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)

One should also seek to make themselves worthy to receive the Spirit's influences.

The Book of Mormon also provides some additional insight into how the Spirit works--that we have to be worthy of its influence by sincerely coming unto Christ through faith in him and his atonement and repentance (Mosiah 2:37; Alma 34:36). This should be taken into consideration as well.

The Gospel provides some more generous epistemic doors to walk through

It should be noted as well that the Gospel provides other doors for those to walk through if they don't receive the witness of the Holy Ghost. For some, they are going to continue to need to seek knowledge "by study and also by faith" (D&C 88:118). This is for those that don't have faith. Others may receive a different spiritual gift: to believe on others who claim to have received the Holy Ghost testifying to them of Christ's divinity and the truthfulness of the Church (D&C 46:13-14).

What about those that receive a witness that the Book of Mormon is not true?

Some have wondered if its possible that someone can receive a witness that the Book of Mormon is not true. In the author's immediate experience and the experience of other acquaintences, this has not happened. It's likely that in situations such as this that the person is either lying to stump missionaries, honest investigators, and members of the Church , that they've misinterpreted an experience, or not understood Latter-day Saint pneumatology and/or epistemology correctly. Though, for those that might hypothetically exist, it may be possible that the Lord wishes for that person to perform the work of Salvation within their own sphere. As Orson Whitney stated:

Perhaps the Lord needs such men on the outside of His Church to help it along. They are among its auxiliaries, and can do more good for the cause where the Lord has placed them, than anywhere else. … Hence, some are drawn into the fold and receive a testimony of the truth; while others remain unconverted … the beauties and glories of the gospel being veiled temporarily from their view, for a wise purpose. The Lord will open their eyes in His own due time. God is using more than one people for the accomplishment of His great and marvelous work. The Latter-day Saints cannot do it all. It is too vast, too arduous for any one people. … We have no quarrel with the Gentiles. They are our partners in a certain sense.”[1]

Or as the Savior taught (Luke 9:49-50):

49 ¶ And John answered and said, Master, we saw one casting out devils in thy name; and we forbad him, because he followeth not with us.

50 And Jesus said unto him, Forbid him not: for he that is not against us is for us.


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.[2]


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.

Compare your thoughts and impressions with the scriptures

God does not want us to be deceived. The scriptures give us this counsel:

JS Matthew 1:37

37 And whoso treasureth up my word, shall not be deceived, for the Son of Man shall come, and he shall send his angels before him with the great sound of a trumpet, and they shall gather together the remainder of his elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other.

As we interrogate and weigh correctly and treasure up the most authoritative source of true doctrine, we are promised we won’t be led astray. Preach My Gospel gives this counsel

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.

As we correctly understand true principles and understand a correct pneumatology as taught by the scriptures and modern prophets and apostles, we can more accurately know what to expect from the spirit and its revelatory power.

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 and feel where the preponderance of evidence lies.

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)

This teaches us they the spirit will always administer intelligence when it touches our hearts. Not just a feeling or a simple emotion.

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)

This teaches us that the spirit will always teach us to love God and serve him, it’s impressions will always inspire and not disparage or allow us to do something that has not been revealed through his chosen servants.

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. It teaches us to be anxiously engaged in a good cause and do many things of our own free will without having to be commanded in all things.

President Howard W. Hunter said

As from above and elsewhere:

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?

The scriptures give us a framework not for invalidating experience but understanding it

It is claimed that when religious experiences of people of other faiths sound similar or actually do have similar experiences, it calls LDS spiritual experiences into question. It is often asked if these experiences of other people are as valid as the experiences that Latter-day Saints claim for their conviction. The answer is a resounding "yes"! Every experience is a real experience and should never be dismissed as a figment of imagination. However, the way we understand these experiences is crucial and we have been given a framework for understanding them from the scriptures.

Primarily secularist critics of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints claim that the use of spiritual experiences in Latter-day Saint epistemology is unreliable, ununique, and of dubious provenance.

This particular question is more about how Latter-day Saints explain diversity or the supposed ununiqueness of the use of spiritual experience as the basis for commitment or belief.

When any secularist critic shows the experiences of other people in other religions, they are not simply showing you the experiences but trying to get you to process those experiences through a certain framework. That framework is the one mentioned above--that all supposed "spiritual experiences" are the result of brain function, that they aren't unique, and they can't be used to lead one into truth.

