A Simple Question

So here’s a simple question, for which I failed to come up with a satisfactory answer during 8 weeks of several-times-daily hikes to the top of the stairs in the Lee Library last summer(I thought that if I took the elevator, people would realize more quickly that I was pushing a matronly 35 and not a bouncy coed… women can be silly that way):

Doctrine & Covenants 88:118 is prefaced with “And as all have not faith…” This is nowhere explained, as far as I can tell, nor is it condemned; it’s just tossed off as a dependent clause describing conditions on the ground. The solution? Books! Is this a suggestion that some fraction of the membership of the church is destined to be/remain faithless intellectuals? Is that OK? Is it part of the plan?

Help!

Comments

  1. “Is this a suggestion that some fraction of the membership of the church is destined to be/remain faithless intellectuals?”

    Wow, Kristine, if it makes you feel better to think that… But I personally wouldn’t count on it.

  2. Kristine says:

    Bob–not quite sure what you’re saying, but, for the record, I wouldn’t put myself in the “faithless intellectual” category. For one thing, I’m not smart enough!

  3. Kristine says:

    Dave, I wasn’t meaning “faithless intellectuals” as a category that included all intellectuals, only as a possible subset of “intellectuals.” I presume that there are also faithless plumbers, faithless cellists, etc. And I don’t think the Book of Mormon portrays all intellectuals as faithless; while it doesn’t give many (any?) examples of learned believers, it does hold out the possibility (“to be learned is good…)

    Ben, I like your reading of the context–Section 88 seems always ripe for prooftext-picking, and we hardly ever read the whole thing. I was considering that verse alone, of course, because it’s carved in the staircase wall at Lee Library. (And hey, while you’re here, you might as well reassure me that I could easily have been mistaken for an undergrad as I bounced up the stairs last summer ;) ) Still, I think it’s entirely possible to read the instructions for the School of the Prophets as prescriptive for the church as a whole; it would certainly be my preferred model of a church!

    I just taught a Relief Society Lesson on the next verse (the second most guilt-inducing verse in the standard works!), and tried to read it differently from the usual food storage/housekeeping applications, based on the context provided by the section. Maybe I’ll post some of my notes.

  4. First, I’ll dispute the validity of “faithless intellectuals” as a category. I think the distribution of faith among intellectuals is not significantly different from any other group. If “faithless plumbers” or “faithless chemical engineers” are not meaningful categories, I would hesitate to assume that “faithless intellectuals” is one. I recognize that the Book of Mormon portrays all intellectuals as faithless, but I’m talking about the real world and real people. There are plenty of faithful intellectuals in the real world.

    As to the faith question, I’d point to D&C 89:3, which gives words of wisdom “adapted to the capacity of the weak and the weakest of all saints.” That seems to refer to the strength of one’s faith and resolve, not just to one’s dietary self-control, suggesting that Joseph was thinking some Mormons have great faith, some have middling faith, and some are weak. Yeah, that’s about right.

    Alternatively, one might appeal to 1 Cor. 12, where faith is a charism or give of the Spirit given to some but not others. Following in that vein, Moroni 7:48 counsels us to pray that we might be filled with love. Both of those passages seem to recognize the presence of active, believing Christians in the body of the Church who nevertheless lack a full measure of faith or charity.

  5. Kristine says:

    I still think the verse can be read as suggesting that some within the fold will “have not faith” and will rely on other sources–probably mostly the faith of others, but perhaps also on an appreciation of the intellectual appeal of the doctrine. “Learning as a band-aid” is kind of a yucky metaphor, but I’ll take it. Maybe sometime I’ll post my journal entry from my first youth conference when I was distressed by everyone’s apparent confidence at testimony meeting and took solace from Hugh Nibley’s _Approach to the Book of Mormon_. (Uh, yes, this is why I had no friends in high school :))

  6. I think this is right Krisine. In fact I consider it a rather important passage. I’d include D&C 46:13-14 which seem to clearly indicate that not all will gain a testimony but that some will, as a gift of God, believe *independent* of a testimony.

    Passages like those aren’t well liked by many, but I think it important to emphasize them and I always do when I teach the D&C.

  7. Ben Huff says:

    Intriguing scripture, Kristine! I think there is something right-headed about your interpretation . . . but I see reasons to think the actual intent of this passage is different. Here’s what I see:

    This section is largely about the school of the prophets, and the ministry of those who will learn there. Verse 118′s “And as all have not faith” is easy to read as presenting learning as a (direct) solution, or a stop-gap anyway, for those of us who don’t have faith, because the context for it isn’t obvious. But I think there is a larger context that suggests a different (indirect) role for learning. The Lord is calling missionaries in this section, and here he is telling them that because there are so many people who need to be called to follow (have faith in) him, the missionaries need to prepare themselves by learning from the best books. Verse 116 completes an extended apocalyptic account, starting in verse 87, that underscores the urgency of work in the Lord’s vineyard. Much of the earlier portion of the section is telling them to prepare themselves for this work; e.g. vv.68-84. The laborers are being told to organize and call a “solemn assembly” to prepare themselves (v.70). This solemn assembly comes up again in v.117, suggesting that v.118 refers again to the preparation for missionary work. It’s possible to read the “As all have not faith” to refer to the laborers, who are to be strengthened by learning, either instead of, or as a means to acquiring faith. But it’s also reasonable to read it as a reference to the fact that there are a lot of people who need to hear about Christ before the end times. The last bit of the apocalyptic section ends by mentioning how the faithful will triumph and no more see death. The laborers’ work (and strengthening themselves for it) is urgent because there are so many who are not yet prepared to be part of that group. The books in v118 parallel the teaching of doctrine in v77, which is a preparation (as per vv80-1) for them to be sent forth to warn the people.

    Whaddya think? Is that disappointing? Were you hoping v118 were somehow more specifically aimed at bibliophiles like you, Kristine?
    =)

  8. Ben Huff says:

    Kristine, I agree it is advisable for us to use section 88 as advice for ourselves, not just to think of it as having historical interest as advice to someone else. But my interpretation suggests that the immediate force of that verse, applied to us, would be to exhort us to educate ourselves so that we can do a better job of calling our fellowmen to faith in Christ. Certainly there are a lot of people who will respond to us with more openness if we present our views in a way that shows our learning. Our learning can also strengthen our own faith, but I do want to resist what I took to be one aspect of your original reading — that learning is offered as a sort of band-aid for those who lack faith! I don’t think we should read this verse as casting learning as a band-aid that way.

    Honestly, I was puzzled at your stairway comment; running into you last summer of course I would have thought you were an undergrad, if I hadn’t already met you a while back when you were!

  9. Kristine- I’m not sure what I was saying either! But you’ve cleared things up for me except for saying that you’re not smart enough. If you’re not, heaven help anyone who tries to consider his/herself a “faithless intellectual” because he/she would have to be smarter than Kristine (not all that likely).

    By the way, could this be more of a spectrum and less of a cut and dry system? In other words, could a person be 80 percent “intellectual” and 20 percent “faithful”? I’d be more likely to believe something like that than to assume there are actually people [Mormons] out there who are 100 percent “intellectual” and 0 percent “faithful”.

    But then, using my same system, at what point is a person too intellectual? too faithful? Is 2 percent of either really enough?

  10. On the one hand, I’m not sure this is what this verse is saying. I think the question of what faith is might be important in this case. As one who is probably seen as the type mentioned in this verse who has “not faith,” I’ve taken great comfort in the word “faith” lately. I’ve gone back to the notion that faith is “not a perfect knowledge of things.” Since faith is not a perfect knowledge of things, it therefore implies doubt, does it not?

    We often hear in the Church that faith is different from “belief” because faith implies action – you’re acting on your belief. I like this take on faith. So despite my doubts, I still show up a Church, I still work to qualify for a Temple recommend, etc. Therefore, I’m exercising faith. At least, I’d like to think that I am.

    But on the other hand, I really like this verse and Kristine’s interpretation of it. I wouldn’t even be all that bothered at being labeled as not having faith if I can have my books.

    So, is the definition of “faith” what I’ve described above – action in the face of doubt? Or is it what most Church members would probably define it as – a surety of belief? The Church has had a tendency to define faith as knowledge. If you *know* the Book of Mormon is true, you have faith in it. If you don’t know it’s true, then you probably wouldn’t be considered as having too much faith.

  11. Ben Huff says:

    So it *is* talking about you, Kristine! That rocks : )

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