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Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Mormonism and Spiritual Experience

A couple of weeks ago (July 8th) LDS Deseret News printed a column by staff writer Jerry Johnston. He told this story:
Not long ago I was visiting a woman from Mexico who had been praying about joining my own church, the LDS Church. She said the Virgin Mary came to her in a dream and told her she should remain a Catholic.

My first thought was God must have seen that it was me shepherding her along a spiritual path and decided he had a better chance of getting religion into her life through the Virgin Mary.

My second thought was I had to respect her spiritual experience.

Those who believe in the spiritual realm, I think, must not only trust their own spiritual experiences--whatever they may be--but they must also trust and respect the spiritual experiences of others. If you don't do that, you become an ugly oxymoron, you become "spiritually superior."

I told the woman she should trust her heart. Given her family ties, personal history, her commitments and temperament, God knew best what was best for her.

Mr. Johnston is refreshing in that he recognizes the need to be consistent. If you go about telling people that the way to know truth is to ask God for a sign, then you must accept the outcome.

Mormonism teaches the way to know truth is to seek just such a spiritual sign. Mormon missionaries tell people to pray about the Book of Mormon: Ask God in the name of Christ if the book is true; and if the petitioner is sincere, asks with real intent, and has faith in Christ, God will allegedly make the truth clear by the power of the Holy Ghost (Book of Mormon, Moroni 10:4).

But in my experience most Latter-day Saints, unlike Mr. Johnston, will not take "no" for an answer. When I explain to Mormons my own experience of prayerfully reading the Book of Mormon, since the answer I received was that the Book of Mormon is not true, they typically respond in one of two ways:
  • They tell me I was not sincere in my prayer; or
  • They instruct me to continue praying, asking for confirmation that the Book of Mormon is true, until I get a different answer (i.e., that the Book of Mormon is true)

But the fact of the matter is, the Moroni 10:4 prayer is unbiblical in and of itself. The Bible never tells us to pray to know whether something is true. It tells us to search the revealed Word of God in order to know truth. A Mormon's "yes" answer to the Moroni 10:4 prayer is no more or less valid than a non-Mormon's "no" answer. Truth is not confirmed by spiritual feelings (often reported as a burning in the bosom by Latter-day Saints); it is brought to light by testing truth claims against God's Word (for example, see: 1 John 4:1, 6; 2 Timothy 3:16-17; 1 Thessalonians 5:21).

Lest you get the wrong idea, my own "prayerful reading [of] the Book of Mormon" did not follow the Moroni 10:4 model. This revelation usually produces an "Aha!" moment in my Mormon friends. But I did read the book, start to finish, with a sincere hope to know the truth. I did pray each time I picked the book up and each time I set it down. And I prayed continually as I read. I asked God for discernment. I asked Him for wisdom. I asked that He keep me from deception. I asked for a sound mind so I would understand what I was reading. I read with an open Bible sitting beside me, searching the Scriptures while testing the truth claims of the Book of Mormon against them. God answered my prayers; by following the biblical instructions to test all things I received the truth by the power of the Holy Ghost. But most Mormons will not accept my testimony.

In the story from Deseret News Mr. Johnston accepted his friend's visionary dream of the Virgin Mary as a direct answer from God to her prayer. He told the woman to trust her heart, though from his perspective it meant she would remain in a false church worshiping a mythical Christ (Apostle Bruce R. McConkie, Mormon Doctrine, page 269). Somehow Mr. Johnston was able to understand this as God's best for his friend.

The Bible, however, has this to say about trusting one's heart:
"The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked; who can know it?" (Jeremiah 17:9)

"He that trusteth in his own heart is a fool; but whoso walketh wisely, he shall be delivered." (Proverbs 28:26)

"And He said, That which cometh out of the man, that defileth the man. Far from within, out of the heart of men, proceed evil thoughts, adulteries, fornications, murders, thefts, covetousness, wickedness, deceit, lasciviousness, and evil eye, blasphemy, pride, foolishness: All these evil things come from within, and defile the man." (Mark 7:20-23)

Trust your heart? Bad advice. Evil things come from the unregenerate hearts of men and women. Instead, trust the Lord. Obey His command to walk wisely and you will be delivered.

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3 Comments:

  • At July 18, 2006 4:24 PM, Blogger rick b said…

    Here is a few of my thoughts on this sugject and my own personal experince.

    Like the writter, I also am told I am not sincere if I recive a different answer then the "Yes" answer. I tell mormons that God spoke to me through His word when I prayed about the Bom of Mormon, Here is what God said to me, ACTS 17:11 Search the scriptures.

    The LDS do not like this. Also I have meet many LDS Members who never recived a yes or no answer, so they simply believe it to be true. It appers no matter how much they prayed the Moroni challange seems to have failed them.

    Any LDS who think's this is not possible, all you need to do is go to the lds fair boards, and ask the question, How many LDS were givin an answer. You will be surprised to hear many LDS claim they never recived an answer.

    As to the issue of the Virgin mary coming in prayer, How do we or this lady know it really was the virgin mary? No body has seen her, we don't know what the virgin mary looks like any more that we know what Jesus looks like.

    Also after Jesus was born, the Bible tells us, Jesus had brothers and sisters, So this means mary was no longer a virgin. So now it would simply be mary, the mother of Jesus.

    Last of all, lets remember, 2Cr 11:14 And no marvel; for Satan himself is transformed into an angel of light. Maybe it was satan who came to her, or even to the Mormons praying for the Moroni challange. Rick b mormonism reviewed blog

     
  • At July 23, 2006 10:44 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Thanks for this artticle on Mormonism and Spiritual Experience.
    I had been wondering just how to answer these Mormons when they say just pray about the BOM. I knew in my heart it was wrong to do so and it was antibiblical, but your explaination is so clear and I can use it. This article is one I can file away. Thanks for your articles. A Reader of your work.

     
  • At October 12, 2006 3:49 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    In response to rick's comments: The children that are mentioned in the bible are cousins of Jesus.

    Mary DID remain a virgin. She was assumed into heaven body and spirit as the Holy Virgin Mother.

    When there have been several visionaries of Mary, and all of their descriptions of her are identical, it's hard not to believe she's real. Try reading the book titled "Light of Love" it's about a blind woman (from birth) who in adulthood has to have her eyes surgically removed due to some infection or disease. Mary comes to her several times, along with her guardian angel, with whom she often speaks with. She is able to describe in detail how she looks, not ever having seen a human before! It's a pretty amazing story, it has confirmed many aspects of my faith as a Roman Catholic. It brings peace to me to know that as a woman, I can call on Mary, a woman herself, for guidance and strength as a mother. I'm not claiming to have had any visions, I'm just saying, it's nice to know that there's a woman up there who can understand me down here.

    It might also interest you to read about some of the amazing visionary stories that have happened in Lourdes, France.

     

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