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In order to function comfortably as a believing LDS, I believe that we need an unwavering testimony of Jesus as the Christ, the restoration of the Gospel, that the Book of Mormon was translated by the power of God, and of the prophets of the Latter-Day Church.

We do not have to know everything, but of those things we need to be certain. The only way to get there is via the testimony of the Holy Ghost. The only way to gain that testimony is by living the principles of the Gospel and being humble enough to know that we do not know everything and be willing to listen to and obey the dictates of the spirit.


I think we LDS really don't use faith and knowledge very well to express what we mean, or should mean.

If one were to actually know the Church is true, would they leave it? For example, we sometimes here those cliche lines like, "I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that the Church is true." Think about how strange that is to say. Did you ever hear your 2nd grade teacher say "I know with every fiber of my being that 2+2=4?" Knowledge is knowledge. I believe Alma is right in saying that faith can grow into knowledge, but are we so excited to reach the end goal sometimes that we jump the gun and declare we've arrived when we really haven't?

I disagree with Glenn. I don't think a person has to have an unwavering testimony of a,b,c to function comfortably as a believing member. Here's a scenario put out by the American philosopher Charles Pierce. Suppose you come to a crossroads and can choose path A or B given that one of them gets you to the correct destination. Suppose you are 95% certain path A is correct, then you will take it. But suppose you are only 51% certain path A is correct. What do you do? You still take it. Then you get to the end of the road and find out if you made the right choice.

The thing I like about Mormonism is that if you choose the right path, you'll get occassional assurances from the Holy Spirit. I don't know at what point you've had enough that you can comfortably say that you know Mormonism is true, but I would think you could find that out by self-evaluating the testimony you give in Church. If you are using a lot of clever rhetoric and appeals to authority to prove your testimony is strong, then you may be right but you are still haven't hit knowledge (and worse, may be engaging in self-brainwashing to convince yourself). If you can get up and talk about a spiritual experience you had the other week and why you loved having it, then you may have reached the point where the issue of Church legitimicy has become in your mind a simple matter of fact. I'd call that knowledge. We use the term too liberally.

Here's a column by Ross Douthat emphasizing the problems that liberal Christianity (Eagleton's "cautious liberal pragmatism") is facing.


Here's a quote from the article: "[L]iberal Christianity has simply collapsed. Practically every denomination — Methodist, Lutheran, Presbyterian — that has tried to adapt itself to contemporary liberal values has seen an Episcopal-style plunge in church attendance."

I've always been bothered by the vocabulary of Mormonism, the expression of certitude rather than belief. If one knows something to be true, of what value then is faith? I love people who have great faith but who are nevertheless constantly searching, forever on a quest. Those with certitude often leave me cold...and perhaps not coincidentally -- it seems -- often leave the church.

Can't go wrong with someone quoting Peirce.

Don, I think we know some things but other things we don't know. For instance I know that God lives and that the Church is true. But I don't know lots of other things. My faith is thus a faith in Christs words. Often I'm not sure they are exactly his words (there often are errors by the time they reach my understanding) I don't know for sure the consequences he states will happen. My faith is thus faith in Christ much like a child has faith in their parent to protect them. I think though to have a strong faith one must have knowledge in the person one is faithful to. This obviously isn't necessary since we come to know Christ via faith as well.

While there are some problems in the lectures on faith this idea of faith requiring something to have faith in has a certain resonance to me. I take D&C 46:13-14 to imply that believing where one does not know on the words of others can be a gift of the spirit. We should be careful not to demand certainty of everyone and certainly not of everything in our religion. (After all ours is a religion where we know only in part and are continually learning)

Interesting questions. Fascinating post.

As an optimal degree of certainty, I'm fond of Level 9 in the Perry Scheme of Cognitive and Ethical Growth:

"POSITION 9. Commitments in Relativism further developed.

The person now has a developed sense of irony and can more easily embrace other's viewpoints. He can accept life as just that "life", just the way IT is! Now he holds the commitments he makes in a condition of "PROVISIONAL ULTIMACY", meaning that for him what he chooses to be truth IS his truth, and he acts as if it is ultimate truth, but there is still a "provision" for change. He has no illusions about having "arrived" permanently on top of some heap, he is ready and knows he will have to retrace his journey over and over, but he has hope that he will do it each time more wisely. He is aware that he is developing his IDENTITY through Commitment. He can affirm the inseparable nature of the knower and the known--meaning he knows he as knower contributes to what he calls known. He helps weld a community by sharing realization of aloneness and gains strength and intimacy through this shared vulnerability. He has discarded obedience in favor of his own agency, and he continues to select, judge, and build."
(From a summary of Perry's work I got from Veda Hale, which she used for a Sunstone Presentation that analyzed the character arcs in Levi Peterson's Canyons of Grace.)

On the other hand, I'm also intrigued by Hoffer's comment in The True Believer that no mass movement succeeded without a core of true believers because only they are willing to make the necessary sacrifices. Hoffer's description of True Believers is a lot like Position 1 and 2 of the Perry Scheme.

"Provision for change" for me sounds like "able to repent of ignorance and pride now and then," which I see as a good thing. Saying "We have the truth!" sounds a more than bit premature to me, given the definition of truth in D&C 93 as "knowledge of things as they were, as they are, and as they are to come." "Hitherto thou shalt come, and no further" is how Joseph described the problem of creeds.

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