GC Talk and The Rest of the Story

Public forum for topics that don't fit into the other categories.
Roy
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Re: GC Talk and The Rest of the Story

Post by Roy » 29 May 2017, 08:11

AP, I can tell that this has really got you bothered.

Let me try to recap.

1) Elder Stephenson told some faith inspiring stories.
2) He was selective in what he included in his stories to only highlight his theme.
3) His words implied a few things that he did not actually say.

The righteousness=blessings model has been a topic of frequent discussion between DW and me. It comes down to perspective/opinion/personal narrative. My wife was recounting to an LDS friend about an old clunker car that we drive that had lasted much longer than expected. The friend exclaimed, "tithing blessings!" We do not pay tithing so we know that this could not be a connection. It is provably false.

However if we had been paying tithing then it would be improvable one way or the other - a matter of opinion or speculation.
amateurparent wrote:
29 May 2017, 06:32
I expect a different and better standard out of ecclesiastical leaders who claim to represent God, who are speaking in an ecclesiastical setting and who are called the Lords Appointed.


Religion is much more like art than science. It speaks to a spiritual need. In the legal sense of contracts and false advertising - the world of religion is considered "buyer beware." If a religious representative makes promises to get you to do things and that representative is 1) not directly and personally enriched by your compliance and 2) does not know the things he is saying to be untrue (IOW he could plausibly have believed them to be true - then he is standing on safe ground.

Just yesterday I heard a female missionary say to an investigator that if he were to read the BoM for just 5 minutes per day that he would have 3 times the level of energy, clarity, and focus throughout the day. She said the words "I know" and "I promise." I remember thinking, "How can she possibly promise that?"

This is not exactly unusual in the LDS church or in the world or religion generally. Not a lie ... but certainly not the objective 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

amateurparent
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Re: GC Talk and The Rest of the Story

Post by amateurparent » 29 May 2017, 08:39

Roy:

I hadn't been to church in a really long time .. I attended last month and a missionary was speaking. She talked about God being just like a Gumball Machine. All we need to do is be righteous and follow everything that the church asks of us and blessings will come pouring out like gum balls.

It was all I could do to not throw rocks at her .. or spitwads.

Growing up in the LDS church, I still look for a higher standard of integrity and honesty in the local LDS clergy and higher ecclesiastical leaders than in the larger Christian population. (I know .. I need to get over that). As I take a step back and look at the information with a more critical eye, it annoys be to see so much hyperbole, so many half-truths, and outright dishonesty done in the name of The One True Church. Seems even more dishonest when they are claiming prophecy.
I have no advance degrees in parenting. No national credentials. I am an amateur parent. I read, study, and learn all I can to be the best parent possible. Every time I think I have reached expert status with one child for one stage in their life, something changes and I am back to amateur status again. Now when I really mess up, I just apologize to my child, and explain that I am indeed an amateur .. I'm still learning how to do this right.

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Reuben
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Re: GC Talk and The Rest of the Story

Post by Reuben » 29 May 2017, 08:44

nibbler wrote:
29 May 2017, 07:30
There's the content of a story and the source. When it comes to connecting with our spiritual side why do we hold the contents of the sci fi/fantasy shelf in lower regard than scripture or the words of ecclesiastical leaders?
I can't speak for anybody but myself, and maybe for other Mormons if my experiences generalize. I would say we hold the contents of the sci-fi/fantasy shelf in lower regard because it's full of things that are obviously not true. (I'll get nuanced in a bit.) We're taught in the Church that only truth can save, only truth makes us free, only truth is really worth knowing.

Of course, there are a lot of ways for something to be true. There's being factual. The parable of the prodigal son is true, even if not factual, in that it teaches truth about the human condition (and we hope about God). I've read a lot of true science fiction, which is better at illustrating some kinds of truth precisely because it's fantastic instead of factual - the kind of truth that's best shown using a hypothetical situation that just can't happen in real life. This isn't an outlook common in the Church, though. Usually, truth = factual.

