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Certainty

Posted: 13 Jun 2010, 18:56
by nightwalden
At church today a member of my stake presidency encouraged us to improve our relationship with HF by bettering our communication with Him. He asked us what would we do if we could see HF and talk with Him and know for a certainty that He is there.

My initial reaction was that I want that certainty. I am uncertain about every aspect of faith. It would feel so good to feel certain.

My next reaction was that I don't know if I want to feel certain. Choosing to believe in things that I cannot know can be empowering. Also, I treasure my spiritual experiences. They keep my faith intact in spite of everything. If I could have the certainty that would come from seeing God, would that diminish the power that I get from my spiritual experiences.

In a way, this is irrelevant because I am not going see God in this life. But it got me thinking about my faith in a new way and thought it might be of value to share.

Re: Certainty

Posted: 13 Jun 2010, 21:34
by Tom Haws
nightwalden wrote:I am not going see God in this life.
Why not?

Re: Certainty

Posted: 13 Jun 2010, 21:53
by Curt Sunshine
I think whether or not we see God in this life depends largely on how we define God.

I don't expect to see HF or Jesus any time soon, but I believe I've seen God more than once - and I am certain (no doubts whatsoever) I have heard God's voice.

As for the broader question of certainty at large, I would love certainty about some things - while the very idea of certainty about other things is enough to give me nightmares. Certainly of principle I can desire; certainty of detail or dogma I can do without. Conviction, however, I admire - as long as it is coupled with humility, love and compassion.

Re: Certainty

Posted: 13 Jun 2010, 21:58
by canadiangirl
I don't expect to see HF or Jesus any time soon, but I believe I've seen God more than once - and I am certain (no doubts whatsoever) I have heard God's voice.

As for the broader question of certainty at large, I would love certainty about some things - while the very idea of certainty about other things is enough to give me nightmares. Certainly of principle I can desire; certainty of detail or dogma I can do without. Conviction, however, I admire - as long as it is coupled with humility, love and compassion.
Me too!!!

Re: Certainty

Posted: 14 Jun 2010, 06:06
by SilentDawning
At one time I thought the same thing. As a results-oriented person, I felt frustrated at times as a missionary because the truth is DEFINITELY not clear in this life -- and that lack of clarity made life as a missionary difficult because so many people rejected the gospel because it WASN'T clear it was the right thing. Many hours were invested in finding and being rejects. I often wondered -- why can't it just be CLEAR what the truth is?

It made more sense to me if at the age of eight, an angel or Heavenly Father sits down with you and explained the whole plan, and that we had full remembrance of our pre-mortal life. This made sense to me because -- if the gospel is SO important in this life, then why are we left to guess and grope along on the basis of feelings, and potentially making wrong decisions as a result?

Since then, I've changed my mind. If we had pure knowledge, and perfect certainty about the gospel, there would come greater accountability. Many of us would not be capable of meeting the expectations in the statement "where much is given, much is required". Because God is a just God, he would HAVE to condemn us because there was no reasonable excuse for us to disobey and fall short given our perfect knowledge.

Because it's not clear, God can be more merciful to us that he otherwise could be if we had perfect knowledge.

This dawned on me while I was grading papers a while ago. One section, everyone in the whole course "bombed". I realized it was because my instructions were unclear, and subject to interpretation. Most interpreted it wrong. So, fair person that I am, I gave them points for that section since their answers were not based on clear requirements. This actually helped some of the weaker students. In many cases, I was glad I made an error in the instructions because the lack of clarity actually helped students pass. I explained what they did wrong and what I meant after the fact, so people got the knowledge and benefit of it.

So, I think it's merciful that the truth isn't entirely clear in this life. Personally, I'm not sure I even want to see God in this life because I'm such an imperfect person I'm afraid I won't live up to the expectations that come with knowing first hand.

Re: Certainty

Posted: 14 Jun 2010, 08:56
by DevilsAdvocate
nightwalden wrote:At church today a member of my stake presidency encouraged us to improve our relationship with HF by bettering our communication with Him. He asked us what would we do if we could see HF and talk with Him and know for a certainty that He is there...
I think Voltaire said it best when it comes to religion and certainty:
"Doubt is not a pleasant condition, but certainty is absurd."
Assuming God exists, it is fairly obvious that he just doesn't work that way as far as giving the majority of people any degree of certainty about which path they should take or not. All you can do is make your best guess based on the limited information available. It's a question of faith not real knowledge that we should ever be overly confident about.

Re: Certainty

Posted: 14 Jun 2010, 12:48
by Orson
Two thoughts:

1) as Edward Kimball said: "Certainty is a burden" Especially when it's about spiritual things where your thoughts really are subjective.

2) I am certain that God is, because to me he IS by definition. (Similar to Orson Pratt's ideas on the attributes of God. I define God as the source of life, love, etc.) Understanding the true nature of God, on the other hand, is where the uncertainty comes in. Faith is useful though, as long as it leads in a positive direction - and is open to reinterpreting old information in new light. Such openness in my book is pure Mormonism.

Re: Certainty

Posted: 14 Jun 2010, 14:02
by Heber13
When I was younger, I had lots of certainty about things...while I offended some people ignorantly, there were also times when people really appreciated my confident approach on things. I think sometimes people really follow others who appear certain. But I think that is why you can't build an abiding testimony on others, because I think people go through periods of certainty and uncertainty in life, and at some point your belief system needs to be on what you believe, not on what others claim to be certain about.

However, I am far less certain of things now in my life. I think once I felt the sting of seeing my certainties come apart with new knowledge and experience, I am left more protective of myself, and so I keep myself from being so certain about things anymore...and be more open to feeling comfortable with uncertainty.

I think you learn more when you are less certain you know the right answer already.

Re: Certainty

Posted: 14 Jun 2010, 14:44
by Curt Sunshine
I think you learn more when you are less certain you know the right answer already.
Brilliantly worded.

Re: Certainty

Posted: 14 Jun 2010, 15:45
by HiJolly
nightwalden wrote:My initial reaction was that I want that certainty. I am uncertain about every aspect of faith. It would feel so good to feel certain.

One does not become 'certain' as a result of conscious choice, thought or reason. It has been shown in scientific studies that the sense of certainty comes from mental processes in the subconscious mind, and is beyond our conscious control. This finding is the central theme of the author of On Being Certain http://www.amazon.com/Being-Certain-Bel ... 907&sr=1-1 . I believe that Joseph Smith was thinking along these lines when he said that faith is not something we create within ourselves, but is a gift from God.
nightwalden wrote:My next reaction was that I don't know if I want to feel certain. Choosing to believe in things that I cannot know can be empowering. Also, I treasure my spiritual experiences. They keep my faith intact in spite of everything. If I could have the certainty that would come from seeing God, would that diminish the power that I get from my spiritual experiences.

I don't think it would. Even if we see God, we still do not begin to understand even .0001% of the reality that is He. In this life, we walk by faith, and that it true whether we've received our 2nd anointing or seen the Savior in the flesh and embraced Him, or whatever.
nightwalden wrote:In a way, this is irrelevant because I am not going see God in this life. But it got me thinking about my faith in a new way and thought it might be of value to share.
I agree with Tom. Why not? That it *IS* possible is the message Joseph Smith taught us.

HiJolly