The “Literal vs. Symbolic Mormon Testimony” Project

July 12, 2006
By

I’ve been thinking a ton lately about literal vs. symbolic Mormon testimonies. I felt strongly that I should create a table which differentiates how I’m feeling today, from what I was taught growing up. I intend this to be an ongoing project…where the comments made below this post get fed back into the post itself. I would love your feedback on many fronts. Specifically, please let me know what I’ve missed, and which of the items in the “symbolic” column you deem as “unacceptable” within the framework of faithful (temple recommend worthy) Mormonism. If you’d like me to reword any of the boxes, please feel free to amend.

Testimony Component Literal Interpretation Symbolic Interpretation Athiest/Agnostic Interpretation
God God as a literal, anthropomorphic, resurrected man. 10 fingers. 10 toes. Former man. White hair. Beard. An organizing force within the universe. The creative power from which all living things flow. That power which seems to provide order, and meaning, and "coincidence" or "providence" to my life. May be anthropomorphic, but not important.  
Jesus as son of God Literal son of God, created via God having intercourse with Mary. Good, wise man who was probably historical. Was a child of God as we all are.  
Jesus as savior Suffered for every sin, illness, and emotional pain for everyone who has ever lived on the face of the earth–and not just on this earth, but on other worlds as well. Taught principles of happiness. "Saved" people from sin (bad decisions) if they choose to follow his teachings.  
Jesus as resurrected being, and afterlife Jesus died, resurrected after 3 days, and all of us will be resurrected again, and live forever with exalted bodies There may or may not be an afterlife, but if we live righteously, our legacies and impact will persist with "eternal" implications through future generations of humanity.  
Holy Ghost Holy Ghost is a literal, distinct person and personality. The Holy Ghost literally/physically jumps around from person to person around the world to inspire and direct decisions. Man has an inner instinct or intuition, along with a brain that provides insight into right and wrong. The degree that we are in touch with these influences, and make decisions in accordance with them, the happier we are.  
Joseph Smith as Prophet Literally saw God and Jesus with his own physical eyes. Received direct, explicit revelation and communication from/with God. Felt the inspiration of God/the divine throughout his life (as defined above). Taught truths that previously weren’t prominent. Made some predictions that came true (others didn’t). Got it right a lot, and sometimes got it really wrong (i.e. made some big mistakes). Strong net-positive contribution to humanity.  
LDS Church is "true" The COJCOLDS is God’s one true restored church on the face of the earth. All other churches are corrupt and abominations unto God. No other ordinances of any other churches (including baptisms) are valid to God. Everyone who has ever lived, or will live, will need to become "Mormon" at some point–either now, or in the afterlife. The LDS Church is inspired of God, and a valid (and maybe even preferable for many) path towards goodness and even Godliness–but there are "many paths up Mt. Fuji". The restoration was good, to the extent that it moved us closer to righteousness as a people, and in the world.  
Baptism The ritual of a physical Mormon-approved baptism is a literal requirement for "salvation". Without it, no one will enter "heaven". Baptism is a symbolic ritual which is very helpful in helping one focus on  
Priesthood Priesthood is God’s power on earth, and only ordained LDS males have it. Priesthood power moves mountains, raises the dead, heals disease, entitles one to extra inspiration, etc. Priesthood is God’s power throughout earth, and people with faith can access it. This includes members of the LDS church (ordained or not), and everyone else on the planet.  
Book of Mormon Literal translation from reformed Egyptian to English, character for character. Historical book (Nephi, Alma, Mormon really existed). Native Americans are descendants of Lamanites. Book of Mormon is likely not historical. Not a translation. Instead, it is more of an inspired work from Joseph Smith–primarily as a vehicle for the teachings of Christ.  
Book of Abraham See above See above  
Prophets Prophets literally speak with God–probably with their own, audible voice. God gives them clear, specific direction to lead the church. Prophets receive inspiration much like any of us do. They combine their intellect, with their experience, and with their instinct–and run the church as best as they can. Sometimes they hit home runs. Sometimes they strike out. More often than not they point us in the right direction, and improve upon past generations.  
Garments Garments are not only a spiritual protection, they are a physical protection too. If you fall in a vat of steel, get shot w/ a gun, or stabbed with a knife (stories I heard growing up), they have the power to protect you. Garments, by the mere facts that you wear them 24 hours a day and they have symbols on them, help remind you of the covenants you made in the temple, thus protecting you from bad decisions.  

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36 Responses to The “Literal vs. Symbolic Mormon Testimony” Project

  1. July 12, 2006 at 5:58 pm

    John:

    Very interesting work. I wonder if you could add a third column, containing what an atheist/agnostic or whatever other brand of unbeliever seems most relevant might think? You seem to be relatively clear in terms of distinguishing between your position now and the one you held as a younger and, perhaps, less conflicted believer. But I think it might be at least as important to be able to position yourself with respect to unbelievers.

  2. BB
    July 12, 2006 at 6:34 pm

    well done, sir. many parallels to my own emerging faith.

  3. Tom
    July 12, 2006 at 6:39 pm

    First, I would make it clear that not everything in the “literal” column are THE orthodox/official/party line beliefs. For instance, the “through intercourse with Mary” bit may be taught and believed by many, but it’s not something I remember personally hearing from any GA, local leader, or even Sunday School teacher. I’ve heard it elsewhere, but I wouldn’t say that it’s an important part of our belief in Jesus.

    Personally, the “literal” column doesn’t describe my beliefs perfectly, but it’s a lot closer than the “symbolic” column.

    As for what’s “acceptable” to believe, I don’t know. I’m not sure I would be comfortable saying that I had a testimony of Jesus Christ or that I sustained the FP and Qof12 as prophets, seers, and revelators if I held the beliefs in the “symbolic” column. So I suppose I would say that to me the “symbolic” beliefs might preclude the temple recommend thing. But I don’t know, really. I’m not in a position to tell anyone with those beliefs that they shouldn’t have a temple recommend.

    I am pretty sure that if I held the beliefs in the “symbolic” column I wouldn’t join the LDS Church. I might stick around if I was already a member and I came to believe those things, but I can’t see any reason one with those beliefs would join.

  4. July 12, 2006 at 8:50 pm

    RT,

    I’d be happy to add the column, but I’d need someone else to fill in the cells for me….

  5. Doc
    July 12, 2006 at 9:52 pm

    John,
    It has been by experience thatthings are rarely as black and white as your two alternatives presented here. Both your literal view and your symbolic view seem to me to be rigid and forced. While there may be strict literalists or symbolists out there, I don’t know too many people whose beliefs fall as neatly into the categories you present. The biggest weakness of this approach seems to be that you cannot allow for some literal truths to work on symbolic levels as well. For this reason, they strike me as grossly oversimplified.

    Truth is learned line upon line, precept on precept. Does this not mean that truth is a necessary starting point to begin to understand all the permutations and ramifications, or symbolism and principles of any stand?

    In a sense this is what the whole milk before meat idea is. people have to start with a basic understanding of principles in order to cut through some of the confusion and pain seen in the world at large, then through personal study, rigorous search for truth and examination of assumptions, and the influence of the spirit, the eyes of our understanding are opened and deeper and more profound meaning to all these basic truths are opened to our view. It does not necessarily negate the literal truths we understood in our concrete operational stage of gospel understanding, but it merely shows us the depth and complexities of truth, principles, and the gospel, really the truth complexities and depth of God himself.

