Intellectuals


The recent uploading of the Moura “Joseph Smith” Daguerreotype has brought a lot of attention (and criticism) to this blog, especially from intellectual quarters. Intellectuals and myself are like water and oil: we don’t mix, at all. In order to explain why I’ll have to get a little personal…

When I was just a kid, my scores were so much higher than my classmates that my teacher decided to split our class into three sections: A, B and C. Virtually all of my friends were in the middle and lower sections. I was in the highest section with Jill, the only other high scoring classmate.

I was both happy and unhappy with this arrangement. On the one hand, Jill was the prettiest girl in class, so I was happy to spend all my time alone with her. On the other hand, as all my friends were in the middle to lower sections, I now couldn’t spend time with them. This ticked me off. It also caused a lot of tension and fights as those in the “lower class” resented those in the “upper class,” especially my friend Ryan, who had the hots for Jill, and who was insanely jealous of my “luck.”

Later, a change of schools brought me into what was termed the Gifted and Talented Program. Once again, I was separated from my friends and put into a different class, with different people. These kids were from other schools, except for myself and Jennifer, another high scorer. I noticed that they were mostly nerds and prideful, arrogant children that thought they were better than everyone else and that judged others based upon their knowledge. It made me sick to be there, as it was so anti-gospel. (By this time I had converted to Mormonism.)

At some point there came the letter that most parents would get giddy over: an invitation from MENSA to join their organization. My mother left it up to me to decide. It was a no-brainer. I tore up the letter and chucked it into the garbage. I have never regretted my decision.

Since my childhood, my experiences with intellectuals have inevitably been the same, with but few exceptions: They like to use big words. “And [Sherem, an Anti-Christ] was learned [he was an intellectual], that he had a perfect knowledge of the language of the people; wherefore, he could use much flattery, and much power of speech, according to the power of the devil.” (Jacob 7: 4) They love to quote other “authorities.” They like to presume they know whereof they are talking about and that you don’t. They like to use sarcasm. They can’t stand being corrected. They like to argue. They do not engage in edifying conversation. (See D&C 50.) They feel that their degrees and studies at a University demonstrate that they actually know something. And they judge everyone based upon what they don’t know and based upon their lack of knowledge of what the “experts” have said. “And many more such things did [Korihor, an Anti-Christ] say unto them, telling them that…every man fared in this life according to the management of the creature; therefore every man prospered according to his genius [intellectual power].” (Alma 30: 17)

The possession of, type of and amount of knowledge is the ruler that intellectuals use to measure others. In my early days, I was being trained as an intellectual and would have done the same thing, had God not given me an early introduction to the gospel of Jesus Christ and taught me to discard that ruler as a measuring stick. A man is not saved by knowledge. A man is saved by faith. (See my continuing series of articles on faith as I expound upon this principle.) I learned that when judging others, if one were to judge them, faith must be the measuring stick, not knowledge. But intellectuals do not agree with this assessment.

Throughout my life, I’ve come across two classes of intellectuals: LDS and non-LDS. One would think that the addition of the letters “LDS” would make a world of difference between the two, but in my experience the difference is merely in degrees. The non-LDS intellectuals are, by and large, atheists, having no faith and thus no spiritual experiences whatsoever. The LDS intellectuals have little faith and thus minimal spiritual experiences. In other words, the thread that binds them both to each other is a general lack of faith.

My experience is that LDS intellectuals get, at best, “feelings.” (Many of the non-intellectuals do, too.) Revelations (the type that you can write down) seem to be rare among LDS and even rarer (as in non-existent) among intellectual LDS. Prophecies, visions, dreams, angels? Forget it. Gift of tongues and interpretation? Lower manifestations that only happen during the mission. Administrations, operations, discerning of spirits, miracles, audible voices, etc. are all scarce among intellectuals.

I have also observed that when RM intellectuals are telling of spiritual manifestations that have happened to them, they almost always give an experience from their mission. It’s like for two years the Lord is able to humble them sufficiently to get some small measure of spiritual experience under their belts, and then upon returning home they resume their intellectual studies and spiritual mediocrity. But I emphasize that the experience was usually of small measure. Granted, small is better than nothing.

As a society we’ve come to glamorize knowledge and college degrees. An intellectual, therefore, is someone special, superior even. Many people are intimidated by them. And they try to maintain that public image and fear factor. Yet, in my own experience with them, I have found them to be the group most likely to be devoid of, or severely lacking in, faith (with but few exceptions.) Because of this, when I come across an intellectual my expectations of the encounter are usually pretty low.

I am not alone in this assessment. The Lord himself speaks of them in the harshest of terms.

Jacob said, “When they are learned they think they are wise, and they hearken not unto the counsel of God, for they set it aside, supposing they know of themselves, wherefore, their wisdom is foolishness and it profiteth them not. And they shall perish.” (2 Ne. 9: 28 )

The Lord despises intellectuals “who are puffed up because of their learning and their wisdom,” and “save they shall cast these things away, and consider themselves fools before God, and come down in the depths of humility, he will not open unto them.” (See 2 Ne. 9: 42.)

Intellectuals “contend with one another” and “teach with their learning, and deny the Holy Ghost, which giveth utterance.” (See 2 Ne. 28: 4.) If you look over the Internet discussions that are occurring in intellectual circles over my recent posting of the Moura Daguerreotype, which looks like Joseph Smith’s death mask, you’ll see plenty of contention generated when anyone has a contradictory opinion. You’ll also notice the general attempt to get the Holy Ghost and all spiritual manifestations out of the discussion.

Intellectuals that are puffed up in the pride of their hearts “shall be thrust down to hell.” (See 2 Ne. 28: 15.)

The world (and the church) have generally adopted the Nephite educational model: “And the people began to be distinguished by ranks, according to their riches and their chances for learning; yea, some were ignorant because of their poverty, and others did receive great learning because of their riches.” (3 Ne. 6: 12)

Intellectuals are “ever learning, and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth. (See 2 Timothy 3: 7)

So, I welcome to this blog all the intellectual, teach-me-nothing know-it-alls: the scholars, the academics, the experts, the authorities, the wannabes and their worshipers. Yes, I still think you are all one taco short of a combination plate and incapable of spiritual enlargement. (You all probably think the same of me.) Yet, although I don’t believe you’ll actually learn anything here, it’s nice to know that after all these years I’m still irritating your kind.

Complete List of Articles authored by LDS Anarchist

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16 Comments

  1. I find this post a little odd. I think by most standards, as someone with a doctoral degree, I would be considered an intellectual. My experience has been that nearly all LDS people, regardless of intellect, are happy to receive only “feelings” from the Holy Spirit, which I consider an unacceptable situation. Actually, that is one of the things I want to eventually discuss on my own blog.

    But maybe my outlook on personal revelation, and the fact that I study a hard science rather than the sophistries of the social sciences and humanities, would exclude me from the group you intend when you speak of intellectuals. Nevertheless, a blanket criticism of intellectuals comes across as a rejection of reason, which is vital to true religion. On the other hand, “intellectuals” also has connotations of worldly intellectual authority, which of course should always be questioned.

    I must take issue with your statement that “A man is not saved by knowledge. A man is saved by faith.” I am fairly new to your blog, so I may be misunderstanding your meaning, but taken at face value, I can’t agree with that. Faith is only a step toward the sure knowledge that truly saves. A man cannot be saved in ignorance, which is the lack of knowledge (not faith).

  2. I agree with you, RWW, that receiving “feelings” is more generalized than just in LDS intellectual circles. The difference, though, is that LDS non-intellectuals, who have only felt feelings from the Holy Ghost and who hear testimony from another LDS who has had more than feelings, such as seen angels, seen visions, prophesied, obtained inspired dreams, received revelations, heard audible voices and other like manifestations, have little problem accepting that testimony, whereas the LDS intellectuals, who also have only received feelings, will discount the greater manifestations recounted to them by other LDS as hogwash, presumably for the same reason why the Amalekites despised Aaron’s recounting of his spiritual experiences:

    ” What is that thou hast testified? Hast thou seen an angel? Why do not angels appear unto us? Behold are not this people as good as thy people?” Etc., etc. (See from Alma 21: 5 and on.)

    Just because you know a lot, doesn’t make you an intellectual. The Lord gave a good description of them as being “puffed up because of their learning and their wisdom.” I have come across (a few) humble people of great learning and wisdom, but not too many fall into this rare category.

    Your third paragraph is just beautiful. You’ve given me another topic that I must address in a separate post, as it merits full exposition. I don’t think you are alone in taking issue with my statement. I expect many people to side with you on this. Thank you for bringing this subject to my attention and for the visit.

  3. Hi! I agree with you fully on your comments. I never liked the established way of thinking in science, history, or any other field. I always question why they reject certain theories or discoveries. This one of the reasons why I created my blog on Book of Mormon geography. I couldn’t get anyone interested in my ideas and I was tired of reading the same old ones. So, I came up with my own theory. I have done this with other subjects off and on over the years. Anyway, I hope we can get together and chat sometime.
    uft36

  4. Hi,

    I’ve really enjoyed reading your blog, and agree with much of what you stand for.

    However, a quick observation: perhaps if you weren’t so vitriolic against intellectuals, you wouldn’t generalise so much about this imaginary ‘straw man’, nor would you let this caricature stop you from the dialogue that it seems you are opposed to.

    You might say I’m an intellectual.

    No, I don’t talk about my mission all the time – I speak about experiences I’m having now.

    Yes, I do believe (strongly) in the reality of spiritual gifts, and faith.

    I consider my faith to be stronger since my academic studies began.

    So that’s why, I guess, you shouldn’t generalise like this post does. But then, perhaps you were just trying to ignite a flame war, to excite a bit of traffic on the blog?

    I wouldn’t presume to know. But let’s talk – perhaps we might learn something from each other. 🙂

  5. Andy, no, I wasn’t trying to start a flame war to generate traffic. I actually do look upon intellectuals as spiritual retards.

    Learning alone doesn’t make you an intellectual. They have other “qualities” that distinguish them, such as arrogance, taking offense easily, denying the Holy Ghost, talking about spiritual gifts instead of actually manifesting the spiritual gifts, very little faith, etc.

    Most intellectuals I meet initially welcome me with open arms, as they immediately recognize an intellect equal to or greater than theirs, until they learn that the principle I base my life on is faith. At that point, they despise me, as real intellectuals do not live by faith. They live by works and knowledge and hence have few or no higher spiritual manifestations.

    When I use the word “intellectual” I am using the Lord’s definition of the term, as quoted in the scriptures I listed in the post. If you do not fit his description of the learned, then you are not an intellectual, no matter how much learning you have had.

    Thank you (both utf36 and Andy) for the comments, compliments and visit. I hope you both continue to enjoy the blog.

  6. Ok, I take your point that you’re trying to use the word ‘Intellectual’ in a highly specific way, and you probably don’t mean (as it initially appears) lots of people who might consider themselves to be intellectuals. Like myself, perhaps.

    I’m still not clear on exactly how generalised you’re trying to be. You talk about ‘the Lord’s definition’ of the Intellectual, yet the scriptures you cite to show this don’t use the word. They speak of being learned – yet the scriptures also say – and I quote: ‘to be learned is good, if they hearken unto the counsels of God” (2 Nephi 9:28-29). So God isn’t against the ‘learned’. If learned means (as you translate it) ‘Intellectual’, then the Lord doesn’t think ‘real intellectuals don’t live by faith’. He gives them, too, the gift of agency. Some of them live by faith, some don’t.

    So specify for me, if you can. Do you consider the following to be ‘Intellectuals’, and therefore, automatically: ‘spiritual retards’? (quite an insensitive label, by the way) :

    C. S. Lewis
    Kierkegaard
    Eugene England

    Some might say they were figures of great intellectual standing. All these figures, in my opinion, were figures of great faith. Of course, if you mean specifically faith in your conception of God… then that’s another matter.

    My incredulity towards this post is not to say that you’re not allowed to have a strong view against intellectualism – it’s just that you claim that you have ‘an intellect equal or greater than’ most intellectuals (a grossly presumptuous claim, given that your argument here is imprecise and flagrantly unobjective), and can beat them at their game. You also claim to know (even more presumpuously) when God wants you to be his translator and interpreter of the scriptures. The Lord didn’t tell Joseph Smith to put the word ‘intellectual’ into those scriptures – and I think there’s a solid reason for that.

    If I were to use your conditions, outlined above, for identifying the Intellectual heathen, then I might notice a hint of ‘arrogance’ in your own post? But then, I’m not claiming that you can translate that common human weakness into neat little labels for slamming sincere truth-seekers with!

  7. When I use the word “intellectual” I am using the Lord’s definition of the term, as quoted in the scriptures I listed in the post.

    The problem is that the Lord never used the term “intellectuals,” so you are essentially hijacking it for your own purposes.

  8. It’s real easy. The danger of being learned or intellectual is of looking down on others. Looking down on intellectuals is no different.

  9. RWW and Andy, yes, of course the Lord doesn’t use the word “intellectual.” He uses “the learned” to describe these people. I originally had intended to write:

    “When I use the word “intellectual” I am using the Lord’s definition of the term (though he uses the phrase “the learned”), as quoted in the scriptures I listed in the post.

    But I figured that the parenthetical was unnecessary as my point would be understood anyway. I guess I was wrong. “Intellectual” is the modern way of saying “the learned.” However, when I refer to an “intellectual” (a learned person) in the post, I am referring to the type of “learned” person that is described by the Lord in those scriptures.

    I am not the first, though, to use the term “intellectual” in this sense. Many GA’s have spoken out against intellectuals (intellectualism), also. Again, they are using the Lord’s definition given in these scriptures and not a generalized definition of anyone who has been to a university and has degrees.

    Andy, I’m not sure how much clearer I can be in my use of the word “intellectual.” I believe I have sufficiently defined the term in the sense I am using it, so that when I say “real intellectuals don’t live by faith” the phrase should be understood. Possessing knowledge or learning does not automatically make you an intellectual.

    My use of the term spiritual retards fits, though you might consider it insensitive. Denying the Holy Ghost (2 Ne. 28: 40) is a characteristic of intellectuals. Can you think of anything that would retard spiritual progression more than denying the Holy Ghost?

    Andy, I never made the claim that my intellect is equal to or greater than most intellectuals. That is the claim that most intellectuals make towards me. I simply stated their assessment of me, which is always based on their perception of a person’s intellect, as they base everything on what you know or don’t know, how sharp your mind is, etc. (I probably should have stated “in their estimation of me they immediately recognize…” or something to that effect, to be clearer in writing.) What I mean by this is that they see a kindred spirit in me, or kindred intellect, and consider me one of their own, on their own level. However, I would probably be considered one of the unlearned, as far as the learning of the world is concerned.

    The initial buddy-buddy-ism that is exhibited is quickly discarded, though, once it comes out that I know what I know or that my thinking processes are as they are principally as a result of the action of the Spirit upon me and the orientation that the gospel has given me, and not worldly studies. In other words, that much of my learning comes through faith.

    I don’t claim, nor have I made the claim, that I can “beat them at their own game.” Everyone has strengths and weaknesses in all areas of life. I don’t presume to know more than another in areas in which I am not an expert (which is pretty much every area.) So, no, I’m wise enough not to take on an intellectual on ground in which they obviously have the advantage.

    Nevertheless, your words bring up another point about intellectuals: they love competition. The gospel is not about competition, who wins and who loses, or, in the perspective of an intellectual, that I (speaking as an intellectual) win and you lose. They love to argue and “take advantage of one because of his words” (2 Ne. 28: 8.)

    The gospel is about edification and each person coming to understand one another via the Spirit. (See D&C 50.) No conversation with an intellectual is edifying.

  10. “Looking down on intellectuals is no different.”

    You are absolutely right. I do not have the patience, say, of what4anarchy, in dealing with them, as my experience has shown that it is largely a waste of time trying to talk of spiritual things with people who aren’t interested in the Spirit. He will keep at it, striving with them. I, though, when shown that they want nothing of it, will not continue.

    I suppose I do look down on them, for their rejection of the Spirit, but I can still have civil dealings with them, without offending them, as long as the gospel is left out of it. If the gospel comes up, though, they get offended and then sparks start to fly, as they don’t like that subject.

    I am a firm believer in free agency, so “to each his own” is a phrase I live by. Let each man think as he thinks. Nevertheless, my experience with intellectuals, and the persecution and mocking that has been heaped on me, for my “betrayal” of intellectualism (as they think I should be in their camp), has soured my view of them and significantly lowered my expectations of new encounters with intellectuals producing an edifying experience. They are still our brothers and sisters and deserving of love and compassion, but I still find myself calling a wolf a wolf.

    That said, I have come across humble, very learned people who possess the Spirit. They should be wolves, having studied among them, but they are the sheep of Christ. But I stress that in my experience, this has been exceptional, not the rule.

  11. Maybe the issue isn’t being an “intellectual” or having multiple degrees, or having more faith than your neighbor, but rather… simply… humility. I’ve met learned people with mounds of humility, open to new learning, eager to learn and understand the experiences of others. I’ve met people who profess great faith who read their scriptures nearly every waking hour and criticize their neighbor for having differing ideas.

    Lots of education changes one, no doubt. When you learn the scientific process, you begin to see holes in the anecdotal; you seek for statistical significance and certainly can become less sensitive to spiritual significance. But, I do not think that intellectuals or learned people have the corner on the “lack of faith” market. Scriptures are full of heavenly warnings to people of all types, such as the rich or the proud.

    I think Anarchist is a little presumptive saying that learned people that possess the Spirit are rare, though I haven’t walked in his sneakers. Maybe he chases the spirit away from them when he’s around, ha. Also… maybe that’s not their “gift”; maybe they’ve been given other gifts to enlighten the world, so we should be grateful we have them around.

    I used to hate it when I met someone who played the guitar a little better than me. Then, I learned that the envy didn’t help me one little bit. I learned that if I let go of that silly pride or envy or whatever it was, I could enjoy their playing and learn from them. Then, I discovered that I could also learn something from those who probably played the guitar WORSE than I did. wow. Everyone can teach us something. And, we can teach everyone something. It might be spiritual things; it might be something else. Sometimes, these “learned” people can handle talking about “spiritual” things if it is framed in the right way. Find common ground. Or… just have pie. What do I know?

  12. Your post reminded me of my first experience as a missionary entering a Jehovah’s Witness Kingdom Hall and also of a good friend of mine who constantly lamented about his emotionless wife. He always said he felt like he was “married to Spock.” The first time I went to a JW meeting, the emotional description he gave his wife seemed to fit the “spirit” of that meeting. It was all knowledge and learning and no Spirit, or even spirit. The Evangelists, on the other hand, were filled with spirit, but not Spirit. Even the Catholic masses we visited and Catholic priests we preached and testified to had more spirit than the JWs did in that one meeting I attended. (No offense to Jehovah’s Witnesses. Maybe it was just that one meeting that was filled with Spock wannabes.)

    I think you hit the nail on the head with the comment about humility. It is not about how much learning you get, it is about how willing you are to learn more and new things, from any quarter and especially from the Higher Quarters. Your experience and my own with learned people have been markedly different. The learned I have come across were like those JW’s, all knowledge, all learning, all facts, but no spirit/Spirit. No leaps of faith. No putting on the Jedi helmut and trying to strike the levitating ball blind with a light saber. No revelations, no miracles, no spiritual fun. (That’s my definition of spiritual fun.) Just Spock duplicates, friendly until they come in contact with me, then they just manifest anger, disbelief and a mocking attitude towards me. This has been my experience, largely.

    You may be right that I chase the spirit away from them. But I also noticed that you stated “Spirit” in one sentence and “spirit” in the next. Maybe there’s some hidden meaning there? At any rate, in my experience, the only spirit they possess is the spirit of Spock, which I then chase away only to have it replaced with a spirit of anger. I have since, though, learned my lesson and mostly keep my mouth shut now when I meet an intellectual. A man who is unwilling to process new, unconventional ideas when in a friendly state is many more times closed-minded when in a pissed off state. So, for the most part I just stick to pie and to picking their brains of information that I can use (letting them teach me what they know instead of vice versa.)

    Thanks for the visit and comments.

  13. Ah, Anarchist, don’t deprive these “learned” from your spirit. Openness and objectivity often begets the same. Remember that with the Lord, everything is possible, and camels can cross through the needle’s eye.

    And, as much as I’d like to claim hidden meanings with SsPiriT, that was actually just an oversight on my part. I’ll try to be more clear.

    And, remember that at least one person has had positive experience with these so-called “intellectuals” so we can’t very well universally generalize them into any pidgeon-hole.

    And, thanks for your site. I’ve found it refreshing. While I don’t agree with some of your weird ideas (only the ones I don’t agree with are weird, mind you), I think everything here is worth examining. I especially enjoyed your blog on the 35 day fast. PLease consult your doctor before you do that again, heh.

    I think if you don’t Dennis MIller me too much with your Jedi and Star Trek references, I might be able to hang here a while.

  14. I couldn’t help myself. I figured if I mentioned Star Trek, I oughta mention Star Wars, too. (No, I’m not a Trekkie, nor a Jedi fiend.)

    I wonder which of my ideas you find weird? Would it be my views on intellectuals? Or my views on the medical establishment? Btw, thanks for the advice, but I don’t plan on consulting a doctor before my next extended fast.

    Jgtrs, I’m glad you’ve had positive experiences with them. But then, if they were people of great learning and yet humble enough to want to learn more, from any quarter, then they weren’t intellectuals. An intellectual will learn through study or research by themselves or others (always peer-reviewed.) The one thing they loathe, is learning by faith.

    And as all have not faith, seek ye diligently and teach one another words of wisdom; yea, seek ye out of the best books words of wisdom; seek learning, even by study and also by faith. (D&C 88: 118 )

    They can’t learn that way, as they have so little of it. It is easy (for me, at least) to quickly determine who of “great learning” is an intellectual and who is a bona fide truth-seeker, regardless of where that truth comes from. You (I) simply present faith to them and watch the intellectuals recoil. People of faith do not cringe at faith. Faithless people, who do not have it, do not understand it, do not like it, etc., get angry at the doctrine of learning by faith, or the doctrine of sanctification. Normal people do not get angry, but intellectuals do. This is one of the reasons why the Pharisees were so angry with Jesus. They were intellectuals and did not live by faith. Jesus did. I’m a very unconventional man (what4anarchy will confirm this), but most people who are presented with my unconventionality do not manifest anger at me. Nor do intellectuals. But when learning by faith is presented, they instantly get angry. “How did you learn this?” is always the question. Prior to the answer, all is civil. If a truthful answer is given, “An angel told me” or “By revelation” or “Through vision” or “The voice of God spoke” or whatever means of learning through faith that is presented, suddenly their countenance changes and they manifest their true hatred of learning by faith. This applies both to non-LDS intellectuals as well as LDS intellectuals.

    Although I think your advice of openness on the surface seems reasonable, I have learned from life experience in dealing with intellectuals to make it my general rule to shut my mouth when around them, unless directed by the Spirit, because intellectuals are open only so far, as long as the door doesn’t let faith in.

  15. Read this at Denver Snuffer’s blog today:

    You never want someone to reject truth. But if you’re going to teach something that hasn’t been understood before, you have an obligation to make the matter clear. You should prepare the the audience by laying a foundation using existing scripture, teachings and knowledge to show how the new concept fits into the existing framework. Just declaring something without a foundation to support it often offends instead of enlightens. It alienates rather than invites.

    Made me think of this post.

    Wouldn’t only intellectuals respond negatively to someone “Just declaring something?”

    To me, what he wrote sounds a lot like LDSA’s comment that:

    I’m a very unconventional man (what4anarchy will confirm this), but most people who are presented with my unconventionality do not manifest anger at me. Nor do intellectuals. But when learning by faith is presented, they instantly get angry. “How did you learn this?” is always the question. Prior to the answer, all is civil. If a truthful answer is given, “An angel told me” or “By revelation” or “Through vision” or “The voice of God spoke” or whatever means of learning through faith that is presented, suddenly their countenance changes and they manifest their true hatred of learning by faith.

    Unless you spend time “laying a foundation” on the appropriate sources and authorities “to support” the claim of truth you have — “it often offends [them] instead of enlightens“.

    I, like LDSA, have found it better to just keep my mouth shut — than go through this with these kind of people.

  16. A big hearty welcome to any scholars who enter this blog to read the Lehi’s Trek to China and North America post!

    (This seemed like the most appropriate place to leave such a welcome.)

    🙂


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