Episode 153b: “The Mantle is Far, Far Greater Than the Intellect” for Dummies Part 2

Heather and Greg are Joined by Garen and Mike to discuss President Boyd K. Packer’s 1981’s BYU talk “The Mantle is Far, Far Greater Than the Intellect.”

“The Writing of Latter-day Saints History: Problems, Accomplishments and Admonitions” by Leonard Arrington (download pdf from the Dialogue Archive)

“On Being a Mormon Historian (and Its Aftermath)” by D. Michael Quinn

Episode 153b

106 comments on “Episode 153b: “The Mantle is Far, Far Greater Than the Intellect” for Dummies Part 2”

  1. Megan Reply

    Re miracles in history: Since miracles cannot be proved they cannot be reported in academic history as events that did or did not happen. They can only be reported as claimed events which had measurable effects. History concerns itself not with the truth of the claims per se, but with the ripples that those claims had in the events and peoples around them. So – Joan of Arc claimed to hear heavenly voices – entirely internal experience which cannot be validated or invalidated by any other source. Therefore, ‘Joan of Arc truly heard angelic voices, evidence of divine intervention and the hand of God in the war between the French and English’ is not an academic historic statement.
    ‘Joan of Arc inspired her people to rise up and defeat an enemy based on the miraculous experience she believed she had however could be. You don’t ignore the miraculous claims, you report them, but the only things that can be evaluated are the external things.

    So, no you won’t miss the effect the atonement of Christ [claims] have had on members of the church. Those are external (many of them) and can be evaluated.

    Honestly, I think you guys all keep conflating faith narrative and history in this half which is weird. The group seemed to let Mike say that history of religion should bring one closer to Christ – but that isn’t the point or purpose of academic history, whether it’s of a religion or not! It might, naturally, have that effect, but that’s not why it’s written. Mike, do you think that a history of the Catholic church should leave out the era of two popes? The little episode (mythic or not) of Pope Joan? The crusades? The inquisition? None of those things bring people closer to Christ per se, but they are all material to the history of the Catholic church.

    Augh!! Again Mike, historians’ jobs are not to bring people to Christ – it’s to write history! Full. stop.

    • Anonymous Reply

      When I first contemplated trying to join the ME family, my husband and I talked about whether or not I’d be capable of having civil discussions with Mike.  In other circles I’m known as a firebrand who is….. less than nice or civil to those I think are wrong.

      But what I’ve learned since joining the podcast is that we’ve basically come together to give our opinions and thoughts.  The purpose isn’t to bludgeon Mike until he admits he’s wrong and changes his mind.  Greg and I might have been hosting the episode, but that doesn’t mean we LET Mike continue to claim anything.  He had the same rights and privileges to state his views as the rest of us. We had the discussion/debate about the purpose of history written for a scholarly purpose and then we moved on. 

      • Megan Reply

        Fair enough, although I think that there’s a spectrum of responses between not challenging or addressing something at all and bludgeoning someone with a differing opinion! I do think that a respectful expression of a differing opinion – or even a request for clarification – is an important thing. I would really like to know, for instance, whether Mike recognizes as valid a difference between historians and writers of faith promoting materials. Can a historian do religious history as an academic without a proselytizing purpose (and where does one draw that line – only Mormon history is reserved for faith-promotion? All religious history?)

        I think that really this was an excellent mix of voices and ideas and really you guys all did a superb job of keeping the conversation moving while addressing some very important points. This one, the purpose-of-history one is (obv) important to me because of my background and interests so, natch, it stood out to me. I would imagine that in the flow of the conversation for you folks it didn’t stand out.

        Also, I think Mike is a great sport to continue to come on and be the lone voice, and I liked that real efforts were made to engage his opinions and stances without attacking him.

        Excellent pod-cast!

        • Anonymous Reply

          I shouldn’t speak for Mike but what the heck.  haha.  I’m pretty sure Mike would say that for a Mormon who has made covenants with the church there should be no difference between writing history and writing faith promoting materials.  I think he would say that plain ol’ skeptical history is only written by non-Mormons who have a “lesser light” because they haven’t been given a witness of the truthfulness of the church…. and if they did, they’d also write history and faith promoting stories the same way.

          As for the bludgeoning, what I meant was if we responded to every instance of him stating a particular opinion it would soon start to seem like all we do is go after and attack him.  I thought the same as you until I was actually on episodes with Mike.  I’d think, “how can they just move on after he said that?”  But when you’re actually recording an episode and you want to get to the next discussion item, you act differently.  Especially since nothing you say will change his mind anyway.  Of course, nothing he could say will ever change my mind.  So I guess we’re both stubborn old goats.

          • Megan

            Scary thing is I think your first para is, if not what Mike would say, at least a very good guess at what some faithful Mormons would say or think! Frustrating, isn’t it? How can you not want to have a true history of something so important to you? And how can you ignore that a faith-bias (like any bias) is a huge impediment to a true history? Ah well…

            I do see your point in the second para. It’s far too easy to play arm-chair moderator! And the stubbornness of both (I reject ‘goats’ but don’t really think ‘sheep’ is a good substitute either!) is a good thing – at least as far as discussion goes!

            Aaaand it must be far too early in the morning as that was an entire paragraph of exclamation marks and my rhetoric prof is probably getting a psychic headache and has no idea why.

  2. Kevin Reply

    Great podcast. To me, it underscored three things.

    First, believing Mormons often claim that the church’s most important strength is the presence of a living prophet. This is the exact opposite of the truth.

    A person who claims to be uniquely qualified to speak for God is on a tightrope. If he fails, then he and everything he expounds are immediately put into serious question. And for anyone who claims this role, it is inevitably a matter of time. Mormonism cannot continue to claim a living prophet unless it either redefines the term or maintains an ever more staggering capacity for cognitive dissonance.

    Does this mean that there can be no such thing as a prophet? No. Anybody can potentially receive revelation about anything. And anybody can say things that lots of other people can be reasonably confident are in accord with the mind of God. In other words, God can use anyone as a prophet. But when someone claims that he has some exclusive authority to speak for God, he is almost sure to be either severely deluded or simply dishonest. This will become evident eventually.

    Second, Elder Packer may have had a valid point when he said that any historian in the church’s employ has an obligation to be faith-promoting. But this makes them propagandists, not historians. This is their role in what Elder Packer characterized as a war between Good and Evil. Where he went wrong was in assuming that Good is synonymous with the church.

    Finally, I’ll rare back and prophesy a little myself: I predict that someday Mike Tannehill will be the most fire-breathing anti-Mormon apostate that ever burned up the discussion boards. You heard it here first, folks.

    • Anonymous Reply

      I’m glad you got something out of it, Kevin.  I’ll be honest, this isn’t one of my favorites.  I feel like we sacrificed a discussion about the speech for side arguments and personal rants. 

      • Fred W. Anson Reply

        Heather, I couldn’t disagree with you more!  This was a great podcast. 

        Those side arguments and personal rants were rarely completely off track and they were often very entertaining AND enlightening. 

      • ryan love Reply

        hey heather read my post above, its in reference to joseph smith fought polygamy

    • Greg Reply

      Great comment, Kevin.  Packer may be able to employ propagandists, but I completely disagree (as I guess was evident in the podcast) that it is ethical to expect people to simply back up who is paying them.

      That is the opposite of ethical, and as a mature adult now, I find myself laughing at the idea that loyalty to employer and social group is supposed to supersede loyalty to objective representation of facts.  

      Good = God = The Church…  I seem to know a number of people who can’t get past that little problematic inequation.   

  3. Hermes Reply

    There are many ways of dealing with an unexpected brick wall in your path.  You can walk over it.  You can walk around it.  You can walk away from it.  Or you can walk into it, hoping that your head is hard enough to smash a path through to the other side.  

    Wait!  A new solution has just been revealed: try running into it at top speed while imagining that it doesn’t exist!

  4. Hermes Reply

    While I am sitting here with nothing important to do, I may as well point out that English is not German, and the shelf over the fireplace (mantel) is not a robe (mantle).  If I wanted to be funny here, I might reference the proverbial shelf (mantel) that many of us believers load up with cognitive dissonance.

  5. Sean Leavitt Reply

    “The church is true, but the people aren’t.”

    Oh thank you Mike, for dredging up the most incredibly trite, useless, thought stopping cliché the church has ever produced. This is the lamest bit of doggerel ever. It’s meaningless.
    What happens when you remove the people from the church, Mike? What do you have left?

    A bunch of useless, empty buildings.

    The people ARE the church! No people = No church! Nothing!
    I listened to you use that cliché to try to shut down the conversation, which is bad. But I actually heard you spout that phrase in an attempt to shut down your own thoughts. Which is tragic. I really feel sorry for you.

  6. Sean Leavitt Reply

    And Heather, I have to disagree with your less than stellar evaluation of this podcast. I think you got right to the heart of the issues surrounding this talk, and the problems it creates. I thought you did a great job not allowing these issues to slide by the wayside.

