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Benjamin McGuire

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  1. No, you didn't understand what I was saying. What I wrote was: This doesn't mean that the fall isn't important or central to LDS theology. Rather, Mormonism believes that all mankind experiences the fall in some way - moving from an innocent state in the pre-existence to a mortal condition in which sin is possible, followed by a redemption through the atonement. There isn't some event in the mythical Garden of Eden that defines the fall for all of mankind in the way that Christianity traditionally views it. The decision to experience mortality isn't one made by Adam and Eve that then becomes applicable to every member of the human family - within LDS theology, each member of the human family made a deliberate choice to experience mortality - and so each person who is born into mortality went through the same decision that is represented by the Adam and Eve narrative in the Book of Genesis (and Moses). This is why the events described as occurring in the Garden of Eden can be considered symbolic of what happens to everyone. The Book of Mormon is scripture used by the LDS faith, just as the New Testament and Old Testament are. But, the core of LDS belief on these issues comes from modern revelation. In this context, the way that the Book of Mormon reinterprets the account in Genesis doesn't have to be in complete alignment with the way that LDS members interpret the Genesis narrative. We seem to be going around in circles here. The Book of Mormon says very little about the pre-existence (if anything at all). And yet the doctrine of the pre-existence (which is a significant part of LDS theology) plays a very important role in understanding the issue of the fall (as I have suggested in this thread). So it seems clear (at least to me) that we shouldn't define the LDS doctrine of the fall and redemption entirely by an appeal to the Book of Mormon, wouldn't you agree?
  2. I think though, that sometimes our challenge is at least partly one of category. Much of the literature that has survived from the early Christian church was apologetic in nature. Apologetic literature is often as theological and philosophical as anything else (even if its authors don't recognize it as such). The challenge Mormonism has is that it tends to try to frame these issues with questions of authority. It is why we tend to avoid seeing works like Smith's Doctrines of Salvation as the apologetic literature that it is. You suggest that you want to read books about scriptures as literature and philosophy. One of my best published pieces (at least in my opinion - which may not mean a whole lot) is this one. In it's own way, it too is apologetic. And it was certainly published in a journal that is primarily apologetic in nature. That piece though was a challenge to get published. I had finished my first version of it in early 2012. And given the events going on then, I had submitted it to Dialogue for publication. In late 2013, Kristine Haglund (then the editor of Dialogue) sent me this note: She suggested that one of the individuals associated with the about-to-be resurrected Journal of Book of Mormon Studies was interested in the article. By this time though, I had become involved with interpreter - and I redid the paper in light of my continued developing thought and published it there. Even in that venue, I would say that half of the reviewers really liked my material, and half thought it was absolutely terrible. The thing about apologetics literature is that it is one of the few arenas where LDS members can have significant public discussions about theology and philosophy within the context of religious belief. And without that opportunity, many of my ideas that I have found significant would never have reached more than a tiny audience. Over the years, I have peer reviewed a fair amount of material. I have helped others edit their material. It isn't really the peer review (or the lack of it) that creates the struggle that exists here. It is just as much the challenge with authority (or the perceived lack of it), it is the attempt to turn secular models of discourse towards religious and theological topics - which comes with greatly varying degrees of success (and of failure), and, to be frank, it is also the fact that there are, and have been, a lot of bad arguments and bad writers. I know. I think that I have rejected far more papers for publishing than I have recommended over the years. But, we have to look at these endeavors as a growing process in and of themselves. In another few hundred years, there may be greater space and greater deference given to the lay theologians and philosophers and writers within the LDS community who will continue to contribute to this broad field of material. Or maybe not. But I do think that there is little value in dealing with broad labels. Rather than panning apologetics (at least without more narrowly defining the term), I think we are better served by filtering through the large body of material that is there, and engaging with those types of discussions that we find valuable and useful in our own searches for meaning.
  3. I don't think that there needs to be a cause in the sense that we are discussing here. Genesis fits into a tradition of ancient creation narratives. One of the features that is shared by many of them is this question of why the world is the sort of place it is today if God created it. Either God wanted it to be this way, or something happened that changed it from what God wanted so that it became the way it is. Genesis even includes a do-over, with the flood and Noah - and yet the world didn't return to some sort of paradisaical state. My favorite debates are the sort that we see in Leibniz over the idea that this is the best of all possible worlds - that is, that while evil was necessary, this was the creation that God could create (and still carry out all of his intentions) in which evil was minimized. The point of this is that I think that these narratives of the fall exists because we want to have a perfect God building a perfect creation - and yet we clearly don't live in a perfect world - and we want an explanation of how it went from A to B. Mormonism has, to some extent, removed the need for this sort of explanation in the Garden of Eden narratives specifically. Mormonism removes the idea of absolute creation in the context of our mortal experience - it creates a spiritual existence (pre-existence) that comes before this creation - and in some ways, this spiritual existence is that paradisaical state in which all mankind (not just Adam and Eve) existed before entering mortality. Mormonism removes the need to make the fall the first act of agency of humanity - it defines an agency that existed in the pre-existence, along with a war in heaven, and even has a class of beings that experienced a fall (and who then exist in a state of depravity) long before we have to deal with Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden (the fall of Satan and those who fell with Satan). Mormonism teaches that the fall of Adam (whatever that encompasses) simply triggered mortality - it did not make humanity sinful. So in all of this, the idea of the fall in terms of the Genesis account really has only a very limited role in LDS theology. Perhaps the only thing really that is left is that Mormonism still uses Adam and Eve as a way of demarcating the beginning of the human family - although even this gets tied up at the beginning of the 19th century in questions about young or old earth creationism and the potential existence of pre-Adamites (a concept itself that really questions how we understand the Garden of Eden and the idea of no change or death prior to the fall). So what causes the fall? To the extent that the fall represents agency and mortality, the simple act of being born represents the fall (from that spiritual paradise we inhabit in the pre-existence) that every member of the human family experiences. And within LDS belief, we made the choice (we opted for the fruit so to speak) to experience the fall in the pre-existence (when we first exercised our agency) by agreeing to be born into mortality. And here we are. I think that the idea of a fall is itself problematic within LDS theology. And we see evidence of this in the popularization of the idea of a "fall upward" that circulated within Mormonism in the mid-20th century. Mormonism views the idea of the fall as necessary - especially once it strips it of these other assumed negative effects of that fall.
