Personal Online Journal

Monday, July 29, 2013

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Find a truth in heaven, earth or hell

I want to say to my friends that we believe in all good. If you can find a truth in heaven, earth or hell, it belongs to our doctrine. We believe it; it is ours; we claim it (DBY, 2).

Sunday, July 21, 2013

In other words, light and truth

The Glory of God is (Not-Too-Much) Intelligence is a great article summing up intelligence as a Mormon.  I particularly like the description of having a high ceiling and low floor.  If you describe it in terms of academic or formal learning.

I love this comment by Ray
Yes, the title is correct – and it should be, if “not too much” means “an intellectualism which brings the person to obsessiveness or extreme pride and inflexibility”. There is a huge difference between “intelligence” (especially as our canon defines it) and “intellectualism”. 
I like the D&C clarification of “or in other words, light and truth”. That gets missed in many conversations about what it means to be intelligent within the framework of the Restoration – and it defines the heart of the tension between being intelligent and being an intellectual, as those terms are used most often by the top-level leaders of the LDS Church. Intelligence becomes about clarity and real understanding, not the accumulation of information alone. Thus, my father who hated formal education and rejoiced when he escaped high school can be more intelligent than many of the students with whom I studied at Harvard who could recite all of the information they had read in classes and debate with anyone but who had no clue what it all meant and had no clarity and real understanding of the subjects they had studied and the people around them. 
I think the Church, as an entity, encourages the type of intelligence described in the D&C – but, since it is comprised of individuals, that ideal gets emphasized, watered down or even rejected at each level moving throughout the organization. Thus, it’s difficult to make a generalized statement about “The Church” as a whole that is intelligent in nature without including a level of ambiguity that recognizes the tension of competing extremes and the widely varying mid-points most of us actually live.
And this comment by SilverRain
You lost me when you jumped from “intelligence” and “knowledge” to intellectualism. I’ve come to know quite a few intellectuals who are dumber than bricks. Intelligence isn’t just being well-read. It’s wisdom, wisdom to recognize a greater power and knowledge than yours, wisdom to apply what you learn to real life. 
“When [men] are learned they think they are wise, and they hearken not unto the counsel of God, for they set it aside, supposing they know of themselves, wherefore, their wisdom is foolishness and it profiteth them not. And they shall perish. But to be learned is good if they hearken unto the counsels of God.” 2 Nephi 9:28-29 
That pretty much sums it up.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

On Teaching Children to Question without Losing Faith

A complete quote from Papa D
For me and my kids, the most important thing isn't the questioning; it's the attitude behind the questioning. I question to learn, and I try to teach my children to question to learn.  
I draw a distinction between "doubt" and "uncertainty" specifically because I want my children to embrace the idea that it's ok to be uncertain - but I don't want them to have a "doubting spirit". In other words, I want them to be open to changes in their understanding - of everything - as they learn more, but I don't want their primary orientation to be one of disbelief. I want them to be willing to explore anything and come to believe whatever makes sense to them - but that is different than not being willing to explore some things because their primary orientation is negative and unbelieving.  
I'm not sure if that makes sense, but I think the biggest dis-service parents do for their kids in this regard (based on my years of observing parents who preach questioning and "debate" to their kids) is that they do so in a way that encourages their kids to disbelieve - rather than encouraging them to believe. 
I try to teach my children to question with the intent of discovering what they can believe (what they can accept as "true" at that time), not with the intent of discovering what they can't believe. It's the focus that matters most - the "direction of the objective", if you will.  
Let me use a specific example:  
I know someone who was raised to question everything - but it was done in a spirit of debate in which arguing and trying to convince others was the focus. This friend became very good at debating things - seeing both sides of something and making a particular argument well enough to win. He became a lawyer and was very successful - but, in the meantime, he lost his ability to really believe anything in particular. Whichever position could be argued most effectively was the position that was "right" or "true" for him. Hence, he ended up with an orientation geared toward justification, which led to all kinds of destructive beahvior, divorce and other complications in his current life. Right now, he can't shut down his "justification orientation" - and he does whatever he wants to do, since, subconsciously at best or automatically at worst, he can justify whatever he chooses to do in some way. He also can argue about it until anyone who questions him gives up and walks away, further re-inforcing in his own mind that he hasn't done anything wrong.  
His problem, as I see it, isn't that he started out with a disbelieving, justifying orientation (although that might be correct); rather, it's that he was tuaght that orientation and it was re-inforced throughout his childhood in the name of objectivity and rationality and open-mindedness. It wasn't a questioning orientation; it was something much more hard to quantify and name - perhaps a "win-at-all-costs" or "pride" or "purely intellectual" orientation. 
It's a fine distinction, I know - but it's a very important distinction to me.

Monday, July 15, 2013

We are the stuff of stars

From The Stuff of Stars
Gravity is needed to pull matter together so intensely that fusion starts and the star comes to life in the first place, yet it’s a remarkably delicate balance between the strength of gravity and the strength of electromagnetic and other forces that are required for a star to exist at all. 
Physicists have marveled at the delicate balance of fundamental properties that is required for stars to operate and make life possible.
We are the stuff of stars, but don’t stop there. Stars are the handiwork of a brilliant and loving God, or the result of unbelievably fortunate accidents. This is where a touch of faith comes in. Knowing through many personal experiences that a loving God exists, I lean toward stars as yet another brilliant product of His work rather than a crazy byproduct of randomness.

Friday, July 12, 2013

Why Hope?

We hear the phrase in the scriptures "faith, hope and charity". Gerald N. Lund had a calling to teach a monthly class on spiritual and temporal preparation. He was trying to figure out what to teach on. Here is an excerpt from his conversation with Heidi Swinton.
I had started to notice that more and more I was hearing people just talk about how tough life is for them right now. This was right when the economic crash came. We got people out of work. You are seeing retirees going back to work because they can't survive because they lost all their retirement.  
It was that and I met a man who'd been active in the church his whole life, had held a lot of positions in the priesthood and his basic response was, "you know what I've tried it all, I've prayed I've been faithful, I've served in the church, God doesn't hear my prayers. That means He doesn't care. I've had it. I'm through with it." and [he] left the church. That was the most dramatic.  
One day in fast meeting a fellow in our ward got up and basically said farewell to the ward. He said that they were going to be moving and he got quite emotional and he said that one of the the hardest thing he ever had to do in his life is try to explain tell his 16 year old son why they were moving in with Grandma.  
I was hearing all this kind of stuff, so I decided this one night I was going to do one of my classes on hope. We talked and asked, why is it faith, hope and charity? Frankly I used to think why isn't it faith, revelation and charity or faith and repentance and charity or faith, obedience and charity? 
Faith, yes I can see that. Charity yes, but why hope? And so as I started studying it, I started to sense that here was the answer to these problems. Why is it that some people...  You know we talked earlier about the strength of the pioneers and their faithfulness and so on but there are some that weren't. You don't have to read too far to find out the stories of drop out pioneers, who are facing no more difficult challenges than some of the faithful ones.  
So what makes the difference, why does one stay faithful maybe even strengthened by adversity where someone else says, "that's it I'm outta here", turns bitter and so on? That has intrigued me for a long time. It doesn't intrigue me any more. I know the answer.  
The difference is hope.  
I remember two or three conferences ago President Uchtdorf talked about hope and he defined it as trust in the promises of the Lord. He said hope is not knowledge, it's trust in the promises of the Lord.  
When you hear as I recently did of a woman who lost a teenage daughter to an automobile accident. She talked about the pain and the loss. Even now two or three years later, even the tiniest thing will set her off and she starts to cry for her loss. But she said, I choose hope. I know where she is and I choose hope.  
And I thought, "that's the difference. That's what brings the strength". And so, I decided to turn it into a book.  Probably the most difficult one I've written for some reason. A really great learning experience for me personally.
(59:33 - 1:04:20)