Could faith promoting stories be dangerous?

Public forum for those seeking support for their experience in the LDS Church.
Minyan Man
Posts: 2069
Joined: 15 Sep 2011, 13:40

Re: Could faith promoting stories be dangerous?

Post by Minyan Man » 15 May 2021, 18:01

I agree with what Roy said in his post:
Roy wrote:
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.
I've mentioned this in other posts, I thought if I did all the "right" things on a regular basis, that God, if He didn't directly intervene, He would
inspire or bring special comfort in time of need. It was a shock & disappointment when the things I counted on or expected didn't come
true. It was like discovering that Santa Claus didn't exist. I have a tendency to be very naïve. I now know & understand that God doesn't
work that way. It is difficult to explain that to most members I know.

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

Re: Could faith promoting stories be dangerous?

Post by Roy » 17 May 2021, 12:38

Minyan Man wrote:
15 May 2021, 18:01
I now know & understand that God doesn't
work that way. It is difficult to explain that to most members I know.
I have found this to be very difficult to explain to other members. I think that it just does not fit into their paradigm.

I remember a church brother giving a lesson on obedience. He had been out of work and he felt that through his obedience God would bless him with a job to provide righteously for his family. I made a comment that sometimes the blessings that God sends do not come in the form that we expect or feel that we need.

This brother came up to me after church to ask me more about my perspective. He was confused about how this could be. King Benjamin says that when we obey, God "immediately" blesses us. D&C says that God is "bound" when we do as He says. His desire for a job was righteous, was I saying that God might deny him? I did my best to quickly explain my experience and perspective that God may "immediately" bless us but the form that those blessings may take are not clearly spelled out and it could be a mistake to think we know exactly what God is going to do. It is not a simple formula where we can control the outcome. This brother thanked me for my time but still seemed confused. It just did not seem to make sense to him.
"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

Minyan Man
Posts: 2069
Joined: 15 Sep 2011, 13:40

Re: Could faith promoting stories be dangerous?

Post by Minyan Man » 17 May 2021, 20:30

Roy wrote:
17 May 2021, 12:38
...This brother came up to me after church to ask me more about my perspective. He was confused about how this could be. King Benjamin says that when we obey, God "immediately" blesses us. D&C says that God is "bound" when we do as He says. His desire for a job was righteous, was I saying that God might deny him? I did my best to quickly explain my experience and perspective that God may "immediately" bless us but the form that those blessings may take are not clearly spelled out and it could be a mistake to think we know exactly what God is going to do. It is not a simple formula where we can control the outcome. This brother thanked me for my time but still seemed confused. It just did not seem to make sense to him.
Roy this is one of the reasons I attend church today. To periodically connect with people who maybe struggling with an issue & may feel like
they are the only one to feel a certain way or they are experiencing a problem that they can't work through. I wish there would of been someone
to help me with my FC back in the day. It is a blessing to realize that we are not alone with our struggles. For me, that is one of the reasons
why God put us here.

User avatar
DarkJedi
Posts: 7551
Joined: 24 Aug 2013, 20:53

Re: Could faith promoting stories be dangerous?

Post by DarkJedi » 20 May 2021, 10:56

I wanted to wait until I was able to listen to the podcast before I responded. I look forward to the book and will add it to my reading list (and probably my Amazon wish list).

