Criticism of Mormonism/Online documents/Letter to a CES Director/Testimony & Spiritual Witness Concerns & Questions

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Response to "Letter to a CES Director: Testimony & Spiritual Witness Concerns & Questions"

A FairMormon Analysis of: Letter to a CES Director, a work by author: Jeremy Runnells
Chart CES Letter testimony.png

Response to section "Testimony/Spiritual Witness Concerns & Questions"

Summary: The author asks the question, "Why is this Spirit so unreliable and inconsistent? How can I trust such an inconsistent and contradictory Source for knowing that Mormonism is worth betting my life, time, money, heart, mind, and obedience to?" This section touches on themes of epistemology. We recommend that the reader read here before proceeding with this section to gain an understanding of epistemology.

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Response to claim: "Every major religion has members who claim the same thing: God or God’s spirit bore witness to them"

The author(s) of Letter to a CES Director (April 2013 revision) make(s) the following claim:

Every major religion has members who claim the same thing: God or God’s spirit bore witness to them that their religion, prophet/pope/leaders, book(s), and teachings are true.

FairMormon Response

Fact checking results: The author has stated erroneous information or misinterpreted their sources

This is not a characteristic of "every major religion".

Jump to Detail:

Logical Fallacy: Composition—The author assumes that something is true of the whole from the fact that it is true of some part of the whole.

In this case the author asserts that because Mormonism has members who claim that God or God's spirit bore witness to them, that all religions have members who claim that God or God's spirit bore witness to them.

Question: Do all other religions confirm their beliefs through spiritual witness?

Not all religions claim that the truth of their beliefs are confirmed through a spiritual witness

It should be noted that not all religions claim that the truth of their beliefs are confirmed through a spiritual witness. In fact, a fair number of Evangelical Christians have spent a great deal of time trying to prove to the Mormons that a spiritual witness should NOT be relied on to establish truth. Most major religions and sects rely on claims of authority alone (the Pope in Catholicism and the Bible in Protestantism) or simply tradition and majority and obviousness (Islam, Hinduism, etc.). Latter-day Saints establish truth by following the Law of Witnesses (see Matthew 18: 16; 2 Corinthians 13:1), claiming unique authority (Hebrews 5:6; Alma 13:14-19; D&C 1:30), and receiving the witness of the Holy Ghost which we believe can give us a testimony of anything related to the Gospel should we desire it. (see John 14:26; Moroni 10:3-5).

Latter-day Saints accept that God and God's Spirit will witness truth whatever its source. As a member of the Church we are encouraged to find truth in many places. Nowhere in our beliefs do we claim that there is no truth in other religions. In fact, our scriptures actively affirm that there is truth in other religions and that God has been the one to inspire them.

Most religions have differing understandings of the Spirit or a spirit which is why it plays lesser roles in other traditions (and which might affect their religious experiences). Religions differ primarily in understanding the spirit as dynamic (Playing active roles such as confirming truth through phenomenon. This occurs generally in only Christian traditions. Thus this would naturally exclude any religion that doesn’t accept the New Testament as scripture) or as animistic (something that lives in all things and gives them life). See Holy Spirit on Wikipedia for a discussion of the differences. [1] Mormonism stands as one of the only religions under Christianity that understand it and utilize it in any sort of dynamic way (the many people who convert and compliment the church for encouraging them to seek their own answers through prayer are evidence of this) and with a totally unique pneumatology.

Some Christ-based religions incorporate or have attempted to incorporate the Spirit into their theology in some form

Pope Gregory the Great (d. 604), according to Robert Markus, taught that:

The scriptures contain what the reader finds in them; and the reader’s mind is shaped by his inner disposition: ‘unless the readers’ minds extend to the heights, the divine words lie low, as it were, uncomprehended…. It often happens that a scriptural text is felt to be heavenly, if one is kindled by the grace of contemplation to rise to heavenly things. And then we recognize the wonderful and ineffable power of the sacred text, when the reader’s mind is permeated with heavenly love…. For according to the direction that the reader’s spirit takes, so the sacred text rises with him…’”

Pope John Paul II (d. 2005) stated the following, regarding the possibility of the Holy Spirit inspiring non-Catholics:

“Every quest of the human spirit for truth and goodness, and in the last analysis for God, is inspired by the Holy Spirit….. At their origins we often find founders who, with the help of God’s Spirit, achieved a deeper religious experience…. In every authentic religious experience, the most characteristic expression is prayer…. We can hold that ‘every authentic prayer is called forth by the Holy Spirit, who is mysteriously present in the heart of every person’”.

It may be worth noting that these statements from John Paul II and Gregory the Great would be official Catholic doctrine, but not binding per se. Mainstream Catholics by and large, as mentioned before, rely on tradition and a claim to authority and don't emphasize teaching akin to this.

John Calvin, founder of the protestant sect of Calvinism, wrote:

“’We must regard the authority of Scripture as higher than human reasons, factors or conjectures. This is because we base that authority on the inner witness borne by the Holy Spirit,’” Institutes, 1539 edition. The doctrine, particularly stressed by Calvinism, that the Holy Spirit provides an ‘internal witness’ to the authority of Scripture…..”

Westminster Confession of Faith 1.5, reads in part as follows:

“’our full persuasion and assurance of the infallible truth and divine authority [of the scriptures], is from the inward work of the Holy Spirit, bearing witness by and with the Word in our hearts.’”

Many protestant theologians have abandoned such appeals for academic exegesis and hermeneutics. The larger issue here is that the theologians of the diverse protestant denominations (including Calvinism), have to believe that scripture is formally sufficient, self-authenticating, and self-attesting and this creates problems. LDS apologist and Biblical scholar Robert Boylan elaborates:

Often, in a desperate attempt to support the doctrine of sola scriptura some Protestant apologists will argue that all a Christian needs is the Holy Spirit, not an authoritative Church and/or additional Scripture such as those that Latter-day Saints accept (i.e., Book of Mormon; Doctrine and Covenants; Pearl of Great Price). Of course, this would mean that the Holy Spirit is schizophrenic, guiding Protestants who embrace sola scriptura to radically divergent views on central, not merely “minor” issues, such as baptismal regeneration which affects salvation itself(!)

See "A Self-Attesting, Self-Authenticating, Formally Sufficient Scripture?" in this article

This was one of the very reasons that the Book of Mormon came forth, to settle the discord. As taught in Preach My Gospel:

As you use the Book of Mormon and the Bible as companion volumes of scripture, they will overcome contention and correct false doctrine (see 2 Nephi 3:12). The Bible teaches the following about the law of witnesses: “In the mouth of two or three witnesses shall every word be established” (2 Corinthians 13:). In harmony with this law, both the Book of Mormon and the Bible testify of Jesus Christ.[2]

Latter-day Saint Offshoots

For Latter-day Saint Offshoots we respond by giving the indications that Brigham Young was the true successor of Joseph Smith. See this article for our response to that.



Question: Do Mormons believe that other religions can be inspired by God?

Latter-day Saints believe that the good in every religion is inspired of God

Latter-day Saints believe that other religions have portions of the truth. We believe that religion is instituted of God (D&C 134:4).

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.

Click here to view the complete article

2 Nephi 29:11-13

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.

Moroni 7:13 states:

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.


Joseph Smith (1843): "I am just as ready to die in defending the rights of a Presbyterian, a Baptist, or a good man of any other denomination"

Joseph Smith, in 1843:

The Saints can testify whether I am willing to lay down my life for my brethren. If it has been demonstrated that I have been willing to die for a ‘Mormon.’ I am bold to declare before Heaven that I am just as ready to die in defending the rights of a Presbyterian, a Baptist, or a good man of any other denomination; for the same principle which would trample upon the rights of the Latter-day Saints would trample upon the rights of the Roman Catholics, or of any other denomination who may be unpopular and too weak to defend themselves.” [3]


Preach My Gospel: "many other nations and cultures have been blessed by those who were given that portion that God 'seeth fit that they should have'"

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

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.[4]


Response to claim: "Let's play a game! Try to match Atheism and these 8 religions to the following 21 quotes."

The author(s) of Debunking FAIR's Debunking, June 2014 make(s) the following claim:

Let’s play a game! Try to match Atheism and these 8 religions to the following 21 quotes. The answer key is below the last quote:
  • Atheist
  • Buddhist
  • Catholic
  • Hindu
  • Islam
  • Mormon
  • New Age
  • Protestant
  • Universal Unitarian

“I felt a burning in my heart, and a great burden seemed to have left me.”

“But what can I say? How can I describe an experience so profound and so beautiful? Shall I say that it was the most blessed experience of my life? Shall I say that [God] touched my heart and gave me a feeling of peace I had not known before? Shall I describe the tears that flowed freely from my eyes, affirming my...faith, as I...beg[ed] [God's] blessings for myself and for those I love?”

“The sense I had of divine things, would often of a sudden kindle up, as it were, a sweet burning in my heart; an ardor of soul, that I know not how to express.”

“As I read these books in a...bookstore,...I felt a burning in my heart that I should come and investigate.”

“[Even as a child], [w]ithout understanding much about the complex [doctrine]...he was attracted to [church]. There he often felt a strong feeling of peace flowing through his body.”

“I was praying...when I felt a burning shaft of...love come through my head and into my heart.”

“I truly [sic] wanted to know [the truth]. After a few weeks, I stumbled onto [texts] which… answered my questions in a way that I had not heard of before. I read everything...and I even tried the experiment of asking [God] for...his divine love. After about 6 weeks, I felt a burning in my chest and a sensation that was unlike anything I had ever felt. It was pure happiness and peace. I knew then that [God] had sent His love to me.”

“A feeling of peace and certitude would tell me when I had found the answers and often after people would help me by pointing in the right direction.”

“We gave up a lot of things. What did I get in return? I received a feeling of peace, hope and security. I no longer lay awake at night worrying. I stopped cussing. I became much more honest in all aspects of my life. [God] has changed my heart and my life. My husband’s heart is changing also. We pray all the time and really feel [God’s] presence in our marriage. My perspective has changed. My view of life has changed about what is truly important.”

“Many women described a feeling of euphoria after they committed to following [God]...One woman described a feeling of peace; she said: ‘It is like you are born again and you can start all over again, free from sin.’”

“A feeling of peace seemed to flow into me with a sense of togetherness...I felt very peaceful from inside and also felt [warmth]...”

“I felt a burning sensation in my heart.”

“That inner light, that we all have or had at some time in our existence, was nearly burnt out for me. But in the [church]...I found a feeling of peace, inner solitude and quietness that I’d also found in reading the [text] and pondering over its meaning and trying to practice what it tells us.”

“For the first time I not only felt accountable for my past sins but I had to fight back tears. I knew that I had let down [God] [and] my family...However, I also knew I was forgiven! [It] gave me a feeling of peace that I have never felt it in my whole life. I felt like I had a huge weight lifted off of me and that I was finally home and free...I felt like a new person.”

“Every time I am there [at the church building], a feeling of peace overcomes me.”

“Every time I was with the [church members], I felt this warm feeling, a feeling of peace and for the first time in my life since my church-going days, I wanted to follow [God]...”

“About 10 years ago, when Jenny and I decided to start a family, we began looking for a spiritual community for our kids. During my first service at [the church]...I was hooked. I recall the feeling of peace that I felt when I was attending [services].”

“The power of [God] came into me then. I had this warm and overwhelming feeling of peace and security. It’s hard to explain. I had to...stop myself from falling backward.”

“[The religious leader] looked into my eyes deeply for a moment, and I experienced a feeling of peace and love unlike anything I had ever experienced before.”

“[After praying,] [i]mmediately I was flooded with a deep feeling of peace, comfort, and hope.”

“I recently spent an afternoon on the northwestern shore of the Sea of Galilee, atop the mount where Jesus is believed to have preached his most famous sermon...As I sat and gazed upon the surrounding hills gently sloping to an inland sea, a feeling of peace came over me. It soon grew to a blissful stillness that silenced my thoughts. In an instant, the sense of being a separate self—an “I” or a “me”—vanished...The experience lasted just a few moments, but returned many times as I gazed out over the land where Jesus is believed to have walked, gathered his apostles, and worked many of his miracles.”



Author's sources: "How Can We Find Truth? Part 4" <http://www.theamateurthinker.com/2011/02/how-can-we-find-truth-part-4/>

FairMormon Response

Fact checking results: This claim contains propaganda - The author, or the author's source, is providing information or ideas in a slanted way in order to instill a particular attitude or response in the reader

The author links to an article by "The Amateur Thinker" and the list of "spiritual experiences" that people have felt. At this moment[5] the sources for these experiences are missing. The video makes interesting claims. It focuses specifically on the argument from uniqueness against Latter-day Saint epistemology and argues for a "pragmatic approach" which includes evaluating evidence first and then seeking spiritual experiences. It sounds awfully like D&C 9:7-9. Regarding the list specifically, it is interesting that none of these experiences deny God but help people to come unto him. The Atheist was the one converting to religion (D&C 84:46-47). The video also claims that people feel what is called the "elevation emotion" when claiming to feel the Spirit. We've already discussed experiences of those in other religions. The elevation emotion will be discussed.

Jump to Detail:

Question: What is the elevation emotion and what do critics claim about it as it regards the Spirit?

The elevation emotion is one of transcendence.

The elevation emotion is an emotion that researchers have been investigating seemingly since the year 2000. Jonathan Haidt, a neuroscientist seems to be the first to work on this with his interest in human transcendence [6]. It is defined as the:

emotion elicited by witnessing virtuous acts of remarkable moral goodness[7]

The nature of the “emotion” is described as:

a distinct feeling of warmth and expansion that is accompanied by appreciation and affection for the individual whose exceptional conduct is being observed. [8]

Critics claim that this is what Latter-day Saints are really feeling when they say that they are “feeling the Spirit”

Critics claim that since this is so close to the “burning in the bosom” that Latter-day Saints describe, that this is what is really happening to them, with their bodies producing this emotion whenever something good and virtuous is witnessed. This is also used to describe experiences in other religions.

Elevation has not had a unique physiological profile established

The impact of this criticism depends upon how we understand the Spirit to interact with us and others I.e. if we believe that it is an external force working upon us, an internal one, or perhaps both. If one is of the first position perhaps this from the Wikipedia article addressing elevation may prove enlightening:

However, researchers are working to identify the specific physiological mechanisms underlying the warm, open sensation in the chest elicited by elevation. Video clips that induce elevation have been found to cause a decrease in vagal parasympathetic impact on the heart[9]. However, further investigation is necessary in order to determine whether elevation has a unique physiological profile.

“Vagal” refers to the brain and “parasympathetic” to the automatic nervous system that governs the automatic processes of our body such as digestion. As stated in the article, the physiological provenance of this is still in question. At present, we may still believe that these experiences are the result of an outside influence.

