The Glory of God is Intelligence. Now stop thinking about it!

A friend of mine recently asked me if I’d started going back to church yet. I replied in the negative, indicating I had issues.

He said, “What kind of issues? Are you unwilling to live the church lifestyle? Is it an intellectual thing?”

I said, “No issues with the lifestyle, from your perspective I’d be in that intellectual category.”

He said, “You got to stop being intellectual!”

I looked at him and asked, “Did you just tell me to stop thinking?”

Glory of Intellegence

 

I used to believe that thinking and reasoning was celebrated in the church. I was raised on the concept that the glory of God is intelligence. To be intelligent it is a given that you should use your intellect, here is an example of what I was taught at age 9:

We believe also that “as man now is, God once was: As God now is, man may be.” – Lorenzo Snow 1

Therefore, man should strive all his days to increase his intelligence and learn all the truths he can. He should realize that the gospel of Jesus Christ embraces all truth wherever it may be found, and as he gains knowledge and truth he should teach it to his fellowmen. – N. Eldon Tanner 2

 

You see, it is important to gain knowledge, truth is simply true and there can be nothing bad about learning it. Also notice the admonition to teach truth to your fellow man. The idea of learning is even enshrined in scripture, Alma 37: 35 says “O, remember, my son, and learn wisdom in thy youth…” as shown in this church video.  The prophet of my youth was Spencer W. Kimball. He said this in general conference just a few months after I was baptized.

“If men are really humble, they will realize that they discover, but do not create, truth.”
Personally I one hundred percent believed that the religion I knew was true would be proven out by science as time progressed. I don’t think I was alone in this type of thinking, granted it could be my own asymmetric insight, but it certainly was taught as such.

“Religion and science have sometimes appeared in conflict. Yet, the conflict can only be apparent, not real, for science seeks truth, and true religion is truth. There can never be conflict between revealed religion and true science. Truth is truth, whether labeled science or religion. All truth is consistent. There is no conflict—only in the interpretation of fact.

“It is well to remember that when men make new discoveries in their energetic search for truth, these will always be in harmony with all fundamental and eternal truths. Yes, truth is always consistent, whether it is revealed directly from God to man, through his inspired prophets, or comes from the laboratory through diligent searching of his children and through the influence of the Spirit of the Lord upon them.” – Ezra Taft Benson,3

I had no doubt that the more I learned and the more I used my intelligence and reason, the more this revealed knowledge and assertion of church leaders would be proven out. Little did I know then…

Over the years following, on my mission to Guatemala I thought for sure these were Book of Mormon lands that I served in. Where the hill Cumorah was always bugged me though because that tidbit just didn’t make sense. That was likely the beginning of the construction of my ‘shelf’ to hold the doubts about my belief system. The subject of doubt is a whole other topic, but I would like to point out a simple fact of the scientific method, doubt is a good thing when it comes to science. Why? Because truth can be discovered and proven. That is what makes it absolute truth. Spencer Kimball understood the idea of absolute truth when he said this:
“The earth is spherical. If all the four billion people in the world think it flat, they are in error. That is an absolute truth, and all the arguing in the world will not change it. Weights will not suspend themselves in the air, but when released will fall earthward. The law of gravity is an absolute truth. It never varies. Greater laws can overcome lesser ones, but that does not change their undeniable truth.”
He does however make a huge error when he goes on to say:
“We learn about these absolute truths by being taught by the Spirit.”

Think about it for a minute, did you really need the spirit to tell you the law of gravity was real? Or have you dropped things hundreds of times in informal experimentation and gotten the same exact result every time? Even historically speaking it has been religions impeding the progress of scientific assertions such as these, the catholic church believed the earth to be flat and the center of the universe so much so that those who opposed were considered heretics.What President Kimball is doing is called a logical fallacy. He does so with these statements by tying a known validated truth that is universally accepted to his later assertions that in the big picture are really only believed by a few.  It is a fallacy to tie one to the other as there is no provable connection, and his isn’t the first religion to use this method to argue their point. Even so I give him kudos for at least attempting to come up with a rational basis for the faith. That is because these days it seems like the council of the leaders is opposite of using your brain. Instead of thinking and investigating your doubts for yourself, you are told to put them aside, not think about them, and just believe in spite of the evidence.  As pointed out by First Popsicle, B Very Chill in the most popular note on the door of the Fridge ever, “The church is an ultimatum“. Either it’s true or it’s not, and by the way if you think it’s not you are wrong.

