It was a cold and rainy day not just a couple months ago and I was visiting Provo, Utah. I stumbled upon a tasty place called Magelby’s which apparently is a popular place in Utah. Magleby’s was right next to another popular place called “Sodalicious.” Only in Utah right?
I was meeting a friend at this Provo Magelby’s for a conversation over breakfast. This friend of mine is a very well respected religious professor at BYU. The guy knows languages galore and has more energy for the gospel and helping others than I’ve witnessed in most human beings.
As we sat and conversed over breakfast burritos, endless pancakes, and some crazy little buttery syrup sort of thing, he told me of his journey in and out of faith, in and out of the church, and of his struggle with the academic and intellectual side of Mormonism and with faith in God in general.
His academic training took place in some of the most rigorous and famous of Ivy League religious departments. He explained some of the expectations placed upon him while researching ancient texts through the lens of a secular analyst and told of his subsequent journey down the road of cynicism and doubt.
He became so entrenched in finding every little fault, every little discrepancy, and every incongruency in ancient texts and religious lore until it drove him into what he deemed as some of his “darkest days.” My friend became fully exposed to Moroni’s last warning in the Book of Mormon.
Before burying the plates in the ground for the last time, Moroni included some words on the last leaf of the plates which eventually became what is known today as the title page of the Book of Mormon. There was one last thing that Moroni wanted to warn us against when this ancient text would eventually pass our way. “And now,” said Moroni, “If there are faults, they are the mistakes of men; wherefore, condemn not the things of God…”
That was the last thing Moroni wrote, presumably before he was going to his grave. It said, in effect… “Don’t let the mistakes of men keep you from the happiness that is found through the simple act of belief and faith.”
My friend, sitting in this Magelby’s, became somewhat emotional as he described how he had allowed himself to push faith further and further into the dark corner of his intellectual brain.
He described how this period of sadness, loneliness, confusion, and despair intensified. It seemed as if with every day that he learned more, he actually knew less. He was as Paul described, “Ever learning and never able to come to a knowledge of the truth.” Maybe even as James E. Faust described, being “suffocated with information” until he became overwhelmed, even paralyzed by his inability to find out what was true or false.
With every passing day, my friend’s belief in God dwindled and diminished. This took place over the course of a few years…
Until one day, he asked himself logically, “Why am I feeling so dark and terrible inside?”
This smart intellectual giant of a man then used his brain to claw his way out of that dark abyss he was in. He said, “There was a time in which I was happy in my life. What was I doing then, and why am I so unhappy now?”
There was a clear and logical answer. BELIEF. HOPE. FAITH. THE CHURCH. It was crystal clear. That was the only difference. Those things had faded from his mind and heart. It was easy to pinpoint. The persistent academic indulgence in the “mistakes of men” and their Biblical exegesis had gotten to him.
He told me about how he searched his feelings and his memories for a time when he was happy, and without fail, it always came back to when he had a belief in God and was active in the church.
I’ll never forget what he said next as he explained his path back to happiness. That same path that led him to sit across from me in this Magleby’s with nothing by sunshine beaming from his countenance.
He said, “I decided to take a leap and come back to God, and back to the church. I decided to choose to live a life of faith.” What he did, was bet his life on God and on Mormonism. He placed the most logical bet he could place with his life because he’d seen what the alternative looked like… and it wasn’t good for him. That was something that he knew… without a doubt. None of the academics could root out the indelible marks that the spirit had made on him in the past. To be happy again meant going back to God, and to the doctrines of the restoration even if he didn’t know everything at the time. Do you remember what it was like “to sing the song of redeeming love?” asked Alma to some wayward souls. “Can you feel so now?”
Remember… feel… and then take a leap.
At age 22, I bet my life my own life on Mormonism. I had everything going for me that a worldly man could wish to have going for him. But I left everything and took the leap myself. The reason was simple. When I laid my head on my pillow at the end of the night… I was inexplicably unhappy and I didn’t want that to go on forever. That was all I knew.
At the time, I would say I had very little “knowledge” that the church was true or that God lived. There was so much that I didn’t know. Even today, there are still so many things that I don’t know.
But… there is something that I do know as much as I know “the daylight is from the dark night.” I have an absolute knowledge of my own happiness with and without a belief in God, and with and without the church in my life. That is a perfect knowledge to me. Something I’ve experienced.
15 years ago, I made the same leap and placed the same bet as my professor friend. And with every logical questioning bone in our bodies, we both came to the same conclusion: “To whom else… and to where else would we go?”