Sunday, January 24, 2016

Faith and Doubt: Opposites or Companions?

This week on Facebook I posted something that I had been thinking for quite some time. It went thus : "Faith and doubt are not opposed; they are internally connected. One needs doubt in order to have faith." While many of my religious friends liked the remark and applauded it, some said that it was contradictory. This stems in part from the saying in the 6th chapter focusing on Christlike Attributes in the missionary manual Preach My Gospel "Doubt and fear are opposed to faith." Whoever wrote this sentence knows nothing of either doubt or faith, and if he does he is very confused.

First, what is Faith? According to the Book of Mormon prophet Alma "faith is not to have a perfect knowledge of things; therefore if ye have faith ye hope for things which are not seen, which are true." As St. Paul puts it in his epistle to the Hebrews "Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen." In short then, Faith is belief that is held without absolute proof; if a person knew something for sure then there would be no need for faith. Faith then could be stated as "While I do not know for sure, I choose to believe such and such for reasons that are not proof, but make an idea plausible to me." Thus it takes great faith to believe in the Resurrection of the dead, but it takes no faith at all to know that death will come.

Second, what is doubt? If we can trust the definition given in the Oxford Dictionary, it is " A feeling of uncertainty or lack of conviction." Thus to doubt something is to say "I am not sure" or "I do not know". This is not to say that doubt is passive or resigned antipathy; it can be used as a fuel to come to know something for certain. For instance, because of the doubt that Joseph Smith, Jr. had about which church was correct, he kept searching for evidence until he eventually had an answer.

Finally, are doubt and faith mutually exclusive as Preach My Gospel states, or are they compatible as free will and determinism are? Answer: Faith and doubt are compatible. In fact, in order to have faith, one must have doubt because faith is belief without absolute proof. Since there is not absolute proof for the assertion of what one has faith in, doubt will inevitably exist because one does not know for sure. As long as faith exists, so will doubt.

The real question is not can faith and doubt co-exist at the same time; that is clearly demonstrated if one understands the definitions given. The real question is whether we should aspire to be people of faith. The answer to that is also clear: No. We should seek to be people of knowledge rather than people of faith. While some may disagree with that at first glance, think upon a common testimony meeting. In those meetings, you do not often (if ever hear) " I have faith that there is a God and Jesus is the Christ". Rather, you hear " I know that God lives. I know that Jesus is the Christ." This is not an appeal to faith; this is a statement of knowledge. If someone had said the former statement, there would be questioning of the persons testimony.

As David Hume said in his essay Of Miracles "A wise man [woman] proportions his [her] belief to the evidence." The evidence of scripture and of reason seem to point in favor the belief that one can have great faith and great doubt, and that used together through experiment and searching can lead to knowledge, which is what ultimately will save humanity (Doctrine & Covenants 130 19-20. 

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Mormon Discussion Podcast

A few months ago, I sat down and interviewed with Bill Reel, host of the Mormon Discussion Podcast. I find Bill to be a kind, knowledgeable gentleman and a good advocate of thoughtful, faithful Mormonism. Here is the link to the podcast, be sure to comment below with what you think.

Podcast link:

Sunday, January 17, 2016

How to Choose a Presidential Candidate

Now that 2016 is here, it means many things. For those of us who are 18 years old and older, legal residents of the United States, and registered to vote, the time has come to choose a presidential candidate, who could potentially be our next commander-in chief. As the old cliche goes "This is the most important election you will ever vote in." The truth of the matter is that every election is the most important that you will ever vote in, because every 2 years (and every day) we are faced with this decision: Am I okay with the current direction of my country (state, county, district) or do I think we are headed in the wrong direction and it is time for a change? My MTC branch president stated on my last Sunday in the MTC "Elders, you can't complain if you don't vote." So, don't buy into the idea that your vote doesn't matter. If it didn't, would candidates spend millions of dollars trying to persuade you to vote for them?

This article is not to tell you whom you should vote for; that is a decision that you alone should make. It is to tell you what you should do before you make a decision on a candidate. Many voters, after a candidate has been elected, become surprised at the candidates actions. This is because they did not do the proper research on the candidate and only followed soundbites of commercials. Do yourself a favor and become an informed voter. I will list 3 ways that you can do that here:

1) Become acquainted with what you believe. It will not matter what others believe if you yourself do not know what you believe. Discover what your core principles and beliefs are, and then see how they align with political ideology such as conservatism, liberalism, libertarianism, socialism, centrism, etc. It may be that you align strongly with one of these ideologies, or it may be that you are a mix of several of them. That is fine; many people find that there is something in one or more ideologies that suit there beliefs. Once you understand where your philosophical belief and commitment is, it will be easier to understand where you would align policy wise. A good resource for figuring out your political ideology would be this quiz, which is non-partisan and covers a variety of issues.

2) Find out what the candidates running believe. Do not trust what others have said about them, go to their websites and do the research to find out what their agenda for America will be should they get elected. Do not be superficial either; beyond what they believe see if they have fought for what they believe. It is is easy to believe something, it is considerably more difficult to stand for something. Since I am writing this on a Sunday, I will use a religious example to support my premise. Many of my friends who are religious outside of Utah say that they strongly believe in God and Jesus, but fail to attend church on Sunday. Thus their belief in not reflected in their conduct. Likewise, although a politician may say they believe in something, it is far more important to see what he/she has done with that belief. As St. James puts it "Faith without works is dead."

3) Read Article Two of the Constitution. This is the article that lists the powers of the chief executive. The reason you need to be very acquainted with this article is because when you are researching candidates, it would be extremely helpful to know whether or not they understand what their job entails, and if their promises can match reality. You will find that while the President of the United States is supposed to be a strong leader, the constitution does not give him the power of an all-powerful king. Often a candidate will say "If I am elected I will..." and your question should be "If elected, would you have the power to do that?"

While there are numerous other aspects of being an informed voter, if you do these things you are off to a great start. Remember, this is the most important election you will ever vote in, and it pays even greater dividends to society and yourself if you are an informed voter.

Friday, January 1, 2016

How to Make Your New Year's Resolutions Realities

First, I want to apologize to my readers for not publishing as much lately. I have been caught up with school, work, finals, etc. But, I am a man on a mission who does not make excuses, and one of my resolutions for this upcoming year is to publish at least once per week, so I am starting that this week.

Second, I want to wish all of my readers a happy and prosperous new year. Perhaps the year 2015 was among the best years of your life, perhaps it was in the middle, or it may have been the case for you that 2015 was a year that you wish had never occurred. Or a mixture of the three. Whatever the case may be, 2015 is over. Look back on the year and remember the embers of the year, but do not wallow in the ashes. As one of the prostitutes in the classical film Forrest Gump put it "You get to start all over. Everyone gets a second chance." That is true for everyone in 2016.

Common to this time of year is to come up with a list of things that you wish to change in the upcoming year, commonly called "New Year's Resolutions." While people may mock them due to the fact that it is highly likely that many of the courses of action will be abandoned within a matter of days, the fact that many people make them is a sign that people have enough of a perspective to know that their life is not perfect and there are ways that they can improve it, even if only slightly. So, if you are among the many who made a list of resolutions, congratulations. Now lets find a way to find make those resolutions realities.

First and foremost, write the list down and have it recorded as a point of reference. A list is of no use if you cannot remember where the list is. This will also make the job of making the resolution a reality by seeing it and thinking about it. It may also bring about discouragement if the list is not being fulfilled as quickly as you might have hoped. That is fine; discouragement can become an encouragement if you let it. Have the list posted in at least three places so you can see it and remember it from today until December 31, 2016.

Second, remember that these resolutions are called "New Years' Resolutions" and not "Today's Resolutions." Many people make goals that require time and patience (an example would be losing weight), and that means an understanding that what you want to accomplish will take time, probably longer than you originally planned. As these are New Year's Resolutions, you have the entirety of the year to make them realities. Remember that as you look upon your list; you do have time to make it a reality. Don't quit just because at the end of this week everything has not happened. Change takes time; meaningful change takes even longer. If the resolution was worth writing down, it is worth seeing through until the end.

Third, have an accountability partner whom you share your list with and whom will check in occasionally (perhaps once a month) to see how you are doing. Change is hard, but it is even harder to do alone. Don't make it harder on yourself when it is not necessary; you have enough challenges in life to deal with on your own. Find yourself someone you trust and someone who will push you when necessary. This may be uncomfortable at times, but when December 31, 2016 comes around and your resolutions have become realities you will be ever thankful that this person stuck with you and you stuck by your resolutions.

Finally and perhaps most importantly, do not be afraid to make adjustments. As any fan of sports (especially college football) knows, adjustments are what separate good teams from great teams. Perhaps you made a resolution that is not reasonable or doable in the time that is allotted. That is fine, it shows discernment to be able to understand that you need to change plans in order to achieve them all. If this is the case, cross out the resolution which is not achievable and replace it with a more attainable one. Make sure to report this to the person to whom you are accountable as well so that they know that a change has occurred. A word of caution however, do not take this to mean that you should simply make easy goals for the new year. What is meant is that you should burden yourself with many goals the size of Mount Everest. Make some resolutions that are simple that can be implemented today, some that may take a month to get in the hang of, and some that are perhaps life-time commitments. Ask your accountability partner if your list is attainable for you, and if not then simplify it.

To close, I am letting all my readers know what my resolutions are. I attempted all the above suggestions in making a list, so lets hope that by December 31, 2016 they are all realities. Here is my list: 1) Arise at 6:30 AM each day 2) Limit myself to one hour of Netflix/Video Games to one hour per day (unless it is a date) 3) Read one book per week (if over 350 pages 2 weeks) and write a review of the book on Amazon and on the blog 4) Write a blog post once per week 5) Read 12 pages of scripture per day 6) Save half of my paycheck (after tithing) 7) Write in my journal each day 8) Go on a date each week 9) Donate plasma twice per week 10) Attend the temple weekly

Some of these adjustments have already been implemented, others will take longer to implement. But I am confident all will become realities by the end of the year. Just a final reminder: 1. Write the list down 2. Be patient and remember you have the full year to implement the changes 3) Have a accountability partner 4) Make adjustments when necessary.

Have a happy new year.