Life's Lessons

Public forum for topics that don't fit into the other categories.
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jmb275
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Re: Life's Lessons

Post by jmb275 » 21 May 2009, 17:15

Good thoughts Heber13. It feel like I have been in this boat before. I must admit, I certainly have a tendency to agree with you actually. And I'm not convinced that my thoughts are correct. I could be persuaded otherwise. But let me present some more thoughts for your analysis.
Heber13 wrote:I have to believe there is a universal truth out there, not something relative to each of us. If I lose hope of that, than that would derail my search for anything meaningful. I do not believe existence is random,
Well, I don't think I believe that either. But I prefer Einstein's ideas about God. Consider a few quotes:
A man's ethical behaviour should be based effectually on sympathy, education, and social ties and needs; no religious basis is necessary. Man would indeed be in a poor way if he had to be restrained by fear of punishment and hope of reward after death.
(Albert Einstein, "Religion and Science", New York Times Magazine, 9 November 1930)
or this one:
I see a pattern, but my imagination cannot picture the maker of that pattern. I see a clock, but I cannot envision the clockmaker. The human mind is unable to conceive of the four dimensions, so how can it conceive of a God, before whom a thousand years and a thousand dimensions are as one? (The Expanded Quotable Einstein, Princeton University Press, 2000 p. 208)
or this one:
What I see in Nature is a magnificent structure that we can comprehend only very imperfectly, and that must fill a thinking person with a feeling of "humility." This is a genuinely religious feeling that has nothing to do with mysticism. (Albert Einstein)
Einstein seemed to have a view that a power, force, energy, or something existed somewhere. He appreciated the order, majesty, and beauty of the world in which we live. He attributed that to a supreme entity of some kind. He just refused to opine about that entity with any detail.
Heber13 wrote:I do not believe everyone can just do whatever they want and define right and wrong for themselves. There is a universal right and truth out there of who God is and how many arms He has. There is a universal truth in acting in life that will lead to happiness, that even God must obey those universal laws, or He ceases to become God (a whole other theological discussion).
If God has to obey certain laws, does that not imply he is not omnipotent? Maybe I would believe something like "God chooses to obey those universal laws." But ultimately, I believe you take it too far here. You seem to have a bit of a black and white attitude here. Either God exists with universal truths, or we all can just do whatever we want? This ignores the entire branch of secular ethics, and the fact that many atheists are benevolent, kind, and charitable. Is universal truth what keeps a person from committing murder? I know that's not what prevents me from doing it. It's because it takes away another's right to live. I love other people and so I don't want to hurt them.
Heber13 wrote:How do I know this? Faith. I don't know for sure, but there seems to be enough evidence that leads me to believe it, so I go with that and it feels right to me.
Faith is a great thing. Is your "evidence" here based on some research, or facts, or is this a personal idea that if there is no universal truth then you think that gives people a license to do whatever they want? I submit that there are countless millions who don't believe in "universal truth" and yet don't feel that they do whatever they want.
Heber13 wrote:But that is just more evidence that something universally true is out there for all the smartest people in history searching for it through all generations, and in many respects all serious the religions boil down to the same core principles, pure religion is loving others and searching to better oneself by believing in something higher than oneself and bringing your life into harmony with "the truth", not defining truth to fit your life. I think that basic concept is the thread that runs through all religions.
Might I suggest another possibility that maybe you haven't considered. You have attributed these similarities and commonalities to a "universal external truth." What if the commonality is no more complicated than the fact we're all humans, share a similar genetic makeup, have the same psychological processes, the same conscience, etc. That is to say, what if these commonalities and parallels are the deepest manifestations of something that transcends the physical, and the best way we can describe it is with religion?

