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Faith and ScienceStudy It Out
by Ami Chopine
When I was sixteen years old, I bowed my head in a library and asked about creation and evolution. Right then and there I got an answer. "Daughter, you know I created the world and all the life in it. Study it out to learn how." This is, in fact, one of the very few clear answers I've gotten to prayers. It's significant that on such a rare occasion I was commanded to study it out.
Even though I didn't become a biologist, I never lost the drive to learn about the questions of origins and have continued to read and study it. How did God create the world? How did man come to be on the Earth?
At that time and through my early adulthood, my testimony that God existed rested on scientific observation rather than faith. The world was so beautiful and intricate. Eventually we would find that impossible thing that proved that God existed.
If someone had pointed that out to me then, I would have been surprised. After all, didn't I ask God? But though I had faith, my asking was naïve, my belief untested at the time. Looking back I see it, because it eventually caused me a crisis of faith as any testimony not founded on personal revelation must.
The story of my crisis is somewhat tedious and common. I won't bore you with it, but it ends this way: The solution to a crisis of faith is a leap of faith. Rather than relying on observable evidences, I simply chose to believe, knowing that my choice was unknowable here and now.
I would live the Gospel. It had already served me well. I would study and ponder and pray about it. I would devote myself wholly to it, unless something better (and by better, I mean more true) was shown to me.
Faith comes before reason, and before the answer to prayers. (Even young, untested faith can yield such answers.)
But this doesn't mean reason is something the faithful person should ignore.
For instance, starting with faith that the Book of Mormon is true, we can reason that Joseph Smith must have been a prophet of God. And if that is true, well then God and Jesus Christ exist and are two separate beings. And the priesthood, with all of its ordinances, is restored.
If any man will do his will, he shall know of the doctrine, whether it be of God, or whether I speak of myself. John 7:17
Why is it that this works? Because we can reason from the results of doing God's will. The act of faith occurs when we chose to do his will. The act of reason occurs through the act of faith.
Reason is faith's servant.
The faith required is sometimes very little, and may get smaller. There are many rational reasons that the Book of Mormon is true. But to actually believe it does require faith. And as one studies the book, and does what it says and sees the many layers it has, we have further reasonable proof, so we need even less faith to know it's true.
But faith made smaller isn't faith made lesser. It is faith exalted to knowledge, if we have had it in a true thing.
I particularly like 1 Corinthians 3:11-15 regarding this:
11 For other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ.
12 Now if any man build upon this foundation gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, stubble;
13 Every man's work shall be made manifest: for the day shall declare it, because it shall be revealed by fire; and the fire shall try every man's work of what sort it is.
14 If any man's work abide which he hath built thereupon, he shall receive a reward.
15 If any man's work shall be burned, he shall suffer loss: but he himself shall be saved; yet so as by fire.
The reward is the consequence of the work. If the work is reasoning out the truth, then our reward will be knowledge. In other words, intelligence; the glory of God. But if we have been wrong, then the Atonement of Christ will save us.
So that person sitting next to you in church, with the ridiculous ideas about whatever it is you think is ridiculous, will be saved just like you will if you both believe on that firm foundation which is Christ. And perhaps, it's your idea that will be proven wrong. I really like this aspect of redemption. I can be wrong, and it's okay.
Perhaps the work is raising our family. If we have done it according to true principles, our reward will be those good familial relationships. As you can imagine, since this involves actual people such as your spouse and children, the rewards and losses have a lot more weight.
I've now had many years of experience and much studying to test that first, real leap of faith that I took. And I must say that it does take many years. To expect an immediate answer is a foolish thing. It's like taking the cake out of the oven as soon as you put it in there.
The reasonable truths I've learned from "doing his will" grow in number. It is a thing of beauty. To borrow a phrase, it's a marvelous work and a wonder.
This capacity to reason has been given to us by our Father in Heaven. It is a tool to help us learn the truth. Seeking truth can only lead to truth. There is nothing that can be discovered through scientific methodologies that will conflict with the Gospel if it is true. And it is true. Indeed, deeper knowledge of God's creation can lead us to a deeper appreciation of it on many levels.
Using both faith and reason, the world and everything in it becomes poetry, not proving God but praising God and teaching us truth.
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