NOM Song of the Week: Temples of Syrinx
Hiatus

Why History Matters

Before I converted to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in 1989, I took an undergraduate class on Mormon history (I majored in History and minored in Religious Studies). The class was not taught by a Mormon but the professor was fascinated by early Mormonism, both for what we could learn about the religion and what we could learn about the early American republic through the study of this nascent American sect. I read a number of books on early Mormon history by both LDS and non-LDS scholars. It’s fair to say that I knew a fair amount about Joseph Smith and Brigham Young prior to my baptism, certainly more than the typical convert. I had also read a decent amount of what could legitimately be called “anti-Mormon” material. These works generally were written from an evangelical Christian point of view and were, for the most part, strident in tone, unimpressive, and unpersuasive. It was easy for me to dismiss them as agenda-driven screeds. After I joined the church, I continued to learn more of the history and the doctrines taught by past prophets and apostles. I read most of the 26-volume Journal of Discourses. I read everything I could find by Orson and Parley Pratt, etc.  I knew that Joseph Smith, not Brigham Young, had instituted polygamy. I knew that Brigham Young had taught some sort of strange doctrine in which he posited that Adam was God, the Father of Jesus and of us all. I knew that Brigham Young had been accused of being complicit either in the carrying out or the cover-up of the Mountain Meadows Massacre. And though I had questions about some things and was deeply troubled by others, I still remained fervent in my testimony and diligent in my service in the church. I was a true believer. So, the question naturally arises: why did the problems in church history not matter to me then but in recent months these same issues have been so troubling to me as to cause me to re-evaluate my belief and activity in the church? What changed?

In exploring this question, I came to realize that the answer gets at the heart of other questions often raised such as: what differentiates a TBM from a NOM? Why do some people with substantial knowledge of the “uncorrelated” history of the church maintain fervent testimonies and a zealous devotion to the church while others become sorely disaffected and experience a diminishment of faith? And are the General Authorities deliberately leading people astray? Is belief a choice? I think I have discovered an answer to my first question that has implications for the other questions raised.

A TBM may know about: Joseph Smith’s marriages to teenage girls; his marriages to other men’s wives (while still living); his crowning himself “King of the World;” the problems with the Book of Abraham; the numerous conflicting versions of the First Vision; the real story of how the Book of Mormon was translated; and the many nineteenth-century parallels to events found in the text of the Book of Mormon (e.g., camp meetings, slippery treasures, commonly held beliefs about the Indians, the theology of Sidney Rigdon). A TBM may know all these things and more but not be concerned about them for the simple reason that testimony trumps facts.  A TBM might say, “I know the church is true because I have a testimony I received through a spiritual experience while praying about the Book of Mormon.  If the church was true the day I received my testimony, no historical fact I might learn subsequently can change that.” That was the attitude I possessed for a long time. I was able to continue believing in the church despite the many evidences to the contrary because, figuratively, I put my concerns in a box on a shelf in deference to my testimony. I chose to give greater weight to my spiritual experiences than to any other facts or evidence regarding the foundational truth claims of Mormonism.

As long as a person has a testimony, then, there is really no historical fact or doctrinal incongruity that will deter such an individual from practicing Mormonism with zeal. But this begs the question: a testimony of what? I submit that it is a testimony that God speaks His mind and reveals His will exclusively to the church’s Prophet. That the church is led by divine mandate and not the wisdom of man is the fundamental element of a Mormon testimony.  All else flows from it. A basic tenet of Mormonism is that God speaks to his Prophet, the President of the church, who is the only person on earth who actively holds all the keys of authority to provide the ordinances required for the salvation of all humanity. Though others may receive inspiration from God through the “light of Christ” or may occasionally be touched by the Holy Ghost, only the President of the church acts as God’s official mouthpiece on earth; only he receives continuing revelation to guide not only members of the church but, indeed, all the world. If a person believes this assertion, absolute adherence to the doctrines and absolute obedience to the commandments and policies promulgated by the Prophet, his counselors in the First Presidency, and the Twelve Apostles can be reasonably expected. It’s not so much that the thinking has already been done when the Prophet speaks, it’s that the speaking (by the Lord to the Prophet) has already been done. Recognizing this basic principle, it is not hard to understand why so many Mormons so willingly follow the Prophet: they really believe he speaks for God. Given this belief, would it be rational to do anything but follow the Prophet?

If, however, one doubts that God speaks to the Prophet (or that God speaks exclusively to the Prophet) then such strict obedience is irrational and even foolish. This is not to say there is nothing good in the church. But if one doubts that the Prophet has some sort of cosmic Batphone that God uses to deliver His messages for the world, then one is free to question the policies and pronouncements that radiate from Salt Lake City. If at least some of what is spoken by the Prophet and his fellow travelers is the “wisdom of men” and not the “revealed word of God,” then the door is open to at least occasionally disagree with the Brethren. There may be times when the Prophet’s counsel is wise or reasonable and following such counsel may be beneficial.  But in rejecting the notion that when the Prophet speaks he is necessarily communicating God’s will opens up the door to question.  And questioning sometimes, perhaps often, leads to disagreement.

So, how does one go from being a TBM who believes that the prophets speak for God to being a disaffected member skeptical of the foundational truth claims of the church? For me, it began with my observation and experiences over several years that steadily chipped away at this foundation of my testimony.  Through these observations and experiences, it became increasingly difficult for me to maintain a testimony that the church is led by ongoing, continuous revelation from God. Principally, it was Gordon Hinckley’s tenure as church President that fed my doubts. I have written somewhat about this here and here Others have made similar observations and reached similar conclusions. See here, for example.

Although I can’t locate it with precision, at some point my doubts about Gordon Hinckley led me to entertain the idea that there was a chance that maybe, just maybe, the church might not really be led by an “uninterrupted” “continuous melody” and “thunderous appeal” of revelation, as the church claims. At the very least, some parts of the whole story might not be true. I began to consider the many contradictions in church doctrine and practice over the years: prophetic statements that contradicted the scriptures or other prophetic statements. I had always tried to rationalize these by saying that God gave different commandments at different times to adapt to changing circumstances. But, of course, not all the contradictions could be explained that way. I looked to apologetic site like FARMS and FAIR to see if I could find answers that made sense. These sites introduced me to the concept that “a prophet is only a prophet when he is speaking as a prophet; when he speaks as a man, he may make mistakes.” There are a couple of problems with this line of thinking: how do you know when he was speaking as a prophet or as a man, and if you can’t tell, how can you know when to follow him? Was Joseph Smith acting as a prophet or a man when he allowed a black man, Elijah Abel, to hold the priesthood? Was Brigham Young acting as a prophet or a man when he reversed that course and instituted the priesthood ban for men of African descent? Were the prophets who followed, from John Taylor through Harold B. Lee, acting under God’s command or their own wisdom in perpetuating the ban? And did Spencer Kimball receive a revelation from God to lift the ban or was he acting on his own? The TBM answer is usually some variation of “God’s ways are higher than man’s ways” or “the past prophets may have made mistakes, but God eventually made it right” or “we’ll understand it all in the Millennium.” But these answers, for a variety of reasons, are unsatisfying and, indeed, only raise more questions.

