The Answer Is Always 42

I’m about to use a really bad analogy, so bear with me.

Imagine you’re going to take an exam, and rather than studying the questions, you are told to memorize the answer sheet. If you get all the answers right, you pass. If you miss even one, you fail. You do your best, and then when the test comes, you look at the first question.

You know the answer is “42,” but the question on the test is “4 X 11 = .”

You scratch your head, and you figure, well, maybe the answer sheet was wrong, so you write down “44.”

You turn in your test, and you get all the answers right except that one. You fail. So you talk to your professor and maybe a proctor and maybe you go all the way to the department chair and dean, but nothing doing. You’ve failed.

You try to make your case, but the answer is always 42.

“You must have done something wrong in your calculations,” they say, “because if you had done it right, you would have gotten the correct answer, which is 42.”

You tell them that maybe you had a different test than the normal one, and the answers were not the same.

“Nope, the test is the same for everyone. You failed.”

You try to explain that 4 X 11 = 44, not 42. “Just look at my test,” you implore.

“Maybe you’re just too proud to admit that you got the wrong answer,” comes the reply. “Or maybe you just wanted to get the answer wrong just to make trouble. You have quite a bad attitude. Come to think of it, everyone I’ve ever met who got the answer wrong was a liar. You must be lying.”

“No, I honestly did my best, and I’m sure I got the answer right.”

“Obviously you have some distorted cognitive abilities or faulty problem-solving strategies, or you would have arrived at the correct answer.”

“No, I did the work as asked.”

“Look, if you’ll just forget about that answer, leave it alone, I’m sure we can work something out (as long as you don’t tell anyone else about your wrong answer.”

“That would be dishonest. Look, I’ll be happy to admit I’m wrong if you’ll just go over the answer with me.”

“Why would I do that? You’re wrong, period.”

I was thinking today that, among some people, the default position is, “The church is true, and there is no valid reason anyone would ever conclude otherwise.”

This position leads to all the things we’ve heard before: we want to sin, we’re dishonest, we suffer from emotional and cognitive problems, we are following Satan.

I know why this is done, which is why it generally doesn’t bother me that much when people make those accusations. Most critics I know are happy to admit that we could be horribly, terribly wrong. I don’t think I am wrong in my conclusions about the church, but it’s possible.

But I find it interesting that some other people cannot allow for the possibility that reasonable, decent people might disagree on the subject of Mormonism. The answer is always 42.

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7 Responses to The Answer Is Always 42

  1. Interesting analogy. But knowing that 4×11=44, why care that one group of people insists the answer is 42?

  2. Chris says:

    Such is the ways of the religion… Coherence or reasonableness isn’t a prerequisite for religious truth. If the gods say that 4 x 11 is 42, then so be it. You just have to rely on faith.

  3. Odell says:

    Transfer schools.

  4. ff42 says:

    Hey! The answer IS 42. 😎

  5. Tim says:

    You clearly lack the ability to speak two languages. You just need to be who other people need you to be. For the school say “We believe the answer is 42” if you’re somewhere else say “I know the answer is 44”. That way you can always be telling the truth.

  6. mcarp says:

    In deacons quorum a few months ago, the instructor was teaching the Plan of Salvation lesson and he asked, “Have you ever wondered what the purpose of life is? Why we are here? Why the universe exists?”

    One bookish deacon replied, “42.”

    I about fell off my chair laughing. When I stopped, I noticed that the bookish deacon had a pleased look on his face, but everyone else (including the two other adults) was looking at me like I should be carted off to an asylum. I said, “What? Nobody else reads Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy?”

    More blank stares.

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