“The Testimony of a Scientist,” Friend, May 1988, 26
My job as a scientist is to discover new knowledge. Five days a week I work at a laboratory, where I use the scientific method to try to understand what people have not understood before. I make a lot of guesses about things, and then I do experiments, accepting as truth only those things that I can prove to be correct. Do you think that such a person could ever have a testimony of the gospel?
Many scientists do not. They are so used to believing only what they can see and/or measure that they cannot accept anything of a spiritual nature. But there are many scientists who do have strong testimonies and who find no problem at all with the so-called conflict between science and religion.
Several years ago, my children and I built a four-thousand-gallon saltwater pond in our backyard and stocked it with various forms of aquatic life.* When I came home from work one day, I found two of my sons frantically trying to net all the bullseye puffers in our pond to bring them inside. They had found them floating helplessly at the water’s surface, probably because of the low temperatures of the approaching winter. When the biggest puffer hit the warm water of our family-room aquarium, it was shocked into activity and swam rapidly up and down the ten-foot aquarium. Then it turned belly-up. Well, I thought, that’s the end of it.
The next morning, however, the fish was still alive, though in no better condition. I went to work, expecting to find it dead when I returned that evening. But that night the fish was still gulping air. It just wouldn’t die. However, it didn’t get any better, either.
Days passed; the puffer’s condition worsened. Its body became bloated, and a fungus began to grow over its eyes. It was then that I thought that perhaps I should pray for the fish. In thinking about it, however, I reasoned that the puffer was, after all, just a fish and that it would make little difference to the eternal plan of our Heavenly Father whether it lived or died.
It’s true that the life of a simple fish may not seem important. But there have been times when fish have played important roles in teaching men some very significant lessons. Remember the great fish that swallowed Jonah, showing him that there was no place where he could hide from the Lord? Or the few fishes that Jesus used to feed the multitude? Or the fish with the coin in its mouth, which Jesus told Peter to catch? Or the great harvest of fish that the Apostles took when they cast their nets under the direction of the Master? I began to wonder if my involvement with the puffer could be a personal trial of my faith.
Day after day part of me wanted to pray for the fish, but another part of me told me not to bother. Finally, just before I went to bed one night, as I was looking at the puffer fighting for its life, tears welled up in my eyes, and I folded my arms, bowed my head, and offered a prayer that the fish would be made well.
The next morning I rushed to the aquarium. There was the fish, and what a sorry sight it was. It had now lost its sense of balance completely and had sunk headfirst to the bottom of the tank. It had apparently spent the night trying to right itself, only to rub all the flesh from its bony jaws against the rough sand at the tank’s bottom. Thick scales covered its eyes, and the tiny blood vessels in its fins were bursting. I said to myself, “What a dummy you are to think that the Lord would be concerned about a simple fish.”
I was certain that my faith had failed both me and the puffer. But though mortals may fail, the Lord fails not; and I was soon to learn that faith in Him, once exercised, can never fail. When I viewed the fish on the following morning, I beheld an astonishing sight. The scales that had blinded the puffer’s eyes were gone. Its jawbones no longer protruded from open wounds; the missing flesh had been restored. And the profusely bleeding fins were now clear and functional. The fish glided gracefully about the tank. Equally remarkable, when I put a glass thermometer into the aquarium to check the water temperature, the puffer swam over and promptly bit it in half, attesting dramatically to its complete recovery.
In pondering this experience, I have often thought that I must have felt much like the Apostle Peter, who, when he saw Jesus walking upon the sea in the midst of the storm, begged of Jesus that he might go to meet Him on the water. Peter did walk upon the water, but when he saw the waves crashing at his feet, his faith faltered and he began to sink. “And immediately Jesus stretched forth his hand, and caught him, and said unto him, O thou of little faith, wherefore didst thou doubt?”**
Boys and girls, I testify to you that there is a Heavenly Father. He has answered my prayers time and time again, reaching down to sustain my sometimes feeble faith. Although not all our prayers are answered as we want them to be, they are answered. And if the Lord will help a creature so insignificant as a little fish, how much more will He do for us, His own children? I bear you my witness that He is intimately concerned about each of us and that He loves us dearly.