Missiles and Revelation

Posted by

Jeffrey Thayne

My friend Nathan brought to my attention a pedagogically useful example that illustrates an idea I have tried to convey in the past. Consider for a moment that we are testing a missile, and have predicted the precise trajectory of the missile based upon mathematical calculations. If we were to observe the missile traveling a different trajectory than that which we predicted, our natural conclusion is that our calculations are somehow mistaken, despite how reasonable they had seemed before. Imagine how foolish it would seem to conclude that our eyes have somehow fooled us as to the trajectory of the missile, because our calculations are reliably based in reason. The conclusion I would like to draw from this thought experiment is that we rightfully trust our experience more than reason.

Reason is a valuable tool, and is necessary to make sense of our lived experience, but it is not the source of our knowledge. Our knowledge comes from personal experience. Experience consistently serves as a corrective for our reason. This is why I believe rational or natural theology and transcendental theology can be dangerous, because, unlike early Christian writers, I do not believe God and His ways are propositional entities accessible to the mind the same way mathematical ideas are. According to Wikipedia, “Natural theology is that part of the philosophy of religion dealing with attempts to prove the existence of God and other divine attributes purely philosophically, that is, without recourse to any special or supposedly supernatural revelation.”1 Transcendental theology is theology based on “a priori reasoning.”1 To make conclusions about God based upon Aristotelian logic does not seem to me to be a wise endeavor. The only conclusions I trust about God are those arrived at through personal communication with Him, either personally or recorded in the writings of ancient and modern prophets. Thus, I believed in revealed theology, which relies on divine revelation. Knowledge of God requires experience of Him, and revelation is a subset of experience.

1. Wikipedia, “Natural Theology”


  1. Your argument is flawed as the correct assumption to make is that something is mechanically wrong with the missle, not that our eyes are decieving us (although it is also possible that the calculations are wrong as happened with a Mars lander several years back when things that had been figured out in metric were executed with our English system). Our experiences are far more limited than our reasoning is capable of-as you said, the faculty of reason is what allows us to make sense of our experiences. Reason is what makes us more than the sum of our experiences. Reason sustains faith when experience tries to destroy it-witness the example of Job.
    Wishful thinking is the opposite of reason and it produces a weak faith which shatters when the wishful thinking runs out. My faith in God and the Gospels does not shrivel because of the peerings of astronomers. The teachings of Jesus are not made irrelevant by the discovery that Creation is far larger and older than anyone imagined, or that humans came to be by a process more subtle than a sculpting of clay.
    Personal experience of God is just that; a personal experience. As such it is unique and a personal matter between that person and God, but I warn you that a person who believes they are operating with’s God’s Mandate can be very dangerously deluded. Once a person believes that God is directing their actions they have left reason behind. The great tragedies of human experience have often been inflicted by those who had assumed the blessing of God was on their heads. Remember that the maniacs who flew the planes on 9/11 were utterly convinced that they were on a holy mission and that Paradise awaited them.
    I write this not to shake your faith but your doctrine. Thank you for the interesting and provocative post.

  2. My faith in God and the Gospels does not shrivel because of the peerings of astronomers. The teachings of Jesus are not made irrelevant by the discovery that Creation is far larger and older than anyone imagined, or that humans came to be by a process more subtle than a sculpting of clay.

    It sounds to me as if you believe in God, and that is something we share. I believe in God and his teachings, and none of my experiences threaten that belief. So I agree with your point here. My point is that truly religious experiences are precisely that: experiences… not logical deductions. My knowledge of God comes from communication with Him and experiencing His influence and presence in my life, not by rationally deducing His existence. As for the example of Job, it can be argued that his experiences supplemented and strengthened his faith.

    I warn you that a person who believes they are operating with’s God’s Mandate can be very dangerously deluded. Once a person believes that God is directing their actions they have left reason behind. … Remember that the maniacs who flew the planes on 9/11 were utterly convinced that they were on a holy mission and that Paradise awaited them.

    I, too, condemn the murderous actions of terrorists. You must realize, however, that the scriptures contain an entire history of men who received directions and instructions from God. Prophets since the beginning of time have acted as God’s spokesmen and servants here on earth. As a Latter-day Saint, I believe that God has chosen a spokesman for himself today, who can honestly claim to be on the Lord’s errand. This man’s name is Thomas Monson, and is the most reasonable person I know. Just as Abraham, Moses, Peter, and Paul acted with divine mandate, so does he. It would be unreasonable to believe that God has no mortal representatives, merely because there are dangerous impostors (e.g. terrorists, etc.).

  3. Hey FuriousBuddha, thanks for your comment. I have two questions for you.

    Once a person believes that God is directing their actions they have left reason behind.

    Do you believe that is always the case? Or do you think it’s possible for a reasonable person to be guided by God?

    The great tragedies of human experience have often been inflicted by those who had assumed the blessing of God was on their heads.

    Is tragedy the only possible outcome of believing God is guiding you? Can you think of any examples in history of good things happening because someone believed they were following God’s will?

  4. Nathan & Jeff:
    Thank you for your responses.
    Mark 14:
    32And they came to a place which was named Gethsemane: and he saith to his disciples, Sit ye here, while I shall pray. 33And he taketh with him Peter and James and John, and began to be sore amazed, and to be very heavy; 34And saith unto them, My soul is exceeding sorrowful unto death: tarry ye here, and watch. 35And he went forward a little, and fell on the ground, and prayed that, if it were possible, the hour might pass from him. 36And he said, Abba, Father, all things are possible unto thee; take away this cup from me: nevertheless not what I will, but what thou wilt.

    According to Luke, His sweat was as blood. It was a pretty intense moment for Jesus, I suppose. God’s Will can be a terrible thing to behold; the Divine isn’t about making sure we’re comfy and secure in our little worlds. God does not guide us through traffic to the supermarket or help quarterbacks complete passes; God is not an invisible security system looking out for our properties and possesions; God does not change the weather because of our parades. God does demand of us the impossible; to love each other as we love God and ourselves; to forgive every trespass; to do to everyone as we would have done to ourselves; and even as God demands these things God also grants us forgiveness for not being able to achieve them.

    The feeling of God’s Grace and the Presence of the Holy Spirit are a universal human phenomenon described by people of all faiths across history. I myself have experienced it. Yet it is not the only component of one’s relationship with God and perhaps not even a necessary one; Mother Theresa said that she had never experienced it yet lived her life in devotion to God. She certainly lived it in stricter devotion than I, and I have felt what she said she did not.

    When Jesus asked God to be spared from His fate, He finished by saying ‘what thou wilt’. God’s answer came in the form of a kiss from Judas. Throughout His trial, Jesus behaved in a way that was considered insane or at the very least dangerously unreasonable by those persecuting Him; He neither denied nor confirmed the charges against Him; He told the man who could free Him that he had no power; He forgave His tormentors as He died. To follow God’s will is to appear unreasonable to those around you. The Divine Perspective is beyond the understanding of humans and certainly is not fully comprehensible to any one mind; even Christ in the Garden doubts and wonders at the injustice of his fate. There is no perfect faith outside of Heaven. There is no perfect understanding out here either, which makes our need for faith so much more urgent.

    Whether or not Thomas Monson has a Divine Mandate is not for me to decide and I know nothing about the man except what Jeff has shared, but all things being equal I doubt your enthusiastic claims. I will not impugn the man except to say that I don’t think he has access to any magic knowledge that makes him special. Jesus told us to think for ourselves and I believe that it is dangerous for our souls to let others do our thinking for us. Any teacher or preacher should be able to defend their practices and preachings with something better than ‘God told me so.’ Not only do I find it ironic that the heir of Peter has the audacity to claim infallibility when Peter was the one who three times denied his Lord, but as a prime example of why it is unwise to do so. Has the infallibility of the Pope brought enlightenment to the world or at least prevented gross errors in judgement by warning of the sex crimes occuring in its churches? Has it done anything but insist on its own infallibility? It is unreasonable to assume God has mortal representatives who describe themselves as being so in the absence of any evidence beyond their word.

    It is one thing to speak of being on a mission from God and actually executing one. The life of Dietrich Bonhoeffer may serve as a contemporary example. Regardless of whether or not you agree with that, I would still contend that it is generations far from now who will be able to accurately weigh the worth of our actions and judge who among us ranks with Moses or Paul. Thank you for your interesting questions.
    -Winston Delgado

  5. Great discussion. A couple of points I would like to add:
    (1) That Thomas Monson claims to be a prophet of God is not to say that he claims to be infallible;
    (2) He (Monson) has much more evidence than his word alone;
    (3) The role of the prophet is to act as a spokesman of God. They do not try to exert control over a people. Examples: Noah warned about wickedness, then about the flood; Moses led those who would follow on an Exodus, etc. etc. Their “mission” is to relay God’s word to us on earth. I submit that their mission is no more or less important than the mission of those serving “under” him, the mission I currently have (to raise a good family), or the mission anyone might have. Prophets do not choose their missions, they choose whether or not to follow the mission God give them;
    (4) I don’t think the Pope can be part of this discussion as he does not claim to be a prophet of God.

    As I re-read Furious Buddha’s comments I realize we use the term “God’s will” in two distinct ways: (1) we use it to speak of his commandments, or that which we think he wants us to do; and (2) we use to describe what he allows to happen.

    Some thoughts on the second definition, or God’s will as it relates to what he allows to happen. I think that God’s will is that we each exercise our own will. If I die on the way home this evening by a drunk driver, it was God’s will in the sense that he would not take away the choice of the drunk driver. For the longest time, I have settled with the possible truth that (for the most part) God is not “actively” interceding in our lives (preventing or prescribing experiences). Rather, he actively made sure that we have our agency on earth; and he does little to interfere with the consequences of our choices. Granted, he must be sad to see us destroy ourselves; but there is also much on earth to be happy about.

    Thanks for letting me participate. Great discussion.

  6. Aaron: I have settled with the possible truth that (for the most part) God is not “actively” interceding in our lives (preventing or prescribing experiences).

    Aaron, I see your main point, and I think I agree (I’m also a fan of tenuous conclusions that might be revised 🙂 ). But I don’t think I would put it quite that way. I think he is interceding a lot. I just think that it’s in ways we’re not looking for.

    With the drunk driver example, I think he would be carefully orchestrating events so that each person involved had many, many opportunities to learn lessons, draw close to him, and practice selflessness and service while helping each other grieve and repair the damage. I think he would be vigorously involved, but the events that he moved into place (chance meetings, conversations, spiritual impressions, averting unhelpful painful moments) are ones that seem small to us, whereas a car crash seems big. I wonder if when we have an eternal perspective, we will reclassify those events in the opposite way.

    Thanks for your comments!

  7. I agree, Nathan. A scripture comes to mind:

    “And in nothing doth man offend God … save those who confess not his hand in all things” (D&C 59:21).

    I guess a lot of us are very uncomfortable with the idea of a benevolent God being personally involved in what we see as tragic circumstances. This is the source, I believe, of the belief that God is not personally involved in many sad events in our lives. I can understand this; but I think it is mistaken, for what we label as tragedy, and what may presently be uncomfortable, may actually be God’s will for us.

    God claimed personal responsibility for the destruction of dozens of Nephite cities; I am sure that many died who were innocent, including children. Yet God’s love is not diminished, nor is His benevolence tarnished. Robert Gleave made an interesting point:

    Pain, sorrow, [and] suffering … may not be deficits to be overcome, controlled, removed, or eradicated, but rather they may be gifts from a benevolent Father that can serve as instruments for developing a divine nature. We may perhaps go so far as to see the traditionally tragic elements of life as the very tools of the trade in the construction of heavenly mansions.

    I am not saying God is personally responsible for everything happens; only that he may be more personally involved than we think. Let’s not be hasty to decide that God can’t possibly be involved in our suffering, for those very experiences may be our purpose for being alive. Just a possibility, though.

  8. Thanks Gentlemen. This gives me something to think about. I still hold that the numerous “chance occurrences” are not a result of God micro-managing our lives, but rather a combination of (1) people following the Holy Ghost to do what is right; and (2) us recognizing the opportunities and blessings afforded us in everyday experience. Our lives here are earth are a HUGE intervention on God’s part.

    I don’t see him as “carefully orchestrating events”—that doesn’t feel right to me. Rather, he has wisely provided us with an earth and our agency. As we interact one with another, we can’t help but bless each other when we choose to follow the Holy Ghost. I guess I see the influence of the Holy Ghost as the active part of God’s intercession.

    I must state that while I believe my above statement to be the general rule, I think there are countless exceptions to that rule. I’m okay with that.

    Would seeing God as a micro-manager show a lack of faith? The Gospel plan will work for us as we make correct decisions aided by the Holy Spirit. The eternal intercession through the Atonement is God’s way of helping us—he doesn’t need to turn the light red for me so I don’t get hit by the drunk driver. Of course, if he wants to, who am I to stop him. 🙂

    Great topic. It reminds me of the related topic of parenting and the tendency of many parents to micro-manage their children’s lives. I will need to find my writing on that topic to share with you at a later time. . . .

  9. I have to add that I do see and try to confess God’s hand in all things. I hope my comments don’t express otherwise. His interventions mostly occur in my life when he influences me through the Holy Ghost, encouraging and strengthening me to be a better person.

  10. Yeah, I think we’re agreeing. I was saying that those impressions of the Holy Ghost you mentioned were his most frequent way of being very involved in our lives. It seems like he’s most often more concerned with orchestrating events in our hearts rather than in the world around us.

  11. Aaron: I have to add that I do see and try to confess God’s hand in all things.

    I’m sure you do! I hope it didn’t seem like I was doubting that. Thanks for the comments!

  12. Aaron & company
    This is my first theological discussion with Mormons and I find your viewpoints interesting. However, there are some things about argument and debate that you need to learn if you ever really want to interact with those outside your church in a way that gets you taken seriously. First of all, extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence. When you write as your second (?!) bulletpoint that ‘He (Monson) has much more evidence than his word alone;’ and then say nothing else, well, that’s a invitation to mockery if nothing else. I will refrain as I do not wish to offend you, but I am going to be honest with you in telling you that I am letting you off the hook much more lightly than most. You are definitely getting the silk glove treatment. Especially when one considers your ‘rebuttal’ of the example of the Pope ‘I don’t think the Pope can be part of this discussion as he does not claim to be a prophet of God.’ Thomas Monson is the President of the Mormon Church and claims to be a prophet of God. The Pope is the Bishop of the Catholic Church and claims infallible inspiration of God. There is no difference. Viewed from the outside, they are exactly the same thing.

    Everyone inside their little clubhouses are convinced that their particular clubhouse is the One True Clubhouse that God Loves Most. There is nothing wrong with having a clubhouse. It’s a nice place for people with common interests to gather out of the rain. But that’s all it is. Clubhouses.

    Your points on one and two seemed to be dancing around your desire to express that you feel that Thomas Monson is on a holy errand and that you are not being controlled in a cultlike way by him. It’s got to be difficult when you put one of your fellows up on a pedastal to not feel that he is somehow above you. Rather than argue with you on any of these topics I will simply ask you a question I have been dying to ask a Mormon theologian; was Mohammed a prophet? If not, why?

