By Eric Johnson
If you’ve ever spoken to a Mormon missionary, there is no doubt that you have been challenged to read the Book of Mormon and pray about its message. You will most likely hear a recitation of a verse in the book’s last chapter. It reads:
“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.” (Moroni 10:4)
Joseph Smith used James 1:5 to determine that prayer could help a person to distinguish truth from error–for him, he wanted to know which religion was true. The verse reads:
“If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him.”
Should Christians take the challenge and pray about the Book of Mormon and, ultimately, Mormonism? There are three tests that can help us determine if this is a good test.
1. The Biblical Test
Since Joseph Smith used the Bible to support their view, let’s consider if this really is a good test.
First of all, James 1:5 has been yanked out of its context to make it say something that the original author never meant it to say. In context, James says that a person can seek for wisdom and God will provide it. The book of Proverbs is an excellent place to start, as its wise sayings very much apply for today. In the verses following James 1:5, the focus is on trials and temptations. Thus, when we are going through difficult times and need guidance, God says that we can turn to Him and He will be there to help us through difficult times.
We must also note that James is talking about “wisdom” and not “knowledge.” After all, Mormons say that it is possible to “know” if their scripture is true and that Mormonism is the correct faith. If James meant to say “if any of you lack knowledge,” then perhaps this would be a good verse to use. Instead, he used the word “wisdom” instead of knowledge. Wisdom asks, “How can I best determine what God wants me to do in choosing a religion to follow?”
If the Bible intended for us to pray about a religion, certainly there should have been many other passages to support this view. However, over and over again, the Bible says we are to be very wary about determining truth. As Jesus said in Matthew 7, there are many false prophets masquerading as lambs, but they’re really ferocious wolves inside.
First Thessalonians 5:21 says that we are to “test everything.” First John 4:1 declares how we are to “believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God: because many false prophets are gone out into the world.” In Acts 17, the Berean believers were considered more “noble” than those from Thessalonica because they used the scripture to see if what Paul was saying was true. And 2 Timothy 2:15 explains, “Study to show thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.”
Based on the teaching of the Bible, praying about the Book of Mormon fails the test.
2. The Consistency Test
Potential converts to read the Book of Mormon and pray about it to see if it is true. Is reading a religion’s scripture and praying about it a legitimate test to determine truth? If this is the case, then perhaps Mormons ought to pray about:
- The Qu’ran
- The Vedas
- The Tripitaka
- Adi Granth
- The Bible, the Doctrine and Covenants, and the Pearl of Great Price
After all, if truth seekers are mandated to pray about the words of scripture, then perhaps every religion and its scripture ought to be tested in a similar way. However, besides the fifth choice listed above, many Latter-day Saints have a hard time even determining which religion these scriptures belong. (Answer: Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism, Sikhism, and the other three scriptures of Mormonism—and there are many other religions and their scriptures as well).
3. The Historical Test
The missionaries want their potential converts to rely on a subjective test. The problem is that any number of factors can influence our thinking. We might want Mormonism to be true to make our family, a potential boyfriend/girlfriend, or an employer happy. By wanting something, down deep, we might end up convincing ourselves that we know something is true. The Bible says in Proverbs 12:15 and 28:26 that only fools trust in their feelings. And Proverbs 14:12 adds that what seems right to a person can actually lead to death.
Paul was clear in 1 Corinthians chapter 15 that if the bodily resurrection of Jesus did not take place, then Christianity is a hoax. He explained in verse 15 that “if Christ be not risen, then is our preaching vain, and your faith is also vain.” The claims of Christianity are based upon a real person (Jesus) and a real event (the resurrection). If Jesus did not exist and the resurrection is not true, then neither is Christianity.
In the same way, if there is no evidence that people named Mormon or Moroni ever existed and the places and events described in this book are fictional, then how can the Book of Mormon be based on actual history? Archaeology and DNA factors are not friends to Mormonism but rather foes. Don’t think that I am against prayer. Of course, we are commanded to pray, but there are certain things we should not pray for—such as winning the lottery. In the same way, it is a sham to pray about the religious message of a book that has no evidence for being authentic!
Questions for Mormons to consider:
- If the Bible tells me that I should search out truth for myself by studying the scripture, then why should I pray about the truthfulness of a scripture if that scripture (and the religion)contradicts the Bible?
- If I pray like you are asking me to do and God tells me the Book of Mormon is a fictional book and Mormonism is not a true religion, would you leave your church?
- If we are to make decisions based on prayer (i.e. accepting Mormonism based on good feelings we receive from our prayer), then should we pray about stealing our neighbor’s car? Why or why not?
- Have you ever read and the prayed about the Bible? The Kangyur? The Bhagavad Gita? (If so, which religions do these scriptures belong?)
- What evidence do you have that there was a person named Mormon? A Moroni? A Zarahemla? The appearance of Jesus on this continent? Am I required to take the historicity of your scripture completely by faith?
Many missionaries and well-meaning Latter-day Saints may try to place a guilt trip upon those who will not get on their knees and pray about the message of the Book of Mormon. As this article explains, truth seekers are commanded by God to search for truth. Prayer is important, but decisions like choosing a religion or determining whether or not it is moral to steal a neighbor’s car can be determined by studying God’s Word. Relying on subjective feelings can end up being disastrous and should be avoided by every sincere Christian believer.
Click for a podcast titled Is the Book of Mormon from God? (December 7, 2011)