed will grow, that something is true, nor is it enough to simply WANT something to be true. You have to have faith, you have to have belief unto action, and (to pull back out of the metaphor a little) your faith can’t be in the seed, it must be in Christ. It is faith in Christ (or in the future fruit and benefit of the seed) that leads you to plant the seed, NOT faith in the seed.

    If you have faith that it is possible to reap the benefits and blessings of planting a seed, then you will continue to exhibit faith by planting seeds until you find the one that grows and sprouts, then you will tend it until you actually do gain that fruit.

    If you have faith in Christ that redemption, salvation, and exaltation are possible, then you will continue to seek for the truth by testing and trying, by yearning and growing and improving. Then, if you find something that improves your life, you will continue on that path until you are eventually led to Christ.

    Although many of us interpret that parable in a very narrow focus, testing the truth of the BoM, I believe that the exhortations of Alma and Moroni are much more open than we realize. There is only one path to Christ, but there are many ways of finding that path, and not all look the same from the outside. None of us are capable of judging another’s experience, nor are we capable of judging their sincerity. There are only two who can do that, the person and God the Son, by virtue of His atonement.

    This test that Alma describes in 32 is not meant to be applied to others, but only to ourselves. Only we can know whether we are pliant to the will of God, or fighting against His promptings.

    In my experience (which is the only thing I have to base my understanding on), though you may not see the fruits right away, you will always feel that the path you are on is good or not. And you will feel that immediately. In Alma’s parable, it is not just the sprouting that gives that feeling, but it is the beginning of growth, the swelling, the things that we can’t see in the plant analogy, but we can always feel in the reality of our own hearts. There is no waiting for confirmation that you are doing the right thing (or at least not the wrong thing) in this moment, if you are sincere.

    And it is generally not for us as disciples of Christ to judge another’s sincerity, only to help them judge it for themselves.

    And I like what LDS Anarchist said above, as well.

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  43. Andrew S on February 9, 2011 at 7:43 AM

    re 42:

    SilverRain,

    After the discussion with Justin a bit up on the page, I can agree that faith does not equate to hope (but rather, if you have faith, then you hope etc etc.,)

    So, I can see the rest of your point there.

    I believe that what Alma was trying to show by his parable is that it is not enough to simply believe that the seed will grow, that something is true, nor is it enough to simply WANT something to be true. You have to have faith, you have to have belief unto action, and (to pull back out of the metaphor a little) your faith can’t be in the seed, it must be in Christ. It is faith in Christ (or in the future fruit and benefit of the seed) that leads you to plant the seed, NOT faith in the seed.

    Yeah, the problem I see here is…but how do you get from one to the other? That’s what I thought Alma was trying to get at.

    Instead, we move the goalposts a bit. “OK, not just desire to believe. Not just hope. You need faith and belief unto action” [how do you get these things?]

    (minor aside. isn’t Christ the word? I mean, literally, the word incarnate? So what is the difference between faith in Christ and faith in the Logos?)

    If you have faith that it is possible to reap the benefits and blessings of planting a seed, then you will continue to exhibit faith by planting seeds until you find the one that grows and sprouts, then you will tend it until you actually do gain that fruit.

    This is where I start to get confused. “You will continue to exhibit faith by planting seeds” (plural). So he one that grows and sprouts…from a scriptural perspective, might it be a non-LDS seed? Is the answer to tend to that plant instead?

    If you have faith in Christ that redemption, salvation, and exaltation are possible, then you will continue to seek for the truth by testing and trying, by yearning and growing and improving. Then, if you find something that improves your life, you will continue on that path until you are eventually led to Christ.

    Two gigantic if statements to which we haven’t figured out how to fulfill them.

    There is no waiting for confirmation that you are doing the right thing (or at least not the wrong thing) in this moment, if you are sincere.

    Is it possible that two people could then get contradictory confirmations and disconfirmations? Or would you then say, “No, one of them is insincere?” How does the insincere person become sincere?

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  44. Justin on February 9, 2011 at 8:01 AM

    (minor aside. isn’t Christ the word? I mean, literally, the word incarnate? So what is the difference between faith in Christ and faith in the Logos?)

    After expounding the doctrine of faith to the Zoramites, including breaking it down into its three component ingredients [the word of God, belief on that word, and the Holy Spirit], the Zoramites were eager to start the process and get themselves saved. Yet, their next question to Alma indicated they still didn’t quite get it.

    This is what is in Alma 33 and 34. Essentially, the Zoramites wanted to know what the word was that they should believe in order to have it planted in their right-brain-hearts so that the Spirit could generate faith in them.

    Cast about your eyes and begin to believe in the Son of God, that he will come to redeem his people, and that he shall suffer and die to atone for their sins; and that he shall rise again from the dead, which shall bring to pass the resurrection, that all men shall stand before him, to be judged at the last and judgment day, according to their works. And now, my brethren, I desire that ye shall plant this word in your hearts, and as it beginneth to swell even so nourish it by your faith. And behold, it will become a tree, springing up in you unto everlasting life. And then may God grant unto you that your burdens may be light, through the joy of his Son. And even all this can ye do if ye will. Amen.

    Thus, the key to exceedingly great faith is that we plant this word in our right-brain-hearts thru belief and allow it to grow by yielding to the action of the Spirit [with no resistance on our part and no doubts concerning it]. It is this word that brings all of the gifts and manifestations of the Holy Spirit to us.

    Christ is the Word and the more centered on him and his atonement — the greater and faster our faith will grow.

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  45. Justin on February 9, 2011 at 8:10 AM

    Andrew [#40]: To export the problem away from the seed to the barren ground is OK, because then you say, “Can barren ground soften itself?”

    Broken soil [or softened ground] is a result of a person humbling him/herself. This is equivelent to being “poor in heart” — which Alma observed that these Zoramites were:

    of whom were poor in heart, because of their poverty as to the things of the world.

    In their case, worldly poverty had brought them to this “lowliness of heart” state [compelled them to be humble, etc.]

    And now, as I said unto you, that because ye were compelled to be humble ye were blessed, do ye not suppose that they are more blessed who truly humble themselves because of the word?

    Yea, he that truly humbleth himself, and repenteth of his sins, and endureth to the end, the same shall be blessed — yea, much more blessed than they who are compelled to be humble because of their exceeding poverty.

    So, a person may wait for certain circumstances to bring about a state of humility [soft ground], which will make him/her open and receptive to the word — or a person may exercise self-motivation by virtue of the power of the word alone, and give place for that seed on his/her own. This is according to a person’s free-will and choice.

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  46. Andrew S on February 9, 2011 at 8:12 AM

    re 45:

    Justin,

    The problem is we don’t know how exactly we are supposed to humble ourselves. It seems like it’s far easy for us to be humbled by external circumstances — and even then, we don’t have a guarantee, apparently.

    Seems like this one has spotty correlation.

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  47. SilverRain on February 9, 2011 at 9:26 AM

    Yes, Christ is the word. That is what Alma was saying. But like all analogies, this one is not perfect, in my understanding. It is meant to teach a specific concept, not to embody the entirety of the Gospel.

    “might it be a non-LDS seed?”
    Yes, I believe it might. But I also believe that the principles and ordinances of the Gospel which are found in the Church must be followed and done by all who seek salvation and exaltation eventually because those principles and ordinances are metaphors. Doors, if you will, that we must go through in order to comprehend and become God. Just like you must read numbers to count or do addition, or integrate. The numbers are not the concept, but the numbers are a tool by which to learn the concept. I just don’t think that every person throughout all time must belong to the LDS Church as it currently is now. After all, the saving ordinances are tools. The numbers might be Arabic, Roman, or something else. Though some numbers work better than others, the concepts of math are universal. The point is God, not the ordinances. The ordinances are simply the tools He has placed here now which are the best to lead back to Him.

    In other words, Christ taught that a man must be born of water and of the Spirit. Water baptism is the tool by which Spiritual baptism can be understood, and it is therefore necessary sooner or later. But although it is necessary, it is the means to the end, not the end itself.

    The same thing holds true with faith.

    Now, “Is the answer to tend to that plant instead?” is a question I can’t answer for you or for anyone. All I can say is that it is possible for me to conceive that God might lead another person through a different religion in the quest to find the path back to Him. (After all, Abraham’s religion was not a carbon copy of Mormonism or vice versa.) But in the end, the eternal principles are there. I can also say that for me, when I quested for truth, I was eventually lead here.

    I might also add, that you do not have to fulfill those statements. Your part is to open yourself up to the feelings of good and peace that the Spirit uses to confirm truth in the hearts of all men. And then, to be willing to overcome laziness and fear and whatever else makes it seem too hard or not profitable enough to follow those feelings wherever they take you.

    I believe it is possible for two sincere people to get contradictory impressions. In fact, I myself have experienced contradictory impressions in my life at different times.

    To use a personal examples, when I was 16, I felt a desire to serve a mission after a testimony which was given by a leader in YW at camp. That desire stayed with me for four years, as I prepared and focused on that goal. Shortly before I would have applied to serve, I experienced something that confirmed in my heart that I was NOT to serve a mission. Then, two years later, I felt that desire and confirmation return to my heart, and I served. I don’t know why that was the case, but I know that in all three cases, I did my best to follow the Spirit, to plant the right seed at the right time. I don’t think that at any time during the transformations I was less than sincere.

    But the bottom line was that no one could judge that for me. No one could tell me whether or not I was truly feeling the Spirit. It was between me and God alone.

    And I do feel that sincerity is a choice, though it may be a hard one to face at times.

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  48. SilverRain on February 9, 2011 at 9:27 AM

    And to your last comment, I will say that humbling oneself, like any skill, takes practice and error.

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  49. Andrew S on February 9, 2011 at 9:33 AM

    re 47:

    SilverRain,

    I guess I don’t really disagree with much of what you’re saying here, but there are a few parts that I feel could be suspect.

    For example, you say:

    No one could tell me whether or not I was truly feeling the Spirit. It was between me and God alone.

    But isn’t it just as possible that not even *you* could tell you whether or not you were truly feeling the Spirit? Not trying to say anything about your specific example, but I’ve seen others try to gauge it in hindsight. “Well, this inspiration didn’t work out, so it must not have been from the Spirit after all, but this one did, so it was.”

    And I do feel that sincerity is a choice, though it may be a hard one to face at times.

    How do you choose to be sincere? What would that even look like…to choose it?

    re 48:

    But isn’t the problem that unlike other skills, we don’t have any solid practice regimens for it. The ones that people propose are not all that reliable.

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  50. Thomas on February 9, 2011 at 12:08 PM

    Some good points are being made above about what, exactly, is the “seed” that is first planted, that a person must cultivate and not cast out, so it can grow as God wills it do.

    The seed is not the Church, the Gospel, the Book of Mormon, or any sectarian doctrine. I believe it is the basic, universal confession of faith: There is a God, who exists outside of what we are equipped to perceive as physical reality, who wills our ultimate good.

    I believe that to cast out belief in such a Being, is in a sense to despair — to acquiesce to the fallenness of this universe; to accept that injustice will always prevail (to some extent, notwithstanding all we can do); and that whatever joys we experience are finite and doomed to end.

    I can see my way through an argument that unnecessary despair is not just a generator of unhappiness, but an actual vice. Classical theologians referred to it as acedia.

    If we understand God as ultimately a moral Being, who gives no commandments out of personal whim, but only those that are rooted in a natural moral order that is co-eternal and identical with his divine nature, as well as a Being who desires our good, we should understand the process by which we approach God as a moral process, where only immoral acts can throw us off the path that leads to Him.

    The imperfection and limitations of the human condition are so self-evident that to reject them would be the sin of imprudence. Acquiescing in the permanence of this condition, when there is even some possibility that it can be transcended, is the sin of despair. Thus, it is a moral choice to at least give a hearing to the rumors floating around in our environment that there is a way that our limitations can be transcended, unless and until that rumor is conclusively disproven. In contrast, it is immoral to reject the redemption hypothesis out of hand — to “cast it out by unbelief” — without compelling reason to do so. And so it is consistent with the idea of God as a moral being, that a person’s ultimate good could turn on this choice of whether or not to give room for belief in the foundational hypothesis of faith.

    Where I think Mormon interpretations of this process sometimes go astray, is in conflating the “seed” or the “Word of God” with Mormonism’s sectarian doctrines, or its claims to be the one true church. There is nothing about Mormonism as an institution, such that a person ought to desire to believe in it, such that he could be morally faulted for not having that desire. The Church is a great Church — but it is not so spectacularly and self-evidently heads and shoulders above all the rest, that a person ought to judge that this is as good as it gets. Even if you could argue that a moral person ought to desire to believe that the heavens were open and God were guiding an institution by revelation, it doesn’t follow that he ought to believe that this particular institution — with its particular mixture of goodness and human mistakes — is it. Why would it, for instance, not be just as moral to desire to believe that God’s guidance to his prophets worked a bit more (or less) infallibly?

    Now, a person who cultivates the original seed of faith will probably find himself progressing through one religious tradition or another, and receiving further light and knowledge that leads him to conviction of spiritual truths that go beyond the basic confession of faith. And that may even result in him coming to faith or knowledge that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is the one true and living church on the face of the whole earth.

    But that is the end of a process, not the beginning, and we should definitely not be surprised when other people, having planted and cultivated the exact same kind of seed as we do, find themselves cultivating plants whose outward forms are different from ours — just as no two fruit trees will look alike, even if grown from the same seed.

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  51. Andrew S on February 9, 2011 at 12:20 PM

    re 50:

    Thomas,

    have you written a comment like that before? Because a lot of it sounds very familiar and I am intrigued.

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  52. Thomas on February 9, 2011 at 12:32 PM

    Andrew — Probably bits and pieces showed up in other posts. I’m still kinda gathering my thoughts on the subject.

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  53. SilverRain on February 9, 2011 at 12:34 PM

    “But isn’t it just as possible that not even *you* could tell you whether or not you were truly feeling the Spirit?”
    No, I don’t think it is. In the levels that we are discussing here, If we are sincere, the Spirit will speak to us how we need to hear. If you are getting promptings from the Spirit, you will recognize it.

    I think it is possible for Spiritual promptings to be confused and clouded for a time, but as long as we truly want to know the truth, the Spirit will find a way to lead us there.

    In my own personal experience I have found that it is easy to try to second guess our past, but that the Spirit doesn’t work in the past. He works in the present.

    To choose sincerity would be to choose honesty, consistency between actions and desires. It means letting go of pride . . . in other words, being humble. ;)

    You’re not going to find a satisfying answer for how to be sincere, any more than you could find an answer for how to walk a tightrope. You just try and keep practicing in the face of failure . . . you get it when you get it.

