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Comment author: gwern 22 April 2013 02:27:36AM 6 points [-]

If someone wrote down a version of the laws of physics that wasn't computable, you wouldn't be able to use it to compute any predictions, so no one would use such laws.

I don't think that's entirely true. Consider a well-defined real number which is uncomputable yet approximations of it can be computed, such as Chaitin's omega; now imagine a laws of physics which uses omega somewhere in it (perhaps as a physical constant). The full laws are uncomputable due to the inclusion of omega, yet you could compute a finite prefix of omega and make your predictions with that. You could even show that the laws are not just that finite prefix by computing further digits into omega and demonstrating that additional digits yields additional predictive accuracy.

Comment author: JohnH 22 April 2013 03:44:13AM *  0 points [-]

I see a problem with this: There doesn't seem to be a way to tell if omega itself is in the laws of physics or some finite precision approximation to omega. Given any set of finite observable phenomena and any finite amount of time there will be some finite precision approximation to any real number which is sufficient in the equations to explain all observations, assuming the models used are otherwise correct and otherwise computable. How would one tell if the universe uses the real value Pi or a finite precision version of Pi whose finiteness is epsilon greater then what is needed to calculate any observable value?

Comment author: Bugmaster 15 April 2013 09:12:21PM 0 points [-]

I don't know that much about Mormonism, but isn't it possible that there are multiple different sects of it, just like there are multiple sects of conventional Christianity, Judaism, Wicca, etc. ? In this case, each member of a sect would see himself as the One True Mormon (tm), and would be technically correct, despite believing in different things than members of other sects.

Comment author: JohnH 15 April 2013 09:44:12PM 1 point [-]

Mormonism is much more structured then that. There are different sects but those sects are different churches, both of us come from the LDS church, which is the largest and the one that everyone thinks of when they say Mormon (unless they are thinking of the polygamous FLDS).

There are those that call themselves New Order Mormons which are within the LDS church, by which they mean they don't believe in any of the truth claims of the church but like the culture (or something like that, I am sure I am taking what they say out of its "rich contextual setting").

Comment author: CCC 15 April 2013 08:47:53PM *  1 point [-]

The reason we are having this discussion is because I feel you've characterized me unfairly as "the Ex-Mormon who never really knew his own religion and had no reason to believe in the fringe theories he did". My goal is to support my case that I really was a mainstream Latter-day Saint before I lost my faith.

So, this whole debate is about whether your-previous-self, or JohnH, is better deserving of the title of 'true Mormon'?


On a different point:

How could anyone ignore these parts of the Gospel while studying "deep doctrine"?

Very easily, as Jesus repeatedly stated.

What Jesus stated on this is extremely illogical to me. Why is what he said logical to you?

I would like to draw a figurative circle around this statement...

So you think that it was unreasonable for me to assume that men who are given an office BY GOD with the title "prophet, seer and revelator" and who speak directly with Jesus Christ, face-to-face, would not teach false doctrine? Do you think that a person who speaks face-to-face with Jesus Christ would then teach his own false ideas to members of Christ's One True Church?

...and compare it to this one. They appear to contradict each other. Can you explain?

Comment author: JohnH 15 April 2013 09:17:35PM 0 points [-]

I am mostly just answering direct questions, I am horrible at walking away when questions are asked. Since this conversation is far outside of the norms of the group, I will do so in a private message if atomliner wants to continue the conversation. If he would rather it be public I would be willing to set up a blog for the purpose of continuing this conversation.

Comment author: atomliner 15 April 2013 07:35:26PM 0 points [-]

Paul saying those that didn't know God and that didn't have the law but that acted justly being justified because of their actions doesn't imply to you that it is possible to be moral, healthy, and happy without faith in God?

I don't know where you draw that implication from the word "justified". So, no.

How about this, where in "There is a law, irrevocably decreed in heaven before the foundations of this world, upon which all blessings are predicated— And when we obtain any blessing from God, it is by obedience to that law upon which it is predicated." does it mention anything about having faith in God being a prerequisite for receiving a blessing?

I guess I did have a very abstract belief that those who followed the commandments, the "law", even if they didn't believe, would still receive the same blessings as those who do. But, the part of The God Delusion that talked about atheists being just as happy, moral, and healthy as theists never said anything about following Mormon commandments to do so, and for that reason it was a revolutionary concept to me. What was a new concept was that you could have a lifestyle completely different from those lived by Latter-day Saints and still be moral, happy, and healthy. Though, come to think about it, I was introduced to this concept not just in The God Delusion, but also in my interactions with hundreds of Brazilian families. Certainly the mission experience added to the knowledge base I needed to refute Mormonism.

Where in "if ye have done it unto the least of these they brethren ye have done it unto me" does it say that one must believe in God for that to be valid?

"Till you have learnt to serve men, how can you serve spirits?"

" Would God that all the LORD'S people were prophets, and that the LORD would put his spirit upon them!"

The reason we are having this discussion is because I feel you've characterized me unfairly as "the Ex-Mormon who never really knew his own religion and had no reason to believe in the fringe theories he did". My goal is to support my case that I really was a mainstream Latter-day Saint before I lost my faith. So, you can use your apologetic arguments all you want for whatever idea you have about Mormonism, but if they aren't based clearly in the scriptures (which I studied a great deal), and if they were never taught widely in the Church, then why exactly did I err in not coming to the same understanding as you? I do not think you have any good evidence for why I was an atypical Mormon who was unjustified in believing in the things I did.

How could anyone ignore these parts of the Gospel while studying "deep doctrine"?

Very easily, as Jesus repeatedly stated.

What Jesus stated on this is extremely illogical to me. Why is what he said logical to you?

every member of the First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles were prophets, seers, and revelators and that they spoke directly with Jesus Christ, therefore they were incapable of teaching false doctrine to the members of the Church.

I am not sure how the first part of this lead to the second part of this, but I will believe that was your belief.

So you think that it was unreasonable for me to assume that men who are given an office BY GOD with the title "prophet, seer and revelator" and who speak directly with Jesus Christ, face-to-face, would not teach false doctrine? Do you think that a person who speaks face-to-face with Jesus Christ would then teach his own false ideas to members of Christ's One True Church?

My whole life.

And you are how old?

Comment author: JohnH 15 April 2013 08:06:29PM -2 points [-]

So, you can use your apologetic arguments all you want for whatever idea you have about Mormonism, but if they aren't based clearly in the scriptures

Please show what I said (excluding the reference to Confucius) is not clearly based in scripture, Numbers 11:29 may be helpful.

would not teach false doctrine?

Yes. that is unreasonable to assume

Do you think that a person who speaks face-to-face with Jesus Christ would then teach his own false ideas to members of Christ's One True Church?

Absolutely, if Jesus says something to a prophet then what Jesus said was correct. What the prophet thinks and communicates in addition to that particular thing has no guarantee of being correct and is very likely to be at least partially incorrect. The prophet will place the words of Jesus in the framework of other beliefs and cultural constructs in the world in which they live. Prophets just as much as anyone else do not receive the fullness at once, meaning that of necessity some of their beliefs (and therefore some of their teachings) will not be correct, excluding Jesus. Prophets are not perfect any more then anyone else is perfect and we are supposed to use the light of the Spirit to discern the truth ourselves rather then follow the prophet without thought or seeking to know for ourselves. In other words, telling people to seek God as to every question is calling them to be prophets.

Why is what he said logical to you?

Because I have not stood in the Divine Council and so I know that not only do I not know the secrets of God I also do not have a complete understanding of faith, repentance, baptism, and the Gift of the Holy Ghost, of loving God or of loving my neighbor as myself, nor will I until, either in this life or the next, I hear the Father say Ye shall have eternal life and receive an end to my faith.

And you are how old?

Why is that relevant? Older than you.

Comment author: [deleted] 15 April 2013 05:37:35AM 4 points [-]

I tend to focus on the current authorized messengers from God and the Holy Spirit as I feel that is what I have been instructed to do.

Who authorizes messengers from God? It's not like He has a public key, after all...

Comment author: JohnH 15 April 2013 05:23:37PM 0 points [-]

Who authorizes messengers from God?

God obviously.

It's not like He has a public key,

There are actually quite a few rules given to determine if a messenger is from God. Jesus for instance said "If any man will do his will, he shall know of the doctrine, whether it be of God, or whether I speak of myself", then there is the qualification in Deuteronomy, the requirement in John, the experiment in Alma, the promise in Moroni, and some details in the D&C. It is somewhat of a bootstrapping problem as one must already trust one of those sources, or the person presenting those sources, enough to move forward in trying to verify the source and messenger.

Comment author: atomliner 15 April 2013 04:28:00PM *  0 points [-]

I already pointed you to Romans 2, specifically in this case Romans 2:13-15, did you want more?

Yes. I don't see anything in Romans 2 that shows me that you can be moral, healthy, and happy without faith in God.

A prophet is only a prophet when they are acting as a prophet.

But you have to admit it's hard sometimes to distinguish whether or not a prophet is acting as one.

More specifically there are multiple First Presidency statements saying Adam-God is wrong.

I never believed that Adam WAS Elohim, but I did believe that what Brigham Young and others intended to say was that Adam was the God of this Earth.

Statements by Apostles saying that the racist theology was created with limited understanding and is wrong

I never believed that black people were cursed for being fence-sitters in the War in Heaven, but I did believe that it was because of the curse of Cain that they couldn't have the priesthood until 1978. In my defense I started believing around 2009 that the priesthood ban was just an incorrect Church policy. Still, I never read anything from the Apostles saying that the priesthood ban was wrong, just that it was unknown why there was a priesthood ban.

I am not referring to polygamy as a practice but the belief that polygamy is the new and everlasting covenant itself, which again has revelation and first presidency statements and even the scriptures on polygamy saying that is wrong.

I always believed that the new and everlasting covenant was referring to celestial marriage, but I did believe that polygamy would eventually be re-instated being that before the Second Coming there would have to be a restitution of all things.

Also given that none of those theories were presented to the Quorums of the Church and that Apostles and a member of the First Presidency disagreed vocally with Adam-God at the time I would have thought it was clear that one can disagree with ideas not presented as revelation and not sanctioned by the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve.

I really only developed an understanding of Official Doctrine after my deconversion. Before, however, my understanding was that every member of the First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles were prophets, seers, and revelators and that they spoke directly with Jesus Christ, therefore they were incapable of teaching false doctrine to the members of the Church.

what do you even mean by the "weightier parts of the gospel"?

The two great commandments: Love God, Love your neighbor as yourself, and the actual gospel: faith, repentance, baptism, and the gift of the Holy Ghost.

You were saying how those who read the Journal of Discourses "seem to be those that are trying to prove the church wrong and those that are seeking 'deep' doctrine while ignoring the weightier parts of the gospel". I think you were trying to put me in the latter category, suggesting that I was ignoring what was really important in the Gospel. Now that you've explained what these "weightier parts" are, I assure you that I did not ignore these teachings. Those are incredibly simple and basic concepts that I had known for years and years. How could anyone ignore these parts of the Gospel while studying "deep doctrine"?

How long have you been a member of the LDS Church?

Comment author: JohnH 15 April 2013 05:11:35PM -2 points [-]

you can be moral, healthy, and happy without faith in God

Paul saying those that didn't know God and that didn't have the law but that acted justly being justified because of their actions doesn't imply to you that it is possible to be moral, healthy, and happy without faith in God? How about this, where in "There is a law, irrevocably decreed in heaven before the foundations of this world, upon which all blessings are predicated— And when we obtain any blessing from God, it is by obedience to that law upon which it is predicated." does it mention anything about having faith in God being a prerequisite for receiving a blessing? Where in "if ye have done it unto the least of these they brethren ye have done it unto me" does it say that one must believe in God for that to be valid?

"Till you have learnt to serve men, how can you serve spirits?"

But you have to admit it's hard sometimes to distinguish whether or not a prophet is acting as one.

" Would God that all the LORD'S people were prophets, and that the LORD would put his spirit upon them!"

How could anyone ignore these parts of the Gospel while studying "deep doctrine"?

Very easily, as Jesus repeatedly stated.

every member of the First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles were prophets, seers, and revelators and that they spoke directly with Jesus Christ, therefore they were incapable of teaching false doctrine to the members of the Church.

