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Author Topic: Philosophy and LDS
Tatiana
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I don't see a conflict with free will. We have free will inside our timeline. He can, from his perspective outside our timeline, see what we chose to do. We are free moral agents, but part of the veil that was drawn across our memory or understanding when we were born constrains us to think, feel, and act inside the timeline of this material universe. I believe some time after the resurrection when we have perfected bodies, we will not be so constrained.

[ April 03, 2006, 05:33 PM: Message edited by: Tatiana ]

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Tatiana
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Another really big philosophical difference that hasn't been explored too well in this thread is the belief we LDS have that we can become someday as God is now. That we can "grow up" spiritually into godlike beings. We believe we are the literal children of God (spirit children), and so we have the potential to become like him, have our own spirit children, and so on forever.

The doctrine doesn't go into the cosmology or astronomy of things, but the way I picture it, this particular big bang, including our planet, our galaxy (of ~100 billion stars) and all the other galaxies (about 200 billion in the observable universe, each roughly like ours), with whatever untold countless intelligent species there may be living here, is God's. When we grow up we get to make our own, with whatever physical laws we want (constrained by what's possible and what will provide fertile territory for spirit children to live in), and basically design our own everything. If we have gripes or suggestions for God about life, the universe, and everything, we will get our chance to do him one better.

We will have to actually learn how to do all this. Don't think we're going to be waving any magic wands. It's all about physics, engineering, and every other science including those of the heart, mind, and spirit. I think we get some early practice eons earlier (in our distant future) by designing ourselves the perfected bodies we want to have. There's a whole WHOLE lot we have to learn before we're qualified to do this. Parenthood here is one of our early lessons, playing god, and pet ownership (sic) as well. But like, we need to get busy because there's a long way we have to go.

Again, this specific understanding is Tatiana's current theory, not taught by the church, and subject to change as I learn more. What the church teaches is that we are the spirit children of a loving father, whom we call God, and that if we accept the gift of Christ's atonement, and work diligently, remaining faithful to the end, then we can become exalted as he is, and have our own spirit children someday.

I think that's one of the coolest things about the LDS church! I can't wait! So far I am a pretty sucky human being, even, so I know I have a long way to go before I'm ready for godhood. But I think it's going to be great fun. [Smile]

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Taalcon
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quote:
The doctrine doesn't go into the cosmology or astronomy of things,
I think I'd have to disagree with that a little bit. There is definitely some cosmology in the doctrine.
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Tatiana
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Dave, is there? You've probably studied it better than I. Tell us about the cosmology of it. I was thinking of like big bang physics, matter-energy coupling, string theory multiverses, and technical stuff like that.
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Taalcon
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Abraham chapter 3. That's all I have to say right now.
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Occasional
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quote:
lem> I guess this thread isn't too old. Can you expand on the "keys of the priesthood" business? How is it different from, say, the concept of Apostolic Succession?
I am not lem, but I think I will try to answer the question. The "Keys of the Priesthood" are basically the power given to man to do the Work of God. It includes the permission to do the ordinances of the Gospel; such as baptism, ordination, Communion, some kinds of special prayers, and administering Temple activities.

In some ways it isn't much different from Apostolic Succession. Those who have the Priesthood are given the power to give Priesthood to others. This can be traced back to the Apostles Peter, James, and John. That is where the difference ends.

For Mormons that connection doesn't start from the time of these Apostles' lives. It starts almost 2000 years later with Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdrey. John the Baptist, Peter, James, and John gave the Priesthood to them as Resurrected Angels. From them, Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdrey gave the Priesthood to others.

quote:
I'm curious about what others say because it seems like I go in one direction and I get hung up on foreknowledge, and I go in another and I get hung up on free will.
I think it is both. I don't say that I understand the relationship, but it seems to me fee will and foreknowledge work together. My earlier Book of Mormon reference, for instance, shows a fine line between them. Because of the many times Scripture seems to talk about both almost at the same time, I don't discount the possibility both are functions of Eternal reality.

Taalcon, I was thinking the same thing.

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MattB
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I would argue that the term "foreknowledge" refers to God's knowledge of his own plans and what he will do. This is different from foreordination, which refers to human beings, and which, I think, is predicated upon us making the choices necessary to achieve the possibilities foreordination creates. As my favorite reference on this, D&C 3, indicates, Joseph Smith had several paths before him. He could have fallen, and those verses after 7 clearly outline multiple possibilities, any of which God could work with. As the first verses indicate, God's foreknowledge ensured preparation for all of them - and presumably, every other - eventuality. God is like a master chess player - he knows us and he knows this world well enough to see further ahead than we can imagine. His plans do not depend on knowing exactly what we'll do.

All this, of course, is predicated upon God being in time, a belief I base upon 1)Doctrines of divine progression that Smith, Young, Roberts and multiple other Mormon authorities have taught (a doctrine which by its nature requires time), 2)upon numerous scriptures referring to time passing for God, God learning of something, etc. (the famous 'weeping God passages in Moses are a particularly beautiful example of this), 3)Upon Mormon doctrine of man - we are, we are told, not God's creations, but co-eternal with him; this, for me, clearly precludes his ability to know what we _will_ do - we are not puppets, and I believe we retain the capacity to surprise him (in theory, though I also believe that he knows us well enough that no glory we achieve will do so), and 4) Mormon doctrine of limited diety - if God is of a kind with us, different primarily in his exalted command of natural law, I think that time is among those natural laws by which God is bound. "Outside time" simply smacks of a degree of supernaturalism that doesn't follow for me.

