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Why doesn’t Moroni’s Promise work for everyone?

March 28, 2010

It seems like a done deal. You get to try the product before you buy, and there’s a money-back guarantee if you buy. If you aren’t satisfied, then all money will be returned.

But, the last laugh seems to be for the seller. For he knows that the product will always satisfy. So, he never has to give any money back. He has the perfect product.

At least theoretically, the Book of Mormon is designed to operate in the same way. Read it; you’ll like it. Or so it goes. And yet…it doesn’t always work out. Moroni’s Promise…the famous section of the Book of Mormon present in Moroni 10: 3-5…invites us to ask God, after we have read the words in the Book of Mormon, if these words aren’t true. According to Moroni (and the church), the Holy Ghost will manifest the truth of the Book of Mormon to us.

Yet…this doesn’t always happen. So, the question is: Why doesn’t Moroni’s Promise work for everyone?

Now, I’m sure ex-mormons, nonMormons, and neverMormons have some particular answers for this question…but the other day, I was browsing to see some faithful members’ responses. I was intrigued by the diversity of opinion.

The original poster of the topic that asked the question had her own proposed answer. She expressed it through a quotation of Orson F. Whitney (through Ezra Taft Benson…so apparently this quotation has relatively recent and relatively not-so-recent support):

“Perhaps the Lord needs such men on the outside of His Church to help it along. They are among its auxiliaries, and can do more good for the cause where the Lord has placed them, than anywhere else. … Hence, some are drawn into the fold and receive a testimony of the truth; while others remain unconverted … the beauties and glories of the gospel being veiled temporarily from their view, for a wise purpose. The Lord will open their eyes in His own due time. God is using more than one people for the accomplishment of His great and marvelous work. The Latter-day Saints cannot do it all. It is too vast, too arduous for any one people. … We have no quarrel with the Gentiles. They are our partners in a certain sense.”

So, in other words, some people aren’t convinced by the Book of Mormon because they aren’t meant to be. They have anothe role, another purpose. It’s All God’s Plan (TM). See also: The Jack Clause for this same idea with one of our favorite commenters, Jack.

The interesting thing about this answer is that it truly highlights God’s sovereignty. Now, I’m sure many believers talk about God’s sovereignty, but until recently (with my brush-ins with our Calvinist commenter, ChristianClarityReview), I hadn’t taken another look at how far it could go.

CCR’s contention was that free will was a hoax. An illusion. A deception. This obviously doesn’t work very well for Mormonism, which places free will highly in the plan of salvation and other theological frameworks.

So, how could this comment remind me of CCR?

Well, from reading more about calvinism, it seemed to me that most Calvinists (the non-CCR kind) have a view that could accept some kinds of free will…but not others. Humans have free will in the sense that we can choose actions. However, we don’t have free will in the sense that our choices are bound by our nature. Since our nature is depraved, fallen, and sinful, our actions and inclinations will be to sin. As a result, we cannot freely and neutrally choose to defy our nature…rather, we need something or someone to rewrite our nature so that we can make different choices.

That something or someone is God, the Calvinist would say.

Whitney’s quote expresses the same sentiments, but it masks the principal agent (that is, God) somewhat through passive voice. Whitney says that “some are drawn.” Who does the drawing? God. Others remain unconverted…why? God.

And who will unveil at the right time? Whitney explicitly states this one: it is the Lord. God is at the helm. Etc., etc.,

…so, mystery solved, right?

Well…you didn’t really think that would be the case, did you?

What was interesting was how others came and offered different explanations. Their explanations redirected the “blame” from God and moved it elsewhere…that is, to the individuals themselves.

Many of the others defended Moroni’s Promise, saying that God never fails on his part. However, the human part of the promise is a bit more involved than is commonly thought:

Because Moroni’s promise involves more than “read and pray about it”. That’s a gross simplification of the actual promise.

