I remember an argument I had with an acquaintance in high school. I don’t remember the topic anymore (capital punishment? abortion? gay marriage? I’m sure it must have been one of those perennial high school kid debates). A friend had recently told me something that bolstered my side of the argument. I knew the information was correct, because he told me that “it had been scientifically proven.”
So I went confidently into the argument, and when the climax came I pulled out my trump card with a, “And it’s a scientifically proven fact!” Yet somehow my opponent failed to see the genius of my argument, responding with, “Yeah? Show me.” Suddenly I was left empty handed and defeated. I’d based my whole argument on my friend’s claim and never sought to understand it myself. Fortunately, however, the debate woke the spark of critical inquiry in me. I learned that authority is useless unless founded on substance.
The church equivalent of “it’s been scientifically proven” is “the prophets/scriptures say”. The scriptures say a lot of things, and the combined Journal of Discourses and archive of conference addresses say a lot more. “The scriptures say” is often shorthand for “my seminary teacher told me”. It can also mean, “I’m so confident that what I’m saying is true that I’m sure the scriptures validate it. I may not be able to point at a specific verse or anything, but I’m sure it’s in there somewhere.” (Incidentally, I remember one of my youth leaders teaching us that the Book of Mormon says that aliens will never come to earth. What?!)
Fortunately, a recently discovered passage of scripture (trust me — it’s been scientifically proven legit!) provides some guidance for handling situations where a person provides you with new information that you don’t know how to respond to:
1 There are two kinds of beings in earth, namely: people who know what they’re talking about and people who just pass crap along—
2 When a messenger comes saying he has a message, offer him your questions and request him to respond.
3 If he has a clue, he will do so, and you will feel to say, “Woah, that’s cool.”
4 If it be a crap passer appearing as one who has a clue, when you inquire he or she will get all defensive and say, “Why you gotta be like that?”, and you will not feel anything; you may therefore detect him or her.
5 These are two grand keys whereby you may know whether any administration is full of crap.