Whose answer is right?

On my “Ask a Mormon” page, Brad asks a very important question (summarized):

If Mormons claim that the best way to know if their church is true is by a witness from the Spirit, how do you counter the argument that others in different religions have claimed to have received their own witness?

I can’t say that I have the definitive answer.  I’m not inherently intellectual, so I don’t have much native capacity to draw on to address such a difficult issue.  On the other hand, I try very diligently to approach such matters of eternal consequence with humility, seeking only to understand Gods will and, with his grace, his assistance in presenting it cohesively.  In short, if my thoughts are of no value, that’s my fault alone, but if they shed any light on the issue, then the credit is not mine.

That said, the answer, of course, is as individual as the purported testimonies of those who claim to have received a witness.  There won’t be any single answer inherently and independently capable of adequately addressing every possible scenario.  But that doesn’t mean the question can’t be answered; it just means there are many possible answers.  I’ll address several.

Feelings

I elaborate more on this particular topic in “Is your testimony based on emotion?“.  Feelings are fallible things.  Not every “warm fuzzy” we feel has the depth of divinity or is the substance of the Spirit. 

But since the Spirit speaks to our hearts, gives us feelings and inclinations, the burden is upon us as individuals to distinguish what is of divine origin, and what is merely a biochemical reaction to something of psychological appeal. 

But the very nature of feelings and their interpretation is highly subjective.  A vulnerability quickly capitalized on by commercialized religions, who stock their services with mechanisms to manufacture such emotions… live bands, shouts and songs, and preachers adept in the art of oratory entertainment (which I address here, since our meetings are so different).

Is someone attending one of these sessions likely to “feel” something?  Well if they didn’t, then these churches wouldn’t currently be in business.  That IS their business and they’re very good at it.  So simply feeling something at one of these sermons doesn’t necessarily mean you’ve received a divine confirmation that you’ve found the true church.

But even outside of a church sermon, two separate people praying to know if their differing religions are true, are highly prone to erroneously interpreting their answer, if based solely on how they “feel”. 

Does it feel more “comfortable” following what your family, friends, and associates might be doing?  Does it feel better continuing on a path with which you are already familiar?  Of course, so if you’re relying simply on your feelings, then they’re bound to be polluted with these kinds of sociological and psychological pressures that naturally affect the way we “feel” about anything, but that are entirely external to the issue at hand. 

For example, if someone, raised in another religion, were to ask God if Mormonism was correct or if they should continue going to their current church, then the first, and natural tendency is to feel like they should continue on the path that they were on, because that feels comfortable.  After all, the host of difficult, life-changing ramifications of converting to another religion does not generally constitute a welcome proposition.

If all you’re relying upon is a feeling for an answer, with no more investment but to ask, then you’re feelings are bound be be born of influences other than a witness from God.  This brings me to my next point.

But first, in summary – we simply MUST figure out if the feelings we receive are divine, or the natural result of preconceived notions, or the tendency to cling to what we know, or what is easiest, or are they simply superficial fluff manufactured by those who know how to do so.

Why might we find contradictory “witnesses”?  Because feelings are fallible things, and not all of them are of divine origin.

Sincerity

Due to the difficulty surrounding some answers, our natural tendency is to try less hard, to invest less effort, or to be less sincere about pursuing a course that would be uncomfortable.

If I were to pray “Is Mormonism true, or is my current church true”, the simple nature of the question pollutes my ability to isolate an answer.  It introduces far too much external emotional baggage (as explained above), and illustrates a general lack of sincerity in seeking the answer.  A question such as this seems to simply pay lip service to the search, when the extent of your effort was but to ask.

The level of sincerity with which one seeks an answer will be directly proportional to their mental investment into researching the answer.

For unless you first study it out in your own mind, truly researching (not to refute, but to understand), and then coming to your own conclusion, will you be appropriately armed to transcend the emotional baggage of the answer of either option.

At that point, you’re comparing principle to principle, and not the implications of the options.

But without first studying it out in your mind, your feelings are far too susceptible to exterior emotional baggage, leaving you ill-suited to accurately determine the divinity of your answer.  You simply haven’t invested the time, or the emotional and mental effort, and by not doing so, have shown that you’re not truly sincere in your search.  An insincere search is nothing more than a self-fulfilling prophecy.  

A good measure of your sincerity is your actual willingness to appropriately act upon the answer you receive, regardless of the consequences.

Why might we find contradictory “witnesses” – insincerity.

Multiple Sources

We’re talking about salvation, and in this battle, there is more than one power working to influence the souls of men.  Satan has had much time, and has proven highly adept at mimicking and impersonating anything of worth, anything of the Spirit, and anything of God.

And so, should we be surprised that when it comes to praying to know if a church is true, when it actually isn’t, that he is there with an affirmative answer that would mislead? 

Surely we can’t think that he would choose to sit back and let the cards fall where they may, no, not when we’re talking about the souls of men.  We should expect him to take an active role, introducing as much noise and confusion as possible.

Why might we find contradictory witnesses – because God is not the only one fighting for the souls of men.

Line upon line

The premise upon which this answer is based is a principle upon which we might not agree, but is (in my mind) no less real than any of the others.

Throughout the bible we find the inspired principle of progression by degrees.  He gives us line upon line, precept upon precept, here a little, there a little.  Why would he do this?  Why not give us the whole from the beginning? 

I propose that he chooses not to overwhelm us like this, because he loves us.  His desire is for our salvation.  Because of this, he will never give us more than we are able to bear.  Because we are accountable for that which we receive, he is not anxious to give us more than we can live up to, but instead to allows us to progress in stages. 

So he gives us a little truth, and that becomes our stewardship.  But only after we have proven our ability to live in accordance to the laws and truth we have received, do we demonstrate to him that we are ready for more.  Truth is treasure, and we will not be given more until we become profitable stewards over that which we have already received.  There are many parables about this in the Bible.

For sake of illustration, let’s say church B is some general Christian denomination, teaching much truth, and doing much good, while church A is the actual true church of Christ.

Under this scenario, and based off the principle above, let me ask the following questions…

 If I was an atheist, or of no particular religion, but attended Church B, would I be likely to feel a confirmation from the spirit that this was good?  Under this principle, I’d say that’s very likely.  It’s a step in the right direction, it’s line upon line.

What about if I’m an active participant in Church B, but find out about Church A, but in my heart of hearts (which only God knows), would be unwilling to follow the stricter laws and greater truth in Church A, or simply unwilling to accept the answer that Church A was Christ’s true church because of the difficulty of the path, when I pray, what would my answer be?

These are difficult questions, and I won’t pretend to know the answers.  But I submit, that there are far more variables to one receiving a true and actual witness from the spirit, than we can possibly imagine.

Is there any question on how so many can receive so many different answers?

Can man truly understand the mind and will of God?  Can man, in his limited natural capacity, question his divine intent?  Is it even our place to question the answers of others?  Is it a cop out to simply accept that we may never know why someone received the answer they did, but be willing to step forward in search of our own just the same?  Or is that humility and faith?

We’re talking about the eternal salvation or damnation of our very souls.  With this perspective, I submit that we should waste little time wondering on the answers of others, for sufficient is the task of finding our own, and living under the stewardship that it entails.

We must search diligently, figure it out in our own minds, make our own decision, and then approach the Lord in humble and sincere prayer, and what’s more, be willing to follow the answer, whatever it may be.

So I invite all to learn more about Mormonism, to learn about Joseph Smith, and to read the Book of Mormon.  My testimony is that if you do this with proper humility, sincerity, and diligence, then the answer you receive will be indisputably divine, and unquestionably distinct from any other superficial daily emotion.  You will know that it is from God, and not from man – whether it be of our selves, or feelings manufactured by another.

I invite all to take the challenge.

Rusty

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0 replies
  1. Margaret says:

    Thank you Rusty, for answering so well. Sorry you had to lose sleep to do it.

    And to Brad, when I prayed about if I should join the “Mormon” church, I don’t really think I had pre-conceived ideas. I was a Baptist at the time, all of my family were Protestants, I had 3 Catholic and 1 Lutheran roommate, and no “Mormon” friends. It would have been much easier to remain as I was, but I wanted to do what the Lord wanted me to do. I had read most of the Book of Mormon, had all but 2 of the discussions and had attended 1 Sacrament meeting, and felt good about all of them. When the answer came, I was bound to do what the Spirit told me to do.

    Actually, it wasn’t really that hard to make the change. I instantly had a branch full of friends, who became like family. Although many of my friends no longer wanted to be friends, my family was wonderful and have stayed close to me all these years. I have been blessed far more than I had hoped for.

    I can’t speak to anyone else’s answer, only my own. I, too would like to invite all to take the challenge put forth by Rusty. Study, learn and pray sincerely. The answer may not come immediately. Mine took hours on my knees, but it did come. Yours will, too if you are sincere.

    Reply
  2. Brad says:

    Rusty,

    Thanks for your answer. While I completely disagree with you, on many grounds, I do at least appreciate the time you took to write it. While long, it is no different in substance than any other attempt at an answer I’ve ever had from any other Mormon. Basically, you say that a question about which church is true is invalid, and that different people will get different answers, and that we all must follow our own truth. We must figure out for ourselves, using our minds, whether we heard the “real” Spirit or not.

    Yet you still never really addressed the question I asked, like every other Mormon I’ve asked it to. The Spirit is either the most wishy-washy entity alive, witnessing different things to different people, or there’s a lot of people who are dead wrong.

    Truth is either absolute, or it’s relative. Can’t be both, and it must be one or the other. If absolute, then either Mormonism or Christianity can be true, but not both at the same time (of course, neither being true is also a possibility, but the point is that BOTH can’t be true at the same time). Why? B/c the beliefs, while Mormons like to emphasize what they see as similarities, are vastly different. Yes, similar words are used, but the meanings behind those words are MUCH different. Words like “salvation”, “atonement”, and even “God” are shared by each, yet have vastly different meanings.

    I’ll ask the same thing I said on the Ask a Mormon page. If I said the Spirit truly witnessed to me that 2+2=5, and not 4 as is commonly thought, what would you say to me? Would you agree with me, and take my word for it that I really did receive a true witness from the Spirit that it’s actually 5? Would you investigate it yourself? Where would you look? How would you go about corroborating the story? Would you ignore it?

    We can talk a lot about it, and have a lengthy, abstract answer to a simple question (as you gave), but in the end, you still really haven’t tackled the issue, as most Mormons are unwilling to do.