  6. Doc
    July 12, 2006 at 9:53 pm

    In other words, I would feel a need to reword almost every column you have here for more completeness but I am not so sure this would fly with you ar your cohorts.

  7. Dave
    July 12, 2006 at 10:45 pm

    I completely agree with Doc’s comments. Also, he stated it very well. The first thing that jumped out at me was that the columns were not mutually exclusive in many cases. In some cases the items were not compatible with each other but, for me, I found myself agreeing with both columns more often than not.

  8. Administrator
    July 12, 2006 at 10:46 pm

    Doc,

    I would be sincerely interested in your version of any row there. I don’t get offended at other people’s take on things (as long as their respectful). And I am often inspired by things I don’t agree with.

    Please share (if you feel so inclined). This was made to be a collaborative thing, and I promise not to pounce on you, or allow you to be pounced upon.

    John

  9. Abner Doon
    July 12, 2006 at 11:49 pm

    John, I’d be happy to fill in an “agnostic perspective” column if you want to add one.

  10. July 12, 2006 at 11:59 pm

    John, I like your chart, but I agree RT’s expansion suggestion. This isn’t new ground for Christian theologians–some really bright scholars have tried to reconcile theology with 20th century modern and post-modern approaches to the truth/reality. I’ve read books by some (like JD Crossan and John Shelby Spong) who have been influenced by these scholars. I’m just now trying to study the works of Tillich, Niebuhr, Bonhoeffer, Altizer, all of whom developed radical ways of approaching God and making Christ relevant in the 20th century world (and beyong).

  11. July 13, 2006 at 8:07 am

    OK! The athiest/agnostic column has been added. Please help me fill it in. If ya\’ll want to edit it directly, create accounts for yourselves, and I\’ll annoint you with edit rights.

  12. July 13, 2006 at 8:10 am

    Doc, Dave & tombo,

    I would REALLY be interested in which cells in the literal column you would not sign up to, and if so, what your alternative text would be.

    Please share.

  13. July 13, 2006 at 8:27 am

    John,

    I have to say, I have a hard time seeing why we’d want to have a missionary program if all we had was the symbolic column. If that column represents what you currently believe, I hope you (and God) can get you back to the items in the literal column at some point down the road. I think they make all the difference.

  14. July 13, 2006 at 8:58 am

    Frank,

    If the LDS church can substantially increase joy in one’s day to day life (which I’m sure you believe), I’m surprised that this would not be justification enough (from your perspective) for a strong missionary effort. I think most people value joy immensely–whether they know it or not.

    As for getting me back to the left column–I’m open to that possibility, though I hope you won’t feel offended in my telling you that I feel as though God has explicitely led me to the right column over the past few years.

    I’ll also tell you (as I’m sure you know) that I’m not alone in that column. Not a week goes by where 2 or 3 devout LDS church members privately email me and tell me that they’ve arrived there as well (independent of my blog/podcast work). I sincerely feel that an in-depth, honest inquiry into LDS history, doctrine and culture naturally leads people (not all, I’ll admit) towards the right column. For all the attempts to dismiss people like me–this is becoming a material issue in the church (in my opinion).

  15. July 13, 2006 at 9:21 am

    John, very interesting and introspective work. Two things caught my eye.

    First, your use of the qualifier “seems” in defining God as “That power which *seems* to provide order, and meaning,” isn’t clear to me. Are you unsure whether God provides order and meaning?

    Second, if you really did want feedback about the temple recommend interview, I believe that if you shared your view of Jesus during an interview for temple worthiness, I doubt your bishop and stake president would think you “have faith in Jesus Christ and his role as Savior and Redeemer” based on what you’ve written here. The words “Savior” and “Redeemer” are not empty and elastic containers into which we can put any view of Jesus. Those words are defined by the church, and not subject to private interpretation.

  16. July 13, 2006 at 9:31 am

    John,

    Re: the temple reccomend interview, you might find issues with the part about the Prophet being the only one to hold the keys.

    As for the broader issue, I think the joy converts feel is intimately tied to what we teach them, which is pretty much column 1. I don’t think we would have nearly the success bringing joy if all we had was 2. So that’s my take.

    “I sincerely feel that an in-depth, honest inquiry into LDS history, doctrine and culture naturally leads people (not all, I’ll admit) towards the right column.”

    I don’t know if that is true or not (it wasn’t for me or many other people), but it hardly matters. Our goal is not what happens “naturally”, after all, rather we seek after the divine! :)

    As for the people emailing you, I am not sure that there is a reason to think this is new or growing. People have doubted the literal reality of the atonement and/or the visions and miracles of prophets and scriptures since the beginning. Of course, it may well be growing, since faith in such things does appear to go through cycles, but I don’t know that there is much evidence in your email correspondency.

  17. July 13, 2006 at 9:40 am

    Frank,

    I think the missionary program might thrive if our church were more aligned with the spiritual column John has outlined. Today, we have 50,000 missionaries in the world largely wasting time. They will, on average, add just 5 new members a piece. Half of those will be gone within a year and the five-year outlook is that, if the church is lucky, one new member per missionary will still be active in the church. I think the literalist message the missionaries are compelled to teach, combined with the one-size-fits-all Utah culture that the church tries to export, yields a disappointing harvest. If instead our 50,000 (or more if we “lowered the bar”) missionaries were engaged in true humanitarian service projects and teaching people by example “pure religion undefiled” rather than spending all their time knocking on doors trying to teach people dogma, the missionaries would benefit, the church would benefit (and grow), and the world would actually be a better place from the efforts of our missionaries.

  18. July 13, 2006 at 9:48 am

    Equality,

    That is an interesting theory. Do you have a succesful example of this missionary program you envision so we could compare its strengths and weaknesses vs. the current?

    Personally, I think missionary work is just really tough. I am all for continued refinement of how we do it, but I am sure that I am not the one to put in charge of that. I’m just not that smart. Since I think the leaders are inspired by God to oversee his program, I’m happy to accept the approach and revisions they come up with, warts and all.

  19. July 13, 2006 at 9:57 am

    John, what is the context for the atheist/agnostic column? Are we examining how an atheist or agnostic Mormon can find meaning in the terms/concepts to the left? Also, there’s a huge gulf between a dogmatic atheist and a weak atheist like me (w/agnostic leanings)–this could mean another column!

    Column two actually seems fairly agnostic to me, except for where “God” is used. As a semi-agnostic/humanist/weak-atheist, God still has meaning to me, partly as a communication tool (because of the ambiguity in society about the meaning of God), and partly to serve as a focus for my spiritual yearning. Sometimes I define God as humanity’s collective striving for a connection with the universe, the focus an ideal beyond earthly imperfection.

  20. July 13, 2006 at 10:12 am

    As much as I identify with where Equality wants to take the missionary program, I have to agree with Frank. Just look to slow death of the mainline churches which have liberalized their theology and have become so inclusive that there is no real cost of membership. I don’t say this to denigrate liberal Protestantism–I admire the willingness of many of their theologians to confront reality and maintain intellectual integrity, and wholeheartedly support much of their social agenda.

