Tuesday, November 14, 2006

The Holy Ghost and Partial Truths

The Mormon church professes to be the only true and living church. Joseph Smith claimed that God told him that none of the other churches were correct. Nevertheless, people in other faiths claim to feel the Holy Ghost, which is suppose to be a verifier of truth. How can people in other faiths feel the Holy Ghost if their churches are not true?

One common answer when I ask this question is that they indeed do feel the Holy Ghost but that it is only confirming those partial truths that they do have. This idea is problematic. If the Holy Ghost can confirm partial truths, how does an LDS member know that their beliefs/confirmations do not fall under these partial truths. If they claim to feel the Holy Ghost on a particular subject, isn't the Holy Ghost only confirming that specific subject, or a portion of it. So in essence, and LDS member, in order to believe that their church is the complete truth would have to have confirmation on every LDS principle. This includes having the Holy Ghost verify that polygamy is correct which included marrying women who were already married to other LDS men, that denying the priesthood to blacks was correct, even though they had it under Joseph Smith and then didn't under Brigham Young. I have always had bad feelings about these principles and I can't really imagine having a good feeling about them. If the Holy Ghost can testify to partial truths what makes the LDS faith immune to this?

I have also heard the argument that nonmembers feel the Holy Ghost because they are on a stepping stone to the truth. This theory seems counterproductive. If people in a specific faith are receiving the Holy Ghost, does that not act as a confirmation of their beliefs/actions, if so, then how is that a stepping stone. If a member of the Catholic church routinely feels the Holy Ghost isn't that more likely to confirm their path of Catholicism rather than pushing them towards a true path? Giving people partial confirmations when their beliefs are wrong doesn't seem like a productive way of leading people to truth.

I live in the south, part of the Bible Belt. Many of the people I associate with are saved people, meaning that they have professed a belief in Christ, accepted him, and therefore they are saved from sin. They routinely recall this as a very spiritual moment, confirmed by the Holy Ghost. The LDS church believes that this principle is wrong, we are not saved by grace, but rather by grace coupled with works. So we have a problem with a basic syllogism. The Holy Ghost confirms truth, Certain believers feel the Holy Ghost when they profess their belief in Christ and are saved by his grace, so then it stands to reason in this example that the Holy Ghost is verifying that these people are saved by grace. Likewise, an LDS person feels the Holy Ghost when praying about the Book or Mormon which teaches that grace alone is insufficient, this Holy Ghost is suppose to confirm truth, so it stands to reason that we are not saved by grace.

We cannot have both of these results. What is wrong. Either one or both of these groups is lying and they are not feeling anything, or one or both of these groups are feeling something but it is not the Holy Ghost and therefore not a confirmation of their respective truths.


