Contrasting Truth With Its Opposite

In his worldwide devotional address last week, Elder Lynn G. Robbins said something about achieving enlightenment (his talk is entitled “Tasting the Light”) that has been on my mind ever since:

Opposition is indispensable to our education and happiness. Without opposition, the truth remains hidden in plain view, like taking air for granted until the moment you are gasping for it. Because the Light of Christ is everpresent, many people don’t notice the Spirit in their life, like those Lamanites in 3 Nephi 9:20 who “were baptized with fire and with the Holy Ghost, and they knew it not.”

The perfect knowledge comes fruit by fruit, through opposition in all things. Obedience to God’s commandments promises ultimate happiness, growth, and progress through opposition, not bypassing it. “Smooth seas do not make skillful sailors.”

Earlier in his talk, Elder Robbins had used Alma’s teachings on faith to illustrate the steps leading from no faith at all to a perfect knowledge of Jesus Christ and His gospel. After highlighting the value of opposition, Elder Robbins returned to Alma’s experiment by inviting his audience to

become a participant in the experiment by having you consider several “to-be” commandments, or Christlike virtues, contrasting each with its opposite. As you consider each one, the Light of Christ in you should affirm to your mind and your heart that each Christlike virtue is sweet, while it’s opposite is bitter:

Love versus hate, hostility, opposition

Honesty versus lies, deceit, theft

Forgiving versus revenge, resentment, bitterness

and so on. So far, so good, but recognizing sweetness after being acquainted with bitterness “is only what I would call a terrestrial, or glory-of-the-moon, testimony. Good God-fearing persons of any religion have this same testimony because they too have the Light of Christ.”

And so Elder Robbins proposed taking “the experiment to the celestial level and contrast[ing] some of the doctrines that are unique to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints with those found elsewhere under dimmer light.” A graphic appeared. (The text version replicates most of the slides used in the presentation but not these.) Against a white background were displayed the words: “God is our Father, and we are created in his image.” The right half of the screen then turned black and the following text appeared: “Not literally our Father, Incomprehensible, Unknowable.” More slides followed:

  • “His organization with prophets and apostles” vs. “Abandonment of His established pattern.”
  • “The Lord is a God of order, governing through those holding priesthood keys” vs. “Confusion, disparate voice, false spirits.”
  • “Priesthood authority, and called of God” vs. “A degree in theology; elected, hired or self-appointed.”
  • “Ordinances and covenants” vs. “Simply live a good life.”
  • “Children innocent” vs. “Infant baptism.”
  • “The Book of Mormon, a second witness” vs. “Bible, an only witness.”
  • “Temple work for the dead” vs. “Light a candle and pray for the dead.”

The audience laughed at this last one and Elder Robbins chuckled in response: “That is the only other option,” and the audience roared louder. He managed to pull himself together to contrast “Eternal marriage and families” with “Till death do us part,” concluding this portion of his presentation with: “It’s enlightening to contrast truth with its opposite. It helps reveal the obvious, that which is hidden in plain view. We recognize that we know a lot more than we thought we did. It should inspire us to continue to search diligently in the light of Christ and lay hold upon every good thing.”

I have to admit that my first response was to strenuously disagree that this battle of the bullet points had been particularly enlightening—surely the differences between Mormon doctrine (whatever that might be) and the beliefs of others are not as black and white as portrayed onscreen? And what about all that had been lost in reducing God and the gospel to bullet points? The laughter seemed particularly telling—if a practice or belief seems so absurd that you cannot refrain from giggling in such a setting, maybe what you see on the screen before you is closer to a caricature than a summary.

Upon further reflection I felt maybe my objection had more to do with style rather than substance. After all, there are plenty of denominations that consider Mormonism to be fundamentally misguided, so it’s not like there’s no gap or stark distinctions between our respective heavens and hells. And a few days later I happened across this article which certainly illustrates a fundamental difference between the Mormon and Catholic views of marriage: “in the whole history of the [Catholic] Church the choice for celibacy has always been understood to be objectively higher than the choice for marriage.”

But then again, my own experiences make me less sure about the extent to which ordinary individuals (as opposed to, say, experts with specialized training or prophets and apostles called by God) actually disagree. For example, I once had two roommates who were Catholics. One day we were discussing religion and they asked me about distinctive Mormon beliefs. No problem, I thought, and I led with eternal marriage, saying something like “we believe that you can be married for time AND eternity; you know, that death won’t do us part.” They looked at me quizzically for a moment before declaring: “Umm, we believe that too.” I was at a loss—I could have sworn they weren’t supposed to!

In retrospect, I shouldn’t have been surprised since I shouldn’t have been so sure about what they believed in the first place. It’s not like I was well versed in canon law or the other components of Catholic theology, and I certainly didn’t have a finger on the pulse of lived Catholicism. I’m sure we would have discovered distinctions had we continued to explore our respective beliefs on marriage, but if they believed that marriage extended beyond death, who was I to tell them differently?

I’m open to the possibility that stark contrasts could be a way to mark the path to personal enlightenment, but I have strong doubts whether the black and white depiction of others’ beliefs and practices is particularly helpful, especially when it comes to personal interaction where the distinctions can be less obvious and maybe even beside the point.

Take infant baptism. I know the Articles of Faith, Joseph Smith’s translation of Genesis 17 and Mormon’s position as well as anyone. But as far as I can tell from those with whom I associate and have baptized their babies, infant baptism is motivated first and foremost by the desire to welcome the baby into a community of support, part of which involves freeing the baby from the effects of being born into a fallen world. In any case, not for remission of an infant’s own sins, which Mormon declares as the purpose of baptism.

Reading Mormon’s words in light of the Catholic infant baptisms I have experienced, I can’t help but feel that’s not what he’s talking about. Certainly beliefs about religious rituals change over time. For example, Mormons continue to practice circumcision despite Mormon’s teachings that it has been done away with, substituting reasons such as health, cleanliness and/or appearance that are totally divorced from the original purpose. Similarly, those that practice infant baptism have evolved in their thinking in the 1500 years since Mormon’s day. For instance, the Catholic church in Germany has declared that “This is important: the idea that unbaptized children will not be accepted by God no longer corresponds to today’s notion of God.” The church has created a new baptismal ritual to address the concerns parents have about the church or the implications of baptism or for parents who would like to let their child decide by splitting the rite into two parts, the first being an “opening of the way to baptism” which begins with a prayer of thanksgiving for the birth of the child, a welcoming into the community and a blessing. Then parents meet with each other to be each other up spiritually until they feel ready to baptize their children. This still might not be the Mormon way, but “infant baptism” as practiced does not appear to be the opposite of “innocent children.”

And what about “God is our Father, and we are created in his image” vs. “Not literally our Father, Incomprehensible, Unknowable”? Is “created in his image” really on the opposite end of a truth spectrum from “not literally our Father”? And this discussion here at the BCC suggests that even if God is comprehensible and knowable in principle, in practice there is a wide diversity of views, even among those that you share a pew with.

But what do you think? Have you found “contrasting truth with its opposite” to be a productive approach personally? How clear have you found the distinction between your own and the beliefs of others, even (especially?) those of co-religionists to be? What do you esteem to be the larger problem–assuming you know too much or failing to realize how much you do know?

Comments

  1. I think my bigger problem is the origin of the truth. I have never read an account of Christ defining eternal marriage as we claim it. I’ve been told it is a lost and ancient truth – but lost from where. IF it was such a vital truth why didn’t it show up in the Book of Mormon. For me this becomes the larger problem, the truth source. Because of that I have retracted my truth commitments to the ones I can point directly to, such the beatitudes. The rest will have to work itself out in time.

  2. My wife and I caught this on KBYU, and I have to admit that I was a little put off by the comparisons, particularly the “temple work vs light a candle” example, I thought that was incredibly condescending and unfair to those who act in faith in the best way that they can to keep a connection to their departed family and friends.

    A couple of years ago, my wife and I toured The Grotto in Portland, Oregon. Some of it was very interesting, but I think we were both kind of leaning towards judging a lot of it as idol worship, until we came to the namesake of the grotto, a recessed cavity in the rock at the base of a cliff. There were racks and racks of candles, some lit, some not, arranged in front of the grotto. While we were standing there, a single individual came up quietly, dropped an offering into a cash box, and then lit a candle, He then made the sign of the cross, stayed kneeling in silence for a few moments, and then just as quietly and respectfully, he got up and walked away.

    His faith was not the opposite of mine, and I don’t think that his prayers are unheard by our Heavenly Parents. These kinds of comparisons are unfair, self serving, and keep us from being as open to others as we could be.

  3. My bigger problem is that I don’t think it’s appropriate for general authorities to be poking fun and encouraging laughter from the young adults of the church at caricatures of other religions beliefs in an effort to make our beliefs look better. I think you are right to point out some of the intricacies of these beliefs in order to carefully prod at what might be uncovered, but come on, what he did was wrong.

  4. Kevin and emjen – Those are great points. Don’t we have an article of faith that “allows all men the same privilege, to worship how, where and what they may.”

    Joseph Smith said, “I am just as ready to die in defending the rights of Presbyterians, a Baptist, or a good man of any other denomination; for the same principle which would trample upon the rights of Roman Catholics, or of any other denominations who may be unpopular and too weak to defend themselves.” Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith pg. 313.

    Truth – Do unto others as you would have done unto you.

  5. In science, we use simplified models to explain complex things all the time. Biology, for example, is just a simplified way of looking at the chemistry that’s actually going on within a living organism (because you’d be hard pressed to keep track of the millions of cascading reactions for even a simple animal response to stimulus). Even chemistry itself is just a simplified model for the actual quantum physics that’s truly at work.

    So, perhaps contrasting two complex religions to each other via bullet pointed lists is not 100% accurate (nor does it represent the reality of diverse beliefs on both sides). However, it does the job that a simplified model is supposed to do. His list does show some of the things LDS take for granted.

    Comparing and contrasting the alternatives has helped my own testimony as well. I’ve asked myself the question: After so much growth, beauty and experience in life, does it really make sense for there to be nothing for me after death (not even a knowledge of nothingness, since I would no longer exist)? My soul strongly disagrees. Feeling this, I then ask myself, “Then, what is the purpose of everything?” The truth revealed to Joseph Smith makes the most sense to me of all the philosophies out there – That our Heavenly Parents (themselves spiritual descendants of their own Ancient, Divine Parents) who have spent eons progressing to Their current state have it in Their heart to offer the same infinite progression to us, Their children (who currently inhabit infinite worlds), resounds in my soul as the truth. Reading Moses 1 reminds of the grand scale of everything that we believe about God (and how much knowledge He still keeps from us… and Moses).

    The contrast of this is the basic ideology put forward by other Judeo-Christian religions: God is a spirit who created the universe with billions of galaxies, but only one populated world. Spirits don’t exist before birth, and afterward there is Heaven and Hell. The only purpose of Heaven is to escape Hell and sing praises (which is nice). Obviously, individual beliefs vary, but this is the basic alternative in my mind. Other world religions simply don’t resonate with me or make logical sense.

    So, simple comparing and contrasting may not be an infallible method, but it is a useful model as it helps the mind and soul explore the options.

  6. I continue to be amazed that we can read Moroni 8 and have no problem understanding that infants should not be baptized while being completely blind to Moroni’s argument that “they that are without the law” (v 22) are in the same position and do not need baptism, proxy or otherwise. Temple work for the dead (at least the baptism part) mocks God, denies the mercies of Christ, and puts trust in dead works (according to Moroni in v23). Maybe we should just light a candle instead.

  7. There is something odd about comparing presentist Mormonism with (rather discourteous) folk views of other religions. And the irony is a bit thick considering how often we (Mormons) have the butt of such jokes. Not well thought out it seems.

  8. Thank you for this, Peter — a very thoughtful response and reflection.

    I am saddened that Elder Robbins took this approach of comparing and contrasting, including through use of caricature and ridicule, to make what could otherwise have been a very good, useful, and enlightening point.

    I expressed my own view about this kind of approach a few months ago in a post here at BCC:

    I have been appalled many times and embarrassed for us as a people when listening to how some of our members (and leaders) describe (or rather, misrepresent) the religious beliefs and practices of others in lessons, talks, or casual conversations. We unfortunately exhibit a lack of respect and appreciation that parallels or surpasses that displayed by others when talking about us. And I have been very guilty of that myself, many times, both before deciding to incorporate Bishop Stendahl’s vision of Holy Envy into my own worldview and even, sadly, still after doing so helped me to develop a deep and abiding love for the sincere religious devotion of other faiths, including perhaps especially high church liturgy and music. And, of course, I have seen the same thing many, many times as adherents of other faiths attempt to discuss or explain our beliefs and practices as Latter-day Saints. More often than not, they do not focus on our best but rather on our worst, and their descriptions rely heavily on caricature.

    https://bycommonconsent.com/2014/11/25/transcending-mere-toleration-in-novembers-friend-magazine/

    Unfortunate, Elder Robbins has set himself up as the equivalent of a Baptist mega-church pastor giving his congregation information about Mormons in order to contrast that information with something he wants to present as Mormons being false and Baptists being true.

    No Mormon in his or her right mind would lend any credence to a Baptist preacher’s self-serving and uninformed description of Mormon beliefs given for the purpose of contrasting them with the Baptist perspective of truth. Should we take Elder Robbins’ spin on the teachings he is contrasting as more credible or reliable than the Baptist preacher’s?

    Suffice it to say that the very least we should realize is that we should take caution in accepting or adopting the views of people (even if they happen to be a Seventy in our Church) who literally know nothing about other faiths but who pontificate about them.

    Elder Robbins certainly had the best of intentions and I agree with Elder Robbins that we enjoy many unique Truths in the Restoration that are not recognized by other believers. But this type of “first caricature, then compare” approach violates Stendahl’s principles of Holy Envy and is frankly unacceptable from our leaders. We should expect more, hold our leaders as carriers of God’s authority and message to a much, much higher standard than sectarian tit for tat.

    And the laughs from the audience? Shocking and shameful.

  9. Mary Lythgoe Bradford says:

    Most of Elder Robbins
    list falls in to the “logical fallacy” category

  10. Elder Robbins’ talk, however well intentioned (and I do not doubt his good intentions and his sincere devotion/belief — what I do doubt is that he really knows anything beyond caricature about any other religion, let alone our devout Catholic brothers and sisters in the Body of Christ), straightforwardly violates Bishop Krister Stendahl’s three Rules of Religious Understanding (which have been tacitly endorsed by Elder Robbins’ own hero, President Packer — http://youtu.be/69DkoG-m8Ag):

    1. When you are trying to understand another religion, you should ask the adherents of that religion and not its enemies. [1:08 in the video]

    In this case, unfortunately, Elder Robbins set us up as the “enemies” of other religions in giving this kind of caricatured information about them.

    2. Don’t compare your best to their worst. [1:29 in the video]

    Elder Robbins’ list of bullet points very clearly portrays “their” beliefs in the worst and most caricatured light possible.

    3. Leave room for “holy envy.” [1:50 in the video] (By this Stendahl meant that you should be willing to recognize elements in the other religious tradition or faith that you admire and wish could, in some way, be reflected in your own religious tradition or faith.)

    There is no trace of Holy Envy in this talk. Rather, there is a aura of ridicule similar to what we receive in many treatments by other Christians. We should definitely not be playing that same game; should set ourselves up to a much higher standard.

  11. Another thing: those things that Elder Robbins listed, even in the caricatured form he used, are NOT the “opposite” of Truth. If they are lesser knowledge, that is not the opposite of Truth. Instead, if anything, it is a devout position of faith that can be added unto. In some instances, I think there is a good argument that the thing that Elder Robbins was criticizing is not even doctrinally wrong but merely practiced somewhat differently.

  12. Michael says:

    Hmmm.
    “Ask our ancestors and friends who have passed on, who are currently in the presence of God, to pray in our behalf” vs. “Step through a curtain and never think of them again”.

    Doesn’t seem quite so funny now.

    I was told in Nauvoo a while ago, “We believe the spirits of those pioneer ancestors are here, bearing testimony of the restored Gospel and these events.” I would challenge anyone to explain to me how that is substantially different than the Catholic belief in Intercession of the Saints. I would likewise take any miracle attributed to Saint John Paul II and compare it to the myriad miracles of voices or inspiration heard from people doing genealogy research.

  13. Yes, Michael! See, it can work both ways! Depending on how we describe it, our practice can look more ridiculous and elicit more laughs. This really was an unfortunate thing.

  14. I have had more than one experience of talking with someone of another faith about eternal marriage that was just like yours. Even if their church doesn’t explicitly teach it they simply believe that God will keep them together if they want to. As one said to me, “Why wouldn’t he?” Our argument stresses the authority to seal, we see it as a necessary and vital component of eternal marriage that no one else has. But most everyone else, especially today, doesn’t seem to care about the authority angle, their intentions and God’s love are enough to convince them it can happen.

  15. CS Eric says:

    My wife and I were married in the temple, but every year on her birthday, our wedding anniversary, and the anniversary of her death, I light a candle in her memory. Am I doing something wrong?

  16. Julie M. Smith says:
  17. Serves you right for watching a CES devotional.

  18. The PangWitch says:

    man that sounded smug. we can do better.

  19. Thank you for recalling Bishop Stendahl’s vision of Holy Envy, john f. If there is a tendency to ignore his rules of religious understanding, I suspect speaking to a home crowd exacerbates it.

    those things […] are NOT the “opposite” of Truth

    To me the least effective contrast was the one about candle lighting and prayer, given our own fondness for light metaphors and commitment to the power of prayer, including in the context of temple worship.

    A more effective approach in my view was President Hinckley’s at the 2002 General Conference:

    God be thanked for His marvelous bestowal of testimony, authority, and doctrine associated with this, the restored Church of Jesus Christ.

    This must be our great and singular message to the world. We do not offer it with boasting. We testify in humility but with gravity and absolute sincerity. We invite all, the whole earth, to listen to this account and take measure of its truth. God bless us as those who believe in His divine manifestations and help us to extend knowledge of these great and marvelous occurrences to all who will listen. To these we say in a spirit of love, bring with you all that you have of good and truth which you have received from whatever source, and come and let us see if we may add to it. This invitation I extend to men and women everywhere with my solemn testimony that this work is true, for I know the truth of it by the power of the Holy Ghost.

    Thank you too, AZ, for your comments. Simplified models are undoubtedly useful, even essential to a happily-lived life in a complex world requiring daily decision-making, and that applies to religious life as well with all it imponderables. I suppose the trick is deciding what’s salient, and some of these comparisons miss the mark, I think, in their simplicity. For example, you could distill Mormon temple worship to a movie and a handshake, but that would totally miss the point and offend a bunch of people in the process.

    Yes, emjen12, the laughter was unquestionably out of place.

    kevinf, I can relate to your experience at the Grotto.

  20. Indeed, Michael and KLC.

    CS Eric – not in my book. For me it’s a way of turning hearts and keeping a prayer in mine. In Austria, All Souls Day and All Saints Day are widely observed; since my mother is buried on another continent, a candle is a simple yet effective reminder of her that can I keep at home.

    Thank you, Julie–mandatory reading!

    I know, Steve, but the ward leadership is concerned about this demographic, and I took it upon myself to return and report.

  21. CS Eric, brother, nothing at all. It’s a hard thing. Keep on.

  22. Not only are the comparisons a problem, but so is the list. For me, he missed the heart of Mormonism. “Faith without works is dead.” And progression toward a realistic eternal goal. AZ, to some extent, deals with the list problem.

  23. Forget contrasting our beliefs with those of other religions. I am busy enough trying to sort out our own contradictory “doctrines.” Should I believe what the Book of Mormons says or should I believe what Joseph taught in 1843? On almost every LDS doctrine, there has been development over time, sometimes to the point that we now believe the exact opposite of what was originally taught. A simple example is Elder Christofferson’s recent “canonizing” of our existence as “intelligences” prior to spirit birth, a notion pretty much universally accepted among Mormons today that was rejected by the First Presidency when B. H. Roberts proposed to publish it. And spirit birth itself was not taught by Joseph Smith, who repeatedly preached that spirits had no beginning.

  24. bingo

  25. On the subject of appropriately learning about other religions, a great LDS-oriented article recently came out: Mauro Properzi, “Learning about Other Religions: False Obstacles and Rich Opportunities,” The Religious Educator 16, no. 1 (2015): 129-49. Unfortunately, it won’t be available online for a while.

    When I taught at the MTC I used to do an activity with my district of missionaries in which I would tell them we were going to sing the first verse of a dozen or so hymns, and as we sang they were supposed to try to figure out what those hymns had in common; as a hint, I indicated it had something to do with the hymns’ authors. They were always surprised at the end to learn that all the hymns we sang (including favorites like “Called to Serve,” “I Stand All Amazed,” and “A Poor Wayfaring Man of Grief”) were by people who were not Latter-day Saints. I used that to launch into a lesson on the need to value and respect the beliefs of other faiths, even (perhaps especially) as missionaries. We also read James E. Talmages’ “The Parable of the Two Lamps” (https://www.lds.org/liahona/2003/02/three-parables-the-unwise-bee-the-owl-express-and-two-lamps?lang=eng).

  26. FarSide says:

    Fortunately, Brother Robbins’ remarks were delivered at a CES devotional, to an audience that has already swallowed the blue pill, and not at General Conference. With a little luck, the media won’t pick this up.

  27. “Unfortunate (sic), Elder Robbins has set himself up as the equivalent of a Baptist mega-church pastor giving his congregation information about Mormons in order to contrast that information with something he wants to present as Mormons being false and Baptists being true.” That is a caricature, to use the term frequently used above, of another religion.

  28. Julie, the Friend article you linked is a fantastic antidote to this. Religious truth is not a zero sum game, which is the damaging belief the bullet points imply. The great whole circumscribes cathedrals and mosques, buddhists and sikhs, before circling back to what we already think we know.

  29. .

    Woh woh woh! WHO practices circumcision?

  30. Why assume that Elder Robbins is under some obligation to avoid logical fallacies and present religious differences in nuanced and neutral terms? He’s not an academic.

  31. Angela C says:

    I wish these condescending attitudes toward other faiths did not exist. Who would want to listen to missionaries with these kinds of attitudes? And unfortunately, some of these young missionaries have caught the spirit of these kinds of disparaging comparisons. I’ve heard Mormons refer to Cathedrals as dark and disturbing, others’ worship music as devilish, and even dismissing Buddhist temples as “Satan’s counterfeit.” What happened to courtesy and respect for others?

  32. asldkoeiht says:

    Religionists need the devil or opposites and will create a devil or opposite position where none exists because fear of the devil and hell motivates.

  33. I think finding a proper balance between criticism of other faiths and pluralism is a tricky one, but we do need to do some contrasting with other faiths in order to fully see the beautiful light of the gospel more clearly. I think the Elder Robbins described the teachings of other churches as “those found elsewhere under dimmer light,” is actually not a bad way to put it because it acknowledges that other faiths have light albeit diminished.

    Your mention of the fact that many members of other churches instinctively believe in things that we believe such as eternal marriage is true, but I think cuts against your overall argument. People instinctively gravitate towards truth because of the light of Christ. If they are not kept from the truth by the doctrines of man or wiles of Satan, they will find and embrace it. People naturally hunger and thirst for divine truth because it is in our nature.

  34. FarSide says:

    symponyofdissent,

    Any comparison we make with other faiths should start from three assumptions: (1) some of our beliefs are only partially correct or just plain wrong, (2) we do NOT have all the truth, and (3) there is much about the gospel we can learn from other faiths.

    What we teach as “doctrine” in the church today differs markedly, in numerous respects, from what was taught 150 years ago. For example, Joseph’s early Trinitarian views of the Godhead bear little resemblance to what we now teach about the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost. We, like all other faiths, see through the glass darkly, building on the knowledge we have thus far received, which often requires us to jettison teachings and ideas that we once called “doctrine.”

    And it is condescending, arrogant and prideful to suggest that we can only add to the truth of others, that they have nothing to teach us. Not only is this patently false, it’s not a very effective marketing tool.

    Elder Faust understood the value of looking to others for greater insight into gospel doctrines when he spoke movingly, during General Conference in 2007, about the way the Amish in Pennsylvania lived the principle of forgiveness when confronted with a deranged killer who murdered several of their children. It was clear from his talk that the Amish’s collective understanding of mercy and forgiveness was on a higher plane than our own.

    Simply stated, we engage in self-delusion and deny ourselves the opportunity to learn and grow when we assert that God reveals truths to no ecclesiastical leader save our prophet.

  35. My final thought on this topic, is that Joseph Smith became who he became because of other religions. I know we hang on the words of the standard first vision and them being incorrect, but reality is – had those previous religions not existed he might not have sought his questions. To me it can be seen as biting the hand that fed us.

  36. I simply don’t see his portrayal of others as being that different from Jesus’ portrayal of the Pharisees & co.

  37. Thank you for writing about this. As an investigator with Catholic roots who was watching the laughter was extremely uncomfortable and upsetting.

  38. A disgraceful talk. Elder Robbins should retract his lazy caricature and apologise.

  39. Grant Hardy gave a fantastic devotional at BYU Hawaii that respectfully discusses Buddhism, what we have in common and how we can learn from it.

  40. Geoff - A says:

    As someone who is traveling in Europe, what do we have to compare with 2000 years of culture, art, writing, and architecture, cistine chapel, and the halls that lead to it, Sagrada Familia in Barcelona, and all the symbolism they posess.

    They also have leaders who retire in their 80 when they are no longer coping.

    Our arrogance and ignorance might be showing?

  41. Clark Goble says:

    Peter (OP) I think the slides make sense in contrasting our understanding with others. And typically people do ascribe the apostasy to those losses although I think the apostasy was much more complex than typically portrayed. (I’m with Nibley, for instance, in thinking it was the prophets who simply didn’t pass along a lot of teachings. Think Nauvoo without the Utah era of teaching more of the inner circle’s ideas from Nauvoo openly.) I also think that, contra that list, that we as a church haven’t always abided our teachings. We can point to the battles of the inquisitions, the reformation, counterreformation and so forth. But we have Mountain Meadows Massacre, involvement with some Indian slaughters, and of course the problem of racism.

    I do think that the slides perhaps should be read in more general terms rather than attacking any particular group. Also I think that way the laity believe and what their sect’s theology teaches are often quite at odds. (Not just among Catholics and Protestants but also with far too many Mormons) Likewise rituals that we’d call apostate (such as the Catholic form of baptism or masonry) can still be very meaningful to those who practice them. It’s just if we’re going to make such lists we should make them accurate.

    While I think listing opposites can be counterproductive, I also tend to think that to understand an issue we have to consider what it is differentiating from. So especially in understanding Mormonism as it separated itself from other movements, it’s important to understand the controversies of baptism, grace, marriage, and so forth as they were taking place in 19th century America. Then the next step is looking closer at nuance. That said, I think we should also not oversimplify other views, as too many do. Even the doctrine of the Trinity within the Athenasian creed is more complex and nuance than most assume. (And in many ways far more compatible with Mormon thought than most assume – most confusing Trinitarianism with modalism)

    Cat (9:30AM) I think there are places that hint at things in the BOM but it’s quite possible that the pre-Christian Nephites didn’t have those ordinances. The passages that hints at more is the oft quoted Alma 13. But people read into that chapter more than is there. Of course the Book of Mormon doesn’t claim to have all the details of every truth. Also much of the Book of Mormon is yet to be translated.

    JT (10:28AM) I’m not following your argument. Are you saying that baptism for the dead is bad because they are still children? If so I think the counterargument is that in the spirit world that’s not true anymore. (Although obviously one can read the King Follet Discourse to say otherwise)

    WVS (10:32AM) I honestly don’t have trouble when Protestants or Catholics enumerate the ways we are different so long as they get the basics right.

  42. stephenchardy says:

    I have a very different interpretation of this issue of “opposition.” It is easy to say that evil and goodness are are opposites, and that we must learn to choose the goodness.

    However, we may learn that the opposite of something that is true is also true. Try these on for size:

    1. We are saved by grace. vs We are saved by good works.

    2. We become exalted through individual effort. Our path to God is a lonely one. We can’t “borrow” light. vs We work out our exaltation in the setting of the church, as a community. We work out our salvation through building Zion. We must all lean on each-other and depend on one another.

    3. God expects me to not judge others and to be inclusive in our church. vs God wants us to judge rightously and to maintain standards.

    4. Women and men are fundamentally different and therefore have different roles to play. vs “…and he denieth none that come unto him, black and white, bond and free, male and female;…” 2 Nephi 26:33

    5. We are expected to store food, water, even fuel against a day of need. vs “take thee no thought for the morrow…”

    6. He that is not against me is for me. vs He that is not for me is against me.

    7. Good parents allow their children a lot of leash and let them flounder and struggle. vs Good parents provide strict rules that are made to ensure that the children don’t misbehave.

    8. President Monson has said that “obedience is the first law of the Gospel.” vs Joseph Smith who taught that “I teach them correct principles and let them govern themselves.”

    9. We consecrate everything to God. vs. We keep 90% of what we earn.

    So… I would look at the “opposition” described in the OP quite differently:

    10. God is our Father who we must know in order to worship. vs We have a Mother in heaven that we know nothing about.

    11. “The Lord is a God of order…” vs God created earth with wild diversity which is there to “beautify and give variety to the face of the earth.”

    12 “A degree in theology… which is one way of providing good training” vs “Seeking God’s inspiration.” In other words good training allows us to be more effective vs relying on inspiration alone.

    13. Children are innocent, vs The natural man is an enemy to God.

    14. “The Book of Mormon as a second witness” vs “Other witnesses given to other people in other places, some of which we may not see or understand as the word of God”

    15. “Temple work for the dead” vs “Follow me, and let thee dead bury their dead.” Matthew 8:22

    In this setting opposition allows us to see very different interpretations of how we ought to conduct our lives. We don’t choose one side or the other because each side has some sliver or aspect of truth. We spiritually thrive by living in a state of constant “tension” between opposities. We aren’t arrogant because we are right and everyone else is wrong. We don’t always choose one or the other but live with a strong tug to each side. This is what can be meant by truth being circumscribed into one great whole.

  43. Thank you all for your comments.

    “So especially in understanding Mormonism as it separated itself from other movements, it’s important to understand the controversies of baptism, grace, marriage, and so forth as they were taking place in 19th century America.”

    Excellent point. Hopefully we will also keep pace with the controversies as they evolve (rather than, say, hold others to views their leaders may have once held but no longer do, for example).

    “In this setting opposition allows us to see very different interpretations of how we ought to conduct our lives.”

    I am reminded me of an undergraduate psychology course in which the professor began by asking whether it was the case that “absence makes the heart grow fonder” or “out of sight, out of mind”. Anyway, I appreciate your insight that the opposite of something that is true can also be true.