Classical Christian theology maintains that this is the paradox of the Incarnation - the absolute Other becoming flesh; eternity and time intersecting. I think there's something to it - there's a danger in over-naturalizing diety, and the drama and romanticism of religion is among the things that appeals to me. Despite the stark beauty of the Incarnation as resolved paradox, though, I think clinging to an atemporal God is an unnecessary remnant of Platonic and creedal Christianity that Mormon theology doesn't need. Mormonism is cool enough without it.

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Will B
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Well, if the Bajoran Prophets can exist outside linear time . . .
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Amilia
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quote:
Dave, is there? You've probably studied it better than I. Tell us about the cosmology of it. I was thinking of like big bang physics, matter-energy coupling, string theory multiverses, and technical stuff like that.
quote:
Abraham chapter 3.
I don't know that it's technical enough for what you were thinking of, Tatiana, but there is also one of my favorite hymns. Which is not sung often enough, unfortunately.
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MattB
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quote:
I think clinging to an atemporal God is an unnecessary remnant of Platonic and creedal Christianity that Mormon theology doesn't need.
Just to clarify - there _are_ texts in Mormon scripture that can be interpreted to support timeless deity. So, while I think the bulk of the evidence is against it, neither position is official doctrine, and decency and humanity can be found on both sides. [Smile] Mark Leone says that Mormonism is a "do-it-yourself theology." Straight up.
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mr_porteiro_head
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Even if it's not true, I find it a useful crutch/metaphor.

BTW, I am currently learning to play that hymn on the guitar.

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Mabus
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Occasional> Thanks...that about clears it up. I was wondering if there were any additional elements to the concept that would put a different spin on it. (Never had much to do with Succession myself.)
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Samuel Bush
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“. . . basic philosophical difference, and I think it's to relate to Greek philosophy . . .”

If you define “basic philosophical difference” as a difference in specific doctrines that are taught, then I’d say that some of our doctrines are different and some are the same as those taught in various other Christian churches. We would have to take each specific example and examine it.

But I’m going to approach this in the context of the question of whether or not, and to what extent, Greek or any other philosophy has been adopted by Christendom. Or in other words: What is the LDS philosophy about Philosophy?

You all will have to judge to what extent it differs from other folk’s beliefs.

Our belief is that there are universal truths, and that God has revealed many of those truths to prophets. That is what we Mormons emphasize and rely on.

Of course the question immediately arises: How do you KNOW that any given statement of “fact” is God’s own truth or just a philosophy of a man? Well, that’s the zillion dollar question, isn‘t it. I’m not going to try to answer it. I’m just saying that we reject any philosophy that contradicts what we believe to have been revealed by God.

In that respect, we are no different from other Christian churches. We all claim to believe in the WORD OF GOD. The differences are in what each of us accept as scripture. True, there are fringe groups at each end of the belief spectrum. But generally speaking Mormons believe that Joseph Smith was a prophet through whom God restored the church and true doctrines that Jesus established anciently, and that there have been living prophets ever since who have received additional truths from time to time as the need arose. (We just finished having our semi-annual General Conference in which we were taught what God has to say to us for the next six months.)

The result is that we have four books of scripture and ongoing proclamations from our prophets to use as a yardstick in which to compare other philosophies. Whereas most other Christians believe that the Bible is the only yardstick that is needed.

I have friends in other Christian churches who do a pretty good job of using the Bible to sort out the truth or falsehood of various world philosophies. We do debate back and forth from time to time about the relative merits of various interpretations of various points of doctrine. We go back an forth about whether or not some of their or some of my interpretations have been influenced by non-Christian philosophers.

A couple of the things that we do agree on, however, is that there are some folks claiming to be Christians who have clearly adopted non-Christian philosophies into their belief systems. One example is that there is a prevalent belief among some “Christians” that Jesus was just a great philosopher and not the Son of God and not the Savior. Therefore the Bible is at best just a bunch of moral tales that we can take or leave according to our fancy, and that there was no such thing as the Atonement. They have no qualms about adopting any secular philosophy that sounds good that month.

Another thing we agree on is that there is a popular fable that somehow crept into Christendom a long time ago. What, pray tell, does a rabbit hiding eggs have to do with Christ, the Atonement, and Easter? Rabbits don’t even lay eggs, for crying out loud! Is there anyone who actually believes there is anything Biblical about the Easter Bunny? I don’t particularly have a problem with folks using that symbol and letting their kids goof around coloring eggs and hiding them and stuff, just as long as they make it clear to their kids that any Christian meaning attached to it has been contrived by man and not revealed by God.

I could list a bunch of other symbols used by Christians that are in the same category. But I won’t. My point is that it is a constant struggle to sort out what is true and what isn’t, what is set in stone and what is open to interpretation. The LDS philosophy is that, if it was revealed by God, live it. If God hasn’t revealed any information about a particular subject then I’m free to draw my own tentative conclusions. But if it contradicts the revealed Word, reject it.

