Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Spiritual Evidence

I was washing dishes about a week ago and thinking about the Book of Mormon. I was thinking about the extraordinary circumstances surrounding its translation and publication in the 1820s. In particular, I was wondering how any clear-thinking person could doubt that God himself had aided Joseph Smith in bringing forth this remarkable book.

"Joseph Smith translated the Book of Mormon (over 500 pages) by the gift and power of God in about 60 days. During the translation process, Joseph dictated one line at a time, but did not pause to review previous sentences or pages. There is no evidence that he had any notes, manuscripts, or documents to assist him during the translation. There is also no evidence that Joseph Smith did any research or much reading at all before he published the Book of Mormon. The resulting book, with its complex account of individuals, communities and nations, religious teachings and source materials is internally consistent and evidence in itself that Joseph Smith did not write it. That Joseph Smith actually had the golden plates for a period in the late 1820s has been established by 11 witnesses who saw the plates and handled them" (Gospel Topics).

That is absolutely amazing. However much of Joseph Smith's testimony and the testimonies of his associates you choose to believe, one fact is undeniable: it was brought forth by an uneducated man in an unthinkably short period of time. Read it and you will be unable to believe that Joseph Smith just made it up. Read it and you will know that he was a prophet of God.

Sometimes I know the scriptures are true because there is no other logical explanation.

***

But then on Sunday I was talking to Scott about the Genesis account of Adam and Eve, which we have been studying in our Gospel Essentials class. I wondered how I could possibly reconcile my belief in the veracity of the Bible with my modern knowledge of human history. How could Adam possibly have been the first man when, according to the Bible, he lived only 6000 years ago? Not only is there significant scientific evidence to suggest that the human species has existed for upwards of 100,000 years, there is archeological evidence that even human civilizations predate the creationist time line.

It seems probable to me that some significant chunks of the creation story are missing from the book of Genesis. Perhaps they have merely been oversimplified.

My doubts about a literal interpretation of the Old Testament do not diminish my belief in the Earth's divine design and God's direct hand in the creation of man. But it does leave me wondering how much of the Bible I should take at face-value and how much of current scientific thought I should withhold judgment on.

Sometimes I can't decide between any number of unconvincing explanations to reconcile my testimony and the "real" world.

***

For the past couple of days I have been thinking about these two experiences and the possible dichotomy they present me with.

On the first occasion, I remember thinking, How could any intelligent person doubt the truth of the gospel? It's the only explanation! And yet on Sunday, I thought, How could any intelligent person buy any of this? It just doesn't make any sense!

Which is why, in the end, I am grateful for the witness of the Holy Ghost.

There is another way to know the most important truths of life. We do not have to rely on empirical evidence alone to learn the principles of salvation. When we try to approach God's truth with our minds alone, we will sometimes be rewarded with very convincing evidence. But the most definitive and enduring witness comes not from man and his limited intellect, but from our God, who knows all and cannot lie.

I am grateful for my faith, which sustains me in the face of all opposition. I have gained a spiritual witness of the existence of God, the Atonement of Christ, the truth of the Book of Mormon, and the plan of happiness, which encompasses both the origin and destiny of Man. Those vital spiritual truths make up the most precious knowledge that I have and are more sure to me than anything I have gained through logical or scientific methods.

My testimony is strengthened by the historical evidence of Joseph Smith's remarkable work. And it cannot be diminished because I don't know exactly how or when God created the human race.

3 comments:

Brad and Hailey said...

I was taking an evolutionary Biology class and had the same conflict in my mind. Of course I have had the issue of being able to believe but without placing that belief in the true history of time. For example, I know and believe that the saints established Salt lake valley but it is hard for me to recognize and acknowledge that in my life today. That probably doesn't make any sense at all ...

I learned of all of these evolutionary beings that seemed to evolve into the modern man. The dates as you said do not corelate with the Bible. I remember being okay with learning about both until I tried to merge them together ... Adam and Eve and the primitive man species. It was one of those times where you know and can feel the truth in both, but allow faith to cross the barrier. I'm sure if we prayed enough and searched enough God would bring the truth to us :) It's one of those thinsg that are revealed personally and individually and only through the true desire to know and understand.

Becky said...

Thanks for your honest thoughts. It is so important to let faith guide us because the teachings of man are fleeting and changing. Although the "facts" associated with the history of the earth as taught in schools today are probably more scientific than ever, they will likely be subject to ever more change as scientists learn more and develop more dating equipment. I prefer to have faith that God knows all and has given us the important relevant information we need in our lives.

Laurie said...

Thanks for visiting my testimony blog! I've read through your past few posts, and I LOVE this blog!!! It's in my Google Reader now, and I can't wait to read what you write. It's refreshing to read what you write, because I can tell that you really get life!