James Fowler's Stages of Faith and the LDS Church: An Application

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achilles
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James Fowler's Stages of Faith and the LDS Church: An Application

Post by achilles » Fri Nov 04, 2016 4:28 pm

Reading through the description of Fowler's theory in another post, no doubt applications of this model to the Mormon experience came to mind. In this post I hope to make a few observations about Fowler in the context of Mormonism.

Stages 1 to 2

I’m going to approach the first two stages from the perspective of children raised in the faith. In the Intuitive/Projective stage, children begin to establish faith in God, Jesus, and the Mormon institution through impressions from their experiences. Saying simple prayers with parents, feeling the atmosphere of the sacrament ordinance, reading board books of stories from the Bible and Book of Mormon, singing Primary songs, and repeating simple testimonies as whispered in their ears, children absorb experiences that they associate with religion and spirituality.

As they approach the age of accountability and baptism, children begin to think more concretely about spirituality. They then move into Fowler's second stage, the Mythic/Literal. They begin to understand basic doctrines like their relationship to God, sin and repentance, Jesus and forgiveness, and eternal families. They begin to trust authorities beyond the family—the bishop, the apostles, the prophet, etc. Children see themselves in the grand narratives of the Plan of Salvation, the Pioneers pulling handcarts to Zion, being called as missionaries, going to the Temple, etc. As they mature, they understand that many people are not Mormons, do not have the same beliefs, and have different narratives about their own experiences.

Stage 3: Synthetic/Conventional Faith

This stage is where the majority of Mormons spend their spiritual lives. The believer intentionally adopts the identity of a Mormon, with men and women adopting the roles and life plans dictated by the standard LDS narrative. A highly structured life follows with prescribed behavior and belief. The believer sees him/herself in contrast to the unconverted non-member or less active member in the “the World”. He/She looks to spiritual authority figures—the father/patriarch, the bishop, the apostles, the prophet, and Heavenly Father for guidance in navigating the treacherous path through mortality, and learns to obey their authority. Spiritual symbols literally protect the believer from danger: prayer, the Book of Mormon, the Temple, garments, priesthood blessings, baptism, the sacrament, etc. Straying from the prescribed pathway is followed by guilt and shame, and faith in Christ, repentance, and absolution by priesthood leaders is the only way to restore spiritual health.

The believer takes on the various Mormon life missions: missionary work, marriage, parenthood, family history and temple work, and service in the Church. The lives of self and others are measured by the orthodoxy of belief, works, and rituals. Becoming a “good Mormon” and “good Christian” becomes the ultimate life achievement. This stage represents a synthesis of previous faith development, giving the impression of a complete picture.

Occasionally, the believer is confronted with evidence or ideas that contradict their comprehensive Mormon world view. The challenge to their existing beliefs can be emotionally and intellectually disturbing. The believer usually rationalizes the contradictory information to keep their world view intact. Sometimes, however, he/she is compelled to dig deeper, at which point a multitude of religious questions seem burst forth, unraveling the Stage 3 understanding of religion and spirituality. This can be emotionally devastating. Previous answers to spiritual questions no longer suffice. The believer is now confronted with the realization that spirituality is more complex than previously known, inviting him/her to take the next steps in spiritual development.

I will discuss Stages 4, 5, and 6 in the next post.
“For me, it is far better to grasp the Universe as it really is than to persist in delusion, however satisfying and reassuring.”

― Carl Sagan

"The cave you fear to enter holds the treasure you seek."

-Joseph Campbell

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Re: James Fowler's Stages of Faith and the LDS Church: An Application

Post by Newme » Sun Mar 12, 2017 1:00 pm

achilles wrote:
Fri Nov 04, 2016 4:28 pm
I will discuss Stages 4, 5, and 6 in the next post.
I'm really intrigued, especially by stages 5 and 6. I imagine it gets beyond logic (stage 4's obsession) and more into Jungian type subconscious analysis - but I think it's each person forges his own path. What do you think?

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Re: James Fowler's Stages of Faith and the LDS Church: An Application

Post by achilles » Tue Mar 14, 2017 3:39 pm

You know, my life has gotten in the way of finishing this, but I'd like to do it over the next few weeks. There is a lot to talk about.
“For me, it is far better to grasp the Universe as it really is than to persist in delusion, however satisfying and reassuring.”

― Carl Sagan

"The cave you fear to enter holds the treasure you seek."

-Joseph Campbell

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Re: James Fowler's Stages of Faith and the LDS Church: An Application

Post by Corsair » Wed Mar 15, 2017 9:38 am

achilles wrote:
Tue Mar 14, 2017 3:39 pm
You know, my life has gotten in the way of finishing this, but I'd like to do it over the next few weeks. There is a lot to talk about.
I have wondered what "stage" that apostles and other high level LDS leaders reside at. I have theorized that apostles live at a stable Stage 4 where they are guiding their beliefs with a conviction that God is talking to them. Seventies and Mission Presidents are mostly at Stage 3, but stage 4 and 5 are certainly possible.

