Svithe regarding living prophets


Not often in my life have I had occasion to Follow the Prophet when it wasn't relatively simple and already consistent with my intellectual understandings.

But a faith that never leaves the intellect's comfort zone is a faith untested.

And so I have decided to obey.

last week's svithe


  1. So, are you expecting something intellectually discomforting this coming General Conference then?

  2. .

    No, it's already arrived. Where are you registered to vote?

  3. Ohhh, okay, I get it now.


  4. As you know, I'm a big fan of following the prophet.

    But be careful that you're not abdicating your agency. I think that before you vote for Proposition 8, you should be convinced that it's the right thing to do. In other words, it's important to take responsibility for your actions and maximize your agency.

    As a general principle (not applying to you or anyone else specifically,) I can't believe God is pleased by people that Follow the Prophet without trying to understand why. After all, the whole point of earth life is to develop agency. Abdicating agency is one of the fundamental sins according Mormon doctrine. So I believe it's essential that we take responsibility for our actions and never say we were "just following orders".

  5. .

    I agree, I do. And I have thought about this a lot, and my conclusion I do NOT wish to imply should be generalized.

    But in MY case in THIS situation, I feel this circumstance is, for me, intended to be a faith builder. My turn to head for Ninevah or throw my net out one more time or move my carriage to the other side of the shed.

    In the end, one vote won't matter and Prop 8 will fail without ceremony. But will matter for me is that I did what I was asked to do, even though I only had faith as a motivator. Which, as I said, isn't something I'm often asked to do.

    Something I am not doing is canvassing for the prop or donating money because that would be lying to myself and "abdicating agency" and much to dishonest to be accepted by God. But I think he will accept the symbolism of the punched card.

    Again, I don't know and I'm only speaking for myself, but that's where I stand now.

  6. People have been asked to follow the prophet when it meant hardship and sacrifice, when it meant leaving family and friends to serve, when it meant changing their ways and taking their efforts up a notch or two.

    But you shouldn't have to sacrifice your integrity. If you honestly feel your heart telling you that this thing is wrong, then vote as you choose. The Prophet is not the Pope - his followers do not (or should know that they should not) believe he is infallible. And yes, I'm familiar with the 'God won't let the prophet lead the Church astray' quote. Actually, the prophet has free agency, just like everyone else, and he CAN be wrong. You have the right to pray about any directive from the prophet and seek a confirmation that it is right. Have you done that?

    In the end, one vote won't matter and Prop 8 will fail without ceremony.

    And if it doesn't? If you supported P8, I'd think you were wrong, but I'd respect your right to vote as you feel is right. But to feel it's wrong and blindly do it anyway? I can't respect that. Should doing harm to others' rights be a faith builder? Does that sound right? Does it feel right?

    Vote with your conscience.

  7. .

    It's becoming increasingly obvious that I'm not explaining myself very well. Every explanation seems to make me less understood rather than more understood. So I'm really not sure what to say next.

  8. I really don't see how Chosha misinterpreted you. She seems to have restated exactly what you've said and pointed out the error in your reasoning--though I admit she's done so in a much less inflammatory way than I did. Please explain where we've misunderstood you.

  9. .

    I don't know if I can.

    As you know, Ben, it's always a mistake to write about a complicated topic without thinking it through so long you end up writing nothing whatsoever. Once people know 1% of your thinking on a topic like this they immediately assume they know 100% of your thinking, and no matter how you try to rephrase, they try to stick their already formulated understanding and fit it into the cracks of your imperfect prose. We've seen it before.

    The trouble with an issue like gay marriage is that it has been falsely dichotomized so long and with such ferocity that few people are capable of stepping back and seeing nuance.

    But the issue here is really not one of fact anyway. It's one of faith.

    I don't know if the rest of you have read Ben's story Abraham's Purgatory, but if you haven't, you should. It's powerful and it will be one of the jems of the upcoming Fob Bible. And, I think, the most controversial (even more than the poem that prominently features an erection).

