If Ye Are Not Provocative, Ye Are Not Mine

By: hawkgrrrl
July 17, 2012

Recently I was thinking about a conversation Bruce Nielson and I had years ago in which he pointed out something I was also beginning to see: that many who were criticizing the church or doubting their own spiritual experiences wanted to limit “the spirit” to whatever agreed with their own political or personal viewpoints.  Joe Spencer from Feast Upon the Word had made a similar observation when he said that we can only be certain it is the spirit when it is provocative, not when we already think that way.

I do agree this is one of the key issues for people who ultimately leave, and it occurs one of three ways:

‎1 – they believe their own conscience trumps personal revelation.
2 – they begin to disbelieve all church level revelation because they see that it is too similar to the conventional wisdom of geriatrics.
3 – they haven’t ever experienced personal revelation that contradicted their conscience that they also believed.

There are also many General Conference addresses that focus on testimony development as a gradual process, faith happening almost as if we are unaware until one day we realize we’ve always believed.  On some level, I question that such a gradual process is conversion vs. the crystallization of our own assumptions.  While it’s true that change can be gradual, is that form of change truly conversion?  Is that the spirit or just being in a comfort zone?

Conversion means change.  Only provocative revelation has the power to change. People who haven’t experience a change, either because they didn’t have to or because they rejected the change, haven’t converted. That’s the nature of conversion.  We change from one thing to another.  If no change is required (#3 above) or the change is rejected (#1 and 2 above), there is no conversion.  How do we avoid this problem, though?

The Dictates of our Conscience

According to the first one, we can only feel reasonably confident that we’ve received personal revelation (vs. just the dictates of our own conscience) when what we’ve received contradicts our conscience.  The problem is:

  • Our conscience is often right.  If we are living the gospel, it’s easy to assume our instincts will only get better and better.  That means we will need revelation less and less to pull us back on the straight and narrow.  But that also means we may develop over-confidence in our own rightness.  To combat this we have to question our assumptions, not when we think we are wrong, but when we think we are right.
  • Self-justification kicks in when we are wrong, so we often find reasons to explain our anomalous behaviour.  It’s really tough to distinguish between our justification of what we did when we don’t understand it and instructions from a divine source.  We should always question our justifications when they are self-serving and make our own actions seem right.  Examples:
    • A bishop acts on a “gut feeling” about someone that turns out to be completely wrong.  It’s much easier to chalk that up to something outside of ourselves (that person was sneaky, there was a hidden circumstance that hasn’t yet come to light) than something inside of ourselves (I have a prejudice, that person reminded me of someone I don’t like, I made a mistake).
    • Nephi kills Laban, severing any possibility of a return to Jerusalem.  (Justification:  the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few, we’ll be led to a promised land).  Laman and Lemuel’s view  may have differed (our younger brother doesn’t have a vested interest in returning to the land of our inheritance since he won’t inherit anyway).

Other people’s revelation

It’s pretty hard to distinguish between our own conscience and revelation, but it seems relatively easy to distinguish between someone else’s conscience and our own when the two conflict.

What about when someone claims revelation that contradicts our conscience?  All we can do in this case is what Brigham Young suggested:  get your own personal revelation.  But what if that doesn’t come or your personal revelation contradicts what was stated for the church as a whole?  Does that mean the other person’s revelation is their own opinion that they are conflating with revelation?  Maybe.  The problem is that it’s very easy to throw these things out, and we may throw out the baby with the bathwater.

The best approach, IMO, is to give it more than its due in serious consideration.  If revelation doesn’t come, you have two choices:  1) comply if it’s no big deal, or 2) go your own way on that particular instruction.  It’s up to you what you decide to do, and that choice is one you have to own either way.  Focusing on the supposed shortfall of the other person is a fruitless exercise that only leads to further self-justification and an increased likelihood of being wrong.

The point of going to church isn’t to hear what we already believe, but to hear what we doubt, what requires faith to believe.  We are there to be changed, not to be comforted and made complacent.  We should be listening closely at church for whatever jars us. Otherwise, the church doesn’t provide any practical value to us in terms of our spiritual development.

Untested faith

It’s not faith if you’ve gone your whole life never doubting that the church and everything you’ve ever been told by parents or leaders is right.  First of all, I doubt there are many people who have been willing to subordinate every thought to the authority of the community.  Faith is knowing that you don’t know and finding enough that compels you to act as if you do anyway.  I question the strength of faith that (as some have described) just sort of becomes comfortable over time rather than actually changing our views or challenging our instincts.  We don’t value what we don’t have to work to achieve.

Ask yourself:  Is it easier to believe or harder to believe?  If it’s made easier by your circumstances (your whole family believes, your spouse believes), maybe that’s not faith.  Those who have a lot to lose (like blacks before 1978, coffee drinkers, and people whose families are against the church) and still believe, those are the strong ones.  That doesn’t mean that nobody else is good enough.  But I do think that if someone has never experienced personal revelation that changes their course of action from what they felt was right in the first place, they have not experienced the conversion process.

Interestingly, many of the people I’ve met over time who are in the “untested faith” category, who grew up believing everything without having done a lot of questioning or working for those beliefs, are often the ones who behaved in the most territorial manner, fearing what lay beyond the borders of orthodoxy.  And unfortunately, they are often the ones who fall the hardest when they hit a faith crisis, quickly going from staunch belief to equally strong unbelief.

Discuss.

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66 Responses to If Ye Are Not Provocative, Ye Are Not Mine

  1. Stephen Marsh on July 17, 2012 at 6:16 AM

    Conversion means change.

    I remember reading through “old stuff” — general authorities addressing the church members before I was born.

    Messages like “this will surprise you men, but your wives are not your property” or “‘you tell her I’m the boss and she has to listen to me because I have the priesthood’ — ‘you don’t’ (and launching into the point that there is no right of dominion in a marriage because of the priesthood)”

    – and then realizing that the audiences of the day had not gotten it.

    Then wondering what else was being said today that I was not getting.

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  2. Howard on July 17, 2012 at 7:19 AM

    The church is stalled in it’s spiritual progression and has regressed from it’s peak because the power of God, the power of spiritual gifts have been lost over time since Joseph’s death and today’s care taking prophets lack Joseph’s ability to commune with God. Faithful members often believe or rationalize that this is how God wants it to be, but it isn’t and it doesn’t have to be this way. Does this make the church bad? No, belief in the current pharisaical correlated gospel still makes people much better than they would be without it, but it is far less efficient than it needs to be. TBMs with the spirit only seem to trust him to confirm the orthodox position and for guidance in their lives within those narrow limits but this is just the beginning of what He has to offer if you will learn to hear Him and actually follow Him! This subdued modern LDS spirit voice is not the voice of a mighty change of heart or of walking in the Spirit. When one learns to hear the Spirit clearly and reliably and truly follows Him even when following becomes incredibly even unbelievably difficult, change in profound ways, including spiritual gifts of the intensity the early saints enjoyed and lessons that contradict many of the church’s pharisaical rules become routine as you become one with God. If ye be led of the Spirit, ye are not under the law. Today this is taking place outside the church in surprisingly increasing numbers while TBMs sit often bored in 3 hour blocks, check off their dos and don’ts lists and do their VT or HT on time like good little robots. They pay their tithing and the church builds a mall while third world poor die for want of a little. Yes there is something wrong here, the parable of the ten virgins applies as that which is Christ returns to the earth via spiritual communion with many but the “faithful” are being bypassed because they are to blinded by rote rules of behavior to actually recognize His return.

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  3. An Imperfect Saint on July 17, 2012 at 8:02 AM

    Howard,

    That seems like a pretty damning over generalization. I have found that a huge part of my testimony has come from following personal revelation that was difficult, did not feel personally right at the time, and only in retrospect can I see the huge blessing of strength that came from them.

    I go to church. I love the women I visit teach, even though none of them are active. I serve in my calling, asking for guidance, and am willing to stick my spiritual neck out when I receive promptings that are uncomfortable to others. I daily pray for promptings, and I receive them on a daily basis.

