Nanette’s Lemonade

As a 6-year-old, I liked to play outside with other neighborhood children my age. At any given time, I had lots of male and female friends living nearby to play with. Two of my local girlfriends were Shannon and Nanette. One fine afternoon, I headed out of the house and up the block, with the intention of kicking it with the both of them.

Alas, it was not to be. Earlier that day, Shannon and Nanette had gotten into an argument and decided they weren’t friends anymore. But both still wanted to be friends with me. And so my friendship became the focus of their newfound rivalry: Shannon insisted that I come to her house to play, without Nanette. Nanette insisted that I come to her house to play, without Shannon. Shannon announced that her mother had just made lemonade, and that I could have some if I accompanied her home. Nanette responded that she also had lemonade at her house, but that hers tasted even better than Shannon’s did.

I found Nanette’s claim curious. I asked her, “How do you know your lemonade tastes better than Shannon’s?”

Nanette responded, “Because I’ve tasted it. So I know it’s better.”

“But have you ever tasted Shannon’s lemonade?

“No.”

“So how do you know your lemonade tastes better if you’ve never tasted Shannon’s?”

“I’ve tasted my lemonade, and it’s really good. I know it tastes better than Shannon’s.”

I did not pursue this line of questioning any further with Nanette. My six-year old brain couldn’t articulate the problem with her argument any more fully than I already had.

Strangely, I don’t remember what happened next, though I imagine I accompanied Shannon to her house (my preference for coherence started young). I do remember eventually heading home though, and trying to explain to my mother how Nanette just wasn’t talking sense that day.

Question: How is a devout Mormon — who knows the Mormon Church is truer than any other Church on the face of the Earth — like or unlike Nanette?

Comments

  1. I suspect that most devout Mormons haven’t “tried the lemonade” of every other religious tradition. Perhaps several, but probably not all. But religions do fall into some basic categories. If you conclude that true religion includes Jesus Christ as the savior of mankind, that rules out non-Christian traditions. Using the lemonade allegory, if you know that the best lemonade is fresh-squeezed, than you can rule out the stuff from a packet. And if you made a similar conclusion about authority from God or open canon, that could fairly quickly lead you to some conclusion that Mormonism is the most correct. But it does seem like this still requires at least some sipping of other people’s doctrinal lemonade, or at least a look at their ingredients list.

  2. This is a powerful analogy, and something that I think causes a lot of non-LDS to be perplexed by our claims of capital-T Truthfulness.

  3. So, when did girls stop fighting over you like that?

    Many things make me cringe at church (nothing to get angry about…but that make me roll my eyes). However, one that bothers me is “What do other religions teach (or believe) about this.” I am often tempted to blurt out “Oh, like anyone here knows.”

    My wife points out that we have a fair number of converts in our ward, but few seem to have been closely aligned with another faith before joining ours.

  4. Given the question posed at the bottom, shouldn’t this really go under a “Thursday Morning Quickie” title?

  5. I’m what my wife calls “home grown” LDS. So as seminary caused me to take seriously the LDS propostion, I visited and studied a *lot* of other churches and beliefs concurrent with my seminary studies. After some time, my own comparisons and the testimony through the Holy Ghost that I obtained — particularly through reading The Book of Mormon the first time — resulted in my acceptance of this being the True church. A hard pill to swallow for someone trying to find his identity by finding separation from his parents; it was because I was born LDS that I had a difficult time accepting it.
    .
    That Holy-Ghost-based-testimony part answers you although you didn’t have anything analogous in your story. When you know deity that has answered you, you know the answer.

  6. Mormonism views truth like a flow field with one sink. Begin anywhere, and you will end up at Mormonism.

  7. “When you know deity that has answered you, you know the answer.”

    There are billions of people around the world who’d share that sentiment, and most of them aren’t Mormon.

  8. 5 — I think this is where the analogy breaks down. This isn’t a question of whether the Church is the best tasting Church, so I need to taste them all just to be sure. Neither do you need to, um, “taste” all the women in the world to find the one that tastes best to marry. The Church is true (whatever that means), because it’s God’s Church, and that does make it better, even if it doesn’t make me better than anybody else for belonging to it. The Spirit witnesses and, well, then you’re stuck.

    There are plenty of good things in other churches, and lots of good people in them. The only way I’d think I was better than all of those people because I’m Mormon and they aren’t would be if I was smoking crack (or some other comparable intoxicant). People can get closer to God through them than they would on their own, so that’s a good thing. But they lack being God’s Church, and the things that it offers that no other can. That’s not a small deal.

  9. I get the analogy. The difference that I see is that I asked someone who knows all about all the various lemonades out there which was the best (God) and he told me. If all I had was my own personal experience, despite the effort I have put into learning about other religions (based on an encounter that occurred during my mission), I could never say which religion was most true. Just which of the ones I had studying felt truest.

  10. “I think this is where the analogy breaks down. This isn’t a question of whether the Church is the best tasting Church, so I need to taste them all just to be sure. Neither do you need to, um, “taste” all the women in the world to find the one that tastes best to marry. The Church is true (whatever that means), because it’s God’s Church, and that does make it better, even if it doesn’t make me better than anybody else for belonging to it. The Spirit witnesses and, well, then you’re stuck. ”

    I don’t see how the analogy breaks down here. I have felt the Spirit when attending other churches. I know people who have left the LDS faith because they felt the Spirit stronger in other faiths.

    If we are to accept the paradigm that the Spirit will confirm truth when we hear it, even in other churches, then wouldn’t the appropriate question be, “Which church has the most complete truth?” And if that is the question, doesn’t it require study of other faiths to determine an answer?

  11. 10 — Feeling the Spirit in a place is not the same as having the Spirit testify that the Church is true. I’m not telling anybody else what they need to do or not, or what their experiences are or aren’t, but I don’t have the option to pretend that I haven’t had this witness. I have, and my only choice is to follow it or ignore it. If you have a contrasting witness, follow it.

    I don’t think the question you’ve raised is the most important question. The most important question is where God wants you to go, and what he wants you to do. Your question presupposes that the most important thing is having the most complete truth. I agree with you that that’s an important thing, but I don’t know that it’s the most important thing. And, while I do think some study of different faiths is a good thing, as is dating different people before choosing a spouse, I can’t challenge those who get a witness with very little study involved, and have it work for them. We all have different paths to follow.

    I got my witness when I was prayerfully reading the Book of Mormon. That appears to be the amount of study I needed to put into the question to get that particular answer. Additional witnesses have come regarding other things as I’ve gone down the road. My efforts to study and otherwise prepare myself to receive an answer have been important, but not nearly as important as the witnesses I’ve received.

  12. Steve Evans says:

    The most interesting part of the whole story — turns out, Nanette’s lemonade WAS better.

  13. “I got my witness when I was prayerfully reading the Book of Mormon. That appears to be the amount of study I needed to put into the question to get that particular answer.”

    Your statement makes the assumption that it is impossible that there is a better place for you to be; that more study might reveal new direction from the Lord. It really isn’t any different than saying with finality, “I’ve tasted my own lemonade and therefore no other lemonade could taste better than mine.”

  14. 13 — I don’t know what God will tell me until he has. Thus far, he hasn’t, and he would need to show some ID if he did — there is a lot of cumulative witnessing he’d be contradicting, so I’d need to know something about that.

    And you persist in missing the point that this isn’t “I feel good when I go to Church” it’s “The Spirit has witnessed to me that this is the place to go, time and time again.” I’m not trusting my own tastes here — I’m trusting God. Are you disputing that I’ve received these witnesses, or just dismissing them as my own personal delusions?

    There is an aspect of comparison that you (and, to be fair, Aaron) are bringing to this that I am definitely finding much less significant than you are. I don’t care to say that the Church is the best Church, because that implies some standard of comparison which isn’t stated, and, depending on the standard, the statement may or may not be true. My identification with the Church is in no way based in any such comparison, and, again, I don’t believe that my membership makes me a better person than anybody else. I’m there because God told me it’s true. I don’t expect you to accept that as proof of anything other than my own experience. You are free to taste as many lemonades as you wish, and to go where you wish. I enjoy learning about other people’s beliefs, and peer into them to gain a better understanding of what both they and I believe.

  15. Blain, there are a number of beliefs that an individual LDS member may (or may not) hold, and that he may (or may not) attribute to the Spirit:

    (1) My membership in the LDS Church makes me “a better person than anybody else”;
    (2) the LDS Church is “the best Church” in any and every way imaginable;
    (3) God wants me to join the LDS Church for reason X, though reason X doesn’t necessarily entail that LDS Church membership is right for everyone
    (4) God wants me to join the LDS Church because it is the “truest” Church on the face of the Earth, meaning that ideally, everyone would join it.

    These are four very different claims, and depending on which one you make, the analysis is going to look very different. It is claim (4) that mosts interests me here.

  16. Feeling the Spirit in a place is not the same as having the Spirit testify that the Church is true.

    AND, having the Spirit testify that the [Mormon] Church is true is ALSO not the same as the Spirit testifying that all other churches are a)untrue or b) less true.

    FWIW, as of yet I’ve never heard someone say the following: “And the Spirit manifested to me that all the churches upon the face of the earth are less true that the current iteration of the Church Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.” I’ve read something similar to this in D&C 1, but that was written a long time ago, a lot might have changed since then.

    I’ve heard many testimonies that the church is “true” (which I prefer to translate to “good” or “of God”), but that is a different thing than recieving witness that all other faiths are false.

  17. Neither do you need to, um, “taste” all the women in the world to find the one that tastes best to marry.

    Well sure, you don’t NEED to . . . . .

  18. B.Russ,

    I think you’re smoking a non-WoW-approved substance. The reason you’ve never heard anyone explicitly say “other Churches are less true” in a Mormon testimony is that it doesn’t need to be said. It is a corollary of the claim that “the LDS Church is true”, at least as that claim is commonly understood by most LDS churchmembers (perhaps yourself excluded).

    I’m totally on board with the kindler, gentler version of the claim that the LDS Church is “true”, as opposed to the “everything else is an abomination” rhetoric of yesteryear. But let’s not obscure the fact that the LDS Church’s claim to be “the one, true Church” necessarily entails that other churches are “untrue”, or if you prefer, “less true” in some important senses.

    AB

  19. #7: “There are billions of people around the world who’d share that sentiment, and most of them aren’t Mormon.”

    Really? I doubt that most Christians put their faith to the test in the same way that LDS members do (my Protestant friends tell me not to, in fact!). And my experience with eastern religions is that most of them do not; many of my acquaintances who are Shinto are also Buddhist, for instance. I suspect that many religious people have not had a divine revelation telling them they are on the right path, but rather accept the path they are on as divine. I think there’s a great distinction.

    For me, the only “true” that matters as it relates to the church is the need for and presence of divine authority to perform saving ordinances. If the ordinances are not necessary, then go and worship wherever you like. But if they really are where the power of godliness is manifest, then there’s value in paying attention to the authority by which they are performed. In this matter, it’s not a question of “truer” or “truest”, but simply, “true.”

    #15, Aaron, I suppose that is different from your #4.

  20. Aaron, I think B.Russ is onto something here.

    I think you are correct that members generally believe that other churches are untrue/less true, but I’d like to know why, exactly, they believe that.

    As B.Russ points out, nobody claims to have received a witness of that particular truth, so I suppose they see it as implied by some other things that they “know” to be true. What, exactly, are those things? It is not obvious to me how the untruthfulness of other churches follows directly from the stuff that we are supposed to get a witness of.

  21. MikeInWeHo says:

    re: 7
    That’s a really good point. Latter-day Saints are hardly alone in approaching truth claims and ‘proof’ this way. Many religious people “know” that their spiritual lemonade is the best. Well, except us universalist types who just say “It’s all good!” or the agnostics who are afraid to take a sip at all.

    I live near many Scientologists. They state that “In Scientology no one is asked to accept anything as belief or on faith. That which is true for you is what you have observed to be true.” This is a core tenant: http://www.scientology.org/what-is-scientology/basic-principles-of-scientology/a-description-of-scientology.html

    This strikes me as quite similar, epistemologically, to Moroni 10:4.

  22. I know that the lemonaid is sweeter here because I was raised in another fine protestant church. While dating a member of yet another denomination. We initially attended his church then tried mine. Next we went to church with all of our various friends. We sampled quite a few kinds, however, the very first Sunday that we sipped from the LDS fountain was the last time we needed to continue taste testing. It’s been 49 years now and I am still sure that our lemonaid is the best in the universe.

  23. PeggyKay,

    If you were Nanette, the 6-year old me might say to you, “OK, Nanette. I grant you that you may have tasted Sean’s lemonade from next door, and Nathan’s lemonade from a few houses up the block. So I suppose you’re in a position to draw conclusions about your lemonade vs. theirs. But to draw conclusions about your lemonade vs. every lemonade in the universe? Ridiculous!”

  24. Hi Aaron, Engineers find that it is not necessary to test every beam only a representative sample.

  25. From the 1965 PARIS REVIEW interview with William Burroughs:

    INTERVIEWER

    Then do you believe in the existence of God?

    BURROUGHS

    God? I wouldn’t say. I think there are innumerable gods. What we on Earth call God is a little tribal god who has made an awful mess.

  26. But PeggyKay, what are the engineers doing? Are they trying to pinpoint the very best beam out of all possible beams? If not, then your analogy doesn’t work.

  27. #26 It seems that the engineer would be testing to make sure he had the strength of beam (possibly an iron rod )that would get him to where he is going. In my case I feel that I have found not only the best tasting lemonaide around but also have found the beam or rod that can support me on my journey.

  28. When I went on my mission I decided I should know if the Book of Mormon was true. I read it and prayed. No big lights, no spectacular feeling but a thought/voice said that it was true enough. So I went.

    This has been the confirmation of the Church, that it is true enough. It does not have to be completely true, just enough. God knew my soul, that “true enough” was the only answer that could possibly be sustained by the facts.

    How does this relate to lemonade? If it is good enough that should suffice. We do not really need perfect lemonade. Nor does it make a difference which lemonade we drink if it is good enough. But it should be understood that some people want the best available and will look for it. But for their tastes it may not be Mormonism.

  29. Aaron,
    Nice provocative post. Here is my take. All churches offer lemonade, but the final “Kingdom” offers a new wine which transcends all the lemonade stands out there. My church, any church, is only a means to an end–scaffolding to use a construction metaphor. I no longer conflate “church” with “kingdom.” One can lead to the other more or less effectively, but in the end “more are the children of the desolate then the married wife” and they will come from north, south, east and west in the final kingdom. I think all churches make a mistake if they think their “lemonade” (their church) is the final product. Either we become “kingdom” like people or we don’t. If I love my enemies, have the pure love of Christ no matter my church then I have entered “His Kingdom.” If I have all the “truths” and “priesthoods” and the #1 team/church but I hate the stranger in my gate, my enemies, etc. then I have “the” church but I have not entered his Kingdom.

    Therefore, I would suggest that as long as Nannette and Shannon despise each other then they both have their “church/lemonade” but neither have considered that the kingdom/new wine involves seeing beyond their own lemonade “stand”….

  30. I’m not sure I like the analogy of lemonade tastiness to truth. Mostly because taste is completely subjective and truth (at least as I define it) is fact. I think a better analogy for lemonade would be perspective or belief. Kind of like the blind men and the elephant.
    I think at least part of the difference for Mormons vs. other religions is that we choose to believe that Joseph Smith recieved some additional facts (through tangible experience) about God and the universe. (These things are beliefs for the rest of us, because I’m guessing most of us haven’t had the tangible experience Joseph Smith had -we accept that they were facts to him, if that makes sense) So, the LDS church’s claim to be the truest is based on these additional facts that other churches don’t possess.
    I don’t think it means that our intrepretation of facts is always right (thus the many changes in policy we’ve seen throughout the years). Other religions may have a better interpretation of some of the beliefs we have in common. But they lack those additional facts that our religion has.

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