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Posted by: MarkJ ( )
Date: February 08, 2019 02:44PM

One of the most striking comments I have read in the last little while is "Infinity is not just more and more of the finite." (I think this was written by Alan Lightman.) Infinity cannot be diminished by taking something away and cannot be increased by adding anything to it. Sorry, Buzz, there is no "beyond" to Infinity.

And while that has helped me to readjust my thinking about the Universe, it also points out a fundamental weakness in Mormon thought.

Classic Christianity (as well as several other religions from what I know of them) references a spiritual existence that is beyond our comprehension. In a little bubble of time we experience a shadow world and can perceive but a limited number of dimensions. There is no clear expectation of what our end state in the full scope of eternity will be. There is no end, period. It is something beyond mortal comprehension.

That concept is vague and perhaps a little unsettling. Those who want to know what's going on with their lives are left hanging. Mormonism seeks to meet this demand for satisfaction and certainty by constructing a more concrete context for life. Mormonism advocates eternal progression as our exalted end state. Eternity for Mormons, in other words, is more and more of the finite. More planets, more wives, more spirit children, more bosses above, more servants below, all feudally locked together in "covenants" - contractual agreements of service and reward.

This materialism (but tellingly, not the doctrine) is reflected in the Book of Mormon. The very purpose of the Book of Mormon was to serve as material evidence for the prophetic status of Joseph Smith and it did so by providing a religious context for the material evidence of the pre-European inhabitants of the American continents.

Whatever Smith wanted to accomplish with the Book of Mormon, it and his doctrinal amendments have ever since bound Mormon thinking to the tangible, the immediate, the "sensible."* Had Smith, like Mohammed before him, simply said that an angel or spirit of the Ancients had told him what to write down (without the specific claims of a historical context), Mormonism would not be in the bind it is today. It could have left doors open and preserved a little humble uncertainty. As it is, it is stuck with a "most correct book" of history that is demonstrably fraudulent . Apologists for the faith then resort to the appeal of faith and the limitation of human understanding to cover the gap between doctrine and reality. But they really can't have it both ways - sometimes a fixed, enduring, sensible "Man's Search for Happiness" gospel and at other times, an incomprehensible and nebulous mystery gospel. It is this irreconcilable conflict that is at the core of much Mormon cognitive dissonance; a shifting, sandy foundation. Leaders make definitive statements as eternal truths, which are then contradicted by successors who reshape them as personal opinion. Leaders have had to defend indefensible policies and then when change inevitably comes, confidence in doctrine is eroded. Having learned the lesson about the dangers of making big policy, leaders still try to focus on "real world" objectives, but they keep the scale small, like the directives on the number of earrings or use of the word "Mormon." Those teachings do not provide any inspiration in terms of the mysteries of the spirit, but do provide transitory distractions. They in turn however, will be set aside by the next generation, failing to provide either enlightenment in the spiritual or confidence in the practical. Generation after generation the accretion of dissonance builds and the scope of Mormon thought is narrowed by the treachery of facts.

* I remember reading long ago how one church authority dismissed the idea of humans crossing over the Bering Straight from Asia to the Americas as being impractical. And when the "Great Apostasy" is described, inevitably the loss of "plain and precious truths" is included. Plain and simple, that's the ticket.

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Posted by: Elder Berry ( )
Date: February 08, 2019 05:33PM

MarkJ Wrote:
> Whatever Smith wanted to accomplish with the Book
> of Mormon, it and his doctrinal amendments have
> ever since bound Mormon thinking to the tangible,
> the immediate, the "sensible."* Had Smith, like
> Mohammed before him, simply said that an angel or
> spirit of the Ancients had told him what to write
> down (without the specific claims of a historical
> context), Mormonism would not be in the bind it is
> today. It could have left doors open and preserved
> a little humble uncertainty.

I disagree. An angelic visitation and an angel taking a book of pure gold back to heaven are mere logistics. Admittedly, the book story will lose adherents and potential converts who think of it as tangible evidence but people looking for evidence aren't what either Islam or Mormonism want.

