Intellectualism and Faith: A Would-Be Marriage!

jmb275 Mormon 70 Comments

It is easy to think yourself out of a testimony.  It’s as simple as saying “well I can’t prove God exists, or doesn’t exist, therefore I am agnostic.”   Today’s guest post is by jmb275.
Since both faith and intellectualism are necessary in our lives, I think it helps to define these terms.

Let’s start with faith.  There are many definitions of faith, and each religion seems to place a slightly different emphasis on faith and its meaning.  From Wikipedia: “faith is the confident belief or trust in the truth of or trustworthiness of a person, idea, or thing.”  In Christianity faith is an act of trust or reliance on Deity.  In this way it is distinguished by the object of its faith rather than the faith itself [1].  In Islam, faith is a complete submission of will to Allah.  In Hinduism it means an unshaken belief and purity of thought.  In Buddhism faith connotates a feeling of conviction, specifically a conviction that something is, a determination to accomplish one’s goals, and a sense of joy deriving from these two.

There is another important aspect of some people’s faith – fideism.  Fideism is the idea of having faith for the sake of having faith.  That is to say, it does not rely on logic, or reason of any kind.  It is independent of reason, and even holds that reason and faith are diametrically opposed.  This may lead us, in the church, to shun intellectualism and focus instead on faith.  For many TBMs, faith trumps logic.  Some believe that the events of the restoration were physical, external realities.  This can result in viewing our own spiritual experiences as evidence of external realities.  We are taught from a young age that the “Spirit” will direct us, put thoughts in our head, prompt us to do things, not do things, comfort us, and even tell us what is “true.”

Intellectualism (rationalism, reason, logic, etc.) is “any of a number of views regarding the use or development of the intellect . . .”  It is sometimes synonymously viewed with “rationalism” the idea that knowledge is derived through reasoning [2].

In my life I have had thoughts come into my head, felt comfort, and felt promptings.  However, it has never been clear to me, since some of these thoughts were wrong and uninspired, how to distinguish “spiritual promptings” I should heed, from just plain ‘ole regular thoughts.  In other words, my “thoughts,” or “promptings” or “experiences” have not always been a manifestation of external truth or reality.

Science is often the “poster child” for intellectualism.  But it indeed has a strong track record.  It is repeatable, reliable, and effective at describing the physical realities that surround us.  Although science is imperfect, its mechanisms are very good, indeed inspired.  On the downside, science is not spiritual.  Science doesn’t write poetry, compose music, paint pictures, or do other activities meet humanity’s spiritual needs.  Science is a utility.  It is one of many tools in the toolbox of life.  It complements faith.

Faith, on the other hand, inspires us, makes us happier, makes us feel good.  It serves as a guide to help us know right from wrong.  It gives us comfort, something to rely upon, and hold to.  I believe that faith is the soul’s innermost desire to express itself, to be born, to come out, to manifest itself in the world around us.  Arguably most importantly, faith moves us to action, and that action is a manifestation of the spiritual being within.  There is great worth in this concept.  It is in this sense, that I believe that faith, like science, is a tool in our toolbox of life.

Having said this, why is it that so many view intellectualism as mutually exclusive to faith?  Might I suggest one possible cause; that religions and people have a psychological affinity for treating the spiritual as physical realities.  Studies have shown that people who have sleep-paralysis, after having an episode, associate the events with reality.  They literally are unable to distinguish the fact that it was a dream.  Is it possible that this happens at the subconscious level even while awake?  Certainly for some people this will be more pronounced than for others.  This can help explain why Joseph had many visions, revelations, etc. which he deemed external realities, yet many, and even most, prophets after him have not.  Joseph was a visionary, for whatever reason.  That does not necessarily mean that his experiences were literal, external, physical realities.  And what if, indeed, they weren’t?

This does not, in my mind, diminish the idea that the metaphorical ideas shared through these experiences can help us in our lives.  Nor does it mean that the organization that he started was worthless even if it’s origins were slightly less miraculous than we like to tell.  Muhammad had visions, and conversations with the angel Gabriel which were eventually written down to form the Quran.  The idea that Muhammad wrote that book himself is heretical to a Muslim.  Yet if it really came from the angel Gabriel should we not heed the teachings contained therein?  But in Mormonism we don’t.  In fact, we don’t give it a second thought.  My solution to this conundrum is the same as that of Joseph.  Muhammad was a visionary.  He even wrote a beautifully inspired book that is every bit as sacred, special, and inspired as the Book of Mormon. However, I would suggest that the truths therein, and even his conversations with the angel Gabriel were internal experiences and metaphors.

This viewpoint makes it a lot easier for me to have faith in Joseph’s teachings, Christ, God, etc.  I have internalized these concepts.  They are metaphors for my spirituality.  I don’t need to reconcile them with science.  I don’t need to reconcile them with reason, or logic, or rationalism.  And I don’t need to reconcile them with any specific brand of religion as they all have metaphors that can help me in my life.  I can have the celestial kingdom right here, right now in my life, by being humble, kind, loving others, etc.  If we will live the way He advocated, we can unleash the inner god and in this way have a testimony of the doctrine.  This, I believe is what Jesus meant when he said “If any man will do his will, he shall know of the doctrine, whether it be of God, or whether I speak of myself.”  (John 7:17)

Is faith in an external reality necessary for spiritual growth?  If faith moves us to action, is faith in metaphorical ideas as powerful as faith in physical realities?  Does intellectualism present a problem for faith in external realities?  Is that problem reduced if we only have faith in metaphorical ideas?

Discuss.

[1] Wikipedia article on faith.
[2] Wikipedia article on intellectualism

Comments

comments

Comments 70

  1. For my part, I agree with you when I wonder why so many times Intellectualism is pitted against Faith. To my mind, they are as inseparable as a snail is to its shell. This feeling was fostered during my first stint in college. For a short time, I attended BYU and studied physics and astronomy, among many other subjects. The more I learned about the laws governing the very large (space) and the very small (atomic motion and composition), the stronger my faith in my creator became. To me, these concrete scientific principles increased my faith. As an aside, this revelation could have come from any university, and did as BYU invited me to explore other academic opportunities elsewhere after my first year. I had a *very* good time while I was there :).

    The only point of contention I would have is a small nit. Where you state that, in essence, science isn’t poetic or artistic. I’m a programmer for an international software company and I find a great degree of artistic expression when I write an elegant piece of code or come up with an efficient solution to a problem. I do, however, allow that my definition of art or poetry isn’t exactly a mainstream one.

  2. Nice post! I have tried to balance out faith (often emotion) and reason. I don’t like one extreme at the expense of the other.

    “if it really came from the angel Gabriel should we not heed the teachings contained therein?”
    Maybe so! I believe all goodness and truth comes from God, and am fine with other people and religions receiving revelation. Even JS taught that we’re not true Mormons unless we gather up all the truth, and to me that not only includes teachings of other faiths, but science and “reason” as well.

    I understand the hesitancy to interpret thoughts and spiritual experiences without the lens of reason. I always try to use them together.

    Ron Hunt–interesting thought about science and art. I will have to think about that more, but in my professional/student life science is often the foundation from which real art can take place.

  3. @Ron Hunt
    It’s interesting you should bring up writing software. I am currently an electrical engineer at a National Laboratory, and I primarily write software. I actually agree with you and I find artistic expression in my design and code as well. You are right, there can be artistic expression for many in mathematics and science. Good point!

  4. I am dashing back out, but this is a wonderful post, jmb275. I believe strongly that knowledge comes to us via faith (and all it’s manifestations) and an exercise of intellect – and that the exact ratio for each person is FAR less critical than the effort to harmonize the two.

  5. I would take issue with a couple of your points, jmb275. You state as one of your main premises that both faith and intellectualism are necessary in our lives. I don’t think that’s a fair assumption at all. I’m not knocking anyone either way, but there are many people out there, and even on this site I’d imagine, who do not see the need or the benefit of faith in their lives. In fact, there are many who feel strongly that their lives have been much improved since they removed faith from their lives. Now, you may argue that faith is some kind of innate component of the human condition, and that it just expresses itself in different ways for some people, and I’d be willing to consider that. But certainly within the confines of the four types of faith you discuss in your post, I disagree that as a matter of fact it is necessary in all of our lives.

    Secondly, you make science the “poster boy” for intellectualism, which, for the purposes of your post, is juxtaposed with faith. Then you say “Science doesn’t write poetry, compose music, paint pictures, or do other activities meet humanity’s spiritual needs.” This implies that faith is somehow responsible for non-scientific things like poetry, music, art, etc. I think this is another unfair assumption about what inspires or leads people to create art, etc. I’m sure there are many poets, artists, musicians, etc., who would credit spirituality for their creations. However, I’m also sure there are many who would just as quickly deny it as any influence on them. I realize this is a bit of a nit, since this isn’t really the main point of your post, but I think a healthy and interesting offshoot of your post (and maybe an appropriate topic of a separate post) is the degree to which it is clear that humanity NEEDS faith. I don’t see this as a given.

    All in all, great post, though.

  6. “I disagree that as a matter of fact it [faith] is necessary in all of our lives.”

    I would disagree with this statement. I think that everyone has faith in something, even if it is only their intellect. It may not be recognized as such, but I think it is faith, pure and simple. They may not have faith in religious things, like God, but, what about faith to go to the store and buy food that is not contaminated. A person without faith would not buy there or would test each thing they bought to insure it was safe. How about walking on a bridge, and having the faith it will not collapse? Bridges collapse all the time, so it is dangerous to walk across a bridge without testing it first. To me, that is faith.

    I’ll have some more to say later

  7. @brjones
    Good points. Let me try to explain a bit better. It sounds like you are mixing faith and religion. In my mind these are separate things. I am asking this exact question, is faith necessary in external realities? No one has answered the questions I posed at the end. Maybe too, I am accidentally lumping spirituality with faith.

    You’re right, I did imply that faith is somehow responsible for non-scientific things like poetry and art. I didn’t say it was a requirement, but you yourself said “I’m sure there are many poets, artists, musicians, etc. who would credit spirituality for their creations.”
    In this vein I may not have come across as clearly as I would have liked. Joseph Campbell, in The Power of Myth, often talks about the artists as releasing the inner spirituality. This is what I had in mind. It’s not so much faith based as it is spirituality based.

    In any case, if the perma-bloggers allow, I have another post in mind that will address the first part of your comment. I have been thinking a lot about it lately.

  8. re 6: Jeff

    this is a conflation of multiple ideas and definitions of faith, however. The faith that a bridge will not collapse is not the same as the faith in God, and I dunno, but it seems like it would cheapen the idea of God to conflate the two (but maybe this is silly nonbeliever misunderstanding on my part). For example, guest (whose post is this, I haven’t really paid too much attention, >_>) writes that fideism is an important part of faith.

    But I don’t have faith in the soundness of a bridge just because. I trust in the soundness of the bridge because in general, there is evidence that bridges haven’t let me down. Maybe America is just a great place, but bridges *don’t* collapse all the time for me and most people, and I am grateful to engineers who make it that way. When I do hear about bridge collapses, it’s of course tragic, but I am confident in a legal system that will work on legislation to work on quality standards. Do I have faith in the legal system just to have faith? No, it is a well-reasoned look at past experience…this country is so litigious you can expect it. Same with food.

    I can’t really do the same thing with God though. And in fact, the church and most religions recognize this. This is why their definition of faith and the aspects of it is DISTINCTLY different from trust and faith in a general sense. To generalize faith’s many definitions and equivocate them all seems to me to just cheapen God and religion.

    so I have to say I am generally more in agreement with brjones. He put it rather well.

  9. “Faith is the substance of things hoped for.”

    If the explicitly religious is removed from this definition, I think “faith” is the driving force of just about every extraordinary advancement known to humanity – the belief that something can be accomplished even though the result can’t be seen.

    It’s like repentance. If the explicitly religious is removed, it becomes “progressive change” – which, again, I see as fundamental to human advancement.

  10. “I think “faith” is the driving force of just about every extraordinary advancement known to humanity – the belief that something can be accomplished even though the result can’t be seen.”

    I think it goes beyond the extraordinary to the sheer mundane activities and things of everyday life. Like the sun rising each day.

  11. OK, I have stopped being lazy…I think I’ve gotten through it all jmb275.

    Re 7: I don’t know if I’ll answer your question, but I FULLY believe so. Of COURSE faith in metaphysical ideas can be and often is as powerful as faith in physical realities.

    I have been talking with this person…who I’m seriously trying to get him to admit that he’s atheist because he does not believe in God as a physical reality. But he raises a great point — it doesn’t matter if God is a physical reality or not (he happen to take a strong agnostic stance where it is impossible for us to know of God as a physical reality or not in any situation…) Rather, the strength of Christianity as an idea or of other religions as ideas or as God as an idea that has motivated millions to action is sign enough. As a metaphysical idea and metaphysical idea only, these things are all doing very well for themselves.

    Have you read Joseph Campbell’s works on comparative mythology? (continues reading your comment — yep, you in fact directly reference him) The idea of this hero’s journey that comes out again and again, with several Jungian archetypes thrown in seems to mesh well with this. These ideas are powerful and pervasive and common, but still, we have to ask, “Are they indicative of something external or something internal?” But this question doesn’t really matter, because even if they are just something subjective and internal, they still are so prevalent.

    I hope…I answered the question?

    (continues reading

  12. “The faith that a bridge will not collapse is not the same as the faith in God, and I dunno, but it seems like it would cheapen the idea of God to conflate the two (but maybe this is silly nonbeliever misunderstanding on my part).”

    Why not? Because you can see the bridge? Because most don’t fall down? Because you don’t believe that the one you are on will not fall down. I’ll bet the folks in Minneapolis didn’t beleive their bridge was going to fall down or they wold not have had the faith to cross it the day it did fall down.

    Just generating a bit of conversation here.

  13. @Andrew S
    I am in agreement with you. Faith to cross a bridge and faith in God are very different things. And just to be clear, I said that fideism is a part of some people’s faith. I personally view fideism negatively. I may not have been clear about that.

    @Ray
    This is an important distinction. Faith can often drive scientific discovery. We have hope, and faith, that we can do better than those before us. In many ways this is not that dissimilar from a belief in God. Scientists will have substantial evidence that leads them to believe that their idea can work. This evidence might come in the form of mathematics, specific readings of instrumentation, etc. Likewise, believers in God have what they consider to be evidence. This evidence is often in the form of an emotional/spiritual experience, or in a perceived miracle.

    This discussion between people in brjones’ and Jeff’s camp is the crux of my post. People who believe in God often equate their emotional/spiritual experiences with evidence of external realities. People in brjones’ camp view that form of evidence of an external reality as invalid, and not on the same level as physical external evidence of physical external realities. I am in this camp. I may not have been clear.

  14. I agree with JS and Ray to a point, but I think Andrew S’s comment ultimately prevails. As you point out, Ray, faith is the substance of thinsg hoped for, but don’t forget the last part of the sentence, “and which are not seen.” This simply does not apply to non-religious life in the same way it does to religion. I only have faith in things until they are ultimately shown to be true or real. The fact is, even if there are numerous non-religious things in our lives that we are forced to have faith in, those things are open to constant evaluation from an intellectual and experiential standpoint. If there are areas in my life in which my belief or trust has not been rewarded or borne out, then I eliminate them or alter them in a way that I choose. Real “faith” does not operate this way. Our faith in spiritual thing is not meant to be proven by emperical evidence in this life, so it is perpetual. I would argue that I don’t have perpetual faith in anything non-religious.

  15. I also like the description in the “Lectures on Faith which goes beyond the epistle of Paul:”

    “If men were duly to consider themselves, and turn their thoughts and reflections to the operations of their own minds, they would readily discover that it is faith, and faith only, which is the moving cause of all action in them; that without it both mind and body would be in a state of inactivity, and all their exertions would cease, both physical and mental.”

  16. I am glad you wrote this post. I have been thinking a lot lately about what makes faith so great, and why so many people equate “faithful” with noble or honorable or good. In order to illustrate my point, let me define what I mean by faith.

    When I think of faith within the LDS framework, or religious faith, I think of Alma 32:21 “and now as I said concerning faith, faith is not to have a perfect knowledge of things; therefore, if ye have faith ye hope for things which are not seen, which are true.” [dang it, I used to have that memorized but I had to look it up just now.]

    I think this is a good definition, except for the final phrase, because if you include “which are true” then faith is defined as a hope for a true thing. Therefore, any belief in something not true would not longer be faith. So for the sake of my comment I define faith as a belief in something not seen. In other words, faith is a belief in something unprovable. (Perhaps “unprovable to another” would be better since JS would argue he had proof of God’s existence personally but it was not something he could prove to another person).

    With that definition of faith, the issues of crossing a bridge and tying your shoes and whether faith is part of an artist’s tool is irrelevant. Whether an artiest paints a painting based on inspiration from his personal experiences or from his belief in god means nothing to me. If I like the painting, I like the painting.

    But my question is, why is faith, or, why is belief in something unprovable, such a desirable quality? It seems that members of the church equate strong testimony (or a high level of faith) with good behavior. Perhaps an example would articulate my feelings better. For parents, and for others, hypothetically: If your daughter’s boyfriend asked you [assume he asked both you moms and dads] for her hand in marriage, what qualities would you hope that he has? For active members, I would imagine that you would say that you would want him to have a strong testimony. Aside from the afterlife implications (being sealed to your daughter, etc.), what does that mean to you? Would you think that a strong testimony means he is more likely to have Christ like attributes and treat your daughter better? If one believes the church is true, I think this is a fair assumption. I mean, we all know that anything can happen, whether he is a RM and eagle scout or an atheist there are no guarantees he will always be a good person. Also, there is the simple issue of your daughter and her husband seeing eye to eye with things religious and wanting to raise the children with the same beliefs that they hold. I guess what I am trying to say is, what about the behavior of the potential son-in-law? Do we over emphasize faith? Would you be more likely to give your blessing to an atheist who by all accounts treats your daughter, and everyone else, with love and charity the likes of which you have never encountered even among members of the church? Or would you prefer an RM with a temple recommend even if he doesn’t strike you as all that loving or all that good? And for the choice you make, why? I would love to hear your thoughts.

    I guess I no longer accept the logical step that more faith equals better person. Further, there are plenty of examples of faithful people being led to do wrong things. I don’t think this happens in the LDS church, but faith can be a dangerous thing. I suppose I have shifted my view of life to be more focused on how one lives his life instead of what one believes.

    One reason that this has been an interesting issue for me to think about is that as I have lost faith in god, I have increased my love for people. That may sound strange, but it truly is how I feel. I feel that we, as humans, need to help each other through tough times. I am not accusing members of assuming god will take care of them, I understand that the church teaches this very principle, to help those in need. But honestly, the less I believe in god the more motivated I am to help others because I feel that I understand how dreary the world can be better than I ever had before, and I have a better understanding of how much we truly need each other.

    Now, several of you are probably thinking, if he is nicer now what a jerk he must have been before, based on my tone in prior posts. I think this is one problem with blogging, I feel my written words carry a harsher tone than I truly feel and it is something I am working on. I apologize if anyone has ever been offended by me.

    This is getting too long, but I guess I am just curious as to why faith is so good and why everyone wants more of it. It may simply be that IF the church is true, then the stronger one believes it, the better off one will be. I certainly agree that if it is true, it is in everyone’s best interest to have as much faith as possible. But if it isn’t, then faith in it will eventually let us down. Perhaps that makes it difficult to discuss.

  17. I really like the idea of this post, because I think ultimately this may be one of those issues that is wholly dependent on your perspective. If someone is a believer, then hard as they try to empathize with those who may not believe, they are going to struggle, because faith is an integral and absolute part of not only their existence, but humankind. Similarly, if one doesn’t believe, they will also struggle to truly empathize with someone who feels with absolute surety that spiritual things are real and known to them.

    Not that anyone cares, but I am not someone who believes that there is nothing greater than myself or that connects us together as human beings. I believe there is absolutely a connection between all human beings, and that we all need that connectivity on a number of levels. My divergence from religion comes when that connection or “spirituality,” if you will, is quantified and defined as an all-powerful, all-knowing being who intermitently intercedes in our lives. I think that’s another good topic for discussion – the different ways that people experience and interpret “spirituality.”

  18. “Faith to cross a bridge and faith in God are very different things.”

    No they are not. This is a common idea I have heard repeatedly from various people so they can set up a strawman agrument that people who have faith in God don’t use reason and blindly believe with no proof. The kind of faith I have in God is exactly the same as I have when I cross a bridge. I have faith in God and a bridge because of my past experiences and because of my use of logic and reason. As the primary song says “Faith in knowing the sun will rise”. This concept I learned since being a small child seems pretty much the same as having faith in a bridge.

  19. Brjones, I agree totally with your first paragraph – and I think it’s interesting to look at “the gift to know” and “the gift to believe those who know” (act in faith) in a very generic sense, as well.

    There are some people who, simply and fundamentally, have to “know” – or, at least, feel they know. (***Every reference after this in this comment to “know” means “believe they know” – just to eliminate semantic arguments.***) They are “believers” – some religious, some atheistic. There are a LOT of people who are just fine and dandy believing others – being “faithful” without having to “know” (or being able to “borrow” knowledge from others and accept it as true). There are some people (an increasing population in our information-rich era, I believe) who no longer fit in either category – who don’t feel they can “know” and also don’t trust others who say they know. They are agnostic – and they generally struggle (often mightily) within a system based on knowledge and faith. After all, if the very organization is discussed in terms of those who know (knowledge) and those who believe those who know (faith), then those who neither know nor believe those who know have no intrinsic place.

    This is the group to which I believe Elder Wirthlin was referring largely in his talk, “Concern for the One”. He even mentioned explicitly those who “THINK” differently as needing to be included in the orchestra in order for the full richness of creation to be manifest and heard. This is the group that tends to value or “weight” intellectualism over spiritualism, even when they don’t reject spiritualism.

  20. Kevin, without being critical of your comment, I think this perfectly illustrates the inherent gap between the two camps on this issue. I would argue that faith in god and in crossing a bridge are not at all similar. I can look at the engineering plans for a bridge, examine its building materials, examine its structural integrity, and on top of that, I can cross that bridge myself to prove that it is sound. But here’s an even bigger difference – I can watch thousands of other people cross that same bridge every day and see, for myself, with my own eyes, that emperically the bridge is crossable. That is 100% sure knowledge. Does that mean it will never collapse? Of course not. But it is proven beyond the need for any amount of faith that it is capable of being crossed. To apply this to the issue of faith, I can’t use anyone else’s experiences as a true butress of my beliefs or experiences without invoking an additional level of faith that what they’re telling me is actually true. I can’t see it for myself. And before anyone says “but you can see the blessings in their lives,” I reject that out of hand. I have seen non-members and ex-members receive identical blessings, and in identical proportion to others who are faithful and strong in the church or other churches. That doesn’t mean that those who are faithful are NOT being blessed, it simply means that the causation is not there for me to see. Personally, I feel the same in my own life. When I was active and paying tithing, every time I received a financial boon I, of course, chalked it up to blessings from tithing. But I could give you a number of examples of financial “blessings” that I have received since I turned from the church that would bring tears to people’s eyes if I told them in sacrament meeting in conjunction with my testimony of tithing. Again, my point is not really to say that those blessings, or even that that causation, doesn’t exist. It’s to again illustrate the difference in perspective between believers and non-believers on this issue. Believers feel like there is provable, demonstrable causation of the effectiveness of faith, while non-believers reject the criteria by which believers judge such things.

    To get back to the bridge, while you think it’s a perfect analogy of how religious and non-religious faith are similar, I think it’s a perfect analogy demonstrating how they are completely different. And I would again add the important point that as a non-believer, I am free to do with my observations, experiences and interpretations as I see fit. If I see a bridge that is wobbly or looks unsafe, I can choose not to us that bridge, without having to do any mental gymnastics to explain to myself or others why that decision is justified or why I’m still a good person. As an active LDS member, if you personally have never experienced testimony-affirming experiences of prayer or tithing, you are not free (I hope you all know what I mean by the word “free” in this context) to simply abandon those principles or declare them to be untrue, or to simply say “they don’t work for me personally, so I’m not going to do them anymore.” This is a principle that seriously limits a person’s ability to steer the course of their own life, in my opinion. According to religious doctrines, when your faith is not rewarded as you expected, you are not justified in abandoning it or unilaterally altering your interpretation of the doctrine. Your only real alternative is to keep trying, and harder at that. I just don’t feel that I have any use for that model in my life.

  21. re 12: This really *does* bring up the difference between ideas and external, physical realities. The bridge *is* physical, it *can* be seen and interacted with, and it can be tested.

    Now, I think you are confusing two things in that comment. You write:

    Because you don’t believe that the one you are on will not fall down. I’ll bet the folks in Minneapolis didn’t beleive their bridge was going to fall down or they wold not have had the faith to cross it the day it did fall down.

    Ah, there you have it. Don’t believe. Lack of belief. Yes, these people didn’t believe their bridge was going to fall and I don’t believe my bridge is going to fall because I do not have reason to. This isn’t a matter of faith, because it is the mere *lack* of belief.

    I think though, you’re equating this lack of belief that it will fall down with a belief that it won’t fall down. So, I’ll continue from that vantage point. Even then, the belief that it won’t fall down is based on things from experience and from the external world…In fact, you don’t need to trust that the bridge won’t fall. Regardless of whether you trust it or not, it is there, and it isn’t falling. You can take that risk.

    I’m trying to deal with this almost solipsistic argument you have here…because I have seen people argue things like, “Well, you have to have faith in your senses to be sure about an external world.” But I mean…I dunno…I guess it’s just silly to be so solipsistic. Your senses, even if they are deceiving you, deceive you in ways that are remarkably reliable, that give constant and consistent results, so trust in these things, and trust in things of the external world seem much different than things like faith in God or faith in an afterlife, where we cannot test these ideas and we cannot look towards experience at these things. It literally is a hope and trust in things which are unseen, but which are believed to be true.

    I’m terrible today at expressing myself, sorry. I’ll try to get at this better later in a different comment or post or something.

  22. This is a good discussion:

    “As an active LDS member, if you personally have never experienced testimony-affirming experiences of prayer or tithing, you are not free (I hope you all know what I mean by the word “free” in this context) to simply abandon those principles or declare them to be untrue, or to simply say “they don’t work for me personally, so I’m not going to do them anymore.

    Sidney Rigdon, Oliver Cowdery, David Whitmer, Thomas B Marsh, Ed Decker, Dick Baer, Sandra Tanner, etc. etc.

  23. The point jmb275 brings out that I really appreciate is that for many, faith in the unseen takes precedent over the real world. Every life event that IS gets reframed in terms of what IS NOT (or is unseen). No one dies – “God calls them home for some higher purpose.” No one gets married – they “start an eternal family.” No one has bad luck – they are either “being tested by the adversary” or they were unrighteous and reaping what they sow.

    For practical purposes, the word “faith” as used here could be replaced with “vision.” While we still run the risk of imbuing the mundane with too much reason (Mormons have rightly been accused of thinking we have ALL the answers), this seems a more practical restriction to me. Also, the word faith is just so loaded. If you lack vision, you can “get the big picture,” but if you lack faith, you are viewed as having a major personal flaw by many in the church. You are “faithless.” But in reality, I think it’s mostly just accepting a worldview (using all the jargon associated with it), not actual faith that we’re talking about. No one has windows into our souls.

    E. Bednar recently did a talk to the youth called “What is Real” that touched on another interesting part of this issue – the fact that in terms of real reality, both intellectualism and faith fall short. Reality is life right now, here in the present. But intellectualism is often being caught up in our thoughts and theories. Faith is often being caught up in the idea of a future afterlife. (Those are my ideas – E. Bednar’s talk was about not getting so caught up in texting & internet that we lose touch with the real world in which we live, so it was about being present).

    In Mormon terminology, there’s a veil for a reason. Maybe we are meant to be present in the moment while we are here.

  24. “I can look at the engineering plans for a bridge, examine its building materials, examine its structural integrity, and on top of that, I can cross that bridge myself to prove that it is sound. But here’s an even bigger difference – I can watch thousands of other people cross that same bridge every day and see, for myself, with my own eyes, that emperically the bridge is crossable.”

    You seem to make the assumption that you cannot do the same types of things with your faith in God. It is not always as simple as determining whether a bridge is crossable (which other have pointed as is not always as simple as it seems), but if you know anything about real science you know proving something scientifically is often extremely complicated and never as simple as the watered down version of science that most people deal with. Likewise gaining faith in God is not always as simple as some people make it out to be (at least for me), yet if you are willing you can come to see God’s hand in your life just as surely and reliable as you can anything else. The much used faith is like a seed analogy is very apt. Some times it takes a long time to grow, but you can see results from your faith in God just as reliable as you can see the growth of the plant. Sorry if these are a little incoherent, I am at work and don’t have a lot of time to fully articulate myself.

  25. I suggest that the same kind of empirical testing that you suggest in examining the bridge materials others have done in their own spiritual examination of the gospel truths. At least this is the case in my life, at least this is the approach that I have tried to take regarding these issues, with varying degrees of success. They have studied, prayed, fasted, pondered, discussed, and came to a personal conclusion. The main difference, as I see relating the two examples, in that one event is a public event (the bridge) and one is a very personal, private experience (the spiritual examination). Perhaps public vs. private is a bad analogy, say instead physical vs intangible. There in lies the rub, to me at least. My personal faith is wholly independent of yours. My belief (or lack thereof) in God, or any spiritual truth, does not, and to my mind should not, depend on anyone else but myself and God. Coming to the religious framework of faith, we are encouraged to examine and question. We are exhorted to find out for our selves and not rely on others belief structures.

    Regarding the thought that active LDS members are not free to abandon tenets of the religion that they don’t believe in, I disagree. We are all free to do so if we choose. What we are not free to do is escape any consequences regarding those actions.

  26. I do not accept the idea that faith is different for the religious and for the non-religious aspects. The Atheist must have as much faith that God does not exist as I do that God does exist.

    Andrew S:

    “Ah, there you have it. Don’t believe. Lack of belief. Yes, these people didn’t believe their bridge was going to fall and I don’t believe my bridge is going to fall because I do not have reason to. This isn’t a matter of faith, because it is the mere *lack* of belief.”

    Is faith not belief in the absense of real evidence. The bridge was faultly, the people didn’t know it. So they had faith to cross it. Their faith was in those who designed, built and maintained it as well as the materials that comprised it.

    “If I see a bridge that is wobbly or looks unsafe, I can choose not to us that bridge,”

    First of all, if the bridge looks safe, then in your mind, you have the faith that it is. But it still may not be.

    “….without having to do any mental gymnastics to explain to myself or others why that decision is justified or why I’m still a good person.”

    Hum, this statement sounds a bit like we might be going off in the judgemental direction………….

  27. Kevin, I disagree.

    Faith is all about believing what you can’t see.

    You can see a bridge. You can’t see god. And if you do see god, it is no longer faith, but knowledge.

  28. re 18:

    Kevin, I think that people that have faith in God do so because of reasons that are incredibly important for them. They have spiritual experiences, etc.,

    But at the same time, I don’t think these spiritual experiences are indicative of an objective physical reality. Your experiences are different from people who would say similar things and come to dramatically different theological conclusions. So, the thing is…we don’t actually have a measuring post with which to say, “Ok, this is the bridge. Just test it and then we’ll know for sure.” By the time things will be settled for good, we will be dead. Oops, too late. So, faith in a religious sense is recognizing that we don’t have much at all the work with, but still believing with what we have.

  29. “According to religious doctrines, when your faith is not rewarded as you expected, you are not justified in abandoning it or unilaterally altering your interpretation of the doctrine. Your only real alternative is to keep trying, and harder at that.”

    I totally disagree with this statement and it again makes me think you are just setting up strawman arguments that are easy to shoot down. Who says “you are not justified in abandoning it or unilaterally altering your interpretation of the doctrine”? In fact I found when my “faith is not rewarded as you expected”, that many times it is because my understanding of particular doctrine was wrong. In some cases it was not my understanding that was wrong, but the doctrine was wrong. But before I am willing to change my understanding of a doctrine or decide it is wrong, you are right I must try harder or keep trying. But this idea is definitely not limited to faith in God. In fact you would have to be pretty poor scientist if you abandoned your attempt to prove a hypothesis after a single failure. A good scientist, when he fails, must reevaluate his processes and tests and assumptions. If after a while he finds his hypothesis unprovable or flawed he of course can change it. It is the exact same with developing a faith in a particular religous doctrine. My understanding and faith in LDS doctrine has certainly changed significantly since I was a child.

  30. #22 – Jeff, that’s exactly what I meant when I said I hope you understand what I mean by the term “free.” I didn’t mean to suggest that the church wouldn’t allow you to leave or interpret the gospel in your own way. I meant to say that the doctrine is what it is and you’re free to follow it and be obedient or not. No one will stop you, but you are not “free” to bend the doctrine to suit your personal preferences as you see fit. If you don’t see prayer working in your life, you are “free” to declare that prayer is not a true principle, but you will have become an apostate, at least with respect to that principle. Sorry for the confusion.

  31. #31. I think I read your “never” as “ever” which changes the whole meaning of your sentence.

    Emily Latella: “never mind.”

    so, yes, I agree.

  32. Dexter:

    “Faith is all about believing what you can’t see. You can see a bridge.”

    But you can’t necessarily see that it is faulty. So you have faith it is not.

  33. re 26:

    Well, first I’d like to propose that you’re only really referring to one kind of atheism (positive or strong atheism) anyway. What do you say to the negative atheist, who simply lacks a belief in God. This gets back to what you were saying and what I tried to point out — “do not believe.”

    To believe requires some kind of evidence, and without that, you need faith. But to lack belief doesn’t require faith. Do you need faith not to believe in a teapot flying undetectable to everything and everyone? I don’t think you do. The teapot certainly could exist, so I’m not going to say that celestial teapots and invisible pink unicorns don’t exist, but everyone recognizes that there is no reason to believe in these things, so there is no big deal not to believe in these things.

    Continuing…

    “Ah, there you have it. Don’t believe. Lack of belief. Yes, these people didn’t believe their bridge was going to fall and I don’t believe my bridge is going to fall because I do not have reason to. This isn’t a matter of faith, because it is the mere *lack* of belief.”

    Is faith not belief in the absense of real evidence. The bridge was faultly, the people didn’t know it. So they had faith to cross it. Their faith was in those who designed, built and maintained it as well as the materials that comprised it.

    But what are they believing in in the absence of real evidence? They simply do NOT believe that the bridge was faulty…so they did not have faith. As I tried to note, I think you’re trying to asset instead that they believed the bridge was not faulty, which is a different, positive belief claim. And even then, they did have evidence. Evidence that was mistaken and uninformed, but evidence. Your argument is tending towards epistemological solipsism, because it raises points that our senses can deceive us as to the nature of the external world…If you accept that, then yes, you’re right and everything becomes the same with the same level of faith, but most people are not going to accept that.

  34. Jeff:

    I think we all understand that everything requires a certain amount of faith. I have to have faith that you are really writing these comments and that I am not simply dreaming. But in this context, I just don’t see the point of discussing how tying your shoes requires faith and crossing the street requires faith. I certainly agree, that within your definition of faith, that that is true. But in this religious setting, faith to walk to the mailbox just doesn’t mean anything to me. But faith in an unseen god and how that affects your life is interesting. And what I would like to know, is why faith in something unprovable is a good thing? Honestly, why did Christ say, blessed art thou for believing without seeing? I can see the value in believing in your spouse, or believing in your country, or believing in your children, or believing in humanity. It is comforting to have someone who believes in you. But I have trouble seeing value in believing in some faraway heaven or some unseen god.

  35. Andrew S.

    “our argument is tending towards epistemological solipsism, because it raises points that our senses can deceive us as to the nature of the external world.”

    No, I don’t think so. I am not being that philosophical nor theoretical. Our senses can in fact deceive us but it can be physical deception, not mental. Like a mirage.

    “To believe requires some kind of evidence, and without that, you need faith.”

    I would also disagree with this because I equate belief and faith in the same way. For example, I hire someone because I believe, based on the evidence at hand (good resume, good interview, good references, but not personal observation) they will go a good job. After a while I find out my faith in them is misplaced and they cannot do a good job because, they lacked the talent. My faith in them is lost and they are let go.

    I can’t comment on imaginary teapots

  36. I also have yet to see a response (unless I missed it) to my secondary point. Assuming the point that everyone uses faith and that faith has intrinsic value in our lives, my faith in material things is a tool that I control, in the sense that if my faith is not rewarded, I change my behavior and cease to have faith in that which has not been proven true to my satisfaction. This is not entirely an option in religion, and certainly within the LDS religion. Again, everyone is a free agent, but if you want to obey the commandments and be right with god and the church, and ultimately be exalted, then you have to keep on truckin’ regardless of your personal experiences with faith. For those of you who are believers, do you see any truth to this construct? Once I abandoned a faith that, in my opinion, had not served to better my life, and had not played out the way I had been taught, I became a true agent unto myself, in that I could decide what to believe in (or have faith in) and what to do with that faith. It was the most liberating experience I have ever had in my life, and it continues every day. For those of you here who have had very fulfilling and faith affirming experiences, I think it’s wonderful that you’re so sure in your beliefs. But what of those in the church who have not received the answers and experiences they have been promised, and who continue to press on, receiving no return on their exercise of faith? How long are those people supposed to continue to exercise that faith? I would submit that the only answer the church could give is: for the rest of their lives.

  37. re 37:

    your not thinking so doesn’t make it so ;).

    I would also disagree with this because I equate belief and faith in the same way. For example, I hire someone because I believe, based on the evidence at hand (good resume, good interview, good references, but not personal observation) they will go a good job. After a while I find out my faith in them is misplaced and they cannot do a good job because, they lacked the talent. My faith in them is lost and they are let go.

    I do not think that belief and faith are so equated. Rather, I think that belief is “backed” up by many components, one of which may be faith. If I have evidence at hand (good resume, good interview, good references), then I don’t believe this guy will do a good job on faith. I believe they will do a good job based on all that I have seen and heard. However, what if I didn’t have this evidence? In the absence of it, I might hire him because I don’t believe he will do a bad job…or I might hire him because regardless, I positively believe he will do a good job. This latter position, without evidence, is faith. It might be a faith in the general goodness of people (e.g., I am inclined to believe that people naturally will try to do good jobs, so in the absence of evidence, my belief will tend to that BECAUSE of my faith.)

    So, I see what you could be saying…but to me, it seems like there differences. For example, our “evidence” might be faulty (e.g., how do we know the resume is good, interview is indicative of performance, references are solid?)…but this trust or even “faith” is not of the same stuff that religious or spiritual faith is. Trust in our senses (even if they can conceivably [and actually observably deceive us as you mentioned] qualitatively isn’t the same thing as faith…or if it is, it makes faith relatively meaningless as a distinction of anything.

    Even though you can’t comment on a celestial teapot which you say is imaginary…let me ask, do you believe one exists? Do you believe it does not exist? Should it require faith for you to say “no” to the former question? Is saying “yes” to the second question the same as saying “no” to the first, and if not, does the second question’s yes answer require faith?

  38. Ok, I am back.

    Andrew S. I am slightly confused that when I use “faith,” you use “belief.” When I use “belief” you use “trust.” In the context that we are speaking of, I equate all those words. Why the change? BTW, if I go to the Thesaurus, those words, faith, belief and trust are equated.

    If the Celestial teapot of which you speak is to represents something in the next life which is parallel to ours, I don’t worry about whether it exists or not. Because for me, it does not. it has no bearing on my life at this time.

  39. re 42:

    I guess I haven’t noticed much of this; I don’t equate all these words, and I think that intuitively, they have different connotations (intuitive connotations aren’t something a thesaurus will generally pick up on — the thesaurus doesn’t know the difference between skinny and slender). Many times, each word can be used in definition or in context of one of the others, but I don’t think this means they are equated.

    The Celestial teapot represents any religious concept that is taken on faith — God, heaven, the veracity of prophecy or the church, whatever. So your answer is rather interesting. Do you think it requires faith to believe the teapot does not exist because you have no reason to believe in it (because it has no bearing on your life at this time)? And finally, do you recognize a difference between believing it does not exist and simply not believing it does? Is there a different amount of faith required for each statement?

  40. I’m glad to see that my thoughts sparked such a lively debate. I firmly believe we all grow when we can debate openly.

    As for my personal beliefs, after reading the comments, I would say that I most closely align with brjones’ beliefs. I maintain spirituality in my life, but don’t feel the need to turn it into physical realities. There may or may not be an anthropomorphic God, but for me it doesn’t matter anymore. I try to increase my connection with the rest of humankind, and nature, and if God is involved in that, great.

    For my next trick, I hope to address spirituality in our lives.

  41. Great post. I love the mention about possible metaphors. There is good that can come from considering things in regards to metaphors and it takes intellectualism and faith to make full use of and personally apply such a gift. Seeing some writings (visions, revelations) as metaphors makes ideas that I read about easier to accept and relate to. I’m glad to see that someone else speaks my mind. Thanks!

  42. Where to start? I would have thought at least a few saints would know the difference between faith and belief, or faith and esoteric B.S.
    I assume everyone here believes in God. How many of you know there is a God? If someone tells us they don’t believe in God we don’t jump up and down and curse them. If anything we wonder why they don’t know He is. That is faith. Knowing He is.
    The trouble is it isn’t belief it is faith. FAITH IS A GIFT FROM GOD. We can’t say I read this book or I heard this lecturer so I know there is a God. God gives you faith to know He is. He gives you faith to know Jesus is; and yes he gives you faith to know the church is true and He will give you faith to know hidden things. “If we had the faith of a mustard seed we could move mountains.”

  43. David Murphy:

    “Where to start? I would have thought at least a few saints would know the difference between faith and belief, or faith and esoteric B.S.”

    Whether we do or not, this is not a part of the discussion as I see it. Just as the “lectures on Faith” attempted to discuss faith in a more tangible way, that is what I think we are trying to do here.

    We all know the scriptures of which you speak, but we’ve attempted to go a bit beyond the simple statement ” Faith is a gift from God.” It seems in your post, that’s all it is and end of discussion.

    I am not disagreeing with you but we’re looking at it in a bit more detail.

  44. #47 – How does your comment change if we assume that not everyone here believes in god? How would you address those people?

  45. This has been an interesting discussion on faith. For the most part it has been intellectual, nothing wrong with that. However, it needs to be balanced. I would like to add my perspective. I’ll do this by relating an experience I had a week ago yesterday.

    My wife and I like to watch a friday night movie (thanks to net flix) when we can. We were in the middle of a movie when someone we love called. We stopped the movie and listened to a wonderful loved one explain in detail a problem. This is a long standing problem. We gave encouragement and before we started the movie we knelt in prayer and asked for a blessing to be given in behalf of this person. It was a earnest prayer because of the love we have for this individual. I felt tender after the prayer and felt the Lord was near.

    About a half hour later we had another call. This time we were told, “thanks for praying for me.” I said, I’m not sure what you mean? He said, “after talking with you I had an experience where I saw my challenge in a unique way,I knew it was from the Lord. I also learned that the reason I received this blessings was due to your prayer in my behalf.”

    For a few minutes we wept and talked about the kindness of the Lord. I asked him if he had written this experience down in detail so that as the days go by he wouldn’t forget what he learned. He agreed to do so.

    I hope our loved one will use this experience to overcome the challenge he is faced with. I’ve talked with him since and learned he is still in a war with his weaknesses. It may take months or even years to win this war, but we won and important battle that friday night and he was also fortified for future battles.

    I am not relating this experience to draw attention to anything other than the fact the Lord hears our prayers. Sometimes we get to see the results of our prayers in behalf of others, but most of the time we don’t. We pray for others having faith that what is taught in Alma 34 is true.

    27 Yea, and when you do not cry unto the Lord, let your hearts be full, drawn out in prayer unto him continually for your welfare, and also for the welfare of those who are around you.

    Alma 34:27

  46. I think there is an important aspect of faith v. knowledge that the example of hiring an employee addresses very well – and I can’t say it any better than Andrew did in #41. If I have a resume in hand, have called references and conducted a face-to-face interview with a candidate, there is still an element of risk involved, but I am not acting purely on faith if I hire him. I am acting on what I have seen and heard. I won’t “know” if I’ve made the right choice until I see how she actually performs on the job, but I have acted as much on experience as I have on faith.

    Jared’s last example (#51) is another good case study. If Jared has had a track record in his life of praying for things and seeing them occur, especially if he has NOT had a track record of praying for things and NOT seeing them occur, then by this time in his life praying for something and expecting it to happen has moved from the arena of “faith” to “experience-based knowledge”. Iow, he can feel assured or certain that his prayers will result in what they always result in, just like the example of feeling assured that the bridge won’t collapse and the sun will rise. Those aren’t the same as believing in something unseen anymore, since experience has taught that they simply happen that way.

    Otoh, if someone else has not had that kind of track record with prayer, continuing to pray despite not having seen evidence that it has a direct effect on objective outcomes is an act of “pure faith”. I have mentioned this elsewhere, but I wonder sometimes if Laman and Lemuel were being honest about the reason for not praying about the meaning of Lehi’s vision when they said, “The Lord maketh no such thing known unto us.” We could debate the “why” ’til the cows come home, but I wonder if they had prayed previously without feeling they had received any answers and simply given up seeking those answers – if they had “lost faith” because they had not received evidence in the past.

    Fwiw, I admire greatly those who can “endure to the end” in faith without gaining some degree of experience-based knowledge – and I understand why many who don’t see any evidence as a result of their faithful struggles give up. We tell scientists all the time that if their experiments don’t result in what they envision to change the parameters of the experiment and try again – yet we sometimes tell religionists that if their “experiments” don’t result in what they envision to just try harder without changing anything objective about their experiment.

    In the end, we praise the scientist who keeps tinkering and finally discovers something, but we also tend to ridicule the scientist who refuses to admit he’s wrong about his assumptions and never succeeds in discovering anything. If she fails long enough, her funding will disappear completely, and her life’s work will be considered a waste. When it comes to religion, however, we tend to discourage the very tinkering that might lead to discovering something and praise the person who doggedly believes and does the same thing over and over again without seeing any results. To me, that’s no longer faith in the unseen; that’s ignoring the seen and failing to truly “experiment upon the word” until something is discovered. To me, the challenge is to combine intelligent experimentation (that might need to be tweaked and altered and expanded) with faith that it will result in a meaningful discovery at some point in the future – recognizing that our individual experiments might need to be slightly different than someone else’s.

  47. This is the same conclusion that I have come to for myself outside of the Church. We can create heaven here on earth now, that we can ultimately discover the god within (as Rumi found as well). But then I wonder, is coming to and believing this conclusion against the Church and its teachings? I have always thought the Mormon religion to be one that takes the Bible and the B of M literally and that there was no room for notions outside of that. I have struggled greatly with my desire to be in the Church and with my strong internal current of intellectualism – I’ve never felt the twain truly do meet.

    Faith has also been a hard one for me: yes, I’ve felt the Spirit – without doubt, but I honestly can’t bring myself to use those few, small experiences as reason to utterly change my life to become active in the Church.

  48. “I have always thought the Mormon religion to be one that takes the Bible and the B of M literally and that there was no room for notions outside of that.”

    Fwiw, Sundance Kid, that’s not Mormonism to me. That’s creedal Christianity masquerading as Mormonism.

    I don’t mean that to be flippant at all, and I understand totally that some members believe that and teach it to others (including their children), but that’s not the vision Joseph articulated, and it’s not the model we have throughout our history.

  49. re 52: Ray, love the comment. It reminds me of how I used to (but kinda sorta still do, but kinda sorta not) define and view faith (geez, I have so many crazy redefinitions of faith!) Faith is what you need at the beginning because you do not have any further evidence. So, even if your incredulous about some concept or some idea, faith is being able to say, “OK, I’m really incredulous, and I don’t see how this could work, but I’ll try it with an open mind.”

    But then, it’s as you alluded. I think that from that position of faith, the consequences should back up the initial faith. So, it seemed reasonable to me. “OK, I have this crazy idea that you’re likely to be skeptical about. Just read this book, and then pray about it, and you should have a confirming experience.” In the beginning, you need that faith to jump out there, but after a while, the faith should be confirmed with the spiritual experience, the burning in the bosom, recognition that the values in the BoM match up with personal values, etc.,

    But what if you don’t have this spiritual experience? what if you don’t get the confirming experience? I understand that it is a powerful example to see someone who continues in faith despite not getting confirming experiences, but to me, I think this should not be expected of everyone and can produce negative side effects.

    As you said:

    In the end, we praise the scientist who keeps tinkering and finally discovers something, but we also tend to ridicule the scientist who refuses to admit he’s wrong about his assumptions and never succeeds in discovering anything. If she fails long enough, her funding will disappear completely, and her life’s work will be considered a waste. When it comes to religion, however, we tend to discourage the very tinkering that might lead to discovering something and praise the person who doggedly believes and does the same thing over and over again without seeing any results

  50. Ray–Sundance–Andrew S–

    Thoughtful comments, each one. Ray, thanks for putting my comment in context of the discussion. I was hoping someone would do that. You did it better than I could.

    IMO–faith and intellect can increase and grow and bear results.

    As human beings, we have a dual nature–we are rational and spiritual (intellectual and faith). And as the title of this post suggest–the two seemingly incompatible parts can marry. I believe that the foundation of our beings needs to be spiritual. When this occurs the rational will produce the best results. At least this is how I see it.

    The interplay of Nephi and his brothers Laman and Lemuel are interesting examples to seek to understand. It is an enigma wrapped in a mystery how Laman and Lemuel could lack faith in the face of all they experienced. I can’t wrap my mind around their faithlessness. They saw and heard and angel, witnessed many miracles, heard the voice of God speaking to them, and etc and yet–any repentance they accomplished was short lived.

    Note: Regarding prayer and obtaining answers-we can all grow in this process, as well as regress in it. As long as we’re in mortality, we can go either way.

    Even a man like Joseph Smith had to work at his faith. Brigham Young said:

    Joseph had to pray all the time, exercise faith, live his religion, and magnify his calling, to obtain the manifestations of the Lord, and to keep him steadfast in the faith. Brigham Young , JD 2:267-68

  51. re 56:

    I also believe that the seemingly incompatible parts need not be incompatible at all, but perhaps this suggests a redefinition of either one or both terms, and also a redefinition of how the marriage will look for each person.

