Questioning the scriptures as an "Answer Book"

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SilentDawning
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Questioning the scriptures as an "Answer Book"

Post by SilentDawning »

I think scripture does serve some important purposes in religion. It provides a source of comfort that God exists (for those who have faith) and that miracles have happened in the past. You can feel spiritual as you read scripture, and it can motivate you to be a better person. They provide some hope that interventions from God others have experienced might happen to you too. In this sense, it provides some practical benefits. It does point you in a general direction that can help you find other answers such as "keep trying", "rely on God" or other generalities that are directional but not specific in their solutions to problems.

But even the spiritual-feeling benefits of reading scripture, I have found, can be achieved through other means. I have been harping on the benefits of EMDR therapy in other threads. Not only does it help you reprocess upsetting memories to the point you don't need to reprocess, rehash them, or obsess about them any further, EMDR can create a hugely spiritual atmosphere in the room. More than once, as my brain reprocessed traumatic experiences, I have sat there basking in the Spirit as a result of the affirmation I feel during the bilateral stimulation, reflection, and journal writing. It truly is a spiritual experience and one that I experience even more reliably than reading the scriptures.

Although I said the scriptures point you in a general direction, I don't consider them to really help you solve problems all the way down to the detail level. I remember one missionary calling the Book of Mormon "The Answer Book" -- in my estimation, in error. And others have said that answers to our problems are all in the scriptures.

I find this unworkable. Most problems I have experienced that are chronic require specific help found in self-help books, help from counselors, EMDR therapy or help from psychiatrists/counselors. For many of life's practical questions, Google is my best friend; there is a technical aspect to problem-solving that the scriptures simply don't give you.

I have pulled out my scriptures again and have tried to read them. I guess I have trouble getting through them given the potency of other forms of self-help, such as the Feeling Good/Feeling Great/Feeling Good Together books by Dr. David Burns. The scriptures sit unopened at my bedside as they don't compete effectively with more practical sources of self-help.

Do the scriptures contain all the answers to life's problems? What benefits do you feel from the scriptures, and do you read them at all?
"It doesn't have to be about the Church (church) all the time!" -- SD

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Old-Timer
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Re: Questioning the scriptures as an "Answer Book"

Post by Old-Timer »

I see scriptures as a record of how people throughout history have viewed God - and how those views influenced how they saw and treated themselves and others.

I love scriptures for what they show me I need to model AND reject - just like all other historical volumes. That is a critical thing for 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
Roy
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Re: Questioning the scriptures as an "Answer Book"

Post by Roy »

Similar to Old-Timer, I do see the scriptures as "wisdom literature."

I feel free to take what works for me and leave the rest. It would appear that prophets are products of their time and much of those limitations end up on the page. I can discard those things while still finding meaning in other parts.
"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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DarkJedi
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Re: Questioning the scriptures as an "Answer Book"

Post by DarkJedi »

Similar to OT and Roy, I believe the scriptures to be how individual writers understood their religion/faith. There can be helpful stuff in there, and there can be harmful stuff in there. Take the good and what works for you and leave the rest. They do not contain the answers to all life's questions or problems. I can see how a young person might believe that because they've been taught that, but the reason they believe it is because they probably haven't encountered some of the problems the scriptures don't have the answer for. I have fairly regularly heard it said (including in the last few weeks) that if we pray for an answer and watch all of General Conference we will get the answer we seek. I've been there and done that - it might work for some people and some problems, but not everyone and all problems. Just saying.
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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AmyJ
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Re: Questioning the scriptures as an "Answer Book"

Post by AmyJ »

I think it is also important to note that different "books of scripture" are in different domains/"solving" different problems.

Some of the OT books double as "building manuals", "legal & community codes", "moral teaching codes" etc.

A lot of scriptures I think are also narrator/community processing of "why did this happen" - as a way to make meaning of it in a world without germ theory and a few other pivotal points of understanding.

I think that knowing about the OT and NT can be helpful for understanding analogies useful for grappling universal human conditions.
I also think that we "write/find" our own "scriptures" as we journey through life.

I also think that one of the real problems the church faces is that the their canon is being substituted for different writings from non-LDS, non-Christian, even worldly sources and or entertainment (not in a preachy way - I am the first to substitute/supplement) in the space of the dwindling of one of the most value-able resources: Attention. Church meetings were used to train children to "pay attention" to teach things. Now, a lot of us ask some hard questions about what our children should "pay attention to" - and we ourselves do so more virtually on our own time frames in more entertaining ways.

Also, what the churches focus on and represent is changing - so some people are choosing to disengage from church because the people don't trust the church teachings and/or feel their experience is represented. Democracy as a concept is that "Representation Matters" - it mattered to the American Colonies (in their initial break from England), and it matters today as more of human experience is included in the narrative the community is telling itself.

People are going to take words/concepts/stories into their heads and then shift them to their hearts through their hands - but the words/concepts/stories being used are going to be more universal (less tribal and potentially more inclusive), more tested (scientific theory has shifted how we see our place in the universe), and contain more perspectives. Mental health/counseling and other fields are empowering people to change their thinking from a bottom-up perspective instead of those same individuals being told what to do (in broad strokes).
Roy
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Re: Questioning the scriptures as an "Answer Book"

Post by Roy »

Very insightful Amy.
AmyJ wrote: 03 Oct 2022, 07:48 I also think that one of the real problems the church faces is that the their canon is being substituted for different writings from non-LDS, non-Christian, even worldly sources and or entertainment (not in a preachy way - I am the first to substitute/supplement) in the space of the dwindling of one of the most value-able resources: Attention. Church meetings were used to train children to "pay attention" to teach things. Now, a lot of us ask some hard questions about what our children should "pay attention to" - and we ourselves do so more virtually on our own time frames in more entertaining ways.

Also, what the churches focus on and represent is changing - so some people are choosing to disengage from church because the people don't trust the church teachings and/or feel their experience is represented. Democracy as a concept is that "Representation Matters" - it mattered to the American Colonies (in their initial break from England), and it matters today as more of human experience is included in the narrative the community is telling itself.

People are going to take words/concepts/stories into their heads and then shift them to their hearts through their hands - but the words/concepts/stories being used are going to be more universal (less tribal and potentially more inclusive), more tested (scientific theory has shifted how we see our place in the universe), and contain more perspectives. Mental health/counseling and other fields are empowering people to change their thinking from a bottom-up perspective instead of those same individuals being told what to do (in broad strokes).
I sometimes think that the church is focused on answering 19th century questions (which church is true?) and not as great at 21st century questions (why church?).
"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
AmyJ
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Re: Questioning the scriptures as an "Answer Book"

Post by AmyJ »

Roy wrote: 03 Oct 2022, 08:56 Very insightful Amy.

I sometimes think that the church is focused on answering 19th century questions (which church is true?) and not as great at 21st century questions (why church?).
Thank you.

I would phrase it as "LDS church" is the "root answer" to asked and unasked questions (well that is what aspires to be).
This actually makes sense being a religion of rebels/immigrants/outcasts/visionaries that actually contained the government/community/school systems (and cultural components of all of those) that needed the church to be the anchor for the entire community and related communities. It was an organizational survival tactic as much as anything else.
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DarkJedi
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Re: Questioning the scriptures as an "Answer Book"

Post by DarkJedi »

Roy wrote: 03 Oct 2022, 08:56 I sometimes think that the church is focused on answering 19th century questions (which church is true?) and not as great at 21st century questions (why church?).
I think you're absolutely right, Roy. I think this was one of Jana Reiss's conclusions in The Next Mormons. And judging by this past weekend's conference the church has made no progress in this regard.
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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Arrakeen
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Re: Questioning the scriptures as an "Answer Book"

Post by Arrakeen »

Roy wrote: 03 Oct 2022, 08:56 I sometimes think that the church is focused on answering 19th century questions (which church is true?) and not as great at 21st century questions (why church?).
Exactly this. And it’s especially clear when you look at how the missionary lessons are organized. The church still views its answer to “which church is true?” to be its primary selling point.
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Re: Questioning the scriptures as an "Answer Book"

Post by Watcher »

I will make an effort to present my opinion about scripture based upon my experiences. At an early age I became interested in both religion and science. I became convinced that what I was told about religion was flawed compared to what I was learning about science. I began to believe that many (perhaps most) holding to religion were blind to human advances and truths being discovered in science. That the separation between science and religion was primarily the fault of religion.

I began to study scripture and religion through the lens of science. I found myself more open to “things” in other religions. I learned that to study other religions I needed to befriend someone devout in whatever religion I intended to study. I learned it unwise to talk to Christians about the religion of Muslims, Buddhists or Hindu or even Satan worship. I also learned that talking to Christians about atheists is about as fruitful as learning of Christianity from atheists.

The more I learned about science and other religions the more I learned and understood about my deep roots in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and the more I came to appreciate those deep roots. Most of all, I believe I have discovered that those that have faced the more difficult challenges of life and survived and thrived – the more such individuals have to contribute to others navigating the turbulences of similar waters.

I will likely be criticized for not comforting those in need of comfort but it also seems to me those stuck in their own sorrows do not contribute much for themselves nor others but rather are in need of someone that understands their certain sorrows and can speak and comfort them. Because I find great benefits to devotions to scriptures and to religious principles – I will likely not connect with those who have difficulty with such. For me, science and things spiritual are great gifts or opportunities in life. And for all my experiences and studies I have never found any religion more suitable to science than the principles of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. I have come to believe in the understanding that only through divine influence (Holy Ghost) can any truth (of science or religion) be understood and bring lasting comfort to any purpose. I cannot speak for anyone else but only myself and my experiences.
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