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Posted by: MarkJ ( )
Date: February 09, 2019 12:12PM

Both the Book of Mormon and the Quran are used as proof of the prophetic nature of their authors. And this is done in very similar manners - that nobody else but a prophet with divine help could produce such a book. And initially, I think both religious movements attracted rational, practically minded people. Conquering what the Arabs did or moving large numbers of people across the continent to the desert west can't be done without being very practical and rooted in reality.

The key difference is that the Quran has an element of the mysterious to it that can always remain vague and undefined. Nor is it a historical narrative. It can float above the banality of physical evidence. The Book of Mormon by contrast, was aimed at people who wanted straight up, clear answers. In the ferment of the Second Great Awakening people were looking for a gospel that fit with their world. The real world of the 1820s was interested in the origin of the monumental earthworks of the Mound Builders that were becoming well known with American expansion westward. Napoleon's invasion of Egypt had generated widespread interest in the ancient cultures of the Middle East. (The transliteration of the Egyptian scripts on the Rosetta Stone was announced in 1822.) In the United States, the anti-mason movement was surging, producing concerns about "secret combinations." Politically, a generation after the Revolutionary War, Americans were still trying to define what being American meant and what direction the country should go both geographically, politically, and religiously.

And low and behold! Up steps Joseph Smith who just happens to have translated a "Reformed Egyptian" ancient book that miraculously happens to have all the answers people are looking for! Now, however, after the latter days have been prolonged for nearly two centuries, all of those tied-up-in-a-bow answers aren't all that relevant. And worse, the frame work in which they were delivered, a history of pre-Columbian Americas, has been shown to be bunk.

Mormonism wants desperately to look like it has all the answers. To be seen as serious, all business, regimented, correlated, common sense. That is the image of God they have constructed. Ultimately though, Mormonism has to resort to blind faith for its defense. Therein lies the trap, the dead end that is Mormon Think.

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Posted by: babyloncansuckit ( )
Date: February 09, 2019 05:50PM

All they have to do is admit to being wrong.

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Posted by: OneWayJay ( )
Date: February 08, 2019 07:13PM

Chuck Norris has counted to Infinity... Twice!

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Posted by: Curelom Joe ( )
Date: February 09, 2019 05:57PM

When doing pushups, Chuck Norris isn't actually pushing himself up--he's pushing the planet down.

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Posted by: Roy G Biv ( )
Date: February 15, 2019 06:50PM

Chuck Norris vs. Communism

Chuck won.

Watch it on Netflix!

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Posted by: olderelder ( )
Date: February 08, 2019 09:02PM

I got buttonholed by a street preacher a while back. I listened for a while but ran out of patience about the time he opined about eternal life. I asked him, "Have you ever thought about how long forever is? Because it's the longest time you can imagine multiplied by the longest time you can imagine an infinite number of times. And then longer than that. And longer than that. And longer than that."

"Yes I have. And it will be unimaginably wonderful."

"What do you imagine we'd be doing all that time? Because I think we'd get bored after the first gazillion years or so. I think I'd eventually reach a point where I'd tell God I'd had enough and if it's okay with him I like to cease to exist now."

He replied with something very like your "beyond our mortal comprehension" statement above. And he reiterated it would be unimaginably wonderful, because that's what God would want for us. Then the preacher added the good old fallback, "But whatever it is, it will be infinitely better than hell." I held my tongue and didn't reply, "Because hell is also what God would want for us."

I think eternal life was invented simply because we fear death. I think an unimaginably wonderful second life was invented as the carrot to get us through the crap of this life. And I think an existence beyond comprehension was invented as an answer to questions like mine. "We don't know, but it'll be amazing the whole time."

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Posted by: babyloncansuckit ( )
Date: February 08, 2019 10:23PM

Religion can be thought of as a security blanket. As the threads fray, you have to weave in new threads to replace them. That wasn’t done in Mormonism, so now there are holes. Big holes. All the brethren can do now is tell members to ignore the holes.