    I really do find your thinking stimulating-I posted one of my responses here as one of my blog entries a few weeks ago and the comment thread on it was interesting.

    The problem with a micro-managing God is multifold and begins with the question of Theodicy; if God is all powerful, all knowing, and utterly benevolent, then how can evil exist? I mean, if God can make sure you don’t get hit by a drunk driver on the way home tonight, what about all those folks who did? Then of course, there’s stuff like genocide. It’s hard to look at the killing fields of Cambodia and still think God cares about the way we dress or eat. You actually hit on the crux of it when you said that seeing God as a micro-manager shows a lack of faith-I couldn’t agree more. It is easy to pay lip service to God when life is good but faith counts most when it is all you have.

  13. furious buddha,

    About Muhammad, I’m not the one to ask. I don’t know if Muhammad was a prophet. Personally, I don’t think so; the Savior said, “By their fruits ye shall know them.” However, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints does not have an official position on the issue except that God has inspired individuals throughout the history of the earth; whether Muhammad was one of those people or not, I don’t know. However, I did find an interesting article that was in a church publication, which you can find here.

    I do know that Moses was a prophet, that Abraham was a prophet, that Jeremiah was a prophet, as well as Peter and Paul. Peter and Paul were also called Apostles, and were special witness for the resurrection of the Savior Jesus Christ. Scripture clearly teaches that God does, indeed, call men to be his spokesmen on earth.

    Evidence that Thomas Monson is a prophet? Well, my personal testimony of this fact is based upon a witness given by the Holy Spirit. Also, when I live the things he teaches, I draw closer to the Savior. That is evidence enough for me; however, I also know that he is the successor to Joseph Smith, and that Joseph Smith was a prophet. Jesus Christ said that we can judge a false prophet from a true one by their fruits; The Book Mormon is the “fruit” produced by Joseph Smith. The best way to know if Joseph Smith was a prophet is to study that book. The Book of Mormon is the most valuable evidence that God has called prophets again today.

  14. Furious Buddha,
    I enjoy the invitation to explain myself further. Frankly, the bullet points were short because I figured if people wanted more information, they’d ask. Well, you asked.
    Part of me wants to address the questions about President Monson; but I think that discussion is secondary to a more important one: On what basis will you (or I) accept something as truth? Or put more simply, How does one know the truth? If we don’t agree on this point, then it’s pointless to discuss any issue upon which that first point will rest.

    Allow me to discuss how I arrive to my truths. This may generalize to other Mormons; but please don’t take these thoughts as “doctrine”: I have a rudimentary knowledge of most epistemologies. . .

    (I typed the above earlier. . .then I read Jeff Thayne’s reponse.)

    After reading Jeff’s response, I realize that I would have complicated the matter to continue in my original response. Ditto to his last paragraph with regards to the “evidence”. I stand with Jeff in presenting my testimony that Joseph Smith saw God the Father and Jesus Christ and was called to establish Christ’s church anew on earth. The Book of Mormon, I submit, is not “evidence”, but rather a means to receive the only evidence that matters: a personal witness of the Holy Spirit. I don’t disagree with Jeff’s label of the Book of Mormon as evidence; I am simply presenting the ideas in a different way.

    A couple of other points to respond specifically to your concerns.
    -I did not know that the Pope claimed to receive infallible inspiration from God. I though he simply claimed to be the leader of the Catholic Church. You are correct that “when viewed from the outside, they are the same thing”. . .
    -I don’t think that God loves me more than anyone else;
    -I do agree that a belief in a micro-managing God shows a lack of faith;
    -You mention that “extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence”. I disagree with that statement on two levels: First, I don’t see it as an extraordinary claim that God has called a prophet. He is simply following the same pattern of teaching his children that he has used over time. Adam, Noah, Enoch, Moses, Jesus, etc. Next, I am not sold on “extraordinary evidence” for any truth, no matter how great or small. In my experience, truths are more often self-evident, or simply- evident. The mountains of argument surrounding truths are man-made, and usually originate from either someone’s desire to thwart truth, or someone’s desire to appease their carnal mind. I submit that all truths can be learned as we yield to the Holy Spirit and accept them with faith. No amount of scientific research or rational argument can render a truth more true. Reason might be able to help us better understand a truth; but it does nothing to help our belief.
    -For me, it is not difficult to sustain and support Thomas S Monson as a living prophet. The Holy Spirit has testified to me that he is a man called of God to serve us as His prophet. I feel blessed to live in a time where there is a prophet on earth that can lead me and my family in a pathway of happiness.

    Furious Buddha,
    I hope you don’t find the brevity and simplicity of my response disappointing. I do not ask for a “silk glove treatment” when sharing my beliefs; it’s just that, while I feel the urge to share and influence, and know that I cannot convince or prove. For this reason, I resist the temptation to take a stance of trying to prove anything. When all is said and done, however helpful conversations might be, wouldn’t you like to receive your “proof” from God rather than man? I invite you to read the Book of Mormon and pray to God.

    Happy to keep discussing; this is fun and helpful.

  15. Aaron,

    Thanks for your response! As far as extraordinary evidence, I think the most extraordinary evidence possible is a witness from the Holy Ghost. One of the points of my post is that some spiritual truths aren’t self-evident (if they were, we could get to them just by thinking), they require divine revelation. In other words, God has to tell us about it.

    You are right, most rationales and arguments we mount for spiritual truths are man-made, and do not establish truth; it is the voice of God that does that.

  16. Gentlemen.
    I’ve got a copy of the Book of Mormon on the shelf. It’s sitting between the Koran and a Jehovah’s Witness text called ‘Revelation- It’s Grand Climax is at Hand!’ I collect books like bad habits, and I am especially fond of holy books of all derivations. I haven’t read every last page of the Book of Mormon, but I’ve read through it. My primary objection to the Book of Mormon is that it doesn’t add anything to the Christian message except self-contradictory metaphysics and speculation. For example, I’m looking at Ether chapter 5 right now which describes how three witnesses to the plates shall be all the testimony required to verify the truth of the Book of Mormon. Then in chapter 8, verse 19 of the same book, Moroni asserts that ‘the Lord worketh not in secret combinations’. Aren’t the three witnesses to the plates whose word the rest of us must take at face value a ‘secret combination’?

    Christianity has a long history of mystics claiming secret knowledge and special insight going all the way back to the early Gnostic sects of the pre-Constantine era. Mohammed was a pretty ordinary guy who later in his life suddenly had mystic visions of the Angel Gabriel and writing down what he was told as the Koran. When the particulars of time and place are stripped away, I don’t see a huge difference between him and Joseph Smith.
    I have studied the Bible my entire life and the source of the text is one of the most intriguing problems it presents. There have been generations of translations and purges-the shift that Constantine’s adaptation of Christianity as the Imperial Religion of Rome precipitated resulted in the loss of many texts and alternate viewpoints that will always leave us guessing about some things. However, by studying the text of the Gospels and what we know historically about that era and region we can still assemble a coherent picture as to the how the text of the New Testament came to be. Furthermore, there is truth within the Gospels that surely no Earthly authority really would want to be in there-Jesus is quite clear when He says things like ‘I require mercy, not sacrifice’ to the Pharisees. Jesus will not and can not be contained by a single church or creed. Perhaps a thousand generations or so have passes since He was on this Earth and they have all tried to refine and rephrase what He taught to suit their own purposes, but the Greatest Commandment still stands untouchable and the Parables still can bring understanding to those who do not see.

    Jeff, Nate and Aaron, I want to be clear that I do respect Mormons as much as I respect anyone else. You’ve been very generous in sharing your testimony with me and I appreciate that more than I can suitably express except to share my own.

    I was born to a Catholic father and a Baptist mother. I attended both Catholic and Protestant services and Sunday Schools as a child and by the time I was seven my mother was asked to stop bringing me because my questions were disruptive. I remember vividly the incident in question. The teacher, with a smile on her face, gleefully informed us that if Hitler had really believed in Jesus at the end of his life, he would have gone to Heaven, but that if one of our faultless grandmothers had slipped on a ladder and took the Lord’s name in vain before she broke her neck she would burn in Hell. That didn’t sit well with me then anymore than it does now. As a teenager I described myself as an athiest but I really was just a seeker. I’ve looked into every form of human religious expression and philosophy in the thirty odd years since then. In my early twenties I discovered Zen and because I’m impatient I made a concious decision to follow the short path to enlightenment. Seventeen years later I’m still on it and it’s led me right back to Jesus. I have found no guru, no method, no teacher that is superior to Jesus.

    In a sense, and I mean no disresepect to anyone with this analogy, being raised in a religious tradition makes us like children who believe in Santa. Sometimes it can be traumatic to discover that there is no actual literal Santa Claus but Christmas becomes much richer and more real once we understand the truth. We appreciate the gifts and the traditions much more deeply when we see they are the results of the efforts of the people around us and not the magical boons of a supernatural being.

    I am an extraordinarily flawed human being. I am not a role model but rather a cautionary example in how to live your life. But I can tell you that if you want to understand your own faith better, there is no better way than to try to understand the faiths of others. Thank you so much for trying to explain your faith to me.
    -Winston Delgado

  17. There have been generations of translations and purges-the shift that Constantine’s adaptation of Christianity as the Imperial Religion of Rome precipitated resulted in the loss of many texts and alternate viewpoints that will always leave us guessing about some things.

    Good point! The written record of the teachings of ancient prophets is not complete, and that is why God has sent new messengers today, to “restore” the truths that were lost during this time. God revealed the truths originally to His ancient prophets, and because they were lost, He has revealed them again to His modern prophets, and has also given us more records of ancient prophets (the Book of Mormon).

    These modern revelations help clarify the confusions that have perpetuated over the centuries since Christ’s death. That is why I love the Book of Mormon. For example, few people today agree as to the proper way to baptize: some people do it by sprinkling, some by immersion, etc. The Book of Mormon resolves this confusion, because the Savior teaches in the Book of Mormon that it is to be done by immersion, by somebody authorized by the Savior. I do not mean this to become a point of debate or discussion, only as an example of how modern revelation clarifies many confusions about ancient revelation.

    I believe that God is real, and that His spokesmen today really do speak for Him; I don’t think the benefit of religion resides just in its social traditions but also in its real divine origins.

    As far as “secret combinations” go, the three witness to the Book of Mormon published their names and testimony in the book itself, which is being distributed worldwide. Hardly a secret, if I may say, but rather an open testimony to the world of the things they saw. At least twelve others saw too, and have published their testimonies also.

    Thanks for the discussion!

  18. Winston,
    I commend you for your persistent search for truth; and I admire your talent in writing. Your testimony of Jesus inspires me to study more and try harder to follow His example.

    I’m trying to sum up our conversation in my mind to arrive at some conclusions. We’ve decided to embrace Jesus and His teachings; and and we claim personal revelation through the Holy Spirit as the backbone of our testimony of a living prophet. You, too, have embraced Jesus and His teachings; and after much studying have come to the conclusion that (among other things) there is no earthly tradition with a fullness of the gospel. I heard something today on the radio that might apply to this discussion: “We all follow someone. Make sure you know who you are following; and that you like where you are going.” We choose to follow Jesus, and we hold a belief that Thomas Monson is His spokesman here on earth. You’ve chosen to follow Jesus, too; and do not feel constrained by any evidence to embrace any established religion. If Thomas Monson were a true prophet, would not followers of Jesus everywhere want to listen to him? To follow Jesus in the time of Noah meant that you helped build the ark. To follow Jesus in the time of Moses meant that you fled Egypt. (Okay, that paragraph was redundant.) I think this has come full circle and brings us back to the fundamental question: how to know what is truth? I am reminded how important that question is; and this discussion has given me incentive to read, study, and pray more.

    Hey Winston, let’s stick around this blog and I am sure that Jeff, Nate, and Company will give us more opportunities to share our ideas and learn from one another. Now, if we can convince them to syndicate the comments of the blog so I can pull the comments through my RSS feeder, that would be cool. 🙂

  19. Now, if we can convince them to syndicate the comments of the blog so I can pull the comments through my RSS feeder, that would be cool.

    I wish I knew how….

  20. Did a little research for you. It looks like you need to add some code to your template file. Reading this article carefully will give you the information you need (I’ve not done it myself; plus I use blogger and anyway I don’t have the readership to demand this service).

    If that doesn’t work, hit up Connor Boyack. He’s a programmer and might have some time to help you configure it on your blog, as he has it on his. Good luck.


  21. Aaron-
    Actually, thank you very much for the RSS feed info. I had no idea what that even was before but I at least have a better idea of what it is now.

    You bring up some very interesting questions and I do get your analogy. I am not quibbling when I point out that in the Biblical tale of Noah, nobody helps him. Only his relations join him on the Ark and so there’s no reason to expect that anyone else helped as they did not get a ticket to ride. There are various Rabbinic traditions regarding Noah but few of them feature anyone helping. Some of them criticize him for not trying to warn anybody. The Koranic version of Noah’s story does state that seventy idolators converted and helped with the construction and were thus saved. Even so, that’s only about seventy people. Regarding the Jews who followed Moses; they didn’t choose to go. They were the Chosen People. Even then, many of them persisted in idolatry and paganism during the Exodus. My point is, these stories don’t tell us much about the benefits of following a leader but rather on what a terrible burden being a leader who is trying to follow God is.
    What is truth? Pilate asked that of Christ and recived no answer. I say Christ spoke the truth.
    I thoroughly enjoy the conversation, gentlemen. Thank you.
    Winston Delgado

  22. I wasn’t trying to point out the benefits of following a leader; only clarifying the point that following a prophet called of God is following Jesus Christ.

    Christ spoke innumerable truths before and after Pilate spoke to him.

    And few people followed Noah because this was during the same time period that Enoch and his city (Zion) of righteous people were translated and brought to heaven. Most of the God-fearing people were gone–It’s almost as though Noah and his family were the ones chosen to be left behind. What a tough assignment!

  23. Aaron-
    Of course Christ spoke innumerable truths outside of that exchange. When Pilate asked ‘what is truth?’ he was not asking ‘what is the truth’ but rather asserting that truth is mutable and can mean whatever it is that authority asserts it to be. He demands Christ to explain, and with His silence Christ gives Pilate the answer. Jesus is like a Truth Machine; ask Him a question and you get the opposite of a lie. If you read His exchanges with others throughout the Gospels He often said things that upset other people thoroughly; that’s why He ended up in front of Pilate. The truth can often be shockingly rude, while the best lies are exquisitely polite. Pilate’s question provoked a rude response because the only honest thing Jesus could have done was say nothing.

    To your other statements I can only speak the truth I know and say that there are no prophets after Jesus. God does not send prophets to make sure that we are dunking people properly or attending to some other minutae of dress or rite; God is not a fussbudget about our costumes or methods of fellowship. This may sound rude but no offense is intended. I cannot lie to you and tell you that you can follow someone you believe to be a prophet and Jesus Christ at the same time. I certainly can’t tell you that they are the same thing. In fact, I can tell you that to equate following anyone walking around here with us on Earth with following Jesus is simply wrong, regardless of the exquisitely polite things that person may be telling you. Your relationship with Christ is between you and Jesus; Thomas Monson (or anyone else for that matter) does not need to stand between as an intermediary and tell you what God commands.
    -In Sincere Christian Brotherhood,
    Winston Delgado

  24. Winston,

    I love your comment about Jesus being a “Truth Machine.” I like that metaphor.

