This comment is from SilverRain. I found it here.
“Brainwashed” is probably ranked with the weakest possible arguments. If I say you’re brainwashed, I can ignore the chance that someone might be able to disagree with me and have a valid point. If I can relegate you to a pat little category, I don’t have to listen. A little wake-up call, folks: it could be easily said that we are all brainwashed. We are all products of our environment. Quit name-calling and try—just try—to understand another person’s point of view for once. You might find yourself stretching and growing. You might even find yourself becoming wise.
Two related comments:
When a debate reduces to the point of namecalling it’s all over. Names are the verbal equvalent of throwing rocks, which is what kids do when they’re scared. (said by jendoop)
Jendoop—I love your turn of phrase, and your point. When people turn to namecalling it is generally because they are scared. Perhaps a little more compassion towards them is in order. (said by SilverRain)
We need a good brainwashing after having dirty thoughts. I tried pouring dish soap in one ear, but it just ran right out the other. I was blowing bubbles for a week every time I tried to talk.
I’ll admit when I read this post, my first thought was Kaimi’s classic comment about brain washing and brain dirty dishes. (I can’t remember where he said it, though.)
On a more serious note, these are insightful remarks. I remember once asking my institute teacher about some New Testament scriptures about women that didn’t quite sit right with me. I was looking for more clarification to see if I had perhaps misinterpreted them. My teacher brushed me off by saying that I had been brainwashed by the feminists. I didn’t even consider myself a feminist at the time, and I was hurt that he would dismiss my sincere questions like that. (Not that it would have been right of him to do so if I had been a feminist.)
Maybe your institute teacher was brainwashed by living on planet earth where women have been treated like second class citizens for thousands of years. (I’m not so much a feminist as a woman).
Exactly. A BYU English professor of my acquaintance would regularly inveigh against the Mormon publications “Sunstroke” and “Diatribe”. Although he knew on which side his bread was buttered, he had little thought for how childish this name-calling appeared to his students, some of whom now have a much closer acquaintance with those periodicals than he would be comfortable with.
One quibble with the assertion of SilverRain. I don’t think we are all brainwashed, not as I understand the term. There are those who have actually been subject to a concentrated program of information deprivation on the one hand, and manipulative messaging on the other, which leads to short-term behavioral changes and reduced cognitive function (think of the U.S. POWs in North Korea on whom THE MANCHURIAN CANDIDATE was based). I assume she is speaking polemically?
Thanks for your thoughts here.
Hawk: “brainwashed by living on planet earth”
Wow! I somehow feel you just said something profound but I’ve been so seriously brainwashed after 38 years here that I can’t quite grasp its full import. 🙂
“When a debate reduces to the point of namecalling it’s all over. Names are the verbal equvalent of throwing rocks, which is what kids do when they’re scared. (said by jendoop)”
Bearing testimony often comes across almost the same as namecalling. It shuts down conversation because it shows that the party bearing testimony isn’t willing to listen to reason or objectively discuss the issue at hand.
“Bearing testimony often comes across almost the same as namecalling. It shuts down conversation because it shows that the party bearing testimony isn’t willing to listen to reason or objectively discuss the issue at hand.”
That’s actually an interesting aspect of faithful LDS debate. Mormons are actually encouraged to use the simple bearing of testimony as a strategy to intentionally end a discussion when that discussion seems to be getting too logical. I don’t mean that as a slander, either. The idea is that talking about the Gospel can only really be fruitful if the Spirit does the teaching and witnessing. So if we try to argue with logic and reason, we will usually not be successful. There is also the belief that Satan has great skill in helping an opponent of “the truth” craft a clever argument and if you head down that road (i.e. “listening to reason”) you run the risk of being tricked by a Korihor-like logical snare. The recommended defense is to just bear your testimony and shut Ole Scratch down before he can draw you in.
So what you are talking about is not so much an instinctive defensive maneuver, as much as it is seen as doing missionary work.
“I don’t think we are all brainwashed, not as I understand the term. There are those who have actually been subject to a concentrated program of information deprivation on the one hand, and manipulative messaging on the other, which leads to short-term behavioral changes and reduced cognitive function (think of the U.S. POWs in North Korea…”
Actually, when I studied brainwashing in North Korea, it sounded a lot like all political and comercial campaigns I’ve heard of.
Simply put, you get the POWs to do a little something (like write an essay on why communism is good for Korea, not necessarily for other countries) in exchange for a little something (like win cigarettes). The trick was to never ask for much or give too much so that the person is forced to reconcile their slightly pro-communist stance in their writing as being their own thoughts.
Do this over and over and naturally the POWs changed their feeling towards communism with time.
But contrary to media representations, this didn’t generally drastically change these POWs into pro-communists either. Most of them simply thought it wasn’t so bad for a 3rd world country like North Korea. They weren’t in favor of it in the case of the USA.
Other than the part about being held captive at gun point, I don’t really see much difference here from, say, the positive feedback you might get at school from a liberal teacher or from a conservative political commentator or religious leader. To say nothing of the much more significant but completely natural rewards/punishment cycle of a child being raised by a parent that is doing their best to teach them their worldview.
In short, POW brainwashing was not much different from every day life experiences we’ve all gone through.
That being said, I don’t think this is what SilverRain meant. I think she meant that when people accuse a religous group of “being brainwashed” that this is basically a choice to shut down the argument as it really means “I’m being completely reasonable and if you weren’t brainwashed and incapable of reason you’d understand that. So obviously I can’t talk to you any more since you are a brainwashed person incapable of reason.”
In other words, if a person having a religious conviction, say due to their upbringing, is “brainwashed” then we all are in some equivalent way.
#6 and #7.
In high school I was friends with our valedictorian to be. He was a very smart guy. But as it turns out, he’d never been outside the city to go camping.
Once I mentioned to him that outside the city, when you are in the mountains, you can see many more stars then inside the city. The whole sky was full of starts.
He didn’t buy it.
He went on to use his superior knowledge of science to explain to me why I was wrong. Light from the city shouldn’t be blocking out the other stars. My analysis was wrong and must be mistaken. What I had seen did not matter to him. He carefully undercut my arguments one by one using his vast knowledge.
What was I to do but to bear testimony that I had really seen all those stars?
“What was I to do but to bear testimony that I had really seen all those stars?”
Personally, I would have bet a lot of money on the question of whether or not you could see more stars in the city vs. the country.
I don’t have anything against someone saying that they have ‘seen all those stars’–that is a powerful testimony. When you say, though, that you KNOW that there are a lot of stars out there, but in reality you just ‘have a good feeling’ about the stars, it just doesn’t carry too much weight.
I think your friend was right–light from the city doesn’t block out the light from the stars. The light from the stars still comes through–its just that the bright city lights make the relatively dimmer starlight more difficult to resolve. (Correct me if I’m wrong on this).
Bill, that was great. You are right, the light doesn’t block out (it doesn’t create some sort of interference pattern), it just prevents resolution or the ability to see/recognize/resolve the light sources individually.
I can sympathize with the “just bear your testimony camp.” However, that said, I suppose it’s also a rather dangerous philosophy. I examine the writing of the apostles and while not all of them are bastions of erudite philosophy, some of them are impressive indeed. Elder Holland, Elder Maxwell, Elder Whitney, and others.
To me, we set up a wrong-headed dichotomy if we talk about reason vs. faith. The Austin Farrar quote is still apropo…we need to show enough mastery in reason/logic that we are taken seriously as thinkers…at least enough to show that faith isn’t outrageous. I can’t tell you how helpful it has been to “know my stuff” when telling others about the Church. It messes with their stereotype…it even frustrates them. But they can’t discount you as brainwashed anymore.
Then again, this is me just seeing the stars…
We all muddle around doing the best we can to make sense of the conflict between what our brains, our hearts and our spirits tell us. It’s only when we meet others who similarly are struggling but come up with different conclusions that the term “brainwashing” comes into play – in situations outside of prisoner of war camps.
To me, this really is a tool to avoid discussion. I don’t think it’s always a product of fear, but I do think it’s invalid 99.99% of the time.
As to the issue of testimony bearing, sometimes all there is left or someone who is talking with someone else who simply sees things differently (who reasons differently) is what that person feels. I have no problem with a testimony being a “last resort” in that situation, since to me it’s just a way to include ALL the “evidence” I have experienced. What I don’t like is when that testimony is the beginning of the discussion and is used to cover ignorance. (However, when testimony is all there is [when someone simply isn’t versed adequately in some area], then I am fine with someone saying, in essence, “I don’t know, but this is what I feel.”)
“To me, we set up a wrong-headed dichotomy if we talk about reason vs. faith”
Bill, please explain yourself further. Just exactly how does whether the light from the city “blocks it out” or is “difficult to resolve” any different? I understand #11 where Stephen says it doesn’t create an interference pattern, but “blocks it out” doesn’t need to mean that, does it? Did I say it created some sort of interference pattern?
I ask because you are effectively retracing the whole problem, but not realizing it.
I *knew* the light of the city was somehow “blocking out” stars so that you couldn’t see them. I had witnessed it for myself. I just had no idea why. My friend was convinced that because I couldn’t effectively explain it to him that my testimony must be incorrect and he could discount it.
As you point out, this is bad logic on his part. It was unreasonable in fact. He was convinced he was being a pillar of reason and was in fact being utterly unreasonable. But he simply couldn’t accept that.
You say you’d have put weight on my eye witness testimony, and I have no way of knowing if you would or would not have. And I’d submit that you don’t actually know if you would or not either given a similar set of circumstances. We can’t unfry this egg, I’m afraid, so it’s anyone’s guess how you would have reacted.
What I do know is that you immediately saw my testimony, even though completely true, as flawed due to my (in your mind) poor wording, and felt a need to make a deal out of it. You ended up defending my friend’s point of view that he was technically right, even though he was clearly wrong in his conclusions. But what else mattered here then the end conclusion? Did being technically right have any value at all here for him?
Can you see the parallel here with your assumption that a spiritual witnesses — a claim to an actual revelation from God through first hand experience — is somehow irrelevant to reason?
You are marginalizing such an experience by calling it “a feeling” just as my friend marginalized my eye witness testimony by pointing out the impossibility of light from a city blocking out light from stars. He was technically right, as you pointed out, if one assumed the only way to “block” light was via an interference pattern. He was wrong in every other way. Or to put it another way, he was wrong in any meaningful sense.
And which of us was really being “rational” in that discussion? You can argue that he was being “rational” all you want, because then apparently “rational” was completely misleading compared to “truth” in this context.
Personally, I’d argue that he was actually using a rational sounding explanation, but was in fact being irrational. I’d argue that this is a very easy trap to fall into and you never know you are in it when you are. I’d also argue that the only way to avoid that trap is to never fully discount any piece of evidence but to consider it all.
“It messes with their stereotype…it even frustrates them.”
This is a good quote too, Russel.
However, I do not share your experience of “they can’t discount you as brainwashed anymore.” I have still seen this used as a last defense when there are no more rational sounding arguments to be made.
My experience is that “rational” and “rational sounding” are pretty well unrelated but often with little chance of telling the difference for most of us most of the time.
When discussing matters of faith, we are rarely dealing with deductive reasoning. Thus we are rarely in the realm of “it’s rational or not.” There is often a wide range of possible interpretations.
I think this is why I find it frustrating when pseudo-skepticism tries to create a false dichotomy between faith and reason. Not that reason can’t theoretically undermine faith — but usually that assertion is made prematurely based on a faulty argument that was non-rational or even irrational. Thus my example of the stars.
I understand that my eyewitness testimony was non-transferable knowledge. His mistake wasn’t in being skeptical of my eyewitness testimony. His mistake was in dismissing it altogether because his current understanding of science didn’t allow for it.
And, of course, there was nothing stopping him from driving out of the city and finding out for himself via first hand experience.
