June 28, 2009

Ultimatum

I typically dislike black-and-white thinking. It has been my experience that there's at least some gray in just about everything. Not always, but usually. The Church allows for very little gray, and presents us with an all-or-nothing choice exactly (see a talk by Jeffery Holland here; and Revelations 3:15-16).We must either believe all of it, or none of it. No middle ground.

For example, when I expressed my concerns about the truthfulness of the Church to the ward bishop, he accused me of being hypocritical for wanting solid, reasonable answers from the Church when I am a student of the very abstract and subjective field of psychology.

I suppose the difference I see is that the field of psychology does not claim to be the one single truth in the universe, or even to have any final answers. It claims theories, but nothing more, whereas the LDS church claims precisely to have the one truth in all the universe.

I might find myself in a different position today should the leaders of the Church talk about their doctrine as open for discussion, subject to interpretation, admit that Joseph Smith made mistakes about polygamy, that his translations of ancient documents were fabrications for the sake of providing faith and hope in others, that he probably got the ideas for the Book of Mormon from View of the Hebrews, that skin color was never a mark of a curse but the man-made justification for the ethnocentric white-supremacy doctrine, etc. But the Church forces its members to believe all or nothing.

I think if the Church were to admit that it is merely an organization trying to create a sense of community and faith, and to do some good on this Earth, I would hop right on. But instead, it demands that we take the radical stance that it is, indeed, the one truth in the universe, red flags and all. Similarly, it seems that members expect everyone to either love or hate the Church and its leaders. That is, if I don't love Joseph Smith, I must hate him.

But if it's possible that Islam is not evil, that Catholicism has some good in it, and so on, isn't it just as possible that the LDS church can do a lot of good while not being God's one living truth?

13 comments:

ctrburns said...

For me it has become a matter of black and white and I believe that it’s for good reason. Either Jesus Christ was the son of God or he is not, that baptism is a saving ordinance or it is not, that the Book of Mormon is a second witness of Jesus or it is not, that the Priesthood is Gods power on earth by which worlds are created or it is not….there is no middle ground. It would not make since that there would be a middle ground.
For me it makes total since to believe that there is a God and that he is a God or order. The uncertainty of a higher power with no true purpose of existence is a thought that would scare me to the very core. Why do anything in this life if it holds no purpose. Generally yes it’s better to be good to others for the sake of having a good society but why save? Why even choose to go to a church that lacks any true rhyme or reason to understanding our existence? If we don’t understand God we don’t even understand ourselves. Why have hope if this all fades into nothingness?
That is why the LDS faith has such great influence on my life is that it makes since to me. Also I have felt in my soul its volidaty and so I continue in the faith and teach it to my children. Do I know all things? No. Do I understand all of the history that evolved pertaining to your questions? No. But my faith is sufficient enough to believe and have faith that God is in order and will determine all of that in the end.

Eli said...

Response to ctrburns: I'd like to touch on a few of your points. "If we don't understand God we don't even understand ourselves." - so only a few million in the history of the world have understood themselves? The ancient Romans, Greeks, Egyptians, Norse, had no idea what they were doing here? What was the point of their existence then? You're saying that no non-LDS person understands themselves.
"Why even choose to go to a church that lacks any true reason for our existence?" My point exactly. The LDS church has answers like any other religion, but cannot back them up with anything other than feelings.
You say you like the ultimatum the Church presents to you- do you realize this means that it was righteousness for Joseph Smith to take other men's wives, and to coerce teenagers into marriage with him? That is the ultimatum. I have never said that life has no purpose; I think that's your downfall. You think that if the LDS church isn't true, then life is a waste of time, right? Anyone can believe in God, faith, Jesus Christ, eternal families, or anything else, but none of those things requires him to believe that coercing 14-year-olds into marriage is just and holy. If it is, and God cannot give an explanation, that is a God I cannot worship.

ctrburns said...

