The Mormon Amazon Challenge

By Sharon Lindbloom
1 March 2016

Book-of-MormonThe LDS volume of scripture, the Book of Mormon, is available on Amazon.com. As with all things for sale at Amazon, the book is open to reviews. The Book of Mormon had apparently not been faring well enough, receiving too many negative reviews. According to KUTV.com in Salt Lake City, local LDS Church leaders in Provo allegedly “requested all members of the ward publish positive reviews of the book on Amazon.” This “challenge” from the stake presidency and bishopric appeared in a Facebook post on the “Provo YSA 9th Ward (Official)” closed group Facebook page this week (also see the Fox13 report). It said in part,

“The challenge for us is to go to the amazon website and write a positive rating and review for the Book of Mormon. It is a great opportunity to share your testimony to the world and do online missionary work. I personally found that my love and testimony for the Book of Mormon has increased tremendously as I wrote down my testimony as a review, and I know it will be the case for you as well.”

Many are concerned over the unethical nature of a “challenge” by religious leaders instructing their congregants to go and “write a positive rating and review” of the Book of Mormon. The challenge does not take into account whether ward members have actually read the book, nor does it suggest that reviewers should leave honest comments reflecting what they actually think about the book. Rather, they are instructed to leave positive ratings and comments and by doing so, their own love and testimony for the Book of Mormon will increase.

This brings to mind a very popular talk given years ago by now-deceased LDS apostle Boyd Packer. In “The Candle of the Lord,” a talk presented in 1982 to new mission presidents, Mr. Packer explained,

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

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

“Bear testimony of the things that you hope are true, as an act of faith…

“The Spirit and testimony of Christ will come to you for the most part when, and remain with you only if, you share it.” (Boyd K. Packer, “The Candle of the Lord,” Ensign, January 1983. Italics in original)

Considering the instructions given by this Mormon apostle, for Mormons the “challenge” presented to the Provo 9th Ward is not unethical. If Mormon missionaries are supposed to tell people that they know God lives, they know Jesus is the Christ, and they know the restored gospel is true — even when they don’t – what’s the harm in posting positive reviews of the Book of Mormon even if they don’t reflect the reviewers’ actual experiences?

Posting potentially fraudulent reviews of the Book of Mormon is, according to the ward “challenge,” a triple gain: The Amazon star-rating of the book will improve, each LDS reviewer will become an online missionary (“every member a missionary”), and each Mormon participant will gain a new and improved testimony that the Book of Mormon is true.

“If I do not have such a testimony,” Mormons ask, “would not [bearing a testimony] be dishonest?” Don’t be silly; Mormonism teaches, “Bear testimony of the things you hope are true.”

At lds.org it says, “A testimony is a spiritual witness given by the Holy Ghost.” If a Mormon bears his testimony, then, isn’t he essentially saying that God the Spirit told him the information he is sharing? If he doesn’t really have that testimony (in other words, God did not tell him) and he’s only saying what he hopes is true (that is, attributing to God what are really his own hopes and dreams), he is, biblically speaking, a false prophet (e.g., see Jeremiah 23). God says,

“Do not listen to the words of the prophets who prophesy to you, filling you with vain hopes. They speak visions of their own minds, not from the mouth of the Lord…

“Behold, I am against the prophets, declares the LORD, who use their tongues and declare, ‘declares the LORD.’ Behold, I am against those who prophesy lying dreams, declares the LORD, and who tell them and lead my people astray by their lies and their recklessness, when I did not send them or charge them.” (Jeremiah 23:16, 31-32)

It is a dangerous thing to misuse the name of the Lord. Therefore, consider a different challenge: Be honest – with others and with yourself — and “do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, for many false prophets have gone out into the world” (1 John 4:1).