A blog titled Truth vs. Truth that recently appeared on Mormon Metaphysics gives an interesting interpretation of the “I know the church is true” comment that is commonly spoken in LDS testimony meetings. The author suggests that rather than construe this statement in a Greek absolutist fashion (where truth is agreement between thought and external facts), we may interpret “true” as reflecting an existential commitment to the church of Christ. Thus, when someone says, “I know the church is true,” that statement may be interpreted as expressing a commitment to the church in much the same way that a husband is “true” (committed) to his wife.
This new way of interpreting the “I know the church is true” statement will surely bring comfort to those who criticize by saying: “You can’t say that because you don’t know for sure.” Yet sometimes it is appropriate for people to say “I know it is true.” They really do know something to be true.
Take the statement, “I know that God lives.” Now, personal knowledge in the existence of God exists on a continuum (excuse the linear analogy). Every point along that continuum is called faith, except for the endpoint where faith gives way to absolute knowledge. Absolute knowledge is reached once we receive a physical AND spiritual manifestation that He lives. The Nephites who touched the nail prints and thrust their hands into His side (physical), AND received a witness from the Holy Ghost that they were looking at the Lord of heaven and earth (spiritual) no longer required faith – they had reached the end point and knew for certain that He lives.
What about the rest of us who are still going on faith? Can we say that we know He lives? Can we find certainty in our faith? Yes, we can. Our knowledge can be perfect in the evidence that we have received. Those of us who “see” evidence of divine design in the world around us and have felt spiritual witnesses from the Holy Ghost have certain knowledge of those things. In other words, we KNOW that an orderly universe evidences intelligent design and we KNOW that we have felt feelings of love, joy, and peace that come from the Holy Spirit. The limited knowledge that we have received is certain. Granted, we have not reached complete knowledge where faith is no longer required, but as any good scientist will attest, you don’t have to have absolute and complete knowledge before you claim to know something is true.
So when people testify that they know that God lives, are they are justified in making such a claim? Yes, in cases where their physical and spiritual evidence is sufficient to lead them to believe in a supreme being. It is important to remember that what is sufficient evidence for some may not be sufficient evidence for others. Doubting Thomas is a good example. He was not willing to accept the testimony of others that Jesus was resurrected from the dead, and until he saw the savior he could not testify that he knew that Jesus was resurrected. However, for many people, the testimony of prophets and spiritual witnesses are sufficient for them to say that they know that Jesus lives. It is possible to know that Jesus lives without having seen and touched the resurrected Lord.
In religious matters we should be careful to not criticize people for failing to meet our personal criteria for establishing truth. There is great diversity in the power of personal spiritual manifestations and in people's interpretation of the strength of the data. We should not allow ourselves to become "criticizing Thomases" and criticize others for making religious truth claims based on evidence that does not live up to our standards. (Mormons and Science 08.08)
“I was changing a light bulb in the bathroom when I slipped, fell and hit my head. When I came to, I had a dream . . . a vision, of this! (pointing to a drawing). The Flux Capacitor. This is what makes time travel possible!” - Doctor Emmett Brown, inventor of time travel.
This statement by the Doc in the 1981 blockbuster movie “Back to the Future” is not just another humorous comment, it is a parody of an event that has happened repeatedly throughout the history of modern science. I am referring to dreams and inspirations that led to marvelous breakthroughs in science and technology.
Secular science just shrugs its shoulders at these supernatural events and attributes them to human intuition and perseverance. Yet, as I point out in my book Truth & Science, the source of these miraculous events is the Light of Christ. We are all beneficiaries of scientific or technological breakthroughs that have saved lives and enabled us to lead more productive and comfortable lifestyles. When you think of the blessings of science and technology in your life, don’t thank your lucky stars; thank the Lord.
The prophet Brigham Young said, “Every discovery in science and art, that is really true and useful to mankind, has been given by direct revelation from God.” This is not the kind of statement that has to be taken on faith; there are plenty of examples of scientists receiving supernatural assistance. One of my favorite accounts is Dmitri Mendeleyev’s (1834-1907) discovery of the periodic table. Interestingly, the circumstances surrounding Mendeleyev’s discovery of the periodic table are similar to the circumstances portrayed in Doc Emmett Brown’s fictional discovery of the Flux Capacitor.
Both Mendeleyev and the Doc had wild unkempt hair.
Both had pictures of famous scientists who inspired them. Doc had pictures of Thomas Edison and Isaac Newton in his study, and Mendeleyev had pictures of Newton, Galileo, and Faraday in his study.
Both men isolated themselves from the outside world while they worked feverishly on their discoveries. Doc isolated himself while he worked on time travel, and Mendeleyev isolated himself while he worked on a way to organize the elements by their atomic weights.
And both men had a vision/dream while unconcscious that led to major discoveries. Doc had a dream while unconscious on the bathroom floor, and Mendeleyev had his dream after falling asleep from exhaustion. In his vision, Mendeleyev said, “I saw . . . a table where all the elements fell into place as required.” While in a dreamlike state the Spirit of the Lord revealed to him the exact details of how to solve the problems he had labored on for so long. Mendeleyev's account reads like a Hollywood script, yet it is true!
Is it a coincidence that events like this began happening around the time of the Restoration? No. The apostle Paul testified that in the last days God would pour out His Spirit upon all flesh. The outpouring of His Spirit enlightened people’s minds, ended the Dark Ages, and prepared the inhabitants of the earth for the Restoration. The outpouring of the Spirit of the Lord continues to this day. Its enlightening power is what makes the latter-days so different from previous dispensations. Consider that for the first few thousands of years in the history of mankind, modes of transportation and communication remained largely unchanged (e.g., walking, on horse, riding in an animal drawn cart). Now look how far we have come in the last 150 years. The progress has been astounding!
The next time you start your car, turn on your computer, adjust your thermostat, answer the phone, turn on a light, bake in the oven, take a bath, put your clothes in the washer and dryer, and take a healing medication, thank the Lord. As Brigham Young said, He is the provider of all useful and wonderful discoveries.
(Mormons and Science 8.08)