Tuesday, July 30, 2013

There are more things that are true than are provable.

Kurt Gödel
We live in a world where faith is often belittled as a lesser virtue. I hope to write a series of posts detailing how faith is in fact a necessary virtue from which not only religion but also logic, morality and science itself depend on. Furthermore, I hope this series helps the reader see why even the great atheist philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche admitted:
Only if we assume a God who is morally our like can “truth” and the search for truth be at all something meaningful and promising of success. This God left aside, the question is permitted whether being deceived is not one of the conditions of life.
Or why the renowned philosopher Immanuel Kant argued that "logic, morals, and science ultimately presuppose a Christian theistic worldview".  Just to be clear, the point of these posts are not be to "prove" God exits but only to suggest that faith in something like God is actually necessary to make sense of reality religiously, logically, morally and even scientifically.

The point of this first post is to show that everyone must accept at least this minimal version of faith: that there are more things that are true about reality than are provable.  This is not some nice philosophical hope but a mathematical fact shown by Gödel's two incompleteness theorems discussed below.

Thus if someone ever tells you that that they don't believe faith is necessary because eventually science, logic and reason can prove all things, you can know this claim has been shown to be false by Gödel.  In fact, it is very interesting to me we find ourselves in a world where only worldviews that admit faith in truth beyond provability are possibly valid.

Gödel's first incompleteness theorem: there are more things that are true than provable. 

First, let's formally state Gödel's first incompleteness theorem:
Any effectively generated theory capable of expressing elementary arithmetic cannot be both consistent and complete. In particular, for any consistent, effectively generated formal theory that proves certain basic arithmetic truths, there is an arithmetical statement that is true, but not provable in the theory (Kleene 1967, p. 250)
Which means: if you have any consistent theory that is strong enough to account for elementary arithmetic, it cannot actually prove the truth of all things. (Be complete)  In other words, no matter how smart, well-thought out and sophisticated your theory will ever be, if it is strong enough to account for elementary arithmetic and consistent, it will fail at demonstrating the truth of all things.  In fact, there will literally be an uncountably infinite number of things about reality that are true, but that your theory will fail to demonstrate no matter how long or hard anyone tries.

One good lay resource on this subject is the Pulitzer Prize winning book Gödel, Escher, Bach in which Hofstadter writes:
In short, Gödel showed that provability is a weaker notion than truth, no matter what axiomatic system is involved.
Gödel's second incompleteness theorem: one must have faith that logic itself isn't inconsistent. 

Now we turn to Gödel's second incompleteness theorem that states formally:
For any formal effectively generated theory T including basic arithmetical truths and also certain truths about formal provability, if T includes a statement of its own consistency then T is inconsistent.
This second theorem takes the necessity of faith one step further. Not only will a theory, sufficient to account for arithmetic, fail to be complete (not be able to prove all truths) but one can never even know that the theory itself is consistent! Because, as the statement concludes, any sufficiently complex theory that claims to be consistent must actually be inconsistent.

This means, as much as we love our mathematically based theories about reality, we can never know they are actually consistent. To accept them we must accept them based on faith. (Something we believe to be true but can never prove for certain.)

Some possible examples of things that may be true but not provable:

Saying there are things that are true but not provable is nice in the abstract sense, but it is helpful if some concrete examples can be given.

  • Free will - There have been many philosophers, including the renowned Princeton mathematician John Conway in his video lectures here, that have shown that if free will is true, it cannot be known by proof.  If you believe you have control over your thoughts and actions independent of determinism you must have faith in that. You can never prove it is actually true.
  • Morality - If morality is true, you cannot know the truth of the matter from any scientific theory or proof. The respected philosopher David Hume pointed to this in his famous "is-ought" problem where he showed you can never derive "ought" (morality) from "is" (any scientific theory). Einstein further agrees and has observed one "cannot... speak of the scientific foundations of morality... every attempt to reduce ethics to scientific formulae must fail."
  • Hawking's admission with science - Every once and a while someone tries to claim that Gödel's theorem only applies to the integers but this is not true. In fact even the great Stephen Hawking, a noted physicist and atheist, admitted in his talk Gödel and the End of the Universe that even science will forever be incomplete due to Gödel's theorems. 
  • Up to now, most people have implicitly assumed that there is an ultimate theory that we will eventually discover. Indeed, I myself have suggested we might find it quite soon... [However] a physical theory is self referencing, like in Gödel's theorem. One might therefore expect it to be either inconsistent or incomplete... Some people will be very disappointed if there is not an ultimate theory that can be formulated as a finite number of principles. I used to belong to that camp, but I have changed my mind.
  • The halting problem in computer science - In addition to physics, Gödel's theorem creates an un-solvable problem in computer science known as the halting problem.  There are some computer programs you can show will complete in a finite number of steps. Others you can show will run forever. (Like an infinite loop) The halting problem says there will always be an infinite number of programs that no matter how hard we try we can never prove if they run forever or halt in a finite time. (Hence a truth beyond proof.)
  • Mathematical theorems like possible Goldbach's conjecture - In his talk linked above, Hawking uses the Goldbach's conjecture as a concrete example of a mathematical statement that may be beyond proof.

    Goldbach's conjecture is simply this: "Every even integer greater than 2 can be expressed as the sum of two primes." That statement is actually either true of false and it or mathematical statements like it may be concrete examples of truths beyond provability.
  • The consistency of mathematics and logic itself - I already discussed this above following from Gödel's second theorem but it is worth mentioning again, especially because by the second theorem it must itself be one of the unprovable truths. If we want to adopt principles of logic and mathematics sufficiently strong enough to account for arithmetic, we are forced to confess the consistency of our logic and math will forever remain beyond our ability to prove!
In conclusion: Any worldview that claims that all truth can be known by science, logic or reason is a woldview that has been mathematically disproven.  The only worldviews that have a chance of being valid are those that are those that adopt faith: a willingness to believe in truth that is beyond provability.  I find this fact about reality fascinating! A fact that is profound enough that I think it would do people good to contemplate it's deep implications. Implications that tell hint at, among other things, that faith is in fact a necessary virtue.

Friday, July 26, 2013

The Power to Overcome

A Crippling Negativity

With much of the turmoil recently in the world, it's not uncommon to engage in conversations with individuals who seem to be full of despair. Crimes, rebellions, corruption, poverty, starvation, accidents, disasters, economic collapse, etc. are constantly paraded in front of the public's eye. But allowing ourselves to become entranced by this cacospectomania builds up a false reality that feeds off of itself. It ignores the many wonderful miracles which surround us every day but to which we have grown accustomed to and assumed their place in our lives. By recognizing the good that surrounds us, both physically and spiritually, we can see past the endless negativity and take control of our own future.

The Global Good News

Dr. Marc Siegel, in his book False Alarm: The truth About the Epidemic of Fear, points out how the modern fear mongering culture simply doesn't represent reality:

Statistically, the industrialized world has never been safer. Many of us are living longer and more uneventfully. Nevertheless, we live in worst-case fear scenarios. Over the past century we Americans have dramatically reduced our risk in virtually every area of life, resulting in life spans 60 percent longer in 2000 than in 1900. Antibiotics have reduced the likelihood of dying from infections... Public health measures dictate standards for drinkable water and breathable air. Our garbage is removed quickly. We live in temperature-controlled, disease controlled lives. An yet, we worry more than ever before. The natural dangers are no longer there. but the response mechanisms are still in place, and now they are turned on much of the time. We implode, turning our adaptive fear mechanism in to a maladaptive panicked response.

