"It's Not Logical"

I hear this argument all the time, mostly from atheists, but occasionally from someone who has superficially looked at the beliefs of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

"It's just not logical."

"It has to make sense to me and it doesn't."

"I can't just accept it on a 'feeling'."

First of all, do these people honestly think that ALL religious people, ALL Christians or ALL Latter-day Saints have relinquished reason and logic in favor of a warm fuzzy? There have been plenty of intelligent, even brilliant minds who are in any or all of these categories. Scientists, philosophers, doctors, lawyers-- people whose jobs ARE to reason and think logically, to question and to find answers to those questions.

Are they really so arrogant as to suppose that THEIR logical conclusions supercede so many of the great thinkers out there?

I personally don't rely 100% on "warm fuzzies" and how my "beliefs" make me feel inside-- because quite honestly, at least half the time, they kinda make me feel like crap. I don't subscribe to a "soft Christianity" as C. S. Lewis puts it, and in order to live the way I do, make the choices I make- from diet to language to sexual behavior- I had better be quite sure that it makes sense.

And it does. I wonder frequently what the difference is- between my logic and theirs. How could our "logical conclusions" come out so differently? I don't claim to put myself up there with those great thinkers I mentioned before, but I do consider myself to be a rational person, a logical and reasonable person. I enjoy reading works of higher thinkers and those "aha" moments I get when something clicks.

I've been rereading C. S. Lewis' Mere Christianity again and the fact is, he starts from the beginning and logically (and in simple layman's terms, which I appreciate) uncovers things in human nature (things we can all see and all admit) that show that there is, at the very least, a Supreme Being of some nature. In further chapters, he walks us through and logically points us in the direction of Christianity. The thing I find most interesting is that he LOGICALLY deduced these things- starting from the point of an atheist. And he reasoned himself into Christianity.

So, to me, I cannot wrap my head around anyone who says that "It's not logical." What's not logical, exactly? Because according to my own ability to reason, I've become more and more convinced of the truth of what I believe. And furthermore, I've become more and more convinced of the "logic" of relying to some degree at least on "feeling". Like nature and nurture, reason and revelation work hand in hand- why wouldn't God expect us to take some things on faith? If I am to understand the whole purpose of being here (that being to find out the core within us, which side we are really on), then why would God give up the whole game and tell us the answers? Isn't that the point of a "test"? To go in and find out what you know on your own without the book or the teacher to tell you the answers? Do you honestly expect to reason yourself into an answer on the final exam in microbiology if you didn't study the book, if you didn't come to lectures, take notes and study them later? Trust me, I've tried. Didn't work out so well.

The only answer that I can find, that keeps swirling in my head is found in my own textbook- The Book of Mormon-  in the book of Alma, chapter 12 verses 9-11:

 9And now Alma began to expound these things unto him, saying: It is given unto many to aknow the bmysteries of God; nevertheless they are laid under a strict command that they shall not impart conly according to the portion of his word which he doth grant unto the children of men, according to the heed and diligence which they give unto him.
 10And therefore, he that will aharden his heart, the same receiveth the blesser portion of the word; and he that will cnot harden his heart, to him is dgiven the greater portion of the word, until it is given unto him to know the mysteries of God until he know them in full.
 11And they that will harden their hearts, to them is given the lesser aportion of the word until they bknow nothing concerning his mysteries; and then they are taken captive by the devil, and led by his will down to destruction. Now this is what is meant by thecchains of dhell.

This shows exactly how it works in any study, not just in religious ones. C. S. Lewis makes an excellent point about believing things on authority-
"Ninety-nine percent of the things you believe are believed on authority. I believe there is such a place as New York. I have not seen it myself. I could not prove by abstract reasoning that there must be such a place. I believe it because reliable people have told me so. The ordinary man believes in the Solar System, atoms, evolution, and the circulation of the blood on authority-- because the scientists say so. Every historical statement in the world is believed on authority. None of us has seen the Norman Conquest or the defeat of the Armada. None of us could prove them by pure logic as you prove a thing in mathematics. We believe them simply because people who did see them have left writings that tell us about them: in fact, on authority. A man who jibbed at authority in other things as some people do in religion would have to be content to know nothing all his life."
My example earlier with the microbiology test stands here as well-- most of us believe the things we are taught in these classes on authority- and if we study carefully we will find that they begin to make sense to us, that the more we study and seek to understand, the more we do  understand. However, when our only purpose in studying what is there is to poke holes in our teacher's statements or simply don't study and since we don't understand it state that "It isn't logical"- why I suppose you're right. It isn't logical if you lack the understanding and information that offers the clarity you seek. So then the only "logical" place to go then is to assume that all microbiology isn't true, that it's a bunch of bunk some guy made up to make a whole lot of college students miserable for a semester or two. And it's just so much easier to not accept it and you can come out of the fog of microbiology and step into the light and clarity of not believing in it at all and congratulate yourself for being such a logical person to see past all the hype and into the reality of nothingness.

