Alma 32, A Thought Experiment

Actually, we will begin with verse 28, but I don’t want to copy and paste everything…so I assume you all have scriptures (or can follow along with the link I provided). But I want to directly quote a few scriptures.

32 Therefore, if a seed groweth it is good, but if it groweth not, behold it is not good, therefore it is cast away.
33 And now, behold, because ye have tried the experiment, and planted the seed, and it swelleth and sprouteth, and beginneth to grow, ye must needs know that the seed is good.
36 Behold I say unto you, Nay; neither must ye lay aside your faith, for ye have only exercised your faith to plant the seed that ye might try the experiment to know if the seed was good.
37 And behold, as the tree beginneth to grow, ye will say: Let us nourish it with great care, that it may get root, that it may grow up, and bring forth fruit unto us. And now behold, if ye nourish it with much care it will get root, and grow up, and bring forth fruit.
38 But if ye aneglect the tree, and take no thought for its nourishment, behold it will not get any root; and when the heat of the sun cometh and scorcheth it, because it hath no root it withers away, and ye pluck it up and cast it out.
39 Now, this is not because the seed was not good, neither is it because the fruit thereof would not be desirable; but it is because your aground is bbarren, and ye will not nourish the tree, therefore ye cannot have the fruit thereof.
40 And thus, if ye will not nourish the word, looking forward with an eye of faith to the fruit thereof, ye can never pluck of the fruit of the atree of life.

So there. Let it be known that it’s untrue that we never use scriptures on Mormon Matters.

That being said, I might appear to be too critical for some, so that’s my disclaimer.

Alma 32 is a curious set of scriptures for the church. In verse 27 we have the famous (at least, famous to me) admonition that if one can only desire to believe, then they should go for it. And 28 begins a rather popular analogy of faith (BIG EDIT: the word…it even clearly says it…so I don’t know why people [and even I] turn this to faith) to a seed that can be nourished and grown.

And this set of scriptures is also clever. Clever enough that it chaps my hide. I mean, obviously, I’m biased, but have you ever thought about it?

Alma 32:32 seems most reasonable. It seems a lot about what kinds of things we hear about in church. Test the spirits to know if they are true. If you have a good idea, you’ll get a burning in your bosom. If you have a not so good idea, you’ll get a stupor of thought. So, you can develop a rule of thumb for discerning ideas. And the role of faith seems clear — to begin the process. Surely, the seed (the word) might look like a dud to you, and common sense might suggest it’ll never work out, but common sense isn’t too common or sensical, so faith is the ability to take the first step and plant the seed anyway.

But 32:32 has a reasonable out: what doesn’t grow is discarded. When you get a stupor of thought, you don’t continue. You go back to the drawing board.

So far, so good.

I’ll compare with real world paradigms. In the real world, I might undertake something that I might think is unlikely. I might make a hypothesis and hope it’s true, but not know. This is faith for the real world. So far, so good. But in the real world, things that are true will manifest themselves as true regardless of anything else. I might be incredulous that flipping a light switch will turn on a light, but regardless of if I believe or not, the light will turn on with the switch (as long as the circuitry isn’t broken). The only faith is in getting over my possible initial incredulity to flipping the switch.

Yet what if something else happens?

What if your seed never sprouts? The word doesn’t “do it” for you. What if it never grows? In the real world, you try something else. Yet in the church we have so often a different cultural idea backed by certain other scriptures: such as D+C 14:7: “And, if you akeep my commandments and bendure to the end you shall have ceternal life, which gift is the greatest of all the gifts of God.” This doesn’t imply any necessity of results, so what commonly is asserted is that people just need to be more patient, continue following the commandments, continue hoping, etc.,

OK, OK, so that’s fair enough. One could make an extended argument for faith with that vein. Looking at verses 16 – 19 from the Alma 32 gets us similar things.