I hope I'm not coming across as just arguing. I'm just presenting ideas for consideration. I am open to the idea of "universal truth." But it seems to me there are significant problems with it. Who defines "universal truth" and how can we know it? For just about every "truth" out there, I can think of an exception. Is not committing murder a "universal truth"? What about adultery? Human sacrifice? It seems that for every "universal truth," I would hold dear, some religious person (even ones I used to believe in) broke that truth according to God's command. What does this say about "universal truth"? How are the examples of the prophets' fallibilities different than "everyone can just do whatever they want and define right and wrong for themselves"?
I am like a huge, rough stone rolling down from a high mountain; and the only polishing I get is when some corner gets rubbed off by coming in contact with something else, striking with accelerated force against religious bigotry, priestcraft, lawyer-craft, doctor-craft, lying editors, suborned judges and jurors, and the authority of perjured executives, backed by mobs, blasphemers, licentious and corrupt men and women--all hell knocking off a corner here and a corner there.
- Joseph Smith, (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, 304)

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Heber13
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Re: Life's Lessons

Post by Heber13 » 22 May 2009, 08:43

jmb275, let's see if can make a post even longer than yours!! :lol: Jk, bear with me here...
"I hope I'm not coming across as just arguing. I'm just presenting ideas for consideration. "
Hey, man...argue away. As long as its not personal attacks or hate-filled, but constructive, let's work through the different opinions...that's why I'm on this forum.
"You seem to have a bit of a black and white attitude here. Either God exists with universal truths, or we all can just do whatever we want? This ignores the entire branch of secular ethics, and the fact that many atheists are benevolent, kind, and charitable."
Point well taken to make me clarify my point, because that wasn't what I was trying to say. I was less thinking of black and white in terms of Faith in God or Athiesm as the two ends of the spectrum of universal truth, but more of the fact that there IS a universal truth that killing is wrong, benevolence is good. Whether one achieves bringing your life into compliance with those universal truths comes from athiesm or religion was not my point, only that there is truth out there and God can't change those truths, He is God because He perfectly understands all of them and has the power to live by all of them perfectly.
"If God has to obey certain laws, does that not imply he is not omnipotent?"
No, not necessarily, but it might require us to establish our philosophical definition of omnipotence. Can God create a rock so heavy even He can not lift it? That exercise can seem to present either way you are saying He can't do something, but most philosophers would agree omnipotence is not doing anything imaginable, but having power to do anything possible, which again establishes there are universal laws that define what is possible and what is not, and within those bounds, God can do all. There are also other factors to consider, like my view of His characteristics are that he is Omnipotent, Omniscient, and Omnibenevolent (to name the major ones off the top of my head). This means he may have power to do anything, but He would not choose to go against things that would then not make him Omnibenevolent, and I would never tempt Him to show me such. Christ's crucifixioners tempted Him, that if He was the Son of God, come down off the cross. He didn't. Not because he couldn't, but He had a plan to follow through with which He needed to comply with for His purposes, not because He couldn't have done it. I simply know there are universal truths that define what Omnibenevolent is, and have faith He would not violate those universal laws because He is God and I must have trust in Him.
"A man's ethical behaviour should be based effectually on sympathy, education, and social ties and needs; no religious basis is necessary. Man would indeed be in a poor way if he had to be restrained by fear of punishment and hope of reward after death. (Albert Einstein, "Religion and Science", New York Times Magazine, 9 November 1930)"
Einstien is an idiot and doesn't know what he is talking about. I mean, think about it, if I make a boneheaded mistake at work, my boss says, "Nice Job, Einstein" - that isn't a compliment that I'm smart, is it? (Just joking, that is comedy material from Brian Regan, my favoriate comic).

