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Enlightened Obedience — Proving the Existence of a Loving God

In his King Follett Discourse, Joseph Smith stated, “If a man learns nothing more than to eat, drink, and sleep and does not comprehend any of the designs of God, he is equal only to the beast, who comprehends the same things…”

In his King Follett Discourse, Joseph Smith stated, “If a man learns nothing more than to eat, drink, and sleep and does not comprehend any of the designs of God, he is equal only to the beast, who comprehends the same things…”

These blunt words by the Prophet underscore the importance of understanding God’s purpose for our mortal existence. However, we cannot even come to an understanding if we do not ask the most basic question: “Does God Exist?”

There are several ways in unearthing an answer to this question. One approach is a philosophical method.

Alma, a prophet from the Book of Mormon, wrote, “All things denote there is a God; yea, even the earth, and all things that are upon the face of it, yea, and its motion, yea, and also all the planets which move in their regular form do witness that there is a Supreme Creator” (Alma 30:44).

Gazing into the night sky illuminates exactly what Alma was teaching. We can see millions of dazzling stars and planets organized in such a manner that allows for life on Earth. Even the existence of our beautiful moon offers heavenly proof of God’s existence. Without the moon, the ebb and flow of ocean tides would cease, and oceanic life, an essential element in sustaining existence on Earth, would quickly die. A plant’s transition of carbon dioxide to oxygen, known as photosynthesis, not only keeps carbon dioxide at healthy levels but also gives us the needed oxygen to survive. This earthly balance and order did not happen by simple chance. Truly, “All things denote there is a God.”

When we see an airplane, automobile, or locomotive, we do not believe that it was created by a random act of nature. Instead, we understand that a pocket watch has a designer; a painting has a painter; and that order, such as ten paperclips lined up on a desk, has an “order-er.”

When we look at the earth and out into the universe, we see creation, design, art, and order. It is not difficult to see that if all things temporal are associated with a creator, designer, artist, and order-er, then behind this incredibly complex universe, all things eternal would also have a marvelous Creator, Designer, Artist, and Order-er.

The lack of being able to see the divine Creator doesn’t negate His existence. Just as the fact of not being able to see gravity, energy, or even love negates that these forces exist. It is the evidence of these phenomena that make us aware of their existence (as an apple falling helped Newton formulate the law of gravity). The old adage “seeing is believing” is still true even if the seeing comes from beholding the created instead of the creator.

This philosophical approach to deciding whether God exists offers a logical base, but simply deducing that God exists doesn’t mean He cares. Utilizing the example of the painting can show that just because the artist exists doesn’t mean he has tender feelings for his painting. In fact, he may very well hate it.

Therefore, it is more important to not only know God exists but to also know He loves and cares for us. If there was a means of discovering the existence of an all-caring and loving God, then this method would be superior to the philosophical approach. In order for this to happen, though, we must go beyond the question of God’s existence and examine His evidence.

In speaking about faith and works, the apostle James wrote, “Thou believest that there is one God; thou doest well: the devils also believe, and tremble.” James sarcastically points out that even the devils believe, so how does our belief make us any different from them?

Having more than just a superficial knowledge of God requires us to know His promises and to prove the validity of them. The apostle Paul teaches in Hebrews 11:1, “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.”

The last part of this verse, “…the evidence of things not seen,” shows that faith in God is built by receiving evidence of unseen things. Much like we know when we turn a light switch on that, we receive light. Obviously, though, we do not see the electricity surging from the light switch to the light bulb.

This same principle is true with God and His promises. He gives promises, and then the fulfillment of these promises is evidence of His existence. He remains unseen, but His actions and evidence pull into focus His existence.

Woven through the scriptures are promises that God has given to us. Promises that offer evidence of His existence. Promises such as:

  • Exodus 20:12 — Honour thy father and thy mother: that thy days may be long upon the land which the Lord thy God giveth thee.

  • Proverbs 3:5–8 — Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths. Be not wise in thine own eyes: fear the Lord, and depart from evil. It shall be health to thy navel, and marrow to thy bones.

  • Malachi 3:10 — Bring ye all the tithes into the storehouse, that there may be meat in mine house, and prove me now herewith, saith the Lord of hosts, if I will not open you the windows of heaven, and pour you out a blessing, that there shall not be room enough to receive it.

  • Matthew 7:8 — For every one that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened.

  • Matthew 6:30;33 — Wherefore, if God so clothe the grass of the field, which today is, and to morrow is cast into the oven, shall he not much more clothe you, O ye of little faith? But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.

  • Mark 9:23 — Jesus said unto him, If thou canst believe, all things are possible to him that believeth.

  • John 14:12 — Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that believeth on me, the works that I do shall he do also; and greater works than these shall he do; because I go unto my Father.

  • Romans 8:6 — For to be carnally minded is death; but to be spiritually minded is life and peace.

  • 1 Peter 4:13–14 — But rejoice, inasmuch as ye are partakers of Christ’s sufferings; that, when his glory shall be revealed, ye may be glad also with exceeding joy. If ye be reproached for the name of Christ, happy are ye; for the spirit of glory and of God resteth upon you: on their part he is evil spoken of, but on your part he is glorified.

  • 1 Nephi 1:20 — …I, Nephi, will show unto you that the tender mercies of the Lord are over all those whom he hath chosen, because of their faith, to make them mighty even unto the power of deliverance.

  • 2 Nephi 31:12–13 — And also, the voice of the Son came unto me, saying: He that is baptized in my name, to him will the Father give the Holy Ghost, like unto me; wherefore, follow me, and do the things which ye have seen me do. Wherefore, my beloved brethren, I know that if ye shall follow the Son, with full purpose of heart, acting no hypocrisy and no deception before God, but with real intent, repenting of your sins, witnessing unto the Father that ye are willing to take upon you the name of Christ, by baptism–yea, by following your Lord and your Savior down into the water, according to his word, behold, then shall ye receive the Holy Ghost; yea, then cometh the baptism of fire and of the Holy Ghost; and then can ye speak with the tongue of angels, and shout praises unto the Holy One of Israel.

  • Jacob 3:1 — But behold, I, Jacob, would speak unto you that are pure in heart. Look unto God with firmness of mind, and pray unto him with exceeding faith, and he will console you in your afflictions, and he will plead your cause, and send down justice upon those who seek your destruction.

  • Mosiah 7:33 — But if ye will turn to the Lord with full purpose of heart, and put your trust in him, and serve him with all diligence of mind, if ye do this, he will, according to his own will and pleasure, deliver you out of bondage.

  • Alma 15:8 — …If thou believest in the redemption of Christ thou canst be healed.

  • Moroni 10:4–5 — And when ye shall receive these things, I would exhort you that ye would ask God, the Eternal Father, in the name of Christ, if these things are not true; and if ye shall ask with a sincere heart, with real intent, having faith in Christ, he will manifest the truth of it unto you, by the power of the Holy Ghost. And by the power of the Holy Ghost ye may know the truth of all things.

  • D&C 9:8 — But, behold, I say unto you, that you must study it out in your mind; then you must ask me if it be right, and if it is right I will cause that your bosom shall burn within you; therefore, you shall feel that it is right.

  • D&C 89:18–21 [In reference to keeping the Word of the Wisdom] — And all saints who remember to keep and do these sayings, walking in obedience to the commandments, shall receive health in their navel and marrow to their bones; And shall find wisdom and great treasures of knowledge, even hidden treasures; And shall run and not be weary, and shall walk and not faint. And I, the Lord, give unto them a promise, that the destroying angel shall pass by them, as the children of Israel, and not slay them. Amen.

An important aspect of all of these promises is an obligation on our side. To have the light bulb turn on, we must move the switch. Entering a dark room and saying light doesn’t exist because the light doesn’t instantaneously come on is ridiculous.

The significance of this effort on our part cannot be underscored. D&C 82:10 shows why this is the case when it states, “I, the Lord, am bound when ye do what I say; but when ye do not what I say, ye have no promise.” The Lord is clear, no promises are in place when we choose not to follow His direction.

Alma offers the analogy of a seed, which shows how we should begin to exert our efforts in testing the promises of the Lord, “Now, we will compare the word unto a seed. 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).

What a simple but beautiful example. If we are promised that a tree will sprout from a rock, we simply need to plant, cultivate, and watch the rock to see what transpires. When nothing happens, we can know that the rock was not a good seed. However, if, like Alma shares, we plant, cultivate and watch a seed of faith, and if it “is a good seed,” we quickly learn of its goodness. We begin to feel how it enlarges and enlightens our souls.

Notice how with this analogy, we are required to plant and cultivate the seed. To know if God exists requires work on our end. Work must be continual exertion and not just a one-time, wait-and-see approach. Planting the seed but not cultivating brings less than an optimal outcome. The seed may possibly sprout, but it won’t reach its glorious potential without continual assistance.

Our efforts in proving God’s promises translate into obedience to His commandments. The more we obey what He has promised, the more we are able to see the fruition of these promises. In turn, His existence becomes known. From this, we learn that strict obedience to God’s commandments is not blind obedience but rather enlightened obedience.

Adam’s diligence in Moses 5:5–6 shows his understanding of enlightened obedience, “And he [the Lord] gave unto them [Adam and Eve] commandments, that they should worship the Lord their God, and should offer the firstlings of their flocks, for an offering unto the Lord. And Adam was obedient unto the commandments of the Lord. And after many days, an angel of the Lord appeared unto Adam, saying: Why dost thou offer sacrifices unto the Lord? And Adam said unto him: I know not, save the Lord commanded me.”

Adam not understanding a commandment didn’t stop him from obeying it. What Adam knew made what he didn’t know insignificant. He had sound evidence that God existed and that God fulfilled His promises–no matter the outcome.

It is not enough for us to know if there is a God. Simple logic can give us a shallow assurance of His reality. Rather we must have an intimate understanding of God’s existence. Such an understanding comes only when we know His promises can stand the scrutiny of our obedience. If we do this, we will quickly learn that “…this is the promise that he hath promised us, even eternal life” (1 John 2:25).

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