Of Faith & Evidence
By Ken K. Gourdin
Generally, if someone accepts what he considers to be evidence that his faith works for him, it’s not my role or responsibility to question the validity of that evidence. I’m not the trier of fact in that case. Since we all see the world as it is rather than as we are, if his faith works for him, great. More power to him.
Jurors render verdicts all the time that I might not agree with, and, since it seems to be one of the only viable uses for my (very-expensive! ) law degree, I feel perfectly free to play Monday-morning armchair quarterback. But, as free as I might feel to play Monday-morning armchair quarterback in any given case, I was not the trier of fact in that case. I didn’t sit through the entire trial, I didn’t hear all of the evidence, I didn’t observe witnesses’ demeanor, I didn’t weigh evidence with my fellow jurors after hearing and being instructed how to apply the law by the judge, and so on, so my opinion (law degree or not) doesn’t count for much.
As difficult as I imagine it might be to have a consistent, stable, workable set of morals without some kind of a faith paradigm, even if he doesn’t believe in God, if he adheres to a notion that he should make life as good as he can make it for those he loves and for those around him for as long as they all inhabit this planet before succumbing to the void (according to his paradigm), “[he] shall in nowise lose [his] reward [according to my paradigm]” (Doctrine & Covenants 58:28).
If someone were a trier of fact looking at my case, they might conclude that I have plenty of reasons for not believing in God and/or for believing that this whole “living the Gospel” [of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints] thing isn’t what it’s cracked up to be. Though I must admit my current employer has treated me very well within its constraints to do so, I’d like a better job; I could definitely use more income (and not simply to buy more “toys” to play with or to keep up with the Joneses); I’d like that most expensive degree to pay off better than it has (and, apparently, better than it’s going to): at the time, I felt inspired to get it (and I know, sure as heck, that I wouldn’t have been able to get it without divine help); I’d like to have a (reasonably hot ;-D) wife, maybe a couple of kids, a nice house and a nice car. I have my flaws, but I’m at least as faithful as the average Latter-day Saint. Still, by some accounts, haven’t been “blessed” accordingly. What to do? Shake my widdo fist and stomp my widdo foot at how unfair the Sovereign Lord of the Universe is being? (Yeah, like that’ll work! Snort!)
The question I ask myself (Usually after, “Why me?”) is, “Well, Ken, could things be worse?” And the answer is, “Yep, absolutely they could.” Perhaps the person of faith I mention in my first paragraph is a prosperous adherent of the prosperity gospel. What to do about, or how to reconcile, the fact that he has prospered while, apparently (comparatively speaking and materially speaking), I have not? I dunno. Many of the “wicked” are going to fare better (at least in the short term, and at least in measurable terms) than many of the “righteous” are. Whatever else He is or is not, God is also a Sovereign.
By the sort of reckoning I use above, my brother is even more faithful than the average Latter-day Saint, but, alas, that didn’t prevent my sister-in-law from dying of cancer recently, so he has an even better reason than I do to ask, “Why me?” There’s nothing in my interpretation of the Restored Gospel of Jesus Christ that indicates I’m going to prosper in any of the ways listed earlier simply for living it. “Come what may [or not] and love it”; “The Lord giveth, and the Lord hath taken away [or hath withheld]. Blessed be the name of the Lord”; and so on. Again, whatever else He is or is not, God is also a Sovereign.
On another thread where issues of faith, evidence, and proof were under discussion, in response to another poster who stated that evidence and proof are impossible in matters of faith, I wrote:
I agree where proof is concerned in matters of faith, but not where evidenceis concerned in matters of faith. I am the trier of fact with respect to matters concerning my faith, and I decide what the “Rules of Evidence” are, what evidence I will admit, what evidence I will exclude with respect to matters of faith, and how much weight I will give to any evidence I choose to admit. And the Apostle Paul agrees with me (see, e.g., Hebrews 11:1).