Ep 156 – The Strength of a Witness

Written by on February 22, 2015

Tom and Randy talk with Craig about his listener essay: The Strength of a Witness.

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  1. Orrin Dayne   On   February 22, 2015 at 9:31 pm

    Tom, what Church were you raised in? Wasn’t everyone taught that the witness of the Spirit was stronger than a vision with Laman and Lemuel as examples? It’s a standard lesson. The scripture that helps supports this is D&C 6:23, which reads “Did I not speak peace to your mind concerning the matter? What greater witness can you have than from God?” So can there be any witness greater than the peace of the Spirit? Nope!
    I checked at the Seminary manual that discusses D&C 6:23 … here’s a direct quote: “Invite a few students to share their experiences. You could also share an experience of your own. ***Remind students that some experiences are too sacred or personal to share.***” (emphasis added) It cracks me up that “too sacred to share” is part of the correlated materials.

    • Randy_Snyder   On   February 22, 2015 at 10:22 pm

      Too sacred to share bc they want any potentially troubling “crazy visions” to be appropriately vetted by the instructor. Keep it bland. Keep it “safe”. There is safety in blandness…

      • Orrin Dayne   On   February 23, 2015 at 5:41 pm

        “Too sacred to share” can hide not only the crazy experience of your local ward member, but also the mundane experience of a special witness of Jesus Christ.

    • Guest   On   February 24, 2015 at 9:08 pm

      In response to D&C 6:23, here’s a story from the Babylonian Talmud:
      “Four rabbis used to argue theology together, and three were always in accord against the fourth. One day, the odd rabbi out, after losing three to one again, decided to appeal to a higher authority.
      ‘O, God!’ he cried. ‘I know in my heart that I am right and they are wrong! Please give me a sign to prove it to them!’
      It was a beautiful, sunny day. As soon as the rabbi finished his prayer, a storm cloud moved across the sky above the four rabbis. It rumbled once and dissolved. ‘A sign from God! See, I’m right, I knew it!’ But the other three disagreed, pointing out that storm clouds often form on hot days.
      So the rabbi prayed again. ‘O, God, I need a bigger sign to show that I am right and they are wrong. So please, God, a bigger sign!’ This time four storm clouds appeared, rushed toward each other to form one big cloud, and a bolt of lightning slammed into a tree on a nearby hill.
      ‘I told you I was right!’ cried the rabbi, but his friends insisted that nothing had happened that could not be explained by natural causes.
      The rabbi was getting ready to ask for a very, very big sign, but just as he said, ‘O, God…,’ the sky turned pitch-black, the earth shook, and a deep, booming voice intoned, ‘HEEEEEEEE’S RIIIIIIIGHT!’
      The rabbi put his hands on his hips, turned to the other three, and said, ‘Well?’
      ‘So,’ shrugged one of the other rabbis, ‘now it’s three to two.'”
      Would the church be able to recognize if God himself (herself? itself? if a god even exists?) spoke some truth that contradicts their current narrative? Authority can be quite blinding.

      • Craig Keeling   On   February 25, 2015 at 2:16 am

        I love this story. When everything can be so easily rationalized, explained away, edges smoothed away to fit, it ends up just being arbitrary.
        “Authority can be quite blinding.”
        …Which is exactly why is beaten into everyone’s head over and over again, even at the highest offices of the church.

  2. Orrin Dayne   On   February 22, 2015 at 9:40 pm

    Regarding 2 Nephi 25:23 (“for we know that it is by grace that we are saved, after all we can do”), I had no trouble, as a TBM, in ditching the interpretation that required perfection for grace because it didn’t sound much like grace to me.
    I interpreted it to mean that after all we can do, we still needed grace–that no one could be perfect and thus everyone still needed his grace. That was Jesus to me.
    The perfection-required-for-grace is a great tool for control, which is why you see it used.

    • Daved6   On   February 26, 2015 at 9:16 pm

      I’m agreed. I can’t understand how people like Randy, the dude whose still afraid to debate me I hear, can think and think about this scripture and not get what it’s saying.
      “Uh…ya mean the scripture is saying these ancient guys having to write stuff on some metal sheets, doing all they can to get the message of believing in Christ out there, and then it ends by saying we, the readers, have to do all we can, and then we can be saved?”

  3. Duke of Earl Grey   On   February 23, 2015 at 12:24 am

    I too remember being taught that the witness of the Spirit is more powerful than our direct senses. I can see how a lot of people would have an easier time staying happy in the church because of it, because very few people experience spiritual manifestations like the scriptures promise we can all have. But almost everyone feels peace, happiness, etc. in doing something familiar and comfortable. So as long as they frequently, or even occasionally, feel something they believe to be the Spirit, they’re going to feel that God is satisfied with them, despite their imperfections.
    In my case, this lowered bar for what constitutes a witness of the Spirit did not help me, because I looked at my experiences with the church and saw some positive emotional responses, yes, but never anything that transcended emotions, never something I would trust over things I had actually seen or heard. I don’t remember which of my youth leaders or teachers said this, but I once heard, “Just because you’re crying, it’s not necessarily the Spirit.” That resonated with me. I wasn’t going to call my emotions “the Spirit” unless I KNEW there was something else there. So whatever good feelings I had in church, I couldn’t say I had ever received any spiritual witness.
    But then, the church has a second level of indoctrination to keep people believing, if their self-esteem is low, and I fell for this one for years. They teach that the Spirit gets offended and leaves when you sin. So if everyone is entitled to the witness of the Spirit, but I haven’t received it, it’s because I must have done something horrible. And my repentance for that horrible thing must be insufficient, because the Spirit is still not showing up in some indisputable way that’s stronger than my senses to tell me I’m forgiven. It’s sad that I found the idea that I’m a horrible person, more sinful than all the people around me who claim to have the Spirit with them, to be more believable than the church’s ridiculous truth claims, but that kept me from ditching it all for a long time.
    (Oh yeah, and it’s masturbation. The “something horrible” is always masturbation.)

    • Craig Keeling   On   February 23, 2015 at 12:26 am

      Duke, you’re a scholar and a gentleman. As Holland said to Tom Phillips once, “we are now sealed.” 🙂

  4. Craig Keeling   On   February 23, 2015 at 12:29 am

    Here’s that gem that I read on my mission, from Oaks:
    Our Strengths Can Become Our Downfall
    “Another strength Satan can exploit is a strong desire to understand everything about every principle of the gospel.”
    Satan is way too powerful… It should be a comfort to us all that he’s simply a work of fiction.
    If this isn’t evidence of how the church gaslights people, I don’t know what is.

  5. Holly   On   February 23, 2015 at 9:03 pm

    The vision talk makes me reflect on my upbringing big time. Like Tom, my mom saw things. With her it was often, especially in the temple but also at home. It was spiritually uplifting to hear her stories of personages and spirits resting on my dad’s shoulder as they were the witness couple or seeing a friend’s deceased mom sitting next to this friend in the session. I couldn’t wait to have the veil that thin for me when I went through.
    I never saw anything, despite going to the temple all the time and trying my damnedest. I told my dad about my frustrations, and he encouraged me to keep going and it would happen. In 13 years it never did.
    Not until I left the church and started reading a little about this stuff did I realized why my mom was so close to heaven. She suffered major brain damage in her teens and has lived with Epilepsy since. I hated attributing her deeply meaningful connection to the spirit world as nothing more than a brain glitch. But, it makes way more sense.

  6. Heather_ME   On   February 23, 2015 at 10:51 pm

    I was always taught that seeking a sign was a sin…. that even hoping you’d get a vision, etc, was being naughty. So when people would talk about not getting visions/signs I’d always cluck to myself and think the reason they didn’t get one is that they were in sinful and prideful pursuit of it. Anyone else?

      • Glenn   On   February 24, 2015 at 12:19 pm

        Which makes perfect sense for a book (and its two-dimensional antagonist atheist foil characters) having been authored by a professional Treasure-Seeker-For-Hire who most likely employed this “villify-the-skeptics-to-mollify-the believers” approach to explain to his patrons why another ancient treasure had been spirited away just before they unearthed it. Again. Just trust him, it’s there you guys. And the more you question it, the more likely it is to keep slipping away. It’s your fault, skeptics, for demanding to see evidence that this amazing stuff is real. Yours.

      • Craig Keeling   On   February 25, 2015 at 2:53 am

        The burden of proof must be a heavy one when you’re a con man.
        Better to push it off onto someone/everyone else.

  7. John B   On   February 23, 2015 at 11:50 pm

    Hey Craig,
    Thanks for sharing your experience. It was great to hear from someone who left for other than all these “intellectual reasons”. Props for going your own way.
    On a more serious note, have you ever gotten an EKG? While it’s true that panic attacks can make you pass out, the latest evidence is leading cardiologists to treat episodes of passing out as a very serious medical issue. You may actually be going into a lethal heart rhythm that self-corrects. It’s common for folks to experience this more while teenagers and young adults, and it goes away, and they think they’re a-ok, and are satisfied with anxiety or even nothing as an explantion. The next time it might not self correct. An EKG is relatively cheap, and might just save your life.
    I’m not trying to spook you or anything, and if you’ve already ruled it out, great! If not, as an experienced cardiac critical care nurse and one currently in nurse anesthesia school, I recommend you see a cardiologist!
    John Brennan

  8. Trent   On   February 24, 2015 at 6:29 pm

    Awesome chat guys. Can I say I actually love when Tom and Randy are on together? You guys go at each other more than the other infants but it makes for awesome discussions — and you can always hug it out in the end.

  9. Susan Mowers   On   February 25, 2015 at 7:36 pm

    Have you ever felt good in your life? Can you remember a time when perhaps something you did for someone made you feel nice? Or even a time in church when you at least smiled? That was the Spirit. Now you can unequivocally know that the Church is true. See, problem solved.

  10. Dan   On   February 25, 2015 at 10:53 pm

    Craig took my answer! My experience wasn’t exactly the same but I lived in Gilbert for several years and I think we may have went to the same high school (did you wear Teal and Black?) Either way, I can relate to trying to avoid talking about the church for years until discovering this cool community. When I walked out of seeing the Book of Mormon Musical I told my girlfriend (non member) that the it was the truest thing about the church and I’m glad I went on a mission just so I’d get all the jokes.

  11. ranajanar   On   February 27, 2015 at 1:59 am

    I can’t even…I’ve been out 23 years, and never have had anyone express so many of my own thoughts and feelings so perfectly. Throughout the podcast, I wished I could just talk to you guys face to face. Thanks for letting me know I’m not alone….more than you guys know….

    • Randy_Snyder   On   February 27, 2015 at 3:47 am

      Man, that is a really cool response. Thank you. You came out before the internet could help so I can only imagine how lonely that must have been. Like Jake once said, we’re the baby boomers of ex-Mormons but you are one of the really brave ones.

  12. Orrin Dayne   On   July 25, 2016 at 9:55 pm

    Still on my second time going through the catalog. The episode is solid. I enjoyed it as much as the first time. Well done.

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