Last Sunday, I mentioned a philosophical question I had in my mind and the comfort I received from the Lord after receiving an answer. In that post, I also mentioned that this question and answer led me to rethink the way I pray. Let me start with some information.
In Logic, we learn that it is a fallacy to use something to verify itself. Let me give you an example from my Logic textbook from class (I’m not making this up):
The Book of Mormon is true because it was written by Joseph Smith. Joseph Smith wrote the truth because he was divinely inspired. We know that Joseph Smith was divinely inspired because the Book of Mormon says that he was, and the Book of Mormon is true.
Let me add that I don’t go to BYU, this is a secular class at a secular university. I thought it was quite amusing to find something like that in my textbook. So, never mind the example, it should be obvious that this is circular reasoning. We can’t use the Book of Mormon and Joseph Smith to verify each other. We need a confirmation from an independent source, such as the Holy Ghost in this case. Can you imagine what our life would be like if we just believed anything that claimed to be true?
After we discussed this example in class (no one knew I was LDS), I began to think about this and approached my teacher after class. I asked him, “Let me ask you something, how do we know that Logic is true except through a logical process? And how do we know human reasoning is true except through human reasoning?” He told me that I wasn’t the first person to think of this, and there is a field called Meta-Logic that tries to understand why we use Logic, but the fact of the matter is, Logic is just the best we can conceive of given our brains, and all we really have to go on.
Which basically means that we can’t really say that we know anything, except maybe that we ourselves exist (cogito ergo sum). Christian theologian William Lane Craig, in his debate against atheist Peter Atkins, argues that in order to believe Science, there are just some things that we have to assume are true despite the fact that we can’t prove them to be true, such as that other minds exist, that the speed of light is constant, that the Universe didn’t appear five minutes ago with the appearance of age, etc. We may say that we can derive strong inferences about the Universe based on the evidence we experience in what we think is our memories.
But the obvious conclusion, one that hardly needs proving, is that human reasoning is flawed.
Then again, our minds are pretty amazing at the same time. In fact, there are lots of things a human mind can do that a computer or an animal’s brain can’t do, such as contemplate its own existence. So can we rely on our own thoughts or not?
When I came to my revelation outlined in the last post, I was praying for an answer, sort of, but really I was just thinking. In hindsight, I think that most answers I get from God come from this type of activity. In a way, one could say that I wasn’t necessarily having a conversation with God, nor was I asking for an answer, but I was trying to align my thoughts with God’s thoughts, at least momentarily. Or, in other words, I was trying to think how God thinks for a short amount of time, so I could see the purpose and answer to my nagging question. Now, I don’t have the capacity of thinking as the Lord does. For that, I would need God’s mind, which I don’t have. I have a man’s mind. And yet, as I thought, I was trying to see the Universe as God sees it.
The “Classical” Model of Revelation as taught by the LDS Church could be built in several ways. I will represent it thus:
Dilemma -> Study -> Ask -> Revelation -> Act -> Confirmation
Or, in other words, we encounter a dilemma, we study the issue out in our minds, we ask God to give us an answer, he gives us revelation, we act on that revelation, and then He reveals to us a confirmation through the Holy Ghost that we did the right thing.
In “real life” however, things aren’t quite so perfect. Sometimes we ask and we get no revelation whatsoever, then we have to act on our own accord, when suddenly God confirms to us that we made the right decision. Sometimes we receive revelation out of the blue, telling us to do something or solve a problem we didn’t know existed. The different elements of the revelation model can happen out of order or not at all. I received my answer as I was studying, before I had really asked God a question.
Perhaps it was because, for a small moment, God allowed me to think as He thinks.
Isaiah says it quite elegantly in Isaiah 55:7-9.
7 Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts: and let him return unto the Lord, and he will have mercy upon him; and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon.
8 For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the Lord.
9 For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts.
Of course, we don’t have the capacity for thought that the Lord has. Any type of revelation I receive is like a two-dimensional shadow of a three-dimensional object. Most would find my “answer” to my previous question (music) to be completely unsatisfactory, and I would say to them that this is because it is one possible shadow of the three-dimensional object of the question, and that a different shadow would be more satisfactory to them. That’s why it’s personal revelation.
But it’s kind of interesting to think that perhaps I got a small, two-dimensional glimpse of something bigger. So that will be my goal as I pray now. Perhaps prayer does not always have to be a rote, rehearsed, structured thing. Perhaps the studying and meditating is just as important, and as we try our best to align our thoughts with God’s thoughts, or at least force our thoughts through the lens of God, we will be given more glimpses of what he sees.
Don’t just think. GodThink.
I should copyright that.