Bono, in a recent TED talk, highlights several statistics the are mind-blowingly positive (to use a technical term):
  • More than 8 million people are on life-saving antiretroviral drugs, compared with only 200,000 a decade ago.
  • In several African countries, malaria deaths have been cut by 75%.
  • Child mortality rate for those under 5 is down by 2.65 million deaths a year since 2000.
  • The percentage of people living in extreme poverty (< $1.25 a day adjusted for inflation) has declined from 43% in 1990 to 33% in 2000--then to 21% in 2010. The human race has halved poverty in one generation. 
  • 10 countries in Africa have, in the last decade, had 100% debt cancellation, a 3 times increase in aid, a ten-fold increase in foreign domestic investment, a 4-times increase in domestic resources, cut child mortality by a third, doubled education completion rates, and also halved extreme poverty.

Matt Ridley, author of the book The Rational Optimist, helps put things in perspective:

... the vast majority of people are much better fed, much better sheltered, much better entertained, much better protected against disease and much more likely to live to old age than their ancestors have ever been. The availability of almost everything a person could want has been going rapidly upward for two hundred years and erratically upward for ten thousand years before that: years of life span, mouthfuls of clean water, lungfuls of clean air, hours of privacy, means of traveling faster than you can run, ways of communicating farther than you can shout. Even allowing for the hundreds of millions who still live in abject poverty, disease and want, this generation of human beings has access to more calories, watts, lumen-hours, square-feet, gigabytes, megahertz, light-years, nanometers, bushels per acre, miles per gallon, food miles, and, of course, dollars than any that went before.

What all of this data points towards is a story of unprecedented human progress despite the very real challenges we have faced and still face today. There certainly have been and will continue to be setbacks and bumps in the road. But the human story is a story of hope. And it is through the compassionate use of the gifts and talents God has blessed mankind that we will be able to overcome the physical challenges we face in this world.

The Spiritual Good News

This story of a miraculous triumph over trials, is echoed in the scriptures in the place that, ironically enough, comes from the very book that people often quote when citing despair or fear. A quick read through the Book of Revelation and we read of poverty, blasphemy, suffering, imprisonment, death, martyrdom, fornication, idols, false prophets, murders, lightnings, earthquakes, hail storms, fire, deforestation, environmental disasters, volcanoes, oceanic and water pollution, darkness, locusts, people seeking death, sorcery, thefts, droughts, plagues, wars, fire from heaven, pride, excessiveness, collapses of civilizations, economic collapse, disease, islands washed away, mountains overturned, crops destroyed, fear, and anger.

Certainly, we can read these prophesies, observe the tragedies and destruction currently occurring, and fall immediately into despair and fear. However, much like the debilitating negativity described above, this perspective misses the main message of the book. Told through several wonderful gems of hope placed throughout by the phrase "he that overcometh", the narrative of the Book of Revelation culminates in a detailed description of a celestial city. The phrase “he that overcometh” is repeatedly used prior to wonderful promised blessings describing those who manage to retain hope, despite also experiencing and witnessing the same calamities as those who lose hope.

An interesting prelude to these gems in the book of Revelation is a statement made by Christ in the gospel of John. As his betrayal and sacrifice drew near, the Savior, aware of the events that would transpire, ministered to His disciples by teaching them of the Holy Spirit that would attend them in His absence and assuring them that He (Christ) has overcome the world:
  1. Howbeit when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth: for he shall not speak of himself; but whatsoever he shall hear, that shall he speak: and he will shew you things to come.
  1. Behold, the hour cometh, yea, is now come, that ye shall be scattered, every man to his own, and shall leave me alone: and yet I am not alone, because the Father is with me.
  2. These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.
John 16:13,32–33 (emphasis added)
As The One who has overcome all the pains and evils in this world, Christ’s statements to John in the book of Revelation on the blessings that will come to those who overcome carry eternal authority. Christ’s promises to “those that overcome” in the Book of Revelation, therefore, aren’t mere platitudes but authoritative promises from Someone who has experienced and understands them first-hand.

"To Him Who Overcometh"

In the Book of Revelation, the following promises are given to those “who overcometh”:
  1. He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches; To him that overcometh will I give to eat of the tree of life, which is in the midst of the paradise of God.
  1. He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches; He that overcometh shall not be hurt of the second death.
  1. He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches; To him that overcometh will I give to eat of the hidden manna, and will give him a white stone, and in the stone a new name written, which no man knoweth saving he that receiveth it.
  1. And he that overcometh, and keepeth my works unto the end, to him will I give power over the nations:
  2. And he shall rule them with a rod of iron; as the vessels of a potter shall they be broken to shivers: even as I received of my Father.
  3. And I will give him the morning star.
Rev. 2: 7, 11, 17, 26–28 (emphasis added)
  1. He that overcometh, the same shall be clothed in white raiment; and I will not blot out his name out of the book of life, but I will confess his name before my Father, and before his angels.
  1. Him that overcometh will I make a pillar in the temple of my God, and he shall go no more out: and I will write upon him the name of my God, and the name of the city of my God, which is new Jerusalem, which cometh down out of heaven from my God: and I will write upon him my new name.
  1. To him that overcometh will I grant to sit with me in my throne, even as I also overcame, and am set down with my Father in his throne.
Rev. 3: 5, 12, 21 (emphasis added)
  1. He that overcometh shall inherit all things; and I will be his God, and he shall be my son.
Rev. 21: 7 (emphasis added)
There is a richness to the blessings made to those that overcome. These blessings are deeply interconnected to blessings made throughout the scriptures regarding eternal life:
However, the question remains, “How can we overcome?”

The Power to Overcome

The Doctrine and Covenants speaks about those who overcome:
  1. He that receiveth of God, let him account it of God; and let him rejoice that he is accounted of God worthy to receive.
  2. And by giving heed and doing these things which ye have received, and which ye shall hereafter receive—and the kingdom is given you of the Father, and power to overcome all things which are not ordained of him
D&C 50:34–35 (emphasis added)
  1. And again we bear record—for we saw and heard, and this is the testimony of the gospel of Christ concerning them who shall come forth in the resurrection of the just—
  2. They are they who received the testimony of Jesus, and believed on his name and were baptized after the manner of his burial, being buried in the water in his name, and this according to the commandment which he has given—
  3. That by keeping the commandments they might be washed and cleansed from all their sins, and receive the Holy Spirit by the laying on of the hands of him who is ordained and sealed unto this power;
  4. And who overcome by faith, and are sealed by the Holy Spirit of promise, which the Father sheds forth upon all those who are just and true.
  5. They are they who are the church of the Firstborn.
  6. They are they into whose hands the Father has given all things—
  7. They are they who are priests and kings, who have received of his fulness, and of his glory;
  8. And are priests of the Most High, after the order of Melchizedek, which was after the order of Enoch, which was after the order of the Only Begotten Son.
  9. Wherefore, as it is written, they are gods, even the sons of God—
  10. Wherefore, all things are theirs, whether life or death, or things present, or things to come, all are theirs and they are Christ’s, and Christ is God’s.
  11. And they shall overcome all things.
D&C 76:50–60 (emphasis added; notice also the same kinds of promises being made here)
From these scriptures we learn that the power to overcome comes from:
  • Receiving the Word of God
  • Receiving a testimony of Jesus
  • Obeying His commandments and ordinances
  • Receiving and living by the Holy Ghost

The Book of Revelation itself also gives some indication of how people can overcome these evils. In Revelation 12:7–9, it talks about the great war in heaven prior to God’s children here on earth. As Satan is cast out of heaven, John is told how this was done:
  1. And I heard a loud voice saying in heaven, Now is come salvation, and strength, and the kingdom of our God, and the power of his Christ: for the accuser of our brethren is cast down, which accused them before our God day and night.
  2. And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb, and by the word of their testimony; and they loved not their lives unto the death.
Rev. 12:10–11 (emphasis added)
We know how to overcome Satan and the misery and evil he seeks to inflict on this earth because we have done it once before. Through the power of the atonement and our faith and testimony in it, we are able to overcome all things.

This personal ability to overcome trials and evils in our lives through the atonement is powerfully described by Jeffery R. Holland in his conference address titled “None Were With Him”:

By looking at the Book of Revelation through the lens of how to overcome trials and the wonderful promises for those who do overcome, it is transformed from an obligatory “doom and gloom” reference guide to a book full of rich promises and a guide on how to overcome trials in life. This ability, to see through the bad to find the good, is an ability that will anchor our souls to Christ and allow us to see the many spiritual and physical miracles, and people, we are surrounded with every day. And by doing this, we will have the power to overcome.

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Digging Deep to the Foundation of Christ

  1. Whosoever cometh to me, and heareth my sayings, and doeth them, I will shew you to whom he is like:
  2. He is like a man which built an house, and digged deep, and laid the foundation on a rock: and when the flood arose, the stream beat vehemently upon that house, and could not shake it: for it was founded upon a rock.
  3. But he that heareth, and doeth not, is like a man that without a foundation built an house upon the earth; against which the stream did beat vehemently, and immediately it fell; and the ruin of that house was great.
(Luke 6:47–49 – emphasis added)

I like this version of Christ’s parable of the wise man and the foolish man for a few reasons. First, I like that it specifically describes the image of a stream beating “vehemently” against the two houses. Often when I hear this parable I tend to focus merely on rains and wind. To me, a stream physically beating against the walls of a home seems more tumultuous, pressing, persistent, and violent than a wind or rain storm and more closely describes the efforts of Satan and his hosts. Second, I love Luke’s version of the parable in that it uniquely describes the wise man as “digg[ing] deep” to get to the foundation of rock. I’ve noticed that, when this parable is retold, often it is described or implied that the wise man simply found an outcropping of rock and built on that while the foolish man merely chose to build something of a beach house. And third, from this perspective, the wise man and foolish man could very well be neighbors building on the same tract of land. The difference is how the homes were constructed. The metaphor of the wise man working to remove dirt, rocks, and other material that separated him from the sure foundation of rock provides a rich message in this part of the parable.

The process of digging down to bedrock is a metaphor for choosing to remove things in our lives that separate us from the Rock of Salvation (2 Sam. 22: 47; Ps. 95: 1; 2 Ne. 4: 30; 2 Ne. 9: 45). This takes hard work and a determination to root out debris, loose foundations, and see past superficial deposits that can be confused with the True Bedrock.

In the diagram above, I list some vices that can come between us and our true Foundation, Christ. These include (but are not limited to):
  • Hopelessness
  • Pride
  • Disobedience
  • Contention
Each removes us from our Saviour and prevents us from receiving the strength and reinforcing power of the Atonement. These vices can also be seen as a false foundations. Some people see pessimism, pride, staunch independence, or derision as worthy to build a world view on or to guide their relationships with others. These all eventually collapse and provide no real strength in the end.

Also in the diagram, under the wise man, is shown a new foundation built on virtues and principles and supported by covenants which act as piles driven into the bedrock of Christ, the "sure foundation" (Helamen 5:12). These virtues include:
  • Faith
  • Repentance
  • Baptism
  • Holy Ghost
Each of these are meant to counteract the corresponding vices shown under the foolish man’s house. Hopelessness gives way to faith (Moroni 7:40–42; Ether 12:4; Col. 1:23). Pride suffocates under humble repentance (Prov. 29: 23; Alma 5:28; Alma 6:3; Alma 15:17; Moroni 8: 27). Disobedience turns into obedience to God’s commandments (2 Ne. 9:23; 2 Ne. 31:4–7; 3 Ne. 27: 20; Moroni 11:25). And contention is replaced by the inner peace through the Holy Ghost (Rom. 14:17; Rom. 15:13; Gal. 5:19–22; Mosiah 4:3; D&C 19: 23; John 14: 26; Moroni 8: 26; D&C 39: 6).

Note that each of these healing virtues and principles are all centered on Christ. Who do we have faith in? Christ (Galatians 3:26). Under what power is our repentance of any effect? The atonement of Christ (2 Ne. 25:26). Whose name do we take upon ourselves when we are baptized and partake of the sacrament? Christ (Matthew 28:19). And of whom does the Holy Ghost testify? Christ (3 Ne. 11:32; D&C 20:21–26). Each of these principles and ordinances (see A of F 1: 4) anchor us to Christ.

Helaman taught this to his sons:
  1. O remember, remember, my sons, the words which king Benjamin spake unto his people; yea, remember that there is no other way nor means whereby man can be saved, only through the atoning blood of Jesus Christ, who shall come; yea, remember that he cometh to redeem the world.
  2. And remember also the words which Amulek spake unto Zeezrom, ain the city of Ammonihah; for he said unto him that the Lord surely should come to redeem his people, but that he should not come to redeem them in their sins, but to redeem them from their sins.
  3. And he hath power given unto him from the Father to redeem them from their sins because of repentance; therefore he hath sent his angels to declare the tidings of the conditions of repentance, which bringeth unto the power of the Redeemer, unto the salvation of their souls.
  4. And now, my sons, remember, remember that it is upon the rock of our Redeemer, who is Christ, the Son of God, that ye must build your foundation; that when the devil shall send forth his mighty winds, yea, his shafts in the whirlwind, yea, when all his hail and his mighty storm shall beat upon you, it shall have no power over you to drag you down to the gulf of misery and endless wo, because of the rock upon which ye are built, which is a sure foundation, a foundation whereon if men build they cannot fall.
(Helaman 5:9–12 – emphasis added)
And finally, Christ powerfully taught this to the Nephites when he ministered to them:
  1. For verily, verily I say unto you, he that hath the spirit of contention is not of me, but is of the devil, who is the father of contention, and he stirreth up the hearts of men to contend with anger, one with another.
  2. Behold, this is not my doctrine, to stir up the hearts of men with anger, one against another; but this is my doctrine, that such things should be done away.
  3. Behold, verily, verily, I say unto you, I will declare unto you my doctrine.
  4. And this is my doctrine, and it is the doctrine which the Father hath given unto me; and I bear record of the Father, and the Father beareth record of me, and the Holy Ghost beareth record of the Father and me; and I bear record that the Father commandeth all men, everywhere, to repent and believe in me.
  5. And whoso believeth in me, and is baptized, the same shall be saved; and they are they who shall inherit the kingdom of God.
  6. And whoso believeth not in me, and is not baptized, shall be damned.
  7. Verily, verily, I say unto you, that this is my doctrine, and I bear record of it from the Father; and whoso believeth in me believeth in the Father also; and unto him will the Father bear record of me, for he will visit him with fire and with the Holy Ghost.
  8. And thus will the Father bear record of me, and the Holy Ghost will bear record unto him of the Father and me; for the Father, and I, and the Holy Ghost are one.
  9. And again I say unto you, ye must repent, and become as a little child, and be baptized in my name, or ye can in nowise receive these things.
  10. And again I say unto you, ye must repent, and be baptized in my name, and become as a little child, or ye can in nowise inherit the kingdom of God.
  11. Verily, verily, I say unto you, that this is my doctrine, and whoso buildeth upon this buildeth upon my rock, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against them.
  12. And whoso shall declare more or less than this, and establish it for my doctrine, the same cometh of evil, and is not built upon my rock; but he buildeth upon a sandy foundation, and the gates of hell stand open to receive such when the floods come and the winds beat upon them.
  13. Therefore, go forth unto this people, and declare the words which I have spoken, unto the ends of the earth.
(3 Ne. 11:29–41 – emphasis added)
We should regularly ask ourselves whether we are firmly grounded on the bedrock of Christ’s gospel or whether we need to repair our foundation to make sure it is secure and reaches all of the way to the Rock of Salvation (2 Sam. 22: 47; Ps. 95: 1; 2 Ne. 4: 30; 2 Ne. 9: 45). Are we placing our faith in Christ and His teachings? Are we humbly seeking forgiveness and trying to overcome our sins through the atonement of Christ? Do we earnestly seek the renewal of our baptismal covenants each Sunday living worthy to take the sacrament? Are we living a life that can be influenced and guided by the Holy Ghost and do we follow its promptings to lead us to Christ?

These questions will take a lifetime to answer. But by keeping them in front of our minds and striving to live so that we can answer "Yes!", we will be built on The Sure Foundation (Helamen 5:12).

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Some of the most powerful gospel lessons I've learned, I learned while serving in primary

 A Child's Prayer

'A Child's Prayer' - by Jenedy Page
Once, when I was subbing in primary, they were singing "A Child's Prayer". I've always imagined this song highlighting the relationship between parents and little children as the parents guide them in the early stages of their faith. And while this certainly is a wonderful interpretation and message of the song, the Spirit planned on teaching me something new in an environment where I least suspected it to.

While I was in the middle of quietly singing along with the primary children, so as to not to stand out as the one guy in primary 7 octaves below everyone else, I had a tremendously strong witness that this song was for me, now, as an adult, more so than for when I was a child. Suddenly, I saw the lyrics in a completely new light.

Verse One

Heavenly Father, are you really there? And do you hear and answer ev'ry child's prayer?

Throughout our life, all of us will have tragic moments. A death of a loved one. A wayward child. Job loss. A falling away in a relationship. Heart break. Etc. In these moments we may question, "God? Are you there? Are you listening?"

Some say that heaven is far away, But I feel it close around me as I pray.

We can remember the way we've felt, from time to time, when we've had those sacred witnesses from the Spirit. We can remember the peace that was spoken to our minds and hearts in past trials and draw strength from that (D&C 6:22-23).

Heavenly Father, I remember now Something that Jesus told disciples long ago: "Suffer the children to come to me." Father, in prayer I'm coming now to thee.

The archetype of an innocent and forgiving child is a model we must strive to never "grow out of" as we go through life. And to be surrounded by primary-aged children is a powerful reminder of this.

This first verse highlights the questions, the doubt, and pain we all have faced and will face in life. This life is full of poignant and sometimes painful questions. But it points us at the Savior and remembering the witnesses we've built our testimony on.

Verse Two

Then, for the second verse, I had an even stronger witness that this is not merely an earthly parent singing to a child (as is often portrayed in performances), but its true meaning is the quiet, sacred witnesses from the Spirit that are an answer to the sincere questions in the first verse at any time in our life:

Pray, he is there; Speak, he is list'ning.

In a moment of pain, suffering, or doubt we can still feel hope. The gradually rising melodic phrases here point towards the dawning of hope felt in that initial moment when we humbly desire to pray.

You are his child; His love now surrounds you.

So plain. So simple. The outpouring of love and joy felt when the Spirit testifies of these basic truths is endless.

He hears your prayer;

Much of the confirming answer to a prayer can come not just when we feel a yes/no answer, but when the Spirit confirms that God has heard our prayer. That He is mindful of our trials. And that He does care about and love us.

He loves the children. Of such is the kingdom, the kingdom of heav'n.
At this point, I look around at all of the primary children reverently singing these final words with smiles on their faces and I didn't want the song to end. I relish in the moment and am reminded of how my eyes are allergic to the spirit.

That day I learned that some of the deepest and most powerful witnesses of the Spirit may be happening the far corner of your church building on Sunday. And ever since then, I've never turned someone down who asked me to substitute in primary.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013


Welcome to the LDSReddit blog. This is the official blog for the /r/latterdaysaints subreddit. Here, we will post longer faith-promoting commentary/essay style posts which work better in a blogging environment rather than as a reddit text post. We will also post announcements here which call for broadcasting out beyond the reddit space. Naturally, we'll link these posts back to the /r/latterdaysaints for the sweet, sweet karma.

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