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Mormon Myopia


consiglieri

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The belief that God micromanages our lives for our benefit can lead in some instances to a form of narcissism I call Mormon Myopia.

(Although this doubtless exists in other faiths, I am primarily aware of it through my membership in the LDS Church.)

It usually assumes a benign form such as God helping find lost car keys.

But when we think that God harms others in order to aid us or in some way give us what we need, it takes a malignant turn.

Example:

A former bishop was teaching our high priest group last Sunday, and lamented about how many funerals he had to conduct during his tenure.

He said the previous bishop had conducted zero funerals, but that as soon as he was called to be the new bishop, a ward member passed away. He went on to say that he had to conduct no less than twenty-eight funerals while he was bishop. (Funerals were evidently his least favorite part of the calling.)

All of this is just factual information. It was the conclusion he drew that was interesting.

Referring to the previous bishop and the relative number of funerals each had to conduct, our teacher said, "He got what he needed. I got what I needed."

It apparently never crossed his mind to wonder if the dead people or their families were getting what they needed.

Any thoughts?

All the Best!

--Consiglieri

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I think it works both ways. To suppose that an omnipotent God does not have the ability to help each and every individual and any given time is presupposing that he cannot or will not aid his children when asked. It's in the scriptures themselves that he cares very deeply for us. If that's the case, perhaps it was arranged in such a way as to benefit all involved?

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Years ago I heard at a Youth Conference (EFY was too far away and too expensive) that God is what the Church does, so one could interpret that to mean that anything that is said or happens to you at Church or because of the Church is what God wants you to experience, I dunno what to say!

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This seems related to what I was constantly told as a missionary, which is that we would not be successful at converting people if we were not following all the mission rules.

In effect, the people would be deprived of the blessings that would otherwise be theirs as Mormons, because we were listening to pop music on P-Day instead of just the approved MoTab. It was really about us.

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The belief that God micromanages our lives for our benefit can lead in some instances to a form of narcissism I call Mormon Myopia.

I don't see how Mormon's feel to God would micromanage there lives, he helps when we ask if it is his will to do so, but a God that micromanages our lives is not allowing us to have choice.

Satan sought to remove our choice not God, Satan lost eternal life because he wanted to "micromanage our lives".

We are here to choose what to do, God will never "manage" or lives only help when we request his help!

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This seems related to what I was constantly told as a missionary, which is that we would not be successful at converting people if we were not following all the mission rules.

In effect, the people would be deprived of the blessings that would otherwise be theirs as Mormons, because we were listening to pop music on P-Day instead of just the approved MoTab. It was really about us.

And then no one could ever explain why the "lazy aposate" missionaries had all the baptisms...

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It usually assumes a benign form such as God helping find lost car keys.

But when we think that God harms others in order to aid us or in some way give us what we need, it takes a malignant turn.

Agree.

Perhaps the worst example of this is when somebody chalks up a tragic death to God 'needing another helper' on the other side.

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This seems related to what I was constantly told as a missionary, which is that we would not be successful at converting people if we were not following all the mission rules.

In effect, the people would be deprived of the blessings that would otherwise be theirs as Mormons, because we were listening to pop music on P-Day instead of just the approved MoTab. It was really about us.

That's the example I was going to give. If only we missionaries were faithful and obedient enough, we would get thousands of baptisms, like Ammon or Dan Jones.

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It is a tenet of faith of mine that God always acts so as to do what is in my best interest... with caveat that God does the same thing for everybody and so his actions have to be balanced around many people.

If the cross is any example, His will is best accomplished through non-intervention.

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That's the example I was going to give. If only we missionaries were faithful and obedient enough, we would get thousands of baptisms, like Ammon or Dan Jones.

I remember when my mission president gave us all stern counsel about NOT fasting beyond the normal one Fast Sunday a month. It seems that some missionaries felt their abysmal performance was due to lack of faith, and sought to remedy the situation by starving themselves until a baptism materialized.

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Referring to the previous bishop and the relative number of funerals each had to conduct, our teacher said, "He got what he needed. I got what I needed."

It apparently never crossed his mind to wonder if the dead people or their families were getting what they needed.

Any thoughts?

All the Best!

--Consiglieri

I've always found this type of response among believers to be fascinating. It tends to always put god in a "no lose" situation. If he sends you trials, it is because you needed to learn from them. If he sends you blessings, well, it's because you deserved it.

I have an evangelical friend who recently decided to uproot his family and head out on the road in a motorhome to preach the bible to those they come across on their travels. This particular friend has had much difficulty over the years holding on to a job, or sticking with a job that he can hold on to. Thus, his family has endured many financial misfortunes, not as a specific result of the economy, but rather, due to my friends inability to see things through and stick with the plan that he has set forth.

However, when talking to him, he sees these particular financial trials not as a direct result of his unwillingness to stick with a job, but rather, as a sign from god that he needs to uproot his family and head out on the road to preach the bible. Everything that has come before in his life has led up to this point. And now that they are on the road, they have suffered electrical fires in their RV, serious illnesses with every one of their childen, and the good fortune of shoving off from home (in Ohio) during one of the worst winters in recent memory. An observer might think that they are cursed with all this bad luck, but he sees these trials as a blessing from god and a way to grow closer to god.

I think that people rationalize all the events around them according to their own personal, myopic worldview. Thus believers interpret all the events around them according to their religious worldview. As an atheist, I rationalize that all the events around me are the result of circumstance, chance and coincidence. Thus, this is the conundrum of human existence as referred to by Freud in his musings on the ego. All of us view the world through our own myopic lens of belief and experience.

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I remember when my mission president gave us all stern counsel about NOT fasting beyond the normal one Fast Sunday a month. It seems that some missionaries felt their abysmal performance was due to lack of faith, and sought to remedy the situation by starving themselves until a baptism materialized.

A religious form of hunger strike?

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It is a tenet of faith of mine that God always acts so as to do what is in my best interest... with caveat that God does the same thing for everybody and so his actions have to be balanced around many people.

So, the fact that I have arrived at atheism is in my own best interest, at least in god's view?

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And then no one could ever explain why the "lazy aposate" missionaries had all the baptisms...

Funny story, when I was obeying all the rules and working my but off and had lots of contacts (the AP even chewed us out for all of the contacts we had with no baptisms) we had no baptisms. I got transerfed to a new area and my comp and I were not exactly "stalwart". We were baptising left and right.

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The belief that God micromanages our lives for our benefit can lead in some instances to a form of narcissism I call Mormon Myopia.

Any thoughts?

Any religion who's members pray daily to God run into this problem.

I agree the personalization can conflict with the need to feel empathy or see the big picture.

However, as a coping mechanism I much prefer people thought "what can I learn from it" instead of just getting angry or resentful

Yes, I think it's just a good coping mechanism

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We know in the Book of Mormon God does indeed help individuals and sometimes help them to the detriment of others. This is not myopia, this is fact. From my standpoint I see several different chords (or discords) comeing together.

First, it is foolish to presume a complexity beyond Gods ability to deal with things. It presumes that if we find it too complex, therefore God must find it so also. Now that is a myopia that is all about us. Complexity should be the one variable that does not impact the issue or question of God helping individuals or not being a myopic form of worship.

The second deals with individual versus full large groups or the church in general. I believe that if God only blessed us with the atonement and the ability to return to Him through repentance and ordinances in the temple, such would be enough. But Heavenly Father does so much more. We know, for example that God allows us to individually bless people who are sick, who are in need of help. We are allowed to fast in order to help them too. These blessings exist on an individual level, not a generalized overarching position of genearlized blessing. If these blessings and promises of individual comfort were not available to us and only a generalized feel good for the general population, then one would be forced to conclude that a lie exists within the doctrine of the church.

Finally I also believe in a generalized blessing of the church, wards, individuals and nations. That such blessings (and persecution that comes to us as Latter Day Saints particularly) can come in the form of general good even as some individuals may experience pain or loss (which are also for our benefit).

Given the examples raised, I think a too narrow interpretation was made of the incident (Consig tends to do this).

