Monday, February 28, 2005

Intellectuals Leaving the Church

My wife and I have been talking recently about people that leave the church over intellectual concerns. We decided that people who leave are smart enough to recognize the questions, but not smart enough to recognize the limits of their own perception. Orson Scott Card has a take that perfectly captures my thinking.

I clearly remember the epiphany I had as a child: If someone [Hugh Nibley] this smart, this rigorous of thought, this widely and deeply educated believes that Joseph Smith was a prophet, the Book of Mormon is true, and the Church is God’s kingdom on earth, then I will not let myself get swept away by whatever questions come up during my life. I’ll question my questions, I’ll doubt my doubts, confident that one way or another, everything will be reconciled.

In other words, truth is truth, but our understanding of it at any point in time is bound to be so limited that even our knowledge contains enough ignorance that it’s foolish to jettison something important and good merely because of slight, temporary contradictions.


The only thing that makes “intellectuals” lose their testimony of the truth of the gospel is their own failure to be skeptical of their skepticism -- their failure to subject their worldly “evidence” to the same level of rigorous questioning they apply to the gospel.


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  • About a decade ago, Card commented that the group of self-proclaimed intellectuals who were excommunicated weren't "the smartest, just the proudest."

    I believe that's in his article on Walking the Tightrope, originally in Sunstone somewhere...

    Ben S.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 3/01/2005 11:10 AM  

  • I think it's a fallacy to latch onto someone's "intellectual" status as if it explains anything. No doubt rich people leave because they're rich, and lazy, selfish people because they're lazy and selfish. Since your presuppositions deny anyone who leaves a legitimate reason, of course you're going to have a handy derogatory label to put on anyone who leaves.

    That's not really directed at you personally, I know that's how everyone thinks about those who leave. What's wrong with just saying that their religious convictions changed and they went elsewhere to worship (or not) as their conscience directed them?

    By Blogger Dave, at 3/01/2005 7:49 PM  

  • Dave, I can see what you are saying. Often labels are used to avoid understanding and/or having compassion. But not always. For me, simply saying "Your religious convictions have changed" doesn't explain to me WHY that person has chosen to reject the teachings with which they once agreed. I want to try to understand what leads the rich, the lazy, the intellectual, the whatever, to leave the Church, partially so I don't fall into the same traps and partially so I can help others who may have similar questions.

    By Blogger Keryn, at 3/01/2005 10:28 PM  

  • I found the article in Sunstone that Ben mentioned. It was a good read. You can find it here.

    By Blogger Bradley Ross, at 3/02/2005 7:24 AM  

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