    Loved it! 🙂

  7. Steve Kimball Reply

    Comparison for Mike

    On integrity and truth- “Some things that are true are not very useful.”
    -Boyd K. Packer
    or,
    On integrity and truth- “It seems to me a fundamental dishonesty and a fundamental treachery to intellectual integrity to hold a belief because you think it’s useful and not because you think it’s true.”
    -Bertrand Russell 

    Life is about choices, the choice to be honest, forthright is one of them. Mike demonstrates the superiority and arrogance we have all had in believing our special feeling takes precedence over the truth, and I do not mean that as an insult Mike we have all been there.

  8. Kevin Reply

    Here’s a noteworthy quote from James E. Talmadge’s “The Great Apostasy”, p. 748:

    During the Middle Ages, the Catholic Church “proclaimed it an act of virtue ensuring rich reward to lie and deceive, if thereby her own interests might be subserved.”

    • Hermes Reply

      Yet one more nail in the myth that the Restoration is somehow not a continuation of the Great Apostasy (assuming for the moment that the last two thousand years of Christian history can be referred to this way).  Mormonism enters stage left in the early nineteenth century.  Another Christian heresy?  Check.  Another crazy story that doesn’t add up as told? Check.  Another slew of leaders claiming the right to legislate for God and using every means in their power–no holds barred–to secure that right?  Check.  Another slew of apologists claiming that crime is somehow different when God–through his leaders–wills it? Check.  How are we different from all the nutters before us?  We did all that stuff for slightly different reasons: Jesus gave us a slightly different myth to cultivate (and subdue people with) than the ones he revealed to our predecessors.

  9. james hafen Reply

    I suffered, ( and I use that term very literally), through the Mormon Stories pod cast, (like 5 or 6 hours??), with Dan Peterson.  I wonder if Mike holds Dan Peterson as an authority or grants him a measure of esteem and validity, because even Dan Peterson – someone that makes me want to poke my eyes out with a dull #2 lead pencil, counters Mike and cut’s down his arguments.

    Confession: When I saw the title of the podcast I was very excited – this talk from Packer was the impetus of my disaffection and became the theme of my personal blog.  Further confession, when I heard Heathers voice instead of John’s I was slightly bummed simply because I really wanted to hear John smack this talk out of the park.  And even further confession – Heather, you did an excellent job with the podcast.  Home run!  

    Heather at minute 38 on part B “I can’t rely on what you call the spirit” based on her experiences.  Amen.  Nailed it.

  10. Kyle A. Reply

    Mega props to Mike.  The stones required to sit on a panel as the sole believer in the face of so much damning evidence, abuse, and in defiance of common logical thought is nothing short of epic.  Mike, I love you, but I find myself cursing every time you chime in; absolute idiocy is the only way I can describe it.  You do provide the TBM diversity of thought and perspective that is invaluable to ME and the topics discussed.  Keep on pissing me off.  I love it.  And honestly I am glad you’re on the podcast.       

    • Greg Rockwell Reply

      Mike is great, even if he pisses me off, too.  

      I appreciate anyone who is willing to stand up for what he believes in and engage in a conversation about it. 

      • Cwald71 Reply

        Yep.  ME needs the “Mikes”  to keep the podcast entertaining and to have a “villain” to cheer against.  🙂    Generally Mike’s comments just make me laugh because they are so ridiculous.  However, because of the “bitter tone” and aggressive nature of this podcast, I found myself feeling bad for the guy.  He took a hell of beatin’ – which I think he deserved, but……  Hope he will come back and remain a part of the panel.  To quote John, “thanks for taking one for the team.”

        • Fred W. Anson Reply

          Yep, just like Spiderman needs Green Goblin, Superman needs Lex Luthor, Batman needs The Joker, and the X-Men need Magneto, Mormon Expression needs Mike Tannehill. 100% agreement. 

          This would be a much duller place without Mike “Spearchucker” Tannehill takin’ one for Team TBM from time-to-time.

  11. Eric Reply

    I have to say that, while I agreed with pretty much everything Greg said, his tone doesn’t work well.  It’s an alienating tone that only preaches to the choir.  George and Heather had to keep reigning him in while also agreeing with him.  It was kind of odd.  But I still did enjoy the discussion, mostly because this really is one of the worst talks.

    • Greg Rockwell Reply

      Unfortunately Eric, I totally agree with you.  

      John Larsen told me when I first met him (and asked to get involved) that he doesn’t like to bring in “newbies” because they need to mellow out and get through some stuff.

      Although I really really want to be involved, I understand his comment.  It’s hard to listen to yourself sounding like an a**hole.

      • Cwald71 Reply

        Yeah – I could hear the anger and bitterness, which almost made me feel bad for Mike at times.  Your message was great and right on —- the delivery needs a bit work.  🙂  Not that I could do any better.

        All in all – a decent podcast IMO.

      • Eric Reply

        Yeah, I hear what you’re saying about being a newbie.  I still think you had some really great points.  Thanks for doing this.

  12. jeremy Reply

    Loved this podcast as well. As I’ve quoted before…. “It is error only, and not truth, that shrinks from inquiry.”

  13. Fence Sitter Reply

    I loved Heather’s comment about how it must be okay to focus on the positive’s of a wild weekend when talking to her parents and leave out the negatives hahaha!  While the podcast didn’t always stay focused, I enjoyed hearing all the various thoughts you each had including the rants.  I did feel for Mike being the only TBM but I was glad to hear George and Heather cover for him a few times.  I have a lot of respect for Mike coming on these podcasts and I hope he continues despite a lot of criticism.

  14. Wes Cauthers Reply

    I thought this was a great discussion of the Packer talk. It makes no sense that suppressing, ignoring, overlooking, covering up or “moving past” true events that took place in Mormon history or any history is “accomodating the enemy”. Something came up in the podcast that I think makes this point well:

    Heather compared the polyandry of JS with the polygamy of Abraham and said, “this is a conversation you could have with Christians though and say that Abraham is discredited because he had a concubine.” There are some major differences here that I wanted to point out.

    First, the story of Abraham is openly recorded in the Bible and there is no attempt to hide or cover up what took place. Second, his purpose in sleeping with Hagar was specifically to have a child (although it sure didn’t sound like he was having his arm twisted to sleep with another woman) because Sarai was barren and this was a common practice in the Ancient Near East. Finally, this entire incident was due to a lack of faith on the part of Abraham and Sarai because they did not believe they would be able to have a child in their old age, even though God promised that they would. Thus, Abraham was “discredited” from the very beginning. He also has a number of other less than flattering things recorded about him, as do the vast majority of Biblical characters. The Bible is very honest about the humanity of its characters and makes no attempts to whitewash. In the case of JS and Mormon History in general, there has been a deliberate attempt to cover up the less than flattering details which is what this whole podcast was about.

    • Anonymous Reply

      While I agree that Mormon history and Joseph Smith’s life are completely whitewashed by the church, I don’t accept that Abraham’s polygamy was some sort of weakness and that god didn’t approve.  No offense, but I think it is a loophole created by modern Christians to get their god off the hook for allowing women to be treated as property by those who were supposedly doing his work.  I also don’t accept that polygyny was only practiced by those whose wives were barren.  Polygyny is a common mating strategy of the human species throughout the history of time.  I would even contend that societies that claim to be monogamous are actually polygynous AND polyandrous because people have affairs and/or are serially monogamous.  The propagation of one generation’s dna to the next has always been a messy affair.  Puns not intended.  haha.

      • Wes Cauthers Reply

        Heather,

        You disagree that Abraham’s actions were a weakness that God didn’t approve of and say it is a loophole created by Christians to get God off the hook for allowing women to be treated as property by those who were supposedly doing his work.  A few thoughts in response:

        God does not command Abraham to sleep with Hagar nor does he command polygamy anywhere else in the Bible (there is an exception in the case of situations where a husband dies and his brother is obligated to take care of the surviving wife and her family with the purpose of protecting her from destitution and poverty which was inevitable in the ancient world when that happened).  This is very different than the account in D&C where it is commanded. 

        You state that God “allowed women to be treated as property by those who were supposedly doing his work” and I actually agree with you on a certain level.  God gave human beings free will, including the Israelites, and we have taken that down some very dark paths.  The Israelites were God’s chosen people, not because they were righteous but because of Abraham’s faith, despite his unrighteousness.  He made a covenant with Abraham that through his flawed offspring would come a hope (Jesus) for the salvation of humanity.

        Another important point is that God does not take sin lightly.  The Bible makes it clear that there are consequences for our choices and that justice will be served.  Sometimes that justice is delayed but it will happen.  At the same time, God is also merciful.  It seems impossible that both of these could exist simultaneously but they are ultimately harmonized on the cross where God himself suffers on our behalf.