    There may not be as many of “me” in the church, as would be good, but I refuse to be put it a box. I do not fit in your “box of the damned.” I recognize your right to feel the way you do, and to your own perspective and revelation. I do not accept that God speaks to you about me, or anyone else to whom you to not have responsibility or calling given to you.

    Hawk-
    I was talking just yesterday with my mother about how unfortunate it is that a lot of the youth programs have become about giving the youth “fun experiences” instead of hard, rewarding experiences where they learn that they can overcome adversity and rely on the Lord while they do that.

    When my stepbrother left on his mission, and had a hard time with the language, a difficult companion and a twisted ankle, he chose to come home. He had a lot of fun boating and skiing with his young men leaders, but he hadn’t had activities that pushed him hard and gave him the internal resources to know he could keep going when it was hard. He left a first marriage after two years, and seems to be headed a similar direction with his second. When he talks to my stepdad me mostly talks about how hard things are, not how to get through hard things.

    I have no idea who I would have become if I hadn’t followed the personal revelation I received as a teenager when it felt wrong, difficult, and too much for the Savior to ask. I chose to follow that very personal, and very direct revelation. It has not made my life easier, but as each struggle comes, I have the strength from previous experiences, and the knowledge that I can ask for guidance, and I expect to receive answers. So far the Lord hasn’t let me down.

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  4. Howard on July 17, 2012 at 8:13 AM

    An Imperfect Saint,
    Damning is your term. If the shoe fits…I guess. This weekend I watched hundreds of very calm Christians, Jews, Buddhists and Muslims come together to fill every seat of a chapel dedicated to the practice meditation for the sole purpose of communing with God! Perhaps you are personally engaged in a similar pursuit? Each ward I have attended has a few, but how many others in your ward are not?

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  5. SilverRain on July 17, 2012 at 8:20 AM

    Thank you so much for this post. It is oddly comforting to me.

    I don’t want to get into sordid details here, but I’ve been having a rough time lately because when I was a teen/early twenties I went through a total conversion: a total change of focus. I went through that conversion because of promised future blessings which have so far fallen completely flat.

    Because of this, I have been questioning my entire approach to life, wondering why it has to be so hard, and all for nothing. Here, I have been completely changed from who I was, my desires, my focus, everything, only to lose most of what made that change worthwhile.

    But I think this is where the faith comes in.

    Long ago, I felt prompted to change my life, and I did. The results of that don’t change that initial prompting. And where I’m not going to continue down a path blindly just because I felt something long ago, when I have prayed and struggled to decide my path from here out, I have been reminded of that feeling, and it has been confirmed that it was true.

    No, personal revelation is never easy. Sometimes it does confirm what you want to believe, but if you have built a pattern of hearing and heeding the difficult revelation in the past, you gain the ability to discern between revelation and personal preference.

    In my experience, genuinely wishing to heed the Lord’s will is enough. And by “genuine” I mean “working hard.” The Lord will confirm your feelings, sometimes through other people. Maybe not right away, but He will confirm it eventually. Some of my most indubitable encounters with divinity have been when I have struggled passionately with the Lord because He was telling me to follow my heart, and I didn’t trust it because it wasn’t “hard” enough.

    Sorry for the garbled comment, but your post has really made me think.

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  6. Course Correction on July 17, 2012 at 9:41 AM

    Thanks for this thought-provoking post. I love your question: “Is it easier to believe or not to believe?” That’s a great thing for anyone of faith to ask herself.

    Your follow up point that those with untested faith are often the most territorial in defending their beliefs is great. Those who have never questioned, really don’t understand those of us who do.

    I also like your point that those who have never questioned are acting out of comfort of habit more than out of faith.

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  7. Howard on July 17, 2012 at 9:51 AM

    The idea of trading belief, behavior or alms for promised blessings is just God’s way of motivating us by making use of own greed! It is a beginning concept that helps bring us toward him but the trade should not be taken too literally in the short term because we must grow to receive all that he has to offer us and few grow willingly without going through adversity. Adversity provides both the opportunity and the motivation to grow. A major lesson to be learned from adversity is; non-physical suffering is optional. It is caused by clinging to the way we want things to be instead of accepting how things are. As soon as we accept them our suffering ends.

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  8. An Imperfect Saint on July 17, 2012 at 10:02 AM

    Howard-
    If you meant some people in some wards, then you should have said that instead of lumping the entire church together. Your words were:
    ” TBMs with the spirit only seem to trust him to confirm the orthodox position and for guidance in their lives within those narrow limits but this is just the beginning of what He has to offer if you will learn to hear Him and actually follow Him! This subdued modern LDS spirit voice is not the voice of a mighty change of heart or of walking in the Spirit. ”

    I see a distinct pattern in your comments that has come to bother me more, as time goes on. You asked me where I was last Sunday, and then went on to tell me the wonderful thing you did, convinced that your choice was the more righteous one. What I did on Sunday has little impact on whether I have a testimony, whether I have had personal revelation in my life, and whether I follow the promptings that pertain to me and my sphere of influence.

    You can dislike many members of the church that you have known. You certainly own those experiences and the spiritual growth you found. Please just don’t speak for me.

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  9. Howard on July 17, 2012 at 10:17 AM

    An Imperfect Saint,
    As you pointed out in 3 I was making a generalization. You asked me where I was last Sunday No! I didn’t! Nor do I care! And I don’t dislike members of the church and I don’t speak for you or receive revelation for you (3)! You seem to be defensive and uncomfortable with general statements.

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  10. Paul on July 17, 2012 at 11:18 AM

    HG, some interesting thoughts here.

    What has got me thinking is the notion that if it doesn’t change my direction, it’s not conversion. On a grand scale or a small scale?

    Those who are reared in the faith, for instance, may indeed be slowly converted through their childhood. They may never have developed habits that are not in keeping with their covenants, and their covenants may be a continuation of the way they’ve been living their lives. If they are not “converted” what are they, then?

    It seems under your rubric, those folks could only convert “away” from the church. (Of course that is possible, as some of my own children have demonstrated).

    In my own case, I came to the church as a child of convert parents; we were all baptized when I was little. I had what I believe to be spiritual experiences then, and have had them since. The turning of repentance allows me to participate continually in the process of my drawing nearer the Lord. Am I converted? Yes — or at least on the way. Hopefully I continue to change for the better each day.

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  11. Andrew S on July 17, 2012 at 11:28 AM

    re 10,

    Paul,

    Growing up in the church doesn’t even (necessarily) mean that you’re converted *to* the church.

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  12. Howard on July 17, 2012 at 11:36 AM

    We may be talking about two different conversions here; being converted to the gospel is vastly different than being converted to the church! It is a mistake to conflate the two.

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  13. Nate on July 17, 2012 at 11:55 AM

    It’s true, as Howard says, that the church lives far below it’s spiritual privileges.

    But this has always been the case, even in Joseph Smith’s day. God has always called the weak and the despised to positions of authority. And in their weakness, they run the church. The General Authorities are doing their best (or not).

    What’s important, is not how perfect or imperfect the authorized church happens to be. What’s important, is that God commands us to submit to it, in humility and faith. The more pharisaical, the more Mosaic, the more imperfect, the more faith and humility required.

    Just as God requires us to “honor thy (imperfect) father and mother,” we are commanded to obey God’s (imperfect) authorized servants. There is plenty of scriptural evidence to conclude that God deliberately makes his church imperfect and difficult to deal with: stumbling blocks, rocks of offense, the foolishness of God trumps the wisdom of men. Jesus trips people up with obscure admonitions to cannibalism, calling the weak and the foolish to be his authorized priesthood rulers.

    The trial is to believe in spite of obvious imperfections or even apparent falsehoods in the church.

    God will have a humble people. The drones sitting through the three hour block may not have examined their faith very deeply. But they are humble, and therefore, God grants them a place at the table in the Celestial Kingdom.