On the other hand, Latter-day Saint theology is not afraid of the study of any discipline in order to be better instructed in doctrine (D&C 88: 77-79). Our doctrine also tells us that the soul is the body and spirit (D&C 88:15). Thus everything that takes place in the spirit should be manifested in the body and vice versa. Since the Light of Christ gives life to all things and it is by it that the Spirit works (D&C 84:46-47; D&C 88:11-13), this may be a manifestation of it. Perhaps we may find out more about how the Spirit touches our soul by studying this. Latter-day Saints should simply proceed carefully and studiously in this regard. Elevation sounds similar to the light of Christ in that it motivates us to do good and is claimed to be manifested when one witnesses others serving their fellowmen in virtuous ways. Wouldn't this confirm the words of King Benjamin (Mosiah 2:17)? These points should be considered.

The elevation emotion likely doesn’t explain everything

To say that this is the “Spirit” doesn’t explain everything.

  1. As has been explained elsewhere, just because something sounds similar to the Spirit does not mean that it is. For many of us, it does not match the nature of the phenomenon that accompanied our witness. For some it does. Since we don't have evidence of any unique physiological profile, we may still believe that this is an outside influence. It should be remembered that the Spirit is not simply an emotion. It is an experience of both the heart and mind (D&C 8:2).
  2. The elevation emotion does not account for the times that we may have willed a “yes” to prayers and received a “no” or “not yet”. It does not explain the people who have prayed about the Book of Mormon for years and not received a witness of its truthfulness.
  3. Elevation emotion does not account for the miraculous experiences or sudden jolts of "pure intelligence" we have received for anything between big events to even trivial matters.
  4. Elevation does not account for revelation including the scriptures--their complexity, depth, coherence, and beauty.

Conclusion

Elevation may sound like it has the answer to the question of if revelation is purely invented or not. However, it simply cannot be demonstrated to be such. It seems to be something that Latter-day Saints have been teaching for a couple of centuries.


Response to claim: "it would likewise be arrogant of a Latter-day Saint to deny their spiritual experiences and testimonies of the truthfulness of their own religion"

The author(s) of Letter to a CES Director (April 2013 revision) make(s) the following claim:

it would likewise be arrogant of a Latter-day Saint to deny their spiritual experiences and testimonies of the truthfulness of their own religion... Only .2% of the world’s population are members of God’s true Church. This is God’s model and standard of efficiency?

FairMormon Response

Fact checking results: This claim is based upon correct information - The author is providing knowledge concerning some particular fact, subject, or event

Latter-day Saints are not taught to deny the spiritual experiences of others. We are taught to understand them in certain ways, however. The Gospel teaches us that not everyone will be a member of the Church in this life but that is okay.

Jump to Detail:

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, it calls into question LDS spiritual experiences. 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 are trying to do everything in their power to persuade Latter-day Saints that spiritual epistemology is unreliable, ununique, and of dubious provenance. This particular strain of thought is apart of the argument against uniquity.

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 and axiological assumptions that take on are arbitrary. 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 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.[10]

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.” [11]

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 Nephi/29.11-12?lang=eng#11-12 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.[12]. This conversion can come through other Christian religions or the Lord's Church.

By adopting the previous three frameworks 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. 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."""[13]
  • 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[14]

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[15]
  • 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; D&C 45:36-44; 52:15-16).
  • 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[16]

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: Why would the true church of Jesus Christ be comprised of only a small percentage of the population of the Earth?

Christ specifically mentioned to His followers that they were the "salt of the earth"

No matter how many member of the Church there may be at any time in history, it appears that being the smaller number among a larger population has long been the problem of the Gospel. This may be why Christ specifically mentioned to His followers that they were the "salt of the earth." To modern English speakers, that idiom is used to mean good, average people, but that wasn't what Christ meant. He was speaking to very few who believed him. Those who believed were to do for the earth what salt does to a pot of stew or soup. A little seasoning nevertheless plays an important part.

Luke 13:20-21:

And again he said, Wherefore unto shall I liken the kingdom of God? It is like leaven, which a woman took, and hid in three measures of meal, till the whole was leavened.

Christ never answered the specific question of why there were so few believers, but he did tell those few believers that they played an important role and that few would find his true path to salvation (Matthew 7:14; 1 Nephi 8:20 (19-24); 3 Nephi 27: 33; D&C 22:4 (1-4); 43:7)

An angel showed Nephi a vision of the last days and the Church numbers were described as few in comparison to the rest of the world

In 1 Nephi 14:12, an angel shows Nephi a vision of the last days and the Church numbers were described as few in comparison to the rest of the world.There's no reason to believe that Latter-day Saints will ever outnumber the largest religions based on this vision. Remember that when the gospel is finally preached in all the world, the Second Coming will occur and the end of the current condition will follow. Latter-day Saints believe that all mankind will have an opportunity to hear the Gospel but that most of the population of the Earth will hear it in the Spirit World. Those who had no opportunity to hear it in mortality will have that opportunity then. When you consider the small minority of the earth's population throughout all of history that even knew about Jesus Christ, it should not surprise us that many in our day will not hear about Him either. Latter-day Saints believe that God is just and is concerned about all of His children. He will see to it that all mankind are taught and judged justly.

Many of the goals of the Plan of Salvation are achieved even without being a member of the Church

Among the most important "purposes of life" according to the Plan of Salvation are the following:

  • Receiving a physical body.
  • Experiencing trials, pain, and other challenges, and having the opportunity to try to overcome them.
  • Experiencing joy and happiness.
  • Developing Christlike attributes.

Developing Christ-like attributes is vital to our eternal happiness and development, and living a mortal life accelerates us along that path. All of these experiences are perfectly and regularly attainable without being a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. In fact, they are perfectly attainable without even being a Christian. For some, they are even attainable without believing in God.

That being said, there are tangible and extremely advantageous benefits to being a member of the LDS Church, and more specifically of knowing and understanding why we are here. Those advantages, though, are not necessary for a successful experience in mortality. The saving ordinances and covenants we make through proper priesthood authority accelerate and magnify our purposes for being here, and eventually they will be available to all people whether in mortality or post-mortality. In the meantime, billions of people are here living out the plan of salvation with a bit of ignorance about it, but happily and successfully nonetheless.


Response to claim: "If God’s method to revealing truth is through feelings, it’s a pretty ineffective method"

The author(s) of Letter to a CES Director (April 2013 revision) make(s) the following claim:

If God’s method to revealing truth is through feelings, it’s a pretty ineffective method.

FairMormon Response

Fact checking results: The author has stated erroneous information or misinterpreted their sources

The Gospel does not teach that one should make decisions regarding the truth of something simply through "feelings". Moroni tells us to ponder (Moroni 10:3-5). Oliver Cowdery gave us studying it out in our mind and then asking (D&C 9:7-9)

Jump to Detail:

Question: What is the best way to define Latter-day Saint epistemology?

Latter-day Saints take no uniform approach to epistemology. Belief is found at a confluence of reason and revelation

There are several schools of epistemology—each defining the best and most important sources of knowledge. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has no uniform position on defining epistemology—only to understand that it is the result of reason and revelation. Latter-day Saints highly value the proposition of a good education and the primacy of reason. But they also seek to understand things by faith. Several scriptures in the Latter-day Saint canon affirm the primacy of reason and of learning through the Spirit--used interchangeably with "faith"--because there are times where one needs to strengthen the other:

10 But God hath revealed them unto us by his Spirit: for the Spirit searcheth all things, yea, the deep things of God.

11 For what man knoweth the things of a man, save the spirit of man which is in him? even so the things of God knoweth no man, but the Spirit of God.

3 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.

4 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.

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

Noted is how this short passage begins by emphasizing a moment of pondering and reflection before seeking revelation.

2 Yea, behold, I will tell you in your mind and in your heart, by the Holy Ghost, which shall come upon you and which shall dwell in your heart.
7 Behold, you have not understood; you have supposed that I would give it unto you, when you took no thought save it was to ask me.

8 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.

9 But if it be not right you shall have no such feelings, but you shall have a stupor of thought that shall cause you to forget the thing which is wrong; therefore, you cannot write that which is sacred save it be given you from me.
40 For intelligence cleaveth unto intelligence; wisdom receiveth wisdom; truth embraceth truth; virtue loveth virtue; light cleaveth unto light; mercy hath compassion on mercy and claimeth her own; justice continueth its course and claimeth its own; judgment goeth before the face of him who sitteth upon the throne and governeth and executeth all things.

77 And I give unto you a commandment that you shall teach one another the doctrine of the kingdom.

78 Teach ye diligently and my grace shall attend you, that you may be instructed more perfectly in theory, in principle, in doctrine, in the law of the gospel, in all things that pertain unto the kingdom of God, that are expedient for you to understand;

79 Of things both in heaven and in the earth, and under the earth; things which have been, things which are, things which must shortly come to pass; things which are at home, things which are abroad; the wars and the perplexities of the nations, and the judgments which are on the land; and a knowledge also of countries and of kingdoms—

Noted in this passage is its instruction to seek learning from all disciplines so that we can be better instructed in how to think about and live out our faith. Thus, we gain revelation from a prophet, but understanding how God communicated to that prophet, understanding what the intention is behind certain scriptures, and finding the blessings from following commandments comes largely from our own independent research and reason. We attempt to approach the scriptures contextually and holistically to understand their full significance and our role in God's plan.

118 And as all have not faith, seek ye diligently and teach one another words of wisdom; yea, seek ye out of the best books words of wisdom; seek learning, even by study and also by faith.

Noted here is that secular learning and devotional learning are commanded for increasing the faith of those who struggle

36 The glory of God is intelligence, or, in other words, light and truth

18 Whatever principle of intelligence we attain unto in this life, it will rise with us in the resurrection.

19 And if a person gains more knowledge and intelligence in this life through his diligence and obedience than another, he will have so much the advantage in the world to come.

Our form of epistemology does stress the importance of the Spirit more frequently than we do reason and that is because of a general perception of the fleetingness of reason, scholarship, and science in a certain regard. Obtaining and listening to the spirit is central to conversion to the Church since we are given the opportunity to seek answers from God himself. An assurance from the Spirit is used as a means of coping with uncertainties that we might have at various times of our development in the Church and our convictions. This assurance gives us the belief that, like the apostle Paul stated, that the Lord will "bring to light the hidden things of darkness" so that one day every one may have a praise of God (1 Cor 4:5).This should not, however, be understood to mean that Latter-day Saint testimonies rely solely on feelings. Spiritual understanding for Latter-day Saints is arrived at the confluence of reason and revelation, with a stress on revelation.

Reason is obviously only an intellectual exercise (primarily of the mind), while revelation is an effort that requires all of our faculties

We can obtain knowledge and truth through many sources. But one reason we stress the importance of revelation is that it appeals to our whole body for verification. It involves “our faculties” (Alma 32: 27). Latter-day Saint doctrine also affirms that the body and spirit make the soul (D&C 88:15). Thus, spiritual experiences and coming to spiritual understanding for Latter-day Saints involve much more than simply good feelings as some have criticized us for, but for seeking to “study [something] out in our mind” and then asking for confirmation of it (D&C 9:7-9). We also teach that when the Spirit does touch our souls, that it is an experience that should feed both mind and heart (D&C 8:2). There are times when we have to rely solely upon revelation given to us in our hearts (1 Nephi 4:6), there are other times when we need both revelation and reason (D&C 8:2), and there are other times when we simply need to do something based only upon reason and what we know is good (D&C 58:26-29).

Response to claim: "Even prophets are often wrong."

The author(s) of Debunking FAIR's Debunking (June 2014) make(s) the following claim:

Even prophets are often wrong. Brigham Young, for example, taught now-repudiated doctrines of racism, Adam-God, and Blood-Atonement. Moreover, prophets and scriptures sometimes conflict with one another. Not only do Prophets sometimes conflict with scripture, they conflict with each other. Yesterday’s doctrine is today’s false doctrine and yesterday’s prophet is today’s heretic, remember? Pointing to prophets and scriptures as a standard of “confirming” your feelings again not only does not answer the question, it creates more questions than answers.

FairMormon Response

Fact checking results: This claim contains propaganda - The author, or the author's source, is providing information or ideas in a slanted way in order to instill a particular attitude or response in the reader

Yes, prophets are fallible. There are times when they have taught now repudiated concepts, but it doesn't follow that it therefore makes spiritual epistemology unreliable. What would make bring it more into question were if the prophet claimed direct revelation for some concept but then the evidence didn't support such a concept. The reason we have scriptures is so we can test the prophet's word since they are the "standard works". The author makes a broad claim about the scriptures without supporting evidence. The best way to test such an assertion is to read the scriptures holistically which we have tools for.

Jump to Detail:

Question: If prophets are fallible, does this make spiritual epistemology unreliable?

Only when the prophet specifically claims revelation do we need to humble ourselves to it.

Some critics have claimed that, if prophets can be lead awry with their own biases and prejudices, then spiritual epistemology is unreliable.

The argument is useless when recognized that Latter-day Saints only need to bow to a prophet's revelation when he specifically claims that he has received revelation. We can also tell if a revelation is truly from God if it is canonized. Bruce R. McConkie taught:

With all their inspiration and greatness, prophets are yet mortal men with imperfections common to mankind in general. They have their opinions and prejudices and are left to work out their own problems without inspiration in many instances. Joseph Smith recorded that he “visited with a brother and sister from Michigan, who thought that ‘a prophet is always a prophet’; but I told them that a prophet was a prophet only when he was acting as such.” (Teachings, p. 278.) Thus the opinions and views even of prophets may contain error unless those opinions and views are inspired by the Spirit. Inspired statements are scripture and should be accepted as such. (D. & C. 68:4.) Since “the spirits of the prophets are subject to the prophets” (1 Cor. 14:32), whatever is announced by the presiding brethren as counsel for the Church will be the voice of inspiration. But the truth or error of any uninspired utterance of an individual will have to be judged by the standard works and the spirit of discernment and inspiration that is in those who actually enjoy the gift of the Holy Ghost.[17] Whether that happened or not, it illustrates a principle: that the Lord can move upon His people but they may speak on occasions their own opinions.[18]

Harold B. Lee was equally emphatic:

It is not to be thought that every word spoken by the General Authorities is inspired, or that they are moved upon by the Holy Ghost in everything they speak and write. Now you keep that in mind. I don’t care what his position is, if he writes something or speaks something that goes beyond anything that you can find in the standard works, unless that one be the prophet, seer, and revelator––please note that one exception––you may immediately say, “Well, that is his own idea!” And if he says something that contradicts what is found in the standard works (I think that is why we call them “standard”––it is the standard measure of all that men teach), you may know by that same token that it is false; regardless of the position of the man who says it.[19]

See here for more quotes regarding revelation.

Where the Critics Focus when Making this Argument

Some critics have applied this argument to different parts of Latter-day Saint discourse which we might need to address.

