Discussions of Book of Mormon issues and evidences, plus other topics related to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

The 203 Effect

The photo below is an untouched image (apart from being rendered in black and white and slightly cropped) that I photographed in Boise, Idaho last year. You are looking at stairs ascending a large tank boldly labeled "203." Start at the bottom of the stairs and imagine ascending, one stair at a time. Don't rush your eyes across the image, but move methodically up the stairs, imagining how you would stand, how you would climb, how you would avoid falling. Continue until you get to the top.

Click the image to see a larger version. Do the exercise, then read on.

If you are like me and my wife, you may have been puzzled by some aspects of the image. The way things looked at first glance, and as you started your journey, might have changed along the way. Perhaps even dramatically. Perhaps you found that the logical conclusions you made as you began your upward trek were wrong, so wrong, in fact, as to be utterly upside down, completely the opposite of the reality that was in front of your nose the whole time. Perhaps it was only by looking at both the big picture and some intricate, easily missed details that you were able to properly frame the data--none of which needed to be discarded or retouched to comply with reality.

If that happened to you, then you've just experienced what I'll call the 203 Effect. The 203 Effect is part of life. It's part of growing up intellectually, spiritually, emotionally. Recognizing that assumptions we brought with us may be wrong, that paradigms we relied on to interpret the world may be completely flawed, and that easily deduced conclusions made in our rush to ascend the ladders of wisdom may leave us hanging or falling unexpectedly from what we thought was a secure perch. If you feel like you're loosing your foothold, like the security rails you thought were there are gone when you reach for them, and that everything has turned upside down on you, stay calm. Hold on, reevaluate, challenge lazy assumptions and look with new eyes to see how things fit together, learn how others have made the trek safely, and continue your journey upwards. There's no need to fall into despair.

Now of course this argument can be turned to many directions, as you wish. Here on this blog, I'm applying it, for example, to the good Christian who grew up "knowing" that Mormons were a cult and couldn't possibly even be considered Christian. Upside down! The argument can also apply to LDS folks who always thought the Book of Mormon described ALL ancient migrations to the Americas and covered the whole hemisphere in its scope, or to those who grew up thinking that prophets were nearly perfect or that we Mormons had all the answers. There's a lot of fallible humanity and human limitations mixed in with the revealed aspects of our religion. On the other hand, the argument especially applies to those who have things upside down because they see only the human weaknesses of individuals in the Church and miss that majesty and order of the divine structure that has been restored to earth that can lift and bless our lives more than any mortal remedy. You may be so focused on the rust and the shadows that you miss the beauty of the stairs.


Anonymous said...

Hold on, reevaluate, challenge lazy assumptions and look with new eyes to see how things fit together, learn how others have made the trek safely, and continue your journey upwards. There's no need to fall into despair.

Absolutely right. Millions like myself have climbed beyond the religions of our youth and are now living happily and healthily as atheists and enjoying this big, beautiful, wonderful world. We like it up here. You're welcome to join us any time.

-- Eveningsun

Papa D said...

Eveningsun, I don't begrudge you your peace and beauty outside the religion of your youth; please don't begrudge me mine inside mine. I appreciate many of your contributions here (seriously, even though we disagree about a lot of specific things), but taking potshots in a post where Jeff explicitly "calls out" Mormons as well as others just seems petty and below you, frankly.

Excellent thoughts, Jeff. I've always said that I will honor people's individual decisions in trying to find what works for them as individuals (including those who choose to leave the LDS Church), but I also have said that it's much better to slow down and not make drastic changes in the heat of an emotion - to make sure not to take radical actions so quickly that they are nearly impossible to alter once taken.

Exchanging one general certainty for another general certainty isn't fundamental change of perspective, view, orientation or anything else transformative; rather, it's just geographic transplantation, so to speak.

Papa D said...

Eveningsun, I just realized that my first paragraph above sounds a lot harsher than I meant it to be last night when I wrote it. I should have added a smiley face emoticon or something. Sorry about that.

shawn said...

Personally, I view Atheism as a religion since there is no scientific way to prove God or an afterlife does not exist. Look at near death experiences (NDE)... happens to people no matter what there religious opinions might be.

Setting aside the "happy and healthly" religious people (who are happily and healthily living below self described atheists), the most "happy and healthly" and intelligent people I have met have been agnostic...

D said...

Religion has an inspiring sense of community and a beautiful traditional element. It's always a personal choice, and everyone is one their own path.

Anonymous said...

PapaD, no need to apologize. In fact, I'll apologize instead for the tone of my comment above. The point I wanted to make is that Jeff's visual metaphor works as well for me as it does for him, though I apologize for saying it so snarkily.

To which I'll add, it's a great photo.

-- Eveningsun

Cory said...


I'm always impressed at how eloquently and with real charity you've been able to express the very things I have been recognizing going on in my own life.

Charlie Warren said...

I've been enjoying catching up on some of your older posts since I've joined. BTW, I nominated you for the Versatile Blogger Award.

Steve said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said...

I know that Mormons are cult members...because I’ve studied Mormon beliefs. Mormon doctrine is not Christian.

Steve, even if we grant that Mormon beliefs aren't Christian, how does it follow that "Mormons are cult members"? Are all non-Christian churches cults?

-- Eveningsun

Jeff Lindsay said...

I deleted two comments today. As a reminder, my posts are not excuses for people to dump their lists of anti-Mormon objections and favorite off-topic questionable quotes. Really off-topic jabs just don't belong here. And I do not allow links to obviously hostile anti-Mormon sites since I have no interest in increasing their traffic or visibility on the web. While I rarely delete comments, the combined offenses irked me enough to take action.

I will note that one critic shared his personal testimony that Mormons are a cult because, based on his study, he determined that Mormons had some doctrinal differences with the particular form of Christianity he preferred. It's a very entertaining exercise that can turn anyone into a cultist, as shown by the rather out-of-date but still powerful product, CultMaster 2000 (programmers are needed to help with the upcoming 2020 version - contact me for details).

Jeff Lindsay said...

One of the hallmarks of a cult, of course, as any real Christian knows, is the mind-numbing belief that anyone who disagrees with you must be part of a cult.

Steve said...

Hi Jeff,

I'm sorry if I offended you. You seem particularly offended by my description of Mormanity as a cult. Very well, I won't go down the cult path. And I won't post external links to "anti-mormon" sites (although I consider them pro-Jesus, not anti-mormon).

However, my main point about Mormon doctrine not being Christian stands.

The reason I know that Mormons are not Christians is because I've studied Mormon beliefs. Mormonism teaches a different Christ, a different resurrection, and a different Gospel than that of the Bible.

Different Christ:
Apostle Bruce R. McConkie stated, “…virtually all the millions of apostate Christendom have abased themselves before the mythical throne of a mythical Christ.” (Mormon Doctrine, pg. 269)

Also, Christ never taught eternal marriage, nor marriage in a temple. If it was so important, wouldn't he have mentioned it?

Different resurrection:

Matthew 22:30
For in the resurrection they neither marry, nor are given in marriage, but are as the angels of God in heaven.

Different Gospel, compare the Third Article of Faith: “We believe that through the Atonement of Christ, all mankind may be saved, by obedience to the laws and ordinances of the Gospel.”


Acts 16:27-30 “And the keeper of the prison awaking out of his sleep, and seeing the prison doors open, he drew out his sword, and would have killed himself, supposing that the prisoners had been fled.
But Paul cried with a loud voice, saying, Do thyself no harm: for we are all here. Then he called for a light, and sprang in, and came trembling, and fell down before Paul and Silas, And brought them out, and said, Sirs, what must I do to be saved? And they said, Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved, and thy house.”

2 Corinthians 11:4, 13-15
For if he that cometh preacheth another Jesus, whom we have not preached, or if ye receive another spirit, which ye have not received, or another gospel, which ye have not accepted, ye might well bear with him…For such men are false apostles, deceitful workmen, masquerading as apostles of Christ. 14 And no wonder, for Satan himself masquerades as an angel of light. 15 It is not surprising, then, if his servants masquerade as servants of righteousness. Their end will be what their actions deserve.”

Maybe you will delete this comment too. It's your right- after all, it's your blog. But if you do, consider taking the "But not just for Mormons" phrase away.


Openminded said...

Mormons believe in the same Christ from the gospels. not the exact same things as you, and certainly other things than you do. but they believe in Christ.

if they're not Christians for believing in your version of Christ, you're not going to reach them by displaying the same bible verses they read out of the bible or what some Apostle or Prophet said in a book.

his blog accepts critics and does a great job at maintaining the "but not just for Mormons" part. just please post something more insightful than your recycled arguments about why Mormonism isn't your particular breed of Christianity (out of many breeds, by the way)