    I think the drones who never doubt do demonstrate faith. Their whole life is an expression of faith, humble though it may be. These are the called, the chosen, the elect. It doesn’t matter how annoying or clueless they may seem to us.

    We who doubt, we who struggle, we are here at their good faith. We must submit to them, not they to us. We must learn to be like little children, to these, our priesthood masters. Yes, we also have gifts, we also have things to say, to contribute. But we must do it in humility, in wisdom, in charity.

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  14. Paul on July 17, 2012 at 12:29 PM

    11 Andrew: I agree.

    12 Howard: I agree with your comment as well, though hopefully the two are coexistant, especially if one accepts that priesthood ordinances are required as described in the Doctrine and Covenants and that the church is the body which, by virtue of the restoration of the priesthood, holds the authority to administer those ordinances.

    In any case, I am not referring to some social conversion to the culture of Mormonism, and I doubt that Hawk is either (though I could be wrong).

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  15. Paul on July 17, 2012 at 12:31 PM

    #13 Nate: are the only two choices — doubters and drones?

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  16. Andrew S on July 17, 2012 at 12:53 PM

    re 12,

    Howard,

    right, it’s true. But I’m guessing that some folks are neither converted to the gospel nor to the church. I don’t conflate the two…

    re 13,

    Nate,

    I have to agree with Paul’s comment at 15…”drone” probably isn’t the best term to use in a conversation where you want to give the impression that you are participating in good faith.

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  17. Howard on July 17, 2012 at 2:02 PM

    Paul,
    Thank you for pointing out the Priesthood and ordinance authority cross over.

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  18. Stephen M (Ethesis) on July 17, 2012 at 4:39 PM

    Paul and SilverRain — good to see your comments.

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  19. prometheus on July 17, 2012 at 10:15 PM

    “We who doubt, we who struggle, we are here at their good faith. We must submit to them, not they to us. We must learn to be like little children, to these, our priesthood masters.”

    I will take some small exception to this, Nate. Submission ought to be reserved for Deity alone. We are all equals and submitting to each other as a blanket term doesn’t sit well with me.

    Of course, I am also coming to believe that a hierarchical church is counter productive in many ways, and would love to see our church get flattened.

    The other concern I have with what you stated is that it is all a one way street. They need do nothing at all, it is us doubters, arguers, and boat rockers who have to do all the submitting. I would put forth that this is not a relationship. Relationships are two way streets, and if we want to really be a Zion people, we need to work with each other, growing and adapting ourselves to fit into each other’s lives. A two way street.

    Thought provoking post!

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  20. Bonnie on July 17, 2012 at 10:51 PM

    I like this post, but I’ve been fighting with it. It’s an odd mixture of things that resonate with and against my soul.

    I agree wholeheartedly (I’m discovering that’s one of my favorite adverbs) with the idea that if we haven’t been converted from something to something else we haven’t been converted. What we’re converting from and to, that’s something that I think is up for discussion and can’t be assumed. I believe in tested faith. Alma 32. Cycles of testing.

    But this idea that we must go against our conscience to be converted – disagree wholeheartedly. My conscience has whispered that I should open my mind and that conscience has worked against my natural man, my lazy ways of thinking and doing, and I have sometimes listened and been taught more. It was an act of faith to listen to my conscience. I have never received revelation by going against my conscience. Perhaps it’s a difference in the ways we’re using the word.

    I tend to think not, because the OP seems to favor an adversarial path with oneself in the journey to conversion. I think that truly is some people’s path. I do not think it’s the one true path. I know people who have gotten better and better at listening to their consciences, and they have grown more and more worthy to be followed.

    From and to what have they been converted? I think conversion isn’t so much a matter of making monumental personal course changes in our morality structure as it is being changed to someone who depends less on temporalities and more on God.

    I can’t judge someone else’s conversion, and I can’t say whether someone else is receiving revelation. I’m not accountable for that. I do have to agree that people who have gone through significant testing of their faith often are open-minded and embrace others’ testing experiences more readily.

    I once wrote about how much we need people who stay on roads for the road less traveled to have any meaning at all. And it’s tough – briars, rocks, and scary things inhabit the “romantic” off-road trail. I think there are a lot of people on the road, progressing from grace to grace quietly, who do their exploring differently than some of us who have to whip out swords and slay our dragons in heated, bloody battles.

    I’m not ready to call them lily-livered non-converts.

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  21. Hedgehog on July 18, 2012 at 1:48 AM

    I found the post a bit harsh, and am with Bonnie on the subject of conscience, having always been taught that a person’s conscience is the light of Christ with which they are born. I don’t think our conscience is necessarily in harmony with what we want or would like. What is conversion? I see it as something that won’t be complete until we are changed from the ‘natural man’ we started out as and fulfil our potential in Christ. Given that we are starting in different places, with different strengths and weaknesses, that process will be unique to each individual.
    I agree Howard, Nate, with the idea that much of the church is living far below it’s privileges, and our leaders keep telling us this too. At a recent priesthood leadership meeting in our Stake it was taught that the handbook of instructions is plan B. Plan A being follow the spirit, and treat everyone with kindness and compassion. Most members would appear not to be ready for plan A, hence plan B. It would not seem necessarily fair to blame the FP, Q12, GAs for the pharasaical nature of the current church, any more than it would be fair to blame Moses for the 10 commandments. Many seem to be aware of the shortcomings.
    Perhaps it is more to do with having to administer a church rather larger than the one JS had to deal with, and the impossibility of being able to answer over and over and over, queries from local leaders about what they are and aren’t permitted to do. So far as I am aware the handbook states that local leaders have the authority to adapt the programmes etc. to the local circumstances. I see the church trying and trying to be less prescriptive, and the general membership clinging to the safety of the rules. But neither would I blame the many humble and dedicated people faithfully serving in many wards and branches the world over, who are doing the best that they can.

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  22. Stephen M (Ethesis) on July 18, 2012 at 5:27 AM

    Nicely said Hedgehog.

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  23. Howard on July 18, 2012 at 7:47 AM

    At a recent priesthood leadership meeting in our Stake it was taught that the handbook of instructions is plan B. Plan A being follow the spirit, and treat everyone with kindness and compassion.. I love this concept!

    It would not seem necessarily fair to blame the FP, Q12, GAs for the pharasaical nature of the current church, any more than it would be fair to blame Moses for the 10 commandments.. If the FP & Q12 do not lead the church out of it’s pharasaicalness, WHO WILL? Are they waiting for the common members to lead the church out of from the grassroots up?

    Perhaps it is more to do with having to administer a church rather larger than the one JS had to deal with…. It has to do with current prophets being lessor prophets as compared to JS, without frequent clear new significant revelation from God they are left to ruminate on minutia. For example the Ten Commandments are Mosaic, but 2,000 years ago Christ brought us something better, the beatitudes are a collection of positive affirmations but we are not yet even attempting to live them!  The church is still focused on and enforcing thou shalt and thou shalt not!  The 10Cs are just a set of classroom rules so mortal students can focus on higher divine lessons without too much disruption!  They are the means to learning NOT the main lesson!

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  24. ji on July 18, 2012 at 8:19 AM

    What is important is faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. Faith can be misplaced, but the desired end state is faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. A person born in a Mormon home can gain this faith. An outsider can gain this faith. Faith in the Church as a nice institution can give way to faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. Faith in one’s parents or faith in a particular person can give way to faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.

    We don’t need to categorize or rate the quality of someone else’s faith. We don’t need to say that my faith is better than someone else’s because mine includes certain experiences but his or her doesn’t. Rather, in my mind, the questions are first, what can I do to increase and build my faith in the Lord Jesus Christ; and second, what can I do to help strengthen the faith of my neighbor? Both of these, while being mindful to never put a stumbling block in front of my neighbor (Romans ch. 14).

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  25. Nate on July 18, 2012 at 8:41 AM

    Prometheus said, “The other concern I have with what you stated is that it is all a one way street. They need do nothing at all, it is us doubters, arguers, and boat rockers who have to do all the submitting.” I agree that it is a two way street. I think priesthood authorities will be held accountable for every prejudice, every ecclesiastical abuse, and all the shortcomings Howard attributes to them.

