Discussing the Gospel

March 8, 2004 | 45 comments
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Over the course of the past four months, several people on this blog have mentioned that they appreciate the opportunity provided by T&S to discuss the Gospel in depth. Does this strike anyone else as odd?

I don’t mean to imply that I am surprised. When I was still relatively young in the Church, I inquired about the possibility of reserving a room in the temple where friends might discuss the endowment ceremony. Does anyone have trouble imagining the reaction to this request?

When we were living in Delaware, I served as the Ward Mission Leader, and we managed to organize a series of discussions of Jesus the Christ. For the most part, they were sparsely attended and the discussions were pretty basic (aimed at the Mormon-curious), but some people were concerned that we were crossing the line. Now, I hear stories about people being asked to disband informal discussion groups, and I wonder: where do we discuss the Gospel? Here are some possibilities:

* Sunday School
* Home Teaching
* Visiting Teaching
* Institute Class
* Firesides

Hmm. My wife claims that all of these are fertile ground, but I suspect that she is an outlier. Fortunately for me, my favorite discussant lives with me (the aforesaid wife), but as just indicated, I have the impression that our experience is unusual. Is it true that most couples in the Church do not talk to each other about the Gospel?

Perhaps more fundamentally, aren’t we missing something wonderful by providing so few opportunities to engage each other in Gospel conversations? This was my favorite part of being a student at BYU, but maybe I am an outlier, too.

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45 Responses to Discussing the Gospel

  1. brayden on March 8, 2004 at 2:29 am

    I think the Church envisions the family as the main location of gospel discussion. Unfortunately, as you note, families do not always discuss as much as they should. Perhaps the reason the Church has advised members not to engage in informal discussion groups is because this takes away from family time? I’m curious, does anyone know of the justifications behind requests to disband informal groups?

  2. Matt Evans on March 8, 2004 at 10:31 am

    I’ve always been told the rationale for discouraging discussion groups was that the groups fostered intellecutualism and spread contagious doubts.

  3. Grasshopper on March 8, 2004 at 10:36 am

    I think it stems primarily from concerns over people breaking away from the Church, as has happened with polygamist groups like the TLC in Manti.

  4. Gordon Smith on March 8, 2004 at 11:02 am

    Matt and Grasshopper, I wonder how Times & Seasons and similar fora fare by these standards. If you believe that discussing the Gospel is generally a good thing, but you worry about intellecutualism or doubt contagion — or worse, the formation of splinter groups — would you welcome the advent of T&S? Perhaps it depends on whether you are risk averse, risk neutral, or risk preferring, but I think we stack up pretty well. We share ideas freely, but the group of bloggers and commentators is diverse enough that we tend to counter extreme views quickly. Moreover, the fact that the site is impersonal (even most of the bloggers have never met each other!) means that the formation of splinter groups is unlikely. I suppose some of our discussions might foster doubt, but about what? The truth of the Gospel or the sanity of the other participants in the discussion? Maybe I have been hardened, but nothing I have read here has caused me to fear for my testimony.

  5. greenfrog on March 8, 2004 at 4:09 pm

    Gordon,

    Perhaps your approach to the gospel would trouble some of those who are wont to be concerned about such things.

    As to “contagious doubts,” I am no more surprised that there should be such than I am that there exist “contagious beliefs.” If they are contagious, it is because something remains unresolved. Why not allow sunlight into the curtained rooms?

    FWIW, and at the risk of cliche, I think that in this regard, the Net and the consequent availability of information everywhere at once changes (or in due course will change) everything.

  6. Renee on March 8, 2004 at 4:09 pm

    I second Gordon. I’ve had doubts, but only about posters or commentors. ;)

    But if you guys start saying that God appeared to you and told you that the current presidency is corrupt and you’re to restore order, I’d have to put some serious thought into continuing to visit T&S. (eyebrow raised) Then again, isn’t that sort of what happened to Joseph Smith?

    Ah! So much to ponder. Good thing we have T&S to mull this stuff over at. :)

  7. Nate Oman on March 8, 2004 at 4:30 pm

    Can someone explain to me what “intellectualism” means?

  8. Steve Evans on March 8, 2004 at 4:41 pm

    What a great topic. It’s true, there seems to be no real place left for church members to have complex discussions. Church meetings are designed one-size-fits-all, outside discussion groups are verboten… where are we supposed to go? Should we even have T&S?

    As for what intellectualism means, I think we’re talking about discussions where for the sake of argument people dispose with dogmatic assumptions. Some might say that it’s debate without the Spirit. I don’t think so — personally, I think you can abandon your assumptions for the sake of a discussion without abandoning the Spirit (YMMV).

    brayden: “I think the Church envisions the family as the main location of gospel discussion.” Maybe. I don’t think I’ve seen it said anywhere. But families are a really awful place to have in-depth church discussions. At least on T&S you don’t worry about the other bloggers going apostate (b/c too late?). I don’t think the Church envisions us having this level of gospel discussion ANYWHERE. Perhaps if we read it in a Deseret Book, it would be acceptable.

    IMHO, I think it’s only a matter of time before T&S gets shut down. How? Some stake president calls up one of the founders in his stake and says, “I’ve been watching your website with great interest…”

    In anticipation of that great and terrible day, let me just make it clear that I’m calling you all to repentance.

  9. Kaimi on March 8, 2004 at 5:03 pm

    I’ve wondered about that myself. I don’t think any such directive would come from my stake. (The high council member assigned to the ward has dropped by at least once, and I think he would have said something to me if he thought there was a problem). But it does seem distinctly possible.

    As far as temple discussions, Gordon, you’ve hit on a real problem. You can’t discuss the temple ceremony outside the temple. You can’t really discuss _anything_ inside the temple. So, where exactly can members talk about the ceremony? Are we limited to testimony meetings where we can affirm “I went to the temple and I felt the Spirit”? When, if at all, can we ponder and discuss “what exactly does it mean to live the law of ___ or the commandments of ___ as discussed in the temple”?

  10. Nate Oman on March 8, 2004 at 5:29 pm

    Kaimi: The solution to the Temple discussion problem is to write and read esoterically, so that the discussion is there for those who have ears to hear. This is basically what Nibley does. I think that you can read a lot of his history as being less about history than about providing a commentary on the temple endowment.

  11. Kaimi on March 8, 2004 at 5:39 pm

    I just noticed this essay by Michael Quinn: http://www.signaturebooks.com/excerpts/faithful.htm#ch6

    (via the newly-re-operational Kolob Network, see http://www.kolobnetwork.org/2003_11_09_archive.html#106865361072240289 ).

    Dr. Quinn writes:

    “The [LDS] church leadership has always been uncomfortable with open forums that have been organized by the rank and file.”

    Not a good sign. Just to be on the safe side, let’s avoid any discussion of the particularly “hot topics” that have gotten Dr. Quinn and others in trouble. (I’m not an expert, but I think the major issues that have gotten people in trouble over the past decade have been Heavenly Mother and post-manifesto polygamy).

  12. Gordon Smith on March 8, 2004 at 5:39 pm

    Nate, Here is my attempt to answer your question:

    “Intellectualism” is your use of reason to upset my current beliefs.

    In the Gospel context, we never use this word with a positive connotation; therefore, it is always something done by someone else. Moreover, it is only used when the other is upsetting the apple cart. If someone uses reason to bolster an accepted belief, we call that “inspiration.”

  13. Gordon Smith on March 8, 2004 at 5:55 pm

    greenfrog talks about “contagious beliefs.” Cool concept! And I think he is absolutely right that the notion of a contagion presumes that “something remains unresolved.” Of course, the Gospel does not leave anything unresolved; only our understanding has gaps.

    So is it fair to say that “contagious doubts” occur when people expose gaps where none were thought to exist, and “contagious beliefs” occur when people propose ideas to fill acknowledged gaps? (What makes some doubts/beliefs contagious and others personal?) Anyway, just thinking aloud still: is there any reason to be more concerned about misplaced doubts than about false beliefs? (For a list of the latter, consult the “Canards” thread.) My bias: both false gaps and false bricks in the wall of faith must be repaired.

  14. Brent on March 8, 2004 at 6:00 pm

    Gordon, I think you are right. Both false gaps and false bricks in the wall of faith must be repaired. However, I think the main problem is when certain items are identified as one or the other when they are not.

  15. Safely Anonymous on March 8, 2004 at 6:10 pm

    I have a copy of a talk delivered by E. Oaks to other General Authorities in the early 90′s, mentioned in Hugh Nibley’s biography (an excellent and informative read, by the way). According to him, temple discussion is allowable under the following conditions: Anything in the scriptures is fair game. (This opens it up to people who know their scriptures well, as nearly all the temple ordinances can be found by those with eyes to see.)

