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Can you tell me all is well in Zion?

"Rank-Based Thinking"

1. You know you are in a rank based system when to prove your point all you need is to have quotes from authoritative figures. Regardless of the merit of the argument, whoever has the most quotes from the most authoritative figures on their side wins.

2. Particular circumstances are irrelevant. Uniformed results are the most important indicators of moral authenticity.

3. Since all individual moral judgments are given up to the quotes of a few designated righteous superiors, clear application of genuine principles in a convoluted situation becomes almost impossible.

4. Unquestioned obedience views agency, or freedom to choose, as a liability; it turns the distinctively unique human characteristic of the mind into a vice worthy of scorn.

5. In reality, it is really the designated few leaders who cherish the freedom of thought, for it is they who willingly take it upon themselves to relieve the masses of the burden of responsibility in discerning good and evil. Unfortunately, good and evil is a matter of perspective, which can only be clearly discerned on the individual level.

6. The world of black and white only exists from the mouth of those who take on the ambiguity of reality and translate into a distinct moral code.

ok

Unquestioned obedience views agency, or freedom to choose, as a liability; it turns the distinctively unique human characteristic of the mind into a vice worthy of scorn

I've read this vary statement (agency is a liablity) on some of the provopulsters' own blogs, i.e., djake. So, I'd say that is a pretty accurate assesment, but what's wrong with seeing our freedom of choice as a liablity?

In reality, it is really the designated few leaders who cherish the freedom of thought, for it is they who willingly take it upon themselves to relieve the masses of the burden of responsibility in discerning good and evil. Unfortunately, good and evil is a matter of perspective, which can only be clearly discerned on the individual level.

That's a rather interesting point. Why is good and evil a matter of perspective? It seems as though you are arguing for some form of moral relativism, right? But I agree that we no longer have the responsiblity because of our 'leaders' but isn't this the very reason why they are our 'leaders', to distinguish right and wrong for us?

You know you are in a rank based system when to prove your point all you need is to have quotes from authoritative figures. Regardless of the merit of the argument, whoever has the most quotes from the most authoritative figures on their side wins.

Very, very true. I mean, just go to any elder's quorum meeting, and it's like a love fest of quotes. We can't get enough of them in the church. But you know, those that can't think for themselves, quote.

Prove me wrong, provo pulsers!

What do you agree with, and what do you disagree with and why?

cool

I believe human development culminates into one's ability to genuinely act ethically in any given situation

Isn't that the whole reason why we go to church? To learn how to become individual agents able to act for ourselves? I'm not sure how you could argue against this, but perhaps someone can see why it would be better to put the organization ahead of the invididual.

Agency is fundamentally necessary to real growth and genuine development, and one's mind is a precious tool to be sharpened and enlarged to help the individual recognize and apply ethical principles

Wow. You've got some really good quotes. Did you come up with this yourself? It's going to take some time to digest this, but thanks for posting it.

nice post

though this comment will probably precede some "i told you so's", i pretty much agree with you robot. earlier this year, the philosopher bill martin (who is not lds) was speaking at the mormon studies conference at uvsc. an avid fan of joseph smith's notion of community and social communitarianism, martin specifically focused his lecture on hugh nibley's desire to live and renew that ideal. following his presentation, he fielded questions from the audience. some completely stupid student (embarrassing uvsc) inappropriately asked martin if he had taken the missionary discussions. after martin said he had not, the idiot asked invited him to hear the discussions. martin's reply took unfortunately rang true to me. he said (to paraphrase). "if the gospel of joseph smith, brigham young, and hugh nibley was the gospel taught by the mormon church today, i would consider it. unfortunately, i do not see that as the case."

these last several months, my frustrations with pharisaic legalism and over-welming institutional authority in the church have driven me over the edge. in the process, i have found myself losing my faith in the leaders, in the church, and in god. not a fun place to be. many want to try to claim i have a morality issue or something, but that is not the case. the problem is that i read the gospels and the book of mormon and i have a hard time seeing that same gospel in christianity and mormonism. i feel like i go to church and see the same things taught that christ was criticizing the pharisees and others of. it's much too complex to elaborate here.

i'm striving to renew my spirituality, but not sure what course that'll take. like robot, i see free-agency as primary importance in out understand of morality, with love being litmus test of morality. this is the morality christ taught. however, i just don't see this much in institutional religion. sure it may be taught, but it's mere lip-service. instead i see it's opposite. a slave-morality invoked by institutional authoritarianism and put into action with promises of reward and punishment.

yes

"if the gospel of joseph smith, brigham young, and hugh nibley was the gospel taught by the mormon church today, i would consider it. unfortunately, i do not see that as the case."

Booyah.

So, does he see the church the same way you do, Tyler? By what evidence do you say that the church only grants lip-service to charity? Doesn't the fact that they are involved in many charitable organizations and try to teach charity as a fundamental principle in their doctrine qualify them as charitable? If not, what is your criterion for deeming whether or not an institution is actually concerned with charity or just granting lip-service?

institutional authoritarianism and put into action with promises of reward and punishment.

Nice. I like that institutional authoritarianism. When it comes down to it, I see the church similar to any other organization: they seek to control their message and tow the party line. They can at times place adherence to the message above that of free agency for the individual, but isn't that due to the immense size of the organization? The church is nowhere near the size as it was during J.S.'s time; consequently, different methods are needed in order to maintain a level of consistency when dealing with an international organization, right? Isn't comparing the church to J.S's time and our time like comparing apples and oranges? The same principles might work when dealing with smaller size organizations, but what happens when those members number in the millions? Doesn't that change the dynamics and policies of the organization?

promises of reward and punishment

This I like. It follows the same line of reasoning as Robot's: "eventually culminate in one's ability to be a free agent acting on genuine dispositions, instead of coercively reacting out of fear of punishment and penance for guilt."

Boy, I would like to take a survey and find out how many members attend their meetings because they don't want to go to hell, or because they are afraid of the punishment of the church. But aren't fear and guilt acceptable tools to use when dealing with the importance of someone's mortal salvation? If not, why not?

Here's a quote...

It just popped into my thoughtless mind.

Funny you should bring up Jews:

Jacob 4:14

14 But behold, the Jews were a stiffnecked people; and they despised the words of plainness... ...and sought for things that they could not understand. Wherefore, because of their blindness, which blindness came by looking beyond the mark, they must needs fall; for God hath taken away his plainness from them, and delivered unto them many things which they hcannot understand, because they desired it. And because they desired it God hath done it, that they may stumble.

1. You know you are in a

1. You know you are in a rank based system when to prove your point all you need is to have quotes from authoritative figures. Regardless of the merit of the argument, whoever has the most quotes from the most authoritative figures on their side wins.

You seem to be implying that quotes from authority figures have no place in arguments/discussions. At the least, your comment seems to depreciate what many of consider inspired words from inspired leaders. However, just in case this is not what you meant, can you please share with us what you consider to be the value and place of quotes from authority figures?

Your comment is emphasizing the intellectual aspect of a discussion. However, quotes from inspired authority figures (such as church leaders) strike a spiritual chord with many of us. This causes us to respect, learn from, and yes, on occassion, utilize them in discussions. Do I agree that quotes should be used robotically with no personal thought? Of course not. However, they do have their place.


3. Since all individual moral judgments are given up to the quotes of a few designated righteous superiors, clear application of genuine principles in a convoluted situation becomes almost impossible.

I disagree simply because your main assumption that "all individual moral judgments are given up to the quotes of a few designated righteous superiors" is a little too fantastic. Even if this is your impression of certain individuals, how can you for certain know the thoughts and intents of their hearts? How can you even begin to contemplate what goes into the decisions that others must make in various situations in their lives?


