“Stop thinking about and talking about the gospel of Jesus Christ!”

January 2, 2008    By: Geoff J @ 6:50 pm   Category: Mormon Culture/Practices,The Thang

The Thang turned 3 years old this week. Happy birthday to us.

As our regular readers know, a focus of the posts here at New Cool Thang has always been trying to more deeply understand Mormon doctrine, theology, and scriptures. We have spent a lot of time trying to better understand things like the atonement of Jesus Christ, free will/agency, foreknowledge, personal revelation, eternal progression, and all sorts of other intriguing but difficult theological and philosophical subjects. Along the way there have been many wonderful comments and discussions. My life has been greatly enriched by these discussions and I feel simultaneously more knowledgeable about the things of God and more acutely aware of how much I/we really don’t know about God and the eternities.

But along with the wonderful comment and discussions, another type of comment has regularly been left here in these discussions. I’m talking about the “stop talking about that subject — you are wasting your time” comments.

I loathe those knuckleheaded comments.

In the middle of us trying to better understand the atonement of Jesus Christ some numbskull will come along and tell us to stop wasting our time on that subject. No, I’m not kidding. As if we would be much better off only talking about sports or something. These types of comments irritate me to no end.

Since I’m irritated as I write this I’ll fire back with my uncharitable guess about a potential reason for that kind of comment: A severe lack of faith in the restored gospel. Yup — people with weak faith are afraid that pulling back the curtain will reveal that it is a sham or something (to put it in Wizard of Oz terms). Being willing to look closely at gospel topics takes faith that the restored gospel holds up when scrutinized and my guess is that some people are deathly afraid that looking closely at things will reveal awful results.

Bah!

Truth is truth and looking closely in order to understand more light and truth is a good thing. The restored gospel can easily withstand any scrutiny in my opinion. Sure some non-essential assumptions often end up being shed but that is also a good thing. Our scriptures certainly are not against us studying the gospel deeply:

18 Whatever principle of intelligence we attain unto in this life, it will rise with us in the resurrection.
19 And if a person gains more knowledge and intelligence in this life through his diligence and obedience than another, he will have so much the advantage in the world to come.
(D&C 130: 18-19)

36 The glory of God is intelligence, or, in other words, light and truth.
(D&C 93: 36)

6 It is impossible for a man to be saved in ignorance.
(D&C 131: 6)

Look, people can wallow in ignorance all they want. We are all free to choose. But here at the Thang we are all about trying to better understand the important things in life. Those who don’t like that are free to step off. (Of course I mean that in the nicest possible way…)

Oh and Happy New Year all!

[Associated Radio Thang song: Noisepie -- The Anger Song]

25 Comments »

  1. I think it is important to seek after understanding and knowledge.

    I’ve looked behind every curtain that Mormonism has to offer. To my joy I have never been seriously challenged by what I’ve found. Concerned and sometimes even shocked, but I have always had a resolution to my concern and shock.

    But I find myself coming back to the basics. I think the most important thing we can do is fulfill our baptism covenant and earnestly seek after the gift of the Holy Ghost. I have not been disappointed in this effort. The manifestations of the Holy Ghost, as promised in the scriptures, are real and profound. I’m am able to stand as a witness to this fact.

    Comment by Jared — January 2, 2008 @ 8:22 pm

  2. Alright, now for a more charitable reason for the comments:

    It’s not that they have a lack of faith in the gospel, but rather a lack of faith in human reason and human humility.

    Consider my case, for example. Many people who leave those comments could easily take mine as a case of a man having fallible human reason combined with a lack of humility and therefore reasoned himself out of the church.

    Even though I don’t see myself this way, I have no doubt that many people have left the church due to flabby reasoning. I mean, how many people have left the church due to something they read on the internet? Maybe these commenters are trying to prevent such things from happening when people come across our discussions.

    As a hypothetical: I argue that Mormonism entails determinism. Blake argues that determinism entails the non-existence of freewill, responsibility, love and maybe even God. What if a person who happens on our discussion accepts both of these arguments?

    Ideas can be dangerous, my friend, and when dealing with idea that are perceived to be all-important and/or closest to the heart, seems to many like playing with fire. Maybe these people aren’t convinced that fire should never by played with, but rather that we should tread a little more carefully than we sometimes do.

    Comment by Jeff G — January 2, 2008 @ 8:22 pm

  3. Jeff,

    If a person doesn’t have a personal revelatory relationship with God then that person’s faith is built on a sandy foundation to begin with. So digging in might reveal that sandy foundation but said sandy foundation would become apparent eventually anyway right? The real solution is to develop a personal revelatory relationship with God, not protecting the fragile and ultimately useless other notions they are basing their alleged testimony on. Remember, the first principle of the gospel is faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. Proper faith in Christ comes through personal revelation — anything else is “living on borrowed light” as they say.

    As for the question about someone hoping to accept contradictory positions (I assume that is what you meant) — I think there is not much danger in disabusing a person of their faulty beliefs in direct contradictions.

    Comment by Geoff J — January 2, 2008 @ 10:22 pm

  4. Geoff,
    Protecting someone’s fragile faith is a worthy consideration. But, as you stated, the real solution is to develop a personal revelatory relationship with God.

    Yes, the restored gospel can withstand any scrutiny and if not here, then where?

    Comment by Howard — January 2, 2008 @ 10:52 pm

  5. Okay, but what if the topic of the debate is the nature/reliability of revelation. You make it sound like having a personal relationship with God is itself a process/experience which is completely sealed off from all reasoning.

    Furthermore, you assume that your bringing a person to see how weak their testimony is will inevitably lead them to want to strengthen it. This is simply not the case. Some people come to see that their testimony is weak and walk away. After all, what is a weak testimony if not borderline disbelief?

    Regarding the contradictory positions, you seem to have misunderstood my comment altogether. (My fault.) My point was that those positions really aren’t all that contradictory and if they are, it would reveal in their mind that Mormonism is full of contradictions and, following your own advice, get rid of the contradiction by getting rid of Mormonism.

    Comment by Jeff G — January 2, 2008 @ 11:20 pm

  6. Happy birthday to the Thang!

    You all have a gift for making the gospel interesting. Thank you for sharing that gift with me.

    Happy blogging.

    Comment by Eric Nielson — January 3, 2008 @ 6:50 am

  7. I don’t follow this web site much, but if most of the posts share this one’s self-lauding air, then I glimpse why readers may consider them spiritually perilous. Yes, pondering the gospel is important. That importance doesn’t preclude the possibility of our pondering running seriously, even harmfully, off-track. Apostasy happens. Thoughtful, self-absorbed apostasy is one form.

    Comment by John Mansfield — January 3, 2008 @ 7:50 am

  8. John, c’mon, Geoff may be a crotchety High Priest, but he’s our crotchety high priest. Seriously, I agree with Geoff. It is irritating that people come by and post things like

    “a great mystery that [the prohpets] themselves did not understand. It seems likely to me that many others do not understand it either including some who like to pontificate on the topic.”

    or

    “Enos asked, “Lord, how is it done?”, and the answer, “Because of thy faith in Christ, whom thou hast never before heard nor seen… wherefore, go to, thy faith hath made thee whole” works for me. Anything else looks like angels dancing on the head of a pin to me.”

    or

    “I’m just not convinced my salvation relies on my being able to answer philosophical questions at the veil discussing which model of the atonement was the right one.”

    I mean we are not saying you have to know some sort of quantum atonement equation to get into heaven. No one has ever said that. Second calling someone ponitificating is just a jerk thing to do. Telling us talking about the atonement has the same value as talking about angels dancing on the head of a pin or the distance to Kolob [editor's note: that was a different comment, not included here] or anything else, is frankly, pretty insulting to me.

    The atonement is my favorite subject. It is vast, it is, in some ways, ineffable, but it is also extremely important.

    Personally, for me, I have had amazing experiences built off of studying the atonement on this Blog. It has helped me to have a more meaningful relationship with Jesus Christ, and to apply God’s grace better in my life. It may not do that for everyone. I’ll grant you that, but for me, I am grateful for Geoff, and Blake, and Kristen, and Jacob for their efforts in discussing the Gospel with me.

    Comment by Matt W. — January 3, 2008 @ 8:56 am

  9. Personally, for me, I have had amazing experiences built off of studying the atonement…

    My experience has been the same, simply pondering the atonement has led me to some awesome spiritual experiences and eventually to more understanding.

    Comment by Howard — January 3, 2008 @ 9:23 am

  10. Howard – I agree

    Jeff G – My point is that personal revelation is personal. Either we get some or we don’t. If we do then we work on interpreting it more clearly. If we don’t we work on breaking through and getting some. But ultimately that is the key issue — all this other stuff (contradictions in opinions among former leaders or whatever) are not particularly important compared to the foundation of a personal revelatory relationship with Christ. As I am fond of repeating: Eternal life is to know God — not to know about him.

    So I repeat now what I did many times with you before you stopped practicing Mormonism: It made little sense for you to focus on debating the reliability of revelation when you admittedly have received none of it yourself. Mostly what I would love to discuss with you would be methods to help you get some prayers answered. (But that of course would require lots of hard work, faith, and prayers to begin with and I suspect your experiences in the past have soured you on that route for now. I like you just as much as ever anyway if that helps…)

    Eric – Thanks bro.

    Comment by Geoff J — January 3, 2008 @ 9:29 am

  11. John Mansfield: I don’t follow this web site much

    Based on how obnoxious your comment #7 was we all thank you for rarely visiting here. Please continue to not visit this site much if that comment is the best you have to offer. (And of course I mean that in the nicest possible way…)

    Comment by Geoff J — January 3, 2008 @ 9:31 am

  12. Matt W (#8),

    Amen brother.

    Comment by Geoff J — January 3, 2008 @ 9:34 am

  13. (And of course I mean that in the nicest possible way…)

    Har!

    Comment by Jacob J — January 3, 2008 @ 11:00 am

  14. Geoff,

    “My point is that personal revelation is personal. Either we get some or we don’t. If we do then we work on interpreting it more clearly.”

    I reject this altogether. You act like the processes of getting revelation is entirely different from interpretation altogether. It can’t possibly be this way. It may be possible (although I doubt this as well) that the process of interpreting the content of some revelation is independent of our interpreting whether we receive revelation or not, but this latter process is still an active process of revelation. There is no such thing as an entirely passive reception of communication. Given that the process of receiving a communication is an active one, there are assumptions which can always be analyzed, questioned and even rejected.

    Just to clarify, I claimed to have not received revelation according to how I defined it. Then again, you admitted to not receiving revelation according to how I defined it either, because you didn’t think revelation worked that way at all.

    I DID think, however, that I had probably received revelation according to how YOU defined it. The only reason I’m not sure on this point, however, is that I have no idea what you have or have not experienced, exactly.

    Comment by Jeff G — January 3, 2008 @ 11:32 am

  15. Jeff G,

    You act like the processes of getting revelation is entirely different from interpretation altogether.

    My experience is that the less thinking I do while receiving the revelation, the clearer the revelation, interpretation of content and meaning are considered later.

    Comment by Howard — January 3, 2008 @ 11:46 am

  16. Howard,

    My point is that whether you are actively trying to think or not, you cannot avoid the process of interpretation. The very process of receiving communication of any kind, indeed of actually seeing anything as a communication as opposed to just noise, involves interpretation. Thus, the question of thinking more or less is entirely moot.

    Comment by Jeff G — January 3, 2008 @ 12:01 pm

  17. I agree with almost everything Jeff G is saying here, except that I don’t think the knuckleheads Geoff refers to in the post are usually motivated by such reasonable and defensible positions as the ones Jeff G is pointing to.