Following are some of our LDS scriptures and other writings on the subject. I can’t vouch for how most other Christians view this subject.

“It is a remarkable fact that the philosophies of the ancient world, notwithstanding the gigantic intellects that originated them, led to materialism, pantheism, fatalism, atheism, and pride, while the philosophy of this wonderful volume, the Doctrine and Covenants, leads men to trust in God, . . .“ (from the “Doctrine and Covenants Commentary” section 93 pp 595)

(It is pretty clear that we believe that non-Christian philosophies have crept into Christendom.) When God the Father and Jesus Christ appeared to Joseph Smith and told him not join any of the churches of the day, Jesus said, “ . . . they teach for doctrines the commandments of men, having a form of godliness, but they deny the power thereof.” (Pearl of Great Price | JS-History 1:19)

(We believe that education is important, that there is much wisdom to be found in the world, but it is vital that we don’t let ourselves be misled into sin by the philosophies of men.)

“And as all have not faith, seek ye diligently and teach one another words of wisdom; yea, seek ye out of the best books words of wisdom, seek learning even by study and also by faith;” (Doctrine and Covenants | Section 109:7)

“O that cunning plan of the evil one! O the vainness, and the frailties, and the foolishness of men! When they are learned they think they are wise, and they hearken not unto the counsel of God, for they set it aside, supposing they know of themselves, wherefore, their wisdom is foolishness and it profiteth them not. And they shall perish. But to be learned is good if they hearken unto the counsels of God.” (Book of Mormon | 2 Nephi 9:28 - 29)

“For you shall live by every word that proceedeth forth from the mouth of God. For the word of the Lord is truth, and whatsoever is truth is light, and whatsoever is light is Spirit, even the Spirit of Jesus Christ.” (Doctrine and Covenants | Section 84:44 - 45)

“And truth is knowledge of things as they are, and as they were, and as they are to come;” (Doctrine and Covenants | Section 93:24)

A government official once asked the Prophet Joseph Smith how he was able “to govern so many people” and “preserve such perfect order.” The Prophet replied, “I teach them correct principles, and they govern themselves” (as quoted by John Taylor, “The Organization of the Church,” Millennial Star, 15 November 1851, 339).

“True doctrine, understood, changes attitudes and behavior. The study of the doctrines of the gospel will improve behavior quicker than a study of behavior will improve behavior.” (Boyd K. Packer, “Do Not Fear,” Ensign, May 2004, 77)


Sam

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Dagonee
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quote:
The result is that we have four books of scripture and ongoing proclamations from our prophets to use as a yardstick in which to compare other philosophies. Whereas most other Christians believe that the Bible is the only yardstick that is needed.
I doubt this is true. It's certainly not for Catholics, members of the Orthodox Church, and many members of the Anglican Communion, which is enough to refute the "most" in your statement. Further, I'm not sure if your statement would be accurate for all Protestants who subscribe to sola scriptura.
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dkw
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Not true for United Methodists. "Sola Scriptura" refers to the idea that the Bible contains everything necessary for salvation. For decision-making, we use the wesleyan quadrilateral -- Scripture, Tradition*, Reason, and Experience.

*Tradition refers to the teachings of the Christian church through the ages, not "but we've always done it that way!"

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Will B
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It's close enough, for such Protestants. As some band in the 80's sang: "It makes no difference what you've heard/Find it in the Word."

Words are imprecise. "Only yardstick that is needed": I don't think anyone's suggesting that the Bible is viewed as a sufficient guide to, say, cloning, or how to deal with Iraq! [Smile] (Or if anyone does, he isn't being honest: he's putting loads of interpretation on it and pretending not to.) I was Protestant most of my life, and I'd say I thought of it as the only reliable yardstick. Come to think of it, I still do, although I'm Catholic now. I lend heavy credence to the Catechism, but I don't consider it infallible. (It does keep changing.)

--

Value of external philosophies: certainly St. Paul warns us about "vain" ones. I think there are also some that can inform us, as most other believers thru history have. Aristotle seems useful for understanding classification, and his ideas work well with machine learning today; his poetics work well today with fiction. Lao Tse, IMJ, had some horribly Machiavellian advice about government, but he was right about the difficulty of encoding moral behavior. And Plato just drives me crazy [Smile] .

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Dagonee
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That's what I thought, dkw, but I didn't want trust myself to explain the difference between the self-described "bible-believing*" churches and those closer to the original understanding of sola scriptura.

* Obviously I know other churches (including my own) can aptly be desceibed as bible-believing but, much like "creationism," it has been given a more specific meaning by some.

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Occasional
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quote:
"Sola Scriptura" refers to the idea that the Bible contains everything necessary for salvation.
I would say this is the major difference between Mormons and most other religions. Mormons believe strongy that the Bible does NOT contain everything necessary for salvation. In fact, no scripture contains everything necessary for salvation, as "salvation" is considered an ongoing process.

I will do another comparison, and one that I think Samuel is trying explain. Tradition, Reason, and Experience are considered false ways to the truth. For decision making Mormons use Revelation, Authority, and Scriptures. Tradition is considered blinding, Reason is considered materialistic, and Experience is considered questionable. That doesn't mean Mormons are not supposed to use them. Rather, they are just not for decision making on what is the Truth on anything spiritual.

