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N. Givens on prophetic fallibility


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16 hours ago, kimpearson said:

...Now I believe prayerful guidance is sought but I believe most of the time God doesn't give direct guidance because prophets have the scriptures and a lifetime of experience under other prophets to make decisions.  That is where fallibility occurs. 

Since you believe this is how God operates with the prophets (and with individuals), what do you believe is the problem?

Doesn't personal fallibility, by nature, occur both with and without God's direct guidance?

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4 hours ago, MrShorty said:

I can understand the sentiment. I don't know if I would make it about quantity of revelation, but, in an interesting possible restatement of Givens's point, should we become willing to accept that maybe sometimes our personal revelation is more true than the prophets'? I think, as difficult as this can be, is what Givens is wanting us to consider. In order to truly develop our personal discernment of right and wrong, we have to be willing to consider that prophets might be wrong about something and we might be right.

Rather than suggesting that our revelation may be more true than a prophet's, I think it makes more sense to suggest that we all have biases and that sometimes our biases get in the way of us receiving and understanding revelation.  And that that is true for us and also true for the prophet.

Someone without a certain bias may be more able to recognize God's will in that thing, than another who is biased against it.  In that way there may be times, when we are more able to discern God's personal will for us than the prophet might be.

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6 hours ago, MrShorty said:

I can understand the sentiment. I don't know if I would make it about quantity of revelation, but, in an interesting possible restatement of Givens's point, should we become willing to accept that maybe sometimes our personal revelation is more true than the prophets'? I think, as difficult as this can be, is what Givens is wanting us to consider. In order to truly develop our personal discernment of right and wrong, we have to be willing to consider that prophets might be wrong about something and we might be right.

My experience is that, when the Holy Ghost speaks to us, we have the open mind already and are not inclined to make such comparisons. An example is, when Nephi wrestled with the decision to slay Laban (contrary to the general revelations not to kill), it was not about him being right and the prophets being wrong, but about him having an open mind and overcoming his bias in a specific situation.

Another example is Matt Easton's (BYU 2019 valedictorian) proclamation that he learned from a personal spiritual experience akin to Enos' wrestle before the Lord that God made him a "proud Gay son of God", in contrast to the Church's lack of a position on the causes of same-sex attraction. Enos remembered the prophets' counsel and his guilt (over whatever problem) was swept away, and so likewise should have Matt's, given that he made the apples-to-apples comparison. I do not know how that translates into a revelation that God made him a proud gay son of God. Maybe he meant that he needn't feel guilty, and indeed is not guilty, for his same sex attraction -- but it does not comes across that way, and his testimony is not used to teach that truth but to bash the Church and Church leaders. In contrast, Nephi was successful in overcoming his bias, but was already converted and apparently not prone to feeling guilty (over whatever problem) and supportive of prophetic counsel.

ETA: Having an open mind to disagree with the prophets, or to even go so far as to disagree with their testimony of the divinity and mission of Christ seems a lot less independent and proactive than having an open mind to consider and test their claims and propositions.

Edited by CV75
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On 3/11/2022 at 5:15 PM, The Nehor said:

Present, past, future.

But what does "time" itself mean?

The present, past, and future are constantly trading places.

Edited by Bernard Gui
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On 3/11/2022 at 3:11 PM, CV75 said:

Since you believe this is how God operates with the prophets (and with individuals), what do you believe is the problem?

Doesn't personal fallibility, by nature, occur both with and without God's direct guidance?

Prophets have made many more mistakes than is ever admitted and when they do make a mistake, the mindset of too many is we can't admit a mistake or the faith in prophets will be lost.  The mistake is then perpetuated and argued with twisted logic until something so major happens that the very existence of the Church is threatened, then a change is made with no admission of any mistake.   Each mistake that is not admitted to becomes another point of attack for enemies and self inflicts wounds on faithful members that eventually leads to a loss of faith.  Many paint the mistake over by claiming it was God's will for some reason that makes no sense.  I believe God allows the mistake because He has provided all the guidance to correct the mistake and if prophets refuse to correct it, those prophets will have to call on the atonement and repent just like the rest of us.  Makes me realize that most prophets carry a heavy burden because their mistakes affect so many people.  I don't want to imagine how they have to make restitution for that.  