In all seiousness, Einstien was smart. And if he figured a way to live ethically with sympathy, education and social ties and needs, then he has figured it out on how to bring his life into harmony with eternal universal principles. One does not have to be Mormon to live in harmony with truth, but Mormonism is one way to bring these truths to our awareness so we can live it. Parts of Buddhism also show "the way", as well as other religions, societies, or secular learnings. Unfortunately, too much of my life I lived the truth that is out there out of fear of eternal punishment, whereas I think there is a better way to live peacefully. That doesn't mean I create my own truth to fit my life, I find a way to discover the universal truth that applies to all of us, and live it because it is the right thing to do, not because people will see me living that way, or because I fear some vengeful God will smite me if I don't, or because I selfishly want a totally pimped out mansion in heaven. :twisted:
"I submit that there are countless millions who don't believe in "universal truth" and yet don't feel that they do whatever they want."
I would agree... but now you are taking the black and white role, suggesting you either believe in a universal truth and live by them, or they don't exist. I suggest you can live those universal truths whether you believe they exist outside of you or not. That is establishing my very point, they exist independent of any of our thoughts, any of our civic laws, or any of our religions. Whether we are aware of them or not does not have anything to do with whether they eixst or not, and doesn't require us to establish we can't live them without knowing them. The bushman in Africa who teaches a child to grow up to provide for the family and have love in his heart is teaching truth whether he is aware or not. If we have a source of truth that makes us aware, we can have a better chance of living them, but many church members do not live by some truths that some athiests may have decided to live by. Similar to why you choose not to commit murder, you just know its wrong. If we can assume for argument's sake that murder is "wrong", you may choose to not commit murder. Not because you believe a universal truth exists that tells you not to, you are choosing not to do it because you don't want to do it. Whatever your reasoning in your head you use, the point is, you are living by the universal truth. The Buddhist, Hinduist, Taoist, Chirstian, or Athiest may have different reasons for why they choose not to obey the universal law, but they may be living it. Or if the murderer in jail decides not to live it, that doesn't impact wether the truth exists out there or not.
"Who defines "universal truth" and how can we know it?"
Ahhh...now the hard part. How do we know it and define it in concepts that make sense to us with limited mortal brains? That really is the question.

I think in defining it, I would love to hear more from Ray on his notion of "personal truth" vs "universal truth". That sounds like there is a pearl of great price to be understood by those definitions.

I think I am trying to come to know truth by living, experiencing, and failing. Tomorrow I may have new ideas and discard old ideas, but over time, I come back to basic truths that I hold for myself which I still believe to be universally true...like God has 2 arms.

(my brain hurts. I need to go take a break...I'll check in later to read responses).
Luke: "Why didn't you tell me? You told me Vader betrayed and murdered my father."
Obi-Wan: "Your father... was seduced by the dark side of the Force. He ceased to be Anakin Skywalker and became Darth Vader. When that happened, the good man who was your father was destroyed. So what I told you was true... from a certain point of view."
Luke: "A certain point of view?"
Obi-Wan: "Luke, you're going to find that many of the truths we cling to...depend greatly on our point of view."

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jmb275
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Re: Life's Lessons

Post by jmb275 » 23 May 2009, 14:20

Good thoughts Heber13, I enjoyed them immensely. You present a good argument.

I have a couple of other thoughts. Maybe we are simply arguing then over what universal truth is. Before I started my journey, one of my heterodox TBM ideas was that universal truth is what God is saying right now. This was the only way I could reconcile Nephi killing Laban, and other atrocities that people supposedly did under God's command.

It sounds to me like this could just boil down to beliefs. Let us define the data.
The data: we try to live our lives in a way that most of us consider to be "good."
Heber13's view (I think): there is universal truth out there and there are many ways in which we can be led to live in accordance with it.
jmb275's view: we are all human, share the same genetic makeup, and psychological processes, and hence tend toward the same things.

It seems to me that both theories fit the data with some degree of accuracy. I think there are problems with both theories.
Problems with Heber13's theory: how can we know the universal truth? this theory (I think) leads to uber-orthodox people who wish to inflict their idea of universal truth on everyone else.
Problems with jmb275's theory: people may feel this gives them liberty to do whatever they want, because there is no real right and wrong. Gives less credence to the ideas of an external God (only a negative depending on perspective).

From a practical standpoint none of this seems to really matter. We can all agree (with few exceptions) that killing is wrong. Hence, in this case, we create rules against it, and affix punishment for transgressors. But what about fornication? Is it a universal truth that fornication is bad? I would have a hard time buying into this. I think it is unwise in some respects, but given advancements in birth control, it seems like it's not nearly as big a deal as we make it. And I would submit, since sexual intimacy is a huge cause of contention in a marriage, it may be wise to find a sexually compatible mate before entering such a committed relationship.