Bruce, first of all let me just say that I know from a feeling deep within my soul that I’m right and you are wrong.
I hope you can see how ineffective the above ‘testimony’ is–it seems like nonsense to you and it seems a little like name calling. This was my original point in #6.
“you immediately saw my testimony…and felt a need to make a deal out of it.”
By the length and tone of your post (#14) it seems that you are the one that has made a big deal out of it.
#16 “By the length and tone of your post (#14) it seems that you are the one that has made a big deal out of it.”
This seemed off topic to me. In fact, it seems like you missed the point of what I said. How is the fact that I think testimonies can be valid in dialog or discussion in any way related to the fact that you actually took time to defend my friend as technically correct even while admitting he was wrong? (And the fact that this means you recreated the very problem that caused his “rationality” to actually be irrational.)
I don’t want to accuse you of anything or put words into your mouth, but the way this last comment comes across to me is something like: “How dare you say I made a *big deal* out of how your friend was technically correct! You’re the one making the *big deal* out of not discounting testimonies!”
Again, I am not accusing you of anything here, just explaining how I interpreted what you said. If I have misunderstood your point, please feel free to discuss further and help me understand what you really meant so that we can properly communicate.
“Bruce, first of all let me just say that I know from a feeling deep within my soul that I’m right and you are wrong”
Bill, are you claiming revelation from God? If you are, then you *are* claiming a piece of evidence that is worthy of this discussion, even if I ultimately dismiss it personally. I can’t tell if you were making such a claim due to your wording, so I’ll let you explain yourself.
But I *can* tell that people bearing testimony are claiming personal evidence that factors into their understanding so you are comparing apples and oranges here.
If you are claiming honest revelation from God, I’d like to know more about where you are coming from and discuss further. No, it’s not going to convince me by itself. Yes, it might be a valid reason why you feel the way you do and thus worthy of dialog.
Also, are you claiming I can pray for myself and God will tell me that you are right and I am wrong? If so, I’m willing to try it out and find out for myself.
But if you are simply being difficult now, then we need to agree to disagree at this point and let the rationality of both of arguments stand on their own.
Please keep in mind that no one is arguing with you that sometimes “testimonies” are used in exactly the way you are stating — to shut down conversation inappropriately. (As per Ray’s point in #13). so I don’t really disagree with what you said back in #6 in *some cases*.
On the other hand, I *do* object to Clay’s characterization that “Mormons are actually encouraged to use the simple bearing of testimony as a strategy to intentionally end a discussion when that discussion seems to be getting too logical.”
I think this is misleading and not an accurate description of Mormon teachings. I think Clay has reframed Mormon teachings to be something they are not.
I also object to your marginalizing spiritual witnesses as equivalent to any feeling (as you did in #16) and the implication that testimony is somehow always inappropriate in dialog. (A point you hadn’t made back in #6, but seem to be making now.)
I am willing to agree with you that simply avoiding any dialog at all through bearing of testimony is inappropriate
But I’ll make the same exception here Ray does: not knowing enough to respond to a rational sounding argument does not make your personal experiences somehow invalid.
A less knowledgeable person confronted by a more knowledgeable person may have little else to do but explain why their firsthand experience allows them to believe in the stars even if they can’t currently see them and they simply don’t know why they can’t be seen in the city.
“I think this is misleading and not an accurate description of Mormon teachings. I think Clay has reframed Mormon teachings to be something they are not.”
Apologetic, new order, and bloggernacle Mormonism is not an accurate measurement of everyday on-the-ground Mormonism. This world is a world where debate is loved, but that is not mainstream Mormonism.
Here is a statement from Pres. Hinckley from 1998 which illustrates very clearly how testimony is encouraged as a way to end an argument:
I wrote a response prior to your writing #18 but I saved it and was going to post it later after thinking about it a bit more. Interestingly, it ended up responding to your #18:
One clarification to my objection (#17) to what you said.
I believe that the LDS church has never stated that you should use testimony as a “as a strategy to intentionally end a discussion when that discussion seems to be getting too logical.” While I will not claim individual members do sometimes use this tactic (hey, it’s a big Church) I think you are generally speaking confusing what is really being taught here.
What I have seen is the LDS church use this tactic as a way of avoiding contention filled Bible bashing or other contentious and non-productive dicussions. I realize that people that are Bible bashing generally think of themselves as being “logical” and thus I can see why people might try to boil down this tactic to “you are just avoiding being logical.”
However, Clay, I know you well enough now to know that you’ll probably agree with me that 99% of all Bible bashing has no logical root anyhow.
So I think the key point here is needless contention.
Let me add this as an olive branch, though, Clay. I will definitely acknowledge that you are correct that people on blogs aren’t necessarily the same as an average rank and file Mormon.
However, I hope you can see that this wasn’t what I meant when I said I saw your characterization as “misleading.” I think you are misinterpreting Pres. Hinckley’s quote here.
But let me partially reduce that “misleading” to “somewhat misleading” as I have already acknowledged that if someone is making a good “logical sounding” argument using their best “science” and you simply don’t have an explanation for them that sometimes there is no alternative but to bear testimony of what you know through personal experience and end the conversation and let the person hold their opinion even if you’ve really seen the stars and know they are there.
But even then, I do not see this as intentionally using testimony to avoid a “logical argument” as you say. The argument wasn’t logical to begin with. I don’t doubt that my starless friend thought he was being logical, but he wasn’t. That’s the bottom line.
I see bearing of testimony the same way. Once I get to the point where the person quoting the Bible to me is insisting that the only rational way to interpret the Bible is that if you even think you did something that pleased God it means your damned (true story) and I believe the Bible teaches no such thing, we really aren’t discussing anything “rational” or “logical” anyhow. This is especially true if he is being contentious. We’re simply sharing two different ways to read the Bible and we both have valid “opinions” and nothing more.