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  54. Andrew S on February 9, 2011 at 12:43 PM

    re 53:

    SilverRain,

    If you are getting promptings from the Spirit, you will recognize it.

    The problem is…people don’t. And so, at some point, they say, “Ooh, this is a prompting of the spirit,” something goes terribly wrong, and they say, “Naw, it wasn’t.” Hindsight determines it.

    You say they are just trying to second guess their past, but it’s really more of an issue that without such “second guessing,” they are up left attributing really terrible experiences to the Spirit. Is that what they are supposed to do instead?

    To choose sincerity would be to choose honesty, consistency between actions and desires. It means letting go of pride . . . in other words, being humble

    Let’s go one step deeper. What is “honesty”? Honesty is something you perceive based on your beliefs about certain things (facts, the world, how things work). So, if you cannot choose your beliefs, then you cannot choose what honesty is. You are presented with something that you perceive is honesty, and you can act in accordance with that (I agree), BUT you don’t choose what honesty is. You don’t choose what sincerity is.

    So, suppose you have a belief one way. But you have a hope elsewhere. Is honesty still being consistent between the ACTIONS and the DESIRES, when you are caught at every moment supposing that you are actually being dishonest, because your desires are contrary to your beliefs about how things actually are?

    You’re not going to find a satisfying answer for how to be sincere, any more than you could find an answer for how to walk a tightrope. You just try and keep practicing in the face of failure . . . you get it when you get it.

    Well, here’s the funny part. I can find a satisfying answer for how to be sincere…and it’s kinda like what you say, but kinda different. The problem is that sincerity for me doesn’t mean the church. It doesn’t mean aligning with religion.

    I mean, even with Thomas’s statement in 50, with despair vs. believing in god or whatever, believing in god is simply dishonest IMO unless I redefine god so radically that I don’t see it as being worthy of the word. Being unhappy is trying to force myself to believe something that I don’t. He says that acedia is despair, unhappiness, and a vice. But I see inauthenticity, an attempt to force hope for something that you don’t really hope hope for, as being despair, unhappiness, and a vice.

    The thing is, I recognize other people’s mileages may vary. BUT, they don’t CHOOSE their mileages. They don’t choose WHAT sincerity is for them…they just choose whether to act in alignment or not.

    Does that make any sense?

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  55. Thomas on February 9, 2011 at 1:01 PM

    But I see inauthenticity, an attempt to force hope for something that you don’t really hope hope for, as being despair, unhappiness, and a vice.

    Maybe now we need to redefine “hope” beyond all recognition.

    I assume, by the fact that you haven’t scooped Dawkins & Hitchens with a bestselling book containing an ironclad disproof of the existence of any God worth bothering with, that this possibility has not been conclusively disproven.

    Given the choice between a possibility that justice and life will prevail, versus the possibility that they will not, why would a human being who loves life and justice prefer the latter to the former?

    How would that preference be different from hope?

    And — unless you were conclusively convinced that this hope is a false hope — how would at least entertaining that hope, be inauthentic?

    It would be inauthentic of me to pretend I had received a mystical confirmation after the formula of Moroni 10:4. It would be inauthentic for me to declare certainty in much of anything, beyond the fact that I find myself inexplicably drawn to the idea of “Jesus Christ, and him crucified.” I’m open to the possibility that this is nothing more than a function of temperament or social conditioning — but I’m also open to the possibiilty that it could be something else.

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  56. Thomas on February 9, 2011 at 1:05 PM

    If you are getting promptings from the Spirit, you will recognize it.

    That may well be the case: “I know it when I see it.”

    But even granting that possibility, there’s still the chance for “false positives.” That is, someone who hasn’t truly gotten promptings from the Spirit, may experience something that he thinks are those promptings.

    I have heard enough people declare they “felt the Spirit” about completely false things, to conclude that while the Spirit may well testify infallibly of truths, the overall method of relying on spiritual promptings makes for an awful lot of false positives. And so the overall method does have its weaknesses.

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  57. Andrew S on February 9, 2011 at 1:12 PM

    re 55:

    Thomas,

    Yeah, I’m not saying, “I believe God has been proven not to exist.”

    I accept the possibility, BUT I have no idea of what the probability, and even more important, I have no reason to accept probability or actuality.

    So, is hope saying, “It’s possible?” Is hope saying, “Maybe it’s 1%?” (even though I don’t have enough data to say, “1% or 90%”)

    That seems like redefining hope right there :p

    I can prefer something over another without believing that it is so. I would prefer to be awesome at everything I do instead of only being awesome at some things…but I have no reason to believe that is true, or that that will be true in the future. And that’s a much smaller claim (since it only involves me…a person I know.)

    I feel like you’re making a false dichotomy. You say, “have hope” or “conclusively convinced this is a false hope.”

    I’m saying the latter option is more like “not convinced this is a true hope.” In this latter state, I am not necessarily “conclusively convinced” that this is a false hope, but it still doesn’t make hope an authentic path. It doesn’t make entertaining that hope authentic.

    I’m open to the possibility that this is nothing more than a function of temperament or social conditioning — but I’m also open to the possibiilty that it could be something else.

    This statement is why I don’t really feel a discussion of hope in this way says much. If hope means, “I’m open to the possibility that it could be nothing more than temperament but I’m also open to the possibility it could be something else,” it says nothing about your disposition to think probabilistically (do you have any feelings about probability or not?) or about actuality (do you have any disposition to believing about the actual explanation?)

    So, I can say something like, “I’m only to the possibility that a Moroni 10:4 experience is “something else” as well…but unfortunately, I’m not inclined to believe that this “possibility” is “actuality.”"

    Does that make sense?

    I’d go further and say that this relationship between “possibility” and “probability” and “actuality” and all of the internal, subjective assessments of such, are what I’m getting at when I talk about the non-chosen aspects of belief.

    See, when most people mention “probability” or “actuality,” I think they want to speak in terms of objectivity. “Objectively, there’s a 80% chance of snow…”

    But I think the methods by which people perceive probability are subjective…and they don’t choose that. They don’t choose for some hunches to “feel right” and some to “feel off.”

    And so, suppose someone thought God were impossible? Would this have been a “chosen” vice? I don’t think so. Suppose something accepts the possibility of God, but isn’t convinced about the probability or actuality? Is this “chosen”? I still don’t think so.

    Similarly, when I see believers talk about how they just CANNOT accept a thought that there isn’t a god…and thinking about this feels dishonest and inauthentic to them…I recognize they did not choose that either.

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  58. Thomas on February 9, 2011 at 2:01 PM

    And so, suppose someone thought God were impossible? Would this have been a “chosen” vice?

    The Catholics would say “yes,” unless this imprudent (because objectively unsupportable) conclusion were the result of what they call “invincible ignorance” — ignorance that results from no fault, or lack of diligence, of a person.

    Re: probability, there is simply, by definition, no way of calculating the probabilities of whether there exists a Being whose existence lies outside of our ordinary experience. It’s either yes or no.

    I accept the possibility, BUT I have no idea of what the probability, and even more important, I have no reason to accept probability or actuality.

    The only reason to wager “yes” over “no”, when you can’t count the probabilities, is the non-zero possibility that what you choose to accept may affect something relevant to your interests.

    The basic wager of faith is that taking some thought for the possibility of things beyond ordinary human experience, may have some useful effect on your existence. That’s it. It involves virtually no cost to you. Where things go from there, is God’s business. But it absolutely does not require you to act inauthentically in any way.

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  59. Andrew S on February 9, 2011 at 2:17 PM

    re 58:

    I’ll probably have to look more into invincible ignorance…

    Re: probability, there is simply, by definition, no way of calculating the probabilities of whether there exists a Being whose existence lies outside of our ordinary experience. It’s either yes or no.

    Another problem is defining God as a Being “whose existence lies outside of our ordinary experience.” Plenty of people think God intervenes quite often…there are other problems, I think, with this characterization, but maybe I’m just not getting what all you’re implying.

    The only reason to wager “yes” over “no”, when you can’t count the probabilities, is the non-zero possibility that what you choose to accept may affect something relevant to your interests.

    “non-zero possibility” gets into probability. If you can’t count the probability, you can’t do anything “something relevant to your interests” — because you can’t begin to conjecture about the net effect to your interests.

    The basic wager of faith is that taking some thought for the possibility of things beyond ordinary human experience, may have some useful effect on your existence. That’s it. It involves virtually no cost to you. Where things go from there, is God’s business. But it absolutely does not require you to act inauthentically in any way.

    This seems like an INCREDIBLY nonstandard, incredibly “weak” definition of faith. In this way, we could quite LITERALLY have faith in any and every thing imaginable, because we can take “some thought” into the “possibility” (however slight) of an infinite number of things beyond human experience having some useful effect on our existence (even despite their being beyond human experience, which…ok, yeah, whatever).

    To this extent, it feels like the only reason it doesn’t not require inauthentic action is because…it doesn’t require much at all.

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  60. Thomas on February 9, 2011 at 2:44 PM

    This seems like an INCREDIBLY nonstandard, incredibly “weak” definition of faith….To this extent, it feels like the only reason it doesn’t not require inauthentic action is because…it doesn’t require much at all.

    Unless God should inconveniently respond to your “particle of faith” by giving you a particle more…and then another….and next thing you know, dammit, you’re wheeling a handcart across Wyoming.

    this way, we could quite LITERALLY have faith in any and every thing imaginable, because we can take “some thought” into the “possibility” (however slight) of an infinite number of things beyond human experience having some useful effect on our existence.

    So I decide to take some thought that there might be an invisible teapot orbiting between the Earth and Mars, and that it might conceivably have some positive effect on me.

    The next question that naturally occurs to me is “do I have to do anything to obtain the Celestial Teapot’s blessing, if there is any to be had?” And of course I conclude that the answer is no. What does a teapot want? Who knows, and who could possibly know?

    And so I stop thinking about the teapot.

    But what if I’m simultaneously more broad, and more specific, in my hypothesis? What if I hypothesize some invisible being — call Him/Her/It whatever you choose — who wants to bless me (using religious shorthand here for convenience), because it is his nature to want to do so.

    1. Chances are, if that being wants to bless me, it’s not just me he’s interested in — I’m not all that different, on a cosmic scale, from other people.

    2. So one characteristic of the being I’m hypothesizing flows naturally from the first premise — that is, that there is some being operating outside ordinary experience that’s worth the bother of thinking about: He desires the good of (at least) those beings who are capable of thinking about him.

    (There wouldn’t be any point in hypothesizing a God whose favor was obtained in any other way than out of his unconditional preference to bless humanity; as you pointed out, the potential range of hypothetical deities and their preferences — virgins for Odin, beefsteaks for Zeus, ritual dancing and surfing for Kane — are infinite, and so unguessable.)

    3. From that follows this: If there are any conditions to God’s favor, they would be in my aligning my actions with the only thing I can reasonably guess about his preferences: He loves people, so I ought to give that a shot, myself.

    You’re right: The first basic thought about God doesn’t require much of me. But the conclusion that follows from that first premise, can cost quite a bit.

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  61. Andrew S on February 9, 2011 at 2:52 PM

    Unless God should inconveniently respond to your “particle of faith” by giving you a particle more…and then another….and next thing you know, dammit, you’re wheeling a handcart across Wyoming.

    Hasn’t happened yet though. And there’s the question: so what? Hold breath? Or live life?

    …The worst thing is you can wheel a handcart across Wyoming without faith, apparently. You can do a LOT of things without faith, and that says absolutely nothing about faith!

    The next question that naturally occurs to me is “do I have to do anything to obtain the Celestial Teapot’s blessing, if there is any to be had?” And of course I conclude that the answer is no. What does a teapot want? Who knows, and who could possibly know?

    And so I stop thinking about the teapot.

    I was thinking about every deity every imagined (and even the ones we haven’t imagined). Who’s to say that there isn’t a celestial teapot whose favor you ought to earn?

    You say there is no point in hypothesizing a God whose favor is obtained in any other way…but actually, there is. Your only point to hypothesize was the possibility in the first place!

    But we could “guess” of other preferences. Maybe a God wants humans to be authentic — which may entail drastically different things…and so the prize is toward those who break away from the herds, and so on? Maybe a God prizes those who use reason? Maybe he wants party-loving dudes and dudettes and the cast of Jersey Shore is far further in the game than the rest of us?

    …I think the real point is this: the “point” is that some gods/deities/entities are more “worth” hypothesizing about to us because we are personally compelled as to their probability or actuality (regardless of if our perception of the evidence is totally subjective).

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  62. SilverRain on February 9, 2011 at 3:05 PM

    “they are up left attributing really terrible experiences to the Spirit. Is that what they are supposed to do instead?”

    Yes. I speak from experience.

    “our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and he will deliver us out of thine hand, O king. But if not, be it known unto thee, O king, that we will not serve thy gods . . . .”

    Faith is trusting God that when “the very jaws of hell shall gape open the mouth wide after thee,” you are still willing to follow Him, “know[ing] . . . that all these things shall give thee experience, and shall be for thy good.” It is being willing to step into the abyss, to experience temporal pain if it is God’s will.

    And that when you are sincere, even if you are mistaken in feeling the promptings of the Spirit, God will turn even that to your good.

    I have lived this principle for myself, and know it is true, though I have yet to see the good that comes from the bad things I have experienced.

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  63. Thomas on February 9, 2011 at 3:10 PM

    Hasn’t happened yet though. And there’s the question: so what? Hold breath? Or live life?

    As the World War II vets used to say to the hippies chanting “make love, not war” — “hell, in my day, we managed both just fine.”

    It may be possible to live a faithful life, and still live life. Abundantly.

    I was thinking about every deity every imagined (and even the ones we haven’t imagined). Who’s to say that there isn’t a celestial teapot whose favor you ought to earn?

    But as I said, how am I going to earn it, if the “how” doesn’t flow naturally from the initial hypothesis?

    If you’re saying that if God is the kind of whimsical sectarian who decides whether he likes you based on whether you sacrifice virgins or wear special clothes or go to a building marked with a particular symbol, then there’s no way of guessing whether you’re on the right track, I agree. If you conceive of God as a sectarian, you’re pretty much hosed, and there’s no point bothering. He could just as well be a Zoroastrian as a Baptist. Or neither.

    But we could “guess” of other preferences. Maybe a God wants humans to be authentic — which may entail drastically different things…and so the prize is toward those who break away from the herds, and so on? Maybe a God prizes those who use reason?

    There’s almost certainly no “maybe” about either of those. Another fundamental aspect of the God we’re hypothesizing, is that he prizes honesty. Because of course if we hypothesized a lying God, we’d have no hope at all — he’d be just as likely to accept our puny offerings and then say “ha ha! Sucks to be you!” as he yanked away everything he may have led us to believe was on offer.

    Maybe he wants party-loving dudes and dudettes and the cast of Jersey Shore is far further in the game than the rest of us?

