Friday, January 17, 2020

The Poem

Last night, Peter got to perform at the Northglenn High School Poetry Slam, held at the City of Northglenn's DL Parsons Theater. He was the only student performer who recited his poem entirely by memory, and he did a fantastic job! Here is "The Poem," the poem that he wrote.

Friday, January 10, 2020

Witnesses of the Restoration

A witness is someone who has seen an event take place or who otherwise has knowledge of something from personal observation or experience. The Lord's policy is that "In the mouth of two or three witnesses shall every word be established." (2 Corinthians 13:1, Matt 18:16, Ether 5:4, D&C 6:28) And yet, many of the first events of the Restoration of the gospel in these latter days appear to have no witnesses. Joseph Smith was alone when he had his first vision of God and his Son. He was alone when he was visited by the angel Moroni. He went through great lengths to keep the plates that contained the record of the Nephites hidden from sight. How can we know that these events actually happened?

1. The first vision. Joseph went alone to the woods to pray. How can we know that this event took place? What witnesses besides Joseph Smith can we turn to?

When Joseph returned home after this incredible experience, his mother noticed he had no strength and asked him what the matter was. She was a witness that something unusual had happened. At the time he only told her that he was well, and that he had learned for himself that Presbyterianism was not true. This isn't incredibly convincing.

However, Joseph's family does serve as a witness to his character. When Joseph's religious family learned of the vision they believed him, while other ministers and religious people who did not know him as well did not. What does this tell us about Joseph as a person? He was honest. He was not given to telling lies; his family would have known that and would have been skeptical of his claims. But they believed him, and this tells us something. 

2. Moroni's visit. Three years later, when Joseph was visited by Moroni, he was again the only witness. What other witnesses do we have?

The morning following Joseph's sleepless night, he attempted to work as normal, but both his father and his brother Alvin witnessed that something was wrong with him: he was pale and weak, and his father sent him back to the house. When Joseph told his father about the heavenly messenger, his father believed him and told him that it was of God. Again, Joseph's father, who knew him well, believed him and this is a witness that Joseph was by nature an honest person.

When Joseph told the rest of the family they also believed him. His mother tells, "I think that we presented the most peculiar aspect of any family that ever lived upon the earth, all seated in a  circle, father, mother, sons, and daughters, listening in breathless anxiety to the religious teachings of a boy eighteen years of age who had never read the Bible through by course in his life." (History of Joseph Smith by His Mother, p 111.) They were witnesses that Joseph had received knowledge of many things of which he had not previously been aware.

3. The Golden Plates.  In spite of the efforts Joseph went to in order to keep the plates hidden from sight, there are many witnesses to their existence.

First, there is again Joseph's family. They were witnesses of Joseph's actions in procuring the plates, finding and paying for a locked chest to contain them, hiding them from people who would steal them, and of the long hours spent in translating them.

Those who tried to steal the plates are, in their own way, witnesses of their existence. The lengths that they went through in their attempts to get them are proof that they firmly believed in the plates' existence.

Martin Harris, Emma Smith, and Oliver Cowdrey, who served as scribes as Joseph translated the writing on the plates also are witnesses to the plates as well as to Joseph's translating them.

Emma said of the time during the translation, “the plates often lay on the table without any attempt at concealment, wrapped in a small linen table cloth, which I had given him [Joseph Smith] to fold them in. I once felt of the plates, as they thus lay on the table, tracing their outline and shape. They seemed to be pliable like thick paper, and would rustle with a metallic sound when the edges were moved by the thumb, as one does sometimes thumb the edges of a book. … I did not attempt to handle the plates, other than [through the linen cloth]. … I was satisfied that it was the work of God, and therefore did not feel it to be necessary to do so” (“Last Testimony of Sister Emma,” Saints’ Herald, Oct. 1, 1879, 290; spelling standardized).

