This is an open forum for anyone with an interest in Mormonism and the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS), including students of Mormonism, Mormons of all levels of activity and belief, former Mormons, and those curious about Mormonism.
I wrote this as a comment on another thread and at the request of some users have decided to make it a separate post. I'm glad that some people found value in it, and I look forward to your insights and discussion.
I'm going to argue against the epistemological value of Alma 32 as a means of identifying truth because it has major logical issues: it's reliant upon begging the question (same as Moroni 10), it relies on circular reasoning, and it operates as a hermetically sealed system (thanks to BWV for this). Lastly, Alma 32 provides escape hatches AGAINST falsifiability, which is the cornerstone of rational pursuits of knowledge. In essence, Alma 32 can only ever be used to prove that something is true, and never that it is false. This along with the requirement to desire an outcome first, leads to an inevitable conclusion of circular logic.
Allow me to highlight the issues specifically regarding non-falsifiability from Alma, since I think BWV did a better job of highlighting the circularity of the issue better than I ever could. Let's start with the simple question, is it possible for the seed to be false (bad)?
32 Therefore, if a seed groweth it is good, but if it groweth not, behold it is not good, therefore it is cast away.
OK, so we should throw away bad seeds. How do we know if a seed is bad? Well it seems easy at first, it doesn't grow. Why might the seed not grow though?
28 Now, we will compare the word unto a seed. Now, if ye give place, that a seed may be planted in your heart, behold, if it be a true seed, or a good seed, if ye do not cast it out by your unbelief, that ye will resist the Spirit of the Lord, behold, it will begin to swell within your breasts;
OK, so unbelief on the part of the planter can make a good seed appear bad, in other words, if the experiment doesn't work, it's your fault. That's problem 1.
38 But if ye neglect the tree, and take no thought for its nourishment, behold it will not get any root; and when the heat of the sun cometh and scorcheth it, because it hath no root it withers away, and ye pluck it up and cast it out.
39 Now, this is not because the seed was not good, neither is it because the fruit thereof would not be desirable; but it is because your ground is barren, and ye will not nourish the tree, therefore ye cannot have the fruit thereof.
Once again, we see that the truth as taught by Alma is both not self-sufficient, or self-evident. It is wholly dependent upon the state of the person that is seeking to learn. So it is possible to have 3 options:
a good seed that grows,
a good seed the doesn't grow,
and a bad seed that doesn't grow.
How can we tell the difference between a good seed that doesn't grow and a bad seed that doesn't grow? We can't. Instead, we are told to simply repeat the experiment ad nauseum until we reach the conclusion that either the seed is good because it grows, or even if it doesn't grow it's still good, it's just our fault it isn't growing.
That is not a reliable or particularly useful epistemology. You'll notice that Alma only describes 3 conditions, when in reality according to Christ there are actually 4 (Matt. 7:17-18). The fourth that isn't discussed in Alma is a bad seed that does grow, and it brings forth bad fruit. Alma 32:31 hints at this possibility but only in passing and implication:
31 And now, behold, are ye sure that this is a good seed? I say unto you, Yea; for every seed bringeth forth unto its own likeness.
So, what should a person do in the LDS church when they experiment upon something, and find that the fruits of it are not good to them? Our LDS canon is silent on this option because it is presupposed that it is an impossible situation, nevertheless, we fervently teach that even our Prophets and Apostles are men, prone to fallibility, and WILL make mistakes. Those 2 options are incongruent and cannot coexist, so we pretend like our leaders are infallible knowing the whole time that we are lying to ourselves and others.
Ultimately, because of these issues I have to conclude that self-deception, inability to falsify, and built-in mechanisms that support circular reasoning make the Alma epistemology untenable as a way to view the world. It simply isn't good, nor will it lead to truth.
Due to the increased level of reporting, as well as behavior that has repeatedly been brought to our attention of trolling, personal attacks, derogatory meta discussions regarding the sub, and overall drama that we've been seeing lately, the mod team has decided to issue a warning.
