Tuesday, January 23, 2007

The Glory of God is Intelligence

The glory of God is intelligence, or, in other words, light and truth.

D&C 93:36
I'm proud of the fact that my Mormon upbringing included this and other doctrines that extolled the virtues of education, reading good books, accepting all good things no matter their source, and having the humility to discard beliefs that prove to be incorrect. On a certain level I was raised in an environment of intellectual enquiry and tolerance. After all, when you have the restored truth then you don't need to fear any learning because all evidence and reason will inexorably lead you to that truth and sustain and vindicate the pure knowledge revealed to humanity through God's prophets.

I didn't realize that I lived in a culturally and intellectually isolated environment that claimed openess and surety in its teachings and beliefs but that carefully filtered the information that the faithful were exposed to. I was distrustful of anti-Mormon attackers and was periodically fed examples of their dishonest tactics and ill-conceived attacks on my beloved beliefs. During my formative years I was given many reasons to distrust the motives and integrity of the enemies of the church and felt as much interest in listening to them or reading their tracts as I would be of studying Judaism in an Arabian mosque. My occasional perusal of anti-Mormon tracts and books further reinforced my distrust as I read their obvious misrepresentations of Mormon beliefs and history and their lack of anything better to offer.

And yet here I sit. A disbeliever not only in Mormonism, but also in the existence of a personal God.

If the Mormon church now betrays doctrines such as I quote above by denigrating, marginalizing, and even excommunicating its "so-called" intellectuals, not because they are wrong but because they challenge the status quo and authority of the church, then it is understandable. Look where it has gotten me and many others like me. If loss of belief and loss of faith are bad, then so is anything that inevitably leads to those things. And thought, reason, and evidence clearly don't lead one to believe in the church. One can only maintain belief as once receives further light and knowledge by subjugating reason to a blind credulity that exalts subjective feelings and experience and calls them the faint whisperings of the Spirit.

The best, and only real defense, offered by the church in the face of the increasing tide of evidence against its claims is that the whisperings of the Spirit are a superior source of light and knowledge than our frail minds. Reasoning can fail and knowledge can be incomplete or incorrect, but the Spirit will never lead you astray.

But what is the Spirit and how do we recognize it. Boyd K. Packer triumphantly declares that it is like the taste of salt. It is impossible to describe to someone who has never experienced the taste. Salt tastes salty. I guess that by analogy the Spirit feel "spirity." I think that the ultimate test is that any feeling that convinces you of the truth of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is from the Spirit. On the other hand any similar feelings that do otherwise aren't from the Spirit. The differences are subtle, but with experience you can learn to tell the difference. Apparently we aren't supposed to notice the circular definition.

But my feelings convince me quite thoroughly that the church isn't true. In fact it is difficult for me to even consider that it might be true because I have so much information that tells me otherwise. David Whitmer, one of the three witnesses of the Book of Mormon, never renounced his testimony that it was revealed by God through Joseph Smith. He also categorically stated that he knew just as strongly that Joseph Smith was a fallen prophet and that the church led by Brigham Young was in apostasy. The church is quite proud of how proud of his strength of conviction of the first item but isn't exactly eager to trumpet the second. I'm prone to think that Mr. Whitmer was prone to certainty on things about which he had no reasonable justification. I'm chagrined to remember that I spent nearly two years sharing my equally unfounded but equally certain convictions with anyone that would listen.

As I was listening to Richard Dawkins during my evening run I was struck by how theologians and believers in God delight in ignorance. They look for things for which science lacks explanation and then jubilantly claim, "See, you can't explain it. The only possible explanation is God, the Grand Creator!" Dawkins calls it, I think, looking for God in the gaps. In other words, God explains the gaps in knowledge that science can't currently fill. Unfortunately, those gaps are steadily being filled and science continues a steady advance that explains things that were once considered beyond mysterious and only explicable by appeal to a divine creator.

In fact, as he clearly explains, scientists relish ignorance; they readily admit their lack of knowledge. They are infused with a humility that prevents them from claiming certainty about things for which they lack evidence. Rather than doing as the theologians and proclaim, "The only explanation is God," they instead say, "Wow, that would make an awesome PhD thesis!" If the world were run by the intelligent design crowd then intellectual advance would slowly grind to a halt as everyone took the easy way out and simply explained any inexplicable observation as the will or mystery of God. Not unlike a child who says, "The devil made me do it," our universities would be publishing papers on the mysteries of the universe and how their infertile imaginations can only explain it by appealing to an all powerful super being whose existence is overwhelmingly confirmed by the multitude of things that we can't explain. Fortunately, universities such as BYU and its FARMS "scholars" are the exception rather than the rule in academia.

So, maybe Joseph Smith got it wrong. It appears that the glory of God is ignorance. Or at least that seems to be the best proof that he exists.

Sorry for rambling. Too much port.

Good night from chilly Santa Clara.


Sister Mary Lisa said...

Don't apologize for rambling, as you say. You have a great point here. It's true, they want us to be in ignorance. Now, the big question is, Why?? Is it ultimately about the tithing pouring in, as I suspect?

Simeon's . . . Turning the Corner said...

Thanks for the post bull. I appreciated it. Just another example in a long list of things that seem to contradict themselves withing mormondom.

michelle said...

well-said, as usual.