Thursday, April 28, 2011

a meandering path to unelightenment or the re-enchantment of the world

Fantasy exists for a reason. Possibly because of our dissatisfaction with reality. Although reality, or at least our perceptions and beliefs about it, have proven over the course of human history to be quite malleable. Reality, whatever that is, and fantasy intersect at a point of synthesis that we call an individual. Neither of these binary opposites are strictly limited to solipsistic interpretation, there is a broad spectrum of social consciousness that informs the context of our shared understanding about what constitutes reality or fantasy, but it is at a personal level where we experience these elements.

On any given day I can swing from being a fully functioning adult to a pouting emo reprobate. At times I'll convince myself that I'm level headed, logical, above the everyday pettiness that afflicts normal humans. In truth I am all these things, but only occasionally. I still have a lizard brain, emotions, and other bits of biochemistry that derail my best efforts to attain an ideal that in the end may be unhealthy, unrealistic. Perhaps I should give myself over to the fantastic.

There I was sitting in a cinema watching Thor. My expectations set to: this-will-likely-be-worse-than-Ghost-Rider-and-every-hair-piece-Nicholas-Cage-has-ever-worn-combined. Sometimes it's good to set the bar low. Surprisingly it was good, not I'm-going-to-channel-the-little-girl-from-Adventures-in-Babysitting-and-adopt-Thor-as-my-new-personal-god-good, but hey it was fun. For a little while there I suspended my disbelief long enough to wish I was in Asgard wearing some funky cool Jack Kirby inspired garb and fighting for the hearts and minds of its imaginary denizens. It was like I was 12 again and had discovered marvel comics for the first time.

I'm broke, like (pre-fame) Louis CK broke . Before I went to Thor I brought a lotto ticket for a possible $25 million prize. Realistically I have a better chance of being struck by lightening, while being eaten by a shark, while being crashed into by a plane, but at one point my thoughts turned from Asgard to my less than stellar financial situation and since I was already straddling Fantasyland I thought I might as well enjoy it. Have you ever allowed yourself to entertain a thought that is both simultaneously totally ridiculous and unbelievably awesome? I could see all the ways I'd spend the money and hoard it and invest it and laud it. For a brief shining moment it was real. This was Winning on a whole new level. I was delivered from poverty into a whole new set of wonderful privileges and problems. Fooling yourself is dangerous, because it's intoxicating.

After my little pilgrimage to Fantasyland I was alone with myself again. Everything was the same, except that I'd decided to bring a little souvenir back with me: "Whosoever holds this hammer..." Um anyway. Can you change the way you experience the world by changing the way you see the world? I'm angry at the Mormon church (this is always floating somewhere between thoughts, this is me being emo), because I feel they fooled me and worst of all that I was complicit in my own delusion. But If I settle on a new equal but opposite black/white position has anything really changed? As Einstein would suggest "you cannot solve a problem from the same level of consciousness that created it." Why not a world where there is a whimsical interplay between fantasy and reality like Asgard, many people live satisfying lives filtering reality this way. As always there's only one way to find out... I'm a walking on a rainbow bridge. I'm a chaos magician. Belief will change my world.


Justin said...

"I'm angry at the Mormon church (this is always floating somewhere between thoughts, this is me being emo), because I feel they fooled me and worst of all that I was complicit in my own delusion."

Sorry I forgot, why do you feel like they fooled you again?

Yes, I like to stir.

I look forward to seeing Thor.

Loren said...

The foundation of the church is not The Rock it's bullshit. Shame on me for being duped. That's OK though people should be allowed to have their shit and eat it too. Everything is tainted. Who am I judge. It was just disappointing find out that an organization that is supposedly perfect turned out to be more or less just as corrupt as every other institution on earth. Once again I emphasize, shame on me for being so naive. Oh well, Loren burned lesson learned.

Justin said...

Loren. I've asked before, but what are the bare neseccities for the church to be true? Here's what I think they are:
1. The first vision was as real as described by Joseph Smith.
2. The Book of Mormon is true as far as it is translated(I prefer the word 'transmitted') correctly (along with the other canonised scripture).
2. A body of authority was genuinely established by God and his agents - Priesthood Keys
3. Those keys are all still held within the body of authority to this day. (an apostasy has not occured)

Certain issues about/surrounding the church may trouble or confuse people. A couple do trouble me. But despite that, I can see enough miracles and evidences and spiritual experiences to convince me that the above three criteria are in-tact.

I think some people have a false understanding of what it takes for the church to be true. Of what the true church means. The have expectations higher than the reality of this dreary mortal existance.

My previous comments along the lines of "so what if Joseph Smith did this or that." where not really sarcastic. They where probing how much it matters for the church to be true or not.

I don't clearly see why you think you where duped (because I beleive the church is true). But I do see that somethings didn't happen the way you expected them to happen. Nobody should expect the organisation to be perfect. But true is not the same as perfect.

You gave a lot of service for a church that you no longer believe is true, but I don't think that means you where naive. When you think carefully and remember all the reasons why you believed the church was true, it was quite a reasonable conclusion at the time(that it was true).

From the tone of your comments I can tell that you are angry, but you haven't clearly let on what are you angry about. Please share.

Loren said...

You may have just opened the biggest can of worms in the history of the world. Prepare for the great debate yet again :)

The reason why I'm angry is because I had a view of what I thought the church was and it clearly is not what I had been lead to believe, even if it is "true"(it's not). Is the church what it claims to be? I highly doubt it and with good reasons. How can we know? Judging it by its fruits might be a good start. But first let's explore your premises...

I think there's an obvious and massive omission here. You're taking the existence of god as a given. How can the 4 points you've raised be true if god first existing is still in question. We can't even take them seriously unless we unpack that idea first. Well, you and I are both aware that the existence of god is an unfalsifiable claim. You can say you have a good feeling that it's true, many people do. In the end it comes down to faith. It is not a reasonable thing to believe (evidence in his favour is incredibly weak), but hey we're human, not everything we do makes sense.

So, I'm not banking on there being a personal god. After all, (literally) billions of other people claim that they "know" that god exists also, which is fine except there are many different versions of this so called god. What makes the Mormon incarnation, special or worthy of worship even if he doesn't exist? Yes, you read that sentence correctly. If I were to make up a an all-loving, all-knowing, all-powerful being, it would operate much differently than the one that Mormonism claims. For instance its decisions/actions would actually make sense. That would be a big plus.

I invite you to do the same, could you come up with a better plan of salvation? I bet dollars to donuts you could. The god that Mormonism claims is incompetent or at best chooses incompetent people to represent him, which is no better. This does not fill me with confidence about the truth claims of the church.

So keeping this in mind (don't worry I'll be using examples, so we can get a feel for god's questionable judgement), let's get into some of the fruits I'm talking about and other peculiarities of the church, in no particular order...

We're created (more likely we just evolved) imperfect. Then we're supposed to feel bad about this. Why god do that? Then some poor sap is supposed to come down here on a suicide mission and suffer for our shortcomings. Umm OK. Is this infinite suffering really necessary? Well, supposedly there's a cosmic sense of justice floating out there that's greater than god (why not worship that then? It's trumps god apparantly, but I digress). Can we prove the existence of this abstract overarching concept? Of course not, but if god is so concerned with justice, well that leads me to my next point...

Loren said...

...The church has an absolutely shocking record when it comes to civil rights and social justice. If this is really gods church and god cares so much about such things. Why the blacks and the priesthood issue? Why the gay issue? Why are women 2nd class citizens at church (they have no power, and no impact on the top-down decisions in the church). You'd think an organization spearheaded by the god of the universe would be leading society on these type of issues. Instead it's decades behind. Some might say it's gods priesthood he can do what he wants. Bullshit, that means that what's good is subject to gods caprice and violates the aforementioned theory of an inviolable morality in the fabric of the universe, which would mean their would be no need for the atonement 'cause god could just make up whatever he wants. Which is the impression I get from the decisions the church has made throughout the years. An even more typical response to things of this nature is that we don't know why. That is not a good reason to believe.

Perhaps I'm being harsh maybe god's servants failed to recognize his communications with them. Here's another pet peeve of mine. Why would an all powerful god choose probably the least effective form of communication possible (I feeling like going so deep into this, but this is already going long)? It's retarded. If I read the BoM and pray about it and a brass band of angels starts playing that would be something, but the ethereal promptings of the holy ghost? Come on god you can do better. Mormon's will claim that confirmation from the holy ghost is the most powerful thing ever. other religions are just as adamant that the spirit has let them know the same thing about their contradictory religion: that it's true. Prophets receive revelation directly from god whatever that means and they still routinely fuck up. It is, how should I put this, unbelievable. Brigham's Adam God, blood atonement, zero tolerance views on inter-racial relationships (kill them was his view). The civil rights issues that I've already mentioned. Polygamy and polyandry. Our recent legalistic approach to religion, which is in direct opposition to what Jesus taught when he was on the earth. We are the new pharisees. Why should I pledge my heart and soul to an organization that seems to offer no better (and in some cases worse) direction than any other that is out there?

This is only the beginning. I bet you can hardly wait. To be continued...

Justin said...

Well, that's a gusher. Tie-ho a moment though, coz you raised about 6 different points worth careful discussion. Carpet bombing won't get the job done, so let's keep it narrow and surgical.

The God exists or does exist seems like the best point to start.

Justin said...

"You can say you have a good feeling that it's true, many people do. "
Rerun. Feeling my arse. To know is not to feel, to know is to know. Subjective knowledge is beyond belief or feelings.

"In the end it comes down to faith."
Wrong again. But faith may lead to a subjective knowledge.
"It is not a reasonable thing to believe (evidence in his favour is incredibly weak). but hey we're human, not everything we do makes sense. "

Well beyond direct spiritual witness, there a good bit of reason to believe in God's existance. Guys like Dawkin's base themseves on faith just as much as many religious people. He leaves out a lot of data to make is presentions 'reasonabable'. That's OK, it's common human practice, but I always roll by eyes when I hear that it's not reasonable to believe in God.

Check out:

That's actually a pretty good site on some fronts.

"After all, (literally) billions of other people claim that they "know" that god exists also"
That's news to me.
But 'know' is a word with more that one meaning.

"which is fine except there are many different versions of this so called god. "
This is not a problem at all. What they experience as divine may be perfectly valid. Being a former missionary, I'm surprised that you raise this arguement.

"I invite you to do the same, could you come up with a better plan of salvation? I bet dollars to donuts you could."
I'll keep this short - After pondering this question since 2001, No Loren, I couldn't.

I can talk about the 'social justice' thing next time if it's ripe.

Justin said...

Justin said...

Those 2 links didn't come through, so I just reposted them.

Loren said...

very interesting.

First off let's clarify. I don't throw my hat in with Dawkins and his buddy's. I'm closer to an agnostic than an atheist if you need to put a label on it (I find atheism more palatable than some forms of religion though i.e. fundamentalism. I'm a product of my time). Although defining exactly what I am is pretty much up in the air always. I throw out ridiculous monikers once in a while just for fun. I kind of get the impression that you think I side with him from that link you provided.

However, it is telling that you find his lack of candor disingenuous. Well, that's the nature of argument isn't it. You don't present information that would hurt your case. I think we have some common ground here. I do a lot of eye rolling as well. Mine is directed toward the lies, too harsh perhaps, OK the myths the church perpetuates concerning its establishment. They're at least as guilty as Dawkins is, of being very selective about what information they choose to focus on.

In fact by the church's own definition they are liars, so maybe I wasn't being harsh: "There are many forms of lying. When we speak untruths, we are guilty of lying. We can also intentionally deceive others by a gesture or a look, by silence, or by telling only part of the truth. Whenever we lead people in any way to believe something that is not true, we are not being honest. The Lord is not pleased with such dishonesty, and we will have to account for our lies." (Gospel Principles, chapter 31) The church has white washed their history, withholding or misrepresenting information (like Joseph marrying women who were already married to living faithful members, so polygamy and polyandry, the translation process of the BoM, the council of 50, Joseph anointing himself the King of the world, changes to the BoM, changes to the D&C, the authenticity of the translation of The Book of Abraham, and I could go on and on). If Dawkins annoys you, surely you must find this kind of behaviour from the church somewhat suspect. This is partly why I'm angry. I had a testimony, if you can call it that, of things that didn't actually happen. Not in the way that I was told they did anyway.

FARMS and FAIR and their ilk don't seem to have a problem with the way the church has handled the flow of information over the years. They seem to think people should just get over themselves and soldier on, business as usual. That's fucking ridiculous. Should I stick around like a weary wife that keeps getting beaten on? If somebody betrays my trust, shows no remorse, and has no intention of changing, should I bury my head in the sand and pretend nothing's wrong? Nope. I hit the eject button.

If this is how god runs his church, he is a dick and not worthy of worship. More likely though the church is a human made institution. But let's get back to question at hand does a god even exist? TBC

Justin said...

I'll spend some time thinking about the lies-that-we-tell-by-not-telling thing.

Which aspect of the "does god exist" theme do you want to focus on first - scientific? philisophical or other?

Loren said...

Let's go with the things you've already brought up already. One at a time.

"Feeling my arse. To know is not to feel, to know is to know. Subjective knowledge is beyond belief or feelings."

It's commonly agreed among (thoughtful) believers and non-believers that you can't prove the existence or non-existence of god (which I've already raised several times) in what has come to be accepted as the conventional way. So, we are about to have a futile debate. Again.

The thing that fascinates me about people who are drawn to religion is that they believe they've found a new and more reliable form of epistemology. Now I was always under the impression that the Holy Ghost allegedly communicates by impressions or feelings and this is how people particularly members of our faith come to know what is true.

But you're saying that feelings have nothing to do with it. I've never heard this one before. You're level of certainty also seems to reflect that of the new atheists which I find ironic(we all do this, sometimes however I think that not knowing is the best part. People tend to shy away from nuance though, absolutes seem so much more attractive). Please discuss...

Justin said...

Yes, God's existance by reasoning is not conclusive in a debate situation. But to have a direct spiritual encounter (say, strong witness of the spirit, a visitation/vision, or after-death experience) that is a different matter. That creates a subjective knowing. That subjective knowing may include feelings - but to merely describe it as only feelings is grossly inadequate.

That's why I said that knowing is not feeling. Ask the people if they feel that that had the experience, they will answer that they know they had the experience. Of course, that subjective knowledge doesn't necessarily prove anything to other people.

OK, let me turn this onto myself. What do I claim to know? I know that I exist. I know that Loren exists and so on... and among these things I know that the Book of Mormon is a true record of a real ancient people who had dealings with God and Jesus Christ. How do I know? I prayed a few times to know if the book was or wasn't true. No direct answer. Frustrating.

But one day I just realised that I knew. I don't know how and when exactly I came to know (I know I read it a lot), but I can say that I know it's true, as much as the other (arguably more tangable) things I know. Will I come to know that it's true even more as I continue to study it? somehow yes, I'm sure I will. But I don't just have faith that it's true, or believe it's true, I just know it's true. That's all. And, although feelings are necessarily involved, feelings don't even seem a big part of knowing it for me.

So, although (at the beginning of this post) I described identifable and dramatic events as a means to knowing, they are not the only path to knowing.


Loren said...

Subjective knowledge means knowledge that is subject to you. Which pretty much means it's true for you. Which means it doesn't universally apply to everyone in the world, because it's your personal experience. Go for it do your thing.

Subjective knowledge is not true in the same way that gravity is though. If you insist that it is equivalent to other forms of knowledge that's fine. That's your opinion. I can see where you're coming from, because I had a similar experience. Read the BoM, prayed, got no answers and at some undefined point thought that it was true anyway. Now I "know" I was wrong. What made me change my mind is that many new facts were introduced that confuted what the evangelizers of the book claimed and that's what it would take for me to change my mind about mormonism (I am open to other forms of spirituality, usually ones invented by myself). No new evidence. No mighty change of heart. I did my dash, I finished my course, I did not keep the faith. I've been there, I've done it and I don't find it compelling. That doesn't mean anyone else should stop practicing whatever. I'm just saying that the concepts of god that still hold sway over most of the religious population are archaic, boring, and uninspiring. That's my opinion...

Loren said...

The argument for god is tied up in all these subjective experiences. Many of which are contradictory. As I mentioned earlier. Something which you puzzled over so allow me to explain...

1. There are many different religions.

2. They all claim (on some level) that they worship the true god

3. These different religions have different concepts of god. Some of which are contradictory.

4. None of these religions can prove their version of god in a conclusive way(i.e. a non-subjective way). Evidence is typically anecdotal and/or totally subjective.

Therefore, either there are many gods that are real competing for the affections of humans. Or there is one really true god. Or there is no god. Or it doesn't matter because all of them whether real or imagined have adopted ambiguous ways of communicating with their devotees (i.e. the ones who pay the bills, the ones who get paid always seem to have a direct line to heaven, alarm bells again) and we shouldn't worry too much because if it or they are really all powerful and really have something important to say they would do so clearly otherwise they're complete doosh bags in which case fuck 'em.

I obviously subscribe to the latter option.

Justin said...

Hey man, I'll get back to you in the weekend. Really tied up now.

Justin said...

heck, next weekend...sorry I've got a response (unfortunately I doubt it will impress a skeptically inclined person), but I think it'll be about an hour to type. grrr, hope this topic doesn't run too cold by then.

Justin said...

OK, let me squeeze it in now.

Why is information from God not more clearly and freely available to us?

1. In many, if not most cases, humans are required to ASK with sincerity what God's intention is (Faith is an important feature in the plan of Salvation), and we are required to be WORTHY of recieving it. AND that thing must be something that God wants to reveal to that individual or group at that particular time.

2. Due to human design there is a limit to how much new information we can handle at any one time. I've heard some pychology people day that if the a message is more than 10 person new information to the receiver, then the receiver will more or less shut out the entire message and revert to his own preexisting understanding of the matter. This phenomenon can be seen in the academic realm where a new idea is rejected for many many years, but gradually accepted. You may have noticed in the workplace that if you give someone instructions a bit beyond them, then that person will do almost the OPPOSITE of what you told them. Pychological studies have shown that people often understand considerably less of a message than they think they do. As a teacher, I've become intimately aware that all new information requires just the right knowledge foundation in the learner to be properly accepted by the brain. New information is simply not picked up until the learner has just the right information structure in his brain to accept it. My point? Well revelation is new info, and the "line by line, precept by precept" principle applies to personal revelation as much as it does to other learning.

3. As much as God wants us to always ask him for advice, sometimes God just wants us to learn and practice by ourselves.

For point 1, one may ask why God would not want to reveal a certain piece of information at a particular time. I don't know, but it is worth remembering that God is playing the role of a teacher - it is not right to teach any information in any old order. Foundations must be developed. One should also remember that as the world's events unfold, day-by-day, year-by-year, God is executing a battle plan against Satan... like a giant game of chess. The timely dispension of information to the right individuals is probably an important part of winning the battle.

For point 2, one may also ask, why design human learning capacities so poorly? Well, training under limitations and heavy burdens allows individuals to develop specific faculties. Boxing with only a left arm for a while may help you to use that arm more effectively when both arms are available again. Learning/soul development under certain limitations must have value in light of us excercising/growing our faith and preparing for certain eternal responsibilities.

For pont 3, one may ask why would God want us to learn by ourselves instead of always just giving us the answer? Well, besides what I've said above, I'm sure if you had a son, then I'm sure you'd leave him to figure it out for himself sometimes too.

So Loren, nope - with the above in mind - The way history has unfolded, with men using their agency and considering hte above three points... I'm not at all surprised that their are many religions in the world. Many of those religions have something very special... many non-mormons have recieved revelations but I don't expect those revelations to always be "join the LDS church.

Did I miss anything?

Loren said...

I can see where you're coming form, but each new tangent we take only raises more unanswerable questions or returns us to ones that have not been dealt with satisfactorily (speaking for myself of course). I mean here is just one of the many reasons why if there is a god, it cannot possibly be the one described in the scriptures.

A kingdom divided against itself cannot stand according to Jesus. There are some members who take the soft one true church stance (salvation comes only through receiving the necessary ordinances, with as many exceptions as the rule 'i' before 'e' except after the 'c'). I take it you're in this camp, since your saying that it's possible that not all people receive the revelation to join the church. Which makes sense except that the we'll take care of their work in the millennium part, just seems like a formality then. since the thing that qualifies them as heaven bound candidates is that they thought and behaved in certain ways that were acceptable to god all except being baptized and the rest. Isn't it enough that these people were good? Do they really need secret handshakes to get into heaven, if they're already proven their worth to a degree. And secret is putting it a little strongly, they're all over the internet they're not that hard to find out. Yes I know the angels will know that people who look at youtube and try to sneak into the celestial kingdom shall not pass their stations, but just the fact that any ordinances exist at all and were issued by a supposedly supreme being that must be done no matter what, even if the person lived a good life, because there's some kind of magical force that is invoked which triggers the power of the atonement because someone is dipped in water just seems so arbitrary.

People will say well it had to be something (this is all assuming that there is a god, which we still haven't established, because it can't be established for sure). If god said Queenstown was mecca and that bungee jumping was the new baptism than so be it. And I'd still say, who is this god you speak of? I'd really like to meet him and ask him just what exactly was going through his head when he came up with this crazy plan? I mean how many people in the world are mormon, are active, are temple goers? Way less than 1% of the worlds population. You're the smartest man in the universe and that's the best you can do? Come on buddy get it together. And then he'd probably go old testament on my arse.

The sheer numbers are partly why I can't understand why the church has the gumption to claim exclusive authority. At best we're all groping in the dark for answers. At best again, if one were to insist there must be a god I could agree that there may be possibly be a deist god (if he is a non-interventionist this goes well with the you gotta let the kids learn for themselves approach, and also my if it doesn't give a fuck about us then why give a fuck about it approach) or a even gnostic god (look at the state of the world, maybe god is not good), but the monotheistic benevolent god of Judeo-Christianity that has bestowed all authority on a bunch of octogenarians in Utah who have done very little to show that they are privy to any kind of special guidance. I find that very hard to believe.

Anonymous said...

From a behavioural/social standpoint, ritual or ceremonial covenents have a great power on people's desires, loyalties and motivations, hence their use in every culture on earth.

From a more spiritual/eternal standpoint, although I still have a very limited understanding of the "saving ordinances", they do contain a great deal of meaning beyond their simplistic appearance. I strongly beleive that through experience and revelation... their eternal significance becomes apparent and through knowledge one becomes closer to God.

So I don't just think it's bureaucracy then. It really has practical value in the eternal realm.

I don't think this kind of speculatory stuff is what broke the camel's back for you tho Loren. I mean, I doubt people are gonna leave the church feeling decieved because they don't understand the purpose of ordinances or because the church population isn't high enough for their liking.. those are just afterthoughts.. Are you holding back on something bigger and more personal? Where are the roots?

This is Justin

Loren said...

With respect to the numbers problem and the significance of ordinances you haven't offered satisfactory answers, if any at all. This is not surprising. This is par for the course in the church. I don't mean to bring this up as a personal attack, I'm just saying that the church has a convenient way of dealing with difficult questions, which is to not address them at all. We're assured that one day we'll know all the answers if we just trust whoever's offering the advice. The problem is who are they trusting? Some one who told some one, who told some one, who told some one ad infinitum. Can we ever get to the source? Maybe there is no source, this conclusion would explain everything, and I mean everything. The church is just a man made organization with well meaning individuals who often make mistakes. This is the only possible answer that I've found that accounts for the church's doctrinal and policy changes, and dishonest behaviour throughout history.

To answer your question though, there's no one thing that categorically changed my mind about the truthfulness of the church, it was just a whole bunch of things that built up over time, but if I had to narrow it down to one thing (one thing that I can throw as many of my issues into at once) it would be the church lying about its foundational stories. I may have mentioned this before several times, but here it is again:

The Mormon Perspective: Joseph Smith is built up as a paragon of virtue.

Reality: His behaviour seems incredibly suspect, but anything which would point to this conclusion is white washed out of the church teaching manuals.

The church also strongly discourages you reading outside of the approved materials. If you trust that those running church have your best interests at heart than you're likely to heed their counsel.

Fortunately for me, at one point I got into a phase where I decided that I wanted to learn as much as I could about the early saints. I began to discover facts that I found disturbing. My initial reaction was to seek out answers and figure out scenarios as to why Joseph would do such and such and why the church had left out these points when telling his story.

I wanted the church to be true, I struggled for a very long time with this. Some of the initial seeds of doubt were sown on my mission, but things started to really snow ball in 2008. Eventually after long consideration I came to the conclusion that the church cannot possibly be true.

Why would they lie about their history? The most obvious answer is that they had something to hide. Well like Joseph Smith once said "the truth will cut its own way." Many good, productive individuals are leaving the church for similar reasons. You can't demand everything from a person, based on an extremely one sided view of reality and then be surprised that they're upset once they find out the truth (remember by the churches own definition it is guilty of lying). The chickens are coming home to roost.

Loren said...

going meta:

It's obvious that humans give more credence to information and facts that support their view of the world. So we will never see eye to eye on this. You've got your reality and I've got mine and I'm quite comfortable with that. This site is not an attempt to convince anyone to join me in my crusade against the wrongs I felt have been done to me. This is just a place for me to vent and write whatever else it is that I write. I pride myself on having an open mind though. I'm willing to consider new ideas, but that doesn't mean I accept them unconditionally. I find logic and evidence generally helps.

Loren said...

Hey Justin this comment made it to my inbox, but somehow vanished from The Blog

Justin Said...
"Well, I hope you find me more willing to answer difficult answers than most.

If you looked at the church membership stats in 1830, they looked a lot less than now. Not that much time has passed since then, but the growth is decent. The church is still quite young, especially compared to other religions. Despite that, I still don't see how you can equate the percentage of the worlds population with the truthfulness/falsehood of the chuch. Not many people accept it from the missionaries so it mustn't be true? I don't think so.

As for the source?
Elder Henry Eyring and Elder Cleon Skousen - Inspired Unity

"The church also strongly discourages you reading outside of the approved materials."
Well, I've never heard anybody at church to avoid such and such a book... although I have been told to read widely. But know I don't expect the gospel princples manual or the missionary discussions to incude information that put you off the church. However, if the questions are asked then the answers should be ready.

In which type of church books would you expect to find the disturbing facts about Joseph Smith's history? "

Well where mistakes have been made I expect the church to do what it requires of the members: to repent. But of course they'll never do that. They'll pass the buck on to the individual who is "offended". If you're supposedly a perfect organization, take responsibility or accountability. Now of course these guys probably don't even think that mistakes were made. It's perfectly acceptable that Joseph Smith slept with other peoples wives or with 14 year old girls, yep that sounds like what a man of god would do. He was involved in treasure digging and then used the same stone in a had trick to translate a book that has zero to no historical evidence to justify the claims he made about it. It casts doubt on the whole enterprise. You choose not to entertain those doubts. I beg to differ. But we still haven't dealt with the existence of god. And once again I say this is because we haven't found a reliable way to prove it yet and as long as that's the case I'll continue to do what I'm doing. Mormons will say they've found a way to put the age old question. Well, some people have tried there method and agreed, others have found it wanting. These are personal issues that come down to a personal form of truth, there's no universal answer, it's subjective. You're fighting a loosing battle here.

Loren said...

age old queston "to rest" ^ I hate how you can't edit comments

Anonymous said...

from Justin...

Excuse my hast in the last few responses. I missed a thing or two.

You wrote:
"I take it you're in this camp, since your saying that it's possible that not all people receive the revelation to join the church. Which makes sense except that the we'll take care of their work in the millennium part, just seems like a formality then. since the thing that qualifies them as heaven bound candidates is that they thought and behaved in certain ways that were acceptable to god all except being baptized and the rest. Isn't it enough that these people were good? Do they really need secret handshakes to get into heaven, if they're already proven their worth to a degree. "

If I'm a good man and I love my wife, then my faith will be shown in my specific words and actions. Now I do a lot of things that I swear are good at showing my love for her, but if those things are not what she values or recognises then she'll think I'm doing a sub-optimal job of things. (c'mon man, you know how it is...)

Not a perfect analogy of our relationship with God. But my point is, a relationship takes two in agreement and co-operation. The closer the agrement and co-operation, the closer the relationship. Entering a high realm of Heaven is a pretty solid relationship.

Now, in your comment you seem to have assumed that a "good person" necessarily wants to enter celestial glory. I don't think that is nesessarily the case, but assuming he(/she) does then why wouldn't he accept a saving ordinance (in this life or after)? If he wants to be that close in the relationship with God and know as God knows in his presence, then he/she will do those ordinances and anything else required. People end up basically where they are willing to go. If a person doesn't go to some place then it's because their condition isn't right for it (and they will probably be aware and acepting of that).

A lot of learning and progress will occur between mortal death and exaltation. That applies to people who are active faithful LDS and people who never even heard about the church in this life. Whatever a person does in this mortal probation though has tremendous significant in what they will become in the more eternal picture.

And remember, just because 1/3 of the host of heaven rejected the plan of salvation doesn't mean that if wasn't valid. Again, numbers don't nessarily count about how right something is. If they did then the world we live in now would be a much kinder and more peaceful place.

So, returning to my stance on God's existance. I don't see significant contradictions in people's subjective experiences of God. Though people with a highly 'fundamentalist' set of beliefs may do. Looking at people's various subjective experiences with God allows us (if open minded) to get a clearer picture of what/who God is. The various subjective experiences of God do not negate the possibility of an objectively real God. One message I do get from these people's direct experiences though is that God loves us.

Anonymous said...

Justin said...

Asking certain 'why' or 'how' questions about any topic (God or otherwise) eventually leads to an "I don't know answer".

However the number of answers to questions that a topic/concept can sustain, the more reasonable or rationally plausable it seems. At least to some people, how about you? I suppose that's why people get comfort from philosophy.

You raised the question of God's existance on this thread. Therefore, although personal knowledge of God will always be a subjective experience, I would like you to ask more questions about how reasonable it is to believe in God. Or follow up on questions that you beleive I haven't answered satisfactorily.

Loren said...

People get comfort from philosophy? you've gotta explain that comment. This is why we have so many born-again philosophers on death-row I guess.

Loren said...

OK obviously I don't find the answers offered to add plausibility to the existence of god or the divine origin of the church. I appreciate your willingness to grapple with difficult questions, but I'm just not a fan of the apologetic approach. Any semi-intelligent person can come up with a certain way of looking at facts that would help to make the existence of god look somewhat reasonable. But that's all apologetic is, mental gymnastics to help intelligent people not feel stupid for believing in unreasonable things. Now I'm not saying it's impossible for unreasonable (based on our current level of knowledge) things to happen or exist, but I'm saying they're far less likely to especially when evidence seems to be sorely lacking.

Let's look at the mormon church for instance. It seems like every chance where the church has had an opportunity to have its claims validated it has come up short:
> Wouldn't it be nice if we had access to the gold plates? It would put a lot of questions to rest. Convienently they were given back to "Moroni" (according some accounts the angel that visited Joseph was Nephi, just to make things nice and confusing). This is the evidence I'm talking about, give us something to go by. Why is seeing the plates a worthiness issue? Joseph didn't even look at them half the time when he was translating (more weird shit).
> On the records that we do have, the book of Abraham for example the translation is way off. When the scrolls showed up after it was thought they were destroyed in a fire initially, N Eldon Tanner was eager to vindicate Joseph by showing his translation was correct. Joseph was not correct.
> DNA evidence for the Book of Mormon does not support its claims (the church has moved on this one, changing the introduction to the BoM).
> There is no linguistic evidence to support that the inhabitants of the America's were ever influenced by the Jew's or Egyptian.
> There is no archaeological evidence to support the BoM's claims on the American continent. (If you go with the limited geography theory you still have to deal with the no horses, spears, weapons, roads, sign of massive wars, or the no linguistic evidence, and then we start getting into the fact that Joseph did not support the limited geography theory, and when a prophet is speaking as a prophet nonsense).
Anything we can test for does not seem to support the church and its claims. What is the most reasonable thing to conclude?

Loren said...

To continue. The church has been very questionable in its behavior over the years. If you want people to trust you, would you act in ways that make you seem untrustworthy? So Joseph participated in folk magic before he was "called" as a prophet. Own it, don't lie about what happened, say he stuck his head in a hat and translated the BoM that way, often without the aid of the plates. Joseph had multiple wives. Own it (even though he lied about it). The church even went so far as to change statements in the priesthood manual, the teachings of the prophet Brigham Young, to make it sound like he only had one wife. WTF? He's probably the most famous modern polygamist. There are statements from people like Boyd K Packer, where he says that "not everything that is true is useful" when discouraging a group of institute teachers from being completely candid about our history. That is unacceptable from an organisation that expects nothing but completely honesty from its members. When you act suspect, this only naturally arouses suspicion. Where mistakes are made apologize.

Loren said...

as for the god question. There's no truly compelling evidence to show that there is a personal god out there somewhere. If there is, I'd like to know about it. Other peoples subjective experience is not evidence for me obviously. Going by what we can tell objectively it doesn't seem likely.

Anonymous said...

Well you could try The Consolations of Philosophy by Alain de Botton.

Isn't philosophy "Mental gymnastics to help intelligent people not feel stupid.."? to use your words. So it at least makes apologists feel better then (and I would put many anti-mormons in the apologist category too).

Mormonism aside, on God's existance:
"...Going by what we can tell objectively it doesn't seem likely." Again I'll refer you to this website, whose people think that it's very reasonable to conclude that God does exist when the scientific evidence is looked at.
After you take a solid look through it then can get back to me on it.

As for the other stuff you raised... I'll prolly get back to you in the weekend.

Anonymous said...

Justin said:

BTW (crap, I can't leave this computer), in my 10 years in church (to my memory) nobody ever talked to/around me about how the Book of Mormon was transated except that "it was by the power of God", as for what the translation looked like... "seer stone(s) was used" something about urim and thummim (synonomous with seer stone), and at one fire side, he may have "looked into a hat".... and by all witness accounts it was all done within 2 months (heck the Quran took more than 20 years).

We've talked about the hat and folk magic thing in the past (worth a reread), and it's com up again so I'll assume it bothers you. Why exactly does it bother you? I just find it kind of cool and amusing. Sorry I'm jumping ahead of the discussion a bit.

(sorry for the anonomous posts... it has something to do with me being in Korea and not being able to read Korean)

Loren said...

I think we're talking about very different forms of consolation here. One pre-modern (more desperate in general), the other modern and in some cases post-modern (more resigned in general). That dude came and guest lectured at uni when I was there. I dismissed his thoughts as the misguided philosophies of men, oh to be young and naive again.

"Isn't philosophy 'Mental gymnastics to help intelligent people not feel stupid." Interesting theory, but the only thing intelligent people need to do to not feel stupid, is hang around stupid people for a while. Not sure what you're getting at here: Philosophy helps you not feel stupid about not believing stupid things?

I'll stop being silly for a second. We are coming from very different places here. Perhaps you misread my intent. I am not espousing any grand narrative , except the one that says all grand narratives are dead (I am aware of the paradox). I don't champion philosophy, or religion, or science as the final answer. I am well aware that there maybe no final answer. Each in their own way however may help us edge closer toward a better approximation of what that answer may look like.

I am just puzzled by people who claim they have arrived at some universal final Truth about the way things are, with very little evidence (and I think you and I have very different definitions for what that means. The site you keep recommending does not provide evidence for god's existence, and not even the god you believe in keep in mind, it instead provides an apologetic frame-work to reconcile biblical Christianity with modern scientific knowledge) to back it up. I assure you they will play the personal experience card every time.

If you believe in a god, fine, the how's and why's of how and why people arrive at their personal world views is extremely complicated. Logic is a factor, emotion is a factor, among myriads of others. Knowledge is a delicate thing, and ultimately may be entirely subjective at least in the way we obtain it. One thing I can say is that "the only thing I know is that I know nothing."

As for the god question. I have led us on a wild goose chase to be sure. I keep demanding evidence, because it seems obvious by now (the 21st century) that there is none forthcoming. The question itself is misguided anyway. Once you prove god (which is impossible outside of god him her or itself appearing to you or me, which would fall under the subjective umbrella), you then have to prove what god. There are billions to choose from. Given the state of the world the vengeful, petty, and cruel god of the old testament may well exist, but that's just me projecting. I can't say for sure either way.

Loren said...

"It was translated by the gift and power of god." Is talking around the issue (remember our definition for lying from gospel principles). One person mentioned a hat may have been involved in 10 years? Wow. Gotta love how forth coming those Mormons are with their history. I don't blame the general membership for this, I'd be willing to bet (and I turning down my hyperbole dial for once here) that 80% of the members don't know about the hat and stone.

In my 30 years in the church I never heard about it once. I found out about it on the internet. All the pictures I ever saw depicted the translation in the old there was a curtain between Joseph and the scribe way. With Joseph looking at the plates, lol.

Of course the number of people who know about how it was done according to the historical record is increasing, with pop-culture lending an assist (see, south park: all about the mormons episode) and the internet and so forth.

Now let's be clear, I don't care how the plates were quote unquote translated. I think the real story is far more fascinating than the whitewashed one, but I really care about is why the church lied about how it was done. What's the rational here people?

My conclusion is that either they're embarrassed about hillbilly hoodoo being part of their origin or they're concerned that people will draw a line between Joseph's gold digging (a practice that got him in trouble with the law) and his translation process (both of which used the same methodology) and think something dodgy is going on here.

So to brake it down further. If the latter is a possibility. Than either folk magic is real (another unsubstantiated claim) and god decided to use an apostate practice to help translate (we really need a different word for this) the plates. Or Joseph Smith was a huckster when gold digging, and continued his skulduggery with regard to the bringing forth of the BoM (what's the most likely conclusion). Now these are not idiots we're dealing with here. The leadership had to know that some people would look at the correlation here and see that in a certain light it would not reflect well on Joseph. So they lied, fudged the facts, withheld information by silence, whatever it's all lying.

As Nietzsche once said “I'm not upset that you lied to me, I'm upset that from now on I can't believe you” I wanted to believe the church was true. If some one lies to you for 30 years, is it reasonable to conclude that they are trustworthy? It casts doubt on everything. Then a confluence of other details they neglected to share come out. This only proves to unhinge my confidence.

Anonymous said...

Justin said...

" I assure you they will play the personal experience card every time."
Loren I hate refering you to evangelical christian site for a number of reasons... but I did find many of their articals and talks fascinating. A funny thing is that those guys (this was about 5 years ago) actually did a part on their show about how mormons incorrectly come to a conclusion of their religions truth based on feelings. Well, I diagree with them on a number of points of course but they claimed to base a great deal of their faith on reason.

Anyway, in terms of evidence that a god exists we can only turn to philisophy and scientific data (based on current understanding) to see if we can make a reasonable conclusion that God exists. God's fingerprints if you like.

When some data or phenomenon exists that cannot be explained by currently known natural/unintelligent processes then I think it's sometimes reasonable to say that 'God' or some intelligence is responsible.

A recent exploration of this evidence would be
Signature in the Cell: DNA and the Evidence for Intelligent Design by Stephen C. Meyer

Critics will say, oh that's just the 'god of the gaps' way of thinking, but they are already faithfully supposing that some form of natural exaplaination will some day be available.

When dealing with evidence (rather than proof)... If we make our reasonable conclusions based on the evidence that we have available today it's valid to say that God's existance IS possible.

Not everybody cares about the hows and whys of some aspects to our existance (as I found out when I asked Andrew S if he had any interest in why the perception of free will exists), but if we do (compared to all other explanations available), then many people will find that a gods existance is the most rational explanation on the menu... I in fact find it completely convincing.

However, as you said, the next issue would be what kind of god that god/designer. At that point you have to rely on spiritual witness and/or investigate specific religions... is now the time to move onto the Book of Mormon?

Anonymous said...

'"It was translated by the gift and power of god." Is talking around the issue.'

No Loren it's not really, because those words from Joseph Smith are almost all we've got from him on how it was done.

There really isn't much out there on how the translation was done according to others either. Those witness reports that do exist are not in clear agreement with each other.

Notice that is an Ensign article, yet it includes a 'looking into a hat' account. Yeah, the church must have made a mistake to unleash that one of their unsuspecting masses.

You wrote:
"All the pictures I ever saw depicted the translation in the old there was a curtain between Joseph and the scribe way. With Joseph looking at the plates, lol."
Um so, based on the witness accounts and lack of details, why is this a lie?

I think that Joseph Smith didn't always use the same method. It's possible that he did use a hat sometimes. If people ASK me or the relevant conversation crops up, then I'm OK to tell people that that is one possible method he used (at keast some of the time), but I don't think that means that the church needs to change its illustration of Joseph Smith looking at some plates to him looking into a hat (it doesn't contradict the evidence available). Neither do I think it's relevent to put "According to some accounts he looked into a hat" in the Gospel Principals manual or whatever. Why the heck would they? It's got nothing to do with the lesson and its not even well confirmed history.

The official church channels present next to nothing, and based on the amount of real evidence, that's the way it should be.

As for people being shocked out of their testimony by the prospect of a hat being used... they previosuly would have to have drawn a lot imaginary lines between the concrete dots to create a picture of what the Book of Mormon Translation would have been like... they would have had to have used their imagination beyond what information the offical church channels present (next to nothing). People shouldn't form bubbles of how things should be like that when real knowledge is lacking.

These people needn't blame the church, rather they should blame their own wild imaginations that inevitably leads to a bursting of the bubble.

Anonymous said...

How much to tell?

Well, it's more like how to tell, to who, when, how and for what purpose.

I would start with the assumption that the church is true.

Three things to consider are:
1. What's the audience (their strength of testimony or faith, also their underlying culteral morals ad sensitivies)

2. Can potentially troubling item of information be explained in a way that is transparent, yet basically faith promoting.

3. How relevant the information is to the learning goal of the lesson/talk/essay.. (and the 3 fold mission of the church)

Loren said...

Fascinating. I need to be clear on something before we proceed too far. Are you saying that the faith exercised in finding natural explanations for natural phenomena, is on par with the type of faith that insists that there is a very specific god out there, regardless of evidence? Wow, because that would defy common sense on so many levels.

The scientific method favors the simplest explanation for things, while considering the widest number of facts possible. Positing a creator before the big bang say, adds an extra layer of complexity which is not justified by the facts that we have. If we ignore the facts and insist on a god anyway, than we are obliged to find an explanation for its existence and so on. The rabbit hole just gets deeper, deeper.

So given what we can tell about the world on the scientific front we cannot establish the existence of god (no surprise here). So, have we really earned our movement on to the BoM? When the big question has not been answered and as far as we can tell may never be answered until we're dead?

We are both pedaling our own prejudices, but one of them is supported by the dominant thread of contemporary human thought, while the other remains only a possibility, but a possibility that mind you is, as likely as the existence of fairies and unicorns and flying teapots (all of which can also neither be proven or unproven).

The fundamental tenet of religion is faith in an unprovable entity. The fundamental tenets of science are (faith in) reason and logic. Science is not the be all and end all obviously, but it has this nice feature, where if new facts are discovered or new theories explain all the facts better than we go with the new theory and or facts. There are no known facts (anecdotes don't count) that cry out for the conclusion that a god must unquestionably exist. When this changes I will consider changing my position on the matter.

Move on to the BoM if you must and let the circular reasoning begin...

Loren said...

Ah yes blaming the victim, I've been waiting for this creature to rear it's ugly head. Along with "he was speaking as a man and not a prophet" and "it's not pertinent to our salvation" it stands as one of my favorite weapons in the apologists arsenal.

Here is why I find apologetics so utterly uncompelling: First half the time I can think of equal if not better explanations for the questions at hand myself (the above are some of the most miserable cop-outs that I can imagine).

Second, apologists specifically for our church are very reluctant to ever admit any wrong doing on the part of the church, while at the same time insisting that we should not expect our leaders to be flawless. This is reasonable, except that this implies that mistakes will be made from time to time, and they are . The problem is that the church rarely claims responsibility for the mistakes. I guess being an apologist means never having to say that you're sorry.

Third, If one were to go the apologist route the only outcome that I can see that makes sense is using it as a means to return to the idea that faith is fundamental. So I guess with this point I only really have a problem with how the apologetic approach is deployed. It's a means to an end, not an end in itself.

To make myself clear. All apologetic responses should begin with the caveat... I don't know, I don't presume to know the mind of god, but here's one way you could look at, remember though at the end of the day these things are a matter of faith.

The only reason why I engage in these types of discussions is because I look forward to the day when I can be "shocked" by an admission of not knowing on the part of a defender of the faith. The justifications for why this or that happened no longer interest me. What is presented are opinions not answers usually, and I have enough opinions of my own to worry about without the added concern ones that are utterly foreign to my conception of the world. If you'd caught me about 3 years ago when I thought there was some value in the apologetic project I think we could have had a more congenial dialogue, as it stands now I think apologetics is full of shit, no more or less so than anything else, but it is what is.


Loren said...

Furthermore, apologetics tends toward over compartmentalization. Examining only one issue at a time and not considering at all what the entire body of evidence may point toward (one thing at a time is fair enough I suppose, but sometimes you've got to look at the forest as well as the trees).

For arguments sake let's go with the hat thing, since we're already there. Perhaps I have failed to adequately explain myself, so I will attempt yet again...

I do not give a fuck about how Joseph purportedly translated the plates that he didn't look at while he was "translating". What interests me is why the church feels so reluctant to share tidbits like this and other similar gems in it's correlated version of church history.

By the way "Those witness reports that do exist are not in clear agreement with each other." Does not exactly help your case, so let me help you. I'm no historian, but the accounts of the translation process that do exist that were recorded closest to the time of the translation favour the stone in a hat story. Which in a historical context gives them precedence, the account that LDS artists tend to favour, entered the discussion much later. So, why not own it, it's our history, give us some pictures of Joseph dipping his head into a hat, what are they afraid of why all the prevaricating?

But to return to my overall point, if we broaden our scope and consider other aspects of the BoM as you seem want to do, questions arise about Joseph's ability to translate at all.

Now we don't have the plates obviously, so what can we go by? Well there's the Book of Abraham, the translation of which seems to be almost entirely fraudulent. Then there's the kinderhook plates, a hoax that Joseph Smith fell for and "translated" part of according to The Comprehensive History of the Church. Almost every time there's something significant that we can test for (as I detailed in an earlier comment e.g. linguistics, archaeology, DNA, etc) the church seems to come up short. It appears that Joseph's translation skills were wanting to say the least, should I then conclude that the BoM is the word of God?

Now let's return to the hat and ensure that the redundancy of my repetitions is fully exhausted. The thing that concerns me about the hat is that Joseph used the same trick to in his treasure digging days (and never found any treasure). I think the chicken shit leadership also recognize this as a concern given there willingness to avoid mentioning it as often as possible (Yes, I'm already well aware of the 1 obscure ensign article mentioning the hat, among the thousands that have been printed. Well done brethren!).

So as I look at the mounting evidence I see precious little that supports the church's claims. Now J. Reuben Clark once said: If we have the truth it cannot be harmed, by investigation. If we have not the truth it ought to be harmed. With that in mind, I think my ultimate question would be. If you believe your shit leaders of the church, why have you white washed our history, and recommend that we learn about the church through only church approved channels? Is the truth really so fragile?

You see when people act suspect it arouses suspicion. It's there all the time throughout history, the cover up is always worse than what actually happened. Come clean you old farts, and by the way there's this newfangled thing called the internet, you can't hide anymore.

Anonymous said...

Justin wrote:
Loren, the science is based upon collection and measurement of data. True Science ends after that however, when we attempt to draw reasonable conclusions from the data.

As I'm sure you know, there is nothing particularly scientific about our discussion except for the data that we are relying on to draw our conclusions.

You wrote:
"but a possibility that mind you is, as likely as the existence of fairies and unicorns and flying teapots (all of which can also neither be proven or unproven."

Loren, I'm running on the "all things denote their is a God" train of thought. The views that natural things are designed. fairies and unicorns are irrelevant.. unless you want to assign the roles of god or designer to them. Natural objects consist of natural particles but how they and those particles came to be arranged in such a way seems to be designed. The scientific evidence available allows one to make such a conclusion with (as far as I can tell) sound logic.

AS earlier stated, I don't claim this as proof. Rather one rational basis for a believer in God to stand on. Neither does it supercede an individual's direct spiritual witness of God's existance when one exists. The 'by design' interpretation of the data gives many (including myself (in the past), reason to take leaps of faith and build a personal testimony and relatinship with God).

Of course we can ask who created 'god/God' but that's outside the scope of the discussion which, I think, is "does god/God exist?"

"Are you saying that the faith exercised in finding natural explanations for natural phenomena, is on par with the type of faith that insists that there is a very specific god out there, regardless of evidence?"
No Loren, I'm not. I'm saying that when all of the scientific evidence available is looked at, it is possible to make a conclusion that it was put in place by a God/god/designer, rather than by material naturalistic (unintelligent) means.
offers some interesting reading, for anyone interested.

Anonymous said...

Justin Said...

Loren wrote:
"Ah yes blaming the victim, I've been waiting for this creature to rear it's ugly head."
Forgive the last post, it wasn't the best of responses and I was impatient at the time.

Actually though, I remember the times when I have had negative personal feelings about this or that topic/new discovery but it was actually because of my overly simplistic ways of seeing things or my unfounded preconceptions. I only made that comment because it has been true in my own case, so I assume it's true for at some others too.

I think one of the reasons why I'm still faithful and active in the church is because of 'early innoculation'. By the time I was baptised I already knew some of the 'strange' stuff about the church by the time I was being baptised (and beleive me... just a story of finding gold plates in the ground is strange for someone who hasn't grown up in the church). Over next year or so I came across other strange things. I slugged through it, found ways of viewing it and survived perhaps partly because I didn't have any chance to build up too strong a falsely assumed view of what the church is. I innoculated myself early on.

Over ten years later, I'm sometimes still forced to remodel my view of the chruch, God, and my relationship wth God. But my testimony of the basics is probably stronger than ever.

I think another thing that prevented me from being dissapointed is that I didn't grow up in an LDS culturely inclined environment. When I joined the church I already had a bunch of ideas in my world view that come from non-LDS related sources. So I molded the LDS doctrines and concepts to that world view. Existance itself seemed strange to me so a strange thing within a strange church could be reconciled over time with careful study and thought.

I've never attended much in the way of Institute classes and other activities... never even tried to date a church member and for the first nine years I never even read the Ensign (but I consider it a blessing to read it now)... I just read the sciptures and attended Sunday meetings... and spent and embarrassingly large number of hours on the internet and pen and pad philosophy.

I've never seen the church as responsible for doing apologetics stuff (that's not in the 3 fold mission), I never turned to any one at church to answer the tough questions (I always turned online or my own study). And Loren until I talked to you I never even carefully considered the idea that the church white washes it's presentation of history. Heck I have hardly even noticed what the church's presentation of history actually is.

I never thought about it until now, but maybe I actually do see a lot of things differently to most other church members.


Anonymous said...

But now that I think of it, people in the 70 or 12 should take an open but brave attitude of church history like B.H. Roberts and, more recently, Richard L. Bushman ( I know, he's not in the 70 or anything). Personally I don't know the channels where people will find this stuff once it it available. Maybe in the Ensign or the occasional conference talk... the History of the Church book series?

Well sometimes it does already show up in the Ensign (e.g. Mountain Meadows massacre in the 2007). But really I think it can only be presented mainstream in response to the number of people that actually wanna hear about it. The internet means that more people wanna hear about it, and ask to hear about it, so eventually we will start to hear more about it.

So I'll meet you halfway Loren. I think that their have been some in the Church authority who have disliked the research into historical facts that are stange or awkard my modern perspective, but I don't think the church does much whitewashing. ( I get the sense that critics would only stop accusing the church of whitewashing if the leaders all got up at general conference and spent the weekend announcing that the church is false.)

I read an article saying the church leadership is now beng more encouraging about historical research now than it was in the 1970s, 80s and 90s.

As for the picture of the BoM translation though - a picture of a head in a hat fails in terms of visual communication to the average investigating reader. No problem putting it in a history book though.

As the thing about Brigham Young's Quotes being edited... I haven't seen it. But we don't practice polygamy today so I suppose it's mention isn't relevant to teaching the Priesthood... hence it's ommision. I do remember seeing brief mention of polygamy in the Joseph F. Smith 'teachings of the presidents' book back in 2001.

As for connecting 'Money digging' so the seer stone in a hat thing... I think it's far more obvious to connect money digging to digging up a book of gold plates.

You can make sceptical interpretation of such topics, but that's not the only interpretation possible.

Anonymous said...

As for "old farts" coming clean, I don't know the real picture, but I don't think many of them are actually aware of the finer points of LDS history, particularly Joseph Smith. That's largely in the realm of academics. A lot of the church history stuff has only been found recently and is still being found.

This 6 part lecture is kinda interesting:
The Impact of Mormon Critics on LDS Scholarship

Loren said...

I definitely think that your experience is not the typical type of thing that someone goes through when growing up in Mormonism. I think some of the more difficult issues should be put into wider circulation, so everyone has the chance to be inoculated as you were. With guys like Bushman publishing Rough Stone Rolling, I think things could be moving in the right direction hopefully.

Thanks for the level headed tone of your responses. I wish I could apologize for mine, but I'd be lying. I'm not there yet. I'm still extremely pissed off. I didn't realize how much, but it's definitely there. Just hope you know the anger isn't directed at you personally.

As for the whole question of god's existence... Since the best thing that I can come up with (that makes sense to me) is that we can't really tell for sure, what's really important to me now is focusing on other questions surrounding that question (shout out to the v-log brothers). Why is this question so important to us, and people throughout history. Probably the one that concerns me the most is how should we (or more specifically, I) live? Which is also closely related.

Anonymous said...

From this discussion I ask why my so-called innoculation did not 'kill' me in terms of being faithful. My answer would be:

1. I have wanted to live in a universe where a God exists that cares, where life can be eternal. That helps me to interpret things in a faith promoting way. I've wanted the church to be true.

2. I have experienced the church and its scriptures as a source of tremendous wisdom, goodness and rightness... the sum of it's parts makes the world a better place.

3. I have witnessed, thought of and remembered at least as much points for the church as I have against it. I put myself in faithful environments and don't stray to far from them.

If any of the three had been missing I'm sure I would have gone another way.

Loren said...

My comments on your points...

1. I think desire definitely makes a difference. We all filter things through our own biases. I also wanted the church to be true (here we differ perhaps ever so slightly, it's almost as if I placed the church's authority higher on my priority list then the existence of God, although this was not evident to me at the time. The same goes for Joseph Smith as superman, see: the Book of Mormon Link, a sort of a syllogism about the BoM's authenticity and Joseph's prophetic call). When the internet rescued me from the "correlated" whitewashed version of church history and I think I've come to realize that when people deny that the church approaches its history this way, well that pisses me off more than anything in the world, but I digress, I started to question everything about what I apparently knew. Now as much as a lot of post/uncorrelated Mormons harp on about nuance and such, I still on many issues see things in black and white. Many leaders insist that either it's all true or the greatest fraud to ever be perpetuated. The church insists that we are completely honest with our leaders and in our dealings, but the leaders are not completely honest with us. So I don't put much stock in what they say anymore, and I'm at a place where I don't think you need a personal god, although it's a perfectly acceptable option, to live a moral or meaningful life. There is this strange paradox, where if someone thinks they have the truth, then somehow it's OK if they lie to protect it. Bullshit. Can you tell that I'm still angry?

2. Personally I think that all the religious traditions offer basically the same set of ethical principles to live by, which is always some variation on the golden rule. Unfortunately many traditions forget this when dealing with so called infidels.

3. I think the church is built on an extremely shaky foundation. For reasons that I have mentioned ad nauseam: Joseph can't translate, contradictory doctrines throughout it's history, polyandry/polygamy, racism, sexism, general prejudice when it seems to come to any issue involving social justice, habitual lying that began with Joseph and continues through till today, the church is run like a corporation more than anything (something that I think would make Jesus proud) and on and on. Now there's no doubt the church does some good in the world, but I think I can do my part for society without aligning myself with an institution that I find reprehensible. As I see things now, to be fully at peace with myself I have to come to terms with the church, and work through how I feel I have been wronged. One day maybe...

Anonymous said...

Actually, Joseph Smith sure could translate. Best to start with the Book of Mormon Though (at least if it's a discussion with me).

Royal Skousen's work first comes to mind. He says that the word 'transmit' is more meaningful to us than the word 'translate' when talking about Joseph Smith's work.

I have to admit, that it takes patience to read this stuff, but it is improessive to me.

Loren said...

Joseph could only translate if you change the meaning of the word translate, which Skousen wisely concedes (but this seems like cheating, it's like me saying I can fly, if I define flying as me being able to walk). For this reason we can't say that Joseph was able to translate, call it transmission or whatever, but it's definitely not translation.

I'm not sure why you don't want to address the Book of Abraham stuff either. I mean this is a clear cut case of showing that Joseph can't translate at all, sure the faithful will probably cry "transmission", but once again this is incredibly suspect. I mean Once the papyri were rediscovered N. Eldon Tanner on behalf of the church sent them away to be translated (in the normal sense of the word) to vindicate Joseph. He and I'm sure many of the brethren were disappointed by the result.

Here's a link which sums up my current feelings about Joseph overall (although it's a little more kind than I might be)

Anonymous said...

Justin said...

To be concise, I'm yet to hear a cohesive theory as to how Joseph Smith produced the Book of Mormon (and even the Pearl of Great Price) without supernatural help.

When I hear theories, the sum strikes me as far greater that its parts. For example:

(sorry, wish I knew how to do links)

The Book Of Abraham stuff is something I've never really gotten around to sinking my teeth into. But I've never felt much need to, the text itself impresses me and I'm quite OK with the idea of some from of transmission.

And I suppose that's a key point of departure in our thinking.

A decent summary here:

Diane Tingen said...

Wow, I should have come here to read this post and its many comments before now. There are many things I want to comment on, but I'll start with Justin's list from his second comments to this blog entry. He stated:

I've asked before, but what are the bare neseccities for the church to be true? Here's what I think they are:
1. The first vision was as real as described by Joseph Smith.
2. The Book of Mormon is true as far as it is translated (I prefer the word 'transmitted') correctly (along with the other canonised scripture).
2. A body of authority was genuinely established by God and his agents - Priesthood Keys
3. Those keys are all still held within the body of authority to this day. (an apostasy has not occured).

IMO, if this is the criteria for the church to be true, it fails on all 4 points. The fact that there are at least 9 versions of the First Vision, and that the "official version" didn't even get written down until 1838, which was 18 years after the vision purportedly took place, is a huge problem. When the 1838 was written down, it was during a time when the church was losing membership after the Kirtland Safety Society Anti-Banking Company fiasco and the excommunications of Oliver Cowdery and the Whitmer Brothers. the timing of this "glorified" version of the First Vision was right in the midst of all this hubbub - and it is the first time that Joseph Smith said that he had seen Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ as two separate personages. The other versions had said things like heavenly messengers, angels, and the like, but had not gone so far as to say that he had actually seen God the father and his son, Jesus Christ. To me, that is very telling.

And as far as your first #2 is concerned, the wording you used is the wording for the Bible from Article of Faith #8: "We believe the Bible to be the Word of God as far as it is translated correctly; we also believe the Book of Mormon to be the Word of God." No caveat as far as the Book of Mormon goes. The Mormon Church believes that the Book of Mormon is the most perfect book on the face of the earth. And yet, it has had over 3,900 changes made to it since it was published in 1830. How is that a perfect book?

And the last two items on your list fall immediately if the first two fall.

Some comments were made about the Book of Abraham later on in your comments, and I will address that aspect of Mormonism a little later. Right now, I need to get back to work...

Loren said...

Dianne those are both really good points. In my mind if you pile up all the facts and paint a picture the most logical conclusion you can come to is that Joseph was a fraud (but what a fraud). People who see things otherwise tend to start from the position that the church is already true and work from there. I prefer (these days) to start with as few preconceptions as possible. Let the truth lead us wherever. But maybe I'm biased.

Anonymous said...

Justin Said...

Regarding the First Vision Stories:
When I consider the multiple accounts I have given different people at different times of my own personal experiences in life, I'm not surprised that multiple versions of the First Vision exist.
A memory changes each time we revisit it, even though it's core essentially remains the same. In similar terms, when we read a book, that same book may read very differently when we go back to it a few years later.

From a sceptical standpoint, you present some information to add weight to the motivation behind the first vision changes. However some have added information from a believing standpoint:

pt 3 Revised or Unaltered? Joseph Smith's Foundational Story

pt 4 Revised or Unaltered? Joseph Smith's Foundational Story

As for changes to the Book of Mormon's and Bible's changes... I suggest you first read The Book of Mormon: The Earliest Text, Prof. Royal Skousen (Editor), then we can talk seriously. However, a short summary from a beleiver's standpoint can be viewed here: