In the varied conversations I have had with my disbelieving friends — and friends they are! — I have sometimes been accused of being brainwashed or deluded. I have considered these ideas very seriously because I know that our minds are complex and that self-deception is a possibility. Reflection has convinced me that my experience is simply too profound and too distinct from what I might envision by my own mental devices to be accounted for as springing from within me.
To some, this statement affirming a divine source of my spiritual experiences may not carry much weight.
I offer three points in answer.
First, one who dismisses my accounting of spirituality — or that of countless others — as delusional are deeming themselves better judges of my experience and psyche than I am, even though they were not present during these experiences.
Second, if such persons have not sought or had spiritual manifestations for themselves, and if they have not experimented with prayer as I and others have, their pessimistic explanation about the fruitful results of others' efforts is at best hollow.
Third, there is simply no evidence that I or other believers are delusional. Those claiming delusion rely on blind faith—blind disbelief—to support their claims that another's mental state is flawed.
The evidence I have in support of the truth of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints grows with time as I continue to seek to know God and to live by his teachings. The experiences I had when I was 18 were only the beginning of what has become a rich and vibrant part of my life, and I now turn to God daily to deepen a relationship that provides me with support and answers to life's challenges. The depth and persistence of my connection to God expands, though in a nonlinear way, as I strive to devote myself more and more to him. Because of my faith, I see others on this earth as my spiritual brothers and sisters, with infinite divine potential. I vaguely glimpse the immensity of God's love for his children and I am in awe of the Creator of the universe, our Heavenly Father.
I testify that God lives and loves us. I testify he knows your name just as he knows mine. He will answer any and all who earnestly seek a witness of his reality. You can know for yourself, independent of anyone else, that God lives and loves you. You can know that the Book of Mormon is true and that prophets are again on the earth, speaking boldly concerning proper morals and providing a code of conduct for life. As I have, you can feel a peace permeating through your heart that carries and sustains you and leads you to learn of God's plan for your life.
Most fundamentally, what draws me to Mormonism is the claim that all can know for themselves — through "experimenting upon the word," as the Book of Mormon invites — that God lives and that Mormonism is true. I invite all to experiment upon the word as I have.
Amy Williams is a postdoctoral research fellow at Harvard Medical School, studying population and medical genetics. She graduated with dual bachelor's degrees in 2003 from the University of Utah in computer science and mathematics, and received an master's degree in 2005 and a doctorate in 2010 from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, both in computer science. Her research focuses on leveraging computational techniques to empower genetic studies and to learn about patterns of genetic variation and evolution, with the aim of inferring human history and demography.
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