    The real growth in the Christian world, by contrast, is in the conservative Evangelical and Pentecostal brands of Christianity. These groups are much more likely to fall in the “literal interpretation” column of their respective belief systems. If Pentecostals continue to grow at their current rate, they’ll pass the one billion mark in the next two decades.

    This may seem counter-intuitive, but the greater the tension with society’s views and the higher the costs of membership (as long as they’re not too high), the more appealing religions are–they are able to brand and market themselves much more effectively. The LDS church is very aware of this, and has chosen (in the mid-20th century) to take the more literal rather than the more liberal approach. In terms of institutional growth, this was the smart move (see Rodney Stark and Armand Mauss’ work). But it makes the Church a less friendly place to those who want to interpret things more symbolically.

  21. Dan Y.
    July 13, 2006 at 10:16 am

    John,

    Like some of the other commenters, I’m inclined to see the categorization you have put together as forced and overly simplistic. That doesn’t mean it can’t be useful or interesting though. I don’t see your categories as mutually exclusive, but I’m not sure you were implying them to be so. I think one way to look at things is that the symbolic interpretation is the most a certain group of people is willing to say about these issues while the literal interpretation is how much farther another group of people is willing to go.

    There are several characteristics you have put in the literal boxes that I might question. That is, I would still consider someone to believe Mormonism literally, even if they didn’t hold the following views:
    White hair, beard.
    God/Mary intercourse.
    Jesus suffered for illness and emotional pain.
    Holy Ghost “jumps around” (at least as this implies He can only work on people one by one).
    All other churches are an abomination to God.
    Character for character language translation.
    Prophets speak to God in a physically different manner than the rest of us (on a regular basis).

    As the literal column may not be an adequate one-size-fits-all description, even more so for the symbolic column. There many variations of orthodox belief; there are probably many times more variations of unorthodox belief. That said, as (most days) I consider myself somewhere between a symbolic and agnostic Mormon, I’ll give my version of agnostic LDS belief (to the extent that this is not a contradiction in terms – maybe there should be one more row explaining the purpose/benefits of activity in the church for these three belief systems). I don’t pretend to speak for an athiestic belief system.

    God – May or may not exist. If the former, God may or may not have any interest in, or benevolent purpose for, mankind.

    Jesus – Good, wise man who was probably historical. His ethical/moral teachings have been rightly reverred.

    Jesus as savior – Taught principles of love and selflessness. Following these teachings “saves” people from unhappiness and lack of purpose.

    Jesus as a resurrected being, and afterlife – Whether or not any of this is literally true, faith and hope that it is true is helpful in motivating many to follow the teachings of Jesus.

    Holy Ghost – Man’s “inner intuition” is likely a combination of evolutionary outcomes, rational thought, and cultural influences. In many, but certainly not all, cases, this intuition assists in striving towards the right choices.

    Joseph Smith as a Prophet – Like a handful of other historical figures, was a “spiritual” genius. Inspired many to focus their lives on the teachings of Jesus.

    LDS Church is “true” – Unlikely, but faith and hope that it is true is helpful in motivating many to follow the teachings of Jesus.

    Baptism – Helpful to some in focusing on teachings of Jesus.

    Priesthood – Irrelevant.

    Book of Mormon – See baptism.

    Book of Abraham – See baptism.

    Prophets – Sincerely focused on leading people to Christ. Usually quite capable in many respects, but by no means is their advice infallible or free from their own biases/experiences.

  22. July 13, 2006 at 11:42 am

    Dig the chart man.

    As in any effort to put something as amorphous as belief into an ordered system, some things are going to get left out.

    I am not really suggesting you ad this column, but the most important column for me would be after symbolic interpretation and it would be something like “What i learned from first believing this literally and then believing it symbolically”.

    For example: I first really believed that Jesus was half god half man who some how literally suffered for every single sin in the world. Later I believed that he was one of the Level 6 (stages of faith) prophets who brought light and wisdom to the world through their own advanced sense of spirituality.

    But the important thing to me now when I think of Jesus isn’t the half god half man or the super cool prophet. It is the idea of salvation. The idea that each of us can rise above what we are naturally and become something better. That mistakes in our lives can be overcome and don’t have to destroy us. That change is possible.

    I think whith each of these topics there is something impressed on someone because of the literal belief. Joseph Smith: We can receive revelation (from where who knows) through careful study, meditation, prayer and desire for enlightenment.

    At the end of the day, if you and I both believe the concepts behind the stories of our religion, then it doesn’t matter so much whether or not we believe the particulars in the same way. Then we can all end up in one column.

  23. Kevin Christensen
    July 13, 2006 at 11:46 am

    FWIW, the binary dicotomies and definitions in the literal and spiritual columns too often seem utterly alien to me. Since I was baptized in 1962, and have attended LDS meetings in three countries, more than a dozen states, maybe 50 wards and branches in all, taught all age groups, and since I’ve participated in 10 Sunstone panels, and have been published in a range of LDS journals, I think I’ve sampled LDS attitudes fairly well.

    Yet, too often in the table, my reaction is, “What?” The description of the literal “true” church, for example. A great deal could be said about that. But, to be brief, I would recommend seeing how D&C 1 actually defines the status and purpose of the LDS church. This takes careful reading, and a determination to set aside preconceptions. And when tossing around words like “abominable,” definitions and contexts are important and enlightening.

    I recall Hugh Nibley saying that “a believer is a literalist open to infinite possibilities.” Here, it seems, the idea is present a literalist as reductively as possible. The term “straw man” comes to mind. And of course, I like the way Nephi answer’s Laman’s question about whether Lehi’s dream is “spiritual or temporal.” Both.

    For a much more useful, and generally applicable approach to possibilities and directions for spiritual growth and maturity, I’d favor something like the Perry Scheme for Cognitive and Ethical Growth. That uses a nine stage maturity pattern rather than a binary one and applies to any faith system. I sent some material on that to Don Wotherspoon a while back, and he quite liked it. Indeed one of the things that makes it interesting that the starting attitudes tend to be rather binary. So the growth is not merely flipping from one columnn to another, but rather of processing everything very differently.

    Dualism and dicotomy can work very well. It’s one of the defining characteristics of apocalyptic literature. The Book of Mosiah uses it very well, as does William Blake in the Songs of Innocent and Experience, for example. Here, I think it impedes understanding.

    But I’m just one voice. FWIW.

    Kevin Christensen
    Pittsburgh, PA

  24. July 13, 2006 at 12:38 pm

    I expected to get questions about my qualifications for temple worthiness, etc. I have a couple of thoughts about this.

