I recently watched two astounding videos discussing the scientific evidence supporting two books very important to me. The first was a series of YouTube presentations of archeological, biological, and sociological evidence of the Book of Mormon in North America by Wayne May, which takes a very different approach than the proponents of a primarily South American setting or Pacific crossing. The second was “Patterns of Evidence” by film maker, Timothy Mahoney, which addressed the common archeological perspective that there is “no evidence” of the Hebrews or their Exodus. Both documentaries took unconventional positions on some heavily researched and controversial topics. Both had to overcome substantial opposition to their positions, which opposition was based on age-old, firmly believed paradigms. But with the mounds upon mounds of substantial evidence in the video segments, the conclusion, for me, was near bulletproof.
Now, I recognize that our testimonies can’t be based solely on logic and scientific information. But I also believe that basing our testimonies only on spiritual impressions will shortchange the firmness of our foundation. I dare say, in the rising tide of intellectualism, we will be washed away and drowned if we can not stand with both faith and intellect. We do not help ourselves or anyone else when we are guilty of the accusation made by one great religious scholar when conversing with Elder LeGrand Richards. He said, “You Mormons are all ignoramuses. You don’t even know the strength of your own position.” (source)
I believe we can, and must know the strength of our own position. We must understand the assumptions and paradigms that make up the bedrock of our beliefs. But that is not all. In order to stand firmly for our beliefs, we must also understand the assumptions and paradigms that support others’ positions. Elder Oaks, in his Feb 2013 CES devotional “As He Thinketh in His Heart,” spoke of the difficulty our youth face when taking a stand because LDS thinking is so different, even from other Christians. His advice for discussing sensitive topics like redefining marriage and family? Abortion? Gender issues?
I suggest that it may be preferable for our young people to refrain from arguing with their associates about such assertions or proposals. They will often be better off to respond by identifying the worldly premises or assumptions in the assertions they face, and then by identifying the different assumptions or premises that guide the thinking of Latter-day Saints. This won’t elicit agreement from persons who don’t share our faith, but it can move the discussion away from arguing over conclusions to identifying the real source of disagreement. (emphasis added)
So there we have it.The real source of disagreement: the premises; the assumptions; the paradigms. In the words of C.S. Lewis, “A sum can be put right: but only by going back till you find the error and working it afresh from that point, never by simply going on.”
I believe this world can be put right—and that it will be put right in due time. In the interim, will you join me in identifying and correcting false paradigms in your own belief systems?