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Wayment & Givens interview

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Terryl Givens recently interviewed Thomas Wayment and I really enjoyed listening to this podcast.  I have two questions about really important points that were made and I'd like to hear feedback from others here about what you think was meant by these statements, and their religious implications.  I'm providing links to the podcast and a transcript of it.  

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GIVENS: One of the themes that seems to emerge in so many of the conversations we’re having is that as Latter-day Saints encountering a secular world, an academic environment, we feel threatened or challenged. We see the confrontation between evolution and Adam, or the documentary hypothesis, or our understanding of the Old Testament as a threat, as a moment of crisis. What I love about what I hear unfolding here with you is that you’re describing this as an opportunity, as a window that opens up into beautiful new possibilities, rather than a fearful retrenchment.

WAYMENT: Absolutely. I have to say, over time in looking back, the only thing that probably saved me were two things: Patience—I really had to go a long time where “I don’t know” was the most hopeful and faithful answer I could give. It was an answer, “I don’t know but I hope,” and I continued to define my belief as a hope. “I hope these things are true.”

The other thing that really helped me—and I hope that this works for others, but it worked for me—is I had spiritual experiences in my life, I’ve since had them, and I refused to renegotiate those, to reconceptualize those, and to become critical of them. While I shelved the historical Jesus, I also had shelved my faith experiences and protected them. So there was always a sense, I have something there, I can’t describe it fully right now, but it helped me be patient and cautious in throwing it all out, taking the easy way out.

#1 the bolded section.  I'm wondering if others on this message board take a similar approach.  If you listen to or read the entire interview you'll see where Dr. Wayment is challenging traditional assumptions about a number of issues, and does so in a very respectful way I might add.  But I don't understand why he's adopted a strategy of refusing to renegotiate his own personal spiritual experiences.  He even recommends that this strategy might work for others as well.  I guess I just don't understand why a person who is so willing to critically evaluate so many things about religion is unwilling to critically evaluate his own personal experiences.  Any insights from others about this approach?  

I would also add that some of the religious thinkers outside Mormonism that I respect the most are the ones who are willing to critically evaluate their own personal religious experiences.  So there are examples of people willing to do this and who still consider themselves religious, but unfortunately I haven't ran into many participating members of the COJCOLDS who are willing to do the same.  

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GIVENS: Let me back up and ask you just a couple of general questions. What would you like to see happen that would improve our engagement with the scriptures in formal settings at church?

WAYMENT: I can only speak for myself. One of the challenges to me as a bible scholar, and this comes full circle from where we started, is that Mormonism has promoted a very clear historical narrative for how bible works, how the Old Testament works, etc. I think people wrestle with faith when they find out that history doesn’t fit that narrative well. So they judge things by this is the narrative I read in books and in manuals and I was taught, and when something doesn’t fit it then they’re willing to say wow, my faith has misrepresented this, it’s not nuanced, it’s not careful.

One of the challenges with that in my opinion is it’s unnecessary. I have confidence in history, but I know it’s going to change. We all know as historians, historical records are very spotty and so we piece it together the best we can, but if the historical record is radically revised, my faith still remains intact. I think we need to get away, is what I’m saying, from the idea that if the Book of Mormon’s historicity if you will is different than we thought, if the New Testament Jesus is a little different than we thought that we somehow can’t have faith in that; that faith and history are the same. I’ve heard Mormonism is history. I hear that phrase used. I cringe every time I hear that because then people say if the history’s different than I thought, then my faith is linked to that.

GIVENS: Yeah, I see that both ways. I know that Grant McMurray, the president of the Reorganized Church, once said in Kirtland at a well-attended conference, he said, “History as theology is perilous.” I agree that it is in the way that you described, but I think there’s a middle ground that we have to stake out and maintain because I think Mormonism is history in the same way that Christianity is history. It’s predicated on a real historical event called the resurrection. That’s non-negotiable in the same way that some of the core fundamentals of Mormons are. But I think we’re on the same page when it comes to too much emphasis on a historical narrative as the blueprint of our faith.

#2 Givens bolded quote about the resurrection being a real historical event that is non-negotiable.  Why do you think he says this?  I know of Christian theologians who don't consider this a non-negotiable, and who still find a whole lot of meaning in the resurrection and other events as metaphor.  Why does Given's draw a very intentional line in the sand here?  He acknowledges that history as theology is perilous, but then he doesn't explain the logic around why the resurrection is a non-negotiable.  Any thoughts about why he said this?  

https://mi.byu.edu/mic-wayment/

https://faithmatters.org/a-new-new-testament-translation-a-conversation-with-thom-wayment/

 

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8 minutes ago, let’s roll said:

I’m not sure what your point of reference is when you speak of spiritual experiences but mine includes communion with Deity.  Such experiences are unmistakable and unforgettable.  If Dr. Wayment has had those experiences it’s perfectly understandable to me that he wouldn’t want to renegotiate or reconceptualize them.  I wouldn’t with mine.  Instead I recreate them by going through the same process that brought forth the previous experiences, and experience the same pure love and rest (i.e. freedom from fear and doubt).

Yes, I mean spiritual experiences like you're describing as communion with Deity.  Since it sounds like you have a similar perspective as Dr. Wayment, maybe you can help elaborate for me why you wouldn't want to renegotiate or reconceptualize these experiences?   From my perspective as we learn and grow in life when we are thinking back to earlier experiences, we are always reconceptualizing them.  As humans we don't have access to the raw experience anymore, we only have access to our memories and our memories shift and change as we shift and change as people, so I would start by saying I don't think its possible to not reconceptualize these experiences at some level.  

As for renegotiation, I would say that as I've personally looked back on my memories of my spiritual experiences, I've tried to think about what those experiences were like for me at the time, and how I interpreted them at that time by imbuing the experiences with meaning.  I've also thought about what meaning I would associate with experiences that I might have in the future, and other experiences that I've had recently in my life and how the meaning that derive from these experiences is different that the meaning I might have derived at different stages in my life.  

I've also thought about what is happening from a psychological and physiological perspective inside my brain and the things that I've learned about how humans think and how memory works and how different perspectives influence us.  All of these things together I would call part of the renegotiation process and for me have been very useful and I believe have helped me to grow as a person.  

Can you share more about your perspective?  

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2 hours ago, hope_for_things said:

Terryl Givens recently interviewed Thomas Wayment and I really enjoyed listening to this podcast.  I have two questions about really important points that were made and I'd like to hear feedback from others here about what you think was meant by these statements, and their religious implications.  I'm providing links to the podcast and a transcript of it.  

#1 the bolded section.  I'm wondering if others on this message board take a similar approach.  If you listen to or read the entire interview you'll see where Dr. Wayment is challenging traditional assumptions about a number of issues, and does so in a very respectful way I might add.  But I don't understand why he's adopted a strategy of refusing to renegotiate his own personal spiritual experiences.  He even recommends that this strategy might work for others as well.  I guess I just don't understand why a person who is so willing to critically evaluate so many things about religion is unwilling to critically evaluate his own personal experiences.  Any insights from others about this approach?  

I would also add that some of the religious thinkers outside Mormonism that I respect the most are the ones who are willing to critically evaluate their own personal religious experiences.  So there are examples of people willing to do this and who still consider themselves religious, but unfortunately I haven't ran into many participating members of the COJCOLDS who are willing to do the same.  

#2 Givens bolded quote about the resurrection being a real historical event that is non-negotiable.  Why do you think he says this?  I know of Christian theologians who don't consider this a non-negotiable, and who still find a whole lot of meaning in the resurrection and other events as metaphor.  Why does Given's draw a very intentional line in the sand here?  He acknowledges that history as theology is perilous, but then he doesn't explain the logic around why the resurrection is a non-negotiable.  Any thoughts about why he said this?  

https://mi.byu.edu/mic-wayment/

https://faithmatters.org/a-new-new-testament-translation-a-conversation-with-thom-wayment/

 

I agree with Wayment for the most part, but the fact is that there is no reason to not "renegotiate" spiritual experiences since even atheists recognize them as "valid" within their context of spirituality.  That is the point I have had a hard time communicating to you.  If you understand certain points about the philosophy of mind as in my ubiquitous Rorty quote and the Thomas Nagel stuff AND William James' Radical Empiricism, such experiences are entirely rationally justifiable so there is nothing to be feared by "renegotiation".

Regarding the Givens quote- honestly I think he was just saying that to be "politically correct" in a church context (as opposed to the usual context for the use of that phrase)

Or it could just be true for him as it is for me as saying that the LDS Paradigm demands such belief and there is no reason to NOT defend a paradigm that could have "possibly happened".   That's how I feel regarding both the resurrection and the "historicity" of the BOM.

I ask myself "Is it impossible for God to resurrect someone?"  I find no reason to answer in the affirmative, and my spiritual side confirms that it did happen.  Yet is it good for me to believe that I MAY BE be resurrected myself?  YES!

Is it POSSIBLE that the BOM is historic?  I see no conclusive proof that it is NOT historic and therefore spirituality wins because the answer is unknowable.  And yet even if it is provable that it is NOT historic- is it a good parable full of great lessons for life?  YES!

But again in both cases for me the question is more "Is it beneficial for me in my life as lived to take these religious experiences - about the resurrection and BOM as beliefs which really happened as being the true Word of God speaking to me in my heart, directing my path of life?"

And in both cases I answer in the affirmative, knowing that such beliefs are affirmed as "rational" even by philosophical experts who are themselves atheists.

All of atheistic humanism rests on faithful statements like "Every human has an unalienable right to life liberty and the pursuit of happiness" and that is a belief that even atheistic secularists affirm vociferously even though it is totally without evidence and in fact has overwhelming evidence against it.

Hope for things unseen is a human trait and that tells the tale. 

"It really could be better than it is- so let's work for that! " is a statement that I think keeps many from suicide

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WAYMENT:  The other thing that really helped me—and I hope that this works for others, but it worked for me—is I had spiritual experiences in my life, I’ve since had them, and I refused to renegotiate those, to reconceptualize those, and to become critical of them. While I shelved the historical Jesus, I also had shelved my faith experiences and protected them.

[...]

GIVENS:  I agree that it is in the way that you described, but I think there’s a middle ground that we have to stake out and maintain because I think Mormonism is history in the same way that Christianity is history. It’s predicated on a real historical event called the resurrection. That’s non-negotiable in the same way that some of the core fundamentals of Mormons are. But I think we’re on the same page when it comes to too much emphasis on a historical narrative as the blueprint of our faith.

It's hard to say too much without more context as to what he means. After all those paragraphs can be read in very different ways. I assume, but am not sure, that Wayment in the first paragraph simply is thinking of people who had real spiritual experiences but came to doubt them over time. It's the doubt of memory. Had people had those same experiences in the present, they may well act and believe the same as they did in the past. But because they are so far in the past they can be "forgotten." That's what I suspect he means by reconceptualize rather than a more epistemological question of "did I interpret those experiences correctly."

That's not to deny a certain kind of fideism in his comments. As people know from other threads I have rather big problems with fideism and if that's what he is doing I don't find it intellectually honest. I think though one can charitably read him as not taking a strong fideist stance.

Givens position is, I think, more problematic. This actually gets at precisely why I find his particular form of apologetics something I just can't accept. I like nearly everything he does but underneath it is this stance I think you get at. Again, being charitable, I'm loath to call this full bodied fideism. (The fideists among us clearly will be more prone to accept this as fideism) I think the problem is that I'm completely open to a lot of inaccuracies in scripture. That is there are reasons to read the New Testament, for example, with what some call a hermeneutics of suspicion. I don't simply assume that because the author said it that it happened. For instance this morning in family scripture study we were reading in Matthew about Jesus' running away from his parents to go learn at the temple. I don't want to say it didn't happen - I just don't know. But it seems exactly the sort of story that might be out there akin to George Washington and his cherry tree that is most likely to be a folk tale. To the degree Givens or Wayment are getting at things like that I don't have a problem. We most definitely should distinguish for a slew of reasons the resurrection or crucifixion narratives from the narrative of Jesus as a child. But at the same time I think we have to be careful that we're not so suspicious we dismiss everything beyond what we find theologically expedient as a core belief.

2 hours ago, hope_for_things said:

#1 the bolded section.  I'm wondering if others on this message board take a similar approach. 

I don't take a similar approach, but I do think that how we treat significant experiences in the past matters a great deal. Cognitively memories aren't just stored and recalled as needed. They're recalled, recreated in part on the basis of fears, needs, and expectations at the time of recall, along with beliefs at the time of recall. The original storage though is for the most part gone. The memory is restored by taking the key components and storing that so it can be recreated when next recalled. However it's the recreated memory that's compressed and stored. That means it's become corrupted since the missing bits are filled by ones psychology at the point of recall. Over time this means memories can be quite corrupted - particularly memories of past spiritual experiences after entering into a faith crisis.