    1) Discussion in the right place (e.g. no public forums, but churches, home, temple is allowable.)

    2) For the right purpose (e.g. to prepare someone to go or share personal experiences, not for scholarly dissection or debate.)
    3) To the right person (e.g. members with sincere questions or who are preparing to go, but not confirming or denying to anti’s that endowment transcripts online are correct, etc.)

    4) Anything discussed publically by GA’s, specifically James E. Talmage (The House of the Lord) or Boyd K. Packer (The Holy Temple). Since the date of the talk, the Encyclopedia of Mormonism has come out, which I think also shows an example of how and what can be discussed.
    These are both vague and specific, principle-based guidelines.

    E. Oaks also suggests that since there is no official interpretation, GA’s (and other members) refrain from offering personal interpretations lest they be taken as authoritative. This doesn’t extend to scholars who offer oblique interpretations based on scripture, history etc. (whose authority is thus given the weight or non-weight of scholarship). He commends Bro. Nibley for his work on the temple.

    Given that this is a public forum, I don’t think discussion beyond generalities is allowed here, on the basis of his talk.

  16. anon on March 8, 2004 at 6:11 pm

    I acquired this paper legitimately, lest anyone wonder.

  17. Ben on March 8, 2004 at 6:32 pm

    I’ve tried to make a collection of published temple articles on my webpage, sorted topically. Missed the Oaks’ article though…
    http://home.uchicago.edu/~spackman/temple

  18. brayden on March 8, 2004 at 6:32 pm

    It is true, I think, that the gospel leaves no issue unresolved but it is only our understanding that is incomplete. Still there are MANY bits of knowledge in the entire universe of knowledge contained in the gospel that have never been revealed to humans on this earth, or if they have, they have only been revealed to a select few. I have often heard that it is inappropriate to delve too deeply into these “mysteries.” My sense is that often informal discussion groups are organized to elaborate more on these non-revealed truths and that this sort of thing is openly discouraged by the brethren.

    I have a couple of things to say about that. First, I’m not sure which “mysteries” we are warned not to think or talk about. In the mission I remember being counseled to avoid excessive discussion on any principle that didn’t involve a saving ordinance (but it’s amazing how many discussions we could twist until they had something to do with a saving ordinance), but I can’t imagine that this same principle holds true for regular members. After all, aren’t we supposed to seek all good knowledge?

    Perhaps we are only meant to avoid exerting personal authority into areas where we have no business (as Renee suggests). As long as we aren’t claiming to have revelation for other members of this group (T&S) then we’re okay. Not sure about this though.

    I’ve never felt bad about our discussions here so I’ve kept visiting (unlike some recently sworn-off blog friends). I imagine I will be a regular here unless I felt prompted otherwise.

  19. Matt J on March 8, 2004 at 6:34 pm

    That is an interesting talk, anon. Are there other statements that are to the church as a whole that anyone knows of?

    I am puzzled by how strongly most members shy away from discussing anything about the temple endowment and initiatories. When I go to the temple, I simply covenant to not reveal certain tokens with their accompanying signs and names. That leaves an awful lot to talk about. Am I missing something?

  20. Grasshopper on March 8, 2004 at 6:41 pm

    Kaimi wrote: “As far as temple discussions, Gordon, you’ve hit on a real problem. You can’t discuss the temple ceremony outside the temple.”

    I disagree. I have had many fruitful discussions about details of the temple ceremony with family and friends in private settings.

  21. Ben on March 8, 2004 at 6:43 pm

    I agree with you Matt. Here are some comments I made elsewhere. http://www.fairlds.org/Reviews/Rvw200301.html

    …certain aspects of the temple are clearly off limits for discussion. I believe that this taboo has extended beyond its intended purpose in LDS culture, to the extent that those being endowed sometimes receive insufficient preparation before and inadequate instruction after, due to reluctance on members’ part to speak about the temple in anything more than vague generalities. For example, I have a friend, a convert of a little more than a year, who came from a mixed Christian/Islamic background who received her endowment and was sealed to her husband, also a convert. Shortly afterwards, I received an embarrassed phone call. My friend had many questions, and didn’t know whom to ask, where to look, or if asking questions was even permitted! “Am I even allowed to say ‘anointing’ outside the temple?” she wanted to know.

    While I feel it is better in public to say too little than too much, in such a personal situation it is better to risk saying too much than to say nothing at all. After all, the feelings of a recently endowed member about the temple have great influence on how often they will return to the temple and even their general level of activity in the Church. Those who have received little preparation or support will likely prefer worldly things they can understand over heavenly things they can’t. The following story is instructive.

    In our day, instances of lack of preparation [for receiving one's endowment] have been cited by our prophets. When the Los Angeles temple building program was commenced, President McKay called a meeting of the stake presidents of the temple district. During this meeting, President McKay took occasion to express his feelings about the holy endowment. He indicated how some years before, a niece of his had received her ordinances in the house of the Lord. He had learned that she only recently before that had received an initiation into a sorority at the local university. She had had the crassness to say that she found the sorority initiation superior in effect and meaning to her than the endowment. President McKay was open and frank with them about the experience of one in his own family with the endowment. He wasn’t worried about their audible gasps. With characteristic aplomb, he paused, and then said, “Brothers and sisters, she was disappointed in the temple. Brothers and sisters, I was disappointed in the temple. And so were you.” Then he said something incredibly important that should be engraven on all our souls. “There are few, even temple workers, who comprehend the full meaning and power of the temple endowment. Seen for what it is, it is the step-by-step ascent into the Eternal Presence.”14

    I am saddened that President McKay felt he had been poorly prepared for his experience but encouraged by his frankness in talking about it.15 We need to do a better job, both institutionally and personally, in preparing our children, our friends, and new members to receive their endowment. On the institutional level, I understand the reluctance, for example, to publicly and officially endorse a particular book for temple preparation. I am encouraged by articles in the Ensign like that on the temple garment, as well as President Hinckley’s focus on temples and temple building. On a personal level, I believe we can prepare others through appropriately sharing our own positive experiences and referring to good books that treat the subject.

  22. Aaron Brown on March 8, 2004 at 6:44 pm

    Nate asked:
    “Can someone explain to me what “intellectualism” means?

    Great question Nate. I agree with Gordon. I previously addressed this question on the “T&S Has Been Excommunicated” thread:

    “Mormonism is often accused of being a “cult.” In response, many LDS like to point out that this appellation isn’t very useful, since “cult” is a term that tells us little about the religion it purports to describe, but much about the attitude of the speaker employing it towards that religion. I often wonder if the term “intellectualism” (and its variants) isn’t precisely the same kind of term. I don’t know how “intellectualizing” differs from “thinking critically” or “thinking deeply,” but I do know it is often used pejoratively, and I know the person utilizing it disagrees with the conclusions reached by the person he is applying it to.

    Oh how refreshing it would be if religious disagreements were always met with substantive critiques and rejoinders, rather than meaningless labeling. But I suppose it’s easier to insinuate that “intellectuals” must be engaging in some kind of per se inappropriate exercise than it is to say “I disagree with your conclusion about so-and-so, and here’s why……””

    Aaron B

  23. Julie in Austin on March 8, 2004 at 8:47 pm

    Seriously, though, don’t y’all think we are better off with a lack of discussion about the temple instead of too much? Perhaps not for the obvious reason of not wanting to reveal sacred things (although that’s important, of course), but do you *really* want to hear other’s interpretations of certain things? The first time a High Councilor stands up and explains that X means Y, 80% of the congregation will never, ever think about X as possibly meaning anything but Y, ever. That’s not a good thing.

    One of my favorite parts of the Temple is the utter lack of anyone else’s interpretation to cloud my own interpretation of the experience.

  24. Bob Caswell on March 9, 2004 at 1:32 am

    I just posted over at bobandlogan.com the answer to the question, “Why do I blog?” I’d love anyone’s feedback.

  25. BDemosthenes on March 9, 2004 at 1:46 am

    “does anyone know of the justifications behind requests to disband informal groups?”

    “I wonder how Times & Seasons and similar fora fare by these standards”

    Taking a somewhat different tack, I think there may be a significant difference between a group organized in the ‘real world’ as opposed to online.

    Were I in a position where I had to worry about such things, I would worry about the formation of informal groups for several reasons:

    *Such groups might have a tendency to compete with the ward/stake organization on several fronts. Members of such groups might start to view themselves more in terms of the group than in terms of being one with the Saints (C.S. Lewis’ ‘Christianity-and-’ problem). Such groups also might compete with local programs in terms of the attention/energy given to them (“I may not have gotten my home teaching done, but at least we had a productive discussion of Kolob…”). Human nature would probably often lead to a cliquish situation (‘only certain people really understand our discussion of …’, while other members feel increasingly marginalized in the ward). Authority lines might also get complicated—if Brother so-and-so is or isn’t called to a ‘high’ position during a reorganization, people will read approval/condemnation of his unofficial actions into it, and if his unofficial behavior changes while he’s in the calling, the paranoid will read things into that as well.

    *In addition, such groups, due to their self-selected nature, are probably more likely to go astray. In the pre-internet era, the costs of starting something like that on a significant scale lead me to suspect that the personalities involved had enough invested in the outcomes that going astray was easier. Such a process, once started, tends to generate positive feedback, as those drawn to the nonorthodox positions the group takes will increase their participation, while those who don’t like the direction the group is going will leave. Since the needs met by a ‘faithful’ group will overlap to a greater extent with the needs met by normal church meetings, the less orthodox groups seem more likely to keep going through temporary setbacks.

    *Groups organized offline will likely have a disproportionate geographic impact, which will cause greater havoc if something goes wrong. We’ve probably all heard horror stories about mass apostasies or some scandal setting the work back in a ward/stake for a long time. If an informal group goes bad, it could take a big chunk of the ward leadership in a particular ward with it, and leave bad feelings in everyone else. On the other hand, if a similar number of people go off course from participating in an online forum, the impact won’t be as obvious at the unit level.

    All of these reasons seem to apply much less to online fora. Because our real-life ward activities are fairly rigidly separated from our online activities, few of the problems outlined in the first section are as likely, and such indiscretions as do happen will be geographically diffuse rather than concentrated. Authority is irrelevant online, both due to the diminished personal contact as well as the inherent lack of total trust in communicating with strangers electronically (not to sound too negative—I think it a good thing in the sense that it forces everyone to analyze ideas much more than personalities or perceived authority). As long as we still fulfill our responsibilities (including the responsibility to actually have human contact with the Saints), the risks of negative outcomes from our participation online are less, I think, than if we did the same things offline in the same geographic region of the Church. Finally, online groups will tend to be somewhat self-regulating, as any that go too far astray will simply lose readership (and probably take themselves even farther out of the mainstream due to the positive feedback effect); meanwhile, entrance costs are low enough that no one has a major portion of his life invested in any one online project (I would hope, anyway).

    Hence, my speculation leads me to believe that online groups/blogs/etc can be a powerful force for good (or evil, for that matter), but that the negative outcomes if something goes wrong are probably much less than the offline equivalents.

  26. greenfrog on March 9, 2004 at 10:32 am

    “Of course, the Gospel does not leave anything unresolved; only our understanding has gaps. ”

    I find this an interesting thought, and one that has not occurred to me. Is this a Platonic concept of the (capital G) Gospel — i.e., a definition rather than a description?

    “So is it fair to say that “contagious doubts” occur when people expose gaps where none were thought to exist, and “contagious beliefs” occur when people propose ideas to fill acknowledged gaps?”

    The term contagion carries with it rather negative baggage. I imagine that to a devout Catholic (or muslim, or whatever), Mormonism appears to be a contagious belief.

    “(What makes some doubts/beliefs contagious and others personal?) Anyway, just thinking aloud still: is there any reason to be more concerned about misplaced doubts than about false beliefs?”

    While I am no advocate of doubting as a lifestyle, it seems to me that believing something false to be true can generate a great deal of harm. I think it better to formulate an idea and test it. If it yields good fruit, retain it. If it doesn’t discard it. The trick, I suppose, is to avoid getting so attached to an idea that I become unwilling to discard it or unable to evaluate it clearly. Of course, one of the challenges of being human is that the desire I have for an idea to be true becomes, itself, a component in my evaluation of the idea.

    “My bias: both false gaps and false bricks in the wall of faith must be repaired.”

    To what extent should our attachment to a particular brick or gap be considered in the remodeling plan?

  27. Adam Greenwood on March 9, 2004 at 10:51 am

    I wish I was as bright as BDemosthenes. Well said, friend.

    To all those who’ve been taking turns pooh-poohing the church’s concerns with intellectualism: I am in a minority in thinking that the leaders of the Church may not be nuts? Does judgment and experience mean nothing? I expected a discussion, not the tired, old Dance of ‘This is a Pejorative Word.’

    Here, in brief, are some aspects of the case for the prophets’ position:
    1) The gospel is to be lived, not outlined and schematized. Doing the will leads to knowing the Father, not the other way around. In this life all our conclusions must be tentative so we’re probably better off seeking revelation and working out our own salvation, so that when we do sit down to think we have some actual experience with which to think.
    2) Rational thought, like other goods, can easily work harm in this fallen world where we are prone to do things in disproportion. It is more dangerous than some because it provides its own defense against correction–the thinker can outargue those who propose his correction.

    Points 1 and 2 come from my own experience. Point 3 is something in the nature of an impression.

    3) There is a sense in which ‘intellectualism’ is the main ideological rival of the Church today. People don’t often leave the Saints to become Seventh-Day Adventists. They do wander off into the dirty waters driven by the assault of the secular.

    God is wise, of course, and wisdom includes knowledge, and we are to be like God. The heavenly realms aren’t pure thought, but pure thought is found there.

    Nonetheless, the Church has seen the dangers of a too-hasty taking on of too much Godhood. We, of all people, who feel some vocation to think through the unknown things, shouldn’t be the ones to resist a call to temper knowledge with faith, practice, love, and community. If the call doesn’t serve to mortify us in our pursuits, than who? Let’s not sing our favorite song, that old favorite, Ignorant Things Our Leaders Say. Let’s wonder, let’s pray, about whether collating Kolob has kept us from our commitment, as a previous poster said.

  28. Nate Oman on March 9, 2004 at 11:14 am

    Adam: I am not pooh-pooh-ing concerns about “intellectualism.” I am just confused as to what they mean. They clearly do not mean that the Church frowns on all forms of scholarship or intellectual discussion. I am just trying to figure out what it means.

    I disagree with you, BTW, that “intellectualism” is necessarily the chief source of apostacy. Actually, LOTS of people do leave the church to become members of apostate sects (ie True and Living Church of the Latter Day Saints, Episcopaleans, Southern Baptists, etc.). However, these shifts tend to get much less press attention. I think that a lot of this has to do with class. Journalists identify with college educated liberals and their struggles. Journalists don’t really identify with the born-again Christians or polygamists, who often have lower levels of income and education. The second reason, I think, is that church-persecuting-intellectual is a well worn modern trope that they can easily grasp. Conversion from one faith to another is less easy to pigeon hole for the modern mind.

    It is worth remembering that at precisely the same time that the September Seven got excommunicated to the accompanyment of lavish press coverage, the Church also excommunicated hundreds of Bo-Gritz style survivalist types in South Eastern Idaho and off-the-Wasatch-front Utah.

  29. Ben on March 9, 2004 at 11:21 am

    Juliann Reynolds has argued that the terms “liberal” and “intellectual” in the LDS church have been hijacked.
    “Critics in Wonderland: Through the Looking Glass”
    http://www.fairlds.org/apol/misc/misc24.html

  30. Steve Evans on March 9, 2004 at 11:24 am

    Adam,

    You’re overstating your case. Nobody is speaking ill of our leaders here. Your post has a lot of really dramatic images, but I don’t think you’re correct or appropriate to frame this discussion as “you all vs. what the prophets say”. What you’re doing is placing your post as if it were the only correct point of view, and that’s clearly not the case.

    If you want to say that church discussions don’t need to be the subject of endless intellectual debate, that’s fine. But no one here has sung “that old favorite, Ignorant Things Our Leaders Say.” Frankly, I’m not sure what you meant by that. No one here has shown anything but respect for church leadership. However, it is a simple fact that the weekly church meetings seem to be an inadequate forum for in-depth religious discussion. Would you completely cast that aside, or suggest that there is no point to any in-depth religious discussion?

    The point of this discussion (and T&S in general) is to discuss gospel ideas in an open and non-judgmental fashion. I’m afraid your post may end up as an example of “this fallen world where we are prone to do things in disproportion.”

  31. Steve Evans on March 9, 2004 at 11:32 am

    Adam,

    After that last post, I feel that I need to apologize for the harshness of my tone. I still think your post was overstated, but mine was perhaps too frank and not in keeping with a gospel conversation. A spirited debate, perhaps, is more what it was.

    In other words: I’m still right, you’re still wrong, but I’m sorry that I was mean about it.

  32. Adam Greenwood on March 9, 2004 at 11:41 am

    Steve,
    Don’t give it a second thought.

    Nate,
    Sorry to tar you with my broad brush. I have enough experience with you to know that, as a second Nathaniel, you always ask questions to ask them and not as oblique statements. I take your point about Bo Gritz. Probably the biggest rival to the Church is itself, as far as excommunications go. People seize on aspects of doctrine and history and leave the Church for not being itself enough.

    But as for the Southern Baptists, etc., I notice that most people don’t join those groups until they’ve started to fall away or have fallen, away from the Church. In any case, for many of us that post on this board ‘intellectualism’ is the main danger of apostasy, although I suppose there are a couple of us (me, for instance) who would also have to be wary the other way.

  33. Charles on March 9, 2004 at 11:50 am

    I think there are a couple of points to be made for intellectualism. My idea of intellectualism is that it is the application of secular or emperical knowledge to a discussion. Faith is the belief in something despite evidence to the contrary or in lack of evidence to support that thing. Since most all religion requires faith, intellectualism is an opposing force.

    The next thing to consider are the three spheres of evidence in faith.
    1) There are things in the Bible that can be proven to be true. Ie there is emperical evidence that certain things existed.
    2) There are things which cannot be proven with any degree of accuracy. They require complete faith in thier existence.
    3) There is the wide range of psuedo facts. Things that we believe have evidence to support their existence. (The mysterious artifact on Mt. Ararat is a good example. There is no evidence of what this object is but it “may” be the Ark.)

    Applying intellectualism to things in sphere 1 is not dangerous. It is done all the time as people research the dead sea scrolls or the like.
    I personally don’t see applying intellectualism to sphere 3 as a problem as long what we are discussing is the merits of the seeming facts to support biblical references or pontificating on what they may be. This is acceptable as long as we do so with the understanding that these are indeed psuedo facts and not emperical data.
    I think the biggest concern is trying to apply emperical evidence and discussion to principles which cleary are not grounded in that realm. Sphere 2 requires us to have faith. Discussions that delve into what a particular scripture or talk means to me, and then people discussing how it may impact them would probably be welcome, again as long as we recognize that we are only given revelation to things as they apply to us only. I cannot provide revelation on a scripture as to how it should be applied to my neigbors.

    This is the concern of the church. People taking it upon themselves to second guess church leaders. As long as we do not cross this line, I don’t see how these discussions can be looked down upon. Of course I don’t have the keys to revelation that would tell me if they were good or bad either. So on this subject I will have to stick with intellectualism.

  34. Bob Caswell on March 9, 2004 at 12:00 pm

    “Can someone explain to me what “intellectualism” means?”

    Perhaps you should ask a self-proclaimed intellectual for a definition and next ask an anti-intellectual. Then, try and reconcile the differences. No, but really, this world isn’t made of only two types of people: intellectual vs. non-intellectual. I feel that sometimes we forget that the two-party system of American politics doesn’t apply to every aspect of our lives. Same problem goes for liberal and conservative. We use these words so freely to mean one thing, when in actuality, it’s a bit more complicated.

    “I’m still right, you’re still wrong, but I’m sorry that I was mean about it.”

    Steve, I’ve disagreed with Adam on many issues but have never thought of him as “wrong” and me as “right”. Rather, one of the wonderful things about blogging is that people with differences can try and understand each other by sharing their various opinions. But the very nature of opinions make it so they are rarely “right” or “wrong”.

  35. Brent on March 9, 2004 at 12:12 pm

    Elder Holland’s talk from April conference last year deals in part with a couple of hazards, one of which might be termed “inappropriate intellectualism”. It is within the context of raising and caring for children, but there Elder Holland’s talk may have general applicability to this discussion, in that it identifies a potential problem and its effects.

  36. Steve Evans on March 9, 2004 at 12:16 pm

    Bob, you’re wrong. Wrong, wrong, wrong. Just like Adam, or whoever else disagrees with me.

    p.s. when I said “I’m still right, you’re still wrong,” of course I’m aware that I’m dealing with opinions rather than matters of fact. I was just amping up my level of intolerance for show, just like above.

  37. Bob Caswell on March 9, 2004 at 12:26 pm

    Steve,

    This is fun. “…amping up my level of intolerance for show”? Please expound.

  38. Steve Evans on March 9, 2004 at 12:42 pm

    Well, Bob, as you know, plenty of the posts on this site are overly dramatic and use extreme or condescending speech for no good reason. Like when Adam said “Let’s wonder, let’s pray” — it gets my goat, and I reply with heated anger.

    But sometimes, posting with exaggerated super-intolerance is an effective way of illustrating the foolishness of a position. It didn’t work so well, I guess, when I told Adam “I’m still right, you’re still wrong”, but you get the idea. Like most of my posts, it’s a form of subtle mockery.

    One more reason why church meetings are inadequate fora for discussion: no mocking allowed.

  39. Kaimi on March 9, 2004 at 12:50 pm

    Or is it, “no mocking aloud,” with silent mockery remaining acceptable?

  40. Bob Caswell on March 9, 2004 at 12:53 pm

    Steve,

    I always have the best conversations when people aren’t emotionally charged. As soon as emotion enters the picture, rational thought leaves. Thus, in my opinion, “subtle mockery” rarely helps a conversation, but rather gets in the way of two people understanding each other.

  41. Steve Evans on March 9, 2004 at 1:02 pm

    Bob,

    You can keep your Vulcan no-emotion conversations, and your “two people understanding each other”. I’m talking about enjoying myself here!

    I think it’s essential to keep a strong sense of humor and of human limitations when we’re having gospel conversations. So, for me, jokes/mockery are a means of keeping tabs on reality. I wouldn’t make fun of the basis for someone’s testimony or mock sacred things, mind you, but when people say silly stuff I believe it’s important to call them on it.

    It’s all about appropriateness: sometimes you can joke, sometimes you can’t. I don’t want to cause hurt feelings or anything, of course. But subtle mockery is actually a good way of reining in emotion that has inappropriately entered the picture, to restore the role of rational thought. For example, that’s what I was trying (but failing) to do with my response to Adam’s post.

  42. Adam Greenwood on March 9, 2004 at 1:38 pm

    Uhm,
    If I may have a word . . . ?
    I thought Steve was being funny, and honest. Sometimes I don’t have a dog in a fight, I’m just exploring possibilities, but sometimes I’m right and my opponents are wrong, or else why have the discussion?

  43. Bob Caswell on March 9, 2004 at 2:24 pm

    Steve/Adam,

    Perhaps part of the problem is that mockery and/or humor can be hard to convey with written words. Steve, if you were indeed joking (or being funny, as Adam calls it) then I’m glad that Adam picked up on it in this way. I obviously still have a way to go before I completely understand the tone of your writing (and others). But I’m glad we’re having this conversation; it helps. BTW- Vulcan, no-emotion conversations can be enjoyable too. :)

    Adam, when you say, “but sometimes I’m right and my opponents are wrong, or else why have the discussion?” you give me even more of a glimpse into your personality. I can only speak for myself, but I feel that the majority (perhaps even as high as 90%) of topics discussed here at Times and Seasons have no right or wrong answer, but rather wide-open space for speculation and/or interpretation. In answer to your question, “why have the discussion?” I’d say again (at least here at T&S), to learn from each other but very rarely to correct someone else’s way of thinking because he/she is “wrong” and we’re “right”.

  44. Adam Greenwood on March 9, 2004 at 3:20 pm

    If we’re learning from each other I think it follows that there’s some truth we’re getting at out there. ‘Truth’ and ‘right and wrong’ are pretty hard to tell apart. So if some truth is emerging from the discussion than some of us have been right and some of us have been wrong

    I’m not saying that I’m always right, like Franklin’s Frenchwoman. Some people are more advanced in some things than I am, and it may turn out that I was the wrong ‘un. All the better.

  45. BDemosthenes on March 10, 2004 at 11:46 am

    “To what extent should our attachment to a particular brick or gap be considered in the remodeling plan?”

    AH King’s counsel on favorite scriptures comes to mind. In essence, if we are particularly attached to one scripture/doctrine/concept, it’s probably a bad sign, as it indicates that we’re ignoring other vital areas. He suggests that the scriptures which most trouble us ought to receive more of our attention, while we should be wary of overreliance on our favorites. Easy to say, more difficult to do…