by Timothy Oliver
Mormons love to say that they are not trying to convert others to their religion; that the Holy Ghost does that. One need not take their word for the truth of their religion; one can appeal directly to God Himself for His testimony.
They frequently refer people investigating their religion to a promise in the Book of Mormon, Moroni 10:4: “And when ye shall receive these things [the Book of Mormon], 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.”
Christians refuting Mormonism sometimes point out that the verse directs one to ask “if these things are not true;” whereas most Mormons have asked, and urge Christians to ask, “if these things are true.” However, these are both wordings of the same question, one put negatively, the other positively. There is really no difference, and no ground is won by such trivial objections.
Still, it is appropriate to examine this “promise” to see if it is a valid means for testing the truthfulness of the Book of Mormon. The Bible directs, “Prove [test, examine] all things; hold fast that which is good,” (1 Thess. 5:21). This does not mean that we should do as the Book of Mormon directs. Testing, or examining this promise is not the same as using it. Rather, one must examine it beforehand; one must actually use it only after it has been examined and found good. If the promise is to be examined and found good before it is actually used, there must be some standard external to itself by which it can be examined or evaluated. God has given just such a standard in the Scriptures.
However, the promise of Moroni 10:4 is given as a test by which one may know if the Book of Mormon is true. Since one cannot employ or apply the promise to find out about the Book of Mormon till one knows the promise itself is good, and a valid test, the Book of Mormon and the other “scriptures” brought forth by the Mormon church must be excluded from the standard by which one weighs this promise.
The Bible alone, then, is the standard to which this promise must be compared. It was for just such tasks as this that it was written, and faithfully preserved to our day.
First, is there anywhere in the Bible where God directs men to pray to find out if the scriptures are true or not? The answer is, “No.” Does the Bible record Jesus or any apostle or prophet directing any person to pray to find out if what he was saying or writing was true or not? The answer, again, is, “No.”
Mormons sometimes claim James 1:5 as an example of such a direction. Is it really? The question of whether something is true or not is a question of facts. Possession of, or acquaintance with, facts, is knowledge. (Thus one speaks of knowing something is true, not of having wisdom that something is true.) Wisdom is the ability to interpret rightly the facts one knows, and the disposition to employ or act upon one’s knowledge righteously. James 1:5 does not promise knowledge, but wisdom. Reading James 1 from the beginning one sees from the context that James was promising his readers that God would give them wisdom to understand why they were experiencing the trials and difficulties in which they found themselves. That they had such trials was a fact. It was “true” that they had difficulties. They “knew” that, and did not need God to tell them. But they needed wisdom to understand what they knew was true, and to respond to it righteously.
James 1:5, when seen in context, cannot be taken as authorization for questions like, “Which church is true?” or, “Is the Book of Mormon true?” Those are questions of fact, of knowledge, not wisdom. God has promised wisdom for the asking. But He has never said that He would give knowledge or facts, simply by prayer. Thus, Moroni 10:4 directs one to ascertain truth, to gain knowledge, by a method and a standard nowhere recommended in the Bible as the proper means to such an end. Already, then, the directive and promise of Moroni 10:4 is on shaky ground.
To the contrary, the Bible teaches both by precept and illustrative examples that the proper path to truth, the standard by which the truth of anything is to be known, is the scriptures (Luke 24:27; Acts 17:11; Rom. 15:4; 2 Tim. 3:16-17; 2 Peter 1:3). The person seeking wisdom as James directs does not ask for new revelations but for understanding of those already given.