    I would like to see you delve deeper into it.

    Reply
  3. Seth R. says:

    The answer is, both emotional responses have their own degree of validity. But it depends on what you are relying on these “feelings” for. Is the spirit going to tell me that Roman Catholicism is false if I haven’t really done my homework and taken the time to understand the religion?

    No.

    We need to take a cue from Oliver Cowdery’s experience in seeking after spiritual gifts (in his case, the gift of translating language):

    “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.
    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.
    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.”

    Doctrine and Covenants 9:7-9

    This puts a much different spin on the classic, but much misused “Moroni’s Promise” (Moroni 10:4-5):

    “And when ye shall receive these things, I would exhort you that ye would ask God, the Eternal Father in the name of Christ, if these things are not true; and if ye shall ask with a sincere heart, with real intent, having faith in Christ, he will manifest the truth of it unto you, by the power of the Holy Ghost.
    And by the power of the Holy Ghost ye may know the truth of all things.”

    This is possibly one of the most misused passages in Mormon scripture. Usually, verses 4 and 5 are read in complete isolation and completely ripped out of context to make it sound like a simple, uninformed “gut-check” on whether Mormonism is true. Kind of like a we’re having a Blue-Light special on testimonies where we take all the expense and bother out of getting that conviction with a cheap and easy one-step process.

    Don’t know if Mormonism is true? No problem? Haven’t read the Book of Mormon? No problem? Don’t know anything more than 2 15 minute sessions with the missionaries? No problem? Just ask, and God will bonk you on the head, you’ll get all teary-eyed, and then “you’ll just know!”

    For most folk it doesn’t work that way.

    The reason why is that people who read Moroni 10:4 and 5 often ignore some important verses that come before it. You know… the part where Moroni assumes that you’ve actually read the entire book? Studied it thoroughly, pondered on how it fits into the overall pattern of God’s dealings with humanity throughout the entire history of the world… You know… legwork. Moroni assumes that you’ve done some before simply asking about it.

    Reading Moroni 10:4-5 in isolation, the way most missionaries, and even a lot of experienced members read it, you’d think our Church was just about a bunch of vague warm fuzzies. But a wider reading of uniquely Mormon scripture (and the Bible) reveals that this is not the case at all. Mormonism is meant to be an informed choice.

    Reply
  4. Margaret says:

    Having been through this process, I think Rusty’s answer to your stated question makes perfect sense. Perhaps I don’t understand exactly what you are looking for.

    Reply
  5. Brad says:

    No guys, we’re still dancing AROUND the subject, and not addressing it. Seth says basically the same thing that Rusty does, which is that each has their “own degree of validity.” This is relativism at its best.

    Under this theory, one can’t say that ANYONE’S beliefs are wrong, b/c under this theory, those beliefs could be “right for them.” Does that mean that Islam is correct? Buddhism? Scientology? New Age? Under this theory, nobody is wrong, just “different”. Is this what you all believe?

    Reply
  6. Margaret says:

    I believe that we have a kind, wise Heavenly Father who loves us. I believe that Jesus Christ is the son of God and dwelt on Earth, among men and taught His Gospel to all who would listen, and organized His Church before he suffered and died on the cross to atone for the sins of all mankind. After 3 days He was resurrected, thus conquering death and made it possible for all to be resurrected.

    I believe that if we live according to His Gospel and His commandments and try to be like Him, we can again live in Heavenly Father’s presence.

    I believe he also visited his people on the American continents after his resurrection and taught them His Gospel and blessed them. I believe the Book of Mormon is the record of His dealings with the people on the American continents from about 600 BC to 400 AD

    I believe the Bible to be the Word of God, as far as it is translated correctly. I also believe the Book of Mormon to be the Word of God. I believe that Joseph Smith was a Prophet of God, translated the gold plates containing the Book of Mormon and opened the dispensation of the fullness of times by restoring the Gospel to the Earth in it’s fullness.

    I believe the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints is the only true Church that exists on the Earth today. I believe that Thomas S Monson is our living Prophet today.

    I have read , studied and prayed about these things and received an answer and found them to be true. I also know that anyone who reads, studies and prays about them sincerely will find the same answer.

    Reply
  7. Shelley says:

    “[Shelley], from most of the Mormons I’ve ever had a chance to talk to, they usually tell me that their greatest evidence that the Church is true is a witness from the Holy Spirit. Is that something that you also would say?”

    For myself personally, my answer is yes.

    “If so (or even if not, I’d like your perspective), how would you counter the argument that people of other denominations (say Baptist, Presbyterian, Methodist, etc…, for example) might also say that the Spirit witnessed to them that their church was true, and the LDS church isn’t?”

    I’d like to point out that you asked for Rusty’s perspective and he and several other people have given it to you, but because you have not been content with their opinions you have told them they didn’t answer your question (when they really did). So, on that note I would like to ask you essentially the same question for my own edification:

    Brad – How would you explain that members of the LDS church say that the Spirit witnessed to them that their church is the only true church when people of other denominations (yourself for example) receive the same witness of truth for their own church?

    I want this answer to be absolute (since you don’t believe it can be relative), just as logically as 2+2=4. I want you to consider that truth is absolute but human prespective is relative.

    I altered the question slightly by leaving off the following from your initial question “…, and the Catholic church, Methodist Chruch, or Baptist church, etc. isn’t true?”. The reason for the alteration is that I personally (and all other Mormons that I know) asked the Spirit if the LDS church is the only true church, but I never asked if other denominations are not true. There was no need for me to ask if other denominations are NOT true because I believe most other denominations (i.e. Muslim, Catholic, Budist, Presbyterian, etc.) to have many truths to them, just not the whole truth (as Ryan explained with his trails to the mountaintop analogy). All of the trails (truths) lead to the main trail (LDS church) that leads to the mountaintop. That last bit of trail to the top are all those truths that the LDS church has that no other denominations on this earth have.

    I purposely did not answer your question because my answer/perspective to your initial question is a combination of all the previous comments and posts given by Rusty, Ryan, Margaret and Seth. I see no need to restate all of it.

    Reply
  8. Robert says:

    I think Seth’s extrapolation of Rusty’s post helps to clarify what Rusty means. First study, and then emotion. Let the intellect be the first car of the train which pulls the ones after it (including emotion).

    I’m glad to hear that Mormons do seriously agree with this. The ‘bonk on the head’ idea seems to proliferate too much. On the other hand, that merely makes the idea be not absurd. I’m not quite sure it validates it.

    In this way I think Brad’s insistence makes sense. We still need a way to judge between the two of them. But only something which the two people had in common and which was superior to them would be sufficient to do such a thing. Otherwise there’s no way to judge them. And so I do think the problem of two conflicting testimonies is pretty intractable if we’re only contrasting them in their subjective character, which is strictly inaccessible to other subjects and which thus cannot be evaluated by others.

    Rusty,
    I left a message on your post about whether Mormons believe in more then one God. I hope you get a chance to look at it.

    God bless,
    Rob (“The Black Cordelias”)

    http://theblackcordelias.wordpress.com/

    Reply
  9. Brad says:

    Margaret,

    I could have done without the standard, cut and paste Mormon diatribe. If I had a nickel for every time I heard EXACTLY that same post, I’d be a very rich man. The mantra that all Mormons seem to be able to recite, nearly verbatim, is almost frightening. Do they pass that out on some sort of card, for everyone to have a copy of with the same wording? It would seem so…

    I am still intrigued by your last statement, though: “I also know that anyone who reads, studies and prays about them sincerely will find the same answer.” Maybe you don’t see the self-fulfilling statement you (and really, the Mormon church leaders) have set up, but you’ve set up a circularly logical statement. “If you are sincere, you’ll get the same answer; if you don’t get the same answer, you’re not sincere.” This would be great, if the method for distinguishing truthfulness were something other than a subjective witness. However, as I’ve said, it’s not, b/c the Spirit is evidently witnessing different things to different people, so that’s not even something sure we can base our feelings on!

    Try again, Margaret.

    Reply
  10. Brad says:

    Media,

    It’s important to all Christians (or should be, at least) that others are wrong, b/c of the eternal penalty for being wrong.

    Reply
  11. Brad says:

    I’d like to point out that you asked for Rusty’s perspective and he and several other people have given it to you, but because you have not been content with their opinions you have told them they didn’t answer your question (when they really did)

    It’s not the fact that I haven’t been content with their opinions that I told them they didn’t answer the question. Though I’m NOT content with their opinions, that isn’t the BASIS for saying they haven’t answered it – the fact that they’ve talked AROUND it, and not actually addressed it, is why I say they haven’t answered it.

    I will be happy to field questions, but NOT UNTIL my question is first addressed properly, and not talked around, but directly confronted and answered. This always happens with Mormons – they try to claim they’ve answered the question, then proceed to ask other questions, getting the original issue sidetracked. Not this time.

    I want you to consider that truth is absolute but human prespective is relative.

    Just to clarify, truth is absolute. Period. People either have the correct understanding of what is absolute truth, or they don’t. There’s no relativism to people’s understanding. By definition, if truth is absolute, and people believe differently, there’s nothing “relative” about that. You either believe correctly, or you don’t.

    Your whole “re-wording” of the question, and attempt to explain (along with alluding to Ryan’s “mountaintop” explanation) – look at it, and what you see is “relativism”, not a belief in absolute truth. Why? B/c the other religions/denominations you mention don’t lead to the same place. You can tell that simply by looking at their beliefs. Of course, with a belief about hell that Mormons have (which, of course, is DIFFERENT than the Christian belief), I wouldn’t expect you to believe in different paths, or a penalty.

    Reply
  12. Rusty Lindquist says:

    When someone asks a question but is only willing to receive their own preconceived answer, is it a question worth entertaining?

    For now, I’ve decided to humor the question a bit longer, because of the format of this conversation – it being one many others can read for a long time coming. And, to a very small degree, because I hope that perhaps there may yet be some additional value to come from this that others may benefit from.

    But for this to be of any value to you individually, you’ll need to invest a bit more of yourself. I’ve been disappointed in your willingness to process and reasonably respond so far. But perhaps I can do this more simply.

    You say I haven’t addressed your question. Your question was that if Mormons feel they know their church is true from a witness from the Holy Spirit, then “how would you counter the argument” that others say the same.