    – In Mormonism, we have a culture of saying “I know” for pretty much every testimony component. At the same time, we call faith the first principle of the gospel, and faith is often defined as merely a “hope.” So for each element in the TR interview….is knowledge the bar, or faith? How about weak faith, vs. strong faith? What if it’s only hope? Can you make it to the temple if you merely hope for a resurrection? I would suspect so….and I suspect that this is why the temple recommend interview is structured like it is–very specific questions (not to be altered or deviated from), and the interviewee gets to assess their own worthiness (by answering yes or no). Letting bishops and stake presidents add their own questions, and become the final judge for each question individually would become unwieldy (sp?). Letting you judge my worhiness might be even less wieldy. :)

    Personally, I am completely open to having faith, or hope, or even (as the temple recommend interview asks) “a testimony” of many of the things in the left column. I certainly hope, or have faith in, a resurrection, eternal families, the existance of a resurrected God and Jesus, that God directs and guides Pres. Hinckley, etc. So I can comfortably say that I have “a testimony of” almost everything in the left-hand column (from a faith/hope perspective). That said, my thoughts/feelings/studies/instinct lean me towards feeling that other positions (in the right column) may be more likely, or realistic, or more refined. And just as the church has changed its policy or doctrine in the past (sometimes fundamentally so), it could be that they would do so again in the future.

    – I know a fellow who believes generally as I do (former bishop, deep SLC roots)–who asked Elder Packer directly if folks like us can hold a temple recommend, and the answer was “Yes.” You might dismiss this as anecdotal, but I could just as easily dismiss your anecdotes. I submit this only as a data point. And I would ask you to search your heart/soul….do you really believe that every person with a temple recommend has a “knowledge” of everything in the left column….or even for however you would fill in the blanks on the left hand column?

    I suspect that even the prophet relies heavily on faith and hope for his own testimony–and perhaps even has a healthy dosage of doubt within his perspective. Just a suspicion, of course.

    Anyway, just a few thoughts/clarifications.

  25. July 13, 2006 at 12:41 pm

    “Here, I think it impedes understanding.” — Kevin

    Hopefully by generating the question/framework/discussion, we’re iterating towards a better understanding. I considered my initial post only as a starting point. I’m very much open to where we end up.

  26. Doc
    July 13, 2006 at 12:44 pm

    John,
    I’ll tell you what, I will see if I can put something together when I get a moment this evening.

  27. July 13, 2006 at 1:35 pm

    Hey, where’s the fundy column?

    Regarding the temple rec. questions: for years, I answered the temple recommend questions in terms of “accepting on faith” or “I hope these things are true and live as if they are.” Both Bishops and Stake Presidents were very accomodating (in fact, they seemed relieved that I wasn’t asking hard questions).

    I think there’s something to where Kevin’s single column chart. Take a concept like Jesus and the Atonement, or nature of God–even TBM’s have a wide range of different understandings of these concepts. They don’t nitpick, and kind of assume that everyone uses the terms the way they do. And they very effectively build a common community on top of this assumption.

    Kind of like the “under God” phrase in the pledge of allegiance. Muslims, Jews, Mormons, Presbyterians, Evangelicals, and New Agey types–they all believe in the same God, right? We don’t press for details (I picture the elephant-headed Ganesha myself). The only problems are those godless Communist atheists.

  28. July 13, 2006 at 1:40 pm

    John, I think Matt and I brought up the TR because you asked readers to with this statement:

    “Specifically, please let me know what I’ve missed, and which of the items in the “symbolic” column you deem as “unacceptable” within the framework of faithful (temple recommend worthy) Mormonism.”

    Your TR status is between you and your Bishop and the Lord. Matt and I were just responding to your request. And your response seems to be that you agree that one must have faith in those things and that you do. OK. How you wish to define having faith is up to you, your Bishop, and the Lord.

  29. Tom
    July 13, 2006 at 2:08 pm

    John, I don’t know if these fit the “literal” label. I won’t presume to say that this is THE official, correct, orthodox way of believing and I’m not interested in debating any of these points right here right now, but this is how I would formulate them:

    God: A perfect, glorified male person with a body of flesh and bone.

    [May or may not have once been a mortal]

    Jesus as Son of God: First Begotten spiritual Son of God, miraculously born of Mary with no mortal father.

    [Mechanism of Christ's conception is irrelevant]

    Jesus as Savior: Miraculously took upon himself the punishment for all the sins of mankind, satisfying the demands of justice. Without the atonement, man would be forever ineligible to enter God’s presence.

    Jesus as Resurrected Being, Afterlife: Jesus died, resurrected after 3 days. After a period of disembodied spiritual existence all of us will be resurrected again, and live forever with immortal bodies of flesh and bone. The repentant, faithful righteous will have exhalted bodies and be heirs of God.

    [Pretty much as you formulated, but distinguishing between exhalted and immortal bodies and adding that we have potential to become like God.]

    The Holy Ghost: A literal, spiritual (disembodied) person distinct from the Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ. He communicates with humans and witnesses of the truth.

    [No need to say that he "jumps from person to person." As God he has the power to influence all people at once.]

    Joseph Smith as Prophet: Had a divinely given vision of Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ. Was assigned by God to bring forth the Book of Mormon and organize the Church of Jesus Christ. Received direct communication from God, as well as inspiration. Was not perfect.

    [As an imperfect person, he certainly made mistakes, though I'm not going to presume to say what was and what wasn't a mistake.]

    LDS Church is “true”: The Church of Jesus Christ is divinely sanctioned and is a tool by which God does his work of helping his children have eternal life. No other church has as full an understanding of the Plan of Salvation as the CoJCoLDS does, nor do they have the authority to administer ordinances.

    [Other churches do good, bring people to Christ, and help God achieve his work of providing eternal life for His children.]

    Baptism/Gift of the Holy Ghost: One must choose to be baptized by one in authority to administer the ordinance in order to make a covenant with God that will allow one to be free of sin and live with God. The Gift of the Holy Ghost, a promise of constant companionship of the Spirit when one is worthy of it, is exclusively given to those baptized and confirmed as a member of the CoJCoLDS.

    [God also blesses, inspires, and communicates with non-LDS people through the Spirit.]

    Priesthood: The authority to perform ordinances that are binding in heaven and to direct the affairs of one’s stewardship within the Church. Only LDS males have it.

    [The power that heals the sick, causes miracles, etc. is God's power and is available to all who have faith. The priesthood doesn't entitle one to more inspiration than a non-priesthood holder, but priesthood keys define stewardships within the Church (a ward, a quorum, etc.) for which one is entitled to receive inspiration.]

    Book of Mormon: The word of God. Joseph Smith translated the Book of Mormon from gold plates by the inspiration of God. Tells of events that actually happened.

    [I don't think one must believe that it tells of events that actually happened in order to believe that it is the word of God, but it's hard to reconcile Joseph's story of the coming forth of the Book of Mormon with the view that it is not, at least primarily, a translation.]

    Book of Abraham: The word of God.

    [see BoM]

    Prophets: The President of the Church of Jesus Christ is the only person on earth with the authority to direct the affairs of the Church. God directs and inspires the prophets to lead the Church according to His will. The prophets are not perfect.

    [As imperfect men, prophets make mistakes.]

    I’ll add an (I think) important one:

    Temple:Temple ordinances are required for exhaltation. Unlike all other marriages, temple marriages are binding in heaven. The ordinances performed vicariously in the temple are efficacious for the deceased who choose to accept them.

  30. Clay
    July 13, 2006 at 3:25 pm

    John,
    I have some thoughts about your expressions on Christ and an afterlife. In C.S. Lewis’ Mere Christianity he speaks specifically about the idea that Christ could have been just a good teacher.