    But like a marriage, I think it is best not to complain or make demands of them. We can come to them, and raise concerns in private interviews, which they can either ignore or deal with charitably. But ultimately, living with patience with the imperfections of the priesthood, or our spouse, is the whole point. That is where faith comes in.

    Prometheus also takes exception to submission to the priesthood rather than submission to God. But God said, “whether by mine own voice or the voice of my servants, it is the same.” God did not say this because his priesthood authorities say every word as if it was written on stone by the finger of God, but because God authorizes what they may say as they strive to speak in truth, as imperfect or incomplete as it might be.

    By submitting to it, in it’s weakness, we show greater faith than submitting to the God of our own reason or imagination. By rejecting the rational and reasonable God of our own imagination for the sometimes crazy and confusing God of the LDS priesthood, we humbly acknowledge that we will not trust in our own strength and wisdom, but we will submit to what He has given us, even in it’s imperfection, for the foolishness of God is greater than the wisdom of men.

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  26. prometheus on July 18, 2012 at 9:12 AM

    Nate,

    “We can come to them, and raise concerns in private interviews, which they can either ignore or deal with charitably.” Except we can’t, unless we are neighbors or family. I wish it were different, and they probably do, too.

    As far as the submission goes – I think we are talking past each other. I am concerned about the very idea of a hierarchy among mortals. Beyond that, I may be reading too much into what you are saying, but it sounds awfully close to blind obedience. I cannot agree to a blanket submission to mortal leaders. There are far too many instances in history of “I was just following orders” for me to be okay with that. Everything gets judged by my rule of Matthew 22:37-40.

    All that being said, I do support my leaders, and I think that theirs is a difficult and thankless job in many respects. And I totally agree with being patient with their imperfections, as I hope they will be patient with mine. :D

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  27. Jon on July 18, 2012 at 12:03 PM

    According to multiple presidents of the church the church has apostatized multiple times. So how is one to believe the church is on the correct path? According the Hinckley past presidents of the church aren’t even Christians (because of their racists remarks). So, I don’t know how a believing LDS person cannot say there is something significantly wrong with the church.

    I gave my once in five year testimony a month or two ago. In it I said, as I get older the less I know, and so I am left to hope, without knowledge. The Sunday school teacher this last week mentioned a talk by Elder Ballard that talked on how you shouldn’t bare your testimony by saying you believe but that you know, then you will feel the spirit. But does this not make the spirit a liar? I thought the spirit is supposed to confirm truth? The truth is the person that bears their testimony that they have hope but no knowledge is that they don’t know, but believe, is this not the truth, shouldn’t the spirit confirm this and not the other? Things like this make me believe that belief is the ultimate goal, not truth. I seek for truth. If truth takes me to a confirmation of my beliefs, so be it, if it takes me elsewhere, so be it.

    As for faith in the gospel goes, is it only for the people that are more spiritually inclined? What about the people that are more logically inclined? Is there no room? The spirit confirming ones thoughts does not preclude that those thoughts are true, but only that they are good, else are we to disavow other people’s experiences in other religions who have prayed and believe they have received the confirmation that their chosen faith is true? Results vs conclusions, we can get results but how to interpret them?

    I’m going to read the book “A Shot of Faith” (by Mitch Stokes) that uses reason and logic as a path to faith. The Mormon God, from what I understand, is a God of logic and reason, let logic and reason show that God is there, or at least that He might be there.

    Korihor did have some valid points in his sermon against believers, many were false logic, but why should one follow the faith of his fathers? Shouldn’t one make sure that the faith of his fathers is true first? Otherwise shouldn’t Muslims continue to be Muslims, or Buddhists Buddhists?

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  28. Howard on July 18, 2012 at 12:37 PM

    Jon,
    Spiritual confirmation is wounderful to receive but it just the first step in learning spiritual communication, it is not an end in itself. The church should be teaching how to better hear and interpret the Spirit so questions like yours can be easily parced.

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  29. Glenn Thigpen on July 18, 2012 at 4:31 PM

    I do not know when I actually became “fully converted”. I have had a few personal spiritual experiences in my life, but they did not cause a complete conversion, although one did cause a pretty complete change of direction.

    I do know that as I progressed, I changed.

    Glenn

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  30. Hedgehog on July 19, 2012 at 2:21 AM

    Howard, I apologise if I wasn’t making my view clear.
    “If the FP & Q12 do not lead the church out of it’s pharasaicalness, WHO WILL? Are they waiting for the common members to lead the church out of from the grassroots up?”
    I don’t believe they are waiting for the common members to lead from the grassroots up necessarily. More that they cannot lead the common members faster than they are able to travel. Perhaps like many things this is geared to weakest. I do see them teaching about personal revelation time over.
    In referring to Moses and the 10 commandments, I was trying to compare the situation today, members looking for instructions from leaders rather than communing with God directly (result: Handbook) with the Israelites wanting Moses to act as intermediary between God and themselves, unwilling to commune directly (result: 10 commandments).

    “It has to do with current prophets being lessor prophets as compared to JS, without frequent clear new significant revelation from God they are left to ruminate on minutia.”
    This presupposes God has new significant revelation He’s prepared to give us. That’s not going to happen if the membership aren’t prepared to receive it. While some may ruminate on minutia, I would contend it is the members who are asking questions about minutia that they are driven to answer. My view, anyway. When the new handbooks were introduced we were told they frequently receive queries from members and local leaders about what to do, for which the answers were in the handbooks, and are in the new handbooks, please read them first before writing to us… kind of thing.

    “Ten Commandments are Mosaic, but 2,000 years ago Christ brought us something better, the beatitudes are a collection of positive affirmations but we are not yet even attempting to live them! The church is still focused on and enforcing thou shalt and thou shalt not!”
    Yes, I love the beatitudes too. But I think we are attempting to live them, however imperfectly. I have had lessons about living them from childhood on up. Pettyfogging over-regulation drives me nuts as well. I contend it is what a lot of members are asking for. And why would we assume that collectively humankind now is any better than humankind at the time of Moses. But that isn’t to say individual members shouldn’t be progressing further, of course they should, like Lehi, like Nephi for instance. It is worth noting that the Nephites still obeyed the law of Moses, inspite of their higher-level understanding, I think.

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  31. Howard on July 19, 2012 at 6:34 AM

    Hedgehog wrote: they cannot lead the common members faster than they are able to travel…this is geared to weakest. Well, unfortunately I don’t see much coming from the top in the way of teaching that encourages this or pressures this upward, perhaps you can point to some GC talks, can you point to any new concepts? Instead I see a stream of pharisaical rules and so called cultural markers that have been added upon during my lifetime. I was trying to compare the situation today…with the Israelites wanting Moses to act as intermediary between God and themselves, unwilling to commune directly… Well this is enabled by the church, children are indoctrinated by singing “Follow the prophet” when the song should be Follow the Spirit and probing questions are discouraged so it’s hard for me to believe modern LDS prophets want to wean us off of brokering our relationship with God because I see little encouragement for that. This presupposes God has new significant revelation He’s prepared to give us. That’s not going to happen if the membership aren’t prepared to receive it. Well we know the BoM is only 1/3 of the plates so yes I assume God does have significant revelation remaining for us. How are members ever going to be prepared to receive it, they are attending a Mosaic pharisaical church?

    Sorry but I don’t buy it! You logic is circular. They are not ready but nothing is being done to get them ready so they stay not ready!

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  32. Hedgehog on July 19, 2012 at 7:40 AM

    Howard: “I don’t see much coming from the top in the way of teaching that encourages this or pressures this upward, perhaps you can point to some GC talks, can you point to any new concepts?”
    Then perhaps you are not looking in the right places. Much of what I hear of the emphasis on listening to and following the spirit is in the Saturday evening session of stake conference, and what I am told (by DH, father, brothers) occurs during the priesthood leadership training sessions at stake conference. None of which are published.
    Elder Scott spoke about “How to Obtain Revelation and Inspiration for Your Personal Life” in the April conference this year. President Uchdorf’s talk “Your Potential, Your Privilege” was given in April last year and talks about the importance of seeking the revelations of the spirit. There will be more such talks online. Take a look.

    “Instead I see a stream of pharisaical rules and so called cultural markers that have been added upon during my lifetime.”
    I’m pretty sure many have been reduced. A few months ago I listened to a Mormon Channel program about music in church, and was shocked by what I heard about the music correlation committee in the late 60s early 70s. Regularly instructing ward music leaders about what the choir should be singing when, how they should be singing it, and exhortations to follow the dynamics etc. in the music. Eek! These days, the choir director can choose the hymns, and the hymn book no longer contains dynamic markings in the music, so the director can interpret as they feel so inspired. Where I do see a problem is with CES. But they are not the church, thankfully.

    “Well this is enabled by the church, children are indoctrinated by singing “Follow the prophet” when the song should be Follow the Spirit and probing questions are discouraged so it’s hard for me to believe modern LDS prophets want to wean us off of brokering our relationship with God..”
    When I was growing up in the church we delighted in asking our teachers probing questions. They weren’t discouraged. I enjoy it, as a teacher, when children and youth ask probing questions. At the very least it demonstrates engagement with what is being taught.
    Yes the primary children sing ‘Follow the prophet’. They also sing ‘The Holy Ghost’, ‘The still small voice’, ‘Listen to the still small voice’ and ‘Search, ponder and pray’. Should you care to view the primary training videos available online on the church website, you will see that the emphasis is very much on enabling the children to feel the spirit, to recognise the spirit, and to allow the spirit to do the teaching.

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  33. Howard on July 19, 2012 at 8:35 AM

    Well, I acknowledged occasional encouraging GC talks. I’m glad the music has been loosened somewhat but it could still use use a major overhaul, have you visited other churches for comparison? Interesting Hedgehog how do I “look in the right places” if they are unpublished leadership sessions and you’ve only heard about them through another? What have you heard> Are you saying it’s being taught from the top but not finding it’s way down?

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  34. Jon on July 19, 2012 at 9:14 AM

    I agree with the sentiment that it should be bottom up. Regardless if the others are corrupt, the only person I can change is myself. The only people I can influence are those around me. So, it is important to understand if someone is not telling truth to you and recognize if they are abusing you, in the end it is only what I do with that information that matters, like changing myself and influencing those around me. Otherwise, I’m wasting a lot of energy for naught.

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  35. An Imperfect Saint on July 19, 2012 at 9:41 AM

    Hedgehog -
    Thank you for continuing my line of thought while I was in surgery yesterday. I might have said a few things differently, but I do agree that as a church that is not always ready for Plan A, that the directions to find the Plan A that Heavenly Father wants for us are available in the scriptures, general conference talks, stake conference talks and instructions, ward level lessons that follow the materials of the church, but that are only a starting place for the gospel to be taught.

    Even more, I feel the Holy Ghost directing me through promptings, invitations to serve given in formal callings but more often as informal requests for help or support that come from lots of places, not just the church.

    Howard – I have a great deal of respect for you and the path you feel called to follow. What truly bothers me, in this conversation and quite a few others that we have both been involved in, is your level of pride (that you mask in a cloak of righteous indignation at the rest of the church) and your willingness to call out not just church leaders that you see as wrong, but everyone who had found peace, guidance and growth through an imperfect church.

    You may say that you were not damning the entire church, that those were my words, but I was simply paraphrasing your comment. I am not feeling defensive, in fact I feel a great sense of peace despite trials, tribulations and the infirmities of mortal life. I can certainly see some people at church that seem less active or struggling with the Word of Wisdom or other aspects of the Lord’s requirements for us as saints.

    I suppose it is easy to simply say the church is wrong, the people lazy and headless of what I think the gospel should mean in their lives. I have to admit that it stretches my imagination pretty far to get to judging the prophet or other general authorities. I do not receive personal revelation during each talk or article in the Ensign, but it happens often enough that I am sure that their lives and faith impact my life and my faith.

    I hope that as I follow the promptings I receive that I am doing the Lord’s work, even if I only occasionally get to see the final “fruits of my labor.” The thing that makes and keeps my life worthwhile is that I have chances to walk in the footsteps of Christ, on a daily basis. Sometimes that looks like giving money, or buying dinner for someone I see sitting on the ground, cardboard sign under their umbrella. Other times it is sending a thought or card to someone I barely know. Most often it comes as a prompting to serve friends or family, usually without knowing exactly why I am doing it.

    I don’t believe that the members of the church have lost their ability to receive all of the spiritual blessings mentioned in the Articles of Faith and the scriptures. Some of them I have observed happen, other’s I have been more directly involved with. The increase of an individual’s testimony is nearly impossible to measure from the outside.

    You accused me of essentially not liking you putting me and all other church members in a box when you said, “You seem to be defensive and uncomfortable with general statements.” (9) You are absolutely right! I VERY uncomfortable with allowing you, or anyone besides Christ to judge me or any other church mber who hasn’t been given the priesthood authority, and been set apart as a judge in Israel.

    It is NOT that I think every one with a leadership calling is perfect, far from it. I think that they are more likely to consider me, my individual circumstances and seek to see me as the Lord does. I do not get the feeling that I have or would get a similar individual spiritual assessment from you.

    So you are absolutely right, I am VERY UNCOMFORTABLE with your willingness to condemn millions of members without knowing them. Personally, I would rather give everyone the benefit of the doubt, rather than general condemnation. I do not expect anyone else to follow my path through life. In fact, I wouldn’t wish a lot of my personal trials on my worst enemy. That doesn’t mean that I would give up the lessons and spiritual growth that came from those experiences.

    For me, it comes down to Christ. He and I will either know each other, and He will see His imagine in my countenance, or He won’t. That goes for each and every person who has lived, does live, or will live on the earth. While the church and it’s programs can help bring us closer to Christ, in the end it is not my place to condemn the General Authorities, local leaders, or you. I am only able to speak for myself and my own experiences, and trying to work on perfecting this saint (me) I don’t find I have a lot of energy to judge anyone else, never mind the whole church.

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  36. Howard on July 19, 2012 at 11:06 AM

    An Imperfect Saint wrote: What truly bothers me, in this conversation and quite a few others that we have both been involved in, is your level of pride (that you mask in a cloak of righteous indignation at the rest of the church) and your willingness to call out not just church leaders that you see as wrong, but everyone who had found peace, guidance and growth through an imperfect church. I do not speak with pride nor is it my addenda, I follow the Spirit when commenting as well as in my daily life. Don’t worry, those who have found peace, guidance and growth through an imperfect church shouldn’t be bothered by me if I’m as wrong as you assert!

    I don’t believe that the members of the church have lost their ability to receive all of the spiritual blessings… If post Joseph prophets were up to his Prophetic skills we would have many volumes of the D&C to show for it. If the members lost nothing of the early saint’s experience with spiritual gifts my High Priest group wouldn’t all agree that today the spirit is just a whisper by comparison. I’m sorry but if you remove the word “all” with a few exceptions you are generally wrong here.

    The increase of an individual’s testimony is nearly impossible to measure from the outside. Subtle changes perhaps not, but when you’re spiritually aware it is easy to see and sense who is and who is not on a similar plane. I’m involved with a number of people outside the church who are much more advanced in their spiritual connection to God than the the many well intended members who have also allowed me to know them.

    You accused me of essentially not liking you putting me and all other church members in a box when you said, “You seem to be defensive and uncomfortable with general statements.” No, I was speaking to you alone and it had nothing to do with a box. It was because of your prior comments, not my philosophy and because you repeatedly read meaning into my comments that is simply NOT there! Feel free to go back and check! You were attacking me with what appears to have been projection or redefinition of what I wrote! Btw, I found this unusual coming from you, I typically enjoy your normally well thought out comments. Pre-surgery anxiety maybe?

    I wasn’t judging you or millions of Mormons so you can drop the righteous indignation, insult is just a psychological defense that plays chicken with the lines of social acceptability.

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  37. An Imperfect Saint on July 19, 2012 at 11:52 AM

    Howard,

    I didn’t expect you to give such a clear example of how you respond when someone disagrees with you, or has a different 20,000 foot view on a situation. It is good to know that I am the only one you wanted to put in “the box,” it is only my experience regarding personal revelation you object to or do not believe, and that I am somehow responsible for your high priest group’s comments. I am also thankful to know that in case Christ is too busy that you can step in and take my spiritual temperature.

    I am glad that you have found a balance for your life , and it makes you happy. Enjoy the view up in your “own space” of perfect contentment. I will keep working on the messy process of the highs and lows that have come with MY mortal experiences.

    An Imperfect Saint

    (Hawk, sorry this got so off topic. I will now send the thread back to the OP already in progress. )

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  38. Howard on July 19, 2012 at 12:20 PM

    An Imperfect Saint,
    You continue to redefine my comments and personalize them by taking offense not to what I actually said but to your redefinition of what I said! To clarify:
    1) A box has nothing to do with our discussion from my perspective. 2) I do not object to your or anyone’s personal revelation. I support and encourage it! 3) My High Priest group discussion was offered as an example. No responsibility on your part was stated or implied. 4) I have not taken your spiritual temperature nor do I intend to.

    Thank you, yes I have found peace but the road was long and very bumpy.

    Let’s try it again after you recover from your surgery. :)

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  39. hawkgrrrl on July 19, 2012 at 2:02 PM

    I’ve been traveling with incredibly poor internet services. I wanted to address the idea that the post is an indictment of individuals or the church as a whole. That’s not really my point. I think the real key is that as individuals, it’s difficult to confidently consider something personal revelation unless it differs from our own conscience or our own self-justifications or what we would do (even if we are tempted to do otherwise). Yet, the more we practice virtue (for lack of a better word), the less likely revelation will contradict our own views.

    It’s hard to tell the difference between righteousness (that needs no correction) and self-righteousness (that can’t bear or acknowledge the need for correction).

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  40. Stephen M (Ethesis) on July 19, 2012 at 3:05 PM

    Hawk, your last comment is excellent. Worth a post of its own.

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  41. Hedgehog on July 20, 2012 at 1:42 AM

    Howard: “I’m glad the music has been loosened somewhat but it could still use use a major overhaul, have you visited other churches for comparison?”
    I’m not a big fan of LDS hymns myself Howard, and I love Anglican hymns, the whole choral tradition. That the MoTab are starting to sound more like the Cambridge Singers (insofar as a large choir can sound like a small choral ensemble) gives me hope. Mack Wilberg’s arrangements help. My taste may not be yours.

    “they are unpublished leadership sessions and you’ve only heard about them through another?”
    Clearly as a woman, I don’t get to attend priesthood leadership meetings, so necessarily for me it is hearsay. But my Dad is a pretty reliable witness, a man who has always endeavoured to follow the spirit, doesn’t pay any heed to ‘cultural markers’ (unless directed by the spirit which has happened, but rarely). Get the two of us together, and we can chew over the iniquity of rules about things that don’t matter for quite some time. He has been very enthusiastic about what has been taught in these meetings recently. The ‘plan A/plan B’ I mention in my first comment was one such. Also has been the idea of seeking revelation in our lives and taking time at church to ponder about those things and receive revelation as we sit in our meetings and lessons, which revelation may not necessarily be anything to do with the talks or lesson material…

    “What have you heard”
    The importance of personal revelation, following the spirit, not judging others comes up often in Saturday stake conference sessions.

    “how do I “look in the right places” if they are unpublished leadership sessions ….
    Are you saying it’s being taught from the top but not finding it’s way down?”
    I can’t speak for your ward, stake or area, but it certainly seems to be happening where I am. Long may it continue. Insofar as this is the emphasis in the church produced training videos for primary, then yes maybe it is starting at the top. I gather there are many such training videos for various callings online. A place to start perhaps.

    I think I have now trespassed on Hawkgrrls good will far to long. My apologies.

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  42. Hedgehog on July 20, 2012 at 2:09 AM

    Hawkgrrrl, Thanks for the clarification on the intent of the post. The confidence issue I do recognise, and in my case I think the problem is very much feeling a lack of confidence as opposed to overconfidence (though perhaps those who know me would be able to point out areas where I may seem to be overconfident :-) ). My parents and DH, who joined the church in their teens seem to me to have a clearer, more confident knowledge of when the spirit directs. I’d like their certainty, and can but continue working on it.

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  43. Glenn Thigpen on July 20, 2012 at 2:46 AM

    Hawkgrrl, you said: “I’ve been traveling with incredibly poor internet services. I wanted to address the idea that the post is an indictment of individuals or the church as a whole. That’s not really my point. I think the real key is that as individuals, it’s difficult to confidently consider something personal revelation unless it differs from our own conscience or our own self-justifications or what we would do (even if we are tempted to do otherwise). Yet, the more we practice virtue (for lack of a better word), the less likely revelation will contradict our own views.”

    I disagree with that in some respects. Think about the issue with polygamy. It was an unsettling doctrine (to put it mildly). Joseph Smith resisted it at first, as did Brigham Young and some of the other apostles to whom Joseph Smith revealed the principle. Some of the apostles received a personal revelation on the matter and accepted it, despite it going against their current moral paradigms. Others could not get past those established moral imperatives.

    Then take the women to whom this principle was revealed. Check out Lucy Walker’s reaction. It can be found “In Sacred Loneliness” by Todd Compton, and elsewhere. It went against her current beliefs and knowledge. She had to, and testifies, that she did obtain a personal revelation on the matter.

    If we know that a principle is correct, we have no need of revelation on the subject. It is when we need an answer to a question that we need revelation on the matter if the question falls into the realm of revelation.

    Glenn

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  44. Howard on July 20, 2012 at 1:01 PM

    Hedgehog,
    Thank you, your 41 comment is very encouraging! Perhaps this is just beginning. I would love to see and hear more of this in the church. So far it has not trickled down to me. I did have a SP who encouraged communication with the Spirit and offered some ideas of how to accomplish it and he also advanced the act, not be acted upon concept from the pulpit, but he has been the exception in my experience.

    I actually love the MoTabs but as an audiophile I went through more than 500 recordings to find 3 that sounded great, the rest ranged mostly from poor to okay in sound quality. I’ve never seen such a wide variation in any other group. All 3 were recorded in the tabernacle btw.

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  45. hawkgrrrl on July 20, 2012 at 1:38 PM

    Glenn – I think your examples are (if accurate about the male church leaders’ feelings anyway) perfect examples of revelation that is identifiable. It’s only easy (and perhaps possible) to identify it as revelation if the source of it originates outside our own mind and is foreign to us. Of course, the United States of Tara qualifies too.

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  46. Glenn Thigpen on July 20, 2012 at 2:29 PM

    hawkgrrrl, I think that by definition, revelation must originate outside our own mind. The source of revelation is either from Satan or the Lord. I think that this will always be identifiable. (IMHO)

    There are several levels, according to my understanding and study, of guidance available to human beings. The light of Christ, the Holy Ghost, and finally revelation.

    The Light of Christ is available to all humanity, but requires meditation and seeking. I believe that many great leaders in the past were influenced by the Light of Christ as they gained their insights. Leaders Such as Buddha and Confucius.

    Then there is the Holy Ghost, and especially the Gift of the Holy Ghost which will provide a deeper level of guidance to those so endowed.

    I believe that the Light of Christ and the guidance of the Holy Ghost provide that level of inspiration and guidance that will not contradict our views very much as “the more we practice virtue” as you so aptly phrased it.

