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President Oaks' advice to young married couples in Chicago

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15 minutes ago, Tacenda said:

Well, since Jesus Christ is so broad and several religions have the same goal, maybe research is important, in order to be in a safe organization.

I'm not sure what you mean by 'safe' but I agree very much that research (or study) is important.  It's very important.

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11 minutes ago, stemelbow said:

It's bad enough hat he think research is bad, but I think there's something more troubling here.  He's telling a group of young marrieds, if your spouse starts doubting, asking tough questions, and wondering about the issues that have plagued the Church in recent years, then you are a believer should not see research as an answer to your spouses troubles.  What I think is the big problem there is, he seems to be advocating spouses not work through it together.  I've heard enough of believing spouses ignoring the questioning spouse, speaking of him/her as if they are evil for their concerns.  This advice only makes it worse.  The questions brought up by the questioning spouse might very likely have nothing to do with faith at all.  

That's a great point. Sadly, the church has always been for separating families along belief lines.

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18 minutes ago, bluebell said:

I agree, but that doesn't really answer the question that I asked Exiled.  Given that faith is belief in the spiritual claims of Christ and His doctrine, without proof (or a sure knowledge) that they are true, how can research into secular things like history or archaeology alone ever produce faith in Christ?

 

But the research done into church history, etc., is not just reading about "secular things".  One studies the spiritual events and teachings and experiences as well.

Was living polygamy a spiritual experience or was it purely physical and secular?  Were people spiritually edified when they lived polygamy in the manner that Joseph did?  Those are things that are studied as well.

How about the visions and events involved in the restoration?  Spiritual or secular?

But what happens in many cases is when a member learns truths regarding history that don't mesh with anything spiritual, they start having doubts.  Just like the other thread where we learn that the man called to direct the recent temple movies was a confessed child abuser and was also apparently having extramarital affairs with both men and women.  It causes one to wonder where was the spiritual discernment.  That's how many feel when they learn the truth about Joseph and polygamy.

So is that spiritual or secular?

When did research into "matters of Church history and doctrinal issues" become purely secular? 

Edited by ALarson

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23 minutes ago, Tacenda said:

Well, since Jesus Christ is so broad and several religions have the same goal, maybe research is important, in order to be in a safe organization.

Jesus Christ undoubtedly can guide us to a safe organization.  I’d trust his infallible judgment over research skills.

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23 minutes ago, bluebell said:

The "supposed goal" is faith in Jesus Christ.  Given the definition of faith (which i'm assuming you are aware of), how could research ever be the answer?

Isn't the point of the book of mormon, bible and prophets to act as something tangible upon which to build faith? How can you have faith in Jesus if you don't know anything about him? What happens if research shows that most of what was and is said of him is myth? What if research shows that the holy books are merely man-made inventions and that the "prophets" were merely relaying their own personal thoughts?

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4 minutes ago, clarkgoble said:

If life is a developmental building process, then we shouldn't assume God's answers are always to make life easy for us but to guide us into development. While I think Elder Holland's teaching can be misapplied and construed, I also think it's true that God directs us for what is good for us in a developmental sense and not necessarily what we think is our goal. I've certainly seen that many times in my own life.

How would you ever know, clark?  If God's direction sent you one way and you learned, how would you know if you hadn't gone the other way if you would not have learned even more?  You seem to continue to see things as answered before the question is ever asked, you assume the answer, it seems to me.  You seem to suggest Holland's teaching is good, God does mislead us, because he wants us to learn from going the wrong way.  But if you had never gone the wrong way, how would you know the right way was not best for you all along?  

4 minutes ago, clarkgoble said:

Interestingly, and this is where many Mormons are likely to break with Elder Holland, this may very well mean that God leads people out of the Church temporarily so that they can learn important lessons. Or perhaps, given their personality and experiences, a direct route to the Church isn't possible for them. Most Mormons hearing that then get upset, but it seems the clear implication of Holland's talk. I remember being surprised when he gave it. (And he's said similar things in the past)

Or perhaps more accurately God leads people out of Church permamently, not because of anything but that the Church is not good for that person.  