5. In reality, it is really the designated few leaders who cherish the freedom of thought, for it is they who willingly take it upon themselves to relieve the masses of the burden of responsibility in discerning good and evil. Unfortunately, good and evil is a matter of perspective, which can only be clearly discerned on the individual level.

I disagree with you. It is pretty clear you are referring to church leaders. Church leaders are called of God; they do not "take it upon themselves" to do anything. Now, you may take issues with what being "called of God" means, or you may not believe that this is the case at all--that is completely up to you.

Secondly, there are vast amounts of goods and evils that can be discerned outside the personal level. In fact, this raises the question: how is one to formulate his or her view/perspective in the first place? Clearly one must be taught or influenced in some way. For those of us who remain open to the idea that such influences are also spiritual in addition to intellectual, we will continue to utilize the perspectives of our leaders to _help_ formulate our own.


6. The world of black and white only exists from the mouth of those who take on the ambiguity of reality and translate into a distinct moral code.

The wonderful thing about agency is that we also have the ability to abuse it. We are always free to wrest the scriptures or the words of inspired leaders. We are also free to misapply them. I can't disagree with you there.

However, I find your whole argument to be overly exagerrated. It is my opinion that the state of our society is far less deserving of your criticisms than you think. Do I think all is well in Zion? Nope. However, I also don't run into members of the church who like to frequently push quotes at me. I don't currently know anyone who has completely surrendered their agency to "quotes." I don't know any general authorities that preach unquestioned obedience. I see people that are imperfect, but nonetheless striving to live the gospel for the right reasons. I see people that listen to their leaders because what is said resonates with them spiritually.

Just a quote

"Those who can't think for themselves, quote."
- bboy-Mike

Good insights, BB. my case for free agency...

"what's wrong with seeing our freedom of choice as a liablity?"

1. The end of morality is not to simply obey. The end of morality is an individual's personal genuine moral development, which would eventually culminate in one's ability to be a free agent acting on genuine dispositions, instead of coercively reacting out of fear of punishment and penance for guilt.

2. Without respecting someone's right to choose for themselves, the force of moral development is external, which in reality, is ultimately an inauthentic motivation. True development comes from within the individual, not by an external force .

Another good question...this is my opinion.

"Why is good and evil a matter of perspective?...but isn't this the very reason why they are our 'leaders', to distinguish right and wrong for us?"

Unfortunately, every personal situation is different. Also, each quoted leader has stated that specific quoted counsel in a particular circumstance. That is, the quote from a leader is not some transcendental, universal antidote, which can be equally applied in every given situation; no, each quote was given in relation to a specific time, place, and with a specific purpose. Thus, when one tries to apply the leaders' quotes to their particular situation, the desired result may be haphazardly realized, if realized at all.

Unfortunately, if you follow an out-of-context quote, depending on the circumstance, you may actually be acting unethically! Why? Because, particular circumstances matter. To truly act ethically, one must take into account particular circumstances, which can only be done on the individual level. For example, when is it ethical to have an abortion? Even if a woman is raped, it may be unethical to kill the baby (just a hypothetical), whereas in another situation, if the woman is raped it would be ethical to abort the fetus. The point is that circumstances matter, and if you blindly follow a quote, you may be acting unethically.

right

I'm not sure I follow you're reasoning, provojoe. Can you elaborate on your quote? Because I can interpret it in many ways, I'd like to know what you think of it.

Hugh Nibley

an avid fan of joseph smith's notion of community and social communitarianism, martin specifically focused his lecture on hugh nibley's desire to live and renew that ideal.

Hugh Nibley was not the prophet. He may have been a great thinker, but God had not placed him in the position to guide the church back into the practice of the united order. Such action can only be taken by the one that holds all of the keys of the priesthood. It's too bad that the speaker misunderstands this principal.

