All who disagree with me are vile sinners!

 

Dan’s Inferno — Apparently, I’m just licking my chops at the thought that all those who disagree with me will be tortured here forever. Or something like that.

 

Several times over the past few years, I’ve been told that my position is that there are no good reasons for ever leaving the Church, that people who claim that they have historical or intellectual or theological problems that they cannot resolve are lying, and that I believe that all apostasy comes from sin.

 

But, in fact, this is not and never has been my position.  Never.

 

Once in a while, though, the following post from a message board, dated to 4 February 2005, is adduced as proof that Peterson speak with forked tongue, and that I do, in fact, deny the possibility of a loss of faith that is driven purely by intellectual concerns:

 

All of the following rests upon on the assumption that the Church is indeed God’s true church, and that Mormonism is, in its essence, God’s unique saving truth. (Without that assumption, the question seems somewhat pointless.)

From the perspective of eternity, there can be no legitimate reason for leaving the Church of God or for turning one’s back upon God’s revealed truth and will. Such a decision is simply and always wrong.

However, our knowledge here is limited, fragmentary, imperfect, and distorted. So it’s possible that one can leave the Church for reasons that, given the flawed nature of our knowledge in mortality, genuinely appear to be good and sufficient. It’s a matter of our perceptions.

But our perceptions are always colored by our own individual personal history, character, knowledge, ignorance, desires, mental and emotional health, ambitions, etc. So no decision to accept the gospel or to reject it is likely to be purely rational, uncolored by “personal” factors. 

We can trust that God knows this and appreciates it far better than we do, and that, in his mercy, he will take such factors into account. Those who have sincerely done their best will, I believe, be blessed for it, even if they took mistaken detours. On the other hand, I wouldn’t want to tempt God. And those who have lived carelessly, heedlessly, and cynically, are also living recklessly.

Having said all of this, I add for the record that my experience with friends, relatives, and acquaintances who have left the Church has been very similar to Beowulf’s. [Beowulf was another poster on the thread.]  I’m not sure if I know of a single case of purely intellectual apostasy.

 

Please notice how I nuanced my comments:

 

1.  I prefaced them by expressly stating that what I was going to say presupposed the truth of the Church’s claims.  Another way of saying this is that I was speaking as a believer, assuming that my view of reality both in this life and in the world to come is accurate.

 

2.  I said that there is no genuinely legitimate reason to give up faith in the Church’s assertions “from the perspective of eternity.”  This is vital:  Remember, I was presuming that Mormonism is true, and, accordingly, that the view from eternity also regards Mormonism as true.  Thus, any reason for concluding that Mormonism is false must, given that assumption, ultimately be incorrect.  And, in that sense, it cannot then ultimately be legitimate.

 

3.  However, I then observed that, from the perspective of this world, reasons can and often do appear  solidly grounded and fully legitimate, such that a person might sincerely believe them to be valid even if, from God’s perspective, they’re ultimately not.

 

4.  I then indicated that, in my opinion, there are very few decisions or theoretical commitments, if any — whether for or against a religious doctrine, whether political or marital or philosophical or whatever — that are purely intellectual.   My comment about being unsure that I’ve ever seen a case of “purely intellectual apostasy” should be understood with that proviso in mind.  I’m not sure that I’ve ever seen a purely intellectual anything, except perhaps in symbolic logic and mathematics — though some have argued that even those fields may not actually constitute exceptions.

 

5.  I also had in mind the many inactive Church members in my own extended family.  Most haven’t left for intellectual issues.  If anything, I suspect that most of them probably still believe the Church to be more or less true.  It simply isn’t for them, as they see it.  They’re just not interested.  They haven’t concluded that the Book of Mormon is false or that Joseph couldn’t read Egyptian or that the Kirtland Safety Society fiasco reflects poorly on him.  They haven’t thought about such issues.  They haven’t heard of the Kirtland bank failure.  They just don’t really want to be “churchy.”  I suspect that, by a very long distance, most inactive Church members are like this.  Relatively few are tortured intellectuals going through an existential crisis.  But that’s a subordinate issue.

 

6.  Finally, I professed faith in God’s merciful judgment, which, I trust, will take our quirks and our psychological defects and our limited knowledge and so forth into charitable account.

 

I’m frankly mystified that, as recently as tonight, I’ve essentially been accused, on the basis of the passage above and over my protests, of unseemly zeal for condemning those whose faith is weak or who leave the fold, of claiming that they’re all wicked and damned, that they cannot, ever, sincerely dissent from The Truth.

 

This is bizarre.  If anything, I flirt with universalism.  I don’t feel even remotely qualified to pronounce upon the eternal fate of anybody.  I love the comment from the late Pope John Paul II, when he was asked whether a Christian must believe that there is a hell.  Yes, he replied.  But we can hope it will be empty.

 

 

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  • ozfan2013

    Dan, I’m not sure why you would even bother posting this. I would think “most people” would know you are a believing member, and that the church presents itself as the “only true and living church” and that, ultimately, whether in-person or by proxy, membership in the club is mandatory for the reception of “top shelf” blessings. From that perspective, anyone rejecting the message is on the wrong side of the equation.

    But I’m trying to understand part of your argument. OK, so most of us aren’t robots and most issues we consider are a combination of intellect and emotions in our analysis. So it appears your implied conclusion is that the emotional factors prevent us from getting to the real truth of an issue. If that is what you’re saying, I would agree with that, but would not limit it to the disaffected only. It is also the case with the believer’s position. Many active members I have known have no interest in church history, in anything beyond superficial doctrines, even in real spirituality (as a loose term). But they are rameumpton-style grateful that they are part of the true church. To me, it casts a shadow on the whole concept of worthiness and blessings. If people are just acting on their emotion-fuelled biases, why should one group be “blessed” because they happen to have the “right” bias?

    • brotheroflogan

      They shouldn’t, and I believe that they aren’t. But If at one time they joined the church based upon a spiritual prompting, then they will receive many residual and powerful blessings as a result, even if later they become less committed.

    • DanielPeterson

      ozfan2013: “Dan, I’m not sure why you would even bother posting this.”

      It’s simple. I posted it because I’m tired of being misrepresented on this point and then attacked for views that I absolutely don’t hold.

      And yet, amazingly, such misrepresentation continues at this very moment, despite what I posted last night. (And see, too, noel’s reaction, above.)

      ozfan2013: “I’m trying to understand part of your argument. OK, so most of us aren’t robots [most of us?] and most issues we consider are a combination of intellect and emotions in our analysis. So it appears your implied conclusion is that the emotional factors prevent us from getting to the real truth of an issue.”

      No. Not quite. All of the other factors make getting to the truth harder, rarer, and less sure. (Human history — and not merely in religion — demonstrates that in spades, I should think.)

      ozfan2013: “If that is what you’re saying, I would agree with that, but would not limit it to the disaffected only. It is also the case with the believer’s position.”

      Please read what I wrote above. I expressly, explicitly, clearly, unmistakably, unambiguously, deliberately, and plainly said that non-intellectual factors play a role in ALL of our decisions, including those both for and against a given religious position. I really, honestly, don’t know how I could possibly say this any more clearly than I already have.

      ozfan2013: “To me, it casts a shadow on the whole concept of worthiness and blessings. If people are just acting on their emotion-fuelled biases, why should one group be ‘blessed’ because they happen to have the ‘right’ bias?”

      Please read what I wrote above. I never said that “people are just acting on their emotion-fueled biases.” I said that such biases play a role in our decisions.

      Moreover, I very plainly said that I expect divine grace to account for the static that interferes with correct choices, and I spoke of my inclination toward universalism, and, elsewhere — most recently in my closing remarks at the 2013 FAIR conference, which should go up online in the not too far distant future — I’ve very openly expressed my opinion that our ultimate fate isn’t going to rest on anything like merely affirming the correct set of propositions or getting a high score on a doctrinal test.

      • Crixus

        Why don’t you present a link to the original thread?

        I’ve read it and given the context you should have a very hard time convincing people that you’ve been “misrepresented.”

        You clearly supported Beowulf’s argument that people leave the Church because they are more sinful, or because they want to sin. You had nothing to say on the matter of intellectual apostasy except to say you know of no such example in existence. My apostasy was purely intellectual. The apostasy of most people I know is purely intellectual. None of us WANTED to find out the Church wasn’t true, we just did. We followed the evidence where it led us, which is strictly an intellectual endeavor.

        The only way you can convince people you’re a victim of misrepresentations, is by constantly withholding information they would need to make an informed judgment on the matter. And so you retreat to your blog where you can carefully select certain facts and them shape them into a “poor persecuted me” narrative to get pity points from your followers. How pathetic. You did this at Maxwell too. Retreating from meaningful dialogue with critics on forums, and then publishing some long winded, faith-promoting diatribe based on half-truths and bad psychoanalysis.

        The irony is you’re misrepresenting what I said last night all the while whining about being misrepresented. You’re beating a straw man argument as no one has ever accused you of damning people to hell. Nothing even close really. I’m not afraid to let readers read the full context of what was said in either exchange. You are, obviously, which is why this post will never see the light of day. You’re that predictable.

        • DanielPeterson

          (For those who may be wondering, “Crixus” is yet another pseudonym of Kevin Graham, who also posts under his own name. For some reason, although his attacks against me on a Facebook page last night were the immediate impetus for posting my blog entry above, he imagines that he’s the only person who’s made the accusation that he did and, moreover, that my post was really all about HIM.)

          Kevin, I’m perfectly fine with posting the URL for that discussion. And I’m perfectly fine with YOUR posting it. Feel free to do so.

          I get a kick out of your complaint that I’ve retreated to my blog, where discussion with me is impossible. You’re here, aren’t you? (At least it’s an improvement over your earlier claim that my blog didn’t allow comments at all, which, you declared, proved my cowardice. You kept posting that claim even after hundreds of comments had been made on my blog.)

          You’re entirely free to comment here, provided you’re civil. (Of course, I may or may not choose to respond to you. I haven’t found interacting with you in the past to be a very good use of my time.) I’m skeptical that you’ll be able to maintain a civil tone, though. In my observation of you over more years than I care to remember, those who disagree with you typically turn out, in your judgment, to be either liars, morons, or cowards, or some combination of the three. I’m not sure that you can help yourself.

  • noel

    One could turn this argument around and say that 90% of the scholars on your MormonscholarsTestify only stay in the church because of family connections and not because any cogent intellectual arguments.I am sure some LDS think there are such cogent arguments.

    • DanielPeterson

      What?????

      Please read what I wrote again.

  • Markk

    Hi Loran,
    What about those (as in my case) that feel their growing up in the church was a lie? There is the reality that many folks feel this way. Did I “sin”…sure, but I sinned as a saint also?
    There are countless of LDS that stay in the church and sin just as much as those that are claimed to have left for sinful reasons. It is some what of a straw man argument in many ways to say people leave for sin, when in fact many live a double life as LDS and “sinner.”
    I was recently in Utah, in Springville, and I viewed a map of LDS residents that live in that area. Almost every house had mark showing they were LDS…yet the markets in the immediate area have a lot of beer displays; who’s buying this alcohol? The same can be said about porn and other sins. I think this subject is much deeper and when one reads the stories at NOM, and Stay LDS, a much different picture is shown.
    I believe Daniel’s comment that went something along the line of ” they just got tired of playing church” makes allot more sense. But in the same thought, both intellectual and sinful reasons can lead to this type of attitude.
    Thanks
    MG

  • DanielPeterson

    I’ve explained, as clearly as I’m capable of saying it, that I don’t believe that all apostasy from the Lord’s church comes because of sin or a desire to sin.

    There are those, including yourself, who insist that that is precisely what I actually believe.

    This denial presumes that I’m lying.

    And, of course, you add to that presumption insinuations that I’m a bigot, that I “play the victim,” and that I misrepresent not only my own views but those of others.

    This sort of behavior goes a long way toward explaining why I don’t see much point in conversation with you.

  • DanielPeterson

    Crixus: “If our knowledge is limited fragmentary, imperfect, and distorted, then we have no basis to assert what ‘the perspective of eternity’ might be, since the listed limitations prevent us from knowing that.”

    That would be true only if our knowledge is always and inevitably so limited, fragmentary, imperfect, and distorted that we can have NO access to “the perspective of eternity.”

    But I didn’t say that. I said that such factors limit and interfere with our capacity to perceive eternal things, making such perception more or less difficult, not that they altogether eliminate that capacity.

    Moreover, we routinely reach conclusions and make decisions — in the non-religious sphere as well as the religious — under conditions of less than perfect empirical knowledge.

    Your response, Kevin Graham or Crixus, replies to an inaccurate version of my actual position.


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