She also witnessed of the translation, “No man could have dictated the writing of the manuscripts unless he was inspired; for, when [I was] acting as his scribe, [Joseph] would dictate to me hour after hour; and when returning after meals, or after interruptions, he would at once begin where he had left off, without either seeing the manuscript or having any portion of it read to him.” (Emma Smith, interview by Joseph Smith III, Feb. 1879, Saints’ Herald (periodical published by the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, now called Community of Christ), Oct. 1, 1879, p. 290.) 

Oliver bore his witness, "To [sit] under the sound of a voice dictated by the inspiration of heaven, awakened the utmost gratitude of this bosom! Day after day I continued, uninterrupted, to write from his mouth, as he translated with the Urim and Thummim, or, as the Nephites would have said, 'Interpreters,' the history or record called 'The Book of Mormon.'” (Joseph Smith - History, footnote)

Martin Harris took a copy of the characters from the Book of Mormon to Charles Anthon and Samuel Mitchell, who also witnessed to him that the characters were "Egyptian, Chaldaic, Assyriac and Arabic" (although Professor Anthon retracted his witness after hearing of an angel's involvement). (Joseph Smith History 1:64-65)

Oliver and Martin, along with David Whitmer also had the privilege of being eye witnesses to the plates, even being shown them by an angel - which gives further evidence to Joseph having been given them by an angel in the first place. David Whitmer witnessed, “It was in the latter part of June, 1829. Joseph, Oliver Cowdery and myself were together, and the angel showed them [the plates] to us. … [We were] sitting on a log when we were overshadowed by a light more glorious than that of the sun. In the midst of this light, but a few feet from us, appeared a table upon which were many golden plates, also the sword of Laban and the directors. I saw them as plain as I see you now, and distinctly heard the voice of the Lord declaring that the records of the plates of the Book of Mormon were translated by the gift and power of God.” (Cook, David Whitmer Interviews, 63. Quoted here.) Martin Harris had a similar experience a short while later. These three witnesses gave their names to the world in the "Testimony of the Three Witnesses" published in the introductory pages of the Book of Mormon.

Eight other men received the opportunity of viewing the plates, not by an angel or with the voice of the Lord, but Joseph showed them and allowed them to turn the pages and handle them. Their witness to the world is also published in the introductory pages of the Book of Mormon.

Another witness to the plates was Mary Whitmer. "A grandson of Mary Musselman Whitmer (wife of Peter Whitmer Sr.) reported that Mary had 'so many extra persons to care for' that she 'was often overloaded with work.' One evening, after a long day’s work, she went to the barn to milk the cows and met a stranger who 'showed her a bundle of plates' and 'turned the leaves of the book of plates over, leaf after leaf,' promising Mary that 'she should be blessed' if she were 'patient and faithful in bearing her burden a little longer.'" (Andrew Jenson, “Still Another Witness,” in Andrew Jenson, ed., Historical Record: A Monthly Periodical, vol. 7, nos. 8–10 (Oct. 1888), 621. Quoted here)

Twelve people, besides Joseph, saw the plates, while others handled them or were witness to Joseph's actions in regard to them. Were the plates a hoax? Did Joseph somehow create the plates himself from metal? This is highly unlikely. Due to the poverty of himself, his friends and his family, and the many hardships and the scorn that he endured because of his claims, it is very unlikely that he would have persevered in those claims for so long had they been false.

The Book of Mormon itself is a witness that the plates existed and that the book was not written by Joseph Smith himself. How could a young farmer, with very little education have written the book as he did, recited to a scribe with no revisions or edits, all within the space of just a few months? Some who have studied the book have added their witness of the existence of similarities to Egyptian historical texts and the apocrypha. (See Hugh Nibley, Since Cumorah.) Others have pointed to archaeological "proofs" of its truthfulness that Joseph could not have known at the time. (see here for an example). I have even heard it said that each writer of the Book of Mormon had his own distinct writing style. (See here for an analysis) And, of course, there are millions of people who can give their witness to having received guidance, inspiration and hope from the words written in the Book of Mormon.

