Could faith promoting stories be dangerous?

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Minyan Man
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Re: Could faith promoting stories be dangerous?

Post by Minyan Man » 24 May 2021, 11:12

I just saw an advertisement for this book & it the ad it states:
"Learn how to debunk & dispel LDS myths".

I like that.

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On Own Now
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Re: Could faith promoting stories be dangerous?

Post by On Own Now » 24 May 2021, 13:25

As to whether stories are true... I guess, to me, it doesn't matter how true a story is. The point of these stories is not to relate history. When you hear these stories from Church leaders, the purpose is always to encourage behavior that will achieve the same results. See my Tithing post earlier in this thread. From that standpoint, I hold that they can be dangerous by promoting reckless behavior with expectation of counter-intuitive results.

Perhaps the Church should only relay these stories with a disclaimer in flashing text at the bottom of the screen stating: "Past performance is not indicative of future results".
- - -
“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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Re: Could faith promoting stories be dangerous?

Post by Minyan Man » 24 May 2021, 14:00

On Own Now wrote:
24 May 2021, 13:25
As to whether stories are true... I guess, to me, it doesn't matter how true a story is. The point of these stories is not to relate history.
When you hear these stories from Church leaders, the purpose is always to encourage behavior that will achieve the same results.
Are you saying that we can tell any story in a sacrament talk as long as it encourages moral behavior or action?

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DarkJedi
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Re: Could faith promoting stories be dangerous?

Post by DarkJedi » 24 May 2021, 14:47

On Own Now wrote:
24 May 2021, 13:25
As to whether stories are true... I guess, to me, it doesn't matter how true a story is. The point of these stories is not to relate history. When you hear these stories from Church leaders, the purpose is always to encourage behavior that will achieve the same results. See my Tithing post earlier in this thread. From that standpoint, I hold that they can be dangerous by promoting reckless behavior with expectation of counter-intuitive results.

Perhaps the Church should only relay these stories with a disclaimer in flashing text at the bottom of the screen stating: "Past performance is not indicative of future results".
I think the bigger problem here is not the church as in church leadership from the GC pulpit, rather I think the issue is more on the local level with members repeating things that just aren't true. The Del Parsons painting of Jesus is a great example of this. There is no truth to the story that he took it back to the apostles repeatedly until they told him "that's what he looks like." Yet, I have heard that story (and similar stories) repeated in SS, PH and even SM. Just prior to COVID I heard the story of the china in the Kirtland temple walls in PH - not the real one where it was china off the trash heap, the one where people gave their finest china. The truth is on the church website and in current manuals. Honestly I think the story of the china is less harmful than the painting story but for a church that prides itself on truth is there really a place for untruths? That's rhetorical of course, but from my own point of view the answer is probably not.
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."

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On Own Now
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Re: Could faith promoting stories be dangerous?

Post by On Own Now » 25 May 2021, 10:18

Minyan Man wrote:
24 May 2021, 14:00
On Own Now wrote:
24 May 2021, 13:25
As to whether stories are true... I guess, to me, it doesn't matter how true a story is. The point of these stories is not to relate history.
When you hear these stories from Church leaders, the purpose is always to encourage behavior that will achieve the same results.
Are you saying that we can tell any story in a sacrament talk as long as it encourages moral behavior or action?
Since I'm an atheist, I don't categorize Church narrative as true or not true. I think it's all a matter of personal perspective/interpretation. Just as an example, when I'm teaching the NT, I often use a phrase like, "Luke says" or "We are told that"... For me, I'd be comfortable telling any story I thought was true and relevant. If others tell a story that they think is true and relevant, but I don't, it's unlikely that I will walk out mid-talk.

I think there are two aspects to this discussion: 1) how true are these stories? (the subject of the podcast) and 2) Are they dangerous? (the title of this thread)

Truth is a sliding scale. We have right in the bible stories like the talking ass, the early humans living hundreds of years, Noah and the Flood, Job, Jonah, and my personal favorite: The Lord smote 185K Assyrians "and when they arose early in the morning, behold, they were all dead corpses."

Other stories... are these true?

- Did Jesus walk on water? It depends on who you ask.
- Did JS see God/Jesus? It depends on who you ask.
- Did the Jaredites travel from the old world to the new in submersible barges? It depends on who you ask.
- Did the Sisters in Kirtland donate fine china for the temple plaster? Apparently not, but it depends on who you ask, in the same way that the items above depend on who you ask. Even if that fine detail isn't accurate, there are plenty of similar true stories. One Kirtland convert later wrote of their beautiful Kirtland home with it's lovely garden and concluded with: "When Mormonism came, the house went."

But are these stories dangerous? Maybe that also depends on who you ask. To me, no, I don't think exaggerated stories like the Kirtland Temple story are dangerous. I'm not saying that I give the Church a pass on stories like that, but it is human nature for stories to grow. Inside and outside the Church. I thought the crickets and seagulls story from the podcast was a great example. It's not that it didn't happen, it was just in a larger context and interpreted by people with little experience in the area. The story grew from there.

The only faith promoting stories that are dangerous, true or not, are those that are told in order to elicit some behavior that is itself dangerous. We are often told stories (either by leaders or by each other) of sacrifices made that resulted in blessings. These often come in the form of sacrificing for the Church (ex: tithing) but also in the form of submission to the prophet (ex: polygamy). Our culture is one that highly values strict obedience, and these stories give rationale to the irrational.

- Did some family receive blessings for paying tithing when they didn't have enough money for food? It depends on who you ask... but, either way, does that mean that the person who hears the story should risk their child's welfare to pay tithing? No.
- - -
“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
- - -

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DarkJedi
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Re: Could faith promoting stories be dangerous?

Post by DarkJedi » 25 May 2021, 12:16

I mostly agree with your assessment, OON. The whole idea of interpretation is covered by Erekson in the podcast and presumably the book (since he's talking about the book). As he asserts, the facts don't speak for themselves. We interpret facts through our own individual lenses. This is true inside and outside the church and particularly in relation to areas like history and sociology but also other areas including science (and I think COVID has profoundly demonstrated the latter). Where I think things get dangerous is in situations like this:
Did some family receive blessings for paying tithing when they didn't have enough money for food? It depends on who you ask... but, either way, does that mean that the person who hears the story should risk their child's welfare to pay tithing? No.
Again,I agree that, no, IMO someone should not risk their own child's welfare in paying of tithing and I certainly would not. BUT, there was a time in my life where I have have "on faith" thought it was more important to pay tithing even though my child was hungry because I would have believed that if I did I would be blessed and my child wold not starve. The thing is, sometimes it does work that way (and we hear the stories when it does) and sometimes it doesn't. We don't necessarily hear the stories of when it doesn't because those people tend to fall into crisis and leave or they don't tell the story because they believe they have somehow failed themselves because they didn't have enough faith (and who wants to admit that?). The question isn't really should they pay tithing instead of buying food or paying heating/electric bills, it's will they? And if so, are they doing that based on the belief that they will absolutely get blessings (because it worked that way for someone else)? Many church members tend to be very black/white and either/or and danger does come when the "if" doesn't lead to the "then" they expected.
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

Roy
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Re: Could faith promoting stories be dangerous?

Post by Roy » 30 May 2021, 15:07

I like the direction this discussion has taken:
On Own Now wrote:
25 May 2021, 10:18
The only faith promoting stories that are dangerous, true or not, are those that are told in order to elicit some behavior that is itself dangerous. We are often told stories (either by leaders or by each other) of sacrifices made that resulted in blessings. These often come in the form of sacrificing for the Church (ex: tithing) but also in the form of submission to the prophet (ex: polygamy). Our culture is one that highly values strict obedience, and these stories give rationale to the irrational.
The question is "Could faith promoting stories be dangerous?" Like OON points out, in our religion almost all the faith promoting stories exist to increase loyalty and attachment to the LDS church. That is what I mean when I hear the term "faith promoting stories" in an LDS context. As for the question of danger, I believe that there are two main categories. 1) Is that we can base our belief and testimony off of these stories and when we find that they were less than accurate then we doubt everything. 2) Is that we might do something that seems to be right following the example and narrative presented in the stories but would be considered wrong in other contexts.

For me, the "danger" of faith promoting stories was in this first category. Yes, I believe that I had a false sense of security because of my belief in reciprocal heavenly blessings but thankfully I never did anything foolish based on my confidence. I was shocked when things did not turn out how I had expected. I felt that the faith promoting stories had given me a brittle foundation. In rebuilding my assumptive world, I was determined to make it "earthquake proof". When adversity might come along, I wanted the structures of my worldview to sway and pivot but not to crack and collapse. I believe that a more earthquake resistant religious worldview is one where God might not actively orchestrate life events but rather helps you to create beauty and purpose despite of them. I further believe that a more earthquake resistant LDS worldview is one where church leaders and prophets, while inspired in the right direction, can and do make mistakes because they are learning as individuals and as a collective church body. I am excited about the concept of an ongoing restoration because it implies that the church in its current state is unfinished, incomplete, not yet perfected.

Fortunately for me, I do not believe that I did anything in the latter category of danger. While I did pay tithing expecting blessings, I never had to choose between paying tithing and essentials like food or rent. I did save less for retirement that I should have and would have. I suppose that is a form of extremely deferred "danger". It is my understanding that this latter form of "danger" includes women choosing to forgo education and/or careers in order to do what they felt God wanted them to do and then later feeling that they had been misled in this choice.
"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
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Joined: 07 Oct 2010, 14:16
Location: Pacific Northwest

Re: Could faith promoting stories be dangerous?

Post by Roy » 30 May 2021, 15:40

As my signature line suggests, I believe that faith promoting stories also have positive effects. They can help to create meaning to our lives that helps to make dealing with hardships more tenable. I believe that faith promoting stories that suggest that we can avoid hardships if we do XYZ subvert this potentially positive effect.
"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
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Joined: 15 Sep 2011, 13:40

Re: Could faith promoting stories be dangerous?

Post by Minyan Man » 31 May 2021, 05:34

On the 2nd tab I brought up the example of Paul H Dunn & how he was removed as General Authority by the church for promoting
stories that were found to be false. Not much is said about him or why he was removed. It would be interesting to know his motivation &
why he told them. I want to believe that he did it to motivate members to increase their faith & strive to do better.
In the end it may have been to stroke his own ego & build a reputation. I don't want to read too much into this specific situation.

I don't think that we have a license to tell any story with the motive being to inspire alone. The church must stand for truth above
everything else.

I do believe that it is ok to tell a story within a talk where we don't know if it's true or not. Then, we have the responsibility to qualify
it by saying "I hope this is true" and convey the meaning or lesson we're trying to teach. All parables were not literally true. The
lesson or gospel principle being taught was.

I'm curious if anyone here has ever gone to a speaker or teacher after church & asked for their source for a particular story?

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DarkJedi
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Re: Could faith promoting stories be dangerous?

Post by DarkJedi » 01 Jun 2021, 09:30

I also like the direction this thread has taken because it has caused me to think about it and look at it from another point of view. I was prone to thinking about faith promoting stories only from the perspective of whether or not they were "true" or accurate. That doesn't mean something that I can't see or hear might not be true or accurate because my experiences are mine and yours are yours - for example, I do believe Joseph Smith's accounts of the first vision. I wasn't there and I can't have experienced what he did. He believed what happened was true and correct, and true or not perception is reality. I do believe others have made Joseph's story into more than what it was (for example the idea that Heavenly Father was physically present - that's not what Joseph said) and that my be dangerous.

Related to the above thought, I now suppose that whether or not those things are true, they are probably not dangerous. After all, most of the stories in the OT are probably not very factual (no living in a fish's belly, no parting the sea, no talking donkey, etc.) and are generally faith promoting. I suppose they're only dangerous if you expect exactly the same thing to happen to you. Likewise stories in the NT, BoM and PoGP. (Side note: having worked in a maximum security prison, Nephi's story of being commanded to kill Laban is not all that far fetched.)

I also appreciate Roy's perspective that there could be danger if the point of the story is to coerce or convince someone to do something they might otherwise not do but could present a danger (perhaps unseen), particularly with an expectation of blessings (which may or may not come). Since my own faith crisis I have held the idea that expecting blessings from particular actions is dangerous, but I also thought they were only dangerous from a spiritual or faith point of view. I have also come to recognize that they can be psychologically dangerous, but my own interest in and understanding of psychology is a more recent phenomenon. I see now that such things could be physically/temporally dangerous as well.
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

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