Testing for Truth
A few years ago there was a knock on my door. I answered and met two young men who introduced themselves as members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. They said they had a great message, and since I was interested, we set up an appointment for them to return in a week or so.
During that next meeting they told me the story of Joseph Smith Jr. How he, as a young boy and confused over which church to join, followed the advice of James 1:5 and prayed that he might learn which denomination to join. My new Mormon friends went on to tell me about Joseph’s “First Vision”, “the Angel Moroni”, “The Golden Plates”, “The Book of Mormon”, and “the Restoration”.
If you’re at all familiar with Mormonism, you know what I’m talking about. The missionaries then said that I should test these claims to know that their message is true. The message these two young men shared with me was interesting, and certainly deserves some consideration, and definitely needs to be tested to see if it is true.
“Prove all things; hold fast to what is good.” 1 Thessalonians 5:21
What to Test
First, what exactly are we testing? In the case of Mormonism, there are essentially two cornerstones, two things that must be true. The first is the Book of Mormon. It must be shown to be comparable to Scripture, and indeed what it claims to be, “another testament of Jesus Christ”. The second, is Joseph Smith himself. For Mormonism to be true, Joseph Smith must be shown to have been a true prophet of God. If either one of these things is tested and shown to be false, Mormonism crumbles.
How to Test
The missionaries said that according to the Book of Mormon, if one wishes to know if something is true, they are to pray to God, and He will reveal it unto them. Moroni 10:4-5 says, “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. And by the power of the Holy Ghost ye may know the truth of all things.” The Holy Spirit is said to reveal this truth by a “burning in the bosom”, or some similar means, which causes the seeker to feel that truth has been acquired. But, is a prayer the best way to do this? Will it work? Is this what Scripture tells us to do? Let’s take a closer look at this.
Problems withMoroni 10:5
Upon examination, the promise ofMoroni 10:5 can be found to have several problems which disqualify it as being an authentic means of determining truth. For instance:
It’s Self Full-filling Nature
The test of Moroni 10:5 will only work if the book of Mormon is True, how do you know the book of Mormon is true outside of Moroni 10:5? The test of Moroni 10:5 only works if the person prays already believing that it is a reliable test and a reliable promise. In praying the test of Moroni 10:5, you’ve already acknowledged that you believe in the God of the Book of Mormon, and you believe the book of Mormon to be a reliable truth source and the Test of Moroni 10:5 to be a promise of God which he will answer. These are the very things you should be testing, not already believing prior to the test.
To be willing to rely on the promise of this verse as a test for the Book of Mormon’s truthfulness one must already have concluded somehow that it’s instruction is valid and it’s promise reliable. That is, one must already believe in the truthfulness of this verse.
If the Book of Mormon is true, certainly doing as it directs (inMoroni 10:5) would produce the results promised, and the manifestation one would receive after applying the test would be from the Holy Spirit. However, if the BoM is false, then Moroni 10:5 being part of the book is likewise false and an invalid means of finding out whether or not the book is true, and any manifestations received would then be coming from a demonic source, (more on this later).
You may be told that everyone who prays this prayer has received a ‘testimony’ that the Book of Mormon is true and that Joseph Smith is a prophet. But that is because the only reason these people prayed is because they already believed in this promise, those who don’t believe don’t pray. Praying this prayer only signifies that you’ve already consented to believing in the Book of Mormon.
What of those who pray and don’t receive a testimony? If the Book of Mormon, and thus this verse, is true, the only possible explanations for failing to obtain the result promised is an insincere heart, and/or false intent, and/or a lack of faith in Christ. The problem is these are all things that deal with the heart and soul of man, the inner man, and only God knows the inner man. So how do you know that the reason they have no testimony is their insincerity, since you can’t judge their heart, it could just as equally be because this promise is invalid.
The Promise of Moroni 10 4-5 states that if everyone prayed this prayer, then those who pray sincerely in faith (already believing) will receive a testimony, while those who are insincere will not receive that response. Since it is impossible to know who is sincere and who is insincere it is impossible to know which responses are to be trusted. The only thing a “testimony” proves is that that person is a sincere believer, it proves nothing about the object of that belief, whether or not it is true. While all “testimony” proclaiming Mormons may be sincere, it is important to remember you can be sincerely wrong.
It’s Subjective Nature and The Heart of Man
The test ofMoroni 10:5 is subjective and relies on feelings within the person, rather than being objective and relying on evidence outside the person. This makes it impossible for multiple persons to confirm the accuracy of their test by comparing their results, as each result is only applicable to the individual. Since the burning of the bosom is inside a person, it can’t be seen by others to be examined. If this if proof that Mormonism is true, then the proof of Mormonism’s truthfulness is an unobservable evidence.
The Latter-Day Saint may respond that while I can’t observe their testimony, if I pray I will receive my own testimony which I will experience, and can examine in my own heart. If I can’t look at the inner man of the missionaries, I need to look to my own inner man, to my own heart for a feeling of confirmation of truth. The problem with this is that it makes the heart of man the authoritative truth source. The Bible is very clear about the nature of man’s heart.
“The Heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?” Jeremiah 17:9
“He that trusteth in his own heart is a fool” Proverbs 28:26
According to scripture, not only can I not trust the unobservable heart of my LDS friends, I can’t even trust my own heart. One may argue it is not the heart of man that reveals the truth, but the spirit that is manifest unto them.
That brings us to the next problem. You see, there are many spirits, and not all are truthful. The scriptures warn us of various deceiving spirits.
“Now the Spirit speaketh expressly, that in the latter times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils” 1 Timothy 4:1
“Beloved, believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God: because many false prophets are gone out into the world.” 1 John 4:1
“But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel…let him be accursed” Galatians 1:8
“And no Marvel; for Satan Himself is transformed into an angel of Light.” II Corinthians 11:14
Again scripture is very clear, we cannot discern truth from what a spirit tells us. One particular spirit, Satan, who’s purpose is to deceive and devour (Revelation 12:9, 1 Peter 5:8), can transform himself into an angel of light. And demonic spirits can appear as angels from heaven who will preach a kind of gospel, (the false kind). We should not be opening our hearts to be influenced by such spirits, believing everything they teach or lead us to believe, but rather test them, lest we fall prey to seducing spirits and doctrines of demons.
The claims of Mormonism certainly need to be tested. However, as we’ve seen, prayer is not the means to do this. Such a test by prayer is non-sense because of its self-fulfilling nature. The fact that one must believe the truthfulness of Mormonism a priori, even though it is Mormonism itself that the person is supposedly testing. This test is also subjective, as the result, whether it be a burning in the bosom or some other inner sense, is something only the individual can experience, and is completely unobservable to the objective explorer. The fact that this test teaches man to look to his own heart for answers, when the Bible reveals our hearts to be full of sin, desperately wicked and unworthy of trust is very revealing. And the fact that this test teaches people to open their hearts to the influence of spirits without testing these spirits is just downright dangerous. Testing the claims of Mormonism is a good thing, and likewise prayer (to the right God) is a good thing, however, the concept of using prayer as a test as taught in Moroni 10:4-5, well, fails the test.
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