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Wayment & Givens interview

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31 minutes ago, stemelbow said:

Do you mind explaining more of this?  I can't see any meaningful difference between your view and Mfbukowski's.  I'm scratching my head wondering what place you give prediction and the future that shows any difference.  

For Mark, what works and thereby grounds a theory is how it relates to present experience. For me what works is a theory about future interpretations. We come to gain confidence that our present interpretations will match future interpretations as our interpretations are constantly tested and persist in a stable form through time. Works really isn't tied to psychological coping ala William James but to quasi-scientific verification. So predictions are explicitly tied to interpretation and accuracy in terms of such interpretations.

I am curious whether Mark agrees with that characterization. I know Mark talks about future experience, but it's not this interpretation or representation of that experience typically. So to me the important thing are generalizations one can make out of different experiences - what is common to them. That's akin to how knowledge works in science where we find repetitions in phenomena and develop theories out of that. While I know Mark sees his views primarily in terms of Rorty, Dewey and Wittgenstein, I confess to me I see a lot of William James. (Forgive me if that's distorting your views, Mark - but it often seems like even how you read those figures is more James than how I read them) I'll fully admit the place of Peirce in my own thought and how that affects how I read figures like Derrida, Heidegger, Quine or Davidson - the prominent figures in my own history. The difference between James' and Peirce's pragmatism is that Peirce saw it in terms of a theory of meaning and then a theory of verification through categories. It arose out of his background in chemistry, logic and physics. James saw it much more in terms of psychology. Empirical psychology rather than say what we got from Freud but still primarily in terms of making sense of human psychology and behavior.

It's not that I dismiss James' appropriation of Peirce's ideas for psychology. I think he had a ton of deep insights into human psychology. Further I try to pay close attention to psychology and cognitive science in my analysis. But I think what's fruitful psychologically is different from what's fruitful in terms of philosophy. In a fundamental way, and here I think Mark will agree, Mark rejects the kind of verification I see as key. To Mark I'm missing the point whereas to me Mark is missing the point.

Edited by clarkgoble

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3 hours ago, hope_for_things said:

I'm not sure its even possible to not reconceptualize experiences from the past at some level.  Our brains aren't computers and we can't access a memory file with the exact data that we had saved last time.  I've mentioned this in a couple other comments in the thread, but how do you look back on a young love that you had today?  How about a close friendship?  How about a traumatic experience, or an experience of extreme joy?  

I think where people are stopping short is that they aren't critically asking the questions about whether or not the meaning that they derived from those earlier experiences is the same meaning they might derive if they had a similar experience today.  Its the process of critically evaluating the experience that isn't happening.  

A couple of thoughts.

As I mentioned in my earlier post, my frame of reference for the term spiritual experience is instances of communion with Deity during which pure love and rest are felt.  These spirit to spirt experiences are unmistakable.  They’re not experiences I ascribe any secondary meaning to (e.g. because I felt this I should do that, or there’s some message/subtext associated with the experience).  So there’s not really anything for me to go back and reconsider regarding the meaning.

Spiritual promptings can be considered a subset of spiritual experiences which is why I sought clarification on your point of reference.  I think everyone who has had spiritual promptings becomes more adept over time at identifying and understanding such promptings.  Part of developing that spiritual muscle is revisiting prior promptings and understanding where we may have better identified and acted on those promptings.

But with respect to what I’ve termed communion with Deity, the meaning— that God and Christ are aware of and love you, is clear and unmistakable.  And as I noted earlier, the same clear and unchanged message accompanies each new communion.  Which is why I believe my efforts are better spent on new communion, rather than re-evaluation of prior communion.  To analogize to something trivial, I think most of us would prefer to drink another milkshake over reconceptualizing the last time we drank a milkshake.

Edited by let’s roll
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22 hours ago, Calm said:

But I don't understand why he's adopted a strategy of refusing to renegotiate his own personal spiritual experiences. “

Looking back on spiritual experience may not provide you with the full context of what you experienced. This may make it impossible to judge the quality in hindsight as accurately as when you are going through it. Therefore it makes sense to trust your original interpretation. (On the phone and in the middle of physical therapy being iced so not fully explained....Clark’s putting it in the context of how memory works is close enough to what I am thinking to say “what he said”) 

I think there's a lot of truth in this. Looking back on spiritual experiences I don't remember the emotional impact I felt at the time. I remember feeling something but the memory is distant and likely isn't perfectly accurate.

The problem is, "trusting" the original interpretation is equally fraught. It depends on an accuracy of the POV and knowledge and understanding at that moment in time. Was I more intelligent when the spiritual event occurred or was my POV more perfectly aligned towards accuracy? Maybe, maybe not. For example, if I look back on a spiritual experience I had as a 12 year old reading the book of Mormon and the epiphany of truth I felt, I can remember that it was an important moment in my journey up to that point in time, but it can be problematic to think that my 12 year old understanding of spiritual experiences, the milieu of my young life in a church and family that rewarded such expressions of testimony, is more accurate than an experience I have at age 20 or 30 or 40. What influenced my interpretation of the experience? Expectations of family and church community? Yeah, probably. Was interpretation of my experience limited by my knowledge and understanding of the BoM teachings, history, translation, etc? Yeah. Did confirmation bias play a role? Probably.

Maybe 12 year old self was better at interpreting "spiritual experiences" than 50 year old self, but it would seem that I should at least explore the possibility that with greater/different knowledge, understanding, experience, and personal situation could impact my understanding then and now. Trusting 12 year old self and refusing to reconsider the factors of my "spiritual experience" seems to assume 12 year old self knew enough and that the life and knowledge gained since then are unimportant. But it only works in one direction, right. If a Catholic youth had a significant spiritual experience that he interpreted as evidence that the Catholic church was the true church, but then as a 40 year old had an experience with the BoM that led him to believe the LDS church is the true church, would we still want him to trust his original interpretation of his experience?

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4 hours ago, clarkgoble said:

In general people aren't critical thinkers and most people don't have academic training for critical thinkers. However among the "intelligentsia" who typically discuss these things there is more. However in those cases I think the problem of memory I outlined usually isn't appreciated because cognitive science usually isn't really something they're taught in college. This leads to (I think) a bias in how they analyze and interpret past spiritual experiences because they don't realize that the experience itself has been subtly yet significantly changed by the very experiences leading them to reinterpret the experience. Put an other way the original experience and the memory of the experience being reinterpreted simply aren't the same experience.

I rather doubt Wayment is getting at that - although I don't know. Rather I suspect he's trying to express the phenomena without necessarily understanding what's going on behind the scenes. But I could easily be wrong. I fully admit one could interpret it instead in a fideistic fashion.

But I certainly agree that a lot of people have an experience that convinces them of something and then really don't inquire or engage with it afterwards unless a crisis appears. I'd say that's typical of humans in general and not just people religiously orthodox.

Great points, I completely agree with you.  

4 hours ago, clarkgoble said:

I'm not sure what he meant by "shelved the question of the historical Jesus." As I said it's hard to know what he means from that interview. A lot of the things he says could be interpreted in a large number of ways. My guess is he just means the questions of what is or isn't accurate in the gospels but not whether there was a Jesus or so forth. 

I'm not sure he's completely bracketing inquiry into his spiritual experiences but again I don't know. I don't think it's full bodied fideism but I suspect there's a slight bit of that there. But again I really don't know.

To me fideism is just choosing to believe by taking a leap of faith and treating it as if it were true. (I recognize that some don't like that phrasing, particularly "as if" language - but I'm not sure a better phrase that conveys the idea) The point of fideism is that you don't have good reasons for this. The problem with applying this to Wayment is that clearly he's had experiences that likely he thought were good reasons to believe. That evidentiary element that's so common in Mormonism seems to be the problem with thinking Mormonism in terms of fideism or blind faith. I don't dispute that for some Mormons though it works. I had quite a few friends back in college who took that approach - often with a strong affinity to Kierkegaard. (I'm not sure K is actually a fideist though) My experience is that usually they took this route because they didn't feel they'd had experiences that justified belief and were looking for a reason to still belief independent of a spiritual experience. While I didn't keep up with everyone taking that approach, those that I did usually didn't keep the faith for long. So while it may work for a while I'm pretty skeptical that fideism can really survive the surge of skepticism one encounters in contemporary life - particularly if one is intellectually inclined. But clearly it does for some.

I'm going to venture to say that I think what Dr. Wayment meant by shelving the question of the historical Jesus, is that he's talking about what we can place our confidence in from a historical perspective about the key theological claims about Jesus.  He talked about accounts in the gospels that are more or less accurate and that kind of information is in his new translation of the NT.  I think he's referencing core tenents of Christian belief and their historical validity, and although I can't know for sure, that is what I think he's referring to shelving.  

Thanks for the explanation on fideism, I wasn't equating it with the blind faith argument, and its interesting what you're saying here because I'm wondering how this applies to the traditional Moroni's promise equation that is taught by our missionary force.  Isn't that essentially fideism?  The concept that you should start with a hope that something is true and then ask God and look for confirmation through a spiritual feeling.  Or would you make a distinction between what you're explaining and how our missionary message is translated?  

4 hours ago, clarkgoble said:

I think that's a good distinction to bring up. I'm not sure it's fair to Wayment to assume he's avoiding uncomfortable issues. Again I don't think we can tell from the interview what he's doing, but I think it's uncharitable to assume he's not being intellectually honest.

To your view on fideism, that's certainly one type of fideism. The other type is more just taking a leap of faith, to use Kierkegaardian language. The analogy is often to romantic love where one must make a kind of commitment beyond what one is justified in. But typically as you say it's placing tradition/scripture as a better source of truth than reason. Which I certainly find deeply problematic. I'd fully admit that reason has its issues - often in the 17th through early 20th century people appealing to reason frequently overstated things and were insufficiently skeptical. That's why you could get silly pseudoscience arising like phrenology but also why people seem to consistently confuse "best answer based on evidence" with "very probably true." It's hard to read the history of say medicine without seeing the problems of reason combined with hubris for instance. However even if reasoning has its problems, I'm not at all convinced fideism is the solution. Even in a more philosophical form such as William James. Again though the issue is to what degree one is open to continued inquiry. To be fair to James he was open to inquiry so his fideism is a qualified one.

I wasn't trying to say that Dr. Wayment isn't being intellectually honest.  I'm just pointing out that someone's career and family is an influencing factor on their willingness to entertain the exploration of certain ideas.  I can respect that and not call it intellectually dishonest, but at the same time realize that these kinds of components have an impact on how people operate in the real world.  

Thanks for the additional comments on fideism.  I agree with you and I see this problem more as I try to apply critical thinking to all kinds of fields.  Another example would be with the replication crisis where a large number of important studies in recent years have been tested by different practitioners and they've been unable to replicate the original findings.  We need to be more skeptical of the biases that can influence even the best of research.  

4 hours ago, clarkgoble said:

Yup. He's getting that out of a particular reading of Kierkegaard. I think it completely wrong though. I just don't think belief is volitional. I think when we keep treating belief as volitional we end up hurting ourselves because we won't really understand how doubts work.

The example I keep bringing up on this is looking outside on a bright sunny day with a blue sky and choosing to believe the sky is actually black. You can't do it. You might be able to verbally assent that it is true, but that's a lie. Historically, particularly in philosophy after Descartes, there was a tendency to think in terms of doubts that weren't really doubts. That is to treat belief and doubt as if one was just writing and manipulating mathematical equations. But doubt and belief simply don't work that way. Those are just paper beliefs and paper doubts.