    I am trying here to prevent anyone saying the really foolish thing that people often say about Him: “I’m ready to accept Jesus as a great moral teacher, but I don’t accept His claim to be God.” That is the one thing we must not say. A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic-on a level with the man who says he is a poached egg-or else he would be the Devil of Hell. You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God: or else a madman or something worse. You can shut Him up for a fool, you can spit at Him and kill Him as a demon; or you can fall at His feet and call Him Lord and God. But let us not come with any patronising nonsense about His being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to.

    By the way, Lewis also makes some good logical arguments for how you can reconcile Jesus as Savior, if you are interested in the possibility.

    Ultimately, we humans choose the faith that feels right to us, right? Wether it is the Holy Spirit testifying, or else our reason, or else our vanity… we need to feel comfortable with it to accept it. Whatever my real motivation is, I only feel right about God in the deeper sense Joseph taught of in the King Follet sermon. I allow that he could have been under an incomplete impression of God’s physicality based on the visions he experienced. Perhaps God took a form that would be comprehensible to Joseph at the time, perhaps all the physical elements of the visions were generated entirely by Joseph’s brain as a vehicle for the spiritual message. I don’t know. But that we are the same species as God, that is our intelligence or spirits is the same species as God, only less advanced… that rings true in me. Likewise with the idea of Christ as a literal ransom for my sins.

    Your cell on afterlife is also concerning. The problem with abonding faith in the eternal persistence of intelligences is that it makes shortened lives meaningless. I had a son that lived only 7 days. He didn’t have time to leave a legacy that would equate to an eternal life. The way that Joseph Smith taught it, our spirits (intelligences) are as eternal as God’s. We are all without beginning or end. In this sense we were not really “created” by God, but moreso “organized”. This is another thing that just rings out in me. The idea that life is just over when this fragile body quits on me seems horrifying. Your cell on the subject does nothing to comfort that in me.

    All that said, thanks for the post. I just enjoy things that spark deep thought. I also appreciate your honesty and I feel very comfortable with the idea that God (if He is like I think He is) is quite happy with you. Even if you turn out to be way off the truth in your posted beliefs, it is still more valuable to be anxiously engaged in seeking truth than to be lazily napping in the shade of truth without really being sure that’s where you are.

  31. Doc
    July 13, 2006 at 9:02 pm

    Okay John,
    This is my testimony, largely literal, often symbolic and definitely heartfelt and Orthodox and universalist at once, it has come through a lot of Faith, sweat, and tears. It may change some over time, I do not know the meaning of all things, but I try to share with you what I have learned and hope and believe.

    Testimony Component
    God
    God is our literal Heavenly Father, an exalted and glorified, and perfected being, the organizinng force within the universe. The creative power from which all living things flow. We are ontologically the same as he is and therefore imbedded with a divine potential to gain all that the Father hath. Indeed God’s work and his Glory is to bring to pass our Eternal life. While I do not comprehend all that God is and does, I am hereby provided with some very stark, bold, and intuitive answers to the very purpose of life.

    Jesus as son of God
    Literal son of God, Eldest of his creations, details of conception not entirely relevant. Good, wise teacher who in part because of his divinity was able to teach, inspire live and show path of true happiness. Again because of his divinity, He can know us individually, comprehend us and have a love for us that is real and palpable. Indeed, because of his divinity. his life is a sermon and instruction on the nature of the Father himself.

    Jesus as savior
    Suffered an infinite atonement that enables all of Gods children, regardless of race, ethnicity, or creed to have his light in mortality and be enticed for good in addition to the selfish desires we have by design from the Fall. In this way we gain the power both to act and be acted upon, we gain agency, the one thing that separates mankind from all other forms of life. His atonement lends us his light for a conscience. It enables him to understand and know the heart of mankind and lift us in hour darkest hour. It has a power that has literally saved my life and changed me forever as I have let it transform me. When used fully. this atonement changes very nature, as we are spiritually born of God and recieve his image in our countenance and step by step, precept upon precept become more as he is. His sacrifice is what makes progresion possible, makes the ability to have all the Father hath possible. Without it we would all be eventually lost to pride, cynicism, and despair, brutality, and lust for power and self gratification, unable to see a better way or maintain any faith in it.

    Jesus as resurrected being, and afterlife Jesus died, resurrected after 3 days, and all of us will be resurrected again, and live forever with exalted bodies. All mankind will know understand how precious this gift is by nature of having initially known only growing physically stronger in the dawn of life only to grow weaker and more dependant due to the aging process. Many who have suffered more than their share of inirmity will be made whole. OUr bodies will further be exalted, and glorified, immortal and beyond our ablity to comprehend. This physical redemption is a free gift and a concrete, symbolic type of the redemption our souls can receive if we take full advantage of the atonement.

    Holy Ghost

    Holy Ghost is a literal, distinct personage of spirit and personality of whom very, very little has been revealed or understood. The Holy ghost serves as a witness of all truth. The metaphysical details of this are unknown but we do know of many gifts that can come through the spirit which can properly be described as miraculous. The Holy ghost can testify to us through bursts of inspiration, intuition, or intelligence, burning within the bosom, or in rare cases, more undeniable and miraculous means. The Holy Ghost is the embodiment of selfless humility as all that it does, testifies and glorifies the other, better known members of the Godhead.

    Joseph Smith as Prophet
    Literally saw God and Jesus through revelation. It really makes no difference if this was “spiritual” or “physical” as long as it is known it is did happen and that the Lord worked through the prophet despite his shortcomings, much as he has through prophets throughout time. Revelation took many forms, which only he and God fully understand or know. However, through him, God revealed many truths that were not known, but were necessary for us to come to a full understanding of Life’s purpose and meaning and our happiness. In the pattern of prophets throughout the ages, his teachings were radical, noncomformist, and too much to bear, and like many others in history, he gave his life directly as a consequence. The truth he revealed and began a movement that has impacted the lives of millions. A strong net-positive contribution to humanity by divine design.

    LDS Church is “true”
    The COJCOLDS is God’s Kingdom on earth. It is only as perfect as the righteousness of its members allows it to be. It gives us a path to understand all that God has and wants for us. It is designed to embrace all truth and expand upon the truth that any member brings into it. This Kingdom has had to be established at various times and through various prophets throughout time, often at the cost of the prophet’s and others lives. Throughout history, human nature has led to creeds which God referred to as corrupt and abominations because they limit God’s ability to reveal unto us all truth and lead to contention, squabbling, Wars, famine, poverty and death. Our refusal to be open to truth because of the influence of our forefathers and culture has lead to divisions, lack of understanding, pain and contention throughout time. Some have seen God weep over this. It pains his heart. How can this not be corrupt and abominable. These tendencies have lead repeatedly to the death of many inspired prophetic servants of God. Our tendency to want to be right has led us to dig our heels into speculations on matters which have not been revealed and limited our ability to understand the purpose of our life here and frustrated his work. Because of God’s love for us, he is willing to work with all his children to reveal all the truth they can withhold in spite of this tendency. He is working with people of all faiths to give them all the truth they can bear. Those who are honest in heart will be much more free of these traditions and creeds in the next life and means are provided that they may then have all the benefits of God’s kingdom at that time. All truth and all the honest in heart are loved and valued by God.

