I believe in God and in His son Jesus Christ as Lord and Creator, Redeemer of the living and the dead, and personal Savior, and that God continues to care for and interact with us, His children. I believe in grace through Jesus Christ. I believe in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints as a divinely sanctioned and directed church. I believe that Joseph Smith was a man called of God to a work of restoration, and that the Book of Mormon was translated by Joseph Smith from ancient documents and contains the word of God.
How I would explain why I hold these beliefs depends on the background of those I am addressing.
To those who are believers and Christian: From time to time I have had opportunity to have lengthy religious discussions with colleagues and students of other faiths. I usually depart from such discussions impressed by the knowledge, devotion, faith, and spirit of grace I feel in these people, and I leave feeling spiritually taught, deepened and broadened. I rejoice that active, brave, devoted faith continues across Christianity!
But these discussions also often point out to me doctrines supporting my faith that answer nuanced questions emerging in “mainstream Christianity.” From the point of view of understanding our relationship to God, I feel that the doctrines of the restored gospel offer insight and motivating explanation. To my friends who walk in the light of traditional faiths I want to say, How wonderful is your faith! I learn from it, I rejoice in it. But there are yet more reasons to believe!
I find that the doctrines of the restored gospel are the most broadly compatible with New Testament teachings of any church I have met, providing explanations and context for doctrines—such as grace, righteous living, resurrection, priesthood, post-mortal existence, the Holy Spirit, and revelation—which accord with scripture and thoughtful contemplation. The doctrines of the restored gospel are also consonant with the Old Testament in ways I have not seen among other Christian faiths. These doctrines and teachings not only provide an explanation for why the world is, but how it can be a better place. And the organization of the Church begins to provide ways to move forward toward that place.
I find that the Book of Mormon helps me further understand the mission of Jesus Christ. His role as redeemer and savior and His mortal birth to a virgin mother are all clarified by the voice of this witness. “We talk of Christ, we rejoice in Christ, we preach of Christ, we prophesy of Christ,” because we “know that it is by grace that we are saved, after all we can do” (2 Nephi 25). How satisfying it is to know that God’s mouth is not only not stopped, but that throughout history God has watched and cared for peoples in more places than one. That revelation has not ceased is a potent and important thing to me: Why should a loving father cease to communicate with his children in a fundamental and important way, especially when confusion and strife are clearly evident among them?
It is satisfying to me that questions of deep import may be clarified by the light of revelation. The views of the eternities provided by the prophet Joseph Smith and his successors help me understand the purpose of Creation and my place in it. It is this light of revelation that was wanting when right-minded, conscientious reformers set about to restore Christianity to its primitive, pristine principles, and the absence of that light which has led to the continuing splintering of the Christian world. That light of revelation was re-kindled when Joseph Smith prayed seeking wisdom, which initiated the restoration.
In addition to these reasonable things which reassure my head, and more importantly, I feel confirming warmth and reassurance which I attribute to the witness of the Holy Spirit when I prayerfully study scriptures both ancient and modern, and when I strive to live a life of correct behavior and service. I think I have tasted (if only slightly) something of the love that God has for us His children. I have experienced and witnessed the transforming power of faith in Christ. I have countless affirmations from the Holy Spirit—flashes of confirmation, warm nudges—that teach and confirm my faith.
To those who are disinclined to believe in God: I find order, complexity, and richness in both the physical world and the living world that surpass the explanations and probabilities supplied by the current scientific models. Perhaps mine is just another testimony of the “argument from complexity”: complex things exist, so a God must exist to have made them—combined with C.S. Lewis’s “Universal moral law exists, to there must be some lawgiver.” But against these, the only answers science has to offer are ultimately based upon the “argument of a long time span,” beautifully and persuasively, but not ultimately convincingly, expressed: the world has been around long enough that there has been time for things to become as they are. Despite science’s attempt to explain the world’s complexity by a long time-span, there is still so much that seems inherently unexplained and unexplainable by science. Scientists who categorically posit that there is no God or no higher organizing force seem to me to acting as much from a principle of their faith as the Christian believers act from theirs.
For example, in the human realm I perceive a volition or will evident in the actions of man unaccounted for by any theory, but impossible to ignore. The philosophers have noticed that we have free will, and more recently cognitive scientists and artificial intelligencers have run against it on a pragmatic level. Our best attempts at artificial intelligence run aground against the absence of free will in our software. Any simulations of free will must necessarily involve some kind of simulated random actions, but random is not the same as free. (It may be that some day such techniques will achieve a simulated free will. But that is an article of faith built on sandier ground than a belief in an immortal soul.) I attribute our volition to our God-sanctioned eternal selves.
I support with full mind and conscience the efforts of science to provide rational explanations for all aspects of the world. But I posit that all reasonable hypotheses merit consideration and investigation. Removal of a class of hypotheses—such as the hypothesis of God (or some such force) —seems inconsistently unscientific to me.
More personally, I sense an influence in my life that gives me a strong internal sense that I am known personally by God and that he has an interest in the kind of person that I become and the kind of service I render. This sense becomes a belief in God that leads me to seek meaning in the world, which for me has best been found through the teachings of Jesus Christ and His followers.
In a time of deep trouble, I have received the clear message: Be still, and know that I am God.
Todd K. Moon is a professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering and head of that department at Utah State University.
Posted September 2010