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Author Topic: Critiques of Mormonism
scifibum
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quote:
I have known many young men and women for whom that was by no means a primary reason. I'm sure there are a few, and it is a contributing factor for many if not most (but not all), but I have not known personally anyone whose PRIMARY reason to go on a mission was social pressure.
I admit I'm not going by what people SAY about why they go on a mission. Remember, starting in Primary, they are teaching the kids to sing "I HOPE they call me on a mission." It's clearly expected not only to GO, but to WANT to go.
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ketchupqueen
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Okay, but then there are the folks (several of whom I have known) who are converted as adults and whose families are not supportive of them going on a mission, and whose church leaders tell them they are not obligated to go because it would cause dissent in their family, but if they wish to, they have the support of their ward. (Or, who are women, and therefore don't have as much social pressure to go anyway.) I've known several people in that situation choose to serve a mission despite family pressure in the opposite direction.
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scifibum
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kq: Fair enough. I don't have any experience outside Mormon families and Mormon-dominated population, so I can't argue with that. I'll amend my claim to be that social pressure (I'm including family pressure in social pressure, btw) is significant enough in predominantly LDS communities to seem to be the primary reason people in those communities choose to go on missions. In other words, I think it precludes making a decision based on desire to teach or other factors because it is such a strong expectation. (I'm only talking about people who are active in the church, btw. There's no social pressure for the atheist neighbors of LDS wards to report to the MTC. [Wink] )
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quote:
Originally posted by scifibum:
quote:
I have known many young men and women for whom that was by no means a primary reason. I'm sure there are a few, and it is a contributing factor for many if not most (but not all), but I have not known personally anyone whose PRIMARY reason to go on a mission was social pressure.
I admit I'm not going by what people SAY about why they go on a mission. Remember, starting in Primary, they are teaching the kids to sing "I HOPE they call me on a mission." It's clearly expected not only to GO, but to WANT to go.
For the young men, it is expected. It is expected that they will begin preparing themselves when they are young, and live lives worthy of being called on a mission. Personally, I think it's a great thing for a boy to know he's expected to be good and make wise decisions, especially during the craziness of his teenage years. I know it was a big help to me, having a goal. It kept me out of a heap of trouble.

In that song, there is also the conditional of being called on a mission. Missionaries do not call themselves. They can't go just because they're expected to. They must essentially present themselves and the lives they've led so far and hope to be called.

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Sala
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This Mormon Apologetics Board may be something you would be interested in taking a look at. It is a forum with serious theological and epistomological (sp) discussions. This site is not sponsored by the church.

The Maxwell Institute may also have things that would be interesting to you. It is research done on a variety of topics (Ancient Church, Ancient Near East, Bible, Book of Mormon, D&C [Doctrine and Covenants], Mesoamerica, Modern Church, and Pearl of Great Price). Part of its mission statement is to "describe and defend the Restoration through highest quality scholarship." This site is sponsored by the church in that it is housed at Brigham Young University. In its original incarnation as FARMS (Foundation for Ancient Research and Mormon Studies) it was not sponsored by BYU.
quote:
In the 1990s, FARMS enjoyed rapid growth, fueled by donations that considerably increased its yearly operating budget. During the mid-1990s, the BYU administration became interested in the prospect of incorporating FARMS into the university. As FARMS took on important projects that depended more and more on BYU resources, the relationship between the two became increasingly complex. Something needed to be done to clarify their mutual relationship. On 10 September 1997, President Hinckley proposed that FARMS be invited into the university.

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Occasional
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The Early 1800s were a time of national self-reflection in the United States, particularly in the east. One of the most dramatic movements was toward religious regeneration, sparking what has become known as ďThe Burned Over DistrictĒ because of the heated revivals. Preachers had decided that the nation as a whole had become corrupt and forgotten God, as indicated by the small church attendance. To counter this perceived problem, preachers hit the roads and argued for religious revival.
At first it seemed to be the perfect solution to a less than spiritual nation. People were hearing the words of God and joining congregations. This new sense of spiritual urgency created problems. All the major Christian denominations were fighting for dominance and members. Soon it was as much heated debate as spiritual refocus. People had a lot to choose from and those choices often split communities, and even families, into factions.
Not everyone agreed with the main thrust of the spiritual messages. There were Deists who believed in the divine without organized religion and those who didnít know what to believe. A few were known as ďSeekersĒ who believed there should be a Christian organization, but didnít recognize any sect as having the answers. It was, in the words of Joseph Smith ďa war of words and tumult of opinions,Ē not easy to ignore.
Joseph Smith was among the Seekers in his religious explorations. He wanted to find the right denomination to join, but found all of them lacking. Worse still, the fighting going on between contending parties was happening in his family. His mother Lucy wanted to join the Presbyterians and his father Joseph Sr. wanted to remain unaffiliated Christian. Joseph Smith briefly considered becoming a Methodist. It was under these conditions that what became known as ďMormonismĒ was about to develop.

