Having a “Puzzlement of Faith” Instead of a “Crisis of Faith”
A few nights ago I couldn’t sleep so I randomly picked some youtubes to watch.
Apologetics was on my mind.
The first video that caught my attention was a talk by Rosalynde Welch at a FAIR Conference.
I only listened to a small portion of it because I sometimes have a very short attention span but during the snippet that I listened to, she said something that I found to be amazingly profound.
She said something to the effect that as she was confronted with disruptive and controversial events in LDS church doctrine and history, she did not experience a “crisis of faith”. Rather she has experienced a “puzzlement of faith”.
She then went on to explain that she liked using this term to characterize her reaction to the new information because she felt it presented a much more humble and teachable and non-critical response to things that are not easy to understand.
She essentially was pointing out that the scriptures remind us that the natural man is not a knowledgeable and discerning creature and therefore not well qualified to judge God and to be critical of his servants or his gospel plan. For those of us that accept scripture as a credible source of truth, there are numerous declarations in holy writ that put into question the natural ability of the natural man to discern the truth about spiritual things. Only those that enjoy the mystical support of the light of Christ and the Holy Ghost;
“the human heart is deceitful above all things and desperately wicked” (Jeremiah 17:9).
“Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths. (Proverbs 3:5-6)
“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.” (1 Corinthians 2:14)
“For the natural man is an enemy to God, and has been from the fall of Adam, and will be, forever and ever, unless he yields to the enticings of the Holy Spirit, and putteth off the natural man and becometh a saint through the atonement of Christ the Lord, and becometh as a child, submissive, meek, humble, patient, full of love, willing to submit to all things which the Lord seeth fit to inflict upon him, even as a child doth submit to his father.” (Mosiah 3:19)
The reason that her comments resonated so well with me is because over the years as I have had countless online and offline conversations with angry Mormons and exMormons who have suffered from a crisis of faith, I have noticed a pattern.
What I have noticed is that these angry people have ultimately weighed Joseph Smith, the LDS restoration, and ultimately, God, in the balance of their own limited understanding and found them wanting.
In short, they pass a final Judgment upon God and his work and cast them off as a thing of naught even though they are grossly under-qualified to do so, instead of humbly considering the possibility that perhaps they don’t have all of the facts and that perhaps their religious worldview is being nurtured by a darkened mind and simply not accurate.
What I have noticed almost without exception is that all of these people that Judge God and his work to be false, are what I would classify as “scriptural lightweights”. They have not extensively studied the word of God with a believing heart and thus, they have not received the manifestation of God’s spirit . Another possibility is that they have allowed their minds to become darkened after having had the manifestation of God’s spirit..
Ultimately, after declaring themselves to be experts and having declared the LDS restoration to be a fraud, the truth is that they have spent the lion’s share of their time studying all of the logical, rational and scientific arguments to the contrary, and have spent precious little time searching the scriptures in depth, by the power of the Holy Ghost.
I would be willing to bet that people like John Dehlin and Jeremy Runnells have spent 100 times more energy and time studying anti-Mormon criticisms than the scriptures. I know it is distasteful for me to call out people by name and to make such an accusation, and I hate to do it, but these two characters and many others have set themselves up as “experts” in declaring God and the LDS restoration to be fraudulent, so they are fair game.
I know, that makes me sound just as judgmental about them as they are about God and his work but these types of people are going about trying to destroy souls so I make no apologies for this confrontation.
My point is that as I have conversed with lots of angry anti’s over the years, and tried to explain to them why the hidden treasures of knowledge that I have mined from God’s word trump the scientific arguments that skeptics pose, but I can tell that they don’t comprehend what I am talking about because they are unfamiliar with God’s word and have rendered themselves unable to discern the spiritual things of God because of a darkened mind.
I have noticed that they have just as big of a disconnect with the scriptural evidence in favor of God and his work that I present to them, as I have with their science that they use to discredit the existence of God and his work.