Example:

A former bishop was teaching our high priest group last Sunday, and lamented about how many funerals he had to conduct during his tenure.

He said the previous bishop had conducted zero funerals, but that as soon as he was called to be the new bishop, a ward member passed away. He went on to say that he had to conduct no less than twenty-eight funerals while he was bishop. (Funerals were evidently his least favorite part of the calling.)

All of this is just factual information. It was the conclusion he drew that was interesting.

Referring to the previous bishop and the relative number of funerals each had to conduct, our teacher said, "He got what he needed. I got what I needed."

It apparently never crossed his mind to wonder if the dead people or their families were getting what they needed.

The bishop may have been right that he received what he needed, but Consig then presumed that all and the families were similarly apportioned for the same reasons. In fact, the sojourn on this earth for many people may have been at an end (not because the families got what they needed, but perhaps those passing on were needed elsewhere), but the bishop was called perhaps because he learned how to better administer to those in need. When I went to Peru, a child died once, and I probably learned more during that time of crisis than at any other time on my mission. Did the child die so I might learn? Or did the Lord put me there upon the childs death so that I might learn? The former is what Consig believes he sees when we discuss this. The latter is what I, and possibly the bishop sees. The tender mercies of God in our lives helping us to grow even as we face painful expereinces that we can use to make us better is support of the Lord and his Saints.

I would say that no absolute exists where God "must" micromanage or where God "must" only interact from a distance. The choices are false. The truth is that God can and does do both, sometimes in way we cannot explain, sometimes in ways that are obvious, and sometimes in obvious ways that we do not understand until later. Examples of both are found in the Old Testament, the New Testament, the Book of Mormon, and the Pearl of Great Price. It has nothing to do with myopia, or percieving myopia in others. Both are merely projections of our own judgements rather than an understanding of faith.

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In fact, the sojourn on this earth for many people may have been at an end (not because the families got what they needed, but perhaps those passing on were needed elsewhere), but the bishop was called perhaps because he learned how to better administer to those in need....Or did the Lord put me there upon the childs death so that I might learn?

This would be my interpretation. Those people didn't die so the bishop could learn, but the bishop was called who could best handle all these situations. He may not have thought he could but obviously the Lord thought he could.

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I think that people rationalize all the events around them according to their own personal, myopic worldview. Thus believers interpret all the events around them according to their religious worldview. As an atheist, I rationalize that all the events around me are the result of circumstance, chance and coincidence. Thus, this is the conundrum of human existence as referred to by Freud in his musings on the ego. All of us view the world through our own myopic lens of belief and experience.

In a world in which sociology, psychology, and statistics predict most behavior, how do you see the relative percentage of circumstance on the one hand, set over against chance and coincidence? In other words, do atheists share a common belief in the likelihood of accidence on the one hand, and of predictability on the other, or are they just as unsure and indecisive about the nature of the mix as anyone else? Can atheists be myopic?

In such a world, is it even possible to carry on a coherent and meaningful discussion about the true nature of reality? Is sheer, unsupported opinion our only basis of knowledge? Is that the dilemma of our circular and vicious cycle epistemology? Is knowledge even possible? Was David Hume right about our limitations?

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I remember when my mission president gave us all stern counsel about NOT fasting beyond the normal one Fast Sunday a month. It seems that some missionaries felt their abysmal performance was due to lack of faith, and sought to remedy the situation by starving themselves until a baptism materialized.

The same thing happened in my mission! We also had to be told to stop tracting in the winter if we starting getting frostbite.

But I wouldn't say that the missionaries were acting illogically. Once you believe that skipping meals somehow affects how God acts towards you, and once you realize there's nothing naturally or scripturally indicative that 24 hours is some kind of special duration (or that once a month is the optimum frequency) to maximizes the effectiveness of the fast, it only makes sense to increase the frequency or duration of your fasts if you want to increase the likelyhood that God will grant your righteous desires.

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And then no one could ever explain why the "lazy aposate" missionaries had all the baptisms...

The correlation I noticed was that the missionaries with the most conversion success were the ones who were the most likable, with the most outgoing personalities. Some were rule followers, but many were not.

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