Faith’s Tipping Point

Posted on March 21, 2012


I had an epiphany while soaking in the bath tonight, after I laid my book on how to overhaul health care down on the stone tile. I know. I don’t know what it is with me and water. I think God speaks in currents with me. Probably somewhere in my lineage is a Big Fish.

In the Book of Mormon, the brother of Jared has a problem. Two of them in fact, following a pretty big building project that likely entailed a lot of conversation with the Lord. He goes again to the Lord and presents the problems: light and air. The Lord tells him how to solve one problem (air) with an explanation of his reasoning and some vital information about their upcoming journey. He then asks him what he would have Him do about the other. Jared goes off and thinks about it, probably reads his scriptures and thinks about people who’ve been in similar situations, devises a solution, and does his part by crafting 16 small stones that were white and could conceivably glow like the ones Noah likely used. He then asks God to touch them, which God obliges to do.

A very interesting thing happens after this. He gets a peek into the nature of God, who, ever one to lead people to higher levels of understanding by questioning, asks him what he saw. Jared describes it, and then he is allowed to see more, because it’s the natural next step. I’m well aware of the many metaphorical allusions in the story – seer stones, names conferred in sacred liturgy, light that is lit personally and that glows regardless of circumstances – but what was most poignant to me today was what led Mahonri to glimpse the finger of God while He worked.

I’ve been participating in discussions online recently which often devolve to debate. Sometimes that is very good. The other night the seeds were sown that stimulated my thinking and searching to find an answer that is very precious to me and that settles many very old questions. A glimpse of God. I am enlivened by the debate’s persistent questioning when it has that effect.

Sometimes, however, the debate takes another turn, one that is probably entirely personal for each participant, in that it attempts to reason a way to understanding God. If He makes sense, some people assert, then they will believe.

I realized tonight that that’s not only not the way it works, it can’t be the way it works. The brother of Jared went to God believing first, and believing in something completely irrational after a long pattern of believing in credulity-stretching things. The revelation that he received was founded on having done his part: researched, considered, made a plan, crafted his stones, and asked God for help. Many small steps led him to his encounter with God, the one that transformed his faith to knowledge. At no point did any of it initially make sense.

He could not sit on his tuckus with his legs crossed and his chin on one hand and question God collegially about His nature. God never reveals Himself that way, but it wouldn’t work if He did. Humans have a tremendous capacity to undermine and ignore the very senses they rely upon. Knowledge of God (and maybe of anything) gained through debate and thoughtful inquiry is tenuous, at best. Knowledge gained through the steady, repeated assertion of faith is steadfast, like any skill that grows through exercise. When Joseph Smith said that we cannot be saved in ignorance, I think this may be the knowledge he was talking about needing.

God has whispered a course to me, and at every turn it has not made sense. Anvils have fallen regularly from the sky, a couple of pianos, and still the whispering continues and I still believe it and still keep walking (one eye upwards, I tell ya.) Growing inside of me for some time, however, is a picture of the finger of God, and I’m determined to stay the course. When it’s clear, I expect to see more. There’s a bubbling inside telling me that this growing vision is much more than an intellectual sketch. There is no group of facts anywhere in my mind – recent validations of particle theory or seeing camera obscura paint a darkened room with light or a business blossoming as organizational theory proves itself – that compares with the image of God’s finger taking shape in my soul.

I know why the brother of Jared climbed that mountain with a bag of rocks. His faith had reached the tipping point.

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