How do we respond? We have to provide a framework for spiritual experience that can absorb and understand all spiritual experience in a comprehensive, coherent, theological whole. How do we do that? The prophet Moroni had very interesting words to say on this subject. Moroni 7:12-25

12 Wherefore, all things which are good cometh of God; and that which is evil cometh of the devil; for the devil is an enemy unto God, and fighteth against him continually, and inviteth and enticeth to sin, and to do that which is evil continually.

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.

14 Wherefore, take heed, my beloved brethren, that ye do not judge that which is evil to be of God, or that which is good and of God to be of the devil.

15 For behold, my brethren, it is given unto you to judge, that ye may know good from evil; and the way to judge is as plain, that ye may know with a perfect knowledge, as the daylight is from the dark night.

16 For behold, the Spirit of Christ is given to every man, that he may know good from evil; wherefore, I show unto you the way to judge; for every thing which inviteth to do good, and to persuade to believe in Christ, is sent forth by the power and gift of Christ; wherefore ye may know with a perfect knowledge it is of God.

17 But whatsoever thing persuadeth men to do evil, and believe not in Christ, and deny him, and serve not God, then ye may know with a perfect knowledge it is of the devil; for after this manner doth the devil work, for he persuadeth no man to do good, no, not one; neither do his angels; neither do they who subject themselves unto him.

18 And now, my brethren, seeing that ye know the light by which ye may judge, which light is the light of Christ, see that ye do not judge wrongfully; for with that same judgment which ye judge ye shall also be judged.

19 Wherefore, I beseech of you, brethren, that ye should search diligently in the light of Christ that ye may know good from evil; and if ye will lay hold upon every good thing, and condemn it not, ye certainly will be a child of Christ.

20 And now, my brethren, how is it possible that ye can lay hold upon every good thing?

21 And now I come to that faith, of which I said I would speak; and I will tell you the way whereby ye may lay hold on every good thing.

22 For behold, God knowing all things, being from everlasting to everlasting, behold, he sent angels to minister unto the children of men, to make manifest concerning the coming of Christ; and in Christ there should come every good thing.

23 And God also declared unto prophets, by his own mouth, that Christ should come.

24 And behold, there were divers ways that he did manifest things unto the children of men, which were good; and all things which are good cometh of Christ; otherwise men were fallen, and there could no good thing come unto them.

25 Wherefore, by the ministering of angels, and by every word which proceeded forth out of the mouth of God, men began to exercise faith in Christ; and thus by faith, they did lay hold upon every good thing; and thus it was until the coming of Christ.

What we learn from this passage is that to understand what comes from God and what does not come from God, we must

  1. Have the Light of Christ (Cf. D&C 84:46-47)
  2. Use the light of Christ to discern what is good and what is bad.
  3. See the words of the prophets that have come from angels since the beginning (Cf. JS-Matthew 1:37)

This is the framework that we should adopt. We can adopt it since the epistemological assumptions that we could take on are arbitrary. In other words, what we believe about the Spirit is a choice. We can believe in the Spirit as the scriptures have revealed or we can believe in the way that our critics would have us believe. It is a choice (Joshua 24:15). The claim of anyone saying that we cannot use a framework that God has given us assumes that:

a)God cannot exist or at least cannot reveal exclusive truth through revelation and/or spiritual experience. b)There is no framework that can absorb and understand all of the different types of spiritual experiences that people are having. But we have the ability to evaluate experiences and the scriptures tell of many different types of experiences and how to understand them!

There seems to be four experiences that Latter-day Saint scripture envisions people having:

  • A Softening of Heart to the idea of God, Christ, the Gospel, or Religion in General

Alma 16:16-17 states that:

16And there was no inequality among them; the Lord did pour out his Spirit on all the face of the land to prepare the minds of the children of men, or to prepare their hearts to receive the word which should be taught among them at the time of his coming —

17 That they might not be hardened against eh word, that they might not be unbelieving, and go on to destruction, but that they might receive the word with joy, and as a branch be grafted into the true vine, that they might enter into the rest of the Lord their God.

