Why do I believe? And what do I believe?

December 17, 2005 | 139 comments
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I’ve had some discussions with a few good friends recently about testimony and belief. As a result, tonight I felt the need to set down, for my own good (and perhaps others’) my own testimony. My testimony ebbs and flows, and I suppose that at present, it’s a bit unorthodox. But I don’t know that there’s any one right way to believe.

My testimony has developed to where it is now through a series of back-and-forths, through build-ups and tear-downs and build-ups again. It’s very different now than it was five or ten years ago; I don’t expect that it is done changing. The only way to really explain where I’m at now — at least the only way that makes any sense to me — is through a somewhat lengthy trip through how it has all developed. (And don’t say you weren’t forewarned on the length, reader!)

I lived on borrowed light for a long time. I was Mormon because that’s what I was. No different from a thousand other LDS kids, growing up in the world.

My first crisis of faith came in high school. As I recently noted on a BCC thread, for a time I resented the church and thought “If only I weren’t a weird Mormon, if only I were one of the party animals who was drinking and sleeping around, then I wouldn’t be such a geek.” In retrospect, it was a usual case of overwrought teenage angst, but at the time it was the most important thing in the world to me. And at the height of my crisis, God answered my heartfelt, unworthy prayer. I received a clear-as-day message. And that was that.

So I became a sort of Mr. Mormon. I hung out with Mormon kids; I read scriptures regularly; I put pictures of the temple on my bedroom walls. (Yes, I was that much of a geek). And I went on a mission.

At the MTC, I stressed about my testimony. I prayed about Moroni’s promise, of course. I don’t recall any burning in the bosom; I felt sort of good about the whole endeavor, but vaguely worried that I hadn’t gotten something more definitive. And then my belief got a patch of sorts — I specifically recall a talk where a general authority said “if the church wasn’t true, then why would Joseph have done so much and sacrificed so much to restore it?” And that resonated with me at the time. It just sounded right.

My mission was my second crisis of faith. It was the kind of mission about which no one will ever make a Mollywood movie. I saw infighting, backstabbing, and much worse. I picked up more bad habits on my mission than I had in two years prior. At the same time, I had some incredible, truly remarkable spiritual experiences. The juxtaposition was jarring, to say the least.

I came home adrift. My pre-mission excitement about the gospel was gone. I was still assimilating my mission experiences (ten years later, I still don’t know if I’ve completely dealt with them). But I was plugged into Mormon social circles. And so I dated some pretty Mormon girls; soon, I married and started a family.

Among other things, my mission had made one very evident change in me — it had turned me from a classic slacker into a workaholic. And so I settled into a crazy work/school regime of full time work plus full time school. My testimony was on hold, so to speak. I had a low-impact church calling (primary pianist, the best job in the world), and I was concentrating on getting through school in one piece. If I missed a week of church, I didn’t sweat it. If I missed a few weeks in a row, or a month, then Mardell would bug me and drag me to church for a week.

Meanwhile, my family was providing my most powerful spiritual experiences. Holding my newborn son in my arms was the greatest moment of my life. The church linked to these moments — I loved blessing my children — and I was happy for that link, though I didn’t give a lot of thought to the underlying testimony structure.

I arrived at law school largely in the same shape — a Mormon by habit. I hung out with Mormon kids; I went to Sacrament meeting because that’s what I was supposed to do. At that point, I don’t know that it’s even really accurate to say that I had a testimony at all. One experience that I remember in particular came on a plane flight. I sat next to a Jewish woman, and we discussed religion. She asked why I was Mormon. And my answer was along the lines of “well, I was born Mormon and I haven’t really found anything better to be.” It was a terrible cop-out, and she called me on it. She was shocked that I was willing to be a cultural Mormon (she said she could understand cultural Jews, but not cultural Mormons).

An underlying problem was that I believed my mind had outrun my mental engagement with church issues. I had moved from high school to college and then to law school. Church bored me to tears; I was thrilled to be in nursery, playing with the kids, rather than in Sunday School. (This may have made some sense in Arizona, but it was a really dumb attitude in Manhattan, given that Sunday School included the Bushmans, Jim Lucas, Greg Call, and so forth. Nevertheless, it was my view at the time — you couldn’t catch me dead in Sunday School). And given that attitude, it’s not at all surprising that I ditched church regularly to deal with law school issues, or sometimes just to stay home and relax.

Somewhere, gradually, a shift began. I started self-identifying more as Mormon. I started having long talks with friends and colleagues about religion. Not preachy talks, but fun, let’s-discuss-all-the-issues talks. And I felt a sense of pride in standing up for Mormon ideas. Perhaps I wasn’t sure if the church was true, but I sure wasn’t going to let anyone wrongly criticize it. It was my church, after all.

We moved to the Bronx, and from being nobodies in the ward to being ward backbones. Within two weeks, I was in the Elders’ Quorum presidency, trying to rebuild a home teaching program from the ground up. (Ironic, since I hadn’t done my own home teaching for years, despite Greg’s diligent calls). It was a shock, and I found myself wanting to make the ward better, wanting to answer peoples’ concerns. And the ward certainly needed it. We fed the missionaries every week for over a year; I ran meetings; I felt needed. It was exhausting; it was dysfunctional; it was great.

Did I have a testimony? I’m not sure. I could rattle off “I-know-this-church-is-true” like anyone else. Did I believe it?

Around this time, I started blogging. One thing led to another, and soon I was blogging about the church. (Mardell joked that I was “getting in touch with my Mormon side.”) Somewhere between the blogging and the meeting-running, I decided that I had to figure out whether I believed, and what I believed. My prior testimony was pretty much in shambles; I no longer found many of the arguments and statements convincing. But I had had some remarkable experiences, and these I couldn’t just explain away easily. How could I connect the dots in a way that made sense?

It was a question that I pondered, on and off, over a series of months. Here’s what I came up with.

First, I absolutely know that there is something greater than human knowledge and human experience. I have had too many strong experiences to believe otherwise. There is something Divine out there: omens, connections, karma, whatever you wish to call it; or perhaps, God. If I weren’t Mormon or otherwise linked to organized religion, I would almost certainly be a New Ager or mystic believer of some sort. I am absolutely certain that there is more out there than we can physically sense — both good and bad. And this presence or force notices us enough to sometimes intervene in our lives. That is, there is some Divine.

Second, I know that the church — the rituals and beliefs we follow; our scriptures and doctrine; the whole package — is one way to connect to that Divine. I don’t believe that it’s the only way to so connect; I don’t even know that it’s the best way. But at certain points when I’ve personally made the connection to the Divine, it has been through the trappings of the church. And that’s good enough for me.

Those two ideas form the core of my testimony.

The rest shifts, depending on the day. At times, sometimes for months on end, the whole church tapestry seems to make perfect sense to me and fit together so well. At other times, I find myself weighed down by little inconsistencies and obssessing over issues and concerns — polygamy, historicity, inconsistency here and there. I find that some church doctrines resonate particularly well with me, like the idea that families can be together forever. My family is one of my strongest connections to the Divine, and I like this. Other church doctrines sometimes seem to contradict my own experiences and connections with the Divine, and I struggle more trying to put those pieces together. But ultimately, my core is enough.

Once I set out my basics, I found that I really didn’t need to fully or permanently resolve the rest. It would be nice to have a unified set of beliefs that made perfect sense. On the other hand, I tend to think that belief is overrated; or rather, that action is the best type of belief. I absolutely love Unamuno’s story “Saint Manuel the Good,” because it focuses on the idea that one can believe in God without believing in one’s own belief. In a similar way, I think it’s okay to realize that my religion is my conduit to the divine, and that it works as such for me — even if I don’t always understand or believe all of the creed.

And that, dear reader, is what I call my testimony. It has changed quite a bit over time, and I don’t at all think that it’s done changing. It probably looks different from your testimony, but that’s okay. I don’t think that there’s one right way to believe, but I do think it is important to believe. Our belief is what connects us to the Divine. My own haphazard, slightly unorthodox belief structure seems to work for me. If your approach is different, I won’t begrudge you the difference.

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139 Responses to Why do I believe? And what do I believe?

  1. enochville on December 17, 2005 at 8:16 am

    I once spelled out why I believe what I believe to a mixed forum of atheists and Christians: http://www2.ljworld.com/forums/open/general/20/

    It is very long, especially if you read the linked articles, which I feel every reader should. I suppose fellow Latter-day Saints could skip over familiar parts.

    There are five “compasses” for me that all point in the same direction: 1) The Spirit has testified to my heart, 2) the gospel makes sense to me in my mind and enlightens my understanding, 3) I know that Joseph was a true prophet by the fruits that came from his work, 4) by keeping the commandments and observing the effects, I know whether the doctrine comes from God, and 5) the inspiration and power of the priesthood. The more we learn about church history, etc, the more we are confronted with things that challenge one of these compasses, but we can rely on the strength of the other compasses until we find a way to incorporate our new understanding into the troubling compass. One anomoly does not outweigh the wealth of our other experiences. Usually, it is our prejudiced mind that caused us to think the supposed anomoly doesn’t fit with the other things we know to be true. We sometimes just need a paradigm shift to help us incorporate the new information.

    If any readers struggle with doctrine or church history, I’d suggest visiting FAIR: http://www.fairlds.org/apol/

  2. Seth Rogers on December 17, 2005 at 10:26 am

    “To some is given the gift to believe on the words of others…”

    I think that statement was written for me. I have never had a personal confirmation of the tuthfulness of all this that I can point to or remember.

    But I believe my parents, I believe the Brethren, and I believe the faithful who surround me.

    And you know what? I’m OK with that. I don’t need dreams, visions, miracles, angels, or even a “burning in the bosom.” I have never really tried Moroni’s promise in chapter 10 (though I think I have tried Alma’s experiment on the Gospel). I just have a comfortable feeling that has persisted throughout my life, that God walks with me. I have no idea where that feeling comes from, except from others who have shaped my life.

    I have had faults enough in life, but I have never doubted whether this Church is true. So I don’t think I have a traditional testimony – probably because I never needed one.

    But it doesn’t bother me. It isn’t an issue.

  3. Davis Bell on December 17, 2005 at 10:55 am

    Thanks for the honest and thoughtful assesment of your beliefs, Kaimi.

  4. greenfrog on December 17, 2005 at 11:01 am

    kaimi,

    Though the paths we have taken to arrive here apparently differ, I am in largely the same situation as the one you describe.

  5. RoastedTomatoes on December 17, 2005 at 11:14 am

    Thanks, Kaimi. Nice post. I think you’d find that quite a lot of people in the LDS blog world are in the same place you are, +/- 5%. The folks who feel strongly convinced of the one-and-onliness of the church are louder than the others, of course, but that doesn’t automatically make them overwhelmingly more numerous — as it can sometimes feel that they are.

  6. Wm Jas on December 17, 2005 at 11:25 am

    “First, I absolutely know that there is something greater than human knowledge and human experience. I have had too many strong experiences to believe otherwise.”

    So your belief in something beyond human experience is based on . . . your human experiences?

  7. DavidH on December 17, 2005 at 12:25 pm

    Thanks Kaimi.

    In the end, I think Kaimi’s core is similar to the core of many or most people’s faith systems. It certainly is core to mine, although I would phrase it slightly differently–that I have come to believe that (1) God lives and loves me and all humankind and all creation, and (2) God’s will for me is to participate in the Church and the gospel as best I understand it, with the help of God’s spirit. Just as all God’s commandments hang on the core commands to love God and neighbor, so, for me, all my testimony and my life decisions hang on the two core principles I have mentioned. As Professor Dallin Oaks once put it in one of my classes, the gospel of Jesus is the lense through which I view the world. Or, as David O. McKay once read, “Who ere thou art, act well thy part.” As best I understand God’s loving will for me, this is my part (which includes sharing God’s message of love, as I understand it).

    Example, I believe and accept the First Vision. Do I believe it occurred precisely in the way described in JS-H? Perhaps it did. More likely, in my mind, a description composed from the several different accounts is probably more accurate. And even then, there are probably aspects I do not or would not understand. Does it matter to me whether the First Vision occurred in 1820 versus 1818 or 1822? Does it matter whether Joseph recorded correctly many years later the precise wording of what he was told? It may matter to some, but it doesn’t matter to me. The core message that Joseph received, as far as I am concerned, was 1. that God lived and loved Joseph (including, in one or more of the accounts, forgiving his sins), and 2. that God’s will for Joseph, at the time, was to join none of the churches. A core message, in my judgment, that was good enough for Joseph, just as the core of my faith is good enough for me.

  8. Kingsley on December 17, 2005 at 12:29 pm

    No, on his experience of the Divine.

  9. LisaB on December 17, 2005 at 12:39 pm

    Thanks, Kaimi. I feel pretty convinced that the LDS path is the one God wants me on, too.

  10. Kingsley on December 17, 2005 at 12:49 pm

    I like that about a core message. B.H. Roberts was comfortable in thinking of the Church as one divine movement among many. I find that it takes a little pressure off to view the Church as working in concert with all sorts of forces for good, forces that God has watched over and nurtured carefully for a long, long time. The Book of Mormon, our founding miracle, is enough to keep me in the faith; Joseph lived a chaotic life, so that it is difficult to harmonize every detail and line up every date, but he did keep his promises when it came to delivering scripture; and that, coupled with the unexplainawayable voice of the Holy Spirit, is a powerful assurance.

  11. john fowles on December 17, 2005 at 12:57 pm

    RT, are you saying that people who believe in the one-and-onliness of the Church are louder than Kaimi types in the Bloggernacle, or in the greater Church? I suspect you meant the latter, but it didn’t come across clearly. If you meant the former, I can’t agree with it. The Bloggernacle is more or less dominated by those who share Kaimi’s view that I don’t believe that [the Church] the only way to so connect [to the Divine]; I don’t even know that it’s the best way.

    In response to this statement of Kaimi, I would suggest that even the most “conservative” and unwavering “one-and-onliness” people do not believe that “the Church is the only way to so connect.” The many in the Bloggernacle who are constantly positing this are setting up a straw man. Almost all “one-and-onliness” people that I know personally are wholly supportive of people expressing themselves spiritually in their varying belief systems and find it especially acceptable if it leads them to righteous living, i.e. eschewing porn, promiscuity, disrespect, selfishness, spite, and emnity. But the “one-and-onliness” people aren’t willing to retreat on the authority issue and the absolute requirement of the prescribed ordinances. And this is what, in my observation, very much irks the non-”one-and-onliness” people in the Bloggernacle. The latter then take it as evidence that one-and-onliness people are intolerant and dismissive of any religious belief other than Brighamism, an unwarranted, forced, and even belittling conclusion. But it seems that the one-and-onliness people are much fewer in number in the Boggernacle, and are viewed as a quaint, even annoying, oddity, who do little more than disrupt useful conversation.

  12. john fowles on December 17, 2005 at 1:04 pm

    When I said “[t]he many in the Bloggernacle who are constantly positing this are setting up a straw man,” I meant “the many in the Bloggernacle who are constantly positing that one-and-onliness people are arguing this are setting up a straw man.”

  13. Kingsley on December 17, 2005 at 1:12 pm

    I only meant it is useful and sane not to think of the Church as being arrayed against Everyone Else, the sort of view that finds Catholicism as great a threat as pornography etc. (not an uncommon view, at least in my experience). I do think it a little odd to believe Joseph about, say, the divinity of Christ but reject his teachings on the authority of the Church or the necessity of the ordinances for all of God’s children.

  14. anson cassell mills on December 17, 2005 at 2:34 pm

    “I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.” Should I cross that one out now or wait and see if my mood changes?

  15. danithew on December 17, 2005 at 2:59 pm

    While I was living in Salt Lake City, I learned that a neighbor of mine had served his mission in New York City. He had pictures of prominent NYC buildings and bridges in his home. Then I learned he spent time in the Bronx. I asked him: “Do you know a guy named Kaimi Wenger?” He said, “Oh yeah, he was always feeding the missionaries.”

  16. Tatiana on December 17, 2005 at 3:04 pm

    ““I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.â€? Should I cross that one out now or wait and see if my mood changes?”

    Maybe it means that Christ’s way of gentle guidance and setting a higher example is the only way, and that bullying and sarcasm will never work.

  17. Tatiana on December 17, 2005 at 3:37 pm

    I think this is an awesome post, Kaimi. Honest, heartfelt testimony, leaving nothing out, none of the doubts or difficulties, it is just so powerful. I wonder why I don’t feel safe enough in my ward to do this exact same thing? The truth has so much impact, with me, so much more than a pretty picture blurred and shadowed a bit to avoid offending or frightening others. The truth is like water after a long drought. Like dropping an intolerable burden that I had forgotten I was carrying.

    It makes me want to bear my own testimony as well. I know that Heavenly Father loves me, that Christ loves me. They have reached out to me again and again, loved me with an overwhelming love that I do not deserve and never have and never can deserve. They accepted my unworthy gift, the tainted and worthless me, and they loved me so deeply and truly that this ugly thing was made new, pure and strong, a beautiful jewel, that they gave me back again.

    I know that Joseph Smith was a true prophet of God because the fruits of his vision and life are indeed good. The doctrines and teachings resonate so strongly. The longer I live them the more sure I am that they’re sound and right. I realized just this week, from talking to my non-member drinking smoking mom whose family has a long history of alcoholism that the word of wisdom as regards alcohol is something we as a community do as a favor to those among us who might have grown up to become alcoholics in a community that imbibed. Because the rest of us are willing to give up this small pleasure (which my mom enjoys), those few would-be alcoholics among us get their lives back. They aren’t stolen from them amid much pain and damage, spiritual, mental, physical, to them and their families. When I said to my mom “imagine what life would have been like had there been no alcoholism in our whole family” she got tears. The hurt from her father’s alcoholism she still carries with her, and the pain of his early death. When I had that realization, about that gift we’re all giving, I suddenly understood again that the church is true, the teachings are true.

    There are a few things in the church teachings that I honestly can’t find agreement with in my heart. Some that seem to me unimportant, I don’t worry about, but just follow. Others (like the teaching against homosexual marriage) I find deeply disturbing, and I pray that there will be new revelation, that the church will be made ready and we can learn a higher way. And I see that it’s so with almost everyone, that no matter how sincere and strong one’s belief in the church, there are almost always a few things that seem to heartfelt honest moral ponderings to be wrong. Then I realized, from the bloggernacle, that while that’s indeed true, the exact things we find wrong vary from person to person. We’re all faithful, intelligent, honest people doing our best to reconcile discrepancies between our own knowledge and the church’s teachings, but we each seem to have different discrepancies. For some reason that made me a whole lot more willing to look again and try to suspend my disbelief about those few things that I find difficulties with, to open my mind and become teachable.

    What precious gifts my Father has given me! I know that He has even more, far better, and sweeter gifts that he longs to pour out on my head, if only I will accept them, if only I will learn to say “yes”.

  18. StealthBomber on December 17, 2005 at 4:25 pm

    I sincerely do not intend to offend here, but I wonder how/when/why the “conflicted testimony” gained such popularity in the church. Wow, that sounded offensive. I really didn’t mean it as bad as that sounds. I have noticed over the months I’ve been exploring the bloggernacle that testimonies very often have the “although I have a hard time believing everything” kicker somewhere in them. I don’t mean to critique anybody’s testimony, believe me. We are all in the same boat and very few of us have a perfect knowledge. Heaven knows I don’t. To be honest, my personal opinion is that people who aren’t conflicted either have worked through it or likely never set themselves on a true path of learning. It just makes me wonder how the expression of such conflict crept into the bearing of testimonies. To what end does it serve? The question is not rhetorical. Again, no offense intended.

  19. Last Lemming on December 17, 2005 at 4:57 pm

    Stealthbomber,

    If nobody’s testimony were conflicted, the bloggernacle wouldn’t exist. Everybody would get the spiritual nourishment they need from church on Sunday. I, for one, have not been hearing conflicted testimonies there.

  20. Bookslinger on December 18, 2005 at 12:25 am

    I guess I’m one of the one-and-onliness people along the lines of John Fowles. My testimony is not just woven, but burned into every fiber of my being, along the lines described on page 38 of Gospel Principles, under Why Is the Holy Ghost Necessary?

    To say “I believe…” instead of “I know that the church is true”, would be true, but it would not be telling the whole truth.

    Once you’re at that point, there’s no neutral ground. Granted, people who live and die while members of other churches (and even non-christians) can be saved, even exalted, if they accept the fullness of the gospel in the Spirit World, and are capable of living a celestial law, and abiding a celestial glory. But it’s this gospel and temple ordinances that they’ll be accepting there.

    Jesus did visit a people known as the Nephites. Joseph Smith did see God the Father and Jesus Christ. That knowledge has been transfered into me by divine means, and burned in. During dark times I ignored it. And at times I tried to disbelieve it, but I couldn’t. Trying to disbelieve it was like trying to disbelieve my own existence.

    I “connected” with the divine 10 years before finding the one-and-only true church. That experience or testimony from the Holy Ghost about the existance of God the Father and Jesus Christ was also transfered in and
    “burned in.” Nephi and page 38 of G.P. describe it well. And Joseph Smith nailed it in some of his descriptions.

    Like Kaimi, my mission had infighting, backstabbing, and I picked up bad habits. When I sent in my mission application, I thought the other misisonaries were going to have a good effect on me, but it was the opposite. The church was still true, but I came off the mission spiritually and emotionally worse off than before. It wasn’t until Elder Ballard’s “raise the bar” talk in Oct 2002 that I was finally able to process it. Raising the bar just came about 20 years too late for me. Processing, or dealing with mission expriences took me 15 years of inactivity, and almost 2 years after coming back to deal with it all. There were other factors too. I don’t want to imply that a bad mission experience was the sole reason for leaving the church, but it was a big part of it. But now I can better understand why Oliver, Sidney, and TB Marsh left the church.

  21. shane on December 18, 2005 at 3:34 am

    Stealthbomber,

    You nailed it. I am new to the board and have found some of the blogs interesting. Nevertheless, in a lot of ways, I have been surprised at the underlying current of cyncism and disbelief running through this board concerning the church and its leaders. It is sad and I have actually thought about it quite a bit over the last few weeks. My initial reaction has been to wonder why people put their trust in the arm of their flesh, rather than trust the Lord. This phenomenon seems to manifest itself quite frequently on this board in the form of an intellectual attack on what I consider to be plain and precious truths of the gospel.

    For example, “There are a few things in the church teachings that I honestly can’t find agreement with in my heart. Some that seem to me unimportant, I don’t worry about, but just follow. Others (like the teaching against homosexual marriage) I find deeply disturbing, and I pray that there will be new revelation, that the church will be made ready and we can learn a higher way.”

    What???? I am sure the board has already discussed this issue to death at some point, but do other people on this board agree with this nonsense? I find comments like this “deeply disturbing” in light of the breadth and scope of counsel we have received from the prophets on these issues.

    As to the “one and onliness” of the church comments, again all I can say is what is going here? Do you read the D&C: “this church, … the only true and living church upon the face of the whole earth.” If you don’t believe in the revelations, I understand this comment. If you do believe in the revelations, however, how can you attack the “one and onliness” of the church with a straight face? Is there some doctrinal basis for this middle of the road type of position that I have missed all of these years?

    “If nobody’s testimony were conflicted, the bloggernacle wouldn’t exist. Everybody would get the spiritual nourishment they need from church on Sunday. I, for one, have not been hearing conflicted testimonies there.”

    Last Lemming,

    Again, I am new, but is this board simply a gathering place for those who have conflicted testimonies? I thought its purpose was something different than that, but maybe I am wrong. I think some of the posts are interesting, but I certainly don’t come here as an alternative for the “spiritual nourishment” available at church. The prophets and apostles have repeatedly taught that if we are not getting spiritually enriched from our Sunday meetings then we are not approaching those meetings in the correct way.

  22. anson cassell mills on December 18, 2005 at 7:29 am

    As a young Aztec I lived on borrowed light for a long time, no different from a thousand other Aztec kids. My parents took me to the sacrifices at the pyramids on a regular basis. Yet soon as a teenager, I began to resent all the hearts torn out of victims and their bodies kicked down the stairs.

    Gradually, though, as I grew older, I had some remarkable spiritual experiences: I worked for the priests themselves, held my newborn son in my arms, and met the physical needs of those around me. Maybe the human sacrifices aren’t all there is in the grand scheme of things, but I did have a sense of the Divine when I stared at the sun, attended the ceremonies at the pyramids, and made my contribution to continue the sacrifices.

    So, gentle reader, I don’t think that there’s one right way to believe, but I do think it is important to believe. Our belief is what connects us to the Divine. My own haphazard, slightly unorthodox belief structure seems to work for me. If your approach is different, I won’t begrudge you the difference.

  23. jjohnsen on December 18, 2005 at 10:23 am

    “For example, “There are a few things in the church teachings that I honestly can’t find agreement with in my heart. Some that seem to me unimportant, I don’t worry about, but just follow. Others (like the teaching against homosexual marriage) I find deeply disturbing, and I pray that there will be new revelation, that the church will be made ready and we can learn a higher way.â€?

    What???? I am sure the board has already discussed this issue to death at some point, but do other people on this board agree with this nonsense? I find comments like this “deeply disturbing� in light of the breadth and scope of counsel we have received from the prophets on these issues

    What do you see wrong with praying for a revelation that changes the teachings agains homosexual marriage? People were praying for those same changes so that blacks could get the priesthood and enter the temple. Was it wrong for them to pray for that change, were those prayers “deeply disturbing”? Or because that issue has been resolved now, is it ok that people prayed for God’s church to change?

    You may see this blog as a place for cynics and disbelievers to gather and complain about the church. I see it as a place I can come and participate in discussion about issues that I struggle with in the church. My testimony is similar to Kaimi’s, with conclusions that match almost to the “T”. I would prefer to come here and discuss these issues (both positive and negative) than complain and murmer without coming to any sort of resolution. Everyone’s testimonies are different, and for some of us the Bloggernacle is a place to help those testimonies grow and develop.

    Thank you for sharing KAimi.

  24. Seth Rogers on December 18, 2005 at 11:47 am

    shane has a good point.

    I actually do think his characterization of the mood on the bloggernacle is fairly accurate.

    There is a real undercurrent of “I’ll follow the prophet as long as he agrees with me” that pops up around here from time to time.

    It also seems trendy to pick out the stuff we like as “revelation” or “inspiration,” but then label the more challenging stuff as:

    1. “just Boyd K. Packer’s opinion – I’m sure ALL the apostles don’t necessarily agree with him”

    2. “Just Ezra Taft Benson being a flawed human – I’m sure he was just interpreting the signals from God incorrectly”

    3. “that was maybe OK for the 1970s, but we live in the 21st century now”

    I have a real problem with this train of thought. I hope everyone realizes the danger in second-guessing like this. I mean, I second guess too, but at least I’m still uncomfortable with it.

    And no, I do not accept same-sex marriage within the LDS faith. And it will taks a lot more than scientific surveys, pop culture, and personal sob stories to convince me otherwise.

    At some point, it’s time to shut up, salute the brethren, and do what you’re told.

  25. jjohnsen on December 18, 2005 at 3:27 pm

    I understand what you’re saying, but I know members in the 50′s that were saying those exact words about blacks receiving the priesthood and entering the temple. Things like “God would never let the cursed race enter the temple” or “God will not change his mind, negros will never have the priesthood”. In fact, my wife’s grandparents still struggle with this change, to the point of believing there was a possibility that President Benson might change it back when he became prophet.

    Was it wrong for saints to pray that the Lord would extend the full blessings of the priesthood to all worthy males? Is it wrong to pray for the same thing for other people that right now are considered unworthy?

    Tell me this Seth or Shane. When is it wrong for members of the church to pray for a change in church policy?

  26. jjohnsen on December 18, 2005 at 3:28 pm

    Instead of saying when is it wrong, I should be asking when is it wrong, or is it Ever wrong, for members of teh church to pray for a change?

  27. Seth Rogers on December 18, 2005 at 5:08 pm

    Well notice that I said “at some point.”

  28. Bookslinger on December 18, 2005 at 5:10 pm

    What people are leaving out is that most of the modern prophets did say that the day would come when blacks would have the priesthood. I think some did say, in _their_ words, that the curse would be lifted. Then David O. McKay actually went on record as saying the Lord told him, essentially, “not now, but later.”

    I don’t believe one can rightly compare the issue of homosexuality to the issue of blacks and the priesthood.

  29. Seth Rogers on December 18, 2005 at 5:18 pm

    “Again, I am new, but is this board simply a gathering place for those who have conflicted testimonies?”

    I’d say no.

    Alot of people just come here to get something they can’t get at church.

    By definition, that category will include people with “conflicted testimonies.” But those aren’t the only people here.

    It’s simply a community of believers. But the dynamic is probably different than your standard ward.

  30. jjohnsen on December 18, 2005 at 9:38 pm

    “What people are leaving out is that most of the modern prophets did say that the day would come when blacks would have the priesthood. I think some did say, in _their_ words, that the curse would be lifted. Then David O. McKay actually went on record as saying the Lord told him, essentially, “not now, but later.â€?

    I don’t believe one can rightly compare the issue of homosexuality to the issue of blacks and the priesthood”

    Homosexuality was just the first example I could think of. If members in the late 1800′s were praying for the practice of polygamy to be ended, was it wrong to do so?

    It doesn’t matter what example I choose, the point is, is it wrong to pray for something in the church to be changed?

  31. enochville on December 18, 2005 at 9:59 pm

    We should strive to be so in tune with the Spirit that we do not pray for things that are contrary to God’s will.

  32. Audrey Stone on December 18, 2005 at 10:57 pm

    Shane, I completely agree with you. Until I started reading the LDS Blogs, I never realized that there were so many “fringe” mormons in the church. Homosexuality is WRONG and against the order of God. I don’t deny that there are those who may have those appetites and passions, but we are here to control our appetities and passions and follow the commandments. Polygamy has had times and seasons throughout history for the purposes of the Lord–which I don’t presume to know, the black people are children of God and were destined to gain the priesthood at some point, but no amount of time makes homosexuality normal or right.

    I don’t think it is wrong to pray for something in the church to change. I have faith that right and truth will prevail, and that Gods will will be done no matter what kinds of prayers are being offered up. I also believe that he can grant you peace and understanding of principles that may bother you.

  33. Audrey Stone on December 18, 2005 at 11:00 pm

    What is wrong is if you have a feeling that either the Prophet or God are wrong. That is a sin because you are putting yourself above God and His prophet.

  34. Bookslinger on December 19, 2005 at 12:25 am

    jjohnson: It doesn’t matter what example I choose, the point is, is it wrong to pray for something in the church to be changed?

    Generally, yes, depending on what it is. Would it be okay to pray for tithing to be lowered to 5%? Would it be okay to pray for the injunction against premarital sex to be lifted? What about praying for the the removal of the injunction against pornography? What about praying for the home-teaching goal to be 50% instead of 100% each month?

    The point of prayer is not to convince God to do something he doesn’t want to do. The point of prayer is to get us in line with God’s will; to find out his will so that we can get in line with it.

    The proper prayer for saints in the 1800′s would not have been to ask Heavenly Father to end polygamy. The proper prayer would have been “Father, do you want us to continue practicing polygamy, or to end it?”

    The proper prayer is not to ask God to bless homosexual marriage, but to seek God’s will. And, you might not get an answer, because the scriptures and modern prophets have already given you the answer.

    There is no scriptural basis for accepting homosexual behavior as legitimate. The acceptance of homosexuality based on “compassion” is a modern new-age construct based on false-compassion. It is not compassionate to tell someone that a sin is not a sin.

    The idea that homosexuality was not a psychological problem was foisted on the APA by a vocal minority back in the 1970′s. Read up on it. Most psychology professionals at that time, and most even after the APA changed its stance, believed that male homsexuality had causes traceable to problems in early childhood development and boys’ relationships with their fathers. Even without scientific evidence to back the new paradigm of “gay is okay” it became politcally incorrect to label homosexuality as abnormal or even discuss it’s origins, even though the vast majority of mental health professionals still subscribed to the old view.

    The “gay is okay” paradigm is part of the new “compassion fascism” or “compassion fashion” of elites getting on their high-horses, sticking their noses in the air, and pointing the finger at “neanderthals” who are not as “compassionate,” “open-minded” and “tolerant” as they are.

    The “gay is okay” paradigm sits squarely in the great and spacious building.

  35. Wade on December 19, 2005 at 12:34 am

    “I don’t believe that it’s the only way to so connect; I don’t even know that it’s the best way.”

    Professor Wenger,

    This is an interesting comment and perspective. It’s actually something I’ve thought about in the past, and as recent as yesterday. I actually think you’re at least half right here – I don’t think the Church is the only way to connect, and I think those who assume this have not really thought it through. I think the majority of us will be amazed/surprised after this life as we continue what President Faust has called our “odyssey” and realize that virtually everyone will be in their own heaven – or what they have always wanted.

    Because the resurrection will differ as much as the stars differ in their glory, it is hard to say the Church is the only way to connect to the divine. Those in the various degrees of both the Telestial and Terrestrial Kingdoms will find themselves in their “heaven”, and thus their sought after connection with the divine. However, I do think it is correct to say that the Church is the only way to reach the highest degree of the Celestial Kingdom. And yet, I also think it may be surprising to learn how few the number will be there.

  36. Marc D. on December 19, 2005 at 2:34 am

    Thanks Kaimi, for sharing your beautiful testimony.

  37. Jared Jensen on December 19, 2005 at 6:23 am

    Kaimi,

    I’m scratching my head trying to figure out how your testimony could provoke yet another futile discussion of homosexuality.

    Anyway, I enjoyed your post. I find it interesting that you and many others appear to have left the mission field battered and bewildered. That certainly was my experience as well. I think it would a very interesting topic for a future post.

  38. Seth Rogers on December 19, 2005 at 9:05 am

    Careful Wade,

    “One faith, and one baptism.”

    The realities of mortality require that people live on the light that they have and do the best they can with the religions they’ve got.

    But there is only one “officially endorsed” religion on earth: ours.

    You can disagree with that view if you wish, but I think it is much more doctrinal than “whatever belief system works for you.”

    Like Pres. Hinckley, I’m all about recognizing the good in other religions. I also firmly believe that the LDS Church has much to learn from other belief systems. I do not claim that we possess ALL knowlege. I do not even claim that “anytime is the right time to join the Mormons” for all people.

    But I do believe that this religion has all the REQUIRED knowlege and ordinances for salvation, and that this is not true of any other belief system on earth. Eventually, all humanity must either reject or accept the religion the Prophet Joseph Smith founded.

    Don’t mistake recent trends of reconcilliation from the brethren as giving up one inch of ground on the “one true and living Church” doctrine.

  39. CS Eric on December 19, 2005 at 11:36 am

    Kaimi,

    Thanks for this post. I, too have had times when it felt like everything just fit. And I have had experiences so profound that I cannot deny them. I still remember the temple session in Atlanta in April 1988 where the Spirit was so overwhelming that all I could do was cry for days.

    But we all have some struggles, and I think that is the most important point Kaimi makes. In spite of all the experiences I have had, I still struggle with feeling that it is for me, that I belong. Two weeks ago I had a compelling urge to leave Sacrament meeing and go straight home and never come back. The only thing that kept me was my responsibility to teach priesthood that day. Why did I have that feeling? I don’t know. I pray daily, and that morning had completed Pres Hinkley’s challenge to read the Book of Mormon again.

    For those who have asked what part the Bloggernacle has, I can tell you that, ever since I have found it, the Bloggernacle has been the strongest connection I have felt with the Church. I may not have even been in that Sacrament meeting to wonder what I was doing there without the Bloggernacle. I don’t personally know anybody who participates in it, but still seeing others share their walks in the gospel makes me feel a little less alone.

  40. Adam Greenwood on December 19, 2005 at 11:48 am

    I wish Kaimi W. all the best in his spiritual journey. I want to tread lightly here because, while I fundamentally agree with those who think that a faith in the Church as one-voice among many is untenable, I don’t think Kaimi W.’s purpose here was to proselyte that position. Instead, he’s testifying to what he does know–our personal God, prayer, family, faith that God guides us and ultimately resolves doubts.

    I understand that commenters are reacting generally to the general atmosphere of pride and doubt in the Bloggernacle and specifically to RT’s typical sneer for wholehearted believers. But Kaimi W. isn’t the Bloggernacle or RT, and perhaps we should save our disgruntlement–justified though it is–for some other occasion.

  41. Wade on December 19, 2005 at 12:11 pm

    Seth,

    I fully concur with your response to my comment! However, I think you may have failed to get my point. I specifically said that in order to get into the Celestial Kingdom on must accept the true Church. I did say the “highest degree” of the CK, but that’s not true, I should have said the CK period. But, the fact is that the Telestial and Terrestrial Kingdoms will be glories to those who inhabit them and this glory will be exactly what those in other religions seek/dream as their heaven. Thus, they are seeking and connecting, and one day will gain, what they seek in the divine without being members of the One and Only True and Living Church on the face of the whole earth.

  42. jimbob on December 19, 2005 at 12:21 pm

    I’m always amazed when people tell me their mission was overall a stumbling-block to their testimonies. I can honestly say I simply wouldn’t have a testimony without my mission. I left high school pretty sure that I didn’t want to be a member much longer, and basically got to the MTC through some serious poking and prodding (pretty sure I wouldn’t have met the “higher bar” standards of today). But I got a testimony in the MTC and field, and worked with some great companions and people. My brother, on the other hand, went into the field converted, but came away from his mission with a descernible lack of testimony, due to some experiences he had with others who probably shouldn’t have been in the field or in leadership positions. He’s still “recovering,” eleven years later. But I’ve never really doubted since my mission, ten years ago, largely based on the experiences I had there. I’ve often wondered how a mission could affect two people in such disparate ways. In some ways our experiences seem a little unfair, but I suppose the Lord knows what challenges we need and when we need them far better than I.

  43. Robert Charles Luerssen Sr. on December 19, 2005 at 12:40 pm

    Kaimi,

    I enjoyed your honesty in looking in at the life of your testimony. I’m a convert with one of those amazing conversion stories that few can believe and yet many would envy to have. For whatever reason God grants us the experiences he gives us, the bottom line is we can each witness to each other the hand he has had in our lives. I think belief and unbelief is the true key for gaining perfect knowledge or staying in the dark. I have been in the church since 1970 and have endured members and family on all levels of belief and unbelief. On my mission (72-74) I trained a new missionary who was born in the church to a strong member family. However, on our first day out going door to door he stopped me after about the 3rd house and accused of preaching false doctrine. I was using the “family can be together forever” approach. This born in the church Elder truely believed only born in the church members could go to the Celestial Kingdom. It took a few scriptures and about 20 minutes to convert him to the true church. Today he is a Stake President. We can all grow and know. Another strange experience that happened on my mission keeps me on guard even to this day.Late in my mission (last 6 months) I was finally called to leadership. Then when I had but 3 months left a stranger thing happened. The Mission President (William Walsh) called a special mission conference (Mar.1974) for half the mission near Auburn, Ca for all the missionaries in Neveda and the Sacramento area. During this conference he announced his two mission assistances (APs) would be going home in a few days. Then to ever bodies surprise he announced his two new APs and asked for a sustaining vote from the missionaries. I was one of the names he announced and had sustained without any foreknowledge save a few seconds before when the Holy Ghost spoke quietly in my ear saying you are one of them. It was an honor, but I was also humbled. I thanked the President and he told me to thank the Lord and get on my knees and pray for help. I shortly found his counsel very important. After being congratulated by many Elders, Sisters and former companions a Elder I didn’t know came up to me and asked if he could talk to me privately. I agreed and we went a little ways off from the people. This Utah Elder said the following to me: “Elder Luerssen we might of sustained you publicly here today, but we will never sustain you privately. That calling (AP) is reserved for those of us born in the church, who have come from good Mormon families and lived good Mormon lives. Not for some dirty, hippie, eastern, NY convert like yourself!” I never told anyone about this while I was on my mission. I took it as an honor that people would treat me like the prophets of old. I don’t know where this Elder is today, but I’m hopeful he has grown into greater light. The reality is there are always going to be those who think they know best and more and yet they are full of unbelief and in truth know little or nothing. The enemy within is always more dangerous than the enemy without. My answer to this is to share my testimony and story with as many people as I can at http://www.homestead.com/oceanportal .

  44. Ryan on December 19, 2005 at 1:36 pm

    whew, what a topic.

    Thank you everybody for all your comments. Although I, like some of the commenters, do lament the rise of the “conflicted testimony” It is only because I worry that it will encourage a level of complacency. (i.e., “Well, that guy doesn’t believe a bunch of stuff about the church either so I must be doing pretty good.” ) The reason I have been striving, ever since my mission, to more fully understand the gospel, the prophets, the policies and all the other places where seeming conflicts or falsehoods have been raised is because of one particular Branch president who seemed to know everything. He taught me about gospel scholarship and every step I take in investigating and resolving what I perceive as “problems” with the church, my testimony grows brighter. I can’t see myself having the same hunger for knowledge and understanding if I allowed myself to settle for “There are just some things about the church that are (insert detractor-type adjective here)”. So although I appreciate that we all have questions, gaps and/or challenges in our testimonies, I think that we would be better off mentioning them only as sidenotes to our otherwise powerful testimony of whatever particular facet of the gospel we happen to bee 100% sure of. Perhaps in that way we can avoid “whitewashing” but at the same time plant additional seeds of doubt. Cause seriously the last thing “Lucifer Appleseed” needs is more assistance encouraging doubtful feelings.

  45. Ryan on December 19, 2005 at 1:43 pm

    Perhaps in that way we can avoid “whitewashing� but at the same time plant additional seeds of doubt.

    blech, that sentence made my head hurt. What I meant to say was:

    Perhaps in that way we can avoid “whitewashing” when we testify and simultaneously avoid planting additional seeds of doubt.

    That’s better.

  46. CS Eric on December 19, 2005 at 1:53 pm

    Ryan,

    I think you are misunderstanding most of the posts that talk about the struggles people are having and talking about. Most of them do not say, “Because I have problems with [name your issue--the stand against homosexual marriage, for example], I do not believe the Church is true.” Most of them say, “I am struggling with this, but am faithful anyway.” Many people have reasons to be less than fully active, but stay because of their underlying testimony of the basics. I think that is part of Kaimi’s point.

    I think criticisms of the Bloggernacle would be more valid if there were more of the “Dissent is Patriotic”-type posts, as if dissent were the ONLY valid form of patriotism, or, in this case, as if doubt were the only valid form of faith.

    I miss the days when my doubts were smaller and my faith stronger, but that doesn’t mean that my testimony is any less valid. I believe it is only a matter of degree from Kaimi’s (and others’, including mine) post talking about struggles with some things and the late Pres. Marion G. Romney’s last conference address in which he expressed the hope that he would be able to endure to the end.

  47. Visorstuff on December 19, 2005 at 3:08 pm

    Wade RE: #35 – “The Church is the only way to reach the highest degree of the Celestial Kingdom. And yet, I also think it may be surprising to learn how few the number will be there.”

    I think you’ll be suprised at how many people actually will be in the CK. I don’t recall it saying that there are only going to be a few people who are good enough, but rather that it is God’s work and glory to exalt all of his children. I believe he will be largely successful. Not all will be saved, for sure, but more than what we expect.

    All children who die before age eight (what was the mortality rate prior to 1900? 8/10 died?), all those who WOULD have receieved had they had the chance (saying the CK is going to be few kinda destroys the whole purpose of temple work, doesn’t it?), and all those who live during the millenium, and all those who have obeyed the gospel as it was revealed to them. From a historical perpective, I’d say that about 80-plus percent of the earth’s historical population qualifies for exaltation if they accept the gospel in the next life. It is our RESPONSIBILITY to help the other 15-20 percent believe and be baptized. This is the purpose of temples, and of the priesthood. To help God to be successful, and save mankind who are willing to be saved, and who will accept the atonement. There will be many who will not accept the gospel, and many who will not accept the atonment, and end up in the TR and TL, but I don’t read anywhere that they will be the majority.

    In saying that God is largely successful in his work and glory, I’m not saying we don’t have to do our part or take away personal accountability, but I am sick of church members treating the church like an exclusive club. If we can’t help the few who don’t automatically qualify for salvation, that responsibility will rest upon our shoulders and we will be accountable. We are not an exclusive club, in fact, we have more to lose than the others as we already know better. We are the house of Israel, and we can only lose our election and exaltation at this point.

    Sorry for the rant, but that mindset is one of my pet peeves.

  48. shane on December 19, 2005 at 3:20 pm

    As has been pointed out, everybody has there own struggles to overcome in this life.

    The mission as a stumbling block is a completely new concept to me, however. I had a great mission and in many ways, it was there that I really gained a strong testimony of the gospel. It is difficult for me to understand how the mission experience itself acts as a stumbling block? I had a lot of companions and leaders that were nutty than fruitcake, the work was hard, and the conditions mostly miserable. But in my opinion, none of those things should bear on our testimonies. I do not doubt or question anyone’s statement that there mission was a stumbling block, it is just hard for me personally to put my finger on why that is the case.

    As to the homosexuality debate, I personally believe that no good standing member of this church can support gay marriage. I think we would do well to remember the counsel from President Faust in the last conference (on the homoesexuality issue, and more generally on this board):

    “I was humbled and overwhelmed to be called as an Assistant to the Twelve Apostles 33 years ago. A few days later President Hugh B. Brown counseled me that the most important thing I should do is to always be in harmony with my Brethren. President Brown did not elaborate. He just said, “Stick with the Brethren.” I interpreted that to mean that I should follow the counsel and direction of the President of the Church, the First Presidency, and Quorum of the Twelve. That resonated as something I wanted to do with all my heart.

    Others may not agree with that counsel, but it warrants some consideration. I have concluded that spiritual guidance in large measure depends upon being in harmony with the President of the Church, the First Presidency, and the Quorum of the Twelve—all of whom are sustained, as they were today, as prophets, seers, and revelators. I do not know how we can expect to be in full harmony with the Spirit of the Lord if we are not in harmony with the President of the Church and the other prophets, seers, and revelators.”

    We cannot be in harmony with the spirit if we are not in harmony with the brethren. Period.

  49. shane on December 19, 2005 at 3:31 pm

    “As has been pointed out, everybody has there own struggles to overcome in this life.” Typo is driving me crazy — their, not there.

  50. Kingsley on December 19, 2005 at 3:44 pm

    Shane, what exactly do you mean by harmony with the brethren? Agreement with everything written, spoken, taught and believed by the apostles from day one? Also, are you saying that Latter-day Saints with this or that bone to pick with former or current Church teaching are out of harmony with the spirit, period, that Tatiana, for example, cannot receive guidance from the Holy Ghost for her family or herself because of her stand on the issue of gay marriage? Wherever your do or die stance comes from, it certainly isn’t sustained the President Faust quote, which offers itself as warranting “some consideration.”

  51. StealthBomber on December 19, 2005 at 4:13 pm

    Kaimi,

    My apologies for what this thread has turned into. My original comment was sincere and not meant to spark this type of futile debate.

  52. Craig W. on December 19, 2005 at 4:26 pm

    Personally, I have more respect for those who, despite their doubts and struggles, continue diligently in the church, than those who walk through life “unconflicted.” After all, Alma stresses that the rewards come after our diligence and enduring to the end.
    And Wade, I certainly hope that when it is all said and done, that the Savior, by way of his atonement, has found a way to save (in the CK) many more souls than you are expecting.

    Kaimi, thank you for a great story.

  53. CS Eric on December 19, 2005 at 4:42 pm

    StealthBomber,

    I’m not sure the direction this thread has gone is entirely your fault. After all, the title of the thread “Why do I believe? And what do I believe?” just leads to different answers to those questions. We are all on different places on the path, and so the answers to questions of what we believe and why will differ depending on our perspective.

    I remember growing up in the Church when the Priesthood ban was still in effect. I didn’t like it, and didn’t really buy into a lot of the justifications for it (fence-sitters? are you kidding?), but my testimony didn’t depend on that policy. It was embarrassing, but I was relieved when it changed early on my mission so I could tell people we didn’t practice that any more.

    There are other things I don’t like, still. I understand that the Church is too large now to be as personal as it was in the early days, but I almost wish for the days when the Prophet was Brother Joseph or Brother Brigham, instead of the very formal President First Name, Middle Initial, Last Name. When he visited my mission, (then) Apostle Gordon B. Hinkley (there it is) said he believed the bureaucracy was one proof of the truth of the Church–it was such a mess that only God Himself could understand it.

    The point is that we believe. And we should ask ourselves what it is we believe and why, if for no other reason than to remind ourselves of how far we’ve come, and maybe how much we really need to rely on the Savior to get where we need to go.

  54. Kingsley on December 19, 2005 at 4:59 pm

    Not sure the debate is futile, either. To me mind, the “all or nothing” view leads to immeasurable suffering in families, wards, and individual lives, and if calms discussion is one way to eradicate it so much the better. It is irritating to have one group accused of being “louder” than the other, as it’s nonsense, but Kaimi’s straightforward confession of the difficulties of faith and other statements according with his view should be welcomed and pondered.

  55. Kingsley on December 19, 2005 at 5:04 pm

    To my mind, sorry. Argh, matey.

  56. StealthBomber on December 19, 2005 at 5:12 pm

    Kingsley, I’m pretty sure the debate you and Shane were having was not going to be fruitful.

    All,

    I guess my point was that many of us, at the very least, have points of doctrine or policy we don’t understand. Sometimes there are points that we might disagree with. Those conflicts can potentially be treated in the following ways: (this list is not exhaustive)

    (1) One can do nothing and simply struggle internally to find some peace.
    (2) One can accept that conflict as being the result of our imperfect perspectives and simply move on in faith.
    (3) One can articulate the conflict and share it with others in an attempt to gain understanding.
    (4) One can articulate the conflict and share it with others out of a sense of disagreement or as a critique of priesthood leadership.

    I see where good can come from (1), (2), and (3), but if (4) is at the heart of it (truthfully), is it worth saying?

  57. Tatiana on December 19, 2005 at 6:20 pm

    StealthBomber, can I add a (5)? One can articulate the conflict as an honest and heartfelt statement of one’s beliefs, because the truth matters, because it’s real, and because others who feel the same way and may think they therefore don’t belong in the church, may find out they’re not alone.

    I’m very sorry if my comment caused people anger or distress. That was not my intent at all. Rereading it, it still sounds to me like a strong profession of faith.

  58. StealthBomber on December 19, 2005 at 7:20 pm

    Tatiana,

    Of course you can add whatever you want to the list. As I said, it’s not exhaustive. I don’t think you should apologize for your comment and I don’t think it caused anger or distress.

    My question was simply where does the motivation for EXPRESSING the conflict come from. I think some people that posted implied that there should be no conflict at all. That isn’t what I was asking. You said one reason for these expressions of conflict is “because the truth matters, because it’s real, and because others who feel the same way may think they therfore don’t belong in the church, may find out they’re not alone.” Fair enough. If the net effect of finding that you’re not alone is faith promoting, I see value in it. But I also see a danger in a group effect of like-minded folks exacerbating their discontent. That was why I asked to what end does it serve?

  59. Wade on December 19, 2005 at 11:12 pm

    Visorstuff – #47:
    “I don’t recall it saying that there are only going to be a few people who are good enough, but rather that it is God’s work and glory to exalt all of his children. I believe he will be largely successful.”

    As I recall, Moses 1:39 says his work is not only to exalt man, but to vouchsafe immortality for them too. As you know, the atonement has already made God’s work “largely successful” because the resurrection alone has already completed half of His work. I don’t wish to get into a speculative numbers game about the percentage of those who will be saved in the Celestial Kingdom. However, my point is that God’s work and glory is not only to exalt his children but to offer them the opportunity to choose exaltation – this was accomplished through the atonement because we now have the option.

    I think it is quite presumptuous to assume that over 80% of God’s children will be exalted. The scriptures teach that those who achieve the highest degree of the Celestial Kingdom are in what you would call an “exclusive club” – the scriptures call it the church of the Firstborn(DC 76:54), and those in it are referred to as the elect of God(DC 84:34). Are the vast majority of God’s children elect?? If so, why call them elect? Wouldn’t it make more sense to just call them his children? I agree, the Church on earth today is not, and should not be thought of as an exclusive club. But, the scriptures also teach us that not all members of the church will be in the Celestial Kingdom. Indeed, members not valiant in their testimony of Jesus will obtain a Terrestrial Glory (DC 76:79). Furthermore, all “honorable men of the earth, who were blinded by the craftiness of men” cannot obtain the CK, but will dwell in the TRK (DC 76:75). I think this verse accounts for numerous people – perhaps myself included (I’m not pretending to be an elitist here). I also think it is instructive to consider that a full 1/3 of ALL of God’s children chose not to be exalted even before the creation! Don’t you think that it was God’s work and glory to exalt them, or did his work only start after their eternal fall? If it was his intention to exalt them, then it is impossible for him to be, as you say, “largely successful”. Don’t forget about who’s plan it was to ensure the exaltation of every child – we shouldn’t turn our backs on agency here.

    The main difference between your view and mine is that it seems to me that you think the TRK and the TLK are some sort of hell for those who obtain them. They are not. They are called “Glories” and the scriptures teach that even the glory of the telestial “surpasses all understanding; and no man knows it except him to whom God has revealed it” (DC 76:89-90). I think we in the Church underestimate the “lesser” glories. Those who obtain the TRK and the TLK have Salvation through Christ because they will be restored to the order in which they were able to live here on earth. Thus, they will achieve the heaven they seek. Sure, they will be damned, but so will every person who has not made the highest degree of the CK – yes, there is such thing as Celestial damnation (DC 131:4).

    Craig #52:
    “And Wade, I certainly hope that when it is all said and done, that the Savior, by way of his atonement, has found a way to save (in the CK) many more souls than you are expecting.”

    That’s just it Craig, I think you miss the point by saying that it is up to the Savior to find “a way” to save these souls through His atonement. The atonement is complete, the way is already provided. God will not force anyone into the CK, the people must choose to change themselves from their carnal natures and be cleansed. As for us actually doing this, refer to my points about Salvation in other kingdoms as well as the CK. Isn’t receiving immortal glory that is beyond any mortal man’s ability to comprehend a good thing?

  60. Robert Charles Luerssen Sr. on December 20, 2005 at 12:10 am

    Wade you see more clearly then most. We can flatter each other to feel good about the broad way, but all is not well in Zion. The word of God is quick and powerful dividing …

    Therefore all things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them: for this is the law and the prophets. Enter ye in at the strait gate: for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat: Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it. Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves. (Matt. 7:12-15)

    I have come out of the mud pits of Woodstock with the greater light for those who have eyes to see and ears to hear!

  61. Robert Charles Luerssen Sr. on December 20, 2005 at 12:48 am

    And for all you other brainy geeks who must hear from a peer with more letters and honors then your own I suggest you read the bio of Clayton Christensen at http://www.claytonchristensen.com/biography.html and read his testimony link “Why I Belong, and Why I Believe”. This man is a Area Authority in the NE and Mayor Michael Bloomberg of NYC calls him “My Hero”! After reading his testimony you might call him your hero.

  62. Kaimi Wenger on December 20, 2005 at 1:06 am

    All,

    Thank you for the variety of responses. I apologize for not weighing in sooner — I wanted to sit out of the comments for a short while, because this is a relatively sensitive topic to me, and I know that if I had jumped in earlier, I could be prone to overreaction.

    Stealth,

    I understand your concern, and I don’t intend for this to be a particular example or tract for any particular position. It’s just my own statement of beliefs. Like I implied upfront — and I was deliberately vague on the details, for obvious reasons — I wrote this post mostly for a few specific people. For me, obviously. And for a few particular friends who struggle with some of these testimony issues. (This is pretty close to Tatiana’s comment in 57).

    I’m honestly not trying to join into any trends here. I don’t wish to convert anyone to my particular type or variant of testimony, which I find works well for me today, but which could not have worked for me ten years ago. Other options seem to work very well for other people (including me, at different points in my life).

    Adam,

    Thank you for your kind words.

    Kingsley,

    Thank you for repeatedly watching my back.

    J Johnsen writes:

    “For some of us the Bloggernacle is a place to help those testimonies grow and develop.”

    Amen. For me, the bloggernacle has helped me develop and understand what I believe, and that has been a very positive development in my life.

  63. comet on December 20, 2005 at 2:49 am

    Thanks, Kaimi. Thoughtful reflections
    on personal experience in the church.

    In the lds church, it seems a testimony means
    different things to different people. It’s
    one of those words that could pass, and
    be passed, for just about anything. Take
    a look at this thread: who knows what half
    the comments assume to be a testimony.

  64. Brian G on December 20, 2005 at 3:36 am

    I don’t know, Kaimi. I think because you were honest in writing this post I should be honest in responding to it.

    When I read it it made me feel really sad. Maybe if I hadn’t met you in person I wouldn’t find it quite so depressing.

    I just can’t shake the feeling that after a lifetime of activity and church service you should have more at “the core” of your testimony than what you write about here. A belief in a vague higher power, which you call “the Divine,” and a conviction that your faith is one of many ways, not even perhaps the best way, to connect with that Divine is basically what most people on the planet have without having gone through all the obedience and sacrifice. It seems to me you’re back where most people begin.

    That depresses me because it suggests that the Church has failed you somehow, but also it seems intellectual inquiry in general has failed you because it seems as if all your considerable intelligence and inquisitiveness has served primarily to make you sure of less and uncertain about more.

    So I find those two things depressing, but what makes me most sad is what is missing from the core of your testimony. You made no mention of Jesus Christ as a Savior, or the Atonement, or of God as our Heavenly Father, or of yourself as a child of God. I can understand not having a testimony of the Book of Mormon, or of Joseph Smith being a prophet of God, or nearly any other disagreement with Church doctrine or policy, but if after a lifetime in the Church you don’t have a belief in Jesus Christ at the core of your testimony than something really has gone amiss somewhere, and as I said at the beginning, it makes me sad.

  65. Adam Greenwood on December 20, 2005 at 9:47 am

    It is sad, Brian G. Life is sad. The devil is hot on our trail and if we win through to salvation and faith it will be by the barest of margins and the grace of our Lord.

  66. Seth Rogers on December 20, 2005 at 10:55 am

    I think part of my fondness for the LDS religious position is that I learn best when my ideas are challenged and when I challenge the ideas of others.

    LDS orthodoxy offers one plenty of opportunities for vigorous argument.

    I suppose this is why the “we’re-all-God’s-beloved-children-and-all-of-us-have-valid-beliefs-and-we’ll-all-end-up-happy-and-saved” line of argument just fails to resonate with me.

    Someone’s going to be dammed … dammit!

    The scriptures are pretty clear about that.

    Let’s do our best to make sure it’s not you, or I, or anyone we know.

  67. Paul on December 20, 2005 at 11:10 am

    Kaimi, from reading many of your posts and many of your links, you have an issue with human sexuality and its reconciliation with the gospel.

  68. Visorstuff on December 20, 2005 at 11:18 am

    Wade, I did not say that 80 WOULD be exalted, but would automatically qualify for it IF they’d accept it. I also agree with your point about us as chuch members having more to lose than others. I agree that there are many who will not accpet it but will be perfectly happy and content with the other degrees. I reject the notion of hell as you seem to think I believe. However, damnation within a glory is not what I strive for.

    Work and glory to bring to pass the immortality AND eternal life. AND is much more poignant of a conjuncture than OR. He wants to do both. The choice will be ours, (and where we will be the most comfotable) due to the “equal opportunity” of the atonement and temple work. We’ve already had to repent of our sins and accept the atonement before this life in order to qualify for ressurection. (Yes I say sins – some were more valiant than others, before we lived, and satan and his angels refused to repent due to pride). The work was half-done prior to this life.

    Although the way is strait and narrow, it is not hidden or secretive. God wants ALL of his children to become like him. But not all will – much by their own choice, but our work in this life is for the 20 percent who need it and the 80 percent who need temple work done. If “most” wouldn’t be exalted, then why take the risk that he does/did. I’d be much happier with more people being exalted than a relative few amount. Also, remember the council of President Faust about being true to your temple covenants would help to save your parents or children because of the power of the sealing ordinance. I really don’t think we understand the power of the “welding” of the sealing power of the priesthood. I’m not claiming to know how many will be saved, but I am claiming that more qualify than what we think, but they still have their agency to accept it.

    As for your 1/3 comment that “a full 1/3 of ALL of God’s children chose not to be exalted even before the creation.” Not to split hairs but the D&C (section 29:36) says “a third part” not one-third or 33 percent. Three divisions – the percentages are not revealed. Who knows on that one, but it is also “instructive to consider.” If is is 33 percent, that means, by my estimation that every man woman and child has between 20 and 30 evil spirits working on them. And I’m sure they don’t assign that way, so church members owuld have a higher percentage, say a couple hundred on us and jsut a couple for non-members?

    I actually think we think more alike than you think. Your second paragraph was pretty much spot on, IMHO. But I do think more will be in the CK than what most members think.

    We as members of the church do not realize sometimes how much we don’t know. We speculate on items that haven’t been revealed (like what it means to be a god). We should accept that there are many things we don’t know – and leave it up to God – and work our hardest to help those we come in contact with.

    And not to limit God.

  69. anson cassell mills on December 20, 2005 at 11:55 am

    I’m with Brian G. Kaimi’s post is depressing. If the Church is true, then it’s true. If it’s not, it’s not. Linus believes in the Great Pumpkin, and he can believe that into cartoon infinity; but if there’s no Great Pumpkin, Linus’s belief is worse than useless.

    A lawyer’s job consists of questioning the truth or falsity of documents and personal testimony. And yet in this post Kaimi has reduced his cardinal beliefs about the most consequential subject on earth to the most vapid of common places with nothing but personal emotion to stand behind them. The truth of the Church and its teachings doesn’t seem to concern him. And he’s worried about whether to stick it out in a dysfunctional ward?

  70. Kaimi Wenger on December 20, 2005 at 12:14 pm

    Anson,

    I can understand why some orthodox Mormons feel threatened by my post. However, I’m less sure why you are being so critical. After all, earlier this week, you stated that your own goal when interacting with Mormon believers is to shake their faith. (See http://www.timesandseasons.org/?p=2758#comment-112438 .)

    Why, then, have you reacted as if this thread were threat to you? Is it because the existence of testimonies like mine somehow makes it harder for non-Mormons to shake the faith of Mormon believers?

  71. DavidH on December 20, 2005 at 12:24 pm

    I am glad the Church and the Lord are kind enough to allow those of us who may have “lesser testimonies” to participate in the Church and grow and develop through the grace and Atonement of our Savior, regardless of how others may feel about how powerfully (or comprehensively) we may or may not evaluate or articulate our beliefs and testimony. Great things can be done, and have been done, with the faith of a mustard seed, indeed even with just a desire to believe. I have seen miracles in my life and others through having just a tiny grain of hope and faith in God and my Savior. “Lord, I believe, help thou mine unbelief” worked for the father of the boy possessed; it works in countless lives; it works in mine.

  72. Beijing on December 20, 2005 at 12:42 pm

    I left the church when my testimony was stripped down to the point where it became almost exactly like Kaimi’s, and my testimony still stands almost exactly there. A key difference between my stance and his was that (even before my major shift in testimony) most church-related experiences had become triggers for my depressive symptoms, so church had become an extraordinarily ineffective way for me personally to connect with the divine, though it had been effective for me previously and I understand that it remains effective for many others.

    My sincere question is how much does it really help people to know that there are others in the church who believe like they do? I can see how that would help a little bit. But I just don’t see how it would even come close to overcoming constant, vociferous comments from high and low within the church that one’s testimony is insufficient for exaltation, depressing, evidence of failure, vapid, worse than useless, and so on. Is it just a personal thing, in terms of how sensitive one is to threats of damnation?

  73. Russell Arben Fox on December 20, 2005 at 12:43 pm

    “The truth of the Church and its teachings doesn’t seem to concern [Kaimi]. And he’s worried about whether to stick it out in a dysfunctional ward?”

    I’ve chosen not to get involved in this thread, both because Kaimi’s statement of belief is not all that dissimiliar to my own, and because the way he framed his comments suggest, to me, for an opportunity for reflection rather than argument. However, I have to say, Anson, that this comment of yours is simply bizarre. What, in fact, could be a stronger example of engaging the pursuit of truth than being concerned with how to live and serve amongst others trying to do the same? I strongly suspect that every time one of those of us who usually tend to be drawn to doctrinal or theological matters actually sets such aside and thinks for a little while about how to better teach a Primary lesson or how to better counsel an inactive member, God weeps for joy.

  74. DavidH on December 20, 2005 at 1:26 pm

    “But I just don’t see how it would even come close to overcoming constant, vociferous comments from high and low within the church that one’s testimony is insufficient for exaltation, depressing, evidence of failure, vapid, worse than useless, and so on. Is it just a personal thing, in terms of how sensitive one is to threats of damnation?”

    I have come to believe that Jesus’ grace and Atonement are sufficient for me, weak as I and my beliefs and testimony may be. Once I reached that point, with faith and hope as a grain of mustard, then I became better able to deal with the types of comments and cultural attitudes to which you refer, and which used to bother me in the extreme. They still bother me (or I would not be posting on this thread), but I feel much more at peace with my Savior and with doing my small part than I used to be. Thank you for posting, and my sincere best wishes.

  75. Craig W. on December 20, 2005 at 1:35 pm

    Wade #59. “The atonement is complete, the way is already provided. God will not force anyone into the CK, the people must choose to change themselves from their carnal natures and be cleansed.”

    Wade, I agree with you on this point. I do not believe that the atonement is changing in its reach. However, I do think it is a little more complicated than that. I tend to agree with Visorstuff’s point (#68) that there is much we do not understand. It is just simply my hope, and belief that more will qualify for the CK than your position provides for.

  76. Visorstuff on December 20, 2005 at 2:24 pm

    “Our heavenly Father is more liberal in His views, and boundless in His mercies and blessings, than we are ready to believe or receive; and, at the same time, is more terrible to the workers of iniquity, more awful in the executions of His punishments, and more ready to detect every false way, than we are apt to suppose Him to be. He will be inquired of by His children. He says, “Ask and ye shall receive, seek and ye shall find.” Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, Section Five 1842-43 p.257

    I wish I were more this way. I guess that’s why we are asked to “add to” our “knowledge temperance” (2 Peter 1:5-7).

  77. RoastedTomatoes on December 20, 2005 at 2:49 pm

    Adam #40, I have no interest in sneering at whole-hearted believers. I am one.

  78. Kingsley on December 20, 2005 at 3:48 pm

    “It is false to the point of absurdity to see in a ‘belief,’ perchance the belief in redemption through Christ, the distinguishing characteristic of a Christian: only Christian practice, a life such as he who died on the Cross lived, is Christian … Even today such a life is possible, for certain men even necessary: genuine, primitive Christianity will not be possible at all times … Not a belief but a doing, above all a not-doing of many things, a different being … States of consciousness, beliefs of any kind, holding something to be true for example — are a matter of complete indifference and of the fifth rank compared with the value of the instincts … To reduce being a Christian, Christianness, to a holding of something to be true, a mere phenomenality of consciousness, means to negate Christianness.”