Adam-God Theory

Regarding Adam-God one of the most important things to know about is it’s actual status in Brigham’s mind and how he viewed his “revelation”. Matthew Brown wrote:

First of all, the question will be posed: ‘How did Brother Brigham compare himself, as a revelator, with his predecessor?’ There are two quotations that are of interest here. The second President of the LDS Church said, “I wish to ask every member of this whole community if they ever heard [me] profess to be a Prophet, Seer, and Revelator as Joseph Smith was. [I] professed to be an apostle of Jesus Christ.”[20] In the second quote Brigham Young says that he “did not receive [revelations] through the Urim and Thummim as Joseph [Smith] did.”[21] Hence, it can be ascertained that, at least in one sense, Brigham Young did not receive communications from heaven in the same direct manner that Joseph Smith did. And it is relevant to mention here that Brigham Young did, in fact, own a seerstone that was once utilized by Joseph Smith. Next, there is this lengthy quote from President Young which is well worth considering in its entirety. He rhetorically asked himself,
"Well, Brother Brigham, . . . . have you had revelations?” Yes, I have them all the time. I live constantly by the principle of revelation. . . . I have never received one particle of intelligence [except] by revelation, no matter whether [my] father or mother revealed it, or my sister, or [my] neighbor. No person receives knowledge [except] upon the principle of revelation, that is, by having something revealed to them. “Do you [Brother Brigham] have the revelations of the Lord Jesus Christ?” I will leave that for others to judge. If the Lord requires anything of this people, and speaks through me, I will tell them of it; but if He does not, still we all live by the principle of revelation. Who reveals? Everybody around us; we learn [from] each other. I have something which you have not, and you have something which I have not. I reveal what I have to you, and you reveal what you have to me. I believe that we are revelators to each other.[22]
Interestingly, there is some evidence that the ‘revelation’ claims for Adam–God ideology did not originate with Brigham Young, but rather with his close friend and associate Heber C. Kimball. There is one well-documented instance where Brother Kimball claimed that some of the concepts connected with the Adam–God Theory were revealed to him.[23] There are also two other statements that need to be taken into careful consideration. The first comes from Thomas Stenhouse’s book. It reads: “Brother Heber had considerable pride in relating to his intimate friends that he was the source of Brigham’s revelation on the ‘Adam deity.’”[24] Since Mr. Stenhouse was an apostate from Mormonism at the time he wrote this, some people might tend to discount his assertion. But the second statement seems to lend credence to it. This one comes from Elder Orson Pratt. He said that the notion of “Adam being our Father and our God . . .[was] advanced by Bro[ther] Kimball in the stand [or at the pulpit], and afterwards approved by Bro[ther] Brigham.”[25][26]

Brown then elaborates on the other most crucial point of the Adam-God History:

The records of the past indicate that Brigham Young’s teachings on Adam were met with steady opposition throughout the 1850s, 60s, and 70s; they were not automatically accepted by the general Church populace. Brother Young even complained on occasion about the amount of non-acceptance that was taking place. But the negative reaction seems to have caused the Church President to have a reaction of his own; one which, in the end, was beneficial to historians: he got more precise in describing the character of his Adam–God teachings. This is probably the most important point that can be made with regard to this intriguing, complex, and somewhat perplexing subject. When Brigham Young first introduced the public to his Adam–God teachings in April of 1852 he claimed that they would prove a person’s “salvation or damnation.”[27]Just two and a half years later his rhetoric changed dramatically. In General Conference, once again, he gave an Adam–God talk but this time he said, “I propose to speak upon a subject that does not immediately concern yours or my welfare. . . . I do not pretend to say that the items of doctrine and ideas I shall advance are necessary for the people to know, or that they should give themselves any trouble about them whatever.” After specifying that “these are my views with regard to the gods, and eternities” and saying, “I will tell you what I think about it” he used a very significant term—thirteen times. He said, “I will tell you what I reckon.” His exact words were: “I will tell you what I think about it, and as the [Southerners] say, ‘I reckon.’ And as the Yankees say, ‘I guess’; but I will tell you what I reckon.”[28] It should be pointed out here that Brigham Young was a northern Yankee from New York state—not a Southerner. He may have deliberately chosen to employ the term ‘reckon’ instead of ‘guess.’ And what did Brigham Young admit that he was guessing about in this sermon? The very elements of the Adam–God Theory that are the most problematic. Here is what he said: ● “I reckon that Father Adam was a resurrected being, with his wives.”[29] ● “I reckon our spirits and all the spirits of the human family were begotten by Adam, and born of Eve.”[30] ● “I reckon that Adam . . . himself planted [the Garden of Eden].”[31].

The bottom line is that the core principles of the Adam–God Theory were simply Brigham Young guessing or reckoning.[32][33]

Pre-1978 Racial Theories

Regarding racial teachings, there are several statements from the Brethren regarding their views on race and the restrictions. After a review of documents [34], there are none that claim an explicit revelatory origin for ideas. The strongest statements come from Brigham Young, the 1947 First Presidency, and the Lowry Nelson Letters[35]. It seems as though the teaching became more entrenched with the passage of time and authorities simply followed tradition. Nothing in the Latter-day Saint canon suggests that the theories were officially binding on the Saints.

Mark Hofmann Episode

Blood Atonement

Some charge that Blood Atonement was claimed to have come from revelation. The statement in the Encyclopedia of Mormonism is perhaps the most instructive on the subject:

The doctrines of the Church affirm that the Atonement wrought by the shedding of the blood of Jesus Christ, the Son of God, is efficacious for the sins of all who believe, repent, are baptized by one having authority, and receive the Holy Ghost by the laying on of hands. However, if a person thereafter commits a grievous sin such as the shedding of innocent blood, the Savior's sacrifice alone will not absolve the person of the consequences of the sin. Only by voluntarily submitting to whatever penalty the Lord may require can that person benefit from the Atonement of Christ.

Several early Church leaders, most notably Brigham Young, taught that in a complete theocracy the Lord could require the voluntary shedding of a murderer's blood-presumably by capital punishment-as part of the process of Atonement for such grievous sin. This was referred to as "blood Atonement." Since such a theocracy has not been operative in modern times, the practical effect of the idea was its use as a rhetorical device to heighten the awareness of Latter-day Saints of the seriousness of murder and other major sins. This view is not a doctrine of the Church and has never been practiced by the Church at any time.

Early anti-Mormon writers charged that under Brigham Young the Church practiced "blood Atonement," by which they meant Church-instigated violence directed at dissenters, enemies, and strangers. This claim distorted the whole idea of blood atonement-which was based on voluntary submission by an offender-into a supposed justification of involuntary punishment. Occasional isolated acts of violence that occurred in areas where Latter-day Saints lived were typical of that period in the history of the American West, but they were not instances of Church-sanctioned blood Atonement.[36]

Evolution

Some critics charge that the Church has claimed to denounce evolution officially and have claimed to have done that by revelation. There are two places that they are usually attracted to when making this claim. The first is a 1910 statement about the subject from the First Presidency. The pertinent part of the statement reads thus:

It is held by some that Adam was not the first man upon this earth, and that the original human being was a development from lower orders of the animal creation. These, however, are the theories of men. The word of the Lord declares that Adam was "the first man of all men" (Moses 1:34), and we are therefore in duty bound to regard him as the primal parent of our race.[37]

This statement is generally correct. Evolution is a theory of man. Adam was also the first spirit child of our Heavenly Father making him the "first man" he is therefore the primal parent of our race. But some charge that this is an official pronouncement against evolution. The statement can be read as such. But take a look at a statement released by the same presidency only a year later.

Diversity of opinion does not necessitate intolerance of spirit, nor should it embitter or set rational beings against each other. The Christ taught kindness, patience, and charity.

Our religion is not hostile to real science. That which is demonstrated, we accept with joy; but vain philosophy, human theory and mere speculations of men, we do not accept nor do we adopt anything contrary to divine revelation or to good common sense. But everything that tends to right conduct, that harmonizes with sound morality and increases faith in Deity, finds favor with us no matter where it may be found.[38]

They are correct. Our religion embraces real science (D&C 88:77-79) and we shouldn't accept anything that goes against divine revelation. The Church is neutral in regards to evolution and has been officially for sometime while some have been staunchly against it and others in favor of it. For those looking for a way to reconcile evolution with Latter-day Saint scripture, see here for an off-hand disquisition and reconciliation of the most pertinent texts.


Question: How do Mormons understand prophetic revelation?

First, who is God?

Mormons understand God to be perfect and omnipresent. Revelation is the tool that he has given us to describe him best, his nature, and his law, even though at times his purposes and ways of working with his children can be inscrutable. To Mormons, he is also literally our Father in Heaven with a body of flesh and bone. He is of the same species that we are and thus is able to communicate with us in a way that we understand. We understand him to work with us like a father—catering to our needs as he teaches us how to come closer to him. This understanding frames the way we understand all revelation.

Revelation is given in a particular historical context

No revelation occurs in a vacuum. That is, no revelation is given to a prophet without a historical context, and by the same token a particular set of needs, concerns, and pressing events on the prophet leading his people at any given time. This context is either described by the text (as with the Bible, Book of Mormon, and Pearl of Great Price) or by historical research (as it is generally in the Doctrine and Covenants). Every revelation is couched within the language of the agent receiving it which is why we have Hebrew influence in the Old Testament, Hebrew and Egyptian influence in the Book of Mormon, and Jacobean 19th century English in the Doctrine and Covenants. Since every revelation has a historical context and a particular language with which expressed (2 Nephi 31:3), it becomes expedient for us to familiarize ourselves with the culture and language in which that revelation was produced (an specific injunction for which is found in D&C 88:77-79).

Revelation is accommodated to the needs of the people living in that cultural circumstance and is couched in their language and their expression

Revelation, as stated before, must be couched within the language of the people. Expression is another issue. For instance, we learn that God is a jealous God (Ex 20:5), yet how can he be jealous and perfect? The Doctrine and Covenants tells us to strip ourselves from jealousies (D&C 67:10). This is part of how God accommodates revelation to the needs of a people living in a particular circumstance. Prophets speak "after the manner of their language."

The Doctrine and Covenants itself announces that:

Behold, I am God and have spoken it; these commandments are of me, and were given unto my servants in their weakness, after the manner of their language, that they might come to understanding.DC 1:24

Thus, the Doctrine and Covenants acknowledges the weakness of the prophets through which they came, and insists that the wording is in the manner of their language, not sound bites from the downloadable encyclopedia of divine facts.

Brigham Young (who authored one of the revelations in the Doctrine and Covenants—DC 136:) described the process in similar terms:

I do not even believe that there is a single revelation, among the many God has given to the Church, that is perfect in its fulness. The revelations of God contain correct doctrine and principle, so far as they go; but it is impossible for the poor, weak, low, grovelling, sinful inhabitants of the earth to receive a revelation from the Almighty in all its perfections. He has to speak to us in a manner to meet the extent of our capacities...

The laws that the Lord has given are not fully perfect, because the people could not receive them in their perfect fulness; but they can receive a little here and a little there, a little today and a little to-morrow, a little more next week, and a little more in advance of that next year, if they make a wise improvement upon every little they receive... [39]

And, there were even times when others besides Joseph were assigned to collaborate in writing the revelations—clear evidence that there was not "only one true" way of expressing a revelation. (See DC 124:12-16.)

Revelation is also accommodated to particular needs and immediate concerns. As such the Lord has worked through diverse means to bring about particular outcomes. This means that some things that have been revealed have only been provisional or implemented in case of contingency.

As the Lord states in Doctrine and Covenants 56:4

"Wherefore I, the Lord, command and revoke, as it seemeth me good...".

LDS Doctrine also states that it is a spiritual gift to understand the "diversity of operations" of the Lord D&C 46:16

Along these same lines, it should be mentioned that revelation always comes at a time of common necessity and not common demand. We may demand that a particular thing bend to our political view or whim, however that is not how the Lord operates. As Alma teaches:

21 And if there was no law given, if men sinned what could justice do, or mercy either, for they would have no claim upon the creature?

A lot of revelation comes simply by treasuring up the words of God in our minds and having the spirit witness to us in the moment of need what to do or say

We are commanded to treasure up the words of God in our minds. He promises us that they will tell us all things we might do or say in the moment of need (see 2 Nephi 32:3 and D&C 84:85). He promises also that as we study issues out in our mind and ask for confirmation that he will give it (D&C 9:7-9)

Sometimes we are required to actively seek a revelation to receive it

As taught in the Doctrine and Covenants "And inasmuch as they sought wisdom they might be instructed." (D&C 1:26) We must all be active in our search for revelation on any given matter. God does intervene frequently however. The best way to understand under what circumstances is to read the scriptures and judge the matter for ourselves.

Many times, we do not need the Lord to command us in action— especially when what we are going to do or are doing is a good thing

Doctrine and Covenants 58:27

27 Verily I say, men should be anxiously engaged in a good cause, and do many things of their own free will, and bring to pass much righteousness;

Revelation is wisdom that is largely independent of the agent receiving it

Were it not so, nothing would be "revealed" in any traditional sense and rather concocted to fit the personal agenda of the prophet. This doesn't mean that revelation is "perfect". Only that God is the one choosing the symbols that revelation attaches itself to and not the prophet.

Often revelation does require that we first study something out in our mind (D&C 9:8). As President Russell M. Nelson has recently stated

. . .I know that good inspiration is based upon good information. . .[40]

Once we have studied an issue out in our mind, it is then up to the spirit to decide which will be the best for the future.

Obviously not all revelation functions this way as it should cut through the unknown on some level. God does give us knowledge completely out of blue to his prophets and to us personally that we need to bless ourselves and others in the moment of need. This increases our confidence that revelation really is independent of our own normal cognition and emotion.

Revelation is given to prophets "line upon line; precept upon precept"

Line upon line has two features:

  1. It reveals core truths over time directly to the prophet.
  2. It makes small addendums to a few previous revelations without threatening the core integrity of the first revelation—immediately suggesting its sometimes corrective nature—and the original revelation being an accommodation to the first people receiving it. This is perhaps what the Lord meant to express in D&C 46:15 when he states that he "[suits] his mercies according to the conditions of the children of men."

An example of this is found in Doctrine and Covenants 19. It states:

6 Nevertheless, it is not written that there shall be no end to this torment, but it is written endless torment.


7 Again, it is written eternal damnation; wherefore it is more express than other scriptures, that it might work upon the hearts of the children of men, altogether for my glory.

[. . .]

10 For, behold, the mystery of godliness, how great is it! For, behold, I am endless, and the punishment which is given from my hand is endless punishment, for Endless is my name. Wherefore

11 Eternal punishment is God's punishment.

12 Endless punishment is God's punishment.

What can change through revelation?

It becomes the question of some from time to time how we can know what is subject to change and what is not subject to change. To answer this question we should look at it theologically. We should ask ourselves and think logically about what God might want to reveal line upon line and "change" in our theology.

Things that can change day to day

As it regards hamartiological matters (theology dealing with sin and the nature of sin), these things can change from day to day. The things that God sees as pleasing and not pleasing can change how they like. The Lord tells us this in Doctrine and Covenants 56:4:

4 Wherefore I, the Lord, command and revoke, as it seemeth me good; and all this to be answered upon the heads of the rebellious, saith the Lord.

