On mental frames and faith
I’ve been thinking a lot the past few weeks about mental frames, ever since reading Greg Hamblin’s post about John Dehlin. The more I study about Joseph Smith and the Book of Mormon, the more clearly I see that there’s persuasive evidence on both sides, each convincing enough that evidential analysis alone results in a draw. It thus becomes a matter of faith: I must make a decision, entering a mental frame of either belief or doubt.
If I choose doubt, I decide that the positive evidences must be wrong or misinterpreted; if I choose belief, I decide that the negative evidences must be likewise wrong or misinterpreted.
I hope it’s obvious that I’ve chosen belief. There are many things I don’t understand about church history or the gospel, but I’ve chosen to believe, and so the positive evidences — the goodness I see in the doctrines of the Church and the lives of its members, the brilliant testimony of Christ in the Book of Mormon, the way I feel when I try to follow the Mormon path to discipleship — now outweigh and overwhelm the negative evidences. When I occasionally come across those negative evidences, I remind myself that I’ve made the choice to believe, and the confusing darkness then fades away and I can see clearly again.
I know that it’s not this way for everyone, and that choosing belief often comes hard. Life is messy. But while there are many grey areas and complicating factors, some things do in fact have simple yes/no answers. Joseph Smith was a prophet of God, or he was not. He may or may not have acted the way we expect a prophet of God to act, but that doesn’t change the truth that it has to be one or the other. Joseph cannot be a prophet of God while not being a prophet of God at the same time.
Same with the Book of Mormon — either it’s of God and is what it says it is, or it’s not. Historical/literary/anthropological/etc. evidence on either side can’t change that.
And so I continue to believe, partly because I’ve felt the Spirit tell me in my bones that this is real and good and true, partly because I can easily see the good fruits of the gospel, and partly because belief is the path I’ve chosen to commit to.