Personal Experience vs. Reasoning

Pretend that you’re a young college student, and you go into a class about the universe. And you learn about how massive the universe is and how much space there is. You learn that you can never travel faster than the speed of life. Your professor very convincingly argues that aliens can’t exist–and even if they do exist, they would be too far away to ever hear from.

Now let’s say at home, you’ve taken up a radio hobby, but one day, you start getting weird interference and you end up intercepting very strange noises you can’t interpret. You start transmitting back on this frequency basic information–like how the weather is and what day it is and all of that. For quite a few years, you transmit back and forth on this frequency, and you start to understand the person on the other end, who gradually learns English and tells you that they are an alien.

Well, of course, aliens don’t exist, so this must be a prank. But the alien gives you instructions on how to conduct a few simply experiments that allows you to see amazing things that you can’t explain and goes beyond current scientific reasoning.

Reasonably, aliens can’t exist. And yet, your experience is starting to tell you something totally different. You’re talking to an alien. The alien is talking back to you. You’ve see amazing things that seem at the very least highly improbable.

What would you believe?

If you had to trust your own personal experience (the things that happened to you and the things that you witnessed) or a well-reasoned argument, which would you believe?

If you saw a blue tree, but then heard a really good argument that there can’t be blue trees, would you think that your experience was wrong, or would you take the person with the really good argument and try to show them the blue tree?

I often trust my own experiences more than I trust reasoning. Reasoning can often be based in incomplete information, and no matter who convincing an argument may seem, it is almost never perfect.

But sometimes my experiences are fallible too. Sometimes my senses deceive me. Sometimes I don’t remember right. I have to use my reasoning too to make sense out of my experience.

So they both have to come together. I want personal experience and reasoning. I can’t just learn about something–I want to experience it too. If I learn about a location, I want to go there. I want to meet people. I want to have conversations. I want to see and hear and feel what something is like. And when I experience something, I want to know the reasoning behind it.

Certainty is difficult to achieve, and when my experience and my reasoning don’t line up, I sometimes have to press forward and keep hoping that I will learn more in the future. I’ll figure out how I could talk to aliens, even though it seemed scientifically impossible.

104. When do we need faith?

To this extent, it is quite correct to say that belief or faith is the element of all certainty

Johann Gottlieb Fichte, On the Basis of Our Belief in a Divine Governance of the World

We need faith for everything, and we use it a lot more often than we realize.

If faith is believing without really knowing, then we put faith in all sorts of things.

How often have you read something or heard something for a friend and accepted it without thought? Why are you so certain of the knowledge you have?

Certainty is based in some degree of faith, in taking a leap and hoping that we’re right.

“Who Against Hope Believed in Hope”

There are many times in our life when we have circumstances that we don’t understand and are less than ideal. There are so many struggles we might have: mental health, temptation, addiction, or less than ideal family circumstances.

Why do we have to deal with those things? Where are the Lord’s blessings? Why is his timing so different from our own?

My husband works four hours away from where we live right now. He comes home for three days and then goes back to work for the other four. I am grateful that he has a job and that we get to spend as much time together as a family as we do. But every time he has to go back to work, it hurts. I just want him around.

This is the third time we’ve done this. The first time, he was in police academy for a few months. The second time was two years ago in the exact same situation, and it was so difficult that I gave up this house for a time and went back to living in the middle of nowhere and homeschooling my kids.

And we’re doing it again. And I don’t know when Dillon will get to live with us again, as there is a recession right now and the job market is difficult and I don’t see anything working out anytime soon. We’ve been job searching for over two years now (really, I don’t know if we ever stopped), and I don’t always have that much hope.


Therefore it is of faith, that it might be by grace; to the end the promise might be sure to all the seed; not to that only which is of the law, but to that also which is of the faith of Abraham; who is the father of us all,

(As it is written, I have made thee a father of many nations,) before him whom he believed, even God, who quickeneth the dead, and calleth those things which be not as though they were.

Who against hope believed in hope, that he might become the father of many nations, according to that which was spoken, So shall thy seed be.

And being not weak in faith, he considered not his own body now dead, when he was about an hundred years old, neither yet the deadness of Sara’s womb:

He staggered not at the promise of God through unbelief; but was strong in faith, giving glory to God;

And being fully persuaded that, what he had promised, he was able also to perform. (Romans 4:16-21)

Abraham was told he was going to be a father of many nations, and he was 100 years old and didn’t have any kids. It was simply an impossible promise. But Abraham believed in it anyway.

I can keep hoping. Because Heavenly Father has given me assurances, and He will bless me. I may not understand the timing, but I don’t have to ever give up.

Abraham never gave up hoping. So even if something seems absolutely impossible, we can always keep the faith that Heavenly Father will always give us the righteous desires of our hearts.

Hope can get you through the hours, the days, the months, the years, the decades. It never has to be extinguished. It never has to go away. There is no expiration date for the blessings the Lord has for us: they will always be there, and He will always love us.


Faith is not to have a perfect knowledge of things; therefore if ye have faith ye hope for things which are not seen, which are true. (Alma 32:21)

Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. (Hebrews 11:1)

There are certain things that I do know. I know that there is a God. I know that the power of the atonement of Jesus Christ has worked miracles in my life. I know the Book of Mormon brings me joy. But there are a lot of things that I don’t know. I don’t understand all the answers and I can’t answer all the questions.

But if I did have all the answers, then I wouldn’t have faith. If I knew everything perfectly, I wouldn’t need faith.

And I like faith. Because I am not capable of understanding everything right now. I can know some things, but not everything. And faith means I don’t have to know everything right now. I don’t have to have it figured out.

Faith means that there is hope in dark places. Faith means that there is more to life than I understand. Faith means that there is help and happiness ahead. Faith means that there can be unexpected miracles that bring joy.

I can have faith. I can’t have all the answers. But I can have faith.

Things that have helped me through doubt

  • Remembering good experiences
  • Relying on my heritage and the faith of others
  • Remembering what faith and hope is
  • Continuing to obey the commandments
  • Writing things down
  • Doubt my doubts
  • Realizing I don’t have to have all the answers
  • Embracing questions
  • Serving others
  • Seeking the wisdom of God
  • Relying on love
  • Knowing God loves me
  • Priesthood blessings
  • Wanting to believe
  • Writing down reasons to believe
  • Searching out balanced sources, and trying to avoid heated ones
  • Trying to do God’s will instead of my will
  • Seeing the good in the things around me
  • Learning the stories of my ancestors
  • Reading my scriptures
  • Reading general conference talks and studying them.

(Note: I’m going through post ideas from long ago that I never finished and posting them up for the next few days.)