Tag Archives: Religion and Spirituality

Is God Really Just A Placebo?

 

Have you ever heard of the placebo effect? I have surprisingly heard many different definitions for it, even though it is something talked about by most anyone at one point or another. For the most part, however, when someone brings it up they describe it as wanting to feel something badly enough, or telling yourself something long enough, that it eventually happens. The most prominent example and use of placebo is in medicine and medical studies. Often times doctors will give a patient a placebo medication to see if they can help them without having to use the medication itself. They might give a patient a sugar pill instead of vikadin or a saline solution instead of some other medication. All in all, the placebo effect has become quite useful and quite successful as the body heals itself without the actual drug.

I have talked with a wide variety of people over the last two years, all with their own beliefs and stories. I have talked to the multi millionaires, the homeless man on the side of the street, the people in between, a man claiming to be the reincarnated James Dean, and a man that called himself “Rastamahn” who just walked around with his rasta beenie and sunglasses telling people about his visions. I have talked with Catholics, Muslims, Hindu, Buddhists, Baptists, Methodists, Wickans, Pagans, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Lutherans, Episcopalians, Rastafarians, Pastafarians, and members of almost any other religion you can think of. They all have their beliefs and I am fine with that. That is our God given right. With most religions the basics tend to be the same; a belief in a form of deity, basic morals and values, an so on. I expected this, coming on a mission. However, there is one question that was posed to me that I was not expecting and have been thinking about since my first weeks on my mission. “Is God really just a placebo?”

I was sitting in a family’s living room talking to them about their beliefs, when out of nowhere the wife asked the question, “is God really just a placebo?” I don’t really recall what my companion and I said, but it ended up turning into this battle between science and religion that got nowhere, as in all battles between science and religion. It was a great, sincere question that this woman asked and I have been fighting to find out how to word the answer ever since. I cannot promise that my answer to the question will be the answer that will change the world’s perspective; however, I pray that, at least for some, it will help.

In order to answer the question I need to set one thing straight; science and God need not fight against each other. In fact, they go hand in hand. The Lord uses science to fulfill His will; He just knows a lot more about science than we do.

So, are the feelings that we claim to be the Spirit of God really just a simple placebo effect? Are we asking to feel The Savior’s love so much that we eventually feel it because that is the way our body works? Some will say yes and will proceed to explain to you the inner workings of the mind and body. Others will say no and explain the inner workings of the spirit. I say, using the old adage, “A rose by any other name is still a rose.”

An apostle once wrote, “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights…” (James 1:17) And again, a prophet wrote, “For I say unto you that whatsoever is good cometh from God, and whatsoever is evil cometh from the devil.” (Alma 5:40). To put it into today’s terms, good comes from God. ALL good comes from God. Whether it is a thought that you should stop and help someone push their car, a feeling of peace or happiness, or any of the other countless ways you can do, feel, or think good, it is from God. Call it placebo if you want, just know that “placebo” is simply man’s explanation and term for God’s miracles.

Some may claim that the life saving cures and procedures that are used today were simply scientific breakthroughs by intelligent men and women. I have an immense amount of gratitude for the brilliant doctors, scientists, and others who help with these breakthroughs. They have saved lives of those I know and love. However, even these breakthroughs, whether or not the men and women who made them believed in God, were inspired by the One who created us all.

So, is God really just a placebo? No, my friends, He is not simply the result of the placebo effect. He is very real. I have felt the power of His hand in my life. I have felt His redeeming love. I have been lifted out of a darkness that nothing of this earth could have brought me out of. He is real. The feelings of peace, joy, love, faith, and so on as you read scripture and honestly pray to your Father in Heaven are very real. Of this I testify, and will continue to testify of until I shall see Him face to face and see Him as He is.

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The Weak Man In the Gym And The Nonexistent Six-Pack

Have you ever gone to the gym and seen that man who you know only comes in MAYBE twice a year? He’s benching roughly sixty pounds, grimacing and grunting while he does it. He might then go to the treadmill and do a painful three minute jog at an exhilarating twenty minute mile pace, sweat pouring down his face. Last, but not least, he goes to the dumbbells and pumps out a solid seven reps with fifteen pound weights. Thoroughly exhausted, he walks out of the gym, having been there for a grand total of thirteen minutes and thirty four seconds, including the three water breaks. You know what the crazy thing is? The next morning, that man looks in the mirror and wonders why he isn’t as “ripped” as Thor or his friend who is at the gym every day.

Yeah, that man was me. I used to think, in some twisted way, that because I “worked out” every now and then I should look like the cartoon superheroes. You know, the ones that have the muscles bulging out more than humanly possible. Well, to my disbelief, I found that twice a year won’t get you a six-pack, and neither will once a week. You know what the hardest part for me to fathom was? You can exercise EVERY DAY and not eat right and you STILL won’t get a six-pack. It blew my mind. It takes diligence, discipline, determination, and a healthy diet.

Now, this isn’t going to be Elder Herrick’s workout and exercise blog; that wouldn’t be a good idea. The point I want to make is simple: To gain the greatest reward, you must put in your greatest effort. This is true for anything. In sports we always say “Practice makes perfect.” The same can be said for musical talents or any skill or hobby. So what about when it comes to things of a more personal, spiritual nature? How does one go to the spiritual gym? I will share three o the ways I have found.

The first way of going to the spiritual gym is through prayer. To keep the analogy, I guess you could say that prayer is like talking with your personal trainer and nutritionist. However, in reality it is so much more than that. God is more than some unknowable, unreachable being who is everywhere and yet nowhere, merciful yet indifferent. THAT is not God. God is your Father. He loves you and wants to hear from you DAILY. Yes, He is all powerful, all knowing, unchanging, merciful, and just. He is all of that and more, and yet, He wants nothing more than to hear from His child, namely, you. When you pray it is like a child going to his or her father and asking for help on his or her homework. He stands ready to bless us, if only we ask. Just like any parent though, He wants to hear from us more than when we are just in a time of need. What better way to get a spiritual six-pack than by prayer?

The second way of going to the spiritual gym is by reading the scriptures. I have always been told, “If you want to talk with God, say your prayers. If you want God to talk to you, read your scriptures.” Reading the scriptures can be compared to studying the exercise and nutrition plan given to you by your trainer. The scriptures are not just here to tell you what to do or what not to do. They are here to show us how to reach our fullest potential.

I had a personal trainer for about two weeks. I thought he was trying to KILL me. What he was really doing was trying to show me HOW to kill my lazy personality and reach my potential. It’s the very same thing with the scriptures. No, it’s not easy; neither is getting ripped.

The third way of going to the spiritual gym is just that, going and doing it. Talking with your trainer and studying the workout plan are fine and dandy but how long and how much will your trainer help you if you don’t actually go exercise? Here’s the thing, Heavenly Father will always love His children. However, that doesn’t mean they will always have His trust. Building that trust is like building your spiritual muscles. Simply put, we build His trust as we DO what He asks of us, whether that be repenting, going to church, helping those in need, or simply being a good example of a Christlike life. In short, we gain our Father’s trust as we become more and more like our Savior, Jesus Christ.

I know that no matter who we are or what our past may be, as we do these three things daily; pray to our loving Father in Heaven, Read the scriptures, and strive to do our best to become like His Son, we can build that spiritual six-pack and we will eventually be able to stand confident at the judgement bar of Christ. This I know and leave with you in the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.

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I went on a hike when I was a twelve year old boyscout. Let me just say, I hated hiking. It never made sense to me. Why would a person leave their comfortable home, their comfortable couch, and their amazingly comfortable air conditioning or heater, and go walk up a mountain in the extreme heat or cold. Crazy. So, being the lazy, out of shape, spoiled person I was, I went on this hike very unhappy.

The hike started out alright. It wasn’t too steep and the steep parts that were there were going downhill. No, it didn’t click in my brain that when you hike down you usually have to hike back up. So as we went along I started to complain. My complaining intensified (You can ask any of the other scouts). I fell something like four or five times, and the last time I scraped my leg pretty bad which made it pretty painful. The only thing, in my mind, that could have made it worse was exactly what happened. My scoutmaster said something to the effect of, “Oh shoot. I thought this hike was shorter than this.” It turned out that our “five mile hike” was really about eight to ten miles with a steady incline on the way back.

Well, after about 30 minutes of keeping up with everyone else on the way back up I fell behind and my dad fell back with me. We hiked for about ten minutes and stopped, hiked for ten minutes and stopped, and so on. this went on for pretty much the whole time, me complaining the whole time. Finally I had had enough. I sat down on a rock and said, “I can’t make it. Call a rescue helicopter or whatever but I can’t go on.” You should have seen my dad’s face. He stuck his walking stick in the dirt and said in a “tough love” type of voice, “Get up and get over it. You can make it. All the stopping and complaining is just making it last longer.” I got up and sure enough, three switchbacks later I was sitting in my comfortable car on my way home.

Now, I realize that that was a long story but it has a point other than just to make fun of Elder Herrick’s past. The point is simple enough. This life can be hard. Just like the steepness of the mountainside, we have to fight uphill battles, sometimes on a daily basis. Sometimes we fall and scrape ourselves. Sometimes we get left behind by our friends and we feel like we’re all alone. Sometimes we mess up and have to face a longer road than expected. However, We are NOT alone.

Just like my father was there every step of the way, OUR Father is there with us always. Yes, the road is steep, rocky, and full of roots that want to trip us up, but we can make it. We can make it if we just get up. I’ve been there, both literally and figuratively. More important, there is a Man that has been there with us. He has been there every step of the way and he is willing to help us make that next step.

He said, “And if men come unto me I will show unto them their weakness. I give unto men weakness that they may be humble; and my grace is sufficient for all men that humble themselves before me; for if they humble themselves before me, and have faith in me, then will I make weak things become strong unto them.”

I testify that our Father and His Son Jesus Christ know the steepness and roughness of the hike that is our lives. they will not leave us behind but will be there to help us stand strong and finish the course. I testify that They are ready and willing to help us as long as we go to Them. May we ever be mindful of the reward that comes when we endure to the end and finish the hike strong. I promise, it will be better than a car ride home.

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