In such a circumstance, there really isn’t much left to do but bear testimony and move on. We have effectively agreed to disagree already, whether the other person realizes it or not. Of course, such a person will then claim I shut down his rational argument using testimony. But in reality, it had already shut down due to there being no more information worth considering and wasn’t “rational” to begin with. It was just two people sharing un-confirmable opinions.
This is how I interpret your Pres. Hinckley quote, not as you are assuming it to mean. He in no way implies you should shut down logical arguments due to testimony. I’m simply not seeing that in his words.
I hope you can see that this is a valid way of interpreting Pres. Hinckley and Mormon teachings on this subject. I’ll agree with you that when taken as a way to shut down logical arguments it’s being abused and it’s wrong. But I will have to agree to disagree with you if you insist that the only way to interpret Pres. Hinckley is the way you are interpreting him.
I attended a multi-stake conference over the weekend. I was intrigued by Elder Ballard’s talk during the priesthood leadership session. He said that a large problem facing the Church is so many members have a mental conversion but have not experienced a spiritual conversion. Is that not the definition of one who is “brainwashed”? He quoted Paul’s teachings from 2 Timothy 3. I found verse 7 to be almost haunting: “Ever learning, and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth.” I know too many friends that fall into this category. They are good members of the Church but “they are kept from the truth because they know not where to find it”. (D&C 123:12) Elder Ballard went on to say that the power and deep conversion of the Spirit is need by our members. His remarks echoed those of President Eyring during last November’s General Conference in his talk God Helps the Faithful Priesthood Holder: “The scriptures sometimes speak of people’s hearts being softened, but more often the words describing the state we seek for ourselves and for those we serve are a ‘broken heart’…it helps us understand better why testimony needs to go down into the hearts of our people. Faith that Jesus Christ atoned for their sins has to go down into the heart—a broken heart.”
I know that faith in Christ should lead to true repentance. But who is Chirst? And what is true repetance? How does one have a broken heart and a contrite spirit? I think the first step in humility. And I am humble enough to say that I don’t know the answers to these questions. I have feelings. I have ideas. But I can not say I know the answers.
Yowsers, I don’t know why I merit so much energy. :shrug:
1. In order to misrepresent, I would have to know one reality and present something different. I’m only speaking about rather consistent teaching I have experienced in the church (not in the bloggernacle). I’m talking about many conversations, lessons, and talks where regular Mormons talk about how arguing on the basis of logic and reason is a slippery slope and the best thing to do is to just bear your testimony and stop the argument. Its essentially the same thing as “agree to disagree”, but it also adds a certain feeling of self-righteousness if the bearer has been defensive during the conversation. Most church materials about arguments and testimony also warn not to be self-righteous, which shows how easy it is to do.
2. When I said “arguments becoming too logical”, I didn’t mean to imply that there was any evaluation of the soundness of the argument. I was talking about logic in the sense of a system of reasoning. The basis on which a position is supported, separate from a spiritual experience. That’s what I mean by “logical”. So in this sense, Bible-bashing is actually “logical”, albeit the logic is based on personal interpretation of scriptures, thus the logic is not always sound… but its still a logical argument. So a discussion that “seems to be getting too logical” is maybe better stated as a discussion which is attempting to convince on the basis of how evidence is presented to the mind, without spiritual experience as an agreed medium of evidence.
I know the conversation has progressed way beyond this, but this is my first chance to respond to the early portion of the conversation, so I shall do so. When I said “we are all brainwashed. We are all products of our environment.” I meant a couple of things. Primarily, that our opinions and personalities are strongly influenced by our environments. We cannot avoid being influenced by them, and to succeed in doing so is actually a detriment.
The definition of “brainwashed” includes an element of force or persuasion. As inundated with propaganda and advertising as we are, it is the essence of self-delusion to believe that we have not been persuaded by any of it. I would even say that the unilateral reporting and attitudes displayed in common media border on force. If an opinion is held that is in line with popular opinion to the point that it is impossible to conceive of valid disagreement, it could be argued that it is brainwashing by the general populace. Brainwashing in and of itself is not necessarily a bad thing. A certain level of persuasion—forcible or otherwise—is necessary to induce some to conform to society. Those who cannot be “brainwashed” to some useful extent are sociopaths.
If you are going to use the term “brainwashed” to mean “you are not being logical and rational, as I am,” which is arguably the way it is most commonly used, you are being 1) chock-full of hubris, 2) illogical and 3) proving yourself unable to stand firm in your own convictions. It is not a sound logical premise to state that because another has not reached the same conclusion you have, they are not being logical. The very nature of logic encompasses differing ends to the same beginning premise. Were it not so, there would be no room for discussion.
The most plausible reason left to use such an “argument tactic” as calling someone brainwashed is to dismiss their opinions and viewpoints in order to no longer have to consider them. It is a defense tactic, used because the person who implements it can no longer feel certain of their opinions enough to allow that others’ contrary opinions might hold even a shred of validity. It exposes the name-caller’s weakness far more than the weakness of their opinion.
This sort of technique reeks throughout partisan politics, religious/antireligious “discussion” and even a little in sports. I absolutely detest it, as is probably clear from my tone on the subject. I can’t answer for how others were raised, but my parents and background combined to allow all to believe how they may without instantly feeling threatened by it.
At any rate, that is what I meant: we are all products of our experiences and environment, are shaped by them and are thus easily viewed as “brainwashed” by anyone exposed to different experiences and environment. It takes a powerful mind to see one’s own prejudices. We all have them, it is only a matter of whether or not we are humble enough to admit it.
I do not believe we are communicating here. My impression is that you are now arguing with something I never said without understanding my real concern with what you said and why I feel it’s misrepresenting my beliefs as a Mormon.
I took specific exception to the idea that Mormons teach that you should bear testimony as a way to end conversation that is getting “too logical.” This was what you stated, and yes, it was misleading if you meant it. Note: You are confusing “deception”, which is intentional, to “misleading” which doesn’t have to be. You are misleading or misreprenting, though I did not accuse you of doing it intentionally. You might sincerely misunderstand Mormon leader’s teachings on this subject.
