Ok, So What If It Isn’t True?

Jeff Spector Mormon, Mormons, religion, testimony 193 Comments

The Church of Jesus Christ claims to be the Restored Church of the Lord Jesus Christ and the “only true and living church on the face of the whole earth.” (D&C 1:30)

On the other hand, there are many in the world who would claim that the LDS Church is a false religion and because of our differing beliefs we are all destined for the fiery pit of hell. Which, of course, I do not accept.

But, it has always gotten me wondering, what if the Church wasn’t true.

What if, as some have claimed, the Prophet Joseph Smith did not have the First Vision and his teachings were not correct. What would that mean? In October Conference of 2002, President Hinckley, speaking of the First Vision said “It either occurred or it did not occur. If it did not, then this work is a fraud. If it did, then it is the most important and wonderful work under the heavens.”

Would it all be for nothing? Now granted, this is a hypothetical for me. I am a true believer and have a strong testimony of the Gospel and the Church. But, let’s look at the possibility.

What is the worst case scenario?

  • I would have put more time into the Church than I really need to. After all, I have done the simple thing that most Christians ascribed to as “being saved.” I accepted the Lord Jesus Christ as my personal Savior and confessed my sins. So, I am covered there from a salvation perspective.
  • I might have spent more money on tithing and offerings then I needed to. However, that money went to helping people, building chapels, giving aid to those in need. Not to enrich a minister and allow him to drive a Rolls and live in a big house.
  • I might have spent too much time going to the Temple. But, on the other hand, I used the time to think about my connectedness with my past ancestors and appreciated their sacrifices. I spent considerable amount of time pondering the eternities and things about Heavenly Father and Jesus. I gave service to those who could not do for themselves. Maybe, I didn’t need to, but I was willing.
  • Maybe, some of my concepts about Heavenly Father and Jesus are wrong. But, the bottom line is I sincerely worshiped them as best I understood. And since so many churches teach some many different things, will God condemn all of us who may not get it exactly right, but are sincere? I know that some hard core Christians would say yes. But, I would still believe in a merciful and just God. did I worship a “different Jesus?” I never understood that argument. Besides, I never could have gotten into the standard Christian concept of the Trinity. As far as I am concerned, it is not scriptural and makes no sense. I would have just stayed Jewish.
  • Maybe, I missed out on a number of activities I could have done on Sunday, but didn’t. Yea, that’s probably true. But I never really regretted it. It’s nice to try to leave the world behind and think about other things. And be with family. Besides, we probably saved money not shopping on Sunday. Nothing has ever been so needed that we had to shop. Except maybe to buy gas to go to Church meetings….
  • And finally, what about all those hours of service I rendered to others? Visiting them, working at various service projects at Church and in the community. Rushing to people’s aid whenever I could. Now, how can that be bad? It was the teachings of the Church that motivated me along with my love and admiration of the Savior. In any religion, this is looked upon as a worthwhile activity. So I doubt that I wasted me time in doing all of that. I have been enriched enormously for having participated in that service. I feel I always benefited more than those I helped.

So, while I have a strong testimony that the LDS Church is the Lord’s Church and that I am a firm believer, I do not consider that it would have been a waste of my time being a member if it wasn’t true. Not that I wouldn’t want an extra day a week and a 10% raise. It has all been worth it.

Tomorrow, June 6th is the 26th anniversary of my Baptism.

Comments

comments

Comments 193

  1. Congratulations Jeff, on your anniversary.

    I have to admit, I’ve asked the same question you did above and came to the same conclusions.

    Since you asked the question on the assumption that the alternative was “creedal Christianity,” an interesting follow up post would be to ask the same question on the assumption that the alternative is that God doesn’t exist or that God is Deistic or impersonal. (Which in my mind equates to being the same thing for all intents and purposes. A God that does not care is the same as no God at all.)

    I’ve asked that question too and eventually came the realization that even if there is no God I’m not sure there is anything in the LDS Church today that would cause me regret. Not that I believe in no God. On the contrary. But it’s still a question worth asking.

  2. By their fruits ye shall know them… I certainly believe that the fruits of membership in the true church are some of the best fruits available out there. I’ve tossed around the ideas of atheist, existential, or other (even Daoist or Zen) viewpoints, and while they all offer certain advantages, I’m inclined to take the grains of truth in them and bring them back home with me rather than setting up shop somewhere else.

  3. I am reminded of all the “Out of Mormonism” clips on YouTube where former members of the church give a 4-10 minute recap of how they decided the church wasn’t everything it claimed to be. A common theme among the videos is that the former members of the church claim to have found immense joy and peace from accepting their new beliefs outside the LDS church. It is common to hear them say that they feel as if “weights have been lifted from my back” or something similar. Many of them report that their newfound faith outside the LDS church has opened their eyes to how misguided they were, and how the LDS church’s history of stressing the importance of works did not allow them to fully understand what it means to have a relationship with Jesus. If your hypothetical that the church is false was a reality, you’re right that your devotion to the LDS church would not have been “a waste of time.” But I’ll bet there are a lot of christians who would argue that you are, in fact, missing out on many of the blessings of the gospel that come when you come to know the true Jesus… or something. Missed Opportunity Costs – that’s what I’m trying to say here.

  4. Jeff,

    Interesting thoughts. Most of us on the Bloggernacle have had them. It shows spiritual maturity of a sort that some people lack. I do think Bruce has a point that if one were to find out the church wasn’t “true”, one would probably adopt an alternative worldview. Depending on the new worldview, that would change how much of a waste of time or money you are likely to find Mormonism to be.

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    SingleSpeed,

    “But I’ll bet there are a lot of Christians who would argue that you are, in fact, missing out on many of the blessings of the gospel that come when you come to know the true Jesus… or something.”

    You are right, but people say that about a lot of things, not just the Church. There were many that said that about the so-called “sexual revolution.” but, I wouldn’t fully subscribe to all the “benefits” society has gained over the years as a result of it.

    These other Christians would have never ever gotten me into their Church anyway, so I guess it means I lose out either way.

    John, I agree that depending on your ultimate view might cause you to think it is a waste of time. At this point, I am such a better person for it, it is hard to imagine adopting that view. And, I don’t tend toward bitterness about the past as some seem to.

  6. My father and I have had this conversation before also and decided that even if the prophet stood at the pulpit and declared that it was all made up, we would keep on doing things the same way we always have because it makes us happy. This discussion reminded me of an episode of South Park (yes, I watch South Park) where a Mormon boy moves into town and his beliefs are pretty much made fun of the whole episode but in the end he says (paraphrasing): Some of my beliefs may seem strange but my church makes me happy and helps me to have really great family relationships and to be a better person.

  7. Nice post Jeff. I have had some similar thoughts, especially about the temple. It is seen as a waste of time by many but I am always energized by it–much better return on my investment of time than watching a movie. A lot of people (especially on Hawkgrrrl’s recent post) professed that they were happier after they left, but even putting God aside most of the good things that have taken place in my life are a direct result of my membership in the church. Obviously that is bound to happen when I’ve spent a lot of time in church related things, but overall my experience has been great. Sure, I could use a shorter block on Sunday, and I wish the history had been more open earlier on, but I don’t regret my membership, even if it is false. I have a view of God that just does not mesh well with most other religions, and frankly, if that God isn’t real, I’m not sure I like the alternatives. I do realize that other people have vastly different experiences, however.

  8. As one who falls into the category of which you hypothesize I would say that I have no regrets. I was raised in the church, served a mission and married in the temple, but ultimately I decided that GBH was right, it’s a fraud. But I believe that about religion in general, as my beliefs have evolved to agnosticism (which is, in my experience, a more common phenomena among prior Mormons than going to another Christian church, as Bruce alludes to in his comment). I remain a “cultural Mormon.”

    But I don’t have any regrets. Growing up in the church offered opportunities that I wouldn’t have otherwise had. And my moral compass has been heavily influenced by church teachings. I have a wonderful wife and family. I haven’t missed the money I paid in tithing. I still attend church services with my family, and generally enjoy the community of saints (although there are a few wackos in our ward).

    The only worry I have is that I may be wrong (which clearly I’ve heard many times). If I’m right, I’m really going to regret no afterlife where I can say “I told you so.” If I’m wrong I hope that there really is eternal progression as Joseph Smith seems to have taught, and that I’ll continue to grow in my understanding. (I’m with AdamF on the fact that if God is real, I hope the LDS Church is right, because other religions’ view of God and diety are not at all attractive to me.)

  9. >>> I have a view of God that just does not mesh well with most other religions, and frankly, if that God isn’t real, I’m not sure I like the alternatives
    >>> I hope the LDS Church is right, because other religions’ view of God and diety are not at all attractive to me

    It was similar thoughts that led to this post.

    Well, actually, it was the reverse thought. Who would be better off with their own religion being wrong and Mormonism being true.

  10. hehehe…..rather than calling it Pascal’s Wager we could call it Jeff’s Wager or Spector’s Wager when applying this quadrant of faith and outcome to Mormonism 🙂

    To confirm the truth of it all to you Jeff…and to stop everyone else from doubting….let me bear my testimony to you…that I KNOW….with every fibre of my being….with every neutron, electron, proton, gravitron, quark, lepton and all other subatomic particles… 😉

  11. During my undergraduate studies, I frequently heard a statement quoted from a prominent sociologist who’s name I unfortunately can’t recall. I’ve found it rather insightful on a variety of levels. “Whatever people perceive to be true, and believe to be true, is true in its effects.” After 26 years in the LDS church, my perception and belief changed, such that whether or not the faith claims of the LDS church are objectively true, their “untruth” is “true” for me in effect. On that basis, perhaps I’m qualified to give some insight to the question of how one might perceive their LDS experience, “if it [the LDS church] wasn’t true.”

    On the one hand, I am grateful for my LDS experience, because there’s a very real possibility that I wouldn’t be alive today, had I not been exposed to Mormonism at the age of 13. At that time, mine was a violent home, where I was continually being taught that I was an object of contempt, from whom nearly every behavior seemed to be unacceptable. As a result, the only thing that was keeping me from suicide was a basic cowardice. My exposure to Mormonism instilled in me a sense of self-worth, and a hope which, even if entirely delusional, at least prevented me from making a tragic mistake. Further, I came of age in the mid-1980s. Had I not been exposed to Mormonism, it is more likely than not that I would have made some uninformed choices during that period in my life, with potentially fatal health effects that medical science was then only beginning to understand. Further, my LDS experience provided me with opportunities to help others, and certainly helped me to avoid the pitfalls of substance abuse.

    On the other hand, Mormonism requires an enormous investment—not just in terms of time and money, but in belief and world-view. Having entered a world where the faith claims of the LDS church are not true (at the very least in terms of practical effect on me, as noted above), it’s difficult not to feel cheated. For example, I devoted two years (roughly 5% at this point) of my life to a cause which I no longer believe was deserving. I sacrificed in many ways to benefit an organization, largely on the basis of an expected future reward which I no longer believe that organization can offer. Looking back, I made hugely significant life decisions during that time, on the basis of my belief in the truth of LDS faith claims. I chose to attend a particular university, because the LDS faith was (allegedly?) taught and practiced there. I spent years denying, and then aggressively defying, my normal, natural desires for love and companionship, accepting instead a poor substitute, because I placed my trust in a faith which insisted that only that substitute was acceptable to deity.

    In my more reflective moments, however, I realize that my LDS experience is part of what made me the person I am. If not for that influence, I would be a different person—perhaps in good ways, perhaps in some not-so-good ways. For a period in my life, the LDS faith seems to be what I needed, and I should recognize it for that, even if it no longer suits me. My LDS experience is part of who I am, and I like who I am.

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    “with every neutron, electron, proton, gravitron, quark, lepton and all other subatomic particles… ;-)”

    Well, I guess that settles it once and for all! Thanks for the confirmation. Your wife must have had the baby and now you are not sleeping well… or she hasn’t had it yet and you are not sleeping well.

  13. Well, the thing that occurs to me is that there is a very clear demarcation between who is and who is not LDS. So I guess IF we were wrong, we’d have spent a lot of time being separated and sometimes polarized from people who were a lot closer to the truth. So I guess the difference is whether or not you’re comfortable living in a bit of a bubble. If it’s “protective” that’s one thing. If it’s isolating or alienating, that’s another.

  14. Adding that, for women, this could be a painful question because, not having the fullness of the priesthood and finding out that we had subscribed to erroneous doctrine that held us back… This is a MUCH more serious question for us.

  15. I’ve pondered this. I’ve also gone through a crisis of faith and am still in the process of owning what I believe and don’t believe.

    I decided that I have benefitted greatly from my participation in the LDS Church. I continue to benefit. I am uplifted by my attendance and participation. There are important concepts that are pretty unique to the LDS faith that I value tremendously.

    As long as it serves a positive purpose for me, it is the one and only true church for me (lower case t in truth). I think that is what it comes down to for most, if not all of us. People leave when it isn’t working for them. The truth is almost a secondary issue.

  16. For me, the absolute worst case scenario would be that the hard-core antis (Decker, et al) would turn out to be right after all, that we have bound our souls and those of our posterity to Satan, and that we are doomed to fry in Hell for all eternity.

    Of course, given the company that would be presumably be inheriting heaven (Decker, et al), Hell might seem like a pretty good alternative.

  17. Terry, yeah that would stink. I do not like a God who sends people to fry in hell based on their beliefs. Frankly I can’t understand anyone that really believes in a hell for anyone other than Satan and those who want to be there.

  18. If it isn’t true then a lot of us (including me) need more help than we could ever fathom. Think about all the times when we strongly felt the spirit that influenced us to do something that was good to us/someone in need but also to the church obviously.
    Let’s take my example (just look at me everybody) I am not comeing back to the church because I was “repenting”. No! I was perfectly comfortable with my little life. I was not hurting and I was enjoying the peace I had been longing when I was a good little member. But as I like to say I got hit by a celestial bat!
    Why? Why this church rather than another one? The “true one” for example?

    If it is not true then I need psychological help more than I can imagine and the worse is that considering the path I am taking (coming back to the church if my stake president can ever make my record straight) I am probably never going to ask for it.

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    Alice Said,

    “Adding that, for women, this could be a painful question because, not having the fullness of the priesthood and finding out that we had subscribed to erroneous doctrine that held us back… This is a MUCH more serious question for us.”

    I guess if you chose to view it that way. But, in many other churches, women tend toward the same types of roles and the end results taught by other religions for women are far more limiting than the LDS church.

  20. But just think–all that wasted time in church service, left so little time for us to commit adultery with the spouses of everyone else–isn’t that a good benefit for all?
    It’s like Peter said, “Where would we go?” Everything else seems so shallow and lacking in full substance. It’s like the politicians (both Republicans and Democrats) who are always promising everything for us if we’ll only vote for them, while most of what they’ve done in the past has only made things worse, and their solution is to pile it higher and deeper–which they can never acknowledge, but end up blaming others when the results aren’t what they said they’d be.

  21. Great post, Jeff.

    We can turn ourselves around in circles when we try to figure out every last minute detail of every historical or doctrinal question. I think that’s why the one test Jesus gave us to discern truth was to focus on the end result of whatever proposition we are considering by looking to see if it results in goodness (i.e., good fruits). Even the simplest, most uneducated person (by the world’s standards) is capable of applying that form of truth-detection. It’s nearly impossible to know for certain what exactly did or did not happen 200 or 2000 years ago, but it is very easy to see today whether a proposition produces good fruits.

    I’ve also always liked Joseph Smith’s statement about how if the Mormons all end up in Hell in the afterlife, we’ll throw the Devil out of doors and make a Heaven out of it. I think his point was that we have our righteous desires and intentions, and we have our agency to choose. And because neither of those will cease to exist in the next life, we can make the kind of afterlife that we desire.

  22. There was a quiz on another LDS blog site several months ago asking what people would do if they found out for a certainty that the church was not true. 38% said they would not do anything different. That’s a pretty powerful thought. I’m not sure that’s true for other religions. (BTW – about 8% said they’d hit the bar, only 3% said they’d get those SOBs for lying to them).

    I think the key reasons people would not do anything differently (for those that would not) are a lot of what’s been said above: 1) focusing your life on trying to serve others and be more Christlike, even if you were misguided in how you went about it, has intrinsic value, 2) other views of Christ and our purpose in life are not as appealing to those of us who find the LDS view compelling, and 3) our spiritual experiences are hard to dismiss.

  23. Hawkgrrrl,

    Thanks for bringing us those survey results from the rest of the ‘Nacle.

    Jeff,

    Following up on what some of these folks have said, I think it would be interesting to explore, in another post or here, what scenarios they could imagine where they could potentially lose or regain their faith in Mormonism. Would finding the Zarahemla city limit sign written in Reformed Egyptian bring Nick back to the fold? Would finding a letter in Joseph’s handwriting to Sidney Rigdon coming up with ideas for the Book of Mormon plot destroy yours? And in what is our faith placed, by the way?

    If there is no possible scenario one could imagine for losing or regaining faith, however improbably, what does that say about us?

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  25. True or not true, the principles espoused in the Gospel as taught in the LDS church have made me be a better man that I was (or would be) if I hadn’t joined in the first place. If it wasn’t true, I would have left the church about five years ago. I went through a lot of hell in 2003 in terms of the church. I would have left and never looked back. But dang it, it’s unfortunately true.

  26. So this may sound really harsh, but if I’m not going to be honest, what’s the point right?

    It seems to be that many of you, and not all, because that would be a little rash, are in some way trying to comfort yourselves, or, how do I put it, in some small way rationalize your membership in the church. You’re trying to cover your tracks and say, “Hey, if the church isn’t true, that’s o.k.” You’re trying to have your cake and eat it too. You either believe its true, and therefore, the what if situation of “If it’s not” is completely unimportant and irrelevant, and to be honest, a little lacking in faith, or you believe it’s not true, and it still doesn’t matter, because if you don’t believe it’s true, what’s the point in debating? In all fairness it is something to think about when telling others of the church, but for your own personal faith, if you’re telling yourself, “What if it isn’t true?” are you basing your faith off of “everything will be o.k. true or not” or that you truly believe it to be the true church?

  27. Jeff, a few years ago I was going back and forth with my dad over the nature of “truth” and “belief” etc. His “worst case scenerio,” or his justification for staying active in the church even if it turned out not to be “true,” was more or less the same as yours. He added that he was open-minded enough that even if it turned out that Joseph was not The Prophet, and Jesus was not The Savior, he’d have no problem accepting whatever “truth” God (or whomever was waiting for him) had to reveal.

    I think your thought experiment is a healthy exercise.

  28. Hope, I think everyone has to ask him/herself these kinds of questions. We ask them not only about our beliefs, but our career paths, our jobs, our spouses, etc. And I prefer a moderate, less-than-100%-sure, approach to faith/belief than an all-or-nothing, my-truth-is-better-than-your-truth, approach which tends to bludgeon those around the Believer. Oh that all religious believers were as introspective and open-minded as Jeff.

  29. >>> For me, the absolute worst case scenario would be that the hard-core antis (Decker, et al) would turn out to be right after all, that we have bound our souls and those of our posterity to Satan, and that we are doomed to fry in Hell for all eternity.

    Clearly that would be the worst case scenario for Mormons… but as it turns out it’s also the worst case scenario for everyone else, including the Ed Deckers, it would seem.

    After all, we are now talking about a universe run by a God that is, for all intents and purposes, evil. I’m not sure hell is really worse than heaven in this scenario.