    Good ol’ Nietzsche.

  79. Kaimi Wenger on December 20, 2005 at 3:53 pm

    Paul,

    On the one hand, it is certainly true that, like many men, I struggle to overcome physical temptations (cf. my Day Without Sin post). On the other hand, I think that overemphasizing that struggle paints a picture that is deceptively oversimplified. My own “issues list” holds far more than one item, or even one category of items.

    And I’ll admit that your comment worries me, at least in part because I wonder if such characterization could inadvertently (or advertently) lead to my being painted with the unfair, age-old brush of “he has doubts about the church; therefore he must have sexual hang-ups.” This reaction is unfortunately common; there’s an old BCC post by Hatch about how church members often prefer to attribute a person’s intellectual struggles with the church to some hidden sexual sin.

  80. b bell on December 20, 2005 at 4:03 pm

    I also want to pledge my support to Kaimi. Testimonies occur at different times and in different ways to people.

    Thanks for your post Kaimi. I bet that based on your postings that you have a stronger testimony then what you have posted.

    Your TBM friend BBELL

  81. Kingsley on December 20, 2005 at 4:18 pm

    How far do we take the all or nothing approach to doctrine before we become just like those Baptists who promise you an eternal sunburn for believing God has a beard? Imagine telling a child, I know you did your best to behave righteously all year, but no soup for you! – your understanding of the metaphysical properties of Santa is seriously screwed up. Preposterous, sure, but the reaction you get in the Church when you admit intellectual doubts doesn’t seem too far a cry from it.

  82. jimbob on December 20, 2005 at 4:31 pm

    Re 81: This is probably just semantics, but what you’re describing to me is less an all or nothing approach to doctrine and more a difficulty of deciding what doctrine is. I find most of my “intellectual hang ups” (to the extent I have enough intellect to be hung up) are as to the latter category, rather than the former.

  83. Kingsley on December 20, 2005 at 4:34 pm

    Oh, agreed. But most of the strong reactions you get when expressing doubts about this or that are along the lines of “We must be in accordance with the Brethren in all things!” as if “all things” have been perfectly established.

  84. Sara Steed on December 20, 2005 at 4:39 pm

    Kaimi–Thank you for sharing your testimony and your experiences, sincerely and unashamedly. Everyone has moments where we cling to even the most basic of inklings. And everyone has to build and contruct their testimony, yes, even those for whom every tenant of the Church comes easily. I respect you very much for helping us to see how you see things, and that by sharing our thoughts, like you have, we become more unified and can help each other out as Latter-day Saints.

    Wade (#59), I thank you for your thought-provoking posts, but I feel that the sources you use to justify your view on the amount (or lack thereof) of people who will be in the Celestial Kingdom are a bit erroneous. Visorstuff (#68) voiced some of my responses already, but I think there is one more (that I can see). You used D&C 76:75 in supporting your quantitative argument. But, does that mean then that you think that work for the dead–ordinances that literally bring one back into Heavenly Father’s presence, the highest degree of the Celestial Kingdom– are for naught? I understand that you don’t want to automatically put yourself into the Celestial Kingdom, but I think we as Latter-day Saints are too hard on ourselves, we debase ourselves too much. we can can have JOY in the gospel–it is the plan of happiness, is it not? We can know that we are on the path to the Celestial Kingdom if we have the Holy Ghost with us. The Holy Ghost doesn’t give us the spiritual pat-on-the-back if what we’re doing is only going to get us to the Terrestrial Kingdom. No, we are sanctified and justified in our actions if we have the Holy Ghost with us. If something other than this were true, there would be no point in the Holy Ghost’s existence at all.

    Also, and this just comes from my non-LDS background, you said in #35 “I think the majority of us will be amazed/surprised after this life as we continue what President Faust has called our “odysseyâ€? and realize that virtually everyone will be in their own heaven – or what they have always wanted.” I just really have a problem with the last part. I think that people will be comfortable in the glory they are assigned–or that they put themselves into, but I hardly doubt that when we were all spirit children, knowing what eternity would be like after we lived righteously in our second estate, we “dreamed” of being separated from our loved ones and having no eternal increase. Honestly, your view is one of the problems I had with being a Methodist. Everyone had their own interpretation of what Heaven would be like. Some believe that we’ll know our loved ones and associate with them (much like the LDS view). Others believed that we’ll sit around and play harps all day, and perhaps recognize our loved ones.

    This is where the power of a testimony emerges: testimony is not a mere belief. It is knowledge. Much like I know my first name is Sara, I know that…(fill in testimony here). Once you have a testimony, of any facet of the gospel, you have transcended beliefs.

  85. Visorstuff on December 20, 2005 at 4:59 pm

    Sarah – very beautifully stated.

  86. manaen on December 20, 2005 at 5:03 pm

    84.
    Sara,

    Amen to your description of testimony.

    Regarding your third paragraph, I agree that it’s likely that in the pre-mortal existence most didn’t “dream” of sinning and then being cut off from loved ones. However, many are beguiled by present temptations and make exactly that trade.

    “And if their works are evil they shall be restored unto them for evil. Therefore, all things shall be restored to their proper order, every thing to its natural frame—mortality raised to immortality, corruption to incorruption—raised to endless happiness to inherit the kingdom of God, or to endless misery to inherit the kingdom of the devil, the one on one hand, the other on the other— The one raised to happiness according to his desires of happiness, or good according to his desires of good; and the other to evil according to his desires of evil; for as he has desired to do evil all the day long even so shall he have his reward of evil when the night cometh.” (Alma 41:4-5)

    I believe that the Telestial kingdom will be peopled with folks that continue to do evil — because that’s what they want, even more than their reunification with loved ones and with God.

  87. anson cassell mills on December 20, 2005 at 5:16 pm

    Kaimi #70,

    “Why, then, have you reacted as if this thread were threat to you? Is it because the existence of testimonies like mine somehow makes it harder for non-Mormons to shake the faith of Mormon believers?�

    “Threat� is too strong a word. As I implied in post #69, your belief in belief itself is depressing, something you wouldn’t entertain for a moment in your professional life. You have, in effect, dismissed basic LDS doctrines while leading a ward and trying to encourage others to become involved in the Church. There are a number of English words that describe this sort of behavior, all of them unpleasant.

    Take a stand for truth, Kaimi. If there were no gold plates, then your spiritual experiences don’t matter. “And no marvel; for Satan himself is transformed into an angel of light.�

  88. anson cassell mills on December 20, 2005 at 5:21 pm

    Russell #73,

    “What, in fact, could be a stronger example of engaging the pursuit of truth than being concerned with how to live and serve amongst others trying to do the same? I strongly suspect that every time one of those of us who usually tend to be drawn to doctrinal or theological matters actually sets such aside and thinks for a little while about how to better teach a Primary lesson or how to better counsel an inactive member, God weeps for joy.”

    Isn’t proper service to others, speaking the truth in love?

    As for God weeping for joy, you’ll have to give me something more substantial to go on than personal sentiment.

  89. Jonathan Green on December 20, 2005 at 9:44 pm

    Anson: for what you’re up to here, there are a number of figures from the Book of Mormon that come to mind, none with good reputations. Whatever your schtick is, this is not the place for it. I’m not anxious about the weakness of Kaimi’s belief, but rather impressed by its strength (so, Kaimi, thanks for sharing; I appreciated it).

  90. Wade on December 21, 2005 at 12:15 am

    Sara #84: “I feel that the sources you use to justify your view on the amount (or lack thereof) of people who will be in the Celestial Kingdom are a bit erroneous.”

    You can see in my response to Visorstuff, I specifically wrote that I didn’t wish to get into a speculative numbers game about those in the CK. However, I do think the view that a minority (I don’t know how large or small) of God’s children will be in the highest degree of the CK is fully backed by scripture. As Robert in # 60 said, Christ Himself said there will only be a few who enter the CK. I could be wrong, but I’m pretty sure it’s safe to assume that “few” may be defined as a “minority”.

    Christ specifically said, “strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it” (Matt. ch. 7).

    As for your anxiety about members “debasing” themselves, I feel that one should not live in doubt about one’s standing before God (this is where faith is key), but at the same time, salvation is not guaranteed until one makes her/his calling and election sure – whether here, or in a further stage of our odyssey (and some Authorities have even expressed the opinion that those who have their calling and election made sure are still able to fall). I have personally witnessed the apathy that results from casually thinking/”knowing” one will be saved in their current condition (it is a serious problem in the Church – the reason that the home teaching program in a majority of wards hovers around 30-40%). I understand that no one is perfect and that we shouldn’t beat ourselves up concerning our weaknesses, but I think apathy is FAR more of a problem in the Church than debasing is – perhaps I favor debasing myself concerning my apathy. :)

    Finally, you said the following: “I hardly doubt that when we were all spirit children, knowing what eternity would be like after we lived righteously in our second estate, we ‘dreamed’ of being separated from our loved ones and having no eternal increase.”

    I am curious to know what authority you cite for the doctrine that we knew what eternity would be like after we lived righteously in our second estate. I am of the understanding that in order to comprehend what eternity would be like after the 2nd estate, one must first live it. If we could know God’s life without having a mortal experience, what is the purpose of this life at all? Isn’t eternal life to “know” God and Christ (John 17:3)? If we could know them, or comprehend them without having a mortal experience, why have one? I’m interested in where you learned this – please advise.

  91. Wade on December 21, 2005 at 12:27 am

    Visorstuff # 68: “I did not say that 80 WOULD be exalted, but would automatically qualify for it IF they’d accept it.”

    I think you’ve run into a bit of a paradox: How is it that anyone can “qualify” for the highest degree of the CK if they won’t accept it??? I am of the understanding that one cannot live the Celestial law without FIRST accepting it! Is there a way around this?

  92. Brian G on December 21, 2005 at 4:09 am

    Beijing writes:

    “My sincere question is how much does it really help people to know that there are others in the church who believe like they do? I can see how that would help a little bit. But I just don’t see how it would even come close to overcoming constant, vociferous comments from high and low within the church that one’s testimony is insufficient for exaltation, depressing, evidence of failure, vapid, worse than useless, and so on.”

    Since I made it clear that Kaimi’s post depressed me and also that I felt it indicated that the Church and/or intellectual inquiry might have failed him I feel obligated to respond to this, even though I don’t think my comment was vociferous, and I would never describe his post as vapid, or worse than useless.

    Beijing, in my mind, sadness is the proper reaction to learning a friend or acquaintance has a testimony that doesn’t include faith in Christ, the Atonement, or that God is our Heavenly Father. Maybe Kaimi has a testimony of these things, but just didn’t make mention of them in his post. I have my fingers crossed.

    But when people are honest enough to express unorthodox testimonies it seems reasonable to me that they should expect and allow people to react honestly in return. If I didn’t know Jesus Christ was the Son of God, and if I didn’t believe that he meant it when he said “no man cometh unto the Father but by me,” then maybe I could shrug it off more easily, but I do know that, so to react any other way is callous. Feelings of sadness do not preclude feelings of support, and I support Kaimi. (Hi, Kaimi, I feel like I’m having a conversation about you in front of you.)

    Having said that, I don’t choose to remain silent and in doing so risk validating a spiritual status that if unchanged may result in someone not returning to the presence of Heavenly Father.

    My answer to your question is it does help people to know there are others in the Church who believe as they do, if they get the support they need to keep their testimonies developing, and what I found most encouraging about Kaimi’s original post is his statement that his testimony is in flux. However, what happens all too often, I think, is that a state of non or semi-belief left unchallenged or unintentionally validated becomes something more than a temporary status quo and instead becomes a rigid part of someone’s self-identity. At that point it may be too late. And I personally don’t want to be part of that stagnation process when it’s someone I feel kinship toward.

  93. comet on December 21, 2005 at 7:13 am

    What, are we itching to hold a testimony
    contest to see who can bear the strongest,
    firmest, thunder-clap, rock-solid testimony?
    Wonder what that would look and sound like?
    I really know x is true.
    Ok, but I really, really know x is true.

    My hunch is that those who are censuring
    Kaimi do so because he’s not talking about
    testimony in the right way. I’d be interested
    to know the criteria his account fails to meet.
    Anyone game?

  94. Visorstuff on December 21, 2005 at 12:25 pm

    Wade #90 – There are few ”in this life” who find it. Wilford Woodruff taught that missionary work would be much more successful in the next life.

    Second, we lived in a celestial kingdom prior to earth life, if we lived with God our Father. We saw and understood what exaltation was about, that’s why we wanted to come to earth. A good book that gathers quotes on the pre-mortal life is “The life before” by Brent Top. Not a lot of interpretation or commentary, just a lot of quotes and outlining the different schools of thought among Mormon scholars and General Authorities on what we knew prior to this life. However, knowing and recognizing, as you say is much different than experiencing.

    One of my favorite quotes from Brigham Young is “There are but few, very few of the Elders of Israel, now on earth, who know the meaning of the word endowment. To know, they must experience….” -Discourses of Brigham Young, page 416. I’m of the opinion that many have gone through the temple, but have not “experienced” the endowment. There is a difference.

    #91. No paradox at all. If it takes Baptism to ”qualify” for the CK, and we do baptisms and other temple work for all people, all ”qualify” for the CK. Others need no baptism as they are innocent. These automatically qualify as stated before. They do have to ”accept” the atonement and that baptism however. That is the trick.

  95. Visorstuff on December 21, 2005 at 12:27 pm

    The other thing Wade, that you may want to consider, is that our probationary state does not completely end when we die. Part of our second estate is the post-mortal realms where we can repent, learn the gospel better, etc. Again, the purpose of temple work.

  96. Kingsley on December 21, 2005 at 3:03 pm

    Still don’t see how Kaimi’s salvation is in jeopardy merely because he doesn’t know the plan of salvation’s true the same way he knows his name is Kaimi etc. I always get a feeling of disconnect when I say I believe x and someone gives me that solemn look and says Well, I know x, a semantics game if there ever was one and, it seems to me, a great downplayer of the role of faith. I don’t know Jesus lives the same way I know my mother lives because Jesus doesn’t call me on a daily basis worrying about the heat in my apartment. Hence, faith. If Kaimi does his best to act, think, and talk righteously, to desire righteousness and to teach his family to do the same, I am not worried one bit for his salvation even if his theology is a work in progress.

  97. anson cassell mills on December 21, 2005 at 3:29 pm

    Of course, you’re welcome to your opinion, Kingsley, but the Scriptures say otherwise:

    “But we are all as an unclean thing, and all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags” Isaiah 64: 6

    “There is none righteous, no, not one: There is none that understandeth, there is none that seeketh after God.” Romans 3: 10

    “Therefore by the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in his sight.” Romans 3: 20.

  98. Kingsley on December 21, 2005 at 3:40 pm

    I love how the “Scriptures” for evangelicals are always the same three or four prooftexts ripped from context in defiance of nearly everything Jesus is reported to have said in the gospels. No wonder they’re able to offer salvation in pamphlets the size of movie tickets and scattered in McDonald’s parking lots.

  99. Adam Greenwood on December 21, 2005 at 3:44 pm

    “I always get a feeling of disconnect when I say I believe x and someone gives me that solemn look and says Well, I know x, a semantics game if there ever was one and, it seems to me, a great downplayer of the role of faith.”

    I think it often is a semantics game, Kingsley, but there is a real difference. Belief is externalized, knowledge held at arms length, the believer or disbeliever sitting in judgment on the truth and falsity of propositions. Knowing is internalized, knowledge consumed and wedded, lived belief.

    I have no objection whatsoever to the idea that ‘knowing’ is better than ‘believing.’ The problem comes, as you point out, when we decide that people who merely believe are therefore sinners, or that someone’s statement of belief demands we one-up them with our knowledge.

    “Lord, I believe, help thou mine unbelief,’ is one of the sweetest sayings in the Gospels.

  100. Kaimi Wenger on December 21, 2005 at 3:56 pm

    Brian,

    I’ve delayed in responding to your comment, because it really made me think. The funny thing is that belief in Christ, and in the Atonement, is a big part of my daily life. In fact, I think it’s an unusually significant part — I’m one of those people who thanks God for the Atonement every single time I pray. It’s something that I discuss regularly with my children. Sullivan loves the topic, and bears his own testimony of the Atonement all the time. (Yes, he’s the 8-year-old who likes to talk about the Atonement).

    And yet somehow, when I put pen to paper for this post (or byte to blog), that part just didn’t come out. And I’m not sure why. It really has me puzzled — why on earth did I leave that out? It was not a conscious decision.

    Maybe I left it out because, on some level, my post was an attempt to intellectually harmonize things that just don’t harmonize. And perhaps I sensed that my nagging doubts would make even less sense if they showed up in the same post as a discussion on my deep feelings that the Atonement is real. Maybe I left it out because I was too caught up in telling a story, and was focusing on the elements of my own conflicted beliefs that made the most sense in a coherent narrative. Maybe — and this is the scary one — maybe I left it out because I was somehow subconsciously signalling to myself that I _don’t_ believe in the Atonement in the same way that I believe in the existence of God. I don’t know which, if any of these, are true. It’s something I’ll be wondering about for a while.

    My feelings about the reality of the Atonement certainly create a much messier narrative. I’m not really sure how my belief in the Atonement fits into the rest of my belief system. So I suppose my testimony is even more haphazard, possibly self-contradictory, than I initially suggested. But a description of that haphazard testimony is not complete without an acknowledgement of a deep belief in the Atonement.

    Thank you, Brian, for reminding me of this. Thank you for seeing through my too-clean narrative and forcing me to remember and admit what it was missing — and for doing so before I had too long of a time to buy into the completeness of my own incomplete story. Thanks for genuinely supporting me, but not coddling me, in this discussion.

    Kingsley,

    Thank you for your support as well. You’re absolutely right that the role of faith is to fill in the gaps where we just don’t know. And I certainly hope that my actions are viewed by God as my way of showing faith, even when I’m not sure of the underlying theology. It’s rather like Packer’s Candle of the Lord, I think. I often feel like I’m stepping into dark, unknown territory. And I think that my (sometime) willingness to take those steps is a form of faith.

  101. Kayla on December 21, 2005 at 3:57 pm

    Kaimi,

    Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.

  102. Kingsley on December 21, 2005 at 3:57 pm

    Adam, I don’t know that I agree with your definitions of belief versus knowledge, but thanks for the thoughtful response. I know my mother exists; I believe Jesus does. That belief is strong enough to propel me to do a lot of difficult things, such as try to be a Christian, but it’s still not the knowledge that comes from seeing. But that’s ok: Jesus said more blessed are they that have not seen and believed. Speaking of which, do the scriptures make a big deal between belief and knowledge, saying that one is superior to the other etc.?

  103. Adam Greenwood on December 21, 2005 at 4:04 pm

    Kingsley,
    you don’t have to buy my know-believe dichotomy; I’m just trying to give you a taste of what people who get huffy about belief might be thinking. The scriptures don’t particularly denigrate belief (though we are told that even the devils believe), but I do think that scriptures like Alma 36 show that knowledge is the aim of belief–its what belief is for.

  104. Beijing on December 21, 2005 at 4:16 pm

    Actually, Adam, the devils had knowledge.

    “And he healed many that were sick of divers diseases, and cast out many devils; and suffered not the devils to speak, because they knew him.” Mark 1:34

    I thought the purpose of the veil was because a state less certain than knowledge is crucial to progression.

  105. Kingsley on December 21, 2005 at 4:18 pm

    Adam, most of my discussions regarding belief versus knowledge have come up in debates about popular interpretations of the KF Discourse and so forth. Don’t believe you’ll become a capital G God with a Messiah on your right and a Holy Ghost on your left? Someone is sure to tell you in ringing tones that they know this “doctrine” is true. And so forth. That’s why I found Sara’s “(fill in testimony here)” device so telling. What people know at any given time is a moving target.

  106. Adam Greenwood on December 21, 2005 at 4:26 pm

    All right, I see what you’re saying. For what its worth, I have a full-throated belief in deification and so on–sometimes I even *know* it–but it doesn’t bother me much that other Saints think differently. For one, I don’t think anyone has ever got a testimony by someone else saying ‘I know’ reprovingly. For another, I think we know see the eternal world through a glass darkly, so at best my belief in deification will be ‘correct in a way’ or ‘so far as it goes.’

  107. Kingsley on December 21, 2005 at 4:26 pm

    Beijing, I like your comment about the veil.

  108. Adam Greenwood on December 21, 2005 at 4:29 pm

    Even in my sense, I can know something sometimes. You spoke of knowing your mother. From my experience on my mission, I found that though I normally knew my mother and my father and my siblings, my knowledge turned to belief if I’d been separated from them too long. I didn’t doubt their existence intellectually, but to my dismay I found that they were no longer very real to me. To my bitter regret, I’ve found the same to be true of my daughter.

  109. anson cassell mills on December 21, 2005 at 4:30 pm

    Kingsley #98,

    “I love how the “Scripturesâ€? for evangelicals are always the same three or four prooftexts ripped from context in defiance of nearly everything Jesus is reported to have said in the gospels.”

    You mean like, “O generation of vipers, who hath warned you to flee from the wrath to come?”

    Or maybe, “Woe unto you also, ye lawyers! for ye lade men with burdens grievous to be borne, and ye yourselves touch not the burdens with one of your fingers.”

    Or perhaps, “Fear him, which after he hath killed hath power to cast into hell; yea, I say unto you, Fear him.”

  110. Kingsley on December 21, 2005 at 4:38 pm

    Adam, but it was still possible at any given time to pick up a phone and hear their voices or hop on a plane and see their faces. Now someone will ring in with “I have heard the voice of God by the power of the Holy Ghost” etc. I like that idea, and believe it, and find it beautiful, but it’s still not the same. We are behind a veil, we are seeing through a glass darkly as you pointed out before. If you think that knowledge is something that can flicker in and out, can be strong one day and weak the next, can almost disappear and then shine forth with greater light and clarity than ever before, then I’m with you. But to apply that definition of knowledge to my mother is ridiculous, whereas to apply it to your daughter is not. It’s part of the terrible poetry of mortality that we have to simply believe when all of our reason screams against it.

  111. Kingsley on December 21, 2005 at 4:42 pm

    No, Anson, I was referring to the ones where Jesus made it clear that actions speak louder than words, but thanks for more prooftexts. Here’s one for you: 1 Corinthians 13:11. Following in the footsteps of Paul, I will now end my side of our brief discussion.

  112. manaen on December 21, 2005 at 4:45 pm

    100
    Kaimi

    re: “I’m one of those people who thanks God for the Atonement every single time I pray. It’s something that I discuss regularly with my children.”
    This is a key that I found to staying clean after repenting. After I confessed and began my repentance, my bishop asked how I would stay on the right path. The emerged from the BoM:

    “And again I say unto you as I have said before, that as ye have come to the knowledge of the glory of God, or if ye have known of his goodness and have tasted of his love, and have received a remission of your sins, which causeth such exceedingly great joy in your souls, even so I would that ye should remember, and always retain in remembrance, the greatness of God, and your own nothingness, and his goodness and long-suffering towards you, unworthy creatures, and humble yourselves even in the depths of humility, calling on the name of the Lord daily, and standing steadfastly in the faith of that which is to come, which was spoken by the mouth of the angel. And behold, I say unto you that if ye do this ye shall always rejoice, and be filled with the love of God, and always retain a remission of your sins; and ye shall grow in the knowledge of the glory of him that created you, or in the knowledge of that which is just and true.” (Msh 4:11-12)

    I thank God every day in my prayers for His great goodness in providing the Atonement and I confess my own nothingness to Him. This keeps alive in me the amazing release I experienced as I confessed and felt my SP’s and God’s love after doing so. The sacramental covenant to “always remember Him” has deeper meaning for me since that I found this passage.

  113. Adam Greenwood on December 21, 2005 at 4:51 pm

    “Adam, but it was still possible at any given time to pick up a phone and hear their voices or hop on a plane and see their faces. Now someone will ring in with “I have heard the voice of God by the power of the Holy Ghostâ€? etc. I like that idea, and believe it, and find it beautiful, but it’s still not the same. We are behind a veil, we are seeing through a glass darkly as you pointed out before. If you think that knowledge is something that can flicker in and out, can be strong one day and weak the next, can almost disappear and then shine forth with greater light and clarity than ever before, then I’m with you. But to apply that definition of knowledge to my mother is ridiculous, whereas to apply it to your daughter is not. It’s part of the terrible poetry of mortality that we have to simply believe when all of our reason screams against it.”

    Kingsley,
    The voice of God through the Holy Ghost has at times been more real than any telephone conversation or even physical touch could be. I don’t think the comparison to your mother is ridiculous. My experience with forgetting my family on my mission has strengthened me immensely. At the time, it horrified me that I could forget my family so easily and that, even though I knew they were still around, they started to seem unreal and improbable to me. But later, when I’ve had the exact same feelings in connection with both Christ and my daughter, I’ve drawn strength from it. Because, of course, my parents and brothers and sisters were real again as soon as I got off the plane. Maybe I should do post on this sometime.

  114. Kingsley on December 21, 2005 at 4:56 pm

    Yes, please do a post on it. I should have said, “ridiculous to me.” There are things I feel quite certain about, e.g. the divine origins of the Book of Mormon, but then again it’s sitting on my desk and can be used to whack my roommate over the head when necessary, so we’re back to the physical thing again.

  115. Visorstuff on December 21, 2005 at 5:21 pm

    Kaimi, by the way, thanks for sharing your feelings.

    I realize as I re-read through the post and thread that faith IS a gift fo the spirit. A testimony is as well. And to others a simple belief that its probably true because others believe it. (D&C 46) As long as we have the desire to have the seed planted, and keep praying for a testimony (or seeking for that gift), we are at least moving in the right direction.

    To others it is given to believe on their words, that they also might have eternal life if they continue faithful. (D&C 46:14)

  116. comet on December 22, 2005 at 12:30 am

    #104 Beijing hit it on the nail.
    Certainty is not without its limits, or a limited usefulness.
    It can foreclose inquiry, even desire which thrives on hiddenness and the unknown (especially regarding things which we think we know). I don’t mean that to sound cryptic but the idea of the veil has always fascinated me and I think Beijing’s comment is timely.
    If certain knowledge is the end-goal at every point of our eternal
    existence, then what’s the point of the veil? The veil actually produces mystified, indeterminate relations between ourselves and the divine. In this sense, the veil is actually productive of certain kinds of knowing: I’m forced to construe my relationship with God-Christ through available scripture, personal petition, ritual, lived condition, shared norms with believers and non-believers alike, all of which is this side of the veil.

    Adam, I think the accent in Alma 32 is on the virtue of faith, rather than the virtue of knowledge per se. Moreover, knowledge here is knowledge regarding the goodness of the seed; once you know the seed is good then you continue to exercise faith in terms of nurturing the seed as it grows into a tree which yields fruit, but by that time Alma has stopped talking about knowledge altogether. Knowledge doesn’t seem to constitute an end-point here (at least not with regards to getting to the fruit); it seems like a necessary but provisional kind of thing which in the end does not supercede faith. I liked your earlier suggestion of “knowing,” which would imply that knowledge is effective but provisional, open to occasional skeptical returns to ask, What is that I think I really know here?

  117. Wade on December 22, 2005 at 12:42 am

    Visorstuff: “our probationary state does not completely end when we die.”

    I understand that, at least for some, the probationary state continues after the second estate. Yet, I believe your interpretation may not be exactly correct – you may be treading on thin ice according to the scriptures. The following is instructive:

    This life is the time for men to prepare to meet God; yea, behold the day of this life is the day for men to perform their labors…for after this day of life which is given us to prepare for eternity, behold, if we do not improve our time while in this life, then cometh the night of darkness wherein there can be no labor performed. Ye cannot say, when ye are brought to that awful crisis, that I will repent, that I will return to my God. Nay, ye cannot say this; for that same spirit which doth possess your bodies at the time that ye go out of this life, that same spirit will have power to possess your body in that eternal world. …[B]ehold, ye have become subjected to the spirit of the devil, and he doth seal you his….”

    This doesn’t jive with your theory that, “Part of our second estate is the post-mortal realms where we can repent.” Hate to break it to you, but this is false doctrine according to scripture!

    Prophets have repeatedly taught that it is infinitely more difficult to change one’s nature without a body. Thus, if it were true that one could repent after having the light during the second estate, this repenting would be even more difficult than what it is here (repentance is not merely asking for forgiveness, it is a change from a carnal nature). As for those who have not obtained the light, it is no more different for them either. Therefore, only those who’s natures are conducive to the Celestial Spirit will really qualify regardless.

    But, again, our problem here is that we tend to be all or nothing thinkers – this is unfortunate considering that the Telestial Glory is beyond comprehension.

  118. Wade on December 22, 2005 at 12:47 am

    Pardon me for not providing the reference. It is: Alma 34:32-35.

  119. Wade on December 22, 2005 at 12:56 am

    Visorstuff: “These automatically qualify as stated before. They do have to ‘accept’ the atonement and that baptism however. That is the trick.”

    You call it a “trick”, I call it “qualification”. A silly semantics game I suppose, but I do think my distinction is more correct. After all, what good is a baptism if not accepted? It is void, and will NOT qualify that person for the CK.

  120. Brian G on December 22, 2005 at 2:57 am

    Kaimi,

    Thanks for responding. I feel a lot better now. It sounds like Sullivan’s a lucky kid. You must have done a great job teaching him.

  121. Visorstuff on December 22, 2005 at 11:19 am

    #119: I should have said, that’s where we come in and have to help as saviors on mount zion, rather than “the trick.” The pupose for work for the dead is to allow all men to obtain exaltation, “if they will accept it.”

    #117, Wade, you wrote “I believe your interpretation may not be exactly correct – you may be treading on thin ice according to the scriptures.” I wrote: “our probationary state does not completely end when we die.â€?

    No thin ice. This is why I said “completely.” This IS the life for us to prepare to meet God, however, after this mortality, we still progress and change (our natures do not). We have to repent of all of our sins. I’m not sure about you, but I don’t remember all of my sins that I did in Jr. High. However, I trust that I will be able to repent of them when prompted and reminded of them – which may happen in the next life.

    You wrote: “This doesn’t jive with your theory that, “Part of our second estate is the post-mortal realms where we can repen.â€? Hate to break it to you, but this is false doctrine according to scripture!”

    Actually it is not. D&C 138:19 & 31-34 for starters. The gospel is preached to the dead “who would crepent of their sins and receive the gospel…and all other principles of the gospel that were necessary for them to know in order to qualify themselves.” The passage context you referred to in Alma refers to our character, restoration and those who have the gospel. Those who know better and put it off because they think they’ll be able to change after this life are on thin ice.

    A modern prophet President Faust has repeatedy taught in the Ensign and conference (so it IS correlated and doctrinal):

    “The Prophet Joseph Smith declared—and he never taught more comforting doctrine—that the eternal sealings of faithful parents and the divine promises made to them for valiant service in the Cause of Truth, would save not only themselves, but likewise their posterity. Though some of the sheep may wander, the eye of the Shepherd is upon them, and sooner or later they will feel the tentacles of Divine Providence reaching out after them and drawing them back to the fold. Either in this life or the life to come, they will return. They will have to pay their debt to justice; they will suffer for their sins; and may tread a thorny path; but if it leads them at last, like the penitent Prodigal, to a loving and forgiving father’s heart and home, the painful experience will not have been in vain. Pray for your careless and disobedient children; hold on to them with your faith. Hope on, trust on, till you see the salvation of God.� (http://library.lds.org/nxt/gateway.dll/Magazines/Ensign/2003.htm/ensign%20may%202003.htm/dear%20are%20the%20sheep%20that%20have%20wandered.htm)

    I think we need to focus more on helping others become exalted, rather than judging that there will be a majority that won’t make it. It is my faith that I hope and pray and will work to get as many back to Him as I can. I know it won’t be 100 percent, but I also know my work and Christ’s and God’s is not going to be in vain. Here’s to getting as many back as possible!

  122. Kingsley on December 22, 2005 at 2:14 pm

    Comet, 116, amen and amen.

  123. Adam Greenwood on December 22, 2005 at 2:29 pm

    Comet (and Kingsley),
    we’re talking past each other. You’re defining ‘knowledge’ the way I am defining belief, and what you call ‘something else entirely’ is what I’m thinking of as knowledge. In any case, I have a hard time understanding your reading of Alma 32, given verses like this:

    “33 And now, behold, because ye have tried the experiment, and planted the seed, and it swelleth and sprouteth, and beginneth to grow, ye must needs know that the seed is good.

    34 And now, behold, is your knowledge perfect? Yea, your knowledge is perfect in that thing, and your faith is dormant; and this because you know, for ye know that the word hath swelled your souls, and ye also know that it hath sprouted up, that your understanding doth begin to be enlightened, and your dmind doth begin to expand.”

    I think Alma would be very surprised if you told him that he wasn’t talking about, inter alia, a process of increasing conviction.

  124. Kingsley on December 22, 2005 at 2:32 pm

    Adam, I am not increasingly convinced about the existence of my mother, but I am about God (that is, when I follow the pattern described in Alma 32). Comet’s description of “knowing” on this side of the veil seems right on to me.

  125. Adam Greenwood on December 22, 2005 at 2:38 pm

    Kingsley,

    ‘Increasing conviction’ was my phrase. Alma’s is ‘a perfect knowledge.’

    Anyway, if you concede that Alma is telling us to gain a ‘perfect knowledge,’ and we’re now talking about the timing of that, then I don’t think we really disagree.

  126. manaen on December 22, 2005 at 2:38 pm

    121.
    Visorstuff,

    I screwed-up big time and hurt people I should have loved.
    I’m divorced.
    I’ve been working to be refellowshipped for more than a decade.
    My ex had her and my children’s names removed from the church’s records before she died.
    Today is my son’s birthday. I haven’t seen him since mid-1999.

    Pres. Faust’s quotation of Orson F. Whitney that you cited went into my planner when I heard Robert D. Hales quote it in the 2004/04 General Conference. I cling to it as my hope for my children’s future and for reconciliation and healing with them — in this life or in the next.

  127. Kingsley on December 22, 2005 at 2:44 pm

    Adam, a perfect knowledge of the tastiness of the fruit, yes, but not necessarily of an embodied god. That won’t come till/unless we see and touch his body.

  128. Adam Greenwood on December 22, 2005 at 2:52 pm

    Adam, a perfect knowledge of the tastiness of the fruit,

    I disagree with that reading. It’s tautological. Alma isn’t saying, plant this seed, and then taste the fruit, and then you’ll know that if you plant the seed and taste the fruit, it tastes good. He’s saying that if you plant the seed (act on his words) you’ll know they’re true. So we might not know our embodied Lord perfectly, but we could have a perfect knowledge that he is.

    yes, but not necessarily of an embodied god. That won’t come till/unless we see and touch his body.

    Agreed. I would only say that I don’t think you would have a perfect knowledge of your mother, either, until you are purer and can dwell fully in the Spirit, and she also.

  129. Kingsley on December 22, 2005 at 2:52 pm

    Adam, I suspect we agree about most things only I am a weasel.

  130. Adam Greenwood on December 22, 2005 at 2:54 pm

    Then you are a credit to your species.

  131. Kingsley on December 22, 2005 at 2:55 pm

    I still read Alma 32 as saying you do certain things and your life gets better, and that is evidence enough that there is something Out There. But I am bad at logic.

  132. Kingsley on December 22, 2005 at 2:55 pm

    Squeal, scrabble, hiss.

  133. Visorstuff on December 22, 2005 at 3:25 pm

    Re: 121 – manaen

    Your comments are touching. I too love the quote. I don’t think we understand the power of the priesthood authority much at all. We conceptually understand that it has great power, and realize what it has done, but don’t realize what it can do. I believe it is as misunderstood as the atonement. Both should be relied on much more than we do.

    The quote gives me hope as well – each of my six siblings in my family has all been sealed and is active, however, I know that I strive not to be the “weak link” in the chain. I know that even though I’m not perfect, that the atonement, and the sealing power, can help to exalt me because of other’s righteousness as well as my own faithfulness. We are all in this plan together and rely on each other more than we think – and we are more interconnected than we think.

    The ordinance of the atonement and the power of the priesthood are two things I hope to grasp someday. In the mean time, I’ll trust in them and try to recognize the strength and hope they bring into my life.

  134. Wade on December 22, 2005 at 6:04 pm

    Visorstuff:

    You’re comments have been enlightening and I think your ideals coupled with mine may be the “golden mean”. Thanks for not giving up.

  135. Visorstuff on December 22, 2005 at 6:14 pm

    Wade, I don’t think we’re far off each other’s thoughts. Some nuances, but, hey, we’re different people. We should think differently. Or we’d have Zion already.

  136. comet on December 22, 2005 at 9:22 pm

    Beijing, Adam, Kingsley:

    Perhaps I’m a weasal too but I think Adam needs to account for the rest of Alma’s
    remarks..you can’t just stop in the middle at verse 34. What do you make of the fact that we read nothing more about knowledge after vs. 36 but we do get a lot on fruitful faith? I don’t disagree that faith yields knowledge, but in Alma 32 it’s knowledge of the goodness of the seed (a fairly restricted sense compared to more ambitious versions of knowledge/testimony c.f. critiques of Kaimi’s personal account); the accent is on faith nurturing the “good” seed growing into a tree yielding fruit (which seems to be much more than just “knowledge”). All of this seems interesting in light of Beijing’s suggestive comment about the veil earlier on. And it’s not just that an uncertain condition forces us to exercise faith, and thus construe the truth differently than if we had certain knowledge of it (premortal condition), but it’s the fact that we’ve intentionally accepted this less than certain condition (in entering within the veil), in effect imposing this ignorance on ourselves, that really gets me. Why? And wouldn’t that have productive implications for the things we think we really know now?

  137. Wade on December 23, 2005 at 12:37 am

    Visorstuff, good point – I’ve enjoyed the civility.

  138. anson cassell mills on December 26, 2005 at 3:06 pm

    Kaimi,

    This thread’s as dead as Marley, so here are few impressions about it from someone who’s never been a Mormon.

    1. Your casual reference to cultural Jews reminds me of some of my classmates years ago who kept Passover although they were effectively agnostic. Why shouldn’t there be cultural Mormons as well as cultural Jews, especially among “birthrightâ€? Mormons? My Mormon acquaintances–who have varied religious beliefs–all seem more interested in retaining their sense of belonging in the Church than in upholding any particular LDS theological doctrine.

    2. I should think your vague theism combined with some sort of personal spiritual experience would resonate with a large number Americans. Some of this sort of thing is pretty crude—like deceased relatives throwing pennies from heaven—but what most Americans tend to agree on is that there are few standards that can be imposed from outside the self. God is revealed internally not through any outside authority, like the Bible or the Book of Mormon.

    3. The fact that many (presumably young) Mormons agree with your loose theism, makes me wonder if this attitude is not shared at even higher levels of the Church. Perhaps only a handful of LDS officials are really interested in making sense of the official LDS doctrines. Certainly truth or falsity of doctrine was hardly a concern in this thread.

    4. “Forgetting� about the atonement is bizarre. Neither Jonathan Edwards nor Friedrich Nietzsche would be amused.

    5. In Sojourner in the Promised Land, Jan Shipps notes how bishops outside the Utah Valley reactivated inactive Mormon men after World War II by giving them callings and encouraging them to help construct ward chapels. It seems to me that this is indeed a cornerstone of the Church, to keep everyone so busy in the routine of running an organization that they won’t have the time or inclination to think deeply about the intellectual issues raised by doctrine. So the answer to doubt seems to be to put the doubter in charge of the ward. You can even redefine doubt to mean faith.

  139. Adam Greenwood on December 26, 2005 at 3:28 pm

    Mr. Comet,

    I agree that Alma 32 is about much more than knowledge. But I can’t see any way of reading the text that supports your conclusion that the knowledge we get when we plant the seed is only the knowledge that the seed is good. Alma begins the whole section on the seed by saying that people can not yet know that his words are true:

    v.26 Now, as I said concerning faith—that it was not a perfect knowledge—even so it is with my words. Ye cannot know of their surety at first, unto perfection, any more than faith is a perfect knowledge.

    Then, after discussing the experiment, Alma says that you will arrive at a perfect knowledge. Alma isn’t saying that if you experiment on his words you’ll find they’re good (your version); he’s saying that if you experiment on his words you’ll find they’re good in a way that convinces you of their truth

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