Elder Holland Publicly Denounces Past Racist Teachings by LDS Church Leaders

John Dehlin Mormon 126 Comments

“One clear-cut position is that the folklore must never be perpetuated. … I have to concede to my earlier colleagues. … They, I’m sure, in their own way, were doing the best they knew to give shape to [the policy], to give context for it, to give even history to it. All I can say is however well intended the explanations were, I think almost all of them were inadequate and/or wrong.

… It probably would have been advantageous to say nothing, to say we just don’t know, and, [as] with many religious matters, whatever was being done was done on the basis of faith at that time. But some explanations were given and had been given for a lot of years. … At the very least, there should be no effort to perpetuate those efforts to explain why that doctrine existed. I think, to the extent that I know anything about it, as one of the newer and younger ones to come along, … we simply do not know why that practice, that policy, that doctrine was in place…

[when asked to specify the folklore] Well, some of the folklore that you must be referring to are suggestions that there were decisions made in the pre-mortal councils where someone had not been as decisive in their loyalty to a Gospel plan or the procedures on earth or what was to unfold in mortality, and that therefore that opportunity and mortality was compromised. I really don’t know a lot of the details of those, because fortunately I’ve been able to live in the period where we’re not expressing or teaching them, but I think that’s the one I grew up hearing the most, was that it was something to do with the pre-mortal councils. …

But I think that’s the part that must never be taught until anybody knows a lot more than I know. … We just don’t know, in the historical context of the time, why it was practiced. …That’s my principal [concern], is that we don’t perpetuate explanations about things we don’t know. …We don’t pretend that something wasn’t taught or practice wasn’t pursued for whatever reason. But I think we can be unequivocal and we can be declarative in our current literature, in books that we reproduce, in teachings that go forward, whatever, that from this time forward, from 1978 forward, we can make sure that nothing of that is declared. That may be where we still need to make sure that we’re absolutely dutiful, that we put [a] careful eye of scrutiny on anything from earlier writings and teachings, just [to] make sure that that’s not perpetuated in the present. That’s the least, I think, of our current responsibilities on that topic. … “

LDS Apostle Jeffrey R. Holland
March 4, 2006
PBS Interview

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OK….so this is a few years old.  But this is the first time I’ve seen this quote.

Amazing, right?  I’m sure that many would like to hear this said over the pulpit at General Conference…but spoken to a major network isn’t shabby.

If you’re concerned that this isn’t public knowledge enough within the church, then what are you waiting for!  Spread the word.  Elder Holland has your back.


Comments

comments

Comments 126

  1. “That may be where we still need to make sure that we’re absolutely dutiful, that we put [a] careful eye of scrutiny on anything from earlier writings and teachings” This is a great bit of counsel. There seems to be a weird tendency in this church to favor “old” church publications over new ones and “old” church history tomes over more recent ones. The problem, of course, is that research has continued to unearth new findings and to debunk old mistakes. Those who cling to the old books are also clinging to erroneous ideas in many cases.

  2. This is something that is truly baffling to me. Most Christian Churches don’t believe in continuing revelation, so they’re bound to the literature of the past. Their faith is based on whether 2000 year old statements stand up to current culture or scrutiny, etc. That’s a tough row to hoe, especially when you consider Paul’s statements on slavery, women, and the OT’s genocide and murder, etc.

    We believe that due to continuing revelation, our revelation gets BETTER and more refined all the time. Why tie ourselves to revelations in the past? I don’t get it. That’s one of our selling points! Why adopt the inerrantist positions of everyone else?

  3. Two and a half cheers for Elder Holland.

    The fact remains that the LDS Church shared in probably the greatest blasphemy in American religious history — the enlistment of God on the side of the segregationists. It was a moral failing equal in kind (if not in degree) to the failure of the German churches, apart from a few, to respond properly to Nazism.

    This has always been one of the main foundations of my skepticism that the LDS Church is the exclusive, literal kingdom of God on earth, guided by a special revelation unlike all other churches. On this crucial question, the Church failed. It remained in the wrong when other, “uninspired” churches got it right.

  4. “We just don’t know, in the historical context of the time, why it was practiced.”

    What is he getting at, here? Based on his earlier statement that previous explanations were “inadequate and/or wrong,” I think it becomes pretty dang clear “in the historical context of the time” why it was practiced. Is E. Holland just doing his darnedest not to throw his predecessors under the bus? Or do we really know less about this doctrine than we know about any other doctrine?

  5. I always had high hopes for the Church from my days with Jeff Holland at BYU. It doesn’t surprise me that he thinks this way. The way he incorporated his wife Pat into his duties as President at BYU was a model for how gender relations could be improved. The freedom of the faculty and students at BYU was probably at its height when Holland was there.

    I don’t know if he has our back specifically, I just don’t think he is going to stab us there.

  6. I refer to this interview a lot. On the one hand it is good to see Church leaders admitting to the mistakes of the past, and to even recognize the possibility of error. As a social institution I see that as a positive step forward. From the standpoint however, of a life long Latter-Day Saint, I can’t help but watch these interviews and conclude that these men are any more Prophetic than the rest of us. The former Church leaders were speculating, and now we mysteriously don’t know anything about the supposed doctrine behind the notorious policy, etc. I am also a little turned off by Elder Hollands claim to ignorance, when he suggests that he is not very familiar with the traditional LDS “folklore” surrounding this issue. If I recall correctly, he has a Ph.D. in early American History (which is a common degree for Mormons who wish to explore early Mormon history), and he also Presided over BYU in the late 1980’s (I think), etc. I find it hard to believe that there are any credentialed scholars of Mormon history who aren’t intimately informed on one of the big issues. If you continue on into his interview he further tells his experience of when he learned of the First Presidency decision/”revelation” to extend the Priesthood to all worthy males. He claims to have been in one of the Church office buildings, whereupon hearing the announcement, he sinks into a chair and begins sobbing. His explanation for this reaction was that this was one of the big things he had been praying for, for a long time. Again, for an issue so important to him, a man with the type of background he had/was acquiring, he would not have acquanted himself thoroughly with what the early Prophets were teaching. It may seem like a small issue, and perhaps I’m making a mountain out of a mole hill regarding his claim to be unaware, but it has always come across as an attempt to still try and burry this matter under the rug. I am unaware of any acknowledgment in this interview that these “leaders” who taught the “folklore” doctrine where among our most revered, ie, Brigham Young, John Taylor, Bruce R. McConkie, Joseph Fielding Smith, etc.

  7. “He claims to have been in one of the Church office buildings, whereupon hearing the announcement, he sinks into a chair and begins sobbing. His explanation for this reaction was that this was one of the big things he had been praying for, for a long time.”

    Does this mean it is appropriate for Church members and leaders to persistently ask God to overturn revelations and policies with which we disagree morally? If so, I don’t feel so bad for hoping and praying for justice and moral equity for homosexuals and women in the Church. Perhaps I, too, will find myself sobbing with relief and joy one day.

  8. (7)

    With with respect to your doubts and with respect to your conclusions, I will with respect disagree, based on the understanding that in our Church, the Lord has never given ALL the answers, even when asked. We are often taught erroneously that we can can certainty in everything, but the underlying aspects of revelatory certainty have always been more about the seed and less about the fruit of that seed. We know the seed is good, but we don’t always know what it will bring, and often we are left to ourselves, pruning and digging about in ways that we can only guess; even our Brethren are left to themselves. Not much of a mortal probation for them if the do not get the opportunity to stumble at the top as we do. The error has been in the conjecture in the dark, which you see less and less of nowadays anyway. Seems as if we’ve shown a little bit of spiritual maturity since 1820 to me.

  9. I actually used this quote in a lesson I taught on the Priesthood ban on sunday. Despite some misgivings above and can see why, i genuinely think this a good statement.

  10. Mormons love having a neat and tidy theology. There has to be reason and understanding behind our teachings, policies, and doctrines. We can’t just appeal to mystery–that is what the Catholics do. The problem with merely denouncing the folklore behind a racist policy, is it leaves a vacuum that can only be refilled with new racist theories and new racist folklore. As Lester Bush has shown, it wasn’t the racist theories that led to a racist policy, but rather, these racist theories grew out of a need to justify a racist policy.

    Until the racist policy itself is denounced (and yes, a policy based on race is by definition a racist policy), there will always be racist theories to fill in the theological gap.

  11. #7- Be it real or not the claim of a lack of knowledge is potentially a structural necessity in Holland’s discourse specifically, and in LDS discourse generally if two conditions are present. These are a commitment to the idea that God would never let our leaders lead us astray, and the idea that previous generations of church leaders were acting based on revelation.

    The very existence of the priesthood ban and the white supremacist arguments made by past church leaders such as J. Rubin Clark, BRM, Delbert Stapley, and Mark Peterson among others to explain its existence create philosophical and theological problems that aren’t resolved as easily as similar problems were in other churches that supported slavery in the 19th century and turned a blind eye to Jim Crow and the clan, etc in the 20th.

    The idea that we don’t know, is an appeal to and an assertion of the mystical in the true sense of the term. That is, Holland can be understood to be suggesting that we remain ignorant of the nature and form of the individual relationships between church leaders and God who guided them. The two problems with this are that while the mystical is a consistent element of LDS theology we also consistently deny that it is. Second, even if we do and will always be ignorant of the individual’s relationships with God, we do have detailed statements, we have their words and actions, and the white supremacist language and thinking is pretty obvious. Admitting that, of course cuts against the grain of our stated belief that imperfect men will lead well enough, and will not “lead us astray” or face removal by a God that is leading the church. To say that the policy, its initiation, practice, and eventual lifting were acts of men is going to be understood by some as saying that God was asleep at the wheel. There is no clean way for current church leaders & members to address the issue without invoking a mystery, or disrupting the commonly held view of the meaning and nature of church leadership. As as result we live in a state of cognitive dissonance that can not be resolved.

    #8- “Does this mean it is appropriate for Church members and leaders to persistently ask God to overturn revelations and policies with which we disagree morally? If so, I don’t feel so bad for hoping and praying for justice and moral equity for homosexuals and women in the Church. Perhaps I, too, will find myself sobbing with relief and joy one day.”

    Amen.

  12. I am a bit perplexed by the “have our cake and eat it too” mentality. Part of the attraction for Mormonism is its surety in revelation, hearkening back to the BoM, Joseph Smith, and the certainty with which he made pronouncements. The D&C is not filled with speculation, opinion, uncertainty, etc. It is filled with pronouncements, commands, and instruction from God. We have a culture and history that favors certainty. It still exists all over. Missionaries daily preach from Moroni 5 that you can “know the truth of all things.”

    And yet, ironically, the process of revelation is much more like “seeing through a glass darkly.” We encourage mysticism in the form or personal revelation, and there are regular appeals to Satan, God, angels, gifts of the Spirit, whisperings of the Holy Ghost, etc. It is a theology whose roots are in strange, unanticipated mystical experiences filled with “gold bibles,” angelic visitations, peepstones, etc. and yet this very thing was, and is, discouraged nearly as quickly as Joseph discovered he had this gift!

    As much as I want to simply blame the culture, and that people interpret things too literally, I can’t. The leaders of the past in this church have heavily contributed to a culture and mindset that favors certainty, strict rules, strong prophecies, and powerful convincing doctrine that fits into a neat little package! We have only had 20-30 years of trying to undo (to a large and continually growing culture) what has been going on for the previous 150+ years.

    I sincerely appreciate the appeal to uncertainty, and the obvious recognition that we, as humans, are imperfect, including the prophets of the past 150 years.

  13. SteveS – Your right, I’m just hoping that some of us, myself very much included, will have the patience for things to become better within the church. As I think about what it will take for certain policies to change or become better for the disadvantaged groups within the church, and I think that ultimately it will take a few people to die so that policies can change. This isn’t a call for violence, but a call for patience because one day rational thought will prevail.

    As for the consideration of historical context, remember the letter referred to in Lengthen Your Stride by Ed Kimball after the 1978 revelation, a non-member told President Kimball he was a traitor to his race. (So it wasn’t an easy change to accept even for members of other faiths) I think certain comments by Brigham Young were made to create alliances and so certain policies had to be adopted. Once the alliance had dissolved the practice continued without people considering the reason it was created. The 1978 revelation was more of a policy shift than changing of doctrine, a policy shift that took a while, but rational minds eventually prevailed.

  14. Even a cursory view of church history teaches that the Lord lets many things happen that fly in the face of a church being directed by “continuous” revelation. I don’t doubt for a minute that the Lord is at the head of His church, but that doesn’t mean that His leaders are continuously led in everything, or else we would have infallible prophets.

    For those who accept fallible prophets then the explanation about blacks and the priesthood becomes clear: the Lord let the leaders do as they did without intervening, therefore the Lord’s will was done.

    As far as Elder Holland attitude and explanation, he is fallible too.

  15. For me, it’s not that baffling.

    Blacks being denied the Priesthood never was a valid doctrine to begin with. I have not been given sufficient evidence to conclude that the policy of exclusion of blacks was ever a product of revelation. It was an illegitimate doctrine from the get-go.

    Brigham Young put forth his own opinions at a Territorial Legislative session, and that should have been the end of it. But through institutional groupie behavior that all flesh seems heir to, it somehow got enshrined as Church policy, and ultimately became so entrenched that it took a revelation to get rid of the damn thing.

    So I agree with Elder Holland. I just go one step further.

  16. The history of the church is perplexing for many church members. Blacks and the priesthood is just one of many examples of this. However, based on my person experience, and observation of others, having a firm understanding of the Book of Mormon goes a long ways towards reconciling the paradoxes of Mormon history.

    I think the problems some members have with church history can be likened to the fiery serpent episode (1 Nephi 17:41-42). In our day, church history can be like the serpents, and the Book of Mormon like the object they needed to look at in order to be healed. In that day, as in our day, some won’t exercise faith enough to “look”, and they perish spiritually. Others, look and our healed.

    Note: I realize that some have done everything possible to obtain a testimony of the Book of Mormon but haven’t–so far. But many, many, more, my self included–have realized the promise.

