Why They Stay

By: Mormon Heretic
October 17, 2011

Robert Rees

Sunstone has had a recurring theme over the past 25 years or so titled Why I Stay.  Robert Rees collected essays from 20 people that have answered this question over the years.  As I thought of the question, I think my answer would mirror Claudia Bushman.  From page 31,

Claudia Bushman

I don’t want to explore why I stay in the Church.  I just don’t like that question.  Of course I have some pretty horrific experiences that would have persuaded many to leave.  I could give a very salty talk about putdowns I have experienced and insults I have borne.  I have been publicly and privately humiliated on several occasions….But I have forgiven those perpetrators.  I cannot say that I have forgiven the slights.  Instead I have adopted the style of various Church leaders I have known.  They may forgive, but they never forget.

Armaund Mauss says on page 39,

Armand Mauss

I find the question of why I stay with the Church to be peculiar.  No one asks me why I stay with my family or with my nation, both of which are periodically stressful and no less voluntary than my relationship to the church.

There are some fantastic stories in this book.  Greg Prince says that the data is there for him to stay, and he shared some interesting perspectives: sometimes “Revelation Flows Up.”  From page 97,

Greg Prince

Trickle-up revelation is arguably the most important force of revelation shaping the day-to-day church in which we live.  If you doubt that statement, consider the Relief Society, Mutual Improvement, Sunday School, Primary, Welfare, Genealogy (Family History), and Young Adult programs all began as grass-roots initiatives on the part of Church members, and were then embraced by the central Church.  This means that phrases such as “magnifying one’s calling”, “Men should be anxiously engaged in a good cause and do many things of their own free will, and bring to pass much righteousness”, and “be not weary in well-doing, for ye are laying the foundation of a good work.  And out of small things proceedeth forth that which is great”, are not platitudes, but a real call to action.  I have been a first-hand witness and participant in the birth of the Young Adult program in Southern California in the mid-1970’s and a first-hand witness of Lester Bush’s landmark on blacks and the priesthood in the mid-1970s.  A Church that not only allows, but expects its members to assist in continual transformation by placing their unique gifts at the altar has my vote.

Speaking of “trickle-up revelation”, I really enjoyed the only non-LDS essay in the book by William Russell, titled “Staying in the Community of Christ.”  From page 119,

William Russell

In 1970, five of us at Graceland [University] began publishing a quarterly journal titled Courage: A Journal of History, Thought, and Action which was consciously modeled after Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought. I wrote an editorial in SaintsHerald when the first issue of Dialogue came out, praising it and especially applauding an article by Francis Lee Menlove called “The Challenge of Honesty.”  In Courage we took positions which seemed radical at the time but later became the positions of the Church.  In 1970 Courage endorsed the ordination of women, a position the Church adopted in 1984.  In 1971 we endorsed open communion, which the Church adopted in 1994.  We criticized our method of succession in the presidency, arguing that our lineal succession was as bad as the LDS tradition wherein the senior apostle becomes prophet.  In the 1996 World Conference, Wallace B. Smith called W. Grant McMurray to lead the Church and thus ended our lineal descent in the office of Church president.

Russell seems to have been quite a radical.  While LDS members may remember that Ezra Taft Benson believed the Civil Rights Movement was a Communist conspiracy, many in the RLDS Church held similar views.  Following editorials in the Kansas City Star and Independence Examiner, (from page 117)

I was picketed for three days at our Herald House editorial offices and our 1966 World Conference.  The signs read, “The commies just love Wm. D. Russell.”  My pastor was equally convinced that I was a Communist…..(page 117)  About that time I learned from a reliable source that President Smith had compared me to the Reverend Martin Luther King, which I thought put me in good company!  But he thought we were Communists.”

Over the years, the Community of Christ has changed, making it more comfortable for Russell.  He finishes the essay with this gem.

“Therefore, I suspect I will remain in the Community of Christ until the undertaker arrives.  At my funeral, please don’t assign me to heaven.  I have no idea whether such a nice fuzzy place exists. I just hope I can muddle through this place without screwing up too much.  I leave the rest in God’s hands.”

Finally, I wanted to share the story of Lavinia Fielding Anderson.  She is a real enigma to me.  She is one of the September Six excommunicated in 1993.  Despite this, she has continued to attend her ward faithfully every week.  She shares a unique perspective of “Why I Stay”.  From pages 84-91,

In spite of being excommunicated, there are six reasons why I keep going to ward meetings month after month, year after year.  The first is for my family.  The gospel was everything to my parents…they both served missions…my father served as bishop in two wards…I’m proud of that heritage and one reason I kept going was that I wanted our son Christian to be proud of it….

Lavinia Fielding Anderson

The second reason I stay connected to the Church is that Paul and I met, courted, married, and have lived as Mormons.  I didn’t want my relationship with the Church to come between us and our marriage.  Our temple sealing and the covenants we made at marriage are significant to us.  Paul wanted a Mormon wife, and I felt that he deserved one, just as I wanted and felt I deserved a Mormon husband…

The third reason I stay is that I love Mormonism.  I was moved by the Book of Mormon and gained a testimony of it before I knew what to think about Joseph Smith.  The Book of Mormon has continued to speak to me as scripture….

Fourth, I love Mormon theology.  I love its emphasis on grace and works.  I love its open canon.  I love the presence of a Mother in Heaven even though we aren’t supposed to talk about her at present…

Fifth, I love the Mormon community….we can count on the Primary kids to sing for special programs with enthusiasm if not tunefulness, and that the bishop will wear a funny tie at least a couple of times a month.

Parts of it aren’t always comfortable. I am not happy with the fact that sacrament speakers, including visiting high counselors, are now asked to base their talks on a general conference talk from the Ensign magazine.  Usually Paul sits on the aisle so he can take the sacrament and then indicate to the deacon to go on so that I don’t have to personally refuse it.  A few weeks ago when I was sitting on the aisle, an elderly high priest made a big deal of stretching way past me to hand the tray of bread to Paul.  Maybe he was just being tactful.  Maybe he thought I’d contaminate the tray if I touched it.  But when he came around with the water, I grabbed it from him, glared, and passed it to Paul, then back to him. Then I got the giggles….

I need to say that the sixth most important reason for me to stay in the Church is that I not only love the Church, but in some ways it loves me back.  I feel loved within the Church—not by the stake president and various officials, particularly, but by my Heavenly Father and Heavenly Mother and truly by Jesus.  I can’t help loving them in return.  I want to love them more deeply, in part by keeping the promises I made at baptism and in the temple.  Those promises are important to me.

I have to say that I really loved this book.  I’ve given excerpts from just 5 of the 20 contributors.  I loved Lavinia’s testimony—she is a remarkable woman.  I loved Greg’s “trickle up revelation.”  I loved the personal accounts.  Finally, I want to ask, “Why do you stay?”

Tags: , , , , , , , ,

154 Responses to Why They Stay

  1. Stephen Marsh on October 17, 2011 at 6:41 AM

    I’m here because it is what God wants of me. That is enough.

    Like this comment? Thumb up 3

  2. Jeff Spector on October 17, 2011 at 7:40 AM

    Very nice, MH. Sounds like a book I should get. I stay because I try to overlook people’s faults. As I hope they overlook mine. I love Restoration theology, which serves as the core of my beliefs. I have embraced Jesus as my Savior and I know He wouldn’t want me to give up on His Church because someone does or says something dumb. Even a leader. Because at some point in time that leader will be replaced by another. My eternity and that of my family is more important than that one small moment. Even if you strung all those small moments together.

    Ultimately, the Gospel of Jesus Christ is more important thing.

    Like this comment? Thumb up 4

  3. Eman on October 17, 2011 at 7:53 AM

    I stayed because I feared eternal damnation.

    I finally left because I chose not to be aligned with what I perceived to be a sexist, racist, homophobic institution that made few apologies and exacted too much of it’s faithful with little return.

    Controversial! What do you think? Thumb up 8

  4. Cowboy on October 17, 2011 at 8:29 AM

    I asked that question for a long time. When I realized that there wasn’t a satisfactory answer I left.

    My wife and I had this conversation last night. We can certainly try and find good in Church membership – and frankly at the Ward level I think there is plenty of it. Still, the issue for me has to always come down to whether the Church really has the power it claims. It doesn’t appear to, so the cost of allegiance is too expensive.

    Fan Favorite! Do you like this comment as well? Thumb up 9

  5. Mormon Heretic on October 17, 2011 at 9:05 AM

    Thanks Steve and Jeff. I think for me the better question is “Why should I leave?” I haven’t come up with anything to justify that.

    Eman, I can see where you’re coming from, and I don’t begrudge you for your position. What do you make of Lavinia staying, despite the church essentially leaving her?

    Cowboy, what are these costs of allegiance you refer too that outweigh the good of the ward level? What do you think of trickle-up revelation?

    Like this comment? Thumb up 2

  6. Cowboy on October 17, 2011 at 10:13 AM

    My kids. I could easily live as a lukewarm Mormon, if being lukewarm Mormon was like being lukewarm Catholic. However, if I choose to go to Church, and have my young children (5 and 2 yrs) go to Primary, I am actively endorsing an indoctrination of allegiance to Church leaders. The so-called “basics” taught in those Sunday School lessons are not about “getting a testimony”, but rather about as matter of fact declarations that Joseph Smith was a Prophet, President Monson is, and that “safety and peace” come only through following their counsel. Testimonies and faith are not confirmations and perspectives that come through thoughtful inquiry, but are rather traits and perspectives that we “must” have and/or get. My boy should spend his youth preparing for mission, and my daughter must spend her time preparing to marry in the Temple. If we stay, we would be effectively submitting our children to the Church’s authority – and frankly that is not the life I would choose for them. That is the cost.

    Fan Favorite! Do you like this comment as well? Thumb up 11

  7. Cowboy on October 17, 2011 at 10:20 AM

    Trickle up revelation:

    With all due respect, I don’t even know what that really means. I get Prince is saying, but I don’t know how he determines “revelation”. Do Ward’s contribute to a sort of “best practices” influence on the Church broadly? Perhaps, but it is far from a certainty of revelation. Furthermore, it frankly seems contrary to the trickle down model of revelation demonstrated and dictated in the scriptures (Hiram Page revelations?) – so, innovative as this is, how does it even fit within the doctrinal framework of Priesthood hierarchy?

    Like this comment? Thumb up 0

  8. Childe Jake on October 17, 2011 at 10:28 AM

    As a person who did not stay, and who feels personal benefit from having adopted a nondenominational/agnostic lifestyle, I appreciated this post. I remarked to a friend not long ago that I’m conscious of a disconnect that has developed between me and my Mormon friends and family over the years. My objections to the faith abide, but like some of the people quoted above, so does my affection for my cultural roots in Mormonism. So it’s good to be exposed to the above perspectives, to be reminded of other viewpoints. Thanks for sharing them.

    Like this comment? Thumb up 1

  9. Miri on October 17, 2011 at 10:46 AM

    I’m working on answering that question right now. I don’t have a solid answer yet, but I really like some of the ones I’ve heard here, and I really want to get a copy of that book.

    Armaund Mauss’s comment was the most striking to me. I’m not sure it will end up working for me, but it made an interesting point for me to think about.

    Like this comment? Thumb up 0

  10. jmb275 on October 17, 2011 at 11:04 AM

    Boy what a topic!! I’ve asked myself this over and over and over again. In fact, I’m struggling with it again now.

    Re Cowboy-
    I absolutely agree with you. I feel very much the same way. My ward is nice, and there are good people in it. But the way youth are taught in my ward just doesn’t feel right. I think this is primarily a function of the LDS church and less a function of Mormonism. And that makes me a little sad. I don’t blame you at all for your position.

    Re MH-

    I think for me the better question is “Why should I leave?” I haven’t come up with anything to justify that.

    This is the question I always keep coming back to. So what if I don’t believe everything. So what if I don’t agree with the church on some things. I’m Mormon, and feel at home here. Why should I leave my home?

    Now, I confess that this attitude really means that I’m subjecting myself to a lot of internal strife and torture. It’s not clear to me that the strife and torture is of an unhealthy variety. I appreciate being challenged on my ways of thinking.

    Re Childe Jake-
    I have not yet answered your email (don’t worry I will), but maybe there is part of a response in this comment. Like you, I have deep affection for my Mormon roots, and I just haven’t yet come across a good enough reason for me to leave.

    At the end of the day, I think the good outweighs the bad. I want to be a part of good things. Could the same be said of Catholicism, Lutherans, Baptists, Muslims, Buddhists, etc.? Absolutely. But I’m Mormon!! And until the church decides it doesn’t want me, I’ll most likely continue to make life a living hell for it (in the nicest way possible of course)!!!

    Fan Favorite! Do you like this comment as well? Thumb up 4

  11. Glass Ceiling on October 17, 2011 at 12:21 PM

    It’s my testimony, pure and simple. My testimony of Jesus Christ is inexorably linked to the True and Everlasting Gospel. There is no other Church on Earth that answers the big questions. We have our problems, and some of them really get to me.
    OK, one really does…the singles program.

    But if the Church were to be proven false, who could I run to? The Catholics? Too corrupt and nonsensical. The Eastern Orthodox? Too Catholic. The Protestants? Their grace/works philosophy would not stand 8 seconds with my analytical
    mind. Nor would any Trinitarian philosophy. The Unitarians? Too spacey and relative . The Jews? Where’s Jesus? Islam? Same thing. Buddhism? Same thing.

    Looks like I’ll stay Mormon. There are some really good people in Mormonism. The leadership are, although not perfect, incredible people worth listening to.

    Our scriptures speak for themselves. Most who mock them have either not read them or had an alterior agenda when they did. The answers within are nothing short of astounding.

    Mormons care for their own. This is more than most religions can say.

    Controversial! What do you think? Thumb up 4

  12. Glass Ceiling on October 17, 2011 at 12:28 PM

    Oh, and Joseph Smith was undeniably a prophet of God. And if you believe the words in the D&C were from Heavenly messengers to him, what else can you be but Mormon?

    You can have all the complaints you want about the Church, but it is either true or false. It is either an elaborate lie, or it is honest truth. And if it is the truth, it finishes all other religions ultimately.

    Controversial! What do you think? Thumb up 5

  13. Mai Li on October 17, 2011 at 1:10 PM

    Why if Lavinia Fielding has such a good feeling towards most things in the church doesn’t she rejoin? Just wondering.

    Like this comment? Thumb up 3

  14. Will on October 17, 2011 at 1:27 PM

    I stay because I know it is the true gospel of Jesus Christ.

    Like this comment? Thumb up 5

  15. MH on October 17, 2011 at 1:28 PM

    Cowboy, I am actively endorsing an indoctrination of allegiance to Church leaders.

    I don’t understand this perspective very well. We “indoctrinate” our children through the Pledge of Allegiance everyday at school. We “indoctrinate” them to listen to teachers, principals, parents, and policemen at school. (Do you home school?) While I can understand (and appreciate) some of your qualms, I don’t think “the Brethren” are the bogeyman that your comment makes it sound. As for a mission, isn’t that a better goal than chugging beers at a frat party? Aren’t there some good things (gratitude, service, charity, choosing the right) good primary ideals for you kids too?

    Your definition of revelation seems pretty narrow, IMO. Are you saying that revelation only happens when scripture is produced? I don’t think you’re saying that church members should be lemmings and all knowledge/revelation only flows one direction, but your comments strike me as more negative than usual today. Could you explain a bit more?

    Following up on Eman’s comment, the United States also has a racist, sexist, homophobic past. Is the cost of allegiance too much? Should we leave?

    Like this comment? Thumb up 4

  16. MH on October 17, 2011 at 1:37 PM

    Glass Ceiling, I don’t know how much you know about the Orthodox Church, but if I did choose to leave, I think the Orthodox Church might be an option for me–I wouldn’t call them “too Catholic” at all. They still baptize by immersion, and their doctrine of theosis has amazing similarities to exaltation. Frankly, they have some pretty cool theology if you ask me. I’d also consider CoC, because I think I would miss the Book of Mormon, and they allow a bit more freedom of theology than our church, so I think I could take the parts of my LDSisms that I like with me. I also like the fact they they are trying to make “a prophetic people”–a really cool goal if you ask me. But I am quite happy where I am, so I have no plans to change.

    Mai Li, I think Lavinia would come back into the fold in a heartbeat. The option to come back is not up to her. She says that when she got her excommunication letter, she asked what she needed to do to get re-baptized, and they did not give any instructions.

