This is a response to a friend on Twitter who says he wants to hear my “proof that God exists”. I think this is a great opportunity to sharpen my thinking a bit. And that leads to this disclaimer: I can’t really prove that God exists for several reasons. First, I don’t know what my friend would consider proof. Second, I certainly can’t invite him and God to dinner and expect them both to show up. So my “proof” will be necessarily somewhat short of that.
Just for due diligence: this essay is my own work, it was neither commissioned nor sanctioned by anyone. The opinions expressed here are mine alone. If you find any errors in my logic, please send me a message using the form at the end, my intent is always to be careful and correct. The scientific method sometimes requires that we use inferences in order to bridge gaps in the data and/or experiments available. I have done that with my faith and have been rewarded richly for it. But let’s get on with it.
There is one more thing. I have friends and family members who are atheists. I respect their faith in that position. In fact, if we were to make a list of reasons why they are atheists, I would agree with them on several points because I don’t believe in that kind of a god either. Maybe I’ll write another post about that.
I graduated with honors in Physics and Mathematics, got an MBA, and then just before I turned 68 I acquired an AA degree in Land Surveying. I have always loved science, the scientific method, engineering, and the like. Here are pictures taken this week of the electrical panel I designed and built for the camper conversion of our fourteen-foot utility trailer. I’m mentioning this as my colophon, to let my readers know that I am a capable, logical thinker. I can do complex stuff that works. I am also somewhat noted for my ability to deeply analyze things. My long bio is posted on this site if you really have to know more.
Anyway, some confidence in my sanity will be needed as you read on. Smiling.
This is an attempt to document the more compelling spiritual (supernatural, paranormal, whatever – let’s use words to communicate understanding and not get all tangled up in semantics, definitions, innuendos, etc.) experiences of my life. I will address these in three phases or “proofs”. The first two are proofs to me, but owing to the fact that they are wholly subjective, I must suppose that some will dismiss them out of hand. However, they involve multiple observers who separately and without suggestion attested to having had these experiences. These individual, unsolicited, observations are necessary to the scientific method. The third “proof” is entirely objective so I have titled it “The Hard Evidence”.
Many of my readers will come to this point with a determination to find something wrong with my “proofs”. Some will already be feeling frustrated with this “foolish attempt to prove something” that cannot be. If you are experiencing these kinds of feelings, that is a good thing for you because the depth of your frustration and its corresponding anger serves as an indicator of the depth of the prejudice with which you approach this. Just as pain is often a valuable indicator of trouble in the body, so anger indicates trouble in the mind and heart, a notification of prejudice or bias that, if unchecked, will cloud the lens of your understanding and prevent you from learning what an open-minded truth-seeker can find here.
I am confident of that because there is no life experience that is completely devoid of value. When the engine light comes on in your car, you can feel a kind of frustration and anger. To happily fix your car you have to recognize the meanings of both the engine light and your frustration. They each need a different cure. What I am saying is that in both aspects of this experience, only the truth can make you free of the trouble each aspect presents. My hope is that you will learn something useful as you read on. If you brace yourself so as to read with an open mind, you will surely learn something to improve your life. After all, your frame of mind will absolutely make no difference in what I will relate here. But it will make a huge difference in the value delivered to your mind.
Some of you will need to take a break, look at yourself in the mirror and ask who that is looking back at you. If this puts you off so much that you quit reading, that is probably a good thing. You don’t want to harden your heart against parts of life because that will put you off balance.
The three “proofs” I will present are “Glimpses Through the Veil”, “Life After Death”, and “The Hard Evidence”.
Glimpses Through the Veil
While we were courting, my wife and I had many long discussions among which was a decision to have eight children. We thought that the best gift we could give the world was eight honest, hopefully hard-working, loving citizens. The first four came during our first five years of marriage and we decided we had better start using an effective birth control system. We prayed that we would be given to know when it was time to lay that aside and have another child. Our prayers were answered as follows.
Ordinarily, we just talked about when we should get pregnant again and came to an agreement but there were two times when the veil was very thin and we saw the next child who was waiting to come. In the first instance, I saw, in my mind, a full-grown girl in a white robe who seemed to stand out in a line of similarly robed people. I knew that would be our next baby. I didn’t mention this experience to my wife for at least a few days as I was concerned that she might think me crazy. However, I finally ventured to talk about it and found that she had had the same “vision” (or whatever you want to call it) of the next child and that she had the experience at exactly the same moment as I had.
The second time this happened was as we sat down for supper. I always looked around to be sure everyone was present. By this time we had four children with us. My wife and I sat at the ends of the table with the children on the sides. As I asked the question “Is everybody here?”, I saw, in my mind’s eye, a full-grown man in a white robe standing behind one of the seated children. I knew that meant it was time for us to get pregnant again. I said to my wife, “Did you see that?”. She said, “Yes, I did! It’s time for another one.”
These were precious moments in our lives, rather sacred moments I should add. My readers are free to think whatever they wish about this report. All I can say is I have reported the truth of our separate and individual experiences. There are, of course, several theoretical ways to dismiss these as phenomena that don’t require the existence of God. We saw them as direct answers to our prayers. Those individual prayers could account for the suggestions to our sub-conscience minds that eventually led to the experiences, but that doesn’t account for their simultaneity nor their identical images.
Life After Death
There is no question in my mind about this topic. As far as I am concerned, this is a hard fact of life. I’ll explain why.
I personally know five people who have died and “came back”. Four of them talked to me about their experiences. I’ll begin with my brother who was moving aluminum irrigation pipes between rows of full-grown apple trees when he tipped a thirty-foot-long pipe into a 44,000 volt power line. He was holding onto the pipe at about one fifth of the way between the ground and the power line, so he would have experienced at least 8,800 volts. Enough current went through his body to burn a row of tiny pits around the perimeter of one foot where the nails in his boot soles conducted arcs into his flesh. There was also a depression that a quarter perfectly filled in his heel where the skin was completely gone. Our father, who happened to be nearby found him lifeless, gray, and not breathing on the wet grass. My father prayed for his life as only a father would do at a time like that. He revived immediately.
He reported that he saw a beautiful city and was conducted on a kind of tour by someone. There is more but I honor his preference that the rest not be exposed to mockery and belittlement as some people are almost certain, in their determination to keep God out of their lives, to bring to this experience.
The second of the four is a young man who was shot through the right eye in Viet Nam. The bullet traveled just below the brain pan and missed the spinal column. He remembers looking down on his own body from several feet above and to the side as it lay in a tent morgue. Some soldiers came through, rifling through the pockets of the deceased men and it angered him greatly. In frustration that he was helpless to do anything about it, he began to cry. An orderly came through shortly and noticed the tears and upon investigation found that he could be revived.
Over the ensuing years, he quit telling his story because people would dismiss it as crazy. Then he attended a fireside with a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and the subject of life after death came up so he told his story. These people not only believed him but added information about how it made perfect sense in the context of the restored Gospel of Jesus Christ. He was soon baptized into that church.
The third life-after-death experience happened to my oldest son who was declared “code blue” on four occasions while under intensive chemotherapy for non-Hodgkins lymphoma. He said he talked with my father on one of those occasions. I might venture to add that a miracle attended this disease. He was diagnosed with arachnoiditis, a severe inflammation of nerves in the lower back. He was scheduled for surgery and the doctor asked for one more x-ray so he could better determine how he should proceed. I had the opportunity to administer a Priesthood blessing about an hour before the x-ray. In it he was promised that he would fully recover. When the x-ray was taken the doctor canceled the surgery and said, “He doesn’t have arachnoiditis.”
The fourth experience happened to a man who had started a computer service company in uptown Salt Lake City. I found employment there and we became acquainted. The startup didn’t survive its first year and I become the President of the tiny, floundering corporation during its last few months. During that period we had many occasions to visit with one another. During one of these conversations he told his story.
His father operated a medium-sized dairy and he became the manager of it. During the next few years, he literally worked himself to death: long, hard schedules, lack of sleep, bad nutrition, etc. His doctor warned him but he thought he could make it. He didn’t. He was “dead” for about twenty minutes, as I recall. During that time he was in a place of supreme happiness, joy, and most of all love. He had a companion who talked with him about where he was and what his options were. He could have chosen to stay or to return. He said he really, really wanted to stay in this place that was so incredible, but his duty to his wife and children made him choose to return. He had been warned that it would be a very painful transition back to life, and it was.