In my experience, the more I study, the more I learn, the more I seek to know the truth from sources that I do, quite honestly, trust and find to be reliable sources, the more I find that my particular brand of Christianity is actually quite logical- and my "feelings" support this- I've never felt one of those things (logic or faith) leading the way more than the other. As my knowledge increases, so does my faith- and as my faith increases, so does my understanding and knowledge. It's not just a scripture about spirituality- I would go so far as to call it a Law of Knowledge- that's how it's acquired. Even science bases it's studies on hypotheses- not facts. It proves them after guessing, thinking or feeling that it might be the case.


It's True. It's Real.

Last night I was preparing to answer a challenge from the missionaries in our ward- give a Book of Mormon to someone. They suggested I write my testimony in the front and mark some important and favorite passages.

As I was doing this, it was as if I was reading the book for the first time. I saw it with new eyes and with that came an absolutely overpowering witness that this book is true. That it is indeed a record, a history of an entire civilization and that Christ really did visit them and teach them the gospel. My words are weak and impotent in comparison to what I felt, but I can tell you this much:

It is real. It is true. And it is VITAL. I know this with a surety beyond any I have ever felt.

If you're doubting it, if you have not read it, if you're wondering at all- go read the Book of Mormon. Pray sincerely and ask God if it is not His word. He will tell you. If you have ever felt His presence and His Spirit in your life, you will feel it when you read the Book of Mormon with an honest and earnest intent. Moroni gave you his promise:

Moroni 10:4-5 "And when ye shall receive these things, I would exhort you that ye would ask God, the Eternal Father, in the name of Christ, if these things are not true; and if ye shall ask with a sincere heart, with real intent, having faith in Christ, he will manifest the truth of it unto you, by the power of the Holy Ghost.
"And by the power of the Holy Ghost ye may know the truth of all things."

If I have any friends who read this to whom I have not borne my testimony, I apologize. Whatever else I may have said, this is the most important I can and will ever say: The Book of Mormon is the word of God. The power of Christ is again on the earth. Revelation from heaven has been restored and a prophet of God lives on this earth today. God hears and answers your prayers and if you pray about this, you will feel His Spirit confirm it. My words will be powerless and empty to you without it, but know that I know that these things are real.



My thoughts today turn towards the lesson we had in Relief Society on trials & tribulations. I kind of hate that phrase-- not necessarily because of the phrase itself, but because of the way in which it is usually said. It's become trite, tired and lost impact.

In any case, my thoughts have indeed turned to the role of trials in our lives. Let me say this:

We are only as strong as our greatest trial.

When we are met with challenges in this life, we have two options generally: rise to meet it and come out stronger and wiser, or shrink back hoping to dodge it, becoming bitter and victimized when we can't. When we meet our trials, be they calamities, health problems, temptations, relationships, financial distress, or common fears, we grow.

But what does that even mean? What kind of growth is achieved through trials?

My favorite analogy I learned in an exercise science class in college. Essentially, the body builds muscle by responding to stresses placed upon it. For example, weight-bearing exercises put stress on our bones and our bone cells respond by building more bones cells, increasing our bone density. Weight-lifting takes our muscles to a point of stress and they react by increasing in mass to meet the needs. Economics work in the same way-- the law of supply and demand. We have the option of sitting on the couch, vegging out watching the Olympics and shrugging off the talent and hard work of the people on the screen as "genetic", saying "Oh, I could never do that." But what we're really saying is "I don't care enough to do that." And while we're sitting there, our bodies are responding to our lack of stress-- by degenerating. Muscles require energy to maintain and if we're not expending energy, we will lose that muscle mass and conserve the energy- in the form of fat.

The same thing works for us in any other realm. When we respond to the stresses, the trials life hands us by standing and meeting them, we become stronger and more able to face the next one. But when we shrink-- we shrink. We lose confidence, we become victims of circumstance and start all of our sentences with "shoulds" and "coulds"-- but never with "wills".

The trials, the stresses of life can become our best friends. The kinds of friends that shape us and mold us into the best version of ourselves we can be. They can put things in perspective and empower us. Perhaps it will at first seem a contradiction when I say that we are empowered by submitting to God's will. But really, what it comes down to is that God's will and God's laws are eternal and natural laws, and by acknowledging and submitting to them, we learn how to work within them, and with that comes great power-- and great support. Or in other words, God's power, and God's support. The irony is that when we don't submit in faith, when we shrink back from life's difficulties, we lose that power as well and proudly (meaning "to set oneself at enmity with God") reject what God would give us, thinking that somehow we would be better off and safer by avoiding them. But this avoidance leaves us weak and defenseless and unprepared. What good would it do to protect our children from all of life's pains? From the falls that come with learning to walk to a poor grade on a test for which they failed to study, each failure, each pain can bring growth and determination.

Remember how all things precious are formed: a diamond through great heat and pressure, precious metals through intense heat and refining, delicate potteries baked at high temperatures. Life is meant to be difficult. It is meant to try us. It is meant to form us. And "all these things shall give thee experience and shall be for thy good." D&C 122:7


An Apostle's Testimony

This was my favorite conference talk during the October 2009 General Conference by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. I have never heard such powerful testimony born of The Book of Mormon. I add my humble testimony to the words of this great man and am ever grateful for both the book of which he bears witness, as well as for living prophets that today receive revelation directly from God.

You can also view this talk by clicking here, then clicking on the Sunday PM link and watching the fifth video in the lineup, captioned Elder Jeffrey R. Holland.

(image googled and borrowed from Mike)


The Key

Mosiah 3:19 has hit me in a way that it never has before. The verse reads as follows:

"For the natural man is an enemy to God, and has been from the fall of Adam, and will be, forever and ever, unless he yields to the enticings of the Holy Spirit, and putteth off the natural man and becometh a saint through the atonement of Christ the Lord, and becometh as a child, submissive, meek, humble, patient, full of love, willing to submit to all things which the Lord seeth fit to inflict upon him, even as a child doth submit to his father."

Could there be a better antidote for unrighteous pride? Could there be a better way to learn forgiveness and understanding? Could there be a better way to guage our own standing before God?

If we are indeed meek and submissive before the Lord, we will see His greatness and our own nothingness before Him. What follows is an entire paradigm shift. We stop looking at ourselves and comparing ourselves to others. We stop judging others unrighteously. We stop taking offense. We stop giving offense. We gain in patience and understanding and love. When full of those things, we become more Christ-like than we could in our "natural" state. We soften our hearts and humble ourselves before the Lord, rather than becoming a people that need to BE humbled. When our hearts are soft and we are willing and ready to learn and listen, we are also ready to heed the word of God. We become more in tune with His spirit. We are more able to understand His will for us.

It then follows that once we have been ready and willing to learn His will for us, we are also more able to submit ourselves to Him and accept His will. We are willing to bow our heads before Him and understand as Joseph Smith learned while in Liberty Jail that "...if the very jaws of hell shall gape open the mouth wide after thee, know thou, my son, that all these things shall give thee experience and shall be for thy good." (D&C 121:7)

In my mind I picture again young Isaac looking up so trustingly at his father Abraham as he is preparing to sacrifice him on the altar- willing to submit to all things. We may not be tried in all things, but if we are willing to submit nonetheless, we will grow closer to God and our lives- both now and through the eternities- will be blessed. Let us look to God with that same trust and humility that Isaac had.


Abraham's Sacrifice

My mind has been turned towards the story of Abraham and Isaac. In Genesis 12, God commands Abraham to take Isaac-- his only son, born to he and Sarah after years of barrenness-- and to offer him up as a burnt offering to the Lord.

I can't imagine the turmoil, the agony Abraham must have experienced at the thought. The pain of the very idea. The knowledge of his sweet son's absolute innocence, the unjustness of the command. And yet-- he obeyed. He took his son, he took the things required for the offering and saddled his ass and took him to the required place.

When his son asked him so innocently where the lamb was for the offering, can you imagine what must have gone through his mind? "You are the lamb, my son. The innocent lamb to be offered, the lamb without spot or blemish." And he said to him, "My son, God will provide himself a lamb for a burnt offering."

Isaac must have been confused-- then scared-- but apparently still trusting and loving, for we don't read of a struggle. We see Abraham standing over his small son, tied and laid on the prepared altar. We see him stretching forth his hand, and taking the knife "to slay his son". It must have felt as if his own heart was being torn from his own chest. As if he were committing a great treachery to appease his God.

And yet-- he made that offering. The Lord knew his heart, and showed Abraham his own heart. At the last second, He sent His angel to stay Abraham's hand.

