Personally, I love LDS epistomology, but it happens that what I see is quite different that what Bade sees. And as a direct consequence, what I see in the LDS faith community is quite different as well.
On the spiritual side of things, rather than restrict and over simplify it down to "burning in the bosom," I've found around 30 distinct ways that our scriptures describe the operation of the spirit. I found that I could organize the according to whether they manifested primarily as feelings (peace, joy, burning, guilt, consolation, calmness, enlarged soul, etc.) or as thinking (enlightenment, understanding, opened eyes, righteous judgement, etc.) I could also approach things from the perspective of comparative religious experience, following Ian Barbour's categories. (From my essay on A Model of Mormon Spiritual Experience.
Those I shall discuss in this paper (following Barbour) can be seen as generally framing a movement:
(a) From responses to external impressions regarding:
Order and creativity in the world
The common mythic symbols and patterns underlying most religious traditions
Key historical events that define separate traditions and bind individuals
(b) Through the innermost experiences of the individual:
Numinous awe and reverence
Reorientation and Reconciliation with respect to personal sin, guilt, and weakness, the existence of evil, suffering, and death, and tensions between science and faith.
© Then returning to the external world as human action:
Personal dialogue where you begin interpret external events as God speaking to you, and you answer through your own actions.
Social and Ritual behavior
These matters cannot objectively prove the existence of a God (whether personal or impersonal), but, as I hope to demonstrate, they do constitute the core of religious experience for believers. They provide the ground of experience on which reasoned and feeling assessments of the validity and worth of faith are based. They encompass the ways in which spirituality is manifest in history and symbol. They are the wine—and doctrine the wine-bottles. To argue and contend about doctrine is to emphasize the wine skin over the wine. In Alma’s terms, it is to emphasize what you think you “know” over what ultimately gives “cause to believe” (Alma 32:18).
And on claim that the church "says that all knowledge not obtained through "the Prophet" is suspect, that only "the Prophet" can guide us to truth, and that only "the Prophet" can answer our questions regarding the meaning of scripture," I'm thinking, "What?"
I've written at length comparing Thomas Kuhn's Structure of Scientific Revolutions to Alma 32, and find a lovely fit in epistomology. Kuhn talks about how paradigms can be assessed in terms of puzzle definitions and solution, accuracy of key predictions, comprehensiveness and coherence, fruitfulness, simplicity and aesthetics, and future promise. Alma 32 does the same.
D&C 1 expressly says of the LDS leaders : "inasmuch as they erred it might be made known; and inasmuch as they sought wisdom, they might be instructed, And inasmuch as they sinned, they might be chastened, that they might repent; and inasmuch as they were humble, they might be made strong and blessed from on high to recieve knowledge from time to time." Some of that chastening says "Seek ye out of the best books words of wisdom; seek learning even by study and ALSO by faith." (D&C 88:118). There are individuals of course, who look solely a favored prophet, such generalizations do not account for what the scriptures declare and what a wider survey of LDS membership demonstrates.
Dehlin's list of course involves a great deal of self-selection. And in every instance there are very well informed people who know about all of the same information and yet have a different perspective on it.
So understanding what makes the different perspectives ought to be essential. Dehlin's perspective nowadays involves labeling "apologists" as applying "mental gymnastics" and "ad hominem." Mental gymnastics is not a sport for mental couch potatoes. And the charge of "ad hominem" has itself become and ad hominem argument, that directs attention away from the actual perspectives offered.
I've found a great deal of insight into what makes perspectives from Kuhn's explanation of how paradigms are established by means of "standard examples." What stories or issues does a person rely on to make general statements? How generally do they actually apply? How comprehensive and coherent are they? If someone like Palmer, for instance, makes general statements about the witnesses experience, does he do so based on first hand, eye-witness accounts? Or do they have a pedigree that comes late and has passed from hand to hand? How compehensively do flat statements about "steel" and "anachronisms" in the Book of Mormon define the problem and the overall state of the evidence? How is it, for example, that Dehlin can talk to Michael Coe about the Book of Mormon for five hours without once ever quoting a Book of Mormon passage? And why are most of the standard examples discussed from the 1940s (Brodie) and Fifties (Ferguson)?
And of course, there are things like the Perry Scheme. There are nine stages in the Perry Scheme of Cognitive and Ethical Growth. At what stage are then individuals selecting from to establish how Mormons in general think? What stage do individual critics display in making their complaints?
Bethel Park, PA
Edited by Kevin Christensen, 20 April 2012 - 05:32 AM.