Doubting My Doubts

Andrew S Anti-Mormon, Bloggernacle, church, Culture, doubt, Mormon, Mormons, questioning 144 Comments

I’ve occasionally heard a curious phrase…”Doubt your doubts.” “Be skeptical of your skepticism.” I have wondered what these phrases could mean and of what import they could be.

Langford BasiliskIn the past, the sheer foreignness of these admonitions has been like a Langford basilisk to me — I can’t help but take the words in, but my mind, uncomprehending, does not deal with them. Part of this mental incomprehensibility is the voluntaristic nature of beliefs that it presents. I understand that many people think differently, but I do not imagine consciously choosing to believe or to doubt something. Rather, my beliefs and doubts seem to me the unconscious conclusions of evaluation of the data I perceive.

So, in the past, I didn’t think about what such a phrase could mean, and when I did, I concluded that the phrase was just a cheap attack.

But like the idea of Langford’s basilisk, my mind only required time and a somewhat more comprehensive, yet similar concept to recall the uncomprehended and incomprehensible and crash.

I have often thought about what it  means to “leave the church, but not leave it alone.” This is another phrase frequently flung at the faithless flock, but immediately easier to grasp. I can understand why a member would want someone who disbelieves, disagrees, and disaffiliates to disengage, disassociate, and desist (although I believe this may not capture why the person “does not leave the church alone” in the first place.) I have read other members’ dealings with “full-time” anti-Mormons (the twitter-engaged ones, at least), and I have myself dealt with accusations of being an anti-Mormon. And I have grappled with the idea of engaging with Mormonism, of loving Mormonism despite not believing and not engaging with a physical community. What can such a thing even mean?

I have at times been discouraged to write here at Mormon Matters, because sometimes I feel it could damage the site’s reputation among our brethren in the Bloggernacle. Is Mormonism a big tent or not?

In my quiet considerations, others have been quite charitable. They have expressed how I’m always welcome…how a break is a natural or a good thing. Some have gone so far to say that separating, that moving on completely, is a natural or a good thing.

And here I have come to doubt, and to doubt my doubts.

I feel like the comments from the others are an inception. An inception comes from another, but must be planted far enough in the subconscious so as to seem as if it comes from the self. And so, as others have suggested, “It’s ok to move away from Mormon blogging if you doubt your goals and purposes within both the blog and the Mormonism,” I have understood the savory sensibility of this simple statement, and I have adopted it as my own simple statement. But I have also doubted this doubt, and doubted this statement.

I have doubted my doubt that (blogging about) Mormonism can remain compelling or relevant to me.

A while back, I was reading an entry from a friend introducing his series into the Book of Mormon. He, like me, does not believe, but he stated:

I disagree with Elder Holland that the only available answer is that Joseph Smith translated an ancient American history by the power of god…But I do actually agree with Elder Holland on this point: Some critics are too quick to dismiss the Book of Mormon. And while the burden of proof rests primarily with its believers, I nonetheless think we owe the Book of Mormon more than just an indifferent shrug or rolled eyes. That’s why I’m writing this series—to grapple honestly with the Book of Mormon.

I had at the time challenged the idea that we owe more than just an indifferent shrug or rolled eyes. I’d probably still challenge the idea, because I believe that what we “owe” the Book of Mormon — or any text — is not some universal prescription inscribed in pristine marble, but is tied to our personal motivations. His prescription, I thought, reflected his motivations and desires to grapple honestly with the book.

With time, I have come to see blogging in a similar way. I know people who would say this is inferior to parking my posterior in a pew, or to diving into the doctrines of official scriptures. I know others who would say it doesn’t make sense to try to “grapple with” blogging once I’ve “burnt out.” Perhaps they are all right.

Nevertheless, I feel this, my sincere if substandard offering, is worth offering, if only for myself.

Comments

comments

Comments 144

  1. Andrew S — It is called blogging progression ( a cousin to eternal progression).

    I don’t think it is so much as “leaving the church alone” or even blog burn out. The problem is that we rarely hear anything new and it is boring and unproductive. How many times do you have to climb the basilisk before you realize you aren’t going anywhere?

    I do think you bring up an interesting idea, the confluence and conflation of religion and blogging. Why do we believe versus why do we write? The answer is the same I daresay — we write and believe to connect to like-minded individuals. I don’t think you are suffering from blog burnout, because you are still using words to try and connect, if only with yourself.

    You are doing what any writer worth their salt will do — no not use cliches, that was me — you look for an audience and a connection. Don’t ever doubt that.

  2. Post
    Author

    Thanks for the response, Ulysseus.

    That’s one thing I had heard…with something like the bloggernacle, the same discussions that have been going on for years will continue to go on…but since each individual “gets on the scene” at different times, they are hearing it from the first time. And in many ways, that’s how the church is set up as well…there are foundations and fundamentals that everyone learns, but for someone who has already been there for the past xx years, they’ve heard it all before.

    The idea that we write and believe to connect to like-minded individuals is one I like very much. I guess what I feel sometimes is that I’m not connected, or that I’m not so like-minded after all…

  3. I’ve always been drawn more to the idea of (dis)belief being a passive issue, like you describe here. Or belief is a product or outcome of everything else, rather than a choice. However, I have run into people both in and out of the church who disagree. For example, I wrote a post a year or so ago on why I believe, and many people took it as “here are all these reasons I have which lead me to choose belief” when I meant more “here are all the things in my life, and the end result has been belief” if that makes sense.

  4. Post
    Author
  5. Andrew S.–

    I see it as a continuum–believe, maybe, don’t care, and disbelieve.

    It could be you’re in the maybe portion of the continuum.

    Wherever we’re at, I’ve learned by experience, that if the Lord decides to invite us to “believe”, then in less than a heartbeat our lives can dramatically change. The scriptures cite many examples of this kind of persuasion: Paul from Tarsus, Alma the older and younger, King Lamoni, his father, many of their households, those who were ready to kill Lehi and Nephi (Helaman 5).

  6. Post
    Author

    Jared,

    that’s a good point. But I don’t necessarily see these as all on the same continuum. I think that “maybe” can exist with “don’t care” and “disbelieve” or “believe.” After all, there are several people who believe, but don’t care about their belief. As a result, they aren’t motivated to truly change their lives. You’ve written about this recently, in fact.

    And from a “maybe,” one can either believe or disbelieve.

    Your final paragraph (about the Lord deciding to invite us to believe) is interesting, because it seems pretty different than how many LDS people usually want to phrase it and more similar to the Calvinist idea. It suggests that some people may not believe out of no fault of their own, but because they simply haven’t been “invited to believe.” However, I agree that the scriptures have several example of people changing in a heartbeat from one side to the other.

  7. And I am of the camp that thinks I should try and believe in something that is truthful and that the quest never ends (belief as an action verb). Even when it feels like a basilisk, it is actually adding concentric circles of experience around the core beliefs. And core belief number 1 for me, I don’t know and I need to find out — life is one big science experiment and hopefully you won’t blow anything up in the process. I’m always looking for the new and interesting and challenging ideas, but new ideas need to address the doubt and attempt to resolve the contradictions, if they don’t then maybe the idea isn’t all that hot.

  8. Post
    Author
  9. “I guess what I feel sometimes is that I’m not connected, or that I’m not so like-minded after all…”

    Andrew S, I don’t know if this is true or just my perception, but I feel like maybe it’s harder for someone with my or your sensibilities vis-a-vis the church to find that like-minded connectedness in a forum like this. For me, I feel like I don’t like to be too disagreeable or contrarian unless I feel the conversation really demands it, even though I have thoughts that run that way on almost every post. As a result, if there are those on the site with similar feelings to mine, that’s one like-minded voice they’re often not going to see sharing their thoughts. I’m not saying that’s anyone’s fault, necessarily. I just don’t want to be viewed as a troll for seemingly being what people see as negative on every post. I wonder if others feel the same way.

    Just a thought.

  10. I think sometimes we avoid what we feel and what we witness because we just don’t want to do it.

    There is nothing wrong with having doubts. But there is something wrong with having no doubts about something and not doing anything about it.

  11. Post
    Author

    re 11:

    brjones, I understand the difficulty here, and I understand the desire not to be seen as too disagreeable or contrarian (after all, after a certain point, people will just stop talking to you, or they will avoid you). But I just feel like this shouldn’t be the case…I know, life isn’t fair, and all that jazz. I just think there should be a way not to be seen as a troll, yet be true to one’s own ideas.

    re 12:

    Jeff, interesting. Is that last part describing two different things (that is, something wrong with having no doubts about something…and then something wrong with not doing anything about [doubts]), or is that last part describing one thing (that is, something wrong with having no doubts about something and not doing anything about [having no doubts])?

  12. I agree with you, Andrew S, and I think that anyone who has read my comments will have a good idea of my true feelings about things. I do think there’s somewhat of a tendency to hold back a bit at times, though. I don’t feel like I’m ever untrue to my beliefs or ideals and I hope I don’t come off as ambivalent or blase.

  13. “Jeff, interesting. Is that last part describing two different things (that is, something wrong with having no doubts about something…and then something wrong with not doing anything about [doubts]), or is that last part describing one thing (that is, something wrong with having no doubts about something and not doing anything about [having no doubts])?”

    Well, yeah, I guess they are two different things. I am always concerned when someone says they have no doubts about something. For me, I use doubt to re-convince myself about something I believe. In others words, “do I really believe that?” “why do I believe that” and “what would happen if I found out what I believed was wrong?” Stuff like that, and they I go through the exercise of proving it to myself, either just mentally or through study and/or prayer.

    the other part just had to do with once you have no doubts, what do you do? You must act upon it.

  14. Andrew,

    You bring up Elder Holland. Until his latest talk “Safety for the Soul”, I have always struggled with the logic, or lack thereof, that Joseph Smith only had a 3rd grade education and no one with such a limited education could have written this book. I struggle with this for two reasons 1) I think he was intelligent enough that he could have written the book. It embodies a lot of what is in the Bible, has various city names that are similar phonetically with cities around New York, has various other issues and I just don’t think it is that difficult to write a 500 page novel. 2) It is the wrong path. It is not the way to come to the truth; at least not the best way. The best and quickest way to come to a knowledge of the truth is through the spirit.

    With these factors in mind, Elder Holland said something that really stuck, he Said “No wicked man could write such a book as this; and no good man would write it, unless it were true and he were commanded of God to do so.” This put a whole new light on the Joseph Smith story. At least now I see where fellow members are coming from when they use this logic. I think this is what they are trying to say.

    I consider myself incredibly lucky. I had an undeniable manifestation that the Book of Mormon is of God. This is my anchor. I use it to overcome some of my other doubts. For instance, I know Joseph Smith was a Prophet, in spite of the issues I have with some of the things he said and did, because I know the Book of Mormon is True. Had I not received this manifestation I don’t know where I would be. I am very skeptical by nature and would still be chasing doubts.

    Good luck to you brother.

  15. Post
    Author

    re 15:

    Jeff, ok, I think I get what you’re saying. Doubts, put in another way, prevent us from having blandness of mind or stagnation.

    re 16:

    st1305, good thoughts. As I mentioned, I think I would disagree with Elder Holland (and Jon, whom I had quoted as well)…it’s not so much a stumbling block because it’s not in my way (IMO). I don’t necessarily feel compelled to explain where the book came from, whether or not a wicked man could have written it, etc., I do not feel convinced by many of the explanations of or for it.

    I also do not have such a manifestation, so there is no anchor to overcome doubt and disbelief.

  16. Alma describes planting a seed of faith, tending the seed, and observing the results – does it swell and grow, or not. This is not passive. If one already has already planted a seed of faith, and watched it grow, there is little reason to introduce an axe of doubt and start hacking away at one’s faith. I think doubting one’s doubts means that you see the axe, you acknowledge that the axe exists, and then you put the axe back in the shed. Maybe the axe is sharp, but you know that the tree of faith is real, and you know the fruit is delicious. There is no reason to hack away at it. Believing and doubting are not passive acts. We are not computers who simply take in all the data and spit out an answer.

  17. Post
    Author

    re 18:

    Arnster, actually, Alma describes planting the seed of the *word* . It is a very common misreading, but it is quite clear what he is saying (and I guess the misconception is supported by our primary song “Faith”.) Just check out Alma 32:28.

    Now, I agree completely that actions like reading the scriptures or not are active, not passive. Actions like planting a seed, watering it, etc., are active, not passive.

    But the seed’s growth itself, whether it takes or not, is certainly passive.

    Here’s the deal: what happens when someone plants the seed of the word, and it’s not growing, and one has not had reason to believe that it has grown? There is a popular story that is told by some in church where a king wanted to determine his heir, since he had no natural born sons…so he gave the people seeds to grow flowers, and said that he who could grow a flower could grow a nation. One young man tried to raise his seed diligently, but no matter what he does, he could not. Nothing would grow. When the day of the competition has ended, he is quite embarrassed, but he goes with the rest to show off his plantless pot.

    Everyone around him has great and tall plants and they talk about how diligently they worked to grow the plant. The king sidesteps all of these individuals and goes to the young man. He asks, “Why does your pot have no plant.” The young man is scared to death that the king is angry at him, or will make him a laughingstock, but he still says, “Your majesty, I simply could not do anything to cause this seed to grow. I am sorry; if I were given another chance, maybe…”

    The king announced that that young man would become the next king. Everyone else was shocked and indignant. The king announced, “Every one of your seeds was boiled. Every one of you had to lie and get a different seed to raise a plant, but only this young man was honest to the challenge.”

    Now, I’m not saying that the word is a boiled seed for everyone and everyone is faking it. But nevertheless, people who doubt aren’t introducing an “axe of doubt” and “hacking away at [their] faith”. Rather, they have already hit troubling snags and issues — as a passive part of the growing process — and they are doing everything they can do to HELP the word take hold. That is why people who have faith crises try to read the scriptures MORE. They try to pray MORE. They try to study history MORE in the hopes that whatever unfavorable part of history just wasn’t so. They try to study apologetics MORE.

    But it doesn’t work for them, and they cannot ACTIVELY CHOOSE to make it work for them.

    The issue is that you don’t know that the “tree of faith” is real, and you don’t know that the fruit is delicious. It could be that you’ve been eating bitter rocks, or that the fruit is poisoned, or whatever else is the case. Being poisoned is not an active thing. The process of digesting sharp rocks is not an active thing.

  18. Andrew S
    Very thought provoking post (and a perfect example of why I hope you continue to blog here). I have also been in the process of doubting my blogging, then doubting that doubting. There have been a few times over the last few weeks where I nearly turned in my resignation email. I think there are two key reasons why I feel I must keep blogging.
    1. I got stuff to say. I like to talk about stuff, and like to express myself. Given my heterodox views, I feel compelled to keep quiet at church most of the time. Blogging provides an outlet for me to say what I really think.
    2. I spent the bulk of my life associating with people who believed what I did. During my faith crisis I realized the peril of such a situation and have vowed to not let that happen again. Engaging with others whose beliefs I don’t always share provides me with reasons to doubt my doubts in the context of the church and restoration. I think this helps me keep a balance of sorts.

