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Comments about ‘Defending the Faith: Sometimes, God does intervene’

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Published: Thursday, Nov. 15 2012 5:00 a.m. MST

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Aaron S
GREEN RIVER, WY

Wow. I am astonished at the lack of faith many of the above comments reveal. As many other people can testify, miracles happen all the time. My life has been too full of them to deem "coincidence" or even "serendipity" by any amount of reason. And coincidence is largely a myth: any person who truly examines the world will find that "coincidence" is really a meaningless term for an undiscovered causality. And when something happens that can only be explained by stepping outside of faithlessness, that is the word the worldly reach for. But I have experienced so many answers to prayers in my life--often immediate--that only a fool would reach for that silly term. BUT: I have also noticed that the good Lord answers prayers the most readily that offer us comfort or convenience; when the issue is truly life-changing, vastly important, the answer is in my experience going to come more slowly--but come it will, every time. And this makes perfect sense to those who understand the purpose of life. And if you don't understand THAT, well--my sympathy.

Unwieldy Toaster
Bluffdale, UT

I have difficulty with the idea of taking a "leap of faith" because I don't know in what direction to leap. Should I believe in the capricious Abrahamic God of the Old Testament? or the Mormon version of God? Or maybe the Hindus have it right and there are many Gods? There is as much proof for whatever intervening God you want to believe in because faith doesn't require any proof. I feel that I could be just as justified in giving credit to the flying spaghetti monster for intervening in my life as any God you could think of. This is why a skeptical approach makes the most sense to me. (I can also wrap by brain around the idea of deism but that's about it).

Tyler D
Meridian, ID

Gracie

I understand your point and if religion were only about profound personal experiences I would have no problem with it. But I am simply concerned that of all the reasons people use to justify acts of evil, religious certainty is at the top of the list for what will likely cause the apocalypse. If all religions would tomorrow profess total non-violence and a flat rejection of all forms of coercion and claims of superiority, that problem would end just as fast.

The fact is ideas have consequences and there is a reason why two different oppressed groups (Tibetan Buddhists and occupied Palestinians) can produce such different reactions to their suffering. The only major difference between one mind set that spends literally decades doing nothing more than calling for peaceful dialogue, and another that blows up women and children in a pizza place, is their religious ideas.

So can you understand that when someone starts saying things like "God told me X" or "my sacred book is the perfect word of the creator of the universe" (no matter how immoral or erroneous some of the book may be), why that makes some of us nervous?

TimBehrend
Auckland NZ, 00

It is a characteristic of all human cultures to attribute significance to coincidence in line with larger discourses of meaning that exist in the ambient culture. Because of its universality we can assume this phenomenon reflects something about the brain of Homo sapiens. Nothing in such an experience suggests the reality of invisible beings or magic powers either in the abstract or in their million specific manifestations among the religious traditions of the world; nothing in the experience dictates against their reality. The attribution of meaning to experience is simply what the human animal does whether with magical narratives or harshly material ones. Our understanding of H. sapiens also explains why some who comment here dismiss Peterson's experience as signifying nothing, and why others pour spite and even damnation on the dismissers. Whatever Peterson's hermeneutical orientation might have been, like all humans he would have "made sense" of such an unusual experience. I've had a number of similar ones myself, some far more outlandish and improbable, as have all readers, i venture. Because gods lack authority in my own understanding of humankind and the universe, my interpretation of these personal experiences involve no invisible forces.

Aaron S
GREEN RIVER, WY

Gee. What I am finding even more astonishing is, WHY are so many people who obviously find faith ridiculous (poor souls) reading Mr. Peterson's article in the first place? to find occasion to heap ridicule on those who possess faith (and whom maybe they secretly envy because of that, having none themselves)? I can understand Mr. Peterson's articles appealing to people of faith--yet a large percentage of respondents are obviously standing on ladders so as to be able to look down upon those to a greater degree. But President Kimball put it most succinctly of anybody save Christ Himself: "Faith precedes the miracle". Faith is not built on miracles; miracles follow faith and those who have experienced this inestimable blessing can only pity you of the world. A worldly friend once said he "didn't need the help of God"--his idea of weakness. Well, I told him, don't expect it, then--God won't force his blessings on those who don't want them. But ask for them and he pours them out in such abundance. I sorrow for you who would so willingly give them up for ignorace.

NeilT
Clearfield, UT

I am LDS. I served an honorable mission. Like all RMs I desired marriage and family. I have always remained active and paid tithing. And yes I have made plenty of mistakes. Two divorces which have resulted in financial bondage I wlll never recover from and no future marriage or family prospects. Does God answer prayers. Apparently he does for many, but not all. Maybe some have more faith than others. Right now I just don't know. I am beginning to understand many of the sentiments expressed on here. So many LDS are so quick to judge others and find fault. Especially those who struggle in the faith or who don't fit their definition of an ideal family.

Uncle Vic
El Dorado Hills, CA

Thanks Dr. Peterson. I enjoyed your article. In answer to the question of why He would answer a trivial prayer or intervene in a situation of seemingly small moment, I personally believe it is just because He is kind. He wants to help us. These "tender mercy" moments, as Elder Bednar described them, seem to happen all the time.

I recall driving back to my office at lunchtime after a meeting. I was thinking about lunch when I got a distinct impression to try a Japanese restaurant near my office. I had been there before, and had not been terribly impressed. I followed the impression, and found that the restaurant had changed its menu, and now offered ramen noodles. They were delicious! I took my friends over later, and it became a regular lunch place for us.

Now, in the cosmic scheme of things, why would He care where I had lunch? He cared because He loved me, and wanted to give me a good experience. Maybe there were other reasons. Maybe our coming answered the owner's prayers for increased business. I'll never know. But I have had enough of these experiences to know they are not coincidence.

LDS Liberal
Farmington, UT

Getting up early to meet someone at the airport as an example of divine intervention?

How about hurricane Sandy stiffling Mitt Romney's final week of the campaign?

Thank heavens for divine intervention!

Jeff
Temple City, CA

Some of the reactions to Dr. Petersen's essay illustrate why it is usually unwise to share spiritual experiences with too broad an audience.

Since I consider the existence of God to be a provable certainty, I have no problem accepting the idea that God chooses to intervene in some cases and not in others. In fact, it's perfectly reasonable that an independent, intelligent being (even one that is not omniscient, such as a human) may behave in ways that are not always understandable to other independent, intelligent beings.

It is also reasonable that someone interacting with such a being may know that some act was performed by that being, but may not know why. We grant such respect to our pet dogs (who are not even as independent or intelligent as we are), we ought to grant it to God (who, the evidence suggests, knows everything).

As I have gradually come to understand the personality of God, there are a few things that I can speak of with certainty: 1. He loves me. 2. He knows more than I do. 3. He is very economical. Each of these things helps me to understand why He sometimes says "no."

Gracie
Boise, ID

"There is as much proof for whatever intervening God you want to believe in because faith doesn't require any proof."

Faith is a life-long educational pursuit, i.e. education of the spirit. There is much proof for those who develop their faith in order to recognize it. As they do this, proof compounds--the kind that only those who pay the price for it can ever receive and which cannot be adequately explained to anyone who doesn't know the same great thing. You can ignore faith or disparage it, but that doesn't change the reality. Lack of experience with the concept in action fails to exercise spiritual muscles that are required to grow strong to know these things. It's the exercise that develops a person's deep faith until sure knowledge replaces it on that concept. And then faith is required to learn new concepts. The cycle never ends.

Gracie
Boise, ID

To Tyler D: "If all religions would tomorrow profess total non-violence and a flat rejection of all forms of coercion and claims of superiority, that problem would end just as fast."

That lovely wish doesn't hold up in the world we live in. Flawed people belong to organized religions, who have the capability and inclination to do evil things. World history shows there are only very rare occasions when coercion and claims of superiority weren't a part of any society's situation. We're here to learn to reject these natural man tendencies, and it's as much a life-long pursuit as learning to understand what faith is. Whatever religion a nation and/or army claimed to follow usually has very little to do with actual behavior of a mob when push comes to shove. Many ugly, evil things have been done in the NAME of religion. Why? Because it's a powerful way to rope in followers who become confused about what their leaders are asking them to do. Followers are afraid to go against overbearing, so-called religious leaders who will punish them for standing apart.

Res Novae
Ashburn, VA

I'm a believer, but the problems of theodicy -- including how and when God intervenes -- are vexing for many of us. There is no greater challenge to my faith than a God who answers a irritated prayer to find lost car keys when one is in a rush, and a God who does not listen to the desperate pleas of a small child who is being abused or worse.

Twin Lights
Louisville, KY

Res Novae,

The only answer I can come up with is that so much of human suffering in the world is due to human neglect or even intended action. That will be judged. But for the victims, perhaps we underestimate the power of the atonement to dry the tears of the world.

Jeff

Agreed. Thank you.

NeilT,

I hope you find some peace. My situation was very different but I understand the questions regarding God’s answering of prayers. Take care.

Tyler D
Meridian, ID

Hey Gracie:

I appreciate your comments, but they seem to portray a somewhat cynical and limited view of what people are capable of. Why can’t religion promote what I suggested? Some Eastern religions do exactly that… again, why we don’t see many Jain or Buddhist suicide bombers, inquisitors, or morality police trying impose their will on others (e.g., gay rights).

I agree with you that our species has some natural tendencies towards immorality (e.g., tribal warfare, rape, etc…), but I simply reject the view that our only two choices are savagery or superstition. Or is it your contention that an agnostic or an atheist is incapable of being a good, decent human being?

And I also agree with your point about religion being a powerful tool of control… I don’t really have anything to add to what you said since your points make a strong case for rejecting religious dogmatism altogether, especially the group or institutional variety. As the saying goes – if you can get someone to believe one thing without sufficient evidence, you can get them to believe (and do) anything.

coltakashi
Richland, WA

Certainly all sorts of things, good and bad, happen to us every day. Whether one regards the concidence of a prayer and a relevant good experience as meaningful depends on your faith in the God you prayed to.

Over and above coincidences, though, are instances of relevant information coming to us, including associated emotions that give that information significance. When the information is confirmed by subsequent events, we have an event that goes beyond coincidence. Since this is primarily an internal event, only the person experiencing is in a position to verify the reality of the receipt of the information.

Then there is information that comes to us that could not have come from natural processes. President Thomas Monson related a story in General Conference in which he announced a man at the last minute as speaker in a meeting, even though he had been told the man was at another location and was not planninig to be there. Nevertheless, he was prompted to announce his name, and the man walked in at that moment, answering his own prompting to change his plans. And that kind of thing happens a lot to Mormons.

MPeace
Provo, Utah

If everybody knew just how close God was to them -they would be shocked. He is excellent at keeping His presence to Himself, however. Consider this - He keeps all of His laws in perfect effect everywhere -no matter what happens. His laws keep all of His creation in place. Therefore, everything everywhere is constantly in measurement in His memory, which keeps it in existence. This means He only has to want to do something anywhere and it will be done. One only need to have Him give them Atonement with Him by doing those things to have Him forgive them of any wrongdoings, and then if He wants to and if it is in His plan, he will immediately have the thing produced. All things are according to God's plans, and so we must wait on Him and not Him wait on us according to our desired plans. Has anyone reading this ever tried to write or do something - only to find out that no matter how hard they tried -they could not? Perhaps it was not in His plans. Thus we know how close we are to God.

A Scientist
Provo, UT

Imagine a universe ruled by the god religion gives us. This god is worshiped, prayed to, and is believed to "intervene" in human affairs, sometimes in ways consistent with the petitions of individuals, and sometimes not.

Imagine another universe ruled by no god at all. Things happen according to natural laws, chance, and fortune. These happenings are sometimes consistent with the desires and whims of individuals, and sometimes not.

There is no way any believer can distinguish between the two universes. Belief in god makes absolutely no difference at all.

Jeff
Temple City, CA

@ "A Scientist": I've lived in both universes. God is better.

A Scientist
Provo, UT

Jeff,

Good for you. But living according to fantasies, while fun and "better", is not reality. Children really love to believe in Santa Claus, but their enjoyment does not make Santa real.

God makes no empirical difference.

Jeff
Temple City, CA

@ "A Scientist": It is interesting that you characterize my faith as "living according to fantasy." I cannot help but believe that you would find it more comforting if it were fantasy. It isn't. Additionally, I never said it was "fun," as you do. I said it was "better."

Your statement that "God makes no empirical evidence" is inaccurate and incorrect in a number of ways (besides being an ironic declaration of a characteristic of God from someone who professes not to believe in Him).

God certainly provides empirical evidence. You would be more accurate to say that you do not accept the evidences He provides.

Does He in fact "make" the evidence? Therein lies a question for another forum. The evidence is there; it is empirical (perhaps you intend "empirical" to mean something else that its denotation?). Some of the evidence is spiritual; some is not. I gather that you reject all evidence of the existence of God.

I agree with you that Santa Claus is a fantasy. I do not agree that there is any basis of comparison between the existence of Santa Claus and the existence of God.

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