At 11:31 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I've been reading your blog lately and have had just about all I can take without commenting. Give me a break! This whole last blog is coming from the guy who has already mentioned that all he ever feels is nothingness? Get off your high horse and start getting productive. I'm LDS --but not the kind of LDS person you might think. I've done all the research. There is nothing shady about the church I haven't already read. I am a faithful, Christian, LDS person who does not think that polygamy was ordained of God or that Blacks couldn't have the priesthood because God said so. (By the way -- You obviously haven't been doing your research. The Black issue -- about when and who -- is NOT doctrine and is not defended as doctrine currently. The official response to that question about why that happened is "We don't know;” which is, in my opinion, a nice way of saying that it was a mistake made by racist members and leaders.) Anyway, you mentioned that you wanted comments -- pro or con. I hope you were serious. I have known many friends and family members that have left the church and they always do it one of two ways. Ya, I know. Here comes the unrighteous Judgment - blah blah blah. But you have done your share of "judging others" throughout your blog. NO? Come on! Behind all the open minded rhetoric you're just pissed off at Mormonism and any ignorant, judgmental, Mormon (or Christian) out there. So let's just say what we feel and not hide behind words that make us sound better than others. I judge people and you judge people-- maybe different kinds of people-- but people none the less.
Where was I? Oh ya. Two ways of leaving. The first group is people who just simply decide that Mormonism is not for them. They get frustrated with culture, beliefs, or "commandments" and they leave. They do so in a very normal, nonagressive way. and they are generally not defensive about any life style changes. They express opinions but do not obsess about this decision. They almost always keep a general faith in God and I have never known of any of these to reconvert to other Christian sects. However a few people I know who have left this way have practiced eastern religions. You started out sounding like this first group but it is becoming more and more apparent, or you are just getting more transparent, that you are acting more like the second group. The second group leaves the church Mad as Hell. They argue a ton. They are always pulling out facts meant to shock the pants off of unsuspecting believers or to show that they are justified by research. They almost always come from some form of orthodoxy through upbringing or because of their own fears. This group usually abandons religion all together and most often claims agnosticism. They love to doubt everything that might align them with "believers" and generally consider believers to be a bit more weak-minded. I have good friends and family members from both groups. I can tell you that group number one always seems more enlightened and content. Listen Rob. Stop being frustrated with us Mormons. So it's not for you. Big deal. What do you believe in? Science? Fine. What Morals do you believe in? Truth is unchanging by definition. And don't give me that "what's right for me is right for me and what's right for you...crap. You're smarter than that. I mean. You’re the lawyer. You must see where that gets people every day. Just be honest. You want to be good and you want to figure out what is true and you don't know yet what truth is or who decides. Fine. But somebody decides. Not you, but somebody. Society? Good men (as in many collectively) who lived good lives? God? Science? Who? This is what your real search is. I don't know the Church is true. I believe that there is life after death. I don't believe in eternal damnation. I do believe that God speaks to us and lets us choose to do whatever the hell we want -- In this life or the life after. I don't believe that God wants us in a state of conflict all the time. He wants us humble, kind, peaceful. He wants us to be able to change our weaknesses to better our lives and others and I believe that you can do this without being a Mormon. I also believe that you can do this as a Mormon and I believe that there is no other religion, or society, or science that can help me do this better. Knowledge is irrelevant. No one knows everything. But you get to Choose. If Mormonism doesn't do this for you (which seems obvious) sit down and have conversations with your wife about how you want to progress and be a better individual. Use your departure as a time for personal growth. Serve others. Work on bad habits. Read. Develop a new productive hobby. Go bowling. Figure stuff out without being angry that someone told you a pack of lies that you don't believe or don't understand or don't agree with. This isn't going to help you or your marriage or anything. Write your blog so it is a bit more original. (Anti-Mormonism is a pretty overdone thing.) Lets hear more about how you are coping during such a life changing experience. Someone early on asked about how all this affected your family. Let's hear it. I was disappointed that you haven't yet addressed such important issues and instead wasted time on some guy with a sandwich analogy. This wasn’t your best moment. As if a belief in an afterlife had any resemblance to an eternal hoagie. So far you have explained how you got where you are, reminded us all that it's not because you are having an affair or are secretly looking at porn, but instead have remained temple worthy. You have felt a need to justify every word and decision with a bunch of statements about how other people believe in "problematic" things. The only truly relevant part is how you got here. In all honesty, I understand your frustrations and have struggled with lots of the same things myself but I guess I found out that waging war gets you no where. If you want to discuss the merits of one true religion do it on terms that encourage further thought and self reflection. If you have frustrations with peoples ideas figure out how you are going to respond to those people. Anyway, I am going to keep reading because I'm interested. I know I've been preachy and arrogant but you should be able to take it. You're the one who has asked for honesty. At least I'm honest enough to admit that I don't always live up to my ideals. I don't really care if you think Mormonism or religion in general is a bunch of hooey. I don't much care what your non-spiritual evidence tells you. I've already studied it all and come to my own conclusions. But I am interested in how you are going to do this and find contentment. That's what I think you may have to offer yourself and others. I liked what you had to say about enabling -- though it lacked a compassionate side. I have found your personal experiences to be very thought provoking. And despite my tone I also hope that everything turns out okay for you and your family.

At 7:48 AM, Anonymous joe said...

I actually know Rob and spent the last few days with him. I can tell you from personal experience that he is not even slightly pissed off at the church. He talks about what he loves about the church and its members and doesn't rail against it. He just has his beliefs (or lack thereof)and doesn't hide them.

At 7:54 AM, Blogger Rob said...

Thanks for your comment. I apologize if this has taken what you feel to be an anti-Mormon slant. I truly do not want that. I have tried not to talk too much about specific doctrine or history I have a problem with because, well as you alluded, none of those things are new, they can be found from what seems like a million sources. I have tried to make it more about personal experiences and the post to which you responded actually came from a discussion I had with someone the previous day. Not sure what you mean by my high-horse, sorry if I am coming off that way. When I speak of experiencing nothingness, that is referring solely to seeking an answer of the truthfulness of the church. I have had good feelings about things in the church, but that isn't enough for me. And since I have no answer as to its truthfulness, all I am left with is my attempt to weigh the things I have, both good and bad.
I disagree with you that the blacks and the priesthood was not doctrine, it was, it is not now, but there are numerous quotes by church leaders laying out why it was the way it was, if that is not doctrine I'm not sure what is.
I don't believe in the "what is right for you..." crap. Not at all. I believe there has to be an unchanging truth, right now however, I'm not sure how it can be discovered. Science is my best guess, but I don't believe I am well versed enough in science to actually make the discovery. I have had the discussions you suggest with my wife, about how I want to be a better person and progress, but thanks for the advice. The only reason I haven't delved more into how this decision has played out in my personal life is because it is still being played out. Well that and I am trying to respect things that are personal to others that might be involved with my process.
I also somewhat disagree with you that knowledge is irrelevant. If God's spokesman says that knowledge can be received, a doubt free knowledge, than that makes it relevant I believe. That promises only loses its relevance when it fails to produce, for me it has. So to me pure knowledge is not relevant, but to Mormon doctrine it is very relevant. Anyways, thanks for reading and commenting, I hope you continue.