    Not quite sure how that would necessarily follow from the initial premises.

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  64. LDS Anarchist on February 9, 2011 at 5:00 PM

    Andrew #46:

    If your circumstances do not cause you to be humble, and you cannot seem to humble yourself before the Lord, the gospel provides other tools or principles by which any man or woman can obtain the required humility:

    Nevertheless they did fast and prayer oft, and did wax stronger and stronger in their humility, and firmer and firmer in their faith of Christ, unto the filling their souls with joy and consolation, yea, even to the purifying and the sanctification of their hearts, which sanctification cometh because of their yielding their hearts unto God. (Helaman 3: 35)

    I once engaged in an extended fast (of nearly 35 days) and I can attest that fasting is an excellent method of creating the conditions of humility required by the gospel. When coupled with much prayer, extended fasting will do for you what it did for the people spoken of in the above scripture. This is how the ancients did it, because this is how it is done.

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  65. LDS Anarchist on February 9, 2011 at 5:16 PM

    Mike S #41:

    Was Alma LDS? The ever-good seed that Alma was referring to in Alma 34 was not an LDS-only seed. The seed he spoke of was “the Son of God, that he will come to redeem his people, and that he shall suffer and die to atone for their sins; and that he shall rise again from the dead, which shall bring to pass the resurrection, that all men shall stand before him, to be judged at the last and judgment day, according to their works.” This is the ever-good seed. Do you consider this an LDS-only seed?

    Any other seed that you plant that persuades you to believe and plant the ever-good seed spoken of by Alma, is also a good seed. While any seed that you plant that persuades you not to believe and plant this ever-good seed, is not a good seed. None of this has to do with religion or churches. All seeds are judged to be good or evil by how they measure up to the ever-good seed and whether they point people towards, or away from, it. (See Moroni 7: 16-17.)

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  66. Mike S on February 9, 2011 at 7:06 PM

    #65 LDS Anarchist

    I actually agree with you. I think that the good-seed that Alma spoke of is Truth, truth that we need to return to God. Since we each have different circumstances, our paths are all unique. When we encounter some truth that is beneficial to us on our journey, it resonates with us. By looking for truth in the world, the seed grows and we get closer to the divine.

    I suppose I have a different feeling with this that the majority in the LDS Church. The majority feel that the only absolutely true path for Everyone is in the LDS Church. They would likely equate Alma’s seed with the restored gospel. This is actually quite understandable as, from JS’s first vision, every other church is called an abomination, etc. The is the “only true church” according to our theology.

    I disagree with this, which I suppose makes me flawed in many people’s minds. I have seen truth in the BofM and Bible, but also in the Qu’ran, Bhagavad Gita, etc. I feel God in the world around me. I see beauty in science and math and literature. I absolutely think that someone’s path in the Catholic church, or as a Buddhist, or as a Muslim, or even in no particular religion can be as equally valid for that person as someone’s in the LDS Church. I feel that God will confirm the truth of alternate paths to different people.

    This obviously makes my usefulness as a missionary very low. Some may even consider it to represent a lack of a true and authentic testimony in the Restoration. But it’s my feeling.

    So, no, I don’t think that Alma was talking about an LDS-centric seed.

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  67. Andrew S on February 9, 2011 at 11:22 PM

    re 62:

    SilverRain,

    Sometimes, when I hear about this faith, I think, “OK, I get it. Faith is a way so that you can be comfortable with all of the crap in your life.”

    I guess a lot of religions are like that, but it seems so…underwhelming…when pointed out this way. Like, all the magic is out of it when you look at it that way.

    re 63:

    Thomas,

    If you conceive of God as a sectarian, you’re pretty much hosed, and there’s no point bothering. He could just as well be a Zoroastrian as a Baptist. Or neither.

    But you don’t get there from YOUR system. In your system, there’s point in bothering because they are nevertheless “possible.”

    P.S.
    Do you doubt that the cast of Jersey Shore are party-loving dudes and dudettes?

    re 64:

    Anarchist,

    Ah, should’ve done it for 35 days! Or maybe 36.

    See, even the standard answers for these things…you can practice them, but your mileage may vary. The thing is, someone can always just say, “Well, you should’ve done it longer.”

    I think I should jumpstart my quest with mind-altering substances. That seems to have worked for many people, even the ancients.

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  68. SilverRain on February 10, 2011 at 6:58 AM

    Mike S.—I think “what the majority feels” is most often what you fear they feel. Doctrinally speaking, we seek after anything good and praiseworthy, wherever it is found.

    Being the only true church is not the same thing as being the only church with truth. It means that it is the only church that has been established by God to administer His ordinances.

    Andrew S.—Faith is not comfortable, nor a means to find comfort. If that is what you got from what I said, I have no clue how to say it so you can understand it better.

    It seems on the surface that the bulk of your arguments is an attempt to justify for yourself a lack of answer. It is easier to say we can’t choose what to believe, that there must be some fundamental difference between us and them that is outside of our control, than it is to admit that we are all on equal footing,to do the hard work necessary, and face the rough road to faith.

    If you are looking for magic, you will not find it in Alma 32. God does miracles, not magic.

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  69. Mike S on February 10, 2011 at 8:35 AM

    #68 SilverRain

    Being the only true church is not the same thing as being the only church with truth. It means that it is the only church that has been established by God to administer His ordinances.

    But what would you say about the person who sincerely prayed to God about their (non-LDS) church? What if they truly got an answer that that church is where God wanted them to be? How does that person (or anyone) determine that the same answer for someone praying about the LDS Church is “more valid” than for someone praying about another church?

    LDS members might say what you said, that other churches have truth, but ours is the better way ultimately. Isn’t it equally valid for someone with the same testimony of their church to say that the LDS church has truth, but that theirs is a better way?

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  70. Mike S on February 10, 2011 at 8:37 AM

    Also, while there are moments of peace, I feel very “unpeaceful” with much of what the LDS Church has instilled in my life. And, while not the point of this post and correlation causation, Utah has the highest rate of anti-depressant use in the country. So, I’m sure I’m not alone in the unsettled feelings that the Church brings into my life.

    And, ironically, I feel much more peaceful and close to the divine with Buddhist meditation than I have ever felt in an LDS Church meeting or even the temple.

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  71. Andrew S. on February 10, 2011 at 8:43 AM

    SilverRain,

    I don’t mean comfort as in, “whew! Now that I have faith nothing bad will ever happen to me.” But instead, I meant something more like…when something bad happens, you seems to say, “well, bad things are going to happen, and I expect that as a result of following God, maybe MORE bad things will happen, rather than less. But it’ll all be for my good, even if I don’t see that now.”

    Is that a more accurate way to summarize, or am I still not getting it.

    The problem I see with it is this: I use bad stuff as a signal that there’s something to do, something to fix. So, I see “more bad stuff happening, not less” (the very jaws of hell gaping, as it were) as being somewhat suspect…especially when you concede that “hey, it will be for my good, even if I don’t see that now.” That kind of statement seems to be one of comfort, if you can believe it.

    The problem is that final if statement…”if you an believe it.” If we all can believe it, then we are all on equal footing, as you say. If we all can’t believe it, then this IS a fundamental difference between us.

    So, in my arguments, I’m saying something like: we all don’t believe this currently…but you say we can, through choice. How then do we choose?

    And I haven’t seen convincing answers here.

    A better answer I’ve heard is, “we all can believe this, IF God intervenes.” The question is when this happens and to whom. And the funny thing is, people RADICALLY disagree on this answer. Arminianism vs. Calvinism in a nutshell. Despite LDS and other Arminian counterarguments, the Calvinist arguments seem to better match my experience, at least to me.

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  72. Andrew S. on February 10, 2011 at 9:58 AM

    For what it’s worth (to SilverRain and Mike S, I guess),

    When I summarize how I perceive SilverRain’s model of faith (as I did in 71), I don’t mean this in a negative way (at least, not a totally negative way).

    In fact, this CORE idea of “comfort” (as I elaborated in 71) is something I see as a linkage between several religions.

    For example, take Buddhism (Mike, please correct me if I’m wrong…since I am notoriously ill-read), the idea is that life has suffering because of bad expectations (e.g., “craving”). So, we need to learn how to get rid of bad expectations and cravings, and then we won’t suffer because of those cravings.

    As I understand SilverRain’s faith model (which may still be totally off), it seems to me like one thing people are trying to cultivate is that, in this life, we shouldn’t crave respite from “bad stuff happening.” In fact, we should face bad stuff happening head on, trusting that it’s for our good…even if we don’t see that good.

    I’m definitely not making the connection all that clear. Anyway, I guess what I would say is that some people think comfort is about *fulfilling* your cravings and *avoiding/overcoming* pains. Instead, the commonality I see is that people are saying, “Naw, don’t fulfill cravings. Stop having them. Don’t try to fulfill a craving to avoid/beat back struggles. Stop having that craving by trusting that God gives all things for your benefit.”

    Does that make any sense?

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  73. Justin on February 10, 2011 at 9:58 AM

    Andrew: So, in my arguments, I’m saying something like: we all don’t believe this currently…but you say we can, through choice. How then do we choose?

    In #45:

    So, a person may wait for certain circumstances to bring about a state of humility [soft ground], which will make him/her open and receptive to the word — or a person may exercise self-motivation by virtue of the power of the word alone, and give place for that seed on his/her own.

    There are two way that I provided. And then, you indicated that self-motivation by virtue of the promises in the word seems insufficient to you — so LDSA wrote [#64]:

    If your circumstances do not cause you to be humble, and you cannot seem to humble yourself before the Lord, the gospel provides other tools or principles by which any man or woman can obtain the required humility:

    (Helaman 3: 35)

    I once engaged in an extended fast (of nearly 35 days) and I can attest that fasting is an excellent method of creating the conditions of humility required by the gospel. When coupled with much prayer, extended fasting will do for you what it did for the people spoken of in the above scripture. This is how the ancients did it, because this is how it is done.

    What are you looking for? Are you asking “How then do we choose?” out of actual interest or out of an intellectual exercise?

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  74. Andrew S. on February 10, 2011 at 10:04 AM

    re 73:

    Justin,

    A way that will work for everyone. Fasting doesn’t really make me humble. It doesn’t make a lot of people humble. Prayer doesn’t really make me humble. It doesn’t make a lot of people humble. (Then again, someone could come back and say, “You didn’t do it for 35 days.” And if I went for 35 days, they would say, “But that wasn’t 36 days!”)

    At every point here, we aren’t choosing to be humble. We are choosing to gamble. And we hope that if we put more money, we will win more from it. (The probability should be in our favor with enough time and enough bets, right? Or…stated otherwise…if you fast for ENOUGH days…pray for ENOUGH days…)

    But the problem with gambling is that you can drive yourself into the ground before you ever strike it rich.

    So, I ask, “How then do we choose?” out of an actual interest. I get answers out of intellectual exercise. (Gamble enough, and you’ve essentially “chosen” to win!)

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  75. Justin on February 10, 2011 at 10:26 AM

    Andrew: Not accusing, but in my personal experience, people who have told me that “Fasting doesn’t really make me humble” have “fasted” by not eating a meal or two on one day, felt kinda grumpy, said a prayer, still had a headache, and then concluded that fasting doesn’t work.

    Again, if prayer doesn’t humble, then the scriptures suggest that a person may be praying “amiss” — yes I know “user-error” again:

    Yea, I know that God will give liberally to him that asketh. Yea, my God will give me, if I ask not amiss; therefore I will lift up my voice unto thee

    .
    Just some thoughts.

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  76. Andrew S. on February 10, 2011 at 11:34 AM

    re 75:

    Justin, I also think that most people don’t really fast at all. I mean, one or two meals without having started it with prayer/supplication? Going through it with a bad attitude? You’re not fasting then…you’re just going without a couple of meals that way.

    I also liked your thoughts on prayer — I had formulated many of them independently, I guess. But then I guess you could say, “But you didn’t do all of them, and so you fail.”

    (again though, the thing I like about this is the commonality between religions found within these methodologies).

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  77. SilverRain on February 11, 2011 at 6:47 AM

    “How does that person (or anyone) determine that the same answer for someone praying about the LDS Church is “more valid” than for someone praying about another church?”

    If that is the answer they believe they got, then that is only between them and God. Why would you care to “determine the validity” of someone else’s interaction with Diety?

    You’ll note that I said that faith and the Gospel aren’t comfy. They are peaceful, but only in the long run. Any metamorphosis, any time you are trying to become better than you are, is a violent, difficult, dangerous thing. How can anyone who claims to be a disciple of a Sacrificed God think any differently?

    And I really wish people would give over the “antidepressant use” argument. If you read the actual survey, you’ll note that it is hardly scientific, nor does it prove anything. It’s a survey, not an experiment. And even with experiments, it takes a series of well-designed experiments to establish a theory.

    Andrew—That is what isn’t comfy about the Gospel. It’s letting go of the need to fix everything, and letting God be the one who “make[s] weak things become strong”. Do you think that it is comfortable on any level to put your trust in a God that you have only felt, but never in your memory seen? The peace you feel from the Gospel isn’t a comfortable peace.

    And we can all believe it. I believe firmly that each of us will be given our own, individual, best chance to believe and move towards God. Whether we take those opportunities are a choice. In the end, no one will be able to stand before God and say, “Well, if only Thou had given me what Thou gavest them, I would believe.” It doesn’t work that way. It can’t work that way.

    That is why I venture the suggestion that perhaps you want to believe that you have no choice. Because if you truly have no choice, if someone else who does believe has something you do not, then you are absolved of responsibility for doing what it takes to develop faith.

    And that goes against everything I understand about agency and our purpose here on earth. It is not important how much or which Light you are presented, it is important how much of it you receive. And the only one who can choose to receive what you have been presented is you. And the only person for you to answer to for that is God.

    And I don’t think about it as learning not to have cravings. The cravings are part of mortal experience for a reason. Through them, we can learn to exercise agency. I think of it as recognizing the cravings for what they are, and not inflating their importance, but learning to distinguish which should be filled, which shouldn’t, and which are most important.

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  78. SilverRain on February 11, 2011 at 6:48 AM

    Deity. Guess I can’t spell with a sinus infection. :D

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  79. Andrew S on February 11, 2011 at 7:07 AM

    re 77.

    SilverRain,

    Do you think that it is comfortable on any level to put your trust in a God that you have only felt, but never in your memory seen? The peace you feel from the Gospel isn’t a comfortable peace.

    Yes, absolutely! “Letting go of the need to fix everything” is comfortable. And if you’re saying you’re putting your trust in a God that you have felt, then who needs sight? Nevertheless, if you want to call it “peace,” I’ll concede that to you. I think we’re talking about the same thing (because I already had to adjust my definition of comfort here.)

    The problem is: what about those people who haven’t felt God? Maybe that’s uncomfortable AND un-peaceful?

    That is why I venture the suggestion that perhaps you want to believe that you have no choice. Because if you truly have no choice, if someone else who does believe has something you do not, then you are absolved of responsibility for doing what it takes to develop faith.

    Personally, I’d rather believe I have a choice in the matter. Because then, guess what: I could fix something. (This can be the case for so many things, btw. I WANT to choose I can change my sexuality. I WANT to choose I can change my race. I WANT to choose not to be “outcast” in so many areas.) But see, isn’t your own message that I should instead, “let go of the need to fix everything?” What if my “own, individual, best chance” is to recognize that I don’t choose this or that instead, I should be dealing with these things as is?

    (Please note that this is how some other religions — or at least denominations within Christianity, approach this.)

    Nevertheless, these things don’t, as you say, absolve me of responsibility to do. It may stack the odds against me, but at least in an LDS sense, there’s no problem with saying, “OK, you have these inclinations, and you can’t consciously change them. Nevertheless, act this way and not that way.”

    You say: this goes against everything you understand about agency and our purpose here on earth. I reply: maybe experience, life, and reality go against everything you understand about agency and our purpose here on earth? That is what I feel when trying to live according to LDS precepts, unfortunately. The LDS concept of agency, even if I like it contrasted to other things, feels like a square peg for a rounded hole.

    And I don’t think about it as learning not to have cravings. The cravings are part of mortal experience for a reason. Through them, we can learn to exercise agency. I think of it as recognizing the cravings for what they are, and not inflating their importance, but learning to distinguish which should be filled, which shouldn’t, and which are most important.

    This is true in most religions that make statements about this. But wouldn’t you say that one “craving” that shouldn’t be filled is the craving to, as you say, “fix everything”? So, yeah, this craving is part of mortal experience for the reason that you learn not to care about it. To let go and let God, as it were.

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  80. Rigel Hawthorne on February 12, 2011 at 1:59 AM

    Andrew,

    I am way late to this discussion, but I’ve enjoyed the mental stimulation it provided. I’m not skilled in debate, but am going to try to put my thoughts into words. I’m thinking of verse 13 (surprise, surprise) from the opposite approach. My experience about spiritual manifestations also comes from the opposite direction: It is difficult for me to fathom going through the ordinances, worship, and gospel study for years and NOT ever feeling the witness of the spirit. I take your word for it that others can be void of a spiritual feeling and make no judgment for the absence of such—it’s just vastly different from being aware of whisperings of the spirit periodically from a young age.

    Having said that, I will go back to verse 13. Rather than impugn the author of the verse with malevolent intentions, I read the verse believing that the author is writing out of concern for posterity/fellowmen. Trap #1 you say is that ‘only those who repent shall find mercy’. An opposite of your usage of ‘trap’ would be release, escape, emancipate, liberate, or deliver. Also, it doesn’t say that ONLY those who repent will find mercy, it says WHOSOEVER (anyone who repents or no matter who repents) will find mercy. If one accepts the premise that one has fallen and comes short of the grace of God, then knowing that God is bound to extend mercy to anyone who repents is emancipating, not ensnaring. I hang a lot of hope on Mosiah 26:30 “as often as my people repent will I forgive them their trespasses against me.”

    As to the meaning of FINDING mercy, I do not assume that ‘finding’ in this sense means ‘securing evidence of.’ The term ‘findeth mercy’ in Hosea 14:3-4 is explained as meaning God’s ‘anger is turned away.’ Or, ‘findeth mercy’ would be the response that “he who has repented of his sins, the same is forgiven, and I, the Lord, remember them no more.” Again, this is greatly emancipating. I would personally love to have no memory of certain things that I have done and regretted, but to have God promise to lose memory of them is huge.

    Trap#2 you say is “even if you find “mercy”, you must endure to the end. Well, once we find mercy (God’s anger turned away and He remembers our sins no more) we COULD just ask someone to take our lives right there if we were expected to remain perfect for the rest of our lives. One contact on my mission suggested that the best hope for salvation in our theology would be to end lives before the age of accountability so there would be no opportunity to sin. This is not the plan of the atonement. We are expected to sin repeatedly and repent repeatedly. Peter, James, John, and Andrew were told by the Savior in Matthew 13 “ye shall be hated of all men for my name’s sake: but he that shall endure unto the end, the same shall be saved.” He tells them that enduring to the end means continuing to bear the name of Christ. In other words, your emancipation from falling short of the grace of God is through the power of Christ, so enduring to the end means maintaining faith in what gave you that emancipation. 2 Nephi 31:16 says that enduring to the end means following the example of the Son of the Living God. Well, this is one of those ‘impossible dream’ tasks, as no mere mortal can follow the example of the Son of the Living God to the T. It’s like, ‘go thy way and sin no more’, or be ye perfect–seemingly impossible dreams. Enduring to the end means relying on the atonement. If you do, then God will give salvation. So, here is the emancipation: (even if) you find mercy, rather than faced with the impossibility of trying to be perfect until you die, you can place enduring faith in the atonement.

    My favorite definition of faith is the JST of Hebrews 11:1 in that it is the ASSURANCE of things hoped for. Assurance is a good word to describe the feelings of spiritual confirmation that I have had. I think it would fit the description of the long-awaited spiritual manifestation described by Lisa Butterworth during her Mormon Stories interview. She unexpectedly, after waiting for a long time, had that brief assurance that it was right. She admitted she could have discounted it as simply wanting to believe, but there was something different about it. She acknowledged that discounting it could be rejecting the opportunity for faith.

    Andrew, I can see how others could reply to my assertions that I feel the spirit as explainable in that I was conditioned from a young age that certain family traditions had special value. (I.E. a walk around the temple with Grandma in my first grade year was special because the association with Grandma was special and not because there was a spirituality gained from being on the temple grounds.) Others could say that these conditionings have led to a situation where dopamine or some other neurotransmitter is released from those familiar stimuli and that I am interpreting that as the ‘spirit’. Arthur ‘Killer’ Kane described Mormonism as the LSD trip without the drug, or something like that, and one could say that such a phenomenon is strictly biological rather than spiritual.

    I also admit that I have my own issue with doubts. Working in the medical field, I have seen living beings transition to corpses and I have not ever felt any manifestation that there is a spirit leaving the body and going to a spirit world. I also have a much easier time having faith that Christ was resurrected than I do that 50 billion mortals will one day be resurrected. I could easily believe, as do many of my colleagues, that when death comes, the memories that are embedded in our neurons will only exist until the point where they cells making up the synapses are lysed in death. I do CHOOSE to desire to believe that the existence of our individual soul and memories that we accumulate in this mortal life will extend beyond death. I do not have as strong a testimony of that aspect of the gospel as I do that Jesus is the Christ or that Joseph Smith was a prophet, but I desire to believe it because it is tied to those other aspects.

    I think of my wrestle with those doubts like Jesus bidding Peter to walk on the water. When Peter focused on the Savior and his faith in Him, he was able to draw nearer and do the impossible. When Peter’s let his fear/doubt dominate his mind, it kept him from the Savior. I do not want to let that doubt cause me to sink from the Savior’s grasp.

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  81. Andrew S on February 13, 2011 at 11:14 AM

    re 80:

    Rigel,

    I’ve been meaning to get to this comment for a while, but I’ve been busy, and there’s a lot.

    re: your response to trap 1…Interesting, I think your reading here is better in some ways (e.g., it’s not “only” those who repent will find mercy…but but that anyone who repents will find mercy.)

    But still, the part that I find ensnaring is this: How do you know when you have repented? That’s the trap. We can feel comfort in that IF we have repented, we will have mercy. But it’s possible to seek repentance but not to have repented. Anyone can then say (if someone doesn’t have mercy), “Well, you didn’t repent. You did it wrong.”

    This problem carries on to the verse in Mosiah. OK, so as often as people repent, their trespasses will be forgiven. So if you discover your trespasses are not forgiven, then you must not have repented properly.

    This problem carries on to your discussion of finding mercy. Now, in fact, we can’t tell whether we have found mercy because it doesn’t mean to “secure evidence of” it. IF you have repented, you’re golden. But you have no evidence that you’ve repented and are golden. Rats.

    Trap 2 isn’t that we should have someone kill us once we have found mercy…but that we may never know or feel or believe if/that we have found mercy until we have “endured to the end.”

    Let’s put it in the ways you describe:

    Assurance is a good word to describe the feelings of spiritual confirmation that I have had. I think it would fit the description of the long-awaited spiritual manifestation described by Lisa Butterworth during her Mormon Stories interview. She unexpectedly, after waiting for a long time, had that brief assurance that it was right. She admitted she could have discounted it as simply wanting to believe, but there was something different about it. She acknowledged that discounting it could be rejecting the opportunity for faith.

    So, one could “wait a long time” and not have that assurance. I haven’t heard the MS podcast with Lisa, but as you state, she “waited a long time” before she had that assurance. She didn’t CHOOSE when she got that assurance (although you say she could’ve chosen how she interpreted it…and I might quibble on that, but i’ll let it pass.)

    So, this is what I mean by the second trap. You could theoretically go your entire life without that assurance. What are you supposed to do? Just wait? Yeah! Endure to the end!

    Andrew, I can see how others could reply to my assertions that I feel the spirit as explainable in that I was conditioned from a young age that certain family traditions had special value.

    I can see how others would counter in such a way. But I’m speaking to a different point. You have something that you feel comfortable in calling the spirit. Others don’t. What then? Even more, you can be raised in a Mormon family, “conditioned” as it were, to believe that certain family traditions have special value…yet nevertheless not feel that those traditions have special value. What then?

    Sure, someone can give a naturalistic explanation for it, but I’m not speaking to that. I’m speaking about the people who never feel that Mormonism is like ANYTHING like an LSD trip. (Because, for whatever it’s worth, if Mormonism IS like an LSD trip without the drug [or whatever the comparison is], then that means that Mormonism is doing *something*.) The problem is that Mormonism doesn’t do this for everyone, whereas drugs cause predictable responses for ANYONE who tries them (ceteris paribus).

    I do not have as strong a testimony of that aspect of the gospel as I do that Jesus is the Christ or that Joseph Smith was a prophet, but I desire to believe it because it is tied to those other aspects.

    Here’s my killer question: why don’t you? Why don’t you just CHOOSE to believe as strongly in the one thing as the other?

    I think the answer is because you don’t just choose to have a testimony. So you can’t just say, “Now, I will believe in all of these things and it’ll happen.” You have to be persuaded or convinced of these things via whatever method and mechanism.

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  82. [...] Kiley at We Were Going to be Queens wrote about her desire to be a cultural Mormon (also giving a shout-out to the Mormon Expression podcast I was on discussing Alma 32…which was what my last W&T’s post was about) [...]

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  83. Rigel Hawthorne on February 14, 2011 at 6:41 PM

    “How do you know when you have repented?”

    As I assume that the rest of the question that you didn’t ask would be “How do you know when you have repented if you never feel peace of conscience, joy of spirit, or relief of burden? Is that what you really mean? If so, I will skip the ‘Gospel Principles’ answers which I’m sure you can quote better than I can.

    Taking a page out of the (non-Mormon) Christian book here, the answer one would give would be that when you accept Jesus Christ as your Savior, God promised that He would never stop forgiving you, no matter what you do wrong.

    This cuts short a number of steps from the LDS Gospel Principles chapter on repentance, but if you are talking about ‘mercy’ as pertaining strictly to your relationship with God and Jesus Christ, independent of the temple covenant/celestial kingdom orientation of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, there is basic truth to that process in ‘knowing that you have repented’.

    Re: Anyone can then say (if someone doesn’t have mercy), “Well, you didn’t repent. You did it wrong.”

    Who are you implying will ‘say’ you did it wrong? How do you define the ‘mercy’ that in this sentence you state someone is lacking?

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  84. Andrew S on February 15, 2011 at 12:21 AM

    re 83:

    Rigel,

    As I assume that the rest of the question that you didn’t ask would be “How do you know when you have repented if you never feel peace of conscience, joy of spirit, or relief of burden? Is that what you really mean? If so, I will skip the ‘Gospel Principles’ answers which I’m sure you can quote better than I can.

    Right. Please skip the Gospel Principles answers.

    I don’t get your page out of the non-Mormon Christian book. I don’t see how that answers anything.

    Re: Anyone can then say (if someone doesn’t have mercy), “Well, you didn’t repent. You did it wrong.”

    Who are you implying will ‘say’ you did it wrong? How do you define the ‘mercy’ that in this sentence you state someone is lacking?

    Anyone to whom you are talking to about your doubts. Mercy would probably relate to “peace of conscience, joy of spirit, or relief of burden.” Maybe it refers to something else…but my guess is there ought to be some kind of confirming feeling to it.

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  85. Rigel Hawthorne on February 16, 2011 at 12:03 AM

    Mercy: “a blessing resulting from divine favor or compassion” or “compassion shown to an offender”. This definition does not encompass the bestowal of a spiritual gift. The point I was trying to make is that when mercy is promised, as it is when you accept Jesus Christ as your Savior, one would know by that promise that mercy has been extended without, necessarily, feeling a spiritual gift in conjunction with that.

    So, in response to your premise that Alma 32:13 has two traps, I believe your argument is flawed because you are not using a concise definition of “mercy”. I’m going to drop this, however, because the point you are really making–that there ought to be some kind of confirming feeling associated with the repentence process–is a valid argument based upon multiple other citations from LDS scripture.

    As to why everyone may not have a confirming feeling, are you asking this question in this forum because you believe someone CAN answer this question? If I was able to instruct everyone on how to have, without fail, a spiritual experience that was powerful enough that it would endure temptation, persecution, offense, and traditions of culture, then I wouldn’t have been dropped by some of the wonderful investigators I had on my mission.

    If there is an answer to this question (for members looking for a confirming feeling), it would have to be highly individualized; what might be a helpful answer to one person may be highly offensive to another. Thus, I am reluctant to even speculate or theorize in a forum like this.

    Re: Sure, someone can give a naturalistic explanation for it, but I’m not speaking to that. I’m speaking about the people who never feel that Mormonism is like ANYTHING like an LSD trip.

    Why would you NOT speak to that? Isn’t that the simplest explanation from an atheist standpoint? Stating that group A with “x” experience feels something that they are comfortable calling spirit and asking why group B with “x” experience doesn’t feel the same thing only makes sense if there is some ‘belief’ in what group A is describing. (And I apologize if you have provided this background in one of your other posts that I have not got around to reading yet).