  4. Mormonism isn't a monolithic entity. As a religion, a belief in a literal Garden of Eden isn't a litmus test in terms of orthodoxy. Individual Mormons are allowed to believe in a literal Garden of Eden or in a figurative/metaphorical Garden of Eden. I am in that second group. But you can see discussions (and even debates) over this issue - because it was connected at the beginning of the 20th century to the debate over young earth creationism that was going on among both members and leaders of the Church. There is no formal statement of belief on that question either (in fact, we only have official statements that there is no official doctrine). To the extent that I can partially answer your question, I turn to 1 Nephi 11:9-11, 21-23: One of the problems with the idea of a literal tree is that it falls apart on the other end. In Genesis 3:22 (which I have discussed already to some extent) we get this: Mormonism (and Christianity more generally) doesn't believe that the resurrection and the subsequent eternal life that we receive happens because we eat of the fruit of the Tree of Life in some literal sense. Religion replaces this idea with doctrines of atonement, resurrection, and judgment (just as occurs in the Book of Mormon). But the Tree of Life is still used metaphorically to represent those doctrinal ideas (as also occurs here in the Book of Mormon). So, the Tree of Life is a symbol on the back end of mortality. Whether the Tree of Life is literal or not (or even the rest of the Garden of Eden narrative) doesn't change whether or not the narrative contains these symbolic representations. And, in this sense, the representations of the things in the narrative are what are important to us. Even if the Garden of Eden was a real place with real trees, not a single one of the rest of humanity (apart from Adam and Eve) will ever experience it. Those that wrote the scriptures could not have experienced it personally. So we get their descriptions that, even if it comes from experiences like the one Nephi has, are only representations of what may (or may not) have literally happened. So, LDS members are free to believe in a literal interpretation of the garden narrative. They are free to believe that it is entirely metaphorical. They are free to believe that the reality is somewhere in between. I happen to believe that the descriptions we have are entirely metaphorical.
  5. I don't disagree with you that Mormonism uses interpretations that developed in the Christian tradition. I am simply pointing out that these traditions are themselves a process of likening scripture (as Nephi describes it). Frequently, the Old Testament is invoked in ways that expose heavy interpretation that has become inconsistent with its original context. The challenge is that we need to recognize this idea - that we have adopted interpretations of the text rather than adopting the text itself - and this is an important recognition any time we start engaging the idea that one interpretation is better than another.
  6. It matters a great deal in the context of the argument provided. You want to suggest that both are types of the Father's sacrifice of Jesus, but this is problematic in a number of ways - particularly within the current views of the Abrahamic religions. The explanation above references Exodus 22:29 - "Thou shalt not delay to offer the first of thy ripe fruits, and of thy liquors: the firstborn of thy sons shalt thou give unto me." This isn't particularly clear what this means here. It is much clearer in Exodus 13 (which is why Exodus 13 isn't used frequently in these arguments). Here are verses 1-2 and 12-16: There are two important things in this text. First, the practice of offering the first born to God is connected to the Exodus from Egypt (and not to some earlier practice). Second, and this is just as important, the firstborn designation is never associated with the father. It is the firstborn of a woman that must be redeemed. And only sons (of course). If a woman's first child was a daughter, or was stillborn, then no redemption was ever necessary. It was only when a woman's firstborn was a son that the commandment applied. Numbers 18:15-17 reiterates this and sets the redemption cost: Whether or not the attempted sacrifice of Isaac by Abraham was supposed to be a type of Jesus Christ, that wouldn't be based on the commandments in Exodus, which are explicit for the reasons (and the typology) of the sacrifices they command. And Abraham has nothing to do with it - it isn't his firstborn that matters in Exodus, its the firstborn of his wives. Further, the Mosaic law in Exodus is explicit in that human sacrifice is not to be a part of this practice - the redemption is an absolute requirement. So yes, it is a problem.
  7. According to Lehi, the answer is no. Why? Because even though they had been given a command, they didn't have the knowledge necessary to actually make a choice in the matter. And without that knowledge or the agency, they couldn't sin. As Lehi describes it (emphasis added - 2 Nephi 2:22-23):
  8. Two points - First, at the time of the compilation of the Deuteronomic code, Abraham had been dead a long time. In fact, Abraham had been dead for quite some time when Moses was born. The idea that the Deuteronomic code should have applied to Abraham is a problematic claim. Even by definition, Abraham as an Israelite is a problematic claim. Second, we should recognize that at the time of the compilation of the Deuteronomic code, the tradition of the binding of Isaac was already old - it predates that compilation. And the Qur'an wouldn't appropriate the narrative for another millennium after that. The Qur'anic version isn't an independent alternative history. It is a dependent alternative history - and that is an important detail. It has re-written the text in a context which is quite alien from the original. This isn't merely an interpretation of the Bible that you suggest here (just as Mormons who interpret the Biblical text through the lens of the Book of Mormon aren't merely reinterpreting the Bible) - it is an interpretation of the Bible given a huge set of assumptions. This doesn't, of course, make it wrong. The idea of discovering "which interpretation of the Bible is correct" contains a much larger problem - not because of the fact that we can compare many different interpretations (no one would argue this point) but rather because there doesn't seem to be any valid reason for suggesting that the text has only one correct interpretation, or even (assuming that it does) that we should have some moral or ethical obligation to chase it down if it did exist. And there is an absurdity in thinking that, of all of the various interpretations that exist, that one might be correct rather than that they are all equally incorrect. When people privilege a reading of the text as correct, they aren't simply privileging a reading of the text, they are privileging an entire experience and a virtually innumerable set of background assumptions required to hold that interpretation as not merely one possible interpretation, but the only correct interpretation. As Nephi in the Book of Mormon suggested - the correct interpretation of the text is the one that happens when we both liken the text unto ourselves (fit it into our own experience and create a unique interpretation) and then receive the confirmation of the Holy Spirit. And this suggests that rather than a single correct meaning, we have potentially as many correct meanings as we do interpreters.