Things that could change from day to day but don't for a reason

Ecclesiological matters (pertaining to Church organization) would logically be subject to change only when there is a particular need to change Church government. In Old Testament times there was a prophet and the immigrating people-nation of Israel, under Christ, 12 apostles carried authority to preach the Gospel and administer the ordinances pertaining to that Gospel and 70 men were called to fulfill a similar call. In Modern times, the early restored Church under Joseph Smith started from something slightly different from that and progressed to what was present in the ancient Church quickly. This is because of shifting needs. Today, having a First Presidency, Quorum of Twelve Apostles, Seventies, Teachers, Priests, Deacons, Bishops, and so forth acts as an identifier for those seeking the Lord's Church. Thus, it is unlikely that such offices will change. With a growing populace of members, it is more likely that more men and women will need to be called to provide leadership in those positions without the types of positions changing.

Ordinances necessary for salvation could also change dramatically in amount necessary, type performed, presentation of such ordinances, and so forth. These don't change as they act as effective identifiers for people to find the Lord's Church.

Things that are (or should be) revealed in a linear, upward process and become more static with time.

Soteriological matters (that relating to doctrine of afterlife and salvation) come line upon line, precept upon precept, and are crystallized with each subsequent revelation regarding them. The Lord has revealed one reason why we might not know everything about the after life right now. As Doctrine and Covenants 19:7 tells us, somethings are revealed as they are to "work upon the hearts of the children of men". Thus, the degree to which we understand the afterlife is contingent upon what will motivate us to repent and what we are prepared to receive. Here we don't have room for contradiction but much more room for adding to a proposition and developing it gradually to a crystalized view of the afterife. Soteriology as it stands today in the Restored Church is fairly developed with only a few more questions such as progression between kingdoms of glory.

Eschatological matters (relating to understanding of the end of times) really don't have room for contradictory understandings. The Lord has motivation to reveal more relating to eschatology as we progress closer and closer to eschatological times so that we are prepared for them. This is the general pattern followed by the scriptures and will likely continue.

Theogony (or the doctrine of the origin of God) may develop slightly. The only real question remaining is that of the infinite regress of Gods.

Things that have no reason to be revealed more than once or to have an ongoing, crystalizing understanding

Matters pertaining to cosmology, Mariology, angelology, Christology, demonology, pneumatology, the nature of the Godhead and so forth have little room for changing in understanding since they all pertain to the study of characteristics or behavior that is independent of all other individuals.

Along with the above, missiology and epistemology in the Latter-day Saint tradition have no reason to change in understanding.

Generally speaking, we should be approaching a static ideal. We shouldn't expect revelation to change according to our own caprice. It should change when and only when it is necessary for God's children.

Some things weren't meant to be made known in this life

States the Apostle Paul: "For now we see through a glass darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known." (1 Cor 13:12).

Elder David A. Bednar compares this pattern of light to walking through fog on a sunny day (and also reveals other patterns of light), where we have just enough light to press into the darkness but not so much as to know exactly where we are going. Eventually, as the Doctrine of Covenants teaches, all will be revealed--the light will grow brighter and brighter until the perfect day.

Revelation comes through a variety of means or methods

As expressed in the Encyclopedia of Mormonism:

TYPES OF REVELATION. A dispensation of the gospel of Jesus Christ is a series of personal revelations from God. These revelations may be direct manifestations from God, as in the following typical cases:

1. theophanies (seeing God face-to-face), as in the first vision of the Prophet Joseph Smith, which came at the beginning of the present dispensation (JS-H 1:15-20)

2. revealed knowledge from the Father that Jesus is "the Christ, the Son of the living God" (Matt. 16:13-17; see also Spirit of Prophecy)

3. visitations of angelic persons, such as the appearance of the angel Moroni to Joseph Smith (JS-H 1:30-32)

4. revelations through the Urim and Thummim, by which means Joseph Smith translated the book of mormon

5. open visions, as when Joseph Smith and Sidney Rigdon were shown the kingdoms of the hereafter (see Doctrine and Covenants: Section 76)

6. physically hearing the voice of God, as is recorded in 3 Nephi 11

7. receiving the still, small voice of the Holy Spirit, as in the experience of Elijah (1 Kgs. 19);

8. receiving the gifts of the spirit (D&C 46)

9. having a burning in the bosom as an indication of the will of God, as in the explanation given to Oliver Cowdery (D&C 9:8)

10. dreams (1 Ne. 8:2-32)

11. manifestations of the Light of Christ, by which all men know good from evil (Alma 12:31-32; D&C 84:46-48).

Such direct manifestations of the mind and will of God are known as gifts and are contrasted with signs. Gifts always have a spiritual component, even when they have a physical aspect. Signs are physical manifestations of the power of God and are a form of revelation from God, though they may be counterfeited and misinterpreted. Signs may show that God is at work, but spiritual gifts are required to know how one should respond.[41]

We accept the light we have received and worship according to it

We act in doctrine (D&C 101:78). We accept the light we have received now and receive whatever additional future light with gladness. If one does not act in accordance to the commandments of God, such is sin.

This view is one that is compatible with the ideas of both having men who actually receive revelation from God and the knowledge that God has given everyone agency which they can freely exercise without having to be puppets--downloading truth directly from God's encyclopedia of knowledge (D&C 101:78).


Question: How can one best read and understand the scriptures?

First, we should understand the nature of revelation

The scriptures won't be understood if we don't understand the nature of revelation. This is addressed here.

To best understand the scriptures, you must read them in context

When trying to understand the scriptures and interpret them correctly, one must read them from the perspective of the people who wrote them. Many LDS prophets and apostles have spoken about reading passages in context. Statements may be found here. Additionally, the scriptures themselves indicate the danger of wresting their meaning including 2 Peter 3:16 Alma 13:20, Alma 41:1 , and D&C 10:63

Brigham Young stated:

Do you read the Scriptures, my brethren and sisters, as though you were writing them a thousand, two thousand, or five thousand years ago? Do you read them as though you stood in the place of the men who wrote them? If you do not feel thus, it is your privilege to do so, that you may be as familiar with the spirit and meaning of the written word of God as you are with your daily walk and conversation, or as you are with your workmen or with your households. You may understand what the Prophets understood and thought—what they designed and planned to bring forth to their brethren for their good.” Journal of Discourses 7: 333

There are four types of context that should be established while reading any given scripture

1. Genre

The Bible in particular contains different “genres” of scripture as it is understood by scholars. This includes historical narratives such as Exodus, Joshua, Kings, Samuel, and so forth, poetry as in the Book of Psalms or Proverbs, Prophetic books such as Isaiah, Obadiah, Jeremiah, etc.

2. Historical

We know that there is no revelation that exists without a historical context given to it. The historical context includes a time that something is written and by the same token the authorship. The scriptures are mostly written in the third person which may suggest that an author is either reminiscing about an event from the past, that he/she may be using different sources like a historian to reconstruct elements from the past, or perhaps that he/she is constructing an etiology to describe different phenomena present in the world.

Sometimes, the authors and prophets of the scriptures will use phrases that they know are familiar to their immediate audience but which fly over our heads when reading scripture. The confusion is brought out because we don’t know what they are referring to.

LDS Scholar Ben Spackman elaborates:

Things go without being said. And this is because, again, the authors and preachers in the Old Testament were talking to contemporaries. If I get up in sacrament meeting and I say ‘You know I went to Paris last summer by plane—by the way a plane is a kind of conveyance that travels at great speed through the air and Paris is the capital city of a country in Europe which is far east of here…’ I don’t bother explaining what I assume you already know. The Old Testament authors assumed that their contemporaries understood these things. So when you get into Isaiah and it is just full, I mean, he is name dropping and place dropping and talking about stuff, he assumes everyone understands that because he’s talking to contemporaries. And we’re not contemporaries so we don’t. One example, there’s the phrase ‘From Dan to Beersheba’ that shows up sometimes in the Old Testament. Beersheba was the southernmost border of Israel and Dan the northernmost. So saying ‘Dan to Beersheba’ is kind of like saying ‘coast to coast’ ‘from New York to L.A.’. But unless you can place those on a map, you don’t understand the significance that lies behind that phrase. So there is a knowledge gap between us and the Old Testament that we need to fill.”[42]

3. Textual

The utterances in the scriptures are full of thought units that are many times logically connected with many verses. Any verse should be read within the context of the verses preceding and succeeding it. This will help us to better understand what an author or prophet is saying.

4. Linguistic

Since the Old Testament was written in Hebrew and Aramaic and the New Testament in Greek, we need to understand the meaning of the words used to write scripture in order to properly catch their meaning. Additionally, when reading the KJV, there are many words that have changed meaning over time. Words are diachronic. That is, they can change meaning with time. An example of this is the word “virtue” in the Bible

In Ruth 3:11 we read “And now, my daughter, fear not; I will do to thee all that thou requires: for all the city of my people doth know that thou art a virtuous woman.”

And in Proverbs 31:10 we read:

“Who can find a virtuous woman? For her price is far above rubies. “

With these verses we might easily conclude that the King James translators were referring to virtue as we understand it today which would be to be of a clean mind and heart as it came to chastity. However, a confusing case arises in the New Testament

Luke 6:19 reads “And the whole multitude sought to touch him: for there went virtue out of him, and healed them all.”

So, virtue left Jesus’ body after a woman touched him? Or is our definition of virtue perhaps different than that of the King James translators? The definition was closer to power than chaste thinking as we would understand it today.

As we understand both the underlying Hebrew, Aramaic, or Greek term and the English term translated into our King James Version, the better we will be able to understand the scriptures as the ancients understood them, per Brigham Young’s and many others' council.

To understand all of these contextual matters, many Latter-day Saints have found use in using scriptural commentaries and study bibles such as the Harper Collins Study Bible, the Oxford Annotated Study Bible, and the Jewish Study Bible. These study bibles contain essays at the beginning of each book to help explain authorship, historical place in canon, historical context in which the book was written, and literary value before allowing the reader to move forward with their study. The bibles also contain explanatory footnotes which allow the reader to see how an author is alluding to other passages of scripture and how one can best understand such phenomena. For Latter-day Saint scripture, members have enjoyed reading similar analytical commentaries such as Brant Gardner's Second Witness for the Book of Mormon or the Church's new volume on the Doctrine and Covenants "Revelations in Context" available on lds.org

Scripture must be read holistically. Both to understand what we need to defend and to understand all that the Lord wants us to understand about any given topic.

If we are to understand scripture, then it must be taken in stride with other revelation on the topic. For example, to understand creation we should both read the creation accounts contained in scripture and understand that the Lord has not revealed all things pertaining to creation but will reveal them at his coming (D&C 101:32-34). This will help us to not get caught in too much doctrinal unraveling in the future. This caution is demonstrated in the Encyclopedia of Mormonism:

Latter-day Saints recognize Bible scholarship and intellectual study of the biblical text. Joseph Smith and his associates studied Greek and Hebrew and taught that religious knowledge is to be obtained by study as well as by faith (D&C 88:118). However, Latter-day Saints prefer to use Bible scholarship rather than be driven or controlled by it."[43]

Reading scripture holistically also helps us to understand everything that the Lord wants us to understand on a given topic. Such is why we have tools such as the Topical Guide, Index, and Guide to the Scriptures to help us do that.

Scripture, if making a scientific claim, should be weighed with science

Our theology is not threatened by science. It welcomes it. If we have properly contextualized and interpreted scripture and if the scripture is making a scientific claim, we should weigh that with science to be more perfectly instructed in that doctrine, principle, or theory. D&C 88:77-79 reads

77 And I give unto you a commandment that you shall teach one another the doctrine of the kingdom.
78 Teach ye diligently and my grace shall attend you, that you may be instructed more perfectly in theory, in principle, in doctrine, in the law of the gospel, in all things that pertain unto the kingdom of God, that are expedient for you to understand;

79 Of things both in heaven and in the earth, and under the earth; things which have been, things which are. Things which must shortly come to pass; things which are at home, things which are abroad; the wars and the perplexities of the nations, and the judgments which are on the land; and a knowledge also of countries and of kingdoms

Science can, should, and does support revelation on many particulars. We should welcome its voice to our spiritual reasoning when determining what God is trying to reveal to us or what he may reveal to us. This isn’t to say that current science will always agree with revelation nor that revelation will eventually change to fit the demands of the scientific community, but that revelation and science should not fight against each other nor be compartmentalized in our understanding of truth. Science will generally reveal the physical laws of God, while revelation will generally reveal God’s spiritual laws.


Response to claim: "Joseph Smith received a revelation, through the peep stone in his hat, to send Hiram Page and Oliver Cowdery to Toronto, Canada for the sole purpose of selling the copyright of the Book of Mormon"

The author(s) of Letter to a CES Director (April 2013 revision) make(s) the following claim:

Joseph Smith received a revelation, through the peep stone in his hat, to send Hiram Page and Oliver Cowdery to Toronto, Canada for the sole purpose of selling the copyright of the Book of Mormon. . . . The mission failed and the prophet was asked why his revelation was wrong.Joseph decided to inquire of the Lord regarding the question. The following is a quote from Book of Mormon witness David Whitmer’s testimony:“…and behold the following revelation came through the stone: ‘Some revelations are of God; and some revelations are of man: and some revelations are of the devil.’ So we see that the revelation to go to Toronto and sell the copy-right was not of God, but was of the devil or of the heart of man.” – David Whitmer, An Address to All Believers in Christ, p.3. How are we supposed to know what revelations are from God, from the devil, or from the heart of man if even the Prophet Joseph Smith couldn’t tell? What kind of a god and method is this if Heavenly Father allows Satan to interfere with our direct line of communication to Him?

FairMormon Response

Fact checking results: The author has stated erroneous information or misinterpreted their sources

The account by Whitmer (who did not go on the trip) does not correlate with the accounts by those who actually went.

Jump to Detail:

Question: After receiving the revelation to attempt to sell the Book of Mormon copyright in Canada, did Joseph Smith later claim that the revelation was false?

David Whitmer, years after he left the Church, claimed that Joseph said that the revelation did not come from God

David Whitmer claimed that Joseph Smith received a revelation and prophesied that Oliver Cowdery and Hiram Page should go to Canada where they would find a man willing to buy the copyright to the Book of Mormon. When they failed to sell the copyright, Whitmer states that Joseph admitted that the revelation had not come from God.

David Whitmer was not a participant in the trip to Canada

The primary evidence supporting the negative aspects of the Canadian Mission story comes from David Whitmer, who was not a participant in the event, and who had left the church many years before. With the discovery of the Hiram Page letter of 1848 showing that the actual participants involved in the trip felt that Joseph Smith delivered an accurate revelation of what would transpire on the Mission, and in fact even found the event uplifting rather than negative, it is evident that no individual contemporary to the event felt that this represented a false prophecy by Joseph Smith. What we do see is excellent evidence in fulfillment of the teachings of Deuteronomy 12 and 18 that Joseph Smith was perceived as a true prophet of God by those involved in the Mission to Canada in early 1830.


Question: Are there any eyewitness accounts of the events that resulted in the trip to Canada to sell the Book of Mormon copyright?

Joseph Smith decided this could be an opportunity to relieve some of the financial pressure associated with publishing the Book of Mormon

Joseph Smith had been told there were people in Canada willing to buy the copyrights to useful books. Due to the dire financial position of the Church, he decided this could be an opportunity to relieve some of the financial pressure associated with publishing the Book of Mormon. Four men went to Canada.

Joseph Smith received a revelation directing them to go to Kingston, Canada, with some conditions placed upon their success

Before leaving, Joseph Smith received a revelation directing them to go to Kingston, Canada, with some conditions placed upon their success.

...it Pleaseth me that Oliver Cowderey Joseph Knight Hyram Pagee & Josiah Stowel shall do my work in this thing yea even in securing the Copyright & they shall do it with an eye single to my Glory that it may be the means of bringing souls unto me Salvation through mine only Be{t\gotten} Behold I am God I have spoken it & it is expedient in me Wherefor I say unto you that ye shall go to Kingston seeking me continually through mine only Be{t\gotten} & if ye do this ye shall have my spirit to go with you & ye shall have an addition of all things which is expedient in me. amen & I grant unto my servent a privelige that he may sell a copyright through you speaking after the manner of men for the four Provinces if the People harden not their hearts against the enticeings of my spirit & my word for Behold it lieth in themselves to their condemnation &{\or} th{er\eir} salvation.

Revelation book 1 p. 15 1.jpg

The text of the actual revelation was recently discovered and published in The Joseph Smith Papers

The text of the revelation was published in the The Joseph Smith Papers: The Revelations and Translations Series. According to Marlin K. Jensen, Church Historian and Recorder,

Another interesting development from work on the Revelations and Translations Series has been the identification of a previously unpublished revelation on securing a copyright for the Book of Mormon in Canada. David Whitmer, after he left the Church, recalled that the revelation promised success in selling the copyright, but upon return of the men charged with the duty, Joseph Smith and others were disappointed by what seemed like failure. Historians have relied upon statements of David Whitmer, Hiram Page, and William McLellin for decades but have not had the actual text of the revelation. Revelation Book 1 will provide that.

Although we still do not know the whole story, particularly Joseph Smith’s own view of the situation, we do know that calling the divine communication a “failed revelation” is not warranted. The Lord’s directive clearly conditions the successful sale of the copyright on the worthiness of those seeking to make the sale as well as on the spiritual receptivity of the potential purchasers. [44]

Hiram Page, one of the participants, stated he for the first time understood how some revelations given to people were not necessarily for their direct benefit

Hiram Page, who was one of the individuals sent to Canada, laid out the event in a letter in 1848.[45] Page wrote that the revelation Joseph Smith received conditioned success upon whether those individuals in Canada capable of buying the Book of Mormon copyright would have their hearts softened. When unable to sell the copyright, the four men returned to Palmyra. Hiram Page stated he for the first time understood how some revelations given to people were not necessarily for their direct benefit—in fact, Hiram Page believed that the revelation was actually fulfilled.


Question: How did the erroneous story of the attempt to sell the Book of Mormon copyright develop over time?

Hiram Page’s 1848 account of the Canadian Mission trip was sent to William McLellin

Hiram Page’s 1848 account of the Canadian Mission trip was sent to William McLellin. Because it was private correspondence, its existence and details were unknown until the 1930’s, when the letter was donated to the RLDS Church’s archives as part of a larger collection of McLellin materials.[46] The content of the letter was not broadly known until after the document was stolen in 1985, but a copy of the original was donated by a private collector around the year 2000 who had made a copy prior to the theft of the original.

In 1872 William McLellin wrote about the journey to Canada

In 1872 William McLellin wrote about the journey to Canada.[47] He had no first hand knowledge of the event, as he did not join the Church until 1831. He apparently got the description of the event from Martin Harris, who was likewise not there and had no first hand knowledge. From the published account, McLellin ignores Hiram Page’s 1848 letter, and asserts that all involved in the Canadian Mission viewed it as a complete failure. Since all involved were dead, and the only known account by one of the participants, who obviously viewed it as a success, was in McLellin's possession, he apparently did not worry about being corrected.

In about 1881 J.L. Traughber wrote a letter to a German correspondent, who published it in 1886, retelling McLellin’s second or third hand knowledge of the event

In 1881 or shortly thereafter a man by the name of J.L. Traughber wrote a letter to a German correspondent, who published it in 1886, retelling McLellin’s second or third hand knowledge of the event.[48]

In 1886, David Whitmer mentions the trip to sell the copyright for the first time

Beginning in 1886, David Whitmer reports for the first time of the Canadian Mission.[49] Initially Whitmer reports the event in the third person, but by the time of his 1887 pamphlet An Address to All Believers in Christ, 57 years after the event occurred, he reports to having been a first hand witness, and Joseph Smith having given a false prophecy. Whitmer states,

Joseph looked into the hat in which he placed the stone, and received a revelation that some of the brethren should go to Toronto, Canada, and that they would sell the copyright of the Book of Mormon. Hiram Page and Oliver Cowdery went to Toronto on this mission, but they failed entirely to sell the copyright, returning without any money. Joseph was at my father's house when they returned. I was there also, and am an eye witness to these facts. Jacob Whitmer and John Whitmer were also present when Hiram Page and Oliver Cowdery returned from Canada.

Well, we were all in great trouble; and we asked Joseph how it was that he had received a revelation from the Lord for some brethren to go to Toronto and sell the copyright, and the brethren had utterly failed in their undertaking. Joseph did not know how it was, so he enquired of the Lord about it, and behold the following revelation came through the stone: "Some revelations are of God: some revelations are of men: and some revelations are of the devil." So we see that the revelation to go to Toronto and sell the copyright was not of God, but was of the devil or of the heart of man.[50]

Whitmer was looking for evidence to support his conclusion that Joseph Smith was a fallen prophet

One must remember that not only was Whitmer looking for evidence to support his conclusion that Joseph Smith was a fallen prophet, but he also wrote with no fear of contradiction, as all the witnesses to the event were dead.


Question: How does David Whitmer's account of the attempt to sell the Book of Mormon copyright compare to those of the eyewitnesses?

Whitmer's account is at variance in several ways with Hiram Page’s account

Whitmer's account is at variance in several ways with Hiram Page’s account. Whitmer gets the destination city in Canada wrong (he says Toronto, the other accounts, and the revelation itself, say Kingston) and he did not correctly identify all of the participants (he identified Hiram Page and Oliver Cowdery, while Page noted Joseph Knight and Josiah Stowell). Note that the text of the revelation itself finally clears up the issue of exactly who the revelation was directed to,

...it Pleaseth me that Oliver Cowderey Joseph Knight Hyram Pagee & Josiah Stowel shall do my work in this thing...

Page, an eyewitness, makes no mention at disappointment in Joseph Smith, nor is there any mention of a "false prophecy"

Page also makes no mention or even a hint at disappointment in Joseph Smith, nor is there an accusation that the trip was based upon a "false prophecy," so naturally no subsequent "revelation" is noted by Page explaining the mission’s failure.

In Whitmer’s 1887 account we learn for the first time of the supposed post-mission revelation where Joseph Smith is told that some revelations are from God, some from devils, some from men. This account is in all likelihood a fabrication. Unlike his consistent, life-long statements concerning the witness of the Gold Plates, this account, which is probably a second-hand retelling of events 57 years after their occurrence, suddenly appears and is wrong on several of the documentable facts, as well as being inconsistent with the first-hand testimony of Hiram Page, given 40 years earlier than Whitmer and by comparison much closer to the actual event.


Question: How did Latter-day Saint scholars respond to the attempt to sell the Book of Mormon copyright prior to Page's letter coming to light?

B.H. Roberts expressed doubt as to the accuracy of the story, and suggested that David Whitmer may not have recalled all of the details correctly

The letter from 1848 by Hiram Page was not publically available until the 20th Century. As a result, various LDS responses to the accounts by Whitmer and McLellin of necessity must explain why the apparent anomalous revelation does not make Joseph Smith a fallen prophet. Such was the case when B.H. Roberts expressed doubt as to the accuracy of the story, and suggested that David Whitmer may not have recalled all of the details correctly, yet went on to address the claim anyway. Roberts concluded:

Does that circumstance vitiate his claim as a prophet? No; the fact remains that despite this circumstance there exists a long list of events to be dealt with which will establish the fact of divine inspiration operating upon the mind of this man Joseph Smith. The wisdom frequently displayed, the knowledge revealed, the predicted events and the fulfilment thereof, are explicable upon no other theory than of divine inspiration giving guidance to him. [51]

As it happens, the passage of time and the uncovering of additional information has vindicated that confidence.


Response to claim: "I saw a testimony as more than just spiritual experiences and feelings. I saw that we had evidence and logic on our side based on the correlated narrative I was fed by the Church about its origins."

The author(s) of Letter to a CES Director (April 2013 revision) make(s) the following claim:

I saw a testimony as more than just spiritual experiences and feelings. I saw that we had evidence and logic on our side based on the correlated narrative I was fed by the Church about its origins.

FairMormon Response

Fact checking results: This claim contains propaganda - The author, or the author's source, is providing information or ideas in a slanted way in order to instill a particular attitude or response in the reader

The mention of the "correlated narrative" is a reference to popular ex-Mormon complaints about the correlated curriculum. A testimony is more than just spiritual experiences and feelings - the author neglects to mention other important elements in Latter-day Saint epistemology. Logic and reason are important elements along with a spiritual witness.

Jump to Detail:

Question: What is the best way to define Latter-day Saint epistemology?

Latter-day Saints take no uniform approach to epistemology. Belief is found at a confluence of reason and revelation

There are several schools of epistemology—each defining the best and most important sources of knowledge. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has no uniform position on defining epistemology—only to understand that it is the result of reason and revelation. Latter-day Saints highly value the proposition of a good education and the primacy of reason. But they also seek to understand things by faith. Several scriptures in the Latter-day Saint canon affirm the primacy of reason and of learning through the Spirit--used interchangeably with "faith"--because there are times where one needs to strengthen the other:

10 But God hath revealed them unto us by his Spirit: for the Spirit searcheth all things, yea, the deep things of God.

11 For what man knoweth the things of a man, save the spirit of man which is in him? even so the things of God knoweth no man, but the Spirit of God.

3 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.

4 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.

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

Noted is how this short passage begins by emphasizing a moment of pondering and reflection before seeking revelation.

2 Yea, behold, I will tell you in your mind and in your heart, by the Holy Ghost, which shall come upon you and which shall dwell in your heart.
7 Behold, you have not understood; you have supposed that I would give it unto you, when you took no thought save it was to ask me.

8 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.

9 But if it be not right you shall have no such feelings, but you shall have a stupor of thought that shall cause you to forget the thing which is wrong; therefore, you cannot write that which is sacred save it be given you from me.
40 For intelligence cleaveth unto intelligence; wisdom receiveth wisdom; truth embraceth truth; virtue loveth virtue; light cleaveth unto light; mercy hath compassion on mercy and claimeth her own; justice continueth its course and claimeth its own; judgment goeth before the face of him who sitteth upon the throne and governeth and executeth all things.

77 And I give unto you a commandment that you shall teach one another the doctrine of the kingdom.

78 Teach ye diligently and my grace shall attend you, that you may be instructed more perfectly in theory, in principle, in doctrine, in the law of the gospel, in all things that pertain unto the kingdom of God, that are expedient for you to understand;

79 Of things both in heaven and in the earth, and under the earth; things which have been, things which are, things which must shortly come to pass; things which are at home, things which are abroad; the wars and the perplexities of the nations, and the judgments which are on the land; and a knowledge also of countries and of kingdoms—

Noted in this passage is its instruction to seek learning from all disciplines so that we can be better instructed in how to think about and live out our faith. Thus, we gain revelation from a prophet, but understanding how God communicated to that prophet, understanding what the intention is behind certain scriptures, and finding the blessings from following commandments comes largely from our own independent research and reason. We attempt to approach the scriptures contextually and holistically to understand their full significance and our role in God's plan.

118 And as all have not faith, seek ye diligently and teach one another words of wisdom; yea, seek ye out of the best books words of wisdom; seek learning, even by study and also by faith.

Noted here is that secular learning and devotional learning are commanded for increasing the faith of those who struggle

36 The glory of God is intelligence, or, in other words, light and truth

18 Whatever principle of intelligence we attain unto in this life, it will rise with us in the resurrection.

19 And if a person gains more knowledge and intelligence in this life through his diligence and obedience than another, he will have so much the advantage in the world to come.

Our form of epistemology does stress the importance of the Spirit more frequently than we do reason and that is because of a general perception of the fleetingness of reason, scholarship, and science in a certain regard. Obtaining and listening to the spirit is central to conversion to the Church since we are given the opportunity to seek answers from God himself. An assurance from the Spirit is used as a means of coping with uncertainties that we might have at various times of our development in the Church and our convictions. This assurance gives us the belief that, like the apostle Paul stated, that the Lord will "bring to light the hidden things of darkness" so that one day every one may have a praise of God (1 Cor 4:5).This should not, however, be understood to mean that Latter-day Saint testimonies rely solely on feelings. Spiritual understanding for Latter-day Saints is arrived at the confluence of reason and revelation, with a stress on revelation.

Reason is obviously only an intellectual exercise (primarily of the mind), while revelation is an effort that requires all of our faculties

We can obtain knowledge and truth through many sources. But one reason we stress the importance of revelation is that it appeals to our whole body for verification. It involves “our faculties” (Alma 32: 27). Latter-day Saint doctrine also affirms that the body and spirit make the soul (D&C 88:15). Thus, spiritual experiences and coming to spiritual understanding for Latter-day Saints involve much more than simply good feelings as some have criticized us for, but for seeking to “study [something] out in our mind” and then asking for confirmation of it (D&C 9:7-9). We also teach that when the Spirit does touch our souls, that it is an experience that should feed both mind and heart (D&C 8:2). There are times when we have to rely solely upon revelation given to us in our hearts (1 Nephi 4:6), there are other times when we need both revelation and reason (D&C 8:2), and there are other times when we simply need to do something based only upon reason and what we know is good (D&C 58:26-29).


Response to claim: "What about the members who felt the Spirit from Dunn’s fabricated and false stories?"

The author(s) of Letter to a CES Director (April 2013 revision) make(s) the following claim:

[Paul H.] Dunn was a General Authority of the Church for many years. He was a very popular speaker who told incredible faith-promoting war and baseball stories. Many times Dunn shared these stories in the presence of the prophet, apostles, and seventies. Stories like how God protected him as enemy machine-gun bullets ripped away his clothing, gear, and helmet without ever touching his skin and how he was preserved by the Lord. Members of the Church shared how they really felt the Spirit as they listened to Dunn’s testimony and stories. Unfortunately, Dunn was later caught lying about all his war and baseball stories and was forced to apologize to the members. He became the first General Authority to gain “emeritus” status and was removed from public Church life. What about the members who felt the Spirit from Dunn’s fabricated and false stories? What does this say about the Spirit and what the Spirit really is?"

