How do we bridge the epistemological divide of “I know”?

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Lucidity
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How do we bridge the epistemological divide of “I know”?

Post by Lucidity » Sun Apr 26, 2020 10:24 am

After about 6 years since my initial faith transition I’ve begun to occasionally have fairly in-depth conversations with my dad. Overall these conversation have gone fairly well, but I have come up against that old epistemological divide that is so hard to bridge…”I know”.

Again and again as our conversion started getting interesting and enjoyable, and my dad came up against things he didn’t really have an answer for or had thought of, he would resort to listing off things he “knows” and my reliance on “worldy” evidence is dismissed in the shadow of the superior knowledge that comes from the Spirit. Naturally, I point out what I feel are the flaws here, or at least the differences in how I approach finding truth. But overall the epistemological divide is vast, and the certainty he has makes it just that much wider. As we've all experienced, people don't like to hear that their concrete proof if something I consider to be a trust in feelings and emotions and assigning of meaning to them that isn’t merited. Seems that certainty is often masking insecurity.

Much like grace, the church isn’t much of a fan of faith. Sure the word faith will be batted around plenty during conference, but it’s usually used in relation to dealing with hardships and uncertainty, not as a legitimate way to live ones religion.

It takes quite a bit of humility to say you believe something based on faith. Humility and the acknowledgment of our own ignorance can go a long way in bridging a divide in a relationship. I feel like “I believe” is a lot more pliable and it would be easier to find common ground. I think faith does have value, and its easier to work with “I have faith in Christ and this is how I choose to live my life”. But there is something exclusionary about “I know”. If one is certainly right, then the other must certainly be wrong.

So how do we make inroads here? Have you had breakthrough moments? I don’t necessarily want me dad to “wake up” and doubt all his beliefs, but it would be nice if he held think a bit more loosely.

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Re: How do we bridge the epistemological divide of “I know”?

Post by Reuben » Sun Apr 26, 2020 6:25 pm

I think of "I know" as more like a bunker.

You're right that it comes from insecurity. Implicitly, anyway. Explicitly, well, remember that we were all taught that other people would feel the Spirit when we testified. We fully expected the people we threw "I know" at to want to join us inside the bunker, where it was safe.

I can think of two ways to approach this.

One is to talk only about the epistemology. Fortunately, this isn't the most unquestionable thing about Mormonism. Members are pretty insecure about this topic, too, but they often deal with it not by bunkering, but by having those tedious discussions about how to know whether some feeling is really the Spirit. It's at least open for discussion.

Has he ever seen the Spiritual Witnesses montage video? This version of it is lightly edited to make it more acceptable to believers:

https://youtube.com/watch?v=MYShYPHynBY

The other way I can think of is to help him feel more secure before, during or after discussing topics that he feels are dangerous. You can bolster anything that gives him comfort or serves as a foundation for his life. Aside from the church, what gives him purpose and his life meaning? Identify those things and strengthen them first. Bring them up. Talk them up. Tell him you love him and that he's great. Admire his relationship with your mom (if applicable), his work ethic, his parenting, his career, or his integrity. Anything will help.
You were born to trust, not fear. It is your birthright.

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Palerider
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Re: How do we bridge the epistemological divide of “I know”?

Post by Palerider » Sun Apr 26, 2020 9:07 pm

I had to take some time to analyze how my own transition took place before I could reason through a very possible scenario that made my transition comport with my own cosmology.

What the heck does that mean?

It means I had to ask and find answers to a lot of questions.

Part of the problem with Mormonism is that it's an all or nothing proposition. It's either all true or nothing is. Well who said that was a correct idea? We need to ask the question if that idea is correct in the first place.

For me it works best when established from a propositional view. For instance:

Let's say I was born a Presbyterian. I go to church because my parents want me to. Then one day when I'm about 17 years of age I start reading the New Testament. I'm very curious to know about Jesus Christ.

So here's the question. Would God look at me and say, "I'm not going to give "Jim" a testimony of Jesus Christ because he's in the wrong religion and he might conflate or assume that because that's where he received his testimony, that he's in the true church."

Of course not. And most Mormons would agree with that premise. The question then needs to be asked, isn't it POSSIBLE that the same thing could happen if a person was raised in or even being "converted" to the LDS faith?

But Mormons don't want to see that as a possibility. They've been pre-programmed for an all or nothing scenario.

