When in discussion with Mormon missionaries many people find themselves faced with the common challenge to pray about the Book of Mormon. The missionaries will say something like: "If you are a sincere seeker for truth God will reveal to you the truthfulness about the Book of Mormon. You can do this by coming to God in prayer with a sincere heart and ask Him if the book is true. He will then reveal the truthfulness of the book to you by causing you to feel the Spirit of God telling you it is true." Often, this feeling that the missionaries describe is claimed to manifest itself most commonly as a "burning in the bosom". This claimed sensation is supposedly said to be a confirmation that God is revealing the truthfulness of the Book of Mormon to the one enquiring. Related to this, the introduction page to the editions of the Book of Mormon that the missionaries give to prospective converts has the following challenge:
"We invite all men everywhere to read the Book of Mormon, to ponder in their hearts the message it contains, and then to ask God, the Eternal Father, in the name of Christ if the book is true. Those who pursue this course and ask in faith will gain a testimony of its truth and divinity by the power of the Holy Ghost. (See Moroni 10: 3-5.) Those who gain this divine witness from the Holy Spirit will also come to know by the same power that Jesus Christ is the Savior of the world, that Joseph Smith is his revelator and prophet in these last days, and that The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is the Lord's kingdom once again established on the earth, preparatory to the second coming of the Messiah."
The reference to the Book of Mormon in the above quoted introduction to the Book of Mormon is from the book of Moroni 10:3-5. This reads as follows:
"Behold, I would exhort you that when ye shall read these things, if it be wisdom in God that ye should read them, that ye would remember how merciful the Lord hath been unto the children of men, from the creation of Adam even down until the time that ye shall receive these things, and ponder it in your hearts. 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." ( Moroni 10:3-5.)
How should Christians respond to such a challenge? Is it ever right for Christians to pray about the Book of Mormon? This article will give Christians some suggestions on how they may consider responding.
Firstly, it might be worth asking exactly where the idea for praying about the Book of Mormon actually comes from. The answer to this is, of course, the Book of Mormon itself. One could therefore ask the Mormon missionaries: "If the idea about praying about the Book of Mormon comes from the Book of Mormon itself, if the spirit behind the Book of Mormon is not of God, but rather from another spiritual source, could it be possible that the source that is not of God could provide a spiritual confirmation to the enquirer? Obviously, no Mormon is going to stand for someone saying that the Book of Mormon is not of God, but ask the question hypothetically speaking to make a point.
Once the Book of Mormon is accepted as true because of a feeling someone has a "domino effect" occurs. Jerald and Sandra Tanner observe:
"The Introduction to the Book of Mormon goes on to promise that if one prays for spiritual confirmation God will reveal the truthfulness of the record to him or her. It states: Those who gain this divine witness from the Holy Spirit will also come to know by the same power that Jesus Christ is the Savior of the world, that Joseph Smith is his revelator and prophet in these last days, and that The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is the Lord's kingdom once again established on the earth, preparatory to the second coming of the Messiah. Here we see the domino effect of praying about the Book of Mormon. Once it is believed it opens the door for full endorsement of Joseph Smith as God's mouthpiece and the LDS Church itself as God's only approved organization. It will also destroy a person's confidence in the Bible. The Book of Mormon declares: And the angel of the Lord said unto me: Thou hast beheld that the book [Bible] proceeded forth from the mouth of a Jew; and when it proceeded forth from the mouth of a Jew it contained the fulness of the gospel of the Lord, of whom the twelve apostles bear record; . . . Wherefore, these things go forth from the Jews in purity unto the Gentiles . . . And after they go forth . . . thou seest the formation of that great and abominable church, which is most abominable above all other churches; for behold, they have taken away from the gospel of the Lamb many parts which are plain and most precious; and also many covenants of the Lord have they taken away. (Book of Mormon, 1 Nephi 13:24-26)" (The Salt Lake City Messenger Issue 101.)
If someone simply says that they will not pray about the Book of Mormon and leaves it at that, the Mormon missionaries may question the sincerity of such a person, claiming that they must not really be sincere in their search for truth for refusing to engage in such a prayer. Numerous people have been led on a virtual guilt trip to pray about the book because of the missionaries reasoning in this area. For those who do pray about the Book of Mormon, but feel nothing, the missionaries will state that the prayer could not really have been sincere. "If it had been sincere, God would most certainly have revealed the power of His Holy Ghost to you", it is claimed.
It could be argued that just because some people have spiritual encounters it doesn't automatically make the experiences true or of God. For example, people of virtually every religion have spiritual experiences, but Mormons would not claim that these religions have the truth.
Related to this the Mormon might be asked if they would be willing to pray about other religious books such as the Koran, the Bhagavad-Gita, Sun Myung Moon's Divine Principle, or even Anton Lavey's Satanic Bible, to ask if such books are true or not. Often the reaction from the missionaries is more often than not that they would not pray about such books. It can then be asked why should someone pray about the Book of Mormon when they are not willing to pray about other religious books. Sometimes the answer will be given: "We won't pray about these because these books contain error and falsehoods." To this a Christian can then reply that this is exactly the same reason why he/she would not pray about the Book of Mormon. God has already made His will clear about such books (see Galatians 1:6-9). Therefore, to ignore what God has already said on a matter, but to still ask Him anyway, is to ignore what He has already stated. It would be a bit like asking God if it is ever right to rob a bank or attack someone in the street. God has already revealed to us in what He has written that such things are wrong. To ask Him otherwise is to ignore what He has already said on such matters and can leave a person open to being misled.
Sometimes, Mormons may use James 1:5 in an attempt to support the practice of praying about the Book of Mormon. The text 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." (James 1:5)
When one carefully examines the context of the above passage it soon becomes clear that this verse is not talking about praying about finding out about the truthfulness or falseness of a book or revelation. The context is speaking about asking God for wisdom to know how to deal with tests, trials and temptations (see James 1:2, 12-14). Also notice that James wrote his letters to people who were already believers (James 1:2).
The Biblical way to test a book or revelation claiming to be of God is not to pray about it but to carefully examine it and see if it contradicts what God has already said. As was seen earlier, to pray about something that God has already made clear to us is to ignore God's Word to us and consequently allow oneself to fall into error. A clear example of believers examining something in this way is seen in Acts 17:11 where it states:
"These were more noble than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness of mind, and searched the Scriptures daily, whether those things were so." (Act 17:11)
Related articles from other web sites:
Praying About the Book of Mormon - Is it Biblical? By Bill McKeever.
Should a Christian pray about the Book of Mormon? By Kevin Bywater.
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