Forays amongst the disaffected

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A few years ago, I made a foray onto a message board for individuals who have left the Church. I was open in my identity both by name and also regarding my status as a full, believing member (TBM as they call us). I went there looking to learn, hoping that I might somehow gain some insight that would help us with people who have floundered in their faith. What I failed to do was identify my association with FAIR. I tried engaging in an email exchange with Steven Benson, grandson to President Benson and a nationally recognized cartoonist who famously left the Church. The result was Steve employing his journalistic skills and “outing” me as a FAIR board member. I was banished and ridiculed as a “troll” as if I was someone spying on their open message board with a hidden identity. But there were a few who witnessed my sincere and respectful efforts approached me independently and offered to share their experiences.

What I learned was enlightening. I discovered that most who leave the church and associate on that web site do so because they perceive some violation of trust occurred. Perhaps there was a teaching they held that they found out to be false, and they could no longer trust a long time mentor to whom they had anchored their testimony. Perhaps the failings of a member created an offense, and the person could not reconcile their expectations with reality. When it is a leader that disappoints, it seems the sting is so much the greater. Perhaps they found an unflattering piece of history on the Church (ironically almost always directly or indirectly through some Church or Church-sponsored source), and they feel that the truth had not been told them. In all cases, the issue was that somehow they had an unmet expectation that resulted in feeling a trust they had granted someone or something had been violated.

Several shared accounts of their attempts to reconcile their sense of violation by approaching leaders, family members, or close friends with their concerns. Whether real or imagined, these same people indicated that the reaction to their inquiry was too often met with hostility. The very people they felt could help them often responded by either dismissing their concerns or become hostile to them, treating them more as a threat than a cherished acquaintance.

I very much realize that there are two sides to every story. Fears and insecurities may have well led at least some to interpret others’ reactions harshly. However, the insecurities of members may have equally caused their reaction to be less than it could have been.

In discussing such issues, recently sustained member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, Elder Quentin L. Cook, made the following comment during his conference address titled “Our Father’s Plan—Big Enough for All His Children“:

It is equally important that we be loving and kind to members of our own faith, regardless of their level of commitment or activity. The Savior has made it clear that we are not to judge each other. This is especially true of members of our own families. Our obligation is to love and teach and never give up. The Lord has made salvation “free for all men” but has “commanded his people that they should persuade all men to repentance.

Such an eloquent appeal to our better natures encourages us to endure in kindness with those in the church who struggle with their testimonies.

Is this not wise advice regardless of the reason someone approaches us with a concern? In raising my children, I have often found that how I respond (my choice of words or my tone of voice) often has a greater impact on their reactions to my advice than what I say. Am I not communicating both with my words and how I use them? I think it important that we never discount a concern that is entrusted to our care, and that we validate the fact that someone has felt their trust violated. To do otherwise is to add to the possible perception of offense and remove out ability to influence them.

In D&C 121:45–46 we read:

Let thy bowels also be full of charity towards all men, and to the household of faith, and let virtue garnish thy thoughts unceasingly; then shall thy confidence wax strong in the presence of God; and the doctrine of the priesthood shall distil upon thy soul as the dews from heaven. The Holy Ghost shall be thy constant companion, and thy scepter an unchanging scepter of righteousness and truth; and thy dominion shall be an everlasting dominion, and without compulsory means it shall flow unto thee forever and ever.

In other words, if we extend charity to those who come to us, we preserve our influence. It is no assurance that they will agree with us or accept our perspective, but at least we can hope for a day when we can again counsel them down a reassuring path with regards to the restored gospel.

In the end, my foray amongst the disaffected ended in my banishment, not because of my affiliation with FAIR, but because the moderators felt I had violated a trust by not disclosing this information up front. In hindsight, I guess this should have been expected. Still, my kind comportment and respectful dialogue allowed me some choice opportunities to exchange thoughts and ideas with some few who could see that I was not there for anything other than sincere reasons. My lesson was reinforced, and I learned that the virtues of charity and patience can indeed create a dominion of influence where one would not have otherwise existed.

138 thoughts on “Forays amongst the disaffected

  1. Seth R.

    “To go further with your scenario, if husband 1 was to build planet X for his posterity and husband 2 was to build planet Y for his posterity, where would the wife and mother go?”

    This is possibly why we don’t know much about Heavenly Mother.

    “The mortal inhabitants of planet X would have two Fathers in Heaven, but none of them would know which Father was theirs. Who would each individual pray to? It creates confusion and would not work.”