Givens makes some good points in his apologetics. However I feel that the fideism behind it is ultimately deeply counterproductive. Even those who think others should embrace a fideism that works for them have to acknowledge that fideism is not terribly persuasive to most people. If belief isn't volitional there are very good reasons for that which fideists like Givens often brush under the table - undermining their very apologetic approach.

Thanks Clark, I completely agree!  

4 hours ago, clarkgoble said:

But this sort of avoids the central question of what the Christianity they are committed to means and how it differs from an atheist concerned with wonder, ethics and so forth. That is it seems the content is the same and all that differs are the metaphors and organizations they express this through. I think this can be deeply problematic particularly if someone is a pastor with such beliefs and most of their congregation actually believes in a historic Jesus, an actual atonement, an actual life after death and so forth.

Well, I know of marriages that function quite productively with this exact dichotomy.  At the end of the day, core values and ethics are what matters most to me.  Isn't this also the foundation for interfaith cooperation and dialogue?  An attempt to align on core ethics as the foundation that unites us and not getting caught up in the differentiating dogmas of each unique tradition.  I'd like to think that the problems this might present in the scenario of a pastor with different beliefs about a historical Jesus, might actually be viewed through a lens that this is a benefit and not a bug in that system.  I'm a believer that diversity of thought is a strength for an organization and for individuals to encounter these differences and learn to respect and appreciate perspectives that they don't personally hold is a very good thing in my mind.  

4 hours ago, clarkgoble said:

This is definitely true. And reinterpretation isn't bad. I do think though that we need to be skeptical and questioning of how we do this. If psychology, philosophy and cognitive science have shown us anything, it's that reasoning as often as not is actually just justification for present beliefs and fears. That doesn't mean reason isn't good. But I think to reason well we have to recognize that bias our brain tends to give us and attempt to look for it and correct for it.

Another excellent point, I'm becoming an even bigger fan.  :D

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8 hours ago, Gray said:

No, I've never heard voices. But one could certainly interpret hearing voices in several different ways.

Do you want to expand? Are you talking about the content or the actual experience?

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Hello, @hope_for_things!  As for "communion with deity", as @let’s roll puts it, the nature of my communion with deity does not seem to be renegotiable to me.  You know of the Apostle Paul's vision on the road to Damascus (Acts 9).  You also know of the Peter's vision of taking the gospel to the Gentiles (Acts 10).  Should they have "renegotiated" these experiences?  They seem to have been mighty definitive experiences, and unmistakable.

The experiences I have had are extremely straightforward, very prosaic, and came from outside myself.  They really don't admit of any doubt or misidentification.  If God didn't exist, if Jesus weren't the Christ, and if the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints were not the true Church of Jesus Christ, I shouldn't have had them.

What @clarkgoble said: "To me what matters isn't just one or two experiences but a consistency allowing one to correlate communication with God to real world phenomena. That consistency and predictability is key for any interpretation."  Amen to that.

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5 hours ago, stemelbow said:

Thanks guys.  I appreciate the responses and I get the feeling of not wanting to air out personal spiritual experiences, particularly with one who is coming from a more skeptical perspective.  So, what was given is good enough for me to understand where you're coming from.  In closing (hah) I'd like to add one interesting perspective (at least to me) on that, which I may have shared here before.

My boy had just turned 12.  Soon after he entered young men's they had a joint meeting with the young women.  The bishop spoke, as he recalls, and various topics were mentioned.  LGBTQ issues were raised and the tenor of the room was an ugly one from my boy's perspective.  everyone seemed quite negative and judgmental, very dogmatic and perhaps a bit hostile, including the bishop.  My son, newly arriving with the group, hesitated and was nervous but felt he needed to speak up.  He tried to counter and challenge the views expressed.  A short discussion, and back and forth ensued with everyone seemingly being patient with the obsequious boy.   It ended with the bishop telling him, hoping to move along, that the Church is correct about this issue and all he needed to do was pray about it and he'd know.  So my son decided to pray.  he prayed that night and felt strongly the Church was wrong, but wasn't clear and didn't feel is impressions were necessarily directly from God.  he prayed the next and the next.  Each time he prayed he felt stronger and stronger that the Church was wrong.  But, again, he didn't feel God spoke to him.  He just felt it.  A week went on like this, and he decided to ask me.  He asked and I in my unorthodoxy stated without equivocation as he recalled, when he told me about this years after it happened, that the Church is wrong on this issue and it'll have to change or confront the errors it has made at some point.  That made him feel good about his own thinking as he was on the verge of feeling a little crazy and/or unworthy because he wasn't getting direct communication from God as, it seemed to him, the bishop promised.  

Well, this little story was told to me by my son a few months ago (he's 20 now).  I dont' really remember him asking me, but what he relates was probably exactly something I would have said at that time.  But back to it.  After this week of praying and feeling like the Church was wrong, after he asked me about it, he had a very vivid dream.  He dreamed that the world was in gray.  he noticed he was not.  he was in color.  The people he saw and interacted with were all gay and were in gray.  He noticed that these gray folks really hated him.  They didn't like him and treated him poorly.  He knew he was different because he was in color, but they couldn't see color and didn't know why he was so different.   There was a factory.  He didn't see in the factory but he saw couples going in and coming out with new babies.  That's how babies were made, as far as he knew.  With all of this happening around him, as he grew, he found someone else who was in color.  It was a pretty girl whom he liked.  As they liked each other, dated and spent time together, everyone got meaner.  The hate grew worse.   But their love for each other grew and they decided to marry.  The hate was so bad that the decision was made by the mobs to kill them.  and then his dream ended.  

He shared this with me, as a said a few months ago.  He his girlfriend and I sat up late one night chatting about life and the topic of belief in God came up.  He said he was an atheist now, and couldn't reconcile a God, but questioned this little experience.  he thought if God, then perhaps this dream was from God.  he looks back and wonders if it was God, or just him creating a story while dreaming to confirm his own feelings and thoughts.  The issue he has is whether this experience is evidence of God, or if treating such a spiritual faith experience as evidence is really just fideism.  It takes faith for him to see the dream as an answer from God, and therefore as evidence of God.