During these conversations, the thought that continually takes place in my mind is that these angry people are not qualified to judge God or Joseph Smith, or the controversial events of the LDS restoration movement because their accumulation of contextual evidence from the scriptures can fit into a thimble.
Years ago I made the following observations in a post:
The more you know about the scriptures and God’s plan, the more you realize just how much you don’t know. Hence, true spiritual knowledge breads humility by revealing just how little one really knows about God and his plan.
Does that make sense?
Imagine a small circle on a very very very large chalk board. Now consider everything inside the small circle as depicting the amount of accurate knowledge that you have acquired about God and his plan and consider everything on the outside of the circle as representing the accurate knowledge you have not yet learned.
Notice how insignificant the inside area looks compared to the outside area… and yet your perception of how much you don’t know is small because the only context you have is the outer edge of the circular line, not the entire amount of space outside the circular line.
Now make the circle significantly bigger.
Notice that even though the knowledge you have gained, represented by the space on the inside of the circle is even greater than before, the outer part of the circle touching the outside area of the circular line, is also bigger. Because of this, you are capable of comprehending to a much greater extent just how vast the area of knowledge is that is yet un-comprehended.
This is why the greater the spiritual knowledge a person has, the greater their awe and humility should be regarding just how much they don’t yet understand.
I have found that the more knowledge I gain, the more humble and insignificant and ignorant I feel before God because the more I know, the more I am able to comprehend how much I don’t know.
I realize I don’t come off sounding that way sometimes in the articles that I post and particularly when I get into a pissing match with people that want to argue with me over the existences of God, the LDS restoration, polygamy, etc. but within my own relationship with God, I truly feel like I have very little knowledge.
The cold hard fact of the matter is that someone with a small circle of knowledge can quickly ascertain when they are having a discussion with someone whose circle of knowledge is even smaller and it is easy to become impatient and frustrated when such people are presenting themselves as being more knowledgeable than they really are.
A truly knowledgeable person regarding the things of God appreciates the following declaration by God
For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the Lord.
A truly humble and knowledgeable person is puzzled and in awe when they are confronted with a scriptural doctrine or historical event that is difficult to understand. Instead of using it to make a rash judgment, they see it as an opportunity for further study. It is an opportunity to mine a pearl of great price by studying the issue more intensely with a believing heart. I have found that many of the difficult historical events I have come across, when studied, have led to a much greater understanding of the magnificent work of God.
Are Atheists Lyers?
The second youtube that I chose to view for about five minutes during my bout with insomnia was a presentation by a Christian Apologist who apparently teaches at an academy for Apologia.
He made mention of the “myth of Neutrality” which I totally agree with. I do not think there is anyone who is completely neutral and unbiased when considering virtually any philosophical or religious topic.
I have come to believe that every spirit born into this probationary experience comes with a bias toward belief in God’s word or against God’s word when they reach the age of accountability.
It was only after I realized this that I became comfortable with the following snippet from the Book of Mormon:
But behold, if ye will awake and arouse your faculties, even to an experiment upon my words, and exercise a particle of faith, yea, even if ye can no more than desire to believe, let this desire work in you, even until ye believe in a manner that ye can give place for a portion of my words. (Alma 32:27)
Back when I thought that it was a possibility and a virtue to be neutral and unbiased when searching the scriptures and determining the truthfulness of the restored gospel, I was very uncomfortable with the above scripture because it seemed to border on using mine control and indoctrination techniques that are often used by religious cults.
Once I realized that everyone that comes into this world comes with an innate desire to believe or disbelieve, I realized that the above passage was simply revealing the lowest common denominator between those that can believe and those that don’t. Having a desire to believe is the starting point.
For those struggling to have faith, I would simply echo the above sentiment. If you can no more than desire to believe, let this desire work in you even until ye believe in a manner that he can have place for a portion of God’s words.
At another part of the presentation, the presenter posed the following question which was really unsettling to me:
“In terms of Christian apologetics we need to ask ourselves the question; are we going to believe what the unbeliever actually says about themselves or what God says about them..”
He then quoted the following passage from the first chapter in Romans to prove that EVERYONE one on this earth has categorically had the existence of God revealed to them and therefore, those that claim to be atheists are simply liars and are left without excuse despite how much they know about God, the Gospel and the scriptures, etc..
18 For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men; who love not the truth, but remain in unrighteousness
My gut reaction to the above passage and the accusation that everyone claiming they don’t believe in God is a liar, is that his interpretation was problematic. It is not congruent with countless other passages including the following passage in Romans 10
13 For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved. How then shall they call on him in whom they have not believed? and how shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard? and how shall they hear without a preacher? Rom 10:13-14
My understanding of the above passage is that there are people who do not believe and the reason they don’t believe is because they have not heard about the Biblical God. Hence the need for preachers to be sent forth. Furthermore, I think it is possible for someone to hear a preacher and still not sincerely believe because they have not yet been blessed with the manifestation of the spirit.
But what about the passage of scripture in Romans 1 that the Christian apologist uses to condemn everyone who claims they do not believe in God?
Below I have put the KJV version of the passages next to the JST version of the passage. I have also provided a larger snippet of the chapter to provide a broader context of what was being said.
|JST Romans 1:16-22||KJV Romans 1:16-22|
|16 For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ; for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek.
17 For therein is the righteousness of God revealed through faith on his name; as it is written, The just shall live by faith.
18 For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men; who love not the truth, but remain in unrighteousness,
19 After that which may be known of God is manifest to them.
21 Because that, when they knew God, they glorified him not as God, neither were they thankful, but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish hearts were darkened.
22 Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools.
|16 For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek.
17 For therein is the righteousness of God revealed fromfaith to faith: as it is written, The just shall live by faith.
18 For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who hold the truth in unrighteousness;
19 Because that which may be known of God is manifest in them; for God hath shewed it unto them.
20 For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse:21 Because that, when they knew God, they glorified himnot as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened.
22 Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools,
As you can see, the passage is referring to those that “remain in unrighteousness, after that which may be known of God is manifest to them.”
The above passages are speaking about someone that God has previously manifested himself to and then has allowed their minds to become darkened. It is not referring to someone who has never experienced the manifestation of God.
It is because they once had the spiritual knowledge of God and then turned from it, that they are left without excuse.
As I read the above passages I remembered that the phrase “left without excuse” is used in modern revelation and I did a keyword search to see if God’s word requires more to be “left without excuse”.
81 Behold, I sent you out to testify and warn the people, and it becometh every man who hath been warned to warnhis neighbor.
82 Therefore, they are left without excuse, and their sins are upon their own heads.
6 For, behold, I am about to call upon them to give heed to the light and glory of Zion, for the set time has come to favor her.
7 Call ye, therefore, upon them with loud proclamation, and with your testimony, fearing them not, for they are as grass, and all their glory as the flower thereof which soon falleth, that they may be left also without excuse—
Two other passages also note that people must first be educated and warned before they are left without excuse (see also 101:93 and 123:6)
As you can see, modern revelation once again provides clarity to the Bible. In this case, we are informed what it really means to be left without excuse. The whole reason that our corrupt and unbelieving generation has not been wiped off the face of the earth is because there are lots of people who have not been adequately warned yet and they have not had the opportunity to have the gospel preached to the in the power of the spirit and thusly do not believe in the true God.
This is why the servants need to return in POWER and to testify of the truth in POWER. This last warning will leave EVERYONE without excuse.
I reject the notion that atheists are lying when they say they don’t believe in God. I reject the notion that “EVERYONE on this earth has categorically had the existence of God revealed to them and therefore, those that claim to be atheists are simply liars and are left without excuse”.