Do any of the narratives stand?

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NonTraditionalMom
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Do any of the narratives stand?

Post by NonTraditionalMom » 30 Jul 2015, 11:55

I am feeling increasingly frustrated that so many of the narratives we are taught do not correlate to their histories. I've been attending the Gospel Essentials class for SS for the past little bit, thinking that getting back to the basics might be a good idea right now. A couple of weeks ago, the teacher read a section from the manual about a restoration narrative, and I thought it might be the key to calming down my crisis. The church's narrative says that there were heavenly messengers and more than one person in attendance for this particular event, so I thought for sure that if I looked up the history, the witnesses would all have corroborating stories. But no, the records are differing, those particular doctrines weren't even taught to the early church, there are major discrepancies.... UGH.

I don't even think I'm angry, just so, so, so disappointed. This makes me wonder: do any of the church's narratives match up to the actual history? I am really trying to hang on, I really am, but this is just getting so frustrating. I feel like every rock I turn over is covered with more and more gunk.

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Heber13
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Re: Do any of the narratives stand?

Post by Heber13 » 30 Jul 2015, 13:17

When you are in that space of really just wanting it to be simple and straight forward without the brush or hype of making it spiritually uplifting, but just facts...it is so frustrating, isn't it?

Does anything stand? I think that is a good question...wondering if there really is anything you can trust to just believe in without having to do mental gymnastics or so much effort to nuance things to make it palatable.

I don't think there has been an answer proven for that about narratives, especially religious narratives, and especially mormon claims of heavenly messengers and prophetic scripture in our day. So much emphasis is placed on these things in our truth claims, it makes one want to know they are real.

Here is an interesting read about the different versions of the First Vision which I like how it raises this issue...how do you know what really happened? How do you prove it? Or how do you handle myths and narratives and the critiques by those trying to disprove it with good arguments?

https://www.sunstonemagazine.com/approa ... sion-saga/

In one section, he writes:
Traditionally, religions have been studied normatively—that is, either by insiders committed to the faith’s claims or by outsiders seeking to critique them. But in the mid-twentieth century, American universities began creating departments of religious studies—academic units designed to study religion as cultural objects created by human beings through the methodologies of history, anthropology, sociology, literary studies, feminist studies, and the like.

In this vein, many scholars of religion employ an approach called epoché, or “bracketing.” The aim is to set aside one’s opinions regarding religions’ distinctive truth claims in order to more fully examine the accessible dimensions of those traditions: to “understand religion without necessarily having to explain it, much less refute or promote it.”...

Practicing epoché in relation to the different accounts of the First Vision means asking questions about the First Vision’s “meaning,” rather than its historicity—to focus on what the First Vision narratives meant to those who heard them, or what sort of symbolic truths the narratives contain, not on the question of the accounts’ historical veracity.

Although epoché is intended to create a common ground for insiders and outsiders, believers and non-believers, scholars who apply the tools of epoché to the First Vision can still be easily divided into those who believe Joseph Smith actually experienced the divine and those who believe he probably did not. A representative example of the believing group is the late LDS Church Historian Leonard J. Arrington, who apparently applied this principle in his professional scholarship and personal life. He writes that he “was never preoccupied with the question of the historicity of the First Vision—though the evidence is overwhelming that it did occur. . . . I am prepared to accept [it] as historical or metaphorical, as symbolical or as precisely what happened. That [it conveys] religious truth is the essential issue, and of this I have never had any doubt.”

Arrington’s statement is representative of a subset of Mormons who value the First Vision stories primarily for their mythical components—for the moral meaning and ideology encoded within the narratives. For people in this category, the existence of different accounts of the vision is unimportant and perhaps completely irrelevant. Literary theorist Jean-Francois Lyotard argues that many thinkers believe religious myth must be “raised from the ruins to which it has been reduced by rational, demythologizing, and positivistic thought.” Arrington’s acceptance of Smith’s vision, “whether it is literally true or not,” would seem to comport with the goals Lyotard describes.

This mythical view differs substantially from the positivist critique of the First Vision already discussed in that it does not grant the last word to scientific rationality. It protects mythological truth claims by rendering them un-falsifiable. Hence, though Arrington mentions “overwhelming” rational evidence for the First Vision, he immediately suggests that such evidence is irrelevant. Utah State University professor of philosophy Richard Sherlock similarly suggests that those engaging in positivistic apologetics should ask themselves, “Is there any conceivable fact or set of facts that might be discovered about Joseph Smith that would cause one to lose faith in the church? If the answer to that question is yes, then I submit you have placed your faith in hock to the historian, that you are willing to believe the church is true to the extent that you have not found any human evidence to contradict it.” Regarding the First Vision in particular, Sherlock argues that the canonized, 1838 account of the First Vision is the “one account [that] is true because it bears witness to the faith of the church better than any other.” Note that Sherlock is not saying that the 1838 account is the most accurate description of what happened in the grove. For Sherlock, calling the account “true” is not an assessment of the account’s literal veracity. Sherlock calls the account “true” because it is “better” than the other accounts at witnessing to the Church’s faith. By what criteria this account is “better” than the others, or what exactly Sherlock understands the Church’s faith to be, is not clear.
[Emphasis Added]
I know of no way to really know for sure if the narratives as we have them in sunday school manuals are very accurate or not. But I find it worthwhile, for myself, to know which parts are likely embellished stories, and which parts are things I truly believe happened for a purpose that can benefit me.

Determining what I believe, what I don't, and what I choose to park as "unknown...needs further study" is part of my faith going forward. My eyes have just been opened to how complex it really is...something I consoled myself earlier that as a mormon I did not have such complex problems...but alas...I do.
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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On Own Now
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Re: Do any of the narratives stand?

Post by On Own Now » 30 Jul 2015, 13:18

IMO, it's important to understand the difference between verifiable historical facts and faith.

First and foremost, history is elusive. The things we don't know vastly outweigh the things we do know. People look at history from different perspectives. For example, we know that JS used a head-in-the-hat method to translate the BofM. For some people that is of no consequence. For others it's the most important factor. The former camp thinks of that as either an aberration or a mis-telling of history by the primary sources. The latter thinks of that as the ONLY method used. What, exactly, is the truth? We don't know the whole story. Even if JS used that particular method, we have no way of knowing what percentage of the BofM was produced in that way. It is beyond our ability to discern the truth, so we fill in the gaps with our biases.

I'm an Atheist. As such, when I read the new testament, I completely and unequivocally discount miracle stories. Yet for those who believe, it is no stretch at all to believe in these miracles and they take these accounts to be accurate. To me they are stories that have grown with the telling. To others, they are not only true, but PROOF that Jesus was the Messiah.

But let me bring this to an even more personal level. When I was a missionary, I saw plenty of healing-related miracles. In those days, I believed that they were divine intervention. Now, I believe it was sheer coincidence. Yet the events happened exactly as they happened. The difference, across the years, rests entirely on the biases I have brought to my interpretation of the events.
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“Everything that irritates us about others can lead us to an understanding of ourselves.” ― Carl Jung
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"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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Heber13
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Re: Do any of the narratives stand?

Post by Heber13 » 30 Jul 2015, 13:27

Well said, OON.

Revisiting the religion from a new perspective can be interesting, and can help growth and progression.

Some of the Lord's most powerful stories in the NT were the parables, that teach us on so many levels.

Perhaps we have more parables taught to us than we previously thought, and less historical events. That does not need to diminish religion.
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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mom3
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Re: Do any of the narratives stand?

Post by mom3 » 30 Jul 2015, 13:27

Nontraditionalmom - I would love to say a thousand things, but I won't. I will just send a hug. Please know the disappointment is valid. Have confidence that you aren't the first or only one to pick up on it. Keep processing here. So many of us have been exactly where you are. Feel safe with us. Thanks for trusting us.
"I stayed because it was God and Jesus Christ that I wanted to follow and be like, not individual human beings." Chieko Okazaki Dialogue interview

"I am coming to envision a new persona for the Church as humble followers of Jesus Christ....Joseph and his early followers came forth with lots of triumphalist rhetoric, but I think we need a new voice, one of humility, friendship and service. We should teach people to believe in God because it will soften their hearts and make them more willing to serve." - Richard Bushman

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On Own Now
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Re: Do any of the narratives stand?

Post by On Own Now » 30 Jul 2015, 13:45

NonTraditionalMom wrote:I don't even think I'm angry, just so, so, so disappointed.
I know exactly what you mean. I often refer to my Faith Crisis as "The Great Disappointment".
- - -
“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
- - -

Roadrunner
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Re: Do any of the narratives stand?

Post by Roadrunner » 30 Jul 2015, 14:44

NTM, to me the question "do any of the narratives stand?" is similar to asking "are any of the narratives true?" Some on this forum have said they think teachings are true but their definitions have evolved or matured. That's how it is for me. Unfortunately I don't accept most official church lesson material at face value any more. I'm basically a deist who would love to be proven wrong - that a loving Heavenly Father does indeed exist who will let me live with my family forever.

But I think a more accurate description of reality is probably a physics textbook. Although Church might be less uplifting if we replaced the scriptures with science textbooks.

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Holy Cow
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Re: Do any of the narratives stand?

Post by Holy Cow » 30 Jul 2015, 19:58

Roadrunner wrote:But I think a more accurate description of reality is probably a physics textbook. Although Church might be less uplifting if we replaced the scriptures with science textbooks.
Roadrunner, I've often thought that it would be impossible to make church more boring than it already is. I think you've found a way! :lol:
My introduction: viewtopic.php?f=8&t=6139

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Re: Do any of the narratives stand?

Post by Old-Timer » 31 Jul 2015, 05:04

The records differ, because the people who recorded them differ. There is no way to avoid that. It is history encapsulated succinctly.

That can be challenging, but . . .

I LOVE IT! It gives me more options for what will connect with my own heart and mind - and allows me, if necessary, to add one more different record from one more perspective. It is SO liberating to not have only one choice. :thumbup:
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

NonTraditionalMom
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Re: Do any of the narratives stand?

Post by NonTraditionalMom » 31 Jul 2015, 08:01

For me, there are big differences between events being interpreted differently by different witnesses and events whose witnesses fail to corroborate the event at all.

Here's a non-church example:

On Friday, May 15, my son had a birthday party at our house. My husband and I were there, along with my son and his friends. We served pizza, cake, and ice cream. These are historical facts. Everyone at the party had a different experience, so would probably tell about the party differently. My husband would probably complain that there were kids running around everywhere. I would probably talk about all of the prep-work and the expense. My son would talk about his presents. And his friends would talk about the games or food or whatever they enjoyed the most. In each of our interpretations, though, there would be some common elements: a party, my son's birthday, our house, food. Even where all of our accounts would differ, each account could be used to verify that there was, indeed, a party.

My problem is that some of the historical accounts of church history do not contain those common elements that support the event. Do you see what I mean?

I'm not saying that I have to have a 100% clear picture of proof; I recognize that faith is key in developing and maintaining a testimony. I guess what I find so disappointing and frustrating is that it seems like the history actually is more disproving of the narrative than it is proving.

You know, I really appreciate the sentiments that I have to find my own truth, follow my own conscience, listen to the spirit for myself, etc, but can I just say for a second how extremely difficult that is for me? I have been taught to follow and respect authority for my entire life, and I've done a pretty good job of staying in line. When I find out that the line isn't even a line, I don't feel like I can jump to a new philosophy so easily. I don't love it, and I'm not having a good time with all of the nuances. I feel frustrated and confused, like I have some form of spiritual vertigo. I know everyone talks about how you have to get out of the whole black-and-white mentality and learn to enjoy the mystery, but I am just not there. I'm just spiritually exhausted, and I just want something to make sense. Sorry. /end temper tantrum./

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