But if one looks at the scriptures there is support for a less than perfect scenario. John 9:49-50

"And John answered and said, Master, we saw one casting out devils in thy name; and we forbad him, because he followeth not with us. And Jesus said unto him, Forbid him not: for he that is not against us is for us."

Paul in Phillipians also states:

"Some indeed preach Christ even of envy and strife; and some also of good will: The one preach Christ of contention, not sincerely, supposing to add affliction to my bonds: But the other of love, knowing that I am set for the defence of the gospel. What then? notwithstanding, every way, whether in pretence, or in truth, Christ is preached; and I therein do rejoice, yea, and will rejoice."

So from these scriptures we learn that people will come to know Christ and believe in him in less than perfect circumstances. So isn't it just possible that Mormonism could be more or less in error as any other religion?
Last edited by Palerider on Sun Apr 26, 2020 9:42 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: How do we bridge the epistemological divide of “I know”?

Post by Palerider » Sun Apr 26, 2020 9:31 pm

Another part of the bridge:

Mormons are taught cherrypicked Biblical scriptures that seem to support their version of the "restoration". They put a lot of stock in those scriptural interpretations.

I don't have space or time here but I have very good and reasonable exegetics for nearly all those scriptures.

For example:

Stick of Joseph, Stick of Judah. Got that covered in a way Mormons would have difficulty finding fault with.

Nephite/Lamanites being given America as a promised land. Got that covered even without the DNA evidence.

I can show Joseph falsely interpreting Isaiah in the D&C, that no anti-mormon has come up with as far as I know.

The last aspect I might mention is that when someone gives me the "I know it's true" response, I can look at them with just as much conviction and say, "The Holy Spirit has witnessed to me and I know it isn't."

This might not work in your case. :| ;)
Last edited by Palerider on Sun Apr 26, 2020 9:33 pm, edited 1 time in total.
"There is but one straight course, and that is to seek truth and pursue it steadily."

"Truth will ultimately prevail where there is pains to bring it to light."

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Re: How do we bridge the epistemological divide of “I know”?

Post by moksha » Sun Apr 26, 2020 11:25 pm

Do you suspect that the willingness to disregard the line between what can be known and what is believed is based on dishonesty to others and potentially to one's self?
Good faith does not require evidence, but it also does not turn a blind eye to that evidence. Otherwise, it becomes misplaced faith.
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Re: How do we bridge the epistemological divide of “I know”?

Post by moksha » Mon Apr 27, 2020 6:42 am

Faith can often be summed up in the words of John Harvey Kellogg, "Flake it till you make it."
Good faith does not require evidence, but it also does not turn a blind eye to that evidence. Otherwise, it becomes misplaced faith.
-- Moksha

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Re: How do we bridge the epistemological divide of “I know”?

Post by Exiled » Mon Apr 27, 2020 8:01 am

I think it will be hard to bridge the "I know" divide with a big percentage of TBM's. "I know" is a badge of honor, a sign of status that doesn't ever have to be earned, really. It just has to be grabbed and then one's credibility inside the tribe immediately goes up. After one claims "I know," one doesn't merely believe any more like the new member does with his/her doubts. One is transformed to super member status of "I know" and it is assumed that the "I know" member obviously had some experience, too sacred to tell no doubt, just like the apostles routinely supposedly have. It also gives the "I know" member a chance to, humbly of course, look down on the "I believe" camp and give the "I believers" superior encouragement. The Q15 encourage this or don't make any effort to correct this as it acts to cement the "I know" member into a position of having to back up the "I know" with tithes and offerings and sacrifice and continued fealty to the cause.

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Re: How do we bridge the epistemological divide of “I know”?

Post by FiveFingerMnemonic » Mon Apr 27, 2020 8:54 am

A discussion of Paul H Dunn regarding epistemology. If the spirit is reliable why did so many get the feels from his BS stories? (The TBM reasoning will be that the principles were true even if the stories were false).

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Re: How do we bridge the epistemological divide of “I know”?

Post by Palerider » Mon Apr 27, 2020 9:14 am

FiveFingerMnemonic wrote:
Mon Apr 27, 2020 8:54 am
A discussion of Paul H Dunn regarding epistemology. If the spirit is reliable why did so many get the feels from his BS stories? (The TBM reasoning will be that the principles were true even if the stories were false).
Yep. Use their own confirming experiences against them. Good reminder.
"There is but one straight course, and that is to seek truth and pursue it steadily."

