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Fools Die for Want of Wisdom

I am but a little child: I know not how to go out or come in.
(1 Kings 3:7)

I held my daughter in my arms in the quiet darkness before her bedtime. My wife and I sang lullabies to soothe away the excitements and frustrations of the day. We mostly drew our lullabies from the Children’s Songbook, a collection of simple songs with gospel themes for children. With love in my heart, I softly sang songs with words like this:

I know my Father lives and loves me too.
The Spirit whispers this to me and tells me it is true,
And tells me it is true.

He sent me here to earth, by faith to live his plan.
The Spirit whispers this to me and tells me that I can,
And tells me that I can.
(I Know My Father Lives, Children’s Songbook, p. 5)

This scene was repeated almost every night of my daughters’ lives as we put them to bed.

When my daughters were born, their helplessness called out to me to protect them and provide for them. Their dependence on me inspired me to live up to their needs. Here in my arms were two wonderful children who needed their Daddy to be kind, loving, strong, capable, wise, and honest, to guide them in navigating their way on the unpredictable waters of life. Their arrival to this world set in motion something deep within me.

Their vulnerability slowly focused my attention on something that I had ignored for a long time. As I sang to them about Heavenly Father, I began to remember my long-suppressed doubts about His existence. By assuming the façade of certainty, I was lying to these innocents who would take my word as God’s truth for the first few years of their life. I was imprinting on their minds a falsehood: that I knew that God lived. I believed that that God existed, but to say that I was sure about it was a lie. My daughters’ absolute innocence brought this into sharp focus. I could not continue to abuse their trust in me with such a fundamental betrayal, making a mockery of their dependence.

I resolved in my mind to do whatever it took to receive a firm witness of the truth. I turned to the scriptures for help in learning how to gain faith in God, to a scripture that Mormon missionaries often share with those they meet:

Behold, I would exhort you that when ye shall read these things, if it be wisdom in God that ye should read them, that ye would remember how merciful the Lord hath been unto the children of men, from the creation of Adam even down until the time that ye shall receive these things, and ponder it in your hearts. And when ye shall receive these things, I would exhort you that ye would ask God, the Eternal Father, in the name of Christ, if these things are not true; and if ye shall ask with a sincere heart, with real intent, having faith in Christ, he will manifest the truth of it unto you, by the power of the Holy Ghost. And by the power of the Holy Ghost ye may know the truth of all things.
(Moroni 10:3–5)

This passage provides a formula whereby we are told that we can receive a witness from the Holy Spirit of the truthfulness of the Book of Mormon. As I read this scripture again, the phrase “having faith in Christ” made me ponder. I didn’t have a firm faith in Christ. Perhaps my lack of faith was why I had always failed to receive a convincing witness, I reasoned.

Then it dawned on me. Moroni was asking me to exercise faith in order to gain a witness. I was seeking a witness in order to make my faith more sure. I was being asked to pull myself up by my own spiritual bootstraps.

In searching the scriptures for an answer to my dilemma, I found little to help me. Everywhere that I turned, the scripture writers assumed that I had faith in God. Only a few passages spoke even remotely to the godless. The truth of God’s existence was self-evident for them. But it was not for me.

One group of passages imply that faith is a gift of God. “For to one is given by the Spirit the word of wisdom;… To another faith by the same Spirit;…” (1 Corinthians 9:9, Moroni 10:11) I mused that I could wait for God to grant me this gift of faith, but what would I tell my daughters in the meantime? I was uncomfortable with saying the truth: that I thought that God lived and loved us, but that I wasn’t sure about it. I held faith up as a virtue. Admitting my doubt made me feel weak and unworthy. Also, if faith is a gift of the Spirit, and I needed faith to receive the Spirit, I might be left with the same bootstrapping issue.

The scriptures also say that the creation denotes a Creator. (Psalm 19:1, Alma 30:44) When Alma argues against Korihor’s atheism by saying “all things denote there is a God”, it always felt like a weak argument to me. When I look out over the beauty, complexity, and wonder of creation, I could see a good reason to think that someone put it there. It seemed a gigantic leap to further say I should believe specifically in the God of the Hebrews based on this same evidence.

The only reasonable recourse that I could find to get me out of this rut was the experiment upon the word as described in Alma 32:26–27:

Now, as I said concerning faith—that it was not a perfect knowledge—even so it is with my words. Ye cannot know of their surety at first, unto perfection, any more than faith is a perfect knowledge. But behold, if ye will awake and arouse your faculties, even to an experiment upon my words, and exercise a particle of faith, yea, even if ye can no more than desire to believe, let this desire work in you, even until ye believe in a manner that ye can give place for a portion of my words.

This idea that faith could grow out of a desire to believe gave me some hope. John 7:17 also supported this idea of experimenting by doing God’s will. My hope was tempered by the realization that I had been doing this experiment for most of my life, and it had proven inconclusive so far.

One final scripture influenced the future course of my life. In D&C 88:118, we are told to study out of the best books to overcome faithlessness. It made me think back on my experience with Yoga. Perhaps I could find more answers outside of the Church, more gospel truths to help me find God.

Several influences came together to direct my path. Among those influences was the Chassidic Jewish man who introduced me to Kabbalah, the Jewish mystical path. The mystic’s search for an experience of God offered me some hope. Perhaps there was something valuable in mysticism that could help me grow within Mormonism. The Jewish flavor of Kabbalah was too exotic for me, so I looked for something with a more familiar flavor. Perhaps there were other Mormons who had more experience with mysticism, who could help me discern truth from error and integrate mysticism within the framework of Mormonism. I found exactly what I needed: Mormon+Mystic.



  1. Cliff said,

    January 29, 2007 @ 9:28 pm


    Thanks for pointing me to your blog. I know your journey, though I have not read all the books you have, I have read some on your list and many others. I still am very much a believing and active LDS guy, even with all the many ways I relate to your story.

    Believe it or not I have never read a Nibley book – though that’ll change very soon as I now have a copy of his “The message of the Joseph Smith Papyri”.

    Thanks for sharing. What do suppose is the likelyhood that you are firmly in the 4th Stage of faith, according to Fowler?

    You keep persuing Truth, and eventually It will own you. You could do far worse than to trust in Truth. I think that sincerety, or the willingness to follow truth wherever it leads, is key.

    Even if someday it leads you back to the Church. Never say never.

    From M+M with love,

  2. Jonathan Blake said,

    January 30, 2007 @ 9:34 am

    Thanks for dropping by, Cliff.

    It’s been a while since I read Fowler, but from what I can remember, I identify strongly with many of the traits of both Stage 4 and Stage 5. I feel like Stage 4 is a transitional stage, pushing us to Stage 5. This whole process may have deposited me on the shores of Stage 5. Time will tell.

    We’d all be better off if we could follow the truth more fiercely, but speaking for myself, I wasn’t really prepared to do that until recently. I had some maturing to do.

    Perhaps my quest for the truth will lead me back to the Church someday, but from where I stand now, it seems unlikely. Even if I were to have an experience of the transcendent, I would probably interpret it very differently than I would have a couple of years ago. It probably wouldn’t even lead me to a belief in God. But who knows what the future holds? Que sera, sera.

  3. Anonymous said,

    January 30, 2007 @ 3:39 pm

    Your comment: “Even if I were to have an experience of the transcendent, I would probably interpret it very differently than I would have a couple of years ago. It probably wouldn’t even lead me to a belief in God.” is probably the most disturbing you have made. That seems to detract from the statement you said, that you are trying to find the truth. You are basically saying even if you receive evidence of the church’s truth you will not accept it. In that sense you would be teaching your daughters something that would be contradictory. You felt since you had no proof God was real you couldn’t tell them he was, yet even if you had proof that God was real, you would withhold that from them? I wonder if this is more about your desire to feel guilt free from previous transgressions, then to reach the truth.

  4. Jonathan Blake said,

    January 30, 2007 @ 6:48 pm

    You’re right to be disturbed by what you interpreted of my comment. Luckily, that’s not what I meant. :) It’s my fault: I should have defined what I meant by an experience of the transcendent.

    How we react to our experiences depends largely on ourselves. The same stimulus elicits different reactions, different interpretations in different observers.

    Take for example this simple sentence: “I kicked the ball on the roof.” What picture does reading that sentence conjure in your mind. I can think of at least six different interpretations of this sentence.

    1) I and the ball were on the ground and I kicked the ball onto the roof.

    2) I and the ball were on the roof and I kicked the ball.

    3) The ball was on the roof (but I wasn’t) and I kicked the ball.

    4) I was on the roof and kicked the ball which wasn’t on the roof.

    5) I kicked the ball that used to be on the roof but wasn’t when I kicked it.

    6) I kicked the ball that is now on the roof but wasn’t there when I kicked it (I didn’t kick the ball onto the roof).

    Which of those is the correct interpretation? How is the reader to know exactly what the writer intended?

    I have another example. I fell asleep in an another missionary companionship’s apartment on my mission. I woke up and felt a malicious presence skulking around the apartment, threatening the lives of the other missionaries. I couldn’t move. I couldn’t call out to warn them. I was stuck, powerless where I lay. I finally woke up completely and realized that my experience had been just a dream. Other people might have interpreted that experience literally. They may have felt that they experienced a dark, unseen, spiritual being intent on doing them harm.

    Years later, I learned that other people had similar experiences, some of whom interpreted them literally. The phenomenon is known commonly as night hag, but more technically as sleep paralysis.

    “During a ‘night hag’ the system that paralyzes your body is still functioning. However, for reasons not yet understood a person will awaken and be absolutely alert to their surroundings. This inability to move can be very frightening and since the person is aware of being awake most will tend to attribute this to some demonic or supernatural phenomena. The person is actually still dreaming and is in the middle of one of the most terrifying nightmares they will ever have. People have reported footsteps in the hallway and an impending sense of doom. Figures at the foot of the bed who touch and grab at them.”

    Similar experiences, different interpretations.

    If we both had the same experience of being filled with an ineffable, transcendent light, you might interpret it as a manifestation of the Holy Spirit, whereas I might interpret it peculiar state of consciousness brought on by purely natural factors. Or perhaps I would attribute the experience to a communication from Krishna, Mithras, or my totem spirit rather than from the Mormon God.

    I haven’t had an experience of the transcendent, so I don’t know how I would interpret it. Others have had experiences of the transcendent which led them to atheism. Can any experience deliver an unambiguous meaning which is immune to differing interpretations?

    So there are no guarantees that I would come away from such an experience with a belief in God. The experience may proove God’s existence to you, but not to me.

    I’m not saying never. This change of heart has taught me that never may come a lot sooner than expected. :)

  5. Cliff said,

    January 30, 2007 @ 8:59 pm

    Anonymous, you can wonder all you want, but if you want Jon to feel welcome and accepting of your comments, you probably should not do it out loud. Jon needs to feel your love. The concern is coming through loud and clear, but where is the love?

    I know what you mean about Jon’s comments. It is scary, very scary. Let me see if I can help just a little. In the scriptures, a very important teaching is that we do not make idols, or worship other gods. Back in OT times, that was a real problem. Today also, we tend to worship money or sports or fashion or science.

    There in another level of understanding to be had, though, of this commandment. If a person thinks he knows who God is, but is mistaken, he may have a tendency to ignore or deny the Spirit as it tries to correct his view. He could get stuck denying the truth, and never even know it.

    If Jon does not feel that he knows who God is, then in all honesty he can’t just ‘fake’ it. But if he is devoted to truth, then at least the Spirit can work with him. If the promptings come and he attributes it to his own higher Self, or whatever, then at least the spirit can still guide him, for he will be receptive to it.

    At some point, the spirit will communicate pure intelligence, and at that point, Jon will accept whatever he understands from that. I see a lot of room for hope in that. And we can pray that Jon will see the light, and as long as we don’t get too dogmatic about the exact nature of that light, Jon might not even mind that we are praying for him. Prov. 3:5-6

    Sorry, Jon, to talk as if you weren’t listening. After having said all this, I hope you realize the importance of balance within yourself. Reason < --> Emotions. Emotions are good, as is reason. Both sides are required if you are to stand strong, IMO.

    The wierd thing about doing the blog thing, Jon, is that you subject yourself by necessity to all these comments. Hope it’s working for you. :-)


  6. Cliff said,

    January 30, 2007 @ 9:28 pm

    Jon, just saw your response to anonymous. I really enjoyed reading about that ‘mystic athiesm’ guy, several months ago. Reminds me of Ken Larsen on M+M.

    I can enjoy it because I trust that God knows what he’s doing, God is in charge, and we all get what we need in our experiences.

    I don’t think that it’s a coincidence that the Kabbalists say that ultimately, if you boil God down to his ‘reality’, he is nothing. Then again, they say God created everything out of nothing, (ex nihilo) but they don’t mean nothing, but rather, chaotic (something) that is indescribable, and therefore best referred to as ‘nothing’.

    I think the buddhists do the same thing, as do the Taoists, etc. I find it all very interesting.

  7. Jason said,

    January 31, 2007 @ 10:14 am

    Or like DuQuette said, “It’s all in your head. You just have no idea how big your head really is.”

  8. Jonathan Blake said,

    January 31, 2007 @ 10:35 am


    I truly feel like I was worshiping a false idol. My Mormon framework was dysfunctional in many ways. I’m open to the idea that I was doing Mormonism wrong. Perhaps someday I’ll meet the God that I should have been worshiping all along.

    I should probably clarify that when I say that I don’t believe in God, what I mean is that I don’t believe in a omniscient, omnipotent, omnibenevolent person who created the universe and is guiding our lives for our good. I have less to disagree with if you define God as the ground of all existence, or the will to good, or some other God of the philosophers.

    I don’t mind being subject to criticism. The last advice Marlin K. Jensen gave me as my mission president was that I should be more open to other people. At the time, his criticism really hurt. I had no idea that people saw me as closed off. After I let his feedback sink in, I realized the truth of it. In a way, I’ve been trying to follow that advice ever since. Being protective of my self-image doesn’t help me to learn. It keeps me within the safety of my own head. It’s another example of how pride is paradoxically a weakness, and humility is such a strength.

    I have found great value in looking for the truth behind religious dogmas and institutions. They seem to be saying the same things the closer that I look. I want to get beyond all the superficialities of religion to what we as a human family have really learned in our time here.


    I like that. I might have to use it. :)

  9. Anonymous said,

    January 31, 2007 @ 9:49 pm


    You just earned yourself a place in my QUOTES file.

    “Being protective of my self-image doesn’t help me to learn. It keeps me within the safety of my own head. It’s another example of how pride is paradoxically a weakness, and humility is such a strength.”

    Beautiful. If that’s where pursuing truth gets you, I have no fears for you whatever. Just beautiful.


  10. Jonathan Blake said,

    February 1, 2007 @ 10:14 am

    Oh, stop! You’re making me blush. :)

  11. nice neice said,

    February 1, 2007 @ 12:47 pm

    Just wanted you to know….
    *I am supportive of your quest for truth. I agree with Cliff that eventually the Spirit will testify the truth to you, and perhaps we can have hope that you will come back.
    *I admire your strength of character to analyze a weakness in yourself, and decide to change it for the better. Although I wish you could make this journey differently, I know from my own experiences that the most important lessons are also the most difficult/painful.
    * I do feel a sense of loss. As you know, I have already lost one brother from gospel belief, and I feel this loss with you. As I’ve said before, you’re like a brother to me. It is painful for me to read about your journey, but I also appreciate your openess and honesty.
    *I told my mom and stepdad. Remember, my mom watched you grow from an infant. She cares very much for you, and she was able to help me receive some peace when she told me, “We have to be grateful that he is doing this out a need to improve himself. He is trying his best to find the truth, and in the process is still teaching his children to be thoughtful, responsible adults. If he had left the church to be a bank robber, then we could mourn, but he has left for a life which is still admirable.” I whole-heartedly agree, and looking at your journey with this perspective has been very comforting.
    *Every time I read a post of yours, I have the same thought but I never comment. :) My thought is that I would rather you leave the church when you honestly don’t believe it, than to stay and live a life of lies. Heavenly Father knows the intents of our hearts, and if you honestly don’t believe, going through the motions would be worse. I will add my testimony that I do know that He is there, and that he loves you. I know that he would rather welcome you back after this journey, than to have you never know Him but only keep up appearences.
    *I must express my concerns for your dear wife and the girls. I know that Lacey is struggling with this, and I just want to remind you that she needs your love and attention. It is easy to get caught up in these new experiences, but this is her journey too. This is not just a turning point in your life, but in her life also. As for the girls, a wise man once said, “The best thing a man can do for his children is to love their mother.” Lacey & the girls are the best things in your life, make sure that they are receiving the attention they need from you.
    *Please know that I am here, and if you ever want to chat I’m only a phone call away.
    I love you, Your neice Shauntae

  12. Jonathan Blake said,

    February 1, 2007 @ 5:14 pm

    Nice Niece,

    I understand your sense of loss. I too felt anxiety for those of our family who choose not to follow the Mormon path. I have felt an awkward barrier between me and my loved ones on the outside of the Church. A wonderful thing has happened as I have let go of my belief. New bridges of understanding have opened in that awkward barrier. I’m one of the outsiders now. There was a world that I could never enter, but now I’m there and it’s not as filled with shame and despair as I had thought. I hope that Mormon family won’t unwittingly put up barriers to keep me out like I did in the past.

    What I fear now is a wall of anxiety, unspoken expectations, and pity which distances us. No matter how much we assure someone that isn’t following Mormonism that we love them, the message that we think they’re screwing up still gets across even when we don’t say that. It can be especially hurtful if if they’re doing what they think is best. Making that judgment is condescending. It says that we think we know better. Do we know that we are right? Is this worth the distance between us?

    I do and say all these things (i.e. the blog, the emails, etc.) to bring us together in understanding that we can find comfort together.

    Thank you for understanding my motives. I’m sure that Heavenly Father would want honesty before obedience or faith.

    There is another curious change that has happened. By letting go of God and the judgments inherent in my previous religious faith, my heart has become a bigger place. I don’t walk around labeling people sinners and trying to remind myself that they are children of God. People are people. I can accept my brothers and sisters and love them for who they are and the choices that they make, not in spite of them.

    My love for Lacey has consequently grown. I can’t imagine anything that Lacey could do that would make me stop loving her. Ridicule me. Mock me. Beat me. Cuckold me. Leave me. Ruin me. If she did that and worse, I can imagine myself understanding her reasons and loving her despite all that.

    I hope that my love is never put to that test. I’d much rather be put to the test of raising a family and growing old together.

    With love and regret for any pain that I cause you,

    Your Loving Uncle

  13. nice neice said,

    February 2, 2007 @ 12:52 pm

    Thanks for your response. I just want to comment on your phrase, “Making that judgement is condescending” about my assumption that I am right and you are misguided. Of course a person with a strong belief or knowledge in something is going to say that they are right, or else why do they profess to believe? The difference is, I feel that I am saying, “This is right FOR ME, and the choices you are making are not right for me.”

    Also, if I believe something to be true, I will obviously want others to follow the same teachings, so that we can share the journey. Do not mistake this for pity, or for my opinion that you have somehow failed. I simply mourn the loss of our shared belief. I also similarly mourn the fact that we live 800 miles apart, but do I think you are “wrong” for choosing to live in Vegas? No. As I said, this is right for me, and that is right for you.

    The message I most wanted to convey to you in my last message is my unconditional love for you as my uncle and my friend. I felt it important that I honestly express my feelings so that we would be able to build a bridge of understanding. I truly admire your strength to stand up for what you believe in, and would never profess to have all the right answers myself. We are all doing our best, and that is the most important. Love, Shauntae

  14. Jonathan Blake said,

    February 2, 2007 @ 3:55 pm

    I’m sorry that I seemed to accuse you of being that condescending person I portrayed. I don’t believe that you are that person, and that’s not what I meant to say. You show me that to you aren’t that person in your words and actions.

    What I ineptly tried to do [note to self: never blog while your blood sugar's low] was portray to you how I am beginning to see that an outsider may feel despite all of the best, most loving overtures (and sometimes because of them). I see a barrier which divides friends and family. I hope to describe this barrier without making anyone feel blamed. I’m going to use Mormonism as the example, but I believe that it happens in many other groups as well. Let’s see how well I do…

    I would like to describe two groups of outsiders: the shamed believers, and the principled non-believers. The shamed believers are those on the fringe of activity in the Church who believe in its teachings at some level but feel ashamed of their behavior and how their life has turned out so far. They separate themselves from the flock because hearing the teachings that they aren’t living up to and seeing those who they perceive to be better than themselves just remind them of how ashamed they are. For them, the shame of the gospel is a social barrier which separates them from active members of the Church. The challenge is to convince them that they are loved despite their actions and to overcome the shame, somehow.

    The second group, the principled non-believer (which I now count myself among), is the friend or family of a believing, active member, but who doesn’t believe in Mormonism although they have strong principles of their own. For them, the assertion that the Mormon church is God’s One Fully True Church comes as a challenge to their own beliefs and the choices they make. Absolute belief in the rightness of Mormonism is also a backhanded way of saying that Mormons are infallible, that they admit no possibility that they have come to the wrong conclusions. It says “I’m right, and you’re wrong and not as smart or good as me. Otherwise you would be Mormon.” That’s not the kind of thing to say to nurture a friendship.

    I’m not saying that you or any other member of the Church actually wants to distance other people in this way or thinks this was, but that it is a real perception held by friends and family. This perception must be overcome in order to bridge the barrier that exists between active Mormons and everyone else.

    I’m not satisfied with what I’m writing here. What’s in my head isn’t really reflected in my words. I think a much better essay on this was written by C. S. Lewis named The Inner Ring.

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