The Book of Mormon and Agnostic Prayer

I haven’t always known much about God, much less believed in Him.  I remember one time especially as a young man when I collapsed in prayer, very late one lonely night, and begged God to let me know that He was there, if He was at all.  I didn’t receive any sings or feelings, and felt terribly depressed for a while after that.  I didn’t receive an answer for a long time.

I’m hardly the first or the last to offer what’s known as an “agnostic’s prayer,” a plea to a God whom the prayer isn’t sure is there or not.  The most popular such published prayer seems to be this one, from the 1969 science fiction novel Creatures of Light and Darkness, by Roger Zelazny:

Insofar as I may be heard by anything, which may or may not care what I say, I ask, if it matters, that you be forgiven for anything you may have done or failed to do which requires forgiveness. Conversely, if not forgiveness but something else may be required to ensure any possible benefit for which you may be eligible after the destruction of your body, I ask that this, whatever it may be, be granted or withheld, as the case may be, in such a manner as to insure your receiving said benefit. I ask this in my capacity as your elected intermediary between yourself and that which may not be yourself, but which may have an interest in the matter of your receiving as much as it is possible for you to receive of this thing, and which may in some way be influenced by this ceremony. Amen.

I also found this much shorter agnostic prayer online, apparently an anonymous work:

Dear God,

If there is a God,

Save my soul,

If I have a soul.

These are honest, searching thoughts–general enough to be universal, yet deeply personal–and I love seeing them.  By far the best agnostic prayer, however, comes from 1830 in the Book of Mormon.  In Alma 22, a missionary named Aaron teaches the gospel to the father of a king in an unfriendly land, a man who had actively hated the believers.  The truth that he hears touches him, though, and he feels compelled to act on it, even if he isn’t sure how.  Aaron tells him to try prayer but, being a stranger to spiritual things, the king’s father can only pour out his feelings in a raw, desperate first prayer:

O God, Aaron hath told me that there is a God; and if there is a God, and if thou art God, wilt thou make thyself known unto me, and I will give away all my sins to know thee, and that I may be raised from the dead, and be saved at the last day.  (Alma 22:18)

Notice how simple this request is, with evidence of both overwhelming confusion but an undeniable experience of…something…that has to be investigated further and acted on.  How lucky are any of us who have been there, to start learning about God’s love, and begin that journey of discipleship!  This powerful man’s childlike prayer was then answered with a stunning spiritual manifestation that changed his life forever.

And, ultimately, so was mine.  A few months after offering my own agnostic prayer, I discovered the Book of Mormon.

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One comment on “The Book of Mormon and Agnostic Prayer

  1. My most earnest prayer was “Lord, I believe; help thou mine unbelief!”

    The answer did not come right away, but now I can not deny my knowledge. “I knew it, and I knew that God knew it, and I could not deny it; neither did I wish to deny it.” (Don’t know for sure if that quote is right…

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