Monday, June 13, 2011

Faith in Things that Are Real

I don't want to leave any misconceptions about my Faith. It is not just a good feeling to decide or commit to believe. There is a current cultural phenomenon interpreting it that way both inside and outside the LDS Church. And while I have clearly made a choice to be loyal to my church and my belief, which cannot always be explained rationally, that does not mean it is merely cultural or arbitrary and capricious totally devoid of rationality.

The classic definitions of Faith in Hebrews 11:1 and Alma 32:21 both include the concept that true faith is belief in real things that simply aren't seen. There are a lot of people who believe in things that have nothing real behind them. There are even things I have believed in my many years of experience that I have discovered are not true and I have discarded them. Now that is very interesting because in very broad terms, that is the same as the scientific method or Popperian Falsification - the concept of coming up with ideas and testing them to see if they hold up. If they fail, they are discarded and you move on to the new hypothesis.

Now part of this may technically be agnosticism, because if my beliefs can't be proven true, and haven't yet been proven false, then I simply don't know and belief is tentative. But it actually works more strongly and surely than that.

God makes sense philosophically simply as a Creator. It is a difficult concept, at least for me, to believe that something comes from nothing (oh, which also tends to negate religious creatio ex nihilo). So God becomes an organizer of creation which is Joseph Smith's concept. Can you prove it wrong? That something came from nothing? This also leaves a lot of room for science be it physics, geology, paleontology or evolution.

When we try within our human limitations to imagine what God looks like, it is natural to me and common among many to visualize him as a fatherly male figure. Maybe that's cultural conditioning, but can you prove that? So along with creation as organization, maybe we're still at the possibility of belief. Yet, there are people (generally called prophets) who claim to have seen or spoken with God. Credible? Maybe we can test them a little by viewing, observing, reading, studying, and heading into the spiritual, praying and waiting upon the Spirit. Don't believe in the Spirit? I do because I have felt it with my bodily sensations. You can say it's electric chemicals in my head, but I don't think you can prove that definitively. And something tells me I've a Mother there. Families are eternal.

I think the important thing is that I have had real spiritual experiences involving at least three of the five senses, sight, sound, and touch. It is possible they are, again, creations of my mind. I don't think that can be proven either way, but it's not "nothing" I believe in, I have had experiences that cannot be denied. They are sacred to me and I will share them only with those close to me who will respect the sacredness. But I have no problem testifying that I have experienced direct influence of divine, spiritual beings who are as real as the physical bodies of the humans all around me.

But there is another test of prophets and priests which is to judge them by their fruits. This works for me in spite of all the challenges and trials of life, even sometimes with my own church or its members, I still find that I get a good harvest. My family is great. My life is good. I feel those are blessings that result from my faith and religious practices. That test works. As an aside, the guys behind South Park and the new musical, tend to concede this point. They present my religion in all its craziness (not entirely accurately) but with the "feel good" conclusion that in spite of all the craziness it makes people happy and encourages them to do good in the world. Doesn't that pass the "fruits" test? We're not exactly gathering thorns even with the roses on Broadway.

I do concentrate on the basics and the essentials. And these are most clearly set out in the Book of Mormon but also in the New and Old Testaments. There are a lot of rumors and myths and extraneous stuff I hear at church or from friend and family in the faith that I simply do not believe. I want to believe in things that are true and real. And I will choose and take responsibility for what I believe in this regard.

One of the greatest doctrines of Mormonism is that of the Temple and priesthood ordinances to seal families together for all eternity. And the best part is this wonderful blessing is available to every human who has ever lived on the face of the earth by vicarious ordinances on behalf of ancestors - or by promises to be fulfilled in a future, renewed world for those who do not have the opportunity for family in this life. That is a wonderful doctrine to be found nowhere else and that in and of itself would probably be enough for me. Every blessing of the Gospel of Jesus Christ is available to all humanity and no one is denied simply for being born at the wrong time or wrong place with no chance to hear the Good News.

But here's the actual bottom line. I can't explain the Atonement of Jesus Christ, yet it is the foundation of my faith, my hope, and hopefully my developing charity. It is the way to healing from the pain of sin and innocent suffering. I have experienced this and seen it in many others. This I know and cannot deny.

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Comments are welcome. Feel free to disagree as many do. You can even be passionate (in moderation). Comments that contain offensive language, too many caps, conspiracy theories, gratuitous Mormon bashing, personal attacks on others who comment, or commercial solicitations- I send to spam. This is a troll-free zone. Charity always!