I see Richard Bushman and Tyrell Givens at Stage 5 although a lot of the best bishops and stake presidents might find themselves there also. I am pretty sure that Joseph Smith found himself at Stage 6 and, predictably, he ended up getting killed for it.

I fully recognize that these stages are far more descriptive than predictive, but it does give me a slight boost in sympathy and understanding of LDS leaders even when I am not a fan of many of them.

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Re: James Fowler's Stages of Faith and the LDS Church: An Application

Post by Newme » Fri Mar 17, 2017 8:48 am

Corsair wrote:
Wed Mar 15, 2017 9:38 am
achilles wrote:
Tue Mar 14, 2017 3:39 pm
You know, my life has gotten in the way of finishing this, but I'd like to do it over the next few weeks. There is a lot to talk about.
I have wondered what "stage" that apostles and other high level LDS leaders reside at. I have theorized that apostles live at a stable Stage 4 where they are guiding their beliefs with a conviction that God is talking to them. Seventies and Mission Presidents are mostly at Stage 3, but stage 4 and 5 are certainly possible.

I see Richard Bushman and Tyrell Givens at Stage 5 although a lot of the best bishops and stake presidents might find themselves there also. I am pretty sure that Joseph Smith found himself at Stage 6 and, predictably, he ended up getting killed for it.

I fully recognize that these stages are far more descriptive than predictive, but it does give me a slight boost in sympathy and understanding of LDS leaders even when I am not a fan of many of them.
Interesting to consider.
By observation alone, they all seem pretty secure in stage 3 (which "people reach around age 12 or 13) - where they have a set belief-system and seem unable to see outside it. That stage, they look to external authorities - in their case - each other. Though in seeing each other on such a more intimate and regular basis, they can't put each other on pedestals so that aspect of stage 3 is kind of shot. Still, I do sense that they, as many (particularly those lower on the totem pole) are very much influenced by peer pressure.

I imagine the stages are not necessarily strictly sequential, but maybe spiral dynamics - where there's a bit of higher level thoughts without actually really fully seeing from that higher perspective. A lot of people get to stage 5 out of experience - as they get older. They realize that some religious ideas are fanatic and over the top - yet they also realize that logic has limits, besides getting closer to death inspires a need to get real (personally) about things like that.

I imagine that Joseph Smith was at least a level 5 though, considering that he paved such new, apparently heretical, spiritual ideas.

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Re: James Fowler's Stages of Faith and the LDS Church: An Application

Post by FiveFingerMnemonic » Fri Mar 17, 2017 11:31 am

Yes stage 4 is for "angry" folks who find their previous stage 3 secure beliefs rocked. It is the non-religious phase. I doubt any of the leading 15 are this, but if they are they are faking it great.

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Re: James Fowler's Stages of Faith and the LDS Church: An Application

Post by alas » Fri Mar 24, 2017 7:26 pm

I am going to suggest that perhaps Fowler's stages do not apply to people like Joseph Smith. What "stage" was David Koresh at? Jim Jones? Yeah, I didn't think they were at five or six either, yet they have more in common with Joseph Smith than really anyone else I can think of.

So, perhaps there are imaginary numbers for guys that just do not fit anywhere on the system and never went through any stages anyway. In Joseph's history, where do you see stage three? Stage four? So, how can you assume he made it to five or beyond. He and other's like him just do not fit on Fowler's stages at all.

Joseph had so much imagination, and to him, it never mattered if his stories were "true"as in factually correct or historical and really really happened. Never, from the time he was telling made up stories around the fire with family to when he was creating a whole new religion. So, stage three? Nope, it just didn't matter.

Joseph is playing a whole different ball game than us normal people.

Joseph had some pretty weird morals, lying, cheating on his wife, etc. etc. etc. Fowler's stages require the person to have basic morality, a conscience, honesty with self, and true belief in something besides his own greatness. I am just not sure that Joseph had any of those. I am just not sure where he was at, but it wasn't on Fowler's chart.

Sociopaths and narcissists are not represented on Fowler's stages, because they do not think like normal people and truth doesn't matter all that much. So, when truth is no big deal, how do they have a crisis of truth? When whatever they make up in their head becomes their truth, how do they have doubts and disillusionment in their beliefs? They live in a sort of alternate reality where truth is what they want it to be.

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Re: James Fowler's Stages of Faith and the LDS Church: An Application

Post by Rob4Hope » Tue Apr 04, 2017 9:47 am

alas wrote:
Fri Mar 24, 2017 7:26 pm
I am going to suggest that perhaps Fowler's stages do not apply to people like Joseph Smith. What "stage" was David Koresh at? Jim Jones? Yeah, I didn't think they were at five or six either, yet they have more in common with Joseph Smith than really anyone else I can think of.

So, perhaps there are imaginary numbers for guys that just do not fit anywhere on the system and never went through any stages anyway. In Joseph's history, where do you see stage three? Stage four? So, how can you assume he made it to five or beyond. He and other's like him just do not fit on Fowler's stages at all.

Joseph had so much imagination, and to him, it never mattered if his stories were "true"as in factually correct or historical and really really happened. Never, from the time he was telling made up stories around the fire with family to when he was creating a whole new religion. So, stage three? Nope, it just didn't matter.

Joseph is playing a whole different ball game than us normal people.

Joseph had some pretty weird morals, lying, cheating on his wife, etc. etc. etc. Fowler's stages require the person to have basic morality, a conscience, honesty with self, and true belief in something besides his own greatness. I am just not sure that Joseph had any of those. I am just not sure where he was at, but it wasn't on Fowler's chart.

Sociopaths and narcissists are not represented on Fowler's stages, because they do not think like normal people and truth doesn't matter all that much. So, when truth is no big deal, how do they have a crisis of truth? When whatever they make up in their head becomes their truth, how do they have doubts and disillusionment in their beliefs? They live in a sort of alternate reality where truth is what they want it to be.
I agree with this post--and am grateful you wrote it Alas. I haven't thought about the stages much but since reading this it is coming back.

When someone knows they are lying, the stages don't seem to apply--as you have mentioned. When they are deluded by their own lies, then mental illness would also preclude the stages applying--or so I would speculate. So, did JS know he was lying, or did he believe his own delusions?

One thing not mentioned much in this whole site is the magic mushroom possibility...the hallucination problem. So, where would drug-abusers fit on Fowler's stages?

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Re: James Fowler's Stages of Faith and the LDS Church: An Application

Post by alas » Tue Apr 04, 2017 12:28 pm

Rob4Hope wrote:
Tue Apr 04, 2017 9:47 am
alas wrote:
Fri Mar 24, 2017 7:26 pm
I am going to suggest that perhaps Fowler's stages do not apply to people like Joseph Smith. What "stage" was David Koresh at? Jim Jones? Yeah, I didn't think they were at five or six either, yet they have more in common with Joseph Smith than really anyone else I can think of.

So, perhaps there are imaginary numbers for guys that just do not fit anywhere on the system and never went through any stages anyway. In Joseph's history, where do you see stage three? Stage four? So, how can you assume he made it to five or beyond. He and other's like him just do not fit on Fowler's stages at all.

Joseph had so much imagination, and to him, it never mattered if his stories were "true"as in factually correct or historical and really really happened. Never, from the time he was telling made up stories around the fire with family to when he was creating a whole new religion. So, stage three? Nope, it just didn't matter.

Joseph is playing a whole different ball game than us normal people.

Joseph had some pretty weird morals, lying, cheating on his wife, etc. etc. etc. Fowler's stages require the person to have basic morality, a conscience, honesty with self, and true belief in something besides his own greatness. I am just not sure that Joseph had any of those. I am just not sure where he was at, but it wasn't on Fowler's chart.

Sociopaths and narcissists are not represented on Fowler's stages, because they do not think like normal people and truth doesn't matter all that much. So, when truth is no big deal, how do they have a crisis of truth? When whatever they make up in their head becomes their truth, how do they have doubts and disillusionment in their beliefs? They live in a sort of alternate reality where truth is what they want it to be.
I agree with this post--and am grateful you wrote it Alas. I haven't thought about the stages much but since reading this it is coming back.

When someone knows they are lying, the stages don't seem to apply--as you have mentioned. When they are deluded by their own lies, then mental illness would also preclude the stages applying--or so I would speculate. So, did JS know he was lying, or did he believe his own delusions?

One thing not mentioned much in this whole site is the magic mushroom possibility...the hallucination problem. So, where would drug-abusers fit on Fowler's stages?
I have wondered about Joseph and the magic mushroom connection. His first vision sounds like a drug trip. Somewhere I saw a write up of the similarities between an LSD or MM trip and the first vision, but I don't remember them enough to list them, but it was very eye opening as to the possibility that he had a drug induced hallucination. Then later, some of the mass visions after taking sacrament wine, also sound like drugs were given. Some of the behavior was just bizarre and when many people all report slightly different "visions" it begins to sound like someone tampered with the wine.

But a drug induced hallucination is kind of a falsehood. Even the mind expanding feeling is false because even though the person felt like they understood the whole universe, they didn't really have new knowledge, just the emotional feeling like they had been given wonderful knowledge. So, just like the person with mental illness, they believe things that are false. So, the falseness of the "vision" would have to be recognized just like the falseness of religious claims during a stage 4 experience. If they never recognize that their drug induced knowledge is false, they cannot progress past stage three thinking. They may THINK they are enlightened, but the drug endured "enlightenment" is a lie.

So, really with Joseph, if he was lying and knew it, he could not progress, if he was suffering from mental illness, he could not progress, and if he was a tripper, he could not progress. And if he was a true prophet, then the stages also don't apply because he would be given knowledge that makes the stages of learning impossible. You don't doubt when you have seen God. So, no matter how one looks at JS, the stages don't apply.

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Re: James Fowler's Stages of Faith and the LDS Church: An Application

Post by Corsair » Wed Apr 05, 2017 7:22 am

alas wrote:
Tue Apr 04, 2017 12:28 pm
I have wondered about Joseph and the magic mushroom connection. His first vision sounds like a drug trip. Somewhere I saw a write up of the similarities between an LSD or MM trip and the first vision, but I don't remember them enough to list them, but it was very eye opening as to the possibility that he had a drug induced hallucination. Then later, some of the mass visions after taking sacrament wine, also sound like drugs were given. Some of the behavior was just bizarre and when many people all report slightly different "visions" it begins to sound like someone tampered with the wine.
At the Phoenix Sunstone last month there was a presentation on possible use of hallucinogenics in the early church. The presenter openly said that there was no real evidence for this, but a lot of the early church experiences sound suspiciously like some mushrooms were involved.

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Re: James Fowler's Stages of Faith and the LDS Church: An Application

Post by FiveFingerMnemonic » Wed Apr 05, 2017 9:55 am

Corsair wrote:
Wed Apr 05, 2017 7:22 am
alas wrote:
Tue Apr 04, 2017 12:28 pm
I have wondered about Joseph and the magic mushroom connection. His first vision sounds like a drug trip. Somewhere I saw a write up of the similarities between an LSD or MM trip and the first vision, but I don't remember them enough to list them, but it was very eye opening as to the possibility that he had a drug induced hallucination. Then later, some of the mass visions after taking sacrament wine, also sound like drugs were given. Some of the behavior was just bizarre and when many people all report slightly different "visions" it begins to sound like someone tampered with the wine.
At the Phoenix Sunstone last month there was a presentation on possible use of hallucinogenics in the early church. The presenter openly said that there was no real evidence for this, but a lot of the early church experiences sound suspiciously like some mushrooms were involved.
Reading through Quinn's magical worldview right now, I think most of society was on one big psychological mind trip of magic. Mormonism just kept it flourishing longer than enlightenment allowed the rest of society and it attracted those predisposed to it. No need for chemical enhancement beyond what their own minds provided.

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Re: James Fowler's Stages of Faith and the LDS Church: An Application

Post by Rob4Hope » Wed Apr 05, 2017 11:22 am

I've read an account of spiritual phenomena in the early church days that sounds a LOT like a freak trip. JS said: "Evil spirits"....and thus anything that involves mental imbalance through potential drug use is relegated to something spiritual.

I hear what the apologists say, and some of the others; but I still wonder. We have the ergot poisoning years earlier, and JS WAS profoundly influenced by magic. Early sorcery was associated with drug use, and there is reason to believe JS did have access to the knowledge.

I just wonder. It makes explaining some of the crazy things easier to understand if there was some type of drug involved.

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Re: James Fowler's Stages of Faith and the LDS Church: An Application

Post by Grace2Daisy » Wed Apr 05, 2017 8:34 pm

Imagine being part of a group in which you will find instant friendship, a caring family, respect for your contributions, an identity, safety, security, simplicity, and an organized daily agenda. You will learn new skills, have a respected position, gain personal insight, improve your personality and intelligence.

Your leader may promise not only to heal any sickness and foretell the future, but give you the gift of immortality, if you are a true believer. In addition, your group’s ideology represents a unique spiritual/religious agenda that if followed, will enhance the Human Condition somewhere in the world or cosmos.

Who would fall for such appeals? Most of us, if they were made by someone we trusted, in a setting that was familiar, and especially if we had unfulfilled needs. They promise to fulfill most of those personal individual’s needs and also to compensate for a litany of societal failures: to make their slice of the world safe, healthy, caring, predictable and controllable.

In general, the leaders offer simple solutions to the increasingly complex world problems we all face daily. They offer the simple path to happiness, to success, to salvation by following their simple rules, simple group regimentation and simple total lifestyle.

What organization is this? Pretty much any cult today. Why do people stay in it, they don't want their illusions destroyed.
"What is truth?" retorted Pilate. John 18:38

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