Thursday, July 23, 2015

the scientific method of testimony

I finished the Book of Mormon today. For the fifth time, but for the second time that it really counted.

My "girl who just got her mission call" picture..... hahaha

It's interesting, really. A lot of things have coincided with ending around this time. About a month, almost two, before I started reading the Book of Mormon again, a really, really difficult trial presented itself to me. One of those where there is no way around but through. One of those that you remember for the rest of your life, one of those where it takes a long time before you're able to talk about it to anyone, one of those where it takes even longer to be able to say to the public world what actually happened. I had huge amounts of grief, fear, uncertainty, etc. I had the WORKS when it comes to trials; five scoops each of a different flavor, whipped cream, nuts, and a cherry (I'm lactose intolerant to add another layer of intensity to this metaphor). It was easily the most difficult thing that I've ever had to do, the most difficult thing to ever give up. But I had no choice.

And reading the Book of Mormon like I did, with the intensity and the depth and the faith that I had for it, finishing it just over 2 months later, I really owe a lot of my strength to it. I felt the Atonement work in my life. And it was incredible.

But I'm not talking about that here. I'll probably talk about it a lot somewhere else. This is a blog of science and faith. Not one or the other.

So let's talk about Moroni 10, the very last chapter of this entire book. Mormon, Moroni's father, abridged 1000 years of history from 600 BC to 400 AD. This history was a written record of the people who inhabited North America. This book is to be a second witness of the restored gospel of Jesus Christ in its fullness, it's meant to testify of His divinity and His atonement and our Heavenly Father's perfect Plan of Salvation/Redemption/Happiness. If you want to learn more, I can tell you all about them. But in chapter 10, Moroni is writing his big conclusion before burying the records to be found in latter days by a chosen servant of the Lord. Verse 4 reads as follows:
And when ye shall receive [the Book of Mormon], I would exhort you that ye would ask God, the Eternal Father, in the name of Christ, if these things are not true, and if ye shall ask with a sincere heart, with real intent, having faith in Christ, he will manifest the truth of it unto you, by the power of the Holy Ghost.
He continues to include just how the Holy Ghost tells us when things are true, and I will hyperlink the chapter right here for all y'all who haven't read this five times.

I bring this up because a lot of people who are not religious argue that religion brainwashes, limits choice, and stifles creativity and all those other things. I argue that religions that do that are hardly true, and the Book of Mormon says plenty about that once or twice. The true church of Christ "exhorts" its members to ask. It wants them to hypothesize and pose questions and experiment on the words they receive. Alma 32 is all about that. Most Mormons know this chapter all about faith. I implore any of you to (re)read it now. But verse 37 will suffice to make my point:
But behold, if ye will awake and arous your faculties, even to an experiment upon my words, and exercise a particle of faith, yea, even if ye can no more than desire to believe, let this desire work in you. 
Alma continues with a parable of planting a seed, the seed of faith (ahem ahem mustard seed, anyone?). It's all about planting the seed and making observations and looking at real results and using those results to make conjectures about the seed you planted. If it's good, and you feel good, and it brings forth good fruit, then obviously, the seed was good in the first place. If it was all bad, and it brought forth bad fruit, then you know it was all wrong. But Alma promises that this seed, properly planted (none of those confounding variables can make correlation into causation!), will indeed bring forth fruit. But he encourages us to try for ourselves, to ask for ourselves, to see for ourselves.

I could go on for hours. But I'm tired, it's getting late, and I think I've made some semblance of a point.

We find our faith by experimentation. We find it by acting and seeing results, by praying and receiving, by experimenting and seeing miracles. Heavenly Father wants us to ask Him for whatever we need. He's literally waiting on us to make the decision to plant and cultivate our testimony, to "come and see" for ourselves whether He is there and His love for us is real.

I'm not too happy with my words in this post. But Moroni wasn't too happy with his writing either. I just hope that someone out there, just one person of the few who read this, will take on my own challenge to ask. If it's been a while, or if you've never prayed, I know it'll feel so awkward. But just do it. I promise you that you'll receive an answer however you need it. He's waiting on all of us, meeting our imperfect and flawed nature with such perfect and whole love and understanding. He's known us for eternities; we forget Him at our birth, but spend our lives trying to make some meaning of the world.

Read the Book of Mormon. It will draw anyone closer to Christ than any other book. There are promises made in its pages that are unmatched by the world.

Plant that seed. Start that experiment. Make your observations.

Thursday, July 9, 2015

entropy and divinity

Since this is an LDS and science combo blog thing, I figured that when I stumbled across this link, I ought to share it. It presents examples of how church members differ in teaching their children, and allows me to comment on the fact that science and faith are both absolutely necessary for each other.

Perhaps I don't understand the universe in its fullness because I'm a first-year physics major who hasn't even taken college-level introductory physics other than my (excellently taught) high school AP physics class and arguably AP chemistry, with the same teacher who couldn't care less about exam scores but rather preferred to prepare us for university science. It has been well over a year since I last heard someone with a degree talk about entropy. But even from my tiny baby-hand grasp of the metaphorical thumb on the entire giant man that is entropy and the universe and all related topics, there was one thing on my mind, and it was this:
If, according to the laws that govern the universe, all things are naturally hurdling apart from each other on everything from molecular to astronomical levels, moving from higher potential energy to lower, how can there be so much order and so many things coming together without someone helping out?
I know, from a mathematical standpoint, you can argue that with infinite possibilities, assembling is bound to happen. Everything is bound to happen. Math. But even so, it's in every single detail. Yes, galaxies are all flying super duper scarily fast apart (I don't like thrill so I really try not to think about this nightmarish twist on bumper cars crossed with roller coasters that's been going on for billions of years; this ride ain't stopping anytime soon so I'll just panic quietly in my computer chair). If you build the Millennium Falcon out of Legos and shake it around a bunch, pieces will fly apart. But if you look at my phone call history, if you look at the order of the planet system and babies being born and long-lost lovers and people meeting missionaries at the perfect time and just everything that is so deeply detailed and so important and so beautiful, well, how can you deny a God?

I'm not saying that the earth was built in 6 days and has been around for 6000 years. The Bible, especially the Old Testament, is so chock full of symbols that I just don't get why that's the one thing Christianity takes so dang literally. I honestly look forward to the day that I'll actually remember the creation I observed with wide eyes, excited and nervous for the day that I would take up my mortal body and learn and grow and experience all that physicality has to offer. I'm just saying that I cannot deny a God, not just because I've felt it in my heart and feel it as I type, not simply because my parents raised me bringing me to church every Sunday. I know it because it makes so much logical sense. I cannot deny science, but I also cannot deny my faith. The world's climate is changing, and likely to bring about divine purposes in these latter days. The stars shine, wave/particles from light-years away hitting my retinas, all creations of a divine Father.

There is too much order to deny His existence. His presence is in every single stitch that weaves together the fabric of the universe. He knows me so perfectly and so intimately and everything the last couple of weeks has happened so perfectly ordered that I cannot deny the divine intervention of a loving Father in Heaven. I testify of His flawless love. I know He has known all of His children from the beginning of eternity. And if you look, both eyes of faith and science wide open, you'll see it.

And if any of my non-Mormon friends or followers have read this far, I open any inbox I have to you. None of this is secret Mormon stuff, I just understand that it can sound a little crazy without the context of the gospel. It is to you that I extend the same invitation of the Savior Himself, Jesus Christ: "Come and see."

Suggested reading if you like this kind of stuff:
Jesus the Christ by James E Talmage, Ch 11, section "Miracles in General" (last section) and Note 7 (very end of chapter)