Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Prove It

Warning: The following post is of a somewhat existential nature.

In friendly conversation, I often like to jestfully throw out a certain casual challenge to others' declarative statements. For example:


I think you get the idea.

But how can someone actually PROVE something? Can it be done? Is there any statement that all humans can agree is a true, provable idea?

Try it.

Think of an idea. Anything at all.

Is it true? Can you prove it? Even with all the evidence you could gather in a lifetime, is there a possibility that someone out there exists who will still disagree with your statement?

In mathematics, we prove things by logically building on fundamental principles that both parties choose to accept as truth; e.g., 1=1, 1+1=2, 1+2=2+1, and so forth.

But what if we cannot agree on the fundamentals? In areas such as Politics and Religion, it is often possible for equally smart, rational people to vehemently disagree. Most often, such disagreements occur because people are basing their ideas on different assumptions.

In such cases (read: in most cases), we must assess an argument based on its logical goodness. An argument can be classified as

  1. Flawed: The conclusions do not follow from the assumptions
  2. Valid: The conclusions do follow from the assumptions
  3. Cogent: The argument is valid and convincing; it induces someone to believe in the conclusions.

Again, rational people can present equally valid arguments for conflicting ideas. Whether an argument is convincing, however, depends on the person that is receiving the argument. In this way, if we disagree on fundamental assumptions it is impossible to say which of any two valid arguments are more correct.

In the end, what we believe becomes a personal choice. If we come across a compelling argument, we can choose to believe it.

In science, we never talk about proving any theories to be true. The best we can manage is to consistently fail to reject an idea, with the understanding that future revelations may completely change things down the road.

The question then becomes less about what is true and what is untrue, and more about the nature of belief. Why do we choose to believe the things that we do? Why do some assumptions resonate with us more than others? And that will have to be the topic of another post.

Saturday, July 6, 2013

Mormonism and Me

Let me start by saying that I am a Mormon. I was raised by a Mormon mother and I have been Mormon all my life. As I have grown up, I have become increasingly inquisitive and developed an increasingly individual will. I am grateful for strong role models (even if they didn't always know they were influencing me) who have taught me the importance of questioning everything. I have since questioned many tenets of Mormonism, but I am still Mormon.

In recent years, the leadership of the LDS church (Mormons) have encourage members of the church to reach out about their beliefs via social media. In a world full of misunderstanding and antagonism of religion, it is easy to remain quiet about what and why we believe. It is easy for rational people to passionately disagree about what is most important and it is no wonder that politics and religion are generally two main taboo topics in polite conversation. Nevertheless, more and more we are talking.

I doubt whether the church leadership could have anticipated what opening up about our beliefs would become, but I believe a sort of movement has started within the Mormon membership. In a digital age when information about almost anything is more available than ever, certain issues that Mormons tend to ignore about their church history and beliefs have become harder to avoid (see Why People Leave the LDS Church). Now, either more people are questioning their Mormon faith or we are at least more aware of it.

Though I have had to ask myself some very hard questions, I must admit that I still wholeheartedly believe that the Mormon church--despite its flaws, which are many--is God's organization on Earth. As I have further studied what information is available, my conviction on this matter has become stronger and my desire to share the goodness of the church with others has deepened. But there is a big problem.

I have a theory that in past generations of Mormons (including my parents' generation), those people for whom it is easier to "just believe" have stayed in the Mormon church while those with a more rebellious spirit or an insatiable need-to-know attitude have chosen to become "less active" or remain out of the church. As a result, the doctrines of the church (which should be living and evolving) have become dogmatic. Many pioneer traditions have been erroneously passed down as "Eternal truths". For many within Mormonism, this seems to have gone unnoticed. Until now.

The current trend of people in and out of the LDS church to openly discuss their beliefs and their doubts has created people like me. I used to feel quite alone in my convictions, but I have started to find many others that feel the way I do. The Mormon church is true and it has the potential to improve the lives of all people across the planet, but this potential will never be realized until the people in the church understand that the current culture is grossly flawed (for example, see Chastity, Shame, and Mormonism--a youtube video by thatmormonboy).

I have decided to dedicate a portion of this blog (under the Mormon Thoughts heading) to explain my views about many of the issues facing Mormonism today. The things I want to share are extremely sacred to me, but I believe these are discussions that need to happen.

If you ever have any questions for me, feel free to leave a comment or email me or contact me in any way that seems good to you.