Throughout my life, I have made no attempt to hide my faith. Though I have not openly broadcast it (with a two year exception), I have done my best to be an example of the believers, and I think that most people who know me are aware of what I believe. For the purposes of this article, and to clear up any possible ambiguity, I will be explicit here about some of my most cherished beliefs.
- I believe in God. I believe that he is an actual Being with a perfect, immortal, physical body. I believe that all men and women were created in His image.
- I believe that God is my Heavenly Father. I believe that He is a kind, loving, and merciful Father.
- I believe in Jesus Christ. I believe that He is the Son of God. I believe that He is the Savior, and that He has the power to save all those who believe in Him and do His will.
- I believe that Jesus Christ rose from the dead with a perfect, immortal body, never to die again.
- I believe that the end of this mortal life is not the end of our existence. I believe that we will all be resurrected, as Jesus was, and because Jesus was.
- I believe that sin is real, and that justice is real. Or, in other words, I believe that morality and truth are not relative, but eternal.
- I believe that a fullness of joy can only be achieved by living as God wants us to live and returning to His presence.
- I believe that it is only through the atonement of Jesus Christ that we can return to God’s presence.
- I believe that God reveals His will to us through prophets and apostles, and that the Bible and Book of Mormon are the word of God, as revealed to and written by prophets and apostles.
- I believe that God continues to call prophets and apostles today.
I have held these beliefs since I was a child, though they have become more solidified through years of experience, study, fasting, and prayer. As a child I did not realize that my beliefs might be considered peculiar, but as the innocence and shelter of childhood have been replaced by the experience and exposure of adult life, I have realized that what I believe is often considered strange. I remember as a young teenager when I realized that the members of my favorite band did not follow the same moral standards that guide my life. It seems so obvious now, but I would rather think of my younger self as optimistic about the world than ignorant.
Through years of education, I have perceived that many in the world, especially the more educated, consider the things I believe to not just be peculiar and strange, but ignorant and foolish. I have spent many years and countless hours pursuing education, a pursuit I continue even years after my formal education has ended. I love the sciences. STEM is my livelihood. It hurts to think that I might be considered foolish by the science community because I believe in God. This realization has been painful for me, and has been the cause for a lot of reflection.
As I have reflected on alleged foolishness of my faith, I have questioned more than once if my beliefs are in fact foolish. I would not say that my questioning ever arrives at doubt, but I have done a great deal of mental reconciliation. How can some of the truths that I find so plain and precious be considered foolish to my peers? I have always arrived at the same conclusion, which is this: despite the criticism and ridicule, my beliefs do not seem foolish to me. To me, they are not inconsistent with the truths I learn from science. Instead, they enhance my understanding of science and nature.
This conclusion has led me, however, to another question. Why is the general sentiment of the scientific community a disdain or dismissal of religious belief? Or, in other words, why do my peers think my beliefs are foolish when they don’t seem foolish to me? The answer I found has further increased my faith.
But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.
In this passage, I interpret the “natural man” to be anyone who has not taken the time and opportunity to develop their faith. The message of the passage, then, is that spiritual or religious beliefs are expected to be seen as foolishness to those who don’t believe. They cannot know them, or understand them, so it is no surprise that they see them as foolish.
The beliefs I listed above are essential to the way I live my life. They give me hope and purpose. They give me direction about how to treat other people, how to do my work, how to care for my body, and how to raise my children. They help me understand the good and bad things that happen in life. They give me hope that the person I am and the love I have for my family and friends will last longer than the few decades I get to live in this frail, vulnerable, incredible body on this corrupt, problem-ridden, amazingly beautiful earth.
Through my reflecting and pondering, I have recognized that, if viewed through the lens of skepticism, the things I believe in really do sound strange, foolish, or even a bit crazy. I believe that Jesus Christ literally rose from the dead. Indeed, this belief is the key to everything else I believe. If Jesus did not rise again, everything else I believe in falls apart. But this claim sounds completely beyond belief. I have never known or even heard of anyone else (other than those mentioned in the Bible) who has risen from the dead. I have no scientific evidence that returning from death is possible, and overwhelming evidence that it is not. And still I believe, unwaveringly, that Jesus Christ rose from the dead. This belief is not the effect of a frenzied mind, no longer able to think for itself. I have considered the alternative and I have chosen faith consciously and intentionally.
The existence of God cannot be proved by science, which bolsters the arguments of the skeptics. But the existence of God cannot be disproved by science, which bolsters the faith of the believers. In the end, to know if God lives, or if any of the other beliefs I listed are true, we must rely on faith. Even if God appeared to us, even if he lived among us, we would still need faith to believe in His power and to trust His plan. Jesus, the God of the Old Testament, the Great I am, lived among the Jews and many still didn’t believe in Him and the things he taught.
The way that a person gains faith is remarkably similar to the scientific method. Jesus taught that if we do the will of God, we will know that the His teachings come from God (John 7:17). The prophet Alma, in the Book of Mormon, taught that to gain faith we have to do “an experiment” on the teachings. After doing the experiment, we must observe, and the result can be “spiritually discerned”, as the passage above states. Spiritual discernment is a difficult concept, especially for the scientifically-oriented mind. The things of the spirit cannot easily be measured or recorded, but I know that they are just as real as the things that can be seen, touched, or heard. They can be heard, but only if you have ears to hear.
The ability to discern spiritual things is available to everyone, but to have it we have to want it, and we cannot want it only to disprove it. Indeed, even an intellectual curiosity is not enough. Believing in spiritual things is not a passive activity; faith requires action, and the ability to discern spiritual things requires a desire to act. Implied in this desire is a recognition that we do not know everything and that we need to change. The scriptures call this a broken heart and a contrite spirit.
The ironic thing about gaining knowledge is that as we gain knowledge we lose the humility required to gain more knowledge. We may look around the modern world and think, “We’ve got it all figured out.” But considering how little we know about the distant galaxies, the oceans of Earth, or even our own bodies should quickly humble us again. With this humility we can recognize that we have a lot to learn, and if we are open to learning of spiritual things, an entire hope-filled world is opened to us. To the world it may be foolishness, but I prefer to call it faith, and I wouldn’t want to live without it.