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Get Off the Speculation Train  May 30, 2005

Aaron — May 30 @ 7:23am

I had an experience on my mission, a triple coincidence that had a big impact on me. We were counseled recently in General Conference from Elder Bednar that coincidences are how we can percieve the Lords hand in our lives. This teaching was a renewed confirmation to me of the importance of the principle I discuss here.

The week of these experiences on my mission I was listening to the Joseph Smith tapes by Truman Madsen, where he talked about Joseph’s counsel to “stay close to the trunk.” This is an instruction to avoid speculation. If you get too far out on slender limbs, you’re liable to fall.

The second thing happened in zone conference that same week. The president spoke about how as missionaries we are to teach the simple truths of the gospel. The discussions are designed to present these simple saving truths, and this was all we needed to study and teach.

The third thing was one of those sudden flashes of pure intelligence that is a sure sign of revelation. Some Elders in my zone were engaging in some wild speculation, and all of a sudden a thought came into my head that I could not help blurting out: “Elders, get off the speculation train!” This has been a guiding principle for me ever since.

Speculation is a rampant disease in the bloggernacle. The root of all evil here is that the intelect is worshiped like a golden calf. My brothers and sisters and I all got good grades. But my dad didn’t want it to go to our heads, so upon graduation from high school he gave us each a copy of a book called “On Becoming a Disciple Scholar,” with chapters from several brilliant men including General Authorities. It is one of my favorite books, I highly recommend it. Elder Eyring is the editor. In the Brethrens’ contributions all they talk about over and over in answer to “How can scholars contribute?” is, Submit. One of the professor contributors, Paul Cox (no relation) seemed to think scholars had something special to contribute. But it seemed all the others had pretty much the same message. Submit to the leaders, don’t think you’re special. This is the path of safety. Intellectualism is not what is needed. Submission is what is needed. More listening ears, not churning brains and yapping mouths.

For this reason I made a conscious decision not to get an advanced degree. We are all familiar with the dangers of money. But the Book of Mormon often warns about learning as well. I have decided that learning is like money, seeking after this more subtle mammon can also easily destroy you. Perhaps some people can handle it. But the spirit whispered to me, Be careful about learning. So I decided to get a degree in construction management. Perhaps someday I could use this to build the Kingdom with in a concrete way, building chapels and even temples. I would like to be a vigorous practical man like Brigham. Also my ancestor John Taylor was a carpenter before joining the Church. They were simple men but were taught from on high as needed.

I have read blogs but hardly commented. For a long time I didn’t feel like I should contribute to the problem of churning discussions on the blogs, ever learning and never coming to a knowledge of the truth. But I have an impression that I can contribute things that edify simply by repeating fundamental truths. There is plenty to learn in the scriptures and the sayings of modern prophets. I believe there are treasures there waiting in what we’ve already received that we’re not living up to.


  1. Aaron, you are too much! Great post. This is going to be fun :)


    Jenn — May 30, 2005 @ 9:12pm
  2. I would recommend “Speculative Theology: Key to a Dynamic Faith” by Thaddeus E. Shoemaker. It’s the first chapter in one of my favorite books on Mormonism “Line Upon Line” and was also a Sunstone article. He says:

    In the nineteenth century, Mormonism–followers and leaders alike–embraced a radical speculative theology. But many Mormons today seem to have abandoned this heritage of radical thought and have substituted hyperactivity for insightful inquiry… Contemporary Mormons are generally content to live off the speculative insights of others, regardless of the contradictions inherent in such behavior…

    Even among the organizational heads there is a lack of speculative insight, if the quality of books and articles presently offered is evidence. Most Latter-day Saints are motivated by borrowed light rather than by insights and truths garnered by studious inquiry…
    It is wrong to assume that the pursuit of knowledge through speculation should be avoided because of its destructive qualities. Learning and growth include and proceed from the “destructive” process called “positive disintegration.” All knowledge destroys the faith it replaces, calling into existence the need for newer and more dynamic faith…

    Creative doubt leads to growth and fulfillment because it motivates a desire to know the consequences of continued questioning, inquiring, and applying what we know to real life. Concomitantly, and in some way inextricably, is the concept of incrementalism–that knowledge is acquired (and lost) step by step. However, the key to its retention is found in how, in what way, and for what reason it is applied in our lives. Activity multiplied by activity, unquestioningly doing “one’s duty” without understanding, will not reward or fulfill, nor will it sustain faith.