I never said that only those that belong to the LDS faith are the only ones that can understand themselves…that’s just putting words into my mouth and I hope you can respect me a bit more than that. Christ in the Bible is quoted saying, and this is life eternal that they might know thee the only true God and Jesus Christ whom thou has sent. If the Bible is true and Christ is true than those words are also true…that part of our existence is to find out who God is. All can be influenced by the Holy Ghost and have truth reveled unto them…not just LDS members. The difference between the world and those of the LDS faith is the belief in modern day prophets and that revelation from God is still happening like in the days of old.
In our previous discussion these feelings became a mutual understanding that God can influence us. If that is to be done if not by feelings (or clearness from mind as the LDS believe) than how would you describe that we recognize when he is trying to influence us?
Regarding Joseph Smith, I don’t know. I have come to an understanding within myself as to why he made those decisions. Do I have a complete understanding or have had the answers reveled unto me? No. But from my understanding of things I can accept the fact that God will take care of the situation and is not a deal breaker to dissolve all that I know to be true. Why did God ask Abraham to sacrifice his son when Abraham knew full well that murder is a sin? It was not until after the experience when Abraham proved faithful that the principle was given to him and God provided a way. As we do not have Joseph Smiths account we may not know until afterwards in the heavens, why he was asked to do that.

Eli said...

Response to ctrburns: So then what is the point of existence for those who never knew about God as the Church preaches? You'll have to clarify that one for me. If the point of life is to come to know God, what's the point of living if you're Hindu?
I'll agree that the purpose of life is the journey to find the meaning of existence. If by using all your resources you conclude that Vishnu is God, good for you, so long as you used all of your resources. I can't see a just god frowning on that.
We must disagree about what clarity of mind is. When you have to go to great length to justify a prophet's actions that clearly go against conscience, that is not clarity of mind. As soon as I considered the explanation that Joseph Smith was a fraud, that's when I felt clarity of mind and peace in my soul. Do you argue that God had no hand in that clarity?
You have an understanding of why Smith and God made those decisions, yet you admit that you haven't studied them in any great detail. I would love for you to enlighten us all then. I have tried to imagine some explanation that would justify these things in this or some other reality, and cannot.
As for your Abraham example, see my post entitled "Faith and Skepticism" for my position.
P.S. the Old Testament is very easily disproven, so where does that fall into your reasoning?

ctrburns said...

Just so I have an understanding, what are the valid resources that I can use to talk or give example? I dont want to assume anything so please forgive me here. Is the Bible a valid book of Gods dealings with us or is it just a book with stories? Are you more agnostic then and the postings you have on this site could be used against any religon? Just trying to understand your basics of belief.

Eli said...

Response to ctrburns: you can use anything at all that you would like as examples. Whether it makes any sense is a different matter. The postings on this blog can be used anywhere they seem applicable. As I've said before, I feel neither that the head should have power over the heart, nor the heart power over the head. The most basic point of this blog is that truth should speak to both the head and the heart, and never only one or the other. Arguments to the contrary are welcome, and the reader may decide for himself.

ctrburns said...

And that is where we differ. The LDS faith makes perfect and absolute since to me and is strengthend with the experiences that I have had with the spirit. I will admit I do not know all things, I am still a student of the gospel and not a scholer like unto the apostels. Are the things I do not understand a deal breaker? no. Can I know of these things? yes.

Right now the only thing that we agree upon is the belife in God, and to that extent we even differ. I can no more explain or provide proff to any extent no more then can you to me.

Is it designed that we know all things in this life and have a perfect knowledge? No as that would make us as God, and our existance on this earth would be pointless.

All I can say is best of luck to you in your journey to find truth. I am always here to talk and be a friend.

Eli said...

Response to ctrburns: How can things make sense to you if you admit you do not understand them? By very definition, making sense is dependent upon understanding.

ctrburns said...

Seriously? Do you understand all things that you do? How a car works I do no understand but drive one becuase it makes since to me.

Now you may argue that religion and cars are completly different but there are many in the LDS faith that would be considered the know all. Just like there are various degrees of mechainics. I am a student and working to becoming a master teachnicion.

Eli said...

Response to ctrburns: You're right, religion and a car are completely different. You know if a car is working because it gets you from point A to point B. With religion, you have no idea where it's taking you (if anywhere) until you're dead. That's all the more reason to study it as much as humanly possible and become as much an expert as possible right now. The stakes are much higher. See my post entitles "Analogy" for more on that.
A TV doesn't make any sense to me, and I don't understand it. All I know is that it works. However, I've come to a great understanding about the history of the Church, and it doesn't makes sense using your explanations, therefore I know it is not working. When we die, God will ask us if we did absolutely everything in our power to find Him. I know I am doing exactly that. By choosing to put off obtaining answers, can you honestly say that you are? What if you are being mislead by one of the many false prophets spoken of in the New Testament? By choosing to ignore the red flags during this life, you are inviting yourself to be deceived. It has happened thousands of times in the past. Jim Jones, for example, mislead hundreds who chose to ignore the red flags.
Again, if you have answers to my concerns that make sense, you certainly haven't shared them. If they exist, shouldn't earnest investigation uncover them? With so much at risk, why would God provide us with only speculation to answer the most vital questions upon which we must base our spirituality?

ctrburns said...

That is where you are wrong. Many have had revelations that tell us exactly what happenes to us when we are dead. Wither you accept those sources or not is your personal choice. Just as in the medical field you can get varying degrees of medical opinion.

So you are telling me that just becuase a few points of history do not make since to you (when there are others that is does) that it must not be true? So only your opinion matters and not mine? What makes your belief any more valid then mine?

When I am brought before God I would have no qualms at all to stand accountable for my actions. Even to the points that you argue make since to me and have rational thought and understanding. If there are false prophets than by pure definintion there must be true prophets. How are you to tell the difference? As for myself I know that the LDS church is lead by true prophets as the Holy Ghost as born witness to my sole. I have streched forth my faith and have had confirmations from the spirit. I am mire then willing to share these answers with you but not online as its impersonal and not a good fourm to truly discuss such matters.

Eli said...

Response to ctrburns: Many have had revelations. Like Muhammad, James Strang, and hundreds of Shaman from hundreds of religions all over the world. I suppose you think Joseph Smith was somehow different. You've made your choice, so I wish you luck with it.
In the end, yes, only my opinion matter to me. I have heard yours and thousands of others' opinions, evaluated them, and made my choice. What opinions have you heard? Your bishop's? Your Stake President's? You've been indoctrinated since birth- you couldn't possibly be objective! How am I to tell the difference? How can you possibly say that you could tell the difference if you had been raised in an FLDS community? You think they base their beliefs on a different Holy Ghost, but who's just as powerful?
To whom do those points of history make sense? Never has there been an official statement from the Church that explains the denial of the priesthood, plural marriage, marriage to teenagers, the DNA discrepancies, Joseph Smith's Greek psalter fiasco, etc., etc. The only thing I have ever heard is that we need to not worry about them. You can't even get a straight answer from a guy who supposedly speaks face to face with Jesus Christ. So am I to believe fact or opinion?
Difference between fact and opinion: fact is that Native American DNA matches Asian DNA, and has found no match to Israeli DNA. Opinion is "well, maybe God changed their DNA when he cursed them." You are basing your life on opinion, I choose to base my life on fact. If the opinion feels good to you, then good luck. To me, the opinion does not feel right. There is a huge difference between feeling good and feeling right. I value the latter over the former.
I am glad you're comfortable with where you are. To me, comfort is not enough. I simply ask for answers.

Eli said...

Summary: It appears that this conversation could go on for quite some time, so perhaps I may summarize it in this way. Please feel free to correct me if I get it wrong, ctrburns.
We both seem to agree that the Church has some controversial and potentially disturbing history/doctrine. My position is that one deserves reasonable answers for such things if one is continue to dedicate his life to that organization. The hope of getting reasonable answers in the future is not good enough. Your position is you feel that God has answered you in a way by giving you comfort about these things. You don't necessarily have answers, but feel that they will be adequately answered at some point in the future.
I would like to address this disagreement in a new post in the upcoming week or two. You are, of course, welcome to comment on that as usual.