My doubts about whether Gordon Hinckley really was communicating with the heavens prompted me, eventually, to take that box of issues down off the shelf, empty it out, place my testimony in the box, and put the box back up on the shelf. I believe this is the pivotal break that separates a TBM from a NOM: the ability to set aside one’s testimony for a moment and consider the “box of issues” in a fresh light. A TBM will always view all information about the church through a lens with a “testimony filter” that God is at the helm leading the church by revelation and has been without interruption since the days of Joseph Smith.  A NOM will remove the testimony filter, effectively holding in suspension his or her testimony, and look at the information in direct light—light that is not filtered by the lens of testimony.

An example of how this works can be seen in the different responses to the book Rough Stone Rolling by LDS historian Richard Bushman.  (I have written about a stake fireside I attended in which Bushman was the speaker here. ) Some TBMs have read RSR and learned new information they find troubling.  But they overcome this because they allow their testimony to trump anything negative they learn about Joseph Smith.  Questions and concerns are placed in the box on the shelf. The book is read through the lens of testimony.  A NOM, on the other hand, will read RSR with a mind open to the idea that Joseph Smith may have acted as a man without inspiration from God on at least some things and maybe on all things. As a NOM, the more I read RSR, the more convinced I became that Joseph Smith’s ideas and adventures were a product of his own very fertile and creative imagination and not the result of divine communication. At the same time, I would visit sites in the Bloggernacle and read the comments of TBMs who were reading the book and claiming to have their testimonies strengthened by the book. I believe the explanation for this is really quite simple: the TBMs who felt “edified” by RSR went into the book looking only for validation of their testimonies of Joseph Smith as the Prophet of “the last dispensation of the fulness of times.” Bushman carefully crafted his narrative for just such people—those who already have testimonies of Joseph Smith. So, Bushman would present some damaging piece of information and invariably provide some explanation of how that information did not necessarily impugn Smith’s prophetic character. The explanations offered often seem superficial and strain credulity. But for someone with confirmation bias, that’s all that was required. For anyone else, though, Joseph Smith comes off looking quite badly in RSR.  The proof of this is in the fact that the only people who come away from RSR with a testimony of Joseph Smith as a divinely inspired prophet of God and the exclusive mouthpiece of the Lord for the latter days are those who had that testimony to begin with. 

What happens when one embraces the idea that the prophets do not have an exclusive line to heavenly communications? The gospel and the church can then be evaluated on their own merits. Things that have always seemed a little harebrained, well, maybe they are. Just one example: the problem with the priesthood being first given to black men, then denied them, then miraculously conferred again upon them. With the TBM lenses on, there just is no way to make sense of it. God leads the prophets. The prophets won’t get important matters of doctrine and policy wrong (and, face it, who does and does not have a right to priesthood is pretty basic). So, the prophets must have been right and must have been following God’s command. But God’s command, then, didn’t make any sense. If blacks were cursed, then why were they only cursed from Brigham Young’s day until Spencer Kimball’s day?  If they were not cursed, then why did God not want blacks to have the priesthood during that time? And why would God inspire his prophets to give widely differing explanations for why the ban was in place and how long it would last? The answer from a TBM to all thorny historical questions like this one is always the same: we don’t know the end from the beginning. God's ways are not our ways nor His thoughts our thoughts. It will all work out in the end. Ours is not to question why, etc. And up on the shelf that concern or issue goes. 

But take off the TBM lenses for a moment and consider an alternate possibility: the prophets are just men, influenced by their environment. Some are prejudiced, some are not. Some are wise, some are not so wise. And maybe God never told Joseph or Brigham or anyone else that blacks should not have the priesthood.  Maybe God wasn’t behind that whole thing after all. Maybe Brigham Young just screwed things up and his screw-up was perpetuated by men who believed Brigham had been acting at God’s behest. Of course, if Brigham screwed up, then theoretically God could have just inspired the next prophet to set things right. Or the next one after that. But it didn’t happen that way. So maybe all those guys who followed Brigham weren’t getting any direction from God, either. Suddenly, we have an explanation for the thorny problem of blacks and the priesthood that makes some sense. The only problem is it doesn’t really fit in well with the TBM worldview. 

And once you take off those lenses and examine one issue, like priesthood and the blacks, it is almost impossible to resist examining other issues like the Book of Mormon problems, the Book of Abraham, the life of Joseph Smith, the ugly truth about polygamy, the garments, and on and on. Once your testimony and all the difficult issues swap places in that box on the shelf, once the TBM lenses come off even for a moment, you’re never the same. “Man’s mind, once stretched by a new idea, never regains its original dimensions.”—Oliver Wendell Holmes.

Comments

Abner Doon

Once again, a top notch entry. This issue is fascinating to me, too--all knowledge of church issues being equal, why do some Mormons remain true believers while others do not? I think your answer has a lot of validity, but I think there is another reason. It seems to boil down to whether you have had (or at least strongly believe you have had) authentic, spiritual experiences that confirm the truthfulness of Mormonism.

I have a friend who is a perfect example of this. Even before we met each other, we had both participated anonymously on Mormon discussions forums, debating and discussing the very issues that you raise. We were both raised in the church, active members, but also questioning and skeptical about some things. We both considered apologetics a means of maintaining faith, a way to balance faith and reason. The only fundamental difference between us is the question of spiritual experiences. I personally do not feel like I've ever had authentic spiritual experience in the sense the Mormon church would define it. That is, I never felt any special power in connection with the priesthood, never received a special witness of Joseph Smith's prophetic calling or the validity of the Book of Mormon. I eventually tired of apologetics and rejected their answers because I didn't have the personal spiritual experiences to make it worth my while.

My friend, on the other hand, has had a number of important epiphanies over the years in connection with things specifically Mormon--the temple, priesthood, etc. As a result, he truly feels like he has experienced God, specifically the immense love of God, in the context of LDS faith. To him, that is a sign that there is at least something that obliges him to maintain his belief in Mormonism. He is at least as knowledgeable as I am about problems of Mormon history and doctrine. We still talk about the issues frequently and can agree on just about everything, other than the ultimate question of "Does all this mean that the church is not true?"

I've made what seems to me to be the inescapeable conclusion, but he is quite unable to do so. He even admits that he would prefer not to believe, because it's sometimes such a mess in rational or evidential terms. And I, for my part, would almost certainly be a believer to this day if I had even once felt a reasonably recognizable warm fuzzy in connection with the church or its claims being true. We don't doubt each other's sincerity. For both of us, it seems like we're not consciously able to believe otherwise than as we do, no matter how much we might like to switch sides. Whether he's right to place so much stock in spiritual experiences, and whether they were actually "real," I honestly can't say, but I do respect that he's a smart, well-informed, and--damned if I can explain it--true believing Mormon.

Cody Clark

Excellent post and insight Equality! I believe you have tapped into some important understandings about the foundational differences. In my experience you are right on. It took taking my box of troubles off the shelf and letting my believing filters go as well to realize some things that just weren't so. In addition, during my more believing days I did have what I considered to be spiritual experiences. But as time continues and my understanding changes I find myself understanding these experiences differently than interpreting them as proof that the church is true despite its problems.

-Domokun-

Abner, I beg to differ, or at least to offer my own counterpoint. I have had spiritual experiences that "prove" mormonism, at least according to it's own frame of reference.

My own personal apostasy came not after reading and learning many disturbing historical facts, but after reading the words and seeing the actions of GBH. The seed of my disbelief came when GBH (in 1998?) said before Larry King and the world, when asked if he was a prophet, that he "had been sustained as such." What a weasel answer! That seed grew, and sprouted when SLC announced that they were going to spend $1 Billion for mall renovations in downtown SLC. I couldn't reconcile that God's true church could "waste" that amount of money on mere commercial enterprise, when there is so much compassionate service and humanitarian work needed in the world today.

I have had intensely personal spiritual experiences, and many times I used them to justify all kinds of strange and counterintuitive doctrines and practices of the church. But my apostasy bloomed the minute I questioned GBH's authority and prophetic calling. I think Equality has nailed it in this article.

GDTeacher

This comment summarizes the whole issue well.

"Once your testimony and all the difficult issues swap places in that box on the shelf, once the TBM lenses come off even for a moment, you’re never the same. 'Man’s mind, once stretched by a new idea, never regains its original dimensions.'—Oliver Wendell Holmes."

At one point, relatively early in my NOM "conversion," I mentioned to my bishop that I was somewhat troubled by discrepancy in the typical teachings regarding the the BoM translation process and the reality. I mentioned the picture of the studious Joseph with or without his heavenly spectacles vs. the picture with his face in a hat with rocks held between his legs. My bishop, who is actually a very amazing and intelligent guy, said, "You have a spiritual witness of the truthfulness of the BoM and the church, and no information, new or old, true or untrue, can take that away. You don't have to worry about any of this, because you have a testimony."

By that point in time, my mind had been stretched, never to return to the same state. I could not unlearn what I had learned. I could not unfeel the relief I had when all of the puzzle pieces fit together in a way that made sense.

If you allow yourself to honestly ask they question, "What if the church weren't true...," the whole thing snaps together very nicely.

Thanks for an outstanding post Equality.

Matt Elggren

Thank you, Equality.

And Domokun, I too am one of those folks who had "spiritual experiences"...though I must admit that they were primarily of the misty-eyed sort. I've never seen god or angels with my own eyes, only imagined them in my minds eye or had dreams; some quite vivid and bordering on the indistinguishable from waking experience.

An yet, here I am with you all. Full of doubt and dis-anchored from the notion of prophetic authority.

Some would say that, what has been referred to here as "expanded mind" is in fact a retrograde...a backsliding. But we must use the same argument to refute this nonsense that TBMs use to persuade others of their convictions: we must stand by the conviction and veracity of our own personal experiences. Once one has opened the mind (removed the lense) to non-orthodox possibilites and found them just as moving or more so...this experience can no easier be denied than the TBM testimony.

As for us...we have experienced both the TBM and NOM to one degree or another, and I for one have a testimony of the NOM approach that does not require an ignorance box to protect.

desert vulture

Equality -

That was a great piece. As you point out, a TBM mindset is typically premised on spiritual experiences and not factual evidence. As Abner stated, there are many TBMs that are fully aware of the discrepancies and contradictions of history and doctrine, but more than willing to put all of their doubts on a shelf, in favor of a "spiritual experience" that has manifested to them the truthfulness of the gospel. I was in that TBM mindset for over forty years, until I realized that spiritual experiences were not limited to mormonism. Those I spoke with, who shared a similar spiritual experience to mine, shared that their interpretations of their experience was vastly different than mine.

As you know, around April Fools day I was very concerned about the authority we should give to spiritual experiences. The NOM thread was very good for me, and made me reevaluate my own conclusions.

I now believe that most spiritual experiences are given to help those in desperate need, to act as a comfort for them, in some way. My experience served me in this way. But, spiritual experiences are not intended as a proof for Mormonism, they are intended as a proof of the divine, and are given to all people regardless of religious belief. Therein lies the serious error in interpreting spiritual experiences from a mormon perspective. If Abner's friend could step back and ask himself if the experiences he has felt could simply reflect deity's love for him, and not some "witness" of mormonism, then I think his puzzle would all fit together very nicely.

Thanks for the brilliant reasoning in the article. I couldn't agree with your more, keep up the good work.

-DV

Blake

Interesting post -- espeically since my experience is the exact opposite of what you describe. I began as a faithful TBM and lost my testimony. However, looking freshly at the issues after years of doubt led me to see if the non-prophet explanation of JS really worked. It didn't. There were so many things that required explanation that had not even a half-way decent explanation that I began to see that in honesty I had to be open to the possibility that the BofM was exactly what Joseph claimed. So I came back, felt the spirit again and felt a renewed heart. So what is the difference for you? Could I suggest it is actually a change of heart.

Blake

Equality: It seems that you are going on hiatus because you lost your faith? On another blog you suggested that there were easy answers to a few challenges that I posted andt here was a more appropraite forum. You directed me here. So I am interested to see if you have something more than a question begging or non-responsive (non)response to provide. As I indicated, I found my faith again when I realized that intellectual integrity demanded that I give equal weight to the evidences that spoke for antiquity of the Book of Mormon (and we can talk about the BofAbr. later if you like in the same vein). So I ask just what your explanation is for the following:

1. The exact replication of the prophetic call form or Gattung in 1 Ne. 1 and Alma 36. Not only are all of the elements of the call present in the appropriate order and syntax, but the social and legal purposes in Israelite/Jewish culture of the call is clearly known to whoever wrote the text. The form critical pattern is discussed in: Blake T. Ostler, "The Throne-Theophany and Prophetic Commission in 1 Nephi: A Form-Critical Analysis," BYU Studies 26/4 (1986): 67–95; and Daniel C. Peterson and Stephen D. Ricks, "The Throne Theophany/Prophetic Call of Muhammad," in The Disciple as Scholar: Essays on Scripture and the Ancient World in Honor of Richard Lloyd Anderson, ed. Stephen D. Ricks, Donald W. Parry, and Andrew H. Hedges (Provo, UT: FARMS, 2000), 323–37.

