The Truth Test

The more time goes by, the less most church history issues bother me, but the more some of what I would term “bigger picture” issues trouble me. I’ve already discussed this a little bit, but I wanted to talk about one particular “big picture” issue I am struggling with. I recently was reminded of this issue in the book Standing for Something More by Lyndon Lamborn. He was excommunicated from the LDS church for sharing freely the things he felt the church was hiding: ugly aspects of church history and religion. I mentioned him earlier when I posted a link to the recording of his excommunication.

Lyndon talks about how the “truth test” in Mormonism is unreliable. In Mormonism this “truth test” can best be summarized by Moroni 10:4-5, “And when ye shall receive these things, I would exhort you that ye would aask God, the Eternal Father, in the name of Christ, if these things are not btrue; and if ye shall ask with a csincere heart, with dreal intent, having efaith in Christ, he will fmanifest the gtruth of it unto you, by the power of the Holy Ghost. And by the power of the Holy Ghost ye may aknow the btruth of all things.” These scriptures are still beautiful to me, and I am not trying to discredit them or be demeaning, I am merely talking about a current struggle I am having surrounding this idea that the H.G. can testify truth to you, and that this is a reliable way to know if something is true.

So what is the problem with this method? Well, people from all religions experience these burning in the bosom type feelings that affirm to them that their religion is true, or that Jesus saved them, Allah is the supreme ruler, or whatever their particular religion teaches. People also experience these same feelings while reading good fictional books that definitely are not true. Lydon’s point is that this feeling, that we are interpreting as the Spirit or God telling us something is true, is not a reliable test of whether something is true or not.

That kind of shakes me up a bit. A lot of the foundation of my testimony was a good feeling at girl’s camp here and a great feeling at a conference there. These little experiences largely form the base of my belief in the LDS church, and in God. But if I had been raised in any other religion would I have experienced the same feelings, the same answers to prayer, the same warm-burning-filled-with-lightandjoy sensations that I have experienced as a Mormon, only experienced those feelings as testaments of the other religion? From what I am reading, the evidence seems to suggest I would have. And if these experiences are universal, and not necessarily linked with truth, then how can I think that my experience is somehow an exception to that?

This is my struggle at the moment.

The fallout of this is that we must rely on other, more reliable, tests of truth, like the scientific method.

But then, after a couple days of thinking about this, I started getting sad. That’s what always seems to happen. When I believe, I feel great. When I start wondering if there is no God, and if my religion is basically false, I feel a lot of sorrow. Maybe that is just a normal part of the process of letting go of something I held dear. Maybe it will get better; lots of people, like Chris (click here to see my previous post about Chris), seem to suggest that it will get better.

What I worry about is that Mormonism, and my belief in God and an afterlife which are so central to Mormonism, is too core and important a part of who I am. I worry that if I let go of it, I won’t ever find the level of happiness I had before. Ricardo has a really hard time relating to this, since for him he has found the same happiness outside of the church as he had in it. He really has. It’s a little different, but he is equally happy. He lost a few things–like the peace of feeling certain about an afterlife, but he also gained other things–like additional autonomy, which has brought him more peace and happiness. I have experienced this additional happiness from autonomy, from feeling like I really do get to decide what I think and how I feel about everything, rather than looking to the prophets or my parents for guidance of many things. However, for me, this additional happiness has been pretty limited, where the joy I had in the church was exponentially larger than this new joy I have found. I guess you could summarize it by saying that I worry that I traded down as far as my own personal happiness is concerned.

But then, I can’t just believe something just because it makes me happy, right? That would be like believing in Santa still…Christmas would be extra exciting, but is it really worth it? I kind of need to feel like there is more to the Mormon story than there is to the Santa story to stick with it. And some days I still really do believe there is more to the Mormon story. My heart tells me there is. But then, my heart once rejoiced in Santa too… If you really sit me down and ask me, do Iย reallyย think there is something true about Mormonism, or even do I really think there is a God, in both cases it sadly still just depends on the day you ask me. And that is making mi vida a little loca…and I’m not talking about la Vida Loca that Ricky Martin talks about either…

Ricardo says that ultimately I just am making too big a deal out of it. The important thing is just living a good life and finding happiness in life, and you technically should be able to do that even if you have no idea if there is something after this…technically. I, however, am failing at this. The problem is that my religion was A BIG DEAL for me, it maybe was even THE BIGGEST deal of everything in my life. So telling me to make it less important somehow just doesn’t even sound possible. But maybe it is.

I suppose I am still looking for the truth, and I’m just not sure what to trust. I’m still searching for the best possible solution, and that just still is not totally clear to me.

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6 Responses to The Truth Test

  1. Jennifer says:

    love you Alicia. I know this is tough. I sent you a bunch of stuff in your email and I think in my notes from Hitchens I mentioned some thoughts about the happiness conversation you and I had on the way back from the reunion last year. You gave me lots to think about. I guess I realized that living a character-building (I do think character building activities are important for happiness even if they aren’t very happy in the short term), happy, giving life can be done even without religion. HItchens kept challenging me with his question about what would religion be able to do that say a good humanist (maybe part of a community of good doers who encourage each other in doing well) could not. I’m impressed with all the good and happiness that is all over the world even for people who don’t believe; life works! I would have to say that the biggest thing religion has to offer is God’s help in it all–like the story in conference of Corrie Ten Boom needing to shake the hand of one of the concentration camp guys years before who had harmed her and didn’t remember her but that she remembered well and wanting to forgive him but literally being unable to extend her hand and then pleading with God for help forgiving and being filled with love for this man. Self-fulfilling prophecy–maybe, or maybe not. But I experienced something similar in high school with a coach that had to put up with me on her team and in many ways growing toward ideals that hItchens would call abusive is possible IMO with God. Certainly if salvation is real it could not be done without God and for me that means his ordinances too, since IMO he let’s us participate in offering salvation too. I’m sure that if you choose not to believe that life can still be wonderful, freer even. But if you want to believe I personally wouldn’t let the ambiguity of answers from prayers (including the issues you’ve presented) stop you from reaching out to God. Let him know of your skepticism, of your desire to not deceive yourself and whatever else is there in your heart. I think he can work with it and in time you may find belief in a greater and stronger beauty returning. Either way I pray for your peace and happiness! You’re a thoughtful tender hearted woman!

    • crooks14 says:

      Hey Jenny!

      I will read through the info you sent me when I get a chance. Thanks for sending it! I read through one of the articles but I am still working on it ๐Ÿ™‚ So I love your belief and I love your inspiration and I appreciate the way that comes through in your comment. I do struggle with one thing though, and this is always the reason that I still struggle to pray. I want to believe God exists, and I think I probably would hear his guidance to me over time–I imagine I would since I did before. But…how do I know if what I am hearing is actually from God and not just from inside my own head? I like the idea of bringing my fears and skepticism to God and my desire to not deceive myself and hoping he will work with that…the problem is, if there is no God, then I am just telling God I don’t want to deceive myself, and then deceiving myself into thinking I am not deceived ๐Ÿ™‚

      I am not saying I don’t believe in God. It’s just that it scares me that people do have the same powerful experiences, that help them feel their religion is true, in all religions. And that makes it seem like the experiences I have had, may not be confirmations of truth at all. Does that make sense?

      I am starting to wonder if it is ultimately going to just come down to whether I want to trust my personal spiritual experiences anyway…I still want to, and, to me, they are a type of evidence in and of themselves.

      My thoughts are still pretty jumbled on this. I need to keep thinking and keep reading. I want to pray too, sometimes I really do, but I just don’t know how to really do it when I am worried it is all just in my head. It seems kind of pointless…even if I got an answer, how do I know whether to trust it or not?

  2. Jennifer says:

    your concerns make sense. It doesn’t really surprise me that people have those experiences in their churches. I’ve felt what I perceive to be the spirit in other churches; and certainly the spirit is there to testify of truth wherever truth is I suppose: in the Bible, the Book of Mormon, the Koran, the Vedas, and mostly wherever their is sincere and honest worship/service (which is really a form of worship in my mind because the God I believe is worshiped by serving others as well), and not worship to get personal gain/praise of men (just because the Lord talked to Joseph Smith about the abundant priest craft in the churches around him we are exempt from it). It’s hard to interpret for sure. What was the intended message? What is God exactly telling us? If something resonates with us is it because we sense it is good (and it’s fascinating to me how we can give moral dilemmas to people around the world and they will basically come up with the same solutions)? Is it because psychologically it confirms what we want to be true? Because of this ambiguity, I haven’t had a lot of luck with the ask a question and wait for a feeling idea. I’m afraid of self-delusion.

    For me only relying on empirical evidence has it’s own problems. If the universe or universes could not create themselves out of nothing, then I reason it must have a purpose after all, and though empirical research can tell us much about ourselves and this universe it doesn’t tell us the why in my opinion. So, I guess what I have had luck with personally is studying it out in my mind, learning from the wisdom of others (which for me includes present day prophets, scriptures, philosophy, good books, meditation (haven’t tried that a lot but prayer is kind of meditation), science (including empirical type stuff) etc.), while also praying and also paying attention to what seems to make sense, be beautiful, thoughts I have (though I really am usually not sure where those come from unless I’m pretty sure I couldn’t have figured that out by myself like when it goes the opposite of what I was thinking. but I’ve been blessed by people who have followed their inspiration in my behalf so I’m trying to learn that better), thing that resonate with me etc. It’s not an exact science but it’s a profoundly worthwhile journey for me. I think perhaps if you are skeptical enough and you pray, the only thing God may have to work for a while is your mind. However, He can help you to think clearer, to perceive things you wouldn’t otherwise perceive etc; and I don’t think he will really mind if you don’t see his part in this for a while. If there’s a God at all, and if He is the kind of person that doesn’t generally go around butting in uninvited, then it’s worth a try to invite him just in case in my opinion. I’m glad you had a lovely nature walk. I love you Alicia!

  3. Jennifer says:

    oh, I guess I should add that I find the idea of truth being either universal or only in one church a false dichotomy. I think it is both. It is all over the place and yet I find the idea of gathering people into one whole powerful. I also believe that there is a huge act of grace involved in what God can offer. To me this is shown in both ordinances and being annointed by God (an ordinance I guess). Jesus Christ as the anointed Savior makes the most sense to me of all other Gods I’ve studied and researched historically etc. And I love that as anointed Savior he deflected the attention away from himself ๐Ÿ™‚

  4. Santa may not be real, but some of the lessons Santa taught us are true. It feels good to give, and to receive. Anonymous gifts are a joy to the recipient, and the sender. His workshop may sink when the polar ice caps melt, but his spirit can live on ๐Ÿ™‚

    As far as good feeling = truth, well, you’ve done your homework.

    And as far as the universe not being able to arise out of nothing, well, you can only push that “prime mover” idea back so far. Eventually, you get to, yeah, but when did it, you know, START start? Science can only take us to moments after the big bang. Before that the science simply isn’t there. I could postulate that nothingness is, in itself, unstable, therefore there is something rather than nothing. Maybe the chance of the big bang spontaneously happening, Heisenberg-style, is a once in a quintillion year event, Or, going anthropomorphic, we exist, therefore something not nothing. Bottom line, these are untestable at present, so pick your theory. But not the Prime Mover thing, cuz what moved the Prime Mover, etc.
    Anyway, I love you too, and wish you well in your quest ๐Ÿ™‚

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