Ask no man

No More Contention is the pursuit of clarity, charity and understanding. Contention arises from the compulsion to have others agree with us. Seeking understanding in an environment of clarity and charity produces no more contention. As Joseph Smith said, "I will ask no man to believe as I do."

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Three broad categories

In a sense, contention is inevitable and unavoidable because every individual is unique, and no two people agree on everything.  Ideally, we...

Thursday, April 27, 2023

Compelling evidence

In a devotional at BYU Hawaii on April 26, 2023, current Church Historian Kyle S. McKay spoke about “A Sure and Certain Foundation.”

At one point (5:41) he asked, "Is your knowledge and testimony of truth strong enough that you can stare down compelling reasons to doubt and choose to believe?"

This is a profound and useful insight. 

We can all look at the same facts and interpret them much differently based on our assumptions and inferences. This is why I write so much about the FAITH model.

Everyone who is well-informed deals with the same fact pattern; i.e., we can all look at the same historical documents and the same scientific evidence. Yet based on the identical facts, we reach different, and often completely opposite, conclusions. 

There are lots of reasons for this. We all have unique life experiences that help form our worldviews. We have different interests, different priorities, different objectives, different preferences, etc.

That's why so much of the debates are subjective, and that's why contention about these things is futile and simply stupid. 

What is a compelling reason to doubt for one person is no reason at all for another, and what is a compelling reason to believe for one person is no reason at all for another.

McKay's point argues from the perspective of a believing worldview. Presumably his audience wants to believe. But that desire to believe should not preclude recognition that there are compelling reasons to doubt.

Just as those who desire to disbelieve should not ignore the reality that there are compelling reasons to believe.

It's a choice, both ways. At both extremes, and everywhere in between, people are choosing what to believe.


Alma explained that having "cause to believe" but not knowledge is a benefit for everyone.

 15 Yea, he that truly humbleth himself, and repenteth of his sins, and endureth to the end, the same shall be blessed—yea, much more blessed than they who are compelled to be humble because of their exceeding poverty.

16 Therefore, blessed are they who humble themselves without being compelled to be humble; or rather, in other words, blessed is he that believeth in the word of God, and is baptized without stubbornness of heart, yea, without being brought to know the word, or even compelled to know, before they will believe.

17 Yea, there are many who do say: If thou wilt show unto us a sign from heaven, then we shall know of a surety; then we shall believe.

18 Now I ask, is this faith? Behold, I say unto you, Nay; for if a man knoweth a thing he hath no cause to believe, for he knoweth it.

19 And now, how much more cursed is he that knoweth the will of God and doeth it not, than he that only believeth, or only hath cause to believe, and falleth into transgression?

 20 Now of this thing ye must judge. Behold, I say unto you, that it is on the one hand even as it is on the other; and it shall be unto every man according to his work.

(Alma 32:15–20)

Monday, April 24, 2023

Three broad categories

In a sense, contention is inevitable and unavoidable because every individual is unique, and no two people agree on everything. 

Ideally, we work out differences cooperatively, through compromise, negotiation, etc., all in pursuit of a positive, productive objective.

People don't even agree with themselves, thanks to our dual brains competing for attention, our changing moods, new knowledge and insights we gain, different circumstances, etc.

The key element that shifts cooperation toward contention is anger.

In this blog we'll discuss ways to avoid contention in favor of mutual understanding, respect, and united progress and improvement.

Because we start with a focus on issues involving the Restoration, particularly those related to the keystone of our religion (the origin and setting of the Book of Mormon), we've identified three broad categories of people who have engaged with these issues.

In doing so, we recognize everyone is different. These categories serve as analytical tools only. Any individual may find affinity with any group on a given specific topic.

The objective is to seek greater understanding, but also greater clarity and charity. 

Clarity requires isolation of facts, assumptions, inferences, theories, and hypotheses (the FAITH model). The understanding process is nonjudgmental. If anyone brings errors to our attention, they will be promptly noted and appropriate corrections made.

These are the three broad categories, using terminology familiar to those involved with these discussions. The groups are organized as a continuum, but there is no implied preference for A just because it is the first letter in the alphabet. The order could be reversed just as easily.

Believe what Joseph and Oliver claimed




Believe what Joseph and Oliver claimed about the origin and setting of the Book of Mormon

Believe some, but not all, of what Joseph and Oliver claimed about the origin and setting of the Book of Mormon

Disbelieve what Joseph and Oliver claimed about the origin and setting of the Book of Mormon

Each of these groups is admittedly overbroad. For example, people who agree with the description in box A may have a variety of views about how to interpret the teachings of Joseph and Oliver. But for analytical and clarity purposes, there is no alternative to such groupings (which are as broad as possible). 

Wednesday, April 19, 2023

Solving Contention: what works and what doesn't

From a biblical perspective contention is a product of arrogance vs humility.

Naturally, everyone thinks "the other" is the arrogant one who causes all the contention. Therefore we need to consider the effectiveness of different ways to solve contention.


The ideal solution for contention is achieving "unity through diversity" by means of open dialog and respectful exchange of views, following the model explained by Henry B. Eyring:

we can be open, we can be direct, we can talk about differences in a way that you can't anywhere else because we're all just looking for the truth.

We're not trying to win.

We're not trying to make our argument dominate.

We just want to find what's right.

Then decisions can be made in unity and conviction. 

This is not the same as groupthink because everyone is free to raise his/her differences of opinion coming from different perspectives, with no alternative excluded.

This solution works when people are united in purpose and seek solutions to move forward, based on an underlying shared commitment and shared values. 


When people have different purposes and values, the Eyring model may not be feasible, but there is an alternative that can avoid contention. The key is to seek understanding instead of trying to win or convince or coerce.

In this approach, everyone seeks mainly to understand why others reach the conclusions they do. Then, based on that understanding, areas of cooperation and progress can be identified. We end up with "unity through diversity" again.

We start with objective facts (specific evidence of reality, such as a historical document) that everyone can agree upon.

Then everyone identifies the assumptions they make about those facts and their context.

Then everyone articulates any inferences they make to fill in gaps in the fact pattern.

Then everyone sets out their theories to explain the facts.

Finally, everyone proposes a hypothesis or worldview that explains not just the specific facts in consideration but other facts.

This is the FAITH model: facts, assumptions, inferences, theory, and hypothesis.

In this blog we'll look at several examples.


Poor solutions for contention don't solve problems.

At a surface level, one solution for contention is apathy. People who "don't care" can avoid contention altogether by ignoring differences.

Another solution is ignorance, deliberate or otherwise. People who don't understand an issue generally avoid discussing or debating it. 

A third solution is deference or abdication. By "giving in" to someone else, a person avoids contention but succumbs to policies, beliefs and practices he/she may find harmful, counterproductive, or nonsensical. 

Saturday, April 15, 2023

Joseph Smith: the principle of love

On Sunday, July 9th. 1843, Joseph gave an important sermon on contention.

“Joseph remarked that all was well between him and the heavens— that he had no enmity against any one, and as the prayer of Jesus, or his pattern, so prayed Joseph “Father forgive me my trespasses as I forgive those who trespass against me, for I freely forgive all men”. 

If we would secure and cultivate the love of others, we must love others, even our enemies, as well as friends: 

​Sectarian Priests cry out concerning me & say ask​ “why is it this babler gains so many followers, and retains them”? ​I answer, it is​ because I possess the principle of love, all I can offer the world, ​is​ a good heart and a good hand. 

The Saints​ can testify whether I am willing to lay down my life for ​my Brethren​. If it has been demonstrated that I have been willing to die for a Mormon, I am bold to declare before heaven that I am just as ready to die ​in defending the right of​ a Presbyterian, a Baptist or a good man of​ any other denomination, for the same principle which would trample upon the rights of the Latter Day Saints would trample upon the rights of the​ Roman Catholics  ​or​ any other denomination who may be unpopular & too weak to defend themselves. ​ 

It is a love of liberty which inspires my soul.— Civil and religious liberty ​to the whole of the human race,

​The enquiry is frequently made of me,​ “Wherein do you differ from others in your religious views?” 

