John Lynch: Why I Still Choose to Believe

John Lynch, one of the bigwigs at the Foundation for Apologetic Information and Research (FAIR) posted a blog post entitled “Why I still choose to believe”.

In the post, he notes the topics discussed at the recently concluded FAIR Conference.  He then discusses beyond this all the evidences he’s seen over the 14 years he’s been involved with FAIR.  He recognizes that not all issues have answers, and he shares some very poignant and difficult issues he’s had to deal with personally.

Knowing what he does and doesn’t know, his answer to the world is that he chooses to believe, and then the Lord invariably blesses him with a witness that he’s chosen correctly.

We find such concepts expressed frequently in the Book of Mormon.  In Alma 32, the prophet teaches the poor who have been compelled to be humble that if they only have a desire to believe, the Lord can have the seed grow, and they can experience the growth of the seed.

Yet, the seed cannot grow until it is first planted and nourished.  As with John, we are challenged to choose to believe first, and then the witness comes later. If we choose not to believe, we receive no witness from God.

In every instance in the Book of Mormon where people receive a spiritual experience that changes them, it invariably begins with the person choosing to believe.  Lehi taught his family regarding his visions in 1 Nephi 1, whereupon Nephi chose to ask the Lord himself if it were true, desiring to believe.  He received the answer after he asked.  Later he prayed regarding Lehi’s Vision of the Tree of Life, stating he believed all the words of his father, and so the Holy Spirit showed him many great things.

Compare this to Laman and Lemuel, who Nephi found arguing about Lehi’s vision.  When asked if they had “inquired of the Lord”, they responded that the Lord did not answer them.  Why wouldn’t God answer them, when the scriptures teach that God will answer all of his children?  The key is belief.  Laman and Lemuel did not receive spiritual answers, because they did not truly believe that they could receive them!  They neither planted the seed of faith in their hearts nor nourished the seed until receiving an answer.

For many of us who do believe, we have experienced marvelous things through the Spirit.  Some have talked with angels, while others have spoken “with the tongue of angels” (2 Ne 32).

When the brothers Nephi and Lehi were imprisoned by the Lamanites, great miracles occurred.  “Flaming fire” surrounded the prophets, but did not hurt them.  The Lamanites found themselves in mists of darkness.  The only thing that released them from the darkness was crying to the Lord for deliverance with faith.  Once they prayed, believing God could rescue them, they found themselves delivered from the darkness and surrounded by the flaming fire and angels that taught them.

Like John Lynch and many other LDS, I do not share my greatest spiritual experiences.  But we do have them that give us strength when the answers are not always there.  Such experiences only come when we choose to believe.

50 thoughts on “John Lynch: Why I Still Choose to Believe

  1. Good stuff, Rame. Thanks for linking this. One of my favorite points was when he pointed out that he has heard all of the arguments from the naysayers yet still chooses to believe. This parallels my own experience. I think many antis and questioning Mormons assume we believers just don’t know the “truth” about XXX and if we only did we would end our silly belief in the restored Gospel. Well, some of us do know the truth about virtually all of these subjects and still choose to believe.

  2. I like Richard Bushman’s comments when people ask him “Why are you a believing Mormon?” He said that he tends to respond with something like, “I like who I am when I am a good Mormon.” I really like that response. I too like myself when I am doing the things the Church teaches, and following the commandments. I think this hearkens back to Christ’s teaching that “If any man will do his will, he shall know of the doctrine, whether it be of God, or whether I speak of myself” (John 7:17).

    Daniel Peterson has likewise said that ultimately it comes down to who do we want to be? What kind of person do we want to be? Do we want to believe? There will always be room for doubt. God will not force us to believe one way or the other. He allows us our faith. There will not be incontrovertible evidence or proof, one way or the other. So it comes down to us to experiment upon the word, and find out if it tastes good and enlarges our soul.

  3. It’s so timely, at least for me, that you wrote this. Just yesterday I was having a discussion with a cousin about choices … our agency is so important to the Plan of Salvation. We fought the war in heaven so that we could choose our way here in mortality. After the converstaion was over, I still reflected on choice and why that is so important, and why it is vital that we have agency. So many things in the world try to rob us of our agency and it is a real fight. You are right that we don’t always have the answers to everything either, but if we choose to have faith, we will know eventually. Thanks for this great post.