    Like this comment? Thumb up 1

  17. Jeff Spector on October 17, 2011 at 1:39 PM

    So, I guess I wonder if parents, who are not perfect either and make mistakes, deserve any allegiance? Aren’t they indoctrinating their children in their beliefs and practices?

    Controversial! What do you think? Thumb up 3

  18. jmb275 on October 17, 2011 at 2:07 PM

    I certainly can’t speak for Cowboy, but I’m gonna give my response to Jeff and MH. At the end of the day, I actually end up seeing things much like MH describes which is part of why I’m willing to let my kids go to Primary and be okay with it, particularly if I get to offer my “deprogramming” afterward.

    The part of me that sees Cowboy’s point is in the recognition that the U.S., parents, etc. DO make mistakes and we actively acknowledge that. I don’t tell my kids that I received revelation from God and that they must obey me to obtain salvation (I think we call that unrighteous dominion), and neither does the U.S. gov’t. We don’t teach our children that they have to agree with the U.S. gov’t, and I don’t teach them they have to agree with me. In fact, in our country, dissent is welcome, especially if appropriately demonstrated. I apologize to my kids when I make mistakes, and the U.S. gov’t also tries to apologize to classes of people it knows it has wronged. While I know the church claims it realizes its fallibility and that of its leaders, as you all know, our culture belies that.

    Fan Favorite! Do you like this comment as well? Thumb up 11

  19. Glass Ceiling on October 17, 2011 at 2:21 PM

    MH,

    I have an Orthodox friend, so I know what you mean. But they still have the Trinity, which is completely senseless to me. Then there is the Mary and the Saints emphasis. They also seem to lack central leadership.

    IMO, Christianity needs Mormonism. It’s the only one that makes sense, therefore it gives a real option to Christians whose eyes have been opened. And, in the meantime it gives these religions themselves a way to feel self-important in their own vacuousness, as in “Hey, look. We are a great organization because we are not THESE weirdos! ” They don’t have to offer much when emphasis is more of what they’re not than what they are.

    I have a Southern Baptist preacher uncle, and I have seen and heard much. I swear that one of the four pillars of that religion is anti-Mormonism. It is ironic that as Mormonism tears down the myths of Christianity, it also keeps it alive by giving it some sort of righteous crusade (Romney vs Southern Baptist Convention. )

    I love the Church and its beginnings. I am a little Leary or trying to make it so much like other Churches. But I trust that any way things go, it will one day fill the Earth, just as one day Christ will return. For me it’s Mormonism or Boating on Sunday. There us no alternative. And I am glad of that. Its a simple choice. The truth often presents itself that way. Is it easy? No. Do I struggle? Often. But not with my testimony, thank God.

    Like this comment? Thumb up 2

  20. Glass Ceiling on October 17, 2011 at 2:50 PM

    What bothers me about Mormons who leave and are offended by testimony is that so many leave having never read the books. They often don’t know what they left when they left it.

    I have no problem with people who leave and are offended at my testimony, as long as they know what they know what are rejecting.

    But there is a reason for everything. There are reasons why the Grateful Dead sold out large stadiums for over three decades. There are reasons why everyone swears by Subaru these days. There are reasons why, through constant mistreatment, the LDS Church survives and grows. And there are reasons why a Mormon testimony cab be uniquely powerful.

    For anyone who has left without knowing why the Church claims to be so special, you’ve missed something. It’s all in the books. If you have not read the books, you don’t know Mormonism.

    Controversial! What do you think? Thumb up 2

  21. dpc on October 17, 2011 at 3:43 PM

    Inertia

    Like this comment? Thumb up 3

  22. Jared on October 17, 2011 at 4:01 PM

    The post and comments are of great interest to me. Until a few years ago, I thought most members were active for the same reason I am.

    I’m amazed that so many are active out of habit, for family, for social activity, and etc.

    I wouldn’t spend 10 minutes at church for any of those reasons. If the Lord hadn’t answered my prayer in June of 1966 with the kind of manifestation he did, I wouldn’t be here today.

    For all those who are active in the church for any other reason than testimony, I suggest you pay the price to obtain a testimony.

    Why, because having the companionship of the Holy Ghost gives you access to the Father and the Son. I regularly experience this access and I wouldn’t trade it for anything.

    The claims of the church are incredible. And the best part about it, they are all true! In a few short years all of us will be dead and will have a better understanding of things.

    Those who take the opportunity of “wrestling” with the Lord in this life, until they obtain the blessing of knowing for themselves that the restoration of the God’s work through the prophet Joseph is true, will be eternally grateful in the world to come.

    If you can’t honestly say you’ve done everything possible to obtain such a blessing then you don’t have a leg to stand on. If you have, and haven’t received one, then God will eventually square things up with you.

    Obtaining a manifestation from the Lord isn’t going to happen by studying church history or the vast majority of the material written about in the nacle. The Book of Mormon is the best source for learning how to obtain revelation.

    Anyhow, that is my answer to the question asked in this post, “Why do you stay?”

    Like this comment? Thumb up 5

  23. Cowboy on October 17, 2011 at 4:10 PM

    I’ll try and be a little less cynical – though Jeff’s comment kind of irks me. I wouldn’t care if the Church leaders weren’t “perfect” (I guess depending on how one defines that), so long as they could demonstrate that they are “Prophets”. That is also the reason I object to having my children sit through Sunday school lessons having these notions advocated to them.

    Fan Favorite! Do you like this comment as well? Thumb up 8

  24. Jeff Spector on October 17, 2011 at 4:38 PM

    Cowboy,

    “I’ll try and be a little less cynical – though Jeff’s comment kind of irks me. I wouldn’t care if the Church leaders weren’t “perfect” (I guess depending on how one defines that), so long as they could demonstrate that they are “Prophets”. ‘

    I didn’t mean to irk you, but I just wondered why you would apply the same standard to yourself that you apparently apply to Church leaders?

    How do they not demonstrate that they are Prophets? As far as I know, there is only one Prophet to the Church. I know we sustain them as Prophets, Seers and Revelators but I think that only applies to their administrative duties as delegated by the Prophet. President Monson is really the only one who can declare doctrine to the whole Church.

    The real problem in Primary is not so much what the Church teaches but how the Primary in any particular Ward presents it.

    Like this comment? Thumb up 2

  25. Cowboy on October 17, 2011 at 4:41 PM

    MH:

    I think JMB275 answered the question fairly well, but I will give you my take. It all comes down to your comment on revelation:

    “Your definition of revelation seems pretty narrow, IMO.”

    Yes I do. I define revelation as any situation where a literal God communicates literally with a human being. This is a tall claim, and deserves to be treated with the utmost suspicion until it can be verified to some reasonable standard. Simply stating “Because I’m a Prophet, and I say so” doesn’t cut it. Quite frankly, the only reason we strive for a broad view of revelation is because none of our claims pass the test when the parameters are narrow.

    If we want to believe when because a Ward innovates on something that can be replicated throughout the system, it is a revelation, I suppose that any good idea is a revelation. Prophecy’s and revelations however, aren’t very useful when they are declared after the fact.

    This is what I find objectionable about “indoctrinating” my kids in Mormonism. It is not a rational thing to ambiguously declare revelations here and there, after the fact – or in such a way as they can be interpreted any which way. The Church will advocate strongly that it is important that my kids follow the Prophet, otherwise they will reap some kind of Eternal consequence. Particularly at their impressionable ages, this can have a tremendous influence on the development of their world-view. Even more so if the Church appears to recieve some kind of endorsement from Mom and Dad. If someone claims to be a Prophet, I want my kids to hold them to that before they submit allegiance out fear of offending the heretofore non-interactive God.

    Now, does Mormonism offer some good things that my kids could benefit from? Yes, particularly the sense of Ward family that comes from Mormon communities. The emphasis on service would also benefit them. Still, rather than allowing Mormon leaders to emphasize their religious perspective which I would then try to “reprogram”, I’d rather not impose the Church on them (week after week, Sunday after Sunday, years on end) – but instead just program them with the ideals service, charity, etc.

    Fan Favorite! Do you like this comment as well? Thumb up 6

  26. Cowboy on October 17, 2011 at 4:52 PM

    Jeff:

    “I didn’t mean to irk you, but I just wondered why you would apply the same standard to yourself that you apparently apply to Church leaders?”

    Fair enough, sorry for being irked. As for your question, I would say because I don’t put myself into the same class. I suppose if my children wanted to challenge the claim that “I am their father and this is my house”, that I would need to furnish some proof to that effect.

    “How do they not demonstrate that they are Prophets?”

    The best answer is, “how do they prove that they are”. I suppose they could do this by putting forth some kind of major Prophecy that would be hard to doubt. They could part the red-sea or do some other major supernatural thing. God could visit and do his best to persuade me – I’m sure he could posit some evidence that would be hard to doubt.

    A common trend has been to challenge this kind of “sign seeking” – but I find that very convenient for those making tall claims. Afterall, what good is a Prophet if he is only “right” at the same rate as everyone else, and fails to part the red-sea at least once in a while?

    “The real problem in Primary is not so much what the Church teaches but how the Primary in any particular Ward presents it.”

    Only partially – the manuals are all the same.

    Fan Favorite! Do you like this comment as well? Thumb up 6

  27. Andrew S. on October 17, 2011 at 4:56 PM

    I guess since some commenters consider me an “outsider,” I have no place to answer the question of why I stay and considering I don’t really do much with physical church buildings anymore, I guess in one sense, I haven’t stayed.

    But I will say that regardless of all of that, one reason I stay (online) is because I already have a familiarity with Mormonism, but I would like to be more familiar. I’m just doing it in a more emotionally safe context for myself at this point.

    I appreciate the people who answer that even if they don’t believe some things they feel that their mormonism is theirs and no one can take that from them. Because in a way, I’ve gotten an entirely different experience. Church is for believers, so in some ways, I would be an unwelcome intruder.

    Like this comment? Thumb up 0

  28. Glass Ceiling on October 17, 2011 at 6:05 PM

    I don’t wanna pretend I am a valiant member of the Church. That would be an untruth. I have struggled more in the last three years than I have in a very long time, maybe ever. This blog and others are actually very helpful for me in this way. They remind me what I so easily forget, so often.

    I understand the struggle with prophets. I just wonder if we would follow President Monson if tomorrow he said to go to Jackson County with only your food storage, or to now live the law of consecration. Would we do it?

    I want changes in the singles program badly, and I don’t know who to blame. But it is the way it is. I’m waiting for the word from Utah, but until then… I still have to support my leadership as altruistically as I can or I cheat my own experience. Besides, I am hardly even doing the things that Church leadership asks me to do now anyway.

    Here was another thought: many people thought JS was a fallen prophet for much if his life. I think it is easy for us to love JS because he is ten feet tall in Church History books, and the fact that he is dead. Its must have been harder when he was alive.

    Like this comment? Thumb up 2

  29. hawkgrrrl on October 17, 2011 at 7:32 PM

    “I understand the struggle with prophets. I just wonder if we would follow President Monson if tomorrow he said to go to Jackson County with only your food storage, or to now live the law of consecration. Would we do it?” No. And it wouldn’t make any sense either, for the church or for us individually. We are no longer in an agrarian economy. The church couldn’t sustain us all if we did this. We’d essentially all be homeless. Tithing 10% with a distributed global economy is far more useful (and lucrative) than a group of people huddled in the middle of nowhere farming but giving all to the tiny, isolated community.

    Fan Favorite! Do you like this comment as well? Thumb up 6

  30. hawkgrrrl on October 17, 2011 at 7:36 PM

    Cowboy: “I define revelation as any situation where a literal God communicates literally with a human being. This is a tall claim, and deserves to be treated with the utmost suspicion until it can be verified to some reasonable standard.” IOW, you don’t believe in any revelation. Or do you consider your own experiences more verifiable because they involve you? There is no proof of revelation, no matter how outlandish the revelation is. It can’t be proven. Even the red sea parting, there was a special on History Channel that showed that this could happen if the wind was sufficiently strong and at the right angle where there is an undersea sandbar.

    Like this comment? Thumb up 0

  31. Roger on October 17, 2011 at 8:26 PM

    One never truly leaves–so, one stays. One closes a book or an open tab; but then you come back; searching, wondering, fearing. . . One is fascinated, repelled—one finds comfort and cherishes hymns, tales of pioneer sacrifice, the dream of reunions with loved ones. One remembers the insults to decency, to intelligence and one swears, “I’m never going back in there and listen to such nonsense again”. One goes elsewhere, and listens to dry descriptions of an unfathomable Trinity—one misses the clarity of the account of the Sacred Grove–
    One stay and grits his teeth– or one wanders, hoping to keep open the the prodigal option . . . If Oliver came back, then so might I . .

    Fan Favorite! Do you like this comment as well? Thumb up 4

  32. Glass Ceiling on October 17, 2011 at 10:17 PM

    Thank you Roger. Touche. Very well written.

    Like this comment? Thumb up 0

  33. Mormon Heretic on October 17, 2011 at 11:34 PM

    Cowboy, Yes I do. I define revelation as any situation where a literal God communicates literally with a human being.

    I know this is a big issue to some, and I’m not trying to degrade it. However, it seems to me that it is highly overblown. There’s only 4 prophets (Adam, Moses, Joseph Smith, Brother of Jared–5 if you count Mohammad) that fit this criteria. Where did Amos, Nahum claim literal communication? All other communications seem to rely on faith–Jonah, Joshua, Malachi–how do we know they had personal visitations, or simply imagined that God was talking to them?

    How do we know someone is a prophet? The Bible says we only know after the fact. Certainly Jeremiah, Abinadi, Isaiah weren’t revered as prophets in their lifetimes–all died ignominious deaths. For that matter, Abraham Lincoln had one of the worst approval ratings in U.S. history when he was shot. Now he’s revered right there with George Washington.

    Sometimes we don’t see the good in certain leaders until after the fact. Let me quote Armand Mauss on a trait I wish I had better, and I think many disaffected could practice better. I apologize for the length, but I think it really pertains to the conversation. From page 42,

    my sociological perspective and study have convinced me that the Church, whatever its origins, is not immune to human processes and natural historical developments common to all social institutions. In other words, despite its divine origin, the Church has, throughout its history, functioned mainly as a human institution with divine intervention difficult to ascertain and probably rare. I have found this perspective helpful to my attitude toward the Church and to my emotional well-being generally. Since I expect the Church usually to operate as a human institution, and its leaders as human beings, I am occasionally disappointed but never disillusioned.

    The admonition to “follow the prophet” is given with increasing frequency in the Church. In many ways it is wise counsel, and I accept it as a general rule. However, it is often transformed into a ritualistic slogan or mantra intended to stifle questions and differences of opinion, or else to override the agency of a Church member seeking the direct counsel of the Holy SPirit for individual circumstances. The related folk maxim that “obedience is the first law of heaven” does not accord with a reasonable reading of the scriptural account of the war in heaven where clearly agency was established prior to obedience among the laws on which our Plan of Salvation operates. When such slogans and maxims are employed for leverage by overzealous leaders, contrary to the counsel about “unrighteous dominion) (D&C 121), then the Church operates like any other human institution and is entitled only to the same presumption of qualified loyalty that we give other human institutions. I have sometimes wrestled with my conscience in trying to decide what obedience requires in specific cases involving political controversies. Yet, I have never, at least in my adult life, been disillusioned by the counsel of Church leaders with which I have disagreed, or even by the most egregious examples of unrighteous dominion. My understanding of human institutions and how they work has provided me with a kind of immunity to disillusionment.

    I’d like more of that immunity. How about you?

    Fan Favorite! Do you like this comment as well? Thumb up 8

  34. Glass Ceiling on October 18, 2011 at 12:27 AM

    MH,

    That is an incredible quote. And may I also say that your OP is very important. I wish more people were participating. It’s a timely and fascinating subject. I mean it.

    I think that change in the Church often comes from the bottom, up. I also believe that to whatever level that the Q12 appear out of touch , it can largely be attested to lower and middle management . In any large organization, there is the tendency to seek to impress higher-ups as opposed to telling them like it is.

    Like this comment? Thumb up 1

  35. Jeff Spector on October 18, 2011 at 6:47 AM

    MoHer,

    I also concur on that quote. Especially the last two sentences. Most of us that have been in the Corporate world eventually get over the awe of our leaders at the top after we realize they are probably no smarter than us and may have been luckier in their rise to the top. When you look up and see those you work along side for many years, it becomes especially true.