    I would not need revelation for many things in my life that come down from the leaders of the church, because they are in harmony with what I already believe. But if something came down the pike that was “outside my box”, I would definitely need some type of personal revelation to accept it.

    I am not dogmatic about this. It is just my understanding of personal insights, inspiration, and revelation.

    By the way, the reactions of Brigham Young and Joseph Smith to the revelations on polygamy are documented pretty well. It would take up too much space to reproduce all of the documentation. It is easily found via a Google search. Joseph Smith and the angel with a flaming sword. Brigham Young’s initial reaction:”No, I cannot. Ask me to do anything. Ask me to sacrifice my wealth, my fortune. Ask me to be away from my family. But don’t ask me to do this.”

    Glenn

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  47. hawkgrrrl on July 20, 2012 at 3:08 PM

    I’m aware of the documented protestations of BY and JS, but no one knows what is in a person’s heart. There are certainly social motives for them to have made a big show of protesting. I give far more credence to the statements of revelation of those who received no benefits from polygamy – the women.

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  48. Howard on July 20, 2012 at 3:59 PM

    Glenn Thigpen,
    I like your comment 46 and agree with much of it. I would like to add the continuum: imagination > intuition > inspiration > revelation. This makes it difficult at first to know if the source is from within or without. Also when inspiration differs from our expectations it stands out causing us to reflect and reconsider often leading us to seek more inspiration, but when it agrees with our expectations we often accept the simplest of spiritual confirmation and move on.

    I see the Light of Christ as our conscience and I see Buddha, Confucius and others having been influenced by the Spirit of God in much the same way our modern prophets are.

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  49. Howard on July 20, 2012 at 4:01 PM

    My comment was lost! Will someone please find it and post it?

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  50. Glenn Thigpen on July 20, 2012 at 4:32 PM

    Hawkgrrrl, Do you have any reason to disbelieve the protestations of Joseph, Brigham, and others, besides cynicism? Do you not believe that Joseph Smith and Brigham Young were prophets called by God?

    Glenn

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  51. Stephen Marsh on July 20, 2012 at 6:07 PM

    Howard, got it taken care of.

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  52. hawkgrrrl on July 20, 2012 at 8:15 PM

    Glenn, I believe Moses was a prophet yet he slew an Egyptian. Prophets are not perfect. I think D&C 132 is pretty convenient to get Eliza in line as was the claim of an angel with a sword. Honestly, the whole idea that they even asked about it from a study of the OT is suspect. I’ve read the OT many times and never once did I think polygamy sounded like a good idea. You call it cynicism; I call it understanding human nature. I am less suspicious, however, of the motives of polygamy’s victims in claiming it was revealed to them to be inspired. Their situation adds credence to their claim while the men involved are automatically under suspicion due to their self-interest–in the case of BY, fathering dynastic increase. If JS was really so repulsed by it, why couch his proposals as eternal life or death schemes? Why enlist parents to pressure their barely pubescent daughters to consent? Maybe he was blameless. But there is motive and opportunity. And polygamy was no picnic.

    This is the point of the post; that we can’t be sure that something is revelation when it coincides with our wishes or self-interest. I can be even less sure of it when it was someone else’s claimed revelation that doesn’t bind me or have any bearing on me whatsover. So while I feel the evidence is mixed, I’m not too troubled by that.

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  53. Glenn Thigpen on July 20, 2012 at 8:57 PM

    Hawkgrrrl,
    Thanks for your well though out replies. But why does a prophet’s revelations automatically bring him under suspicion if it (1) goes against his previous moral paradigm and (2) seems to “favor” him (and all other males who were called to participate).

    Also, why would not the personal revelations by those sisters who had the same initial repulsion but still inquired of the Lord and then accepted the principle, be a vindication or rather a confirmation of the prophet’s revelation?

    Thanks,
    Glenn

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  54. Bob on July 21, 2012 at 12:30 AM

    #52:Hawkgrrrl,
    I think your view is too limited on polygamy, judging it only by the model of some past Mormon polygamy. It has worked fine in other cultures.
    For *ME*, having 12 kids would be “no picnic”. Others__ may like it.

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  55. Nate on July 21, 2012 at 1:38 AM

    Hawkgrrrl says: “I am less suspicious, however, of the motives of polygamy’s victims in claiming it was revealed to them to be inspired. Their situation adds credence to their claim while the men involved are automatically under suspicion due to their self-interest–in the case of BY, fathering dynastic increase.”

    I think your point of view here perfectly reflects your main point in the OP, which is that revelation is something that should challenge us, take us from one paradigm to another, rather than simply confirming our own self-interest. All the supposed male protestations, the angel with the drawn sword etc, also sound suspicious to me.

    But I take D&C 132 at face value. Joseph’s call to practice polygamy is couched in terms of desire, not obedience to a difficult commandment. “If any man…desire to espouse another, he cannot sin.” For Emma however, it is spoken of as a commandment in the same revelation. (That section seems to me so utterly misogynist, that I can’t imagine that Joseph Smith would have invented it himself, as he was much more coy in his requests than the Lord was to Emma in the revelation. Not that I’m saying God is a misogynist, but that Joseph Smith’s revelatory experience reflected perhaps a more honest statement of the situation for him than he would have ever admitted of his own accord.)

    According to the revelation, God was inviting Joseph Smith to act upon his desires. That is what makes polygamy such an amazing revelation. God is overthrowing an incredibly powerful cultural taboo and opening up the gates for increased sexual freedom (for the men, but also for some women in the case of polyandry.)

    This is just one example where revelations sometimes invite the person to take paths dictated by their own natural desires, rather than submitting them to the normative cultural taboos.

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  56. Nate on July 21, 2012 at 1:45 AM

    I don’t think I made my main point clear in the last point, because of the distracting and controversial nature of polygamy.

    But my main point is that revelations sometimes confirm, rather than challenge notions or desires. Revelation often can be confirmation, support, encouragement in a long path. It does not always have to be epiphanies. It can simply be comfort, or The Comforter.

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  57. hawkgrrrl on July 22, 2012 at 3:17 AM

    It’s an interesting distraction, the idea that the heavens being open would lead to more sexual freedom. Interestingly, this “phenomenon” occurs in most religions that embrace ongoing revelation and outpourings of the spirit, speaking in tongues, etc. That still doesn’t clearly indicate divine origin (or rule it out).

    Glenn, while I find the statements of the women who received revelation to join in polygamy more compelling than anything any male has said on the subject, it’s not entirely convincing either. Not all women received that same answer, many were very young and impressionable and influenced by family pressures, and they had been promised salvation if they got the “right” answer. Psychologically, those factors could outweigh self-interest. Add to that the timing of when they claimed they had the revelation. Did they make the claim decades later after living the principle? They were very invested in justifying their sacrifices by that time.

    Similarly, Nephi had crossed the rubicon when he slew Laban. If Lemuel said it was by God’s command, that woukd be more convincing.

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  58. Glenn Thigpen on July 22, 2012 at 5:41 AM

    Hawkgrrrl, All of the plural marriages to Joseph were not to supposedly young and impressionable girls. Here are a few of them.

    Martha McBride, 38, Elizabet Davis 50, Delcena Johnson, Eliza Snow 38, Almera Woodward 30, Hannah Ellis 29, Olive Grey Frost 27, Mary Ann Frost 34, Fanny Young 56.

    As for some of the others being young and impressionable, I think that maybe you are doing those women a disservice in that you are making blanket statements while offering no evidence to back it up.

    I do think that your viewpoint is one of cynicism rather than evidence based. I.E. those who claimed to receive a revelation were just responding to family pressures and promises of salvation, then later in life they were just trying to save face. There is no way that you can read the minds and hearts of those women so long dead.

    The story of Nephi and Laban stands on a communication from the spirit that first of all, the Book of Mormon was translated by the power and authority of God, that it is a true book of Scripture, that Nephi was called by God to be a prophet, and that he was constrained by God to kill Laban as stated. Only God, via the Holy Ghost can answer that question.

    Glenn

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  59. MH on July 22, 2012 at 9:24 AM

    Glenn, I am a bit surprised that you are questioning Hawk on this. Fanny Alger was about 16, Nancy Rigdon was proposed to at age 18 (and she rejected the proposal), Helen Mar Kimball was 14, Sarah Ann Whitney was 17, Flora Ann Woodworth was 16, Lucy Walker was 17, Sarah Lawrence was 17, Maria Lawrence was 19, and Nancy Winchester was 14.

    So yes, you are correct to say that “All of the plural marriages to Joseph were not to supposedly young and impressionable girls”, but several of the “women” Joseph married were as young as 14–hardly what we would consider “consentable” age today, and certainly the 14 year old girls were “young and impressionable”, specifically Helen Mar Kimball who gets quoted so frequently as having seen an angel. It is also worth noting that Sidney Rigdon said he would never consent to allowing Nancy to marry Joseph.

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  60. Glenn Thigpen on July 22, 2012 at 11:09 AM

    Hi MH, Good to see you chiming in. I always welcome your comments.

    First of ll, you made a good comment that the age of 14 is something that we would hardly consider to be an age of consent. Ignoring the fact that Helen was never asked to cohabitate with Joesph, your comment was couched in the present. The age of consent in Illinois at the time was ten. The age one could legally marry was fourteen.

    I was not questioning hawkgrrrl’s statement that many of the ladies that Joseph Smith was sealed to were young. That is fairly well documented. I was just providing some balance with the older women that have been documented.
    But hawkgrrrl added another characteristic as being impressionable. That is something that she has no knowledge of. I noted in my post that she could not know the hearts, minds, (and maturity levels, I add now) of those women at the time they were sealed to Joseph nor in the later years when they wrote and testified about plural marriage.

    Glenn

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  61. MH on July 22, 2012 at 4:03 PM

    Glenn, I note that Hawk did not say “all” as you implied in comment 58; she said

    many were very young and impressionable and influenced by family pressures, and they had been promised salvation if they got the “right” answer. Psychologically, those factors could outweigh self-interest.

    Indeed many were very young and impressionable; others (old and young) had been promised salvation if they participated. I see nothing wrong with what Hawk wrote there.

    Yes, we don’t know how mature they were, but we don’t know how mature Warren Jeff’s 14-year old brides were either. Yet we don’t seem to have the same problem seeing ALL of Jeff’s teen brides as problematic due to their age.

    Regarding the post, polygamy is certainly provocative. I have a hard time justifying the idea that “If Ye Are Not Provocative, Ye Are Not Mine” on this issue in particular. Are we to assume that all provocative revelation is of the Lord? If so, why aren’t we more supportive of Mr. Jeffs?

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  62. Glenn Thigpen on July 22, 2012 at 4:22 PM

    MH, We are not talking about Warren Jeffs here. He is not recognized as a prophet by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints.

    In regards to Joseph Smith’s wives you said “Indeed many were very young and impressionable.” The impressionable part is what I am questioning. There has been no evidence proffered to support that allegation.

    Nor has there been any evidence offered to support a conclusion that the later writings of women such as Helen Mar Kimball were attempts to save face, to justify their sacrifices.

    Such conclusions reflect a cynical attitude towards polygamy and the personal revelations that those women said that they had received.

    Glenn

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  63. hawkgrrrl on July 22, 2012 at 4:50 PM

    Glenn – I would consider anyone who has not yet developed an adult brain impressionable (usually age 18 or higher is when brain development settles). Add to that the fact that the requester is someone they believe to be speaking for God who (in some cases) had the sanction of their parents. If I was a Mia Maid, and my parents told me I needed to agree to this, and I believed my salvation was dependent on it, I would likewise have had a hard time saying no, even though the idea is repugnant.

    I haven’t ruled out that these faithful women were inspired by revelation to participate in polygamy, but there are many facets to consider – truly, we can never know. State of mind and motive are relevant, and since we don’t have their actual state of mind we have to ask what is reasonable and normative for their situation, what factors may have had a psychological impact on a person in this situation.

    The question in the OP is how to ascertain whether a revelation is divine in origin or the product of our own mind. First of all, I think it’s extremely difficult to know (regardless the person) when the revelation is claimed by someone else because we aren’t mind readers. But it’s also very difficult to ascertain for ourselves unless the revelation is so obviously (to us) not aligned with our own thinking.

    It’s nearly impossible to call it revelation with any certainty if it’s what we already think anyway, and where state of mind and motive lean in a specific direction, our minds are complex and will respond accordingly.

    I do have an admittedly cynical attitude towards polygamy although not of revelation in general, but as I’ve said several times, I give more credence to these women’s statements than I do to any man’s statements given the effects of polygamy on each of the sexes.

    Maybe the next logical question is “Was polygamy provocative?” It sounds very provocative to us, but maybe not to everyone. Srsly, who reads the OT and gets the idea that they should be practicing polygamy? Why was this question even asked in the first place? Asking the question (IMO) goes to state of mind.

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  64. Glenn Thigpen on July 22, 2012 at 5:34 PM

    hawkgrrrl, you made some good points.
    “The question in the OP is how to ascertain whether a revelation is divine in origin or the product of our own mind. First of all, I think it’s extremely difficult to know (regardless the person) when the revelation is claimed by someone else because we aren’t mind readers. But it’s also very difficult to ascertain for ourselves unless the revelation is so obviously (to us) not aligned with our own thinking.”

    And that part, about being mind readers is the point I was trying to make.

    I don’t think that it is really possible to compare the MIA Maid of today to the typical seventeen year old frontier lass of the mid 1800′s. I think that to be able to make any type of informed conclusion about any of those young girls, one would need to do research on their early lives. Unfortunately we have very little information that was from contemporary sources. Some of them may have been impressionable. But that is something that we cannot know as it stands right now. What we do have is some of the words and reminisces. To me, that is the best evidence that we have.

    Glenn

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  65. MH on July 22, 2012 at 6:25 PM

    Glenn, I know that Mr Jeffs makes you uncomfortable, as evidenced by your refusal to try to include him in the conversation. My point in bringing it up is not only the parallels with Joseph Smith (which I think are many), but more importantly to address the point of the post: just because something is provocative, it is revelation? I question that. I mean if something is simply provocative, we can discuss Abraham’s attempted sacrifice of Isaac, Kimball’s provocative revelation on blacks and the temple/priesthood, the pope’s revelation on the Crusades, or any number of things. Joseph’s revelation on polygamy was considered provocative, as was Wilford Woodruff’s revelation removing polygamy in the Manifesto.

    It’s easy to point to Jeffs or the Pope as implausibly provocative. But how do we then explain Woodruff and Smith’s divergent views on polygamy? It’s not nearly as easy. And when we look at the parallels between Jeffs and Smith, it because even more provocative to distinguish differences.

    I understand that revelation is often provocative, but it can also be provocative to follow one’s conscience.

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  66. Glenn Thigpen on July 22, 2012 at 7:50 PM

    MH, I stated that I disregard Warren Jeffs, and the Pope because they are not prophets recognized by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. I have received a spiritual confirmation of the truthfulness of the restored gospel.

    I will say though that there are some distinct differences between Joseph and Jeffs. The FLDS live in closed communities. This was not the case in Nauvoo.

    Of course there are parallels. That was intentional. The FLDS believe that the revelation by Woodruff was bogus and was just an attempt by him and the leadership to wiggle out of a situation that had become desperate. They supposedly are trying to follow the original revelations and believe that Jeffs is the Lord’s chosen prophet. I don’t have to worry about that because I have received spiritual confirmations of the prophets that have headed the church from the time of David O. McKay up to the present.

    I do not see Joseph Smith and Wilford Woodruff as having divergent views on polygamy. It was instituted by revelation and the practice suspended by revelation.

    Woodruff himself was a polygamist and had to do his work for the church surreptitiously in order to evade arrest. There is nothing that I can find in his writings that he felt the practice was not from God.

    Glenn

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