    I get tired of the same old discussions (like white shirts for example (no offense Jeff)), but from time to time I find posts (like this one) that really help me grow spiritually, emotionally, and mentally.

    BTW, I thoroughly appreciate brjones, Cowboy, and other skeptics to help me feel some sense of like-mindedness on a Mormon themed blog.

  19. Amster, I guess I don’t understand the conscious decision to put the axe back in the shed. I certainly get that one wouldn’t want to purposefully destroy their faith for the sake of doing so. But if we’re just talking about honest doubt and genuine questioning, then to what end do you bury those for the sake of your faith? If you put that axe away, then it seems to me you’re not really seeking truth, you’re just doing what you have to do to maintain the scenario in which your current beliefs are true. I’m honestly not trying to be insulting; this is something that has confused me for a long time, because so many believers talk about truth, but they often tend to ignore or disregard or shy away from any truth that might contradict or diminish their currently accepted truth. It seems to me if one is really seeking objective truth (to the degree such thing exists), one must be willing to examine everything and ask the hardest questions and see what is left standing when the dust settles.

    I think this is an interesting conversation because in the early days of the church (early 20th century) this was the firm stance of many of the brethren. BH Roberts, for example, thought every member should welcome all questions and doubts and tackle them head on. For, he believed, if the church and the BofM are true, they will answer every question and quell every doubt. I think it’s interesting that the church has moved completely in the other direction from this line of reasoning. I just don’t see how pushing your doubts and questions away is the best way to arrive at the truth. Of course, perhaps seeking truth and seeking faith are not the same thing. Another interesting question.

  20. brjones – I understand what you are saying. I’m speaking mostly from personal experience. It’s very common to begin looking for “objective truth” and to get a “balanced view” one focuses on the negative view. I’ve seen it several times. Putting the axe back in the shed – that’s when you stop reading stuff which you may not be sure what to think about, but you know it’s going good for your testimony. I realized at one point that having and maintaining a testimony is more important than knowing everything. Faith is the first principle of the gospel, not knowledge. I doubt there are many “objective” books written about the church, or any of its leaders. They are written to persuade people to believe one way another. For me anyways brain power, time, and attention are limited resources, and at the worst I’ll spend them on mindless things such as internet blogs rather than things which are out to destroy testimonies.

  21. I understand what you’re saying, Amster, and I think I understand your motivation. I guess one thing I struggle with is the view that anything that contains negative facts or opinions about the church or its leaders is out to destroy testimonies. In its own way I think that’s a fantastically cynical viewpoint, and one which strikes me as quite politically motivated (a dig at the church, not you, by the way). For example, I have said many negative and critical things about the church on this site, but I can honestly say I’m not out to destroy anyone’s testimony. I think it’s possible to want to engage in a debate about certain issues, even where there is open disagreement, without feeling like one party necessarily has an agenda of damaging the other’s beliefs.

    To tie this in to the point of the OP, I feel like viewing anything contrary to one’s beliefs as intentionally subversive, let alone of the devil, is really just a means of allowing someone with genuine doubts to refuse to address those doubts, or even to feel like ignoring them is the noble or righteous thing to do. My motivation in encouraging people to entertain and deal with their doubts is not that I hope it will lead them to reject the church. I think it’s the most intellectually honest way to proceed, and the only way to truly be confident that one is doing what’s right for onesself. Keep in mind I’m only talking about those who find themselves doubting. I’m not suggesting every member should be out exploring critical materials.

  22. Re #22

    It’s very common to begin looking for “objective truth” and to get a “balanced view” one focuses on the negative view.

    I don’t understand this statement. In order for something to be “negative” there would have to be something “positive.” Who decides what is positive and what is negative? Does this not lie in the eye of the beholder? My reading of this is that you’re saying that anything that goes against what you view as the “truth” is negative? Am I wrong for thinking this?

    I do think I understand what you’re saying though. I think you’re trying to say that many, in an effort to get a balanced view of the church, begin by reading anti-Mormon literature. My question would be, where else should one go? Until 10 years ago there was a dearth of objective viewpoints of Mormonism in the mainstream church. Sure there was dialogue and sunstone, but most rank-and-file members didn’t read them (especially after the church “condemned” them). Does the church present a “balanced view” of itself? By their own admission they do not (they’re not in that business). And why would we expect them to?

    I realized at one point that having and maintaining a testimony is more important than knowing everything.

    I think there is value in this for many people, and I’m cool with that. Not of all us are truth seekers, and at some point most of us will trade a nice feeling of certainty and accompanying emotional stability for a little less “truth.” It is most definitely a burden always in pursuit of some lofty truth. I try to find comfort in the paradoxical nature of many truths.

  23. brjones/armster

    Faith and doubt are mutually exclusive events; and, in fact are at conflict with one another. The one that will win is the one that you feed, not the one you choose.

  24. St1305, you’ve got to choose which one to feed, so I’m not really sure where this gets us. I completely agree with you, but it’s just another way of saying you choose.

  25. Actually I take back the part about agreeing with you. I agree that usually if you “feed” your faith and bury your doubts then your faith will win. However, I don’t think the opposite is necessarily true. I think this is part of the church line that if you entertain or explore your doubts they will destroy your testimony. I have known many people who explored and followed where their doubts led them only to come out the other side with their testimonies intact. I agree with AndrewS that doubts are doubts and most people don’t choose to have them. I think it’s a disservice to tell people that “feeding” their doubts will kill their testimony. That’s fearmongering 101 as far as I’m concerned.

  26. Brjones,

    It comes from an old Indian parable about a chief describing to his tribe that within each of us there are two mountain lions – one is good and the other is evil. They are constantly at conflict and are fighting for our soul. One young tribesman raises his hand and asks “which one wins”, the chief wisely responds whichever one you feed. Along these lines, it is not which one we choose, but which one we feed. I am not saying doubt is evil, but this parable applies to strengthens faith.

    This is an incredibly powerful concept and I use it all the time when teaching about repentance or overcoming challenges. The more one succumbs to sin (pornography, drugs, anger, etc), for instance, the more they will become entrenched. The more they turn away, the more they will have the power to overcome. This applies to faith. The more we apply (an action) the principle of faith, the stronger our faith will become. The most notable example is tithing, which makes no sense to the learned mind. It defies reason. How does having 10 percent less open the windows of heaven? This is not a principle that can be learned by reason, but only gained from experience – through faith. The more we apply this concept, the stronger our faith will become.

    I hope you would not take this as fear mongering.

  27. Post
    Author

    I see the conversation has continued while I’ve been working on some homework…

    re 20:

    jmb, I agree with your reasonings. I think this is a common thing in writing — writers must write, because they cannot stop writing. (and isn’t that what was written in “letters to a young poet” [which I probably need to read more fully…]? “Ask yourself: could you stop writing? If you could, then you are not a writer. If you couldn’t, then you are a writer.”)

    And I’ve been looking more at 2, especially as it relates to avoiding “flatness of mind…”

    re 21:

    brjones, I guess the way I’ve been seeing it put more often isn’t so much that “seeking truth” and “seeking faith” are at odds, but rather seeing a kind of truth and seeking a kind of faith are at odds. For example, there was a post at Faith Promoting Rumor a while back on the idea that relationships can make the church true or false.

    This idea requires a modification to the idea of what makes something qualify as true in the first place…I think most people look at truth as something “out there,” and so you find a worldview that “corresponds” to facts “out there.” This, I think, is what people refer to when they talk about “objective” truth.

    But what if truth is relational, enabled by the community we are a part of and our relationship to that community? Then truth is an allegiance sustained or supported by which groups we ally ourselves with. In this way, I think that what Arnster speaks about (e.g., re: 22) is in pledging an allegiance to a group (in this case, the church) and then in taking actions, expectations, and roles consistent with the allegiance. In this case, faith becomes a set of actions consistent with allying oneself with the church (as Arnster, I think, is trying to argue), and not a passive state of belief. Belief itself becomes a positive action.

    re 24:

    jmb, I guess that these days, though, there are a lot of resources other than just the “anti-” ones. I mean, there are several source documents (in terms of journals of early church people, first-hand etc.,) that one could comb through, but barring that (because source documents are tough to read, XD), there are several non-official but still positive approaches to various historical events. So, they aren’t whitewashed, but they come from people who see issues that are troubling to many, but who remain faithful.

    re 27:

    I don’t think that either way is true. How can you bury your doubts? I’ve heard of putting them on a shelf (which isn’t sustainable in the long run), but wouldn’t imagine how someone would “bury” them.

  28. st1305:

    I understand the faith/doubt spectrum and which one you feed, but I think the analogy is a bit flawed. For over 40 years, I “fed” faith. I was born to sealed parents of pioneer stock, I was on seminary council, I served a mission (including ZL, AP, etc), I went to BYU, I served in multiple callings including YM Pres, etc. Throughout this time, I have always been a full tithe payer, had a temple recommend, etc. I have probably read the BofM 10-15 times and have prayed about it hundreds of times. I honestly don’t know what more I could have done to “feed my faith”.

    Yet, in spite of all of this, I have never had an experience after which I could say that I “knew” the BofM is true. I went forward in faith, hoping that someday I would get a testimony. Yet year after year, that hope gradually faded. I still follow all of the LDS commandments. I still go to church and serve in my callings. Yet I believe less now that this is the “one true Church” than I have at any point in my life. I have doubts about JS doing what the sanitized version of Church history taught me my whole life.

    Needless to say, I am much closer to “doubt” than “faith” on the continuum. Why? Did I feed doubt? No. It is what it is. At this point, I think it’s a race between God granting me a testimony and me finding something else that gives me hope. I still don’t know which will win by the end of my life.

  29. The problem with “Whether your faith or your doubts win depends on which you feed,” is that this approach would make any religion true.

    I was at Olvera Street in downtown LA the other day, and saw in one of the street vendors’ booths a little sign for your door: “Este hogar es catholico. No aceptamos propaganda protestantista o de otras sectas. Viva Christo Rey!” (“This house is Catholic. We do not accept propaganda from Protestants or other sects. Long live Christ the King!”

    Now, apart from my distaste for that “Viva Christo Rey!” motto, with its baggage of ultramontanist authoritarianism and memories of Generalissimo Franco, this is the kind of close-mindedness that, I think, has ruined religion in Europe: Because religion was a monopoly there, where the state church was not to be questioned, there never developed any of the competitive religious ferment that developed in the United States, with the result that we’re pretty much the only developed civilization that gives a rip about God anymore.

    What’s the relevance of this to the OP? I don’t think it matters whether the religious monopoly is outward or inward — national or personal. When you decide you were born a Mormon, baptized a Mormon, and will be buried a Mormon (no matter what “so-called science” or any other considerations may indicate, you’re no different from a Catholic who says the same thing. And look where that approach got those guys. A person who takes this approach isn’t truly faithful — he’s just stubborn.

  30. Post
    Author

    but, Thomas, that raises another point (or two).

    First is the idea that these things cease to be religions and become cultures. And perhaps we need such a cultural grounding to counterweight the outside, secular culture?

    the second idea is the idea of truths being found in multiple religions. If we presume that one religion has it right and the rest do not, then the person who stays Catholic and “doesn’t accept propaganda from any other sect” is being stubborn. But if faith is precisely in finding the truths from one’s community, then the person would still be faithful.

  31. “If we presume that one religion has it right and the rest do not…”

    As do Mormons and Catholics, at least officially. Even if we say that other churches have their fair share of truth, what is not generally spoken in that context is expressly declared elsewhere: “…but not as much as we have.” We’ve toned down B.R. McConkie’s “great and abominable” down to “just a tad short of the Fulness of the Gospel, which we alone have,” but that last little bit is still significant.

    I like the idea of “finding the truths from one’s community”; however, one’s community should not be one’s only source of truth. Nor am I convinced that finding truths within a tradition is inconsistent with being able, at the same time, to perceive untruths within it.

  32. Post
    Author

    But that IS the thing about the LDS church. You’ve got a wide range of quotations to select from to pick your position. You’re picking certain interpretations knowing fully well that Mormons can easily tone down BRMcC’s comments (and other comments) and believe a much more universalist religion.

  33. Thomas

    Your comment “The problem with “Whether your faith or your doubts win depends on which you feed,” is that this approach would make any religion true.”

    No this is not the cause, because faith is not faith. It is impossible to have true faith in a false idea.

  34. St1305: Exactly. So a person who closes his mind to all evidence against his chosen religion, may not have “faith” at all.

    Andrew S. — I’d love that to be the case, but I simply can’t escape the conclusion that you have to squeeze Mormonism really, really hard into a square hole to make it into a “universalist” religion in any meaningful sense. It’s not just the odd Bruce R. McConkie quote — it’s canonized scriptures by the boatload. The whole concept of the Church’s unique, exclusive Priesthood authority, all by itself, makes a Mormon universalism impossible, if Priesthood is going to be part of the “position you pick.”

  35. Thomas,

    Who said one “should close his mind to all evidence against his chosen religion”. Per my comment #16, I still have doubts about some of the things Joseph Smith said and did, but these are overshadowed by the faith I exercised in Moroni’s promise. In faith, I followed his promise and received a confirmation the Book of Mormon is true. I exercised faith and did not feed by doubts. Now, the Book of Mormon is my anchor and I can push these doubts aside and rely on my faith.

    Likewise, in this economic downturn it would be easy to doubt the law of tithing; but, I choose to feed my faith. It has continued to work. On the other hand, those knuckleheads in Washington have faith in the Keynesian Economic Model in spite of its dismal failure. They continue to try and feed the false concepts behind this model. They continue to lie to themselves, and us, in spite of the overwhelming evidence of its failure.

  36. St1305, if you have a compelling reason to view your conversion experience, and your interpretation of it, as unmistakable and infallible, then it makes sense not to bother with apparently contradictory details.

    Amen re: “Keynesian economics,” although what Krugman et al. pass off as Keynesianism these days would have J.M. himself shaking his head at how people could possibly have mangled his actual thinking to such a degree. Thence the quotation marks: “I do not think that word means what you think it means.”

  37. Pingback: Doubting my doubts « Irresistible (Dis)Grace

  38. Thomas,

    Not the first time I have worded things poorly and it probably won’t be the last. It is clear to be, let me reconcile.

    Doubt and faith are polar opposites; they are mutually exclusive events. This is how it must be. This is how it should be (2 Nephi 2:11). I can doubt the law of tithing. I can question how paying 10% of my income will be beneficially to me financially. It is reasonable to have that doubt. The only way, however, I will understand this is a true principle is to apply the principle. I can feed my doubt and wrestle with the whys and why not’s of why I should pay tithing and never come to knowledge it is true; or, I can exercise faith and ‘prove the Lord’ herewith. The same holds true for the BofM – I can exercise faith and follow the promise; or, I can get mired in the minutia of DNA, horses, highways, phonetic cities around New York, the 3915 changes from the 1830 edition, the Spalding letter, looking in a Hat, the ancient ruins (or lack thereof). I can pursue these doubts and never come to a knowledge of the truth, or I can exercise faith the in promise.

