Oh, Ye, of Too Much Faith! (part 2 of 2)

By: Jake
February 9, 2012

Last week I talked about the results of John Dehlin’s recent survey that showed that a leading cause of people leaving Mormonism has become the ready access to church history information on the internet.  Today I’d like to continue to evaluate the survey information.

Oh Ye of Too Much Faith

It seems that often those who are most hurt by learning different perspectives on church history are those who had a very high level of faith before. The principle of modesty is just as applicable to faith as it is anything else. We can be guilty of believing in something (or someone) too much.  As Sterling M. Mcmurrin said in an interview: ”I am not really disillusioned because I was never illusioned in the first place.”  The question then becomes not “why are so many disillusioned?” but why are so many of us illusioned about what the church, Joseph Smith, and our leaders are?  I believe that we transform leaders into ideals, and it is our deification of them that is untenable.

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Oscar Wilde in an ideal husband makes fun of the notion that there is an ideal; he wants us to accept our follies and laugh at them. The play tells the story of Robert Chiltern and his wife’s disillusionment as she discovers that her husband is not as perfect as she once thought.  At the moment of her disillusion Robert Chiltern says:

“There was your mistake. There was your error. The error all women commit. Why can’t you women love us, faults and all? Why do you place us on monstrous pedestals?  We have all feet of clay, women as well as men; but when we men love women, we love them knowing their weaknesses, their follies, their imperfections, love them all the more, it may be, for that reason. It is not the perfect, but the imperfect, who have need of love. It is when we are wounded by our own hands, or by the hands of others, that love should come to cure us – else what use is love at all? All sins, except a sin against itself, Love should forgive. All lives, save loveless lives, true Love should pardon. A man’s love is like that. It is wider, larger, more human than a woman’s. Women think that they are making ideals of men. What they are making if us are false ideals merely.”

If we exclude the somewhat sexist notion about the difference between men and women’s love in the passage and see it as applicable to all, Oscar Wilde in this quote taps into a significant point about humanity. Wilde points out the fact that we all place people on monstrous pedestals, we place Joseph Smith, the church, and the leadership on these pedestals. We think that we are making them ideals, but the fact is they are only false idols.  Of course, the leadership are complicit in the building up of these idealistic images of the past, and the present, but our belief in them is entirely our own; no one forces us to accept the images and interpretations of others and we must take ownership of the fact that we chose to believe too much. The problem with any form of idealism is that it invariably leads to disappointment.

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When we idealise leaders, we trust them too much, and place too much faith on their words. These extremes of trust and faith lead to a greater level of disillusionment. As Richard Bushman observed:

“At the heart of this turmoil is the question of trust. Disillusioned Latter-day Saints feel their trust has been betrayed. They don’t know whom to trust. They don’t dare trust the old feelings that once were so powerful, nor do they trust church leaders.”

Similarly Teryl Givens said:

“The problem is not so much the discovery of particular details that are deal breakers for the faithful; the problem is a loss of faith and trust in an institution that was less that forthcoming to begin with.”

In both cases it can be easy to point the finger at the institution for not being open with their history, but we go to church not to learn history but to find meaning and spiritual fullfilment. Do we really expect the church to change the curriculum to include in depth historical studies? The feeling of betrayal is the result of high expectations and a high degree of trust both of which are unhealthy to place in an institution. This is not to excuse the church in other areas, but we should remember that it is first and foremost a religion, not an academic institution, and religions are fuelled by myths, not factually accurate scholarship.

Facts or feelings?

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We don’t like to admit that most of our decisions are emotional reactions, we want something more tangible to validate our choice, we want to be rational more than emotional. Yet, often it is emotion rather then reason that guides us in our life.  Facts in and of themselves do not cause someone to leave the church. Joseph Smith having multiple wives is not going to make every person leave the church; I have known about Joseph’s many wives my whole life, and it never made me want to leave the church.  I always found it amusing that Joseph was a womaniser. It was something that we laughed about at our dinner table. The fact itself is not enough, but the feeling of betrayal at learning this fact through an outside means may be. It is not the fact but the feeling that leads to disaffection.

Many (including me) have a hard time admitting that our faith comes down to what makes us feel happy and makes us feel good. We need to attach a set of facts and proofs to it to make our position sound more substantial than it really is. It is not enough to say that we believe because it gives us a meaningful life, and makes us feel good; instead members want to make their faith more tangible and real by saying that they know it is true beyond a shadow of a doubt and by using historical events to bolster their statements. Similarly, it is not enough to say that people left the church because they were uncomfortable being involved with it still, because they were no longer happy there, because it made them feel hypocritical, they likewise need to validate these emotional reasons with facts; they need to invert the “I know it’s true” to “I know it is not true,” complete with truth or false claims to bolster their argument and make it sound based on fact, not feeling.  This is not to say that historical and doctrinal issues don’t lead to disillusionment; in many cases it is a catalyst to raise awareness that can shatter a worldview that then leads to disaffection, but the material point is that history or doctrine on its own is not enough.

For those who ‘discover’ the real truth about the church’s history to admit to leaving for emotional reasons such as what makes them happy, or feel comfortable about (such as honesty and integrity), devalues the effort they put into their discovery of additional facts. It diminishes the significance of their personal study into the life of Joseph Smith, or theology. If you have spent several hours a day for weeks on end reading and listening to podcasts to try to work out the truth, to suggest that it is not important to your decison to leave makes you feel that your effort was worthless.

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When we tell our stories we always do it in reverse of how we experienced it. We tell the beginning with the end in mind and the past is interpreted and given significance according to how we got to the point we are at today and our reason for telling the story. We should remember that every story can be told many ways, both church history and own own personal history. As the philosopher Mary Midgley reminds us:

“We always have a choice about the perspective from which we will look at human affairs, whether we will examine them from the inside, as participants, or from some distant perspective, and if so, which of the many distant perspectives will we choose… these points of view are not really alternatives but complementary parts of a wider enquiry.”

This only an exploration of one perspective as to why church history and Joseph Smith feature so heavily in John Dehlin’s survey of why people lose faith in the church. Of course, it is in the end only one of many perspectives, and is simply my speculation from my own perspective on why history and doctrine seem to rank highly amongst the disaffected. Hopefully when we look at the issue from many other perspectives we may understand more fully the situation of why people leave the church.

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90 Responses to Oh, Ye, of Too Much Faith! (part 2 of 2)

  1. Stephen M (Ethesis) on February 9, 2012 at 3:20 AM

    Nicely said — and something Joseph Smith said many times. That would have made a great section in the lessons from things he said.

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  2. ji on February 9, 2012 at 6:42 AM

    Thanks, Jake! I have thought for some time that faith in the Church, or faith in the current Prophet, is misplaced faith — the first principle of the Gospel is faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.

    Some bear testimony that the current President of the Church is the true Prophet — they really believe that — and since President Monson teaches of Christ then they’re willing to accept Christ, but their faith is not in Christ.

    Some bear testimony that the Church is true — they really believe that — and since that prophet teaches of Christ then they’re willing to accept Christ, but their faith is not in Christ.

    Both of these are pointers — our faith should be in the object being pointed to, not the pointers.

    In both of these cases, one’s faith in Christ is incidental to faith in the church or the prophet. Such misplaced faith can lead to disappointment. For me, with faith in Christ first, I hope to be able to withstand whatever difficulties arise and endure to the end.

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  3. Stephen M (Ethesis) on February 9, 2012 at 6:45 AM

    It also comes from not reading much scripture.

    It is not as if Moses and others did not have serious faults and problems. Or that God did not have an interesting understanding of the dynamic.

    Numbers 12:1-10

    And Miriam and Aaron spake against Moses because of the Ethiopian woman whom he had married: for he had married an Ethiopian woman. And they said, “Hath the LORD indeed spoken only by Moses? hath he not spoken also by us?” And the LORD heard it.

    Now the man Moses was very meek, above all the men which were upon the surface of the earth. And the LORD spake suddenly unto Moses, and unto Aaron, and unto Miriam, Come out ye three unto the tabernacle of the congregation. And they three came out.

    And the Lord came down in the pillar of the cloud, and stood in the door of the tabernacle, and called Aaron and Miriam: and they both came forth. And he said, Hear now my words: If there be a prophet among you, I the LORD will make myself known unto him in a vision, and will speak unto him in a dream. My servant Moses is not so, who is faithful in all my house.WIth him will I speak mouth to mouth, even apparently, and not in dark speeches, and the similitude of the LORD shall he behold: wherefore then were ye not afraid to speak against my servant Moses?

    And the anger of the LORD was kindled against them, and he departed. And the cloud departed from off the tabernacle, and behold, Miriam became leprous, white as snow, and Aaron looked upon Miriam, and behold, she was leprous.

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  4. Jeff Spector on February 9, 2012 at 7:09 AM

    I am in agreement with #2, jj. I thought it was very well put.

    Jake, another great post!

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  5. Paul on February 9, 2012 at 7:50 AM

    Nicely done, Jake. I had not considered this matter in just this way before, but I kept nodding as I read.

    #2 ji, I am slow to fault others for how their testimony develops or is expressed. But I agree with you that in the end, the first principle of the gospel is pretty clear.

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  6. Jake on February 9, 2012 at 8:01 AM

    #2, well put ji. I agree that often people substitute faith in Christ and God with faith in something else, not consciously but incidentally. As you say having faith and believing in the church is not the same as having faith in God and Christ.

    It is easier however to believe in something material and tangible, to have faith in the church and the president of the church then to have faith in something we can’t see. It is easier because we can see the bricks and mortar of the church, and the flesh and blood of President Monson. Especially if you equate faith in God with faith in his prophets. The same is true of history, to have faith in the past is easy as we have documents and facts to bolster our faith.

    This makes me wonder if believing in the president and the church, and even church history are simply surrogates for faith in God, and is it that different having faith in a human, an organisation, or a history, from having faith in a statue or idol? Is having too much faith in leaders in some way a form of idolatry?

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  7. Stephen M (Ethesis) on February 9, 2012 at 8:17 AM

    Jake — I think you have nailed it. Well said (I am on a mobile device and it won’t let me *like* so I am commenting on your comment instead).

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  8. Paul on February 9, 2012 at 8:19 AM

    Jake: “Is having too much faith in leaders in some way a form of idolatry?”

    Yes.

    In 12-step circles, recovering folks are counseled not to put others on pedestals, because they *always* fall off. If the recovering addict or alcoholic (or whatever) puts his trust in a sponsor or another person, and that person relapses, then the recovering addict is in danger of relapse, as well.

    That said, the sponsor may facilitate the acceptance of the steps (in the case of recovery), just as the tangible entities you discuss can faciliate our faith in Jesus Christ. They key is to keep moving toward Christ.

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  9. Bob on February 9, 2012 at 8:22 AM

    @ Jake,
    I very much enjoyed your post and agree with your thinking.
    The only thing it lacked (IMO), was stating the role the Church itself plays in this. The Church does a lot in creating/encouraging this mis-thinking of what is important to have Faith in.

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  10. hmm on February 9, 2012 at 8:27 AM

    i’m calling foul on this article. “we don’t go to church to learn history”

    well then why is history taught in church? why are we told only to read church correlated versions of history?

    you’re trying to have it both ways.

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  11. ji on February 9, 2012 at 8:39 AM

    Paul (no. 5) — You write, “I am slow to fault others for how their testimony develops or is expressed.” Me, too. I don’t want to fault others — I only wanted here to share that faith in pointers is not a perfectly-placed faith. Such faith may be useful in an incremental way as one’s faith matures and shifts towards perfect faith in Christ.

    Jake (no. 6) — You ask, “Is having too much faith in leaders in some way a form of idolatry?” Yes as Paul pointed out in no. 8, but also No…

    D&C 46
    13 To some it is given by the Holy Ghost to know that Jesus Christ is the Son of God, and that he was crucified for the sins of the world.
    14 To others it is given to believe on their words, that they also might have eternal life if they continue faithful.

    Whatever I might say about faith, I have to give room to the scriptural teaching here.

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  12. Andrew S on February 9, 2012 at 9:24 AM

    I have to agree with Bob’s comment. The major disagreement I have with this post is this statement:

    Of course, the leadership are complicit in the building up of these idealistic images of the past, and the present, but our belief in them is entirely our own; no one forces us to accept the images and interpretations of others and we must take ownership of the fact that we chose to believe too much.

    Emphasis preserved from original.

    My disagreement is this: no, our beliefs aren’t entirely our own. Our beliefs aren’t sequestered away from everything else. Rather, our beliefs are very much influenced and limited by what we’ve experienced, our upbringings, etc.,

    So, if you concede that “the leadership are complicit in the building up of these idealistic images of the past,” then you also have to address that leadership’s role in members who believe too much.

    To put in another way: as it is now, you pin everything on the believer/disaffected member. You pin personal responsibility on him for something that he did not personally come to, and then place the onus upon him to personally overcome these mistakes — meanwhile, he will have to do this in spite of everything he has learned *and that he continues to hear taught* in the church.

    So…if this is the case, what is the point of the church? What is the point of the leaders? Are they just an obstacle to be overcome?

    This leads to a second point:

    This is not to excuse the church in other areas, but we should remember that it is first and foremost a religion, not an academic institution, and religions are fuelled by myths, not factually accurate scholarship.

    Emphasis preserved from original.

    The big question here is: who defines religion? Who says what a religion is and what fuels it? To say that religions are fueled by myths is begging the question — right now, you’ve just alienated all literalistic, fundamentalistic believers of all stripes. (Maybe your point is that they are wrong and aren’t doing religion properly…but that’s a point in contention, not a foregone conclusion.)

    With respect to the church, what do church leaders say about what “fuels” the religion. I certainly agree that they probably wouldn’t say it was fueled by “scholarship,” but I think that they WOULD say that they are promulgating a factually accurate truth. In other words, that the events of the Book of Mormon are historical facts, the events of the Pearl of Great Price, the Bible, etc., are historical facts, that what the church says of Joseph Smith’s process of bringing the book of Mormon to the world is historically accurate.

    These aren’t taught to be taken in a mythic way. It’s not really surprising when people take them in a non-mythic way. What is surprising is how people will come around and say, “Well, it was your *own* fault for taking it too seriously.”

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  13. Jake on February 9, 2012 at 9:42 AM

    Bob, #9

    Agreed, the church certainly does perpetuate the idealistic pictures of their past. I intentionally left out the role that the church plays in the construction. Partly, because it is outside of my control how the church portrays its past, it is in my control however to think about how I respond to what they say about it. Partly, as well to keep the tone more positive. (its easy for me to get cynical about how the church abuses history)

    hmm, #10

    That is a valid point about the church using history. However, the point is that the church is a religious not an academic institution, if you want methodical, rigorous history then study history at college or university don’t go to church and expect good history. I don’t expect good history from church as thats not its business, anymore then I would expect Mcdonalds to produce gourmet michelin star quality meals. Why is history taught? I suspect its a surrogate for faith, as I mentioned above, its easier to believe in a story with facts to support it then it is to believe in the unknown.

    Just out of curiosity can you, or anyone else, find a statement that says we should only read correlated history? Its certainly a cultural perception that we are expected to only read correlated history, but is there actually anything from the leadership that says that. I can’t think of anything of the top of my head.

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  14. Stephen M (Ethesis) on February 9, 2012 at 9:57 AM

    Andrew, would you be happier if he used the word “narrative” instead of “myth” — ?

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  15. Andrew S on February 9, 2012 at 10:01 AM

    Stephen,

    The church doesn’t teach “narratives” either. The point is Jake’s claim is that some people “believed too much,” but that their belief in too much (e.g., that the church is primarily in the business of historical facts) is ultimately on them.

    But really, how can we blame people for “believing too much” when the church teaches people to believe that much? The church doesn’t teach people to engage with it as a provider of a “narrative,” but as a provider of facts regarding history, God, the universe, morality, etc.,

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  16. mh on February 9, 2012 at 10:10 AM

    jake, another graet post. if I may disagree on your last point, the manuals clearly state that we are to teach only from them, and not outside sources. some wards are flexible on this, mine is not. i’ve mentioned this countless times in the past, but I was released from a gospel doctrine position because I brought a non kjv bible to explain some hard to understand passages in isaiah.

    so the wrong version of the bible is strongly discouraged in some wards, let alone non-correlated church history. i am sure other wards aren’t as draconian, but I am sure some wards are too.

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  17. Jake on February 9, 2012 at 10:14 AM

    Andrew,

    You touch on two very significant points.

    Firstly, I would agree with you that our beliefs our entwined with so many other facets of our life, such as upbringing, social group, friends, education etc. This influence may be compelling and strong, but fundamentally it comes down to my decision to give into this influence. I would disagree with how deterministic you seem to suggest we are, I think we aren’t simply sponges that accept everything we are taught, just because the church teaches it does not mean we have to accept it. Granted, as a child we are more naive and accept more readily, but as we get older we are more accountable and should question our childhood beliefs.

    Perhaps, it is best to see it as focusing on our role as human agents in accepting church history or doctrine. I guess I think we are all accountable for our own beliefs, just as much as we are for our actions. It makes no more sense IMO to say ‘well I only believed this because you told me to’ then it does to say ‘i stabbed him because you told me to’ and then think that this removes our responsibility for it. My actions are dictated by myself not what others tell me to do, and my beliefs are the same. To blame others entirely is to abdicate personal responsibility for them. Most likely it is a combination of factors. Its not entirely a personal choice, nor is it entirely institutional imposed factor.

    Your second point about myth being taught as factually accurate events is valid. I agree this is a problem. I don’t think that they should be taught in such a non-mythic way. To insist that everything that they say is truth, is an abuse of the word truth, and dangerous in my opinion.

    I do think that the church and leaders are obstacles to be overcome. I think that they are a means to an end. The famous Poleman talk about the gospel and the church springs to mind. In heaven there will be no church and we should mature so that we are not dependent upon it.

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  18. hmm on February 9, 2012 at 10:21 AM

    #13 –

    LDS Church News 1/9/10 wrote:

    A woman sat at her dining room table, buried in dozens of books and magazines. She looked discouraged. Her daughter asked if she could help.

    The woman said she was preparing a Relief Society lesson. She told her daughter she didn’t know how she could possibly “boil down all the information” she had collected for the lesson. The process, the woman acknowledged, was both time consuming and frustrating.

    The daughter looked surprised.

    “Why,” she asked, “are you trying to boil down information? An inspired Church-writing committee has already done that for you.”

    But we may be tempted to do more, to turn to unofficial lesson plans, resources and information found in books and on the Internet.

    Sometimes, the material might seem like an easy solution to meet the time-consuming demands of Church service. Other times it might feel like a way to spice up a lesson or activity.

    But leaders and teachers in the Church do themselves and the people they serve a disservice when they turn to unofficial — not correlated — materials in the planning of lessons and activities.

    Quoting President Kimball, Elder Oaks said a gospel teacher “‘has been given an authoritative position and a stamp of approval is placed upon him, and those whom he teaches are justified in assuming that, having been chosen and sustained in the proper order, he represents the Church and the things which he teaches are approved by the Church. No matter how brilliant he may be and how many new truths he may think he has found, he has no right to go beyond the program of the Church’” (Elder Dallin H. Oaks, “Gospel Teaching,” Ensign, November 1999, 78

    President Thomas S. Monson said there is peace that comes from teaching with the spirit of obedience.

    “As we teach others, may we follow the example of the perfect teacher, our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,” he said. “He left His footprints in the sands of the seashore but left His teaching principles in the hearts and in the lives of all whom He taught.” (Thomas S. Monson, “Examples of Great Teachers,” Ensign, June 2007

    The Church — through its inspired correlation program — has given us official sources of information to help us prepare lessons and plan activities. Instead of turning to unofficial books and Web sites, let’s use those sources.

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  19. hmm on February 9, 2012 at 10:23 AM

    i think you are being dishonest if you are saying the church doesnt want to be the sole provider of history.

    I still maintain you want to have it both ways. the prophet wants to tell us everything we have to do, down to the length of the shorts, the number of earrings we have, etc.

    We have whole years devoted to learning and studying the lives of the various church prophets. And then you go and say they are just a mcDonalds, and dont mean to provide us anything, and we should expect nothing?

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  20. Jake on February 9, 2012 at 10:28 AM

    Mh, and Hmm

    I agree the church does insist on correlated materials for lessons. However, there is a crucial difference between insisting on using correlated materials by teachers and from saying that the general membership can only read correlated history. I think the church has a right to dictate materials used in church just as a school can determine what books are used in its curriculum. But where does it say that general members can’t use other non-correlated sources for their personal study?

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  21. Howard on February 9, 2012 at 10:58 AM

    Jake,
    I continue to be impressed by your ability to see, analyse, and articulate various viewpoints. The church offers a belief based product, one of the main marketing channels is the indocternation of children for instance primary children repeatedly sing Follow the Prophet. Given this common church entry point and the multi generational nature of it a consumer beware message has little affect and members often feel betrayed when they learn there is no Santa. Clearly church stragity is responsible for this outcome.

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  22. Andrew S on February 9, 2012 at 11:01 AM

    re 17,

    Jake,

    I would disagree with how deterministic you seem to suggest we are, I think we aren’t simply sponges that accept everything we are taught, just because the church teaches it does not mean we have to accept it.

    While I think we are just going to have big disagreements about how much choice we have in our beliefs, I think that the alternative is not “sponge that accepts everything we are taught.” (For example, I think that we have personalities that can be another factor in the mix…but I don’t think we choose our personalities either.) But, even if we are not sponges, you still have to acocunt for where we get the wherewithal to reject something that is taught.

    So, you say, just because the church teaches something doesn’t mean we have to accept it…but where is it that we get that idea from? We don’t get it from the church (because the church is the one pushing that it is true). We generally don’t get it from our friends and family within the church, because they believe it to be true as well.

    What I’m saying is…you have to have an environment that provides doubt and critical thinking to you as a reasonable *possibility* before you do it. I’m saying that the church doesn’t really create this environment.

    Granted, as a child we are more naive and accept more readily, but as we get older we are more accountable and should question our childhood beliefs.

    Why is it that as children we are naive and more readily accepting? I would propose that it’s because at a young age, we don’t have enough experience to consider questioning our parents and other adults on big issues as a reasonable *possibility*. And if it’s not a possibility in our minds, it’s not a real choice to us either.

    So, you say, as we grow older, we become more accountable and should question our childhood beliefs. But again, I ask: who gives that to us as a reasonable possibility with respect to the church?

    Who is telling us we should question our beliefs in an authoritative context? (And contrast with this second question: who is telling us instead that we should remain “as a child” or strive to be as a child?)

    For whatever it’s worth, I do think that many people eventually come to question their childhood beliefs. After all, isn’t that essentially what a faith crisis is? But in this case, now you’re expecting them to have this faith crisis, question their childhood beliefs — do all of these things *in spite of* and *apart of* what the church has officially taught them…and yet, somehow come to agree with the church in the end?

    It makes no more sense IMO to say ‘well I only believed this because you told me to’ then it does to say ‘i stabbed him because you told me to’ and then think that this removes our responsibility for it.

    I think this is too simplistic a framing. In each case, we instead need to get back to neurology. For example, I would instead phrase something as, “I believed this because it made sense to me.” But why did it make sense to me, “Because I was presented with various supporting details for it.” But why did I view those various supporting details as reliable?

    At some point, I’m going to get to a point in reasoning where I can’t really come up with an answer. I won’t be able to say that I *choose* to see a detail as reasonable: I just did.

    But if I get to this point, then my “responsibility” for my beliefs is really sketchy.

    Ultimately, the same thing is going to happen to actions. I think what we fear is that neurology will render concepts like “responsibility” outdated or outmoded, but really, we do have to come to terms with the facts that what we do is often heavily influenced and bounded by brain chemistry that we do not control, by genetics that we do not control, by environmental factors that we do not control.

    My actions are dictated by myself not what others tell me to do, and my beliefs are the same.

    The problem here is you cannot identify your “self” as cleanly separated from everything else around you, and as a result, it seems naive to think that you can say your actions are dictated by yourself, cleanly separated from everything around you. Your self is connected to a lot of things which quite frankly are not chosen. Is your body yourself? Are the chemicals running through your brain and body yourself? (And what if you can’t control those chemicals? What does that say about yourself?)

    But are your genes yourself? And do your genes come from you but from others?

    Are your experiences and upbringing a part of yourself? And do these experiences and upbringing come from you or from others?

    To blame others entirely is to abdicate personal responsibility for them. Most likely it is a combination of factors. Its not entirely a personal choice, nor is it entirely institutional imposed factor.

    To the contrary, I’m not blaming others entirely. I’m pointing out that your move to blame the person entirely is just as wrong in the other extreme. To say, “Your beliefs are only the product or responsibility of others” is as extreme as to say, “Your beliefs are only the product or responsibility of you.”

    So, in order to have a reasonable conversation about people having too much faith, you need to include all actors involved in that.

    Your second point about myth being taught as factually accurate events is valid. I agree this is a problem. I don’t think that they should be taught in such a non-mythic way. To insist that everything that they say is truth, is an abuse of the word truth, and dangerous in my opinion.

    I do think that the church and leaders are obstacles to be overcome. I think that they are a means to an end. The famous Poleman talk about the gospel and the church springs to mind. In heaven there will be no church and we should mature so that we are not dependent upon it.

    So, here’s the deal: let me try to summarize my position as best as I can. You are going against the church’s own taught position (e.g., religion is LITERAL) on things. And yet you make pronouncements about what religion is or should be as if you are authoritative (e.g., religion IS mythic or SHOULD BE mythic.) You blame people for buying into the church’s taught rhetoric, and say that they should choose to reject the church’s rhetoric, buy your rhetoric, and stay with the church.

    But here’s my position: maybe people come into crisis because the church’s rhetoric should reject the church’s rhetoric and then leave the church instead of engaging the church in a way different than how the church itself teaches people to engage with it.

    or, at the very least, if a person is going to engage with the church in a different way, they should recognize that there’s isn’t the official, institutionally accepted approach.

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  23. jmb275 on February 9, 2012 at 12:22 PM

    I’m afraid I mostly agree with Andrew on this issue, and I feel like he’s done a great job of explaining the issue. For me personally, having lived through a faith crisis, I think it’s important to recognize how one might not even entertain the possibility of questioning our faith in the first place given the vast majority of the context for our life is encouragement to NOT question that authority.

    @Andrew-
    Something to think about (relates to more than just this post, but to other things we’ve discussed). Most of how you seem to look at the events in a person’s life are in the context of determining the cause. The questions you’re asking Jake are about the sources of what goes into a person making a decision. This sidesteps the reality of being free to act. It implies a position in which you perhaps think that determinism and free-will are mutually exclusive. In other words, by only examining the causes that lead to the thinking that goes into a decision it feels like you ignore the reality that there may not be real barriers for making any particular choice (indeed, the fact that a person can be sufficiently self-aware to modify contradict their conditioning/genetics/etc. suggests this). To put it yet again another way, while I may be limited in my scope of thinking, my thought processes, etc. there may be no negative consequences to any of my choices, and there may be no coercion or restriction in getting me to make a particular choice. It may be that my choice on any given thing is determined by the myriad of forced causes. But that DOES NOT imply there is coercion or negative consequences for any choice from one moment to the next nor does it imply I’m restricted from determining that I’m subject to these barriers, which in turn “frees” me up to make a different choice.

    I think Jake, and most Mormons, and most people who believe in “free-will,” take this “compatibilist” approach. Note that this approach does not depend on the truth of falsehood of determinism but modifies the notion of “free-will” to be the freedom to act in any given moment. We are allowed to think what we want without repercussions, even if we cannot control all the causes that affect our thinking.

    For me, I think the self-awareness of the kinds of things Andrew is talking about is vital to the discussion. We can’t assume that having freedom to act in each moment is a sufficient condition for real freedom (though it is necessary). Similarly, we cannot absolve people of all responsibility for the choices they make. As a result, I think we have to seek to minimize consequences for innocuous decisions, ensure we’re not using coercion for a desired choice, AND ensure we level the playing field as much as possible for everyone by mitigating the causes we can.

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  24. Andrew S on February 9, 2012 at 1:07 PM

    jmb,

    Actually, I think I’m taking a pretty standard compatibilist viewpoint with respect to determinism and free will…to quote from wikipedia (yeah yeah, wikipedia sucks; wanna fight about it?):

    Compatibilists (aka soft determinists) often define an instance of “free will” as one in which the agent had freedom to act. That is, the agent was not coerced or restrained. Arthur Schopenhauer famously said “Man can do what he wills but he cannot will what he wills”. In other words, although an agent may often be free to act according to a motive, the nature of that motive is determined. Also note that this definition of free will does not rely on the truth or falsity of Causal Determinism.

    …The Compatibilist will often hold both Causal Determinism (all effects have causes) and Logical Determinism (the future is already determined) to be true. Thus statements about the future (e.g., “it will rain tomorrow”) are either true or false when spoken today.

    Hume adds that the Compatibilist’s free will should not be understood as some kind of ability to have actually chosen differently in an identical situation. The Compatibilist believes that a person always makes the only truly possible decision that they could have.[2] Any talk of alternatives is strictly hypothetical. If the compatibilist says “I may visit tomorrow, or I may not”, he is not making a metaphysical claim that there are multiple possible futures. He is saying he does not know what the determined future will be.

    Emphasis added.

    What I am doing here (and what I try to do in a lot of these conversations) is to point out the nature of the motive as being determined.

    To put it yet again another way, while I may be limited in my scope of thinking, my thought processes, etc. there may be no negative consequences to any of my choices, and there may be no coercion or restriction in getting me to make a particular choice.

    This is basically a rejection of determinism. So, I don’t think this is a compatibilist position after all.

    I think Jake, and most Mormons, and most people who believe in “free-will,” take this “compatibilist” approach.

    To the contrary, I think many Mormons take an incompatibilist position. If you don’t believe, you’re supposed to just *choose* to believe. Agency is meant to be above and beyond all else.

    Note that this approach does not depend on the truth of falsehood of determinism but modifies the notion of “free-will” to be the freedom to act in any given moment.

    When you talk about making free will more about “freedom to act in any given moment” from a compatibilist perspective, you have to ALSO include “…according to one’s determined motives.” That’s the complete idea. That’s what makes it compatibilist with determinism, rather than just being incompatibilist free will.

    What I’m saying is that when you add this caveat, then all of a sudden, the idea is stating something considerably less ‘free’ than what you were thinking it as being.

    It’s like that idea of the addict: “I can quit if I want to…I just don’t want to.” (This isn’t a perfect analogy, because wanting something isn’t enough to give one freedom, but still.)

    But when we include this idea of determined motives, we have problems…because a lot of things we are actually trying to choose are contrary to our motives. For example, you say:

    “We are allowed to think what we want without repercussions, even if we cannot control all the causes that affect our thinking.”

    But what we are allowed to do with this is considerably less than you are probably implying.

    I am allowed to think, “The church is true.” BUT that doesn’t mean I’ll be motivated to actually believe that is true (and consequently, that doesn’t mean I’m allowed to truly internalize that). Unfortunately, my motives are determined. I’m stuck basically gambling with motives to find one that I’m not aware of that will work with what I would like to do: e.g., the issue is i don’t find any evidence I’ve seen compelling, and I can’t choose what I find compelling. The best I can do is gamble and perhaps something I come across will be compelling.