        • Anonymous Reply

          I got into a long argument with Fred Anson over this in the comments for the top ten criminals podcast.

          If the Christian god had the morality that modern Christians claim he has then he would have excoriated Abraham for engaging in polygamy; Abraham would have fallen out of god’s favor; and god would have found someone else with whom to make the “Abrahamic covenant.”  The Old Testament is replete with examples of leading men who do things that offend modern/Western standards of decency.  Not only does god not condemn those actions, but he “calls” those men to be his spokesmen and receive bountiful blessings.  That’s pretty damning evidence that the god of the Bible is OK with it all.  Or…. it’s evidence that the bible is a series of fables written by an ancient people and reflects the morals and mores contemporary to their society.  I’m sure you can figure out which one I believe.  😉

          • Wes Cauthers

            What exactly is the morality you’re referring to that modern Christians claim God has?  As I mentioned in my earlier posts, the vast majority of Biblical characters are deeply flawed (just as all humans throughout history have been) and if moral perfection were the requirement to be used by God, no one would qualify.

            I think you have set up a false dichotomy by saying either God is OK with with everything that is recorded in the OT or it’s merely a series of fables.  While I think it is clear that much of what is recorded does in fact reflect the morals and mores contemporary to the Ancient Near East, it doesn’t mean God approved of everything they did.  There are many instances in the OT where God brings judgment on his own chosen people for their injustice towards the poor, etc.  Are you even willing to consider the possibility that he worked through a flawed humanity to ultimately bring about our redemption?

          • Anonymous

            Are you saying that I’m wrong to assume that modern Christians believe that their god is against a man having sex slaves?  What about forcing a woman to marry her rapist?  What about incest?  What about cutting off the hands of thieves?  Christians believe their god is hunky dory with all those things?

            Also, you’re building a straw man by saying that I expect moral perfection from those god chooses to be his spokesmen.  I never said anything about moral perfection.  My point is that, in my opinion, Christians have 4 choices:

            1. Their god approves of the accepted behaviors in the Bible (slavery, concubines, inferiority of women, etc).
            2. God didn’t care enough about those issues to speak up about them (tacit approval).
            3. Modern Christians impose a view of morality on god that he hasn’t been shown to have.
            4. The Bible is fable written by an ancient people with a more primitive moral landscape.

            I accepted that god worked with a flawed humanity for years and eventually came to a point where I could no longer bend my mind into the pretzels required to accept the premise.  As I’ve mentioned in comments on earlier podcasts, I investigated Christianity with several different people (all of whom are highly educated in religion) while still a Mormon and always found it to be illogical at best and repugnant at worst.

          • Wes Cauthers

            I am saying that it’s wrong to assume that God approved of everything that was recorded in the OT just because he didn’t explicitly condemn it.  Using that logic, the list of condemnations would have to be infinite because anything left out would mean tacit approval.

            You never used the words moral perfection, but you did say that a “moral” God should have excoriated Abraham for engaging in polygamy, that he should have fallen out of God’s favor because of it and that God should have found someone else with whom to make the “Abrahamic Covenant.”  I am not trying to build a strawman, but merely pointing out that you are saying that people called by God must somehow be “worthy,” which is a very Mormon way of thinking.  In fact, I believe that way of thinking is exactly why the unflattering aspects of Mormonism have been covered up by the church, because JS, BY and other Mormon leaders were anything but “worthy.”  I think the exact opposite is true of the Bible which does not try and cover up anything.

            I also think that trying to impose 21st Century Western standards on people from the Ancient Near East denies the reality of the world they lived in which was vastly different from ours.

            From this conversation and after reading the discussion between you and Fred from the Top 10 Criminals podcast, it’s clear that you’ve made up your mind on this so please know that I have no desire to beat a dead horse and I too will leave you in peace.

          • Anonymous

            I think you’re building a straw man on the issue of tacit approval too.  I think a reasonably comprehensive list would suffice.  After all, god took it upon himself to start a list to begin with and he felt coveting was important enough to include.  Why not slavery?  Concubines?  Incest? Not forcing a woman to marry her rapist? Actually… he DID take the time to instruct people on that one and the instruction isn’t what many people would call moral.  Heck, he took time to instruct people on what to eat and what to wear but he completely overlooked some SERIOUS moral issues.  If being thorough is too tall an order for an omniscient god, then perhaps he shouldn’t have created so many sins and so much human frailty.  He should have only created as much sin as he could handle instructing people on. 

            (Honestly, I think the morality of the Bible is the biggest indicator of who actually authored the book and why.)

            Also, I was unaware that the Christian god held different people to different standards based upon when/where they were born.  If that is the case, then why should modern people use the bible as a guide for anything?  Take, for example, homosexuality.  Why should our modern world be held to the same standard as people from the Ancient Near East?  Doesn’t that deny the reality of the world we live in which is vastly different from theirs?

            Anyway, I agree with you on the issue of worthiness.  It’s definitely a Mormon point of view and it’s one I don’t mind having.  I think they’re right.  Interestingly, though, I think Mormonism has the best case for the whole “working with imperfect people” bit since it maintains that god was once an imperfect man himself.  Christianity doesn’t have that “out.” 

            Out of curiosity… do you believe in the Bible literally?  Are you a young earth creationist?  Believe the flood really covered the whole earth?  etc etc?

            You don’t have to leave me in peace.  When Fred and I were duking it out I was busy in the real world and in a bad mood so I didn’t have the time or wherewithall to debate.  But I like verbal sparring.  So feel free to keep pushing the issue.  Well, feel free to keep pushing the issue if the only reason you’re doing it is the fun of the discussion.  If you’re only doing it to convert me you’re wasting your time and I’m sure you have more important things to waste it on.  🙂

          • Anonymous

            I so agree with you Heather.  I utterly fail to see even the slightest justification for concluding that The Bible is any more likely to contain the infallible word of God than anything else that has ever been written.  It contains both history and mythology, both truth and error, both sense and nonsense.  Insisting that something is necessarily true merely because it says so in The Bible is even more foolish than denying that there is anything that is true or valuable in it.

          • Fred W. Anson

            Gunnar, while I understand your points may I ask if you’re willing to consider other perspectives or is your mind made up and that’s that? 

            I’ve wasted too much time hammering nails into concrete to be inclined to waste any more time doing so again. And when I was an Atheist I prided myself I prided myself on my ability to bend the nails of Theists on my heart of stone – I hope that you’re not in the same place that I was. 
            (which of course was the “Atheist Tank” to pull a metaphor from my recent blog) 

            I would also add that I thought that Wes’s reply to Heather above was quite good. 

          • Anonymous

            Specifically, what other perspectives do you have in mind?  What plausible justification can you give me for concluding that The Bible is anything more than just another work by fallible humans?

            My mind is not entirely closed to the possibility that there might actually be such a thing as God and some kind of afterlife, but based on evidence so far available to me it seems extremely unlikely.  This does not make me particularly happy, but that has absolutely nothing to do with whether or not it is true.

            If it comes down to a choice of believing in a God that condoned or permitted the horrible atrocities committed by his “chosen people” in the OT or believing in no God at all, I unhesitatingly choose the latter!  Whether God actually condoned or commanded these atrocities or not, it seems abundantly clear that the authors of the OT at least implied that he did.  If they were so badly mistaken about that, how can I trust their judgment concerning anything else they said about God–including His very existence?

            Do you claim to know for sure that there is a God?  If so, on what basis can you claim such certainty that does not make you sound as unreasonable and closed minded as any Mormon bearing his testimony of the truth of Mormonism?

            As you surely know by now, I also have a huge problem with the concept of Christ’s Atonement.  It makes no sense to me that God would sacrifice himself (or his son) to himself to save mankind from punishment that he himself intended to deal out.  Also the story of Christ’s resurrection and the empty tomb just doesn’t ring true at all.  Think about it long and hard, and if you can’t see why, I will be glad to explain it to you.

            I admire you very much and greatly value the friendship that has developed between us.  We agree on many things, but so far, I am far from persuaded that Christianity is any less a product of pure human imagination than any other religion.  If I were to join any other religion, it would probably be Budhism.  There is no religious leader I respect and admire more than the Dalai Lama.

          • Fred W. Anson

            Well for a start, one has to consider the possibly of metaphysical explanations. Now notice I didn’t say that one has to accept metaphysical explanations – however, one has to be open to the possibly that they exist. 

            I’ve found that this is generally where Atheists get off the bus – and I understand, when I was an Atheist that was my stance as well.  Like many ExMormons I was mad, angry, and embittered anything BUT empirical explanations for everything. 

            However, I am no longer an Atheist because I, like the Dalai Lama, believe that empiricism has limits and that metaphysics are, indeed, a distinct possibly.  In fact, like the Dalai Lama, I believe that the probability for metaphysics is high. In fact, I would argue that empiricism leads us to that conclusion implicitly – but NOT explicitly. 

            However, I can’t prove that the metaphysical exists any more than I can prove that God does.  I wouldn’t even try – it’s a pointless exercise.  And trying to discuss Theology without that concession is an equally pointless exercise. 

            I hope that helps clarify. 

          • Fred W. Anson

            Oh, BTW, I never religion get in the way of relationships.  So we’ll be cool regardless. 

            I too value our friendship and points of commonality.

          • Anonymous

            Do you think that I never considered the possibility of metaphysical explanations?  If “metaphysical” explanations give us useful guides that reliably predict real outcomes, or lead us to real and demonstrably true knowledge and insight are they then not also empirical?  If they don’t reliably predict outcomes or lead to demonstrable truth, of what real use are they?
             
            If by metaphysics you mean knowledge that we do not yet have or things we do not yet understand (even things that may be forever beyond our understanding), I agree that the metaphysical exists.  This does not necessarily imply the existence of a supreme being that we might call God.  Much that was once explained by invoking metaphysical explanations is now better understood by modern, empirical science.  Who knows how much else that is now assigned to the realm of the metaphysical will eventually fall into the bailiwick of science?

          • Fred W. Anson

            Thank you. I was challenging you ONLY because I have wasted countless hours trying to reason with Atheists who reject any and all appeals to reasoned metaphysical explanations  (please note the word “reasoned” there) simply because metaphysics were involved. Not only do I want those hours back, but I refuse to wheel spin going forward.  

            I would also point out that one of the frustrations of dealing with exMormon Atheists is that they presume to fully understand Christian Theology and the Bible because they were Mormon.    In reality they only understand Christian Theology and the Bible as filtered through Mormon presuppositions. 

            I would point to Wes’s interaction with Heather above and our recent interaction on James 1:5 in the “Mormon Tank” discussion thread as examples. 

            Therefore, I would propose this to you and all other exMormons for consideration:  
            Maybe, just maybe, the Bible isn’t saying what you’re so damned sure that it is.  

            I’m going to reply to one of Heather’s posts above to illustrate either later today or tomorrow.  I’m working on the next installment of my “My Life As A Mind Control Cultist” series right now but I’ll get to it on a break – I promise. 

          • Anonymous

            Hey Fred,

            Maybe, just maybe, the Bible isn’t saying what you’re so damned sure that it is. 

            “Reasoned metaphysics.” Lolz.

            John

          • Fred W. Anson

            It’s always a possibility John. 

            Are you willing to admit the same?

            And I’m endeavoring to show the exMormon Atheist stance some degree of respect. I would appreciate it if you would do the same.

          • Anonymous

            Fred,

            Your behavior has been stellar. No need to think otherwise. Say whatever you will. Please don’t take my response as disapproval.

            And yes the bible may be saying something other than what I think it is. But one is left to wonder, why use as a guide a book that is so easy to misunderstand? The very fact that it produces the diversity of conflicting opinion throws it into question as a valid source of direction, metaphysical or otherwise.

          • Anonymous

            @johnmormonexpression:disqus 

            The very fact that it produces the diversity of conflicting opinion throws it into question as a valid source of direction, metaphysical or otherwise.

             A hearty amen to that!  That is precisely the problem I have with relying on the Bible. I have to ask again, what compelling justification is there for supposing that the Bible is any more likely to contain the word of God than anything else that has ever been written?

            I respect and even revere the Bible as a source of information about the beliefs and attitudes of our ancient forebears which has even given some valuable clues about their history, but even some believers such as Wes acknowledge that it is not infallible and that its authors were sometimes mistaken.  I am sure that Fred acknowledges that as well.

          • Fred W. Anson

            John, I agree with you.  I admit that it puzzles me why the Bible isn’t clearer as well.  And I agree that this lack of clear concise communication has given rise to Christian schisms, sects, and cults throughout history. 

            I wish that it weren’t so but it is. 

            The Rabbis and Christian leaders has said throughout history that it’s to keep us from worshiping the Bible and truly rely on God and I think that while there’s some truth to that it’s a less than fully satisfying answer. 

            There are a lot of things that puzzle me about God – which is good because it causes me to struggle and, as I think you all know by now, I (like Abraham, Isaac and Jacob before me) like the struggle. 
            (And it appears that I’m being indented off the page!)

          • Anonymous

            I second what John said.  Please don’t ever think that we don’t value your contributions to these discussions.  You have brought a great deal of insight and wisdom to this forum.  I’m sure that John and many of the rest of us find that we agree with you more often than we disagree.  If you left, you would be sorely missed.

          • Fred W. Anson

            It’s always a possibility John. 

            Are you willing to admit the same?

            And I’m endeavoring to show the exMormon Atheist stance some degree of respect. I would appreciate it if you would do the same.

          • Anonymous

            I am looking forward to seeing your response to Heather and seeing how she responds in turn.

          • Fred W. Anson

            Upon reflection I have decided not to respond. Wes’s response was sufficient. 

            Perhaps down the road I’ll jump in with what I was going to say, but not now. 

          • Wes Cauthers

            You said you like verbal sparring and that I should only keep “pushing the issue” if I am doing it for the fun of discussion and not if I am trying to convert you. Well, my purpose is neither verbal sparring nor conversion, but mutually respectful dialogue. Most of my comments on this site are in response to something said on the podcast that somehow relates to the person/message of Jesus because it really bugs me how much Mormonism bastardizes and skews it/him.

            Believe it or not, I really do empathize with people like yourself who leave Mormonism and choose Atheism as the only viable option. However, it is my opinion that you are simply trading one “tank” for another, to reference one of Fred’s recent blogs. No doubt, it is your opinion that I am doing the exact same thing with Jesus. Perhaps, but it’s important to me that people at least know exactly what it is they are accepting or rejecting regarding Jesus and in my experience this is rarely the case with those who leave Mormonism because of the skewed teaching about him that they have been indoctrinated with.

            Now, to respond to your comments:

            You said a reasonably comprehensive list of condemnations who suffice. According to who? The problem is that there are numerous opinions about what should and shouldn’t be included and someone could always find something they feel was omitted and thus tacitly approved of. Your reasonably comprehensive list would not necessarily be theirs.  Not only that, but I think there are a number of categories (racism, sexism, etc.) we have in our time that people in the ancient world had absloutely no concept of.  That doesn’t mean they were exempt from loving their neighbor, it just means they did not have that concept to work with.

            You accuse God of “creating so many sins and so much human frailty” and that he “should have only created as much sin as he could handle insrtucting people on.” God is not the author of sin and had humans trusted him from the beginning, there would be no “instruction” necessary. In fact, the entire Bible would have been unnecessary and human suffering would have been nonexistent.  The law exists only because we chose to do things our own way. The original scenario was one of perfect enjoyment of God and each other…we had purpose and knew no shame. Mormonism teaches something very different by saying God really wanted us to disobey him even though he told us not to, etc.

            You said that the morality of the Bible is the biggest indicator of who authored it and why. If it’s just simply ancient fables by the Israelites, why does it include God judging them as a nation on numerous occasions? That certainly doesn’t make them look very good and I can’t see any reason why they would put that in there. Is it possible that perhaps God works with people where they’re at and hopes to move them in a better direction over time? Again, I don’t think you realize how much of an improvement the morality of the OT actually was compared to the even more severe brutality that existed in the ancient world. For example, “an eye for an eye” was a huge step in the direction of justice since it was more like “an eye for a life” before that. It’s easy for a 21st Century Westerner to dismiss parts of the OT as barabric myths when you have virtually no other knowledge of what things were like back then. I think you’re also ignoring large sections of the OT that you would agree with (justice for the poor, etc.) as well as completely different genres altogether like the wisdom literature.

            You asked why modern people should use the Bible as a guide for anything since God supposedly holds people to different standards based on when/where they were born. A few thoughts on that.

            The OT theocracy of ancient Israel was never intended to be a model for all people throughout history of how things should always be. For example, gentiles were never expected to keep the Jewish ceremonial laws. God’s relationship with ancient Israel was something unique and unprecedented in human history. Followers of Jesus understand the Old Covenant (which included only Israelites) in light of the fact that he came to usher in the New Covenant (open to all people) which supersedes and replaces the old one because his life, death and resurrection fulfilled it. He lived a perfect life and was the perfect sacrifice that all the OT animal sacrifices foreshadowed and pointed towards. While the OT only partially revealed who God was, Jesus gave a much more complete picture.   He sums up the entire law and the prophets by saying love God and love others.

            I appreciate your honesty regarding the issue of worthiness in saying that you agree with Mormons on that. I think this really is what most separates Mormonism from the person/message of Jesus. You said that Mormons have the best case for the whole “working with imperfect people” because their god was once an imperfect man himself but there are a number of problems that also go along with that. True, we don’t have that “out” but neither do we have the guilt and pressure associated with constantly trying to do all we can do (how can you ever know when you’ve done enough?) to earn our way to the CK. Instead, we have an extremely self-giving and generous God whose love for us was so great that he planned from the beginning to humble himself and join us in enduring the pain of the human experience and then sacrifice himself on our behalf even though he was perfect and under no obligation to do so.