FairMormon Response

Fact checking results: The author has stated erroneous information or misinterpreted their sources

Simply receiving a warm feeling about a speech or article is not enough to call it revelation or a confirmation of the spirit.

Jump to Detail:

Question: Who was Paul H. Dunn and what happened to him?

Elder Paul H. Dunn was a very popular speaker who told many faith-promoting stories about his days playing baseball and his service in World War II

Elder Paul H. Dunn was a very popular speaker during the 1970's and 1980's who told many faith-promoting stories about his days playing baseball and his service in World War II. Many people were inspired by his stories, and he was in much demand as a speaker. It was eventually discovered that Elder Dunn had exaggerated and conflated elements of his stories. He was given emeritus status as a General Authority on October 1, 1989.


Question: Many who listened to Elder Dunn's stories felt the spirit. Why would one feel the spirit upon hearing a story that was fabricated? Doesn't this confirm a lie?

Simply receiving a warm feeling about a speech or article is not enough to call it revelation or a confirmation of the spirit

It should be noted that those who bring up this criticism frequently do not bring up accounts to be examined of these experiences. But given what we can know right now, the answer to this question is near identical to that given for why we might feel the spirit while we watched a movie or read a fictional work. Simply put, a spiritual revelation is both a inspiration or revelation to the mind and a phenomenon (not just a feeling or emotion) in the heart. Additionally, many can describe themselves as feeling the spirit in a passive way as an abiding peace when one is doing what is right or in the presence of something good. It’s not surprising. We may be feeling the Spirit that is supposed to be with us as we live up to sacrament covenants (Moroni 4,5). We are encouraged to seek after all good things (A of F 1:13) and all good things come from God (Moroni 7:12). Or, when one is trying to receive revelation, they can feel it in a more dynamic way. If those that felt the spirit from these events felt it in a dynamic way where it was giving them inspiration or revelation, then it could have been thoughts to the mind about the importance of courage, or other revelation tailored to their life. But the point is that confirmation from the spirit (as part of a more dynamic influence) is going to be something manifested as both knowledge and a phenomenon. Spiritual epistemology is something that involves all of our faculties (See also Alma 32:27). It is a complex interaction between and evaluation of the thoughts of our mind , the feelings of our heart, the health of our body, the light of Christ, everything that God has deemed good in the world, and the outside influence of the Holy Ghost. We need to be careful to evaluate those impressions carefully. The key is to pay attention to both our mind and our heart (D&C 8:2) when discerning the Spirit's influences.


Question: Why did Elder Dunn exaggerate elements of these stories?

Elder Dunn responded to this issue himself

Regarding Elder Dunn's stories: he was human, just like the rest of us. He can speak for himself on this issue: "Elder Dunn Offers Apology for Errors, Admits Censure", Deseret News, Oct. 27 1991.

In an open letter to LDS Church members, Elder Paul H. Dunn apologized Saturday for not having "always been accurate" in telling his popular war and baseball stories, and he acknowledged being disciplined for it by church authorities.

Elder Dunn, an emeritus member of the First Quorum of Seventy of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, asked the church's First Presidency and Council of the Twelve for the opportunity to send an open letter to church members. The letter was published in Saturday's issue of the Church News."I confess that I have not always been accurate in my public talks and writings," Elder Dunn wrote. "Furthermore, I have indulged in other activities inconsistent with the high and sacred office which I have held.

"For all of these I feel a deep sense of remorse, and ask forgiveness of any whom I may have offended."

A former Army private and minor-league baseball player, Elder Dunn told riveting accounts of his war and baseball experiences that made him one of the most popular speakers in the church. According to the Associated Press, he was author or co-author of 28 books and is featured on 23 inspirational tapes. He served in the presidency of the First Quorum of the Seventy from 1976 to 1980.

In 1989, Elder Dunn was placed on emeritus status for "reasons of age and health," the church said. In February 1991, the Arizona Republic reported that Elder Dunn had made up or combined elements of many of his war and baseball stories.

In his open letter, Elder Dunn, 67, said general authorities of the church have conducted in-depth investigations of charges that he had engaged in activities unbecoming of a church member.

"They have weighed the evidence," he said. "They have censured me and placed a heavy penalty upon me.

"I accept their censure and the imposed penalty, and pledge to conduct my life in such a way as to merit their confidence and full fellowship."

Church spokesman Don LeFevre said Saturday that the nature of the penalty is "an internal matter, and we don't discuss such matters" publicly.

Elder Dunn has an unlisted phone number and could not be reached for comment. He concluded his letter by pleading for the understanding of church members and assured them of his "determination so to live as to bring added respect to the cause I deeply love, and honor to the Lord who is my Redeemer."


Response to claim: "a testimony is to be found in the bearing of it"

The author(s) of Letter to a CES Director (April 2013 revision) make(s) the following claim:

[Boyd K. Packer said] "How can I bear testimony until I get one? How can I testify that God lives, that Jesus is the Christ, and that the gospel is true? If I do not have such a testimony, would that not be dishonest?’ Oh, if I could teach you this one principle: a testimony is to be found in the bearing of it!" – Boyd K. Packer, The Quest for Spiritual Knowledge.

How is this honest? How is this ethical? What kind of advice are these Apostles giving when they’re telling you that if you don’t have a testimony, bear one anyway? How is this not lying? There’s a difference between saying you know something and you believe something. What about members and investigators who are on the other side listening to your 'testimony'? How are they supposed to know whether you actually do have a testimony of Mormonism or if you’re just following Packer and Oaks’ advice and you’re lying your way into one?

FairMormon Response

Fact checking results: This claim contains propaganda - The author, or the author's source, is providing information or ideas in a slanted way in order to instill a particular attitude or response in the reader

Elder Packer is talking about having faith, not about "lying your way" into having a testimony.

Jump to Detail:

Question: Did Elder Boyd K. Packer suggest that we should "lie our way" into obtaining a testimony?

Elder Packer said "a testimony is to be found in the bearing of it"

Elder Boyd K. Packer spoke of how to gain a testimony of the gospel of Jesus Christ:

How can I bear testimony until I get one? How can I testify that God lives, that Jesus is the Christ, and that the gospel is true? If I do not have such a testimony, would that not be dishonest?’ Oh, if I could teach you this one principle: a testimony is to be found in the bearing of it![52]

Critics of the Church claim that Elder Packer is advising that Church members claim to know the truth of the gospel even before they actually do, and that this is simply "lying their way" into gaining a testimony.

Elder Packer is talking about having faith, which one must exercise before receiving a witness

Elder Packer is not suggesting that a person much "lie their way" into having a testimony. Elder Packer is talking about having faith.

Hebrews 11:1:

Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.

One exercises faith before one has the evidence to prove it. Elder Packer is simply restating the scriptural definition of "faith" in terms of "testimony."

When one exercises faith, results follow which strengthen that faith

When one exercises faith, results follow which strengthen that faith, but one has to take that first "leap of faith." One does not take a "leap of faith," unless they already have a seed of faith to begin with. Elder Packer is not suggesting that you should be "lying your way into" having a testimony. Attempting to "lie" your way into having a testimony would be ineffective: your testimony would not grow, and you would become increasingly frustrated.

Elder Packer makes this clear by addressing this particular concern:

It is not unusual to have a missionary say, “How can I bear testimony until I get one? How can I testify that God lives, that Jesus is the Christ, and that the gospel is true? If I do not have such a testimony, would that not be dishonest?”

Oh, if I could teach you this one principle: a testimony is to be found in the bearing of it!

Somewhere in your quest for spiritual knowledge, there is that “leap of faith,” as the philosophers call it. It is the moment when you have gone to the edge of the light and stepped into the darkness to discover that the way is lighted ahead for just a footstep or two. “The spirit of man is,” as the scripture says, indeed “the candle of the Lord” (Proverbs 20:27).

It is one thing to receive a witness from what you have read or what another has said; and that is a necessary beginning. It is quite another to have the Spirit confirm to you in your bosom that what you have testified is true. Can you not see that it will be supplied as you share it? As you give that which you have, there is a replacement, with increase!

To speak out is the test of your faith.[52]


Response to claim: "how can they be sure of the reliability of this same exact process in telling them that Mormonism is true?"

The author(s) of Letter to a CES Director (April 2013 revision) make(s) the following claim:

There are many members who share their testimonies that the Spirit told them that they were to marry this person or go to this school or move to this location or start up this business or invest in this investment. They rely on this Spirit in making critical life decisions. When the decision turns out to be not only incorrect but disastrous, the fault lies on the individual and never on the Spirit. The individual didn’t have the discernment or it was the individual’s hormones talking or it was the individual’s greed that was talking or the individual wasn’t worthy at the time. This poses a profound flaw and dilemma: if individuals can be so convinced that they’re being led by the Spirit but yet be so wrong about what the Spirit tells them, how can they be sure of the reliability of this same exact process in telling them that Mormonism is true?

FairMormon Response

Fact checking results: This claim contains propaganda - The author, or the author's source, is providing information or ideas in a slanted way in order to instill a particular attitude or response in the reader

There are a number of things to consider when faced with the type of situation that the author describes besides those claimed. Confirmation of the spirit requires sincere questioning and study before receiving a witness. The most important thing to remember is how this process has provided blessings and even miracles in our lives. We shouldn't discount the process when we're meant to be tested and when we've already seen blessings of this same process in our lives. Our testimony of the Book of Mormon and the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is not something that is casually obtained. It requires sincere study, prayer, and nourishing our testimony through both intellectual and spiritual means throughout our entire lives.

Jump to Detail:

Question: Why might someone not be able to see their spiritual impressions come to successful, obvious, and/or beautiful fruition?

There are a variety of ways to view these situations

It is sometimes wondered how one might respond to a situation in which an impression to do or believe something doesn’t come to fruition—whether that be in an immediate, obvious, or good way. This article will offer a number of things to consider when in this type of a situation. They are not things we have to constantly be worrying about when trying to receive inspiration nor are they set possibilities. These are simply a number of things to consider when faced with this type of a situation.

Consider that the impression is brought to fruition without you immediately recognizing the benefit

The first thing we can always consider is that the impression has brought fruit but that it won’t be immediately obvious to us how those experiences benefit us or the life of someone else right now or in the future.

Dallin H. Oaks: "[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."

Dallin H. Oaks teaches that we can be led by false revelation if we extend our desire to pray about unnecessary things:

[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"[53]

One might want to consider how Mormon theology views “bad things” happening to good people

It may be useful to see how Mormon theology views bad things happening to good people. Perhaps these situations might be viewed as “bad things” since we don’t see the fruit of our effort. In Latter-day Saint theology, a bad thing may happen because:

  1. It brings about a greater good as when Joseph was sold into Egypt. Sometimes the greater good is not immediately forthcoming or obvious to us. Sometimes the effect that we have on people or on ourselves after following an impression can be enough to help strengthen their relationship with God or come closer to finding meaning through the restored Gospel.
  2. To chasten the disobedient because of his love for them as taught in Helaman 15. We have to be faithful to receive blessings. When we are humble we are more likely to turn to him.
  3. An Abrahamic test of faith. The prophet Joseph Smith is canonized saying “ But nevertheless, deep water is what I am wont to swim in. It all has become second nature to me, and I feel like Paul, to glory in tribulation;” (D&C 127:2) Obviously the Lord isn’t going to spare us any test of faith in life (D&C 136.31). He will actively test it to prepare us for greater things. Trying to learn how to receive and follow inspiration and trust in God is not an exception.

Sometimes people receive impressions, but aren’t able to interpret them correctly

It is important to know that A) It is possible to confuse emotion for a spiritual impression. We should take time when trying to receive inspiration to ponder what we are feeling and seek to counsel long with the Lord if wanting to receive an answer to prayer B) Some people do receive an impression, but don’t interpret them correctly. Oftentimes we are receiving inspiration from the Spirit to confirm a thought but perhaps we aren’t still enough to capture its still small voice and we may get distracted from what it is trying to communicate to us.

It is important to be still and focus so that we can carefully discern what exactly the spirit is prompting us to do and/or believe. Oftentimes we haven’t studied an issue out in our minds thoroughly as is often required of us when trying to seek inspiration. When we don’t, we may not get what we’re looking for (D&C 9:7-9)

Revelation takes time to master. We should understand how the Spirit functions and continue to test our knowledge. Eventually we are promised to see fruits for our efforts—even miracles

Revelation takes time to master. The best we can do is understand how the Spirit works by reading the scriptures and following the impression we receive as best as we can discern them. We are promised that as we are humble, the Lord will lead us by the hand and give us answers to our prayers (D&C 112:10) and that signs will follow the believers (D&C 63.9)

A key to understanding when something is authentic is its effect on you. It should feel like it didn’t come from you or was willed by you or as Joseph Smith says, like “pure intelligence" flowing into you:

A person may profit by noticing the first intimation of the spirit of revelation; for instance, when you feel pure intelligence flowing into you, it may give you sudden strokes of ideas, so that by noticing it, you may find it fulfilled the same day or soon; (i.e.) those things that were presented unto your minds by the Spirit of God, will come to pass; and thus by learning the Spirit of God and understanding it, you may grow into the principle of revelation, until you become perfect in Christ Jesus.


However, as Boyd K. Packer points out, revelation does not "flow without effort" on the part of the person desiring it:

To one who thought that revelation would always flow without effort (although sometimes the revelation is spontaneous), the Lord said:

“You have not understood; you have supposed that I would give it unto you, when you took no thought save it was to ask me. “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.” This burning in the bosom is not purely a physical sensation. It is more like a warm light shining within your being.

Describing the promptings from the Holy Ghost to one who has not had them is very difficult. Such promptings are personal and strictly private!

D&C 50:24

The fruit of our impressions will become clearer to us as we continue in God. As expressed in D&C 50:24:

24 That which is of God is light; and he that receiveth light, and continueth in God, receiveth more light; and that light groweth brighter and brighter until the perfect day.

As we remain humble and allow things to play out, God will allow us to understand what he means to teach us. As we grow into the principle of revelation, we will be better prepared to understand the Lord’s design and method for shaping our lives.


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.


Response to claim: "I felt the Spirit watching 'Saving Private Ryan' and the 'Schindler’s List'. Both R-rated and horribly violent movies. I also felt the Spirit watching 'Forrest Gump' and the 'Lion King'."

The author(s) of Letter to a CES Director (April 2013 revision) make(s) the following claim:

I felt the Spirit watching 'Saving Private Ryan' and the 'Schindler’s List'. Both R-rated and horribly violent movies. I also felt the Spirit watching 'Forrest Gump' and the 'Lion King'.

FairMormon Response

Fact checking results: This claim contains propaganda - The author, or the author's source, is providing information or ideas in a slanted way in order to instill a particular attitude or response in the reader

The author has his own definition of "feeling the spirit." The most important thing here is to pay attention to both our heart and our mind when determining what the Spirit communicates (D&C 8:2)

Jump to Detail:

Question: Can a person "feel the spirit" while watching movies?

The Spirit testifies of all true principles, regardless of the source

Why would I "feel the spirit" when watching fictional movies? Some of these movies are even violent and R-rated, such as Saving Private Ryan and Schindler's List.

The Spirit testifies of all truth. The Spirit can testify of true principles taught or portrayed in fiction as well as in real life such as the importance of sacrifice, the importance of family, or of humility. For example, why would one feel so compelled by the story of Les Miserables? After all, the movie portrays prostitutes, thieves, and blasphemers. However, the message is of the importance of mercy over justice, of self-sacrifice, and of forgiveness. Why wouldn't the Holy Ghost tell us these are true principles? The same can be said of many movies, including animated films such as The Lion King.

Also, one should not equate the witness of the spirit with emotion. Just because an experience generates a pleasant emotional response does not mean that you are "feeling the spirit." Just because one can "feel the spirit" regarding religious matters does not mean that one is unable to feel good or inspired about anything else. No Latter-day Saint will say that they felt the spirit "confirm the truth" of a movie. Important here is to understand the different factors that play into spiritual epistemology. It involves all of our faculties (See Alma 32:27). Spiritual epistemology is a complex interaction between and evaluation of the thoughts of your mind, the feelings of your heart, the physical health of your body, the light of Christ (which can increase by doing good and decrease and be diminished by doing what is wrong), the outside influence of the Holy Ghost, and everything that God has deemed good in the world. One can feel a more passive influence of the Holy Ghost which is like an abiding peace that comes when one is doing what is right or in the presence of something good since we seek after all good things (A of F 1:13) and all good things come from God (Moroni 7:12), or it can be more dynamic as when we are seeking revelation in which we will receive both inspiration or revelation in our mind and a phenomenon (not just a feeling or emotion) in our heart. We can simply be feeling the spirit that is supposed to be with us as we live up to sacrament covenants (Moroni 4,5).

The movies Saving Private Ryan and Schindler's List are very accurate and profound dramas that depict certain important historical events: In this case, the D-day invasion and the Holocaust. They are, out of necessity, R-rated and violent movies, nevertheless they are still deeply moving and, at their most beautiful moments, can move our hearts and minds to God as they teach simple but profound truths. We are moved by these portrayals because we empathize with the sacrifice and suffering of those depicted. Just because we seek "confirmation of the spirit" in religious matters in order to receive confirmation of their truthfulness does not require us to be "dead in feeling" to the rest of life. We should understand how the spirit works, including how it interacts with everything mentioned above, and do our best to evaluate it. The key is to simply pay attention to both our mind and heart when discerning the Spirit’s influences (D&C 8:2).


Response to claim: "Why did I feel the Spirit as I listened to the stories of apostates sharing how they discovered for themselves that Mormonism is not true?"

The author(s) of Letter to a CES Director (April 2013 revision) make(s) the following claim:

Why did I feel the Spirit as I listened to the stories of apostates sharing how they discovered for themselves that Mormonism is not true?

FairMormon Response

Fact checking results: This claim contains propaganda - The author, or the author's source, is providing information or ideas in a slanted way in order to instill a particular attitude or response in the reader

The author has his own definition of "feeling the spirit."

Jump to Detail:

Question: Can someone feel the spirit when listening to stories of apostasy?

The Spirit only testifies of things that come from God, and should not be confused with emotion

One critic of the Church, who believes that the "spirit" is simply an emotional manifestation, poses the question: "Why did I feel the Spirit as I listened to the stories of apostates sharing how they discovered for themselves that Mormonism is not true?" [54]

The Spirit does not confirm apostasy. This is simply an attempt to diminish the experience of those who have truly had the Spirit testify of Christ.

A more accurate way to phrase this would be: "Why did I feel good as I listened to the stories of apostates sharing how they discovered for themselves that Mormonism is not true?" After all, ex-Mormons have already concluded that the "Spirit" is unreliable and inconsistent. The answer, of course, is that the stories that the ex-Mormon is hearing support the conclusion that they have already formed.

This is simply an attempt to demonstrate that the feelings of the "spirit" are meaningless

Ex-Mormons sometimes attempt to equate the experiences of believers who "feel the spirit" during testimony meeting with how they feel when hearing the stories of those who have left the Church, thereby proving that "feeling the spirit" is meaningless. However, while the spirit communicates with us through feelings, such as love, joy, or peace, (Gal. 5:22-23), the mere fact one experiences such feelings does not mean that person is "feeling the spirit." Correctly identifying when such feelings represent the presence of the Holy Ghost can take practice and depends upon study, prayer and experience.


"Recognizing the Voice of the Spirit" (Podcast): "How can I come to know that spiritual experience is not just a product of chemical processes in the brain?"

"FAIR Questions 2: Recognizing the Voice of the Spirit":

How do I find a way to not only discern the Spirit from emotion, but how can I become convinced that the Spirit is actually real? How can I come to know that spiritual experience is not just a product of chemical processes in the brain? I mean, I’ve prayed about the truth of the Book of Mormon and the gospel and I have gotten answers to my prayers, but how can I come to know whether or not this is from God, and not just either a part of my subconscious or a delusion.[55] —(Click here to continue)


Response to claim: "This thought-provoking video raises some profound questions and challenges to the Latter-day Saint concept of "testimony" and receiving a witness from the Holy Ghost..."

The author(s) of Letter to a CES Director (March 2015 revision) make(s) the following claim:

This thought-provoking video raises some profound questions and challenges to the Latter-day Saint concept of "testimony" and receiving a witness from the Holy Ghost or Spirit as being a unique, reliable, and trustworthy source to discerning truth and reality:

FairMormon Response

{{propaganda| The author uses a video that basically summarizes his claims regarding the Spirit. The video includes several clips of people describing "spiritual" experiences. One includes a young man's brother who prayed about The Book of Hagoth from the Mentinah Archives and claims to have received a confirmatory witness of its truth. The video also includes an unverified recording--supposedly from a member of the FLDS church who claims she received a witness from the Holy Ghost that polygamy was a true principle and that that church was true. Since the recording is only vocal and not visual, the provenance remains slightly dubious. It includes a Muslim woman who states her confidence in Islam and her witness from God. It also includes a woman from the Heaven's Gate cult who expresses deep feelings about her being a part of it. In regards to the boy, there may be danger in this but there may also be truth. In regards to the recording, perhaps something regarding the Succession crisis may help. We have already provided responses that explain the experiences of people in other religions. In regards to the woman from Heaven's Gate, the nature of the experience may be in doubt. |L=Criticism of Mormonism/Online documents/Letter to a CES Director/Testimony & Spiritual Witness Concerns & Questions |L1=Question: Can a person receive a spiritual witness about any book? |L2=Question: Did Brigham promise that Joseph Smith III would eventually take over the Church? |L3=Question: What indications were there that Brigham Young would be Joseph Smith's successor? |L4=Question: Are non-Mormons' spiritual experiences with the Holy Ghost as valid as those claimed by Latter-day Saints?


Question: Can a person receive a spiritual witness about any book?

The scriptures are clear that there is a choice involved as to which power we bring ourselves under during this life.

Primarily secularist critics of The Church of Jesus Chist posit that a person can receive a witness about anything if they pray hard enough to receive the answer they want. Prayer is, as they posit, an entirely deterministic epistemic practice and spiritual epistemology is simply based in confirmation bias. It is sad to hear of cases like this since the person doing this is abandoning a unique proposition in order to squander the precious gift of spiritual witness. When we have received a testimony or when we have become aware of the proposition of receiving a spiritual witness, it is our choice to accept that testimony/proposition and to move forward with it. Heavenly Father isn’t going to stop us if we are really trying to disprove ourselves of the validity of the experience. As the dying Lehi taught his sons:

2 Nephi 2: 27-28

27 Wherefore, men are free according to the flesh; and all things are given them which are expedient unto man. And they are free to choose liberty and eternal life, through the great Mediator of all men, or to choose captivity and death, according to the captivity and power of the devil; for he seeketh that all men might be miserable like unto himself.

28 And now, my sons, I would that ye should look to the great Mediator, and hearken unto his great commandments; and be faithful unto his words, and choose eternal life, according to the will of his Holy Spirit;

According to this scripture, there is a choice involved even after we have received the Holy Spirit and had it testified to us of the truthfulness of something. We have our agency, now is our time to continue in light until the perfect day (D&C 50:24).

If we are to pray about other books, we may be opening ourselves up to the influence of false spirits.

1 John 4:1 gives us this council

Beloved, believe not every spirit, but try the spirits, whether they are of God: because many false prophets are gone out into the world. Hereby know ye that the Spirit of God: Every spirit that confesseth that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is of God

Additionally, Doctrine and Covenants 50:31 states the following:

31 Wherefore, it shall come to pass, that if you behold a spirit manifested that you cannot understand and you receive not that spirit, ye shall ask of the Father in the name of Jesus; and if he give not unto you that spirit, then you may know that it is not of God.

It is therefore dangerous to do this to ourselves as we may simply allow ourselves to be deceived. This information from the scriptures should hopefully inform our decision making process and allow us to broaden our understanding of how the Spirit works. We should be careful to simply understand how LDS pneumatology works and then trust in what the Lord has given us in faith.

Personal revelation may come while reading a book.

The dynamic influence of the holy ghost, as where we are receiving revelation, is both a revelation or inspiration brought to the mind combined with a discernible outside influence on the soul (D&C 8:2). Why can’t we receive revelation confirming a true principle while reading a book? To pray about a book to “confirm its truthfulness” is to meddle with what shouldn’t be meddled with. It is demanding signs and wasting the sacred gift of agency. To gain inspiration and encouragement from one to continue a long the path of discipleship and find renewed meaning through them is part of a normal spiritual interaction with all things that are good in the world. We are encouraged to seek after all good things (A of F 1: 13) because as Moroni 7 tells us, all good things come from God. We also do believe that other books will be inspired by a god and will come from all quarters of the earth (2 Nephi 29:11; Alma 29:8).

There are evidences against the deterministic claim

Latter-day Saints and other individuals wrestling with the question should remember the evidences against this posited determinism from critics by remembering “top-down” revelation. This is distinguished from “bottom-up” revelation. “Bottom-up”revelation is where the individual has to bring him or herself in tune with the will of God before receiving revelation by making themselves worthy, studying something out in their mind, and then asking God for inspiration with real intent. Top-down revelation is where God brings us in tune. This happens with promptings of eminent danger, “no” answers to prayer when we want a yes, other miraculous knowledge we would not otherwise have were it not for the Spirit’s influence.


Question: Did Brigham promise that Joseph Smith III would eventually take over the Church?

Brigham was referring to being "ready to receive" any of Joseph's children into the Church

The Wikipedia article "Joseph Smith, Jr." makes this rather interesting assertion:

Indeed, as late as 1860, Brigham Young assured the bulk of Smith's followers that young Joseph would eventually take his father's place. (Journal of Discourses, 8:69.)

The source provided does not support the assertion that Brigham stated that "young Joseph would eventually take his father's place." Brigham said,

What of Joseph Smith's family? What of his boys? I have prayed from the beginning for sister Emma and for the whole family. There is not a man in this Church that has entertained better feelings towards them. Joseph said to me, "God will take care of my children when I am taken." They are in the hands of God, and when they make their appearance before this people, full of his power, there are none but what will say—"Amen! we are ready to receive you."

The brethren testify that brother Brigham is brother Joseph's legal successor. You never heard me say so. I say that I am a good hand to keep the dogs and wolves out of the flock. I do not care a groat who rises up. I do not think anything about being Joseph's successor. (Brigham Young, Journal of Discourses 8:69.)

Brigham's comment "we are ready to receive you" applied to all of Joseph's children, not just Joseph Smith III.

Mark Hofmann forged a document known as the The Joseph Smith III blessing, which falsely represented itself as a father’s blessing given by the Prophet Joseph Smith on 17 January 1844 to his son, Joseph Smith III, to the effect that this son was his appointed successor. (See Ensign, May 1981.) off-site


Question: What indications were there that Brigham Young would be Joseph Smith's successor?

Statements indicating that Brigham would be Joseph's successor

Benjamin Franklin Johnson

“Of Brigham Young as President of the Church, I will again bear this as a faithful testimony that I do know and bear record that upon the head of Brigham Young as chief, with the Apostleship in full, was by the voice of the Prophet Joseph in my hearing, laid the full responsibility of bearing of[f] the kingdom of God to all the world . . . . [When Brigham Young first met Joseph Smith and spoke in tongues in the Adamic languaue the Prophet] at that time, made the prediction upon the head of Brigham Young that ‘at some period he would become the leader of the Church, and that there would be one danger to beset him, and that would be his love of wealth.’ These things were told to me by [Lyman R.] Sherman [i.e., Johnson’s brother-in-law] at near the time of their occurrence” (E. Dale LeBaron, Benjamin Franklin Johnson: Friend to the Prophets [Provo, Utah: Grandin Book Co., 1997], 232, 233).

Brigham Young

“I can say of a truth that Joseph told me not three months before he was killed, and I did not seek the information he gave me—we were talking upon counseling, governing and controlling—that ‘if I am moved out of the way, you are the only man living on this earth who can counsel and direct the affairs of the kingdom of God on the earth’” ("Remarks by President Brigham Young at the Semi Annual Conference, Great Salt Lake City, Oct. 8, 1866," LDS Church Archives, Salt Lake City, Utah. Spelling, punctuation, and grammar modernized).

William Nelson

“I have heard the Prophet speak in public on many occasions. In one meeting I heard him say, ‘I will give you a key that will never rust. If you will stay with the majority of the Twelve Apostles, and the records of the Church, you will never be led astray’” (Young Woman’s Journal, December 1906, 542–43).

Oliver Cowdery

“There was no salvation but in the valley and through the priesthood there.” (Letter, Phineas Young to Brigham Young, April 25, 1850, Brigham Young Collection, LDS Church Archives, Salt Lake City, Utah.

Martin Harris

"Brigham is governor" (----------).

Mosiah Hancock

"When the Prophet had his hand upon my father's head, I said to myself, 'I trust that I will be as true to young Joseph, the Prophet's son, as my father is to his father.' Afterwards at home, I told my father of my thoughts, and he said, 'No, Mosiah, for God has shown to Brother Joseph that his son, Joseph, will be the means of drawing many people away from this Church after him. Brother Joseph gave us to understand that it was our duty to follow the Twelve. The majority of this people will be right" (Amy E. Baird, Victoria H. Jackson, and Laura L. Wassell, comp., "Autobiography of Mosiah Hancock (1834-1865)," typescript copy, BYU Special Collections, Harold B. Lee Library, Provo, Utah, 27-29.

Joseph Smith

“where I am not, there is no First Presidency over the Twelve” [TPJS, 106]. (ftnt. #23): Some recent historians have asserted that this statement is not found in the original minutes of the 1836 meeting. Even so, the insertion in the Joseph Smith history in the 1850s can still be accepted as valid, for the compilers of that history, Wilford Woodruff and George A. Smith, were contemporaries of the Prophet and “were eye and ear witnesses of nearly all the transactions recorded . . . , and, where they were not personally present, they have had access to those who were” (quoted in Dean C. Jessee, “The Writing of Joseph Smith’s History,” BYU Studies 11 (Summer 1971): 473). President Brigham Young understood this concept, as have all other Church Presidents who have authoritatively used this statement as a key principle in succession to the presidency. (Brent L. Top and Lawrence R. Flake, Ensign, August 1996)

Further Reading

D. Michael Quinn has done excellent work on the succession Crisis through BYU Studies which can be found here.

Also see this video from LDS Truth Claims that explains all criticisms in detail and points to additional sources for learning.



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, it calls into question LDS spiritual experiences. 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 are trying to do everything in their power to persuade Latter-day Saints that spiritual epistemology is unreliable, ununique, and of dubious provenance. This particular strain of thought is apart of the argument against uniquity.

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 and axiological assumptions that take on are arbitrary. 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 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.[56]

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.” [57]

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.

Click here to view the complete article

Along with the scripture from Alma 29:6, we might include Nephi/29.11-12?lang=eng#11-12 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.[58]. This conversion can come through other Christian religions or the Lord's Church.

By adopting the previous three frameworks 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. 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."""[59]
  • 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[60]

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[61]
  • 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; D&C 45:36-44; 52:15-16).
  • 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[62]

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



Notes

  1. See “Holy Spirit” https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Holy_Spirit
  2. Preach My Gospel, Chapter 5 "The Book of Mormon and the Bible Support Each Other"
  3. Joseph Smith, in 1843, History of the Church, 5:498.
  4. "Lesson 1: The Message of the Restoration of the Gospel of Jesus Christ," Preach My Gospel: A Guide to Missionary Service (2004) 46
  5. This response was written 25 February 2019
  6. Haidt, Jonathan (7 March 2000). "The Positive Emotion of Elevation". Prevention & Treatment. 3 (1)
  7. Aquino, Karl; Brent McFerran; Marjorie Laven (April 2011). "Moral identity and the experience of moral elevation in response to acts of uncommon goodness". Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. 100 (4): 703–718
  8. Ibid
  9. Silvers, Jennifer; Jonathan Haidt (2008). "Moral Elevation Can Induce Nursing". Emotion. 8 (2): 291–295. doi:10.1037/1528-3542.8.2.291.
  10. https://www.lds.org/manual/preach-my-gospel-a-guide-to-missionary-service/how-do-i-find-people-to-teach?lang=eng
  11. (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.)
  12. 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
  13. Blake T. Ostler, "Spiritual Experiences as the Basis for Belief and Commitment," (2007 FAIR Conference Presentation)
  14. Teachings of Gordon B. Hinckley (Salt Lake City, UT: Deseret Book Co., 1997), 260-261.
  15. (quoted in Juvenile Instructor, 19 July 1873, 114)
  16. Clyde J. Williams, ed., The Teachings of Howard W. Hunter (Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1997), 184.
  17. Bruce R. McConkie, “Prophets,” in Mormon Doctrine, 2nd edition, (Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, Inc., 1966), 608.
  18. Teachings of Harold B. Lee, 542.
  19. Harold B. Lee, “The Place of the Living Prophet, Seer, and Revelator,” Address to Seminary and Institute of Religion Faculty, BYU, 8 July 1964; see Teachings of Harold B. Lee, 541.
  20. JD, 6:319, President Brigham Young, 7 April 1852, general conference address, Salt Lake City, Utah, Tabernacle.
  21. Salt Lake School of the Prophets Minute Book, 9 June 1873, LDS Church Archives, Salt Lake City, Utah.
  22. JD, 3:209, President Brigham Young, 17 February 1856, discourse delivered in the Salt Lake City, Utah, Tabernacle.
  23. “The Lord told me that Adam was my father and that he was the God and father of all the inhabitants of this earth” (Memorandum, 30 April 1862, cited in Stanley B. Kimball, ed., On the Potter’s Wheel: The Diaries of Heber C. Kimball [Salt Lake City: Signature Books and Smith Research Associates, 1987], 176, n. 3). There is a reported instance of Heber C. Kimball supposedly writing something similar in another manuscript but since this information was relayed by J. Golden Kimball (Heber’s son) to another person it is a third-hand account.
  24. Thomas B. H. Stenhouse, The Rocky Mountain Saints (London: Ward, Lock, and Tyler, 1874), 561 n. 2. If Heber C. Kimball was indeed the person who introduced the Adam–God idea to President Brigham Young and (as evidenced in the previous endnote) claimed divine revelation for that knowledge then there was, at the very least, a violation of the order whereby revelation is ordained to be received for the Church. Institutional revelations are never vouchsafed to a counselor in the First Presidency when the President has the capacity to receive them. Only the President of the LDS Church receives revelation for the entire institution. As Joseph Fielding Smith taught, “There is but one [person] at a time who holds the keys and the right to receive revelation for the Church, and that man is the President of the Church. . . .[W]henever [the Lord] has a revelation or commandment to give to His people . . . it will come through the presiding officer of the Church” (Joseph Fielding Smith, Doctrines of Salvation [Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1999], 1:283–84).
  25. 5 April 1860, meeting of the Twelve at the Church Historian’s Office, Salt Lake City, Utah, cited in Gary J. Bergera, Conflict in the Quorum: Orson Pratt, Brigham Young, Joseph Smith (Salt Lake City: Signature Books, 2002), 194. There does not appear to be any rebuttal of this statement from Brigham Young, Heber C. Kimball, or anyone else. On 23 September 1860 Orson Pratt stated with reference to ideas about godhood, “I do not believe as Brother Brigham and Brother Kimball do in some points of doctrine and they do not wish me to acknowledge to a thing that I do not believe” (Kenney, ed., Wilford Woodruff’s Journal, 5:507, Salt Lake City, Utah, Historian’s Office).
  26. Matthew Brown "Brigham Young's Teachings on Adam" <https://www.fairmormon.org/wp-content/uploads/2011/11/2009_Brigham_Youngs_Teachings_On_Adam.pdf> (accessed 13 March 2019)
  27. The “salvation or damnation” statement may simply be Brigham Young’s rephrased expression of the ideology found in John 17:3 (a scripture he often connected with his Adam– God teachings)—“And this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God.”
  28. Campbell, The Essential Brigham Young, 86, 87, 97.
  29. Ibid., 97. As a member of the First Presidency Charles W. Penrose responded in print, in a Church periodical, to the following question: “Do you believe that Adam had more wives than one, either in this world or in the spiritual world?” His answer was, “We do not know of any wife of Adam excepting Mother Eve” (Improvement Era, vol. 15, no. 11, September 1912, 1042).
  30. 75. Campbell, The Essential Brigham Young, 97.
  31. Ibid. This statement matches another one found in the same discourse: “Adam planted the Garden of Eden” (ibid., 98). This is in conflict with information found in the Bible (see Gen. 2:8), the Book of Moses (see Moses 3:8), and the Book of Abraham (see Abraham 5:8) which state that it was God(s)—not specifically ‘Adam’—who “planted” the garden.
  32. 77. Statements by Brigham Young indicating that certain Adam–God Theory principles only represented his personal opinion: 24 July 1853 – “I believe the Father came down from heaven, as the apostles said He did, and begat the Savior of the world, for He is the only-begotten of the Father, which could not be if the Father did not actually beget Him in person. . . . I believe the Father came down in His 24 tabernacle and begat Jesus Christ. . . . I believe He has a tabernacle, and begat Jesus Christ . . . because the Bible expressly declares it. . . . I believe the Father begat the Son” (JD, 1:238, emphasis added, President Brigham Young, 24 July 1853, Salt Lake City, Utah, Tabernacle). 23 October 1853 – “You believe Adam was made of the dust of this earth. This I do not believe, though it is supposed that it is so written in the Bible; but it is not, to my understanding” (JD, 2:6, emphasis added, President Brigham Young, 23 October 1853, Salt Lake City, Utah, Tabernacle). 8 October 1854 – “I propose to speak upon a subject that does not immediately concern yours or my welfare. . . . I will tell you what I believe . . . I do not pretend to say that the items of doctrine, and ideas I shall advance are necessary for the people to know, or that they should give themselves any trouble about them whatever . . . . These are my views with regard to the gods, and eternities . . . . I will tell you what I think about it, and as the [Southerners] say, ‘I reckon,’ and as the Yankees say, ‘I guess’; but I will tell you what I reckon. I reckon . . . . I reckon . . . . I reckon it. And I reckon . . . . and I reckon . . . . I reckon . . . . I reckon . . . . I reckon . . . . I reckon . . . . I reckon . . . . tell you what I reckon” (Campbell, The Essential Brigham Young, 86, 87, 90, 97, 98, 99, 100). 25 April 1855 – “apparently I understand . . . . It appears to me I understand . . . who [Jesus Christ] came from . . . . this is for you to believe or disbelieve as you please, for if I were to [express my thoughts] I have no doubt but there would be many that would say, ‘Perhaps it is so and perhaps it is not’ . . . . If I should undertake to tell the people what I believe in my heart and what seemeth to me (I do not say it is so) but what seemeth to me to be eternal truth, how would they know unless they had the spirit of revelation to say to them whether it was a truth or an untruth? . . . . I do not design to go into any mysteries or to take up worldly sciences [such as the ‘science of theology’ – see p. 3] to any great extent but suppose I were to take up a few of them, I should be like the rest of you: tell what I know according to what I understand and believe. And then if I am wrong I should be glad if God or some man upon the earth would correct me and set me right and tell me what it is and how it is. . . . communicate to you my ideas upon the subject. . . . as I understand pertaining to Him with whom we have to do . . . . I will tell you what I think . . . . It is a subject I am aware that does not appear so clear to our understandings at present as we could wish it . . . it is [a subject] that should not trouble us at all. . . . I tell you this as my belief about that personage who is called the Ancient of Days . . . . I do not tell it because that I wish it to be established in the minds of others . . . . To my mind and to my feelings those matters are all plain” (Elden J. Watson, comp., Brigham Young Addresses, unpublished collection, vol. 3, 1855– 1859, volume compiled in 1980, sermons individually paginated, information found on pp. 3, 4, 5 – this was an address to the Deseret Theological Institute in Salt Lake City, Utah). 8 February 1857 – “I understand in part, see in part, and know and am acquainted with [my Father] in part . . . . That is my opinion about it, and my opinion to me is just as good as yours is to you” (JD, 4:218, President Brigham Young, 8 February 1857, Salt Lake City, Utah, Tabernacle). 7 October 1857 – “I believe our God to be so near to us as Father Adam . . . . those are ideas which do not concern us at present” (JD, 5:331–32, President Brigham Young, 7 October 1857, Salt Lake City, Utah, Bowery). 25 9 October 1859 – “Adam and Eve are the parents of all pertaining to the flesh, and I would not say that they are not also the parents of our spirits” (JD, 7:290, President Brigham Young, 9 October 1859, Salt Lake City, Utah, Tabernacle).
  33. Ibid.
  34. Found in Russell Stevenson, "For the Cause of Rightousness" (Salt Lake City, UT: Greg Kofford Books, 2014)
  35. Transcripts will be posted at a later time. This line written 19 March 2019. The Lowry Nelson letters do contain strongly affirmative language regarding the restrictions yet these were simply relying on statements from Brigham Young and others that weren't official pronouncements and did not claim to come from direct revelation or scripture.
  36. Lowell M. Snow "Blood Atonement" in Encyclopedia of Mormonism (New York, NY: MacMillan Publishing, 1992) off-site
  37. Improvement Era 13 (Nov 1909) :75–81
  38. "Words in Season from the First Presidency," Deseret Evening News (17 December 1910), part 1: 3.
  39. Brigham Young, "The Kingdom Of God," (8 July 1855) Journal of Discourses 2:314.
  40. Nelson, Russell M. "Revelation for the Church, Revelation for Our Lives" General Conference, April 2018 [1]
  41. Riddle, Chauncey R. "Revelation." Encyclopedia of Mormonism. New York: Macmillan Publishing Company. 2007 Online
  42. Spackman, T. Ben "Using Context to Unlock the Old Testament Library" Sperry Symposium 2017 [2]
  43. Robinson, Stephen R. "Biblical Scholarship." Encyclopedia of Mormonism. New York City: Macmillan Publishing Company, 2007. Online.
  44. Marlin K. Jensen, “The Joseph Smith Papers: The Manuscript Revelation Books,” Ensign (July 2009) off-site
  45. Letter to William McLellin, February 2, 1848, as cited in Dan Vogel, Early Mormon Documents, Vol. 5, pages 257-9.
  46. Ibid., page 257
  47. William McLellin to Joseph Smith III, September 8, 1872. See Vogel, Early Mormon Documents, Vol. 5, page 328.
  48. John L. Traughber correspondence, which appears to date from 1881. Dan Vogel’s editor comments in “Early Mormon Documents”, Vol. 5, page 333, explain his assumption this was written to James T. Cobb. See page 334 for relevant statements concerning the Mission to Canada.
  49. David Whitmer Interview with Omaha (NE) Herald, Oct. 10, 1886, as quoted by Dan Vogel in Early Mormon Documents, Vol. 5, pages 174-181. See page 180 for relevant material.
  50. David Whitmer, An Address to All Believers in Christ by a Witness to the Divine Authenticity of The Book of Mormon (David Whitmer: Richmond, Virginia, 1887).
  51. Brigham H. Roberts, Comprehensive History of the Church (Provo, Utah: Brigham Young University Press, 1965), 1:165. GospeLink (requires subscrip.)
  52. 52.0 52.1 Boyd K. Packer, "The Candle of the Lord", Ensign (Jan. 1983) off-site).
  53. Dallin H. Oaks, "Our Strengths Can Become Our Downfall," Ensign (Oct. 1994), 13–14.
  54. Jeremy Runnells, Letter to a CES Director (2013)
  55. "FAIR Questions 2: Recognizing the Voice of the Spirit," FairMormon Blog (28 August 2011).
  56. https://www.lds.org/manual/preach-my-gospel-a-guide-to-missionary-service/how-do-i-find-people-to-teach?lang=eng
  57. (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.)
  58. 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
  59. Blake T. Ostler, "Spiritual Experiences as the Basis for Belief and Commitment," (2007 FAIR Conference Presentation)
  60. Teachings of Gordon B. Hinckley (Salt Lake City, UT: Deseret Book Co., 1997), 260-261.
  61. (quoted in Juvenile Instructor, 19 July 1873, 114)
  62. Clyde J. Williams, ed., The Teachings of Howard W. Hunter (Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1997), 184.