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  25. Remlap on February 9, 2012 at 1:18 PM

    You can’t separate the church from its history. The church claims to be the one true church and in order for that to be so, certain things have to have happened the way the church claims.
    Joseph Smith had to have his first vision. If he did not see God and Jesus Christ then the church cannot be the one true church. It can be a fine institution that tries to get people to live good lives, but it cannot be what it claims to be. When someone finds out that Joseph Smith changed his story about the vision several times it is only reasonable that person is left wondering.
    The Book of Mormon, the keystone of church, has to have come to existence the way the church says it did. There had to be an angel Moroni and there had to be gold plates. I personally don’t care how Joseph Smith translated the plates as long as they actually existed. If there was no Angel Moroni and no gold plates, then the keystone of the church is just another book with a mildly interesting plot line and some decent life lessons. When someone finds out that the Book of Mormon is full of anachronisms and that what scientific evidence there is all point that the book can’t be true it is only reasonable that person is going to have doubts.
    Joseph Smith had to be a true Prophet of God for the Church to be true and so do all of the men who followed in his path. If he was not a Prophet of God then he was no better and maybe worse than Jim Jones, David Koresh, or any other cult leader. He was just a man and he had his flaws just like all men, but being a flawed man does not excuse leading the church astray with false doctrines in order to cover up his actions. Jake states “I always found it amusing that Joseph was a womanizer. It was something that we laughed about at our dinner table.” I am sure that the men whose lives he ruined when he was shagging their wives did not laugh about old lovable Joe and his wacky antics. Once someone finds out that Joseph Smith denied being involved in polygamy and polyandry all the way up to his death and yet had 30+ wives (some of which were already married), it is only reasonable that person begins to question what else Joseph Smith said that is not true (Book of Abraham, Kinderhook plates, Zelph, priesthood, etc).
    Faith is supposed to help us bridge the gaps in reason, not fly in the face of it. Church history is the Church and you can’t separate it from the doctrine.

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  26. dpc on February 9, 2012 at 1:24 PM

    @andrew s

    In a nutshell, I guess you are saying that people are conditioned to believe certain things. The question arises as to the source of this conditioning. Considering that there are a multitude of voices that could be conditioning someone, why is it that the church wins out over the other voices, as far as religion is concerned? What role to parents play in communicating religious teachings and ideas to their children? Most children spend 3 hours a week at church, but a lot more time at home. Aren’t parents and family a larger influence than the church in shaping beliefs?

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  27. Jake on February 9, 2012 at 1:39 PM

    Andrew,

    At heart of our disagreement I think is the issue of how free we really are as agents. Are we really in control of our lives, to what extent does our neurological, environmental, genetic background impinge upon our choices. Which in and of itself would make for a very fruitful discussion. As I suspect from your comments that you are going to be more in favor of determinism then me. As a result I am bound to look to the individual for reasons for why we act. Of course their are reasons that can be invoked to explain why we chose what we did, but these can only be seen in hindsight often, and there are so many competing reasons that could explain our actions, that often contradict each other they are not the sole factor but rather what makes the choice arise. I would never suggest that it is fully the individual on its own, as you rightly point out our cognitive apparatus comes to us from friends and our social environment, yet I don’t think it is inevitable that we have to accept it, we still allow ourselves to accept that way of thinking.

    Perhaps, that is a more adequate way to phrase it, as it being in terms of allowing rather then choosing. Rather then it being a conscious choice that we make to believe something, it is more that we make a choice not to question what we are taught, we allow ourselves to suspend disbelief and believe. Which as you point out there are many reasons why we may not question: the church doesn’t teach it, friends may not encourage it etc. Sometimes its simply easier to not question and just accept what we get told. If people are struggling just to read their scriptures, then to muster up the effort to think and question something seems like an even greater task. For me personally it would be more accurate to say before my faith crisis that I allowed myself to believe in the literal claims, simply as I was too lazy to question.

    You raise a very good point about environments, which I didn’t consider. The church doesn’t create an environment that promotes doubt or questioning, that said I do think you can find a wealth of scriptures and teachings that would promote it, they just tend to get overlooked or dismissed. However, the church is not the only environment that we live in, the church doesn’t exist in vacuum, we see other churches and religions, so we do in a way by existing in a world of plural religions have the ability to question and think. Exposure to different religions and cultures causes us to compare it to our own and that gives us the possibility of doubting our own. We have plenty of other spheres that have an impact on us and encourage freedom of thought, and questioning outside of the church. Why then chose the church as being THE most important factor? Do we ignore the critical skills we gain from secular sources? We may suspend them in terms of the church but we still possess them.

    Agreed, that the stance I presented is unorthodox and I would agree with you that people can reject the churches rhetoric and leave the church. I don’t think that I suggested that people should accept this view, or stay with the church, there is never a one way that is right for all. The problem with phrases such as the institutionally accepted approach, or the churches own position, is that I think the church, despite correlation, has so many various interpretations its very difficult to know exactly what the ‘official’ position is.

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  28. Jeff Spector on February 9, 2012 at 1:40 PM

    In the final analysis, folks need to own their decision and not blame it on, or attribute to anything or anyone else.

    If you went around thinking the Church was perfect or that Church history was flawless, I suspect you weren’t paying much attention.

    If you think that Prophets and leaders are perfect, not fallible and not just like ordinary people, and that the Church organization is perfectly run, then I suspect you haven’t paid much attention either.

    There was one perfect person, with one perfect message. Ultimately, we are accountable for following Him.

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  29. Jake on February 9, 2012 at 2:07 PM

    Jeff,

    Was one perfect person who we will be accountable to Joseph Smith? (In reference to Brigham Young’s statement that no man will enter heaven without Joseph Smiths permission)

    jmb, Andrew

    Why do you both think that you had no possibility to doubt? What I mean is that the possibility was always there, but what was it that made you suspend your ability to perceive it?

    Regarding the free will debate, I don’t have time now to fully engage with your points. Just quickly though. The problem with both determinism and compatabilism is that we don’t ever fully understand our motives or causality, and often they are not determined or fixed in the ways we might think. We often have lots of competing motives that co-exist and we can only ever give a deterministic account after its happened. Nor do we understand causality fully. I guess both the concepts of motives and determined are fuzzy and vague.

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  30. Andrew S on February 9, 2012 at 2:21 PM

    Jake,

    Perhaps, that is a more adequate way to phrase it, as it being in terms of allowing rather then choosing. Rather then it being a conscious choice that we make to believe something, it is more that we make a choice not to question what we are taught, we allow ourselves to suspend disbelief and believe.

    OK, I’ll try approaching it from this angle…what is it that makes questioning a possible option in the first place? Is questioning always something that everyone thinks to do about any issue? Is there anything that people take for granted? Do they take it for granted because at some point, they chose to take it for granted?

    How does one allow himself to suspend disbelief? How does one choose belief or disbelief?

    For me personally it would be more accurate to say before my faith crisis that I allowed myself to believe in the literal claims, simply as I was too lazy to question.

    Do you think that all people who believe in literal claims “allow” themselves to believe in those claims because they are “too lazy to question”?

    Why can’t someone just choose not to be lazy? (Note: I’m not asking why they can’t just choose to question…but why can’t they just choose their emotional or intellectual state?) Or can they?

    You raise a very good point about environments, which I didn’t consider. The church doesn’t create an environment that promotes doubt or questioning, that said I do think you can find a wealth of scriptures and teachings that would promote it, they just tend to get overlooked or dismissed.

    In fact, you can also find a number of different religious traditions who think the scriptures don’t even say what Mormons believe them to say. So, this leads to the question: who decides what “Mormons” believe scriptures to say? Is it the church? Or no? Can you read the scriptures in a different way than how the church presents them (or read different scriptures than the church emphasizes) and still claim your viewpoint is Mormon?

    However, the church is not the only environment that we live in, the church doesn’t exist in vacuum, we see other churches and religions, so we do in a way by existing in a world of plural religions have the ability to question and think. Exposure to different religions and cultures causes us to compare it to our own and that gives us the possibility of doubting our own. We have plenty of other spheres that have an impact on us and encourage freedom of thought, and questioning outside of the church.

    I actually completely agree with all of this.

    However, there are a few things at hand. People who are affected by outside sources *do* come to critique the church based on what they learned from those outside sources. That’s what a crisis of faith is. The issue that *you’re* trying to address is why they won’t stay in the church after having done this. But you’re not really adequately addressing that.

    Why then chose the church as being THE most important factor? Do we ignore the critical skills we gain from secular sources? We may suspend them in terms of the church but we still possess them.

    Firstly, I think that psychological and neurological research into things like “compartmentalization” can be really helpful, but I don’t want to ruin the discussion by throwing terms related to that concept of “cognitive dissonance” around. That’s really a tired discussion.

    But more importantly, people who undergo faith crises are hitting a point where they can’t ignore the critical skills from secular sources anymore. It’s just that when they don’t ignore these critical skills, it’s not really that friendly to the church or to their testimony.

    You say that there is another way: not pure skeptical critical thinking…not “blind” faith, but a liberal, mythic, narrative faith.

    My question is: what is going to show people that they have that option and that it is a valid option. What “allows” people to think it legitimate to pursue this option?

    Agreed, that the stance I presented is unorthodox and I would agree with you that people can reject the churches rhetoric and leave the church. I don’t think that I suggested that people should accept this view, or stay with the church, there is never a one way that is right for all. The problem with phrases such as the institutionally accepted approach, or the churches own position, is that I think the church, despite correlation, has so many various interpretations its very difficult to know exactly what the ‘official’ position is.

    But, in some respects, you’re blaming people who had crippling faith crises for having “believed too much.” And then you’re proposing that if they hand’t believed too much, then facts that they learned about church history or doctrine wouldn’t have wrecked their faith.

    You’re trying to have it both ways.

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  31. Jeff Spector on February 9, 2012 at 2:24 PM

    Jake,

    “Was one perfect person who we will be accountable to Joseph Smith? ”

    In a word, no. Joseph may play a role in the judgement but certainly not for a resurrected being who requires no judgement.

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  32. Cowboy on February 9, 2012 at 2:26 PM

    Part of the problem here is that in addition to all of the psychological/neurological variables at play, we aren’t always very clear about the role of decision making with regards to faith. I find myself agreeing with Andrew, but still find myself uncertain as to how much these externalities affect our ability to “freely” choose. He asks an interesting question, but the question remains unsolved.