    C.S. Lewis, in a Grief Observed, made mention of what the universe would be like if God were evil and even suggested backing into that idea using an extreme form of Calvinism which seems to be what the Ed Decker’s believe in. His rational approach to that problem was to realize that if God is that different from us in terms of understanding ideals like love, mercy, justice, etc, then we may indeed find that God’s idea of heaven is our idea of hell. After you realize that is true, then there is no reason to spend any more time worry about the possibility as we’re all hosed anyhow.

  30. When I asked myself “what if it wasn’t true?” a magical thing happened. All the questions I had regarding church history, polygamy, blacks and the priesthood, the lack of archaeological evidence for the BoM, the problem with the Book of Abraham “translation”, the similarities between the temple endowment and Masonry and many other problems all became crystal clear. The church is man made. That was my big “ah hah” moment. When my question was “since I know the church is true, how do I reconcile this or that?” I had to make up an excuse that deep down I knew was an insult to my own intelligence.

  31. Alice Said,

    “Adding that, for women, this could be a painful question because, not having the fullness of the priesthood and finding out that we had subscribed to erroneous doctrine that held us back… This is a MUCH more serious question for us.”

    and Jeff replied,

    “I guess if you chose to view it that way. But, in many other churches, women tend toward the same types of roles and the end results taught by other religions for women are far more limiting than the LDS church.”

    Many women in of other faiths do indeed choose similar domestic and support roles. But a choice is a very different thing than having your life, in the great majority of practical ways, laid out for you from birth. What’s more, gentile women have options about switching roles after child rearing.

    As for more limiting churches, it’s hard to think of many (which may explain why so many Mormon women resort to anti-depressants) and certainly not in the Western World except by transplantation.

    This may be hard for a man to hear, accept or even comprehend and I’m not sure how many Mormon women will admit to it because it takes a certain amount of imagination and courage to step out of a role that has the weight of so much tradition and overwhelming acceptance. But if the question is asked, “what if the way we live and what we believe isn’t the correct or only way”, then the answer, for me, is inescapable.

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    Alice,

    “But a choice is a very different thing than having your life, in the great majority of practical ways, laid out for you from birth.”

    Really, I never realized that. There IS NO choice. but, I suspect, you’ve made a different choice, even though there is none.

    “As for more limiting churches, it’s hard to think of many”

    Ah, the Catholic Church, the Baptists, Orthodox Judaism, to name a few that come to mind off the top of my head. If we extend it to the rest of the world, it is most religions and they suppress their women far more than you seem to think the LDS Church does.

    “which may explain why so many Mormon women resort to anti-depressants) and certainly not in the Western World except by transplantation.”

    Yes, that is THE reason!. If only the women had the Priesthood, they would ALL stop being so depressed. Really, now.

    “But if the question is asked, “what if the way we live and what we believe isn’t the correct or only way”, then the answer, for me, is inescapable.”

    Is it? What is the answer, then? Is living in this world really better for women, than as a faithful LDS woman? Is being a CEO really better than raising up a righteous generation?

  33. #30 – “When my question was “since I know the church is true, how do I reconcile this or that?” – I have had that line of thinking in the past, but was freed from it (like you, but in a different way) when I started thinking in terms of “these are the things I believe, this is our history, and these are the results in my life” I stopped trying to reconcile everything. Perhaps it’s been due to an embrace of ambiguity, but I’m not bothered by it anymore.

  34. Jeff- I answered in all sincerity. If you refuse to get the point that there are overwhelming expectations that compel LDS women into a life of domesticity and support regardless of their talents, personality and inclinations there is no point in continuing the discussion.

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    Well, Alice,

    “that compel LDS women into a life of domesticity and support regardless of their talents, personality and inclinations there is no point in continuing the discussion.”

    You’ve made these type of blanket, generalized statements, but you don’t seem to want to dialog about why YOU seem to feel this way, but I know many LDS women who do not feel compelled in that way and do what is best for them and their family, if they have one.

    And I also see a larger picture that most of us, men and women, accept the roles for ourselves dictated by society in general. In other words, I have no more opportunity to become President of the US than you do.

  36. I am one of those that have no regrets save that my family hasn’t made the same decision as I. I am a cultural Mormon in that I would otherwise appear to be Mormon.

    I think that most of your points are somewhat lacking a critical examination, for example:

    1. How much time is spent in church bearing one another’s burdens? Not enough for the time spent, how much closer to your family does one get at church meetings? My answer is ‘not much’.

    2. How much money is spent on good works? No one knows except a very few people, there are lots of great programs and activities, but lots of political works, commercial projects and farming and hunting projects that seem dubious to me. Is tithing the best way to reach out to those in need? My answer is a tentative ‘no way’.

    3. In the end, a person’s understanding of the nature of God should always be in flux. Unless a person chooses to stop thinking or examining conscience, a person can only have them self to blame for sticking with an concept after spiritually rejecting it. The church is at least on par with any other religion with respect to developing belief in the divine.

    4. The obligations concurrent with church membership means 3 hours for church and usually 2 hours for prep. 5 hours a week, means less chance to spend with family. Granted, having the time and making the right decision with that time are two different things.

    I would love to enjoy the time with my family more. The 250 hours a year can be a great thing with the family and I am glad i have made that discovery.

    5. Service is a great thing. I am glad that growing up I was in Scouts, worked with St. Vincent de Paul, protestant soup kitchens, participated in ward projects and could work full time for a non-profit agency. There are great opportunities to serve that are not exclusive to the church, in fact, I have it from One who knows that God is particularly interested in how we treat the least of these. Ward charitiable activities are one way to communicate these values to my children, but it is one of many.

    To your list I would add the following issues that I face in a family with one LDS and one non-LDS parent: How does one ensure that my children understand that race is not a reflection of value to God and never can be associated with the value of a person, notwithstanding what scripture and prophets have said. Same goes for gender. Important to me is the question of how do I tell my children that the content and quality of a person’s belief in the LDS church is not related in any way with the quality of a person’s character.

    Sorry for the lengthy response, but this is an important question, especially given the fact that many who leave the church will readily leave behind many of the positive teachings with respect to service, self-reliance and health. If my children, like me, choose in the future to leave the church, I want to make sure that they are wise enough to accentuate the positive, eliminate the negative and well, you know the rest.

  37. If I found out the church isn’t true, would I immediately run out and buy beer, coffee, cigarettes, tattoos, tank tops for my wife and daughter, porno mags, or anything else I could think of that the church forbids? Eh, probably not.

    I don’t think my life would change that much, and I doubt I’d regret much all the lost opportunities described above. Whether Heavenly Father lives near Kolob or Joseph Smith saw him and Jesus or not, the church has made me a better person, and that part of it will always be true.

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    Green Man,

    “I think that most of your points are somewhat lacking a critical examination, for example:”

    If by critical, you mean from the viewpoint of someone who has expresses the standard litany of secular complaints about the Church, namely how the church spends its money, how individual members act and treat other people, race (which I am to assume as Blacks and the Priesthood), gender issues, etc, then you are right.

    I had no intention of addressing it from that perspective because I am less concerned about those issues and more concerned about my spiritual development, how closely I follow the Savior and His example and how the Church has helped me do that.

  39. Matt, ” I think everyone has to ask him or herself these questions.”

    Your right, and I guess I probably came off a litle… (o.k. really) close minded, but tha wasn’t my intention, I was just struggling to make my point. I don’t think it is bad to question, I just think one ought be carefull. You should make sure that the foundation of your testimony is that you believe it’s true. Not that you hope it’s true, but if not, things still work out.

  40. If a belief system works for someone, what’s to argue against that person for believing and practicing as they will, and to honor the choices and merits that person finds in it? Yet honoring agency does not mean that by which we justify our beliefs and actions is always well considered. There are a several common, not very well thought out, rationalizations that I’ve heard among different types of Christians. About one of these I hope I may be able to add some useful points for consideration.

    What are Good Fruits?

    “By their fruits ye shall know them” is a popular phrase that I believe has become quite tainted by universalism and post-modernism. Most consider good fruits to be self-evident works, ethics, morals manifested in our lives from being rooted to a good tree. This phrase (Matt 7:20), from the “sermon on the mount,” was given specifically as a follow up to the warning Jesus gave to beware false prophets (v15). Where false prophets look like sheep on the outside — they display everything on the outside we might happily accept them by — Jesus warns us to seriously look inwardly to discern wolves from sheep.

    Now, I don’t think there is any harm to applying this lesson of trees and fruits to everyday life, to being a way to tell sincere believers from deluded believers. But where we err, in my perspective, is where we then, once again, focus our energies on discerning outwardly rather than inwardly. We say, “ah the virtuous fruits we see definitely means that person is a believer. Look how nice they are! Look how they live their life! Look at the good family values!”

    An apple blossoming on an apple tree does not necessarily make it good fruit. And judging the the tree by the fruit is especially tenuous if all we are focusing on is the outside. Are the apples sour? Are they wormy? Are they nutritious? Is the fruit all it really appears to be? Are the fruits just polished up pretty on the outside? Are there other fruits blossoming on this apple tree?

    I’m not saying this in the usual denominationalist sense. I’m saying that I think Jesus is inviting us to a paradoxical measurement that may, possibly, only be inwardly answered: correct beliefs (the root, the tree) are vitally important, and so is how they are manifest (the fruit). Anyone who claims to follow Christ, and truly is a follower of Jesus Christ, must produce the good fruits from the right tree that may not be as self-evident, nor as easily to outwardly discern, as we commonly think. I think Jesus is inviting us into a deep, internal challenge with this admonition even as there is a practical purpose in the call to discern truth, in roots and fruits, from error.

    Who were the common “enemies” of the church here in Matthew? Particularly zealous “chosen” Pharisees who considered themselves righteous by all the good, moral and ethical things they did — their exactness and obedience to the Law. (Which is different than saying the enemies were the Jews; always appropriate, IMO, to contextualize Matthew’s anti-semitism.) Anyhow, Jesus plainly tells us to stop focusing outwardly. Verses 21-23 of Matthew 7 are sobering: how could it be that people could perform exorcisms, mighty miracles, and wonderful works in the name of the Lord and not be counted His own in the Kingdom (which is both in the here-and-now AND in the hereafter)? Plainly “good fruit” is more than the “self-evident evidence” that many who follow Christ are content to observe and make judgments by.

    What is that good fruit is not mine to inwardly answer for someone else. Yet I think it is important for us all to accept Jesus’ challenge to not satisfy ourselves with “fruit” which very well may be outwardly desirable, but may not be the fruit that Jesus is talking about: the fruit by which we will or won’t be counted as one in His kingdom.

  41. Zelph (30)

    What I find astounding about statements like yours (e.g., “the Church all man made”), made presumably after years of believing the Church was divinely-inspired, is that you seem to be just as certain and confident in your CURRENT conclusion that the Church is NOT TRUE as you presumably were PREVIOUSLY about the Church being TRUE.

    Your position on whether or not the Church is divinely-inspired has changed, but apparently one thing has not changed: You still have a high level of confidence and certainty that your present views and opinions are right.

    I wonder if your high level of confidence in your position, regardless of what position you take, says more about you than about the Church.

  42. Are the complaints not valid because they are the standard litany? Why are these issues not important, especially considering the pith and substance of the issue ‘what if the church isn’t true?’

    It seems that the standard litany is enough on its own to warrant exit stories, why is it that unacceptable critical thinking. There is no dispute that the church’s teaching directly address, promote and / or condone all these actions.

  43. Green Man (36)

    The fact that you have complaints doesn’t mean that all other Mormons have your same complaints or think they are valid.

    The fact that you were unable to find good fruits in the LDS Church does not mean that other Mormons are similarly unable to do so.

    You seem to think the Church has a lot of problems. Have you ever considered that perhaps the problem is not with the Church, but with you?

    It’s fine with me if you believe or disbelieve as you like. What I have difficulty understanding is why you would tell a person like Jeff, who has just shared many reasons why the Church works for him, that his thought process is “lacking a critical examination.” If it works for him, why argue with that?

    Instead of faulting Jeff for “lacking a critical examination,” perhaps you should turn your brilliant skills of critical examination inward.

  44. #32:
    Jeff, do you really think Orthodox Judaism is a more “limiting” faith than the LDS church? My understanding (feel free to correct me if I’m wrong) is that Orthodox Jews take the position that it is “no sin to be a gentile,” i.e. that the laws of Judaism are not considered binding on those outside the faith. As such, there would seem to be little or no motivation for an Orthodox Jew to attempt to legislatively enforce his or her religious code of conduct on a larger, pluralistic society. Any religion that does such a thing (i.e. the LDS church) is certainly more “limiting” in my book.

  45. I essentially covered this concept in my first guest post here:

    http://mormonmatters.org/2008/05/21/hunger-and-thirst-after-righteousness/

    If it isn’t true, but Christianity at large is, I will be saved – based on traditional Christian theology that is cleared of ridiculous anti-Mormon bias. I meet their requriements, so I’m not worried.

    If it isn’t true, and Christianity at large also isn’t, I’m screwed ONLY if God really cares about specific beliefs. If there really is a merciful and loving God, I’m not worried. If God is not merciful and loving, I don’t want to live with Him, anyway, so I’m not worried.

    If there isn’t a God, I won’t know it when I die anyway, so I’m not worried.

    Bottom line: I’m trying to live a good, moral life and trying to become the best I can be (without joining the military). That’s all I believe I can do, so I’m not worried. I love my life, and the Church is a huge part of that. If it isn’t “true”, it’s no different than any other Chrsitian church in my mind, so I’d stay with my favorite Protestant church and continue to try to live the life I love.

    Now, I really do have to run.

  46. If there isn’t a God, I won’t know it when I die anyway, so I’m not worried.

    Are you sure about that, Ray? Does the continuing existence of some part of our personality after death really require the existence of deity? 🙂

  47. The Green Man, very well said.

    Jeff’s question — What if the Church isn’t true? — should prompt additional questions, besides how one spends one’s personal energy, time, and money. One should wonder what impact the answer to that question has on others, besides oneself. If the Church isn’t true, would you have any regrets about your behavior towards others, would you have to apologize to anyone in the next life?

    I sometimes wonder about the “collateral damage” of belief on non-believing friends and family (especially if they were formerly believers). I’ve seen too many families torn apart during this life by differences in belief, and wonder if they will be overcome with regret and sorrow in the next life (assuming it exists) for their conditional love, friendship, or respect?

  48. Asking whether or not the Church is “true” is not only a question I no longer care about, it is a question I don’t even understand. My definitions of “truth” and “church,” to say nothing of “belief,” “knowledge,” “feelings,” etc. make the question moot, or nonsensical.

    Nevertheless, I understand the importance of the question to most believing Mormons. The framing of the question really is the baseline question, isn’t it? It emcompasses belief in Christ, Joseph Smith, and the Plan of Salvation, and fidelity to the organization.

  49. One more thought…

    Is there no one who would regret the opportunities to, say, drink wine, if the church turns out not to be true? I’ve heard my brother-in-law make that statement on more than one occasion.

  50. Regarding the question of whether the “Church” is “true,” and the implications of that answer for both members and non-members, I read an interesting quote on the
    LDS Church’s website:

    “[I]ndividual orientation to the Church of the Lamb or to the great and abominable church is not by membership but by loyalty. Just as there Latter-day Saints who belong to the great and abominable church because of their loyalty to Satan and his life-style, so there are members of other churches who belong to the Lamb because of their loyalty to him and his life-style. Membership is based more on who has your heart than on who has your records.” Stephen E. Robinson, “Warring against the Saints of God,” Ensign, Jan 1988, 34.

    It seems the author of that quote, and presumably the Apostles serving on the Public Affairs Committee who approved its quotation in the Newsroom section of the Church’s official website, recognize that the Church of the Lamb of God spoken of in scripture is not exactly synonymous with the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and membership in the latter does not equate to membership in the former.

  51. alice – “there are overwhelming expectations that compel LDS women into a life of domesticity and support regardless of their talents, personality and inclinations there is no point in continuing the discussion.”

    As a woman, I get what you are saying. There is a cultural push for women to stay home, especially in Utah. Part of me wonders if some of this is due to the fact that the church is a gerontocracy and therefore resistant to change. But I hear the church language softening in important ways toward 1) individual prayerful choice, 2) social acceptance of a variety of norms, and 3) achieving one’s full potential (e.g. through education & enrichment). The result is prioritization of family, for both sexes in complementary roles, but not to the exclusion of all else. I also find it interesting that a lot of this pressure is not from men but from women who have made those “concessions” and would like to enforce them for all. “I have seen the axe and the handle is one of us.” I have to live my life, and I make and live with my own choices.

    I don’t see a connection to priesthood, at least not for me. There are 2 facets to priesthood: 1) leadership roles, and 2) the ability to serve others through gifts and power of the priesthood. The priesthood is not for the holder, but for the recipients of the service they render. Women serve in many ways and in leadership roles also. People of talent and intellect are valued by people of talent and intellect. Anyone who devalues a person based on their sex is not worth knowing, but I really haven’t encountered many of those in the church. If I have, I suppose I didn’t find them very interesting either.

  52. Is loyalty to the LDS Church truly equivalent to loyalty to the Lamb? Can one be loyal to the LDS Church if one does not accept, believe nor support every whit of it? If one is devoutly loyal to the LDS Church does that compromise in any way complete loyalty to the Lamb? Is there loyalty asked of by the LDS church that the Lamb does not ask? Can one be loyal to the Lamb if one is not a member to any certain denomination? Truly a Christian of any denomination can ask these questions — and as good as Robinson’s point feels on the surface he doesn’t really delve into the differences of what loyalty means among different denominational perspectives.

  53. Who can actually define what loyalty to the Lamb is, and for that matter, the Lamb himself? It’s all subjective. And from an LDS perspective, Robinson’s point is sufficient, imo, in the sense that LDS should worry about their own salvation and not assume that they will be exalted based on their membership, and not assume that their good neighbor is damned because he/she is not a member.

  54. Post
    Author

    Nick,

    “Jeff, do you really think Orthodox Judaism is a more “limiting” faith than the LDS church?”

    I was only speaking in context to the role of women. they cannot be a Rabbi. And they sit in the back of the synagogue behind a curtain. in fact, Orthodox do not even recognize the reformed branch of Judaism, which is the liberal branch. the Orthodox are more dogmatic than the LDS. And argumentative on top of it!

  55. Great post. I think it is a good idea to occasionally evaluate what and why you believe. The church for me has been both good and bad. For me, as a divorced single mother who has to work – the roles and expectations the church places on women have not been helpful and I have experienced extra grief and turmoil trying to conform my life to impossible ideals. I also don’t believe in the patriarchal order – I believe in a true partnership – but not the patriarchal order. The temple has never brought me peace because of what I perceive to be overt sexism, and uncomfortable emphasis on knowing symbols and passwords, etc. That being said, there is much about the church that does bring me joy and peace. I do not believe it is the one true church, but I do believe there is much to value and love in the church and in its teachings. I think the church works a lot better for some people than for others – peace to those for whom it is good, compassion to those for whom it is less helpful.

  56. Thanks to everyone who has commented on this thread. All of the comments have been great! I want to go back to Zelph’s comment, #30.

    “When I asked myself “what if it wasn’t true?” a magical thing happened. All the questions I had regarding church history, polygamy, blacks and the priesthood, the lack of archaeological evidence for the BoM, the problem with the Book of Abraham “translation”, the similarities between the temple endowment and Masonry and many other problems all became crystal clear. The church is man made. That was my big “ah hah” moment. When my question was “since I know the church is true, how do I reconcile this or that?” I had to make up an excuse that deep down I knew was an insult to my own intelligence.”

