(Anti-)Intellectualism in the Church

A very good friend of mine, MantiHigh, wrote me recently to suggest that I include in some future post a discussion of some issues of (anti-)intellectualism arising in recent General Conference talks. I thought s/he spelled out things nicely, and in a different way than is usually done (I’m sure the commenters will let me know if I’m wrong.) In any case, with MantiHigh’s permission, I copy the following for your discussion:

Anti-intellectualism in the Church is a favorite concern of mine given my experience and observations. Maybe I’m hypersensitive to this, but I think the data are pretty clearly supportive of an ongoing, long-term undercurrent of suspicion towards intellectuals. (Just try bringing up your favorite intellectual topic in Sunday School or PEC sometime.)

Given my fears, I was really surprised to find something interesting in Pres Hinckley’s talk in Priesthood Session of Apr 07 GC.

Pres Hinckley told the story about “I am clean” where Joseph F. Smith dreams when he is in Hawaii, (see the talk here).

The thing that really stunned me was his closing paragraphs. President Hinckley says:

“Now, my dear brethren, may the Lord bless you. To you boys I say, get on with your education. When you marry, yours will be the obligation to provide for your family. The world of opportunity lies ahead of you, and education is the key that will unlock that door. It will be the door of the mansion of which Joseph F. Smith dreamed when he was a boy sleeping on a mountain in Hawaii.”

Here he seems to say that education is hugely, vitally important. That education is what lets us in to the future Kingdom: allowing us to shake hands with Joseph Smith in person, Brigham Young, etc., etc.

I don’t know that I have ever seen a Prophet equate education — and arguably “worldly” or “secular” education, which he clearly means here — with such important symbols.

How does this fit into my concern about anti-intellectualism? Well, I don’t read the above quote as suggesting that getting a PhD is The Best Thing. After all, he is speaking about all sorts of education. Technical / vocational schools are a rumored favorite of the Perpetual Education Fund, for example. And President Hinckley is relentlessly practical, and even (especially?) after all my years of schooling I can see that ya gotta get a job at some point. But education – secular education – so strongly endorsed is arguably the best possible counter to anti-intellectualism.

After all, intellectuals *do not* deserve any prime place in the kingdom, but thought, reason, learning, and study do. When coupled with statements such as he made at the General Young Women’s mtg in 2004, “Among other things, I must remind you that you must get all of the education that you possibly can,” (May 04 Ensign) it’s difficult to wish for a stronger statement of support for what the best intellectualism has to offer. I can’t think of any GA since the Brown days being so openly supportive of the need to nourish the mind. Yes, he says it for practical reasons rather than for theoretical reasons. But the outcome is the same. (As we intellectuals would have argued all along, right?) Exposure to education by the broad Church population can only mean more exposure to thought, reason, learning, and study, and that in turn is the best long-term antidote to anti- intellectualism. Or maybe the Bloggernacle has better advice?

There is a separate thread that could point out how shocking President Hinckley’s advice to women to also get all the education they can is to some of us, but that’s for another day…

57 Replies to “(Anti-)Intellectualism in the Church”

  1. In this topic of anti-intellectualism, it would help me to understand more if someone listed for me more in detail the stances that would categorize one as anti-intellectual. Sixty years ago, this was the big debate between Christian fundamentalists and neo-evangelicals. And still is to this day . . .

  2. I have some questions.

    Does education necessarily equate to intellectualism? Are they the same thing? Certainly they are related, but that relationship might be weak.

    President Hinkley seems to give pretty clear purpose for the education – providing for your family. Not for the purpose of endlessly debating doctrinal and cultural issues of the church. Some of which issues are invented or manufactured anyway.

    In some ways I think the negetive aspects of intellectualism have very little to do with education, and a lot to do with attitude and arrogance.

  3. I think if you want a more “intellectual” ward (btw, I tend to think that word is retarded), then move. I have lived in many parts of the country and there have some wards have had a more old-school flavor than others. There may have been a time when “anti-intellectualism” was common, but those days are past. Mostly, I think “intellectuals” are just paranoid.

  4. But to be learned is good if they hearken unto the counsels of God. (2 Ne. 9: 29)

    There is nothing wrong with being learned, or educated, or smart, or whatever. The problem isnt that in and of itself, the problem is pride. And it doesnt take education to be prideful, but it sure does encourage it sometimes. The Lord is smarter than all of us, and yet more humble than all of us. We need to be better at following his example, on both of those points.

  5. Multiple grad degrees also often means too much debt without a reasonable payoff. Debt is another General Conference perennial.

    Mormonism is a religion based on ethical living more than orthodox belief. It’s not either-or, but I’ve found that conventional Mormon wisdom has little use for a brilliant thinker or artist who was, say… a horrible husband and father.

    So I’d imagine the first impulse for a typical LDS (is there such a thing) when contemplating Van Gogh, is not to be awed by his paintings, but to be disgusted at what a hash he made of his personal life.

  6. There may have been a time when “anti-intellectualism” was common, but those days are past.

    I wouldn’t say those days have totally passed.

    In one ward I attended, the EQP said the two greatest enemies to the Church were intellectuals and apostates. The commend resonated well with the quorum, and sparked a lengthy discussion with a very anti-intellectual flavor.

    Where was this ward? Ironically, BYU.

  7. I don’t think we can dispute there has always been a strain of anti-intellectualism in LDS culture. As Todd notes, anti-intellectualism has been a prominent factor in Evangelical culture since the Scopes trial, and for most of the 20th century Mormonism took its cultural cues from conservative Christianity, which strengthened the parallel Mormon view. So it’s bigger than Mormonism. It’s bigger than religion (see Hofstadter’s book).

    But the LDS case is more complex. There has also been an LDS view that supports education and encourages LDS students to go to college and also to pursue advanced degrees. That goes all the way back to the 19th century, when many LDS students went back East for advanced degrees. Strange that both anti-intellectualism and encouragement of higher education co-exist so comfortably in the Church, but it’s certainly better than 100% anti-intellectualism. The pro-education strain within Mormonism is one of its more attractive features.

  8. As an EQP I encourage the members to diligently study, search, and ponder the scriptures and all good books and commentaries to discover the many layers and levels of God’s word.

    I’m constantly reminding them that if all the get is what they hear in church that it will not be enough or sufficient to save them.

    Recall D&C 131 that plainly states that we can not be saved in ignorance.

    Yep, there is still a strong anti-intellectualism sentiment in the church genrally that I have observed. Just a couple weeks ago a discussion in Sunday School, I don’t remember how it came about, but someone commented that people intellectualize themsselves out of church and to hell for studying the scripture too much and too deeply.

    I feel at times that I myself have been labeled as an apostate because it is well known and appearant that I am studied and learned in gospel doctrine and church history.

  9. One of the things that lurks behind this debate is the possibility that we (the LDS world) have yet to fully come to grips with the relationship we wish to encourage between our talk about God and and our discourse on the profane. What happens, for example, when modern philosophies of history and culture come up against distinctively LDS ideas about the same subjects?

    Should the insights engendered in secular education interact with our discourse about the divine? Or can we seal the two off, so that although we know something about both, we never attempt to reconcile them? And of course there’s a third option: we reject secular learning w/o compromise.

    The third option is, I submit, impossible. The anti-intellectual “movement” can be understood as something of an attempt to restrict the level of interaction between the realm of spiritual things and that of the more mundane. In general, it views interaction between the two realms with suspicion. In the most extreme cases, the word of authority is the final word and is to be accepted uncritically. Any contradiction is rejected.

    The middle position is where many well-educated saints sometimes find themselves. There is no paradigm under which to open a dialogue but there is also no denial that some dialogue is indicated. This is the point at which comments about humility and patience come into play. Further light and knowledge, it is asserted, will make all things come clear.

    But is a passive response really consistent with LDS thought on human potential and the need for human initiative in pursuing the implications of God’s self-revelation? IF we never ask questions, good, faithful, questions, will we ever get answers?

  10. Mogget:

    I think it is all in the attitude. If one is a humble truth seeker then I say ask away. If one is looking for something else, like showing off, then the same questions will not lead to productinve discussion. The types of questions will often be different to I believe.

  11. I think if you want a more “intellectual” ward (btw, I tend to think that word is retarded), then move.

    The word has been used in Church discourse with mostly negative connotations. A typical usage comes from Bishop Glenn L. Pace’s (Second Counselor in the Presiding Bishopric) 1989 April conference talk:

    One activity which often leads a member to be critical is engaging in inappropriate intellectualism. While it would seem the search for and discovery of truth should be the goal of all Latter-day Saints, it appears some get more satisfaction from trying to discover new uncertainties. I have friends who have literally spent their lives, thus far, trying to nail down every single intellectual loose end rather than accepting the witness of the Spirit and getting on with it. In so doing, they are depriving themselves of a gold mine of beautiful truths which cannot be tapped by the mind alone.

    Elder Faust describes this type of intellectual as “a person who continues to chase after a bus even after he has caught it.” We invite everyone to get on the bus before it’s out of sight and you are left forever trying to figure out the infinite with a finite mind. In the words of Elijah, “How long halt ye between two opinions? if the Lord be God, follow him.” (1 Kgs. 18:21.)

