Wednesday, October 7, 2009

We Know Because We Know

As promised, here are more of my thoughts on the talk Elder Hales gave in General Conference.

After spouting off as fact what he thinks of atheists/atheism* Hales goes on to discuss knowledge, sort of. Let’s begin with a quote:

We know He {Jesus} lives because we believe the testimony of His ancient and living prophets, we have felt God’s spirit confirm that the testimonies of these prophets are true. {emphasis mine}

So…in other words he knows because he believes because he has a feeling?

Maybe I’m being nitpicky here, but to me that seems an abuse of the word “know.” I know my name is Holly because it says so on my birth certificate. I know I like pumpkin pie because I’ve tasted it myself. I know a lot of things based on personal experience and evidence, not feelings. Here’s a man telling millions of people he knows when what he really means is he believes, he feels, he trusts the scriptures and other church leaders. Of course, there are plenty of his followers who honestly believe he’s seen the resurrected Christ with his own eyes and really does KNOW. Of course that would be too sacred an event for him to disclose to anybody {how convenient} despite the fact that biblical prophets and apostles were always going about telling people God/Jesus had appeared to them. In fact, so did Joseph Smith…

Hales then talks a little bit about Joseph Smith who he says was called to prepare the way for Jesus' second coming. He doesn’t point out that Joseph Smith said he expected that second coming to happen within 56 years but hey, even prophets make mistakes.* Then he shares the church’s favorite version of the first vision story. And goes on to say, again, that you can know the church is true because…wait for it…

We told you so.

Yup, God is real and the church is true because prophets say so in General Conference. But then, the crazy guy on the street corner with the cardboard sign says the same thing so who’s to be believed?

Hales says you can trust the Holy Ghost. In other words, if you ever get warm fuzzies or strong feelings that’s the Holy Ghost telling you what the Church teaches is true. And that’s how you know. And oh boy, do we run into problems with this principle. In fact, this is probably the principle that most contributed to our exit from Mormonism.

Aside from the fact that it’s kind of manipulative to interpret people’s feelings for them {e.g. “those warm fuzzies you’re feeling are God telling you we’re telling the truth!”} it’s also irresponsible and downright silly to tell people because they feel something it is in fact true. As Adam often puts it:

A Pentecostal feels the rapture coming and is CERTAIN that Christ will take her. A Terrorist straps a bomb to himself and is CERTAIN that Allah will accept him. A Mormon reads the Book of Mormon and is CERTAIN God is telling him it's true. Is there really a difference?

Once Adam and I were willing to honestly ask ourselves that last question “is there really a difference,” once we were able to bring ourselves to wonder “could these feelings be, well, just feelings?” that is when everything came apart.

Hales then goes on to say that the Holy Ghost won’t testify to you if you’re skeptical. Yup, that’s right. God hates critical thinking. So you’d better suspend it. Don’t use your brain. Just wait for the warm fuzzies and we’ll tell you what they mean.

I don’t know if Hales realizes how dishonest his talk was. He may very well believe every word he said. But I find the talk not only offensive but illogical and deceitful as well {whether intended or not}. He’s a man in a position of power telling those beneath him that they shouldn’t think, they should feel and that those feelings can be trusted as being from God. He’s telling millions that they should believe because Joseph Smith said so, or because Thomas S. Monson said so. He paints critical thinking as something dirty and then frightens these people into line by telling them if they think too much then God won’t talk to them anymore {very loving fellow, this God} and that without God they’ll live meaningless, purposeless, and altogether crappy lives.

And I feel that that is reprehensible.

*Of course, the apologists would say he was just "speaking as a man” not as a prophet, which is the same thing they’ll say in response to any of the crazy shit Joseph Smith, Brigham Young, etc. said.