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RuthiesMom

Devastated and Lost

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I am sure this has all been seen here before, so I appreciate any of you taking time to read this. After googling some items to find information for a Sunday lesson, I came upon an essay on the lds website, that lead me to another and to another... Reading all kinds of information I had never heard before...on pages that seemed to be thru the "back door" of the LDS site. I always trusted my heart and the spirit in navigating my faith and never paid any attention to the scripture debates...amd trusted the information given me at church and what I would read on my own in the scriptures.

After reading about Joseph looking into a hat with stones in it, and then just using a treasure hunting rock, while the plates sat next to him wrapped up in a hankercheif. Then the essay about the book of Abraham and how their egyptian alphabet doesnt match the alphabet modern scholars use...and the facsimilies don't really match what modern scholars translate them to mean...?

Then the essay about Joesph smith and polygamy and Fanny Alger and the timing of the polygamy revelation, and it all being done in secret...

I hate tried my whole life to live a genuine, honest life. Honesty is huge for me. These little tidbits of "hidden" information have crushed me. I am completely devastated, and for the first time in my life, I believed the church is in fact a man-made institution. I was so sick about the idea, that I threw up...then I just layed in my bed and cried. For the first time in my life, I have a real belief that there really isn't a God. That this church is no better than any other, with lies and secrets and apparently a very muddy past...just like all the others. Nothing good comes from secrets, and now I have no idea how to trust this establishment.

I am completely broken. The ONE thing I truly believed I could trust...my faith in God...has been shattered.

https://www.lds.org/topics/plural-marriage-in-kirtland-and-nauvoo?lang=eng

https://www.lds.org/topics/translation-and-historicity-of-the-book-of-abraham?lang=eng

https://www.lds.org/topics/book-of-mormon-translation?lang=eng#26

I am not even sure where to begin...I obviously need to find more information but finding reliable information online isn't exactly making things any better. i just read that the visions in the Nauvoo temple were really because everyone had fasted all day and then got really really drunk. It just gets worse and worse. And then a now atheist watched his sweet wife die of cancer, holding printed copies of blessings she had received that promised her more time, but she died early anyway. And the stuff on wikipedia for Oliver Cowdary is just more stuff that just hurts my heart.

I don't remember the sources for these and I suspect they are unreliable, but I can't stop thinking about them.

I need to make sense of all this, and find out the TRUTH. I have 2 kids under the age of 2 and they need all of my energy and attention. my time to be able to really dig into this stuff is extremely limited, and my brain is mush from sleep deprivation and sick kids...I can't get it out if my mind...but I am so sick over this that I need some reliable direction or help...atleast while I chip away and digest all this stuff. and eventually decide what this means for me and my little family's future.

My kids need me and I need to be able to give them all my attention...not be preoccupied with this dark rabbit hole.

Any help or perspective is greatly appreciated.

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Hi Ruthiesmom -

 

I can understand being thrown for a loop by some of the newer stuff that's out there.  That said, I do think there's good scholarly evidence out there that leaves room for belief.  Given the way the Church has traditionally told its story, there may be some preconceptions you'll have to leave behind--but be careful not to throw out the baby with the bathwater.  What factors led you to have a "testimony"?  Have those specific factors really changed?

 

Generally speaking:  Fairlds.org is a good apologetics site; so is JeffLindsay.com.  Joseph Smith's polygamy is covered in-depth by Brian Hales' website at josephsmithpolygamy.org.  FARMS/Maxwell Institute has some good info; so does MormonInterpreter.com.  Lots of folks here will also be happy to discuss your concerns, with the caveat that you'll probably see a better response if you open a new thread specifically dealing with each concern as opposed to simply creating a "laundry list thread" and continually shifting from one concern to the next (makes it easier to stay on topic).  :)

 

Pres. Uchtdorf's advice to "doubt your doubts" also has some merit.  Be sure to ask critical questions of those who are asking critical questions.  For example:

1.  Why is it so much worse if Joseph Smith translated most of the Book of Mormon through one magic rock (the Chase seer stone) as opposed to two magic rocks (Urim and Thummim)?

2.  Why would Smith bother to develop an Egyptian Grammar/Alphabet at all, if he knew it would be useless in translating any other Egyptian texts that might fall into his hands and might actually be used by his associates to constrain or undermine any future translations he might produce?