    More practically, the question of emotion and history/doctrine, is a little simpler than Jake acknowledges. First, while Jake offers a perspective, the Church teaches very clearly about authority. From the Church’s perspective, he cannot act as any kind of a public interlocuter without having been properly called and set apart. He may share an opinion, but that opion is subordinate to the Church, unless he is comfortable with ambiguity and unresolved contradiction.

    More to the point, the “Church” teaches very clearly how these opinions are to be resolved. You read The Book of Mormon, then you pray about. Following a sincere prayer, the actor is told, as per The Book of Mormon, that their questioning will be resolved via a revelation through the Holy Ghost. These experiences are not supposed to be seen as anything more than assurances from God that the Mormon proposition is true. Additionally, they are supposed to be self-evident to the observor. They will know. Now, reality set’s in, and most of us can attest that the experience rarely (if ever) actually works like this. Instead we are left with the pressure of an urgent message, that anticipated actions will be met with either Eternal rewards or Eternal punishments. A decision must be made. This decision to be baptized or remain in the Church, hinges on what we ultimately believe about the real likelihood of the threat/promise of these rewards. Likewise, the veracity of the threat/promise rests in the doctrinal/historical context of the restoration which is used to justify urgency of preparing for our alleged final state(s). We cannot deny that this is how the Church is sold. Now, from there our analysis of things does get a bit emotional. I find out that Joseph Smith seems to have not only been a polygamist, but that he was manipulative in those endeavors also, that engenders certain feelings. Perhaps I am confused or disgusted over the matter. Or perhaps I’m just slightly entertained and Jake suggests. Either way, my emotions become a barometer for assessing the validity of those Eternal expectations. Why do these emotions matter? Because, contrary to Moroni’s challenge, I am still at a deficit of quality information, so I am trying to assess everything that come across my awareness to improve upon that decision making. If I were being truly rational, I would have withheld the judgement that led me to acting in the first place, rather than operating under the default that the Church is true. Conversley, had I had that divine assurance, I wouldn’t be wringing my fists over whether I should finally leave. Why would I? “I get it, Prophet’s aren’t perfect, but the Church is true”.

    So, I don’t think it is so much about “history” as it is about certainty, and decision making. We are uncertain, and are threatened at every religious corner, with a miserable afterlife for making the wrong choice about a question that is mired in so much uncertainty.

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  33. aerin on February 9, 2012 at 2:30 PM

    Without its unique brand of history, how is the LDS church any different than any other faith? Specifically the Community of Christ (formerly RLDS) but other mainstream Christian religions promote faith as a journey. Typically those religions are willing to examine their own histories and admit to issues (not always). If there is no difference, why shouldn’t someone find the best fit for themselves and their family? Find what feels good and moral and stick with that?

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  34. dpc on February 9, 2012 at 2:47 PM

    @cowboy

    Your description of a Mormon’s dilemma doesn’t sound like any conversion story I’ve heard, for any religion. People may not be able to settle the historical questions in their minds, but for those who have had transcedent spiritual experiences, the immediacy of the spiritual experience will trump any historical problem. A transcedent spiritual experience is something that you know happened because you experienced it directly. History all boils down to creditability of the witnesses. It’s all second hand. I don’t know if the translation of the Book of Abraham is correct. I have to rely on a third party. I don’t know anything about mitochondrial DNA and population groups. Again I have to rely on a third party. I don’t know what Joseph Smith’s intention was when he practiced polygamy. I can only surmise from his writings and actions and how other people saw those actions. I can’t know it directly. Why should I trust any of those people?

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  35. Andrew S on February 9, 2012 at 2:48 PM

    dpc,

    In a nutshell, I guess you are saying that people are conditioned to believe certain things. The question arises as to the source of this conditioning. Considering that there are a multitude of voices that could be conditioning someone, why is it that the church wins out over the other voices, as far as religion is concerned?

    But here’s the thing…I don’t think that the church always wins out. This is obviously the case for liberal, nuanced believers, for people who are never converted, etc.,

    I think the issue is more: for those whose really believed the church, why did they do it? How can we help them not to believe the church so seriously?

    What role to parents play in communicating religious teachings and ideas to their children? Most children spend 3 hours a week at church, but a lot more time at home. Aren’t parents and family a larger influence than the church in shaping beliefs?

    I think parents generally have a big role in communicating religious teachings (just based on the statistics of how many people have similar religious and/or political leanings as their parents.) But here’s the thing: what is the common trope you hear in MANY ex-Mormon exit narratives? They came from orthodox, true believing families. (That’s why many of them have problems with losing contact with family members when they disaffect.)

    So, in many cases, where the parents could be the ones providing that grain of salt treatment, they are actually reinforcing the church’s PoV. Mormonism is far more than a 3-hour-a-week religion, ESPECIALLY if you’re serious about it and your parents are serious about it. Jake’s contention is that people who have faith crises were TOO serious about it…but who was telling them not to take it so seriously? Contrast with the people who would be telling them to take it seriously? Who would seem more convincing?

    Actually, this is a good point of note. I don’t think everything is a total loss. I would DEFINITELY like to see a study on this, but I think that many times, what helps someone to have a stronger, more mature faith IS having parents who encourage critical, yet faithful thinking in the home. It IS in having friends who do the same. It IS the fact that there are sites like this where people can talk to others who are doing it. It IS podcasts like Mormon Matters, Mormon Stories, etc.,

    My question is: how much influence and reach do all of those sources have…vs. how much influence and reach does a correlated church have?

    Jeff,

    Why do you both think that you had no possibility to doubt? What I mean is that the possibility was always there, but what was it that made you suspend your ability to perceive it?

    To be candid, my situation is kinda different than many disaffected Mormons situation. After all, I’m not coming as someone who had faith, then a crisis therein, and then lost faith. Rather, my situation is not ever having faith, trying to get it, but never being able to. My crisis was in the fact that the church and every member told me that if I did x, y, and z, then I should be able to believe…but it didn’t work.

    So, my question is something different. What was it that made me suspend my ability to perceive my possibility to believe?

    But this question (and the opposite form you phrased it) seems kinda absurd. When you ask, “What was it that made you suspend” it makes me think that you think that I chose to suspend my ability to perceive said possibility.

    But as far as I can tell, I never made such a choice! And I can’t seem to choose to “reverse” the situation.

    To me, the question seems as absurd as asking, “What made you suspend your ability to perceive the possibility of being attracted to (insert sex you’re not attracted to)?” I’d venture that it would be difficult for anyone to answer this question, much less try to “unblock” that ability.

    And, on top of this all, this seems awkward for another reason. I don’t think I’ve suspended my ability to perceive the possibility of my belief. It’s just that my ability to perceive that possibility is based on my ability to perceive counterfactuals. Basically, “If I were a different person with different experiences or a different personally, then it’s possible I would believe.”

    But this doesn’t really get me anywhere. Recognizing a counterfactual where I would be free to believe doesn’t mean I can actually choose to make the conditions of that counterfactual a reality.

    Regarding the free will debate, I don’t have time now to fully engage with your points. Just quickly though. The problem with both determinism and compatabilism is that we don’t ever fully understand our motives or causality, and often they are not determined or fixed in the ways we might think. We often have lots of competing motives that co-exist and we can only ever give a deterministic account after its happened. Nor do we understand causality fully. I guess both the concepts of motives and determined are fuzzy and vague.

    Right, I actually agree. In fact, as should remind jmb of something from a conversation we’re having off site, I think that some of motives can be changed…the issue is: what is the way we change those motives? This leads to your second point: we don’t really understand causality completely.

    So, I fully recognize that there are a lot of motives that can be tapped into, and that it may be that we need to tap into a different one in order to enact the change we seek.

    But that’s why I think we need to include more actors in this. In other words, the person who has a faith crisis is just one actor. In addition is the church, other members, etc., If there is a goal to increase membership or improve retention (or improve the chances that people will survive faith crises or have lesser faith crises to begin with), then this is something that everyone needs to think about — the church needs to think about whether it is teaching most effectively…parents need to think about whether they are preparing most effectively, etc., etc., etc., all the way down to the individual.

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  36. dpc on February 9, 2012 at 2:49 PM

    Aerin said:

    “other mainstream Christian religions promote faith as a journey”

    Yeah…unfortunately it seems like the journey is out of those mainline churches

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  37. Cowboy on February 9, 2012 at 2:56 PM

    “People may not be able to settle the historical questions in their minds, but for those who have had transcedent spiritual experiences, the immediacy of the spiritual experience will trump any historical problem. A transcedent spiritual experience is something that you know happened because you experienced it directly.”

    DPC:

    And yet, so many people will have these so-called “transcendent experiences”, only to later get hung up on a bit of history. I would argue that this begs the question of whether these people actually had experienced something transcendent. Afterall, I acknowledge that point. If they truly felt assured in their faith, it wouldn’t seem likely that Church history can change that. On the other hand, if people really haven’t had those experiences (even though they participate in the culture of “testimony sharing”) it would make sense why they get caught up. For all the reasons you mention in fact. Even if we could become experts on one of those subjects, we could never know enough about them all.

    You are of course free to argue that people do have these transcendent experiences, I just happen to doubt them. I do so anecdotally based on my own experience infused with an expectation that God would be as liberal with me as he is any other dilligent seeker. In short, I have never experienced anything of this kind. Furthermore, if I have experienced what others have experienced, then I can safely say they are placing way too much confidence in their sense that emotional response = spiritual manifestation.

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  38. jmb275 on February 9, 2012 at 2:57 PM

    Andrew-

    to quote from wikipedia (yeah yeah, wikipedia sucks; wanna fight about it?):

    Hey, that’s all we armchair philosophers have to go on right? :-)

    Sorry, let me try again. I am not saying you are an incompatibilist. I’m agreeing with your position. I’m saying that you come off looking like a determinist (note this was Jake’s first response) because the questions you’re asking are solely about causes, and when someone makes a point about the ability to choose (which you must include as part of the equation if you’re a compatibilist) you jump down their throats.

    To the contrary, I think many Mormons take an incompatibilist position.

    Well, I don’t think it’s that simple. I wasn’t clear though, so let me try again. This is all according to my understanding as an armchair philosopher, so take it with a bucket of salt. Libertarianism requires that an agent be able to take more than one possible course of action under any circumstances. This is composed of many things but includes positive and negative liberty as well as a rejection of determinism (including, a rejection that chemical processes in the brain are entirely natural). That’s why it’s the “opposite” of determinism. Libertarians propose a literal “other reality” for the possible choices. Compatibilists redefine “free-will” to be as you said, the ability to choose according to one’s determined motives. This throws out the piece of libertarianism that rejects determinism. It says there IS NO other reality for each choice because the choices are determined, but my ability to choose my predetermined choice is not impeded. My suspicion is that most Mormons are not so stupid as to think conditioning, genetics, personality, etc. have no effect on our choices. Rather, they focus on the compatibilist definition of “free-will” the freedom to act. I do agree that they likely downplay the significance of determinism, but I highly doubt most are libertarians (in the metaphysical sense obviously).

