In the world of science, there is a methodology to finding an answer of an earthly nature. We refer to it as the scientific method:
- Ask your question.
- Do background research.
- Identify your hypothesis.
- Test your hypothesis – experiment.
- Analyze your results and draw your conclusion.
In the Book of Mormon, Alma 32 teaches us about a methodology to finding an answer of a spiritual nature. We refer to it as an experiment of faith:
- Prepare the ground.
- Select a seed.
- Plant the seed.
- Nurture the seed.
- Feast upon the fruit.
If you would like to prove something according to physical laws and processes, the scientific method is the best way to do so. However, that same method doesn’t work when trying to prove something of a spiritual nature, and vice versa. I really appreciate that I can accept science for science, and faith for faith. I have never felt the necessity of having to use one to prove or disprove the other, and I have found that I can peaceably exist in this physical world within a spiritual realm.
In chapter 32, Alma encourages the Zoramites (and us!) to conduct an experiment to increase their faith and belief in ideas or doctrines. After preparing our heart and mind for learning, we select and plant the seed. That seed might be, “How does this scripture apply to my life?” Once planted, we need to nurture the seed. This is a very active step! Just like gardening takes dunging, watering, and weeding around the plant, the same is true with our seed. Since it is a spiritual seed, the spiritual nurturing includes reading, pondering, praying, fasting, living the principle, etc. If the seed is a good seed, and the ground is good – your heart and mind – then the results will indeed spell out seed: Swell Enlarge Enlighten Delicious. “When [I] feel these swelling motions…it beginneth to enlarge my soul…to enlighten my understanding…to be delicious to me.” (verse 28)
Just as the scientific method begins with the asking of a simple question, the experiment of faith simply requires that “if ye can no more than desire to believe.” (verse 27) If you would like to better understand something of an earthly nature, then use the scientific method. But, if you would like to better understand something of a spiritual nature, try the experiment of faith. If you follow these steps – prepare, select, plant, nurture – you will truly be able to feast upon the fruits of your efforts. Alma describes that fruit as that “which is most precious, which is sweet above all that is sweet; and which is white above all that is white, yea, and pure above all that is pure.” Mmm mmm good!