3.  Why did some of Joseph Smith's most bitter detractors nevertheless maintain that Fanny Alger was, in fact, sealed to Joseph Smith?

4.  If William McLellin's report was correct that everyone--or even a critical mass of attendees--was smashed at the Kirtland (not Nauvoo) Temple dedication, then why did McLellin--by his own account--try to conceal the visibly drunk Samuel Smith from the view of the rest of the congregation?

5.  Mormonism has a reasonably coherent theological rationale for why requests for some miracles--even when made via priesthood blessings--can go unanswered.  Can atheism produce any secular rationale for the miracles that do happen, other than the same "frenzied mind" "anyone-who-disagrees-with-me-is-mentally-ill" psychobabble that Korihor was spouting two millennia ago?

 

Anyhow . . . by all means, study it out; but remember that nobody discusses Mormonism without bias.  Those who claim to, are lying.  Be willing to admit what you don't know, and beware of anyone--inside or outside of Mormonism--who claims to have easy, pat answers for anything. 

 

And, don't buy into the idea that you Must Do Something Right Now.  You've lived the lifestyle.  It's not a bad one.  Your kids aren't being secretly introduced to cocaine, or groomed to participate in someone's harem.  Nothing's going to happen with your kids inside of Mormonism for the next few months--or even years, if that's what it takes--that won't be substantially reversible if you ultimately decide your conscience requires you to leave.  Take your time, do your research, fast, study, pray, and when you feel ready--make a decision and stick with it.

Edited by Just_A_Guy

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I know it hurts, and you likely have a lot of concerns to consider. Take a deep breath, and one thing at a time. It will help I promise you.

Hold onto what you do know, when you have felt touched by the spirit. There are people who can help you through this.

Edited by Crypto

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Guest LiterateParakeet

Great post, JAG.

 

I would also recommend the book The Crucible of Doubt by Terryl and Fiona Givens

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Great post, JAG.

 

I would also recommend the book The Crucible of Doubt by Terryl and Fiona Givens

 

I don't recommend this book unless you have an absolutely strong testimony.

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RuthiesMom -- Prior to having read all this internet material, what was your testimony based on? That the church was pretty and nice? Or did you believe because of the sure witness of the Holy Ghost to you that the church was true? If the first is true, then you still have the same process to go through as someone who is investigating the church from the outside (with the advantage of familiarity, of course). If the latter is true, then honestly, what has changed? If the Holy Spirit has told you the church is true, then the church is still true.

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RuthiesMom -- Prior to having read all this internet material, what was your testimony based on? That the church was pretty and nice? Or did you believe because of the sure witness of the Holy Ghost to you that the church was true? If the first is true, then you still have the same process to go through as someone who is investigating the church from the outside (with the advantage of familiarity, of course). If the latter is true, then honestly, what has changed? If the Holy Spirit has told you the church is true, then the church is still true.

You chid me on the dual being thing but then you don't seem to understand how it relates to situations such as these.  The spirit speaks to spirit.  The natural body, ever pulling away from that which is spiritual can overpower that which was planted with the spirit.  The strength of the message to the spirit can be just as strong but when a person gives heed and feeds the weeds around it (that being carnality or the physical body) then it chokes off even the strong message of the spirit.  It is not that the spirit has changed, it is that the physical, the carnal mind, is more powerful.  They are two forces at odds with each other.  This is why we have to endure.  We can't just receive it then all is well.  We have to constantly, through the rest of our lives fight the pulling currents of the body, the things that drown out the message from the spirit even when it is a strong spiritual signal.  So, that is what has changed, where one gives heed.   But I suppose if you want to ignore that very core of our religion then it is hard to understand that idea. The strength of the message from the Holy Spirit doesn't change, like the signals from a radio station, it is just dependent on whether we tune into it or tune into the other radio station, that from our carnality.

Edited by Seminarysnoozer

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Hi RuthiesMom,

 

When I was ~12 I decided the read the Bible cover-to-cover.  What I quickly discovered is that the Bible is not rated G.  I was just a few chapters in I read about Noah.  Yeah, there was the part about the Ark, but then there was this story about Noah getting super drunk and danced around nude in front of his family.  

 

What the???  My Sunday School teacher never mention this!  I wondered why this would be.  After years of study I decided that my issue was two fold: 1) why would a man of God do this, and 2) why did my Sunday school teacher not tell me about it.

 

Issue #1: Why would a man of God act like this?  Cause he's a MAN of God.  "Man" by definition means he's fallible and makes mistakes.  In fact, as I continued reading the Bible I found it to 1000+ rated R pages of men messing up again and again!  At first it was repulsive but then... I saw myself in their mistakes.  And I saw how these messed up people still communed with God and how they would grow to be better people.  And then I got to the New Testament and met Jesus: the Perfect man, and He talked about Forgiveness and the Grace of God offered freely to all these wretched people... WOW!!!  That's what it was all about: Jesus coming to save our messed up selves.  

 

Learning about church history is a lot like reading the Old Testament: it’s full of people making mistakes.  Really really dumb mistakes.  But God is still there and still coaching His people ad making them better.  And then there is Christ there to save us all, both in His previous coming and in that to be still.

 

Issue #2:  Why did my Sunday School teacher not tell me about this?  Ummm… because I was 12 years old.  And because we have to cover the entire Old Testament in ~40 weeks and hence it turned into Spark Notes crash course of all the Good things people did, skimming over the dumb things.  We simply don’t have the time to cover everything.  Now, were they hiding things from me?  Well, my Sunday School teacher only told me to read my scriptures about a million times….

 

The church doesn’t mean to hide things from you, even when there isn’t time to cover everything in Sunday School.  That’s why they have LDS.org and they posted the essays: to offer a good reliable source.

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What's happening to you now sounds a lot like moving from the children's Noah story to the “grown up” Noah story.  It can be a very scary time: when I went through it, part of me wanted to "unlearn" what I just read and go back to cartoon pictures.  But you can't "undo" learning and growth, and the scriptures tell us that "all things shall be for your good" including this transition.  

 

Now, on to the practical advice---

 

1)  What not to do: continue spinning around like a kite caught in a storm.  All that will do is tear you to pieces.  So I would quit binge reading all the "grown up" stuff for a little bit (we'll get to it a few steps).

2)  What to do: re-find your foundational testimony in Christ.  Go back to the basics, and remember the rock on which you are built.  Spend lots of time in prayer, reflection, and re-reading your favorite scriptures.  Perhaps even sing-a-long time with your kids and the favorite primary songs.

3)  Self-check: how do you feel?  God is not the author of chaos, but of order and calm.  Do you feel calm and centered in Christ?  If no, go back to step 2.  If calm, proceed to step 4.

4)  Now we can start working on the "grown up" stories.  

 

Guidelines for studying "grown up" stories:

1)  As they tell you in Sunday School, always pray and keep the Lord in your heart when you study.  

2)  As you work through issues, take them *one* at a time (this is to prevent kite-in-storm-sydrome).  

3)  Use good sources, including the scriptures.  Just because some random website says something doesn't make it true.  The LDS.org articles are there to help in this type of "grown up" study.

4)  You can always ask people about things too (including us here).

 

5)  Back to point #1, always pray and keep the Lord in your heart.  If you loose touch of that, then it's time to put the website down for a few minutes and pray.

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First thing is ask your self on what is your testimony based on?  Is it based on a witness of the spirit from God that certain things are true?  If so then take comfort in the fact that God knew all these things when he bore witness to you of the truthfulness.  You need to hold on to those truths as you work through the rest.

 

Or was your testimony based on not faith in Christ but trust in flawed humans.  If so then you have built on a sandy foundation and shaking is to be expected. 

 

The Church is filled with flawed human beings.  Which means it will have points of fault and failure. But know that all the information that you are having issues with comes from the church itself.  From the records it has kept.  If the church was trying to 'alter history' to look more favorable (and be dishonest) it would have 'lost' those records along time ago.

 

However the church was/is not in the business of teaching history.  It was/is in the business of teaching the gospel.  Things like how the Book of Mormon was translated or how many people Joseph Smith was sealed to are incidental to teaching the gospel.  The Church covered those issues with having us read the scriptures where we learn the Book of Mormon was translated by "The Gift and Power of God." and Section 132 where the instructions for Sealing multiples wives were given.  How much we chose to dig into those subjects (and others) were clearly up to us.

 

Then the information age hit.  Before it, it took a long time to study, gather, research and then publish.  Antis would publish there juicy scandalous tidbits.  And the lay members and leaders would need to respond. Most of them could not do the research.  So they responded with denial.  The antis were clearly wrong even if the lay members and local leaders did not have the ability to prove it.  Farms and other like minded groups stepped up to answer but like everyone else they had issues getting the answers out.

 

The internet changed everything.  The Church focused on teaching the Gospel on line.  Antis focused on attacking.  Information became easier to access.  The Church isn't hiding, the Church isn't in denial about its history.  It might have been a little slow formulating how to answer these historical questions, but given how shaken some members appear to be by it a bit of care is understandable, and it is addressing them.

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You chid me on the dual being thing but then you don't seem to understand how it relates to situations such as these.

 

I chide you on harping on it constantly to the exclusion of practically anything else. It seems to be your gospel hobby. I perfectly well understand.

 

The rest of your post seems to entirely (speaking of understanding) misunderstand my point, which is meant to say nothing more than, "remember".

 

In other words:

 

Alma 5:26

And now behold, I say unto you, my brethren, if ye have experienced a change of heart, and if ye have felt to sing the song of redeeming love, I would ask, can ye feel so now?

 

Maybe if I'd quoted scripture upfront you'd be less inclined to nit-pick at my meaning (though I doubt it).

 

But I suppose if you want to ignore that very core of our religion then it is hard to understand that idea.

 

The fact that you believe the dual beings idea is the core of our religion speaks volumes to me about who understands and who does not.

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It seems you feel as those the essays are disclosing hidden issues.

 

I never felt those "idiosyncrasies" about the early church were hidden. I knew about them when I joined the Church and I have read them in the manuals since the printing of the Presidency manuals going back to Brigham Young.

 

I try to put them into the context of how the world was in the 1820-1844 time frame. There was polygamy back then (outside the Church). There was a lot of focus on mysticism in the spiritual community.

 

It was a very different world than we know now. I would argue it is OUR world today that is SO much different than ALL of the times before the industrial reveloution and the information age. What we think "weird" today has been the norm in all generations before us.

 

Base your testimony on what on how the Church teaches you to live. It is the most correct of all churches and its teaching are pure.

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I really appreciate your comments. That is helping a lot already.

In response to some questions...

Yes I have felt the spirit in my life, and I do still believe that Christ is there for me...I have continued to pray every day and night and ask God to lead me to His truth. This is much better for me than the very hopeless hollow feeling that this is all there is...that there is no God.

My spiritual experiences have been nice and have healed my heart in some times of hardships. However, I must admit after reading that stuff...I now have a skeptic's eye, and more than ever a desire to be completely honest with myself.

I am reevaluating exactly what it was I felt and experienced. Is this a conditioned/trained state of mind? Like I said, my own personal experience has brought me peace...not every time I have asked for it, sometimes even begged...I have had blessings "come true", and others that haven't. But never had whitnessed an outright "miracle"...but have whitnessed the opposite a few times.

My family members and in-laws that are lds are quite often delusional. For example, my mother in law believed she had spiritual revelation indicating what gender my kids were before we found out. Well, she was wrong both times and is so upset about it she has to tell me that somehow I lead her to the wrong gender in her mind. ...whacko. Our ward of the last 7years has also been hard...lots more whackadoos. So most of the time I feel like an island with my set of beliefs.

The voice of reason in my mind tells me that God wants us to be happy, and not decieved. I also firmly believe that truth will not require a bunch of mental gymnastics...that in most cases, truth is simple.

Somehow I need to recognize the imperfectness of others. However, if this stuff is taken at face value...the church has been built on a foundation of lies...which would mean it cannot be true, not matter how much forgiveness is given to the leaders for their follies.

BUT, those experiences between me and my God is what has me still here, seeking understanding and answers.

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Guest MormonGator

Everyone here has said things better than I can, OP. 

 

Just know I'm praying for you. 

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Moroni 10: 3-5

 

If you haven't done it yet, then now is the time, you are over due.

 

That being said, this thread does bring to light what I have said many times, which is that in general the membership of the church does not take the time to truly study our history, and for some reason are shocked when they find out that Joseph Smith wasn't a "saint"...

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That being said, this thread does bring to light what I have said many times, which is that in general the membership of the church does not take the time to truly study our history, and for some reason are shocked when they find out that Joseph Smith wasn't a "saint"...

 

This is somewhat harping on the same thing we've harped on before...but being shocked at Joseph Smith using a hat or the seer stone is hardly relative to his being a saint or not. I mean, are we really thinking that Joseph needing to block the light so he could better discern what he was viewing via the seerstone was related to his imperfections rather than merely being a practical method of doing what needed to be done? It simply strikes us as odd, and somehow translates to us that if he was doing something odd that it might mean he was, after all, as the anti's claim, just making it all up. Because odd people doing odd things is odd, and we, as a culture, don't respect that.

 

Or are we talking about the Fannie Alger thing? Because if we believe that Joseph had an illicit affair, it's a lot bigger deal than just "he wasn't perfect". An illicit affair carries serious questions about his rights and authority. The only question anyone should have in this matter is whether they're going to accept the naysayer's p.o.v. that he was an adulterer, or the apologist p.o.v. that his actions were within the approved plural marriage revelation he had been given to God.

 

Or are we talking about his so-called foray into "magic" prior to becoming a prophet? On that one, I'll grant, (if any of the sources can be taking at face value) that it could easily be stacked up as imperfection and the learning process of a fallible man. But the facts of what he did and did not actually do in this regard are so muddled and inconclusive that it's fairly easy to write these things off as unknowable rather than point-blank admission that he was making mistakes. I mean, even if he did use the stone for treasure hunting, how do we know that God was not directing him to do so? We don't. The presumption of "mistaken" here is problematic.

 

Or are we talking about the Book of Abraham, which holds no implication of "not a saint" whatsoever?

 

So I have to ask, what of these "shocking" issues imply that Joseph was not a saint? Because, in my opinion, the thing that clearly show he was not a saint (like his handling of money, his temper, or his sometimes inappropriate playfulness), are hardly shocking.

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The voice of reason in my mind tells me that God wants us to be happy, and not decieved. I also firmly believe that truth will not require a bunch of mental gymnastics...that in most cases, truth is simple.

Somehow I need to recognize the imperfectness of others. However, if this stuff is taken at face value...the church has been built on a foundation of lies...which would mean it cannot be true, not matter how much forgiveness is given to the leaders for their follies.

BUT, those experiences between me and my God is what has me still here, seeking understanding and answers.

 

Truth is simple...  People are complex messes...  Saying you know the "Truth" about people and why they do stuff (aka History) is bound to be wrong to one degree or another.  History after all an exercise in finding facts... and then interpreting those facts to find some kind of narrative.  Often discarding or downgrading facts that do not fit

 

Saying that the church has been built on a foundation of lies... is the narrative you are creating for yourself right now.  Was the first vision a lie?  Is the Book of Mormon a lie?  Is Jesus Christ a Lie? Chances are you say no they are not a lie...  Yet you are downgrading those foundational elements to create your own interpretation of History

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Yeah, there are a lot of strange people in this world. 

 

As to being "an island in your beliefs": your beliefs will not be identical to your inlaws, wards members, or anyone else.  That's why it's call an *individual* testimony.  This is a good thing.  Now, you can still talk to others and relate, even though you're not clones of each other.

 

I do not buy into the argument that feeling the Spirit of peace is just a conditioned response.  If it was, then why don't I get it every time, like a dog that does a trick and wants a treat?  Because I'm not a dog and the Spirit of God is not a press-button-get-instant-grativation.

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So I have to ask, what of these "shocking" issues imply that Joseph was not a saint? Because, in my opinion, the thing that clearly show he was not a saint (like his handling of money, his temper, or his sometimes inappropriate playfulness), are hardly shocking.

 

For me, not shocking.  I would say for a large part of the membership everything you stated would be shocking.  In general the membership of the church cannot stomach the fact that Joseph Smith was a man, human, and subject to the same weaknesses, and mistakes normal men have/make.  

 

When the previously mentioned "holes" are poked in the narrative we understand as church history, they are not necessarily congruent with the general memberships perception of Joseph Smith.  

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Guest MormonGator

Moroni 10: 3-5

 

If you haven't done it yet, then now is the time, you are over due.

 

That being said, this thread does bring to light what I have said many times, which is that in general the membership of the church does not take the time to truly study our history, and for some reason are shocked when they find out that Joseph Smith wasn't a "saint"...

:: begins a slow clap :: 

 

Amen mdfxdb! , 

 

I did huge research before I joined the church. I read anti-lds books (ironically those helped more than pro-lds books!) looked at both and pro and con lds websites, you name it. I never expected Joseph to be perfect. He was a mortal human, just like you and I. 

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I also firmly believe that truth will not require a bunch of mental gymnastics...that in most cases, truth is simple.

 

This idea is problematic though, because whether truth seems simple to us or not depends on us, not on truth. Truth is what it is. For one it will come easy, for another, not so much. How simple do you think truth seems to someone who was raised Hindu or Muslim?

 

But, more importantly, what you're talking about is not truth. Truth is factual. Truth never changes. What you're reading about is a bunch of conjecture based on evidence, none of which can even be described as fact. But even where evidence is strong enough to accept certain historical ideas as probably factual, they are still only tools to develop conjecture that is viewed through a pretty muddy lens.  There are conjectures that support the church and there are conjectures that do not. You have to determine which conjecture you're going to listen to. But none of that is "truth".

 

What is truth? Truth is eternal. It is things as they really are. And the only one who know these things is God. Therefore, the only means we have of ascertaining absolute truth is through God by way of the Holy Spirit. The truths you learn from the Spirit you can trust. The so-called truths you've picked up from a bunch of filtered, anti-LDS mortals are highly untrustworthy.

 

That is why the strong suggestion you will get throughout from faithful members, even from those of us who disagree with each other on many things, is to turn to the witness of the Spirit in your quest for truth.

 

Because truth is simple. The Book of Mormon is true or it is not. Joseph Smith was a prophet or he wasn't. The church is true or it is not. And a study of history will not give you the answers to any of these questions. You can only know the truth of these things from the Spirit.

Edited by The Folk Prophet

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Guest MormonGator

OP-Your avatar looks like the fire flower from Mario brothers. I love that. 

 

I've met people in my life that are, as Eric Hoffer said, "true believers". Radical zealots that simply cannot handle even the thought of dissent or even the slightest form of criticism. They crumble. They are in every religion of course. 

 

Something to remember- "Frantic orthodoxy is rooted never in faith, but in doubt. When you are not sure, you are usually quite sure."-Reinhold Niebuhr

Edited by MormonGator

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"Frantic orthodoxy is rooted never in faith, but in doubt. When you are not sure, you are usually quite sure."-Reinhold Niebuhr

 

Maybe off topic a bit, why should anyone care what Reinhold Niebuhr says on matters of faith? :)

 

Frankly, the word play is...interesting...but not particularly compelling. What is "frantic" supposed to mean here anyway? Seems like a personality trait rather than indicative of anyone's motivation to faith.

 

Moreover, faith and doubt are reactions to things unseen. They are choices, regardless of frantic orthodoxy or casual heterodoxy.

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Maybe off topic a bit, why should anyone care what Reinhold Niebuhr says on matters of faith? :)

 

Frankly, the word play is...interesting...but not particularly compelling. What is "frantic" supposed to mean here anyway? Seems like a personality trait rather than indicative of anyone's motivation to faith.

 

Moreover, faith and doubt are reactions to things unseen. They are choices, regardless of frantic orthodoxy or casual heterodoxy.

"Frantic" could mean "extreme" or "blind" or "zealot" or "hardcore" or "refusing to see other's opinions" or, better yet, "total denial" 

 

It goes along the lines of "me think he doth protest too much"  ;)

 

Niebuhr was a brilliant theologian, I really like him. 

Just my thoughts. 

Edited by MormonGator

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Thanks jane_doe. Yes, that makes sense to me and helps quite a bit. :)

Folk Prophet... I guess its just the culmination of all of it, not just one thing. We learn about controversial stuff little by little, slowly digesting it and making peace with it or just swallowing it so we can move on with life and hope it makes sense later. I knew about polygamy and blacks and the priesthood and the fact that half the stuff brigham young did was weird. But I didnt know about the history of Abraham, fanny and polygamy being done in secret, much to the pain of Emma...oh yeah and the rock in the hat. I think its allll of it.

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