            You asked if I believe the Bible literally and my answer is that it depends on which part you’re referring to. The Bible is a compliation of numerous documents written by different authors from different time periods spanning thousands of years. Each writing needs to be understood in the context in which it was written. The Bible is definitely not a science textbook, nor was it meant to be read as one, so on the specific examples you asked about, I don’t think it necessarily follows that the earth is 6000 years old or that the flood covered the whole earth. For things that we have undisputed evidence for (i.e. the existence of the Jews, the fact that Jesus was a real person, etc.), obviously my answer would be yes. I think there are a number of stories in the Bible where focusing on literality completely misses the whole point of the story.

          • Anonymous

            I appreciate your frank acknowledgement that not everything in the Bible can be or ought to be taken literally.  That is certainly much more reasonable than the stance of some Christian fundamentalists who insist that every word in the Bible is necessarily true and inerrant.  I suspect that even some of the authors in the Bible would have been apalled at how literally some of today’s fundamentalists take what they wrote.  In particular, the books of Job and Esther were most likely written as works of imaginative poetry or fiction that even their authors did not intend for anyone to take as literally true.

          • Anonymous

            I didn’t bail out of one tank into another.  I applied the same external tools to the tank of Christianity that I applied to the tank of Mormonism and decided that I’d rather stay out in the open air of atheism where I know the readings of my instruments aren’t being muddled by the presupposition inherent within religion.  🙂 

            Please see above for my full response to your comment.

          • Wes Cauthers

            If you’re trying to say that you’re exempt from presuppositions as an atheist, once again we’ll just have to agree to disagree. 🙂 

            See below for my full response as well.

  15. ryan love Reply

    heather said she wanted to read “joseph smith fought polygamy” by richard price. richard price isnt much of a scholar and the book is very dry. richard owns a book company which sells another book which is much more interesting, its called “the temple lot case” you can by it online from “the restoration bookstore” its a 40 dollar book and its worth every penny. its a collection of court testimonies from a court case that was fought over the temple lot. its an amazing book, im not sure whether joseph smith practiced polygamy or not but i do know from reading the book joseph smith the 3rd was convinced his father was not a polygamist. its really a great book, wilford woodruff lies on the stand and during the judges  ruling he calls the RLDS church the church that was founded by joseph smith.

    • Anonymous Reply

      That sounds like an interesting book.  Thanks for the heads up about JSFP.  I’m disappointed it will be a dry read.  Basically, I’m interested in seeing what “evidence” these folks have for their claims.  It will take a lot to change my mind.  But I’m trying to remain open to the possibility.

      • Fred W. Anson Reply

        Heather you can read the entire self-published book online here: http://restorationbookstore.org/jsfp-index.htm

        I’ve read as much as I could without either falling asleep or falling on the floor with hysterics at some of their ridiculous claims and absurd conclusions.  

        It’s not a very good book and clearly bears the marks of a dogmatic RLDS splinter group “Joseph Smith, Jr. was never, never, never engaged in polygamy!” agenda (it’s my understanding that the authors belong to such a group) 

        Never-the-less they managed to cite some interesting sources so if you can stay awake between laughing fits you can find some interesting jewels from time-to-time. I’ve cited from it occasionally for that reason alone. 

        But, really, I shouldn’t be too hard on the book since, after all, it WAS researched in the Library of Congress and we all KNOW that anything researched in the Library of Congress MUST be “gold”!  We know this because they went to the actual trouble of taking actual pictures of themselves doing research as irrefutable evidence!  Whoa!!!
        (tongue firmly in cheek)

        • Anonymous Reply

          The validity of Mormonism didn’t hinge on polygamy for me.  So I don’t really have a dog in the did JS polygamy/polyandry fight.  The reason I’m interested is that I don’t think anyone can truly ever know what happened in history.  I think we can only ever have a general idea based upon the amount of evidence available (records, first hand accounts, etc).  Basically I’ve heard claims that all of the “evidence” for JS sexual escapades came decades after his death and could easily have been constructed by BY.  The likelihood is obviously low.  But still, I’m open to investigating the possibility.

          • Fred W. Anson

            Understood.  I don’t think that the “Joseph Smith Fought Polygamy” book will convince anyone to change their stance – it’s pretty pathetic to be quite honest. 

            However, it does seem to accomplish what it was intended to do:  Give those in RLDS splinter groups that still hold to the dogma that Joseph Smith never practiced polygamy a reason to relax and continue to hold to that stance despite the ever higher mounting stack of evidence to the contrary. The only people that I’ve ever seen cite from this book (other than myself) were all RLDS/CoC members. 

            I thought that this Amazon review was especially to the point and on the mark: 

            This book is not unimportant, especially to those in the Reorganized / Restorationist LDS [Mormon tradition] cultures centered primarily in Independence, MO who cling to the notion that the founder of The Church of JESUS CHRIST of Latter-day Saints was never personally a revealer, teacher or practitioner of Polygamy. Rather, that he was a ‘victim’ of a conspiracy within the Mormon church in IL to introduce it. This despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary, documented in scholarly works during the past decade alone… The book is nicely bound and printed. Would that it’s content were as praiseworthy and historically accurate. Any serious student of LDS [Mormon] History will immediately recognize that to accept the authors interpretive theories requires tremendous leaps in logic with regard to their inferential conclusions about evidence at best circumstantial and at worst completely out of context.
            ( http://www.amazon.com/review/R22AD1F84FME7H/ref=cm_cr_dp_perm?ie=UTF8&ASIN=1891353055&nodeID=283155&tag=&linkCode= ) 

            And, of the timing of the publication was no coincidence – it was 3-years after “In Sacred Loneliness”. Anyhow, I would just recommend that everyone read it for them self and draw their own conclusions – they now have the link and it doesn’t cost a dime, and for a book that’s selling for $175-299 on Amazon to boot!

  16. Fred W. Anson Reply

    BTW, we have a typo in the header for this podcast page: ‘Episode 153b: “The Mantel is Far, Far Greater Than the Intellect” for Dummies Part 2′

  17. JT Reply

    Dear Heather, Greg, Garen and Mike,

    Terrific job.  Thank you all.  

    As Greg so aptly expressed near the end (in his response to Heather saying “I feel we were all over the place.”)

    “[This talk] is so central to the conversation…”

    Heather, something you said near the end of Part 2 reminded me of a 2007 episode from Mormon Matters (Episode 12, Inoculating the Saints with Blake Ostler, et al).   

    If part of the connection I made was the sound of your voice, then it was you who asked Ostler a question concerning the problematical nature of “using your heart.”

    I found your question as profound and moving as Ostler’s answer was shallow and infuriating.

    You said:

    “I was brought up to find truth only with my heart as a child and a young teenager. And so as I got older and started using my mind and started to think more about my faith, I didn’t so much feel betrayed by the church as betrayed by my own heart – by myself. And so, I am in the process of trying to learn how to trust feelings, my heart – things like that – in finding faith. Again, so my question would be if any of you have experienced that – if you have felt betrayed by your own feelings and how you dealt with that.”

    I was a new listener I left my response on John Dehlin’s “comment” page.
    If you care to read it you’ll find it under “JT” at:

    http://mormonstories.org/?page_id=541

    I include a transcript of your question and Ostler’s answer.  I think it adds a little to what was said here.

    Best wishes,

    JT

  18. JT Reply

    At some point toward the end of my pissed-off phase post-apostasy phase I discovered Spinoza and his mantra:  

    “”Non ridere, non lugere, neque detestari, sed intelligere!”

    (Note to laugh, not to lament, nor to detest, but to understand)

    It’s a slight improvement over “serenity now! serenity now!”

    I think you all did a good job keeping it civil and, as been said before, we’ve got to admire Mike for his contribution to this even though his comments are the ones that start me chanting Spinoza-isms.

    I recently had an exchange with Dan Peterson over in Mormon Stories Podcast postings that reminded me how different the world looks from either side of the faith divide.  It relates directly to this podcast.

    I presented Dr. Peterson with a few passages from a 2004 FAIR conference talk by the LDS Historian Davis Bitton (now deceased).  The title of the talk was “I Don’t Have a Testimony of Church History” (It is available on-line).  To me they were clearly problematical – but not to him.

    I copy them below (the paper can be Googled).  I’d enjoy reading responses (with Spinoza in mind)

    “There is nothing that requires the conclusion that Joseph Smith was a fraud.  How can I say this with such confidence?  For the simple reason that the historians who know most about our Church history have been and are faithful, committed members of the Church.”

    “[For] many Latter-day Saints it is sufficient to know that faithful historians … do not accept the interpretations and conclusions of would-be destroyers of the faith.”

    “I suppose this is a message to those Church members who have such tender eyes and ears that the real history of real people comes as shock and awe. ‘Oh, no’ they whine. ‘This can’t be true… My message in many cases is, ‘Please! Don’t speak until you know what you are talking about. Or, if that sentence is too long, try this: Grow up.”

    “There is nothing in Church history that leads inevitably to the conclusion that the Church is false.”

    • Greg Rockwell Reply

      JT,

      The Bitton quotes are fascinating.  

      I’m in agreement with you, so preaching to the choir, but I will say on the final quote that I comprehensively believe that EVERYTHING related to polygamy inevitably leads to the conclusion that the Church is false.  The former day corrupt teachings are compounded by present day dysfunctional teachings regarding sexuality on EVERY level.  

    • Hermes Reply

      “There is nothing in Church history that leads inevitably to the conclusion that the Church is false.”
      Then we LDS should stop pretending that there is historical and empirical evidence leading inevitably to the conclusion that it is true (as long as one asks “with real intent” as opposed to faking it).  Man, these Bitton quotes drive me crazy.  The guy has no psychological depth at all.  Telling the other guy to grow up might have worked in junior high, when you were arguing about whose girlfriend was prettier, but in the real grown-up world you need a real grown-up argument (building a solid case for polyandry as the will of God or decisively undercutting its historicity).  In the real world we need information, not emotion and authority (the vibe I get from Bitton: “I am one of the few elite with privileged access to real information about Mormon and Christian history which the rest of you mere mortals cannot hope to benefit from as long as you refuse to admit that I am right!”).

      Bitton may have been a nice man.  He may have done important work in preserving Mormon history.  For that I appreciate and thank him, but I’ll pass on the condescension.

  19. JT Reply

    The apologetic argument that shields the LDS “truth” claims by admitting to it’s prophet’s imperfections is empty unless:

    (1) the person making the argument can admit to some type or degree behavior that he or she could deem as disqualifying (or even count as disqualifying evidence), and

    (2) the person allows other religions using the same argument in support of their truth claims the same justification.

    Otherwise, the person is not engaging in a rational argument and should admit and come to terms with this.

    The bar for point (1) is set pretty high by such things as murder/execution (Laban) and polyandry (Joseph), though I am sure these would play well in the modern Church.

    Point (2) relates to what John Loftus calls the “Outsider Test of Faith” (OTF) and seems to expose the deepest divide between the mindsets of believers and non-believers.   In other words, the rationality and empirical strength of OTF is as powerful and salient to the former believer as it impotent and irrelevant to the believer.

    Point (2) also relates how believers have a lot of trouble acknowledging or registering the implications of psychology with respect to belief (even though many uncritically cast about for folk-psychological reasons for apostasy). 

    The implications on the modern psychology of belief (also cognitive science and neuroscience) are as faith-shaking as neo-Darwinian evolution and the “incredibly shrinking Book of Mormon material evidence gap.” But this requires that these even gain a foothold (neural circuitry) in the target brain.  (They can have indefinitely long “shelf-lives”).

    But, as this podcast conversation brought out, there seems to be no better means of opening a person’s mind to alternative perspectives and reassessment of tribal certainties as feelings of betrayal, exploitation, disrespect, and/or marginalization.   

    Of course, none of these things prove LDS Church claims are false.  Rather, they lead to a bifurcation of mindsets, with the disaffected experiencing greater objectivity and clear-eyed critical assessment and the other finding justification for accusing the disaffected of spirit-deprived delusion.  

    I think it is valuable to explore asymmetries in these two outcomes.  One that I see is in epistemological paradigms.  Apostates almost never allows themselves to go beyond rational assessments of the evidence.  They work from a position of probability-based plausibility and are willing to live with remnants of uncertainty (i.e a naturalistic/scientific approach).  This contrasts with the believer who will try to play by the same rules, but never consistently.  He or she will always has a back door held open by the Holy Ghost – a “higher” unassailable spiritual source of ultimate primacy.

    This asymmetry means that the conversation will always reach an impasse.  It might be better, and more intellectually honest, for the believer to have enough faith to give up his or her pretentions to play by the rules of rational argument and for the non-believer to be sensitive to how his or her feelings biases their arguments.

    I do not mean to suggest that the inevitable impasse means the two sides not even bother engaging.   Interested on-lookers (like the ME audience) who are in a “tip-able” position need to take it in and choose for themselves which position feels right for them.  This is why we need Mike on the show and, if possible, tough-skinned and confident representatives positioned across the belief spectrum.   

    I’ve gone on too long.  Again, thanks to all.  This was a terrific Mormon expression.

    • JT Reply

      Oops… I meant to say

      “though I am sure these [execution and polyandry] would NOT play well in the modern Church.”

    • Greg Rockwell Reply

      JT, what a fantastic comment!  

      I will admit I’m struggling at the moment on the question of engagement.  Is there any value in engaging when the impasse is so great?  Am I doing any good?  Am I doing harm?  If I admit that it helps me think through my own positions and life (so it benefits me), does that benefit offset whatever damage is being done to others?  Does it offset the damage being done to my interpersonal relationships?

      On the other hand, not engaging is ultimately a variety of condescension, which I am concerned about… (it may not show in the moment, but I am highly concerned about it).  

      Fantastic thoughts… thank you.

      • Carson N Reply

        It is not useful to worry too much about being condescending, because inevitably you will ask yourself if you are being condescending by attempting to not be condescending and you will experience a sort of anti-epiphany in which your brain will go dark for a few moments as it reboots itself, leaving you with nothing at all to say in the end.

  20. Anonymous Reply

    It is both remarkable and unfortunate that GAs like BKP are unable to see how talks like that only further damage the credibility of LDS historical claims and doctrine in the minds of anyone not already predisposed to believe them.

  21. Troy Reply

    Great podcast.  I think Heather and Gregg did a great job of hosting and it was really good to hear from George (Garren) and Mike again.  It seemed like it took the panel about 5 minutes to get its bearings, but then they were off and running and the postcast was a very enjoyable listen.  Great job all.

  22. John Moore Reply

    My dad died 10 years ago, when I was on my mission.  When I came home, I read his journal from his mission and college years.  Despite the fact that I was an exceedingly obedient and so-called “successful” missionary, his honest recording of his foibles were the most valuable part of his journal to me.

    Because life is real, religion needs to address reality if it is to be something more than a social club.  Mormonism seems to have decided to address itself to the problems of people very different than me – people for whom “be positive” will be enough advice to solve their problems.

  23. SamBaUSA Reply

    Great podcast.  With Heather at the helm, I think we can avert a succession crisis if John ever decides to retire.

    Quick comment – thanks to Mike for coming on.  I sense he is getting worn out and fear we might lose his perspective.  I hope not.  Still, that won’t stop me from piling on a bit….

    He said more than few times that church historians and leaders need to focus on the positive and ignore the negative or non-faith promoting.

    Each time I heard that I wondered if he feels that same way about his investment portfolio.  The SEC has pretty firm stances on public companies that try to do just that.  If you are going to take public’s money, you have to tell them what the risks are for their investment.  You can’t focus on the positive and ignore the negative. That’s called fraud.

    Its a bad analogy I know, we’re talking about a religious organization, not a for-profit pubic company.  But I think the principles of honesty, integrity and being forthright apply… especially for an organization that wants 10% of your income for the rest of your life.  For them to “ignore” or de-emphasize the negatives (or the “risks”) is not acceptable and not honest. 

    • Fred W. Anson Reply

      Sam, IMO that’s not a bad analogy at all.  After all with a religion you’re investing something far precious than just money: You’re investing your life. 

      And to pull out (for the umpteenth time) one of my favorite Richard Packham quotes: 
      “If someone claims to have the truth you should probably first check to see if they’re lying to you.”

  24. Anonymous Reply

    Mike is a case study on how cult members can be taught to consider lies as good and truth as bad. Very sad and very frustrating.

  25. Anonymous Reply

    Wes – I’m moving the discussion to the top level because the
    replies are getting to narrow for my liking. 
      

     

    —–

     

    Here’s the problem with both the comprehensive list and the
    human frailty discussion.  You don’t
    think god is culpable for human sin and I do. 

     

    You say god is not the author of sin and that had “we”
    chosen to follow god there would be no sin. 
    I say that, according to Christian theology, god created us to be what
    we are.  The Christians god is supposedly
    omniscient.  All knowing and all powerful
    and whatnot.  If this is the case then he
    created human frailty.  We could not have
    “done things our own way” unless we had been created to do so.  The only other option I see is that the
    Christian god couldn’t/didn’t foresee the consequences of his design
    (plausible, given the Bible verses that say god looked down and was sad about
    creating us).   That would render the Christian god…. uh…. a smartypants
    term for not omniscient.  Haha.  Either way, if the Christian god is real,
    then he is culpable for what he created whether or not he intended for us to be
    the way we turned out.  (I contend that
    it’s morally reprehensible for that god to then punish us for eternity for
    being exactly what we were created to be. 
    But eternal damnation is beside the point…. for this conversation,
    anyway.)

     

    You said the law was needed because we wanted to do things
    our own way.  Christian theology relies
    on eternal principles of right and wrong. 
    The Christian god is supposedly a supremely moral being – not a being
    who has evolved to have better morals now than he used to have.  That being the case, the rules of morality
    that you embrace and expect others to embrace must be eternal and must be
    applied to all people in all times or we go back to god holding different sets
    of rules for different groups of people and the question of why the modern
    world should be held to the same standard as the ancient one encoded in the
    Bible.  One can’t say god didn’t put
    certain things in the list of commandments because the ancient people didn’t
    have a concept of them.  That is holding
    them to a different standard than he holds us and, AGAIN, begs the question why
    we should use the Bible now if it was written to the minds and morality of an
    ancient people.   I know you say the Old Testament wasn’t
    intended to be the standard for the world and that we should look at the New
    Testament and what Jesus taught.  But,
    you still have the problem of god being silent on all the things I’ve already
    mentioned and Christianity uses the Old Testament whenever it suits their
    purpose.  If Christ released the world
    from the rules of the Old Testament, then none of the rules in the Old Testament
    should ever be held up as standards to live by.  Yet, rules in the Old Testament get bandied
    about all the time.  It’s cherry picking.

     

    So, I take back my comment that a reasonable list would
    suffice and I accept your premise that,  1- God gave the law because we wanted to do
    things our own way and 2- the list would have to be infinitely long.  If God’s going to give humans “the law” then
    yes, that law should include every damn sin possible (including swearing, haha)
    or he’s giving his tacit approval to that action.  If God’s silent on the issue then he isn’t
    giving a law about it and it’s hunky dory. 
    He’s the one who started a list in the first place!  It’s unreasonable to then claim that making
    it thorough is too hard a job or too big a job. 
    He’s the one who is condemning people to hell for eternity for
    committing sins!  This burden is
    his.  If the job is outside his reach
    then he shouldn’t have taken it in the first place.  Or, at the very least, he shouldn’t be sending
    people to hell just because he’s making a mess of being god.  (Yes, I’m completely aware of the Christian
    concept of grace and how people won’t go to hell for sin if they believe.  I’m aware I’m looking at this from a Mormon
    perspective of works.)

     

    As for the constant judgment against Israel being proof of
    the bible’s divine origin, I think Richard Friedman did a much better job
    explaining the origin of the bible than I can ever do.  “Who Wrote the Bible” lays it out pretty well.  The Israelites had to explain why their
    prophecies had failed (that they would always be in power, etc) and things were
    written / re-written to do so.  “Looking
    good” isn’t the sole motivation for why things are created.  Like I said, Friedman does a much better job
    explaining it than I do.  Also, I know
    you accept god working with an evolving morality, but I don’t.  I don’t think evolving morality is compatible
    with the notion of an eternal god with eternal justice.  You can claim it works.  But I don’t accept the claim.  You can say it fits into your theology.  But I think it’s forcing a modern round peg
    into an ancient square hole.  The same
    thing goes with your views on god’s laws to the Jews.  You see god preparing a way to bring the
    savior to the earth by working with a select group.  I see an ancient people who, with their ancient
    minds, believed they were better than other tribes around them because an
    invisible man in the sky favored them over others.  You can claim your theology says
    otherwise.  But I think it’s a biased
    modern interpretation – biased because it’s interpreted a specific way to
    support a pre-determined outcome.

     

    (Side note: How is it fair that god holds me accountable for
    the choices Adam and Eve made?  Wouldn’t
    a just god give everyone the opportunity to live in the Garden of Eden in
    perfect enjoyment of each other?  Why did
    Adam and Eve get to make that decision for the billions upon billions of people
    who have lived and who will ever live? 
    This isn’t a Christian concept I’ve ever thought about before.  But now that I have, it’s another reason I
    can’t believe in the god you propose.)

     

     

    • Wes Cauthers Reply

      Good call on moving the discussion. The narrowing replies are difficult to read.

      In a nutshell, you are basically saying you can’t believe in an omniscient God who also allows free will (and by that I mean a will with the potential to go in a direction he does not desire). While I agree it seems incomprehensible that an all-knowing deity would create beings with free will whom he knows all along will choose against him, it’s even more outlandish that this same deity would also plan all along to make everything right again by becoming one of these beings and then sentencing himself to suffer and die on their behalf by allowing them kill him. This goes back to the grace that is absent in Mormonism and that you admit to not being a big fan of. Followers of Jesus believe that God is love and without the freedom to choose, there is no love. The cross actually allows for the freedom to choose at God’s own expense.

      Your second paragraph illustrates well the difference between a Mormon way of thinking and what I have been trying to communicate throughout this discussion. You said that “Christian theology relies on eternal principles of right and wrong.” Actually, Christian theology relies on the love of God which was most clearly evidenced on the cross (again, grace rearing its ugly head). You then talked about how the rules of morality I embrace and expect others to embrace must be applied to all people at all times. You made a lot of assumptions there about me that are both misleading and inaccurate. First, as a follower of Jesus, my main concern is loving God and loving others, not embracing rules of morality and expecting others to do the same. While that may be a great description of Mormonism, it’s a very poor description of following Jesus and living out what he taught. In fact, that’s exactly what pharisess were all about and when Jesus called them on it, they killed him.

      You said “my premise was that God gave us the law because we wanted to do things our own way and that the list would have to be infinitely long.” A few clarifications about my “premise” which I think you have misunderstood. When I said God gave us the law because we wanted to do things our own way, I was referring to something Paul talks about in the NT when describing the purpose of the law. He bascially says that the purpose of the law was to expose our sin and rebellion against God. The intent was never for us to “follow all the rules” and then declare ourselves righteous because we checked off everything on the list. Again, that’s exactly what the pharisees did which totally misses the point. Righteousness comes only by faith and not by works. This cannot be emphasized enough. Also, here is my original statement to you about the “infinitely long list”: “Using that logic, the list of condemnations would have to be infinite because anything left out means tacit approval.” The statement was made in response to the logic you were using and was in no way supportive of such an idea which again is the polar opposite of what Jesus is all about.

      As for “who wrote the Bible,” I have not read that book, but I have read the Bible. I am not familiar with any prophecies that say Israel would always be in power but it’s certainly possible I missed something. I do know of several instances where God judges them for things like injustice towards the poor which had nothing to do with prophecy. I actually completely agree with you that Israel believed they were better than those around them which was another example of humans completely missing the point. God didn’t call them because they were superior, in fact Deuteronomy 6:7 refers to them as “the least of all peoples.” The intent was to call them as a distinct people, a nation who pointed others towards God. Isaiah 49 in particular says they were to be “a light for the Gentiles, that [God’s] salvation might reach the ends of the earth.”

      I’m sure we could keep going back and forth on this stuff forever, but it’s probably best just to agree to disagree at this point…yet again. 🙂

    • Wes Cauthers Reply

      Good call on moving the discussion. The narrowing replies are difficult to read.

      In a nutshell, you are basically saying you can’t believe in an omniscient God who also allows free will (and by that I mean a will with the potential to go in a direction he does not desire). While I agree it seems incomprehensible that an all-knowing deity would create beings with free will whom he knows all along will choose against him, it’s even more outlandish that this same deity would also plan all along to make everything right again by becoming one of these beings and then sentencing himself to suffer and die on their behalf by allowing them kill him. This goes back to the grace that is absent in Mormonism and that you admit to not being a big fan of. Followers of Jesus believe that God is love and without the freedom to choose, there is no love. The cross actually allows for the freedom to choose at God’s own expense.

      Your second paragraph illustrates well the difference between a Mormon way of thinking and what I have been trying to communicate throughout this discussion. You said that “Christian theology relies on eternal principles of right and wrong.” Actually, Christian theology relies on the love of God which was most clearly evidenced on the cross (again, grace rearing its ugly head). You then talked about how the rules of morality I embrace and expect others to embrace must be applied to all people at all times. You made a lot of assumptions there about me that are both misleading and inaccurate. First, as a follower of Jesus, my main concern is loving God and loving others, not embracing rules of morality and expecting others to do the same. While that may be a great description of Mormonism, it’s a very poor description of following Jesus and living out what he taught. In fact, that’s exactly what pharisess were all about and when Jesus called them on it, they killed him.