Mormons often praise the Catholic Churchís recognition of the need for priesthood authorized servants. They equally respect the Protestant reformersí audacity to bring the Word to the people at great risk against the dominant Church. Mormonism often treads on the line between personal faith and authoritative administration. They donít reject the reformers work as unimportant. At times Martin Luther, John Wesley, John Calvin, and even Thomas Jefferson have been praised for changes they sought. It just wasnít considered enough to make a theological improvement necessary for a full return to the glory of the New Testament days.
What was missing? Certainly not the idea of returning to the basic teachings of the New Testament. Many others were trying to do that around the same time that Joseph Smith was preaching and teaching. One of Joseph Smithís harshest critics was Alexander Campbell, who tried understanding the basics of the Bible and create a church around what he thought was discovered in its pages. He wasnít the only one. Finding the fundamentals in Biblical, and mostly New Testament, readings was common practice. That search for purity of practice and Biblical interpretation continues today.
For Joseph Smith, and Mormonism in general, it was angels, miracles, and the Kindgom of God that needed to be restored. It was not enough to form a church around Bible study alone. The very powers of Heaven were to be called down and utilized as given by God to another people. As Joseph Smith explained in a later teaching:

ď. . .God of heaven has begun to restore the ancient order of His kingdom unto His servants and His people, a day in which all things are concurring to bring about the completion of the fullness of the Gospel, a fullness of the dispensation of dispensations, even the fullness of times; a day in which God has begun to make manifest and set in order in His Church those things which have been, and those things which the ancient prophets and wise men desired to see but died without beholding them; a day in which those things begin to be made manifest, which have been hid from before the foundation of the world, and which Jehovah has promised should be made known in His own due time unto His servants, to prepare the earth for the return of His glory, even a celestial glory, and a kingdom of Priests and kings to God and the Lamb, forever, on Mount Zion.Ē (History of the Church, 4:492Ė93).

Teaching others the gospel is only part of the work that must be done to prepare for the Kingdom of God. Latter-day Saint President Spencer W. Kimball said there were three mission objectives for the church. These three consist of ďproclaiming the gospel,Ē ďperfect the Saints,Ē and ďredeem the dead.Ē (Spencer W. Kimball, ďA Report of My Stewardship,Ē Ensign, May 1981, 5). All of these generalized mission statements are supposed to help unify the membership as a spiritual community.

It isnít through close scrutiny of the Scriptural text that Restoration is claimed to have happened. Visions and Revelations became the keystones of coming to the ultimate truths. The Bible narrative was to be a template for the vast knowledge of Heaven and Earth contemplated in Mormon theology. Prophets, particularly Joseph Smith Jr., had returned to speak the voice of God to His people again. A new and last Christian dispensation came into existence. What has been taught remains unique, controversial, and mysterious to outsiders. Insiders have sometimes found the theology equally as challenging to contemplate. Nevertheless, the only way to truely understand Mormonism is to recognize revelation, and not intellectualism or crtiticism, is at the heart of its history and doctrine as seen by its members.

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BlackBlade
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I was worried that perhaps this thread might be a train wreck. Glad to see my faith in hatrack was not misplaced. [Smile]
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Emily Milner
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Joldo, you might check out the LDS blogosphere, known as the "bloggernacle." Here is the most popular aggregators:
Mormon Archipelago

Times and Seasons is one of the oldest Mormon group blogs, and I would bet that someplace in its vast archives there's a nice discussion of Mormon epistomology. Or, if you'd like, you can email their administrators and ask for one, and they might post it for you. Times and Seasons is a more conservative blog, although they do evaluate the Church and its policies.

By Common Consent is its liberal counterpart, although they do generally come from a place of faith as well.

There are plenty of Mormon blogs out there, and many people who consider themselves faithful members, yet don't always agree with a given issue.

Other ones you might check out:

FAIR (Mormon Apologetics; there are very few issues they haven't confronted and discussed, and usually in a scholarly way)

FMH Feminist Mormon Housewives (left-leaning women, who believe in core doctrine and discuss their struggles --and sometimes agreement--with some policies)

Segullah (I am on the board. The blog is associated with our journal, which has writings by LDS women; we do not critique the Church or its leaders, but we do explore life issues and application of doctrine. We are not too philosophical, though, if that's what you're after.)

As for the missionaries: when I was a missionary (and I went because I wanted to) I always tried to bring the discussion back to Joseph Smith and the Book of Mormon. I was capable of waxing philosophical, but I tried not to, for the reasons others have stated.

I think your group sounds like a great idea, though. And kudos to you for inviting the missionaries. Even if the discussion doesn't go the direction you'd hoped for, you will still be able to get a better feel for Mormonism through them.

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Marlozhan
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quote:
Originally posted by Occasional:
Nevertheless, the only way to truely understand Mormonism is to recognize revelation, and not intellectualism or crtiticism, is at the heart of its history and doctrine as seen by its members.

I think that hits the nail on the head. I am LDS and in most of my discussions with non-LDS individuals, the difficulty others have in understanding the LDS views on theology stems from a fundamental difference of belief on that point.

However, when I say fundamental, I would personally say that, fundamentally, there is not a difference. I do not believe that intellectualism, when based on truth, is a bad thing to place one's beliefs upon. I believe that all truth, whatever its source, is a good thing.

The problem comes in the source of that knowledge. There is a lot of talk about the doctrine of the LDS church holding up to intellectual discussions, but IMO, man's ideas are much less reliable than God's ideas. Note that I did not say "man's ideas about God's ideas', but knowledge that actually comes from God Himself. I fundamentally believe the purest source of knowledge and truth to be directly from God, whether through personal revelation or revelation through God's servants. I consider revelation to be the ultimate form of intellectualism, given that God is the ultimate Intellect.

Wherever there is a digression between the knowledge of mankind and revealed doctrine, I consider it to be a problem in the source of mankind's knowledge, not a problem with the idea of actually using your mind to gain knowledge. Mankind has proven itself wrong time and time again, as we seek to improve our knowledge. Now, you may say that religion has proven to be wrong time and time again, but sometimes this is only because mankind simply does not agree with God's revealed knowledge, and other times it is because religion is not acting according to revelation from God. Mormons consider a religion operating without revelation from God to have no more access to divine knowledge than non-religious individuals.

I do not post this to sound like I consider my knowledge to be better than yours (especially since I have been on the receiving end many times, wherein my belief that knowledge can come from revelation is considered archaic and "blind obedience".). I am just trying to help clarify the LDS trust in revelation as a pure form of knowledge that transcends knowledge sought-out without any reliance upon God.

I also do not consider myself to be blindly obedient. There are some church doctrines that I obey in faith, but that I have not received personal revelation that they are true. However, these doctrines are built upon a foundation of core doctrines that I have felt confirmation from God concerning, i.e. I have experienced God confirming that the LDS church is led by Jesus Christ, that the prophets called to serve in the church receive revelation from Christ, that the Book of Mormon is a portion of God's revealed word, as well as several other doctrines. These doctrines create a foundation so that I can put faith in other doctrines taught to be revelation, but which I have not put forth the time and effort to receive personal revelation regarding.

As a final note, I wish to say that there are several Mormon beliefs that are not considered doctrine. Some of them stem from Mormon culture, deep doctrine that has not been clarified, and the imperfections of LDS members who simply misrepresent their faith at times. In addition, us Mormons also believe that God will work with His children according to what they need most at the time. As an example, the Law of Moses was needed as a teaching method to the children of Israel at the time, but was no longer needed after Christ fulfilled that Law and now expected His people to live the higher law. In essence, God will change some of His laws according to the developmental needs of His people, just as a parent adjusts parenting according to a child's devlopment. Yet, there are certain fundamental truths that God is forever unchanging, just as a parent should always provide love, warmth, attention, etc. for a child, no matter the child's age.

I hope I haven't rambled too much, I just wanted to clarify the LDS view on ongoing revelation, both ancient and modern, both written and spoken.

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Vadon
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I don't wish to delve too deeply in this topic, as I do have some rather strong opinions on the Church, and I'd rather keep them out of the thread being as it's stayed fairly civil so far.

I think it will be hard to find someone who can bring you the kind of substantive knowledge you wish for. I think it's been well outlined here, but there is a difference in the LDS interpretation of 'faith' and many other churches. The LDS church indoctrinates youth by giving them the mantra 'Joseph Smith was a prophet, and the church is true.' Without question. I don't criticize the church for keeping it relatively simple for children to understand it. (Though I did cringe in Sacrament during fast-sunday when children would give their testimonies. While it was really cute, I just had trouble stomaching a child saying they 'knew' the church was true. While I will grant adults and some young adults have had life experiences that lead them to believe the church is true, I don't think a child has had enough experience to say it.) But it shows how the church wishes to instill an unquestioning belief in the doctrines and leaders of the church.

There are many vocal people within the church that once you begin to question some of the teachings, you are accused of being weak and tempted by the devil. I'm not saying all members, or even most members of the church do this. But there is a vocal enough crowd that it pushed my mother, myself, two of my brothers, and eventually my father away. (Long story, maybe I'll write a landmark and explain it some time.) For the most part, mormons are kind-hearted, welcoming individuals whose motives are to live their lives as best they can in accordance with their beliefs. But there are enough people that will attack you for questioning the church that it's just something that you don't do. I remember when I started to have disagreements and asked about them, I was told by a vocal individual that Satan was using me as a means to shake people's faith and that I had to repent and pray for forgiveness and guidance. Most just tried to comfort me with the eleventh article of faith. Well meaning, but not what I was looking for. [Smile]

I suppose I've rambled a bit, but what I'm getting at is that mormons have a different culture when it comes to questioning their doctrines or explaining themselves to the skeptical. Because of their interpretation that faith means you believe in the entirety of the doctrines as objective truth, you're not really allowed to pick and choose. This contrasts with some other religions such as the Catholic church. In the process of declaring someone a saint, a person must serve as the Devil's Advocate and make a case against them.

Please don't take my post as being overly judgmental about the difference. Mormon's tend to go for 'this is our message, if you believe it, good, if not, that's cool too. But don't come to us in a willy-nilly state of belief.' And that's fine. The grand majority of the church members I know are not judgmental of non-believers. I may no longer be a member of the church, but I still hold a profound respect for many aspects of it.

Edit: For clarity, I tend to ramble.

[ November 12, 2008, 05:53 AM: Message edited by: Vadon ]

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Yozhik
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If you want some more philosophy-oriented material, I'd Google for "David Paulsen", a professor of Philosophy at BYU. Here's one brief example: Are Mormons Trinitarians?

I'm sure there is a lot more, and better material by this professor, but I don't have time to do any more googling myself now.

I am surprised that nobody else suggested this angle.
BYU philosophy department

[ November 12, 2008, 08:54 AM: Message edited by: Yozhik ]

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Joldo
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I spoke last night with my dear friend who's just started at BYU. She talked to her professor, who advised FARM and FAIR.

When I brought up some of the differences of Mormon epistemology that I had begun to notice because of this thread, she said those specific things had started troubling her lately. She says she's had trouble with the Church over questions like homosexuality for some time, and was vehemently opposed to Prop 8--which made things difficult for her philosophically lately. She says she's more of an "early Mormon": she likes the idea of building a Utopian socially-equal society, and disagrees with the conservative stances she feels the Church is supporting.

