Mormon Scholars Testify-My Contribution Blog Post #23

October 1, 2017

A few weeks ago, I submitted my testimony to the website Mormon Scholars Testify. This is a very informative site and I recommend it to you.

Mormon Scholars Testify

I am going to include that testimony here in my blog. Those who have read my earlier blogs will recognize some repetition. But there is also quite a bit of new material.  Be forewarned…it is long.  🙂  (Someday I will learn how to write something short.)

Hope you enjoy.

“Testimony of Professor Bruce E. Dale for “Mormon Scholars Testify”

I was sixteen years old when I read the Book of Mormon for the first time. That book ran right over me. The Book of Mormon hit my mind and my heart in a way that no other book ever had before or ever has since. Now, over 50 years later, I have read the Book of Mormon hundreds of times. I am always reading it and always finding additional knowledge and insights.

After I was baptized a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, I read the other revelations given to Joseph Smith, including those recorded in the Doctrine and Covenants and also in The Pearl of Great Price.  These books spoke and continue to speak to my mind and my heart with great power.   In the revelations given to Joseph Smith, and in the Bible, I hear the voice of God, my Heavenly Father, and of my Redeemer, Jesus Christ.

And in these books I have found very soul-satisfying answers to some of the “big questions” of eternity.

Which “big questions”?  Well, two to start with. First, what is the universe for?  Second, what is humankind’s place in the universe?

I am a compulsive reader.  If it is possible to be addicted to reading, then I am truly hooked on the printed word. I have read many thousands of books of all kinds during my life, including a lot of science fiction. My first science fiction book was Robert A. Heinlein’s “Have Spacesuit Will Travel”. I read it shortly after the Russians launched the first Sputnik, and thereby initiated the Space Age.  More about the Space Age below.

Over time, I read everything that Heinlein wrote, ditto for everything by science fiction authors such as Isaac Asimov, Ray Bradbury, Arthur Clarke, Poul Anderson, Frank Herbert, Philip K. Dick, “Doc” Smith, Clifford Simak, Theodore Sturgeon, Marion Zimmer Bradley and many others.  Besides just being fun to read, these books dealt with many significant themes, political, social and moral, both openly and indirectly. (OK, mostly I read all this sci-fi for fun.  J)

But the crucial, underlying theme of science fiction is this: “Is there anyone out there? Or are we alone in the universe?”  This also continues to be a central question of science today, as it has always been.  The question of our place in the universe has a very long history.  The Greek scientist Democritus (about 500 BC, the father of atomic theory) believed in the plurality of worlds and of the presence of intelligent life on such worlds.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Democritus

The great philosopher and scientist Aristotle (about 400 BC) believed just the opposite. He thought that we were the only intelligent race on the only inhabited planet in the entire universe. We are alone in the universe.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aristotelian_theology

 

Aristotle had an important intellectual influence on Christian, Jewish and Islamic theology and cosmology.  Cosmology (the study of the whole universe) is serious stuff, and these questions were taken very, very seriously by the dominant religions in the west throughout the Middle Ages and earlier.  In 1600 AD Giordano Bruno got himself burned at the stake for insisting, among his other “heresies”, that the universe was infinite.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Giordano_Bruno

Likewise, the great Galileo spent the last years of his life under house arrest because his views on astronomy were considered heresy.  (Besides being a great genius, Galileo was also tactless and arrogant…which didn’t help him at all with the religious establishment of his day.)

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Galileo_Galilei

So why this exceedingly brief review of the history of cosmology?

Because we have been in the Space Age for almost 60 years, all of my adult life.  Because any religion that hopes to give satisfying, defensible, realistic answers about the purpose of this earth must also give satisfying answers about the purpose of all those other worlds out there.

How many worlds?

We now know that there are at least 100 billion galaxies and that each galaxy contains on average 100 billion stars.  Many of not most of these stars will have planets orbiting them.  If we assume 10 planets per star (roughly like our own solar system), then we are looking at the possibility of 10 x 100 billion x 100 billion planets in the universe, or 100 sextillion possible planets, a one with 23 zeros after it.  (Or roughly Avogadro’s number of worlds for the students of chemistry reading this.)

That is one heck of a lot of possible extra-solar worlds (called “exoplanets”).

Here is a view of one small portion of deep space as seen from the Hubble space telescope. This picture alone contains over 5000 galaxies.