    The doubts are part of the Plan of Salvation. They will separate the wheat from the tares. “Straight is the way and narrow the gate and few be there that find it”. The only way to find it is through faith, not knowledge.

    I think Krugman and his boss understand JM and use his concepts, which generally promote government intervention, as an excuse for more power. Unfortunately, they know exactly what they are doing.

  39. St1305, if it were a simple binary matter of (a) get mired in the minutiae of DnA, horses, etc., and never try Moroni’s Promise, versus (b) try Moroni’s Promise and receive an infallible confirmation of the comprehensive truth of Mormonism, the world would be a much neater place.

    Unfortunately, there may be an option (c), or more.

  40. Thomas,

    You mean like Mike S’s story. This supports the notion ‘few be there that find it’. I don’t know why I was lucky in this regard. My challenges are elsewhere, or living some of the concepts I know are true. This process may take a lifetime for some, but it is (“b”) the process. This is their Gethsemane . To them I say stick with it and it will come. “Trial, tribulation, then comes the blessing”.

  41. “To them I say stick with it and it will come. “Trial, tribulation, then comes the blessing”.”

    And somewhere in Colombia, someone’s Catholic grandmother is telling her wavering granddaughter the exact same thing. No aceptamos propganda de otras sectas. Viva Christo Rey.

    For people like Mike S., I don’t think this advice is going to cut it. It is an approach that could just as well make a person a lifelong Catholic, or a lifelong Muslim, as an enduring-to-the-end Mormon. If we want to claim the honor of “experiment” for the Alma 32 process, there needs to be some reasonable time in which to expect the experiment to yield results. Otherwise, we’re like the Marxist imbeciles who tell us that their discredited theory just needs one more try, by the right kind of people this time, to make it work, never questioning whether there may be some bugs in the model. “Trust us, put your head down and stick with the program” strikes me as a recipe for personal stagnation.

    If Naaman had come up out of the Jordan after his thirtieth bath still a leper, he might reasonably have questioned whether that Elisha chap was all he was cracked up to be.

    ” This supports the notion ‘few be there that find it’.”

    John Calvin’s predestinarians love that passage. Sheep from the goats, etc. Stinks to be a goat, what with the eternal roasting & all, but hey, who are we to question divine justice. His ways are not our ways.

  42. St1305, I would argue that knowledge and faith are the true mutually exclusive concepts, not doubt and faith. Doubt and faith can co-exist, although I would agree at some point they must part ways. Knowledge and faith, on the other hand, cannot exist at the same time, by definition.

    If “few there be that find it” is really the state of salvation, then perhaps the church should encourage its missionaries to be a little more selective in who they baptize and a little more forthright about moroni’s promise. If it’s really a true principle that scores of people are going to sincerely do the steps and get nothing out of it, I would submit that the message of the missionaries is dishonest. “Few there be that find it” and “all that seek shall find” are another set of ideals that seem to be mutually exclusive.

  43. Thomas,

    “Otherwise, we’re like the Marxist imbeciles who tell us that their discredited theory just needs one more try, by the right kind of people this time, to make it work, never questioning whether there may be some bugs in the model”

    To this I say, “Yes We Can, Yes We Can”

    Ok, I see your logic. What then is the answer?

  44. Thomas 43 – Got to love the Calvins. If we’re all goats, I always have to ask, “then why are you bothering me?” Seriously, leave the goats alone in their supposed misery and damnation. 🙂

  45. Post
    Author

    re 46:

    Adam, even the answers to such a question are annoying and theologically distasteful. e.g., “I bother you because I am irresistibly drawn to bother people.” “I am a puppet in God’s plan to save the elect. How can you be sure because you think you’re a goat that you won’t come to shear beautiful sheepitude?”

    and so on

  46. st1305:

    I explained my story. I have “fed faith” for over 4 decades. So far, I have developed a very interesting dichotomy (at least to the standard LDS point-of-view). My “doubts” about the LDS Church and its fundamental claims are probably higher than they have ever been in my life. At the same time, however, my belief in the divine, in God, in humanity, in spirituality, etc. are probably deeper and more significant than they have ever been in my life.

    Quoting your comment in #35: “No this is not the cause, because faith is not faith. It is impossible to have true faith in a false idea.” Because my spirituality is deepening and I feel closer to God, yet further from the LDS Church, is this an example for what you claim – that the reason I have never had an answer is because it’s impossible to have true faith in a false idea?

    Hypothetically, what if the LDS Church isn’t the “only true Church”? What if the only reason I’m LDS is because I was born and raised and lived LDS? Do I “endure to the end” with a hope that the path that 0.1% of the world’s population chooses is the right one? At what point to I entertain the idea that perhaps my journey back to God lies down another path?

    My faith is strong. My doubt is strong. They are not mutually exclusive.

  47. Re 47 – of course. If they didn’t have a ridiculous answer for EVERYTHING they wouldn’t be fundamentalists. 😉

  48. Mike S,

    As I mentioned in my conversation with Thomas, they must coexist, they should coexist. This is by design. However, the one that you feed will ultimately win. As I further illustrated to Thomas, I don’t know why I received a confirmation and you haven’t. By no means does it make me more spiritual or more in tune. I judge things my experience. When I have doubted a concept or principle, it was by applying faith that I was able to conquer my doubts.

    The free market is a good example of the implementation of faith. There are plenty of doubts about its ability to work and many have challenged it from Marx to Obama. The best way to illustrate that it works is to apply it; and, the best way to appreciate it is to live without it for a while. True, it is an unequal distribution of wealth, but that’s a hell of a lot better than an equal distribution of misery.

    In short, faith and doubt are mutually exclusive in the application and implementation of a principle.

  49. The discussion of the implementation of faith in, and the living of a principle is an interesting one, st1305. The problem for me arises when it becomes clear that the standard you laid out is not an equally applied standard for most members of the church proposing it. In fact, in most cases what is meant by its proponents is “apply your faith and live the principle and if you receive confirmation that it’s true, you have your answer; if you feel like you received any other answer or no answer at all, your efforts were somehoe deficient and you need to start over.” I have yet to meet an active member of the church who will concede that if one takes that approach and does not receive positive confirmation, it means they’ve received an answer in the negative. The response then invariably becomes something about enduring to the end or only the elect or the tried and true “maybe you weren’t trying hard enough.” In short, the process has no credibility and I think that’s a real problem for many, many people.

  50. Sorry, just wanted to pipe in here – Let’s not confuse the behavioral science of economics with theology. It is interesting that a relgion such as Mormonism, which ultimately teaches of mans “fall” and his “natural” tendencies to be un-god-like, can be employed to argue for the benevolence of greed based system of wealth distribution. I see the problems of socialism and ultimately side on a more capitalist system – but not because it is does so much good, but because it does less damage towards restricting individual choice. Again, however, it should be noted that an unchecked “free-market” can have the same impact as a dictatorship ship or oligarchy if it allows the wealth to be “freely” accumulated into the hands of the few – particularly if we hold to the old maxim that “money is power”. This again surprising particularly given the fact that the “power” of money is ominously implied in the Temple Endowment – It would be very difficult to buy up navies and armies if there wasn’t a consolidation of wealth. This is true of socialism and unfettered capitalism – in other words, who said Keynes failed – thoug Thomas is right, current government “intervention” is hardly Keynsian.

  51. Really enjoyed this discussion. I too like Andrew S and others have found myself outside the church for a number of reasons, but drawn to this site and others similar. I have wondered why for the past year. Why if I no longer believe am I so interested? In this way I have doubted my doubt.

    While I’m still considering the answers, it just may be that I’m reluctant to dismiss a part of my life so ingrained. So many years spent learning and teaching and living and breathing Mormonism leaves a gap if I don’t use this knowledge somehow; don’t find some value in it in some way. And engaging with and hearing from others who have the same foundation makes me feel less alone in this knowledge.

    Whatever the reason and whatever the answer, I am drawn here every day. I comment infrequently but I get a measure of balance from visiting regardless. Not to mention the mental exercise a lot of you folk provide. 🙂

  52. #50: st1350 – “…However, the one that you feed will ultimately win.”

    I’ve lived my life with this assumption. I have tried to feed faith for my whole life – but doubt has grown. I know the answer you have received, but what would you recommend for someone in my situation? Should I keep doing all of the things that I have been taught to do to build faith? Or is God telling me that my path may perhaps lie down a different road?

    Since you like economic analogies, at what point do I stop throwing good money after bad?

  53. Cowboy,
    Good to see you back.

    I think the parallel between the free market and free agency is a good one and helps prove my point. Both thrive on faith and stammer on doubt. A wise investor will not invest out of doubt and fear; rather, they will move forward only if they believe the investment will ultimately benefit them. Consumption is a necessity, but is also faith driven. The free market system requires a leap of faith by investors and consumers. When they start to doubt, they hold back resulting in a paradox of thrift, stagflation and a whole host of other economic ills. It is during these times of doubt and uncertainty that big government programs are proposed and implemented. At the present time, out nation is at a pivotal moment. We can continue to feed our fears and can continue to implement government stop gaps, or we can exercise faith in the free market. Ultimately the one we feed will determine our destiny.

    The same is true in our personal progress. It is as true now as when Soloman said it “where there is no vision, people perish” We can either feed our doubt, or take a leap of faith.

  54. St1305, with all due respect, that is not an appropriate analogy. You’re trying to compare taking a leap of faith in an economic context to doing so in a spiritual context. The problem is, in an economic context the results of such a leap of faith would be measurable, even intermittently, to not only the leaper, but to others contemplating such a leap. There would be readily available, reliable evidence upon which to make judgments and base future decisions. Most importantly, if someone takes a leap of faith in an economic context and does not receive the promised or expected results, they can adjust their behavior accordingly and even go confidently in a different direction. What I am hearing from you in response to some here who are frustrated by similar lack of results in their spiritual lives is “keep taking the leap of faith repeatedly and indefinitely, ignoring every past result, and eventually you’ll get the results you want.” No person in his right mind would ever suggest someone do this in an economic context.

  55. Brjones,

    Where did I say:

    “keep taking the leap of faith repeatedly and indefinitely, ignoring every past result, and eventually you’ll get the results you want.”

  56. Sorry, st1305, I didn’t mean to put words in your mouth. That is my description of a familiar refrain.
    Your exact words were: “This process may take a lifetime for some, but it is (“b”) the process. This is their Gethsemane. To them I say stick with it and it will come. “Trial, tribulation, then comes the blessing.”

    I apologize if my tone sounded overly critical. I’m really just asking the same question that has been asked previously in this thread. If we’re going to compare spiritual faith to economic faith, where does the comparison of actual results come into the picture? That seems to me to be a significant component of the process.

  57. Post
    Author

    st1305, re 42:

    This supports the notion ‘few be there that find it’. I don’t know why I was lucky in this regard. My challenges are elsewhere, or living some of the concepts I know are true. This process may take a lifetime for some, but it is (“b”) the process. This is their Gethsemane . To them I say stick with it and it will come. “Trial, tribulation, then comes the blessing”.

    When you say this, you seem to imply (if not, please clarify) that someone should take a “lifetime” go get the “blessing” of the “process” or “trial” of faith. When you refer to Gethsemane and the “tribulation” that comes with these things, but you encourage people to stick with it and “it will come,” this sounds like you are encouraging people to ignore past results (e.g., the pain, suffering, lack of positive answers) and endure to the end.

    If that’s not what you meant, could you please qualify?

    re 53:

    dmac, thank you so much for you comment. This, I think, really summarized my feelings on the subject. In a way, I think that such immersion we get from the church (so much that it can be “ingrained” in us culturally) can be beneficial for exactly the reasons you have stated — it gives us something that, whether we believe it or not, we always *consider* what the meaning could be, and what the meaningfulness could be. The very idea that we can continually consider concepts and communicate about them, to “use that knowledge somehow” or to “find value in it” is something important, I think.

    I mean, I am apathetic about a great many things. I don’t necessarily think apathy is all that bad in many respects, but I understand the arguments people could have against it. I think, though, that when we strive to “find value,” then even though we are on an uncertain journey with an uncertain destination, we are still taking a stand, instead of being tossed by the wind. We are taking a stand, whether we believe or do not, that this is important enough at least to think about.

  58. Re: st1305 & Andrew on “sticking with it” – I’m not convinced that these people who are accused of “giving up” have really given up or “avoided” their Gethsemane. For example, I had a friend on my mission who fasted and prayed (and went on a mission) for years, before he finally felt duped and left the church, after receiving no answers. I don’t see his leaving the church as giving up or not “sticking with it.” He still has a life full of challenges and growth ahead of him, regardless of his church membership, and I don’t believe in a God who halts the progress of his children just because they didn’t get a discernible answer to their prayers or whether they stayed in the church or not.

  59. This topic is complicated for sure. You know when people live for a while and then lose something of great importance to them and say things like: “I didn’t realize what I had until it was gone” or “The answer was right in front of my face the whole time”, etc. I think some of us are just more optimistic and can see things that skeptics don’t see. I am a skeptic and my optimistic friends can get on my nerves at times. They see negative things (in my perception) as positive. For example, not getting an answer from the Lord wouldn’t deter them in their belief, they might assume it was just something the Lord wanted them to experience at that time. I am not trying to simplify something that is much more complicated, but I do wonder how much our perception really affects our belief, our faith and our ability to believe in God.

    I’ve recently heard people talking about how we attract certain things to ourselves by the way we think and the way we behave. If we doubt everything do we attract doubters and thus reinforce our doubt? I wonder what would happen Andrew S if you chose to act faithful in your words, actions and writings for a month. Do you think it could change your doubt to faith? Interesting to think about anyway.

  60. Andrew/brjones

    I cannot judge Mike’s situation as I don’t have all the salient information. However, I can say equivocally that no answer does not mean no; it means no answer. Moses, for instance, wandered in the wilderness for 40 years with over 20 million people before the Lord answered their prayers and prepared a way to enter the Promised Land.

    Mike did not say the Lord told him no, he said he has not received an answer. With this, I would say the same thing “stick with it until you receive an answer”. He will answer your prayers , but he will do it in his due time.

    Again, I can only judge faith with my experiences with faith. I know when I have doubts; exercising faith helps remove these doubts. This is what the Savior was trying to teach when he said “be ye doers of the word and not hearers only’. The way to gain a testimony is to apply the principle.

    With all this said, Thomas raises a good argument. I see his reasoning and am still reconciling this myself.

  61. Interesting point, Jen. I have a friend who has fairly recently ceased her activity in the church and does not believe it is the “true” church any longer, although she still believes in god. She is having some difficult experiences and has a desire to go back to church for the structure and fellowshipping she is not currently enjoying. What’s interesting is that one of he reasons she is hesitant to go back is she feels confident that if she throws herself back into activity she is fairly confident she will begin to believe in the church again. She doesn’t want to be in that position because she feels she is more objective at this point in her life, and she trusts her current feelings about the church. I’m not suggesting she’s wrong or right; it’s just interesting in light of your comment.