Just a story to illustrate the issue, I hope.  

Thanks for sharing the personal story.  My personal feeling is that what answers we get through prayer and the spiritual experiences we have a very complicated and its hard to say all the contributing factors that influence these experiences.  I definitely don't agree with the authoritarian approach to expecting that people's prayers will align with church authority figures.  These leaders would be much wiser if they respected a variety of answers to questions and perspectives on issues that don't always align with church leaders pronouncements. 

I would also point out, that it helps know history well enough to understand that the church's positions have changed on virtually every issue to some extent in the less than 200 years since its founding, and they will continue to evolve in response to the culture into the future.  I found it somewhat refreshing with the recent temple changes, the bold proclamation that members should expect continuing changes into the future and that this is essentially a principle of the way that the gospel works.  I personally think its just human nature at work, but it was refreshing to see that frank honesty in contrast the the drum beat from some doctrinaire types that view things as unchangeable.  

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51 minutes ago, hope_for_things said:

Thanks for the explanation on fideism, I wasn't equating it with the blind faith argument, and its interesting what you're saying here because I'm wondering how this applies to the traditional Moroni's promise equation that is taught by our missionary force.  Isn't that essentially fideism?  The concept that you should start with a hope that something is true and then ask God and look for confirmation through a spiritual feeling.  Or would you make a distinction between what you're explaining and how our missionary message is translated?  

No, I'd say Moroni is exactly the opposite. Interestingly when I was on my mission I was explicitly taught to teach the opposite of fideism which may be part of my anti-fideist bias. We always explicitly said not to believe us, but to pray and God could tell them directly the truth. Typically by the second or third discussion the spirit would be there pretty strong and we'd stop the discussion and ask them to describe what they felt. We'd give the standard "fruits of the spirit" scripture but then say that these are just aspects of God speaking to them and that they vary from person to person. Some feel a burning, others a chill up their backbone, but then we'd get at them trying to see what was beyond the feelings. So it was very much an empirical push. The interpretation would be up to them, but that there was something there we'd get them to describe and identify rather than us. So I'd say first that "feeling" is a great way to identify that something is going on but not a good way to get at the content/interpretation. But the approach is, to my mind, completely empirical.

I don't know if all missions do that of course. It was certainly very effective in my mission. In general if I could get people to the third discussion they'd have that experience and we'd focus on identifying the spirit, and getting them to interpret it. But something was there going on even if skeptics might interpret it differently.

Fideism is much more saying "hey I will take a leap of faith" or else "this is very useful for your personal flourishing in the circumstances you find yourself in." Jordan Peterson, whom someone mentioned in one of the other threads, is explicit in this. I suspect Peterson is for the most part just appropriating William James here. One can make a case for this with Alma 32 (although as I've argued I don't think that the meaning but it's wrapped up with Hebrew conceptions of truth). I don't think Moroni 10:4-5 is fideism. One could argue it takes a more Popper like falsification approach. i.e. you don't know it's true but treat it as true and attempt to show it false. I think that's reading too much into "if these things are not true" though. The whole idea is "manifesting the truth of it unto you, by the power of the Holy Ghost." So it's the claim of revelation not utility in some sense of flourishing in the short term.

51 minutes ago, hope_for_things said:

Thanks for the additional comments on fideism.  I agree with you and I see this problem more as I try to apply critical thinking to all kinds of fields.  Another example would be with the replication crisis where a large number of important studies in recent years have been tested by different practitioners and they've been unable to replicate the original findings.  We need to be more skeptical of the biases that can influence even the best of research.  

Yes. And I'd note that if even the best science in top journals gets around 20% replication at best, we should perhaps be a tad more skeptical of rationalist pronouncements as to what's true based on very limited evidence. But I'd also say that as individuals we should be more skeptical particular about confirmation bias. I know critics usually point to that with regards to members, but I also think there's a certain group think that goes on with critics as well. Again, this is human all too human. It's not something unique to Mormons.

51 minutes ago, hope_for_things said:

I wasn't trying to say that Dr. Wayment isn't being intellectually honest.  I'm just pointing out that someone's career and family is an influencing factor on their willingness to entertain the exploration of certain ideas.  I can respect that and not call it intellectually dishonest, but at the same time realize that these kinds of components have an impact on how people operate in the real world. 

Certainly reasoning is affected by unconscious motivated thinking. Indeed that's in large part what I'm using to critique both Mormon conceptions of knowledge as well as critics' confidence that only Mormons are doing motivated reasoning. By intellectual honesty though I'm more focused on whether he's being fair to the facts. But I'd certainly accept that confirmation bias and a lot else can affect his reasoning. Hopefully though by listening to critics (like his student who left the church) he's aware of the counter arguments and is honestly engaging with the evidence as best he can. But without asking him I don't think we really even know what his reasoning is. However there's pretty obvious ways to interpret the evidence in a faithful fashion so I don't think it takes a lot to not be bothered by it.

51 minutes ago, hope_for_things said:

At the end of the day, core values and ethics are what matters most to me.  Isn't this also the foundation for interfaith cooperation and dialogue?

While ethics are important to me, I also think the question of why be ethical matters a great deal as does how to be ethical. Certainly if you are a good person you'll simply want to help others. But that question of why matters. (Not that philosophers really can answer it and God's punishment really isn't an answer either) Ultimately as important as being good is, I think in terms of living life knowing whether or not there is life after death matters a huge amount in terms of deciding what to prioritize in life. Also one is always making tradeoffs, even in terms of being good. You and I may agree ethically, but maybe one of us heads to India to work with the lower castes who are dying of various diseases and an other doesn't. Both might be good people but what particular acts or sacrifices within an ethical life matters a great deal.

To me the basic ethics are easy. Deciding what to sacrifice and more importantly what to enjoy is much trickier. The mere fact you're able to type on a computer suggests you're willing to put personal goods ahead of making someone else's life better. (Obviously I am as well) We can then ask how we can justify that.  That seems the trickier discussion. Ethics to me is largely beside the point since culturally I think most of us agree in the broad sweep of ethics just not that question of sacrifice. But the question there seems very much wrapped up with whether there is life after death. So those theological questions really do matter I think for practical ethical reasoning even if most Christians (and atheists) simply avoid the discussion.

 

 

Edited by clarkgoble

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5 hours ago, mfbukowski said:

Of course they do. Or more accurately there is no need to interpret them.

If a bear is chasing you do you stop and interpret the experience before you run?

Experiences are usually a full body reaction. one would not stand there and try to figure out if the bear was illusory or real. The growling running Bear is the experience.  It is real and there is no interpretation. 

Driving a car is the same thing. Falling in love is the same thing.

Reality as we know it is uninterpreted experience, from nano second to nanosecond in every day of our lives.

We look at a chair and sit down. We don't analyze the fact that there is more space between the atoms than solid before doing so and wonder if we should actually sit there or not.

Do we feel happy or sad in a movie? do we jump and then laugh at ourselves for doing so?

The interpretation clearly comes after the raw experience as a different experience of us observing ourselves, and then comes the analysis.

I would argue that our reactions are also an interpretation, just a much quicker one driven primarily by the older part of our brain that operates the fight or flight type response.  Many people have a heightened evolutionary response to spiders or snakes, while others don't seem to have nearly the same acute fear and this is driven by the unique traits we inherit.  

The parts of our brain that oversee functions like sitting down or laughing still needed to be learned at some point in the past.  These processes don't require executive decision making using our prefrontal cortex anymore though, and they are more reactionary in nature now.  But if you have brain injury of some kind, you may find yourself needing to learn these basics again from scratch.   The interpretation that took place happened way back when you first learned to sit or stand or walk or laugh or whatever the behavior.  

 

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4 hours ago, mfbukowski said:

That's why I get him. "The Book of Mormon is historical" is a dialetheistic statement, like "Fred is in the room" when he is standing in the door. as it stands it is both true and false depending on the context in which you see it.

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dialetheism

So both statements are true depending on the context. In a discussion on faith it is true. In a discussion about history it is true, undetermined, or at worst, false.

I'm not sure I would agree Givens approach to the question of BoM historicity is the same as your approach.  Do you have any other comments from Givens that could support that reading?  I think Givens actually does believe the that the apologetic works of folks like Sorensen have some merit when it comes to historicity arguments in the scholarly world.  He even makes a comment in this interview to that effect at some point where he says something along the lines that would like to see more evidences come forward in the future that are stronger than what we have today.  

Your positions is more of a philosophical approach to the idea of historicity, where Givens approach seems to embrace the apologetic arguments as having some scholarly merit.  

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On 1/16/2019 at 10:24 PM, clarkgoble said:

I don't want to make claims regarding members. I just don't know how many people continue to inquire religiously. I will say those strongest religiously seem to do this constantly. Indeed I'd say that a living testimony requires this be done continuously.

I'm not so sure about that.

I've been pondering this thread rather strongly tonight, and wrote a big 900 word response that I finally decided was too contentious.  It led me, however, to reflect upon my own "communion with deity" as let's roll put it, and set me to wondering at it.  It seems that I have been richly blessed, in comparison to some others, with personal revelatory events.  My wife's late husband, she tells me, had exactly one personal revelatory experience in early adulthood, that caused him to join the church and stay active and committed in it until his death at age 70.  She said he never had any others, and didn't seem to need it.  It may be the case that some are just naturally more faithful, and others may need more, so they get more.  Like me, perhaps.

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9 hours ago, Gray said:

No, I've never heard voices. But one could certainly interpret hearing voices in several different ways.

Don't see how.  Unless one proposes that one is going or has gone insane.  What other ways would there be?

If the voice tells one that something is going to happen, which one really has no reason to expect to happen, and in fact didn't even ask for the information, then it happens, then what does one do? What if it happens more than once?  Assume that one is a psychic?  I suppose that might be a valid interpretation -- if one believed in psychics.

Unfortunately, I am the wrong sex to put out a shingle for "Psychic Readings: $20". 

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6 hours ago, hope_for_things said:

I still call my experiences spiritual experiences, but I don't believe in an intervening God anymore.  I think for most people, their conceptions about what God is changes over a lifetime, even with orthodox Mormons.  Do you have the same perspectives as you had as a young person?  

I'm understanding Givens as saying that there are core fundamentals that are non-negotiable, as a strategic position for the church.  This implies that there are non-core items that are negotiable.  My question would be, why the resurrection as a real historical event is a non-negotiable?  Who decides what is negotiable or not?  

Moving on from Weyment and on to you and me, I have experiences that I define as spiritual, I believe God’s intervention is epitomized in His Atonement (which I put on a par with His Resurrection) which I recognize more and more in everyday life as my sense of belonging to and oneness with Him continue to grow. My various conceptions about Him fall out of that, so it goes without saying (though I will) that these conceptions change over time. All these are subject to ongoing evaluation. To be non-negotiable is not to be non-evaluable.

I’m not quite sure what you mean by strategic position, but as I said, there are a few points, such as the Lord’s Atonement and Resurrection where the faith (the Church’s tenets) is the history, or in other words, a “done deal.” Who decides what is a “done deal” for the Church? I would say the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve, and the rest is negotiable. Who decides what is a “done deal” and what is negotiable for you? I would say you do.

I think aligning these “done deals” and negotiables between the Church and the individual is virtually under the full control of the individual, and so rarely does the Church step in to remove an apostate, and won’t act on a person’s refusal of a “done deal” until he becomes apostate about it. Other than with these exceptions, the Church is in a constant strategic position of invitation and tolerance of various levels and kinds of understanding.

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7 hours ago, blueglass said:

For me I feel spiritual experiences - perhaps I have more mindfulness now than in the past?  I also have implemented a check and outside looking in analysis process to avoid manipulation by a music score in a church video.  Largely due to studying the mark hoffmann deceptions, I feel like checks and balances against trusting people, or cognitive elevation is important.  

Over time I have learned to distinguish the workings of the Spirit from emotional experiences.  The Spirit sometimes comes with emotion, but in my experience (which may differ from others') that is not so common.

For instance, we were watching the last Harry Potter film.  You know: Deathly Hallows, Part 2.  The scenes near the end when Harry realizes that he is going to have to die in the process of defeating Lord Voldemort. Just before he meets Voldemort, suddenly he is faced with a vision of his parents and his relative Sirius Black and receives reassurances from them that things will be alright.  Since he has a Resurrection Stone, we know that his death will be temporary, but it's a very emotionally charged moment in the story, and it always brings a tightness in the chest and tears to my eyes.  This is not the Spirit.  I am very much afraid that some people think that it is.

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7 hours ago, The Nehor said:

I do not want to rationally examine my spiritual experiences. At least not much. The issue is that the experiences are purer, more real. When I descend into analysis I am turning from the more real to the less real and less reliable. To use the old LDS pure spring analogy I am going from the fountain of living waters to the muddied water further from the source after the cows and whatever have been mucking about in it.

I agree with you in part.  But it's a good idea, perhaps, to make sure one is getting one's experiences from the correct source.  

The following is not specifically directed at you, The Nehor.  It's to everyone...

I had an experience once, when I was in Basic Training in the Army.  We were out "camping"  (the Army calls it "bivouacing").  I was assigned to share a tent with a member of my squad who was rather clueless and clumsy, and I was not pleased about it.  It was well after sundown and had gotten very dark, and he and I were not having a good time getting the tent erected.  I blamed him, and in truth he was a klutz.  I had lost patience with him, and since we were also supposed to get our canteens refilled with water, this was the excuse I needed to get him out of my hair.  I could put the tent up easier without his help than with it, so I asked him to take our canteens and fill them.  He left.  When I had gotten the tent mostly erected, I discovered that I couldn't find the second tent rope.  I "looked" earnestly, but couldn't see it.  It had gotten awfully dark at this point, under an overcast sky beneath plenty of trees.  We didn't have, and weren't allowed to use flashlights (we were tactical).  Since I couldn't see anything, I tried feeling for it, and couldn't feel it, either.  I was getting rather desperate, since our Drill Sergeant was going to be coming around to inspect our work, and one did not want to have the DS ticked off at one.  I suddenly felt really remorseful.  Here I had been treating the other guy rather high-handedly, and now, look at what I had come to.   After having been on my high horse with someone and then having the rug pulled out from under me, so to speak, I was driven to pray for help in finding the darned tent rope.  Since I was on my knees already, I quietly started praying, acknowledging to the Lord that I had been a jerk, promised to fix my attitude, and would He please help me find that tent rope. When I opened my eyes and looked down I saw it right between my knees.  It glowed faintly.  With grateful heart I picked it up and finished putting the tent up.  When my fellow soldier came back I took pains to treat him much better than I had done.  

Here is my take-away from the experience: God heard my prayer and either enhanced my vision just enough to see the rope, or he caused that the rope should glow slightly -- it was not bright at all.  Had the rope been there the whole time?  Or had it been moved miraculously to right in front of me?  I have no evidence suggesting that, but...  Note that these tent ropes were a yellowish color to begin with, not camouflaged.  But note also that it had been dark for some time already, and definitely long enough for my eyes to adjust to their max degree of natural night vision.  And I hadn't seen the rope until after the prayer.  After attaching it I couldn't see it, nor had I been able to see the other tent rope in the dark.

Now, let us renegotiate!  I claim that God helped me find the rope, by somehow illuminating it, and might even have moved it to help me find it.  Note that I have been all over this event in the 43 years since it happened, and I find it very hard to convince myself that it didn't happen, or that it didn't happen as a result of prayer.  Let's hear your counter-arguments.  Explain it away, please.  You won't be able to convince me that God did not help me see this tent rope, but give it a try.

 

Edited by Stargazer

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4 hours ago, mfbukowski said:

When Galileo first saw the rings of Saturn, it was a raw experience. Every time he looked at it again it was still a raw experience, but over time he decided that what he was seeing were "rings".

I believe that in his first interpretation he described them as "ears".  🙂 

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4 hours ago, Stargazer said:

My wife's late husband, she tells me, had exactly one personal revelatory experience in early adulthood, that caused him to join the church and stay active and committed in it until his death at age 70.  She said he never had any others, and didn't seem to need it.  It may be the case that some are just naturally more faithful, and others may need more, so they get more.  Like me, perhaps.

I'd make two points. First I'm not really addressing regular members. Rather I'm addressing more intellectual duties and whether they can be met by believers. I'm not at all convinced regular members need this, although I stay firm in the belief that continued inquiry is far better for everyone. But clearly most don't. Second I'd say that revelation and spiritual experiences can be common and perhaps not even something we're aware of. Lots of things happened to me that I only noticed because I tend to be careful looking back at events from recent past and noticing things I need to improve. Spiritual gifts can be at play without our necessarily noticing them until they're gone.

If you allow a philosophical digression, there's actually an interesting analysis of this. Heidegger talks about how when we're using a tool the tool often disappears from consciousness. Think of driving a car to the point you only notice the road and where you're going. The car withdraws and becomes part of your unconscious coping with the world around you. You only notice it again when something goes astray. Often with tools - say a pencil - they become invisible until say the lead breaks. Our embodiment functions like that in practice. Frequently teachers of a skill say we only truly know the skill when that withdrawal happens and we're no longer conscious of how we do something only the task at hand. In that case spiritual knowledge can be present but unseen because of that withdrawal in the phenomenology of our engagement with the world.

Allow me one example from my past that I don't mind mentioning and have likely told here before. While halfway through college I had a roommate who was rather crazy. He was taking a gram of lithium a day but it clearly wasn't working. I was rather traumatized by it. Being somewhat stupid and naive I didn't know what to do. I ended up finding my home teachers from my prior year and sleeping on their couch as I thought my life in danger. (He was for instance waking up at 2 in the morning and washing his hands for an hour muttering my name Lady Macbeth style) It turned out he was violent and dangerous and hurt several people although that was later. He was locked up in the asylum for some time. However my problem was that during this period it ruined my reading and class attendance. I ended up walking into the finals having not cracked a book in nearly two months until that very week. Something you might be able to get away with in easy classes but not upper division physics and mathematics classes. I prayed mightily for help and got a blessing from my old roommates. I walked into the finals not knowing what to do but took the finals. I got As in all my classes but one. I consider it a miracle. But while taking the exams I didn't notice any revelation. I simply was able to do complicated mathematics I shouldn't have been able to have done.

So in one sense I didn't notice any major spiritual experience. In an other sense it's clear especially in hindsight that one had happened. I knew things I had no business knowing even though I had no conscious experience of knowing them.

I think that's how spiritual gifts often function. I think any consideration of revelation or spiritual gifts have to be able to deal with this sort of thing.

 

 

Edited by clarkgoble
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12 hours ago, hope_for_things said:

Ok, so it sounds like you don't want to critically evaluate your past religious experiences because you've seen other people do this who have lost their faith, at least that seems to be part of your motivation.  I can understand and respect this, and perhaps that is what Dr. Wayment is doing as well.  

I've commented in other discussions on this message board, that I personally don't see a rational justification for belief that personal religious/spiritual experiences can answer any factual questions about history.  If this were true, we should could easily test this claim in a scientific way.  Can someone who claims to have these abilities make accurate statements about history that can be corroborated by other sources.  I think its important to understand what can and can't be derived from spiritual experience.  

On your point about the doctrines of the church, I would ask the question as to who determines what needs to be historical when it comes to the narratives of church doctrine?  Since these doctrines change as the culture and times change, I think its of merit to discuss whether or not certain ideas are non-negotiable as Givens suggests.  

It is not because I have seen other people do it and lose their faith. I have had multiple spiritual experiences and one that was transcendent, more profound than anything I have ever experienced before or after. But how do you "critically evaluate" a spiritual experience? There is nothing to compare it to and no way to transfer it to another in order that someone else could understand. How do you know what can and cannot be derived from another's spiritual experience?  All you have, all anyone has is what they have derived from their own experiences. I have never intimated that any of my experiences could answer factual questions about history, but I do not put it out of the realm of possibility that a prophet could do such if required by the Lord. Historians are pretty good about piecing together narratives concerning recent history, but even that can be "spotty." When we are talking about ancient history, we have so little in the way of records in relation to the amount of history and historical events that have happened over the millennia. Historians have to take what we have and try to work back, trying to understand and assemble a historical narrative that is ever changing. I do not hang my spiritual hat on a physical history. I know that I will find out everything I need to know eventually. But not knowing everything about history is not a problem for me. I am more concerned in learning and applying what I need to know and do please the Lord. That is what I can derive and do derive from my spiritual experiences.

To me, the core doctrines of the Church have not changed with culture and the times. Policies have, and will continue to do so. For me, the existence of God the Father, Jesus the Christ, and the Holy Ghost are part of those core doctrines. I know that the Holy Ghost exists because I have met him. The Atonement and Resurrection are also part of that core, as is the restoration of the Church of Jesus Christ in this dispensation and that the Book of Mormon is a historical document, not inspired fiction, is on that list, as I have already noted. I think that those are things still being taught by the Church and always will be. In other words, prophets and apostles have that say. And I values the information I have received through my own study of the scriptures and the spiritual experiences over that of any man's secular opinion.

Glenn

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12 hours ago, Gray said:

The experience must be interpreted to have meaning.

Nope.

Neener neener. There are no facts only interpretations. ;) I am talking qualia here you are talking sentences.

How long do you have to think about it before you know something is red?

Does red have meaning?

Edited by mfbukowski

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7 hours ago, hope_for_things said:

I'm not sure I would agree Givens approach to the question of BoM historicity is the same as your approach.  Do you have any other comments from Givens that could support that reading?  I think Givens actually does believe the that the apologetic works of folks like Sorensen have some merit when it comes to historicity arguments in the scholarly world.  He even makes a comment in this interview to that effect at some point where he says something along the lines that would like to see more evidences come forward in the future that are stronger than what we have today.  

Your positions is more of a philosophical approach to the idea of historicity, where Givens approach seems to embrace the apologetic arguments as having some scholarly merit.  

Sorrensen ended up with positions much like mine - there was a thread a few years ago written by I believe his son who quoted letters that he wrote to his family about the subject. They should be findable on the board. I think Calm happens to be very good at that.

I am pretty immersed in Givens right now, reviewing one of his books. I honestly don't think I would disagree with anything he has written.

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His son posted under "cursor", iirc so a site search using google (since the board only searches for a year) and "cursor" and "Sorensen" (or is it Sorenson?) would likely come up with candidates.  I haven't slept yet, so must not allow myself to rabbit hole yet again tonight.  Right now I am just looking for a topic to lightly occupy my mind in hopes of sleeping eventually.

Edited by Calm
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1 hour ago, Calm said:

His son posted under "cursor", iirc so a site search using google (since the board only searches for a year) and "cursor" and "Sorensen" (or is it Sorenson?) would likely come up with candidates.  I haven't slept yet, so must not allow myself to rabbit hole yet again tonight.  Right now I am just looking for a topic to lightly occupy my mind in hopes of sleeping eventually.

Yes, it was Cursor, thanks!

Found it.

Phenomenal!   I wish I could write like this!

 

http://www.mormondialogue.org/topic/66428-john-leon-sorenson/?do=findComment&comment=1209560314

 

Edited by mfbukowski
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16 hours ago, Stargazer said:

Hello, @hope_for_things!  As for "communion with deity", as @let’s roll puts it, the nature of my communion with deity does not seem to be renegotiable to me.  You know of the Apostle Paul's vision on the road to Damascus (Acts 9).  You also know of the Peter's vision of taking the gospel to the Gentiles (Acts 10).  Should they have "renegotiated" these experiences?  They seem to have been mighty definitive experiences, and unmistakable.

The experiences I have had are extremely straightforward, very prosaic, and came from outside myself.  They really don't admit of any doubt or misidentification.  If God didn't exist, if Jesus weren't the Christ, and if the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints were not the true Church of Jesus Christ, I shouldn't have had them.

What @clarkgoble said: "To me what matters isn't just one or two experiences but a consistency allowing one to correlate communication with God to real world phenomena. That consistency and predictability is key for any interpretation."  Amen to that.

Personally I think all of our experiences are being reevaluated at some level throughout out lives.  Perhaps you could answer my question that I posed earlier in the thread, to reflect back important experiences of your earlier life, things like your first love or a close friendship or a special event with your parent or a traumatically embarrassing experience, things from your childhood, and tell me if you view anything differently about them now than how you viewed these memories when you were younger.  

I would also argue that anyone's personal and subjective observations about consistency with respect to personal experiences over time have an extremely high risk of being selectively biased.  A subjective view of what constitutes consistency is more likely to be an illusion than an evidence of actual consistency.  

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16 hours ago, hope_for_things said:

Thanks for sharing the personal story.  My personal feeling is that what answers we get through prayer and the spiritual experiences we have a very complicated and its hard to say all the contributing factors that influence these experiences.  I definitely don't agree with the authoritarian approach to expecting that people's prayers will align with church authority figures.  These leaders would be much wiser if they respected a variety of answers to questions and perspectives on issues that don't always align with church leaders pronouncements. 

Most definitely.

16 hours ago, hope_for_things said:

I would also point out, that it helps know history well enough to understand that the church's positions have changed on virtually every issue to some extent in the less than 200 years since its founding, and they will continue to evolve in response to the culture into the future.  I found it somewhat refreshing with the recent temple changes, the bold proclamation that members should expect continuing changes into the future and that this is essentially a principle of the way that the gospel works.  I personally think its just human nature at work, but it was refreshing to see that frank honesty in contrast the the drum beat from some doctrinaire types that view things as unchangeable.  

It seems to me answers through prayer are most directed by personal biases and preferences.  It's not as if Joseph's early dealing with spiritual experiences were working outside of his ability to imagine.  We like to put a lot of emphasis on Joseph's first vision not because it's anything but fideism but because it tells a good story.  Criticisms are always with the story told, often due to the different version telling different stories.  In the sum though his first vision is no more useful to me than, say, my son's own dream.  His vision has all the markings of fantastic dreaming.  If so, the question my son poses regarding his dream is just as applicable to Joseph's vision--was it really God who caused the vision or was it dream/imagination and the like?  We'd never know.  The only way we claim to know today is because we each have our own biased perceptions confirmed through spiritual experience of our own, which itself might be nothing more than us imagining the spirit and God and really wanting it.  

If God, he definitely works in mysterious ways---and I'd say the Church telling us how God works is a major mistake that has limited our people's imagination.  Imagination, afterall, is all we have that really drives our spiritual experiences.  

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Just now, hope_for_things said:

Personally I think all of our experiences are being reevaluated at some level throughout out lives.  Perhaps you could answer my question that I posed earlier in the thread, to reflect back important experiences of your earlier life, things like your first love or a close friendship or a special event with your parent or a traumatically embarrassing experience, things from your childhood, and tell me if you view anything differently about them now than how you viewed these memories when you were younger.  

I've considered this already, and there's very little that has changed.  Not talking just about religious things here.  I'm sorry, but I am very unsure what kind of viewage difference you're meaning.  How I view now what happened in the past versus how I viewed them when they happened?  Well, all I can say is that I don't seem to have had any nasty surprises, or significant shifts about any of it.  About the only thing I could mention was the matter of my mother's death when I was 7.  I was vaguely aware that she was sick (breast cancer), but there was no anticipation of her passing away.  I was unfortunately not present at her funeral because my father thought I was too young to understand.  I remember him telling me that she had died, but the fact of her absence was a bit of a mystery to me.  He wrote in my "baby book" that her death tore my life asunder -- his words -- but I don't recall that.  Apparently my grades suffered, but I am not sure if that was a product of her death, or of my attention deficit disorder.   

Just now, hope_for_things said:

I would also argue that anyone's personal and subjective observations about consistency with respect to personal experiences over time have an extremely high risk of being selectively biased.  A subjective view of what constitutes consistency is more likely to be an illusion than an evidence of actual consistency.  

I don't know about that.

I've read what you've written in the past about the changes in your life with respect to matters of faith, and it made me sad.  If you're fine with it all, great (I guess), but my life seems to have been a long, steady, and deeply rewarding climb towards a deeper and deeper conviction that God is there, is watching, and knows who I am.  He is deeply interested in me, and indeed in everyone of his children.  It hasn't been graph-paper consistent, of course.  It's always been a squiggly line, but one trending upwards, and especially lately more steeply upward trending.

By the way, I thank you for this thread -- I've gotten a lot of thinking done in connection with it.  Deep contemplation is pleasing.

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