At 1:34 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Rob (and whoever Joe is),
I’m glad that you can take a midnight rant. You seem to be somewhat inconsistent in the way you represent yourself. Joe must have the benefit of knowing you well. I’m simply going by what you write. I was very pleased to note that your response wasn’t angry -- a bit snide, but I deserve that. By high horse I mean you seem to feel okay finding problems with others beliefs but can’t quite define your own. You only know what you don’t like. Or maybe I misunderstand. Do you believe in the Holy Ghost or not? I would like to clarify the Blacks in the Priesthood thing. You are wrong about it. I can positively say that this is a subject I am well versed in. I have Black members in my family and so this topic has been exhausted. You, my friend, have gotten way too caught up in who said what. The church never claims perfection – the gospel of Christ does. This is something you should find a way to come to peace with – whether you’re in or out of it. First of all, I am aware that a great many Apostles have commented on “the doctrine” of why the Blacks couldn’t have the priesthood. They fall into three categories. The first are those who defended it while it was in practice, Mckonkie for example. The second group is all those who have tried to explain why it happened after the fact. The third group is my personal favorite – those who never publicly voiced their opinion (usually that it was a bunch of bunk). The story goes like this. JS was not a racist by the standards of his day and so Blacks could have the priesthood. He didn’t live long enough to really set precedence on the Pearl of Great Price and so that was left to Brigham Young who happened to be a lot more conforming to the ignorance and racism that pervaded in America. He read the Pearl of Great Price (along with Parley P Pratt) and decided that Blacks were out of luck. Well, we Mormons love to cling to anything that the Prophet says so we stopped worrying about it for a while. Until, it became hot topic in America (and Brazil) and the Brethren wanted to decide for good. So a prophet named Kimball changed things. Now the part you have heard about -- it was finally time so he received some huge revelation and out it went -- isn’t entirely true, call it a Mormon Myth. There was no answer from God about time. Kimball had researched it, and had other apostles search for previous “revelation” on the matter and discussed it at length. He and they came to the conclusion that there was no reason for the policy, if you will. In fact, there was no doctrinal basis. We got things wrong and he finally got things right. There were still PR problems; like how to present this without obliterating testimonies based on sand. There are Books about this. Here are two. David O McKay and the Rise of Modern Mormonism (really Good – very enlightening), and the newest Spencer W. Kimball bio. It’s by his son Edward Kimball. You especially want to read the CD in the back of the Book – for interest sake. If you are interested further I can give you all sorts of good stuff on the topic. Anything else you have heard is simply a stated opinion. Ya, sorry to disappoint but the Apostles are men and subject to error and doubt etc. We get to govern ourselves you know and form our own opinions. God can’t walk us through life like a bunch of babies. By the way, the official way to define doctrine is Does it come from Christ. Vague but Oh so wonderful. The church Claims that Christ leads the Church and so we only need to follow him through prophets and personal revelation. True. It does not say that he never ever lets men make mistakes or voice stupid opinions or misunderstand his teachings. I’m surprised that you want to buy it all or nothing. No wonder you are looking at science. There is no all or nothing Church until Christ is here himself. If you believe in Christ that is. But Science will let you down too. Speaking of Science vs. religion. Here is an awesome read. Particles, waves, and Crisis in America. It’s by a Mormon light physicist. You might find it fascinated. It talks all about how cutting edge physics indicate there is a duel reality to all things. Hum. Oh and this is what I mean about knowledge is irrelevant. You only ever get as much as you need to follow something or to make the choice to follow something. God doesn’t confirm everything all at once – He’s not stupid. Knowledge is then always subject to interpretation. You want to know everything and obliterate faith. You don’t get to do that until you comprehend perfect faith. I don’t comprehend it and don’t know anyone who does. One more thing. The only real gripe I have with the Church leaders from the past and present is that they haven’t put more trust in the members. They have hidden or masked too many things thinking that we can’t handle the facts. This is changing. If you start looking for the changes you’ll find them.