    For example, what if a person had a spiritual foundation, but he did not view this as indicative of any god or higher power? This doesn’t mean that he is being hyperrational…but rather, the way he weds spiritual and rational is different than the way others might. So, I wonder if you think there is a particular way to be “spiritual…”

    It may require that we have to ultimately look at things that have commonly been looked at in one way in a completely different way. We have specific ideas and biases against Laman and Lemuel, for example, but what if we looked at them in a different way, as Ray does. It’s a possibility, but what if, as Ray suggested:

    I have mentioned this elsewhere, but I wonder sometimes if Laman and Lemuel were being honest about the reason for not praying about the meaning of Lehi’s vision when they said, “The Lord maketh no such thing known unto us.”

    What if it’s possible that certain concepts simply will not make sense to some…that one size doesn’t fit all (whether spiritually or rationally)? Because every side and every perspective will be able to point to instances where it seemed all the evidences and proofs were right in front of some person, and yet that person could not reconcile with that perspective. We have Laman and Lemuel, but we can think of others, and other religions (and even nonreligions) can think of other ideas.

  52. This is probably just another way of saying what Andrew S just said, but I would again raise the point that it is not accepted as a given by everyone that we innately have dual natures. I think that’s something that is open to debate. If it’s true that we have a spiritual side that is equal to our intellectual side, then why do many people eventually abandon the spiritual side and go on to live better, fuller, more fulfilled lives? As I said before, I do believe that there is a connectivity among human beings that is greater than any one individual, but I don’t know that that is tantamount to saying that all of us have an innate spiritual side. Many of us feel like the spiritual things in our life came from programming we received due to the traditions of our parents, and that once we shed the compulsion to follow these, we finally discovered our true selves, which were largely free of spiritual elements. Again, I’m open to the discussion that we are innately spiritual, but I don’t concede as a matter of course that that is the case.

  53. #57 Andrew S.–

    I believe God is the ultimate source of ultimate truth—–

    I also believe that there are truths that are not ultimate truths—-

    With that concept in mind, then it starts a discussion on the various degrees of glory.

    Andrew S. asked: So, I wonder if you think there is a particular way to be “spiritual…”

    A Buddhist can be spiritual as can an atheist.

    But to be like Heavenly Father and his Son, to be where they are, we need to travel the same path they did in order to experience ultimate truth.

    Does this make sense?

  54. re 59:

    What you say makes sense, but you still have an assumption of ultimate truth that basically condescends to everyone else. So, a Buddhist can be spiritual and and atheist can be spiritual, but you make it very clear that these guys are missing the mark on a critical level. They may have truths, but they do not have Ultimate Truth, because for that, there is only one way and one path.

    What I am saying is that one path and one way does not fit all, but your line doesn’t allow for that. Someone can find personal truth and work toward self-actualization, but unless it’s the way you have prescribed with Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ, it’s a counterfeit, lower, second place prize

  55. brjones said: If it’s true that we have a spiritual side that is equal to our intellectual side, then why do many people eventually abandon the spiritual side and go on to live better, fuller, more fulfilled lives?

    I believe this is a true statement and I’ve seen it happen.

    Mormon 9 addresses this thought but it can be offensive if not understood properly.

    There are many things of the spirit that I am not ready for. For example, I am not ready to have my calling and election made or receive the second comforter. If I were I would have received them.

    So it is with each of us. Some people are far more comfortable with marginal activity in the church. My mother was like that until she was in her 80’s. Then she started to have a change of heart and before she died did all her temple work.

    God’s children can’t be pushed or rushed. I they are, then what you’ve said takes place.

  56. Andrew, not when the full picture is discussed and proxy ordinances are included in the discussion. Of course, that still can be presented and internalized in a condescending way, but the “pure doctrine” actually values sincerity within other religions greatly, imo.

    Gotta run. Good discussion.

  57. re 58:

    brjones, I think at this point, we have to make some concessions about the definitions of spirituality. Now, I agreed with you in other posts that the common definition of spirituality and faith make it such that it seems that people clearly can live without it and be just as happy, but then we have common definitions of “intellectualism” and “rationalism” that also don’t seem to fit. For example, I hear so often, “Oh, you’re atheist, you’re not spiritual. You must not be able to see wonder in the world.” And my point is to say, “Whoa, you don’t need spirituality to see wonder in the world. You don’t need to attribute this to God or the supernatural, etc.,”

    But I’ve found we don’t get too far here. People are set in their definitions of this dichotomy, so we have to compromise on some terms. For the sake of making people understand we are still humans and not just robots.

  58. re 62: I think we’ve already had this discussion on how, even if Mormon “goy”ology (what happens to nonbelievers) is a lot more charitable than most…still, the assertion of the Ultimate Truth implicitly steps on toes. Even with proxy ordinances, it sounds like, “Well, you’re wrong, but you’ll have the chance to realize that and get it right when you’re dead ;p.” Mormonism is more pluralistic than others, but it is *not* the premium of pluralism (and really, as was discussed a while back on the site, perhaps pure pluralism is self-defeating).

  59. #60 Andrew S.–

    In my opinion, truth can be seen as you describe it. I don’t see those in a kingdom of glory having regrets. It just wouldn’t be a kingdom of glory if that were the case.

    My dad used to say: water seeks it own level. In other words, where our agency takes us is where we will ultimately be most happy. It may take us through hell, but when we come out we will be clean and inherit a kingdom of glory.

    And on top of that, time doesn’t exist and we only have a small portion of the knowledge about what lies ahead. Who knows what ultimate truth combined with ultimate love will provide for us.

  60. #63 – I agree with this to a point, Andrew S. But if I’m going to concede the need for “spirituality” in my or anyone else’s life, I think there’s a good long discussion to be had about what “spirituality” means. I know that we’ve already talked about this being the subject of another post, and I realize I keep repeating myself, but I feel compelled to raise the issue every time someone starts a comment with a statement that assumes that deep down inside we are all equally spiritual beings, and that spirituality basically equates to things relating to god.

  61. “but I would again raise the point that it is not accepted as a given by everyone that we innately have dual natures.”

    This is what I would like to see discussed more. I think we are missing the mark on this issue. My point, in a future post (if given the opportunity) will be to address what spirituality is/isn’t and whether or not my spirituality is as valid as anyone else’s if it has the same effects.

    @Ray
    Loved your comment. You always have a way!!

  62. From Wikipedia: “faith is the confident belief or trust in the truth of or trustworthiness of a person, idea, or thing.” – your definition here works well for my point. One of the big words that jumped out at me was one that I really didn’t think much about before, and that is CONFIDENCE.

    Confident trust in something is really the root of faith.

    Do you have confidence Christ died for your sins? Do you have confidence God approves the steps you are taking in life? Do you have confidence in your own intellectualism to figure things out on your own? Do you have confidence the engineers built an unsinkable Titanic?

    Faith is based on knowledge, and then takes it further to place confidence in something that helps explain what we do not yet know. And that will motivate us to act down a path until more knowledge is revealed that we can then know. And that is the power of faith, whether that is faith in science, that the scientist will carry out an experiment until the solution is revealed, faith in the harvest in that the farmer will cultivate until he sees a crop, or if that is a religious leader carrying out activities until the solution is revealed.

    For that reason, I believe faith is more powerful than intellectualism that limits you to only take action and believe in things you can understand.

  63. Pingback: Spirituality, Rationality, Mentality, Duality at Mormon Matters

Leave a Reply

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