  17. Here is what baffles me.

    Why do the current GA’s even try to use this approach, when the Book of Mormon is very clear that God punishes people, even generation after generation, for the sins of their fathers, with darkened skin. Why would Elder Holland wonder where these ideas came from. And why wouldn’t past General Authorities think that is why blacks received their dark skin. I think there is a lot of spinning going on right now but they can’t get away from the facts of the Book of Mormon. I think this is a huge contradiction to the article of faith claiming that we believe men pay for their own sins and not for Adam’s transgression (or their ancestors). This is one of the things causing me to really question the LDS version of God after 38 years in the church.

  18. So, according to J.R.H., the men called to teach His people correct principals were in fact teaching incorrect principals.

    I understand the ‘they are just men’ business, but so am I. What’s the point of prophets that are wrong on such an important point as how we treat our fellow man?

  19. All Good Mormons prayed for the overturn of the priesthood ban, just like all Republicans voted for Reagan and all Frenchmen were in the WW2 Resistance.

    If I spoke to other church members about how I was praying for the church to support Gay Marriage, how long until I get a talking-to from the Bishop?

    Our ward just got a new bishop. If I got up on Fast Sunday and said how I had been praying for a new bishop, and when I heard the news, I sank down in a chair and cried for joy, how do you think that would go over?

  20. #18 Duncan said–

    “Why would Elder Holland wonder where these ideas came from.”

    With the 1978 revelation the brethren are required to disassociate themselves from the past. They’re in a difficult position. Trying to harmonize the past pronouncements of church leaders in light of the 1978 revelations isn’t possible. So they distance themselves, and when pressed will take the position Elder Holland took in this post.

    Change is hard to make for members. For example, those who practiced the law of Moses had a difficult time making the transition after the atonement was completed (3 Nephi 15:2-4). Change to and from practicing polygamy was a huge challenge. I had a friend who was born in 1899. Before he died he told me about how his family left the church because of the manifesto. I know members who left the church because of changes in the endowment. So it is. Those who are not grounded and rooted in their faith won’t be able to stand the day.

  21. I still say this is not about just change. It is just not honest. The Mormon scriptures make clear where this idea came from and that the General Authorities were just following the ideas taught there. Now the church wants to deny that this was ever doctrinal and to put distance between them and the past statements and in doing so they try not to talk about the fact that their version of God colors men’s skin to mark them for generations based on the sins of their ancestors. And for one of the apostles to pretend that we don’t know where this idea or these teaching came from is once again not honest.

  22. Duncan–

    It my opinion, it will be extremely unwise for the brethren to provide an “honest” answer to every question put to them about many subjects, but especially regarding blacks and the priesthood.

    When two principles are in conflict, the higher principle prevails. For example, thou shalt not kill gives way to defending our families. Likewise, giving “honest” answers about past pronouncements vs supporting the 1978 revelation–wisdom requires supporting the 1978 revelation.

    The Savior taught that new wine isn’t put into old bottles.

  23. 23: It my opinion, it will be extremely unwise for the brethren to provide an “honest” answer to every question put to them about many subjects, but especially regarding blacks and the priesthood.

    That presents quite the quandary for the GAs, doesn’t it? This situation is exactly what happens when you screw something up, then for whatever reason don’t own up to it or come clean right away, but instead make up excuses for yourself (which usually don’t hold any water) and continue to dig your hole deeper and deeper. I suppose that after enough time passes by some people will forget about the hole, but messes of this caliber don’t go away easily.

    As far as I can tell, being honest about the Priesthood ban means admitting that thousands of people were denied the blessings of the Priesthood and the Temple for 125 years because of the racism of our early church leaders, amongst other less than noble reasons. That would have pretty big negative consequences, but I would argue that it still needs to be done. I admit that it would cause many people to see the LDS GAs more as regular people and not hold them on such high pedestals, but I don’t think that would be such a bad thing. After all, they are just people, even if they are divinely inspired. Lets quit pretending that they are something they’re not.

    BTW Jared, I immensely appreciate your last comment in #17. As I find myself in that situation, it is good to know that people recognize that can and does happen, despite a person’s best efforts.

  24. Wow! I am continually blown away with the justifying of dishonesty and half-truths that is going on now days (mostly since so much info became available from sources that are credible). It seems that it is ok to be dishonest as long as it is helping make the church “look” like it is all it claims to be. To me that became a massive red flag that I better look deeper than I had in the past if I wanted to feel like I knew the truth. Faith is not meant to counter the facts we do know. It is meant to compensate for the things we don’t know. I joined the church 38 years ago because I felt like truth was the highest principle and I was told the church treasured truth. I don’t believe that anymore.

  25. #22 and #23

    I think you guys hit the nail on the head perfectly.

    We see politicians do this constantly, but I must admit it usually is much uglier than simply being honest as you can be about something. In texting speech it would be called CYOA, which I don’t think is a bad thing, it just catches my off guard when I read about a GA trying to do it for people in the past.

  26. The difficult part of all of this is the cognitive dissonance that occurs with issues like this.

    There is the “Follow the Prophet” camp typified by quotes like: “When the prophet speaks, the thinking is done”, or “I will always follow the prophet as he will never lead us astray”. We have priesthood lessons about something as simple as BY telling someone to make the walls of their house thicker, so the person tears down what they have built and rebuilds them. This is the “trust in the prophet” camp.

    On the other hand, we have obvious examples like this where the “inspired” policy turns out to not have really be “inspired” after all, but just an opinion codified into “doctrine”. We have equally “high” General authorities coming down on opposite sides of the evolution-creation debate, even going so far as some stating that evolution is a tool of Satan. This is the “just men” camp (obviously inspired, but prone to be wrong, even at the highest level)

    The conflicts arising from this range from the trivial to the very serious. Was the whole “two-earring” thing a prophet’s opinion that has been elevated to de facto doctrine, or really a revelation? Does it really matter? More seriously, much of the rhetoric about gay marriage has very serious echoes of speeches from our past about blacks and polygamy. It would be very easy to lift a speech from BY and substitute gay marriage for “negro” and have it sound like something we would hear today. And if prophets can be wrong on very fundamental things, it makes our foundation a bit more unsteady.

    I don’t have a good answer for this. It’s just a bit unsettling.

  27. Prophetic Mantle!!!!

    This is a great step forward but it would be DEATH to the church if it was said during conference!!!

    If Brigham Young got this wrong then how do we know he didn’t lead the saints astray in his other teachings?

    If Brigham Young got this wrong how do we know Joseph Smith didn’t lead us astray on polygamy and his early teachings?

    If Brigham Young got this wrong then how do we know that succeeding prophets haven’t lead us astray as well?

    If Prophets are fallible and their revelation are hit and miss then what is the point of going to conference or listening to them at all!!!

    Is God choosing prophets that don’t listen?

    Can’t God make them listen?

    How can they receive further light and knowledge if they are being bigoted and not listening.

    I for one can’t ever see this being taught during conference!

    I wonder if CES regret this PBS interview!!!

  28. Holland said, “They, I’m sure, in their own way, were doing the best they knew to give shape to [the policy], to give context for it, to give even history to it.”

    For Elder Holland to say this suggests that he either truly isn’t familiar with BY’s, John Taylor’s, and others’ inflammatory rhetoric, or he wishes he weren’t. When I poured over their words concerning the Black race and the priesthood ban for the first time, I saw no ambiguity at all. BY would have as soon gone to his grave than to admit that he was merely speculating or musing on topics he didn’t really understand. His messages, along with numerous others’, were crystal clear! The reasons for the curse of blackness, enslavement, the ban (as stated in the Book of Abraham), and the timing for its eventual abolishment were articulated explicitly, over and over, by the same revered men that modern Priesthood manuals continue to quote from.

    Here’s the real irony in all of this, as I see it. As earth-shattering as the 1978 “revelation” seemed, it was not nearly as radical, historically speaking, as the 1969 First Presidency statement initiating the “We don’t know” policy. As good as that felt to progressive, culturally tolerant members of the church, like Holland, it surely caused confusion for those that were truly educated on the subject. In effect, “We don’t know” pretty much said, “Sorry Brother Brigham, you simply didn’t know what you were talking about.” If he missed the mark on something this important, in what other critical ways was he misguided? Adam-God? Polygamy? It doesn’t stop with Brigham, either. Generations of church leadership would come and go with their official, unequivocal declarations on the subject, all to be discarded by David O McKay’s pronouncement of ignorance.

    I’m sorry. I simply can’t accept what I take to be Holland’s insinuation that early (and not-so-early) church leaders were only fumbling around looking for answers and irresponsibly spouting conjecture from the pulpit. Any honest examination of what they really said and believed suggests otherwise, in my opinion. But I understand why Holland won’t go there. He can’t. He’s stuck. If Brigham and others were inspired in their words, then God looks like a bigot. If they were not inspired and initiated 130 years of spiritual deprivation for an entire race, all because prophets are “only men,” after all, then it appears that the Lord actually would permit a man to lead the church astray.

  29. “That’s my principal [concern], is that we don’t perpetuate explanations about things we don’t know”

    While not necessarily rising to the level of Prime Directive, it would clearly behoove the leaders if they kept this in mind regularly. Easy to apply this 30+ years later to the issue of blacks and priesthood…what might be going on right now that will set up future need to make such a statement?

  30. Raymond said “If Brigham and others were inspired in their words, then God looks like a bigot. If they were not inspired and initiated 130 years of spiritual deprivation for an entire race, all because prophets are “only men,” after all, then it appears that the Lord actually would permit a man to lead the church astray.”

    It is not just Brigham and others. If the Book of Mormon was inspired then God looks like a bigot.

  31. #31 Duncan – You will find bigoted comments in the Bible and many other scripture too. I believe God uses imperfect people to accomplish his works, Gods ideal is that he speaks and his servants listen, the sad truth is that too few listen and many that have listened in the past neglect to fully listen in the future and rely on their own wisdom, believing they are inspired.
    Moses, Abraham, David, Solomon and Paul all had these difficulties.

    I see the Church as a vehicle that is there to help me become a better person, there are other vehicles out there but this one works for me. I welcome JRH comments, I too hope that the GA’s learn from the past and change the “Group Think” surrounding SSA, Equal Rights, Honesty and earrings. Until then I will participate best I can in my community, in hopes I can be some positive influence for change, and serve those around me.

  32. #27- ” It would be very easy to lift a speech from BY and substitute gay marriage for “negro” and have it sound like something we would hear today. And if prophets can be wrong on very fundamental things, it makes our foundation a bit more unsteady.

    I don’t have a good answer for this. It’s just a bit unsettling.”

    I don’t think it makes our foundation more unsteady but it does tell us that as individuals members in the church the mark of our agency is the fact that we can never turn over responsibility for spiritual or ethical thinking to our leaders. Granted we are asked to be obedient to the institution and its leaderships and the act of obedience is often portrayed as the highest expression of our faith. Nonetheless, It does not take very much work to see how this is both in conflict with other aspects of our doctrine and also poses specific risks to the individual’s spiritual well being and to the institution as well. Even though we are told to be obedient in the strictest sense to the leadership, doing so causes significant problems for the institution and its members. If individual members had remained obedient to the fundamental principals of the teaching of Christ rather than to institutional leadership the possibility is that the priesthood, temple, & marriage ban may have been short lived or not had occurred at all.

    The fact is we do remain responsible for our ethical thinking and actions at all times, even in the presence of strong directives from our leaders, and the history of the church regarding the “priesthood ban” provides an excellent example of how, and why this is the case.

  33. I often wonder if we (the membership and to some degree the leadership) get in trouble because of a couple basic assumptions: 1) God reveals doctrine on every topic in infinite detail. 2) Revelation is like dictation with the prophet merely serving as the scribe.

    What if neither is true?

    Is it possible that God communicates with man mostly by impressions? That most revelation consists of a human being being nudged by deity and attempting to put into words such despite cultural and other personal biases? Might God predominately communicate as through a dark glass with fluttering impressions not definitive statements — most of the time? Men like certainty but if God doesn’t provide that most of the time is it possible that men try to feel the gap?

    I am always struck by how most prophets — even the great ones like Moses, Abraham, Joseph Smith and others — spend much of their life struggling to do what they believe God wants. Take Moses for example. He clearly had moments of clarity when he communed on Mount Sinai. But, at other times, he seemed to thrash around a bit (as a consequence being barred from entering the Promised Land).

    Might many of the problematic issues in church history — polygamy, blacks and priesthood, etc. — flow from intermittent guidance and man’s attempt to feel the gaps? My sense is that this is what underlies Elder Holland’s comments.

    The hard part with this approach is that it implies errors will be made — continuously. But, it seems more consistent with principles of agency because mankind is empowered to find its own way, imperfectly and, often, with errors.

    I don’t believe that this approach undermines the role of prophets or the role of God. But, it may be a better reflection of the human experience both anciently and modernly.

  34. #32-MrQandA

    Respectfully, I think you are missing or avoiding my point. I’m not talking about statements by prophets. I’m talking about what the Book of Mormon says God did, darken generations of men’s skin because of the sins of their fathers. Not trying to be negative. Just think it gets to the root of this whole problem.

  35. I think what is more troubling than the actual history of the church is the present attempt by church leaders to cover it up. I have stumbled upon things in the history of the church that are truly distressing. I am certain that if I was not a member and just now being taught about the church these things would be a deal breaker for me and I would not join because of them. I’m sure this is why the present leadership in the church is trying to hide or dismiss them. They don’t want to lose members or prospective converts.

    However, discovering that the church you have been a member of your entire life is something different than what you were always taught, leads to the cognitive dissonance mentioned previously. I understand why church leaders would choose to not be honest, but it seems hypocritical to require honesty of the members when they are not honest themselves. The information that is readily available on the internet is going to require the church leaders to address more of these issues, and the answer of “I don’t know” just isn’t good enough.

    How do you get past your logical mind that is seeing red flags left and right and your subconscious mind that has been conditioned to not think, but rely on the leaders for guidance? My instinct is to listen to my logical mind because it appears that this church is just as screwed up all the others.

  36. #28, re: “leading the Church astray,” I think the Church position (articulated, for example, by Elder Oaks) is that “astray” means “into a total train wreck, destroying the Church and kicking off a new Great Apostasy.” Prophets are allowed to get all kinds of things horribly wrong (goes this argument) but as long as the core doctrines aren’t corrupted, that’s fine.

    Personally, I’d like the backstop to be set a little closer to the plate (especially given the Brethren’s insistence on extraordinary deference and, if not unconditional obedience, something very close to it). But I don’t think it would “destroy the Church” if prophets are shown to occasionally get things wrong. That’s already been priced in.

  37. Duncan #35 sorry I’m not avoiding the point, in the same way the Bible seems justify’s slavery we need to realise that scripture is written by imperfect people, I can see JRH comments relating to the BOM too.

  38. “My instinct is to listen to my logical mind because it appears that this church is just as screwed up all the others.” Of course it is. It is comprised of ex-members of all the others (e.g. humanity). I’m not being flippant. Just pointing out that all churches are inspired by the divine, but fall short of being divine.

  39. “It my opinion, it will be extremely unwise for the brethren to provide an “honest” answer to every question put to them about many subjects, but especially regarding blacks and the priesthood.”

    Why don’t they just tell the truth and let the Holy Ghost bear witness of it, and leave the consequences in God’s hands. Afterall, flesh and blood cannot reveal truth, only our Father in Heaven, correct? So, then why appeal to flesh and blood methods such as “creative” reinterpretations of history etc. I can accept that message delivery is important, even regarding religion, but if God needs his leaders to protect history by ommiting details that apparently embarrass even him, (after all our leaders our just doing his will, at least now, right?) then I question the level of confidence that is placed in him to “reveal” things unto us. This is particularly poignant for Mormons, where an acceptance of your faith hinges quite heavily on your belief regarding certain alleged incidences in history. We stress so heavily that a member must accept certain historical claims, and yet we then turn our head and suggest that a correct understanding of other interelated aspects of the same history could be detrimental to belief. Long story short, if you can’t tell the truth you ought to question whether you actually have it.

  40. I couldn’t agree more Cowboy. Truth ought to be the hightest priority, period. The Holy Ghost ought to confirm to us that the church is still true despite the historical mess when the truth finally is told, if it indeed is true. Yeah, it would cause many people to interpret the teachings of the prophets a little more loosely if the GAs were fully forthright about the history of the church, but that isn’t a bad thing if some of those teachings are truly flawed, and may apply to some people at a given time more or less than to the next person. Let what the prophets say be taken as general good council and then let the people govern themlelves, being ultimately accountable to their God and their conscience. After all, we don’t call them specific authorities for a reason.

  41. All of this discussion boils down to one thing: testimony.

    If one has a “testimony”, then they can deal with the clutter, if not, then clutter will be the central issue–the 800 lbs gorilla.

    Note: I put “testimony” in quotes. The reason I used quotes, is to point out that various kinds of testimonies exist, just as there are a various kinds of disbelief.

  42. Interesting discussion. It seems some opinions view this from a religious worldview and others from an educated worldview, though some try to balance with both. I have always struggled with how to do this. Sometimes I have to pretend to believe in the church by doing this, but its difficult. I want to believe, but its hard once one sees things from an honest and educated view. The church has so many ill-logical aspects that its difficult to believe, though I want to (strangely, perhaps).

    In addition to what has already been mentioned, the one point for me remains. If god heads the church, why does he allow leaders of the church do things that really hurts the image of the church? By allowing this to happen it pushes converts away and discourages people from joining.

    For example, if people want to believe that ‘polygamy’ was introduced by god, then why did god allow it to be introduced if he knew it would only fracture the church and leave Mormonism with a bad image for the next two hundred years. Either god isn’t all that smart, he doesn’t exist, or some reason beyond my grasp is out there.

    That said, if one believes polygamy was introduced by god, why did Joseph Smith ‘marry’ a number girls secretly, sleep with them, and then move on. I guess this was god’s will?

  43. Jared on #42:

    Perhaps you can help me. (please note I ask these honestly and respectfully, though they are difficult and heavy questions).

    But then, based on my past post (# 43), what is a testimony? This has been something I’ve been wrestling with. Is a testimony then believing in something that doesn’t make sense? Should we just hope and believe we mortals can’t comprehend god’s wisdom about why these things happened, and that he knows better? That has been tough for me, it seems like an opiate to solve and ignore the real issues. How can one have a testimony and see the problems, illogical things, and other aspects of the church that people struggle with? To have a testimony are we, (at least those that see these things), supposed to ignore these things, try to blot them out and just keep believing with full fervor? This has been something I’ve been trying to figure out. How do I believe in the theology when the realistic doesn’t make sense?

    Sorry to ask such a question, but you’ve made some good statements in the past. I’d welcome you honest assessment. Thanks again.

  44. I don’t understand the repeated references to the Book of Mormon as justification for the priesthood ban. For decades it was the Pearl of Great Price that was thus used. As for Brother Brigham being wrong about something, I suppose he was never wrong about anything else.

  45. Skeptic – “If god heads the church, why does he allow leaders of the church do things that really hurts the image of the church? By allowing this to happen it pushes converts away and discourages people from joining.” A few thoughts: 1) what are god’s better alternatives if he is a loving, long-suffering parent?, 2) what pushes some away is the very thing that attracts others, 3) maybe not everyone would benefit from being a Mormon.

  46. #1 “There seems to be a weird tendency in this church to favor “old” church publications over new ones and “old” church history tomes over more recent ones.”

    Yes certainly, and it seems to be because the old has more credibility because simply more people have read them. The new may be just a first presidency letter which is skimmed through and then filed away. As a recent example I have an ongoing feud with a bishopric over the teacher development class which a letter from SLC assigned to be called by and overseen by the sunday school but the bishop remembers it as “always” been done by the bishopric, and the out of date handbook agrees with him. The new policy which came by mail is forgotten. I’d say this problem, imho, is an organizational one.

  47. For those here who hope to see changes regarding gays and the church, there is one huge difference with the blacks/priesthood issue. That is that the scriptures never clearly pointed out that blacks couldn’t have the priesthood but those same scriptures are very dim towards homosexuality. ie Lev 18, Isa 3, Rom 1:27, 1 Cor 6:9 , 1 Tim 1:10.

    So then a change in the qualification of homosexuality as a sin would require the church to explain why those scripture refs are no longer valid, plus why all those peripheral talks and writing from modern day prophets no longer apply. Now I’m not saying that it can’t be done but just what a massive change it would imply, and especially with regards to the marriage sealing. We actively teach that a marriage, a sealed man & women can one day progress to become Gods and heavenly parents. But what will a same sex couple become? Heavenly Father & Heavenly Father?

    After arguing here for years over this matter I’ve probably changed to possibly accepting that homosexuality need not necessarily lead to excommunication for example, or that a good faithful and honest gay couple may still possibly reach the CK as ministering angels once they overcome this, but the changes to the theology of exaltation is something I’m yet to see possible or even logical.

  48. #45 Jack “For decades it was the Pearl of Great Price that was thus used”

    Agreed.

    The PoGP is also the book many use against homosexuality, as the meaning of that great secret that the sons of Cain had down to Lemec and after, since “every man KNEW his brother” (Moses 5:50-55) and that vocabulary back in Moses time meant something very clear, as the old testament repeats over and over (only difference is that when Adam “knew” his wife a child resulted)

    Now there’s a wild out there theory, right???? And very anti-gay too!!!! Maybe someday Elder Holland will speak out against it too but I doubt it will ever be in general conference.

  49. #45 Jack said “I don’t understand the repeated references to the Book of Mormon as justification for the priesthood ban.”

    Jack, I don’t think the reference to the Book of Mormon is meant not so much as the justification for the Priesthood Ban. The point is that Hollands comments seem to be trying to say that we never really meant to say that Blacks were darkened and the priesthood withdrawn because of the sins of their ancestors and that that was just a myth that got started and passed on by prophets and GA’s. What I personally was saying was that not only did past prophets make quite clear that they believed the priesthood ban was something that was passed down due to the unworthiness of their ancestors but that the same thing is done in the Book of Mormon with the Lamanites skin being darkened for generations because of the sins of their forefathers. So why act like we don’t believe in such a thing. It is clearly something that the Mormon God has done not only with blacks according to past prophets but also to Lamanites in the Book of Mormon. And in my opinion the whole thing contradicts the principle of the 2nd Article of Faith.

  50. If one has a “testimony”, then they can deal with the clutter, if not, then clutter will be the central issue–the 800 lbs gorilla.

    I actually resent this remark quite a bit. It is shallow and dishonest. I had a testimony that was solid as a rock. I still have friends and relatives shake their head in disbelief that I (of all people) could “lose” that testimony. The clutter was NEVER the issue for me in all the years, and yet I knew about much of it. But perspectives change, people change, and dissonance builds. And yet, the clutter is still NOT the central issue in my new “testimony” (which is radically different than and heterodox when compared to the previous one).

    Quite frankly, Jared, you need to get this notion out of your head that “testimony” will solve all the problems that an individual will have with the church. Maybe for some people this works, but just like everything else in this life, there is no one-size-fits-all solution!

  51. Here’s a thought (that I will undoubtedly be flamed for and which I myself don’t believe):

    All of our comments here assume that BY was wrong, and that the Priesthood ban was wrong. What if, what they say is true? If you ask the fundamentalist Mormons they still believe this is true, and yet they are not racist individuals (at least not the ones I’ve met).

    If it is true, then the prophets did exactly what God told them to do, and say, and all the TBMs can keep their testimony firmly in tact.

    DISCLAIMER: Again, note that I don’t personally believe this. But from a theological, and philosophical point of view, if they were right then Mormon prophets are consistently inspired as so many claim them to be. I’d like to see someone tackle the proposition of why the priesthood ban is wrong theologically without appealing to my egalitarian, and anti-xenophobic emotions.

    :: runs and jumps behind a barricade to await the onslaught of “you’re a racist” comments ::

  52. 41 “Let what the prophets say be taken as general good council and then let the people govern themlelves, being ultimately accountable to their God and their conscience.”

    I do like what you said here, Aaron. It sounds good… it sounds very American. And while it works just fine for me, the problem is that it’s simply not what the church has taught. Let me paint a few scenarios to illustrate how the quote above just doesn’t work:

    1) Go on a mission? Sounds like good counsel. I’ll consider it. Let’s see what my bishop thinks. Maybe he thinks I should go. Anyway, I’ll have to decide if I think its appropriate for me at this time.
    2) Get sealed in the temple? Sounds like good counsel. I’m not sure if I really want to have it there or not. The country club is nice too. I know they say the temple’s important but it’s up to me. It will all work out.
    3) Wear my garments night and day? Well, they say it’s a good thing, but I like my shorts and tank tops. I’ll check with my bishop and ask around the ward to get others’ opinions.

    OK. These examples were a little contrived and weak, but I think you get the point. It would be preposterous to talk about obedience to key Mormon teachings in this way. The path to exaltation is set in stone by revelation, line upon line, ordincance upon ordincane, and it is the member’s job to follow the path set before him/her. Have we not been listening when the GA’s have spoken for all these years? Do we truly not understand the scriptures?

    YES!!! It’s true that we ultimately choose to follow the path – to go on a mission or not, get married in the temple or not, wear our garments night and day or not. But does anybody think for one minute that the brethren would ever consider obedience to these tenets as “optional”; would they see their endless sermons on these topics as mere “good counsel,” “food for thought,” or “something to consider.”

    Follow the prophet. Follow the prophet. Follow the prophet. I’m sure I don’t need to dig up any quotes.

    If we assume the responsiblitiy, individually and collectively, of second guessing the brethren – if we start wondering whether or not what we are hearing is only a string of opinions and biases(concerning piercings, for instance) as opposed divinely inspired instruction, then we start the slide into the subjective mire of all mainstream religion. We will eventually see the soul of Mormonism slip into oblivion. Just ask my Catholic friends whose religious beliefs are available to them a la carte, as if on a menu at the deli. “Yes, I’ll have the salvation special with a side of communion, hold the patron saints and go light on anti-abortion, please.”

    As for me, personally, I’m fine with that approach. I like what Mr Q & A said:

    “I see the Church as a vehicle that is there to help me become a better person… I will participate best I can in my community, in hopes I can be some positive influence for change, and serve those around me”

    Bravo. It’s a healthy approach. BUT HERE’S MY POINT: This is not a mainstream ideal in Mormonism and never has been.

  53. #44 Skeptic said:
    “How can one have a testimony and see the problems, illogical things, and other aspects of the church that people struggle with? To have a testimony are we, (at least those that see these things), supposed to ignore these things, try to blot them out and just keep believing with full fervor?”

    Good questions. Let’s call all the illogical things you referred to as “clutter”. Let’s call all the things that draw you the church, “testimony”.

    Testimony and clutter are in a battle.

    When I stand back and look at all the issues surrounding Mormonism I see a balance between reasons to believe (testimony), and reasons to disbelieve (clutter). I think Heavenly Father maintains this balance so that we can have agency. If there weren’t a balance, then we wouldn’t have agency. Agency requires opposition. There are many compelling reasons to believe in the origins of Mormonism, as well as to disbelieve.

    No one can disprove the church, or prove it. The evidence is in balance.

    The Lord invites each of us to exercise faith and live a life based on church teachings. As we do, then He will increase our testimonies through the gifts of the Spirit. However, He also tells us He will have a tried people so we can expect to have trials. Not everyone can handle trials and as the vision of the tree of life given to Lehi and Nephi teaches some will fall away.

    In my , I exercised faith and asked God to show me the truth about the Book of Mormon. He did. As a result, I am not troubled, at all, by the clutter.

    Note: for those who are having trouble with clutter I would recommend reading a book like, Shaken Faith Syndrome, by Michael Ash.