    I remember when I first read it just being stunned by this snapshot of the state of his spiritual thought. I struggled to come up with anything to say in reply (the comment I did leave is almost asinine).

    Even though the story is moving and compelling and thought-provoking,it doesn't represent my understanding of God. My understanding of God is much more in line with the Biblical version of the story, wherein Abraham was expected to follow through.

    Now, I don't expect an angel to appear in the voting booth telling me to punch a different hole. In fact, I don't really consider Abraham's situation terribly comparable to mine at all.

    But I can't just sit and listen to hate being slung on God and Prophet without sticking up for faith. Faith is NOTNOTNOT fear, no matter how convenient a catchphrase that makes. Faith is believing that someone who loves us all knows what He's doing.

    Assuming we know his motivations (eg, he hates gay people) is hubris.

    I believe in a loving God. I believe in living prophets. I do not believe that I understand the details or the reasons for those details.

    I believe in not acting without thought. I believe considering faith as sincerely as facts is proper and good.

    I believe in doubting my own conclusions. I believe no one is 100% right and that no one is 100% wrong.

    I believe in loving and understanding those on every side of an issue. I also believe in taking a stand. And I believe in changing my opinion as often as I must in order to arrive at the best possible opinion.

    I believe in listening.

    I believe in assuming the best in other people, even when they hurt you.

    I believe in forgiveness and in looking past what we perceive to be others' faults.

    I believe in love.

    I believe in moving forward.

    I believe in eternal progress and its corollary, current imperfection.

    I believe I don't know enough to tell other people they are wrong, even if I do so all the time.

    I believe it is more important to hear someone else than to have them hear you.

    I believe in my friends, in their essential goodness. And I believe the same about those I do not know, and those who will never be my friend.

    I believe in trying to improve.

    I believe in restraining judgment as much as my imperfections will allow.

    I believe only one is perfect, even God.

    I believe I will not be saved in my sins, but from my sins.

    I believe God is not anxious to punish anyone or see anyone miserable.

    I believe God's ways are not man's ways and that that fact should recommend them to us.

    I believe we are all destined for happiness.

    I believe much of life will suck, but that's a temporary state.

    I believe in a lot of things. And I hope believing in those things makes me a better person. I know many people will not accept that likelihood, but I'm done with apologizing for who I am and what I feel. Not to suggest I will thus trample on others' feelings, but I am what I am. And if people take 1% of my thought, twist it, and call me a [whatever], so what? That doesn't change who I am. It doesn't change what my friends know me to be.

    I am not the compendium of internet opinion.

    And I believe in love.

    I believe in moving forward.

    I believe in eternal progress and its corollary, current imperfection.

    I'm imperfect. You probably are too. All the more reason we should reason together. Reason together.

    I hope, even if this utterly fails to clear up my position, it will at least facilitate some understanding.

    Because I believe in hope too. And, no matter how we vote, that is something we all can share.

  10. A beautiful post, Theric.

    Thank you.

  11. In case there is any doubt, Theric, I'd like to make one thing clear: You are among my top ten--maybe top five--favorite people in the world. I don't actually have such a list, but if I did you'd be high up there, and you will have to do far more than vote for Prop 8, regardless of your reasons, to change that.

    I'm sorry you felt personally attacked by my post and as a result "borderline depressed." I imagine this might be difficult to believe, but my intention was not to hurt you. I don't know whether this will make any sense because it's not very logical, but I felt personally attacked by this post and retreated to my blog to express some of the resulting anger, believing that to express the anger here wouldn't be fair to you because obviously you didn't intend to attack me, considering that this post really has nothing to do with me. In retrospect I don't think that made it any better.

    To clarify another thing, the fear comment was never intended to apply to you. As I've said, you are not the only person I was thinking of in writing the post, and while I recognize that for you fear is antithetical to faith, that's not the case with all people. As I lay in bed thinking about it just now, I realized that for about my last ten years of Mormonhood whatever faith I had was based mostly in fear because I didn't see much to hope for in what the gospel offered me--I imagine this is true of many gay Mormons, among other people.

    The selfish comment, you can guess by process of elimination, was intended for you. I am more than happy to acknowledge that the 99% I don't see may not support this, but the 1% you've given us does. To cast your part in an action that will affect thousands of people unrelated to you a thousand times more than it could possibly affect you as a "faith builder" God has made just for you is self-centered. I will not deny you the importance of your faith, but to place the building of said faith above the equal treatment of your fellow human beings is wrong.

    I hope for and believe in many of the things you do, and not so much in several others. I do not believe in a living prophet or for that matter in God. If there were a being who commanded people to kill others simply to test their loyalty to him--whether he sends an angel to stop the slaughter at the last moment or not--I would not find such a being deserving of worship.

    That said, I'm not asking you to renounce your belief in God or a living prophet. I'm asking you to accept your own religion's doctrines of a fallible, human prophet and of personal revelation. If you've prayed about this proposition and you still don't understand why God would want you to campaign and vote for it, what's to say that's not the stupor of thought indicating you're headed in the wrong direction? If your conscience tells you not to support Prop 8, how do you know that's not the Holy Ghost? You speak of intellect and faith as if they are naturally at odds, but according to your belief didn't God give you your intellect? Doesn't he communicate with his children not only through prophets but through their own thoughts?

    I can respect your faith and I do respect you regardless of all this, but I cannot respect a leap of faith that puts at risk others besides the leaper.

  12. Theric:

    Let me say first of all that I deeply respect your position and your conviction to follow the prophet, even--especially--when it takes you beyond your intellectual comfort zone and puts you in (can I say it?) persecution's path.

    Reading this post and the ensuing comments brought to mind something Eugene England--one of Mormonism's great "liberal" thinkers and scholars--said in this letter* published in the first issue of Sunstone. After encouraging the editors in their "risky" endeavor to create a forum for maturing Mormon thinkers, he says this (and I think it worth pasting in whole):

    "Those of us in the Church who need and value such things as Sunstone-because of our nature, our special intellectual gifts the Lord has given us to complement the equally valuable gifts he has given others in the Kingdom-tend to value highly and quote often the last part of the thirteenth Article of Faith: 'If there is anything virtuous, lovely, or of good report or praiseworthy, we seek after these things.' We need to remind ourselves that there are twelve and a half Articles of Faith which precede that stirring capstone declaration, and unless we are struggling to understand and live by all of those others (for instance, 'We believe in the gift of tongues, prophecy, revelation...') we have no right to adopt that motto for our intellectual and artistic endeavors and little good will come of those efforts." (Italics added.)

    Thanks for making your struggle public and for tabling a proper use of agency--to choose to act in faith even when all the cards aren't yet in play.

    (BTW: Thanks for that Stephen Crane reference on my blog. It does provide an interesting counterpoint to Frost and is something I've never read before.)

    * Scroll down to the middle of the page.

  13. .

    Thank you, Tyler.

    I'm planning on voting no on Prop 2.

    Prop 2 hasn't gotten as much press, but if you ask the people around here who are familiar with it, they'll tell you that a yes vote means you love animals and a no vote means you are a slave to big business.

    But I'm not voting no because I am a slave to big business.

    Sure, it would be nice if all chickens in California had a bit more leg room, but we got lots of poor people in California and eggs are the cheapest source of protein we have. The poor are already stuck eating a too-large percentage of overprocessed foods. What happens if we price chicken and eggs too high for them to purchase.

    But voting no means I don't respect animals and am a bad person. Or so I hear.

    And Ben: I'm sympathetic to your position. And there are a number of posts (eg, about former Mormons) I have not posted simply because I didn't want you to think I was singling you out.

    So I'm glad that this one thing won't come between us.

  14. Agreed, and thank you for your consideration of me.

  15. I don't want to wake up a dead conflict and I have said myself that polls don't mean much, but if the expected outcome is influencing your decision, as you've said it is, then you should see this.