"Truth will ultimately prevail where there is pains to bring it to light."

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Re: How do we bridge the epistemological divide of “I know”?

Post by Linked » Mon Apr 27, 2020 12:08 pm

I agree with the comments about "I know" putting up a wall/opening a chasm in understanding each other; also the bunker metaphor is apt. It is problematic for understanding growing past what is "known", and for two people with opposing views to understand each other.

I think it is important to understand what bringing in "I know" means to a TBM. That person did not come up with the idea that they "know" these things on their own; they were trained and prepared for these situations. The logic is that there is no question that they had an emotional experience, and that emotional experience means that what they were thinking about at the time is true (BOM is true, JS first vision happened, modern prophet callings, gross tithing, WoW, Jesus loves them, God exists, etc.). Additionally sometimes logic that because they felt that way about one or two things, all the other things are also true, and then the feelings all start to support each other. The TBM is also trained that a theological discussion with someone who thinks differently is an opportunity to share their testimony about what they know. To a TBM this is the kindest, most intimate thing they can do. The goal of a discussion like this is not to get closer to another person by understanding that person, but rather to get closer by bearing testimony. They are misguided, and the misguidance uses the TBM's honesty and love for others against themselves.

You may be able to build a bridge over the "I know" chasm by addressing some of these with your TBM, though it is totally orthogonal to their training, so it may be difficult. Point out the logic train and where it can lead to an incorrect conclusion (like the multi-faith video on youtube, or the studies that have shown that humans are prone to think things that are familiar are true even when they are not). This might be considered an attack on their faith, so it may not be accepted.

I've tried to connect on the things we share in common with my TBMs. It works for some and doesn't for others. My TBM dad still ties everything deep we talk about back to church and God, but I can't really expect otherwise, since that is so core to who he is. So I avoid those topics and our relationship isn't as close.

Good luck with your dad, OP.
"I would write about life. Every person would be exactly as important as any other. All facts would also be given equal weightiness. Nothing would be left out. Let others bring order to chaos. I would bring chaos to order" - Kurt Vonnegut

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Re: How do we bridge the epistemological divide of “I know”?

Post by wtfluff » Mon Apr 27, 2020 12:20 pm

Lucidity wrote:
Sun Apr 26, 2020 10:24 am
Much like grace, the church isn’t much of a fan of faith. Sure the word faith will be batted around plenty during conference, but it’s usually used in relation to dealing with hardships and uncertainty, not as a legitimate way to live ones religion.
Personally, I don't see a difference between faith, the spirit/emotion, or whatever you want to call it. Anyone who uses this sort of epistemology uses it to find "knowledge" of something they cannot see, for which there is no evidence. I refer to this sort of thing as blind faith, or blind religious faith, because the word faith can have many different definitions when it comes to this.
Lucidity wrote:
Sun Apr 26, 2020 10:24 am
So how do we make inroads here? Have you had breakthrough moments?
I'm not sure how to do this with a literal believer, but as others have mentioned, at some point I would want to point out how unreliable blind religious faith is: Examples such as the "Spiritual witnesses" video and Paul Dunn. Blind religious faith can be used to justify literally anything. If something can be used for a justification for everything, then it shouldn't be used as a justification for anything. Blind religious faith is demonstrably unreliable; it leads humans everywhere to mutually exclusive contradictory conclusions.

Breakthrough moments? Nope, not for me. A time or two where I was able to "street epistemologize" someone and get them to seem to actually think about an answer to a question where they didn't immediately jump to the "primary" answers...
Faith does not give you the answers, it just stops you asking the questions. -Frater Ravus

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Re: How do we bridge the epistemological divide of “I know”?

Post by Red Ryder » Mon Apr 27, 2020 2:03 pm

I’ve had success with flipping the question. The bridge of “I know...”. turns out to be the easy one.

So ask your dad to play a hypothetical game of “I don’t know... how would my life be different if... What should I do?”

Then ask him what his mind would be willing to pursue if he didn’t know.

Personally the “I don’t know” empowers me and leaves me with wide open options. I know tends to limit my options and thinking.

I don’t know means I can pursue, investigate, think, and adventure around in my own wanderings of thought.