  54. TO SKEPTIC: On “tesimony”

    You asked Jared about this, but I hope you don’t mind if I also say a few things.

    I’ve been there, my friend. New information vs. that old feeling! What to do with them?

    Understanding the true nature and meaning of spiritual experiences is difficult. As Latter Day Saints, we have been surrounded by people who have been conditioned to interpret our warm feelings for us. I was trained how to do it on my mission. When teaching, I would do anything I could to produce an emotional response, whether by playing a beautiful song, showing a melodramatic video scene, or sharing a heart-wrenching story about suffering and sacrifice. The minute I could see that the investigator was touched, I would quickly interpret his feelings for him, telling him that what he was feeling was the Holy Ghost confirming the truth of my words. The dominoes would fall from there, of course: If that’s true then this is true, and this is true, and this is true, etc.

    So now you’re left alone to wonder what these feelings really mean for you – what “testimony” really is (wouldn’t it be ironic if I went ahead and gave you an answer?)! You say you have doubts now, but you are probably juggling these thoughts with the memories of feelings that inspired belief in the church. Am I wrong?

    For me, and I emphasize “ME”, the cognitive dissonance was too loud to ignore. The evidence standing in my way of belief could never be described as “clutter.” The issues were HUGE obstacles! It was easier for me to investigate and reinterpret the nature of spiritual experiences than it was to attempt to reinterpret church history in a way that preserved faith. The decision I made to accept a new spiritual reality came with a heavy social and emotional price, though.

    So while I am not a believer anymore, I am completely respectful of those who are. You’ll have to determine if these troublesome issues are only “clutter,” or if they are barricades. You’ll have to decide which tugs harder at you: The dissonance caused by all those “illogical things,” or the warmth you feel from belief. Like some others before you, you might actually be able to navigate between the two, avoiding an outright choice altogether.

    Check out this link, if you want. I wrote an essay about my own experiences with this very issue. In the end, though, it was MY journey. I would never presume to tell you what’s true for you.

    http://osaywhatistruth.com/testimony.htm

  55. “Here’s a thought (that I will undoubtedly be flamed for and which I myself don’t believe):

    All of our comments here assume that BY was wrong, and that the Priesthood ban was wrong. What if, what they say is true? If you ask the fundamentalist Mormons they still believe this is true, and yet they are not racist individuals (at least not the ones I’ve met).

    If it is true, then the prophets did exactly what God told them to do, and say, and all the TBMs can keep their testimony firmly in tact.”

    I actually like this kind of question. I see nothing wrong with questioning our own beliefs; exploring the potential that the ban was correct is an example of self questioning. If nothing else looking at such questions can help us articulate how we come to our views. For me its pretty simple.

    1) My understanding of God is that he is a being whose thought can not be captured, comprehended, or expressed by human ideologies. God by definition is transgressive in this regard. So when church leaders make statements of policy or doctrine I look to see how such statements are made, what kind of thought they reflect, what ideological structures are at work, and so on. With something like the priesthood ban the reliance upon white supremest ideology in the statement of church leaders calls into question the the entire idea. In other words, if the Ban were a genuine religious necessity that had its origin with God, I have to wonder how and why it was conveyed to us using elements that we can clearly recognize are being aligned with racist ideology.

    Second, and this is not very Mormon of me, but I think its fair to ask how a policy, action, or doctrine of the church fits with the ethical teaching found in scripture and the teachings of Christ. If there is a significant conflict on that level then we need to take a closer look at what church leaders are telling us or told us in the past. And to be fair we should also examine our understanding of the scriptural foundations of our own ethics. The priesthood ban collided directly with scripture and Christ’s teachings in some very direct ways.

    Third, is related to the second, the question is, do we believe in a God that is willing to suspend the ethical? On this level I know that I do not have the faith of Abraham. After reading Fear and Trembling I found myself being quite comfortable with this particular threshold of my own faith: I do not believe in a God that suspends the ethical.

    Finally, there is the old line that if it quacks like a duck, has feathers like a duck, swims and flies like a duck, then its a duck. Sometimes the simple explanation is the best explanation. We can do all kinds of religious gymnastics but doesn’t it just make a great deal of sense, that very conservative white men, living at a general distance from people of different races, at a time when racism was the norm might find theological justification for their learned racist attitudes? This was the case in many other white Christian churches in the US. The only difference between us and them might be that over time they realized their error and owned up to it, openly stated that God was not to blame for the mistakes of their churches.

    So for the ban to have been right and correct it would have to clear those hurdles. In my mind it would need to have been independent of obvious ideology. It would need to fit, in some fairly direct way, with Christian ethics; and there would need to be some indication as to why the most simple and direct explanation is inappropriate.

  56. “The PoGP is also the book many use against homosexuality, as the meaning of that great secret that the sons of Cain had down to Lemec and after, since “every man KNEW his brother” (Moses 5:50-55) and that vocabulary back in Moses time meant something very clear, as the old testament repeats over and over (only difference is that when Adam “knew” his wife a child resulted)”

    CarlosJC:

    I am continually amazed everytime I hear this explanation given for Moses 5. This interpretation is by far one of the worst explanations for the scriptures given. First it should be noted that the vocabulary did not exist in Moses time, who coincidentally also did not speak english. The entire verse reads as follows:

    “For, from the days of Cain, there was a secret acombination, and their works were in the dark, and they knew every man his brother.” (Moses 5:51)

    The context is in the famous story of the slaying of Abel by his brother Cain. The slant put on the story through the Pearl of Great Price, is that Cain had entered into a secret covenant with Satan where he acted incognito, along side his brother Abel as one who tended over the religious rites and emblems (Fruit of the ground, and sheep) for sacramental offerings. What Cain coveted was not the sheep per se, rather the higher Priesthood office held by his younger brother cain. Over time, according to the story, the two brothers made their offerings before God who in some way honored Abel’s while rejecting Cains. What makes the homosexual connection so ridiculuous is that following this, the nature of the “Secret” is revealed. Cain, now wroth with God over his apparent exposure to God, Adam, and his brother Abel, completes his covenant by declaring himself:

    “Master Mahan, the master of this great secret, that I may murder and get gain.”

    From that time forward the secret work of murder for the attainment of power persisted through the land, even to Lamech who also slew a man in effort to protect the conspiracy, or as the scripture says, “for the oaths sake”. He then tells his wives (notice wives) who then rat him out, so to speak. From that time forward the Daughters of men where kept from the secret, not because of homosexuality but because of this precedent with Lamechs wives.

    To put things into context, this scripture is more likely based on the prevailing ant-freemsonry sentiments that where pervading much of America at the time. What makes this more interesting is the well documented entrenchment of early Church leaders, temple rites, the relief society, and speculation on the martyrdom, associated with Mormons and Freemasons. It is even more interesting given the high level of secrecy in Nauvoo via Polygamy/the endowed council/council of fifty/etc. But to be certain, this scripture cannot be reasonably justified as an indictment against homosexuality, but perhaps against Freemasonry. It should also be noted that we have no source text to appeal to in order to justify the supposed etymology of what is intended by the word “knew” in this case. Given that our best approach is to consider the context, as I have just done, which clearly makes no allusion to homosexuality period.

  57. Raymond, I totally get what you are saying. I realize that realisically, what I have proposed will never happen due to the reasons that you stated as well as others. It’s too bad that is the case, because as it has been pointed out already on this thread, prophets do make errors in judgement and are effected by same personal biases and emotions that the rest of us are. The priesthood ban is one of the most striking examples of this. I don’t fault them for it – they are only human, after all. Despite that, at the end of the day they still claim or imply to be something that they’re not, IMO. Ultimately, that makes it really tough for me to continue to believe. It sounds like you may be in a similar place for similar reasons.

  58. As I’ve read this thread, and others like it, I keep hearing the same message from many members whose faith as been side tracked due to one thing or another. Many say they are losing or have lost their faith because the prophets have said or taught things that are wrong. In other words, they’ve always heard that prophets are fallible, but when one proves it they can’t handle it.

    Prophet are fallible. They make mistakes, they let us down. But look at what they have done. For every example of fallibility, there are 10 or more acts of a true prophet.

    While we’re talking about prophets letting us down, how about looking in the mirror and counting the times you’ve let the Lord, and His prophets down. I say to those who haven’t gotten off of their spiritual butts and done what it take to get in tune with the spirit to stop their whining about the prophets and look to their own house.

    Note: I realize their are some who don’t deserve what I just said, I’m not speaking to them, but there are others who whine and complain without cause–my words are meant for them. I don’t know who they are, but in their heart of hearts they know.

  59. #57 Cowboy: Great post. Very informative!

    #58 Aaron: “Despite that, at the end of the day they still claim or imply to be something that they’re not, IMO. Ultimately, that makes it really tough for me to continue to believe. It sounds like you may be in a similar place for similar reasons.”

    You’re right. I’m in a similar place but I may be a bit further than you. I respect the church and believe that it’s leaders are sincere. But with all the good it does, it’s still a human production along with all the others, in my mind. I don’t believe right now that ANY church or faith speaks for God on earth. God, if he/she/it exists, transcends it all, and if God speaks to us, it is not through, or because of, organized religion. Divine communication happens in spite of it.

    You can see I’m just not sure about a whole lot right now. In fact, I’m sure I could easily stray from what I just said if someone showed me convincing evidence to the contrary.

    If Joseph Smith had created a church and presented it to the world as a fresh alternative – a place where people could come and add to what they already knew – without the pressure to accept at face value a long list of specific tenets and historical events as unalterable truths, then you and I wouldn’t be in the place we’re in right now. We, the skeptical members, have been pushed into a corner ever since – to a place of all or nothing. Why couldn’t I have stood at the pulpit all these years and simply said, “I’m thankful for this church. I’m not sure about everything, but I believe it’s a great place to be. What I believe I believe. Thank you.” That’s simply not my church, however. It’s a place of absolutes…. of “I know’s.” It’s not enough to say I admire Jesus in simple language. If I want to show I’m firm in my faith, I’ll use language like “I KNOW with all my heart that JESUS IS THE CHRIST… the very Son of God,” as I firmly grab the sides of the pulpit with my outstretched arms, doing my best to use the authoritative intonation I’ve heard all my life during conference talks. You know what I’m saying, don’t you?

    I’m not making fun of anything here. I’m simply pointing out that the lines have been drawn and there just isn’t an eraser big enough to do anything about it now. Like you, I wish it had not been so. I might have been able to weather the storm and stay active. Perhaps I was always an agnositc waiting to happen. I do remember thinking to myself that if I ever lost confidence in my own religion, I would probably not look for another. So far, that has been the case.

    Thanks for your post.

  60. #60: “I’m thankful for this church. I’m not sure about everything, but I believe it’s a great place to be. What I believe I believe. Thank you.”

    That was beautifully put. If I were to stand up in fast and testimony meeting tomorrow and give an honest testimony, it would sound a lot like that. I do value much about the church, but like you, I can’t buy into the all or nothing philosophy.

    I wish that in temple recommend interviews priesthood leaders would ask questions like, “Do you strive to do your best to follow the teachings of the Savior?” or “Do you stive to follow the promptings of the Holy Ghost in your life?”
    I can currently say yes to both those as well as the standard set of questions, except for maybe the ones about testimony(depending on how you define testimony).

    Ultimately, I think that assuming God exists, he cares the most about those things anyway, rather than being hung up on all the silly, dogmatic details of the LDS faith. This way, when the GAs say or do things that don’t sit well with a person (like the priesthood ban for example), that person can put away the dissonance that would normally be present (at least to some degree) and be able to move forward with faith. If the difficult principle really is a true principle, the holy ghost ought to confirm it to the person so they can be at peace with it and live their lives according to it.

    The troubling thing for me is that I am supposed to let the holy ghost be my guide, but only when it says things that agree with the GAs.

    Thanks for the discourse Raymond. You have really helped me to make sense of my jumbled thoughts.

  61. #61 Aaron: “The troubling thing for me is that I am supposed to let the holy ghost be my guide, but only when it says things that agree with the GAs.”

    That’s just it. You nailed it. It’s one way. It would be completely unacceptable to go to the Lord and receive an answer that is contrary to the position of the Brethren. And how do we know this is the case? The brethren have told us so. It’s like saying that we know the bible is the word of god because it says it is.

    It’s the same issue with the Moroni challenge.

    Could I honestly go to my bishop and assume he would be OK with my answer if I told him I had prayed with a sincere heart and with sincere faith and came to the conclusion that it was not the word of god? That bishop, unless he is extremely liberal in the way he conducts his business with members, would no doubt tell me that I need to go back and exercise greater faith, or try to increase my desire to believe. The anwser is already determined ahead of time and it’s my job to reach the same conclusion as he has. If I don’t reach it, I’m not doing something right and need to keep going back to the well until I get it right. I think any reasonable person can see the psychological processes at play here.

    I’m flattered that you said I have been of help, but I throw in the disclaimer once again: This is only my perspective – my journey. I don’t intend to talk you out of any belief you still have left. There’s comfort there that I’ve lost, admittedly. But for me, comfort doesn’t equal truth anymore. Even if I don’t ever figure out what IS, I’d still like to know what ISN’T, if you know what I mean.

    I hope whatever happens for you, you at least find peace.

  62. #59 Jared: “Many say they are losing or have lost their faith because the prophets have said or taught things that are wrong. In other words, they’ve always heard that prophets are fallible, but when one proves it they can’t handle it.”

    Jared, I’ve had this very discussion with my sister and a couple bishops. Without truly listening to me, they keep maintaining that my reasons for doubt arise out of petty gripes, lofty expectations, and the inability to forgive others. I want to be careful here, but I think it’s safe to assume that your position on the subject is similar. Please correct me if I’m misunderstanding your post.

    This entire issue, as I see it, boils down to TRUST. At what point does that trust deteriorate beyond repair?

