We should not just go on our own feelings on everything...Granted, our feelings can be wrong; of course they can be wrong...We do indeed advocate the full use of the Holy Spirit to guide us to truth. How does the Holy Spirit work? How does He testify of truth and witness unto us? Through feelings...
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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.
Outsider Test for Faith
Just as it would be arrogant for a FLDS member, a Jehovah’s Witness, a Catholic, a Seventh-day Adventist, or a Muslim to deny a Latter-day Saint’s spiritual experience and testimony of the truthfulness of Mormonism, it would likewise be arrogant for a Latter- day Saint to deny others’ spiritual experiences and testimonies of the truthfulness of their own religion. Yet, every religion cannot be right and true together.
I know that Joseph Smith was a true prophet. I know the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is the one and only true Church. I know the Book of Mormon is true. I know that Thomas S. Monson is the Lord’s true Prophet today.
I know that Joseph Smith was a true prophet. I know the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints is the one and only true Church. I know the Book of Mormon is true. I know that Warren Jeffs is the Lord’s true Prophet today.
I know that Joseph Smith was a true prophet. I know the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints is the one and only true Church. I know the Book of Mormon is true. I know that W. Wallace Smith is the Lord’s true Prophet today.
I know that Joseph Smith was a true prophet. I know The Latter Day Church of Jesus Christ is the one and only true Church. I know the Book of Mormon and the Book of Jeraneck are true. I know that Matthew P. Gill is the Lord’s true Prophet, Seer, Revelator, and Translator today.
Same method: read, ponder, and pray. Different testimonies. All four testimonies cannot simultaneously be true. Is this the best God can come up with in revealing His truth to His children? Only .2% of the world’s population are members of God’s one true Church. This is God’s model and standard of efficiency?
Praying about the truthfulness of the Book of Mormon does not follow that the LDS Church is true. The FLDS also believe in the Book of Mormon. So do dozens of Mormon splinter groups. They all believe in the divinity of the Book of Mormon as well. Praying about the first vision: Which account is true? They can’t all be correct together as they conflict with one another.
If God’s method to revealing truth is through feelings, it is a very ineffective and unreliable method. We have thousands of religions and billions of members of those religions saying that their truth is God’s only truth and everyone else is wrong because they felt God or God’s spirit reveal the truth to them. Each religion has believers who believe that their spiritual experiences are more authentic and powerful than those of the adherents of other religions. They cannot all be right together, if at all.
Book of Mormon Copyright Revelation
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, which is another concern in itself (why would God command to sell the copyright to His word?). The mission failed and the prophet was asked why his revelation was wrong.
Joseph decided to inquire of the Lord regarding the question. Book of Mormon witness David Whitmer testified:
...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.
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?
Elder Boyd K. Packer said the following:
Be ever on guard lest you be deceived by inspiration from an unworthy source. You can be given false spiritual messages. There are counterfeit spirits just as there are counterfeit angels. (See Moro. 7:17.) Be careful lest you be deceived, for the devil may come disguised as an angel of light. The spiritual part of us and the emotional part of us are so closely linked that is possible to mistake an emotional impulse for something spiritual. We occasionally find people who receive what they assume to be spiritual promptings from God, when those promptings are either centered in the emotions or are from the adversary.
What kind of a method is this if Heavenly Father allows Satan to interfere with our direct line of communication to Him? Sincerely asking for and seeking answers?
Are we now expected to not only figure out when a prophet is speaking as a prophet and not as a man while also trying to figure out whether our answers to prayer are from God, from the devil, or from ourselves?
As a believing Mormon, 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. I lost this confidence when I discovered that the gap between what the Church teaches about its origins and what the primary historical documents actually show happened, and between what history shows what happened and what science shows what happened...couldn’t be further apart.
I read an experience that explains this in another way:
I resigned from the LDS Church and informed my bishop that the reasons had to do with discovering the real history of the Church. When I was done, he asked about the spiritual witness I had surely received as a missionary. I agreed that I had felt a sure witness, as strong as he currently felt. I gave him the analogy of Santa; I believed in Santa until I was 12. I refused to listen to reason from my friends who had discovered the truth much earlier...I just knew. However, once I learned the facts, feelings changed. I told him that Mormons have to re-define faith in order to believe; traditionally, faith is an instrument to bridge that gap between where science, history and logic end, and what you hope to be true. Mormonism re-defines faith as embracing what you hope to be true in spite of science, fact, and history.
Paul H. Dunn
Paul H. Dunn: Dunn was a General Authority of the Church for many years. He was a very popular speaker who told powerful faith-promoting war and baseball stories. Many times Dunn shared these stories in the presence of the prophet, apostles, and seventies. Stories such as 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 strongly felt the Spirit as they listened to Dunn’s testimony and stories.
Unfortunately, Dunn was later caught lying about 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?
The following are counsels from members of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles on how to gain a testimony:
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!
Another way to seek a testimony seems astonishing when compared with the methods of obtaining other knowledge. We gain or strengthen a testimony by bearing it. Someone even suggested that some testimonies are better gained on the feet bearing them than on the knees praying for them.
It may come as you bear your own testimony of the Prophet...Consider recording the testimony of Joseph Smith in your own voice, listening to it regularly...Listening to the Prophet’s testimony in your own voice will help bring the witness you seek.
In other words, repeat things over and over until you convince yourself that it’s true. Just keep telling yourself, “I know it’s true...I know it’s true...I know it’s true” until you actually believe it and you have a testimony that the Church is true and Joseph Smith was a prophet.
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 is a difference between saying you know something and saying 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’s, Oaks’, and Andersen’s counsel and you’re lying your way into one?
How Reliable is the Spirit?
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 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 and method in telling them that Mormonism is true?
How are faith and feelings reliable pathways to truth? Is there anything one couldn’t believe based on faith and feelings?
If faith and feelings can lead one to believe and accept the truth claims of any one of the hundreds of thousands of contradictory religions and thousands of contradictory gods... how then are faith and feelings reliable pathways to truth?
Real vs. Not Real
I felt the Spirit watching Saving Private Ryan and Schindler’s List. Both R-rated and horribly violent movies. I also felt the Spirit watching Forrest Gump and the The Lion King. After learning these disturbing issues, I attended a conference where former Mormons shared their stories. The same Spirit I felt telling me that Mormonism is true and that Joseph Smith was a true prophet is the same Spirit I felt in all of the above experiences.
Does this mean that The Lion King is true? That Mufasa is real and true? Does this mean that Forrest Gump is real and the story happened in real life? 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? 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?
The following mind-blowing video raises some profound and thought-provoking questions about the reliability of “a witness from the Holy Ghost” for discerning truth and reality: