Friday, July 1, 2016

Trust No One; Believe All Things

I used to wake up tired and hungry. I now wake up so full of energy that I could jump through a wall like the koolaid man. "Oh yeah!!" What's the difference? I cut carbs down to almost nothing and drastically increased the fats I eat. Ive lost two inches off my waist without being hungry once, and haven't slowed down on my weight lifting. I have not had a before after blood panel, but I would not be surprised if my blood metrics are the best they've been in more than a decade.

Almost every accomplishment in my life underscores one axiom: be skeptical. Don't trust the conclusions of others. Instead, look at their observations, perhaps conduct your own experiments, and come to your own conclusions. You will achieve far more than the advice givers because your conclusions will be based on factual observation, not tradition or hearsay.

Shifting to an observational basis is not easy. Even most scientists have failed to make that transition. It requires a constant guard against the onslaught of decided issues that we are bombarded with daily. You will never get observations in the media. Instead, you get conclusions. Here are some typical (fake) headlines:

  • Scientists show global warming will lead to disastrous sea level rises by 2020
  • Zika virus posses significant risk to pregnant women
  • High fat diet linked to heart disease
  • etc.

How many times have you read such headlines? How many times have you investigated the article to see what observations the experts made to inform their conclusion? The observations are not in the headlines, nor are they in the article. Instead, they are in the peer-reviewed publication that the article summarizes. Even then, you frequently have to dig through the paper to see the observations informing the conclusions. Spoiler: The conclusion is rarely the only way to interpret the observations, and frequently don't support the conclusion at all. [Note: To avoid the charge that I might not know what I am talking about: I am an academic/scientist, have published over a dozen peer reviewed articles, have read hundreds more, and have received over $1 million in external funding. This does not prove I am right, but does prove that this is not a naive statement.]

To trust means to "believe in the reliability, truth, ability, or strength of." If you look up scriptures using the word trust, you will find that it is never associated positively with trusting men, no matter who those men are.  Synonyms of trust include "rely on, depend on, bank on, count on, be sure of." You can never be sure of anything in this world. You should never depend on or count on anything or anyone in this world. Doing so will surely lead to disappointment, and may lead to damnation.

Thus saith the Lord; Cursed be the man that trusteth in man, and maketh flesh his arm, and whose heart departeth from the Lord. (Jeremisha 17:50)

The only entities that can be trusted in this world are entities that are not of this world: The father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost.

Look unto me in every thought; doubt not, fear not. (D&C 6:36)

This exposes an apparent contradiction. Aren't we meant to believe? Yes, we are. Too many (especially among Millennials) are skeptical to the point where they won't believe anything. These are steeped in the sin of unbelief. They push the needle from the extreme of trusting in the arm of the flesh to the opposite extreme of believing nothing. They are just as damned as those who trust in the arm of the flesh, because in closing their aperture to avoid falsehood, they will not except truth.

One definition of believe is to hold something as an opinion. To think or suppose. There is nothing wrong with supposing something is true. In fact, before one learns of the truth of something, they must first suppose it could be true (Alma 32, John 7:17). Merely supposing something could be true doesn't mean you will depend on it or be sure of it. No belief should be clung to in the face of irrefutable contrary evidence. If it is, it isn't believed, but trusted. No tenet should ever be trusted. Only God should be trusted.

The axiom to be skeptical has yielded fruit in religion, love, parenting, health, finance, and every other aspect of my life that I can think of.

I firmly believe that any person who follows God will find themselves in a constant Sisyphean battle against the entropy that rules in the Telestial Kingdom, or the world in which we now live. Sisyphus was a mythical character who was consigned to an eternity of rolling a very large enchanted boulder up a very large hill, only to have it escape from his clutches and roll back down endlessly.

Paradoxically, we are sent to a world that even Jesus could not turn around and charged to conquer all things. Therein lies the key. Just as the kingdom of God is not of this world (meaning not LIKE this world, or not ruled in the manner of this world, not present on some other world), Jesus' manner of conquering is not like the Telestial manner of conquering. Despots in this world conquer through violent compulsion or empty promises of effortless peace and comfort. Jesus conquers through the mechanisms listed in D&C 121:

41 No power or influence can or ought to be maintained by virtue of the priesthood, only by persuasion, by long-suffering, by gentleness and meekness, and by love unfeigned;
 42 By kindness, and pure knowledge, which shall greatly enlarge the soul without hypocrisy, and without guile.

This conquering has a very different effect than the world's version of conquering. Instead of causing dominance, it causes reverence. Instead of causing ignorance, it causes wisdom. Instead of causing submissive weakness, it causes strength.

Jesus didn't amass millions of followers in his life, or even 10s of thousands. He had a few hundred faithful followers tops. His most notable victory was not with the crowds, but against darkness itself. By living a sinless life, he conquered death. We conquer the entropy of the universe not by conquering the universe, but by conquering its effects on us as individuals. We fight the darkness in the universe by fighting the darkness in ourselves.

If you want to fight the darkness of this world, you have to stop trusting its lies. Stop trusting the experts. Stop trusting other people. Stop trusting what you've heard, what your parents taught you, what your best friend does. Your operating assumption should be that everything you hear is a lie until proven otherwise. PARADOXICALLY, you must also suppose that everything you hear could be true. The balance between these is delicate. So delicate, in fact, that you could describe it as a strait and narrow path, one so narrow and precarious that you need a guide to lead you along. That guide is the word of God.