Can you imagine the blessed relief? The gratitude that while he was willing to sacrifice so much, such a sacrifice would not be required? The relief that it was only a test of his faith and dedication-- and that he had passed the test?

The Lord then says to Abraham, "Lay not thine hand upon the lad, neither do thou any thing unto him; for now I know that thou fearest God, seeing thou hast not withheld thy son, thine only son from me." And then the Lord did indeed provide Abraham a ram for the sacrifice. The provision was made and Abraham had shown his "broken heart and contrite spirit" to the Lord.

God reiterates the import of what had been shown, "By myself have I sworn, saith the Lord, for because thou hast done this thing, and hast not withheld thy son, thine only son: that in blessing I will bless thee, and in multiplying I will multiply thy seed as the stars of the heaven, and as the sand which is upon the sea shore; and thy see shall possess the gate of his enemies."

Following the sacrifice and the lesson came the blessings.

But what are we to learn from this? Obviously, the Lord was teaching a lesson about the Ultimate Sacrifice, the sacrifice of His Son, the Lamb of God. But how can we further apply this in our own lives?

Perhaps we have our own Isaac's to offer on the altar. In Alma 22:18, King Lamoni's father prays to the Lord saying, "I will give away all my sins to know thee." Both are sacrifices to know our God-- it is one thing to offer up our sins, something we know is evil, a bad, sick part of ourselves. But to offer up something that is precious to you? Something pure and without fault? Have we done that?

Have we turned over our entire hearts to God? Have we humbled ourselves enough so that we can truly say we are His? Have we put our whole lives into His hands, trusting in Him so implicitly that we will not withhold from our God our "only son"? Such submission, such meekness, such humility... can we honestly say that it is found within ourselves? We cannot look at the story of Abraham clinging to the hope that it will end in the same way. I believe that there are times and circumstances when the sacrifice will be required-- and we are to be prepared for that eventuality. We cannot make this offering with the expectation that it will not be required. It will only be accepted when it is made with our whole hearts, nothing held back. No little corner of our minds or hearts remains ours. Only then can our sacrifice, our offering be true.

I pray that each of us can be so strong as Abraham in our offerings. What is your Isaac?


Chapter 1: Introduction

To begin, it is acknowledged that there is essentially no argument about the existence of the "Man known in literature as Jesus of Nazareth". The virtues of Christ and his teachings are briefly and appropriately discussed as "supreme among men", divinity aside, but of course the fact of His divinity far surpasses any other characteristic.

I'm reminded here of something C. S. Lewis said in his book Mere Christianity:

I am trying here to prevent anyone saying the really foolish thing that people often say about Him: 'I'm ready to accept Jesus as a great moral teacher, but I don't accept His claim to be God.' That is the one thing we must not say. A mean who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic-- on a level with the man who says he is a poached egg-- or else he would be the Devil of Hell. You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God: or else a madman or something worse. You can shut Him up for a fool, you can spit at Him and kill Him as a demon; or you can fall at His feet and call Him Lord and God. But let us not come with any patronising nonsense about His being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to.

There's really not much to add to a statement like that. Lewis hit the nail on the head here.

Other points of note in the first chapter:

1- Perhaps this is too obvious, but let's remind ourselves that we chronicle our history based on it's relation to the birth of Christ. That's pretty huge. Either Jesus truly is the Christ, or this is the greatest fraud perpetuated in the history of mankind. Clearly, I go with the former.

2- I've never thought of it in these terms before, but I thought it interesting that Christ was on this earth for 33 years and His earthly ministry was 3 years long. Three is a very significant and symbolic religious number- was there significance even here? I don't see why not, but my mind is not lending itself to further study of this right now, just simply noting the interest.

3- "Even the profane sinner in the foul sacrilege of his oath acclaims the divine supremacy of Him whose name he desecrates." Because it wouldn't be as powerful an oath if it didn't represent something so pure and beautiful- the most vile things are usually perversions of the most sacred and beautiful.

4- In the final paragraph of the chapter, I noted the continued use of words synonymous with the word "truth". "Verity", "fact", "actuality", "reality", "literalness"... the simple use of these words is in themselves a testimony of Jesus as the Christ. This is not a book dealing with the theory of Jesus as divinity- it is a book discussing the facts and details as are available to us in the scriptures. This is so powerful to me; it is the difference between saying "I believe" and "I know". It is so final, so exact and so, shall we say, unforgiving. Once those words are said, there's no hedging, no backpedaling, no squirming around the statement.