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katharina
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I think this thread has been okay so far, but I'm kind of uncomfortable with a thread dedicated to criticizing the LDS church. I hope it can stay as positive as it has been.
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Joldo
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Augh, continued of above:

She also told me her biggest disappointment since coming to BYU is that the environment doesn't seem friendly or conducive to the sort of discussion and analysis she was looking forward to. Her roommates don't like to look too far into things; she's absolutely enamored with her boyfriend 'cause they bike out to the mountains and then talk theology and church politics.

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Corwin
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Heh, I've known lots of students, religious or not, who don't like to go too far questioning things (religious things or not). I doubt that it's a Mormon-only attitude. [Wink] She's better off talking about those things with people who are actively interested in doing so, like her boyfriend.
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Occasional
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Joldo, I am really going out on a limb here because where you are going with the discussion is getting uncomfortably hostile. However, I have to ask what kind of questions about Mormon epistemology do you have? It is a very big and therefore very vague topic.

So far you have expressed that the more you talk about it, the more "creepy" what has been said about Mormonism sound. Although you have said that your talking with Mormons in high school was enlightning, the most resent personal encounter you talk about was a college student uncomfortable with the idea that others don't want to talk about things like she does.

I just want to know what kind of questions do you have to base a discussion on? More on topic from what you have already indicated, what kind of questions would your students typically like to ask?

The conversation in this post has been civil, but I am afraid that you are proposing a discussion when you really want to throw Mormons in the lions den.

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Now, don't kill the thread by talking it into an argument.
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Joldo
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Well, it will be a lion's den environment, though I hope it won't be. I usually speak to my kids beforehand about courtesy, but they will be pretty tough. That's what I told the missionaries when I spoke to them about it: while it is a friendly environment, it is not one that will just let anything go.

I'm just suddenly discovering that I know far less about Mormonism than I thought, because now the Mormons I know are telling me that actually, no, they usually don't feel like they fit into the mainstream of the Church. It's a bit like culture shock: I'm trying to adjust what I thought I knew and process new information. My most recent comments in this thread were more by way of saying that I'm just learning that the Mormons I know themselves don't feel like they're accurate representatives of the faith they've encountered.

This is me, realizing I know a lot less than I thought I did.

The coffee hour environment isn't a "Get up and give us a presentation" type of thing, though. It's a casual, sit down and chat about many things--including religion!--sort of environment. I don't see many direct attacks, because we haven't had that in the past; most of the believers who come to one coffee hour bring their friends with them the next week, so I don't think it is a negative environment. By way of ground rules, I say that when in doubt stick with questions and "I" statements, never "you" statements, "everyone" statements, or broad generalizations on areas you don't feel complete understanding.

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Unicorn Feelings
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In the beginning of religion in America class, I said "People with deep faith in what they believe should not be offended when others question it."

It took me 6 years, but I finally learned, it is best NOT to question anything about the Church, it is only seen as an insult an attack or persecution, or "throwing them to the Lions den."

Personally, I believe it is best to question all the Christian Religions (and all Religions, but since I am an American Christian, I focus on our religion) because all of us who Believe in God and Jesus Christ are in the same Church.

I have stopped my attempts to question or be critical here at Hatrack because all it does is make more people not like me (Tom may be my only pal here [Frown] ), and give Papa Janitor a headache for all the "Ban Him" emails he gets.

I don't want to be kicked from here.

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Unicorn Feelings
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Though I find it ironic OSC is SO critical of everyone and everything, even going to far as to claim HE knows what other people's REAL RELIGION is. It's like going around punching everyone in the face when no one is allowed to touch you.
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quote:

I think it will be hard to find someone who can bring you the kind of substantive knowledge you wish for. I think it's been well outlined here, but there is a difference in the LDS interpretation of 'faith' and many other churches. The LDS church indoctrinates youth by giving them the mantra 'Joseph Smith was a prophet, and the church is true.' Without question. I don't criticize the church for keeping it relatively simple for children to understand it. (Though I did cringe in Sacrament during fast-sunday when children would give their testimonies. While it was really cute, I just had trouble stomaching a child saying they 'knew' the church was true. While I will grant adults and some young adults have had life experiences that lead them to believe the church is true, I don't think a child has had enough experience to say it.) But it shows how the church wishes to instill an unquestioning belief in the doctrines and leaders of the church.

I also think kids sometimes recite testimonies according to the universal genre of the child testimony, probably inspired by parents whispering to them what to say because they wanted to get up and speak in the microphone. However, I donít think itís hard for a kid to have the simple faith to truthfully declare that they know itís true. I think itís easier for them to say it truthfully than it is for me.
I do not think the purpose is to instill an unquestioning belief. I havenít seen it that way at all. Kids in the Church do get taught the doctrines and practices of the Church in a positive manner; the Church would be remiss if it didnít do that. But the doctrine has all those built-in caveats about free agency and making oneís own choices. I do not think kidsí natural believing character is taken advantage of in Church, any more than it is at school or at home.


quote:

I suppose I've rambled a bit, but what I'm getting at is that mormons have a different culture when it comes to questioning their doctrines or explaining themselves to the skeptical. Because of their interpretation that faith means you believe in the entirety of the doctrines as objective truth, you're not really allowed to pick and choose. This contrasts with some other religions such as the Catholic church. In the process of declaring someone a saint, a person must serve as the Devil's Advocate and make a case against them.

Please don't take my post as being overly judgmental about the difference. Mormon's tend to go for 'this is our message, if you believe it, good, if not, that's cool too. But don't come to us in a willy-nilly state of belief.' And that's fine. The grand majority of the church members I know are not judgmental of non-believers. I may no longer be a member of the church, but I still hold a profound respect for many aspects of it.

I think that it is quite a shock to hear someone question a basic belief. True, one thing our regular meetings do not provide is a forum for airing dissenting opinions. That is not a regular part of Church proceedings. If such opinions are brought up by the person or heard about, itís almost the break from the norm that people are reacting to rather than the actual concern.
One reason I can think of for why concerns are not always handled well is that Church congregations behave like mutual support organizations. You donít realize how much you rely on the testimonies of your fellow ward members until one of them reveals that they are seriously questioning their beliefs. Itís a serious loss of support, and until you get your feet under you again you might not say or do things very smoothly. The other reaction is concern for the personís welfare and an almost panicky need to help them get better. Those are immediate reactions. Thatís certainly no excuse for making thoughtless and harmful accusations, but I think that is partly why it happens.
The Church does leave less room for a wide range of beliefs on such things as the divinity of Christ, the truthfulness of His gospel, and the restoration of the Church through Joseph Smith. It would be hard to feel comfortable in the Church with serious doubts or conflicting ideas about those things. However, it is sad and wrong when members are made to feel like they are bad people when they have those doubts. I am truly sorry that happened to your family.

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ketchupqueen
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Oh, come on, UF, why even come onto this thread?
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Roger Parkinson
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I think people often find what they are looking for. The church like any other group of people has a wide variety of different personality types, political beliefs (granted some political beliefs are less compatible),leadership styles and ways of viewing the world. I think it is incredibly problematic to try to define what it means to be Mormon with finality.

I like to focus on what the core doctrine is, form a very solid belief system around that core doctrine and then interpret church practice and culture within the perspective provided by the core doctrine. Practice and culture change all the time. Core doctrine does not.

I think people do themselves a disservice when they take a tangent and invest too heavily in a position that, right or wrong, won't make much of a difference in your life.

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sarcasticmuppet
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quote:
Originally posted by Joldo:
Augh, continued of above:

She also told me her biggest disappointment since coming to BYU is that the environment doesn't seem friendly or conducive to the sort of discussion and analysis she was looking forward to.

She's not taking the right classes. As a recent BYU graduate, I found plenty of courses that both encouraged and discouraged deep discussion and analysis. It depends entirely on the instructor, and on the content of the course, just like everywhere else. Look into Honors courses, attend symposiums and lectures, and try to get more than the minimum required. I work right next to Honors, so I could refer your friend to exactly what she's looking for.
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Unicorn Feelings
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quote:
Originally posted by ketchupqueen:
Oh, come on, UF, why even come onto this thread?

Ugh. Even me posting in here is a problem? I am withdrawing from this high quality thread.
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blindsay
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I think there is a misconception on the purpose of LDS missionaries and what they are out there for.

I went because I wanted to. My parents were very adamant that it was completely my choice and that they would respect my decision no matter what choice I made. I went because I felt I had something wonderful and I wanted to share it. It was that simple.

Because I wanted to share this I wanted to talk to as many people as I could. I cared about the people I spoke to. I wanted them to have what I have. The Gospel has made me happy, and I wanted them to be happy as well.

There was certain situations that I entered into that caught me off guard. We had been visiting a woman and her mother for a month or so and they had asked us to come over to speak to them. When we arrived there we found out that the family had invited their pastor from their current church over to their house. Rather than engage in a discussion, he immediately became critical of the church, and started attacking the church and what I was doing. All I did was bear my testimony of what I believed, thanked the family and the pastor for their time, and left. While leaving I asked the family to pray about what I had taught them, and if they received an answer to please contact me again.


I could have argued with the Pastor. I could have easily won the argument, as the Pastor's information was common Anti-Mormon talking points that I knew about and had studied before coming out on my mission. The reason I did not? It would not have benefited the family I had been teaching. I would have placed doubt in their mind about their own church and the LDS church.

Interestingly enough, the daughter did contact me again after I had come back to the US. (I served in the southern part of Brazil) She wrote me a letter saying that she had prayed about it and believed it was true. She actually said that the situation between me and her old pastor was actually an answer to what she had been praying for. She let me know she had been baptized and was looking forward to going to the temple.

Please do not think that the missionaries cannot effectively defend the church. It is simply not what they are out there for. They are there to teach people and ASK those people to find out for themselves through prayer.

If possible, it may be beneficial to read the book "Day of Defense" or "The Book of Mormon on Trial." These two books are wonderful resources if you want to find out what common attacks are against the church. The two books provide logical and rational answers to these attacks.

EDIT: Fixed spacing. It looked like a wall of text

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scifibum
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quote:
But the doctrine has all those built-in caveats about free agency and making oneís own choices. I do not think kidsí natural believing character is taken advantage of in Church, any more than it is at school or at home.
It's definitely taken advantage of in a big way. But I grant that it is not done more so than in other contexts, including other religions, secular schooling, and at home. Small children believe what you tell them, when there's nothing in their direct experience to contradict what you're telling them. They won't believe the sky and a banana are the same color, but tell them that God hears them pray, and he loves them, and that the kind and smart-sounding people they interact with at church are telling them the truth about things they can't even begin to disprove? They're just going to believe it, with rare exceptions.

"Taking advantage" is a loaded phrase, and I think that mostly religious adults are doing what they sincerely believe is to the child's benefit. Perhaps "making use of" would seem less negative?

There's nothing inherently wrong with that, but there's also nothing wrong with pointing out that children only "know" the truth of much of what they're told to the extent that they are taking adults' word for it.

My personal view is that it's problematic for children to question their religious "knowledge" later in life. I can't think of a way a child can go through the early indoctrination and really have an open mind about it at the same time. I think the universality of early religious teaching is because the alternative is high attrition in membership. To the extent that religious adults would sincerely see unbelief in their children as a harm, I don't blame them for indoctrinating their children. The rest of us do it too, just on other topics.

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MattB
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Joldo - Looking within the official organization of the Church for somebody to discuss these things with you is probably a mistake. As has been stated, neither missionaries nor local leaders receive any sort of training in the sort of rational discourse you're talking about here; rather, they're trained in pastoral techniques. Similarly, CES folk - institute teachers - are really a youth ministry; they're not scholars of their own faith. Unlike, say, Catholicism, there are no in-house Mormon intellectuals.

The sort of people you want are out there, but they're not to be found in official offices. Google the names Blake Ostler, Kevin Barney, Nate Oman, Jim Faulconer, Dennis Potter, and you'll get closer to what you're looking for. Where are you located?

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MattB
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Oh, by the way, I hate to say it, but don't read Day of Defense. There's a particular mindset that unfortunately reads any sort of rigorous examination of Mormonism as 'anti-Mormonism;' I'm afraid Day of Defense falls into such a category, and generally represents its interrogators in the form of straw men.
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Joldo
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I'm in Georgia. University of Georgia in Athens.
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Scott R
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'Day of Defense' is awful.
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Artemisia Tridentata
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quote:
I think people do themselves a disservice when they take a tangent and invest too heavily in a position that, right or wrong, won't make much of a difference in your life.
My Dad used to call it "putting it on a shelf". As a live science student, he had trouble with believing in a literal resurection. He just put it on a shelf. It didn't make a big difference in his life. Many years later, when genetic theories were discovered and refined, he was comfortable with his personal beliefs. I never understood his concerns. (or his reconciliation for that matter) His personal concerns did not prevent him from being a religous scholar and mentor for others. He shared with me the belief that the church position on Priesthood for blacks would change. Although he thought that the change would come after intense political pressure and would be subject to a lot of resistance from members. It stayed on the shelf for a long time. He was very pleasantly suprised to have been wrong.
I have several things "on the shelf" now. I am a member in good standing, as orthodox a Mormon as any. But, as has been stated above, outside of the core beliefs I just might not agree with very many others.

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MattB
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Huh; that's too bad - nobody I know near you. Although there is a professor at Georgia Southern named Michael Nielsen who's done some stuff on Mormon sociology. I have no idea how far that might be, though.

In any case, I recommend you start here:

http://www.blakeostler.com/theology.html

That is the collected works of Blake Ostler, who's an analytic philosopher and probably the most important living Mormon theologian. He's got books - the Exploring Mormon Thought trilogy - but they might be tough to get where you are. There's a lot of stuff on the website, though.

Also, Nate Oman's paper on the nature of Mormon doctrine might be useful to you - it is here:

http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=1031022

Warning: he's a law professor, so it's heavy on legal analogies and such.

FARMS and FAIR are frankly a mixed bag; both organizations are directed more toward members of the Church than to serious engagement with outside voices; they're apologetic. That doesn't mean all they produce is useless; it does mean they start from a particular perspective which might color their arguments more or less.

Finally, I echo Emily's endorsement of the bloggernacle. Two in particular:

Clark Goble's blog Mormon Metaphysics addresses Mormonism from the perspective of continental philosophy;
http://www.libertypages.com/cgw/category/religion/

Geoff Johnston's blog New Cool Thang hosts regular discussions of Mormon theology (though they've been spending time on Prop 8 and BYU football recently.)
http://www.newcoolthang.com/index.php/category/theology/

The blog has been particularly strong on the nature of free will, I think.


One more thing: I'm going to be in Atlanta for a week or so sometime early next year. I understand it's an hour or so out, but if you'd like I'd be happy to see if we could work something out.

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Vadon
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quote:
Originally posted by advice for robots:
I also think kids sometimes recite testimonies according to the universal genre of the child testimony, probably inspired by parents whispering to them what to say because they wanted to get up and speak in the microphone. However, I donít think itís hard for a kid to have the simple faith to truthfully declare that they know itís true. I think itís easier for them to say it truthfully than it is for me.
I do not think the purpose is to instill an unquestioning belief. I havenít seen it that way at all. Kids in the Church do get taught the doctrines and practices of the Church in a positive manner; the Church would be remiss if it didnít do that. But the doctrine has all those built-in caveats about free agency and making oneís own choices. I do not think kidsí natural believing character is taken advantage of in Church, any more than it is at school or at home.

Oh, I definitely grant that it's best to keep things in universal terms with children. It helps with understandability, and if you create a foundation of strong belief, it's easier to add more to information to it. I suppose my only issue is semantic. I just have trouble hearing 'I know the church is true' compared to 'I believe the church is true' coming from a child. I grant that their knowledge comes from what limited information and experience they have, but it's just a personal quirk I had. [Smile]


quote:

I think that it is quite a shock to hear someone question a basic belief. True, one thing our regular meetings do not provide is a forum for airing dissenting opinions. That is not a regular part of Church proceedings. If such opinions are brought up by the person or heard about, itís almost the break from the norm that people are reacting to rather than the actual concern.
One reason I can think of for why concerns are not always handled well is that Church congregations behave like mutual support organizations. You donít realize how much you rely on the testimonies of your fellow ward members until one of them reveals that they are seriously questioning their beliefs. Itís a serious loss of support, and until you get your feet under you again you might not say or do things very smoothly. The other reaction is concern for the personís welfare and an almost panicky need to help them get better. Those are immediate reactions. Thatís certainly no excuse for making thoughtless and harmful accusations, but I think that is partly why it happens.
The Church does leave less room for a wide range of beliefs on such things as the divinity of Christ, the truthfulness of His gospel, and the restoration of the Church through Joseph Smith. It would be hard to feel comfortable in the Church with serious doubts or conflicting ideas about those things. However, it is sad and wrong when members are made to feel like they are bad people when they have those doubts. I am truly sorry that happened to your family.

I do think that deep down the man's intentions were good. He was trying to get me to hold to the rod again, as it were. But I was just taken so aback by his approach that I was very uncomfortable with it. I agree that there are reasons that some reacted in the way they did to our questioning doctrines, but I do wish there WAS a forum for people who are having serious concerns with the church that they could go to and perhaps get some answers from someone who is well educated in the church and is understanding of people's concerns.

For example, one of my brothers who left the church has since become a pastor at a church in Seattle, Washington. (I recently moved up as well.) I've attended a couple of the meetings and some of his concerts, and one of the things that shocked me was that there was a table in the back of the room with a couple of guys. I asked my brother why they were there, and he told me that their purpose was to talk to people who had concerns with the Bible, and they would explain the meanings. It was fairly private, and most people used it so that you didn't feel singled out if you go back there. I think it would have been nice to have a more publicized place like that for when I had my concerns.

I thank you for your concern of my family, but we've mostly come to peace with it. Our family is kind of funky as far as what we believe or not. My parents believe in the grand majority of the doctrines of the Church and are currently searching for a church that will accept them with their hybrid beliefs. [Smile]

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blindsay
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quote:
Originally posted by MattB:
Oh, by the way, I hate to say it, but don't read Day of Defense. There's a particular mindset that unfortunately reads any sort of rigorous examination of Mormonism as 'anti-Mormonism;' I'm afraid Day of Defense falls into such a category, and generally represents its interrogators in the form of straw men.

Well Matt, I will have to agree with you on that. Any thoughts on the Book of Mormon on Trial? (There are multiple versions, the one that was published in a sort of comic version was my favorite. I thought it had "Schoolhouse Rock" feel to it. [Big Grin] )
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Sala
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quote:
I'm in Georgia. University of Georgia in Athens.
What day are you doing this? I'm in Georgia, a few hours away, but depending on the day and time . . . . .
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Joldo
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We do this every Wednesday night at 8:00. I'm actually waiting for coffee hour to start right now. When the Mormon missionaries come depends on them, but last I heard they were interested in joining us next week.

Sala, if you do want to check out some of our more interesting activities, we do panels with religious leaders from the Athens area, and we're trying to bring in a prominent non-theist speaker next spring.

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Unicorn Feelings
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Shake, shake, shake, shake a shake it!

ooops. sorry. meant this for the happy dancing and singing thread. my bad.

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Slim
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I think it is very healthy to question one's own beliefs. Anyone who believes the origin of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints should agree. James 1:5 -- If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God...

The key thing here is who we ask. Yes, it's often good to talk it out with others. In fact, it is frequently through others that Heavenly Father answers our prayers. But ultimately, it is God that we need to ask, because He is the source of all truth, and it is in Him we should put our trust.

There have been times in my life that I run into something that I don't know the answer to. But as I turn to my Heavenly Father for help I am able to grow from the experience.

Even better is when others give me questions on my faith, because they may have questions I never would have thought of, or just took for granted. My faith is strengthened by each of these situations as I receive guidance from my Heavenly Father.

I went on my mission because I had something that gave me joy in life. I believe everyone is my brother or sister, and I wanted to offer them that joy also.

It is true that many go for the wrong reasons (social, girlfriend, etc.), but during my mission experience, most went for right reasons. Or at the very least, decided to stay for good reasons.

I always thought about Ender when someone accused me of being too young and inexperienced to teach them anything. It is true that I was young and inexperienced, but my few experiences were different, and I think we have a great deal to learn from each other. "Out of the mouth of babes..."

I'm from Utah. The culture aspect makes having a testimony a different type of struggle here than elsewhere, in my opinion. Elsewhere, it takes stronger faith to live the Gospel-- to be different from the society around you. Utah is no Zion, but it doesn't take much effort to live how most everyone thinks you should. It has to be a conscious effort to have faith when nothing is pressuring you to. I don't know if I am making sense, but hopefully you get what I'm saying. Just as faith without works is dead, works without faith are just as dead.

When I was on my mission, I varied as to whither visiting with people who I knew wouldn't change was a waste of time or not. Sometimes I thought of all the other people we could be teaching. Other times I thought of all the other people we would run into who wouldn't even give us the time of day. Overall, I felt that even if someone was not going to change, if I could just teach them one small thing, or clear up one small misunderstanding about my faith, it was all worth it.

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Orincoro
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quote:
Originally posted by mr_porteiro_head:
Many missionaries are able to defend and argue their faith.

Effective missionaries generally don't do it, though. They're not there to defend, and they're not there to argue. They're there to teach those that are interested. For the most part.

This seems fairly understandable to me. To put the concept in perspective: in my English teaching training, it was emphasized over and over that your job is to teach English. Your job is not to explain English. If you start to explain and get into the reasoning behind English, even if you are capable of it intellectually, you will not effectively help your students to use the language at all. In fact, you will make your job much more difficult, because the intricate historical anachronisms of our language are infinitely complex- and they're not things people need to worry about to use English in a functional way. Understanding *how* English works is what students need, the questions of *why* it works are not material to that, and are a different subject entirely- not one a teacher of the language should go into.

Edit: this was driven into me when I met a linguistics graduate who had limited knowledge of how to teach or even identify points of English grammar. Linguistics is not about grammar, it is about language- which is not the same thing.

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Unicorn Feelings
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quote:
Originally posted by Slim:


I'm from Utah. The culture aspect makes having a testimony a different type of struggle here than elsewhere, in my opinion. Elsewhere, it takes stronger faith to live the Gospel-- to be different from the society around you.

I've only been to Utah a few times, and that was when I was a young kid. I consider my diverse living (wisconsin, illinois, california, all major cities in Texas, arizona, colorado) and my turbulent childhood to be the landscape of my faith.

The strongest 'Christian Love' I think I have encountered was from the Hispanic moms and from mature black women. I've seen them take on such burdens, endure the worst of trials and still be filled with welcoming love to all of God's creatures. I testify, in my time, the spirit of Christ very strong with the people who live in the lower classes and the middle classes.

Often, in the upper middle and upper class, I find a sense of importance that believes because they can figure out how to make money in this world, that same sense affords them a better knowledge of God. It doesn't radiate the same way I've seen from the lower and middle classes.

It's odd. As the Norse Christian Wanderer, I've found myself in a lot of really odd situations, I've been in two crack houses one in New York and another in Austin. (I was looking for marijuana, not crack. [Blushing] ) In both cases, as with most everywhere I go, I was treated with respect and grace. Sitting for hours talking to crack addicts in a crack house about God is an amazing thing.

I have saved (literally) and inspired many people through my faith.

The only place I seem to have intrinsic trouble is in dense, white Republican areas. Like where I live atm, Mansfield, Texas. I've had people talk about making it legal to shoot people who vote for Obama, two weeks ago, I was at a local bar with a friend, some girls invited us to their big table, I was chatting it up with everyone, and later in the evening 4 of the guys started to do the Sig Heil hand gesture thing. I literally said "WTF" They said "We're starting a new Neo Nazi party. $%^& Obama". I said "That's a great way to let people know you're almost as smart as an amoeba." The night went downhill from their. One more than one occasion, a drunk group of guys has tried to mock me to my face for wearing a Batman T-shirt to a bar. Odd.

It's a different world out there. Each town, city and state having its own flavor. I find it's best to recognize people for their works, share a mutual faith in God (You're Catholic? I am Thor. Isn't Jesus great?), and try not to be judgemental of others. That is for God and God alone.

It's a big world and we're all God's Children.

Dang. Just last night, I had a heated discussion with a 70 year old Christian who said all Athiests were idiots. He hated them all. I attempted to explain that his anger was misplaced, he should be thankful that he can see God, not angry at those who cannot. Besides, no one dies an atheist. [Smile]

We're all in this global room together.

If the Christians, Jews and Muslims (about 500 high rankin' dudes) are trying to find common ground while still standing on separate ground, the American Christians should be able to strive for the same.

No Church has any PROOF their religion is superior, or chosen by God over the others, so it's best for all of us to act in the spirit that we all belong to the same Church, worship the same God, and we all give thanks for the Glory of Jesus.

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Corwin
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quote:
Originally posted by Unicorn Feelings:
Besides, no one dies an atheist. [Smile]

I call bull...
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rivka
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Actually, so do I.
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Orincoro
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Yeah, is that considered an ad hominem?
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TomDavidson
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quote:
Often, in the upper middle and upper class, I find a sense of importance...that same sense affords them a better knowledge of God. It doesn't radiate the same way I've seen from the lower and middle classes.
...
I have saved (literally) and inspired many people through my faith.

But, of course, you don't know God any better than the rich do, right?
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Unicorn Feelings
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quote:
Originally posted by TomDavidson:
quote:
Often, in the upper middle and upper class, I find a sense of importance...that same sense affords them a better knowledge of God. It doesn't radiate the same way I've seen from the lower and middle classes.
...
I have saved (literally) and inspired many people through my faith.

But, of course, you don't know God any better than the rich do, right?
Sure. In the same way they don't have more money better than I do. [Smile]
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TomDavidson
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Well, at least you know you're being hypocritical.
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Unicorn Feelings
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I don't remember any religion suggesting collection of human currency and material possessions as a pathway to wisdom.

*Note: I am crazy and wrong 100% of the time.

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TomDavidson
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I wouldn't go looking to religions for advice on wisdom, anyway.
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Mucus
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Many religions suggest collection of your human currency and material possessions as a pathway to wisdom [Wink]
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