The best solution is not to just count on a testimony from the past. A living testimony has to be rediscovered over and over again otherwise it simply dissipates due to the above cognitive process. However if one for whatever reason isn't having spiritual experiences at the point of ones faith crisis or even temporary doubts, then it's worth trying to rethink the original memory in terms of the original beliefs rather than present beliefs trusting that one was being intellectually honest originally. In a certain sense that's attempting to recognize that cognitive process of memory and instead of refilling memory gaps in terms of present experience trying (however incompletely) to restore the memory in terms of those originary beliefs and experiences. While this could easily be abused, I also think it can be done in an intellectually honest fashion.

That said if this entails fideism where one just refuses to investigate and question ones beliefs, then I think that quickly becomes deeply dangerous.

2 hours ago, hope_for_things said:

I would also add that some of the religious thinkers outside Mormonism that I respect the most are the ones who are willing to critically evaluate their own personal religious experiences.  So there are examples of people willing to do this and who still consider themselves religious, but unfortunately I haven't ran into many participating members of the COJCOLDS who are willing to do the same. 

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.

2 hours ago, hope_for_things said:

#2 Givens bolded quote about the resurrection being a real historical event that is non-negotiable.  Why do you think he says this?

I assume because that's what he does still have a testimony of even if he may not have a testimony of other elements such as say the nature of the Book of Abraham. That's completely fine. Heaven knows I can't say more tertiary items I have revelation on. My beliefs on such matters usually arise out of reasoning over the implications of the things I do feel like I know confidently. 

Certainly you're right that many religious thinkers, particularly in the liberal Protestant tradition, have no trouble abandoning the resurrection. I think it worth asking in what sense they're still Christian since the religion seems reduced to a kind of encouragement for morality. But I know many disagree with me on that point. To me ethics and charity are deeply important and a huge part of being a Christian - something that people who might assent to Christian belief frequently don't embody. However if Christianity only is ethics and charity it's worth asking in what sense Christianity is different from an atheist who espouses ethics and charity.

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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”) 

Edited by Calm
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30 minutes ago, mfbukowski said:

I agree with Wayment for the most part, but the fact is that there is no reason to not "renegotiate" spiritual experiences since even atheists recognize them as "valid" within their context of spirituality. 

Thanks for the the thoughtful response, I'm running out of time today, but I'll plan on responding tomorrow.  Appreciate your input.  

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29 minutes ago, clarkgoble said:

It's hard to say too much without more context as to what he means. After all those paragraphs can be read in very different ways.

Clark, this entire post of yours is one of my favorites, I really appreciate the thoughtful engagement.  I plan on responding tomorrow with a couple follow up questions to you.  Thanks so much, this is excellent stuff!  

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3 hours ago, hope_for_things said:

Terryl Givens recently interviewed Thomas Wayment and I really enjoyed listening to this podcast.  I have two questions about really important points that were made and I'd like to hear feedback from others here about what you think was meant by these statements, and their religious implications.  I'm providing links to the podcast and a transcript of it.  

#1 the bolded section.  I'm wondering if others on this message board take a similar approach.  If you listen to or read the entire interview you'll see where Dr. Wayment is challenging traditional assumptions about a number of issues, and does so in a very respectful way I might add.  But I don't understand why he's adopted a strategy of refusing to renegotiate his own personal spiritual experiences.  He even recommends that this strategy might work for others as well.  I guess I just don't understand why a person who is so willing to critically evaluate so many things about religion is unwilling to critically evaluate his own personal experiences.  Any insights from others about this approach?  

I would also add that some of the religious thinkers outside Mormonism that I respect the most are the ones who are willing to critically evaluate their own personal religious experiences.  So there are examples of people willing to do this and who still consider themselves religious, but unfortunately I haven't ran into many participating members of the COJCOLDS who are willing to do the same.  

#2 Givens bolded quote about the resurrection being a real historical event that is non-negotiable.  Why do you think he says this?  I know of Christian theologians who don't consider this a non-negotiable, and who still find a whole lot of meaning in the resurrection and other events as metaphor.  Why does Given's draw a very intentional line in the sand here?  He acknowledges that history as theology is perilous, but then he doesn't explain the logic around why the resurrection is a non-negotiable.  Any thoughts about why he said this?  

https://mi.byu.edu/mic-wayment/

https://faithmatters.org/a-new-new-testament-translation-a-conversation-with-thom-wayment/

 

For #1, perhaps in critically evaluating his experiences, the best conclusion Wayment could come up with for some of them is that they were spiritual experiences, and he cannot honestly describe them as anything else.