When it comes to other people teaching me in matters of faith, I personally have an additional reason besides Mormon training to disfavor anything but facts. I want to believe in things as they really were, as they really are, and as they really will be. I need my mental model of reality to be consistent with actual reality. If getting a certain model into my head requires heavily selecting and editing of the facts, or especially outright fabrication, then I regard the model as being weak. Sure, it's approximate, like all models are, but wouldn't having more facts allow me to construct a less approximate one?

I don't think Church leaders do it intentionally. I think they just have extremely strong biases, tell the facts they think are relevant, and interpret the facts for us so we don't construct the "wrong" models. Like nearly everyone in the world, they see getting their models into our heads as equivalent to ensuring we have the right models.

I was much more okay with this when I thought their models were right. I was bugged a bit by selecting and editing, and was fairly bothered by outright fabrications being retold as factual. It didn't get so under my skin, though.
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Roy
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Re: GC Talk and The Rest of the Story

Post by Roy » 29 May 2017, 09:02

Growing up in the LDS church, I still look for a higher standard of integrity and honesty in the local LDS clergy and higher ecclesiastical leaders than in the larger Christian population. (I know .. I need to get over that).
I think I get that AP.

I have compared it to a road that people at church proclaim is perfectly safe and one day while traveling on that road I get beaten and robbed. How can this be when the road was trumpeted as the "one true" safe route? In talking to people at church about my experience they say things like, "maybe it was a test to try your faithfulness" or "these things happen and are the common lot of all men."

This does not diminish the fact that I put my faith in the assurances of those people and I received a false sense of security. Partly as a result, I was completely blindsided when misfortune struck. Yes, it could have happened on any path and yes, many people make similar hyperbolic/puffery claims about their own roads but I was attacked on the Mormon road when I had been led to believe that it was safe.

So if I now go to a Mormon meeting and hear the same assurances about the safety of the path it feels very, very, very personal.
"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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Reuben
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Re: GC Talk and The Rest of the Story

Post by Reuben » 29 May 2017, 09:07

amateurparent wrote:
29 May 2017, 08:39
Growing up in the LDS church, I still look for a higher standard of integrity and honesty in the local LDS clergy and higher ecclesiastical leaders than in the larger Christian population. (I know .. I need to get over that). As I take a step back and look at the information with a more critical eye, it annoys be to see so much hyperbole, so many half-truths, and outright dishonesty done in the name of The One True Church. Seems even more dishonest when they are claiming prophecy.
In my case, the thing that makes it so hard to get over is a contradiction: they tell us that we can and should hold them to a higher standard, when it's obvious to anyone who peeks around the blinders that they can't meet it better than anyone else. In fact, always having to appear to have been right about everything makes them meet a lower standard.

I'm fine with paradox, competing interpretations, wildly different outlooks on life, etc., etc. I truly enjoy questions as much as answers. What I can't stand is an obvious, irreconcilable contradiction.

IOW, I can appreciate anything that makes sense and is consistent from within a TBM worldview. "You can trust us completely because Only True Church" obviously contradicts Church history and the lived experience of thousands upon thousands. It's not a delicious paradox, it's a moldy old untruth.

I even understand the aspects of human psychology that make it so hard for members to peek around the blinders, and it still drives me nuts.
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Love before dogma. Truth before loyalty. Knowledge before certainty.

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Gerald
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Re: GC Talk and The Rest of the Story

Post by Gerald » 29 May 2017, 09:50

When people get criticized, they often are criticized for things they didn't actually say. People tend to read and hear things that confirm their own confirmation biases, just as people tend to tell things based on theirs.

Elder Stephenson never said all the missionaries throughout the entire coastal regions attended the meeting. He said what would have been a district meeting was extended to all missionaries in that zone (including those from "several coastal cities", NOT all of the coastal cities). The online discussion accounts confirm that.

Technically, his statement was 100% correct, but he still got accused of lying about it.

I see the same thing in the second story: people reacting to their impressions of what he meant and what they saw as being implied, not ncessarily what he actually said.