    Let’s say there is a spectrum along which flaws can fall according to each one’s power to destroy trust. On one side you have benign types of things. Applying this idea to church history, you’d see things like Joseph Smith loosing his temper on occasion, drinking wine with his cellmates on the night of the martyrdom, Brigham Young espousing racist views on the virtues of slavery, J Golden Kimball cussing at the pulpit, and all sorts of minor stuff like this. None of these tear at the fabric or foundations of Mormonism, in my opinion. They illustrate the general imperfections in all of us. I wouldn’t expect a prophet to be or act any different than the rest of us when it comes to everyday issues.

    But now let’s move to the other side of the spectrum. Let’s say that on this side you’d find FATAL flaws – statements, actions, and events that strike at the very pillars of the church and destroy foundations of faith. If for instance, you were one of those like me that looks at our history and sees not just mistakes, bad ideas, or imperfections, but outright deceptions – if you had come to the unfortunate conclusion that the Priesthood ban had no revelatory basis whatsoever, that the Book of Mormon, however it was produced, is not real history, that the Book of Abraham is a fabrication, that the temple ceremony is a piece-meal invention, that the Priesthood restoration and First Vision stories were concocted well after the fact, just to name a few, then you could understand how I might believe that fallibility at some critical point destroys credibility.

    In the end, you HAVE to trust the brethren. You HAVE to put faith in Joseph Smith, Brigham Young, and other key founders that asked for our trust and obedience. What do you do, then, when you are convinced that they are not trustworthy anymore? Is it still petty of us to judge them?

    If you think so, I would ask you: How far are you willing to bend? This is not in any way an attempt to provoke you or cause contention. It’s an honest question. I know your testimony is fully in tact and that you don’t likely share my views on church history, and that’s perfectly fine by me, but for the sake of argument, what would a prophet have to do before you began to question his credibility?

  63. #63 Raymond–

    First, let me say that I understand the issues of church history, I studied them all– extensively–in the early 1970’s. They can be a huge challenge for some. The reason I was unmoved is because of a series of profound spiritual experiences I had prior to being introduced to the problems in church history. I’ve wondered how I would have handled things if I hadn’t had the spiritual experiences when I did.

    I don’t agree with your sister, or the bishops telling you the things they did. However,I understand their motive–love.

    Based on my experience, you can talk with others, read helpful books, see church leaders at all levels, but ultimately the answers you need must come directly from Heavenly Father.

    If you click my name, I’ve shared how the answers came for me. I also realize that the Lord will answer prayers in the time and way He chooses. I’ve shared my experience with the hope of helping members, like yourself, have faith that answers do come, but the effort and spiritual energy necessary can be great.

    From what you’ve said, living on “borrowed light” is not an option for you any longer. You need to have your own spiritual break through. The question is: are you willing to do what is required? If you are, you will find your way, and the answers will come.

  64. #64 Kuri–

    Church history, from the days of Joseph Smith, to the present day are filled with examples of the acts of true prophets.

    Journals of the early pioneers provide first hand accounts of members encounters with the apostles and prophets. I like Hyrum and Helen Mae Andrus’s book, They Knew the Prophet. It is such a collection

    The autobiography of Parley P. Pratt.

    On the Wings of Faith by Frederick W. Babbel tells about Elder Ezra Taft Benson’s experience in post war Europe.

    Harold B. Lee Prophet and Seer by L. Brent Goates

    Heber C. Kimball by Stanley B. Kimball

    Yearning for the Living God by F. Enzio Busche

    This is a short list of books that give example, after example, of the acts and experiences of true men and women of God.

    I’m sure, if you’re interested, a more extensive list could be provided.

  65. “We just don’t know, in the historical context of the time, why it was practiced. …That’s my principal [concern], is that we don’t perpetuate explanations about things we don’t know.”

    I wish the church would follow this advice with other topics as well.

  66. Cowboy #57,

    Yes, in its proper context it is about murder for gain. However until the church makes this clear, over and over again (as they do against the idea of a one-only-possible marriage partner in life) then many in church will continue to use it as an anti-homosexual scripture.

    But trust the women to not keep a secrete, hey 🙂 (j/k!)

    By the way what are you thoughts on the eternal consequences of SSM? can they or will they also reach exaltation as a couple? and have ‘eternal increase’ as we say? Just curious,

  67. This is an excellent response. Elder Holland has taken a bold and much needed position which I would have to assume is also the position of the Church. This may seem like blasphemy, but we put a little too much stock on believing EVERY word from anybody who isn’t, at that time, the prophet. Man has set foot on the moon too!

  68. Jared #66,

    A list of books isn’t very helpful. What might be helpful would be something like a list of, say, 10 things LDS prophets have done that couldn’t have been done by someone who wasn’t a prophet.

  69. CarlosJC:

    I don’t expect that the Church will ever take to providing an official interpretation of every account in the scriptures. I do agree that in a much broader sense, there will remain to be a tendency for some to proof-text any verse of scripture that suits their special interests. I believe that this is what is meant in 2 Peter 3:16, where the “unlearned” and “unstable” are criticized for their proclivity to wrest the scriptures to their own destruction.

    As for your question to me, I must first say that I don’t believe in the Mormon Church as the restored “true” Church, so I feel no need to conform my beliefs around Church positions. I have two basic postions on SSM.

    1) Socially I believe that homosexuals ought to be entitled to the same rights as every other free citizen, as guaranteed by the constitution. Meaning, they ought to be entitled to have the rights to seek out and engage in meaningful relationships with any person they wish – barring the obvious caveats of any forced relationships, or any intimtate relationships with minors. I actually agree with the religious perspective that marriage is a religious tradition, and therefor religions may decide who they marry. I just believe that the power and scope of this right should be maintained soley within their religion, and not extend in the broader social arena. In other words, looking forward I would be very opposed to any measure that attempted to legally force a Church to perform marriages for homosexuals. That being said, at this juncture I think that this concern has been contrived as a lame slippery slope argument against SSM. If a Church/institution chooses to perform marriages for homosexuals, I believe they should have that right. So long story short, I believe that legally, homosexuals should have the right to be married if they so choose, while on the other hand I do not believe that the Mormon Church should necessarily change it’s policy or theology internally. They should just not be in the business of trying to rob people of their civil rights based strictly on their religious tenets and prophecies.

    2) Religiously, I am somewhat uncertain. I tend to see myself as a Christian, though admittedly short of a hope and admiration of Jesus, I don’t know exactly what that means. For me the debate is going to fall on what we are able to determine about the nature homosexuality. If it turns out that homosexuality is derived from innate forces, such as genetics, then I find the religious arguments invalid. After all, how can we reasonably condemn someone for breaking convention, when the forces driving this were doled out at birth. Based on what I have read, admittedly as someone fairly ignorant to general biology, the genetic case seems to be winning the battle. So, I expect that the religions are going to be eating their hats again, which they will do and continue to move forward accumulating converts. As for heaven, I guess sets the rules, but I don’t see how he could condemn people for impulses that are directly part of their nature. If by chance, on the other hand, homosexuality turns out to be a matter of choice (which I don’t necessarily believe, but for the sake of considering the possibilities), and it is in fact a sin, then I guess homosexuals will have to pay the price.

    Here’s my over the top long response to a fairly simple question.

  70. #70 Kuri–

    If you diligently seek you’ll find what you’re looking for. I’ll add another book:

    Prophecies of Joseph Smith by Duane S. Crowther. Over 400 pages.

    The list of books I provided will provide you with 10 x “10 things LDS prophets have done that couldn’t have been done by someone who wasn’t a prophet”.

  71. #65 Jared said, “From what you’ve said, living on “borrowed light” is not an option for you any longer. You need to have your own spiritual break through. The question is: are you willing to do what is required? If you are, you will find your way, and the answers will come.”

    I appreciate your concern and the spirit in which you write. I truly do.

    Just for the sake of our discussion, I would still ask you the same question I asked before. What would a prophet have to do before you began to doubt?

    I certainly don’t take what you said about “borrowed light” personally, but I must say that I HAVE had a testimony of my own. But after confronting what I believed to be devastating evidence against the claims of the church, what I realized is that “testimony” is not what I thought it was. After studying and asking around, I have come to understand that internal religious experience is utterly subjective and is completely unreliable as a compass to ultimate truth for anyone other than the self. Those who have had powerful spiritual experiences are built so emotionally and mentally different from one another. They also come with different levels of biases, motives, and desires (i.e. those having faith promoting experience who were seeking to confirm what they already believe, on one hand, and those having them that were not expecting nor seeking an experience, on the other). Furthermore, the conclusions and meanings they attach to these experiences can conflict so drastically as to leave no hope that any kind of universal theological truth will ever be discovered through them.

    To think that Mormons are the only people in the world that are sure of their faith is preposterous (not saying you think that, but some LDS really believe that the experience of the “Holy Ghost” is only had within the church, and that any one else feeling the same type of confirmation about their faith is being decieved). In the end, an individual having a profound connection to faith means absolutely nothing for anyone else. If the level of a believer’s certainty is the test by which we judge the validity of religious claims, then I would argue that we should probably all become devout Muslim fundamentalists.

    I hope that I don’t sound disrespectful, Jared, beacuse I certainly don’t mean to be. But you seem to be telling us that because you feel so sure about your beliefs, they must be true for everyone else. If we just do the work, we’ll receive the answers that you did, or so you said. I will tell you, I did pray more fervently and frequently than I ever had before during my initial crisis of faith, but I got nothing…. cold, dark, nothing… no answers whatsoever.

    That’s MY reality, Jared. That said, I know it’s not yours, and I won’t presume to tell you you’re wrong about it. We can debate history. We can argue doctrine. But we will never effectively debate matters of faith. All bets are off when it comes to faith.

  72. Kuri:

    Are you familiar with the Crowther book Jared mentioned? I have it. How well do you know about Joseph Smith’s prophecies? Just curious.

  73. …But even the big ones that did are mired in controversy. i.e. the civil war prophecy actually referring not to the civil war, but a well publicized insurrection in SC that occurred prior to the prophecy; the Stephen A Douglas prophesy being based entirely on William Clayton’s journal entry years after it was recorded, in which there is no mention of JS claiming that Douglas would aspire to the presidency (another addition or liberty taken during Joseph Smith’s postmordem “autobigraphical” history project).

    As for the saints going to the Rocky Mountains, I’ve never seen the prophetic nature of that statment, even as a believer. He had been talking about scouting out that region for years and even requested Army troops from Congress so he could formally explore the West. Unless I’m missing something here, Brigham’s decision to then take them to the general area (the “Rocky’s”) that Joseph had mentioned over and over seems to me to be anything but miraculous.

    The other issue here as you said, how many prophecies just didn’t work out??!!! So, so many. This fact bothered me as a believer. It always got worked out though, didn’t it? The saints were told that the Lord was just teaching a valubale lesson or was trying his people’s faith. God didn’t really mean that the saints would ACTUALLY reclaim Zion, or find treasures and hordes of converts in Salem, etc., etc., etc.

  74. Raymond-

    “I will tell you, I did pray more fervently and frequently than I ever had before during my initial crisis of faith, but I got nothing…. cold, dark, nothing… no answers whatsoever.”

    (I’ve just read the last few comments, so hopefully my comments will make sense) It has been interesting to me to meet people who have had a crisis of faith and those who have not yet. I believe that anyone who believes in God and regularly prays to Him will experience a time or times in their life when they feel He isn’t answering, when things are cold and dark and as if they are all alone. I think it is necessary to feel this way in order to understand what it is like NOT to feel this way. If my prayers are answered in a way that I understand every time I pray, then I won’t ever struggle. I believe struggles are necessary and not understanding is necessary as well. I would not have a clue what others are going through in their life if I never had to doubt, feel sorrow, or feel abandoned or lost. Those experiences and feelings have made me a much more loving, compassionate person and also have taught me how to not judge in ways that are hurtful or harmful. All the struggles and pain in my life have helped me become the person I am today, and the times when God has seemed to be far from me and not paying attention have actually brought on raw pain, which connects me to so many others on this planet in an instant. As humans we don’t seem to care much about others when everything is going well, when we are happy and content. It is only when we have to suffer, when we experience loss and heartache that we truly begin to connect and understand others.

    Sorry for going on, but my main point is that I think part of God’s love for us is allowing us to feel those feelings that aren’t comfortable. He is teaching us to become like Him, to love others like He does. I know this probably isn’t directly addressing the topic that is being discussed, but I wanted to address the specific comment I pulled from #73.

  75. #73 Raymond–

    I appreciate your thoughtful and kind reply.

    Raymond asked twice: “What would a prophet have to do before you began to doubt?”

    I haven’t really given thought to this question. My faith isn’t grounded in the prophets. The way I see things the prophets aid us in our journey to know Christ. I have all the ordinances I need for now. I’m firmly on the path, I don’t depend on the prophets the way I did in the past. If one, or more of the prophets broke off and started another church, I’d be shocked and concerned, but my faith wouldn’t be damaged.

  76. Jared,

    Thanks for the answer. I think I understand your position now.

    You have a highly individualized and independent testimony, something I think is admirable. I don’t know how many members out there could survive something like what happened in Kirtland with half or so of the twelve dissenting and others going on to create other churches.

    Enjoyed the exchange!

  77. #71 Cowboy,

    Interesting. I’d agree on a non-discriminating world for all, gays and races, men and women. But I don’t think that providing a civil union option or a new institution which we could call ‘G-Marriage’ for example, would be discrimination at all but just a more correct definition of what this new practice of joining a man to a man for mortal life would be.

    – “As for heaven, I guess sets the rules, but I don’t see how he could condemn people for impulses that are directly part of their nature.”

    They do with adulterers who also follow their natural impulses.

    I doubt that both, adulterers and homosexuals who couldn’t live within defined boundaries, will be there. But that’s just my opinion.

  78. Raymond & Jared,

    Thank you both for your comments, and I am sorry I wasn’t able to respond or extend a thanks until now. Both of you have leveled some good arguments, but I have to say, and with full respect to both viewpoints, Raymond’s arguments make much more sense.