But here’s the question…here’s the thought experiment. What if we applied this same concept to everything in life? What if, in particular, we applied this concept to other churches? Alma 32 works reasonably if we are freely able to determine when the seed is dead and bad…but if we presuppose that a seed is good (obviously, the Book of Mormon and the church presuppose the word is true), even despite the results, and just say, “Just endure…just desire to believe…just wait…just have patience,” then how are we to discern anything? We might say that the reason we are Mormon instead of Catholic or Baptist is because Mormon tenets appealed to us more, but couldn’t it be that we needed to just desire to believe in Catholicism, exercise a particle of faith and (if we still did not having any confirming experiences), endure to the end in faith, yet we negligently failed to do so?

This is why I believe instead that some part of our belief or disbelief is not chosen (and Jeff or someone else here will probably offer a rebuttal either here or in another article, so stay tuned, folks!) We don’t just in a gungho way say, “I’m going to be Catholic, have faith, and endure to the end.” Because when we set that criteria, we strip away our ability to discern between anything — why not do that with Islam? With Buddhism? With anything else?

Rather, we are already inclined in certain directions…some people are already inclined to Catholicism…and others to Mormonism…and others to other things. When people move with their inclination, then they will find that those personal and subjective seeds will grow. But this is not forced. You don’t make a Catholic seed grow if you are not inclined to believe in Catholicism. Rather, the doctrines and theology will seem disagreeable, and you’ll regret forcing it upon yourself. But the same is true for Mormonism or anything else.

Comments

comments

23 comments for “Alma 32, A Thought Experiment

  1. June 13, 2009 at 3:44 am

    Fine, but Catholicism isn’t that different from Mormonism, and if you find that you get what you need spiritually from Catholicism, then you probably ought to be a Catholic. I have a dear friend who is, and it works for him. He’s an amazingly awesome person, and I wouldn’t try to convert him.

    Me personally, I was raised Catholic but it didn’t take very well. Too much authoritarianism, and too many sadistic nuns in grade school. I do still like to go to mass upon occasion, but when I do, and I listen to the sermons, I realize they have less than us. They don’t know about eternal progression or the premortal existence. And they claim the Pope is infallible when he’s speaking as the Pope. Their paid, celibate clergy claims the right to rule on things like whether you can use birth control, or get married or not to someone who has already been married before, and their standards are pretty arbitrary. So there are a lot of reasons I personally find more light in the restored gospel. But other people may not.

  2. June 13, 2009 at 10:01 am

    re 1: Tatiana,

    Thanks for that kind of response.

    However, this is interesting, because it seems that there are a lot of implications that some members might not want to accept. For example, we are supposed to keep the commandments and endure to the end regardless of if it gives us “what we need spiritually.” The D+C scripture, as well as many other cultural ideas about “enduring to the end” can seem to suggest that all members need to stay in and just wait out problem/trouble/doubt storms.

    But if this is so, why not do the same with other religions? As you note, you once were Catholic. Why not “endure to the end”?

    I like your answer…you didn’t get what you needed spiritually and you went where you got what you needed spiritually. But couldn’t, then, it be possible, that someone doesn’t get what they need spiritually from the church? How does that mesh with the idea of the restored gospel (which sounds pretty official, at least to say) and instead something that is “pretty arbitrary”?

  3. June 13, 2009 at 10:26 am

    Andrew S.–

    I have a lot of thoughts about your post but due to time restraints I’ll just mention the following:

    1. If someone is born a Catholic (or whatever) and they live according the the light, truth, and knowledge they have, then they are in a state of acceptance before God (2 Nephi 9:25-29).

    2. And when they are in the spirit world missionaries who represent Christ, with authority, will teach the fullness of the gospel to them. They can accept or reject it (D&C 138).

    3. Temple work is being done for all mankind (D&C 127).

    4. On this side of the veil missionaries are teaching and the church is growing.

    For there are many yet on the earth among all sects, parties, and denominations, who are blinded by the subtle craftiness of men, whereby they lie in wait to deceive, and who are only kept from the truth because they know not where to find it—
    Therefore, that we should waste and wear out our lives in bringing to light all the hidden things of darkness, wherein we know them; and they are truly manifest from heaven—

    (Doctrine and Covenants | Section 123:12 – 13)

    Interesting post. Question: will the Spirit lead people to a church other than the LDS Church? I certainly think this happens. The scripture above leave room for that idea.

  4. adam e.
    June 13, 2009 at 11:40 am

    Nooooo! Alma 32:28 compares THE WORD to a seed; it does not compare FAITH to a seed. (I was very proud of Elder Uchdorf for getting it right in conference).

    If someone was trying to live as Alma taught, by praying about and/or living a gospel principle and felt that they still were not gaining a testimony of the principle, I might encourage them to continue living the principle as long as the Church continued to benefit and uplift them. I would do so, because I have gained a testimony that this is the gospel of Jesus Christ, and I believe that God will teach others the same thing over time. My belief may be incorrect in some instances, but it has been true so far in my life.

  5. June 13, 2009 at 11:49 am

    Andrew S –

    Great post, and to me, a no-brainer, nicely articulated in your comments. I agree with you completely, and have felt this way about that scripture since I first read it as a young man. To me, the idea of doggedly persisting until you make something right for yourself, nurturing it simply because you want it to grow no matter its possible range of merits (as the scripture certainly implies, unwittingly) is dangerously akin to a similar syndrome – of giving in to “sin” or to dangerous philosophies or misguided political extremism. One can come to believe beyond any shadow of a doubt, for example, that the John Birch Society is the greatest institution in the world . . . if you want it to be such, and if you then persist and work hard enough at it.

    The idea of strenuously nurturing a witness (or “testimony”) of a pre-chosen religious belief was prevalent in common folk and devotional literature of young Joseph Smith’s world. Generally, it occurred in popularly-published narratives about American or British Protestants’ spiritual struggles. I have even found a contemporary example of the stupor-of-thought approach to solving a religious dilemma. Such uncritical reasoning is powerful in strengthening faith, but in strengthening any faith, any belief, any tendency, any desired outcome in life.

  6. June 13, 2009 at 11:52 am

    re 3: Good points Jared, but I would suggest that couldn’t what D+C 123:12-13 be spun around by any church or any denomination back at the church. I mean, your experiences lead you to the church, and it just is very convenient that the D+C come from the church.

    re 4:

    adam e…you’re absolutely right. This is a really embarrassing mistake since it directly and simply does say that: “Now, we will compare the word unto a seed.”

    I wonder how much that changes everything? I hope not too much, other than showing I’m an idiot.

    But continuing with what you said…this is my question…couldn’t anyone say this about anything. “If someone was trying to live as (insert figure) taught, by praying about and/or living a (insert philosophy) principle and felt that they were still not gaining a testimony of the principle, I might encourage them to continue living the principle as long as the Church continued to benefit and uplift them.” And then that raises the question on what is “beneficial and uplifting,” because this answer can differ per person. You hope that everything will end up pointing to Jesus Christ, but as can be demonstrably seen throughout the world (discounting the spirit world, that is), this doesn’t seem to be the case.

  7. June 13, 2009 at 12:50 pm

    re 5:

    Rick, missed your comment while I was editing the post. In the end, I’m just trying to see if there is a serious answer that couldn’t be applied anywhere else, or if others have thought about the issue.

    I would argue differently though…I would argue that even if you work at it, you can’t necessarily come to believe the John Birch Society is the best thing on the planet. Instead, what I’m hoping people will realize is that what has kept them in whatever thing they are in — whether it is this church or another or not any church — is an intuition of personal understanding. They have been able to see what fulfills them and what does not, and they go to what fulfills them. To people who are not fulfilled (whether in this church or another), then the time in the world won’t do much other than possibly trap them in a guilt or punishment cycle where they may feel they can’t leave because it would go against what they were taught. It won’t give them belief or fulfillment, but only make them feel like denying themselves is all they can do…at least, unless they can break free of the thought process.

    So, to people who are genuinely fulfilled by the church, more power to them. But can they recognize that others may not be fulfilled, and for the same reasons that these people weren’t fulfilled from other religions or other philosophies? And a traditional “endure to the end,” attitude doesn’t overcome this. That’s the first thing to realize.

    The second thing to realize, which is perhaps more controversial for all of us to realize…is that since we are appealed by subjective experiences…that may affect us but not others…then this means we can’t really use subjective experiences reliably to tell us things about objective, external reality. So that means — and this affects both sides — that the church’s truth or falsity will not lie in how we intuitively approach it…our finding value or peace in it makes it subjectively valuable…but that’s all. Similarly, our not finding value it in makes it subjectively less or not valuable…but that’s all. Objectively, there’s go to be an answer, one way or another (or perhaps both sides have it partially wrong), but the objective part about it is relatively meaningless in comparison to subjective experience.

  8. hawkgrrrl
    June 13, 2009 at 2:22 pm

    “we can’t really use subjective experiences reliably to tell us things about objective, external reality” Yes and no. There are a few different things that could be meant by what you are describing, and it really depends on the individual how reliably those internal feelings can be used to explain the external world:
    – feelings. Some people are very good at quickly and almost unknowingly assessing how things around them align with their values, and their values are a strong guide for them. Those individuals will do well to base their decisions on their feelings. I am not necessarily one of these types of people, and I see plenty who mistake their own personal feelings for “the spirit” and then make mistakes as a result.
    – intuition. Some people are very good at quickly sizing up the right course of action without necessarily being able to articulate step-by-step how they arrived at that conclusion, but their instincts have a high degree of accuracy. These are people who quickly understand the connections between seemingly unrelated things. I am this type of person. In the church we might call this the power of discernment. Often, though, people don’t really have this either and make hasty judgments based on what they want to be a good course of action or what they talk themselves into or out of.

    This doesn’t contradict your idea that people’s experiences (and gifts) are unique and subjective (I agree with that), but that doesn’t mean that those unique qualities are not a good guide to the external world, only that they may not be and they are certainly overused and questioned insufficiently when they coincide with our own biases. Alma 32 is a classic description of confirmation bias. Yet, that is the same confirmation bias touted by many Eastern philosophies as well, and the book The Secret. Does that mean it doesn’t work? I’m not sure that’s an accurate assessment. But I also don’t want to wishfully think checks into my mailbox when I can go out and earn them.

  9. June 13, 2009 at 3:08 pm

    re 8:

    hawkgrrrl, good response, but I don’t see any contradiction between anything I’m saying and what you’re saying.

    We can use unique and subjective experiences as a guide to the external world…but this still doesn’t mean they tell us anything about the external world. What you point out is that rather, it doesn’t matter, because people *do* care about their subjective experiences, regardless of if they may possibly be biased or have bias.

    As you say, the question is: “Does it work?” Of which case, for any individual, it might be, “Yes.” But this is because we *are* subjectively different, so different things will work — according to those different subjectives.

    However, if we had something objective or something that told us about the world in general, then it should hold true no matter what the subjectives about it. So, there is an objective reality that holds true no matter what…the problem is we don’t get there from subjective experiences (intuition or feelings) alone and in fact, we don’t seem to be very well equipped to get to objective things at all.

  10. Mytha
    June 13, 2009 at 3:11 pm

    You describe my personal experience with this scripture very well. I planted and re-planted that seed I don’t know how many times over the course of 20 years, and no matter what I did I couldn’t get it past the cotyledon stage. What I came to realize was that while I could make a conscious decision to believe a certain way, I have an underlying set of beliefs that just *are*. I don’t choose them, and I can’t consciously change them. And I can’t *make* myself believe something that deep down I just don’t believe.

  11. June 13, 2009 at 3:17 pm

    re 10: Mytha, you have said in one paragraph what I have been attempting to say in several posts, comments, essays, and articles.

    Everyone has an underlying set of beliefs that just *are.* They don’t choose them, and they can’t consciously change them. At best, very huge and very drastic events can possibly change them, but we have no idea how to pinpoint these events…and again, these events are generally not chosen. We don’t *make* ourselves believe anything…because we already have a kind of compass that tells us what smells right to us.

  12. Dexter
    June 13, 2009 at 11:14 pm

    I think this article addresses a key issue for mormons and their missionary efforts.

    I agree with Andrew S that Alma 32 or Moroni’s challenge can only lead to someone learning subjective truths: I felt good about the BoM, I feel good about JS, etc. But while many other belief systems are happy to say, “this works for me, so I do it,” Mormons use their experiences to say, “this is true, and it works for everyone, it is an objective truth.”

    The church teaches this. The church teaches this is the ONLY true religion and the ONLY way to happiness and the ONLY way to salvation. Sure, you can accept it in this life or the next but it MUST be accepted for you to be saved. Frankly, this style has pros and cons. It makes missionary efforts much more succesful because it ingrains in members the need to share with everyone. We have all heard the story of, what if in the next life my friend says, “you had the truth, why didn’t you share it with me?” Jared has shared his testimony on this site several times and said something to the effect of, I must share what God has blessed me with. This is quite common among members.

    The cons are that this alienates other christian religions and rubs some people the wrong way. It can be frustrating to be told that “you really aren’t happy, you just think you are, because you don’t have the full truth.” And going back to Alma 32, it can be frustrating to say, “I tried to put the seed in my heart and it didn’t grow so I am throwing it out,” and have your loved ones look at you like, but you just threw out the ONLY seed that will make you happy. It works. You need it back in your heart a little longer (meaning, until you do like it and it does grow).

    This is what I find to be frustrating with Alma 32 and the church as a whole. The test isn’t about seeing if it works for the individual. The test is about seeing if the individual accepts what is already defined as the ONLY thing that works.

    Now don’t get me wrong, if one believes this is the ONLY way back, of course you will be desperate that your family partake of the delicious fruit. But one problem I see is this desire for others to appreicate the fruit is so strong, that members don’t allow their children to truly TEST it for themselves. It is already defined as the only way. One can’t simply conclude that it doesn’t work for them without being looked upon as weak or faithless. This is especially frustrating at times because the church stresses free agency so often, but it seems to be lacking in practice in some ways. But, to clarify, I am not accusing people on this site of that, or all members, but I think it is sad that many members never feel that they truly had a choice in the matter that didn’t involve serious pressure from loved ones. But, like I said, it is a natural consequence. Parents love their children and want them to be happy. Parents who believe the church is the only way to be saved and the only way to truly be happy aren’t going to be able to let go of an issue like this very easily. So, I do not see a solution. It seems like a catch 22. If the parents strongly believe the church to be true, it is difficult to back off and let their kids decide on their own as if the kids are deciding between playing soccer or football. If the parents don’t believe strongly, the majority of kids won’t view it as an important decision and may not think about it that hard. Simply put, if the parents have such vested interests, it’s hard to let go enough to let the kids truly test it for themselves.

  13. RayB
    June 15, 2009 at 1:50 am

    It seems like every responder here has completely missed the message of Alma 32. What I’m hearing people say is that Alma 32 simply encourages us to see if living the gospel makes us “feel good” or “make our lives go well” and if so, accept it. In my understanding this is almost the exact opposite of what Alma 32 is really saying.

    The simple fact is that our all-loving Father in Heaven can prove the truth of His restored gospel to any level of certainty he desires. He sent an angels to Saul of Tarsus, Alma the Younger, and others. For Hezekiah he made the sun go back in the sky. Thomas felt the print of the nails in Christ’s body. God is not restricted to simple “feelings” or “intuition” or “it works for me.” To some it is given to know that Jesus Christ is the Son of God. To others it is given to believe in their words. So says the scripture.

    For some, “feelings” or “intuition” are sufficient. God knows who they are. For some, a mighty miracle is required. God knows who we are too (I say we because I was in this category). In either case, the “experiment” described in Alma 32 is simply to follow God’s commandments and see what happens. At first He may give us subtle encouragement to help us continue, but in the end, if we truly require a mighty miracle He will give it to us. And that will be when we can say “I know the seed is good.”

    I have known people who have felt they were applying the Alma 32 experiment by living commandments while just checking their feelings periodically. Such behavior seems pointless to me. If you feel better when you’re living the commandments, yes, it may be because they are true. But it could just as easily be that you don’t have a hangover as often (or whatever). As several have stated here, such a procedure could be applied just as easily to any church with a similar success rate. And if that were all there was to it, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints would be not be fundamentally different from any other denomination.

    I’ve also seen others who understood that God was promising them true knowledge, but who expected to have their absolute proof within a week or a month. Brigham Young took two years. I took three months. Many others I know had to live the gospel for several months before they had proof. During those months you are relying on the testimony of others. That is ok. But never lose sight of the promise that God will give you a sure testimony of your own. And along the way he will help out with little miracles and feelings of the spirit to help us not give up. He knows exactly what we need in that regard. But these little miracles and feelings of the spirit are not the final result.

    I’ve also known those who wanted to know the truth intellectually but were not willing to give their lives to God should the experiment prove the gospel to be true. In his infinite mercy, God nearly always withholds proof in these situations, for the same reason Jesus spoke in parables. We may well ask a person “If God proves to you the restored Gospel is true, will you consecrate your entire life to serving him and keeping his commandments?” A person who can honestly and unreservedly answer “yes” to this question will receive: a. Whatever level of proof God knows he needs, b. In the timeframe God knows he needs it, and c. All the support he needs in the meantime. For anyone else, it is not certain.

    Preventing confirmation bias in this experiment is easy to accomplish as long as you recognize the experiment for what it is, be sure to maintain adequate controls, and always play devil’s advocate. Do not believe the gospel is true. This is an experiment in faith, not belief. Faith is action. Act as you would if the gospel was true, but don’t believe it. When the proof comes… THEN you will believe. When I tried the experiment, everything I experienced was evaluated to see how it could have occured naturally, and all my prayers began with “Heavenly Father, IF you are there …” It was enough.

    The restored Gospel is true. And anyone can know it, not just believe it. This knowledge can stand up to every scientific test and logical analysis you can throw at it. I know. I gave it the trial by fire. And not just once.

  14. Dexter
    June 15, 2009 at 2:03 pm

    RayB, see the 400+ posts on the thread, “Trying to Understand My Friends Who Didn’t Leave the Faith,” for many comments on the same issues you wrote about here.

  15. Gnur
    April 23, 2011 at 4:14 am

    Turning thoughts into words or words into thought, not always easy. They are seldom the same,or should I say have the same whole meaning. We always strive to get closer.Like beleaving (or understanding) in what we read or hear and hoping others understand and beleave in what we say and wright.Getting the point across and getting the point. Harmoney with hym.

  16. October 30, 2011 at 11:48 pm

    123

  17. elsy
    November 13, 2012 at 8:32 am

    The difference is that the “word” you are talking about here is the Book of Mormon, correct? So if you read the BOM and ask in sincerity if the book is true, you will receive a confirmation from the spirit. If you apply the “word” and you feed it with prayer, fasting and more sincere study of the scripture, the “word” will grow inside you deepening your testimony. You can apply this technique with every gospel principle,line upon line, precept upon precept. Meanwhile, as you are feeding your testimony, giving it more fertile soil to grow from, your knowledge, understanding, and faith will grow. If you just plant the initial seed of wanting to know, getting the confirmation one time from the Holy Ghost, and then you don’t go back and study more, pray more, utilize the knowledge more, you seed will die or at least wilt, from lack of attention. As far as being prone to believing one sect of religion more than another, I think that is not innate. It is your upbringing and your trained belief system that often sets that. If you truly challenge yourself to find out the truth and then you feed that knowledge, testimony, and faith, you will know that the Church of Jesus Christ is the true church. Remember, however, that if all you are doing is taking parts of the scripture from other faiths and applying that, and nurturing that, you will feel that their religion is true because bottom line, the scriptures are true. What your really want to know is their church true? The answer to that may be “partially” yes, but they do not have the fullness of the gospel that the LDS church has. They are good if they are teaching correct principles, but they don’t have the rest of the picture. Only through sincere prayer, study, and applying the principles will you know for sure and it may take time for the roots of your seed to grow. I challenge you, meanwhile, to find another church that gives the complete plan of happiness. You will find all the rest are missing something….the rest of the picture. The BOM, the second witness of Jesus Christ, the true priesthood of God, the ordinances of salvation, and sealing powers for life after death.

  18. May 29, 2015 at 3:48 pm

    I was wondering whether D&C 12:1,2,3 would apply if the tenets of Alma 32 refers to the subjective interaction between faith and the word, because if it doesn’t then the Spirit of the passage would mean …… that, somehow ……the guiding vision ……. zzzzzzzzzzzzzz

  19. Dave
    March 12, 2016 at 2:28 am

    I have been thinking about Alma 32 for some time and put these thoughts together a few weeks ago.

    The opposite of faith perhaps isn’t doubt but rather reason.

    I think Alma 32:27 teaches a false concept. It says “…yea, even if ye can no more than desire to “believe”, let this desire work in you, even until ye believe in a manner that ye can give place for a portion of my word.”

    It should read “….yea, even if ye can no more than desire to [know the truth], let this desire work in you, even until ye have studied with due diligence and without bias and asked God for an answer to the question of its truthfulness. Incredible claims demand incredible evidence. Also, be thou diligent and study any counter evidence as well.”

    Asking if a thing is true while possessing a desire to “believe” the thing in question, prejudices the inquirer, creating a feedback of the mind called confirmation bias. One CHOOSES to believe.

    To know if a thing is true requires one to place their desire to believe it on the alter of honest inquiry.

    The principle of unbiased research to reach unbiased conclusions rates high on my list of guiding principles and is an ideal we should try to achieve. People and communities should be guided by principles rather than myth or charismatics. Myth sometimes embraces good and true principles but is not their author. Good principles are universally understood and embraced by wise people. When wise people form community simply for the benefit of community and working together to build a better world they will no longer need myth and no longer fall victim to its errors.

  20. March 12, 2016 at 9:26 am

    Dave,

    From an LDS perspective, choice is a crucial component of belief, though. So the fact that one chooses to believe is a feature, not a bug.

    In an LDS worldview, there are certain truth claims, which, though they are believed to be absolutely true, are said to be the sort of truth claims that one can only reconcile through one’s choice of belief, worldview, etc., I think the sort of things you mention in your last paragraph are precisely these kinds of claims — but they are not the same claims that the LDS church would make. You can’t really verify claims like “people and communities should be guided by principles rather than myth or charismatics” unless you already try to believe and live out that principle *first*. But you know, that’s kinda the point. You live out your worldview, and then that colors the way you see data about the world.

    In contrast, someone could make a parallel assertion that myths *are* important, and charismatics *gets things done*. You might not like the results of these things, but this also has a lot of evidence to it. (The challenge here is that myth and charismatics can also get stuff done that, if you don’t buy their worldview, seems absolutely abhorrent.)

    You say, “Good principles are universally understood and embraced by wise people.” But people wouldn’t even be able to agree on “good” or “wise”, hence your claim that they are “universally understood” is dubious. Good principles are situational and contextual, and so they require buying into a certain worldview that defines the terms of wisdom and foolishness, and are not easily understood outside of those worldviews.

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