Is all loss of faith or apostasy caused by sin and the desire to sin?

 

The Conference Center of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, in Salt Lake City, Utah

 

The interior of the Conference Center
(click to enlarge)

 

President Dieter F. Uchtdorf’s concluding talk in this morning’s opening session of the 2013 semiannual conference of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints was an important one, and I look forward to its publication.

 

President Dieter F. Uchtdorf

 

I was pleased to hear him say, from the pulpit of the Conference Center, that falling away from the Church isn’t always the result of sin or a desire to sin.

 

I’ve held the same position for as long as I can remember — it seems to me, based on my experience, to be obviously true — and have repeatedly said so (for example, here and, then, here, and then here).  He even went on to say, as I too have gone on to say, that, while it’s understandable that some lose faith and fall away, in the end the Gospel is true and such loss of faith and apostasy is mistaken.

 

I wasn’t, of course, the first to come up with this view.  Far from it.  It’s scarcely new doctrine.  But some, no doubt, will claim that it is.

 

Unfortunately, if I say “Loss of faith doesn’t necessarily originate in sin or the desire to sin,” certain folks out there are immediately certain that I’m merely using cunning code language to express my real belief, which is, they say, that loss of faith necessarily originates in sin and the desire to sin.

 

I’m afraid that I simply don’t have the resources, in my command of English or any other language, to declare any more clearly my position on this matter.

 

Fortunately, President Uchtdorf, a native speaker of German, has stated my position with unmistakable clarity.

 

I can sit back now, with absolute confidence, and wait for the inevitable:  Somebody will comment, somewhere, that Daniel Peterson must be very upset with President Uchtdorf’s supposedly new, kinder, more gentle stance on this matter.

 

 

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  • http://youngbloods.org Carl Youngblood

    Yet again you take a perfectly good, positive message and turn it into an opportunity to position yourself adversarially against some real or imaginary opponent. Why not simply rejoice in Elder Uchtdorf’s important counsel against a problematic aspect of our culture?

    • DanielPeterson

      Why do you feel the need to complain?

      I irritate you. You’ve said so several times. Why do you feel the urge to repeat it so often?

      If my personality exasperates you, avoid me. If my blog turns you off, don’t call it up.

      Other people, judging from Facebook responses thus far, seem to have taken the entry well and in good spirits. If you can’t, just let it go.

      • http://youngbloods.org Carl Youngblood

        Dan, this is only the third time I mention it. I’m not saying this to express irritation. I’m trying to encourage you to consider what I believe is a more charitable approach. I feel that you seem to relish contention a little too much and promote situations where it will occur more frequently. You seem to enjoy talking about all the people who dislike you. While there will always be critics, it is also possible to make criticism and contention more likely. I think you’re doing this.

        • DanielPeterson

          I don’t.

          However, you’ve now said this on three distinct occasions.

          I’ve heard your opinion. We don’t see this the same way.

          You can, however, go on now, happy in the knowledge that you tried.

          • http://youngbloods.org Carl Youngblood

            Thanks for listening at least Dan and not simply deleting my comments. I hope you’ll continue to consider the possibility that there is some truth to what I’ve said.

          • DanielPeterson

            I was long told that, if I stopped responding to certain critics who delight in defaming me, they would lose interest and stop. So I left their message board three years ago. Maybe four. But there’s been no change. They still start threads about me every week. Sometimes several of them.

            I can do nothing about such people. They are what they are.

            But I can continue to state and restate my belief that apostasy and lack of faith occur for a myriad of sometimes complex reasons. And I will continue to do so, as long as there are people out there who insist on misrepresenting my position. I feel no obligation to surrender the field to them, and don’t think that it would be wise to do so.

          • Elizabeth Scott

            Nice blog, Dan. Great message.

          • Russell Arben Fox

            I was long told that, if I stopped responding to certain critics who
            delight in defaming me, they would lose interest and stop. So I left
            their message board three years ago. Maybe four. But there’s been no
            change. They still start threads about me every week. Sometimes
            several of them.

            Dan, if you’ve left their message board, how do you know how often they start threads about you?

          • DanielPeterson

            I don’t post there anymore. I still look in from time to time. It’s interesting to see what’s agitating the hive.

            The point is that I no longer post there, so it’s not my participation or my responses that are driving their obsession with me. Rather, it feeds on itself.

          • http://youngbloods.org Carl Youngblood

            Just to clarify my claims in response to what you’ve said here, I’m not really saying that people will stop criticizing you if you change your approach. I think what you’re saying in this post is great. It’s mostly the last paragraph that I don’t think is very helpful. I think your posts would be more charming if they conveyed a blissful ignorance of your critics rather than almost always mentioning what they’re saying or what they might be saying. Anyhow, thanks for listening and I’ll try to avoid commenting further on this.

          • DanielPeterson

            You think that my posts “almost always” mention my critics.

            Here’s an exercise, for you, Carl Youngblood, or for anybody else who’s inclined to agree with you on this: Count my posts. Count the number of my posts in which my critics are mentioned. Work out the percentage of my posts that mention my critics. I doubt that you’ll find the percentage anywhere near 100%. I would be very surprised, indeed, if it even approached 25%. (I doubt, frankly, that it’s close to 10%.)

          • http://youngbloods.org Carl Youngblood

            “Almost always” is probably an exaggeration. Regardless, there are a non-negligible number of posts where mentioning your critics response to a certain position seems to add nothing or even detract from the post itself, which usually has little or nothing to do with the fact that some people opposed it.

          • DanielPeterson

            It was definitely an exaggeration.

            You and I disagree about whether such things add or detract. Probably because we come from different backgrounds and read the posts in different contexts — and even have distinct views of what they’re intended to accomplish.

            You seem to think that my “critics” may be fictional. They’re not, but the fact that, as far as you know, they could be “real or imaginary” speaks very eloquently of our very different experiences.

            So far as I can tell, your reaction hasn’t been at all common among the readers of the post.

          • http://youngbloods.org Carl Youngblood

            I actually know your critics are not fictional. Although I don’t frequent these forums you’re referring to, I know they’re out there, and I hear about some criticism second-hand. I just think your arguments would succeed better if you seemed more above the fray, not trying so hard to poke fun at or respond to your critics. I’ll realize this is a subjective opinion on my part and I’ll take you at your word that you rarely get this kind of feedback from others. But I can assure you that I have seen a few other facebook conversations about you in which people have expressed similar reactions but apparently are not willing to or interested in communicating their perceptions with you. I at least am attempting to communicate this perception directly with you, for what it’s worth. And I appreciate your willingness to hear it.

          • DanielPeterson

            I’m willing to hear it, but I’m honestly beginning to wonder how many times we should repeat ourselves on this issue.

            De gustibus non est disputandum. One of my favorite sayings.

          • David H

            You’ve got me curious. Google translate says this favorite saying of yours means “The taste is not the dispute.” Is that accurate, or can you give me a better translation?

          • DanielPeterson

            The usual way of rendering it is “There’s no disputing about taste.”

            In other words, you can’t somehow “prove” that broccoli is delicious to somebody who just doesn’t like it.

          • Ryan

            You may not frequent the critics’ forums, but you could. Why save all the constructive criticism for their victims?

          • http://youngbloods.org Carl Youngblood

            There will always be unreasonable critics. I’m not very interested in engaging with them. That is precisely what I’m advocating: ignoring them. I welcome thoughtful disagreement but I don’t think that is what Dan is referring to.

          • Ryan

            In my experience, those who are more “interested” in criticizing a victim than his or her attackers, while claiming to disapprove of the attack, usually justify their aim by offering up one or both of the following:

            1) They “care” more about the victim than the attacker, and so they save for the victim the loving gift of their exclusive criticism.

            2) The attackers are “lost causes.” If the attackers were not hopeless then, yes of course, heaps of criticism would be leveled at them.

            Naturally, both justifications are bull****.

          • http://youngbloods.org Carl Youngblood

            Ryan, you’re the only one calling Dan a victim. That wouldn’t be my choice of words. He clearly can handle himself.

          • Ryan

            Fiendish, savage, devils have been defaming, mocking, insulting, lying about, and ripping into Peterson for years and you’re arm-chairing his response. Great job man.

            And you wouldn’t call him a victim. Seems things are becoming clearer.

          • DanielPeterson

            Actually, Mr. Youngblood, I would call myself a victim. I can’t think of any more apt description of it.

            On just one specific message board, for example, I’ve been the target of a seven-year-long campaign of defamation and disinformation (perhaps it’s up to eight years now) led by one anonymous and possibly deranged individual but joined enthusiastically and uncritically by several others.

            Message boards are public. They can be (and are) accessed around the world.

            On this very blog, I posted three previous entries in which I explained that I do not believe that all apostasy and all loss of faith is caused by sin or a desire to sin. On this very blog, several people insisted in reply, at length and despite my flat denials, that what I really meant was that all apostasy and all loss of faith is caused by sin or a desire to sin. And, then, they denounced me at length for this wicked and uncharitable belief.

            This is no small thing. I don’t appreciate being publicly misrepresented. And, while it’s easy for you to dismiss gross distortions of my views as of negligible significance, I find that a bit more difficult.

            While you’re plainly okay with allowing misrepresentations of my positions to circulate uncontradicted, I’m not.

            “He jests at scars that never felt a wound.” (Romeo and Juliet II.2)

          • http://youngbloods.org Carl Youngblood

            If you prefer the term, that’s of course your prerogative. From my perspective, your position seems contradictory, as if you are simultaneously denying and claiming a strong concern about what your critics are saying.

          • DanielPeterson

            You appear to imagine, Mr. Youngblood, that I’m obsessed with these critics. But I’m not. There is a broad middle ground between obsession with them, on the one hand, and flatly ceding to them the right to publicly explain my positions on issues for me.

            It’s rather curious, by the way, since your principal complaint seems to be that I won’t “let it go,” that, despite your stated intent to try to stop beating this particular dead horse, you can’t seem to let it go.

          • http://youngbloods.org Carl Youngblood

            I’ve just been replying to all the people who are replying to me. If you’d rather I didn’t, just let me know.

          • http://youngbloods.org Carl Youngblood

            By the way, my use of “real or imaginary” was actually in direct response to your use of the subjunctive: “Somebody will comment, somewhere…” Since your opponent here was unnamed, I used this expression to echo your lack of specificity.

    • RogersDW

      “Yet again you take a perfectly good, positive message and turn it into
      an opportunity to position yourself adversarially against some real or
      imaginary opponent.”

      Covey’s “seek first to understand, then to be understood” might have helped you in this hapless assault on Dan on his own blog.

      Sigh…

      • http://youngbloods.org Carl Youngblood

        I appreciate the fact that Dan has been much kinder in his response to my comments than many of his followers, like yourself, have.

        • RogersDW

          Carl, I feel that if you would’ve launched your opening salvo on this page in the spirit of tact, seeking clarification and greater understanding, it would not have resulted in Dan replying:

          “I irritate you. You’ve said so several times. Why do you feel the urge to repeat it so often?”

          It doesn’t appear that he appreciates your response either, despite what you think or claim.

          Peace be with you brother.

  • Loran

    “Dan, this is only the third time I mention it. I’m not saying this to express irritation. I’m trying to encourage you to consider what I believe is a more charitable approach. I feel that you seem to relish contention a little too much and promote situations where it will occur more frequently.”

    If anyone thinks that Daniel “relishes” contention, please let me introduce you to a bevy of his long time critics, for whom contention and its relishment are as life and breath. All of us who have spent significant time in the Augean Stables of Internet anti-Mormonism are just a bit sensitized to the rather formatted responses of its denizens to any number of things said by the Brethren, and the way in which they will be spun and used against us based upon the reigning narrative presently in vogue.

    On one particular message board (yes, THAT message board) a well known poster there recently called for my banning for dropping by and leaving some links to my Facebook page and my blog, but not actually saying anything or starting an argument. This is the first time I’ve actually seen calls for the banning of someone for not saying something outside board rules rather than for violating them.

    These are the mentalities involved. Daniel is not the only target. John Gee is hated and vilified with a purple passion specifically for his association and actual academic expertise relative to the BofA.

    Its kind of an intellectual combat fatigue, I think.

  • David_Naas

    I, too, appreciate what President Uchtdorf has to say. There are those who want to make every deviation (as per the line in “God’s Army”) a ‘Word of Wisdom Problem’. This approach is both dismissive and disrespectful. The counsel was given with the usual precision and clarity which one expects of the “German Apostle”. However, I have no doubt that there will be some who will manage to ignore or misinterpret what he said.

  • RaymondSwenson

    I appreciated Elder Uchtdorff’s message, both acknowledging that some members fall away because of concerns about the historical underpinnings of the Church or other topics of non-LDS scholarship, and affirming that those who want to be open-minded should be open to the possibility that the Church and its narrative are really true, and not give up the search for truth prematurely.

    A year ago, I read a blog entry by a former LDS scholar who said that a factor in his decision to embrace Catholicism was the Big Bang Theory and its coincidence with the ex nihilo doctrine of creation as taught by St. Augustine, in contrast to the teachings of Joseph Smith about the creation described in Genesis One involving the organization of already existing but chaotic matter. If one is relying on a scientific theory for one’s religious decisions, one should at least keep up on the state of the science, including knowing that the cosmic inflation that is necessary to explain the uniformity of the universe implies that such inflation happens repeatedly, and that the universe is an eternal one with constant new creation, infinite backward as well as forward in time. In other words, more like Joseph Smith’s doctrine than Augustine’s.

    It has been my own observation that those who have been patient over the last half century have been rewarded with the repeated confirmation by science, history, and literary analysis that Joseph knew far more than anyone of his time and place could have known.

  • DanielPeterson

    I didn’t know it, either! Still don’t! LOL!

    And it’s not a ziggurat.

  • kiwi57

    One of the things that has long amused me about America is the neverending supply of righteous zealots and disappointed witch-hunters who see something “pagan” in simple geometric figures, and something “occult” in prime numbers.

    I’ve also noticed that many Americans are not good at spelling. Is it possible the two phenomena are related in some way?

    You do understand, James Muir, that it’s spelled “mathematics,” not “mathemagic?”


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