  62. brjones,

    This is exactly what I am saying “What’s interesting is that one of he reasons she is hesitant to go back is she feels confident that if she throws herself back into activity she is fairly confident she will begin to believe in the church again” Yes, when she exercise faith her faith grows stronger. When you exercise your muscles, they get stronger.

  63. Post
    Author

    re 60: Adam, I agree. What I’ve learned is that there are so many opportunities for growth, so many challenges, so many ways to learn various life lessons that need not be tied to the church. People never lose the chance to grow and learn.

    re 61: Jen, also, there are phrases like, “familiarity breeds contempt” and “absence makes the heart grow fonder,” so maybe these things have some value?

    I think that it’s not so clear cut to say that it’s just optimists who are seeing things that skeptics don’t see. Just as well, skeptics can see some things that optimists don’t see. And, in any case, “skepticism” isn’t the opposite of “optimism.” For me, part of skepticism is having an optimistic idea of deity. I feel like it would be insulting to attribute the less-than-stellar universe to such a being. Others’ miles may vary…

    I think the issue, Jen…is that I didn’t just spend “a month” acting faithful in my words, actions, and writings. I spent years. That’s the issue with most of us. It’s not like we *choose* to doubt (which is why I still say, nevertheless, that we don’t “choose” to “act” faithful in our words, actions, and writings. Our words, actions, and writings are not what can be faithful or doubtful. It’s our beliefs and reactions.)

    It made me miserable. It made me hate myself and the liar that I was. It made me realize I hate salespeople, but only the salespeople who purposefully sell things they don’t believe in or care about.

    It did not change doubt to faith.

    I don’t know why this concept is so difficult. I mean, do people really take the time and think about it. “try reacting in a completely different way. Try believing in a completely different way.” Take something that you don’t believe in, and “act” like you believe in it. Wouldn’t you be acutely aware — at all times — that something is amiss, that you are playing a role, and that you are deceiving others by this role?

  64. Post
    Author

    re 62:

    st1305, but here’s another situation (I’m taking more situations than just Mike’s). When we are doing such a test, we get feedback constantly. We can say “no answer” because we don’t know whether the answer came from God or not (which, if you think about it…let’s say God doesn’t exist. Then obviously, there wouldn’t be an answer to such. There would be no answer)

    But throughout life, throughout everything we do, we get a confirmation…and that’s the sense of uneasiness that we get. The sense that we are not on the right track, that we are living a lie, that we are slowly and surely smothering ourselves.

    I understand that many people don’t get this sense from the church. They get it from other things, and as a result, they don’t do those other things. It may be that they felt that sense of dis-ease from some other church, and they converted to move away from it.

    but what I am saying is that this *is* a response. It is a response stronger than a “stupor of thought” and as strong as a “burning in the bosom.”

    Not to mention, there are plenty of people who are theists who “get an answer,” and that answer leads them out of the church.

    Now, my opinion is that all of these conflicting answers don’t necessarily come from where people say they come from. Maybe some come from God, maybe some don’t. Maybe all come from God. Maybe none do. We cannot be so sure, and in fact, we cannot be so sure about relying on this method as God-given.

    But we can use these methods personally and subjectively. After all, what we feel is real to us, and no one can deny it; they can only interpret it differently.

    re 63:

    brjones, I think this is a tragic story, if true. This kind of “fear” has never crossed my mind, and…not to judge your friend…but I think that if she wants fellowship and structure, and if she can get it and actually *believe in it*, then everything else be damned.

    What I think is more tragic, however, are those people who try whatever they can to cling to the fellowship, the structure, and community, but they are killing themselves inside, because they do not believe, and every attempt to try to “act it out” points out even more starkly that they do not believe.

  65. Andrew S-

    That’s why I said this topic is complicated for sure, because it isn’t clear cut and I actually DO recognize that you have spent years acting faithful and being miserable because of it. The problem for me is you don’t really seem that happy now either. Are you?

  66. Post
    Author

    re 67:

    Jen, I get your concern. I think the issue is that a lot of times, people talk about the bad, but not about the goo, and I know that guilty of this a lot. For example, my recent journal features plenty of entries where I stress about upcoming presentations, but it’s only been recent that I’ve realized that I also need to write about the aftermath — which is generally extremely positive. I don’t want to make it sound like there was no happiness then, or that there is no happiness now. While I would say I have always had my ups and downs then and now, what I have now is an inner peace or inner security with myself.

    To put it in a different way, here’s the way I view the difference that should clarify the way I use words. When I say “misery” or “miserable,” I’m not just talking about “sadness,” and I’m not talking about a word whose antonym is “happy” or “happiness.” Misery is something deeper, and the opposite is “joy” or “peace”.

    Before, I was miserable because I couldn’t be at peace with myself, because I knew I wasn’t being authentic to myself. I had issues hating myself, because that’s all I knew how to do. This is the message I think some people are, whether they are aware of it or not, offering. They are saying: “you should’ve endured to the end, because the Gospel and the Church are true, so the problem must be with you.”

    I had swings with happiness and sadness because of external things (e.g., relationships with others), but that’s not what made me miserable.

    Now, I am not miserable, because I esteem myself higher (not to say I have a big head, hopefully). I still have ups and downs because of external things (e.g., relationships with others), and that is what I frequently write about, but I am ok with me.

    Does that make sense?

  67. Yes, it makes sense. I think it is very important to be at peace with who you are and the life you choose to lead.

    I wonder how many members of the church grew up with parents who taught the gospel “military style”, meaning they didn’t teach with love and compassion. It can be a big turn off and create shame, guilt and feelings of hatred for oneself when it not the way it is supposed to be. I think if we all had parents who lived the gospel in the way that it was intended, there might be a lot less confusion and doubt for many people. I am not saying that this is the case for you, I am just thinking about what may cause us to turn against ourselves and our religion.

    Anyway, I am signing off for the night. Take care.

  68. Post
    Author

    re 69:

    Jen, here’s the thing as well. At least in my case, my parents have been great throughout it all. They understand that one can be on “the right track” without being rigidly aligned to the church (and, to be sure, I think that I make things easy on everyone since my actions still are very much aligned with many Mormon concepts. I still follow the WoW, Law of Chastity, etc.,) So, I can’t say that it was my parents who taught the gospel “military style,” and my parents aren’t the ones, IMO, who don’t teach with love and compassion.

    I agree that it’s terrible when people do have parents who are like this, but the thing is…if it were just parents, then people could move away from that. Instead, this is an issue that people can see over and over and over within the church, outside of the church, etc., It’s a human problem, unfortunately, to which even the gospel doesn’t appear to be an effective cure.

  69. St1305 #55: “When they start to doubt, they hold back resulting in a paradox of thrift, stagflation and a whole host of other economic ills.”

    I beg to differ on the cause of stagflation being excessive “doubt.” (Warning: Austrian economics ahead.) Stagflation is the hangover from a previous period of excess (misplaced) optimism — economic “faith.” Malinvestments — that is, money invested in assets that prove to have less potential return than originally calculated — clog the system with debt that can’t be easily serviced or repaid, because the assets bought with that debt don’t yield enough cash flow to service them, and accordingly are valued less than the debt incurred to buy them. Stagflation results when central banks and governments refuse to recognize the debt deflation, and pour Keynesian stimulus into the economy. The result is inflation in parts of the economy (because of the extra money supply) but no growth (which can’t return until the malinvestments are liquidated and the deadweight debt is worked through.)

    That’s more or less exactly what’s happening now: We had an unprecedented housing bubble (thanks primarily to Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac creating a market for loans originated with looser than traditional lending standards — for political and political-cronyism reasons; is there anything Jamie Gorelick ever touched that didn’t go to crap?), which partially burst — upon which the Bush and Obama administrations embarked on a Hooveresque program of propping up bubbly asset prices above the value they ought to fall to. So tons of money is being thrown at efforts to avoid liquidating malinvestments (the only true way through the mess), to the point where we’ve spent more on bailouts and “stimulus” in the past eighteen months than on the Afghanistan and Iraq wars combined in eight years. But it’s “pushing on a string”: Growth won’t return, notwithstanding the Keynesian money-supply expansion, because financial institutions are still weighed down by the deadweight of debt secured by bad assets.

    Tying this back into religion, this is the problem with the notion that you should just put your head down and keep grinding it out in whatever religious tradition you’ve been issued. There’s a chance that you are, in fact, being tested in a personal “Why hast thou forsaken me?” Gethsemane, and the visions and blessings of old will someday break forth just as promised. On the other hand, there’s also a chance that you’re just pouring good money after bad, Obama-Geithner style, trying to prop up a religious malinvestment when you might be better off liquidating and starting afresh.

    In a sense, that’s what I did after years and years of trying to shake loose a Moroni Ten-Four experience. I’ve stopped beating myself up over it. I’ve come to believe that God approves my pursuit of holiness within the Mormon tradition, as I understand it, but I no longer lose sleep over not having received a witness that would allow me to say that I am convinced that it is the one true church and everyone else is missing something crucial. I still pray for a witness of the truth, and if God saw fit to favor me with a witness of the kind people speak, that could change things. But if it never comes, that’s not a massive problem.

  70. #61: “I’ve recently heard people talking about how we attract certain things to ourselves by the way we think and the way we behave.”

    Sounnds like “The Secret” and the “Law of Attraction.” No thanks. Way too many airheaded California Realtorbunnies bought into that garbage, and look where it got them (and us, as collateral damage).

    Prove all things; hold fast to that which is good. Recognize that to a Realtor, “It’s a great time to buy!” is what they say all the time.

  71. #69: “I wonder how many members of the church grew up with parents who taught the gospel “military style”, meaning they didn’t teach with love and compassion. It can be a big turn off and create shame, guilt and feelings of hatred for oneself when it not the way it is supposed to be.”

    They make religion be abhorred,
    Who round with terror gulf her
    And think no work can please the Lord,
    Unless it smell of sulfur.

    🙂

  72. Re Thomas #71

    In a sense, that’s what I did after years and years of trying to shake loose a Moroni Ten-Four experience. I’ve stopped beating myself up over it. I’ve come to believe that God approves my pursuit of holiness within the Mormon tradition, as I understand it, but I no longer lose sleep over not having received a witness that would allow me to say that I am convinced that it is the one true church and everyone else is missing something crucial. I still pray for a witness of the truth, and if God saw fit to favor me with a witness of the kind people speak, that could change things. But if it never comes, that’s not a massive problem.

    Brilliantly said! This is where I am exactly. Additionally, I’ll add that I’ve had to stop beating myself over it because I was not growing spiritually by insisting that my worldview was the only correct one to have. Couple this with a not insignificant number of unresolved questions, historical problems, and a church bent on authority and it’s easy to see what forces people to modify their worldview and adjust their view of the church.

    BTW, Thomas, we need to stop all this economic talk or I’ll have to involve myself! A serious threat I know 😉

  73. Re Jen

    I wonder how many members of the church grew up with parents who taught the gospel “military style”, meaning they didn’t teach with love and compassion. It can be a big turn off and create shame, guilt and feelings of hatred for oneself when it not the way it is supposed to be. I think if we all had parents who lived the gospel in the way that it was intended, there might be a lot less confusion and doubt for many people. I am not saying that this is the case for you, I am just thinking about what may cause us to turn against ourselves and our religion.

    I do think this is a good point you bring up. However, I also don’t think it goes far enough. My parents taught me with love and compassion, and I was never forced to go to church or embrace the church. But I myself was quite militant when it came to the church. I think some of this is just my personality, but I think some is the way we operate in the church (I grew up in SLC). Additionally, there is just no way of getting around the feeling of betrayal that so many experience when they find out their sanitized view of church history is not realistic. People can minimize that all they want and blame those who disaffect for that reason, but the proof that it is a problem is in the vast numbers of people who go through it.

    No amount of hoop jumping, faith promoting, or corporation understanding can undo the feeling of betrayal. I think we need to own up to a problem in this realm and take measures to solve it.

  74. #72 Thomas-

    I don’t know enough about the “Law of Attraction” to decide how I feel about it yet. I am open to different ideas and viewpoints so I have to wait until I learn more about this one before I decide what I think.

    BTW, nice poem. 🙂

    jmb275-

    I understand that many people feel betrayed by the church in relation to church history. I didn’t feel that way when I found out about JS, I just thought it was interesting that so many members didn’t know about his full history and that the church didn’t talk openly about it. At least I thought that for awhile, then I thought “who in their right mind would talk about it?” I believe you can’t explain it unless you were the one getting the answers and living through it personally. I don’t believe the GA’s fully understand it either. I do believe God works that way though, I fully believe that He asks specific things of certain people and not of everyone else.

    I don’t know why some people feel betrayed and others don’t when they find out about church history. It is interesting to consider as there are members who do know the full history of JS and have strong testimonies still. It would be interesting to poll people to understand this better.

  75. Pingback: The difference between misery and sadness « Irresistible (Dis)Grace

  76. Thomas,

    I would agree with taking out the ‘Stag” as it is likely a result of a down-turn in the market, but would stick with the “flation”; rather, I would replace it with hyper-inflation which is a direct result of a panic spending and not a corresponding increase in production. John Mills also stated in his analysis

    “Panics do not destroy capital; they merely reveal the extent to which it has been destroyed by its betrayal into hopelessly unproductive works”

    Instead of realizing the extent to which the market had been destroyed, Bush and Omama both acted on doubt and fear and injected further uncertainty in the market with out of control spending. In contrast and weather you like Reagan or not, he restored faith the market. He restored faith in America because he believed in America and the free market system. He acted on faith. It is by faith that the seas were parted, the dead raised and the sick were healed. We don’t need more knowledge, we need more faith. We need faith in each other; and, above all we need faith in God. It is faith that will overcome our doubts and fears. As the good Lord said in the D&C “Look unto me in every thought, doubt not, fear not”

    With this said, I have contemplated your thoughts on the allegory of the seed in Alma. It has made me see things in a different light. I am still trying to reconcile this. You may have more of a testimony than you realize. Good luck to you on this.

  77. St1305, I would argue the opposite with respect to faith. I have no doubt of the level of faith in god of Islamic suicide bombers or southern evangelicals who protest at soldiers’ funerals, brandishing signs that read “God Hates Fags”. I don’t even doubt the faith of our neighbor who came into our living room and assured my wife that since we had left the church it was likely that I would begin abusing substances and committing adultery. In fact, I would argue that faith in god is the one common denominator of all three.

    And with respect to mixing faith in god with national policy, I think Jacques Chirac could give us a great perspective on the level of George W. Bush’s level of faith in god.

    I’m not sure how more faith in god is going to save us when it’s done nothing to save us to this point. Maybe we should start trusting ourselves a little more and the men behind the pulpits guiding us from a 2,000 year old book with highly questionable veracity a little less.

  78. “southern evangelicals who protest at soldiers’ funerals, brandishing signs that read “God Hates Fags”.”

    Kansas (home of the execrable Fred Phelps’ Westboro “Baptist” “Church”) isn’t really in the South, but given all the redneck hillbilly bubba Bible-bashing stereotypes out there, the error is understandable, if still a bit unfair to evangelicals.

