The dog that you feed

Sitting Bull, a Hunkpapa Lakota (Native American) holy man who lived in the 1800s has the following quote attributed to him:

“Inside of me there are two dogs. One is mean and evil and the other is good and they fight each other all the time. When asked which one wins I answer, the one I feed the most.”

I don’t recall where I initially encountered this quote (it was likely in a church context), but it stuck with and resonates with me. It relates to the journey of man in changing himself to a better, kinder, and more charitable man.

However, this quote also has another implication or re-application which can be applied to it – that is in regards to our belief systems.

The re-application would sound something like this:

“Inside of men there are multiple possible belief systems or worldviews. Some are faithful, others are doubtful, and they fight each other all the time. When asked which one wins we could answer; the ones we feed the most.”

Now that’s the philosophies of men mingled with the philosophies of men! But I think you may find it not completely unreasonable…

The one that we feed

It’s quite simple really, people have belief systems, and they feed them.

Having a belief system is, for example, saying that you are a practicing Mormon and believe in the tenets of Mormanism; non-Trinitarian monotheistic Christianity, the veracity of the Book of Mormon, the reality of living prophets on the earth who have priesthood power / authority, eternal marriage, temple ordinances, etcetera.

Feeding a belief system is, in this example, doing things like going to church, reading / studying the Book of Mormon, praying, attending the temple, doing missionary work, bearing testimony, and any of the many activities that we involve ourselves in.

It shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone that we tend to believe in the belief system that we actively feed and passively allow to be fed the most. Why do you think it is an important element of any religious belief system to participate in the activities surrounding the belief system? If you’re a practicing and believing Mormon, have you genuinely given Islam a chance? Who knows, maybe if you feed belief in Islam enough (read the Quran, pray in mosques, participate in Ramadan…), you may just turn out to believe in it yourself.

Using Islam as an example there are a staggering 1.6 billion Muslims in the world, whereas there are only 15.3 million LDS church members, so there is certainly overwhelming evidence that feeding belief in Islam through Islamic activity leads to belief in Islam on a large scale, more so than evidence to support feeding Mormanism (on the dimension of raw numbers of participants). — Sure enough we could come up with variants on this comparison (for example comparing growth speed when compared to active membership, etc.) but the point I’m trying to make is feeding belief in Islam leads to belief in Islam.

Hence it should also come as no surprise to anyone that if an individual (like a Mormon) goes and reads things like anti-Mormon literature, that in the act of doing so they are feeding their doubts and fears about the potential falsehood of Mormonism. In a very real way, they are feeding the dog within them of doubt and it’s not surprising that this activity would eventually lead to disbelief; the dog grows because it’s being fed.

But as I will explain, this reality has no bearing whatsoever on the potential truthfulness or falsity of both Mormanism and anti-Mormon literature (Or Islam or the moon landing hoax or Santa Claus or … or … or… )

 Seeing belief grow as a result of feeding is a terrible  way to establish truth

Just because you feed a belief or belief system, and that belief grows within you, does not prove that that thing is true.

Here’s a neutral example, (I use a neutral example because people tend to get defensive if you directly criticise their assumed beliefs and getting defensive further polarises us and degrades our ability to acquire truth); the daddy long leg spiders story.

Back when I was a young boy I heard the story that the daddy long legs spider was actually the most venomous spider in the world, but that its fangs are too short to bite humans. (I actually got told this by a member friend of ours who used to babysit me)

As very well explained by this article, this is just an urban legend with no supporting evidence.

Just like the scientific community did at the time Einstein published the theory of general relativity, we often tend to accept theories or arguments due to the coherence or elegance of the explanation and their corresponding alignment with observations and other conceptual frameworks (like mathematics). In a similar sense, I accept the debunked version of the daddy long legs story due to the apparent superiority of the explanation, and that it envelops the urban legend for which I’ve heard no such coherent explanation (simply the strange claim itself).

However the urban legend continues. People propagate it casually and randomly, and people continue to believe. Similarly there is still a group of people out there who believe the moon landing was a hoax and completely fabricated (this Wikipedia article explains many common theories)

So… what about Alma 32?

This train of thought poses a serious question to some of the explanations in Alma 32:

“But behold, if ye will awake and arouse your faculties, even to an experiment upon my words, and exercise a particle of faith, yea, even if ye can no more than desire to believe, let this desire work in you, even until ye believe in a manner that ye can give place for a portion of my words…


Now, we will compare the word unto a seed. Now, if ye give place, that a seed may be planted in your heart, behold, if it be a true seed, or a good seed, if ye do not cast it out by your unbelief, that ye will resist the Spirit of the Lord, behold, it will begin to swell within your breasts; and when you feel these swelling motions, ye will begin to say within yourselves—It must needs be that this is a good seed, or that the word is good…


But behold, as the seed swelleth, and sprouteth, and beginneth to grow, then you must needs say that the seed is good; for behold it swelleth, and sprouteth, and beginneth to grow. And now, behold, will not this strengthen your faith? Yea, it will strengthen your faith: for ye will say I know that this is a good seed; for behold it sprouteth and beginneth to grow.


Therefore, if a seed groweth it is good, but if it groweth not, behold it is not good, therefore it is cast away…


And now, behold, because ye have tried the experiment, and planted the seed, and it swelleth and sprouteth, and beginneth to grow, ye must needs know that the seed is good.

If my understanding of this scripture is correct, in essence what it is saying is that if we place the seed of belief within us, nourish it, and it begins to grow, then we should automatically presume that it is a “true seed” or a “good seed”.