For #2, I think Givens said what he said for the same reason Wayment did, and so he isn’t defending the resurrection and hence neither the logic for its being non-negotiable. In both cases, they are acknowledging that personally evaluated non-rational or extra-rational experiences are as valid as those that can be deemed rational.

I also think that Givens is stating that the resurrection fundamentally defines and cannot be separated from the core faith, making it one of the few points where the faith is the history.

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54 minutes ago, hope_for_things said:

Yes, I mean spiritual experiences like you're describing as communion with Deity.  Since it sounds like you have a similar perspective as Dr. Wayment, maybe you can help elaborate for me why you wouldn't want to renegotiate or reconceptualize these experiences?   From my perspective as we learn and grow in life when we are thinking back to earlier experiences, we are always reconceptualizing them.  As humans we don't have access to the raw experience anymore, we only have access to our memories and our memories shift and change as we shift and change as people, so I would start by saying I don't think its possible to not reconceptualize these experiences at some level.  

A lot of people do reconceptualize their spiritual experiences to the point of losing their faith. I do not see the point in renegotiating with myself the validity of the experiences I have had in the face of ever changing secular ideas about what little we do know of history. I was not there for any of the events that are in question so I cannot speak informedly on them. And I cannot ascertain with certainty whether a person such as Jesus actually lived, was martyred, and was resurrected.  But I can look back with certainty on the fact that I did have some spiritual experiences which have confirmed to me the validity of my faith in those events.

The doctrines of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints depend upon there being a historical Jesus, a historical crucifixion, and a historical resurrection, as well as a historical Book of Mormon. The experiences that I have had have convinced me that such is the case, so I have to necessarily shelve anything, any questions that arise for which there is no ready answer. I believe wholeheartedly that such answers will come at some point in time, whether in mortality ot in the next space beyond this time. And I just don't worry about it.

I agree with Clark that "A living testimony has to be rediscovered over and over again otherwise it simply dissipates due to the above cognitive process." I don't actually looking at it as rediscovering my testimony over and over again, but rather building it a bit at a time. There was a point in time when I did have to rediscover my testimony which caused me to shed my doubts and left me with the level of certainty that i now enjoy.

Glenn

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7 minutes ago, let’s roll said:

 I read your comment to say the purpose of reconceptualizing and renegotiating prior spiritual experiences is to determine whether you might understand them differently today than you did when they occurred. If you’re having deep and poignant spiritual experiences on a regular basis that result in the same feelings of pure love, enlightenment, and rest as prior ones, what purpose would be served by re-examining prior experiences?  They’re consistently unmistakable.

Exactly. This whole exercise is really only possible (in the way HFT conceives, I think) if one's 'spiritual experiences' have somehow ceased and therefore only reside in the past.

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2 hours ago, Hamba Tuhan said:

Exactly. This whole exercise is really only possible (in the way HFT conceives, I think) if one's 'spiritual experiences' have somehow ceased and therefore only reside in the past. 

Not really. I still have spiritual experiences, but I interpret them much differently than I did as a young man.

Edited by Gray
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13 minutes ago, Gray said:

Not really. I still have spiritual experiences, but I interpret them much differently than I did as a young man.

You interpret your current spiritual experiences differently than those you had as a young man, but do you now interpret the ones you had as a young man differently than when you had them?  That is what I think HFT is asking.

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1 hour ago, let’s roll said:

You interpret your current spiritual experiences differently than those you had as a young man, but do you now interpret the ones you had as a young man differently than when you had them?  That is what I think HFT is asking.

The nature of the experience is the same, the interpretation has changed. The experiences don't interpret themselves.

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33 minutes ago, Gray said:

The nature of the experience is the same, the interpretation has changed. The experiences don't interpret themselves.

So you hear God call you by name and speak to you in His own voice, saying 'Gray, stop doing X', but you interpret His words differently depending on your age?

Edited by Hamba Tuhan

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10 hours ago, Hamba Tuhan said:

So you hear God call you by name and speak to you in His own voice, saying 'Gray, stop doing X', but you interpret His words differently depending on your age?

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

Edited by Gray

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16 hours ago, clarkgoble said:

It's hard to say too much without more context as to what he means. After all those paragraphs can be read in very different ways. I assume, but am not sure, that Wayment in the first paragraph simply is thinking of people who had real spiritual experiences but came to doubt them over time. It's the doubt of memory. Had people had those same experiences in the present, they may well act and believe the same as they did in the past. But because they are so far in the past they can be "forgotten." That's what I suspect he means by reconceptualize rather than a more epistemological question of "did I interpret those experiences correctly."

