The Substance of Faith (The Apostasy of a High Priest)
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The Apostasy of a High Priest

The Substance of Faith
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Each of us is born into this world in a state of complete dependency on someone else who loves us enough to help us survive and develop. Complete dependency is the beginning of the human condition. Whether by the intelligent design of a divine Creator or the natural selective process of millions of years of elimination, the human infant is born into this world in a complete state of dependency.

This reality is integral to who and what we are. Our species cannot survive without the nurturing and caring of our infants.

As infants, newly born into this world, we are relatively undeveloped, emotionally and intellectually. Certainly we will have genetic propensities. We may also have unique physical or intellectual limitations or strengths associated with our development experience in the womb. It still remains true, however, that within the confines of our genetic propensities and other strengths or weaknesses associated with our development as embryos, we emerge into this world with a relatively clean emotional and intellectual slate, ready for the life programming that begins at that point.

The relationship that follows birth, between an infant and the primary caregiver, is one in which a form of crude communication is established. A newborn infant communicates through the initial “binary code” of crying. There are two fundamental components in this coded communication. “Sound on” and “sound off” make up the initial code.

Quickly thereafter, an increasing pattern of responses to the code formulates a basis of understanding leading to variations in the code. “Sound loud”. “Sound soft”. “Sound loud, with a grimace” or “sound low, with a cue or a sigh”.

This increasingly sophisticated code is developed largely on the basis of the shared experience between the infant and the caregiver. The responsiveness to the variations of the code is processed by the infant’s brain. Adjustments in the patterns of code are stimulated as a result of the brain’s processed evaluation of the caregiver’s responsive actions or behaviors.

The iterations of these interactions and adjustments give rise to the increasingly complex form of communication between the two. This becomes the growing basis of understanding that develops between them and through which the infant’s limited grasp of the realities of the world expands.

As this coded form of communication expands, and is used consistently, an amazing development quickly emerges between the infant and the caregiver. This development is anticipation. Almost as soon as the infant connects patterns of sounds with the stimulus that is most commonly found to be associated with them, anticipation of that stimulus begins to result from those sounds. Caregivers quickly recognize the emergence of the phenomenon of anticipation. On the basis of this recognition, caregivers begin, intentionally, to make sounds that the infant will recognize in order to soothe the infant with anticipation of the associated stimulus.

This subtle adjustment in the interactive relationship between the caregiver and the infant begins the experiential basis of consistency and credibility between them. If the caregiver treats the emerging understanding of the infant’s anticipations, associated with certain sounds, with respect and consistency by validating the anticipation with the stimulus that the sound suggested would follow, a subconscious form of trust emerges between the two.

This trust manifests itself in a comfort level that becomes apparent in the behavior of the infant. Increasingly, the infant trusts in the presence of the familiar caregiver. This trust increases the level of anticipation that the infant associates with the input from the caregiver.

Through this process, the initial development of the roots of faith begins, at the subconscious level, even in an infant. Faith emerges upon the convergence of an experientially based sense of anticipation with a subconscious awareness of what actions or other stimuli are likely to give rise to related responsive events. When the convergence of anticipation with a related awareness of relevant connections between stimuli and the resulting or responsive events gives rise to an actual investment of energy, for the express purpose of bringing to pass such an event, an act of faith has occurred.

Faith is clearly beyond belief. It involves actions in anticipation of results. Faith is a human manifestation of confidence. Faith brings about an investment of targeted energy with a desired result in mind.

These early manifestations of faith do not require processing at the conscious level. They are simply programmed responses to survival related interactions that are triggered at the sensory and brain chemistry level.

They result in consistent patterns of synaptic firings in the brain that contribute to the creation of memory traces. These synaptic firings and memory traces are consistently validated, or reinforced, by the human brain and body’s own survival instincts as feelings of comfort or discomfort arise.

In this way the feelings of trust that an infant develops in the caregiver occur at the biological and physiological level, beneath the level of consciousness. Feelings of comfort are understandably imprinted in the infant’s memory with the sounds, and smells, and feelings associated with the caregiver’s very presence.

If the caregiver respects this process, and employs what I will call “integrity” in the management of this relationship, an increasing measure of trust can be developed between the caregiver and the infant, transferring into childhood. This integrity would amount to the avoidance of confusion in the infant with stimuli that is inconsistent with normally associated events or behaviors.

The resulting trusting process that comes out of this relationship precedes the more advanced development of the infant’s intellectual processing at the conscious level. As the level of verbalized communication between the child and caregiver becomes more sophisticated, over time, the trust phenomenon is increasingly complimented with verbal statements.

Verbal statements are increasingly processed at the conscious level while other stimuli, associated with the feelings of anticipation that are validated by satisfying events, are still processed at the subconscious level. In this way, a child comes to “feel” a sense of truth associated with a caregiver’s statements before the infant develops the intellectual capacity to evaluate the philosophical truth of statements at the conscious level.

As such, it is not only easy but almost unavoidable that children become programmed to believe what mom says. This programming becomes such a tightly conditioned response in children to their mothers that they will, more often than not, continue to experience the feeling of trust while skipping the intellectual process of consciously evaluating the statements of mother, even when they have the intellectual capacity to do so.

Because this phenomena is so real, and so consistently a part of the development of a child, it is understandable that the process of objectively evaluating statements for their philosophical truth is something that has to be taught. It doesn’t come entirely naturally.

To the contrary, the process of conscious intellectual evaluation has to be introduced to the brain with considerable encouragement after years of subconscious habit patterns that have a tendency to undermine it. The warm and “fuzzy” feelings associated with skipping this process, and simply accepting what mom said to be true just because she said so, come more naturally.

Most of us are physiologically programmed to feel trust in what mom says. Many moms don’t care to teach objectivity. Not very many moms in the world will resist the ever present temptation that the power they have over the minds and hearts of their children gives rise to. All too many moms will take advantage of the enormous power of programmed credibility that they have developed with their children to indoctrinate them to believe what they want them to believe to be true, while encouraging the child to skip the intellectual process of objective evaluation.

This situation is further complicated, or simplified, depending on the perspective, when moms reward their children with artificial incentives for demonstrating a belief in what the mom wishes them to believe. These incentives can sometimes be; tangible gifts, such as candy or some other treat; or intangible rewards, such as smiles of approval, accolades, or hugs. Children develop powerful subconscious attachments to the approval of their trusted caregivers.

As children move from childhood into adolescence, they are increasingly thrust into a challenging world while the reassurance of their trusted caregivers is weaned away by the simple complications of life. They see mom less, and they see the kids at school, who tend to poke fun at anything, more. Consequently, the disorienting feeling of growing up leaves adolescents wanting for the warm and fuzzy feeling of reassurance previously associated with mom.

They seek the feelings of security and reassurance wherever they may be found. Often, this will be reflected in their choice of friends, which is primarily driven by who accepts them warmly and readily into a clique offering social support amidst the increasing turmoil that school actually is for adolescents. Acceptance is a key.

Adolescents, very often, are only too willing to exchange one set of beliefs for another, simply to maintain the social alliances that require the change. They will easily convince themselves that their adjustments have been well thought through, finding superficial faults with their previous beliefs, if necessary, and finding equally superficial validation for the new beliefs. Their mothers, after all, did not teach them the rigors or importance of critical thinking and objective analysis.

Many moms want their kids to believe what they want them to believe, and do not see teaching their kids to thoroughly question what they want them to believe to be a very good way to achieve that end. And so it is that adolescents, and most adults who never mature philosophically far beyond the adolescent stage, may change their beliefs from time to time, but rarely make significant adjustments to the process of validation by which they arrive at those beliefs.

What changes, more often than not, is the support group whose approval is the object, not the process of epistemology, or reasoning, by which their belief system is validated.

So, what becomes of faith? What might have become a profoundly reassuring and increasing sense of driving confidence, due to consistent validation of actions driven by anticipation of desirable results amidst an increasing intellectual capacity to evaluate truth and reality, often degenerates into a vague and increasingly fragmented system of contrived justification.

The disparity between what is anticipated and what actually follows an investment in the actions that are supposed to bring about the desired results breaks down what might have been a growing confidence. I contend that faith was never the problem. The object of faith, and the understanding of what faith actually is, is the problem.

I was taught, in my childhood, to believe that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, which we referred to as the Mormon Church, was true. I was taught to believe that all of the warm and fuzzy feelings that I associated with the goodness of mother, and hearth, and home, emanated from the Holy Ghost, who, by those feelings, was manifesting to me that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints was true. I believed what I was taught. My mother told me so.

Over time, I studied the Mormon scriptures, including the Book of Mormon. I acquired the “testimony” that was promised, in the form of a warm and glowing feeling in my heart that the church was true. My mother told me I would.

I tried hard, as a young man, to be a good person. My mother told me I should.

When I was a good person, I felt good about myself. My mother told me I would, and others reinforced that when I was. This warmed my heart.

I was consistently told that those feelings in my heart were from the Holy Ghost, confirming to me that the Mormon Church was true. I believed what I was told. I got lots of hugs and validation for believing what I was told, so I became more vocal about what I believed. When I became more vocal, I got even more hugs and validation.

I was a good boy. I felt good a lot. Surely, I thought, the Mormon Church must, therefore, be true. I had faith that it was.

I came to believe that if I followed the teachings of the Mormon Church, good things would happen to me, either in this life, or the life to come, or both. I really wanted good things to happen to me. So I tried really hard to follow the teachings of the Mormon Church.

Mostly, the good things that happened to me were that I got lots of approval and accolades from my Mormon family and friends for the depth of my convictions (beliefs) and the extent of my self-sacrificing church service. That got me by for a long time.

I had lots of faith, I thought, because I kept doing what the church taught that I should do, to the best of my ability, even when bad things happened. I was told that “bad things happening” was a test of my faith, and if I passed that test even better things would happen.

“Passing the test” was understood to be enduring misfortune with faith. That seemed reasonable. I had faith, and I was surrounded by lots of Mormon friends and family members who thought I was a really good person, and they treated me very well.

My family was a very prominent Mormon family with many examples of considerable successes in the world among my relatives. Clearly, I thought, good things happened to faithful Mormons.

I wanted good things to happen to me, too. I believed they would, either in this life, or the life to come. Preferably, both.

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