So, now to my point. There are uncounted trillions and trillions of worlds.  Through science, we know that they exist.   That point is no longer in dispute.  But science does not know why they exist.  And thus far, science has been unable to put us in contact with life on those worlds.  (I hope we keep trying.)

In fact, neither science (nor science fiction) can answer the “why?” question.  That is not a question that science, by its very nature, is even able to answer.   Individual scientists can only speculate or guess or offer endless, highly conflicting opinions about “why”. Scientists cannot use the tools of science (meaning, actually function as scientists) to answer the “why” question.

As in so many other things, God inspired the Prophet Joseph Smith to answer the question of other worlds long, long before science answered them.  God also clearly answered, through Joseph Smith, the “why?” question, which is the question that really concerns humankind.

First, how many worlds are there? God revealed the answer to this question to Joseph Smith in about 1831…shortly after the Church was organized. We read from the Pearl of Great Price-Moses 1:33 and 35.

“And worlds without number have I created; and I also created them for mine own purpose; and by the Son I created them, which is mine Only Begotten…. But only an account of this earth, and the inhabitants thereof, give I unto you. For behold, there are many worlds that have passed away by the word of my power. And there are many that now stand, and innumerable are they unto man; but all things are numbered unto me, for they are mine and I know them.”

So, there are worlds “without number” and “innumerable are they unto man”.

As far as I am concerned, one hundred sextillion is pretty much innumerable unto me.  If all seven billion or so people on earth counted one star every second of their lives and we all lived for seventy years, we would still fall 10,000 times short of being able to count all of the worlds we know about.  And there are almost undoubtedly many, many more worlds than that.  So, yes. There are worlds without number and they are indeed “innumerable unto man.” All the existing, known stars have literally not been counted.

It is also very interesting to note that that there are in fact “many worlds that have passed away”, just as the scripture says.  Today we know about stars following the main sequence until they may eventually explode or “pass away” as novae and supernovae. We know about black holes–places that have passed away from our knowledge. We cannot “see” black holes. We can only infer their presence from other observations. And since we cannot communicate with someone in a black hole, they have literally passed away. They are outside of our ability to know them. Quite a “bullseye” for Joseph Smith’s prophetic credentials.

But why make all these worlds?  Is there any meaning to all these trillions of planets and stars?

Yes, there is.  And that meaning is intimately connected with the work of our Savior, Jesus Christ.  From Doctrine and Covenants Section 76: 22-24, given to Joseph in 1832, we learn:

“And now, after the many testimonies which have been given of him, this is the testimony, last of all, which we give of him: That he lives!  For we saw him, even on the right hand of God; and we heard the voice bearing record that he is the Only Begotten of the Father—That by him, and through him, and of him, the worlds are and were created, and the inhabitants thereof are begotten sons and daughters unto God.”

The inhabitants of these worlds are literally sons and daughters of God, not in some vague mystical or allegorical sense, but as a physical reality.

And what God’s purpose for His children?

Once again, the answer comes from the revelations given by God to Joseph Smith.  In Moses 1:39 we read again: “For behold, this is my work and my glory—to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man.”

God’s purpose in creating these worlds without number is to give places for his children to live while they gain physical bodies and have essential experiences that are only possible in such bodies. These experiences are to prepare us for the eternities that lie ahead, to give us essential factual and experiential knowledge. We must live for a while “on our own”, separated from our Heavenly Parents, to see how we will behave when we are not in their presence.

The ultimate purpose of our earthly experience is to progress and become more like God, to eventually become resurrected, immortal beings with glorified bodies, capable of receiving a fullness of joy (see below for more on joy).  God’s wish is that we progress to the point where we live the kind of joyful life that God lives, a quality of life called “eternal life”.

So, we have a divine answer to the “why” question.

I cannot imagine a grander or more uplifting understanding of the physical universe and of humankind’s place in that universe than that revealed to the Prophet Joseph.

The French philosopher and mathematician Henri Bergson once stated “the universe is a machine for the making of gods.”   http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/bergson/

What Bergson offered as a philosophical speculation, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints proclaims as reality.  This physical universe, worlds without number, exists to help the children of God become gods themselves.  Truly, “Mormonism” is a faith for the Space Age.

Well, I want to discuss one more “great question” and then share a few thoughts about science and religion—since many people seem to be hung up on the apparent conflict between science and religion.  (Hint: people should not be bothered by that issue at all.)

Another “great question” is: “What is the relationship, if any, between spirit and matter?” This question is closely connected with yet another great question: the preservation (or not) of individuality or personhood following death.  That question is: “Is there anything about me that is eternal, or will I eventually be annihilated, cease to be, become extinct both body and spirit, pass into nothingness, become as if I had never existed at all?”

Kind of an important question, I think…

In the Protestant church in which I was raised, I could never get a satisfactory answer about the nature of our spirits from my well-meaning Sunday School teachers (we called spirits “souls” in that church).  Apparently, in the minds of my teachers, the spirit seemed to be more of an idea rather than anything physical or tangible.  So when I heard these teachers talk about dead persons living “in our memories” I was not comforted at all. I didn’t want to live in the memories of other people…I wanted to really live.

Yes, an eight year old kid can think about those things. This one did.

So I was filled with joy when I read two revelations given to Joseph Smith as found in the book of Doctrine and Covenants: Sections 93 and 131. Here are some of the key verses from these two revelations that bear on the subject of spirit and matter, and the eternal nature of individual.

Ye were also in the beginning with the Father; …  Man was also in the beginning with God. Intelligence, or the light of truth, was not created or made, neither indeed can be.  For man is spirit. The elements are eternal, and spirit and element, inseparably connected, receive a fulness of joy…The elements are the tabernacle of God; yea, man is the tabernacle of God, even temples.

There is no such thing as immaterial matter.  All spirit is matter, but it is more fine or pure, and can only be discerned by purer eyes.”

From these and other revelations, Mormons believe that human beings are co-eternal with God and that God organized our native “intelligences”, the core of our individual personalities, into spirits. It is these spirits that inhabit our current mortal bodies.  The spirit of the person is the real person, the authentic person, with all of his or her own experiences, knowledge and abilities.

Thus we are two-part beings with dual natures. We have a spirit. That spirit is real and physical. We also have bodies, and they are obviously real and physical.  If both the spirit and body were not both “real”, that is, physical, they could not interact. Two things that do not have something in common can never interact.

Death separates the spirit from the body, but the Resurrection made possible by Jesus Christ joins these two physical entities back together, never again to be separated. When our spirits and bodies are thus joined, we are able to receive a fullness of joy, a joy that is not possible in our current mortal states.

I find these aspects of Mormon theology to be profoundly satisfying, meeting the needs of both my heart and my mind. They ring true. As the Prophet Joseph said about these and other truths, they “taste good” to me.

In connection with this idea of the relationship between spirit and matter, one phrase in Section 93, namely: “the elements are eternal” begs for closer examination.

In his dealings with us, God uses language that we can understand, appropriate for our own time, culture and idiom.  He does not deliberately speak over our heads (although we often refuse to use our heads to try to understand what He is saying). So these four words mean exactly what they say, in the language of that time. The revelation in Section 93 was given May 6, 1833.  What did the words “elements” and “eternal” mean in American English in 1833?

I believe God inspired Noah Webster to compile his famous dictionary of American English in 1828 so that there could be no doubt about what God’s revelations meant at that particular time in history. Webster’s dictionary is available on-line.  http://webstersdictionary1828.com/.

From this on-line dictionary, here are some relevant meanings of “element” and “eternal” in 1833 in American English: 

EL’EMENT, noun [Latin elementus.]: “The matter or substances which compose the world”.

ETER’NAL, adjective [Latin oeternus.] “Without beginning or end of existence”.

Today we usually think of “elements” (if we think about the word at all) only in terms of the chemical elements of the periodic table, but the common understanding of “elements” was broader back in 1833.   The periodic table of the elements had not yet been fully developed.

So in 1833 when Section 93 was received, a very plain and straightforward interpretation of that short phrase in verse 33, “the elements are eternal” would be “the matter or substances which compose the world are without beginning or end of existence”.

This is a clear statement of a fundamental principle of science, the conservation of matter. Matter cannot be created or destroyed. (Or “matter-energy”, to take a more comprehensive view of matter that includes Einstein’s famous equation.)

As far as scientists can determine from spectral emission studies, matter or substances which compose our world are the same throughout the visible universe.   The elements are the same across almost 14 billion light years of the observable universe.  Across the observable universe we see disorganized matter in the process of being organized as planetismals and eventually planets that form around large primary stars like our sun.

We also observe supernovae in which organized matter is disorganized by incredibly violent explosions and flung out into space, where eventually, under the force of gravity, that unorganized matter may be formed into yet more planetismals, planets and suns.  This is all consistent with the Mormon idea of “creation”. For Mormons, creation consists of imposing form or order on unorganized matter.

The current bedrock scientific principle that matter cannot be created nor destroyed had not been demonstrated in 1833, when God revealed it to Joseph Smith, although the Russian chemist Mikhail Lomonosov did some important early experimental work.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mikhail_Lomonosov#Chemist_and_geologist

However, it was the French chemist Antoine Lavoisier who laid a strong experimental basis for this principle in his famous 1789 Elementary Treatise on Chemistry, the first book on modern chemistry.  http://www.cyclopaedia.info/wiki/Traite-Elementaire-de-Chimie-1

Lavoisier’s treatise was translated into English in 1790.  He used very careful measurements of the mass (“weight”) of reacting chemical species to show that different chemical elements are combined in chemical reactions without losing their identity.

But Lavoisier does not say that the elements cannot be destroyed, only that in the chemical reactions he observed, the total mass did not change.  And Lavoisier incorrectly identified several substances (including “light” and “caloric”) as elements.  So it would have been very difficult for Joseph Smith to have generalized Lavoisier’s experiments into a general statement of the conservation of matter, even if you think that Joseph had time and the ability to study and understand chemical textbooks.

Did Joseph get this idea from the religions of his day, if not from science?  No, he did not.  The largest Christian denomination, then and now, has as its official doctrine creatio ex nihilo or “creation out of nothing”.  http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/04470a.htm

The Protestant denominations, then and now, generally appear to also believe in creation from nothing, following the logic of some but not all Greek philosophers. See, for example: http://www.fallenangels-ckquarterman.com/creatio-ex-nihilo/.

Interestingly, creation out of nothing is also apparently the belief of Islam but not of Eastern religions.  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ex_nihilo

This concept of the eternal nature of matter is deeply interesting to me, and deeply comforting also. Why comforting? Because Mormonism is unique among world religions (as far as I know) in claiming that human beings are coeternal with God himself, and that the personal spirit that inhabits our bodies is also material/matter.  It has real substance. It is not just an “idea”—it is real matter, real stuff.

Our spirits are organized matter. They were organized by God.  Our individual spirits cannot be destroyed.  I am uniquely my own person.  I am eternal and so are you and so is every human being that ever lived.

The fact that we are all eternal beings is so important to me, that I want to address another very interesting question about the nature of spirits that also ties in with the topic of “religion and science.”

Here is the question: if spirits are real, why can’t we see them?  Once again, the Prophet Joseph Smith gives a clear, unambiguous response “All spirit is matter, but it is more fine or pure and can only be discerned by purer eyes.  We cannot see it; but when our bodies are purified we shall see that it is all matter.” (Doctrine and Covenants 131: 7-8).

So, is there any scientific evidence that there is matter that we cannot see with our eyes (or instruments?).

Yes. Absolutely yes!  In fact, about 85% of the matter in the universe is invisible.  This “dark matter” does not emit radiation or interact with electromagnetic radiation on any wavelength accessible to us or our instruments.  Dark matter’s existence is inferred from its effects on visible matter (in the structure of galaxies and clusters of galaxies) or on radiation (through gravitational lensing).

This Wiki link is a good discussion of the evidence for dark matter.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dark_matter

There is abundant evidence for dark matter; it is the mainstream opinion of astrophysicists today.  Thus there is a lot of matter/mass/stuff out there in the universe that we simply cannot see, just as Joseph Smith stated.  We are currently only able to detect dark matter from other evidence—not observe it directly.

To make things “worse”, there is something called “dark energy” that we know even less about than dark matter. But there is also a lot of evidence for dark energy.

https://science.nasa.gov/astrophysics/focus-areas/what-is-dark-energy

Between them, dark matter and dark energy account for about 95% of the total matter plus energy in the universe.  Yes, something that no one has ever seen makes up most of the mass (physical stuff-matter) in the universe…and the overwhelming majority of stone-cold sober and realistic astrophysicists believe dark matter to be real.  When we consider both matter and energy together, we really don’t understand what 95% of the stuff in the universe is.

Now, 95% ignorance would not earn me a passing grade in any of the courses I have taken.

Let’s keep that fact in mind as we talk about science and the scientific method: science cannot currently explain either dark matter or dark energy, about 95% of what the universe is actually made of.  This fact ought to lead to humility and not arrogance on the part of scientists and those who talk about science.

Now some thoughts about science and the scientific method.

First, science is a very limited tool.

