July 6, 2009


It occurred to me recently that perhaps where I differ from some believers revolves around the question "Why?" In other words, how entitled are we, as human beings, to answers from the Almighty?

Helaman 12 states that man is lower than the dust of the earth. This is because the dust obeys all commands of God without question, whereas we humans tend to want to know the purpose before acting. And yet, it was God who supposedly granted us the ability to reason.

The message I hear from some LDS is that we don't need to know the answers to my concerns. Some seem to suggest that it is a sin to even ask such questions; "His ways are not our ways," etc. The answers are apparently so far beyond our capability of understanding that to even attempt to know is detrimental to our souls, because we show God our lack of faith by asking why.

I'd like to present the exact opposite position. I believe that our ability and desire to know why is an absolutely essential part of our salvation. In fact, it stands to reason that God would demand that we ask why. If our greatest enemy is Satan, and he has dedicated his existence to making us all miserable (2 Nephi 2:27), and he is able to entice us, we must ask for reasons before following anything. If we did not ask why, wouldn't we all be easily led astray by the devil? Joseph Smith warned his followers about fraudulent angels (e.g., Bushman, 2005, p. 438; see also D&C 129), and at one point (at least) was deceived by a revelation that had come from the devil (Roberts, Vol. 1, 1965), so it seems appropriate that one should question every "prompting," teaching, doctrine, and commandment to know if it truly were from God, even if it were supposedly from a prophet.

So when I am told that plural marriage is a requirement to enter the Celestial Kingdom (D&C 132: 4; Journal of Discourses, Vol. 3, p. 266), and it contradicts the scriptures (1 Timothy 3:2, 12; 1 Corinthians 7:2; Jacob 1:15, 2:24, 26-27, 3:5; D&C 49:16; Mosiah 11:2; Ether 10:5; Mark 10:11; Deuteronomy 17:17) and my conscience, it seems very important that I ask why.

God seems very willing to give answers about His other doctrines. We should forgive others because we are not without sin (John 8:7). We should not baptize little children because they are covered under the atonement (Moroni 8), and so on. So why are we not allowed to have answers about the very disturbing doctrine of plural wives? Maybe the fact that there simply are no answers is evidence that this doctrine came from a fraudulent angel, or a false prophet (Matthew 7:15), and those who look upon it with any allowance are evidence that the very elect are being deceived (Matthew 24:24).

And so, repeating what I have stated several times on this blog, we should not allow emotion to drive our actions more than reason. There must be balance. If something is true and righteous, it will have sound reasons behind it and feel intuitively correct.

Bushman, R. L. (2005). Joseph Smith: Rough stone rolling. New York: Alfred A. Knopf.
Journal of Discourses (1860). A. Lyman (Ed.), London: Latter-Day Saints’ Book Depot.
Roberts, B. H. (1965). Comprehensive history of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. Provo, UT: Brigham Young University Press.


I. Puerility said...

I love the quote by Galileo: "I do not feel obliged to believe that the same God who has endowed us with sense, reason, and intellect has intended us to forgo their use."

I completely agree with what you have stated here. I have always wondered why God, as the creator of all things and possessor of all knowledge, would give his children CREDIT for not understanding the world around them and not being able to reason through situations; simple or complex.

Excellent post, as always.

Tadpole said...

Take this concept one step further. A few years ago I was wondering about "wonder" itself. I found it hard to imagine what life would be like without something to wonder about, or in the context of your post, something to ask "why" about. Wondering and questioning are very much a part of my nature. So, given my LDS training, I naturally thought of God and his omniscience. What would it be like to know everything and not have anything to wonder about. How would your mind be stimulated? The LDS response would probably be that He gets his fulfillment from the progress of his children (Moses 1:39). But still it seemed somehow depressing to me. I asked one of my closest confidants, my formerly TBM and now staunchly agnostic and nearly exmormon brother, if he thought that God wonders about anything. His reply then, in typical TBM fashion, was quick and decisive: of course not, God knows everything and therefore cannot wonder about anything. How sad, I thought.

Thanks for your thought-provoking posts, Eli. My best to you. Life is truly difficult for those of us "wonderers" with fiercely devout mormon spouses.