If that’s the case, then I have an issue with this scripture. Because it creates the following links:

Desire to believe –> Plant the seed of belief –> seed grows –> because the seed grows, we believe that the seed is “true”

But as explained above, the growth alone of a belief, as a result of feeding it, does not prove anything about the idea except perhaps its virality (the quality of being easily understood and easily believed in and propagated). It certainly has no bearing on the truthfulness of the idea.

The unfortunate reality is that the fact that feeding a belief leads to the embrace of that belief is a very poor system to establish truth.

But… I’ve felt “light”

Alma does explain further that there is more to the seed story than it merely growing:

… behold, it will begin to swell within your breasts; and when you feel these swelling motions, ye will begin to say within yourselves—It must needs be that this is a good seed, or that the word is good, for it beginneth to enlarge my soul; yea, it beginneth to enlighten my understanding, yea, it beginneth to be delicious to me.


…because you know, for ye know that the word hath swelled your souls, and ye also know that it hath sprouted up, that your understanding doth begin to be enlightened, and your mind doth begin to expand…


O then, is not this real? I say unto you, Yea, because it is light; and whatsoever is light, is good, because it is discernible, therefore ye must know that it is good

I think it’s clear that Alma described more than just a belief growing, but that there is some kind of a light. He uses the wording above “swelling motions”, “enlarge my soul”, “enlighten my understanding”, “be delicious to me”, “light”, “discernible”.

OK, touché. It’s more than just believing more. Naturally those of us with faith recognise the descriptions as the fruit of the Spirit, which comes to us as we embrace the doctrine and principles of the Gospel.


What if there were others in other faiths who’ve had very similar experiences, but not with the Book of Mormon, Christ or Mormanism in particular? What if someone could gain the same light, delicious feeling or enlargement of soul from another religious or superstitious belief?

Then this would cause issues. Then we’d get into a “my light versus your light” type of discussion (which is indeed typical to religious discussion).

For the sake of bounding the scope of this article, (which is a very real issue when writing about this kind of stuff 🙂 ) and for the sake of leaving a thought-provoking ending, I will merely refer to some people below who’ve claimed that exact thing and a few questions with a brief conclusion.

Testimony of Islam example

This is one random example. She explains that memorising Qur’an verses came naturally, felt she had a divine appointment to become Muslim. “Felt like I had come alive”

Athiest to Christian Testimony

“this peace entered my life, this joy. The way my whole being was transformed there was just no question that this…” (Jesus, presumably) “…is somebody real, I think that not only am I more alive now that I’m a Christian but I’m so much more intellectually alive…” (very congruous with the description of the Spirit and his impact on our minds)

Born-again Christian Testimonies

Thanks to this random Youtuber for making my article a bit easier. Here’s an entire playlist of people testifying of born-again Christianity.

When looking for videos — I found it’s a rabbit hole; I could have posted any number of videos. We don’t have time for all that. After watching these videos, without spilling over into a whole new article, the some serious questions are:

  • Are they being genuine? (perhaps they’re being fake, or intentionally misleading)
  • How can I compare my light to theirs? (it’s like the “is my green the same as your green” type of philosophical discussions) is my light stronger because my truth is more complete? — so hard to measure…
  • Are they being deceived by Satan when they’re told certain conflicting religions to mine (the only true and living church) are true? (If so, if Satan has the power to deceive people to make them genuinely happy and joyful in their religions, then how do we know for sure he hasn’t deceived us?) — Madsen says “The devil is shrewd with the strategems and with the Satanic substitute, but one thing he cannot counterfeit is the witness and power of the Holy Ghost.”
  • So if it’s not deceit: is this God testifying to them their religions are true? Or that the principles in their religions are true? (or partially true?)
    • Why would he do that? That’s pretty confusing, can’t he just give them a spiritual impression to visit
    • I’m sure the Holy Ghost (who works in “pure intelligence”) could give them a lot more clarity and specificity around which religion is true / whether theirs is true.
    • The LDS church is available in all parts of the world where these people live. Again, impression to visit Seems a lot more efficient.

Back to square #1: and this could be considered issue #1 for me: happiness, even “light” that comes to us as a result of living (read: feeding) a belief system does not have any bearing on the potential truthfulness of that belief system. (But, it could mean many other things, to use Alma’s other wording it could mean it’s “good” — and I certainly believe the truthfulness of the principles of a belief system is self-evident in the positive impacts they have on our lives.)

Three bullet point conclusion:

  • Feeding belief tends to lead to embracing belief.
  • Just because belief grows as a result of feeding, doesn’t make that belief true. (“True” by the definition our religion claims; “the church is true”.)
  • We could get into “light” arguments (my light vs. yours), but it’s hard to compare lightsabers when we can really only fully perceive our own one, and even then it’s quite wishy-washy (feelings can generally be quite indistinct and unspecific)


  1. Dan

    Just a thought – maybe there are different ways we can learn things from heaven.

    For example, one might involve subtle but still real communication from God which is then processed or interpreted through our minds, and results in information (knowledge?belief?) that we now have. So it would go something like GOD -> my interpretation -> what I think (might include some really good stuff mixed with a bit of not quite right stuff. incidentally I think I probably have many beliefs like this).

    Another might involve communication that is less like a conversation, and more like downloading information directly into our beings, without a space for us to interpret or misunderstand. So more like GOD –knowledge–> us. In this situation, the person knows, and they know that they know.

    This obviously could still result in having my light vs your light discussions, as even if someone does know, they can’t prove through talking about it that they know (I don’t think). Maybe the only way to know some things is to experience them.

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