Richard Alger

Personal Online Journal

Friday, September 15, 2017

Monday, September 04, 2017

"It either occurred or it did not occur"

"Our whole strength rests on the validity of that vision. It either occurred or it did not occur. If it did not, then this work is a fraud. If it did, then it is the most important and wonderful work under the heavens." ("The Marvelous Foundation of Our Faith", Gordon B. Hinckley Oct 2002)

"Inquiries from honest searchers after truth should always be welcomed. Intelligent learners, in any field of knowledge, ask for explanations as problems appear in their studies. Indeed, the questions asked often mark the degree of proficiency attained. Those to whom no problems occur are asleep at the wheel of truth."
(John A. Widtsoe, Evidences and Reconciliations, p. ix)

“The doctrine of the Church cannot be fully understood unless it is tested by mind and feelings, by intellect and emotions, by every power of the investigator. Every Church member is expected to understand the doctrine of the Church intelligently. There is no place in the Church for blind adherence.”
~John A. Widtsoe, Evidence and Reconciliations, p. 226

“The man who cannot listen to an argument which opposes his views either has a weak position or is a weak defender of it. No opinion that cannot stand discussion or criticism is worth holding. And it has been wisely said that the man who knows only half of any question is worse off than the man who knows nothing of it. He is not only one-sided but his partisanship soon turns him into an intolerant and a fanatic. In general it is true that nothing which cannot stand up under discussion or criticism is worth defending”
~James E. Talmage, Improvement Era, Jan. 1920, p. 204

“If faith will not bear to be investigated; if its preachers and professors are afraid to have it examined, their foundation must be very weak.”
~George A. Smith, Journal of Discourses, Vol. 14, p. 216

“Man must learn to know the universe precisely as it is, or he cannot successfully find his place in it. A man should therefore use his reasoning faculty in all matters involving truth, and especially as concerning his religion. He must learn to distinguish between truth and error.”
~John A. Widtsoe, A Rational Theology, p. 8

“Now I have mentioned freedom to express your thoughts, but I caution you that your thoughts and expressions must meet competition in the market place of thought, and in that competition truth will emerge triumphant. Only error needs to fear freedom of expression. Seek truth in all fields, and in that search you will need at least three virtues; courage, zest, and modesty. The ancients put that thought in the form of a prayer. They said, 'From the cowardice that shrinks from new truth, from the laziness that is content with half truth, from the arrogance that thinks it has all truth—O God of truth deliver us’.”
~Hugh B. Brown, BYU Speech, March 29, 1958

Saturday, September 02, 2017

Forgiveness Analogy

I have changed numerous dirty diapers. Some individuals whose diapers I changed as infants are now adults. I have not literally forgotten the soiled diapers, but it is not something I bring up in casual conversation (except when I am making this point). While I don’t bring the soiled diapers up to remembrance, it isn’t as though I might conclude that my children somehow never had soiled diapers.
("Rage and Forgiveness", Meg Stout, 1 Sep 2017, Millennial Star Website)

This is a vivid example. I relate to it as the changer and the soiler.

Thursday, August 31, 2017

What is Marriage?

From Tom Stringham. He replied to a FB post.
"What's a marriage then? What's irreplaceably missing in a same-sex marriage?" 
I've written about this before, but to answer your questions briefly: marriage is, in form, a permanent, sexually exclusive union of a husband and wife. What's missing in a same-sex marriage (so to speak) is a husband, or a wife. 
"Most of us take it for granted that homosexual marriage is possible; it's a matter of allowance." 
Maybe that's true, but in my experience it's not, and people who affirm the gendered/conjugal definition of marriage like I do are almost universally misunderstood. It's not that we accept the modern formulation of marriage as a formalization of attraction and love but don't want gay people to have that--it's that we have a different view of what marriage is. 
You can see all this pretty plainly in "The Divine Institution of Marriage", which Bryce attempted to respond to in his blog post. There's very little about orientation, nothing about attraction in it. There's only one reference to love in the romantic sense. 
Rather, the claim is that marriage is an institution which is sociologically fundamental "for transmitting to future generations the moral strengths, traditions and values that sustain civilization". There are thirty or so references to children in the document. 
The church is quite clearly trying to communicate a view of what marriage *is*. 
"One purpose of this document is to reaffirm the Church’s declaration that marriage is the lawful union of a man and a woman." 
"Marriage is far more than a contract between individuals to ratify their affections and provide for mutual obligations. Rather, marriage is a vital institution for rearing children and teaching them to become responsible adults." 
It even specifically refutes the idea that this is about "allowing" or "rights": 
"In view of the close links that have long existed between marriage, procreation, gender and parenting, same-sex marriage cannot be regarded simply as the granting of a new “right.” It is a far-reaching redefinition of the very nature of marriage itself." 
"The Church’s affirmation of marriage as being between a man and a woman “neither constitutes nor condones any kind of hostility toward gays and lesbians.”[25] Church members are to treat all people with love and humanity. They may express genuine love and kindness toward a gay or lesbian family member, friend or other person without condoning any redefinition of marriage." 
(See "The Divine Institution of Marriage", Mormon Newsroom, Accessed 31 Aug 2017)
We've all been saying this stuff for years.
 See also


Godlessness of the Gaps?

At what point does confidence that life can arise from inanimate matter via undirected natural causes become a kind of faith — a faith not all that different from religious belief or an ideological commitment?  At what point might we plausibly begin to speak of a “godlessness of the gaps”?  Will it ever be appropriate, here or with regard to analogous questions, to consider at least the possibility of an intelligent agent?  If so, when will that time come?  When might we be able to say — and, mind you, I’m not necessarily saying it now, with regard to abiogenesis — that scientific openness has become ideological rigidity?

Offer a New Framework

Here is a quick understanding of how an LDS member might experience Fowler’s Stages of Faith model: 
Stage 1: “Heavenly Father gave me a nose and a family!” (Toddler age learning)
Stage 2: “Follow the Prophet, Follow the Prophet, Follow the Prophet, he knows the way!” (Primary age learning)
Stage 3: “This is the True and Living Church restored by God in a perfect way.” (Black and white learning)
Stage 4: “The Book of Mormon was mainly translated from a seer stone?!?!?! If this is true I’m going to have to figure out a new way of structuring my faith in order to fully benefit from what the gospel offers.”
Stage 5: “I love how much nuance there is in the gospel and the history of the restoration. It challenges me with new questions the lead me to a new understanding of the gospel.”
Stage 6: Jesus Christ was at stage 6 and He was at the highest level of charity and was only focused on love and justice. ("Being an LDS Leader Comfortable With Doubt: 8 Tips to Help Those You Lead Who Doubt", Leading LDS, 30 Aug 2017) 


Friday, August 25, 2017

"If we have truth, [it] cannot be harmed by investigation. If we have not truth, it ought to be harmed."

I love this quote,

"If we have truth, [it] cannot be harmed by investigation. If we have not truth, it ought to be harmed."
(J. Reuben Clark, as recorded by D. Michael Quinn, J. Reuben Clark: The Church Years. Provo, Utah: Brigham Young University Press, 1983, p. 24)

Here is it in context.
By 1917, however, Reuben was asking himself some religious questions that took him years to resolve. In one personal memo he began, "If we have truth, [it] cannot be harmed by investigation. If we have not truth, it ought to be harmed." From that premise he added the observation that scientists and lawyers (like himself) were not blindly believing and that they must refuse to be deceived by others or by their own wishful thinking. "A lawyer must get at facts, he must consider motives -- he must tear off the mask and lay bare the countenance, however hideous. The frightful skeleton of truth must always be exposed ... [the lawyer] must make every conclusion pass the fiery ordeal of pitiless reason. If their conclusions cannot stand this test, they are false." During the same year the increasingly introspective lawyer asked himself the questions: Are we not only entitled, but expected to think for ourselves? Otherwise there does our free agency come in? His answer was a resounding: "If we are blindly to follow some one else we are not free agents.... That we may as a Church determine for ourselves our course of action, is shown my the Manifesto [abandoning the practice of polygamy]. We may not probably take an affirmative stand, i.e., adopt something new but we may dispense with something." Perhaps he had never before questioned the assumptions that lay behind some of the simple faith of his youth, but at midlife J. Reuben Clark, Jr. proclaimed that there must be no forbidden questions in Mormonism. 
The directions to which his philosophy of religious inquiry led him were indicated in his musings about two essentials of Mormonism: the revelations of Joseph Smith, Jr. and the Church belief in progression toward godhood. As he examined the revelations in the Doctrine and Covenants concerning the structure of the Church government, Reuben Clark wondered to what extent Joseph Smith's reading or experience, "his own consciousness," had contributed to what he set down, and when Reuben pondered the Mormon belief in the potential of individuals to attain the godly stature of their Father in Heaven, his logical mind boggled a bit. "Is Space or occupied portions of it divided among various deities -- have they great 'spheres of influence'? War of Gods -- think of wreck of matter involved -- if matter used -- or would it be a war of forces?" In his mid-forties, he regarded these as legitimate doctrinal inquiries but soon realized that each question concerning doctrine led to other questions, each of which was further removed from rational verification. Reuben soon came to the conclusion he described in later years to the non-Mormon president of George Washington University: "For my own part I early came to recognize that for me personally I must either quit rationalizing ... or I must follow the line of my own thinking which would lead me I know not where." 
But J. Reuben Clark soon recognized where an uncompromising commitment to rational theology would lead him, and he shrank from the abyss. "I came early to appreciate that I could not rationalize a religion for myself, and that to attempt to do so would destroy my faith in God," he later wrote to his non-Mormon friend. "I have always rather worshipped facts," he continues,"and while I thought and read for a while, many of the incidents of life, experiences and circumstances led, unaided by the spirit of faith, to the position of the atheist, yet the faith of my fathers led me to abandon all that and to refrain from following it.... For me there seemed to be no alternative. I could only build up a doubt. --If I were to attempt to rationalize about my life here, and the life too come, I would be drowned in a sea of doubt." 
All the confidence of J. Reuben Clark's commitment to rational inquiry in religious matters evaporated. He had once believed that in intellectual faith "we may not probably take an affirmative stand, i.e., adopt something new but we may dispense with something," but Reuben found that such an attempt could only lead to dispensing with everyting [sic]. As he cast about for some way of explaining his position to others, he discovered an anecdote about Abraham Lincoln, who justified reading the Bible despite his reputed agnosticism with the comment: "I have learned to read the Bible. I believe all I can and take the rest on faith." To a friend, Reuben related the Lincoln story and added, "Substituting in the substance the words 'our Mormon Scriptures,' you will have about my situation." He later commended that anecdote to a general conference of the Church. Convinced that no religious faith could withstand uncompromising intellectual inquiry, Reuben concluded that in Babylon as well as in Zion, the refusal to rationalize one's religious beliefs was the highest manifestation of faith. 
(J. Reuben Clark: The Church Years by D. Michael Quinn, Provo, Utah: Brigham Young University Press, 1983, pages 24-26, link to page photos)

"All of it"

I am listening to "Tough Questions about Mormon Polygamy - Brian and Laura Hales". This quote by Brian Hales stood out to me.
Well, the Gospel Topics Essays are really helpful because they’re dealing
with controversial topics that we never really talked about, or if you tried
to talk about them just a few years ago, people would think that you were
a heretic in church. Also, I’ve had a couple of conversations that have
impressed me, that the church is committed to this. 
One was with Elder Stephen Snow, as the church historian. I had noticed
how much material, scanned documents, the church is now making
available, without charge, for download by any researcher on the church
history library’s website. It’s amazing, it’s staggering the amount of
material that you can now download from that site. I complimented him
on that, and he just said simply, “Transparency is important; the internet is
allowing the church to do many things it couldn’t do before.” 
I also had a conversation with the church historian, who related how he
had asked President Uchtdorf of the first presidency, “How many of these
documents should we make available online?” President Uchtdorf
reportedly said, “All of it.” I’m sure that won’t include church discipline
and temple items, but what President Uchtdorf is reflecting is that the
church can withstand scrutiny. That’s why we’re willing to put up all these
documents and let the critics as well as the believers have access to them. (Transcript)
It reminds me of this quote “If we have the truth, it cannot be harmed by investigation. If we have not the truth, it ought to be harmed.” -- J. Reuben Clark

And this,
"Our homes are not as strong unless we are using [The Book of Mormon] to bring our children to Christ. Our families may be corrupted by worldly trends and teachings unless we know how to use the book to expose and combat falsehoods in socialism, rationalism, etc. Our missionaries are not as effective unless they are “hissing forth” with it. Social, ethical, cultural, or educational converts will not survive under the heat of the day unless their taproots go down to the fulness of the gospel which the Book of Mormon contains."
("The Book of Mormon Is the Word of God", Ezra Taft Benson, Jan 1988, Ensign)
It is given unto many to know the mysteries of God; nevertheless they are laid under a strict command that they shall not impart only according to the portion of his word which he doth grant unto the children of men, according to the heed and diligence which they give unto him. 
And therefore, he that will harden his heart, the same receiveth the lesser portion of the word; and he that will not harden his heart, to him is given the greater portion of the word, until it is given unto him to know the mysteries of God until he know them in full. 
And they that will harden their hearts, to them is given the lesser portion of the word until they know nothing concerning his mysteries; and then they are taken captive by the devil, and led by his will down to destruction. Now this is what is meant by the chains of hell.
(Alma 12:9-11)