    The Church, as an institution is hardly different. There are career bureaucrats there just like any other organization. At the local level, the guy you team taught Sunday School with can be the Bishop the very next week. Or even the Stake President.

    As you sit in council with your brothers and sisters, you find out who is empathetic and who is generally not.

    I think the immunity is an acquired skill. It must be learned and applied.

    You must keep your eye on the main objective and try to forgive.

    I see that lacking in a lot of people these days.

    Like this comment? Thumb up 2

  36. Cowboy on October 18, 2011 at 8:44 AM

    I’ll offer two reponses. First to Hawkgrrrl and MH regarding the Old Testament. I invoked the example of Moses parting the red-sea, not because I believe it actually happended, but because entertaining for a moment that it did – thousands of years later we can debate it, but the Hebrews who would have witnessed it would have had no reason to doubt. It is convenient to defend Mormonism in the context of a the Bible as literal history, but it often appears like we are defending fantasy with fantasy. “After all, since we all know that leprechauns live on the other side of the rainbow, why couldn’t there be unicorns.” So, I am consistent in that I believe that the Bible is under just us much suspicion as Mormonism.

    Like this comment? Thumb up 1

  37. jmb275 on October 18, 2011 at 8:52 AM

    Re Jared-

    I wouldn’t spend 10 minutes at church for any of those reasons. If the Lord hadn’t answered my prayer in June of 1966 with the kind of manifestation he did, I wouldn’t be here today.

    I think this is interesting. You’ve carved out a situation where it appears you would follow the truth, and since the truth is here, you stay. No offense, but I think this is very narrow-minded. Surely all your actions and beliefs are not governed by absolute truth? Do you do anything because it just plain works for you, or do you require a revelation from God to know of it’s absolute cosmic truth before acting? Was it not Jesus who encouraged us to make sacrifices for others? If a husband/wife stays in the church because he/she knows it benefits the family as a whole, how is that wrong? I would call that sacrifice and consider it noble. I would call that “serving God.” I would call that faith.

    For all those who are active in the church for any other reason than testimony, I suggest you pay the price to obtain a testimony.

    Surely we’ve been down this road before with you? You know there are plenty around here who have paid a large price and gotten nothing. In fact, if I may be so bold, perhaps some of them have paid a price more dear than you to get a testimony and have gotten nothing. There are so many problems with this mindset, I’m not even sure where to begin.

    If you can’t honestly say you’ve done everything possible to obtain such a blessing then you don’t have a leg to stand on. If you have, and haven’t received one, then God will eventually square things up with you.

    Damn, wouldn’t it have been sad if Joseph Smith had followed similar counsel from one of his pastors! Sheesh, Jared, I really expected a bit more from you here.

    Fan Favorite! Do you like this comment as well? Thumb up 5

  38. Cowboy on October 18, 2011 at 9:52 AM

    Regarding Prophets – Just because there is not a strong biblical precedent for Prophets proving themselves, doesn’t mean that there shouldn’t be. The allegation is that God delivers his instructions to Prophets, who then are responsible for telling the world how to live. The consequence for rejecting the Prophets is the threat of mortal unhappiness, and some form of Eternal misery. If one believes a Prophets claims, then the rational course is to follow their words to the letter. So naturally the allure of this kind of position of authority would tempt many to fraudulently pass themselves off as a Prophet. Unable to produce any real evidence, naturally they will need to develop an explanation for why their position isn’t at all obvious. At this point I hate to sound cliche`, but in order to protect ourselves from being duped, the smartest policy for anyone to adopt is completely counter to the religious argument. Extraordinary claims require extraordinary proofs. So, while it is convenient to argue that God speaks in the ambiguous still small voice, I’d prefer to give heed only to the whirlwind.

    Like this comment? Thumb up 4

  39. Jeff Spector on October 18, 2011 at 10:05 AM

    Of course, one can be easily duped into thinking there are no longer, or never were, Prophets. Because that thinking serves an entirely different purpose.

    I think it is always easier not to believe.

    Like this comment? Thumb up 2

  40. Cowboy on October 18, 2011 at 10:32 AM

    Jeff:

    I think it is easier not to believe, but I reject the implication that is therefore just the easy way out. Even still, agenda’s aside, the issue isn’t whether it is better/easier to believe or not believe, rather it is to honestly assess why we believe or not believe.

    Like this comment? Thumb up 0

  41. Jeff Spector on October 18, 2011 at 10:53 AM

    Cowboy,

    “but I reject the implication that is therefore just the easy way out.’

    There is not implication there. In some cases, the easy way out is to just stay and pretend. It can take a lot of courage to make the break with long held beliefs. Or to substitute new ones.

    But over time, it does become easier not to believe, because there are no longer any expectations on one who does not believe.

    Except maybe to be critical of those who chose to stay AND believe. (Not pointing to anyone in particular.)

    Like this comment? Thumb up 0

  42. Mormon Heretic on October 18, 2011 at 11:07 AM

    Well Cowboy, I’ve done my best persuading I could. It seems you prefer to take an extreme view of prophets/revelation, and aren’t very fond of scriptural precedent. I’m out of ideas here. (You know me–moderation in all things–I’m not fond of extremism in anything.)

    I guess for some it is better to leave than to stay, and that seems to be the case for you. But I am grateful for those like Armand Mauss that look critically at religion and choose to stay and try to help things get better. While it can be an exercise in frustration, I stay because I believe, and I stay because I want to try to influence the church for good, even if my contribution is not that significant.

    Like this comment? Thumb up 2

  43. Cowboy on October 18, 2011 at 11:09 AM

    “But over time, it does become easier not to believe, because there are no longer any expectations on one who does not believe.”

    I think we would have to be clear on what expecations we’re talking about. You don’t have to participate in worthiness interviews, but my wife still expects me to be faithful. My kids still expect me to provide and be nice to them. My clients still expect me to work hard and be honest. The only expectations that are gone are that I attend Church, fullfill callings, pay tithing, etc.

    Like this comment? Thumb up 0

  44. LovelyLauren on October 18, 2011 at 11:13 AM

    I stay because I know that I can find more good and do more good in the church than I can elsewhere. I want to be an example of a faithful latter-day saint who has questioned and chose to remain. I have deep cultural roots in Mormonism and I think it’s a pretty good place to have a family. Mostly though, I think it makes me a better person.

    I found when I made my religion about me and not about what other members said or thought or what the greater church agenda was, it became an easier, but also more meaningful experience.

    Fan Favorite! Do you like this comment as well? Thumb up 4

  45. Jeff Spector on October 18, 2011 at 11:15 AM

    “The only expectations that are gone are that I attend Church, fulfill callings, pay tithing, etc.”

    There are more expectations than that. You may not share the same religious views with your family, you may have squandered your opportunity to be with your family for eternity, you lose many opportunities to serve others. There is many more than that.

    Again to one who no longer believes they are not important. So you’ll not agree on how important they are.

    Like this comment? Thumb up 1

  46. Jeff Spector on October 18, 2011 at 11:17 AM

    Lauren,

    “I found when I made my religion about me and not about what other members said or thought or what the greater church agenda was, it became an easier, but also more meaningful experience.”

    That is a very important observation…

    Like this comment? Thumb up 1

  47. Brian on October 18, 2011 at 11:38 AM

    “I stay because I know that I can find more good and do more good in the church than I can elsewhere.”

    There is a big world out there, Lauren. There more opportunities to serve humanity than anyone possibly has time for. My son is a coach at a local Christian school. I help doing stats for their football team. They are a small school and at this point not very good. At first, I whined about the four-five hour commitment every week. Then, I realized I needed to look at this time spent as giving service to an organization (and young people). That change in attitude made all the difference for me.

    Like this comment? Thumb up 3

  48. Jeff Spector on October 18, 2011 at 12:19 PM

    Brian,

    To each his own

    Like this comment? Thumb up 0

  49. Mike S on October 18, 2011 at 12:45 PM

    Jeff: Brian, To each his own

    He was just giving an example of what he feels is service outside the Church. I’m glad to see you’re snarky and contrarian to everyone, and not just me.

    Like this comment? Thumb up 3

  50. Cowboy on October 18, 2011 at 1:54 PM

    Jeff:

    I’m not following your comment. You initially argued that it is easier not to believe because over time, individuals who don’t believe have fewer expectations placed upon them.

    How does sharing a religious point of view in common with my family mean that I live to a lower standard? Furthermore, perhaps I have squandered my ability to live Eternally with them…but then again, mabey not. I’m thinking not, and that’s the whole point. If I don’t believe it, why would I fear it. Lastly, my ability to serve is not determined by the Church. Most of what we call “service” in the Church, is debatable anyway. I’d call a lot of it just “interacting”. Not that there is something wrong with that, nor that there isn’t any “real” service activities in the Church – but this notion that the Church is a giant service organization is a bit inflated. We can debate that I suppose, but what we can’t debate very well is whether I or anyone else can easily find service opportunities outside of the Church.

    By the way – the Elder Quorum President and I are good friends, and he knows that he has an invitation to invite me to any service activity he wants – move ins/move outs, Christmas tree, etc.

    Like this comment? Thumb up 1

  51. Andrew S. on October 18, 2011 at 2:01 PM

    re 50

    Cowboy,

    Furthermore, perhaps I have squandered my ability to live Eternally with them…but then again, mabey not. I’m thinking not, and that’s the whole point. If I don’t believe it, why would I fear it.

    But that’s Jeff’s entire point. Because you don’t believe it, you don’t have those expectations relating to it. They don’t drive you as they would believers.

    It’s really not a controversial point. Not only do you not have the same expectations as a believer, but in fact, you don’t think a lot of those expectations are even “real” (e.g., if you don’t believe there will be another life after this one, then responsibilities and expectations relating to that won’t seem as pressing as ones relating to this life.)

    Like this comment? Thumb up 0

  52. Cowboy on October 18, 2011 at 2:02 PM

    MH – That’s fine. I think your post was useful all the same. I don’t see my view of Prophets in being extreme in the slightest. I do see it as being specific, which is why I struggle with perspectives like that advocated by Mauss. He argues that the Church is of divine origin, but human progression. Sometimes the things the Church does, or Prophets say, are divine. Sometimes their not. In my mind that is unnecessarilly generous. Still, I could live with that kind of response if he could offer an explanation for how he tells the difference.

    Like this comment? Thumb up 1

  53. Cowboy on October 18, 2011 at 2:06 PM

    Andrew S:

    So then what are those expectations, and is perhaps Jeff simply putting the cart before the horse. He seems to be stating that non-belief is “easier” and therefore inferior, because we don’t live according to certain expectations. If the expectations are completely idiosyncratic to a particular belief system, then why should we regret not having them? After all, Mainstream Mormonism is certainly “easier” that radical Islam, where there are more expectations. Heck, even fundamentalist Mormonism has more expectations. So, should we merely select a religion based on the number of arbitrary expecations is heaped upon its membership???

    Like this comment? Thumb up 0

  54. Jeff Spector on October 18, 2011 at 2:12 PM

    “He was just giving an example of what he feels is service outside the Church. I’m glad to see you’re snarky and contrarian to everyone, and not just me.

    Have a nice day, Mike

    Like this comment? Thumb up 0

  55. Andrew S on October 18, 2011 at 2:17 PM

    re 43,

    Cowboy,

    The expectations are everything members must think about (and accordingly, must do) to maintain their worthiness, etc., etc., I’m sure right here standard seminary answers would work on a basic level, but the idea is that it’s really something that believers think about. But obviously, I don’t really think about it at all, lol.

    I don’t think Jeff is making any such statement that non-belief is inferior. I think a lot of people make this statement, and so it’s easy to assume that when someone says non-belief is “easier” that they are saying it is inferior, but Jeff is not “a lot of people.”

    What I think he’s trying to say is that it’s always going to be easier for nonmembers to dismiss many aspects about believers’ lives because they do not believe.

    I mean, consider that this is a thread for people to talk about why people stay. But very early on, people instead talked about why they left. (I’m guilty of this too, lol.) I definitely have noticed that a site like W&T cannot have good “faithful” discussions. It just won’t work, because nonbelievers will come and always make it about them. Which is ok, and we’re not changing our comment policy. But this happens with every post.

    So, maybe, I think Jeff is trying to point out that believers have some things “rough” too. It’s not just ex-members or nonbelievers who need to point out continually how things are rough, because *everyone* has SOME things difficult.

    …in the end, the goal is not to find the religion with the most expectations or whatever. Everyone is seeking for what they find to be true, what they find to improve themselves, etc., Each path will have different expectations.

    Like this comment? Thumb up 2

  56. Jeff Spector on October 18, 2011 at 2:24 PM

    Cowboy,

    “How does sharing a religious point of view in common with my family mean that I live to a lower standard?”

    You seem to keep migrating to the point that somehow I am either saying you’ll keep a lower standard or that you were taking an easy way out. I haven’t meant that nor have I stated that.

    but, for those of us who are beleiving members of the Church, we would be remiss if we did not think of the consequences of your non-belief, as far as the Gospel is concerned.

    “He seems to be stating that non-belief is “easier” and therefore inferior, because we don’t live according to certain expectations.”

    Never said inferior. One must make decisions that meets their own needs. but, having said that, it is not without consequences.

    We may all find out you are right and we are all wrong. or visa versa. it all remains to be seen.

    Unbelief is much easier than all the effort we all must make to beleive and participate.

    And I am glad you are open to help when asked. That is a good thing.

    Like this comment? Thumb up 0

  57. Cowboy on October 18, 2011 at 2:37 PM

    “Unbelief is much easier than all the effort we all must make to beleive and participate.”

    I’m perfectly fine with that statement, and Andrew S’s clarification. Perhaps I misunderstood Jeff. I would expect him and others to think that I am at risk, given their clear religious stance. I don’t have a problem with that.

    I left the Church (I’m really just innactive) for the sole purpose of making things “easier”, so of course it is. It seemed a waste to me to prepare talks, lessons, attend meetings, etc, all to further a cause I don’t believe in. Yes, all of that is work, so not doing that work is easier. So there’s no confusion however, it is not an unwillingness to do the work that persuades me, rather that the work really has no expected Eternal payoff. I’m just economizing.

    Like this comment? Thumb up 1

  58. jmb275 on October 18, 2011 at 3:28 PM

    Re MH-

    Well Cowboy, I’ve done my best persuading I could. It seems you prefer to take an extreme view of prophets/revelation, and aren’t very fond of scriptural precedent. I’m out of ideas here. (You know me–moderation in all things–I’m not fond of extremism in anything.)

    I’m just curious, what do you find extreme about Cowboy’s view of revelation and prophets? And, if you find it extreme, do you have an alternate definition that has substance and isn’t just as applicable to Suze Orman as it is to Pres. Monson? If I’m being honest with myself, the only way I find Pres. Monson a prophet is in that we say he is and have given him that authority in the priesthood sense. Aside from the list of prophets MH listed I’d say this covers most “prophets.”

    I guess, for me, the bottom line is that I agree in part with Cowboy, perhaps just not to the same level (which means I fall in the same camp as MH). But I don’t see his view as extreme at all.

    Like this comment? Thumb up 1

  59. jmb275 on October 18, 2011 at 3:37 PM

    Re LovelyLauren

    I want to be an example of a faithful latter-day saint who has questioned and chose to remain. I have deep cultural roots in Mormonism and I think it’s a pretty good place to have a family. Mostly though, I think it makes me a better person.

    I found when I made my religion about me and not about what other members said or thought or what the greater church agenda was, it became an easier, but also more meaningful experience.

    Dang, can I ask you out on date?

    Like this comment? Thumb up 1

  60. Daniel on October 18, 2011 at 4:02 PM

    Cowboy:

    You’re more polite than I, but when I read comments like this:

    “Unbelief is much easier than all the effort we all must make to beleive and participate.”

    All I can think about is how wrong that is. Unbelief may be easier in one context (i.e. a believing Mormon context), but there’s an incredible amount of complexity involved in adopting that worldview. I’m a recent convert to unbelief (i.e. hopeful agnosticism), after many years of trying to convince myself to go along with the believing status quo. I would argue that while my new mindset is more palatable with my persona, it’s hardly easier. It’s just different.

    To believing LDS, though, I’ve noticed a penchant for glorifying work/labor and telling others how much harder it is to believe than disbelieve. As a former believing member, I don’t think it’s that hard to believe. You’re given the answers from birth, you’re told not to question authority and follow the manuals without outside resources. You know where you’re going, why you’re here and what you’re supposed to be doing. Just ask a missionary, they have all the answers.

    When you step outside that paradigm into one of uncertainty, there’s nothing easy about it. You’re giving up a life of “knowns” for a life of “unknowns,” fully cognizant of how the average LDS member now views you (i.e. a heathen, apostate, etc).

    When you take your burdens and square them on yourself, it’s a unique ride whether you can do that as a believer or an unbeliever. We kid ourselves into thinking one is easier than the other…

    And, MH, I don’t believe Cowboy’s take on prophets is all that extreme either. If they are who they say (or who the LDS membership says) they are, then it’s not extreme to want something to verify that. I actually admire Cowboy’s take, and it appears he’s given plenty of thought to his stance. To either accuse him of extremes, or that he’s taking an easier route, is to discount what has been a very real process for him and one that he no doubt struggled with.

    Like this comment? Thumb up 3

  61. Jeff Spector on October 18, 2011 at 4:17 PM

    Daniel,

    “You’re given the answers from birth, you’re told not to question authority and follow the manuals without outside resources. You know where you’re going, why you’re here and what you’re supposed to be doing. Just ask a missionary, they have all the answers.”

    Most of what you stated is just not true. You can let it be true, but it does not apply to all of us. If you do adopt that way of thinking, you’ve already violated the principle of agency.

    As I stated before, giving up one’s long held beliefs is not easy, but it is the last remaining hard point. Once it’s done, it’s all easy.

    You don’t have to believe anything, therefore, you don’t have to do anything, and if you don’t have to do anything, you are no longer accountable for anything.

    Sounds easier to me than adopting any belief system, not just LDS, that requires a certain amount of effort.

    I am speaking from my own experiences as well. So don’t think I am applying this just to you. I am not.

    Like this comment? Thumb up 0

  62. Daniel on October 18, 2011 at 4:37 PM

    Jeff:

    As I stated before, giving up one’s long held beliefs is not easy, but it is the last remaining hard point. Once it’s done, it’s all easy.

    You don’t have to believe anything, therefore, you don’t have to do anything, and if you don’t have to do anything, you are no longer accountable for anything.

    Sounds easier to me than adopting any belief system, not just LDS, that requires a certain amount of effort.

    That’s a pile of hogwash and entirely founded on erroneous beliefs. I’d use a more appropriate term, but expletives will be left out of this. Leaving a religious institution (or beliefs) in no way implies that one is leaving morals or some code of ethics behind. Hell, for that matter, all you’re doing is clinging to the mistaken notion that Christianity is about ethics – you’re too caught up in a system that is about little more than rewards and punishments.

    Leaving a church compels no one to simply abandon their life and become a murderous, adulterous whore.

    It’s funny that the route you chose to take is the most nonsensical one out there. Sure, it might mean giving up Mormoncentric beliefs (drinking, etc), but one is still accountable to oneself.

    Being a good person is independent of religious upbringing, no matter how much you want to cast it as a religious issue.

    Like this comment? Thumb up 3

  63. Jeff Spector on October 18, 2011 at 4:58 PM

    Daniel,

    “Leaving a religious institution (or beliefs) in no way implies that one is leaving morals or some code of ethics behind.”

    I never said that or implied anything of the sort. Funny to me how you jump to that conclusion.

    And while I do believe that morals has a founding in religious belief of all kinds, I would not find it impossible to accept that those without deep religious belief can be just as moral as anyone with religious belief.

    The fascinating part for me is where it comes from.

    Like this comment? Thumb up 0

  64. Glass Ceiling on October 18, 2011 at 4:59 PM

    I hate to get into this, but most of my family has left the Church for that other road. And I know no one on Earth who left the Church who didn’t adopt that easier lifestyle. It just appears to go with the territory.

    I am with Jeff on this one.

    Like this comment? Thumb up 1

  65. Mormon Heretic on October 18, 2011 at 5:03 PM

    I think Cowboy understood what I said when I meant “extreme”. Cowboy’s definition of revelation as “a literal God communicates literally with a human being.” My comment 33 stated that only 5 people (if you include Mohammad) have ever claimed literal communication with God. So, Cowboy’s definition is either a charicature (exaggeration) of what a prophet is, or at least it doesn’t seem to understand what a scriptural definition of the term prophet.

    Everyone claims that the U.S. president is the most powerful person on the planet. If I change the definition to say, “Well, I bet Mike Tyson is more powerful–Tyson could beat up the president any day”, I’d be right, but I’d be using a different definition of “powerful” that we don’t recognize when discussing the president. Cowboy is changing the definition of prophet against what is scriptural. He’s using an extreme definition. And in comment 25, Cowboy agreed that his definition “is a tall claim.”

    Like this comment? Thumb up 0

  66. Cowboy on October 18, 2011 at 5:44 PM

    No, I agreed that one claims they are a prophet, they are making a tall claim. Do the scriptures define a Prophet, or do they just record the words of alleged Prophets and some stories. True, from scripture we only get a detailed account of the face to face encounters, in a few select places. However, all of the writings attributed to the Prophets more or less contain prophecy. In other words, men like Daniel/Jeremiah/Amos/etc, were forecasting the future. The general belief is that there insight was given to them by God. The easy test is to wait them out and see if they’re right. Modern Church leaders do not prophecy, at least not in any meaningful way (yes, GBH “foresaw” small Temples, and then had them built) – so, how do they get off calling themselves Prophets?

    Like this comment? Thumb up 1

  67. Jared on October 18, 2011 at 5:44 PM

    #37 jmb275 said:”Sheesh, Jared, I really expected a bit more from you here.”

    It appears my comment in #22 stuck you as being critical in some way. Words on a page are subject to interpretation by the reader.

    I’d like to clarify what I was thinking and feeling when I wrote #22.

    When I wrote:

    “I wouldn’t spend 10 minutes at church for any of those reasons. If the Lord hadn’t answered my prayer in June of 1966 with the kind of manifestation he did, I wouldn’t be here today.”

    I was answering the question, “Why I stay”, for me, and only me. I had no intention of saying that everyone else should feel as I do.

    When I wrote:

    “For all those who are active in the church for any other reason than testimony, I suggest you pay the price to obtain a testimony.”

    Based on my experience over the last 45 years of activity in the church, I’ve arrived at the conclusion that the majority of church members can obtain a testimony sufficient to see them through the challenges they will encounter to their faith. The prophets and the scripture(Jarom 1:4) attest to this fact.

    The only reason I spend time in the bloggernacle is to encourage others to gain a testimony and to diligently seek to obtain a remission of their sins. Another way of saying this is: I hope to see all church members “converted” (Matt 18:3).

    When I wrote:

    “If you can’t honestly say you’ve done everything possible to obtain such a blessing then you don’t have a leg to stand on. If you have, and haven’t received one, then God will eventually square things up with you.”

    This thought has two parts.

    The first part, refers to those who haven’t paid the price for a testimony and then fall away from the church the first time they encounter some sort of opposition to their anemic faith.

    I was on the phone recently with a friend. His son is working on a Phd, he is in his early thirties, has a family, and is an RM.

    He has been on the internet reading anti-mormon material over the last few months. Both he and his wife have decided to stop attending church. The dad told me his son’s testimony is based on the “social gospel”, meaning, it is based on everything but revelation from the Holy Ghost.

    His son is angry instead of seeking. He is ready to throw out all the intellectual proofs his “testimony” is based on because of the intellectual challenges he has recently encountered (Adam God, polygamy, and etc).

    If he and his wife decide to leave the church without a concerted effort to acquire a genuine answer to prayer by study, fasting and prayer, and temple attendance then I don’t think he has a leg to stand on. His dad even said that his son is somewhat delighted he won’t be required to pay tithing anymore.

    Elder Wirthlin referred to members like this saying:

    Unfortunately, some in the Church may believe sincerely that their testimony is a raging bonfire when it really is little more than the faint flickering of a candle. Their faithfulness has more to do with habit than holiness, and their pursuit of personal righteousness almost always takes a back seat to their pursuit of personal interests and pleasure. With such a feeble light of testimony for protection, these travelers on life’s highways are easy prey for the wolves of the adversary.
    Joseph B. Wirthlin, “Spiritual Bonfires of Testimony,” Ensign, Nov. 1992, 34
    See the complete talk for more details–great talk.

    Now to the second part. This refers to those who have done the best they can to obtain a testimony and haven’t received an answer they can hold fast to.

    I believe these members are few in number. I further believe the Lord will make it up to them. I can only imagine the challenge they are dealing with. So far, I’m not aware of scriptures that deal with this subject other than Alma 7:11.

    Here is an example of one such individual provided by Elder Wirthlin:

    A friend of mine once told me about his experience in coming to know and understand the gift of the Holy Ghost. He had prayed often and longed to know the truth of the gospel.

    Although he felt at peace with his beliefs, he had never received the certain knowledge for which he hungered. He had reconciled himself to the fact that he might be one of those who would have to walk through this life relying upon the faith of others.

    One morning, while pondering the scriptures, he felt something surge through his body from the top of his head to the bottom of his feet. “I was immersed in a feeling of such intense love and pure joy,” he explained. “I cannot describe the measure of what I felt at that time other than to say I was enveloped in joy so profound there was no room in me for any other sensation.”

    Even as he felt this outpouring of the Holy Ghost, he wondered if possibly he was just imagining what was happening. “The more I wondered,” he said, “the more intense the feelings became until it was all I could do to tearfully say, ‘It is enough.’” The Unspeakable Gift, Joseph B. Wirthlin, April 2003 General Conference

    I’ll say it again, I am only interested in encouraging members to take seriously the opportunity to acquire a testimony.

    Fan Favorite! Do you like this comment as well? Thumb up 4

  68. KMB on October 18, 2011 at 6:06 PM

    “Cowboy is changing the definition of prophet against what is scriptural. He’s using an extreme definition.”

    Except it seems like most active members are also using this “extreme” definition — the last two months I’ve heard multiple members in F&T meeting stand up and testify that they “know that Pres. Monson talks with God regularly”

    I’m pretty sure they don’t mean ‘talk’ figuratively — the average member does, in fact, believe that modern prophets DO literally talk with God regularly.

    Of course, the interesting part is that modern LDS prophets have never actually claimed to talk with God directly. Pres. Hinckley admitted as much in his 60 Minutes interview, and Pres. Monson admitted as much in his Sunday morning talk just two weeks ago.

    Maybe someone needs to give a conference talk on what exactly a ‘prophet’ is according to the scriptures so we don’t have so many Church members misunderstanding and holding on to ‘extreme’ beliefs.

    Like this comment? Thumb up 1

  69. LovelyLauren on October 18, 2011 at 7:02 PM

    Forgive me, I only skimmed the comments, but I don’t know that things are really easier out of the church as far as lifestyle/belief goes. Another one of the reasons I decided to stay is because I realized that life is simply hard and I would struggle no matter what I chose. I looked into some other church options and knew that I would struggle against something no matter where I went, even if I decided not to go to church at all.

    Admittedly, however, leaving the church would make fashion much easier. Layering sucks.

    Like this comment? Thumb up 2

  70. Glass Ceiling on October 18, 2011 at 8:47 PM

    President Monson is a prophet. He is running a worldwide church, however, and probably does not feel the need to tell the world every single thing he does and every dignitary he talks to. His mission is different than JS or BY because the Church has changed.

    Like this comment? Thumb up 0

  71. KMB on October 18, 2011 at 9:22 PM

    Are you (G.C.) using “prophet” in the “talks with God” sense or some other definition? (You’re referring to talking to ‘heavenly dignitaries’, I presume?)

    Because as MH has pointed out, that’s not the scriptural definition of “prophet”. And Pres. Monson has never said or implied that he has talked directly with or seen God in person.

    This is the direct quote from Pres.Monson’s Sunday GC talk:

    “Since that time of long ago, I have had countless prayers answered. Not a day has gone by that I have not communicated with my Father in Heaven through prayer. It is a relationship I cherish — one I would literally be lost without. If you do not now have such a relationship with your Father in Heaven, I urge you to work toward that goal. As you do so, you will be entitled to His inspiration and guidance in your life—necessities for each of us if we are to survive spiritually during our sojourn here on earth. Such inspiration and guidance are gifts He freely gives if we but seek them. What treasures they are!

    I am always humbled and grateful when my Heavenly Father communicates with me through His inspiration. I have learned to recognize it, to trust it, and to follow it. Time and time again I have been the recipient of such inspiration.”

    This was immediately in-between the stories about losing the five-dollar bill as a child, and the story from 25 years ago about inspiration when calling speakers.

    Now that’s an *awfully* strange thing to say if he actually talked with God regularly, as the common lay member appears to think. Why in the world would he discuss ‘inspiration’ through the Holy Ghost as the foundation of his relationship with God if he was having more direct communication at numerous other times?

    Occam’s Razor seems to apply here: the simplest explanation is that Pres. Monson is telling the truth — he’s not being coy or misleading about the true method of communication with God, he’s describing exactly how that communication takes place. Are we to believe he’s secretly receiving more direct communication at the same time and just never talking about it for some reason? Isn’t it odd that he would share two stories from *before* he was prophet on the subject of how he receives inspiration if the method by which he received direction from God had drastically changed once becoming president of the Church?

    Again, this isn’t an argument that Pres. Monson isn’t a “prophet”, only that he himself seems to agree that “prophet” does not mean having seen or talked with God in person.

    Like this comment? Thumb up 2

  72. jmb275 on October 18, 2011 at 9:49 PM

    Re MH-

    I think Cowboy understood what I said when I meant “extreme”.

    Ah, sorry, I was not trying to challenge you or call you out. I’m genuinely interested in why you think that’s extreme and how you would define it. I think you sort of answered the first part, but you didn’t cite an alternative definition except to say a “scriptural definition.” I have thought a lot about this, and this is a real conundrum for me. I don’t see what makes Pres. Monson’s words any more inspired than many of the other inspirational people I’ve listened to. So what makes him a prophet? I think it’s because we have given him that authority in our lives, and he holds that office in the priesthood. But I don’t see that he receives any special revelation that isn’t given to lots of people. And if revelation is just inspired counsel, then I have to acknowledge I shouldn’t pay any special heed to him that I don’t pay to other inspired leaders.

    If revelation is communication with God, now we have a clear definition that could only apply to a few select people (as you’ve illustrated). That’s a beneficial delineating marker. But then we’d have to acknowledge that Pres. Monson probably isn’t receiving revelation, just inspiration.

    I guess I don’t see that as extreme. Can you help me understand your view of revelation and a prophet?

    Like this comment? Thumb up 3

  73. Glass Ceiling on October 18, 2011 at 10:03 PM

    Kmb,

    Either way he is a prophet. God talks to him any way he wants. Its irrelevant.

    Like this comment? Thumb up 0

  74. jmb275 on October 18, 2011 at 10:06 PM

    Re Jared-
    I know your intentions Jared. I respect that. My qualm is twofold:
    1. I think it’s interesting that seemingly the only reason you stay is because you know it’s true, and would leave otherwise. That’s fair for you, but it’s not clear to me that it’s not acceptable, or somehow less noble or courageous to stay for social, familial, or other reasons. Maybe you’re not judging the reasons people have for staying, but it came across that way (at least to me). I think staying despite disbelief is as courageous as leaving because one no longer believes it’s all true.

    2. I don’t think your perception of the number of people who sincerely make efforts before leaving is accurate. Perhaps my sample isn’t good either, but as someone who reads several emails each week from people leaving, questioning, or doubting, I can assure you that the vast majority of these people have tried, or are trying everything they can to gain a testimony. Most don’t leave because they want to sin, or because anti-Mormon literature got to them, etc. For most people it’s exceedingly painful, and they would RATHER return to an orthodox understanding (at least while they’re in the struggle).

    And although I don’t know the situation with your friend as you described, I’m almost certain that if I talked to this person’s son, he will have thought long and hard about the information he is reading, and would not be duped by many of the anti-Mormon nonsense that is out there. Anyone pursuing a PhD has more skill than that. I read lots of anti-Mormon stuff and could see through lots of it very easily. He is angry because that’s part of the ordeal. Feeling deceived is a part of the faith crisis. I felt it too, and nearly left the church over it, despite my intense struggle to gain a testimony. It was a horrible thing I wouldn’t wish on anyone. But I emerged in tact, and better for it (I think/hope).

