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. My proof is a collection of circumstantial evidence and while the probabilities are very compelling, it it still circumstantial. The ultimate proof is an answer to prayer.
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.
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 prior suggestion attested to having had these experiences. These individual, unsolicited, observations are necessary to the objectivity of 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 Hard Evidence: the Book of Mormon
I think this is the best 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 sophistry. pride, and arrogance 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 while 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 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 several centuries after the end of the record in the book.
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 (could not have been written by one or two people)
- 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
- [Update] Today, April 3, 2023, I became aware of a new corroboration, viz: In Episode 4, of The Holy Land Revealed in Amazon Prime’s Great Courses, professor Jodi Magness says that Ancient Hebrew script was based on the ancient Canaanite script which was influenced by modified Egyptian that they turned into an alphabet. This was used until at least 587 B.C. (which is 13 years before the Book of Mormon begins). Meanwhile, 1 Nephi 1:2 reads: “Yea, I make a record in the language of my father, which consists of the learning of the Jews and the language of the Egyptians.” Almost a thousand years later Mormon 9:32 says “… we have written this record according to our knowledge, in the characters which are called among us the reformed Egyptian, being handed down and altered by us, according to our manner of speech.” [Emphasis mine]
- The manuscript given to the printer had no punctuation, not even periods. Why? Because their language had no punctuation. The end of a sentence was indicated by the text of the first words of the next sentence. Many times it is the phrase, “And it came to pass”. Several verses of Alma 24 are good examples: verses 16 – 26 begin thus: “And now, “, “And now”, “And this they did”, “And thus we see”, “And it came to pass”, “Now when the people saw”, “And thus without meeting”, “Now when the Lamanites”, “Now when the Lamanites”, “And it came to pass”, and “And it came to pass”.
- [Update] Today, May 19, 2023, I found a Youtube video discussing an ancient tomb in Panama where reformed Egyptian characters were used to write Hebrew words. To see some of these, go to 14:00 in https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DnS0DILuLhs. These are dated about the same time – 600 BC. A volume of gold plates bound with rings like those Joseph Smith described were also found there.
So – did that turn on the engine light on your dashboard? 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. You may need to look in the mirror and talk this out with yourself. I had to do that. It was my beginning of persistent happiness as a follower of Jesus Christ.
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 something like 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 is impossible that anyone in 1830 could have put it 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. It is the hardest available evidence that the Biblical record is true. 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 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. I not only highly recommend you do that experiment, I exhort you, for the sake of your own understanding of life and the joy that can bring you.
So in the final analysis, the final proof is something each of us has to look for and pray for. It requires some faith, some hope, and very likely some repentance, but the interest yielded by those investments is better than you can hope for. That is how I proved that God existed. Now, after trying to “do his will” for 60 years, I know as well as I know anything that the Father and the Son live, and that the Holy Ghost can lead us into all truth. The Holy Ghost has given me to know that with the same surety with which I knew my deceased mother was in that kitchen.