    Re: “How do you know when you have repented if you never feel peace of conscience…

    I’m still trying to see this point of view. Are you separating the religious peace of conscience from a family/society peace of conscience? When parents help children (regardless of religiousness) to recognize that they have caused injury and need to make restitution, isn’t the child going to experience peace of consciousness when they have met their familial obligations and are restored to their parent’s good graces? This is a “type” and I’m trying to understand knowing one without being sensitive to the other.

    I’m still trying to work up to your “killer” question. ;)

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  86. Andrew S on February 16, 2011 at 7:06 AM

    Rigel,

    OK, so you already dropped that point, but how does:

    Mercy: “a blessing resulting from divine favor or compassion” or “compassion shown to an offender”. This definition does not encompass the bestowal of a spiritual gift.

    “a blessing resulting from divine favor or compassion” NOT encompass the bestowal of a spiritual gift.” OR, more precisely (since “spiritual gift” means something specific in an LDS context, how would “a blessing resulting from divine favor or compassion” not be noticeable?

    I guess, notwithstanding an inconcise definition of mercy, I’d say, “It should be like porn: I know it when I see it.”

    As to why everyone may not have a confirming feeling, are you asking this question in this forum because you believe someone CAN answer this question? If I was able to instruct everyone on how to have, without fail, a spiritual experience that was powerful enough that it would endure temptation, persecution, offense, and traditions of culture, then I wouldn’t have been dropped by some of the wonderful investigators I had on my mission.

    Believing Mormons should be able to answer this question — if they believe Mormonism is for everyone or is true for everyone.

    The thing is that the church and the scriptures do not suppose that the answer is highly individualized, as you yourself note earlier. That is why you can point to Gospel Principles answers (or Seminary answers, or etc.,) and we both know what most of those are: the church has very standardized universalized answers that it believes can work every time. The only thing it can allow when the standardized, impersonal answers don’t work for someone is that that someone had user error (neatly captured by the traps I’ve mentioned.)

    Re: Sure, someone can give a naturalistic explanation for it, but I’m not speaking to that. I’m speaking about the people who never feel that Mormonism is like ANYTHING like an LSD trip.

    I think you misinterpreted what I was saying.

    Suppose someone can give a naturalistic explanation for Mormonism. “Mormonism basically creates the same biological/neurological response as doing LSD.” If this is true…and is true for everyone, then that is quite amazing! That is a credit to Mormonism. It is on par, if not better than those claims of hypnosis used with surgery that would normally require heavy doses of anesthesia.

    The reason I’m not speaking about any naturalistic explanations now is because it is a smokescreen to what my actual point is. My actual point is, even if there is some naturalistic explanation…it doesn’t capture the data reliably. Mormonism is not like LSD *for everyone*, whereas LSD is like LSD *for everyone* (or just about everyone.)

    Isn’t that the simplest explanation from an atheist standpoint? Stating that group A with “x” experience feels something that they are comfortable calling spirit and asking why group B with “x” experience doesn’t feel the same thing only makes sense if there is some ‘belief’ in what group A is describing. (And I apologize if you have provided this background in one of your other posts that I have not got around to reading yet).

    As I have elaborated above, I think that absolutely, there is a “belief” in what group A is describing. the personal experience of group A is a data point. SOMETHING HAPPENED. This is not under dispute. Maybe I’m just not like other atheists, but atheists are not in the business of saying, “Your experience couldn’t have happened.”

    The question is: how do we explain and interpret what happened to group A? Is what they experienced, as they say, something that ought to be called “the spirit”? Or is it something that doesn’t need to be called the spirit? The atheist simply wouldn’t be convinced that whatever the experience is is justifiably attributable to a deity.

    What I’m saying is, whether we call it the spirit or a non-induced altered state of consciousness…we are missing the real point which is: we don’t know how to repeat it for everyone.

    Are you separating the religious peace of conscience from a family/society peace of conscience? When parents help children (regardless of religiousness) to recognize that they have caused injury and need to make restitution, isn’t the child going to experience peace of consciousness when they have met their familial obligations and are restored to their parent’s good graces? This is a “type” and I’m trying to understand knowing one without being sensitive to the other.

    …sure, why not? I think my point stands either way, if you separate the peace of conscience or if you do not.

    Mormonism says that, “If you do x, y, z, you will have peace of conscience.” And yet, this doesn’t happen for everyone who does x, y, and z — even for extended periods of time. It doesn’t matter whether the peace of conscience they should feel from religion is the same peace they feel from family/society or whether it’s different — the problem is that some people NEVER feel it in a religious context.

    I’d say that more people feel peace of conscience from a family/society aspect because families/societies actually exist and impact people’s lives on a day-to-day basis. ;)

    I’m still trying to work up to your “killer” question.

    Take your time. Depending on how you answer, I will ask you a series of other killer questions

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  87. Justin on February 16, 2011 at 9:36 AM

    Re: the “killer” question in #81

    Here’s my killer question: why don’t you? Why don’t you just CHOOSE to believe as strongly in the one thing as the other?

    Robert Anton Wilson — who was not only agnostic about God, but about most everything in general — authored a book wherein he tries out a different religion each week or something, just to see if they’d work.

    What I got out of the book was that if you stick to a belief system, then you will see it confirmed in the world around you.

    I believe missionaries call this the “If any man will do his will, he shall know of the doctrine, whether it be of God, or whether I speak of myself” principle.

    I think the answer is because you don’t just choose to have a testimony.

    I like this idea here. If we take “testimony”, “witness”, etc. back to their original court-room context — then to have or bear a testimony about the gospel or to be a witness for Christ, etc. means that you could be on the stand just like a witness to an event at court.

    That witness didn’t get a “feeling” about the court case — he/she knew the defendant personally, saw the alleged incident personally, etc. They did not choose to have their testimony, but came to have it by virtue of an experience.

    So you can’t just say, “Now, I will believe in all of these things and it’ll happen.” You have to be persuaded or convinced of these things via whatever method and mechanism.

    But isn’t saying “and now I will believe in all of these things” the same as Alma’s “desire to believe“?

    Isn’t “You have to be persuaded or convinced” the same as Alma’s “let this desire work in you, even until ye believe in a manner that ye can give place for a portion of my words“?

    Now behold, would not this increase your faith?

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  88. Andrew S on February 16, 2011 at 9:50 AM

    re 87,

    Justin,

    I am aware of confirmation bias, if that is what happened there. One thing I would note is that as you summarize it, he wasn’t choosing to believe in x. Rather, he was finding data points conducive to x. At least part of this process is unconscious as a part of the confirmation bias effect, BUT we could imagine the same thing being true at a conscious level. E.g., if you choose to read certain literature, you’re more likely to find something that sticks from that perspective. Nevertheless, you don’t choose for any particular thing to stick or not.

    That witness didn’t get a “feeling” about the court case — he/she knew the defendant personally, saw the alleged incident personally, etc. They did not choose to have their testimony, but came to have it by virtue of an experience.

    The question is whether or not the witness can just choose to have that experience. It’s different in different situations…similarly, someone can witness something and have a different interpretation afterward. The data does not decode itself.

    But isn’t saying “and now I will believe in all of these things” the same as Alma’s “desire to believe“?

    Isn’t “You have to be persuaded or convinced” the same as Alma’s “let this desire work in you, even until ye believe in a manner that ye can give place for a portion of my words“?

    The first cases I really just don’t think are the same. A desire to believe is separated from believing now by the presence of a belief.

    The second cases, I also really don’t think are the same, because I don’t think being persuaded or convinced is necessarily on having a desire work in you, confirmation bias notwithstanding.

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  89. Rigel Hawthorne on February 16, 2011 at 2:59 PM

    Re: I guess, notwithstanding an inconcise definition of mercy, I’d say, “It should be like porn: I know it when I see it.”

    I’m not particularly crazy about the metaphor, but since you’ve chosen it, I will go with it. Mercy is like having a daily lifetime mail subscription to (a magazine) rather than the sensory experience of looking at it. Acceptance of Jesus Christ as your Savior is cost of the subscription. Assurance that it will be delivered daily to your mailbox so that you don’t have to search for a newsstand to find it is based on the promise of Alma 32:13 that anyone who repents will find it if they repent (open the mailbox–which is something we should do every day.)

    The gift of the magazines is that they can be used to tip the balance of justice in our favor, without requiring the recipient of the subscription to make a subjective assessment of the contents.

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  90. Andrew S on February 16, 2011 at 4:16 PM

    re 89:

    Rigel,

    If I have a daily lifetime mail subscription to a magazine but never see the magazine (maybe it’s going to the wrong address), then that’s a tremendous ripoff.

    That’s what I’m saying. You’re assuming that I’m getting the magazine. But I’m not. It’s not reaching me.

    Or maybe the magazine is just invisible!

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  91. The Will of God and Faith « LDS Anarchy on February 16, 2011 at 8:08 PM

    [...] who “gets faith” and who does not — right?  To answer this question, it requires one to look at Alma’s preaching on the subject of faith that is found in Alma 32: Now, we will compare the word unto a [...]

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  92. Rigel Hawthorne on February 20, 2011 at 2:37 AM

    A spiritual confirmation that one has been forgiven is different from mercy. Mercy comes because of the atonement (Alma 42:23). Mercy comes to all who believe on His name. (Alma 32:22). Alma teaches his son Corianton to ‘bring souls to repentance that the great plan of mercy may have claim upon them.’ If you look up the definition of claim, you read: 1) Demand for something due, or 2) A right to something in another’s possession. When one believes on His name and repents, it does not say that we have a claim upon the great plan of mercy; it says that mercy has a claim upon us. It has a right to take us out of another’s possession. It has a right to demand that we are due. Regardless of whether there is a spiritual confirmation that one has been forgiven, mercy is put up in our behalf.

    If mercy was something that must be ‘sensed’ to be valid, then how would it be freely extended to those who cannot repent (i.e. little children)? Little children are ‘alive in Christ’ (Moroni 8: 12) and are alive in Him because of His mercy (Moroni 8:19). Mercy is extended to them in absence of them ‘sensing’ through the gift of the Holy Ghost.

    Spiritual gifts, on the other hand, are given ‘severally’. (Moroni 10:17) If you understand the word ‘severally’ perhaps you can help me out. The best understanding that I could come up with is ‘separately’, or ‘some to one and something else to another’. D&C 46:11 states, ‘For all have not every gift given unto them.’ Verses 13-14 say,

    ‘To some it is given by the Holy Ghost to know that Jesus Christ is the Son of God, and that He was crucified for the sins of the world. To others it is given to believe on their words, that they also might have eternal life if they continue faithful.’

    It is Mormon culture and a Gospel Principles type answer that if you do a, b, c, d, and wait x amount of time in faith that you will have a spiritual experience of at least the lowest common denominator quality. The meatier element of the doctrine is that ‘x’ must have a great deal of variability without obvious explanation. The absence of opposition from mortality would destroy the power, mercy, wisdom, and justice of God (2 Nephi 2:12)

    So with opposition in the mix, spiritual gifts and spiritual trials are given hand in hand, severally. For every one who has the gift to speedily know by the Holy Ghost that Jesus is the Son of God, there is likely one who has the trial to find it difficult to come to this knowledge. For every one that has the gift to believe on the words of those who testify, there is likely one to whom belief does not come easily. The possession of such a trial is not reflective of a condition of being unloved by God, nor is the absence of a particular spiritual gift.

    So if you say that you have never felt the spirit throughout your life, even if you have been baptized and received the Holy Ghost and have earnestly sought that spiritual gift, that condition is possible within the doctrine. We know that every person is given a spiritual gift, but it may not come with discernment as to what the gift is. There are some who had the gift of believing the words of others as children, but do not find that gift present at a certain point in the maturation process. I do believe that forgetting or discounting the witnesses that one has felt in the past does occur.

    I don’t know you (although I wish I did) so I throw out the following thoughts recognizing that they may not be on the mark, but interesting for discussion. I re-read your post on why you didn’t go on a mission from 2 years ago. You described two factors: a) not wanting to gain a thicker testimony, and b) not wanting to be changed into an RM type persona. Extrapolating on those two desires, I could postulate that the desires of your heart were to have the opposite of a thicker testimony (a thinner testimony) and to remain free from morphing into a subjective believer. So, the absence of feeling the spirit may be a gift from God to you reflecting His love in response to those desires. Alma 29:4 speaks of God granting unto men according to their desire, whether it be to great spirituality or lesser. That doesn’t guarantee that God will not call you at some point in the future.

    PS, I got a kick out of reading my comment on your post from 2 years ago. It was like opening a time capsule. Fun for me. Also, my comments are made neither as a scriptorian nor a doctrinal authority. Just an average believer. There’s my disclaimer.

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  93. Andrew S on February 20, 2011 at 12:14 PM

    Rigel,

    Thanks for the in-depth comment. We have a new plugin that automatically links to scriptures cited via lds.org, and it’s really trying our comment filter (since it used to be that anyone comment with more than 3 links got put in the filter). So, we’re trying to change settings, since people are quoting a LOT of scriptures around here (which is a good thing!)

    But anyway, to get to what you’re saying.

    OK, it’s great and all that mercy is different than a spiritual confirmation of forgiveness. Really. But then that means you’re left believing mercy is something that you cannot verify. Do you have mercy? Well, according to you/the scriptures, you’re just supposed to assume that if you believe on His name, then you do.

    If mercy was something that must be ‘sensed’ to be valid, then how would it be freely extended to those who cannot repent (i.e. little children)? Little children are ‘alive in Christ’ (Moroni 8: 12) and are alive in Him because of His mercy (Moroni 8:19). Mercy is extended to them in absence of them ‘sensing’ through the gift of the Holy Ghost.

    Be careful! From many non-LDS perspectives, children still need to have something done to them for mercy. (e.g., infant baptisms). So you’re ASSUMING the LDS answer before you have shown it to be the case.

    Spiritual gifts, on the other hand, are given ‘severally’. (Moroni 10:17) If you understand the word ‘severally’ perhaps you can help me out. The best understanding that I could come up with is ‘separately’, or ‘some to one and something else to another’. D&C 46:11 states, ‘For all have not every gift given unto them.’

    From my perspective, that is an absolutely correct interpretation of the word “severally.” I speak from a tax law background, where we talk about “joint and several liability.” E.g., we are liable together (jointly), but if our entity/partnership/etc., cannot pay jointly, then we are each separately liable until the liability is satisfied. (Wow, you probably did not want to hear about THAT.)

    My problem with the spiritual gifts formulation is that the scriptures OPENLY acknowledge that 1) knowledge is a gift, 2) belief is a gift, and 3) these are both gifts that not everyone will receive.

    The problem with this is that you say mercy is granted to those who believe on His name…but what if it is not given to a person the gift of great faith or the gift to know *or* to believe on the words of others?

    So with opposition in the mix, spiritual gifts and spiritual trials are given hand in hand, severally. For every one who has the gift to speedily know by the Holy Ghost that Jesus is the Son of God, there is likely one who has the trial to find it difficult to come to this knowledge. For every one that has the gift to believe on the words of those who testify, there is likely one to whom belief does not come easily. The possession of such a trial is not reflective of a condition of being unloved by God, nor is the absence of a particular spiritual gift.

    I disagree. As much as these gifts are “equated,” the gifts aren’t equal. Because believing in Christ’s words is the foundation for quite a bit more things in the Gospel. If you don’t have that gift, then you’ve got MORE problems than if you lack some of the other gifts.

    From a Calvinist perspective, it absolutely makes sense. Some people don’t get the gift of belief because they are the reprobate. They exist as an example to the elect of God’s mercy to them (the elect). They are the vessel that the potter created unto dishonor so that another pot may be created unto honor.

    But from an LDS standpoint of free will and chosen belief, it doesn’t make sense. That’s why Justin and LDSA must argue that God will never withhold and any “withholding” is user error.

    So if you say that you have never felt the spirit throughout your life, even if you have been baptized and received the Holy Ghost and have earnestly sought that spiritual gift, that condition is possible within the doctrine.

    And it undermines a slew of other LDS doctrines.

    I re-read your post on why you didn’t go on a mission from 2 years ago. You described two factors: a) not wanting to gain a thicker testimony, and b) not wanting to be changed into an RM type persona. Extrapolating on those two desires, I could postulate that the desires of your heart were to have the opposite of a thicker testimony (a thinner testimony) and to remain free from morphing into a subjective believer. So, the absence of feeling the spirit may be a gift from God to you reflecting His love in response to those desires.

    I think that is a bit of a misreading. I only see one factor described as being why I *didn’t* go…and then the other factor was described as why I *would’ve* gone.

    I would’ve gone for the thicker testimony and the transformation. I wanted to be broken down to unrecognizable dust and then brought back up…and I came to see a mission as a “safe” environment to do that. I didn’t go because of the RM persona transformation — what mold would I be reshaped as? Would I even recognize me as me?

    But I think this is a good point to discuss.

    So, absence of feeling the spirit may be a reflection of God’s love in response to those desires, you say. BUT first, we have to start from ground zero. Are desires chosen?

    Because if THESE desires aren’t chosen, then the problem is that I already have desires pushing me away. Then, it doesn’t seem like much of a loving gift to cater to those unchosen desires (which I should supposedly be learning to overcome.)

    This makes absolute sense from a Calvinist sense. The ways of God are anathema to the reprobate (we could use the LDS concept of “natural man” similarly)…and so the reprobate will not and cannot come to an appreciation or desiring of the ways of God. He must be transformed by God first — that’s irresistible or efficacious grace — which changes his character to recognize the sinful nature that is within him and to despise himself and want to seek God and his ways.

    So, we could think of irresistible grace as a gift…but it is a gift that counters the natural inclinations of man and forces transformation.

    Is this transformation a sign of love? Even though the natural man doesn’t want it?

    Well, yes. Because being saved, being elect is “better” than being reprobate. It’s like if you have a child, and he wants to destroy himself doing some activity. Is it “love” to say, “OK, you desire it, so go ahead!” or is it “love” to put some boundaries, ground rules, etc., to offer a learning environment that won’t expose your kid to as much danger as he seems wont to?

    You mention that Alma 29:4 speaks of God granting unto men according to their desire…but you have to ALSO follow up that from an LDS perspective, *DESIRE IS CHOSEN*. If desire isn’t chosen, this LDS logic falls apart.

    Does God call you at some point in the future? That’s great Calvinist logic (where God takes the first step, so to speak). But not great LDS logic (where man takes the first step, alternatively).

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  94. Rigel Hawthorne on February 22, 2011 at 12:42 AM

    So I misread your statement about desiring a thicker testimony. Chalk it up to user error! And while on that topic, I would say that user error is ever-present in the faith journey. We can identify and minimize it, but it can never be completely eliminated.

    “Do you have mercy? Well, according to you/the scriptures, you’re just supposed to assume that if you believe on His name, then you do.”

    This is essentially how we (my wife and I) begin with teaching our own children to learn of faith in the Savior. They do not yet have the maturity to exercise Moroni’s promise, but have spiritual gifts. You use the word assume in the above, instead of believe, which is, I think, an accurate description of the progression. The definition of assume, ‘to take as granted or true though not proved’, has been the first step.

    It is my feeling that in the journey to develop faith, one must start with the process of taking as granted though not proved WITHOUT harboring an EXPECTATION that one will have a spiritual confirmation. One hopes for and seeks a spiritual confirmation, but the confirmation is not the reason for the journey. The journey is to be considered fruitful whether or not a confirmation is provided. If you start out with the pre-conception that the journey will be a failure if there is not a confirmation at the end, then it will not, in my opinion, develop faith. You mentioned that when you discussed testimony with your Dad that you thought you must go through deprivation. This is how I see your idea fitting into the process of the faith journey.

    So, my six year-old son, not long ago, took the gospel teachings of prayer as granted and had a belief promoting experience when the thing he prayed for promptly happened. He now has had the experience you have described. Something happened, you could argue whether or not he has CHOSEN to believe that the action was the consequence of the prayer, but he first assumed (in a very simplistic way) that if he believed on His name, that he was in a position where God’s mercy applied to him and that the avenue for an answer to prayer was open to him.

    The Friend magazine is filled with similar stories happening to children–my son’s story is not unique. Was your childhood devoid of any such experience? That is a deeply personal question…no answer expected. I just ponder that because it is still a point of view that is different from my own reference.

    “You mention that Alma 29:4 speaks of God granting unto men according to their desire…but you have to ALSO follow up that from an LDS perspective, *DESIRE IS CHOSEN*. If desire isn’t chosen, this LDS logic falls apart.”

    Many times a year, I tell people who feel perfectly fine that they have uncontrolled diabetes. I show them their test results. I explain what will happen to them if no intervention is made. I give them options for treatment, and explain the changes in their behavior that cannot be avoided. Usually based on the distance they are from their glycemic goal, I can tell them exactly what intervention will be required to get them to goal. Whether or not they desire to do what I recommend or not is their choice. Some choose to continue drinking soda pop and eating ice cream and believe that they will somehow be relieved of their problem without choosing what I recommend that they should desire. Many will accept that they need to choose an intervention but will not choose the strength of intervention that I recommend that they desire. They desire to test whether or not they can reach the same goal with a lesser intervention. Some will continue to refuse to consider options that they consider unpleasant in spite of failure to reach a healthy glycemic goal with the interventions that they consider to be more tolerable. They choose a desire of familiarity and freedom from pain/inconvenience over the desire of a level of glycemic control that will reduce the risk of life compromising complications.

    Yes, I believe we are capable of choosing desires. Dale Carnegie, the author of the famous book, “How to Win Friends and Influence People” wrote of how to get the most out of the book:

    “If you wish to get the most out of this book, there is one indispensible requirement…What is this magic requirement? Just this: a deep, driving desire to learn, a vigorous determination to increase your ability to deal with people. How can you develop such an urge? By consistently reminding yourself how important these principles are to you. Picture to yourself how their mastery will aid you in leading a richer, fuller, happier, and more fulfilling life. Say to yourself over and over: “my happiness and sense of worth depend to know small extent upon my skill in dealing with people.”

    If one can do it for a self-help book, the same process can be applied to spiritual self-help.

    “Does God call you at some point in the future? That’s great Calvinist logic (where God takes the first step, so to speak). But not great LDS logic (where man takes the first step, alternatively).”

    Are there, then, no LDS individuals that are praying for you?

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  95. Andrew S on February 22, 2011 at 1:18 AM

    re 94

    Rigel,

    Assumption as being the first step of faith…ok, I guess that’s moving somewhere.

    You mentioned that when you discussed testimony with your Dad that you thought you must go through deprivation. This is how I see your idea fitting into the process of the faith journey.

    I don’t think that is what I meant either.

    What I meant by deprivation is something like this: whether you have an expectation or not, many things within the gospel are about a lack or deprivation. E.g., fasting is a prayerful deprivation of food. Tithing is a prayerful deprivation of a tenth of one’s increase.

    Most commandments, then, are a giving up of something.

    Now, you say that one shouldn’t expect to get anything in return…maybe giving is its own reward.

    But I have a problem with this in that you can no longer discern religions. Why should I give to Mormonism? Why not to Islam? Why not to Scientology? I am not expecting any return on investment, so I can no longer use this data in my calculus.

    So, my six year-old son, not long ago, took the gospel teachings of prayer as granted and had a belief promoting experience when the thing he prayed for promptly happened. He now has had the experience you have described. Something happened, you could argue whether or not he has CHOSEN to believe that the action was the consequence of the prayer, but he first assumed (in a very simplistic way) that if he believed on His name, that he was in a position where God’s mercy applied to him and that the avenue for an answer to prayer was open to him.

    He may or may not believe that the action was a consequence of his prayer, but it’s not because he CHOSE to do so. It’s because this either seems to be the best explanation…or it doesn’t. My point is that one doesn’t choose what “seems to be” the best explanation — this is the product of an internal ‘black box’ of mental processing.

    The Friend magazine is filled with similar stories happening to children–my son’s story is not unique. Was your childhood devoid of any such experience? That is a deeply personal question…no answer expected. I just ponder that because it is still a point of view that is different from my own reference.

    Since you don’t expect an answer, I won’t provide one to that question. However, I will point out something: you’re looking in The Friend. Confirmation bias ahoy! Of course, the Friend is only going to publish ‘success’ stories. Those without success are 1) not going to send their stories to the Friend and 2) even if they do send, they won’t be published. Maybe this doesn’t make any sense, but it seems premature to take a sample like the Friend and extrapolate that to all children or all people when there are very clear problems with this sample.

    Many times a year, I tell people who feel perfectly fine that they have uncontrolled diabetes. I show them their test results. I explain what will happen to them if no intervention is made. I give them options for treatment, and explain the changes in their behavior that cannot be avoided. Usually based on the distance they are from their glycemic goal, I can tell them exactly what intervention will be required to get them to goal. Whether or not they desire to do what I recommend or not is their choice. Some choose to continue drinking soda pop and eating ice cream and believe that they will somehow be relieved of their problem without choosing what I recommend that they should desire. Many will accept that they need to choose an intervention but will not choose the strength of intervention that I recommend that they desire. They desire to test whether or not they can reach the same goal with a lesser intervention. Some will continue to refuse to consider options that they consider unpleasant in spite of failure to reach a healthy glycemic goal with the interventions that they consider to be more tolerable. They choose a desire of familiarity and freedom from pain/inconvenience over the desire of a level of glycemic control that will reduce the risk of life compromising complications.

    OK, this is such a great case, but I’m going to have to shred it up to make my point.

    You have desire and you have actions, and you’re conflating the two. Let me rip apart:

    When you talk about an INTERVENTION, you aren’t talking about desires. You are talking about actions. Do x, and then y will happen. Don’t do x (don’t intervene), and then z will happen.

    In this you have established nothing about desire. Whether or not they desire to intervene…you haven’t established that to be a choice. What you have established is that whether they will do what you recommend — whether they will act — that is a choice. They can choose to ACT (to continue drinking and eating sugary foods and beverages) but this says NOTHING about their desires. (For example, I act contrary to desires all the time. The problem is that I *know* I’m doing it. It would be easy if I could change my desires…but that isn’t the case.)

    In short, this isn’t established:

    They choose a desire of familiarity and freedom from pain/inconvenience over the desire of a level of glycemic control that will reduce the risk of life compromising complications.

    You haven’t established that they choose one desire over another. Rather, you’ve only established that they’ve chosen one set of actions over another, and this set of actions has consequences.

    Now, suppose that they choose actions in accordance to their desires. It may be that they DESIRE familiarity and freedom from inconvenience MORE than they desire to reduce the risk of life-compromising complications. But just because their desires are not equal in strength does NOT mean that they choose for this to be the case, or that they could choose others. And if they choose to ACT against the desires (as they are proportioned in strength), this doesn’t mean they are choosing the later desire over the former…this means they are choosing to go against their desires.

    I don’t even doubt that desires can change over time…but at some point, you’re not describing a conscious change process…you’re describing gambling against probabilities.

    Take your quote from How to Win Friends and Influence People. If one REALLY chose their beliefs and chose their desires, they wouldn’t have to “consistently remind oneself of how important these principles are to them.” They would say one day, “These principles are important to me,” and it would be so.

    but this isn’t what they are doing.

    They are essentially doing this. “I will win at the casino.” And instead of winning at the casino (as if they could choose this directly), they “consistently” play at the slots. They put quarters in “over and over.” Put in this way, the language of compulsive gambling is clear.

    And YES, maybe if you play slots over and over, you will win.

    But maybe, if you play slots over and over, you will go bankrupt.

    Here’s the killer. Since you say we shouldn’t “expect” to have a spiritual confirmation, this is akin to saying we shouldn’t “expect” to win the lottery. In other words, we should be perfectly satisfied with playing slots or craps or poker or whatever else and going bankrupt, because “winning” is not, as you say, the reason for the journey.

    Are there, then, no LDS individuals that are praying for you?

    Again, this doesn’t work in an LDS sense. Because *my parents* can’t “earn” faith for me. LDS individuals can’t “pray” faith for me. It has to be me.

    But I’m the one person you haven’t shown can do it.

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  96. Rigel Hawthorne on February 22, 2011 at 2:46 PM

    Re: “Maybe this doesn’t make any sense, but it seems premature to take a sample like the Friend and extrapolate that to all children or all people when there are very clear problems with this sample.”

    I think you have misunderstood my intention there. I am trying to see church life through your eyes. I don’t want to be one of those members who has summed up your trial of faith with a dismissive, ‘you didn’t try hard enough’. I was simply saying that there are a large number of LDS children that report spiritual experiences. Many of the lesser actives that I come in contact with continue to feel that there WAS something in their childhood that spoke to them as faith, but for various reasons, no longer participate. Your experience of being raised in the church and having actively participated in everything (even if you somehow managed to never hear ‘I Hope They Call Me On a Mission) and never being moved by the spirit is more difficult for me to comprehend. I’m not saying that I don’t believe you, it’s like you trying to explain color to me if I’m color blind, or something like that. Do you understand?

    I wasn’t trying to use The Friend to rule out the possibility of children not receiving answers to prayers. I guess my sequencing in my reply was not so good. And I don’t want to put you on the spot, so I will just retract the question.

    I’ll get back to you on the other discussion soon.

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  97. Andrew S on February 22, 2011 at 3:32 PM

    re 96

    Rigel,

    I am trying to see church life through your eyes.

    With respect to this line, I just want to say that church life becomes EXTREMELY frustrating at times from my perspective. Because I’m getting messages of people who claim they *chose* to believe, and they *chose* to have x experience, and they *chose* this or that, and from my perspective, I don’t feel like I *choose* any of that.

    So, growing up in the church being raised that that is the way the world and spirituality works, you (or in this case, *I*) have to wonder what is so wrong with you…what is so broken with you…that you cannot simply choose right desires and right beliefs.

    I think an analogy that many people get (but obviously not some, unfortunately) is with sexuality. Someone who grows up gay in an anti-gay environment is going to hear all of these messages about how he *chose* to be gay, or how he *chose* to be attracted to men…and that he should just *choose* to be attracted to women instead. And so he’s going to feel broken and worthless for two reasons: 1) because he apparently “chose” wrong, and 2) because it doesn’t even seem to be a “choice” to him.

    I think the way people break out of this cycle is to look around and think: “Wait a minute. People don’t choose this. When did my straight friends choose to be straight? Could they choose to be gay? Why am I beating myself up about this.”

    (I think this is not a satisfying ending…because even the church has reacted as such: “OK, maybe gay people don’t choose their attractions. But they choose their actions. They should sacrifice the opportunity to find love and companionship in this life in order to be “righteous.”)

    I was simply saying that there are a large number of LDS children that report spiritual experiences.

    I don’t doubt that. BUT 1) the large number of LDS children that report spiritual experiences say nothing about anyone other than them. 2) The large number that report spiritual experiences doesn’t conclusively show that they *chose* to have these spiritual experiences. And 3) (the point I was trying to make earlier), the numbers are contaminated already. You are saying, “A large number of LDS children” report spiritual experiences, but what is your definition of “large number”? Where are you finding this? You are finding this from carefully culled, self-selected samples. That is, regardless of how many LDS children may NOT report spiritual experiences, the ones that do are more likely to write to the Friend and they are certainly more likely to be selected for publishing.

    It could be that they are a vocal minority. I’m not saying that is the case, but methodologically, that is the problem with selecting the Friend as an example.

    Many of the lesser actives that I come in contact with continue to feel that there WAS something in their childhood that spoke to them as faith, but for various reasons, no longer participate. Your experience of being raised in the church and having actively participated in everything (even if you somehow managed to never hear ‘I Hope They Call Me On a Mission) and never being moved by the spirit is more difficult for me to comprehend. I’m not saying that I don’t believe you, it’s like you trying to explain color to me if I’m color blind, or something like that. Do you understand?

    I think this part is where things get interesting.

    Firstly, we have to ask whether there is something phenomenologically different from a “lesser active” than there is from someone like me. I think that there certainly is. I think that MANY of the people who go “inactive” or become “less active” are of a different profile than those who become disaffected or who “leave the church.” So, it doesn’t surprise me that a less active member might have something in their childhood that spoke to them as faith…IN FACT, it doesn’t surprise me that some of them STILL have something that speaks out to them as faith. I know less active/inactive people who say, “I still believe/know the church is true, but…”

    So, from this statement, I know that the less active member is a different phenomenon than I am. Whether that’s good or bad is not for me to decide, but conceptually, it’s apples and oranges.

    But getting further in your message, I can understand why it’s difficult for you to comprehend my experience. Firstly, from an LDS perspective, I am impossible. So, to account for someone like me, you either have to use LDS corroborating doctrines (e.g., “you just weren’t trying hard enough.” “you did something wrong.” etc.,) OR you have to break out of LDS doctrines (either to acknowledge that you simply don’t know or to adopt a different conceptual model.)

    But let me share you something about MY experience in the church. For me, growing up, I didn’t have this anxiety that I hint about. You know why? This may seem strange to you, but I didn’t think anyone had spiritual experiences in the church. I thought of it like a game. I thought that people went up bearing their testimonies as a kind of social function, and maybe some tears and crying went along with it. I thought that singing songs like “I Hope They Call Me On a Mission” was a social performance issue.

    Where things started going terribly wrong was when I thought to myself, “Wait…what if the other people actually believe this stuff?” “What if people actually FEEL this?” That opened up a possibility I had never supposed before, and then I started to worry. “What if I’m the only one playing a game, and everyone else is SERIOUS about this?”

    So, you say that my experience is like me trying to explain color to you if you were color blind…but my anxiety was wondering if I were colorblind, and everyone was seeing this vibrancy of “spiritual color” that I didn’t even detect. Worse off, people were saying, “Well, you can just CHOOSE to see it if you want.”

    So, the anxiety and depression and the self-loathing for me was because like you are saying now, I could not comprehend my own experience in the church. The problem is…it’s a lot different for you to say, “it’s difficult for me to comprehend your experience,” than for you to have to say, “it’s difficult for me to comprehend MY OWN EXPERIENCE.” You can put the former on a shelf. You have to live every day with the latter.

    (I think color-blindness, like sexuality, is a good analogy. Can you CHOOSE the colors that you see?!)

    Once again, from an LDS perspective I am *impossible*. Can you imagine how harmful it is to realize that? And so, you’re not trying to dismiss my experience, and I’m fortunate for that, but the fact that I’m “difficult for you to comprehend” points me back to the idea that I am *impossible* from an LDS perspective. There are either two possibilities from an LDS perspective: dismiss my perspective or fail to understand my perspective.

    And I don’t want to put you on the spot, so I will just retract the question.

    Don’t worry about “putting me on the spot.” I’ve had a LOT of time to wrestle with this.

    I await your comments on the other part of the discussion. Sorry I got long-winded (both here and there).

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  98. Thomas on February 22, 2011 at 5:52 PM

    I was simply saying that there are a large number of LDS children that report spiritual experiences.

    Yes. As there is a large number of Catholic children who also report spiritual experiences.

    It’s the getting from “had a spiritual experience” to being convinced of the exclusive truth of one sectarian tradition over the others, where things get complicated.

    Someone (maybe me) needs to do a post discussing Jonathan Edwards’ classic treatise Religious Affections in conjunction with the Mormon tradition of verification of truth by spiritual experience.

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  99. Rigel Hawthorne on February 24, 2011 at 7:10 PM

    RE: OK, this is such a great case, but I’m going to have to shred it up to make my point. You have desire and you have actions, and you’re conflating the two. Let me rip apart:

    Well, you successfully shredded my point, but I didn’t really get yours. Nevertheless, I am going to SUPPRESS my DESIRE to insist that I am right and CHOOSE my DESIRE to understand your point more clearly. ;)

    Let’s say that I have someone who says they have 2 desires; one that they want to have perfect blood sugar control and two that they want to obtain it without taking medications. I explain to them that they can’t achieve both desires given the severity of their disease.

    I’m saying that I am capable of impacting their awareness by communication and thereby provide a picture that motivates them them to choose to re-prioritize their desires. They are choosing which desire is number 1 because they now have an understanding of factors that they didn’t have before. They are perhaps choosing which desire is number 1 because they have found the courage to choose a desire that was overcome with fear before. Having re-prioritized or chosen which desire is prime, they then pursue the appropriate action.

    You are saying that they are not really choosing which desire is their top priority because it is determined by their ‘black box’. I give them the information and their ability to mentally process the information, their associated relative fears, and their personal biases towards me result in a conviction that is not of their choosing. They choose the action based upon the output of the black box. Is that your description of the process?

    If someone says that they desire to have perfect blood sugar control and are willing to give up soda to do so, I see that willingness or action to be based on a desire and that desire chosen from their understanding of all the information that they have at hand. I’m not seeing the action happening without desire. But if you say that they are not choosing that desire, it is just the end process of innate mental computations, then I see your point.

    RE: Take your quote from How to Win Friends and Influence People. If one REALLY chose their beliefs and chose their desires, they wouldn’t have to “consistently remind oneself of how important these principles are to them.” They would say one day, “These principles are important to me,” and it would be so.

    We live in a world of opposition. So, even if we have desires to be bold, we deal with fear. Even if we have desires to be energetic, we have desires to be lazy. If we desire to be mediocre, then these average out and we don’t have to do much. If we desire to excel at something, then we might have to “consistently remind oneself of how important these principles are to them.” You are saying that we don’t choose a desire to excel, it is either the outcome of our black box or not? Have I got your point?

    Re: Are there, then, no LDS individuals that are praying for you? Again, this doesn’t work in an LDS sense. Because *my parents* can’t “earn” faith for me. LDS individuals can’t “pray” faith for me. It has to be me.

    True, but in the LDS sense, they can pray for divine intervention in arranging the circumstances where your black box process is reconfigured to look at something in a way you never saw it before. The angel appeared to Alma the Younger that the prayers of God’s servants might be answered according to their faith.

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  100. Andrew S on February 24, 2011 at 11:46 PM

    re 99:

    Rigel,

    This conversation is getting really good.

    I didn’t really get yours. Nevertheless, I am going to SUPPRESS my DESIRE to insist that I am right and CHOOSE my DESIRE to understand your point more clearly.

    One thing I’d point out that desire *suppression* doesn’t really work out all that much. You can act contrary to desires, and be in denial, but sometimes that really just messes you up. HOWEVER, I’ve already acknowledged that we can have multiple (competing) desires, so ok. :)

    I think you summarize my position of the black box well. I’d point out something else.

    I think it’s absolutely spot-on that you impact their awareness through communication and provide a different picture. I think that is absolutely a part of the process.

    However, I disagree with your characterization of what happens as you present this information to someone.

    You say that your doing this “motivates them to choose to re-prioritize their desires.”

    Now, I’m going to point out an important word. “Motivates.” What is it that is being motivated? You say it is their choice that is being motivated.

    Would you say that their “choice” to re-prioritize their desires is “bound” or limited or at least directed by their motivations? Would you say that if someone weren’t motivated to ‘choose’ to reprioritize their desires that they still could do it and still might? or would you say that without motivation, they wouldn’t do it or they couldn’t?

    I see “motivation” as being a critical part of the black box process. You are hoping that they will process the information you provide (things like the credibility of your data, the credibility of yourself as a speaker, etc.,) and this will yield “motivation.” But is the person CHOOSING to be motivated? Is the person CHOOSING whether or not they are successfully persuaded by you? Is the person CHOOSING whether they find your information trustworthy enough to cause them to reprioritize desires?

    See, with one word: “motivate”, I would say that you have pointed out the illusory nature of choice in the desire process. SUPPOSE that they *are* choosing to reprioritize their desires…their choice isn’t a free one, but one that is biased and “rigged” toward what they are “motivated” to do…the kicker is that what they are “motivated” to do is not chosen, but a black box reaction to the information they have available to them.

    Does that make sense?

    So, suppose that you provide information and this doesn’t motivate them to “choose” to reprioritize their desires. Without such motivation, would they or could they choose to reprioritize their desires anyway?

    I would suggest that they *couldn’t*, but even if you suggest that they theoretically could, but practically *wouldn’t*, this is enough.

    If someone says that they desire to have perfect blood sugar control and are willing to give up soda to do so, I see that willingness or action to be based on a desire and that desire chosen from their understanding of all the information that they have at hand. I’m not seeing the action happening without desire. But if you say that they are not choosing that desire, it is just the end process of innate mental computations, then I see your point.

    Yeah, my entire point is that they are not choosing that desire. But even more importantly, they are not choosing a hierarchy/prioritization of desires. These are, as you say, the end process of mental computations (which may be affected by your providing additional information, but they also might not.)

    From a technical standpoint, I understand that a gay man or a lesbian who chooses to marry someone of the opposite sex isn’t doing it “because of no desire at all.” Rather, he/she is doing it because of some desire, but this desire is LESSER, WEAKER, or simply DIFFERENT than their attraction to the same sex. This is problematic — because no matter how much a gay Mormon man may want to be a good husband and father because of his desire to satisfy Mormon ideals (that’s the desire that he is motivating his actions with), he can’t just start desiring women and stop desiring men (which is often a stronger, greater, or more compelling desire). So that is what I mean by unchosen desires and unchosen prioritization of desire.

    Taking the example you’ve just provided, I recognize that the person who wants blood sugar control is acting based on that desire when he gets rid of soda.

    BUT this doesn’t mean that the person has chosen *not* to desire soda. He may AGONIZE and STRUGGLE against this desire because of his choice not to fulfill it, but he cannot simply choose for the desire (and the agony/struggle of not fulfilling it) to go away. If it were that easy, we’d all have reached Buddhist nirvana.

    We live in a world of opposition. So, even if we have desires to be bold, we deal with fear. Even if we have desires to be energetic, we have desires to be lazy. If we desire to be mediocre, then these average out and we don’t have to do much. If we desire to excel at something, then we might have to “consistently remind oneself of how important these principles are to them.” You are saying that we don’t choose a desire to excel, it is either the outcome of our black box or not? Have I got your point?

    I’m saying NOT ONLY that we don’t choose a desire to excel (it is the outcome of our black box), BUT ALSO we also don’t choose NOT to fear, NOT to be lazy, etc., etc., (these are *also* products of our black box).

    Basically, my question to the person who believes that we can choose our desires (or, in a related question, choose our fears) would be this: WHY is there opposition? Why couldn’t you simply CHOOSE to get rid of the opposition? Persisting opposition in desires, feelings, and beliefs ONLY makes sense in a world where desires, feelings, and beliefs are not consciously chosen. In other words, they only make sense in my black box calculus…not in your free will calculus. Does that make sense?

    I’d venture to say that there is some feeling or belief or desire that you have that you don’t want. You may recognize intellectually that it is bad for you, or that it’s not the kind of person you want to be or whatever. Nevertheless, despite your desire to change this feeling/belief/desire or get rid of it…you can’t. My explanation for why you can’t is because of the black box process.

    True, but in the LDS sense, they can pray for divine intervention in arranging the circumstances where your black box process is reconfigured to look at something in a way you never saw it before. The angel appeared to Alma the Younger that the prayers of God’s servants might be answered according to their faith.

    Unless you’re very careful in how you phrase this answer, then you allow for the possibility that even though people are praying, it’s not people who decide. It is God (e.g, “divine intervention”) who decides. This gets to a rather un-LDS preference of God’s sovereignty over man’s free will.

    One way to prevent this in an LDS-friendly context is to essentially turn God into a vending machine. This is why, for example, earlier in the thread, Justin argued that God has no time-table. There is no “delay” or “wait time” for spiritual confirmation. AS soon as someone has x (e.g., “enough faith” — enough money to buy “the spirit” from the God vending machine, so to speak), then God MUST provide the goods.

    The end result blames humans (again). Now, when someone doesn’t have a spiritual confirmation, doesn’t get faith, doesn’t have their “black box process reconfigured to look at something in a way they never saw it before,” the ONLY reason why is because everyone did not scrounge up enough change for the vending machine (or, in this situation, God’s servants lacked enough faith.)

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  101. Rigel Hawthorne on February 28, 2011 at 1:35 AM

    Having observed people make these transitions, I believe that choosing not to desire something is absolutely part of the process. Their competing desires would be to be soda free versus using soda to satisfy their craving. Of course the craving that they are using it to satisfy could range from a desire for something cold, sweet, acidic and bubbly OR something to comfort them or provide a hyperglycemic euphoria, OR to relieve boredom or tedium. The first step of a day of being soda free would be choosing to NOT DESIRE the usual means of satisfying that craving by an affirmation or reassurance that they can meet their needs by an alternative strategy. They may, in alternative, choose to be content with something cold, artificially sweet, acidic and bubbly, or something cold, artificially sweet, acidic, and not bubbly. They may choose to be content with water. I’ve met all three types of individuals.

    He cannot choose for the desire to GO AWAY (at least in the immediate sense), as that involves the action, but he CAN choose to NOT DESIRE the means of satisfying the cravings for a limited time. No matter how good of a motivational speaker I can be, the difference I see in people who give up soda to people who don’t are those who exert an attitude altering force that is of their own choosing. Those who do it because their black box has been temporarily contorted by me are not going to be successful.

    Now in the longer term, that choice to not desire soda is something I’ve seen realized many times. Some people come back stating that they later find soda to be too syrupy sweet and ultimately unpleasant. Others say that they feel better without it. Their desire for soda has changed, even if it remains something that they enjoy on a limited basis.

    Others I have met that simply cannot comprehend in spite of being told numerous times of the current theory of cause and effect that there is urgency to make such a change. When they face kidney failure or a toe coming off, then they have the reaction that they were never told how serious their consequences were. Some of these are based on personal choices such as focusing on demands of their employment or not wanting to give up their means of satisfying cravings. Others may, possibly, have a black box preset that does not process the information in a manner that can allow them to open their mind to a new possibility without first seeing that amputation.

    You may say that it is in the person’s black box to either be capable of exerting an attitude altering force or to be incapable of such. There are many things we are capable of that may never be manifest if the circumstances are not there for the desire to be manifest. I am not inclined to steal, but if my children or I were hungry enough, then I may develop that desire for the first time. There is a primitive drive in our brain for food, sleep, and sex. On the other hand, someone who has circumstances change in life may desire to excel in something that they never considered desirable before. My observation in this circumstance is that within the talent that an individual has, they have a choice in deciding to what level they wish to excel. It may be in their black box to be SATISFIED with a moderate degree of excellence rather than an extreme degree of excellence, but this is balanced by their choice of attitude altering force they choose to exert in order to tackle the task at hand. Their choice of what craving NOT to desire for a period of time in order to allow another desire to rise to a higher position. One could argue that the desire to excel, in fact, was latent in their black box all along. I’m not convinced from my life experience that such is the case.

    I see your point in using gay desires as something that cannot be changed by desire, but I think that is one step more complicated because of the biochemistry of sexual attraction. As the sexual development of the brain occurs, processes develop that are not reversible. The influence of early life experiences on the hormonal pathway to attraction leads to a set outcome in the neurobiology. In other examples of hormonal influence on physical development, men who have sexually matured continue to grow facial hair even if their primary source of testosterone production gets shut down. Accessory mechanisms for maintaining that hair growth have been developed. A smoker’s brain develops an explosion of nicotine receptors that will never disappear even if tobacco abstinence has occurred. So with regard to sexual attraction you are definitely dealing with a concrete black box.

    Now a homosexual brain is definitely more than simply the end result of the neurobiology of sexual attraction. There is a different way of looking at things and not necessarily seeing boundaries that other brains are satisfied to accept. I see this difference as, perhaps, the creativity that without which Aaron Copland wouldn’t have composed Appalachian Spring or Samuel Barber wouldn’t have composed Adagio for Strings. Their black box may be set to only be satisified with exceling to an extreme degee, but my own experience with a limited creative spark is that circumstances which provide an opportunity for the creative spark to be refined or used result in the ability to choose what type of attitude altering force is exerted in one’s desires regarding that creativity.

    If you were to argue that ALL of our desires are like sexual attraction in that they are grounded in neurobiology or neurobiochemistry or neurophysiology I would see how that would fit in nicely with an atheistic perspective. I would wonder though why you would even question that a spiritual manifestation is something other than a misinterpretation of a biological response to an emotional stimulus. Like you said, I guess you are not an ordinary atheist. :}

    RE: the ONLY reason why is because everyone did not scrounge up enough change for the vending machine (or, in this situation, God’s servants lacked enough faith.)

    I don’t see this in an LDS sense because if we only had to meet a faith quota, then we would all be entitled to our own ‘first vision’ obtain our own seer stone and be our own prophet. The plan of having a Savior means accepting that He will do for us what God does not give us the power to do ourselves. Placing faith in manifestations to those He has chosen is a ‘type’ of the principle of the atonement. Having the account of Alma the Younger shows that prayer and faith bring angelic assistance, and placing faith in that scripture means not necessarily requiring the exact duplication of the experience in our own lives. The woman in the New Testament with the bleeding disorder followed Jesus on a street hoping that she would get a chance to touch the hem of his robe, but there was no certainty in her part that she would even be able to reach His hem. Her faith wasn’t based on whether or not the outcome occurred. She didn’t even expect Jesus to know that she was demonstrating faith in this manner. When Martha saw Jesus after Lazarus’ death, she didn’t stop believing he was the Lord because He had not arrived in time to provide the healing. Martha began planning to see her brother in the resurrection. She didn’t react with an attitude that her faith was cheated.

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  102. Andrew S on February 28, 2011 at 2:22 AM

    101:

    Rigel,

    Your first paragraph seems really fuzzy, but I’m not seeing at any point how someone is choosing not to desire something. I can see where one is choosing to *fulfill* one desire and leave one unfulfilled…and in that case, there is still a desire (which is left unfulfilled), but I don’t see how the unfulfilled desire is consciously chosen to evaporate into the air.

    For example, i can say to myself all I want that I can meet my needs by an alternate desire…but this alone doesn’t cause me not to desire the bubbly drink. And it could be that my tastes do change…BUT I didn’t choose for those to change. I didn’t choose for the cravings to go away or to change. So, it seems that at best, choosing to get rid of a desire is gambling with the black box… Anyway, then you write:

    He cannot choose for the desire to GO AWAY (at least in the immediate sense), as that involves the action, but he CAN choose to NOT DESIRE the means of satisfying the cravings for a limited time.

    I don’t see how this is true AT ALL. If I have a craving for soda, the problem is precisely that I CANNOT choose to NOT DESIRE the means of satisfying the cravings for a limited time. That’s the entire point of a craving. I can choose not to drink a soda, but for the very reason that I cannot choose for the desire/craving to go away, that’s the same reason why I cannot choose to not desire the means of satisfying the craving…because the craving is the desire for the means to satisfy the craving. (e.g., a craving for soda is a desire for the means [a soda] to satisfy the craving for soda.]) I just don’t get your distinction AT ALL.

    No matter how good of a motivational speaker I can be, the difference I see in people who give up soda to people who don’t are those who exert an attitude altering force that is of their own choosing. Those who do it because their black box has been temporarily contorted by me are not going to be successful.

    These sentences basically seem incomprehensible to me. I don’t know what you even mean when you say someone “exerts an attitude altering force that is of their own choosing.” I don’t know how one consciously chooses “attitude altering force.”

    Furthermore, the second part of this begs the question. If the black box has been TEMPORARILY contorted, then it naturally follows that they will only have temporary results. Your logic falls apart because you’re associating a permanent change with the individual choice and a temporary change with an outsider’s efforts, when you have said NOTHING to establish that these are where the fault lines should be drawn.

    To continue the motivational speaker example: it is true that some people become temporarily motivated and some people become permanently or continuously motivated. HOWEVER, my point is there is no statistical difference between personal choice and outsider choice on which group an individual will be in. For example, I can “choose” to dedicate myself to go to a gym, or I can have someone else “motivate” me to go to a gym…but neither choice will statistically give me a better chance of *choosing* to want to go to the gym. Notwithstanding my desires, however, it is known that accountability partners are far more effective in actually getting people to *go* work out than just being alone. But that speaks to actions, not desires.

    Now in the longer term, that choice to not desire soda is something I’ve seen realized many times. Some people come back stating that they later find soda to be too syrupy sweet and ultimately unpleasant. Others say that they feel better without it. Their desire for soda has changed, even if it remains something that they enjoy on a limited basis.

    I think you’re poisoning the well. Still you have not established that a choice had ever occurred. It is entirely possible for one to have tastes, or to have tastes even change, without it being a conscious choice. The distinction is this: does the person choose to find soda to be too syrupy sweet? Well, supposing a person does, can they simply choose not to find it too syrupy sweet in the future?

    It may be that in the process of forcing themselves to drink more soda, they grow more accustomed to it (or maybe they don’t), but in either case, it’s not really accurate to say they chose this reaction to the taste. It is a gamble with their taste buds and their neurological programming.

    You talk about “others” you have met as if there is ONE group that is constrained by the black box (until they see amputations) and another group that isn’t, and so they choose to change their desires. But I see two groups that are constrained by black boxes…but one’s gambling odds may be more favorable, and the other’s may be less favorable…but neither side is CHOOSING to win the gamble just because the dice are loaded in different ways.

    You may say that it is in the person’s black box to either be capable of exerting an attitude altering force or to be incapable of such.

    To the contrary, I still think your concept of “attitude altering force” is incoherent at worst or improperly fleshed out at best. ;)

    There are many things we are capable of that may never be manifest if the circumstances are not there for the desire to be manifest. I am not inclined to steal, but if my children or I were hungry enough, then I may develop that desire for the first time.

    Please note that whether you did or did not develop that desire, you did NOT conscious choose to develop that desire. Your development (or nondevelopment) is a blackbox evaluation of many factors (including how much you care for your children vs. the law vs. the potential victims of the theft. Ask yourself these questions further: can you choose how much you care for your children? or the law? or for potential victims?)

    Regarding using the “attitude altering force” to become greater than mediocre…this is a really generic example, so I can’t grasp it at all. I still don’t know what you’re talking about, much less have any idea if it actually describes any phenomenon I’ve seen.

    Their choice of what craving NOT to desire for a period of time in order to allow another desire to rise to a higher position.

    Begging the question. You still haven’t established that one can choose NOT to desire — even for a period of time!

    I see your point in using gay desires as something that cannot be changed by desire, but I think that is one step more complicated because of the biochemistry of sexual attraction. As the sexual development of the brain occurs, processes develop that are not reversible.

    Well, here’s the funny thing about this. Even a completely “biological” explanation fails to account for several things. For example, sexual fluidity: many women in particular seem to change their sexualities over the course of their lifetimes. This is not a CHOICE, but it still happens to a measurable effect.

    Additionally, the objects of sexual attraction differ remarkably with time and place, to the extent that gender theorists speak about gender itself as being a construct. If it is, then our system of sexuality itself is a construct based on a construct (what use is it to talk of people being attracted to “men” or “women” if men/women doesn’t mean anything real?)

    Finally, the objects of sexual attraction differ with upbringing, but in a way we cannot precisely label. There was a RadioLab with a chimpanzee (I believe) who was raised to be human (yeah, this was a pretty unethical experiment, I guess). In the end, this chimpanzee learned a lot of amazing things (such as sign language) — but was exclusively attracted to human males, and read/looked at Playgirl.

    The idea in queer theory these days is that we have a false binary: BOTH choice AND biologism/born-that-way are flawed.

    The best thing about all of this is that as soon as these “chips” at sexuality happen, then sexuality doesn’t become MUCH of a different phenomenon to other neurological activities…in other words, it makes a lot more sense to say:

    If you were to argue that ALL of our desires are like sexual attraction in that they are grounded in neurobiology or neurobiochemistry or neurophysiology I would see how that would fit in nicely with an atheistic perspective.

    This isn’t just about an atheistic perspective though. This is going with the data, first and foremost. Maybe a theistic perspective allows for GOD to poke through, BUT BUT BUT without changes to neurobiochemistry and neurophysiology, it doesn’t so easily allow for human choice to poke through.

    To answer a question a bit:

    I would wonder though why you would even question that a spiritual manifestation is something other than a misinterpretation of a biological response to an emotional stimulus. Like you said, I guess you are not an ordinary atheist.

    Because GOD can poke through the biology. That would make sense, since God is not bound by the biology. The problem is…LDS doctrine doesn’t assert that. LDS doctrine asserts that humans poke through the mire. That the “natural man” can CHOOSE to put of the natural man.

    I don’t see this in an LDS sense because if we only had to meet a faith quota, then we would all be entitled to our own ‘first vision’ obtain our own seer stone and be our own prophet. The plan of having a Savior means accepting that He will do for us what God does not give us the power to do ourselves.

    But that’s the thing…from an LDS sense, there is no reason why we can’t all be entitled to our own first vision, or obtain our own seer stone, or be our own prophet. After all, doesn’t Mormonism have beliefs about personal revelation?

    The idea is that most people simply don’t have enough faith. So it’s not that they can’t have these things, but that they probably won’t…and in that case, there is someone who does have enough faith to lead the less faithful.

    The shocking nature of Mormonism in comparison to other forms of Christianity is that there is no fundamental difference between us and the Savior. We are all the same “species” and part of the same “family.” The only differences between us are contingent differences…Jesus 1) just happened to be older/more developed, and 2) just happened to be sinless.

    It is not that God did not give us the power to do these things…it is that we all have fallen short of our own opportunity to do these things — every one of us has sinned and fallen short, but NOT because of Adam’s transgression.

    Consider this: if we have faith, we are told we can move mountains. Then it seems that having faith in *someone else* or faith in *something else* is a consolation prize for not having enough faith to move mountains.

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  103. ldsknack on May 16, 2011 at 8:39 PM

    In the land days if this writing, cultivation of desirable plants was new, exciting, and new seeds were coveted. A seed would be planted and cared for until riots took hold and fruit was borne. If the seed did not germinate and sprout it would be gathered and saved for a diffenent lunar cycle and/or differing soul conditions.

    The same desire was true of enlightenment. There is no need to exhaustibly dissect the rhetoric of ancient prophets. Read, ponder, and pray and move on. When the conditions are optimal for your testimony to grow, it will, provided you are long suffering in your diligence to be ready to listen and have faith that The still small voice shall speak to you.

    If you are looking for HF, JC, or even a prophet of old to manifest themselves to you for confirmation of the restoration, you may as well begin battling the Spirit and hope the angel comes to rebuke you. It may happen sooner that way.

    Good luck!

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  104. [...] the scripture explicitly, and sometimes in posts that embed the scripture more implicitly. Sometimes in posts that reference great jazz songs, and sometimes, in [...]

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