Questioning

Is it right to question? Early Mormon leaders seemed to think so. One wonders what they would make of what has been discovered since their day.

“I believe it is good to investigate and prove all principles that come before me. Prove all things, hold fast that which is good, and reject that which is evil, no matter what guise it may come in. I think if we, as “Mormons,” hold principles that cannot be sustained by the Scriptures and by good sound reason and philosophy, the quicker we part with them the better, no matter who believes in them or who does not. In every principle presented to us, our first inquiry should be, “Is it true?” “Does it emanate from God?” If He is its Author it can be sustained just as much as any other truth in natural philosophy; if false it should be opposed and exposed just as much as any other error. Hence upon all such matters we wish to go back to first principles.” (President John Taylor, Journal of Discourses 13:15, 14 March 1869.)

“I think a full, free talk is frequently of great use; we want nothing secret nor underhanded, and I for one want no association with things that cannot be talked about and will not bear investigation.” (President John Taylor, Journal of Discourses 20:264)

“Teach the children not to accept that which they read in a book as true, because it is printed; but … teach them to weigh for themselves, to examine for themselves, and test for themselves the statements which may be made upon any and every subject that may be brought to their attention through the medium of books, whether scientific or otherwise. The danger in indiscriminate reading on the part of young people lies in this: their impressions are vivid, and if what they read be incorrect; if, in point of fact, what they read is based on unsound premises and be entirely wrong, but it is presented in an agreeable taking and specious manner, they are apt to accept it as being true. … Let us endeavor to cultivate this disposition in our children, to investigate carefully, to weigh properly the statements which may be presented to them.” (George Q. Cannon, Journal of Discourses 22:274, 5 April 1881.)

“If a faith will not bear to be investigated, if its preachers and professors are afraid to have it examined; their foundation must be very weak.” (President George A. Smith, First Presidency, Journal of Discourses 14:216)

“Mental laziness is the vice of men, especially with reference to divine things. Men seem to think that because inspiration and revelation are factors in connection with the things of God, therefore the pain and stress of mental effort are not required; that by some means these elements act somewhat as Elijah’s ravens and feed us without effort on our part. To escape this effort, this mental stress to know the things that are, men raise all too readily the ancient bar-“Thus far shalt thou come, but no farther.” Man cannot hope to understand the things of God, they plead, or penetrate those things which he has left shrouded in mystery. … So men reason; and just now it is much in fashion to laud “the simple faith;” which is content to believe without understanding, or even without much effort to understand. And doubtless many good people regard this course as indicative of reverence-this plea in bar of effort- “thus far and no farther.” … This sort of “reverence” is easily simulated, and is of such flattering unction, and so pleasant to follow- “soul take thine ease”- that without question it is very often simulated; and falls into the same category as the simulated humility couched in “I don’t know,” which so often really means “I don’t care, and do not intend to trouble myself to find out.” (President B.H. Roberts, President of the Seventy & Assistant Church Historian, The Seventy’s Course of Theology V:v, 1912)

“The man who cannot listen to an argument which opposes his views either has a weak position or is a weak defender of it. No opinion that cannot stand discussion or criticism is worth holding.” (Improvement Era 23:204, Official LDS Church magazine, January 1920.)

“I admire men and women who have developed the questing spirit, who are unafraid of new ideas as stepping stones to progress. We should, of course, respect the opinions of others, but we should also be unafraid to dissent – if we are informed. Thoughts and expressions compete in the marketplace of thought, and in that competition truth emerges triumphant. Only error fears freedom of expression.” (President Hugh B. Brown, First Presidency, “A Final Testimony,” from An Abundant Life, 1999)

Determining Truth

“We consider it a good principle to explain the phenomena by the simplest hypothesis possible.” (Ptolemy, 90–168 AD)

“You will not apply my precept,” he said, shaking his head. “How often have I said to you that when you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth? We know that he did not come through the door, the window, or the chimney. We also know that he could not have been concealed in the room, as there is no concealment possible. When, then, did he come?” (Sherlock Holmes, The Sign of the Four, ch. 6, Arthur Conan Doyle, 1890)

“Though argument does not create conviction, lack of it destroys belief. What seems to be proved may not be embraced; but what no one shows the ability to defend is quickly abandoned. Rational argument does not create belief, but it maintains a climate in which belief may flourish.” (Austin Farrer)

“Faith, as well intentioned as it may be, must be built on facts, not fiction — faith in fiction is a damnable false hope.” (Thomas A. Edison)
Not By Feelings

“I spoke of the convincingness of these feelings of reality, and I must dwell a moment longer on that point. They are as convincing to those who have them as any direct sensible experiences can be, and they are, as a rule, much more convincing than results established by mere logic ever are. One may indeed be entirely without them; probably more than one of you here present is without them in any marked degree; but if you do have them, and have them at all strongly, the probability is that you cannot help regarding them as genuine perceptions of truth, as revelations of a kind of reality which no adverse argument, however unanswerable by you in words, can expel from your belief…
If you have intuitions at all, they come from a deeper level of your nature than the loquacious level which rationalism inhabits. Your whole subconscious life, your impulses, your faiths, your needs, your divinations, have prepared the premises, of which your consciousness now feels the weight of the result; and something in you absolutely knows that that result must be truer than any logic-chopping rationalistic talk, however clever, that may contradict it.” (William James, Lecture 3, The Varieties of Religious Experience)

“It is morally as bad not to care whether a thing is true or not, so long as it makes you feel good, as it is not to care how you got your money as long as you have got it.” – (Edwin Way Teale, Circle Of The Seasons, 1953)

“My feelings are not God. God is God. My feelings do not define truth. God’s word defines truth. My feelings are echoes and responses to what my mind perceives. And sometimes – many times – my feelings are out of sync with the truth. When that happens–and it happens every day in some measure–I try not to bend the truth to justify my imperfect feelings, but rather, I plead with God: Purify my perceptions of your truth and transform my feelings so that they are in sync with the truth. That’s the way I live my life every day. I hope you are with me in that battle.” (John Piper, Finally Alive, pages 165-166)

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s