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The difference between most disaffected Mormons and me

September 24, 2011

Over at Back Rubs Lead to Front Rubs (p.s., one of the best blog titles ever…I wish I had a witty blog title), Amy has written about arriving at atheism. And particularly, of the different ways of arriving at atheism.

This is something I’ve noticed myself in the disaffected and former Mormon community, but quickly, you can tell a difference between ex-Mormons. Many people tell the story of being a devout Mormon (with an impressive resume of Mormon callings and whatnot), having a great testimony, etc., until they discovered some piece of Mormon history that unsettled everything. These people reasoned or read their way out. Kylie wrote about it thusly at We Were Going to Be Queens:

Almost all of the atheists or agnostics that I have had conversation with have been those that have left the church. Maybe we are a special crowd of people. We did not come to atheism or agnosticism by some random default or lack of thought. We did not just choose not to quit thinking about God or the mysteries of the world and declare, “I’m agnostic because that religion stuff just isn’t for me.” People who have left Mormonism and become atheist or agnostic have almost always done so through lots of study, reading, and critical logical thought… These are the atheists and agnostics that I am familiar with…

Kylie went on to describe, however, that she has met some agnostics and atheists who didn’t become that way as a result of reading, study, and critical thought…and as a result, these folks can often make some of the same fallacious arguments as anyone else. (But then again, can’t we all?)

But of course, Kylie’s post misses another option, which is what Amy wrote about:

I simply never believed in God (although I tried). When I left the church, I didn’t so much reason my way out of religion and god-belief as it just never “clicked” for me in the first place. Church history was like a cows opinionSo, I don’t really fit in with the “learning-church-history-destroyed-my-faith” crowd and, although I self-proclaim that I have always been an atheist, I don’t really fit in with the never-churched crowd either.

The same is true for me.

I think that our subjective experiences highly influence the way we think, and so we are often most prone to making fallacious or short-sighted arguments because we assume too much about our own experiences. As I conversing with Amy, I felt that she was (unwittingly) making such an argument:

…I’m okay with religious education so long as it follows a pattern like, “This is what I believe and I believe it because I’ve received a sort of peaceful feeling about it. But I don’t KNOW beyond a shadow of a doubt that it is true, because there is a difference between emotional evidence and physical evidence and I’ve never actually seen this thing I believe in…”

What I responded was that this position begs quite a few questions. It already assumes a particular epistemology that simply wouldn’t work for Mormons. Namely, that one can’t “know” things from “peaceful feelings.”

Such a statement might be entirely reasonable for someone who have never been convinced by the Mormon model, or even by someone who once was convinced by the Mormon model but “reasoned out” the flaws in it. But someone who believes would not be likely to say the above quote. Instead, their argument would be something closer to this:

“This is what I believe, and I believe it because the Spirit testified it to me, and that’s how I know, because the Spirit is a source of knowledge.”

Although of course, I’m aware of liberal-believing Mormons who would be able to inject the nuance that Amy’s above hypothetical testimony has…the issue is these liberal-believing Mormons get flak from more orthodox Mormons. Are they really believers? Whose side are they really on?

…In any case, as I was thinking about the above testimonies, I realized that these provide a really good example of the difference between ex-Mormons.

Most ex-Mormons would say:

“This is what I used to believe, and I believed it because the Spirit testified it to me, and that’s how I knew it was true, because the Spirit is a source of knowledge. Now, after reading, thinking, and evaluating philosophy, psychology, etc., I’ve come to believe there is a difference between emotional evidence and physical evidence, and that the emotional experiences are not a reliable basis of knowledge.”

In contrast, I would never be able to say that. In fact, I’ve never really had to go through an epistemological evaluation of feelings and emotions as most ex-Mormons probably have had. I’ve never really had to ask, “So, was what I felt all those years really the Spirit?” Instead, my process was something closer to:

“I never believed that, because I never had an experience of the Spirit testifying it. Unlike the other ex-Mormon, I’ve never had to study psychology/philosophy/epistemology to evaluate whether my spiritual experiences could be the foundation of knowledge. Instead, I’ve had to question a framework that asserts that anyone can have these spiritual experiences, and further, that these spiritual experiences are reproducible, repeatable and consistent. Because my experience has been they don’t.”