My take aways from the podcast:
-Rumors/"I heard"/perpetuating rumors. I think the danger is less critical in those cases. An example used was one that seems to pop up every GC with the mission call that says something like "your mission location will be revealed at GC." I suppose that's not doing much more than spreading the hope that some place like China is going to open to missionary work and I don't know the harm in that hope/belief although I don't think we're ready for that as a church yet. According to the podcast there are two remedies for this type of rumor - ask to see the evidence (I did this with someone once in asking why if it was posted on Facebook the letter was not) and stop spreading/sharing those rumors.
-Not all evidence is equal. Rules of thumb include being as close to the "horse's mouth" as possible and closeness in time to the actual event (this mostly relates to more historical events/rumors/myths).
-Assumptions - "I don't need evidence because whatever is already in my head is right/correct" thus we don't think about it or only look at it through the lens of what we think is true/correct or want to be true. Erekeson says this is closely related to the "I heard" problem. Related to our assumptions is the idea that we sometimes need to be humble in being able to admit we are wrong and change (the example of J Fielding S and the moon landing was used here).
-Expecting our church leaders to always be right is unfair and unhelpful (and I add dangerous). Erekson asserts that prophets are subjected to many assumptions which are just wrong and for which there is no scriptural or historical support. He also asserts that when we discover that God works with prophets in ways other than what we assume it leads to crisis (hence my earlier addition of dangerous). While this was a small part of my own faith crisis, it did play a role (a bigger role was played by how God interacts - or doesn't interact - with us directly). Examples Erekson gives here include the idea of the prophet knowing everything about the future (they may know some things and not others), that everything the prophet says is quotable, and that prophets get very clear revelation. Erekson says this part of the book has so many examples that some had to be put in the appendix.
-Facts don't speak for themselves. Everything is interpreted and interpretation depends on many other factors.
-Nothing is really either/or, church or otherwise. There are always other options/perspectives and both parts of a binary can be correct at the same time.
-Stories get "expanded" or exaggerated over time (snow gets deeper, fish get bigger, etc.). Leaving out pertinent facts is also part of this. I think these types of things are very dangerous because there is deception involved and the deception plays into faith and emotion. It seems they are usually based on some facts but then non-facts are added to make them more “faith promoting.” Examples include china in the walls of the Kirtland Temple, the gulls and crickets, and Del Parson’s Jesus portrait. Part of my own faith crisis was that I had trouble figuring out what was true and what wasn’t and was it all wrong because this part was wrong? (This is where “don’t dump all at once”* comes from.)
-Social media didn’t invent any of these things, but it can spread it much more quickly than testimony meetings and perhaps like a testimony meeting it can assist us in not thinking about it and just passing it on.

*My standard advice to people in faith crisis is “take it slow, focus on what you do believe, and don’t dump all at once.” I haven’t had as much opportunity to say it of late.
In the absence of knowledge or faith there is always hope.

Once there was a gentile...who came before Hillel. He said "Convert me on the condition that you teach me the whole Torah while I stand on one foot." Hillel converted him, saying: That which is despicable to you, do not do to your fellow, this is the whole Torah, and the rest is commentary, go and learn it."

My Introduction

Old-Timer
Site Admin
Posts: 16967
Joined: 21 Oct 2008, 20:24

Re: Could faith promoting stories be dangerous?

Post by Old-Timer » 21 May 2021, 15:21

Yes, they can - but they also can be helpful and even critical for people.

I focus on trying to find out what helps myself and others and tailoring stories to individuals. I get it right sometimes and wrong other times, but I try to "do no harm" as I try to help. If that means sharing a faith-promoting story, I have no problem doing so.
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

User avatar
SamBee
Posts: 5677
Joined: 14 Mar 2010, 04:55

Re: Could faith promoting stories be dangerous?

Post by SamBee » 21 May 2021, 15:24

General Authorities have definitely encouraged such stories. How often have we heard them tell stories where those involved are unnamed and there are little or no specific details?

I suspect some of this is damage control. If you tell a story about John/Jane Doe and they apostasize or do something terrible, then it doesn't turn round to bite them.

It has been better recently, but yes, GAs are part of this.
DASH1730 "An Area Authority...[was] asked...who...would go to the Telestial kingdom. His answer: "murderers, adulterers and a lot of surprised Mormons!"'
1ST PRES 1978 "[LDS] believe...there is truth in many religions and philosophies...good and great religious leaders... have raised the spiritual, moral, and ethical awareness of their people. When we speak of The [LDS] as the only true church...it is...authorized to administer the ordinances...by Jesus Christ... we do not mean... it is the only teacher of truth."

User avatar
DarkJedi
Posts: 7551
Joined: 24 Aug 2013, 20:53

Re: Could faith promoting stories be dangerous?

Post by DarkJedi » 22 May 2021, 03:32

Old-Timer wrote:
21 May 2021, 15:21
Yes, they can - but they also can be helpful and even critical for people.

I focus on trying to find out what helps myself and others and tailoring stories to individuals. I get it right sometimes and wrong other times, but I try to "do no harm" as I try to help. If that means sharing a faith-promoting story, I have no problem doing so.
I generally agree with this sentiment unless the story is false or mostly false. In that case I would feel as though I were lying to someone. That said of course many of the stories in the Bible fit that category of being false or mostly false (although that's not what the podcast or book are about). Still, I cannot in good conscience share (or let go unchallenged) the story that John Taylor's watch stopped a bullet and saved him at Carthage (as an example).
In the absence of knowledge or faith there is always hope.

Once there was a gentile...who came before Hillel. He said "Convert me on the condition that you teach me the whole Torah while I stand on one foot." Hillel converted him, saying: That which is despicable to you, do not do to your fellow, this is the whole Torah, and the rest is commentary, go and learn it."

My Introduction

Minyan Man
Posts: 2069
Joined: 15 Sep 2011, 13:40

Re: Could faith promoting stories be dangerous?

Post by Minyan Man » 22 May 2021, 07:20

Back in the day, when I joined the church, one of the most dynamic speakers was Paul H Dunn.
When he talked, you would swear that he had lived the life of 10 men. Below is a wikipedia summary
of his life. I do not guarantee the accuracy. I use it as an example only. There are other sites you can go
to read about his life. In the end, he was honorably released as a GA & granted emeritus status.
As far as I know, there was no big announcement by the church & he quietly went away.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Paul_H._Dunn

I'm sure that some members took his stories as fact and wove them into Sacrament talks through the years.
The lesson for me has been "be cautious" of anyone who spends a lot of time talking about themselves.
There was one talk during the last general conference that I would put in that classification.

The people at church that I listen to the most at those who are quiet, reflective & center their remarks on
Jesus Christ when asked a question. One person that fits that category was my FIL. Whenever he chose to
respond to a question at PH or SS everyone wanted to hear the answer.

Old-Timer
Site Admin
Posts: 16967
Joined: 21 Oct 2008, 20:24

Re: Could faith promoting stories be dangerous?

Post by Old-Timer » 24 May 2021, 02:08

To be clear, I also do not share stories I know or suspect to be false - and I almost always mention my belief that many Old Testament stories, particularly, are allegorical or were understood to be symbolic by the people for whom they were told if I share those stories (like in a talk at church).

However, there are "faith-promoting stories" from my own life and the lives of some of my family members - stories that I know are true and actually are inspiring and, in at least a few cases, essentially unexplainable outside of a faith narrative. I have no problem sharing such stories - when I feel they won't be harmful to the person hearing them. For some people, faith-promoting stories can cause guilt and self-doubt, since they do not have such experiences, so I don't share those stories with those people.

Finally, when I do share such stories, I try to remember to add the caveat that not all people, including myself, have the same experiences. To me, that is an important point, so I try to mention it if I am sharing a story with someone I don't know very well.
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

User avatar
DarkJedi
Posts: 7551
Joined: 24 Aug 2013, 20:53

Re: Could faith promoting stories be dangerous?

Post by DarkJedi » 24 May 2021, 05:58

Old-Timer wrote:
24 May 2021, 02:08
However, there are "faith-promoting stories" from my own life and the lives of some of my family members - stories that I know are true and actually are inspiring and, in at least a few cases, essentially unexplainable outside of a faith narrative. I have no problem sharing such stories - when I feel they won't be harmful to the person hearing them. For some people, faith-promoting stories can cause guilt and self-doubt, since they do not have such experiences, so I don't share those stories with those people.
I don't believe those types of stories are generally harmful and truly can be faith promoting. I don't think those are the kinds of things that Erekson is addressing in his book or the podcast - at least those kinds of examples weren't cited in the podcast. I think he promotes and seems very much in favor of first hand accounts.
In the absence of knowledge or faith there is always hope.

Once there was a gentile...who came before Hillel. He said "Convert me on the condition that you teach me the whole Torah while I stand on one foot." Hillel converted him, saying: That which is despicable to you, do not do to your fellow, this is the whole Torah, and the rest is commentary, go and learn it."

My Introduction

Post Reply