I have spent my life in scholarship in my own field of engineering/science.  From personal experience, I know that there is almost always some capable scholar or scientist somewhere who will disagree with the findings of any other scholar or scientist, no matter how capable he or she is.  Scholarship and science always consist in:

  • making assumptions,
  • gathering evidence based on these assumptions,
  • reasoning from that evidence (and the underlying assumptions)
  • to arrive at tentative conclusions and then
  • openly and completely disclosing that work for the scrutiny of other scholars.

Notice how many interdependent pieces there are to the scientific or scholarly process. Notice how much can go wrong–or at least differently.

Very, very often, other scientists in a given scientific community will apply other assumptions, other evidence and different reasoning to arrive at different conclusions. That is how science progresses, not to “ultimate truth”, but to improved, but still incomplete understanding.

I repeat: science by its nature cannot arrive at ultimate truth (at least, scientists cannot claim to have arrived at ultimate truth and still remain scientists).

In the words of Karl Popper, the Austrian-born philosopher of science “Every statement of science is forever tentative.” In other words, science does not deal in finality…it deals in the next question to be asked.

Popper said so many good and accurate things about science and the scientific method, that I will just provide some quotes from him to drive home the very limited nature of science and the scientific method.  Here are a few of Popper’s relevant quotes:

“Whenever a theory appears to you as the only possible one, take this as a sign that you have neither understood the theory nor the problem which it was intended to solve.”

“Our knowledge can only be finite, while our ignorance must necessarily be infinite.”

“Science may be described as the art of systematic over-simplification.” 

“There can be no ultimate statements in science: there can be no statements in science which cannot be tested, and therefore none which cannot in principle be refuted, by falsifying some of the conclusions which can be deduced from them.”

http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/authors/k/karl_popper.html

http://www.goodreads.com/author/quotes/6211.Karl_Popper?page=3

OK, I hope that is enough repetition from Dr. Popper- there are many more in the same vein.

Science does not give ultimate answers–although some scientific principles are on very, very firm ground. Many others are on much less firm ground. Science cannot provide ultimate answers and still remain science. Science is and must remain open-ended, always eager to be proven wrong, or at least incomplete.

Most real scientists remember this and are careful not to overstate their conclusions. They usually understand the limitations of their assumptions, data and reasoning and therefore they remain open to correction and discussion. I have observed that it is usually non-scientists that are most likely to overstate, misinterpret or abuse scientific evidence, often as a club with which to beat their intellectual opponents.

If you think scientists are god-like creatures without prejudices, think again. If you think that scientists immediately change their views based on the evidence, think again. It isn’t always so.  If any scientist presents himself to you as someone who has the world all figured out, and is ready to give you all the answers, the final absolute answers…run as fast as you can in the other direction. Remember the 95% matter-energy that we don’t understand…and flee.

The great scientist Max Planck once quipped that science advances one funeral at time. By this he meant that scientific progress does not occur by winning over people to new ideas, but only when the defenders of the status quo die off and are replaced by younger people who have already been exposed to the new ideas.  Planck was exaggerating…but not by much.

Back to the subject: the fact that we can’t see most of the mass of the universe ought to make us a bit more humble about what we know and what we don’t know.  Humility is the correct attitude for any scientist (or anyone taking science seriously).

Sir Isaac Newton, perhaps the greatest scientist to ever live, perfectly captured this spirit of humility in the face of our infinite ignorance and our very finite knowledge when he said “I do not know what I may appear to the world, but to myself I seem to have been only like a boy playing on the seashore, and diverting myself in now and then finding a smoother pebble or a prettier shell than ordinary, whilst the great ocean of truth lay all undiscovered before me.”

So we have no cause for arrogance in our level of scientific understanding when we cannot see most of the matter that actually exists in the universe.  Likewise, we should not complain that God is not readily observable. He can be and has been seen, it just isn’t easy or routine.

I believe in a God that I cannot see today, but whom I hope to see someday when I am purer.  In the meantime, I have faith that God is real…just like dark matter.  As the Apostle Paul teaches us, faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen…just like dark matter.

OK, almost done here.

To conclude, I would like to summarize three key ways in which science and “religion” are deeply alike.  These three deep similarities are:

1) the absolute requirement for faith in both science and religion,

2) the confirming role of evidence in both science and religion and

3) progression toward greater knowledge and truth in both science and religion.

 

So, what is faith and what is the relationship between faith and evidence?

 

In the Bible, Hebrews 11:1 gives us a good definition:  “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” Therefore faith is the evidence we do observe of the reality of things we don’t observe, for example, dark matter…real stuff which we don’t see with our eyes or our instruments, but for which we have plenty of evidence. Therefore everyone who believes in dark matter (or dark energy) has faith.

 

In fact, all scientists must have faith. At a minimum scientists must have faith in an orderly universe, so that the results of their experiments are not determined by random chance, with the “rules of the game” changing continually. They must also believe in a rational universe, one in which clear thinking and reasoning actually help in the search for truth.

 

Here are two more examples of faith in science.

 

First, Albert Einstein said the happiest day of his life was when his theory of general relativity was found to correctly (and exactly) predict an alteration in Mercury’s orbit around the sun due to the disturbance in spacetime caused by the sun’s mass.

 

Einstein had faith, he believed in something he did not see. He believed that his theory was correct, but the evidence to support his theory (and thus his faith) did not emerge until after his theory was tested and proven by the data.

 

Likewise, the Book of Mormon prophet Moroni tells us (Ether 12:6) that “faith is things which are hoped for and not seen; wherefore, dispute not because ye see not, for ye receive no witness until after the trial of your faith.” In science, as in religion, the witness or evidence usually comes after our faith is tried or tested.

 

As another example, Charles Darwin predicted the existence of a moth in Madagascar with a proboscis (nectar-gathering organ) about 11 inches long based on fact that there orchids in Madagascar whose nectaries were 10-14 inches long.  Darwin stated “That such a moth exists in Madagascar may be safely predicted; and naturalists who visit that island should search for it with as much confidence as astronomers searched for the planet Neptune, – and they will be equally successful!”

 

In 1903, well after Darwin’s death, a moth was indeed discovered in Madagascar which fulfilled Darwin’s prediction. Based on the evidence of the orchid’s size, Darwin had faith in something that he had not seen, that is, a moth with a proboscis long enough to gather nectar from that orchid. Again, the evidence came after the test or trial.

 

Going back to Sir Isaac Newton, here are three quotes showing how Newton interpreted some of the evidence available to him:

  • “This most beautiful system of the sun, planets and comets, could only proceed from the counsel and dominion of an intelligent and powerful Being.”
  • “In the absence of any other proof, the thumb alone would convince me of God’s existence.”
  • “Atheism is so senseless. When I look at the solar system, I see the earth at the right distance from the sun to receive the proper amounts of heat and light. This did not happen by chance.”

In other words, facts (evidence) as diverse as the visible order of the planetary system, the existence of the thumb and the placement of earth in the solar system where we would not either burn up or be frozen to death all confirmed and strengthened Newton’s faith in God.

https://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/authors/i/isaac_newton.html

By the way, the Book of Mormon prophet Alma saw some of the evidence for God in the same way that Newton did.  Here is what Alma said: “…all things denote there is a God; yea, even the earth, and all things that are upon the face of it, yea, and its motion, yea, and also all the planets which move in their regular form do witness that there is a Supreme Creator.” (Alma 30:44).

 

I think Alma and Isaac Newton would have gotten along very well.

 

This interaction between faith and the process of evidence-gathering to test or prove our faith is called experimentation. Honest and truthful experimentation leads to greater knowledge, to a more complete understanding of the truth.  Experimenting to test our faith is the rightful activity of both the scientist and the religious person.

 

The process of experimentation leading to greater knowledge and increased truth is wonderfully well-described in Alma Chapter 32:18-43 in the Book of Mormon. I am not going to try to paraphrase it here.  I invite you to read it and ponder it for yourself.

 

So we can ask (with Pontius Pilate), “what is truth?”

 

If Pilate had been an honest seeker of truth, perhaps Jesus would have given him the answer to his question. Christ did answer this question “what is truth?” for Joseph Smith, who was an honest seeker of truth.

 

Here are two related answers Joseph received about truth: “And truth is knowledge of things as they are, and as they were, and as they are to come” and “The glory of God is intelligence, or, in other words, light and truth.” (Doctrine and Covenants 93:24 and 36).

 

So, my faith teaches me that if I want to become more like God, and I do, then I must be busy gaining all the knowledge and truth that I can, just as any true scientist will always do.  There is no conflict between science and religion, both seek truth. I will gain that knowledge both by study and by faith.  And I will also gain it by experience in the laboratory of this mortal life.

 

I am grateful for my Mormon faith which gives me such wonderful answers to the truly big questions of eternity, and which gives me a quest worthy of my very best efforts. That quest is to become more like the God I worship by gaining greater light and knowledge through obedience, faith, study and experience.”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *