Who are the Trinity?

by
January 15, 2008

I just finished teaching an Intro to Philosophy class with the University of Phoenix and the section on metaphysics spent a lot of time on the idea of proving God’s existence. What struck me was that all of the European philosophy about God and spirit was based on the concepts outlined in the Nicene Creed.

In the King Follett lectures Joseph Smith makes the comment that you need to start right! If you don’t start right you can never expect to find the truth. The main argument dealt with at Nicaea was the nature of God…which is a pretty good starting point. After many months of argument most of those attending agreed to the concept that God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit are the “Trinity” which is this mystical mixture of spirit and material that isn’t affected by passion. It is large enough to cover the whole earth and small enough to dwell in your heart. Part of the dignitaries left the convention and went back to the Eastern church where they proposed that God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit were separate beings, laying the groundwork for the Orthodox Greek and Russian churches.

For over 1,000 years most Europeans were taught the ideas agreed to at Nicaea, therefore all the philosophers who were trying to prove the existence of God were trying to prove the existence of the Trinity. Joseph Smith at age 14 gained a greater insight into the nature of God than all those scholars in AD 325. He saw God and Jesus as two separate, physical beings. Now by having the truth to start from, the restoration of the gospel could begin. The first Article of Faith is an answer to the false beliefs perpetrated since the council of Nicaea, “We believe in God the Eternal Father, and in his Son Jesus Christ, and in the Holy Ghost” Articles of Faith 1:1

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43 Responses to “Who are the Trinity?”

  1. Jan

    That’s true. You have to start right if you want to find the truth–its just like mathematics. No matter how accurate your calculations may be, if you get off at any point, you won’t come to the correct answer.

    that is what was so frustrating for me about math.

  2. RTC

    Okay, here’s the critic again: Where’s your proof? I’m not saying Joe had any more or less proof than those who came up with the Nicene Creed. But proof is the key.

    For example, I believe in an invisible pink unicorn. Prove to me that it doesn’t exist and I’ll prove to you that yours doesn’t.

    :)

  3. Thaddeus

    Scientific proof is not the only way to know things that are true are true. It is just the most objective method.

    Prove to me that you love your wife. Prove that the color of the sky just before dawn is beautiful. Prove that the birth of your child made you unbelievably proud.

    Some things can only be learned with personal experience. Subjective, I know, but still true.

  4. Chris

    Thaddeus, I’m not sure if that analogy works. Are you saying that God is only subjective (i.e. only exists in our minds)? Love for your wife, an opinion about the sky at dawn, etc are all subjective things. If you could provide an example where we have successfully shown that we can know of an objective thing via subjective means, then that would get us somewhere. For example, if you could tell me what I had for breakfast via prayer (or some other similar experiment) then I could at least verify that the prayer method has some degree of reliability. Until then, it’s not entirely honest to say that we know the truth of an objective thing to be true/exist via subjective means because it has yet to ever be shown to be the case.

    For example, I could say that I prayed to God and he told me that Book of Mormon, while providing some good advice, is of human origin. A Mormon will claim the opposite. How do we distinguish which personal revelation is divinely inspired? Or they could be both right and God is actually just a punk messing with us.

  5. How about if you are the sole witness to a crime? Your observation of the events will always be colored by your feelings and reactions and your worldview. Every recollection you provide is a subjective composition based on an objective occurrence. Yet we permit you to testify in court.

  6. Chris

    Hm, interesting analogy. I’m not an expert in law but would they sentence somebody to jail if the only evidence they had was my testimony? (Perhaps it even depends on the seriousness of the crime also?)

    I would venture to guess, in general, that they wouldn’t. And even if they did, why should I accept that that is an acceptable thing to do? I don’t think I would. I think I would criticize that judge’s decision to jail somebody just as much as I criticize somebody’s claim to knowledge via prayer.

    I agree that our subjective observations, feelings, etc do affect our interpretation of objective data or evidence. But the mere fact that we have objective evidence gives us somewhere to go. Unfortunately, in your crime/witness analogy, there is only one witness. Like I said, I would be very reluctant to accept a claim if it is only based on a single testimony. If I was the sole person who witnessed the crime, I wouldn’t expect others to believe. I couldn’t say that “I know the crime happened and it was so-and-so.” I could only say that it appeared that so-and-so was doing this illegal act – take my testimony for what it’s worth.”

    With scientific theories, we are able to pass around evidence for peer review. We can have multiple people look at the same piece of evidence and draw conclusions with the evidence. Even if every person’s interpretation of the evidence is wrong, the evidence is still objective and can always be re-evaluated. You can’t say the same thing with “personal revelation.” There’s no way for me to examine your evidence – the revelation/feeling you felt. There’s no way for me to use an objective standard to reliably determine which revelation is divine and which is of human origin. And this even applies to myself. If I get a feeling after praying, I have no prior knowledge to determine what constitutes a God-induced feeling.

  7. Chris,

    I know this won’t change your mind and that’s fine–you can live within the restraint of your certainty-based life–but I have another analogy, or, rather, testimony:

    My entire life is proof of the goodness of God and how He answers prayers. Because I have earnestly tried to live His commandments, ask Him for help and guidance and feel the influence of His spirit (all subjective things, in your view), I am free from addictions, healthy, surrounded (literally) by beautiful children and a loving husband, I am well educated, civic minded, I get along well with others because I try to treat them with respect as Jesus taught, in short, the concrete thing that is my life is the proof that those subjective things are working.

    I realize that sometimes people have health problems, family problems, and other issues and they, too, follow the same subjective path, but I bet if you asked them, most of those who have been faithful to their personal feelings would cite their life as proof of God’s goodness too.

    It just takes a long time and a lot of faith to build an entire life on that kind of faith. And the blessings don’t come before the faith.

  8. Dave

    Chris, you’re defining “truth” as “truth which can be rigorously and objectively proved”. I’d consider myself somewhat of a scientist. I’ve published scientific papers in peer-reviewed journals. I’ve presented data at conferences. I hang around scientists at MIT all day. I think of experiments, and I carry them out. My career is proving things about the universe. But I also understand that all that is just a little subdivision of what is true.

    You just have to get over the fact that God is not the same as Nature. The power of the natural sciences comes from the ability to manipulate. But you can’t manipulate God. God is a sentient being, not some giant equation in the sky. And that is ok. Trying to prove anything about God…it’s like sociology or psychology with n=1. You just can’t propose an experiment that would satisfy everyone. But what if you met Him? I’m guessing you’d be pretty convinced he’s real, but you’d still have a pretty hard time proving it to anyone.

    Here’s some data points for you to consider: Me, Thad, and Jan and some billions of other people, including most of the great minds of the last few thousand years, believe that God is real on the basis of having interacted with Him. Me, Thad, and Jan and some millions of other people have also read the Book of Mormon and are telling you that we believe it. We don’t expect our telling you to constitute proof for you. We just expect that maybe you’ll look into it for yourself. (To be honest, I really don’t even expect that). And if you don’t, oh well. But as one person to another, I think you should. You may find that subjective truth is no less convincing.

  9. Chris

    @Jancisco

    Thanks for your heartfelt response. I won’t say with 100% certainty that it wasn’t God who blessed you. If I assume that you are correct – that it is because of your faith that a deity has blessed you – then that only gets us as far as Deism. I certainly feel blessed in my life. However, I could attribute my blessings to any type of deity that the human mind is capable of imagining.

    Attributing blessings to deity only adds to my confusion because most religions make mutually exclusive truth claims yet the people in each religion can show just as much good fruit as the next person. If blessings are an indicator of correct faith and worship, then does that mean the religion that has the richest and most blessed members are in the right religion?

  10. Chris

    @Dave

    Well I’m not a scientist at all. I haven’t published anything in a peer review journal. I’m a lowly front end website developer. I’m not even smart enough for the backend stuff – I only do html, css and javascript.

    If billions of people have interacted with God, then why isn’t there better consensus as to what his nature is? How can I know which interaction is the correct one?

    I’m not sure it’s wise to play the numbers game. While it may look like a good reason to believe in God, the numbers game works against Mormonism.

  11. Chris

    @Dave

    Also, have you ever used prayer in your line of work? I mean have you ever used it to prove something about the universe? If so, have you submitted that to a peer review journal? Or can you tell me of the time that you did use prayer to prove something objective?

    If you don’t use prayer to prove things about the universe, then why not?

  12. Thaddeus

    Chris, I think you are missing our point.

    Subjective experiences can teach you true things about the universe, but the lessons-learned in a subjective experience are for the subject alone. That I have had encounters with God is not to convince you that God is real. The purpose my testimony serves for you is to motivate you to repeat the experiment on your own.

    Whether you believe my subjective experience or even whether you believe your own subjective experience is for you to decide. Convincing comes by decision after weighing the evidence.

  13. Dave

    Yeah, I don’t even know what you’re getting at. Does Thad’s clarification help?

