Monday, June 29, 2009

She Said: Opening, or Closing Your Mind?

What you're saying in your post sounds dangerously close to closing your mind to new ideas. Neither one of us would have joined the Church in the first place if we had not been willing to listen to and consider new philosophies. That's why I hate to see you mentioning specific religious traditions (such as Jehovah's Witnesses and Fundamentalist Mormons) and saying you would never listen to their ideas. I have talked personally to friends from both of these particular religions and I find they have some interesting ideas that are lacking in my current religious training. For example, many Fundamentalist Mormons have a good understanding of early Mormon history. JW's have some neat insights on the name of God and certain aspects of the Old Testament. I am always willing to listen to people's ideas, no matter where on the religious spectrum they hail. If we are secure about our religion and our beliefs, we ought not to fear considering others' viewpoints.

A scripture in the Book of Mormon advises:
For behold, my brethren, it is given unto you to judge, that ye may know good from evil; and the way to judge is as plain, that ye may know with a perfect knowledge, as the daylight is from the dark night. For behold, the Spirit of Christ is given to every man, that he may know good from evil; wherefore, I show unto you the way to judge; for every thing which inviteth to do good, and to persuade to believe in Christ, is sent forth by the power and gift of Christ; wherefore ye may know with a perfect knowledge it is of God. But whatsoever thing persuadeth men to do evil, and believe not in Christ, and deny him, and serve not God, then ye may know with a perfect knowledge it is of the devil; for after this manner doth the devil work, for he persuadeth no man to do good, no, not one; neither do his angels; neither do they who subject themselves unto him. (Moroni 7:16-17)

It seems to me that if we have such a simple way of judging good from evil, we need not be afraid of considering ideas that come from other religious traditions.

I do understand your hesitation to spend a lot of time with anti-Mormons or their writings. I have found that many of those who are actively working against the Church have become just as closed-minded and dogmatic as ex-Mormons as they were as true-blue, faithful members of the Church. They are unwilling to consider that ANYTHING at all in the Church is good or might lead someone closer to the Divine. It is unfortunate when this happens. However, many of those who have left the Mormon Church continue to have marvelous insights that I can learn and benefit from.

In one of our Conferences, a General Authority suggested to non-members:
"For those who are not yet members of the Church, I suggest you read the testimony of Joseph Smith with an open mind and real intent." (Carlos H. Amado, Some Basic Teachings from the History of Joseph Smith, CR April 2002)

If we are going to ask others to do this, does it not behoove us to do the same when others come to us with ideas they have found valuable?

Hosea Stout recorded a vision that Brigham Young had at Winter Quarters in 1847. He said that he had been to the world of spirits and seen Joseph Smith in vision. Joseph told Brigham the following. I wonder what it means.
Joseph said; do you be sure and tell the people one thing.

Do you be sure and tell the brethren that it is all important for them to keep the spirit of the Lord, To keep the quiet spirit of Jesus, and he explained how the spirit of the Lord reflected on the spirit of man and set him to pondering on any subject, and also explained how to know the spirit of the Lord from the spirit of the enemy.

He said the mind of man must be open to receive all spirits, in order to be prepared, to receive the spirit of the Lord; otherwise it might be barred so as not to receive the spirit of the Lord, which always brings peace and makes one happy and takes away every other spirit.

I'm not sure that we can have peace if we are continually letting things into our minds that are confusing, or negative, or mean-spirited. I know we must guard against certain things. But let's not go overboard. I hope Mormons will not be known as a people who close themselves off from others.


  1. I really think you miss the point. We don't need to go down every path to find the truth. If you start sympathizing with every kook out there who thinks he or she doesn't need to wear their garments or speaking evil of the Lord's anointed behind everyone's back you will become the same sad sack type of person that will eventually lose their testimony. Garbage in gets you garbage out. A lot of the fundamentalist beliefs are distorted and frankly not worth pursuing. The last few books you had me read were pure trash and not worth my time to read.

  2. I think the most important thing I've learned is that different stuff nourishes different people, and that we should be grateful whenenver someone finds something that nourishes them. It happens so rarely.

    I also do my best to not judge the stuff other people find nourishing. I mean, I eat blue chesse and the rest of my family can't stand even the smell.

  3. I have always found it odd that a church supposedly founded due to the investigative mind of a young man is so against anyone having the same attitude today.

  4. Maybe if you're willing to convert TO Mormonism, you're wiling to convert FROM Mormonism?

    If you reject your conversion to Mormonism, are you rejecting all the people you know who are connected to Mormonism as well?

    Can you remain open to new ideas and embrace them without losing grip on or tossing out the old ones? Or should you even try?

  5. As a convert, I was shocked to find that open minded was a dirty word in Utah. No one would become a Mormon in the mission field if they were not open minded.

    It is a sign of weakness that the institutional church and the brethren are so afraid of questions. If I talked to God, I would be confident to have the answers.

    But, may be, that's the problem. We are deluding ourselves into having all the answers. In the process, we are creating expectation that no one can possibly meet.

    May be, the best religion is not the one that claims to have all the answers but dares to ask all the questions.

  6. Dr. B,

    One of the so-called distorted fundamentalist beliefs is this, "One of the grand fundamental principles of Mormonism is to receive truth, let it come from whence it may."(TPJS p. 313)

    Like every fundamentalist belief I can think of, this came from the prophet Joseph Smith.

  7. I would respectfully submit that there is more of a gap between conservative Mormons and liberal Mormons now than there is between conservative Mormons and fundamentalist Mormons.
    It's just something nobody wants to admit yet.

  8. That's a fascinating claim, Bruce. I am curious, how do you that to be the case, please?