So what would your universal truths include? Just an anthropomorphic God? Or that murder is wrong? What about Nephi who killed Laban according to God's command? God can't be disobedient to that universal truth, but he commanded Nephi to do it? What am I missing? What about fornication or adultery?
I am like a huge, rough stone rolling down from a high mountain; and the only polishing I get is when some corner gets rubbed off by coming in contact with something else, striking with accelerated force against religious bigotry, priestcraft, lawyer-craft, doctor-craft, lying editors, suborned judges and jurors, and the authority of perjured executives, backed by mobs, blasphemers, licentious and corrupt men and women--all hell knocking off a corner here and a corner there.
- Joseph Smith, (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, 304)

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Heber13
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Re: Life's Lessons

Post by Heber13 » 23 May 2009, 20:59

I am open to other ideas since I do not believe I'm smart enough to know the answers to all these questions.

But I lean more towards a universal plan or path that is just the right way to do things rather than we tend to do the same things because humans have similar genetic makeups. The latter just sounds like animals with instincts just tend to do things a certain way and I think there is more intelligence involved. Probably because of my life long indoctrination of free will and free agency. Lucifer had an idea to introduce a proposal that was just against the universal laws and God knew it wouldn't work...you know the story, I just think that is the basis of where I'm coming from.

Regarding the killing of Laban, I would suggest that all killing is not against universal laws. Killing of innocent blood would be. But self defense, or times of war, killing is involved that is not the same thing as innocent blood, or murder. With Laban specifically, assuming the account is accurate, I'd say it is a gray area, but that perhaps Laban had already threatened the Lehi boys' lives, and refused to cooperate, so it may not be innocent blood (I'm ready for you to debate that one, clearly it seems drunken on the side of the road passed out is pretty innocent, but who knows really what happened prior to that?)

Regarding fornication, I'd say the reason marriage exists is because families need structure to properly raise children. Birth control doesn't present any valid argument to me. Sex should be between man and wife only, largely because of procreation, but not solely. Its interesting marriage seems to exist in almost all cultures and throughout time, which makes me think people realize it is needed and serves society best. That's kinda my feeling of universal laws, they just are best and we benefit when we bring our life into alignment with them.
Luke: "Why didn't you tell me? You told me Vader betrayed and murdered my father."
Obi-Wan: "Your father... was seduced by the dark side of the Force. He ceased to be Anakin Skywalker and became Darth Vader. When that happened, the good man who was your father was destroyed. So what I told you was true... from a certain point of view."
Luke: "A certain point of view?"
Obi-Wan: "Luke, you're going to find that many of the truths we cling to...depend greatly on our point of view."

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jmb275
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Re: Life's Lessons

Post by jmb275 » 24 May 2009, 23:06

Heber13 wrote:I am open to other ideas since I do not believe I'm smart enough to know the answers to all these questions.
Now that I can agree with (for myself that is). ;)
Heber13 wrote:But I lean more towards a universal plan or path that is just the right way to do things rather than we tend to do the same things because humans have similar genetic makeups.
I should make it clear here that I don't necessarily believe what I'm advocating here. I'm sort of just tossing around ideas to explore. And I do agree that there is a way that is "just the right way to do things." I have always believed this. I guess maybe I am mostly unclear as to what these things are. I don't necessarily believe Democracy is the "right" thing all the time (especially for eastern cultures) even though I think it is probably the best system we have available. There is research being conducted right now that is trying to verify the "universality" of certain truths we all take for granted.
Heber13 wrote:The latter just sounds like animals with instincts just tend to do things a certain way and I think there is more intelligence involved.
I agree with you here. I also think there is more intelligence involved. At the same time, I don't think we give as much credence to our evolutionary psychological processes. Like tending towards small groups for example. Humans generally have a desire to coagulate into small groups. When viewed with the rest of the animal kingdom this is not unique.
Heber13 wrote:Probably because of my life long indoctrination of free will and free agency. Lucifer had an idea to introduce a proposal that was just against the universal laws and God knew it wouldn't work...you know the story, I just think that is the basis of where I'm coming from.
I'm not sure what you mean here. I am largely libertarian so I consider myself a huge champion of free will and free agency. In fact, I would have said the universal truth view tends to produce Satan's plan given that most religions become oppressive because they have literal views of universal truth. After all, everyone has their own idea of universal truth. I guess I'm not sure I understand what you mean. Are you saying that if we just had animal instincts that it would take away free will? I certainly don't have that view.

Thanks for the discussion Heber13. I think we actually agree more than we disagree.
I am like a huge, rough stone rolling down from a high mountain; and the only polishing I get is when some corner gets rubbed off by coming in contact with something else, striking with accelerated force against religious bigotry, priestcraft, lawyer-craft, doctor-craft, lying editors, suborned judges and jurors, and the authority of perjured executives, backed by mobs, blasphemers, licentious and corrupt men and women--all hell knocking off a corner here and a corner there.
- Joseph Smith, (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, 304)

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Re: Life's Lessons

Post by Heber13 » 26 May 2009, 08:31

I would have said the universal truth view tends to produce Satan's plan given that most religions become oppressive because they have literal views of universal truth.
jmb275, yea, maybe the animal instincts was not a good comparison, I think that popped into my mind because I view us different than animals because we can choose our actions, but maybe that is brining a whole other thing into the conversation.

I guess what I was trying to say was that Satan's plan was no free will, everyone will just live life without options or free agency. Although some other religions become oppressive and seem to impose that style would suggest Satan's involvement to raise false priests who oppress. I do not believe true religions do such. I do not believe Mormonism does such, although some people feel the high standards are restrictive, there is no doctrine to support it is oppressive and free agency should be restricted by the church. We believe all men should be allowed to worship how, where, or what they may. Believing in a universal truth and oppressively imposing that belief on others are two different things.

I believe there is one universal truth, and one God who upholds that in our universe, and that one day all of us will have our eyes opened to it again where we will see it and realize that most honest religions were close in agreeing on such (love your neighbor, sacrifice brings blessings, honesty is the best policy, etc) and we agree more with other religions than we disagree with. But there will also be some things that some people were wrong about, like if God has a body or not, and we will realize the truth, which is not up to everyone to decide. It is what it is, we will all learn what that is one day and what we were wrong about and what we were right about.

Does that clarify? I'm a universal truth believer, and do not feel I can have confidence in a universe where truth is decided individually.
Luke: "Why didn't you tell me? You told me Vader betrayed and murdered my father."
Obi-Wan: "Your father... was seduced by the dark side of the Force. He ceased to be Anakin Skywalker and became Darth Vader. When that happened, the good man who was your father was destroyed. So what I told you was true... from a certain point of view."
Luke: "A certain point of view?"
Obi-Wan: "Luke, you're going to find that many of the truths we cling to...depend greatly on our point of view."

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Re: Life's Lessons

Post by jmb275 » 26 May 2009, 11:25

Heber13 wrote:Does that clarify? I'm a universal truth believer, and do not feel I can have confidence in a universe where truth is decided individually.
Yes, I understand. I am very much undecided on the issue still. Maybe they are not mutually exclusive and I just tend to interpret it as such. And maybe, I don't have to actually decide. That's what I prefer to do. I am comfortable with admitting that I don't know, and simply try my best to live in the best way I can.
I am like a huge, rough stone rolling down from a high mountain; and the only polishing I get is when some corner gets rubbed off by coming in contact with something else, striking with accelerated force against religious bigotry, priestcraft, lawyer-craft, doctor-craft, lying editors, suborned judges and jurors, and the authority of perjured executives, backed by mobs, blasphemers, licentious and corrupt men and women--all hell knocking off a corner here and a corner there.
- Joseph Smith, (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, 304)

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Re: Life's Lessons

Post by hawkgrrrl » 26 May 2009, 13:20

Some more thoughts about whether or not "morality" is universal (some of this discussion seems to be linking "universal truth" with "collective morality.") Studies have shown that there are five components to morality that are universal, although groups have different thresholds and definitions for applying these. There was a pretty good article on this at the NYT: http://www.nytimes.com/2008/01/13/magaz ... gewanted=1

The 5 areas are:
Harm - Rape is pretty universally repugnant, as is murder. We have a strong reaction to others being harmed, unless another of the 5 areas is triggered even more strongly (such as protecting another from harm or ingroup loyalty). Also, the more removed we are from the harm (killing by pushing a button vs. knifing someone), the less strong the repugnance.
Fairness - This is related to reciprocal altruism, the ideals of justice and personal rights.
Community - This is the desire to protect our own tribe. For example, if we heard someone say, "that's so gay," and we consider ourselves not gay or don't associate gays as part of our personal tribe, this statement doesn't trigger offensiveness. If someone were to say,"Only a Mormon would say something that stupid," that might trigger a tribal response. This is also the basis for all persecution complexes, which is one of the things that makes groups cohesive, a shared sense of being persecuted (seriously, pick any group).
Authority - The classic example is the difference between someone slapping a clown doing slapstick humor and someone slapping a priest. Also, different groups respect different people as authorities, and some groups deliberately denigrate some authorities. For a drastic example, a prisoner for life might increase his standing by shanking a guard, but that same prisoner would respect the dominance of another inmate in the prison yard, and would never disrespect that person's position.
Purity - Some like to equate this to the religious term, which is not what is universally meant. Purity is squeamishness toward something we consider unclean. An example is the difference between actors on stage acting silly or actors on stage urinating and defecating on stage. A less stark example is Jerry Seinfeld being repulsed by George Costanza sticking his "disgusting index fingers" in his jar of peanut butter. Vegetarians also generally have a 'purity' trigger when they see meat.

When our sense of morality is triggered, we are indignant, repulsed, shocked, or outraged, and these reactions happen without a second thought usually. While different people or groups might have different thresholds or definitions, all groups have them for each of these. But, as noted above, if your sense of tribal loyalty / community is stronger than your sense of authority, you get the infamous "Mormon Extermination" order. If your sense of tribal loyalty / community, combined with fairness (Laban was cheating them and threatened to kill them), is stronger than your sense of preventing harm, you cut off Laban's head (although you feel conflicted about it). Of course, in my case, my sense of purity is also triggered by that story when he puts the headless corpse's clothes on. Yech!

[There were a lot of studies where individuals were stating that self-professed liberals were only motivated by #1 and #2 while conservatives also held #3, #4, and #5, but I disagree. I believe that is applying a conservative definition of #3, #4 and #5 to liberal respondents. For example, if you apply a liberal definition of #5, you may find that conservatives don't bat an eye at "meat" as being an impure thing, but a vegetarian would be disgusted. That doesn't mean that conservatives don't have a 'purity' reflex, just that they find different things impure than do liberals.]

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Re: Life's Lessons

Post by jmb275 » 26 May 2009, 21:40

hawkgrrrl wrote:[There were a lot of studies where individuals were stating that self-professed liberals were only motivated by #1 and #2 while conservatives also held #3, #4, and #5, but I disagree. I believe that is applying a conservative definition of #3, #4 and #5 to liberal respondents. For example, if you apply a liberal definition of #5, you may find that conservatives don't bat an eye at "meat" as being an impure thing, but a vegetarian would be disgusted. That doesn't mean that conservatives don't have a 'purity' reflex, just that they find different things impure than do liberals.]
Brilliant hawk, loved the post. I actually was going to bring this up as I was reading your post, and then you added it. Jonathan Haidt is one of these. He did a talk for TED (seen here http://www.ted.com/index.php/talks/jona ... _mind.html) as well as several other writings in this vein.

I agree this tends to make liberals look unloyal, disrespectful of all authority, and immoral. This is a gross miscategorization IMHO. They simply have different views of these things.

Great insight!
I am like a huge, rough stone rolling down from a high mountain; and the only polishing I get is when some corner gets rubbed off by coming in contact with something else, striking with accelerated force against religious bigotry, priestcraft, lawyer-craft, doctor-craft, lying editors, suborned judges and jurors, and the authority of perjured executives, backed by mobs, blasphemers, licentious and corrupt men and women--all hell knocking off a corner here and a corner there.
- Joseph Smith, (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, 304)

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Re: Life's Lessons

Post by Heber13 » 26 May 2009, 22:12

ditto. good post!
Luke: "Why didn't you tell me? You told me Vader betrayed and murdered my father."
Obi-Wan: "Your father... was seduced by the dark side of the Force. He ceased to be Anakin Skywalker and became Darth Vader. When that happened, the good man who was your father was destroyed. So what I told you was true... from a certain point of view."
Luke: "A certain point of view?"
Obi-Wan: "Luke, you're going to find that many of the truths we cling to...depend greatly on our point of view."

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