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  • Writer's pictureJacob Hansen

The Saints Wager

Let's consider the famous Pascals wager as we look at the Restoration of Jesus Christ Church.

Pascal's wager. 

"Pascal argues that in making our decision about God, we will never understand everything in advance. No amount of rational investigation can produce definitive answers, as what comes after death remains unknown. Therefore we have to examine the options and make our wager. But what are the alternatives, and how should we weigh the odds? Pascal argues that we have two basic choices, and either way we must consider the risk of being wrong. If we have faith in God and it turns out that God does not exist, we face a downside risk: metaphysical error. But if we reject God during our lives, and it turns out God does exist, there is much more serious risk: eternal separation from God. Based on these two possible outcomes, Pascal declares that it is much less risky to have faith in God. In the face of an uncertain outcome, no rational person would refuse to give up something that is finite if there is the possibility of gaining an infinite prize. In fact, under these conditions it is unreasonable not to believe. Pascal writes, “Let us weigh up the gain and loss involved in calling heads that God exists. If you win, you win everything. If you lose, you lose nothing."- Whats So Great About Christianity, By Dinesh D'Souza

There are a lot of people who scoff at Pascals wager and attack straw man versions of his ideas. However what they don't realize is they places wagers like this all the time in all sorts of ways. I explored this idea in a previous post.


Here is the way Pascals thinking works.

Premise 1) proposition x is uncertain.

Premise 2) If proposition x is true, you are better off having faith/trusting it’s true.

Premise 3) If proposition x is false, you are better off having faith/trusting it’s true.

Logical conclusion: you should put your faith in the notion that proposition x is true until you gain sufficient certainty about the truth or false nature of the proposition.

So let’s break this down with a simple analogy. Let’s say I am 99.9% certain my wife is faithful. So I only am 0.1% confident that she might be cheating on me. Well, what if that rises to 5%... or 10% or 50% or 70%. At what point should I make that leap of faith( place that bet) and begin living as if she was cheating on me (IE get a divorce, get custody of kids, divide assets etc). Well that is a very individual thing. We all have different tolerances. However it seems relevant and rationale to consider the costs involved. For instance, I may be willing to take action at 20% confidence if we had no kids and my wife was already emotionally abusive and hateful toward me. I might say something like “well I can’t stand her anyway and I think there is a good chance she cheated on me so...”

However, what if you were very happily married and had 7 kids who were all living happy lives. Everything in your life seemed perfect. But you were 30% sure your wife cheated. Should you choose to believe it? Should you take action? Remember you are not sure, it may be true, it may not be, but either way you have to place your bet (aka faith) in one or the other because you have to make choices about your behavior. Also agnosticism is not really an option on a practical level. Sure I can say I am not certain if my wife cheated on me but it’s my behavior that will manifest where I have placed my faith.

Have you ever heard the phrase “you better be dang sure before you do x”? We generally use this phrase to express when we are dealing with an uncertain proposition that has large consequences to our well being. So consider if a persons faith life makes their life 1000 times better and the loss of it would drive them to depression and ruin. You might see in that instance why it’s reasonable for that persons “confidence threshold” to be much higher before they jump ship on their beliefs than it would be for a person who already felt like the church was not meeting their desires or who flat out held the church in contempt.

The reality is every reasonable person has doubts. Which is another way of saying no reasonable person has a confidence score of 100% in all sorts of things. So there are two variables at play in a persons faith in any given proposition. One is the confidence score in the truth, the other is what I will call our “better off” score. The former is affected by our arguments if the church is true, the latter is affected by if we think the church is good. The relationship between these two scores for a rational person is that if the “better off” score is high because of faith in Church’s claims, the confidence score in the church being a fraud would also need to be high in order for them to jump ship. Just like in the case with your wife cheating on you (or any uncertain proposition) you better be very sure before you jump to a conclusion if the stakes are high. This is perfectly reasonable.


In examining my feelings and thoughts about my involvement in the LDS church, the logic of Pascals wager as put forth above frequently comes to my mind. For the believing Christian who wishes to follow Christ there are only 3 possibilities. All Christians must choose one of these 3 options. 

The only 3 options for Christians.  

Option 1: LDS church is the true church.

Option 2: There is no true church. (This essentially is any option that is not the other two. It is any variances of the belief that Christ does not have a church which he wishes for everyone to be a part of.)

Option 3: Some other church is the true Church.

("True Church" for the sake of this post means the church which Christ himself would want all his followers to be part of).

When examining those in the pews of LDS chapels I believe we find people who believe in option 1 or 2. It's pretty rare that people leave the LDS faith because they find another church they believe is the real true church. Those who retain a belief in Christ but leave the church, usually do so because they come to believe that no church is true and then that the Mormon church does not meet their personal preferences. (In all honestly and experience I have found it generally happens the other way around).

As I consider these options I find that if option 1 is true I am relieved and happy I am in the right place. If option 2 is true, then it is only a matter of preference and I prefer the LDS religion to any other Christian faith I have found. Personally as I consider the LDS faith and how it fits in my life I am very happy with it. I am keenly aware of the good the LDS faith does in millions of lives and am totally confident that it leads me towards Jesus Christ and helps me get closer to him. Also, if I were to leave it would cause major contention and drama in my life because my family is LDS. So if its only a matter of preferences and I weigh the pro's and con's, I would stay if option 2 were the case.

Option 3 is a very real possibility and I am 100% open to this being the case. I fully believe as Brigham Young said "It is our duty and calling, as ministers of the same salvation and Gospel, to gather every item of truth and reject every error. Whether a truth be found with professed infidels, or with the Universalists, or the Church of Rome, or the Methodists, the Church of England, the Presbyterians, the Baptists, the Quakers, the Shakers, or any other of the various and numerous different sects and parties". My first loyalty is not to the church, but to the truth and to Christ.

 I spent two years asking others to listen to me tell them about my faith and my instructions to ask God if my message was true. I stand fully ready to do the same for anyone else who comes knocking at my door. Sure I have my preconceptions and my biases (just like the people on whose doors I knocked), but I will do my best to put all that aside and seek to know the will of God concerning their faith as they instruct me. I am always open to the fact that I could be wrong and that others could be right. So if option 3 is the case then I guess I am just doing the best I can with the knowledge I have until the true church of Jesus is revealed to me and I stand ready to receive it.

Belief Types.

Realizing there are logically are only a few options for the believer to take, I have come to find that we all usually fall into one of the following believing types. However, I must disclaim that within each of these general categories there are many sub-types. (IE two believing Mormons may both believe the church is indeed the one true church, but may disagree on many aspects of church doctrine)

  1. Believing Latter Day Saint: These are those who believe the LDS church is indeed the True Church.

  2. LDS Preference: These are those who believe there is no real "True Church" but prefer "Mormonism" over other Christian sects. .

  3. Unhappy Mormon: These are those who believe there is no real "True Church" and don't even like the church but stay for other reasons.

  4. Non-Mormon Christian: These are those who believe another Christian faith is the True Church.

  5. Alternative Christian: These are Christians who don't believe there is a True Church at all but don't prefer the LDS Church.

  6. Alternative Belief: This is any belief not described above (Atheism, Islam, Agnostic, Hindu, Scientology, etc.) 

I make no reservation in saying I am a believing Latter Day Saint. All my life I have heard other Christians tell me there is no "True Church" and that I should not prefer the LDS church. However, It would be near impossible for me to prefer another church after all the LDS church has done for me and my family. And after all, if it is only a matter of preference why do they care if I prefer the LDS church over another church? 

So, as I consider the realistic options I have and my preference for the LDS church I realize that there are only 2 ways I would ever leave the church. One is if I found another faith that was more true, or two, that I lost my faith in Christ. Interestingly I am very open to listening to other faiths and prayerfully and sincerely asking that God will make the truth known to me. However, my faith in Christ is by definition a choice. It is a choice to seek him and this is a choice I hope I will continue to make for the rest of my life. Pascal writes that there are two kinds of reasonable people in the world: “those who serve God with all their heart because they know Him, and those who seek Him with all their heart because they do not know Him.” So really when all is said and done here I stay unless Christ sees fit to reveal to me something better. 

"From that time many of his disciples went back, and walked no more with him. Then said Jesus unto the twelve, Will ye also go away? Then Simon Peter answered him, Lord, to whom shall we go? thou hast the words of eternal life." John 6:66-68

For another great article on this same subject click here

Questions to Ponder

- Which of the 3 options do I believe to be the case about Christ's church?

- What does the bible teach us about their being a true church?

- Do I honestly consider that another faith could be the true church?

- What belief type am I?

- What are the risks I run with my current belief system?

- Do I follow my preferences or do I follow Christ?

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