Let me quote you again:
“Mormons are actually encouraged to use the simple bearing of testimony as a strategy to intentionally end a discussion when that discussion seems to be getting too logical.”
What I would have said is that Mormons are encouraged to use the simple bearing of testimony as a strategy to avoid pointless contention, rediculous proof-texting (i.e. my example of biblical interpretation) or false logic (i.e. my example of stars) that isn’t getting anywhere, needless repetion of opinions stated as if they are facts (i.e. both examples), or as a final way to bow out of a conversation where there really is nothing more to add even if it was “logical” up to that point (i.e. the stars example where unfortunately I was right but lacked the ability to explain it to his satisfaction due to my own lack of knowledge of why city lights block out star light). None of these are issues of a conversation getting “too logical.”
I see nothing in your quote from President Hinckely that to me even hints at using testimony as a way to avoid a conversation that is getting “too logical.”
Even if I take your definition of “logical” there is clearly a negative connotation to what you are saying and you seem to have intended it that way. In addition, you are generalizing to all Mormons because this is what “Mormons (i.e. it’s an official Mormon teaching) are actually encouraged to use.”
I have really sought middle ground with you here, Clay, by admiting that people can misunderstand or misuse what was actually intended. I have openly admitted that it’s a tactic to end conversation, though I’ve disagreed there was anything inappropriate about it if used as intended.
In other words, I have done my best to explain that use of testimony to bring a conversation to a close is not necessarily ending “discussion [because it] seems to be getting too logical.”
You did not address any of my examples, so I’m not clear whether you agreed with or disagreed with them. But it seems very plain to me that bearing testimony of having seen stars outside a city isn’t an attempt to end a conversation because it’s getting “too logical.” Do you agree with me on this example at least? Or do you still feel this is a tactic to avoid a conversation that was “too logical”?
Can you see that I was offering middle ground here? Because I was sincerely trying to. Can you at least accept that at least occaisionally I am correct that bearing testimony, even to end a conversation, isn’t always because the conversation was getting “too logical?”
And Clay, can you admit “too logical” was a loaded phrase at the outset?
If you can admit that the LDS Church didn’t “intend” this as a way of shutting down conversations when they are “too logical” then we have some middle ground and in fact we’re basically in agreement. We are still free to disagree how often Mormons might misunderstand the original intent of bearing testimony to bow out of a conversation, but we’re basically in agreement.
If you can’t find this middle ground, then let’s end this conversation here and agree to disagree.
SilverRain, thank you for the further explanation.
“then let’s end this conversation here and agree to disagree”
Good idea. 🙂
Bruce: If you can’t find this middle ground, then let’s end this conversation here and agree to disagree.
Clay: Good idea.
If we can’t find middle ground, then the only thing to do is agree to disagree.
“I was intrigued by Elder Ballard’s talk during the priesthood leadership session. He said that a large problem facing the Church is so many members have a mental conversion but have not experienced a spiritual conversion.”
I would have guessed that the church is having the opposite problem. Are there really a lot of people who are historically, scientifically, intellectually OK with the church but they just lack a spiritual experience? Or is it the opposite–that people have problems with historical, doctrinal, intellectual issues with the church?
“I know too many friends that fall into this category. They are good members of the Church but “they are kept from the truth because they know not where to find it”.”
What do you mean by this? How can a ‘good member of the Church’ be ‘kept from the truth because they know not where to find it’? Is the church doing that bad of a job in pointing them toward the truth?
Bill – If someone has had a truly spiritual experience then why do the historical, doctrinal, intellectual issues matter?
To answer your question, the Church does an excellent job of pointing members toward the truth. But spiritual conversion is a very personal thing. It is unique to each individual. The reasons some members are not spiritually converted are as varied as the individuals themselves. The Lord alone knows the secrets to unlocking their hearts.
We, as a Church in general, are not very good at working with individuals. To illustrate I might ask how is home teaching in your ward?
SilverRain: “If you are going to use the term “brainwashed” to mean “you are not being logical and rational, as I am,” which is arguably the way it is most commonly used, you are being 1) chock-full of hubris, 2) illogical and 3) proving yourself unable to stand firm in your own convictions.” Well said! In the marketplace of ideas, if you are incapable of persuading others, that doesn’t mean they are brainwashed. It could just mean the speaker’s argument is inarticulate or also illogical (perhaps circular in its logic as with most religious and political debate).
Hawkgrrl: “In the marketplace of ideas, if you are incapable of persuading others, that doesn’t mean they are brainwashed. It could just mean the speaker’s argument is inarticulate or also illogical”
I have been toying with the idea that the vast majority of “logical” arguments are really just uncomfirmed and unconfirmable opinions.
For example, let’s say I believe that electing Obama is a good idea. (I’m planning to vote for Obama right now.) How would I ever actually confirm this isn’t just an opinion? Where are the facts and objectives measures that make Obama “better” than McCain?
Okay, so maybe I think voting for Obama because I “know” he’ll get us out of the war and the war is “obviously bad.” But again, where are the facts? Do I really know what the quickest way out of the war is right now? Do I know with certainty the war is even bad? What is my objective measure of ‘bad’? Even if it’s bad, am I certain that getting out is currently the best thing to do?
I am beginning to think that all “logical” and “rational” arguments are really just opinions. (Opinion: “a belief or judgment that rests on grounds insufficient to produce complete certainty.”)
The upshot of this is that perhaps electing Obama or not electing Obama will never have sufficient grounds to produce complete certainty and maybe even knowing if the war is “bad” or “good” will never have sufficient grounds to produce complete certainty.
But if I admit that I am less than certain, that means there is a chance, no matter how unlikely I feel it is, that I’m wrong. And if there is a chance I’m wrong, then my “opponent” might be “right” and thus his “opinion” (which is less than certain too) is, by definition, “valid” unless I can actually prove him wrong beyond doubt. So the burdern of proof is on me and me alone unless I admit his opinion is valid.
