Letter to a Doubter by Terryl Givens

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Daeruin
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Letter to a Doubter by Terryl Givens

Post by Daeruin » 10 Mar 2014, 22:29

This essay/talk is absolutely chock full of awesome stuff, including choice comments on the fallibility of church leaders, the nature of restoration, the exclusivity of Mormonism, the efficacy of institutional religion, and the nature of personal revelation. The part that resonated with me the most was his commentary on faith as a choice.
The call to faith is a summons to engage the heart, to attune it to resonate in sympathy with principles and values and ideals that we devoutly hope are true and which we have reasonable but not certain grounds for believing to be true. There must be grounds for doubt as well as belief, in order to render the choice more truly a choice, and therefore the more deliberate, and laden with personal vulnerability and investment. An overwhelming preponderance of evidence on either side would make our choice as meaningless as would a loaded gun pointed at our heads. The option to believe must appear on one’s personal horizon like the fruit of paradise, perched precariously between sets of demands held in dynamic tension. Fortunately, in this world, one is always provided with sufficient materials out of which to fashion a life of credible conviction or dismissive denial. We are acted upon, in other words, by appeals to our personal values, our yearnings, our fears, our appetites, and our egos. What we choose to embrace, to be responsive to, is the purest reflection of who we are and what we love. That is why faith, the choice to believe, is, in the final analysis, an action that is positively laden with moral significance.

The call to faith, in this light, is not some test of a coy god, waiting to see if we “get it right.” It is the only summons, issued under the only conditions, which can allow us fully to reveal who we are, what we most love, and what we most devoutly desire. Without constraint, without any form of mental compulsion, the act of belief becomes the freest possible projection of what resides in our hearts. Like the poet’s image of a church bell that only reveals its latent music when struck, or a dragonfly that only flames forth its beauty in flight, so does the content of a human heart lie buried until action calls it forth. The greatest act of self-revelation occurs when we choose what we will believe, in that space of freedom that exists between knowing that a thing is, and knowing that a thing is not.

This is the realm where faith operates, and when faith is a freely chosen gesture, it expresses something essential about the self.
What do you think?
"Not all those who wander are lost" —Tolkien

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mackay11
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Re: Letter to a Doubter by Terryl Givens

Post by mackay11 » 11 Mar 2014, 00:39

Givens is outstanding. My second favourite Mormon (second only to Uchtdorf).

convert1992
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Re: Letter to a Doubter by Terryl Givens

Post by convert1992 » 11 Mar 2014, 08:09

Thanks for posting this, Daeruin. I actually googled this and read the whole thing. While reading it, I thought of the fact that in another context, doubt is used to protect people. The criminal justice system has as its fundamental goal the protection of the innocent. It achieves this goal by requiring a jury to overcome reasonable doubt before depriving someone of life or liberty, and each and every of those jurors must personally overcome that doubt. The lack of ability to overcome that doubt (plus the overburdened system) in turn results in the government dropping or allowing plea bargains for most charges.

In spiritual things, doubt keeps us searching for answers. It keeps us checking and double-checking ourselves. So you've deconstructed the BOM (speaking rhetorically here; I am not talking to you, Daeruin). You are pretty sure it is not an actual historical record, but are you sure there are not strands of inspiration throughout the book that would prove it was not just "made up" the way that an author might sit down one day and write a fine yarn. I think there are matters in which there is now overwhelmingly evidence but the whole picture of what the Church is, what it's based on, and what its future importance is, depend on faith counterbalanced against doubt. That is, the good doubt--the type that makes you continuously re-evaluate assumptions that may be incorrect and lead you down the road to apostacy.

GBSmith
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Re: Letter to a Doubter by Terryl Givens

Post by GBSmith » 11 Mar 2014, 10:07

Daeruin wrote:This essay/talk is absolutely chock full of awesome stuff, including choice comments on the fallibility of church leaders, the nature of restoration, the exclusivity of Mormonism, the efficacy of institutional religion, and the nature of personal revelation. The part that resonated with me the most was his commentary on faith as a choice.
The call to faith is a summons to engage the heart, to attune it to resonate in sympathy with principles and values and ideals that we devoutly hope are true and which we have reasonable but not certain grounds for believing to be true. There must be grounds for doubt as well as belief, in order to render the choice more truly a choice, and therefore the more deliberate, and laden with personal vulnerability and investment. An overwhelming preponderance of evidence on either side would make our choice as meaningless as would a loaded gun pointed at our heads. The option to believe must appear on one’s personal horizon like the fruit of paradise, perched precariously between sets of demands held in dynamic tension. Fortunately, in this world, one is always provided with sufficient materials out of which to fashion a life of credible conviction or dismissive denial. We are acted upon, in other words, by appeals to our personal values, our yearnings, our fears, our appetites, and our egos. What we choose to embrace, to be responsive to, is the purest reflection of who we are and what we love. That is why faith, the choice to believe, is, in the final analysis, an action that is positively laden with moral significance.

The call to faith, in this light, is not some test of a coy god, waiting to see if we “get it right.” It is the only summons, issued under the only conditions, which can allow us fully to reveal who we are, what we most love, and what we most devoutly desire. Without constraint, without any form of mental compulsion, the act of belief becomes the freest possible projection of what resides in our hearts. Like the poet’s image of a church bell that only reveals its latent music when struck, or a dragonfly that only flames forth its beauty in flight, so does the content of a human heart lie buried until action calls it forth. The greatest act of self-revelation occurs when we choose what we will believe, in that space of freedom that exists between knowing that a thing is, and knowing that a thing is not.

This is the realm where faith operates, and when faith is a freely chosen gesture, it expresses something essential about the self.
What do you think?
Actually, it is a test to see if we get it right as that is the only acceptable end if you're to remain acceptable and useful. Saying we'd be compelled to believe if the preponderance of evidence were for the church ( I say church/restoration since that's what this is about, stemming the tide of people leaving, not becoming atheists) isn't accurate since people ignore evidence and stay and ignore evidence and leave. Givens approach seems to equate faith with ignoring rather that as a gift of the spirit, confirmed by the spirit. I'm sorry but as poetic as his writing is and as successful as his cottage industry is in trying to help us help us poor doubters, it still comes down to the standard, age old advice, "don't worry about it, better people than you understand and you too will someday".

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Re: Letter to a Doubter by Terryl Givens

Post by Old-Timer » 11 Mar 2014, 12:24

Fwiw, GB, I think that's not what he says. The best example of this is:
and which we have reasonable but not certain grounds for believing to be true


I don't see anything in what he says that would lead me to conclude he believes in ignoring solid evidence. I don't see his words, for example, as supporting someone's dogged belief in young earth creationism. I think what he is saying is that faith works best (is "real faith") when what is desired is reasonable but not established conclusively by clear evidence.

Of course, that is a subjective evaluation, but I like the foundation - since it really isn't any different at heart than a scientist's approach to discovery. ("This seems like a reasonable conclusion. I'm going with it and seeing if my research yields solid evidence.")
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

GBSmith
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Re: Letter to a Doubter by Terryl Givens

Post by GBSmith » 11 Mar 2014, 18:10

Hebrews 11:1 Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.
I understand that he's not saying to ignore solid evidence. But when he says there must be room for doubt in order for the choice to be a real choice it still means that in making that choice you're ignoring what may be evidence to the contrary. The other thing that's not clear to me is whether he's talking about faith in God or faith in the restoration/JS with belief in God and Christ assumed. If he's talking about faith in God, fine but for me the jury's out on the rest.

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Re: Letter to a Doubter by Terryl Givens

Post by Old-Timer » 11 Mar 2014, 21:11

Based on what I've read from him, I would say "weighing" rather than "ignoring".

That's an important difference to 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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sanders31105
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Re: Letter to a Doubter by Terryl Givens

Post by sanders31105 » 12 Mar 2014, 13:53

Daeruin wrote:This essay/talk is absolutely chock full of awesome stuff, including choice comments on the fallibility of church leaders, the nature of restoration, the exclusivity of Mormonism, the efficacy of institutional religion, and the nature of personal revelation. The part that resonated with me the most was his commentary on faith as a choice.
The call to faith is a summons to engage the heart, to attune it to resonate in sympathy with principles and values and ideals that we devoutly hope are true and which we have reasonable but not certain grounds for believing to be true. There must be grounds for doubt as well as belief, in order to render the choice more truly a choice, and therefore the more deliberate, and laden with personal vulnerability and investment. An overwhelming preponderance of evidence on either side would make our choice as meaningless as would a loaded gun pointed at our heads. The option to believe must appear on one’s personal horizon like the fruit of paradise, perched precariously between sets of demands held in dynamic tension. Fortunately, in this world, one is always provided with sufficient materials out of which to fashion a life of credible conviction or dismissive denial. We are acted upon, in other words, by appeals to our personal values, our yearnings, our fears, our appetites, and our egos. What we choose to embrace, to be responsive to, is the purest reflection of who we are and what we love. That is why faith, the choice to believe, is, in the final analysis, an action that is positively laden with moral significance.

The call to faith, in this light, is not some test of a coy god, waiting to see if we “get it right.” It is the only summons, issued under the only conditions, which can allow us fully to reveal who we are, what we most love, and what we most devoutly desire. Without constraint, without any form of mental compulsion, the act of belief becomes the freest possible projection of what resides in our hearts. Like the poet’s image of a church bell that only reveals its latent music when struck, or a dragonfly that only flames forth its beauty in flight, so does the content of a human heart lie buried until action calls it forth. The greatest act of self-revelation occurs when we choose what we will believe, in that space of freedom that exists between knowing that a thing is, and knowing that a thing is not.

This is the realm where faith operates, and when faith is a freely chosen gesture, it expresses something essential about the self.
What do you think?
Thanks so much for posting this article. I read it when it first came out. The unknown is a beautiful thing and is necessary for our spiritual growth.
LDS Meditation Workshop: http://goo.gl/JUvwjc
“The past has no power over the present moment.” ― Eckhart Tolle

jhp33
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Re: Letter to a Doubter by Terryl Givens

Post by jhp33 » 13 Mar 2014, 10:29

Curtis wrote:Based on what I've read from him, I would say "weighing" rather than "ignoring".

That's an important difference to me.
Yes, very important.

To me, it is very much like a scale. On one side, you have physical/historical/practical evidence. On the other side, you have spiritual/emotional/personal evidence.

Which side weighs heavier to you? That's not ignoring evidence. It's weighing the two against each other. And so often, I feel like the church teaches (wrongly) that as soon as you place a rock in the spiritual/emotional side, your scale is so tipped for eternity.

When, instead, life is about those two scales constantly moving up and down based on what we live, experience, read, feel and do. At all points, we are constantly choosing what to believe.

This is, to me, central to why I think so many people so freaking bored at church. Because the current system sets you up to learn and have a testimony of all the doctrine by the time you're in your early 20s (through seminary/institute and through the temple) and after that, it's just rehashing of the same "truths" over and over and over again.

In the three or so months I've been on my new "spiritual journey" I can tell you for a fact that I have read, prayed and studied more about the gospel than I ever have in my life, with the exception of my mission.

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Forgotten_Charity
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Re: Letter to a Doubter by Terryl Givens

Post by Forgotten_Charity » 13 Mar 2014, 11:38

Except the problem with that is imperial evidence is worth more then a 1000 of history's best philosophers. Being that it has been the least inaccurate and least prone to being wrong model by a wide margin as history and evidence shows. The problem becomes trusting a bunch of people doing thorough research versus a few people expressing what they believe through confirmation bias. At least rule number 1 in my generation and newer is that history shows that no man or few select people in our history can be trusted with that amount if trust. No one can or should be trusted in anywhere near that amount. The compilation of tested experiences rises above the occasional experience.

It's similar or the same line of think as "trust is there are people more smarter then you". The trouble with that is you have to believe their are tiers of humans. In that light Steve jobs gave the best speech ever with one of the most important truths ever revealed in modern times.
Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma — which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.
And
“When you grow up you tend to get told the world is the way it is and you’re life is just to live your life inside the world. Try not to bash into the walls too much. Try to have a nice family, have fun, save a little money.
That’s a very limited life. Life can be much broader once you discover one simple fact: Everything around you that you call life was made up by people that were no smarter than you and you can change it, you can influence it, you can build your own things that other people can use.

Once you learn that, you’ll never be the same again.”

http://youtu.be/YZyUlHtxoBs

That is so important to learn and know, it can indeed change your life and way you view and live life forever.

That's why I don't understand the current method of trusting others that are more intelligent then you.

That model doesn't work once you discover the truth.
Everything changes when you start to emit your own frequency rather than absorbing the frequencies around you, when you start imprinting your intent on the universe rather than receiving an imprint from existence.
Barbara Marciniak
Life is about transmitting your own frequencies, but we have been trained to just receive frequencies.

That's why I'm not partial to givens or others on either side. Once you learn you that everything created in life was by people no smarter then you , you can start to open up and not be bound by limited learning and thinking by others ideas but create your own fruit and spread that to the world regardless of what other people have to say.

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