    “I’m not sure how more faith in god is going to save us when it’s done nothing to save us to this point.”

    We’re still here, aren’t we? How do you know religious faith (and the civilizing tendencies of its better vintages) aren’t a substantial part of the reason for that?

  79. “Instead of realizing the extent to which the market had been destroyed, Bush and Omama both acted on doubt and fear and injected further uncertainty in the market with out of control spending.”

    A well placed fear, I might add. The market was hard at work behind that one, by the way – deregulation that created the housing bubble sort of represents “market faith” gone awry, from where I stand. Reagans faith in the market was such that corporate profits and executive pay could outpace mean wages of standard labor, exponentially, if only we have the “faith” to break up unions – thereby furthering the imbalance in wage bargaining power. And he was right, the markets did prove that one out. When you eliminate controls, the market does suceed at picking a winner.

    By no means is this a complete picture of either the impacts of Regans economic policies, or the causes and ramifications of our current perdicament…but it is also no more incomplete than rationals that preceeded it.

  80. St1305, if the Bush/Obama bailouts, and their potential effect to make the initial problem worse, were the result of “fear and doubt,” that doesn’t change the fact that it was the *opposite* of “fear and doubt” that created the problem in the first place. I’d like to believe there’s a difference between true faith, and “irrational exuberance,” which pretty much has been our only economic engine for the past two decades. Of course you need faith; excessive skepticism means you just sit around all day terrified to go outside. But just as there’s excessive fear, there can be excessively unskeptical “faith.” I see boatloads of it, and not just from the jihadist freaks splattering themselves all over the landscape.

    Finding the right balance is hard, but so are most things worth working at.

  81. st1305, I meant to add that I don’t think Obama is acting as he does out of “fear and doubt.” I think he’s acting out of the monumental, undoubting faith of a wunderkind who’s been told his whole life how awesome he is, and is pursuing, the “fundamental remaking of the United States” according to his received vision, i.e., the conventional-wisdom cloistered progressivism, untempered by genuine experience, of the American liberal-arts academy whose creature he is. He has, in fact, presented himself as a kind of left-wing Reagan, someone who changes the fundamental assumptions of American government.

    “Without vision, the people perish”; with the wrong kind of vision, they also go kaplooey.

  82. Cowboy, if “deregulation” caused the housing bubble, I will personally eat my hat, if I had a hat. The only “deregulation” worth talking about in the last decade was the repeal of Glass-Steagall, and although I know we disagree on this, if repeal had any effect on the development of the bubble, it was minimal. Commercial banks that stayed pure commercial banks (like G/S used to require) and investment banks that took advantage of repeal to get into commercial banking, didn’t really differ in the degree of trouble they got into. The bottom line is that underwriting standards just went to crap, and repeal of Glass-Steagall had nothing to do with it.

    What did? Four words: Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. Without the GSEs creating a market for untraditionally-underwritten loans, the rest of the banks — driven by purely free-market considerations — wouldn’t have had a bandwagon to jump onto. Free markets give you corrections. It takes a player the size of a government to really screw things up.

  83. “We’re still here, aren’t we? How do you know religious faith (and the civilizing tendencies of its better vintages) aren’t a substantial part of the reason for that?”

    This is a fair point, with the qualification that it’s equally likely that mankind may have thrived and been far more peaceful without faith in god. In any event I see the idea that faith in god will save humanity (particularly within a discussion of secular governmental policy) as ironic coming from a proponent of what is ultimately an eschatological religion.

  84. Thomas,

    We already agreed it is impossible to have true faith in a false idea. Along these lines, I totally agree with your conclusion there can be excessively unskeptical faith. The problem was created by redistribution of wealth policies. People, who had no business getting a loan, were able to get them because of ideologues. We know the rest of the story.

    Bush admitted, several months after the damage, he acted out of fear and doubt in implementing the bailout plan. He further confessed he was scared to death and lost faith in the free market. He feed doubt. You could see it on his face when he was addressing the nation. That was the time to exercise faith and allow the free market to run its course. The best thing would have been to keep the faith in free market principles and let these companies fail.

    I retract including Obama in that statement. Your assessment of Obama is perfect. His Marxist policies create fear, doubt and uncertainty in the market. I personally know and work with almost every major real estate investor along the Wasatch front. I have never seen this much doubt and fear. This ass hat has had the opposite impact that Reagan had.

    Brjones,

    See my previous statement and first statement in this response. It is impossible to have true faith in false ideas. This, combined with the Saviors directive “by their fruits shall ye know them” should provide direction for the people of ‘faith’ you described.

    I don’t care what Chirac thinks and Bush is an idiot.

  85. Post
    Author

    …I may have missed it, but why is it impossible to have true faith in false ideas? People keep saying this, but haven’t explained why. (Nor have they explained how one would determine true faith then, from false faith masquerading as true faith).

  86. Which brings us right back to the issue Thomas raised earlier: how do we know whose ideas are true and, consequently, whose faith is true? I think it goes without saying that the 3 people I mentioned earlier all really THINK their faith is true. Not only that, they all think their faith is the ONLY true faith. What do you do with that?

  87. brjones,

    I will reiterate the second part of my comment, which is the way the Savior asked us to judge those who profess to be prophets “By their fruit shall ye know them.”

    Andrew,

    Faith is power. It is not just believing in
    something. The best description is In Alma 32:21″ faith is not to have a perfect knowledge of things; therefore if ye have faith ye hope for things which are not seen, which are true”. The keyword in that statement is “which are true”

    If 50 million people believe in a dumb idea, it is still a dumb idea. With this said, it is our responsibility to find out what is true and exercise faith in that. He then compares the word (Gods word) to a seed. We will know it is God’s word if when planted in our heart it begins to grow and enlarges our soul and enlightens our mind.

    Thomas brings a valid point about this commentary. Please see our previous dialogue regarding this issue. I am still trying to reconcile his comments.

  88. Post
    Author

    With respect to Thomas re 43:

    If we want to claim the honor of “experiment” for the Alma 32 process, there needs to be some reasonable time in which to expect the experiment to yield results. Otherwise, we’re like the Marxist imbeciles who tell us that their discredited theory just needs one more try, by the right kind of people this time, to make it work, never questioning whether there may be some bugs in the model. “Trust us, put your head down and stick with the program” strikes me as a recipe for personal stagnation.

    Yeah, I guess I have to say I agree with this.

    re 88:

    st1305, this is going to be long-winded. I apologize. I still think that you have yet to prove that people cannot have a dumb idea “grow” and “enlarge the soul and enlighten the mind” (e.g., people can be enlightened, enlarged by ANY idea. ANY philosophy. ANY economic system. ANY political system.) Think about it: there isn’t just one kind of seed in the world. There is a wide variety of plants, flowers, and trees, and all of them have seeds that have the potential to grow. All of them also have seeds that will not grow except in certain areas in certain conditions. In other words, the example of the seed seems to suggest that yes, you can have true faith in something not true.

    Basically, your problem is this. You’re trying to say, “by their fruits ye shall know them” as if this is an objective and foolproof way of determining the truth of something. But you fail to take into consideration that there are several kinds of fruits…that one fruit isn’t superior over the other (although scammers would like you to think so and buy acai berries or whatever)…and that in fact, we need a variety of fruits, and we have to do some pretty interesting modifications on the fruits that we have because they do NOT grow in all places or all times.

    You want to say that we’ll know God’s word as that which grows when planted in our heart, enlarges our soul and enlightens our mind. The problem with this is that this is an inherently subjective test. Now, there’s nothing wrong with subjective tests as long as you realize that this only conclusively proves one thing: an individual has had a subjective experience. But then you have to realize that individuals can have subjective experiences in any number of religions, philosophies, economic beliefs, and political beliefs. Even ones that go against evidence. You cannot deny someone’s experience of having grown in a system that objectively doesn’t work. It turns out human psychology doesn’t really work like that.

    And, as I mentioned all the way back in comment 19, the seed doesn’t grow for everyone in any particular religion/philosophy/etc., So, with the church, you have to account for the possibility of “13 million people” (or less, depending on what the actual numbers of the church are) believing in a dumb idea. Would this change the fact that many of these people have grown from the dumb idea. No.

    And, as I wrote in comment 66, here’s another issue. It’s not like people are only getting “no answer.” People are actually getting answers the deny the truthfulness of the word, that defy Moroni 10:4, that “prove” the truth of other faith traditions, etc.,

    So, you say, “It is our responsibility to find out what is true and exercise faith in that.”

    My problem is that you don’t seem to have given a mechanism to find out what is true. You’ve given us a mechanism that can find out what gives us a particular subjective experience, but this experience is subjective and variable. You have not given us a way from telling apart God’s word from some dumb idea that 50 million (or fewer!) people believe in.

  89. Thomas:

    As I said, my comments were an incomplete picture. I use the term deregulation fairly loosely, which is probably an inaccurate way of describing the events:

    “The bottom line is that underwriting standards just went to crap, and repeal of Glass-Steagall had nothing to do with it.”

    As you noted, we hold some disagreement over the implications of Glass-Steagal, but we are agreed that the bottom line is just as you put, loan underwriting standards just went to crap. This is what I had in mind with deregulation, loose lending under the clinton administration. I would argue however that the free market jumped on board, and created a purely market driven counter-incentive called the credit-default-swap, to protect another market driven effort of mass securitization of debt. I’m not arguing that government involvement in these issues hasn’t also been a catalyst to the “crisis”, but I am debating the general notion that if left to it’s own devices, the free-market would have hicupped – but prevailed. What I am in effect saying is that I have no faith in free-market theology.

  90. st1305:

    What good is faith, which is the substance of thing’s hoped for, if we can’t be certain that we hope in a true principle? It seems rather arbitrary to me. How does one, for example, “exercise faith” which must be tied to a true principle, if they hope but hold no certainty to the truth? Again, this sounds just like more theological circular reasoning that does more to divide people in groups and a contest of religions, than it does towards providing any real enlightenment or progression towards real truth.

  91. #88,89: Re: experimenting / by their fruits shall ye know them

    This is not quite as clear-cut as the Sunday School answer where we quote Alma and faith growing like a seed inevitably leading people to the LDS faith.

    The faith in which I was raised and still practice is the LDS faith. In the past few years, however, I have had a keen interest in many other faiths. I have read the Qu’ran and quite a bit about Islam. I have read the Bible using commentaries from other non-LDS faiths. I have studied Hinduism and read the Bhagavad Gita, etc.

    But the thing that has given me the most peace in my life is actually Buddhism. I feel much more connected with my inner soul and with the world around me through Buddhism than anything I have felt in the LDS Church. I have become a better person. I have become a better father and husband. I have much more peace. And I have had spiritual experiences more profound than any I have had in the LDS Church.

    So, what does this mean in the context of the LDS faith? If I were to truly choose a faith based on the fruits in my life, I would become a Buddhist. Why haven’t I had the same experience in my 4+ decades in the LDS faith? Do I persevere in the faith of my fathers in hopes that someday I will get some sort of confirmation that the LDS Church is “true”? Do I follow the results of Alma’s promise in my life and switch faiths? Is there truly one “faith” for all, or do each of us have our own unique and individual path through mortality?

  92. A Mormon, a Cowboy, a Buddhist and an Atheist enter a chat room, which one walks out on top. This is where this is headed. All I can say is this: the reason it looks circular is you equate belief to faith. They are not synonyms. Faith is the application of a belief that enlarges your soul and enlightens your mind. For example, I may believe the law of tithing is right (or stupid), but I will not have faith in it until I apply the principle. This is true for all of the other principles that I apply in my life – chastity, honesty, integrity, temple work, missionary work and a host of other principles in my faith. I know they are true as I have applied them and I see the fruits and they are good.

  93. “A Mormon, a Cowboy, a Buddhist and an Atheist enter a chat room”

    This is probably one of the best openings to comment I have ever read, needless to say, you have my attention – I like it!

    I think your definition of faith works in and of itself, but part of the pairing of faith with belief comes from traditional theology and scripture which make this pairing as well. Faith as a known is an interesting idea, but scriptures constantly use the term as a verb. And in an effort not to try and steal a note from Andrew S (#89), this still leaves the challenge of the subjectivity of fruits. After all, if you believe that Temple work is affording opportunities for salvation among the deceased, naturally this would produce a “good fruit” in your mind. Additionally, missionaries of other faiths would equally testify to the good fruits of their labors in changing and improving the lives of their converts – but this says nothing of the absolute truth of their particular religios doctrine.

  94. sorry, #94 should read “Faith as noun” not “faith as a known”. Fingers are faster than my brain, I’m afraid.

    I do miss the edit function!

  95. “Faith is the application of a belief that enlarges your soul and enlightens your mind.”

    That’s a good description, with potential implications for allowing a universal application of the principle of faith. It gets at least partway around the “A Mormon, a Cowboy, a Buddhist, and an Atheist” issue, where different parties’ faith leads them to mutually exclusive sectarian conclusions.

    When you experience the “swelling motions” spoken of in Alma 32, you can reasonably choose to believe that the particular religious idea — the “word” or the “seed” discussed in that chapter — is a good seed, even a divinely-revealed truth. Reading the chapter closely, though, you will not find an argument that this means that the seed is exclusively true. What you know, is that planting and nurturing that seed has “enlarged your soul and enlightened your mind.” Nothing more, nothing less. It is going out on a limb to draw the further conclusion that “and therefore, this is the one true seed, to the exclusion of all others.” It is also possibly an unjustified conclusion that every aspect of the word-seed that has enlightened your mind is literally true. To beat the botanical allegory to a puree, strictly speaking, only one part of a seed is the part that actually sprouts. The seed casing, for instance, is just there to protect the germ; when the seed sprouts, it falls off and plays no further part.

    I view the “germ” of the seed of faith, as the true, universal principles that — in whatever religious context they are found — “enlarge your soul and enlighten your mind.” They are things that can only be known by faith, such as the existence and nature of God, for instance, which are beyond the capacity of unaided reason and empirical observation to measure. These truths may be encapsulated in various sectarian “seed casings,” whose peripheral doctrines may conflict with each other, but in the end, it’s not the casing that matters, it’s the core — and I believe what is truly at the core of every workable faith, involves no irreconcilable conflict with what is at the true core of all the others. (C.S. Lewis called this core the “Tao.”)

    In sectarian religion, there is a notion that every aspect of the seed you plant is crucial — germ and casing alike. Many evangelicals (the kind that say Mormons are damned because they worship the “wrong Jesus”) — would say that unless the whole seed has one particular composition, it won’t grow up into saving faith. They have the tiniest bit of a point: It is possible for a religious seed to be rotten to the core, or for the casing to be so shot through with destructive ideas that the enlightening core never has the the chance to grow out of it. Thus you can’t just sit back and be lazy in picking a faith; you need to train your conscience and your perception and exercise at least as much due diligence as you’d apply in picking a stock. But what you’re looking for isn’t necessarily the one true sectarian seed; you’re really looking for something close enough to the truth for government work, where you can fairly hope that the core of the seed will sprout.

    In short, I generally view people’s reports of spiritual witnesses of their particular churches primarily as God’s confirmation that they are generally on the right track — that He approves of their pursuit of holiness within the tradition in which they have had such experiences. I don’t know exactly what it is that they’re experiencing. It may well be something completely outside my experience, which somehow gives them an infallible knowledge, in a way I don’t understand, that their tradition is not only pleasing to God, but exclusively true. Or it may be that when they do take their experiences as having that implication, they may be going beyond the conclusions that logically flow from the experience. Since the traditions in connection with which these experiences are had, and which people interpret these experiences as confirming the exclusive truth of, are often mutually exclusive, I’m inclined to think that in at least many cases, the latter possibility is actually what’s happening.

    That way, I don’t have to decide which of a Mormon reporting a burning in the bosom, a Catholic mystic, or a Sufi visionary, is lying.

  96. Funny, Cowboy — I didn’t even notice “known” for “noun” until you mentioned it. But then I’m renouned for my ability to get meaning from context. 🙂

  97. Post
    Author

    re 93:

    st1305,

    Then the issue is you CAN have faith in any number of “wrong” things (or perhaps many things are “right” depending on person, situation, environment, personality), because you CAN put different things in action and have them either enlarge your soul or not. The LDS church and Mormonism does NOT have a monopoly on this.

    …I think that I can get a general truth from what you’re saying…but it doesn’t lead to the narrow conclusion I think you want it to lead to. I think that when you try to distill general best practices (for example, integrity), then you will find that they are not “from” Mormonism and do not require Mormonism. Seeds like integrity germinate and grow all over the globe, in any context, whereas proprietary and genetically modified seeds, like tithing to the LDS church, don’t necessarily always work out.

    I agree with Cowboy re 94 that that is one of the best ways to open a comment, haha.

    Basically, to kinda address that, I am left with a surprisingly more universalistic conclusion (and this can apply to Mormonism very well, if we will but listen to universalist thoughts and quotations within Mormonism.) Mormonism is one vessel. Not the only vessel, not the most perfect or most divine vessel. As a result, following certain programs within this vessel can inculcate certain universal values (and this is faith, right?) But we don’t need these programs to inculcate these values (because we could inculcate them from another vessel). However, sometimes, these values are counterintuitive (“kill someone with kindness”, for example), so we have to be willing to have faith to practice this value, however counterintuitive it may seem. Similarly, sometimes, we can fall into the same trap that the Pharisees fell into…of going through rites and rules not to learn the greater principle, but for the sake of rites and rules.

    Wow…this is giving me a great idea for a new post. Inspiration!

    re 96:

    THOMAS, ARGH YOU BEAT ME TO MY POINT! I HATE YOU WITH HAPPINESS 🙂 I love your analogy of the germ vs. seed casing; I don’t love that you came up with the analogy before I did, lol.

  98. As I’ve watched this discussion go by (one of the consequences of checking the “Notify me of followup comments via e-mail”) I think this type of discussion generally boils down to “how do I know what’s true” type conversation. I see two main paradigms: falsification and verification. Science relies on both falsification and verification to draw conclusions based on how well a theory predicts the outcome amidst a series of observations or experiments. Religion, on the other hand, uses ONLY verification because the questions it answers are not falsifiable. There is no mechanism for finding out what is NOT true with any reliability (as st1305 has aptly pointed out via the “keep your head in the sand” idea). So to me, what we’re really discussing here is the fallacy of verification which is, to me, nothing more than “affirming the consequent” which is inductive reasoning.

    Thomas has touched on this in #96 very well. The problem with verification is that typically the wrong question is asked for the conclusions that are drawn. Take chastity for example. Our formula, as per Alma, is “if we plant the seed and nurture it (that is, try it out in our lives by living it diligently) and it brings forth good fruit, then we know it’s a good seed.” Suppose we do this, and indeed, it brings forth good fruit. If we then conclude that it is an eternal principle that applies to everyone we have drawn a conclusion the premises for which were not sufficient. We needed to ask the question (or plant the seed of) “is chastity a valid principle for everyone in all time and space to the exclusion of all other possible permutations of this truth.” Even the most strident Mormon, however, with a little thought will realize that such a conclusion could be troublesome if, for example, you’re David and desire a few God-approved concubines. I think most Mormons would then qualify the chastity principle allowing for a God-approved exception (think Nephi killing Laban as an appropriate example). But again, that is a conclusion improperly drawn from the premises.

    Personally, I would qualify Thomas’ statement about faith to include physical, earthly, sectarian concepts that are exempt from falsification (which of course Thomas’ statement does not preclude) in addition to religious questions about God’s existence. I see faith on a continuum that applies just as much to crossing a bridge as it does to belief in God. Since a particular crossing of a bridge in time and space is not falsifiable before the event, it takes “faith” to cross that bridge. The difference, to me, has more to do with the a priori information and assumptions I have about modern day bridges, as well as the near infinite # of observations that are made to add to my confidence.

    I don’t fault people for using verification to believe in God (indeed, I believe). There really isn’t any other way. The problem I have is when people insist that their conclusions are logically drawn from the premises and conclude absolute truth based on subjective experience that surely must apply to all people in all space and time. Even in bridge crossing exercises, just because I have seen a million people cross a bridge successfully, and even if I have successfully crossed it 1000 times, it doesn’t mean I can assert that it won’t collapse when you cross it (though I can state it is highly unlikely).

    Since observations of the existence of God are few and far between for MOST people, and absent for a great many people, I think we ought to be a bit more reticent to draw such grand conclusions about any religious principle.

  99. Post
    Author

    What a good point, jmb. However, I think that the verification/falsification problem hits upon a much bigger one…the problem of induction. For example, with bridges, you say that you have information and assumptions about modern day bridges and an infinite number of observations to add to your confidence. So you say that crossing a bridge doesn’t require as much faith as faith in a religious principle. You note that at BEST, you can state probabilities (it is highly unlikely that the bridge will collapse when you cross it.)

    But there is one thing that you must take on faith to be able to make any of these calculations. You must take on faith that the future will persist like the past. Now, you may say, “well, that is probable, since in the past, the future has persisted like the past”…but again, this begs the question and assumes the premise.

    I’m not really going to go anywhere with this, hehe.

    (P.S. I knew an option for subscribing to comments by email would be helpful :3)

  100. Andrew S

    No, you cannot have true faith in false or wrong ideas. Let me reiterate my definition ‘Faith is the application of a belief that enlarges your soul and enlightens your mind’. Let me go back to one of my favorite subjects, bashing the Marxist policies of the current administration. Marxism is a series of false ideas. You can believe in them until all you want. They sound utilitarian. They should good and fair. The reality is that when they are applied they are a four-flushing, eye watering, pant load. They are destructive. They do more damage than good. They are a bad fruit. They create uncertainty and doubt. They are insane. Insanity is defined as plugging in the same set of variables and expecting different results. You cannot trust or rely on them to any measurable degree; thus, you cannot have true faith in them.

    As for your other judgment, I never said Mormons own the truth. Truth is truth and can come from a Mormon, Cowboy, Buddhist or Atheist. With this said, I believe the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Days Saints contains the fullness of truth. Not so much because I believe it is contained in our canonized scripture; but, because we have a living oracle – a true prophet of God.

  101. Post
    Author

    re 101,

    Marxism is a belief that, when applied, enlarges plenty of people’s souls and enlightens plenty of people’s minds. You say that when it is applied it is four-flushing, eye watering, pant load. More damage than good. But someone could easily point to capitalism and say the same thing.

    At every point, someone can say, “You didn’t do it right,” or “you’re looking at bad examples” or “you’re using the wrong measurement criteria.” But, at every junction as well, someone can apply a concept and be “enlarged and enlightened” regardless of EVERYTHING else.

    We could easily say the same thing that you have said about *anything*, including the church. One size doesn’t fit all, it turns out.

  102. Andrew S,

    I did say enlarge the belly of some trailer trash welfare type sucking of goverment tit, I said enlarge the soul.

  103. Post
    Author

    st1305,

    For all the charged language you have on the issue, isn’t it telling you someone could have just a much charged rhetoric (and just as much of an experiential testimony) with the completely opposite side?

    but i’m glad to hear your thoughts on trailer trash welfare types, I guess..?

  104. Andrew S,

    Sorry, I was out of line. Remember my statement earlier about “I don’t know why I was lucky in this regard. My challenges are elsewhere, or living some of the concepts I know are true” Well, there you have it, belittling and judgmental rhetoric. Me types sometimes before me thinks.

  105. “but i’m glad to hear your thoughts on trailer trash welfare types, I guess..?”

    Allow me to second st1305’s opinion of said type, derived from close and expensive personal experience. (I’m pretty sure my relative by marriage isn’t reading this.) It may not be a respectable opinion, but it’s by-george one-hundred-percent no-holds-barred true.

  106. Post
    Author

    re 105,

    I guess what I feel is that “I don’t know why I was lucky in this regard” should be just as damaging here as it would be to any philosophy/economic system/political viewpoint that CLAIMS to be readily testable with obviously positive benefits. Or, if it is not damaging here, then it shouldn’t be damaging elsewhere.”

    re 106,

    Thomas, I just feel like such caustic opinions can be made about any group. Many times derived just, as you say, from “close and expensive personal experience.” I feel, nevertheless, that such characterizations are dehumanizing…caricature…stereotypes…even if they are true of some in some instances.

  107. “It may not be a respectable opinion, but it’s by-george one-hundred-percent no-holds-barred true.”

    It’s of course not a matter of whether this behavior exists, but whether it properly characterizes the vast majority of those depend on a system of government welfare. I for one couldn’t take a position on this matter – not because I desire to take the assumed “higher road”, but because I really don’t know.

    “Marxism is a series of false ideas. You can believe in them until all you want. They sound utilitarian. They should good and fair. The reality is that when they are applied they are a four-flushing, eye watering, pant load. They are destructive. They do more damage than good. They are a bad fruit.”

    This is a very interesting comment in view of the argument of “truth”. Unlike it’s counterparts, Marxism really wasn’t about truth in a theological sense. In fact, his superfluous work – Kapital – was in fact an indictment against the bad fruits of capitalism. Even so, it does not pretend to some type of truth that exists independent of people. It points to many of the socially bad fruits inherent in a society which pre-occupies itself soley in the greed based activity of wealth-getting. I agree, his ideas behind central planning are ideal at best (an ideal not at all different from consecration) and fail in practical application. At the same time, his characterization of overproduction of useless commodities (take a stroll through Wal-Mart and then try and tell me how much of what you see actually amounts to progress) which enrich the few, and enslave the rest, isn’t to far off from the rhetoric we hear in Church. I remember reading a talk several years ago about how so many members forsake opportunities to serve in the Church because they’re busy working beyond the “standard” 40 hours per week – or the often criticized, albeit subtle, working class mother who would forsake children to maintain the families extravagance, etc. Yet, you can see a blanket categorization of “truth” as dividing economic systems of Marxism and Capitalism, based on the alleged fruits of excessive currency manipulation under the Bush and Obama administrations? Under these conditions faith sounded a lot better when it just equaled belief.

  108. I understand what is meant behind the statement: “I know the Church is true” or “I know that The Book of Mormon is true” or “I know Joseph Smith was a true Prophet”.

    I disagree with these statements, but I do get it. But, what exactly does it mean to say: “I know that Capitalism is true” or the alternative “Marxism is a series of false ideas”.

    Eliminate the word “false” and I get it, but how do they become “true” or “false”?

  109. “I feel, nevertheless, that such characterizations are dehumanizing…caricature…stereotypes”

    Who said anything about “stereotypes”? When I refer to “some trailer trash welfare type,” I am referring to those people who fit the type. Obviously not all welfare recipients, or trailer dwellers, are trash. But those that are, are objectively trashy.

    And what’s “dehumanizing” about any of this? The attributes that make my relative by marriage who he is — laziness, self-delusion, dishonesty, addiction, arrogance, cruelty, callousness, and utter self-destructive stupidity — are uniquely human traits. Just not good ones. (I suppose calling him a “parasite” would be “dehumanizing,” as it would compare him to a tapeworm or something, but the point is that most of his vices have no cognates in the non-human biological world.) A bad person is no less of a human being — he’s just not a particularly good one.

    Anyway, I believe we go overboard in our allergies to stereotypes. Obviously if you draw the boundaries of a group broadly enough — by ethnicity, say, or general circumstance — you lose any useful correlation between the general group characteristics and the characteristics of any of its individual members. On the other hand, the tighter you draw the group boundaries, the more likely a randomly-selected person from within the group will share the group’s average characteristics.

    And st1305 didn’t say that all trailer-dwellers or recipients of government assistance (and really, we’re pretty much all of us on the government teat to some extent — although some of us get rather less back than we pay in) are morally inferior. But there absolutely is a class of people who take advantage of the system (and their relatives, and everyone else within range), and they make things damned near impossible for the rest of us.

    Alexandra Pelosi (Nancy’s daughter) is making a documentary about the “motel kids of Orange County. She goes out of her way to avoid “judging” the parents of these people, suggesting that they are by and large the working poor who just can’t make ends meet in our mean, greedy rich county. Pig poop and prairie piles. I have *yet* to identify one such person, in my fairly extensive dealings with people in these circumstance, who fits that fiction. My heart bleeds for the kids, who aren’t responsible for their parents. I am doing probably well more than I can afford to keep one such kid from being shunted back into the motel. But if we think it’s too mean or impolite to point out, to a dishonest and delusional person, that he’s being colossally self-destructive, and so we pretend that he really is just a noble working poor person down on his luck, such that a little public help can fix, we absolutely will get more of the bad behavior we subsidize — and pretty soon our state goes bankrupt.

    “Are we not all beggars?” Yes, in a figurative sense. In the real world sense, absolutely bloody not, any more than “are we not all sinners?” makes me the moral equivalent of the Night Stalker.

  110. Post
    Author

    re 110:

    no, what I was trying to convey was the idea that that’s all that they are. I guess caricature was more appropos? The dehumanizing comment is that people are more than just their worst traits.

  111. Cowboy,

    Let’s go back to the previous parallel between the free market and free agency. Yes, the free market results in an unequal distribution of wealth, but does not free agency result in the unequal distribution of blessings? Under both, some will succeed, some will fail and some will fall somewhere in the middle. Does not the free market coincide more closely with the plan of salvation than Marxism? After all, the father of doubt and fear, Lucifer “sought to take away the agency of man?” Why did he? Should those that are entitled to celestial blessings have to redistribute them to those in lower kingdoms? Or, is it a complete merit system?

    Andrew S,

    Please take this as it is intended, offensive: your comment “Marxism is a belief that, when applied, enlarges plenty of people’s souls and enlightens plenty of people’s minds.” is a four-flushing, eye-watering, pant load. What a crock. The only thing enlarged is some dictators pot-belly in North Korea following this model.

  112. Re Andrew S

    However, I think that the verification/falsification problem hits upon a much bigger one…the problem of induction.

    Shoot, I thought I mentioned that.

