Monday, November 24, 2014

How Can We Know There is a God?

Reading about others experiences with God helps to give us the faith to pray and keep His commandments, but it is like staking up a young tree. Relying on others is only a temporary measure until the tree becomes strong enough to stand on its own. How do we grow and develop that strength for ourselves? How can we really know there is a God? How do we come to know anything-- through our personal experiences, of course.

It takes effort. You need to learn how to listen. (how to do that is in Does God Answer Prayers? ). You need to begin to truly "see" and "hear". You need to begin to notice the things the Lord has given you and be grateful (The Earth Testifies of God, God Helping Me Find the Right Place to Live, Protected,  Enduring Love, Coming to Know God, New Opportunities, Being Helped, One Year, Guided and Blessed by The Lord, Roommates Teaching Me about Family Prayer,). You need to study others' experiences (People Testify of God). You need to exercise enough faith to try out His commandments. As we live them, from our own experience we learn that they are good and help our lives to be happier. As we gain knowledge about one principle, then we have more faith to try out another principle. For instance, seeing how paying tithing (returning 10% of all the Lord gives me to Him) has helped us manage our money better and get out of debt, helped me have the faith to volunteer to teach the young children in church. Living the Word of Wisdom (God's laws of health) has given me the faith to pray for help in learning how to live with Addison's Disease. Each thing I do gives me knowledge that that principle is true and the faith to test out another principle. It also increases my faith in my Savior who has given these commandments to help me be happier.

Coming to know God is a life long process not a single event. It has been compared to planting a seed. When it grows you know the seed was good.
34 And now, behold, is your knowledge perfect? Yea, your knowledge is perfect in that thing, and your faith is dormant; and this because you know, for ye know that the word hath swelled your souls, and ye also know that it hath sprouted up, that your understanding doth begin to be enlightened, and your mind doth begin to expand. Alma 32:34

You now know for yourself that the seed (the Gospel teachings) is good, but do you know that it will produce fruit (peace in this life, happiness, and eternal life)? No.
 41 But if ye will nourish the word, yea, nourish the tree as it beginneth to grow, by your faith with great diligence, and with patience, looking forward to the fruit thereof, it shall take root; and behold it shall be a tree springing up unto everlasting life. Alma 32:41

You can not know true principles until you live them. It is by our own experiences that our faith grows. If we do not nurture our faith, then our "tree" will wither and die.
 39 Now, this is not because the seed was not good, neither is it because the fruit thereof would not be desirable; but it is because your ground is barren, and ye will not nourish the tree, therefore ye cannot have the fruit thereof. Alma 32:39

I heard of a woman who worked for a seed company. People would complain to her that the seeds were not good.
“The seeds don’t work,” the customer said. “I bought them two months ago and still nothing.”

“Did you plant them in good soil and give them enough water and sunlight?” Christa asked.
“No, but I did my part,” the customer replied. “I bought the seeds. After all, they are guaranteed to grow.”
“But you didn’t plant them?”
“Heavens no. That would mean getting my hands dirty.”
Christa thought about this and decided that planting guidelines would have to be written. She resolved what the first guideline would be: “You must follow planting instructions for the seeds to sprout. You can’t set them on the shelf and expect them to grow.”
It wasn’t long before another complaint puzzled her.
“The seeds aren’t producing,” a customer claimed.
“Did you plant them in good soil?” Christa responded. “Did you give them the appropriate amount of water and sunlight?”
“Oh, yes,” the customer insisted. “I did all that―exactly as it says on the package. But they don’t work.”
“Did anything happen at all? Did they sprout?”
“Nothing happened,” the customer said. “I planted them just as directed. I was hoping to have tomatoes for dinner. Now I am very disappointed.”
“Wait,” Christa replied. “Are you saying you planted the seeds today?”
“Don’t be ridiculous,” the customer replied. “I planted them a week ago. I was not expecting to see tomatoes on the first day; I was patient. Let me tell you, there has been a lot of watering and waiting between then and now.”
Christa knew she would have to add another guideline: “These seeds conform to the laws of biology. If you plant the seeds in the morning and expect to eat tomatoes later that week, you will be disappointed. You must be patient and wait for the work of nature to unfold before you.”
All went well until Christa received another complaint.
“I’m very disappointed in your seeds,” the customer began. “I planted them just as the package recommended. I gave them water, made sure they had sunshine, and waited until finally they produced their harvest.”
“Sounds like you did everything right,” Christa said.
“That’s all very fine,” the customer replied. “But what I got was zucchini!”
“My records show that those were the seeds you ordered,” Christa said.
“But I don’t want zucchini; I want pumpkins!”
“I’m not following.”
“I planted the seeds in my pumpkin patch—the very same soil that produced pumpkins last year. I praised the plants every day, telling them what beautiful pumpkins they would become. But instead of large, round, orange pumpkins, I got long, green zucchini. Tons of them!”
Christa knew then that guidelines might not be enough and that it was necessary to state a principle: “The seed you plant and the time of the planting determine the harvest.”
What we sow, we reap.
That is the law of heaven.
That is the law of God’s harvest.
Are we living the law of the harvest or are we impatiently demanding the harvest without the planting or tending. Coming to know God takes time and effort, but it will come with diligence and patience.
Some people have stated that if there really was a God, He should show Himself to them, then they would believe. I wonder if they don't even have enough faith to pray and read the scriptures, could they possibly have the spiritual strength to live God teachings? What would happen if  you have had an experience where you actually saw God, but were not ready to live his teachings?  One prophet explained the consequences:

17 Yea, there are many who do say: If thou wilt show unto us a sign from heaven, then we shall know of a surety; then we shall believe.
 18 Now I ask, is this faith? Behold, I say unto you, Nay; for if a man knoweth a thing he hath no cause to believe, for he knoweth it.
 19 And now, how much more cursed is he that knoweth the will of God and doeth it not, than he that only believeth, or only hath cause to believe, and falleth into transgression?
Alma 32:17-19  Book of Mormon
We can not demand that God appear to us any more than we can demand a degree from a college, a job, a loving family, or happiness in this life. All must be earned. We are talking about the privilege of coming to know the great King of Heaven, a God, a being with all power and knowledge. He does not have to prove anything to us. Coming to know God is not something we can demand. It is a privilege we humbly receive if we are willing to pay the price.

This is the promise we are given:
11 Do ye not remember the things which the Lord hath said?—If ye will not harden your hearts, and ask me in faith, believing that ye shall receive, with diligence in keeping my commandments, surely these things shall be made known unto you. 1 Nephi 15:11
If we are willing to put in the effort; to study the scriptures, pray, and live the teachings of God; then we will become like Him and know Him. 

I like the answer Alma, a prophet, gave to a man who wanted a sign from God before he would believe. 
37 And then Alma said unto him: Believest thou that there is a God?
 38 And he answered, Nay.
 39 Now Alma said unto him: Will ye deny again that there is a God, and also deny the Christ? For behold, I say unto you, I know there is a God, and also that Christ shall come.
 40 And now what evidence have ye that there is no God, or that Christ cometh not? I say unto you that ye have none, save it be your word only.
 41 But, behold, I have all things as a testimony that these things are true; and ye also have all things as a testimony unto you that they are true; and will ye deny them? Believest thou that these things are true?
43 And now Korihor said unto Alma: If thou wilt show me a sign, that I may be convinced that there is a God, yea, show unto me that he hath power, and then will I be convinced of the truth of thy words.
 44 But Alma said unto him: Thou hast had signs enough; will ye tempt your God? Will ye say, Show unto me a sign, when ye have the testimony of all these thy brethren, and also all the holy prophets? The scriptures are laid before thee, yea, and 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 30:37 - 44  Book of Mormon

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