2. The presence of a form-critical Israelite covenant renewal/coronation festival form. The form is clearly present, it functions in its authentic monarchical setting and it is repeated at least three times quite clearly (showing it was a Nephite tradition and form as well) in Mosiah 1-5; Mosiah 7 and 17. It is discussed here: Blake Ostler, “The Book of Mormon as a Modern Expansion of an Ancient Source,” Dialogue 20/1 (Spring 1987); Hugh W. Nibley, An Approach to the Book of Mormon, 3rd ed. (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book and FARMS, 1988), 295–310; John A. Tvedtnes, "King Benjamin and the Feast of Tabernacles," in By Study and Also by Faith: Essays in Honor of Hugh W. Nibley, 2 vols. (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book and FARMS, 1990), 197–237; Stephen D. Ricks, "The Treaty/Covenant Pattern in King Benjamin's Address (Mosiah 1–6)," BYU Studies 25 (1984): 151–62; John W. Welch, "King Benjamin's Speech in the Context of Ancient Israelite Festivals" (Provo, UT: FARMS, 1985); Blake T. Ostler, "The Covenant Tradition in the Book of Mormon," in Rediscovering the Book of Mormon, ed. John L. Sorenson and Melvin J. Thorne (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book and FARMS, 1991), 230–40.

3. Israelite legal procedure for bringing a lawsuit and its procedural execution form-critical patterns at the walls of the city that appears at lest four times in the text. I discuss it in my "Expansion" article. I can give additional sources if you like.

Can I also suggest that to my LDS ears the choice you have made as you describe it here sounds like this: "I decided not to listen to the spirit or give any weight to my testimony, but to look at the evidence thru the eyes of non-believers, and they convinced me." I suggest that the heart has reasons the head will never know. We could discuss that also if you would like.

I suspect that you won't answer -- or attempt it. It may be that your choice is irrevocable -- or maybe you'd like to see how your assistant watching this site will respond. In any event, integrity demands openness.

I've also read your posts on Pres. Hinckley s (non)prophet. From one perspective it is entirely correct. If one is looking for proof that Pres. Hinckley is a prophet, or that he has had biblical proportion prophetic visions, the evidence is scarce. But from another point of view the assumptions behind the post are so shallow it is dumbfounding how an intelligent person could buy into your point of view. God is somehow obligated to give revelations and if he doesn't he hasn't established his Church? If you didn't believe Joseph, Brigham, John, Wilford, Lorenzo, and Joseph F. when they said "thus saith the Lord," or "the heavens were opened and I saw," just what could show that God has given revelation and established his Church? Just maybe we haven't been given more because the people won't listen. When the prophet speaks, they say, "my own political commitments are more dear to me and deeper than anything the prophet could say, even if he says it officially." I know that this last comment is bound to rankle a bit -- and I apologize in advance for knowing that you may well choose to be offended at these words -- but an open heart alone knows and one who has chosen to close off to the heart will never hear.

Equality

Blake,
Thank you for taking the time to post your comments on my blog. They are appreciated and I assure you that I am very familiar with your point of view, having shared it for many years. You've taken quite the shotgun approach in your comment, and I will attempt to address the many issues you raised therein. If I neglect to respond to a particular point, please do not assume I have conceded it, only that I inadvertently overlooked it.

As I said on the Mormon Stories blog, I was an avid reader of FARMS materials for a number of years. I have the entire collected works of Hugh Nibley and have read most of what Jack Welch and his fellow travelers at FARMS have produced on the Book of Mormon. I still admire Professor Welch.
My hiatus from this blog has nothing to do with “losing my faith.” It is a personal matter and I have said all I care to say about why I am discontinuing my active blogging here for the time being. I would note, however, that I think it incorrect to say that I have “lost faith.” Faith, as defined in the Book of Mormon, is to have “hope for things which are not seen, which are true.” Alma 32:21. To the extent that one believes in something which is not true, one is not exercising faith but rather is operating under a delusion. Accordingly, to the extent that I discover certain facts about, say, the Book of Abraham, I have chosen to abandon delusion in favor of faith, i.e., hope in that which is true.

You assert that I said on another blog that there were “easy answers” to the challenges you put forth. I don't remember saying that. Perhaps you could link to the statement to which you are referring. I did say that there were “ample resources” for those interested in the Book of Abraham issues, and I directed you to this blog so you could read my post summarizing one of those issues, which can be found here. I have also included in the left sidebar under the heading “Book of Abraham” a number of links to the best resources on the Internet for information on the subject, including a link to a page with numerous links to apologetic works. Anyone with a desire to learn about the subject can get information from folks with various points of view and biases. I think this a valid approach to learning and acquiring truth. I think it better than reading only apologetic sources or church-approved sources.

Your three examples from the Book of Mormon that allegedly show connections to ancient near eastern culture are the types of things I discuss in my post on Book of Abraham anachronisms. If a document purporting to be of ancient character contains any anachronisms pointing to a later date of production, such an anachronism would be fatal to the book’s claim for authenticity. And this would be true regardless of how many things the clever forger of the document “got right.” So, the question to ask regarding the Book of Mormon is the same one we ask with respect to the Book of Abraham: is there anything in the text to demonstrate a more recent origin than the one claimed for the work? In both the Book of Abraham and the Book of Mormon, the answer to this question is yes. Indeed, one of the examples you give, of the supposed parallels in Mosiah to ancient coronation ceremonies, is interesting but there are just as many (if not more) parallels between King Benjamin’s speech and the Methodist camp meetings of which Joseph Smith was intimately familiar. (For some pictures of these camp meetings see here.) The point is this: one can scour the ancient world for “parallels” to the Book of Mormon text, discarding all the information that differs from what is in the Book of Mormon. It is not difficult to find such parallels in this manner—Hugh Nibley had a particular talent for it. But such a practice is like shooting an arrow at the side of a barn and then drawing a target around the arrow to get your bull’s-eye. Parallels between some of the cultural practices described in the text of the Book of Mormon and some cultural practices of ancient Semitic peoples are interesting but constitute only the barest of circumstantial evidence in favor of the book’s authenticity. In my analogy about the hypothetical lost diaries of William the Conqueror, I noted that the diaries would be considered forgeries despite the fact that the forger inexplicably had gotten right some details about the soldiers’ uniforms or tactics used at the Battle of Hastings. Your parallels are similar. If there are anachronisms in the Book of Mormon, then the fact that there may be some parallels to ancient near eastern culture is irrelevant to the question of the book’s authenticity.

The fact remains that there is no real direct evidence that the historical events described in the Book of Mormon actually occurred. Note that I am not asking for evidence of the supernatural events described in the book—these are beyond history and science’s ability to investigate. But the book makes numerous concrete historical claims—it describes people, animals, buildings, agriculture, weaponry, clothing, etc. And no evidence for any of these has ever been found by anyone (save Joseph Smith finding the bones of the white Lamanite Zelph). So, what we have is a lack of any direct evidence that the 1000-year history described in the Book of Mormon ever took place (to say nothing of the Jaredite civilization). We have circumstantial evidence that tells us Joseph Smith (a) was able to get some things right about the ancient world through sheer chance or (b) had some knowledge of the ancient near eastern culture from his religious studies and his contacts with learned religious men. We have a substantial amount of circumstantial evidence that many parts of the Book of Mormon were influenced by life on the American frontier in the early 19th century. For information on these parallels which, in my estimation, are greater both in number and in probability, consult the sites linked in the left sidebar under the title “Uncorrelated Viewpoints.” And, of course, we have the numerous anachronisms and impossibilities found in the text of the Book of Mormon itself that, try as they might, FARMS and FAIR are unable to persuasively explain away.

As Jack Welch has acknowledged, in the end, no one believes in the Book of Mormon based on rational arguments and evidence. Although you characterized your return to the church as a result of “intellectual integrity demand[ing] that [you] give equal weight to the evidences that spoke for antiquity of the Book of Mormon,” you also state that it was feeling the spirit and experiencing a “change of heart” that provide you with the basis for your belief in the Book of Mormon. And you suggest that I require the same—a change of heart, not mind. Pardon the pun, but this really does get to the “heart” of where we differ. I do accept the rational interpretation of the evidence regarding the Book of Mormon (and the Book of Abraham). Looking at the issue rationally, the evidence overwhelmingly points to a nineteenth-century origin for both books. Only those who give greater weight to their emotional (or spiritual, if you like) response to the books believe that the “evidence” supports the proposition that the books are of ancient origin. At bottom, we disagree about the validity of interpreting an emotional response as a barometer of truth where reason applied to available evidence produces a contrary result. For example, many people have had emotional/spiritual experiences that have led them to believe they had been abducted by aliens. Reason applied to available evidence indicates that no such abductions have occurred. Despite the alleged abductees’ insistence, based on their personal, subjective experience, the truth is that no abductions have occurred. For an exploration of why people believe and how they believe, I would recommend reading the following: Demon Haunted World, Why People Believe Weird Things, and How We Believe, for starters.

It is not that I have “refused to listen to the spirit” or that I “give no weight” to my testimony, it is simply that I believe that real faith cannot be grounded in fantasy. In order to have real faith, that faith must be grounded in truth. So, I have never denied that I have had spiritual experiences or that others have also. Spiritual experiences appear to be a part of the human condition. I simply do not believe that the numinous experiences I have had (or that others may have) are a valid means for ascertaining truth. I think that observation, experience, and rational analysis of available evidence are valid means for determining truth. The latter have led me to doubt the historicity of the Book of Mormon and Book of Abraham. If I have a spiritual experience and afterward am left feeling that the sun goes around the earth, should I trust my heart? Or should I rely on the scientific evidence to determine the truth or falsity of that proposition. I am willing to concede that science is limited in its ability to prove or disprove certain matters in the realm of faith (the existence of God, for example). But on matters in which science and reason are appropriately engaged, I trust them over my feelings.

Now, on to your next comment, that you suspect I wouldn’t answer. Why the taunting? Why would you think I wouldn’t answer? Have I heretofore been shy about giving my opinions?

On the President Hinckley issue: it is nice to see we have reached a point of agreement, that “If one is looking for proof that Pres. Hinckley is a prophet, or that he has had biblical proportion prophetic visions, the evidence is scarce.” Sadly, however, you then descend into the “tendency to attack, denigrate and even mock the individual who disagrees with their view of the world” that John Dehlin identified as a characteristic of Mormon apologetics in his original post on the subject at Mormon Stories. You say that my desire to have a man sustained as a “Prophet” actually prophesy on occasion is “so shallow it is dumbfounding how an intelligent person could buy into [my] point of view.” Of course, you don’t really explain why intelligent people would not expect a prophet to prophesy, offering only your opinion without evidence that perhaps the reason he doesn’t prophesy is that the people would not listen. My experience in the church has been the opposite. Members of the church are so desperate for prophetic counsel that they take the most mundane words and give them the weight of divine decree. I know people who stopped drinking Coca-Cola the day after Gordon Hinckley’s interview with Mike Wallace appeared on 60 Minutes. Why? Because Wallace had listed “caffeine” in his summary of things proscribed for Mormons and Hinckley nodded his head at the end of the list. I think it far more likely that the reason Hinckley does not prophesy is that he does not speak with the Lord any more than anyone else does. And since when does a lack of faith on the part of the people stop a true prophet from prophesying? Isn’t that when the people need a prophet the most? Was Lehi stopped from prophesying by a lack of belief on the part of those who heard his message? Noah? Jeremiah? Ezekiel? Paul?
As for your last comment about political commitments being more dear and deep to me than following prophetic counsel, I am not sure to what you are referring, so I am not offended, merely perplexed. I am not sure how my political commitments bear in any way upon the issues we have been discussing here.
Thanks for commenting. I appreciate it and wish you all the best. If the church is working for you, I am truly happy for you.

Equality

It seems Blake has had this conversation before, with respect to the three items in support of the Book of Mormon he mentions in his comment. I send the reader here for the complete discussion. I think it fair to say that I would, for the most part, adopt the analysis offered by Roasted Tomatoes on the subject.

Blake

Eqaulity: You said: "As Jack Welch has acknowledged, in the end, no one believes in the Book of Mormon based on rational arguments and evidence."

Well, I guess you're meeting the first person in history to be convinced about the BofM based on the evidences. As I suspected, your (non)response entirely dodges the issues that I raised. With all due respect, you don't even engage or discuss the evidence, you pretend that addressing some other issue is sufficient (that is called an evasion). I really would like some answer better than RT's non-answer that says essentially: "That's just how religious geniuses do it." In fact, his sole response was that the evidence for the covenant renewal festival really wasn't complete because Mosiah 2-5 lacked an exodus motif. I pointed out to him (and now to you again) that in fact it is present very clearly.

I don't mean to be disrespectful, but you response here is entirely inadequate and frankly a very poor attempt to appear to be addressing the issues I raised by bringing up other issues. I can and will discuss the issues related to the BofAbr. that you raise -- but only after you have actually engaged in a good faith attempt to respond to those that I raised. You completely fail to address the three form critical evidences that I identified -- and they are clearly present and widely recognized by those who have background in the relevant sources and langauges.

Your suggestion that there are just as many parallels between king Benjamin and a Methodist camp meeting is simply uninformed in my view. I address that issues expressly in my Expansion article. Moreover, it fails to account for these "parallels." What you miss is that form critical analysis isn't merely parallels, but an order of acts having legal and social significance that place the writing in its legal/social framework. So the fact that you think these are mere parallels suggests to me that you don't understand form-critical analysis.

Further, you didn't even comment on the prophetic call and legal form-critical elements. I would say it is pretty well simply an attempt to appear to address the issues I raise without engaging the issue seriously or in good faith.