    Jared, your original response about testimony vs. clutter, and how there is opposition in all things made some good points, it was stated well. But again, Raymond is right, and I agree, calling these things clutter is pretty awful. It downplays and sidesteps the whole problem, it surely doesn’t solve it, only exacerbates it further. This approach drives people away because it tells them the truth is no truth. How can one recon with that?

    It seems to me that one can’t just ‘pretend’ things are ok and ignore all these things. These issues are serious, pivotal, and important; not simply clutter. Its like putting mud in a Thanksgiving dish and telling people that if they have faith, the mud won’t be there. We can’t ‘believe’ the mud out from the dish.

    And Jared, although Raymond already addressed your response well, the idea that if people would quit making problems with the church, just believe it is all ok and discover there own personal problems (you said something about people getting off their ‘butts’), is problematic. It betrays logic. These aren’t personal problems. Its like being in a form of denial. To stay with the faith one has to ignore and discount certain realities; that is my issue. How can a person do that? It seems so dishonest and wholly not part of religious belief. And if the Holy Ghost tells us the truth about our faith, why does it also tell people the truth about their faith also? The Mormon answer is that ‘the devil’ tells them, while the HG tells us. That just sounds too easy, too convenient for our side.

    I largely feel like an atheist who goes to church not to disappoint his spouse and family. (And that isn’t a principled reason to be religious-so that eats at me also.) I go through all the motions, and I want and try to believe, but its just not working.

    Anyhow, I don’t really require a response to this, but thank you both for discussing some of these hard issues. I realize these things aren’t easy to discuss, but they do matter and are important. Thanks again for your time.

  79. #65: “The question is: are you willing to do what is required? If you are, you will find your way, and the answers will come.”

    That logic is shot through with the potential for bad faith — because “what is required” is not defined, and (to a true believer) will always sit on a sliding scale. The inevitability of a conscientious person’s getting the correct answer, if he does “what is required,” is never in doubt. So when a person does not get an answer — after literally all he can do — the response is inevitably “he obviously didn’t do what was required.” Never mind that the person has objectively done far more than another person, who believes he has gotten an answer — much is required of them to whom much is given, and the Lord obviously requires more of the former person than the latter. The bottom line is that the person who doesn’t receive the proper answer Will Always Be Wrong.

    The similarity of all this to the thorough bad faith involved in the global warming debate is pronounced.

  80. CarlosJC:

    What I meant by “impulses” was not sudden lustful urge achieve sexual gratification, but rather the whole nature of one’s sexual orientation. I can accept that while sexual orientation may be innate, sexual gratification is achieved as a matter of choice. Adulterers in a heterosexual context have an approved outlet, ie, to engage in the committed sexual relationship of marriage. So it appears that, even according to most staunch Christians, God has created a vehicle through which those natural impulses can be freely expressed. Furthermore I think you would be hard pressed to find many a Church leader/GA who believes that these natural impulses are intended to be repressed for ones entire lifetime, nor that you would find many people who believe that such an idea is even healthy. There have been many attempts at social celibacy, and by and large they have not been overwhelmingly succesfull. Regarding homosexuals these affections would be denied by religion, really for no other reason than it doesn’t appear to conform to most religious paradigms. Yet, if we take as a given that sexual orientation is innate, we would suggest just that. I believe in God, and I believe in some level of accountability. At the same time, God would not be much of a manager if a portion of his children were set up for failure. It also would make the atonement somewhat defective. After all, the steps to repentance are 1) acknowledge the sin. 2) confess the sin and seek forgiveness from all relevant parties. 3) make restitution. 4) turn away from. How does one repent of homosexuality if their tendencies are innate? Of course the common response is to say, well homosexuality is not the sin, rather the acts associated therewith. Yet, if they cannot purge homosexual tendencies then it seems more a recipe for failure than anything. Rather, I would argue that the common counter that only acts are sinful, is more of a contemporary attempt at coming to terms with the realization that free-agency cannot explain away this religious taboo. So instead, we have assembled a makeshift policy of sexual and emotional celibacy and patened it under the assumption that this must be what God wants. The more we humans interject on Gods behalf, the more God looks like a fallible human rather than a God. Isn’t that really what this whole post was about.

  81. #85: “At the same time, God would not be much of a manager if a portion of his children were set up for failure.”

    OK. Take that argument one step farther. If homosexual inclination may be innate, might not also other behaviors be innate? Including behaviors that not even “progressives” would countenance, or argue society must tolerate? (Use your own imagination here; identifying examples of such behavior will, in my experience, immediately trigger logically ramshackle shrieks that I’m “comparing gays to [fill in the blank].)

    Now, I do agree that some people definitely do appear to be “set up for failure,” or at least born or raised predisposed to various behaviors that various religions oppose. The Calvinist (i.e., the person who is not a cafeteria-style reader of the Book of Romans) simply says that those people are vessels of wrath, made unto dishonor, fitted to destruction, etc. Still hammering out how to rationalize that passage away, because I do find the notion behind it horribly unjust, at least from a Rawlsian perspective. The easiest “out,” of course, is the notion that we’re judged not so much on the final results, but on how we play the hand we’re dealt. Or, if the card-playing analogy is out of place (face cards! Ack!), what we do with the talents we’re entrusted with.

    Thus, I could definitely envision God measuring an utterly gay person’s life against a standard appropriate to that hand of cards: did he strive to live a committed, selfless relationship, etc. or did he seek multiple partners with gay abandon, and actively war against the conventional notion of marriage as constituting an oppressive patriarchy, etc.?

  82. #83 Skeptic
    #84 Thomas

    I appreciate the civility of the exchange we’re having on this important subject. I’d like to touch on a few points that came to mind as I read your comments.

    1. One man’s clutter is another man’s catastrophe–what I see as clutter in church history, others see as a catastrophe.

    I don’t fully understand why people see “evidence” so differently, but they do. There are different ways to describe the difficulties in church history–I chose the word clutter because from my perspective all the issues I’ve come across in church history can be cleaned up. One doesn’t tear a house down because it’s cluttered. But for others, what I see as clutter is a catastrophe for them, and they make the decision to tear the house down because they find it uninhabitable.

    We can argue at length about clutter vs catastrophe and I don’t think we’ll get anywhere. It seems as though people are hard-wired on this.

    2. Perspectives regarding God

    This is another subject that people appear to be hard-wired on. My father was not a member. I did my best to introduce him to the gospel of Jesus Christ, but he wouldn’t have anything to do with it.

    He finally said something near the end of his life that helped me see his perspective. He said that he believed there was something to Mormonism but he wasn’t about to investigate or commit to it because he didn’t want to be held accountable. He never asked God for anything, he explained, and didn’t expect that God would condemn him for anything in return.

    Many who have commented on this post seem to have the perspective that if God exist, and Joseph Smith was His prophet, then the history of the church would be free of ______________ (fill in your favorite church history catastrophe(s)).

    Others, don’t see church history catastrophes, they see church history clutter. The clutter they see comes from the fact the Lord has given man agency–the prophets included. They are willing to accept fallible prophets, believing that God intervenes selectively in the affairs of His church, but is willing to let the prophets make mistakes, even big ones–but ultimately this furthers His work of bringing to pass the immortality and eternal life of man.

    3. Obtaining the gift of the Holy Ghost

    When a person is baptized they are told to receive the Holy Ghost. We’re taught that water baptism is but half a baptism, and is useless until one receives the baptism of the Spirit.

    My perspective on this is that until we have the manifestations of the Holy Ghost most of us will be hard-wired to the natural man, and will thus have the perspectives of a natural man. I believe this means that without the HG we won’t be able to obtain the needed faith/testimony to accept Mormonism has God’s restored church.

    This is the reason I said we can’t live on borrowed light forever. There comes a time when we need to obtain an answer from God regarding the truthfulness of Mormonism. Now, some people take that as a put down. I don’t see it that way. I see it as a reason.

    I believe God will answer every person’s sincere prayer in His own time and in His own way. Waiting on the Lord isn’t easy, I know by experience just how difficult that can be.

    So I am saying, without the Spirit conversion doesn’t happen. Our perspective is shaped by the Spirit of the Lord.

    4. My perspective regarding those who haven’t been converted and struggle with the history of the church. I’ll borrow the words of Joseph Smith (via Whitney)

    …the eye of the Shepherd is upon them, and sooner or later they will feel the tentacles of Divine Providence reaching out after them and drawing them…to the fold. Either in this life or the life to come…

    I hope you can see that I don’t find reason to condemn anyone who is struggling with obtaining answers to their prayers, or being converted. I believe this is in the Lord’s hands. I wish it wasn’t so hard for many, but I learned long ago not to counsel the Lord.

  83. -“Furthermore…you would be hard pressed to find..a Church leader/GA who believes that these natural impulses are intended to be repressed for ones entire lifetime”

    They all preach this. The Law of Chastity does require controlling ones impulses during all of our lifetime and beyond. A single person may be asked if they live the law of chastity including abstinence from masturbation. And there are members who are single all their life. I agree that it isn’t necessarily the healthiest was to live, and singles may have a shorter life expectancy, but in our church the eternal sense of all things are more important than mortal life.

    -“How does one repent of homosexuality if their tendencies are innate?”

    The church doesn’t seem to accept that its innate. A GA recently came out saying ‘its not in your DNA to be gay’ or something similar. Now maybe this viewpoint is slightly off but the chances of accepting homosexuality as innate and unavoidable seems to me at least to be less likely today, and the main reason for this seems to be what is revealed about exaltation imo.

  84. “They all preach this. The Law of Chastity does require controlling ones impulses during all of our lifetime and beyond.”

    The entire purpose of mortality, according to Mormonism, is to come to earth obtain a body, make covenants and keep commandments – more or less. Central to the Mormon covenants is eternal marriage, and the Mormon paradigm makes no exception for those who choose not to marry. In order to obtain the highest degree of glory, one must have passed through all saving ordinances, which includes the sealing covenants associated with eternal marriage. In other words, the Church does not teach lifelong abstinence, rather they teach as you say chastity which simply means no sexual relations UNTIL marriage. Regarding singles, frankly there is little place for them in the Church both in doctrine and somewhat culture. I attended a conference at Utah Valley State College about seven years ago where Elder Ballard spoke and addressed the issue of singles. His words were that everybody is accountable for whether they marry in this life or not. He then placed most of the burden on single young men, whom he feels shoulders the imbalance of responsibility for pursuing righteous women. He also suggested that women have some responsibility to make themselves accessible and desirable by presenting themselves with their best foot forward. He included a caveat for women by saying that if they have done their part and still no righteous man pursues them, then they will be provided for in the hereafter and may still enjoy all of the blessings of the highest degrees of glory. The men he said will be given little exception however. The point to all of this is, the Church absolutely does not intend for it’s members to be celibate for their entire lives, they expect them to be chaste, which provides for a sexual/emotional relationship. The counsel to singles is like the counsel to homosexuals, it is duct tape repair work for an unintended reality.

    As for Bruce Haffen, given comments made by Oaks and Marlin K. Jensen, I would be willing to bet that his comments are not indicative of an institutional position.

  85. #85: “We can argue at length about clutter vs catastrophe and I don’t think we’ll get anywhere. It seems as though people are hard-wired on this.”

    Indeed. Which is why I’m reconsidering having rationalized away the unambiguous predestinarianism taught in Romans chapter 9. It may simply be that God has compassion on whom he will have compassion, and that (since we’re all depraved anyway, and warrant damnation) his election of a chosen few to save is not unjust to the unsaved, who in any event get no more or less than they deserve. That would offend a Rawlsian liberal (the relevant concept is the notion that actions that increase inequality are fundamentally unjust), but maybe God’s more of a Benthamite.

    I think back to Elder Holland’s condemnation of disbelievers in Joseph Smith’s story as people who “wish not to believe” in Mormonism. Where does this desire to believe come from? Why do some people evidently have it, and others do not? Might it simply be a case of the “elect” versus the vessels fitted unto dishonor?

  86. “Why do some people evidently have it, and others do not? Might it simply be a case of the “elect” versus the vessels fitted unto dishonor?”

    Or might it all just be hogwash intended to guilt the unbeliever into an emotional sense of inadequacy in hopes they will capitulate out of fear and insecurity.

  87. #90 Thomas–

    Less I be misunderstood, the agent of change is the Holy Ghost. As you’re aware the idea of predestination doesn’t allow for agency–so please don’t conclude from my comments I’m suggesting something else. Every person who has ever lived (premortal, mortal, post-mortal) will have the opportunity to receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.

    God is all powerful within the confines of agency. I believe God will give each of His children the benefit of His status as a God. This means each of us, at some point in our existence, will have had extended to us all that a God could provide to accomplish our immortality and eternal life. This is the reason the following scripture can be stated:

    31 Yea, every knee shall bow, and every tongue confess before him. Yea, even at the last day, when all men shall stand to be judged of him, then shall they confess that he is God; then shall they confess, who live without God in the world, that the judgment of an everlasting punishment is just upon them; and they shall quake, and tremble, and shrink beneath the glance of his eall–searching eye. Mosiah 27:31

  88. Jared, I’m afraid I still misunderstand where you’re going.

    You suggested that the different reactions of different people to Mormonism seem to be “hard wired.” That is, one person looks at as much of the whole body of competing evidences (or as much of it as he can reasonably process) and is persuaded, while another person looks at the same thing and says “how on earth could anybody find this persuasive?”

    Why?

    The conventional Mormon wisdom is that Person #2 is a lesser character. Again, though, why? Even if we take the position that the reason for the difference is bias — that is, one person has a stronger desire to believe in Mormonism than the other — what is so much more noble about a pro-Mormon bias than a pro-Catholic one? What is it about this particular Church — with its precise mixture of goodness and fallibility, and its particular package of doctrines, and its particular accounting of measurable “fruits” (i.e., better than the Baptists in preventing divorce, not as good as the Lutherans, etc.) — such that all good God-fearing people ought to want to believe it is the one true church, and that a person lacking that desire may justly be condemned for “wishing not to believe”?

