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Anomalies and Miracles

January 19, 2009

I have been wondering how to respond to a particular post, if indeed I should respond at all. Sometimes, I respond only on this blog because I don’t want to derail the discussion that’s happening at the original location of the blog (so blog authors, if I link to you, don’t be worried…even if I disagree with you). The particularly puzzling post: Stephen Marsh’s “Anomaly” at Mormon Matters.

It at first seemed like some general kind of post that might have some kind of statement that I disagree with, but which is no big deal. He calls it a “reliable miracle” that if you read the Book of Mormon and pray about it, you should feel the spirit. I don’t necessarily doubt it’s a “reliable miracle” in the church’s eyes — given how there’s Moroni’s Challenge, but it is just one place that raises questions: what happens if you read the Book of Mormon, pray about it, and don’t feel the spirit? What if you feel, on the other hand, that stupor of thought?

I don’t think Stephen would take this position, but some members I have talked to would suggest that this is impossible. It just doesn’t register that this could happen. Because if they accepted that it was possible, then that would be a way, by their own discerning guidelines, for the BoM to be disconfirmable.

More often people will suggest that if one doesn’t feel the spirit, it is because of a problem with that person. They must not be “ready” to feel the spirit because of some transgression or sin that they have to get over. Perhaps they are prideful and don’t want to humble themselves? Whatever the case, the church has a very good and clever way of being able to bind the blame to the reader. Problem exists between book and chair.

A slightly more nuanced answer is of course to confront the scriptures. Some, in a more reassuring way, will acknowledge that it is possible to read the scriptures and not have the ‘classic’ responses — they will say that people are given different gifts. To some it is given to know that Jesus Christ is the Son of God and to others it is given to discern spirit and to others it is given merely to believe by the words of others (that sounds lame to me, but what do I know?). And, the cleverest statement of all: even if one does not yet believe, one is counseled to desire to believe…and of course, endure to the end in such a desire. It’ll work out eventually. (OK, this one is a low blow and I’m a terrible person, as you’ll see soon enough).

But even though this might be enough for a post of its own, Stephen raised a more disquieting example:

As a child in Alaska I knew a Native American family who joined the church and then physically turned whilte [sic].

The first thing I wanted to say was: “pics or it didn’t happen.” But at the same time, I assumed that he had seen the before-and-after with his own eyes, so at best, it would be my skepticism vs. his eyes. (The comments suggest that even that might be the full case.)

If you didn’t realize…the Mormon church has historically had run-ins with racial issues. Early Book of Mormon passages and words from General Authorities claimed that race might be due to a curse or less valiant behavior. And eventually, certain cursed members (such as Native American “Lamanites”), if they came to the church, could become “white and delightsome.”

There’s been damage-control over the years. Words have been changed to pure and delightsome, doctrines have been put under the rug (some of those general authorities just spoke with limited understanding…is all), and it seems we were about to go on with our lives.

But I have several wonders…do people…really still think about this? Would someone really view a Native American or a Black person turning “white” as something miraculous? I mean, would another church even have that come up as even hearsay? So, I want to just be incredulous of Marsh’s accounts, but I wonder how many members still think in these terms. I’ve had more than enough elderly members assure me that I *too* could be white and delightsome someday (awkward), and I’ve just kinda smiled and sweated out the situation. But I’d like to give members the benefit of the doubt that the vast, vast, vast majority don’t think that’s even an issue. And I’m sure Marsh didn’t mean anything from this, considering past articles. But in the end, I’d like to think that more people (white or black) could think like Brenda comments.

Oh, Stephen! You have brought us all a tradition of Annoying False Doctrines articles! Please don’t let the delicious ironing be so steamy!

Delicious Ironing

Delicious Ironing

From → Uncategorized

  1. I realized part of the problem was that people were reading it as “whilte [sic]” and therefore as some sort of racial transformation, rather than just becoming lighter.

    At least you caught the fact that I had posted earlier about the false doctrine of correlating skin color to merit — so that you realized that wasn’t the point.

    The point, of course, was that anomaly happens, but that when it does, it is a mistake to generalize from it. Then a number of people did exactly that — they generalized from the example and came to conclusions exactly the way I was suggesting that people should avoid doing. — I’m glad you liked the article enough to link to it.

    The true irony, of course, is an example I used to illustrate why one should not generalize from a specific matter to the general was used to do just that.

  2. yeah, when I saw your comment 31 at MM, I realized there was something amiss. (it’s just an unfortunate association that looms over the church).

    I still think, though, that regardless of the irony and the generalization, that there were some meaningful points that sprung forth from the discussion. Particularly…concerning the connotations of “miracles.” If, for example, the spawn of some demonic entity sprung forth from a babboon and terrorized France…this might well be unexplainable, but it wouldn’t be “miraculous”..and for good cause. (It also fits in an example of when one ought not generalize from a specific matter, but somehow, I think this issue pales in comparison to the connotation idea).

  3. I think Mormon General Authorities pirated most of their theories about the “Mark of Cain” and the “Curse of Ham” from their Southern Baptist contemporaries.

    Of course, Evangelicals will never admit this.

    I find it rather interesting that the Wikipedia entry on “Curse of Ham” has an entry on Mormonism almost as long as the rest of the article. But almost NOTHING on Protestants.


    Looks like someone’s been trying to rewrite history.

  4. ^yeah, I had definitely read up and heard about that, which is actually why it was surprising for me to hear criticisms from Southern Baptist friends about Mark of Cain/Curse of Ham. It was kinda funny in a macabre sense, but I wanted to say back (and even now, to an extent) then, “If you’re going to say the church is racist, at least get your racist doctrines straight…” or at the very least, “Pot, kettle, white and delightsome, etc.,” It just irks me that antis so often use really lame criticisms of the church like the Curse of Ham, etc., If I were an anti, I’d show them how it’s really done!

    but don’t worry about that happening!

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