    So you say that crossing a bridge doesn’t require as much faith as faith in a religious principle.

    Well, I wouldn’t say it quite like this, but that’s because I don’t quantify belief, faith, or confidence. I think of it as a probability distribution. I think this is a more informative way of looking at why people do things than to play semantic games with belief, faith, and knowledge. In fact, I wrote 4 posts about it. I won’t bore you with it here, but I explored these issues as I see them, specifically the idea of verification as inductive reasoning.

    But there is one thing that you must take on faith to be able to make any of these calculations. You must take on faith that the future will persist like the past. Now, you may say, “well, that is probable, since in the past, the future has persisted like the past”…but again, this begs the question and assumes the premise.

    I agree completely. It is inductive reasoning. I think we’re saying the same thing.

  113. “At the same time, his characterization of overproduction of useless commodities (take a stroll through Wal-Mart and then try and tell me how much of what you see actually amounts to progress)…”

    Give me triple-ply Wal-Mart toilet paper over Soviet-vintage sandpaper any day. Progress? Absolutely.

    Where Marx was objectively, demonstrably wrong (apart from his reliance on the Labor Theory of Value, which falls apart the moment you give it a second’s thought — a handcrafted chair, for instance, isn’t necessarily ten times more inherently valuable than a machine-made chair, even if the former takes ten times as many labor hours) was his thesis that capitalism would constantly run through cycles of overproduction, resulting in the steady immiseration of the masses and causing capitalism to collapse. In actual, objective fact, the opposite occurred: By any measure, standards of living, in any of the capitalist countries (hell, even in the semi-Communist countries, to the extent they let the capitalist camel into the tent at all) have risen, not fallen, since 1848. Karl got it wrong. There’s really no denying this, although the National Lawyers’ Guild and other Marxist imbecile groups greets every single recession with bated breath — this time, at long last, it’s the long-prophesied Crisis of Capitalism!

    Any similarities between those guys and Linus with his Great Pumpkin are merely coincidental.

    He got it wrong because there is no such thing as overproduction. There is only malproduction — production of certain quantities of goods and services, when the aggregate market would actually prefer a different mix of goods and services. (Leisure, btw, is an economic good.)

    I happen to like Wal-Mart, and not just because liberals are supposed to hate it. I prefer paying $5 for laundry detergent than $8. Sue me. Ditto $50 for a car battery (installed!) instead of $80 at Sears. I suppose I could live like the Amish, and be more spiritually fulfilled, but if history is any guide, the downside to running a whole civilization on a subsistence-agriculture basis is that you have to get a lot more familiar with the occasional famine, epidemic, or whatnot. Not to mention really abrasive toilet paper.

  114. “At the same time, his characterization of overproduction of useless commodities (take a stroll through Wal-Mart and then try and tell me how much of what you see actually amounts to progress)…”

    Give me triple-ply Wal-Mart toilet paper over Soviet-vintage sandpaper any day. Progress? Absolutely.

    Where Marx was objectively, demonstrably wrong (apart from his reliance on the Labor Theory of Value, which falls apart the moment you give it a second’s thought — a handcrafted chair, for instance, isn’t necessarily ten times more inherently valuable than a machine-made chair, even if the former takes ten times as many labor hours) was his thesis that capitalism would constantly run through cycles of overproduction, resulting in the steady immiseration of the masses and causing capitalism to collapse. In actual, objective fact, the opposite occurred: By any measure, standards of living, in any of the capitalist countries (hell, even in the semi-Communist countries, to the extent they let the capitalist camel into the tent at all) have risen, not fallen, since 1848. Karl got it wrong. There’s really no denying this, although the National Lawyers’ Guild and other Marxist imbecile groups greets every single recession with bated breath — this time, at long last, it’s the long-prophesied Crisis of Capitalism!

    Any similarities between those guys and Linus with his Great Pumpkin are merely coincidental.

    He got it wrong because there is no such thing as overproduction. There is only malproduction — production of certain quantities of goods and services, when the aggregate market would actually prefer a different mix of goods and services. (Leisure, btw, is an economic good.)

    I happen to like Wal-Mart, and not just because liberals are supposed to hate it. I prefer paying $5 for laundry detergent than $8. Sue me. Ditto $50 for a car battery (installed!) instead of $80 at Sears. I suppose I could live like the Amish, and be more spiritually fulfilled, but if history is any guide, the downside to running a whole civilization on a subsistence-agriculture basis is that you have to get a lot more familiar with the occasional famine, epidemic, or whatnot. Not to mention really abrasive toilet paper.

  115. #110 — Is it “caricature” to characterize a person by his most obvious characteristics? When you think of LeBron James, you think “supremely talented and filthy rich basketball player.” It’s not necessarily a caricature to say that, and omit mentioning that he’s also a stamp collector and a superb ballroom dancer.

  116. Post
    Author

    re 112,

    st1305, I’m just saying that that kind of brazen statement, offense and all or not, just rings exactly the same as what anyone could say about anything. Anti-Mos about the church, etc.,

    re 113,

    jmb, you mentioned it, but you didn’t realize the significance. The problem of induction doesn’t just mean things are more or less probable. The problem of induction means you have no way to justify your probability distribution at all without taking a leap of faith. I read and enjoyed your series, even if at some point it went over my head, lol. Maybe I should go back, but it seems like your comment here, and your posts then, are saying something like, “OK, so it’s useless to debate the leap of faith that we take. Because we take it. But, continuing on…let’s look at the applications across the board.”

  117. Post
    Author

    re 116:

    To *reduce* Lebron James only to his obvious characteristics is, yes, a caricature. If I’m talking about James in context of being a basketball player, then I’m going to talk about his talent there. But I shouldn’t forget, pretend, or believe that that is all he is.

  118. Oh, I’m not forgetting that a bum is a fellow man For Whom Christ Also Died. And in a direct, interpersonal contact, his non-bum characteristics would doubtless come to the fore. He may well be charming in conversation, and we’d probably have a grand time in a bar, if I went to bars. But just as I really don’t think much of LeBron James one way or the other except for when I’m thinking about him qua basketball player, to the extent a bum interacts with me much, it’s typically in the context of me being forced to pay for the consequences of his bummery. So yes, I think of him as human being first, bum second, and charming stamp collector or dog lover or whatever rarely if at all.

  119. #17 Andrew: “st1305, I’m just saying that that kind of brazen statement, offense and all or not, just rings exactly the same as what anyone could say about anything. Anti-Mos about the church, etc.”

    Anyone could say that Mormons are a bunch of clannish delusional self-righteous Republican goody-goodies. For that matter, anyone could say that Mormons bake the blood of Gentile children into funeral potatoes for secret ceremonies on their god Joseph Smith’s birthday, after which they celebrate the Law of Consummation on the altar in the secret chamber of the temple. But they would be wrong.

    On the other hand, a person who makes the “brazen” statement that a self-destructive parasitical trashy bum is a bum, would not be wrong.

    Some stereotypes are unfairer than others.

  120. Post
    Author
  121. Post
    Author
  122. Thomas –

    I would remind you that the initial criticism of welfare recipients, as per st1305, was generally applied and not specifically to any one person. You attempted a bold defense by citing a single instance within your immediate family circle, but still seemed to generally apply the ad hominem accross the board. You are manipulating the argument so as to make blanket assertions about welfare beneficiaries, while trying to dodge accountability for such a lacking argument. That disappoints because you are generally very articulate and well reasoned.

    As for your response regarding Marx – Again we agree more than this conversation may allude, because quite frankly I largely agree with your critique (especially regarding labor-theory-of-value, though your analogy doesn’t quite work because under Marx’s theory there is no competition and production is effecient, but that presents a flaw of reason). I would agree that ultimately Marx’s theories do fail, but largely because he fails to acknowledge the tendencies of government to promote agenda’s other than efficient output and general welfare. As for cycles, again debatable particularly due to Keynes, after all, who’s to say that capitalism might not have imploded following the depression. I seem to recall a conversation some time back where you challenged using that same notion, making the counterpoint that free-markets have not been allowed to run their cycles. Where we differ, is that while we both acknowledge that Marx was wrong in many of his conclusions, you seem to trying to force a zero-sum game on economic policies and thought. I on the other hand, come across a bit more “social” than my true sentiments partly as a knee-jerk reaction to what I percieve as extreme free-market advocacy.

  123. “Does not the free market coincide more closely with the plan of salvation than Marxism?”

    NOPE!

    Under the plan of salvation, no person truly earns their wage. Sure, they are expected to yield some level of production, for the sake of analogy, but each person is ultimately appealing to the Government (Christ) to give them the benefit of a gift they did not earn. King Benjamin likened us each to the beggars, which comparison Thomas conveniently dismissed(#110 – figurative?), to demonstrate that we neither do nor can offer an adequate sacrifice. In the false dichotomy between a world of laborless production with universal handouts, and a strict you reap what you sow, perhaps you have a point. In the real world, very few if any of us are are benefited only by our exclusive efforts. Nothing about redemption bears semblance to capitalism.

  124. Re Andrew S

    jmb, you mentioned it, but you didn’t realize the significance.

    Hmmm, perhaps I don’t understand what you mean.

    The problem of induction doesn’t just mean things are more or less probable. The problem of induction means you have no way to justify your probability distribution at all without taking a leap of faith.

    In one sense I agree. The problem of induction doesn’t just mean things are more or less probable. But the latter half of this statement I do disagree with. This was the whole point of my series. Bayesian inference is the ONLY reliable mechanism of justifying inductive reasoning, and that’s precisely why probability is a useful tool for casting the inductive reasoning problem. I completely understand that it is not just probability. The problem is that to assume there’s no way to justify an inductive conclusion is to completely ignore that the premises have any information. This is exactly what Shannon’s information theory sought to do – assign information (value) to the premises, even though we could not draw a specific conclusion. Think of it like this: in Bayesian inference you use the premises to search for the conclusion. That’s why it’s justified, because you allowed the information to guide you to the conclusion rather than drawing an invalid conclusion as is normally the case in inductive reasoning.

    This statement from Wikipedia on the “inductive reasoning” page says it very well:

    Of the candidate systems for an inductive logic, the most influential is Bayesianism. As a logic of induction rather than a theory of belief, Bayesianism does not determine which beliefs are a priori rational, but rather determines how we should rationally change the beliefs we have when presented with evidence. We begin by committing to an (really any) hypothesis, and when faced with evidence, we adjust the strength of our belief in that hypothesis in a precise manner using bayesian logic.

    Now if by “justify” you strictly mean that I cannot deductively draw my conclusion from the premises, then sure, I agree. But I can easily justify to 99.99999% of the world’s population that if they cross a bridge at any given time it will most likely not collapse. Some people are all too eager to say that inductive reasoning is all fallacious and cannot be trusted, and others are all too eager to draw wild conclusions for which the premises were hardly sufficient.

    “OK, so it’s useless to debate the leap of faith that we take. Because we take it. But, continuing on…let’s look at the applications across the board.”

    Well, I don’t want to beat a dead horse, and I’m totally derailing the wonderful discussion of economic theory here, but that’s not quite it. I think it’s very important to debate the leap of faith. But I think it is useless to try and quantify the faith required to make a leap as a universal constant (which most Mormons are wont to do). This is what leads to rigid Mormons viewing my nuanced view of tithing as “faithless.” They tell me if I had more faith I would pay on my gross. My argument is that the point at which one takes the leap of faith is arbitrary and based on a subjective evaluation of observations, a priori information, as well as what kinds of “evidence” (observations) one considers valid. Actually, the applications had nothing to do with it. Dang, if that’s the message you got from my posts then I really did a crappy job! I guess I need to rethink how I present it.

  125. Cowboy,

    Wait a minute. What about “work out your own salvation with fear and trembling?”. What about “I God have suffered these things for all that they might not suffer if they would repent?” What about the repentance process? The repentance process is just that, a process. Some will follow that process and some will not. God does not arbitrarily assign us to a kingdom, we are assigned based on spiritual merit. His decisions are not arbitrary and capricious or he would cease to be God. He is the perfect judge. For that matter, what about the judgment? If he is going to arbitrary decide where we go, why have a judgment? For that matter, if we are not here to be tested and tried and judged, then why are we here? We go to different kingdoms based on what law we can live, be it the Celestial, Terrestrial or Telestial law. It is a merit based system.

    St1305 1, Cowboy 0

  126. If I am you are “generally very articulate and well reasoned,” Cowboy, it might be wise to consider the possibility that you’re misreading me. If you can point to where I came close to making any blanket assertion about welfare recipients (a group which includes a former bishop of mine — a decent, and now filthy rich, human being — then I was not writing as clearly as I try to do.

    “As for cycles, again debatable particularly due to Keynes, after all, who’s to say that capitalism might not have imploded following the depression.”

    Capitalism can’t “implode,” as long as there’s an Adam and Eve left in a country to barter fig leaves for apples. Capitalism is the natural state of economics; it operates unless it’s actively suppressed. Democracy, on the other hand, can. And you could make a fair argument that democracy could have imploded if the Depression had continued unabated. It happened in several places across the pond, after all. Of course, neither capitalism nor democracy “imploded” during the panic & depression-heavy period 1873-1898, so the speculative possibility of a 1930s implosion is arguing against the historical record.

    “Under the plan of salvation, no person truly earns their wage. Sure, they are expected to yield some level of production, for the sake of analogy, but each person is ultimately appealing to the Government (Christ) to give them the benefit of a gift they did not earn.”

    Touche. But of course in Mormon theology, it’s “after all we can do.” So maybe the kingdom of heaven is more of a mixed economy.

    On the other hand, who said that capitalists can’t give gifts? The gospel would only resemble redistributive socialism, if the salvation Paul received as a free gift from Christ, had been forcibly taken from Peter. 🙂

  127. Post
    Author

    re 126,

    jmb

    Bayesian inference is the ONLY reliable mechanism of justifying inductive reasoning

    This assumes that bayesian inference reliably justifies inductive reasoning in the first place, rather than being the only reliable mechanism of justifying inductive reasoning IFF inductive reasoning can be justified in the first place.

    I think your quotation from the wikipedia page puts it well:

    Bayesianism does not determine which beliefs are a priori rational. and We begin by committing to an (really any) hypothesis, and when faced with evidence, we adjust the strength of our belief in that hypothesis in a precise manner using bayesian logic.

    Now if by “justify” you strictly mean that I cannot deductively draw my conclusion from the premises, then sure, I agree. But I can easily justify to 99.99999% of the world’s population that if they cross a bridge at any given time it will most likely not collapse. Some people are all too eager to say that inductive reasoning is all fallacious and cannot be trusted, and others are all too eager to draw wild conclusions for which the premises were hardly sufficient.

    The reason you can easily justify to 99.99999% of the world’s population is because 99.99999% of the world’s population takes this radical faith that induction is reliable to begin with. In other words, they are not “all too eager to say that inductive reasoning is all fallacious and cannot be trusted,” because they believe there is something, or Someone, holding it all together. But we have no way to deduce that it is held together, and all of our induction cannot establish it either.

    I think you took my final message far deeper than I had intended it. When I say you have said, “It’s useless to debate the leap of faith that we take,” what I mean is, you don’t seriously consider that “inductive reasoning is all fallacious and cannot be trusted.” You, and 99.99999% of people, just take the faith.

    Instead, after taking this leap of faith, you decide, “OK, so now that we accept that inductive reasoning is reliable, how does it work best.” And you have Bayesian inference for this.

    My point is simple: you and the 99.99999% of people take this inductive reasoning to be reliable in the first place, but you have no rational, a priori foundation to do so. You either have faith OR a circular argument.

  128. Re Andrew S

    This assumes that bayesian inference reliably justifies inductive reasoning in the first place, rather than being the only reliable mechanism of justifying inductive reasoning IFF inductive reasoning can be justified in the first place.

    Of course. Again, I guess we’re quibbling over the term “justify.” Again, if you’re meaning that I cannot deductively draw a conclusion then it’s certainly true. I’m not at all saying that it doesn’t take faith, or an assumption of the validity of Bayesian inference.

    Bayesianism does not determine which beliefs are a priori rational. and We begin by committing to an (really any) hypothesis, and when faced with evidence, we adjust the strength of our belief in that hypothesis in a precise manner using bayesian logic.

    The trick here is that the “hypothesis” could be no hypothesis, or more explicitly, a uniform distribution, favoring no specific hypothesis over the other. But Bayesian inference still works. As I said, in this type of inductive reasoning the premises lead one to the conclusion. The conclusion is a moving target. It “feels” more “deductive” in that light, even though I admit it took faith to assume BI would even work.

    The reason you can easily justify to 99.99999% of the world’s population is because 99.99999% of the world’s population takes this radical faith that induction is reliable to begin with. In other words, they are not “all too eager to say that inductive reasoning is all fallacious and cannot be trusted,” because they believe there is something, or Someone, holding it all together. But we have no way to deduce that it is held together, and all of our induction cannot establish it either.

    Absolutely. But we also have no way to deduce that deductive logic is valid a priori. After all, we have to assume that it will work the same way 5 minutes from now that it does now.

    My point is simple: you and the 99.99999% of people take this inductive reasoning to be reliable in the first place, but you have no rational, a priori foundation to do so. You either have faith OR a circular argument.

    Yes, I guess so. Is a bzillion observations of what happened in the past not a rational, a priori foundation? Again, not deductive, but certainly rational in our world where it is, in fact, the case that something holds the world together from one moment to the next. Could we not just as well attack deductive logic in this fashion? The assumption that words communicate a specific premise from which a conclusion can be deductively drawn? Even if deductive reasoning is only limited to mathematical symbols, we had to define those symbols in the first place, requiring language, requiring an assumption of what it meant. Is this not circular? We’re getting into Wittgenstein’s work now (though I confess to being merely a Wikipedia-trained amateur philosopher, so real philosophers could be laughing at me as I write this).

    Perhaps the real difference in what we’re saying is a difference in personality. As an engineer I accept the practical as valid even if it falls outside of some idealistic box. Perhaps my argument is no more complicated than “hey, this works, so it’s valid.” OTOH you’re pointing out that it still isn’t ideal (with which I agree). Maybe this is what you were saying earlier.

    Nevertheless, I really appreciate you pointing out where you think I got it wrong. Helps me refine my ideas.

  129. Post
    Author

    Yes, I guess so. Is a billion observations of what happened in the past not a rational, a priori foundation?

    A billion observations are experiences. It is a pretty clear-cut a posteriori foundation. As soon as you say “not deductive,” you then are a) trying to use induction to solve the problem of induction itself or b) having the faith that it is, “in fact, the case that somethings holds the world together from one moment to the next” (and will in the future).

    Even if deductive reasoning is only limited to mathematical symbols, we had to define those symbols in the first place, requiring language, requiring an assumption of what it meant.

    This ultimately depends on whether you are a mathematical realist or not. Do we “invent” math and mathematical symbols, or do we discover them?

    I have no problem with saying something “works, so it’s valid.” I think most people would end up saying something like that. BUT this simply relies and points to a foundation, “Things will work as they’ve always worked” which relies on the circular argument “because that’s the way they’ve worked in the past” or on faith that constancy is ensured.

    This faith that constancy is ensured is most practical, yes, but with every moment of constancy, all you are doing is verifying. It underlies the entire scientific enterprise, so in 99, where you say science uses both verifiability and falsifiability, but religion only uses verifiability…well, things aren’t so clear-cut.

  130. A billion observations are experiences. It is a pretty clear-cut a posteriori foundation.

    Doesn’t this depend on how I look at it?
    1. Is past experience a rational foundation for acting in the future? I say yes, even if it is inductive, it can still be rational. After all, “rational” means an optimal decision (easily fitting into the BI framework) given all information available. In my posts, I defined rationality as acting in accordance with one’s confidence. This puts the rationality out of the realm of an absolute metric and places it where it should lie, in the subjective experience of an individual.

    2. Ah, I see what you’re saying now with a posteriori. I looked it up in the propositional logic sense and see what you mean. Perhaps then we have a language problem here. In the mathematical world, an a priori distribution can easily be shown to be an a posteriori distribution from a recent time. This is the basis for all Markov Chain processes.

    This ultimately depends on whether you are a mathematical realist or not. Do we “invent” math and mathematical symbols, or do we discover them?

    Well, I suspect you know more about the philosophy of math than I do. Personally, I think we invent math. I don’t see it as a natural consequence of the world, but our imposition of organization and meaning on the world. This “feels” obvious to me, though clearly I cannot deduce it.

    This faith that constancy is ensured is most practical, yes, but with every moment of constancy, all you are doing is verifying.

    Agreed. I guess I thought I made it clear that it was nothing more than verification. But it is a specific type of verification in which probability is used as the mechanism by which the premises can lead us to a conclusion with some probability. This is what makes it so different than regular logic. Keep in mind, that BI does not claim to have reached a conclusion. It claims to have formed a distribution. The distribution is a confidence metric on the entire answer space. The fact that I then use that distribution, by taking a mean and standard deviation, to draw a specific conclusion, is the leap of faith. But it’s also the only rational thing to do.

    It underlies the entire scientific enterprise, so in 99, where you say science uses both verifiability and falsifiability, but religion only uses verifiability…well, things aren’t so clear-cut.

    Agreed again. But this is, in part, because we’ve drilled down to the most base elements here. Wittgenstein did the same thing and ended up with a conclusion that logic is basically useless. At a higher level, falsifiability and verifiability are different mechanisms used to gain knowledge. At that level, I can test whether or not my iPhone, given a particular antenna design, meets some arbitrary criteria for performance. Religion has a hard time doing that with ANY of its principles because they are out of that realm (let’s forget about “age of the earth” type religious principles).

    I guess this type of discussion is what I get for venturing into a realm in which I am not an expert. BTW, I thought you were an accountant or something. How is it you appear to know philosophy so well?

  131. Post
    Author

    re 133,

    1) It can be a rational posteriori foundation if you already accept inductive reasoning as valid. To note, what I liked about your posts was how it took rationality into the subjective realm. I’m just saying that a lot of people wouldn’t like that.

    2) Intriguing on both the example of Markov chains and on being a mathematical constructionist. If math is invented, then I agree that what you have said about mathematical symbols would hold true. OTOH, I am not so sure that 1 + 1 = 2 just because we impose that on the universe. I think that the symbols “1” and “2” are arbitrary, but the concept of whatever 1 being, and whatever another 1 being being added together making some thing that is 1 and 1, or 2…I don’t think that is just imposed.

    Religion has a hard time doing that with ANY of its principles because they are out of that realm (let’s forget about “age of the earth” type religious principles).

    😀 hehe, I was going to actually bring that in eventually…

    But I guess I see what you’re saying.

    P.S.: I don’t know philosophy all that well either, or math even, or the philosophy of math, etc., There simply aren’t (m)any real philosophers here to smack me down (which has happened a few times, hehe). I’m really just throwing out some ideas, but without any solutions (kinda like anyone can complain, but only creative people will come up with solutions). My next post, interestingly enough, will probably bring in some accounting. I hope it doesn’t bore everyone.

  132. OTOH, I am not so sure that 1 + 1 = 2 just because we impose that on the universe. I think that the symbols “1″ and “2″ are arbitrary, but the concept of whatever 1 being, and whatever another 1 being being added together making some thing that is 1 and 1, or 2…I don’t think that is just imposed.

    Yeah, I actually could see this as I was writing that I thought we invented math. Perhaps it is just the symbols I think we invent. I dunno know. For simple things like addition/subtraction, it does feel like we “discovered” it. But for things like manifold theory, linear algebra, diff eq, etc. it feels as if they are simply constructs for doing math without any real physical interpretation. Take imaginary numbers for example. Without complex number theory (real and imaginary parts if you forgot) virtually all of Electrical Engineering would fall apart mathematically. Yet clearly it has no physical interpretation. It is just a mathematical invention to ease us through the process of obtaining some mathematical representation of something. In this example, math seems to be something we imposed on the world.

    My next post, interestingly enough, will probably bring in some accounting. I hope it doesn’t bore everyone.

    Can’t wait to read it!

  133. Post
    Author

    jmb,

    your thoughts about complex numbers (and electrical engineering) are interesting, because when I first learned about imaginary numbers, I had been thinking, “Wow, why would anyone use this,” and then my teachers had pointed out, “EE.” and I was like, “Oh, wow.”

    How is electrical engineering not a physical interpretation of complex number theory?

    I mean, it’s like saying that the laws and theories of gravity and the equations related to gravity are just a “representation” of gravity and are just imposed on the world. No, it seems to me that gravity is itself imposed on the world. We’re just discovering a way to describe and explain it.

  134. Hmm, okay, I’ve now responded to you like 5 times and then erased it. A lot of it boils down do this:

    We’re just discovering a way to describe and explain it.

    Just about everything, even imaginary numbers, are just a way of describing something. It seems to me, some of these descriptions have a more intuitive physical realization than others. But the description, as we’ve invented it, works.

    But here’s the rub: the typical equations related to gravity do NOT describe gravity very well at all. They would, in a perfect world, in a vacuum, with a perfect sphere, with no other celestial bodies in a perfect universe as we’ve described it to be with our language and mathematical constructs. But that’s not the case. A better representation of gravity is the gravity related equations plus an allowance for error or noise. But we never know what the noise will be a priori for the reasons you have identified in this thread. This is where BI comes in. If we make a few assumptions about the type of noise, we can, actually, “know” what the noise is and filter it out (this is what we do generally in engineering).

    So is this “discovery” of the description, or an “invention” of the description? Even the stuff that represents the noise is a branch of mathematics (albeit a very different one). So I dunno.

    As per imaginary numbers, like negative numbers, they may correspond to something physical (bits in a computer that represent a deficit), but if we’re counting apples what does -5 apples mean? Imaginary numbers may represent something physical in some cases, but since I can’t actually perform sqrt(-1) (it’s undefined) I don’t know what it means in real life. I dunno it feels like a pretty gray area to me.

    BTW, since I got tired of erasing, here’s what I originally wrote, but I rethought it:

    Gravity is a physical phenomenon that is described by a mathematical construct (let’s stick with Newton for now and assume gravity really does exist as Newton thought).

    Complex number theory is just a useful construct to get around this problem that we have of always encountering sqrt(-1). We just say, “let’s call that i” (actually in EE we call it j since i refers to electrical current typically). Then Euler came along and made, arguably, the most important discovery in EE history. He said e^(ix) = cos(x) + i*sin(x). And thus EE was born. I’m being a bit facetious here, but it is sort of like that.

    BTW, my specialty is signals and systems so I speak from a signal processing point of view. From that point of view, Fourier analysis is our “bread and butter.” From Wikipedia:

    In the study of Fourier series, complicated periodic functions are written as the sum of simple waves mathematically represented by sines and cosines. Due to the properties of sine and cosine it is possible to recover the amount of each wave in the sum by an integral. In many cases it is desirable to use Euler’s formula, which states that e^(2πiθ) = cos(2πθ) + i*sin(2πθ), to write Fourier series in terms of the basic waves e^(2πiθ). This has the advantage of simplifying many of the formulas involved and providing a formulation for Fourier series that more closely resembles the definition followed in this article. This passage from sines and cosines to complex exponentials makes it necessary for the Fourier coefficients to be complex valued. The usual interpretation of this complex number is that it gives you both the amplitude (or size) of the wave present in the function and the phase (or the initial angle) of the wave.

    In this instance, the usual interpretation is that the complex number gives you amplitude and phase. In this way, however, all complex numbers really buy you is a 2-D plane on which we plot frequency information, coupled with some nice mathematical properties. It doesn’t mean that i has some physical meaning, just that we use it to simplify the mathematics. Sometimes solutions to problems have a term in them containing an i. In real life, we just leave it out since it has no physical meaning.

    BTW, no one ever teaches this explicitly in school. It drove me crazy for years trying to figure out what was going on with imaginary numbers. I would try to code up a signal processing algorithm and would scratch my head over how to implement an i (seems so silly in retrospect). It’s a gray area to be sure, but since the sqrt(-1) is not possible, i really has no physical meaning. In fact, not even -1 is possible. You can’t have negative apples after all. But negative numbers are indeed useful for keeping track of many things (like the national debt for example 😉 ).

  135. Post
    Author

    jmb

    When you said:

    So is this “discovery” of the description, or an “invention” of the description? Even the stuff that represents the noise is a branch of mathematics (albeit a very different one). So I dunno.

    That made me reconsider some things. I guess the description is generally an invention…but that’s just the description. The signal and the noise and what the descriptions are trying to describe are discoveries. I guess then that we just prefer to have more order than to have chaos.

    It doesn’t mean that i has some physical meaning, just that we use it to simplify the mathematics. Sometimes solutions to problems have a term in them containing an i. In real life, we just leave it out since it has no physical meaning.

    BTW, no one ever teaches this explicitly in school. It drove me crazy for years trying to figure out what was going on with imaginary numbers. I would try to code up a signal processing algorithm and would scratch my head over how to implement an i (seems so silly in retrospect). It’s a gray area to be sure, but since the sqrt(-1) is not possible, i really has no physical meaning. In fact, not even -1 is possible. You can’t have negative apples after all. But negative numbers are indeed useful for keeping track of many things (like the national debt for example 😉 ).

    It’s going to take me 7 billion years to truly grasp any of this stuff though, LOL. I am DEFINITELY outmatched on the math stuff here.

  136. I guess the description is generally an invention…but that’s just the description. The signal and the noise and what the descriptions are trying to describe are discoveries. I guess then that we just prefer to have more order than to have chaos.

    That’s EXACTLY how I see it.

  137. Post
    Author
  138. And then we discover that there are multiple descriptions of what we are trying to explain that work equally well. And THEN we discover that the physical interpretations we give to the various descriptions are mutually incompatable.

    I knew math was deeper than I could imagine when I read a mathematician’s statement that “there are about 149 separate systems of algebra.”

    It was the “about” that was the mind-shutting basilisk.

  139. Post
    Author

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *