The Blasphemy of Truth

July 9, 2007 | 81 comments
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Suppose I claim that I am right about something (which I do with some regularity). Is there any way to avoid the fact that this is also claiming that God agrees with me? And doesn’t that seem blasphemously presumptuous?

Which makes me think I should be more careful about what I am willing to claim that I am sure of.

81 Responses to The Blasphemy of Truth

  1. Julie M. Smith on July 9, 2007 at 11:46 am

    I think we usually get around this (or exacerbate it) with language. I’ve been thinking lately about the kinds of code that is used in church talks/lessons to imply that God agrees with me:

    it came to me
    I felt that
    it was made known to me
    I had the feeling that
    I suddenly realized

    etc.

    On the other hand, we can mitigate:

    Just my opinion, but
    I wonder if

    etc.

    Of course, some of this is related to gendered patterns of language; interesting post on FMH about this recently.

  2. Dan on July 9, 2007 at 11:48 am

    it isn’t blasphemously presumptuous. I am right that the Book of Mormon is true. Why? Because God told me so. So I agree with God (it would be blasphemously presumptuous for me to say God agrees with me) :)

    You can claim you are right about something. Just be dang sure you’ve got the facts behind you to back you up.

  3. Frank McIntyre on July 9, 2007 at 12:16 pm

    Julie and Dan, I completely agree.

    Dan, On the Book of Mormon example, that falls into a much narrower set of things that we testify about. Thus a testimony is not blasphemous inasmuch as it represents the proper sacred claim that something is right because God told us. Many other things don’t fall into that category nearly so easily.

  4. Kristine on July 9, 2007 at 12:28 pm

    Wow–if that’s what you think is going on when you claim to be right, no wonder none of us can get you to change your mind at all. When I say I’m right about something (which happens with less regularity than you doing it, but still with terrible frequency), I’m making (or mean to be making) a much more modest claim, something like: this is what the best thinking I can do leads me to believe; you will have to adduce significant evidence or make a strong argument to change my mind.

    I would almost never claim that God agrees with me–Isaiah 55, and all that. I don’t think human truth claims need to invoke God, and most of the time, I think it’s better if they don’t.

  5. Steve Evans on July 9, 2007 at 12:38 pm

    God agrees with me when I say, “WTF, Frank.”

  6. a random John on July 9, 2007 at 12:44 pm

    I’ll chime in to say that I claim Steve Evans is right about something.

  7. Frank McIntyre on July 9, 2007 at 1:01 pm

    Kristine,

    I don’t sit in my office thinking that God agrees with me as I type out my latest dicta. I don’t and it is a little silly for you to think I do. I am saying that two statements are logically equivalent and I don’t see a way around it:

    1. X is true
    2. God believes X.

    To claim 1 is, as best I can tell, the same as to claim 2. So yes, we want to condition our claims. But if I say, as you do “this is what the best thinking I can do leads me to believe”, that is logically equivalent to saying “this is what the best thinking I can do leads me to believe that God believes”. And that is quite a statement, all by itself.

    Thus I am suggesting that it is good to show more humility in our claims. Apparently Steve can’t understand that :).

  8. Ray on July 9, 2007 at 1:05 pm

    If Steve weren’t an obnoxious jerk, we wouldn’t appreciate Ardis as much. Thanks, Steve.

  9. Mark IV on July 9, 2007 at 1:06 pm

    Frank,

    This reminds of the seven blind men who encounter an elephant and who then argue over what an elephant is like. The man who felt the elephant’s leg says an elephant is like a tree, the one who felt the tail thinks an elephant is like a rope, etc. They are all correct, and they are all wrong. There is nothing wrong with honestly claiming to be right about something, but we ought to be aware that our perspective is limited.

    Dan,

    Facts, schmacts. Or, as the smartest person I know would say:

    Facts are meaningless. You could use facts to prove anything that’s even remotely true.

    Who is this smart person? Homer Simpson, of course.

  10. Kristine on July 9, 2007 at 1:10 pm

    Frank, I didn’t do very well in logic (worst grade of my life), but I see absolutely no reason to accept your equivalence. Unless you really think that human beings regularly have unimpeded access to big T Truth the way God sees it, or to a form of logic that is known to be the one God accepts and uses (a belief one would have to hold in contradistinction to many scriptural statements of the exact opposite–Isaiah 55, 1 Corinthians 13, just to name the most obvious and well-known), there just isn’t any reason to think that things human beings believe are true are what God understands as Truth.

  11. a random John on July 9, 2007 at 1:11 pm

    I don’t know that the statement “God believes X” makes any sense. Does God “believe” anything in the sense that we do? God _knows_. What does He need belief for?

  12. Kristine on July 9, 2007 at 1:12 pm

    Man, that was some gnarly syntax. Sorry. (It would have worked in German).

  13. a random John on July 9, 2007 at 1:17 pm

    Frank,

    If you intend #7 as some sort of proof of what you are claiming, then you are begging the question. I know this is right. Also, I believe that God knows you are begging the question.

  14. Frank McIntyre on July 9, 2007 at 1:23 pm

    arJ (11) , that’s fair, in which case (2) should read God knows X is true. Of course, that just makes it worse….

    “there just isn’t any reason to think that things human beings believe are true are what God understands as Truth.”

    Kristine, I am not talking about “things humans believe are true”. Take a statement that is true (not “human true” just true). Then God knows it to be true because He is omniscient. If He knows it to be false, it is false and who cares whether or not some people believe it, they are wrong, the statement is not true.

    Isaiah 55 points out that we are lousy at discerning truth and thus we should trust in God. Which is exactly what I am relying on. When it says “my ways are not your ways” I get the distinct impression that “our ways” are wrong and we should try to follow His ways in faith, thus only one truth matters.

  15. Frank McIntyre on July 9, 2007 at 1:25 pm

    arJ,

    What question am I begging? Perhaps you think I am trying to say something I’m not. I’m saying that the omniscience of God implies (1) and (2) are logically equivalent. Do you agree?

  16. MikeInWeHo on July 9, 2007 at 1:53 pm

    The only true wisdom is in knowing you know nothing.
    –Socrates

    Looking back I see that much of the time when I claimed I was right about something, I was wrong. No doubt that is still the case today. My glass is very dark indeed.

  17. J. Nelson-Seawright on July 9, 2007 at 1:53 pm

    Wow, this post has massive epistemological implications, doesn’t it? Should we start with positivism? The post seems to suggest that the mental categories we use, which are the basic building blocks for our thoughts and beliefs, are either true or false. What if God simply has a wholly different system of categories from us? In that case, our beliefs might be pragmatically judged as true, i.e., consistent with the evidence and a helpful simplification of reality, without having any definite correspondence with divine thought. If we see our categories as human and cultural constructs, it helps avoid equating our mindset with God’s.

    Second, there’s the relation between cognition and formal logic. There’s substantial evidence showing that humans rarely if ever really use formal logic in our reasoning. While we may talk about true and false, our minds really seem to rely on some rule like “probable” or “helpful” or “not yet contradicted by evidence.” So, what we think is “true” is really something more like “a guideline that I think has made my life simpler so far.” God presumably has access to less cognitively-constrained view of truth, right?

    Third, there’s a stance here that suggests an attitude of spectacular confidence regarding individual belief systems. It’s possible, and probably common, for people to believe things in the sense of saying something like, “I think this probably makes a lot of sense, and might be in the neighborhood of truth.” Such a level of belief obviously has no logical implications about God’s position. For an individual who habitually holds beliefs in this way, the connection in the initial post might be startling. By contrast, for a writer who habitually holds beliefs as something like, “I think this is probably an exact and eternal law,” the logical connection is much clearer.

  18. Frank McIntyre on July 9, 2007 at 2:24 pm

    Good thoughts Mike and JNS.

    JNS, I’m not into positivism so you can discuss that with DKL if you can find him, but I think you misspoke in the last paragraph. Statements like “I think this probably makes a lot of sense, and might be in the neighborhood of truth.” _do_ have logical implications for our beliefs about God’s knowledge. _Any_ claim about what is true is a concurrent claim about what God knows. In this case, the claim is “I think this probably makes a lot of sense, and might be in the neighborhood of what God knows to be true.”

    I wholeheartedly agree that such a statement is weaker than somebody who makes absolutist claims, but there is still a claim there.

  19. Frank McIntyre on July 9, 2007 at 2:26 pm

    As an addendum, I feel much more comfortable making the kind of weaker, hedged claims JNS or Kristine gave as examples than the more absolutist ones, absent revelation.

  20. greenfrog on July 9, 2007 at 2:47 pm

    I’m interested in the substantial number of folk who conclude that God only knows what God knows, and we (definitionally?) can’t.

    Perhaps curiously (and perhaps alarmingly to Frank), I’m on Frank’s side of this. The Mormonism I’ve lived with is all about knowledge of God which strikes lots of folk as foolishly presumptuous. But here’s the thing: if God (or the mind thereof) is definitionally unknowable, then trying to know God is a waste of time, and we should find something else to concern ourselves about. However, there are lots of good LDS scriptural reasons for us not to accept such a conclusion. There’s the “line upon line” scriptures, the “man is saved no faster than he gains knowledge” verses, sections 88 and 93 of the Doctrine & Covenants, and the entire basic notion that God communicates with us.

    With that set of beliefs about the nature of God and our relationship to God, it seems to me that an idea that we can be confident about the “truth” of any particular fact, but that we would disagree that God thinks the same thing seems unnecessarily equivocal. Either we’re confident about something or we’re not. If we’re as certain as human perceptions and conceptions allow about something, then we should be similarly confident (within the same tolerances) of God’s knowledge of the same thing.

    Am I missing something?

  21. Frank McIntyre on July 9, 2007 at 2:55 pm

    Greenfrog, I agree. Frightening but true.

  22. greenfrog on July 9, 2007 at 2:57 pm

    :-)

  23. Ray on July 9, 2007 at 2:58 pm

    Some people need certainty in almost everything; others need it in very little; most fall somewhere in the middle. Those in the first category either entrench themselves in their own perspective no matter what others say or simply avoid hearing what others have to say; those in the opposite camp tend to seek out opposing opinions, often vacillating from one opinion to another quite regularly; most fall somewhere in the middle – open to some dissenting views but not to others – able to change their minds but not in a fickle, “everything is right” fashion.

    On that continuum, I’m about 80-90% open to being wrong, since there are some things that I seriously doubt I ever will question – that I have no desire to explore further than I already have.

  24. a random John on July 9, 2007 at 3:11 pm

    Frank (#15),

    Seriously, your proof is very weak.

  25. Frank McIntyre on July 9, 2007 at 3:18 pm

    arJ, I think you’re lost.

  26. J. Nelson-Seawright on July 9, 2007 at 3:28 pm

    …and therefore God thinks arJ is lost. Is that a call to repentance or what?

  27. KyleM on July 9, 2007 at 3:39 pm

    26. He said “I think,” not “I know.”

  28. J. Nelson-Seawright on July 9, 2007 at 3:46 pm

    …and therefore, my comment says that “God thinks.” Please don’t take this too seriously, Kyle. The comment is me being goofy.

  29. John Mansfield on July 9, 2007 at 3:49 pm

    The more common expression of certainity concerning God’s thoughts is “I just can’t believe that God cares about X,” where X just by coincidence is something that the speaker/writer also doesn’t care about and wishes other people would care about less.

  30. marcus on July 9, 2007 at 3:58 pm

    random John, #13 — I want to applaud you for the first appropriate use of the phrase “begging the question” I have ever seen in a blog comment.

  31. Frank McIntyre on July 9, 2007 at 4:06 pm

    John, spot on.

    JNS, Ahem, the correct phrasing is “and therefore, Frank thinks that God knows arJ is lost”. Not eternally, mind you. Just logically.

  32. J. Nelson-Seawright on July 9, 2007 at 4:08 pm

    Ah, but, Frank, your comment #31 assumes that I don’t hold the belief that your cognitive processes are a (perhaps inadvertent) perfect mirror for God’s cognitive processes. If I hold that belief as a postulate, then my comment is logically quite robust.

  33. Frank McIntyre on July 9, 2007 at 4:13 pm

    JNS,

    “Ah, but, Frank, your comment #31 assumes that I don’t hold the belief that your cognitive processes are a (perhaps inadvertent) perfect mirror for God’s cognitive processes.”

    I know, with the white hot burning intensity of a thousand suns, that you do not believe this.

  34. KyleM on July 9, 2007 at 4:16 pm

    28. It was my impression that we can think anything we want, just not know it. I’m not taking your comment seriously. I don’t think the initial post was to be taken seriously either, though I wish people would quit saying they knew things without concrete evidence.

  35. J. Nelson-Seawright on July 9, 2007 at 4:16 pm

    …and therefore I am forced, by the postulate in #32, to conclude that God also knows that I do not believe the postulate in #32. Some might claim that this resulting contradiction is a kind of rigorous proof against the validity of the postulate. But I’m going to be stubborn and hold to my postulate, for the purposes of this thread, even in the face of Frank’s (and, by implication, God’s) knowledge. Because that, my friends, is how I roll. Need I repeat that I’m just being goofy?

  36. J. Nelson-Seawright on July 9, 2007 at 4:18 pm

    Presumably, then, Kyle #34, God is also free to think anything He wants, including possibly that arJ is lost in either the spiritual or the logical sense.

  37. a random John on July 9, 2007 at 4:20 pm

    How are we to know when Frank is expressing an opinion and when he is claiming to be right? Is there even a difference?

    More seriously, Frank, if you are attempting to prove something here then you need to clearly state your assumptions and then show that what you’re stating logically follows from those assumptions. You’ve barely hand waved here. How can I be anything but lost when you post an outrageous assertion such as this and then simply poorly restate the original assertion as some sort of proof?

    If you want to have a discussion on your hand wavy level, then I’ll state that your person making claims is also making a lot of assumptions both about God and about those listening to the claims. This is using your original post as its basis an not any of the restatements which haven’t done much other than muddy the waters.

  38. Frank McIntyre on July 9, 2007 at 4:39 pm

    Assumption
    1. God is omniscient. God knows everything perfectly.

    so far so good? One can quibble or maybe there are some inconsequential things God does not know. Ignore those as immaterial to the broader point. If you don’t think God is omniscient, this is not the post for you.

    Assumption
    2. X is true.
    Therefore ->
    3. God knows X is true

    That’s pretty easy. And it goes both ways. Given 1 and 3 -> 2. So, given 1, 2 and 3 go together. If one of them is false, so is the other one. Thus they are logically equivalent statements.

    Therefore, if I say I believe (2), that is equivalent to saying I believe (3), given that I accept (1).

    QED.

    So where do you get lost, arJ?

  39. a random John on July 9, 2007 at 4:47 pm

    Gosh Frank, you’ve skipped the part that philosophers have been beating their heads over for centuries.

  40. KyleM on July 9, 2007 at 4:52 pm

    36. God can’t think. He can only know.

  41. Frank McIntyre on July 9, 2007 at 4:57 pm

    39. Arguing about the meaning of omniscience? Proudly. You can go have that discussion with someone who cares.

  42. J. Nelson-Seawright on July 9, 2007 at 5:04 pm

    Kyle, #40, I’m going to disagree with you on that. I’m pretty sure that God is capable of having opinions on non-factual matters. For example, I see no inherent problem with the idea that God might think that Kandinsky was a great painter — but I would find a claim that God knew Kandinsky to be a great painter to be perplexing at best. Perhaps the statement in question is really a claim that God thinks arJ is lost in an aesthetic sense.

  43. marcus on July 9, 2007 at 5:27 pm

    Frank, your proof effectively establishes the nature of truth, in this limited context, but I don’t see how you get from there to blasphemy.
    Essentially what you’re suggesting is that no declarative statement can be made without tacitly adding “and god agrees with me” to the end of every sentence. And if this is the nature of truth, then we are confined to speaking in imperatives and interrogatories, or risk blasphemy. This would effectively cripple any meaningful use of language. One way to get around sounding like a lunatic is to accept the statements as blasphemous and continue in the blasphemy. Another way to avoid the dilemma is to make a fundamental assumption about language that when someone makes a statement of fact, the statement comes with a disclaimer that the views and opinions expressed by the speaker are not necessarily those of his deity. These aren’t the only two options by any means, but I know that when I make statements, I am much more comfortable with the disclaimer than asserting that god agrees with me.

  44. Frank McIntyre on July 9, 2007 at 5:39 pm

    Marcus,

    I’m not urging abandonment of language so much as more humility. And your “disclaimer” option is fine, but you could just as well say, “But I may well be wrong”, since that is equivalent. And although some people implicitly make that disclaimer, I think we should perhaps make it explicit more often.

    But I may well be wrong…

  45. Ugly Mahana on July 9, 2007 at 5:42 pm

    The views I express are not necessarily those of my deity. Past correct views are not necessarily indicative of future performance.

  46. a random John on July 9, 2007 at 5:46 pm

    I’m not urging abandonment of language so much as more humility.
    !?

  47. Kristine on July 9, 2007 at 5:46 pm

    Frank, the problem is in your use of “true” as if it were a simple half of a binary pair, and with assuming that God and Warren Goldfarb learned logic from the same textbook.

    Greenfrog (way back in #20)–I don’t think we’re definitionally incapable of perceiving truth in a way similar to the way God perceives it, but I assume that our understanding is like his in much the way that my six-year-old’s understanding is like mine. We use many of the same terms, sometimes we mean exactly the same thing, but sometimes the partialness of his comprehension really undermines the notion that we mean the same things with the same words. When he says “Money comes from the ATM,” he’s not saying something *false*, but I’d be hard-pressed to say that he is asserting something true (because he has no conception of anything other than a machine that magically spits out money). I presume that when the veil is lifted, many of the “truths” we assert here will be similarly partial, and therefore something less than “true”.

  48. Jim Cobabe on July 9, 2007 at 5:59 pm

    Nothing is easier than to identify one’s own favorite political, economic, historical, and moral convictions with the gospel. That gives one a neat, convenient, but altogether too easy advantage over one’s fellows. If my ideas are the true ones–and I certainly will not entertain them if I suspect for a moment that they are false!–then, all truth being one, they are also the gospel, and to oppose them is to play the role of Satan.

    This is simply insisting that our way is God’s way and therefore, the only way. It is the height of impertinence.

    Nibley, “Beyond Politics”, _BYU Studies_ 1974

  49. a random John on July 9, 2007 at 6:08 pm

    Kristine,

    Excellent analogy!

  50. Jim Cobabe on July 9, 2007 at 6:10 pm

    Frank:

    Thus I am suggesting that it is good to show more humility in our claims. Apparently Steve can’t understand that :) .

    Yes. Lawyers are specially trained to willfully misunderstand everything at the highest possible level of personal arrogance.

  51. Steve Evans on July 9, 2007 at 6:17 pm

    Hey Cobabe, come over to BCC and say that!

    Oh wait… you got banned for being a jerkwad.

  52. Kaimi Wenger on July 9, 2007 at 6:28 pm

    Jim Cobabe,

    Some people might define arrogance along these lines: Coming onto a group blog and insulting the profession of one-third of the permabloggers.

  53. Frank McIntyre on July 9, 2007 at 6:35 pm

    Kristine,

    If your 6 year old asserts that 2+2 = 4 do have a similarly long internal battle? While I wholeheartedly agree that there are _some_ things that we are poorly equipped to even know if they are true or false, this seems to make it all the more obvious that we should be cautious in such declarations. Apparently you think we often don’t even know enough to phrase a claim in a meaningful way! Talk about a need for humility, it isn’t even clear we should bother speaking (Kierkegaard’s point, I think)! For the other times where you acknowledge we can make a meaningful claim, the post makes what I hope is an interesting point.

    And the next time your 6 your old says money comes from an ATM, the answer is that yes, it does. And the ATM then debits one’s account. 6 year olds can handle it.

  54. Frank McIntyre on July 9, 2007 at 6:37 pm

    Great Nibley quote by the way, Jim.

  55. Kristine on July 9, 2007 at 6:52 pm

    Frank,

    You are undoubtedly wise in all things. But I really wasn’t asking for your parenting advice.

  56. Jim Cobabe on July 9, 2007 at 10:06 pm

    Kaimi Wenger:

    Some people might define arrogance along these lines: Coming onto a group blog and insulting the profession of one-third of the permabloggers.

    …but on reasonable consideration, perhaps it is no great stretch to imagine that most of these folks would readily see how apt the characterization. Especially those who themselves have had personal dealings with lawyers.

    Of course this is just a simple generalization, and only my limited personal experience — there must be at least a few exceptions. I just haven’t met them.

  57. Keith on July 10, 2007 at 5:03 am

    Frank,

    You might be interested to read Soren Kierkegaard’s essay “Does a Human Being Have the Right to Let Himself Be Put to Death for the Truth” found in his book _On Authority_. He wrestles, in his own way, with issues surrounding what you are talking about. His pseudonymous writer (named H.H.) wonders whether a human being can/should have claim to the truth in such a way that by his holding that truth over/against others he is put to death for it and thereby he becomes party to making others guilty of murder. H.H. asks “Do I then have the right to do this, or does a human being have the right for the sake of the truth to allow others to become guilty of a murder? Is my duty to the truth of such a nature, or does not my duty to my fellow beings rather bid me to yield a little? How far does my duty to the truth reach, and how far my duty toward others?”

    The essay takes many twists and turns, but ultimately Kierkegaard’s H.H. ultimately comes down on the side of it not being right for one to make another guilty of murder. In part he says this because he believes no human being can claim an absolute hold on the truth. In part he says this because one sinner does not have the right to call others sinners and thereby cause them to put him to death. H.H. seems to give priority over love and responsibility, more than truth and responsibility, though even here it is not an absolute claim. [It's more complicated than this, because he does leave room for the apostle with authority to allow himself to be put to death in claiming authority and having a message to give, but with that authority and the message he comes with, the apostle/prophet is, for Kierkegaard in a different category than the normal human being. Further, the view expressed by H.H. might not full represent what Kierkegaard thinks, but is used as a way to bring the issue out and make one wrestle with it.]

    I haven’t fully come to a conclusion about whether I agree with the essay or not. But that essay, and your thoughts here, cause me to think that when we bear witness of the truth we should 1) not bear false witness and 2) bear witness in a way that doesn’t ascribe to ourselves some sort of moral superiority, as if it’s our rare goodness that brought the truth or a testimony to us, and not God’s mercy and blessing. We ought to bear witness in faith and in the confidence of the Spirit, but also (and I think this is actually tied to having faith and confidence in God and in what’s revealed) in fear and trembling.

  58. Frank McIntyre on July 10, 2007 at 11:01 am

    Keith, that is very interesting. Everything I know about Kierkegaard I learned from Jim Faulconer, and it affected how I view these things. I have not read that essay but it sounds interesting. Thanks for the reference.

  59. Adam Greenwood on July 10, 2007 at 11:07 am

    Lawyers are specially trained to willfully misunderstand everything at the highest possible level of personal arrogance.

    Congratulations, you’ve saved yourself three years of tuition.

  60. Jim Cobabe on July 11, 2007 at 12:51 pm

    Yes, thanks Adam. I have also a newly expanded understanding of the definition of “jerkwad”, to echo Steve’s sophisticated invective.

    Here are some representative quotes from others who would seem to fall into the same category. I wonder if these would also be “banned” from contributing their opinions under Steve’s domain.

    The ultimate purpose of the adversary, who has “great wrath, because he
    knoweth that he hath but a short time,” is to disrupt, disturb, and
    destroy the home and the family. Like a ship without a rudder, without a
    compass, we drift from the family values which have anchored us in the
    past. Now we are caught in a current so strong that unless we correct
    our course, civilization as we know it will surely be wrecked to pieces.

    Moral values are being neglected and prayer expelled from public schools
    on the pretext that moral teaching belongs to religion. At the same
    time, atheism, the secular religion, is admitted to class, and our
    youngsters are proselyted to a conduct without morality.
    World leaders and court judges agree that the family must endure if we
    are to survive. At the same time, they use the words freedom and choice
    as tools to pry apart the safeguards of the past and loosen up the laws
    on marriage, abortion, and gender. In so doing, they promote the very
    things which threaten the family.

    (Boyd K. Packer, “The Father and the Family,” Ensign, May 1994)

    We live in a day when there are many political, legal, and social
    pressures for changes that confuse gender and homogenize the differences
    between men and women. Our eternal perspective sets us against changes
    that alter those separate duties and privileges of men and women that
    are essential to accomplish the great plan of happiness.

    (Dallin H. Oaks, “The Great Plan of Happiness”, General Conference address, 3 Oct
    1993.)

    There are those who would have us believe in the validity of what they
    choose to call same-sex marriage. Our hearts reach out to those who
    struggle with feelings of affinity for the same gender. We remember you
    before the Lord, we sympathize with you, we regard you as our brothers
    and our sisters. However, we cannot condone immoral practices on your
    part any more than we can condone immoral practices on the part of
    others…

    With so much of sophistry that is passed off as truth, with so much of
    deception concerning standards and values, with so much of allurement
    and enticement to take on the slow stain of the world, we have felt to
    warn and forewarn. In furtherance of this we of the First Presidency and
    the Council of the Twelve Apostles now issue a proclamation to the
    Church and to the world as a declaration and reaffirmation of standards,
    doctrines, and practices relative to the family which the prophets,
    seers, and revelators of this church have repeatedly stated throughout
    its history…

    “We warn that individuals who violate covenants of chastity, who abuse
    spouse or offspring, or who fail to fulfill family responsibilities will
    one day stand accountable before God. Further, we warn that the
    disintegration of the family will bring upon individuals, communities,
    and nations the calamities foretold by ancient and modern prophets…
    “We call upon responsible citizens and officers of government everywhere
    to promote those measures designed to maintain and strengthen the family
    as the fundamental unit of society.”

    (Gordon B. Hinckley, “Stand Strong against the Wiles of the World,” Ensign, Nov. 1995)

    Every Latter-day Saint knows that God has forbidden all sexual relations
    outside the bonds of marriage. Most are also aware of the Savior’s
    teaching that it is sinful for a man to look upon and lust after a woman
    (see Matt. 5:28; D&C 42:23; D&C 63:16).
    Attraction between man and woman was instilled by the Creator to ensure
    the perpetuation of mortal life and to draw husband and wife together in
    the family setting he prescribed for the accomplishment of his purposes,
    including the raising of children. In contrast, deviations from God’s
    commandments in the use of procreative powers are grave sins. President
    Joseph F. Smith taught: The Lord drew boundary lines to define
    acceptable limits of tolerance. Danger rises when those divine limits
    are disobeyed. Just as parents teach little children not to run and play
    in the street, the Savior taught us that we need not tolerate evil.
    “Jesus went into the temple of God, and … and overthrew the tables of
    the moneychangers.” Though He loved the sinner, the Lord said that He
    “cannot look upon sin with the least degree of allowance.” His Apostle
    Paul specified some of those sins in a letter to the Galatians. The list
    included “adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness,
    “Idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, … wrath, strife, seditions, heresies,
    “Envyings, murders, drunkenness, revellings, and such like.”
    To Paul’s list I might add the regrettable attitudes of bigotry,
    hypocrisy, and prejudice. These were also decried in 1834 by early
    Church leaders who foresaw the eventual rise of this church “amid the
    frowns of bigots and the calumny of hypocrites.” The Prophet Joseph
    Smith prayed that “prejudices may give way before the truth.” Hatred
    stirs up strife and digs beneath the dignity of mature men and women in
    our enlightened era.

    Paul’s list included “uncleanness.” As members of the Church entrusted
    with its holy temples, we are commanded that “no unclean thing shall be
    permitted to come into [His] house to pollute it.”
    That assignment requires great fortitude as well as love. In former
    days, disciples of the Lord “were firm, and would suffer even unto death
    rather than commit sin.” In latter days, devoted disciples of the Lord
    are just as firm. Real love for the sinner may compel courageous
    confrontation—not acquiescence! Real love does not support
    self-destructing behavior.

    (Russell M. Nelson, “Teach Us Tolerance and Love,” Ensign, May 1994)

    The Apostle Paul warned of these days: “For the time will come when they
    will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they
    heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears;
    “And they shall turn away their ears from the truth” (2 Tim. 4:3-4).
    Paul also taught that the Lord “gave some, apostles; and some, prophets
    …

    “For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the
    edifying of the body of Christ:
    “Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the
    Son of God, …

    “That we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried
    about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning
    craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive” (Eph. 4:11-14)…

    In plainness and power President Hinckley teaches the eternal plan of
    salvation, rebukes sin, calls all people to repent and accept Christ and
    His gospel. The doctrines of eternal salvation are not unclear or
    uncertain, but rather they are consistent with revealed truths, both
    ancient and modern.

    President Spencer W. Kimball reminded us that the prophets “constantly
    cry out against that which is intolerable in the sight of the Lord;
    against pollution of mind, body, and our surroundings; against
    vulgarity, stealing, lying, pride, and blasphemy; against fornication,
    adultery, homosexuality, and all other abuses of the sacred power to
    create; against murder and all that is like unto it; against all manner
    of desecration.” He continued: “That such things should be found even
    among the Saints to some degree is scarcely believable. … Sadly,
    however, we find that to be shown the way is not necessarily to walk in
    it” (“The False Gods We Worship,” Ensign, June 1976, 4).
    Therefore, let us beware of false prophets and false teachers, both men
    and women, who are self-appointed declarers of the doctrines of the
    Church and who seek to spread their false gospel and attract followers
    by sponsoring symposia, books, and journals whose contents challenge
    fundamental doctrines of the Church.

    Beware of those who speak and publish in opposition to God’s true
    prophets and who actively proselyte others with reckless disregard for
    the eternal well-being of those whom they seduce. Like Nehor and Korihor
    in the Book of Mormon, they rely on sophistry to deceive and entice
    others to their views. They “set themselves up for a light unto the
    world, that they may get gain and praise of the world; but they seek not
    the welfare of Zion” (2 Ne. 26:29).

    Of such President Joseph F. Smith warned when he spoke of the “proud and
    self-vaunting ones, who read by the lamps of their own conceit; who
    interpret by rules of their own contriving; who have become a law unto
    themselves, and so pose as the sole judges of their own doings” (Gospel
    Doctrine, 381).

    Now let me give you a few examples of the false teachings of those who
    read by the lamps of their own conceit, who, though “ever learning,” are
    “never able to come to the knowledge of the truth” (2 Tim. 3:7)…

    False prophets and false teachers are also those who attempt to change
    the God-given and scripturally based doctrines that protect the sanctity
    of marriage, the divine nature of the family, and the essential doctrine
    of personal morality. They advocate a redefinition of morality to
    justify fornication, adultery, and homosexual relationships. Some openly
    champion the legalization of so-called same-gender marriages. To justify
    their rejection of God’s immutable laws that protect the family, these
    false prophets and false teachers even attack the inspired proclamation
    on the family issued to the world in 1995 by the First Presidency and
    the Twelve Apostles.
    Regardless of which particular false doctrines they teach, false
    prophets and false teachers are an inevitable part of the last days.
    “False prophets,” according to the Prophet Joseph Smith, “always arise
    to oppose the true prophets” (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith,
    sel. Joseph Fielding Smith [1976], 365).

    However, in the Lord’s Church there is no such thing as a “loyal
    opposition.” One is either for the kingdom of God and stands in defense
    of God’s prophets and apostles, or one stands opposed. And as Lehi of
    old counseled his sons, so this counsel is true for us today:
    “And the Messiah cometh in the fulness of time, that he may redeem the
    children of men from the fall. And because that they are redeemed from
    the fall they have become free forever, knowing good from evil; to act
    for themselves and not to be acted upon, save it be by the punishment of
    the law at the great and last day, according to the commandments which
    God hath given.

    “Wherefore, men are free according to the flesh; and all things are
    given them which are expedient unto man. And they are free to choose
    liberty and eternal life, through the great Mediator of all men, or to
    choose captivity and death, according to the captivity and power of the
    devil; for he seeketh that all men might be miserable like unto himself.

    “And now, my sons, I would that ye should look to the great Mediator,
    and hearken unto his great commandments; and be faithful unto his words,
    and choose eternal life, according to the will of his Holy Spirit” (2
    Ne. 2:26-28).

    Brothers and sisters, let us be anxiously engaged in good causes. Let us
    love the Father and His Son, Jesus Christ. Let us sustain and live by
    the revelations of the restored gospel. Let us love our fellow beings
    and fill our hearts and souls with the light of the gospel of Jesus
    Christ. Then we will sing with Isaiah:
    “Behold, God is my salvation; I will trust and not be afraid; …
    “Therefore with joy shall [I] draw water out of the wells of salvation”
    (Isa. 12:2-3).

    We also know from Paul’s inspired words to the Galatian Saints that “the
    fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness,
    goodness, faith,
    “Meekness, temperance: against such there is no law. …
    “If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit” (Gal.
    5:22-23, 25).

    (Russell M. Nelson, “Teach Us Tolerance and Love,” Ensign, May 1994)

    I have time to discuss one other question: “Why does the Church become
    involved in issues that come before the legislature and the electorate?”

    I hasten to add that we deal only with those legislative matters which
    are of a strictly moral nature or which directly affect the welfare of
    the Church. We have opposed gambling and liquor and will continue to do
    so. We regard it as not only our right but our duty to oppose those
    forces which we feel undermine the moral fiber of society. Much of our
    effort, a very great deal of it, is in association with others whose
    interests are similar. We have worked with Jewish groups, Catholics,
    Muslims, Protestants, and those of no particular religious affiliation,
    in coalitions formed to advocate positions on vital moral issues. Such
    is currently the case in California, where Latter-day Saints are working
    as part of a coalition to safeguard traditional marriage from forces in
    our society which are attempting to redefine that sacred institution.
    God-sanctioned marriage between a man and a woman has been the basis of
    civilization for thousands of years. There is no justification to
    redefine what marriage is. Such is not our right, and those who try will
    find themselves answerable to God.
    Some portray legalization of so-called same-sex marriage as a civil
    right. This is not a matter of civil rights; it is a matter of morality.
    Others question our constitutional right as a church to raise our voice
    on an issue that is of critical importance to the future of the family.
    We believe that defending this sacred institution by working to preserve
    traditional marriage lies clearly within our religious and
    constitutional prerogatives. Indeed, we are compelled by our doctrine to
    speak out.

    Nevertheless, and I emphasize this, I wish to say that our opposition to
    attempts to legalize same-sex marriage should never be interpreted as
    justification for hatred, intolerance, or abuse of those who profess
    homosexual tendencies, either individually or as a group. As I said from
    this pulpit one year ago, our hearts reach out to those who refer to
    themselves as gays and lesbians. We love and honor them as sons and
    daughters of God. They are welcome in the Church. It is expected,
    however, that they follow the same God-given rules of conduct that apply
    to everyone else, whether single or married.
    I commend those of our membership who have voluntarily joined with other
    like-minded people to defend the sanctity of traditional marriage. As
    part of a coalition that embraces those of other faiths, you are giving
    substantially of your means. The money being raised in California has
    been donated to the coalition by individual members of the Church. You
    are contributing your time and talents in a cause that in some quarters
    may not be politically correct but which nevertheless lies at the heart
    of the Lord’s eternal plan for His children, just as those of many other
    churches are doing. This is a united effort.
    I think that is all I need to say on that and the other matters on which
    I have commented. I have tried to explain why we do some of the things
    that we do. I hope I have been helpful.

    (Gordon B. Hinckley, “Why We Do Some of the Things We Do,” Ensign, Nov. 1999)

  61. Steve Evans on July 11, 2007 at 1:07 pm

    Cobabe, I wouldn’t ban any of those people from posting at BCC. I would, and did, ban you for being an insufferable jackass that posted lengthy and pointless tirades. You self-righteous toad.

    T&S admins, feel free to edit me if you feel I’m incorrect or unjustified.

  62. Frank McIntyre on July 11, 2007 at 1:38 pm

    Steve,

    If you want to discuss your banning of Jim, please do it on your own blog.

    Jim,

    Those are great quotes, but next time please just link to the talks. It is unreadable as is. We prefer short, pithy tirades.

  63. Jim Cobabe on July 11, 2007 at 1:40 pm

    Steve says:

    T&S admins, feel free to edit me if you feel I’m incorrect or unjustified.

    Why would they do that? My impression is that you have represented yourself here quite accurately.

  64. Jim Cobabe on July 11, 2007 at 2:04 pm

    Frank,

    Sorry for the clutter. I should have made shorter excerpts, but really could not find much that was not relevant.

    I strongly suspect most everyone knows what these quotes are saying, anyway. No real need to try to read them.

    I was unaware that a “banning” mechanism was available to blogs, and I find that quite interesting, since there is no subscription routine for commenters. Does T&S use the same approach as BCC for managing blog “blasphemy”? As far as I can tell, the BCC approach amounts to something akin to stopping your ears to avoid hearing things you don’t care to hear.

  65. Adam Greenwood on July 11, 2007 at 2:24 pm

    Hey, Jim C., I missed the quotes from President Faust or President J. Reuben Clark. Maybe you overlooked those?

  66. Jim Cobabe on July 11, 2007 at 2:29 pm

    Adam, are you asking me now to paste in *more* conference talks en masse?

    Here’s the link:

    LDS Church

    ;-)

  67. Steve Evans on July 11, 2007 at 2:30 pm

    Adam, I’m not sure, but I think Cobabe’s calling us gay. That’s what all his quotes are about. Either that or he’s coming out of the closet in the most indirect and awkward way I’ve ever seen.

