Sunday, July 13, 2008

How You Can Know There Is a God

Innately, mankind wants to believe in something greater than itself. Throughout milena, it has turned to various deities, some of nature, some supernatural, some of stone, and others of wood. Today, some have bowed to the god of science. Others to the god of pleasure. And still others to the god of money. Yet the Bible teaches that from the time of Adam and Eve, there has been a True and Living God who communes with the children of man, His children. And we learn that this God loved us so much that He sent His Only Begotten Son to save us from our sins. (John 3:16).
But how can we know for certain that such a God exists? And how can we know that Jesus really is His Son?
Jesus provided the answer in an oft-overlooked scripture in the Bible: "If any man will do his will, he shall know of the doctrine, whether it be of God, or whether I speak of myself." (John 7:17).
That is the great key. If you want to know whether there is a God and the Christian God is that God, do His will. We have His commandments in the revealed scriptures, including the Bible, the Book of Mormon, the Doctrine and Covenants, the Pearl of Great Price, and the words of Living Prophets.
If we live according to these teachings, we will know that there is a God, that He loves us, and that He speaks today!
But the revelation that comes by living the gospel which will confirm to us that God lives may not come in the way that we expect. David O. McKay, Prophet, Seer, Revelator, Apostle of the Lord Jesus Christ, and ninth President of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, recounted an experience he had when he wanted to know without a doubt that God truly lives and continues to speak to His children:
"I listened as a boy to a testimony regarding the principles of the gospel, the power of the priesthood, the divinity of this work. I heard the admonition that we, too, might get that testimony if we would pray, but somehow I got an idea in youth that we could not get a testimony unless we had some manifestation. I read of the First Vision of the Prophet Joseph Smith, and I knew … what he had received was of God; I heard of elders who had heard voices; … and somehow I received the impression that that was the source of all testimony. …
“I remember riding over the hills one afternoon, thinking of these things, and concluded that there in the silence of the hills was the best place to get that testimony. I stopped my horse. …

“I knelt down and with all the fervor of my heart poured out my soul to God and asked him for a testimony of this gospel. I had in mind that there would be some manifestation, that I should receive some transformation that would leave me without doubt.

“I arose, mounted my horse, and as he started over the trail I … said to myself, ‘No, sir, there is no change; I am just the same boy I was before I knelt down.’ The anticipated manifestation had not come. … " (John 7:17)” (“A Personal Testimony,” Improvement Era, Sept. 1962, 628–29, emphasis added).
President McKay's testimony came later, subtly, as he served as a missionary and performed his duty. And although it became his privilege to receive the divine manifestations which he spoke of later on in his life, his testimony was not based on them.
It's hard to describe the feelings that come by the power of the Holy Ghost which confirm that there is a God. Some have likened it to trying to describe the taste of salt to someone who has never tasted it:

I will tell you of an experience I had before I was a General Authority which affected me profoundly. I sat on a plane next to a professed atheist who pressed his disbelief in God so urgently that I bore my testimony to him. “You are wrong,” I said, “there is a God. I know He lives!” He protested, “You don’t know. Nobody knows that! You can’t know it!” When I would not yield, the atheist, who was an attorney, asked perhaps the ultimate question on the subject of testimony.

“All right,” he said in a sneering, condescending way, “you say you know. Tell me how you know.”

When I attempted to answer, even though I held advanced academic degrees, I was
helpless to communicate. . . .

When I used the words Spirit and witness, the atheist responded, “I don’t know what you are talking about.” The words prayer, discernment, and faith, were equally meaningless to him. “You see,” he said, “you don’t really know. If you did, you would be able to tell me how you know.”

I felt, perhaps, that I had borne my testimony to him unwisely and was at a loss as to what to do. Then came the experience! Something came into my mind. And I mention here a statement of the Prophet Joseph Smith:

“A person may profit by noticing the first intimation of the spirit of revelation; for instance, when you feel pure intelligence flowing into you, it may give you sudden strokes of ideas … and thus by learning the Spirit of God and understanding it, you may grow into the principle of revelation, until you become perfect in Christ Jesus.” (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, comp. Joseph Fielding Smith, Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1977, p. 151.)

Such an idea came into my mind and I said to the atheist, “Let me ask if you know what salt tastes like.”

“Of course I do,” was his reply.

“When did you taste salt last?”

“I just had dinner on the plane.”

“You just think you know what salt tastes like,” I said.

He insisted, “I know what salt tastes like as well as I know anything.”

“If I gave you a cup of salt and a cup of sugar and let you taste them both, could you tell the salt from the sugar?”

“Now you are getting juvenile,” was his reply. “Of course I could tell the difference. I know what salt tastes like. It is an everyday experience—I know it as well as I know anything.”

“Then,” I said, “assuming that I have never tasted salt, explain to me just what it tastes like.”

After some thought, he ventured, “Well-I-uh, it is not sweet and it is not sour.”
“You’ve told me what it isn’t, not what it is.”

After several attempts, of course, he could not do it. He could not convey, in words alone, so ordinary an experience as tasting salt. I bore testimony to him once again and said, “I know there is a God. You ridiculed that testimony and said that if I did know, I would be able to tell you exactly how I know. My friend, spiritually speaking, I have tasted salt. I am no more able to convey to you in words how this knowledge has come than you are to tell me what salt tastes like. But I say to you again, there is a God! He does live! And just because you don’t know, don’t try to tell me that I don’t
know, for I do!”

As we parted, I heard him mutter, “I don’t need your religion for a crutch! I don’t need it.”

From that experience forward, I have never been embarrassed or ashamed that I could not explain in words alone everything I know spiritually. The Apostle Paul said it this way: “We speak, not in the words which man’s wisdom teacheth, but which the Holy Ghost teacheth; comparing spiritual things with spiritual.” “But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.” (1 Cor. 2:13–14.) (Boyd K. Packer, "The Candle of the Lord," Ensign, January 1983, 51).

As someone who has tasted Spiritual Salt, let me share with you how I feel when the Spirit of God touches me. I feel peace, joy, and love. My chest feels warm almost on fire, and sometimes I tingle all over. Sometimes I get ideas I never would have come up with on my own. Other times, I feel as if I have Someone place His arm around my shoulders and tell me, "Good job."
An ancient prophet named Alma proposed an experiment to a group of people who wanted to know whether there is a God. He likened the word of God to a seed. And if the people had merely a desire to believe, they should plant that seed in their heart and nourish it. That is, they should begin living the Gospel of Jesus Christ. If it was a good seed, it would begin to grow:
Now, if ye give place, that a seed may be planted in your heart, behold, if it be a true seed, or a good seed, if ye do not cast it out by your unbelief, 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 yourselves—It 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 enlighten my understanding, yea, it beginneth to be delicious to me. (Alma 32:28, emphasis added).
Alma also counseled that even after the seed begins to grow we can't neglect it, our the tree of our faith will die. So we need to continue living the Gospel all our lives. (See Alma 32 to read more about the experiment).
I have done as Alma counseled. The seed of my faith has been growing for many years. And I can testify that there is God. He is our Eternal Father. His Son is Jesus Christ.
So if you want to know there is a God, live like there is a God. And He will enlarge your soul and give you the peace and assurance that He lives.
He lives!


Anonymous said...

Isn't it circular reasoning to say if you want to know there is a God act like there is a God.

Craig said...

Not at all. Think of it as a science experiment hypothesis. It's not circular for scientists to conduct an experiment to proove or disprove their hypothesis.

And that's all I'm asking you to do: perform an experiment by living the commandments contained in the scriptures, and here is your hypothesis: There is a God.

It's also not circular reasoning because I'm not trying to use logic or reason to convince you there is a God. I am incapable of that. There is no way by the power of logic or reason that I can convince you. The only way you can be convinced (at least through me; there may be someone with the logic and reasoning skills to convince you) is through the experiment I've proposed.

Anonymous said...

Science experiment based on faith alone is an inherent contradiction. Experiments have a control- there is no control in your experiment. Why not just say if you want to know there is a God look at the evidence for God based in reason and logic and add faith to that as a necessary balance. You're proposing a faith based experiment alone which is circular- your hypothesis begins with faith and ends with faith- it is sans logic or reason.

Craig said...

On the contrary, my friend, there is a control: your life before you began living the commandments. You may easily compare your life before you started and your life after. If there is no difference, then you may conclude there is no God. But if there is a difference, and there will be, you may conclude there is a God.

But you are right in one thing. It starts with faith, at least the desire to believe. Yet even though it starts with faith, it ends with knowledge.

Read Alma 32 (, and you'll understand where I'm coming from.

Anonymous said...

If the life before and the life after changes then it is not the control but rather a variable. I don't disagree with the punch line here: faith. The problem with analogies and anecdotes when it comes to such compolex issues is that they usually never stand up on their own and hardly ever can avoid being attacked for inconsistencies.

Craig said...


I didn't say your entire life is the control. Rather, your past life. The past, absent the ability to time travel, is unchanging. Thus, your past life is invariable and constant.

It's obvious that nothing I say will convince you to try the experiment I suggest. And that's fine.

But that doesn't change the fact that it works. It worked for me. It has worked for millions upon millions of people. And it will work for you too.