  9. Sure. Moses 2:27 (and I should note that these verses are generally following the text of Genesis in the Old Testament) reads: "And I, God, created man in mine own image, in the image of mine Only Begotten created I him; male and female created I them." There is a long standing recognition of the problem that this creates with the second creation account in Moses 3 (Genesis 3). The Book of Moses offers a resolution to part of this problem (the double creation) by suggesting that this first creation is purely spiritual (Moses 3:5): "For I, the Lord God, created all things, of which I have spoken, spiritually, before they were naturally upon the face of the earth." Whether this is meant to suggest that Moses 2 (and by extension Genesis 2) is describing that spiritual creation is ambiguous in the text (parts of Moses 2 seem to make this sort of assumption more than a little problematic). However, the other part isn't resolved - that God created male and female in God's image. One of the oldest interpretations (predating Christianity) of this issue is to argue that in the Hebrew, male and female genders don't exist in the text until we read them after the rib surgery. And the interpretation is that the first man is androgynous - and that, until God separates man into two genders by pulling Eve out of Adam, Adam contains both genders (as does God). This idea becomes the basis for Moses 3:24 (and Genesis 3:24): "Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife; and they shall be one flesh." Their beginning as one flesh ("This I know now is bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh;" from 3:23) then culminates in their returning to that condition of one flesh in their union. What is the figurative explanation of the passage? Like other creation narratives in the ancient near east, this text is a metaphor trying to explain the reason for gender differences, and for the role of passion as part of the human nature. The idea that the uniting together of man and woman as one flesh (which is clearly figurative), is represented in their creation. Mormonism has, for the most part, lost the need for sort of reading because it gendered God (and created a Heavenly Mother - a change that occurs quite early), and because it moved gender into a pre-existent condition (a change that wasn't quite so early). There is no need for God to turn Adam into two genders. But, this doesn't mean that Joseph Smith, in his editing of Genesis (what becomes the Book of Moses) has moved far enough along this particular line of thinking to change it to reflect these eventual views. Like the issue with the rib, early Mormonism also questioned the idea that Adam was created from clay (Moses 3:7): "And I, the Lord God, formed man from the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul" - as evidenced in the current thread on the Adam-God theory. Or, to provide a couple of examples here, as Brigham Young said (recorded in the Journal of Discourses😞 "When you tell me that Father Adam was made as we make adobes from the earth, you tell me what I deem an idle tale." Apostle Parley P. Pratt wrote (in his Key to the Science of Theology😞 "Thus the holy man [Moses] was forced again to veil the past in mystery, and in the beginning of his history assign to man an earthly origin. Man, moulded from the earth, as a brick. Woman, manufactured from a rib." It isn't a particularly difficult thing to understand the creation narrative as told in Moses as largely figurative - and there has been a tradition to do so within Mormonism since its beginnings. This is especially true as Mormon theology outgrew (with it's doctrine of eternal progression rooted in a pre-existence) the simple descriptions presented in Genesis.
  10. Someone misread something I assume. The EPA (quoted in the article) claims that a 55 gallon barrel, used through the peak summer months, can save around 1,300 gallons of water usage (I'm sure there are lots of variables depending on where you live). If I were going to hazard a guess, the 400,000 number refers to the project - at a certain level of saturation of rain barrel usage, every time it rained enough to fill these barrels, you would see a regional savings of 400,000 gallons (assuming enough people purchase and install them).
  11. There isn't anything that requires LDS members to view it this way. There is no official position on this within the Church. That doesn't change the fact that a prophet made the statement that it was a figurative rib, and did so in the General Relief Society meeting. You see, this is all problematic stuff if we want to insist on such literal readings of scripture. That's more or less what I said. Satan is pointing out that by eating the fruit (by knowing good and evil) Adam and Eve would become like God. And in Genesis, God confirms this, right? Gen. 3:22 tells us: "And the Lord God said, Behold, the man is become as one of us, to know good and evil: and now, ..." And then Adam and Eve are kicked out of the garden (they can't both know good and evil and live forever in the presence of God without some sort of intervention). In the Book of Mormon, Lehi understands all of this to mean that the fall was necessary. That mortality was a necessary step. That through the salvation provided by God through the atonement, Adam and Eve would eventually gain eternal life in the presence of God - only when they get there the second time, they will have what they didn't have the first time - absolute agency and the knowledge of good and evil that such agency requires. I disagree. But, I am not trying to tell you what to believe. You are welcome to believe that this is doctrine. It won't affect me one way or the other. But, if you want to take a literalist approach to the text, then you aren't really ever going to get satisfying answers to your questions. The questions you are asking are not answered in the scriptural narratives that we have.