In reality and essence we do not differ so far in our religious views but that we could all drink into one principle of love

One of the grand fundamental principles of Mormonism is to receive truth, let it come from whence it may. We believe in the great Eloheim, who sits enthroned in yonder heavens: so do the Presbyterians. If a skilful Mechanic, in taking a welding heat, use​s​ borax, alum &c, ​& succeeds in welding together iron or steel more perfectly than any other mechanic, is he not deserving of praise?​ 

and ​if by the principles of truth I​ succeed in ​uniting​ all denominations​ together ​in the bonds of love​​ shall I not have attained a good object?

If I esteem mankind to be in error, shall I bear them down? No; I will lift them up, and in ​their​ own way too if I cannot persuade ​them​ my way is better; and I will ​not seek to compel any​ man to believe as I do, only by the force of reasoning; for truth will cut its own way.

Do you believe in Jesus Christ, ​and the gospel of salvation which he revealed​? 

So do I. 

Christians should cease wrangling and contention with each other, and​ cultivate the ​principles of union and​ friendship in their midst​; and ​they​ will do it before the Millenium can be ushered in, and Christ takes possession of his Kingdom—


NOTE: the nonbiblical term "principle of love" was used dozens of times by Jonathan Edwards, including his sermon "Natural Men Are God's Enemies."

A natural man is wholly destitute of any Principle of Love to God and never had the least exercise of this love... when man fell... he wholly lost the principle of love he had to God .

So persons should examine their weanedness from the world by inquiring whether it be accompanied with and arises from a principle of love , whereby their hearts are drawn off from the things of the world to those spiritual and heavenly objects, to which their love carries them more than to the things of the world. 

Thursday, April 13, 2023

Right to differ

Brigham Young:

I perceive that men do not fully understand these  principles; even the best of the Latter-day Saints have but a faint idea of the attributes of the Deity.

Were the former and Latter-day Saints, with their Apostles, Prophets, Seers, and Revelators collected together to discuss this matter, I am led to think there would be found a great variety in their views and feelings upon this subject without direct revelation from the Lord. 

It is as much my right to differ from other men, as it is theirs to differ from me, in points of doctrine and principle, when our minds cannot at once arrive at the same conclusion. 

I feel it sometimes very difficult indeed to word my thoughts as they exist in my own mind, which, I presume, is the grand cause of many apparent differences in sentiment which may exist among the Saints.


A Discourse by President Brigham Young, Delivered in the Tabernacle, Great Salt Lake City, April 17, 1853.

(Wordcruncher: 1853, Brigham Young, Saints ¶13–16 • JD 2:122–JD 2:123)

Tuesday, April 11, 2023

A contentious people - Jonathan Edwards

Jonathan Edwards:

As you would seek the future prosperity of this society, 'tis of vast importance that you should avoid contention.

A contentious people will be a miserable people. The contentions which have been among you, since I first became your pastor, have been one of the greatest burdens I have labored under in the course of my ministry: not only the contentions you have had with me, but those which you have had one with another, about your lands, and other concerns. Because I knew that contention, heat of spirit, evil speaking, and things of the like nature, were directly contrary to the spirit of Christianity, and did in a peculiar manner tend to drive away God's Spirit from a people, and to render all means of grace ineffectual, as well as to destroy a people's outward comfort and welfare.

Let me therefore earnestly exhort you, as you would seek your own future good, hereafter to watch against a contentious spirit. "If you would see good days, seek peace and ensue it" (1 Peter 3:10–11).


A Farewell Sermon Preached At The First Precinct In Northampton, After The People's Public Rejection Of Their Minister…On June 22, 1750

1808 Edition of Edwards' works, Kindle location 2177.