    I do think there is inherent danger in questioning and rationally deconstructing things as we sometimes do here. On the other hand, I think there is danger in not doing this as well (as Geoff rightly points out). Ultimately, attempts to seal things off (like revelation) from reasoned analysis are doomed to fail. Rather than trying to do that, I acknowledge that revelation has its problems just as every other “way of knowing” has its problems and attempt to construct an epistemology (sorry Kristen!) which takes that into account.

    Maybe these people aren’t convinced that fire should never by played with, but rather that we should tread a little more carefully than we sometimes do. (#2)

    This is a fair point. I forget sometimes that some people are on shakier ground than I feel like I am on myself and it is a good reminder to tread as carefully as possible when talking about issues that could create cognitive dissonance (and the associated risk involved in tamping down the dissonance) for people reading along. This post is a masterpiece of run-on sentences.

    Comment by Jacob J — January 3, 2008 @ 12:11 pm

  18. Jeff G,
    Your point is well taken. My point was more along the lines of minimizing the thinking maximizes the message.

    Comment by Howard — January 3, 2008 @ 12:31 pm

  19. Geoff- I’ve always thought you had Joseph in your corner:

    “the things of God are of deep import; and time, and experience, and careful and ponderous and solemn thoughts can only find them out. Thy mind, O man! if thou wilt lead a soul unto salvation, must stretch as high as the utmost heavens, and search into and contemplate the darkest abyss, and the broad expanse of eternity—thou must commune with God.”

    So here’s to (at least) 3 more great years at NCT!

    Comment by C Jones — January 3, 2008 @ 8:11 pm

  20. There are 10 billion atoms in a brain cell, and ten billion brain cells in a brain, and when the population of Planet Earth reaches ten billion we will become one great GLOBAL BRAIN!!

    Until then, congrats on 3 years of an interesting and entertaining blog. On thing is for sure: if you’re not asking the questions, you’re sure to not get the answers.

    ~

    Comment by Thomas Parkin — January 4, 2008 @ 1:52 am

  21. Thanks for the kind words C Jones and Thomas.

    It dawns on me that this post is directly connected to my Dolores Umbridge post. Showing up at my blog and telling me to stop wasting time investigating the gospel is a very Dolores Umbridge thing to do I think.

    Comment by Geoff J — January 4, 2008 @ 12:41 pm

  22. I’m starting to pay close attention to all my meetings for references to Christ as opposed to the list of things you should do and the warnings that if you don’t do them, you’re screwed.

    And you know, I hear the good stuff every once in awhile and the last two meetings I’ve been to have been spiritual for me because I’ve been listening for peoples testimony of Jesus.

    I’ve heard one guys testimony of the Savior and one lady in Relief Society. It was enough.

    Comment by annegb — January 7, 2008 @ 1:51 pm

  23. enough…for me to enjoy church that day. Not that I’m going to have fun, but I’m working on the worship part.

    Comment by annegb — January 7, 2008 @ 1:52 pm

  24. Amen to your post, Geoff. I haven’t read the comments, but one other reason I think some people complain about “theologizing” too much is that they take a very works-oriented view of the gospel—we should spend out time doing what we know rather than nit-picking about what we know. I’m more sympathetic to this view, but I think it’s ultimately more dangerous in it’s subtle, sheep-in-wolf’s-clothing view. That is, I think there is a deep-seated intellectual arrogance that pretends or thinks all the answers are clearly given. This denies the very notion of mysteries in scripture, and many other expressions of the importance of searching and seeking for truth. This might be putting the counter case too strongly, but I think we would do much better to think of building Zion as more of an intellectual and mental endeavor rather than a purely physical undertaking. Ultimately I think both aspects must be integrated, but I think there is far too many unthinking attempts to try and build Zion, and that these attempts ultimately fail b/c they don’t take God’s word—or the implicit call in God’s word to study and think—seriously enough. Kudos to your blog for being so consecrated to studying and pondering the mysteries of God, and happy birthday!

    Comment by Robert C. — January 14, 2008 @ 8:27 pm

  25. Thanks Robert.

    Comment by Geoff J — January 14, 2008 @ 9:08 pm

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