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June 3, 2014
Faith and Science
Faith, Gullibility, and Skepticism
by Ami Chopine

Recently the local news featured a story about a toddler with a terminal condition whose parents were seeking help to have her take an alternative and unproven therapy that would cost them many thousands of dollars.

They believed it was her only hope. They believed that God had led them to it.

But it wasn’t any hope at all.

It was fraud, slickly packaged and sensationalized like so many others out there.  This particular team is very good at it and are the most reprehensible sort of charlatan — taking advantage of people at the most difficult and vulnerable times of their mortal lives.

Charlatans know the language of faith and it is not sacred to them and they will use it to lie to you.

If there is any money involved in exchange for some product or service or investment, and the person selling you the thing is dropping hints that God led you to them or them to you; or how they have faith that this will be successful; or that some secret was revealed to them by some divine power so they could help others, then walk away.

Be vigilant of those kinds of claims; they may be subtle.

When Christ warned of wolves in sheep’s clothing, it wasn’t just to the disciples of his day.  This warning is to all of us.

And they might not be nonbelievers trying to lead us away. They might be trying to deceive us so they can have some of that worldly power. They could even be believers who have been deceived themselves.

When it comes to money, be skeptical.

When it comes to health, be skeptical — especially if the provider speaks only of positive results and doesn’t give you negative possibilities. A true health care professional will tell you all the possible outcomes of a treatment, good and bad, common or rare.

Medical charlatans glom onto this “weakness.” They point out all those possible negative outcomes and make the claim that no such things happen with their “treatments.”

Skepticism is a misunderstood attribute.

“Don’t be so negative” is often a response to someone who says they are skeptical about a thing. But skepticism is not an emotion, let alone a negative emotion like anger or hatred or fear. 

It’s an attitude of questioning and requiring that claims have evidence to back them up.  And we are told to do that very thing.

Alma 32 gives us a beautiful sermon on experimenting on the words of the scriptures, planting seeds to know if they are good or not.

“In the mouth of two or three witnesses shall every word be established.” D&C 6:28

“Wherefore, by their fruits ye shall know them.” Matthew 7:20

Skepticism is not the antithesis to faith, even though many skeptics are faithless antagonists to religion who would tell you otherwise.

Skepticism is the opposite of blind and ignorant acceptance. And that is not faith. Faith is “hope for things which are not seen, which are true.”

Question everything.

There are things we can and should trust. If a thing is true, then serious questioning will reveal it to be so.

Faith is the belief in things hoped for though unseen, but not necessarily unproven, and certainly not illogical.

For instance, I have faith in exaltation as Joseph Smith described it because a) I know there is a God b) I know the Book of Mormon is true, which means that Jesus Christ is our savior, there are prophets who receive revelation, and Joseph Smith is most certainly one of them.

Plus, the Plan of Salvation is a sound and logical description of what our relationship must be to the God of this universe.

I am a woman of faith.

But I am also a skeptic. I question everything.

Faith is not gullibility. Faith is trusting God, it’s trusting where our study and obedience to gospel principles lead us. If we trust God first and foremost in everything, we will be free from those who would prey on our fear and despair.

There are wolves among us, in their suits and in their dresses. I’m not telling you to be suspicious of everyone. Just be wary of the signs. If your argument against signs that someone is taking advantage of you is, “They would never do that because they are a Mormon (or a Christian, or so very nice),” then look harder.

People will pretend to be things that they aren’t to get what they want. Being pretenders, they may very well be more eloquent and sound more spiritual than the slow of speech true believer in the middle row.

We must pray — not for our Father in Heaven give us what we want (our child’s survival or our health or our financial prosperity). He will not necessarily remove our stumbling blocks and trials from us.

We must pray to know God’s will and to give us the strength to do those things he asks of us. Because I promise, I know, that we will receive that strength we need to overcome.

Heavenly Father will give us that strength through the grace of the Atonement of Jesus Christ and through the peace and comfort of the Holy Ghost.

Not through some strange thing found in the wilderness. If there will be a medical miracle to be had, it will be through the priesthood. All other cures are based on sound science — which is the honest study of how God’s creations work.

The scientific method has a proven record, just like honest religion does. In the next column, we’ll explore what honest and sound science look like.

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