Comments about ‘In the Village: Magical thinking is not the plan’

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Published: Thursday, Oct. 20 2011 5:00 a.m. MDT

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Centerville, UT

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

Boise, ID

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.

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)

Los Alamos, NM

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.

Taylorsville, UT

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.

Orem, UT

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.

Sterling Heights, MI

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.

Bend, OR

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.

als Atheist
Provo, UT

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"?

Los Alamos, NM

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.

Temple City, CA

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.

Brigham City, UT

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.

Salt Lake City, UT

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.

the truth
Holladay, UT

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.

Bob Pomeroy
Bisbee, AZ

"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 Vanka
Provo, UT

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..."

als Atheist
Provo, UT


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 truth
Holladay, UT

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.

Bob Pomeroy
Bisbee, AZ

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

The Vanka
Provo, UT

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.

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