I for one think it's great that someone had the courage to invite Mr. Martin to understand that the Gospel of Jesus Christ and His restored church have much more to offer than social communitarianism. What about faith? What about repentance? What about baptism by immersion? What about saving ordinances through the priesthood that can unite families beyond the grave? Why get so hung up on a single point that it blinds you to the rest?


"if the gospel of joseph smith, brigham young, and hugh nibley was the gospel taught by the mormon church today, i would consider it. unfortunately, i do not see that as the case."

It's too bad that Bill Martin does not understand the principle of continuing revelation. This church is a living church; it constantly grows and expands with the help of modern revelation. To believe that the church should remain static through time doesn't make sense. This is not to say that the principles taught by Joseph Smith and Brigham Young no longer exist in the church (in fact, I would argue otherwise), but that the focus and policies sometimes change. There is nothing wrong with this--this is how the Lord organized His church to cope with growing pains.


in the process, i have found myself losing my faith in the leaders, in the church, and in god. not a fun place to be.

I am sorry to hear this. True, many of us disagree with a lot of things you bring up on these boards. However, I don't think anyone wants you to be in such a situation. Just a bit of advice, which I give with all good intent and in good faith, which you can take or leave: if you are losing your faith, maybe you should examine what you are placing your faith in. If your faith is placed in whether or not the church seems to be doing what you think it should be doing, and it's not, then it's going to hurt it. If you put your faith in imperfect people, they will disappoint.

One more piece of advice: you can't have faith in a church, its leaders, and ultimately God if you are criticizing and finding fault with the organization he created and the leaders He has called, despite their (the church and its leaders) imperfections. I believe that you can recognize the immense positives in the church and thus the hand of the Lord in directing it.

thank you for your insights, Bradwich.

"However, just in case this is not what you meant, can you please share with us what you consider to be the value and place of quotes from authority figures? "

Bradwich, I obviously don't have all the answers (I do have quite a few opinions though), but I can honestly say that questioning things (not just to find fault but to understand on a deeper level) is a good thing. What exactly is the role of a spiritual leader's counsel in our personal life? Should we be able to quote any leader (not just the twelve and G.A.'s) to find a solution to our problems, and once a leader has been quoted on a problem, should that be the end of the discussion? These are incredibly important issues that affect our lives...a lot. Through questioning, we learn. We often times learn what we don't know. In terms of personal situations, I do know that a dogmatic answer is hardly ever the right answer.

Sorry, you wrote a lot.

"Church leaders are called of God; they do not "take it upon themselves" to do anything."

I'm sorry to burst your bubble, but it is generally not the case that our leaders are commanded in all things. When they are not commanded by revelation (which is generally the case), they use their minds and talk amongst themselves i.e., "take it upon themselves" to find the answers.

Elder Ballard gives a very clear understanding of how church councils generally run in his book "Counseling with our Councils." I really found how the Church operates on the highest level to be quite informative.

Do you honestly think that the Twelve wait in their chambers all day long until God tells each and every one of them what to do? In reality, it is only rarely the case that they are told exactly what to do by the Lord (page 46). Most of the time, it is through group mediation that they formulate Church policy (46).

Interesting.

"but perhaps someone can see why it would be better to put the organization ahead of the invididual."

Can you elaborate more on this?

So, does he see the church

So, does he see the church the same way you do, Tyler? By what evidence do you say that the church only grants lip-service to charity? Doesn't the fact that they are involved in many charitable organizations and try to teach charity as a fundamental principle in their doctrine qualify them as charitable? If not, what is your criterion for deeming whether or not an institution is actually concerned with charity or just granting lip-service?

until i see or hear a real condemnation of the accumulation of wealth and the widening gap among the rich and the poor. until i hear a condemnation of the starter castles growing along the wasatch front. until i hear a condemnation of vain luxury cars and business apparel. until i hear a condemnation like those throughout the scriptures. until then, it is all lip-service.

