Finding the truth

June 6, 2008
By

Joseph Smith has always been surrounded by stories, rumors and narratives. Those who had heard of the Book of Mormon would ask him how they should determine the truth. This was especially so since he freely told people that he was not perfect, but just like them.

Brigham Young’s favorite rhetorical style embraced hyperbole (common for his time). He also enjoyed doctrinal speculation based on his reckoning or logic. Several times he was braced by those who wanted him to be their sole light.

The responses both men made are ones we should remember.

Joseph Smith told people not to rely on him, but instead to read the Book of Mormon and pray about it. He told them to deal directly with God, the source of all truth.

Brigham Young told those who wanted him as their sole guiding light that they would fail if they did that. He gave clear sermons that relying on men would guide one straight to hell and that what the Saints needed to do was to seek the Spirit and draw close to God to learn what they really needed. I would note that repeating this advice was the topic of the first devotional I remember hearing at BYU when I went there in the early 70s.

As for leaders being as useful as scripture, he also reminded people that the scripture included the apocrypha and was laced with translation and other errors.  The Old Testament doesn’t even agree with itself over dates and times, in the New Testament, Paul can’t remember if those with him saw a light and did not hear the voice or heard the voice but did not see the light.

Until Christ returns we will always have questions. Our leaders will always be frail and fallible humans, limited by the context and language they have. We will always go astray if rely only on logic and personality, we will always find safety in seeking God directly and embracing the Spirit.

That is the core of the lesson I would share if I were looking at a way to teach inoculation. There are always stories, always narratives. Some are true, some are false, some are misleading and some are irrelevant. But, if our connection is to God and Christ, with the Spirit, then the stories and narratives are merely stories of God dealing with us through humans, nothing more, and certainly nothing less.

But those humans are only tools that God uses. Jesus Christ is the foundation and cornerstone of our faith, and the real key to the truth. It is Christ’s Church, the Church of Jesus Christ, first and always, that we belong to, not the church of Moses or any other man.

That is the key that brings us safely home, anything else can lead us astray.

  • James

    Here are some quotes hopefully appropriate from past presidents and apostles on finding the truth and blindly following their council.

    President Joseph F. Smith said, “We talk of obedience, but do we require any man or woman to ignorantly obey the counsels that are given? Do the First Presidency require it? No, never.” (Journal of Discources (JD) 16:248)

    Apostle Charles W. Penrose, who would later serve as counselor to President Smith, declared: “President Wilford Woodruff is a man of wisdom and experience, and we respect him, but we do not believe his personal views or utterances are revelations from God; and when ‘Thus saith the Lord’, comes from him, the saints investigate it: they do not shut their eyes and take it down like a pill.” (Millennial Star 54:191)

    “And none are required to tamely and blindly submit to a man because he has a portion of the priesthood. We have heard men who hold the priesthood remark, that they would do anything they were told to do by those who presided over them, if they knew it was wrong; but such obedience as this is worse than folly to us; it is slavery in the extreme; and the man who would thus willingly degrade himself should not claim a rank among intelligent beings, until he turns from his folly. A man of God… would despise the idea. Others, in the extreme exercise of their almighty authority have taught that such obedience was necessary, and that no matter what the saints were told to do by their presidents, they should do it without asking any questions. When Elders of Israel will so far indulge in these extreme notions of obedience as to teach them to the people, it is generally because they have it in their minds to do wrong themselves.” (Millennial Star, vol.14 #38, pp. 593-95)

    Brigham Young said:

    “What a pity it would be, if we were led by one man to utter destruction! Are you afraid of this? I am more afraid that this people have so much confidence in their leaders that they will not inquire for themselves of God whether they are led by him. I am fearful they settle down in a state of blind self-security, trusting their eternal destiny in the hands of their leaders with a reckless confidence that in itself would thwart the purposes of God in their salvation, and weaken the influence they could give to their leaders, did they know for themselves, by the revelations of Jesus, that they are led in the right way. Let every man and woman know, themselves, whether their leaders are walking in the path the Lord dictates, or not. This has been my exhortation continually.” (JD 9:150)

    “How easy it would be for your leaders to lead you to destruction, unless you actually know the mind and will of the spirit yourselves.” (JD 4:368)

    “I do not wish any Latter-day Saint in this world, nor in heaven, to be satisfied with anything I do, unless the Spirit of the Lord Jesus Christ, the spirit of revelation, makes them satisfied…Suppose that the people were heedless, that they manifested no concern with regard to the things of the kingdom of God, but threw the whole burden upon the leaders of the people, saying, ‘If the brethren who take charge of matters are satisfied, we are,’ this is not pleasing in the sight of the Lord.” (JD 3:45)

    “…Now those men, or those women, who know no more about the power of God, and the influences of the Holy Spirit, than to be led entirely by another person, suspending their own understanding, and pinning their faith upon another’s sleeve, will never be capable of entering into the celestial glory, to be crowned as they anticipate; they will never be capable of becoming Gods. They cannot rule themselves, to say nothing of ruling others, but they must be dictated to in every trifle, like a child. They cannot control themselves in the least, but James, Peter, or somebody else must control them. They never can become Gods, nor be crowned as rulers with glory, immortality, and eternal lives. They never can hold sceptres of glory, majesty, and power in the celestial kingdom. Who will? Those who are valiant and inspired with the true independence of heaven, who will go forth boldly in the service of their God, leaving others to do as they please, determined to do right, though all mankind besides should take the opposite course. Will this apply to any of you? Your own hearts can answer.” (JD 1:312)

    “President Joseph Smith read the 14th chapter of Ezekiel [see, for example, verses 9-10: 'If the prophet be deceived when he hath spoken a thing...the punishment of the prophet shall be even as the punishment of him that seeketh unto him.']…said the Lord had declared by the Prophet [Ezekiel], that the people should each one stand for himself, and depend on no man or men in that state of corruption of the Jewish church — that righteous persons could only deliver their own souls — applied it to the present state [1842] of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints — said if the people departed from the Lord, they must fall — that they were depending on the Prophet, hence were darkened in their minds, in consequence of neglecting the duties devolving upon themselves…” (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith pp. 237-38)

    George Q. Cannon, Counselor to three Church Presidents, expressed it thus: “Do not, brethren, put your trust in man though he be a bishop, an apostle, or a president. If you do, they will fail you at some time or place; they will do wrong or seem to, and your support be gone;” (Millennial Star 53:658-59, quoted in Gospel Truth, 1:319

  • John Nilsson

    Stephen,

    This advice of yours seems so simple. So why is it so hard to implement?

  • Jeff Spector

    Stephen,

    You have said it so well. Why do members want leaders to tell them what to do and then complain when they do?

  • SteveS

    I’m a librarian, and I spend most of my days cataloging books and stuff, which means describing the item in such a way that it can be found again by library users. In order for the databases that store and query the information about library materials to do their job effectively, there needs to be a fair amount of normalization. But librarians have concentrated so long on figuring out the correct way to describe an item that they have grown the number of rules regulating the activity of cataloging to seriously unwieldy proportions. And they have demanded this. Why? because every item that the library buys is unique from other items in the library’s collection, and often has some feature that defies straightforward description using basic cataloging rules. Unsure of what to do, librarians have clamored for rules for minutiae, rules for rules, interpretations of rules, applications of rules for special situations, etc. Efforts to reform the cataloging rules have been met with much resistance from some parties who don’t want things to be simpler and more nebulous, and from others who want simplicity, but not in the way the reformers want to give it.

    While catalogers can be a particularly nit-picky, anal-retentive flavor of librarian, I think that to a certain extent it’s natural for humans to want to be told what to do., Also, I’ve found that the more complex the process, the more direction they want to have. Getting into heaven in LDS theology is complex in that it requires one to navigate this world and “endure to the end”. With all that time to screw things up, lots of people want others to tell them the way that they can take that will get them to their destination in one piece. This may be one piece of the puzzle.

  • Me

    “Joseph Smith told people not to rely on him, but instead to read the Book of Mormon and pray about it.”

    What particular sources did you have in mind when you wrote this?

  • http://www.mormonmatters.org Nick Literski

    Stephen’s thoughts, along with James’ quotations (none of which, tellingly, post-date Joseph F. Smith) seem to miss a rather strong aspect of modern LDS culture. It’s all very well for LDS members to pray about whether the counsel or teachings of an LDS leader are true—but only if the answer confirms what the leader said. If an LDS member were to state, even in a private interview setting (as opposed to public letters to the editor, etc., which raise some different issues) that he or she had prayed about a leader’s counsel and been told by the Holy Ghost that the leader’s counsel was wrong, that member would immediately be suspect. The automatic assumption in LDS culture is that if a member prays about a leader’s counsel or teachings, they will receive confirmation. If the member receives a different answer, the assumption is made that the person has been deceived, hasn’t asked sincerely enough, hasn’t been righteous enough to receive their answer from the Holy Ghost, or is simply a troublemaker in open rebellion.

    The idea that a person may have a legitimate “exception” to the leader’s counsel (let alone that the leader may be simply wrong) is given lip service from time to time, but in practical application, that person will find themselves ostracized, or even in some cases disciplined, for it.

  • Valoel

    The Catholics teach that their Pope is infallible and none of them believe it.
    The Mormons teach that their Prophets are fallible and none of them believe it.

  • http://thingsofmysoul.blogspot.com Ray

    Nick, that is only true in areas where the Bishop or Stake President believes it. I have seen that attitude with some leaders; I have seen the attitude expressed here with others. I also have heard too many times to count, “That’s not my stewardship. You figure it out.”

    The natural man wants the easy way out. Doing what others say is the easy way out. Most people have not conquered the natural man fully. Many people want others to tell them what to do, so they feel like they are not responsible. If that weren’t true, we wouldn’t have Calvinism and much of modern Protestantism, much less the challenge of living the Restored Gospel.

