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Faith is a decision


Scott Lloyd

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I just read Robert L. Millet's recent contribution to Mormon Scholars Testify.

In it, he makes the point that having faith in Christ -- and, more particularly, Christ's restored gospel -- is a decision.

In my mind, a corollary to that point is that abandoning one's faith is likewise a decision, or in other words, a choice one makes and that one is not forced into.

I have made that assertion in the past on this board and have been criticized for it, most recently a few days ago on the Compound, where there was a link posted to a thread I started last year. Briefly stated, I said that so long as we can plausibly defend the restored gospel, our burden has been met, because that maintains a milieu where an individual truth seeker can decide to have faith, as Millet puts it.

Nice to know that Bob Millet and I coincide in our thinking on this matter.

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I just read Robert L. Millet's recent contribution to Mormon Scholars Testify.

In it, he makes the point that having faith in Christ -- and, more particularly, Christ's restored gospel -- is a decision.

In my mind, a corollary to that point is that abandoning one's faith is likewise a decision, or in other words, a choice one makes and that one is not forced into.

I have made that assertion in the past on this board and have been criticized for it, most recently a few days ago on the Compound, where there was a link posted to a thread I started a few years ago. Briefly stated, I said that so long as we can plausibly defend the restored gospel, our burden has been met, because that maintains a milieu where an individual truth seeker can decide to have faith, as Millet puts it.

Nice to know that Bob Millet and I coincide in our thinking on this matter.

Hello Scott,

I do not disagree that leavning the LDS Church is a choice, but I have chosen to view those who leave the Church as converts to whatever, rather than apostates of the LDS Church. I am not sure tht all humanity is comfortable knowing or believing in all of the doctrines of Exaltation. That does not mean that the Holy Spirit leaves them in limbo, rather he guides them to the highest level of truth they are able to live. I believe the Spirit remains active in their life. I would gladly spend time with anyone that is accompanied by the Spirit rather than those, LDS or otherwise, that are not valiant in being a disciple of Christ.

Following any truth is a decision regardless of where it is found.

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Hello Scott,

I do not disagree that leavning the LDS Church is a choice, but I have chosen to view those who leave the Church as converts to whatever, rather than apostates of the LDS Church. I am not sure tht all humanity is comfortable knowing or believing in all of the doctrines of Exaltation. That does not mean that the Holy Spirit leaves them in limbo, rather he guides them to the highest level of truth they are able to live. I believe the Spirit remains active in their life. I would gladly spend time with anyone that is accompanied by the Spirit rather than those, LDS or otherwise, that are not valiant in being a disciple of Christ.

Following any truth is a decision regardless of where it is found.

The article was getting pretty interesting.. until I read this:

That was it. That was the answer. Faith is a DECISION. Decades ago I made a decision: I knew that God is my Heavenly Father, that Jesus Christ is my Lord and Redeemer, that Joseph Smith is a prophet of God, through whose instrumentality many plain and precious truths, the keys and covenants and ordinances of the priesthood, and the organization of the Church, have been restored. I made a decision. I decided that I would be loyal to the constituted authorities of the Church, that I was in this race for the long haul, that I would stick with the Good Ship Zion, and that I would die in the faith in good standing. No man or woman would ever chase me out of the Church. No unresolved issue or perplexing doctrinal or historical matter would shake my faith.

was he missing the point on purpose?

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That was it. That was the answer. Faith is a DECISION. Decades ago I made a decision: I knew that God is my Heavenly Father, that Jesus Christ is my Lord and Redeemer, that Joseph Smith is a prophet of God, through whose instrumentality many plain and precious truths, the keys and covenants and ordinances of the priesthood, and the organization of the Church, have been restored. I made a decision. I decided that I would be loyal to the constituted authorities of the Church, that I was in this race for the long haul, that I would stick with the Good Ship Zion, and that I would die in the faith in good standing. No man or woman would ever chase me out of the Church. No unresolved issue or perplexing doctrinal or historical matter would shake my faith.

Wait... it is either a decision OR he knew that God is his Heavenly Father, that Jesus Christ is his Lord and Redeemer, that Joseph Smith is a prophet of God, through whose instrumentality many plain and precious truths, the keys and covenants and ordinances of the priesthood, and the organization of the Church, have been restored. How can you decide to believe in something you know??

I didn't make a decision to believe in gravity. I just "know" that gravity exists.

Also, why is this considered a virtue?? "I believe unwaveringly and NOTHING can make me decide to change my mind!!!!" In ANY other aspect of life, we would all shake our heads and lament this.

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How can you decide to believe in something you know??

Paradigm piracy?

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In it, he makes the point that having faith in Christ -- and, more particularly, Christ's restored gospel -- is a decision.

In my mind, a corollary to that point is that abandoning one's faith is likewise a decision, or in other words, a choice one makes and that one is not forced into.

Realising that one is indeed an agent is a sword that truly cuts both ways, and I like that. So often we want to abandon this gift from God because it's easier to pretend we were forced, that we were just being 'true to ourselves,' that we just followed the data to the inevitable conclusion, that we were born that way, etc. Everything is a choice.

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I didn't make a decision to believe in gravity.

Sure, you did. The fact that there are people on this planet who, despite having almost identical experiences to yours, choose not to believe in gravity underscores how much your belief really is a choice. It's always hard to see how much choices are choices when they emerge from the dominant discourse, but that doesn't change the nature of them.

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Everything is a choice.

I hesitate to pull the "Bigfoot" card, but it fits here.

I don't think I could believe in Bigfoot, or leprechauns, or any number of mystical creatures. Do you believe that if we so chose, we could believe in these things? If it requires a great deal of effort, do you believe we SHOULD choose to believe in these things?

I don't mean to downplay your beliefs. I just want to point out that it is much more complicated than simply choosing to believe. Personally, I cannot choose to believe in Elohim any easier than I can any other mystical being.

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Sure, you did. The fact that there are people on this planet who, despite having almost identical experiences to yours, choose not to believe in gravity underscores how much your belief really is a choice. It's always hard to see how much choices are choices when they emerge from the dominant discourse, but that doesn't change the nature of them.

How would one go about choosing to disbelieve in gravity? I'm sure I could say the words, "I don't believe in gravity", but I would know that I still believe.

Do you think YOU could make your mind disbelieve in gravity? Is it a simple choice?

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I hesitate to pull the "Bigfoot" card, but it fits here.

I don't think I could believe in Bigfoot, or leprechauns, or any number of mystical creatures. Do you believe that if we so chose, we could believe in these things? If it requires a great deal of effort, do you believe we SHOULD choose to believe in these things?

I don't mean to downplay your beliefs. I just want to point out that it is much more complicated than simply choosing to believe. Personally, I cannot choose to believe in Elohim any easier than I can any other mystical being.

To answer you question. Yes.

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...

having faith in Christ -- and, more particularly, Christ's restored gospel -- is a decision.

...

As you might expect, I disagree.

My profession is that faith is a spiritual gift. We exercise faith,

and thus have a part in its growth -- but like the sunshine and the

rain, it comes to us through God's grace.

Faith is basically trust -- trust which is increased as we come

into an ever closer relationship with our Creator.

At some point we do, indeed, reach a decision point -- and request

baptism. But even that decision properly comes after promptings of

the Spirit which lead us in the correct direction.

Some people say that the mental assertion of "Jesus is the Christ"

is the personal decision by which we experience that faith which

leads to baptism. My answer is that Jesus is the narrow gate through

which we each pass, sooner or later -- but trust in the God of Israel

can begin before messiahship is fully understood in the mind.

Just my two cents' worth of comment -- feel free to disregard it.

UD

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Gravity is a pretty evidently True Thing. Leprechauns are pretty evidently, to most of us, not true.

The evidence for and against the Gospel, by contrast, leaves us in a situation where we're forced to choose. It's neither a slam-dunk for, nor, despite the claims of certain critics, a slam-dunk against. Which is, I think, exactly where the Lord wants it.

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As you might expect, I disagree.

My profession is that faith is a spiritual gift. We exercise faith,

and thus have a part in its growth -- but like the sunshine and the

rain, it comes to us through God's grace.

So long as we can "exercise faith" (your words), even if it's just a particle of faith, as expressed in Alma 32, then we have the ability to make a decision -- or choice.

To extend your analogy, when we plant crops, they grow by the grace of God, who sends the sunshine and rain. But we can and do decide to put the seeds in the ground in the first place. And we facilitate the process by forming a favorable environment for growth, fertilizing the soil, etc.

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So long as we can "exercise faith" (your words), even if it's just a particle of faith, as expressed in Alma 32, then we have the ability to make a decision -- or choice.

To extend your analogy, when we plant crops, they grow by the grace of God, who sends the sunshine and rain. But we can and do decide to put the seeds in the ground in the first place.

I know a 22 year old fellow with the mind of a 3 year old.

He will never reach the decision that Jesus is the Christ,

nor that the Book of Mormon is the fulness of the gospel.

And yet, he has faith -- as you might say "a particle,"

and probably not expressible in theological terms.

Promise him that you will catch him when he falls backwards,

and he smiles and trusts, and falls into your waiting arms.

I imagine Heavenly Father catches each of us in a similar way.

UD

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Gravity is a pretty evidently True Thing. Leprechauns are pretty evidently, to most of us, not true.

Fair enough.

The evidence for and against the Gospel, by contrast, leaves us in a situation where we're forced to choose. It's neither a slam-dunk for, nor, despite the claims of certain critics, a slam-dunk against. Which is, I think, exactly where the Lord wants it.

Allow me to be one of the critics that disagrees here. I believe that Mormonism is about as close to a slam dunk of false religions as one could expect to find. You seem to think that there is equal weight of apologetic hits vs critical assertions. Of course, this is up to the individual to decide, but I don't think it boils down to a choice.

Perhaps the moon landing would be a better example. Can you choose to believe it was all a hoax? If so, SHOULD you choose to believe it was a hoax, even if all the evidence points to a real moon landing?

