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Think About Eternity - And When Ye Shall Receive These Things

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And When Ye Shall Receive These Things:
Testing the Book of Mormon By Moroni 10:4

by Timothy Oliver

The Invitation

About the Book of Mormon, Mormon Apostle Orson Pratt wrote as follows:

"This book must be either true or false. If true, it is one of the most important messages ever sent from God to man, affecting both the temporal and eternal interests of every people under heaven.…If false, it is one of the most cunning, wicked, bold, deep-laid impositions ever palmed upon the world, calculated to deceive and ruin millions who will sincerely receive it as the word of God, and will suppose themselves securely built upon the rock of truth until they are plunged with their families into hopeless despair.

"The nature of the message in the Book of Mormon is such, that if true, no one can possibly be saved and reject it; if false, no one can possibly be saved and receive it.…In a matter of such infinite importance no person should rest satisfied with the conjectures or opinions of others: he should use every exertion himself to become acquainted with the nature of the message: he should carefully examine the evidences of which it is offered to the world: he should, with all patience and perseverance, seek to acquire a certain knowledge whether it be of God or not. Without such an investigation in the most careful, candid, and impartial manner, he cannot safely judge without greatly hazarding his future and eternal welfare.

"If, after a rigid examination, it be found an imposition, it should be extensively published to the world as such; the evidences and arguments upon which the imposture was detected, should be clearly and logically stated, that those who have been sincerely yet unfortunately deceived, may perceive the nature of the deception, and be reclaimed, and that those who continue to publish the delusion, may be exposed and silenced, not by physical force, neither by persecutions, bare assertions, nor ridicule, but by strong and powerful arguments—by evidences adduced from scripture and reason."    (Orson Pratt, Orson Pratt’s Works [Salt Lake City: Deseret News Press, 1945], 107) .

Prove All Things

Near the end of the Book of Mormon there is a passage that reads thus:

"And when ye shall receive these things, I wouldexhort you that ye should ask God, the Eternal Father, in the name of Christ, if these things are not true; and if ye shall ask with a sincere heart, with real intent, having faith in Christ, he will manifest the truth of it unto you, by the power of the Holy Ghost."   (Moroni 10:4)

The teaching of this verse is often presented to persons inquiring about Mormonism as the way to find out if the Book of Mormon and the Mormon church are true. Since Moroni 10:4 figures so large in Mormon missionary efforts and the thinking of most Mormons, it is appropriate to examine this “promise” to see if it is a valid means for testing the truthfulness of the Book of Mormon. The Bible directs, “Prove [i.e., test, examine] all things; hold fast that which is good” (1 Thess. 5:21) .

This does not mean that we should do as the Book of Mormon directs. Testing, or examining this promise is not the same as using it. Rather, one must examine it beforehand; one must actually use it only after it has been examined and found good. To examine the promise and find it good before it is actually used, there must be some standard external to itself by which it can be examined or evaluated. God has given just such a standard in the Scriptures.

However, the promise of Moro. 10:4 is given as a test by which one may know if the Book of Mormon is true. One cannot employ or apply the promise to find out about the Book of Mormon until one knows the promise itself is good, and a valid test. Until this promise/test itself has been validated, and can be applied, the truthfulness of the Book of Mormon and the other “scriptures” produced by the Mormon Church must remain in question. They must therefore be excluded from the standard by which one weighs this promise. The Bible alone, is therefore the standard to which this promise must be compared, and by which it must be judged. One of the reasons that the Bible was written and faithfully preserved down to our day was for just such tasks as this.

No Biblical Foundation

First, is there is anywhere in the Bible where God directs men to pray to find out if the Scriptures are true or not? The answer is, “No.” Does the Bible record Jesus or any apostle or prophet directing any person to pray to find out if what he was saying or writing was true or not? The answer, again, is, “No.”

Understanding James 1:5

Mormons sometimes claim James 1:5 as an example of such a direction. Is it really?

The question of whether something is true or not is a question fact. Possession of, or acquaintance with, facts, is knowledge. (Thus one speaks of knowing something is true, not of having wisdom that something is true.) Wisdom is the ability to rightly understand and interpret the facts one knows, coupled with the disposition to employ or act upon one’s knowledge righteously.

James 1:5 does not promise knowledge, but wisdom. Reading James 1 from the beginning one sees from the context that James was promising his readers that God would give them wisdom to understand why they were experiencing the trials and difficulties they were in. That they had such trials was a fact. It was “true” that they had difficulties. They “knew” that, and did not need God to tell them. But they needed wisdom to understand what they knew was true, and to respond to it righteously.

James 1:5, when seen in context, cannot be taken as authorization for questions like “Which church is true?” or “Is the Book of Mormon true?” Those are questions of fact, of knowledge, not wisdom. God has promised us wisdom for the asking. But He does not say that He will give us knowledge, tell us facts, simply by our praying.

Thus, Moroni 10:4 directs us to ascertain truth, to gain knowledge, by a method and a standard nowhere recommended in the Bible as the proper means to such an end. Already, then, the directive and promise of Moroni 10:4 is on shaky ground.

To the contrary, the Bible teaches both by precept and illustrative examples that the proper path to truth, the standard by which truth is to be known, is the Scriptures (Lk. 24:27; Acts 17:11; Rom. 15:4; 2 Tim. 3:16–17; 2 Pet. 1:3) . The person seeking wisdom as James directs and according to the biblical pattern does not ask for new revelations but for understanding of those already given.

A Manipulative Device

Second—returning to Moro. 10:4—if the verse is true, then the only possible explanation for failing to obtain the result promised is a failure to meet the terms. That is, one must lack a sincere heart, and/or real intent, and/or faith in Christ.