This is affecting everyone
In our opinion, there are only a handful of posters that are responsible for the vast majority of all of the drama on the subreddit. While we have steadfastly stood by the position that our subreddit is a place for all voices of all people interested in mormonism to participate, along with a desire to limit censorship, it appears that allowing a few bad actors to continually bring down the level of discourse within the subreddit is actually contributing to worse participation and quality of discussion overall. This matches the intent and desire of rule #5, to limit those behaviors which while not strictly speaking break one of the other 4 rules, are detrimental to the subreddit as a whole.
What we've been doing hasn't been working
We have been issuing warnings, removing comments, speaking with posters in comments, and trying to ease the level of discontent that has been brewing, but it does not appear to be working. So, we have decided as a team that we will institute something we haven't done in the past, we will begin issuing temp bans to those users that consistently are reported as troublemakers or who work against the subreddit and its goals.
Some content does not belong here
Specifically, we will looking for posts and comments that are angry, spiteful, personal, and generally would be more appropriate on r/exmormon than here. If you would like to vent your frustrations and anger, the exmormon subreddit is setup as a support group and is better equipped to respond to those emotions. One of our tenets as a subreddit is civil, respectful dialogue, which can become difficult when emotion overrides compassion and logic. If you cannot contain your emotions on a topic, please refrain from posting or we will issue a temp ban to give you time to work through those emotions in a more positive environment.
Continual negative meta discussion is not productive
Likewise, continual complaints about the subreddit including downvotes, unfairness or inequality of demographics, along with failure to substantively engage on topics will be grounds for a temp ban. Time has consistently shown that negative meta discussion regarding the subreddit and specifically downvoting behaviors INCREASES the unwanted behavior instead of lessening it. It creates a downward spiral that requires effort and substantive change to correct. In our views as a mod team, a break from the subreddit for a short time would create the space for reflection necessary to either re-calibrate expectations or adjust your approach in substance and style.
Our goal is to provide a space for people to share, learn, and teach others
It is our continued hope as a mod team that all members of our community will take to heart the responsibility to moderate themselves. We are all capable of determining if our actions are contributing positively to the environment of the subreddit and making a space for more people to participate rather than less. We hope to encourage thoughtful, meaningful dialogue supported by evidence, personal experience, study, or insights. While it is inevitable that even with the same information many of us will reach different conclusions, it is possible to create a space for everyone to share the information and process about how they arrived where they are. In sharing our knowledge and journeys we can be beneficial to others that are in similar situations.
Last night, I had a dream about a pit bull that was threatening me on my mission It made me think of all of my memorable encounters with dogs as a missionary. Here is my most memorable one.
I was in Georgia, USA (‘15-‘17). I was in a Spanish branch, so finding people to teach was at times difficult. Me and my comp went to some trailer park area. We found a white guy who was working on his porch, so we talked to him and asked if he knew where any Latinos lived. He pointed across the street and said they were in their back yard.
We go across the street and knocked on the door, but nobody answered. So we decided to check out the back yard. We went around the side of the trailer and when we got there, we didn’t see any humans. There was, however, a giant pit bull that snarled once and then started chasing us. Thank god there was a leash it was tethered to, so we just had to get back to the front yard! It was an exhilarating 5 seconds, but we were laughing right after the incident!
Just a couple days ago an Idaho school board got together, debated, and with a majority of votes decided that it was time for my former high school mascot's name to be retired after almost 90 years of usage. With progressive society seeping into even small little towns like the one I was raised in, it was inevitably going to be changed at some point. And for good reasons. It was a derogatory term used to describe a group of people based on their skin color back in a different time.
It's a bit of a sad thing for many people that I know and grew up with. That name represented a culture of pride, of unity for them. A legacy that they seem to think will almost be forgotten entirely with the change of the name. I try to have empathy for them and understand that the Redskin name meant a lot to all of us when we fought against the surrounding high schools. I also am a bit saddened for them as they push so hard against changes that a progressive society will continue to make that make them reminisce of the "good old days."
The online forums and Facebook debate surrounding the issue has been... lively. Almost everyone that I grew up with is a member of the church and very conservative, and the resistance to the school mascot name change has been very strong. I've read comments that say that native Americans are "choosing to be offended" by the name:
Those who choose to be offended will always choose to be offended.
Another comment went as far as to compare early Mormons to Native Americans in treatment :
Your ancestors and mine were treated the same, they were murdered, persecuted and driven from their lands because of religion...
I've bitten my tongue throughout the conversation because I want to have a relationship with my family and disagreeing with them on religion has already been a huge source of contention. I don't need to add any fuel to the fire by pointing out the double standard that is being held by church members in the name change... But it BLOWS MY FREAKING MIND that people can't see the irony of this and the double standard that they're holding.
Russell Nelson single handedly asked the entire world to stop using the term Mormon because it is apparently offensive and derogatory even though they ended up self promoting the name Mormon and doing a "I'm a mormon" campaign just a few years ago. It also didn't start out being derogatory and was initially embraced and used by early Mormons to describe themselves (thanks u/frogontrombone for the amazing research). I did not see a single LDS person that I know complain openly about this sweeping name change that was made without anyone's input. One day we were Mormons and the next, it was taboo to say. People justified the change and agreed to it instantly.
It's the same people who are asking the world to not call them Mormons anymore because it's "an offensive term" who are bitching and whining about another group that wanted the name Redskin removed because it is offensive to them and their heritage. That's called a double standard. No one stops to think about these things sometimes. Self awareness and introspection are not common skills apparently.
Let us also point out a couple of differences here between "Mormon" and "Redskin."
One is a term used that is based on skin color and the other is not.
One is a term used to describe something that you cannot change. The other is a religious preference.
One was used by one of the groups to self identify and was embraced. The other was never used or adopted by the group.
One of these names was changed by a committee that listened to different sides of the debate and weighed out the options as a group after doing so. One of the names was changed by a single man who had personally wanted it changed for years.
One group has an ideology promoted in the book that it was named after that gave them the conviction and right to convert the other group, based on their skin colors.
One group was persecuted for their beliefs. The other for their skin color. In neither case was it okay, but one case is over something non controllable, the other was for something that is controllable. I try to have sympathy for both sides here.
I can't say any of these things running through my mind here to the people I know because I belong to another group altogether now that is judged, looked down upon, and pitied for my disbelief by those closest to me. I'm no longer part of the in group that I belonged to so my opinion on any and all matters that disagree with the group I was born into draw ire and anger. So I post it here anonymously to hear others' thoughts and opinions. I'd love to hear yours.
I hear members caution us not to use today’s standards to judge the prophets in the early church. I completely agree with them. There are some things that are simply not well understood because we simply did not live in that time.
Best example is the “underage” argument. Age of adulthood is fairly arbitrary and established by dictates. Yes, traditional marriages like this happened back then. No, they weren’t considered pedophilic.
But members also have to acknowledge that there are some things that are universally wrong about the polygamy story. Coercion. Lying. Coveting. Stealing. Fraud. Changing doctrinal documents ex post. Sending a man on a mission to marry his wife.
These are universally wrong. They were wrong at that time. They caused problems among the saints at that time. So I don’t know why people focus SO MUCH on the underage argument for their disgust in JS when that, to me, is perhaps the most easily defendable problem of the polygamy story. And yes, I realize the church does itself no favors by glossing over their ages to make it sound like the girls were older.
Even if polygamy 'wasn't illegal', even if he never had sex with them, under what moral code, under what interpretation of human decency and compassion is it okay for a man in position of religious authority to barter the exaltation of a family for the explicit permission to marry a 14 year old girl? For the life of me I cannot fathom how or why Mormons justify these actions. I can think of no reason a 37 year old man would EVER have an excuse to marry a 14 year old.