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  39. Jeff Spector on February 9, 2012 at 3:05 PM

    Andrew, “Jeff,

    Why do you both think that you had no possibility to doubt? What I mean is that the possibility was always there, but what was it that made you suspend your ability to perceive it?’

    I don’t think that was me.

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  40. Andrew S on February 9, 2012 at 3:07 PM

    jmb,

    It says there IS NO other reality for each choice because the choices are determined, but my ability to choose my predetermined choice is not impeded. My suspicion is that most Mormons are not so stupid as to think conditioning, genetics, personality, etc. have no effect on our choices. Rather, they focus on the compatibilist definition of “free-will” the freedom to act. I do agree that they likely downplay the significance of determinism, but I highly doubt most are libertarians (in the metaphysical sense obviously).

    I don’t think Mormons are “stupid” to believe in LFW. I just think that they happen to believe that the soul supersedes the determinism posed by conditioning/genetics/personality, etc., Even if they recognize these factors, they will say that ultimately, none of these things matter because you have the ultimate choice

    Let me put it in another way. I don’t think when LDS people use the term “free will” that they mean the compatibilist idea of freedom to act according to one’s determined motives. I think that they use it in the sense that you can act contrary to your motives as well. There is nothing determining what you will do, or what you will will.

    But yeah, I think this is a lame sidetracking conversation.

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  41. jmb275 on February 9, 2012 at 3:11 PM

    Re Jake-

    Why do you both think that you had no possibility to doubt? What I mean is that the possibility was always there, but what was it that made you suspend your ability to perceive it?

    Hey, you’re the only trained philosopher here. You tell us! Seriously though, this is the rub. Andrew’s point is that there WAS no ACTUAL possibility to choose otherwise due to they myriad of factors that caused me to not see that possibility. That does NOT imply that the church is coercive. I think this is the important distinction. Andrew’s claim does not necessarily mean the church, from moment to moment is coercive, or that it will cut your arm off if you doubt. Indeed, we have the “free-will” to choose any choice, but that choice is determined, and part of that determinism is based on factors the church creates.

    It’s not that there was no possibility to doubt (i.e. there was coercion or consequences for it), but that conditions, personality, etc. are such that for many people that possibility DOES NOT EXIST!

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  42. Andrew S on February 9, 2012 at 3:12 PM

    Jeff,

    you’re right. That should’ve been in response to Jake. I just saw your name because he addressed you first…

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  43. jmb275 on February 9, 2012 at 3:15 PM

    Re Andrew-

    Let me put it in another way. I don’t think when LDS people use the term “free will” that they mean the compatibilist idea of freedom to act according to one’s determined motives. I think that they use it in the sense that you can act contrary to your motives as well. There is nothing determining what you will do, or what you will will.

    Yes, perhaps you’re right. We should do a poll!

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  44. FireTag on February 9, 2012 at 4:11 PM

    I don’t think the last several comments were side-tracking at all, but I would like to explore another aspect of the OP that was expressed in the early comments.

    If the prophets and the church are really pointers to Jesus Christ, who is the real object of our faith, then what happens AFTER I look where they’re pointing and begin to see Jesus?

    Do I even NEED to continue to be looking back at either the prophet or the church once they’ve directed me to Christ? Or is the looking back part of the problem?

    I appreciate the high school teachers who taught me a love of science and math, and the college professors who expanded the knowledge after I got the motivation. I’m sure several of them knew things I was never able to learn. But I would have learned a lot less if I had restricted myself to what they could teach and not learned how to tap into ALL of the sources of research for myself so I could move on to a fuller understanding of the subject matter on my own.

    I think it’s the same way in understanding Jesus. I want to study from all of the sources about him and be able to “check the math” for myself — not perpetually rely on others who will inevitably have their own blind spots and flaws, even if they played a critical role in my past journey.

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  45. Jake on February 9, 2012 at 5:08 PM

    So many interesting points and so many wonderful thoughts. My mind is like a spider on speed trying to take in all the different thoughts and digest them.

    You have all given me so much to think about. A particular thread that I think is interesting (they all are to be honest) is the idea that the church creates an environment that seems to remove the idea of questioning and what is it that makes it become possible to question for people given that they are raised in an non-questioning environment. In short what is it that causes a paradigm shift mentally for people who leave the church, or realise that its not what it claims to be? What are the conditions for doubt to arise? I don’t know if I agree that the conditions do not exist, I think they do exist prior to doubt, just we aren’t aware of them.

    For me what made me aware was simply a feeling of hypocrisy. I spent my weekdays deconstructing other people’s arguments at university, and being sceptical about other truth claims and then I suddenly had to put them on the shelf for Sunday. It was the feeling of double standards in demarcating my beliefs as impervious to critical thought that lead me to really think deeply about my beliefs.

    I think Andrews idea that we need to look at a broader picture then simply the individual is important. As geography, social groups, and family play a huge part in creating the climate we think in and how we see the world. When I am with philosophers I tend to see far more problems and logical inconsistencies then when I am with my non-academic friends. For me that is also a huge factor in why I stay around at church is that I want to be a voice that says its okay to think differently, to think critically about the church, beliefs.

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  46. Cicero on February 9, 2012 at 6:08 PM

    http://forum.newordermormon.org/viewtopic.php?t=25013

    The above link has my more lengthy response, Jake, but the short version is that your narrative of too much faith leading to disaffection does not ring true for me. I have never been one to put the institutional church or leaders on a pedestal, but certain historical tidbits and inconsistencies have recently led me to re-evaluate the credibility of certain fundamental truth-claims. Fundamental truth-claims which, I might add, the church’s leaders regularly claim are indispensable to the legitimacy of the faith.

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  47. Andrew S on February 9, 2012 at 8:59 PM

    Jake,

    It’s interesting that now you ask, “what is it that causes a paradigm shift mentally for people who leave the church, or realize that its not what it claims to be”

    Their own answer is collectively: finding out various historical or doctrinal facts. You discounted or rejected this explanation.

    I posted a link to this discussion around a few places, and there are some people who are commenting (although not here, I guess?), so I’ll post a few things that people are saying:

    How in the hell are you not to take it seriously? It is literally the belief system that frames every single decision you make every single day. You sacrifice time, talents, money, pleasure, fun, sanity — all for a promise of things to come. And, if you’re wrong, all of that sacrifice is for naught and your life was wasted building malls persecuting gays.

    How is this not entirely obvious to him?

    or

    And the temple requires that you dedicate your life and all of your resources to the church?? But, for heaven’s sake, don’t take it too seriously because that would be taking it too far…

    I’ve had this charge leveled at me before and find it insulting. The LDS church claimed to have all answers, all knowledge, the ultimate solution to eternity. It claimed that if I followed exactly the teachings I heard in the temple, in meetings, in conference, then I would have temporal happiness and eternal bliss. It promised to make sense out of small things and large. It promised ALL wisdom for any problem in life.

    And when I held it up to its promises and it fell short then I was the one lacking – lacking faith, lacking pure intent, lacking earnest endeavor.

    And now it seems I was also lacking… what… a magical sense of when they were just kidding?

    or

    I don’t recall ever hearing in the scriptures or in conference or in a lesson manual that we were not supposed to take the gospel seriously. On the contrary, we were supposed to “follow the prophet” with “exactness,” because this life was to prove whether we would do all that the Lord commanded. This notion of true righteousness being found in a casual attitude is ridiculous.

    I mean, what is your response to this?

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  48. allquieton on February 10, 2012 at 12:12 AM

    I think God gave us the Book of Mormon along with the church, so that we would not be so easily misled and deceived by men.

    I don’t think it makes sense to blame “the church.” If you are angry with the church, who is it you’re actually mad at? Better to be accurate and specific if you want to resolve something.

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  49. allquieton on February 10, 2012 at 12:26 AM

    Also for all you JS haters out there, read Joseph Smith Fought Polygamy. It explains a lot of church history that you can’t find anywhere else. You see, Joseph was not a polygamist or a womanizer.

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  50. Jake on February 10, 2012 at 3:04 AM

    Andrew,

    I hadn’t picked up on this until just now but you have distorted what I said, into what you want me to have said. My point did not say anything about taking it too serious. My point was about building false ideals of people, and then having too much faith in that false image. If you actually read what I said I never use the word serious once. It is about idealisation of people or things. Yet, you charge me for saying people take it “too serious.”

    There is a huge difference between the two. To say that I said its them taking it too serious is to put words in my mouth that, I did not actually say. I said having too much faith in the idealised images is part of the problem. Yes, often those who take it very seriously will also be those who have too much faith, but they are not synonymous. You can take things serious but remain moderate in your faith, as in you don’t put faith into false images, and idealised people.

    I say this having been one my self. I will admit that I made false images of the church, the churches history and leaders. I believed them too much, and I can only really take full acceptance that it was my own naiviety that lead me to that. I just think to blame the church is disingenuous when we have a big part in it.

    Would you blame disney for if someone believed in fairy tales?

    I did not say that we should be more casual, but that we should be more realistic in what we place our faith in. We should see the imperfections and not idealise them.

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  51. Bob on February 10, 2012 at 5:01 AM

    #50: Jake,
    “Would you blame Disney for if someone believed in fairy tales”?
    Yes I would. Where would fairy tales be today if there had not been a Disney? I know Disney made ME a believer as a kid. The whole of Disney World is about making people believe in fairy tales.

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  52. Stephen Marsh on February 10, 2012 at 6:30 AM

    a Lorenzo Snow quote, which since I’m lazy I’ll just paraphrase: “I saw all the flaws in Joseph Smith, and I am happy for it. Because I too am a flawed man, and if God can work through such a flawed person as Joseph, He can work through me.”

    We need to remember more of that.

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  53. Andrew S on February 10, 2012 at 7:07 AM

    re 50,

    Jake,

    Sorry. I’ve destroyed any possibility for fruitful communication now. It’ll be too hard to try to rebuild credibility now that you think I have distorted what you said.

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  54. Cicero on February 10, 2012 at 8:40 AM

    @Stephen Marsh:

    You’re pushing against a straw man. The issue is not that Joseph Smith was supposed to be a flawless person. It’s that we’re supposed to believe he was a prophet. When we find evidence that he routinely lied about other matters, should that not shake our confidence that he was telling the truth about his prophetic calling?