That's not to deny a certain kind of fideism in his comments. As people know from other threads I have rather big problems with fideism and if that's what he is doing I don't find it intellectually honest. I think though one can charitably read him as not taking a strong fideist stance.

Givens position is, I think, more problematic. This actually gets at precisely why I find his particular form of apologetics something I just can't accept. I like nearly everything he does but underneath it is this stance I think you get at. Again, being charitable, I'm loath to call this full bodied fideism. (The fideists among us clearly will be more prone to accept this as fideism) I think the problem is that I'm completely open to a lot of inaccuracies in scripture. That is there are reasons to read the New Testament, for example, with what some call a hermeneutics of suspicion. I don't simply assume that because the author said it that it happened. For instance this morning in family scripture study we were reading in Matthew about Jesus' running away from his parents to go learn at the temple. I don't want to say it didn't happen - I just don't know. But it seems exactly the sort of story that might be out there akin to George Washington and his cherry tree that is most likely to be a folk tale. To the degree Givens or Wayment are getting at things like that I don't have a problem. We most definitely should distinguish for a slew of reasons the resurrection or crucifixion narratives from the narrative of Jesus as a child. But at the same time I think we have to be careful that we're not so suspicious we dismiss everything beyond what we find theologically expedient as a core belief.

I don't take a similar approach, but I do think that how we treat significant experiences in the past matters a great deal. Cognitively memories aren't just stored and recalled as needed. They're recalled, recreated in part on the basis of fears, needs, and expectations at the time of recall, along with beliefs at the time of recall. The original storage though is for the most part gone. The memory is restored by taking the key components and storing that so it can be recreated when next recalled. However it's the recreated memory that's compressed and stored. That means it's become corrupted since the missing bits are filled by ones psychology at the point of recall. Over time this means memories can be quite corrupted - particularly memories of past spiritual experiences after entering into a faith crisis.

The best solution is not to just count on a testimony from the past. A living testimony has to be rediscovered over and over again otherwise it simply dissipates due to the above cognitive process. However if one for whatever reason isn't having spiritual experiences at the point of ones faith crisis or even temporary doubts, then it's worth trying to rethink the original memory in terms of the original beliefs rather than present beliefs trusting that one was being intellectually honest originally. In a certain sense that's attempting to recognize that cognitive process of memory and instead of refilling memory gaps in terms of present experience trying (however incompletely) to restore the memory in terms of those originary beliefs and experiences. While this could easily be abused, I also think it can be done in an intellectually honest fashion.

That said if this entails fideism where one just refuses to investigate and question ones beliefs, then I think that quickly becomes deeply dangerous.

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 assume because that's what he does still have a testimony of even if he may not have a testimony of other elements such as say the nature of the Book of Abraham. That's completely fine. Heaven knows I can't say more tertiary items I have revelation on. My beliefs on such matters usually arise out of reasoning over the implications of the things I do feel like I know confidently. 

Certainly you're right that many religious thinkers, particularly in the liberal Protestant tradition, have no trouble abandoning the resurrection. I think it worth asking in what sense they're still Christian since the religion seems reduced to a kind of encouragement for morality. But I know many disagree with me on that point. To me ethics and charity are deeply important and a huge part of being a Christian - something that people who might assent to Christian belief frequently don't embody. However if Christianity only is ethics and charity it's worth asking in what sense Christianity is different from an atheist who espouses ethics and charity.

I appreciate your post, but it leaves me wondering why you think your position is anything but fideism.  can you address that?  I'd appreciate it.  

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1 hour ago, stemelbow said:

I appreciate your post, but it leaves me wondering why you think your position is anything but fideism.  can you address that?  I'd appreciate it.  

Fideism is typically viewed as making a choice of faith independent of evidence or where evidence is significantly lacking. (Sometimes revelation is counted as fideism but it's important to note that in that context it means received tradition and scripture not personal revelation as Mormons use it) My position is that there is/was evidence. So if I had an experience that led to certain beliefs, I believe that this was justified, then I'm also justified in being skeptical of doubts and reinterpretations that arise due to the decay of memory. Now is that strong evidence? Probably not. But in the absence of strong evidence in the other direction I think this is quite rational.

This isn't just a religious thing either. We do this everyday. Consider you have a very bad experience in the past with a person that makes you distrust them. Later, you don't remember the details and become more sympathetic to the person but you remember that in the past you concluded that they weren't trustworthy. You can't remember why but you remember that at the time you had good reasons. Are you rational in trusting that past judgment even if the grounds for that judgment are now missing? Of course. In fact many would say you would be irrational not to treat that as significant evidence.

Really all this reduces to is the question of the evidentiary weight of past judgments that were themselves based upon evidence even if one no longer can produce an argument for the original judgment. We do this all the time in academics I should note. (This is also where skeptics often point to the problems of memory in reasoning) Often judgements take a lot of time and require familiarity with facts that disappear fairly quickly in memory. So I could tell you my conclusions from studying certain issues in philosophy 10 - 15 years ago. I know I was pretty rigorous in those judgements. However while I remember the judgements I don't remember the reasoning in the least. Now of course I could be wrong and if I read a strong argument that makes me reconsider then I'll revisit the original belief. But trust in this case is reasons and evidence based and not a pure act of fideism.

Edited by clarkgoble
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17 hours ago, mfbukowski said:

I agree with Wayment for the most part, but the fact is that there is no reason to not "renegotiate" spiritual experiences since even atheists recognize them as "valid" within their context of spirituality.  That is the point I have had a hard time communicating to you.  If you understand certain points about the philosophy of mind as in my ubiquitous Rorty quote and the Thomas Nagel stuff AND William James' Radical Empiricism, such experiences are entirely rationally justifiable so there is nothing to be feared by "renegotiation".

Regarding the Givens quote- honestly I think he was just saying that to be "politically correct" in a church context (as opposed to the usual context for the use of that phrase)

Or it could just be true for him as it is for me as saying that the LDS Paradigm demands such belief and there is no reason to NOT defend a paradigm that could have "possibly happened".   That's how I feel regarding both the resurrection and the "historicity" of the BOM.

I ask myself "Is it impossible for God to resurrect someone?"  I find no reason to answer in the affirmative, and my spiritual side confirms that it did happen.  Yet is it good for me to believe that I MAY BE be resurrected myself?  YES!

Is it POSSIBLE that the BOM is historic?  I see no conclusive proof that it is NOT historic and therefore spirituality wins because the answer is unknowable.  And yet even if it is provable that it is NOT historic- is it a good parable full of great lessons for life?  YES!

But again in both cases for me the question is more "Is it beneficial for me in my life as lived to take these religious experiences - about the resurrection and BOM as beliefs which really happened as being the true Word of God speaking to me in my heart, directing my path of life?"

And in both cases I answer in the affirmative, knowing that such beliefs are affirmed as "rational" even by philosophical experts who are themselves atheists.

All of atheistic humanism rests on faithful statements like "Every human has an unalienable right to life liberty and the pursuit of happiness" and that is a belief that even atheistic secularists affirm vociferously even though it is totally without evidence and in fact has overwhelming evidence against it.

Hope for things unseen is a human trait and that tells the tale. 

"It really could be better than it is- so let's work for that! " is a statement that I think keeps many from suicide

I agree with you about renegotiation, and I think that everyone does this at some level, whether they are aware of that they are doing it or not, and it crosses religious categories.  I'm not hung up on rationally justifying subjective experiences, although I think some people may feel the need to do this.  Perhaps Dr. Wayment feels a need to protect his spiritual experiences from rational evaluation.  That is what it sounded like to me.  

For the Givens quote, I do wonder if he's just trying to be politically correct, but I don't know.  He is a very smart person and extremely well read, so I have to assume that he's familiar with other Christian theologians that don't consider a historical resurrection to be a non-negotiable.  So, I do think that he may be establishing certain boundaries that he believes are important to hold fast on.  

I have heard Givens be charitable to those who have a non-historical approach to the BoM before, but I've heard him articulate something along the lines that this position is not an easy one to hold in Mormonism.  I'll have to try and dig up that quote and refresh my memory, I think it was an interview he did when the BoM historicity question came up. 

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4 minutes ago, clarkgoble said:

Fideism is typically viewed as making a choice of faith independent of evidence or where evidence is significantly lacking. My position is that there is/was evidence. So if I had an experience that led to certain beliefs, I believe that this was justified, then I'm also justified in being skeptical of doubts and reinterpretations that arise due to the decay of memory. Now is that strong evidence? Probably not. But in the absence of strong evidence in the other direction I think this is quite rational.

This isn't just a religious thing either. We do this everyday. Consider you have a very bad experience in the past with a person that makes you distrust them. Later, you don't remember the details and become more sympathetic to the person but you remember that in the past you concluded that they weren't trustworthy. You can't remember why but you remember that at the time you had good reasons. Are you rational in trusting that past judgment even if the grounds for that judgment are now missing? Of course. In fact many would say you would be irrational not to treat that as significant evidence.

Really all this reduces to is the question of the evidentiary weight of past judgments that were themselves based upon evidence even if one no longer can produce an argument for the original judgment. We do this all the time in academics I should note. (This is also where skeptics often point to the problems of memory in reasoning) Often judgements take a lot of time and require familiarity with facts that disappear fairly quickly in memory. So I could tell you my conclusions from studying certain issues in philosophy 10 - 15 years ago. I know I was pretty rigorous in those judgements. However while I remember the judgements I don't remember the reasoning in the least. Now of course I could be wrong and if I read a strong argument that makes me reconsider then I'll revisit the original belief. But trust in this case is reasons and evidence based and not a pure act of fideism.

Thanks Clark.  I hope you don't mind me continuing down this rabbit trail.  It's interesting enough to do so if you ask me.  What you describe may be nothing but fideism, but I may be misunderstanding.  

What experience is seen as something other than a faith experience that gives you reason to believe the faith propositions?  Anyone can take a spiritual experience as evidence for their faith, I suppose, but in terms of evidence it really is or could be nothing more than a person assuming any spiritual experience was from God, was meant to reveal truths, if you will, that God intends that person to have.  It could be that the spiritual experience is nothing more than a figment of one's imagination, an experience of confirmation bias, elevation emotion or the like.  It's an account of one's faith that he/she assumes the spiritual experience is from God, or is meant to be evidence for any faith proposition.  It seems to me.  But, perhaps I am misunderstanding you?

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14 hours ago, Gray said:

Not really. I still have spiritual experiences, but I interpret them much differently than I did as a young man.

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.  

Edited by blueglass
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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.

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29 minutes ago, stemelbow said:

What experience is seen as something other than a faith experience that gives you reason to believe the faith propositions?  Anyone can take a spiritual experience as evidence for their faith, I suppose, but in terms of evidence it really is or could be nothing more than a person assuming any spiritual experience was from God, was meant to reveal truths, if you will, that God intends that person to have.

It depends upon the nature of the experience. I'm not going to get into my personal experiences - the ones I'd be willing to relate would at best be circumstantial evidence. (One I can particularly recall was my wife being prompted to check on the baby to find she'd pulled a blanket overherself and was blue and effectively dead. I gave a blessing and she immediately recovered with no sign of health issue at the hospital. But of course the skepticism is that taking the blanket off enabled her to breathe, my wife's prompting was coincidence, etc.) However what interpretations one could draw out would fully depend upon the nature of the experience in question.

One from my mission which I've related here before was an investigator who would have a dream while reading the Book of Mormon (which he'd never read before). The dream was always about what he would read the next day. It was typically a very vivid dream where he saw the figures in question. I questioned him about them and the appearances didn't match the Book of Mormon art (Friberg paintings) but more mesoAmerican appearance. Now imagine you were that person praying about the missionary message and that happens. Would that count as evidence? I'd think so. Now for someone it didn't happen to it's not really strong evidence at all. Especially third hand as you're hearing it. There's too many reasons to be able to doubt the accuracy. But if it was happening to you, you knew you had no way of knowing what you were going to read next, and it was accompanied by a strong sense of surety then I think that's pretty compelling evidence.

I should note that underneath all my analysis of this is a particularly pragmatic conception of knowledge and truth. That is I don't consider belief to be volitional. We either believe or don't regardless of justification. Justification, especially for those trained in reason and evidence, affects belief though.

Now of course as a practical matter - especially for regular people not trained to be skeptical or having an understanding of the issues in interpretation, cognition, and science - people will incorrectly judge evidence. I'm sure there are many members who, if I knew their reasons, I'd consider as having weak justifications for their religious beliefs even if they feel strongly about them. My concern though isn't in deciding who is or isn't justified in their beliefs. That's their responsibility. My concern is whether I am being sufficiently skeptical, sufficiently justified, and sufficiently inquiring about my religious beliefs.

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.

Edited by clarkgoble
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