One author[1] concluded that since God has had to deal with changing cultures over the millennia, His laws have changed in spite of the divine declaration that “God is the same yesterday, today, and forever.” (3 Nephi 27:23) Another[2] concluded that since there is sufficient evidence that natural law can account for the creation of the universe as well as man and the complexities of life, there is no need for a Creator.  Another[3] writes that God must obey higher laws, or he would cease to be God in spite of the declaration that God abides and is omnipotent. These attempts to discount or work around scripture source material can lead to doubt downstream when scripture truths and real life don’t seem to fit together.

The surest antidote for doubt, while exercising faith, is more correct knowledge.  We can’t know everything about everything so we might be better off remaining open about our questions and share scripture truths with each other rather than burying our doubts so no one will catch us being inadequate.  But let’s face it; we are all inadequate in something.[4]  God even told Moroni and Paul that weakness is a planned norm amongst all us humans.[5]   Remaining open to learn seems a better strategy, rather than pouring cement over some marginal conclusion that sprouts, nourishes and fosters doubt. 

One brilliant writer, Stephen Hawking, referenced above, writes:

“To deal with such paradoxes (between experience and physics) we shall adopt an approach that we call model-dependent realism. It is based on the idea that our brains interpret the input from our sensory organs by making a model of the world. When such a model is successful explaining events, we tend to attribute to it, and to the elements and concepts that constitute it, the quality of reality or absolute truth. But there may be different ways in which one could model the same physical situation, with each employing different fundamental elements and concepts. If two such physical theories or models accurately predict the same events, one cannot be said to be more real than the other; rather, we are free to use whichever model is most convenient.” [6]

 “According to model-dependent realism, it is pointless to ask whether a model is real, only whether it agrees with observation. If there are two models that both agree with observation, like the goldfish’s picture [of reality] and ours, then one cannot say that one is more real than another.” [7]

“A model is a good model if it:

  1. Is elegant[8]
  2. Contains few arbitrary or adjustable elements
  3. Agrees with and explains all existing observations
  4. Makes detailed predictions about future observations that can disprove or falsify the model if they are not borne out.”[9], [10]

Though, Hawking’s model allows him to account for life and creation without a creator, he is clear that there is no single model that accounts for all the details.  His solution is to adopt many overlapping models creating a network of models that then satisfies the “good model” test, like using many separate but overlapping flat, two-dimensional maps to represent our three-dimensional spherical world. 

I like his approach since there is no way for us to realistically gather data sufficient to account for cosmic or eternal reality by observation.  In fact, our own scriptures attest that truth is outside the bounds of human discovery.  Truth is defined as knowledge of a thing’s past, present, and future, two of which lie outside of our ability to observe.

And truth is knowledge of things as they are, and as they were, and as they are to come” DC 93:24

If we were to ever know “truth,” as absolute, we would need a trusted relationship with a being that exists outside of time:

 “Spirit speaketh the truth and lieth not. Wherefore, it speaketh of things as they really are, and of things as they really will be; wherefore, these things are manifested unto us plainly, for the salvation of our souls.” Jacob 4:13

Good scientists will continue to formulate better and more elegant models that account for all their observations and accurately predict future ones.  I anxiously await such discoveries and honor those whose training allows them the skills to see and understand what will yet be observable as technology advances.  My faith and my model, sees God as the greatest scientist and hence predicts that these discoveries will be consistent with revealed truths as given through Him for whom past, present and future are all present.[11]  But as my model is refined, I also know that the process of seeking divine input is more sacred than my resultant model, for through that process I am coming to know the Creator.

As I was reading in the Doctrine and Covenants sections 88 and 93, I wondered if anyone trained in Einsteinian and quantum physics had used those scriptural resources as an overlay, in formulating a model alternative to the many godless theoretical paradigms currently being asserted.  Here is just a thought:

A PROPOSED MODEL

In a revelation given to Joseph Smith called the “Olive Leaf,” Christ is introduced in this manner:

Jesus Christ his Son—He that ascended up on high, as also he descended below all things, in that he comprehended all things, that he might be in all and through all things, the light of truth; Which truth shineth. This is the light of Christ. As also he is in the sun, and the light of the sun… in the moon…the starsthe earth also, and the power thereof by which [they were] made….

 And the light which shineth, which giveth you light, is through him who enlighteneth your eyes, which is the same light that quickeneth your understandings; Which light proceedeth forth from the presence of God to fill the immensity of space—The light which is in all things, which giveth life to all things, WHICH IS THE LAW BY WHICH ALL THINGS ARE GOVERNED, even the power of God who sitteth upon his throne, who is in the bosom of eternity, who is in the midst of all things. …that which is governed by law is also preserved by law and perfected and sanctified by the same. DC 88:6-13, 34 (emphasis mine)

Law can be defined in two ways, one of which is:

noun: law; noun: the law

A statement of fact, deduced from observation, to the effect that a particular natural or scientific phenomenon always occurs if certain conditions are present. “The second law of thermodynamics”  Oxford English Dictionary online edition

Descriptive Law

This definition can be labeled as, “descriptive law.”[12]  In this revelation, Christ’s very being emanates or shines light that fills all space and pervades all matter to enliven and govern it.  Note that it includes both the visible and invisible light and perhaps other energy phenomena outside the electromagnetic spectrum. Apparently, this light of Christ is the basic governance source of all natural occurrences in the universe, its physics, chemistry, and biology.  The governance doesn’t come from a set of rules or reasoned laws but rather is a governing force resulting from the nature of God, His emanating “light.”  This “light of Christ,” central to the creation, by pervading all matter within it, naturally orders the cause-and-effects of this universe. This light, then gives life, maintains life, and perfects life.  Yet at the same time can be intensive enough to destroy corruptible matter. Note the results when our telestial world is subjected to the full glory or intensity of this “light”:

…the inhabitants thereof are consumed away and utterly destroyed by the brightness of my coming. DC 5:19

This burning would make it very unsatisfactory in loving what you have created, only to have it destroyed by your full presence.  His glory or light, then either perfects and preserves or burns and destroys.  Light from the Sun is much the same.  Without it, there would be no life on earth but anything too close would be consumed away.  So, what can He do? And, what are we to do in our desires to regain His presence?[13]

…there is no flesh that can dwell in the presence of God, save it be through the merits, and mercy, and grace of the Holy Messiah 2 Nephi 2:8

Prescriptive Law

Since no one can dwell in the presence of God without becoming like Him, His simple compassion is insufficient.  As the perfect scientist, God knows and uses law to accomplish His divine purposes.

Looking back to the dictionary, we find another definition for law:

noun: law; noun: the law

The system of rules that a particular country or community recognizes as regulating the actions of its members and may be enforced by the imposition of penalties. “They were taken to court for breaking the lawOxford English Dictionary online edition

Too often though, enforcement of penalties creates our negative view of law and justice.  But laws have benefits, as well as punishments or penalties.  Lehi calls these the “ends of the law.”

Wherefore, the ends of the law which the Holy One hath given, unto the inflicting of the punishment which is affixed, which punishment that is affixed is in opposition to that of the happiness which is affixed. 2 Nephi 2:10

Lehi affirms first, that “the Holy One” gives laws and that the laws have both punishments and opposite benefits affixed or assigned.   These prescribed or written laws with their “affixed” punishments are appropriately called[14] “prescriptive laws.” These laws, unlike “descriptive law” have punishments that are variable, sourced by the wisdom of a loving Father and His Son, and used to teach us by allowing us to learn from mistakes through repentance. 

And the Lord spake unto Adam, saying: Inasmuch as thy children are conceived in sin (children of fallen parents), even so when they begin to grow up, sin conceiveth in their hearts (they have natural appetites that yearn for the associated sense stimulation), and they taste the bitter (there are natural and imposed consequences), that they may know to prize the good. Moses 6:55 (emphasis and interpretation inserts are mine)

He could have said, “That they may know to do the good.”  But to prize is to cherish it sufficiently to naturally want it. God’s desire for us wasn’t to make us into conditioned hamsters doing what we have been trained to do, but rather, as His beloved children, to allow us to change through experience and choice until good is what we are rather than just what we do. God knows our probationary fallen state.  He knows that we will sin and has omnisciently furnished His Son and a saving gospel model called “The Atonement,” including prescriptive laws, by which we can be prepared, so descriptive law can perfect us, so as to abide with Him eternally.

That ye may become the sons of God; that when he shall appear we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is; that we may have this hope; that we may be purified even as he is pure. Moroni 7:48

ALTERNATE CONCLUSIONS USING THIS MODEL

So, does God’s law change? First, God’s descriptive law never changes for it is His nature.  But His prescriptive laws may change with culture, circumstance, and time as they are designed for man, by God’s love.  Secondly, natural law may account for all creation and complexity of life but that law, the physics of the universe, may be the result of God’s nature not an explanation to eliminate His reality.  And finally, “God ceaseth not to be God,” as Alma declared.  Not because the cosmic police would take away his “god-license” but because His nature is eternal and unchanging, enabling our faith in Him, including His justice and mercy. A thorough understanding of justice concludes that God is omnipotent, omniscient and hence, He CAN, through law.  A thorough understanding of mercy concludes that His love is omnipotent, omniscient, infinite, and abundant and hence, He WILL, through law and….  Only our inviolate agency stands in His way.

Behold, here is the agency of man, and here is the condemnation of man; because that which was from the beginning is plainly manifest unto them, and they receive not the light. And every man whose spirit receiveth not the light is under condemnation. DC 93:31-32

TO DOUBT OR TO QUESTION?

We should never be surprised that there are alternate models that partially or temporarily explain the realities of life.  The gospel model teaches that God is not about evidencing His truths so we can’t disbelieve. Rather, He works to keep the playing field level so that we have agency, which includes choice. Maturation through the exercise of our agency, the freedom to plan our own destiny, is the only way to reach our potential.  Also, choosing to believe in God and testing that belief through life’s challenges, builds a relationship with Him that just knowing about Him doesn’t do.  Knowing about God is informative and necessary but knowing God is also transformative. God’s methodology is to continue to reveal things incrementally[15] rather than in whole.  Less we think that this means we would just need to put the model together as it comes piece-by-piece, experience says that isn’t true.  His eternal work is to exalt us not just inform us.  His wisdom is to furnish information through prophets, scripture, and personally, by telling us through two interdependent channels: our heart (feelings) and our minds (thoughts):

I will tell you in your mind and in your heart, by the Holy Ghost, which shall come upon you and which shall dwell in your heart. DC 8:2

So, there is a need to learn the language of the Spirit. Much like learning any language, fluency does not come without practice, time, and trust.  We must become conversant with what kinds of thoughts come from God and what kinds of feelings accompany them by learning God’s nature.  Having the process end by it “dwelling in our heart,” the inner recesses of our being, is further clarified here:

Teach ye diligently and my grace shall attend you, that you may be instructed more perfectly in theory, in principle, in doctrine, in the law of the gospel, in all things that pertain unto the kingdom of God, that are expedient for you to understand; DC 88:78

Please notice that the first thing in the revelatory process that we receive through His grace, as we are sharing it, is “theory.”  We all know that theories need to be verified and improved by experimentation.  As we experiment, our “model” expands and refines as we derive principles (packaged truths)[16], then doctrines (those truths consistent with communal ordinances and worship), law of the gospel (actively loving our neighbor), and personal kingdom expediencies. 

CONCLUSIONS:

This model furnishes some things science models cannot, e.g. eternal purpose for our lives, relationship with the Creator, a plan for sorting through alternate models and equipping our children with direction and laws during the years when they think they don’t need any, etc.  Since alternate conclusions result from alternate models, we should “first, doubt our doubts before we doubt our faith,”[17] lest the downstream current sweep us away. 

“When I drink from a spring I like to get the water where it comes out of the ground, not down the stream after the cattle have waded in it. … I appreciate other people’s interpretation, but when it comes to the gospel we ought to be acquainted with what the Lord says and we ought to read it”[18]

Doubt is a choice we makes when our cherished model doesn’t fit life’s experiences and we had assumed that our model was THE model.  The cognitive dissonance tempts us to wait for answers as a condition for covenant keeping.  Like skipping your flight because you didn’t see the plane land, the strategy eliminates the solution to the dissonance. Correct information and faithful obedience are the antidotes for doubt. 

And whoso treasureth up my word, shall not be deceived JSM 1:37

Change a doubt into a well-worded question, for God has commanded us to question (DC 46:7), search the scriptures and “…get wisdom: and with all thy getting get understanding” (Proverbs 4:7).  


[1] David Mason, God’s Law Does Change, Patheos Mormon, 9/10/2015

[2] See numerous publications, e.g. Stephen Hawking, “The Grand Design,” Richard Dawkins, “ A Universe From Nothing,” etc. “creation does not require the intervention of some supernatural being or god.  Rather, these multiple universes arise naturally from physical law.”   Hawking, Stephen; Mlodinow, Leonard (2010-09-07). The Grand Design (Kindle Location 86). Random House, Inc. Kindle Edition.

[3] Encyclopedia of Mormonism, See Law: Divine and Eternal Law; PARKER, DOUGLAS H., HAWKINS, CARL S.

[4] See article by this author: https://ldsmag.com/striving-for-faith-when-youre-feeling-inadequate/

[5] Ether 12:27; 2 Corinthians 12:9

[6] Hawking, Stephen; Mlodinow, Leonard (2010-09-07). The Grand Design (Kindle Locations 65-68). Random House, Inc. Kindle Edition.

[7] Ibid, 442-443

[8] Elegance refers to the form of a theory, but it is closely related to a lack of adjustable elements, since a theory jammed with fudge factors is not very elegant.  Ibid, 515-516

[9] Ibid 503-507

[10] If the modifications needed to accommodate new observations become too baroque, it signals the need for a new model.  Ibid, 529-530

[11] See Alma 40:8; DC 130:8-10; 38:2

[12] Encyclopedia of Mormonism, Nature, Law of, Author: Midgley, Louis C.

[13] We know that God can bring mortals into His presence temporarily because the scriptures record numerous such prophetic encounters and promises.  But to live in His full and glorious presence requires abiding the law of a celestial kingdom. (DC 88:22-24)

[14] Ibid, Encyclopedia of Mormonism

[15] DC 98:12

[16] “Principles are concentrated truth, packaged for application to a wide variety of circumstances. A true principle makes decisions clear even under the most confusing and compelling circumstances” (“Acquiring Spiritual Knowledge,” Ensign, Nov. 1993, 86).

[17] President Uchtdorf, Conference Oct 2013

[18] Marion G. Romney, 13 Apr. 1973, 4; as quoted in Scripture Study-The Power of the Word Teacher Manual, (2001), 11–13.