The essence of the message today is exactly what my friend said: When thinking doesn’t support the faith, stop thinking. My friend also happens to currently be a bishop, I kind of wonder if he is seeing more and more of people like me coming into his office and telling him it doesn’t make sense anymore. I wonder if this ‘stop thinking’ counsel is being pushed by leadership above him.  It wouldn’t be the first time that leader ship told teachers and leaders to not talk about true things that might make you doubt, Ken Clark as an institute director found out the hard way that the church isn’t really interested in all truth, only the truth that supports its position as pointed out here in this video.

The deeper you dig for truth, the more you discover there are legitimate facts for the conclusions reached by the so called anti-mormons. The more difficult facts you uncover, the more you realize that the idea that the church cares more about truth than anything else is really just lip service. Sure D&C 93:43 declares; “The glory of God is intelligence, or, in other words, light and truth.” But if your intelligence and reason indicates that the church might be founded by a con man who was convicted of fraud for saying he could find buried treasure with a peep stone 18 months before he claimed to find a gold book and translate it with a peep stone. Well that intelligence should just be shut off in lieu of having more faith. Don’t believe me? Try bringing up this topic to your leadership and tell me how it goes.

I often wish I could point out to my friends and family how this type of thinking (or not thinking I suppose) can assert anything to be true. If anything can be proven true by your logic, that means your logic is useless for asserting truth. Once you have broken the bonds of the circular reasoning I am talking about, trying to have a discussion we a person that still uses it can be extremely frustrating. At times you can feel like you are talking to a brick. Here’s my counsel, remember you used to be that brick, too. When your friend tells you, like mine did, to just stop thinking about it, remember how you used to set things on your shelf and not think about them. They aren’t really being illogical from their perspective, they are just being human. Not thinking about it is the only way to keep a hold of their faith.

This is why Boyd K Packer called out intellectuals as an ever present danger to the church:

“The dangers I speak of come from the gay-lesbian movement, the feminist movement (both of which are relatively new), and the ever-present challenge from the so-called scholars or intellectuals.”
When you start studying the church history you find out that from Elder Packers perspective what makes a scholar ‘so called’ is anyone that adheres to truth more than their loyalty to the church.So next time you read stuff that prophets have said like this bit from Brigham Young:
“Our religion is simply the truth. It is all said in this one expression—it embraces all truth, wherever found, in all the works of God and man that are visible or invisible to mortal eye” 4
Make sure you realize that it all comes with a monstrous caveat, what they really mean is if using your intellect gives you any reason not to believe, then you better just shut it off and follow the brethren, even if they are known to be wrong about doctrine at times. The one thing that is more important that intelligence is obedience. Perhaps that is why we see this trend in talks these days.
The old leaders said things like this:
“If we have the truth, it cannot be harmed by investigation. If we have not the truth, it ought to be harmed.”
– J. Reuben Clark
The new leaders say things like this:
“Doubt your doubts before you doubt your faith.”
– Dieter Uchtdorf

They teach that we should just obey and the only reason to do so is by being afraid of not obeying as shown in this video. The idea of obedience trumping your own intelligence isn’t new in the church, it has been around for a while. It’s just getting more press time these days. This is because the current leaders are right that the best way to believe the church is true, with all this ready access to difficult facts, is to just ‘not think about it’. And that is exactly what they want you to do, stop thinking and just believe. The only way to keep the shelf up is to pay no attention to that man behind the curtain.