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9 hours ago, kimpearson said:

Prophets have made many more mistakes than is ever admitted and when they do make a mistake, the mindset of too many is we can't admit a mistake or the faith in prophets will be lost.  The mistake is then perpetuated and argued with twisted logic until something so major happens that the very existence of the Church is threatened, then a change is made with no admission of any mistake.   Each mistake that is not admitted to becomes another point of attack for enemies and self inflicts wounds on faithful members that eventually leads to a loss of faith.  Many paint the mistake over by claiming it was God's will for some reason that makes no sense.  I believe God allows the mistake because He has provided all the guidance to correct the mistake and if prophets refuse to correct it, those prophets will have to call on the atonement and repent just like the rest of us.  Makes me realize that most prophets carry a heavy burden because their mistakes affect so many people.  I don't want to imagine how they have to make restitution for that.  

Things that you perceive as a mistake may not actually be a mistake. 

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10 hours ago, kimpearson said:

Prophets have made many more mistakes than is ever admitted and when they do make a mistake, the mindset of too many is we can't admit a mistake or the faith in prophets will be lost.  The mistake is then perpetuated and argued with twisted logic until something so major happens that the very existence of the Church is threatened, then a change is made with no admission of any mistake.   Each mistake that is not admitted to becomes another point of attack for enemies and self inflicts wounds on faithful members that eventually leads to a loss of faith.  Many paint the mistake over by claiming it was God's will for some reason that makes no sense.  I believe God allows the mistake because He has provided all the guidance to correct the mistake and if prophets refuse to correct it, those prophets will have to call on the atonement and repent just like the rest of us.  Makes me realize that most prophets carry a heavy burden because their mistakes affect so many people.  I don't want to imagine how they have to make restitution for that.  

Is your answer that the atonement of Christ addresses God’s allowance of fallibility?

Restitution is far more severe for wrongdoing than mistakes, for prophets and the rest of us alike. God understands what to expect of all His children in whatever capacity they serve, and the expectations they have of each other.

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On 3/10/2022 at 2:44 PM, MrShorty said:

This essay by Nathaniel Givens came across my computer a couple of days ago. As this is a central issue in my own faith crisis/journey, I thought I would share and invoke some discussion. https://publicsquaremag.org/faith/gospel-fare/the-importance-of-prophetic-fallibility/

To set up an expectation, from the conclusion:

Givens doesn't even address any example of prophetic fallibility, so the entire essay is speaking in generic terms. One comment I would make here is that, while I might agree that prophetic fallibility should be "baked into" the conversation from the beginning, it is usually not (and I think it gets difficult to bake it into the conversation when our current prophet and his wife insist that "prophets always speak truth")

My summary of the entire essay is that understanding and accepting that prophets can make mistakes is a necessary part of our moral development in this life. I find this a frequent topic that Jennifer Finlaysen-Fife tackles (as a sex therapist, it is often framed in terms of the propriety of sexual activities, but it easily extends beyond that field) where she talks about needing to develop our own moral compasses. In essence, I see Givens's essay arguing that prophetic fallibility is a feature (not a bug) because we need to take our own moral discernment seriously. Certainly prophetic voices can be a part of our moral calculus, but the point of this life is to develop and strengthen our own ability and responsibility to discern right and wrong and choose right. Ultimately, we cannot and should not "outsource" that process to some kind of default "the prophet must be right so I won't wrestle with it." For all intents and purposes, I agree with Givens.

One reaction to the idea, though. If we really believe what Givens is selling here, it seems to me that we ought to be a lot more tolerant of differing opinions and viewpoints within our Church spaces. Someone who comes into Sunday School who proclaims that they don't believe X, maybe ought to be given respect and consideration for making the effort to exercise their moral judgement. We may disagree on the conclusion, but how much of life is supposed to be about reaching the right conclusion and how much is about exercising moral discernment? If it's about being right, then squash the opposition. If it's more about exercising discernment, then let's allow people to exercise their judgement. If they are wrong, perhaps our own experience with the same topic will help them further their quest for truth, or maybe we just need to let God be the One to offer correction in His time, but let people experience the process.

Of course, this usually tends to bring up the question of boundary maintenance -- how much disagreement should the Church tolerate in its public spaces. I don't know how best to balance "let people exercise moral judgement" and "protect the Church from anarchy and embarrassment." It feels to me like we are a bit too quick to protect the Church from embarrassment than we are to encourage people to exercise moral judgement, but that could just be my impressions.

Any other reactions to Givens's essay?

Kinda how he mentions that fallibility needs to be baked in, some of the balance in responsibility to me not only includes the discerning part of “is what I’m hearing wrong” but also “is there a chance I’m wrong?” If everyone is fallible than the answer, even on things we’re pretty certain on, must be yes. 

Though I think “wrong” is more often “limited.” As in something may be generally right but limited or missing in certain parts by our fallibility and humanness. 

 

Along with that, I think there can be nuance of “wrong for me.” As in the advice, command, or principle is generally true but in a certain context it can be wrong. For example when I was a YSA and I think 28-ish, I attended a stake conference evening session. It entailed, to no one’s surprise, a talk that focused on dating to marry or something like that. Gently the spirit whispered to me: this does not apply to you right now; you’re not to date. It was in direct conflict to everything this person was saying and the testimony they gave on it. I haven’t generalized that to mean we should never talk to youth about the blessings of marriage or the need to date to find a good partner. (Though my experiences probably do influence just how much emphasis I think this should have). It just meant this advice wasn’t to apply to me and wasn’t an overt command for my life. 

 

Overall I liked the essay…it reminds me a lot of my own personal experiences and put to words some of the things I to some degree do fairly reflexively. I think a lot of that just has to do with a context that often didn’t fit the context of many in the active US  church body. So even basic things often entailed an asterisk for me that would lead me to an exception or something that didn’t fully apply to my situation. For people like me I think it can be easy to nudge the other direction of too much skepticism, doubt, and questioning to the point that we can become paralyzed in uncertainty or dismiss too rapidly something that can be true/good even if it isn’t immediately for us/needs greater nuance. When an absolute faith is needed that may be harder to incorporate. For those where the proscribed milestones of Church membership worked for them or they were born into, I think there’s more a tendency to lean more to the assumed universal truth orientation to just about any talk or suggested program or church wide challenge. When exceptions, failures, or individualistic modifications are needed a person like this may struggle to healthily incorporate a nuanced approach to church. Staying in balance between these is the challenge. Often I succeed, sometimes I fail, sometimes I’ve completely flopped at keeping a solid balance. Which is kinda the point to fallibility and a more dynamic interaction with church. 

 

 

With luv, 

BD

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I'm imagining how LDS missions could present a fallibility notion to inquirers. You all seem to have come to notions of fallibility over an extended period of time, and maybe without full acceptance of the local congregation or leaders. I could see how inquirers might need significant time before joining.

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1 hour ago, BlueDreams said:

Kinda how he mentions that fallibility needs to be baked in, some of the balance in responsibility to me not only includes the discerning part of “is what I’m hearing wrong” but also “is there a chance I’m wrong?” If everyone is fallible than the answer, even on things we’re pretty certain on, must be yes. 

Though I think “wrong” is more often “limited.” As in something may be generally right but limited or missing in certain parts by our fallibility and humanness. 

 

Along with that, I think there can be nuance of “wrong for me.” As in the advice, command, or principle is generally true but in a certain context it can be wrong. For example when I was a YSA and I think 28-ish, I attended a stake conference evening session. It entailed, to no one’s surprise, a talk that focused on dating to marry or something like that. Gently the spirit whispered to me: this does not apply to you right now; you’re not to date. It was in direct conflict to everything this person was saying and the testimony they gave on it. I haven’t generalized that to mean we should never talk to youth about the blessings of marriage or the need to date to find a good partner. (Though my experiences probably do influence just how much emphasis I think this should have). It just meant this advice wasn’t to apply to me and wasn’t an overt command for my life. 

