Scriptures as a seed rather than a source

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Beefster
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Scriptures as a seed rather than a source

Post by Beefster » 07 Jan 2018, 09:44

I had an epiphany about the scriptures last night. For a good while, I just did not see any purpose in reading and rereading the scriptures because there is only so much information you can glean from them. I realized that there was nothing magical about the scriptures and it always bothered me that people said reading the scriptures just seemed to make their day go better when I had no such experience.

There isn't anything magical about them but there doesn't have to be. What if the purpose of the scriptures isn't just to be a source of truth? What if its purpose is more to put you in the right state of mind for receiving inspiration and revelation? Other works of literature, fiction and non-fiction, can do that as well, but perhaps none are as focused on that purpose as the Book of Mormon. Could this be the reason why the church puts so much emphasis on the BoM? (I always figured it was because that's what sets us apart from other churches. That might be part of it as well)

Before, I was trying to "get something out of the scriptures" and it rarely did anything. I couldn't stay focused and it was painfully repetitive and stale. It felt like a waste of time and mental energy. Maybe this works for some people, but it doesn't work for me.

But instead of doing that, last night, I put aside the idea that there was truth to be found in the scriptures. I didn't discount the possibility that I would find something interesting or truthful in the text itself, but I just let my mind wander as I read. The scriptures were just a starting point for my thoughts, a launching pad for discovery. The result was a much more fulfilling experience.

I realized something interesting about human nature that was a major aspect of the Nephite/Lamanite conflicts. Humans are inherently divisive. They like categorizing and labeling. Humans are instinctively tribal. There is an in-group/out-group bias in our psychology that severely gets in the way of being Christlike. So many wars and conflicts in history have been caused by this psychological phenomenon. Perhaps the Nephites and Lamanites could have avoided many of their wars if they could learn to put aside their in-group/out-group biases (much like the sons of Mosiah, though they weren't perfect at it either) and try to understand the other group instead of assuming the other was evil.

tl;dr: I've found that treating the scriptures as a seed for discovery of truth leads to a better experience than treating them as a source of truth. (It often is, but those kinds of truths are usually easy to see)
Boys are governed by rules. Men are governed by principles.

Often I hear doubt being presented as the opposite of faith but I think certainty does a better job of filling that role. Doubts can help faith grow, certainty almost always makes faith shrink. --nibbler

Roy
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Re: Scriptures as a seed rather than a source

Post by Roy » 07 Jan 2018, 11:20

Finding something that works for you can be golden. There is more than one way to learn truth!
"It is not so much the pain and suffering of life which crushes the individual as it is its meaninglessness and hopelessness." C. A. Elwood

“It is not the function of religion to answer all the questions about God’s moral government of the universe, but to give one courage, through faith, to go on in the face of questions he never finds the answer to in his present status.” TPC: Harold B. Lee 223

"I struggle now with establishing my faith that God may always be there, but may not always need to intervene" Heber13

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nibbler
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Re: Scriptures as a seed rather than a source

Post by nibbler » 07 Jan 2018, 12:41

Beefster wrote:
07 Jan 2018, 09:44
There isn't anything magical about them but there doesn't have to be. What if the purpose of the scriptures isn't just to be a source of truth? What if its purpose is more to put you in the right state of mind for receiving inspiration and revelation? Other works of literature, fiction and non-fiction, can do that as well ...
I view the canonical works as being books that a millions+ member book club has decided that they will talk about every week. There are many books I feel are more inspiring than our canonical works, but we don't typically discuss them during book club (church) because no one else has read them.
The night stared me in the face, amorphous, blind, infinite, without frontiers. Not a single star relieved the darkness behind the glass.
― Stanisław Lem

AmyJ
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Re: Scriptures as a seed rather than a source

Post by AmyJ » 08 Jan 2018, 14:49

nibbler wrote:
07 Jan 2018, 12:41
I view the canonical works as being books that a millions+ member book club has decided that they will talk about every week. There are many books I feel are more inspiring than our canonical works, but we don't typically discuss them during book club (church) because no one else has read them.
I like this theory. :clap:

AmyJ
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Re: Scriptures as a seed rather than a source

Post by AmyJ » 08 Jan 2018, 14:55

Beefster wrote:
07 Jan 2018, 09:44
Before, I was trying to "get something out of the scriptures" and it rarely did anything. I couldn't stay focused and it was painfully repetitive and stale. It felt like a waste of time and mental energy. Maybe this works for some people, but it doesn't work for me.

But instead of doing that, last night, I put aside the idea that there was truth to be found in the scriptures. I didn't discount the possibility that I would find something interesting or truthful in the text itself, but I just let my mind wander as I read. The scriptures were just a starting point for my thoughts, a launching pad for discovery. The result was a much more fulfilling experience.

tl;dr: I've found that treating the scriptures as a seed for discovery of truth leads to a better experience than treating them as a source of truth. (It often is, but those kinds of truths are usually easy to see)
One thing that I have started doing is applying a "lens" of study on a principle I am passionate about.

For example, I am reading the Book of Mormon for the Pathways program. So, I determined for myself that in my readings, I would focus on what it taught me about Loving God, and Loving Others (the 2 great commandments). Lehi's Dream took on a new dimension when I realized that I could learn a lot about Charity by studying what the fruit represented. The Isaiah/Nephi chapters took on additional meanings when I realized that I was writing what Isaiah taught his people about God and His love for them (and theoretically us).

Curt Sunshine
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Re: Scriptures as a seed rather than a source

Post by Curt Sunshine » 08 Jan 2018, 15:03

I gain the most when I study scriptures in one of three ways:

1) As history, whether I believe it literally is accurate or not. With the Book of Mormon, doing that has allowed me to see where members misunderstand its actual content.

2) By topic or issue, as Amy describes. It helps me get the big picture and avoid using single verses or passages to proof text scripture and distort the overall messages. It also highlights that NO scriptural record is perfectly accurate or even consistent, much less inerrant.

3) Exactly as you describe in your post, as a launching pad for contemplation. Fwiw, that is how I use the temple, primarily - as a peaceful place to let my mind wander and ponder about whatever hits me.
I see through my glass, darkly - as I play my saxophone in harmony with the other instruments in God's orchestra. (h/t Elder Joseph Wirthlin)

Even if people view many things differently, the core Gospel principles (LOVE; belief in the unseen but hoped; self-reflective change; symbolic cleansing; striving to recognize the will of the divine; never giving up) are universal.

"For every complex problem there is an answer that is clear, simple, and wrong." H. L. Mencken

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Beefster
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Re: Scriptures as a seed rather than a source

Post by Beefster » 08 Jan 2018, 17:52

Curt Sunshine wrote:
08 Jan 2018, 15:03
Fwiw, that is how I use the temple, primarily - as a peaceful place to let my mind wander and ponder about whatever hits me.
If the endowment weren't so long, ritualistic, and involved, I probably would do this too.
Boys are governed by rules. Men are governed by principles.

Often I hear doubt being presented as the opposite of faith but I think certainty does a better job of filling that role. Doubts can help faith grow, certainty almost always makes faith shrink. --nibbler

Curt Sunshine
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Re: Scriptures as a seed rather than a source

Post by Curt Sunshine » 08 Jan 2018, 19:44

The length actually helps me contemplate something deeply - or multiple things during the same session.

I know the endowment well enough to let my mind wander and still participate in the ritual as it happens. Obviously, I can think more deeply and with less distraction while the film is running, but that is the longest part, anyway.
I see through my glass, darkly - as I play my saxophone in harmony with the other instruments in God's orchestra. (h/t Elder Joseph Wirthlin)

Even if people view many things differently, the core Gospel principles (LOVE; belief in the unseen but hoped; self-reflective change; symbolic cleansing; striving to recognize the will of the divine; never giving up) are universal.

"For every complex problem there is an answer that is clear, simple, and wrong." H. L. Mencken

squarepeg
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Re: Scriptures as a seed rather than a source

Post by squarepeg » 08 Jan 2018, 21:25

This is totally how I read the scriptures. Then, if something revelatory DOES happen while I'm reading, it's just a bonus.

A few days ago, hubby and I were watching the George Harrison (the Beatle) documentary on Netflix, "Living in the Material World" and it talks about how he got heavily into Eastern religious ideas and adopted practices like transcendental meditation which uses a mantra that the person repeats over and over. George said once he repeated a mantra for three days straight while driving across Europe. That's a lot like how some of us who've been raised in the Church are with the Book of Mormon...we know it like we know our own personal history, we can quote verses effortlessly as if they were famous movie quotes...but we're told to keep reading. Some of us just feel like it no longer has anything to reveal to us. Well, maybe it doesn't...DIRECTLY...but it does INDIRECTLY when we treat it like a mantra. It's okay, and can even be good, to just let ourselves get lost in the repetition and the familiarity.

I think families like Joseph Smith's in the 19th century who were poor and didn't have much other literature at home, or entertainment options, read the Bible this way: the father or mother would pick up in the evening on whatever verse they'd left off with the previous day and just start slogging through Deuteronomy or whatever, while the family sat around the fire with the Bible as background to quiet activities like knitting, mending, whittling, etc. It's actually this very thought that makes me doubt the Book of Mormon sometimes. People say, "How could a young guy with so little education produce this book?" and I think to myself, "Because the kid grew up with KJV Bible as his mantra. It was embedded into his subconscious more deeply than a 21st century person can even fathom." But then I have to check my doubts because I read things like 2 Nephi 2:11 and I think, this is inspired...because where did Joseph Smith learn about Buddhism? (I haven't Googled that. Maybe Joseph did read about Buddhism!)

Anyway...good thoughts, thanks. Makes me want to read the Book of Mormon...again.

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Beefster
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Re: Scriptures as a seed rather than a source

Post by Beefster » 08 Jan 2018, 23:04

I appreciate the comments. I like the connection to my "new" method to meditative mantras in eastern religions. I wonder how my mission studies would have changed if I had looked at them as an extended mantra-based meditation.

I apologize if this seems like I'm taking the spotlight; I just have a lot of thoughts to sort through because Stage 4 faith sucks.

Just about every church member ever seems to harp on how awesome the Book of Mormon is and that you need to read it every day. I never really understood why. At some point, I realized it can't be for the historical value because historic literalism doesn't actually matter for it to be the word of God. Then I gave up on the idea that reading it was magical and it brought blessings for some reason. But know I'm beginning to understand a new perspective seeing it as a book divinely designed to bring the spirit and open the mind to revelation. I don't understand how it does that or why it seems to be better at it than other books, but, hey, it works.

Instead of it being "to get something out of it" or "checking boxes" or "because it magically makes my life better when I read it", it becomes "checking the fridge to see if God put some new truths in there." Maybe he did. Maybe he didn't. Maybe I notice a yogurt in there that's about to expire. Maybe a ham suddenly materialized since the last time I checked it. Or maybe it's as empty as it was yesterday. Whatever the case, it's okay. I don't expect revelation all the time. That would be silly. God expects me to live my life the best I can and make my own choices based on my understanding.
Boys are governed by rules. Men are governed by principles.

Often I hear doubt being presented as the opposite of faith but I think certainty does a better job of filling that role. Doubts can help faith grow, certainty almost always makes faith shrink. --nibbler

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