    This reminds me of Pres. Brown’s thoughts which I have posted at my site:

    I believe we should doubt some of the things we hear. Doubt has a place if it can stir in one an interest to go out and find the truth for one’s self…. We should all exercise our God—given right to think and be unafraid to express our opinions… We must preserve freedom of the mind in the church and resist all efforts to suppress it. The church is not so much concerned with whether the thoughts of its members are orthodox or heterodox as it is that they shall have thoughts.

    It was Joseph’s speculating that led to the 1st vision. It was his speculations on the new Bible translation which lead to most of the D&C. It was Pres. Woodruff’s and Pres. Kimball’s speculations which led to the two Official Declarations. It was Pres. Joseph F. Smith’s speculations which led to section 138.

    Maybe it would be better if separated good speculation from the bad kind, since it is possible to engage in either one.

    Jeffrey Giliam — May 31, 2005 @ 3:59pm
  3. Great thoughts, Jeffrey. The quote from Hugh B. Brown is especially refreshing.

    Christian Y. Cardall (TSM) — May 31, 2005 @ 7:42pm
  4. I disagree with Christian and Jeffrey. I don’t want to disparage Hugh B Brown :) , but in all fairness I think the evaluation of the beneficial effects of doubt is a post-event evaluation at most. By that I mean we shouldn’t favor doubt just because it will make us better people — instead, I think we should try to be strong and believing. We don’t need to be afraid of doubt, but it’s wrong to seek it out and prioritize it the way Christian and Jeffrey seem to do.

    Just my two cents :)

    Jenn — May 31, 2005 @ 8:17pm
  5. Wow. I’m not really quite sure how to take this post. Rather judgmental I guess. It seems that one could easily right a post on the negativity of passive faith and label everything Aaron seems to value as sinister. I don’t think it would be correct to do so, but neither do I think his post is accurate.

    Elder Eyring is a hero and recipient of many an advanced degree and scholarly accolade. We do need to focus on faith and the simple things that bring us to God. But to deny us our dialectic in the search for the truth is, I think, very, well, un-Mormon-like.

    Our church is founded on pushing the envelope of faith and knowledge. Joseph was ever questioning and ever learning. Our apostles are paragons of scholarly achievement. I’m glad that the vast majority of them have advanced degrees and are intellectually excellent. Aaron, I respect your decision to forgo graduate school. Please respect mine to embrace it. Also, I can testify that in the pother of the bloggernacle my faith is continually quickened and my testimony grows. If it does not do the same for you, I am sorry.

    J. Stapley — May 31, 2005 @ 8:43pm
  6. Jeffrey. Sunstone is not the quickest way to my heart. Or my mind for that matter. The brilliant talk Alternate Voices by Elder Oaks puts such stuff in its proper place. I believe they call it the round file.

    Hugh B. Brown, now you’ve got me listening. But you misunderstand him. Doubt? Of course we should doubt. But surely you don’t think he means we should doubt the prophets. What we must doubt is the flood of theories of men we swim in daily. As President Benson taught the Book of Mormon is the guide prepared for the latter days to tip us off against false philosophies like “socialism, organic evolution, rationalism, humanism, etc.” You see I’d rather have a short quote from a prophet to a long quote from Sunstone.

    See what the men whose “speculation” you praise have in common. They are prophets. They hold the keys of the Melchizedek Priesthood with the right to commune with the heavens. And to sit over the whole Church like unto Moses. Theirs was the right to receive revelation for the whole Church. Not to speculate. To compare their inquiries of God to the pure intelectualism of the blogs is ludacrous.

    Jonathan. Yes it makes me stop and think when you mention the apostles being scholarly achievers in the worlds eyes. I guess the way I understand it is in analogy to riches. Like I mentioned in the post I guess some people can handle learning like some people can handle riches. Abraham the great father of us all was very wealthy but also very righteous. But that’s the exception. Jesus taught that for a rich man to get into the kingdom of heaven was about as likely as a camel to get through the eye of a needle. He might have said the same with learning but it didn’t seem like he gave the learned Jewish doctors even as much chance as an eye of the needle.

    And notice how the Brethren completely drop the pursuits of worldly learning when they enter their ministry. If it were so worthwhile they would continue.

    Aaron B. Cox — May 31, 2005 @ 9:21pm
  7. Whoa. That leap from riches to education is precarious. While the Lord did give that pronouncement about rich men and camels, he also promised prosperity to the Lehites for righteousness. So there is some equivication on that issue. You compare that to education where the Lord has commanded us to seek knowlege and that we have a “religous responsibility” to pursue education. No equivication there. Education is good. Period.

    The only thing the Brethren have scoffed at is those who turn their intellect to undermine the authority of the priesthood. Anything beyond that is projecting your own belief on the rest of the Church…something that you seem very critical of in others.