The fifth and final experience I want to relate in this life-after-death section involves my wife, my mother, and our oldest child, a daughter. This particular experience is the one that I would call the best proof of life after death because it involves three, completely independent observers, none of which had any anticipation of it nor any communication between them. It is therefore a powerful evidence of some of the most fundamental doctrines of the Judao-Christian religion: that we are dual beings with both spiritual and physical bodies, that death is just a door into the next phase of life, that we retain our identity, and that the mind and heart are not just a mass of neurons. Two short paragraphs tell all that.
A few days after my mother passed away, my wife was working in the kitchen when I came into it. I immediately felt my mother’s presence there in the kitchen. I mentioned it to my wife and she confirmed by saying, “Yes, she’s come to thank me for taking care of her. She gave me a hug.” My mother had died a victim of Alzheimer’s disease and my wife had given her personal care by bathing, etc. This simultaneous, unsolicited, independent observation of the presence of my deceased mother was a powerful one. I experienced my mother’s presence without any thought that she might be there or any prior indication from my wife that she was there.
And as if that were not enough, only a few moments passed after our sharing this wonder, when our daughter let herself into the house and into the kitchen. Before anyone could say a word, she stopped and exclaimed, “Grandma’s here isn’t she.” It was not uttered as a question but as a statement of surprised fact. This third witness of the living presence of my mother whose body we had only recently interred was and is to this day, a proof that cannot be gainsaid.
The Hard Evidence
So we come to the objective evidence of the existence of God. I remind my reader that I am quite aware that this is not definitive proof of that existence. Such proof would defeat one of the primary purposes of life – i.e. to identify people that love truth and will work to find it. There is, however, a mountain of evidence that can arouse our curiosity and lead us to investigate. It is that honest and sincere investigation that identifies the truth seeker.
A line of reasoning has become available during the most recent century that is quite compelling as “proof” of the existence of God. It does not actually prove that existence, of course, but it does establish a number of indicators that point very strongly in that direction. Before I launch into that, I want to assure my readers that I realize that this “proof” is circumstantial. Compelling, but nonetheless circumstantial. It is therefore subject to dismissal as a bunch of coincidences, in spite of the fact that taken together the probability that these items are coincidences is vanishingly minuscule.
This hard evidence is a physical object that could be soaked in water, frozen, and used to drive nails. This is a book, a sort of magical book for all it contains is nothing short of miraculous. I firmly believe that God knew the great sophistry and pride that would be rampant these days and provided this book as hard-core evidence that any serious truth seeker would want to pursue. It definitely leads one to God because if you can’t explain where the book came from in any rational way you are left with the story told by the author/translator.
A clarification might be in order. I am a devout Christian, trying my best to be a follower of the Creator God Jesus Christ. I love the Bible. I grew up with it in the Presbyterian church. It was the New Testament that convinced me that the “restitution of all things” prophesied in several passages of the Old and New Testaments was happening and that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints was the scaffolding God was using to build the Kingdom of God in these the latter days.
The Book of Mormon
The Book of Mormon mentions many things which were unheard of when it came off the press in 1830. As the years have gone these have proven to be accurate “predictions”, if you will; i.e. that we would eventually discover them to be correct. For example, the book talks about elephants and horses in the Americas. But in 1830 there was no evidence of elephants and everybody “knew” that horses were brought here by the Spaniards.
In the scientific method, we make predictions based on a theory we are testing, then we see if those predictions turn out to be correct. So we adopt the theory that the book is true to its claim to be an ancient record and then we can watch to see if things prove or disprove that theory. During the one hundred ninety-three years since it came off the press, there are many many things that have proven out.
So here’s a very short list of some of these. Note that many of them were once “scientific proof” that the book was a fraud. They are marked with an asterisk.
A Partial List of “Predictions” and Features
- *Horses in America, Alma 18:10, pg 254
- *Elephants in America, Ether 9:19, pg 503
- *The ancient book was engraved on metal plates
- *Hardened copper tools, Jarom 1:8, pg 139
- *Barley crops in the Americas, Mosiah 9:9, pg 165
- Word prints show multiple authors
- The place name Nahom persists after 2,600 years, 1 Nephi 16:34, pg 35 (See map here.)
- *The sometimes awkward English shows translation from a Semitic language
- The book contains several colophons, an absolute necessity for its time and place, 1 Nephi 1:1, pg 1
- There are several instances of chiasmus, a literary device appropriate in its time and place but first discovered in 1960.
- Writers correct their text by engraving more text onto their metal plates (no backspace key)
- The book introduces hundreds of new but clearly Semitic names
- Names of people are correct for their time and place
So – did that turn on the engine light on your dashboard? Are you determined to put this evidence aside? Let me just say this: I am a trained scientist. The most unscientific device in the universe is a closed mind. I have no fear of truth. If you fear this stuff, you are having trouble with your own integrity. You need to look in the mirror and talk this out with yourself. I had to do that. It was the beginning of persistent happiness.
Joseph Smith said an angel visited him and told him where to find gold plates that held a record of a family emigrating from Jerusalem to America and the resulting civilization here. The time period of the record is 1,000 years beginning about 600 B.C. in Jerusalem with the emigration of a few families to the Americas. He said he translated the plates “by the gift and power of God”. So the problem for a non-believer is how to explain the existence of the book with its incredible number of “coincidentally” correct attributes without reverting to angels, visions from God, or God himself.
The 1830 book was originally written in long hand in manuscript form by various people who said they took down Joseph Smith’s dictation. A good portion of that manuscript survives today. It is impossible that any one person could have written the book in 1830, and if we claim a committee did it, the problem gets a lot more complicated. A very early but somewhat persistent theory is that it came from one Solomon Spaulding. But even if it did, you haven’t answered the question. All you have done is said that the turtle holding up the earth is standing on the back of an elephant.
In other words, the question of the day is “Where did the Book of Mormon come from?” Since it seems impossible that anyone in 1830 could have put all these things together, we are left with Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s famous principle:
“When you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth.”
So we are left with the unlikely story of the origin of the Book of Mormon, which story, if true, goes a very long way to proving that there are angels, visions, life after death, and a loving God at the center of it all. One should not feel bad about doubting the story. Joseph Smith himself once said, “I don’t blame anyone for not believing my history. If I had not experienced what I have, I would not have believed it myself.”
I am a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and have been since I was nineteen. It has been the single, greatest advantage of my life and has given me an understanding of almost every facet of life. However, the fact is I originally didn’t want to join but after studying its history and doctrine for almost two years I was asked this question: “Jack, what’s keeping you out of the church?” I was silent for some time but finally had to admit to myself that I had run out of excuses. That opened the door to a happiness and peace that is truly difficult to describe. It is sufficient that I dare expose all the above to an often hostile world and the mockery that will surely come from those who are fastened to a lifestyle they think they cannot live without. Well, guess what? You can.
The Final Proof
The Book of Mormon makes it clear that God designed this life as a closed book test to see if we will be honest with others and especially with ourselves. Whether or not this essay is correct, if you have read it with an open mind and a desire to learn the truth, you are doing great on that test. God did not leave us to grope our way through our entire lives. The Holy Ghost has the power to convince our hearts and minds of the truth of things – including the Book of Mormon. I quote from page 529:
“And when ye shall receive these things, 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.
And by the power of the Holy Ghost ye may know the truth of all things.”
I prayed for over a year to know if the book was true without receiving an answer. Finally, I realized that I was trying to satisfy my curiosity rather than seeking to know how I should live my life. Then the scripture in the New Testament (John 7:17) came to mind: “If any man will do his will, he shall know of the doctrine, whether it be of God, or whether I speak of myself.” By that time I was convinced that the truth about anything was the path to freedom so I resolved to “do his will”. Within a few months I was given to know, by the power of the Holy Ghost, that the book was what it claimed to be. You may know also. Literally millions have performed this experiment to see if they could replicate the claimed results and have come away knowing that Jesus is the Christ described in the Bible and the Book of Mormon.
This is the only experiment appropriate to the issue at hand. It is inherently subjective, but an experiment nonetheless. In fact, the Book of Mormon calls it an experiment in Alma 32:27. It is described in detail in verses 27 through 43, pages 289 – 291.
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