    Baptism
    Throughout time, the Lord has worked throu a system of covenants to build his kingdom on the Earth, these covenants are in themselves symbols of greater truths. These covenants given in relation to his kingdom are essential to us receiving all that he has. They need to be done in wisdom and order. When kept righteousnes, each leads to a greater understanding of God’s purpose and plan in this life. They allow us to become more like him. For reasons I do not yet completely understand, they are required while physically in this life. This strengthens the interconnectedness of Gods family and turns the hearts of the children to the fathers and fathers to the children. It also allows us when done in their truest and fullest spirit, to do for others what they cannot do for themselves, uplifting and purifying us in the process.

    Priesthood
    Priesthood is God’s power on earth, and only ordained sealed couples, male and female can enjoy the fulness of it. Sealed couples share in the most sacred experience of creating life. This is what God does and it makes sense that it would be the most sacred expression of his power. Priesthood power enables us to become more godlike. IT can maintain no power or influience in iteself but only in obeyance to principles of righteousness. Males are given rights of the priesthood, largely in connection with fatherhood to draw them deeper into their family and social network of the Church than they would otherwise naturally go. They can then develop leadership, charity, courage, faith, and other Godly attributes. Neither man nor woman is complete or able to reach full potential without the other. Eventually, All who desire and are able to bear it will have full opportunity to share in this power, literally the power of God.

    Book of Mormon
    The word of God given for the convincing of Jew, gentile, everyone that Jesus is the Christ, that he remembers them regardless of where they are on Earth. Compiled by a prophet who saw our day and translated through the gift and power of God, it serves as a testament to God’s reality.

    Book of Abraham
    Scripture from a lost age, with remarkable parallels to the Abraham story that are now coming to light through lost scripture anciently, which cliarify the purpose of our life, God’s plan for us, and give witness to the prophetic calling of Joseph Smith

    Prophets
    Prophets are Gods servants who reveal many great and magnificent things through many different means. At times in history, they have needed to redirect societies and peoples in a way so radical that it has lead to their death. At other times, they have worked miracles in evidence of their calling, at other times they have made decisions contrary to what they were instructed and God has worked with them as able. At times, revelation can be quite astounding and miraculous. At other times, more simple and less astounding. The message God needs to give to his church and kingdom are given through them to the extent that they and the church are able to bear. Everyone is entitled to spiritual confirmation of truth as revealed through a prophet through prayer and study, and if honestly not feeling bound by their advice after sincere, honest prayer, might just not be called to follow everything he says to the letter. The test of time often opens to us reasons why this may be. This requires a relationship of trust and faith that in the course of time, though everything may not happen as neatly as we (or God for that matter) may like, God’s will for his people will be done

  32. July 13, 2006 at 10:13 pm

    First, I want to thank everyone who is willing to comment on my blog. It feels really good to have the blog return to respectful, balanced discourse after the apologist debacle.

    Dan, Tom, Clay & Doc — I want to thank each of you especially for writing so much in depth about your testimonies. I am always strengthened when others share their faith with me, so thank you.

  33. July 14, 2006 at 11:18 am

    Oh that CS lewis… Always saying you have to decide whether Jesus is a lunatic, savior or devil. That’s why he never got invited to parties.

  34. FreeAtLast
    July 14, 2006 at 3:36 pm

    Interesting table of LDS ‘spiritual’ beliefs, John. The nice thing about psychologically extricating oneself from Mormonism, as you’ve obviously been doing for some time, is that one becomes free to create and believe any ‘spiritual’ belief system that one wants in relation to Mormonism, which is precisely what Joseph Smith did.

    For Smith, your table included in the Symbolic Interpretation column: “Felt the inspiration of God/the divine throughout his life”. Many Latter-Day Saints share this view. Their belief is a product of the propaganda about Smith put out by the LDS Church. People familiar with the many non-faith-supporting aspects of Smith’s personal history would probably ask themselves, “Was Joseph Smith inspired by God to…”

    - try to convince people to pay him to hunt for buried treasure using ‘magical’ methods (e.g., a seer stone)?

    - produce a religious book (the Book of Mormon) that was not what he claimed it was (i.e., a historical record of two great peoples that inhabited the ancient Americas, including one group who were the ancestors of ‘Indians’)?

    - claim to have the ‘power of God’ to translate ancient writings when in fact his ‘translations’ were completely erroneous (e.g., the Book of Abraham ‘translation’ of the Egyptian papyri, the Kinderhook Plates ‘translation’)?

    - initiate polygamy as a ‘restored’ doctrine of God after having an extra-marital affair with a girl (Fannie Alger) in her mid-teens and secretly marrying her (Alger was Smith’s first polygamous wife)?

    - pursue dozens of other female church converts over the next decade, and polygamously marrying many of them, including women who were already married and teenage girls as young as 14?

    There are many other aspects of Joseph Smith’s demonstrated character that conflict with the LDS belief that he was a ‘righteous’ man and a great, ‘spiritual’ leader. He convinced himself and others that he was a ‘prophet of God’, and was not the first person in history to do so, nor the last.

    The foundation of Mormonism (and other religions) is belief, which originates in people’s minds. It’d be nice if all Latter-Day Saints (and people in other religions) understood that they’re not obliged to adopt any ‘spiritual’ belief that doesn’t make sense to, or otherwise work for, them.

    There is no omnipotent God commanding people to believe certain religious ideas; there is no God independent of what people believe. As more and more Latter-Day Saints psychologically extricate themselves from Mormon fundamentalism, they become increasingly free to change or discard aspects of the LDS religion as they see fit. Going through the ‘spiritual’ belief-review-and-modification process, as John has done, is an important part of Mormons’ psychological maturation.

  35. Kevin Christensen
    July 26, 2006 at 8:49 pm

    As an complete alternative to the binary approach, here is something that Veda Hale sent me several years ago. She extracted it from a study done of the transitions that students coming to a major University went through. If you search for Perry Scheme at Amazon, you can find the book. Consider where the impulse to binary thinking that shows up in the table fits into this scheme.

    Kevin Christensen
    Bethel Park, PA

    PERRY SCHEME OF COGNITIVE AND ETHICAL GROWTH TABLE OF TRAITS BY POSITION AND TRANSITION
    POSITION 1 – Basic Duality. (Garden of Eden Position: All will be well.)
    The person perceives meaning divided into two realms-Good/Bad, Right/wrong, We/They, Success/Failure, etc. They believe that knowledge and goodness are quantitative, that there are absolute answers for every problem and authorities know them and will teach them to those who will work hard and memorize them. Agency is “Out there”. The person is so embedded here that there is no place from which to observe themselves, yet they have a dim sense of there being a boundary to Otherness somewhere that gives their Eden-like world view boundary.
    Transition 1-2 – Dualism modified. (Snake whispers.) The person starts to be aware of others and of differing opinions, even among authorities. This started the feeling of uncertainty. But they decide it is part of the authority’s job to pose problems. It takes hard work to deny the legitimacy of diversity and to keep the belief in the simplicity of truth.

    (It should be kept in mind that in any of the transition states it is easy for the person to become depressed. It takes time for the “guts to catch up with leaps of mind.” When a sense of loss is accorded the honor of acknowledgement, movement is more rapid and the risk of getting stuck in apathy, alienation, or depression is reduced. When one steps into new perceptions he is unlikely to take another until he comes to terms with the losses attendant on the first.)

    POSITION 2 – Multiplicity Prelegitimate. (Resisting snake)

    Now the person moves to accept that there is diversity, but they still think there are TRUE authorities who are right, that the others are confused by complexities or are just frauds. They think they are with the true authorities and are right while all others are wrong. They accept that their good authorities present problems so they can learn to reach right answers independently.

    TRANSITION: 2-3 – Dualism modified

    Now the person admits that good authorities can admit to not knowing all the answers yet, but they will teach what they know now and teach the rest when they have it. They accept that disciplines are divided into the definite and the vague, but that in the end even science fails. Though they have given up dividing meaning into just two realms, they still feel knowledge and goodness are quantitative and that agency is “out there”.

    POSITION 3 – Multiplicity Legitimate but Subordinate. (Snake’s logic considered)

    The person still feels that the nature of things naturally produces differing opinions, but it’s as it should be, because the Authorities will figure it all out and hand on their conclusions eventually.

    ALL OF THE POSITIONS ABOVE FEEL ABANDONMENT IN UNSTRUCTURED LEARNING ENVIRONMENTS. WHEN CHANGES IN THINKING START TO HAPPEN, IT CAN BE A DANGEROUS TIME. (The forbidden fruit has been partaken and one is out of the Garden of Eden.)

    There are seven ways a person can go.

    Transition 1. The person can make the transition by modifying dualism drastically to where one no longer trusts authority to have any answers, and they think it will be a long, long time before they will; therefore, there is really no way to be judged by them. Bitterness sets in, as it seems as if rewards don’t come by hard work and rightness, but by good expression and arbitrary factors. With an inability to distinguish between abstract thought and “bull”, disillusion settles and blinds the person to where they become dangerously cynical and take advantage of any opportunity to get gain.

    Transition 2. The person could decide that, if there are so many different answers a depending on individual perspective, that it is impossible for any true judgment; therefore anything goes. All is of equal value. To have an opinion makes it right.

    Transition 3. Same as above, except it dawns that there are some facts that, if known, can make for a better choice among the many.

    Transition 4. Anger and frustration win out. Instead of becoming cynical and opportunistic, person acts out negatively.

    Transition 5. The person is moving closer to accepting relativity. He trusts authorities to have valid grounds for evaluations. To get along, one needs to accept that authorities are using reasonable information in making their answers. So the person tries to discover what it is authorities think and want.

    Transition 6. Person realizes that on some matters, reasonable people reasonably disagree, that knowledge is qualitative and is context-dependent. They begin weighing factors and approaches in ways that force comparison of patterns of thought, they think about thinking and this occupies the foreground. But they still tend to want to conform so much that they have trouble thinking independently.

    Transition 7. This position between multiplicity and relativity is now closer to relativity. The person sees that thinking relatively isn’t just what the authorities he has been dealing have reasoned out and want him to accept, it is the way the world works, in most cases.

    NOW UNCERTAINTIES OR DIVERSITIES MULTIPLY UNTIL THEY TIP THE BALANCE AGAINST CERTAINTY AND HOMOGENEITY, PRECIPITATING A CRISIS THAT FORCES THE CONSTRUCTION OF A NEW VISION OF THE WORLD, BE IT ONE MARKED BY CYNICISM, ANXIETY, OR A NEW SENSE OF FREEDOM.

    POSITION 5 Relativism discovered.

    The person accepts that all thinking is relative for everyone and are much taken with this new perspective. It could be a time of profound anxiety as the person struggles to understand how to make right choices. They decide they can and must do something about this new world view, but they may spend a long time before sensing a need for commitment. They can take responsibility for a task at hand, but don’t yet realize they have a responsibility to choose commitments.

    THIS POSITION COULD MAKE FOR A PERSON WHOSE AGENCY FOR MAKING SENSE HAS VANISHED ENTIRELY. THEY COULD ALSO REACT BY POSTPONING DECISIONS, FALLING INTO APATHY OR GOING INTO A RAGE. IT COULD GET SO BAD IT COULD APPEAR THE PERSON NEEDS CLINICAL HELP. THE POTENTIAL FOR CYNICISM COULD BECOME EQUALLY ALARMING EDUCATIONALLY.

    If the person RETREATS, rage takes over and he loses agency to make sense. He survives by avoiding complexity and ambivalence and regresses to Dualism, position 2, (multiplicity prelegitimate). He becomes moralistic righteous and has “righteous” hatred for otherness. He complains childlike and demands of authority figures to just tell him what they want.

    If the person at this point doesn’t retreat, he may go into a state of TEMPORIZING. His agency for making sense has vanished, but he postpones any movement. He may reconsign agency to some possible event. If so, Guilt and shame accompany the uneasiness about a failure of responsibility they feel hopeless to cope with.

    Or if not either of the above then the person may try to ESCAPE. He becomes apathetic. His agency for making sense has also vanished, but in his feeling of being alienated, he abandons responsibility and uses his understanding of multiplicity and relativism as a way to avoid commitment. He is drifting and has some sense that later he will find himself to be living a hollow life. This drifting with insecurity about “goodness” of his position can make for such a detachment that precludes any meaningful involvement. He starts to rely on impulse. THIS CAN BECOME A SETTLED CONDITION. “For the students reporting their recovery of care,…their period of alienation appears as a time of transition. In this time the self is lost through the very effort to hold onto it in the face of inexorable change in the world’s appearance. It is a space of meaninglessness between received belief and creative faith. In their rebirth they experience in themselves the origin or meanings, which they had previously expected to come to them from outside.” (page 92 of the Perry Scheme.)

    POSITION 6. Commitment Foreseen.

    FROM HERE ON THE PERSON WILL FEEL FRUSTRATION IN TOO-STRUCTURED OF AN ENVIRONMENT.

    Now the person thinks he is alone in an uncertain world, making his own decisions, with no one to say he is right. He makes choices aware of relativism and accepts that the agency to do so is within the individual. He sees that to move forward he must make commitments coming from within. He foresees the challenge of responsibility and feels he needs to get on with it. He also senses that the first steps require arbitrary faith or willing suspension of disbelief. He knows he needs to narrow his focus, center himself and become aware of internal, what could be called, spiritual strength.

    He starts to see how he must be embracing and transcending of: certainty/doubt, focus/breadth, idealism/realism, tolerance/contempt, stability/flexibility. He senses need for affirmation and incorporation of existential or logical polarities. He senses need to hold polarities in tension in the interest of Truth.

    He begins to maintain meaning, coherence, and value while conscious of their partial, limited, and contradictable nature. He begins to understand symbol as symbols and acknowledges the time-place relativity of them. He begins to affirm and hold absolutes in symbols while still acknowledging them to be relativistic. He begins to embrace viewpoints in conflict with his own. Now the person has a field-independent learning style, has learned to scan for information, accepts that hierarchical and analytic notes are evidence of sharpening of cognition. He is willing to take risks, is flexible, perceptive, broad, strategy-minded, and analytical.

    The TRANSITION position between Position 6, “Commitment Foreseen”, and position 7, “Commitments in Relativism developed” is as follows:

    Besides the above, the person feels he is lost if he doesn’t decide, that if he can once make one decision, everything else will be OK.

    POSITION 7. Commitments in Relativism developed.

    The person makes first commitment while being aware of Relativism, and has a vivid sense of CLAIMING AND POWER. He now more fully feels that agency is within him and foresees responsibility with excitement and anticipates more empowering as he makes more commitments and choices. The TRANSITION between Position 7 and Position 8, sees the person having made his first commitment but feeling that everything else is still in limbo and he is foreseeing problems coming from trying to juggling responsibility. He senses need to be: wholehearted–but tentative, to be able to fight for his own values–yet respect others. Now, besides the other ways of studying, the person begins to read not to conciliate Authority, but to learn on his own initiative.

    POSITION 8. Commitments in Relativism developed continues.

    The person makes several more Commitments while realizing he must find balance and establish painful priorities of energy, action and time. He starts to experience periodically serenity and well-being in the midst of complexity. He has a sense of living with trust in the midst of heightened awareness of risk. He accepts fact that order and disorder are fluctuations in experience. He searches for models of knowledgeability and courage to affirm commitment in full awareness of uncertainty. HE STILL NEEDS TO RECOGNIZE THAT EVEN THE MODEL MUST BE TRAN SCENDED, AND HE SENSES HE NEEDS TO DEVELOP IRONY. The TRANSITION between Position 8 and 9 brings trauma. The person feels everything is contradictory and he just can’t make sense out of life’s dilemmas. But he begins to develop sense of irony and sees he must embrace viewpoints in conflict with his own, not in the old multiplistic way of “separate but equal” or “live and let live” but truly embrace them with what might as well be called “love”.

    POSITION 9. Commitments in Relativism further developed.

    The person now has a developed sense of irony and can more easily embrace other’s viewpoints. He can accept life as just that “life”, just the way IT is! Now he holds the commitments he makes in a condition of “PROVISIONAL ULTIMACY”, meaning that for him what he chooses to be truth IS his truth, and he acts as if it is ultimate truth, but there is still a “provision” for change. He has no illusions about having “arrived” permanently on top of some heap, he is ready and knows he will have to retrace his journey over and over, but he has hope that he will do it each time more wisely. He is aware that he is developing his IDENTITY through Commitment. He can affirm the inseparable nature of the knower and the known–meaning he knows he as knower contributes to what he calls known. He helps weld a community by sharing realization of aloneness and gains strength and intimacy through this shared vulnerability. He has discarded obedience in favor of his own agency, and he continues to select, judge, and build. veda

  36. July 27, 2006 at 6:39 am

    This is from my buddy Steven:

    Testimony Component

    Literal Interpretation

    Importance of Interpretation

    God

    God as a literal, anthropomorphic, resurrected man. 10 fingers.
    10 toes. Former man. White hair. Beard.

    Far to easy to let this level of detail distract us from whats
    important to know about God, which is that he lives and loves us,
    has a plan for us and wants us to succeed and reach our full
    potential. Life can be hell at times but its important to practice
    loving God anyway, and have hope that things will all work out for
    our benefit as long as we strive our best to come to him.

    Jesus as son of God

    Literal son of God, created via God having intercourse with
    Mary.

    Far to easy to let this level of detail distract us from whats
    important to know about Jesus, which is that he is Gods chosen and
    beloved sent to teach us and lead us back to him.

    Jesus as savior

    Suffered for every sin, illness, and emotional pain for
    everyone who has ever lived on the face of the earth–and not
    just on this earth, but on other worlds as well.

    Far to easy to let this level of detail distract us from whats
    important to know about Jesus, which is that he is the way the
    truth and the life and by following him with our eyes single to
    his glory we can and will find an indescribable amount of peace
    and happiness that transcends everything else and completes us in
    a way that only Jesus can because he is the only one who can make
    right all of the pain we have brought upon our selfs and others
    whether inadvertently or on purpose

    Jesus as resurrected being, and afterlife

    Jesus died, resurrected after 3 days, and all of us will be
    resurrected again, and live forever with exalted bodies

    Far to easy to let this level of detail distract us from whats
    important to know about Jesus, which is that through him life is
    but a short time in our eternal existence and that through him we
    have been given an incredible amount of power in this life with
    eternal consequences to go with it.

    Holy Ghost

    Holy Ghost is a literal, distinct person and personality. The
    Holy Ghost literally/physically jumps around from person to person
    around the world to inspire and direct decisions.

    Far to easy to let this level of detail distract us from whats
    important to know about the Holy Ghost, which is that as we seek
    God through the teachings of Jesus and the prophets he has a way
    to give us more inspiration, guidance, and direction.

    Joseph Smith as Prophet

    Literally saw God and Jesus with his own physical eyes.
    Received direct, explicit revelation and communication from/with
    God.

    Far to easy to let this level of detail distract us from whats
    important to know about Joseph Smith, which is that he was an
    instrument in Gods hand in restoring important truths which had
    been lost.

    LDS Church is “true”

    The COJCOLDS is God’s one true restored church on the
    face of the earth. All other churches are corrupt and abominations
    unto God. No other ordinances of any other churches (including
    baptisms) are valid to God. Everyone who has ever lived, or will
    live, will need to become “Mormon” at some point–either
    now, or in the afterlife.

    Far to easy to let this level of detail distract us from whats
    important to know about church. First and foremost, no one church
    can do for us what we need to do for our selfs which is make the
    most of the short time God has given us to show our love for him
    by bettering our selfs and helping those around us. All people
    have been and will be subject to this part of Gods plan while
    alive on this earth. Second, God has chosen and continues to
    choose men to deliver his word, guide his people, and run the
    affairs of an organization where people can find more truth as
    they become ready for it. This may appear to mean that God
    excludes certain populations from him, but as the more trivial
    part of life it does not.

    Baptism

    The ritual of a physical Mormon-approved baptism is a literal
    requirement for “salvation”. Without it, no one will
    enter “heaven”.

    Far to easy to let this level of detail distract us from whats
    important to know about ordinances, which is that God loves us and
    has provided ways for us to show our love for him and come unto
    him. We can trust that as we seek Him He will let us know which of
    these are required and how to best go about them.

    Priesthood

    Priesthood is God’s power on earth, and only ordained LDS
    males have it. Priesthood power moves mountains, raises the dead,
    heals disease, entitles one to extra inspiration, etc.

    Far to easy to let this level of detail distract us from whats
    important to know about the power of God, which is that no one
    organization of people have exclusive access to the power of God.

    Book of Mormon

    Literal translation from reformed Egyptian to English,
    character for character. Historical book (Nephi, Alma, Mormon
    really existed). Native Americans are descendants of Lamanites.

    Far to easy to let this level of detail distract us from whats
    important to know about the Book of Mormon, which is that it
    contains the Word of God and can bring us closer to God than any
    other book.

    Book of Abraham

    See above

    Contains the Word of God and is a special bonus for those who
    truly seek him.

    Prophets

    Prophets literally speak with God–probably with their
    own, audible voice. God gives them clear, specific direction to
    lead the church.

    God can and has at times revealed Himself to chosen men and
    given them specific directions. Usually prophets are chosen in
    more subtle ways and receive inspiration that must be balanced
    against the inspiration of the apostles as a whole to minimize the
    imperfections and fallibility each prophet naturally has.

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