  12. And the "I Have a Question" feature of the Ensign isn't really a source of doctrine ... I could also point to President Spencer W. Kimball who, in this Ensign article says: "The story of the rib, of course, is figurative." Different people are going to have different views about how to understand a several thousand year old text. My point is that is that I am not going to answer a question for you that requires me to assume a view that I don't hold. No. And I don't think that Lehi in the Book of Mormon did either. Lehi separates out the Tree of Life and the forbidden tree as representing two ideas. And then we get from Lehi (and from Genesis) that the things that all of these fruits have in common - that they were good to eat, and so on - those things aren't really what makes the fruit enticing. Lehi describe his vision of the Tree of Life - and his experience of the fruit (and Nephi has an angel tell him that the fruit is a symbol and explains the meaning of it to him). The ideas that the different fruits are believed to represent - those are the enticements. What is enticing about the forbidden fruit is that it represents knowledge and it represents becoming more like God (in knowing good and evil). And the fruit of the tree of life represents the love of God and standing in God's presence. Those ideas are the enticements. Perhaps - but they weren't doing so with agency. They didn't know the difference between good and evil - and so they couldn't be making choice on that basis. Or, as Lehi would argue, in the garden, before the fall, Adam and Eve were not acting, but were merely being acted upon. The story isn't interested in any of this. It doesn't have any of these choices you mention in there. And you need to add it in, if you want the story to make sense as some sort of literal history. After all, they had to be doing something for that potentially very, very long period before they decided to eat the fruit. But, as Lehi argues - in that indeterminate period, nothing changed. So, until Adam and Eve made this one choice, none of their choices matter. And while their motivations may matter, they don't really matter to Lehi - because he isn't as interested in how they were enticed, he is just interested in the fact that they were - and it is this enticement that Lehi believes indicates the opposition necessary for Adam and Eve to exercise agency in this one specific choice. I think that you are over-reading this here. For Lehi, being able to act is a specific idea about agency - and agency only comes through this knowledge of good and evil. It's not a problem if you disagree with me. But, I think that if you are really trying to make sense of it all, the Ensign article that you offer isn't very helpful. It noted: "Perhaps the forbidden fruit contained elements that changed Adam’s and Eve’s bodies from being immortal to mortal." Perhaps the fall was triggered by eating the fruit. Perhaps those elements that changed Adam's and Eve's bodies also corrupted them, making them (and all of their descendants) universally depraved. Maybe we really are what we eat ... But, rationally, I just don't see it. And when I understand the text is describing these ideas figuratively, I stop needing to worry about how long Adam and Eve were in the Garden, or how the Garden fits into a universe that (as far as I can tell) has never had a period without change or death. I don't have to be overly concerned by what specifically was tempting about the fruit, because this isn't the point of the narrative. A lot of the details you ask about are simply not there in the text. And the reason why they aren't there is because they are not all that important to what is being taught.
  13. I am not really sure what you are looking for in this question. The way that you ask this, it sounds like you want to know how Adam and Eve made their decision. I don't believe that any of this is literal - it is a metaphor of sorts that is meant to help us understand the nature of agency and of choice and the importance of mortality (death, the existence of sin and evil, and so on). For us it is enough to understand that both trees had good qualities. And in particular, that it wasn't the things that we normally associate with fruit that were the enticements - it wasn't the way it looked, or smelled, or tasted, or whether or not it was good for food (both trees shared all of these qualities). It was the fact that the one represented, in essence, an eternal safety in an Edenic state in the presence of God, and the other represents knowledge of good and evil, agency, and a chance to progress to become like God - a fall, death, a subsequent salvation event, a resurrection, and a return to the presence of God - only this time, with an agency that is absolute - except for the conditions required by God's judgment relative to the choices we made with our agency during mortality. The whole point of the Adam and Eve narratives is that regardless of the ways in which they were specifically enticed, they made a choice. From an LDS perspective, the same sort of thing exists with the War in Heaven. We all made a choice. The fact that we are here is evidence of that choice. The details of how we were enticed for one side or the other isn't really even knowable. Our descriptions of those events (whatever those events really were) are neither historical nor valuable in the sense of being understood historically.
  14. I am reminded a little of a line from the 1997 movie Men in Black: I think that you are confusing 'knowing something' with knowledge in a technical sense. It's true that even given our experience, we can't know with certainty that the things we take for granted will still be there tomorrow (gravity, a breathable atmosphere, things like this). But, given our experience (our knowing) we can function even in the absence of this sort of certainty. What we know doesn't have to be knowledge (as defined by the Gettier problem) for us to make it through our day. So a couple of things for you to think about relative to this issue before I provide something of my own way of explaining it. First, you might do some reading on the Perry scheme of intellectual and ethical development. The link goes to a very high level summary, but there is a lot of good material out there if you search for it. What you will see is that there is a natural shift that occurs for many people from a world view full of absolutes to a world view full of ambiguity. You might look to see where you are along this spectrum and then look at ways that help move you towards the next stage. I really like what Richard Rohr had to say about ambiguity: I will circle back to this in a moment because in religion, truth has its own special challenge here. As far as science goes, it is fascinating to me that the Nobel prize for physics last year was awarded for the proof that the universe is not locally real. This pushes into an area that few are comfortable discussing in the context of your question. Is science incapable of producing knowledge in a Gettier sense? Even the idea of progressive knowledge is flawed - not because we can't measure how our knowledge improves (we often can), but rather because we don't know what we don't know. We have no understanding of what absolute truth is, and so we don't know how far away it might be - or even if our improvements are really in the right direction. So, back to religious truth. I like to describe it in terms of a gap. There is a gap between what we know and what truth really is. Part of our struggle is that we don't even know what the size of that gap is. If I were to draw a line for each person who participates in the forum - from where they are to where God is, we would have a whole bunch of unique lines converging at the horizon. The gap between us (collectively) is insignificant compared to the distance between where we are and where God is. This doesn't mean that we can't take progressive steps (that we can't move in the right direction) - merely that those progressive steps don't move us significantly closer. The last stage of the Perry scheme is characterized by three features (according to the link I provided): Realization that commitment is on-going and ever evolving Lifestyle consistent with one's beliefs, values, and identity Ambiguities and uncertainty become an integral part of personal identity From a religious standpoint, this means that we recognize that our relationship to God (and to the Gospel of Jesus Christ) is on-going and ever evolving. It also means that as we learn more (and experience more), that our lifestyle needs to shift to be consistent with our changing position. We might say that the better our understanding of gospel principles is, the more we live accordingly. And finally that we recognize that we know very little - and this recognition becomes a part of our personal identity. Going back to Richard Rohr for a moment, he also said this: In one of my published essays, I point out that Nephi follows this pattern in his writings in 1 and 2 Nephi: As a final thought, a quote that I have used regularly for the past 15 years or so come from Joseph Natoli's A Primer to Postmodernity: When we are young we want to know that we have knowledge - that our truth is determinate, that we have an absolute understanding - we want a well defined and well-ordered world. As we get older, we (hopefully) begin to recognize that we aren't going to have absolute truth - that we aren't always going to know - and that there will be times when we are faced with decisions and questions that don't have a single true (or even a best) answer. As we come to realize that real truth is far enough away that we cannot see it across the horizon, we hopefully come to realize that the real risk in our lives is that we will stop searching for truth and decide that we have traveled to the end. This doesn't just apply to us as individuals, it applies to the institutional LDS church just as well. The risk for the institutional church is not that the church might wander from time to time, or that it might be faced with contesting views of truth - none of which can be self-validating. We shouldn't be surprised to find a church that claims to be true and living doing some wandering and investing in conflicting narratives. The risk to the institutional church is that someday it decides that it has arrived at the point of Truth and Knoweldge (in that Gettier sense), from which it never leaves. And at that point, it will no longer be a living church, and it will certainly never be true. You wrote at the end of your question: Perry discusses this idea under the label "Dissociation" and uses it in the context of an early exit from the process of intellectual and ethical development - this is from his original research report: In the research this is illustrated with a respondent who suggested that they were just waiting for the good thing to happen to them (and they noted that it hadn't happened that year). The most rational position to take isn't agnosticism - the most rational position isn't really even related to the question of believing or not believing - it has to do with coming to terms with the ambiguity in our world, deciding who you want to be, and then working to take ownership of your life - and in this context, choosing to believe or not to believe is a part of this process (where agnosticism simply isn't). In this sense, what we know may not be knowledge in the Gettier sense, but we will have an understanding that gives us purpose and direction and allows us to become better human beings within the scope of an uncertain mortality.
  15. Ok, so there is a lot to unpack here. You should understand though that these scriptural passages don't exist in a vacuum - they are interpretations of the Genesis account. I also want to stress (again) that I don't think that these accounts should be understood as literal histories or that they are describing some real event. You asked: "How do you believe God telling Adam and Eve that they could eat of the fruit of the tree of life can be viewed as being enticed?" I don't believe this is what the text says. The idea of enticement first shows up in 2 Nephi 2:15-16 (my emphasis) - The one or the other doesn't refer to God and the devil, it refers to the two trees and what they represent. Lehi here says that the fruit of the tree of life was sweet, while the fruit of the forbidden tree was bitter. This idea of enticement in terms of the fruit of the trees is central to the story in Genesis 3:6. The bitter fruit is recast as being 'good for food,' 'pleasant to the eyes,' and 'desired to make one wise.' The sweetness of the fruit of the Tree of Life doesn't somehow change - it is still there. In contrast, in 1 Nephi 8:10-12, Lehi describes the fruit of the Tree of Life that he sees and eats in a vision as 'desirable to make one happy,' 'sweet, above all that I ever before tasted,' 'white, to exceed all the whiteness that I had ever seen,' and 'desirable above all other fruit.' Later in 1 Nephi 11, we are told that the fruit that Lehi saw and tasted was symbolic, and Nephi is given an interpretation of the fruit from Lehi's vision. The point of this last part is to emphasize that there is a certain degree of symbolism in these narratives. So, when you ask how God telling Adam and Eve that they could eat of the fruit of the tree of life can be viewed as being enticed - it's not God telling them, it is the nature of the fruit itself. What Lehi later tells us about this is that we don't exercise meaningful agency if we aren't given choices that are enticing. You ask: "Do you also believe God telling Adam and Eve to be fruitful and multiply is an enticement?" Not particularly - for the reasons that I hope I have explained. Now there is where things get a bit more messy to unpack. The Garden of Eden narrative is one of the most discussed passages of scripture over the past three thousand years. We note from the outset that there is a difference between the two commandments in that one is something that should be done, and one is something that shouldn't be done - active versus passive. Apart from that, one of the things the Book of Mormon suggests (and it is not alone in this view) is that while Adam and Eve had been given the commandment to multiply and replenish the earth while in the Garden of Eden, they couldn't actually comply with that commandment. 2 Nephi 2:22-23 tells us: So until the fall, Adam and Eve couldn't have children. The Book of Moses provides a different distinction (Moses 3:16-17): Here, there is a difference between the commandment to multiple and replenish the earth and the commandment not to partake of the forbidden fruit. The conflicting nature of the situation is spelled out. They are given the forbidden fruit. They are commanded not to eat it. But they are also told that they have agency in this particular case - they are given a choice. This creates a separation between the two. Now, to get back to Moroni 7. Moroni 7 is references this idea of opposition in all things in his comments - he is not trying to re-frame the garden of Eden narrative. He is applying Lehi's statement to a circumstance where we have much more choice than Adam and Eve. Lehi says "Wherefore, man could not act for himself save it should be that he was enticed by the one or the other." And Moroni contextualizes it this way: "for the devil is an enemy unto God, and fighteth against him continually, and inviteth and enticeth to sin, and to do that which is evil continually. But behold, that which is of God inviteth and enticeth to do good continually; wherefore, every thing which inviteth and enticeth to do good, and to love God, and to serve him, is inspired of God". I hope that helps.
