BY RICKY VALADEZ
Throughout the ages philosophers, scientists, and most of the great thinkers have contemplated this question. Many of greatest truth seekers have succeeded in answering this question, and they documented exactly how it was done. There is a way in which one can know with certainty who God is and what is His character. This knowledge is available to all, and everyone has access to the tools needed to find the answer. If you seek to know God and haven’t found Him yet, it may be because you are looking in the wrong direction, or taking the wrong approach.
There are various approaches to finding answers to questions. I consider these approaches in three different categories; the materialistic approach, the philosophical approach, and the faith approach.
The materialistic approach is the approach of modern day science. It is based on observations of measureable phenomena such as distance, weight, pressure, amplitude, frequency etc. These observations are made through the five external senses of the body and other measuring instruments. This approach is limited to the extent of the measuring instruments used. It only seeks truth that can be universally proven through demonstration. It is therefore confined to measurements and observations that are materialistic. While this materialistic scientific approach is effective in answering some questions, it is wholly incapable of answering questions of right and wrong, the substance of thought and emotion, and the nature of God.
The philosophical approach primarily focuses on the observations of the mind rather than observations of the external senses of the body. Through inductive reasoning, the materialistic approach finds general principles. Through deductive reasoning, the philosophical approach seeks principles that are self-evident, and then makes logical derivations from those principles. For example, I can prove my own existence to myself by simply observing that I am currently thinking. Deriving from that, I determine that I exist because I think. The philosophical approach seeks truth that can be universally proven through logical explanation and derivation. Although this approach is capable of finding a rationale for belief in existence and ethics, it still cannot answer the question “Who is God?”
The one thing that both the materialistic and philosophical approaches have in common is that they both seek truth that can be proven to others. What I call universally provable knowledge. The faith approach is based on what I call individually provable knowledge. You can prove it for yourself but you can’t prove it to others. For example one could speak with God face to face and know that He exists, but one cannot force God to speak to his friends. There are certain things that can be individually known with certainty that can never be proven to others; each person must find out the answer for him or herself. The most important kind of knowledge can’t be given or proven by others, it must be earned.
Paul defines faith as “the evidence of things not seen”.1 I would expound that faith is the evidence of things that can’t be perceived by any of the external senses. The evidence Paul speaks of is based on another sense that everyone has. It is called the conscience, which in latin means with (con) knowledge (scientia). Just as we are given the sense of the eyes to distinguish between brightness and darkness, and the spectrum of colors, so we are given a conscience to distinguish between good and evil, truth and error. The conscience is a sense of justice and truth. The sense of the conscience is manifest as pure thought and feeling. It does not speak specific words to our minds, but rather gives us knowledge in its finest form. It could be described as an intuition or internal sense.
Imagine what human actions and relations would be like if we didn’t have this internal sense. Thomas Paine explained that “The Almighty hath implanted in us these unextinguishable feelings for good and wise purposes. They are the guardians of his image in our hearts. They distinguish us from the herd of common animals. The social compact would dissolve, and justice be extirpated from the earth, or have only a casual existence were we callous to the touches of affection.”2
With honest reflection anyone can remember moments in their life when their conscience was giving them information indicating that they should or should not believe, think, or do something.
One of my earliest memories of a strong perception given through my conscious was when I was a curious child. I had heard that regardless of their position in the air, cats would always land on their feet. This concept captivated me and I decided that I would conduct my own experiment. I grabbed one of our little kittens and marched to the backyard. As my mind was contemplating this experiment, my conscience indicated to me that what I was about to do was wrong and that I would regret it. There were no words, just a stroke of thought mixed with feeling. I disregarded that perception, and tossed the kitten in the air. Upon landing on the ground my conscience immediately gave me a different perception, it was a feeling of profound inner darkness and guilt. I would have preferred to be tossed in the air myself than to continue to feel such emptiness in my soul. I was absolutely powerless to undo what I had done.
This extreme internal pain was like overexposure to my sensitivity of conscience. Our external senses give us painful reactions to things that will harm our bodies, likewise our internal sense (conscience) gives us painful reactions to things that will harm our mind and spirit. The painful reaction is natural, and it exists to prevent us from repeating the same destructive action. Overexposure of painful experiences to the external senses of the body can diminish their ability to perceive; bright lights can damage the vision, loud noises can damage hearing, burns and scrapes can numb the skin. If this painful reaction is ignored too many times, it is possible that it could erode and even eliminate the ability to sense. With diligence and keen attention, a musician can develop the sense of hearing to the extent that they can detect and recognize minute differences in pitch. A painter can develop the sense of vision to see differences in lighting, shading, color and tint. A chef can develop a refined sense of taste by the same principle of diligence and attention. Likewise, our internal sense can be enhanced or diminished depending on the care and attention we give it.
Not only does the conscience give a negative reaction to prevent the bad, but it gives a positive reaction to promote the good. It leads to truth. The more one follows the guidance of their conscience the more they will refine their sensitivity to it.
As we increase our sensitivity to our conscience our ability to distinguish right from wrong, and truth from error increases. It becomes a powerful instrument of discernment and learning. Just as one can conduct scientific experiments based on the observations of the external senses (material evidence), so can one conduct scientific experiments based on the observations of the inner sense (faith: non-material evidence).
Alma, an ancient philosopher and statesman, asked a group of people to do just that. He said that if you will be open minded enough to sincerely consider a new idea, then you can conduct a valid experiment on it. In order to sincerely consider something new, one must first disregard their prejudices and biases while having a true desire to find out the validity of the idea. Alma then says, if you experiment upon this idea and allow it to occupy your mind and heart, then, if it is true, you will begin to sense the positive reactions of the conscience. He compares it to planting a seed in your heart. Alma describes these positive reactions as a feeling of enlarging the soul, enlightening the understanding, and being the delicious taste of light. “Because [you] have tried the experiment, and planted the seed, and it swell[s] and sprout[s], and begin[s] to grow, [you] must needs know that the seed is good.”3 Or that the idea is true.
The Bible and the Book of Mormon are historical accounts of thousands of people that have come to know God, and have spoken with him face to face. In them is disclosed the nature and character of God, knowledge of life before birth and after death, the purpose of life, how to come to know God, and many other mysteries that can never be proven by philosophy or materialistic science. If you want to come to know God, why not read the words of those who have already travelled down that path? What if they are in fact true accounts? If you have a sincere desire to know the answer to any of those topics, and you open your mind enough that you will actually consider the possibility that they are true, then as you read the words of those books, you can conduct the experiment yourself and know with absolute certainty on a personal basis.
One cannot find the answers to these questions without at the same time transforming their lives. In order for the conscience to continue to lead on to higher truth, one must continually heed and refine their sensitivity to it, which in itself is a transformative process. I believe that we were created in this way precisely so that in coming to know who God is, we become more like Him through the process.
Everyone that has come to personally know God, has refined their sensitivity of conscience to the extent that they could see more clearly with it than they could with their natural eyes. “It is only with the heart that one can see rightly; what is essential is invisible to the eye.” 4 It is a latent sense that when developed adds an entirely new dimension to life; a fuller picture of the immensity of reality, of which our external senses only give us a sliver of information. Just as the musician, painter, and chef can hear, see, and taste details that they never would have imagined to be possible prior to developing their senses, so the seeker of truth upon developing the sensitivity of the conscience can open up a vista of life and knowledge that they never before imagined could be perceived and known.
If you want someone to prove the existence of God to you through materialistic evidence or pure philosophy, then you will always be frustrated. It is not intended to be proven to others in that way. But if you take the difficult path of diligently searching for the truth while heeding and refining your conscience, then you can come to know God personally, and you will become a new person in the process. It is a journey that can only be traveled on an individual basis.
Self-Educated American Contributing Editor, Ricky Valadez, is an award winning music composer and producer. He studied Film Scoring at Berklee College of Music. He is an devout lover and defender of liberty and truth. Please enjoy some of his inspiring music at RickyValadez.com
- King James Bible, Hebrew 11:1
- Thomas Paine, “Common Sense”
- The Book of Mormon, Alma 32:33
- Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, “The Little Prince”, Chapter 21 near the end.