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Gravity is a pretty evidently True Thing. Leprechauns are pretty evidently, to most of us, not true.

The evidence for and against the Gospel, by contrast, leaves us in a situation where we're forced to choose. It's neither a slam-dunk for, nor, despite the claims of certain critics, a slam-dunk against. Which is, I think, exactly where the Lord wants it.

I've heard this a few times now: the balanced arrangement of evidence and faith is "exactly where the Lord wants it". I think it could simply be the result of a selection and refinement process.

Religious claims change over time: obviously untrue parts are de-emphasized or dropped altogether, useful and believable parts are retained and newly-emphasized. Eventually, you reach something that looks like what we've got. Not because the Lord made it this way, but because of propagation of the most believable beliefs.

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Gravity is a pretty evidently True Thing. Leprechauns are pretty evidently, to most of us, not true.

The evidence for and against the Gospel, by contrast, leaves us in a situation where we're forced to choose. It's neither a slam-dunk for, nor, despite the claims of certain critics, a slam-dunk against. Which is, I think, exactly where the Lord wants it.

Quoted for truth.

Some issues have enough available evidence that any rational person will in fact believe it. Some don't.

The gospel is purposefully in the nebulous area where it is a real choice to believe or not believe. It wouldn't be fair to judge us for that choice otherwise.

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I've heard this a few times now: the balanced arrangement of evidence and faith is "exactly where the Lord wants it". I think it could simply be the result of a selection and refinement process.

Religious claims change over time: obviously untrue parts are de-emphasized or dropped altogether, useful and believable parts are retained and newly-emphasized. Eventually, you reach something that looks like what we've got. Not because the Lord made it this way, but because of propagation of the most believable beliefs.

Antoher example of a choice in belief. You could believe that the Lord designed it this way on purpose, or that it more or less naturally occurred.

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Allow me to be one of the critics that disagrees here. I believe that Mormonism is about as close to a slam dunk of false religions as one could expect to find. You seem to think that there is equal weight of apologetic hits vs critical assertions. Of course, this is up to the individual to decide, but I don't think it boils down to a choice.

In this, Scottie betrays the quality of dogmatism he finds so lamentable as expressed just a few posts ago with this statement:

Also, why is this considered a virtue?? "I believe unwaveringly and NOTHING can make me decide to change my mind!!!!" In ANY other aspect of life, we would all shake our heads and lament this.

The fact is, there is no slam dunk against Mormonism, though Scottie wants so desperately to believe there is.

Perhaps the moon landing would be a better example. Can you choose to believe it was all a hoax? If so, SHOULD you choose to believe it was a hoax, even if all the evidence points to a real moon landing?

The moon landing would fall within Dr. Peterson's pretty-evidently-true category.

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Sure, you did. The fact that there are people on this planet who, despite having almost identical experiences to yours, choose not to believe in gravity underscores how much your belief really is a choice. It's always hard to see how much choices are choices when they emerge from the dominant discourse, but that doesn't change the nature of them.

One doesn't "believe" in a universal, demonstrable fact. One doesn't say, for example, "I believe in the moon," or "I believe the earth is a sphere." People who choose not to believe in gravity are not a valid benchmark. . .not a credible standard. Some of those same folks may also say, "I believe I will never die," but of course they have no choice in the matter, do they?

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Allow me to be one of the critics that disagrees here. I believe that Mormonism is about as close to a slam dunk of false religions as one could expect to find.

And I couldn't possibly disagree more strongly with you on that claim than I do.

You seem to think that there is equal weight of apologetic hits vs critical assertions. Of course, this is up to the individual to decide, but I don't think it boils down to a choice.

I think it does, as shown by the very fact that you and I look at the same evidentiary landscape and see very different things.

By the way, just for the record, I tend to think that the positive outweighs the negative. By quite a bit -- though it varies from area to area and though my mood on this goes up and down somewhat.

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I don't think I could believe in Bigfoot, or leprechauns, or any number of mystical creatures.

So, you have made the decision to NOT believe in Bigfoot, or leprechauns.

So, indeed, it is a decision.

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Perhaps the moon landing would be a better example. Can you choose to believe it was all a hoax?

We can indeed choose to believe the moon landing was a hoax and, with practice, become very well convinced of this belief.

If so, SHOULD you choose to believe it was a hoax, even if all the evidence points to a real moon landing?

I think the problem, Scottie, is that you are asking the wrong question. I think a more appropriate one would be, what takes for a person to choose to believe in something?

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How would one go about choosing to disbelieve in gravity? I'm sure I could say the words, "I don't believe in gravity", but I would know that I still believe.

Do you think YOU could make your mind disbelieve in gravity? Is it a simple choice?

You could attribute gravity's properties to some other force and believe in that alternative theory instead of gravity. If you were presented with what you believed was strong evidence for an alternate theory (even if the theory was ultimately incorrect) I could see some people choosing to disbelieve in gravity.

I think the point is that we have to have "choices" in order to choose. With gravity, we really aren't offered any serious alternative choices. We are on relgious matters.

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