  16. My general principle is that we draw the line when the practice of religion is infringed on. There is no question that in the issue of revealing confessions that this creates a conflict. At the same time, I also recognize that there has to be limitations to this principle. That is, we don't allow anything at all in the name of religion. So even if we have a general principle, it doesn't allows indicate where the line should be. And we can certainly produce hypotheticals of core religious beliefs that we also believe should not be allowed in practice. Mormonism has experience with this in terms of polygamy. While I am not unsympathetic to the problem that this creates, I am not terribly sympathetic to it either. There is no question that we got to this point in part because of the way that the Catholic church has handled abuse in the past. They bear more than a minimum level of responsibility for the current shift in our society that has moved towards In any society there are always competing rights. We give officially recognized religions benefits in exchange for the good that they provide to society. But with those benefits come responsibilities to society. Any religion could decide that the responsibilities to society are large enough that they no longer have an interest in the benefits. I am not suggesting that this is a reasonable solution either. I am merely pointing out another aspect of the problem. I am also not opposed to leaving the confessional out of it. But I think that there has to be a recognition that our society has a clear responsibility to our most vulnerable members - and that any process that a church uses to avoid compromising the sanctity of the confessional provides mechanisms that are at least as effective at dealing with the problem as opening the confessional would be. I think that Catholicism is making appropriate steps in the right direction. But I will also say this - if a core part of your religious practice is responsible for preventable harm to children, then this is also unacceptable.
  17. Where is a bishop legally constrained from reporting abuse to law enforcement? There aren't any laws that make such a thing illegal. The problem here is the assumption that the only way that bishops learn of abuse is through the confession. I suspect that it is actually a quite rare event for a perpetrator to confess. Most of the time, this information comes from other sources - and if a victim complains of abuse to a bishop, the bishop shouldn't have any reasons not to report it to the authorities - precisely because he isn't equipped to do a real investigation.
  18. The same article also says that Catholic clergy have "The continued obligation to respect civil laws regarding mandatory reporting." Yes, we throw them in jail if they break the law. Just like we throw them in jail if they are convicted of child abuse. Whether you like it or not, it is clear that the Catholic church is changing, largely on its own. This is a big problem. Catholic priests aren't an uninvolved third party - especially when their role in the confessional is to absolve guilt. They aren't a third party when the victims are also members of the Church (this is also true for LDS congregations). Mandatory reporting for clergy is already a thing - in most cases it exempts the confessional. This is reasonably appropriate in my opinion. But not because I think that the compelled speech is problematic. Rather, because I think that it doesn't serve a lot of purpose. We can find statements from priests who will say that mandatory reporting isn't helpful because pedophiles simply don't confess that they are doing something wrong (some of the priests have said that they have never heard such a confession). I tend to believe that this is a fairly accurate assessment. The goal behind making clergy mandatory reporters has very little to do with confessions by perpetrators and everything to do with individuals who claim that they are experiencing abuse. But here we tend to run into a different set of problems. If a victim of abuse complains of the abuse to a clergyman, that, I think, is a good reason to have mandatory reporting for clergymen. Within Mormonism, such a allegation should spark an investigation by Church leaders (if the perpetrator is LDS), In Catholicism, it is supposed to do the same thing. Once you have this investigation - it can no longer be considered a penitent-clergy privileged discussion. It is simply a bad argument that fewer abusers will speak to their priests. Studies do not back this up. I have read several of the studies. The data isn't granular enough to even begin to make such a claim. We do know that mandatory reporting produces a lot of false positives (this indicated a greater need for training perhaps in the professions where we have mandatory reporting). And it seems reasonable that adding a few more mandatory reporters will likewise increase the number of false positives. But, it seems equally reasonable that it will generate an equally proportionate number of real positives. In this regard, one of the major reasons why we have mandatory reporting at all is the fact that this has been a moderately successful way of identifying real abuse and ending it. Without mandatory reporting the actual number of reports (false or true) drops a great deal. Most reports of child abuse (about two thirds) come from mandatory reporters. So if we eliminate mandatory reporting, we eliminate a great deal of the information we have on both actual and potential child abuse. And what do we have to replace it with? How do we combat abuse without these reporters? There isn't any real corollary between an attorney and a clergyman. People keep repeating this - but that doesn't make it true. Among other things, an attorney privilege does not cover revelations of certain types of ongoing criminal activity or where the disclosure involves imminent harm to someone. In this sense, I completely agree with your statement: "Some things should be off limits to the government, similar to how a the government is off limits to conversations between a client and attorney." But let's reverse it. "Some things shouldn't be off-limits to the government, similar to how the government is allowed access to certain kinds of discussions between a client and attorney." While I am sympathetic, I am not moved by the stories. I have a lot of experience in other directions on this issue - both as a mandatory reporter myself and being indirectly involved with claims of abuse - including having to arrange for attorneys and so on. We don't define the scope of the problem by the false positives (most of which are never substantiated). We define the scope of the problem by our expectations of the number of abuse cases that we don't discover or prevent. While I am sure that you have good intentions with what you are suggesting, I think that you are looking through blinders. We already have mandatory reporting in the United States in 48 states. 28 states include clergy in that mandatory reporting. Why did we start adding clergy to the list of mandatory reporting? It was because of the fact that we discovered that there was a large amount of abuse that was known about within the religious context - and the actions of those that knew allowed the abuse to continue. This wasn't an isolated problem. The point of making clergy mandatory reporters was to force them to help deal with the problem rather than to hide and ignore it. These kinds of incidents seem to suggest that one thing that confession doesn't do effectively is to get perpetrators to stop. And while our mandatory reporting laws may be flawed (a lot has changed in my lifetime - they have certainly improved), there is little doubt that the problem of child abuse is one that is ongoing - and that these laws help. Certainly we are a long ways from 1963 - when only one state made child abuse a crime (California). So before we argue that we shouldn't have mandatory reporters, we should decide on what we will do to replace them - and make sure that it is more effective than what we have now. From the religious point of view, after decades of scandals, what seems clear to most of the population of the United States, is that religion more broadly has brought some of this on themselves - both by not doing a better job at preventing abuse, and by hiding it when it did occur.
  19. Yes, we will have to disagree. As I said, you have no evidence of this. It is simply a matter of opinion. It's not a good analogy. This is also not a good analogy. This is partly because, in both cases, there is a limit when the discussion includes details of ongoing crimes and imminent harm. But it is also partly because these are professionals who have a particular kind of client relationship with others. Religions (and clergymen) don't work in the same way. But, whatever. Look, you haven't made a good case for this third point. Your arguments are all based on personal opinion. And this means that your observations in the fourth point don't have any validity. It's not a false dilemma, it's a central question to the issue. I think that we run into a problem here in that you are just as guilty as anyone else of acting on emotion and not reason. Your 'reasons' aren't based in evidence but in opinion. Your desire to defend isn't based on what the LDS Church is willing to do (they are clearly willing to comply with these laws where they exist). Doctors and attorneys and spouses and clergy are all uniquely situated. And that means that the notions of privilege is uniquely situated (and not collectively). The notion of attorney privilege is (and should be) considered very different from clergy-penitent privilege. The problem that I have with what you say here is that there is more tradition in the concept of clergy-penitent privilege than there is actual applicable factors. And many of those traditions are not recognized as particularly valid any more.
  20. This is a complete misconstruction of the argument. Americans do have the right to go to church, sit still, and say nothing, and remain silent, as part of their religious beliefs. Americans also are required to comply with the government's need for information under certain circumstances. When these things overlap, we use certain principles to identify when one has precedence over the other. Only if they break the law. We expect them to face the consequences of breaking of any other law. But, this isn't really the end of the discussion. The Pope in his Vos estis lux mundi (June 2019) issued changes to canon law which recognizes the requirements for Catholic clergy to make such reports where the law requires it. Article 19 of that text reads: Further, the Pope has put in place a requirement for clergy to report to law enforcement (mandatory reporting) any child abuse that occurs within the Vatican City State. Failing to do so results in fines and prison time. In 2020, the Catholic church issued a new manual for bishops (something along the lines of the LDS General Handbook) in which it says: "Even in cases where there is no explicit legal obligation to do so, the ecclesiastical authorities should make a report to the competent civil authorities if this is considered necessary to protect the person involved or other minors from the danger of further criminal acts." Clearly the Pope is not opposed to making such a change. You seem to have a much bigger problem with this than the Catholic church does (or than the LDS church does). This is apart from the notion that we should recognize that if an 800 year old doctrine is based on bad ideas, updates are not the end of the world. Catholicism has a mechanism for this, as does the LDS church. Look, if you want to be extreme, then we could simply ask - at what point do we recognize limits on the right to practice your religion? Should we allow for human sacrifice? Should we claim that religious leaders should protect that confession even when they learn that there is an immediate threat to the lives of others?
  21. I don't disagree with this - however, we aren't speaking here specifically of Mormonism. Does Catholicism have the same perspective? Do Evangelicals? I would like to say that history doesn't give us a lot of faith that religion more broadly works this way - but it may be that our situation is too specific in some ways for history to be helpful. You repeat this phrase more than once. What about "the bishop should ...". I think we can certainly both agree that within the LDS faith (and I won't speak for any others on this point) we probably don't provide our leaders with the training they need to really understand what to do in these circumstances (and hence the hotlines ...) And, you have largely avoided the real challenge (which I think you do recognize): It is only a part - and it seems to me to be a really small part. After all, a bishop has no way of actually getting the rest of it to occur. Your statement amounts merely to a 'sometimes' this may happen. What is a bishop to do when the perpetrator doesn't do any of the steps the bishop recommends? If the perpetrator doesn't move out of the house, or doesn't turn himself in to law enforcement. Excommunication? But then, he already has to break that secrecy ... On the first part, I agree. But I disagree with you on the issue that notifying the authorities isn't itself (at least in an LDS view) a part of facilitating repentance. And, on that last point, I disagree (and so does the Supreme Court of the United States). As Alito wrote in Ohio v. Clark (the most relevant part of the opinion): Receiving a confession, even if part of the confession contains something that must be reported, does not make the bishop an agent of the state. Just as it doesn't make other mandatory reporters (who aren't already agents of the state) an agent of the state. And here, Alito turns some of your points on their head. Alito argues that the teachers concern is with the victims and not with the perpetrators. Should our bishops be more concerned with the perpetrators than with the victims? Frankly, I think that bishops are, for the most part, far less worried about being agents of the state, and far more worried about knowing what their responsibility is when they are confronted with confessions of certain types of sin - and faced with evidence that the sin is likely to reoccur (or is ongoing). I think this is circular, and that it is a purely speculative argument. Of course, I don't have any evidence with which to counter your hypothetical, so any response I would make would also be speculative. So rather than getting into that back and forth, I would like to make the following observations - The LDS Church has made a whole lot of changes that have been good changes. Clearly the LDS Church is willing to comply with legal requirements for mandatory reporting - even for its clergy. I think that there is always concern (especially with the LDS Church) when you put volunteers at risk for not reporting - and this is the basis for concerns over more states having such laws. But this isn't unique to volunteer clergy. I was in the same position when I was on a public school board (as a mandatory reporter) and I never saw myself as an agent of the state. Putting that aside, this isn't simply about the LDS faith and its response to these issues, but religion more broadly. And I think that given the positive steps that the LDS Church has been taking, before we make them the poster child for this issue, we need to understand if they are representative or not. Finally, I think that you really don't address the issue of justice. If the confession merely greases the skids, I don't think that this is enough to justify the argument that we shouldn't require clergy to be mandatory reporters. But again, that's merely my opinion (and it probably isn't worth a lot).
  22. The only thing I really challenge with all of that Smac is the assertion in the article that you link that confession works for the truly penitent. For abuse that is linked to mental illness (or similar psychological problems), confession doesn't work (even if the perpetrators are truly penitent). I also want to reassert that we believe that abuse is a crime against individuals and not merely a crime against God. Confession doesn't resolve the need for justice. Can we assume that these religious leaders believe that for confession to work it has to be coupled with an acceptance of responsibility and a subsequent involvement with law enforcement? I don't think that we can necessarily assume this to be the case (and there is certainly a lot of historical evidence to suggest that we shouldn't).
  23. You seem to be missing part of what I said. The courts don't generally consider mandatory reporting to be compelled speech - they consider it to be the compelled reporting of fact. And the compelled reporting of fact to the government is not unconstitutional. Of course not. Why would the government have any interest in the fact of conversations with your wife. They do have an interest in some specific areas - and they can come threaten you with jail if you do not provide them with certain facts. There are a lot more of these situations than the ones I listed. Those are simply the most recognized. But the principle itself - that the government can compel you to provide them with facts when it is in the government's interest to get those facts is fairly clear, and really isn't questioned. And we do not exempt religions from making these statements of facts when appropriate. I disagree with you. My disagreement runs much deeper than the simple disagreement though. Part of my disagreement is over the issue that certain forms of abuse (like pedophilia) indicate a psychiatric disorder (or mental illness) on the part of the perpetrator. The Catholic clergy may be able to forgive the sin, but they cannot keep the perpetrator from repeating the abuse. This is a relatively recent understanding of the problem. Part of the push for making clergy mandatory reporters was the fact that the because of the confidentiality of the confession, and the belief that this kind of sin was simply part of a progression in immorality (and could be cured within the Church by spiritual support and counseling) the Church effectively continued to create opportunities for these perpetrators to continue to find victims without ever being treated for their condition. The rules are no different for Catholics than for any other religious group - they aren't being targeted. But, in some ways, Catholic clergy have been a part of the problem because of their approach to dealing with abuse - particularly when members of their clergy were perpetrators. The issue isn't as one-sided as you make it out to be. Our society, as a whole, has a right to see justice performed and to engage in policies and practices that protect the most vulnerable members of our society. Just because a group is religious doesn't make them immune to those concerns. No. Society draws the lines. As I pointed out, our interpretation of the First Amendment has changed significantly over time. Prior to 1889, the Supreme Court wouldn't have likely even heard an argument about a state making mandatory reporting requirements on the basis that the First Amendment didn't even apply to state legislative actions. Whether we want to recognize it or not, we allow the interpretations the constitution to shift with the selection of the men and women on the Supreme Court. This should be pretty obvious to everyone at this point. For us to argue that the First Amendment has a fixed and determinate meaning that makes everything crystal clear is complete naive. Just as importantly, society has a significant interest in protecting children. Child abuse is a problem. What sort of remedy to protect children from child abuse and to provide justice to the perpetrators of the abuse do you propose that would work better than our system of mandatory reporters. This is an important question because it is part of the reason behind the requirements. Would other remedies that you might suggest have a greater or lesser impact on the rights of individuals? And finally, there isn't any evidence that you can put forward that the laws about mandatory reporting have led to greater losses of rights. That certainly hasn't been the case since we first started seeing them - and there has been sufficient time, I think, for our observations to be meaningful. This has not become a slippery slope.
  24. This is always something of a red-herring. We almost universally believe that there are limitations to the first amendment. We may disagree what those limitations are, but we all agree that there are limitations. Believing that there are limitations is not itself anti-First Amendment. Because of these limitations, we have a sense that religions will get (in practice not theory) preferential treatment. Laws against polygamy (to use one example) impact some religions more than they do others. It is hard to take this at face value given the fact that the current Handbook of Instructions says that local leaders are required to follow local laws with regard to confessions, and that they are to contact the LDS Church's legal services to determine the possible requirements in any specific situation. Further, the Church Handbook also indicates that there may be instances where divulging the information may be necessary even without going through that process. At the same time, LDS belief is that abusers need to face the legal consequences of their actions. This is, by its nature, government regulation of a part of the repentance process as understood by the LDS faith. As far as I know, the data isn't granular enough to be able to draw these kinds of conclusions. You understand how inconsistent this is, right? Will they finish (or start) the process if they know that they have to go to the police and confess? We no longer believe that for many perpetrators that a confessional process can result in change. Many of these perpetrators need professional help. Would they be willing to get that help knowing that the moment they discuss their victims with someone other than a clergy, they will get reported to the police? There is a certain amount of humor in this, if we take it from a historical standpoint. Until 1889, the Supreme Court of the United States held that the Bill of Rights (including the First Amendment) did not apply to states. But having said that, why don't we toss in there a few other ones, right? Requiring citizens to report their income to the IRS? Filling out a census? The draft? State and Federal courts have generally upheld the notion that these reports, alongside the mandated reporting of abuse, are merely the reporting of facts to the government. This is very different from being forced to say the pledge, or to advocate for causes. I think that in general, we (as a society) have done a fairly good job of drawing that line.
  25. You are missing the point. It isn't whether or not it occurs in the Book of Mormon in a context where it isn't bad. It's the fact that the Book of Mormon never has anything good to say about it. That is all I was saying. If you have to read it into the text in this way, you have already lost that argument. This is not a commentary on whether polygamy can be commanded by God. Or whether polygamy is inherently good or bad. It is simply that the Book of Mormon presents a single view of polygamy and does so consistently.
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