4. Other Witnesses of the Restoration. Joseph was no longer alone when he received the Aaronic Priesthood, was baptized, or when he received the Melchizedec Priesthood. In these things, Oliver Cowdrey served as a second witness to the events of the restoration. At the dedication of the Kirtland temple, many people witnessed angels, a bright cloud and a pillar of fire. Sidney Rigdon shared the vision of Christ and the kingdoms of glory recorded in D&C 76. One of my own ancestors, Edmund Ellsworth, was present when Brigham Young was revealed to be the next leader of the saints. He witnessed, "I was present at the meeting which heard President Sidney Rigdon. I plainly saw the mantle of Priesthood fall upon President Young with its power and spirit. The testimony of this was given to most of the congregation." (Biography of Edmund Lovell Ellsworth) Many others witnessed miracles, revelations, and prophecies made and fulfilled.

Just because these events took place and were witnessed two hundred years ago does not make their witness any less relevant today. How would we know anything that occurred so long ago except by the witnesses that have been passed down through time? These witnesses add to the witness of the Holy Spirit that these things are true.

Sunday, January 5, 2020

Welcome to 2020! Our New Years Adventure

(Steven wrote this description of our adventure for Hannah and John and gave me permission to post it here as well for historical purposes. Enjoy!)

So we were invited to go spend New Years Eve with April and Dean. As you may recall, April and Dean live in Wyoming. Now if I were to ask you what was the first thing you thought of when I mention Wyoming, what would you say? What's the first thing that comes to mind? Well, quite possibly the thing you think about Wyoming is "windy". And you would be correct. I even checked the weather before we went and instead of saying 'Sunny' or 'Partly Cloudy' it said 'Windy'. Now April and Dean live about an hour north of Cheyenne and between Cheyenne and their house is pretty much nothing. When we got to Cheyenne there were flashing signs saying "Trucks, RV's, and anything pulling a trailer, don't even think about driving any farther. For the rest of you, may God have mercy on your souls." or something like that. For that next hour drive the wind was pretty wild and crazy. But the best part was that it would sometimes blow the snow off the sides of the road across the road to the point where you couldn't see the road and just had to keep driving straight and hope that the road didn't make any sudden moves. I asked Josh if he wanted to practice driving at all but he said no.

We finally made it to April and Dean's house where the wind was not quite as bad and we were at least able to go inside. For our New Years party we had pizza and cookies and mom made some guacamole (which was good, but probably not as good as if Hannah had made it). Mom and April played the guitar and piano and sang songs. Dean and Josh and Peter played D&D and fought some over-sized sewer rats. I did a cryptic crossword and kept looking at my watch to see if it was midnight yet so we could go to bed because it was late and already past my bedtime. Oh, and we learned that cats aren't the only animals that are stupid enough to chase laser pointers. The Dawes beagle dogs are too! And it was fun because they have hardwood floors and so it took a bit for the dog to get running, and then he couldn't stop very fast and so would often slam into the wall. And the dog kept going and never gave up, even when you could tell he was getting tired. Finally the big moment arrived - the coo-coo clock chimed midnight! Did you know that April and Dean have a real, honest-to-goodness, coo-coo clock? One with chains with weights hanging down that keep it going and a little door that opens and a little birdy comes out and says "coo-coo"? Anyway, it was pretty cool.

Before going to bed though, me and Peter ran outside to the end of their driveway and back just for fun. It was pretty windy outside but somehow we survived.

We slept in the basement and you would think that being in a dark basement after having stayed up past midnight that I would be able to sleep in a bit, but you would be wrong. They had a few basement windows and as soon as some light came through in the morning my body said "time to get up!" and wouldn't be convinced otherwise. Eventually everyone else woke up and we had breakfast (which we probably didn't need since I was still full from all the pizza and cookies and guacamole from the night before). Peter, Dean, Ezri and I played a round of four-person chess on a board that Peter had made (Mom and April helped Ezri). Four-person chess is interesting because any strategy you might have becomes moot by the time three other people have moved and also it is legal to move into check since it is possible for one of the other three players to make a move to remove the threat before they actually take your king. Anyway, it was fun. Dean won.

