In the Village: Magical thinking is not the plan


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  • Somhairle MISSOULA, MT
    Oct. 27, 2011 12:40 p.m.

    I'm a fan of Brother Card's work, but in this case, I need to point out that magicians don't think like that and magic doesn't work like that.

  • Swedish reader Stockholm, Sweden
    Oct. 24, 2011 8:18 a.m.

    Reading through the comments, I'm wondering how the distinction between salvation and exaltation has anything to do with what Bro. card said. His point was simply that we can't take away someone's free agency by doing the right things. The important conclusion I draw from this is that when someone near to us makes choices we wish they hadn't made, there is no need for us to feel guilty and wonder what we did wrong.

  • Valjean Los Alamos, NM
    Oct. 24, 2011 8:03 a.m.

    als atheist,

    The existence of a placebo effect, and the value of stress reduction in speeding recover from illness or injury, aren't even controversial. It is entirely plausible, from a completely cold scientific point of view, that a religious person migh experience enough of a calming effect from reading scripture to show a significant improvement in rate of recovery.

    A perfectly natural phenomenon rather than a divine miracle? That it is a perfectly natural phenomenon is, after all, Card's point. This does not preclude it being a miracle in Mormon understanding.

  • Vanka Provo, UT
    Oct. 24, 2011 1:08 a.m.

    the truth,

    No, you did not give scriptural support for the distinction (or connection) between salvation and exaltation, nor did you clarify the confusion created by the LDS 3rd Article of Faith requiring "obedience to the laws and ordinances of the gospel" in order to receive (earn) "salvation" (not exaltation).

    You gave us a lot of your own interpolation, speculation, and opinion, but nothing in the way of doctrinal scriptural support for your conjectures.

  • Weber State Graduate Clearfield, UT
    Oct. 23, 2011 5:44 p.m.

    No matter how rational people consider themselves, if they place a high value on feelings, events of personal significance push them strongly toward magical meaning-making.

    This same magical meaning-making is evident in those who claim a supernatural witness to truththeir claim to have a special knowledge that their version of the truth is superior to the facts. Such magical meaning-making is nothing more than a psychological product of the claimant's own unique effort to find value and meaning in what they have been indoctrinated to believe as true.

    "While such feelings are natural, there is no logic behind them."

    Oct. 23, 2011 10:25 a.m.

    While following God's will and making the right choices in life do not guarantee the desired results, I hope that when we do the right thing, we do have a guarantee that we may always have His spirit to be with us.

  • the truth Holladay, UT
    Oct. 22, 2011 11:20 a.m.

    RE: Vanka

    You asked for scriptural reference I gave it to you, even from the bible.

    Salvation is the overriding or overarching doctrine, exhaltatation is part of that.

    I can not make it any more simpler. Exhaltation is part of salvation. It is the whole point of the "Plan of Salvation".

    According to what God revealed to Moses:

    "For behold, this is my work and my gloryto bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man."

    Without Exhaltation, there is no "eternal life" ('eternal' meaning 'of God' or "Godly' and 'with God', this is the LDS understanding of 'eternal', which must be distinct from 'immortal'. Christ's resurrection gave us "immortality' we will all be ressurected, But what does the atonement do for us? And faith and obedinece, and baptism and all other the ordinances and doctrinal things do for us?)

    Without Exhaltation there is no point to our earthly experiences and probation, no point of judging us for our works and obedience and faith, none at all.

  • The Vanka Provo, UT
    Oct. 21, 2011 8:52 p.m.

    The truth,

    You did not address my point. Please re-read my earlier comment and try again. This is a significant problem in LDS soteriology.

  • Bob Pomeroy Bisbee, AZ
    Oct. 21, 2011 7:18 p.m.

    my comment was approved and rec'd recommendations, but was then deleted. my, my

  • the truth Holladay, UT
    Oct. 21, 2011 5:44 p.m.

    RE: Vanka

    Paul Teaches of this in 1 Corinthians 15:

    35 But some man will say, How are the dead raised up? and with what body do they come?
    38 But God giveth it a body as it hath pleased him, and to every seed his own body.
    39 All flesh is not the same flesh:
    40 There are also celestial bodies, and bodies terrestrial: but the glory of the celestial is one, and the glory of the terrestrial is another.
    41 There is one glory of the sun, and another glory of the moon, and another glory of the stars: for one star differeth from another star in glory.

    42 So also is the resurrection of the dead....

    I did not mean to imply you can be "somewhat saved". you'll be saved as long you're not Son(or Daughter) of perdition,

    And you will recieve a glory according to your works and faith.

    John teaches in Revelations 20:12

    ...and the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books, according to their works.

    Matthew 16:27

    ...then he will reward each person according to what he has done.

    Pretty straight forward.

  • als Atheist Provo, UT
    Oct. 21, 2011 3:12 p.m.


    Nothing you wrote makes any difference to my point. The idea that reading scriptures can "accelerate physical healing" IS magical thinking, and has no basis in fact, and no scientific support whatsoever.

  • The Vanka Provo, UT
    Oct. 21, 2011 3:07 p.m.

    The truth,

    You wrote:

    "Actually Mormons believe everyone will be saved so some degree or another. All based on faith and works."

    Please provide scriptural support for this claim. Please show that Mormons believe that "everyone will be saved to some degree or another", and please show scripturally where Jesus or other known Christian sources ever articulated "salvation by degrees".

    As I understand it, salvation is on or off: you are either saved or not. I know of nowhere in scripture that says you can be "somewhat saved".

    I understand the LDS concept of "exaltation" (which I do not believe is Biblical), and degrees of exaltation are understandable, but not salvation.

    Moreover, I find it peculiar that LDS people defend this distinction between salvation and exaltation when explaining away the "faith vs works" dilemma, yet the distinction is not found in LDS scripture. Yet LDS frequently say ALL will be saved (resurrected, which is free), but not all will be exalted (which is based on works).

    For instance, LDS 3rd Article of Faith says "...all mankind may be saved, by obedience to the laws and ordinances of the Gospel."

    It does NOT say "exalted, by obedience..."

  • Bob Pomeroy Bisbee, AZ
    Oct. 20, 2011 10:48 p.m.

    "When we assign a meaning or significance to some act, we are practicing magical thinking."

    Assigning meaning, significance, value, good is inherent in free agency, aot 'free will', which is a smaller notion. We build ourselves, our lives, by the cumulation of subjectively assigning 'meaning, significance, value, etc.' to our daily experiences. We are in a state of 'becoming'. We largely make ourselves, every day, and are dependent on grace for any real 'progress'. When our sense of entitlement ignores grace and sinks to the level of a quid pro quo for acting per commandments, we make a graven image in our life. The power to ascribe 'meaning, significance, value' is something only humans in this creation can do. Nietsche spoke pompously of the 'will to power'; I prefer to stand in awe of and have all due respect for 'the power to will'. Thankfully, this world is transitory and not eternal. The messes we can create around us will not last forever.
    Thanks OSC for enlarging our understanding of the gravamen of Free Agency.

  • the truth Holladay, UT
    Oct. 20, 2011 7:22 p.m.

    RE: RanchHand

    Actually Mormons believe everyone will be saved so some degree or another.

    All based on faith and works.

    The Greatest reward is for those with the greatest faith and good works and who obey God's commandments and accept His eternal ordinances.

    The only for one not to be saved is have once to have had and embraced the truth and then rejected it.

  • Anthracite Salt Lake City, UT
    Oct. 20, 2011 7:02 p.m.

    Huntsville, UT
    Another aspect of "magical thinking" among Mormons is that they assume that just because they're Mormon, they're automagically going to be *saved*.

    (but this seems to be true of most religions too)"

    As a Mormon, I wholeheartedly agree. Sure, people in other religions may do this, but Mormons should be the last people who do (meaning we shouldn't at all).

    On the flipside, there are people in all religions who think if someone leaves that religion, that person is condemned for eternity. Mormons should be the last people who do this, as well. The plan of salvation, if true, is very merciful.

  • christoph Brigham City, UT
    Oct. 20, 2011 4:55 p.m.

    The scriptures, over and over again, say: "Ask and ye shall receive." Perhaps as a human race, we don't know everything about "faith" or "sealing in the temple, " or "patience" or any other principle, doctrine and ordinance. We think patience should hurry up. The scriptures do say that whoso sacrifices house, car, time, priorities, ego etc...will receive a hundred fold in the next life. It will all work out, but it is hard to swallow at times.

  • Jeff Temple City, CA
    Oct. 20, 2011 4:44 p.m.

    Card is not suggesting that Latter-day Saints cease to believe in miracles or to pray. He is pointing out a tendency among us to expect an outcome based on our actions alone, when the outcome may be contrary to the will of someone else, including the Lord.

    There is also a tendency among us (I see it in myself, and I thank Card for pointing it out) to expect cause and effect to be simple and uncomplicated, when the reality is often very complex. It is at least as complex as a human being.

  • Valjean Los Alamos, NM
    Oct. 20, 2011 4:17 p.m.

    als Athiest,

    The full quote, which you could not be bothered to supply, was:

    "Pondering a passage of scripture can be a key to unlock revelation and the guidance and inspiration of the Holy Ghost. Scriptures can calm an agitated soul, giving peace, hope, and a restoration of confidence in ones ability to overcome the challenges of life. They have potent power to heal emotional challenges when there is faith in the Savior. They can accelerate physical healing."

    There is nothing magical about the connection between mind and body, nor any real dispute in the medical community that a poor mental state ("agitated soul") can be a hindrance to physical recovery from injury or illness. So, no, this is not an example of magical thinking.

  • als Atheist Provo, UT
    Oct. 20, 2011 3:56 p.m.

    In the most recent LDS General Conference, Richard G. Scott said,

    "Scriptures...can accelerate physical healing."

    Mr. Card, do you consider this statement to be an example of "magical thinking"?

    Do members of the LDS Church engage in harmful "magical thinking" of their own accord, or is such thinking encouraged (or even demanded) as part of faithful membership and "worthiness"?

  • hc1951 Bend, OR
    Oct. 20, 2011 1:13 p.m.

    Perhaps the slide from faith to "magical thinking" occurs most readily when we fall into the "entitlement trap"? In short, "I've been good so I'm ENTITLED to ice cream!" Isn't virtue supposed to be it's own reward? Thank you once again, Bro. Card, for your insight.

  • kenny Sterling Heights, MI
    Oct. 20, 2011 11:16 a.m.

    I was trying to comment in my own words but decided to say this........locate and read the book "One More Strain of Praise" by Neal A. Maxwell.

  • pmccombs Orem, UT
    Oct. 20, 2011 10:35 a.m.

    Brother Card presents a common argument to the problem of theodicy. The argument is typically listed under "Free Will," but our (Mormon) correlated term for it today is "Free Agency." God granted us the ability to choose and act for ourselves, hence the occasional tragic consequences. Lacking this agency, we find ourselves in a situation described as "Lucifer's plan."

    Card seems concerned that our "magical thinking" sometimes precludes the free agency of others. I caution against this view, however. What have we got, if not the stories we tell ourselves? Could it be that magical thinking is important to human hope? When we assign a meaning or significance to some act, we are practicing magical thinking. This is because there is no epistemological basis for religious belief that does not beg the question. The fundamental act of faith is essentially "magical." We do these things, not because we know, but because we hope (and only think we know).

    And if our hopes are dashed? A crisis; we come face-to-face with the absurdity of the universe. Our faith (ie "magical thinking") is challenged. I suggest that perhaps it is good for man to struggle with his faith.

  • pat1 Taylorsville, UT
    Oct. 20, 2011 10:02 a.m.

    Thank you for this article. Magical thinking can have many other bad outcomes---one of which is neighbors and ward members criticizing because of failures in a home. ("You must not have read the Book of Mormon in your home" "If your mother didn't work" "If this child had only been involved in Church sports" "If you had only been more understanding your husband wouldn't have left." "If you had only gone to the temple every week."

    No. These aren't magical solutions. And, as one who has experienced a couple of the situations you mention, I will tell you that the grief at times is terrible, and it comes and goes. And we do feel failure. The scriptures tell of godly sorrow. We are not God, but we do know the sorrow that comes from poor choices that those dear to us sometimes make.

    We have to be careful to realize that in relationships as well as in parenting, the right to choose is everyone's, and some will choose another way.

  • Valjean Los Alamos, NM
    Oct. 20, 2011 9:39 a.m.

    I think a related, but not quite identical, mode of thinking is "Why didn't God warn me?" Why did God allow me to feel right about marrying that spouse when He could foresee that the spouse would not be faithful? Why did God allow me to feel good about having that child when He could foresee that the child would go off the rails?

    Agency is part of the answer. D&C 122 provides some answers as well.

  • RanchHand Huntsville, UT
    Oct. 20, 2011 9:14 a.m.

    Another aspect of "magical thinking" among Mormons is that they assume that just because they're Mormon, they're automagically going to be *saved*.

    (but this seems to be true of most religions too)

  • Gracie Boise, ID
    Oct. 20, 2011 9:10 a.m.

    For new members especially, it's a great disservice to hear sermons preached by life-long members that include their own personal-favorite magical formulas. I later had to question those hopeful ideas and discard incorrect notions as life's lessons ensued. It was difficult because I believed I was supposed to inculcate not only the standard works but any heart-felt admonitions of my new leaders. Yes, we all have opportunities to mislead each other, and most speakers aren't trying to lead us astray; and we must learn to discard dross in favor of hidden gold. What still eludes me, though, is why dross is so prevalent in Church meetings and allowed public advocacy without correction. As a former Relief Society president, I felt strongly the need to protect tender, developing testimonies of the women I loved, as well as encourage the strength of the whole. I had to find a way to rein in leanings amongst teachers, for example, who'd otherwise redesign the gospel during their lessons. It can be done without offense if approached carefully. More of this in our meetings would reduce doctrinal misdirection.

  • Cat Centerville, UT
    Oct. 20, 2011 8:58 a.m.

    Amen. Living the way you are supposed to live can stack the deck but it's no guarantee.