I am absolutely convinced intellectually, emotionally, and (most importantly) spiritually, that there is a God, that Jesus Christ is the literal Son of God and Redeemer of the world, and that the resurrected Christ restored his true Church in 1830 through a young man from upstate New York named Joseph Smith. The purpose of this website is to explain how and why I can make such a statement. To do so I will first explain why I am intellectually convinced. After that I will explain how I am emotionally and spiritually convinced and why I think that the emotional and spiritual are by far the more important reasons.
I assume that the reader is somewhat familiar with the claims and basic beliefs of the Church that Joseph Smith restored, otherwise known as The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. If this is not the case I will refer you to the website www.comeuntochrist.org to gain a better understanding from a resource specifically intended to explain our beliefs. My intent here is not to teach the doctrines of the Church, but to explain why I so strongly believe in those doctrines. Nonetheless, for those not familiar, a short summary is probably in order and can be found here.
Table of Contents
(Click the title to go to the section)
Why I believe that there is a God
Cosmic Fine Tuning
Why I believe God is a loving God, Jesus Christ is His Son, and Joseph Smith is His Prophet
Can Latter-day Saint Scholars be Trusted?
Missing Puzzle Pieces
Are Believing Latter-day Saints Uninformed, Stupid, or Gullible?
The Myth of Objectivity
The Interaction of Faith and Doubt
The Importance of the Spirit in Knowing Truth
Why I believe that there is a God
Many people seem to think that in the modern world it is only the ignorant, irrational, and superstitious who continue to believe in the existence of a Creator. They seem to think that it is much more reasonable to believe that everything just came into existence by random chance. To me, that is not a very tenable position. If a person came across Michelangelo’s sculpture of David in the middle of nowhere without knowing where it came from, would it be more reasonable to assume that the sculpture was the result of random weather patterns or that there must have been a sculptor that created it? The odds of weather creating such a detailed and intricate sculpture seem so low as to be non-existent. Yet the stubborn skeptic might insist that somewhere on some planet in a seemingly infinite universe, conditions might occur that could create such a thing. But what happens to the odds when that person comes across La Pieta? Could random events create two such different and unique statues on the same planet? Add to that Michelangelo’s statues of Moses, The Risen Christ, Rachel and Leah, and The Rebellious and Dying Slaves? Could the stubborn skeptic continue to believe that random chance could create all these statues on the same planet? The random creation of millions of such statues all on the same planet somewhere in the universe would be the equivalent of what we have surrounding us in the natural world occurring just by chance.
As stated in one of my favorite scriptures from the Book of Mormon:
“All things denote that there is a God; yea, even the earth, and all things that are upon the face of it, yea, and its motion, yea, and also all the planets which move in their regular form do witness that there is a supreme Creator.” BofM, Alma 30:44
Modern science teaches about the intricate balance that must exist on our planet to support life. Millions of different complex systems interact with and sustain each other in ways that boggle the mind. In an infinite cycle, the oceans become clouds, the clouds become rain, the rain becomes rivers and streams that flow back to the oceans. The rain combined with sunlight allows plants to generate oxygen, that oxygen and water sustains animal life. Animals die and provide fertilizer that helps the plants grow. The earth contains a molten core that creates a magnetic field that protects all forms of life from harmful cosmic radiation. The immune system protects the body from sickness. When sickness or injury occurs, the body contains the ability to repair itself. The list goes on and on. It seems much more rational to believe that there is a designer of all of this complexity than to think that it all happened by chance.
By profession I am an electrical engineer that designs communication systems. In my experience it is difficult for an engineer to design even the simplest of self sustaining systems, let alone complex communication systems. Would it not be ridiculous to believe that a cell phone came into existence through random events rather than through careful design by teams of highly trained engineers? And yet cell phones are child’s play compared to the complexity of everything that surrounds us.
Cosmic Fine Tuning
I am not alone in arriving at this conclusion regarding the amazing complexity of the universe. The great British physicist Sir Fred Hoyle (d. 2001) said:
“A common sense interpretation of the facts suggests that a superintellect has monkeyed with physics, as well as with chemistry and biology, and that there are no blind forces worth speaking about in nature. The numbers one calculates from the facts seem to me so overwhelming as to put this conclusion almost beyond question.”
Similarly, physicist Freeman Dyson of Princeton’s Institute for Advanced Study has said:
“As we look out into the universe and identify the many accidents of physics and astronomy that have worked together to our benefit it almost seems as if the universe must in some sense have known that we were coming.”
The above quotes are referencing the “cosmic fine tuning” of the universe, an argument that presents “an intricate and finely tuned ensemble of factors that make our existence possible” (Click here for a more extensive summary of some of these factors). The odds that these factors happened by chance are so astronomical that the only real argument against a super intellect being involved, is to theorize about an infinite number of parallel universes with infinite variations of all of these factors so that eventually one universe would end up with just the right combination; ours being the “goldilocks” universe where intelligent life could emerge. Of course, the interesting thing about this theory is that it is currently unprovable, and therefore requires its own kind of faith to believe.
Now, at this point I’d like to clarify a few items:
1. I am not claiming that what I have presented provides absolute undeniable proof of the existence of God. In fact, my argument is just another version of a very common argument called the “Cosmological Argument”, or “Complexity Argument”, for the existence of God. All I am claiming is that the existence of a super intelligence explains all of these coincidences in the universe much better than—or at the very minimum, at least as well as—the non-existence of a super intelligence. Why is the existence of a super intelligence a much better explanation? Because it is the simplest, most straightforward answer, and I believe this kind of answer is usually the correct one (Occam’s Razor: when presented with competing hypotheses that make the same predictions, one should select the solution with the fewest assumptions). Infinite parallel universes appear to be a rather complicated solution to the problem of cosmic fine tuning, and therefore probably not the correct one. Perhaps we cannot absolutely prove that a pool cue ball hitting another ball is what causes the other ball to move, but that is certainly the most straightforward and likely explanation. If the universe appears to be designed and precisely tuned by a super intelligence, that is most likely because it is.
2. When faced with the “Complexity Argument” for the existence of God, people will sometimes counter with the “Who made the watchmaker?” argument (i.e. what caused God to come into being?). This is a reference to the argument for the existence of a creator, given by William Paley, that if someone were to find a watch on a beach and wonder about the origins of such a complicated and finely tuned object, the obvious answer would be that a skilled watchmaker had created it. The problem with this refutation is that if you go back far enough in time, ALL theories about the existence of the universe and intelligent life suffer from the “Who made the watchmaker?” problem. How did infinite parallel universes come into existence? Just claiming that infinite parallel universes exist to argue for a certain line of reasoning for the unfathomable fortune of our universe doesn’t explain how those universes came to be, any more than assuming that a super intelligence exists explains how that super intellect came to be. So, from this standpoint, all creation theories stand on the same equal ground.
3. What I AM claiming is that God’s existence clearly can’t be DISPROVED. A Postdoctoral Research Fellow at Harvard Medical School named Amy Williams does a phenomenal job of describing this line of thinking in what she calls the “Paradox of Atheism”:
“Atheism is a lack of belief in God. Such a position is curious in light of the following paradoxical thought experiment. Assume for the
moment there is no God. In such a case, the fact is that there would be no way to verify that there is no God. Suppose we wished to prove there is no God. We could
begin by attempting to search the physical universe to ensure that we do not, in fact, find God. However, searching the universe is impossible – it is far too large.
Moreover, any effort to search the physical universe would be unable to rule out the possibility that God exists in a spiritual realm. Because the number of possible
ways to explore spirituality is vast, it is impossible to prove that God does not exist, either by searching the physical universe or through spirituality.
In contrast to the atheist claim that God likely does not exist, theism – the belief that there is a God – has the potential to be verified. This is so because if God exists, He can reveal Himself to us as individuals, thus proving His existence.
This thought experiment and the paradoxical nature of atheist belief falls short of proving the existence of God. Yet the fact remains that a claim that God does not exist is unverifiable, regardless of whether God actually exists. Notably, although atheists sometimes accuse theists of blindly believing in God, a belief that there is no God is always and will forever be blind belief in something that is unverifiable.
The statement that God’s existence is verifiable (supposing that God exists) is not meant to oversimplify the complexity of determining whether God lives. If, in our quest to find God, we were to come across a being who claims to be God, this would not settle the question. One would undoubtedly want to find out for certain that any such majestic being is in fact God. Yet having a personal, spiritual experience with a divine Being and becoming certain that that Being is God – whether by the profound nature of the experience or by other miracles He performed – forever closes the door to atheism and firmly solidifies theist belief for that individual.”
Answering New Atheism and Seeking a Sure Knowledge of God
4. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has no official position either for or against evolution. The Encyclopedia of Mormonism states:
“The scriptures tell why man was created, but they do not tell how, though the Lord has promised that he will tell that when he comes again (D&C 101:32-33). In 1931, when there was intense discussion on the issue of organic evolution, the First Presidency of the Church, then consisting of Presidents Heber J. Grant, Anthony W. Ivins, and Charles W. Nibley, addressed all of the General Authorities of the Church on the matter, and concluded,
Upon the fundamental doctrines of the Church we are all agreed. Our mission is to bear the message of the restored gospel to the world.
Leave geology, biology, archaeology, and anthropology, no one of which has to do with the salvation of the souls of mankind, to scientific research, while we
magnify our calling in the realm of the Church....
Upon one thing we should all be able to agree, namely, that Presidents Joseph F. Smith, John R. Winder, and Anthon H. Lund were right when they said: "Adam is the primal parent of our race" [First Presidency Minutes, Apr. 7, 1931].” Encylopedia of Mormonism: Evolution
5. When I was a young man, I felt that society was asking me to choose between religion and science. In other words, I felt that if I chose to have faith, I had to put aside reason, which for me was something I could not bring myself to do. As I went through college I realized how frequently in the past, scientific truths felt at the time to be absolute certainty, were later completely overturned or modified. That is the nature of science. I also came to the realization that many religious truths are either misunderstood, mistranslated, corrupted, or are oversimplifications of much more complicated issues. All this has led me to believe that true religion and true science will never contradict one another. If they appear to contradict, that is because we have either not fully understood the religious doctrine, have taken too literally a particular religious concept, or because science has yet to get to the whole truth on that particular subject.
6. Finally, the “Cosmological Argument” does not establish the existence of an anthropomorphic Judeo-Christian God. Furthermore, even if there is a God, that does not mean that He loves and is interested in His creations. Perhaps everything was created as a cruel experiment? Or maybe He created everything but has moved on to more interesting things and is content to just let His creations fend for themselves? Which brings me to the next topic.
Why I believe God is a loving God, Jesus Christ is His Son, and Joseph Smith is His Prophet
It might be confusing to some readers that I would address belief in a loving God, Christ as the Savior, and Joseph Smith as a Prophet in the same section. For me personally these topics are intricately tied together.
The first and most powerful reasons to believe that God is a loving God, are the inspiring accounts given in the Bible of the life of Jesus of Nazareth. If the Bible is to be believed, then God really does love his creations and is interested in our well being. As the Bible states in John 3:16:
“For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.”
Christ brought enlightened teachings of love, forgiveness, sacrifice, repentance, service, and constant self improvement. Most importantly, he gave himself as a great and last sacrifice to atone for the sins of the world. It is incredible to think that the literal Son of God walked the earth, walked on water, healed the sick, was crucified, and then came back from the dead.
In fact, these claims are more than incredible, they border on the unbelievable. Why should a person believe such a story? These stories sound a bit like the myths about the Greek gods and their demigod offspring. Why should the story of Christ be more believable than the stories of the Greek gods? Yes, non-religious historical documents do seem to claim that a person named Jesus really existed that was killed in 33 A.D. And yes, in the religious documents (the Bible) many people claim to have seen his miracles as well as his resurrected body after his death. And yes, a large religion resulted. But why should these stories be believed? Wouldn’t it be easier (and more convenient) to explain these accounts as hallucinations or gross exaggerations of actual events? As the wishful thinking of people grieved at the loss of their religious leader? Or perhaps the work of conmen trying to gain power over others?
By now those familiar with the story of Joseph Smith will recognize how similar arguments can be used in both cases. Visions of God and translated golden records? Angels and revelations? Who can believe such things? It is much easier to believe it to be the work of hallucination or conmen, than to believe that such things could really happen. This particular sword cuts both ways (as many atheists would gleefully agree).
This is where the Book of Mormon becomes relevant. Within the text on the title page of the Book of Mormon, it states:
“To the convincing of the Jew and Gentile that JESUS IS THE CHRIST, the ETERNAL GOD, manifesting himself unto all nations”
I am absolutely convinced that the Book of Mormon is a true history of ancient people on the American continent, and that Christ did indeed appear to them after his resurrection. Why do I believe this? Because I do not believe it possible that a poor uneducated farm boy could have written a book like the Book of Mormon. The LDS scholar Hugh Nibley said:
“Joseph Smith's own story of the book's authorship certainly lies far "outside the usual and familiar," and we have every right to ask for special proof of it. This he obligingly supplies when he puts the book in our hands and asks us how we explain it. Books of Mormon do not occur at all "in the usual course of events." Therefore, we have every right to doubt the book's existence, except for one thing: We have the book. The only alternative to Joseph Smith's explanation is to assume …. the existence of a forger who at one moment is so clever and adroit as to imitate the archaic poetry of the desert to perfection and supply us with genuine Egyptian names, and yet so incredibly stupid as to think that the best way to fool people and get money out of them is to write an exceedingly difficult historical epic of six hundred pages. Endowed with the brains, perseverance, and superhuman cunning necessary to produce this monumental forgery, the incredibly sly genius did not have the wit to know, after years of experience in the arts of deception, that there are ten thousand safer and easier ways of fooling people than by undertaking a work of infinite toil and danger which, as he could see from the first, only made him immensely unpopular. This is the forger who never existed.” (Hugh Nibley, “New Approaches to Book of Mormon Study”)
Years before I came across scholarly research done on the Book of Mormon I was convinced that Joseph could not have written it. It seemed too complex, too detailed, to internally consistent. I am now convinced that the wealthiest, most intelligent and educated man on the planet could not have written it in the 1800’s, and probably could not even do so today. On the left panel at the top of this webpage I have included some of my favorite evidences and scholarly discussions on the Book of Mormon. They are well worth the investment of time to study. I’ve also created a convenient PowerPoint presentation summarizing many of these, and other, articles. The slides can be found here: Church Evidences Summary. How could Joseph have included authentic Hebrew Chiastic poetry forms when they were not to be found in his King James Version of the Bible? How could he invent hundreds of previously unknown names only to have those names end up being authentic names found in the ancient world? How could he have included details of olive cultivation and olive culture when he lived in an area of the world that did not cultivate olives? How could he have invented a completely unheard of money system that ends up being a completely usable and plausible money system? How could he have invented the name of an obscure town on the Arabian Peninsula that ends up being a real town? The author of “Of Faith and Reason” states:
“There are literally hundreds of correlations between the things that Joseph Smith brought to Mormonism and things we find in ancient history –things that were unknown in Joseph’s era and vicinity… Critics must deal with the growing number of bull’s-eyes. Generally critics argue that Joseph made lucky guesses, or that any parallels are simply coincidental. But when we recognize the number of things that Joseph got right, the odds of so many lucky guesses and coincidences become staggering.” (Michael Ash, “Shaken Faith Syndrome”)
To me, the evidence supporting the authenticity of the Book of Mormon is overwhelming. The stubborn skeptics (very similar to the ones we talked about before when discussing the existence of God) would have us believe that a poor uneducated farm boy whose family was barely scraping by was really a savant bible scholar and ancient near east expert. He was also a metallurgist capable of creating fake gold plates sufficiently good to fool up to eleven different people. Furthermore, he was a master hypnotist who could trick three of those eleven people into thinking they had seen the plates with an angel and heard the voice of God, and who had the power to cause them to swear to their dying day that they had really seen those things even though all three of them became hostile to Joseph at some point in their lives. He also apparently had access to a time travel device so that he could learn what scholars in the future were learning about ancient near eastern and Mesoamerican cultures so he could put those details into his book. As the years go by, Joseph’s explanation for the creation of the Book of Mormon is increasingly becoming the only rational explanation.
It is easy to claim the Book of Mormon is a fraud if you have not read it nor studied its claims. It is a little less easy, but still possible, to claim it as false if it is casually read. But the more deeply it is studied, the more difficult it becomes to deny its truth. I believe that only the most hardened and stubborn of skeptics, blindly intent on looking for ANY explanation other than Joseph’s, could study it in-depth without agreeing that it must be true.
To me personally, I don’t think the Bible by itself would be enough to create significant conviction within me. It might be enough to make me an Easter Sunday member, but not enough to create the kind of conviction that would cause me to spend all day at Church every Sunday and to work with the neighborhood youth and church members in the evenings each week (when I was a Bishop), to attend the Temple every week, to give up two years of my life as a youth to serve a mission and after retirement as a senior missionary (still to come), to donate large amounts of my personal time to service within church callings, to pay tithing and fast offerings, and otherwise dedicate my life and resources to serving God. But having been supplied with the powerful witnesses of both the Book of Mormon AND the Bible, I am willing to do all of those things, and more.
So why do I believe God is a loving God, Jesus Christ is His Son, and Joseph Smith is His Prophet? I believe these things because the Book of Mormon is true, and all of the other conclusions naturally flow from that knowledge.
Can Latter-day Saint Scholars be Trusted?
One of the most common methods that critics use to try to discredit Latter-day Saint scholarly research and defensive writings is that Latter-day Saint scholars
are not well respected scholars and that their methods are suspect. While it is true that some Latter-day Saint writers pollute the scholarly waters with shoddy
research, many Latter-day Saint scholars are very well respected. Surprisingly, several years ago a couple of Evangelical scholars wrote a very candid and self
critical paper about how opponents of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints needed to stop blithely dismissing all Latter-day Saint scholars as substandard.
They pointed out that many Latter-day Saint scholars have risen to highly regarded positions in institutions all across the U.S. and that by not taking their work
seriously the critics were losing the battle and not knowing it. A copy of this paper can be found
Missing Puzzle Pieces
Having stated how strongly I am convinced that the Book of Mormon is true and that Joseph Smith was a prophet is not to say that I am without unanswered questions. There are still some unanswered questions about the Book of Mormon. I also still have unanswered questions about events in church history. But for me the scales have become so heavily weighted on the side of the truthfulness of the restored church that when troubling issues arise, it is relatively easy for me to accept that we don’t have all of the facts, or that plausible alternative explanations are the correct ones, or to attribute things to the fallibility of man and the failings of good, but imperfect, prophets. To use a different metaphor, the puzzle pieces I have found fit so perfectly, and I have found enough of them to see such a beautiful picture, that it would be completely insane for me to toss the puzzle into the garbage because I can’t make a few puzzle pieces fit.
Given the immensity of the evidences supporting the truthfulness of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, it is interesting to note that many disaffected members, and ex-members, seem to be unwittingly trading one set of missing puzzle pieces for another set when they choose to disassociate themselves with the Church. Ryan Dahle, who is involved in Evidence Central (a link to their site is found on the left pane), impressively described this kind of situation at the 2021 FAIR LDS Conference:
“In many so-called exit narratives, those who have withdrawn their association with, or simply their belief in, The Church of Jesus Christ
of Latter-day Saints, report that seeming contradictions and unresolved questions played a large role in their loss of faith. As a standard narrative goes, for a while
the believer tries to deal with these doubts by simply placing them on the metaphorical shelf, but the shelf eventually becomes so burdened with unresolved questions
that it, and by symbolic association, the believer’s testimony eventually shatters under the weight.
It should be recognized, however, that questions don’t simply disappear when one transitions from belief, to disbelief, in the restoration. For instance, those inclined to disbelief might ask why there are so many complex chiastic structures in the Book of Mormon? Or why other people, in addition to Joseph Smith, testified that they saw the gold plates, and the angel who delivered them into his possession? Or why the accounts of destruction in 3rd Nephi are so consistent with documented volcanic catastrophes? Or why the Book of Mormon’s legal cases so often seem to be informed by, and interact with, ancient near eastern legal concepts and precedents? Or why the monetary system presented in Alma 11 is complex, elegant, and has parallels with ancient systems of weights and measures? Or why Nephi’s account of his family’s journey connects so well to the known geography of the Arabian Peninsula? Or why king Benjamin’s speech correlates so well with ancient near eastern festivals and ceremonies? Or why Jacob’s allegory of the olive tree betrays an intimate knowledge of genuine olive culture? Or why so many names in the Book of Mormon are either attested in ancient languages, or are associated with plausible Hebrew and Egyptian wordplays or puns? Or why statistical linguistic analysis of the Book of Mormon… strongly points towards multiple authorship and away from Joseph Smith as being its author, consistent with his claim of only being its divine translator? The list could go on and on, but hopefully you get the idea.
It’s hard, at least for me, to explain these, and many other features of Joseph Smith’s revelations without appealing to divine intervention, especially when they are looked at collectively. Stated simply, giving up faith in the restoration doesn’t make unresolved questions go away, it merely transitions the burden from one set of perplexing questions, to another.
In some cases, an individual’s struggle with doubt may, at least in part, be a symptom of an unbalanced focus on questions that arise from criticisms of the restoration, while neglecting those that attend the multitude of evidences for its authenticity.... For those who are struggling with faith, it may be helpful to spend less time agonizing over unresolved concerns and questions, and to spend more effort and energy trying to understand and appreciate the greatness of the evidences, both spiritual and secular, that God has already made available." (Ryan Dahle, 2021 FAIR LDS Conference Presentation, bold added)
Are Believing Members Uninformed, Stupid, or Gullible?
Many critics and disaffected church members seem to think that all believing Latter-day Saints are either uninformed, or stupid and gullible. They seem to think: If church members only knew what I know they would leave the church. Many don’t stop to think that intelligent and well educated members have probably already come across the same issues and come up with different conclusions than what the critics present.
An LDS Historian named Davis Bitton powerfully makes this point:
“There is nothing in Church history that leads inevitably to the conclusion that the Church is false. There is nothing that requires
the conclusion that Joseph Smith was a fraud. How can I say this with such confidence? For the simple reason that the historians who know most about our Church
history have been and are faithful, committed members of the Church. Or, to restate the situation more precisely, there are faithful Latter-day Saint historians
who know as much about this subject as any anti-Mormon or as anyone who writes on the subject from an outside perspective. With few exceptions, they know much,
much more. They have not been blown away. They have not gnashed their teeth and abandoned their faith. To repeat, they have found nothing that forces the extreme
conclusion our enemies like to promote.
We need to reject the simple-minded, inaccurate picture that divides people into two classes. On one hand, according to our enemies, are the sincere seekers of truth, full of goodness and charity. On the other hand, in their view, stand the ignorant members. Even faithful Latter-day Saint scholars must be ignorant. Otherwise they are dishonest, playing their part in the conspiracy to deceive their people. This is the anti-Mormon view of the situation.
Can we see how ridiculous this picture is? It is a travesty on both sides. Many Latter-day Saints may not know their history in depth. But some of them know a good deal. As for Latter-day Saint scholars, as a group they compare favorably with any similar group of historians. It will not do to charge them with being dishonest. I happen to know most of them and have no hesitation in rejecting a smear of their character.
On the other hand, your typical anti-Mormon is no disinterested pursuer of the truth. If you are confronted with a “problem,” some kind of “non-faith-promoting” take on Church history, chances are good that your willing helper can lay no claim to doing any significant research in Mormon history. Oblivious to the primary sources, unread in the journal literature, the critic has picked up his nugget from previous anti- Mormon writers and offers it to you as though it is a fresh discovery. Most of the time it is anything but new. It is a stock item in a litany of anti-Mormon claims that serve their purpose.
Why does the charge accomplish anything? Because they don’t tell you how stale it is and of course will not let you know where answers have already been provided. To you it is new or may be new. Falling into the trap, you think you have been deceived by the Church, and here is something seriously damaging to the restored gospel. Like peddlers of snake oil from time immemorial, the critic is willing to take full advantage of the situation.
How many historians who are deeply familiar with the sources on Church origins still find it possible to remain in the fold? We might start with names like Richard Bushman, James B. Allen, Glen L. Leonard, Richard L. Anderson, Larry Porter, Milton Backman, Dean C. Jessee, and Ronald W. Walker, all of whom are thoroughly familiar with the issues and sources. Joining their ranks are historians like Ronald Esplin, Grant Underwood, Richard Bennett, Steven Harper and Mark Ashurst- McGee. Many others also fit the description. I offer only a sampling of faithful, knowledgeable historians."