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This article is designed, not to convince anyone that my paradigm of the universe is the only accurate one (lol), but rather to examine what our creator, knowing our limitations and His purposes, has said that He has given us as testable proof of His existence, intentions, and our purpose in mortality. After all, if we don’t know how to keep score then the game grows old and we look elsewhere for something meaningful. If we don’t know what to look for, those things God provides biased-man as proof, we will miss them and be left with the consequent spiritual entropy. We become like a child, weaned on fast food, standing with the farmer in his garden, complaining, because he invited us but didn’t provide any food for lunch.
All experience, whether musical, artistic, scientific, or spiritual, is filtered through our senses and processed in our brains. We have only one “receiving instrument” with which we can “sense” and then interpret incoming data. It is only reasonable that if there is a God, that He would fully understand our challenge with bias, self-focus, etc., that will influence our conclusions. If He, as we claim, is really the only source of final happiness, then it follows that He would provide measurable evidences by which we can draw meaningful conclusions that will then lead us to that happiness and account for the great inequality among His creations.
Metaphorically we each form a mental picture or map with which to navigate life. That map, the important mile-markers and significant landscape features, along with the insignificant artifacts and common posts, is continually being revised by experience, and education. One author wrote:
“You’ve got a map, you just have to follow it. But once you get to work, you’ll be unnerved by the distance between the neat map in your hand and the rough terrain at your feet.” 1
This is where one man’s mile marker is another’s post. As two people encounter a new difficult experience, for example, if one has accepted that the difficulty is a mile marker signaling a divine purpose, he might conclude, “I wonder what I will learn from this?” The other may have rejected the idea of God and simply sees the difficulty as an irritant, “life is depressingly hard!” or a personal challenge, “I like a challenge but….”
I cannot prove that there is a God, but I believe that God can, but only on His terms…! Terms originating from infinite wisdom and deep love for us. Yet, what can He do to offer evidence that won’t encumber our need to learn to use and grow our agency? Testing God’s directives, the scriptures, gives us some principles and vicarious experiences that can guide us beyond our confirmation-bias and personalize what God can and will do for us, thereby validating them as a valuable source, and God as their revelator and our Father.
We will look at nine things God intertwines to prove Himself to man without compulsion and without destroying agency: records, faith, witnesses, prophecy, predicted consequences, signs, ordinances, angels, and character changes.
1.RECORDS: God uses scriptures to validate scriptures! (No, this is not circular reasoning)
I was recently discussing with an Uber driver who was an educated engineer and physics hobbyist driving for the fun of it. We got talking about space exploration, so I asked, “What if we found people on a distant planet who worshiped Jesus Christ as one who had died on another planet for all humankind throughout the universe? What if their religion were identical to the Biblical religion of the New Testament?” He agreed that it would be mind-boggling and powerful evidence, even proof of God. So, I introduced him to the Book of Mormon as a record of a people at a time, as separated from Jerusalem as those on another planet. He was doubtful, so I asked, “What if the Bible prophesied of such a record coming to corroborate it?” I read to him,
“Moreover, thou son of man, take thee one stick, and write upon it, For Judah, and for the children of Israel his companions: then take another stick, and write upon it, For Joseph, the stick of Ephraim, and for all the house of Israel his companions: And join them one to another into one stick; and they shall become one in thine hand.” Ezekiel 37:16-17
And, I then explained the records or sticks of Judah and Joseph. This is one of God’s tools He uses to provide evidence that serves to initiate the faith process of gaining divine knowledge.
“And after it had come forth unto them I beheld other books, which came forth by the power of the Lamb, from the Gentiles unto them, unto the convincing of the Gentiles and the remnant of the seed of my brethren, and also the Jews who were scattered upon all the face of the earth, that the records of the prophets and of the twelve apostles of the Lamb are true.” 1 Nephi 13: 39
This is on-going, incremental and very interesting. It includes other scripture records, the Dead Sea Scrolls, The Nag Hammadi, other ancient writings, Stella, and other archeological finds. These corroborate and check each other for consistency and meaning. Stay-tuned for much more as we crescendo towards the latter days.
2. FAITH: (No, not in place of knowledge, science, reason, etc.)
To protect man’s agency where belief must be a choice, not a compulsion, this cascade of ancient records continues incrementally unfolding an integrated understanding of God’s map or plan of happiness. But faith, as a process, requires an offering:
“And whosoever shall believe in my name, doubting nothing, unto him will I confirm all my words, even unto the ends of the earth.” Mormon 9:25
Belief to the extent of “doubting nothing” is troubling to some. But this is the temporary offering we make in order to receive the confirmation, which then can be “doubted” or tested for validity before continuing to the next offering level. Accepting and understanding His divine map as our own, however requires patience and study. Again, from Adam Miller,
“Fighting to coordinate the two (the map and the terrain), you’ll be tempted to throw the whole thing over or, by way of compromise, to sit down and gossip about how great the map is. This latter kind of admiration is often mistaken for a religious life. Perhaps it is religious, but it is no life. Even sound maps are just maps. They are no substitute for real roads. The gap between theory and practice is often biggest with the simplest things. You’ve promised to pray, but you’ll spend a lifetime learning how to pray. You’ve promised to study the scriptures, but you’ll spend a lifetime learning how to read them…. You cannot forfeit responsibility for this how. You cannot wait for someone else to do them for you. If you do not work things out for yourself, they will never be done. You must learn how to body your religion out into the world with your own fingers and toes, eyes and ears, flesh and bones. This can only be done from the inside out. You are a pioneer. Life has never before been lived in your body. Everything must be done again, as if for the first time. You are an aboriginal Adam, a primal Eve.”1
This is faith in action, not as a blind substitute for knowledge but faith is a process of gaining knowledge that cannot be gained in any other way. Faith is to knowledge as walking is to destination. Faith doesn’t replace or substitute for knowledge any more than walking replaces a destination. It is true that some days I walk with no destination in mind, satisfied that the walking will increase my health, because I trust my doctor’s advice. Likewise, there are times when exercising faith isn’t a search for knowledge but a willingness to act based on trust in someone’s advice, the results of which, if things turn out beneficially, enhance that trust and build a relationship. A scientist likewise, is willing to act based on past evidence, observe the results and thereby verify that evidence. He acts in faith until it becomes knowledge. Without evidence he acts only with hope until he gathers evidence through observation. Hope plus evidence can be faith if added to action, resulting in validation, which then results in knowledge.
“Now faith is the assurance/foundation/basis of things hoped for, the evidence/proof of things not seen. Through faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God, so that things which are seen were not made of things which do appear.” Hebrews 11:1,3
Nothing is created without faith in something or someone. It is the process by which organization proceeds from raw materials to creation, or through which raw ideas become workable systems.
The result of the process is not just “knowledge” but more importantly, an experience-validated relationship with God as the source of knowledge.
3. WITNESSES (Both people and nature – mile marker vs post)
“so many evidences which ye have received; yea, even ye have received all things, both things in heaven, and all things which are in the earth, as a witness that they are true.” Helaman 8:24
“Yet the Lord testified against Israel, and against Judah, by all the prophets, and by all the seers” 2 Kings 17:13
“he also spake concerning the prophets, how great a number had testified of these things” 1 Nephi 10:5
“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
“And now, seeing ye know these things and cannot deny them except ye shall lie, therefore in this ye have sinned, for ye have rejected all these things, notwithstanding so many evidences which ye have received; yea, even ye have received all things, both things in heaven, and all things which are in the earth, as a witness that they are true.” Helaman 8:24
It is interesting that God provided twelve witnesses of the original records from whence the Book of Mormon was translated: three who saw both the plates and Moroni as an angel, eight who handled the physical plates, and one, a woman, who saw and handled the plates and saw Moroni as a man. Additionally, four other women lifted or otherwise handled the plates. This link contains more detail about the Book of Mormon witnesses. I say, “interesting” because to me the number 12 is a “mile-marker” of God’s consistency. The ancient Hebrews saw the number twelve as a number representing divine government; hence, there were twelve tribes and twelve apostles. In earthly governments today, the weight given to credible witnesses is vital to establishing proof “beyond reasonable doubt.”
Jehovah used this as His ultimate capability that would differentiate Him from the false gods of neighboring nations, as told by Isaiah.2
This “proof,” like the witness from nature, can be “perceived” differently, depending on one’s bias. God teaches that there are advantages, however, in choosing belief rather than being compelled to believe.3 For example, Nephi explains the response to the irrefutable sign prophesied by Samuel and then witnessed by the people by saying, “there was not a living soul among all the people of the Nephites who did doubt in the least…because of the many signs which had been given, according to the words of the prophets; and because of the things which had come to pass already” 3 Nephi 5:1-2 But ten years later, these same people were wallowing in sin. Like a proverbial “silk slip,” our over-ridden biases keep showing. But the crescendoing nature of prophesied events will become harder and harder to just explain away.4 Choosing to believe allows one to test, then build a new experiential knowledge set and allow the accompanying divine relationship to change one’s character, so the biases are replaced.
5. PROPHESIED CONSEQUENCES
Closely related and perhaps as a subset to prophecies are those that serve as warning of natural and inflicted consequences.
“And he hath confirmed his words, which he spake against us, and against our judges that judged us, by bringing upon us a great evil: for under the whole heaven hath not been done as hath been done upon Jerusalem.” Daniel 9:12
The problem with these kinds of “proof” is that they only become proves in hindsight-after the suffering or regret is already a reality.
The value is that they can serve to motivate one to “choose to believe” the next divine warning or instruction, and gain witness through obedience rather than punishment.
These are not the signs given as witnesses as covered above but rather those referred to here:
“And these signs shall follow them that believe;5 In my name shall they cast out devils; they shall speak with new tongues; They shall take up serpents; and if they drink any deadly thing, it shall not hurt them; they shall lay hands on the sick, and they shall recover….And they went forth, and preached everywhere, the Lord working with them, and confirming the word with signs following. Amen.” Mark 16:17-20
These signs come as evidences to those that already believe, as their capabilities grow during their service. Elder Maxwell said it best, “God does not begin by asking us about our ability, but only about our availability, and if we then prove our dependability, he will increase our capability!6
So those leaving church service because they don’t have proof of its truth or of God’s existence, cut themselves off from His “proving” methods; like one trying to breathe under water because they have heard the air was polluted.
Closely related to this one is the next “proof:”
Even after what would seem like abject failure to most parents with the death of their faithful child at the hand of an older sibling, Adam and Eve, like Abraham7 were given confirmation and guiding revelation through the symbols of the ordinances God gave them:
“being declared by holy angels sent forth from the presence of God, and by his own voice, and by the gift of the Holy Ghost. And thus, all things were confirmed unto Adam, by an holy ordinance, and the Gospel preached, and a decree sent forth, that it should be in the world, until the end thereof; and thus it was. Amen. Moses 5:58-59
It isn’t any wonder then that the Hebrew root for “temple,” the location of the most sacred ordinances, is heykal, meaning “to endure.” One cannot expect to endure to the end without the temple and it’s confirming ordinances!
“Through ordinances, the power of God is made manifest in our lives.” Elder Boyd K. Packer, BYU Speeches Feb 3, 1980; DC 84:20
8. MINISTERING ANGELS
“the Book of Mormon…was given by inspiration, and is confirmed to others by the ministering of angels, and is declared unto the world by them–Proving to the world that the holy scriptures are true” DC 20:8-11
“Angels speak by the power of the Holy Ghost…” 2 Nephi 32:3
“And by the power of the Holy Ghost ye may know the truth of all things.” Moroni 10:5
God has promised to “prove” all divine truth personally through His Holy Spirit and through divine messengers speaking by that same power. More powerful than any other evidence, whether archeologic, prophetic, physical, or logical, this direct divine personal communication is the most certain. Therefore, learning to receive and understand this divine voice is, in reality, the key to seeing the “mile marker” instead of a post in one’s map guided tour of mortality. But if “hearing” this confirming voice is a learning process, how can one be certain that confirmation-bias isn’t what is really going on? The last and most certain “proof” is both Alma’s and Moroni’s key.
9. PERSONAL CHARACTER CHANGES
Yea, come unto Christ, and be perfected in him…if by the grace of God ye are perfect in Christ, ye can in nowise deny the power of God. Moroni 10:32
“If you give yourself to this work, if you do more than is asked of you, if you get up before your alarm sounds and work out your own salvation, then you will find what Paul found…. You will find as you “work out your own salvation” that “it is God who is at work in you, enabling you both to will and work for his good pleasure” (Philippians 2:12–13 nrsv, emphasis mine). But this discovery, this heart-starting revelation that you are not alone, comes only in doing the work itself. Working, you will find that you are not your own and that God is at work in you. You will find that God, in both rough and subtle ways, is working in and through you to do things you can’t do and create things you don’t entirely understand. Working, you’ll find grace.” (Adam Miller, see footnote 1)
“For how knoweth a man the master whom he has not served, and who is a stranger unto him, and is far from the thoughts and intents of his heart?” Mosiah 5:13
Last Sunday, one of the sweet sisters in our ward bore her witness saying, “I have been spiritually minded all my life. But I would go to church and would be left wanting. Like so many today who are leaving churches because they aren’t finding that it makes any difference in their lives, I wanted more. Then I received the message of the restored gospel at age 57, it filled my soul. What it has done to change my family is evidence enough of its truth! 8
It is what no one else can really see, though they may wonder. If honest with oneself, the internal changes in appetites, integrity, and relationships change as if one were being reborn into a new person.
“thus be led by the Holy Spirit, becoming humble, meek, submissive, patient, full of love and all long-suffering” Alma 13:28
A truly converted life is God’s greatest proof. But one must not only believe IN God, one must believe Him, study and follow Him.
“Fear thou not; for I am with thee: be not dismayed; for I am thy God: I will strengthen thee; yea, I will help thee; yea, I will uphold thee with the right hand of my righteousness.
For I the Lord thy God will hold thy right hand, saying unto thee, Fear not; I will help thee.
That they may see, and know, and consider, and understand together, that the hand of the Lord hath done this, and the Holy One of Israel hath created it.” Isaiah 41:10, 13, 20
1 Miller, Adam S. Letters to a Young Mormon. Neal A. Maxwell Institute. Kindle Edition.
3 Isaiah 41: 4, 21-26 Who hath wrought and done it, calling the generations from the beginning? I the Lord, the first, and with the last; I am he. Produce your cause, saith the Lord ; bring forth your strong reasons, saith the King of Jacob. Let them bring them forth, and shew us what shall happen: let them shew the former things, what they be, that we may consider them, and know the latter end of them; or declare us things for to come. Shew the things that are to come hereafter, that we may know that ye are gods: yea, do good, or do evil, that we may be dismayed, and behold it together. Behold, ye are of nothing, and your work of nought: an abomination is he that chooseth you. Who hath declared from the beginning, that we may know? and before time, that we may say, He is righteous? yea, there is none that sheweth, yea, there is none that declareth, yea, there is none that heareth your words.
1 Nephi 20:3-5 (Isaiah48) Behold, I have declared the former things from the beginning ; and they went forth out of my mouth, and I showed them. I did show them suddenly. And I did it because I knew that thou art obstinate, and thy neck is an iron sinew, and thy brow brass; And I have even from the beginning declared to thee; before it came to pass I showed them thee; and I showed them for fear lest thou shouldst say—Mine idol hath done them, and my graven image, and my molten image hath commanded them.
4 Jesus saith unto him, Thomas, because thou hast seen me, thou hast believed: blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed. John 20:29
And now, as I said unto you, that because ye were compelled to be humble ye were blessed, do ye not suppose that they are more blessed who truly humble themselves because of the word? Alma 32:14
5 Behold, I tell you these things, even as I also told the people of the destruction of Jerusalem; and my word shall be verified at this time as it hath hitherto been verified. DC 5:20
And he also spake concerning the prophets, how great a number had testified of these things, concerning this Messiah, of whom he had spoken, or this Redeemer of the world. 1Nephi 10:5
6 For I am God, and mine arm is not shortened ; and I will show miracles , signs , and wonders, unto all those who believe on my name. DC 35:8
7 “It’s Service, Not Status, That Counts,” Elder Neal A. Maxwell, Ensign July 1975
8 Genesis 15
9 Testimony of Joanne Greenwood, Ivins 10th ward Feb 3, 2019; used with permission