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Dagonee
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quote:
I would say this is the major difference between Mormons and most other religions.
"Sola scriptura" is not subscribed to by half or more of the world's Christians.
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dkw
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Whereas for UMs, scripture, tradition and experience all contain revelation, and "authority" (except for God) is not applicable. It's refered to as the priesthood of all believers -- no person, by virtue of their "authority" is assumed to have greater access to God/truth/revelation.
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MattB
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quote:
Tradition, Reason, and Experience are considered false ways to the truth. For decision making Mormons use Revelation, Authority, and Scriptures. Tradition is considered blinding, Reason is considered materialistic, and Experience is considered questionable.
I don't think I agree. I could point to any number of traditions that are enshrined in daily Mormon practice - indeed, Mormonism's very liturgy is lifted, complete with hymns, from the Protestant tradition. Ages of ordination in the priesthood are entirely tradition - you won't find them anywhere in scripture. Even the priesthood ban was a tradition rather than doctrine - David O. McKay was very clear about that.

Further, there is a powerful tradition in Mormonism of reason as a means to unearthing divine truths - Mormonism holds that God is disoverable in the natural world and works in rational, predictable ways through Puritan-style covenant theology. As I indicated before, Mormon neo-orthodoxy might contest the natural theology tradition, but the position I cite was dominant for the first hundred years or so of Mormonism, and strong strains of it remain. Brigham Young was quite explicit about joining the Mormons because Joseph Smith's theology explained God in a rational way. Parley and Orson Pratt were only the first theologians to attempt to reconcile science with religion, a trend that continued through Talmage, Widstoe, and Roberts, down through Hugh Nibley's lectures on the temple to the Twelve and Cleon Skousen's atonement theory in the eighties.

Finally, the very spread of Mormonism is based upon religious experience - the experience of conversion. I'm of course using the word 'experience' in the way that Wesley or Edwards might - though the ecstatic experience is greatly subdued in modern day Mormonism - and I suppose Occ might be using it in a different way. On thinking about it, actually, I think that Mormons would use the term 'revelation' to describe what are traditionally called conversion experiences.

I do agree with this:
quote:
Mormons believe strongy that the Bible does NOT contain everything necessary for salvation. In fact, no scripture contains everything necessary for salvation, as "salvation" is considered an ongoing process.
I'm not sure how unique it actually is though.

[ April 05, 2006, 11:32 AM: Message edited by: MattB ]

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dkw
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I don't see how the Bible containing all that is necessary for salvation precludes the idea that salvation is an ongoing process.
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MattB
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I don't think it does.

I think what he means is that for Mormons, salvation incorporates things not spelled out in the Bible. That's how I understood it, anyway.

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Zalmoxis
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I think I pretty much agree with MattB's take on foreknowledge above, but would add that I do find the objection to this argument -- one TomD has brought up before here, I believe (and one that some Mormon thinkers have also invoked) -- is that to deny God the power to require faith. In other words, if God simply has access to a supercomputer that can accurately predict our personalities/tendencies (and thus our choices), then why should we have faith in him? There are counter-arguments to this objection, of course.

------
Tatiana writes:

"We have free will inside our timeline. He can, from his perspective outside our timeline, see what we chose to do."

I can understand this pov.

Perhaps he is outside our timeline, but not outside of time? This gets us into an area of physics that I a) don't understand really and b) is pretty much speculation at this point.

But still.

I just don't see how God could be outside of time (all time) because Mormons believe that he has corporeal form. Can you occupy space, but not time?

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MattB
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Zal -

I guess I'm unsure how denying God knowledge of the future is tatamount to rejecting the necessity of faith. It is still possible to hold confidence in his abilities and intentions, no?

quote:
Perhaps he is outside our timeline, but not outside of time?
Isn't this similar to the argument Eugene England synthesized - that God has attained absolute perfection in all spheres pertaining to us, but is progressing in spheres unrelated?

I'm a fan of the blog, by the way.

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Kent
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What about the fact that Mormons believe that God and the spirit of man are of the same species, not the "Creator/Created" distinction that classical theology makes (with the two being of completely different "essences")? MAJOR difference as I see it.
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Occasional
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quote:
But LDS people have suggested there's a basic philosophical difference.
This has been a hard thread to answer. Too many of us are talking about theological differences. No one yet, although I have tried to explain it from my point of view, has actually answered the question. Although philosophy can lead to theology and thoughts on theology can bring philosophical discussions, they are not the same thing. Despite what Dagonee and dkw have said, I think there are some *major* philosophical differences, but they aren't easy to explain. Perhaps they are too subtle to put into words.
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Samuel Bush
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Thanks MattB. You make some very good points. We Mormons do indeed have a lot of traditions. We also have a lot of folk lore, unique cultural quirks, personal opinions, and our share of whackos (the scriptures about wheat and tares growing together and wolves not sparing the flock come to mind). And thrown into the mix is some flat-out false doctrine.