Finally it was time to go home. We all got in the van and started home. But when we got to the freeway we found that it was closed due to the adverse weather conditions! Hmmm. That might make getting home a little difficult. I still needed to get home because I had to work the next day. So mom pulled out her phone to find another way around. We ended up taking a road that went several miles east of town, then south for about ten miles or so, then cut back towards the freeway again. It was nice to be able to see parts of Wyoming that you don't normally get to see, but the whole time I had this funny kind of feeling like if we get stuck out here somehow, we're going to die because we are miles from anywhere. And it was cold and the wind was blowing pretty hard. While we were out in nowhere land April called and let us know that the freeway was closed all the way to the Colorado border and that right now the only way to get from Wyoming into Colorado was through Laramie, which is another hour west of Cheyenne. Hmm. This may be more of an adventure than we thought. But for the time being we continued towards Cheyenne and followed a frontage road that basically went along side the freeway most of the way. But you may be thinking: "Hey, if they closed the freeway because of adverse weather conditions, wouldn't those same adverse weather conditions exist on a road right next to the freeway? And wouldn't that road probably not get the same plow treatment that the freeway was likely to get, making it even more dangerous to drive on?" And you would be correct on all counts. So we are driving along this side road, through what might be considered blizzard-style wind, and passing through patches where the wind had blown snow onto the road which had piled up sometimes over a foot deep. There were tire tracks through the snow where the previous cars had gone through but it was piled high enough between the wheel tracks that you could hear it scrape the underside of the car. At one point we were following a big red pick-up truck with double tires in the back and we watched as sometimes it was sliding around on the snow. It didn't exactly instill us with confidence. I asked Josh again if he wanted to practice driving but again he said no.

I took this picture on the drive home... It didn't turn out very well because of the angle of the sun, but all we could see beyond the edge of the road was a sea of clouds
Normally it only takes an hour to get from April and Dean's house to Cheyenne but this time it took an hour and a half. But this was an hour and a half of terror, driving in crazy conditions as I've described above. We finally got to Cheyenne alive somehow and we were worried that we might have to take a detour over to Laramie. If we did, we would need to stop for gas since we were running low. The first signs we saw when we got to Cheyenne said that the freeway to Colorado was closed, and oh, by the way, the road to Laramie was also closed. Hmmm. We might have to spend longer in Cheyenne than we hoped. But we kept on driving and it turns out they must have just re-opened the road because we did not have to stop and made it into Colorado where the wind was much less brutal. We made it home safely and just as we were pulling up to the house the gas light came on. I told Mom that she should get gas in the car tomorrow and then we all unloaded the car and went inside and went to bed.

Friday, January 3, 2020

Learning... and the Book of Mormon DNA Question

In this incredible information age, have you ever started looking up one thing, only to see something else that looks interesting, so you look at that, which then leads you to something else, and so on?

That happened to me this morning in my daily scripture study. Since the "Come Follow Me" program for this year is a study of the Book of Mormon, this morning I read Joseph Smith's testimony in the introductory section of the Book of Mormon. After I read it, I reviewed some of the information in the manual, and among other things, there was a recommendation to read "Book of Mormon Translation" in Gospel Topics. Accordingly, I went to Gospel Topics and scrolled down the list of topics until I came to the Book of Mormon topics, and although I intended to read the "Translation" topic, another Book of Mormon topic caught my eye: Book of Mormon and DNA studies.

I have long been aware of the lack of DNA evidence for the Book of Mormon, and I was curious what the Church had to say about this subject, so I clicked there instead. I was fascinated by what I read. In just the opening, it said:
Although the primary purpose of the Book of Mormon is more spiritual than historical, some people have wondered whether the migrations it describes are compatible with scientific studies of ancient America. The discussion has centered on the field of population genetics and developments in DNA science. Some have contended that the migrations mentioned in the Book of Mormon did not occur because the majority of DNA identified to date in modern native peoples most closely resembles that of eastern Asian populations.2
Basic principles of population genetics suggest the need for a more careful approach to the data. The conclusions of genetics, like those of any science, are tentative, and much work remains to be done to fully understand the origins of the native populations of the Americas. Nothing is known about the DNA of Book of Mormon peoples, and even if their genetic profile were known, there are sound scientific reasons that it might remain undetected. For these same reasons, arguments that some defenders of the Book of Mormon make based on DNA studies are also speculative. In short, DNA studies cannot be used decisively to either affirm or reject the historical authenticity of the Book of Mormon.
There followed a discussion of the likelihood of the existence of other groups in the Americas, details about DNA structure and genetic oddities and influences such as founder effect, population bottleneck and genetic drift. In the end, the conclusion it draws is simply that the use of DNA can not be used to determine the authenticity of the Book of Mormon.

I looked up some of the additional resources listed at the end of this topic, and came across an article entitled The Book of Mormon and the Origin of Native Americans from a Maternally Inherited DNA Standpoint, which included this statement:
Over the past decade, critics of the Book of Mormon have promoted the idea that since the majority of Amerindian DNA lineages are closely related to Asian populations, and since no perfect genetic affinity to the Middle East has been found, it must be concluded that the Book of Mormon account is fictional. This argument is sometimes bolstered in part by a common sentiment among Latter-day Saints generally that all Native Americans are descendants of the Old World migrants described in the Book of Mormon text, particularly Lehi’s colony. To contend with these arguments, some Mormons dismiss DNA studies as being unreliable for reconstructing history, while others are quick to embrace any news of possible Middle Eastern DNA in the Americas as conclusive proof that the migrations to America described in the Book of Mormon are real.
As members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, we are supposed to be seekers after truth - whether scientific or religious. What advantage do we gain when we dismiss scientific studies because they don't seem to agree with what we believe to be true religiously? Or dismiss religious truths because they don't seem to agree with what we believe to be true scientifically? I heard somewhere, and I believe it to be absolutely true, that where science and religion don't appear to agree it is because our understanding of one or the other, or BOTH is incomplete. Here is one evidence of this.

To those members of the Church who believe that "all Native Americans are descendants of the Old World migrants described in the Book of Mormon text" I would suggest that they read this other article I came across this morning entitled, “When Lehi’s Party Arrived in the Land, Did They Find Others There?” The abstract of this article states:
A number of statements in the Book of Mormon text indicate the presence in Lehi’s promised land of peoples other than those descended from Lehi’s party. Reasons the topic is not addressed more explicitly in the record include a focus on the Nephites (and not on other people), a generic treatment of Lamanites, and a desire not to waste space on something obvious or insignificant. Clear evidence for the presence of others in substantial populations is present in the Book of Mormon. The demographic or cultural history of Lehi’s literal descendants must take into account these other groups.
The actual article discusses the many clues in the Book of Mormon that give evidence that there were many peoples occupying the land where Book of Mormon people settled. The author suggests that the term "Nephite" was a political term meaning not just actual descendants of Nephi, but anyone subject to the Nephite king, and so the "people of Nephi" would include any native people that the Nephites may have conquered, while "Lamanites" were simply all those who opposed the Nephites, whether or not they were actual descendants of Laman and Lemuel. The article also suggests that when Mulek came to the promised land, the ship he voyaged in may have included a crew of Phoenicians. The Phoenician sailors most likely didn't bring wives with them, so would have had to find wives among the natives, and that this diverse group probably dispersed fairly early on in their history, and it was only one small group that Mosiah encountered and added to the ranks of his people in Zarahemla.

If the actual posterity of Lehi and Mulek in the Americas was only a very small fraction of the population in the area where they dwelt, it is no surprise that their DNA might have been lost in the course of population bottlenecks either in the wars that they fought or the European invasion, or via genetic drift as they interacted with other populations they encountered in the new world.

My point here is that the more we learn about the Book of Mormon - beyond what is explicitly stated, the more likely it is that we can accept the significance of scientific discoveries and not limit our understanding because it doesn't appear to fit in with what we already know. And often the scientific discoveries will increase our understanding of the Book of Mormon as well. The more we learn, the more we will discover that we have much more to learn.

Monday, December 30, 2019

Change and Growth

In May of 2016, I wrote this blog. (Go ahead and read it... the rest of this blog will make more sense.) I had just received a new calling - something that felt overwhelming, and something that I didn't feel prepared for.

Three years and seven months later, (or a week ago Sunday) we had just had our Christmas sacrament meeting and were headed into the cultural hall for a gathering with cookies when the bishop saw me and told me he wanted to talk to me for a few minutes before I left. Following the gathering, when the crowds were thinning out, I caught the bishop's eye and he took me to his office.

"We need a primary pianist." He told me.

"Okay." I said. I already felt like I knew where he was going. Our previous primary pianist recently moved to Utah and there aren't very many people who play piano in our ward.

"We would like you to be our new primary pianist."

"Okay." Primary pianist. I could do that. Not blindfolded, probably, but still not a big deal.

"We would also like you to serve as a ward organist." The bishop continued.

"Ooookay." This was going to be more of a challenge. I haven't played the organ much in the last twenty years, and I only played for like a year before that and I was never very good at it. This was going to be a stretch.

"We will, of course, release you from your calling as Relief Society president." Of course I expected this from when he asked me to be the primary pianist, and all I could do was give a sigh of relief.

I don't remember where the conversation went from there. I think he thanked me for my service and let me know that there were going to be other changes in the ward leadership made the following Sunday as well. He reminded me that I was helping to teach the 5th Sunday lesson that next week, but that would be the last assignment he would give me in the role of RS president. I walked out of his office already feeling lighter.

Over the next week I thought about the things that were still in the works. I had a couple ministering interviews I hadn't been able to do yet. I had stuff at home that should be returned to the RS closet at church. I needed to put things in order to pass on to my successor, whoever she may be. I also thought about how I've grown and changed in the last few years.

I learned to deal with change. Neither of my counselors were the same ones I started with, and I was on my third secretary. While I served, not only did I experience a change in ward boundaries, but I also experienced the introduction of ministering, two hour church, "Come Follow Me", and many other changes that the Church has introduced in the last few years. My calling has evolved and changed a lot from when I was first called.

I had grown to love the many sisters in the ward. I had overcome my shyness when it came to talking to people I didn't recognize at church. I learned how important it is to reach out to others when we need help rather than trying to hide our problems and pretend everything is perfect. I learned the truth of the statement that we should treat everyone we meet as though they are in serious trouble, because more than half the time, they are. I gained a better understanding of some of the challenges that some people have to face, and I think that I am more compassionate. I learned that things are very rarely black and white, but are usually some shade of grey. I learned that I don't have to solve other people's problems. I don't have to carry their burdens. Often, just listening and showing them someone cares is enough to help them figure things out for themselves. I learned that everyone needs to feel like they are appreciated and loved.

I learned that the Lord uses ordinary, imperfect people to move his work forward. I learned to pray and ask for the Lord's help. I learned that the Lord really does help those who are trying to do their best. I learned to pay attention to the impulses and random thoughts that I had - usually they came from the Spirit. I learned to apologize quickly when I make mistakes, and to continually strive to do better. I learned to forgive others when they make mistakes and to do what I can to encourage and help them to do better. I learned to delegate what I could to others, to tell, teach or show them what is needed and then to accept their best efforts, even if it wasn't what I would have done. (And usually it was much better than anything I would have done!)

Anyway, it will nice to be able to relax for a while, or at least as much as I can while I try to remember how to play an organ... but once again, I know that the Lord will help me.

P.S. When they announced who the new Relief Society president was, I couldn't help but laugh... She is the same person who succeeded me as Primary President seven years ago.

Thursday, December 19, 2019

The Faith of A Scientist

Yesterday,  I read a fantastic book. It is called The Faith of a Scientist, and it was written by Henry Eyring, father of President Henry B Eyring, and a well recognized chemist. ( President Johnson presented him with the National Medal of Science in 1967.) The book was also published in 1967, but the things written in it remain pertinent today. The subject? How a scientist can "[reconcile] the principles of true science with the principles of true religion." This very readable book is full of interesting scientific examples and explanations, with stories about Newton and Copernicus and even some of Eyring's personal experiences with Albert Einstein. He discusses principles of astronomy, geology, biology, and mathematics as well as chemistry. I highly recommend it!

There are many things in this book which I understood before, but had difficulty articulating. I left it with a greater understanding of science, religion, and searching for truth. Here are some of the things that I read:

There are many ways to come to a belief in God. "The more I try to unravel the mysteries of the world in which we live, the more I come to the conception of a single overruling power--God. One can come to this point of view by prayer and the testimony of the Holy Ghost or because there seems to be no other explanation of the unity and wonder of the universe or by the pragmatic method of science that the Savior suggested long ago--try it and you will know." (p103)

Science deals with the how and what, while religion deals with the why. "Science deals only with how the world works and has little to say about why the world is at it is. Values, also, are something apart from science. We must find the meaning of life in religion and in metaphysics... If we think of the universe as analogous to a great machine, then man is learning through science something about how the machine works, but only through philosophy and religion can he catch a glimpse of the purposes of the Designer and His reasons for the grand design." (p 102)

Members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints believe the truth, whether we know it or not. "A young man said: 'In high school we are taught such things as pre-Adamic men, and that kind of thing, but we hear another thing in Church. What should I do about it?' I think I gave the right answer. I said, 'In this Church, you only have to believe the truth. Find out what the truth is!' ... the Church is committed only to the truth. I do not mean to say that as individuals in the Church each one always knows the actual truth, but we have the humility sometimes to say we do not know the answer to these things. (p 105)

Contradictions between religion and science will only exist until we have learned all there is to learn. "Apparent contradictions between religion and science often have been the basis of bitter controversy. Such differences are to be expected as long as human understanding remains provisional and fragmentary. Only as one's understanding approaches the Divine will all seeming contradictions disappear. Such complete understanding is to be approached as a part of the eternal progress which will continue in the life to come. In the meantime, we can only continue our quest for the balanced view that comes from weighing all evidence carefully in the search for enduring values. The road is a long one, but the outcome is assured if we are willing to travel it." (p 99)

When something we thought was true proves not to be, this only draws us closer to what is actually true. It doesn't mean, however, that we should reject all that we previously believed to be true. "Science has also in effect strengthened religion by assisting in sifting the grain of truth from the chaff of imagined fable. It is interesting to recall that in ages past, religious men felt that their faith hinged on the notion that the earth was flat. However, when it was found to be round, they discovered that their basic religious ideas had survived without perceptive damage. In fact, the great underlying principles of faith were brought into bolder relief when the clutter of false notions was removed from about them." (pp 35-36)

We should be careful of what we teach. "One of the problems of the Church is the unsound arguments sometimes used in its defense. People examine such arguments, find they won't hold water, and say, 'My, the Gospel must be unsound.' The conception that the Gospel should only be defended on the right ground is of utmost importance, since otherwise one may choose a position to defend which is indefensible; and in defeat it may be mistakenly supposed that the Gospel is at fault." (p. 51)

Just because a prophet says something, that doesn't necessarily mean that it is true, and if something he says isn't true, that doesn't mean that he isn't a prophet. "A prophet is wonderful because he sometimes speaks for the Lord. This occurs on certain occasions when the Lord wills it. On other occasions, he speaks for himself, and one of the wonderful doctrines of this Church is that we don't believe in the infallibility of any mortal. If in his speculations the Prophet thought [something that was false], this has no effect on my belief that on other occasions, when the Lord willed it, he spoke the ideas that the Lord inspired him to say, It is for these moments of penetrating insight that I honor and follow him." (p52)

Perceived faults in the gospel are due to the weaknesses of men, not because the gospel itself is at fault. "The Gospel is not the people in the Church. The Gospel is not even the people who direct it. The Gospel is the truth... This Church would have been perfect if the Lord had not let people into it."(pp.52-53)

Friday, December 13, 2019

Conversation between a Skeptic and a Believer

(Steven wrote this, but I really liked it, and so I am posting it with his permission.)

BELIEVER: You know, somewhere out there, there exists a radio station. And that radio station is broadcasting music that it is possible for us to hear even where we are right now.

SKEPTIC: What are you talking about? I can’t hear any music.

BELIEVER: Well, the radio station doesn’t broadcast sound that you can hear. It sends out the signal using radio waves.

SKEPTIC: Radio waves? What are those? I’ve never seen any radio waves.

BELIEVER: Oh, you can’t see radio waves. Nor can you feel them or hear them. But they are real and that is how the radio station sends out its music.

SKEPTIC: I’m sorry, but I don’t believe in things that I can’t see, hear, or feel. How do you know that this radio station really exists?

BELIEVER: I know it exists because it is possible to hear the music that is broadcast by the radio station. But you need to have a radio receiver to do so. I have a radio set so I have heard the music and I know that it is real.

SKEPTIC: Look, here is a radio receiver set right here and it is not playing any music. That goes to show you that there is no such thing as a radio station.

BELIEVER: In order for the radio set to play the music from the radio station it needs to be turned on.

SKEPTIC: I’ve tried turning it on but I all I hear is static.

BELIEVER: The radio set also needs to have an antenna in order to pick up the radio wave signal from the radio station.

SKEPTIC: Even with an antenna all I get is static. Are you sure there is a radio station out there?

BELIEVER: Yes, there is a radio station out there.

SKEPTIC: Do you know where this radio station is, or what it looks like?

BELIEVER: Well, no actually. I have no idea where it is or what it looks like.

SKEPTIC: I’m sorry, but like I said, I don’t believe in things that I can’t see or feel or hear. If you don’t know where it is or even what it looks like, then I don’t understand how you can believe in such a thing.

BELIEVER: You don’t have to know where it is in order to hear the music that it is broadcasting. As long as you have a radio receiver set with a good antenna and have it tuned to the right frequency then you can hear the music that is being broadcast from the radio station.

SKEPTIC: Now it needs to be tuned to the right frequency! You seem to keep coming up with a lot of conditions to make this work.

BELIEVER: Well, unless all these conditions are met you won’t hear any music and all you will get is static. But I’m telling you exactly what you need to do in order to hear it. Follow these steps and I know it will work for you just as it works for me.

SKEPTIC: Even if the radio somehow started playing music how would you know that it came from some radio station and was not just coming from inside the radio itself?

BELIEVER: Well, I guess you just have to listen to the music and decide for yourself. But as for myself, I believe that it comes from the radio station.

SKEPTIC: You seem to be very trusting to believe in something that you don’t know that much about.

BELIEVER: All I know is that when I have my radio on with the antenna extended and I have it tuned to the right frequency that I hear music and I believe that the music is sent from a radio station that is out there somewhere.

SKEPTIC: You know, I once tried turning the tuning dial all around and for a moment thought I heard some music but then I didn’t hear it again so I came to the conclusion that it was just a fluke and therefore there is no such thing as a radio station and whatever I must have heard just came from inside the radio or perhaps I just imagined it.

BELIEVER: Yes, it is difficult sometimes to get the radio tuned to just the right frequency to hear the music. Sometimes some fine-tuning is required. It takes some patience but the effort is worth it because then you can hear the music from the radio station. And the more you work at it the more you can learn how to stay on just the right frequency.

SKEPTIC: I’m sorry, but I just don’t believe that there is a radio station out there. I don’t believe that you know there is a radio station out there. I don’t believe in things that I am not sure of and unless I know exactly where this radio station is or what it looks like or how the radio waves work I won’t believe. Honestly, if there really were a radio station out there I think that it would try a little harder to make people know that it is there and not just send out invisible radio waves on only one frequency that most people can’t hear.

BELIEVER: I’m sorry you feel that way. But I know that the radio station is real and that it is broadcasting music. You are free to believe whatever you want. But as for me, I’m going to go home and listen to some music on the radio.