The eminent physicist Stephen Hawking said recently that he does not believe there is a God. With all due respect to Mr. Hawking’s knowledge and accomplishments—and they are truly noteworthy—I do not believe he is what the courts would call a competent witness on this topic. I doubt that he has the knowledge or expertise to testify on the matter.
There would be two significant problems with taking Mr. Hawking’s word that there is no God. First, while he seems to have made himself as familiar as anyone can with the workings of the universe, this is no indication that he has made himself similarly familiar with the workings of God. Second, and more important, it is not for Mr. Hawking, or anyone else, to tell us whether there is a God. Each one of us has the opportunity—the responsibility, in fact—to learn this for ourselves.
We ought to be able to do this with a kind of scientific experiment or an application of the scientific method. Our experiment would have to begin with a hypothesis, and since it seems impossible to prove a negative, the hypothesis would have to be positive: “There is a God.” (Every atheistic assertion I have ever seen comes down ultimately to this: “I know there is no God, because I have not seen Him. He has not shown Himself to me.” This is not only arrogant, but silly—and obviously inconclusive.) However, in order to prove our hypothesis that there is a God, we would have to investigate according to rules He has established, and this would require faith. We would have to act with belief in order to detect a response from Him. (And why would a legitimate scientist, who acts with belief in a hypothesis within his own field, question the need for belief here?)
Mr. Hawking has been quoted as saying, “The universe is governed by the laws of science. The laws may have been decreed by God, but God does not intervene to break the laws.” I would agree with his last sentence. I do not know how God set the universe, and all His creations, and our little earth in motion, but I know that he did it according to laws he knows intimately. All things operate according to laws which He decreed and will not violate. I have seen His works, and they testify to me of the order He created to govern the universe and His children.
Moses told the people of Israel, “God doth talk with man, and he liveth” (Deuteronomy 5:24). Moses, we are taught in the Bible, was a personal witness to the glory of God. Few of us will ever have the opportunity to see God as Moses saw. But we have the opportunity to know for ourselves that God exists.
I know. I have not seen Him as Moses did, but He has made himself manifest to me in my heart and my mind and my life in ways that are incontrovertible—not in abstract impressions, but in personal words of counsel and in concrete actions and events. One involves an event that saved my life, and I have shared the story often with others, but some experiences are so sacred and deeply personal to me that I do not share them.
It would probably not be appropriate for me to transfer my knowledge to another person, even if I could, for it is up to each one of us to learn of His existence through our own relationship with Him. I cannot learn of God’s existence for you, any more than you could learn it for me. Through personal faith, God speaks to each individual’s heart. He does not give someone else the assignment to obtain this knowledge for us.
Moses said that God talks with man. Throughout history God has called prophets to teach us and lead us in His paths, if we will listen to them. There are prophets on earth today. Their calling is to teach and lead. But the knowing Him and His will is still our individual responsibility.
Knowing requires exercising our faith—putting our hearts and actions behind our beliefs. If you need help with this, there is a passage in the Book of Mormon that describes the process of nurturing the little seed of faith, and what we can expect when we do. (Alma chapter 32, verses 26-43—pp. 289-291) But if you already know how to exercise faith without studying the process, then go for it.
We cannot trust the responsibility of knowing to someone else, no matter how intelligent or accomplished that person may appear. Appearances are no substitute for truth that we experience personally. It has always seemed strange to me, and oddly superstitious, when those who trust in science refuse to acknowledge that God may have had a role in creation and organization of the universe and the life found in it. In seeking explanations that rule out His involvement, they offer no concrete evidence; they offer only their own doubts or lack of knowledge. It is as though they are afraid to acknowledge that there could be some Greater Intellect who understands even more about all of this then they do.
I know that God lives. Do you wonder whether this could be true? Don’t ask me, or Stephen Hawking, or someone else. Find out for yourself.