  14. Chris

    @Thaddeus

    I understand what you are saying. But I think you guys are missing my point.

    To say that ‘subjective experiences can teach you true things about the universe’ is a huge, unverified claim (if you are referring to the prayer-spirit subjective feeling) because there’s no way for us to distinguish an authentic God-induced subjective spirit-feeling experience from one that is just of human origin. That is why I asked Dave if he ever used prayer in his work. If we can show that prayer works at least once, then that gives us an ever-so-small foundation to start from. Otherwise it’s all guess work.

    I have no way of objectively identifying what the spirit-feeling will feel like. I can say well I felt something and that might be it but I’ll be completely B.S.ing myself because how do I not know that the spirit-feeling is 10x, 100x, 1000x as much joyous/inspirational as the feeling I received? How can I rule out that it wasn’t of human origin? Where did you get your knowledge for correctly identifying the spirit-feeling?

    Why are you guys correct in identifying the spirit-feeling which told you the Book of Mormon is of divine origin but when somebody else says that God told them that the Book of Mormon is of human origin then they are automatically mistaken?

    Who is right?

    Self delusion also comes by decision after weighing what we perceive to be “evidence” (especially when that “evidence” cannot be peer-reviewed).

  15. Chris

    Just to avoid some potential confusion -

    What I meant was that I am able to imagine the scenario that you are proposing and I think I can understand it. However, I don’t entirely agree with it.

    I agree that a subjective experience can/feeling can help us to appreciate things like love, art, aesthetics, etc … but I have yet to see a case where we have actually verified the prayer-method. How can we rule out self-delusion if we have no way of discerning authentic God-induced revelations from human-induced ones? How can you know if you are right, if there is no way to tell if you are wrong?

    Why can we only use the prayer method to answer the more grandiose questions of life? Why doesn’t it work on much simpler questions of life (that are objectively verifiable with alternate methods)?

  16. Alexander

    That’s the whole point of faith: it’s a step in the dark; believing in something that you feel to be true without having 100% empirical evidence to prove it to you.

    How can you tell if you have faith in something true? Put your faith to the test.

    See Alma 32: http://scriptures.lds.org/en/alma/32

  17. Dave

    So are you saying that for instance, if Isaac Newton popped up and told you God had revealed to him the laws of motion, then because the laws of motion are verifiably true, you would start to believe in God?

    Or maybe a doctor tells you that God told them how to treat their patient, and they turned out to be right. Does that prove it for you, because it verifiably and objectively worked (maybe you’ve got the medical records, peer reviewed and everything)

    Or an old lady tells you she prayed to find her lost keys and then God told her where they were, and it turned out to be right. What you’re saying is that you’d believe then, because she’s talking about something that is objective?

  18. Chris

    @Dave

    No, not really. I’m interested in ruling out self delusion when it comes to the prayer-method. If I assume that God promotes a single compatible truth, some or many believers are most likely self-deluded given the plethora of wildly incompatible truth claims that are supposedly derived from prayer. (In anticipation – saying that Satan is responsible for some of this confusion doesn’t help since non-Mormons say the same thing about you.)

    In order to rule out self-delusion, it would help if the evidence wasn’t subjective (each individual’s feeling of the spirit). However it is and there is no way getting around that.

    However, if we could show that by using prayer we can know of a truth that we can determine via alternate means, then that gives the prayer-method an increase in reliability. For example, tell me via prayer what I had for breakfast (or some other similar experiment. I know what I had for breakfast because the evidence is objective. I can show somebody else my evidence.

    It would be like conducting an experiment on a “medium” (one who claims to speak with the dead). I want to rule out natural explanations like cold reading and/or warm reading. So I would get 3 “mediums” and 3 ordinary people. I would sit behind a curtain. I would answer their specific questions with yes or no. The mediums would do their thing. The 3 ordinary people would do their best in trying to speak with the dead. Let’s look at the results.

  19. Chris

    @Alexander

    You propose an interesting situation. I must assume the conclusion to be true before venturing out with the experiment. What reason do I have to assume that prayer works in the first place? Why should I take that first step?

    In anticipation, you may suggest, like others, that you have gained a testimony or that it has worked for billions of others or that it has blessed you. But that just brings us back to the start of the conversation.

    Even if I do trust (ie assume) that you are correct and I decide to give the prayer method a try, I still have the problem of correctly identifying a deity-induced revelation from a human-induced one.

  20. Thaddeus

    Chris, we are actually interested in ruling out self-delusion, too! Believe me, there is a lot of talk in the Church about how to recognize the Spirit and we probably make it sound much more straight-forward than it is. It is learned gradually by doing.

    Your proposal is attractive. Go ahead and try it. I would love to see the results of such an experiment, but I would place caution on deriving any firm conclusions from it and here’s why: prayer is not like a physics experiment or a chemical reaction. When you drop an egg, it moves toward the earth’s center at 9.81 meters per second squared. It doesn’t matter who drops it or why or what their expectations are. The egg falls.

    When you petition for something in prayer, you are talking to a person. Any answer that Father gives will be tailored to the needs of the pray-er. It may also remain unanswered depending on the level of sincerity, faithfulness, and willingness of the pray-er, along with the subject matter of the prayer. The experiment would largely depend on the experimenter. For example, asking what a friend had for breakfast in order to satisfy my curiosity smacks of exploitation.

    Father wants his children to talk to Him, and He wants a meaningful exchange. He is not an egg, a physical phenomenon to be acted upon as we fancy. He is our guide through life.

  21. Jodie

    Chris,

    I have been following your conversation for the past few days. If I understand right, you would like a way to know that any feelings you experience as a result of prayer are from God, not yourself or the devil? I was thinking about your question and remembered this passage in the Book off Mormon. Moroni (the last prophet to write in the Book of Mormon) is writing a summary of some of the teachings of his father Mormon. It’s found in Moroni 7:12-17.

    “Wherefore, all things which are good cometh of God; and that which is evil cometh of the devil; for the devil is an enemy unto God, and fighteth against him continually, and inviteth and enticeth to sin, and to do that which is evil continually.
    But behold, that which is of God inviteth and enticeth to do good continually; wherefore, everything which inviteth and enticeth to do good, and to love God, and to serve him, is inspired of God.
    Wherefore, take heed, my beloved brethren, that ye do not judge that which is evil to be of God, or that which is good and of God to be of the devil.
    For behold, my brethren, it is given unto you to judge, that ye may know good from evil; and the way to judge is as plain, that ye may know with a perfect knowledge, as the daylight is from the dark night.
    For behold, the Spirit of Christ is given to every man, that he may know good from evil; wherefore, I show unto you the way to judge; for every thing which inviteth to do good, and to persuade to believe in Christ, is sent forth by the power and gift of Christ; wherefore ye may know with a perfect knowledge it is of God.
    But whatsoever thing persuadeth men to do evil, and believe not in Christ, and deny him, and serve not God, then ye may know with a perfect knowledge it is of the devil; for after this manner doth the devil work, for he persuadeth no man to do good, no, not one; neither do his angels; neither do they who subject themselves unto him.”

    In my own words, answers that come from God help you want to be good. People describe those feelings in various ways, but they are always feelings encouraging goodness.

    I would like to share two personal thoughts too. One is that as I’ve listened to the testimonies of others, they all have one thing in common. They’re personal. It made me realize that however God answers you, He will do it in a way that you will recognize as not coming from yourself but from Him. And you will know it is from God and not from the devil, because they will be feelings that will encourage you to be good.

    The other thought has to do with deciding to pray in the first place. Before a scientist performs an experiment, he forms a hypothesis. The experiment is to determine whether or not that hypothesis is correct. In this case, you would have to decide that if God exists and is good, then He will answer your prayer. The experiment is the prayer. The result is your answer. The key in this type of experiment, though, is realizing that God probably won’t waste time answering you if you don’t really want an answer.

    So if you’d like to know if God the Father, Jesus Christ, and the Holy Ghost are separate individuals, ask. “If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him.” (James 1:5) Then pause and wait for the answer. My experience is that God is good and that he loves and wants to answer our prayers. I know that He’s answered mine, because I couldn’t come up with the answers on my own. I know He loves me, because that’s how I feel when I pray and receive answers. Good luck!

  22. Thaddeus

    I must assume the conclusion to be true before venturing out with the experiment.

    That’s pretty much the definition of a hypothesis…

    Chris, when was the last time you prayed?

  23. Dave

    well said, Jodie.

  24. Dave

    I feel out of my league to discuss how you can be absolutely certain that something you experience is really true, and whether you can ever prove that to anyone else. If you come up with a way to, pass it along. There are probably treatises upon treatises throughout the ages about subjectivity and objectivity.

    All I’m qualified to talk about here is what I know from experience. My experience has been that a lot of times I do wonder if impressions or ideas I have are from God or if they come from myself. That happens all the time, and I do spend some time wondering about it. In those times, I at least try to use what Jodie said as a guide. I ask, does it seem good? (Or, as Alma in the Book of Mormon says, does it “begin to be delicious to me”?) And I act on that, and that’s just the best I can do, and that method seems to be working out fine so far.

    But other times answers or inspiration is much, much more convincingly from God. And I’m certain that it is. And that is a distinction that’s wholly within me; I can’t prove it at all to anyone else. On the other hand, I wouldn’t care to prove it anyway. I’d hope everyone gets their own answers. And as for myself, the fact that I can’t prove it doesn’t matter to me. Like Joseph Smith said of his experience, “I knew it. And I knew that God knew it. And I could not deny it.”

    So why not just try it? What do you have to lose? It seems so much more simple than trying to work through philosophical proofs about the potential answer you might get. Maybe just open up and talk to God as if He were real. It’s possible that, like you say, you’ll feel something and then be racked with wondering whether it is really God, or whether it’s just a self induced feeling. And maybe not being able to rule out self delusion will haunt you, and you’ll never be able to act on anything. On the other hand, maybe you’ll have an experience where you’re utterly convinced it was God. Maybe it’ll be somewhere in between. But maybe being at least open to trying it (in the right way, with your heart really open, ready to accept it if it’s good and you’re convinced it’s from God, understanding that you’re talking to the Father of Creation, not dropping an egg to see if it breaks), maybe that’s the first step.

  25. Chris

    Indeed it is a hypothesis but I think it is a useless one (as far as I understand it). To go forward with the prayer/Moroni 10 hypothesis would be like throwing a dart in a completely dark room with the door locked and no way to turn on the lights. Assuming there is even a dart board in the first place, not only would I not know if I hit it, I also wouldn’t be able to invite anybody into the room to cross examine my results (because the door is locked). I fear proclaiming to the world (and myself) that I got a bull’s eye, when in reality I just threw a dart against a blank wall.

    I prayed (directed to “God”) a couple of weeks ago just for fun. But I didn’t get an answer to my question. I also prayed to a couple of inanimate objects with similar questions. And I also didn’t receive any answers from them (yet).

  26. Chris

    @Dave

    Even if I do pray (which I have done in the past), why would I be wrong if God told me the Book of Mormon is of human origin but yet still teaches “good” morals? That’s what’s confusing about the whole ordeal. Recognizing which “revelation” is the one from God. You say that God testifies that the BOM is divine. Others say that God testifies that the BOM is from the 19th-century.

  27. Chris

    @Jodie

    Thanks for your response. I know that all of you mean well but I think that using a passage from a scripture that you “know” is true via prayer to help identify what is from God is very confusing – it’s circular logic and doesn’t make sense to me.

    You are asking me to assume that the BOM is true when it says that good things come from God. Why should I assume this to be the case? How do you know that good things come from God?

  28. Jodie

    Chris,

    The passage in the Book of Mormon I quoted in essence states that the devil is the author of evil and God the author of good, which is the basis of religion in general. I can’t think of any way of explaining how to obtain an answer to prayers any more clearly than that. Sorry. Good luck.

    I also read your replies to Thadeus and Dave. I’m a little confused about your replies. They don’t sound inquisitive at all. What are you looking for?

  29. Chris

    Firstly, I was just pointing out the flaw in Thaddeus’ analogy. From there a discussion ensued.

    The problem with using the idea that “the devil is the author of evil and God the author of good” to provide a basis to determine if a revelation is from God is that it itself is a revelation.

    How did you come to know that all good things come from God before knowing that the BOM is of divine origin? Or did you believe that all good things come from God because (i.e. after) you were convinced the BOM is of divine origin?

  30. Jodie

    As I wrote above in my first post, the hypothesis is that God is good and will answer prayers. Prayer is the experiment. The answer is the result. In order to form any hypothesis, research is needed. Study of the Bible and the Book of Mormon will give us information to form the hypothesis. A knowledge that the Book of Mormon is scripture is not needed. Scientists read all sorts of papers, even ones they may question. However, in the end they have information on which to base their own hypothesis. Then they perform the experiment and analyze the results. The difference for us is that God is a person.

    God has said, “If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him.” (James 1:5) God is good, so He will honor his word and answer. However, the next three verses say,

    “But let him ask in faith, nothing wavering. For he that wavereth is like a wave of the sea driven with the wind and tossed.
    For let not that man think that he shall receive any thing of the Lord.
    A double minded man is unstable in all his ways.”

    In other words, if you don’t really want to know, then God probably won’t answer. He answers to help people find answers they need. He loves you and wants to help you. But if we are not ready for the answer, then He will wait until we are.

  31. Chris

    @Jodia (November 27, 2010 at 7:40 am)

    I understand the process and method – assuming the hypothesis is valid, the rest of the steps seem logical. However, I’m just still confused at how you arrived at the hypothesis that God is good. Hypotheses are an attempt to explain an observation. What observable data did you use to hypothesize that God is good?

    But the hypothesis is still problematic because many competing religions have good things about them but yet claim incompatible truths about God. How can I use morality or “fruits” to differentiate between what is claimed? Some say that as long as I believe in God then I won’t risk eternal punishment. However others say that if I don’t have a correct belief about God then I will suffer eternal punishment. And when I look at both of these groups of people, I see good fruit come from both sides. I reiterate: how can you distinguish between a supposed deity-induced revelation (“The BOM is true”) vs a supposed human/satan-induced revelation (“The BOM is of human origin”)?

    Thirdly, it didn’t seem like Paul or Alma were all that desirous to know but yet they received a miraculous experience anyways. It seems a little convenient to say that a religious experience won’t come unless there is desire.

  32. Jodie

    Chris,

    I think somewhere there’s been some misunderstanding. All of my posts have been written with the thought in mind that we were talking about how to pray and find out if there is a God in the first place (and/or whether the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost are separate Beings). Once you have received that answer, you can move on to other questions and be able to recognize those answers. Then if you would like to know if the Book of Mormon is truly a second witness of Christ with the Bible as we claim, then you will have the tools to recognize God’s answer to that prayer. Now, to answer your second question first, I’m going to once again refer you back to my first post. The answers and feelings you receive from God as an answer to your prayer will be ones encouraging you to be good. Otherwise, they are not from God. To answer your first question about how I know that God is good (and that the answers from God are also good), I apologize. I guess I took it for granted that I didn’t need to explain that God is good. However, consider the alternative. If the devil were to answer your prayer encouraging you to be good, then he would be encouraging you to come closer to Christ. The devil would then be in a position of fighting for Christ instead of against Him. We also have the words of Christ himself when teaching the Sermon on the Mount (Mathew 7:7-11)

    “Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you:
    For every one that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened.
    Or what man is there of you, whom if his son ask bread, will he give him a stone?
    Or if he ask a fish, will he give him a serpent?
    If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children, how much more shall your Father which is in heaven give good things to them that ask him?”

    To answer your final concern, Alma was brought to a knowledge of the truth through the faith and prayers of his father and the other members of the church (Mosiah 27:14). We are not given the reason why Paul had his vision in the Bible. But we do know that after his vision he spent his time and energy proclaiming the gospel and defending Christ (as did Alma), which is not the definition of a wavering or double minded man (James 1:5-8 see my last post or I quote it below).

    Chris, it seems to me that you aren’t really interested in my answers or our beliefs as much as you are trying to argue against them. Maybe I’m wrong, but in either case I, for one, am not really interested in arguing. I write to help people understand our beliefs and point of view. If you aren’t interested in learning about our Church, that’s fine. We don’t believe in forcing anyone to believe as we do, “We claim the privilege of worshiping Almighty God according to the dictates of our own conscience, and allow all men the same privilege, let them worship how, where, or what they may.” (Articles of Faith 1:11)

    If, however, I’m wrong, you can ask God for yourself. We don’t ever expect anyone to just take our word for it. I, personally, know that the Book of Mormon is true. I’ve found answers to my questions and drawn closer to Christ as a result of studying it. I know that God loves you, and I truly hope that you will take the time to study it and pray about it yourself too. So if your question is whether the Book of Mormon is true, you can pray and ask. The Book of Mormon contains a promise to that effect,

    “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.” (Moroni 10:4-5)

    This promise coincides with what we are taught in the Bible: James 1:5-8 and John 14:26 (see below)

    “If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him.
    But let him ask in faith, nothing wavering. For he that wavereth is like a wave of the sea driven with the wind and tossed.
    For let not that man think that he shall receive any thing of the Lord.
    A double minded man is unstable in all his ways.” (James 1:5-8)

    “But the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you.” (John 14:26, notice the role of the Holy Ghost is two-fold, to teach the words of Christ and to help us remember them)

    On the other hand, if you are concerned about recognizing that your answer is from God, then ask God first if He’s there and if He’ll help you recognize His answer. Once you have gained that knowledge, you can proceed with asking about the Book of Mormon and the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. But, once again, if you aren’t interested in either of those, then I’m not here to force you.

  33. Chris

    Your response still doesn’t make complete sense to me. I’m only going to talk about the “God and subsequently his revelations are good” idea so we can keep this to one topic. This may sound like arguing but I just need better answers than the ones you are giving me – or better clarification. Sorry if this turns you off but I just need better answers.

    I’m still not sure why I should assume that God is good. You say consider the alternative: if satan were trying to get me to do good, then that would contradict his goal of turning away souls for Christ. However, this assumes the idea of a devil as well. Why should I assume that there is a devil? Do you see the problem? I can’t assume that God is good by just assuming that the devil is bad. These are arbitrary definitions that anyone can make up. Does my objection make sense?

  34. Chris

    I wish I could edit comments… so I also would ask (in clarification) how do you know the devil is evil? I know these all seem like “duh” questions for you (the religious), but they are not for me. Just because a book says that God is good and the devil is evil, doesn’t necessarily make it so. Do you know that the devil is evil because if we consider the alternate: if God is evil then he is supporting the devil in leading souls to a hell. But then we just go in circles.

  35. Chris, maybe Jodie or someone else with a little more philosophical training will pursue your line of questioning, but I don’t see an end. We can say, “God is good because of X.” and you’ll return with, “Well, why should X be?” Repeat.

    Every argument begins with a set of accepted axioms. If you are looking for an iron-clad argument and you keep tearing up the axioms, it becomes difficult to establish anything as true. (Prove to me that you exist while I dismiss any axiom you set forth).

    As we have already said, one of our axioms is that we must believe the world is as we experience it. I believe it is not only a useful axiom, but we are all obliged to use it, for if we cannot trust our experiences to represent reality, none of us can say anything about anything.

  36. Thaddeus

    Chris, I’d like to know where you are finding all of these hypothetical people who claim to have received revelation that the Book of Mormon is of human origin. I’ll admit, there are probably some people somewhere who claim to have that revelation, but I haven’t met any.

    On my mission, I introduced scores of people to the Book of Mormon and instructed them on Moroni’s challenge to read and pray. Of those who let me share the message with them, only a small subset actually read any of the book. A smaller subset of that group actually prayed about it, and none in that subset claimed to have the revelation that the Book of Mormon is of human origin. None. Most in that subset (in my mission experience) received a positive answer about the book. Some received no (discernible) answer.

    There were plenty who rejected the book, to be sure. But they did not claim revelation on the matter. It was usually due to discomfort in the prospect of adopting a new lifestyle and belief system.

    Now, I grant that my survey is not scientific and certainly there is some built-in bias, but I think it is an interesting observation (worthy of forming a hypothesis and designing a double-blind study if you have the time and money).

  37. Thaddeus

    Chris, I wasn’t implying that eyewitness testimony is sufficient to prove guilt “beyond reasonable doubt.” I only suggested that eyewitness testimony (as subjective as seeing and remembering is) is reliable enough to be admissible as evidence in a U.S. court of law. The court system puts trust in subjective evidence even on objective matters.

    You’re right that answered prayers are not usually available for peer-review, but the process of receiving revelation is an open method, available to everyone. It can be reviewed peer-by-peer. In the course of evaluation, however, great care needs to be taken to ensure that the method is followed, and not a mere caricature of the method. For instance, if I left out a key element from the scientific method (like designing an experiment), I would not be able to say whether the scientific method works, since I did not follow the scientific method. If I examine the process of revelation and I leave out such vital elements as humility before God or sincerity, and I received no answer, I would be fraudulent in claiming, “prayer is ineffective.”

  38. Chris

    Three points:

    1. Prayer of course is open to anybody to try but I actually disagree that even the method itself is open for peer-review. How do you know if somebody is truly humble or sincere? You try to compare it with the scientific method but it just doesn’t compare. I can objectively look at each step a scientist takes but I cannot do this with a prayer-method-user. All I can do is ask them if they were humble/sincere enough, or somehow determine through my subjective opinion if they were humble/sincere enough. That is not peer review. That is guessing. If somebody claims to have been humble/sincere and they appear to be humble/sincere, who am I to say they were not? Just because they got a different answer than me isn’t reason enough to say that they used the method incorrectly.

    2. Who are you to dictate the steps and conditions of the prayer method? Why is it necessary to be humble or sincere? This may sound like a “duh” question, but it’s not obvious to me. Why is it impossible to obtain divine revelation without humility or sincerity?

    3. With all of your appeals to the court analogy, I wonder: why isn’t prayer ever used in court to determine innocence? Would that be exploiting God? I think it would be quite useful and I can imagine (assuming that God is good) that God would approve of such a use of prayer.

  39. Thaddeus

    1. I wasn’t saying that peers can review each others’ prayers. Peers can only review their own prayers. We can’t know how humble or sincere another person is. The person praying knows. And he needs to be honest with himself whether he followed the outlined process.
    2. I assumed, since we are chatting at this particular website, that we are hypothesizing about the latter-day saint model of revelation. The hypothesis goes something like this, “If I read the Book of Mormon, ponder its message, and remember how merciful the Lord has been to me, and if I ask God in the name of Christ with sincerity and real intent and with faith in Christ whether the message is true, then He will reveal the answer to me through the Holy Ghost.” You can try other hypotheses, but this is the one we are concerned about here. It isn’t as if I capriciously decided on these elements for revelation. They have been well attested to by millions of latter-day Saints and prophets (ancient and modern) who are intimately familiar with the process. They are in line with Biblical teachings, suggesting that Christianity, Judaism, and to some extent Islam are generally in agreement with most of these principles (especially sincerity and humility).
    3. If you think I am advocating for the use of prayer in court, you have misunderstood me. You requested an instance in which subjective evidence might be used to support objective reality and I supplied an instance in which it is used. That is all I meant by it.

  40. Chris

    You’re right that answered prayers are not usually available for peer-review, but the process of receiving revelation is an open method, available to everyone. It can be reviewed peer-by-peer.

    So by saying “reviewed peer-by-peer” you mean that we ask each other if we did it right? And we hope the other person is honest? Because that isn’t the definition of peer-review in the scientific sense. If I have no way of knowing you were actually humble or sincere then it’s a little bit dishonest saying that it is an “open” method. It is not. It is a closed method.

  41. So by saying “reviewed peer-by-peer” you mean that we ask each other if we did it right?

    I’m not saying that.

    Peers are able to repeat the process and draw conclusions from their own experience. They cannot say anything definitive about the experiences of others.

    It is a way the process of prayer may be reviewed without relying on the eyewitness testimony of others.

  42. Jodie

    Chris, let me write in outline form to try and simplify. ‘God is good’ is part of the hypothesis.

    Receiving answers to prayer:

    1) Have a desire to learn.
    2) Read and study the scriptures.
    3) Learn that the scriptures teach about a God that is good and wants to help us be good. This God has promised to answer our prayers. (James 1:5-8)
    4) Believe that the scriptures could be true and want to find out for yourself.
    5) Pray in faith that if what you read is true, then God will answer.
    6) Receive your answer.
    7) Recognize that your answer is one encouraging you to be good as Christ is. (Moroni 7:12-17, Mathew 7:7-11)

    I know that God is good and that He loves us and wants to help us, because I’ve applied the steps above. The answer did not come from myself. I could recognize it as coming from God, because I felt more love for the people around me. I wanted to help them as Christ did.

  43. Chris

    Well I’m back.
    I just wanted to take a few months and let things settle.
    “Chris, I wasn’t implying that eyewitness testimony is sufficient to prove guilt “beyond reasonable doubt.” I only suggested that eyewitness testimony (as subjective as seeing and remembering is) is reliable enough to be admissible as evidence in a U.S. court of law. The court system puts trust in subjective evidence even on objective matters.”
    I can understand what you are saying.

    I still have a problem with your sole-eyewitness analogy and I’m wondering if you can see the problem also?

    While we may have subjective standards for nearly everything in life, only the reliable ones are based on objective data. Moroni 10:3-5 and its experiment is not only a subjective method (not necessarily a problem) but the data itself is subjective. This is a huge problem and an important distinction that shows your analogy does not work. In your analogy, the crime (the data) is objective – it happened outside of you. We have already setup standards as to what constitutes a crime and thus we have a frame of reference to work from. While these standards are merely subjective, the actions of the criminal are not. The data exists in real life. When you talk about murder, you and I can come to an agreeable conclusion on what murder is. Unfortunately, we cannot do this with the “feeling” that supposedly comes from prayer. Now we may describe the feeling similarly, the problem still exists because it’s like tasting a fruit that you have never tasted before. We might be tasting the same fruit, but that doesn’t give us any indication where that fruit’s origins are. And some fruit tastes the same but are not the same fruit!

    If you wish to use analogies, you’ll need to find one where it has been shown that a method or standard that uses exclusively subjective data is objectively reliable and consistently repeatable. 

    I have no choice but to assume that a method that only uses subjective data as its input is not to be trusted to know objective things about the world/universe.

     

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