    I am sure you recognize that God has sent prophets in the past to give His children specific instructions. We have talked about many of them. For example, the prophet Amos said, “Surely the Lord God will do nothing, but he revealeth his secret unto his servants the prophets.”

    I’m not sure how you can say with such authority that no man can be a prophet after Jesus, since Jesus certainly never said any such thing, and even gave us a way to tell a true prophet from a false one.

    It seems as if you have a problem not just with contemporary prophets, but with the concept of prophets in general. Simply put, God has called prophets in the past; why can’t he do so now? Nothing forbids Him. The Israelites could follow God and Moses simultaneously; God didn’t give the 10 commandments directly to the Israelites, but chose to do so through His servant, the prophet Moses. Of course, He could’ve done it differently, but it’s clear that He doesn’t mind working through a spokesman.

    Therefore following the teachings and heeding the warnings of a prophet does not preclude following God or the Savior Jesus Christ. In fact, it is the way things were done throughout all of scripture. It’s simple history. The entire body of written scripture was written by prophets; thus, most of what we know about God and His plan of redemption is given to us through prophets. I am sure that you respect the writings of Paul as scripture, even though he didn’t even convert to the Christian religion until after Christ’s death. If him, why not others?

    A man I consider to be an Apostle of Jesus Christ recently said:

    When it comes to learning and knowing the truth of the gospel—our personal testimonies—we each have a direct relationship with God, our Eternal Father, and His Son, Jesus Christ, through the powerful witness of the Holy Ghost. This is what our critics fail to understand. It puzzles them that we can be united in following our leaders and yet independent in knowing for ourselves.

    Perhaps the puzzle some feel can be explained by the reality that each of us has two different channels to God. We have a channel of governance through our prophet and other leaders. … We also have a channel of personal testimony, which is direct to God.

    Feel free to read on our blog and comment, but please do not tell us that we are not followers of the Savior. The teachings of the Savior Jesus Christ and the miracle of His atonement and resurrection are central to our faith. Having a messenger from God to warn us of modern-day dangers is reason to rejoice, especially since his teachings continually strengthen our faith in the Savior Jesus Christ. It is only because of my personal relationship with the Savior and the whisperings of His Spirit that I know God has a messenger on earth today. I asked God, and He told me through His Spirit that it was true. I didn’t get that knowledge from any other person but the Source of all knowledge (no intermediaries).

    There is a movement these days these days to try to prevent faithful followers of the Savior Jesus Christ from using the label “Christian” merely because they believe that God has a messenger on earth today (as He has in all of ancient history). I am sure a charitable, Christian man like yourself will recognize the fallacy in this movement, and will be willing to befriend, as fellow Christians, followers of Christ like myself, Nathan, and other Latter-day Saints.

    Your friend,


  25. Wow. Quite the discussion you guys have had, and a pretty civil one at that, for such a group of disagreeing parties. In friendly insult to all of you, you desparately need to learn some skills in relation to logical argumentation, debate, and topical, organized writing. Most of your conversation, if still well spoken and intellectually on par with good philosophy and theology, had nothing to do with the initial topic, or any particular topic. It just shifted pointlessly. I am not calling you morons by any stretch, just a bit unfocus perhaps when writing. I suggest a thorough investigation of Talmage’s works for a flawless example of reasoning and logic applied to theological argumentation. Whether you agree with his conclusions or not, his inferences are always strong and valid.

    To Budda: 1) From my many associations with Christians such as yourselves, you are one of the more charitable and non-confrontational I have met. Most who have known I was a Mormon were very abusive to me because “I didn’t believe in the real Jesus” or some fallacious hogwash like that. I am glad you are far more reasonable, allowing friendly disagreement to remain such. My hat is off to you. If only everyone were so.

    2) Prophets are necessary. They do not supplant personal thought, inspiration, or judgement, but they can and do receive revelation. It is fruitless and irrelevant to further discuss them, especially the veracity of claims of prophethood by many individuals (no, Muhammed was not a prophet of God, but he was an inspired and good man), herein, as it is entirely off topic and highly subjective.

    3) The concept of a “secret combination” is actually entirely unrelated to the witnesses of The Book of Mormon, referring to wicked conspirators and terrorists against the government of the ancient times related therein. Your interpretation was not entirely incorrect, though, seeing as you were simply ignorant (understandably so) to the connotation of the somewhat esoteric term. Taken only at face value, your argument would be sound.

    To my Mormon colleagues:
    I am a fan of your blog, though I find the essays somewhat unfocused in general, arriving at no clear conclusions. They are more like random perusing thoughts, and are pretty good reading as such. I have yet to sift through the entire archive though, so I may be inaccurate in my evaluations. Nevertheless, hats off to those not afraid to mix philosophy and theology.
    I do disagree somewhat with what I believe to be the point of the essay in this thread. I do believe that philosophy and logic (both Aristotelian and Boolean) are highly valuable in better understanding (and even proving in many ways the existence of) God. Logic always applies to Him, as His kingdom is entirely founded on it. All things necessary to us are revealed by Him, so that we need not rely on logic for knowledge concerning salvation, but proper application of philosophy (the study of knowledge and logic) may be used to make correct inferences relating to unrevealed aspects of God and His kingdom, and our relationship to Him. My point: do not so quickly discard rationale- it and revelation are not mutually exclusive.

    I can’t remember the plethora of other points I thought to make. Cheers, brethren!


  26. Seth,
    I think I speak for others when I say we are well aware as we veer off topic. This is a blog, which is very different than “organized writing.” Sometimes we are posting on lunch break at work. Sometimes we are posting at work when we shouldn’t be so we are trying to type fast (like now). Sometimes we are commenting at home while one child is watching TV and another is in our lap crying because they just woke up early from their nap and another wants you to make a peanut butter sandwich for them and another is hungry but doesn’t know what she wants to eat and another wants to play a game with you and your wife is gone and you probably should be doing the dishes anyway or playing with the children–not at the computer. 🙁
    Your point to the other Mormons on the site:
    “My point: do not so quickly discard rationale- it and revelation are not mutually exclusive.” Don’t worry, I think we all agree on that one.

    You also wrote:
    “proper application of philosophy (the study of knowledge and logic) may be used to make correct inferences relating to unrevealed aspects of God and His kingdom, and our relationship to Him.”
    I really like that sentence.

    You mention that you disagree with the main point of the thread. I don’t think so, actually.

    A big Cheers back at you!

    PS. I’ve only read Jesus the Christ from Talmage. What else should I read next? As for good, logical arguments, I like Lincoln in the Lincoln-Douglas debates. . .

  27. Seth,

    Thanks for the comment! My basic reply is:

    Welcome to the world of blogging. 🙂

    The informal nature of a blog environment allows people to express and discuss ideas without the formality of a professional publication.

    The challenge with “natural theology” is that, from the beginning, it tries to discover God without revelation, based only on reason. My own experience with “natural theology” is that it is often based upon questionable premises and tends towards erroneous conclusions. I’m not saying it always does, but only that it tends to. This is because human reason is not perfect. That is why revelation is so valuable; it serves as a corrective to human reason. I have no problem with using logic and rational argument. However, Jacob, the Book of Mormon prophet, warns us of the limitations of this approach:

    Behold, great and marvelous are the works of the Lord. How unsearchable are the depths of the mysteries of him; and it is impossible that man should find out all his ways. And no man knoweth of his ways save it be revealed unto him. (Jacob 4:8 )

    In other words, the intent of my post was not to say that we shouldn’t use reason; only that we shouldn’t use reason exclusively, and that we should also give priority to divine revelation.

  28. Seth,
    What Jeff said, more or less. Don’t think of this as academic publishing but an opportunity for Socratic dialogue. Statements inspire questions and it carries along from there. I feel that two people with differing points of view who are looking at the same thing are going to give you a better description of what that thing is than a thousand people looking from the same place at the same thing. I seek out the views and opinions of as many different people as I can because it is the best way I have found to learn about the world I was born into and will live in until I die.

    I confess with a wicked grin that I can be really verbally vicious to those I deem deserve a good lashing with Sarcasticus; but those people are usually bullies who were pushing someone else around when I came along. I know that Mormons have suffered a lot of persecution to this very day and it is wrong. Although I may disagree with many beliefs you hold to be sacred and true that does not make me right; it certainly does not give me the right to impunge your character or Christianity. Of course, it is this attitude that causes me to recieve as much of the same sort of abuse from the brethren you describe. I don’t think they would like it if I included myself in their club but I include them in mine. I also include Mormons in my club. And the Catholics and the Quakers and the Baptists and the Shakers are in my club too. The Methodists and Scientists and Reformed Orthodox Revival Churches of Saint This, That and the Others are all my sisters and brothers and so is everyone at the Church of Saint John Coltrane. So are the Jews and the Muslims, the Hindus and the Buddhists and the lost tribes in the jungles of the Amazon. Jesus told me so.

    We view God differently, but we are both looking at the same God. I am interested in your point of view so that I may better understand mine. Thank you for sharing that point of view.

  29. An “informal” blogging environment does not absolve an individual from normal principles of rationality and coherence. Yes, comments may be a bit sloppier and difficult without the aid of copyediting, but the backbone should still be there – just less ornate and more dynamic.

    An discussion or argument like this should be about a topic and it should try to determine something based on known principles (religious, logical, whatevs). I think part of the problem is that sources and information can be found to validate just about any opinion with the proper spin and context, meaning that such conversations will inevitably trail back and forth with both sides using the same tactics until one side’s resolve weakens.

    Arguments sometimes end up as amorphous blobs, slowly expanding as an earlier point is refuted and dismissed, while most future points involving something only tangentially-related to the main conversation. This basically ensures that nothing at all is discussed quite passionately and at length.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *