On an email discussion list where a few of my friends and I talk about things Mormon, one of our more perspicacious participants has pointed out that many do not feel it worth the effort to try and understand Elder Eyring’s and the Savior’s teaching that we should become like little children in the sense that we submit our will to the Father by saying “Not my will by thy will be done.” They want to know why we hear stories in Fast Meeting about people who prayed to God to find their lost glasses and found them, but others suffering from life threatening illness also pray for help and die anyway. It doesn’t seem logical.
I feel that perhaps the Lord can divinely intervene to help a person find his glasses in one instance, but knows that he will only injure a person, eternally speaking, by helping him survive cancer in another instance. Why can’t they both be true? Logic doesn’t work very well when we don’t see the big picture. And to see the big picture we have to know more about the premortal and postmortal life than has been revealed. I believe that a lot of people misuse logic in the way they apply it to questions involving faith. While the truth is always perfectly logical, it is not always perfectly logical when it involves the “substance of things hope for which are not seen which are true.” Reality extends beyond the data that we have available for analysis using human logic. And a misuse of logic can destroy faith in things that are true not only in others, but in the person using the logic.
We know that some of the most intelligent and educated people in history have used their logic to arrive at the conclusion that there is no God. That is a fact that is beyond dispute. So if there is a God, they are using logic to arrive at a false answer. What is wrong with such a use of logic? Perhaps they are beginning from a false premise. Perhaps they are using inductive logic when they should be using deductive logic. Logic and reason are highly useful, but not when they lead us to false answers. And in such cases, if the logic is perfect, something else must be wrong.
Many people seem to forget how illogical virtually all religion is if it is analyzed only by the available data arrived at by the gathering of empirical data. Using this approach, a person would have to discard virtually all of the Bible, the Book of Mormon and other scriptures. They would have to deny the miracles that take place daily in our own lives. But they would also have to deny the miracles recorded in scripture that took place in ancient times. Limited to perfect logic and observable data, how could anyone believe in the resurrection of Jesus Christ, the First Vision, the existence of prophets, the validity of prophecy, spiritual gifts, revelation in ancient times or continuing revelation today?
It takes a wise man to use logic wisely. In the hands of a spiritually incompetent person, logic merely creates doubt and the loss of faith. And by definition faith is about things that are true that cannot be observed, weighed or measured.
Can we weigh or measure love, or honor, or duty, or virtue, or courage, or friendship? Does our inability to measure these things and analyze them by the application of good logic to empirical data suggest that they do not exist? I don’t think so. The heart can know things that the mind cannot even conceive, that science cannot detect, and to which logic cannot be appropriately applied.
Logic is a wonderful thing, a very useful tool. But there are many people who do not understand its proper limits. And they allow it to influence their thinking more than is good for them or their understanding of reality.
I have always wondered why we give God credit for everything that is “good” in our lives but blame the devil or ourselves for everything that is “bad.” Is not God all powerful? Is he not omnipotent? And if so, is not everything either the result of something that he causes or allows to be caused? If that is true, then he is ultimately responsible for all outcomes, good and bad. And he is just as responsible for evil as he is for good.
Mormon doctrine solves this apparent contradiction by teaching the doctrine of agency, and a Plan of Happiness in which each of us is free to choose between good and evil, and God allows the devil to tempt us so that we have a choice to be made. For without an available choice, how can we really be free to choose between good and evil?
We also know that God’s perfect knowledge of all things, his omniscience extends into the future as perfectly as it does the present and the past. But somehow his foreknowledge of every act we will ever make, every word we will ever speak or every thought we will ever entertain, is not predetermined because it is the result of our agency to choose. I accept this, but I find it very hard to understand. If what we are about to do is already done at some point in the future, in what sense are we free to choose? I accept that we are, but I do not understand it. The reason I do not understand it is because I am not omniscient myself, and because of the veil of forgetfulness that was pulled across my mind when I moved from the premortal life into this mortal one.
For me an understanding of reality is an exercise in deductive logic starting from the foundational assumption that there is a God. I use this as a starting point because of an epiphany that I experienced in March of 1965. In that epiphany I understood completely and beyond all argument that there is a God, and that it is impossible that there is not one. Further, the understanding that I received was not communicated to me in English, and it is cannot be accurately translated into English even though that is the only language that I speak or think in. Yet because God has revealed to me the fact of his existence in a manner that is beyond further consideration or arguments to the contrary, I believe it even more completely than I do the evidence of my own senses, or the consensus opinion of the rest of the world. It is the single “rock” or revelation upon which I build all the rest of my understanding of reality.
Others it seems have never had such an epiphany, nor desired one apparently. For them it is a matter of faith that God exists rather than a matter of perfect knowledge. And for this reason, they judge the validity of all things upon what they can actually see, hear, feel, taste and smell. They apply their puny minds and their imperfect grasp of logic to the data collected from these five senses, and if the conclusions demanded by their logic conflict with this or that religious claim, they are cast into doubt. Their approach to an understanding of reality is based upon the gathering of “facts” and attempting to see patterns based upon those facts using inductive logic. Unfortunately, this approach often leads them to false conclusions because they are unable to see, hear, feel, taste and smell a significantly large subset of the the universe to understand the facts they gather. They are like computers working to solve a problem with insufficient data. People of a scientific bent are especially prone to this problem. Because they are unable to develop a mathematics to deal with such very real things as love, courage, friendship and so forth, they are forced to ignore most of what is real in their consideration of reality. It is unfortunate that they studied so much mathematics and related topics at the expense of languages, literature, art, philosophy and so forth. They are crippled by their lopsided educations.
Am I crippled by my lopsided education having neglected mathematics and related subjects? You bet. I’m sure that is why I am confused so much of the time. There is a lot of the big picture that is missing for me too. And while I can see and understand things that they cannot. There are undoubtedly things that they can see and understand that I cannot.
Ultimately, only God really knows what is going on in the universe. Even the devil, smart as he is, doesn’t know it all. And all the rest of us understand even less than he does.
None of us have any basis for being proud of our learning. All of us are wandering around in the dark to a certain degree. And we will be until we are exalted and inherit all that the Father hath, even to the inheriting of all that he knows.