    To take another tack, are you so generous with other self-proclaimed prophets? Warren Jeffs has many flaws … should I take comfort that God can work through him? David Koresh had many flaws … should I take comfort that God can work through him?

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  55. Cowboy on February 10, 2012 at 8:46 AM

    “I did not say that we should be more casual, but that we should be more realistic in what we place our faith in.”

    This is a common theme in the blogosphere and apologetics. For example, Michael R. Ash a prominent apologist is notorious for making this same argument, though he prefers to call it naive faith. To be honest, I don’t think it explains very much, and more importantly I think offers very little help by way of suggestion. Where are the lines to be drawn. At what point is a person being “realistic” in their expectations of Prophets/history/doctrine, and at what point do those expectations begin to border on naivete?

    We claim that Joseph Smith was visited by angels, that he was given a supernatural power to more or less perform the miracles of Christ. We have stories surrounding polygamy of sword drawn angels, and other angelic ministrations. We allege that John the Baptist restored the Aaronic Priesthood in person, and likewise Peter, James, and John for the Melchizidek. We have all of this, and then we encouraged to be a little more “realistic” in our expectations. I would argue that part of what happens when a person studies the Church history is that they find out just how “realistic” everything actually turns out to be! These supernatural stories aren’t so cut and dried, but rather what emerges is a character in Joseph Smith that is far more realistic. To the point that he loses all credibility for his unrealistic claims.

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  56. Andrew S on February 10, 2012 at 8:49 AM

    Wow hopy crap my last comment was really lame.

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  57. Heber13 on February 10, 2012 at 10:58 AM

    It seems we are free to choose to read whatever we want for personal study, and to think what we want about it.

    But the more I read on my own that really makes sense to me that begins to draw me further from what I hear at church on Sundays with the well-correlated lessons, the less fulfilled I feel at Church, the less connected to the Church I feel, and the more Church becomes an obligation, not a uplifting experience. I know I CAN find things out outside of church, but why CAN’T I find them out in Church?

    It seems they have Sunday School and classes to teach us. They should be consistently telling us to gain knowledge and know our history, or they should be teaching that historical details are less important than spiritual application, and we should focus our learning mystical teachings.

    #10 hmmm said, and I agree…”you’re trying to have it both ways”

    The confusion is not resonating with the younger generation.

    I tend to agree with Jeff S (I think Jeff said it above)…that we have to take responsibility for our own expectations and learning, not put it on the church.

    Why do I have to come here to find reasonable people like Jeff to say that to me? Why can’t I hear that at Church on Sunday?

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  58. Jake on February 10, 2012 at 11:13 AM

    Andrew,

    I am not so sure your last comment (53) was lame.

    It was certainly concise, potentially controversial, definitely debatable and full of passion. All of which are the makings of a great comment in my eyes. :)

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  59. Heber13 on February 10, 2012 at 11:19 AM

    1 Cor 13:11 When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things.

    I’ve noticed the curriculum is now using pretty close to the same material for youth classes as the adult classes…I think so families can discuss at home together.

    I don’t like them going that direction. I’d rather teach the younger people more sanitized versions of the stories, and the adults more accurate and thought-provoking and faith-stretching material. We’re adults, let’s talk about the historical issues and how one works through them as adults.

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  60. Jake on February 10, 2012 at 11:20 AM

    Although, I was tempted to chose to take offence and go less active, leave the blog and never appear again at Wheat and Tares in the hope that Elder Bednar (or Hawkgrrl) would come and visit me and tell me that my children have been punished by my decision to chose to be offended and stop attending wheat and tares blog discussions.

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  61. Andrew S on February 10, 2012 at 11:25 AM

    “chose to take offence”

    This coincidentally is part of my entire problem with your reasonable. If someone gets offended, you pin it as their *choice* to take offense.

    OK, OK, so I’m probably not going to get anywhere trying to point out that people don’t choose emotions like being offended. BUT disregarding that point, the second point of the discussion is…if someone is offended, should we really be focused on the person who had been offended and absolve the person who did the offending of any responsibility whatsoever?

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  62. Paul on February 10, 2012 at 12:04 PM

    #59 Heber13: I think I agree. The tension with the adult SS class is always around how new members are. In areas with lots of new converts, the GD class will always be an extended Gospel Essentials class, but in areas with less “turnover” then I agree that more advanced studies are appropriate.

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  63. Remlap on February 10, 2012 at 12:11 PM

    allquieton says “Also for all you JS haters out there, read Joseph Smith Fought Polygamy. It explains a lot of church history that you can’t find anywhere else. You see, Joseph was not a polygamist or a womanizer.”

    So what you are saying is that Brigham Young and his followers started polygamy against the guidance of Joseph Smith so that means that Brigham Young was a false prophet and therefore by extension so are all of the Presidents of the Church after him.

    That is better than believing that Joseph Smith was a womanizer and used Polygamy to cover his actions?

    Seems to me that either way it does not look good for the church.

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  64. Heber13 on February 10, 2012 at 12:13 PM

    Paul, it doesn’t even need to be too advanced, since teachers have their day jobs and are just volunteers…it just needs to be more “open and honest” about the facts that are easily found these days.

    There could be a progression of highly correlated primary, correlated youth and gospel essentials for new members, and then less correlated Gospel Doctrine, and even less correlation in Priesthood and Relief Society.

    They have mentioned in Conference about different versions of the First Vision and about Joseph’s accounts of using the seer stones, and there wasn’t mass uprisings. It was no big deal.

    But the correlated (and bland) less material seems almost manipulatively avoiding anything controversial, even if it is fact.

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  65. Paul on February 10, 2012 at 1:15 PM

    Heber13, I’ve been in wards in the past where we had more than one GD class, and, depending on who the teacher was, it was more or less “by the book.” I doubt those classes would exist in today’s more correllated universe. I think your suggestion is a reasonable one.

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  66. Bob on February 10, 2012 at 1:25 PM

    #57: Heber,
    “It seems we are free to choose to read whatever we want for personal study, and to think what we want about it”.
    Not Porn, not R rated moives. Maybe not even “Mormon Doctrine”.

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  67. Heber13 on February 10, 2012 at 1:33 PM

    Bob, tell me more what you mean by that.

    Heck, I watch R-rated movies all the time. It’s never been brought up to me by any of my leaders, nor am I asking them if I can. How am I not free to watch that?

    How does the church not let me think what I want to think about anything I read?

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  68. allquieton on February 10, 2012 at 11:56 PM

    Remlap-

    But I was sticking up for JS, not for the church. And only b/c he has been lied about so much. Not b/c I think it resolves some problem with the church.

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  69. Bob on February 11, 2012 at 12:19 AM

    #67:Heber, the Church is always stating what you can or can’t read. It also states what you can or can’t say.
    I say you may read what you want and say what you want.

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  70. Taryn Fox on February 11, 2012 at 12:51 PM

    Yay for blaming the victim.

    You learned nothing from the post about it.

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  71. Stephen Marsh on February 11, 2012 at 1:09 PM

    From Elder B. H. Roberts, who loved the Prophet dearly, there were these words:

    “Joseph Smith … claimed for himself no special sanctity, no faultless life, no perfection of character, no inerrancy for every word spoken by him. And as he did not claim these things for himself, so can they not be claimed for him by others. …

    http://www.lds.org/general-conference/1984/10/out-of-obscurity?lang=eng

    Well worth considering.

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  72. allquieton on February 11, 2012 at 6:00 PM

    Not claiming JS was faultless-just that he wasn’t villainous and depraved.

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  73. [...] discussion, of course, was linked to discussions on religion. How much should we believe from a religious institution? What are the obligations that a religious community has for its members? My thoughts at the time [...]

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  74. guest on February 12, 2012 at 12:52 PM

    I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen this kind of logic. It drives me nuts every time.

    A: I lost my testimony over historical issues

    B: You had too high of expectations for a prophet. They are not perfect. Joseph might have had some faults, such as his behavior concerning polygamy. But that doesn’t mean he wasn’t a prophet.

    A: Oh no, not that. That’s not an issue at all. I’m talking about historical issues that prove the Book of Abraham is a fraud, the Book of Mormon is not an ancient document, and the First Vision was completely embellished over time.

    B: (no response or come back to some unimportant issue related to infallibility of a prophet)

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  75. allquieton on February 13, 2012 at 1:59 PM

    Guest:

    “Prove” is a strong word. John Gee defends the Book of Abraham pretty well I think. I could understand leaning one way or the other on this, but saying it’s settled for good is hasty.

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  76. Heber13 on February 13, 2012 at 5:00 PM

    #69, Bob said “I say you may read what you want and say what you want.”

    You can’t tell me what to do! I’ll read and say what the Church tells me to if I want…

    …wait…am I exercising my agency with that or not???? ;)

    [Fade to scene from Life of Brian, warning...R-rated movie quote]:
    Brian: Please, please, please listen! I’ve got one or two things to say.
    The Crowd: Tell us! Tell us both of them!
    Brian: Look, you’ve got it all wrong! You don’t NEED to follow ME, You don’t NEED to follow ANYBODY! You’ve got to think for your selves! You’re ALL individuals!
    The Crowd [in unison]: Yes! We’re all individuals!
    Brian: You’re all different!
    The Crowd [in unison]: Yes, we ARE all different!
    Heber13 in the crowd: I’m not…
    The Crowd: Ssh!

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  77. Remlap on February 13, 2012 at 5:17 PM

    Allquieton says:

    “Prove” is a strong word. John Gee defends the Book of Abraham pretty well I think. I could understand leaning one way or the other on this, but saying it’s settled for good is hasty.”

    Are you referring to this article?
    http://www.ldschurchnews.com/articles/57738/The-Book-of-Abraham-The-larger-issue.html

    I don’t think John Gee did a very good job of defending the Book of Abraham at all. It seems to me that he just tries to minimize its importance to Mormon Doctrine.

    “The Book of Abraham is not central to the restored gospel of Christ. To illustrate, he said that of all the scriptural citations in general conference since 1942, the Book of Abraham has been cited less than 1 percent of the time…”

    Maybe that is because the leadership of the Church has known for a long time that the Book of Abraham was not what they claim it to be.

    “…how the Book of Abraham was translated is unimportant. The Church does not stand or fall on the Book of Abraham.”

    How the book of Abraham was translated is extremely important. A man claiming to be the true Prophet of God stated that he translated the book from ancient papyri. If he in fact did not translate it as he stated that makes his other claims suspicious as well.

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  78. allquieton on February 14, 2012 at 12:32 AM

    Remlap-
    It seems like you’re trying to start a whole other discussion. I was saying Gee defends the book of abraham well–that he gives compelling reasons why it appears to be legitimate, and why it’s critics are wrong. I was also saying it has not been proven to be a fraud. Do you disagree on either of these? B/c it sounds like you haven’t read Gee. And it sounds like you agree that there is no proof.

    Gee has actually written a lot of stuff arguing that that the book of abraham is legitimate. But in the article you mention, he is talking about something else.

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  79. Remlap on February 14, 2012 at 1:33 PM

    Allquieton,
    The only article I read from John Gee is the one I linked in my last post. From what I read, he tries to downplay the importance of the book of Abraham and how it came into existence. As I stated before, whether or not Joseph Smith translated the book from the papyri is an extremely important issue. It directly plays to his credibility as a prophet. He states clearly the he did translate the book from the papyri and that is still the official stance from Church Headquarters. If the Church leadership wants to come out say that the book was not translated but was instead revealed to Joseph Smith similar to the Book of Moses, then they should do so in an official statement and not have their hired guns do it.

    As far as proof goes, numerous Egyptologist who can actually read hieroglyphics have translated the papyri’s text and the facsimiles and have definitely confirmed that they have nothing to do with Abraham.

    Having said that, the “translated” text of the book still has problems with anachronisms, strange astronomy, and “Egyptian” names . So much so that it is hard to believe that book could be inspired in any way at all.

    Faith is supposed to bridge the gaps in reason, not fly in the face of it. I agree with Galileo “I do not feel obliged to believe that the same God who has endowed us with sense, reason, and intellect has intended us to forgo their use.”

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  80. FireTag on February 14, 2012 at 4:21 PM

    Remlap:

    This is an interesting discussion to me because in the RLDS/CofChrist tradition, we do not accept the Book of Abraham in the canon at all. We are, of course, also comfortable in general with the notion that a prophet can receive something from the Lord, yet still screw up later (and STAY screwed up, for that matter).

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  81. Remlap on February 14, 2012 at 5:08 PM

    Firetag,
    I am cool with the idea that prophets are men and subject to all of the flaws of men and can do stupid things. There are certain things that are total deal breakers though. Claiming that a book was translated through the power of God is one of those things. If he stated that the he translated the book of Abraham through the power of God then by golly it better have happened that way. An apologist stating that how the book was translated is unimportant is ridiculous at best and disingenuous at worst.

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  82. allquieton on February 15, 2012 at 9:42 PM

    But you have only heard one side of the story.

    For example, I bet the the person who convinced you didn’t tell you that the JS papyri were lost for many years, burned in a fire, and only fragments survive-maybe 13% of the originals. So, what if the book was translated from lost portions of the papyri?

    This is just one piece of relevant information that critics usually fail to mention. Maybe the BOA is fake. But why not hear both sides before deciding?

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  83. Andrew S. on February 15, 2012 at 10:04 PM
  84. jaredm on February 15, 2012 at 11:38 PM

    Remlap,
    I was under the impression that only portions of the papyri that Joseph Smith had were recovered. (the most recognizable portions, some of the facsimiles which have little to do with the text
    itself) Josephs method of translating bears little resemblance to the translating of
    Egyptologist or modern scholars. He described it as by the gift and power of God. Likely through direct revelation or using a seer stone. Even if all of the missing papyri had nothing to do with Abraham, would it disprove that they served as an impetus for the Book of Abraham being revealed to
    Joseph Smith by the gift and power of God. Only God or his Spirit could do that,
    not some scholar or Egyptologist.

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  85. allquieton on February 16, 2012 at 1:47 AM

    Andrew,

    What do I think about your link? I think it’s something to consider.

    I’ve been trying to avoid getting into a discussion about whether the BOA is real or fake. B/c #1 I don’t know-I’m still reading and trying to understand much about it. #2 It would be tedious-a lot of the arguments are complex and technical.

    All I’m arguing is that it has not been proven a fraud, and that before deciding for or against something a person ought to hear both sides.

    I’d post more attention if a BOA critic said “i think two of the strongest arguments for it being true are x and y, but in the end I have to conclude it’s probably a fraud b/c of a and b.”

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  86. Andrew S. on February 16, 2012 at 6:46 AM

    allquieton,

    For whatever it’s worth, the fact that Joseph Smith’s translation style doesn’t really match up with what we think of as translation in many different respects (BoA just being one example, but his translation of the OT and NT are similar…he’s not consulting Hebrew and Greek manuscripts throughout that process) doesn’t equate to “fraud.”

    But it’s disingenuous (or at the very least, it’s going to lead to disappointment) to use faulty arguments to try to salvage the BoM, like saying, “The BoA wasn’t translated from the fragments we now have. There’s x% of the papyri that we don’t even have!” People at the time certainly THOUGHT that’s what was happening, and contemporary eye witnesses quoted the prophet identifying the fragments we have as being Abraham’s handwriting.

    Really, a person needs to come to grips with the fact that “translation” has a special meaning. If they can come to grips with that, then THAT’s how they conclude it being true (and it being evidence of Joseph’s authenticity as a prophet)…if not, that’s when they conclude fraud.

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  87. Remlap on February 16, 2012 at 12:25 PM

    Jaredm / allquieton,

    The facsimiles do exist both in the LDS scriptures and on the papyrus. In fact the author of the BOM refers to them:
    Abraham 1:12-14:

    “… I will refer you to the representation at the commencement of this record. It was made after the form of a bedstead, such as was had among the Chaldeans, and it stood before the gods of Elkenah, Libnah, Mahmackrah, Korash, and also a god like unto that of Pharaoh, king of Egypt. That you may have an understanding of these gods, I have given you the fashion of them in the figures at the beginning, which manner of figures is called by the Chaldeans Rahleenos, which signifies hieroglyphics.”

    Again, the facsimiles have been translated by Egyptologists and they have nothing to do with Abraham. They are funeral texts. The gods that both the Book of Abraham refers to do not even exist in Egyptian lore or history.

    In the facsimile number one what Joseph Smith refers to as the gods of Elkenah, Libnah, Mahmackrah, Korash are actually canopic jars containing the deceased’s internal organs that were always removed during the embalming process. They represent the four sons of the god Horus, who are: (fig. 5) Qebehseneuf — receives the intestines, (fig. 6) Duamutef — receives the stomach, (fig. 7) Hapy — receives the lungs, and (fig. 8) Imsety — receives the liver.

    The Book of Abraham had many anachronisms that indicate that the Book of Abraham could not a true historical text:

    “In the land of the Chaldeans, at the residence of my fathers, I, Abraham, saw that it was needful for me to obtain another place of residence.” Abraham 1:1.

    Chaldea did not exist in the time that Abraham would have lived.

    “The land of Egypt being first discovered by a woman, who was the daughter of Ham, and the daughter of Egyptus, which in the Chaldean signifies Egypt, which signifies that which is forbidden; When this woman discovered the land it was under water, who afterward settled her sons in it; and thus, from Ham, sprang that race which preserved the curse in the land. Now the first government of Egypt was established by Pharaoh, the eldest son of Egyptus, the daughter of Ham, and it was after the manner of the government of Ham, which was patriarchal.” Abraham 1:23-25

    “Egyptus” is not Chaldean and it is not the proper name of a woman who “discovered” the land after the flood. It doesn’t mean “forbidden.” This word wasn’t even in existence when Abraham was alive. The English name for Egypt was borrowed from the French Egypte, the Latin Aegyptys, and the Greek Aigyptos. Many other words such as Pharaoh would not have been in use during the time of Abraham.

    What really bothered me was that the church leaders have known about this for over 40 years and yet they refuse to acknowledge it. The Pearl of Great Price Student Manual printed in 2000 states acknowledges that the papyri were rediscovered and returned to the church in 1967 but does not mention that there are huge issues with the translation. How can a man claim to be a true prophet of God falsely claim to have translated a book of scripture? How could a church that claims to be the true church of God if it knowing hides the fact that part of its canonized scripture is a false translation?

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  88. Remlap on February 16, 2012 at 2:42 PM

    Sorry for the typos and bad grammer

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  89. Douglas on February 16, 2012 at 11:28 PM

    #28 -the best overall perspective that I’ve seen. We seem to agree AGAIN, El Jefe. I’m looking out the window for airborne swine….

    http://www.hulu.com/watch/19878/the-simpsons-flying-pig

    #51 (Bob) – for those of us who are “old of goat” who still enjoy an occasional visit to the “Magic Kingdom” – it’s called suspension of belief, you humourless twit. Folks do it all the time when entering a theatre or turning on the telly. Such an attitude, however, is NOT encouraged at Church.

    Seriously, I think that the Church has actually been quite forthcoming about its history, even the unflattering parts. If nothing else, look at all the anti-Mormon tomes that cites the Church and its “secret” archives as their source! I wonder if the early Church was subjected to this degree of scrutiny by either Jewish or Roman scholars. Certainly they had their reasons to ridicule the “personality cult” about the carpenter from Nazareth.

    To those that trot out the same tired arguments to debunk the BoM or the PoGP: Skip it. I’ve read ‘em all. I’m sure that Jake, Jeff S., Hawkgrrl, and others have done likewise, perhaps in even greater detailed study than I. I don’t consider myself to be the top of the intellectual heap but with a bachelor’s and two master’s degrees in various Engineering disciplines, and managing a multimillion dollar environmental cleanup program, I’m confident to be trained in fundamental logic and scientific methods. I don’t allow “faith” to contradict reason and common sense. Nor do I get rattled whenever some self-appointed debunker with his/her ideological axe to grind against the Church hurls the invectives. Nor do I just accept the santized, “faith-promoting” stuff that I hear at Church at face value. I do understand that, like the original intent of the WoW, it’s adapted to the capacity of the weakest of Saints, or those that can remotely be called Saints. Frankly, I’ve long since given up on being entertained OR intellectually stimulated in the course of a typical three-hour block. What I get, besides the satisfaction that I’m passing on my testimony to my children and grandchildren, is the fellowship and good company of my fellow Saints, and the satisfaction that comes with service. If I have to find my intellectual outlet elsewhere (like duking it out on W&T), so be it.

    And finally, I’ve judged by the good that the Church does. The Savior Himself pointed out that good fruit doesn’t come forth from a bad tree. I also see that far more often than not that those that LIVE the Gospel have the greatest degree of happiness (not necessarily w/o challenges, mind you!) and “peace of brain” (Major League III).

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  90. [...] for the survey. The heavy intellectual or rational slant of many of these reasons leads some liberal, nuanced believing members in the church to chide that disaffected members believed too muc… and that led to their faith [...]

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