Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Messin' with Mormons 10

Wow, Anteaters, since May 2009 when I started ATAT we've gone through 9 Mormon missionary chats. Today, I used the name Paul, but otherwise gave my answers truthfully from my own history. Since I posed as a man, I was listened to extensively, and three separate missionaries across a span of two hours chatted with me. Here we go!
Braden: Hello!
How are you?

Me: Hi Braden. I'm doing fine. You?

Braden: I'm doing well, thanks!
Where are you chatting from today?

Me: Florida. Are you in Utah?

Braden: I am right now
But I'm from Idaho

Me: Neat. I wanted to ask you a few questions about LDS and the Church.

Braden: Perfect

Me: How early are children taught about the faith, and what form does this take?

Braden: I've been praying for as long as I can remember
Ah, therefore it is an entirely reliable means of knowing truths. (This will come up again, soon.)
Braden: What do you mean by form?

Me: I guess, how are kids taught - through songs or stories, or a Kids Book of Mormon & Kids Bible?

Braden: All of the above
Haha! Indoctrination is such a trip.
Me: :) and kids are baptized at 7, right?

Braden: Age 8 actually

Me: That's when I was baptized as a kid :)
we went to a non-denomination church though, not LDS
Do you do baby dedications before children are old enough for baptism?

Braden: We do baby blessings
That's where the child is given a name and a blessing in church

Me: Is that name unique from their given name on their birth certificate?
My mom and her sisters all have two middle names - one on their birth certificate, and one from Catholic confirmation.
Braden: No, it's the same name

Me: Okay just within the church
Do many Mormon families homeschool, or is public schooling big? I haven't heard of any Mormon grade schools. Are there any?

Braden: Not that I know of
I went to public school

Me: Okay. Did you go to Bible camp as a kid, too?

Braden: I did not

Me: Are most of your friends also Mormon?

Braden: A lot of them are, yes

Me: Okay. What would you say is the best thing about growing up Mormon?

Braden: For me it was always knowing where I came from and that God loves me and that I'm His child... that knowledge means more to me than anything else
"more to me than anything else" - This is why people fight so hard to hold onto nonsense. It's incredibly personally *important* nonsense.
Me: I guess I would say that I had that as a child, even though I wasn't Mormon.

Braden: There are a lot that don't
I also aways knew that God answered my prayers and I haven't had a prayer go unanswered
Great! Let's go find some amputees who could really use the help.
Me: Wow - never one prayer?

Braden: Not that I can remember. (Cause you don't count the misses, only the hits)

Me: I think I'd be praying to win the lottery if my prayers had that kind of success rate! Haha
What kinds of prayers have been answered?

Braden: haha
Unanswered doesn't mean that I got what I wanted... I just always felt God's presence and felt Him guide me
When I was praying for God to heal my hip so I could walk, I wasn't looking to feel a presence. when countless Christians over the centuries have prayed over a lifeless body for the kind of resurrection that seemed to be happening all the time in the New Testament, they almost certainly do not consider a failure for that body to reanimate as an answered prayer. Of course, if all that an answer means is a feeling...
Braden: A lot of things, if the Book of Mormon is true, whether or not I should go on a msision for the church... decisions like that

Me: Oh okay. You mean, "God answers every prayer one of three ways: Yes, no or wait"
How did you decide to go on a mission?

Braden: Yeah like that
I prayed a lot to know if this is God's true church and to ask if He wanted me to tell the world tha

Me: I've heard a few different Mormons talk about the verses in Nephi where it basically says, if you pray and ask me if the Book of Mormon is true, you'll know that it is
Did you have that experience?

Braden: That's exactly what I had
It wasn't an immediate answer, it came after about a week and a half of praying day and night to know if it was true

Me: Wow. What would you have done if you never heard an answer, or felt like the answer was No?

Braden: I don't know... I always knew that I'd get an answer

Me: What if it had been No?

Braden: Then I would have kept searching
Notice that whether or not god is real is not even part of this exercise. No, you just ask god to confirm that the faith you've been indoctrinated into is correct.
Me: Do you feel that the Bible is as true as the BOM?

Braden: I know that it's true but I don't feel or believe that it is perfect
The Bible, I mean
I love how he *knows* that the Bible is true, but only feels and believe it is imperfect.
Me: which parts do you think are imperfect?

Braden: I don't know that we can say, this section or that part is imperfect (we can) but there are some doctrines that aren't as clear as they should be
Which is why there are so many different beliefs today
The Bible is imperfect and unclear, which is why we have so many different Christianities today. You know, I think I agree here 100%
Me: Which doctrines do you think are unclear?

Braden: The nature of the Godhead is one, baptism is another

Me: How so? I haven't heard the Mormon perspective on these doctrines before

Braden: We believe that God, Jesus Christ, and the Holy Ghost are three separate beings and that they continue to give revelation today
We also believe and know that baptism must be done by immersion and by one who holds authority from God that is given by the laying on of hands

Me: You believe and know this about baptism. How do you know it?

Braden: Again, through study and prayer

Me: Is there anyway for an outside person to see that Mormons have the true revelation, not other faiths?

Braden: Through study and prayer
God is the only one who can give that answer

Me: Well yes, but my Muslim friends have studied and prayed and come to a different conclusion. Hindus have studied and prayed & come to a different conclusion. Many atheists have studied & prayed & come to a different conclusion.
How can I know which of you is right, if god won't speak to me when I study and pray?

Braden: What do you personally believe now?

Me: I don't believe in any gods, because I can't see the actions or evidence of any.

Braden: I like something that C.S. Lewis once said

Me: If there are any gods though, I would like to know. Yes, I have read Lewis - all of his works. I enjoyed the Screwtape Letters when I was a teenager, and Mere Christianity has some nice-sounding arguments till you think them through.
the Chronicles of Narnia were lots of fun

Braden: He said something to the effect of, "I believe in God the same way I believe in the sun, not because I can see it, but that because of it I can see everything around me."
*blink, blink*
Me: But you can see the sun.

Braden: Hey Paul, I have to be going, let me transfer you to my friend David

Me: Ok

Braden has transferred you to David.

David: Hello. How are you?

Me: Hi David. I'm well, how are you?

David: I'm doing well

Me: I was just asking Braden how someone could tell that LDS is the right church if they cannot hear from any gods?

David: It is necessary to receive personal revealtion in order to learn that the church is true for ourselves
We need to study and pray

Me: Yes, well as I was telling Braden - I have studied, and prayed. A lot.
I've asked people of all different faiths. If your god is the real one, surely you must have something that all the false or pretend gods don't. What is it?

David: This is the only church with priesthood authority

Me: Do you have any way that someone outside LDS could tell that your priesthood authority was real and really from god? How do you nkow it isn't just a group of men, or how would I know that?

Daivd: You can't really prove spiritual things. It requires faith. There is however convincing evidence with the Book of Mormon that this authority was restored

Me: wait, so it's just faith? but then there's no reason to think you're the ones who are right is there?

David: There are many reasons.
One of those being the organization of the church
David: The church is led by a prophet and 12 apostles who receive revelation from God

Me: Why is that a better sign of it being true than a descent through a priestly line, like in Shiite Islam or ancient Judaism?
or than a Pope w/cardinals?

David: Because salvation only comes through Christ
that means we need to follow His teachings
And this is how He established His church when He was here on the earth

Me: How can someone know that is true? I've read some of the Koran & the Bhagavad Gita & BOM. How do you know which is true?
Christ started the church of latter-day saints?

David: The church is a restoration of Christ's church
You can know through prayer
Prayer is the key to finding answers

Only God knows what is best and what is true
Well then on what criteria do you evaluate god to be best or telling the truth?
Me: But David, I have prayed. I don't hear anything but my own thoughts.
I've asked you and Braden to please tell me how someone can know if LDS is true, when I cannot rely on personal revelation through prayer. Is this possible?

David: What answer are you expecting when you pray?

Me: Anything. Something that I can tell isn't just my own thoughts.
If gods are real, shouldn't we be able to tell?

David: No. You can't prove spiritual things. Can you prove that God lives? Can you prove that Christ died for our sins?
Of course I can't prove those things - because they're ridiculous.
David: The fact that we are here on this earth is evidence of God

Me: No, it's only evidence for us.
If that's evidence, aren't the vast expanses of uninhabited space evidence against god?

David: Why?

Me: well, why would us being here be evidence for a god?

David: He created us and this earth

Me: What makes you say that? (Twenty minute pause. I finished rotating crops on Farmville.)

David: You are seeking for proof which you won't find
Christ warned against sign seekers

Me: All I asked is why you think that. Now you're telling me "Christ warned" about people like me? That seems rude, David. (That's right, I got the high road bitches!)
It's just I want to have true beliefs, and not false ones.
How many of the Proverbs are spenting praising wisdom and the seeking of wisdom?

David: I told you why I think that, it's because I have studied and prayed about it
The scriptures and living prophets teach us these things

Me: Okay but for someone like me who doesn't not hear from any god or gods, since personal revealtion seems to be whaat so many religious people rely on, can I just conclude no gods wanna talk to me?

David: No. I think it just takes some time to learn to better recognize the answers you receive to prayer
Why assum the breakdown in communication is on my end? I'm not the one claiming to be omnipotent!
Me:Well maybe you could help me with that. When you're praying, how do you know if what you hear is from god or the devil or just your own thoughts?

David: That's a good question
In the Book of Mormon it talks about the way to judge

Me: What does it say?

David. Let me find the passage... (link)
After reading that, how do you think you can know when your answer comes from God?

Me: David, it seems to say that anything that agrees with christ is from god. But it doesn't say how you know that Christ is from god
It seems to just be "If your thoughts agree w/what you already believe & what this book says, then you should believe they're from god"

David: Not really. If it leads you to do good, to help others, to be inspired or enlightened, to be happy, that comes from God
All good things come from God
I actually need to go now

Me: Well, I do lots of good for others. I consider myself a very moral & ethical person. I just don't believe in god, because I can't tell your claims apart from the Muslims or the Hindus. They all rest on faith & the words written in some book, that claims it's the word of god

David: Would you like me to transfer you to someone else who can continue to help you?

Me: Do you think they will be able to?

David: As you apply gospel principles in your life and see the blessings that come from living those principles you can know that it is true
I think so

Me: What do you mean by "gospel principles"

David: All the teachings or things you learn from church
Not just everything in the Bible, but apparently everything you learn from church! Hmmmm, what about all the things I learned at church that contradicted the other things I learned at other churches? Oh dear!
David: I really need to go now though
It's been great talking with you

Me: You too David

David has transferred you to Casey.

Casey: Hello how are you today?

Me: Hi Casey, I'm well. How are you?

Casey: I am also doing well thanks.
With what may I help you today?
(English not his first language perhaps? In that case, I'll leave off any teasing about grammar.)

Me: I want to know how someone can tell which, if any, religion is true if they don't hear god

Casey: that can be hard because that is the way that we can know. However God has promised that he will answer all those who believe and have faith in him.

Me: well, how can you believe or have faith in something that you don't even know exists?

Casey: I think that is the very essence of faith. It is trusting that what we can't see does exist.

Me: But I think even people with faith have a reason FOR their faith, right? I mean, there's a reason you have faith in the Mormon god and not Hindu gods. What's that reason?

Casey: As I read the scriptures I have come to realize that the prophets have always taught that there is only one true god. I have exercised faith in him and been blessed because of that.
As we live by faith and allow those beliefs to guide our lives God blesses us and we see evidence in the form of belssings from God that our faith is not in vain. But the miracles and the blessings are preceded by faith.

Me: When you say the prophets have always taught this, which prophets do you mean? I assume you don't include Bhuddha
What kind of blessings? I gather you don't mean money, since people of faith range from poverty to extreme wealth

Casey: I am referring to the prophets in the Bible. By blessings I refer to peace, Joy, Spiritual strength, the blessings of having the Holy Ghost with me to guide my decisions, etc.
Wouldn't wanna make your own decisions.
Me: Okay, but how do you know those prophets were really from god?
Well, I'm a nonbeliever but I feel peace, joy, and inner strength. I may not feel the HG but I am able to make good decisions.

Casey: I can see where you are coming from and you are right that non beleivers can feel peace and Joy
As long as a person is living a good life they can have those blessings
I believe however that as one consciously strives to follow the God that is taught about in the Bible that they will find even greater Joy and happiness than they have previously known.
(Yeah right!)
Or could know without God. *spittake!*

Me: Well, it doesn't sound like your god has too much to offer I dont' already have. Since I prefer to believe true things, & try to avoid things which are probably not true, I guess I'll stay an atheist.

Casey: We would love to help with whatever we can if you would like us to in the future.

Me: As soon as you find a more reliable evidence for god than personal revelation, please let me know!

Casey: Will do.

So then I made a video about it.

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