Blake

At the site you linked to, RT susggested that the covenant renewal festival in Mosiah 1-5 could be acounted for by seeing it as a Methodist camp meeting. I answered:

"There are elements of a camp meeting in Mosiah 2-5 (wrote about them in my article of the Expansion Theory), but such a setting hardly begins to explain the text. At camp meetings there were not royal summonses to attend around the temple, to attend a coronoation and participate in the witnessing of the heavenly king etc.. So the context of a camp meeting just doesn't plausibly begin to explain the setting in Mosiah 2-5 whereas a covenant renewal ceremony includes surprising features that one doesn't expect remotely in a 19th century text. I'm not aware of anyone in the 19th century remotely approaching an understanding of the prphetic call form in 1 Ne. 1 nor of formal Israelite legal process and customs in the BofM prophetic lawsuit forms. It's possible JS was just a genius -- but that doesn't explain anything so much as just give us a magic formula for "anything is possible."

I would add that at the campt meeting the king did not address the people. The king didn't pass on the kingdom to his son. He didn't have the people acknowledge the royal lineage. They didn't pass on the sacred relics. They didn't enter into covenants. They weren't dismissed by the king to return home. All of these elements are present in coronation covenant ceremonies and Mosiah.

RT also said: "the covenant renewal form covers the coronation and some of the other aspects of the text, but it has anomalies as well.

One of those anomalies is the missing recital of God's miraculous works. Not only is there no recounting of the Exodus, there isn't even a recounting of the miraculous Lehite exodus in the text. This is, I think, an unresolvable anomaly for the view of this text as an Israelite covenant renewal form. Not a definitive one, but enough to cloud the picture."

However, it is pellucidly clear that RT was simply not paying attention. As I responded: "I think that you may have missed the rather clear statements of God's mighty acts and the Lehite exodus in the text. For example, consider this: "And also that they might give thanks to the Lord their God, who had brought them out of the land of Jerusalem, and who had delivered them out of the hands of their enemies, and had appointed just men to be their teachers, and also a just man to be their king, who had established peace in the land of Zarahemla, and who had taught them to keep the commandments of God, that they might rejoice and be filled with love towards God and all men." Mosiah 2:4. ... Not all covenantal elements need to appear in the text of Mosiah's speech; they can appear in the text as elements of the sitz im leben and in the OT most often are just textual statements. The covenant of pledging to God and God pleadging to protect is very clearly present. Mosiah 2:24. Frankly, it seems rather clear that the elements you say are questionable just ain't - at least, by my lights."

Now let me return to the obvirus. You haven't addressed the prophetic call form. You haven't addressed the legal procedures. Your argument (relying on RT primarily) are not merely misinformed but simply in error. You have wanted to engage in a diversion to evade the issue primarily. But I suggest that it is a matter of focus and willingness to see the evidence in its entirety. I suggest that my Expansion theory easily accounts for the anachronisms you think are definitive. However, unless there is an explanation for these types of evidence of antiquity, what you suggest is not a good faith response to the evidence but an avoidance of it.

Now I acknowledge that we must all choose what to focus on because we don't have time to check everything out. As temporally bound creatures we much pick and choose. However, I have looked very carefully at the evidence and I believe that only a view that can account for both ancient and modern influences has a chance of actually being responsive to the evdience. I am convinced by the evidence that neither JS nor anyone in the 19th century had the capacity to know about the form-critical elements in the BofM or to faithfully reflect them in a text as completely and accurately as I have found it. Admittedly some of the force of the evidence arises from studying Hebrew and Hebraic literary and legal forms and a backfround in form-critical analysis. Yet I guess I am just arrogant enough to sniff a bit at those who think that they have the tools to arrive at opinions about the BofM when they don't.

Blake

Equality: You say: "It is not that I have “refused to listen to the spirit” or that I “give no weight” to my testimony, it is simply that I believe that real faith cannot be grounded in fantasy. In order to have real faith, that faith must be grounded in truth. So, I have never denied that I have had spiritual experiences or that others have also. Spiritual experiences appear to be a part of the human condition. I simply do not believe that the numinous experiences I have had (or that others may have) are a valid means for ascertaining truth. I think that observation, experience, and rational analysis of available evidence are valid means for determining truth."

With all due respect, when you say that you give weight to spiritual experiences, and then conclude that they are not a basis for knowing the truth, but only empirical and rational means are valid avenues to truth, what is it that you think you have said? It seems fairly obvious on its face that you are saying you don't trust spiritual experiences as a basis for knowing the truth and only rational/empirical means can be trusted. I fail to see how this is supposed to disagree with my observation that you decided to shelf you "numunous experiences" as a basis for knowing truth and relied soly on your noggin and your attempt to grasp the empirical evidence.

I wanted to seperate out the discussion because I suspect that suggesting that spiritual experiences are a better way of knowing the truth would then be turned into: "See, I told you that you rely solely on ephemeral feelings for you conclusions and I don't trust feelings." My experiences are much more than mere emotions or feelings; but they are necessarily personal and not public data for inspection. God ingeniously set it up that way so that only those who have open hearts would know the truth. It really is a matter of heart -- but nothing said in a manner of proof based on publicly available evidence constitutes such an open heart.

Finally, when you say that faith must be grounded in truth to be faith, that presupposes that you must possess the truth and have an accurate assessment of it prior to faith. That is backwards based on scriptural accounts. In fact, it is no wonder you lost faith because if you must know the truth to have faith as a basis for having faith at all, it follows that faith is impossible and superfluous. In fact, what you suggest is the opposite of faith and impossible for any mortal to achieve. I must know before having faith -- and so my faith comes from knowing the truth logically prior to having faith. With all due respect, given that kind of demand, any epistemology or notion of "faith" is logically impossible because it assumes as a basis for accomplishing knowledge that the knowledge must already be possessed.

Blake

Equality: Finally (and I'll bet you're happy for that!), I am a bit chagrined that you would charge me with "the “tendency to attack, denigrate and even mock the individual who disagrees with their view of the world” when I asserted that your argument was such that no intelligent person would accept it when put in a broader perspective. As I laid out (and you failed to address) it is not really credible in a larger perspective because: (1) The question of whether GBH is a prophet is not isolated from the prophetic tradition of which he is a part; and (2) God is not obligated to give revelations -- and any suggestion that he must fails to understand the notion obligation. Perhaps I didn't express it clearly enough and so you didn't grasp that these were my points. In any event, you suggested that I descended into some supposed apologetic mire -- simply broadly condemning everyone who defends the faith. I am chagrined at your charge because it is untrue and fails to recognize the reasons I said what I did as if all that I had to offer were personal attacks.

GBH is a part of a prophetic tradition and if one didn't believe Joseph, Brigham, John, Wilford, Lorenzo and Joseph F. when they said they had revelations (and you clearly don't), then it begs the question to ask something of GBH that would make no difference to you even if he delivered it in spades. So my response is based on a sound argument which you ignored and your argument that GBH is not a prophet rather clearly commits the logical fallacy of being beside the point.

texasguy

Blake said: "Yet I guess I am just arrogant enough to sniff a bit at those who think that they have the tools to arrive at opinions about the BofM when they don't.

God ingeniously set it up that way so that only those who have open hearts would know the truth. It really is a matter of heart"

You didn't just say you are smarter and more righteous, did you? Just wondering, because I am probably not quite smart enough to pick up on your arrogance.

Mayan Elephant

Blake buddy,

“God ingeniously set it up that way so that only those who have open hearts would know the truth. It really is a matter of heart -- but nothing said in a manner of proof based on publicly available evidence constitutes such an open heart.”

What did god set up for his peeps so that we would know what was NOT true? A closed heart? Or a brain? Just wondering. We can ignore all the silliness that would apply to this in the real world eh? I have studied and pondered and concluded that there is oil in them thar hills. Is it true?

You are being a dork blake. Equality responded very well. His analogy of the arrow on the barn with the post drawn target is so appropriate. I loved it. And yes, I just insulted you. Because quite frankly, it comes natural for me. So now you can run back to your little club and tell everyone that I am evil and the apologists are saints and it’s the exmos that insult and not the apologists. And then we will all go back to where we belong, you in heaven and me in hell.

Hey blake, you are cracking me up. I love all this ancient this and that and exodus and whatever it was you said. Especially since the bible is just mythical fiction. Parallel logic would be to prove harry potter stories were true based on parallels in the lord of the rings. Really. I mean that. And I am absolutely right. You are arguing about the truthfulness of a piece of fiction based on the stories in another book of fiction. You are arguing about the prophetic calling of a man based on the fictional stories of mythical characters. You crack me up silly boy.

Equality, have fun with this thread. Its quite comical now.

Blake et al invest in this silly arguments and minutia in an effort to prove this book is true and then have fun with all the metaphorical if-then conclusions of the church. If the book this then joseph that so church this so do your home teaching. Yada yada. Or worse, if mosiah this and exodus that then joseph this and Gordon that so don’t let gays marry. Oh dear god in heaven I would rather be in hell with woody allen and the damn Yankees.

Blake, here is the bottom line that I will tell you again. Because the first dozen times you were ignorantly ignoring me you ignoramus.

There is no amount of evidence that will trump the negative experience that many in the church are having. NONE. Do you get that. Argue all you want. In fact, get god himself to come down her with more evidence. It doesn’t change this fact blake, some people are miserable in your church. Do you understand that? Can you finally admit to me that some people in your church are sad? Will you ever acknowledge that some people in your church are angry? Some are there out of family loyalty without any conviction whatsoever? Do you even care? Are you to numb to care?

Blake. Those people I am referring to above, are good people. Do you give a damn? Do you care that they are good, or do you insist that if they are not convinced, like you, they are bad? Does that mean one damn thing to you, that they are good people?

Next. Blake. Get a grip on reality. You are going to be a leader in this church. You will be a bishop or stake president or whatever. You will teach others. You will do all this because you swallowed the hook or because you are right, I don’t care what the reason is. Take the time to understand others. Know that people are bitter, scared, lonely and sad and mixing with people like you. Have mercy on them.

You thoroughly pissed me off when you judged my wife. You have no clue what and who she is to a community. You have no clue the grief others had when she walked out of the church for the last time. She gave everything to that church. She tried to make it her salvation. She was a model mormon. And your comments about our family, especially when I was speaking hypothetically were a telling indication of where and who you are.

This is just a church. A small church at that. It is an institution. If you like it, so be it. If you think the book of mormon is true because the good news bible says moses sued lot for trespassing, go for it. But stop leveraging that conviction to make yourself a judge of others.

Blake. Be nice. Have mercy. Argue about these details with equality et al forever. But be nice. You havent been so far. You have accused me of being angry. That may or may not be so. you clearly are angry that members are critical of your church and rising up from within, with blogs, books and also with their exits. The church is not winning this war, and you may be angry about that too. Still, be nice. You may be my mothers bishop one day, and I would appreciate it if someone explained to her how difficult it is to stay, and that leaving Mormonism is in no way an indication of a hard or open heart, nor is it a reflection of ones love of family.

In closing, I would like to bear my testimony. I know joseph smith married a little girl, many of them. I know joseph smith lied. I know that my family is special, and we are happy without the church. I know that my extended family is torn when someone leaves the mormon fold. I know the mormon church is harmful to my daughter. I know I saw mark hofmanns burning car, I looked into the eyes of the parent of his victim. I know that this church discriminated against people I love, even members of my family based on the color of their skin. I know the church leaders encourage discrimination of my family members based on their most natural sexual orientations. I know my kids would be forced to judge their own family members harshly if they stayed in this church. I know these things are true. I know I love these kids more than anything, and I would hate for them to confuse nuance and ancient near east traffic laws with inspiration. I say this in the name of my idols- my wife and children. amen.

Blake

ME: I had already divined from your sychophantic put downs at John's site that you were incapable of doing much more than carping, wining and engaging in illogical gibberish.

You chose to be "pissed" (I don't have the power to make you pissed). I didn't put down your wife -- it was Domokun's wife that was at issue. As I said at John's site and say again here -- that was merely an example of "someone's wife" - tho how you ended up with a woman who is even half way decent is the best proof that there cannot be a just God that I know.

I fully grasped that you were wining, judging and complaining not because of what someone did to you, but because you had a secret revelation of all those poor souls who are forced to go to church by their loving spouses. You are the ordained complainer on behalf of all those poor injured souls who just aren't bright enough to get it and don't dare tell another soul for fear of retribution -- yet somehow you have had a revelation of their unspoken thoughts and pains. You can't even complain on your own behalf, so you complain vicariously, thru those who are so hurt that they do it in secret. And you, the keeper of the secret and the savior of their souls and unspoken pains, get to do what you clearly have a real flare for doing -- judging, carping, wining and dissing the church and its members.

You don't even go to church -- so don't complain that I may be your bishop some day. You can't carp about your own church related problems, so you carp and wine and bitch and moan on behalf of those who you somehow secretly know are suffering. Your display on John's post and here is one of the most pathetic displays of sheer arrogance, self-superiority and judgmentalness that I have witnessed. It is why I don't spend much time writing to blogs that sport malcontents like you who use the church for target practice for your complaining and judging(that is why Equality's metephor of the bull's eye was so striking for me). I will look forward to see if Equality really is an equal and fair hand, responding to your antics here by labelling them as "descending into the “tendency to attack, denigrate and even mock the individual who disagrees with their view of the world.”

Now I will concede this, in re-reading my posts, my tone to Equality was not as thoughtful and respectful as I would have liked. My tone was way too harsh and did not give Equality the credit for what is an obviously considered position by a very intelligent person. However, Elephant, I have not been harsh enough with you. Your post is so over the top that I will use it as an example when I write and speak to various groups (at the Society of Christian Philosophers and elsewhere) of the type of "anti-Mormon" response used on this and similar blogs of sheer ill-will and lack of good faith in dialogue. I will not address your posts again. I don't have time to get down and wallow in the slop with you.

-Domokun-

Blake, go back and read John's blog, because you were casting aspersions on Mayan's wife, not mine. I merely defended both Mayan and his wife, who are some of the nicest people I have ever met. In fact, go back and read Mayan's comments in this blog, because he never thought that you might be "his" bishop, he said if you were ever his mother's bishop, please act with care. You display such a lack of discipline with attributions of fact that I can't take anything else you say seriously, because your base assumptions are flawed and you are making up stuff as you go along. Nothing you say is trustworthy anymore.

Incidentally, comments such as yours just prove that the FAIR/FARMS folks like you are more interested in polemics than apologetics. Go back to you den of iniquity, you viper of Satan!

Lunar Quaker

Blake said: "tho how you ended up with a woman who is even half way decent is the best proof that there cannot be a just God that I know"

Blake, you know squat about Mayan and his wife. Talk about judgemental. Sure, he's lucky to have such a great wife, but she's also lucky to have him. That's the beauty of marriage, right?

You've got your head buried in the sand if you think that people don't suffer in this church. Mayan makes an excellent point. You can talk about ancient America until you're blue in the face, but it won't change the real world experience of being in the church.

Equality

Blake said: "I will look forward to see if Equality really is an equal and fair hand,..."

Blake, I think that leaving both your and Mayan's comments up is all I need do to show that I am a fair hand. I think you both are quite capable of making your points in a most forceful manner. So, I don't think I will address either Mayan's comment directed at you or yours directed back at him. Neither of you needs me to fight your battles. As for your replies to my response, I will address them later when I have more time (I do work for a living, after all). Thanks again for visiting and posting here. I welcome a spirited debate. I prefer to keep things at an intellectual level of discourse but I won't censor you or my friend Mayan if you both choose a different rhetorical style. All I ask is that everyone keep things relatively clean and somewhat on topic. Thanks.

Equality

May I just add this quote from a man I expect you admire and respect, brother Blake:

"Let us be more merciful. Let us get the arrogance out of our lives, the conceit, the egotism. Let us be more compassionate, gentler, filled with forbearance and patience and a greater measure of respect one for another. In so doing, our very example will cause others to be more merciful, and we shall have greater claim upon the mercy of God who in His love will be generous toward us." Gordon B. Hinckley.

I know that those of us like Mayan and I who you say are hardhearted can not be expected to live up to these words from the "Prophet." But you, Blake, as one who claims to have a soft heart, ought to be able to live the way Gordon has asked, no?

Mayan Elephant

Blake,

you missed the point. i am content in my positions. i am content in my decisions. but, i am just one person, in a large family. i am just one person, that was part of church of many.

it really isnt too much to ask blake, for you to accept and acknowledge that some people in your church are not happy. its not. but your conclusions and assumptions that you would make based on that suggestion are radical and harmful.

failing to accept that every person in every pew on every sunday isnt excited to be present is not helping you, them, or the church. it is consistent with apologetics, admittedly: All is well in the doctrine, all is well in the history, all is well in the organization, all is well in the priesthood and all is well in zion. so shutup and be happy.

i dont expect you to wallow in the slop. and i dont expect you know what happens in the trenches. a friend of mine was the RS president for many years. one sunday, after she had scrubbed piss, shit, vomit dirt and mold and everything else off the floors and walls and furniture of another members home, a woman from our ward said to her, "you couldnt pay me enough to do that." her response, "you couldnt pay me enough to do it either."

you see, there are some people who would go down among the lowest and understand them. and serve them. my wife is one of those people. she has held the hands of the dying, the children of widows and the lonely hands of others. she would, shamefully, do the same for you.

oh, and one more thing, she would understand when someone is sad or lonely. even if some fucker was telling them how happy they *should* be.

blake, get real pal. your myopic view of a happy zion is disturbing. you very well may be happy, but you are creating an unwelcome hell for others. get over yourself.

Mayan Elephant

"tho how you ended up with a woman who is even half way decent is the best proof that there cannot be a just God that I know"

i couldnt agree more. a god would never have done this to her. you are correct, sir.

and more, how did i get such cool kids too? lucky me.

blake. for future reference. leave criticism of my wife out of this, its not a good move on your part. just like your 30,000 foot judgment of someone elses family as "disfunctional" was not a good move. bad boy blake.

Sister Elephant

Brother Blake:

Your divining got me to thinking. Which I try to avoid during the week and save for the weekends. But for you, I’ll think today.

You accuse some of being lucky. I suppose we all are all fairly lucky as we sit with keyboards attached to our fingers attached to laptops attached to wireless attached to networks attached to servers that bring us information and communication beyond all measure. I’d wager that many are sitting in a comfortable chair while they do this, with a covered light bulb overhead, plenty of food, central heat and all that other ‘lucky’ stuff. And apparently for some folks, a phenomenal amount of leisure time with which to use this luck. Some confuse luck with blessings and blessings with luck. I suppose it is all in the eye of the beholder.

Honestly, I’ve not read every word on this thread of blog and comments. However, I am a bit baffled as I scrolled through the many, many words how after an entry titled “Why History Matters” some commenters spend so much time skewering others spouses and Gods.

I’m not sure from my skimming of your posts if you believe in a just God (or once you found out about me) an unjust God. For me, believing in an unjust God is just to sadomasochist for my liking but if that is your thing, I respect your right to do that to yourself. I personally think there is an easier and happier way to live but I won’t pretend to know what is best for you.

Blake, what are you trying to accomplish? And what God are you serving? I’m so confused. Cause the God I know isn’t an “I’m smarter and your wife sucks” kind of God. She never has been. Is that the God you worship when you sing the sacrament songs? I’m having trouble believing that God developed the internet for you to whale away on people – stupid or smart, lucky or not, in or anti.

There is a better way. Out shine us/them/yourself/whomever with. Sort groceries at the food bank or one of the many other feel good things you can learn about in a commercial produced by CJCLDS. That stuff really does work. They never did show one about a guy being constantly connected to the internet and saving the world by being a smart typer and slaying some guys’ family. And I don’t think they will. There remain some shared senses of common decency.

My latest favorite quote: The true measure of a man (or woman) is how (s)he treats someone who can do him no good. Samuel Johnson

Who’s lucky now? Guess I am after all.

Kisses Blake. Sister Elephant

Equality

I am going to give Sister Elephant the last word. Once again, she cuts to the heart of what really matters. Comments closed.

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