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.