Experiment Upon the Word, Part 2


In some ways, Alma’s faith experiment is similar to a science experiment. For one, Alma tells the people to look for evidence of the growth of faith, “Now, we will compare the word unto a seed. Now, if ye give place, that a seed may be planted in your heart, behold, if it be a true seed, or a good seed, if ye do not cast it out by your unbelief, that ye will resist the Spirit of the Lord, behold, it will begin to swell within your breasts; and when you feel these swelling motions, ye will begin to say within yourselves—It must needs be that this is a good seed, or that the word is good, for it beginneth to enlarge my soul; yea, it beginneth to enlighten my understanding, yea, it beginneth to be delicious to me. Now behold, would not this increase your faith? I say unto you, Yea; nevertheless it hath not grown up to a perfect knowledge. But behold, as the seed swelleth, and sprouteth, and beginneth to grow, then you must needs say that the seed is good; for behold it swelleth, and sprouteth, and beginneth to grow. And now, behold, will not this strengthen your faith? Yea, it will strengthen your faith: for ye will say I know that this is a good seed; for behold it sprouteth and beginneth to grow” (Alma 32:28-30; emphasis added).

Alma told people to not cast the seed of faith out and not resist the Spirit of the Lord; if they did this, they would feel and understand the seed. They would be enlightened and filled. The seed, with nourishment, will grow into a tree producing fruit of light and purity, that which is without end and never spoils.

In a science experiment you seek to falsify your hypothesis; in other words (and in theory), you try to collect all the evidence you can that you are wrong, then accept your hypothesis as supported if you don’t find anything that contradicts that hypothesis. Again, in theory that’s how science works. On the other hand, a faith experiment is almost the opposite; you try to do everything you can to find evidence that you are right – not wrong. That is how many scientists work, or at least people who are learning to be scientists, but that’s very different than what scientists should be doing.

In a faith experiment you plant the seed, you nourish it, and care for it; you don’t try to kill it and then, if it survives, call it a good seed – that’s a science experiment. You do all you can to try to show that the seed is good – because it is. The truth of the Seed of Faith is not what is on trial in a faith experiment because the seed is Truth; what’s on trial is the experimenter! That’s why in a faith experiment we shouldn’t try to falsify the seed – the seed is True – we should do all we can to support the seed. Additionally, in a faith experiment it becomes necessary to at least suspend judgment on things that – on the face – look like they disconfirm our hypothesis (e.g., doctrines or teachings or statements that we might not currently understand or that seem to not fit with science or general worldly knowledge). I wrote “on the face” because a lot of things or ideas that look like they are at odds with true religion are created or “discovered” by humankind, who are imperfect and sometimes dishonest. However, in science experiments ignoring data that disconfirm your hypothesis is poor science.

Experiment Upon the Word, Part 1


“But behold, if ye will awake and arouse your faculties, even to an experiment upon my words, and exercise a particle of faith, yea, even if ye can no more than desire to believe, let this desire work in you, even until ye believe in a manner that ye can give place for a portion of my words” (Alma 32:27; emphasis added).

The prophet Alma taught the poor on the hill Onidah about faith. He told those who were struggling with their faith to experiment upon the word. The word experiment is only found in the scriptures 5 times. One of those is in the New Testament but its use is not how Alma used it in his teachings (see 2 Cor. 9:13). The other 4 uses of the word experiment are all found in Alma’s teachings to the Zoramites (actually, Amulek used the word once when he referred to what his missionary companion – Alma – taught about experimenting upon the word). Alma launched into an analogy of faith as a seed as he taught the Zoramites. Alma talked about planting the seed of faith in your heart, nurturing it, and watching it grow.

This may sound like a science experiment but this faith experiment differs from science experiments in a number of key ways.

One of the tenets of modern science is to seek to discover facts that lead to truth. Scientists study facts, which may or may not be true, while at the same time assuming that facts are Truth. Scientists only study that which can observed or at least indirectly measured. If something is esoteric like love, for example, then scientists have to create a working definition of love – things that are observable and quantifiable – in order to measure and manipulate it. The problem is that a particular working definition (e.g., kisses, hugs, time spent conversing, time spent holding hands, etc.) might not be a good representation of love. Further, if something cannot easily be quantified, it’s at best left alone and at worst, attacked as non-existent and not important.