I am sensitive to this for a simple reason. I choose my words carefully, especially when communicating online, and it is amazing how often I get criticized for things I don't say. It happens all. the. time.
I don't think for one moment that Elder Stevenson was lying or deliberately misleading anyone. Perhaps if he had known some of those additional details (I have no idea what he did or didn't know) he might have rephrased his story a bit. But the fact is, we tell all kinds of stories all the time. Most of them simply don't get recorded, copied down, and endlessly analyzed. (A fact,I am personally grateful for). But a personal story to illustrate how easily small events can get out of hand.

I was visiting with a lady in my ward who related to me in excited tones about something that happened to a wheel-chair bound sister in our ward. Apparently, she had had some difficulties transferring herself from her wheelchair to her armchair (she is somewhat mobile) and slipped to the floor. No one was home and all she could do (according to this sister) was pray and pray for the bishop to come and help her. The bishop felt some kind of prompting and did go to her house and provide aid. She concluded the story with a big smile and a statement about how the spirit works in our lives. Well, due to circumstances I won't go into, I found myself in the home of the wheel-chair bound sister that very day and was going to ask about the incident when she began (unprompted) to tell me about what had happened. Indeed, she had found herself on the floor but, luckily, had her cell phone right by her and began calling people for help. She reached a friend and the bishop, both of whom came to give her some help. Her point was gratitude that she had her cell phone handy.

I was amazed to see right before me the origins of a potential "faith-promoting story" that seemed to illustrate a spiritual point when the truth was much more mundane.
So through the dusk of dead, blank-legended And unremunerative years we search to get where life begins, and still we groan because we do not find the living spark where no spark ever was; and thus we die, still searching, like poor old astronomers who totter off to bed and go to sleep, to dream of untriangulated stars.
---Edwin Arlington Robinson---

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SilentDawning
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Re: GC Talk and The Rest of the Story

Post by SilentDawning » 29 May 2017, 10:39

I remember STephen R Covey speaking at one of our Stake Conferences. He made a point about how important it is to be honest.

Then he kept correcting himself in his stories. He told one about a conversation that he had with Victor Frankl, author of Man's Search for Meaning. How that convo happened "the night before Victor died". Then Covey corrected himself and said "No, TWO nights before he died". We are under such pressure to say something testimony meetings, to inspire people in our talks, it's easy to embellish the truth.

It makes me wonder just how much of the new testament I can trust as a result. Christ didn't write the new testament, men did, and men that apparently loved him and respected him. It wouldn't surprise me if they embellished his life a lot. A lot of what inspires us isn't all that dramatic, I've found. To get others to listen, people dramatize. That's why you get "Based on a true story" in a lot of movies, or disclaimers that certain liberties have been taken with the story.

My solution is to take it all with a massive truckload of salt, let the fiction inspire you if you want...you can feel the spirit in hollywood stories even though they are all made up. And it can inspire you to do good. I'll make sure I never pass off something as based in reality when I'm not sure it is...
"It doesn't have to be about the Church (church) all the time!" -- SD

"Stage 5 is where you no longer believe the gospel as its literally or traditionally taught. Nonetheless, you find your own way to be active and at peace within it". -- SD

The individual has always had to struggle to keep from being overwhelmed by the tribe. No price is too high to pay for the privilege of owning yourself."

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LookingHard
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Re: GC Talk and The Rest of the Story

Post by LookingHard » 29 May 2017, 10:43

This topic did get under my skin a bit. I even wrote a blog post on it Is Whitewashing Continuing Today?

At Mormon Discussion Podcast there was a guest podcaster that really dug into this topic also http://www.mormondiscussionpodcast.org/ ... sy-report/

amateurparent
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Re: GC Talk and The Rest of the Story

Post by amateurparent » 29 May 2017, 11:24

Looking Hard:

That particular essay is a personal favorite. Beautifully done.

I had considered attending services last Sunday with DH until I got an email from the RS. The lesson in RS was going to be based on the Stephenson GC talk. I could not attend services knowing that they would be discussing that talk and handling it as full of Faith Promoting experiences.

That let me here to growl like some angry momma bear.
I have no advance degrees in parenting. No national credentials. I am an amateur parent. I read, study, and learn all I can to be the best parent possible. Every time I think I have reached expert status with one child for one stage in their life, something changes and I am back to amateur status again. Now when I really mess up, I just apologize to my child, and explain that I am indeed an amateur .. I'm still learning how to do this right.

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Heber13
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Re: GC Talk and The Rest of the Story

Post by Heber13 » 29 May 2017, 14:05

Thanks for sharing and starting this thread...I'm just getting to read it now and like the comments.

I agree with nibbler, in that I don't enjoy those stories. But stories they are, which are told for the purpose of teaching. I usually hold out on judgment, not knowing all the facts, and not knowing who I can trust about facts. My personal experience over the years has left me cynical that way, and I don't want to be the fool to believe stories and later found out there was nuance or another side to the story.

I guess I hold my opinion based on what I hear, but also try to be open to not having certainty.

I think we live in this world now that makes us that way. I mean...honestly...watch CNN or watch the political landscape...and try to be certain on what are facts vs alternative facts. It makes my head spin.

Here are some of my thoughts:
amateurparent wrote:
29 May 2017, 08:39
Growing up in the LDS church, I still look for a higher standard of integrity and honesty in the local LDS clergy and higher ecclesiastical leaders than in the larger Christian population. (I know .. I need to get over that).
I know those feelings. I have them too. I'm still working on it.
1 Corinthians 13:11
When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things.
Some stories seem mystical child fairy tales with good intentions to express happy thoughts...I liked them when I was a younger person in the church. I kinda put them away now, because it serves me better to stay grounded in realistic things than fantasy stories, unless I know I'm getting into fantasy land that has limitations to my life, but may be worthwhile to think about symbolically.

It also comes down to credibility. Too many of these stories end up being exaggerated for effect, or hyperbole at church, and it leaves me empty inside. So...empty means it is not for me...and I discard it. If it turns into a Paul H Dunn scenario where credibility is detracting from the message...this guy who chose to lie will pay the consequence. One way or another.

Is it dishonest??
Gerald wrote:
29 May 2017, 09:50
I don't think for one moment that Elder Stevenson was lying or deliberately misleading anyone. Perhaps if he had known some of those additional details (I have no idea what he did or didn't know) he might have rephrased his story a bit. But the fact is, we tell all kinds of stories all the time.
I agree with Gerald, it doesn't feel like it is intent to deceive. It just feels like those telling the stories truly believe it...it is part of their faith. Is it dishonest if they truly believe it, and they aren't really wrong?

I can sit in a meeting where someone shares an experience like that and they are inspired, while I am not. So I tell myself...it must be for them...because it doesn't do anything for me. But if they like those stories...knock yourself out.

For every story I hear about the spirit saving someone's life...I can find 20 where it didn't.
For every Elizabeth Smart that has a dad praying and fasting to be returned, there are multiples of fathers who never find their daughter alive and don't want to hear that enough faith saves their child...because that means they didn't have enough faith...and that burns on top of an already unthinkable tragedy they are carrying.

It is why I stayLDS. I can't find any proof the church lies or is false. I just find a messy mixed bag that allows me to determine what is useful to me, and what is not. The church is not out to trick people or deceive them, although they are not perfect and slip up with bad judgment at times.

I also am open and remind myself of the positive side...my son on a mission writes me of a story working with an investigator he is teaching, how prayers were answered. I see good things in his faith that the holy spirit is active in the work he is doing. I let him have his spiritual experience. I believe things CAN happen. I am open to it.

But...I believe tsunamis and earthquakes will kill the righteous and the unrighteous alike, and is no respecter of persons. Temples burn down. Things happen. We build stories that try to help us make sense of things in life. We aren't always that accurate. If people lie about it for spiritual effect...shame on them. I have to be careful I don't judge others incorrectly without all the facts.

But my opinions are mine. Even if others are allowed to believe what they want about such stories.

I think AP, you are justified in feeling frustration...and even anger. It stirs up feelings from your experience. Things you can work with God about. It is telling you something about your faith and what is important. I don't think you dismiss those.

But maybe others on this board share their thoughts and that is good to hear too. Doesn't make me or others right...just other perspectives to consider as you figure out what you believe about these types of stories we hear at church.

I tend to get exhausted by hyperbole and exaggeration at church. Whatever. Others like it.
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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