It's not even wrong

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Reuben
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It's not even wrong

Post by Reuben » Fri Jan 10, 2020 7:48 pm

I'm reading the BoM with my family for CFM. My wife wants to do it, and both of us want me to have the opportunity to give my perspective. It's kind of a nice place to be.

After we read the witness testimonies, I read the Strangite testimonies about the plates containing the Book of the Law of the Lord, and the testimonies in the Times and Seasons alleging that only monogamy was happening. (Thanks, annotatedbom!) We talked about eyewitness reliability and social pressure. That was fun. I was nervous, and so was my wife. We later congratulated each other on calmly presenting our perspectives.

Now we've read through 1 Nephi 2, the preamble of an ambling love letter to obedience to crazy people. It's all soooooo cringy. The absolutisms and truisms fly so thick and fast that I can't possibly refute even a few of them. Probably worse, holding to them is a valid way to live and understand the world, and works great... until it shatters like glass.

Example: The story assumes Lehi is right, and presents those who disagree as evil. Lehi never commanded anyone to do anything that was eventually bad for them. Great! What about real life, where prophets have a track record of propagating harmful bullshit? Just have faith. Don't be evil. Look what happened to the Nephites when they stopped obeying.

Example: Keep the commandments and prosper; otherwise the Bad Guys will attack. That's not even close to common proximal causes of societal collapse. Mormonism says it's a distal cause and you actually can't prove it wrong because you'll find "whoredoms" and "abominations" in every culture.

It's just not right. It's not even wrong.

Mostly I'm venting, but I would still appreciate any ideas on how to push back against this brick wall of zealotry.

Obey obey obey obey obey obey obey obey obey obey obey obey obey obey obey obey obey obey obey obey obey obey obey obey obey obey obey obey obey obey obey obey obey obey obey obey obey obey obey obey obey
You were born to trust, not fear. It is your birthright.

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Culper Jr.
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Re: It's not even wrong

Post by Culper Jr. » Sat Jan 11, 2020 4:41 am

I was thinking about this today... why is obedience the skill we are supposed to learn in order to be exalted? This life is supposed to be the training ground for exaltation; sort of godhood basic training. Wouldn't love or empathy be a better basic skill to learn to be an exalted human that creates and administers over new worlds? Even engineering or operations management would be better skills to learn than straight up unquestioning blind obedience. In fact, blind obedience would the opposite of what I would want a person to do. Is god blindly obedient to some nonsensical, insane ideology? Maybe that would explain disease and natural disasters.

I don't see how blind, unquestioning obedience is a "skill" that would benefit a person learning to be a god. I DO see how blind unquestioning obedience is a "skill" that would benefit an organization trying to take advantage of that person.

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jfro18
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Re: It's not even wrong

Post by jfro18 » Sat Jan 11, 2020 7:53 am

This is a great post - and I love that you're able to give your perspective along with your wife because I think most TBMs are *terrified* of having another perspective given in the middle of what is usually a continuing repetition so kids know no other way.

But the weirdest thing to me about obedience is how members are taught that it's not about being obedient in a blind sense. I've had this conversation with my wife and a few others now - they will never concede that it's a blind obedience even if you point out when members "followed the prophet" and he was wrong.

When I first started having issues with the church I said to my wife that the word of wisdom made no sense as we know coffee/tea are healthy, and so why does the church insist on controlling that. She said something to the effect of "It's not about control, but about giving us blessings."

It makes no sense and certainly makes absolutely no sense now, but when you're taught/programmed/whatever at an early age, you just hand over your identity and obey obey obey to keep following that dangling carrot.

And now I'm venting (and rambling). :lol:

stuck
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Re: It's not even wrong

Post by stuck » Sat Jan 11, 2020 9:01 am

Ugh CFM! My wife is really pushing this. I guess in a home setting though, we can more easily give our perspective. And this is important I think. I say teach both sides to the kids so that when they are of age (or if we can get out before then) can more easily make an informed decision about the church. Last night she was going over the lesson about Nephi getting the plates. I realized that in this story it is one of those where the "end justifies the means". Nephi killed Laban to get the plates. I told my son that these days we can just go kill someone even if the "spirit" tells us to or we'll end up in prison. This is a horrible story in the Book of Mormon I think and is probably somewhat evidential to it's fiction.

Reuben
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Re: It's not even wrong

Post by Reuben » Sat Jan 11, 2020 12:19 pm

jfro18 wrote:
Sat Jan 11, 2020 7:53 am
But the weirdest thing to me about obedience is how members are taught that it's not about being obedient in a blind sense. I've had this conversation with my wife and a few others now - they will never concede that it's a blind obedience even if you point out when members "followed the prophet" and he was wrong.
Yeah, it's good to keep this difference of opinion in mind. I remember having had quite a few "It's not blind obedience" discussions in Sunday School, as if assuring ourselves or reviewing talking points. Now I purposely avoid the term, because value judgments that pick at insecurities feel like unfair accusations.

I remember two classes of protection against accusations of blind obedience:

1. Having a spiritual feeling about something related, such as the person giving the instruction, the position of that person, a similar instruction, or self-talk about it. (Really, the sky is the limit. Anything related will do.)

2. Opening one eye halfway. (We never put it that way, but this is what it came down to.)

#1 comes from the accepted epistemology within Mormonism, which seems better to address on its own. #2 isn't even necessarily a bad idea. Humans do it not just when we're afraid, but also when we think we don't yet have a compelling reason for a better look. Who has the time?
You were born to trust, not fear. It is your birthright.

Reuben
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Re: It's not even wrong

Post by Reuben » Sat Jan 11, 2020 12:23 pm

Culper Jr. wrote:
Sat Jan 11, 2020 4:41 am
I was thinking about this today... why is obedience the skill we are supposed to learn in order to be exalted? This life is supposed to be the training ground for exaltation; sort of godhood basic training. Wouldn't love or empathy be a better basic skill to learn to be an exalted human that creates and administers over new worlds?
After finding grace took the flagellation stick out of my hands and unlocked my golden handcuffs, I started thinking exactly the same thoughts as a believer. I actively taught learning to love everyone as the purpose of life while in leadership positions.

It's a dangerous line of thought, man. Too dissonant with the party line... so I might have this discussion with my kids. Thanks for the idea.
You were born to trust, not fear. It is your birthright.

Reuben
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Re: It's not even wrong

Post by Reuben » Sat Jan 11, 2020 12:34 pm

stuck wrote:
Sat Jan 11, 2020 9:01 am
Ugh CFM! My wife is really pushing this. I guess in a home setting though, we can more easily give our perspective. And this is important I think. I say teach both sides to the kids so that when they are of age (or if we can get out before then) can more easily make an informed decision about the church.
This is the main reason I put up with the discomfort.

Here's another, which I just thought of. This won't be the last time they're under a great deal of influence from a person or organization with a very black-and-white worldview. I want them to be able to take a step back and evaluate it without getting sucked into extremism either for or against.

I think that might end up being my main strategy: take a step back and evaluate.
You were born to trust, not fear. It is your birthright.

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jfro18
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Re: It's not even wrong

Post by jfro18 » Sat Jan 11, 2020 1:15 pm

Reuben wrote:
Sat Jan 11, 2020 12:34 pm
Here's another, which I just thought of. This won't be the last time they're under a great deal of influence from a person or organization with a very black-and-white worldview. I want them to be able to take a step back and evaluate it without getting sucked into extremism either for or against.

I think that might end up being my main strategy: take a step back and evaluate.
I try to do this with *everything* that is not church related. My kid is getting to the age where he's learning more and more "myths" so he'll ask about them and then I can go through that critical thinking process. The other day he brought home a book on the Loch Ness Monster and it was perfect... and my wife was there and had to do it too.

The book talked about why people believed it was real and the photos people claimed, and then went through how it was later seen to be a hoax. I could tell she was uncomfortable, but we went through it and as he asked about it at least I could say "A lot of people thought it was real, but over time people could show those early claims didn't add up." And since that's what the book was saying, no one could accuse me of attacking the church. :lol:

I just keep hoping as I do that more and more that when he has to make a decision on the claims of Mormonism, he will use those same thinking tools to realize it simply does not add up.

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Palerider
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Re: It's not even wrong

Post by Palerider » Sat Jan 11, 2020 5:53 pm

One thing the story of Laban's death reinforces is obedience. If God says it, you do it.

In some ways I don't have a problem with this.

But where something this extreme is required so should be the revelation demanding it. It would have to be rock solid. God, you want me to kill this person you're going to have to request it in person. (Which would never happen.)

Further, it wasn't that uncommon in Biblical history for God to personally take out a person who was deserving of death. I think if God really wanted Laban dead He could have asked Nephi to step back a little and then accomplished it himself. With His foreknowledge, God already knew that Nephi would obey him. Nephi had already established to himself that he would obey the Lord. So why have Nephi kill Laban??? Why not have Laban lying there dead already from alcohol overdose and Nephi just take advantage of the situation?

I think Joseph had to use this scenario as a whipping stick to psychologically persuade readers that obeying the Lord through a prophet has to be done even when it is initially abhorrent. It's a perfect doorway to polygamy.

I think Joseph had this thought out WAY in advance. Why else would he have even mentioned plural marriage in the BoM in the first place? He had to know that's where he was eventually going.
"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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Wonderment
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Re: It's not even wrong

Post by Wonderment » Sun Jan 12, 2020 12:39 am

The book talked about why people believed it was real and the photos people claimed, and then went through how it was later seen to be a hoax. I could tell she was uncomfortable, but we went through it and as he asked about it at least I could say "A lot of people thought it was real, but over time people could show those early claims didn't add up." And since that's what the book was saying, no one could accuse me of attacking the church.
That's a very reasoned, thoughtful approach. But church officials often believe that a reasoned, thoughtful approach is akin to apostasy, because "exact obedience is the highest order of heaven." For those who doubt, look at Jeremy Runnel's (author of the CES letter) audio of his interview with the Stake President. The SP accused him of "very dark writing", even though he worded his questions as diplomatically and thoughtfully as possible. When he asked the SP to list the errors in his writing, the SP said he didn't know, only that the writing was "very dark." The mistake, according to many TBM's is in questioning any doctrine, because exact obedience is required. If you're questioning, then you're "disobedient" -- and the disobedience is the problem, in the mind of TBM's. -- Wndr.

Finallyfree
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Re: It's not even wrong

Post by Finallyfree » Mon Jan 13, 2020 1:03 pm

I decided several years ago that the purpose of this life was not to obtain perfect obedience, but rather to gain as much understanding as possible.

The saying "The glory of God is intelligence" says it all. It doesn't say "The glory of God is obedience"

When I think about what separates who I am from who God is, the difference is that God has a tremendous amount more intelligence and knowledge than I do. I don't think that God has a tremendous amount more obedience than me....who would he be obedient to?

Complete obedience only teaches you to suppress your own judgement, your own thought processes, and your own personal growth. When obedience is the final goal, understanding gets tossed aside as meaningless.

I have thrown out a thought to a few close family and friends about obedience to God's commandments that gets a few shudders and squeamish looks. I have said:

"If I look back to the very beginning with Adam and Eve to get an idea what life is supposed to be about, I think that God has charged me with figuring out which commandments I am supposed to keep, and which ones I am supposed to break. The purpose of this life is for me to learn enough to be able to discern which of God's commandments are in conflict with one another. Then decide which ones have the greater merit and meaning...and which ones will bring overall growth and enlightenment. I will keep those, and break the others, just like Adam and Eve did."

That commentary gets some pretty wild looks, because it makes perfect sense, but seems blasphemous as well.

God gives conflicting commandments at times...like: "Love thy neighbor as thyself" vs "Cut off thy neighbors head to save thyself"

I think Nephi just straight up failed the test...

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Red Ryder
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Re: It's not even wrong

Post by Red Ryder » Mon Jan 13, 2020 3:51 pm

When I came to realize that Nephi and Laban were NOT real people, suddenly the story made sense. I realized that in order for the author of the BOM to maintain a maximum grip on the reader, Nephi HAD to kill Laban.

There could have been easier solutions but by killing him it set up a few parameters:

1. obedience to God is more important than human life.

2. Obedience to church leaders is more important than free agency and choice.

3. Nephi becomes the example of righteousness and sets him up to be the protagonist.

4. Fear of evil is overcome by fear of failing to obey god.

5. God is a psychopath.
Those who do not move do not notice their chains. —Rosa Luxemburg

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Not Buying It
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Re: It's not even wrong

Post by Not Buying It » Tue Jan 14, 2020 6:35 am

It always kills me the way in discussions in lessons in Church other members will say vehemently that we don’t believe in blind obedience, but then are just as quick to condemn the tiniest amount of pushback on anything as not being obedient.

Members are all about blind obedience, they just don’t know how to admit it without looking stupid.
"The truth is elegantly simple. The lie needs complex apologia. 4 simple words: Joe made it up. It answers everything with the perfect simplicity of Occam's Razor. Every convoluted excuse withers." - Some guy on Reddit called disposazelph

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Hagoth
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Re: It's not even wrong

Post by Hagoth » Tue Jan 14, 2020 2:11 pm

jfro18 wrote:
Sat Jan 11, 2020 1:15 pm
I just keep hoping as I do that more and more that when he has to make a decision on the claims of Mormonism, he will use those same thinking tools to realize it simply does not add up.
That's exactly what happened with my kids. We watched TV documentaries about ghosts, Bigfoot, UFOs, etc. and applied critical thinking to help them learn how to weigh evidence. Interestingly, they were quicker to apply that kind of analysis to the church than I was and experienced much less of a faith crisis and more of a worldview clarification.
“The easy confidence with which I know another man's religion is folly teaches me to suspect that my own is also.” -Mark Twain

Jesus: "The Kingdom of God is within you." The Buddha: "Be your own light."

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Hagoth
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Re: It's not even wrong

Post by Hagoth » Tue Jan 14, 2020 2:26 pm

Finallyfree wrote:
Mon Jan 13, 2020 1:03 pm
n I think about what separates who I am from who God is, the difference is that God has a tremendous amount more intelligence and knowledge than I do. I don't think that God has a tremendous amount more obedience than me....who would he be obedient to?
That's a great question. He must be obedient to someone. The BoM says that he has to punish the sinner with endless fire or he would cease to be God. What a hilarious concept. If God is too kind he will be punished for it. And who will demote God from being God? Mormon doctrine must lead us to assume that the god the He serves is pushing him around in the same way. Note to those who think they've got it made because they have had the 2nd anointing: sorry folks, you can still sin and be punished even in your imminent godhood.

I like the idea that Elohim is a peon on the scale of beings who wield god-power. I picture him cringing in terror of the retribution of Cthulhu or Dr. Manhattan.
Finallyfree wrote:
Mon Jan 13, 2020 1:03 pm
I think Nephi just straight up failed the test...
As did Abraham, in my opinion. From the Mormon point of view he is the supreme example of what we should be: putting blind, idiotic obedience above everything else. But I like to consider that the real test would require him to stand up to God. Maybe if the Israelites had thought in those terms it would have given them a better way to interpret their tribulations. God wasn't punishing them because their parents carved idols, he was punishing all of the seed that he promised Abraham because Abraham was willing to kill the source of that seed just to earn his blind obedience merit badge.
“The easy confidence with which I know another man's religion is folly teaches me to suspect that my own is also.” -Mark Twain

Jesus: "The Kingdom of God is within you." The Buddha: "Be your own light."

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MalcolmVillager
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Re: It's not even wrong

Post by MalcolmVillager » Tue Jan 14, 2020 5:17 pm

FinallyFree, I love that "the glory of God is intelligence." Concept. I had not seen it in that exact light before. So gaining intelligence (not experience, obedience, or mastery) is the goal.

We are doing CFM as well. Not as DW's insistence but on th the t of my girls. We raised them young as TBM and the recent shift in belief for DW hasn't given us the will to rip off the bandaid for the kids (18-8).

We had a really good conversation about how messy and complex the witnesses were, the sheer stone, who wrote the bible, and came short of saying directly that it is all myth. We did talk about how it is turtles all the way down.

This is all such a mess.

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slavereeno
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Re: It's not even wrong

Post by slavereeno » Wed Jan 15, 2020 1:02 pm

[Apologist Hat ON]

There was no other option for Nephi than to kill Laban, If Laban had not been killed, He would have pursued Nephi and his brothers and killed them. This was just pre-emptive self defense. Besides, important lessons were taught here about how important the scriptures are. Without this story in their history Capt. Moroni would not have been able to lead his people in defense of their values. Not to mention the conversion of Laban's servant.

[Apologist Hat OFF]

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Hagoth
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Re: It's not even wrong

Post by Hagoth » Wed Jan 15, 2020 2:15 pm

slavereeno wrote:
Wed Jan 15, 2020 1:02 pm
[Apologist Hat ON]
There was no other option for Nephi than to kill Laban, If Laban had not been killed, He would have pursued Nephi and his brothers and killed them.
[Apologist Hat OFF]
That's right. God could send an angel to stop Nephi's brothers from beating him, and he could give Nephi to power to "shock" his brothers, but for some reason the angel and those powers were not available to stop Laban from harming Nephi and his family. Only decapitation would suffice. God moves in mysterious ways.
“The easy confidence with which I know another man's religion is folly teaches me to suspect that my own is also.” -Mark Twain

Jesus: "The Kingdom of God is within you." The Buddha: "Be your own light."

Reuben
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Re: It's not even wrong

Post by Reuben » Wed Jan 15, 2020 6:54 pm

Okay, here's something provocative: if killing Laban was really the best way to get the plates according to Mysterious God Criteria (because foreknowledge, wanting to teach a lesson, chaotic good alignment, mostly hands-off management style, etc.), then - according to the story's internal rules - Nephi was justified.

I would also say this if Nephi were retrieving the Buddha's sutras.

Why? The Torah is part "HOWTO: Build a Functioning Civilization." If you're going to start a civilization and you don't already have a HOWTO, how many human lives is one worth? Thousands? Tens of thousands? More?

(Yeah, one could be revealed. Mysterious God Criteria, story internal rules, etc. Evaluating the morality of an action requires using the action's context.)

So Nephi is faced with a trolley problem. Trolley problems are tough because they pit deontological ethics against utilitarian ethics. Nobody has come up with a slam-dunk argument for flipping the switch or not flipping the switch. Further, either action is justifiable within a practical ethical framework.

BTW, when we discussed this tonight, I was really pleased that my kids knew what a trolley problem is. Yay for The Good Place. Also, my wife was happy to see her point of view so well represented, which is a win even if all y'all convince me that I'm wrong.
You were born to trust, not fear. It is your birthright.

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crossmyheart
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Re: It's not even wrong

Post by crossmyheart » Thu Jan 16, 2020 12:58 pm

When we are reading or discussing things that seem far fetched or against my line of thinking I always ask something related to "I wonder if..." or "I wonder why..." It kinda keeps my opinion out and gets others to think of both sides of a coin. My feeble attempts at the socratic method.

It works better at work than at home. My DH has caught on, but my co-workers haven't.

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