I don’t know use to scare me. Now I find enjoyment in it.
Those who do not move do not notice their chains. —Rosa Luxemburg

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Re: How do we bridge the epistemological divide of “I know”?

Post by Hagoth » Mon Apr 27, 2020 3:59 pm

Palerider wrote:
Sun Apr 26, 2020 9:07 pm
Part of the problem with Mormonism is that it's an all or nothing proposition. It's either all true or nothing is. Well who said that was a correct idea?
Our beloved prophet, seer, and revelator Gordon B. Hinkley for one.

If you really want to feel the eyes of judgement on you stand up in sacrament meeting and say "I believe the church is true" and recognize that everyone congregation (who's actually listening) is going through a mental list of what sins you are committing to keep you from having the spirit strong enough to know for sure.

I think there are basically three things that prepare people to be able to bridge the gap, all of which are way outside of what most Mormons are willing to do.

The first is to really study other religions, listen to lectures and debates by people from those religions, and get to know actual, human people from widely diverse religious backgrounds and have real conversations about faith and epistemology. That's really the only way to appreciate that others have valid convictions as powerful and sincere as a Mormon might have.

The second is to study LDS history and doctrine deeply enough to scare the living hell out of yourself, and then retreat to a distance where you can safely follow Dieter Uchtdorf's admonition to choose to believe, but with an understanding of the kinds of things that can legitimately cause someone to have good reasons to question.

The third is to just to allow you to keep the conversation open and ongoing. If they are willing to keep talking they might eventually loosen their grip on the fight-or-flight impulse that sets off klaxons in their head every time they hear something other than fawning praise for the church and its leaders. I have seen this happen with Mrs. Hagoth. We can have conversations about just about any aspect of church weirdness. She sees my point and often agrees with me but acknowledges that she chooses to believe because she finds value in it. Our son can go into obscenity-laden tirades about how stupid and harmful the church is and she listens patiently and sympathetically without feeling like she needs to set him straight about anything.

I guess for some people you just have to love and accept that they live inside an impenetrable bunker, but there is that small percentage who can learn to swap that out for a large tent. It seems like your dad has the potential to go either way, Lucidity. Good for you for trying! It sounds like you are making some good progress toward keeping the dialog open.
Red Ryder wrote:
Mon Apr 27, 2020 2:03 pm
Personally the “I don’t know” empowers me and leaves me with wide open options.
I love this. Not feeling obligated to have the ultimate answer to everything, but giving yourself license to spend the rest of your life exploring is a kind of freedom that you can never know from inside a worldview like Mormonism. And it's really scary to imagine if you've never tasted it.
“The easy confidence with which I know another man's religion is folly teaches me to suspect that my own is also.” -Mark Twain

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Re: How do we bridge the epistemological divide of “I know”?

Post by SaidNobody » Mon Apr 27, 2020 9:24 pm

Lucidity wrote:
Sun Apr 26, 2020 10:24 am
After about 6 years since my initial faith transition I’ve begun to occasionally have fairly in-depth conversations with my dad. Overall these conversation have gone fairly well, but I have come up against that old epistemological divide that is so hard to bridge…”I know”.

Gnostic: The art of knowing.
Agnostic: The art of not knowing.
Atheism: The art of knowing nothing.

To God all things are spiritual. A wiseman understands did he knows nothing. However, you need to have all three crafts to live life. Sometimes you need to know in order to act, even if you don't know. Sometimes you need to not know so you don't make false judgement.

And the deepest knowledge is the knowing that is there is nothing.

I don't begrudge the art one practices. Knowing, not knowing, and knowing nothing are different spirits but still just methods of seeing God.

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Re: How do we bridge the epistemological divide of “I know”?

Post by Lucidity » Tue Apr 28, 2020 7:52 am

wtfluff wrote:
Mon Apr 27, 2020 12:20 pm

Personally, I don't see a difference between faith, the spirit/emotion, or whatever you want to call it. Anyone who uses this sort of epistemology uses it to find "knowledge" of something they cannot see, for which there is no evidence. I refer to this sort of thing as blind faith, or blind religious faith, because the word faith can have many different definitions when it comes to this.
I think many members consider a witness from the spirit to be a form of knowledge thats beyond faith. Faith is a Learners Permit that you will need just long enough until you get some solid spiritual witnesses and are upgrade to that real license, the far superior "knowledge".

During our family Christmas Party my Uncle, who is a Stake President, gave a long spiritual thought about how he has had people come in and say they believe or have have faith but they don't think its possible to ever truly know (future NOM's??) and of course he went hard about how you don't have to hope or believe but you can KNOW, and that thats where we all need to be spiritually.

I gently countered that the scriptures frequently mention faith and belief as legitimate and its important to not look down on those that exist in that area. I'm sure that was a bit of a red flag to everyone there. :)

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Re: How do we bridge the epistemological divide of “I know”?

Post by Lucidity » Tue Apr 28, 2020 8:02 am

Hagoth wrote:
Mon Apr 27, 2020 3:59 pm

The first is to really study other religions, listen to lectures and debates by people from those religions, and get to know actual, human people from widely diverse religious backgrounds and have real conversations about faith and epistemology. That's really the only way to appreciate that others have valid convictions as powerful and sincere as a Mormon might have.
I think this may be the most passive and non-confrontational way a member can have experience a few cracks in the armor. When all your interaction with religion is coming from inside your faith tradition bubble everything about your faith feels unique and special. When you start seeing lots or parallels it can make you wonder and think in ways we just aren't pushed to when inside an "in group". The idea that others are having identical experience

[/quote]The third is to just to allow you to keep the conversation open and ongoing. If they are willing to keep talking they might eventually loosen their grip [/quote]

This is my hope, not to destroy his belief but to allow him to grant that there is a lot that we don't know and it's essentially feel its legitimate to have questions, doubts, and explore other paths.
Last edited by Lucidity on Tue Apr 28, 2020 8:56 am, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: How do we bridge the epistemological divide of “I know”?

Post by Lucidity » Tue Apr 28, 2020 8:14 am

moksha wrote:
Sun Apr 26, 2020 11:25 pm
Do you suspect that the willingness to disregard the line between what can be known and what is believed is based on dishonesty to others and potentially to one's self?
Hmm, I don't think I would call it dishonesty, at least not for my dad and the the majority of members. Maybe confusion or ignorance, although i wouldn't say that to their face. It's a mater of epistemology. Within the process of learning knowledge that they have been taught they are sincere.
Last edited by Lucidity on Tue Apr 28, 2020 8:55 am, edited 1 time in total.

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Hagoth
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Re: How do we bridge the epistemological divide of “I know”?

Post by Hagoth » Tue Apr 28, 2020 8:18 am

Lucidity wrote:
Tue Apr 28, 2020 7:52 am
I think many members consider a witness from the spirit to be a form of knowledge thats beyond faith. Faith is a Learners Permit that you will need just long enough until you get some solid spiritual witnesses and are upgrade to that real license, the far superior "knowledge".
Unless, of course, you get that faith or knowledge about some kind of belief outside of the church's approved borders, in which case your "knowledge" is either a counterfeit satanic deception or bat-shit-craziness.
“The easy confidence with which I know another man's religion is folly teaches me to suspect that my own is also.” -Mark Twain

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Re: How do we bridge the epistemological divide of “I know”?

Post by deacon blues » Tue Apr 28, 2020 8:22 am

You might try this.

Ask them this: "If a White Supremacist, or a Flat Earther, (it sounds less offensive) told you "I know the white race is superior or I know the earth is flat" how would you answer them?

Or you could say: "I could be wrong, but the evidence tells me this- the BOA is a false translation, or The Priesthood ban wasn't of God, or a good feeling, or an elevated feeling is not evidence of truth, or . . . . . ." This places the emphasis on the evidence :o , not 'feelings.' :roll:

Or you could quote Socrates: " The only thing I know is that I know nothing."

I always feel frustrated in these kinds of conversations because I get flustered and never think of the best thing to say unto the next day. ;)


I like this quote from a Mormon Discussions podcast: I traded certainty for empathy- Ryan Nielson, former BYU-I music professor

P.S. I also like the youtube video that Reuben mentions in the 2nd post. ;)
Last edited by deacon blues on Tue Apr 28, 2020 8:28 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: How do we bridge the epistemological divide of “I know”?

Post by FiveFingerMnemonic » Tue Apr 28, 2020 8:28 am

I like using the other mormon sects as an example of our epistemological formula leading to different conclusions. For example, the FLDS etc use the same basic formula in proving their prophet to be the true one.

They read the same book of mormon, and feel the same spiritual feelings and that leads them to believe in their leaders just as confidently as the Brighamites do.

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