The logical corollary to this is that this means that almost all controversial opinions are “valid” unless there really is “proof” available (in which case, presumably there is no controversy.)
The logical corollary to that is that any time I accuse someone else of not being “logical” in a discussion where there isn’t certainty — which I’m now guessing is the vast majority of the time — I’m really just name calling.
“If someone has had a truly spiritual experience then why do the historical, doctrinal, intellectual issues matter?”
Why do those issues matter? Because some people like to live based on both their heart and mind. In my experience, spiritual experiences attach a person to God–not necessarily to the church.
Bill – I hope my question was not offensive. It was not intended to be. I geniunely wanted to know. I agree with you completely that spiritual experiences attach a person to God and not necessarily to a church.
Let me ask you, what do you consider to be knowledge? How is this knowledge obtained?
If you sat down with a piece of paper and wrote a list of things you knew. What would that list have on it?
I think we live in an age when’knowing’ no longer cuts any ice.’Knowing’ has been a statement of subjectivity until the recent past.We now require ‘knowing’ to be an objective statement-a proposition for which it is possible to find evidence upon which we can all agree.We fall in to difficulties when we use the language of science for the subjective personal experience of religion.Thus i talk to my non member friends about my experience,rather than what ‘I know’.My statemnents are then not subject to a scrutiny which is inappropriate,and leave my hearer in a better position to examine them for integrity and personal resonance rather than provoking a debate over how I can possibly know something which they don’t-in and of itself a slightly smug and offensive proposition.Thanks for helping me to think this one through.
John M. – No offense taken.
I’m not sure where you are going with your questions about knowledge. I’m willing to discuss those things, but would prefer to stick to the points in my #28 (reponse to your #21):
-I question that lots of people are mentally converted, but not spiritually converted. Sure there may be plenty of people who aren’t spiritually converted, but these people usually aren’t mentally converted either.
-I question how you can claim that someone is a good active member of the church and not know where to find the truth.
Bill – What I am about to say is hard to put into words. I do not want to come across as negative towards the Church or apostate. I don’t know your situation. I don’t know if you are a member, non-member; active or inactive. Personally, I have served as Elders Quorum President, a member of a bishopric, and I am currently serving as High Priest Group Leader in my ward.
I believe that truth comes from God to the hearts of individuals through the Holy Spirit. I believe that each person on this earth is a son or daughter of God, an eternal being. And that each has a personal connection to God. You put it perfectly when you said “spiritual experiences attach a person to God–not necessarily to the church”.
So do we, as a Church, teach that you can and should have a personal relationship with God or do we just give lip service to this? Let’s be honest, don’t we really teach that your relationship with God is through the Church and its leaders? Don’t we have a tendancy of making our members dependant on the Church?
I believe that there are many good active members of the Church that do not have a personal relationship with God. They have a great relationship with their bishop, stake president, and general authorities; but no relationship with God. When and if they have a spiritual experience it attaches them more to the Church instead of to God. So they look for truth from their Church leaders instead of from God. They understand the gospel mentally and conceptually, but the Holy Spirit has not taken that understanding down into their hearts.
I am not saying that Church leaders are not teaching truth. I believe they are, but if you served a mission you know that people don’t teach gospel truths, the Spirit does.
So we have good active members of the Church that are “Ever learning, and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth.”
“Let’s be honest, don’t we really teach that your relationship with God is through the Church and its leaders? Don’t we have a tendancy of making our members dependant on the Church?”
Yes, I agree–that is what we generally teach. Is this good? I don’t think so. Are we ready to change? I’m not sure. Are we really prepared to teach that membership in the church isn’t critical–its just intended to be an aid in our attempts to follow the Savior and commune with God?
“I am not saying that Church leaders are not teaching truth. I believe they are, but if you served a mission you know that people don’t teach gospel truths, the Spirit does.” So we have good active members of the Church that are “Ever learning, and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth.””
I somewhat understand what you are saying, but perhaps not fully. Are you saying that the spirit just isn’t teaching these people? The church is teaching them and they are good and active and doing what they are supposed to. Who is dropping the ball? If we assume that we can’t blame God, is it then the church’s fault for not teaching these people correctly? It doesn’t seem to be the people’s fault–they seem to be following the program of the church. Or are the people not REALLY following the program of the church–just going through the motions?
Bill – I think it is a combination of many things. There are some members that may just be going through the motions. Others may not feel worthy to commune with God. Others may feel that they do not hold a high enough calling. And so on. The list could be as varied as the individuals themselves. This leads back to your earlier questions “Is the church doing that bad of a job in pointing them toward the truth?” Where should the Church be pointing? Up the ecclesiastical ladder? Or should they be pointing the individuals inward towards their own hearts; their own connection and relationship with God?
John–I think the church should be pointing people to “their own hearts; their own connection and relationship with God.” But, as I mentioned before, I’m not sure that the church is ready or willing to do that.
From my #37, “Are we really prepared to teach that membership in the church isn’t critical–its just intended to be an aid in our attempts to follow the Savior and commune with God?”
No, I agree that we are not prepared to teach that membership in the Church is not critical. I personally believe the ordinances provided by Church membership are necessary. But I feel, as a church, that we have become too focused on the communal aspect of our religion.
Neal Davis, #1 in the Churches are Made for the Ninety and Nine… What About the One? Post on this website, puts it very nicely. He wrote: “Those who do not fit into the community feel unwelcome or estranged. Now, a lot of cultural issues play into this (the administration of EQ and RS in the normal Utah model, for instance), but those whose needs are not met by this look elsewhere of course. The question is, how can we change our own worship/interaction with others to better meet the needs of the 1s we meet?”
The following is a quote from President Uchtdorf in the October 2008 Ensign:
“The Church with all its organizational structure and programs, offers many important activities for its members aimed at helping families and individuals to serve God and each other. Sometimes, however, it can appear that these programs and activities are closer to the center of our heart and soul than the core doctrines and principles of the gospel. Procedures, programs, policies, and patters of organizations are helpful for our spiritual progress here on earth, but let’s not forget that they are subject to change.