Nice. I like that institutional authoritarianism. When it comes down to it, I see the church similar to any other organization: they seek to control their message and tow the party line. They can at times place adherence to the message above that of free agency for the individual, but isn't that due to the immense size of the organization? The church is nowhere near the size as it was during J.S.'s time; consequently, different methods are needed in order to maintain a level of consistency when dealing with an international organization, right? Isn't comparing the church to J.S's time and our time like comparing apples and oranges? The same principles might work when dealing with smaller size organizations, but what happens when those members number in the millions? Doesn't that change the dynamics and policies of the organization?

like any organization, when too much power is given, that power is abused. look what we did with bush and granting him power to fight terrorism. by granting near-infallibility to the church hierarchy, we have set up a system that is bound to be abused. granted, i am not necessarily referring to malicious abuse, but rather accidental and ignorant abuse that are the faults of men, but deemed as the acts of god.

But aren't fear and guilt acceptable tools to use when dealing with the importance of someone's mortal salvation? If not, why not?

no, because using fear creates a slave morality and thus amoral persons. should someone's salvation be determined by moral actions made by choice, or amoral actions coerced by fear? if the latter, then morality is a farce.

I applaud your moral courage, Tyler.

"I have found myself losing my faith in the leaders, in the church, and in god. not a fun place to be."

I don't believe any true growth can come unless you challenge your assumptions. Tyler, how do you feel when you have "lost your faith"? I am really interested in how not believing in God feels. (I don't mean to make it too personal, if you don't feel comfortable, you don't have to reply).

Anti-Sunday school logic...

I believe human development culminates into one's ability to genuinely act ethically in any given situation: to be an independent, ethically motivated agent. Within this paradigm, contrary to the simple obedience paradigm, the emphasis is on the individual's intellectual and moral development, which gives the individual tools to understand how and why one should act ethically in any and every encountered situation. In this paradigm, the individual is the end, not the means. Agency is fundamentally necessary to real growth and genuine development, and one's mind is a precious tool to be sharpened and enlarged to help the individual recognize and apply ethical principles.

lol

I'm not sure how I'm supposed to react to that, LaurenceB. Did you prove my point? Or are you the exception to the rule?

This is probably more of what you were looking for...

"(what is) the place of quotes from authority figures"

Often times to strengthen the merit of an argument, people will quote an authority figure. If the quote from the authority figure does not meet a certain criteria, the argument (by authority) is deemed to be fallacious (deceptive), because quoting an authority can give more credence to an argument than it deserves.

Here is a set of requirements that I know of:

1. The authority needs to be recognized in her/his field.

2. The authority cannot have a vested interest.

3. The quote has to represent the majority view of authorities in that field.

4. The quote has to be independently verifiable (the whole purpose of the quote is to save us time).

5. The quote has to be properly interpreted.

Hugh Nibley was not the

Hugh Nibley was not the prophet. He may have been a great thinker, but God had not placed him in the position to guide the church back into the practice of the united order. Such action can only be taken by the one that holds all of the keys of the priesthood.

yes, hugh nibley was not a part of the hierarchy. however, the scriptures are full of examples of persons not in the hierarchy who divinely pushed for social, political, and religious reform. abinidi and samuel the lamanite are examples of some who had no hierarchical authority, yet were divinely led to push for reform in both the society and institutional religon of the time.

I for one think it's great that someone had the courage to invite Mr. Martin to understand ... the Gospel of Jesus Christ and His restored church...

in a private conversation, it would have been fine. however, in a public q&a portion of an academic conference, it is entirely inappropriate.

[the church has] much more to offer than social communitarianism

i assure you that dr. martin knows that. however, the social communiatarianism of the book of mormon, the new testament, the early christians, joseph smith, brighham young, and early mormonism is no longer a part of the church today.

What about faith? What about repentance? What about baptism by immersion? What about saving ordinances through the priesthood that can unite families beyond the grave? Why get so hung up on a single point that it blinds you to the rest?

social communitarianism actually benefits the world. it is the system christ set up among the nephites. a focus on faith, repentance, baptism, and such shows that god is a being that cares more about his arbitraty code of rites than individual well-being. i just have a hard time in having faith in a god who is willing to drastically alter one's eternal existance based on adherance to a slave morality expressed in an arbitrarily prescribed list of amoral commandments and motions.

It's too bad that Bill Martin does not understand the principle of continuing revelation

it's too bad that you know nothing of martin, yet you are making claims of him you could not possible know.

This church is a living church; it constantly grows and expands with the help of modern revelation. To believe that the church should remain static through time doesn't make sense. This is not to say that the principles taught by Joseph Smith and Brigham Young no longer exist in the church (in fact, I would argue otherwise), but that the focus and policies sometimes change. There is nothing wrong with this--this is how the Lord organized His church to cope with growing pains.

you ignore the scriptural model that men leading the church tend to ruin it. it's the illusion of a perfect divinely guided church that ultimately brings it down. the first step to recovery is admitting there is a problem. until a problem is admitted, things will continue to go downhill.

One more piece of advice: you can't have faith in a church, its leaders, and ultimately God if you are criticizing and finding fault with the organization he created and the leaders He has called, despite their (the church and its leaders) imperfections.

i can't believe in a perfect church that doesn't exist. you say that there are imperfections, but will you ever admit one?

Tyler, how do you feel when

Tyler, how do you feel when you have "lost your faith"? I am really interested in how not believing in God feels.

it sucks. frightening at first, leaving me totally lost. then it gave me a brief moment of liberation. floowing that was a sadness and loneliness that i could no longer stand.

i decided it was conceited to believe that my worldview was so right that there is no possibility that god could exist. plus, there was that gut sense of god that was still inside me. with a clean slate, i have begun my search again.

bien sur

It seems as though the primary opposition to many of the church's policies stems from our own cultural and societal understandings; to wit, individual rights, democratic republicanism, freedom from tyrannical oppression, etc.

And yet, the church is fundamentally geared towards a social communitarianism. Their end is the social religion, not the individual. That is why we are encouraged to gain wisdom and schooling, but that is all within the context of 'for the establishment of zion'.

So, many of us are always trying to establish our individuality in an institution that does not want it. They are for the society, not the individual (just look at the missionary program, which is all about the society/organization). There is no way of getting around it; the individuality stops at the church doors.

I don't applaud your "moral courage", Tyler

Just thought I'd clarify my position since I haven't commented on this thread yet.

Thank you Robot

I find it truly remarkable how seriously some people think other wise on how things are decided in the church. I am kind of excited to find that book and read it now. I think it's actually very important thing to learn how "authorities" receive revelation and make decisions. It's really not that different from us. And also shows how we should make decisions when a group is involved. Like our families and friends. If God spoke directly to the prophet and the prophet was like "God told me directly and so we are doing it." then there would be no point in having council's or presidencies.

:)

I was just making sure I got categorized correctly. :)

So he can end up in your

So he can end up in your situation?

...with a clean slate, i

...with a clean slate, i have begun my search again.

Are you still active, or has this been mostly a passive thing, or what? Not condemning, just wondering...

For Tyler

Tyler,
It's normally not my style to comment on religious topics, but I just wanted to say that you seem to me to be a person who is earnestly trying to do what's right, and to discover the truth. A lot of folks don't have the courage to do that. I hope you find your way, whatever it is.

thanks for responding, Tyler.

Tyler, I appreciate your comments and insights; it is very rare to find someone so honest with themselves and their beliefs.

Would you mind explaining what you meant about the feeling of being liberated? Liberated from what or from whom? Why would you be lonely? What exactly made you sad? Also, what did you mean when you had a gut feeling that god was still inside you?

(You don't have to bring in any details that you don't want, or if it is too personal, you don't have to reply at all).