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Posted by: beardedatBYU ( )
Date: February 15, 2019 02:10PM

Thank you for writing this. This has to be one of the most poignant and well thought out and written works I've seen on this site. I've thought a lot about a lot of things since leaving the church and have and am still trying to graple with now and later. You've given me some additional things to consider.

Thank you.

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Posted by: zelph-doubt ( )
Date: February 15, 2019 02:25PM

I believe they're in the process of transforming the narrative that Bushman said was not true. The Pageants celebrated the literalness of the BofM. Gone. Rusty is on record as saying the BofM is not primarily a historical text. Whaaat?

They're laying the groundwork to gaslight the shit out of my kids and grandkids after those of us old enough to remember the Lamanites blossoming as a rose are gone.

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Posted by: Felix ( )
Date: February 17, 2019 09:14PM

First, I'd like to agree with beardedatBYU - OP's well articulated insights were much appreciated by myself also.

As for what zelph-doubt stated; "Rusty is on record as saying the BofM is not primarily a historical text." I never heard of Nelson making any such statement. If he did can you cite the talk or occasion where he said it?

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Posted by: Wally Prince ( )
Date: February 17, 2019 11:04PM

...within its pages."

Basically, Nelson is saying you're barking up the wrong tree if you expect the Book of Mormon to be a reliable guide to understanding much of anything about the history and civilization of ancient America.

What it is is a "miraculous miracle". (Apparently, he really sad that--probably after eating some fishy fish, and beefy beef, and then arriving at the venue in a motorized motor vehicle. It's all amazingly amazing amazement, if you ask me.)

Not only is it a miraculous miracle, but it's also a good gimmick for bringing converts into the Church. That's what the Book of Mormon is, according to the Grand PPSR.

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Posted by: Wally Prince ( )
Date: February 17, 2019 11:28PM

Everything else is an authority-enhancing device to convince as many people as possible that the person relying on the device has special authority to tell them what to do.

The First Vision story (reworked many times) was just a device to convince gullible people that Joseph Smith was extra, extra-special. So special in fact that, according to the last version of the First Vision, he was visited by God the Fathuh and Jesus the Son/Christ at the same time. Who else got face time with both personages at the same time.

The game of authority in any cult of authority is centered on one-upsmanship. You're always in competition with other frauds, scammers, gurus, mountebanks and charlatans. You wait for one of them to give their authority-enhancing story...and then you top it.

"How many angels did you see? Only one? I saw two. What? You saw Jesus too? Well, I saw Jesus and his dad! That's right! Jesus is not his dad. They're separate beings and BOTH of them visited me!"

"Oh, yeah, Charles Finney had a vision of Jesus and then started his ministry based on that? Nice try. You could say that he had some authority, but I WAS VISITED PERSONALLY BY BOTH GOD THE FATHER AND HIS SON JESUS CHRIST! And that's not all, I was also targeted by the Devil himself just before that, so YOU KNOW I'M THE GUY YOU MUST LISTEN TO! Charles is not so special after all, now that you put things into perspective. Visions like his are a dime a dozen."

But what if not enough people are falling for your particular authority scam, based on your first authority-enhancing fable. Well you need to cast your net wider and add more authority-enhancing devices.

Some people will fall for a story about special translation powers and ancient GOLDEN plates and seer stones and such. That will give you authority over those people.

Some people with excessive lust in their hearts will be susceptible to hearing about a "revelation" from God that says that not only is it okay to sleep around with multiple partners, but it's actually a commandment and the key to a better estate in the hereafter. So, they'll go along with a revelation like that.

Oh, wait, what's this? Hiram Page is trying to get his own authority cult going? Right under Joe's nose? Gotta nip this in the bud. A direct revelation from God outta do it. "Hey, Hiram. God says to me to say to you that you need to knock it off! I'm already the official president of the Church and God says that no one but the president can write revelations for the Church. Your stone is a bad stone. Your getting wrong messages." (Amazingly, it worked. Joe probably wiped his brow in relief after that close call.)

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