by Craig Branch –
Christianity makes truth claims. Even our “faith” claims are grounded in objective reality-rooted in real time-space history . The external witness of that truth is revealed in the Bible, which testifies of real people and real event s, both natural and supernatural. The life, message, works, and resurrection of Jesus Christ has multiple attestation from eyewitnesses and other early historical sources.
Ultimately, Christians know that Christianity is true via the internal witness of the Holy Spirit (Rom. 8:17; 1 John 5:6-10). Paul reminds us that the life-changing gospel did not come to us through the word alone, but also in power and in the Holy Spirit and with full conviction (1 Thes. 1:5).
But the “internal witness” is true only because Christianity is objectively true. In other words, Christians can know Christianity is true without having searched out and tested the historical, scientific, empirical and even philosophical evidence. Y et the evidence is still there and available for honest seekers and skeptics, and Christians welcome an investigation of that evidence.
The Bible repeatedly warns us about false teachers, false prophets, false Jesuses, false gospels and counterfeit Christianity (Matt 7:15, 24:24; 2 Peter 2:1-3; 2 Cor. 11:3-4, 13-15; Gal. 1:6-9). The Scripture explicitly warns us against demonic spiritual deception (1 Tim. 4:1). Because of the danger of deception, the Bible directs us to “test the spirits” (1 John 4:1). The tests consist of doctrinal and objective observations. Paul and John, for example, instruct believers to test or examine carefully any claims that someone might make to have a prophesy claims that someone might make to have a prophesy 3). Even when Paul and Silas delivered the truths of the gospel to the people of Berea, the Bereans were commended for examining the Scriptures to validate the claims of the apostles.
All of this is important because there are a number of other religions which make truth claims. Mormonism is a classic example. They make claims about God, Jesus, the gospel, revelation, and history. As you will observe elsewhere in this journal, however, the LDS church present s us with a false god, Jesus, gospel, revelation, and history. Archaeology, DNA science, history, the Bible, and other testimony demonstrate the bankruptcy of Mormonism on the issue of objective evidence.
So, upon what basis do Mormons rely in order to believe? While the Mormon hierarchy does produce some fanciful propaganda, they chiefly rely upon a purely subjective “testimony”-a warm, positive feeling (sometimes called a “burning in the bosom”) which they interpret as a testimony of the Holy Spirit to the truth of Mormonism. In this article, we will see that this “testimony” is a manufactured device the LDS leaders have developed and emphasized in order to convert non-members and to keep members.
THE MORMON TESTIMONY
Soon after Mormon missionaries begin their structured lessons in the homes of non-members, they will give the householder a Book of Mormon (BOM) and highlight the passage in Moroni 10:4 which reads:
And when ye shall receive these things, I would exhort you that ye should ask of God, the Eternal Father, in the name of Christ, if these things are not true; and if ye shall ask with a sincere heart, with real intent, having faith in Christ, he will manifest the truth of it unto you, by the power of the Holy Ghost.
They request that the potential convert pray that prayer as a test for the validity of the BOM and (by extension) Mormonism. Of ten they will highlight other passages in the BOM for the householder to read as well, texts that describe Jesus healing, loving, forgiving, etc. They also attempt to further precondition the householder s experience of praying Moroni 10:4 by pointing out selected passages in the King James Version that refer to the Holy Spirit as “the Spirit of truth” who “will guide you unto all truth” (John 16:13), the Comforter (John 14:26, 15:26), and Peace (John 16:33).
On the next visit the missionaries ask the householder, who has by that time read about Jesus in the BOM and prayed Moroni 10:4, “How did you feel? Did you feel peace and comfort?” Now what normal person is going to experience apprehension, disgust, or negativity when reading about Jesus’ loving, forgiving and healing? The missionaries confirm enthusiastically that this warm feeling is the testimony of the Holy Ghost that Mormonism is true! Then they press quickly for baptism into their church. The idea that a warm feeling is evidence that Mormonism is true is based on a passage in another LDS scripture which reads: “But behold, I say unto you, that you must study it out in your mind, then you must ask me if it be right, and if it is right, I will cause that your bosom shall burn within you; therefore you shall feel that it is right” (Doctrine and Covenants 9:8).
After becoming a Mormon on that basis, the LDS church conducts a “Fast and Testimony” service where Mormons line up with repetitive, emotionally charged testimonials, saying things like, “I know that Joseph Smith is a true Prophet, the BOM is true, and that the LDS church is the true church.” These verbal testimonials reinforce the subjective experience of the “burning bosom.”
A FLAWED TESTIMONY
There are a number of problems with this subjective approach that the Mormons utilize which, when taken together, provide insurmountable obstacles for the claims of the LDS church. I will explain five of these devastating problems:
1. There are no Biblical directives to pray for new revelation or any revelation based on a warm feeling for verification. As noted earlier in this article, we are to begin with Scripture to test any claim to truth or revelation. James 1:5 is misused by the LDS church as a justifier for their Moroni 10:4 approach. It reads, “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all men generously and without reproach, and it will be given to him.” Though in interpreting Scripture we must begin with what a text says, we must also move directly into discovering what it means. This involves applying common rules of Bible interpretation (hermeneutics). It is a cultic method of Scripture twisting (2 Peter 3:16) to cut and paste passages to build doctrine. In its context, James 1:5 is not instructing us to utilize prayer to test new revelation, but is instructing us to employ prayer to gain wisdom during trials (James 1:2-4). Wisdom is the application of revealed knowledge. There is no need to pray for wisdom about whether one should follow other gods, or new revelation, or accept a different gospel. God has already spoken to those issues (Exod. 20:3; Deut. 18:9f, Jude 3-4; Gal. 1:6-9; etc.).
In fact, the Bible explicitly warns against trusting in our feelings in Jeremiah 17:9, Mark 7:21-23, and Ecclesiastes 9:31. Ask the Mormon if he would pray about the validity of the Koran or about whether or not Muhammad is a true prophet. If he says no, then ask why not. Is it because he knows Muslim doctrines are incompatible with Mormonism? Are the Muslims not sincere? They pray five times per day. Don’t they feel good or right about their faith? Tell them you have sincerely prayed with real faith in Christ and He has shown you that Mormonism is false!
2. The terms set forth in Moroni 10:4 are manipulative and use circular reasoning. Former Mormon missionary Timothy Oliver explains this well. He writes,
It [i.e., Moroni 10:4] promises a particular result if certain terms are met. But the terms reflect on the seeker s integrity in regard to both his sincerity and resolve, and on his faith in Christ. To be willing to rely on the promise of this verse. . .one must already believe in the “truthfulness” of this verse.1
The revelation of the truthfulness of the BOM is made dependent on your sincerity, your faith, and your pure intent. So, if you do not receive the “testimony”, the problem must be yours. This argument is circular because it relies upon the accuracy or truthfulness of the condition given in Moroni 10:4 even though that very verse and the book from which it comes are the very thing that is being tested for accuracy and truthfulness. Using that criteria alone, the Mormon “testimony” becomes unfalsifiable.
3. Christians are responsible to begin first with Scriptural revelation and to test all things by it (2 Tim. 3:16; 2 Peter 1:12-2:3; 1 Thes. 5:19-21). We have already alluded to this point, but it deserves mention once again. The fact is that the Book of Mormon (and the Mormon faith as a whole) fails to measure up when tested by the standard of the Bible. The doctrines of Mormonism contradict the teaching of Scripture. Moreover, there is no historical or archaeological evidence to corroborate any of the historical and geographical claims made in the Book of Mormon. The warm feeling of the Mormon “testimony” cannot overcome these objective problems.2
4. The test of Moroni 10:4 and its inherent claim about the BOM is internally inadequate as a test for Mormonism. Prospective converts are asked to pray about the truthfulness of the BOM as a test for the validity of Mormonism as a whole. And, interestingly, other LDS scripture claims that the BOM contains the “fullness of the gospel” (Doctrines and
Covenants 20:9; 42:12; 135:3). Yet, the BOM does not even contain all the essential, primary, and necessary doctrines of Mormonism. If one want s to know the distinctive doctrines of Mormonism, and those practices essential for eternal life, then one must look to other LDS documents such as Doctrines and Covenants, the Pearl of Great Price, etc.
5. According to other Mormon doctrine, Moroni 10:4 is not the sole test by which this reported revelation should be judged. Significant LDS authorities elsewhere commend real investigation, using reason, logic, and evidence. Notice, for example, the following statements by LDS authorities:
If after a rigid examination , it [i.e., The Book of Mormon] be found an imposition, it should be extensively published to the world as such [anti-Mormon literature?]; the evidence and arguments on which the imposture was detected, should be clearly and logically stated, that those who have been sincerely yet unfortunately deceived, may perceive the nature of the deception and be reclaimed.3
Convince us of our errors of doctrine, if we have any, by reason, logical arguments, or by the Word of God, and we will be ever grateful for the information, and you will have the pleasing reflection that you have been instrumental in the hands of God of redeeming your fellow beings.4
If a faith will not bear to be investigated, if its preachers and professors are afraid to have it examined, their foundation must be very weak.5
The main focus of the whole lesson material this year will be on an examination of the Church of Jesus Christ in light of the evidence of the Scriptures, of reason, and of revelation obtained through prayer and the visitation of the Holy Spirit. . . .[I]t will stand the test of all examination. Indeed it encourages and solicits all people in and out of the Church to study and find out its truth for themselves.6
Notice in some of these statements the combination of the so-called “testimony” and the objective appeal to scriptural support and reason. Mormon apostle Bruce McConkie also combines the subjective and objective criteria for knowing if Mormonism is true. In Mormon Doctrine, under the heading “Testimony” he begins, “A testimony of the gospel is the sure knowledge received by the revelation from the Holy Ghost, of the divinity of the great latter-day work.” He continues,
Logic and reason lead truth seekers along the path to a testimony, and they are aids in strengthening the revealed assurances of which a testimony is composed. But the actual sure knowledge which constitutes ‘the testimony of Jesus must come by the spirit of prophesy’. . .accompanied by feelings of calm, unwavering certainty. Those who have it can use logic and reason in defending their position . . .but it is the prompting of the Spirit rather than reason alone that is the true foundation.7
The problem, of course, is that logic and reason are against the Book of Mormon and Mormonism. Which means that the Mormons “burning bosom” is no evidence for the truth of his religion.
Craig Branch is the Director of the Apologetics Resource Center, Birmingham, Alabama.
1 Timothy Oliver, “Testing the Book of Mormon by Moroni 10:4,” Watchman Expositor 8:6 (1991).
2 See the other articles in this issue of Areopagus Journal for the proof of theses points.
3 Orson Pratt, Divine Authenticity of the Book of Mormon (Liverpool, 1850), 1 (emphasis mine).
4 (Orson Pratt, The Seer, (Liverpool: Franklin D. Richards,1853), 5 (emphasis mine).
5 (George A. Smith, Journal of Discourses,vol. 14, p. 216.
6 The Master’s Church, Course A (Salt Laek City: Deseret Sunday School Union, 1969) 7-8 (emphasis mine).
7 (Bruce McConkie, Mormon Doctrine (Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1966), 785-786 (emphasis mine).