  68. Frank McIntyre on July 11, 2007 at 2:40 pm

    “Does T&S use the same approach as BCC for managing blog “blasphemy”? ”

    We try to behave as arbitrarily and capriciously as possible, though very, very slowly. So yes, we’ve definitely asked people to go away because they were ruining our party. Some of them calmed down and were invited back. Others went off to be jerks elsewhere.

    I tried to get Steve banned because he writes like a girl, but it didn’t go anywhere so I gave up.

  69. Nate Oman on July 11, 2007 at 2:44 pm

    “Does T&S use the same approach as BCC for managing blog “blasphemy”? ”

    There are lots of analogies that you can use to think of a blog. Here is a hint: A public street is not a good one for this blog. This isn’t a public forum devoted the the untrammled expression of all ideas regardless of tone, tact, or idiom. Rather, it is much more like a big cocktail party (with non-alcholic beverages of course!) where the hosts reserve the right to throw out those who are jerks, are making a disturbance, or have indavertantly wandered into the party thinking that it was something that it isn’t.

  70. Jim Cobabe on July 11, 2007 at 2:52 pm

    With all my heart and soul, I believe in the healing power that can come to us as we follow the counsel of the Savior “to forgive all men.”


    James E. Faust, “The Healing Power of Forgiveness,” Ensign, May 2007, 67–69

  71. Jim Cobabe on July 11, 2007 at 3:07 pm

    The mission of the Church is first, to teach, encourage, assist, and protect the individual member in his striving to live the perfect life, temporally and spiritually, as laid down in the Gospel, “Be ye perfect, even as your Father which is in Heaven is perfect,” said the Master.

    Secondly, the Church is to maintain, teach, encourage, and protect, temporally and spiritually, the membership as a group in its living of the Gospel.

    And thirdly, the Church is militantly to proclaim the truth, calling upon all men to repent, and to live in obedience to the Gospel, “for every knee must bow and every tongue confess.”

    “The Charted Course of the Church in Education”, President J. Reuben Clark, Jr. First Counselor in the First Presidency,
    The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, August 8, 1938

  72. Nate Oman on July 11, 2007 at 3:08 pm

    “Don’t give up entertaining. So few people do it now, which may explain why your guests are confused about the difference between a hospitable home and a boarding house.”

    Miss Manners

  73. k l h on July 11, 2007 at 3:10 pm

    Thanks Keith for # 57. Especially about how H.H. (s.krkgd)… “seems to give priority over love and responsibility, more than truth and responsibility, though even here it is not an absolute claim. [It’s more complicated than this, because he does leave room for the apostle with authority...].”

    Sometimes our human understandings of love and truth conflict – so, in such cases, we should put a lot of weight in elevated considerations of “love” in our making of such decisions? (Yet, then, maybe in God’s understandings there’s never any conflict?)

  74. Adam Greenwood on July 11, 2007 at 3:13 pm

    “Does T&S use the same approach as BCC for managing blog “blasphemy”? ”

    Yes. Whenever I want to oppress someone, I ask myself “What would Steve E. do?” That’s not the reason I’m gay, though.

  75. Steve Evans on July 11, 2007 at 3:17 pm

    Adam, truly said. You are gay because God made you that way.

  76. Adam Greenwood on July 11, 2007 at 3:21 pm

    No, I’m gay because I’m the unholy offspring of ram and a penguin.

  77. Peter LLC on July 11, 2007 at 3:36 pm

    #67:
    “we’ve definitely asked people to go away because they were ruining our party.”

    #68:
    “it is much more like a big cocktail party”

    I totally got accused of cynicism over at the BCC for suggesting that this is sometimes the case. I must have shown up to the wrong party.

  78. J. Nelson-Seawright on July 11, 2007 at 3:41 pm

    “I’m gay because I’m the unholy offspring of ram and a penguin.”

    Strange to say it, one of the leading reasons that I’m straight is because Adam is the unholy offspring of a ram and a penguin.

  79. Russell Arben Fox on July 11, 2007 at 3:43 pm

    “Strange to say it, one of the leading reasons that I’m straight is because Adam is the unholy offspring of a ram and a penguin.”

    Now if we could just work a rubber band and a time machine into this somehow, we’d have a Douglas Adams novel.

  80. Jim Cobabe on July 11, 2007 at 4:29 pm

    Frank, I am glad to know that this “banning” thing is arbitrary and capricious. Otherwise I would have known that it is just another part of the routine massive conspiracy arrayed against me.

    You see, I learned long ago that I am a perennial jackass and jerkwad. Steve’s responses were no surprise. In fact, he was the only one who seemed to behave normally. (Though, to be sure, I expected something more sophisticated from a lawyer. Maybe something in Attic Greek, or a quote from Pliny or Cicero.)

    Blasphemy, BTW, seems to be a part of my nature. My life is wholly an affront to God, near as I can determine — though I’m not entirely certain of this, as He banned me from His Blog too.) I routinely expect the doors of the Church to slam shut of their own accord, as I approach. A number of times, upon entering the Temple, I thought I heard ominous rumblings of thunder from above.

    Notwithstanding, I try to get along. Admittedly, short pithy tirades are not high on my list of superior skills. But I promise I’ll study on it.

  81. Jim Cobabe on July 11, 2007 at 4:42 pm

    Yes, the “big cocktail party” model.

    Terry Day used this analogy on Mormon-L more than twenty years ago. I think it must have been further popularized among the Sunstoned, or perhaps at other events like that where clever things get tirelessly repeated.

    The more things change, the more they’re the same.

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