 

Overall I liked the essay…it reminds me a lot of my own personal experiences and put to words some of the things I to some degree do fairly reflexively. I think a lot of that just has to do with a context that often didn’t fit the context of many in the active US  church body. So even basic things often entailed an asterisk for me that would lead me to an exception or something that didn’t fully apply to my situation. For people like me I think it can be easy to nudge the other direction of too much skepticism, doubt, and questioning to the point that we can become paralyzed in uncertainty or dismiss too rapidly something that can be true/good even if it isn’t immediately for us/needs greater nuance. When an absolute faith is needed that may be harder to incorporate. For those where the proscribed milestones of Church membership worked for them or they were born into, I think there’s more a tendency to lean more to the assumed universal truth orientation to just about any talk or suggested program or church wide challenge. When exceptions, failures, or individualistic modifications are needed a person like this may struggle to healthily incorporate a nuanced approach to church. Staying in balance between these is the challenge. Often I succeed, sometimes I fail, sometimes I’ve completely flopped at keeping a solid balance. Which is kinda the point to fallibility and a more dynamic interaction with church. 

 

 

With luv, 

BD

I think this is why the approach, regardless of one's innate orientation or gravitation to skepticism, belief, naivete or sophistication, to constantly seek that all that is good, works better than to constantly deconstruct to identify faults and errors (the process of elimination -- https://speeches.byu.edu/talks/lawrence-e-corbridge/stand-for-ever/). This is also why the process of seeking a confirmation for our decisions to know or understand correctly, or to do rightly is superior to confirmation of another's fault or error.  The fallible stake conference speaker wasn't necessarily in error, and your present course  needed only to be gently confirmed to you.

"There are some who are afraid the Church may not be true and who spend their time and attention slogging through the swamp of the secondary questions. They mistakenly try to learn the truth by process of elimination, by attempting to eliminate every doubt. That is always a bad idea. It will never work."

In my opinion, the subject of dating is a secondary question to, for example, the divinity of Christ, the restoration of the keys, the truthfulness of the Book of Mormon, etc.  When someone is grounded in these, they are more prepared to receive the gentle impressions of the Spirit concerning exceptions to general counsel on secondary questions while remaining true to the primary questions (rather, the primary answers! :) ) and act accordingly and in the spirit of Christ.

Edited by CV75
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2 hours ago, Saint Bonaventure said:

I'm imagining how LDS missions could present a fallibility notion to inquirers. You all seem to have come to notions of fallibility over an extended period of time, and maybe without full acceptance of the local congregation or leaders. I could see how inquirers might need significant time before joining.

Having been an inquirer, I feel the fallibility notion is presented by every member I came in contact with. I was concentrating on the restoration of the keys and the Church, and the truthfulness of the Book of Mormon. Joseph Smith and his successors, for me, were only extensions of the restoration and as real people were too far away for me to relate to. On the other hand, the members with all their foibles and fallibilities were up close and personal, and this did not get in the way of the Spirit that attended their meetings, testimonies, or my prayers. The missionaries more than once volunteered the "notion" that Jesus is the only perfect Person to ever live; the Church is perfect in that He is at the head; that no member, even the prophets, are perfect. The members would mention this themselves, also; maybe they were self-conscious :D . But given the profoundly life-changing message of the restored gospel, I think members feel an obligation to mention that. I know it is a great blessing to have a prophet and the missionaries emphasize this, but it is only (or should be) in context of the restored keys under the direction of Christ. The kinds of things the missionaries teach put the nature of heeding the teachings of the prophets into proper context and balance also.

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12 hours ago, Calm said:

This…plus they weren’t presented as “real people”.  It was the idealized pictures I saw in Church as a young kid that made me dislike Joseph Smith….you know, what happens when everyone tells you that you have to go see a movie because you will love it and they are gushing, so it actually makes you not want to go…I remember sitting waiting to leave to Sunday School class and looking at a picture of Joseph and thinking I didn’t like how he looked so sweet and all, perfect…took me until late 20’s at least to get past that feeling and it was when I started reading about his less admirable behaviours…not the ones that were used in Church to show repentance, like the 116 pages episode.  Those turned him into someone I could believe in as human and real and interesting, not a myth.  And I took a massive dislike to Brigham Young as a kid because I knew he was thought of as the Moses of the Church and after watching The Ten Commandments with Heston as Moses, I thought of Moses as an arrogant, self centered drama queen.  I haven’t been able to quite get past that bias even now, lol.  Always interesting to me how easily irrational biases can be formed.

Anyway, I never felt any real attraction to any prophet besides David O. McKay, who was the prophet of my childhood who I imprinted on and Gordon B. Hinckley (I think he felt more relaxed, more comfortable in his role to me)…but then I never idolized anyone besides a few book characters and never had someone I looked at as a role model or mentor, though I admired a number of people.

My belief in the Church has never been about the people, but is about the doctrine found in its scriptures and teachings and the relationship I have with God and how my life works better for me when I live closer to his commandments.  The Church and the community it provides allow me opportunities to do just that and to gain knowledge and experience in these areas.

I enjoyed reading this!

Story time: when I was 6 or 7 years old we went to the New York World's Fair and my father took a pamphlet from the Church's exhibit (I recall seeing the movie, "Man's Search for Happiness"). As kids do, I later rummaged through his coat pockets looking for gum and coins and found the pamphlet and looked at it. I recall a sketch (?) of the boy Joseph Smith praying that I found off-putting... that's how kids are growing up in NYC :D ! At any rate, I was still impressed by something deeper, and years later I came across the Church and joined! After I was ordained an Elder, I felt compelled to make sure I covered every aspect of the doctrine, and so purchased "Mormon Doctrine", and read it cover to cover -- more than that, even, because I re-read many cross-references. I sometimes found the tone off-putting, but I could separate that from my testimony and spiritual convictions. To me, these are examples of learning to integrate personality, bias, fallibility and spiritual witness, which is not necessarily a conscious process, though intent, which requires a recognition of these mental states, would certainly help.

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On 3/11/2022 at 6:50 PM, bluebell said:

Someone without a certain bias may be more able to recognize God's will in that thing, than another who is biased against it.  In that way there may be times, when we are more able to discern God's personal will for us than the prophet might be.

Like the prophet Jonah had a strong antagonism against Nineveh.  Maybe he already had a strong aversion against Nineveh by the time God called him to go there?  Maybe he lost loved ones in the frequent skirmishes in the past?  Did God intend to patiently teach Jonah about the bigger picture?  And to give him a larger vision of the Plan of Happiness?

ETA:  “When from Thy stern tutoring, I would quickly flee, turn me from my Tarshish to where is best for me. Help me in my Nineveh to serve with love and truth; not on a hillside posted, mid shade of gourd or booth. When my modest suffering seems so vexing, wrong, and sore, may I recall what freely flowed from each and every pore. Dear Lord of the Abba Cry, Help me in my duress to endure it well enough and to say, . . . 'Nevertheless.'” - Neal A. Maxwell

Edited by longview
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14 hours ago, CV75 said:

I think this is why the approach, regardless of one's innate orientation or gravitation to skepticism, belief, naivete or sophistication, to constantly seek that all that is good, works better than to constantly deconstruct to identify faults and errors (the process of elimination -- https://speeches.byu.edu/talks/lawrence-e-corbridge/stand-for-ever/). This is also why the process of seeking a confirmation for our decisions to know or understand correctly, or to do rightly is superior to confirmation of another's fault or error.  The fallible stake conference speaker wasn't necessarily in error, and your present course  needed only to be gently confirmed to you.

"There are some who are afraid the Church may not be true and who spend their time and attention slogging through the swamp of the secondary questions. They mistakenly try to learn the truth by process of elimination, by attempting to eliminate every doubt. That is always a bad idea. It will never work."

this is a little odd to me. I don’t fully disagree and I can get the problem with eliminating all doubt. But to me relying on constantly seeking all good is still a form “eliminating every doubt” by simply minimizing the problem. This either/or isn’t how I function. Personally I see it as one of the stumbling blocks for those who struggle with faith. They go from one absolute to being extremely unprepared for the ambiguous middle to another absolute just on the opposite end of where they started. For me It’s more of a yes/and approach, with my questions paving space for faith and what I already have strong faith in guiding the direction for exploring the areas that I don’t. The area of uncertainties empower growth. Previously growth fosters balance and space to question. I don’t mainly rely on one or the other more than I rely on only one of my eyes. I may have a more dominant eye, but without the other, depth and fuller visibility is lost. 

14 hours ago, CV75 said:

 

In my opinion, the subject of dating is a secondary question to, for example, the divinity of Christ, the restoration of the keys, the truthfulness of the Book of Mormon, etc.  When someone is grounded in these, they are more prepared to receive the gentle impressions of the Spirit concerning exceptions to general counsel on secondary questions while remaining true to the primary questions (rather, the primary answers! :) ) and act accordingly and in the spirit of Christ.

And one can’t get grounded without some form of experience in uncertainty of recognizing something is missing. For example, I didn’t have a stronger faith in the restoration until probably last year. I had an indirect faith in it, tied to unique doctrines that I more strongly believed in (book of Mormon, our unique take on the afterlife, etc). But not of the restoration per se. I was okay with this until last year, where circumstance bred a need for more certainty, I reopened this weak spot. Like calm, an overly faith-oriented view doesn’t work for me. In fact it’s a bit of a turn off. So I went with rough stone rolling to get a more messy Joseph and to explore my belief in the early work. This view cemented my indirect faith into something more. And then a bit later I went with a more academic book on super early Christianity when i started to deeply wonder about it while reading through the NT… this inadvertently fueled my belief in an apostasy. Though this also led to questions about understanding more the basic beliefs and understanding of other religions in general. Which then fueled my sense that God still gives light to all his children. And somewhere in there I confronted a sudden fear of death that I’ve gained since having my child by exploring the parameters of what I felt strongly about and what i was missing and then deeply studying the parts I missed. With both reading parts of D&C and reading research on NDE’s. And that’s my spiritual life in a nutshell. I am stronger when faith and doubt are not at odds or seen as threats to each other. I see clearer when I understand the limitations of my beliefs and grow stronger as I explore those more fully by facing my discomfort. What I use to grow entails the principles we hyper focus on (prayer, scripture, church)…but it also includes principles we don’t focus on as much like reading solid non-church sources and questioning (not that it isn’t there…it’s just not as blatantly stated as equally valuable). 

faith for me may be a more dominant eye, but faith doesn’t really grow for me without experiences in doubt, uncertainty, and limitations. 


with luv, 

BD

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3 hours ago, Boanerges said:

Since you asked, I was reminded of a talk by Elder Uchtdorf with that title. What Is Truth

 

This talk was my first introduction to the parable of the blind men and the elephant - my favorite parable to describe man's limited relation to truth in mortality and the relative nature of it. 

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2 hours ago, BlueDreams said:

this is a little odd to me. I don’t fully disagree and I can get the problem with eliminating all doubt. But to me relying on constantly seeking all good is still a form “eliminating every doubt” by simply minimizing the problem. This either/or isn’t how I function. Personally I see it as one of the stumbling blocks for those who struggle with faith. They go from one absolute to being extremely unprepared for the ambiguous middle to another absolute just on the opposite end of where they started. For me It’s more of a yes/and approach, with my questions paving space for faith and what I already have strong faith in guiding the direction for exploring the areas that I don’t. The area of uncertainties empower growth. Previously growth fosters balance and space to question. I don’t mainly rely on one or the other more than I rely on only one of my eyes. I may have a more dominant eye, but without the other, depth and fuller visibility is lost. 

