Last post I tried to disentangle and nail down the type of intellectualism which is not compatible with Mormonism. Briefly, Mormonism is not against us being good at using our intellect nor is it against us enjoying using our intellect for various purposes. What Mormonism is against, however, is us believing, speaking or acting as if our intellect were the universal and indispensable judge of what we ought to believe, say or do. Whereas the intellectual holds that the unexamined life is not worth living, the faithful Mormon places little importance in knowing the reasons for doing some things, save the Lord hath commanded it. Having articulated a Mormon perspective on intellectualism, I would now like to switch gears and articulate the intellectual perspective on Mormonism. While I will eventually argue in future posts that intellectualism fiercely rejects priesthood authority, in this post I want to show the compatibility of intellectualism with prophecy. (more…)
The first priesthood blessing I gave terrified me. How does one, exactly, pull inspiration out of the air and give a blessing? No one ever described this to me; they just said it’ll happen. But I had no idea of how the words would come to me.
We can divide priesthood blessings into two components: the procedure, and the mechanics. We’re really good at discussing blessing procedure; that is, the steps to giving a proper blessing. But how does one pick the words they use? That’s the mechanics.
Below are some of my observations on priesthood mechanics, including an explanation of how I seek out inspiration in a blessing.
Do the Words Matter?
Firstly, do the words even matter in a blessing? Elder Oaks pointed out that in healing blessings, the recipients faith and God’s will, not the verbiage used, determine the outcome. So why should we fret about what to say? The words serve at least two functions in a blessing. First, when the priesthood holder echoes God’s will, the words enliven the spiritual environment where the blessing is given. I think that this can give the recipient confidence in God’s power to heal. Second, inspired words can help the recipient receive personal revelation.
A basic distinction which I draw in my attempts to undermine intellectualism, a distinction which I think serves to highlight the contingent nature of the intellectual’s values, is between a pre-modern/religious worldview and a modern/secular worldview. Very briefly, the ways in which statements and actions are justified within a pre-modern, religious worldview include appeals to authority, tradition and revelation. By contrast, within a modern-secular worldview statements and actions are justified by appeals to egalitarianism, logical coherence and empirical data. So many of the debates in the bloggernacle can profitably be construed as a competition as to which of these worldviews is the uniquely right way to view some phenomenon.
I assume that most people in the bloggernacle are aware of the Liahona/Iron Rod distinction wherein those who surrender personal responsibility by following the prophet (like the Iron Rod) are contrasted with those who accept a more robust kind of responsibility by following their own spiritual promptings (like a Liahona). This metaphorical distinction, I submit, is nothing but the philosophies of men mingled with scripture – a clever sophistry which serves to undermine the prophets by democratizing priesthood authority. (more…)
One of the authors which has greatly influenced my present ambivalence toward intellectuals and academia is the sociologist Alvin Gouldner. In this post I would like to briefly summarize his critical perspective on academia and then use this perspective in order to reframe various points and episodes from the scriptures.
Before I proceed, I should clear up (muddle up would probably be more accurate) my use of some terms. I have and will continue to use the terms “academia”, “intellectuals”, “scientists”, “philosophers” and “those with a modern mindset” roughly interchangeably. I consider all of these (sub-)groups to be different manifestations of what Gouldner call the Culture of Critical Discourse (CCD). (more…)
Suppose that the office at which you and 99 other people work asks each of you to individually write down the directions from your respective houses to the office. Suppose further that from these accounts – and only from these accounts – somebody then tries to make a detailed map. How reliable should we expect such a map to be? What purpose should such a map serve that the directions themselves could not? What details should we expect to find in the written directions but not in the map (or vice versa)? Most importantly, which would you rather have if you were simply trying to get to the office from some person’s house? (more…)
Editor Note: This guest post was submitted by one of our oldest friends here at New Cool Thang, Jeffrey Gilliam.
For the past few months, I have been struggling with some issues which are very close and dear to my heart. Put bluntly, my faith has been called into question. I find myself overwhelmed with suspicion and doubt, unable to trust so many of the values and beliefs which have become almost second nature to me. I also bear a peculiar mix of pity and resentment for those who have led me astray. While I have concluded that many of the pursuits which I have dedicated myself to most passionately have largely been a waste of time, my feelings are not entirely negative. I do recognize that I will forever treasure the experiences and relationships I have cultivated within the fold from which I now wish to distance myself. More than anything, however, I now face the unknown future with an optimism unlike anything I’ve experienced before, an optimism born of knowing that I am making the right choice.
For those few bloggers who have been interacting with me for the better part of a decade now, this song should sound somewhat familiar to you. You see, this is not the first time that I have abandoned my faith. Roughly 6 years ago, I stunned my friends, family and (at the time) wife by announcing that I no longer believed in God and would no longer continue as a believing Mormon. Various considerations which I will lump together under the banner of “Liberal Science” had persuaded me that the religion of my upbringing was not true and, therefore, must be rejected. (more…)
About three years ago I was listening to a Sunstone Symposium recording (a “Pillars of my Faith” talk) given by John Kesler where he talked about his conversion to the gospel after being an atheist for quite a while. He also mentioned that later in his life as a member of the church he started meditating with a Zen Buddhist which led him to feel incredible love and connection with God, which has also allowed him to occasionally hear God’s voice. He also described the experience as training one’s thoughts and gaining self mastery. As a result, I was intrigued with the concept of meditation as a spiritual practice and decided to look into it some more.
I found out that meditation is a part (or has been a part) of the spiritual practice of Buddhists, Christians, Muslims, Hindus, etc. for thousands of years. I started paying attention to the use of the word meditation in the correlated materials and the word is often used in conjunction with prayer, scripture study, and fasting as a means to feeling God’s presence and experiencing personal revelation. However, the context that I believe most Mormons use the word is often synonymous with the concept of pondering, or thinking deeply about something; rather than as a systematic mental exercise. The spiritual practice of meditation in other traditions seems to be somewhat different than what I think Mormons do (though it may still be parallel in some regards).
I have been thinking about the core of a sure testimony of the restored gospel. It seems to me that a truly solid testimony of Mormonism must be based on personal revelation from God confirming a couple of things:
1. That God exists and is worthy of worship and emulation, and
2. That God inspired the founding of Mormonism and is currently guiding the church
That’s it. I submit that all the other stuff people focus on in publicly expressed testimonies is less core than these two.
I reckon that if one can personally communicate with God and have God convince them of those two things, one should be sufficiently anchored to handle anything that might otherwise shake their faith in the gospel. Further I think that if one can at any time turn to God and confirm 1 and 2 above one should be permanently inoculated against any surprises one comes across.
Of course if one cannot break through and receive any revelation from God at all then there are bigger problems to deal with than any other issues one has with Mormon culture/history/practices.
Sterling McMurrin said in his classic little Mormon theology book that the the Mormon view of reality has a “humanistic quality unusual in theistic philosophy”. Humanism and Theism do indeed seem to be unusual companions — especially in recent centuries. But in the early days of the the humanism movement it was not so unusual to combine the two.
I have long suspected that some of our creedal Christian friends have inadvertently begun worshiping the Bible itself in place of, or at least in addition to, the living God. Recently Aaron Shafovaloff (of the Fluffy Bunny Nice Nice Club) seems to have confirmed that suspicion for me in his case at least.
We were discussing how he knows the Bible is the word of God over at his blog and he kept saying things that made no sense at all to me. I kept asking things like “Did God tell you it is true or not”? And he kept saying things like “No, not in the way Mormonism talks about this â€œyesâ€ answer.” Well his last comment finally started clearing up this issue for me. Here are some of his quotes: (more…)
Julie put up an interesting post over at T&S asking “Are Women More Spiritual Than Men?” This question has come up at several Mormon blogs recently and it has become pretty clear to me that before we can answer it we need to define the word “spiritual”. So what does spiritual mean to you? (more…)
God sometimes tells us no when we ask him for assistance or intervention on various things. Sometimes the “no” answer is very clear. Sort of like the big ol’ “no” that the ancient prophet Mormon got when he prayed that his people might repent and be spared:
2 But behold, I was without hope, for I knew the judgments of the Lord which should come upon them; for they repented not of their iniquities, but did struggle for their lives without calling upon that Being who created them. (Mormon 5: 2)
On a recent thread, RT made the following comment:
I think the Spirit rarely gives propositional knowledge; it instead gives experience and comfort. The Spirit primarily reveals God as a being, we get to know God and Jesus Christ through the Spirit, as the New Testament suggests â€” note that the phrase is know as in become acquainted with, not know about as in have propositional knowledge regarding. Knowing someone involves joint emotional experience and the development of empathy, not the acquisition of true sentences. The Spirit likewise is called the Comforter because we receive Godâ€™s love, compassion, and comfort through it. Again, none of these involves propositional knowledge. (RT in this comment)
RT asks us to imagine a scenario in which a person has feelings which are spiritually meaningful, but carry no content with respect to propositions. After some time and effort, I have been unable to imagine such a scenario. (more…)
I have been diverting myself by debating with several of Zelophehad’s Daughters and their friends over the past few days. The ZDers are mostly a group of intelligent and well-educated Mormon women (many of whom are actually sisters) who like to talk about, well, Mormon women’s issues. After two too-long threads we arrived at a disagreement on what what the ultimate “trump card” (their term) is when it comes to understanding metaphysical truths (aka the ultimate realities of existence).
The general topic of the latest debate specifically was this subject: Is God a sexist? In other words, does God see women as the property or possessions of their husbands?
(No, I’m not kidding. Some of them really are deeply concerned that this is the case. I can only imagine how distressing taking such a metaphysical nightmare seriously would be.) (more…)