      You said “my premise was that God gave us the law because we wanted to do things our own way and that the list would have to be infinitely long.” A few clarifications about my “premise” which I think you have misunderstood. When I said God gave us the law because we wanted to do things our own way, I was referring to something Paul talks about in the NT when describing the purpose of the law. He bascially says that the purpose of the law was to expose our sin and rebellion against God. The intent was never for us to “follow all the rules” and then declare ourselves righteous because we checked off everything on the list. Again, that’s exactly what the pharisees did which totally misses the point. Righteousness comes only by faith and not by works. This cannot be emphasized enough. Also, here is my original statement to you about the “infinitely long list”: “Using that logic, the list of condemnations would have to be infinite because anything left out means tacit approval.” The statement was made in response to the logic you were using and was in no way supportive of such an idea which again is the polar opposite of what Jesus is all about.

      As for “who wrote the Bible,” I have not read that book, but I have read the Bible. I am not familiar with any prophecies that say Israel would always be in power but it’s certainly possible I missed something. I do know of several instances where God judges them for things like injustice towards the poor which had nothing to do with prophecy. I actually completely agree with you that Israel believed they were better than those around them which was another example of humans completely missing the point. God didn’t call them because they were superior, in fact Deuteronomy 6:7 refers to them as “the least of all peoples.” The intent was to call them as a distinct people, a nation who pointed others towards God. Isaiah 49 in particular says they were to be “a light for the Gentiles, that [God’s] salvation might reach the ends of the earth.”

      I’m sure we could keep going back and forth on this stuff forever, but it’s probably best just to agree to disagree at this point…yet again. 🙂

      • Anonymous Reply

        It’s not that I can’t believe in an omniscient god who would give people free will.  It’s that I don’t think it’s free will if those who choose not to follow are “burned in hell” for eternity.  That’s not free will to me.  That’s a shell game created by a despot.  “I created you so that you can bow down at my feet for eternity or burn in hell.  But hey!  You get to choose!”  I didn’t get to choose my creation.  I was thrown into this shell game by force and both choices are reprehensible to me.  Christian eternity sounds like a horror movie nightmare to me.  I can’t fathom being happy spending eternity worshiping, loving, or even just enduring the presence of “someone” who sent my loved ones for hell for eternity.  No thanks.  I’d rather burn with my loved ones.

        • Wes Cauthers Reply

          I agree that the way you have characterized it sounds awful and I don’t blame you at all for finding it reprehensinble. Unfortunately, that’s exactly how things have been communicated far too often. It’s pretty clear you have made up your mind about this, so even though I think the way I understand it is a lot different than what you have described, I don’t think it would be productive for me to continue trying to explain that at this point. 

          I am curious what free will would look like in a way you would find acceptable? 

          • Anonymous

            Honestly?  The Mormon version, basically… well, the Mormon version as I understood it and minus polygamy.  haha.  Various levels of heaven based upon where one would be happy given who they are and what they want.  I really connected with there essentially being no hell in Mormon theology.  I LIKE works based salvation.  And yes, I’m aware there are issues with the Mormon eternity.  I don’t believe in it either.  But it’s still the version I would find acceptable.

          • Wes Cauthers

            Yes, I was honestly curious since you said you were not necessarily opposed to an omniscient God who gives people free will.  After reading your response, I also read your bio for this site which says you aspire to be a NOM, something I did not realize.  This interaction with you makes a lot more sense to me now.  🙂

          • Anonymous

            Well….. even though that bio isn’t very old, it’s out of date.  I’m no longer aspiring to be a NOM.  I’m an atheist/apatheist.  I think we’re done when we die.  It’s just that I think Mormon theology is more tenable than Christian theology in a lot of ways.  🙂 

          • Wes Cauthers

            It makes sense you would think that given your previous aspiration to be a NOM, your affinity for works based salvation and your disdain for grace.  I guess in my mind it’s an all or nothing package and I just never got the whole “cafeteria” style approach to Mormonism which seems completely untenable to me, given numerous exclusive claims made by LDS prophets, seers and revelators.

    • Fred W. Anson Reply

      Great job Wes, just one comment and then I’m done as well. 
      (and I do hope upon hope that I’m not hopelessly drifting this thread with this tangential point – please forgive me if it does) YOU WROTE”As for the constant judgment against Israel being proof of the bible’s divine origin, I think Richard Friedman did a much better job explaining the origin of the bible than I can ever do.”MY RESPONSEAnd Richard Friedman is quick to point out that his work is scholarly speculative and still not entirely conclusive.  He is also quick to correct others when they overstate his work and draw unmerited conclusions from it. And he has been doing so since his book was published and became a best seller.  I have now heard several atheists on this board cite from Friedman across several threads as if his book is . . . well . . . divine canon.  I would politely ask you all to qualify your statements regarding his work as he does rather than quoting it like canon law.  Ditto for Bart Ehrman — even though in Ehrman’s case he HAS turned overstatement and exaggeration into high art – but I don’t want to drift this thread so I mention it only in passing) 

      Neither man’s work comes as any great shock to any knowledgeable student of the Bible and,  in fact, most of the “hidden evidence” that they point too have been known, talked about, debated, dissected and re-dissected and then talked about and debated again.  This has been an ongoing dialog since the German higher criticism movement of the late 18th and early 19th Centuries. 
      In fact, the body of evidence is so well known and open that you will find notes about it in the margins and footnotes of many Scholarly Study Bibles.  For example, my beloved New Jerusalem Bible (a Roman Catholic translation to boot!) has footnotes indicating which source ( “J,” “P,” “E,” and “D”) scholars like Friedman believe particular  Old Testament passages came from. The New Testament of that same study Bible cites which passages it is believed were derived from the hypothetical “Q”. No knowledgeable Christian denies any of this and in fact, we embrace it as worthy of our time, attention, and study.  Friedman  doesn’t feel that his work degrades Biblical integrity but challenges us to look at it from outside the “True Believing Tank”.  This is an assessment that I wholeheartedly agree with! I say this because it seems to me that very often some (not all) Atheist ExMormons project LdS Church style cover ups and conspiracy theories to the Biblical authors that, IMO, are simply unmerited.  For example, Friedman has been quick to point out that those who degrade the integrity of the Biblical do  so at their own peril as the body of manuscript and archaeological  evidence continues to grow and many past theories have been left on the dust bin. For  example in this video he discusses the theory that David was a mythical figure akin to, say, Robin Hood.  That theory was discredited by two pottery shards with the inscription “House of David” written in the exact form of Hebrew and found at the exact strata level that one would expect for the Davidic period were it historical:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cYt3oom0pJgFriedman explains that despite this new evidence many Biblical Scholars still reject David as a historical figure. He explains (paraphrasing), “Some people just aren’t going to change their mind no matter what!” 

      And that pretty much sums up feeling on this recurring debate – for both sides. 

      However, I think that everyone has had their say at this point. Perhaps this would be a good place to put this on hold until John posts the long rumored, often referenced, not-yet-posted podcast on Friedman’s book, “Who Wrote The Bible”. 

      My name is Fred, thank you for letting me share.

      • Anonymous Reply

        And after all this discussion and debate I have yet to see or hear any plausible justification for supposing that the collection of ancient texts that have been compiled into what we call “The Bible” is any more likely to contain the word of God than anything else that has ever been written.

  26. Elder Vader Reply

    My favorite quote from the podcast.  “My mantle is far far greater than your intellect.”  

  27. Amber Reply

    OK, I am clearly way behind on podcasts but I wanted to add my voice to the (mostly) positive mix: I found this to not only be a fascinating discussion, but an invigorating response to so many of the things I have been thinking for the past 3 months.  Yes, the quote on part B, “I can’t rely on what you call the Spirit,” almost made me cry from relief because THAT is how I feel when so many people tell me to pray more, read my scriptures, etc.  Thank you, thank you, THANK YOU Heather, Greg, Garen (George?) and Mike for this podcast.  And Mike?  It is super nice to have an alternative voice in this series, it helps keep us crazy apostates under control.  Haha.

    • Richard of Norway Reply

      Awesome comment! Thanks for sharing. It’s so good to hear from people that get something out of these. Makes all the work worth while. Thanks for sharing and good luck with your journey! 🙂

    • Fred W. Anson Reply

      And Lawd knows how we apostates need to be kept under control!  Otherwise we might hurt ourselves with all that worrisome thinking, reasoning, and application of logic! 

      😉

  28. Zèle Chyrème Reply

    Doesn’t Mike known that the Catholic church has actual priests, who officiate baptisms in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, as well as other sacraments, and that it holds the Pope to be the successor of St Peter the Apostle, therefore possessing – along with the universal college of bishops, under him, when unanimous – Apostolic authority, as well as being the Vicar of Christ on Earth? The only real fundamental formal differences are that (i.) the Catholic rites are not a mish-mash of free-masonry and 19th century so-called restaurationist hermeneutical innovations, and (ii.) the prophets thing in Mormonism, which is its flakiest attribute by far, with legion of prophecies having been proven false in the past, and a resulting absence of prophecies today.

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