In contrast, the core of the gospel – the doctrine and the principles – will never change. Living according to the basic gospel principles will bring power, strength, and spiritual self-reliance into the lives of all Latter-day Saints.” (President Dieter F. Uchtdorf, “Developing Christlike Attributes”, Ensign, October 2008, pg 5 – 9)
I believe the brethren are aware of the problem, but it hasn’t gotten down to where the rubber meets the road i.e. the stake presidents, bishops, and quorum leadership. I think that is why Elder Ballard addressed it over the weekend in priesthood leadership training.
“Sometimes, however, it can appear that these programs and activities are closer to the center of our heart and soul than the core doctrines and principles of the gospel.”
“I personally believe the ordinances provided by Church membership are necessary.”
OK–lets say that the ordinances provided by the church are necessary. Are we prepared to let people worship in a way that they feel comfortable with, rather than pushing them into the full mormon model? For example, lets say that a member attended sacrament meeting each week (to get the ordinance of the sacrament), but skipped the other meetings to do something that they found more spiritually fulfilling. Maybe they did some community service or studied the scriptures at home with their family or just spent quality time with their family. Are we OK with this, or do we label these people as ‘less-active’? If we don’t allow people to skip certain church programs, then aren’t we putting these programs and activities closer to the center of our heart and soul than the core doctrines and principles of the gospel?
Bill, great question? My take is simple:
I want members involved in any and every activity that will bring them closer to Christ and help them become more godlike. The only “required” meeting to be considered “active” is Sac Mtg, and the only other meetings mentioned in temple recommend interviews are Priesthood meetings. Someone who is unendowed and attends Sac Mtg is “active” in my mind; an endowed man who attends Sac Mtg and PH is active in my mind.
If anyone attends those meetings and is involved in worthwhile and Christain/godly activities instead of other “supplemental” meetings and church activities, I have no problem whatsoever with that. That person has my respect and admiration, just as does the other member who chooses to attend as many church activities as possible if s/he thinks that will bring a closeness to Christ and make him or her more godly.
Sorry, Bill, that ? should not have been there. I don’t know how I missed it.
I would disagree mildly with Ray and say that those other meetings are important to measuring full activity. I would even go a little further and say reliable home and visiting teaching and participation in those other Church activities which are possible and relevant are also important to the measurement.
The problem comes when we put the cart before the horse. Attending meetings and other forms of participation in a ward is an outgrowth of activity, not a definition of it, much like charity is an outgrowth of a personal relationship with God, not a definition. For example, one can give money or time and call it charity, but it isn’t necessarily so. If you attend meetings out of duty or habit, rather than out of a desire to serve and be involved with God’s children in His church, you may be outwardly active but inwardly uncommitted.
I speak as one in this situation now: you can even attend all your core meetings, but if you do not feel engaged with your ward, you are not truly active in your heart. Going out and serving in the community is good, but you should do such good things and not leave your Church activity undone. Performing charitible works outside the church does not replace doing them within the Church. It is more vital to strengthen and cleanse the inner body of Saints before or along with doing outward charity. It is even worse to speak of charity as if it is an activity and not a state of being.
It is misleading to say that one’s Church hours would be better spent finding something more “spiritually fulfilling.” In my experience, in my life, that excuse has only been a cloak for expressing the desire to do what I want. I am not serving to be spiritually fulfilled, I am serving to be Spiritually filled. If my activity in the Church does not fill me with the Spirit, the fault is mine alone, not the fault of the activities. It’s not about labelling people “less-active”. Such labels are meaningless. It is about becoming better disciples and servants of Christ.
I apologize if I sound preachy. I feel strongly about this topic right now because I am in the middle of struggling with it personally. It is not meant as a sermon, but as an expression of passion in sharing what I have been taught as I struggle.
Silver Rain, I agree with the general message of your comment, and I certainly would add HT and VT as essential duties of activity in the Mormon Church. That was an oversight on my part – an assumption that they aren’t included in “meetings”. Sometimes something is so familiar and assumed that I don’t think about it consciously. Thanks for the reminder.
The LDS Church is supposed to be Christ’s Church on the earth. If we really beleive that, then those things that the Church asks of us should be the same things that Christ would ask of us. If we don’t really beleive that, then any excuse for not attending meetings, not doing HT or VT, not living the standards of the church will suffice.
Like Silver Rain said, to try rationalize that away by saying that Jesus would rather us do this other thing rather than that is useless, IMHO.
“The LDS Church is supposed to be Christ’s Church on the earth. If we really beleive that, then those things that the Church asks of us should be the same things that Christ would ask of us.” Hmmm. I don’t know if I agree with that. The analogy of the Church and Christ always seems like the role of a Mom & Dad. Your Mom & Dad have the same purpose (raising decent kids who will be financially independent one day, from your mouth to God’s ears), but they might differ on what they ask you to do at a given time. And I think Christ might be the Mom in this analogy, at least when the Church is LDS.
Let me make what I hope is a clear distinction: Multiple leaders in the last few years have spoken repeatedly about the dangers of unnecessary meetings – and local leaders have been encouraged very forcefully to do everything in their power to not over-schedule the members – including the admonition to remember that when you schedule a child, you generally schedule a parent or an entire family.
This is not the thread for it, but I have been considering writing a post about meetings, focused on some excellent quotes I’ve heard over the years. Perhaps this is the impetus to actually do it.
Hawky (sorry, 3 weeks to puck drop),
I see where you are coming from, but it is a slightly flawed analogy in that the Mom & Dad come from two different backgrounds and bring that to the party. In this case, we are, in this case, talking about a much tighter alignment as the Savior is supposed to be leading and guiding the Church through His Prophet.
I also understand that the human element of leadership is going to present some things in a different light, but does God given the Church itself agency to follow His direction?
“Like Silver Rain said, to try rationalize that away by saying that Jesus would rather us do this other thing rather than that is useless, IMHO.”