    Reconciliation with these issues has faced all of us. I want to comment on the the last three questions raised by Zelph as I have reflected on them and the issues they raise for me. My comments are not meant to attack the conclusions Zelph as made because each person can have different responses internally in their reconciliatory quest. I’m sure many will say that my comments are simply choosing to be naive.

    Jeff says in his post, “I have a strong testimony that the LDS Church is the Lord’s Church”. Is this testimony gained through faith, repentence, and personal witness or is it based on presumptions that there are scientific explanations for the lack of archaeological evidence for the BoM, the problem with the Book of Abraham “translation”, and the similarities between the temple endowment and Masonry? I guess everyone must have their own level of comfort with how much they can be expected to take on faith alone and how much scientific evidence is reasonable to support that faith.

    If God wanted us to base our testimony on archeologic evidence for the BoM, I’m sure He could have left a “lost city” with clearly identifiable records to be discovered that would tie everything up. If he wants His children to develop testimonies by faith, then it is best if outright scientific evidence is suppressed. So, let say for example, that He used natural calamities, climate processes, actions of subsequent inhabitants of cities or outright moving of mountains to obscure archeologic evidence to require His children to approach their testimonies of the Book of Mormon by faith.

    If God wanted us to base our testimony of the Pearl of Great Price on scientific evidence, the exact manuscript used for the “translation” could have turned up. If he wants His children to develop testimonies by faith, then he could have allowed the one confirmatory manuscript among the several that were found with the mummies to be destroyed by fire while the rest of the manuscripts are spared. He could even throw a curve by using the fascimilies to teach hidden principles that are only available with the key of revelatory knowledge.

    Lets also say for example that while the temple covenants don’t change, that they way they are presented in different dispensations do change. The use of symbols and rituals which already represent something to a particular culture could be used to express the themes of man’s journey and progression to exaltation.

    President Benson’s great sermon on pride explains that the Lord will have a humble people. Either they can choose to become humble or they can be compelled to become humble. Does the inability to prove the Book of Mormon by archeological evidence prevent us from going “Ah Hah” to our neighbors and compel us to remain humble?

    Is the process of reconciling these questions deep down an insult to our intelligence or an insult to our pride? God is omnipotent. He could alter the DNA of individuals if he chose to do so. Is this harder to believe than water turning to wine? Is the absence of an archeologic Zarahemla any harder to account for than the whole idea that a Liahona would just happen to be discovered outside of a tent?

    If anyone believes that I base my reconciliation with this type of logic, I would respond that it is a possibility that I MUST consider before I reach a reconciliation. I must also consider that the work is a fraud. I admit that the thought of someone in the next life saying, ” ha ha I told you that the absence of archeologic evidence for the Book of Mormon should have clued you in that you were caught up in a great fraud” stings my pride even in the contemplation of that possibility. If life, however, is to be a test with a veil and a principle of faith prevailing, then the concept of testimony must be based on more than signs.

  57. Good luck “proving” any religion. If we can’t “prove” a religion, why do we think it’s so easy to “prove one false”? Human beings can’t even prove that God exists (or that He doesn’t). While we can sort of prove that Jesus was a person (there is some evidence anyway), we can’t prove much about His life with any degree of certainty. There are enough pieces of the crown of thorns in the cathedrals of Europe to fill a briar patch, and enough pieces of the cross to build an ark, all of which “proof” is highly suspicious when you try to chase down its historicity. Is the church man-made? All religion is at least partly man-made. And yet all religion edifies to some extent. The question is not does the church have flaws (all human organizations do), but is the church led by Christ and therefore true? And IMO the more important question is are we true (meaning do we do our best to live gospel principles)?

  58. Rather than working in this simple binary perspective, the church is true or it isn’t, I would suggest that one consider two more options for a total of four:

    Option 1:
    The church is true.

    Option 2:
    The church is not true.

    Option 3:
    The church was true but fell into apostasy.

    Option 4:
    The church was not completely true but corrected itself.

    First, I would have to assume that something that was true in 1830 is still ‘true’ today. In other words, truth does not change.

    Since the discussion on the first two options are found throughout this thread, I will take a moment to address the third and fourth options.

    The fourth option assumes that there were some misconceptions in the early restored church that were corrected as the leadership was enlightened and received direction from the Lord. That could explain the principles that were practiced at one time but left behind. An example, of course, is blacks and the priesthood or polygamy or the united order, etc. One could argue that these types of principles are true when they were introduced but are not practiced today because of a ‘lack of faith’ of the saints or some other reason. I realize that this is a rather simplistic treatment of this option but it is sufficient for this discussion.

    The third option assumes that the restoration followed the course of any other time that the gospel was given to man by God. The ‘fulness of the gospel’ that was originally restored was abandoned or, perhaps, more appropriately, ignored and compromised by man. Principles that were introduced as part of the imparted truth from God were jettisoned as the church moved along a more man-made course. Precepts that made that this people a unique and peculiar entity traded for the mammon of the world just as the situation which transpired at the meridian of time.

    As I analyze the current situation in the church today, I would suggest that this third option is likely that best fit. As one considers the scriptural warnings and prophecies in light of the current worldliness and the focus on the works of man, there is ample room for this scenario. As Elder Packer stated in his talk at BYU in February 2008: we are the Gentiles. The warnings in the scriptures are for us.

    “And when the times of the Gentiles is come in, a light shall break forth among them that sit in darkness, and it shall be the fulness of my gospel;
    But they receive it not; for they perceive not the light, and they turn their hearts from me because of the precepts of men.
    And in that generation shall the times of the Gentiles be fulfilled. D&C 45:28-20”

    “…At that day when the Gentiles shall sin against my gospel, and shall reject the fulness of my gospel, and shall be lifted up in the pride of their hearts above all nations, and above all the people of the whole earth, and shall be filled with all manner of lyings, and of deceits, and of mischiefs, and all manner of hypocrisy, and murders, and priestcrafts, and whoredoms, and of secret abominations; and if they shall do all those things, and shall reject the fulness of my gospel, behold, saith the Father, I will bring the fulness of my gospel from among them.
    11 And then will I remember my covenant which I have made unto my people, O house of Israel, and I will bring my gospel unto them. 3 Nephi 16:10-11”

    In my opinion, there are only two choices; the church is either true from the beginning and stayed true or it began with the truth and man to rebuilt the church after his own image. The latter fits with the latter day scriptures.

    Spektator

  59. Spektator, frankly, I think the scriptures support your number 4 – but with a slight wording change. “The Church was true when it was restored, but it wasn’t perfect (whole and complete). It is evolving and progressing and becoming more and more complete – like the olive tree being pruned in Jacob 5.”

    That’s my personal view, frankly. I can’t see ANY way to justify the restoration as “perfect” at the beginning, when EVERY member was a convert who struggled to not let the new wine be contaminated in the old bottles, and I personally believe that the overall understanding right now is closer to complete than it was 100 years ago.

  60. I agree, Ray. To suggest that things were perfect at the beginning would also suggest that there is no need for further change or revelation.

  61. This subject is covered often in the Bloggernacle. For some reason the possibility that the church isn’t “true” is on a lot of peoples mind.

    Is there anyone in the Bloggernacle who spends their time pondering about the time when they will meet the Savior in person, possibly in this life, and until that day comes, does anyone seek after the greater manifestations of the Holy Ghost that we’re invited to experience?

    I find it hard to understand how all sorts of things are respected in the bloggernacle by those who post and comment (agnositcs, atheist, apostates for example) as they should be, but a comment that one has received the greater manifestations of the spirit (visions, dreams, ministering angels) is unwelcome.

  62. >>> I find it hard to understand how all sorts of things are respected in the bloggernacle by those who post and comment (agnositcs, atheist, apostates for example) as they should be, but a comment that one has received the greater manifestations of the spirit (visions, dreams, ministering angels) is unwelcome

    Is this true? I’m sort of new to the bloggernacle, so I’m honestly asking. Is it true that people react worse to believing spiritual manifestations than to unbelieving comments? I haven’t had a chance to see such a thing in action yet.

  63. #41 Mo Betta- “Your position on whether or not the Church is divinely-inspired has changed, but apparently one thing has not changed: You still have a high level of confidence and certainty that your present views and opinions are right.”

    You are probably right and I have no rebuttal.

  64. I reject without qualification Gordon Bitner Hinckley’s false binary that if the first vision happened, it’s the most important thing ever, and if it didn’t, the church is a massive fraud. I guess that means I’m going to hell.

    The meaning and understanding of Joseph’s vision has escalated far beyond what anybody of Joseph’s time would have thought of it (including Joseph himself!). We have vision accounts by Moses, Ezekiel, Isaiah, Zarathustra, John the Revelator, Paul, Augustine of Hippo, The Prophet Mohammad, Julian of Norwich, Mother Ann Lee, Bahá’u’lláh, Padre Pio…this list is far from exhaustive. Setting the First Vision as The Single Event that proves or disproves the Truth of the LDS church is nonsense. It’s a supernatural historical event which can be neither proven nor disproven, accounts of which varied in notable ways during Joseph’s own lifetime.

    I am not arguing that the vision didn’t happen. I’m arguing that just because it happened doesn’t mean it’s the most important thing to happen since the resurrection of Jesus. And I’m arguing that if it DIDN’T happen, that doesn’t mean Joseph (and the church) are outright frauds.

    (aside: Why is it that the higher you go in the church hierarchy, the less appreciation you see for ambiguity?)

    I’m with Matt, though I’m probably more apathetic than he is. I no longer care if the church is “true.” Is it good? Mostly. Is it useful? Mostly. Does it bring people to God? Sometimes. Are there other ways of accomplishing this that don’t require us to be so self-important and self-righteous and, well, weird? Undoubtedly.

  65. “I find it hard to understand how all sorts of things are respected in the bloggernacle by those who post and comment (agnositcs, atheist, apostates for example) as they should be, but a comment that one has received the greater manifestations of the spirit (visions, dreams, ministering angels) is unwelcome.”

    ?

    That certainly is not my experience.

  66. #63 Bruce Nielson

    For the last 8 months or so I have been sharing my testimony on occasion about having received these kinds of manifestations. I can say by my experience it is… “true that people react worse to believing spiritual manifestations than to unbelieving comments”.

    I came to the Bloggernacle with the desire to find others who have similar experiences as mine and share and learn from one antoher.

    It was two years ago this month I decided to talk more opening with family and friends about my experiences. I used to think everyone had the same experiences, but just didn’t talk about them.

  67. Jeff said:” Well, I guess that settles it once and for all! Thanks for the confirmation. Your wife must have had the baby and now you are not sleeping well… or she hasn’t had it yet and you are not sleeping well.”

    14 days til the baby is here…and 12 days until year 1 exams are finished. Just pulled an all nighter for my clinical exams tomorrow afternoon 🙁

    I am thinking of trying to get my hands on some indomethacin to ensure the baby stays in so it doesnt come during the exams!!

    Congrats on your anniversary by the way and Great post.

  68. #66 Ray said: That certainly is not my experience.

    Ray, I’m surprised that you would say this. Are you the same Ray that observed how I was treated last Oct at BCC?

  69. Yes, Jared, but that is just BCC – and the thread wasn’t very conducive to what you were sharing. Also, frankly, like I did when I first started commenting in the Bloggernacle, you came across when you first started as a bit preachy and confrontational – like you were challenging and discounting the other commenters. I don’t read you that way, but I understood why others did. As I said, I made a similar mistake in not realizing how my comments sounded at first, and I had to back up and observe the general interactions a bit before diving back into the discussions.

    Much of the reaction here, I think, is due to a difference in what you mean by spiritual experiences and what others think you mean. If you think about it, “spiritual experiences” can mean radically different things to different people.

  70. #70 Ray

    Thanks for your thoughts.

    It never entered into my mind to be confrontational or preachy. However, I’ve learned to walk the line better so I am not getting the same kind of treatment. But the fact remains that anyone who shares a spiritual experiences and talks about the gifts of the Spirit is going to have the welcome mat withdrawn to some extend. I not sure why this is the case. But I believe it stems from some kind of fear.

  71. Rigel Hawthorne #56
    “if God wanted us to base our testimony of the Pearl of Great Price on scientific evidence, the exact manuscript used for the “translation” could have turned up.”

    I believe based on what I have read on the subject that the manuscript used for the translation is the same that turned up. I know this is off topic and not meant for a debate, just pointing out how people can look at the same evidence and come to different conclusions.

    Although, I agree that if God wanted us to base our beliefs strictly on faith, he would purposefully “shuffle” the deck, intentionally eliminate any traces of archaeological evidence, and deliberately change DNA or willfully dilute DNA so that there is no trace.

    However, if God did that, in a way God would become a God of deception, and that is not a God I want to worship.

    I do not believe that God would have us rely on blind faith alone.

    Going back to the original post, this is really just a re-hash of Pascal’s wager. Although, I agree with the original post in the hypothetical situation that the church is not true, there is nothing ‘wrong’ with following this belief system. On the other hand, I do see people get carried away in the amount of time they spend on callings that it takes them away from family members. I also think there can be a problem when someone goes against common sense. An example that comes to mind is the family on the documentary “the Mormons” that decided to go against all odds to try for another child because that is what they believed the spirit told them even when they already had several children and the mother was a high risk and the mother ended up dying after childbirth. I think that is an example of going too far and a bit unfair. Nothing wrong with having children, but when you are a high risk and already have several, common sense should out trump the whisperings of the spirit.

  72. Hey Jared,

    I think this: the main goal of much, certainly not all, of the ‘bloggernacle’ is to make room for reasonable discussion with people who don’t have a testimony, but still want to talk around issues having to do with Mormon history, culture, doctrine, etc. I think that expressing a testimony in that setting may put some people off because they feel it defeats that purpose. And maybe it does or maybe it doesn’t, prolly depends on the thread, the level of animosity already present, the exact manne rthe testimony is expressed etc. And I think it is a great question whether or not, or to what extent, having this as a main purpose can work contrary to the mission of the church – the mission that some of us are, at least nominally, comitted to. I certainly don’t feel comfortable about everything I see coming from believing, covenant keeping members on the bloggernacle – I also don’t feel comfortable about everything I’ve said, or have a tendancy to say, or the way I say it.

    In any case, there are times when one’s testimony must be by example rather than expressed in words. And the purpose of BCC and many other blogs is what it is. And seeing that these forums don’t belong to me, I try – probably fail, but try, to be mindful of the rules of the house. I’ve still got an elephantine ego and plenty of areas of darkness, and these probably come out along with the good. I hope I’m forgiven of that, and try to be mindful that everyone isn’t going to be on their A game, all the time.

    One of the reasons I love that you keep your own blog space is that I do think that more expression from an entirely faithful perspective would tend to add balance to the blogs. I do agree that there is something of a want of faithful expression that isn’t looking to be challenged, even if it does want to be explored.

    I just got home from a great Priesthood Leadership meeting. Testimonies were expressed, ideas explored, the gospel taught and received, the Holy Spirit very much present and experienced by all who came prepared for that experience. I don’t anticipate getting that kind of spiritual sustenance from anything in the bloggernacle – though sometimes it does happen. It causes me to question the amount of time I spend here – and, for now, I think it is a fair use of my time. I do get a chance to hear out interesting people, be exposed to all kinds of opinions and feelings, learn about intersting things (read J Stapley’s KFD bits on Splendid Sun!) – many of which won’t get air time in Sunday School – and I get many chances to try to do a little good working within other people’s rules.

    ~

  73. In terms of what one’s Christian alternatives are if in some bizarre stretch of faith that the LDS isn’t true, you have Catholicism which is a schismatic of ancient Christianity historically set up by Constantine from disparate groups of Christian cults from a collapsed original church. So you can trace your authority in that one back to a sun worshipper.

    Then you have the Eastern Orthodox churches that excommunicated the pope and the Church excommunicated the patriarch. So all the popes and patriarchs have been excommunicated by themselves for a thousand years, by authority from a sun worshipper.

    Then Martin Luther, rather than going to an orthodox Church for his authority, decided to make up a priesthood of all believers who take it upon themselves to have priesthood because they have a bible, a bible. And all of disparate Protestantism think that they have all the authority they need from the bible, when in essence, they are also all apostates from a church that traces its authority to a sun worshipper who wasn’t even a Christian.

    So you might as well be a Buddhist or something if you aren’t Mormon. Then again, you could choose Freemasonry if you are into ritual stuff, and you could give it your time and devotion and get everything out of it that a religion offers, except it isn’t a religion. And since Churches all tracing their authority to a sun worshipper have no authority and no salvation to offer anyway, then Freemasonry seems like a pretty cool ritualistic thing.

    Or hey, you could go join up with Art Bulla or the FLDS, or with Terrill Dalton and Terrill will initiate you into his swinger cult, and preach to you about his sacred stone where he has an inspired translation of the Rosetta Stone. Now that is some great stuff. He’s the holy ghost incarnate because he has the keys of time travel, so he says. He is also the angel Gabriel, but he forgot that one little thing about the fact that Gabriel was Noah, but thats not a problem with reincarnation, but I dont’ think that he’s thought of that one yet, but just you wait.

    So list is endless if you don’t want to be LDS, and not a one of them can offer any more salvation than the LDS could offer if it isn’t true. But then again, if you actually want salvation as a bible thumper, then you might as well stick it out in a good Christian religion where you can swear by your mouth to be saved. But you can do that being LDS just as much, so you might as well be LDS, because all of that stuff doesn’t have anything better to offer.

  74. Zelph, your points are excellent. They give me much to think about. I’ll be thinking about your point about circumstances making God a God of deception and whether or not that could be a perception error from only knowing a part of the equation. As far as not wanting to worship a God of deception, I think of the challenges one has in worshipping the God described in the old testament with the associated violence. As far as faith goes, there have been those who have accepted the gospel when the Book of Mormon had not been fully published in their language. They were taught from and challenged to develop testimonies on selected exerpts. It was an act of faith actually believing that a fully published Book of Mormon existed (even if they were shown an English copy). Blind faith is a relative term, isn’t it.

  75. #59
    Ray,
    According to the scriptures, the ‘fulness’ of the gospel was restored through Joseph Smith. What other definition can be given to ‘fulness’ other than complete? Paul preached that if anyone preach another gospel, let him be accursed. I take this to mean that it is an imperative that we understand the complete/perfect/full gospel that was restored.

    Were the Nephites closer to the ‘truth’ 200 years after the visit of the Saviour? Were the Christians closer the the ‘truth’ 200 years after the crucifixion of Christ? It is much more likely that the doctrines of man slowly creep into the church of God. I think it is extremely hard to see apostasy from the inside.

  76. #73 Thomas Parkin

    Thanks for your thoughtful comment. Gives me some good ideas to think on. The bloggernacle is what it is and I respect that. However, I think it is important for the movers and shakers in the bloggernacle to be inviting to all thoughtful post and comments. Otherwise, what will the bloggernacle turn into over time. I don’t think anyone wants to see the bloggernacle evolve into the likeness of great and spacious building from Lehi and Nephi’s vision.

  77. Guy Smiley: But you can do that being LDS just as much, so you might as well be LDS, because all of that stuff doesn’t have anything better to offer
    Except coffee in the morning and margaritas on a Friday night.

    I understand from your comment that you think there is a Single Correct Church That God Runs – that Jesus set up a church and it’s very important to belong to That Church. All the counter examples are in that vein. If the LDS Church isn’t “True,” then why does there need to be another one that is? Because if the LDS Church isn’t “True,” then it’s quite likely that the idea of a “True Church” is IN AND OF ITSELF a false one.

  78. Spektator, There are many, including Joseph Smith himself, who spoke of the “fulness” as being revealed and implemented incrementally – line-upon-line, precept-upon-precept, grace-by-grace. I also see that in the NT, where even Jesus’ closest disciples – those who would become the leading apostles – didn’t understand what He was teaching fully.

    In fact, the idea that it can take hundreds of years to sort out Gospel truth is the very foundation of all of Christianity – Catholicism AND Protestantism. Any religion that traces it central doctrines to “The Creeds” must admit that they were formulated and codified hundreds of years AFTER the Gospel was taught by Jesus (and in the case of the Protestant creeds to which I believe JSH 1:19 refers, like the Westminster Confession, it was many hundreds of years). When you add the ever-changing understanding of God described in the OT, I think it is a bedrock scriptural claim that the “dispensation of the fulness of times” refers to a “time period” in which the fulness will be restored (a process) rather than a moment when it would all be revealed at once (an event). I just don’t see any other way to read the words of Joseph himself.

  79. Rigel,

    Would you mind elaborating one of your comments?

    “As far as not wanting to worship a God of deception, I think of the challenges one has in worshipping the God described in the old testament with the associated violence”.

    One way I could read this is that when a verse in the OT says, “The Lord commanded Joshua to destroy all that breathed in Canaan” or something, you believe the Lord did exactly that. And the divine deception is the Lord turns around and tells us later, “Thou shalt not kill”?

    Or alternatively, do you mean that the Lord didn’t command Joshua to actually destroy ALL that breathed in Canaan, like maybe He told the Israelites to kill all adults, armed or not, the old, sick, and the women in their homes, but spare the infants, don’t dash their heads against rocks, that kind of thing? Then God allows us to be deceived about His true commands by not striking dead the jingoistic Israelite court scribe who attributes an act of ethnic cleansing to God to justify the temporal regime he serves in that particular moment? And God further deceives us by allowing these particular texts to be canonized by successive Church councils without sending plagues of locusts to eat the flesh of these sinners who continue to misrepresent Him?

    Do you think God deceives us intentionally in any of the ways outlined above, or in other ways, taking the risk that fewer humans will believe in Him, His Son, His Church, etc. as a result?

  80. #54:
    in fact, Orthodox do not even recognize the reformed branch of Judaism, which is the liberal branch.

    True, but then Gordon Hinckley used to pretend that Fundamentalist Mormons didn’t exist.

    the Orthodox are more dogmatic than the LDS. And argumentative on top of it!

    Heh…Now, Jeff, I’m sure you’ve sat through an occasional priesthood meeting that would challenge this comparison! 😉

  81. Post
    Author

    “Heh…Now, Jeff, I’m sure you’ve sat through an occasional priesthood meeting that would challenge this comparison! 😉 ”

    I know what you’re saying…. 🙂 , but I have never seen a fist fight in Priesthood, where I have between Jews arguing doctrine and practice!

  82. #56:
    God is omnipotent. He could alter the DNA of individuals if he chose to do so. Is this harder to believe than water turning to wine? Is the absence of an archeologic Zarahemla any harder to account for than the whole idea that a Liahona would just happen to be discovered outside of a tent?

    Ultimately, however, a person who is honest with themselves and unafraid of having their beliefs challenged will see arguments like “maybe deity changed the DNA, so we’d have to rely on faith,” or “maybe deity made all those dinosaur bones to fool the wicked into believing evolution) as nothing more than desperate attempts to avoid cognitive dissonance. Think these things through a bit. Why would a perfect deity, particularly one who even commands mankind not to lie, think it was a good idea to play these sorts of deceptive games? The idea that deity would alter DNA, or bury fake dinosaur bones which produce false carbon dating results, all in an effort to “test” mankind or “fool” unchosen individuals is frankly offensive to the point of obscenity. Such a being would never be worthy of worship from a worm, let alone a human being.

  83. Post
    Author

    “I reject without qualification Gordon Bitner Hinckley’s false binary that if the first vision happened, it’s the most important thing ever, and if it didn’t, the church is a massive fraud. I guess that means I’m going to hell.”

    Ann, the truth of the First Vision certainly does not negate whether the Church is a fine organization and does a lot of good for people. I think we agree on that (to varying degrees, of course).

    The issue for the First Vision has to do with the claims of Joseph Smith and the restoration of the Ancient Church. if the First Vision is a lie, then the claims of the Church are also a lie.

    Whether it is good and has served a purpose for some people, is really not the issue. But, it falls into the same category with all the other Christian Denominations.

  84. #58:
    The third option assumes that the restoration followed the course of any other time that the gospel was given to man by God. The ‘fulness of the gospel’ that was originally restored was abandoned or, perhaps, more appropriately, ignored and compromised by man. Principles that were introduced as part of the imparted truth from God were jettisoned as the church moved along a more man-made course. Precepts that made that this people a unique and peculiar entity traded for the mammon of the world just as the situation which transpired at the meridian of time.

    Spektator, my thoughts are along the same line here. I’m not foolish enough to insist that the faith/historical claims of Joseph Smith were definitely false. I’m open to the possibility that Joseph was everything he claimed to be, and more. I am unable, however, given my experience and research, to conclude that the current LDS church retains the same “truth value” (for lack of a better term) as what Joseph taught. In other words, to whatever degree Joseph’s teachings were true, I am convinced that the modern LDS church is less true. I am completely unable to reconcile the modern LDS church’s myriad (and rapidly increasing) departures from the religion of Joseph Smith as being progressive divine revelation. Mind you, I don’t think any other Mormon groups have done much better, at least not to the point where I can rely on them as preservers of Joseph’s legacy.

  85. #63:
    Is this true? I’m sort of new to the bloggernacle, so I’m honestly asking. Is it true that people react worse to believing spiritual manifestations than to unbelieving comments? I haven’t had a chance to see such a thing in action yet.

    Bruce, as with humor, much depends on the telling. I can’t recall ever seeing a humble statement of testimony ridiculed or attacked in the bloggernacle. At times, however, I have seen individuals state their testimony as a weapon, in an effort to shame others into “repentance,” to bring uncomfortable discussions to a halt, or present the writer as a spiritually superior individual. When individuals have borne their testimony or shared experiences in such a manner, they have quite often faced hostility. Almost universally, such individuals have then reacted to that hostility by attacking the bloggernacle as a gathering of apostates who hate faithful believers.

  86. #84:
    The issue for the First Vision has to do with the claims of Joseph Smith and the restoration of the Ancient Church. if the First Vision is a lie, then the claims of the Church are also a lie.

    I’m not sure this is an absolute conclusion, Jeff. Minus a few details, Joseph’s theophany was very typical of the many “conversion experiences” of his day. It’s fair to say that he didn’t attribute the same monumental importance to it that the LDS church does today. I think Joseph definitely believed that he saw divine beings after he prayed in the grove, but I also believe it may have been much less pivotal to him than it is now presented. I don’t think the validity of Joseph’s subsequent “prophetic” acts and teachings relies on the First Vision being a unique or nearly-unique, “prophet-appointing” theophany.

  87. >>> I am completely unable to reconcile the modern LDS church’s myriad (and rapidly increasing) departures from the religion of Joseph Smith as being progressive divine revelation. Mind you, I don’t think any other Mormon groups have done much better, at least not to the point where I can rely on them as preservers of Joseph’s legacy.

    Nick, you make this claim a lot, so I’d like to ask you respectfully to address as it seems undefined at this point. I know we have bumped heads over this in the past (and I don’t necessarily see this as a bad thing as we both seem to have some fun with it. 🙂 ) But I would like to see you address this in a more factual way rather than just as a “gut feel.”

    Now at face value, I understand what you mean: that there is “change” in the LDS church and you don’t like it’s direction. That part makes sense to me.

    But to me you seem to be picking a point in time or a certain way of emphasizing (or interpreting?) Mormonism out of many possibilities and then arbitarily deciding “that’s the right strain” and any move away from that is “less true.”

    But every move you’ve brought up to me so far has been fully defensible out of the Book of Mormon. (i.e. “worshipping Jesus” in some sense of that word, concentration on basic principles, concentration on merits of Christ, Jesus as “God”, monotheism, etc.)

    In fact one common complaint of other less or non-believing Mormons is that there is no “original Mormonism” at all, just widely varied points in time where Joseph taught contradictory things. I don’t buy that argument at all, and I gather you don’t (or don’t entirely?) either.

    So that leaves me with what I feel is a legitimate question to you. How are you defining “change away from the religion of Joseph’? Do you remove the Book of Mormon from being part of ‘the religion of Joseph’? I would have to conclude at this point that you do not count the Book of Mormon as part of ‘the religion of Jospeh’ at this point based on your complaints you’ve made public so far. They are all items SOOO strongly stated in the Book of Mormon. A move by the LDS church to Book of Mormon teachings is hardly what I’d call a move away from ‘the religion of Joseph.’

    Now that the LDS church has moved towards a re-emphasis of the Book of Mormon and thus a re-emphasis of fundamentals seems beyond doubt to me. This was the point I made at this post. So I know of no one arguing that point. And certainly a change back to fundamentals is a “change” of some sort, though perhaps not as I take you as implying. But certainly no one is arguing the LDS Church has “not changed” in some sense of that word “change.” A shift to fundamentals is a huge change to be sure, but I fail to see how it’s a shift away from the ‘religion of Joseph’ so long as it’s still grounded in something as fundamental as the Book of Mormon.

    Do you have examples of changes to the LDS church that you feel are away from ‘the religion of Joseph’ that aren’t found in Mormon scripture that Joseph in some way produced? I haven’t heard you specify anything like that. Or do you have certain scriptures you see as ‘the religion of Jospeh’ but others that he produced that you feel are ‘not the religion of Joseph?’

  88. #74

    What about being a Quaker? For almost 400 years the Quakers have taught and believed that “the light of Christ is given to all people” (thats men and women) with constant, continuing revelation given individually. They have pursued peace, simplicity and equality, leading the world against slavery, cruelty and war. The fact that Joseph Smith used a lot of Quaker ideas in the Book of Mormon may have been because the Annual Meeting of Quakers took place in Farmington New York, but I digress. Your readiness to disrespect others religions doesn’t assist yours at all.

    Ann,

    As always, you have managed to say the substance of what I meant in fewer words and to better effect.

    For all those who took such strong exception to my words and advised me that the problem was likely to be with me, I can only say that feeling guilty because no miraculous testimony ever came to me after 17 years of trying is now in my past. Whatever the case, I don’t think it is entirely my problem. I hope to ensure my children take the good of the church (which I mentioned) while rejecting those elements that I consider unhealthy or anti-social. Sorry if I offend, but the question “what if the church isn’t true” isn’t a theoretical exercise for me, its what I deal with everyday and remained concerned with more and more as my children get older.

    We are all trying to work out what is right, and use the Church at the beginning, middle or end of our journey. I figure that is what brings us together.

  89. Nick,

    To restate what I’m asking in a different way: would it perhaps be more accurate to say that your complaint about the LDS church is that they/we decided to emphasize more the 1830 ‘religion of Joseph’ rather than the 1844 ‘religion of Joseph?’ (Of course I believe they teach both today, but certainly there has been a re-emphasis towards more of the 1830 doctrines, as my own link to my own post points out.)

    If this is the case, then I understand what you are saying.

  90. I have turned this question around and asked it on the New Order Mormon board. What if I leave the church and the church is true?

    I do not believe that God would punish me if I follow the golden rule. I do not believe that God would only give authority to perform saving ordinances to .02% of the world’s population and nobody else. I don’t believe that any ordinance is necessary for salvation. If the church is true, I have nothing to worry about. I believe if there is a God and he is just, he will ask me if I treated his children the way I would want to be treated and this would be sufficient.

  91. >>> I believe if there is a God and he is just, he will ask me if I treated his children the way I would want to be treated and this would be sufficient.

    This leads to the whole question of what ‘justice’ means and if one can earn salvation. Zelph, do you still at least (to any degree) believe in the Grace of Jesus Christ? (Or maybe the “Grace of God” at least.)

  92. But I would like to see you address this in a more factual way rather than just as a “gut feel.”

    In fairness, Bruce, a “gut feel” largely sums up the reason most believing LDS members give for their acceptance of current LDS doctrine. Call it a “burning in the bosom” if you like, but ultimately it’s one’s own intuitive sense, very possibly influenced by deity, that something is true. That being the case, it wouldn’t be consistent to dismiss my “gut feel” as an invalid basis for belief.

    But to me you seem to be picking a point in time or a certain way of interpreting Mormonism out of many possibilities and then arbitarily deciding “that’s the right strain” and any move away from that is “less true.”

    “Arbitrary” is in the eye of the beholder, Bruce, but yes, I’ll freely admit that I see a “golden age” of Mormonism. To me, Joseph’s teachings were progressive, and if they were true, his teachings in the last few months/years of his life were the apex of that progress (so the “widely varied points” complaint doesn’t impress me). My own study of his doctrines surrounding such matters as the temple ordinances, the Kingdom (as opposed to the church) of God, and the fulness of the priesthood represent a wonderful, rich heritage, which primaril differentiates Mormonism from American Protestantism. These teachings also represent a profound esoteric tradition which to my observation has largely disappeared, and is even frowned upon, in the modern LDS church. It is primarily these more esoteric matters (most of which shouldn’t be addressed in public blogs), which I find appealing in Mormonism, and accordingly, their absence is primarily what I find unsatisfying and lacking in the modern LDS church.

    If you want my blunt, honest opinion, it’s that once the leaders who actually knew Joseph and were taught by him died off, the “second generation” of LDS apostles basically destroyed Mormonism piecemeal. Franklin D. Richards’ diary (he was the last surviving apostle to know Joseph, as well as the only Nauvoo Freemason, besides Lorenzo Snow, who was by then president of the church) contains an interesting example of this, where in his last months he felt spiritually compelled to explain to the remainder of the Twelve what Joseph had actually taught on a particular subject. He did this (what he records having taught matches well with what I’ve found in researching the subject), and felt great relief in doing so. I’ve seen the contemporaneous diary entries from several other members of the Twelve, however, and they ranged from entirely missing his point to entirely rejecting his point. They simply were not open to receive it.

    But every move you’ve brought up to me so far has been fully defensible out of the Book of Mormon. (i.e. “worshipping Jesus” in some sense of that word, concentration on basic principles, concentration on merits of Christ, Jesus as “God”, etc.)

    Bruce, we differ in our perceptions on this. One could suggest (rightfully or not) that you see the current direction of the LDS church, and then find apparent justification for it in the Book of Mormon text, as opposed to reading the text as a way of determining the proper current direction. Is it possible that your reading of the Book of Mormon reflects a degree of confirmation bias? Would a member of the LDS church in 1850 read the same Book of Mormon passages in the same way you do?

    Do you remove the Book of Mormon from being part of ‘the religion of Joseph’? I would have to conclude at this point that you do not count the Book of Mormon as part of ‘the religion of Jospeh’ at this point based on your complaints you’ve made public so far. They are all items SOOO strongly stated in the Book of Mormon. A move by the LDS church to Book of Mormon teachings is hardly what I’d call a move away from ‘the religion of Joseph.’

    Brigham Young (sorry I don’t have the reference handy, but it’s in the JD) stated many years later that if The Book of Mormon had been translated at that time (when BY was speaking), it would have read quite differently. The sense I get from Brigham’s comment is that while he believed the Book of Mormon to be a genuine translation of an ancient text, he understood Joseph’s theology to have matured since 1829-30, which would change some aspects of the translation. I don’t know that I’m particularly interested in a protracted point-by-point analysis at this time, but I would suggest that in at least some respects, the Book of Mormon does not, in fact, clearly reflect “the religion of Joseph Smith.” Many have suggested, for example, that the Book of Mormon is much more trinitarian in its expression than Joseph was later in life.

    Now that the LDS church has moved towards a re-emphasis of the Book of Mormon and thus a re-emphasis of fundamentals seems beyond doubt to me.

    Well, not to beat a dead horse, Bruce, but here we go again. “Fundamentals” is also in the eye of the beholder. What you seem to be calling “fundamentals,” I would call Protestantization. You see a “return” to something you believe Joseph Smith believed and taught when his theology was mature. I see an effort to reinterpret a reflection of Joseph’s 1829-30 theological understanding in a way that is more palatable to so-called “mainstream” christians.

    I recognize that we will see these things differently, Bruce. I would prefer to avoid the exhausting threadjack that would ensue, if we were to become “attack dogs” toward each other, insisting that the other “prove” that their view of Joseph’s theology is correct. My hope, however, is that I’ve at least answered your questions enough to give you the clearer understanding of my viewpoint that you desired.

  93. Nick (way back in #44),
    Your understanding of Orthodox Judaism matches mine . . . to a point. One of my coworkers, Orthodox and essentially libertarian, betrays his libertarian card here and there. He, for example, believes in (IIRC) legislating gambling (at least, I think that’s what the conversation was about). As he describes it, there are certain things that are bad for Jews and certain that are bad, period.

    I don’t know how representative this is of Orthodox thought, but he’s a smart guy, so I’d be unsurprised if it’s relatively standard.

  94. #94:
    Interesting, Sam. By “legislating gambling,” I assume you refer to state-sponsored lotteries? Perhaps your friend is convinced that there are non-religious reasons, demonstrated by legitimate evidence, that such a thing is actually harmful (i.e. not just religiously offensive) to some segment of society?

  95. Zelph, the real question is what if I rely on my own analysis and reject the Spirit, will I be judged as rejecting the Spirit or just as having faulty logic.

    Interesting question, since it frames what I see a lot of.

    God seems pretty clear that if we have a broken heart and a contrite spirit and if we seek the love of Christ, God will respond in our lives. That he judges our hearts, as they are open or closed to him.

    I think that answers your question. Are you open to the Spirit and are you filled with love and faith in Christ. Then Christ will call you his.

    //////////////////////////////////

    Back to the topic, if the Church isn’t true, then what we think of as God is probably just a Bonewits style psychic parasite. That creates an entirely different set of issues and complications.

  96. Nick,
    You may be right; as I understood him, though, he believes that some things are wrong and bad, period (against God’s will, that is–given some of the stuff he doesn’t want to legislate, I have to assume he’s not super-worried about non-religious evidence that a thing is bad), and those things should be illegal. I didn’t push on where he draws the line; like I said, he’s a pretty right-libertarian guy, and it was surprising to hear him in favor of legislating anything.

    I didn’t push the conversation, though, and we’re not close enough that I’m likely to reraise the issue with him, so I’m sure there are subtleties to his thought that I didn’t suss out. Still, I’d understood Orthodox Judaism in roughly the same way you seem to understand it, so it came as a surprise to me.

  97. >>> but I would suggest that in at least some respects, the Book of Mormon does not, in fact, clearly reflect “the religion of Joseph Smith.”
    >>> My hope, however, is that I’ve at least answered your questions enough to give you the clearer understanding of my viewpoint that you desired.

    You have cleared up your view point for me, I believe. If I understand you correctly, you do in fact feel the Book of Mormon, as Joseph translated it, is NOT part of the ‘religion of Joseph’ (in some respects and for the reasons you specified.) I definitely see it otherwise. We can agree to disagree on this, but I now understand what you are saying. It did not makes sense before now.

    >>> Is it possible that your reading of the Book of Mormon reflects a degree of confirmation bias? Would a member of the LDS church in 1850 read the same Book of Mormon passages in the same way you do?

    This is an interesting question. However, up to this point it has little force in any discussion we’ve had. (On the Bloggernacle, I’m saying, not necessariy you and me.)

    If I, for instance, claim that Mormons have historically “worshipped Jesus” in some sense of the word “worship” and then quote the Book of Mormon to prove it, then clearly it’s true as far as it goes.

    It’s, of course, possible that I understand that word differently then an 1830 Mormon does, but no one has ever tried to argue that point to date. The general argument seems to be to ignore the BoM reference all together or to dismiss it as “Joseph just contradicted himself.” (I don’t mean you here, Nick.)

    Likewise if I claim Mormons, from the beginning, believed in “One God” (in some sense of that term) and can show it in the Book of Mormon, one can’t then claim this isn’t true by merely quoting Joseph in 1844 saying there is a plurality of Gods. (Again, I don’t mean you, Nick.) That’s bad logic. A+B <> B for any non-zero value of A.

    The only way that argument makes sense would be, as you just outlined, to actually claim the Book of Mormon (or that part of it) is not part of Mormonism.

    Even arguing that Joseph contradicted himself is poor logic as this just means the arguer is reifying something for the sake of making their point. In other words, it’s a poor argument all the way around unless you remove the Book of Mormon (or parts of it) from being part of ‘the religion of Joseph’ as you have done.

    What I’m trying to say, Nick, is that you are not being inconsistent and I see your point of view now.

  98. >>> Wow, Bruce! Why didn’t you say that earlier, and save me some typing?

    Nick. LOL. Why didn’t you say THIS ealier and save me all that typing on post #00? ROFL. 😛

  99. Post
    Author

    “I don’t know how representative this is of Orthodox thought, but he’s a smart guy, so I’d be unsurprised if it’s relatively standard.’

    There are degrees of Orthodoxy. You wouldn’t probably limp your friend in with a Hasidic or Lubovicher Orthodox.

    * Orthodox Judaism holds that both the Written and Oral Torah were divinely revealed to Moses, and that the laws within it are binding and unchanging. Orthodox Jews generally consider commentaries on the Shulchan Aruch (a condensed codification of halakha that largely favored Sephardic traditions) such as the Moses Isserlis’s HaMappah and the Mishnah Berurah, to be the definitive codification of Jewish law, and assert a continuity between the Judaism of the Temple in Jerusalem, pre-Enlightenment Rabbinic Judaism, and modern-day Orthodox Judaism. Most of Orthodox Judaism holds to one particular form of Jewish theology, based on Maimonides’ 13 principles of Jewish faith. Orthodox Judaism broadly (and informally) shades into two main styles, Modern Orthodox Judaism and Haredi Judaism. The philosophical distinction is generally around accommodation to modernity and weight placed on non-Jewish disciplines, though in practical terms the differences are often reflected in styles of dress and rigor in practice. According to most Orthodox Jews, Jewish people who do not keep the laws of Shabbat and Yom Tov (the holidays), kashrut, and family purity are considered non-religious. Any Jew who keeps at least those laws would be considered observant and religious.
    o Modern Orthodox Judaism emphasizes strict observance of religious laws and commandments but with a broad, liberal approach to modernity and living in a non-Jewish or secular environment. Modern Orthodox women are gradually assuming a greater role in Jewish ritual practice, which is not acceptable in the Haredi community.
    o Haredi Judaism (also known as “ultra-Orthodox Judaism,” although some find this term offensive) is a very conservative form of Judaism. The Haredi world revolves around study, prayer and meticulous religious observance. Some Haredi Jews are more open to the modern world, perhaps most notably the Lubavitch Hasidim, but their acceptance of modernity is more a tool for enhancing Jewish faith than an end in itself.
    + Hasidic Judaism is a stream of Haredi Judaism based on the teachings of Rabbi Yisroel ben Eliezer (The Baal Shem Tov). Hasidic philosophy is rooted in the Kabbalah, and Hasidic Jews accept the Kabbalah as sacred scripture. They are distinguished both by a variety of special customs and practices including reliance on a Rebbe or supreme religious leader, and a special dress code particular to each Hasidic group.

    From the Wikipedia on Judaism.

  100. A little late to the party again, but here goes.

    Jared – I think your comments about sharing spiritual experiences are interesting, and I’m going to be doing an upcoming post on this topic. Look for that in July.

    Zelph (#72) – IMO, the people who get carried away in the LDS church are the same people who would get carried away regardless of the source of their fanaticism. That, to me, says more about them as individuals than about the church. Meaning, there are people who will take a general mandate from authority and comply, regardless of personal circumstance and without seeking personal guidance and revelation of their own. Not true in all cases, of course, and they may be perfectly content with their choices.

    Ann – this thought that the higher you go in the church, the less ambiguity is interesting. I certainly think that’s true, but a very valid reason (at least in my mind) is that leaders define reality and give hope (to paraphrase Napoleon). Leaders don’t create confusion or ambiguity. Their role (whether in a church or a corporation or the military) is to provide a simpler viewpoint amidst all the confusion and to help people believe they can do more than they think is possible.

  101. John and Nick, re: 80 and 83

    The question about God being a God of deception came up from Zelph’s comment in 72.

    Zelph said, “Although, I agree that if God wanted us to base our beliefs strictly on faith, he would purposefully “shuffle” the deck, intentionally eliminate any traces of archaeological evidence, and deliberately change DNA or willfully dilute DNA so that there is no trace. However, if God did that, in a way God would become a God of deception, and that is not a God I want to worship.”

    In my follow-up comment, I was comparing someone who felt uncomfortable worshiping a God they perceived as deceiving to someone who felt uncomfortable worshiping a God that they
    perceived as endorsing violence. The perception involves knowing many of the variables, which as John indicated can be interpreted differently depending on how the accounts are read.

    Take Nick’s use of the word “games” for example. Does God play games? (Lets take the word ‘deceptive’ out for a moment). Here are 3 definitions for the word game:

    #1 a single play of a sport or other contest; “the game lasted two hours”
    #2 a contest with rules to determine a winner; “you need four people to play this game”
    #3 an amusement or pastime; “they played word games”; “he thought of his painting as a game that filled his empty time”; “his life was all fun and games”

    I don’t believe that God plays games as in definition #3, but definition #2 could be used, in a manner of speaking (i.e. a ‘quest’ with rules to determine a ‘valiant’). Now in using the term ‘deceiving games’. I don’t believe that God views His theater of mortality as a deceptive game that filled his empty time. I can see an argument for the theater of mortality as a quest with rules that may appear deceptive due to incomplete understanding of the strategies involved for refining a ‘valiant.’

    This complexity makes it difficult to give a simple answer to Nick’s question, “Why would a perfect deity, particularly one who even commands mankind not to lie, think it was a good idea to play these sorts of deceptive games?”

    Now let me take the last statement of Nick’s response.

    “The idea that deity would alter DNA, or bury fake dinosaur bones which produce false carbon dating results, all in an effort to “test” mankind or “fool” unchosen individuals is frankly offensive to the point of obscenity. Such a being would never be worthy of worship from a worm, let alone a human being.”

    I don’t know why deity would do all of these things, but I have faith that it is not a cruel joke. We have graduate students altering DNA of bacteria just so they will have a more pleasant smell than typical E. Coli. If mortals are beginning to successfully modify DNA, then I’m certain God could do this with exponential ability, but I couldn’t pretend to know the mind of God in doing it. One could say that they were offended because the gold plates are not in the church history museum for all to see, thus unchosen individuals are being “fooled”. I’ll repeat what I said in my prior post, “I guess everyone must have their own level of comfort with how much they can be expected to take on faith alone and how much scientific evidence is reasonable to support that faith.” I’m prepared to deal with cognitive dissonance, but not at the expense of disregarding the prevailing principle of faith.

  102. “I guess everyone must have their own level of comfort with how much they can be expected to take on faith alone and how much scientific evidence is reasonable to support that faith.”

    It is one thing for a deity to expect mankind to accept a proposition on faith alone, Rigel. It is quite another for a deity to expect mankind to accept a proposition on faith, and then “plant evidence” that is openly contradictory to the proposition. You attempt to bypass the idea of such a deceptive deity by means of platitudes about how we “don’t know the mind of deity.” That’s not an answer. Rather, that’s a self-deluding position, which has no backing other than a preference to explain away cognitive dissonance, rather than facing it head on. Even if such a gimmick was legitimate, you are left with a deity who is actively attempting, by means of “planted evidence,” to dissuade his own creations from accepting his revelations. In short, you still have a deceptive deity who engages in mockery of the human race, or worse, a deity who intentionally acts in ways which he knows will lead his creations away from him. Neither is acceptable.

    I’m prepared to deal with cognitive dissonance, but not at the expense of disregarding the prevailing principle of faith.

    Then you are not, in fact, “prepared to deal with cognitive dissonance. You propose “dealing with” cognitive dissonance by overruling it with your faith, lest your faith be questioned. That’s not “dealing with” anything at all, Rigel, and it’s certainly not a pattern for seeking further light and truth. Instead, it’s active self-deception.

  103. Post
    Author

    Let us not forget that any shortcoming between what we understand and comprehend about God and the real nature and actions of Him belong to us, not to Him. The writings themselves that describe God’s actions and/or thoughts are also to be suspect and not be be totally relied upon.

  104. Spektater said “The fourth option assumes that there were some misconceptions in the early restored church that were corrected as the leadership was enlightened and received direction from the Lord. That could explain the principles that were practiced at one time but left behind. An example, of course, is blacks and the priesthood or polygamy or the united order, etc. One could argue that these types of principles are true when they were introduced but are not practiced today because of a ‘lack of faith’ of the saints or some other reason. I realize that this is a rather simplistic treatment of this option but it is sufficient for this discussion.”

    I am confused here – if you pick option #3, are you then saying that the church entered apostasy when they took the priesthood away from blacks, or when they again restored it? Are you saying that the church entered apostasy when it discontinued the united order and instituted the manifesto? Just asking for clarification.

  105. I don’t know if the church is true, but I definitey know Ann is true. Give me her Gospel of Common-Freaking-Sense any day over the alternative quagmire of: this guy restored that, and that guy restored this, and this scripture proves that except that verse 2 was translated incorrectly and really means this, and this guy’s conference talk proves that despite what that other guy said in conference two years ago, and this guy said such-and-such on Larry King so it means that, etc. etc.

  106. Comment on God planting evidence to trick us –
    “I do not feel obliged to believe that the same God who has endowed us with senses, reason, and intellect has intended us to forgo their use and by some other means to give us knowledge which we can attain by them.”
    Galileo Galilei

    We all know how that one turned out. In 1992 the Pope apologized (350 years late) for their treatment of him.

  107. For all, just to consider:

    I read comments all the time that condemn the Church because individual leaders didn’t teach everything exactly the same way – that some even were contradictory. I also read comments all the time that condemn the Church because they believe it tells us exactly what we have to believe – that it doesn’t let its members think for themselves and come to their own conclusions.

    I read comments on one blog or in one thread saying the Church is too dogmatic and strict – that it stifles individual perspectives, then I read other comments on another blog or another thread on the same blog saying the Church members are too flexible in their willingness to change their beliefs when they think they understand something better now than previously.

    Damned if you do; damned if you don’t.

    We each need to live our lives according to our own light, try to share that light with others who really are interested in understanding it and quit trying to enforce our own light as the correct one for all. I can say that on an individual level even when I believe the overall theology of Mormonism is more complete than any other – that it is “true” in my eyes. I am involved in “sharing the Gospel” because of how it makes me feel and because I believe it can help others; however, I am not involved in belittling those who can’t see and accept what I see and accept.

    If this isn’t true, my life won’t change a bit – since I love my life.

    Just saying, fwiw, mileage may vary, etc., etc., etc.

  108. #103 Hawkgrrrl said: I think your comments about sharing spiritual experiences are interesting, and I’m going to be doing an upcoming post on this topic. Look for that in July.

    I’ll be looking forward your post.

    July, you say. I’m impressed by your scheduling and talent. I could use some of the same. Does it come in a pill or herbal tea I could take?

  109. I don’t cotton to this notion of God tricking us so that we have to take things on faith. Historical evidence is not empirical; it is totally subjective. Even if an archaelogical dig found a Mayan city at the bottom of the Gulf of Mexico matching the dates of the BOM, etc., those who don’t believe in the BOM will still not believe. Coincidence, they would say. No one knows the name of the city. We can’t read their language, etc. If a hole was found in Cumorah, same thing. It still doesn’t prove anything either way. But the same skeptics would jump all over the lack of physical evidence as disproof. The lack of evidence isn’t proof that something is untrue.

    Even contradictory evidence doesn’t prove that something isn’t true. Evidence is interpreted by people. People are not unbiased. And there is much more to all history than the imprint of artifacts and even the written statements of people that are often inconsistent with themselves as well as others.

    Very little is proven historically, and artifacts are totally subjective. I just got back from Istanbul where I saw some interesting religious artifacts: the rod of Moses and Abraham’s cooking pot. Do people really base their faith on these things? I don’t think so. There are cathedrals all over the world with religious artifacts related to Christianity, many claiming to have the exact same item. Does this somehow prove something other than P.T. Barnum’s statement?

    Moroni’s admonishment was not to search for artifacts or evidence that his people existed. Just to pray.

  110. “The lack of evidence isn’t proof that something is untrue.”

    Such is my problem with religion in general. With such a statement you can proceed to believe anything you wish. Find the correct ‘gut’ feeling to support it and you are good to go. We are to believe that we must sift the detritus of human created religion to find that which is true. If we fail we are lost. This is surely a product of man and not god.

    We learn of nature not through our gut but through our reason. That should tell us something of its creator. It should also tell us something of worldly religion.

    Why stay Mormon? Well if it were me I would drop the label and the ritual and keep the people. That is where the good really resides.

  111. Take a step further. What if the concept of Christianity wasn’t true at all? What if you couldn’t *know* anything about deity was *true* except that you believed in something without scientific, measurable proof? That’s what is true about deity. It’s based on faith.

    Suppose a modern day Abraham of sorts kills his son and says God or Jesus told him to, would Christians – lds or otherwise – support him? How about murdering a modern day Laban who refused to hand over family records? Do we support this as God’s will? I suspect most would not. If not, why does one believe it was legitimate then and not now? Today they’d be labeled evil, mentally ill, cultish, etc. What makes one person’s burning in their bosom more legitimate than anothers? Or, dare to consider, these actions and thoughts and burnings may not originate with deity but within our own minds.

    No one can prove deity exists or that it doesn’t. What we do know is there’s a lot we don’t know. If we’re going to put our trust in faith in deity and base our actions on it too, we ought to consider the ramifications of everyone doing the same. Are you ready to kill if deity demands it? Eek!

    Any harm in living as a Christian? Not really if it’s all innocuous. There’s times when it isn’t. In the end, live and let live (even if deity tells you otherwise).

  112. <>

    Suppose a modern day Joseph married a 14 year old and disposed of other women’s husbands so he could marry them? One has to overlook as much as one holds to the bosom to subscribe to a religion authored by someone else. You focus on the good and the community of people who support you and move past the stuff that doesn’t make sense or flat out makes you hold your nose.

  113. The theory of cognitive dissonance states that contradicting cognitions serve as a driving force that compels the mind to acquire or invent new thoughts or beliefs, or to modify existing beliefs, so as to reduce the amount of dissonance (conflict) between cognitions.

    Or at least this is a Wikipedia explanation of this theory. So, if I understand this correctly, the force acts to REDUCE the amount of dissonance, but not necessarily ELIMINATE the dissonance between the two cognitions. Modifying existing beliefs is also an option to “deal with” cognitive dissonance and I don’t see why one couldn’t keep faith IF there was a viable option within the forces that compelled the mind that there was not a level of contradicting cognition sufficient to reject the previously held belief. Do you call this pathway of cognitive dissonance “self-deception?”

    Do I propose “dealing with” cognitive dissonance by OVERRULING it with my faith? I probably have the tendency to reserve that right. Discrediting information and apologetic information can be difficult to sift through because of agendas that motivate the tone of the information’s presentation. I recall, Nick, that your journey of sifting that information was long and arduous. Did you overrule cognitive dissonance with faith until you found that there was no longer a viable option to keep that overrule in place? What was your approach to cognitive dissonance in the portion of the journey “before”?

  114. #117 – “Suppose a modern day Joseph married a 14 year old and disposed of other women’s husbands so he could marry them?”

    WHAT?! Now he’s a murderer?! Wow. Just wow.

  115. Yeah, but even then, the implication is that it was strictly a wife-robbing, sexual thing. (“How do I get the husbands out of the way so I can romp with their wives?”) That simply is ludicrous.

    I generally just shrug off the tired old accusations I’ve heard for decades, but the “pedophile / wife stealer” label is one that is just too ignorant and offensive to let stand unchallenged. Looking at the totality of Joseph’s practice of polygamy, it is next to impossible to say it was sexual in nature. Then, to include “disposed of other women’s husbands so he could marry them” . . . *sigh*

  116. #121 There is plenty of evidence that many of JS liaisons, and this includes some of the married women, were sexual. Do you have a better reason for him taking other men’s wives while they were serving the church as missionaries? We don’t need to use labels, but we do need to accept facts.

  117. JS was largely silent on the subject, so we don’t have his own words. Most participants had little to say about it. The husbands were usually aware of the marriages. Whether sexual or not is unclear based on the lack of evidence (as well as the lack of pregnancies), but I don’t believe that was JS’s motive (and remember, Emma was pregnant pretty much non-stop, so he was apparently not firing blanks). For whatever reason, he seemed to believe that they gained something from the union that would give them salvation that they (presumably) weren’t going to get elsewise. Maybe if he’d lived longer, we’d know what that was. I frankly have no idea. Yes, it seems kooky. So do lots of things from that era, both in and out of the church.

  118. #123

    Actually a number of the women testified that there was sex between them and Joseph. The church actually collected these testimonies from the women in order to refute the claims of Emma and the RLDS that polygamy was never practiced by JS.
    “In Sacred Loneliness” does a good job of documenting these testimonies. We don’t know if all his marriages were sexual, but we certainly have excellent evidence that many of them, including the first to Fanny Alger, were. There is even some evidence for pregnancies, although a lot of it was understandably hushed up as it was all practiced in extreme secrecy. We can speculate all we want on why he married those women, but to state they were all non-sexual liaisons seems like wishful thinking to me.

  119. #85
    Nick,
    As I read your comments, I was reminded of the statement attributed to of Laman and Lemuel in the Book of Mormon as he spoke of the crowd at Jerusalem:

    “And we know that the people who were in the land of Jerusalem were a righteous people; for they kept the statutes and judgments of the Lord, and all his commandments, according to the law of Moses; wherefore, we know that they are a righteous people; and our father hath judged them, and hath led us away because we would hearken unto his words; yea, and our brother is like unto him. And after this manner of language did my brethren murmur and complain against us.” 1 Nephi 17:22

    From our vantage point, we can see how dismal the situation was for those of Jerusalem. How could Laman be so messed up? The definition Laman used for ‘righteousness’ as it pertained to the people of his time in Jerusalem is certainly different from that delivered through Lehi by God. Given that, I am not surprised when I hear a TBM say:

    “And we know that the LDS church is a righteous people; for they keep the statutes and judgments of the Lord, and all his commandments, according to the law of the gospel; wherefore, we know that they are a righteous people…”

    My point is: I do not believe apostasy can be seen from the inside. One must step away from the trees to see the forest.

  120. #107
    working mother,

    The general idea is that what we did originally in the church was ‘corrected’ later. This begs the question: was it right to begin with and was changed inappropriately (option 3) or was there some error in the early practice that needed to be changed to be in line with the ‘order of God’ (option 4) The idea is more appropriate at a general level.

    Here is are the questions in my mind: Did we move higher in ‘truth value’ (thanks Nick) or further away when we allowed blacks to hold the priesthood? Were we closer to becoming a Zion people when we abandoned the United Order? Did the manifesto move us closer in alignment with the mind of God?

    I used these as examples of changes that occurred that can be used to individually assess the general direction of the Church. Does a change mean we are moving closer to God? Ancient Israel desired to have a king. That was not what God wanted but they got their king. What have we wrought with the changes in the Church?

    Does that help?

  121. 79 – meaning of the fulness of the gospel
    Ray,
    Let me try to elaborate more on the point. I don’t disagree with you that God will continue to reveal more wisdom and knowledge to us as we are willing to accept it. I do want to make sure that we are using common terms and definitions. Let me try to explain.

    We know that the Book of Mormon “contains… the fulness of the gospel of Jesus Christ to the Gentiles and to the Jews” (D&C Section 20:9). We are given more information as to where to look specifically for the ‘fulness of the gospel’ in the Joseph Smith – History where Joseph described the information given to him from Moroni:

    “…He (Moroni) also said that the fulness of the everlasting Gospel was contained in it, as delivered by the Savior to the ancient inhabitants” JS- History v. 34

    So how do you reconcile this statement that the ‘fulness’ is contained in the sermon delivered by the Savior in 3rd Nephi with the idea of continuing revelation?

    Here is what I ask you to consider. There are four places in the latter-day scriptures that ‘define’ the gospel. Here are the references: 3rd Nephi 27:20-21 (beginning at v. 13), D&C 33:11-12, D&C 39:6, and D&C 76:40-41. Why do I say this? Because in each scripture reference, the Lord states “this is my gospel.’

    So what are the components of these four definitions?

    Faith
    Repentance
    Baptism
    Sanctification/baptism by fire and the Holy Ghost

    I would submit that this is the whole substance of the gospel as delivered by Christ in the restoration.

    But what about all the other knowledge and wisdom that we are given? The scriptures give a name to this also – the mysteries of God. Let me provide a couple of examples. Let’s start with the concept of the resurrection… But you might say that this is a part of the gospel. Let’s take a look.

    Alma is talking to his son Corianton. Starting in Alma chapter 40, we find that Alma discerned that his son had concerns about the resurrection of the dead. In prefacing his remarks about this topic, Alma states:

    “…Now, I unfold unto you a mystery; nevertheless, there are many mysteries which are kept, that no one knoweth them save God himself. But I show unto you one thing which I have inquired diligently of God that I might know—that is concerning the resurrection.” Alma 40:3

    Alma then gives a sermon on the meaning and substance of the resurrection. According to this reference, resurrection is a ‘mystery of God.’ I hold that to be separate and distinct from the gospel of Jesus Christ. As I said earlier, there are four times in the scriptures that the gospel is defined and does not encompass ‘all knowledge that God is willing to give us.’

    Here is another example. How about the knowledge we have of the three degrees of glory? In D&C 76, the Lord states that he will ‘reveal all mysteries’ (verse 6) to those who serve him. Then at the end of the section we read:

    “113 This is the end of the vision which we saw, which we were commanded to write while we were yet in the Spirit.
    114 But great and marvelous are the works of the Lord, and the mysteries of his kingdom which he showed unto us, which surpass all understanding in glory, and in might, and in dominion”

    I take this to mean that the vision of Joseph Smith and Sidney Rigdon as recorded in D&C 76 is classified as a mystery of God.

    To me, the statement found in Alma 12 now makes a lot more sense. Zeezrom asks a question about the resurrection of the dead. What is Alma’s response?

    “9 And now Alma began to expound these things unto him, saying: It is given unto many to know the mysteries of God; nevertheless they are laid under a strict command that they shall not impart only according to the portion of his word which he doth grant unto the children of men, according to the heed and diligence which they give unto him.
    10 And therefore, he that will harden his heart, the same receiveth the lesser portion of the word; and he that will not harden his heart, to him is given the greater portion of the word, until it is given unto him to know the mysteries of God until he know them in full.
    11 And they that will harden their hearts, to them is given the lesser portion of the word until they know nothing concerning his mysteries; and then they are taken captive by the devil, and led by his will down to destruction. Now this is what is meant by the chains of hell.”

    Alma treats Zeezrom’s query as a question about the mysteries of God and answers accordingly. The content should have a profound meaning to all of us. We are strongly encouraged to seek after the mysteries of God; some of which, God has allowed to be granted to us through others. If we harden our heart, we belong to the devil. That is a pretty strong statement.

    Botton line: The fulness of the gospel was restored through Joseph Smith. With that I would point you back to my submission in #58, I quoted scripture indicating that the Gentiles (us) will reject the fulness of the gospel and have it taken from us. I equate ‘rejecting the fulness of the gospel’ with apostasy. In my opinion, we are in danger of apostasy or rejecting the fulness of the gospel when we reject the need for sanctification which occurs when we receive a remission of our sins through the baptism of fire and the Holy Ghost. (see 2 Nephi 31)

  122. Let me make this crystal clear, since I am a hardcore parser and flat-out HATE having to defend what I don’t say.

    My exact quote was:

    “Looking at the totality of Joseph’s practice of polygamy, it is next to impossible to say it was sexual in nature.”

    That does NOT say there was no sex with any of the plural wives. There are testimonies of a FEW of them that there was sex involved, but NONE of those testimonies claim that the nature of the “marriage” was sexual. The majority don’t even claim to have been sexual at all. Furthermore, as was noted above, Joseph wasn’t exactly sterile, and there is no evidence that he had any children other than with Emma. There are a handful of such claims, but some of those have been discounted through DNA testing. I am not claiming that there was no sex, nor am I claiming that we can be certain there were no children. I am saying that the label “pedophile / wife-stealer” is bogus and indefensible.

    As the resident Joseph expert, Nick can give more details if he wants, but the overwhelming evidence points toward dynastic marriage rather than traditional marriage that involved regular sex and pregnancy. In other words, polygamy for Joseph does not appear to have been sexual “in nature”.

  123. #126 – Spektator, you said:

    “Here is are the questions in my mind: Did we move higher in ‘truth value’ (thanks Nick) or further away when we allowed blacks to hold the priesthood?”

    HIGHER. No doubt about it in my mind. Imo, this is one of the best arguments AGAINST the “sliding into apostasy” argument. I believe Brigham was wrong, subsequent prophets continued an incorrect practice, and our more recent prophets corrected that element of apostasy. I see absolutely NO way to say that the 1978 revelation was a move further away from an absolute truth value. Are you saying it was?

    “Were we closer to becoming a Zion people when we abandoned the United Order?”

    Of course not, but it was clearly identified as a substitute for a people who couldn’t live the pure law. Since we NEVER lived it properly, it’s a HUGE stretch to call it “apostasy” from a truth value that we used to live. It certainly is a case of “apostasy” from the ideal, but that ideal was never lived. The “apostasy” was in place right from the get-go. Again, this is a good example of something that says clearly we need to move toward the higher law and learn to live it in the future – which I think supports my model of institutional progression.

    “Did the manifesto move us closer in alignment with the mind of God?”

    Personally, I view this as a false dichotomy. I don’t think we ever were out of alignment in this regard. Our scriptures (Jacob 2) say clearly that monogamy is the Lord’s earthly default for His people – that polygamy only is acceptable in exceptional circumstances where it is directly commanded. Given that foundation, it is hard for me to believe that beginning with monogamy, instituting polygamy for a few years during very specific demographic challenges, then ceasing to practice polygamy and reinstating monogamy **automatically** is a case of apostasy. It appears to me to be in perfect harmony with our actual scriptural standard.

    Are you saying you think the Lord really wants us to be practicing polygamy today? If not, I fail to see your point.

  124. #127 – Spektator,

    I agree that the “fulness of the Gospel” – in its purest sense and according to the scriptures – is nothing more than faith, repentance, baptism and the gift of the Holy Ghost. In that light, rejecting the fulness of the Gospel (falling into apostasy) would equal lacking faith, failing to repent, rejecting or altering baptism and/or ignoring the Holy Ghost.

    Based on that standard, each and every one of us lives in some degree of apostasy – even if it is only in the sense that all of us need to repent (change) throughout our entire lives. When the discussion moves to institutional apostasy, however, I just don’t see it. I see plenty of ways that we as a Church need to improve and continue to grow and change – including some institutional practices that I don’t believe are the best way we could do things, but I don’t see anything **at the institutional level** that teaches the loss of faith, denies the need to repent, de-emphasizes baptism or encourages ignoring the Holy Ghost.

    I just don’t see it as clear cut apostasy, based on the most basic definitions we have and the examples you used in your own comment.

  125. This idea would be good post fodder – is the church getting closer or further from “the truth”? I have been giving this some thought as I think about the early Christianity parallel. The early Christian church got too big and too far-reaching to control doctrinal schisms. People were too isolated to be corrected in a timely manner. As a result, there was great confusion, pretty quickly. Maybe “the great apostacy” is the norm and “one true church” is an impossible ideal. The only way to keep it “one” is through absolute hierarchical authority over doctrines and practices, the very setup that chafes so many on sites like these. Yet, it is a pragmatic necessity. And even so, the downside is putting all our eggs in one basket. Some baskets have been better than others, perhaps, and maybe a few were real basket cases. But isn’t that exactly what Catholicism experienced? (I mean when they finally joined the game centuries after killing Peter, then digging him up, transporting him across town and building a big church over him). The real apostacy we should be concerned about is our own individual apostacy.

  126. Post
    Author

    How is it that these discussions always seem to end up in the same place? No matter the topic, it always degrades to the same arguments.

  127. Re #109 “I do not feel obliged to believe that the same God who has endowed us with senses, reason, and intellect has intended us to forgo their use and by some other means to give us knowledge which we can attain by them.”
    Galileo Galilei

    I would like to elaborate further regarding this excellent point of using our God given senses. Author Tobias Churton in discussing the 16th century philosphist Giordan Bruno:

    “The apparent movement of the planets and stellar bodies is, he asserts, an illusion brought on by sense perception, that is, we see from ‘here’ and we think we are looking at ‘there’ in a fixed relationship–but, in fact, we are also in motion and so a fixed law of universal movement is, for Bruno, impossible to establish absolutely from a fixed point. It is a living universe. Relations of distance are relative; time is an image of eternity, not an absolute within the context of the infinite universe.”

    and he also presents the following:

    “When Einstein said, ‘God does not play dice’, the Gnostic replies, ‘You can never know! And if He does, why not play dice with Him?’ from the Hermetic point of view, ‘knowledge’ if gained by analysis of matter only, can only ever be a ‘copy’ or approximation to the Whole–it is in pure gnostic terms, the limited knowledge of the demiurge, to seize this knowledge as knowledge of the ‘All’ is fatal–man will find himself living under the tyranny of his own abstractions.”

    directly quoted from Bruno is the following:

    “even in the two extremes of the scale of nature, we contemplate two principles which are one; two beings which are one; two contraries which are harmonious and the same. Therefore Light is depth, the abyss is light unvisited, darkness is brilliant, the large is small, the confused is distinct, dispute is friendship, the divided is united, the atom is immensity.”

    “It is well that this world exists–therefore also that an infinity of other worlds exists–only an infinite universe can comprehend all perfection.”

    Giordano Bruno was burned alive as an ‘impenitent heretic’ in Rome in 1600.

  128. #129
    Ray,
    Picking and choosing which doctrines are closer to the truth is a slippery slope.

    You say that Brigham Young, the prophet and president of the Church, was wrong to withhold the priesthood from the blacks and later leaders were correct to ‘fix’ the doctrine? What does that mean about today’s prophets and leaders? What policy or doctrine preached from the pulpit today will fall out of favor in the future? Many view the stability of the institutional church as a chain that extends back to the restoration. A weak link anywhere in the chain, as expressed by errant doctrine being preached from the pulpit, weakens credibility of the whole organization.

    In the end, I agree with you that the restriction on blacks holding the priesthood should never have been espoused by the church. But, the issue is it weakens the strength of the message of any other prophet. How can you excommunicate someone for promoting (insert your favorite mystery here) today when tomorrow it could be taught from the pulpit at conference?

    Which has a higher truth value – Section 132 of the D&C or Hinckley’s statement that polygamy is not doctrinal? I have a problem when, at one point in history, the message is sent that one must have multiple wives in order to hold high office in the church and gain entrance to the highest level of the kingdom of God and at another point, the message is that it is a vile and loathsome practice. Is that what God intended?

    Personally, I vacillate between polygamy being a ‘test’ that was imposed on the early leaders of the church and Joseph’s attempt to justify being caught with Fanny Brice. The male/female ratio of believing saints in Nauvoo was very close to 50/50. What exceptional circumstances should initiate polygamy? To raise children for the Lord? The end result of having multiple wives seemed to produce nearly the same amount of offspring as monogamy in Brigham’s time. The current practices of the FLDS, with its competition for young brides and the young men shunned from the community, clearly demonstrate to me that polygamy is not viable in the closed community.

    Again, the inconsistency, not the policy itself, weakens the truth value, in my opinion and, thereby, casts doubt on the veracity of the organization.

  129. #130
    Ray,

    In terms of the ‘fulness’ of the Gospel in your comments, you mention the gift of the Holy Ghost but not the baptism of fire and the Holy Ghost. Based on my experience, the gift of the Holy Ghost as taught in the church is the genesis of promptings we get to help live our lives in safely and harmony. The baptism of fire and the Holy Ghost is the event necessary to receive a remission of sins which produces in us the change of heart necessary to come unto Christ and be called his sons and daughters. Do you appreciate the difference between the two? If the latter truly represents the ‘fulness’ of the gospel, have we individually and as a church put ourselves at risk of rejection?

    Here is how I view the situation at an ‘institutional level.’ In 3rd Nephi, chapter 27, the Lord provides the criteria for the church to be His:

    “8 And how be it my church save it be called in my name? For if a church be called in Moses’ name then it be Moses’ church; or if it be called in the name of a man then it be the church of a man; but if it be called in my name then it is my church, if it so be that they are built upon my gospel.
    9 Verily I say unto you, that ye are built upon my gospel; therefore ye shall call whatsoever things ye do call, in my name; therefore if ye call upon the Father, for the church, if it be in my name the Father will hear you;
    10 And if it so be that the church is built upon my gospel then will the Father show forth his own works in it.
    11 But if it be not built upon my gospel, and is built upon the works of men, or upon the works of the devil, verily I say unto you they have joy in their works for a season, and by and by the end cometh, and they are hewn down and cast into the fire, from whence there is no return.”

    Based on this scripture, here are the criteria:

    1. It should be called the church of Christ
    2. It must be built upon the gospel of Christ
    3. It will show the works of the Father and not be based on the works of men.

    Let me analyze these three.

    The name thing is a slam dunk. No question in my mind.

    Is the church built upon the gospel of Christ? In my opinion, the key component of the gospel that required restoration was the need for sanctification through the baptism of fire and the Holy Ghost. How fundamental is this topic? Here is instruction to the early missionaries of the church found in D&C 19:31:

    “And of tenets thou shalt not talk, but thou shalt declare repentance and faith on the Savior, and remission of sins by baptism, and by fire, yea, even the Holy Ghost.”

    The remission of sins through the baptism of fire and the Holy Ghost is the means to purify our hearts – the definition of Zion. I believe that dismissing or diminishing this second baptism is tantamount to rejecting the gospel.

    Thirdly, what works are demonstrated in the church? Are these the works of God or the works of men? After Christ defines his gospel in 3rd Nephi 27, He states that ‘you know the things that ye must do in my church; for the works which ye have seen me do that shall ye also do’ (verse 23). The works that Christ did is summarized in 3rd Nephi 26:

    “13 Therefore, I would that ye should behold that the Lord truly did teach the people, for the space of three days; and after that he did show himself unto them oft, and did break bread oft, and bless it, and give it unto them.
    14 And it came to pass that he did teach and minister unto the children of the multitude of whom hath been spoken, and he did loose their tongues, and they did speak unto their fathers great and marvelous things, even greater than he had revealed unto the people; and he loosed their tongues that they could utter.
    15 And it came to pass that after he had ascended into heaven—the second time that he showed himself unto them, and had gone unto the Father, after having healed all their sick, and their lame, and opened the eyes of their blind and unstopped the ears of the deaf, and even had done all manner of cures among them, and raised a man from the dead, and had shown forth his power unto them, and had ascended unto the Father”

    I see the works of the Father as teaching, ministering, and miracles. Is this the criteria by which we measure the church today? Over the years, President Hinckley spoke in conference on the topic of the condition of the church. He touched on topics such as building temples and meeting houses, renovating downtown Salt Lake, volunteer work and payment of tithes. Are these not the works if men? Is this how Christ would measure His church?

    In citing this, am I dismissing all the good things that are done by the members? No. What I am pointing out is that measuring our ‘success’ in the things that we do with our own hands does not meet the expectations of Him who name is on the organization.

    In summary, I would answer yes, no and maybe as to whether the church meets the criteria to be called His church.

  130. “What does that mean about today’s prophets and leaders? What policy or doctrine preached from the pulpit today will fall out of favor in the future?”

    I suppose I’ve never quite understood why sometimes we have such a problem with contigency. Maybe its just the fact that historically the emphasis has so much been upon the answers we have rather than exploring, searching in and growing (or rejecting) those ideas. Maybe it is a human thing magnified by Mormon culture and isolation. I suppose I do recall growing up the feeling that not only did we have good answers, we had the best possible answers and that one ought to do be able to see that. This sort of fixity has always been problematic to me. And I’m thankful for the influences I had that shielded me (or inoculated me ) from it.

    What it means is that our prophets and leaders are men, capable of misjudgement, and that policies and doctrines preached now not only can fall out of favor – some absolutely will fall out of favor. Maybe sooner rather than later. This isn’t the real question. The question is, are we collectively approaching Zion under inspired, if imperfect, leadership. The reality is, for the most part doctrine has shifted, has slowly advanced or receded – and much of it has never been set in stone. A part of what we believe is barely hinted at in the canonized scriptures. (Causing, imho, a huge historical dissonance between – just as an example – forgrounding ‘Familes are Forever’ rather than the saving doctrines taught in the BoM. I think this is being bravely corrected, and his having a wonderful effect in may people’s lives.) The reason polygamy and the Priesthood ban are so omnipresent in these discussions is that they are the two main, notable examples of us clearly turning our backs, in public, on previous teachings of the prophets. But most of the changes between generations are in areas where the ground was never really settled, anyway. And, for all the controversy on the bloggernacle, when I read Joseph, I read what I believe. I feel very much at home in much of what was ever said by Brigham Young and all the rest. There are some big exceptions – and since here we are always talking about those exceptions, they take on the dissonance that I don’t think is neccesary.

    With claims of truth, we are always on our own. We search as individuals, not communally under the Prophet. As we search, and the prophets search, there is a usually gradual shift in our shared understandings. The church safeguards the Ordinances that allow for finding the truth as individuals – they contain kets ot hte mysteries. They are authorized to mark off boundries where that search can be safely conducted. And they provide a touchstone we can use to gut check ourselves. And they largely set out the ways in which we believe the search is conducted. If we trust that they are searching on their own, in the same ways that we ourselves are hopefully searching and _finding_, then we can have a huge measure of trust in them and follow them where our own stances remain contingent. We aren’t concerned that there may be errors on the way, ther _will be errors on the way, maybe even some big ones – that is implicit in the fact that there is a _way_ to be on rather than a destination to be satisfied in. (My own opinion is that everyone who thinks that the church is a destination,an unchanging repository of fixed truth, will become disenchanted, cause, baby, this train is leaving the station!) If we think that they are only political actors reacting in only political ways, there is no reason to trust them, at all. The seeking is with us, as individuals – I just think it can’t be said enough. The questions are: are we having sincere, frequent prayer; are we repenting; is our study done with the motivation to discover, or is to done in hopes of propping up our own opinions; all the rest – most importantly, are we looking to Jesus as our exemplar and Savior, and adjusting ourselves accordingly, or is the model we’ve taken as our preferred model someone or something else.

    ~

  131. #131
    hawkgrrrl

    In my opinion, the church is a means not an end. When it becomes the end and gatekeeper, we get into problems. As D&C 121 states, almost all men will screw it up if you give them a little power and authority. I know, I honed it to a fine art.

    One time as a member of the bishopric, I accompanied our ward youth to a summer youth conference. We found out that some of the kids had left the dorms after curfew. As duly ordained keepers of orthodoxy, the other councilor and I pulled the offenders out of the closing testimony meeting and chastised them for breaking the rule. Their punishment for breaking the curfew rule was to withhold from them the spiritual feast.

    How shortsighted and sick is that? But that is what I thought was demanded by the institutional church. I am currently reading Here I Stand; A Life of Martin Luther by Bainton. I am struck with how lethal the Holy Roman Church was to any unorthodox thinking. At least today, we only excommunicate them as opposed to the bon(e)fire.

    The purpose of the church is to provide us the knowledge of how to come unto Christ. The leaders are, as found in 3rd Nephi 12:1, were chosen ‘to minister unto you , and to be your servants.’ I think we are far away from that concept considering chauffeured limousines and million dollar penthouses that I hear about.

    In the end, I believe we are here to improve our knowledge and learn the lessons we need to go to the next level.

    “Behold, this is my doctrine—whosoever repenteth and cometh unto me, the same is my church. Whosoever declareth more or less than this, the same is not of me, but is against me; therefore he is not of my church. And now, behold, whosoever is of my church, and endureth of my church to the end, him will I establish upon my rock, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against them.” D&C 10 67-69

    This is the church that I strive to join.

  132. “Is this how Christ would measure His church? ”

    Great question(s). My own answer is no.

    I think anyone who has ever sat in a PEC meeting can confirm that things are not always done with this question in mind.

    I bring my scriptures to PEC every week. Know how many times I’ve opened them, to ask the kind of questions you just asked? Never. That isn’t even meant as a criticism. My Bishop is man I enjoy, admire and follow. He’s a good freind. I trust that he is seeking and receiving inspiration in what he is doing in the ward. But … I’d like to have us say way more often … are the measurements we are using those that Christ would use to measure?

    I don’t think the measurements GBH mentioned are irrelevent, or even bad measurements. It is tough to look into a man’s heart, where the Lord looks. It is even tougher to look into the heart of an institution. We often have to look at

    By the way, Spektator, I think your emphasis on D&C 19 (that is one I’ve come back to again and again in the last several months), and all your comments around the neccesity of the baptism of fire and the centrality of that to the gospel are dead on. Faith, repentence, baptism all are meant to bring us to the baptism of fire. I think Elder Bednar has been great on these themes. This theme is _everywhere_ in the scriptures. Once I saw it, I started seeing it everywhere. Just one more place:

    D&C 33

    11 Yea, repent and be baptized, every one of you, for a remission of your sins; yea, be baptized even by water, and then cometh the baptism of fire and of the Holy Ghost.
    12 Behold, verily, verily, I say unto you, this is my gospel …

    ~

  133. Spektator says: “Many view the stability of the institutional church as a chain that extends back to the restoration. A weak link anywhere in the chain, as expressed by errant doctrine being preached from the pulpit, weakens credibility of the whole organization.”

    All you’ve done here is show that no Church can pass your test of “truthness.”

    Spektator, I have been staying out of this conversation, but I have something to add. I wrote this article for you (or for this train of thought anyhow) a long time ago.

    It’s oh so easy to be critical of others beliefs and pick out the “errors” of other’s ways. It’s oh so much harder to be fair and equally critical of your own. Yet when we fail to be skeptical of ourselves, we never feel like we’ve failed because your brain tricks us into thinking otherwise. (It’s called confirmation bias.)

    You offer evidence of an apostate LDS Church and in the process, for all intents and purposes, set yourself up as the one true prophet to the world. Put your money where your mouth is and attempt to start your own “church” that solves the very problems that you complain about. My guess is you can’t either.

    Instead of picking on the LDS Church’s theological short comings, I’d like to see you attempt your own well thought out theological position and give it to us in full and let others pick it apart for you and see if you actually have a belief system that is more or less consistent then the one you are attacking.

    We can start with the fact that you seem to base your faith on the theology of a man that you think might have started polygamy to justify his adultry with Fanny Alger. But what type of God would give such a man these great truths you are basing your religion on right during and in the midst of his adultry?

    I think even the few little facts you’ve given us here about your theology place you in a much weaker theological position then the LDS church. Once your full doctrine comes out, I suspect the inconsistencies in your theology will likely be orders of magnitude harder to rationalize away then the very ones you are attacking. This is the inherent problem with attacking one belief system while not really offering an alternative. It’s the ultimate position of weakness that attempts to mask it’s impotence through silence.

    Spektator, I can’t tell from your writings if you think of yourself as a reformer from within or as a separate “Church” in competition with the LDS Church.

    If a reformer from within (i.e. to encourage baptism by fire), then you are using an approach that is nearly the opposite of effective. For example, it is interesting to note that you and Ray share many theological points, yet I suspect Ray has much stronger influence in the LDS Church than is possible for you with your current approach of attacking rather than building. Ray is the real “reformer” here and yet he would never consider himself such.

    If you think of yourself as a “Church” that is in competition with the LDS Church, which picks and chooses from the revelations of Joseph Smith using through faith in your own discernment, that is your own business of course. And you and your Church have as much right to a missionary effort as the LDS Church does, so I do not begrudge you that. But I, for one, feel President Hinckley and Monson, for all their shortcomings, have greater discernment than you do. But you are entitled to your beliefs nonetheless.

  134. Spektator, I believe you are dead-on about baptism being fully effective when it is a baptism of water and fire – when one is baptized by (immersed in) the Holy Ghost. My last post on my own blog deals directly with the meaning of being “pure in heart” – and my conclusion is that it means to be cleansed by the power of the Holy Ghost.

    We have no disagreement there, I believe, and I see the core principles of the Gospel as those that are necessary to be purified in that way – to be connected to the living vine that produces fruit meet for repentance. I think that connection is alive and well in the Church. I know it is available there – along with the unique understanding of why it is important and what it produces.

    Back to the original question of the post, I will add one more thing:

    If Mormonism isn’t true, but the truth resides in another understanding of Christianity, I will have lost a very powerful and transformative connection to a REAL and TANGIBLE Father (and, even more starkly, my wife to a similar Mother). More so than almost any other concept of the Restored Gospel (or all of them combined), that loss alone would be tragic, imho.

  135. I have trouble with a prophet, seer and revelator who could be endowed by HF and then permitted by HF to say things in the exercise of that office that confuse and mislead the people. Some things may be doctrine and some tradition but if the things that support traditions rooted in the writings of our most respected leaders are counter to later revealed doctrine there’s a cruel and treacherous path being laid. Why does HF permit that? Why doesn’t the HS guide us past the human errors of the GAs to a more correct tradition? And why would this be possible at the expense of whole groups of our fellow man?

  136. RE: “What does that mean about today’s prophets and leaders? What policy or doctrine preached from the pulpit today will fall out of favor in the future?”

    As many as are out of touch with whatever will be revealed in the future of course. Even Joseph Fielding Smith said this would be the case in Doctrines of Salvation, so it isn’t like this is a new and catastrophic fact.

    RE: “How can you excommunicate someone for promoting (insert your favorite mystery here) today when tomorrow it could be taught from the pulpit at conference?”

    Easily. Because excommunication for apostasy is never about whatever your favorite mystery is. It is repeated belligerent opposition to the Church and its leaders after being warned to stop, or repeated and defiant preaching of such and such mystery after being warned to stop. So it isn’t a personal belief of a “heresy” that might even turn out to be true. It is defiance after one has been instructed to stop doing something by priesthood authority. Just because something is true will never justify defiance of priesthood authority.

  137. RE: “I have trouble with a prophet, seer and revelator who could be endowed by HF and then permitted by HF to say things in the exercise of that office that confuse and mislead the people.”

    Having incorrect beliefs on fringe subjects doesn’t mean one has been “misled.” Mislead means that one is going in totally the wrong direction from the way the Lord would have us go, and with the direction the Church is headed, that is simply not the case.

  138. I have trouble with a prophet, seer and revelator who could be endowed by HF and then permitted by HF to say things in the exercise of that office that confuse and mislead the people — in other words, you reject almost every prophet in the old or the new Testament.

    Lots of people do that.

    That is a completely different topic, but an interesting one and one that divides religions from the lack of them.

  139. shoptalk

    I think one has two options when considering the path to salvation and sanctification.

    1. Follow the prophet as they will never lead you astray
    2. Look past your church leaders and come unto Christ.

    This first one is found everywhere from Primary songs to conference talks. To me its message is: don’t worry, we are in control and will safely see you through. It asks you to ignore the noise of dissidents and apostates. Fulfill your church callings, pay your tithing, attend your meetings, support your leaders and you will be safe.

    The second option encourages you to look past the political, theological, and commercial foibles of your leaders and seek to be one with Christ. It requires you to, as Enos did, wrestle with God to receive a remission of your sins. It places your sanctification squarely on your shoulders.

    I think we each must choose the path we feel will bring us the most joy.

    *
    Ray

    I am glad to hear that you think the connection is alive and well in the Church. Perhaps in some locales it is just hard to find. I agree with you on the rich contents of ‘Mormonism.’ It is interesting that you mentioned the concept of the heavenly Mother. That topic for some was worthy on excommunication.

    *
    Bruce

    You said:
    “All you’ve done here is show that no Church can pass your test of “truthness.”

    Yes, I regretfully acknowledge that I think all religion is man-made.

    As far as polygamy is concerned, I have not come to grips with the implications of our history. I find some comfort in the words of Eliza R. Snow who was, at first, appalled by the concept but come to embrace it.

    Regarding my ‘theology,’ I have spoken only of those things that I have found in the scriptures that are defined as the doctrine, gospel, and church of Christ. If you disagree with my interpretation, please show me an alternative thought process.

    I have no intention to compete with the Church. I do, however, believe that the prophecies in the latter day scriptures regarding the Gentile Church will be fulfilled.

    *
    Thomas Parkin

    I was heartened when I heard Elder Bednar and, most recently Eldar Christiansen, speak of the baptism of fire. Several years ago, I went back through the conference talks seeking references to the baptism of fire and the Holy Ghost. As I remember, I found only 1 indirect reference in the 20 years I reviewed.

    I do have concern with the idea that this second baptism can occur gradually over the span of many years. I have not found any examples in the scriptures that support that idea. To me, it seems akin to saying that a baptism by immersion (water) can occur over time as long as all the parts of the body are immersed.

    One scripture that has been used to support that idea is found in 3rd Nephi 9:20 which speaks of the Lamanites baptism by fire:

    “And ye shall offer for a sacrifice unto me a broken heart and a contrite spirit. And whoso cometh unto me with a broken heart and a contrite spirit, him will I baptize with fire and with the Holy Ghost, even as the Lamanites, because of their faith in me at the time of their conversion, were baptized with fire and with the Holy Ghost, and they knew it not.”

    The idea that the Lamanites didn’t know they were baptized by fire could be taken two ways. Either they didn’t know it happened or they didn’t understand what was happening. Before the 1981 edition of the scriptures was released, there was a footnote that points this scripture back to the Helamen 5:45. This event is where Lehi and Nephi are freed from the Lamanite prison and over three hundred Lamanites are converted. Aminadab, a relapsed Nephite, had to explain to the Lamanites what was happening. There is still a forward reference to 3rd Nephi 9 in the footnote of Helaman 5:45. There is no question, in my mind, that the latter is the case. They didn’t understand what was happening to them.

    My point is that the baptism of fire and the Holy Ghost is a singular event. In my opinion, it is the most significant event that can happen in a person’s life. It brings with it exquisite joy and an unbounded feeling of love, charity, and purity. It can last for days. The burning of the bosom and the emotional spiritual highs that sometimes occur in our lives cannot hold a candle to the this second baptism offered to us by the Savior.

  140. There is a real problem with the whole argument of ‘if it isn’t true, thats OK–its just been a good influence anyway.’ The fact is that the church isn’t always a good influence in people’s lives.

    I’ve seen a happily couples where one spouse joins the church. The other spouse has no interest in the church. The new member realizes that they aren’t married for eternity. They become very negative about the evil coffee and the occasional alcoholic beverage that their non-member spouse drinks. Things move toward divorce, with the member not really working to save the marriage. After all, without a temple marriage, they will be divorced when they die–why not just get it over with now.

    The same sort of thing happens when one spouse wants to stop their activity in the church. There can be lots of problems.

    At times, the church has very effectively fulfilled the scripture:

    Think not that I am come to send peace on earth: I came not to send peace, but a sword. For I am come to set a man at variance against his father, and the daughter against her mother, and the daughter in law against her mother in law. And a man’s foes shall be they of his own household.

    If its not true, there are a number of broken families that were ruined for no reason.

  141. “That topic for some was worthy of excommunication.”

    No, the topic wasn’t. Fighting and screaming publicly about it was.

    “My point is that the baptism of fire and the Holy Ghost is a singular event.”

    It can be, as evidenced by instances in our scriptures. Those same scriptures, however, that speak of such a singular event also illustrate that the *impact* of this event isn’t enough – in isolation – to assure a continuation of the presence of the Holy Ghost. King Benjamin’s people are the perfect example of this – that people can have a life-altering, baptism of fire event and still end up fading away from what they learned at the time of that event. The “event” of cleansing is critical, but, imho, it is more important to experience an on-going cleansing than to experience it once – no matter how powerful that once is. This appears to have been the experience of the Anti-Nephi-Lehis, and they are the ones of whom it is said that they were more converted than any other group recorded in the BofM. (The experience of their sons is especially instructive, as there is NO indication that these sons had a “singular event” but rather years of steady indoctrination and steadfast obedience.) I simply have a hard time claiming that the experience of King Benjamin’s people was “better” in any way than that of the Anti-Nephi-Lehis and, particularly, the Sons of Helaman.

    I also don’t think the baptism of fire happens “gradually over time”. I think it can happen repeatedly over time. There is a HUGE difference between those two.

  142. #149 – and if it was true?

    I only can answer for myself. I can’t answer for anyone else – especially someone who is not in a united marriage. ANY organization can have the effect you describe (and many non-religious ones often do), if one spouse prioritizes it and the other one doesn’t.

  143. #151–Weak, very weak.

    Very few organizations (other than religious organizations) teach that not belonging to the organization will send you to hell.

    Its not a priority matter–like spending too much time at the local country club. The problem is when the local country club teaches that your spouse will go to hell because they aren’t a member of the country club.

    “especially someone who is not in a united marriage”. How do you know you are in a truly united marriage? You might be surprised what your wife puts up with–in order to maintain the appearance of unity.

  144. Bill – I assume it is the other spouse’s religion teaching that the Mormon will go to Hell? Otherwise, your comment doesn’t make sense since Mormonism doesn’t teach that. However, Christ himself is quoted as saying that he came not to bring peace but a sword, and that if we weren’t willing to leave everything else behind to follow him, we were not worthy of him. Those are strong words and certainly cold comfort in an inter-faith marriage.

  145. >>> I do, however, believe that the prophecies in the latter day scriptures regarding the Gentile Church will be fulfilled

    You supply not only the scripture, but a personal interpretation that you believe everyone must accept as true. Again, for all intents and purposes you are declaring yourself God’s one true prophet to the world with a unique message of truth all must accept to be saved.

    In and of itself, there is nothing wrong with that. Joseph Smith did the same, as did many prophets in the Old and New Testament. But at least Joseph and the others had the courage to actually say so (i.e. that God called them to be a prophet to the world) and let people seek answers from God on the subject. I do not see you doing the same.

  146. “How do you know you are in a truly united marriage? You might be surprised what your wife puts up with–in order to maintain the appearance of unity.”

    That isn’t worth a response, Bill, so I won’t dignify it with one – other than to label it as despicable.

    “Very few organizations (other than religious organizations) teach that not belonging to the organization will send you to hell.”

    As Hawkgrrl said, that’s not what Mormonism teaches, so it is irrelevant here – unless it is used to illustrate that we are different than other religions that do teach it.

  147. #153–Mormonism does teach that a temple marriage is required for exaltation. ‘Going to hell’ was meant as a short version of ending up in some lower kingdom. Anything other than exaltation is ‘damnation’, right?

    “However, Christ himself is quoted as saying that he came not to bring peace but a sword, and that if we weren’t willing to leave everything else behind to follow him, we were not worthy of him. Those are strong words and certainly cold comfort in an inter-faith marriage.”

    The whole point of this discussion is to explore ‘what if it isn’t true’. If it (meaning Christianity as well as mormonism) isn’t true, its not so simple as to say that the church doesn’t do any harm, given statements like the one above and the broken families that have resulted from this type of thinking.

  148. #156 – If Christianity isn’t true at all, and if religion in general isn’t true (if this life is all there is and we cease to exist in any meaningful way upon death), those things don’t really matter anyway. We might as well inflict whatever it takes to maximize our own comfort and minimize our own pain, no matter the impact on others. Social conscience and selfless sacrifice would be useless.

    So, if none of it is true, I’ll fall back on what makes me happy.

  149. Re “I believe Brigham was wrong, subsequent prophets continued an incorrect practice, and our more recent prophets corrected that element of apostasy.”

    Ray,

    I read your above comment with interest and appreciate your teaching. You put into words well the feelings I have in this area. I wonder how you would respond to the inevitable challenge regarding the following quote being likend to the statement you have made above?

    “I say to Israel, the Lord will never permit me or any other man who stands as president of this Church to lead you astray. It is not in the program. It is not in the mind of God. If I were to attempt that the Lord would remove me out of my place, and so he will any other man who attempts to lead the children of men astray from the oracles of God and from their duty. God bless you” (Discourses of Wilford Woodruff, pp. 212-13; see also Official Declaration 1).

  150. Bill – “Anything other than exaltation is ‘damnation’, right?” That’s a facile argument. The term ‘damnation’ in Mormonism is completely different than in other Christian sects because of the concepts of degrees of glory as well as eternal progression. The concept of heaven in other sects is not equated to eternal progression, so you are applying their worst case scenario (damnation) to our far superior second best scenario. Essentially, the terrestrial kingdom (where your example seems to be pointed) is equivalent to other Christian sects’ heaven. So, to say anyone is “damned” (by Mormon standards) to what is “heaven” to other Christians is clearly misleading. Maybe we could start a new catch phrase: “Damn you to Heaven!”

  151. Rigel H. – I wonder about that phrase of WW. If WW’s statement was correct, it’s not very precise. Exactly how much human error before God kills ya? What if: 1) your contribution, on the whole, is much greater than your mistakes, 2) you bring something to the table that no one else at that time can offer (no better substitute), or 3) your cultural biases are shared by 99% of the remaining folks around you, so you’re neither creating nor correcting the error already there, just perpetuating it ignorantly and trying to make human sense out of it? Is there a scale on which these things are measured, and oops, one too many errors–heart attack?

    If I were a prophet, with that kind of responsibility, like WW I would find it immensely comforting to believe that before I really ran the train off the tracks God would just strike me dead. Frankly, I’d probably pray for that every single day.

  152. #158 – I just addressed that quote somewhere, but I’m too tired to look it up and paste it here. My concise version:

    “Astray” means “off course”. I believe firmly that prophets of all ages have believed things that were not Truth – that were incorrect, but I believe just as strongly that nothing the prophets have taught us will lead us “off course”. Iow, I have a very hard time envisioning a scenario where a prophet teaches something like, “It’s ok to go out and kill or steal or commit adultery – or do whatever you want, since God will forgive you in the end.” Following that type of teaching would take us off course and land us in a degree of glory different than what we would receive without it.

    I don’t see anything that has been taught that, if followed, will change our eternal reward – even though I simultaneously believe that we need not believe everything the prophets say as the pure word of God. I believe most things are filtered through inspired but still mortal and fallible human beings. I just don’t think those human beings will “lead us astray” in the sense that I believe the quote was meant.

    Iow, there is a HUGE difference between “not lead you astray” and “never be mistaken, even about important things”. I accept the former; I reject the latter.

  153. “If Christianity isn’t true at all, and if religion in general isn’t true (if this life is all there is and we cease to exist in any meaningful way upon death), those things don’t really matter anyway. We might as well inflict whatever it takes to maximize our own comfort and minimize our own pain, no matter the impact on others. Social conscience and selfless sacrifice would be useless.”

    This is exactly how I used to think. Somehow the church seems to push you to think that you can either believe in God or be a mass murderer–with no options in between. There is true charity outside of religion and often more so than within religion. Things do matter, life isn’t useless even if there isn’t a God and we all cease to exist after this life. Perhaps you’d have to not believe to understand.

  154. #161:

    “I have a very hard time envisioning a scenario where a prophet teaches something like, “It’s ok to go out and kill or steal or commit adultery – or do whatever you want, since God will forgive you in the end.” Following that type of teaching would take us off course and land us in a degree of glory different than what we would receive without it.”

    -There was lots of killing and stealing in the old testament by the command of God. I guess its all OK because God said so.
    -Adultery? Many people would consider Joseph an adulterer. I know–if you marry them first, its not adultery.
    -Many would consider D+C 132:26 to directly conflict with what you say above.

    “Iow, there is a HUGE difference between “not lead you astray” and “never be mistaken, even about important things”. I accept the former; I reject the latter.”

    -Perpetuating racism for 100 years? That was just a mistake–no one ever got lead astray. Wait, wait–that wasn’t a mistake either, that was God’s will that we can’t understand.

  155. >>> This is exactly how I used to think. Somehow the church seems to push you to think that you can either believe in God or be a mass murderer–with no options in between.

    Coming from a guy that just explained to everyone here that all evil in a non-united marriage must of necessity be 100% the Mormon spouse’s fault (see #149 and #152) while never even pausing to consider equivalent maritial challenges in all philosophical differences possible in a marriage (which is likely nearly all marriages, I might add)… it would seem to me you still think exactly that way but in reverse now.

  156. Bill,

    I have been extremely civil. I have expressed my belief that the priesthood ban was not God’s will on this thread and many others – over and over and over again. I have expressed my belief that not every action of all prophets over time has been the will of God, including much of what God got blamed for in the OT. If you can’t address what I’ve actually said but have to resort to “not all Mormons believe that” (to which I would respond, “DUH!”), what good is this discussion? I believe that most (the large majority of) members do believe what I’ve written, so I won’t get sucked into the endless loop of what some might believe.

    Finally, if you look at the VAST majority of Christian congregations in this country at this time, it is fairly obvious that the Mormon Church is AHEAD of them as far as racial integration and allowing black members to lead mixed and even predominantly white congregations. That usually gets ignored completely in these discussions, but it is directly relevant to the underlying charges of current racism. The hypocrisy of many of those making those charges is astounding.

    If we can’t have a conversation without resorting to this type of hyperbolic generalization, I’m done.

  157. #157:
    If Christianity isn’t true at all, and if religion in general isn’t true (if this life is all there is and we cease to exist in any meaningful way upon death), those things don’t really matter anyway. We might as well inflict whatever it takes to maximize our own comfort and minimize our own pain, no matter the impact on others. Social conscience and selfless sacrifice would be useless.

    Ray, I’m a bit surprised that you would leap to this sort of conclusion. While we’ve never met in person, I’ve read enough of your thoughts to believe that your good choices don’t rely purely on your religious faith. Now, while I no longer believe in deity as an individual personality, I’d stop short of calling myself an atheist. I am most definitely not a christian, although in most ways I try to reflect in my daily life the wise teachings of great individuals such as Jesus of Nazareth. I’ll admit to being very “agnostic” as to the precise state of our existence after death, and I’m actually quite okay with that uncertainty, as referenced in another thread.

    According to what you’ve written above, my only motivation is “to maximize [my] own comfort and minimize [my] own pain.” You suggest that I have no incentive to consider the impact of my behavior on others, to act with social consciousness, or to engage in selfless sacrifice. Ray, none of these statements are true.

    Suppose, just for the sake of argument, that my primarly/only motivation really was to “maximize my own comfort and minimize my own pain.” Have you ever considered that both of these goals actually require that I consider the impact of my behavior on others? To the degree that I cause pain for others, I live in a world where people fail to live up to their potential, hampering my own happiness and “comfort.” To the degree that I cause pain for others, I live in a more violent world, placing myself at risk of injury or death. To the degree that I act without integrity, I encourage others to be dishonest, greatly increasing the likelihood that I will suffer unjust. To the degree that I lack compassion, I create a more hostile, cold, uncaring society, in which I will be less likely to find comfort when I am in pain. I could easily go on much further, but surely you get my point. The philosophy of life that religious people are fond of calling “hedonism,” in its truest sense, actually requires the “hedonist” to act in ways that will bless and serve others.

    It would probably be considered offensive, although arguably quite true, to suggest that religious persons also act with a motivation of “maximizing their own comfort and minimizing their own pain.” Religious persons seek to “maximize their own comfort” in this life, and more particularly in the next, since they wish to obtain a blissful, comfortable future existence. Religious persons seek to “minimize their own pain” when they avoid behavior which, according to their belief, would subject them to punishment, pain and suffering in a future existence. Even when religious persons acts in ways that bless others’ lives, they genuinely believe (even if they are too altruistic to be “primarily” motivated by that belief) that by doing so, they are minimizing their own pain, and maximizing their own comfort.

  158. #161:
    I have a very hard time envisioning a scenario where a prophet teaches something like, “It’s ok to go out and kill or steal or commit adultery – or do whatever you want, since God will forgive you in the end.” Following that type of teaching would take us off course and land us in a degree of glory different than what we would receive without it.

    Except that, in LDS culture and teaching, a man who does something objectively wrong, but in obedience to priesthood authority, will be blessed for that obedience, and any penalty will be upon the head of the misguided priesthood leader. Is this “official” doctrine? No, hardly anything is when we parse as the LDS public affairs department does. It is still, however, a significant belief in LDS culture, and an almost necessary corellary to the emphasis on obedience to leaders.

  159. #167 – Nick, I don’t believe that conclusion any more than you do. I apologize for not making that distinction clear. All I meant is that, from a perspective of the afterlife, there is no motivation for selflessness and sacrifice. I agree that survival of the species probably is a programmed motivator without personal religion, but it’s hard to argue that the concepts taught by religion don’t influence the morality even of agnostics and atheists. If I firmly believe that I will not survive death with some degree of autonomy, that my life will cease at death and I will be no more in any meaningful way, it simply becomes survival of the fittest – a war of attrition where any conscious motivation is to secure my own progeny’s continuation even at the expense of others.

    I’m not questioning the morality of agnostics and atheists; I’m just saying that the embedded foundation of religious altruism plays a part even in their own actions toward others. Granted, I believe what I view as distorted religious arrogance that claims all will burn in Hell unless they accept Jesus in this life, which leads often to indifference and disdain and contemptible attitudes and actions, is more abominable in this context than “mere agnosticism or atheism” (meaning I think you have abetter shot at advanced glory than many adamantly self-professed Christians [including Mormons]) – but that is considered heretical, as well.

    I’m ok being a heretic in that regard.

  160. #168 – I understand that paradox, but I just trust the global leadership enough to believe that nothing they request will be so egregious as to alter my course and destination without it. Individual local leaders are another story, unfortunately, but the actual WW statement did not apply to them.

    (Btw, I disagree vehemently with any interpretation of that statement that includes local leadership in the “will never lead you astray” category. That, imo, simply is indefensible, and I don’t believe that I am obligated to do what a local leader requests – no matter the request. I’m not a big fan of the Mountain Meadows Massacre.)

  161. Just to clarify:

    I am as big a “support and sustain your local leadership” guy as anyone; I just don’t believe I am required to accept everything any local leader says without question. The entire council system in the Church argues against that proposition.

  162. Ray, I like your perspective, but sadly, there are local leaders out there who disagree with you. I was specifically told by one of my bishops in a married student ward at Utah State University (when I disagreed with his “counsel,” which was phrased as a direct order with accompanying threat of yanking my temple recommend “or whatever it takes”) that it was my absolute duty to obey him, and that if he was wrong (which he clearly didn’t think was possible), the sin would be upon his head. Mind you, being unable to cite any actual church doctrine or policy on the matter, he gave supposed precedent from church history, which happened to be completely erroneous—not just “interpretation” erroneous, but “proven-false-by-clearly-documented-facts” erroneous.

    I hasten to point out, however, that this bishop was a nutcase, and emphatically NOT your average LDS bishop. The same bishop (a full-time seminary teacher) would get up in sacrament meeting and tell the congregation of married university students that they were all much too young to reliably handle any of their callings. Then he began telling us in sacrament meetings about dreams he had, in which he was a savior figure sent to “rescue” the ward members, who were entirely unaware of the imminent spiritual and physical dangers about to engulf them. He was sort of scary.

  163. Nick – I completely agree that there is a very wrong-headed polarization of thinking about agnosticism and atheism as always leading to self-serving hedonism. Many church members seem to (completely wrongly) equate secular humanism with hedonism. I don’t personally see the root of all human goodness as being founded in religious altruism (or trickle-down religious altruism). I believe human beings inherently like to do good, to help one another, and to make a difference. While the natural man may make mistakes frequently and do bad things to seek pleasure, there is also within us (even without religion) plenty of desire to do good. Endorphins are still released.

  164. Nick – “sadly, there are local leaders out there who disagree with you.” This is a huge concern to me, as much as those missionaries doing bone-headed things with seemingly little forethought to the consequences of their actions. There are some real nutcases out there in some local leadership roles, and frankly, I think they are good at covering their tracks. Are they committing adultery or skimming tithing funds? No. But the ones I am talking about are the type who can make your life hell by pushing their own agenda, being heavy handed, adding their own commandments to the litany we already agreed to at baptism, applying church disciplinary procedures in a more stringent than merciful manner, putting a stranglehold on the members of the ward, seeking their own power and glory, etc. This is why I was not thrilled to hear the pulpit statement from Pr. Monson that church members should quit going over local leaders’ heads to HQ – that the local leaders should handle everything. There has to be some sort of ombuds office for the church. People need to be able to address these issues without getting labelled as the problem child or the church will have ward-level schism. Creating a uniform experience in a global organization requires 2-way communication. Stifling whistle-blowing is a sure way to end up with a spiritual Enron.

  165. #173, #175–I agree that Ray would make a good bishop. I sincerely believe that Hawkgrrrl would make a great bishop too. Oh wait–thats heretical. Sorry, no offense intended.

  166. “#173, #175–I agree that Ray would make a good bishop. I sincerely believe that Hawkgrrrl would make a great bishop too. Oh wait–thats heretical. Sorry, no offense intended.”

    Makes you think about how much talent is being wasted by discounting about half the adult membership…

  167. Wasted? The demands for the talents of members of both genders in our ward is high, and the problems they face in their positions serious. Perhaps you could argue that talent is suboptimally used, but not usually wasted.

  168. I prefer the word ‘unselfish’ to ‘selfless.’ I think we have to consider our own well being right along with the well being of others. If we are emotionally, spiritually, financially (even) devastated, then we will have little to offer our families, or anyone else, in these areas. I think we should absolutely give our hearts to God. But we also have to make sure that our hearts are well nourished – and, for me, some of that nourishment means time alone, with books or nature or whathaveyou. It might not be ‘selfless’ but it can be ‘unselfish’ in that it gives me something I can share. (note: share, one of my least favorite words, right up there with ‘special’ and ‘appropriate’)

    Hedonism is a pretty extreme word! I certainly have been very self-indulgent, even at the expense of other people. But, even at that, there may have been days of hedonism, but I wouldn’t have used that word to describe my life. 🙂 I’ve only known a couple of hedonists. Actually, I’m not sure if I’ve ever known a hedonist.

    I do think there is something to Dostoevsky’s ‘without God, everything is permitted.’ That is, unless there is an image of goodness that transcends the self and has more authority than the self, then the self is left as the final measure of goodness: as in, to thine own self be true as the most authoritative answer to life. What do you called a society that has this as its final measurement of action? You call that a doomed society. But even at this, note, however, that where religion is mistaken as synonymous with ‘the true and living’ God there is so much room for oppression in the name of God, holding out a fixed image of God, that I highly prefer the weaker model of a social compact with minimized restrictions on the individual, and generalized moral notion that attempts to gently and ‘without compulsory means’ curtail selfishness. Note how the various forms of oppression, both religious and atheistic, hold out an image to which the individual must conform – and that image is not in the person of Jesus freely discovered and accepted. (note that also in Mormon culture)

    Ray would certainly be an excellent bishop. But, he doesn’t have time for that as his blogging habit is fairly foregrounded at this time. (Seriously, he is likely do more good here, for now. Bishop is pretty time intensive.)

    ~

  169. I recently finished reading a book called “The Language of God” written by Francis S. Collins. Mr. Collins is the lead of the Human Genome Research Project and began as an agnostic moving toward an atheist. As a respected scientist, he used to book to describe his own ‘spiritual’ journey which brought him to believe in what he calls ‘BioLogos.’ The sound byte version is that God put the mechanisms in place for evolution to occur (not that simple). He notes that there in an innate human need to adhere to the Moral Law and seek for God. These are two of a number of arguments he puts forth as evidence of a tie to a divine creator.

    Nick, how you you like to read the book and let me know what you think before I try it on my agnostic molecular biologist son?

  170. Bruce,
    If you really want to be exposed to my religious propaganda regarding the Gentile Church, click on my name above and then read the segments identified on the left side of the page titles “Gentiles” and “Last shall be first”

    I didn’t realize I needed to start my own church and proclaim myself a prophet before I could present my studies of the scriptures in this forum. Being relatively new to this part of the blogosphere, I appreciate your interest in helping me keep the social contract of the group.

  171. >>> I didn’t realize I needed to start my own church and proclaim myself a prophet before I could present my studies of the scriptures in this forum

    I didn’t say you needed to start your own church and proclaim yourself a prophet. I said that you already had for all intents and purposes.

    I suppose, to be fair, there might be more than one definition of “church” and “prophet” but from a Mormon view point you have all the necessary qualifications:

    1. Claims to revelation from God – check
    2. Claims to having a unique truth or message from God that all must accept or be “apostate” and maybe damned – check
    3. Prophecy of the future – check
    4. Authoratative interpretation of scripture that clarifies God’s real intent (i.e. by this I mean “closes down all other possible readings”) – check
    5. Pronouncing God’s judgments upon others – check

    You may be a “church” (organization or congregation) of one, but you are still a Church. And in so far as others disagree with you, you believe them to be wrong or even apostate. So you are also claiming to be the one true Church (of one person) of God and not just one possible interpretation of truth.

    For the record, I didn’t say there was anything wrong with this — though I personally have my doubts. I just pointed out that it was a fact as per how I understand those terms.

    The rest of my comments were to point out that all the issues you had with the LDS Church were inevitable if you ever tried to have a body of believers that attempt unity of belief. Measuring goals that don’t look upon the heart, for example, are the only possible goals at all. Can you imagine GBH getting up and saying “we are 20% more pure of heart this year than last year.” It would be cool if it were possible though. But unfortunately it’s impossible… so I see little reason to entertain the possibility that it’s a sign of apostacy.

    But you have now clarified that you believe all religious organizations are man-made (except your own “church of one” of course) so none of what I said on that front logically matters any more. I retract all my comments along those lines to you because you made them irrelevant when you explained yourself further.

    Don’t get me wrong, I believe that people need to pick their own spiritual path and picking a customized one is a tried and true way and I don’t necessarily believe it to be bad. You have a good moral belief system as far as I can tell (I see no advocacy of use of arms to force belief or something like that) so I think your “religion of one” is a good thing in general and the world is better for it.

    I am as willing to call you “brother in the Gospel” as I am any fellow Christian or non-Christian believer (or even willing for any non-believing ethicist.) And I believe I could learn from your ideas even if I think a great many of them are wrong — as we can all learn from each other.

    But I also believe you have started to act the role of a prophet with an exclusive truth. (Again, individual defintions may vary. I do not wish to be an offender for a word. So let me just say you claiming to be a “prophet” as I, as a Mormon, understand that term. And likely as most people understand that term.)

    Let me assure you that you are not alone in believing yourself to be God’s one true prophet to the world. It’s a common thing that happens to people in all religions, as far as I can tell. I honestly believe “God’s revealed religion of one” was the single most common religion I encountered while on my mission. And rarely if ever was it understood as a personal take on truth. Far more common — as with you — it was seen as something to be evangelized to the world for the world to know about, repent, and accept as the truth it was intended to be.

  172. >>> Suppose, just for the sake of argument, that my primarly/only motivation really was to “maximize my own comfort and minimize my own pain.” Have you ever considered that both of these goals actually require that I consider the impact of my behavior on others?

    Nick, it occurs to me that you often say things I agree with but I rarely say so because I only silently ascent. So let me say that everything you say that follows the above quote was very well thought out and interesting and I agree with it. I do believe “ethical hedonism” is a fully realized ethical system — just as you describe.

    I don’t necessarily see it as taking one the whole way to true morality, but I think it gets really really close. Probably closer than any of us will live out in a life time. So I feel ethical hedonists should be considered viable “believers” after a fashion.

    (I also think it has a few logical problems worth exploring… but for another time.)

    One of my favorite ethical hedonists, btw, is Richard Garriot who is a computer game designer and self styled philosopher. For those that grew up with computer games like me, he made the Ultima series which was based around virtuous living.

  173. Ray,

    I think so. Enough and more than enough, heaven!!

    I feel this way about those big sugar cookies with pink frosting that you can buy at the Seven-Eleven.

    ~

  174. “I feel this way about those big sugar cookies with pink frosting that you can buy at the Seven-Eleven.”

    It’s mean to have someone read that at nearly 1AM their time. The saliva dripping down my chin could get me institutionalized.

  175. “The saliva dripping down my chin could get me institutionalized.”

    Will you have internet access an the institution?

    Cause if yes … long walks on the big well manicured lawn, lots of jello … I can think of worse fates!

    ~

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  178. I have found in my life that what Joseph Smith says in the front of the Book of Mormon is true. That by abiding by its precepts that you would get closer to God than any other book. If being close to God is important to you the best way to do this is daily immersion in the Book of Mormon. You are not wasting your life if you study and live by the teachings in the scriptures. It makes you a better, more complete person. Jesus Christ can make more of your life than you can.

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