1- receive these things
2- ask God if these things are not true
3- in the name of Christ
4- ask with a sincere heart
5- with real intent
6- having faith in Christ

If you have all six of those things, then ‘he will manifest the truth of it unto you, by the power of the Holy Ghost’.

So, if you’ve done these 6 things, then it’s guaranteed. God will manifest the truth of the BoM to you.

Another poster raised an interesting point in interpretation:

The last one is probably the most difficult for many people. The BoM assumes that the reader is already a Christian. For anyone else, the promise isn’t a lot of use; it would be like telling a Christian he could get a testimony of the truth of the Koran by praying to Allah in the name of Mohammed, and having faith in Mohammed.

But even this was a relatively tame answer. Quickly, answers began to blame the individual (whether an individual was blaming his former self or a hypothetical other). For example,

I think you guys are right are about a the asking with real intent, meaning that you want to be forgiven of your sins and be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ by those with the proper authority and receive the Gift of the Holy Ghost. Some folks don’t want the Church to be true because then they will have to change their lives, others doubt their ability to be true to the Church and their intent falters.

In other words…this intent part…matters. And not only that, but it is the major human factor. People for whom we think Moroni’s promise has failed actually failed to utilize the promise correctly. Maybe they don’t want the church to be true. Maybe they doubt their ability to follow through. And so on.

This kind of answer, which reemphasizes human free will, can be appealing. It meshes better with LDS ideas about choice and agency, whereas the other answer can be offputting (one commenter suggested that such a view of God as “manipulating the well-intentioned seekers of truth” was “machiavellian.”)

At the same time, the free will response offers a more easily grasped answer. Instead of, “God works in mysterious ways,” someone can say, “You did it wrong.” And even if you think you’re “doing it right,” people can always say, “Well, you have to endure to the end!” Deferring to God’s ways means deferring to something we don’t necessarily have access to. Deferring to human free will, on the other hand, allows us to defer to something we have plenty of experience with.

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  1. This is the aspect of my doubt that troubled Mormons the most. I was active, I was trying, I was exercising all the sincere faith I could, and all this over the space of years, and I didn’t get the answer.

    The cool thing about it was that because I personally knew I was doing it right, it gave me permission to doubt more. If God didn’t fulfill his side of the contract, I wasn’t obligated to hold to mine.

  2. John,

    I’ve seen this as being a common thread. What’s most interesting is when people you personally know well and interact with see what you’re going through. After all, on the internet, it’s easy to dismiss someone’s doubt and say, “Well, you aren’t SERIOUS. You’re HIDING something.” (I’m sure you’ve had plenty of comments like that…) But when someone you personally know hears your story and they know what kind of person you are, they can’t so easily dismiss what you say.

    For me, I had the sense that “doing it right” (e.g., according to leaders, scriptures, etc.,) not only didn’t get the answer, but it gave me a bad answer, made me feel miserable. So, I still had some doubts that I was doing it right to begin with. One day, though, I asked myself: what if I stopped trying to force it? What if I just lived my life?

  3. The really interesting thing was when an investigator of mine in the mission field prayed and got a spiritual witness that the Book of Mormon was wrong. What does a missionary say to that? Well, exactly what we said: Repeat the test until you get the answer that we think you should get!

    I wish people who didn’t get an answer would take it as a failed hypothesis. Instead, they listen to members telling them to keep trying; you must be doing something wrong.

    I’ve sometimes thought that it seems risky for the church to bank so much on ‘subjective confirmation as conversion strategy’, but I guess it’s not surprising — it’s built in to the church’s origin story in the form of Joseph Smith’s prayer. And not everyone will have a big spiritual experience, but enough people will, and probably just the sort of amateur mystics who would do well in the church.

  4. Daniel,

    I used to think that the subjective confirmation as conversion strategy was risky too…but then I realized that the church has so many aces up the sleeve.

    As you mentioned…people can always say keep trying. “Endure to the end.”

    Or. if that doesn’t work, then someone can just say you don’t have the gift to know.

  5. Or define the kind of ‘answer’ they should expect so broadly that virtually any feeling would qualify.

    Or, failing all else, say that it doesn’t matter because the church teaches so many good things that it must be true. “I realised that I didn’t need a big experience — I knew it was true all along.”

  6. Interestingly enough, I nearly took the last option. I had always believed that the church gives a good practical foundation, even if I couldn’t believe any of the spiritual stuff or the truth claims…so I thought the church was *good*, at the very least.

    Then came around prop 8. And I realized that what I believed about the church’s practical and organizational prowess was 100% true. But if you don’t have a good cause, it’s all for naught.

  7. The quote from Orson F. Whitney sounds a lot like The Jack Clause.

  8. I know, right!

    Obviously, Orson F. Whitney was truly prophetic to predict the Jack clauses existence before you were even born! And that’s why the church is trur 😀

  9. It always makes me curious when one person tries to explain the spiritual experiences (or lack thereof) of another person. To use an age-old cliche that has long lost its effectiveness… it’s hard enough to describe what “salty” tastes like to me. How can I describe what “salty” tastes like to someone else? It’s a question that barely makes sense.

    Maybe the psychologist in me might think that the way that our brains interface with the spiritual realm differs from one person to the next. In the same way that I will never, ever understand mathematics, only because “that part of my brain,” whatever it is, just can’t access that realm, wherever it is. Certain mathematicians “feel” something when they do math. Some mathematicians like Franklin Merrell-Wolff said that they could achieve transcendent modes of thought when he did mathematics, and he could then see the whole Universe and his relationship to it. He said he could turn his outflow of consciousness around by pi radians (or something) and was able to experience his consciousness without an object. I will never, ever be able to do that, partly because I just don’t “get” what pi is. Not through lack of trying. My brain just can’t do it.

    The question then is not, “Why doesn’t Moroni’s Promise work for everyone?” The question becomes, “Why are people’s brains different?” The answer then is much simpler.

    But Brother Joseph said we’ll be judged based on what we have, not what we don’t have. Meaning there won’t be a math test to get into the CK (hopefully).

    Just my thoughts.

  10. Thanks for the comment Syphax

    I tend to agree with you in general – the question really points to another question: “Why are our brains different?”

    However, I noticed one direction you went throughout youe post that is a bit different than the way I go. Your position seems to be something of what I like to cal the “radio receiver” position. To summarize, your post seems to imply that there is an objectively existing spiritual realm somewhere…and the difference is that some brains can tune into that frquency and receieve those messages…but other brains are not tuned in, so they can’t.

    My opinion is a bit different. Rather, every reaction from our brain is engineered from the brain. The mathematician who reaches a transcendant state from math doesn’t show that math has some transcendant property within it that he is simply fortunate to tune into…Rather, he shows that his brain perceives and projects such transcendance onto math…Math becomes a tool or primer to unlock something within his brain..not the other way around, with his brain unlocking or tuning into a mystical qualit inherent within math.

    I suppose the difference of interpretation here isn’t too too bad, but I think that the radio receiver position can imply that some people are “broken” (e.g., if your radio can’t tune into a frequency, you get it fixed or get a new one)

  11. I suppose the difference of interpretation here isn’t too too bad, but I think that the radio receiver position can imply that some people are “broken” (e.g., if your radio can’t tune into a frequency, you get it fixed or get a new one)

    A materialist interpretation doesn’t imply that some people are “broken?” A person with schizophrenia isn’t “broken?” I’m not sure the Truth (if we ever decide what it is) is the thing that makes the most warm and fuzzy implications anyway.

    I describe Wolff’s introception as the accessing of an objective, transcendent reality only because that’s how he described it. Whether or not it is an objective reality isn’t really up to us, is it?

    Your position is that Wolff’s experiences were engineered solely on his brain. Mine is simply that we take his interpretation when we’re describing his personal experiences.

    Maybe one day neuroscientists or physicists will be able to explain all aspects of consciousness completely, and then I might be persuaded to interpret my own experiences through their theory. If you can do that, trust me, I’m all ears. It would really, really help my application to graduate school.

  12. Materialism doesn’t imply that some people, even people with schizophrenia, are broken. You can instead thank a hyperactive psychiatric and psychological field bent on making everyone and everything the same for that.

    Or, we could go a bit of a different route. Ask individuals if they would perceive their brain functioning as dysfunctional. With a caveat…the dysfunction can’t merely be, “dysfunction as greater societ sees it.”

    I would suppose that you would find that some people with so-called disorders actually do not personally find any disorder. Their disorderliness is…again..*perceived* and *projected* by society.

    Which is a far cry from “objective disorderliness”.

    Don’t confuse the truth with the subjective. The truth isn’t about warm and fuzzies, but life is.

    Feel free to interpret your own experiences through your own theory. That is exactly what you must do. After all, that is your subjectivity, what you perceive and project…I have no desire to try to convince you otherwise, if you are perfectly happy to believe what you believe.

    I’m just suggesting that you could step on a few toes, and you might not like the consequences of that. Or maybe you do.

  13. linescratchers permalink

    I don’t get how you can tell me about stepping on a few toes while in the same post explicitly mischaracterizing the entire psychological profession. We both know that your characterization of psychology as a hyperactive institution that is just trying to make everyone and everything the same isn’t accurate, don’t we?

    Do psychologists try to “fix” gay people and make them straight? Absolutely not. Do psychologists try to “fix” visual learners as opposed to tactile learners? Does it try to fix introverts and make them extroverts? None that I know. I’m not sure where you’re getting your ideas about psychology.

    If you’re talking about people who see their “delusions” as enjoyable, but also pose no harm that would cause society to take steps to protect itself, then most psychologists wouldn’t feel the need to treat that person unless that person came to them and asked for help. Psychologists don’t go tracting for patients, and psychology isn’t really a free service anyway.

    Aside from that, I guess I’m just not seeing how materialism avoids the “broken” thing any more than the radio receiver hypothesis does. Please help me understand. If I assume a materialist point of view, I can’t do math simply because that part of my brain is underdeveloped, despite every effort I make to improve it. I see other people doing math, they achieve great things because they believe in math, when they look at an unsolved formula, they can “see” the answer in it. I just can’t. How does that not imply that this part of my brain is “broken”? If my poor math skills are the result of crossed wires somewhere in there, and a brain scientist tells me he can go in there, and, in the words of Avshalom Elitzur, “uncross the damn wires,” and by doing so, I would be really good at math, heck yeah I’d do it. I don’t see crossed wires as something sacred that I should preserve because I want to be unique. I’d rather be good at math.

    Otherwise, maybe I would see my inability to do math as something sacred and quaint and unique and I decide not to go through with the operation. So even though I’ve got crossed wires, there are several philosophies that I could ascribe to that don’t necessarily commit me to thinking it’s something I need to fix. Maybe I think mathematics leads people to do evil, therefore I wish to shield myself from mathematics. Maybe I just think math geeks are annoying and don’t want to be one.

    Likewise, the radio receiver hypothesis implies that some people are broken, but doesn’t commit anyone necessarily to take steps to fix it. Perhaps you don’t want to care about spiritual things. There are all sorts of possible theologies you could ascribe to that don’t require you to desire access to the spiritual. Christian Universalism, for instance. Or an Orson Whitney idea that maybe your brain was created that way so you wouldn’t access the spiritual, and you could do better work outside the Church than in. Or maybe God just likes variety in people, or maybe He wants to show people what life without Him would be like. The radio receiver hypothesis only states that our ability to receive the spiritual is different from person to person.

    So am I missing something? How does the radio receiver imply “brokenness” any more than the materialist position?

  14. Except, linescratchers, the psychological community once DID call homosecualit a disorder and try to fix gay people and make tem straight. There are several people and groups who are keen to point that out in an attempt to make the profession go back to such a position, and who believe the only reason the profession changed it’s opinion to begin with was because of politics.

    …and you say that psychologists don’t try to fix introverts as if you don’t know about the treatment for schizoid personality (or the counter movement to have it unremoved as a disorder).

    Even beyond that, shall we take ADHD. Medical condition or just a normal part of the human spectrum?

    My point isn’t necessarily that psychologists go tracting for patients. However, society in general is increasingly more willing to call regular behavior disorderly, and psychologists are perfectly wlling to make conditions for such behavioral differences. I have a problem when individuals are led to be unhappy with something about themselves only because of what their communit has suddenly deemed unacceptable.

    To address brokenness again, the problem isn’t materialism. It’s objectivity. Since math offers objectively correct answers (at least, as long as we don’t assume a mathematical constructivism), then certain conclusions are inherent in the statements. 2 2 =4 regardless of if you can perceive it.

    However, with subjective matters, such is not true. Finding a song beautiful or a girl (or guy) attractive or food tasty isn’t because said song/girl/guy/food has those traits inherently. Rather, you perceive those traits…so, most people don’t seriously argue that if you like differnet music or have a different favorite dessert, you are broken.

    If you don’t want to “get” something objectively existent/real, you could make the argument that this is a kind of escapism, stubbornness, or delusion. Which is what many (but not all) religious people migt want to say

  15. linescratchers permalink

    I apologize for the name change. I am also Syphax. I don’t know why my computer logged me in as one and then the other.

    I get what you’re saying. And the psychology thing isn’t my main point (though I still don’t see the profession the way you do).

    Which is what many (but not all) religious people migt want to say

    Exactly. So the question is, then, whether mystics are accessing an actual, ontologically “real” transcendent domain, or if they’re just seeing beauty in the material Universe they perceive. It could still go either way, without proof. Wolff would say that this transcendent plane is as real as 2 + 2 = 4. Therefore our inability to perceive it is indeed brokenness.

    And on a materialistic viewpoint, my inability to access mathematics is the same kind of brokenness: an inability to access an objectively true reality. I don’t feel that my toes are being stepped on though.

    Saying, “But math is different, because obviously it’s real,” is missing the point, right? What am I still missing?

  16. no problem…I’m actually a bit more familiar with the linescratchers moniker. Just didn’t know to make the connection.

    To be honest, I’m really not THAT against the psychological profession. But I do think there is an increase in medicalization that does threaten to devalue many.

    So the question is, then, whether mystics are accessing an actual, ontologically “real” transcendent domain, or if they’re just seeing beauty in the material Universe they perceive. It could still go either way, without proof.

    And my argument is that without proof, we should caution on the side of subjectivity (just seeing beauty in the material universe they perceive). Or, get proof.

    I would argue the same for Wolff.

    To address the “math is different, because obviously it’s real.”

    Actually, if I (or anyone) were of a different nature (e.g., mathematical constructivist), then what I would do is argue that math is “obviously” not real, and is just a subjective construct. (note: I don’t like this dichotomy. It’s not that “objective” = real and “subjective” = unreal. But rather, subjective things are real because they are perceived.) But, I happen to believe that mathematical realists have enough “proofs” for the reality of math. So, to show that 2+2 = 4 is true, I don’t think that is an issue where “it could go either way” because I don’t think we are “without proof.” I guess we could just have some hardcore mathematicians duel it out to see how that went.

    The issue really is to find out: does the statement “2+2=4” hold even if there is no one to perceive such?

    BUT Wolff’s further claim that 2+2 = 4 is inherently transcendant or beautiful…I do not think there is much proof he could raise for that *other than his subjective reaction to mathematical statements*. Wolff MUST be there to perceive the beauty for the beauty to be ascribed to 2+2=4, because I don’t think he can show that the beauty is within the statement, even if no one is around to perceive it. I don’t think he can show, in other words, that there is a radio station broadcasting, even if no one’s radio is working.

  17. I love the Orson F. Whitney quote.

    I love the idea that God needs there to be Mormons and Baptists and Buddhists and Muslims and Jews and Atheists in the world in order to accomplish his grand purposes. That it’s OK for them to be what they are, because that’s what God needs them to be.

  18. linescratchers permalink

    Makes sense. I understand you now I think. That’s all I really had to say. Thanks.

    Though, I don’t think you’ve read much about Wolff’s philosophy, and I’m really bad at describing what little I know, so perhaps you might find more than a passing interest in a paper that explains it more in detail:

    Click to access jse_21_4_baruss.pdf

    I find it quite interesting though I’ve never experienced the transcendent in quite the way he seems to describe. Take care Andrew.

  19. I’ll check that out then.

  20. I’ve been thinking about this essay some more…

    When I was on my mission in France, we had an investigator named Jean-Marie. He was one of the most amazing investigators I had on my mission. Whenever we met with him, the presence of the Spirit was so powerful. He was kind, loving, full of faith. He loved the missionaries, and enjoyed going to church with us.

    But he also insisted we come to church with him, at his Roman Catholic congregation. I remember Jean-Marie taking us on a tour of his church, showing us the iconography and explaining it to us, and telling us what it meant to him. For the first time, thanks to him, I experienced the spiritual side of Roman Catholicism, and for the first time I understood clearly how someone could be a committed Catholic.

    This was a break-through for me. Everything I’d ever heard anybody in the LDS Church say about Roman Catholicism was so negative, portraying the Catholic Church as a false church with nothing but empty rituals. Jean-Marie helped me to see Catholicism as a living faith, where people could experience a living encounter with the Christ.

    At the time, however, I was convinced that Jean-Marie was so faithful and so full of the Spirit that he would inevitably convert to Mormonism. We continued to correspond after my mission, and I kept waiting for him to convert. But he never did. When he eventually decided to join a monastic order — the Order of St. John — I realized he likely never would.

    I’m convinced that the spiritual experiences I had with him were real, that he felt and was as in tune with the Spirit as we were. Later, I spent a summer at the monastery where Jean-Marie belonged. Again, I discovered a living faith and a living spirituality, where God was every bit as present as what I had ever experienced in the LDS Church. Ultimately I realized what Orson F. Whitney realized… Jean-Marie didn’t convert because the LDS Church is not where God wanted him.

    Jean-Marie recognized the same thing about me. I spent that summer in the monastery because I was considering whether I too ought to join a monastic order. (That was part of my searching in relation to my sexuality.) At the end of my stay, Jean-Marie and I went for a walk and talked heart to heart, and he asked me how I felt about monastic life. I told him that I loved it, but I didn’t feel called to it. And he concurred. He told me I had a more “apostolic” ministry — “out there” in the world. He too recognized that God’s calling to each of us may be unique, and may take us to different places and put us in different communities.

    In church last Sunday (the LDS Church, of course), I can’t describe how I felt. But taking a stab at describing it, I would say I felt a special closeness to Christ, and the Spirit was witnessing to me that this was Christ’s Church in a special way that others aren’t. I know the LDS Church is true, and it’s where I belong, and it is where I can access the gifts of the Spirit best. It’s where I need to be.

    But I know others don’t feel that way about the LDS Church, and I must assume that others even have analogous feelings about their own churches that are not the LDS Church. And I’m content to leave it at that, and trust that God has a plan for working this all out, for building Zion on earth through all good, decent, loving and hopeful people everywhere…

  21. Great story (as usual), John.

    But the part that really puzzles me is…or rather, it doesn’t puzzle me, but I just wonder if you can hear the elitist sound from it.

    In church last Sunday (the LDS Church, of course), I can’t describe how I felt. But taking a stab at describing it, I would say I felt a special closeness to Christ, and the Spirit was witnessing to me that this was Christ’s Church in a special way that others aren’t. I know the LDS Church is true, and it’s where I belong, and it is where I can access the gifts of the Spirit best. It’s where I need to be.

    It’s the bold sentence that bothers me. Up until this point (and in the other sentences I’ve quoted here, too), you can get a sense that things may shake out well wherever people are…but this line…kinda changes things. All of a sudden, your message changes from, “People end up in different places because God wants them in different places” to “People end up in different places because God wants them in different places, but my place is better than all of theirs.”

    See, I liked what you said after, “the LDS church…is where I can access the gifts of the Spirit best” or “it’s where I belong.”

    But the part before…

  22. Andrew – I know exactly how that part sounds. I could have suppressed that statement, knowing that some folks would view it as arrogant or intolerant. But had I suppressed it, I would have been less than truthful about my sense of what the Spirit was communicating to me that morning.

    I noticed you didn’t seem to pick up on the statement that followed it: “But I know others don’t feel that way about the LDS Church, and I must assume that others even have analogous feelings about their own churches that are not the LDS Church.”

    That statement is also based on my observations of other people of faith and how they relate to their own communities of faith. What I refuse to do is assume that their relationship with God or the inspiration that they feel in relation to their own communities of faith is somehow less valid or less inspired than mine. I have insufficient data, mainly because I don’t know what it is like to walk in their shoes. So I give them the benefit of a doubt and assume that their experiences are just as powerful and real as the spiritual experiences I have had. But I can’t follow their experiences, I can only follow mine. Just as I wouldn’t expect them to disregard their own experiences and follow mine.

  23. I had thought about asking a question to that later statement, but I had decided against it. What I would’ve asked is: do you truly think that the spirit not only leads people to different spiritual locations (which is one thing), but ALSO gives these individuals the sense that their location is more special than all the rest? Is this really necessary..?

    I still can’t help but get a certain aftertaste from your comments.

    I am reminded of by a friend who was an engineering major in school. He loved engineering, and thought engineering was the best, most helpful major ever. He wished everyone could just get into engineering and help the world like he was.

    …but eventually, he said, “OK, I know that you guys love your majors too. I know that you guys are probably as fulfilled in yours as I am in mine. But I have to say that engineering is more beneficial to the world than the rest of your majors and that’s just a fact.”

    That last part didn’t go down so well, as you may have expected.

  24. I can’t manage to get myself to be offended at that sort of thing. I LIKE engineers to think that engineering is the best. I want the person who designs my car, the roads, bridges, and buildings to think that he’s benefiting the world more than anything else. I’d certainly hate designing that crap. Whatever he needs to feel to do his best job is fine with me.

    Maybe I’m just too lazy to take offense at that stuff.

  25. I can’t manage to get myself offended at that sort of thing, either, linescratchers.

    But it certainly makes me sort of zone out whenever he gets on the issue. Because it’s so tired. It always comes up. It certainly makes me realize that if I want to have a mutually enjoyable conversation, I might have it with many other people, but most likely not him. Not on that issue. So yes, I perfectly agree with you: whatever he needs to feel to do his best job is fine with me. As long as he’s over there, doing his job.

    But I do lament that that is a bit sad. I feel sad firstly that 1) he “needs to feel” that to “do his best job,” and that 2) regardless of whether I care about his comment or not (I don’t, because I don’t believe him or believe it), it changes the tone of conversation.

    Rather, if I could say anything, it would be a slight variation on what you said. “I want the person who designs my car, the roads, bridges, and buildings to think he’s benefiting the world doing this more than he could by doing anything else.” Rather than, “I want the person who designs my car, the roads, bridges, and buildings to think he’s benefiting the world doing this more than *anyone* could by doing anything else.”

  26. Maybe it’s not possible to rationalize the “my church is the One True Church” experience in terms that will make both you and me comfortable.