    How would I counter the argument? That is your question. To which I gave the direct answer that if you received a witness in anything but the truth of Mormonism, your “witness” was either

         1. Based on emotion
              a. Manufactured by others, and not the Spirit
              b. Generated from sociological or psychological influences, and not the spirit

         2. A self fulfilling prophecy because you “felt” what you wanted to feel and misinterpreted that as a witness from the spirit

         3. An answer from Satan who we should expect as an active participant in seeking the true church

         4. As much as you are able to handle

    That IS the answer to your question, for that IS how I would counter that argument. Truth is absolute, and only one church can be fully true, so any witness for any other church must mean you’re getting your answer from somewhere else.

    If what you meant to ask was different than what you actually asked, then please clarify to avoid further confusion. Otherwise, as I have answered your question, I’ll anxiously await the insight you have on the issue (for Shelly’s challenge stands unmet). But if all you’re going to do is be a critic, then at least do it well and point out the flaws in my answer, for even that would add a little value.

    But spare the sweeping stereotypes, it’s beneath the conversation, and be careful of belittling others. I have few rules, but respect is one, and I enforce it.

    Rusty

    Reply
  13. Mark Heard says:

    “An answer from Satan who we should expect as an active participant in seeking the true church”

    Joseph Smith, Jr., founder of the Latter Day Saint movement, said he used “interpreters” in order to translate the Book of Mormon from the Golden Plates. The “interpreters” he described as a pair of stones, fastened to a breastplate joined in a form similar to that of a large pair of spectacles. Smith later referred to this object as the Urim and Thummim. In 1823, Smith said that the angel Moroni, who had told him about the Golden Plates, also told him about the Urim and Thummim, “two stones in silver bows” fastened to a breastplate, and the angel intimated that they had been prepared by God to aid in the translation of the Golden Plates. Smith’s mother, Lucy Mack Smith, described these Urim and Thummim as being like “two smooth three-cornered diamonds.”

    Exodus 7:10-12
    So Moses and Aaron went to Pharaoh and did just as the Lord commanded. Aaron threw his staff down in front of Pharaoh and his officials, and it became a snake. Pharaoh then summoned wise men and sorcerers, and the Egyptian magicians also did the same things by their secret arts: Each one threw down his staff and it became a snake. But Aaron’s staff swallowed up their staffs.

    Reply
  14. Rusty Lindquist says:

    Don’t you hate it when you have a thought that seems so clear and reasonable in your mind, but then when you put it to words it simply isn’t?

    I’m afraid that’s what happened here.

    This is a copy-and-paste from wikipedia description of the Urim and Thumim.

    If you’d like more information about the Urim and Thumim, I’d recommend going to the Bible directly. These specific seerstones are mentioned by name in the following references:

    Exodus 28:30 | Leviticus 8:8 | Deuteronomy 33:8 | 1 Samuel 28:6 | Ezra 2:63 | Nehemiah 7:65 | Numbers 27:21

    Reply
  15. Margaret says:

    To Brad;

    FYI, I did not cut and paste my last comment. These are all things i have studied, learned and prayed about over time. They are engraven on my mind and heart.. I didn’t have to look them up or cut and paste. As I said, these are things I deeply believe, and I am disappointed that you treat them so lightly.

    None of us have tried to belittle you or attack what you believe. I don’t expect you to agree with me, but please don’t disrespect of my beliefs.

    Reply
  16. Mark Heard says:

    Exodus 28:30 | Leviticus 8:8 | Deuteronomy 33:8 | 1 Samuel 28:6 | Ezra 2:63 | Nehemiah 7:65 | Numbers 27:21

    In these passages the Urim and Thummim are presented as a means of divine revelation, and are frequently associated with the garments of the High Priest, the ephod and breastplate. The Bible gives no description of the object(s) that constituted the Urim and Thummim, nor of the manner of their use.

    “I will now give you a description of the manner in which the book of Mormon was translated. Joseph Smith would put the seer stone into a hat, and put his face in the hat. Drawing it closely around his face to exclude the light and in the darkness the spiritual light would shine a piece of something resembling parchment would appear and on that appeared the writing one character a time would and under was an interpretation in English.” Thus the Book of Mormon was translated by the gift and power of God, and not by any power of man.” (An Address To All Believers In Christ, by David Whitmer, Richmond, Missouri, 1887, p. 12)

    “I first became acquainted with Joseph Smith, Jr. in November, 1825. He was at that time in the employ of a set of men who were called ‘money -diggers;’ and his occupation was that of seeing, or pretending to see by means of a stone placed in his hat, and his hat closed over his face…. The manner in which he pretended to read and interpret, was the same as when he looked for the money-diggers, with the stone in his hat, and his hat over his face, while the Book of Plates were at the same time hid in the woods!” (The Susquehanna Register, May 1, 1834)

    “In writing for your father I frequently wrote day after day, often sitting at the table close by him, he sitting with his face buried in his hat, with the stone in it, and dictating hour after hour with nothing between us.” ( History of the RLDS Church, 8 vols. (Independence, Missouri: Herald House, 1951), “Last Testimony of Sister Emma,” 3:356.

    Reply
  17. Rusty Lindquist says:

    The bible needs give no description, we have a modern day one.

    Unfortunately, none of these describe the Urim and Thummim and the latter two passages are not even from Mormon sources.

    Reply
  18. ponderingpastor says:

    Interesting stuff, this Urim and Thummim. How do our Jewish brothers and sisters understand this? I went looking, and discovered multiple descriptions of these scripturally undescribed items. Freemasonry uses them. No one really knows what they are or how they were used. Everyone guesses … that is, except the Mormons.

    Pondering Pastor

    Reply
  19. Rusty Lindquist says:

    Yeah, the scriptural references don’t describe them much. And it’s not surprising that you don’t find references of them outside of the Bible, until the Prophet Joseph Smith. For the Urim and Thummim are seer stones, which are to be used only by seers. But there were no prophets, seers, or revelators until the restoration through Joseph Smith and his appointment as the first latter-day prophet, seer, and revelator of the dispensation of the fullness of times.

    Of course, and the most valid point being, that this all hinges upon the belief of Joseph Smith. As with most everything else, these other little things are trifles, really, ancillary to the real issue – was Joseph Smith a prophet of God? For if he was, then all else is answered. So it is that while people may spend as much time as they like in the branches of the tree, wondering at things like this, the core of the issue always goes back to Joseph Smith.

    If he was a prophet, then we have unequivocal answers on the nature of God, the destiny of man, the nature of the Godhead, and which is the one an true living church of Christ on the earth today (to name but a few). Joseph Smith lies at the heart of all these issues.

    Reply
  20. Mark Heard says:

    Rusty,

    Joseph Smith, the prophet and founder of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints claimed that when he was 14 years old, he was visited by God the Father and Jesus Christ in a grove of trees near his house, a theophany in answer to his first spoken prayer.

    As you know there are seven or more accounts of this theopany, as well as the official one held true by the church.
    In the History of the Morman Church, Vol. 1, Chapter 1: 14-20, Joseph Smith accounts the beginning of his prophetic ministry through the appearance of the Father and the Son.

    “I saw a pillar of light exactly over my head, above the brightness of the sun, which descended gradually until it fell upon me. It no sooner appeared than I found myself delivered from the enemy which held me bound. When the light rested upon me I saw two Personages, One of them spake unto me, calling me by name and said, pointing to the other—This is My Beloved Son. Hear Him! ”

    Now what has always puzzled me about this account was Joseph’s immediate reactions to the events at hand. There was something lacking, and that common response would have been a showing of a fear of loosing his life. I have included below evidences for pondering:

    Revelation 1
    His head and his hairs were white like wool, as white as snow; and his eyes were as a flame of fire; And his feet like unto fine brass, as if they burned in a furnace; and his voice as the sound of many waters. And he had in his right hand seven stars: and out of his mouth went a sharp two edged sword: and his countenance was as the sun shineth in his strength. And when I saw him, I fell at his feet as dead. And he laid his right hand upon me, saying unto me, Fear not; I am the first and the last: I am he that liveth, and was dead; and, behold, I am alive for evermore, Amen; and have the keys of hell and of death.

    Matthew 28
    After the Sabbath, at dawn on the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to look at the tomb. There was a violent earthquake, for an angel of the Lord came down from heaven and, going to the tomb, rolled back the stone and sat on it. His appearance was like lightning, and his clothes were white as snow. The guards were so afraid of him that they shook and became like dead men.

    Acts 22
    “About noon as I came near Damascus, suddenly a bright light from heaven flashed around me. I fell to the ground and heard a voice say to me, Saul! Saul! Why do you persecute me? Who are you, Lord? I asked. I am Jesus of Nazareth, whom you are persecuting, he replied. My companions saw the light, but they did not understand the voice of him who was speaking to me. What shall I do, Lord? I asked.
    Get up, the Lord said, ‘and go into Damascus. There you will be told all that you have been assigned to do. My companions led me by the hand into Damascus, because the brilliance of the light had blinded me.

    Matthew 17
    After six days Jesus took with him Peter, James and John the brother of James, and led them up a high mountain by themselves. There he was transfigured before them. His face shone like the sun, and his clothes became as white as the light. Just then there appeared before them Moses and Elijah, talking with Jesus. Peter said to Jesus, “Lord, it is good for us to be here. If you wish, I will put up three shelters—one for you, one for Moses and one for Elijah.” While he was still speaking, a bright cloud enveloped them, and a voice from the cloud said, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased. Listen to him!” When
    the disciples heard this, they fell facedown to the ground, terrified. But Jesus came and touched them. “Get up,” he said. “Don’t be afraid.” When they looked up, they saw no one except Jesus.

    Exodus 3
    And the angel of the LORD appeared unto him in a flame of fire out of the midst of a bush: and he looked, and, behold, the bush burned with fire, and the bush was not consumed.
    And Moses said, I will now turn aside, and see this great sight, why the bush is not burnt. And when the LORD saw that he turned aside to see, God called unto him out of the midst of the bush, and said, Moses, Moses. And he said, Here am I. And he said, Draw not nigh hither: put off thy shoes from off thy feet, for the place whereon thou standest is holy ground. Moreover he said, I am the God of thy father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob. And Moses hid his face; for he was afraid to look upon God.