To elaborate a little on my statement about some things being set in stone: Our church leaders have always taught us that it is vital for each member to learn and understand true doctrine so that we are able to tell when something is just tradition and when it is set in stone - or in other words, revealed scripture.

Your mention of the eligible ages for priesthood ordinations is a good example. Normally (i.e. traditionally) a man must be a member of the church for one year before he is ordained an Elder in the Melchizedek Priesthood. Then sometime later he might be ordained a High Priest if he is called to one of various leadership positions. But I know of a case where a man wasn’t even a member of the church when he woke up one Saturday. He was baptized, ordained a High Priest, and then ordained as a counselor in the Bishopric all on the same weekend.

Normally we follow the traditional guidelines on stuff like this. We don’t capriciously go and do it differently. But under certain circumstances and with the proper authorization from the proper church leader, tradition can be circumvented.

There are examples such as various traditional dress codes, and the use of bread for the Sacrament. There are established traditions for such things. But we could, for example, use Moon Pies for the Sacrament if that is all we had and it would be ok. Unfortunately we occasionally find someone who gets their knickers in a knot when they see something happen that they think has violated doctrine, not understanding that it was just a tradition that was circumvented because of circumstances . Reminds me of Paul’s statement, “However we have no such doctrine.”

On the other hand, the Sacrament prayers absolutely have to be given exactly as written. That IS set in stone.

Another category is the cultural quirks that can masquerade as doctrine if we aren‘t careful. It is fine and dandy to have your house decorated in Contemporary Mormon, complete with busts of Joseph and Emma on the mantle, EFY music playing softly in the background, and resin grapes on the coffee table (oops, make that “the postum table), just as long as you don’t expect me to buy in to all the trappings. I can be member in good standing without adopting all the cultural fads.

Sometimes the speculations and educated opinions of church scholars end up getting preached across local pulpits and in Sunday School class rooms as revealed doctrine. I do not blame Skousen, Covey, Widsoe, etc. for this because a close reading usually makes it clear that they are just stating carefully considered opinions. I blame assigned speakers and Sunday School teachers and such who are just trying to make their talks or lessons a little more exiting. They must think the scriptures aren’t sensational enough, I guess.

My same indictment, only double, goes for fictional miracle stories that get preached as faith promoting experiences. Folk lore and urban legends are not doctrine. These can be insidious because they are a little hard to refute using the scriptures. They often sound plausible, and wishful thinking sometimes makes us hope they are true - the old “Hey, if it isn’t true, it ought to be!” sort of thinking.

But the counterfeit doctrine that disturbs me the most is from the whacko types that claim to have had a revelation of some kind but really haven‘t. If we are not careful, we Mormons run the risk of being vulnerable to this sort of thing. That’s because we believe so strongly in modern on-going revelation from God. So when some seemingly pious person among us comes along and says something like, “It has been made know to me . . .[blah blah].” We tend to go, “Oooo Ahhhh Gaa Gaa!”

In a way I kind of envy my friend who is a Protestant and believes in the Sola Scriptura. He would pretty much automatically be skeptical and quickly point to what Paul said.

“I marvel that ye are so soon removed from him that called you into the grace of Christ unto another gospel: Which is not another; but there be some that trouble you, and would pervert the gospel of Christ. But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed.” (Galatians 1:6 - 8)

I guess folks everywhere are faced with the ongoing battle to sort out the truth from the crud. We all have that in common. I’ve just tried to point out some of the Mormon outlook on the subject. At least this Mormon’s outlook.

Sam

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Orincoro
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quote:
Originally posted by Will B:

(I tried to read the book How Greek Philosophy Corrupted Christianity (title may be wrong), but it wasn't exactly clear.)

The books title suggest that a set of philosophies which form the foundations of the christian tradition have somehow corrupted it? Which came first, the chicken or the henhouse?

I think the English language is ruining American culture, clearly we're getting dumber if we'll buy books like that.

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Epictetus
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I have to agree with Sam on the issue of people believing so much in modern-day revelation that they're willing to simply believe whatever some "seemingly pious" person says. I would take it a step further and say that this is one particular philosophical difference. In the LDS society, (and understand I am speaking specifically about my old ward and my own experience, not of Mormons as a whole) there seems to me to be a reluctance to question. It's in my nature to question things, to find out for myself. But, the attitude I generally encountered in my ward and in college, was one of never questioning authority and believing whatever you're told.

This to me contradicted one of the basic concepts of Mormonism: that bit at the end of the B.O.M. were the reader is encouraged to not take the authors' word for it, but to ask God if it were true. I extend this into never allowing myself being content in my current position, but always re-evaluate my beliefs to make them, and myself better.

BTW, I currently do not call myself a Mormon for reasons I don't want to derail the thread to talk about, but I never did "cancel my membership" so to speak, nor do I believe in Buddhism unquestionably. I am still seeking my path. [Smile]

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Samuel Bush
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For what it is worth, here is another Mormon perspective that may be apropos to this thread.

It is a “which came first, the chicken or the egg?” sort of thing. I’ve heard it said, from an agnostic perspective, that man invented religions. Therefore Christianity was invented by freely borrowing ideas from ancient philosophers all over the place plus maybe adding a few original ideas for good measure.

We Mormons look at it the other way around. We believe that the first man, Adam, understood and taught the same things we teach about the nature of God, the universe, mankind’s purpose for being here, that there would be a Messiah to atone for mankind, etc. Adam, Noah, and all the other prophets taught these things. But because of apostasy, these teaching have been gradually changed into forms we see today as some of the various world philosophies.

So we look at, for instance, the philosophy of reincarnation and see how it might be an altered version of what we teach about the law of eternal progression. The idea of an anthropomorphic god didn’t come from the Greeks. They got the idea (indirectly perhaps) from Noah.

That’s what we are talking about when we say that the gospel was RESTORED through Joseph Smith. It’s the same gospel Adam and Noah taught.

Mind you now, I’ve never taken any philosophy classes nor comparative world religion classes. But I did stay at a Holiday Inn Express once, so I know what I’m talking about. [Big Grin]

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Samuel Bush
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Orincoro, I posted that last before I read your last post.
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dkw
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quote:
Despite what Dagonee and dkw have said, I think there are some *major* philosophical differences, but they aren't easy to explain.
I think there are huge philosophical differences. But I still feel the need to correct misstatements/misunderstandings about non-LDS churches if they pop up in the attempt to elucidate the differences.
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Dagonee
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Ditto what dkw said.
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Occasional
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Then I would like to know what you think those philosophical differences are. Perhaps I can correct some misstatements/misunderstandings I have a feeling both of you have.


quote:
The books title suggest that a set of philosophies which form the foundations of the christian tradition have somehow corrupted it? Which came first, the chicken or the henhouse?

I think the English language is ruining American culture, clearly we're getting dumber if we'll buy books like that.

I take it you don't know much about Mormonism. It explicitly rejects Christian Tradition as corrupted from original theology.
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Scott R
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Philosophical differences:

Christianity: "GOOD is God."

Mormonism: "God is GOOD."

??

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dkw
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I'm also going to have to agree with what you said earlier about the philosophical differences being difficult to explain. Theological differences are easier, although I think that the philosophical differences grow out of the theological differences (or maybe the other way around) so it's not entirely a wasted exercise.
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Zalmoxis
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Good point, dkw.

And, of course, there are those who argue that you can't really 'do' Mormon theology or philosophy because it's more about praxis (although perhaps by 'do'ing it, a theology and philsophy develops).

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Will B
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Scott, I'm Christian and not Mormon, but I agree with the *Mormon* statement. I think most Christians would. I've heard more than once something similar (from non-LDS sources): God is love, but it doesn't say love is God.

Anyway. I have this other question, inspired by the Integrity thread. I'm Catholic. If I found out that the pope was a bad man prostituting the church for personal ambition -- or swindled widows out of their socks and underwear, well . . . some popes did! (The prostituting and ambition part -- we can't verify the socks and underwear rumor [Smile] .) If the pope announced to us that he was going to give us a corrected version of the Bible because all our modern translations were off, well, we certainly wouldn't listen to him. We seem to have *way* less faith in our leaders than LDS do in Smith (and others? not sure).

I know LDS supports a *questioning* faith, because I've heard it discussed here. How far should you question your founders? I wouldn't question Christ, but I don't think LDS affords its more immediate founders that much faith (or am I wrong?).

Or is it just that if you don't believe the Book of Mormon, or the Documents, you shouldn't call yourself LDS -- sort of like I'd say if you don't believe the Nicene Creed, why call yourself Catholic?

I appreciate the great (and civil) discussion that we've had so far.

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Taalcon
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quote:
If the pope announced to us that he was going to give us a corrected version of the Bible because all our modern translations were off, well, we certainly wouldn't listen to him.
You mean like this? (Just kidding, obviously. kind of.)
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Will B
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Well, you *must* be kidding. The AMS is another translation of the Bible, not a rewrite, and of course the Pope didn't translate it. Also, it's not noticeably different from other versions (except that its language is more modern than KJV, RSV, etc.) Scholarship is not the same as prophecy! Although both can be a great idea.
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Occasional
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Will B, that is a hard question that LDS have been grappling with since Joseph Smith himself. Some have decided that since he did (a) it must mean he wasn't a prophet - more often than not they leave the church or at least go inactive. Others have said since he did (a) that means he is not perfect, but he is still the instrument for revealing God's message. Finally, there are those who say he didn't do (a) and those who say such are twisting the truth or have a wrong interpretation.

Depending on what (a) is talking about, I personally go back and forth between the second and third reaction. I have yet to encounter anything that makes me consider the first option. It would have to be something really awful and convincing.

Joseph Smith himself many times said he wasn't perfect, and his own revelations tell him to repent at times. As for other LDS prophets, I think only Brigham Young comes close to his audacity and free spirit. The rest have been mostly tame and "poster boys" for the religion. Lets just say that for me the person's spiritual and theological accomplishments better be equal or greater to any indescretions. Then again, even the Biblical prophets did things that make us uneasy.

I think its not so much questioning your founders as much as what you decide from your questioning. If you question your religious leader's role as a representative and spokesperson of God, then you have serious faith issues. If, on the other hand, you wish to understand the human behind the prophet I think that is a noble goal.

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Samuel Bush
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Good point, Will. A Mormon’s testimony, or conviction, has to be based on the following elements. And if he has a problem with any of these elements he is not really converted. Even with a strong testimony of these things, it is hard enough to have the faith to do what you’re supposed to. Without that conviction, it is way hard. (I won’t try here to explain how one goes about getting that strong conviction nor what it feels like.)

Here are those above mentioned elements:
1. God lives and is our Father
2 Jesus Christ is the Son of God and is the Savior of the world. He is also the head of his church.
3. Joseph Smith was a prophet of God and through him Christ restored his church and gospel.
4. The Bible, the Book of Mormon, the Doctrine and Covenants, and the Pearle of Great Price are true books of scripture.
5. Christ’s church has continued to this day and will continue clear though the second coming of Christ.
6. All of Joseph Smith’s successors have been prophets, seers, and revelators - including President Gordon B. Hinckley today. And God will never allow the president of the church to lead his people astray.

I no longer question these things. I can understand why that might seem like blind faith to some people. But I figure there is no point in continually relearning the basics - reinventing the wheel, as it were. Sometimes when we are having a gospel argument, my wife half jokingly says, “Whoever can quote Joseph Smith wins.”

However, there is still a bunch of stuff I can question. For one thing, when someone puts forth with some new thing that Joseph Smith supposedly said or did, I certainly have the right, indeed the obligation, to question whether or not he actually did say or do it. There are a lot of liars and sensation mongers out there. But even if I decide that JS did say it I still have to decided if he was speaking in prophet mode or if it was just his speculation. Yes, prophets are allowed to have their own opinions.

The same goes for supposed statements by other leaders and scholars.

Another sort of thing I have questioned many times in the past and will continue to question are certain local traditions and practices that tend to get added by well-meaning local leaders. Most of these things are not intrinsically bad, it’s just that I don’t see why I should be obligated to buy into them. (The current thing I’m having a problem with is the “hand cart quest” fad.)

Then there are the speculations that get batted around. There have been no clear revelations answering certain subjects so I’m entitled to have my own ideas about them. It is also ok for me to disagree with other folks’ ideas. Obviously the Lord does not consider some subjects important enough give a definitive revelation. That does not stop inquiring minds from wondering. Or wandering, for that matter.

Will, your mention of the Pope reminds me of something that happened a few years ago. There was a popular General Authority who got the boot because of some serious moral transgressions. There were a lot of Mormon folks around my area of the country who were devastated about this. Actually, I’m not sure “devastated” is the right word. But they were certainly way disappointed. But we just had to get over it and understand that, sure he was a man and made some mistakes but the gospel is still true. The church is still true.

In your case that you mention, if you can come to grips with it in a similar way, great. If not, you are always welcome to come to our church. [Smile]

Sam

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Tatiana
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I agree with all the good things Sam and Dave and others have said here.

In addition, I want to say just a little bit about "gaining a testimony", the phrase we LDS use for "obtaining a personal conviction that any given doctrine is true, or that the church as a whole is true". It's mostly a mystery, I think, how you gain and lose your testimonies of things. So I know I don't have the whole answer to that. I think a lot of it is God's doing and not just ours. That is, we're in a partnership with him, and part of the part that's mysterious to us is just his part of the partnership.

But I know something that's really important at an early stage. You have to be willing to believe in something good. You have to (I think) make some conscious choice that you know it's possible to be cynical and jaded and refuse to notice the good in things, and that it's possible to be starry eyed and pollyannaish and refuse to see any evil. But at some point you have to decide to put your money on the horse of goodness, even provisionally. You have to choose that you will not refuse to see the things that are joyous and hopeful, the fact that there is a lot of goodness that exists, and we can make it more if we believe in it and "back" it.

I think that's one of the early stages of gaining a testimony. I'll post more later about what I think about later stages.

[ April 07, 2006, 01:53 PM: Message edited by: Tatiana ]

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Will B
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"Putting your money on the horse of goodness." Sounds like a conversation I was having with my (atheist) best friend.

What is "gaining a testimony"?

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TomDavidson
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quote:
You have to choose that you will not refuse to see the things that are joyous and hopeful...
I'm still wary of the line between that and "seeing things which are joyous and hopeful but which do not actually exist."
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Tatiana
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Will B, "gaining a testimony" is finding a personal conviction that some particular doctrine is true, or that the church as a whole is true. For instance, I gained a testimony of tithing, after tithing faithfully for a while, neglecting my tithing for a while, then again tithing faithfully. I felt tangibly how it blessed my life, during this process, so I came to believe in a visceral way, not just an intellectual way, that I definitely want to pay tithing always. It's a joy and a blessing to me. That's called gaining a testimony.

"Your testimony" can also mean a statement of your belief in the church, in Joseph Smith as a true prophet, etc. Does that clear up what I mean by testimony?

About putting your money on the horse of goodness, I want to give a couple of examples to illustrate. I'll use my favorite historical episode that I have researched really well, the civil rights movement. The activists back then, Martin Luther King and SCLC, the SNCC students, the NAACP, and others, looking at the situation pre-civil-rights movement had basically two ways they could interpret the facts. They could say that the idea of freedom and justice and equality that America was based on was just a pipe dream. That it had always meant only freedom for white landowning men. That no advanced society in history had ever actually extended equal rights and opportunities to its citizens and residents. Always there had been some underclass who served the over-class (if that's a word) and that society was dependent on there being plenty of cheap labor by some segment of the population who would have to be kept down and exploited by another segment in order for things to work out.

Had they thought that way, they might have fought to help their own group be the winners, and let others take a turn at being the oppressed ones for a change, they could have said turnabout is fair play and now we're the masters and you are the servants. They could have worked and fought for a vision of that future, knowing (as hard nosed realists) that true freedom and equality, respect for all individuals, etc. is just pie in the sky optimism. That was one choice.

There was another choice or view or understanding of things that they chose instead. They chose to believe in the ideal of America, (and their faith and Christianity had a huge part of this), that all humans as children of God have intrinsic worth, and it is possible and even imperative that there come to be a society which had equal justice, equal laws, equal opportunity for all. They made this their vision, and largely brought it about. Obviously we have a long way to go, in completely solving the problems that plague our society including racism, poverty, ignorance, and remaining injustices of all sorts. But we have come a very very long way, since my childhood, in this regard. Far more than anyone at the time could have hoped in their wildest pipe-dreams.

Had they backed the first (hard nosed realism) horse, our society now would be like the middle east, with murders, bombs, terror, bloodbaths, and no end in sight as the decades go by. Certainly one side of the civil rights struggle took that path. They decided to fight their battle with bombs, assassinations, and terror. There were many deaths and injuries that occurred.

Instead, though, the activists mostly took the almost insanely optimistic view. I grew up in the South as the civil rights movement was just getting cranked up and I remember how it was, (not just in the south but all over the country.) We have come a very long way since then toward our ideals. And not only did it free blacks but it freed everyone. The country is aeons ahead of the bulk of the world when it comes to equal opportunity and lack of racial tensions. They gave us all a huge gift by believing in America and largely making it come true. They gave us America.

That's what I mean by putting your money on the horse of goodness. The best quote that describes it to me is the thing Vaclav Havel wrote about hope. I'm going to quote it again here, and I apologize to anyone who has seen me post it before. It's one of my favorite quotes of all time.

quote:
Hope is a state of mind, not of the world . . . Either we have hope or we don't; it is a dimension of the soul, and it's not essentially dependent on some particular observation of the world or estimate of the situation.

Hope is not prognostication. It is an orientation of the spirit, and orientation of the heart; it transcends the world that is immediately experienced, and is anchored somewhere beyond its horizons . . .

Hope, in this deep and powerful sense, is not the same as joy that things are going well, or willingness to invest in enterprises that are obviously heading for success, but rather an ability to work for something because it is good, not just because it stands a chance to succeed. The more unpropitious the situation in which we demonstrate hope, the deeper the hope is.

Hope is definitely not the same thing as optimism. It is not the conviction that something will turn out well, but the certainty that something makes sense, regardless of how it turns out.

Vaclav Havel

I would venture to say that, in order to gain a testimony of the truth of the restored gospel, it is first very helpful to reach for, or choose to hold, Martin Luther King's and Vaclav Havel's sort of hope.
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Tatiana
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I suppose another good example might be the seemingly insane optimism of Vaclav Havel and the other Czech dissidents in working toward freedom from Soviet totalitarianism. Surely after the Prague Spring of 1968, things must have looked about as bleak and hopeless as they possibly could. Somehow they found within themselves that hope required to continue working toward pie-in-the-sky dreams of freedom and truth.

If you had said to most anyone during his imprisonment, that he would one day be president, they would have thought you insanely pollyanna-optimistic. And yet... [Smile]

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Occasional
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From another thread:

quote:
Although, come to think of it, if there had to be a line in the sand, it would be the day the priesthood passed from the earth for that dispensation. I'm not sure when Dante and Occasional believe that was. - Katharina
I have no idea, and I don't think any Latter-day Saints do; even if they think they did. I will expand on what I said at the start of this thread to explain what I think happened.

Jesus gave the Priesthood to the Apostles and they to other Church members. Over the years many converts from all over the Roman Empire started to bring their own ideas into the Church. Eventually, those who brought both evil behavior and false teachings into the Church became more numerous than those who followed the true Gospel. The death of the Apostles also caused the loss of the higher authority.

All that was left was the lesser priesthood authority. However, the death of the Apostles left a wide open gap that allowed the false teachers to become the orthodox members. At this point, to paraphrase Hugh Nibley, the lights went out. A struggle of ideas and philosophies raged along with the Roman sacking of Jerusalem. When the lights came back on (meaning an historical trail could be followed) probably by the end of the first Century, the true Gospel message was replaced by a patchwork of outside influences and the Priesthood authority had been taken off the Earth.

The view I hold is that as soon as Constantine said "now that Christianity is a state religion, we have to know what is "officially" Christian," original Christianity no longer existed. It had become a mere shadow of itself in Catholicism. True, I believe the Gospel and Priesthood was long gone by his time. Yet, I also believe that Constantine and his councils had sealed the fate of Christianity for more than a thousand years.

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Jim-Me
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Do LDS recognize the New Testament of both Protestants and Catholics as scripture or not? If so, on what authority?
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