Book of Mormon/Moroni's promise

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Moroni's promise

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Question: What is Moroni's promise?

The Book of Mormon provides a means of determining the truthfulness of the book

The Book of Mormon provides a means of determining the truthfulness of the book Moroni 10:3-5:

Behold, I would exhort you that when ye shall read these things, if it be wisdom in God that ye should read them, that ye would remember how merciful the Lord hath been unto the children of men, from the creation of Adam even down until the time that ye shall receive these things, and ponder it in your hearts.

And when ye shall receive these things, I would exhort you that ye would ask 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.

And by the power of the Holy Ghost ye may know the truth of all things.

Moroni's promise claims that we can know the truthfulness of the gospel by praying about it with sincere intent

Moroni's promise claims that we can know the truthfulness of the gospel by praying about it with sincere intent (Moroni 10:3-5). However, some claim that praying about the Book of Mormon is not an objective standard for determining if the book is true or not, and should therefore not be trusted. It is also sometimes asserted that many people have read and prayed about the Book of Mormon or the Church and have either received no answer, or an answer from God that it is false.

A knowledge of the truth of the Book of Mormon or of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is not something that is casually obtained

A knowledge of the truth of the Book of Mormon or of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is not something that is casually obtained. It is not enough to simply "ask God" without putting forth some effort. The Lord requires that we be sincere and that we actually study the contents of the book in order to know of its truthfulness. As Moroni says, we must have "real intent" while "having faith in Christ." Those that read the Book of Mormon solely for the purpose of finding flaws in order to tear it down do not have "real intent" to know of its veracity. We are taught that feelings alone are not enough, and that we should confirm them.


Question: Is prayer the only element required in the determination of truth?

Prayer is one element in determining truth

Non-Mormons often claim that the Bible is the only true "yardstick" for determining truth. Ironically, the Bible refutes this, and clearly shows that the Holy Spirit, or the Spirit of Truth will lead us to all truth (John 14:26, John 15:26, 1 Jn 5:6). By claiming the Bible as the only source of truth, non-LDS are in fact minimizing the power of prayer and the role of the Holy Ghost.

The LDS believe that the most significant verse of scripture, the scripture which has had the greatest impact on the history of the world is found in James 1:5–6:

If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him. But let him ask in faith, nothing wavering. For he that wavereth is like a wave of the sea driven with the wind and tossed. (James 1:5-6)

This verse led a young man, Joseph Smith to follow that counsel–to offer a humble prayer of faith, being willing to accept the answer, no matter how difficult to accept that answer might be. That prayer led to the beginning of the restoration of the gospel.

There are elements in addition to prayer that are required in order to determine truth

Through Joseph Smith, the Lord has revealed other keys to prayer. One is that we are to "study it out" in our minds, then go before the Lord and ask for confirmation that our decision is correct. We are then instructed that if our decision is correct, we will feel the fruits of the Spirit, and if incorrect, we will have a "stupor of thought". Thus, serious seekers of truth cannot fully claim they have studied the Book of Mormon until they have read it in its entirety. The LDS encourage critical analysis of the Book of Mormon, specifically by prayerfully asking if anyone could have fabricated the book. Everyone who asks himself that question with every page will find, somewhere between the first page and the last, that the answer is 'no'–that the Book of Mormon is true. The Book of Mormon is convincing evidence of the restoration of the gospel through Joseph Smith.


Question: What about those who pray and don't receive a confirmation the Book of Mormon is true?

There is more required than simply praying in order to receive a confirmation of the truthfulness of the Book of Mormon

Moroni's gives us the requirements that need to be fulfilled in order to obtain a confirmation:

And when ye shall receive these things, I would exhort you that ye would ask 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. (Moroni 10:4)

It is not enough to simply ask: One must exercise faith in Jesus Christ and demonstrate a sincere effort to understand what is contained in the Book of Mormon. It is useful to recall Oliver Cowdery's experience when he attempted to translate,

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. (DC 9:8)


Preach My Gospel: "As you pray for inspiration, you should also confirm your feelings...Certainly the Spirit of the Lord can bring strong emotional feelings, including tears, but that outward manifestation ought not to be confused with the presence of the Spirit itself"

"How Do I Recognize and Understand the Spirit?," Preach My Gospel: A Guide to Missionary Service:

As you pray for inspiration, you should also confirm your feelings. For example, compare your decisions with the scriptures and the teachings of the living prophets. Be certain that the feelings are consistent with the assignment you have; for example, you will not receive revelation to tell a local bishop how he should perform in his calling. Discuss your decisions and conclusions with your companion, your district leader, or your mission president when appropriate.

President Howard W. Hunter offered this counsel: “Let me offer a word of caution. … I think if we are not careful … , we may begin to try to counterfeit the true influence of the Spirit of the Lord by unworthy and manipulative means. I get concerned when it appears that strong emotion or free-flowing tears are equated with the presence of the Spirit. Certainly the Spirit of the Lord can bring strong emotional feelings, including tears, but that outward manifestation ought not to be confused with the presence of the Spirit itself” (The Teachings of Howard W. Hunter, 184). The Spirit of the Lord always edifies.[1]


Question: How can we tell if a modern revelation comes from God or Satan?

Moroni: "that which is of God inviteth and enticeth to do good continually; wherefore, every thing which inviteth and enticeth to do good, and to love God, and to serve him, is inspired of God"

Moroni 7:13

But behold, that which is of God inviteth and enticeth to do good continually; wherefore, every thing which inviteth and enticeth to do good, and to love God, and to serve him, is inspired of God.

Philosophy

How do we know the world is not an illusion? How do we know we are not just a brain in a vat? How do we know our life is not a dream?

We just don't believe any of that, we just take what our senses tell us. Such questions are just meaningless.

Consider what Joseph Smith told Brigham Young

Tell the brethren to be humble and faithful and be sure to keep the Spirit of the Lord, that it will lead them aright. Be careful and not turn away the still, small voice; it will teach them what to do and where to go; it will yield the fruits of the kingdom. Tell the brethren to keep their heart open to conviction, so that when the Holy Ghost comes to them their hearts will be ready to receive it. They can tell the Spirit of the Lord from all other spirits—it will whisper peace and joy to their souls; it will take malice, hatred, strife and all evil from their hearts, and their whole desire will be to do good” (quoted in Juvenile Instructor, 19 July 1873, 114)

Prophet Gordon B. Hinckley said:

That’s the test, when all is said and done. Does it persuade one to do good, to rise, to stand tall, to do the right thing, to be kind, to be generous? Then it is of the Spirit of God. . . . If it invites to do good, it is of God. If it inviteth to do evil, it is of the devil. . . . And if you are doing the right thing and if you are living the right way, you will know in your heart what the Spirit is saying to you.

You recognize the promptings of the Spirit by the fruits of the Spirit—that which enlighteneth, that which buildeth up, that which is positive and affirmative and uplifting and leads us to better thoughts and better words and better deeds is of the Spirit of God (Teachings of Gordon B. Hinckley, 260–61)

Elder Dallin H. Oaks stated:

[A person may have] a strong desire to be led by the Spirit of the Lord but . . . unwisely extends that desire to the point of wanting to be led in all things. A desire to be led by the Lord is a strength, but it needs to be accompanied by an understanding that our Heavenly Father leaves many decisions for our personal choices. Personal decision making is one of the sources of the growth we are meant to experience in mortality. Persons who try to shift all decision making to the Lord and plead for revelation in every choice will soon find circumstances in which they pray for guidance and don't receive it. For example, this is likely to occur in those numerous circumstances in which the choices are trivial or either choice is acceptable.

We should study things out in our minds, using the reasoning powers our Creator has placed within us. Then we should pray for guidance and act upon it if we receive it. If we do not receive guidance, we should act upon our best judgment. Persons who persist in seeking revelatory guidance on subjects on which the Lord has not chosen to direct us may concoct an answer out of their own fantasy or bias, or they may even receive an answer through the medium of "false revelation" (“Our Strengths Can Become Our Downfall,” Ensign, Oct. 1994, 13–14)

This statement can apply to everyone, even to General Authorities as a voice of warning

President Howard W. Hunter said

Let me offer a word of caution. . . . I think if we are not careful . . . , we may begin to try to counterfeit the true influence of the Spirit of the Lord by unworthy and manipulative means. I get concerned when it appears that strong emotion or free-flowing tears are equated with the presence of the Spirit. Certainly the Spirit of the Lord can bring strong emotional feelings, including tears, but that outward manifestation ought not to be confused with the presence of the Spirit itself” (The Teachings of Howard W. Hunter, 184)

Preach My Gospel: A Guide to Missionary Service, "How Do I Recognize and Understand the Spirit?"

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints,  Preach My Gospel: A Guide to Missionary Service, (2004)
The Spirit is always available to guide and direct you. However, the Spirit speaks quietly, through your feelings as well as your mind. One great challenge for you and those you work with is to recognize the quiet, subtle promptings of the Holy Ghost.


President Boyd K. Packer taught: “The voice of the Spirit is described in the scripture as being neither ‘loud’ nor ‘harsh.’ It is ‘not a voice of thunder, neither … voice of a great tumultuous noise.’ But rather, ‘a still voice of perfect mildness, as if it had been a whisper,’ and it can ‘pierce even to the very soul’ and ‘cause [the heart] to burn.’ (3 Ne. 11:3; Hel. 5:30; D&C 85:6–7.) Remember, Elijah found the voice of the Lord was not in the wind, nor in the earthquake, nor in the fire, but was a ‘still small voice.’ (1 Kgs. 19:12.)
“The Spirit does not get our attention by shouting or shaking us with a heavy hand. Rather it whispers. It caresses so gently that if we are preoccupied we may not feel it at all. (No wonder that the Word of Wisdom was revealed to us, for how could the drunkard or the addict feel such a voice?)

“Occasionally it will press just firmly enough for us to pay heed. But most of the time, if we do not heed the gentle feeling, the Spirit will withdraw and wait until we come seeking and listening and say in our manner and expression, like Samuel of ancient times, ‘Speak [Lord], for thy servant heareth.’ (1 Sam. 3:10.)” (“The Candle of the Lord,” Ensign, Jan. 1983, 53).

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Question: Are non-Mormons' spiritual experiences with the Holy Ghost as valid as those claimed by Latter-day Saints?

Moroni: "every thing which inviteth and enticeth to do good, and to love God, and to serve him, is inspired of God"

It is claimed that when religious experiences of people of other faiths sound similar, it calls into question LDS spiritual experiences

Moroni 7:13:

But behold, that which is of God inviteth and enticeth to do good continually; wherefore, every thing which inviteth and enticeth to do good, and to love God, and to serve him, is inspired of God.

Gordon B. Hinckley said:

That’s the test, when all is said and done. Does it persuade one to do good, to rise, to stand tall, to do the right thing, to be kind, to be generous? Then it is of the Spirit of God. . . .

If it invites to do good, it is of God. If it inviteth to do evil, it is of the devil. . . . And if you are doing the right thing and if you are living the right way, you will know in your heart what the Spirit is saying to you.

You recognize the promptings of the Spirit by the fruits of the Spirit—that which enlighteneth, that which buildeth up, that which is positive and affirmative and uplifting and leads us to better thoughts and better words and better deeds is of the Spirit of God[2]

People of different faiths can also receive revelation, or have spiritual experiences

Blake T. Ostler said:

Now we may be called into question if somebody has a vision, for instance, of the Virgin Mary; because I don't believe that the LDS believe that the Virgin Mary puts in many appearances. However I suggest that we look beyond what divides us and look to "inclusivism," and that is, "What is it that they learned? What does their religious experience teach them?" Because God will adapt his message to any culture, and any means that He can, to increase the light of a person (see Alma 29:8). So I suggest that by adopting "religious inclusivism" we minimize the challenge from "religious pluralism."""[3]

Are all spiritual experiences true?

  • Some people intentionally lie
  • Some experiences are caused by the devil, see for example (Alma 30:53)
  • To claim that all religious experiences are equivalent is an unproven assumption. Just because some of the experiences that people describe sound the same, does not mean that they are always the same.

Elder Dallin H. Oaks stated:

[A person may have] a strong desire to be led by the Spirit of the Lord but . . . unwisely extends that desire to the point of wanting to be led in all things. A desire to be led by the Lord is a strength, but it needs to be accompanied by an understanding that our Heavenly Father leaves many decisions for our personal choices. Personal decision making is one of the sources of the growth we are meant to experience in mortality. Persons who try to shift all decision making to the Lord and plead for revelation in every choice will soon find circumstances in which they pray for guidance and don't receive it. For example, this is likely to occur in those numerous circumstances in which the choices are trivial or either choice is acceptable.

We should study things out in our minds, using the reasoning powers our Creator has placed within us. Then we should pray for guidance and act upon it if we receive it. If we do not receive guidance, we should act upon our best judgment. Persons who persist in seeking revelatory guidance on subjects on which the Lord has not chosen to direct us may concoct an answer out of their own fantasy or bias, or they may even receive an answer through the medium of "false revelation"[4]

President Howard W. Hunter said:

Let me offer a word of caution. . . . I think if we are not careful . . . , we may begin to try to counterfeit the true influence of the Spirit of the Lord by unworthy and manipulative means. I get concerned when it appears that strong emotion or free-flowing tears are equated with the presence of the Spirit. Certainly the Spirit of the Lord can bring strong emotional feelings, including tears, but that outward manifestation ought not to be confused with the presence of the Spirit itself[5]

We can never know exactly what other people experience,and many of us don't have the right to judge the experiences that many people claim to have, but we can know what we experience ourselves. Spiritual experiences are not given to convince others--at best, they can persuade others to undertake the same search for truth through study, reflection, and asking God for revelation.

What about extremists that claim to hear voices in their head?

If a personal revelation tells people to do evil, then it must be rejected.

  • Consider what Joseph Smith told Brigham Young

Tell the brethren to be humble and faithful and be sure to keep the Spirit of the Lord, that it will lead them aright. Be careful and not turn away the still, small voice; it will teach them what to do and where to go; it will yield the fruits of the kingdom. Tell the brethren to keep their heart open to conviction, so that when the Holy Ghost comes to them their hearts will be ready to receive it. They can tell the Spirit of the Lord from all other spirits—it will whisper peace and joy to their souls; it will take malice, hatred, strife and all evil from their hearts, and their whole desire will be to do good” (quoted in Juvenile Instructor, 19 July 1873, 114)

The spiritual experience that Nephi received was not invalid in his days.

Nephi's killing of Laban

Preach My Gospel: A Guide to Missionary Service, "Lesson 1: The Message of the Restoration of the Gospel of Jesus Christ"

Preach My Gospel: A Guide to Missionary Service, (2004)
Just as the Christian world was blessed by the courage and vision of the reformers, many other nations and cultures have been blessed by those who were given that portion “that [God] seeth fit that they should have” (Alma 29:8). Teachings of other religious leaders have helped many people become more civil and ethical.


Buddha (Gotama): Born in 563 B.C. of a Hindu chieftain in Nepal. Concerned with the suffering he saw around him. Fled from his father’s luxurious palace, renounced the world, and lived in poverty. Seeking enlightenment, he discovered what he called the “path of deliverance.” Claimed to reach Nirvana, a state of oblivion to care, pain, or external reality. Became a teacher for a community of monks.
Confucius: Born in 551 B.C. Orphaned as a child. China’s first professional teacher. China’s greatest moral and social thinker. Said little about spiritual beings or divine powers. Believed that heaven had entrusted him with a sacred mission as champion of the good and true.

Mohammed: Born in 570 A.D. in Mecca. Orphaned in childhood. Lived a life of poverty. Gained reputation as a trusted peacemaker. Married at age 25. In 610 prayed and meditated on Mount Hira. Said the angel Gabriel appeared to him and delivered a message from Allah (God). Claimed to receive communication from God through Gabriel from 620 to 632. These communications, which he recited to his disciples, were later written in the Koran, the sacred book of Islam.

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Question: How can a person reaffirm their testimony when they learn disconcerting facts that may bring their testimony into doubt?

Remember that sometime in the past you received a spiritual witness to some extent about some aspect of church doctrine

First of all, remember that sometime in the past you received a spiritual witness to some extent about some aspect of church doctrine. Building upon this you can have the desire to reconcile your conflict.

Also, understand that there isn’t a single “disconcerting” fact that eludes the general body of church history and doctrine. There are many church historians and scholars that are considered the world’s most knowledgeable specialist in areas of church history, doctrine and scientific facts. They are fully aware and fully comfortable with their testimonies.

The problem at hand usually arises when a person receives a testimony and has an incorrect understanding of the church or gospel

The problem at hand usually arises when a person receives a testimony and has an incorrect understanding of the church or gospel. In other words, their gospel paradigm is flawed. The individual’s testimony was a manifestation from God, through the Holy Spirit witnessing to them that the gospel of Jesus Christ is true. They did not receive a witness that their complete understanding of the gospel and how everything in the world relates to it is 100% correct.

Later, a fact is discovered that is in opposition to the paradigm they had when they received their testimony. A logical fallacy (definition) occurs when the person feels that both their paradigm and their testimony are now erroneous. In reality, their paradigm was mistaken, but their testimony (witness in the divinity of the Savior, restoration, priesthood, etc.) was correct.

Examples

For example, a youth in seminary gains a testimony and at the same time believes that the entire earth was immersed in water at the time of the flood as part of an earthly baptism. Later on in college he learns from history and geology many facts that make him not believe in a flood that covered the highest peak of the highest mountain on earth. He begins to doubt his testimony in the Bible because he gained it while holding this erroneous personal belief. Rather than casting his testimony aside he should consider that as an imperfect person his paradigm was incorrect and his loving Father in Heaven blessed him with a spiritual manifestation about the truthfulness of the gospel.

We also find an example of this in the scriptures. Near the end of John 6 the followers of Jesus learned some tough doctrine John 6:60-66 and “many of his disciples went back, and walked no more with him.” Peter does not falter and his testimony deepens. It is even at one time certified by the Savior Matt 16:17.

Keep your faith as you work out your doubt

Keep your faith as you work out your doubt. For example, Peter did not expect the death of the Savior. After the crucifixion, Peter’s testimony is shaken. His personal paradigm did not factor in a death for his Messiah. Instead of leaving everything behind at this critical moment Peter stays in the right place (with the Saints) while in doubt and is therefore able to witness the reappearance of the Savior. Now his paradigm has shifted to a more correct understanding and his testimony has been confirmed again. Later, he is better able to handle another paradigm shift when a doctrine changes, taking the gospel to the gentiles. Furthermore, he is able to take this experience and help others, “think it not strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened unto you.” 1 Peter 4:12

To reconcile your new paradigm with your previously gained testimony you must not forget the latter

Why do some people struggle with disconcerting information when others do not? Those that do not ever struggle are definitely in the minority. That strength is most likely due to having a personal spiritual gift of faith. Sometimes, members who are not currently struggling with their own testimonies will incorrectly assume that another person’s struggles come from living an unworthy life. Although sin can be a source of doubt, it is not always the case. Rather than condemning, it would be more in line with the example of our Savior to reach out and help those in their time of need.

To reconcile your new paradigm with your previously gained testimony you must not forget the latter. Your testimony is key. Your testimony is a gift that you can fall back on if ever new information is learned that allows you to gain a more perfect understanding. As an imperfect being, one must always be willing to accept that their comprehension of the gospel or church history is flawed and therefore, an adjustment of your paradigm may be required from time to time.


Question: Why is the Holy Ghost mentioned so many times in the Book of Mormon prior to the time of Christ?

It is interesting to note that the same question arises about Satan in the Old Testament

Why is the Holy Ghost mentioned so many times in the Book of Mormon prior to the time of Christ (e.g., 1 Nephi 10:17) and yet in the Old Testament there is hardly any mention of the Holy Ghost, especially with regard to his mission of bearing witness of the truth?

The typical answer Biblical students give for this is the evolving understanding of doctrine from the Old Testament to the New Testament

It is interesting to note that the same question arises about Satan in the Old Testament. There is very little information about Satan outside of the first two chapters of Job. Students of the Bible have observed that Satan is much more prevalent and "real" in the New Testament. The typical answer Biblical students give for this is the evolving understanding of doctrine from the Old Testament to the New Testament. Some who are more skeptical say that the New Testament period was perhaps more influenced by spiritual beliefs in devils and spirits than the earlier period.

For Latter-day Saints this reinforces our belief that many plain and precious things were not adequately handed down to us from ancient times

But for Latter-day Saints there is a different perspective. We know that the knowledge of both Satan and the Holy Ghost has been part of gospel teaching from the time of Adam down. The fact that both are poorly represented in the Old Testament reinforces our belief that many plain and precious things were not adequately handed down to us from ancient times (see 1 Nephi 13:26–40). This was one of the great necessities for the Restoration—to restore the "fulness" of the doctrines and principles of the gospel, because they were not adequately transmitted into our time. The Book of Mormon in its plainness and simplicity, and uncorrupted nature, shows us a clearer picture of what was understood and believed about both Satan and the Holy Ghost by inspired prophets.

Even with these textual losses, the concept of Spirit of the Lord as an independent entity does appear in a handful of passages, including Genesis 1:2; 2 Samuel 23:2; Isaiah 40:13; 48:16; and 59:19.

Similar criticisms are leveled at the Book of Mormon and the Church, because the Book of Mormon reveals the name of Jesus Christ prior to his birth. Again, the answer is, inspired prophets knew a great deal, unfortunately it wasn't adequately transmitted to us before the recovery of the Book of Mormon.

To see citations to the critical sources for these claims, click here

Notes

  1. "How Do I Recognize and Understand the Spirit?," Preach My Gospel: A Guide to Missionary Service (2004)
  2. Teachings of Gordon B. Hinckley (Salt Lake City, UT: Deseret Book Co., 1997), 260-261.
  3. Blake T. Ostler, "Spiritual Experiences as the Basis for Belief and Commitment," (2007 FAIR Conference Presentation)
  4. Dallin H. Oaks, "Our Strengths Can Become Our Downfall," Ensign (Oct. 1994), 13–14.
  5. Clyde J. Williams, ed., The Teachings of Howard W. Hunter (Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1997), 184.