I suppose it is possible the glory of God really is obedience. The leaders have been wrong before as it being proven by the 13 essays that are in the process of being released by the church. Maybe I just feel this need to teach knowledge and truth to my fellow man as Elder Tanner suggested we do way up at the beginning of this article. Whatever drives me, I am certain I agree with President Kimball when he said what I think is worth reiterating:

“If men are really humble, they will realize that they discover, but do not create, truth.”
A key point in that sentence to me is the humble part, if you are 100% sure you know something, are you humble enough to accept the fact you might be wrong and learn something new? Whatever the glory of God really is we may never know given all the conflicting messages from mainstream religions.  The glory of the Fridge on the other hand is most definitely intelligence; of this I am 99% certain 🙂
  1. 11 January 1892, reprinted in Latter-day Prophets Speak, ed. Daniel H. Ludlow, Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1951, p. 72.
  2. “Ye Shall Know the Truth,” General Conference, April 1978
  3.  “Your Charge: To Increase In Wisdom and Favor with God and Man,” New Era, September 1979
  4. DBY, 2. JD 10:251

The Magic of Myth

This is my first Christmas since I admitted to my parents that I had lost my faith in the religion I was born into. That chapter of my life happened right after christmas last year. Some six months later I had become agnostic in terms of a belief in god as well, unless you count the Fridge. 🙂  Personally I think this is because once you begin thinking critically about religion it is very hard to not apply that notion to all your other preconceived ideas. The idea of god at least with the attributes I had always been taught he had just didn’t make sense anymore.

For a while this was a rough time, like many I have talked to there was a period of mourning this loss. I felt it very deeply. Once I had been so sure of everything, so sure of who I was and where I was headed when suddenly that was all gone. Confidence that there was a supreme being watching out for me and taking care of my needs evaporated. For me religion filled a purpose, it defined my spirituality and gave me a goal in life. A big goal too, Mormons hope to be like god one day if they do it all right.

Once I realized this promise leaders thought they were making was as ephemeral as the authority they thought they had to do so, I was on my own. Much like the first time I left home, this time I left a belief system and struck out to make sense of life all over again. I wondered a lot about religion and its purpose, should it even have one? Is there anything good at all in it? Certainly wars were fought over religion, people killed, shamed and degraded trying to prove their god was better than the other guys had left a pretty bloody track record over the span of recorded history. Any student would be hard pressed to say that religion in all forms hasn’t caused some pretty nasty stuff. It makes you wonder why god would allow such pain and evil and misery in his name, that is if he supported all religions as a path to him. If on the other hand there was only one true path to him then all those others were the work of satan. You see the dichotomy of the church being the only true one made sense if you thought about it like it did. Once that collapsed my entire world view of god and his goodness and mercy fell flat as well.

My agnostic and now substantially atheistic views developed after I really tried to test the idea of a deity from a positive direction. Instead of looking for god to prove himself, I looked for a completely irrelevant appliance in my home to give me the same proofs of divine intervention. I’m sure that some of my family and friends would decry sacrilege at the thought of such an experiment saying you can’t tempt god. Well I didn’t, I tempted the tall cool one and it was every bit as effective at answering my prayers so long as I employed all the same tricks of looking for the little small coincidences and little miracles to confirm it. Once I was even telling my friend about this test at a restaurant. I had just told him the Fridge was always better at providing ice than god ever was as we both got up to refill our drinks at the soda fountain. As we approached the dispenser just before we were in arms reach it started spitting out ice with no one nearby. We both laughed at the coincidence. I said see, told ya so! The Fridge doth provide 🙂

dawkins-scale

So Christmas was coming, and for the first time with me as a level 5.5 on the Dawkin’s scale. Needless to say I thought a lot about the mythos of Christmas. I already knew its pagan origins from years past and how christianity had basically usurped the holiday to revere the christ child. This had little mattered to me before and didn’t mean much even now with my doubt in terms of the divinity of this holiday. What I did think a lot about was Santa Claus.

Santa is an example of a mythos. A far far more powerful mythos than the Fridge ever hopes to be. Santa Claus inspires millions to be more giving. Yeah even he has roots in christianity, but I think he has out grown those bounds thanks to the terribly evil commercialization of Christmas. Han solo hanukkahMaybe that is why the most devout get wound up about Santa Claus stealing the true meaning of Christmas. It’s like he has stolen their thunder. Here is the question though, what is the true meaning of Christmas for you? Is it about loving one another so much that you sacrifice what you have for them? Isn’t that like the mythos of Christ giving his life on the cross for everyone to be redeemed? Or is it about others threatening your belief system by pointing out the errors in it? Where is the war on Christmas that seems to be the talk nearly every year? I realized this year that in some ways the commercialization of Christmas is a good thing. For one it reminds us via television commercials and movies and stories about how nice it is to be giving, this turns out to help those that are better off remember to give to those in need. Christmas time and Santa Clause represent a mythos of giving and much of the world participates in it. This lead me to an amazing experience.

After leaving the church I fell in among a den of evil apostates, many atheists, some believers, some even going back to church for the rituals and community it gives them. They call themselves the Exmo Underground. There is a common thread of the Mormon experience in their lives and this group is a place where they can talk freely without judgement or criticism for doubting or losing the faith. You can even profess you are going back to church and will only be met with love and support for your choice. It has been a place of community and healing for me. Then it got even better.

Among this group there are over 150 people and their families from all walks of life, rich, poor, healthy, sick, you name it we got it in the group. As Christmas approached, some in the group created a smaller group, called the santa underground. It was formed to help some of those amongst us that we knew were suffering this holiday season. I was invited to participate. I was happy to help, my family and I have made it a goal to help another family every year. We want our kids to know it is a good thing to give to others and figure doing it by example  is the best way to teach that. We had identified one of our new friends families as the ones to help when we were invited into the santa underground. Turns out she and her 6 kids weren’t just on our minds they were on the minds of others as well. Two other families were identified to help and people started pitching in.

One lady put her artwork on sale and promised the profits to the families in need. Ironically, (or maybe because the Fridge planned it this way) we were in need of a new picture for a wall that was destroyed in a flood last year. So we started looking at paintings on her website. I saw one that I immediately fell in love with. It was a picture of a boy flying  a kite shaped like a dragon. For me it was filled with metaphor for the past year of my life. Not only did the boy face his dragon he had learned to fly it and take joy from it. We bought it that night.

Photo Jan 01, 12 43 11 PM

 

As the group continued to operate collecting money and donations to help these families I was amazed on a daily basis at just how giving and kind all these supposed heathens with all their evil spreading of lies and doubt were when it came to helping those in need. The total of money collected notched higher and higher, surpassing anything I had ever personally seen in my life from a group of people.

who caresHow was it all these atheists were so giving and kind when that was supposedly the province of religion and belief? It inspired me and my family, we dug deep, our youngest daughter gave some of her most favorite pet shops to one of the families in need, to me it symbolized the true meaning of Christmas, giving another person something you personally love, to help them. My heart filled up day after day as Christmas approached, I would walk past the painting of the boy and his dragon every morning as I left my room to face the day and ponder its meaning to me. We shipped a huge package of gifts to our new friend and her kids, those of the underground collected funds and needs and got them on their way to the families we were helping. Our box arrived christmas eve, the gifts from the group arrived the day after. The mom’s youngest 4 year old daughter proudly told her mom that even though santa was snowed in he still found a way to ship them a package to the post office this year. They were so happy.

So you see I got my gift christmas morning this year after unwrapping the presents, after kids got us up way too early and we all had a wonderful morning together. After we decided to go back to bed to sleep some more, after I walked past the picture of the boy facing his dragon one last time… I sat there and thought about all the love poured out by this group of heathens, my new friends. It didn’t matter at all that they didn’t believe in god, they only had to believe in the spirit of Santa Claus, they believed in the idea of givingThe magic of the myth is that it is and always has been inside each of us. This Christmas morning I cried, I wept tears of a heart full of joy, I had a deeply moving spiritual experience as I realized like the boy in the picture, a year ago I had faced my own personal dragons and this year I learned to fly them. My dragons of apostasy had become kites of joy to me.

The irony isn’t lost on me, the most spiritual Christmas epiphany in my life came when I didn’t believe in god. Based on my experience, either the power that religions claim of goodness and virtue was really part of each of us as living breathing loving humans, or the Fridge is real. You decide what to believe.

fridge