On Knowing Nothing

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I would like to bear my testimony that I do not know a thing.

Our best understandings of God are idols which must be destroyed before we can encounter God.

To borrow from the first shahada of Islam’s first pillar, “lā ʾilāha ʾillā-llāh”— “there is no God but God.” When first we accept that there is no God — then we meet God.

No amount of words can encapsulate or exhaust the Word. They’re like clothes on an invisible body, flecks of paint on an invisible object of which we can’t quite make out the shape.

As Derrida would put…

Notes on Various Kinds of Mormonism

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“Why then do you marvel at the resurrection of Jesus? What is marvelous is not that he arose but that he did not arise alone, that he raised many other dead ones who appeared to many in Jerusalem.”

Gospel of Nicodemus (Acts of Pilate) 17:1 (c. 600s)

“… if you have power to seal [yourselves to one another] on earth and in heaven, then we should be crafty. The first thing you do: go and seal on earth your sons and daughters unto yourself, and yourself unto your fathers in eternal glory. And go ahead and … use a…

Trauma, Perspective, and Mormonism’s Infinite Regress of Gods

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“The fear of infinity is a form of myopia that destroys the possibility of seeing the actual infinite, even though it in its highest form has created and sustains us, and in its secondary transfinite forms occurs all around us and even inhabits our minds.”

Georg Cantor

Just over six eventful years ago, I returned home from my two years in California as a missionary for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. It wasn’t until much later that I realized I likely had PTSD. After returning home, I would experience panic attacks when I encountered male missionaries…

A Brief Survey

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The following is a brief investigative report on some of the research surrounding the history and potential therapeutic and psychiatric applications of psychedelics. Neither non-exhaustive in scope nor to be taken as medical advice, the following serves as a primer for those who may be unfamiliar with the subject but who would like an introduction. The works cited at the end will provide a list of resources for further research. If you have any additional resources on this subject that you would like to recommend, please feel free to leave them in the comments below.

In large part due to…

A Short Sermon on Sleep

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Sleep is an exceptionally important part of our daily lives.

Achieving deep sleep helps the mind to transfer the short-term memories of the day to the brain’s long-term memory networks. Additionally, during deep sleep, the brain is “rinsed” in spinal fluid to help clean out neural debris that wasn’t metabolized or disposed of in the reuptake process.

Perhaps most interestingly, during this “cleaning” and “inventory” process, the subsystems that produce our sense of self downregulate — the self you were that day evaporates. On a related note, as psychotherapist Irvin Yalom notes in his book Staring at the Sun: Overcoming…

Exploring Consciousness through Psychology and Neuroscience

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In my personal interests, I tend to lean closer to psychotherapy and psychology, but I’ve learned a number of important lessons from the neurosciences. I think the most important lesson can be summarized like this: we do not experience “reality itself” but an essentialized distillation of reality, constructed by our subjectively-conditioned brain, from selectively limited sensory data, organized around limiting principles (eg, self-preservation). In a manner of speaking, rather than experiencing “reality itself,” what we experience is something more comparable to a virtual reality, a low-resolution copy of the objective original.

Eric Steinhart, in his short book On Nietzsche, compares…

Building Zion in the Real World

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In the Book of Mormon, Nephi takes great pains to describe the human condition (“scattered Israel”) and God’s ultimate goal for it (“Zion”), presenting the Book of Mormon as a tool to close the gap between the two (2 Nephi 27) — “the things which shall be written out of the book shall be of great worth unto the children of men” (28:2).

Nephi anticipates that when the Book of Mormon emerges, it will come onto a chaotic scene: “churches which are built up, and not unto the Lord … shall say unto the other: Behold, I, I am the…

An Easter primer for all — Mormon, Christian, or otherwise

A sandstone monument crafted by Johann August Nahl (1710–1795) of Maria Magdalena Langhans (1723–1751), commissioned by her husband Pastor Georg Langhans

With Holy Week right around the corner, I’ve found myself revisiting the stories associated with it. Though I don’t often do this in any formal sense (for instance, I don’t typically attend services or review texts in depth), around this time of year I find myself contemplating the events leading up to Jesus’ death and what came thereafter. This annual, albeit informal practice has helped me to not only periodically revisit ideas that have deeply shaped my worldview, but to see understand where my spiritual journey has taken me.

Though I don’t personally know what to say about resurrection on…

The Existential Crisis of Resurrection in Mormonism

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“Prepare to die is not the exhortation in this Church and Kingdom; but prepare to live is the word with us, and improve all we can in the life hereafter, wherein we may enjoy a more exalted condition of intelligence, wisdom, light, knowledge, power, glory, and exaltation. Then let us seek to extend the present life to the uttermost, by observing every law of health, and by properly balancing labor, study, rest, and recreation, and thus prepare for a better life. …

Or, On How the Tail Wags the Dog

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“After many lives, a craving monk from Edo was reborn as a tiger who couldn’t stop roaring at the moon. One summer night he heard a moonless silent roar and he was finally able to walk free between Heaven and Earth.”

Michel Lara, “The Silent Roar

When I was a teenager, enamored with the work of scholars like Hugh Nibley and Richard Bushman, I was of the view that Mormonism needed new historians to take up their mantle. Then, taken with the work of thinkers like Terryl and Fiona Givens, I believed that Mormonism needed new theologians to help…

Nathan Smith

Independent writer from Austin, TX; doing a BS in psychology; writing on psychology, philosophy, literature, religion. www.nathansmithbooks.com @NateSmithSNF

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