    Ezekiel 1
    And there was a voice from the firmament that was over their heads, when they stood, and had let down their wings. And above the firmament that was over their heads was the likeness of a throne, as the appearance of a sapphire stone: and upon the likeness of the throne was the likeness as the appearance of a man above upon it. And I saw as the colour of amber, as the appearance of fire round about within it, from the appearance of his loins even upward, and from the appearance of his loins even downward, I saw as it were the appearance of fire, and it had brightness round about. As the appearance of the bow that is in the cloud in the day of rain, so was the appearance of the brightness round about. This was the appearance of the likeness of the glory of the LORD. And when I saw it, I fell upon my face, and I heard a voice of one that spake.

    Daniel 8
    And I heard a man’s voice between the banks of Ulai, which called, and said, Gabriel, make this man to understand the vision. So he came near where I stood: and when he came, I was afraid, and fell upon my face: but he said unto me, Understand, O son of man: for at the time of the end shall be the vision. Now as he was speaking with me, I was in a deep sleep on my face toward the ground: but he touched me, and set me upright.

    Rusty, as you have so stated above,

    “Of course, and the most valid point being, that this all hinges upon the belief of Joseph Smith. As with most everything else, these other little things are trifles, really, ancillary to the real issue – was Joseph Smith a prophet of God? For if he was, then all else is answered.”

    As I read the different accounts of the first vision, I am left wondering why Joseph’s reactions wasn’t similar to some other biblical accounts. I certainly know that just because it wasn’t told it doesn’t mean it didn’t happen. But, there lies my argument to the authenticity of the Joseph Smith as a prophet of God. How many times did he tell the story with different variations but yet not one accounting of showing any fear for his life.

    Reply
  21. Mark Heard says:

    Joseph’s story of the first account concludes with “When I came to myself again, I found myself lying on my back, looking up into heaven.” The next sentence “When the light had departed, I had no strength.”

    “Lying on his back” and “had no strength”. This is most interesting. It reminds me of a similar statement in Daniel.

    Daniel 10:
    “no strength remained in me; for my vigor was turned to frailty in me, and I retained no strength.”

    But after a careful reading of Daniel 10 one needs to begin the chapter through the continuation from Chapter 9 with Daniels revelation of the “Great War”. It isn’t from the vision of the “man dressed in linen” in Chapter 10 where Daniel declares in verse 8: “no strength remained in me”. But rather Daniel was so overwhelmed of the revelation of the “Great War” that he again declares in verse 2 and 16:

    2: “In those days I, Daniel, was mourning three full weeks. I ate no pleasant food, no meat or wine came into my mouth, nor did I anoint myself at all, till three whole weeks were fulfilled.”

    16: “My lord, because of the vision my sorrows have overwhelmed me, and I have retained no strength. For how can this servant of my lord talk with you, my lord? As for me, no strength remains in me now, nor is any breath left in me.”

    Daniel wasn’t weakened because of the divine presence. Rather he was so overwhelmed of the earlier revelation with the great war that he mourned for three weeks. He didn’t eat, drink, or bathe. He would have run and hid himself like the other men, but no strength remained in him. In fact when we read what happened while Daniel was lying on the ground, we find that he is strengthened instead of weakened.

    10: And, behold, an hand touched me, which set me upon my knees and upon the palms of my hands.

    18: Then there came again and touched me one like the appearance of a man, and he strengthened me,

    19: And said, O man greatly beloved, fear not: peace be unto thee, be strong, yea, be strong. And when he had spoken unto me, I was strengthened, and said, Let my lord speak; for thou hast strengthened me.

    I am again left wondering about the credibility of the Joseph Smith story!

    Reply
  22. ryan says:

    This whole blogging branch is about how to interpret the manifestations of spiritual enlightenment. A quick perusal will remind us that there are many different ways the spirit can speak to us. And now we are trying to disect what we think a man would feel if he were in the prescence of God–as if it’s as basic as ingredients in a recipe!

    Although above are many instances of a vision that struck the fear of God into the receiver, there are many left out. For example, Adam walked and talked with God in the Garden, right? He was used to it. So once he was cast out did that mean he would crumble to the floor to commune with God?

    Mary Magdalene saw the resurrected Lord near the tomb and ran to touch him. Hardly fearful.

    My submission is that it depends on what you are used to. By the time Joseph Smith got around to writing down the “cannonized” version of the story, he had seen many visions.

    Let me illustrate with this. I notice a huge difference between two authors who bear witness to the same experience–when I read about Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery receiving the Aaronic Priesthood from John the Baptist. (Sorry, I’m not a good enough blogger to excerpt them in here). Joseph reports the event matter-of-factly and uses two sentences. Oliver goes on and on about the amazingness of the event, using more exclamation points than are in the whole Bible.

    In a church history journal, a bystander recorded the difference in Joseph’s demeanor and the three witnesses’ demeanor when they returned home after seeing an angel. He commented on the wretched state of the three, while Joseph remained quite cheerful. Joseph’s reply was something like, “Oh they’re not used to it as I am.”

    I’m sorry for not quoting specifics. If someone’s interested, I could round up the sources.

    But the reality of the discussion is whether Joseph Smith really did see those two personages or not. Implausible as it sounds. Never since the Fall of Adam has anyone seen and heard the Father in person. Joseph never denied it. Even when he knew his life would be taken for claiming such a tale, he stood true. He brought forth The Book of Mormon, a testament that supplements the Bible in testifying of Christ. This is the fruit by which I fully believe that Joseph did see what he said he saw and heard what he said he heard.

    Reply
  23. Margaret says:

    Great explanation, Ryan!

    The Spirit knows us all very well, and so he would manifest himself differently to different people, and different people will react differently to him.

    I would think the same would be true when Heavenly Father, Christ, angels, or ancient apostles appear to different people. I would also expect a 14 year old boy with his first experience to react differently than a man in his 30’s with many experiences.

    Reply
  24. Rusty Lindquist says:

    Thank you Ryan, that was an excellent way to address Mark’s concerns.

    I was tring to decide if I should or not, for they seemed so meager. Mark, I’m not trivializing your concerns, what I mean is that if after reading and obviously spending a great deal of time thinking about the Joseph Smith story, the prominent concerns on your mind were simply these, then I felt confident that you’d naturally work past them in time on your own.

    I was also trying to decide your intent. For this sounded much like what I would expect from a critic, whose sole goal in studying the Joseph Smith story was to pick holes in it (and even then, these aren’t holes, for as Ryan pointed out, they’re negated by just one instance in the scriptures of a similar reaction – which he provided), but then I decided it was not my place to judge, and I’d assume positive intent.

    Please let us know if you have any other questions pertaining to his story, or anything else that you are troubling over.

    Reply
  25. Mark Heard says:

    Thank you for your insightful comments. I hope I am not judging where I’ll let God’s Word do that. I thought it necessary to study the first vision because all of Mormonism hinges on whether the theophany was real.

    As Rusty said: the nature of God, the destiny of man, the nature of the Godhead, and which is the one true living church of Christ on the earth today rests upon whether Joseph Smith was a prophet of God.

    I think I would be lazy in spirit to roll over the story without hesitation to ponder how the theophany lines up with other biblical accounts. Are we to test the Spirits?

    I know that much time had elapsed between the event and the written accountings. However many more years had transpired between events and the recording in the Bible yet
    the authors felt necessary to include the fearfulness.

    Let us take a look at two of these accounts with a sincere heart !

    Orson Pratt account, first published account of the first vision.

    “And while thus pouring out his soul, anxiously desiring an answer from God, he at length, saw a very bright and glorious light in the heavens above; which, at first, seemed to be a considerable distance. He continued praying, while the light appeared to be gradually descending towards him; and as it drew nearer, it increased in brightness and magnitude, so that, by the time that it reached the tops of the trees, the whole wilderness, for some distance around was illuminated in a most glorious and brilliant manner. He
    expected to have seen the leaves and boughs of the trees consumed, as soon as the light came in contact with them;
    able to endure its presence.”

    The Canonized Version:

    I saw a pillar of light exactly over my head, above the brightness of the sun, which descended gradually until it fell upon me.

    A light so bright Joseph thought it was going to burn down the trees! Yet Joseph ends up on his back looking into heaven. Now I’m going to be as reasonable as I can. If
    I were Joseph, I would have run like a Gazelle. And if someone asked me about the story twenty years later, that fear would have had such a lasting impression on my memory, I would have remembered it vividly. Gosh, I still remember the fear I had when my Dad spanked me 30
    years ago. So I don’t think I can get past Josephs story no matter how hard I try to reason it away with excuses. Faith desires Truth.

    Ryan FYI – Jesus saith unto her, Touch me not; for I am not yet ascended to my Father

    Reply
  26. Rusty Lindquist says:

    What a tragedy. Unless I’m somehow misunderstanding, you’re rejecting the Joseph Smith story because you’re convinced he should have been scared, even terrified of God? This, even when there are instances in the Bible that show a similar response? Personally, having not spent any time in the presence of the Lord in recent memory, I would be hesitant to base my salvation on my limited capacity to anticipate what that might be like, especially in the face of biblical evidence that such experiences vary. And that makes sense. Each person is entirely unique in their various tolerances, what scares them, what interests them, and how prepared they may be to seeing God. What’s more, if you’ll remember, just prior to your quoted section of Joseph seeing the light, he was engulfed in darkness as the adversary sought to belay him. It seems to me (again, not based on experience, but simple logic), that light, any light, let alone the light of Christ, as bright as it may be, would be not only welcome, but like salvation from the despair in which he had just found himself.

    I’d urge you to consider the story outside of your ability to anticipate what that experience must actually feel like. Again I say this sounds more as though you’re looking for an excuse, than it does like a substantive argument against Joseph Smith’s story. I know that accepting Mormonism often carries with it significant social ramifications. Much in your life might have to change if you accept it, but the question you have to ask yourself, is that if it is actually true, what possible thing on earth is worth forsaking your salvation for?

    Reply
  27. Margaret says:

    Having been through the experience of accepting Mormonism quite a few years ago, I can say that it’s worth any changes you might need to make. What you gain will be so much more!

    I don’t expect to see the Savior or an angel or exalted being during this life, but I would hope that if I have that privilege after this life, I would not be terrified, but fall to my knees with reverence and tears of love and joy.

    Reply
  28. ryan says:

    Yes, Mark, please excuse my typo, “Risen Lord,” not Resurrected Lord,” thank you.

    I’m glad you have put so much study into this vision. But I fear your intent is to trap, to find fault, to rationalize.

    Your quote, “I thought it necessary to study the first vision because all of Mormonism hinges on whether the theophany was real. As Rusty said: the nature of God, the destiny of man, the nature of the Godhead, and which is the one true living church of Christ on the earth today rests upon whether Joseph Smith was a prophet of God.”

    I won’t skirt the issue–I’ll get back to the vision in a moment. But I strongly believe testimony is a product of study “with a sincere heart and with real intent.” Your intent to find truth hinges upon your willingness to follow what you find. This is why I go back to the Book of Mormon. It is the keystone of our religion. By reading, studying, pondering, and praying, all the while with the question in mind, “How can I become a more Christ-like person?” the Book of Mormon will ring true in your heart. Then you will know that the man who brought forth this book must be a prophet of God.

    So lets get back to the vision–

    Put in context, Joseph had until moments previously been wrestling with Satan. Energy deprived, I cannot see Joseph running away. Also, the light descending upon him coincided with the release from the “enemy which held him bound.” Joseph had just experienced the jaws of hell. Now a light brighter than any other is slowly descending upon him–not a rushing meteor like a special effects movie. In context, it would be less believable if the light scared him more than the suffocating darkness.

    If you are looking for parallels with visionary experiences, you should consider exhaustion an after-effect more reliable than fear. Many accounts of encounters with Heavenly Beings leave the receiver without strength.

    Reply
  29. Mark Heard says:

    If it’s alright, I would like to use the Bible as the measuring stick. I’m confused – Was Joseph’s first account a vision or a theophany. Maybe if you could show me in the Bible some examples of an encounter leaving the receiver without strength or other evidences similar to Joseph’s.

    Reply
  30. Rod says:

    And Mark, it will get even more evident about Mr. Smith as you hold him up to light.

    Joseph Smith. Mary Baker Eddie. Judge Rutherford. Annie Besant. Madame Blavatsky. On and on and on and on it goes! Ellen G. White. Whoever you are, whenever people start getting more revelation from God, you have the makings of a cult.

    (D&C 132, excerpted)
    And again, as pertaining to the law of the priesthood—if any man espouse a virgin, and desire to espouse another, and the first give her consent, and if he espouse the second, and they are virgins, and have vowed to no other man, then is he justified; he cannot commit adultery for they are given unto him; for he cannot commit adultery with that that belongeth unto him and to no one else. And if he have ten virgins given unto him by this law, he cannot commit adultery, for they belong to him, and they are given unto him; therefore is he justified. But if one or either of the ten virgins, after she is espoused, shall be with another man, she has committed adultery, and shall be destroyed; for they are given unto him to multiply and replenish the earth, according to my commandment, and to fulfil the promise which was given by my Father before the foundation of the world, and for their exaltation in the eternal worlds, that they may bear the souls of men; for herein is the work of my Father continued, that he may be glorified….

    And again, verily, verily, I say unto you, if any man have a wife, who holds the keys of this power, and he teaches unto her the law of my priesthood, as pertaining to these things, then shall she believe and administer unto him, or she shall be destroyed, saith the Lord your God; for I will destroy her; for I will magnify my name upon all those who receive and abide in my law. Therefore, it shall be lawful in me, if she receive not this law, for him to receive all things whatsoever I, the Lord his God, will give unto him, because she did not believe and administer unto him according to my word; and she then becomes the transgressor; and he is exempt from the law of Sarah, who administered unto Abraham according to the law when I commanded Abraham to take Hagar to wife.

    Deuteronomy 18:20 – But the prophet who presumes to speak a word in my name which I have not commanded him to speak, or who speaks in the name of other gods, that same prophet shall die.

    Reply
  31. ryan says:

    I’m sorry, Mark, you may be disappointed in me. I was sure in my memory that Moses was exhausted, after his visitation with God on Mt Sinai. But in my skimming over what verse taught me that, I couldn’t it. Then I turned to Moses 1:1-11 in the Pearl of Great Price and found it. Too long to quote (maybe Rusty can provide a link to this passage), I’ll summarize.

    In order for Moses to endure the presence of God he needed to be transfigured before Him. What would have caused him to “wither and die” he could now see. After the vision, when the glory of the Lord was no longer with him, he fell to the earth. And it was the space of many hours before he recovered. His take? “Now I know that man is nothing, which thing I never had supposed.”

    I found other examples, but in the Book of Mormon. If interested I’ll illustrate. In this context, maybe you could reread some of your examples you gave above and consider that falling to the earth was from inability to endure God’s presence without being transfigured before Him.

    And this is all for the sake of discussion. I too agree with you about fear. What is the first thing out af an angels mouth (Samuel, Mary, and the shepherds at Christ’s birth are examples in my head)? “Fear not!”
    After these proclamations, the receiver doesn’t continue in fear, but stops to listen.

    Why I take issue is because of your absoluteness. I believe Joseph experienced many emotions on that day. Fear was definitely one of them. But to base your entire critique on whether Joseph mentioned he was scared or not seems a bit too much like a rationalization.

    ryan

    P.S. Rod, I’m not ignoring you, I’m sure Rusty will provide you with an answer. Oh wait, did you ask anything?

    Reply
  32. Mark Heard says:

    Ryan, Wow! I don’t subscribe to the Pearl of Great Price. But it is very interesting indeed that the example you found was was also written by Joseph Smith.

    I am troubled that we find that he failed to mention that he had feared but he did feel necessary to add that he was exhausted.

    In Isaiah 6, After Isaiah saw His glory, he says: “Then said I, Woe is me! for I am undone; because I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips: for mine eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts.”

    Ryan, I know that my simple questions may seem foolish and simplistic. Rusty has laid out a challenge before us: Was Joseph Smith a true prophet of God. How are we to know if we do not test his works? If after I test his works, I find him a prophet of God, then let it be so. However God forbid that after testing his works, that I rationalize all that I learned otherwise into believing into such possible heresy.

    Absolutes are beautiful!

    Reply
  33. Mark Heard says:

    Yesterday, I had bumped my head on a sharp corner in the kitchen. The immediate response I felt was pain. Now if I just were to tell that I jabbed my head, most of you could tell the rest of my story learned through your own experiences. However when it comes to the theophany observed by Joseph Smith, none of us have had that same experience to tell the rest of the story.

    Fortunately, we have many biblical accounts from many witnesses though out many ages to help tell us the rest of the story. These are the personal testimonies of the Holiness of God and His Glory by those who have experienced seeing such. These “fell on my face” testimonies were recorded in biblical accounts I have included earlier in a post above. Each author describes the fear so significant to express this important detail to us.

    Now this leads me back to the theophany told by Joseph Smith. I have read the canonized account. I have read the one written by his own hand. I have read those given to and written by others. I have included a section of all of them below for you reading.

    1832 Account of First Vision. Handwriting: Frederick G. Williams and Joseph Smith, Jr. recorded between summer 1832 and November 1832.

    a pillar of {fire} light above the brightness of the Sun at noon day come down from above and rested upon me and I was filled with the Spirit of God and the [Lord] opened the
    heavens upon me and I Saw the Lord and he Spake unto me Saying Joseph [my son] thy Sins are forgiven thee.

    1835 Account, Written by Warren A. Cowdery

    A pillar of fire appeared above my head; which presently rested down upon me, and filled me with un-speakable joy. A personage appeared in the midst of this pillar of flame, which was spread all around and yet nothing consumed. Another personage soon appeared like unto the first: he said unto me thy sins are forgiven thee.

    Wentworth Letter Account of First Vision

    I was enwrapped in a heavenly vision and saw two glorious personages who exactly resembled each other in features, and likeness, surrounded with a brilliant light
    which eclipsed the sun at noon-day.

    Orson Pratt Account

    and while thus pouring out his soul, anxiously desiring an answer from God, he at length, saw a very bright and glorious light in the heavens above; which, at first, seemed to be a considerable distance. He continued praying, while the light appeared to be gradually descending towards him; and as it drew nearer, it increased in brightness and
    magnitude, so that, by the time that it reached the tops of the trees, the whole wilderness, for some distance around was illuminated in a most glorious and brilliant manner. He expected to have seen the leaves and boughs of the trees consumed, as soon as the light came in contact with them; but perceiving that it did not produce that effect, he was encouraged with the hope of being able to endure its presence. It continued descending slowly, until it rested upon the earth, and he was enveloped in the midst of it. When it first came upon him, it produced a peculiar sensation throughout his whole system; and immediately, his mind was caught away, from the natural objects with which he was surrounded; and he was enwapped in a heavenly vision, and saw two glorious personages,

    Orson Hyde Account

    Soon the dark clouds disappeared, and light and peace filled his troubled heart. And again he called upon the Lord with renewed faith and spiritual strength. At this sacred moment his mind was caught away from the natural objects with which he was surrounded, and he was enwrapped in a heavenly vision, and saw two glorious personages, who exactly resembled each other in their features or likeness.

    1843 in The Pittsburgh Weekly Gazette 58

    Directly I saw a light, and then a glorious personage in the light, and then another personage, and the first personage said to the second, Behold my beloved Son, hear
    him.–I then addressed this second person, saying, O Lord, what Church shall I join?

    1844 Account of German Immigrant, Alexander Neibaur

    Went into the Wood to pray, kneels himself Down, his tongue was closet cleaveh to his roof–could utter not a word, felt easier after awhile–saw a fire toward heaven came near and nearer; saw a personage in the fire, light complexion, blue eyes, a piece of white cloth Drawn over his shoulders his right arm bear after a while a other person came to the side of the first. Mr. Smith then asked, must I join the Methodist Church.

    Do you see the differences with Joseph’s testimonies and those recorded by the biblical authors? Why did Joseph choose not to include the “Fear Not” or “I Fell On My Face” like so many other witnesses felt inspired to write.

    Reply
  34. Mark Heard says:

    Over the July 4th weekend I was camping with my family in a park some fifty miles from home. On one of those days, my 16 year old daughter had to work late at night at her job and would have to drive in unfamiliar roads back to the campground. Not wanting to her to make the whole trip, I decided to meet her half way and pick her up. That evening my 9 year daughter wanted to ride along. So we jumped into the van and headed out the park. Now the road leading to the main highway is roughly a three mile stretch. At the end of this road is a stop sign, where you can turn left or right onto the main highway, or drive across and continue going straight. On this night while approaching this intersection I was talking to my daughter when I looked up and behold the stop sign was right there in front of me. I had just a flash of time to make a quick glance towards both directions and process whether to try to stop or carry on straight through the intersection. Not seeing any oncoming lights, I stepped on the gas and flew through to the other side. We stopped about a blocked further up the road, shook off the fright, then turned the car around to drive back and tuned into the main highway to continue the trip to meet my 16 year old.

    After telling the story to my wife when we returned back, she commented that I should call the authorities and let them know of the danger and that there weren’t any warnings to alert me of the approaching stop sign. My 9 year old daughter joined with my wife with a suggestion “Yea Dad!, Why don’t you tell someone!” The next day, on the way home from the camp ground I studied the warning systems on the road leading up to the stop sign. First, there was a yellow warning sign 500 feet before the stop sign. Then to my surprise the warning sign was followed with three separate rumble strips about 100 feet apart. For those that do not know, rumble strips are the grooves cut across the concrete every few inches so when your tires pass over them you feel and hear the vibration coming up through the vehicle. “Well,” I said to myself, “How did I miss those last night?” My week went without thinking of the incident again other than a few short prayers thanking God for his providence.

    The next Saturday, my kid’s high school baseball team was playing in a district final. I loaded up my four boys in the van and we headed out to see the game. The game was to be played in a town where we needed to travel past the intersection by the camp ground. While approaching the intersection, I looked up ahead and saw flashing red lights. I drove closer and more flashing lights, flagmen were waving flags to stop, ambulances, sheriff cars etc. When it was my turn to take the only lane open through the intersection, I looked to my right and out beyond the ditch were two cars laying upside down, looking as if they had gone through a war zone. I immediately knew just by looking at them that I commented to the kids that someone had lost there life there tonight. And following the news the next day, indeed a 32 year old man from Ontario Canada did not survive the accident. The news reported the incident the same as had happened to me a week earlier. A vehicle had failed to stop at the same stop sign and traveled through the intersection into oncoming traffic.

    This week in this post I have been asking you all about the differences between the testimonies of Joseph Smith and those who have also seen God’s glory and recorded in the Bible. I hope that you will pause and also recognize the simplicity of this truth. In parallel with my experience, I ask if you are also driving by the many warning signs on the road, that if missed, can lead to death and destruction. These aren’t the great old arguments about the nature of God etc. But pure pointed questions that uphold the truth of many witnesses as recorded throughout the Bible.

    This time around, I have made the call to you and warned of the approaching dangers.

    Reply
  35. Rusty Lindquist says:

    Thank you for your concern. It’s ironic, to say the least, but sounds genuine nonetheless. Still, it’s unnecessary. You’re wholesale dismissal of the prophet Joseph’s first vision is based entirely on his lack of describing fear, and your ill-grounded perceptions that fear MUST be present for it to be true. Trusting that you’ve not been privy to such an event yourself, I assume you take your opinions you’re your study of scripture, and surely a casual study at that. Not that it’s necessary to validate Joseph Smith’s story, but still, there are numerous instances in the bible of such magnificent visions which too, lack such descriptions of fear. Take, for instance Moses and the burning bush, or when the Lord called Samuel, or Ezekiel, or Amos, or Zechariah, or Ananias, or Peter in Acts.

    No, unfortunately your concerns ungrounded, which is good news for you, since now you can believe!

    Reply
  36. Brad says:

    Rusty,

    Sorry to have taken so long to respond, been busy on many fronts.

    You recently responded with the following:

    Your question was that if Mormons feel they know their church is true from a witness from the Holy Spirit, then “how would you counter the argument” that others say the same.

    How would I counter the argument? That is your question.

    Correct restatement – this was indeed my question. Let’s look at your answers:

    To which I gave the direct answer that if you received a witness in anything but the truth of Mormonism, your “witness” was either

    1. Based on emotion
    a. Manufactured by others, and not the Spirit
    b. Generated from sociological or psychological influences, and not the spirit

    In other words, if what I believe the Spirit told me was not in relation to Mormonism being true, then it is simply an emotional response, possibly based on other influences in my life (but not REALLY from the Holy Spirit). But that’s my very question, Rusty – HOW do you know that? B/c that answer PRE-SUPPOSES that Mormonism is already true. That answer doesn’t mean my witness is wrong, UNLESS it’s already been demonstrated that Mormonism is correct. If the way to do that is through a witness of the Spirit, then that gets back to the very heart of my question, which is with a differing witness, how do you know which one is true? You’ve made a presupposition that Mormonism is true, in providing this answer, b/c it doesn’t hold water UNLESS Mormonism is true. But you still haven’t addressed how you know yours is right, and mine wrong. To use your line of thinking would be to operate in completely circular logic: “I know that Mormonism is true, b/c the Spirit told me. If you say the Spirit told you something different, I know you’re wrong, b/c Mormonism is true.” There’s no proper basis to the “Mormonism is true” statement, though.

    2. A self fulfilling prophecy because you “felt” what you wanted to feel and misinterpreted that as a witness from the spirit

    Same as above – this is ONLY true if it has already been demonstrated that Mormonism is true. The argument just doesn’t work, b/c it’s circular.

    3. An answer from Satan who we should expect as an active participant in seeking the true church

    Same as above – do you see a common theme? All your answers are ALREADY based upon your belief that Mormonism is true, via your purported witness from the Spirit. I’m challenging that witness being actually from the true Holy Spirit, and you’re trying to say that’s wrong, b/c Mormonism is true. It’s completely circular, Rusty.

    4. As much as you are able to handle

    No different from the others.

    That IS the answer to your question, for that IS how I would counter that argument.

    That may indeed be how YOU would counter the argument (indeed, it’s how virtually every Mormon I’ve ever asked this question to has tried to answer it, if they were even willing to try, which many aren’t), but it ISN’T the answer to the question, b/c it’s not truly an answer that’s objective. It’s based upon a presupposition that you’ve made (Mormonism is true), that is the very thought that the question is seeking to repudiate (that it’s not), and the method for deriving that thought (the Spirit witnessed it) is the very method that a different point of view is brought into the picture (my witness that the Spirit said it WASN’T true). You’ve still yet to answer the question “how do we know which is true”, APART from the presupposition that Mormonism is correct. Maybe a better question might be “CAN you answer the question, APART from the presupposition that Mormonism is correct?”

    Truth is absolute, and only one church can be fully true, so any witness for any other church must mean you’re getting your answer from somewhere else.

    I agree that truth is absolute, Rusty. And as such, I agree that only one belief system can be fully true, and that all others are not. We are definitely in agreement on that. However, we differ in WHICH belief system we believe that is, and HOW we arrive at our answers. Your very answer (“any other church must mean you’re getting your answer from somewhere else”) still presupposes that Mormonism is true.

    Let me posit this. I would claim that the reason Mormons can ONLY answer this question with the presupposition that Mormonism is ALREADY true, is b/c the question can’t be answered otherwise, WITHOUT going to other evidence. Otherwise, you’re at a stalemate (I say vs. you say). And to go to that evidence, is not what is shown in Moroni 10.

    It’s shaky ground, I would say, Rusty. But I’d like to hear what you think.

    Reply
  37. Rusty Lindquist says:

    You must be a lawyer. But (and if you are, I won’t hold it against you) you’re absolutely right, each of the answers I’ve given are based on the supposition that I am correct, which is essentially no different than what anyone else from any other religion offers. You’re quick to point out that you hear this all the time from Mormons, which is a red herring, since we’re no different in that regard from others.

    The problem, however, is not in my logic, but yours. You’re looking for concrete evidence, irrefutable proof, for a model that was intentionally designed by an omniscient being to be “improvable”. Therein lies the impossibility of your endeavor/request, and illustrates a poor understanding of one of the most fundamental principles of the gospel – Faith.

    Can you not see the flaw in such a demand? If there was a solid way that one could prove (not to ourselves, but to everyone else), that one religion was correct, what “trial of our faith” would that require? How would that be, as the bible states, a straight and narrow way, with few there be that find it?

    Contrary to what most intellectuals find comfortable, the requirement of proof when it comes to religion is the sign of a weak mind, and weaker faith. It’s not that we shouldn’t work diligently to learn and understand, being constantly and sincerely devoted to increasing our understanding and knowledge of the eternal principles, but proof comes only after the trial of our faith. That’s how it was designed.

    That’s not an easy answer. It’s uncomfortable… and risky. It puts the burden squarely on each of us, as individuals, to come up with our own individual testimony, and to risk our salvation on the work and energy with which we’ve invested in it. Which is why I answered how I did. Each of these answers I gave are real threats to us, for we must ensure that our testimony is divine, and not the result of any of these things I listed.

    You might think that’s a cop-out, but it’s not my design, I’m just willing enough to embrace it for what it is, and stake my eternal salvation upon the strength of my testimony that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is the actual restored church of Christ, the only true and living church upon the face of the whole earth. That’s the question each of us must ask.

    Reply
  38. Randy H says:

    “The problem, however, is not in my logic, but yours. You’re looking for concrete evidence, irrefutable proof, for a model that was intentionally designed by an omniscient being to be “improvable”. Therein lies the impossibility of your endeavor/request, and illustrates a poor understanding of one of the most fundamental principles of the gospel – Faith.”

    Rusty, this is not what God’s word says. The word says each man has been given the knowledge of God. Everything made by his hands testify of His Glory and Goodness. John 1:9 says that Christ is the light that comes into the world and lights every man. So the problem isn’t with “proof”. For all men have the revelation. The problem is the rejection.

    Romans 1 17-22

    For therein is the righteousness of God revealed from faith to faith: as it is written, The just shall live by faith. For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who hold the truth in unrighteousness; Because that which may be known of God is manifest in them; for God hath shewed it unto them. For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse:

    Listen, if God says He’s visible in His creation then He’s visible in His creation. You can see the eternal power. You can see the divine nature of God. You can look at creation and so can a Canaanite or a Philistine or an Egyptian or anybody living in any period of history up until today and he’s going to see that God is, there has to be a cause for all this effect. Design speaks of a designer. And so you know God is, and if you know God is you know God is powerful, and you know God is divine. And that’s why the end of verse 20 says, “Men are without excuse.” Everybody living on the face of this earth has experienced God, His wisdom, His power, His generosity in every moment of their existence though they have not recognized Him He’s been there, He has bounded their lives, He’s been sustaining them, He’s been enriching them, He’s been giving Himself to them, and in their senses they have perceived Him. So that they are without excuse.

    God has given each man the evidence to demand faith in Him. Faith follows the evidence of truth.

    Reply
  39. Randy H says:

    If Rusty permits I will continue from the previous post.

    Luke 7:22
    Jesus answered and said to them, “Go and tell John the things you have seen and heard: that the blind see, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, the poor have the gospel preached to them.

    Mark 4:35
    Then He arose and rebuked the wind, and said to the sea, “Peace, be still!” And the wind ceased and there was a great calm. But He said to them, “Why are you so fearful? How is it that you have no faith?” And they feared exceedingly, and said to one another, “Who can this be, that even the wind and the sea obey Him!”

    God has never asked for faith from us without evidence that elevated Him as Lord. God is just. If it is so that he has revealed His nature to us in the things He has created and revealed Himself to us as God by His works when He was with us on earth, how is it then we are asked to believe the Mormon Church as the only true church if lacking such evidences? How about the Nephites and evidence?

    Reply
  40. ryan says:

    Randy,
    I like your meaning. Faith is not blind, and the more evidence we can collect to strengthen our faith, the better. To obtain faith we must study it out in our mind and reason through our salvation. But I think what Rusty is alluding to is that reason without faith is flawed. If I come to the table unwilling to obey certain commandments, I will find a way to “reason” out of it. This is otherwise known as rationalization. The struggle is to be willing to take that leap of faith if reason takes you to the threshold.
    –ryan

    Reply
  41. Brad says:

    You must be a lawyer. But (and if you are, I won’t hold it against you) you’re absolutely right, each of the answers I’ve given are based on the supposition that I am correct, which is essentially no different than what anyone else from any other religion offers. You’re quick to point out that you hear this all the time from Mormons, which is a red herring, since we’re no different in that regard from others.

    I’m not a lawyer, I just don’t like circular logic, which is what you’ve presented. It doesn’t take a lawyer to see that. The fact that the answers you gave ARE based upon a presupposition that Mormonism is true, they CAN’T be good answers to a person asking “how do I know which ‘witness of the Spirit’ to believe?” You’re not really providing the way to know which is true, but rather your own beliefs, which are already inclined to believe that it IS true! Thus the reason I say, the question is still unanswered (even though I know you swear it’s already been).

    Not all answers to our questions are what we expect them to be. Your ability/inability to accept them is up to you.

    And your thinking that “all other religions” also do this is completely false. I would never answer this way to a Mormon, if they were to ask this question (though they typically don’t). I would provide the abundant evidence for my beliefs, both within the Bible and outside the Bible. My faith doesn’t make the beliefs correct – I have faith b/c I know it’s true. Big difference.

    That’s true, you just don’t answer. I see at least twice on this thread where you have been asked, but you’ve yet to answer, choosing instead to pick apart the answers of others. The task of a critic is easy, but it’s a cowardly defense. We’ve asked before, and I ask again, how would YOU answer your question? Or do you have no response? I guess we’ll see. Based on this snippet, it seems you have “abundant” evidence within the bible and without. Well, that seems to not be working so well does it? If you have such abundant evidence, why is it that there are still so many different religions? Why are people interpreting the bible so differently? The abundance of your evidence appears to be a bit lacking in it’s ability to settle these disputes. Certainly we see that even with the inspired word of the bible, there are still dozens of mainstream Christian religions who find their interpretation so different that they form their own churches. The abundance of evidence argument is no less circular, still, I’m can’t wait for it to be laid out before me like some golden pathway. Yet I’m curious as to why, in it’s abundance, it has failed to do anything to alleviate the question at hand. I’m sure you’ll fill us in.

    The problem, however, is not in my logic, but yours. You’re looking for concrete evidence, irrefutable proof, for a model that was intentionally designed by an omniscient being to be “improvable”.

    How is my logic the problem? Ask an intelligent person whether they would use standard logic or circular logic, and they shouldn’t tell you “circular.” And where do you get the notion that the model was “intentionally designed…to be improvable”? Where is that found in the Bible? I’ve never seen that. The Bible speaks about being SURE of our salvation. It tells us to look to Scripture itself for confirmation of what we believe (Paul commending the Bereans). It never says there’s no way to know for sure, so use faith and your best guess and hope for the best. If that were the case, how “sure” could you really be about your salvation? C’mon Rusty…

    Good point, we should let the bible stand for itself in determining which Church is right. That seems to be working well doesn’t it? But never did I say you couldn’t know for sure (that was sure a slippery slope, I hope you had fun). But your logic IS the problem because it’s flawed at the foundation. The thought that “which religion is true” can be proved irrefutably by abundant evidence is false, it requires first a trial of your faith.

    Therein lies the impossibility of your endeavor/request, and illustrates a poor understanding of one of the most fundamental principles of the gospel – Faith.

    It’s not impossible at all. What you, and the Mormon church, advocate is a “blind faith”, a thinking that we CAN’T know for sure, so we must use only our perceptions of what the Spirit purportedly tells us to base what we know on. Unfortunately, Rusty, the Bible tells us different. But you’ve heard all this before, right? And have what you believe are answers to ALL the questions and objections to Mormonism, right? I’m trying to show you differently, Rusty.

    Again you pull out your slippery slope assumption that I ever said you couldn’t know for sure. The bible doesn’t say differently. I’ll be waiting for your abundant proof.

    Can you not see the flaw in such a demand? If there was a solid way that one could prove (not to ourselves, but to everyone else), that one religion was correct, what “trial of our faith” would that require? How would that be, as the bible states, a straight and narrow way, with few there be that find it?

    Sin, Rusty. Sin. Read Romans 1. No matter what is presented to people, there are always those who will simply refuse to believe it, b/c they don’t want to. But nothing can be proven to one who doesn’t want to even look at the evidence, and thinks it’s wrong before even looking at it.

    Amen to that, ironic that you should say it though, given the conversation.

    Contrary to what most intellectuals find comfortable, the requirement of proof when it comes to religion is the sign of a weak mind, and weaker faith.

    Why, b/c the LDS church says so? This just isn’t true, Rusty. Where are we told to check our brains at the door, and rely on blind faith? Nowhere. If a belief IS true, it will hold up to the strongest critics, b/c it CAN’T be proven false. Compare the evidences for (and against) the Christian view vs. the Mormon view, and we can see which will hold.

    If you’re just going to be silly, I’ll end the conversation now. Truth can withstand criticism, but it doesn’t change the fact that there will always be those determined to be the critic.

    proof comes only after the trial of our faith. That’s how it was designed.

    Where do you get this notion, Rusty? I’d love to know the Scriptural basis for this belief.

    No you wouldn’t. I could give it to you, but then you’d explain it away because it doesn’t mesh with what you’re convinced to be the truth.

    That’s not an easy answer. It’s uncomfortable… and risky. It puts the burden squarely on each of us, as individuals, to come up with our own individual testimony, and to risk our salvation on the work and energy with which we’ve invested in it.

    Another problem with the Mormon church. The burden is NEVER “squarely on us.” Christ has already done what needs to be done. There are no works we can do, or anything we can do, to save ourself. If the burden were squarely on us, we would always fail. This thinking elevates man to a position where he thinks he can do SOMETHING to help bring about his salvation. But he can’t. Doesn’t mesh with Scripture.

    Hardly, as I point out here. The scriptures say the contrary “abundantly”.

    Which is why I answered how I did. Each of these answers I gave are real threats to us, for we must ensure that our testimony is divine, and not the result of any of these things I listed.

    Yes, Rusty, these answers are truly real threats to you. I do believe that.

    You might think that’s a cop-out, but it’s not my design

    You’re right, it’s the design of your church. It’s not, however, the design of what the Bible teaches.

    OK.

    and stake my eternal salvation upon the strength of my testimony that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is the actual restored church of Christ, the only true and living church upon the face of the whole earth. That’s the question each of us must ask.

    If that is what you’ve staked your “eternal salvation” upon, then that really is too bad, Rusty. There’s power and freedom outside the Mormon church, Rusty. You appear to be a seeker and a studier, and I only pray that you will TRULY seek out what the truth really is. It’s out there. We baptized last night an ex-Mormon couple, who finally came to that realization. Only now, after they have left the Mormon church, can they see that it wasn’t true, and even now wonder how they “fell” for it all along. Their concern now, is for their family members who remain.

    You really don’t want to get into a dispute of which church is right based on the number of baptisms. You should know better than that, unless you really haven’t done your homework.

    Yes, Rusty, I realize you believe that what you say is true, and that what I say isn’t. And I’m OK with that. I will continue to pray for you to truly seek this out.

    Thanks.

    Reply
  42. Rusty Lindquist says:

    I’ve replied as much as I have the stomach for. But there comes a time in some conversations where you reach a point of diminishing returns. This conversation is going nowhere, and derailed long ago. I’ll give you a bit of time to reply with your abundant evidence, to give you a chance to back your claim. But if it’s anything like this last post, I’ll delete them all and clean this thread back up. Hopefully, you’ll enlighten us all.

    Reply
  43. Brad says:

    Rusty, this conversation never derailed, it just didn’t go the way you wanted it to.

    It’s not for me to provide evidence. I asked the question “given differing evidences provided by the Holy Spirit, how do we know which answer we have is right?” Your attempt to answer, which you even admit to, is based upon the presupposition that Mormonism is true. If you can’t see how that wouldn’t convince anyone who didn’t already believe that, then I have probably given you too much credit elsewhere.

    Rusty, the only REAL answer to that question, is that you have to look beyond the subjective feelings we have, and look at the EVIDENCE. Does the evidence for Mormonism stack up, and really back up the fact that you think it is the “restored church?” Keep in mind, you need to view the evidence without any presuppositions of truthfulness, or you will make assumptions (such as the way you answered my question) that aren’t valid for you to make.

    It’s just like the “what if I said the Spirit witnessed to me that 2+2=5, and not 4” scenario. The answer I’ve received to that from a few Mormons (which they actually gave a good and correct answer) is that they said they wouldn’t believe that was REALLY from the Spirit, b/c the evidence didn’t support that conclusion. Not that they presupposed the answer was 4, but that the evidence didn’t support an answer of 5. Big difference.

    If your answer was “the evidence doesn’t support the purported feeling you have that the Spirit said Mormonism is false”, that’s one thing, especially if you then back that up with the evidence you believe shows that to be true. But to just say “that can’t be right, b/c Mormonism is true”, but NOT offer any evidence other than your preconceived notions, is perhaps the weakest position you can possibly take.

    What evidence do you have, Rusty? Would you even be willing to look at the evidence? Can you set aside your preconceived notions enough to honestly look at it, or are you so steeped in it that you can’t even do that?

    You are welcome to delete what you wish, Rusty. I’ve been deleted from sites before, yours wouldn’t be the first or the last. But I find that those who delete are generally running scared, and unwilling or afraid to really delve into anything that can challenge the general party line of Mormon thinking. Are you different? For your sake, I hope so…

    Reply
  44. Rusty Lindquist says:

    So much for that. You said that if a Mormon asked you (which I did), you would “provide abundant evidence for my beliefs, both within the bible and outside of the bible”. Yet when asked for that evidence, you say “It’s not for me to provide evidence”. That’s called hypocrisy. The only abundant thing about this conversation is that you’ve failed to deliver the evidence to refute Mormonism that you claim to have so much of. Why?

    There is no principle, no fact, no evidence, no critique that can be offered to dispute the beliefs of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day saints. Why else does the church continue to flourish in spite of the rampant criticism of people like you? Because the standard of truth has been erected. No unhallowed hand can stop the work from progressing. Persecutions may rage, mobs may combine, armies may assemble, columny may defame, but the work of God will go forth boldly, nobly, and independent, until it has penetrated every continent, visited every country, swept every clime, and sounded in every ear. So said Joseph Smith almost 200 years ago when there was no “evidence” to support the claim, just the pure gospel of Christ, yet here we are, watching the literal fulfillment of those words.

    The works of those like you who spend so much time trying to refute, but then who are incapable of producing the evidence you so openly flaunt will make no difference in the progress of the work of God.

    I’m sorry that I’ve been unable to help you open your mind to the matter, but it appears as though there’s little value in continuing this conversation further. I wish you the best.

    Rusty

    Reply
  45. Rusty Lindquist says:

    Randy, this isn’t pin the tail on the donkey, regurgitating the most overused points of Mormon critics in the hopes that I won’t know the answer to one of them. At least you could be more original. There are answers to these on Mormon sites all over the internet. Still, I don’t mind a little duplication if there is one or two of these specifically that you’re still wondering about.

    Yet, even then, some “small” part of me thinks that you’re not really interested in the answer/origin to any of these, but rather like most Mormon critics, simply want to work up a frenzy over those things you know nothing about and have invested no time of yourself to find out. Unfotunately, while that will work on other blogs, it won’t work on mine, especially with such overused points.

    Oh, and illustrating my point, it’s Nephites, not Neophites. However, I was particularly interested to see you list this one, apparently you’ve not done much keeping up with ancient American archeology. Still if you have one you’d particularly like me to elaborate on, feel free to list it on the “Ask a question page”.

    Rusty

    Reply
  46. RandyH says:

    Nephites or Neophites, they are both meaningless to me. God wouldn’t hold us accountable to the Book of Mormon without evidence. That’s the way it’s been since the beginning. God is just.

    Reply
  47. Randy H says:

    Rusty,

    Acts 14:16, and here Paul is speaking and talking about God and how God reveals Himself, and in verse 15 he talks about “the living God, who made heaven, and earth, and the sea, and all things that are in them;” And then he says, “Who in time past allowed all nations to walk in their own ways. Nevertheless, he left not himself without witness, (how?) in that he did good,” did He make a good earth? Yes. He “gave us rain from heaven, and fruitful seasons,” and He “filled our hearts with food and with gladness.” In other words the very goodness of life speaks of the goodness of God, the food and the rain and the seasons, and the joy of ‘living all speak of a beneficent, loving, gracious Creator.

    Now go to the 17th chapter of Acts, and Paul preaching to the philosophers on Mars’ Hill in Athens, verse 23, says you have here an unknown God, which by the way was reflective of their understanding of the true God though they didn’t know His name. You ignorantly worship Him, so I’m going to tell you about Him, you know He exists and you’ve got an unknown God statue just to cover Him but you don’t know who He is, but I’ll tell you who He is, “He’s the God who made the world” verse 24, “and all things in it, he’s the Lord of heaven and earth, he dwells not in temples made with hands, He is not worshiped with men’s hands, as though he needed anything, seeing he giveth to all life, and breath, and all things.” They were always accustomed to bringing food and sticking it at the feet of their idols, he said you don’t have to feed this God. “He is made of one blood all nations of (you have) men to dwell on the face of the earth, he has determined the times before a pointed, and the bounds of their habitation.” In other words He controls the nations, their boundaries, He controls time, He controls destiny, He controls everything. A beneficent, loving, gracious Creator.

    “That they should seek the Lord, if perhaps they might feel after him,” in other words if men would just feel after Him, if they would just see that He is and reach out for Him, “they would find him, because he is not (what? He’s not) far from every one of us?

    For in him we live, and move, and have our being.” He is right there and He has manifested Himself in an undeniable way. Listen to this remarkable passage of Scripture, John’s gospel, chapter 1, verse 9, listen to what it says, just listen, Christ is that Light, that is lighting all men. Did you hear that? Does that mean all men are saved? No. What it does mean is, that all men are illumined with the knowledge of God. Christ is the Light that is lighting all men. No one has an excuse.

    A rainbow in the sky, is it not evidence? Moses rod, was not it’s works evidence for both Pharoah and the Israelites? Did not Moses came down from the mountain with the tablets?
    Did not Jesus perform many signs and wonders for evidence that He was God?

    God has always provided the physical evidences for “I AM”.
    Isn’t He Just. So how can it be that we are asked by you to surrender our minds and without any real physical evidence for the Book of Mormon, leap into your belief system? Is that something new that God is doing now?

    Reply
  48. Clean Cut says:

    Well. That was quite a dizzying array of points and counterpoints. My biased opinion is that Rusty and others were trying to answer Brads (and Ryans) questions and comments most sincerely and the best they could. I wish I could add something of substance to it, but I was completely distracted by by Brad’s hard hardheartedness and his combative tone. It appears he was not wanting any of it at all, but rather to debate, win and argument, tear down someone else’s beliefs, prove our right he is and how wrong Mormons are. Or am I completely off base?

    I might have missed it, but I kept looking for what Brad would have said would have been an acceptable answer to the original question, especially if it was being asked to him. Is there an acceptable answer?

    Have you (Brad) really based your entire faith on concrete or historical evidence? That would be surprising to me. Do manifestations of the Spirit play any role in your personal faith?

    Reply
  49. David says:

    I know I am late to this one and no one has commented in over a month, but I want to add my thoughts, if for no other reason then because I have been thinking about it and it will make me feel better to get it out.

    Hindsight is 20/20 and it’s obvious that this question was a setup. Brad knew how you would respond and his motives were not enlightenment but an opportunity to disprove.

    You did answer the question. and I don’t understand circular logic versus linear logic or any of that, but he asked how you would respond, and you answered. But this was a trick question. It’s been asked of me before using the exact same phrasing (it’s almost like someone is handing out cards with that question on it). I’ve discovered that anyone asking this question is not interested in your answer because they believe there is no way for you to answer it “correctly” and still believe the church is true (they can never know that it is possible because they have never been on this side of the issue).

    This is a trick question because it has never happened. No one has ever, when searching with real intent, received a spiritual witness that any church, other than the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is the only true and living church of Jesus Christ on the face of the earth today. If someone ever honestly said that they had, I would question them the way you suggest with your 4 points. But that’s never happened. People have asked this question with the “what if,” but no one has ever come to me, claimed a spiritual witness that their church was the only true church or that the LDS church wasn’t true. As far as I know, the LDS church is the only church where the majority of its members make that claim. Members of other churches are quick to point out they have had spiritual witnesses of doctrine such as that Jesus Christ lives, was resurrected and through him we are saved, which is no surprise, because that is true and the spirit will be quick to answer that in the affirmative. They will say they believe their church is true, but they will not claim a spiritual witness.

    Brad was only interested in trapping you with his idea that you have to have EVIDENCE to back up your claims. The reason for this is he has not received a spiritual witness one way or the other and is relying on one interpretation of EVIDENCE to justify his beliefs (which is fine, just not a good way of finding truth). The problem is that EVIDENCE is only proof of itself. Science or evidence can only claim observation. It can never answer why. Any scientist who claims otherwise should be immediately disqualified as an objective observer. It requires supposition and interpretation to make the EVIDENCE mean what you want it to mean. All things are EVIDENCE that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is true. Brad just chooses to interpret the same EVIDENCE in other ways claiming that his is the only valid logic or interpretation. I happen to agree that his claims are logical, but that doesn’t make them true.

    There are countless logical explanations as to how a bloody knife with fingerprints on it found at a crime scene got there but only one of them is that the owner of the fingerprints committed the crime. The EVIDENCE only proves that there is a bloody knife with fingerprints at the scene of the crime, nothing else. Evidence is not truth.

    It requires the Holy Ghost to witness truth. Without him, we are lost. With him, we can know the truth of all things.

    Reply
  50. Rusty Lindquist says:

    David,

    I’m glad you did join in. The beauty of these blog posts is that they’re usually timeless. You can comment on them a year from now, and have it be as relevant then as it is now.

    I think you’re absolutely right, and this subject of evidence has surfaced so frequently lately. I think you’re comments that evidence is simply observation. For instance, in the eyes of someone who believes in God, all things on earth testify of him. We see his hand in it all, the sky, the trees, the magnificent, delicate, and intricate workings of nature, the body, etc. But to the eyes of an atheist, who “believes” only in science, all these things are evidence of principles of science. We’re looking at the same things, but seeing different things.

    As I’ve said elsewhere, things of a spiritual nature, can only be given spiritually. Physical evidence can only testify of physical things (and even then, it’s subjective, as illustrated above), but it cannot give you a spiritual confirmation.

    Thanks for joining; I hope you comment on other posts, in the same enlightening and articulate manner you did here.

    Reply
  51. Jim B. says:

    David,

    “No one has ever, when searching with real intent, received a spiritual witness that any church, other than the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is the only true and living church of Jesus Christ on the face of the earth today.”

    While I could not disagree with you more, I appreciate the honesty of this comment. It seems few Mormons are willing to come right out and say this. According to LDS logic, if I tell you that I have searched with real intent and have been given a witness that the LDS faith is incorrect, than I must either be lying, deluded or simply mistaken.

    Again, I don’t agree with any of this, but I do think these kinds of inter-faith conversations are much more fruitful when honesty trumps sensitivity.

    God Bless

    Reply

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