To be willing to rely on the promise of this verse and use it as a test for the truthfulness of the Book of Mormon, with one’s own eternal life hanging in the balance, one must already have concluded somehow that its instruction is valid and its promise reliable. That is, one must already believe in the “truthfulness” of this verse. If one believes the verse is true then one must obtain the answer promised, or face an embarrassing judgment of one’s sincerity, intent, or faith in Christ. Thus, Moro. 10:4 is not so much of a promise as it is a manipulative device.

It promises a particular result if certain terms are met. But the terms reflect on the integrity of the seeker’s sincerity and resolve, and on his faith in Christ. The seeker is forced into convincing himself he has had some kind of manifestation from God, just to vindicate his own character. Or worse, he is moved to a frame of mind in which he will gladly and indiscriminately embrace any supernatural manifestation as though it were from God.

Plain reason, not to mention all the force of Scripture’s revelation of the character of God, testifies that God would not, does not, use such manipulative mind/ego games against the human family to bring them to believe the truth. God does not approve, and truth does not need, such machinations.

Impossible Test

Third, as noted earlier, using this verse as a test for the truthfulness of the Book of Mormon would be pointless unless one had concluded already that its instruction is valid and its promise reliable. With no Biblical grounds for such a conclusion, its use is tacit admission of a foregone conclusion that the Book of Mormon is true.

Yet the terms on which the promise is offered forbid any such preconception. To ask God sincerely whether the Book of Mormon is true or not, one cannot have made up one’s mind already that the book is either true or false. If one’s mind is already made up, either way, it would be hypocrisy to pray to God as if it were not made up, as if one still did not know. One must be in a state of simply not knowing at all whether the book is true or false, to meet the conditions of the test offered in Moro. 10:4.

One is faced, then, with a fifty/fifty chance of the book being either true, or false. As noted, however, by Mormon Apostle Orson Pratt, “The nature of the message in the Book of Mormon is such, that if true, no one can possibly be saved and reject it; if false, no one can possibly be saved and receive it” (Orson Pratt, Orson Pratt’s Works [Salt Lake City: Deseret News Press, 1945], 107).

So we are faced with the prospect of our eternal life hanging in the balance on a fifty/fifty proposition or chance. No one but a fool would risk so much on so uncertain a proposition. With no Biblical warrant for relying on the promise of Moro. 10:4, one dares not, one cannot, use the test or rely upon it, unless one already presumes the book is true. Proceeding as it directs is to assume from the start that the Book of Mormon is true. But to pray with your mind thus made up invalidates the sincerity upon which the answer is supposed to depend.

Thus, it is impossible to use the instructions and promise of Moro. 10:4 as a test of the truthfulness of the Book of Mormon. One cannot both rely on it, and meet the conditions it requires, at the same time. It’s promised results are predicated on sincerity; to rely on it sufficiently to use it renders one insincere.

A Final Caution

There is not only no good reason to do as Moro. 10:4 directs, there is very good reason not to do so. Either the Book of Mormon is true or false. If it is true, certainly doing as Moro. 10:4 directs would produce the results it promises. If the book is false, however, then Moro. 10:4, being part of the false book, is a false test, and an invalid means of finding out whether or not the book is true.

Relying on its promise and attempting to submit to its terms exerts tremendous pressure on the seeker to prove himself sincere by receiving the promised manifestation, even while it is forcing him to be insincere. He must rely on its promise while insincerely professing not to know yet whether it is reliable. The result is a self-perpetuating spiral of self-deceit. The need for relief from the resulting inner turmoil can easily drag one into still further self-deceit, finding a supernatural manifestation where there is none.

That is not to say no genuinely supernatural manifestations occur. Self-deception brings God’s wrath and judgment (Rom. 1:18–19) . The person practicing it is abandoned not only to his own delusion but also to deception of another kind (2 Thess. 2:10–12; 1 Kng. 22:1–28) .

That people have actually received supernatural manifestations of one form or another upon following the directions of Moro. 10:4 should surprise no one (Eph. 6:12; I Tim. 4:1) . To think otherwise is naive. If the Book of Mormon is false, one is just as likely to receive such a manifestation from a demonic source, as one would be to receive it from a divine source if the Book of Mormon were true.

It must be forcefully asserted then, that such manifestations do not prove the Book of Mormon true any more than the miracles wrought by Jannes and Jambres before Moses and Pharaoh proved those magicians were from God. There is no warrant for believing a spiritual testimony any more than a human testimony, unless one has proof positive of the divine origin of the spirit giving the testimony.

Some Mormons this author has met have asserted that a testimony of the Book of Mormon could never come from a demonic source, because the Book of Mormon “testifies of Christ.” That is interesting—all the Christian churches testify of Christ also. But the Book of Mormon itself condemns them all as the “church of the devil” (1 Ne. 14:10). And until April 10, 1990, the Mormon temple ceremony portrayed Christian ministers (who testify of Christ) as being employed by Satan.

Of course the Bible too, warns us of false Christs, false gospels, false or evil spirits, and false apostles (2 Cor. 11:3–4, 12–15), all of which, in order to be believed, would “testify of Christ.”

In Conclusion

To sum up, the Book of Mormon cannot be proven by any test of its own devising. It must be tested by an external standard, the Bible. The teaching of Moroni 10:4 not only lacks any biblical foundation, it is contrary to the Bible’s teaching. The terms on which the promise is offered cannot be met by anyone using it as a test. Moreover, it is a manipulative device that forces insincerity and self-deception, thus opening the door to demonic influence.

Far from proving the Book of Mormon true, “Moroni 10:4,” itself weighed in the balance and found wanting, is sufficient evidence to prove the Book of Mormon false and not from God.

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