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And I have to admit that over the years, I’ve become more and more skeptical about the use of spiritual experience as an epistemology.
Having experiences in which you feel connected to God or divinely guided can be powerful, transformative, and intensely meaningful. But the connection between those kinds of experiences and propositional truth claims seems increasingly dubious to me.
The Mormon circles in which I am active have been rocked in recent weeks by the stories about Joseph L.
Bishop, the former MTC president who has been accused by two women of sexual abuse during his time in that position.
There are of course many ways that one might think about this problem.
I think these are vital problems to bring up, and I’m glad to see them being discussed.
In a quite different vein, I’ve run across people who are so convinced that church leaders are always guided by inspiration that they have concluded that either the women in this situation are lying, because God wouldn’t have let that happen, or that God guided church leaders to call Bishop to this position for some complicated divine reason that we mortals can’t fully understand.
I don’t think I’m going to spend a lot of time explaining why I find both of these perspectives completely untenable—in brief, disbelieving victims because “God wouldn’t have let that happen” is a horrific response to people who have been harmed, not to mention that it basically contradicts everything we can see about the world (namely that God lets terrible things happen every day).
I’m not persuaded by that sort of split, though, both because it seems to indicate that God cares more about the correctness of abstract doctrinal ideas than with real live humans getting abused, and because of the extent to which doctrine has changed over time (suggesting that humans having absolutely correct doctrinal understandings at any particular historical moment doesn’t seem to be the highest divine priority).
It seems more likely to me that seeing through a glass, darkly, is simply the nature of our existence, even with the occasional flash of spiritual illumination.