    I see a good Church, but I don’t see one so dramatically superior to all others that wishing to believe this versus another church is a moral issue (as might be involved in a person obstinately wishing not to believe in something unambiguously superior). I can only come to the conclusion that justice has nothing to do with it. It’s not that a person is “good” because he happens to be one of the “honest in heart” who finds himself possessed of a desire to believe Mormonism. He was born that way, predestined for salvation by a Calvinist God.

    Alternatively, the Mormon epistemological model for spiritual matters could be flawed, and maybe Joseph was right in the King Follett discourse that people shouldn’t be faulted for not believing his history.

  89. LDS believe in three estates: pre-mortal, mortal, and post-mortal. According to God’s knowledge of us as individuals (this includes things like our age, and experience. Christ was the first born, so we’re not all the same age, thus we have different experiences. Additionally, I’m sure there are many things about the pre-mortal world that we know nothing about)He might not extend the opportunity to receive the gift of Holy Ghost to the majority of His children until the post-mortal estate. This explains why so few of the inhabitants of the world, since Adam, hear the gospel in this life. Full conversion can’t take place without the gift Holy Ghost.
    _______________________________________
    Thomas asked: You suggested that the different reactions of different people to Mormonism seem to be “hard wired.” That is, one person looks at as much of the whole body of competing evidences (or as much of it as he can reasonably process) and is persuaded, while another person looks at the same thing and says “how on earth could anybody find this persuasive?”

    Why?
    ______________________________________
    In this life, we’re all hard wired, to one degree or another, to the natural man, the gift of the Holy Ghost is the agent of change. When one receives the gift of the Holy Ghost the hard wired natural man dies when rebirth occurs.

    Two people hear the message of the restored church, one receives the “Spirit” and joins, the other considers it nonsense because he didn’t receive the Spirit. The difference is readiness in the eyes of the Lord, one receives the Spirit, the other doesn’t, at least for now. However, the time will come when he will be given the Spirit, and choice.

    Does this mean everyone will eventually follow Christ? I don’t think so. But I do believe that the majority of God’s children will.

    The parable of the prodigal son and the laborers illustrate this concept.

    How many LDS families do you know that have the same upbringing and some of the children cleave to the gospel, while others don’t? What the difference? Some would have you believe those who cleave are superior.

    BS!

    The difference lies in the omniscience of the Lord. Men like apostle Paul and Alma I, and Alma II clearly illustrate this.

    When the Lord’s time table for me arrived I was amazed at how persuasive He can be.

  90. Thomas–

    Sectarian? Not so, brother. Explicitly taught by church leaders? Not often, but a careful reading will turn up what I’ve said, here and there.

    For example, President J Reuben Clark Jr said the following:

    I am not a strict constructionist, believing that we seal our eternal progress by what we do here. It is my belief that God will save all of His children that He can; and while, if we live unrighteously here, we shall not go to the other side in the same status, so to speak, as those who live righteously, nevertheless, the unrighteous will have their chance, and in the eons of the eternities that are to follow, they, too, may climb to the destinies to which they who are righteous and serve God, have climbed in those eternities that are to come.

    Church News, April 23, 1960.

    Elder J Reuben Clark Jr. gave a talk at the Ensign Stake Conference. This is a quote from his talk.

    I hope I can be aware of your return to Mormonism along with others who comment on this and other blogs. It will be a great day!

  91. Jared,

    Technically, it wouldn’t be a “return,” since I never left. There I was with my family on Sunday, five rows back on the right side of the chapel.

    Or (if one takes the position that someone like me was never really Mormon, despite the upbringing, mission, sealing, etc.), it still wouldn’t be a return, because I would be arriving in the real place for the first time.

    By “sectarian,” I mean “entertaining the belief that assent to a certain denominational creed is necessary for salvation.” I believe this applies to you, although certainly your (and evidently Elder Clark’s; must read that talk) view that the assent need not be given in this life, with our present imperfect understanding, takes much of the traditional sting out of sectarianism. For all practical purposes, that kind of “sectarianism” (which I really don’t mean as a dirty word) is just shy of a Christian universalism. And that puts you in excellent company, along with many adherents of other technically “sectarian” faiths who hold out hope that God’s mercy is greater than we can understand.

    I’ve seen other church leaders teaching the opposite, but since my need to believe in a just God is stronger than my need to pretend to believe in an infallible Church hierarchy, I have no problem paying attention to you and your authorities in place of the others.

  92. Thomas and Jared,

    You’re both highly informed and articulate, and I’ve enjoyed reading your discussion. About all the hard wiring vs Holy Ghost stuff, let me just say this:

    Religious experience by nature is completely subjective. As you illustrated, even in our tightly wound, “constructionist” type of church, you get general authorities with different approaches and beliefs. Some may argue that these differences are minor, but I would beg to differ. There have been divergent teachings on some very important doctrines, including the atonement. It is my belief that in the end, all of us, GA’s included, mold God and religion into what we need them to be. If a doctrine or position doesn’t feel right, we can dismiss it or say whatever we will to wiggle around it, and we are experts at convincing ourselves that in spite of our home-spun theories and conclusions, we are still perfectly orthodox.

    Jared, you have pretty much said that the experience of the Holy Ghost decides the day.

    Is it all really this simple? Can anyone familiar with sociology, psychology, anthropolgy, and the hard-knock school of human experience truly believe that people seeking religious truth will only receive a solemn witness and confirmation within Mormonism? Do we really not understand that others feel the burnings of the spirit within their faiths, Christian or otherwise? Many people are firm in their beliefs. Some are even “sure.”

    That said, Mormon’s simply don’t own “I know.” I love much about the church, but this is one thing that bothers me about the general membership. I wish they would ask around – get to know their non-member neighbors… and not just in superficial ways so they can fellowship of “serve.” I’m talking about really getting to know other people’s views, especially on religion. I think this kind of communication along with some general study on world relgion and spirituality would open their eyes and invoke a little institutional humility and serve to check some members’ over-anxious evangelical fervor.

    On Conversion:

    Hypothetically, if I’m at a particular point in my life, have had particular experiences, and am in touch with a particular set of friends and family – if all the planets align a certain way, I might be one who looks into and converts to Mormonism. It makes sense and feels right. By the same token, if I run into a friend that introduces me to his Methodist church, it might work out just the same… love the people – love the feel. Why would I ever entertain Mormonism at that point? Human nature being what it is, I would likely find myself loyal to the “testimony” I already have and would shun anything that tells me I’m mistaken. Is this not the same for members of our own church? Many of us get set in our beliefs and won’t bend, no matter what information might come along.

    The fact is, nobody owns “testimony.” Everyone serious about their faith thinks God speaks to them and guides them. There are some in the LDS faith who accept this but also assert that if the recipients of these promptings were persistent and humble enought in their search for truth, they would eventually find the missionaries. That’s a little short-sighted and ego-centric, in my opinion.

    Do we really suppose that a mother in Italy, who thanks Mother Mary for the miraculous recovery of her sick son, is going to feel anything but increased reverence for and devotion to the patron saint she had been praying to for weeks on end? Is her fervent dedication to her faith and the subsequent feeling of an intimate connection with the divine really going to lead to a sense that there’s something missing in her own religious experience, enough so to start entertaining thoughts of looking elsewhere for greater truth? To think so is to misunderstand the human experience. It’s just too easy – too convenient – to look past the complexity and diversity of human spirituality and cling to a simplistic notion that if people are prepared, elect, or humble, they will only come to the same conclusion about truth as the Mormons do.

    Herein lies the great spiritual lynchpin for me!!!!

    Even if someone could come and make an overwhelmingly coherent and convicing argument for Mormonism, and supposing I could accept it with my rational mind, I would still need to grapple with the arguments I just made. It’s the question of all questions for me:

    How can I ever know if feeling sure means being right?

    If I chose to be an active member of the church, I fear I would always be skeptical. At the very least, I would be a horrible member-missionary!

  93. #99 Raymond:

    Blake Ostler made an interesting presentation, at the March 2008 FAIR conference, defending subjective spiritual experiences as a basis for knowledge. (Link at http://www.fairlds.org/FAIR_Conferences/2007_Spiritual_Experiences.html.)

    I thought his point was well-argued, except for one critical point, which he seemed to gloss over. He acknowledged your point — that people from different faith traditions all seem to have powerful spiritual experiences, which we generally have no more reason to reject than we do to reject our own — and then argued that this is perfectly understandable, since other religions contain some truth, the encounter with which can generate spiritual experiences. Thus, an evangelical Christian could have a powerful spiritual experience manifesting the truth of the Atonement, because that is a true principle.

    Ostler briefly touched on the case (which I think is crucial) of a religious manifestation that conflicts with LDS doctrine, giving the example of an apparition to a Catholic mystic of the Virgin Mary, who, he says, doesn’t put in many appearances according to Mormon ways of thinking. He tries to get around that by saying that we ought to consider that such a vision might be a matter of God trying to teach a person in a cultural language he understands.

    The problem with that logic is that it applies to Mormon mystical experiences as well. IF we are to look beyond the surface of a Marian apparition, ignoring some of the false doctrine it supposedly applies, and consider the false apostate aspects merely culturally-appropriate decoration of a core truth, why couldn’t a Mormon’s Moroni 10:4 witness of the truth of the Book of Mormon likewise be “decoration” — of, for example, the core principles that God exists and communicates with us, and that the gospel of Christ crucified is sacred and effective in calling people to lives of holiness?

    I appreciated Ostler’s recognition that when one has a spiritual experience, one still has to have faith that it originates from God, and not one’s own mind. I believe that this faith is completely legitimate; no matter how much may be learned of neurology, psychology, or the like, I doubt it can ever be completely proven whether whatever the mind does when spiritual experience occurs, is purely biological or is merely the biological functioning of a mechanism triggered by an outside, divine agency.

    But beyond that, I don’t see any way around the challenge of “mystical pluralism.” That is, it is irrational to trust a subjective mystical experience as a confirmation of a sectarian doctrine, that is, a doctrine that conflicts with the doctrines another man holds on the basis of his own spiritual experience. We have no compelling reason to believe that we are more spiritually attuned, or equipped to distinguish true from false inspiration, or interpret mystical experiences, than, say, Teresa of Avila. Therefore, subjective religious experience is an improper basis for sectarian faith.

    A subjective spiritual experience can be fairly interpreted as meaning that there is some degree of divine truth within the religious tradition in the context of which the experience was felt. But if Ostler’s hypothetical Marian apparition isn’t evidence for the comprehensive, across-the-board truth of the Catholic tradition, then a Mormon spiritual experience likewise isn’t evidence for the comprehensive truth of Mormonism. All that’s being said in either case is that the truth of Christ is present in each tradition — and perhaps a sign of God’s approval of a person’s participation in each tradition.

  94. #99 Raymond–

    Ray said:

    1. “Religious experience by nature is completely subjective.”

    2. “…you have pretty much said that the experience of the Holy Ghost decides the day…Mormon’s simply don’t own “I know.””

    3. “The fact is, nobody owns “testimony.” Everyone serious about their faith thinks God speaks to them and guides them.”
    _____________________________________________________

    Raymond et al,

    This has been a fun discussion.

    1. The word subjective can be troubling for me. Here is a dictionary definition:

    (1) : peculiar to a particular individual : personal (2) : modified or affected by personal views, experience, or background (a) b : arising from conditions within the brain or sense organs and not directly caused by external stimuli
    :lacking in reality or substance

    I think religious experience can be both subjective and objective (expressing or dealing with facts or conditions as perceived without distortion by personal feelings, prejudices, or interpretation).

    When a person receives a “prompting”/”impression” it is objective to the one who receives it, and for the hearer’s who have had like experience. It is subjective to those who have not received like experience (therefore harboring doubt).

    This is just a brief explanation, and makes a general point. Much more can be said on this concept.
    ___________________________

    Mormon theology teaches four sources of “inspiration”: 1)light of Christ, 2)Holy Ghost, 3) gift of the Holy Ghost, 4) evil spirits.

    Everyone has access to three of these, only Mormons have access to the gift of the Holy Ghost (and only those who have been baptized by the Spirit).

    Note: the gift of the Holy Ghost is the heart and soul of Mormonism, and what really differentiates us from all other religions.

    ____________________

    3. I agree with Raymond that the typical Mormon idea that we have a corner on inspiration is incorrect and annoying. Most church leaders I’ve read don’t teach that. As I pointed above, people of other faiths (all of them) have access to many wonderful things of the spirit. The Lord loves all His children, but He has told us that the “righteous are favored”.

  95. Jared, I fixed it for you. The symbols > and < are used for html tags, and apparently the dictionary you pasted from used those. This blog thought they were html tags, and converted it to a hyperlink. Anyway, it should be ok now, because I changed them to () instead.

  96. “I think religious experience can be both subjective and objective (expressing or dealing with facts or conditions as perceived without distortion by personal feelings, prejudices, or interpretation).

    When a person receives a “prompting”/”impression” it is objective to the one who receives it, and for the hearer’s who have had like experience. It is subjective to those who have not received like experience (therefore harboring doubt).”

    The receiving of promptings is always subjective, even to the person who receives it. Just the idea of receiving promptings is dependent upon the notion of subjectivity in that receiving a prompting depends upon our belief that we can have discreet, individual communications with the divine. I think the problem is your definition of subjective in that it differentiates between individual experience and distortions brought on by feelings, prejudices etc. Its rare to find someone these days who believes in the possibility of this kind of perception. Various fields from cognitive psych. to phenomenology deny the possibility of such objectivity, and with good reason.

    A better definition of the subjective for the religious context examines the issue in terms of who has access to a perception and how they have access to it. When we get promptings or have a prayer answered, or feel called to do something like go on a mission, it is subjective because the only way to describe or explain what has happened is from our individual point of view. No one else has access to it, it can’t be reproduced, it can’t be measured, its source can not be proven, nor can its reality. It is, and always will be subjective. Religious experiences are not objective, nor should we think of them as such, to do so is to deny elements that are critical to religion and to the mystical, that lies at the heart of our experience of the divine.

  97. #106 Douglas Hunter–

    I think you brought up some good points. However, I have a problem with the absoluteness of saying that:

    “The receiving of promptings is always subjective, even to the person who receives it.”

    For example, when Moses, through God’s power, parted the waters of the Red Sea allowing hundreds of thousands of people to escape the armies of Pharaoh, and provided Manna from heaven, and water from rocks, how is this subjective? Was it subjective to Moses? How about to the children of Israel, and Pharaoh’s armies?

    If a soldier from Pharaoh’s army survived the encounter at the Red Sea, how do you think he would relate the experience to his family and friends?

    26 Now ye know that Moses was commanded of the Lord to do that great work; and ye know that by his word the waters of the Red Sea were divided hither and thither, and they passed through on dry ground.
    27 But ye know that the Egyptians were adrowned in the Red Sea, who were the armies of Pharaoh.
    28 And ye also know that they were fed with amanna in the wilderness.
    29 Yea, and ye also know that Moses, by his word according to the power of God which was in him, smote the rock, and there came forth water, that the children of Israel might quench their thirst.

    (Book of Mormon | 1 Nephi 17:26 – 29)

  98. Taken as a given that the parting of the Red Sea happened just as the scriptures say, then yes you have an argument that the event could be classified as both a spiritual experience and an objective experience. We should also recognize however that there is no certainty on this alleged event, meaning either the way that it happened, or that it even happened at all.
    Seeing as no Red Seas have been parted within our lifetimes that can be objectively observed, spiritual experiences appear to have been at least reduced to personal visions, inspirations, etc. These are subjective experiences because they require the reciever to interpret a percieved transmission as a coded message, which they tend to decipher in order to obtain meaning. These experiences are not held in isolation by a group, but rather are manifest in humans and many groups across the religious spectrum. This causes one to wonder if these impulses are therefore not communications from external forces, but rather reactions and emotions natural to the human experience, be it chemical, biological, psychological, or otherwise. Hence, the subjectivity of religious experiences that come in these forms.

    Barring discussions about primary and secondary qualities, I believe there is a point to garner from the Moses experience. While I think you have a losing battle to suggest that personal inspirations or revelations that occur in the mind, or as personal experiences/sensations or impulses, what about the possibility of the First Vision. If we assume that Joseph Smith was sane, then this is an objective case, provided he was telling the truth. The literal appearance and interaction of a person with God requires little interpretation and no code. Acknowledging that the mind of man cannot comprehend the infinite, he still posses enough faculty to make an objective observation about an event that was singular to him. This extends to us. If someone were to have a tangible experience with God, then the argument has nothing to do with objectivity/subjectivity, but rather it is entirely based on credibility. Which would almost apply to Joseph Smith, however we should also note that even among LDS scholars there is somewhat of an uncertainty of whether the pivotal events, such as the First Vision, actually occured in physical reality, or whether they were revelations contained within Joseph Smiths mind. Suffice it to say, if the experience is coded and requires to be deciphered, and I’m not talking about refracted light, then it is subjective.

  99. I somewhat agree with Jared that personal revelation can have an objective content. While the theories of “neurotheology” can be oversold, there is good evidence that certain brain activity patterns are associated with spiritual experience, across different religious cultures.

    To the extent that a person has a religious experience, causing his brain to light up in a certain way, the experience is objective. Interpreting the meaning of those firing neurons is where subjectivity and faith come in.

  100. “To the extent that a person has a religious experience, causing his brain to light up in a certain way, the experience is objective. Interpreting the meaning of those firing neurons is where subjectivity and faith come in.” Brilliantly expressed!

  101. Good discussion.

    My faith and activity is motivated by my experiences with things of the Spirit. I wouldn’t be active in any church without these experiences.

    With that said I would like to give an example from my experience to illustrate and support why I feel religious experience are both objective and subjective.

    In the 1970’s I was in a bookstore and saw a book about the Saviors travels in Israel. I purchased it and told the Lord I would one day like to go there, and walk where the Savior walked.

    Nearly 15 years later a friend called me up and invited me to go to Israel with him. I said, yes! As I started to rearrange my schedule for the trip the memory of the book returned. I spend nearly a whole day looking for it. The impression of the book on my mind was significant. I could see the book cover and color vividly. I felt the impression was from the Lord so I told Him I couldn’t locate the book and I needed His help.

    The next morning when I came into my study the book was there, in plain site, on a shelf. I was, and still am, in awe of this experience.

    I went to Israel and had a marvelous experience, a gift from the Lord resulting from a prayer offered many years earlier! I had forgotten about the book an prayer, but the Lord hadn’t.

    This experience is both objective and subjective. When the impression of the book came into my mind I wasn’t sure if it came from the Lord or my own thought process–a subjective experience. However, when the book showed up on my shelf after having been lost, that was an objective experience.

    Note: I don’t want to leave the impression with those who read this that every prayer I rise up is answered in such a miraculous manner. Most of the time my prayers are answered in ways that are more subjective than objective. But I do want to convey and testify that I have experienced hundreds of answers to prayer and some of them are answered in ways that are purely objective miraculous Spiritual experiences. When a voice speaks from behind the veil giving clear to understand information, or a vision results in answer to prayer, or a manifestation of the Holy Ghost of the highest order is given, there is no doubt that can enter into one’s heart.

  102. Jared:

    “Most of the time my prayers are answered in ways that are more subjective than objective. But I do want to convey and testify that I have experienced hundreds of answers to prayer and some of them are answered in ways that are purely objective miraculous Spiritual experiences.”

    I think we are starting to confuse our subject matter here. I ultimately agree with Thomas’s point in #110, but was concerned that it would lead to some of the ambiguity found here. As I understand it, what is implied by the term “obejectivity” is that conclusions and perceptions regarding a subject matter maintain a high level of consistency or unaninimity from many/most observors. The classic example of gravity is said to be objective because we can all observe it’s affects and reach similar conclusions. Subjectiveness is just the opposite, meaning that conclusions and perceptions depend largely upon on individual bias. Many people accuse Joseph Smith of instituting Polygamy as a way to take advantage of women in order to satisfy his base sexual desires. Many people also disagree, and there is no universal evidence to settle the dispute, so opinions on either side of the coin, which attempt to explain a historical figures inner motives, are entirely subjective. That is they cater to an polar assumption about a mans character, not based on conclusive evidence.

    Putting this into context, using your comment quoted above. You are trying to make the case that some spiritual experiences are objective. To make this point you site the example of finding your book. Isolating the variables, finding the book would be an objective experience. A book was lost, you searched and prayed to find it, you found it. Universally we could all accept this explanation. If that is what is intended by “spiritual” then I am misunderstanding because what makes the experience spiritual is not the recovery of a lost item, but rather that the discovery represented a manifestation of Gods influence in your life and an answer to prayer. In other words, the book is probablly not important at all, but the fact that this chain events occured in a religious context in cooperation with prayer is spiritual for those who will choose to see the unfolding of events in that light. Could someone reasonablly look at the same set of circumstances and come to different conclusions? Is it possible that intuitively you ended up searching for the book in place you had put it, and that as a prayerful person the religious side of the experience is still debatable. Of course it is. The objective nature of the story, as it was told, lies in the finding of the book. The conclusion that finding the book was a result of prayer, as it could not have happened in any other reasonable way, is strictly a subjective interpretation of events based on a belief that answers prayers.

    To be clear, I am not suggesting that this somehow invalidates the belief in miracles or prayer. Nor am I suggesting that a subjective conclusion is unreasonable, childish, or otherwise wrong. There are a great many things in life where true objectivity is not possible, and so our subjective interpretation of things is the best ground to work from. The importance of distinguishing subjectivity from objectivity in religion is that to suggest religious experiences are objective (particularly in this context of Mormonism), suggests the truth of a religious experience exists independant of perception. In short, it is an argument on some level that attempts to suggest that the truth of Mormonism is a proven fact, and those who don’t believe are intentionally circumnavigating established fact. You found a lost book that inspired you to visit the holy land. All else is a matter of opinion.

  103. #113 Cowboy–

    I think I’ve created some confusion by not being as clear as I should have. I think your response is right on from the point of few of an observer.

    I’m writing from the point of view of the person who receives a Spiritual experience. I should have been more clear.

    When one receives an impression/prompting it is hard to know the source in many instances. That can be a subjective experience for the receiver. In your words: Subjectiveness…meaning that conclusions and perceptions depend largely upon individual bias. As a result many among us question the “feelings” they’ve received, creating enough doubt that faith is often stymied .

    However, when one begins receiving manifestations of the kind I illustrated with the book, then for the recipient it is an clearly an objective experience, meaning it isn’t subject to bias, opinion, and etc.

    I’m beginning to think the terms objective and subjective are confusing when used in the context of a religious discussion. The customary words, believe and know communicate meaning.

    Of course, we seen many discussions critical of the use of these words in our testimony meetings. Language is a powerful tool to communicate, but it is imperfect.

  104. “However, when one begins receiving manifestations of the kind I illustrated with the book, then for the recipient it is an clearly an objective experience, meaning it isn’t subject to bias, opinion, and etc.”

    Jared:

    I will concede that this is your first hand experience, and I don’t intend to try and qualify the reality of your experience one way or another. Even so, I am either not understanding you or we are in conflict as to what is meant by objectivity. You refer to the experience of finding the book as a “manifestation”. I assume by this you are saying that finding the book was an objective (non-partial) demonstration of God’s influence in response to your prayer. In order for that to be objective, your conclusion must be the most rational (at the very least) explanation for the events. You don’t seem to imply that there was anything more to the manifestation than the fact that you found the book. At the very least the situation could have been coincidental, which could also be an entirely rational explanation. Intuition, would also serve. Given that I find difficulty in making the argument that the case was objective. If there was something more miraculous than possible coincidence then I apologize for misunderstanding. I would appeal again to the First Vision example. If there was something along those lines which occured, then perhaps an objective case could be made, but again I am having a hard time grasping the claim that this experience demonstrates an example how spiritual experiences can sometimes be objective.

  105. #115 Cowboy–

    Setting the technical aspects of linguistics aside, the meaning of this experience goes to a place in my soul where communion with the Lord occurs. It is the temple of the soul, where God and fallen man meet and where words fail–utterly and completely.

  106. Jared:

    I absolutely have no problem with that. It is a matter of your personal faith, which I appreciate and respect. My hang up with the words is that an objective fact behooves consensus. Clearly we have no consensus on matters of personal faith, hence they are subjective. At the same time they none the less valid, nor necessarily untrue.

  107. Really late comment, but I am not the “Raymond” that commented lately in this thread. I just want to make that clear, since at least one response seems to indicate the writer thinks Raymond is Ray.

    Back to the regularly scheduled programming.

  108. #117 Cowboy–

    Good discussion. Enjoyed the experience. I have a better appreciation for the words discussed.

    #118 Ray–

    At no time did I think Raymond was you.

  109. Jared,

    Do you mind if I ask you a couple questions about your book experience? If I understand you correctly, you believe that the book was not in your bookshelf while you were looking for it. Is that right? If so, where do you think the book was while you were looking for it, and how do you think it got into your bookshelf overnight?

  110. #120 Kuri–

    I don’t mind answering your question. A little explanation first: When I first came to the Bloggernacle I was looking for a site where church members appropriately shared things of the Spirit. That was over two years ago–still looking. The Bloggernacle doesn’t tolerate anti-mormon blogs–I’m all for that. There is however, a continual chorus of doubters expressing themselves about the challenges they’re experiencing maintaining their faith. I’m not against that. What I feel is missing are those who will share the rewards that come because of their faith. So I’ve decided to share regarding the rewards of faith I’ve experienced.

    Now to your questions:

    When I started looking for the book, I first checked the bookshelves in my study containing about 200 books. It wasn’t there. I use those books frequently, so I’m familiar with them.

    Next, I looked in the storage area where I have boxes, and a few trunks of assorted things. Additionally, I went to my office in town and double checked there as well. After doing a thorough search I told the Lord I couldn’t find it.

    You asked: where do you think the book was while you were looking for it?

    I don’t know. I couldn’t find it in my home or office.

    You Asked: How do you think it got into your bookshelf overnight?

    Again, I don’t know for sure. But I do know it wasn’t in my study when I went to bed.

    By the way, when I came into my study the next morning the book wasn’t in my bookshelf, the book was lying on its side in front of some other books. It was in plain sight.

  111. I like the following article by Dr. Armand Mauss for putting the past errors in perspective http://www.blacklds.org/mauss. His book “All Abraham’s Children” emphasizes Mormon progress in understanding that spiritual covenants are far more important than blood lines.

    In this light, I reinterpret Brigham Young’s statement that one drop of the blood of Cain cuts you off from the priesthood. From what we now know, if anyone today has inherited a drop of the physical blood of Cain then we all have at least one drop. Just as the sacrament represents Christ’s blood as a spirtual covenant, I view the blood of Cain as the spiritual choices people make to seriously harm others for their own gain. I realize that Brigham Young did not have this meaning as he had the racial misunderstandings common to his day – Dr Mauss compares Brigham’s views to Abraham Lincoln’s. Brigham did help free some slaves despite his views.

  112. I agree with the first post.  say it over the General Conference Pulpit. and while that is being said, perhaps they should say something about the church not knowing everything about homosexuality either and just love our gay brothers and sisters as Jesus would

  113. Who said we did not love our brothers and sisters who are homosexual. We love all our brothers and sisters. It is the sin that they commit that we do not like. Like Jesus Christ, yes he loves us all, but not the thing we do that are sinful and wrong. If you know your scriptures homosexuality is a sin and because the world want to accept it as being normal, then you go ahead and we will continue to pray for them to be clean. 

    1. LDS Church leaders have said that no one is born homosexual; that they get it from bad experiences growing up and what have you. Holland has said that leaders need to stop preaching that because it might become a Galileo moment if science discovers that people are indeed born that way.

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