  4. I don’t know, it seems to me that since Joseph’s death science has made much more progress than Mormonism has!  It would have been much easier in 1830 to believe in opposition to science than it is today and the church has had to duck and weave to avoid some near collisions with science.  So I find it difficult to just close my eyes to science and believe literally, instead I find it much easier to believe that science and religion support one another and look for the solutions that overlap.

  5. No one is suggesting that science and Mormonism are incompatible. On the contrary, I just spoke the other night with some friends about how the LDS temple, music, and String Theory all overlap. Brigham Young noted that Mormonism embraces all truth.

  6. Howard, science and religion do not have to be at odds. As you mentioned, they can work together, as long as we agree that we do not have all the answers in either category.

    That said, belief is based upon evidence, much of it spiritual. Evidence, however, is not the same as proof.

  7. I appreciate the post. I also cannot share my most cherished spiritual experiences.

    However, I’ve had sublime moments in life where it seemed that I caught flashes of eternity: while reading a scripture; or sitting in sacrament prior to the service quietly watching people come in — good people who give so much of their love to others; hearing my son offer a prayer; having unmistakable promptings to call a friend or person; I could go on.

    If we have eyes to see and hearts to understand, we could know that we really do live in the midst of eternity in the here and now.

    God doesn’t reveal Himself fully to us because that would destroy what He wants most: our free-will choice to love Him. He wants us to choose Him despite 100 contrary voices. The fruits of that good choice make it absolutely worth it here, not just in the hereafter.

  8. Rameumptom,
    Yes, of course evidence is not proof and to me spiritual evidence is valid once we become experienced and skilled with receiving it.  However, if one looks at the science for and against BoM historicity the probably is strongly weighted against it, so much so that you cannot find significant secular support for it.  This is what led me to parse the question with the Spirit and receive confirmation that it is the word of God via. fiction.  I would love to hear the testimonies of others who have parsed this question and received clear confirmation of it’s historicity though.  So far there have been no takers.

    I’m near you in age then Bookslinger.  Why do you ask?

  9. “I want it absolutely clear when I stand before the judgement bar of God that I declared to the world, in the most straightforward language I could summon, that the Book of Mormon is true.”
    ― Jeffrey R. Holland

    Bryce,
    I’m not sure what to make of Elder Holland’s testimony in regard to my comments.  The talk sets up either a true or fabricated dichotomy not the nonfiction vs. inspired fiction dichotomy I’m addressing.  It purports to make something absolutely clear, but fails to do so.  I am comfortable making this same statement.  Is there anything more true than the word of God?  I embrace the divinity of the BoM and that it “came forth in the way Joseph said it did”.  This testimony does not clearly state that the BoM is historically accurate.  If he parsed these questions with the Spirit, that isn’t clear either.

  10. I loved this post.

    I believe because the light of gospel truth is discernible. It’s sweet and true and good. The fruits are real and I’m so very, very grateful.

  11. I have had spiritual experiences that confirm the historicity of the Book of Mormon. They are too sacred and personal to me to post on a public blog. But there is no doubt in my mind that the people in the Book of Mormon are real, that the events happened, and that the retelling of them is as accurate as any historical account.

    And I did not reach that conclusion by reasoning out out, but by direct experience.

    And in order to support your confessed opinion, you would have to believe that Joseph Smith is a liar, as well as many others who have met the people spoken of in the Book of Mormon. I

    f you choose to believe that God would blatantly deceive in order to convert people, that is a god you must be comfortable with. But it is not the God I know, not the God who created all things, and who has directed this work of salvation.

  12. Howard said, “It purports to make something absolutely clear, but fails to do so.”

    I don’t know what more to say. If you embrace the BoM coming forth “the way Joseph said it did,” then you embrace its historicity, do you not? Joseph said an angel of God, dressed in a white robe, and calling himself Moroni, who was a man who lived anciently in the Americas, and who the records speak of, came to him and taught him on multiple occasions about the plates, their origins, and the ancient inhabitants of the Americas which they speak of. That seems perfectly clear to me.

    “Now, I did not sail with the brother of Jared in crossing an ocean, settling in a new world. I did not hear King Benjamin speak his angelically delivered sermon. I did not proselyte with Alma and Amulek nor witness the fiery death of innocent believers. I was not among the Nephite crowd who touched the wounds of the resurrected Lord, nor did I weep with Mormon and Moroni over the destruction of an entire civilization. But my testimony of this record and the peace it brings to the human heart is as binding and unequivocal as was theirs. Like them, ‘[I] give [my name] unto the world, to witness unto the world that which [I] have seen.’ And like them, ‘[I] lie not, God bearing witness of it.’”

    Also consider Elder Holland’s comments during his PBS interview:

    “What about people who question the history of the Book of Mormon?”

    “There are plenty of people who question the historicity of the Book of Mormon, and they are firmly in this church — firmly, in their mind, in this church — and the church isn’t going to take action against that. [The church] probably will be genuinely disappointed, but there isn’t going to be action against that, not until it starts to be advocacy: ‘Not only do I disbelieve in the authenticity of the Book of Mormon, I want you to disbelieve.’ At that point, we’re going to have a conversation. A little of that is more tolerated than I think a lot of people think it should be. But I think we want to be tolerant any way we can. … ‘Patient’ maybe is a better word than ‘tolerant.’ We want to be patient and charitable to the extent that we can, but there is a degree beyond which we can’t go. …”

  13. Thank you SilverRain, you are the first to share such a testimony with me.  Things are rarely black or white, instead they are shades of gray.  Isn’t it true that any history book is a mix of both true and false?  Isn’t the Bible?  Or do you believe it literally?  So isn’t it possible that both of our testimonies are true?

    And in order to support your confessed opinion, you would have to believe that Joseph Smith is a liar… No, this is false,  there are other possibilities than Joseph is a liar.

    Bryce wrote: If you embrace the BoM coming forth “the way Joseph said it did,” then you embrace its historicity, do you not? No.  It came forth by Moroni or a manifestation of Moroni leading Joseph to the plates and Joseph speaking the words of the BoM to be written.  But my testimony of this record…  The story is a record but what kind of record?  Records are not necessarily accurate histories.  History is not precisely nonfiction, it is generally a record written from the biased or politically correct viewpoint of it’s writer or the writer’s bosses, often conquers.  Your last paragraph shows the church has an expectation that it’s members believe in the BoM’s historicity but this requires one to close their eyes to the fact that secular science does not take it’s historicity seriously.  Sure there are believing Mormon scientists but in 180 years their contribution to BoM historicity amounts to a changing list of possibilities not probabilities in other words; apologetics, not serious science.  Is the church still waiting for religion to prove science wrong?  Has this EVER happened?

  14. Howard, what other possibilities are there? Joseph Smith claimed bluntly, as Bryce pointed out, that Moroni came to him, led him to a book that contained “an account of the former inhabitants of this continent.”

    If you disbelieve that the BoM is an account, than you believe that Joseph Smith lied. Or that Moroni, an angel of the Lord and speaking on His behalf, did.

    The very title page of the BoM proclaims without apology or ambiguity, that it is an abridgment of records of the people of Nephi, the Lamanites, and the people of Jared.

    Given this, there is no room to believe what you proclaim and also believe that either Joseph Smith or God Himself is not a liar. There is no way to have your cake and eat it too, in this case.

  15. You are finessing the term “record.”

    If I write a journal entry about something that happened to me, it is accurate, even if other people interpret events differently. Of course it is biased, of course it is written with a purpose in mind (the title page itself declares that purpose.)

    But that doesn’t mean it’s non-historical. I think you are misunderstanding that “historical” is not the same thing as “100% objectively factual.”

    The BoM is as historical as anything can be historical, and it is disingenuous and deceptive to massage the semantics the way you are doing.

    If it is not deceptive of you, it certainly shows that you are sadly ignorant of history and the way history works.

  16. SilverRain,
    I am less literal and more nuanced than you in this.  ”Lie” or “liar” is way too strong!  If a healer invokes a placebo are they lying?  If God presents fiction as non-fiction for the purpose of teaching us, is that bad?  Didn’t he admit to doing something similar this in D&C 19:6–7?

    I think you are misunderstanding that “historical” is not the same thing as “100% objectively factual.” SR this is basically what I stated in 16, you are making my point here, so how can I be misunderstanding it?

  17. “Moroni is the name of the angel Joseph encountered.”

    Good. Who did Moroni say he was, and who did Joseph understand him to be?

  18. Joseph wrote, “He called me by name, and said unto me that he was a messenger sent from the presence of God to me, and that his name was Moroni; that God had a work for me to do; and that my name should be had for good and evil among all nations, kindreds, and tongues, or that it should be both good and evil spoken of among all people.

    “He said there was a book deposited, written upon gold plates, giving an account of the former inhabitants of this continent, and the source from whence they sprang. He also said that the fulness of the everlasting Gospel was contained in it, as delivered by the Savior to the ancient inhabitants;” (JS-H 1:33–34).

    How can you believe that the Book of Mormon came forth “the way Joseph said it did,” and not believe in its historicity? Joseph said there was a real angel Moroni, who is the very same Moroni who kept the plates at the end of the BoM, stored them in the ground, and was now instructing Joseph on their location, and he said the plates gave an account of the former inhabitants of this continent, and the source from whence they sprang, and that the Savior gave the fulness of the everlasting Gospel to those inhabitants. The plates were also very real, as many eye witnesses attest, which were engraved upon by real people.

  19. How can you believe that the Book of Mormon came forth “the way Joseph said it did,” and not believe in its historicity?  By accepting Joseph’s encounter with Maroni forward and by believing that God used fiction to teach  us because fiction is a better medium (what is a parable?) than non-fiction, which is simply a book of facts.

    Bryce, what exactly is a “real angel”?  This is a serious question, please answer it.  What is the difference between a visitation and a manifestation?  Can or could you tell the difference?

  20. Howard, the angel actually came to Joseph, multiple times. This wasn’t a figment of his imagination, or dream of some sort. The angel “really” appeared, in Joseph’s immediate physical space, otherwise we must call Joseph delusional. He described the visitation in detail thusly:

    While I was thus in the act of calling upon God, I discovered a light appearing in my room, which continued to increase until the room was lighter than at noonday, when immediately a personage appeared at my bedside, standing in the air, for his feet did not touch the floor.

    He had on a loose robe of most exquisite whiteness. It was a whiteness beyond anything earthly I had ever seen; nor do I believe that any earthly thing could be made to appear so exceedingly white and brilliant. His hands were naked, and his arms also, a little above the wrist; so, also, were his feet naked, as were his legs, a little above the ankles. His head and neck were also bare. I could discover that he had no other clothing on but this robe, as it was open, so that I could see into his bosom.

    Not only was his robe exceedingly white, but his whole person was glorious beyond description, and his countenance truly like lightning. The room was exceedingly light, but not so very bright as immediately around his person. When I first looked upon him, I was afraid; but the fear soon left me. (JS-H 1:30–32)

    I think you’re grasping at straws. There was an angel Moroni, he did speak to Joseph, he did indicate the location of a real record buried in the ground, Joseph retrieved that real record, which had real engravings upon it (which many witnesses attest) which Moroni noted came from the real inhabitants of this continent. This isn’t fiction.

  21. Systematically, Joseph taught (don’t have my “Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith” on me ATM so, sorry, no citation) that all Angels that minister to this earth are men that had/would live their earthly lives here. (He even gives the keys to determine whether a visiting entity is a true/faithful spirit, a resurrected being, or a false spirit) Ergo, Moroni must have lived on this earth as a man (or possibly would in the future- but I don’t think anyone would honestly take that stand…), or Joseph taught a lie (i.e. taught something that was not true as if it was historically true, and not just as fiction).

    While one may try to “nuance” that down to say “Joseph was just in error regarding this point,” the only evidence that one would have is his/her own word… It not only fits much better with what Joseph and all the subsequent prophets have taught that the events recorded in the BoM happened historically, but stands as (and must be considered) logical and well within the constraints of the cosmology Joseph taught.

    I will agree that God uses fiction to teach in certain instances, but not all. In this case I believe and have received confirmation from the Spirit quite strongly, even when I have parsed the questions I have asked of God in the manner you ask, that the Book of Mormon is historically true, i.e. is a record of a people that actually existed.

  22. Howard, count me as one whose spirit-borne testimony of the BoM came with a confirmation that Jesus did appear to the people known as Nephites and spoke to them as described in 3rd Nephi.

    It worked just as the missionaries told me.

    It was after my first encounter with them (when they gave me the book), but before the first lesson.

    The next night, or at least before I met them again, I read Moroni 10:3–5, and then read 3rd Nephi starting in chapter 11.

  23. “… spiritual evidence is valid once we become experienced and skilled with receiving it.”

    Huh? Missionaries often have investigators tell them they’ve received a spirital witness of the truth of their message, sometimes during the first presentation/discussion.

    The fact that independent archaeologists (sorry that I’ve misspelled that word so often elsewhere) haven’t “proved” the Book of Mormon is besides the point. They haven’t DIS-proven it either.

    The fact that there IS evidence that this continent was inhabited from BoM times (600 BC to 420 AD), plus during Jaredite time, is plausibility enough.

    The arguments over DNA, iron and steel, swords, horses, barley, hill names, million-man armies, etc., are mere distractions.

    The area is too big, and the deterioration of of the millennia too great to expect any “aha!” discoveries. Only a tiny tiny fraction of ancient cities and towns have been worked over.

    Plus, it was over 1,000 years from the destruction of the Nephites until the arrival of Europeans (ok, not counting the Vikings).

    Nephite settlements would have been destroyed and rebuilt many times over. Plus the indigenous conquerors would have had no reason to preserve Nephite records or artifacts.

    And even if Nephite cities have been discovered already, how would we know they were Nephite? It’s quite possible that a Nephite “layer” has been picked through by some archaeologist in some location.

    Look at pictures of Detroit and see the decay that’s happened in only 45 years. Now imagine over 1000 years of that.

    Believing Mormons aren’t the ones being bamboozled here by believing there _could_ have been Nephites.

    I think you’re the one who has been bamboozled by allowing people who don’t know the big picture to convince you that there _couldn’t_ have been Nephites.

    As I see it, you’re waiting on some kind of scientific or scholarly backup before having faith.

    I understand that one needs to follow the spiritual confirmation that they’ve received. I think you should follow what your heart tells you. But at the same time, I think you’ve put waaaaay too much _faith_ on what scholars, scientists, and archaeologists claim to know.

    Allowing the secular world to put a limit or bounds or a throttle on one’s faith is kind of…. I can’t think of the word.

    The scientific world does not purport to know _everything_. I don’t think any professional archaeologists would even say that they’ve _dis_-proved the BoM. The most an honest one could say is that it hasn’t been _proven_ as historical fact. There’s a big difference.

    If someone withholds their belief until something is physically/secularly/scientifically proven, then that’s not faith.

  24. Rew and Bookslinger thank you for your testimonies, I accept them as I hope you will accept mine.

    Bryce I’m a Joseph fan and believe he was one of the great Prophets.  When Moroni came and spoke with Joseph in the night of September 21, 1823, the room became lighter than at noonday, why didn’t this wake Joseph’s brothers and others who were there?

  25. Howard, “nuanced” is a word that is often used by people who are trying to deceive. It isn’t “nuance,” to say one thing and mean the opposite. That is called lying. It is “nuance” to say one thing that can mean many different things.

    And yes, if God says flat-out, the BoM is historical (which is what “record written upon plates by former inhabitants” means unless you are REALLY trying to push definitions,) and presents it via those people who have claimed to have written it, and then it turns out that the whole thing is an elaborate charade, that would be bad. It is not the God I have come to know. That is a far different cry from clarifying semantics, as in D&C 19.

    So no, D&C 19 bears only a veneer of resemblance to what you claim, as is obvious should you read and understand the whole of the chapter.

    But for me, all that is moot. My understanding of the historicity of the BoM is not based on reasoning out what has been said, but by direct personal experience.

    And with that, I’m done on this topic.

  26. “…why didn’t this wake Joseph’s brothers and others who were there?”

    Do you believe that God is omnipotent? If God did not want the angel to wake his brothers and others, don’t you think He could do that? Did not God cause a deep sleep to come upon Adam? (Gen. 2:21)

    Absence of evidence is not evidence of absence.

    FWIW, I don’t think we’ll ever find a certain proof of the Book of Mormon’s historicity any time soon. There are plenty of evidences, but certain proof does not lend itself to faith.

    Say, for example, scientists discovered a medallion in the deep jungles of Mesoamerican Guatemala that was verified by a majority of non-member archaeologists, experts, and Mesoamerican scholars via the peculiar markings and carbon dating to have come from some time period between 500-600 B.C. Say this medallion read precisely: “I, Nephi, having been born of goodly parents, therefore I was taught somewhat in all the learning of my father.” What impact would that have? I don’t think the Lord wants this. It is not His desire to prove the Book of Mormon true. He wants us to believe by faith, and come to know by spiritual witnesses, not certain scientific or archaeological proofs.

  27. Howard, you have made your point. You are one-topic person. Please make another completely different point (unrelated to your claim that the Book of Mormon is inspired fiction) or stop commenting. Thank you.

  28. Bookslinger,
    I wrote this: … spiritual evidence is valid once we become experienced and skilled with receiving it.” and you wrote: Huh?etc.  to explain; asking if the BoM is true and receiving a simple spiritual confirmation parses nothing.  Nate suggested that this confirmation means something more like ” come follow me”.  I agree.

    The fact that independent archaeologists… haven’t “proved” the Book of Mormon is besides the point. They haven’t DIS-proven it either.  Sure this is axiomatic.  Most of the rest of your comment amounts to apologetics, please save you breath with me as I am unimpressed by general rebuttal.

    Allowing the secular world to put a limit or bounds or a throttle on one’s faith is kind of…. I can’t think of the word.. Well, this isn’t what I’m doing.  I was troubled by the lack of scientific evidence in support of historicity so I sought the Spirit by parsing the question.

  29. Geoff B.,
    I am much more than a one-topic person, I have simply been responding to other’s comments directed toward me. Sorry our last comments cross posted so now that I have received your moderation I will bow out. But I remain open to continuing this in the proper venu.

  30. I would like to point out that a belief in the historicity of the Book of Mormon is not required for salvation. We do have to believe in Christ, repent, make covenants and receive the ordinances attached to those covenants, and then receive the Holy Spirit of Promise to seal those ordinances and covenants upon us.

    The Book of Mormon’s real strength, as John Lynch would agree, is not in its historicity (even though we both believe it to generally be historical), but in its teachings of Christ.

    Faith does not come through historicity. In 2004, Davis Bitton spoke at the FAIR Conference, in a great talk titled, “I do not have a testimony of the history of the Church.” ( http://www.fairlds.org/fair-conferences/2004-fair-conference/2004-i-dont-have-a-testimony-of-the-history-of-the-church )

    In it, he explains that history is not a perfect science. It has issues with inadequate and/or biased data. Anyone can spin history in a diary or history book, and leave it for future generations to consume and believe.

    Homer’s Aeneid and Odyssey led Heinrich Schliemann to discover the city of Troy. That said, we do not believe that Apollo, Poseidon, Cyclops and other such gods and monsters actually existed. The history is tainted with certain beliefs. It is possible that the Bible and Book of Mormon’s “historicity” is also tainted at times with fables or legends of old.

    That does not mean Lehi didn’t exist or that the Nephites were not obliterated by the Lamanites around 385 AD. Just as the city of Troy is real and the Trojan War over Helen is probably a historical event, does not mean every detail in Homer’s books are historical. They weren’t meant to be.

    But they are still historical to some extent.

    When Jacob and Enos described the Lamanites as half-naked savages, were they being accurate in their description? If so, how does that apply to the great Lamanite civilization discovered by Ammon? It is more likely that Jacob and Enos only knew of those Lamanites living in the borders of the wilderness, and so assumed all Lamanites were like that. Just because archaeology (and Ammon) prove that Jacob was wrong concerning the majority of the Lamanite people, does not make his writings ahistorical nor unhistorical. It shows biases and the understanding their people had at that time.

    And so, for us, it is important that we believe first. We choose to believe that Nephi, King Benjamin, Helaman, and Mormon really existed. We believe that Jesus really did visit the Americas. We believe that Moroni buried the plates, and later appeared to Joseph Smith and the Three Witnesses, as he restored the record to mankind.

    We believe, and patiently wait God’s giving us a full witness someday.

  31. Excellent point Rame. It’s historicity is not what makes the Book of Mormon an inspired book. Faithful Mormons can quibble about historical details, but they both still belong together in church, worshiping the same God together.

  32. rameumptom,

    You say in your opening post:

    In Alma 32, the prophet teaches the poor who have been compelled to be humble that if they only have a desire to believe, the Lord can have the seed grow, and they can experience the growth of the seed.

    Yet, the seed cannot grow until it is first planted and nourished. As with John, we are challenged to choose to believe first, and then the witness comes later. If we choose not to believe, we receive no witness from God.

    The first paragraph (and first line of second paragraph) I’m quoting doesn’t seem to agree with the second paragraph…I’m not seeing the justification you’re making for the leap between them.

    So, as I understand the first paragraph: In Alma 32, the prophet teaches the poor who have been compelled to be humble that if they only have a desire to believe, the Lord can have the seed grow, and they can experience the growth of the seed. The first thing to note is that it’s the Lord that can have the the seed grow…not the particular individual.

    What the particular individual does is plant and nourish the seed.

    However, the rest of your second paragraph does not seem to immediately follow from the first. It’s not that we are challenged to choose to believe first, but rather that we are challenged to act first. We are challenged to “first plant…and nourish,” after which God can grant that the seed will grow.

    I don’t think that the last line fits either. Again, since it doesn’t seem to be saying that we are choosing to believe, it also doesn’t seem to be saying that we receive no witness from God if we choose not to believe.

    You have written:

    In every instance in the Book of Mormon where people receive a spiritual experience that changes them, it invariably begins with the person choosing to believe.

    Yet, I am reminded of Alma the Younger. Alma the Younger received, in my opinion, one of the most noteworthy transformative spiritual experiences in the BoM, yet it assuredly did NOT begin with the person choosing to believe. Alma the Younger’s experience reads to me like a Book of Mormon “Road to Damascus” experience (or, I guess that would be “Road to Zarahemla” experience?)…and coincidentally, Saul’s transformation into Paul on the road to Damascus in the New Testament similarly does NOT begin with Paul having chosen to believe. I will grant, however, that Paul’s experience is not from the Book of Mormon.

    Anyway, what I see more clearly throughout this is that faith, spiritual experiences, and belief are gifts from God (which is consistent with other scriptures about spiritual gifts) which are given to folks much without respect to desert or merit.

  33. Part of the atonement is that Christ plants the seed in us. We hear the word, not of ourselves, but the BoM teaches that the Lord sends angels and his Spirit to us. Alma heard the words of his father years before, as he grew up. He did not believe, and so the seed which was already within him did not grow.
    Only when he chose to believe and pray, was the seed instantly activated within him.
    You’ll note that after we have experienced the growth of the seed, we can cast it out through disbelief. But otherwise, the seed lies dormant within us.

    Faith is a gift that lies dormant within us. But to activate it requires us to desire to believe or choose to believe. This paradox that is discussed in the book, “An Experiment on the Word: Reading Alma 32″ (ed Adam S Miller) that is available at saltpress.org .

    So, while it seems my first two paragraphs disagree, they actually do work together via a paradox that God presents to us in Alma 32.

  34. rameumptom,

    Could you please clarify a few things. You wrote:

    We hear the word, not of ourselves, but the BoM teaches that the Lord sends angels and his Spirit to us.

    So, would it be correct that for us to hear the word, it is not something that we do internally, but something that occurs because of the Lord (e.g., via his sending angels and his Spirit) to us.

    Would it be correct to suppose that if, at least theoretically, the Lord did not send angels or his Spirit to us, we would not hear the word (regardless of if it were printed on scriptures before us)?

    (I ask this question theoretically…you may or may not believe that is a situation that could actually happen.)

    Alma heard the words of his father years before, as he grew up. He did not believe, and so the seed which was already within him did not grow.

    Why did Alma not believe when he heard the words of his father years before? Why did Alma nevertheless have a spiritual experience when he (that is, Alma the Younger) did not believe?

    Only when he chose to believe and pray, was the seed instantly activated within him.

    Did Alma the Younger choose to believe and pray before or after his experience with the angel of God? Was his choice impacted based on his experience with the angel (in other words, would his choice at least theoretically have been different if he had never had that encounter?)

    You’ll note that after we have experienced the growth of the seed, we can cast it out through disbelief.

    Is it theoretically possible for someone not to experience the growth of the seed…or would that just mean that they have already cast it out be unbelief?

    (P.S., do you think that “not casting out the seed with unbelief” is equivalent to “belief”?)

    I guess I’ll have to check out the book, although I don’t understand 80% of what Adam Miller writes on T&S…

  35. Andrew,

    I believe, along with Joe Spencer, Adam Miller and others, that the atonement and other gifts are always there. The Light of Christ permeates all of space, and therefore touches all things.

    For Alma the younger, I believe he experienced a Near Death Experience. He was in Spirit Prison, where he was compelled to be humbled. Once he was humbled, he was ready to recall the words of his father, and desire to believe. Prior to that moment, he thought his only option was to cease to exist entirely. Now,he had an alternative solution: accept the atonement of Christ. Instantly, he received the gift of rescue and salvation. This is what he taught the poor in Alma 32, likely from his own personal experience of being compelled to be humble.

    This is unlike Paul’s experience, who was not in a coma/NDE for several days. Although I would agree that both were compelled to be humble.

    There are many who have read scripture without believing it. Why? Because many of us are still too proud to accept it. As Joe Spencer notes, the atonement is always there as a gift for us to receive. We just have to receive it on God’s terms. Because we do not accept it fully on his terms, we end up not receiving the gift. For many people, this confirms their disbelief. I would imagine this is what drove Alma and the sons of Mosiah to attack the Church. They had not received the evidence on their terms, and so went to destroy what they felt was a fraud.

    D&C 19 basically tells us that all will suffer as Christ until they repent. If they do not humble themselves, then they will be compelled to believe either on earth or in Spirit World. Yet, once they give away all their pride and hubris, the atonement already is there to heal them.

    Reading scripture or hearing the word from angels is not enough. Laman and Lemuel saw an angel and heard the scriptures read by their father, but did not believe. Seeing is not believing. Choosing to humble ourselves enough to choose to believe, then is the key.

    John Lynch chooses to believe without being compelled to be humble. I applaud him for it, and hope this does not make his head so big that he loses his humble walk. (jk)

    In choosing to believe and pray, Alma went from disbelief – which he still had after seeing the angel – to a belief in the atonement that healed him. We must choose, therefore, to believe.

  36. rameumptom,

    Thanks for the clarifying comments. I guess the major thing is about being compelled to be humble vs. choosing to be humble vs. naturally being humble.

    I see a lot of scriptural evidence (and personal life evidence) of people who are compelled to be humble, and I see a lot of scriptural evidence (and personal life evidence) of people who are naturally humble, but I don’t really see so much for people choosing to be humble. The thing about pride, it seems to me, is that if we have it, then we aren’t going to see anything wrong with it. It will be natural to us (and perhaps that’s exactly what is meant by the natural man). So in this sense, we always have to be convinced otherwise — and that’s not something we choose to do “just because,” but instead, happens because we are compelled. Which I mean, would make sense — if it is as D&C 19 says, and all will suffer as Christ until they repent, then it would follow that what compels them to be humble is the suffering caused by their pride and sin. But if someone doesn’t recognize the suffering, they will not be compelled, and they will not change.

  37. I agree that many require humbling before they believe, both in scriptures and in today’s world.

    That said, we do have instances of people who humble themselves: such as King Lamoni. No one compelled him to be humble. Many of the Lamanites readily accepted the gospel truth without requiring threats from an angel, etc.

    Missionaries often meet the “golden contact” who has prepared him/herself to hear the gospel. So, it does happen.

    I do fear we have entered a period of time in the USA, where pride has grown so much that only a fierce humbling will compel them to repent and give up their/our pride.

  38. rameumptom,

    King Lamoni’s situation doesn’t sound like a person who humbled himself. It’s not like he was proud, and then he chose to be humble. No, he seems like a pretty humble dude throughout. The thing that doesn’t really help me with the King Lamoni example is that this decidedly is not an example of someone choosing to believe or someone choosing to be humble. King Lamoni already believed that there was a Great Spirit, so Ammon just said, “This Great Spirit is God.”

    So, with respect to your last paragraph, I’m not saying I would disagree…I would just say that this has been the case for most of the world’s people for most of history. Because I don’t think people “choose to be humble” or “choose to believe” in general. It seems like the situations you’re trying to claim are people choosing to believe aren’t really quite like that.

  39. King Lamoni, when his servants brought him word about Ammon, recognized he had slain many other servants who had not protected the flocks. He humbled himself enough to realize he had done wrong, and needed to speak with Ammon to see whether he was the Great Spirit or sent by the Great Spirit to call him to repent or to destroy him.

    He humbled himself upon hearing the word of his servants, and recognized his sin before seeing Ammon and hearing from him. So, he would be a case of one who humbled himself upon hearing the word.

  40. Rameumptom,

    …I guess I’m just not seeing where you would attribute his humility as a conscious action.

    If I see something like a magic show or a fireworks display or something like that, and I am impressed, does that mean that “I impressed myself”?

    If I do something, recognize that it was bad, and feel guilty and remorseful about it, does that mean that “I guilted myself” or that “I guilt-tripped myself”?

    Is that how you would talk about your own experiences with things?

    I guess in these cases I wouldn’t see the locus of my sentiment as coming from me. I see the same thing in Lamoni’s situation. It seems that we both interpret the same story very differently, based on the same details.

  41. Perhaps I see things a little simpler than that. If a person hears the word and recognizes his own worthlessness before God and humbles himself, the atonement is ready to heal him and make him sinless.

    For those who refuse to believe, sometimes it takes a disaster or tragedy prior to them humbling themselves.

    Lamoni was in the first group, as the gospel had not yet been preached to him, yet he was ready to listen without God first humiliating him severely into being humble.

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