    I don’t know… we’ve already split God into three people. So I don’t see why this would be all that particularly tricky.

  2. Thomas

    Theodore,

    Do the First Presidency and the Twelve themselves claim the infallibility you ascribe to them?

    Fortunately, those combined bodies really don’t say much, and they’ve got a good track record on the occasions when they do. However, a minuscule percentage of Church doctrine and policy is set by official statements of those combined bodies. Most authority is exercised by lower-downs (who are, of course, essentially ratified by the high presidencies).

  3. onika

    Seth said:

    “Again, I think you are projecting your own worldly observations about the way things work in our imperfect world, and in our imperfect Church, and tarring the heavens with the same brush.

    “Do you really have any idea how the Patriarchal Order will be implemented in heaven?”

    D&C 88:

    17 And the redemption of the soul is through him that quickeneth all things, in whose bosom it is decreed that the poor and the meek of the earth shall inherit it.
    18 Therefore, it must needs be sanctified from all unrighteousness, that it may be prepared for the celestial glory;
    19 For after it hath filled the measure of its creation, it shall be crowned with glory, even with the presence of God the Father;
    20 That bodies who are of the celestial kingdom may possess it forever and ever; for, for this intent was it made and created, and for this intent are they sanctified.

    25 And again, verily I say unto you, the earth abideth the law of a celestial kingdom, for it filleth the measure of its creation, and transgresseth not the law—

  4. Theodore Brandley

    Thomas Says:

    Do the First Presidency and the Twelve themselves claim the infallibility you ascribe to them?

    I don’t ascribe to them infallibility but they have a better probability of knowing the will of the Lord than anyone else in the world.

    D&C 68:4
    4 And whatsoever they shall speak when moved upon by the Holy Ghost shall be scripture, shall be the will of the Lord, shall be the mind of the Lord, shall be the word of the Lord, shall be the voice of the Lord, and the power of God unto salvation.

    And, yes, they feel the same way:

    The whole burden of my message can be said in three simple words: FOLLOW THE BRETHREN. Though I may elaborate and attempt to illustrate and emphasize, there is the fact, the disarmingly simple fact, that in the three words, FOLLOW THE BRETHREN, rests the most important counsel that I could give to you…I bear witness, my brethren and sisters…that in this Church men are as they indeed must be—called of God by prophecy…May we learn to follow the brethren, I pray…(Boyd K. Packer, “Follow the Brethren” Speeches of the Year, BYU, 23 March 1965, p. 1–10.)

  5. Theodore Brandley

    Thomas says:

    Fortunately, those combined bodies really don’t say much

    You should listen to General Conference sometime.

  6. Thomas

    Theodore, when I listen to General Conference, I hear lots of individual Brethren giving talks. I don’t recall many statements issued in Conference under the joint authority of the First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve. In recent memory, there were the Proclamation on the Family, and “The Living Christ.”

    Theodore, you have a first-rate intellect. Relying on sarcasm associates you with second-raters.

  7. Thomas

    Theodore, again:

    “I don’t ascribe to them infallibility….”

    Compare:

    “1. The combined First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve are always right.”

    How is that not infallibility?

  8. Theodore Brandley

    Thomas,

    Sorry about the sarcasm.

    In every General Conference all of the First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve speak. At the end of almost every conference what has been said is endorsed by the Prophet. The addresses are then published in the Ensign, which lists as the publishers all of the names of the First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve. I agree that it may not carry quite the same weight as a special document with all of their signatures appearing at the bottom, but what they each said is sanctioned by them all. Additionally there are many, many documents published by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints that must be, and are, approved by the First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve. Such documents are the “General Handbook of Instructions,” the missionary manual “Preach My Gospel,” and many others.

    As far as infallibility is concerned, you left out my rule number 2. If I was ascribing infallibility to them I would have stopped at rule number 1. As I subsequently noted the reason I have rule number 2 is that if I think they may be worng it is a reminder that “they have a better probability of knowing the will of the Lord than anyone else in the world.”

  9. Thomas

    Theodore: No worries — I’m kinda touchy in the morning.

    I believe the Brethren have a better probability of knowing the will of the Lord than anyone else in the world with respect to the major questions — the matters as to which there is a guarantee that the Lord will not allow them to lead the Church astray. As to less significant matters, that confidence is not necessarily warranted.

    The Brethren are afforded a deference and immunity from questioning that was not present in the early Church — either its incarnation in the meridian of time, where Paul “withstood [Peter] to the face, for he was to be blamed,” or in Joseph’s tenure. In American republican thought, it is gospel that allowing people or institutions to go unquestioned or unchecked leads to error. With the one exception of when error is prevented by supernatural, revelatory means, I believe this is sound thinking. Thus, when the typical left-liberal administrative busybody tells me to shut up and get in line with what all right-thinking people really *must* believe, I bristle.

    As mentioned above, the Church has a guarantee that the Lord will not let the Brethren lead the Church “astray.” Since various Brethren have occasionally taught error in Conference addresses, or endorsed it in erroneous Church-published material — and have sometimes even openly acknowledged this, as in Elder McConkie’s famous retraction of aspects of his and other leaders’ teaching on race — I have to conclude that this supernatural backstop on the Church’s doctrinal integrity is limited in some respect. I have concluded — and I may be wrong — that the guarantee is similar to the Catholic doctrine of the “sensus fidei,” the guarantee that the main body of Catholic doctrine will be miraculously preserved against fundamental error, even as occasional errors are made as to peripheral matters.

    Outside the sphere of this guarantee, however, I believe there may be areas of knowledge where the Brethren may not be more likely to know the will of the Lord — that is, the Lord’s truth — than other people. For instance, a few years ago, the Ensign published an article endorsing the literal Genesis account of a global flood. On this point, I think the evidence is overwhelming that the geologists have a better understanding of the mind of the Lord on this issue than whoever wrote and approved that article. A more recent article repeated some of the weaker arguments of young-earth creationists. Regardless of what you believe about evolution, the author of that article knew less of the truth than others. The Primary lesson manual misrepresents other Christian churches’ teaching about the Trinity, and a recent Conference address misconstrued the language of the Athanasian Creed.

    In secular spheres — that is, those spheres where revelation does not directly operate — we believe that insulation from critique invites error. Does that same dynamic operate in the Church, outside the sphere of the guarantee against major apostasy?

    I am not particularly concerned that “following the Brethren” will lead me into serious error. As I wrote above, the First Presidency and the Twelve are very careful these days with their authoritative pronouncements, and I agree with what they’ve said. (I’m socially and politically conservative, so I’m spared the angst of the Mormon liberals who waver on the gay-marriage issue; I think they’re wrong on purely secular as well as doctrinal grounds, and I have no desire to wear one earring, let alone two.) I am more concerned with being saddled with things the Brethren have said in the past, in times when the teaching culture was less cautious — things that I simply cannot accept as true. It’s a matter of keeping sand out from under my foundation.

  10. onika

    I grew up being taught the prophet can never lead the church astray. Who said that? Where does it say that? Even the Book of Mormon says the leaders of churches will lead people astray, and I don’t think it’s just talking about other Christian churches.

    Mormon 8:
    28 Yea, it shall come in a day when the power of God shall be denied, and churches become defiled and be lifted up in the pride of their hearts; yea, even in a day when leaders of churches and teachers shall rise in the pride of their hearts, even to the envying of them who belong to their churches.

    In order for the churches to become defiled they would have to have been pure from the start. To deny the power of God they would have had to have had the power of God from the start. The apostasy had taken place in the Old World long before he wrote this. He is talking about the future, our day.

  11. Theodore Brandley

    onika said,

    I grew up being taught the prophet can never lead the church astray. Who said that? Where does it say that?

    President Wilford Woodruff, fourth president of the Church, may have been the first one who first publicly expressed this concept. Many other prophets have emphasized it since.

    Wilford Woodruff, The Discourses of Wilford Woodruff, edited by G. Homer Durham, p.74
    There are men today, there will be men till the coming of the Son of Man, I expect, who feel as though they ought to lead the Church, as though it is not going on right-that this, that, and the other is wrong. I say to all Israel at this day, I say to the whole world, that the God of Israel, who organized this Church and kingdom, never ordained any President or Presidency to lead it astray. Hear it, ye Israel, no man who has ever breathed the breath of life can hold these keys of the kingdom of God and lead the people astray.-MS 51:546-547 (1889).

    Spencer W. Kimball, The Teachings of Spencer W. Kimball, edited by Edward L. Kimball, p.459
    No one in this Church will ever go far astray who ties himself securely to the authorities whom the Lord has placed in his Church. This Church will never go astray; the Quorum of the Twelve will never lead you into bypaths; it never has and never will.

    Ezra Taft Benson, The Teachings of Ezra Taft Benson , p.137
    I remember years ago when I was a Bishop I had President [Heber J.] Grant talk to our ward. After the meeting I drove him home. Standing by me, he put his arm over my shoulder and said: “My boy, you always keep your eye on the President of the Church, and if he ever tells you to do anything, and it is wrong, and you do it, the Lord will bless you for it.” Then with a twinkle in his eye, he said, “But you don’t need to worry. The Lord will never let his mouthpiece lead the people astray.” (CR October 1960, p. 78.)

    Gordon B. Hinckley, Teachings of Gordon B. Hinckley, p.296
    I wish that each of you would remember that tonight you heard me say that this Church is true. Other churches also do much good, but this is the “true and living Church” of the Lord Jesus Christ, whose name it bears. (See D&C 1:30.) Be true to it. Cling to it. If you will do so it will become as an anchor in the midst of a stormy sea. It will be a light to your lives and a foundation upon which to build them. I give you my solemn testimony that this Church will never be led astray. It is in the hands of God, and should any of its leaders ever attempt to lead it astray, His is the power to remove them. He has said that He has restored His work for the last time, “never again to be destroyed nor given to other people” (D&C 138:44; see also Dan. 2:44-45). (“Stand True and Faithful,” Ensign, May 1996, p. 93.)

  12. Theodore Brandley

    Thomas said:

    Outside the sphere of this guarantee, however, I believe there may be areas of knowledge where the Brethren may not be more likely to know the will of the Lord — that is, the Lord’s truth — than other people. For instance, a few years ago, the Ensign published an article endorsing the literal Genesis account of a global flood. On this point, I think the evidence is overwhelming that the geologists have a better understanding of the mind of the Lord on this issue than whoever wrote and approved that article.

    I disagree. I think the article you are referring to was “The Flood and the Tower of Babel,” Ensign, Jan 1998, 35, written by Dr. Donald W. Parry, Professor of Hebrew Bible at Brigham Young University. He is heavily involved with the translation of the Dead Sea Scrolls. This does not make him an expert in geology but he has studied geological theory and has read much of the geological evidence against a universal flood.

    As Dr. Parry explains, it is primarily the theory of Uniformitarianism (geological processes have always moved very slowly and always will move very slowly) that has been the basis that has led to the conclusion that a universal flood was impossible. As Dr. Parry points out, the theory of Uniformitarianism is a useful theory but it is not a proven fact. The interpretation of geological evidence has all been done using this theory as the base.

    The scriptures, however, make it clear that God has control over the elements of the earth and moves them at His will. If one does not believe the scriptures are the true word of God then of course one will not believe that God has such power and that He exercises it. To the believer the creation itself is evidence of God exercising this power. Enoch moved mountains and changed the course of rivers. The brother of Jared moved the mountain Zerin. Moses parted the Red Sea. The earth was divided in the days of Peleg. The face of the earth was changed in America at the crucifixion of Jesus Christ. At the coming of the Lord the earth will be violently changed at His word:

    D&C 109:73-74
    73 That thy church may come forth out of the wilderness of darkness, and shine forth fair as the moon, clear as the sun, and terrible as an army with banners;
    74 And be adorned as a bride for that day when thou shalt unveil the heavens, and cause the mountains to flow down at thy presence, and the valleys to be exalted, the rough places made smooth; that thy glory may fill the earth;

    D&C 133:21-24
    21 And he shall utter his voice out of Zion, and he shall speak from Jerusalem, and his voice shall be heard among all people;
    22 And it shall be a voice as the voice of many waters, and as the voice of a great thunder, which shall break down the mountains, and the valleys shall not be found.
    23 He shall command the great deep, and it shall be driven back into the north countries, and the islands shall become one land;
    24 And the land of Jerusalem and the land of Zion shall be turned back into their own place, and the earth shall be like as it was in the days before it was divided.

    Notice that “the earth shall be like as it was in the days before it was divided.” This tells us that at the time of the Flood the earth was smooth and that there were no exceedingly high places or low places. This makes a universal flood feasible.

    The scriptures from Genesis to 2 Peter, to the Book of Mormon, to the Doctrine and Covenants, to the Pearl of Great Price, all speak of a universal flood. Jesus himself said:

    Matthew 24:36-39
    36 But of that day and hour knoweth no [man], no, not the angels of heaven, but my Father only.
    37 But as the days of Noe [were], so shall also the coming of the Son of man be.
    38 For as in the days that were before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noe entered into the ark,
    39 And knew not until the flood came, and took them ALL away; so shall also the coming of the Son of man be. (emphasis added)

    If all of the combined scriptures are wrong about the universal flood then the scriptures are not the word of God. If the scriptures are not the word of God then there is no God. Everyone can choose for himself whether to believe the current prevalent interpretation of geologists, or to believe the word of God.

    Theodore

  13. onika

    Theodore,

    There could still be a God even if the scriptures were not true. Many of our Founding Fathers believed in a Deist God.

  14. Thomas

    “If all of the combined scriptures are wrong about the universal flood then the scriptures are not the word of God. If the scriptures are not the word of God then there is no God.”

    Like the old math cartoon says, I think you need to show a bit more of your work between points 1 and 2.

    I leave defending scriptural inerrancy to the Protestant fundamentalists, who truly are cooked without it. We haven’t necessarily painted ourselves into quite the same corner; we have other potential sources of authority than inerrant ancient scripture.

    “My boy, you always keep your eye on the President of the Church, and if he ever tells you to do anything, and it is wrong, and you do it, the Lord will bless you for it.””

    As between Elder Benson and Elder Charles Penrose, who expressly condemned this kind of reasoning, I follow Elder Penrose.

  15. Theodore Brandley

    Thomas said:

    we have other potential sources of authority than inerrant ancient scripture.

    If ancient scripture has to be in error in order for there not to have been a universal flood the let us look at other potential sources of authority in modern scripture:

    Moses 2:1
    1 AND it came to pass that the Lord spake unto Moses, saying: Behold, I reveal unto you concerning this heaven, and this earth; WRITE THE WORDS WHICH I SPEAK. I am the Beginning and the End, the Almighty God; by mine Only Begotten I created these things; yea, in the beginning I created the heaven, and the earth…etc, etc. (emphasis added)

    It is clear from the above that God dictated Genesis to Moses. Moses did not get it from some ancient localized source.

    Moses 7:32-45
    32 The Lord said unto Enoch: Behold these thy brethren; they are the workmanship of mine own hands, …
    34 And the fire of mine indignation is kindled against them; and in my hot displeasure will I send in the floods upon them, for my fierce anger is kindled against them…
    38 But behold, these which thine eyes are upon shall perish in the floods; and behold, I will shut them up; a prison have I prepared for them…
    41 And it came to pass that the Lord spake unto Enoch, and told Enoch all the doings of the children of men; wherefore Enoch knew, and looked upon their wickedness, and their misery, and wept and stretched forth his arms, and his heart swelled wide as eternity; and his bowels yearned; and all eternity shook.
    42 And Enoch also saw Noah, and his family; that the posterity of all the sons of Noah should be saved with a temporal salvation;
    43 Wherefore Enoch saw that Noah built an ark; and that the Lord smiled upon it, and held it in his own hand; but upon the residue of the wicked the floods came and swallowed them up…
    45 And it came to pass that Enoch looked; and FROM NOAH, he beheld all the families of the earth (emphasis added).

    All of the families of the earth are descended from Noah because all of the rest were drowned in the flood.

    3 Nephi 22:9
    9 For this, the waters of Noah unto me, for as I have sworn that the waters of Noah should no more go over the earth, so have I sworn that I would not be wroth with thee.

    Ether 13:2
    2 For behold, they rejected all the words of Ether; for he truly told them of all things, from the beginning of man; and that after the waters had receded from off the face of this land it became a choice land above all other lands…

    JST Gen 8:22
    22 And behold, I, even I will bring in a flood of water upon the earth, to destroy all flesh, wherein is the breath of life, from under heaven; every thing that liveth on the earth shall die.

    JST Gen 8:42-45
    42 And all flesh died that moved upon the face of the earth, both of fowl, and of cattle, and of beasts, and of every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth, and every man.
    43 All in whose nostrils the Lord had breathed the breath of life, of all that were on the dry land, died.
    44 And every living substance was destroyed, which was upon the face of the ground, both man, and cattle, and the creeping things, and the fowls of the air; and they were destroyed from the earth;
    45 And Noah only remained, and they that were with him in the ark.

    JST Mark 13:47-49
    47 But of that day and hour no one knoweth; no, not the angels of God in heaven, but my Father only.
    48 But as it was in the days of Noah, so it shall be also at the coming of the Son of man; for it shall be with them as it was in the days which were before the flood.
    49 Until the day the Noah entered into the ark, they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, and knew not until the flood came and took them all away; so shall also the coming of the Son of man be.

    D&C 138:8-9
    8 “By which also he went and preached unto the spirits in prison;
    9 “Which sometime were disobedient, when once the longsuffering of God waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was a preparing, wherein few, that is, eight souls were saved by water.” (1 Peter 3:18-20.)

    The universal flood is confirmed throughout the Holy scriptures.

    Theodore

  16. Thomas

    Theodore, you make a good case. I don’t buy it — I think the evidence from geology is compelling that there was never a global flood, and I’m open to the possibility that the Lord may reveal scripture to people using the religious idiom with which they are familiar, which could include seeming to endorse the flood myth.

    I’m curious, though, about what others on the FAIR crew think about this. Are they also dedicated to defending the notion of a literal, worldwide flood?

    Sometimes an advanced defense — staking out the battle lines as far forward as possible — makes sense. Other times, you wind up like Sickles at Gettysburg.

  17. onika

    If there wasn’t a world-wide flood, the people thought there was, and that’s why they wrote it. so maybe the scriptures aren’t about what really happened, but about what they thought happened. Theodore, I don’t want to tell you anymore if this is going to make you depressed.

  18. Theodore Brandley

    Thomas,

    Just for the record I am not “on the FAIR crew.” I’m just hangin out here like you are.

    onika said.

    If there wasn’t a world-wide flood, the people thought there was, and that’s why they wrote it. so maybe the scriptures aren’t about what really happened, but about what they thought happened. Theodore, I don’t want to tell you anymore if this is going to make you depressed.

    :-) It made me smile to think that you were concerned about me! I learned how not to get depressed many years ago.

    For those who do not believe that the scriptures are primarily the word of God that is the obvious explanation. However, for Latter-day Saints who do believe the scriptures to be the word of God that explanation doesn’t work. We read in Moses that Genesis was dictated to Moses by God, so he didn’t get the flood story from some other ancient writing. Many other prophets through the ages, including Jesus Christ have confirmed a universal flood.

    This is a typical case where the current understanding of science does not agree with the standard understanding of the scriptures. It is not reasonable that a universal flood could cover Mount Everest at 29,000 feet, but the scriptures say that the mountains were covered (Genesis 7:20). Modern revelation resolves this by informing us that prior to the earth being divided in the days of Peleg that there were no high mountains (D&C 49:23; 133:22-24).

    This is in conflict with current geological theory that claims all geological process move very slowly, always have and always will. The scriptures again claim otherwise in that the Lord has power to raise up mountains or to lay them low at his command (we may witness this power in operation before too long).

    The problem for a Latter-day Saint believing in the Limited Flood Theory is that it generates doubt in the scriptures and in the prophets, including Joseph Smith and Jesus Christ. This doubt challenges faith and leads to further doubts in God himself.

    As I said prior, everyone can choose for himself whether to believe the current interpretation of geologists, or to believe the word of God. But for me and my house…

    Theodore

    p.s. I’m away from my computer for a couple of days so have fun without me around to spoil it. :-)

  19. Steve G.

    May be it is a copout but I no longer worry to much about issues like this. That is not to say that they are not important it is just that I am comfortable not knowing the answer. I understand Theodore Brandley’s point, and I am open to the idea that science is not a closed book but and that we will still learn useful information in the future that will change our present day paradigms. I am also open to the idea that not all of our revelations our perfect and that the Lord reasons with man on his own level and according to his own understanding. I still believe in the gospel because I find so much truth in other things and because of what it does for my life that I do not have to have an answer to every question. It is kind of fun to see this conversation is still going on.

  20. Thomas

    “The problem for a Latter-day Saint believing in the Limited Flood Theory is that it generates doubt in the scriptures and in the prophets, including Joseph Smith and Jesus Christ. This doubt challenges faith and leads to further doubts in God himself.”

    That’s possible, particularly if you make historical or scientific matters that are susceptible of being considered by reason into matters of faith.

    On the other hand, I believe that if faith is reserved, as I believe is proper, for those matters which reason is inherently incapable of supplying a conclusive answer — such as the existence and nature of God, and the reality and supernatural nature of revelation — then there will never be an occasion for science to interfere with faith.

  21. Seth R.

    I don’t see what possible relevance a universal vs. local flood would have to my theological beliefs.

    So I guess I don’t really care.

    Nor do I care if the scriptures are 100% accurate in everything.

  22. Thomas

    Seth,

    At first impression, I’d agree that just how much of the earth got wet in Noah’s time is a theological footnote at best.

    But there is a larger theological issue behind the debate. That issue has to do with the proper role of faith.

    One school of thought holds that faith is properly applied only to those First Principles as to which reason, by its very nature, is incompetent. For example, if you posit the existence of things (such as God) that are ordinarily beyond the reach of the natural senses, unaided reason by definition can’t supply the answer.

    Things like the existence of God, his nature, and the supernatural nature of revelation are things which I believe can only be known by a decision to exercise faith. Observation and reason can never supply a definitive answer as to these “things not seen,” so if we want to arrive at an answer, it has to be by faith or not at all.

    Another school of thought holds that it is legitimate to arrive at decisions by faith, not only when reason is inherently incompetent, but also as to things which are ordinarily subject to rational evaluation. This category includes matters of astronomy, geology, biology, history, and other disciplines, which we ordinarily use secular reason to evaluate. (We didn’t use faith to send a rocket to the moon; we don’t use faith to measure whether a house built on a California hillside will fall down; we don’t use faith to determine whether to take out somebody’s appendix.) It is only in those cases where a religious tradition, for whatever reason, has touched on matters that are ordinarily measured by reason, where some people propose to resort to “faith” for an answer, instead of using their ordinary rational tools. This can cause conflicts between the secular and spiritual realms, because scripture and science don’t always agree. It also causes conflicts between competing religious groups, because you can have “faith” in just about anything, which leads to sectarian conflicts between groups of people who are equally convinced, by faith, in the rightness of their exclusive doctrines.

    Historically, religion has a very poor track record when it goes up against science. Moreover, societies that make faith their basic model for understanding the physical universe tend not to progress in knowledge as well as societies that value rational inquiry.

    On the other hand, societies that dismiss faith altogether also often tend to stagnate.

    I believe the best society is one that values *reason informed by faith.* Exercise faith to choose an answer to the fundamental questions, and then reason out the implications of your basic confessions of faith, and any other matters in which your reason can operate. The “two wings” of faith and reason are complementary.

    What interests me about the debate over whether the Flood was global or limited, is that the side that says we must believe it was global, reveals that it holds up faith as superior to reason. Though reason is fallible, and so articles of faith shouldn’t necessarily be instantly discarded when something proposed by reason appears to conflict with them, some things — like the evidence from geology that there was no global Flood — are so firmly established, that you can’t really reject it without putting out the light of reason more or less altogether. And as Locke pointed out, you can’t do that without diminishing revelation, also — because it’s partly by reason that you recognize a revelation as authentically such. (We have to be taught, by rational argument, to recognize the Spirit for what it is.) Not only that, but when reason becomes too diminished in a society, you get something like Islamic civilization — a stagnant parasite on reason-honoring societies. I’ll pass.

    So the debate over the Flood isn’t just a tempest in a teapot over a theological footnote. It’s a proxy for a larger debate over the nature of faith, and its relationship with other means of knowledge.

  23. onika

    Shouldn’t it be “faith informed by reason”? “I believe because of these reasons.”

    If I watch my mother make bread and see that when she uses yeast, following the directions, to make it rise, then I can have faith that when I use yeast to make bread, and follow the directions, I will get the same results. But, if I don’t follow the directions, and use water that is too hot, or the yeast is too old, or I don’t feed the yeast, it doesn’t matter how much I believe, the yeast won’t raise the bread.

    Alma 32:
    21 … therefore if ye have faith ye hope for things which are not seen, which are true.

  24. Thomas

    “If I watch my mother make bread and see that when she uses yeast, following the directions, to make it rise, then I can have faith that when I use yeast to make bread, and follow the directions, I will get the same results.”

    That’s not faith — that’s reason. You’ve observed a process, seen that it works, and therefore have a reason to have confidence that it will work when you repeat the process.

    Faith is having hope for things that (unlike your example) are “not seen.”

    When I use the phrase “reason informed by faith,” I mean that I make decisions based on reason, going all the way back to my basic choice, by faith, to assume an eternal perspective to my existence.

  25. onika

    Even if I have seen it work for my mother, that does not mean that I know it will work for me. Even if I have made bread a thousand times before, I am still exercising faith every time I make bread. I am expecting a certain result but I don’t SEE it until after it happens. The seen result of my action is knowledge.

    So, are you saying you make a decision based on reason, but if it conflicts with what you believe, you change your decision? I understand your decisions have to be in harmony with your values.

