Tuesday, April 17, 2007

The Single Most Important Thing For Mormons to Learn

I feel that the single most important thing a Mormon should learn is that the experience that he or she interprets as the Spirit confirming truth is not a reliable way to identify what is true. Or, just because you have felt what you call the Spirit it does not mean that there is no possibility of being wrong.

Now, why would I say this is the most important thing Mormons should learn. It has been my experience that Mormons will not consider policies or doctrines on their own merits if they believe the Spirit has spoken. The only thinking that can be done once the Spirit has spoken is in demonstrating how the policy or doctrine is true. Once one is uncertain about one's knowledge then one can begin to hear and consider evidence that runs counter to the Church's teachings and positions.

Mormons need to quit treating women as inferiors, promoting homophobia, arrogantly looking down on non-Mormons, stop trusting their leaders so much, etc. All of these things will not begin until they consider that current policies and doctrines might be wrong, and that will only happen once they realize the Spirit is not a reliable way to identify truth.

What are your thoughts?


Anonymous said...

Fully agree with you, but the TBM must have some seed of doubt and nurture it.

ungewiss said...

It depends on the person's motivation, doesn't it?

Assuming the TBM in question is like me or you, then yes, absolutely! If a person wishes to understand what is REAL, he or she must be willing to suspend their belief in order to get closer to reality.

But that's an invalid assumption most of the time, it seems. Most TBMs don't care to know what really happened, they care only to know what makes them feel happy. If happiness, not reality, is the goal, then I say let them keep their shields up.

I'm beginning to suspect that this divide between primary religious motivations is as significant as the "men are from mars, women are from venus" distinction. Without recognizing the fundamental differences, meaningful discussion between these two groups seems impossible.

Ujlapana said...

What really frustrates me about this is that they frequently miss their own spiritual contradictions. They will receive spiritual knowledge of something that is going to happen, e.g. Grandpa will get better. When Grandpa dies, they say, "God must have wanted me to think Grandpa would get better so that I would (insert recent actions)." I call this evolation, and I just blogged about it myself. Once you admit that you can grossly misinterpret a spiritual infusion of "knowledge," you have effectively dismissed it as the supreme epistemological tool. How do you know you're not misinterpreting what you "know" about the BoM? Maybe God is lying to you (like he did about Grandpa) to see if you can handle learning your way out of the church on your own. It can be very frustrating to watch once you're on the other side.

Anonymous said...

I agree with your post, and also with Ungewiss' comment. I too sense a palpable divide between those who would rather believe an uncomfortable "truth," than a comfy "untruth"; and those who seem to connect this sense of comfort you reference with "truth."

I think that this latter form of thinking is free of regard for "reliability" and "validity."

Henry James said...

If Ignorance is Bliss, tis Folly to be Wise

my sainted Mormon mother used to say.

I do not know even now how ironic she was being. I think a bit, but not entirely.

Dathon said...

Taking emotional elevation as confirmation of truth is shoddy epistemology. While logic and reason may not be sufficient for all understanding, I'd still argue that they are necessary. I agree with Galileo that it would be strange indeed if God or nature endowed us with reason expecting us not to apply it.

adam said...

I know this post is old, but it is interesting.

First of all, I am a believer. Secondly, I totally consider the feeling of "the spirit" to be an emotional one. Third, I never discount reason. In fact, I can't recall a time I relied on feelings without reason. While I don't discount reason, I can't discount emotion either. To me they are of equal importance. Emotion and reason together have decided a lot of things in my life (mission, getting married, where I was going to school, etc.)

I agree, however, that emotion alone is not reliable. Reason alone (according to psychological research) is not enough for action.

I think that emotion and reason applied consistently over time produces good results.