A Wave and a Particle

February 22, 2006 | 29 comments
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One of the fun aspects of physics is wave-particle duality: Light behaves as both a wave and a particle. For that matter, protons and electrons also exhibit such behavior. Now, my own understanding of this complicated topic is far from complete. But as I understand it, the phenomenon operates more or less as follows. At times, and when interacted with in certain ways, light behaves as a wave. At other times, and when interacted with in other ways, it is a particle. This despite the fact that this duality is a seeming paradox. It seems impossible for light to be both a wave and a particle. And yet, it is both.

I’ve written before about cognitive dissonance. There is a struggle that some church members – including myself – feel when trying to reconcile spiritual experiences and manifestations of God on the one hand, with church problems and discrepancies on the other hand. We Mormons have nothing on physicists in this department, though — after all, these are people who think that light is both a wave and a particle. And as far as anyone can tell, they’re right! Today at lunch, a colleague mentioned wave-particle duality, and I suddenly wondered:

What if the church is both a wave and a particle? What if it is both true and not-true, the two states existing together, differentiated only by how we choose to interact with it?

This is, after all, exactly the way that light behaves. By subjecting it to certain tests — interacting with it in certain ways — one can prove that light is a wave. By subjecting it to other tests — interacting with it in other ways — one can prove that light is a particle. The answer to the question is fluid, not static. It will depend on the tests to which light is subjected; it will depend on the nature of our interaction with that light. (And isn’t God like light?)

Similarly, perhaps the church is both true and not-true. If we interact with it in certain ways — if we approach it with an attitude of acceptance and faith — then it is true. If we interact with it in other ways — if we cynically test its premises and criticize its failings — then it is not-true. Both conditions real. Both conditions provable. A seeming paradox, but reality nonetheless.

And if this is the case, then both church critics and church apologists are misguided in their claims. They are like competing physicists, shouting “Wave, wave!” and “Particle, particle!” at each other. They are both right, and they are both wrong — the one conclusion does not rule out the other. The church is both, just as light is a both a wave and a particle. Either result can be true; the one that we see will depend on our own choices of how to interact with the Light.

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29 Responses to A Wave and a Particle

  1. Kaimi Wenger on February 22, 2006 at 7:52 pm

    To follow up on my post —

    The church is true because I cannot deny the reality of my spiritual experiences. The church is true because I have seen manifestations, too clear to be coincidence. It is true because it makes me want to be a better person. Because miracles exist. Because God lives and loves us, and if He does, then He must want our families to be together. Because some ideas make sense and resonate with me on a personal basis. Because when God has spoken to me, it has been through the apparatus of the church. All of this is true, and because of it, I know that the church is true.

    The church is not-true because of historical and doctrinal inconsistencies. It is not-true because it encourages or at least tolerates some detructive attitudes among members. Because of polyandry. Because apologists are too far removed from the Mormon mainstream, and more importantly from Mormon prophets. Because of anti-intellectualism and stifling of disagreement. Because of Book of Mormon anachronisms. Because of concerns about the temple. All of this is true, and it indicates that the church is not-true.

    There is no need to reconcile the two viewpoints. The church is both a wave and a particle, both true and not-true, the two states existing simultaneously.

  2. Julie M. Smith on February 22, 2006 at 7:57 pm

    “Because of polyandry.”

    Why would polyandry bother one any more or less than polygamy?

  3. Ariel on February 22, 2006 at 8:25 pm

    Probably because we didn’t hear about polyandry until an anti-mormon told us, while most of us were exposed to the thought of polygamy much earlier, and accepted it along with stories of Noah and the Ark. It didn’t need to make sense. But polyandry does have to be reconciled, because we learned about it as grown-ups. (Just a guess.)

  4. Guy Murray on February 22, 2006 at 9:07 pm

    Kaimi, Just who are you painting with your broad brush as apologists too far removed from the Mormon mainstream, and prophets? How do you know it’s not the intellectual elite who too far removed? Please identify with specificity the “destructive” attitudes the Church “encourages” amongst its members. Please help me, an unenlightened regular old guy understand this light/particle theory just a bit better.

  5. Starfoxy on February 22, 2006 at 10:14 pm

    All matter exhibits such behavior, it’s pretty cool. The largest particle that has been proven to show wave-like behavior is a Bucky Ball. Nothing can mess with your mind quite like quantum physics.
    Anyhow I really like your conclusion that it is how we interact with the church that makes it true. I would also say that this further allows good people of all religions some claim to truth, because it is how they interact with *their* church that makes it true. Good post!

  6. BrianJ on February 22, 2006 at 10:49 pm

    Two thoughts based on ideas I got from my brother, an artist-engineer:

    1) The Church is not true, it is true and living. Because it is living, it will be constantly changing. Not being a physicist, I think in biological analogies: the body is constantly laying down bone and then destroying it, only to lay it back down again. Is the Church like that?

    2) A person’s perception of a thing does not necessarily alter the reality of the thing. We have all heard the phrase “Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.” My brother disagrees with this, saying instead that a thing is beautiful whether the beholder recognizes it or not; in contrast, the cliche suggests that a person is more a “bestower” than a “beholder” of beauty. So, if a flower blooms in a forest and no one is around to see it, is it still beautiful?

  7. WillF on February 22, 2006 at 11:37 pm

    This topic reminded me of a quote I just read on my personalized google page*:

    “God runs electromagnetics by wave theory on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, and the Devil runs them by quantum theory on Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday.”
    – Sir William Bragg

    *which is really just taken from http://www.quotationspage.com/qotd.html

  8. Tyler on February 23, 2006 at 7:21 am

    While I appreciate the analogy, I’m not sure we can extend the concept of duality to the idea of truth, as you have with the Church. If, for instance, we posit “the theory of wave/particle duality is both true and not true” we suddenly find ourselves in an even bigger quandry than the one with which we began. It seems to me that truth is more fundamental than “waveness” or “particleness” and consequently while wave/particle duality may be possible, I do not believe truth/falsehood duality is.

    For what it’s worth, I learned about polyandry from Rishard Bushman, not from an anti-Mormon.

  9. Daniel on February 23, 2006 at 8:26 am

    Will someone enlighten me as to the polyandry that is referred to here? Are you referring to Joseph’s marriage to married women?

  10. Rob Osborn on February 23, 2006 at 10:20 am

    Speaking about the apparent paradox of if things are true or not, I recently started a blog that addresses some of the apparent inconsistancies and such. Doctrines in the church seem as an apparent paradox most of the time, especially when it deals with the plan of salvation. Check out this post, it might interest ya- The Paradox of Eternal Life

  11. Elisabeth Calvert Smith on February 23, 2006 at 11:28 am

    I think it’s time to consider my favorite theory in physics: the Heisenberg uncertainty principle. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Uncertainty_principle

    In the discussion at hand, the uncertainty principle underscores the idea that it can be very difficult (impossible?) to determine the “true” parts from the “not-true” parts. Or whether or not the cat is alive or dead. Poor kitty.

  12. lyle on February 23, 2006 at 11:42 am

    Elisabeth: earlier last year, they disproved Heisenberg in certain ltd. circumstances; yet it remains my favority physics theory also; esp. as applied to ‘social’ physics.

    Kaimi: Nice post. Reminds me of the “If you believe you can’t, you are right” theory.

  13. Elisabeth Calvert Smith on February 23, 2006 at 12:00 pm

    Lyle: How about as applied to Schroedinger’s cat? I’m on the edge of my seat with that one.

  14. Edje on February 23, 2006 at 12:06 pm

    Mr. Wenger: I accept your general point that the questions I ask of/about the church/gospel determine the answers I will find/receive. However, I have quibbles with your semantics and with your physics.

    First, on your semantics: you say (#1), “There is no need to reconcile the two viewpoints. The church is both a wave and a particle, both true and not-true, the two states existing simultaneously.”

    I think Tyler (#8) is on to something: I don’t think “true and not-true” are analogous to “wave and particle”; at best it is “wave and not wave” or “particle and not particle.” We assumed–based on experience–that wave and particle were mutually exclusive and completely exhaustive categories; further experience proved us wrong but not our semantics—there is nothing inherent in the words “waveâ€? and “particleâ€? that makes them mutually exclusive. I don’t see a semantic escape for “trueâ€? and “not-trueâ€?–we might fiddle with the meaning of “true,” but whatever we come up with, it cannot include “not true”–at least, I haven’t successfully imagined a third option that isn’t true but isn’t not-true either (maybe I’m just not very imaginative).

  15. Edje on February 23, 2006 at 12:07 pm

    Second, on your physics: you described the wave-particle duality: “At times, and when interacted with in certain ways, light behaves as a wave. At other times, and when interacted with in other ways, it is a particle. This despite the fact that this duality is a seeming paradox. It seems impossible for light to be both a wave and a particle. And yet, it is both.”

    It depends upon what the meaning of the word “is” is. Matter is not (as I understand it) sometimes a wave and sometimes a particle; it is always itself. The perceived “dualityâ€? is an artifact of our language and the experience from which we derive that language. It is similar to saying, “Oak bark sometimes feels rough and sometimes looks brown.” We are able to integrate these two facets of our oak experience without difficulty because (1) we can see and feel at the same time and because (2) trees are a part of our previous experience. We have neither luxury with particle physics: it is as if (1) we feel only when our eyes are closed and see only when our skin is numbed and as if (2) we have never before encountered a tree. Since waves are the only thing I’ve seen diffract, when light diffracts I assume it is a wave; since particles are the only thing I’ve seen quantized, when light manifests quantization I assume it is a particle. If I only run diffraction experiments I always conclude light is a wave; if I only run photoelectric experiments I always conclude it is a particle. The point is that the labeling is limited by my experience and by the experiments I choose, not by the intrinsic nature of what I am studying.

    Now to the church: your point stands–we can speak of the church as being simultaneously true and not-true in the sense that the church has many attributes, some of which I have associated in my experience with true-ness and some I have associated with un-true-ness. The conclusions we draw are based on the questions we ask and limited by our prior experiences and understandings. This, however, reflects us, not the church; the church is not “both a wave and a particle” (within the analogy)–it is neither a wave nor a particle but is itself. If I never get past the true-or-not-true question I will never know the thing for what it is—just like in physics, where we had to get past “is it wave or particle?â€? to get to “what is it?â€? and begin to understand matter.

  16. lyle on February 23, 2006 at 12:08 pm

    As I remember Elisabeth, it doesn’t apply to the cat. Just that in some limited instance, both location and speed can be known at the same time.

  17. Todd L. on February 23, 2006 at 12:10 pm

    Kaimi,

    Doesn’t your discussion of wave/particle duality jump a bit. You first state that “light behaves as both a wave and a particle.” You then state that this means that light IS both a wave and a particle. You then fixate on the IS statement and seek to draw an analogy to whether its possible for the church to “be” both true and not true. But I think your first statement more accurately describes wave/particle duality – that is, while light behaves both as a wave and a particle, I don’t think physicists would necessarily draw the further conclusion that light IS both. I could be very wrong here, though, as my physics knowledge is extremely limited. But if I’m right, then your analogy does not go very far toward establishing that the church can “be” both true and not true, only that it can “behave” in ways that we “perceive” as being true and not true. I am fully comfortable with that latter statement, not so much with the first.

    Can anyone with a better understanding of physics fill me in here?

  18. Edje on February 23, 2006 at 12:11 pm

    [My apologies to all if I’m abusing the commenting privilege with my verbosity].

    I think artificial dichotomies like wave/particle show up often. If I say, “prophets have long white beards and don’t roughhouse with children (therefore JS is not a prophet),� I have artificially dichotomized. Though my dichotomy works sometimes—correctly including JF Smith and excluding me—it doesn’t tell us anything useful about prophethood. We shouldn’t say that JS is both a prophet and not a prophet depending on what question you ask; we expand our definition of prophet to include prophets having relationships with God and with the neighborhood kids.

    Some dichotomies I think are artificial (when presented as mutually exclusive, totally exhaustive categories):
    –sinner or saint
    –left brained or right brained
    –temporal or spiritual
    –artistic or analytical
    –rational or emotional
    –the gospel as a collection of principles or as a set of relationships
    –spousal love as disinterested or as self-serving

    A particularly interesting case is gender roles and characteristics—interesting because there is a true dichotomy but I’m not sure which elements are artificial and which are essential.

  19. Todd L. on February 23, 2006 at 12:12 pm

    Ah, I see Edje has captured some of my problems with Kaimi’s physics. I just can’t seem to keep up with all the comments on this site.

  20. Elisabeth Calvert Smith on February 23, 2006 at 12:44 pm

    Lyle, since you know the background of the story – here’s a wonderful illustration of how the cat and the principle work together:

    “Before then, the best we can say about the cat is the non-sequitur that it is either alive or dead. But that’s not really such a non-sequitur. It is entirely consistent with the laws of physics to think of the cat, before we open its box, as being both alive and dead, with a probability of 50 per cent for each state. Here’s the point of the experiment: our act of opening the box and observing the cat — taking a measurement, in other words — is what puts the cat definitely into one of those states.

    Cat, alive.

    So what’s the point, you want to know. What’s so earth-shaking about this cat shut in a box?

    There are many points, actually: the effect of measurement, the idea of uncertainty, the fact of indeterminacy (of that, perhaps another time). But probably the deepest and yet simplest point is this interesting view of the world: reality takes shape only when, precisely when, we sense it. Until then, it’s uncertain. That’s the Principle.”

    http://dcubed.blogspot.com/2005/04/cat-in-box.html

  21. Julie M. Smith on February 23, 2006 at 1:48 pm

    Daniel writes, “Will someone enlighten me as to the polyandry that is referred to here? Are you referring to Joseph’s marriage to married women?”

    Yes.

  22. Kaimi Wenger on February 23, 2006 at 6:04 pm

    Great questions and comments.

    I’ll take the easy ones first. Todd, Edge, yours will come later.

    Julie,

    Polyandry is hard because it is particularly distasteful. And because the reality of polyandry flies in the face of the Seminary-style polygamy stories (it was all about finding support for old, poor widows; there was always permission from the existing wife, etc).

    Guy,

    By the apologists, I mean many people, some of whom are affiliated with FARMS. I’ve had lengthy conversations on this on this blog and elsewhere. Basically, I find the dynamic to be disturbing and unconvincing. Church leaders discuss topics like Lamanites and Book of Mormon translation and so on. Those statements dont’ always comport with known facts. And then an alternative explanation is propounded by apologists – Native Americans aren’t really Lamanites; Book of Mormon “horses” aren’t really horses; and so on. This answers specific critiques, but it results in a model that is vastly at odds with what church leaders – a.k.a. the people we sustain as prophets – actually say.

    Brian,

    Interesting idea on true and living. That’s an alternative explanation. At the moment, I’m wondering if the nature of it _is_ changing based on our interaction.

    Tyler,

    I think that scientists’ current explanation – I may have it wrong – is this: We don’t necessarily understand _how_ light can do some things as a wave and some things as a particle. But it clearly _can_. Therefore, we just need to improve our understanding.

    I’m wondering if the same can be said about the church. If we don’t understand how it can be both true and not-true, perhaps the error is with our own limited understanding.

    Elisabeth,

    I think that sometimes the principle applies to the cat, and sometimes it doesn’t, but you really can’t tell without observing it. :)

    And thanks for that quote. I like it. I think it could be modified (to fit my post) along these lines:

    Before then, the best we can say about the [church] is the non-sequitur that it is either [true] or [not-true]. But that’s not really such a non-sequitur. It is entirely consistent with the laws of physics to think of the [church], before we open its box, as being both [true] and [not-true], with a probability of 50 per cent for each state. Here’s the point of the experiment: our act of opening the box and observing the [church] — taking a measurement, in other words — is what puts the [church] definitely into one of those states. . . . reality takes shape only when, precisely when, we sense it. Until then, it’s uncertain. That’s the Principle.”

  23. Ben S. on February 23, 2006 at 6:22 pm

    “Because apologists are too far removed from the Mormon mainstream, and more importantly from Mormon prophets.”

    I’m with guy on questioning this one, and I find your response to him unsatisfying on a macro and micro scale.

    Having interacted with many such apologists, I think the majority are very sensitive to the revelatory prophetic office.

    Can you point me to some GA discussion on the nature of the BoM translation at odds with a given apologetic position? Anything that says a horse must be equus caballus? Is that GA discussion consistant with all other GA discussion? Is there any claim of revelation for said supposed GA position at odds with apologists? Must “steel” in the KJV be steel, and a “candle” be a candle?

    I’ve never seen any GA discussion of Lamanite identity. I’ve seen lots of GA comments that presume traditional assumptions, but I don’t view those two things as equivalent.

    Theoretically, what happens when you encounter a GA’s whose position is identical to that of an apologetic position? Or GA’s who support FARMS or FAIR? If Jeff Lindsay is so out-of-touch with both the mainstream and the prophets, why does LDS.org link to him?

    How you do define mainstream, and on what basis do you assume correctness of the mainstream position (if such a thing exists)?

    Sorry for the nitpicking, but I really think you’re being a little too dismissive.

  24. BrianJ on February 24, 2006 at 8:55 am

    Kaimi said (post #22), “At the moment, I’m wondering if the nature of it _is_ changing based on our interaction.” I should be working right now, so I won’t post all the references, but we have several scriptures that would support you here. Here is one: “Take heed therefore how ye hear: for whosoever hath, to him shall be given; and whosoever hath not, from him shall be taken even that which he seemeth to have.” (Luke 8:18) Following your comments, the word “seemeth” stands out much more than ever before.

  25. Jeff M on February 24, 2006 at 4:31 pm

    I’ve always taken the duality principle in physics to mean something very different than what has been postulated here. Instead of concluding that A & B are both true and not true, I see the wave/particle conflict as solid evidence that we don’t understand light very well. A separate truth, “C”, is much simpler, explains the apparent conflict, and is currently beyond our understanding. We have created a paradox simply because our understanding of light has progressed from easily observable experiements to highly sophisticated means of investigation. The paradox does not exist in light, it exists in our understanding of light.

    Translating this into the analogy with the church, I would argue that the Gospel is true and that the aforementioned “evidences” of its not-true-ness demonstrate the limitations of our current understanding. I am neither trying to white-wash nor re-write church history. I just think it is important that we avoid jumping to conclusions when we certainly do not (nor ever will have) all of the necessary information to fully grasp how Joseph Smith was a prophet despite his seemingly unsanctioned actions. It is enough for me to know that he was. To deny it would be as ridiculous as, well, staring at the noon-day sun and deny it’s existence simply because I can’t say for sure if particles or waves are hitting my retinas.

    Just as an ancient Sumerian was able to sleep at night without worrying about the paradox of light, we may do more harm than good when we thrust incomplete church history under the microscope AND insist on drawing conclusions from the available data. It is fine to ask the questions and seek out a better understanding of our church’s history, but we don’t have to figure it all out, and I would argue it is foolish/arrogant/dangerous to attempt to do so.

  26. Dan S. on February 25, 2006 at 6:43 pm

    LIGHT IS A THING, WITH CHARACTERISTICS
    The “waveness” and the “particleness” of light are both characteristics of light. However, light is really just light. Every thing in the universe is either some form of matter or some form of energy, and possibly both at the same time based on the surroundings. Its characteristics are descriptive of its behavior, not of its nature. For example, think of a pot of water. When the water is cold, it is liquid. When it is boiling, it is both a liquid (in the pot) and a steam (escaping from the pot).

    Light can be both. Light is both electricity and magnetism, converting back and forth into each other at the speed of 300,000 km/s, propelling itself forward. Since light changes form, it makes sense that its behaviors could also change.

    TRUTH IS A CONCEPT, NOT A THING WITH CHARACTERISTICS
    Truth, unlike light, is a concept, not a thing with characteristics. We should not say that truth has definite characteristics, like right or wrong, any more than we should say that other concepts (love, hate, anger, peace) have definite characteristics, or behaviors. Aren’t concepts meant to be placeholders for behaviors, not the behaviors themselves? Or in other words, concepts are described by behaviors. For example, we can say that we “love” someone, but there must be some behavior by us, (a kind word or thought) or within us, (a rush of emotion, a feeling of elation), that proves we do love that person.

    THE DUALITY OF “TRUTH” IS REALLY THE DUALITY OF GOD
    Sometimes those behaviors that often we use to describe the concept don’t always jive with the standard meaning of the concept. For example, I may give you chocolates either because I love you, (because I want you to feel comfort and happiness eating them) or because I hate you (if I know that you are allergic to chocolate). The same is true for “truth.â€? The “truth” says that we should have but one spouse, but sometimes the “truth” says that we should have more than one spouse. The “truth” says that we should not take someone’s life, but sometimes the “truth” says that we should take someone’s life. However, since truth is not really a thing, it doesn’t have duality. It is not changing. Truth is a concept, defined by behavioral standards, or commandments, which commandments are set by God. Therefore, if you want to say that something has duality, why not say that God has duality, not truth.

    GOD USES DUALITY AND WISDOM TO MAKE DECISIONS
    God does have duality, just like the rest of us. His nature is human, with emotions, thoughts, intelligence. He is, however, an exalted human, and his duality is much more refined than ours. His exaltedness permits him to set the rules with wisdom. He helps us define righteous behavior, and behavioral standards (or “truths� if you must).

    GOD’S DECISIONS SOMETIMES CHANGE
    Based on the circumstance, God can change his mind on what constitutes righteousness, according to his wisdom. Just as heat changes the form of water, the circumstances we are in can easily dictate the truth we practice, IF it is spoken by God as being righteous in that circumstance. We read in Doctrine and Covenants what God has said:

    “Wherefore I, the Lord, command and arevoke•, as it seemeth me good; and all this to be answered upon the heads of the brebellious, saith the Lord.�

    THE CHURCH IS TRUE BECAUSE GOD IS AT THE HEAD
    Since God is the ruler of the Church, and he can command or he can revoke, we probably ought to be concerned with whether or not God is really at the head of the church, versus whether or not the “truths� taught by the Church have been consistent.

    CONCLUSION
    In conclusion, I don’t see truth having duality. Rather, I see the behaviors, or commandments we practice, having duality, because God has duality, which plays a part in his decision making process, guided by his wisdom. Sometimes God changes those behavioral standards, or commandments, based on his wisdom and our circumstances. Therefore, we could not say that the Church is “true� or “not true�, at the same time, because time has changed some circumstances, and God has sometimes changed those behavioral standards based on the circumstances and his wisdom.

  27. Alpine on February 27, 2006 at 12:33 am

    I have a couple more to add:

    The church is not true because:

    – the varying accounts (from what I understand, in J.S.’s own handwriting) of the first vision
    – the early church leaders’ continuing practice (inside the U.S.) and approval of polygamy (outside the U.S.) after the manifesto
    – sign of the penalties, sectarian preacher being removed from the temple ceremony (also, why do we make covenants that are redundant (ie chastity) and ones that we don’t actually keep (consecration)?)

    The church is true because:

    – in spite of the above, i distinctly remember the “burning in the bosom” (although not exactly like that) and the feeling of revelation from God that the church and the book of mormon are true, i can never discount this

    – D&C 121 and the word of wisdom – 2 latter day revelations that i feel HAD to have come from above

    – my mission – great spiritual experience, i saw the gospel change lives for the better

    – plan of salvation – if it’s not true and the most common sensical (sp?) way to explain this crazy world i don’t know what is (if the church isn’t true, then i’m pretty much an atheist; if the plan of salvatin isnt true, then when we die, we become void and there is nothingness)

    Thanks for your thoughts Kaimi.

  28. Mike on February 28, 2006 at 11:49 am

    Maybe most of you are too young to remember the old geezers who used to get on us when I was a young know-it-all. We would stand up in testimony meeting and made outlandish claims that “the church is true.” The geezers would hobble to the pulpit and point out that the GOSPEL is true, not the church. What happened to them? They haven’t all died off yet, have they?

    The church is only a social organization of people who share a common culture, history, perspective, lifestyle, etc., initially set up by God and harboring a little priesthood authority for a few simple ordinances, owning quite a bit of property and stock now. But a church operated by highly fallible people with a long history of screwing up and it would be foolishness of the highest order to objectively expect the church to be true. It is a lot to just ask for the church to be good or even half ways decent. (Which it is not very often in my experience). You are setting yourself up for disappointment and creating the ideal circumstances for your own “journey of discovery” that leads right out the front door of the church and into the dark forest of apostasy. Only an ostrich could maintain the position that “the church is true” over a lifetime of the kind of experiences I have endured coupled with honest critical thinking.

    I don’t have the courage to stand up in testimony meeting and say “my church stinks.” But that is what I often feel. Maybe if I did without anger or pride, and gave specific examples why I feel this way, the problems might be corrected and the leaders in the ward would do a better job. (Then again they might take it out on my teenage children. I will procrastinate and practice with y’all on the internet for a few more years until senility sets in more completely). What this paradox directs me to do is to swallow the idea that my-ward-is-good instead of remembering my toxic experiences that cause me to conclude that my-ward-sucks. That is one tall order. But I admit, both positions can be objectively supported.

    These declarations are often emotional much more than thoughtful. But as the geezers used to say; “wishing does not make it so.” Strength of emotional response is not correlated with probability of being correct. A person could have such a strong burning of the bosom that it catches their shirt on fire about seeing an UFO from another galaxy and it still might be a weather balloon. Testifying and believing does not make it so. In general.

    Today in many places the church is much improved and aspires to excellence in every way and the contention that it is close to perfection can actually be entertained by some living in ideal wards. (I have never lived in such a ward but some of the comments on this site would indicate that they do exist.) Every toddler is indoctrinated these days to say “I know the church is true” even if they may not even know how to use a toilet. I don’t think very many people actually stop and think about what they mean when they emphatically state “the church is true.” Different people my mean different things.

    Perhaps this is a semantic point of only tangential interest. A direct substitution of the word “gospel” for “church” in the above discussion would satisfy the old geezers. But in my mind it is significant. And it turns the discussion the other way around. THE TRUTH IS THE GOSPEL. The gospel contains all truth. It excludes all error. The ideas used to construct lamps that burn whale oil a hundred years ago that are correct are part of the gospel. Perhaps not a very relevant part any more. What we are told at church does not define truth. Hopefully it is consistent with truth; but if there are discrepancies between our gospel teachings at church and the truth, then we need to rectify our gospel teachings and not try to twist truth around to fit our errors. Henry Eyring reportedly said that “you don’t have to believe anything that isn’t true.” Today I think too many people are twisting truth to support positions that are not very tenable and too few are honestly and objectively searching for further light and knowledge. This is my responsibility as much as it is the Bishop’s. The acknowledgement of continuing revelation implies that we didn’t get it right the first time and that circumstances change.

    Does the declaration of “I know the church is true ” lead to the cessation of the search for truth or does it lead one further on a quest of inquiry and discovery? If it does not lead to more searching then it damns personal progress. Soon to follow is the “All is well in Zion” syndrome.

    All that said, it feels rather Newtonian to me. The point that is made at the beginning of this discussion has more of a Einsteinian (sp?) feel to it. What I mean by that is that it applies at a deeper level including more extreme circumstances. The parable works because we place much credibility in these theoretical physics dudes who 60 plus years ago built something that really got our attention, the atomic bomb (when a common sense consideration of their outlandish ideas along with their sense of fashion and hairstyle might lead an ordinary person to conclude they are crazy). The wave/particle light example is like a parable that helps us understand a difficult principle. When Alma asks us to plant the seed, he is asking us to, a priori, accept the-gospel-(according to Joseph Smith et.al.)-is-true aspect of the paradox and to discard the-gospel-is-false aspect of the paradox even though there may be much to support that position. And we do this at the beginning of the process, not at harvest time. This is in contrast to scientific thinking where conclusions are delayed until the end or indefinitely.

    Antedotes are meaningless in comparison to controlled studies or thoughtful analysis. But for what it is worth, I for one vote YES to KW’s wave/particle light paradox as a valid parable of my experience at church. I will try to apply it.

  29. queuno on March 3, 2006 at 2:20 am

    Mike (#28), the old geezers have passed their torch onto people like my wife, the great LF, who makes it a point to kindly correct new members on the difference between the local implementation of the Church, the “Church”, and the gospel.