I am not sure how the first part of this lead to the second part of this, but I will believe that was your belief.

How long have you been a member of the LDS Church?

My whole life.

Comment author: atomliner 15 April 2013 04:36:12AM *  6 points [-]

I never said that I considered people different than me to not be good. What I said in earlier comments is that I liked The God Delusion because it introduced me to the concept that you can be "a good, healthy, happy person without believing in God". I believed that those who did not have faith in God would be more likely to be immoral, would be more likely to be unhealthy, and would definitely be more unhappy than if they did believe in God. The book presented to me a case for how atheists can be just as moral, just as healthy, just as happy as theists, an argument I had never seen articulated before. I apologize that I had never conjured this idea up before reading The God Delusion, it just seemed obvious to me based on my study of the Gospel that they couldn't be.

What passages in the scriptures tell you that you can be moral, healthy, and happy without faith in God? It seems pretty consistent to me that in the scriptures they say you can only have those qualities in your life if you believe in God and follow his commandments.

I fail to see how blood atonement, Adam-God, racist theology, and polygamist theology gave you the slightest impression that the Journal of Discourses was a good source of doctrine.

I believed in blood atonement, the Adam-God theory, much of the racist theology, and in polygamy. Why wouldn't I? The prophets speak for God. God would not let a prophet lead the Church astray. My patriarchal blessing told me to always follow the prophets. No one ever told me I could question and disagree with the prophets and still be a member of the LDS Church in good standing. I apologize that I didn't come to the same understanding a you, but I don't see any reason I would have with the life experiences I had.

The biggest fans of the Journal of Discourses seem to be those that are trying to prove the church wrong and those that are seeking "deep" doctrine while ignoring the weightier parts of the gospel, by which I mean those that try to square Adam-God statements or that speculate on the location of the ten tribes or Kolob.

I really liked "deep doctrine". :) If I had been alive during the Roman Empire I think I would have been a sucker for the mystery cults. Still, what do you even mean by the "weightier parts of the gospel"? I feel like that is so subjective as to be meaningless in our conversation. How can we determine objectively which parts of the Gospel is more important?

I tend to focus on the current authorized messengers from God and the Holy Spirit as I feel that is what I have been instructed to do.

Great. I have no problem with you finding a way to make it all work in your head. Obviously I couldn't discover how to make it work in mine after discovering things that I did. No amount of instruction could keep it all from unraveling.

I wish you weren't so hostile against me just because I'm making your in-group look bad.

Comment author: JohnH 15 April 2013 02:37:51PM *  -1 points [-]

What passages in the scriptures tell you that you can be moral, healthy, and happy without faith in God?

I already pointed you to Romans 2, specifically in this case Romans 2:13-15, did you want more?

Why wouldn't I?

A prophet is only a prophet when they are acting as a prophet. More specifically there are multiple First Presidency statements saying Adam-God is wrong; Statements by Apostles saying that the racist theology was created with limited understanding and is wrong (as well as more recent church statements saying explicitly that it is contrary to the teachings of Christ); I am not referring to polygamy as a practice but the belief that polygamy is the new and everlasting covenant itself, which again has revelation and first presidency statements and even the scriptures on polygamy saying that is wrong; Also given that none of those theories were presented to the Quorums of the Church and that Apostles and a member of the First Presidency disagreed vocally with Adam-God at the time I would have thought it was clear that one can disagree with ideas not presented as revelation and not sanctioned by the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve. I mean, the D&C has procedures on how to conduct a disciplinary council of the prophet so while the prophet will not lead the church astray they are quite capable of sinning and of theorizing based of revelation and their own prejudices as anyone else, though they seem to have mostly gotten better at not doing that.

what do you even mean by the "weightier parts of the gospel"?

The two great commandments: Love God, Love your neighbor as yourself, and the actual gospel: faith, repentance, baptism, and the gift of the Holy Ghost. Statements of the effect of that being sufficient for anyone or even that being the doctrine of Christ and the only doctrine of Christ and anything more or less being declared as the doctrine of Christ being evil seem fairly objective in stating which parts of the Gospel are most important.

Comment author: atomliner 14 April 2013 09:33:37PM *  0 points [-]

I am going to make a prediction that you likely grew up in a smaller community in Utah or Eastern Idaho.

Wrong. I moved to Utah already an atheist. I didn't grow up in any one area, my family moved several times when I was younger. For example, I lived in Arizona, California, Georgia, and North Carolina before moving to Utah. The state I feel most confident in calling my home is California, since I lived there from 2004 to 2009.

In regards to the Journal of Discourse quote, the actual doctrine that Brigham Young is talking about it is very much emphasized and is found in the D&C, the Book of Abraham, and explicitly in the Temple. A dead giveaway is his reference to philosophers, he isn't talking about us being aliens but that our spirits always existed and come from where God is rather then being created at birth as thought in the rest of Christianity.

I highly disagree that this is what Brigham Young actually intended to teach. For example, in another part of the Journal of Discourses he says:

Though we have it in history that our father Adam was made of the dust of this earth, and that he knew nothing about his God previous to being made here, yet it is not so; and when we learn the truth we shall see and understand that he helped to make this world, and was the chief manager in that operation. He was the person who brought the animals and the seeds from other planets to this world, and brought a wife with him and stayed here. You may read and believe what you please as to what is found written in the Bible. Adam was made from the dust of an earth, but not from the dust of this earth. He was made as you and I are made, and no person was ever made upon any other principle. LINK

It does not seem at all that he is talking about the creation of their spirits, but the creation of their bodies.

Given this and your explanation of The God Delusion I take it you aren't that familiar with non-LDS Christian philosophy and the vast differences between us and them.

I have to admit I didn't regard myself as extremely familiar with Christian philosophy before my de-conversion, but I've learned a great deal since coming home from my mission. However, I don't think this was a very fair assessment of my knowledge on your part. There is nothing I've written that gives strong evidence for me being ignorant of Christian and Mormon theology. It seems to me you want to de-legitimize what I have to say by painting me as unintelligent and inexperienced with my own religion. Now, do you really think a person who has studied the Journal of Discourses wouldn't also most likely be a person who has spent a lot of time and energy investigating the rest of Mormon theology? I mean, a scholar I am not but I definitely know my way around Mormonism, more than most Mormons I know at the very least.

The church has not changed at all its position on same-sex marriage and just filed an amicus brief on the subject. I can see how your conclusion on the subject was drawn though.

There is a big difference between an "official position" and what is taught in the chapel and at the dinner table.

Comment author: JohnH 15 April 2013 03:40:15AM -1 points [-]

Since it appears that you grew up in a pluralistic society then I have no idea why you considered everyone different then you to not be a good person and feel you were never exposed to the idea that they possibly could be a good person. Considering that Jesus (Matthew 25:40), Paul (Romans 2), Nephi, Benjamin, Alma, and Moroni all say that it is action more then belief that defines who is saved, who has faith, and who is good, happy and healthy then I don't know how it was a shocking revelation that those who do not have the law but that act by nature according to law are just as much blessed as those that have the law.

I fail to see how blood atonement, Adam-God, racist theology, and polygamist theology gave you the slightest impression that the Journal of Discourses was a good source of doctrine. It is my personal experience that generally those that spend the most time reading it are those least familiar with the gospel, on either end of the spectrum. The biggest fans of the Journal of Discourses seem to be those that are trying to prove the church wrong and those that are seeking "deep" doctrine while ignoring the weightier parts of the gospel, by which I mean those that try to square Adam-God statements or that speculate on the location of the ten tribes or Kolob.

For instance nearly everyone that has taken the time to figure out what Christians say of God in their arguments for God and what the D&C says on the subject quickly realize that the two are wholly incompatible. That those beliefs on God and the arguments in favor of those beliefs are mixing Greek philosophy with scripture to synthesis a new belief. Not that members of the church are not also guilty of mingling the philosophies of men with scripture, that is a very common occurrence as you note with "what is taught in the chapel and the dinner table", me, I tend to focus on the current authorized messengers from God and the Holy Spirit as I feel that is what I have been instructed to do.

Comment author: MugaSofer 14 April 2013 06:33:01PM -2 points [-]

but fairly hostile to those that try and say that religion is not irrational

I haven't really seen that hostility, myself.

I think John means "hostility" more in the sense of "non-receptiveness" rather than actively attacking those who argue for theism.

This doesn't limit itself to atomliner; in my experience generally when atheists talk about their previous religion they seem to have always held (or claim they did) some extremely non-standard version of that religion.

Hmmm. It seems likely that the non-standard forms have glaring flaws; close inspection finds the flaws, and a proportion of people therefore immediately assume that all religions are equally incorrect.

Yup, this seems to fit.

Comment author: JohnH 14 April 2013 07:04:30PM 2 points [-]

Being called a moron seems hostile to me, just to use an example right here.

Comment author: atomliner 14 April 2013 09:39:18AM *  2 points [-]

I have visited mormonsandgays.org. That came out very recently. It seems that the LDS Church is now backing off of their crusade against homosexuality and same-sex marriage. In the middle of the last decade, though, I can assure you what I was taught in church and in my family was that civilizations owed their stability to the prevalence of traditional marriages. I was told that Sodom and Gomorrah were destroyed because homosexuality was not being penalized and because of the same crime the Roman Empire collapsed. It is possible that these teachings, while not official doctrine, were inspired by the last two paragraphs of the LDS Church's 1995 proclamation The Family. In the second to last paragraph it says:

... we warn that the disintegration of the family will bring upon individuals, communities, and nations the calamities foretold by ancient and modern prophets. LINK

I have a strong feeling my interpretation of this doctrine is also held by most active believing American Mormons, having lived among them my entire life.

I don't think that most Mormons believe that mankind came from another planet, but I started believing this after I read something from the Journal of Discourses, in which Brigham Young stated:

Here let me state to all philosophers of every class upon the earth, When you tell me that father Adam was made as we make adobies from the earth, you tell me what I deem an idle tale. When you tell me that the beasts of the field were produced in that manner, you are speaking idle worlds devoid of meaning. There is no such thing in all the eternities where the Gods dwell. Mankind are here because they are the offspring of parents who were first brought here from another planet, and power was given them to propagate their species, and they were commanded to multiply and replenish the earth. LINK

This doctrine has for good reason been de-emphasized by the LDS Church, but never repudiated. I read this and other statements made by Brigham Young and believed it. I did believe he was a prophet of God, after all.

I began to believe that the Ten Tribes were living underneath the Arctic after reading The Final Countdown by Clay McConkie which details the signs that will precede the Second Coming. In the survey he apparently conducted of active Latter-day Saints, around 15% believed the Ten Tribes were living somewhere underground in the north. This belief is apparently drawn from an interpretation of Doctrine & Covenants 133:26-27, which states:

26 And they who are in the north countries shall come in remembrance before the Lord; and their prophets shall hear his voice, and shall no longer stay themselves; and they shall smite the rocks, and the ice shall flow down at their presence. 27 And an highway shall be cast up in the midst of the great deep.

I liked the interpretation that this meant there was a subterranean civilization of Israelites and believed it was true.

I apologize that I gave examples of these extraordinary former beliefs right after I wrote "I'm playing catch-up, trying to expand my mind as fast as I can to make up for the lost years I spent blinded by religious dogma." That definitely implies that these former beliefs were actual official doctrine of the Mormon Church. I did not intend that.

Comment author: JohnH 14 April 2013 02:52:24PM *  0 points [-]

I am going to make a prediction that you likely grew up in a smaller community in Utah or Eastern Idaho.

In regards to the Journal of Discourse quote, the actual doctrine that Brigham Young is talking about it is very much emphasized and is found in the D&C, the Book of Abraham, and explicitly in the Temple. A dead giveaway is his reference to philosophers, he isn't talking about us being aliens but that our spirits always existed and come from where God is rather then being created at birth as thought in the rest of Christianity. Given this and your explanation of The God Delusion I take it you aren't that familiar with non-LDS Christian philosophy and the vast differences between us and them.

The church has not changed at all its position on same-sex marriage and just filed an amicus brief on the subject. I can see how your conclusion on the subject was drawn though.

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