Is Mormonism an experience?

Jim Urquhart REUTERS The LDS Church’s Mormon Temple in downtown Salt Lake City, Utah, in January. It is one of … Continued

Jim Urquhart

REUTERS

The LDS Church’s Mormon Temple in downtown Salt Lake City, Utah, in January.

It is one of the great ironies of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints that while outsiders perceive it largely in terms of its unusual doctrines, the Saints see themselves in a completely different light. The outer world focuses, for example, on matters like polygamy. “Holy underwear” is also a favorite topic, as is their aspiration to divinity and their belief that God was once a man. The century and a half they banned blacks from their temple and priesthood is much discussed. So is iron-fisted rule from LDS headquarters at Salt Lake City’s “Temple Square.” The Mormon opposition to California’s Proposition 8 has made them look homophobic, their insistence upon being baptized for Jewish Holocaust survivors has made them look cruel, and their standard missionary presentation has made them look mindlessly robotic. All of these novelties frame the perceptions of Mormons in the wider world.

Ask a Saint about any of these, though, and an expression of confusion will likely flash fleetingly across his face. He knows that each is part of the Mormon matrix but he likely does not think of any as vital. Doctrine is not primary for him; experience is. The prophecies and the ordinances and the revelations from Heavenly Father are what make up his religion. Most of the doctrines so often discussed in the press are at the edge of his experience and are rarely on his mind.

Let him speak for a moment about his own Mormon experience and a far different picture will likely emerge. He may very well talk about what home teaching is like and how dear the community of the Saints has become. He’ll likely describe, even with tears, how he’s raising his children to be holy. If he is trusting, he will tell of the time he was sick and a priesthood blessing made him well. He may even speak, loosely, of his sealing to his wife for time and all eternity and of the endowment ceremony he has gone through. He will not give details, of course, but he will still make his point. It is not the doctrines that have won him. He is sometimes isn’t even sure what all of them are. It’s the supernatural empowering of a holy community that is most important to him.

This is the great disconnect between how Mormons understand themselves and then how the rest of the world perceives them. It is easy to see the Latter-day Saints as extremists drawn to extreme teachings, as the descendants of a nineteenth-century cult who are now trying to give their scraggly batch of weird doctrines a modern, high-tech, public relations overhaul. Whatever truth there may be in this, it misses the central point of Mormonism as Mormons themselves try to live it. And this, in the end, is the version of Mormonism that is going to prevail in the coming century-the version the Saints are living out while asking others to join them.

For a Latter-day Saint, the heart of Mormonism is the restoration of priesthood authority. It is impossible to overstate this. At the core of everything Saintly is the unshakable belief that something lost for centuries was restored through Joseph Smith. It is now present in the modern world. It is present only through the LDS Church. It is what all men will ultimately need.

Mormons believe that the pure Christianity of Jesus Christ lasted only a short while after Jesus left this life. The Christian church quickly became unrighteous and corrupt, and stayed that way until around 1830. In other words, for centuries the Christian church was a perverse shell of what was intended. Then came Joseph Smith. He not only gave the world the Book of Mormon, but he also received, along with a man named Oliver Cowdery, the restoration of the true priesthood of God. Mormons speak of this as a restoration of “priesthood authority,” which they believe was given in two defining appearances by glorified human beings: an appearance by John the Baptist and an appearance by the apostles Peter, John, and James. In these appearances or “visitations,” the only real priesthood was restored–to Mormons.

This means that when someone asks, “Where has the great age of miracles and revelation gone?” the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints says, “It is here, right now, with us.” What Mormons believe they have in this “priesthood authority” is the ability to “bring Jesus Christ into people’s lives” through “ordinances.” It is the ability to give the gifts of the Holy Spirit, to have revelations, to bless, dedicate, and even to heal. In other words, it is the supernatural power to do the “great works” that were done before the Christian church went astray.

Of course, the nonreligious think this is crazy. The traditional Christian thinks it is devilish. The Jew thinks it is evidence of a stolen legacy. And nearly everyone not a Mormon thinks it is fruit of an astonishing Mormon arrogance.

Still, it is one of the most important truths we can know about what Mormonism is. Despite Joseph Smith’s many doctrinal innovations, Mormonism is not primarily about doctrine. It is a about the experience of a restored supernatural power, the all-important matter of “priesthood authority.” This was what Smith built upon. It is what early Mormons sought. It is still at the heart of the faith. It is what outsiders most misunderstand.

The Mormonizing of America by Stephen Mansfield (Worthy Publishing).

Stephen Mansfield is a writer and speaker best known for his books on the role of religion in history, leadership, and modern culture. His most recent is “The Mormonizing of America.”

  • tbehrend

    This author represents Mormons as a quiescent, simple and undifferentiated mass. “Ask any Mormon this, here’s how they’ll answer.” He couldn’t be more wrong. On every issue mentioned in this brief article there is a lively range of opinions among Mormons, debate, disagreement. Mormon culture is intellectually very lively when seen as a whole. Read a hundred or two novels (written by and about Mormons) from the last few decades and you’ll begin to get an idea. There is no criticism of Mormonism from the outside that hasn’t been considered from the inside. Mansfield does a disservice to the Saints by portraying them as clueless supine bumpkins unable to think critically about either their own experiences or public perceptions of their history and teachings. I see he has a book out on the “Mormonizing” of America. It could be great and insightful or as bland and beside the point as this article. Clearly, though, there’s a lucky coincidence in timing that might affect sales trends…

  • life long lds

    As a life long member (bishop twice, branch president once), finally someone is closer to capturing the truth. Most who write or comment about the Church are inactive or angst driven members not focused on the experience. Finally!

  • terrancemann

    It is clear the author misunderstands very significant aspects of Latter-day Saint life and beliefs. He makes the claim that:
    “Doctrine is not primary for him [a Mormon]; experience is…Most of the doctrines so often discussed in the press are at the edge of his experience and are rarely on his mind. It is not the doctrines that have won him. He is sometimes isn’t even sure what all of them are.”
    This is an erroneous claim, and hopefully merely indicative of incomplete reporting, not incompetence. Doctrine is at the heart of everything that a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints does. All members are encouraged to study the doctrine daily, individually and as a family. Indeed, every true convert to the Church is to study in their mind and pray about the doctrines that are taught, in an effort to receive a divine witness that they are true. It is our (yes, bold) claim that those who study the doctrines with a sincere heart and an intent to act on the answer that they receive from God will actually receive personal revelation that they are true.
    To say that “Mormonism is not primarily about doctrine” is, to put it bluntly, an incredible misrepresentation.

  • XVIIHailSkins

    ‘Bold’ is one way of putting it. I might have said solipsistic, narcissistic, idiotic, childish, anti-ethical, anti-historical, etc.

  • XVIIHailSkins

    ‘The fact that a believer is happier than a skeptic is no more to the point than the fact that a drunken man is happier than a sober one.’

    George Bernard Shaw

  • XVIIHailSkins

    There’s a very good reason that doctrine remains on the peripheries of the Mormon ‘experience.’ It’s because the doctrine is incompatible with even the meekest intellectual grasp of reality. It takes a special kind of person to square themselves with the idea that the first man and woman were born in Jackson county, MO, that native Americans are the descendants of lost Israeli tribes, that horses existed in the pre-Columbian Americas, that the story of Lucy Harris does not destroy Joseph Smith’s credibility, etc. These are things that are demonstrably untrue, yet that lovely, anesthetizing, Freudian, ‘oceanic’ experience is what allows church members to turn a blind eye.

  • RightOnIt

    Isn’t it interesting that the perception in the world today is that people outside the Church view its efforts in a false manner. The reason the Church took such a hard stand on California’s Proposition 8 is because it would allow gay marriage to take place in the temple without responsibility for living the teachings of the Church. The reason behind the black people not recieving the priesthood until 1978 is because of the curse of Cain who killed Able and affected all of the family of Cain as recorded in Genesis.

    It is also quite clear to most members of the LDS faith that people outside of the religion do not understand its teachings because of the false teachings of those who compete for congregates and the general media who make attempts at unfolding its doctrines. As a nineth generation member, myself, it is clear that the doctrine is based upon past scriptural knowledge as it relates to the time and is based upon keeping the word in order to progress in the word. It is like getting the addition and subtraction of simple single digit numbers before getting the view that algebra offers. Such complexities may be the reason why those outside of the religion are having difficulty understand the reasons why Romney is running for president.

  • XVIIHailSkins

    It really is amazing how anyone who raises a single skeptical eyebrow towards the Mormon church receives the catch-all treatment from church members by which they are labeled inactive, angst-driven, liberal, jealous, sinister, evil, etc.

    For example, is it angst that drives me to question the credibility of a church that just opened its doors to black people in 1978, based on a ‘revelation’ provided by its elder members?

  • RightOnIt

    There is a simple test that most members of the LDS faith uses and one that is quantitative. In Moroni 10:3-5 and in James 1:5-6, people are required to ask God if the doctrine is right. While Moroni goes further and asks us to remember God’s mercies in our lives in preparation to recieve his answer, it still requires us to ask God with a pure heart and real intent if the doctrine is of him. To date, millions of people have tested this requirement in the affirmative. We are promised an answer by the power of the Holy Ghost and we recieve it.

    It is difficult to understand the Latter-Day Saint mind and heart without having this spiritual experience because it is the foundation of our doctrine which we have come to know is true by the Holy Ghost as described in Galatians chapter 5. As we feel these attributes, we come to know when something is true.

    While this appears to be an academic test to determine the truthfulness of information, it is given to all to try for themselves. In all of my years of study, I have yet to learn of a religion that is Christian based who requires the same scriptural principle of its members to know if a doctrine is correct.

  • RightOnIt

    As a member of the LDS faith and a doctoral student, I have had plenty of opportunity to be a skeptic of my own religion. Yet, it is the understanding that if I ask God, I will come to know if information is true.

    Besides, isn’t a “skeptic” a believer also? Surely the skeptic believes in something in order to create an argument for their case. Skepticism is merely seeking a path to eliminate the possibility that information is false or to the degree of falsehood that may exist within a hypothesis. So much for George Bernard Shaw!

  • RightOnIt

    It is the doctrine that provides the experience and the experience that increases the understanding of the doctrine!

  • commonman1

    As a member of the LDS faith completing my Master’s thesis this summer, I also have experienced similar opportunities for skepticism as “RightOnIt.”

    I have come to understand that maintaining the position that there is no God requires as much “faith” as the position that God exists.

    Blaise Pascal once noted that “‘The last function of reason is to recognize that there are an infinity of things which surpass it.” The subject of where we came from, why we are here, and where we will go, or if we go anywhere after this life, remain in the realm of faith, whether argued in the negative or the affirmative.

  • XVIIHailSkins

    So when faced with texts that are so illogical, anti-historical, and abjectly unethical that they provoke immediate doubt in the existence of the very deity for whom they claim to speak, the proper course of action is to speak with the invisible deity personally so that it might confirm its own existence.

    The term ‘logical fallacy’ would scarcely have a definition if not for this type of rhetoric. There is nothing academic about this ‘test.’ Your church makes extraordinary claims about the nature of life, consciousness, history, and creation. These claims require sublimely convincing evidence to even warrant consideration from a rational person. It is not enough to say, ‘you can’t understand Mormonism unless you are a committed, believing Mormon.’ You must make me understand. The onus is on you, not the skeptic.

  • sakalava47

    XVII…,

    There is some truth to what you say, but I think we mormons can be forgiven for being a little defensive. There are a lot of distortions out there. People who will exaggerate and attack rather than try to understand.

  • sakalava47

    XVII…,

    There is some truth to what you say, but I think we mormons can be forgiven for being a little defensive. There are a lot of distortions out there. People who will exaggerate and attack rather than try to understand.

  • XVIIHailSkins

    ‘Surely the skeptic believes in something in order to create an argument for their case.’

    I think it would be a bit redundant to explain that the skeptic has no case. The skeptic is skeptical of your case, and he remains a skeptic until your case is delivered with compelling evidence. It would be even more redundant to point out that compelling evidence exists nowhere in the vicinity of the Mormon system.

    ‘The subject of where we came from, why we are here, and where we will go, or if we go anywhere after this life, remain in the realm of faith, whether argued in the negative or the affirmative.’

    This is actually a quite succinct summary of the problem religion presents to the world. The answers to all of those existential questions that you just posited belong in a category called ‘Under Construction,’ not the realm of faith. The realm of faith is nothing more than a realm in which it is permissible to invent our own answers to these questions with complete impunity. We are pattern-seeking creatures. We are so desperate to fill in the blanks that we are willing to do so in the absence of any modicum of demonstrable truth.

    You should have added that Blaise Pascal went on to author the famous ‘wager’ that has become a major talking point for religious apologists. He defended his faith by simply admitting that he had nothing to lose if it were false, and everything to gain if it were true. I cannot fathom a more perfect example of intellectual cowardice. Pascal succeeded in demonstrating the undeniably man made nature of religion. It is a sanctuary for cowards who are too afraid or too simple to go to bed every night pondering the great existential questions on their own.

  • XVIIHailSkins

    ‘The reason behind the black people not recieving the priesthood until 1978 is because of the curse of Cain who killed Able and affected all of the family of Cain as recorded in Genesis.’

    ‘It is clear that the doctrine is based upon past scriptural knowledge as it relates to the time and is based upon keeping the word in order to progress in the word.’

    I think you’ve made it abundantly clear what type of ‘progress’ the Mormon faith wants to inflict on the world. To believe unequivocally in the defense that you just offered for Mormon homophobia and racism is to thumb your nose at every advance in the realm of ethics made by humans in the last two thousand years.

  • XVIIHailSkins

    ‘It is the doctrine that provides the experience and the experience that increases the understanding of the doctrine!’

    That’s some catch, that catch 22.

    Sakalava –
    Compared to other faith systems in the world (Islam being the obvious example), Mormonism is relatively innocuous, so in a sense I agree that the Mormon church is on the receiving end of more than its fair share of criticism. Keep in mind that most of these attacks in the US come from mainstream Christian sects, which obviously convict themselves of the worst kind of hypocrisy when they accuse Mormons of being irrational, tribalistic, etc.

    I would like to ask if this desire for understanding runs both ways. I have read the Book of Mormon, the Doctrine and Covenants, The Pearl of Great Price, The New and Old Testaments, and the Qu’ran. Have you considered with an open mind any of the innumerable arguments against your position? Have you read the Smithsonian Institute’s press release that confirms that the Book of Mormon has no historical or archeological basis in reality? Have you pondered over any books that take on all of organized religion? Or do you dismiss all of this competing evidence with the same tactic as your co-religionists above who claim that anyone who criticizes the faith must simply lack understanding?

  • Xuexi nuli

    HailSkins,

    Your comments are littered with words like “logical,” “evidence,” and “intellectual.” Not surprising. Most people have been taught from an early age that the one and only way to knowledge is through rational thought, tangible observation, and corporeal evidence. People nowadays cling to their logic and their science, scoffing ignorantly at the audacity of others who claim that they might have knowledge gained another way.

    To use a metaphor, you’re trying to use a ruler to measure weight. Your all-knowing ruler, so precise in its measurements, is always able to reveal the length of an object – and with a little ciphering will even tell you its surface area and volume. Weight doesn’t exist to you, but only because your tool cannot measure it. Furthermore, you indignantly assert that you will not believe in weight at all until someone can use your ruler to measure it.

    We live in a world tying to indoctrinate us with the conviction that weight is a figment of people’s imagination.

    The reason I can’t put an object (religion) on this metaphorical scale and show you the weight is because of the REAL nature of our METAPHORICAL property of weight.

    Consider: if there is a God offering a spiritual connection, a kind of knowledge of so much worth and depth that it can ONLY known spiritually, how could that thing be proven to you with academia’s enshrined rational arguments and observation-based experiments? What would be the point? What would it be worth? Could something conveyed by such base means produce the kinds of things atheists scoff at? Things like a mighty change of heart, a firm knowledge that there is a God, etc. You think you can read about them in Psychology Today and that you’ll suddenly understand and that they’ll change your life?

    You sound so sure that history is correct, yet I doubt you’ve seen much in the way of evidence that all the things you’ve read about in history books really happened. Maybe you’re the one who’s having the wool pulled over his eyes

  • XVIIHailSkins

    My response should be predictable, but here it is anyway:

    Thor is the one true God. We are bombarded with evidence of his supremacy every day when he raises his mighty hammer and glasses the surface of the earth with thunder and lightning. He is the kindler of every star, the father of every organism, and the intersection of all existential truth.
    While irrefutable evidence of his existence obviously comes from the ancient texts of Scandinavia and Germania, there are many people in the modern world with enough pure hubris to challenge the notion of his omniscience because they claim it cannot be proven via the scientific method. This is nonsense, of course, because these people are trying in vain to measure weight with a ruler. I know that Thor is the one true God because he made this clear to me in a blissful moment of revelation. A sinister academic intelligensita has worked for centuries to discredit revelation as an invalid form of evidence, but they are misguided. They hope to convince the world that a ruler is the only instrument of measurement, but Thor and I know that this is simply not the case. The lowly human must meet Thor halfway. Thor extends his mercy, but we must fall to our knees and call out to him if we expect to make a real connection. Anyone who says otherwise is simply too blind or too self-righteous to warrant a response from our omnipotent protector. Thor is the one true God… Thor is the one true God… Thor is the one true God.

  • saychoss

    Support of traditional marriage does not make one homophobic. Christ taught to hate the sin, but love the sinner. And just because something is tolerated or expected in the eyes of the world, does not make it right.

    Mormons are not racist, never have been. In the late 1830′s Govenor Boggs of Missouri issued and order that the Mormons be driven from the state or exterminated in large part because of the Anit-Slavery position of the members of the Church. The prohibition against recieving the priesthood was based on lineage and waiting until it was revealed that the proscribed number of generations had passed since Cain and his posterity were cursed. Any person that tries their best to live the commandments of God will recieve the promised blessings for their obedience.

  • XVIIHailSkins

    I believe Christ’s actual words were, ‘Hate the sin, inflict electroshock therapy on the sinner.’ Traditional marriage is an imaginary principle (half of all marriages end in divorce, so much for a revered tradition). Mormons who want to compel the state to officiate relationships between citizens have no concept of what it means to live in a secular democracy. For example, I don’t think people who believe in angels should be allowed to teach children in school, but I would also not support any legislation to this effect.

    As far as the question of Mormon racism, I’ll let the great Brigham Young – the man whose name is on the diplomas of the entire Mormon intelligensita – handle this one:

    “You see some classes of the human family that are black, uncouth, uncomely, disagreeable and low in their habits, wild, and seemingly deprived of nearly all the blessings of the intelligence that is generally bestowed upon mankind. The first man that committed the odious crime of killing one of his brethren will be cursed the longest of any one of the children of Adam. Cain slew his brother. Cain might have been killed, and that would have put a termination to that line of human beings. This was not to be, and the Lord put a mark upon him, which is the flat nose and black skin. Trace mankind down to after the flood, and then another curse is pronounced upon the same race – that they should be the ‘servant of servants;’ and they will be, until that curse is removed; and the Abolitionists cannot help it, nor in the least alter that decree.”
    - Journal of Discourses, 7:290-291, October 9, 1859

  • VHVA

    Somehow this author manages to totally miss the role of Doctrine in Mormon circles, and its relation to priesthood authority. This piece of writing is cursory at best.

  • Publius111

    XVII,

    If you would like to speak about logical fallacies, here’s one:

    Your argument boils down to the proposition that because you have not experienced what I have experienced, I cannot have experienced it.

    Whether or not anyone here can prove anything to you to your subjective satisfaction is irrelevant to the question of whether or not it is true.

    And for the record, non of the things you mention are “demonstrably” untrue. You must be misinformed.

  • mwpalmer

    I think your comment may effectively reinforce the author’s point. Sacred experiences—our personal relationship with God, the effect of Christ’s atonement in our life, the ministrations of the priesthood we receive—define and unite us in spite of whatever quibbles may arise concerning details of doctrine.

    It is amazing to me that I can hear someone of completely different circumstances and worldview speak of certain experiences and know exactly what they are talking about. Indeed I have experienced similar things.

    Is it any wonder that those who do not enjoy those experiences are so baffled by us?

  • mwpalmer

    The ‘innumerable’ arguments against us are actually quite numerable and have been largely considered and addressed. The problem is with those who have predetermined their positions and hence dismiss the answers as necessarily flawed from the start. And did you really bring up something about having an ‘open mind’?

    The Book of Mormon represents itself as a very brief record of a minority group of people who lived in a remote time and place. Do you really mean to infer that the archeological record of the Americas is so complete and that some researchers at the Smithsonian Institute have such a comprehensive view of it that they can definitively conclude that there is no room for the people of the Book of Mormon? Where’s the ‘reality’ in that? And what great faith you have in the Smithsonian.

    Most non-fiction books can be promptly classified as either constructive or destructive. With limited time for reading and pondering, it seems a more productive use of time to dwell upon the constructive ones.

    A lack of understanding really is the problem. You claim to have read the Book of Mormon but apparently missed the great value found within its pages. On the other hand, many others have read the Book of Mormon, and the other books listed, and found profound knowledge, enlightenment and understanding in them. It’s not what you know, but what you don’t know that voids your criticisms.

  • mwpalmer

    It seems a bit odd accusing Pascal of intellectual cowardice given his significant contributions to physics, mathematics and logic.

  • Phoenix29

    Members of the “true church” would like to think that former members are all angst ridden and angry, but even if we start out that way, i.e., angry about being deceived for most of our lives by this so-called church or angst ridden because we can not reconcile historic facts with current idealized versions of the founding of the church back in 1830 (the church in Salt Lake keeps these historic documents largely under lock and key to keep the general church population from finding out the truth of church beginnings), even if we started out that way, most of us, like me, have discovered a sense of freedom and rightness about our decisions to leave that far outweigh any remorse over losing the alleged blessings of this phony religion.
    It is all so simple to me now. I am still a good person who takes care of her children and works diligently at my job; I still pray to God twice a day and receive peace into my soul through that endeavor. I communicate with Him as faithfully and with even more conviction than I ever did while following the rigid protocols in the LDS church which dictated the format for every aspect of religios worship, including how we should dress and behave for Sacrament service, how to pick up the bread and water for sacrament with our “right” hands only, how to pray, how and what to speak about for our talks during the service, etc etc ad infinitum.
    It all goes back to a singular remark made by Jesus Christ Himself, if you are inclined to accept the New Testament (King James version only, as dictated by the leaders in Salt Lake): The kingdom of God is within you.
    That’s it. No instructions about building physical churches, no orders about organizing any religious community, except to visit with other believers to speak about God on occasion, no orders to build temples (our bodies are the only temples Christ referred to) and so on.
    A simple call to believe, to do right to others, serve them if you are able, to forgive, to llive well and pray often.
    So much

  • hearthasreasons

    This may be the first time that I, as a practicing Mormon, have ever felt like someone in the media has ever taken the time to actually listen to one of us about the faith we care about. Blacks and the priesthood? I was born in 1978, the same year that the priesthood was made available to blacks. Polygamy is also ancient history. “Iron-fisted rule” from Salt Lake City? Have you ever listened to Thomas S. Monson speak? I have walked away from every media description or depiction of The Church of Jesus Christ or its members I have ever read with the feeling that the author was missing the point. This guy, whoever he is, has actually taken the time to talk to ordinary Mormon people, and find out what makes us tick.

    And I think he mostly got it right. The one thing I really take issue with is the statement that “doctrine is not primary; experience is.” I agree that direct, subjective, personal experience with God is primary in my faith. However, I think it is just as central to my faith that this personal experience leads to conviction about the core doctrines of the faith. And I mean the really core doctrines: the existence of God, His identity as our Father, the divine role of Jesus as the Savior and Son of God, the reality of revelation to living prophets, the identity of those prophets, the veracity of The Book of Mormon adn the Bible, the presence of divine authority in the Church today. This is what I taught dozens of people when I was a full-time missionary for the Church, and what I strive to teach my children today: If you want to know the truth about God, you can–anyone can–gain a personal connection with Him and learn the truth directly from the great Source of all truth. I didn’t see angels or have visions, but I did find an inner peace and certainty about these matters that can only come directly from God as personal revelation through the Holy Spirit.

  • bflorhodes

    It is cowardice to make up answers to questions you can’t solve.

    Admit that NOBODY alive knows these answers.

    Yes, it’s frightening – that’s why it takes courage not to make up a god as an answer.

  • bflorhodes

    Traditional marriage means the woman is sold by the father to any buyer that the woman’s father favors.

    Hurray!

    One can support traditional marriage if one wants without being a bigot. However, if you oppose gay marriage because of your support for traditional marriage, you’re a bigot.

  • preposterous

    Congratulations. You nailed it. Doctrine – as practised by academics -is a matter of parsing and exploration in the mind. nothing wrong with that, but it is not a direct intervention or direction from God. Such things are deemed unseemly by many groups who are religious, amazingly enough.

    It is amazing because what is the purpose of adhering to a system that does not have the ability to align with God’s purposes and invoke his authority on that alignment?

    What is a church for if not that? Your thesis that this is the heart of the religion seems to be the most explicative essay in the entire ferment of media coverage.

    It’s not about the doctrinal debate… it’s about God… and therefore will seem supernatural to those that do not seek involvement from outside the known world… but what is a religion supposed to do if not that?

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