4 minutes ago, clarkgoble said:

Sometimes we pray for some developmental aim - say making us patient or wise. We don't think through that God's not going to give us that characteristic miraculously as if he could change us against our will. (Since effectively what we have are competing wills) What God gives us are the experiences so we can change our personality and habits. From past experience and prayer, that's never straightforward, is often unexpected, and frequently painful but in the end does answers ones prayers.

Yes from personal experience one would have to wonder if God is involved at all.  If say, your prayers lead you one way which perhaps could have been the same way taken if you hadn't prayed to begin with.  

4 minutes ago, clarkgoble said:

Despite having a theology that focuses so much on our personal development, I think we frequently hope it's not true and that God just magically changes us at a snap into a different person. The sum of Mormon theology seems to indicate not only is that not something God will do but it's something he can't do. It's the big limit on his power.

It's not as if there's not direct contradiction in scriptures like wherein God will answer your question and not upbraid you.  It probably should read, well God will answer you falsely sometimes because he needs you to go down the wrong road sometimes so you can learn.  You won't learn it otherwise.  

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10 minutes ago, ALarson said:

But the research done into church history, etc., is not just reading about "secular things".  One studies the spiritual events and teachings and experiences as well.

Was living polygamy a spiritual experience or was it purely physical and secular?  Were people spiritually edified when they lived polygamy in the manner that Joseph did?  Those are things that are studied as well.

How about the visions and events involved in the restoration?  Spiritual or secular?

But what happens in many cases is when a member learns truths regarding history that don't mesh with anything spiritual, they start having doubts.  Just like the other thread where we learn that the man called to direct the recent temple movies was a confessed child abuser and was also apparently having extramarital affairs with both men and women.  It causes one to wonder where was the spiritual discernment.  That's how many feel when they learn the truth about Joseph and polygamy.

So is that spiritual or secular?

I think that's a great question.

From my perspective, any studying or research that is done on religious topics that is not coupled with prayer and seeking insight from the Holy Ghost is secular.   

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7 minutes ago, Exiled said:

Isn't the point of the book of mormon, bible and prophets to act as something tangible upon which to build faith? How can you have faith in Jesus if you don't know anything about him? What happens if research shows that most of what was and is said of him is myth? What if research shows that the holy books are merely man-made inventions and that the "prophets" were merely relaying their own personal thoughts?

I agree.  Like I said before, research (study) is indispensable in gaining a testimony.  But research or study done without prayer and reliance on the Holy Spirit (research without access to and reliance on revelation) cannot produce faith in Christ.  

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11 minutes ago, let’s roll said:

Jesus Christ undoubtedly can guide us to a safe organization.  I’d trust his infallible judgment over research skills.

How about over truth?  If our church is truly the restored Gospel of Jesus Christ, then researching the events and doctrines and practices involved in the restoration should confirm that this is the Gospel of Jesus Christ restored.

Why discourage doing this?

Edited by ALarson
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5 minutes ago, bluebell said:

I think that's a great question.

From my perspective, any studying or research that is done on religious topics that is not coupled with prayer and seeking insight from the Holy Ghost is secular.   

I know of very few who desired to study and learn more about church history that didn't do so "coupled with prayer and seeking".  

I also know that once they started discovering so many troubling issues and details, they spent a great deal of time on their knees pleading for insight and answers.

Edited by ALarson

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11 hours ago, rockpond said:

Then why aren’t the Brethren encouraging such research rather than discouraging it?

That presupposes they are discouraging it, which I disagree with. Certainly if you were to go back in the past there were some clear examples of people discouraging such things. A few talks by Elder Packer in particular come to mind. However I'd argue the constant refrain of "seek out of the best books" is a doctrine of research. There have been many talks along those lines. Last year's talk by Elder Evans in Priesthood session was one I particularly liked.

The introduction to the Gospel Essays is worth reading on this as well. "The Church places great emphasis on knowledge and on the importance of being well informed about Church history, doctrine, and practices." And

  • “And as all have not faith, seek ye diligently and teach one another words of wisdom; yea, seek ye out of the best books words of wisdom; seek learning, even by study and also by faith” (D&C 88:118).

    This is more than a simple exhortation to learn about the gospel. It is an invitation from the Lord to recognize that not all sources of knowledge are equally reliable. Seeking “out of the best books” does not mean seeking only one set of opinions, but it does require us to distinguish between reliable sources and unreliable sources.

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7 minutes ago, Exiled said:

Isn't the point of the book of mormon, bible and prophets to act as something tangible upon which to build faith? How can you have faith in Jesus if you don't know anything about him? What happens if research shows that most of what was and is said of him is myth? What if research shows that the holy books are merely man-made inventions and that the "prophets" were merely relaying their own personal thoughts?

He's essentially saying stick to authorized sources of learning.  If you go beyond that, you'll be in trouble.  So if someone ever has the question of what are the authorized sources of learning, they better conclude that the Church knows best about what sources of learning are good and what are bad else such a person might be lost.  

It comes down to get your assumptions set and settled so when questions come you can simply ignore them assuming the answer before you look into it.  I would suggest it is perhaps the best way forward for the Church, it seems to me to be exactly what Clark keeps pushing for.  to preach openness of thought, or research can be helpful is precisely what would doom the Church.  

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2 hours ago, bluebell said:

Many of us here have already put forth our perspective on why Pres. Oaks, in this specific address, is suggesting that research is not the answer.  I don't think it's necessary to outline my thoughts again on it.

I've read and understand those perspectives.

I'm looking at the broader picture:  Elder and Sister Renlund's YSA address, Elder Corbridge's devotional, President Oaks' message to the young couples in Chicago, even Elder Holland's direction to the Maxwell Institute back in November.  What I see emerging is a renewed emphasis on prioritizing faith over research.  Whether it is in the form of suggesting that members already know enough, that research isn't the answer, or that studying church history is gloomy and not important.

Again, I think that this is the best approach they can take now.  And I think that because I don't see that research and study of the Church's narrative and truth claims to be faith affirming.  I think the Brethren are reaching that same conclusion.  If I am understanding correctly, you are countering that by saying that for some, it is faith affirming.  I'd like to understand those who can see it that way.  I'd like to see the Brethren answer the questions that so many are raising in a way that bolsters faith rather than encouraging members to turn away from those studies and focus on faith, staying in the ship, and the "primary questions".

To build on what was asked earlier in the thread, how does one see the following as faith affirming:

  • Book of Abraham not being the direct translation that was claimed
  • Book of Mormon being received from a seer stone in a hat rather than translated from gold plates
  • The manner in which Joseph Smith practiced polygamy
  • Brigham Young teaching doctrines that have been disavowed
  • Native American people not being Lamanites

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1 minute ago, stemelbow said:

He's essentially saying stick to authorized sources of learning.  If you go beyond that, you'll be in trouble.  So if someone ever has the question of what are the authorized sources of learning, they better conclude that the Church knows best about what sources of learning are good and what are bad else such a person might be lost.  

It comes down to get your assumptions set and settled so when questions come you can simply ignore them assuming the answer before you look into it.  I would suggest it is perhaps the best way forward for the Church, it seems to me to be exactly what Clark keeps pushing for.  to preach openness of thought, or research can be helpful is precisely what would doom the Church.  

I think this is correct and it is the best way forward for the church (coupled with continued inoculation of the younger members).

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5 minutes ago, bluebell said:

I agree.  Like I said before, research (study) is indispensable in gaining a testimony.  But research or study done without prayer and reliance on the Holy Spirit (research without access to and reliance on revelation) cannot produce faith in Christ.  

Ok. But what if the scriptures aren't what they claim to be? In this case the end result must necessarily be something other than what you believe faith in Christ is, because the foundation is faulty. In this case, research corrected error and was the answer.

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31 minutes ago, bluebell said:

I'm not sure what you mean by 'safe' but I agree very much that research (or study) is important.  It's very important.

Many religious organizations can damage a person. Or mess with their heads and cause destruction, or lead them down the wrong path, or even lead them into unbelief in God. I am very leery of nearly all of them.

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I am baffled in a way...when I was going through my own faith crisis, I was told that the answers were always there but I just did not look for it hard enough..did not study deep enough.

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Just now, Jeanne said:

I am baffled in a way...when I was going through my own faith crisis, I was told that the answers were always there but I just did not look for it hard enough..did not study deep enough.

So true! Study until you come back full circle, or something like that.

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8 minutes ago, stemelbow said:

How would you ever know, clark?  If God's direction sent you one way and you learned, how would you know if you hadn't gone the other way if you would not have learned even more?  You seem to continue to see things as answered before the question is ever asked, you assume the answer, it seems to me.  You seem to suggest Holland's teaching is good, God does mislead us, because he wants us to learn from going the wrong way.  But if you had never gone the wrong way, how would you know the right way was not best for you all along?  

Well we can't know in the sense you're asking about counterfactuals, beyond once we have more experience looking at the general patterns of life and having a recognition of our own personality, needs, and weakness. However I think that, particularly when we're older looking back at our past, we can get a pretty good idea.

I'd also say that God isn't misleading us although he may not be meeting our expectations. That's not misleading though. When we pray for wisdom - what we should do - it's not the same as praying for knowledge in the sense of what is. That seems obvious, but it is something I think many people miss in their prayers. They pray for some attribute, often with a set of presuppositions of what will happen that are wrong. Again just going by my own experience, God will happily explain or at least give direction for why our presuppositions are wrong. My own experience is that many, particularly when they are young, don't do that.

So to my eyes this is far from a "answers are always right." To me the issue is learning to distinguish what is God from what is not God. And often, again just going by my own experiences particularly when young, we don't always do a good job distinguishing what is from God from what is our own fears, desires, or expectations.

13 minutes ago, stemelbow said:

Or perhaps more accurately God leads people out of Church permamently, not because of anything but that the Church is not good for that person.  

Well I can but hope not given what happens after death. Although perhaps you don't agree with that.

I personally will say that in terms of accepting the gospel, getting baptized and so forth, the great work is in the spirit world not here on earth. If becoming a member was the most important thing in this life, then God would not have made it so difficult and often impossible for the vast majority of humanity through history to be baptized with authority. Given that reality, I certainly have no problem with God directing someone out of the Church for their life, if that was what was necessary for their development given their likely choices. Of course there's also a strong element of freedom in all of this. If people were willing to prepare themselves then I think there's only one way. I just think not everyone is ready for that.

My guess is that a big part of being a part of the restored gospel is preparing us for our work on the other side of the veil as missionaries. 

16 minutes ago, stemelbow said:

Yes from personal experience one would have to wonder if God is involved at all.  If say, your prayers lead you one way which perhaps could have been the same way taken if you hadn't prayed to begin with.

There is a way to find out of course. But I'd certainly agree that sometimes people think something is a revelation that isn't. I think the Church is so focused on just getting members to try to listen to the spirit that they're more willing to accept false positives rather than worry so much about people going astray. I'm not sure that's smart, but then I'm not in charge getting direction. So I may be completely wrong in that.

17 minutes ago, stemelbow said:

It's not as if there's not direct contradiction in scriptures like wherein God will answer your question and not upbraid you.  It probably should read, well God will answer you falsely sometimes because he needs you to go down the wrong road sometimes so you can learn.  You won't learn it otherwise.  

Again, I don't think it's God answering falsely. As I said, there's a difference between "which road is right" and "where should I go."

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3 minutes ago, Tacenda said:

Many religious organizations can damage a person. Or mess with their heads and cause destruction, or lead them down the wrong path, or even lead them into unbelief in God. I am very leery of nearly all of them.

If God is real and if He speaks to His children, then He is equally leery of such organizations.  I believe that He can help us steer clear of them.

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2 minutes ago, Jeanne said:

I am baffled in a way...when I was going through my own faith crisis, I was told that the answers were always there but I just did not look for it hard enough..did not study deep enough.

Yeah....lots of different counsel and approaches have been recommended by church leaders (local and general).

I think the truth is that there really is no good answer or solution, but at least they are addressing the issues more head on and trying to get more accurate information in front of the members.

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3 minutes ago, Exiled said:

Ok. But what if the scriptures aren't what they claim to be? In this case the end result must necessarily be something other than what you believe faith in Christ is, because the foundation is faulty. In this case, research corrected error and was the answer.

The "supposed goal" that the church is working towards though is one that assumes the scriptures are what they purport to be.  

Remember that this discussion is based on your claim of what will best produce the church's end goal.  It's based on your statement of "It's too bad research isn't the answer because that would certainly aid in converting the world, the supposed goal."

Besides that, research isn't capable of proving whether or not scriptures are the word of God.  So even if scriptures aren't what they claim to be, research will never be able to correct that error.  

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15 minutes ago, rockpond said:

To build on what was asked earlier in the thread, how does one see the following as faith affirming:

  • Book of Abraham not being the direct translation that was claimed
  • Book of Mormon being received from a seer stone in a hat rather than translated from gold plates
  • The manner in which Joseph Smith practiced polygamy
  • Brigham Young teaching doctrines that have been disavowed
  • Native American people not being Lamanites

I think these issues (though I don't agree with your characterization of each one of them) can deepen faith when they are studied with an emphasis on faith, prayer, and revelation.  That is why our leaders are correct in teaching an emphasis on prioritizing faith.

It is no different than what Christ taught.  The scriptures are full of Christ commanding people to doubt not but be believing.  I see what our leaders are teaching as being no different from that teaching of Christ's.

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4 minutes ago, clarkgoble said:

That presupposes they are discouraging it, which I disagree with. Certainly if you were to go back in the past there were some clear examples of people discouraging such things. A few talks by Elder Packer in particular come to mind. However I'd argue the constant refrain of "seek out of the best books" is a doctrine of research. There have been many talks along those lines. Last year's talk by Elder Evans in Priesthood session was one I particularly liked.

The introduction to the Gospel Essays is worth reading on this as well. "The Church places great emphasis on knowledge and on the importance of being well informed about Church history, doctrine, and practices." And

  • “And as all have not faith, seek ye diligently and teach one another words of wisdom; yea, seek ye out of the best books words of wisdom; seek learning, even by study and also by faith” (D&C 88:118).

    This is more than a simple exhortation to learn about the gospel. It is an invitation from the Lord to recognize that not all sources of knowledge are equally reliable. Seeking “out of the best books” does not mean seeking only one set of opinions, but it does require us to distinguish between reliable sources and unreliable sources.

I think the new trend to discourage research is very recent (since last conference) and one that we will see more of.  I could be wrong - it's just my observation over the past few months.

To your links above, I believe that the Brethren thought that we could put out a less damaging version of the research that would help members work through it (GT Essays and Saints) but I think they may now be realizing that it isn't working.  I know so many people for whom the GT Essays were the very thing that sent them into a faith or trust crisis.

So I think now what we are seeing is this attempt to de-emphasize research into these topics, focus on faith, primary questions, avoid things that give you a feeling of gloom, trust the old weathered boat captain as the only guy that can get you home safely, research is not the answer.

If the actual facts of the Church's history were faith affirming, than why wouldn't Elder Oaks have advised the spouse of the troubled member to open up the GT Essays or Saints and resolve the concerns of the spouse?  My answer:  Because the concerns can't be resolved that way, the concerns are rooted in the truth about the church.  To stay "in", the way Elder Oaks and Elder Renlund seem to want members to stay in, you need to use faith to override those truths that are of lesser importance (Elder Holland to the MI).

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22 minutes ago, ALarson said:

I know of very few who desired to study and learn more about church history that didn't do so "coupled with prayer and seeking".  

I also know that once they started discovering so many troubling issues and details, they spent a great deal of time on their knees pleading for insight and answers.

I do not doubt that.  I'm not stating that spiritual research will keep people from experiencing trails of faith.  I don't believe that's true.  Trials of faith are a part of being a disciple of Christ and there is nothing that we can do to completely prevent them.  

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