  • http://thingsofmysoul.blogspot.com Ray

    #4 – SteveS, that is a fantastic example.

  • http://ethesis.blogspot.com/ Stephen Marsh

    James, I really like that collection of quotes. Spencer W. Kimball got me thinking about that line of thought, then the Hill Cumorah Pageant materials included a lot of Joseph Smith quotes that were similar.

    I think when the Church was smaller, when, as Paul H. Dunn remarked, you could visit every Stake in the Church in a year (in the 60s when I was a kid), people met and knew the leaders. They knew their humanity.

    Kind of like the experience I had knowing Dallin H. Oaks in law school. Or Robert Oaks as a friend of my father’s. You get a feel for both the humanity and the dedication of people. Robert Oaks quit his job to work full time as a stake president, because that was what was needed. Lived off his military retirement (which isn’t that much) and walked away from the one time he had a chance to make real money. Dallin Oaks walked away from a job that was a preparatory job for the United States Supreme Court, when he had been short listed before, much like he walked away from Chicago to accept a call to work at BYU.

    You lose something with the distance.

    Anyway, I really liked your quotes.

    John and Jeff, it takes real effort to reach a level of spiritual connection. I find that with children and other responsibilities I’m struggling to find the time for gospel study (which seems to work like a tuning fork), prayer and service that is necessary. I think we long for simple certainty. SteveS makes some good points that way, especially because we want it to be more than faith and the love of Christ, we want tangibles.

    Nick, I think it varies by leadership types. I’ve seen the penumbra, the shadow that each type of leadership casts. Each has its problems, it is always a task to continually move the trajectory of a ward or congregation in the way that nets out for the best with the people available. Ray is right.

    “Me” — the source I had in mind, the one I return to to close my response to comments (now that I am finally home after a long, long day) was the collection of materials they used for the study guides at Pageant back in the 70s when I served a mission — along with my favorite quote, which I’m having trouble finding, about speculating with a group as an audience that won’t sting him to death when he makes a mistake.

    Not to mention the time and time again Joseph and Brigham both preached about how we are limited in our ability to receive and understand revelation by our language and our context — how those frame our knowledge and our perceptions, rendering them imperfect.

    How many of us start by saying “I speak English, I’m oriented to a euclidean world, I was raised in the 20th century, those things filter and control my understanding and make it flawed.” No, we think “I’m lucky to speak English, my age is more enlightened than anyone else’s, my worldview broader, I’m blessed that I can truly understand all those things the poor benighted uneducated wretches that went before me can not.”

    Certes.

    Thanks to all for the comments and thoughts.

    Anyway,

  • http://ethesis.blogspot.com/ Stephen Marsh

    I wrote this before the week’s essays got rolling, but it fits right in.

    Every time I see a criticism of Joseph Smith’s first vision stories I think about how “The Old Testament doesn’t even agree with itself over dates and times, in the New Testament, Paul can’t remember if those with him saw a light and did not hear the voice or heard the voice but did not see the light.”

    Guess all of those people reject Paul and conclude Christ really did not appear to him on the road and change the trajectory of his life ….

    Anyway, humanity is part of where we all are, and where we need to be, with all that entails in this mortal world.

  • hawkgrrrl

    I was just thinking about this after we saw the Indiana Jones movie tonight. There are quite a few who didn’t like it because the mythology addressed is not Judeo-Christian and therefore kind of “out there” or less familiar/harder to believe. I think it’s good to remember that it’s all “out there” and equally hard to believe through the lens of logic and our daily experience. Spiritual matters require faith, and faith comes through open-minded searching.

  • Arthur Davis

    Truth is confusing to me. Does it change? President Young taught as doctrine that blacks could not receive the Priesthood. He said it was true doctrine, direct from God. Subsequent prophets endorsed that, including in written statements calling it official church doctrine that blacks couldn’t hold the priesthood.

    So, I guess my question is, were they just acting as infallible men when, for example, they sat in counsel as a First Presidency, discussed the status of “Negroes” and wrote a statement signed by all three members of the First Presidency in which they said it was doctrine and the will of the Lord that blacks couldn’t receive the priesthood?

    How do I know when the prophet has the truth?

    I understand, for example, that when Joseph Fielding Smith as a member of the Twelve said in 1963 in a Look magazine interview that “Darkies are wonderful people” and that they have a place in the church, he wasn’t speaking as a prophet, but still, I have a hard time knowing when our prophets have Truth and when they don’t.

    I understand the idea that church presidents are men, and therefore fallible, but I don’t understand when, for example, at least 11 of the first 12 church presidents (and dozens more members of the Twelve) made unequivocal statements that they knew the mind of God and it was that blacks were not to attend the temple, or receive the priesthood.

    I hope this isn’t an inappropriate example, but it is one of the things that kind of bugs me. I mean, I can completely let go of things like President Young thinking men lived on the moon. That’s no big deal to me. But this one about blacks and the priesthood is hard for me.

  • Thomas Parkin

    “How do I know when the prophet has the truth?”

    You are ultimately answerable to God, and God only. That is pretty much the point.

    If you are searching with a sincere heart and real intent, then the light starting very small grows brighter and brighter until the perfect day. It is growing brighter for me, and I can descern men and women up ahead of me on the way. In the meantime, we are all, prophet included, in a hopefully receding rather than augmenting darkness. Many people are on this path. But, I can’t answer for anyone, for the prophet, or any other man. The Lord who looks on the deep heart, with greater clarity than we look on ourself, will have the final say with me and you about how our search has gone. Humility is the central neccesary personality trait. We have to be asking all the time about what we do not see. If we think we have something figured out, and our project becomes the promotion of our own point of view at the expense of humble searching, we have brought and end to our genuine growth into God’s truth. And, as the scripture says, from he who hath not shall be taken away even that which he hath. In other words, it’s like walking up an escalator that is going down. No sooner do we stop growing then we start losing what we previously understood. It becomes darkness to us. The role and meaning of what authorities say can only make sense to people who are in the process of learning, by the Spirit – the language we use to describe the mechanics of the process.

    I love what Richard Bushman says in his journal book about inquiring into the prophetic status of Joseph. I paraphrase: he says that while we go through this process we must be living right. If we are not living right, there will be that part of us, conscious or subconscious, that wants to deny the power of God.

    When I am living right, and humbling searching, I find myself in harmony, speaking broadly, with the prophet. Now, I may find that I have my difficulties with this or that thing that is said or done, and maybe I’m right or maybe I’m wrong, or I may wish that some other subject matter was also being addressed, or I may wish that something was said somewhat differently – but, broadly speaking, I find myself in harmony with them. When I have found myself out of harmony, it is been because I’ve been ‘aspiring to the honors of men, or covering my sins, or gratifying my pride or vain amibition’ or being concerned about my ability to impose my will, however subtlely, on some other person. Of course, these things are our default mode. So, finally, the answer to your question is that we have to get out of our default mode, and live the gospel, and fast and pray, and knock and open, and have patience and endure.

    ~

  • SteveS

    Thomas (#14): thanks for that last paragraph. I don’t know if this always applies, but I can generally corroborate the in harmony/out of harmony part of searching for truth. I guess our brains try to rationalize our sins by casting doubt upon the faith-based claims that establish the nature of sin in the first place. Without sin, and without law, there is no consequence.

  • http://ethesis.blogspot.com/ Stephen Marsh

    It’s not the pattern of the Lord to give reasons. We can put reasons to commandments. When we do we’re on our own.

    1988 Elder Dallin H. Oaks

    There is a lot of sense in looking towards acceptance rather than explanation. So many explanations others will give you are facile, shallow, self serving and harmful or will lead you astray.

    If you go to the rule, rather than the explanation, and deal with God, then When I am living right, and humbling searching, I find myself in harmony, speaking broadly, with the prophet. Now, I may find that I have my difficulties with this or that thing that is said or done, and maybe I’m right or maybe I’m wrong, or I may wish that some other subject matter was also being addressed, or I may wish that something was said somewhat differently – but, broadly speaking, I find myself in harmony with them. When I have found myself out of harmony, it is been because I’ve been ‘aspiring to the honors of men, or covering my sins, or gratifying my pride or vain amibition’ or being concerned about my ability to impose my will, however subtlely, on some other person. Of course, these things are our default mode. So, finally, the answer to your question is that we have to get out of our default mode, and live the gospel, and fast and pray, and knock and open, and have patience and endure.

    Hope that helps answer the question Thomas.

  • hawkgrrrl

    Denying the blacks the priesthood is tough to defend, I agree. Was it to avoid controversy and persecution for the church? Clearly not, since polygamy was creating plenty of that. The only way I can account for it is that these men were unenlightened bigots by current standards, yet typical of their day. However, our history with race is far less “unenlightened” than that of other sects. Being less bad isn’t the same as being right.

  • Arthur Davis

    Ok, maybe I’m just dense.

    I have been taught for decades in the church that the church is the one true church. I have been taught that the current prophet is the most important, that prophets CANNOT lead us astray.

    Setting aside the blacks and the priesthood for the moment, the church is based on FACT claims. Our church teaches as FACT the first vision story. That’s where our missionaries start with their teachings. Our church states as FACT that the Book of Mormon contains a record of the inhabitants of the Americas. There are lots of things (various versions of the first vision story, DNA and linguistic evidence not supporting the BofM, etc) that at the very least call these FACTs into question.

    Are historical facts truth?

    Is faith more important than truth?

    What is the role of truth in our church?

    I have heard rumors that the church excommunicates or disfellowships members who state actual factual truth about church history. Is that really true? Does the church do that?

  • James

    13 and 18 Arthur Davis-

    I understand the idea that church presidents are men, and therefore fallible, but I don’t understand when, for example, at least 11 of the first 12 church presidents (and dozens more members of the Twelve) made unequivocal statements that they knew the mind of God and it was that blacks were not to attend the temple, or receive the priesthood.

    Hopefully you have watched John Dehlins interview with Darius Gray and Margaret Young. Which I understand was giving as well at a BYU devotional. Both Brother Gray and Sister Young if I understood it right, believe that it was bad policy that blacks were not to attend the temple, or receive the priesthood, that maybe prophets are fallible. Yet they still believe the church is true. I would think before they gave this screen cast that it was veted before students of the Y saw it.

    I would like to think that this is all part of the plan for us to start getting more and more openness from the church. Its hard to hear these things depending on how long you have been in the church. My kids even if I talk to them about discrepancies doesn’t seem to bother them at all.

  • http://thingsofmysoul.blogspot.com Ray

    “I have heard rumors that the church excommunicates or disfellowships members who state actual factual truth about church history. Is that really true? Does the church do that?”

    No.

    Fight publicly about the meaning of the facts (for example, calling church leaders liars and accusing them of intentionally distorting facts when they know the meaning really is something else) and, of course, you’ll get in trouble.

    I have a hard time believing the comment was genuine, but, if so, realize that anyone in any organization who publicly condemns and fights the leaders of that organization is going to have a hard time remaining in that organization. If that same person works quietly and humbly behind the scenes, s/he will have little problem staying involved in that organization. To believe otherwise simply is naive and unrealistic.

  • Arthur Davis

    I’m copying a post from another blog, but I have visited the page with the Deseret News article, and it appears to me that the Deseret News article was quoted fairly.

    The question then is, by that poster, essentially, Does the Church currently lie to its members?

    I think we may have caught Elder Child of the Seventy in a lie:

    In the article:

    LDS marking 30-year milestone
    By Carrie A. Moore
    Deseret News
    Published: Friday, June 6, 2008 9:50 p.m. MDT

    Child is identified:

    “. . . .according to Elder Sheldon F. Child, a member of the First Quorum of the Seventy,”
    . . . .

    Then the reporter writes:

    Elder Child said he doesn’t recall that his missionaries encountered “any problem with someone asking” about why the priesthood ban existed or the folklore that was used to explain why it endured for almost 150 years within the church.

    “When you think about it, that’s just what it is — folklore. It’s never really been official doctrine. I know there have been some misconceptions and some statements made by people in the past,. . . .
    . . . .

    In the same article, she later quotes Child as again saying:

    “We have to keep in mind that it’s folklore and not doctrine,” Elder Child said. “It’s never been recorded as such.
    . . . .

    So, my question is, when Brigham Young said:

    “Shall I tell you the law of God in regard to the African race? If the white man who belongs to the chosen seed mixes his blood with the seed of Cain, the penalty, under the law of God, is death on the spot. This will always be so.” (Brigham Young, Journal of Discourses, Volume 10, page 110.)

    Was that just opinion? When he is telling us the “law of God” that is just opinion?

    Is it also just opinion when the First Presidency (in 1947 in a letter to a prominent member) writes:

    “From the days of the Prophet Joseph Smith even until now, it is has been the doctrine of the Church, never questioned by any of the Church leaders, that the Negroes are not entitled to the full blessings of the Gospel. ”

    This letter was signed by George Albert Smith, J. Reuben Clark, Jr. and David O McKay.

    After the member wrote back and stated he felt this doctrine was racist, the First Presidency again wrote to him and said:

    “We feel very sure that you are aware of the doctrines of the Church. They are either true or not true. Our testimony is that they are true. Under these circumstances we may not permit ourselves to be too much impressed by the reasonings of men, however well founded they may seem to be. We should like to say this to you in all sincerity, that you are too fine a man to permit yourself to be led off from the principles of the Gospel by worldly learning.

    “You have too much of a potentiality for doing good and we therefore prayerfully hope that you can re-orient your thinking and bring it in line with the revealed Word of God.”

    Later the First Presidency later wrote in 1951:

    “The position of the Church regarding the Negro may be understood when another doctrine of the church is kept in mind, namely, that the conduct of spirits in the pre-mortal existence has some determining effect upon the conditions and circumstances under which these spirits take on mortality, and that while the details of this principle have not been made known, the principle itself indicates that the coming to this earth and taking on mortality is a privilege that is given to those who maintained their first estate; and that the worth of the privilege is so great that spirits are willing to come to earth and take on bodies no matter what the handicap may be as to the kind of bodies they are to secure; and that among the handicaps, failure of the right to enjoy in mortality the blessings of the priesthood is a handicap which spirits are willing to assume in order that they might come to earth. Under this principle there is no injustice whatsoever involved in this deprivation as to the holding of the priesthood by the Negroes…..

    “Man will be punished for his own sins and not for Adam’s transgression. If this is carried further, it would imply that the Negro is punished or allotted to a certain position on this earth, not because of Cain’s transgression, but came to earth through the loins of Cain because of his failure to achieve other stature in the spirit world.”

    Here they compare this “position of the Church” to “another doctrine” which certainly equates to calling the “position of the church” is “doctrine” on this issue.

    Can we conclude that Child is either lying or badly misinformed?


    End of copied post. This is Arthur speaking again now:

    So, was it doctrine? Or was it not doctrine?

    That would seem to be a simple question. We say “No” now, but when the First Presidency said it, they claimed it was doctrine.

    This is very confusing.

  • http://thingsofmysoul.blogspot.com Ray

    No, it isn’t – and I knew the first comment wasn’t sincere.

    There is very little “doctrine” in the classic sense in Mormonism. Doctrine is whatever is recorded in canonized scripture or stated by the united voice of the FP and Q12 – but even that can change from one leadership to the next. That is pretty obvious in our history. It also drives creedal Christians absolutely batty. Since it would be dishonest for them in their religious mindset, they assume it is dishonest for us. It’s not; it’s just reflective of the way we view doctrine differently. So . . .

    Based on Protestant definitions, the whole Priesthood issue was doctrine, and current policies reject doctrine. According to Mormon definitions, the 1978 revelation eliminated what was considered doctrine and re-classified it as folklore – and Bruce R. McConkie himself said so. In effect, it says that our previous understanding of doctrine was wrong. Again, that drives some people nuts, but it’s been our viewpoint from the very beginning.

    “caught him in a lie” – Sorry to be so blunt, but that’s nothing more than the projection of your pre-existing perspective – just as my reaction is with regard to mine.

    Also, if you are going to come here and call the Church an apostate organization led by liars, try at least not to use the same tactics by lying about your own perspective. Nick and Spektator, for example, are open about their perspectives – and they express themselves with courtesy and recognition of our sincere differences. This isn’t confusing at all in your mind, just as it’s not confusing at all in mine. At least admit that up front.

  • James

    21 So, was it doctrine? Or was it not doctrine?

    If I understand the screen cast from Darius Gray – IT WASN’T DOCTRINE, IT WAS POLICY!He gave the screen cast at BYU which I assume was veted before it was shown.

    Stephen Marsh I thought was one of the founders FAIR may be he can shed some light on was it doctrine? Or was it not doctrine?

    If Darius Gray is correct on it being Policy and its not doctrine – how does that answer the letter of 1951 the position of the church regarding Blacks?

    I felt the screen cast they did was excellent but they didn’t answer the prophetic mantle being overturned fully at least from what I understood?

  • Arthur Davis

    Ray,
    I clearly indicated that I was copying another post from another blog. For you to accuse me of lying seems like an “attack the messenger” tactic. Similarly, talking about other denominations seems to be “clouding the issue”.

    I came here seeking truth. This particular blog is supposed to be about truth.

    I have been taught for decades that “The doctrines of the Church do not change.” I have been taught that policy changes, procedure changes, etc. but that “Doctrine does not change.”

    This seems to indicate, and you seem to indicate, that “Doctrine DOES change”

    This DOES confuse me. I don’t appreciate being attacked. I don’t appreciate being told that I must be lying.

    My question remains, how can I find Truth if when the First Presidency says in a signed statement that it is “Doctrine” that can later be dismisses as “folklore”

    How can I tell if what they are saying now is true, or will later be dismissed as “folklore”? That is what is confusing to me.

    And, again, I didn’t “call the Church an apostate organization led by liars”. I asked a question I had that confuses me mightily. You were the one who used the phrase about the church being apostate and led by liars, not me.

    I’m seeking truth. I’m confused by this. I was hoping someone here could help me with this, as this thread is supposed to be about “Finding the truth”

    If your statement that “our previous view of doctrine was wrong . . . but it’s been our viewpoint from the very beginning” means that we have always accepted that the “Doctrines of the Church are changeable” then that seems very different from what I have heard in church, in General Conference, in PPI’s, etc.

    It is confusing.

  • http://thingsofmysoul.blogspot.com Ray

    Then, Arthur, I apologize. It’s just that copying some statement, along with the phrase “caught in a lie” is a favorite tactic of those who have no concern whatsoever for “truth” – one that I’ve dealt with on many levels for many years. It gets old in a hurry.

    I really do apologize if you were sincere. I’ve just the same basic argument in complete insincerity for so long that perhaps I’m a bit jaded when I hear it in sincerity.

  • Arthur Davis

    I found another reference that the First Presidency in 1949 specifically addressed the question of Is this “policy” or is it “Doctrine”?

    “The attitude of the Church with reference to Negroes remains as it has always stood. It is not a matter of the declaration of a policy but of direct commandment from the Lord, on which is founded the doctrine of the Church from the days of its organization, to the effect that Negroes may become members of the Church but that they are not entitled to the priesthood at the present time.” (The First Presidency on the Negro Question, 17 Aug. 1949)

    The did say “present time” but they also said “not a matter of the declaration of a policy, but a direct commandment . . . doctrine of the Church . . . ”

    So, Yes, James, I think your question is valid, was it doctrine? Was it policy?

    If it was “folklore” or can be dismissed as “folklore” then what else can be dismissed as “folklore.” Can, for example, not extending the Priesthood to women be dismissed some day a folklore? Can forbidding membership to practicing homosexuals be dismissed as “folklore”?

    How can I tell what is Truth? How can I find the truth, if I 30 years from now things that President Hinckley, Monson, etc. have said are doctrines and truth, are subject to being dismissed as folkore?

    I’m not at liberty to be disobedient because I think they might be wrong on a particular topic. One that’s hard to imagine, but perhaps less emotionally charged as blacks, women, priesthood, gays, etc. could be for example tithing. How do I know that the Lord really requires tithing at all, or that it’s 10 percent? Can some future prophet and counselors and quorum of the twelve change the doctrine to 5 percent tithing, or 23 percent?

    And I know Ray wants to call me a trouble maker, but I’m really confused about this. I don’t understand it even a little bit, and I’ve been an adult member for more than two decades.

  • http://thingsofmysoul.blogspot.com Ray

    Let me try it this way. The biggest problem in this type of discussion is semantics – how specific terms are defined and interpreted.

    There is next to nothing, beyond the most basic things we believe, that has remained constant since our first recorded scripture. “Doctrine” is whatever we understand at the time. We often misuse that term, but that’s all that doctrine means. If we attach eternal, unchanging meanings to doctrine, we only have created our own versions of the Catholic and Protestant creeds that ALWAYS end up as abominations – because they restrict and eliminate continuing revelation.

    To the early disciples, spiritual existence (no physical resurrection) was doctrinal; now we believe in a physical resurrection. To Paul, women not speaking in church was doctrine; now, we shrug it off as cultural counsel. (Does anyone really think Paul would have said, “No, that’s not doctrine”?) To Abraham, polygamy was doctrine (his extended family was led to their wives through revelation); to us, it used to be but no longer is. To Joseph Smith, all worthy men and women exercising the Priesthood in some way was doctrine; to Brigham Young, it was non-black men only; to pres. Kimball, it was all men – and women in the temple all along. We can’t let our ideas of “doctrine” become solidified into “creeds”.

    We naturally want easy, constant, memorizable things to believe. However, that’s not what we are told in our canon. In our scriptures, we have a thousands year view of . . . **changing doctrine**. Evolution of belief is, perhaps, the single most powerful aspect of our scriptures – the idea that our understanding, even of the most basic things, is changing always – because there are blind spots in everyone’s understanding, even prophets.

    That’s only confusing if you want the opposite – **if you want to understand it all in the here and now and never have it change.** If you accept the ever-changing nature of our mortal understanding, nearly all of the confusion melts away – **and you can focus on the process of individual growth and communal service that is the heart of the Gospel, imho.**

  • http://thingsofmysoul.blogspot.com Ray

    #26 – ““The attitude of the Church with reference to Negroes remains as it has always stood. It is not a matter of the declaration of a policy but of direct commandment from the Lord, on which is founded the doctrine of the Church from the days of its organization, to the effect that Negroes may become members of the Church but that they are not entitled to the priesthood at the present time.” (The First Presidency on the Negro Question, 17 Aug. 1949)”

    Arthur, I will add that this is proof that even the apostles don’t always understand everything perfectly. This is not a subjective statement. The ban was NOT part of the Church’s practice “from the days of its organization”. Brigham Young argued that it was, and subsequent prophets accepted that assertion, but we now know clearly that Joseph ordained black men to the Priesthood. The statement above simply is incorrect in that respect. Whether or not the Lord commanded BY is one discussion; this statement is not worth a discussion. It obviously is wrong – not a lie, as I believe it truly was believed at the time, but wrong, nonetheless.

    Fwiw, this is why BY himself said more than once that we are required to follow the dictates of the Holy Ghost to us personally and not assume that every word that comes out of the mouth of a prophet is correct.

  • http://thingsofmysoul.blogspot.com Ray

    Also, Arthur, Elder McConkie’s statement after the 1978 revelation where he said that everything ever said to justify the ban was spoken with limited understanding and should be discarded given the new revelation is instructive in this discussion. It said very clearly that the 1949 statement above was nothing more than personal opinion – spoken through limited understanding. BRM was as sure of his opinions as perhaps any apostle who ever lived, but even he admitted that what previously was considered doctrine was no more than the incorrect opinions of fallible men.

    Does that make it hard sometimes to sort out inspired statements from personal opinion? Sure. That’s just the nature of this existence, unfortunately.

  • http://thingsofmysoul.blogspot.com Ray

    Just to have four comments in a row in the sidebar . . .

    Seriously, Arthur, I hope you read my apology in comment #25. I hope it didn’t get lost in the shuffle.

  • Arthur Davis

    Ray,
    Thank you.

    I accept your apology. I have to admit, however, I still find it confusing, but I’m trying.

    For so long I have been taught things like “The Prophet will Never lead the church astray” that he would “be taken from the earth” before the Lord would allow that.

    Maybe I’m just naive. I’ll try to have more faith. Somehow, though that sounds like the horse “Boxer” in Animal Farm, and he ended up being hauled off to the glue factory while still alive and kicking.

    Ok, so doctrine changes. The teaching that the prophet will never lead the church astray must just be folklore. :-)

  • http://thingsofmysoul.blogspot.com Ray

    “The teaching that the prophet will never lead the church astray must just be folklore.”

    NICE!!

    Seriously, I have a much more narrow view of that than many. “Astray” means “off course”. I don’t think the prophets ever will ask us to believe or do anything that will keep us from whatever higher end we would attain without it – that they will “lead us astray from” (off course of) our eventual destination. I can’t imagine a prophet saying something like, “It’s ok to go out and commit adultery. In fact, I encourage the membership to do so.” That would lead someone astray from a celestial to a telestial end, and I just don’t see it happening.

    I obviously can see mistakes that will cloud our overall understanding for a time, but counsel that will alter our eventual outcome . . . I just don’t see it happening.

    Frankly, I think the “lead us astray” equals “never be wrong” is an unfortunate natural man conclusion.

  • http://ethesis.blogspot.com/ Stephen Marsh

    they are not entitled to the priesthood at the present time

    That was the point of the commandment vs. explanation quote from Dallin Oaks. Having taught Blacks on my mission, and having confirmed one a member (with the startling message to me that he would be receiving the priesthood within the lifetime of an older general authority whose grand daughter I knew) I knew that as to that one person it was the will of God that he not have the priesthood at that time and that it was a blessing to him and not a curse.

    Given the circumstances of the entire sequence, it was more than a missionary would expect. I’m not accustomed to rooms filled with bright light as the Spirit talks around my poor companion to communicate to an investigator things that it did not care to share with me.

    Anyway, interesting discussion.

  • http://ethesis.blogspot.com/ Stephen Marsh

    BTW, sorry I didn’t join in sooner, I was at the water park with my daughter, now it is off to take her to a birthday party and to take my wife out shopping (her birthday is coming up).

    Shopping for my wife, that is when I really need inspiration.

  • Nick Literski

    #114:
    I love what Richard Bushman says in his journal book about inquiring into the prophetic status of Joseph. I paraphrase: he says that while we go through this process we must be living right. If we are not living right, there will be that part of us, conscious or subconscious, that wants to deny the power of God.

    Haven’t you ever read the story of the Emperor’s New Clothes? This idea you mention isn’t new from Bushman. It’s an old refrain within the LDS church, claiming that if you don’t get the LDS-endorsed answer to your prayers about the truth, you obviously weren’t “sincere enough,” or “really listening,” or “living so as to have the Holy Ghost answer your prayers.” It’s just not acceptable to get an answer that contradicts the LDS position, so the person who’s praying must be faulty if they get no answer, or a different answer.

    As I said, this amounts to the Emperor’s New Clothes. If you don’t see the clothing (or get the testimony) then you clearly weren’t wise enough to see them (or sincere enough, or righteous enough to get the testimony). Therefore, you will invariably get a certain percentage (note I said “certain percentage,” not “all,” or even “most”) who will claim to have seen the Emperor’s clothing, because they can’t face the social condemnation that comes from being “not wise (or spiritual, or righteous) enough.”

  • http://ethesis.blogspot.com/ Stephen Marsh

    Nick, as much as I’d love to think there are 114 posts in this thread …

    Perhaps you just have more inspiration than the rest of us. ;)

  • SteveS

    Nick,

    Even you must understand that context matters in learning. No information exists in a vacuum, and we all are either put in an environment where reception and acceptance of information and arguments are either enhanced or detracted. To throw JS into an example, a person who is introduced to the man as a charismatic, yet flawed character who imagined seeing God and angels and twisted Christianity to his own purposes for the following reasons is more likely to distrust JS’s writings (if he or she ever gets around to reading them) than someone who is taught that despite the man’s personal failings, JS was a prophet of God and restored His church on the earth for the following reasons. Its the parable of the sower, kinda. An integral part of maintaining one’s testimony in the Church is constant effort to stay on the path, to keep the faith, etc. I think what Bushman is trying to say is that context matters: if we know we’re not living the commandments, our perception of the authority figures who have commanded or communicated those commandments changes. So if finding the truth is contingent upon hearing the promptings of the Spirit testify of truth and guide one’s decisions, it becomes harder to hear it when sin and doubt crowd themselves in.

    I see what you’re saying, though, about the Emperor’s clothing effect in the church. I think that phenomenon exists far too often, and represents a violation of D&C 121 (which Thomas #14 quoted, btw).

  • Arthur Davis

    Nick,
    Someone else mentioned you on this thread earlier as being open about your perspective. Your comment about the “Emperor’s New Clothes and your comment in #35 leads me to suspect you either seriously doubt the truthfulness of the Church or feel that it is completely false or something similar (but probably negative from the believer perspective). My questions for you are,

    Can a Prophet of God help us to find the truth?
    Can the scriptures help us find the truth?
    How should we go about trying to find truth?

  • http://thingsofmysoul.blogspot.com Ray

    Arthur, search through the other posts on this blog. Nick’s story is well-documented here and elsewhere. (gay former member, lover of Mormonism, skeptic of LDS-ism, overall decent bloke who obsesses occasionally over change in the Church — Is that a decent summary, Nick?) :)

  • Thomas Parkin

    Nick,

    I’m sure you don’t like my perspective and what it says about your own ability to receive personal revelation. To me, the idea that our own wishes filter our apprehensions of reality is a truism – it hardly needs to be defended. And beyond that, that our wishes emerge, we are never really fully aware of how they may be influencing us. (As Carl Jung reminds us about the unconscious: it is clearly impacting us all the time, yet, by definition it is beyond our conscious awareness – it is unconscious.) Of course, this is a sword that cuts everybody. You can as easily say that my own desire that the manifestations of the Spirit are what they seem to be hightens or distorts in some way my perceptions. The only antidote I can see to this conundrum, and confess that it is likely one that can never be taken in a healing does, is relentless self-honesty and reflection, and a willingness to suspend the machinations of our own ego.

    I can’t answer for you, and I don’t intend to. My only responce to you is: go your way and see where it takes you, and continue to be as absolutely honest with yourself as you can be, and god-speed.

    ~

  • James

    #39 and 22 Ray its great too see your zealousness in defending the faith.

    This is only my opinion but I would try to keep to the issues and not bring in personal condemnataion. Its out of bounds in my opinion!!

    Mormon Matters is a friendly place where we can discuss issues and not feel some one is going to personally defame us in front of our good friends.

    Even the issues we discuss our own personal views may change radically back and forth as we get further light and knowledge

    Other wise keep up the good work its great to have a broad spectrum of views.

  • http://ethesis.blogspot.com/ Stephen Marsh

    I believe that Joseph Smith was a prophet of God-not in the cheap and trimphant manner of a Church video, but in a hard-won, Old Testament way, where a frustrated God chooses one who is willing to serve despite personality flaws and limited understanding.

    From https://www.sunstonemagazine.com/stories/tributaries-of-my-faith.html

  • Ann

    Stephen, I was at the Sunstone meeting where Jana Riess presented that, and it was one of the spiritual highlights of my year. Honestly, the only way to improve that meeting would have been to pass the sacrament.

  • http://ethesis.blogspot.com/ Stephen Marsh

    Ann, glad you got to see that presentation first hand. Must have been wonderful.

  • http://thingsofmysoul.blogspot.com Ray

    #41 – James,

    Ironically, I usually am the one telling everyone to respect each other and not fight. Everyone else will tell you so. This is one case where the form of the comment fooled me, and I already apologized – with an explanation.

    Also, Nick and I are good friends for people who have never met in person. I respect him, and he respects me. There was NO “personal condemnation” in #39 – none whatsoever, and Nick knows that. Everything I wrote there is factual and has been stated openly by Nick.

    This is said with a BIG grin, but your own advice would be as good for you as it is for me. :)

  • hawkgrrrl

    Arthur – “For so long I have been taught things like “The Prophet will Never lead the church astray” that he would “be taken from the earth” before the Lord would allow that.” I too have heard this, but I can’t say that I have a testimony that it’s true. I’m not hanging my hat on it, though. A couple previous commenters said it better than I can:

    From James #1: President Joseph F. Smith said, “We talk of obedience, but do we require any man or woman to ignorantly obey the counsels that are given? Do the First Presidency require it? No, never.” (Journal of Discources (JD) 16:248) and “George Q. Cannon, Counselor to three Church Presidents, expressed it thus: “Do not, brethren, put your trust in man though he be a bishop, an apostle, or a president. If you do, they will fail you at some time or place; they will do wrong or seem to, and your support be gone;” (Millennial Star 53:658-59, quoted in Gospel Truth, 1:319″

    From Valoel #7: “The Catholics teach that their Pope is infallible and none of them believe it. The Mormons teach that their Prophets are fallible and none of them believe it.”

    In Lesson 10 today in RS we were talking about the nature of personal revelation. As I prepared for the lesson, one of the things that really struck me was that the First Vision, which has over time become imbued with so much meaning to all of us who are LDS, was PERSONAL revelation to him. He didn’t come out of the grove with business cards stating “prophet, seer, revelator.” He followed the example from scriptures and asked for his own personal answer, and he got it.

    We can all debate back and forth about words and how to interpret what various prophets have said or what the meaning of scriptures is, or we can follow the example and ask for ourselves. It’s easy to be told what to do, hard to ask for ourselves. As for being led astray individually, if we have received the HG, we should have some experience in knowing the difference. If people do this and get different answers than I do, so be it, but pitting cold logic against spiritual experience is like comparing apples and something very very different from apples.

  • Valoel

    The fact that a prophet can be wrong does one HUGE thing — it puts the responsibility back on my shoulders to understand what is right and what is wrong. I have to go back to God over and over again to take ownership of my beliefs. This was disturbing to me at first for a short period of time. How could a prophet make a mistake? Well it also becames a comfort in a way. It’s developing my faith into a complex maturity of wisdom. I have been wrong too, and that’s ok. Maybe there is hope for me. As long as I desire righteousness, knowledge and truth, I have faith it will be given to me. “Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled.” Those are the words of Jesus Christ. Do we believe him?

  • http://www.mormonmatters.org Nick Literski

    #38:
    Can a Prophet of God help us to find the truth?

    Yes, recognizing that I may understand the phrase “prophet of god” differently than you do. For me, that phrase does not describe an office. Rather, it describes a relationship which a person has entered into with deity, through which that person has been genuinely enlightened and naturally seeks to enlighten others. I really like that you said “help us to find the truth,” instead of “tell us the truth.” I see prophets as individuals (both men and women) who point the way, but that it is ultimately up to each of us to find the truth for ourselves.

    Can the scriptures help us find the truth?

    Yes, and again, it’s likely I interpret “scriptures” more broadly than some people do. I love the Mormon view that anything written or spoken by the spirit of deity is “scripture.” I would temper that view just a bit (at least in how it has been practically applied by many), by suggesting that everything a person holding ecclesiastical office says or writes is not necessarily “by the spirit of deity,” and that many people who do not hold ecclesiastical sanction do, at times, speak and write “by the spirit of deity.” Once again, I like that you say “help us find the truth,” instead of “tell us the truth.”

    How should we go about trying to find truth?

    We should go about finding truth in every way possible–from every writing we encounter, in the words and actions of every person we meet, in every aspect of the universe around us! Joseph Smith, in the last years of his life, spoke of ideas that “tasted good” to him, or in other words, that brought him joy. Despite all his faults (and also because of all his faults), Joseph pushed forward, breaking his own paths, and seeking truth as an “independent revelation,” rather than relying on the words of others–including even canonized scripture. It’s one of the great things about Joseph Smith that I admire, and why I’m quite willing to classify him, at least under my definition above, as a prophet.

  • http://ethesis.blogspot.com/ Stephen Marsh

    it describes a relationship which a person has entered into with deity, through which that person has been genuinely enlightened and naturally seeks to enlighten others. I really like that you said “help us to find the truth,” instead of “tell us the truth.” I see prophets as individuals (both men and women) who point the way, but that it is ultimately up to each of us to find the truth for ourselves.

    Yes, and if we forget that, we fail of our potential.

    We should go about finding truth in every way possible–from every writing we encounter, in the words and actions of every person we meet, in every aspect of the universe around us! Joseph Smith, in the last years of his life, spoke of ideas that “tasted good” to him, or in other words, that brought him joy. Despite all his faults (and also because of all his faults), Joseph pushed forward, breaking his own paths, and seeking truth as an “independent revelation,” rather than relying on the words of others–including even canonized scripture. It’s one of the great things about Joseph Smith that I admire, and why I’m quite willing to classify him, at least under my definition above, as a prophet.

    You are sounding like Brigham Young here, about finding truth everywhere and bringing it back into our lives.

  • Arthur Davis

    Finding Truth (capital t) is still hard and confusing, at least for me.

    And, at the risk of being labeled a heretic, I don’t find comments similar to “The church is either all true, or it’s a complete fraud” or or “Our entire case as members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints rests on the validity of this glorious First Vision” etc.

    I find these awfully confining, and restrictive. These would seem to say, for example, that if the “validity of this glorious First Vision” (after just quoting the ‘official’ 1838 version) isn’t accurate as presented, then “our entire case as members” falls apart.

    I think it is a dangerous philosophy to engage in such extreme statements. On the surface, they seem to promise truth, and a truth that can only be exactly one way, but my experience tells me that these types of statements almost always fail in actual practice (anything outside of a “logic proof” in an Intro Philosophy class, etc.).

    I think some of what Nick says makes very good sense about finding truth where it comes. I wonder if that also means that many of the “rules” about “stand up, sit down, go into this room, wear this, don’t eat that, drink this, don’t read that, pay this much, answer these questions in the prescribed way” are really “True” (capital t) teachings from God, or if they have a big chunk of the teachings of men intermixed with them and can or should therefore be ignored or not complied with.

    It seems counter intuitive to me that if we are saying that Truth doesn’t come top down, from the prophet, and that almost nothing is “doctrine”(*See note below) that all of these rules would be so important. There are consequences (**See Note below) for non-compliance with an orthodox view of “Truth” as manifested in the “rules.”

    So, it now seems that now my original question about finding Truth has become about whether the orthodox view of Truth (as defined by all the rules, etc.) somehow encompasses or leads to Truth or not? If it doesn’t, then why follow the orthodoxy. But if the orthodoxy does encompass or lead us to truth then it would seem to mean that Truth does in fact come from the top down (from the prophet) and that we must be obedient in order to find Truth. Again, the question becomes how do we know which things to be obedient to, and which we can ignore (if we can ignore any of them)?

    And, if the rules don’t lead us to truth, what do they do? e.g. It was apparently a rule, (or folklore but not doctrine) that said blacks could not receive the priesthood (often justified as God’s will because of a lack of valiant behavior on the part of the black person’s spirit in the pre-existence. In 1951 had I been a bishop and had I acted on my personal revelation, as confirmed to me by the Holy Ghost ordained some black 16-year old a Priest and let him bless the sacrament, I would have been subject to church discipline for following a rule that had the effect of leading us in the wrong direction and that I had had confirmed to me by the Holy Ghost was a bad rule. (Unless it was somehow correct for us to not ordain blacks.)

    It does seem like the Truth is hard to get to. And, it further seems that there is no consistent way to get to it. It doesn’t seem like obedience to prophets/scripture, etc. will get you there (because we have determined that you have to receive your own revelation). It doesn’t seem like listening to the Holy Ghost will get you there (because the church will punish you for listening to and acting on promptings of the Holy Ghost that are in some way disobedient).

    And Ray, I don’t mean to sound like a trouble maker, but I really do find this confusing.

    *Note: previous parts of this thread referred to blacks & priesthood statements of ‘doctrine’ written and signed by First Presidency that apparently weren’t doctrine

    **Note: Here I mean institutional and organizational consequences to the non-adherent such as denial/revocation of temple recommend, etc.

  • http://thingsofmysoul.blogspot.com Ray

    Arthur, I understand where you are coming from, and I understand the confusion, I think. I was fortunate in many ways growing up, not least of which was being raised by very common, “salt of the earth” parents who will never attain any level of acclaim, but who taught us that the Church and the Gospel were up to us to figure out. They took us to church and taught us in our home, but they never claimed to understand everything – and they never expected anyone else to understand everything.

    For example, my dad used to say that if he left the Church every time someone said something stupid or offensive, he would never have time to set foot in the church – since just about everyone says something stupid or offensive every single day. He said that prophets were very different – since they said something stupid or offensive only occasionally. He said that the Lord had never said the Church was perfect – just that it was “true” and “living” – and he never defined “true” as related to Truth (“correct in all things”) but merely as “conforming to or consistent with a standard, pattern, or the like: a true copy” or “of the right kind; such as it should be; proper: to arrange things in their true order”.

    The interesting things is that my dad NEVER would have said what I just wrote. Those aren’t his words; he is not an academician or “intellectual” by any stretch of the imagination. He hated school and would have been a long-haul trucker if he hadn’t had a family and a wife who desperately needed him home. Instead, he became a mechanic, then a printer, then a school janitor. What I just described is how **I** interpreted what he said – how it was translated inside me. It gave me a foundation that just doesn’t care much about the details – even though I really like to study and consider and discuss them. I love the learning; I just don’t put much eternal stock in it compared to what I do and the attitudes I develop – what I become.

    Finally, “a prophet is not accepted in his own country” for a reason. The people with whom he was raised have seen his humanity – his natural man, if you will. They know he isn’t unique enough to be a prophet, since they either gave him a wedgie as a kid and he swore at them or received a wedgie from him and swore at him. We hold our own prophets (and spouses and children and parents and friends) to a much higher standard than we use to measure others whose warts we don’t see as clearly, and that often keeps us from understanding the amazing characteristics that we take for granted as what they really are. That’s natural, but it also is too bad, since we miss out on SO much when we let the *stuff* distract us from the big picture.

  • Arthur Davis

    Ray,
    I kind of understand the need to see the “big picture,” but so much of what we do is the “stuff” the nitty gritty, the detail work. Do the details at variance with orthodoxy—get punished.

    It seems very much to me that we are trying to have it both ways. We want the prophet to be infallible, so we can say “be obedient” and at the same time we can say “pray to receive confirmation.” (Notice even there, the instruction is to receive confirmation, not revelation.)

    It would seem to me the only way we can “receive confirmation” is if the prophet is correct when he (or his assistants) creates or modifies a rule for the rest of us to follow. If he’s not correct, and God answers our prayer, we will discover that he’s not correct, and we can then disobey. The disobedience, however, brings consequences.

    So, I think the practice is more like the simplistic teachings “the prophet will never lead you astray” is NOT actually folklore, but IS doctrine. That then gives the justification for the leadership to say, well, Arthur, if you didn’t receive the confirmation, then obviously the problem is within you.

    Seems paradoxical. Only if the prophet is infallible, can we both be obedient and act on revelation from the Holy Ghost. If the prophet is fallible, then obedience is dangerous (because we would be Choosing the Wrong), and acting on revelation received by us, but not by the fallible prophet, leads to us being disciplined (or at least told that we are wrong).

    This seems similar to the omnipotence/omniscience paradox, where if God is omniscient he knows what he will do next. If he knows what he will do next, he is powerless to change the course of his own actions. If he doesn’t know all of the actions he will ever take, he isn’t omniscient.

    I know some apparent paradoxes have ways out that make sense, but they are hard for me. The Obedience/Revelation paradox is a particularly difficult one for me.

    And, I still don’t know if I should be obedient to the prophet or not if I receive a revelation through the Holy Ghost that directs me to not be obedient.

    Like your parents, I certainly don’t claim to understand every. Sometimes it seems more like I don’t understand anything.

    Would it be asking too much for God to have a plan that I could understand? :-)

  • http://thingsofmysoul.blogspot.com Ray

    “Would it be asking too much for God to have a plan that I could understand?”

    Probably. :)

    I look at it this way:

    Confirmation doesn’t have to be about whether something is absolute Truth. It only needs to be about whether something should be accepted and followed – that it will not “lead us astray” in some real and dangerous way.

    Something to consider about possible approaches in life:

    When we see a beggar on the street:

    1) Lord, I will share with any beggar you tell me to help;
    2) Lord, I will share with every beggar I see – except those with whom you tell me not to share.

    When we see someone hitch-hiking:

    1) Lord, I will stop and help every person you tell me to help;
    2) Lord, I will stop and help every person I see – except those you tell me not to help.

    If we are preparing to tract as missionaries:

    1) Lord, I will knock on every door you tell me to approach;
    2) Lord, I will knock on every door – except those you tell me not to approach.

    If we receive counsel from a prophet or local leader:

    1) Lord, I will accept from what they say everything you tell me to follow;
    2) Lord, I will accept what they say – except that which you tell me not to accept and follow.

  • http://johnsen.org Don Johnsen

    Our leaders MUST be fallible in order for faith to have meaning.

    It it my opinion that God plays a game of plausible deniability in order for free agency to operate properly.

    When faced with irrefutable evidence of something, most rational people will have no choice but to believe in that thing – thus, there is no longer faith involved.

    By a similar token, our leaders are subject to errors so that the world may have something to attack them for, thus making our choice to follow or ignore them our own, preserving the exercise of faith.

    I’ll simply observe that our leaders are right more often than they are wrong.

    My most valuable testimony, from early in my conversion to the church when I prayed asking if Joseph Smith was a prophet, was that I recieved these words in my mind clear as day: “He was a man.” Along with that message came an understanding that took somewhat longer to sort out – that as a man, he was subject to all the failings and temptations that I am; that he made mistakes as I do; that he struggled to do the things God asked him – but nonetheless, he did the best he could. As a result, he brought about something on this earth that would be astonishing for a mere ‘man’ to do on his own. Clearly there was something more at work there…

    Stephen Marsh captures this point nicely in post #42 (which I’ve only read after writing the above).

  • Arthur Davis

    Don Johnsen said: “When faced with irrefutable evidence of something, most rational people will have no choice but to believe in that thing – thus, there is no longer faith involved.”

    I hear this a lot. The logical conclusion to this then, is that Joseph Smith, Moses, the Brother of Jared, etc. did not have faith, that if they were rational people they in fact had “no choice” but to believe, and therefore faith was no longer involved. Can that possibly be true? It seems patently disputed by Laman and Lemuel receiving angelic visitors and still denying God.

    Similarly if “God plays a game of plausible deniability” then he seems more the trickster or even the liar than the giver of truth.

    Why would God take faith away from Joseph Smith but come up with a scheme whereby I can’t even have evidence that strongly indicates truth, nor can I have a system of thought that leads to truth.

    It would appear that God teaches not in parables, but in paradoxes. In order to believe and receive His rewards, I have to simultaneously believe two opposite concepts at the same time, e.g. – God provides light and truth to help us develop our faith, but at the same time God hides and obscures the truth from us, so we can’t know it, so we can develop faith.

    Maybe I’m a simpleton. This is very frustrating for me.

    Should I disobey the prophets? Logic would tell me that I should disobey when they are wrong (e.g. blacks can’t hold the priesthood). How do I know they are not now wrong about women holding the priesthood? But, they punish disobedience.

    Why would God’s chosen leaders punish disobedience if AGENCY and REVELATION are keys to the Gospel.

    Obviously an organization has to have rules, and I understand that. But, how do we determine that this organization is somehow different from all the others? I have been taught that we are different because of modern Prophets and personal Revelation.

    Modern prophets disciplining individuals for acting on their personal revelation doesn’t seem much different from Middle Ages popes disciplining Galileo. So, how are we different?

    My search for truth is not going very well.

    Again, I’m left with no way to determine when I should be obedient or why.

  • http://ethesis.blogspot.com/ Stephen Marsh

    How could I have missed this:

    http://faithpromotingrumor.wordpress.com/2008/06/06/experience-or-doctrine/#more-593

    SALT LAKE CITY | 6 Jun 2008 | The religious experience of members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is based on a spiritual witness from God that inspires both heart and mind, creating an interpersonal relationship directly with the divine. It does not require one to pass a rigorous theological test. Nor does it demand the extreme self-denial and seclusion of asceticism. Rather, this unique individual experience unfolds in the natural course of everyday living. Thus, the beliefs of Latter-day Saints are not rooted in concepts and principles, detached from the realities of life. They are grounded in a much deeper level of experience that motivates individuals to action.

  • hawkgrrrl

    Arthur – I don’t believe in this idea that God plays mind games to trick us (paraphrasing Don’s note). IMO, God’s process isn’t one of examining evidence and relying on proof and logic. That’s a human process we learned in school. It’s easy to argue and “prove” both sides of a paradox. If you have received the gift of the Holy Ghost, you are entitled to personal revelation. I read the BOM very critically, taking notes on all the things I didn’t like that seemed like it wasn’t legit. Then I prayed about it. I fully expected absolutely nothing to happen, but instead, I had a confirming spiritual experience of the BOM that contradicted my own “evidence.” I can’t deny what I felt.

    I am a little confused about what you say about leaders punishing disobedience when you seem to be talking about disbelief (not disobedience). Do you have a specific concern in mind?

  • http://johnsen.org Don Johnsen

    To Arthur in #55 – you wrote:

    “The logical conclusion to this then, is that Joseph Smith, Moses, the Brother of Jared, etc. did not have faith, that if they were rational people they in fact had “no choice” but to believe, and therefore faith was no longer involved. Can that possibly be true?”

    I think there was plenty of room outside of specific supernatural experiences each of these individuals had to exercise faith; additionally, my hasty generalization was aimed at a population as a whole rather than individuals specifically. My point being: If we all get handed plain simple proof of the Gospel, those who choose to believe aren’t quite practicing the same level of faith as before.

    “It seems patently disputed by Laman and Lemuel receiving angelic visitors and still denying God.”

    These guys, I don’t get – How many times do you have to get hit over the head with something? – but I did say “most” and “rational” hopefully leaving my argument some wiggle room.

    “Similarly if “God plays a game of plausible deniability” then he seems more the trickster or even the liar than the giver of truth.”

    I would interpret this more in the “Kung Fu master inscrutability” way rather than the “CIA selling drugs to fund illegal arms” way – it’s not a case of God lying to us so much as not volunteering the information. A lesson given to you on a silver platter isn’t worth a fraction of a lesson learned by hard experience – the point of this life, I think.

    “It would appear that God teaches not in parables, but in paradoxes.”

    One of my favorite sayings (I like to think I invented it but I know that’s not true): “Truth lies in the paradox.” Aside from the delicious double entendre (Truth ‘lying’) it points to one of those greater truths I’ve found in my own experience – that when faced with contradictory information, one is often on the threshold of some greater understanding. Eastern religion seems to revolve considerably around teaching this point (see Kung Fu reference above; Zen koans like “what is the sound of one hand clapping?”). Modern physics has stumbled into the territory of paradox; i.e. light is a wave and a particle at the same time, and the Heisenberg uncertainty principle says we can know the position or velocity of subatomic particles but not both. All these fragments of information about recurring paradoxes resonate within me – here there must be some fundamental truth about the universe.

    My favorite paradox: “You are supposed to obey the rules.” But: “Experience is the best teacher.” I think we’re sent here knowing full well we’re going to break rules because the experience of struggling with the rules and the consequences of breaking them is so much more valuable than our actual obedience to them. In the process we gain a better appreciation for the utility of rules, at the same time understanding why there are exceptions.

    I have gained a *substantial* appreciation for the rules in my lifetime. :)

    You’re frustrated? Examine that feeling. Experience it. What can it teach you? For a moment, regard the search for understanding on this point (the results of which may not actually matter) merely as a tool for generating the experience of the search for understanding and the things you discover about yourself on the way.

    Should you obey the prophets? At the end of the day, only you truly know that answer. I simultaneously appreciate both the reason for not calling them out in public on their shortcomings and the reasons for lobbying for changes. There is probably a way to accomplish the latter without running afoul of church discipline – if you have the patience. Some issues they may be wrong enough about or you may be passionate enough about that the sacrifice is warranted.

    Boy, that free agency thing, it’s a real b*tch sometimes.

    (I myself don’t have any differences of opinion that I’m passionate enough about/have a well-thought out alternative on that I see the point in arguing with the GAs about – but I’m just lazy like that. Maybe I believe that historically the church’s stance on blacks in the priesthood and gay folks has been in need of improvement, but it seems to me it’s heading, albeit slowly, in the right direction – so I don’t need to rock that boat.)

    “Why would God’s chosen leaders punish disobedience if AGENCY and REVELATION are keys to the Gospel.”

    Because justice is a necessary component too. While we may disagree about the specific details of given rules/principles/et cetera, at the end of the day we know there is right and wrong and if we do wrong we expect there to be some consequences for that. Like it or not, the social contract in the church is that we don’t throw our leadership under the bus in public. This is not to say that you aren’t permitted to have your own personal understanding of their teachings or to believe what you think is right based on your personal witness of the Spirit – you just get to keep it to yourself (or at least limit the dissemination of your ideas to the relative anonymity of the web).

    Maybe your search for truth is frustrated by expecting an either/or answer, when the real answer is “kinda sorta a little of both depending on the day of the week and the phase of the moon.”

    “Again, I’m left with no way to determine when I should be obedient or why.”

    There is a way. Be disobedient. Be obedient. Compare the experiences. Determine how you want to proceed from there.

    The ‘why’ will come from that process.

  • Arthur Davis

    #58 Don, Do I really need a prophet and apostles to come up with an answer like:

    “kinda sorta a little of both depending on the day of the week and the phase of the moon.”

    What the heck kind of “Special Witness” is that?

  • hawkgrrrl

    Arthur – it seems like a kernel of your issue is related to disliking and questioning the authority of leaders. Many have found their spiritual path with or without leaders. I suggest you need to determine what is it about having someone in a position of authority that bothers you and work through that, not determine whether the leaders are good or bad. It’s easy to see up the skirts of people who are on the stairs above us (one reason I don’t wear skirts to work). But that’s just an outsider’s perspective.

    At one time I was very disturbed by authority in the church and what I considered to be either 1) abuse of power, or 2) weaknesses in those above me. I had to work through my own feelings about authority (in my case, it wasn’t limited to the church) to get past that. In or out of the church, that tendency was within me personally and blocked (still blocks to some extent) my spiritual progress as a person. It’s just something to consider as you seek for truth.

  • http://johnsen.org Don Johnsen

    #59 Arthur – my example was flippant; the point was: maybe there’s a third alternative.

  • Arthur Davis

    #60
    It seems to always come down to this, doesn’t it.

    If you can’t see the Emperor’s New Clothes, it must be within you. Every time I have ever examined ANY issue within the Church critically – and by that I mean subjecting it to the same analysis we would use when looking at a politician’s claims, or the claims made by another church, or the claims made by a salesman, I am told that the problem must be within me.

    Even taking it out of our church and putting it in Christianity or religion in general, if prayer works to cure illnesses – even very severe illnesses like cancer – why doesn’t prayer ever work to restore an amputated arm or leg? It seems like every fast Sunday we are told that prayer really works, and then given proof in the form of a testimony: “We were going to be late for church, and Billy couldn’t find his shoes, so we sat down in his room and had a prayer, asking God to help us find the shoes. When we finished with the prayer, we found Billy’s shoes, they were under his bed!”

    And, despite numerous places in the New Testament where it says clearly and unconditionally, “Ask and you will receive”. If someone prays and doesn’t receive an answer, then the fault is seen within the person asking, and all kinds of explanations are offered that come down to “you didn’t ask with a sincere heart” which is the “Get out of jail free card” of Christianity. A man could study, pray, agonize, fast, and seek answers for years, and if he doesn’t receive them, somehow the problem must be within him.

    Prayer would seem to be tautological.

    Similarly, most logic and reasoning used by our church (and probably the others as well) is circular.

    And, maybe I do have a problem with authority. But I don’t think I did before I started looking at our leadership, and seeing that it is all a house of cards.

    In the other thread we seem to have determined that “Oh, yeah, they’re still prophets, but they just don’t actually know the mind of God, and they seem incapable of transcending the prejudices and biases of their own times.” Then what is prophetic about them?

    I can’t understand the need to believe two contradictory principles at the same time. For example, in the “Evidences” thread you make the point that the ban on blacks holding the priesthood (which was perpetuated by the leaders of the church was racist, and has been a “material impediment to” some people’s salvation. That doesn’t seem like the role of a prophet, nor does it then follow logically the idea in your Rock the Gerontocracy thread that

    “Psychologically, it’s much easier to unquestioningly follow the commands of someone older than you. So the strict seniority-based promotion scale serves a practical purpose.”

    Are you really willing to “unquestioningly follow the commands” of racists who impede spiritual progress?

    Perhaps I can understand, something more like, “I’ll critically examine what they say, . . . ” but “unquestioningly follow the commands”?

    This seems to be an example of “double think”. We are expected to make these kinds of claims to obedience, etc. when we are talking with our own, in fast and testimony meetings, in high council meetings, etc. But, if someone from outside asks if we mean that really, we must immediately back pedal and say, “No, of course we always stop individually and critically examine . . . ” But, next Sunday, when we are speaking in Sacrament Meeting, we’re back saying, “Follow the Prophet, even if you don’t understand why, or even if you personally think he is wrong, and you’ll be blessed for doing it.”

    But, on Monday, at work someone makes a comment that they couldn’t be Mormon, because they couldn’t follow anyone blindly, we immediately change tunes again and say, “Oh, our church doesn’t teach us to follow blindly . . . ”

    But then Wednesday night at the when we’re teaching the youth, we say, “Obedience brings blessings, obedience is greater than sacrifice. Obedience to the prophet and leaders will bring you happiness. If you follow the prophet you’ll never go astray.”

    But then, on Friday night we blog that, yeah, the prophets were racists, and impeded the spiritual development of others.

    Saturday, we blog that the leaders are totally cool, and one of the cool things is that you can trust them enough to follow them unquestioningly, because they are old and old means wise . . . ”

    And the cycle continues.

  • http://thingsofmysoul.blogspot.com Ray

    Arthur, here is the reason many of your comments drive me nuts – as directly as I can say it (much more bluntly than I am wont to do):

    You just accused us (“we”) of saying that we should follow the prophets **”unquestioningly”**. That was the word you used over and over and over in the last comment – and you put it in quotes. I am too lazy today to go back and read every comment right now, but I did a “find” search for that word in this thread and, guess what, IT’S NOT THERE – not once. Furthermore, nobody to whom you addressed your comment has said that (or anything like unto it) on any other thread on this blog.

    Unfortunately, there are members who take that tack, but nobody here has said it. “WE” is such a generalization that it can be true – NO MATTER WHAT THE CHARGE IS. “We are racist.” “We are ignorant puppets.” “We are brainwashed fools.” “We are uncritical sheep.” “We are liars.” EVERY ONE OF THOSE STATEMENTS IS TRUE – if you define “we” as “some of us” – or as “at least at one moment in our lives”. With that definition, all of humanity is described – which is the point of “we are sinners”.

    We know we are sinners. We know that even propehts are sinners. Why is that a uniquely Mormon thing in your mind – or why do you care about pointing it out to us? Some members might not accept that, but it certainly is part of our official theology, so why does it twist your knickers so hard? (That last question actually is a serious question, and I honestly wonder if you know the answer to it.)

    If the answer is what you said in one of your earlier comments (“Maybe I just expect too much.”), then can’t you accept that, put it aside, and quit banging the same drum over and over and over and over HERE – where we agree with the general statement and aren’t guilty of your more generalized charges?

  • hawkgrrrl

    Arthur – “Then what is prophetic about them?” That goes to the heart of what a prophet actually is. Is a prophet someone who knows and tells the future? That’s what most people think when they use the term. The Bible would lead us to believe that a prophet is one who warns. The church leaders clearly do that.

    I can’t answer your questions. My comment about your dislike of authority was genuine and based on my own experience. If it’s not an issue for you, that’s your call. It has been an issue for me. I don’t follow authority blindly, nor would I advocate it. But I have learned to question why I dislike authority. I tend to be very critical of people above me in my work life, for example, to the point where I have said things that hurt my career at times.

    On your spiritual journey, though, I merely suggest ignoring the “leadership” issue as it seems to be an impediment. Whether you stay in or go out of the church, I presume you still want to grow as a person and find truth. This issue seems to be holding you back. There’s more to the gospel than leadership. There’s more to your spiritual journey than just the church. Maybe rather than trying to prove or disprove the church, you should really just seek for truth. I wish you well on that search. It’s the same thing we all look for.

  • Arthur Davis

    Ray,
    I thought it was clear from my post, but hawkgrrl used the “unquestioningly” term in another thread “Rock the Gerontocracy” which I feel I offered as an example of “double speak” and attempted to point out that in this thread and in the “Evidences” thread, hawkgrrl seemed to not think “unquestioningly follow” was a good idea, as she appears to in the gerontocracy thread. I made the point in the Evidences thread that to believe the new version of the priesthood ban and its explanation seems to require members and even the prophets to follow unquestioningly.

    I believe that the the plain and cumulative effect of the many, many talks given by general authorities in recent years is to encourage obedience, even without knowing why, or thinking about it, and definitely without questioning.

    Here are some quotes, feel free to parse them to make them mean something else.

    “We are instructed to be like children, who are willing to be taught and then to act without first demanding full knowledge. . . . . Obedience is a fundamental law of the gospel. . . . Unquestioning obedience to the Lord indicates that a person has developed faith and trust in Him to the point where he or she considers all inspired instruction — whether it be recorded scripture or the words of modern prophets — to be worthy of obedience. . . . Let us believe all things. Let us have unquestioning faith in all of the doctrines and truths of the restored gospel.” Elder Robert Oaks, “Believe All Things,” Ensign, July 2005, page 30

    “Now may I say a word concerning loyalty to the Church. . . . .The Church will not dictate to any man, but it will counsel, it will persuade, it will urge, and it will expect loyalty from those who profess membership therein. . . . [T]his, [is] the Lord’s Church. This is His work. He established it. He has revealed its doctrine. He has outlined its practices. He created its government. It is His work and His kingdom, and He has said, “They who are not for me are against me. . . . “On this occasion I am not going to talk about the good or bad of Prohibition but rather of uncompromising loyalty to the Church. . . . How grateful, my brethren, I feel, how profoundly grateful for the tremendous faith of so many Latter-day Saints who, when facing a major decision on which the Church has taken a stand, align themselves with that position. . . . either the Church is true, or it is a fraud. There is no middle ground. It is the Church and kingdom of God, or it is nothing.” President Gordon B. Hinckley. “Loyalty,” April Conference, 2003.”

    “You may not like what comes from the authority of the Church . . . .But if you listen to these things, as if from the mouth of the Lord himself, with patience and faith, the promise is that ‘the gates of hell shall not prevail against you; yea, and the Lord God will disperse the powers of darkness from before you, and cause the heavens to shake for your good, and his name’s glory.’ (DC 21:6)” – Prophet Harold B. Lee, Conference Report, Oct. 1970, p. 152

    And, were I to take the time, I could find a hundred or perhaps even a thousand more examples where we are continually taught to FOLLOW and OBEY, again including the promise that the Prophet could never lead us astray, when the prophet has spoken—the discussion ends, and certainly thousands of references to the prophet and apostles as the spokesman, or “mouth piece of God” or knowing the mind of God, or knowing the will of God, and on and on and on.

    What is the cumulative effect of all this? What is the point they are trying to make? Is it really possible that this is their way of saying “be critical and cautious of what you hear from the pulpit?” I think not. I think Elder Robert Oaks may be guilty of being too obvious at what the intention is, “unquestioning obedience.”

    Statements about never criticizing the leaders (even if they are wrong) by Elder DH Oaks, and comments by Packer, Nelson, DH Oaks, Holland and others discouraging publishing or even reading the Truth about the origins of the church certainly seem to have the intended purpose of keeping people “as a little child.”

    And to answer your question directly, the fact that the leaders are sinners doesn’t particularly twist my garments, but what does twist them pretty hard is the inescapable conclusion that you accused me of the first time I posted here. I have now concluded (with your help) that they are knowingly lying to me, and that REALLY bothers me, because I have a lot of emotional baggage involved in these men I have loved and encouraged my children to emulate.

    So, now, there it is. I accuse them of lying, you can dismiss me as an out-of-touch sinful apostate, and go back to your happy little world. I on the other hand feel I have been betrayed by men I spent a long time learning to love, and I now feel abused and victimized. Where do I go?

  • hawkgrrrl

    Arthur – let me clarify my position. “hawkgrrl seemed to not think “unquestioningly follow” was a good idea, as she appears to in the gerontocracy thread.” I don’t advocate unquestioningly following things. Nor is it advocated by the church leadership as I see it. The gerontocracy post cites a list of potential positives to a gerontocracy that individuals might like about a gerontocracy (not necessarily my views). The use of the word “unquestioningly” was probably misleading, although my post was just a list of possible benefits, not my own views.

    To state my own opinion, I do think it’s easier to respect our elders in general, but the older I get the fewer of them there are. How would I feel about joining a church led by a 30-something kid? That would be a leap of faith indeed.

  • Arthur Davis

    #66 “How would I feel about joining a church led by a 30-something kid? That would be a leap of faith indeed.”

    Joseph Smith was just a babe when he started it all. Perhaps it was beautiful because he was young. Perhaps.

    Anyway, I didn’t post on your gerontocracy thread because I had reached a conclusion already and didn’t see the value in the discussion. Sadly same is true here, now.

    I really wish I hadn’t reached that conclusion. How do I put the genie back in the bottle, or start believing in Santa Claus again?

  • SteveS

    Arthur “How do I put the genie back in the bottle,”: Don’t give up. retreat to fundamentals, and invoke your memory back to times when you felt the Spirit speak truth to your heart. Stand firm on those things, no matter how small, and await a time of refreshing. We all have to do that sometimes, especially if we are willing to wade in the deep waters. I believe we need to stand together and support one another in this regard, because sometimes our more immediate acquaintances in the Church can’t understand or refuse to meet us where we’re at. Cheers.

  • SteveS

    and by fundamentals, I didn’t mean fundamentalism. :-)

  • hawkgrrrl

    Arthur – “how do I put the genie back in the bottle…?” There was a good talk in Gen Conf Oct 07 by E. Scott about how to find truth that might be beneficial. I just re-read it today (“Truth: The Foundation of Correct Decisions”). He talks about the different ways to seek for truth: through scientific inquiry or through prayer and inspiration. I don’t know whether you will like it or not, but you may. I thought he shared some good ideas.

  • http://thingsofmysoul.blogspot.com Ray

    As I said before, we are talking past each other.

    Also, I have not helped convince you that the leaders are liars. Don’t pretend to put that at my feet. You reached that conclusion before you started posting here.

    I’m done. We are not helping each other understand our separate perspectives. I could continue to critique your comments (incluing the quotes that you provided that I don’t think say what you claim they say), but we really would be going round and round eternally.

  • http://ethesis.blogspot.com/ Stephen Marsh

    Don’t give up. retreat to fundamentals, and invoke your memory back to times when you felt the Spirit speak truth to your heart. Stand firm on those things, no matter how small, and await a time of refreshing

    Nicely said, as was Hawkgrrrl’s reference.

  • SteveS

    Arthur: Thinking back to what you said yesterday really struck a chord in me, and I hope you don’t mind me sharing something that has recently been important to me in regards to my faith.


    lyrics: http://www.songmeanings.net/lyric.php?lid=3530822107858655692

    The video quality is poor, but this version of the song is much more powerful than some of the others you can find on Youtube. Brandi Carlile sings with greater sensitivity and wisdom than her years would suggest.