A few observations: Notice how this scripture does not connect any truth claim from the Restored Gospel to the experience. It seems as though the experience of the Spirit is one that all people should feel at some point and in a remarkable way it doesn't have to be explicitly tied to a proposition from the Gospel. People need to experience this softening of heart. It is imaginable that these experiences can come from anything that is good (AoF 1:13; Moroni 7:12). This softening of heart is preliminary to receiving a full conversion to God, Christ, and/or the Restoration. Another thing to note with relation to this type of experience is that the scriptures and the experience of converts show that some people can feel the Holy Ghost and not recognize it as such. They may feel stirrings of the spirit trying to soften their heart or convert them to God, Christ, and/or the restoration. Consider a case from the Book of Mormon: 3 Nephi 9:20

20 And ye shall offer for a sacrifice unto me a broken heart and a contrite spirit. And whoso cometh unto me with a broken heart and a contrite spirit, him will I baptize with fire and with the Holy Ghost, even as the Lamanites, because of their faith in me at the time of their conversion, were baptized with fire and with the Holy Ghost, and they knew it not.

Or this case of a convert from Mexico recounted in Preach My Gospel (Chapter 9):

As a child, I was never taught to read the Bible. I went to church on Sundays, but I contributed nothing and felt nothing in return. I was disillusioned. … I searched for … God—wanting to know if He even existed. I thirsted to know Him and His words. But I could not seem to find what I sought.

There were moments when I felt close to quenching my thirst. When I held my first child, a daughter, in my arms for the first time, I had a feeling that God really did exist. Many years later, when her sister was born, I experienced the same feeling. … Most of the time, however, an inexplicable tiredness weighed upon my soul. I was spiritually thirsty and could find no place to drink. In April 1994 I was living in the city of Monterrey, Mexico, earning a living as a taxi driver. One day it rained for hours, sending water cascading down the mountainsides. After driving around in the rain for hours, I found myself in a little town about eight kilometers (five miles) from Monterrey. It was about … nearly time to go home. Suddenly I saw two young men on foot. They were wearing dark trousers and white shirts, and they looked drenched from head to foot. When I approached them, I opened the door of the taxi and called, “Get in! I’m going to Monterrey.” The taller one … replied, “We don’t have any money.”

“No charge,” I replied. They quickly got into the taxi. As I drove, we talked. They asked if they could share a message about Jesus Christ with me. I agreed and gave them my address. When I got home, I woke my wife and told her about the two young men. “What a coincidence,” I said. “One is Mexican and the other is American, and they are both named Elder.” “Elder means missionary,” my wife answered, knowing just a little about the Church.

From deep within me, I felt something stir. These young men had left a feeling of exquisite wonder in my heart. I felt that I was close to finding the water that would quench my thirst, that it was within reach.[3]

Notice how the man felt “something” stir in his heart but that he couldn’t identify it as the Spirit. Many people are having these experiences but aren’t able to identify it as God working with them and don’t have the framework provided by revelation.

  • Conversion to God

The next type of experience is the conversion to God. The Book of Mormon teaches that anything that inviteth and enticeth one to love God and to serve him is of him (Moroni 7:13). The Doctrine and Covenants similarly teaches that when one feels the Spirit, they are coming unto God (Doctrine and Covenants 84:47). This experience may come because God needs someone to serve him, even if it isn’t in his Church. Elder Orson Whitney stated:

“Perhaps the Lord needs such men on the outside of His Church to help it along. They are among its auxiliaries, and can do more good for the cause where the Lord has placed them, than anywhere else. … Hence, some are drawn into the fold and receive a testimony of the truth; while others remain unconverted … the beauties and glories of the gospel being veiled temporarily from their view, for a wise purpose. The Lord will open their eyes in His own due time. God is using more than one people for the accomplishment of His great and marvelous work. The Latter-day Saints cannot do it all. It is too vast, too arduous for any one people. … We have no quarrel with the Gentiles. They are our partners in a certain sense.” [4]

Even the Lord seems to be okay with this as portrayed in Luke 9:49-50. Certain men were casting out devils in the name of Jesus even though they didn’t follow Jesus:

49 And John answered and said, Master, we saw one casting out devils in thy name; and we forbad him, because he followeth not with us.

50 And Jesus said unto him, Forbid him not: for he that is not against us is for us.

However people can also be converted to certain principles of truth found in other Churches. Latter-day Saints scripture affirms the presence of beauty, truth, and goodness in other churches (Alma 29:6; D&C 134:4; AoF 1:13; 2 Nephi 29:11) Preach My Gospel states the following:

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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Along with the scripture from Alma 29:6, we might include 2 Nephi 29:11-12 that may be interpreted to mean that God has inspired the texts of many religions:

11 For I command all men, both in the east and in the west, and in the north, and in the south, and in the islands of the sea, that they shall write the words which I speak unto them; for out of the books which shall be written I will judge the world, every man according to their works, according to that which is written.
12 For behold, I shall speak unto the Jews and they shall write it; and I shall also speak unto the Nephites and they shall write it; and I shall also speak unto the other tribes of the house of Israel, which I have led away, and they shall write it; and I shall also speak unto all nations of the earth and they shall write it.

13 And it shall come to pass that the Jews shall have the words of the Nephites, and the Nephites shall have the words of the Jews; and the Nephites and the Jews shall have the words of the lost tribes of Israel; and the lost tribes of Israel shall have the words of the Nephites and the Jews.
  • Conversion to Christ

The next experience is the experience that converts a person to Christ. The Book of Mormon teaches that all things that invite a person to come unto Christ are from the Spirit of Christ.[5]. This conversion can come through other Christian religions or the Lord's Church.

By adopting the preceding framework for understanding religious experience, we adopt “religious inclusivism” where we seek to understand all of these experiences in light of the Plan of Salvation without adopting “religious exclusivism” nor “religious pluralism”. It softens the load that we have to explain and actually portrays a more loving God and a more loving plan for his children.

Latter-day Saint philosopher and theologian 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."""[6]
  • Conversion to the Restored Gospel

The last type of experience that Latter-day Saints envision (hopefully for as many of God’s children as possible) is that of being converted to the Restored Gospel. Moroni 10:3-5 argues that Moroni’s “things” are those things which he has compiled in the record that is today the Book of Mormon. These include propositions such as Joseph Smith being the prophet of the Restoration (2 Nephi 3), God being the creator of the universe (2 Nephi 2), Jesus being the Christ (2 Nephi 9), the necessity of priesthood in performing sacred ordinances pertaining to the Gospel (Alma 5:3; Mosiah 18:13,17,18; 3 Nephi 11:25), and so forth. By reading the Book of Mormon and praying about its contents, we are promised to receive a testimony of it by the power of the Holy Ghost. Everyone of us will have different experiences and receive a different degree of light in this life. What we eventually expect is that all will have the full opportunity to hear the Gospel and choose whether or not to hearken unto the voice of that Spirit that leads to eternal life (2 Nephi 2: 27-28) Ultimately, as the prophet Moroni taught: 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[7]

A final question that we should deal with is: “How can one actually know that this is the framework through which spiritual experience is supposed to be understood? The answer would be two-fold: 1. We can’t prove it. We can only provide evidence for it. 2. That can be found in the framework itself. Can any other religious system absorb and understand all forms of religious experience?

We might also add the Book of Mormon as evidence. The better we can defend the Book of Mormon, the better we can defend the framework revealed through Joseph Smith and other prophets. The Book of Mormon can be defended vigorously on scholarly grounds and has been for roughly eight decades[8].

Not all experiences are intended to be understood positively according to Latter-day Saint scripture

Now, the preceding outlines positive spiritual experiences. The scriptures and the experience of Latter-day Saints have demonstrated that there are times when the experience (or claimed experience) isn’t supposed to be understood positively:

  • Some people intentionally lie to try and hurt member testimonies. There are those that claim that a spiritual experience has taken place (when it really hasn’t) that proves to them the falsehood of the Book of Mormon or who propose other scenarios that supposedly defeat Latter-day Saint epistemology. These people are who the scriptures describe as those that "pervert" the Gospel. (Alma 30:60)
  • Some experiences are caused by the devil, see for example (Alma 30:53). Anything that entices us to worship him or to do evil is of him (Moroni 7:17)
  • Some experiences are caused by false spirits. D&C 50 was revealed for discerning spirits with D&C 50: 31-33 being the way to (following the counsel given in 1 John 4:1-2) test the spirits.
    • When the preceding two occur and it invites someone 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[9]
  • Going along with the preceding, some have been deceived by false Christs. Some have had experiences that draw them towards these false Christs i.e. by wonders performed by these false Christs. Some claim to be the risen Savior but violate some of the counsel that he gave to his followers to know how he would come. There are many scriptures that can help us to discern between the true Christ and False Christs (Matt 24: 5, 24-28; Mark 13:22-29; D&C 45:36-44; 52:15-16).
  • Continuing that theme, some have been deceived by false prophets. These include people of Latter-day Saint breakoffs and others that don't look to proper authority to receive revelation. The scriptures give us many warnings of false prophets and ways to discern them. Cassandra Hedelius gave the way that the Restored Gospel teaches us to discern false prophets from the Book of Alma in the Book of Mormon and Doctrine and Covenants 28 and 42. These include:
  1. No one receives commandments or revelations in the church except the prophet.
  2. Others can have the authority to declare the commandments and revelations with power, and to speak and teach by way of
  3. Authority to preach and organize the church comes through ordination by someone with authority;
  4. That person with authority has to be known by the church and ordained in the church through priesthood channels.
  5. If the prophet goes astray, to the extent of losing his authority to receive revelations and commandments for the church, he would still have the ability to appoint his successor. This was very early in the church, before the full organization of the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve, so I assume the procedure would change somewhat later. But the principle remains that a fallen church leader does not vacate the church’s authority to perpetuate inspired leadership.
  6. Anyone ordained of the Lord will “come in at the gate’’–that is, will be easily recognizable as an authorized messenger, and not have to gain influence by courting popularity, and gradual coalition-building and the like.
  • To claim that all religious experiences are equivalent is an unproven (and perhaps even unprovable) assumption since spiritual experiences are completely self-verifiable and are only able to be evaluated by the individual experiencing them. Just because some of the experiences that people describe sound the same, does not mean that they are always the same. They may be simply emotions, thoughts, something else that at least makes coherent sense in the mind but that ultimately aren’t leading us to God at all. This is what the scriptures might call the "foolish imaginations of the heart" (Hel. 16:22; 3 Ne. 2:2; Moses 8:22).

Concerning conflating emotion and thoughts with the spirit, 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[10]

All of these experiences exist on a spectrum between the most light and the least light. We're promised that the light can continue to grow until the perfect day (D&C 50:24). We can also lose light until it is ultimately diminished. This the scriptures might term "dwindling in unbelief" (e.g. 2 Nephi 26: 15, 17, 19; Hel 15:11,15). The Webster's 1828 Dictionary defines dwindle as:

  1. To diminish; to become less; to shrink; to waste or consume away. The body dwindles by pining or consumption; an estate dwindles by waste, by want of industry or economy; an object dwindles in size, as it recedes from view; an army dwindles by death or desertion.
  2. To degenerate; to sink; to fall away.

As we seek the light, we are promised it (Matt 7:7; Doctrine and Covenants 50:24).

What about Nephi who was commanded to kill even when forbidden too? (Exodus 20:13)

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

Nephi's killing of Laban


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. Orson F. Whitney (Conference Report, April 1928, p. 59.This was also cited by Ezra Taft Benson, Conference Report April 1972. He offered Kane and Doniphan as examples.)
  2. "How Do I Recognize and Understand the Spirit?," Preach My Gospel: A Guide to Missionary Service (2004)
  3. https://www.lds.org/manual/preach-my-gospel-a-guide-to-missionary-service/how-do-i-find-people-to-teach?lang=eng
  4. (Conference Report, April 1928, p. 59.)- Orson F. Whitney (This was also cited by Ezra Taft Benson, Conference Report April 1972. He offered Kane and Doniphan as examples.)
  5. Some may argue here that the experiences that convert a person to Christ and God are one but the Book of Mormon separates the clauses with verse 15 and “For behold, my bretheren…” The beginning of verse 15 starts a new clause in which a different type of experience is described—one that brings a person to Christ
  6. Blake T. Ostler, "Spiritual Experiences as the Basis for Belief and Commitment," (2007 FAIR Conference Presentation)
  7. Teachings of Gordon B. Hinckley (Salt Lake City, UT: Deseret Book Co., 1997), 260-261.
  8. See Brant A. Gardner, “Traditions of the Fathers: The Book of Mormon as History” (Salt Lake City: Greg Kofford Books, 2015); Brant A. Gardner, “Second Witness: Analytical and Contextual Commentary on the Book of Mormon” 6 vols. (Salt Lake City: Greg Kofford Books, 2007); John L. Sorenson, “Mormon’s Codex” (Provo and Salt Lake: BYU Religious Studies Center and Deseret Book, 2013); John Welch et al., “Knowing Why: 137 Evidences that the Book of Mormon is True” (American Fork: Covenant Communications, 2017); Noel B. Reynolds (ed.), “Book of Mormon Authorship Revisited: The Evidence for Ancient Origins” (Provo: FARMS, 1997)
  9. (quoted in Juvenile Instructor, 19 July 1873, 114)
  10. Clyde J. Williams, ed., The Teachings of Howard W. Hunter (Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1997), 184.