    I think you encouraging others to gain a testimony is great, but if you haven’t been through a faith crisis you can’t relate to how that feels. While there are people who fit your perception, I’d say they’re in the minority of people who go through a faith crisis. They’re more likely people who didn’t have both feet in anyway.

    Fan Favorite! Do you like this comment as well? Thumb up 4

  75. Mormon Heretic on October 18, 2011 at 11:39 PM

    Well, I stand corrected. I see that I did misunderstand Cowboy’s comment, so maybe we’re not on the same page that I thought we were.

    KMB’s comment 68 is important to the conversation: it seems like most active members are also using this “extreme” definition — the last two months I’ve heard multiple members in F&T meeting stand up and testify that they “know that Pres. Monson talks with God regularly”

    I agree completely. There are MANY members with a naive understanding of what a prophet is. I think there are many that believe the prophet has a bat-phone to God, and talk regularly. However, as Armand Mauss said, such experiences are RARE. I think that a more mature faith realizes this. So, I’m not blaming Cowboy for accepting what many members define, and maybe the word “extreme” doesn’t really capture what I’m trying to say–perhaps “naive” is better or some other word–I’ll have to think about it some more. But it seems like an immature faith to think that any prophet has a crystal ball or something and is holding weekly PPI meetings with God. Not even Joseph Smith did it that often. Such assertions, whether in Testimony meeting or by an unbeliever just don’t seem accurate, IMO.

    But if I can’t make an appeal to the Bible on what a true prophet should be, then I’m going to really struggle with a definition. I’ll keep thinking about it, but I’ve got to go to bed for tonight.

    Like this comment? Thumb up 0

  76. Cowboy on October 19, 2011 at 8:02 AM

    Mormon Heretic:

    Respectfully (and I really mean that) – your argument really says nothing at all. So far, you haven’t really made a strong biblical case either. All you have stated is that the Bible specifically mentions only a few instances where a Prophet spoke face to face with God. Still, most (all I think?) of the recorded Prophets wrote their revelations, where the implication is that they were literally shown visions by God. In his presence or not, the revelations are thought to be the direct word of God.

    You say that many members have a “naive” understanding of what a Prophet is. You defend this by appealing to the authority of Armand Mauss who argues that literal experiences are “rare”. Articulate and prolific as Mauss may be in Mormon circles, his domain of expertise does not lay in the field of qualifying the divinity behind Church activities. He may have an opinion derived through a sociological lens, but when he comments on the divine origin of the Church, he is doing so from a place of faith. His comments may be useful to those who share his point of view, however his criticisms of those who don’t are on the wrong track. It isn’t helpful to call someone “naive” on subject as questionable as the reality of a specific religions truthfulness. In order to show that I, or others are naive, you and Mauss will need to first demonstrate that Mormon or Biblical Prophets, actually are what they claim. You will have to rationally define what it means to be a Prophet, and why we are wrong or naive in thinking/expecting otherwise. So far we just have the classic pat on the head criticism that we’re just naive. Why? Because we expect that people who claim supernatural powers, such as the Priesthood to heal the sick, or revelation to see the future, can’t demonstrate these powers. No, expecting a demonstration would somehow be tempting God, right? The last thing he would want to do is really prove himself, because then I wouldn’t need faith. Afterall, the need for faith (hope for those things which are not seen) is so self-evident that any need for explanation just exposes our naivete.

    Like this comment? Thumb up 3

  77. jmb275 on October 19, 2011 at 9:37 AM

    Re 76 Cowboy-
    ::golf clap:: (with no offense to MH intended)

    Re MH

    But it seems like an immature faith to think that any prophet has a crystal ball or something and is holding weekly PPI meetings with God. Not even Joseph Smith did it that often. Such assertions, whether in Testimony meeting or by an unbeliever just don’t seem accurate, IMO.

    But if I can’t make an appeal to the Bible on what a true prophet should be, then I’m going to really struggle with a definition.

    I agree with you, it is immature, and I don’t think Cowboy is disagreeing with this. I don’t think prophets have a crystal ball, or a bat phone (even if some members do). But there is a disconnect when a member can in one breath say there’s no crystal ball, and in the next breath claim that the Duty to God program is God’s will. It’s not entirely clear to me what the disconnect is, but it seems that when we’re trying to get someone to do something, we’re ready to throw the entire weight of divine revelation behind it. But when we retrospectively examine mistakes (even if they were once heralded as divine revelation) we go back to the assertion that prophets are fallible and scratch our head when someone is so stupid as to think a prophet would be perfect.

    Also, what Biblical definition are you referring to? I can’t think of one off the top of my head that stands out to me as the definition of a prophet/revelation.

    Again, I’m asking what makes Pres. Monson different from Suze Orman besides the fact we (in Mormonism) think Pres. Monson is a prophet and receives revelation? If we can’t articulate an answer, I think we have a problem. If that definition is priesthood authority, then I accept that as a valid answer in the context of Mormonism but wouldn’t expect anyone on the outside to acknowledge it. If it’s that Pres. Monson receives God’s will to the world (which is something we have long claimed about prophets in our church) then I think Cowboy has a very valid point.

    Like this comment? Thumb up 2

  78. Mike S on October 19, 2011 at 10:01 AM

    I think jmb275 points to the crux of the issue: We want to have it both ways and it’s not possible.

    Every new program is presented as if it’s inspired of God, God’s will, etc. The members are led to believe, implicitly or explicitly, that this is exactly God’s will as if the Prophet talked to God daily and God told him what to do.

    If, in retrospect, all decisions made by the prophets and apostles were seen to be correct and ultimately God’s decision, then this strategy would be just fine. However, there are numerous times when prophets and apostles have been flat-out wrong in things that they have said. This has to do with proclamations, things held as doctrine, etc.

    We always hear that these are times when they are “acting as men”, but how do we know when this is happening? When was the last time we heard directly from a prophet, “Thus saith the Lord…”? When was the last canonized addition to our “open canon” of scripture? I don’t know.

    Fan Favorite! Do you like this comment as well? Thumb up 4

  79. Jared on October 19, 2011 at 10:02 AM

    #74 jmb275–

    Re: #1 There are all kinds of reasons why people attend church. Those who don’t have a testimony but who attend for a myriad of other reasons are doing a wonderful thing, IMO.

    The individuals I have a problem with are those who lie to obtain a temple recommend.

    I’ve heard the argument that they are being noble by so doing because they end up doing “good” for someone else: a spouse, children, parent, etc.

    It doesn’t appear the Lord buys into this kind of “nobility” (D&C 112:26).

    Just about any kind of evil can be justified with this kind of reasoning.

    I appreciate the exchange of ideas.

    Like this comment? Thumb up 1

  80. jmb275 on October 19, 2011 at 10:24 AM

    Re #79 Jared

    The individuals I have a problem with are those who lie to obtain a temple recommend.

    I agree, I cannot endorse that.

    I’ve heard the argument that they are being noble by so doing because they end up doing “good” for someone else: a spouse, children, parent, etc.

    I think what you’re getting at is people who really don’t wanna stay, don’t believe, aren’t trying anymore, but still act the part. I agree, they might be better off leaving. Though I still claim that if they are sincere in staying because they know it might end their marriage, and hurt their children, they are noble for it. I can’t imagine a god who insists someone leave his church despite willingness to stay if it results in the pain and suffering of children and other family members.

    But maybe that is the God you believe in.

    Like this comment? Thumb up 1

  81. Cowboy on October 19, 2011 at 10:31 AM

    This isn’t intended to be a score points jab, but we are debating the “definition” of a Prophet – and then get this statement:

    “But it seems like an immature faith to think that any prophet has a crystal ball or something and is holding weekly PPI meetings with God.”

    This is a rather ironic statement because the Mormon precedent does in fact start with a “crystal ball”. We call it the Seer Stone, and then the Urimm and Thummim, but that is the precedent set by Joseph Smith. So now arguing that this expectation is naive, is inconsistent with the established history.

    Like this comment? Thumb up 1

  82. Cowboy on October 19, 2011 at 11:00 AM

    In advance I would like to apologize for belaboring this post. I also think that Mormon Heretic provided us with a great topic worth discussing.

    I want to rehash this notion of defining Prophets, particularly from the scriptures. I think it is rather something we have to infer from the Bible, though the Book of Mormon is far less obscure. So, let’s ask first off, what do Church leaders claim to be? I would submit that every six months we attend conference where among other things, the general membership is left to a sustaining vote that the presiding leadership constitutes 15 men who are sustained as Prophets, Seers, and Revelators. Furthermore, Joseph Smith set a precedent as a Seer, by translating the Book of Mormon through the aid of a Seer Stone. Similarly, the Book of Mormon itself states:

    Mosiah 8:13 – 18

    13 Now Ammon said unto him: I can assuredly tell thee, O king, of a man that can translate the records; for he has wherewith that he can look, and translate all records that are of ancient date; and it is a gift from God. And the things are called interpreters, and no man can look in them except he be commanded, lest he should look for that he ought not and he should perish. And whosoever is commanded to look in them, the same is called seer.

    14 And behold, the king of the people who are in the land of Zarahemla is the man that is commanded to do these things, and who has this high gift from God.

    15 And the king said that a seer is greater than a prophet.

    16 And Ammon said that a seer is a revelator and a prophet also; and a gift which is greater can no man have, except he should possess the power of God, which no man can; yet a man may have great power given him from God.

    17 But a seer can know of things which are past, and also of things which are to come, and by them shall all things be revealed, or, rather, shall secret things be made manifest, and hidden things shall come to light, and things which are not known shall be made known by them, and also things shall be made known by them which otherwise could not be known.

    18 Thus God has provided a means that man, through faith, might work mighty miracles; therefore he becometh a great benefit to his fellow beings.

    Nowhere in modern observation are these mighty miracles clearly evident – specifically, to know of things past, present, future – among the teachings and activities of todays presiding leadership.

    Like this comment? Thumb up 1

  83. Jared on October 19, 2011 at 11:11 AM

    #78 Mike S.

    Hi Mike-

    I don’t see a problem with the apostles and prophets presenting programs that are not perfect (as though they had a direct line to God via a bat phone-lol).

    In those instances where we perceive that their decisions were “flat out wrong”, I view it as the Lord allowing the prophets/us to learn things by experience (D&C 122). I ultimately believe (have faith) God will guide his church/kingdom to its prophesied destiny.

    If it were otherwise, if every decision were correct, there would be no need to exercise faith.

    We are in a fallen telestial world, I think we forget that sometimes. We are being tried and proven, the reward comes later.

    When it comes to intellectual proof, I believe God keeps a balance where it is reasonable to believe or disbelieve; one doesn’t rule out the other. Otherwise, there would be no need for faith.

    When we have enough faith, God gives his followers addition proofs/signs. The Book of Mormon is our guide to obtaining the “gifts”.

    Anyhow, that is my perspective.

    Like this comment? Thumb up 1

  84. Mormon Heretic on October 19, 2011 at 1:20 PM

    I appreciate the comments everyone. I think defining a prophet is the topic for another post, and I think we can get into more of the details there. I’ve got some ideas, but it would make a really long comment and I think this deserves a post on its own. Stay tuned.

    Like this comment? Thumb up 0

  85. Jeff Spector on October 19, 2011 at 1:30 PM

    MOHer,

    “defining a prophet is the topic for another post,”

    “Believing in a Prophet” might be a better topic.

    Like this comment? Thumb up 0

  86. John on October 19, 2011 at 4:26 PM

    Jeff:

    Might be better to define it before you start believing it. FPR had a great writeup a year or so ago about what a prophet meant inthe OT context. LDS believe something entirely different and have redefined the very meaning where its now an office as opposed to a gift (D&C 107)…

    Like this comment? Thumb up 1

  87. Douglas on October 19, 2011 at 8:04 PM

    It’s easy to pick at faults of leaders, from the humble local bishop all the way to “Tommy Monson” himself (I keep a portrait of the Prophet alongside a print of the late Chris Farley, with a caption, “Which ‘Tommy Boy’ RU behaving like?”…at least Pres. Monson won’t say, “Holy Schneikes!”). As I’ve oft said before, the Lord can run His Church with “Hew-Mon” beings, and, sometimes I think just to “show off”, restrict the Priesthood to the male half. Maybe someday the Lord will call the “starting lineup” out of Relief Society!
    Seriously, I can’t see how hard it is to separate human foibles in our leaders from the divine establishment and mission of the Church itself. Does anyone expect angels to openly come down from Heaven and minister? Wherein would we grow? When you get right down to it, any large organization is a particular culture with its own rules. We LDS are hardly unique in that regard. And since we’re a large group, we have a gamut of types..some weirder than others. I say just deal with it and worry about your own self and your family. I’ve been a member for almost 33 years and what keeps me going is in fact my own testimony. Sure, the fellowship is fine, but it ain’t my type of social club. It is my type of Church, though.

    Like this comment? Thumb up 1

  88. Glass Ceiling on October 19, 2011 at 8:32 PM

    Douglas,

    Thank you. My feelings articulated.

    Like this comment? Thumb up 1

  89. Jeff Spector on October 20, 2011 at 4:38 AM

    John,

    I think we know what a Prophet is and what his role is as God’s mouthpiece. The trouble I see on this post in particular, is that some want to re-define the role of the Prophet, and how they see how the Prophets of the LDS Church stack up against the historical and biblical view in order to be critical because the prophet of today doesn’t part the Mississippi River for them or other such “sign” as proof of his mantle.

    Like this comment? Thumb up 0

  90. Cowboy on October 20, 2011 at 8:24 AM

    Jeff:

    The request was to offer a scriptural interpretation of “Prophets”. I have done that using the only scriptures of which I am aware, that even attempt to define what that means. The claim since the beginning of the Church is that the windows of heaven are not shut, and God has not stopped calling prophets. That in fact, we today have a Moses in our midst. That is the claim made by Joseph Smith, and has been perpetuated since. So, other than the fact that we know they can’t do it, why should we not expect something akin to parting the Mississippi – as you say. They still use the title “Seer”. The Book of Mormon tells us what a seer is, but then I am accused of “redefining” the role of Prophet to suit an agenda of making it impossible for Mormon “Prophets” to stack up??? I didn’t claim to be a Prophet, they did. So, if they don’t stack up it isn’t because I set the bar too high. Again, at the expense of sounding cliche`, the logic of “extraordinary claims require extraordinary proof” isn’t at all unreasonable.

    Like this comment? Thumb up 2

  91. Daniel on October 20, 2011 at 12:25 PM

    Jeff:

    I think it is the LDS who have re-defined what the role of the prophet is. From the inception of the church the membership have been seeking to have a “king” as their leader, that king being the prophet. Up until McKay, there was a very distinct difference between the “President” of the church and what a “Prophet” was. The title prophet always hearkened back to Joseph, but now we don’t really even think of Monson as “President,” but only as “Prophet”.

    D&C 107:92, from whence the distinctions of a prophet, seer and revelator are drawn from, could just as easily be read as those being the requirements for the President of the church… i.e., without those gifts, you simply couldn’t be president of the church. Instead, however, LDS have redefined that to mean that once you reach a certain age those things just miraculously happen and do so without any gifts/signs following you.

    And, if you want to delve deeper, this could go back as far as Brigham when the call for a successor to Joseph fell on deaf ears and Brigham reorganized things and seniority became the option of the day. Fortunately for us, it’s way easier to tell the issue of seniority than it is to tell if someone is meeting the requirements of D&C 107:92…

    BH Roberts once complained, back in the early 1900s, about how the prophets of his time weren’t prophesying, weren’t revealing and weren’t seeing. In essence, his complaint was the same thing both Cowboy and myself (and many others) have. Good counsel can be found at GC, at your local bookstore, at a local therapists office and many other places, but the gifts of revelation, prophecy and seership are all but invisible today.

    Members of the church and the church leadership themselves all claim the title of Prophet + Apostle. It’s not so much to ask those claiming such a divine office to actually show us where the gifts of the spirit are that follow such positions… and do so in a way that doesn’t co-opt those things that naturally follow faith.

    Like this comment? Thumb up 0

  92. Bishop Bill on October 21, 2011 at 5:27 PM

    I wonder how many people stay in the church using Pascal’s Wager as a reason.

    Like this comment? Thumb up 1

  93. Sentient Meat on October 22, 2011 at 9:37 PM

    I love Robert Rees! He was my last bishop. I feel like I should capitalize that: He was my Last Bishop.

    He and I have spoken a bit about this. I left because I no longer believed that spiritual experiences (burning in the bosom, feeling of peace, etc) should be trusted to guide my beliefs. Too fallible.

    That was 20 years ago and I’m grateful every day! I think the world of many LDS folks who stay, with varying degrees of orthodoxy or questioning (why is that a bad word with highly orthodox LDS?).

    Like this comment? Thumb up 1

  94. Sentient Meat on October 22, 2011 at 9:39 PM

    Bishop Bill: at least one of my 5 brothers tried to use Pascal’s Wager to get me to stay a member. I very gently said this was well-trodden ground (he’s 19 years younger than I), and that this line of argument is not persuasive in the end.

    Like this comment? Thumb up 0

  95. Brian on October 23, 2011 at 5:01 PM

    “I wonder how many people stay in the church using Pascal’s Wager as a reason.”

    The following is from a Sam Harris/Rick Warren April 9, 2007 discussion moderated by Newsweek magazine.

    Rick Warren’s last comment was: “I believe in both faith and reason. The more we learn about God, the more we understand how magnificent this universe is. There is no contradiction to it. When I look at history, I would disagree with Sam: Christianity has done far more good than bad. Altruism comes out of knowing there is more than this life, that there is a sovereign God, that I am not God. We’re both betting. He’s betting his life that he’s right. I’m betting my life that Jesus was not a liar. When we die, if he’s right, I’ve lost nothing. If I’m right, he’s lost everything. I’m not willing to make that gamble.”

    Apparently at least one.

    Like this comment? Thumb up 2

  96. Sentient Meat on October 23, 2011 at 6:50 PM

    Pascal’s Wager preys upon a cognitive defect in human reasoning: that we inherently and instinctively tend to give equal weight to two uncertain alternatives. Combine this with fear or torture (torment) or destruction, and you have a powerful compliance technique.

    A similar cognitive dichotomy is at work in snake oil sales: we know that it is 99% suspect, but the outcome is so wonderful, we’re willing to make the wager.

    To escape this cognitive trick, expand the question. For example, add Zeus to the mix instead of the more recent Great Judge who separates sheep from goats. Or imagine how you should respond to Harold Camping if he poses the End-of-the-World version of Pascal’s Wager.

    This is a powerful defect in our reasoning instincts, but it can be remedied.

    Like this comment? Thumb up 0

  97. Sentient Meat on October 23, 2011 at 6:58 PM

    Brian, great example. This is a perfect example of how utopian systems extend myths of infinite good societies (heaven) or infinite pain or evil to justify whatever actions are necessary in this life. This works for utopians who preach a greater society in this life (Marxism, Nazism, Fascism, and many more) AS WELL as those who preach a utopia in the life to come (if only we will submit to their ideas).

    Add to this the hot-button heart triggers (calling Jesus a liar), and you have a powerful set of motivators. First they are incensed that we would call their precious a liar, and then those who deny their utopian view — by extension — can righteously be blamed for boundless evil.

    … Because they oppose the “ideas of infinite good” and stand in the way of achieving utopia.

    Those who can make you believe absurdities can make you commit atrocities. — Voltaire

    Like this comment? Thumb up 0

  98. Sentient Meat on October 23, 2011 at 7:04 PM

    PS It is a mistake to accuse a stayer or a leaver of “taking the easy way out”. Top-level decisions about what in the World are reliable signposts of truth and reality… these are not susceptible to quasi-moralistic attacks of being “easy” or “hard”. That’s a trivial and worthless attack. Stay or leave, life is hard. Period. Leaving The Church or realizing that “Scripture” is arbitrary and not worth of belief is very hard, but is it harder than staying in a belief or religion you have realized is a gigantic sham? Granted, that’s just one person’s viewpoint. But when that realization permeates your entire being, then following it sincerely is just as important to the Former Mormon as “staying” ever was to the Still Mormon.

    Like this comment? Thumb up 0

  99. Andrew S on October 23, 2011 at 7:04 PM

    I’m as big of a critic of Pascal’s Wager as anyone else, but I mean, here’s the real deal with it.

    Pascal’s Wager is just the natural application of expected value in probability theory. The difference between God under Pascal’s Wager and snake oil is that God has a proposed infinite outcome…It’s not that the outcome is “so wonderful,” but that the outcome is “infinite.”

    In this case, when you multiply infinity times whatever remote probability, what do you get? You get infinity. The wager doesn’t have to assume that two uncertain alternatives are given equal weight…just that we give any weight at all to God. (If God is possible, then it doesn’t matter how improbable he is, because the expected value is still infinite.)

    Extensions of the wager address some of these counterarguments. For example, if you wager, wager on a religion that has the worst punishment for non-adherents. It doesn’t make sense for Mormons to use the wager for Mormonism, for example, because non-believers don’t have infinite punishment. Similarly, it doesn’t make for believers of non-exclusive religions to use the wager, because non-adherents don’t get infinitely punished.

    Pascal’s original writings were that, in the face of many religions, a sincere individual would then investigate each of them to see if any differed from the others, etc,

    Like this comment? Thumb up 0

  100. Sentient Meat on October 23, 2011 at 7:14 PM

    Jeff Spector wrote: “As I stated before, giving up one’s long held beliefs is not easy, but it is the last remaining hard point. Once it’s done, it’s all easy.”

    “You don’t have to believe anything, therefore, you don’t have to do anything, and if you don’t have to do anything, you are no longer accountable for anything.”

    “Sounds easier to me than adopting any belief system, not just LDS, that requires a certain amount of effort.”

    “I am speaking from my own experiences as well. So don’t think I am applying this just to you. I am not.”

    That is some of the most blind, unperceptive analysis of The Other that I have seen. It’s amazing to see such naked contempt for the struggles of other people. What a fantasy you seem to have created of a complete “lack of beliefs” involving… imagine!… easy street, no effort! Do you actually KNOW someone who’s struggled and finally left behind their lifelong indoctrination? I know people think this *inside*, but it’s quite telling to see this in writing. Complete lack of empathy and deep narcissistic confidence in the writer’s viewpoint with utter dismissal of those who have tried it and found it wanting.

    Beyond the complete absurdity of the accusation of a life “without responsibilities” just because some have found Mormonism incomplete and unsupportable… it’s also completely beside the point. What does effort (particularly perceived effort in your eyes) have to do with whether a belief is worthy of our investment? Or any idea? This is self-serving jibber jabber.

    Like this comment? Thumb up 0

  101. Sentient Meat on October 23, 2011 at 7:18 PM

    George: “natural”, yes… worthy of rational investment, no. When applied to essentially infinite good in the stories told about the golden future, it amounts to an empty and dangerous compliance technique. It is a mental crowbar preying on a defect of cognition, nothing more.

    Expectation theory as a model of human behavior is part of the economic model of rational human behavior, but it applies in a very limited domain, and even there it is at best a useful (ie, profitable) approximation.

    Like this comment? Thumb up 0

  102. Andrew S on October 23, 2011 at 7:24 PM

    re 101:

    Sentient Meat/Dean,

    Is there a non-zero probability of there being a god? If so, then why is it preying upon a defect of cognition to point out that a p =/= 0 x an outcome = infinity will lead to an expected value of infinity?

    I think expectation theory/expectancy theory is a bit different than what I was trying to get at with expected value (which is far more broadly applicable in probability), but perhaps you can explain further?

    Like this comment? Thumb up 0

  103. Sentient Meat on October 23, 2011 at 7:52 PM

    Hi Andrew S!

    Probability is not an appropriate system or modality to apply to a universal, philosophical question like this. Probability applies to repeated trials of identical events with stochastic outcomes. Flips of a coin. Or deterministic events where we make a stochastic approximation (predictions about an actual vote after polling). And expectation value (utility) is an extension of this in rational microeconomic theory… again, this is an approximation of how people DO decide, but an imperfect one. And it is definitely not normative… it offers no advice on how we SHOULD decide. (Or at least it is a mistake to apply it in this way.)

    I return the question about infinite reward by asking to revise the same thought experiment with Zeus instead of your chosen deity. Or make it a Zeus with infinite punishment for non-Zeus believers and infinite reward for Zeus believers.

    To apply expectation value in this instance is… the empty set. It is a misapplication of one field to another. I’m not saying you CAN’T apply it, I’m saying it’s a model which was never designed for — and does not apply to — questions such as this, so it is at best suggestive. Like applying metaphors from quantum mechanics to Eastern Philosophy or literary criticism. Potentially interesting, but not really the basis for a fully sound argument.

    One gets into essentially linguistic or truth-value problems here… Start applying probabilities to whether there exists an Immovable Object versus the probability there exists and Irresistible Force. Again, I would say this is essentially a linguistic, logical dead end which arises when applying a field beyond its applicable universe.

    Like this comment? Thumb up 0

  104. Andrew S on October 23, 2011 at 7:58 PM

    re 103:

    SM,

    But notice how you have to make it “Zeus with infinite punishment.” But even with Zeus with infinite punishment, the answer becomes the same: then you have an obligation — since this is the most important decision of your life — to investigate all religions that have such systems of infinite return and infinite punishment.

    I don’t see how this is a model which was never designed for questions such as this, when Pascal was one of the first people to investigate expected value. The actual writing for the Wager *was* the first formal use of decision theory.

    Like this comment? Thumb up 0

  105. Sentient Meat on October 23, 2011 at 7:59 PM

    Though… I do agree that it’s a perfectly reasonable analysis of why and how Pascal’s Wager works. Why it has a cognitive foothold. I totally think you’re on the mark there.

    Like this comment? Thumb up 0

  106. Sentient Meat on October 23, 2011 at 8:01 PM

    No… I don’t believe in systems of infinite reward. So in my finite time, I don’t think I need to investigate more of them than I already spent in my life up until now.

    Like this comment? Thumb up 0

  107. Andrew S on October 23, 2011 at 8:02 PM

    re 106,

    In short, I would also challenge the infinite reward part (among other parts, but yeah)

    Like this comment? Thumb up 0

  108. Sentient Meat on October 23, 2011 at 8:04 PM

    Doesn’t have to be Zeus with infinite punishment. I’m just trying to move it out of an area where the discussion participants have already bet on a particular horse. It doesn’t really matter whether you score the non-believer 0 and believer +infinity. Or the believer -infinity and the believer 0 or +10. I think it amounts to the same thing.

    It may be that decision theory has been applied this way… I think it’s a mistake, neither persuasively descriptive (Predictably Irrational, Dan Ariely,…) nor… definitely not… normative. (All the utopian systems I mentioned above.)

    Like this comment? Thumb up 0

  109. Sentient Meat on October 23, 2011 at 8:16 PM

    All that’s required to seal the compliance maneuver is to convince the mark of glorious realms in the future (either the amazing advances in society or the kingdoms of reward and infinite… progress? Power? Endless joy?… this life or the next — it works as long as it’s off in the future and extremely vivid).

    In this sense, yes, Pascal’s Wager is tragically accurate… it is descriptive of how many people actually do decide. And as a description of what’s happening when they fall for this compliance technique, oh yes, I totally buy your analysis of Pascal’s Wager as equivalent to an application of a fairly simple expectation value decision.

    Where I stop… I just don’t think it SHOULD be applied that way. For lots of reasons, not least what I wrote about misapplied theories. As a rule, and for many reasons, I have come to a point where I try not to invest in vivid stories about a glorious future, somewhere out of sight, offstage. I’m happy enough with vivid stories about a glorious-if-tarnished existence in the here and now.

    Like this comment? Thumb up 1

  110. Sentient Meat on October 23, 2011 at 8:19 PM

    Except maybe IRA, SEP, 401K, 403B… I totally believe the vivid tales about the glorious benefits of saving for retirement. ;-)

    Like this comment? Thumb up 0

  111. [...] Comments on the Blogs: TrevorPrice.net Wheat and Tares [...]

    Like this comment? Thumb up 0

  112. Kent Francis on November 4, 2011 at 11:44 AM

    Kent Francis says:
    When I was a young man growing up in the Church I knew how to fly paper airplanes and write in the songbooks. When I was first challenged by my seminary teacher to actually read the Book of Mormon, I stayed up all night entranced; and asked God to validate the promise of Moroni 10:4-5. I then knew that the Book of Mormon was a true scripture about real people who received revelation from God; and that Joseph Smith was a prophet. As I studied and prayed over the years I came to understand that The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints was His Church; established to publish His Gospel throughout the world, to perfect the Saints, and to provide through the Priesthood the ordinances that would allow me and all His children to return to Him. As my knowledge of Science and the world has grown there have been many challenges to my faith. As I have interacted with narrow minded people in the Church I have often had my feelings hurt. When I recently expressed my opinion in a class about God living in the center of the Galaxy and knowing our thoughts and prayers thru lepton entanglement, I was called into the Bishop’s office and asked to stick to the manual. My wife wanted to know if we were going to have to move again {8^). Over my 50 years of Church leadership and teaching assignments I have seen hundreds of miracles and received not only inspiration but actual interaction with my Father who has asked me to stay in The Church and contribute as I am able to building it up and serving my brothers and sisters… so I stay and do as He has asked me to because I love Him.

    Like this comment? Thumb up 1

  113. Jeff Spector on November 4, 2011 at 1:45 PM

    Sentient Meat,

    “What a fantasy you seem to have created of a complete “lack of beliefs” involving… imagine!… easy street, no effort! Do you actually KNOW someone who’s struggled and finally left behind their lifelong indoctrination? I know people think this *inside*, but it’s quite telling to see this in writing.’

    Yes, my friend. Been there, done that.

    Have a great day.

    Like this comment? Thumb up 1

  114. Sentient Meat on November 4, 2011 at 11:58 PM

    Jeff: It is strange and intellectually rude–bordering on philosophical narcissism–to suggest that the particular swath of humanity *you* belong to is the honorable, hardworking, moral swath, and the other swath of people *over there*… “The Other”… because they have different opinions about the nature of reality than you do… are the morally slack, poorly self-exerting, intellectually lazy ones.

    I’m not sure if you were simply using a sort of shorthand because of constraints of comments sections.

    This is a transparent ego defense: lazy thinking and a form of intellectual immaturity or naivety. This kind of viewpoint — at least as you’ve worded it here — lacks basic self-reflection.

    Yes… we all have in-group drives and instinctively prefer our own, but a reflective life requires us to at least make an effort to transcend these basic ego defenses (or group defenses). Otherwise, the kind of self-serving and self-flattering judgment you’ve offered anecdotally here is as tainted with the “scandal of particularity” as is any more political jingoism. (“Our country is the moral one, that country is the lazy one”; “our family is the good one, other families are the weak-minded or -spirited ones”: that sort of thing.)

    Like this comment? Thumb up 2

  115. Jeff Spector on November 6, 2011 at 8:16 AM

    Sentient Meat,

    Is there some reason you cannot just have a dialog on the post itself without the attacks?

    Like this comment? Thumb up 0

  116. Sentient Meat on November 6, 2011 at 10:46 AM

    Most of my posts were dialog on the post itself. You may be a great guy, I’m criticizing the intellectual rudeness in your post here. I’m not attacking you. I’m sorry you thought it extended beyond the words you’ve used here.

    Like this comment? Thumb up 0

  117. Sentient Meat on November 6, 2011 at 11:04 AM

    Jeff: To see how this all ties in with the post, you wrote (I paraphrase), “It’s the brave, good people who stay. People who leave don’t have to do much.” I wrote, “that’s intellectual rudeness.”

    I didn’t intend any more of an attack than that. There has to be a way to point out intellectual rudeness (which itself is a kind of veiled, indirect attack) without in turn being accused of personal attacks.

    The benefit of avoiding intellectual rudeness is that we can actually have a dialog without implying that The Other is sick, weak, crazy, or evil. I think in mixed groups of viewpoints, this is essential.

    Like this comment? Thumb up 0

  118. Roger on November 6, 2011 at 11:11 AM

    The acrimony of some of these exchanges is perfectly illustrative of why it is so tempting not to stay. It gets hard to want to meet together often and renew covenants when sweet reason departs from any kind of meaningful dialogue.

    Like this comment? Thumb up 0

  119. Sentient Meat on November 6, 2011 at 11:11 AM

    Jeff: That said, it’s possible my criticism of your words in this thread was sharper than your words deserved. I accept that criticism. Sorry ’bout that. I will work on moderating the tone.

    Like this comment? Thumb up 0

  120. Sentient Meat on November 6, 2011 at 11:53 AM

    Roger: Out of curiosity, may I ask if you find it acrimonious at church, too? The reason I’m asking is to get a better picture of your experience, which sounds a bit different from mine.

    Before I left The Church, disagreements seemed muted at church, certainly on big things like the nature of reality — mostly doctrine-based agreement there. And off in the fringes of doctrinal conjecture, there didn’t seem to be any basis for *sharp* disagreement, since any disagreement was out on a limb with no hope of an authority to settle the question.

    At social gatherings — away from the covenant-renewing meetings — on rare occasional I may have experienced disagreements (on politics or personalities). But mostly people kept these to themselves… and they all seemed politely contained during Sacrament Meeting or even Priesthood or Sunday School.

    Maybe because my experience at my wards was so benign, I couldn’t use the word ‘tempted’ to describe my motivation to stay or go. I left because I was persuaded about the unreliability of spiritual experiences (“witnesses”) to confirm anything outside the experiences themselves. My confidence in LDS teachings went from, say, 95% to 0%.

    If one’s reasons for leaving are at the core of The Church’s philosophy rather than particular social interactions, it’s harder to imagine staying.

    Like this comment? Thumb up 0

  121. Jeff Spector on November 6, 2011 at 12:06 PM

    Meat,

    “you wrote (I paraphrase), “It’s the brave, good people who stay. People who leave don’t have to do much.” I wrote, “that’s intellectual rudeness.” ”

    If I wrote that, I can see it. but I didn’t write anything like that.

    You should please read what I wrote for what I wrote and not try to extend the meaning to your paraphrase, which was not a paraphrase of what I wrote.

    Like this comment? Thumb up 0

  122. Sentient Meat on November 6, 2011 at 1:23 PM

    Hi Jeff, since you took exception to my characterization, I went back and read everything you wrote in this thread. Please, can we start over? Please allow me to use your precise words and simply tell you honestly how they come across to someone outside your group.

    You actually state and restate the intellectually rude point about 5 times, but here is the most direct jab:
    “As I stated before, giving up one’s long held beliefs is not easy, but it is the last remaining hard point. Once it’s done, it’s all easy.”
    “You don’t have to believe anything, therefore, you don’t have to do anything, and if you don’t have to do anything, you are no longer accountable for anything.”
    “Sounds easier to me than adopting any belief system, not just LDS, that requires a certain amount of effort.”

    In re-reading, I see others have taken you to task for the rudeness in this thread (maybe wording their critique differently), so perhaps it was excessive — piling on — for me to criticize you, too. Sorry about that.

    Intellectual rudeness is a subtle form of personal attack — also an unfair discussion maneuver — where you paint those who honestly disagree with you (here, those who leave) as physically, mentally, or morally sick or weak (“you don’t have to do anything” and “no longer accountable for anything”).

    The problem with intellectual rudeness is this: it privileges the viewpoint of the speaker or writer (over other viewpoints) by the power of insinuation, stereotype, or slander. This is unkind and unfair.

    In your words here, you seem to state a belief that you can speak for the *generic non-believer*: “I am speaking from my own experiences as well. So don’t think I am applying this just to you. I am not.”

    Again, this is a well known and well established form of rudeness. The subtext is, “I know exactly where you’re coming from because I used to be like you”. The implication is, “I thought like you when I was more weak, morally lazy, or foolish. Then I found The Truth and became a responsible, accountable person who doesn’t just do the easy thing.”

    I gather that you don’t intend your words as an attack, and that you don’t *perceive* your words as an attack. I regret to say that this is how it comes across when you write that people with different viewpoints only do “easy” things, and are “no longer accountable for anything.”

    Perhaps it’s a mistake for those who feel attacked by you to criticize your discussion tactics in turn. It raises the temperature of the discussion, which makes many of us uncomfortable. But it’s important to understand that you punched people in the face here – verbally — and promoted your own viewpoint with an unfair tactic.

    Perhaps it’s a mistake to take offense at your rudeness here. Offense comes when we identify personally with the target of another’s attack. As it turns out, the stereotype you offer here (of people who leave) is so glib and exaggerated that it seems to apply to no person I know. I don’t actually know *anyone* without “a belief system”. But you clearly intend to include people like us in your slam:
    “You don’t…believe anything…. Sounds easier to me than adopting any belief system, not just LDS, that requires a certain amount of effort.”

    Without any exception I can think of, *all* of my friends who are non-active, non-LDS, or non-theists are extremely responsible and accountable to their fellow man and woman. And they work very hard to live moral lives and fulfill their responsibilities.

    We answer not to you or your theology, but to our family, friend, neighbor, and country… also to the stranger, the foreigner, and to our stewardship with animals and plants.

    And not only to these, but also to larger principles which bind us together. They just aren’t exactly *your* principles.

    Like this comment? Thumb up 2

  123. Andrew S on November 6, 2011 at 1:55 PM

    re 122:

    Sentient Meat,

    I’m not Jeff, but here’s where I see the disconnect. You’re taking Jeff’s statements to mean or imply:

    those who honestly disagree with [Jeff] (here, those who leave) [are] physically, mentally, or morally sick or weak (“you don’t have to do anything” and “no longer accountable for anything”).

    Jeff is saying that he has never said this or implied this. You’re inferring from his comments that Jeff is making a judgment of someone’s physical, mental, or moral health. But to say that someone “doesn’t have to do something” is not a statement on their capability to do something.

    Similarly, to state that someone is no longer accountable to something is not a statement of their capacity to follow through on things to which they are accountable.

    From here, you are making a chain of inferences that don’t necessarily follow from what Jeff has actually written:

    In your words here, you seem to state a belief that you can speak for the *generic non-believer*: “I am speaking from my own experiences as well. So don’t think I am applying this just to you. I am not.”

    Again, this is a well known and well established form of rudeness. The subtext is, “I know exactly where you’re coming from because I used to be like you”. The implication is, “I thought like you when I was more weak, morally lazy, or foolish. Then I found The Truth and became a responsible, accountable person who doesn’t just do the easy thing.”

    Perhaps this is something you’ve heard in a different conversation, but it’s…I don’t know…intellectually rude to impute that attitude to anyone else just based on certain statements they have made here. I use “intellectual rudeness” to mean that you aren’t taking a person seriously as a person. Instead, you’re taking a person as an archetype of other people whom you believe are similar.

    Here’s an alternative way of taking things:

    Jeff does not need to speak for the “generic non-believer” to assert that the non-believer has different responsibilities than the believer, or to assert that the non-believer has fewer responsibilities than the believer due to the nature of the responsibilities that the believer has as a result of his belief.

    Furthermore, Jeff does not need to assert that the nonbeliever is morally weak or deficient because he does not have certain religious responsibilities, first because Jeff doesn’t necessarily have to assert that taking a “harder path” is prima facie better, more moral, etc., etc., He could be making a neutral judgment: “The religious path has more responsibilities than the non-religious path, a point that many non-religious people don’t realize, but it isn’t necessarily the case that one should take on more responsibilities just because.”

    Like this comment? Thumb up 0

  124. Roger on November 6, 2011 at 2:06 PM

    SM–since I really haven’t attended on a regular basis in around 30 years, I am spared the acrimony—like you, had I continued to experience spiritual confirmations I might have toughed it out—although I do have direct recollections of experiences that could/should have been so interpreted.

    I have sat in priesthood meetings, both in Utah and outside of the Zion corridor, where I’ve both experienced and observed very acrimonious put-downs and arguments over the priesthod ban, whether the Church has a position on capital punishment and evolution; just to name a few yopics. I have some horror stories from Gospel Doctrine class experiences that are almost too painful to recall–and won’t burden you with them now.

    I don’t suppose it is any different in other denominations–in fact I know so. I watched as a very good friend was basically run out of teaching a Baptist bible study course for incorporating vignettes from the life of St. Francis.

    Frederick G. Williams (of the original First Presidency) was correct, when he said at the time of his excomunication, “it is all madness.”

    At the same time, I think it would have been very salutory for a number of us to have been in a ward where we could hear the talk on Testimony that is printed over in the current issue of By Common Consent.

    Like this comment? Thumb up 1

  125. Sentient Meat on November 6, 2011 at 2:41 PM

    Hi Andrew,

    I think you’re referring to informal, social rudeness, which is a huge topic and not exactly what I mean.

    I’m referring to intellectual rudeness, which is different than merely persuading ourselves that we have characterized our opponents as “real people”.

    And I think I see what you’re saying… but to say someone is taking the easy way it IS implying moral laziness. The implication is those who leave have no “belief system” and therefore “take the easy way”. This is rude and false. It is stereotyping and plainly offensive, regardless of how sincerely or heartfelt the opinion. It implies that the values of the speaker are the *only* values worth considering (e.g., “no belief system… anything… not accountable… not responsible”).

    It is not a mistaken inference to read this as rude. This is a rude formulation, and the writer should reformulate if they want to actually engage in friendly, peaceful discourse with their counterpart.

    That rudeness is also the reason other reactions to Jeff’s sweeping statements were also heated — that’s my reading. Jeff may not have used exactly the words “sick”, “deficient” or “lazy”. But the subtext is plain and the inference, direct. To my reading, it is the same basis for the other critiques of Jeff Spector’s writing in this thread. I identify with those respondents and feel their pain.

    I contend that if we can identify and restrain the rudeness, we’ll have an easier time discussing differences without causing offense. Taking shortcuts in characterizing others who might be present is a sure-fire road to offense and discord.

    Put it another way, people on both sides of questions have access to rude and non-rude formulations of their differences. Here’s a parallel — also rude — formulation going the other way, “People who subscribe to religion take the easy way out. They don’t have to work anything out for themselves; they just hand over their judgment to a book or a leader. There is no accountability to inherent morality but only to promises of eternal payback.”

    Now, I do not believe that for a second. I have full respect for my religious friends and my former, religious self. I’m simply trying to illustrate how simple it is to fall into stereotypes and unhelpful characterization — rudeness — merely because we disagree on fundamentals.

    It does take considerable effort, but there *are* ways to discuss these differences without insulting our discussion partners — either directly or by implication. The more fundamental the differences, the greater the effort required. My recommendation is that we’ll have a much cooler and more friendly discussion if we figure out how to do so.

    Like this comment? Thumb up 1

  126. Andrew S on November 6, 2011 at 3:13 PM

    re 125:

    Sentient Meat,

    I use intellectual rudeness as the absence of intellectual civility, which I consider to be “a commitment to take others seriously as thinkers, to treat them as intellectual equals, to grant respect and full attention to their views.” Someone’s who is intellectually rude does not treat others as intellectual equals or grant full attention to the views of others. In other words, someone who is intellectually rude is not addressing his opposition as a “real person” (whose position is undoubtedly nuanced) but is rather addressing a stereotype or archetype that he thinks the opponent fits into (whose position therefore has “clear,” “direct” inferences.)

    but to say someone is taking the easy way it IS implying moral laziness. The implication is those who leave have no “belief system” and therefore “take the easy way”. This is rude and false. It is stereotyping and plainly offensive, regardless of how sincerely or heartfelt the opinion. It implies that the values of the speaker are the *only* values worth considering

    Basically, then, there will be nowhere for this conversation to go. You are going to continue to assert that Jeff is implying something that he says he is not, and he’s going to continue to say that you’re putting words in his mouth that he never spoke. And because you can’t point directly to things that he said with the content you’re inferring, you always will be at an impasse — because you will always have to continue asserting that he’s implying something that he insists he’s not.

    Basically, you’re in a position where you MUST admit, “Jeff may not have used exactly the words “sick”, “deficient” or “lazy”. Yet nevertheless, you will assert, But the subtext is plain and the inference, direct.”

    In other words, you have to act as if you know what Jeff means better than he does, and that he’s lying when he says he never implied or said the things you infer that he implied/said.

    …that seems exactly like “Taking shortcuts in characterizing others who might be present .”

    Like this comment? Thumb up 0

  127. Mike S on November 6, 2011 at 6:23 PM

    I’m not going to go through all 125 comments, but just read the last few.

    It is hard to articulate exactly why, and I cannot prove it explicitly as per some of Andrew’s arguments, but I feel the exact same way as Sentient Meat. I have essentially stopped engaging Jeff in almost every discussion, because he tends to use flippant, condescending statements to denigrate the person making a comment, rather than addressing the Meat of the comment (pun intended).

    So, I wouldn’t worry too hard about proving your point – I’ve tried in the past and you won’t get anywhere.

    Fan Favorite! Do you like this comment as well? Thumb up 4

  128. Jeff Spector on November 7, 2011 at 7:40 AM

    Sentient Meat,

    In the end, you can choose to believe what you wish. In the case of these comments, I have made several statements which I believe to be true. You can also agree or disagree as you wish.

    I have not, made the kinds of value judgments that you assert. You have contrived those yourself. Not really sure why since you are new around here.

    I appreciate the fact that Andrew has attempted to explain my comments to you, but it appears you are having none of that either.

    I wish no ill will toward you or anyone else who has left the Church.

    I was only stating what I thought was obvious. Once someone makes the hard choice to leave the Church, it gets easier.

    And, I have had that same experience, so I was also speaking from that POV.

    As for “intellectual rudeness,” I’ve never heard that term used before so I can’t say that I understadn what it actually means.

    Like this comment? Thumb up 0

  129. Jeff Spector on November 7, 2011 at 7:42 AM

    Mike S,

    “So, I wouldn’t worry too hard about proving your point – I’ve tried in the past and you won’t get anywhere.’

    I don’t think you like anyone disagreeing with you or calling you out for make the same points over and over again.

    Like this comment? Thumb up 0

  130. Chino Blanco on November 7, 2011 at 8:13 AM

    Jeff,

    For what it’s worth, this sounds like the same crap I used to get from certain friends and family before they had the benefit of twenty years of hindsight to correct their initial reactions to my profession of non-belief:

    “You don’t have to believe anything, therefore, you don’t have to do anything, and if you don’t have to do anything, you are no longer accountable for anything.”

    C’mon. And keep in mind that I’m not impugning *your* character. If anything, I’m suggesting that you’re a smart enough guy who surely knows better.

    Like this comment? Thumb up 0

  131. Jeff Spector on November 7, 2011 at 8:20 AM

    But, Chino, aside from the fact that you didn’t like your family members saying stuff like that to you, is it true or not as it pertains to the Chuch itself?

    We’ve always joked that if you leave the Church you get another day off and a 10% raise. so why wouldn’t that statement be true?

    Like this comment? Thumb up 0

  132. Chino Blanco on November 7, 2011 at 11:02 AM

    Uh… No. Contemplating leaving meant trying to figure out how to carry on being an ethical person inside a different framework that I took years constructing during the scarce downtime available while performing Mormonly duties like BYU and mission service. If you’re saying now that your quips were all just joking asides about insider Mormon experience, well, OK, I’ll stop feeling like you were out to denigrate my post-Mormon trajectory.

    That said, speaking of jokes, I hope access to new in-group humor wasn’t one of the reasons you converted to Mormonism. That wouldn’t offend me as a fifth-generation Mormon, but as a comedian, it does.

    Like this comment? Thumb up 0

  133. Jeff Spector on November 7, 2011 at 11:21 AM

    Chino,

    “If you’re saying now that your quips were all just joking asides about insider Mormon experience, well, OK, I’ll stop feeling like you were out to denigrate my post-Mormon trajectory.”

    I find this righteous indignation a bit out of place coming from you. Or are you a “dish it out, can’t take it kind of guy?”

    It would be just simplier, since you jumped in to the discussion to just answer the question: Is it easier for you outside the Church than it was inside given all the commitment we have in the Church.

    And frankly, it was always funnier being Jewish….

    Like this comment? Thumb up 0

  134. Chino Blanco on November 7, 2011 at 11:43 AM

    Hey Jeff,

    Is it easier? Sure. Now it is. But no thanks to the kind of wild speculation you’re bringing here. Can I take it? When I parted ways, I figured I was giving up my inheritance, my family, the whole kit and kaboodle.

    For what it’s worth, the exmo thing can be pretty funny, too.

    Like this comment? Thumb up 0

  135. Andrew S on November 7, 2011 at 11:56 AM

    While I think Jeff is expressing himself in a remarkably crummy way (although it’s good for the rage traffic?), I think it’s important to realize that people haven’t really countered him on the essence of his point.

    Jeff’s point is that you don’t have to believe anything with respect to the church; therefore, you don’t have to do anything with respect to the church, and if you don’t have to do anything (with respect to the church), you are no longer accountable for anything with respect to the church. So, between non-church member and a church member, ceteris paribus, the church member will have more responsibilities.

    So, yes, ex-Mormons can point out all the other things in their lives that they believe in…all the other responsibilities in their lives (things they have to do), and all of their other accountabilities, but with respect to the church, they don’t have these aspects. You can’t counter “You are no longer accountable for anything with respect to the church” with “Atheists still love and worry about our children or our families and our other meaningful pursuits,” because children, family, and meaningful pursuits aren’t unique to atheists…any theist could say, “Big whup — we worry about our children, families, meaningful pursuits too…IN ADDITION TO WHAT GOD DEMANDS OF US.”

    Atheists don’t have that additional demand/responsibility/figure to be accountable to.

    …In some ways, this shouldn’t be a controversial point. After all, there are many arguments that say theists are silly or deluded to feel beholden to these responsibilities (e.g., because if God doesn’t exist, how can you be accountable to him?) But this isn’t asserting that atheists have more or the same responsibilities as theists…it’s just asserting that some of the responsibilities that theists have that atheists don’t are superfluous.

    Like this comment? Thumb up 1

  136. Chino Blanco on November 7, 2011 at 12:11 PM

    As I mentioned over at r/exmormon, every Mormon group blog seems to have a Jeff. Or a Mike Tannehill. Or an Alison Moore Smith. Whatever their names, it’s all the same trainwreck and we’re all rubbernecking for the same reason.

    Like this comment? Thumb up 0

  137. Andrew S on November 7, 2011 at 12:15 PM

    (Also from r/exmormon): In other words, every Mormon group blog has a person who takes Mormonism and religion seriously. And to those who don’t take religion seriously, it’s a trainwreck.

    Like this comment? Thumb up 0

  138. Chino Blanco on November 7, 2011 at 12:28 PM

    As long as we’re doing the copy pasta thing, Andrew: No, I don’t treat individual bloggernaclers like piñatas. And I don’t treat Mormons like piñatas. And if folks like Jeff, Alison or Mike choose to treat exmos like that, it’s on them, not me.

    On a more serious note, are you really suggesting that Jeff is your most serious guy? Or that Alison Moore Smith is somehow more serious than Kristine Haglund or Russell Arben Fox or whoever T&S and BCC have got on their bench? And Mike Tannehill? Seriously?

    C’mon. I’m not saying drop these clowns, I’m just suggesting it’s nuts to adopt their weird outlier framing when defending them.

    Like this comment? Thumb up 0

  139. Andrew S on November 7, 2011 at 12:33 PM

    I think that at some level, liberal Mormons do not take Mormonism that seriously. Not saying that RAF or KH are the most liberal Mormons (I mean, they aren’t Joanna Brooks or John Dehlin…), but in a sliding scale, the more liberal you get, the less seriously you take it.

    In that extent, I’d classify all of Millennial Star as taking Mormonism more seriously than any of BCC, T&S. And, I would imagine, you could probably find outrageous quotes from J. Max Wilson or whomever to go along with the outrage quotes from AMS, Jeff, or Mike.

    I guess I mean serious in a particular way. By “serious,” I mean they take the claims of the church regarding prophets, institution, etc., seriously. However crazy you consider Mike (or, in fact, because of his craziness), you cannot (or shouldn’t) deny that it dwells from taking the words of prophets deadly seriously, and not being willing to move an inch on those fundamentals.

    Like this comment? Thumb up 0

  140. Cowboy on November 7, 2011 at 12:45 PM

    Jeff and I initially hashed this conversation out, and whether he is truly being rude or just making an observation is sometimes hard to tell.

    On the one hand, I have already agreed that naturally he is right that it is easier to drop a regimented religious code. However, that largely depends on ones views of the ROI. If you doubt the quality of the investment, it is irrational to expect a person to want to persist in adhering to an intrusive and cumbersome lifestyle. Conversely, if a person believes in the faith, while adhering to it may be more difficult, the expected payoff justifies the action. Therefoe, both sides follow the same costs vs rewards logic of seeking to maximize their personal benefit. We are just economizing religious decision making in the vein of “homoeconomicus”, as the economists like to say.

    So with that observation, what is the value of pointing out the obvious. I am willing to give Jeff the benefit of the doubt, but the way the comment reads is too simple and ineffectual to furthering an argument based on the simplistic explanation offered by Jeff or Andrew. The natural tendency rather, is to try and draw an implication that furthers a point. In which case, I, Sentient Meat, etc, each came to the same conclusion, ie, that “easy” equals “lazy/etc”. Furthermore, I took the implication even further to mean, “therefore”, I don’t believe “because” it’s easy. Whether this is what is intended, based on how it’s worded, that is what comes across. That I think is a poor point of view that does amount to meaningless insult.

    Like this comment? Thumb up 0

  141. Chino Blanco on November 7, 2011 at 12:51 PM

    And by “serious” I mean people who care more about the fortunes of the institution (and the real people it’s meant to serve) than their own navel-gazing grandstanding.

    I understand that Mike and Alison and Jeff and all the rest take themselves very seriously. Their attitude doesn’t mean squat where the prospects of the LDS project are concerned. These are folks who will still be taking themselves seriously no matter how irrelevant the LDS church becomes.

    Just a friendly heads up: your sliding scale is whacked.

    Like this comment? Thumb up 0

  142. Andrew S on November 7, 2011 at 12:54 PM

    re 140:

    Cowboy,

    I think your discussion of the ROI of religious lifestyles is crucial to the evaluation of the “implication” of holding or not holding a religious lifestyle.

    If you do not calculate the ROI, then it is neutral to say “Religious lifestyles are harder” and “nonreligious lifestyles are easier.”

    It is ONLY when you assign ROI values that these actions because value-positive or value-negative.

    For example, if you doubt the quality of religious investment, then as you say, it is irrational to expect a person to want to persist in adhering to an intrusive and cumbersome lifestyle. In other words: you concede that a religious lifestyle is more difficult, but you think this difficulty is a negative trait, because there is no or poor return on investment. In this case, easy does not equate to laziness. In fact, it equates to shrewdness!

    If you believe, alternatively, that there is a high ROI, then the fact that a religious lifestyle is more difficult is a positive trait, because it leads to a higher payoff. In this case, a person’s unwillingness to engage with a more difficult path would equate to laziness.

    So, with these observations, I would point out that giving Jeff the benefit of the doubt simply means trusting that Jeff is keeping the discussion ROI neutral. That is, even though he may personally believe the ROI to be high (because he is a believer), trust that for the sake of conversation, he can see how others would see the ROI to be low or negative. As a result, he is not making a comment about ROI, and thus is not making an implication about laziness or shrewdness.

    You don’t have to give Jeff the benefit of the doubt. But that’s on you, Sentient Meat, Mike S, etc.,

    Like this comment? Thumb up 0

  143. Andrew S on November 7, 2011 at 1:00 PM

    re 141:

    I don’t think that your “serious” people care about the fortunes of the institution. I do think they care about the real people it is meant to serve, but I think that they would dismantle the institution if they thought that it (or parts thereof) were harming “real people.” They would dismantle the institution to keep it “relevant,” whereas someone who takes the institution seriously trusts in and supports its foundation, even it seems that is an unpopular foundation.

    So, for people who think that most or all of the institution is harmful, you’ll naturally describe people like Mike/Alison/Jeff as “taking themselves seriously no matter how irrelevant the LDS church becomes.” Whereas people like Mike/Alison/Jeff care about fundamental aspects of the institution enough that “popularity” and “relevance” to the mainstream really aren’t primary concerns.

    In other words, you’re not going to agree, but that’s ok, because you’re coming at it from a very different vantage point. That’s probably why the sliding scale seems whacked as well.

    Like this comment? Thumb up 0

  144. Jeff Spector on November 7, 2011 at 1:01 PM

    Cowboy and others,

    ““therefore”, I don’t believe “because” it’s easy. Whether this is what is intended, based on how it’s worded, that is what comes across. That I think is a poor point of view that does amount to meaningless insult.”

    If I am being crummy as Andrew mentioned, let me apologize for that. But, even in an oral conversation, one can always follow up someone’s comment with a question on how it was intended. I’ve stated multiple times that it was a face value comment, not an editorial. it is my own observation based on my own involvement in the church and the difference between being involved and not.

    Just that simple. If I was analyzing some of the most ardent responses to my comment, it would seem that some might be a touch defensive or have some other issue that leads them to interpret it in the most negative way possible.

    Like this comment? Thumb up 0

  145. Jeff Spector on November 7, 2011 at 1:10 PM

    Chino,

    “And by “serious” I mean people who care more about the fortunes of the institution (and the real people it’s meant to serve) than their own navel-gazing grandstanding.’

    I have to admit to be amused by your attitude here. As someone who is a “hit and run” kind of poster, I should think you’d be less offended by any remarks made here.

    For those who know me, they would tell you that I am the least person to take myself seriously. But I am a member of the LDS Church and I do take that seriously. But at the same time, as I have written here, I am not a blind follower and have a number of issues with the way the Church is run. But, I try to be loyal to the institution to the extent possible. And I think there is a lot of unwarranted criticism.

    I am trying to be a disciple of Christ, however flawed I may come across to you.

    Like this comment? Thumb up 0

  146. Chino Blanco on November 7, 2011 at 1:11 PM

    Andrew, I suspect you lack the experience of working full-time for well-intentioned people in the church who happen to have very wrong ideas about what would help the institution thrive.

    For what it’s worth, the incompetence bothered me more than any online slights ever will.

    Like this comment? Thumb up 0

  147. Andrew S on November 7, 2011 at 1:13 PM

    146,

    Then there’s not really much more I can say. :3

    Like this comment? Thumb up 0

  148. Chino Blanco on November 7, 2011 at 1:19 PM

    Jeff,

    Good luck with characterizing my participation here, as if it really matters in the larger scheme of things where your church is concerned.

    As it turns out, we share a similar motivation for commenting: I noticed a lot of unwarranted criticism and availed myself of the opportunity to say my piece.

    Rock on.

    Like this comment? Thumb up 0

  149. jmb275 on November 7, 2011 at 1:28 PM

    I’ve been watching this conversation go by, eating popcorn and otherwise enjoying the show. Just wanted to interject a bit.
    Re Chino

    C’mon. I’m not saying drop these clowns, I’m just suggesting it’s nuts to adopt their weird outlier framing when defending them.

    I do not believe Jeff to be an outlier. In fact, by Mormon standards Jeff is pretty liberal and progressive thinking. Perhaps he’s an outlier for the b’nacle at large, but for the church, I think Jeff is a very good representation of what the majority of Mormons believe. The b’nacle is already too far adrift for most Mormons, having someone like Jeff anchors us to the reality of the faith community.

    In other news, the only thing I’ve really gotten out of this discussion is that perspectives are relative, relative to everything. I have disagreed with Jeff and felt the condescension being mentioned here before, and finally, a few months ago I decided I was going to try and understand what he was really trying to say. That has made a big difference for me as I read his words. I don’t think Jeff would claim that his writing is perfect, but I do not believe Jeff to be mean-spirited. In that context, it seems appropriate to afford Jeff the same level of understanding that we hope to receive in our beleaguered attempts at communicating.

    Like this comment? Thumb up 0

  150. Jeff Spector on November 7, 2011 at 1:37 PM

    I appreciate the defense, guys in our attempt to be understood.

    The best I can say to Chino at this point is:

    No, you are!

    I mean heck, I skipped Church two Sundays to play concerts. Doesn’t that count for something? Risky Business?

    Like this comment? Thumb up 0

  151. Cowboy on November 7, 2011 at 2:08 PM

    Andrew:

    I am willing to give Jeff that benefit of the doubt. I don’t personally have an axe to grind with him. We’ve occassionally bristled against each other, but I’ve also had a lot of positive interaction with Jeff.

    As for the specific observation that leaving the Church is “easy”, the trouble I have with naturally concluding that Jeff was being “ROI neutral” (however without an ROI consideration, the two choices are not neutral as you suggest. Faithful adherence has a cost, whereas the opposite has no cost) is that the observation is so meaningless without adopting some kind of implication.

    The comments that started this whole discussion are in 38, and 39. My comment was 38, where I am challenging faith with the famous quote “extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence”. Jeff responded with:

    “I think it is always easier not to believe.”

    Now, he does state in #40 that there was no implication intended, but I can’t make out the relevance of this comment in an ROI neutral context. If we accept the premise that the comment was ROI neutral, then all we are saying is “I have found that over time, most people who leave the Church stop participating in LDS callings, paying tithing, living the WoW, etc”. There is nothing profound here in saying what is obvious. If however the point was that the appeal of an easier path encourages the spiritually weak among us to irrationally reject the gospel, then you are making a profound point.

    So as I am willing to say – I can give Jeff the benefit of the doubt. However, the tendency to infer something more “intellectually rude” from the comment seems only natural when taken at face value.

    Like this comment? Thumb up 0

  152. Andrew S on November 7, 2011 at 2:22 PM

    re 151:

    Good thing that Jeff did not make the specific observation that leaving the Church is “easy.” As he commented VERY early on (in response to something you had written, in fact):

    In some cases, the easy way out is to just stay and pretend. It can take a lot of courage to make the break with long held beliefs. Or to substitute new ones.

    But over time, it does become easier not to believe, because there are no longer any expectations on one who does not believe.

    however without an ROI consideration, the two choices are not neutral as you suggest. Faithful adherence has a cost, whereas the opposite has no cost

    not always. if you’re already in the church, going with the flow doesn’t necessarily have a cost. Breaking away would. (The reason I say not necessarily is that sometimes, the cost is internal: e.g., the sense of being inauthentic.)

    The comments that started this whole discussion are in 38, and 39. My comment was 38, where I am challenging faith with the famous quote “extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence”. Jeff responded with:

    “I think it is always easier not to believe.”

    Again, this is neutral unless you apply something more to it. For example, nonbelievers could easily say, “It is always easier not to believe, because believing means believing in ridiculous stuff.” So it’s pretty easy to turn nonbelief’s easiness into a plus (it’s easy, because you’re following the evidence. Etc.,)

    If we accept the premise that the comment was ROI neutral, then all we are saying is “I have found that over time, most people who leave the Church stop participating in LDS callings, paying tithing, living the WoW, etc”. There is nothing profound here in saying what is obvious.

    I think Jeff’s continued reaction to all of this has been to point out that there is nothing really profound in what he’s saying. Continually, he has rejected that he is saying anything more.

    It’s interesting that you would say that the tendency to infer something more “intellectually rude” from the comment seems only natural when taken “at face value.” This implies that you naturally infer the intellectually rude conclusion of things that Jeff says. I’d note that this is something wholly separate from Jeff naturally implying things that are intellectually rude.

    Like this comment? Thumb up 0

  153. Cowboy on November 7, 2011 at 2:42 PM

    I suppose annotating the “costs” is somewhat up for debate. I was figuring them along the lines that Jeff stated, responsibilities and expectations. That’s fine, but then we really can’t say that one position is summarilly “easier” on the basis of anything – and that really is the whole point. In some ways, not believing is easier, but it does have costs. The real challenge rests in how each of us weigh the varying costs against our assesment of the investment quality.

    As for whether Jeff is rude – I think your last comment is really where the whole point lies. I am willing to concede that perhaps Jeff, as he says, implied nothing. That all of this comes from the inferences that we had/have made. I’m okay with that, I like Jeff. I am mostly concerned with what is meant by easier, not whether Jeff is jerk. I’m a jerk sometimes, and I’m even okay with that.

    Like this comment? Thumb up 0

  154. Jeff Spector on November 7, 2011 at 3:00 PM

    Got to admit, it’s kind of weird to be talked about….. :) or written about in such a way.

    Not wanted to open up a can of worms, but my “easier” comment has it’s genesis with the many less active members I have visited with over the years.

    In many cases, the folks just got out of the habit (or routine) of going to Church on a regular basis. So they would say, “the longer we didn’t go, the easier it became to not go to Church or particpate.”

    But, I do have to admit, as I said on another post, I do not understand the term “intellilectual rudeness.”

    Like this comment? Thumb up 0

Archives

%d bloggers like this: