What do lifelong members know, anyway?

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Ishmael
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What do lifelong members know, anyway?

Postby Ishmael » Fri 04 Apr, 2008 02:09 pm

In the thread about how many kids Mormons should have, Matt made the following observation:

Matt wrote:
Why should I (a long time member) know when he (never a member) is sure?!
Because long time members are often unaware of some of the goofier statements made by past leaders, while many non members are aware of ONLY such statements.

But in this case, I think you are right.


I never thought of it this way, but Matt's right on. I don't know a whole lot about Scientology, for instance, but the stuff I do know is all the stuff that most of its members are unaware of--like the story of Xenu and a general history of L. Ron Hubbard's rise to prominence that I'm quite confident is more accurate than what Scientologists are taught.

So who knows more about Scientology? Me, or a "lifelong" member? You could argue either way.

I might argue that I know more, because in a couple of hours on the Internet I can get the gist of their PR line, plus find out details that most Scientologists have yet to encounter about their own religion despite years of auditing and indoctrination.

On the other hand, I'll never know what it's like to actually be a Scientologist, to see the world through their eyes, and I won't really understand how they live their beliefs unless I get to know them personally. I imagine they would argue that the things I've discovered aren't relevant to what they believe--how could they be, if they've never heard of them?

Seems to me that it works the same way in Mormonism.

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Card
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Re: What do lifelong members know, anyway?

Postby Card » Fri 04 Apr, 2008 09:01 pm

Ishmael wrote:
So who knows more about Scientology? Me, or a "lifelong" member? You could argue either way.


It probably depends on the member. And it probably depends on who is actually right, which is where different religions come into play in the first place: people disagree on the point of who is correct. If your information is faulty, then you would be wrong. But, if their information is faulty, then they would be wrong. Or it could be that both of you are wrong and all you can do is speculate on who knows the most right and the least wrong.

Ishmael wrote:Seems to me that it works the same way in Mormonism.


I think it works that way with life. We all make decisions based on the limited knowledge or information that we have. And most people want to talk about their own knowledge or perspective and not listen to others. And I think that a majority of people make the choices and have the beliefs that they do because they think they're right. So really, it makes sense that one person who is not of one sect would think that they know more than someone of another sect. And that's okay.

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Momma Snider
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Postby Momma Snider » Fri 04 Apr, 2008 10:49 pm

What Card said. Also, you can know all about the history of a particular religion and still know nothing about their beliefs. And basic fact statements don't always cover the meaning.

Example: I've heard it said that Mormons believe everyone will have to be a Mormon to go to heaven. Okay, we do believe that the celestial kingdom requires baptism by the proper authority, but we also believe that those who haven't heard or understood the gospel in this life will have a chance in the spirit world, and that there are three degrees of glory, so even those who don't accept it aren't going to hell. That's entirely different than "only Mormons go to heaven."

Ishmael
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Postby Ishmael » Sat 05 Apr, 2008 10:26 pm

Good points, and I agree. Let me explain a little bit more about what I was getting at in the OP.

The reason Scientologists don't know as much about their own religion as outsiders is because they voluntarily filter what they see and hear and read. For example, the Xenu story is kept a secret until OT3. L. Ron Hubbard taught that anyone who was exposed to OT3 prematurely would get sick and die. Scientologists believe that, so none of them learns the Xenu story until they are properly initiated.

I, on the other hand, have no reason to fear Hubbard's warnings, so I can go on the Internet and read OT3 with no fear whatsoever. And just like that, I know more about Scientology than most of its own adherents.

A similar thing in Mormonism might be the temple ceremony. Anyone with a passing curiosity in it can read the whole thing on the Internet, but most Mormons will choose to wait until the proper time and place.

Those might be extreme examples, but I think they illustrate how a believer's willingness to filter their intake of information might lead to a much narrower view of their own religion. It's a depth vs. breadth thing, I think. An insider would see the value in reading the Book of Mormon a dozen times, where an outsider would probably think it more worthwhile to read a dozen different books on Mormonism, from several different perspectives.

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Postby Card » Mon 07 Apr, 2008 11:22 am

I see your point; however, by doing all of your research on the internet, you still have to figure out what is fact and what is fiction. Clearly not everything that you read about topics on the web is correct. So people are still left to figure out for themselves the fact vs fiction, even if they go online to read about everything.

In addition, you're talking about partaking of the meat before the milk. And yes, people CAN do that, but frequently it's to their detriment. One can't expect to sufficiently understand a topic that has prerequisites without first taking the prerequisites.

Ishmael
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Postby Ishmael » Tue 08 Apr, 2008 11:55 am

Card wrote:I see your point; however, by doing all of your research on the internet, you still have to figure out what is fact and what is fiction. Clearly not everything that you read about topics on the web is correct. So people are still left to figure out for themselves the fact vs fiction, even if they go online to read about everything.


Absolutely. But this applies to everything. Substitute "church" for "internet" and your statement still stands.

Card wrote:In addition, you're talking about partaking of the meat before the milk. And yes, people CAN do that, but frequently it's to their detriment. One can't expect to sufficiently understand a topic that has prerequisites without first taking the prerequisites.


Sometimes it's meat before milk. More often it's ordering off the menu. How often have you heard the phrase "it's not relevant to your salvation" at church? That's what the curriculum is based on--all the stuff that is relevant to your salvation. A more academic approach is bound to yield tons of stuff that never shows up in church manuals--not because it's "meat," but because it isn't directly relevant to the church's mission.

If you think about it, it's not the church's job to educate people about the church--it's job is to bring souls to Christ. Mormons are the foremost authority on what it's like to be Mormon. They are the foremost authority on what they themselves believe. But when it comes to the church itself, especially its history, everyone is on the same playing field, because everyone has access to the same information, whether it's the internet or published journals.

Jan Shipps would be an extreme example of what I'm talking about. There are probably very few Mormons who know as much about the LDS Church as she does, and she's a lifelong Methodist.

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Momma Snider
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Postby Momma Snider » Wed 09 Apr, 2008 09:31 pm

I understand what you're saying, Ismael, and you're right. But I thought of another analogy that I think fits.

You could study my ancestry, you could meet my parents and siblings and kids, you could learn all my vital statistics, but you still wouldn't know me. You could even talk to me and still not really know me. And if you were determined not to like me, you still wouldn't.

Religion is just a whole lot more than facts. But that's coming from a totally biased point of view that my religion is true, of course, and that Scientology is not. :) :)

Ishmael
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Postby Ishmael » Thu 10 Apr, 2008 03:20 pm

That is a very good analogy, thanks for that.

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Postby KareNin » Thu 10 Apr, 2008 05:40 pm

As I was reading this thread, I kept thinking of that anecdote that has made the email rounds countless times (and had been reprinted in numerous publications even before email existed). I'll try not to mess it up too badly here...

Two men who were staunch members of their Christian church died in a car accident, and after they were greeted at the Pearly Gates, each was escorted to a waiting area to be interviewed in turn.

The first man was called in to a room, where a kindly-looking gentleman spoke to him warmly and then said to him, "Do you know Jesus Christ?" The man nodded and said,"Oh yes. I have been a Christian all my life."

"Ah, good," said the interviewer. "What can you tell me about him? What do you know about Jesus Christ?"

"Well," the man began, "He was born in Bethlehem to Joseph and Mary. He was raised as the son of a carpenter; he lived to be only about 33 years, old and most of his ministry was during the last 3 years of his life. He was the Son of God. He called his apostles and organized his church..."

The interviewer said, "Yes, all this is true. What else do you know about him?"

The man furrowed his brow and resumed reciting his knowledge of Jesus. "He was loved and he gained many followers, but he was also persecuted and eventually crucified. He was unjustly accused and horribly tortured, and he died hanging from a cross, between a couple of thieves who were also put to death. Then, three days after he died, he was resurrected."

The interviewer thanked the man and told him he seemed to know quite a bit about Jesus Christ. He escorted the man out, and called for the next man to come in.

The second man entered the room, took one look at the interviewer standing before him, and immediately fell to his knees, grateful tears running down his cheeks, as he exclaimed with heartfelt emotion, "Oh my Lord; my God!"
Have a nice day, unless you already have other plans.

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Momma Snider
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Postby Momma Snider » Thu 10 Apr, 2008 05:45 pm

Thanks, KareNin. I love that one, and it hits the nail on the head.

Ishmael
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Postby Ishmael » Wed 16 Apr, 2008 10:20 am

I like the family analogy because it also supports the original point of Matt's statement. Sometimes insiders are the last to know. Often, if there is something scandalous or embarrassing going on in the life of a family member, people will shield their kids from that information, for their own good. So you don't find out the truth about your Uncle Frank until you grow up and research his history using the same resources available to outsiders.

Or, if someone is suspected of a crime, their loved ones who know them best will usually deny it until the evidence is overwhelming--and sometimes even then. "My Bobby would never do such a thing!" All the while, it is clear to objective outsiders that the suspect is probably guilty.

That's the way it works on TV, at any rate. :D


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