The interesting thing is that this leads to further differences still. For example, sometimes, people ask atheists the question, “What would it take you to believe in God?” (or, for ex-Mormons: “What would it take you to believe in the church?”) Different people have very different responses. I think that most ex-Mormons, because they’ve had to find a new way to account for what they used to call spiritual confirmations, tend to discount subjective experiences through and through. So, their answers tend to be things that call for objective evidence. (For the church: archeological evidence. Evidence that Nephites existed, that the plates actually existed, etc.)

On the other hand, for me, I have never had to “debunk” subjective experiences, so my answer to questions like these is always far simpler: I just would have to have something — anything — to make me feel convinced that it’s right. If I had an experience that I subjectively perceived to be spiritually confirming, then of course, I would believe. I’ve just never had anything that has triggered that subjective response.

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34 Comments
  1. I’m not convinced that people like you and Amy are in the minority of ex-Mormons (that I know of, i.e., active in Outer Blogness and/or /r/exmormon.) I think we need more data.

  2. Rats, kuri. As I was writing this post, I kept thinking, “You know, I don’t actually know whether most ex-Mormons are like the one kind or the other. I hope no one calls me out on that.”

  3. I never meant to imply that people from all sort so of backgrounds and previous experiences can’t fall into faulty thinking patterns and of course some people who leave Mormonism never believed at at all. That’s fine.

    Until recently I had not encountered an atheist who was not a critical thinker, not to say that you and Amy are not. I’ve been impressed by many things that you and Amy have both written.

  4. kiley,

    I didn’t mean to imply that I thought that you were referring to us. (but, for whatever it’s worth, I have met quite a few atheists who aren’t as critical of thinkers as they would like to believe.)

  5. June permalink

    I feel like I’m a mix of the two, although maybe leaning more towards your experiences. I’ve certainly never had to reason away any past spiritual experiences because there really haven’t been any. I never understood people who said they were feeling the spirit so strongly. But even if I were to have one of those overwhelming experiences today about the church, I don’t think I would hop back on the God train. I would definitely need objective evidence.

    • June,

      Thanks for commenting.

      My thought is that I don’t know if I could say with certainty that “I would definitely need objective evidence.” After all, if I’ve never had anything that I would call a spiritual experience, how can I be sure that if I experienced one, I wouldn’t “fall” for it?

      At the very least, I think I would take a decidedly liberal approach to it…kinda like if it were a drug-induced experience. Who cares what it comes from, as long as it makes me feel elevated? (…not advocating drug use here or anything. And I haven’t taken any drugs for the experience of it, so >_>)

  6. If you had an experience that you subjectively perceived to be spiritually confirming, then you would believe.

    Do you have any sense of what that experience would be? What you would be feeling/thinking? I think what you are saying is that you wouldn’t require objective evidence because you don’t discount emotional or spiritual ways of “knowing”. In which case, you and I differ in that I don’t trust my emotions to accurately reflect reality (and I have no idea what spirituality is if it isn’t just emotionality) while perhaps you do? Is that correct?

    So, an example…Say I read something someone else has written to me in an email and I have a subjective experience in response to what I’ve read, and I recognize my feeling as anger. My subjective experience of anger may seem to reflect some reality that the other person is a jerk or bully. But, in fact, it is entirely possible that I’ve understood what was written in a way that isn’t accurately reflecting what the other person thought and tried to express. I’ve misunderstood. Perhaps my initial recognition of my emotion isn’t entirely accurate either. Perhaps what I was actually feeling was more nuanced – maybe I’m indignant or hurt. Now, if I were telepathic, I would be able to accurately interpret the email and my subjective response would be totally different, I’d be amused or flattered because I’ve recognized that the email author intended the comment to be understood as sarcasm. But, I’m not telepathic, so I COULD allow my emotions to create a future reality in which I choose to no longer be friends with the email author going forward, if I accept my subjective experience as reality because I’ve been conditioned to do so. OR, I could choose to imagine the possibility that I’ve misunderstood and that my initial subjective experience does NOT reflect reality. I could take some time to investigate my own feelings, recognize the more nuanced emotions underlying the anger. Then, I could calmly ask my friend if she meant what I thought she did. She could then tell me that she was being sarcastic and actually meant the opposite of what I initially understood and my emotional response would then be completely different, and would accurately reflect the reality of what my friend intended to convey, and the friendship is maintained. Which would be preferable? For me, although I’ve not perfected this, I think it’s better to examine subjective experiences to determine if there is any possibility that I’m misinterpreting or incompletely interpreting, not only my own subjective experience, but the cause of it and it.

    In Mormonism, we are taught that the Spirit can be recognized by a burning in the bosom. So, we could have a burning in the bosom that we initially interpret as a feeling of peace or comfort because the Spirit is confirming something for us and we could then say that we know that confirmed thing is fact. In reality, it is formally possible that the burning in the bosom is a physiological response to an emotion that results from a thought (or hope) that originates in the brain. In other words the feelings and warm sensation in the chest – emotional and physical response – result from a thought that is completely our own (or maybe something others have inundated us with since our youths, in language that is absolute, “The Church IS True”), and are neither the direct result of The Spirit creating the physiological response nor the indirect emotional and physical response resulting from a thought telepathically inserted into the brain by The Spirit.

  7. I literally cannot fathom a subjective experience that I would not question. Am I overreacting? Hallucinating? Schizophrenic? Hungry? Malnurished? Tired? Having a Migraine? Lying to myself? Is there ANY conceivable natural explanation for this experience? And, if there is, I can’t why I would conclude that the cause is supernatural.

    • To summarize my really LONG response to your first comment (which can be found below), I’ll say this.

      Suppose that you have said subjective experience. Suppose that you questioned it with all the questions you asked. I would say, the final question is not, “Is there ANY conceivable natural explanation for the experience.” Because there are conceivable natural explanations that might not seem plausible.

      I think the final question is: which explanation seems to me to be the most plausible explanation for this experience? And I think that when you have “seems to me,” all of a sudden all objectivity is thrown out the window. It might be that a natural explanation seems to you to be the most plausible…but then again, it might not be.

      For whatever it’s worth, the natural explanation has made the most sense to me. All the religions I’ve studied just don’t make a lot of sense given what I experience and how reality looks to me. So I think what was a relief about realizing that I was an atheist all along was that I didn’t feel like I had to “force” a worldview that didn’t seem to explain reality to me. I didn’t have to come up with apologetic answers for the Book of Mormon that didn’t seem to me to fit how I perceived reality. Even things like good and evil made sense when I stopped trying to force an assumption that there was a divine force throughout it all. (I have said it before something like this: I think atheism is the most respectful thing I can do for God, if one actually exists. I respect God with atheism by not attributing a universe like this one to him/her/it.)

      I recognize, however, that I am not a rational being. I am a subjective being for whom rational explanations *often* make the most sense to me. (But in some cases, like math, rational explanations don’t make a lot of sense to me at all.) And so, because I am a subjective being, I can conceive that I could subjectively perceive something to be supernaturally caused. It hasn’t happened yet, but I don’t see any reason why it couldn’t happen, given what I know about the human brain.

  8. Sorry, I can’t IMAGINE why I would conclude the cause is supernatural.

  9. Hey everyone, sorry for not being available to approve all the pending comments. (But now that they are approved, future comments should automatically approve.) I’ll get to responding soon!

  10. Amy,

    Since I haven’t had such an experience, I can’t fathom what it would be like…I can only conceptualize that 1) since most human beings in the history of the world have had such an experience (and don’t NORMALLY come to question it), and that 2) since I really don’t consider myself entirely TOO different from most humans (although maybe it’s a possibility that people like us are “super human”? Alternatively, maybe we’re broken and missing a certain sense…?), then I tend to theorize that there COULD be some kind of experience that would affect me.

    My idea is that whatever experience, it would seem to me to be monumental and massive. (Notice how I write “seem to me.” Everything in these cases must focus on the subjective. It could objectively be meaningless and minimal…but for it to affect me, it only has to be perceived by me in such a way.) It would either bypass my current reservations or redefine those current reservations completely (see your comment regarding discounting emotional or spiritual ways of “knowing.” We discount these things because through whatever chain of reasoning we have employed, these things don’t convincingly seem to be a valid way of knowing. But once again, “convincing” and “seem” and things like that are all subjective affairs. We would like to believe that we are “convinced” by reason and evidence and data and things like this, but I believe that what’s more the case is that we are convinced by our *subjective recognition* of these things. So what if our internal experiences were changed to recognize subjective/emotional experiences as valid? At least theoretically, a “spiritual” experience would be able to do this without any problem. At the very least, the fact that the human mind has known faults means that this can happen even if there is no such thing as the spirit.)

    That all being said, I think that may be a point where we differ. Not in the sense that I think that an emotional experience is a valid way of knowing (e.g., I felt God -> therefore I know God exists). But that I think all knowledge comes to a subjective analysis (more like “I felt something, and it just made sense to me to call that God, so therefore I know God exists.) I’ve written about this variously on this site and others, but I’ll use a quick analogy to make my case. Let’s take a known, yet unintuitive mathematical fact, such as “.9999 repeating = 1.“) Even though this is objectively true, and there are objective proofs to show this, that doesn’t necessarily mean that anyone will “know” it. In fact, the only way they will “know” it is if they *subjectively* and *internally* feel that it “makes sense” or that it “seems right”.

    We would like to think that given the right proof, we’d accept it as true. But what happens over and over in things like math is that even after being shown the proof, or even after having it explained, some people are unlikely to believe. I am acutely aware of this because I am not a math person myself, so you can have some even more basic mathematical truths and I won’t “get them”. From realizing that knowledge and belief are subjective affairs, it’s easy for me to understand how people can believe or feel they “know” things that are untrue or unfounded…as well as not believe or not “know” things that ARE true. Because belief and knowledge (which are internal and subjective) are independent from the objective reality of a thing.

    Let’s take your email response example. I COMPLETELY agree that your emotional response doesn’t say anything about the intent that the other person had in writing. And in fact, that your emotional reaction can be processed over time. But that you have an emotional reaction and it seems real to you at the time is indisputable. The fact is that you have to change your actions (e.g., unfriend that person in an angry huff OR wait a day or two before responding OR re-evaluate your feelings), but you don’t directly change your subjective response…at best, it subjectively changes (e.g., if you wait a day, you’ll possibly find yourself being less angry…or maybe it’ll fester and you’ll be more angry.) The issue is that even actions which should seem to directly change your subjective response (re-evaluating your feelings) don’t necessarily have a direct impact (for example, you can’t just *choose* to see nuance. It’s possible that you will…but it’s also possible that you won’t.) In each case, you are always walking around this volatile subjective experience. It’s possible that, when you’re calmly asking your friend what she means, that you slip up and actually blow up at her. Because your “calmness” is not a natural emotion, but is an action of trying to fake it until you make it…because you’re actually ANGRY.

    Here’s why it’s important that you don’t actually change the subjective reactions you have directly. Because if you *were* able to perfect such an ability, then the question would be: why not NEVER be angry? Any time you were angry, you could just choose to see things another way and not be angry. But that’s not really how life works. You can try to see things another way, but still feel angry…because the original way you saw things (that made you angry) just seems more likely to be the case. (There’s that “seem” language creeping in again. It’s subjective.)

    So, moving on to the burning in the bosom. Of course it is always formally possible that the burning bosom is a physiological response, something of our own creation, not related to God or spiritual experience at all. But the question is: what seems more likely to a person at any given time? Apparently, millions of people think that what seems more likely is that it points to the truth of their (mutually exclusive and contradictory) religions.

  11. June,

    I never had anything I considered a spiritual experience that needed to be rationalized away. But, perhaps that’s because my threshold for considering something a spiritual experience is much higher than some others’. I can’t say for sure that I’ve never experienced something that would convince someone else and similarly I can’t say that I have. I haven’t felt anything seemed powerful or unique (different from other common emotional experiences) enough to convince me that it spiritual. So, maybe others felt something far more powerful or profound than I’ve experienced. Maybe I expect too much. I don’t a still small voice that I only hear in my head would convince me either. And if I had the sensation that I was actually hearing a whispering voice, I’d probably assume I was losing my grip on reality rather than say, “Oh, there it is, THAT’s the Spirit!” Hard to know.

    Andrew,

    I don’t think your choice of where to end your quotation of me was entirely fair, given that you accuse me of making a fallacious argument. What followed that… was, “Now, you are free to think or feel whatever you think or feel about my beliefs and if you also feel peace about it, and peace is sufficient for you to also believe it, that’s good. If you don’t feel peace about it or you aren’t able to believe it simply based on an emotional response to it, that is also good. What is important is that your thoughts and beliefs are your own.” I think this makes it pretty clear that I concede that some people are able to accept spiritual evidence as a means of gaining knowledge. That’s fine. I’m merely trying to say that others may not be able to believe based on spiritual evidence. I’m not making a statement for everyone about whether spiritual ways of knowing should be given credence. All I know is that, thus far, I haven’t experienced anything so profound to convince me that was supernatural or spiritual. Nor can I understand why anyone I’ve ever met is convinced by the experiences they have described for me that those experiences were spiritual. There seem to be natural explanations for these experiences. Speaking for myself, if there is a plausible natural cause, I’m not going to accept the supernatural option.

  12. Saying one cannot fathom something is not the same as ruling it out.

    This is all semantics. I’m convinced that we’re really saying the same thing but in different ways and not fully understanding each other. I acknowledge that I may be wrong, or incompletely correct. My point was that my problem with most religious education is that it does not acknowledge that it might be wrong or that it might be wrong for some people in some cases. Rather religious education more often sets up religion so that it cannot fail. “If you pray for a testimony (of God, or the historicity of the Book of Mormon, or that Joseph Smith was a true prophet) with a sincere heart and a contrite spirit, it will be given to you. But, if you don’t get the testimony, it’s not because something isn’t true or doesn’t exist. It’s because you didn’t pray with sufficient sincerity or because you’re unworthy or because you’re defective in some way (too skeptical or too doubting) that prevents you from receiving confirmation from the Spirit.” There is no allowance in that way of thinking for even the minutest possibility that whatever one is trying to gain a testimony of isn’t true or doesn’t exist. That sets people like me up for a world of guilt. And, I don’t think that loving parents, capable of critical thought, who are honest with themselves would or could or should teach a child to think that way. If circular logic is not innate, it shouldn’t be taught and if it is innate, the problems with it should be taught.

    And now, I am quite annoyed with myself and my over-explaining. So, if there is still more to be argued, I concede. You win.

    • I regret this is how the discussion ends. :/

      …For whatever it’s worth, I agree that the church works like you say it does. I dispute that that’s how all religions work, but for the LDS church, that’s how it works.

      I think it works that way because people are convicted. And if they are convinced, then it’s likely that they believe the ends justify the means. So even loving parents can fall prey to that. It’s just a matter of how convicted they are.

      So even if it causes heartache and guilt, that’s the reason I can’t really get angry at a lot of the *people* in the system. They are just trying to teach what they believe and what has given *them* a lot of happiness/joy.

  13. Amy,

    regarding the comment that begins…: I don’t think your choice of where to end your quotation of me was entirely fair, given that you accuse me of making a fallacious argument.

    Sorry for that. I think the argument is still fallacious with the extended quote, but in the future, I will quote more rather than less.

    My point was that your quote assumes things that would not be possible to be said for people not of your perspective. (In the post, I simply addressed that it assumes a particular epistemological difference that others don’t accept. Namely that there could be some people for whom there is a difference between emotional and physical evidence. This seems self-evident to you, but what I was trying to point out is that not only is this not self-evident to others, but it is anathema to their entire position.)

    The part of your quote that I truncated continues this assumption. It assumes that the person would just be able to say, “You are free to think or feel whatever you think or feel about my beliefs and if you also feel peace about it, and peace is sufficient for you to also believe it, that’s good. If you don’t feel peace about it or you aren’t able to believe it simply based on an emotional response to it, that is also good. What is important is that your thoughts and beliefs are your own.”

    But my argument is instead that for someone who is convicted in his perspective, this entire idea is anathema to the truth that he knows. He doesn’t have an open and compromising and expansive truth. He has a truth that demands particular things. It’s not important for him that your thoughts and beliefs are your own, but that they are (what he perceives to be) true.

    I think this makes it pretty clear that I concede that some people are able to accept spiritual evidence as a means of gaining knowledge. That’s fine. I’m merely trying to say that others may not be able to believe based on spiritual evidence.

    I understand that this is your position. But I’m saying that this is not the position of others and would not even be compatible for others’ positions.

    I’m not saying that your position is a bad one. What I’m saying is that it’s too reasonable where most people aren’t all that reasonable. It’s too flexible on an issue where most people aren’t that flexible. And that’s all my comment in the post was about. You’re assuming that people can be reasonable and flexible on a particular issue that they more than likely aren’t.

    Speaking for myself, if there is a plausible natural cause, I’m not going to accept the supernatural option.

    I agree. But I also think “plausibility” is a subjective judgment, and I can’t be so sure that there couldn’t be a time when I might subjectively perceive all natural causes to be implausible. I am not saying that I anticipate that will happen any time, but conceptually, I know that it’s a possibility.

  14. Having experienced the presence of Christ, I can’t imagine not having him in my life.

    I lost the Spirit in college, mainly because I couldn’t conceive that it was possible for me to be both gay and acceptable to God. And that loss of the Spirit, that feeling completely alone, was what drove me toward suicide.

    My ability to communicate honestly and meaningfully with God and to experience God’s presence and receive answers to my prayers was predicated on my own sense of wholeness; my ability to love myself and embrace every aspect of myself. Also, paradoxically I suppose, my ability to love myself and embrace every aspect of myself was made possible by God speaking to me and telling me of his unconditional love for me… I think the ability to know God exists is a gift of God. But at this point, I couldn’t deny him and live.

    It’s more than a feeling. Describing my relationship with God as a feeling would be on a par with telling me that my relationship with my partner consists of “a feeling.” I couldn’t reason my way out of my relationship with God any more than I could rationally convince myself my partner doesn’t really exist. Or it would be easier for me to convince myself that nothing exists than to convince myself that God doesn’t exist. Though I suppose there are exercises in philosophy that might allow me to do that… (“How do I know anything is real?” etc., etc.)

  15. Is love not “a feeling”? That doesn’t mean you can “reason your way out of it” or that feelings are “just” feelings, but it is a feeling.

    I openly admit I don’t have any idea, in any case.

  16. Of course love is a feeling… But a person is not a feeling and a relationship is not a feeling.

    I suppose we could know God exists and not love him… Actually, I think there are a few scriptures to that effect. Though knowing him, it is hard for me to imagine not loving him.

  17. I guess there are two issues at play. In the same way one could know God exists but not love him (re: Calvinism, basically…or going back further, things like the Marcion’s view of the Old Testament God), one could love God even if he does not exist.

    People can fall in love with nonexistent things, or fall in love with ideas that do not correspond with reality, etc.,

    I’m not trying to characterize your experience, because once again, I have no way of being able to grasp it enough even to begin discussing it, but in a more general sense, the argument for Goran’s (sorry; I don’t know how to do little accent dots) existence is not that you love him and are in a relationship with him. In fact, even though this love is extremely powerful for you, it is almost irrelevant for the rest of us…because we can’t pick your brain (although I really would love to…I really would like to know the experience of being in such a relationship that it seems more real than mundane existence itself.) The argument for his existence is that anyone can independently verify his existence without appealing to your feelings. (At least, I’m trusting that his FB is not an elaborate hoax. ;) )

    God doesn’t quite work the same way, unfortunately. Should he exist, he seems very comfortable with being selective in whom he reveals himself to, whom he allows to find him, etc.,

    And while it would even seem that a lot of people have experiences with God (so perhaps, even if we cannot objectively verify, we should be able to comparatively assess different subjective experiences), the problem is that people identify very different things, attribute different things, say that God has told them very different things. Maybe it’s like blind people feeling around an elephant, but maybe it’s people describing different things completely.

  18. Well, actually the problem of how you can know that Göran exists is, I think, a good analogy to the problem of how you can know that God exists… For you the evidence exists in the eye-witness, first-hand accounts of others. You may never meet my husband (though I’d be delighted for the two of you to make acquaintance some day), so you may always just have to take my word for it that he is not an elaborate Facebook hoax.

    I guess my original point (which you get, so I won’t belabor) is that if you have actually had first hand experience with God, it sounds trivial and inaccurate when other people chalk it up to nothing more than passing “feelings.” I know the difference between changing moods and an encounter with a real person.

  19. I agree with John. No one who has a transcendent experience labels that as mere feelings. The best description I have ever come across is in “The Brothers Karamazov,” at the end of Book Seven when Alyosha kisses the ground.

    As far as selectivity is concerned, I think timing needs to be considered. The Moroni promise is not like a vending machine where if you put in the correct change, the testimony just pops out right then.

  20. dpc,

    I am aware. Nevertheless, it doesn’t really help anyone else to even begin to grasp said transcendent experience.

    I think timing is another frustrating aspect of the Mormon mindset. Basically, any lack of response to the Moroni Promise or the Alma 32 experiment can be dismissed as, “You didn’t endure until the end of your trial of faith…”

  21. Andrew S,

    I think those who have had an experience can help others who have had a similar experience frame it or give added perspective. If you haven’t had that type of experience, then there’s no common basis for discussion unfortunately.

    That’s not my mindset with regard to timing. I think that some people will never experience a transcendent event in their life regardless of their faith level. And it’s not necessarily a patience thing either. But for those who haven’t, it doesn’t mean that you will never have one. Consequently, I think it premature for someone who hasn’t had such an experience to say that they don’t exist or that they don’t happen. I think you should at least be open to the idea that at some point in the future it might happen, even though I would suggest you don’t hold your breath waiting for it to happen.

  22. dpc,

    I think that some people will never experience a transcendent event in their life regardless of their faith level. And it’s not necessarily a patience thing either. But for those who haven’t, it doesn’t mean that you will never have one.

    Right. But depending on the way the particular theology approaches things, the explanation for why some people never experience transcendent events is going to be quite different. In an LDS system that emphasizes agency and emphasizes a pretty empirical, “Do this and this should be the result,” not experiencing such an event is a sign of the individual’s failure. They were doing it wrong, or not doing it long enough, etc.,

    I think a Calvinist system accounts for the reality of who experiences transcendent experiences (and how they affect people) better. (See also: name of this blog.)

    Consequently, I think it premature for someone who hasn’t had such an experience to say that they don’t exist or that they don’t happen. I think you should at least be open to the idea that at some point in the future it might happen, even though I would suggest you don’t hold your breath waiting for it to happen.

    This matches my perspective (down to not holding my breath as well). For whatever it’s worth, I try to avoid saying, “x doesn’t exist/happen.” or even “I believe x doesn’t exist/happen.” Instead, at the strongest, I say, “I don’t believe x exists,” which is more simply a statement of where I am at my current state that it is a statement of what is out there.