And one can’t get grounded without some form of experience in uncertainty of recognizing something is missing. For example, I didn’t have a stronger faith in the restoration until probably last year. I had an indirect faith in it, tied to unique doctrines that I more strongly believed in (book of Mormon, our unique take on the afterlife, etc). But not of the restoration per se. I was okay with this until last year, where circumstance bred a need for more certainty, I reopened this weak spot. Like calm, an overly faith-oriented view doesn’t work for me. In fact it’s a bit of a turn off. So I went with rough stone rolling to get a more messy Joseph and to explore my belief in the early work. This view cemented my indirect faith into something more. And then a bit later I went with a more academic book on super early Christianity when i started to deeply wonder about it while reading through the NT… this inadvertently fueled my belief in an apostasy. Though this also led to questions about understanding more the basic beliefs and understanding of other religions in general. Which then fueled my sense that God still gives light to all his children. And somewhere in there I confronted a sudden fear of death that I’ve gained since having my child by exploring the parameters of what I felt strongly about and what i was missing and then deeply studying the parts I missed. With both reading parts of D&C and reading research on NDE’s. And that’s my spiritual life in a nutshell. I am stronger when faith and doubt are not at odds or seen as threats to each other. I see clearer when I understand the limitations of my beliefs and grow stronger as I explore those more fully by facing my discomfort. What I use to grow entails the principles we hyper focus on (prayer, scripture, church)…but it also includes principles we don’t focus on as much like reading solid non-church sources and questioning (not that it isn’t there…it’s just not as blatantly stated as equally valuable). 

faith for me may be a more dominant eye, but faith doesn’t really grow for me without experiences in doubt, uncertainty, and limitations. 


with luv, 

BD

Yes, I can see how that statement came across as either/or; I was trying to emphasize that the intent behind one is more beneficial than the other. “Seeking all that is good” for me means I haven’t yet found it all (Abraham’s “more happiness, peace and rest”) and so keep my eyes open. “Deconstruct” for me means I analyze what I have found with an eye toward reinterpreting it as bad. The latter tends to foster more doubt about “more happiness, peace and rest” when it involves spiritual knowledge and feelings.

One of literally dozens of examples from my life: After my mission, the man who baptized me and stood in confirmation and ordination circles confided that he was a “transexual” (his term, describing it being a woman in a man’s body). Will I rehearse this by judgmentally focusing on him until I deny the good he gave me (rides to Church, McDonald’s afterwards – breaking the Sabbath! -- mentoring in the Church, etc., reframing him as a poser …and I learned later he liked his wine) and the validity of my ordinances? Or will I seek more good by recognizing his struggles, loneliness, sacrifices and the Lord’s grace in his life that extended into mine?

The circumstances that breed a need for more certainty (I like President Hinckley’s term, “certitude”) or a stronger testimony can be faced with either approach, and I am an advocate for seeking all that is good. Faith and doubt are by definition at odds with each other, and they are ever-present in varying degrees in us, but I believe that is where choice and intent drive how we manage them and which of these two approaches we take.

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On 3/10/2022 at 1:55 PM, rongo said:

Which is where the discussion usually stays --- in the theoretical or hypothetical realm. Most people are unwilling to name examples of current prophets being wrong. Only those safely in the past (the more distant, the better). They insist that the Church has always taught fallibility, but refuse to give any concrete modern examples.

It's a tough needle to thread, because it approaches the line of criticism or murmuring (or can appear to approach it). 

Well, that's easy. President Nelson is wrong about the use of the word "Mormon" as a nickname for the Church. But the Church won't ever admit it; years after President Nelson is gone, it will stop being emphasized, and then it will slowly come back into acceptable use as fewer people remember that not saying it was ever a thing.

Edited by cinepro
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On 3/14/2022 at 11:26 AM, CV75 said:

“Seeking all that is good” for me means I haven’t yet found it all (Abraham’s “more happiness, peace and rest”) and so keep my eyes open. “Deconstruct” for me means I analyze what I have found with an eye toward reinterpreting it as bad. The latter tends to foster more doubt about “more happiness, peace and rest” when it involves spiritual knowledge and feelings.

Do you find them to be mutually exclusive? Because I find that they tend to work in tandem. Sometimes, along the way to "seeking all that is good", I am required to "deconstruct" false and harmful beliefs. The best example I can think of from my own life are the "good girl/boy syndrome" stuff I learned about sexuality (some of it I learned at Church). For me "deconstruction" isn't necessarily about trying to figure out how everything I know or believe is bad, but about rooting out the false and incorrect traditions so that I can make space for the new stuff that is good for me. We ultimately may disagree on the these definitions, but I wanted to point out that not everyone who uses the word deconstruction has in mind a complete tear down of past beliefs.

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1 hour ago, MrShorty said:

Do you find them to be mutually exclusive? Because I find that they tend to work in tandem. Sometimes, along the way to "seeking all that is good", I am required to "deconstruct" false and harmful beliefs. The best example I can think of from my own life are the "good girl/boy syndrome" stuff I learned about sexuality (some of it I learned at Church). For me "deconstruction" isn't necessarily about trying to figure out how everything I know or believe is bad, but about rooting out the false and incorrect traditions so that I can make space for the new stuff that is good for me. We ultimately may disagree on the these definitions, but I wanted to point out that not everyone who uses the word deconstruction has in mind a complete tear down of past beliefs.

I would say “seeking all that is good” and “deconstructing to filter good from bad” are mutually exclusive when one is uncharitable and fault-finding in attitude and the other is more charitable and neutral as in Articles of Faith 13, where I see the word “If” conveying such open-mindedness. Of course, I am using these terms to describe spiritual and not necessarily other endeavors where attitude is less influential in the observation and analysis of the subject.

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1 hour ago, MrShorty said:

Do you find them to be mutually exclusive? Because I find that they tend to work in tandem. Sometimes, along the way to "seeking all that is good", I am required to "deconstruct" false and harmful beliefs. The best example I can think of from my own life are the "good girl/boy syndrome" stuff I learned about sexuality (some of it I learned at Church). For me "deconstruction" isn't necessarily about trying to figure out how everything I know or believe is bad, but about rooting out the false and incorrect traditions so that I can make space for the new stuff that is good for me. We ultimately may disagree on the these definitions, but I wanted to point out that not everyone who uses the word deconstruction has in mind a complete tear down of past beliefs.

Disagree. It's what I talk about all the time, but seldom define because it is unlikely to be understood here.

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Deconstruction

"The term deconstruction refers to approaches to understanding the relationship between text and meaning. It was originated by the philosopher Jacques Derrida, who defined it as a turn away from Platonism's ideas of "true" forms and essences which take precedence over appearances, instead considering the constantly changing complex function of language, making static and idealist ideas of it inadequate.[1] Deconstruction instead places emphasis on the mere appearance of language in both speech and writing, or suggests at least that essence as it is called is to be found in its appearance, while it itself is "undecidable" and everyday experiences cannot be empirically evaluated to find the actuality of language."

Edited by mfbukowski
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Is there room in the discussion for "deconstruction" to also include "charitable, non-fault-finding attitudes", or is the word deconstruction a kind of poisoned well here? If we can't use deconstruction here, what word would you suggest that would convey the idea of "charitably unlearning false beliefs learned at Church and replacing them with more correct beliefs?"

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31 minutes ago, MrShorty said:

Is there room in the discussion for "deconstruction" to also include "charitable, non-fault-finding attitudes", or is the word deconstruction a kind of poisoned well here? If we can't use deconstruction here, what word would you suggest that would convey the idea of "charitably unlearning false beliefs learned at Church and replacing them with more correct beliefs?"

I think there is room for any term as long as it is explained how it is used as a descriptor. Sometimes the expressed need for that explanation only arises through the course of discussion.

For me, "charitably unlearning false beliefs learned at Church and replacing them with more correct beliefs" is a byproduct of "seeking all that is good" since our learning follows seeking (just as knowledge follows faith). The charitable attitude (expressed as the "desire to believe" in Alma 32) is ideally found in all our endeavors. It is also interesting to me that the attribute of charity, in this sense, is not necessarily dependent on the accumulation of correct beliefs.

When a pagan desires to believe in what Christ has presented to him (by any term), he already possesses a measure of charity which motivates him, the pure love of Christ. It is essential that our charity expand along with our knowledge, which is a function of humility (the willingness to learn) and faith (seeking that which is good). Our love for that which is good prompts us to seek it and to use it well for good.

Edited by CV75
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