I’m going to ask you to do something. Something you may not have done in a long time. Pull out a set of scriptures, wherever you can find them, and search for a scripture.
This is my clever way of getting people to confront the scriptures. But don’t think I’ve gone off the deep end and become a prosylyter. Rather, I want you to find a scripture that has some kind of idea or precept or concept that — as far as you can tell — when it is taken in the proper context is rather disagreeable to you. And then, present why or why not.
So, I think we all can do this. I don’t think it would necessarily be difficult for us. And as I ponder this experiment, I wonder which one I’m going to choose. Picking out Old Testament instances of God’s seemingly spastic morality seems like a low blow to me, so I avoid those things. And I avoid as well scriptures that I don’t feel I have a full grasp on — obviously, if my beef with a scripture is do to a misunderstanding on my part, then that’s no good.
But I think I have one. I’d like you all to turn to Alma 32.
Alma 32 has a famous (at least, in my mind) analogy of faith to a seed…If we look at Alma 32:28, for example…
Now, we will compare the word unto a aseed. Now, if ye give place, that a bseed may be planted in your cheart, behold, if it be a true seed, or a good seed, if ye do not cast it out by your dunbelief, that ye will resist the Spirit of the Lord, behold, it will begin to swell within your breasts; and when you feel these swelling motions, ye will begin to say within yourselvesIt must needs be that this is a good seed, or that the word is good, for it beginneth to enlarge my soul; yea, it beginneth to eenlighten my funderstanding, yea, it beginneth to be delicious to me.
So far, so good. This provides a challenge, and one that seems reasonable. Perhaps someone tells me that if I rub the tummy of a frog three times counter-clockwise, then a light will turn on. I might be incredulous at first, and I might not even be willing to try. After all, it just doesn’t seem intuitive that rubbing the tummy of a frog three times would turn on a light. Faith as a seed would be willing to put aside my unbelief and skepticism for one second and be willing to attempt this experiment.
And it seems later that Alma 32:32 provides us a reasonable out:
Therefore, if a seed groweth it is good, but if it groweth not, behold it is not good, therefore it is cast away.
So, if I rub the tummy three times and a light indeed turns on (gotcha! That frog was a mechanical frog that is charged through static electricity, but you just couldn’t tell!)…then this seems akin to the seed growing. If the frog does not turn on, then I should be able to cast out that idea. Fool me once, shame on you…
So far, so good.
But this is a set of scripture I do not like…why?
It’s what is said later on.
36 Behold I say unto you, Nay; neither must ye lay aside your faith, for ye have only exercised your faith to plant the seed that ye might try the experiment to know if the seed was good.37 And behold, as the tree beginneth to grow, ye will say: Let us nourish it with great care, that it may get root, that it may grow up, and bring forth fruit unto us. And now behold, if ye nourish it with much care it will get root, and grow up, and bring forth fruit.38 But if ye aneglect the tree, and take no thought for its nourishment, behold it will not get any root; and when the heat of the sun cometh and scorcheth it, because it hath no root it withers away, and ye pluck it up and cast it out.40 And thus, if ye will not nourish the word, looking forward with an eye of faith to the fruit thereof, ye can never pluck of the fruit of the atree of life.
Err…so from here we see a divergence between testing things in the real world and testing spiritual precepts. Spiritual precepts, we are led to believe, only work if you continue to believe. And in fact, they may appear not to work. Because this scripture combines frequently with admonitions to “endure to the end.” If you aren’t getting a spiritual experience, then you just need to be more patient! You just need to endure to the end! Etc., All of a sudden, you are stripped from your logical alternative: to go somewhere else. Your failings are yours, not the doctrine’s.
Not to mention, this kind of scriptural procedure has disturbing implications. You could redirect it to anything. For example, couldn’t you direct it to another faith? So what if Catholicism doesn’t appear to be working for you…maybe you just need to continue in faith. Maybe you need to endure to the end.
See, there is a distinction between real-world thinking and this kind of scriptural thinking. In the real world, we rely on results. So, if the thrice rub doesn’t give us a particular result, we start changing variables. Not only that, but in the real world, things that are true or things that have causal relationship do so regardless of our state. If there truly is an electrical mechanism in the frog, then it should operate regardless of if we are incredulous about the thrice rubbing. Yet the scriptures hit us with a one-two punch…it won’t work unless we believe, and even if we believe, it still might not work, because we are being tested until the end.