I agree with this comment. All too often the “I can use the time better” argument is just an excuse.
Here is the problem I see, and it’s why I think everyone that commented had a valid point:
1. In theory, we have an ideal: Christ communicates and controls the Church via his chosen prophets (Acts of the Apostles style) and thus what the Church asks us to do to be active is what we should do because, at a minimum, it’s sanctioned by Christ as what he currently wants.
2. In reality, no one is completely converted or committed (or very few anyhow.) So in reality, we want to accept any level of commitment that a person has to offer and treat it as a positive.
3. But in practice, Bill’s question suggests that maybe sometimes a person that, say, skips Sunday School, might feel estranged and thus we aren’t really “accepting” what they have to offer.
4. But of course, seeing as #1 is the ideal, it does make sense to encourage someone to “do more” and join in Sunday School too.
Thus we have a dilemma that never has any perfect answer and never can.
It seems to me that the best we can hope for is to learn to encourage “more activity” while not making people “feel judged” for less activity but instead sincerely accept it as a good thing. But of course, this isn’t as easy as just saying it.
One other point, Bill’s underlying concern that we might make a person feel “less active” if they (using the same example) not come to Sunday School is unrealistic in my experience. I have no idea who goes home during Sunday school and I’m the instructor. Unless the ward makes an effort to figure it out, no one knows. People *do* go home during Sunday School as it’s the lowest attended meeting in our ward.
Contrary to popular belief (amongst some anyhow), most adult members of the Church aren’t sitting around judging each other over every little thing. A lot of that is just in our mind and is part of living so close to each other in a ward (here in Utah anyhow.)
Perhaps a more realistic example would be someone that steps out of Church, during Sunday School, to have a cigarette. My experience there is different. Then we tend to be more judgemental because often we don’t now the person’s story (say they are addicted and working hard to quit) and instead think they just need to be “taught the truth” so we inadverdantly end up saying things that make them uncomfortable by getting “preachy.”
But then again, maybe they really do just need to be told. You can’t know for sure.
I just don’t think it is fair to state that:
“those things that the Church asks of us should be the same things that Christ would ask of us”
And then turn around and complain that:
“Sometimes, however, it can appear that these programs and activities are closer to the center of our heart and soul than the core doctrines and principles of the gospel.”
You’re right, Bill, in that there is a conflict between those two statements – and I think it rests in the fact that what “should” be (the first quote) often isn’t what actually “is” (the second quote). That’s the messy part of religion, and it’s the hardest thing to reconcile for many.
Perhaps no one could measure up to the picture of the ideal member anymore than we can measure up to the Christ. Often people who would claim to be living the gospel best are overly judgmental over those who don’t. So, it becomes a matter of opinion as to how each one of us see it.
We have a fairly strict black or white response toward activity: Attends Church or Doesn’t attend Church. I did a study some years back as a member of the HC with members of the Stake council where we concluded that many members exist in a facade of activity (because they show up for Church each week) but, as Bruce points out, are not fully converted nor committed. Not doing HT or VT is one indication of that condition. But there are others which are more personal in nature.
#51: Bill, maybe I read this wrong, but you compare the unfairness of two quotes from two different people: John M and Jeff Spector. I don’t get it.
Ray is probably right that one quote was about an ideal and one a reality, so there probably isn’t a contradiction. However, even if that is not true, it’s hard to understand the point you were making since it was a statement of fairness between two different people’s views, thus there was no need to reconcile them at all. (And presumably normally we don’t reconcile different people’s views as they are both entitled to their own opinions.)
I ask because I’ve noticed that some people, usually outside the Church (Lawrence O’Donnel comes to mind), have an assumption that all believing Mormons think or believe the same so any believing Mormon can speak for all other believing Mormons and all must account for every statement made by another Mormon.
“Bill, maybe I read this wrong, but you compare the unfairness of two quotes from two different people: John M and Jeff Spector. I don’t get it. ”
You are correct that the quotes were from two different people. First consider John M.’s Dieter F. Uchtdorf quote in #40 that says that “Sometimes, however, it can appear that these programs and activities are closer to the center of our heart and soul than the core doctrines and principles of the gospel.”
This leads to the idea that the core doctrines and principles of the gospel are more important than the programs and activities. If you start talking about this and which specific programs and activities are of lesser importance, it generally leads people to start talking about how a lot of the programs really are vitally important. I was just noting that we as members seem to want it both ways–we want to say that the principles and doctrines are of primary importance, but we are reluctant to say that any of the programs and activities are of relatively low importance.
Thanks for the clarification. I see what you are getting at.
This is hardly the only “want it both ways” I’ve come across in my life. This is the on going tension of wanting to accomplish an ideal and the reality of trying to implement it.
Home teachings purpose is love for your neighor and building on Church unity. The ideal is love and unity. The reality is home teaching.
Could home teaching be done away with? Yes, of course. Thus it’s of “lesser importance.” Could love and unity? No.
Could we accomplish love and unity some other way? Yes. Could we come up with a replacement for home teaching that is more effective in accomplishing that purpose? Perhaps.
But the key point is that as of yet we haven’t come up with a better way.
I think what you might be getting at (I don’t want to put words in your mouth here, but I have to start somewhere) is that perhaps we should leave more to individuals to come up with ways to accomplish love and unity in the way they see fit and not worry so much about a specific program.
But of course, now that I’ve put that into words, the problem with that approach is obvious: the average person will often not do anything using “love and unity” as an excuse. We all do that sometimes.
Thus we circle back to the original point. There is no perfect solution here.
The programs of the Church should be designed with one idea in mind, bring us closer to Christ. For example, HT and VT are in place to give us the opportunity to minister and watch over the Church. SS and Primary are in place help us “learn of me.” If they don’t have a direct gospel purpose, they typically get axed. Like speech contests and dramas. The programs amplify or should amplify the doctrines and principles.
The fact that some don’t like them or don’t do them, is no reason to think they are not there to “bring us to Christ.”