See No, Hear No, Speak No Good

Our prejudices about religion or other topics can keep us from hearing, seeing, or speaking good. Sometimes what others have – Mormon, Catholics, Evangelicals, whoever – might be remarkably praiseworthy, but it’s hard to admit that, hard to see that there is any logical reason to support any of the views that we don’t like. It’s a problem that affects us as much as anybody, and we need to constantly examine our assumptions and prejudices.

One little pet peeve of mine in this area deals with Book of Mormon evidences. Discussions of the details of the Book of Mormon, the witnesses, internal or external evidences, finding from the Arabian Peninsula and Mesoamerica, etc., are often dismissed as simply irrelevant and a waste of time, because Joseph Smith, so they say, was clearly a fraud because of polygamy or other issues and the Book of Mormon thus can’t possibly be true. When you refuse to consider evidence, when your mind is made up, nothing can get through the eyes or ears into the head. That burning spiritual indigestion in the heart closes all channels to the mind.

That doesn’t mean anyone has to pay any attention to the Book of Mormon or LDS claims. But those who are seeking to understand the Church, as well as all those step up to have conversations with us, to pose questions and make arguments, would do well, in my opinion, to move past their anti-testimony and open their mind. What if there really were gold plates and honest witnesses who saw and held them? What if Joseph really did translate the plates through the power of God – whether that involved looking into a Urim and Thummim in broad daylight or covering a seerstone in a hat and looking into it? What if there really was no way for Joseph Smith to have fabricated, say, First Nephi, with its accurate descriptions of travel through the Arabian Peninsula? What if, in spite of all the human flaws and failings of our modern prophets and other leaders, they really were part of a divine process of restoration? What if some of the creeds of modern Christianity really were influenced by Greek philosophy in ways that departed from the true understanding of God and Christ as understood by the earliest Christians, and what if there really was a loss of authority and some truth that required a restoration?

For those investigating the Church, I think it would be healthy to start by allowing for the possibility that it might be true, and begin with putting the Book of Mormon to the test.

The critics will naturally challenge us to return the favor and allow for the possibility that Joseph Smith was a fraud and that the Church is not true. Well, that’s where I began in seeking my own personal testimony. I was resolve not to stick with the Church if it was a fraud, no matter how wholesome the youth programs were and how seemingly good its teachings, because I didn’t want to waste my time (and money) here in mortality. I absolutely allowed for that possibility, and have many times since. A study of the Book of Mormon is what gave me my own personal witness of the reality of the Church, and there has been much that has happened since then that has helped me to see the hand of the Lord in the restored Gospel of Jesus Christ (along with a lot of mortal smudge marks, to be sure).

Meanwhile, as we deal with other Christians and those of any other faith, including those who don’t believe in God, common assumptions we may make will frequently need updating when we look past our prejudices and see what they really have. We do not have a monopoly on truth, nor do we own the patent on goodness, family love, caring for the poor, or Christian living. There is so much to learn from others, if we’ll just give them a chance to share.

Author: Jeff Lindsay

83 thoughts on “See No, Hear No, Speak No Good

  1. It has been clinically proven that our minds suppress information that does not fit our world view.

    About 85% percent of people stick with the same religion their parents gave them.

    Do you, Mr. Lindsay, really believe you are so clever as to avoid the trap 85% of us fall into. Assuming the Church of JCLDS is correct, what are the chances you would just happen to have been born into it? About 500 to 1.

    Even if you keep your eyes wide open, they still play tricks on you. My parent’s religion makes more sense (to me) than any other religion. But I refuse to accept that religion, simply because I do not have faith in my own objectivity.

  2. So what DO you have faith in? Everyone believes in something, even if that something is the meaninglessness of existence. If you truly do not believe in your own abillity to reason, how do you function without descending to some Foucautian life dominated by “the will to power”?

  3. So logically, the truest religion would have to have the highest percentage of converts from other churches.

    Looks like it’s either us(mormons), or scientologists. Take your pick!

  4. The burden of proof is not on the one asking the questions. You and members of your church have a duty to present facts, and not rely on emotion or testimony that your way is the right way. “I know this is true” is not evidence. Some mormons really get peeved when they think bearing their testimony to a non-mormon will somehow make them see the light. That view is presumptuous and arrogant.

    Personally, I think all churches have truth. As the old saying goes: “All roads lead to Rome”.

  5. Great post, Jeff. Several years ago when we lived in Redmond, Washington, the Stake mission there had what they called a “Church-to-Church” program. Every other month, we hosted a fireside to which we would invite a minister from another faith to come and share their beliefs with us. They usually would present their beliefs in 30 to 45 minutes, and then have a brief question/answer session, followed by (of course) refreshments. Each fireside began and ended with prayer and a hymn. During the time this program was in place, we had a methodist minister, a Catholic priest, a Jehova’s Witness, a pastor from a large, local evangelical congregation (they were SHOCKED to get the invitation from us), a rabbi from a local synagogue, etc. These were very rewarding for us, and if I recall resulted in us being able to be involved in some interdenominational community service together.

    More than anything, it fostered understanding and helped those who attended them realize that while we have restored priesthood authority, etc., we don’t have a monopoly on truth or good will.

  6. I resonate with Russell’s sentiments here – that everyone must believe in something religious or secular. Face it, even atheism is a belief.

    Personally speaking, sometimes I do wonder what would have happened had I not ventured into the realms of secular philosophies like existentialism, nihilism etc. and other religions like Islam, Buddhism, Judaism Shintoism etc.

    In hind-sight, I now have a further and deeper appreciation of my faith in Jesus. It has taken me a few years to really grapple with what the Biblical message really is and shake off some of the religiosity that I tagged (consciously and subconsciously) with Christianity.

    Good post Jeff, I really like this one =)


  7. Russell: I haven’t found any religion worth my belief. I just accept that my life is mostly delusions and try to get on with it.

    Casual Mormon: Mormons (like all religious minorities) have a tremendous advantage in attracting converts. Mormons can proseltyze 98% of the American population, whereas mainline Christians have to work with 15%. Percentage-wise, the Mormonism is not growing as fast as it used to, and that rate will only slow as it becomes “mainstream.”

  8. I agree with your numbers. For the record, I was not being serious with my comment.

    Still, it strikes me as a shame that you are rejecting what “makes more sense” to you just because it’s what your parents believe. If your parents were atheist or agnostic, would you join a church simply to avoid becoming “one of the 85%”?

    I agree that our human brains are puny and our objectivity is questionable…but in the end, this is all we have to go on.

  9. Thanks for the valuable input from multiple sides. Appreciate it!

    By the way, the goofy photo includes two of my kids and a marvelous Christian friend of ours of another denomination (I consider all my kids marvelous Christians as well, for the record), taken yesterday while we were out doing some photos in the Appleton area. It was my son Benjamin’s idea.

    Whoa, look at the time. I’ve only got a few minutes left tonight for my longtime hobby: not collecting stamps. It’s been a favorite hobby of mine since I was about 16 and concluded that stamps have no intrinsic value and cost a lot of money for such small, mass-produced, and often marred objects.

  10. Atheism is a religion the way NOT collecting stamps is a hobby.

    Exactly! Arguing that atheists have no religious beliefs at all is like arguing that those who make a not-hobby of collecting stamps *do* nothing at all.

    Here’s a question that honestly puzzles me (no offense intended!):

    Is there something about atheism that makes its beliefs difficult to describe? So often it comes across as “whatever I feel like believing at this moment,” or “I don’t really know, but not what you believe,” or even, “something too sophisticated for someone who believes what you believe.”

    I’m not quite a big enough cynic to believe that these unflattering impressions are accurate for most atheists. However, it would be a lot easier to avoid them if there were something more precise to go off of than mere rejection of somebody else’s beliefs.

  11. Mr. Anonymous,

    Atheism takes the presupposition that there is no God. Most people assume that atheism belongs to the scientific realm – when it does not.

    The scientific principle only works within both naturalism and materialism. So, the scientific tool cannot say whether there is a God nor can it confirm that there isn’t a God. If it did: it would then be not science because subjects like faith, miracles and spirituality come into the equation. Science is merely a tool…

    Atheism can use the scientific tool to give evidence for its assumptions in the same way that Intelligent Design can use the scientific tool to give evidence for the assumption that this universe is designed!

    To reiterate: Atheism is ALSO a religion – because it takes the presupposition that there is no God – just as Christianity is a religion because it takes the presupposition that God exists.

  12. Mr. Anonymous,

    Also, most people mistake Atheism for Apathy and Lazy Thinking…

    Such is the curse of living a life of luxury within Western Culture. But notice that when individual or a collection of peoples, say a nation, comes to encounter a disaster in their lives, what do they then do? They instinctively look up and ask for help =)

  13. Mr. Anonymous,

    Just one more thing: if I could interest you with this?

    It’s a site called Bethinking – a Christian Apologetics website run by UCCF. The website has a collection of many great thinkers including Ravi Zaccharias, Michael Ramsden, Andrew Fellows Francis Schaeffer etc…

    Mr. Anonymous, I would love for you to follow the link and listen to some of the lectures. Pick any lecture that might be of interest to you and tell me what you think afterwards?


  14. The burden of proof is not on the one asking the questions. You and members of your church have a duty to present facts, and not rely on emotion or testimony that your way is the right way. “I know this is true” is not evidence. Some mormons really get peeved when they think bearing their testimony to a non-mormon will somehow make them see the light. That view is presumptuous and arrogant.

    The burden of proof is on the person to discover for themselves by faith in the answers that are given them then seeking out the answers through study and prayer. When you get your answers then you have a testimony to tell others about. Presenting facts or proofs may lead someone to seek out an answer from God but or they may just live by faith after that. I personally have never seen any thing that makes me believe in God and if I went on what I see in the world and the proofs MormonsChristians show I would be an Athists. Only after I had spiritual experences not of this world was I willing to follow Jesus Christ and His one true church. Yes many others have many truths and I still read as much as I can to help me answer more questions that I have about the Gospel.

  15. Mr. Anonymous,

    Ah. Is your issue with Mormonism? I might need to point out that I am not a Mormon, just a plain old Biblical Christian…

    If you are truly interested at looking at evidences for Christianity, then I am more than willing to explore with you. Mind you, my area of interests really lie within the realms of philosophy – the ‘whys’ behind the evidence. I am more than happy, if you are really up for it, to discuss… =)


  16. Mr Anonymous,

    You said: “But I refuse to accept that religion, simply because I do not have faith in my own objectivity”

    I take it from this statement that you side with the irrationalist’s camp? Does ‘objectivity’ exist outside of yourself? Or are you someone who sides with self-actualization and subjectivity?

  17. Biblical Christian? As if Mormons aren’t? As if Mormons don’t worship the very Jesus Christ that atoned for us in the Bible? As if we don’t read that inspired piece of scripture as well as the restored scripture that is The Book of Mormon.

  18. Hehe. Very good LDJames. Notice though that I said that I am a “plain old Biblical Christian”: the emphasis being that I take a subversive role… =)

    Seriously though, it seems Mr. Anonymous’s complaints lie within Mormonism rather than anything else – which is why I wanted to make it clear that I am not a Mormon =)

    The message of Biblical Christianity is a hard enough subject to unpack, let alone J Smith’s take on it! =P


  19. NM: The guy that posted right after you was a different anonymous. The fourth comment wasn’t me either. Maybe I should get an account.

    I don’t have a problem with more Mormonism any more than other religions. I just like this blog because it attracts smart people. But more to the point, if we assume there is a true religion, I don’t think God gave adequete tools to find it. Watching you guys spend hours debating over a single verse seems to prove that point.

    Russel: There is often a discrepency between what appears to the truth to us, and what we actually believe is true. When I go outside, the world looks flat to me. But I know that’s just an illusion. In the same way, I know that the consistency and accuracy of my parents’ beliefs are just an illusion. It’s about which part of the brain you trust.

  20. This hasn’t been the first time you have used that term. What about the August 4, 2007 post, comment 8-8-07 at 10:26 am among others? There has to be a different term for you to use. What about non-Mormon Christian? Ok, that was a joke but you catch my drift? We believe in and worship the same Biblical Christ just as much as you or other “non-Mormon” Christians do. Give me a break.

  21. Disclaimer: I tend towards verbosity. Also, while not a licensed psychologist, I did sleep at a Holiday Inn once.

    Anonymous started with: “It has been clinically proven that our minds suppress information that does not fit our world view.” Yes, and psychologists call this activity “denial.” Denial is useful for short term mental health survival as a coping method. However, for most people in denial (due to unusually stressful circumstances), the mind has other excellent methods of incorporating new facts into a set world view. It is only when denial persists long after reconciliation should have taken place that mental harm (psychosis) can occur.

    “You… have a duty to present facts.” Agreed. But what happens when the facts are presented (see Nahom) and then ignored or dismissed out-of-hand by those who would claim objectivity but hide behind the façade of postmodern theory (truth is subjective, no one can truly know anything)? For all you know, this is all some virtual reality existence that you’re currently participating in with false, implanted memories and histories. We are in the Matrix and unaware. How can you prove the Matrix does NOT exist?

    The burden of proof is on the individual looking for proof. You start out with a theory and then you collect evidence (where possible) and conduct experiments (where applicable). If the theory does not match the evidence or data from the experiment, then you refine the theory and try again.

    I am a convert to “Mormonism.” I looked at the Book of Mormon. The BoM exists—the only question then becomes “how did it come to exist?” The more I examined it, the more apparent it became that Joseph Smith could not have written it. Either it came about the way he said it did, or someone else wrote it as fiction and JS was a con artist of the highest caliber—even getting a bunch of people to claim they saw and handled gold plates. For me, the sheer physical-ness of the BoM (structure, content, consistency) convinced me of the reality of JS’s story.

    So, I became “intellectually convinced” of the authenticity of the BoM. I still struggled to accept the spiritual realm. I was raised as an engineer—if it could not be expressed on paper then it could not exist. So I tried an experiment—I prayed, asking for confirmation. The words “I received a witness” are inadequate to describe the feelings of warmth, power, love and illumination that filled me from toe to crown. I could feel it pouring into me from a source outside myself. It wasn’t a “warm, fuzzy feeling” but akin to grabbing onto a high voltage power line. The after affects left me filled with joy and wonder. I can testify of what I felt, and for those who have felt the same, heads will nod in agreement. We too, they say, have been there.

    I have had similar experiences since—it wasn’t a one-time event. But until YOU do it for yourself, it’s only going to sound like religious fanatical ramblings.

    We CAN learn. We CAN change our worldviews when we are willing to give up the anchors that keep us in safe harbors. It is our fear of change that keeps us anchored to old beliefs when new vistas come into view. It is inertia that keeps us going in safe, predictable circles. The first, hardest step is letting go of our preconceptions and trying an experiment of faith. This is what it means to be converted. -cp