    Inappropriate intellectualism sometimes leads one to testify that he knows the gospel is true but believes the Brethren are just a little out of touch. Out of touch with what? Don’t confuse a decision to abstain from participating in a trend with a lack of awareness about its existence. These Brethren “prove all things” and “hold fast that which is good.” (1 Thes. 5:21.) To accomplish this, they are in constant touch with Him who created this earth and knows the world from beginning to end.

  12. Inappropriate intellectualism…

    I sense a distinction between anti-intellectualism as a resistance to the interaction of secular and profane learning and what Small Axe has posted above. The later is a challenge to church leadership, while the former is a challenge to modern approaches. I think that, perhaps, the link between the two is a mis-placed assumption that an intellectual approach to certain topics must inevitably entail resistence to authority.

  13. There may have been a time when “anti-intellectualism” was common, but those days are past. Mostly, I think “intellectuals” are just paranoid.

    Some paranoia, perhaps, but those days are not yet over.

    Take for example the following experience, which also relates to the a distinction between education and intellectualim. IMO it also is related to the talk about pride, attitude, and intention which others have mentioned or implied:

    Someone I know was interviewed for their temple recommend by a SP who has a PhD in business and teaches at a university. The interviewee had recently graduated from a Divinity School, and the SP’s openning comment was, “So the divinity school hasn’t beat your testimony out of you, has it?”

    Personally, in many regards, this represents the Church’s attitude (with the risk, of over-generalizing): A certain type of education is good. And one should get all of it one can. Practically speaking this means things such as business, law, medicine, engineering, etc. Theoritically speaking this means anything that criticizes the Church as little as possible and leads to a more productive life. Some fields are more “critical” than others, and are viewed with skepticism (even if they can lead to a “productive life”, in terms of being able to provide for your family, engaging society, etc.). IMO these critical fields tend to be those that make complex the simple pictures of life; they tend to see things in grey rather than black and white. Academically speaking these tend to be fields in the humanities, with religion/religious studies being perceived with the most skepticism because of its direct bearing on the power of the church.

  14. As far as my last post relates to pride, attitude, and intention…

    the problem here is how attitude, intention, and pride are perceived. Basically, anything perceived as a challenge to the power of the organization is labeled as “prideful”, or in some cases “intellectual”. The problem is that only people that have a certain skill-set are able to raise complex issues in a non-threatening way. The judgment is ultimately not one of the real danger of the issue, but of the way in which it is raised.

  15. For those needing to know what it means.

    –adjective 1. appealing to or engaging the intellect: intellectual pursuits.
    2. of or pertaining to the intellect or its use: intellectual powers.
    3. possessing or showing intellect or mental capacity, esp. to a high degree: an intellectual person.
    4. guided or developed by or relying on the intellect rather than upon emotions or feelings; rational.
    5. characterized by or suggesting a predominance of intellect: an intellectual way of speaking.
    –noun 6. a person of superior intellect.
    7. a person who places a high value on or pursues things of interest to the intellect or the more complex forms and fields of knowledge, as aesthetic or philosophical matters, esp. on an abstract and general level.
    8. an extremely rational person; a person who relies on intellect rather than on emotions or feelings.
    9. a person professionally engaged in mental labor, as a writer or teacher.

    –noun 1. the power or faculty of the mind by which one knows or understands, as distinguished from that by which one feels and that by which one wills; the understanding; the faculty of thinking and acquiring knowledge.
    2. capacity for thinking and acquiring knowledge, esp. of a high or complex order; mental capacity.
    3. a particular mind or intelligence, esp. of a high order.
    4. a person possessing a great capacity for thought and knowledge.

  16. Academically speaking these tend to be fields in the humanities, with religion/religious studies being perceived with the most skepticism because of its direct bearing on the power of the church

    I would tend to agree. I think that success in philosophy, religion, etc., etc., all require that the student entertain an interaction between what’s learned in school and what’s taught in church. Subjects such as business or engineering, perhaps, do not. The later are “safe” subjects for LDS students while the admission that one studies in the former, it seems to me, evokes a certain level of suspicion about one’s fidelity.

  17. And now, because we’re into antiquity around here, a short excerpt from the 3rd century — Tertullian on Athens and Jerusalem. Note that philosophers are the whole problem: 😉

    For philosophy it is which is the material of the world’s wisdom, the rash interpreter of the nature and the dispensation of God. Indeed heresies are themselves instigated by philosophy. From this source came the Aeons, and I known not what infinite forms, and the Trinity of Man in the system of Valentinus, who was of Plato’s school. From the same source came Marcion’s better god, with all his tranquillity; he came of the Stoics. Then, again, the opinion that the soul dies is held by the Epicureans; while the denial of the restoration of the body is taken from the aggregate school of all the philosophers; also, when matter is made equal to God, then you have the teaching of Zeno; and when any doctrine is alleged touching a god of fire, then Heraclitus comes in. The same matter is discussed over and over again by the heretics and the philosophers; the same arguments are involved. Whence comes evil? Why is it permitted? What is the origin of Man? And in what way does he come? Besides the question which Valentinus has very lately proposed–Whence comes God? Which he settles with the answer: From enthymesis and ectroma. Unhappy Aristotle! who invented for these men dialectics, the art of building up and pulling down; an art so evasive in its propositions, so far-fetched in its conjectures, so harsh, in its arguments, so productive of contentions, embarrassing even to itself, retracting everything, and really treating of nothing! Whence spring those “fables and endless genealogies,” and “unprofitable questions,” and “words which spread like a cancer?” From all these, when the apostle would restrain us, he expressly names philosophy as that which he would have us be on our guard against. Writing to The Colossians, he says, “See that no one beguile you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, and contrary to the wisdom of the Holy Ghost.” He had been at Athens, and had in his interviews (with its philosophers) become acquainted with that human wisdom which pretends to know the truth, while it only corrupts it, and is itself divided into its own manifold heresies, by the variety of its mutually repugnant sects.

    What indeed has Athens to do with Jerusalem? What concord is there between the Academy and the Church? What between heretics and Christians? Our instruction comes from “the porch of Solomon,” who had himself taught that “the Lord should be sought in simplicity of heart.” Away with all attempts to produce a mottled Christianity of Stoic, Platonic, and dialectic composition! We want no curious disputation after possessing Christ Jesus, no inquisition after enjoying the gospel! With our faith, we desire no further belief. For this is our primary faith, that there is nothing which we ought to believe besides!

    Same subject, different date.

  18. Mogs,
    The irony in Tertullian’s statement is of course that he is highly dependent on philosophy, especially Stoicism! I am certain that he would admit to this (he essentially does so in other writings), so it is more rhetorical than anything. In my view, the problem here is not with the criticism of certain philosophies, but the belief that one is somehow outside of philosophy.

  19. Thanks for all the responses so far. I fully echo the concern that too often intellectualism = cover for pride or vanity. Maybe it is “chances for learning” or inborn talent, but as I originally stated, intellectuals *do not* deserve any special place in the Church.

    I guess I have two concerns underlying my fear of the trend of anti-intellectualism and hence my relief in seeing (imagining?) President Hinckley’s counter to it.
    One is that I have seen far too many intellectuals leave the Church because of it. This weakens these individuals and weakens the Church.
    Second is building on definition #4 of 21 above: “guided or developed by or relying on the intellect rather than upon emotions or feelings; rational.” Anti-intellectualism leads to the conclusion that rational thought is bad. That emotions = spirituality. This can only weaken the Church also. D&C says the Spirit speaks to mind *and* heart. Anti-intellectuals tend to support ignoring mind (even though intellectuals point out it was mentioned as the first of the two!).

    It is true that some fields lead to questioning Church teachings more than others (e.g., modern NT studies versus, say, law school), and I don’t at all blame the Church for defending its right to define itself by decreased hiring at CES / BYU of those who study these issues, though I think it is a bit bureaucratic and uncourageous. This is a practical recognition that many have made above, that we all tend to take pride in our work and this can be problematic when the field of study overlaps with the Church’s purview.

    I’m curious to hear that some think anti-intellectualism isn’t an issue currently. Comment 23 suggests it has been around a long time, and stories such as Comment 12 and 18 suggest it is widespread today. I also agree with Mogget#13 that in fact some of anti-intellectualism is because of fear/sloth: facing up to the questions that really thinking about what the Church teaches is hard, and we’d rather avoid it…

  20. I think that in general I agree with the view expressed here that Pres. Hinkley is talking more about VCR repair school than medieval studies when he encourages people to get more “education.” At the same time, it is hard for me to believe that he thinks that VCR school, or law school, or med school, is going to “unlock the door of the mansion” which Pres. JFSmith dreamed about. I do think that he means that the life of the mind is something worth pursuing, not just the life of the dollar.

  21. Today I spoke with someone whose friend recently began a New Testament Studies master’s program. He informed me that his friend has already succumbed to intellectualism, and no longer believes that Matthew wrote the Gospel of Matthew.


  22. Steve M, a BYU religion professor already published a similar comment (albeit in a footnote) in a BYU journal aimed at CES types and other “doctrinal” teachers. It made it through the BYU equivalent of correlation.

    Eric Huntsman “Teaching through Exegesis: Helping Students Ask Questions of the Text,” Religious Educator 6.1 (Winter 2005). article link

    You can read about the journal here.

    If the link to the article doesn’t work correctly, go to the last link and click on “back issues.”

    Ok, I just skimmed through it, and that’s the wrong paper.

    “I see almost no way of maintaining the tradition that the author of the Gospel of Matthew was an eyewitness if the two-document hypothesis is correct. The only way that he could still be claimed to have any access to eyewitness traditions is through Q and the detection of the method in which he rearranges the material from Mark and Q.”

    So says Thomas Wayment, in “A Viewpoint on the Supposedly Lost Gospel Q” RE 5:3. Caveat: I’m not an NT guy, and I haven’t read the article itself in a good while, but I don’t think Wayment accepts Q. He may be saying something like “If we accept the current theory (which I don’t), then there’s no way to defend Matthew as eyewitness.” Perhaps someone with more time wants to skim the article and provide confirmation or rebuttle to that comment.

  23. While we’re on the NT tangent…

    I was talking to my wife yesterday (who also attended BYU), and she indicated that her New Testament professor acknowledged the authorship problems in the New Testament. I was really quite impressed; my religion professors at BYU never even acknowledged that Matthew or other books in the Bible may have been authored by anyone other than those to whom they have traditionally been attributed. In my experience at BYU, Biblical scholarship was often treated with a lot of skepticism, and sometimes even scorn.

  24. He informed me that his friend has already succumbed to intellectualism, and no longer believes that Matthew wrote the Gospel of Matthew.

    Hopefully I will then find that Hell is full of congenial types, folks who like to ski, grow tomatoes, and drink root beer.

  25. This is one of the things that makes me really sad when I read Church history. It seems like openness to truth and fervor for the life of the mind were some of the hallmarks of traditional Mormonism, in the days of Talmage, B.H. Roberts, and the like. However, the pervasive influence of Correlation and CES in the modern Church leads me to believe that we aren’t living up to some of the best features of our tradition.

  26. Steve M, when I was at BYU back in the early 90’s such things were acknowledged in the classes I took. Of course I made sure to take my religion classes from the honors department when possible. The other religion classes were just seminary classes (IMO) and I regreted all the regular classes I took.

  27. Gordon B. Hinckley:

    I am grateful for the work of those scientists who made the report on smoking. I am confident that their discoveries have saved untold suffering and added untold years of useful living to those who heed their counsel. But how much suffering, how many deaths upon which their conclusions were based, might have been avoided had those who became statistics for a government report listened to the word of revelation given by a prophet of God.

    As I reflected on that situation—the months of research by able men of science, the vast calculations of electronic computers, the great fanfare of announcements, the background stories, the editorials, the debates, all of this and more, in contrast with the simple, revealed word of the Lord—there came to mind the experience of Elijah on Mount Horeb: “. . . and a great and strong wind rent the mountains, and brake in pieces the rocks before the Lord; but the Lord was not in the wind: and after the wind an earthquake; but the Lord was not in the earthquake: And after the earthquake a fire; but the Lord was not in the fire: and after the fire a still small voice.” (1 Kings 19:11-12.)

    Such almost invariably has been the word of God as it has come to us, not with trumpets, not from the council halls of the learned, but in the still small voice of revelation. Listening to those who seek in vain to find wisdom and who declaim loudly their nostrums for the ills of the world, one is prone to reply with the Psalmist, “Be still, and know that I am God” (Psalm 46:10), and with the Savior, “He that hath ears to hear, let him hear” (Matthew 11:15).

    I wish to make it clear that I do not disparage education, research, study, counsel. I believe most strongly in these. But I believe even more that this troubled world would do well to listen to the source of all true wisdom, to accept all that God has revealed, all that he does now reveal, and to believe that he will yet reveal many great and important things.

    Let it be remembered that “the things of God are understood by the Spirit of God,” and that revelation is fruitless unless it be listened to and obeyed.

    (Gordon B. Hinckley, Be Thou an Example [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1981], 96.)

    Joseph Campbell explains Yoga as “the intentional stopping of the spontaneous activity of the mind-stuff”…or perhaps “Be still, and know that I am God”?

    The Spirit is “felt” not intellectualized.

  28. Don’t forget that anti-intellectualism is a common theme in American culture. Think of all the glorification of the ‘self-made’ man in literature and society. Consider how popular Horatio Alger’s stories were a century ago. The brethren have always said that learning is good. The Doctrine and Covenants even admoninshes us to learn as much as we can in this life.

    I think that there are two kinds of intellectuals. The first group are people who become more humble as the increase of their skills and knowledge shows them that there is an infinite number of things left to learn. The other group lets their knowledge and advanced degrees puff their mind up in pride.

    It’s a stretch to believe that a leadership group with 2 MBAs, 2 JDs, 1 Ed.D., 3 Ph.Ds, 1 MD, and a DBA just in the First Presidency and The Twelve Apostles could not see the benefit of higher learning. But, I see them as speaking out against being lifted up in pride because of learning.

  29. Re #27: TT, you have perfectly captured — in much more efficient language — my “aha” in listening to President Hinckley’s talk.

    I too have always felt that his “get all the education you can” counsel was strongly weighted toward Blu-Ray Repair School (VCR Repair Schools have closed, sorry, the First Presidency knows this 🙂 though I see that they have yet to prophesy about Blu-Ray versus HD-DVD… but I digress … 🙂 ).

    But this comment of his at the end of his Priesthood session talk reflects something different, something beyond the practicalities of the Perpetual Education Fund’s goal of boosting earning ability. What an eye-opener! It has been quite some time #34 quotes not withstanding since we have seen such an endorsement of the life of the mind, as you put it.

    I completely echo/agree that we must avoid pride, prioritize the counsel of the Brethren, etc., as so many have done. But I see that counsel as frequently slipping into anti-intellectualism in practice, and I am just grateful for a prophet who so clearly is a “seer.” He sees things others don’t. This was one of them, and I treasure it.

  30. Howard,

    The Spirit is “felt” not intellectualized.

    What do you make of D&C 8:2-3?

    2 Yea, behold, I will atell you in your mind and in your bheart, by the Holy Ghost, which shall come upon you and which shall dwell in your heart.
    3 Now, behold, this is the spirit of revelation; behold, this is the spirit by which Moses abrought the children of Israel through the Red Sea on dry ground.

    Perhaps you too quickly distinguish between “feelings” and the “intellect”.

  31. SmallAxe,
    Great question!

    Elder Bruce R. Mcconkie had this to say:

    In the early days of this dispensation, when the Prophet was translating the Book of Mormon, with Oliver Cowdery acting as scribe, Brother Cowdery also desired to have the privilege to translate. So the Prophet importuned the Lord, pleaded with him to know if this might be, and received a revelation directed to Brother Cowdery, which said:

    . . . assuredly as the Lord liveth, who is your God and your Redeemer, even so surely shall you receive a knowledge of whatsoever things you shall ask in faith, with an honest heart, believing that you shall receive . . .(D&C 8:l.)

    Then the Lord gave this general instruction:

    Yea, behold, I will tell you in your mind and in your heart, by the Holy Ghost, which shall come upon you and which shall dwell in your heart.

    Now, behold, this is the spirit of revelation; . . .(D&C 8:2-3.)

    The Lord gave a caution. He said:

    . . . without faith you can do nothing; . . .(D&C 8:10.)

    Then Brother Cowdery attempted to translate. (This, I think, is the only really authentic information we have as to how the Book of Mormon was translated. ) In his attempt he failed. In a second revelation the Lord told him why. He said:

    But, behold, I say unto you, that you must study it out in your mind; then you must ask me if it be right, and if it is right I will cause that your bosom shall burn within you; therefore, you shall feel that it is right.

    But if it be not right you shall have no such feelings, but you shall have a stupor of thought that shall cause you to forget the thing which is wrong; . . . (D&C 9:8-9.)

  32. I have just finished reading all of the comments above with great interest, and I am pleased to see people using their minds to reason with. After all it is reasoning that separates us from the animals. God expects us to use our minds and suggests we are slothful if we have to be commanded in all things. The difference between an intellectual and an intelligent person, might be described as the difference between one who uses their mind and one who uses their mind wisely.

    In D&C 130: 18-19, we are instructed clearly that “…if a person gains more knowledge and intelligence…than another, he will have so much the advantage in the world to come.” Furthermore in D&C 88: 76-80, we are also clearly commanded we should teach each other both the ‘Physical Sciences’ AND the ‘Social Sciences’. A careful study of this scripture shows we must learn of Astronomy; Agromony; Geology; Mineralogy; History; Current Events; Prophecy; Domestic and Foreign Affairs; Second Coming Signs; Geography (both physical and human); Languages; Anthropology, Sociology and many other subjects I have not listed here.

    What is the purpose of all this knowledge? A knowledge of cultures and people and their history, enables us to understand how best to teach the gospel to the entire human race. If we are requested or required to liken the scriptures unto ourselves, then we need to know how to liken the scriptures to things familiar to others, so that they can better comprehend truth.

  33. Howard,

    Allow me to perhaps sharpen my point a little more. Claiming that the Spirit is feeling and not intellect (the latter of which is the capacity of human beings), creates a situation that 1) Implies that the two are dichotomous and perhaps irreconciliable. And more importantly 2) Asserts the constant superiority of feelings over the intellect.

    This seems to go against both the way in which the Spirit is described in the scriptures as well as common human experience. In the scriptures/church history the Spirit “speak[s] peace to your mind” (therefore breaking down a strict separation between feeling and intellect); JS also spoke of the flowing intellect as the spirit of revelation, etc. Theologically speaking, to limit the Spirit to feeling is to limit the power of the Spirit.

    One kind of negative “intellectualism”, in this light, is the utter reliance on our cognitive/rational capacities to the neglect of our affective/”feeling” capacities. I think we would agree on this point; but IMO the way to overcome this is not to further the dichotomy between the two, but to break it down.

  34. What is the purpose of all this knowledge? A knowledge of cultures and people and their history, enables us to understand how best to teach the gospel to the entire human race. If we are requested or required to liken the scriptures unto ourselves, then we need to know how to liken the scriptures to things familiar to others, so that they can better comprehend truth.

    Inquiring Mind, I appreaciate your insight, but I also find it a little disturbing that the purpose of this knowledge is not to learn from them but to teach them .

  35. SmallAxe,
    “…the utter reliance on our cognitive/rational capacities to the neglect of our affective/”feeling” capacities”

    Yes we agree here.

    I was speaking to this basic idea, but on a subtler level. In my experience, the normal activity level of the mind can easily interfere with the ability to receive the spirit. By quieting one’s thoughts (even to the point of meditation) reception improves.

    “…but IMO the way to overcome this is not to further the dichotomy between the two, but to break it down.”

    Excellent point.

    The Spirit is identified by feeling. It is how we know that it is the Holy Spirit, not the dark side and not our own mind

    The Spirit’s message may or may not engage the intellect.

    I suspect that few of us will experience “the flowing intellect as the spirit of revelation” as JS did, but even then, the Spirit is felt:

    “A person may profit,” Joseph Smith instructed, “by noticing the first intimation of the spirit of revelation; for instance, when you feel pure intelligence flowing into you, it may give you sudden strokes of ideas, . . . and thus by learning the Spirit of God and understanding it, you may grow into the principle of revelation, until you become perfect in Christ Jesus”

    (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, 151).

  36. SmallAxe, your point is a good one wherein you say: “Inquiring Mind, I appreaciate your insight, but I also find it a little disturbing that the purpose of this knowledge is not to learn from them but to teach them .”

    Thank you for allowing me an opportunity to clarify and to expand my thoughts further. As you can appreciate, it can be difficult through this delayed medium of this forum, to observe the understanding or misunderstanding of a person or persons reception of any comments made; without the immediate response as in a face to face dialogue and its associated feedback through other means of communication (e.g. body language etc.). In my humble opinion (IMHO), perhaps the transfer of knowledge from one to another, should be considered educational to both parties, that is assuming both are sincere about the process involved.

    If we consider the scriptural remark…”For this is my work and my glory to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man”; then in our eternal quest as a partner or instrument to assist in this outcome, the work will continue for ever, in particular for those fortunate enough to attain godhood, through the possession of the knowledge and intelligence required to create other worlds. If God knows everything, then he has to be the teacher, through the intellect via feelings or confirmation, or whatever you may choose to call it, with our limited language and choice of words. What is there for God to learn from us mere mortals?

    With the benefit of ‘hindsight’ what I should have said is, “What is one of the principle purposes of all this knowledge?”

  37. I remember coming back home (to the Ozarks) from my first semester at BYU … at Sacrament Meeting my first Sunday back, I get called up from the congregation to deliver an impromptu report on how things are going for me at the Y, and in this report, I decide to refer to myself as a “blossoming intellectual” (go ahead, cringe, I still do, but have mercy, I was a strange kid fresh off the farm with one Maeser Building Honors Colloquium under my belt).

    On to the next speaker, who came up with his own impromptu remarks regarding “blossoming intellectuals” a.k.a. “blooming idiots” (his exact words – kudos for his pithy extemporaneous retort).

    At this mention of “blooming idiots”, seeing as how I’d already returned to my seat in the rear pew, I had the pleasure of watching every neck in the chapel crane my way and all eyes behold … me – the original turdblossom – in all my redfaced intellectual glory.

    I’m not complaining, putting on airs like that, I had it coming, n’est-ce pas?

  38. Howard,

    The Spirit is identified by feeling. It is how we know that it is the Holy Spirit, not the dark side and not our own mind

    The Spirit’s message may or may not engage the intellect.

    I suspect that few of us will experience “the flowing intellect as the spirit of revelation” as JS did, but even then, the Spirit is felt:

    I suspect we agree more than we disagree, but let me pose a couple of questions/make a couple of points. I still believe you are drawing too strict a line between the intellect and our affective capacities. How is it possible for the HG not to engage the intellect? Even if you want to say that the HG does nothing more than give feelings, there is still the interpretation of those feelings, which cannot but be defined as a cognitive act.

    The TPJS passage actually speaks to my larger point. The distinction in this passge between feeling and the intellect is blurred. I’m not sure it’s correct to speak of “feel[ing] pure intelligence” as either cognitive or affective. I’m fine with describing the influence of the HG as a “feeling” as long as “feeling” does not simply equal “emotions” to the preclusion of other capacities, and does not imply a mind-body dualism where the mind is detached from the influence.

  39. SmallAxe,
    “How is it possible for the HG not to engage the intellect?”

    People in church are often overcome by feelings when they are in touch with the Spirit. When this has happened to me, the feeling is often the only message.

    Once, when I happened to be in a spiritual “place” I came under strong verbal attack from someone I love. I felt myself being comforted by the Spirit in a way that might only compare to being a baby held in it’s mothers arms. I was unaware of any intellectual message.

    “Even if you want to say that the HG does nothing more than give feelings, there is still the interpretation of those feelings, which cannot but be defined as a cognitive act.”

    You are being way to literal. A beating heart is a cognitive act, but most of the time we are not consciously aware of it.

    I am NOT saying that “the HG does nothing more than give feelings”. I am saying that you won’t know that it IS the HG without feeling – as demonstrated by 38.

    “I’m fine with describing the influence of the HG as a “feeling” as long as “feeling” does not simply equal “emotions” to the preclusion of other capacities and does not imply a mind-body dualism where the mind is detached from the influence.”

    We agree.

  40. I think we have to be careful since most people use the word “feeling” primarily to refer to emotion. So saying something is primarily a feeling seems incorrect. As you note how you are using feeling refers to quite a few cognitive acts and events. Being able to stay calm during an attack seems to be much more than a feeling, for instance. At least how I use the term. If we look at the D&C’s list of gifts of the spirit few seem primarily what we call “flows of intellect” but most are much more than what we’d normally call feelings. (Although I suspect Joseph meant by intelligence something much more broad than how we normally use the term)

    I suspect most of us are on the same page. It’s just that the terminology differs.

  41. President Boyd K. Packer
    Acting President of the Quorum of the Twelve:

    The Holy Ghost speaks with a voice that you feel more than you hear. It is described as a “still small voice.” And while we speak of “listening” to the whisperings of the Spirit, most often one describes a spiritual prompting by saying, “I had a feeling …”

    Revelation comes as words we feel more than hear. Nephi told his wayward brothers, who were visited by an angel, “Ye were past feeling, that ye could not feel his words.”

    The habit-forming substances prohibited by that revelation—tea, coffee, alcohol, tobacco—interfere with the delicate feelings of spiritual communication, just as other addictive drugs will do.

  42. I see “feeling” as the wrong word as well.

    I consider communion with the Spirit to be more a matter of informed intuition. The truth is, there is, as a practical matter, no such thing as a purely cerebral reaction to external stimuli. All human decisions are intuitive decisions, first and foremost. We like to pretend that we operate based on reason, but I don’t think we primarily do. We make decisions based on how we feel about the situation.

    This gut instinct however, can and should be informed by other things, such as study, experimentation, human relationships, and life experience.

    So one should study out a Gospel doctrine, seek the input of other fellow human beings, test the doctrine and then make an intuitive decision. The Gift of the Holy Ghost is essentially divine permission to be open to possibilities. It is also a warning not bludgeon true wisdom to death with cold intellect.

    Intuition is the primary way in which we should be making our decisions in life. However, this is more than mere feeling. It is feelings that are informed by other sources of human and divine wisdom.

  43. Although I suspect Joseph meant by intelligence something much more broad than how we normally use the term

    Not sure about that one. I would argue that Joseph’s use of the word “intelligence” is extremely narrow and borders on a terminus tecnicus. His use of the word in Abraham 3 (as author or translator) follows a very well-defined and narrow definition, as it does in other sections in the D&C, like in section 93. I would even argue that to Joseph Smith, the word “intelligence” has no epistemological connotation, but rather is employed to mean something completely different. He even uses the word in plural form (“intelligences”), which grammatically is incorrect unless he’s using it in an atypical manner (terminus tecnicus). He also seems to use the word as if it were a tangible substantive, whereas “intelligence” to someone outside of Joseph Smith’s writings would never consider “intelligence” as a tangible object. Moreover, Joseph also employs the term with the indefinite articles at times, which I find extremely revealing of a narrow definition (to him, anyway).

  44. Folks, the quoting of general authorities, especially Bruce McConkie or his Father-in-law, is not permitted on FPR. Thank you for your future cooperation.

    -The Management-

  45. Hello ‘The Management’.Reference Point 53.

    I think it is good to follow the rules, but as I am a beginner to this forum, could you please clarify the reasons for this policy. I have no problems with directive, I just wanted to understand, so I don’t make the same mistake. Thanks in anticipation.

  46. Inquiring Mind,

    You have to take everything on these blogs with a grain of salt. You’re certainly free to quote anyone you want. However, don’t expect that to be the final word on the matter. Just because BRM says something, doesn’t mean we’re gonna take it as “Mormon doctrine”.

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