Second, Moroni 10:4 is not so much of a promise as it is a manipulative device. It promises a particular result if certain terms are met. But the terms reflect on the seeker’s integrity as regards both his sincerity and resolve, and on his faith in Christ. To be willing to rely on the promise of this verse as a test for the Book of Mormon’s truthfulness one must already have concluded somehow that its instruction is valid and its promise reliable. That is, one must already believe in the “truthfulness” of this verse. If the verse is true, then the only possible explanation for failing to obtain the result promised is a failure to meet the terms. That is, one must lack a sincere heart, and/or real intent, and/or faith in Christ. If one believes the verse is true then one must obtain the answer promised, or face an embarrassing judgement of one’s sincerity, intent, or faith in Christ. he seeker is forced into convincing himself he has had some kind of manifestation from God, just to vindicate his own character. Or worse, he is moved to a frame of mind where he will gladly and indiscriminately embrace any supernatural manifestation as though it were from God. Plain reason, not to mention all the force of Scripture’s revelation of the character of God, testifies that God would not, does not, use such manipulative mind/ego games against the human family to bring them to believe the truth. God does not approve, and truth does not need, such machinations.
Third, as noted earlier, using this verse as a test for the Book of Mormon’s truthfulness would be pointless unless one had concluded already that its instruction is valid and its promise reliable. With no Biblical evidence for such a conclusion, its use is tacit admission that the Book of Mormon is true. Yet the terms on which the promise is offered forbid any such preconception.
To ask God sincerely whether the Book of Mormon is true or not, one cannot have made up one’s mind already that the book is either true or false. If one’s mind is already made up, either way, it would be hypocrisy to pray to God as if it were not, as if one still did not know. Either the Book of Mormon is true or it is false. One must be in a state of not knowing which it is, true or false, to meet the conditions of the test offered in Moroni 10:4. There being no Biblical warrant for proceeding as it directs, one cannot do so without invalidating the sincerity upon which the answer depends. Thus, it is impossible to use the instructions and promise of Moroni 10:4 as a test of the truthfulness of the Book of Mormon. One cannot both rely on it, and meet the conditions it requires, at the same time. Its promised results are predicated on sincerity; using it renders one insincere.
A Final Caution
There is not only no good reason to do as Moroni 10:4 directs, there is very good reason not to do so. Again, either the Book of Mormon is true or it is false. If it is true, certainly doing as it directs would produce the results it promises. If it is false, however, then Moroni 10:4, being part of the book, is likewise false and an invalid means of finding out whether or not the book is true. Relying on its promise and attempting to submit to its terms exerts tremendous pressure on the seeker to prove himself sincere by receiving the promised manifestation, even while it is forcing him to be insincere. He must rely on its promise while insincerely professing not to know yet whether it is reliable. The result is a self-perpetuating spiral of self-deceit. The need for relief from the resulting inner turmoil can easily drag one into still further self-deceit, finding a supernatural manifestation where there is none.
That is not to say no genuinely supernatural manifestations occur. Self-deception brings God’s wrath and judgement (Rom. 1:18-19). The person practicing it is abandoned not only to his own delusion but also to deception of another kind (2 Thess. 2:10-11). Asking for revelation from God, while refusing to take as his standard and live by what God had already revealed, is exactly what got King Ahab killed (1 Kings 22:1-40).
That people have actually received supernatural manifestations of one form or another upon following the directions of Moroni 10:4 should surprise no one (Eph. 6:12; 1 Tim. 4:1). To think otherwise is naive. If the Book of Mormon is false, one is just as likely to receive such a manifestation from a demonic source as one would be to receive it from a divine source if the Book of Mormon were true. It must be forcefully asserted then, such manifestations do not prove the Book of Mormon true any more than the miracles wrought by Jannes and Jambres before Moses and Pharaoh proved those magicians were from God.
To sum up, the Book of Mormon cannot be proven by any test of its own devising. It must be tested by the Bible. The teaching of Moroni 10:4 not only lacks any biblical foundation, it is contrary to the Bible’s teaching. Moreover, it is a manipulative device which forces insincerity and self-deception, thus opening the door to demonic influence. Far from proving the Book of Mormon true, Moroni 10:4, itself weighed in the balance and found wanting, is sufficient evidence to prove the Book of Mormon false.