  26. onika

    Theodore (and anyone else),

    I have never had much faith in scientists measuring how old things are, but the reason I don’t believe in a global flood is because civilizations that existed before the flood still existed after the flood (like the Sumerians). That is why I think it was a huge flood like the Persian Gulf and the Black Sea flooding over, but not covering the entire earth.

    It is interesting that faithful LDS would say they don’t believe in the flood. It is probably because they don’t believe in the Bible that much, and that is acceptable in the Church. Does anyone express as much scepticism about stories in the Book of Mormon?

  27. Thomas

    Onika,

    “Even if I have made bread a thousand times before, I am still exercising faith every time I make bread.”

    You’re using “faith” as a synonym for “confidence,” or “expectation.” Are they really the same thing?

    When you follow a proven bread-making process, you’re applying your reason, not faith. You’ve discovered that following that process has a high probability (100%, so far!) of yielding a certain result. Do you “know” it will continue to work that way? Well, technically, no; there’s always the remote possibility that the laws of physics and chemistry will suddenly change. But since we have yet to observe an occasion of that possibility, we can reasonably conclude the odds of it are quite remote indeed, and so we can reasonably expect breadmaking to keep working the same way as before.

  28. Theodore Brandley

    onika,

    The vast majority of those who are regularly active in the LDS Church believe in the Universal Flood. The Ensign article by Dr. Parry that we have been discussing would probably be fully accepted by 99 % of those who regularly read the Ensign. However, one does not have to believe in the Universal Flood in order to hold a Temple Recommend. We are all individuals and come from individual backgrounds and experiences and we all judge things with a slightly different perspective.

    I think that among the LDS people there are fewer that question things in the Book of Mormon than they do in the Bible. I think there is generally more confidence that the Book of Mormon was given recently by direct revelation, through one prophet, and there is less likely to be errors. Joseph Smith said that “it was the most correct book on earth.” Notice that he did not say it was inerrant. Even Moroni, who sealed and hid the plates wrote, “And now, if there are faults they are the mistakes of men; wherefore, condemn not the things of God, that ye may be found spotless at the judgment-seat of Christ” (translated title page).

    Theodore

  29. onika

    Heb. 11:

    3 Through faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God, so that things which are seen were not made of things which do appear.

    So, God had to have faith to create the worlds.

    James 2:

    18 Yea, a man may say, Thou hast faith, and I have works: shew me thy faith without thy works, and I will shew thee my faith by my works.

    I believe the yeast will raise the bread, so I act upon that belief by putting yeast into the bread dough (works). This is faith. After I see the bread has risen I have knowledge.

    Faith is confidence/expectation based on true laws.

  30. onika

    Thomas, I take that back; Heb 11 isn’t saying God had faith. He’s saying that faith allows us to believe God created the worlds out of nothing by his word.

  31. Theodore Brandley

    onika,

    Allen Wyatt has done an excellent job of presenting an overview of this complex situation. I really can’t add anything to his summation. And again, everyone will draw their own conclusions. On this issue I will have to turn judgment over to the Lord and wait for the time when it can be explained to me by Henry and Zina and Joseph and Brigham.

  32. onika

    Zina said, “I will tell you the facts. I had dreams–I am no dreamer but I had dreams that I could not account for. I know this is the work of the Lord; it was revealed to me, even when young. Things were presented to my mind that I could not account for. When Joseph Smith revealed this order [Celestial marriage] I knew what it meant; the Lord was preparing my mind to receive it.”

    This must have happened AFTER she married Henry or she would not have turned down Joseph’s proposals.

    Some time after she was married Joseph explains through her brother (someone she trusts) why he introduced plural marriage. Why didn’t he tell her that in the first place, before she got married? If God insisted that Joseph and not Henry marry Zina, why didn’t he send an angel to her, or give her some kind of spiritual prompting or confirmation to marry Joseph, BEFORE she married Henry? It is not fair to Henry. Why does he not deserve to be married for eternity to his first wife, the mother of his children?

    The purpose of the law of Levirate is to ensure the deceased brother has posterity if he didn’t have any before he died. So, was Brigham ensuring posterity for Joseph or himself by marrying Zina? If polyandry was acceptable, why get divorced from Henry? Their marriage must not have been considered a legitimate marriage.

    Some time after her divorce and separation from her husband who was sent on a mission, she writes Brigham Young expressing her love for him. How can she love him if she had no intimate relationship with him before? My guess is that she loved him when she was sealed to him.

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