Wednesday, January 23, 2008

The Spirit Can Overcome Contradictions!

Even your claim that prayer will not help you overcome a contradiction is a classic Satan led work that prayer is useless.

- Faithful Mormon
I received a lengthy comment to one of my posts that included the above bit of wisdom. I guess that Elder Ballard's army of intrepid technologists are out trying to save people like me who have decided that evidence and reason are the enemy of the Spirit of truth. Apparently the opening salvo of this intellectual giant is that logic is a tool of Satan. To summarize the rest of his post, I have made the following mistakes:
  • I had concerns about the Church
  • I allows my concerns turn into doubts
  • I sought answers to my doubts with a doubting Spirit.
  • I went to non-Church sources of information that confirmed my doubts.
  • I didn't seek God's counsel or the Spirit.
  • I trusted my own reason which is a foul spirit and was led astray.
  • I failed to be patient, other than waiting for over a decade.
  • I wasn't humble
  • I didn't repent
  • I didn't ask the Spirit
First, let me respond with a couple of points.
  • I followed the path he outlines above for most of my life. Just to be clear, over the years I did my best to obey the commandments, fasted, prayed, served a mission, accepted callings, married in the temple, etc.
  • I didn't seek non-church sources for any of my doubts for nearly 40 years and 13 years after the temple changes that he refers to. I think that that is at least moderately patient.
  • That path doesn't address doubts and issues, it just teaches you to ignore them. It puts a premium on feeling good about what you believe and encourages you to ignore anything that challenges your beliefs.
  • This is a circular argument that encourages you to first decide what you believe, teaches you to feel good about your beliefs, teaches you to feel bad about things that disagree with that belief, and then teaches you that good feelings come from God and bad feelings come from Satan, and that then teaches you to reach the conclusion that you should believe in what makes you feel good and reject what makes you feel bad. Surprisingly, if you start with the conclusion that the church is true, never doubt it, ignore issues that may cause you to doubt, and never read information that may contradict the church, pray and ask whether the church is true without every doubting, then you will feel the Spirit and reach the conclusion that the church is true. What a beautiful formula.
So, let me ask the faithful Mormons out there a simple question.

If the church wasn't true, would you want to know?

If you follow the recipe from Faithful Mormon then you wouldn't even be able to sincerely ask the question because to do so you'd have to have a doubt and you'd have to have the spirit of doubt and according to his formula this will prevent you from finding the truth. Furthermore, if you were to consider the above question seriously it might lead you to ask the next obvious question.

What would you accept as evidence that the church isn't true?

Now, if your only answer is the Spirit and you perceive the Spirit as good feelings that you receive when you pray and you have been taught that considering the church isn't true is the spirit of Satan, how likely is it that you will feel good about asking if the church is false? For me, prayers weren't helpful because I never received a spiritual confirmation that the church was true no matter how much I wanted it to be true and no matter how hard I tried to ignore my doubts and believe that there must be perfectly reasonable answers to my questions/doubts. Instead I had more of what would be described in D&C 9 as a "stupor of thought".

So, since the spiritual man couldn't get me answers, I was left to the "natural man." Why is this wrong? I guess it's because evidence and reason lead to where I am now.

Finally, I love the quote I opened with. If prayer can overcome a contradiction then it is further evidence of the futility of prayer. What it means is that prayer can help you believe things that are not true. Faithful Mormon apparently believes that this idea comes from Satan. But it is simply logic. So, apparently logic is a tool of Satan. But if you must reject logic, then what does that mean about your beliefs? I'll lay out a simple logical argument to demonstrate.
  • Assumed: Eternal ordinances are given by revelation and can never be changed.
  • Assumed: The temple endowment is an eternal ordinance required for salvation
  • Derived: The temple ordinance cannot change.
  • Contradiction: The temple ordinance has changed.
A contradiction is when something is both true and false. Obviously this cannot happen any more than black can be white. A statement has to be either one or the other or possibly simply unknown. A contradiction indicates that either an assumption is false or else that the logic used to derive the statement is flawed. In other words, the contradiction is proof positive that one of the first 3 statements if false.

Now the logic above is clearly correct so that leaves only two assumptions to be challenged. So, to resolve the contradiction you must accept at least one of the following statements:
  • Eternal ordinances can be changed
  • The temple endowment is not an eternal ordinance required for salvation
Note that prayer is completely unnecessary to resolve the contradiction. The only way it might be useful is in choosing between the two resolutions.

However, how can you choose to reject either since both are doctrines. Choosing either is effectively admitting that at least a part of the church's doctrines are not true. If one of them isn't true, then what else isn't true? If you go down this path then you are a cafeteria Mormon that is faced with the task of trying to pick and choose which of the church's doctrines are true or false. Meanwhile the church insists that it is all true or all false and that picking and choosing isn't an acceptable path. This is the conundrum I was faced with.

By the way, I've never heard a faithful Mormon argue for the second. I have had them choose the first. They basically state that the prophet can change anything he wants through revelation. This is plainly ridiculous because it basically allows the prophet to be a cafeteria Mormon an pick and choose doctrines and declare things that were once true to now be false. Whatever happened to eternal truths?

Another third option I've heard is to simply deny the fact that the endowment has changed. Given the first two doctrines, many members simply declare that the endowment has never changed and that this is just an anti-Mormon lie. Others who know better say that only the presentation has changed, but the essence has remained. Of course, then you are left trying to figure out which parts of the endowment are eternal and which are just window dressing. It also ignores the fact that the actual covenants changed and the method for passing through the veil to enter the celestial kingdom changed.

Of course, the fourth option is to just ignore the contradiction. I guess that prayer is useful here if it helps you feel good about being illogical and believing something that is provably false. But that won't make it true. It just means that you are a person of faith so strong that you can have an unshakeable belief in something that is demonstrably false.


erlybird said...

Great post, Bull.

You convinced me! I am never, EVER going to go to church again!


I, myself, never did need recovery since it was bellief in God that I escaped from. But I do remember how my paretns and others in the Church used to speak of that awful thing they called anti-Mormon lilterature and the Tanners who published it. Awful people, those Tanners! I never did read any of it though. I seem to remember it all looked liked Jehovah's Witness stuff to me at the time. Weird.

Nope, it was Carl Sagan that was my conduit out. Then Isaac Asimov. Richard Feynman. And the funny thing is that it was my DAD who led me to all those guys. Though he never once told me to PRAY about something. Never did he turn me away from introspection and thoughful consideration of the facts.

I, for one, couldn't care less about a ripped off Masonic temple ceremony getting toned down. Who cares? No weirder than the "bell choir" at the Episcopal Church. Well, maybe it is...but still...

Bull said...

Hey, the bell choir is awesome!

Maybe I'm just a credulous soul, but I actually believed. When people ask me how Mitt would be as a president I respond that Mormons are very good at compartmentalizing. In my normal life I'm an engineer, very analytical, and I have a well-tuned bullshit detector but I was conditioned to not use it on Mormonism. I wish I'd seem the light as early in life as others such as yourself.

BTW, I'm reading Carl Sagan's "Demon Haunted World" with my 14 year old daughter right now. I'd have to rank it as my favorite non-fiction book.

paranoidfr33k said...

The logic used by members to come to their conclusions is lacking. Religion as a whole makes logic and reason useless.

Martin Luther said "Nay in that children are destitute of reason, they are all the more fit and proper recipients of baptism. For reason is the greatest enemy that faith has: it never comes to the aid of spiritual things but — more frequently than not — struggles against the Divine Word, treating with contempt all that emanates from God. If God can communicate the Holy Ghost to grown persons, he can, a fortiori communicate it to young children. Faith comes of the Word of God, when this is heard; little children hear that Word when they receive baptism, and therewith they receive also faith."

It would seem that the only requirement for belief is faith in that which cannot be proved. If you try to prove it, you will fail, so don't worry about it, just beleive and you will be fine.

Its interesting to me how circular members logic is when it comes to their own beliefs. Its something that I'm trying to change in my own thinking. I've gone on way too long just believing that which has been feed to me. I'm now thinking for myself and the faith claims of religion do not stand up to scrutiny.

Marsha said...

Wow. This made my brain cramp. I do appreciate your openess in descrbing the Mormon mindset. It helps me to understand my Mormon friends a little bit better.

I find it sad, however, that so many ex-Mormons, burned by the Mormon god end up rejecting the Biblical God altogether. It seems like such a hopeless existence. I recently read an article that posed this question: What is your comfort in life and death? That is something to really think and chew on.

Bull said...

Marsha, reason that so many ex-Mormons and never-Mormons reject the Biblical god is because seeing through one farce teaches them to recognize others. The same arguments against Mormonism are even more damning of the Bible and the Christian god.

I'm glad that you find comfort in your belief, but does the comfort of a belief indicate anything about its veracity? Something for you to chew on.

To specifically answer your question, I don't feel hopeless or particularly unsettled about life. The prospect that death is the end is simply a fact and so it doesn't give me any heartburn since there's nothing I can do about it. Why is life without a belief in God hopeless? That is what is puzzling to me.