Experiments

On the popular TV show MythBusters, one of the hosts once said:

“Remember kids, the only difference between science and screwing around is writing it down.” (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BSUMBBFjxrY)

I’ve been thinking a lot recently about keeping records, and this quote jumped to mind at one point. It got me thinking: If I’m not writing down what is going on with my life, then technically I’m just screwing around.

This next prompted me to think: then what am I testing? When results should I be recording? What experiment is being performed?

Alma talks about this in Alma 32, where he invites us to perform “an experiment”. In this experiment, he describes a seed (“the word”) being planted in our hearts. Except here, he gets it a bit wrong.

In a proper experiment, you want only a single variable. That way, as you observe results, you can confidently attribute them to the singular difference between that experiment and the control group. Unfortunately, Alma describes a bit of a shoddy experiment, because he’s under the impression that the variables are 1) the seed and 2) the fertility of our hearts. He describes the variable of the seed as “if it be a true seed”, and the variable of our hearts by saying “if ye do not cast it out by your unbelief”.

While Alma is describing an inappropriate setup for a proper experiment, he actually unwittingly gets it right. What is being tested here is not the seed. The seed, or the word, is unchanging. We know a priori that the seed is a good seed. What is being tested then is the fertility of our hearts. Or put more simply, whether we will choose to receive the seed or not.

This is the grand experiment; this is the thing we are sciencing: our agency. What will we choose? Will we choose to nurture the seed, so that it will grow and swell and put forth fruit? Or will we choose to neglect it and end up casting it out?

And if we perform these experiment, are we recording our results? Or are we just screwing around?

Knowledge

Sure knowledge is the enemy of learning. 

Once you claim to know something, you have shut yourself off to ever learning anything new about the subject. If I claim “sure knowledge”, I am also claiming “sure stubbornness”. I am claiming “sure ignorance”, and consequently “sure damnation”.

“Sure knowledge” means that I have shut myself off to the possibility of nuance and more information. Why would I be interested in learning more if I already “know” a thing? I would never consider new ideas, because I would “know” that I have already learned the whole of a thing. 

It is eternally dangerous to make such an audacious claim as the one of sure knowledge, yet we hear it all the time. The pride in this idea is cancerous, because it begins to infect our other notions. 

I do not know anything. I believe many things, but I try to be open to the idea that my beliefs are wrong, that I do not have all the information, and that the number of things I can learn is eternal and infinite. With such a perspective, how could I ever claim to know the end of a thing?

Ad Hominem

An ad hominem fallacy is one where, instead of attacking an argument directly, you attack a person making the argument, and use your attacks on that person as a way to discredit the argument. In short, you’re ignoring the thing being debated and attacking the debater.

Many of those who have become disaffected from the LDS church are guilty of ad hominem fallacies. They decry that since the church is corrupt, its message must also be corrupt. Similarly, those in the church are guilty of this whenever they slap the label “anti-Mormon” on something and use that as an excuse to not listen.

Ad hominem also works in the inverse, too. The conventional meaning is that you distrust something because of where it comes from, but the inverse is also a fallacy: to give credit to something because of its source, and not because of the thing itself. Mormons do this a lot in the form of the “Follow The Prophet” trope. “Anything that the Prophet says is true because the Prophet said it” is an ad hominem fallacy. Similarly, for some disaffected Mormons, “Anything that Denver Snuffer says is true because Denver Snuffer said it.”

In both of these cases, the important thing is being ignored, and we are focusing on something that does not really matter. In both cases, the source of the material is completely irrelevant. It does not matter who said it. What matters is what was said. Is the message of God? Does it encourage you to believe in Him and deepen your personal relationship with Him? Or does it drive you away? Does it entice you to scorn your brothers and sisters and place yourself (or anyone else) on a pedestal?

We can extend this to other things as well. People dismiss the Book of Mormon because they believe Joseph Smith was a fraud. This is an ad hominem fallacy. The Book of Mormon can be true and important and relevant regardless of how it came in to being. It does not matter if it came from golden plates divinely translated by an uneducated farm boy, or if it came from the dictations of a white salamander, or it if came from the machinations of conspiring men. What matters is what it teaches.

All humans are fallacious. We are all weak, culpable, fragile, and unreliable beings. But that does not stop us from being capable of beautiful works and great goodness. To ignore or reject something good simply because you don’t like where it comes from is wrong. And accepting something evil because you like the source is equally wrong.

The sources don’t matter. Just the message.

The Purpose of Life

Over the past few months, I have come to a deeper understanding of just what life is all about. I confess that the Plan of Salvation has never adequately explained the “why” of life to me. It only really explains the “what”. It explains what happened, what is happening, and what might happen. But it doesn’t really explain why it needs to happen that way.

As I have meditated on this, I have been granted a deeper understanding of what life is all about.

It goes something like this:


We believe God is a just and fair god. We believe that all people, regardless of their life circumstances, come to this life for roughly the same purpose. We believe that maybe some people have some additional special purposes (Joseph Smith springs to mind), but our common denominator is that we’re all here for the same reason.

So what is the common basis of our existence? We are all born, we all live, and we all die. But more importantly, we do not remember who we are, and the only thing we take with us when we leave is our selves. This leads us to the purpose of life.

Life is a massive scientific experiment.

A good experiment requires the minimal intervention of outside forces. It requires the isolation of the variable being considered, so that the variable can be examined directly. Without that crucial isolation, doubts arise as to what is truly causing the results being observed. The Fall and the Veil are the isolating factors in God’s experiment, and we are the variables. The Fall isolates us from His presence, and the Veil from our memories of Him.

When we are in the presence of God, we have an overwhelming desire to follow Him and do according to His will; He has a very persuasive personality. But people can be persuaded against their will, which is why He devised mortality as our experimental chamber. His continual presence would confound the results of the experiment.

In mortality, we exist separate from Him. We are not in His presence and are not influenced by His overwhelming love and goodness. Instead, we exist as free agents. We are variables, able to vary according to our own desires. In this environment, the only will that truly exerts control over our actions is our own.

The experiment of life is designed to answer the single question: what will you choose? Will you choose to seek out compassion and empathy and the qualities of Godhood? Or will you choose to seek out self-gratification, ego, control, and dominion?

The things that happen to us in life are not the point of life. Sickness is not the point. Health is not the point. Suffering is not the point. Happiness is not the point. Your circumstances are not the point.

The point is how you choose to respond to them. Life is an experiment to prove what you truly want to be happy. That is the purpose.

A Conversation

I had a conversation with God yesterday, and this is part of what He said to me:

Just as the stone is scared of the chisel, or the wood of the knife, or the ore of the fire, all these things have purpose in the hands of the artist. If you allow me, I will be the artist of your soul and will fashion you into a blazing jewel that will be unique among the stars. The process is not an easy one, but I will be with you through all of it. I will guide you and shape you and form you into a being that has no comparison… I will always be here, because I love you and want to see you become all that I know you can be.

He will make the same promise to you, too.

Appeal to Tradition

One of the most damning things we can do is refuse to consider new ideas because they contradict “the way we’ve always done it.” There is no more sure way to utterly cease the possibility of learning than to decry that it breaks with tradition.

Reject the wicked traditions of your fathers, and consider what things the Lord wants to give you that you refuse, because they are not in line with “the way you’ve always done it”.

The Gospel is not meant to be easy. If the Gospel does not make you uncomfortable, you’re doing it wrong.

It is not the same

How often have we heard the admonition that we must follow the prophet because whenever he speaks, it is as if God’s speaking, because “it is the same“? I hear this very frequently, and every time I do, I am saddened at how we repeat the words of others without bothering to read the scriptures for ourselves.

D&C 1:38 in no way says that the words of the prophets are equivalent to the words of God. Here’s what it actually does say:

What I the Lord have spoken, I have spoken, and I excuse not myself; and though the heavens and the earth pass away, my word shall not pass away, but shall all be fulfilled, whether by mine own voice or by the voice of my servants, it is the same.

Let’s take this apart and see what the Lord is saying to us.

What I the Lord have spoken, I have spoken, and I excuse not myself;

The Lord takes ownership of His words. He means what He says, and He does not try to make excuses for past words (or future words). He does not “excuse himself” over His words. They are His and He is responsible for them.

and though the heavens and the earth pass away, my word shall not pass away,

His words are eternal. His words will outlast the heat death of the universe. Even after everything has ended, His words will still be in force. His prophecies will still apply. His commandments and love will still matter.

but shall all be fulfilled,

Everything that He has prophesied will happen, will happen. Everything that He has cautioned about will still apply. Everything that He has promised will be given.

whether by mine own voice

God is allowed to fulfill His own prophecies. He will provide the blessings He promised.

or by the voice of my servants,

God’s servants (not necessarily just prophets!) are also allowed to fulfill His prophecies. They are also allowed to be the source of the blessing He has promised.

it is the same.

If His servants do happen to fulfill His words, it’s still valid. It counts as having fulfilled His word. God is not required to do everything Himself. His servants help bring to pass His purposes as well, and it all counts towards the same end goal.


As we can see, there is absolutely nothing in here about the servants speaking for God, and God validating their words. Instead, we have almost the exact opposite. Instead of words, we have actions. Instead of servants, we have God.

God has made promises to His children, and He keeps all of His promises. If it so happens that one of His servants fulfills the terms of His promise for Him, then great. If not, He’ll fulfill it Himself.

But this verse does not represent God’s endorsement of the actions and words of His servants. It says nothing of the sort. All you need to do is read and see.