August 22, 2013
I once read a literary critique by T.S. Elliot of William Shakespeare’s sonnets. It was highly critical. Basically, Elliot said that Shakespeare was a lousy poet. I was reminded of an ant crawling up the leg of an elephant. By what rationale could a literary pipsqueak like Elliot criticize the greatest writer in the history of the English language? He simply was not qualified.
Today I see the same hubris coming from many of the crusading atheists such as Richard Dawkins and his faithless admirers. They claim that we who believe in God have no evidence to support our belief. Well, what is the evidence for their disbelief? There is none that I am aware of. The whole discussion reminds me of the dozens and perhaps hundreds of verses in scripture that proclaim that man’s wisdom is foolishness to God. Or in other words, man’s wisdom is no such thing. Man’s wisdom is actually foolishness.
If there is no God, then either there is no universe, or the universe created itself. And whenever in all human history has anyone, believer or atheist, ever seen anything create itself? Does a tree create itself? A rock? A person? A mathematical formula? A poem or novel? What? Joseph Smith said that there never was a man who didn’t have a father, and there never was a father who was not first a son. Duh. How can there be anything spring into existence out of nothing whatever? It has never happened. It has never been witnessed or observed. And should it happen, it would violate every known law of physics.
Here are two verses from the Book of Alma in which he explains the truth of the matter to Korihor:
And now what evidence have ye that there is no God, or that Christ cometh not? I say unto you that ye have none, save it be your word only. (Alma 30:40)
But Alma said unto him: Thou hast had signs enough; will ye tempt your God? Will ye say, Show unto me a sign, when ye have the testimony of all these thy brethren, and also all the holy prophets? The scriptures are laid before thee, yea, and all things denote there is a God; yea, even the earth, and all things that are upon the face of it, yea, and its motion, yea, and also all the planets which move in their regular form do witness that there is a Supreme Creator. (Alma 30:44)
But my personal favorite is this one:
For the wisdom of this world is foolishness with God. For it is written, He taketh the wise in their own craftiness. (1 Corinthians 3:19)
All of mankind’s knowledge is less than a single drop in the vast ocean of our ignorance. Were it not so, we could not continue to progress as rapidly as we do because there would be little left to learn.
August 4, 2013
Many years ago in 1968 someone at Church told me how to tell whether a teaching is “personal opinion” or “revelation.” If you agree with the opinion, then that is revelation. If you don’t agree, then it is personal opinion. And so it is with following the prophets, at least for many. If you agree with the prophet’s teaching, then he is “speaking as a prophet.” If you do not agree, then that is his personal opinion.
And of course, the Church has let MORMON DOCTRINE by Elder Bruce R. McConkie go out of print. Why? Other doctrinal works that have had far less impact on the Church have continued in print throughout the fifty years that I have been a member. I think it might be the result of this difference between personal opinion and revelation. A lot of saints were offended by Elder McConkie’s book because he included his personal opinions? So? What else could a person put into such a book? Unless he is authorized by God to bring forth scripture such as the Book of Mormon and the Doctrine and Covenants, it has to be personal opinion. Elder McConkie included a disclaimer stating as much in the beginning of his book. Maybe we don’t agree with him about evolution. Maybe he was wrong about blacks and the priesthood. So what? Wasn’t he as entitled to his opinions as much as the next man?
Of greater interest to me is the assumption that a “personal opinion” on the part of a prophet means that it is not true. Who would have a better informed opinion than a true prophet of God? I know that on the matters of evolution and the black priesthood ban, McConkie’s opinions were not popular. Are all of mine? Are all of yours? Are we not entitled to a personal opinion even though others don’t agree with it?
Besides, cannot a person have a personal opinion that is also true? The fact that it is merely an opinion does not automatically make it false, does it? In my opinion, most of the personal opinions of Bruce R. McConkie and his father-in-law Joseph Fielding Smith were correct opinions, that is, they were true. Does that make them “official Church doctrine?” No, but so what? I’m not aware that the Church has much “official Church doctrine,” just the opinions of true prophets. “But they are not binding upon the Church,” some say. Hey… the truth isn’t binding either, not on most of us, and not on most churches. You can say that whatever is in the standard works is official Church doctrine, but what does that mean? A hundred different scriptorians will tell you a hundred different meanings for the same verses. Isn’t that supposedly why we need living prophets? Isn’t that why we rely upon personal revelation by the power of the Holy Ghost?
I think that the personal opinions of Elder McConkie and President Smith are more likely to be true than not. And even if I am wrong about that, I think they are entitled to have such opinions regardless. In fact, that is one of the best ways to learn whether your opinions are good. Voice the opinion, and listen carefully to the reasons people give you that they are wrong. I learn from that, on occasion.