Could faith promoting stories be dangerous?

Public forum for those seeking support for their experience in the LDS Church.
Minyan Man
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Joined: 15 Sep 2011, 13:40

Could faith promoting stories be dangerous?

Post by Minyan Man » 11 May 2021, 10:06

This is an article & pod cast I thought was interesting. It was on: LDS Living web site.
It is by: Keith Erekson, director of the Church History Library and author of the new book "Real vs. Rumor".

I am curious if anyone has read his book yet. I can't find it on my Nook yet.

https://www.ldsliving.com/Could-faith-p ... dium=email

AmyJ
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Joined: 27 Jul 2017, 05:50

Re: Could faith promoting stories be dangerous?

Post by AmyJ » 12 May 2021, 05:38

I don't know that faith promoting stories themselves are dangerous - I think the danger comes in the meaning and expectations we infuse into them as we add them to our personal narrative (or don't when everyone else does).

Early in my faith transition, I had this experience that showed me in part the importance of recognizing when we are infusing meaning into a situation.

I had taken off my wedding and engagement ring to do dishes and other grimy stuff. I was in a huffy mood, so I was a little careless where I put them.
Later on that day, I wanted to put them back on but I could not find them. I looked for them for 20-30 minutes and then enlisted the Hubby to help. He spent 5 minutes advising me on various places that I had already checked, and then decided to pray for help. I respected his prayer for assistance and kept searching. Eventually, I decided as a near-last resort to search the trash, it was a "With my luck, they ended up on some papers that ended up in the trash and then fell into the bottom of the disgusting refuse" type of thought. I mentioned to the Hubby that I was going to search the trash next, and he pooh-poohed them ending up in the trash. I shrugged, reverted back to the "with my luck" stance, and searched the trash - which of course had the rings.

The Hubby wanted to credit the prayer with finding the rings - "I was inspired to look in the trash" - but that doesn't work, because if it was inspiration, then why did he disregard it even though was technically a more "faithful" person then me? And if it was "my revelation", then why pooh-pooh it at all and why doesn't it feel like revelation to me?
This story is not a comfortable faith-promoting narrative to pronounce that God may have had nothing to do with me finding the rings - this was at a time that my husband wanted me to have a faith-promoting narrative that would hopefully rekindle my testimony and get me off the borderline atheist/agnostic fence. I wanted my rings, and the space to not insist that God is showing up unless (and not even then absolutely) divine communication is up to the clarity of angels visiting Alma the Younger or Adam completing his offerings.

AmyJ
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Joined: 27 Jul 2017, 05:50

Re: Could faith promoting stories be dangerous?

Post by AmyJ » 12 May 2021, 05:52

We tell stories to motivate - ourselves and others - to do things. There is a reason why you (and others) can "talk yourself into" specific actions.

We tell stories to signal vulnerability and create space for each other. There is a reason why it is so powerful in an argument with someone close to you to say, "The story I am telling myself is..." to share the narrative you see. It's also why it can be so physically draining to be that emotional.

We also tell stories to connect with each other. I realized this when I attended my mother-in-law's funeral this weekend and heard stories of her life. I actually feel a lot closer to my brother-in-law because he had experiences with my mother-in-law that I could connect with - and it made me see him in a new light.

We tell stories to create identity - ours and how we see other people. That is why the stories we are telling about our political opponent(s) are so damaging these days - we create short phrases in our minds that minimize and label the other side - whichever side that is.

We tell stories as part of the legacy we leave in each other's lives. This is why at family reunions, a lot of similarities to family members are pointed out - both physical and emotional traits.

In light of all that telling stories does - it makes sense it would be a tool to motivate, connect, create identity and legacy for specific explicit church ends and implicit cultural ends.

Minyan Man
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Joined: 15 Sep 2011, 13:40

Re: Could faith promoting stories be dangerous?

Post by Minyan Man » 12 May 2021, 10:06

If you have the time, listen to the podcast. (52+Min) It's worth it.
The points he (Keith Erekson) makes is:
- When we hear in a talk with a faith promoting story, our response should be: "what is the evidence?"
- Not all evidence is created equal. Thoughts, ideas & meanings change over time (history).
- There are certain principles that apply when we give talks or teach lessons. They may include:
- Personal Assumptions.
- Exaggerations. He used the example of the crickets & early pioneers.
- Amplifying the story for effect.
- Social Acceptance within the church.
- Prophets can be tricked. They used the example of Mark Hofmann & the documentary of "Murder Among the Mormons".
- HIs conclusion was: don't let a faith promoting story, that is later proven false, effect your testimony of the gospel or activity in the Church.

They talked about temple garments & the story how we are protected from physical harm. I don't remember hearing this story for many
years now. I'm sure there are variations that are circulated today.

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Ilovechrist77
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Joined: 08 Nov 2011, 21:42

Re: Could faith promoting stories be dangerous?

Post by Ilovechrist77 » 12 May 2021, 17:26

Thank you for mentioning the podcast. I read the article, but I definitely need to listen to the podcast. Now, to be fair, a few years ago in my home ward, a guy I knew gave a talk about his garments protecting certain parts of his body. If I remember right, I think it had to do with a chainsaw.

Roy
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Joined: 07 Oct 2010, 14:16
Location: Pacific Northwest

Re: Could faith promoting stories be dangerous?

Post by Roy » 13 May 2021, 16:23

I think I am a casualty of these faith promoting stories.

I think we have this mindset that almost anything that is said that motivates people to increase loyalty to the church is good and even more specifically anything that motivates them to pay their tithing is good. I believe that there is an "ends justify the means" mentality here.

We have these stories of people being "blessed" and God stepping in to intervene and tip the scales of chance in the favor of the faithful member.

I had felt that my family would be protected by my faithful priesthood service and tithing payment. It was a shock to me that ruptured my understanding of the universe when it seemed that these promises were not fulfilled in my case. This phenomenon is known as an assumptive world collapse and is not limited to LDS communities.

When I talk to bishops one on one about this issue they certainly acknowledge 1) that bad things continue to happen to faithful church members and 2) that sometimes church members, SS teachers, and even leaders will say misleading or inaccurate (though well-meaning) things.

The podcast talked about assumptions. Talking specifically about my conversations with bishops around tithing there is a definite assumption that I need to pay tithing. And then I believe that we can more or less fill in the blanks about specifically "WHY" I need to pay, but the assumption is built in that the only acceptable answer is that I pay. I further have gathered that the reasons that I find that help me to pay are not really important and will not be challenged, even if they are inaccurate, even if they are not in line with church doctrines. As long as I can feel good about paying then the why is less important. And then I can share in SS class my anecdotal story about how tithing keeps one from getting fired, or robbed, or (insert calamity) and it goes unchallenged. Then the next generation hear my anecdotes and internalize them. Some of them will live semi-charmed lives and will feel that everything worked out beautifully, some others will struggle to make the paradigm fit what they experience in their lives.
"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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On Own Now
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Re: Could faith promoting stories be dangerous?

Post by On Own Now » 14 May 2021, 08:26

I think faith-promoting-stories can sometimes convey a mentality that prioritizes spirituality over personal finances in a very reckless way.

As Roy pointed out, tithing is a major area of focus for these, and seems to come up again and again.

A few years ago, in GC, this talk was given:

https://www.churchofjesuschrist.org/stu ... s?lang=eng

In it, Elder Pratt gives a faith promoting story that involves paying tithing even though that money would have provided education for the children of a poor family, living in "hard times". Tithing was prioritized over education. Of course, miraculously, money arrived to offset the tithing payment, and the kids were able to go to school after all. Then the talk specifically draws the parallel from that story to our lives; we need to be faithful just like they were, and pay our tithing, before any other consideration. A specific phrase Elder Pratt used was "Pay it first". It was the only use of that phrase in GC in modern times (going back to the 70's).

Just a year later, the Church published an updated For the Strength of the Youth. In the section on tithing, the Church used that same phrase, "Pay it first", turning the GC talk with a faith promoting story into policy:
Pay it first, even when you think you do not have enough money to meet your other needs. -- For the Strength of the Youth, 2012
The same year that that new guidance was published, this occurred:
On Own Now wrote:
30 Sep 2012, 10:36
Today, in SM, a Stake High Counselor spoke. His topic was faith. He told a story regarding tithing that made my chest tighten. He related how he and his wife had realized that they did not have enough money in the bank to pay tithing as tithing settlement neared. So, they borrowed money from the bank in order to pay tithing... and that it was "putting our future in the Lord's hands".
Obviously, it worked out for them, and they were glad they had borrowed money to pay tithing.

A few months later, the Church itself told the story of a poor family in El Salvador, via an article in the Ensign. This family didn't have much income and explained to their bishop that "we always come up short." The Bishop's advice was:
If paying tithing means that you can’t pay for water or electricity, pay tithing. If paying tithing means that you can’t pay your rent, pay tithing. Even if paying tithing means that you don’t have enough money to feed your family, pay tithing. The Lord will not abandon you. -- Ensign, December, 2012
Of course, after paying their tithing, the wife, who was working, got promoted, and the husband, who had been unemployed, found a new job.

https://www.churchofjesuschrist.org/stu ... s?lang=eng

Dangerous? I'm cautious about using that label, because it is often used to shoot down free thought, as in so-and-so's views are dangerous. But, in this case... yeah, I think it is. I think it is reckless at a minimum, and puts faithful people in financial danger to state as a matter of faith that they must pay tithing even if they don't have money enough to meet their other needs, such as: sending young children to school, avoiding debt, paying basic utility bills, paying rent, or even buying food.
- - -
“Everything that irritates us about others can lead us to an understanding of ourselves.” ― Carl Jung
- - -
"Let us therefore no longer pass judgment on one another, but resolve instead never to put a stumbling block or hindrance in the way of another." ― Romans 14:13
- - -

Minyan Man
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Joined: 15 Sep 2011, 13:40

Re: Could faith promoting stories be dangerous?

Post by Minyan Man » 15 May 2021, 11:31

I'm sorry for any confusion, I just found out that the book: "Real vs Rumor" by Keith A Erekson will
not be released until 6/10/21.

Roy
Posts: 6431
Joined: 07 Oct 2010, 14:16
Location: Pacific Northwest

Re: Could faith promoting stories be dangerous?

Post by Roy » 15 May 2021, 14:35

Thanks for the update MM.
"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

Roy
Posts: 6431
Joined: 07 Oct 2010, 14:16
Location: Pacific Northwest

Re: Could faith promoting stories be dangerous?

Post by Roy » 15 May 2021, 15:19

I think these stories are meant to address the following:

1) We believe in a God of miracles that is just as active today as He was in former times. Indeed, the formation of our church seems to be partly in response and rejection of the idea that God already did His work and set up His organization and no longer needs to work miracles.
2) We are relatively small and exclusive. We are the only path (or at least the most direct path) to salvation/exaltation and fulfilling the potential of the human soul. It only makes sense that a church that was uniquely guided/accepted/claimed/authorized by HF and JC would have some special evidences to comfort and buoy the faith of the faithful.
3) Our church is a high demand church. For many, church participation is an exercise in duty, obligation, endurance, and fortitude. We believe that these things are meant to improve our natures and help us to become more like God is. When someone is making significant sacrifices for an organization, I believe that the need for faith promoting stories increases to help justify and feel validated in those sacrifices.

I believe that these three points work in tandem. "I make deep sacrifices because it is the only way to please God and God gives evidences/tender mercies to let me know that I am on the right path." "This is the only church with the correct priesthood and authority. God gives miracles to the faithful "after the trail of their faith" in part to confirm that they are in the right place. This path is one of personal sacrifice" etc. etc.

To me, they seem like the three legs of a three legged stool and it seems hard to imagine an LDS church without all three feeding into and supporting each other.
"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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