    But I will say that being an engineer is a little be different than being a Mormon (or a Catholic or a Muslim or an Orthodox Jew or a Born Again Christian). It doesn’t require the same kind of all-encompassing commitment.

    Maybe the sense that “this is the one true path” is the soul’s shorthand for expressing/understanding the notion that a spiritual path cannot benefit us unless it makes totalistic demands of us, and unless we accept and engage in fulfilling those demands whole-heartedly.

  27. By the way, I might add that I haven’t met an atheist yet who didn’t think that his or her way of understanding the world was “the only true way.”

  28. (And I wouldn’t have it any other way.)

  29. John, you don’t have to worry about me being uncomfortable. In a way, I understand the pull of the “one and only true church” idea. I can’t and don’t let it bring me grinding to a halt as a result. I know that even I am not “above” it, as if such a thing is totally possible.

    I think your point about all-encompassing commitment again points to an individual. it doesn’t point to the thing in question. You CAN have all-encompassing commitment to the gospel, all-encompassing commitment to your work, etc., etc., etc., We say that some things are “better” to have all-encompassing commitment (work generally is NOT one of them), but no matter what, that isn’t quite the same as saying one thing or another is better than the rest. Rather, it is a statement about *us* and *ourselves*.

    See, there is a distinction.

    There is a distinction between saying, “This is the path for me” or “This is what I need to be doing” or even “This is what I need to devote my life to completely” and saying, “This path that I have devoted my life to completely is superior/more special than every other.”

    I mean, if we are still in a mindset of objectivity, then saying one and saying the other only makes sense. We want to believe that the path that is right for *us* is the path that is right, period.

    Yet still, I feel that when we recognize that other people have other paths that are right for them, then shouldn’t we really evaluate whether our perception that our paths are right for *us* says anything about them objectively and universally? The diversity of opinions leads me to think that this perception does not necessarily establish anything like that.

    I think that to believe your path is true is necessary to be a consistent believer. After all, if you say you believe, but don’t really believe that your path, your way, whatever is true, then your belief is suspect. But if that is the case, then I guess I’d have to say that the one thing I would hold — above everything else — as the “one true way”…is not such a specific ideology…but rather a few more general concepts.

    We should be searching for personal authenticity and integrity, and allowing others to do the same, or at the very least, when we are not allowing others to do the same, we should be willing to fully admit that we are committing violence to another’s authenticity.

  30. Carson N permalink

    By the way, I might add that I haven’t met an atheist yet who didn’t think that his or her way of understanding the world was “the only true way.”

    John, Andrew. Andrew, John.

  31. It’s ok, Carson. Until there’s an offline meet-up, John doesn’t know if I’m *really* an atheist, the American government’s latest attempt at passing the Turing test, or just a guy from TV.

  32. Andrew knows, and I know, and he knows I know he knows, that there’s nothing wrong with being intellectually committed to one’s own way of seeing the world…

  33. But I would like to reiterate my point.

    My way of seeing the world that I’m committed to all the way is the search for personal authenticity. It isn’t atheism.

    As a result, for me to be committed to this understanding of the world, I *must* encourage others to seek authentic lives for themselves — even (or especially) when I think it will lead them down different specific paths than mine leads. What I grasp with is the tension that this leads to…since we often want to focus on our *specific* path and how awesome that is…rather than in the more generic idea that we are even going on the journey in the first place.

  34. I believe that the 5th step, “With real intent” is actually a way of saying “This will only work if you want it to work” which is an example of “You gain your testimony through bearing it” which is often heard in the church.

    In any case, I’ve shared your post at reddit’s ex-mormon group where it may pick up a few more comments:

  35. Thanks for redditing, measure! I happen to think that that’s pretty much what it means (although I’m sure it’s a bit of the “negative” way of putting it.)

    Heck…other scriptures say basically as much. “If you can only DESIRE to believe.” (translation: If you WANT it to work…)

  36. I plan to start redditing much more of the exmo blogosphere, by the way. You should see me around frequently.

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