At 2:25 PM, Blogger Rob said...

That is another problem I have had issue with. If we cannot trust the words of the prophet and apostles, if they are occasionally wrong and occasionally right, what good are they. I can make random guesses at things and be wrong sometimes (and say it is because I am a man) and be right sometimes (and say it is because I am a prophet), that doesn't seem like a reliable formula. I know that the Holy Ghost is suppose to be the confirmer, but I haven't had too much luck with that. Brigham Young, as prophet, said that blacks would not have the priesthood until after the resurrection. That was from a prophet, not an apostle. Wilford Woodruff said that the prophet of the church would never lead the church astray, but he and several after him, continued to endorse a false practice as you claim. That seems to be leading astray to me. If Christ is the only source of doctrine, and his prophets are not reliable, what does that leave us with. That just goes back to deism, Thomas Paine, and the rejection of all revelation that is not first hand. If we are suppose to judge a prophet by his fruits, and his fruits are racism as you claim, where does that leave the standing of the prophet?

As far as my saying what I don't believe in rather than what I do, well that is simply a product of my current state. I am not sure what, in a religious sense, I believe in. I just think that I have eliminated some of the alternatives. That has been the point of this blog, it is subtitled "searching for truth and finding confusion". I can't pretend to believe in something that doesn't make sense for me and for which I have not divine confirmation.

At 9:19 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Let's keep things in perspective. Consider the times. The whole world was racist. Our country was still grappling with the issue of slavery. Everyone was racist. The best leaders of our country -- the founding fathers -- were racist by our standards today. It was the way it was. It's not like Brigham Young stood out as a racist. We just use this terminology today. Brigham Young also happened to be an amazing human being and he made this church possible on many levels. He was a good man. He has many critics but he was a good man. He's the same as you and me. How many times have we said stupid things -- done stupid things but our fruits are still good? Brigham Young didn't cause racism -- he may have helped encourage it -- but it was done in ignorance. It wasn't his intension. The point is that we have modern prophets that correct the mistakes of those that go before. Brigham never recorded any divine revelation about this issue but he made marvelous things happen in other areas God needed him for different things. No one will be held accountable for his error if they were trying to be good people but thought Blacks shouldn't hold the priesthood because BY said so. God uses what he has when he has it. We have come a long way. And despite the mistakes made by our leaders we are good people and this is the case in most religions.
So listen -- this is where I make peace. I want to ask some sincere questions. My motive is simply to inquire without presumption. I haven't yet commented on your lack of an "Answer" because I don't feel that there is much to say. That whole experience is too personal for critique but I would like to ask some questions. Why give up? It seems to me that goes against the quest. Why put a time limit on the possibility that an answer might come? Why give God an ultimatum, i.e. Answer within this time frame or I quit? Also, why ask about the truthfulness of the church? Why not simply tackle the existence of God himself? Why not give yourself years to investigate the existence and possible attributes of God? I mean you have time to do it. It doesn't have to be about Mormonism. Also, Apart from the lack of confirmation do you find that mostly you weren't prepared for the historical facts and frustrated that you weren’t given all the evidence earlier? Aren't you somewhat angry about that? I mean do you feel like you were duped? Or have you known the details for years. Also, it seems that you are determined to know the truthfulness of every detail or none of it is true or valid. If this is correct?

At 9:43 AM, Blogger Rob said...

Why keep trying something that doesn't work? Each time I try and fail to get an answer, it is hard to muster of the requisite faith/hope to ask again.
I did not give God an ultimatum and said answer me or I quit. I actually asked the Lord to give me an answer and said that I was willing to commit everything to his church if I received it. That is the advice I received from a few people and that is how I approached it. I also have asked questions outside the realm of Mormonism like you suggest. This has been a long drawn out process, it seems like you are making is sound like I prayed once and didn't get an answer so I'm out. That is not it at all and that is not how I have portrayed it through my posts. I can't see myself asking over and over again with no answer, why keep asking until I die if I don't get an answer. That just seems like a very frustrating way to live. Why would God not give me an answer when I sincerely ask, I can't find a reasonable, satisfactory answer to that question. Just as a father would not give his son a rock if he asked for a loaf of bread, I don't believe that God would ignore the pleadings of a sincere son looking for guidance.
However I thank you for your insight and advice.

At 10:47 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Well, I guess the other billions of people that are not a part of the Gospel are without hope.

This isn't an answer to your question, but a consolidation of comments made by all parties on this topic - if God loves us so much then why are so few of us partaking of the true Gospel on earth?

Perhaps the answer to your sincere quest is synonmous with the answer to this question from a birdseye view.

What do you think?



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