    As to the brethren leaving their fields when they become Apostles - not to be at all critical - but they also limit their time with their families (any of the biographies of the prophets show how they would sometimes leave for months) and I imagine that you will not disparage the value of the family. Neither will I.

    And I can’t resist:

    They hold the keys of the Melchizedek Priesthood with the right to commune with the heavens

    So do we.

    I don’t know about you, but I haven’t seen very much pure intellectualism around.

    J. Stapley — May 31, 2005 @ 10:04pm
  8. As far as worldly learning, God commanded Joseph Smith to create the school of the prophets just three years after the church was founded. This commandment is in Doctrine and Covenants 88:77-80. In it, God commands the elders of the church to “teach one another the doctrine of the kingdom.” This includes, “things both in heaven and in earth, and under the earth; things which have been, things which are, things which must shortly come to pass; things which are at home, things which are abroad; the wars and the perplexities of the nations” and the list goes on and on. It is fitting that among the topics studied in the school of the prophets were history, political science, and literature.

    The church started its first university just 11 years after it was founded. The University of the City of Nauvoo opened its doors in 1841, and was probably the first municipal college in the country. Orson Pratt taught mathematics there. Sidney Rigdon taught rhetoric.

    Of course, the church founded the University of Utah and Utah State University. The church also founded the Brigham Young Academy. All of these institutions functioned more or less independently from the church. Brigham Young Academy became Brigham Young University shortly after the turn of the century, and it proved such a financial disaster that it quickly required constant subsidizing from the church. And thus, the church acquired its first college.

    Before Apostle David O. McKay headed up the Correlation committee to standardize the church’s curriculum in the early 1900s, it was not uncommon for priesthood meetings to involve instruction in literature and science, since these topics are both spiritually edifying and uplifting in character.

    Even today, education is among 19 fundamental values espoused in the “For the Strength of Youth,” pamphlet, where it stands along side honesty, moral purity, and repentance.

    Education is important because it is uplifting in character. Indeed, the development of our mental faculties is part of our eternal progress. We are ordained to progress to higher and higher moral, spiritual, and intellectual levels. James Talmage said, “man may advance by effort and by obedience to higher and yet higher laws as he may learn them through the eternities to come…” (emphasis added) The fourth Proverb tells us, “Take fast hold of instruction; let her not go: keep her; for she is thy life.” In the Doctrine and Covenants, we read:

    Whatever principle of intelligence we attain unto in this life, it will rise with us in the resurrection. And if a person gains more knowledge and intelligence in this life through his diligence and obedience than another, he will have so much the advantage in the world to come (D&C 130:18-19)

    Gordon B. Hinckley said:

    We hope that our people will gain education. We put very strong emphasis on education. It is a mandate from the Lord as we regard it, and we urge that very strongly with our own people and would hope that would carry over to others.… Surveys have indicated that the higher the education, the more faithful the individual.… We expect people to think. We want them to think. We want them to dig. We want them to read. We want them to improve their minds, and with that message of hope and growth we reach out to them. That is our doctrine which we teach and we hope it bears fruit.

    ‘The glory of God is intelligence, or, . . . light and truth’ (Doctrine and Covenants 93:36). If we have a motto, that is it.

    Knowledge is a thing of great beauty. It is safe to say that education and the knowledge that it imparts are virtuous, lovely, of good report, and praiseworthy, and so we seek after these things.

    Man’s thirst for knowledge springs from the seed of the divine that lies within him. Your attempt to excuse intellectual laziness is tantamount to accepting the protestant gap between man and Deity.

    DKL — May 31, 2005 @ 10:12pm
  9. Aaron,

    I knew that using a Sunstone paper as an authoritative source would have no effect on you, I did read you post after all. But simply treating it as a proof text isn’t what I had hoped you would do. Just because it’s from sunstone doesn’t make it wrong, and we must also confess that while Elder Oaks obviously speaks from a more authoritative position, he claimed just as much revelation for his thoughts as did Shoemaker, namely none.

    While you think I am misreading Pres. Brown, I think you are misreading my use of him. Obviously there are bad kinds of doubt which should be avoided. It that same speech Pres. Brown says that. But there are good kinds of doubt as well, as he also says. These are the doubts that facilitate exploration of gospel principles, what you call speculation.

    Now there are some forms of speculation which are clearly bad. 1) Dogmatic speculation, where my interpretation is right and nobody else can really be faithful and differ from me in the same thought. (This is actually a problem more with the orthodox than the heterodox.) 2) Pointless speculation. On my mission I tried to figure out how exactly those solar systems described in Facsimile 2 relate to one another. It was a hopeless mess which was utterly pointless. 3) Speculative criticism. Joseph said that he wouldn’t believe an ill report against the 12 unless he had either talked with them about it or had absolute proof. He wouldn’t assume the worst in people. We should follow this example.

    Other than this, I think it all fair game. It is our humble speculations on important issues which allows us to learn. I would venture to say that it is impossible to really read the BoM 20 times in a life time and get something out of it each time without a healthy dose of speculation (this is the point I am at). It is along these lines that I believe Brown was speaking.

    Jeffrey Giliam — June 1, 2005 @ 11:02am
  10. Aaron, I am surprised that you used the talk “Alternitave Voices” to justify throwing Sunstone in the trash.

    I have often used the very same talk to encourage my family and friends to consider paying more attention to Sunstone, Dialog, Blogs, etc.

    The talk, to me, seems to be rather neutral towards unofficial publications. Of course the talk warns of “wolves in sheep’s clothing” but it does not prohibit us from persuing these resources.

    I’m afraid if I interpreted the talk as strictly as yourself, I would have to stop reading your blog as well as all other publications that discuss the gospel without church approval.

    Karl Butcher — June 1, 2005 @ 1:32pm
  11. I find it interesting that if you read Elder Bednar’s talk, he specifically states that these “tender mercies” from the Lord are not coincidences, which is comforting in that I would hate to think that revelation depends on random events. I am also amazed to be in 100% agreement with DKL. nice comment.

    Scott — June 1, 2005 @ 1:35pm
  12. Aaron, in my experience, most Latter-day Saints have a benign respect for (though only very mild interest in) intellectual endeavors; your active hostility is very unusual indeed. Perhaps, if I may say so, it is you who has drifted rather far from the trunk.

    Rosalynde — June 1, 2005 @ 2:27pm
  13. With all respect, Aaron, I think that you’re completely wrong about the brethren dropping any “pursuit of worldly learning.” There are among the general authorities men with different intellectual abilities and attainments and interests, and those who are interested in learning don’t change just because they are called to full-time church service. When Elder Maxwell spoke one could tell that he hadn’t stopped reading and studying when called as an apostle. The same goes for Elder Oaks and Elder Holland or President Hinckley.

    Once a member of Seventy was in my home–he spent some time in my library, looking at books and asking about them and jotting down titles and authors in his notebook. If he dropped all pursuit of worldly learning, what on earth was he doing? Getting ready to report me for my heretical collection? (None of the books we spoke about had nothing whatever to do with the church.)

    Mark B. — June 1, 2005 @ 2:39pm
  14. Off topic: You folks need to fix the numbering of your comments.

    Mark B. — June 1, 2005 @ 2:40pm
  15. Aaron, I know you’re my fellowblogger here, but your post makes you sound like a nutbar and I should know. However, I laughed out loud over “Elders, get off the speculation train!”

    Still though, maybe you should get off the revelation train, Aaron.

    SeptimusH — June 1, 2005 @ 3:17pm
  16. Oh my. I come back after a day out at a work site and an evening of comfort with my family and see I’m getting tangled in a churning discussion of the bloggernaccle. I was afraid of this.

    Joseph and Brigham thought they had to contend with the traditions of the saints but what would they think now. Would that I lived in their day of simple righteousness. The words enter my mind like an overflowing surge but as my time is consecrated to other things I will have to wait and respond in due season to the many sophistries spoken here. I can see we have many posts ahead of us needed to break through the worldliness that pervades us.

    Aaron B. Cox — June 2, 2005 @ 6:46am
  17. This would almost be funny if I thought you were joking. I still hold out hope that you are.

    NFlanders — June 2, 2005 @ 8:27am
  18. Shirley, he cannot be serious.

    Mark B. — June 2, 2005 @ 9:20am
  19. I don’t know. He actually yelled “Get off the speculation train!” to his fellow missionaries. If I had been one of them I would have avoided him from then on and openly hoped he got transferred soon. And don’t call me Shirley. ;-)

    Jeffrey Giliam — June 2, 2005 @ 10:37am
  20. I see that some of the usual shareholders in Speculation Railroad Inc. have shown up to defend their investment.

    Personally, I prefer Zion’s Railroad Company:

    …It is as if we are passengers on the train of the Church, which has been moving forward gradually and methodically. Sometimes we have looked out the window and thought, “That looks kind of fun out there. This train is so restrictive.” So we have jumped off and gone and played in the woods for a while. Sooner or later we find it isn’t as much fun as Lucifer makes it appear or we get critically injured, so we work our way back to the tracks and see the train ahead. With a determined sprint we catch up to it, breathlessly wipe the perspiration from our forehead, and thank the Lord for repentance.

    While on the train we can see the world and some of our own members outside laughing and having a great time. They taunt us and coax us to get off. Some throw logs and rocks on the tracks to try and derail it. Other members run alongside the tracks, and while they may never go play in the woods, they just can’t seem to get on the train. Others try to run ahead and too often take the wrong turn.

    I would propose that the luxury of getting on and off the train as we please is fading. The speed of the train is increasing. The woods are getting much too dangerous, and the fog and darkness are moving in.

    –Elder Glenn L. Pace Of the Seventy
    –162nd Semiannual General Conference
    –Saturday, October 3, 1992 Morning Session

    I hear that some of the shareholders in Speculation Railroad Inc. have also invested in a private effort into space travel to explore what we call “Space Doctrine.” Good luck in your endeavors gents! ;)

    Jonathan Max Wilson — June 2, 2005 @ 11:19am
  21. Just so.

    Jonathan. Thanks for stopping by, it’s like a breath of fresh air. I was wondering when someone with their head on straight would speak up.

    Aaron B. Cox — June 2, 2005 @ 11:26am
  22. Not to stretch an analogy too far, but it sounds like Aaron doesn’t want anyone reading on the train or even looking out the windows. The fact that we’re on the train is enough; it’s apostasy if we try to look at the timetable or check the station signs.

    Exactly why haven’t you invited Aaron to join M* yet? Not abrasive enough?

    NFlanders — June 2, 2005 @ 11:35am
  23. Aaron B. Cox: I was wondering when someone with their head on straight would speak up.

    Between this comment and its antecedent (which I tend to think you where serious in writing), I’m really quite disturbed. This is thoroughly offensive - the stuff of every pathetic Mormon stereotype. Rarely have I every seen such a juvenile attack in such a forum.

    If you truly are serious, Aaron, than I will excuse myself from your posts.

    Jonathan Max Wilson, gave a great allegory. While pertinent to the overall theme of the Railroad, it has nothing to do with the topic at hand. To insinuate that it does is to suggest that my fellow commenters and I are sinning and unwilling to repent. This is disgusting.

    I really am stunned.

    J. Stapley — June 2, 2005 @ 11:49am
  24. J., don’t get too mad! Aaron has a forceful way of expressing himself. I think what’s really going on here is that some of us are more willing to follow along than others; I’m very trusting in the Brethren and don’t see a need to continually question, etc. I don’t think that having a healthy curiosity is a negative thing, however.

    Jenn — June 2, 2005 @ 12:07pm
  25. I totally agree with Aaron. People who don’t like to speculate and search out the mysteries of God should avoid it. Leave the specualting and searching to those of us who have a little skill at it!

    And speaking of coincidences, I was just listening to a Curtis Mayfield tune this mormong. He was the one that penned those immortal lyrics:

    People get ready
    There’s a train a comin’
    You don’t need no baggage you just get on board
    All you need is faith
    To hear the diesel comin’
    Don’t need no ticket you just thank the Lord

    Geoff J — June 2, 2005 @ 12:07pm
  26. The thing is Jenn, that I am very trusting of the Brethren as well.

    J. Stapley — June 2, 2005 @ 12:17pm
  27. I’m sure you are J. — didn’t mean to say otherwise :)

    I guess some of us just let that trust fill up a greater portion of our intellectual side as well.

    Jenn — June 2, 2005 @ 12:27pm
  28. What I don’t get… If Aaron is serious about his post and comments… why does he think that he qualifies as a readable source? He’s basically saying that his post is somehow righteous, and by posting he invites us to read it…

    But he says not to read anything without official church approval. (comment 6 and the way Aaron seems to interperet the talk he references)

    So it seems there is hypocracy between posting a speculative gospel related subject (that we should be careful about speculating) and warning not to read gospel speculation from uninspired sources

    Unless Aaron thinks that his word is gospel.

    Karl Butcher — June 2, 2005 @ 12:49pm
  29. “Eliza had always worried that her brother’s life would be cut short on some foreign battlefield. Her mind, however, had been turned to religious matters. She and Lorenzo’s mother had previously joined the Church, and Eliza had moved to Kirtland, Ohio, while Lorenzo was at Oberlin. Sensing that he also might find satisfaction in Mormonism, she watched for an opportunity to bring Lorenzo to Kirtland, where he might come to know the Prophet Joseph Smith and be influenced by him.

    “Her chance came in 1836, when Joseph and other Church leaders were engaged in the School of the Prophets. In the early days of American education every respectable scholar was required to learn Hebrew and Greek. Lorenzo had just completed his study of classical languages at Oberlin but had not as yet mastered Hebrew; so Eliza, knowing that a Hebrew scholar, Dr. Joshua Seixas, had been employed to teach the School of the Prophets, invited her younger brother to come to Kirtland and study Hebrew. He accepted.”

    from Arthur R. Bassett, “Lorenzo Snow: The Decisions of a College Student,” New Era, Jan. 1972

    John Mansfield — June 2, 2005 @ 1:27pm
  30. Here’s a better link to the New Era article on Lorenzo Snow.

    John Mansfield — June 2, 2005 @ 1:33pm
  31. I thought when I read the original post that it had been authored by Jonathan Max Wilson in the first place! (How in the world is the church a train? We expect members of other churches to look out thier windows. Is it a virtue to look for greater light and knowledge or not?) Anyways both positions seem a little speculative to me.

    Jeffrey Giliam — June 2, 2005 @ 1:42pm
  32. I think you are all over reacting. Aaron clearly stated that: “Perhaps some people can handle it. But the spirit whispered to me, Be careful about learning.” (emphasis mine)

    The Spirit has told him that he should be careful about the pitfalls of focusing on becoming learned. He acknowledged that the danger may differ in degree for others.

    Elder Oaks declared:

    Like the fabled Achilles, who was immune to every lethal blow except to his heel, many of us have a special weakness that can be exploited to our spiritual downfall. For some, that weakness may be a taste for liquor, an unusual vulnerability to sexual temptation, or a susceptibility to compulsive gambling or reckless speculation. For others, it may be a craving for money or power. If we are wise, we will know our weaknesses, our spiritual Achilles’ heels, and fortify ourselves against temptations in those areas.

    Another strength Satan can exploit is a strong desire to understand everything about every principle of the gospel. How could that possibly work to our detriment? Experience teaches that if this desire is not disciplined, it can cause some to pursue their searchings beyond the fringes of orthodoxy, seeking answers to obscure mysteries rather than seeking a firmer understanding and a better practice of the basic principles of the gospel.

    Some seek answers to questions God has not chosen to answer. Others receive answers—or think they receive answers—in ways that are contrary to the order of the Church. For such searchers, Satan stands ready to mislead through sophistry or spurious revelation. Persons who hunger after a full understanding of all things must discipline their questions and their methods, or they can approach apostasy without even knowing it. It may be just as dangerous to exceed orthodoxy as it is to fall short of it. The safety and happiness we are promised lie in keeping the commandments, not in discounting or multiplying them.
    (emphasis mine)

    Rather than defend speculation to the hilt, why not acknowledge that there is some degree of danger in speculation, that Aaron is free to follow the dictates of the Spirit in avoiding the dangers of speculation, as are you.

    Don’t be too quick to take offense.

    For the record, J. Stapley, I have never questioned whether or not you are on the rain. Your Metrodoxy method seems to work… ;)

    Jonathan Max Wilson — June 2, 2005 @ 1:43pm
  33. Correction: that should read “I have never questioned whether or not you are on the train.”

    Jonathan Max Wilson — June 2, 2005 @ 1:46pm
  34. First of all I should refer people to my comment #9 where I did exactly as JMW asks. Some kinds of speculation are certainly a waste of time at minimum.

    BUT, didn’t the Savior teach in parables for the very purpose of allowing for, if not promoting speculation? He never criticized anybody for not being orthodox enough. In fact, most of his criticisms where of people being TOO orthodox.

    Jeffrey Giliam — June 2, 2005 @ 1:47pm
  35. Thanks, JMW. Cheers!

    J. Stapley — June 2, 2005 @ 1:55pm
  36. It seems that many are suggesting that the modifier reckless is inherent in the noun speculation. This is not the case. Just because Elder Oaks warns against reckless speculation does not render all speculation off limits, dangerous, or even undesirable.

    And learning and money are poor analogs: learning from the best books can accompany us into the eternities. Money can’t.

    Justin H — June 2, 2005 @ 2:18pm
  37. I might be speculating here, but it seems like massive speculation to me to posit that getting an advanced degree is in and of itself dangerous. It seems to me that thinking that you are so smart that an advanced degree would cause your head to explode in pride is its own problem, which actually has nothing to do with an advanced degree.

    a random john — June 2, 2005 @ 3:33pm
  38. Because I feel like the Lord whispered to me that I was to pursue an advanced education, I will assume that not all advanced degrees are bad.

    During school, I got a blessing at the beginning of each school year as a graduate student to give me direction and keep me on the Lord’s path. I tried to keep up with my scripture reading, and serve my heart out at church. Whenever the Lord let my wife and I know that it was time to welcome another child to the world, we obeyed. That is how we ended up with three children during the poverty of law school.

    If there is a better way to remain humble during graduate studies, please let me know. I am probably being too prideful, but I feel offended at the inference from someone who has no right to receive revelation on my behalf that it will be harder for me to get to live with God again than it would be for a camel to pass through a needle’s eye simply because I followed what I felt was the voice of God in my life to receive some higher, graduate education and degrees. I believe that the atonement of Jesus Christ works for everyone with a broken heart and a contrite spirit, even the learned.

    “But to be learned is good if he hearkens to the counsel of God.”

    That is what I strive to do. Yet my strivings are apparently in vain, since I have already desecrated myself with two graduate degrees and one law degree. Should I just give up now, then?

    Jordan — June 2, 2005 @ 4:18pm
  39. “Exactly why haven’t you invited Aaron to join M* yet? Not abrasive enough? ”

    Hey, M* is not a monolith…

    Ben S. — June 2, 2005 @ 6:25pm
  40. From #6: And notice how the Brethren completely drop the pursuits of worldly learning when they enter their ministry. If it were so worthwhile they would continue.

    Aaron, how can you possibly think that most of the “learned” Latter-day Saints would not be willing to do the same? Most of the Latter-day Saints I met in graduate school were hoping, praying, fervently desiring to be able to use the skills they acquired to build up the Kingdom of God in many various ways. Just because humble Latter-day Saints are willing to drop these “learned” pursuits at the drop of a hat when asked to by the Lord, it does not make such pursuits unworthwhile in the meantime.

    “The glory of God is intelligence.”
    “Get as much education as you can.”

    I live by the words of the scriptures and the words of the modern-day Prophet, who I know speaks on behalf of the Lord. And I follow my personal revelation, both that contained in my patriarchal blessing, while standing in holy places, and that which I receive on a day-to-day basis as I kneel before the Lord and submit myself to His will. I often feel in my heart the words spoken to Oliver Cowdery by the Lord- that I would not be in the place I am now if the Lord had not led me there.

    While I remain somewhat offended by your wild assertions concerning “learnedness,” I do feel secure in knowing that (1) I am doing what the Lord wants me,personally, to do, and (2) that my “learnedness” is now and will continue to be used in the building up of the kingdom of God on the earth, despite some mortal shrill cries to the contrary.

    Despite the somewhat condescending nature of your post towards those of us who have pursued advanced degrees, I still laud your decision to be true to your own personal revelation that for you, an advanced education was not in the cards. Many people would not heed such a call. Kudos on having the humility to do what the Lord apparently wants you to do in your own personal life. Now please apply that humility to dealing with others who have received different directions from the Lord for their own personal lives.

    Jordan — June 2, 2005 @ 6:42pm
  41. The problem is that you try to get off of the train, but it’s moving, and the doors are closed. And so you pull the emergency brake, and all of the other passengers look at you irately.

    And then you wedge open the door, as the conductor comes back and says “what’s going on?” And you say “I’m getting off of the speculation train, buddy!”

    And he shrugs, and closes the door. And the train goes on.

    And you’re standing there, all alone in the dark, with the drip drip dripi of the rain and the clattering and scurrying and whispering of the rats to keep you company. And you’re starting to wonder whether the mole people really do live under the city, and whether there really are alligators down here.

    And then you see a light, blessed light, coming towards you. I’m saved, you think. Thank heavens I got off that speculation train when I did!

    And then you realize that the light is another speculation train, and it’s coming straight towards you, bearing down on you at thirty miles an hour. . .

    Kaimi — June 2, 2005 @ 6:53pm
  42. Do you hear that sound, Mr. Anderson? That is the sound of inevitability. It is the sound of the Speculation Train.

    Steve Evans — June 2, 2005 @ 7:07pm
  43. Ben S.: “Hey, M* is not a monolith… ”

    Sorry Ben; I was just trying to make a joke. Everyone at M* is extremely learned (much more than me anyway) but M* has definitely become shorthand for “orthoblog.”
    You may not have noticed, being the nice guy that you are, but you have a couple of prickly pears over there. Maybe they can help Aaron tone it down a bit.

    NFlanders — June 2, 2005 @ 7:08pm
  44. What I find most interesting about Aaron’s position is its utter unverifiability: his conviction is based on personal revelation, an experience that is profoundly opaque to the outside observer and, for that reason, nearly impossible to gainsay. Many of us may doubt the provenance or object to the content of his revelation, but we can’t refute it epistemologically; the very inaccessibility of his experience constitutes its authority.

    This could, of course, lead to epistemological and organizational chaos, if the principle of stewardship didn’t so effectively contain the centrifugal (and yes, Aaron, I consider yours to be a centrifugal position, not a centripetal one) tendencies of personal revelation. And apparently, even given the containment effect of the stewardship principle, the authority of personal revelation can be profoundly disruptive to community.

    Rosalynde — June 2, 2005 @ 11:29pm
  45. Elder Pace is one of the most sensitive and smart guys in the general authorities. He is one of my heroes. He has a lot of guts.

    annegb — June 3, 2005 @ 12:09am
  46. The glory of God is tightly constrained and limited intelligence, or in other words, tightly constrained and limited light and tightly constrained and limited truth.

    All truth is partially dependent in that sphere in which God has placed it, as not really all — but possibly some — intelligence also, otherwise there might or might not be existence.

    Seek ye out of the best limited and tightly constrained books words of wisdom, but not too many to avoid deranging yourself.

    Behold, all these are kingdoms, and any man who hath seen any or the least of these hath seen God moving in his majesty and power — but he shouldn’t have looked.

    he light shineth in darkness, and the darkness comprehendeth it not — but that is verily a good thing in order to avoid derangement; nevertheless, the day shall come when you shall comprehend even God, being quickened in him and by him, and then derangement is inevitable.

    For what doth it profit a man if a gift is bestowed upon him, and he receive not the gift? Behold, he rejoices not in that which is given unto him, neither rejoices in him who is the giver of the gift.

    And again, verily I say unto you, that which is governed by law is also preserved by law and perfected and sanctified by the same.

    All kingdoms have a law given;

    And there are many kingdoms; for there is no space in the which there is no kingdom; and there is no kingdom in which there is no space, either a greater or a lesser kingdom.

    And unto every kingdom is given a law; and unto every law there are certain bounds also and conditions.

    All beings who abide not in those conditions are not justified.

    For intelligence cleaveth unto intelligence; wisdom receiveth wisdom; truth embraceth truth; virtue loveth virtue; light cleaveth unto light; mercy hath compassion on mercy and claimeth her own; justice continueth its course and claimeth its own; judgment goeth before the face of him who sitteth upon the throne and governeth and executeth all things.

    He comprehendeth all things, and all things are before him, and all things are round about him; and he is above all things, and in all things, and is through all things, and is round about all things; and all things are by him, and of him, even God, forever and ever.

    greenfrog — June 14, 2005 @ 5:49pm
  47. But, of course, speculation regarding coincidences is divine.

    greenfrog — June 14, 2005 @ 5:54pm
  48. Great comments all around. I really like reading Rosalynde’s comments. I think she said it best: Aaron must be the one far from the trunk, because his mantra of higher education being bad is clearly out of line with most church teachings (that is, unless most of the twelve are hypocrites) I’ve always been taught to seek out as much education as possible. Even P. Hinckley says that to take out a loan for education is alright to do. So, how is that Aaron has strayed so far from the trunk of the tree? He’s speculated himself right out of further light and knowledge. Way to go, Idaho!

    Just Joe — June 14, 2005 @ 7:15pm
  49. I think we all need to sit back, take a look and find the middle ground here.

    The church teaches and encourages us to always learn. This is good. God gave us minds because he wants us to use them.

    The education we recieve in the world though is often counter-faith. People seem to think that the more they know, the more worth their opinion has. They get arrogant and think because they know all about molecular bonding or the writing of the Bronte sisters, then that’s all there is to the world. I’ve been through university myself. While I wouldn’t say that the atmosphere there is hostile to faith, it’s not terribly welcoming either.

    My point is, there is danger on both sides of this argument. Sometimes too much learning can be damanging to your faith. Choosing to ignore learning can cripple your faith by not giving it room to grow. Moderation in all things. Prayer in all things. Aaron prayed and felt that there was a danger to him in going to grad school so he didn’t. That’s valid but it doesn’t mean that grad school wouldn’t be helpful to others of us.

    harpingheather — June 15, 2005 @ 2:00pm
  50. […] 17, 2005 Aaron @ 3:05 pm Some may have gotten a wrong impression from my first post. Namely that I don’t think education has any value. This is not correct. Some comme […]

    Pingback by Banner of Heaven  Secondary Education. — June 17, 2005 @ 3:07pm

    Here’s a great article about speculation and doubt; i guess even Jesus did it.

    Just Joe — June 19, 2005 @ 3:29am
  52. […] ny Mormons still view intellectual pursuits with suspicion, as my co-blogger Aaron Cox does here and here, and they find such interests to be peculiar and dangerous. Even some of those who have […]

    Pingback by Banner of Heaven  Dialogue about Sunstone — June 26, 2005 @ 6:21pm

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