  23. When people talk about having a ‘relationship’ with God, I think of Objectum Sexuals. They fall in love with inanimate objects, and they’re convinced that the objects of their affection are in some sense sentient.

    Interestingly, Objectum Sexuals – they call themselves OS people – believe their love with the objects are reciprocal and that they can telepathically communicate with them.

    Rings a few bells, doesn’t it?

  24. Personally, I can’t see it as failure when individuals don’t have transcendent experiences. Maybe Mormon culture sees things that way, but I say screw Mormon culture. I don’t care for it.

    The more scriptural way to understand this is that different people simply have different gifts… Some have gifts of knowledge, others have gifts of faith. That’s just the way it is. It’s not a failing to have one gift but not others… The scriptural understanding of why that is the case is because we collectively are one body. No one person has all the gifts, because part of the purpose of our experience down here is to learn to hang together. We become interdependent by learning to rely on others in areas where we are weak, and letting others rely on us in areas where we are strong.

    Andrew has gifts that the Church needs, that it will be weaker for not having him a part of it… Just as I and dpc and others have gifts that Andrew will be weaker for not hanging with us… That’s just the way it is. It’s a good thing, not a failing.

  25. Not all body parts are the same though. I mean, there are some body parts that people are going to love to talk about. People love to write about the brain and the heart. There are poems and metaphors for the brain vs. the heart.

    But other organs and body parts only seem to have any importance at all when they aren’t working right. And then, all we do is complain about them and their dysfunction.

  26. “And the eye cannot say unto the hand, I have no need of thee: nor again the head to the feet, I have no need of you.”

  27. You missed what I was saying.

    It’s about perception. The eye won’t say to the hand, “I have no need of thee.” But no one even begins to talk about the liver in the first place…until it malfunctions (and then, the only reason they talk about it is to whine about it). No one writes poetry extolling the virtues of “following the kidney” as they do for “following your heart” or “following your brain.” In fact, your kidneys don’t even get a metaphorical grounding for some other trait.

  28. “Nay, much more those members of the body, which seem to be more feeble, are necessary: And those members of the body, which we think to be less honourable, upon these we bestow more abundant honour; and our uncomely parts have more abundant comeliness. For our comely parts have no need: but God hath tempered the body together, having given more abundant honour to that part which lacked: That there should be no schism in the body; but that the members should have the same care one for another.”

    Some people get to play a showy role in the body, others don’t… That’s the whole point. Nobody talks about their liver, but try doing without one!..

    The whole point of his talk, I guess, is that we should honor one another equally, recognizing that every part is needed…

  29. We should change our perception… Which is why I say, Forget Mormon culture — especially when it’s unscriptural.

  30. What I’m saying (since you still didn’t get it in the first reply but you kinda did in your second reply) is that, even if we accept that all body parts are necessary, we don’t value them the same. You need your liver, but you treat it like, well…chopped liver.

    Fortunately, since livers aren’t conscious, this isn’t so bad. But to say that people themselves have different gifts in a body of a church has considerably different implications. The person who is the liver, even though they have an essential role, gets a bad end of the deal.

    So, I think there is some contradiction between what you say in your second response comment and what you say in your first…I’m thinking of:

    We should change our perception… Which is why I say, Forget Mormon culture — especially when it’s unscriptural.

    as opposed to

    Some people get to play a showy role in the body, others don’t… That’s the whole point.

    So, you want to say that we should change our perception…but then, you also say that the status quo perception is *the whole point*. Some gifts deserve to play a showy role. So even though they are all equally important, some organs are more equal than others. Or…consider the church’s position that men and women are different, but “equal” in terms of complementing each other. It doesn’t matter how much you point out that women are necessary and should be treated equally when the system actually seems to perpetuate men having a “showier role,” or having a role that effectively does more, has more power, has more of a voice, whatever. You say this is culture and unscriptural, but even you pointed to scripture, talked about the differential in “showiness,” and said “that’s the entire point”

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