The method for gaining spiritual knowledge likewise relies on a premise being testing and consistently giving a good or bad result. Faith is rewarded when we get a continually good result.
Truth Through Enlightenment, Not Feelings – One of the purposes of prayer is to ask for a witness of truth, and this happens through enlightenment rather than emotion. If someone prays about the Book of Mormon and is touched with enlightenment, then they will know Joseph Smith was a prophet because he produced it, and then they will know through simple deduction that the church is true. Truth is confirmed not through feelings but through enlightenment and the other positive effects of following that model for truth.
“And now, behold, because ye have tried the experiment, and planted the seed, and it swelleth and sprouteth, and beginneth to grow, ye must needs know that the seed is good… for ye know that the word hath swelled your souls, and ye also know that it hath sprouted up, that your understanding doth begin to be enlightened, and your mind doth begin to expand.
O then, is not this real? I say unto you, Yea, because it is light; and whatsoever is light, is good, because it is discernible, therefore ye must know that it is good.”
Different Amounts Of Truth – But if usefulness is what is important, then why aren’t more people enlightened about spiritual truth? CES Letter points out:
“This is the best God can come up with in revealing His truth to His children? Only .2% of the world’s population are members of God’s true Church. This is God’s model and standard of efficiency?”
There are thousands of religions because everybody has a slightly different model for spiritual truth and God. Why would you expect everyone to come to the exact same conclusions? It is a deep and complex issue. With gravity, the formula is very simple: F=ma. When it comes to spirituality–our pre-existence, the afterlife, our purpose in life, and the individual relates to society–it is much more complicated and the truth is much more difficult to observe.
Mormons, of course, do not claim to have an exclusive claim to truth. All religions have some pieces of the puzzle, and all members of religions are different as well. It is bizarre logic to think that everyone who doesn’t hear about and join the church is a total failure. Nobody thinks that.
How many people are atheists? Only 16% of the world population is unaffiliated with a specific religion. Let’s use the same logic as CES Letter here: If atheism were the way to go, wouldn’t more people realize it? Wouldn’t atheist countries like the Soviet Union and Mao’s China prosper instead of collapsing?
Look at how happy and prosperous Utah is. Recently, Provo Utah was named the best economically producing city in the United Sates. By their fruit ye shall know them. Sure, you could point out flaws, but in general Utah is a much better place to live than atheist 1940’s Soviet Union. Denying enlightenment leads to depression, anger, and misery. Living gospel principles and following God’s commandments leads to joy and prosperity. In the Book of Mormon, there were times when the Lamanites who were ignorant of the gospel lived the principles better than the Nephites did. Likewise, there are plenty of instances and plenty of communities in the world that follow God’s commandments better, even if they don’t have as much of a direct priesthood connection to Christ as Mormons do.
Not All Truth Can Be Proven – One principle of quantum mechanics is that some things cannot be observed because the experiment is comprimised the moment you observe it. With obvious things like gravity, you can give a convincing explanation for how the theory of gravity explains why things fall down, and you can reason why two plus two equals four, but how do you prove which model for justice is superior? How do you prove laws of morality, or how the universe was created? With some things, all you can say is “this is what makes me happy,” and suggest others try it for themselves.
Atheists always fall back on the “you can’t prove it” argument because they are too afraid to step away from only what they can see or what popular culture makes them feel comfortable with. They limit themselves, not just about which church is true, but with every concept that you can’t see, such as ideology of love and justice.
CES Letter Logical Fallacies
|Falsehood||CES Letter repeats their earlier argument that there are multiple conflicting First Vision accounts (as if it has anything to do with this subject). “Praying about the First Vision: Which account is true?” The First Vision accounts do not conflict.|
|Religious issues are much more complex than simple scientific truths like gravity, and much harder to observe, so it follows logically that there would be many religions.|
|Non-Sequitur||CES Letter claims: “Praying about the truthfulness of the Book of Mormon does not follow that the LDS Church is true.” What? Does that sentence make sense? I guess, what CES Letter is trying to say here is that the Book of Mormon does not determine whether the LDS church is true. Actually, yes it does. Joseph Smith was clearly the person who produced the Book of Mormon and the LDS church is clearly the church Joseph Smith created.|
|Strawman Fallacy||God’s method of revealing truth is not through feelings. The whole point of life is not to have knowledge but to gain faith. CES Letter complains that all religions don’t believe the exact same thing, but what person on earth believes exactly the same thing as someone else?|
|Bandwagon||CES Letter points out that few people in the world are LDS, but how many people are atheists?|
|Just because you can’t see something doesn’t mean it isn’t true.|
|CES Letter puts together a string of negative phrases in order to create disassociation: A) Not all religious people are Mormons. B) Not all people who believe the Book of Mormon are LDS. C) Therefore, LDS people are totally different from other religious people.|
|False Dilemma||Mormons do not think everything they believe that is different from someone else is the only valid belief.|
Have you ever talked to someone who gives only negative responses to every suggestion you give to fix a problem, and they don’t offer any suggestions themselves? Do you know how frustrating that is? That’s what I feel when I talk to atheists who use this argument. They are so obsessed with “truth,” and they talk so much about science, but even the most sound science is just assumptions, models for truth based on what works. The point is not what is true but what works. So when atheists should down everything because that isn’t “truth,” they are not acting scientifically.
The reason there are many religions is because everyone is different themselves, and they use spirituality for different purposes. Why are there so many kinds of automobiles? Some pople get trucks to go off-roading, and some people get sedans to commute to work. And how many automobiles of the same brand look exactly the same? Why would the fact that so many variations of automobiles exist mean that automobiles are inferior methods of transporation?
Yet some cars are better than others. For the purpose of exaltation, there is logically one supreme way, because there is one creator of the universe and one supreme force that we communicate with and seek to emulate.
Atheists complain about “God’s model and standard of efficiency,” but what do they propose as an alternative? It sounds like what they want is for no need to believe in anything, for no difference in belief to exist, no diversity of opinion.
Mormons do not mind being only 0.2% of the world’s population. We think it is important for people to have the freedom to believe what they wish. If God suddenly appeared and ordered people to believe the exact same thing, that would destroy free agency and make God a tyrannt. Mormons do not think everyone else is wrong, and we don’t think that we are right about everything. We just think we have additional inspired scripture and a priesthood structure that provides additional inspiration and authorized ordinances. These purpose of these ordinances are not to exclude people from heaven, but to act as vital and important steps we take to build our spiritual knowledge and virtue.
Diversity of thought and freedom of conscience are not very efficient, it’s true. Satan’s Plan is extremely efficient, where everybody is compelled to fall in line and believe the exact same thing, but Satan’s plan does not make people godly. This is a basic concept of Mormonism, the need for free agency in God’s plan versus Satan’s plan. Those who follow social justice and seek universal salvation follow Satan’s plan, a model where we don’t get a period of probation, we are not reliant on faith, we do not prove our integrity, everything is force-fed to us, and we follow a supreme ruler who does not actually give us any way to progress.
So yes, Satan’s plan is certain efficient, united, in a pleasantly fascistic sort of way isn’t it, while diversity of beliefs makes it easy to divide people. This is why skeptics try to divide all religious people, telling us that we oppose each other; the classic “divide and conquer” tactic. The RLDS believed something similar to Mormons back in 1975, therefore there are a whole lot of different kinds of Mormons who oppose each other… give me a break!
Aren’t the diversity of earth’s religions and the diversity of thought among Mormons evidence that they are on the right track? Good scientists frequently disagree. Wise sages often disagree–though I think if the Dalai Lama and Mormon prophet got together they would find 99.9% common ground. I prefer this kind of pursuit of truth to the alternative model where everyone must believe exactly the same thing, or a model where anything goes, where it doesn’t matter what you believe.