Saturday, July 28, 2012


One of the most important principles in Christianity and Mormonism is prayer. It is supposedly our direct line to god. Whenever we are in trouble or need help, just ask god. If you are ill, ask god to guide the hands of the doctors that you might be healed. If you want to know that god exists, just ask him and he will tell you himself. Let's look at some of the scriptures in the Bible and the Book of Mormon concerning prayer (emphasis added):

Matthew 21:21-22
21 Jesus answered and said unto them, Verily I say unto you, If ye have faith, and doubt not, ye shall not only do this which is done to the fig tree, but also if ye shall say unto this mountain, Be thou removed, and be thou cast into the sea; it shall be done.
22 And all things, whatsoever ye shall ask in prayer, believing, ye shall receive.

21 And now, if God, who has created you, on whom you are dependent for your lives and for all that ye have and are, doth grant unto you whatsoever ye ask that is right, in faith, believing that ye shall receive, O then, how ye ought to impart of the substance that ye have one to another.

Enos 1:15
15 Wherefore, I knowing that the Lord God was able to preserve our records, I cried unto him continually, for he had said unto me: Whatsoever thing ye shall ask in faith, believing that ye shall receive in the name of Christ, ye shall receive it.

23 And now I would that ye should be humble, and be submissive and gentle; easy to be entreated; full of patience and long-suffering; being temperate in all things; being diligent in keeping the commandments of God at all times; asking for whatsoever things ye stand in need, both spiritual and temporal; always returning thanks unto God for whatsoever things ye do receive.

35 Yea, I know that God will give liberally to him that asketh. Yea, my God will give me, if I ask not amiss; therefore I will lift up my voice unto thee; yea, I will cry unto thee, my God, the rock of my righteousness. Behold, my voice shall forever ascend up unto thee, my rock and mine everlasting God. Amen.

26 And after that he came men also were saved by faith in his name; and by faith, they become the sons of God. And as surely as Christ liveth he spake these words unto our fathers, saying: Whatsoever thing ye shall ask the Father in my name, which is good, in faith believing that ye shall receive, behold, it shall be done unto you.

20 And Jesus said unto them, Because of your unbelief: for verily I say unto you, If ye have faith as a grain of mustard seed, ye shall say unto this mountain, Remove hence to yonder place; and it shall remove; and nothing shall be impossible unto you.

6 And the Lord said, If ye had faith as a grain of mustard seed, ye might say unto this sycamine tree, Be thou plucked up by the root, and be thou planted in the sea; and it should obey you.

In no uncertain terms, these passages mean to tell the reader that if they ask god for something, god will give it to them. Some passages qualify it with stating that for this to work the person asking needs "faith as a grain of mustard seed" lest they should ask frivolously or for something evil. But it is clear, if you ask for something good or righteous, believing that god will answer, you will recieve it. They even give examples of this working:

30 For the brother of Jared said unto the mountain Zerin, Remove—and it was removed. And if he had not had faith it would not have moved; wherefore thou workest after men have faith.

This is not mere hyperbole or metaphor, it is supposed to be literally true. If you have the faith of a mustard seed you can move mountains. But this is not limited to simply manipulating inanimate objects like mountains and sycamore trees. The scriptures are also clear that through faith people can be cured of various ailments. Jesus did this numerous times, as have many prophets, according to scripture. It is even a common practice in the Mormon Church to give blessings to the sick, and I have heard many first-hand accounts of people being cured of things like cancer. Yes, CANCER.

There are, in fact, many such accounts for cripples walking, the blind receiving their sight, and tumors vanishing in a matter of days. The interesting thing is that such accounts are not limited to Christians, or even those who pray! For instance, cancer remission, although unlikely, happens regularly. As Stephen Hawking has said, the universe is so vast that improbable things happen all the time. Let's say that the chance for remission is about 1% for a particular type of cancer. The chances of an individual going into remission is very slim. But if there are 1000 people in the US with this cancer, 10 of them will go into remission naturally. Does this make it a miracle? Does it happen only to those who pray? Were the patients who went into remission the only ones who prayed? Were they the only ones with faith like unto a mustard seed? If prayer really worked in this way, why would a believer go to a doctor in the first place? Clearly god's success rate should be higher than that of a mere radiation oncologist or surgeon. If you have enough faith, you could save a lot of money from medical costs.

Remember, according to Alma 7:32 we are to ask for spiritual and temporal needs, so these are not minor cases. And this is not some ancient account by an anonymous author--this happens today! Miracles are supposed to be one of the ways to tell who is on god's side. And, allegedly, god has not ceased to be a god of miracles:

15 And now, O all ye that have imagined up unto yourselves a god who can do no miracles, I would ask of you, have all these things passed, of which I have spoken? Has the end come yet? Behold I say unto you, Nay; and God has not ceased to be a God of miracles.

It may be possible that only the truly faithful and penitent are healed "miraculously." Perhaps, cancer remission really is simply an answer to prayers. OK, then why doesn't god heal amputees? If god can move mountains, cause the blind to see, and cure cancer, surely regenerating a limb should be in the repertoire of an omnipotent being. Surely, amputees have just as much faith as cancer patients. Why such discrimination? And what about people born with down syndrome? Or an IQ of 50? Why doesn't he cure babies born with AIDS? Why is it that every legitimate and consistent cure we have is brought about through science instead of religion? If god can cure any disease, why did we have to eradicate small pox on our own?

Here is a very interesting website which explores this thought further:

A couple of side notes: As I was researching scriptures on faith and prayer, I came across the following passages in the Book of Mormon.

21 And now as I said concerning faith—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.

I remember discussing this scripture as a teenager with my family. Even then I thought it was a bit of a contradiction. My father clarified that you cannot have faith in something that is not true, as this scripture indicates. But without knowledge how can you say something is true?  By this definition, how can you say you have faith without knowledge that it is true? Wouldn't such knowledge make faith unnecessary? I still hold it to be a contradiction.
42 Wherefore, if a man have faith he must needs have hope; for without faith there cannot be any hope.

This is just absurd. Faith and hope are not the same thing and are not dependent or contingent on each other. One can hope that god exists, for example, without believing or having faith that god exists. You can even have faith that god exists but hope he doesn't! Besides, there are lots of things which people hope for which do not require faith. Going back to the cancer example, if the best treatments give a patient an 80% chance to survive, they can have hope that they will make it, and have science on their side, making faith unnecessary. Furthermore, faith is useless when applied to things that are likely to occur. I don't have faith that my car will start when I turn the ignition.

Faith is useless.

Here is a video about god not healing amputees:

Here is the Atheist Experience talking about the failure of prayer:

And one more on believing parents...

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