I grew up in a loving Mormon home in Salt Lake City, with faithful parents and a close relationship to my brothers and sisters. Books were always important to me. I have loved the scriptures since I was a child, and continued study over the years has given me additional “reason[s] for the hope that is within [me].”i
In retrospect, I have realized that the relationship between scripture and personal experience operates in both forward and backward directions: not only do the stories of scripture guide daily life but, in addition, what we have lived conditions our understanding of scriptural accounts. This has been especially true for me: it has been through direct participation in repeated experiences of God’s power and help from my childhood that the scriptures have become both intelligible and credible. I like what the Catholic scholar Timothy Luke Johnsonii says about the immediate nature of the sources for one’s personal conviction of the historical authenticity of New Testament scripture:
For those living in a community where “signs and wonders” done in the name of Jesus are a regular occurrence, hearing of such deeds attributed to Jesus in the Gospel narratives is no surprise or scandal…
For those living in a community where the “Word of the Lord” [is] proclaimed through [men and women of God],… it is no surprise or scandal to hear… words [spoken in the same spirit] attributed to Jesus in the Gospels, for it is the same Jesus who speaks in both places…
For a community that lives in the presence of the resurrected [Christ], it is beside the point to debate whether Jesus “back then” predicted His death and resurrection, for His death and above all His resurrection are confirmed as real precisely by this community that lives by His power [today]. It is equally silly, in this context, to debate whether Jesus “back then” predicted His return, for that return is predicated on His being the living and powerful Lord, and it is in the light of that truth that we await God’s final triumph through Him.
To me, Johnson’s statement rings with authenticity. I know the scriptures are true because I have lived things that mirror, in their own small way, what I read there.
One of the delights of reading is to learn that others before us have felt, thought, and experienced what we ourselves are going through. In Sir Richard Attenborough’s moving semi-biographical film about C. S. Lewis, the Oxford professor meets up with a troubled student whom he had seen stealing a book. The student freely admits that his personal library is filled with pilfered volumes and then adds, defensively, “At least I read them… which is more than most people do”:iii
Lewis: So you read differently to the rest of us, do you?
Whistler: Yes, I do. I read at night. It’s the only thing breaks my concentration. All night sometimes. When I start a new book my hands are shaking. My eyes are jumping ahead . . . Does he feel the way I felt? Does he see what I’ve seen? You know, my father used to say . . . He was a teacher like you. Well, not like you. He was only the village schoolmaster.
Lewis: What was it your father used to say?
Whistler: “We read to know we’re not alone.”
To read the words of God in scripture and then, at times, to hear that same voice within my own soul is a supreme joy. Likewise, the spiritual power I sense in the speech and writings of godly men and women eradicates the isolating barriers of time, culture, and distance, and stirs precious feelings of high communion. Because of what I have read, seen, heard, and experienced over a lifetime, I can say with conviction that the moorings of my faith are as deeply grounded in reality as is my knowledge of the quotidian.
The little study of French I had during elementary and junior high school had put a fear of foreign languages into me, so when it was time to serve a mission, I fervently hoped that I would go to an English-speaking mission. I wanted to share the deepest convictions of my mind and heart with no impediment of expression. Instead, I was called to the Belgium Brussels Mission. I served in three cities in France (Arras, Reims, and Calais) before finishing up in Brussels. Although I didn’t realize my hope of overcoming my American accent, I did learn the language much more quickly than I expected. This reinforced my conviction that the Holy Ghost can enhance every learning experience: guiding us in our search for knowledge, helping us to see and recognize the truth, and bringing all things to our remembrance.iv
There is nothing like being a full-time missionary. I enjoyed immersion in full-time service to a people I learned to love, and was rewarded with wonderful life-long friendships and a strengthened testimony. I have enjoyed frequent visits to France and Belgium in the years since my mission. Our family has lived there twice, all of our children have attended school there, and two of my sons have served French missions. My wife Kathleen valiantly began a lifelong study of the language, in preparation for a future mission together.
After graduating from the University of Utah, and prior to my going to the University of Washington for doctoral studies, my wife and I spent a year at Brigham Young University. I was fortunate to have taken courses from Arthur Henry King that changed the way I read the scriptures.v As a research assistant to both Bruce L. Brown and Allen Bergin during that year, I also learned much about how to combine faith and scholarship. Both of these professors were important friends and mentors and, along with others from whom I took courses, provided perspectives I would need for the years of graduate school ahead.
Our family grew to four children during the most intense years of my graduate study. Our small children were a great source of joy to Kathleen and me, and helped me keep my balance and perspective during this time. I was the only married student in my class, and eventually also took on full-time employment, so my situation was very different from that of my peers. In addition, it seemed that every time I found myself poised to take a leap forward on my dissertation research, my church responsibilities would increase. However, in retrospect, I believe that this church service was exactly what I needed to keep my testimony strong and vibrant. Moreover, had I graduated earlier, the professional opportunities that eventually opened up for me would not have been available. I have learned to appreciate what Elder Neal A. Maxwell once said: “Since faith in the timing of the Lord may be tried, let us learn to say not only, ‘Thy will be done,’ but patiently also, ‘Thy timing be done.’”vi Sixteen years after we moved to Seattle for graduate study, I finally received my Ph.D in Cognitive Science.
My patriarchal blessing is structured in an unusually linear fashion, which has been a help to me as I have looked to it for guidance. Receiving that blessing was a beautiful and intense experience—it seemed as if a window opened up into eternity as I not only heard, but also, in a way that is difficult to describe, saw and sensed the import of the words that were spoken. I review my blessing the first Sunday of each month, and it is always obvious which paragraph is most relevant to my current situation. I have tried not only to avoid things that would be inconsistent with the path it marks out, but also to actively seek ways I could help transform its promises into reality. For example, the blessing has helped motivate our efforts to maintain close ties to France and Belgium throughout the years; and has recently made writing on gospel topics a daily priority.
Prayer and priesthood blessings have also been an essential part of the choices Kathleen and I have made at critical junctures in our life. For example, the decision to change the focus of my graduate studies from clinical psychology to cognitive science was confirmed in a blessing from a choice friend, and I received needed reassurance about our first family move to France in a blessing from my father. Major moves have been undertaken and minor crises have been averted because of spiritual impressions received in the course of prayerful discussions with trusted friends and family. The disaster of losing our home in Hurricane Ivan was transformed into a blessing because of guidance received through unexpected spiritual promptings.
During my daily work at the Institute for Human and Machine Cognition, I’m caught up in creating new science and technology ideas to complement human physical, cognitive, and social capabilities. It’s a dream job, and I wouldn’t want to trade places with anyone I know. However, it’s a challenge in the sense that I can’t stand still. Although it’s true that every innovation builds to a degree on the past, the pace of change is so rapid that I am constantly occupied with throwing away the results of recent efforts to accommodate new and better ones.
In addition to the obvious spiritual enrichment that I find in the study of the scriptures, it is wonderful and satisfying to work on something where knowledge is much more cumulative than in my daily work. Though, of course, there are exciting new findings that appear every day in scholarship on ancient scripture studies, I can have the sense over time of continually building up a deeper understanding of God’s outlook on the human situation. Complementing the keys that come from study are those that come from faith, as I relate the spiritual experiences of the past to divine guidance and teachings in the immediate context of my own life.
I like what Donald Knuth, a well-known computer scientist when I was younger, wrote in the preface to his book of Bible commentary: “I can’t say that my scientific background makes me a better Bible student, but I don’t think it’s a handicap either.”vii The apostle Paul advocated a very empirical approach to spiritual things: “Prove [i.e., examine, put to the test] all things; hold fast that which is good.”viii I feel greatly blessed to have been raised in a Church that values truth and goodness, and that, because of its unique status in being led by modern revelation, does not have any reason to fear the bright light of close examination.
There are many simple things that add to my faith. For example, Kathleen and I never would have discovered on our own the many little things we did on a daily basis that have contributed to the happiness of our family. These things we learned from Church friends and classes, and from spiritual intuitions relevant to our own specific needs. I enjoy rubbing shoulders with people in the Church, and our long involvement with missionary work has repeatedly demonstrated that living the Gospel makes each of us better and happier people. The vehicle of church service affords unparalleled opportunities to extend what we have learned to bless the lives of members and non-members.
Though I don’t want to minimize the many serious problems in the world that seem to be aggravating daily, what I have experienced of the goodness of God over a lifetime has, to my own surprise, given me a feeling of increasing optimism. Richard L. Bushman insightfully observed that for Joseph Smith, knowledge was not only a source of power and salvationix but also of comfort.x It is the same for me. Said the Prophet on one occasion, “I am glad I have the privilege of communicating to you some things which if grasped closely will be a help to you when the clouds are gathering and the storms are ready to burst upon you like peals of thunder. Lay hold of these things and let not your knees tremble, nor hearts faint.”xi The Gospel is the source of my strength, my joy, and my hope for a better life here and hereafter.
i 1 Peter 3:15.
ii L. T. Johnson, Real Jesus, p. 145; c.f., J. H. Charlesworth, DSS and NT, pp. 142-143.
iv See Moroni 10:5, John 14:26.
v For a collection of his essays, see Arthur Henry King, Arm the Children: Faith’s Response to a Violent World, ed. Daryl Hague. Provo, UT: BYU Studies, 1998. For examples of his approach to reading the scriptures, see Dennis and Sandra Packard, Feasting Upon the Word. Salt Lake City, UT: Deseret Book, 1981.
vi “Plow in Hope,” Ensign, May 2001, p. 59. See also Oaks, Dallin H. “Timing.” In Brigham Young University 2001-2002 Speeches, 187-93. Provo, UT: Brigham Young University, 2002. http://speeches.byu.edu/reader/reader.php?id=684 (accessed February 16, 2010).
vii D. E. Knuth, 3:16, p. 2.
viii 1 Thessalonians 5:21.
ix D&C 130:18-19; 131:5-6; J. Smith, Jr., Teachings, 8 April 1843, pp. 287-288, 14 May 1843, p. 297.
x R. L. Bushman, Rough Stone, pp. 487-488.
xi J. Smith, Jr., Words, 16 April 1843, p. 196.
Jeffrey M. Bradshaw (Ph.D., Cognitive Science, University of Washington) is a Senior Research Scientist at the Florida Institute for Human and Machine Cognition (IHMC) where he leads the research group developing the KAoS policy and domain services framework (www.ihmc.us/groups/jbradshaw). With Marco Carvalho, he co-leads the development of the Luna Agent Framework and the IHMC Cyber Framework, designed to address requirements of situation awareness, anticipation, responsiveness, teamwork, and efficiency of large distributed network operations centers at a national scale. Formerly, he led research groups at The Boeing Company and the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center.
Jeff has been a Fulbright Senior Scholar at the European Institute for Cognitive Sciences and Engineering (EURISCO) in Toulouse, France; an Honorary Visiting Researcher at the Center for Intelligent Systems and their Applications and AIAI at the University of Edinburgh, Scotland; a visiting professor at the Institut Cognitique at the University of Bordeaux; is former chair of ACM SIGART; and former chair of the RIACS Science Council for NASA Ames Research Center. He served as a member of the National Research Council (NRC) Committee on Military and Intelligence Methodology for Emergent Physiological and Cognitive/Neural Science Research in the Next Two Decades and as a scientific advisor to the Japanese NEC Technology Paradigm Shifts initiative. He currently serves as a member of the Expert Panel on Smart Grid Technology to the Office of Global Science and Technology at the National Acacdemy of Sciences, an advisor to the HCI and Visualization program at the German National AI Research Center (DFKI), and an external advisory board member of the Cognitive Science and Technology Program at Sandia National Laboratories. He is a member of the Technical Committee for IEEE Systems, Man and Cybernetics, the IFIP Working Group on HCI and Visualization, and for the Aerospace Human Factors and Ergonomics of the IEA. Jeff served for over a decade on the Board of Directors of the International Foundation for Autonomous Agents and Multiagent Systems.
Recently, Jeff served as co-program chair for Intelligent User Interfaces (IUI 2008) as Program Vice Chair, 2008 IEEE International Conference on Distributed Human-Machine Systems (DHMS 2008), and co-General Chair of the 2009 International Conference on Active Media Techologies (AMT). He co-founded and organized the Human-Agent-Robot Teamwork Workshop series (HART), which will have its next meeting in December at the Lorentz Center in Leiden, The Netherlands. He is on the editorial board of the Journal of Autonomous Agents and Multi-Agent Systems, Schedae Informaticae, and the Web Intelligence Journal, and was formerly on the board of the Web Semantics Journal, the Knowledge Acquisition Journal and the International Journal of Human-Computer Studies.
In partnership with Autodesk Research, Jeff leads IHMC participation in the Advanced Technologies for Life-Cycle Management of Sustainable Building Performance initiative and is a member of the Parametric Human Consortium. He led the DARPA and NASA-funded ITAC study team “Software Agents for the Warfighter” and has participated in NASA Blue Sky Study Groups for the “Human-Centered Vision of Mars Exploration” and for the “Small Pressurized Rover,” as well as the AFRL Blue Sky study on “Improving Understanding of Complex Information.” From 2002-2006, KAoS was used as part of a NASA series of annual two-week field tests of human-robot teams performing simulated planetary surface exploration at the Mars Desert Research Station in the Utah desert. Jeff was sponsored by DHS to undertake detailed simulation studies of the use of human-robot teams to secure facilities at Port Everglades. He has also led the ONR-sponsored NAIMT and Coordinated Operations projects where a team of humans and heterogeneous robots performed field exercises at the Naval Air Station in Pensacola, aimed at port reconnaissance, and robot-assisted detection and apprehension of intruders. Among hundreds of other publications, he edited the books Knowledge Acquisition as a Modeling Activity (with Ken Ford, Wiley, 1993) and Software Agents (AAAI Press/The MIT Press, 1997).
Jeff has written a highly-acclaimed scholarly commentary on the book of Moses entitled In God’s Image and Likeness (www.imageandlikeness.net). It has been praised by the eminent Old Testament scholar Margaret Barker as “remarkable,” by the Emeritus Director of FARMS S. Kent Brown as a “most interesting tapestry,” by BYU Professor of Ancient Scripture David R. Seely as being of “cosmic scope” with a “wealth of stunning artistic and literary images,” and by prominent LDS scientist David H. Bailey as a “uniquely modern and honest treatment.” Jeff has presented at FAIR meetings in the USA, Germany, and France, and has published in the International Journal of Mormon Studies, Element: A Journal of Mormon Philosophy and Theology, and BYU Studies. He has written a weekly column for Meridian Magazine, which can also be found as part of a blog and RSS feed entitled “Temple Themes in the Scriptures” (http://blog.templethemes.net). Jeff was a missionary in the Belgium Brussels Mission, and has since served in a variety of Church capacities including early-morning seminary teacher, bishop, high councilor, stake presidency counselor, and temple ordinance worker. He is currently serving as a bishop for the second time. Jeff and his wife Kathleen are the parents of four children, and the grandparents of four.
Posted March 2010
Updated September 2010