Should LDS Participate in Apologetics?

I’ve heard many LDS say that the only evidence that holds any validity to the truthfulness of the Restored Gospel is the testimony of the Holy Ghost. Searching after archeological evidence of the peoples of the Book of Mormon is a waste of time. Emboldening the historical accuracy of the resurrection of Christ is fruitless. The only thing that should matter in a personal testimony is the burning in one’s own bosom.

This line of thinking calls into question the work of a great many educated men. For example, Jeff Lindsay, a Ph.D. in Chemical Engineering has developed a rather extensive website exploring the historical credibility of the Book of Mormon. Daniel Peterson, chairman of F.A.R.M.S., an institute run out of BYU, seeks to academically bolster the claims of the LDS church (inspired by the work of the late Hugh Nibley). The work these men (and other like them) do strengthens the faith of a great many LDS. But it would follow, that if the only evidence that has ANY credibility is the testimony of the Holy Ghost then, anyone whose faith is bolstered by any amount of historical evidence has a weaker faith than one who is ignorant. (I don’t think the church has an official position on the matter)

Not being LDS, I don’t really have a stake in that debate. My own Evangelical faith largely promotes and endorses historical and biblical criticism to show the reliability of our claims (perhaps because we believe the facts are on our side).

I would say this is based on a biblical example. In I Corinthians, Paul gives historical evidence for the resurrection of Christ and says that our faith is worthless if it’s not true. He lets early Christians know exactly who they can ask about these events so that they can ask for themselves. (The structure of this passage indicates that it was an early Christian creed that was likely memorized by all believers.)

I have had a great many spiritual confirmations from the Holy Spirit. They have proven to be valuable and important to my walk with Christ. But I don’t rest my faith solely in those experiences. Miracles are evidenced by a great many faiths. Virtually every religion in the world can claim the reality of spiritual experiences in the lives of their believers (despite their many contradictory claims). Many people who have departed from their faith claim they can still manufacture the same spiritual sensations or promptings that they experienced as believers despite centering them on benign objects. A look into the methods used by Scientologist shows that some unscrupulous means can produce these feelings of truthfulness in even the most ridiculous of truth claims.

If all we have is our own feelings on what is true, then we don’t have much opportunity to give an answer for the hope that we have (I Peter 3:15). We’re left debating who has had the more powerful experience. I think our spiritual experiences need to be compared and held up to reality. If they are true, they will stand the test. If they are not true, we are to be pitied above all men. (I Cor. 15:19)


7 thoughts on “Should LDS Participate in Apologetics?

  1. There is a difference between the Holy Ghost testifying to the truthfulness of the Church and then engaging in further learning and looking at proofs.

    My point all along is to not be looking for your testimony to be built on ‘proof’, I never said don’t try to get more knowledge after that.

    And again, the point is that you seek your own testimony based on your own prayer, rather than ‘proof’… one is changable, the other isn’t. Again, you are misrepresenting what I have been saying. I’m the one who linked you to Jeff Lindsay… I guess it’s about seeking the testimony of the Holy Ghost to get a solid testimony and then get more knowledge. You can never compare testimonies to see who has the greater. The testimony of the Holy Ghost is for each of us personally. But you need to read the Book of Mormon and then pray about it to get your answer.

  2. And also, I would say we have the ‘proof’ on our side, but that’s why it is necessary to go to God in prayer after reading the Book of Mormon and asking Him through the name of Christ if it is true.

    Dando, it is too easy for people to take scriptures they like and focus on them and twist them to what they want them to say. But when you truly desire to know truth, and you read the Book of Mormon, because you can’t pray about it unless you know what you’re praying about. But like any good Father, if His child asks sincerely from their heart for an answer, they will get it. And then you can look for ‘proofs’ to bolster you testimony, but it will already be solid.

    I think back on the time when Joseph Smith first translated the plates. Some of what was in them sounded preposterous! Good thing he held on to his testimony from the Holy Ghost because since then, more and more facts are coming out to prove it true. But those facts weren’t available to early latter-day saints. That didn’t stop them from pushing forward because they had the testimony of the Holy Ghost.

    I hope this helps clarify…

  3. What I see here is an inconsistency and a disrepect for Evangelicalism. It’s fine for you to look for “proofs” after you have gained a testimony, but if Evangelicals do it, we offer the “teachings of men mingled with scripture”. I know that you never had a testimony from the Holy Spirit about the truthfulness of Christianity sans Joseph Smith, but there are many of us who do. Can we not seek to bolster our own faith against criticism without it being trite, insincere, intellectually phony or an attack on another faith?

    Dando, it is too easy for people to take scriptures they like and focus on them and twist them to what they want them to say.

    I couldn’t agree more. How are you certain that you or your Prophet are not the one who is twisting scripture? What are we non-LDS to do when our own testimonies from the Holy Spirit contradict yours?

  4. Ephesians 4

    10 He that descended is the same also that ascended up far above all heavens, that he might fill all things.)
    11 And he agave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers;
    12 For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ:
    13 Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ:
    14 That we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive;

    A foundational part of fellowshipping is strengthening each other so that we are not deceived by the cunning craftiness of man. Much of the attacks on the church fit squarely into this category.

    How is looking to the Lord as the final arbiter of truth a bad thing? And why is being able to articulate the truths we know and that we don’t yet know a bad thing?

    If aren’t determined to take all our issues and gratitude to the Lord, what does that say about how we view our relationship with our Savior?

  5. How is looking to the Lord as the final arbiter of truth a bad thing?

    By no means do I think going to God in prayer is a bad thing. In fact I think it’s the best thing. My question is not about the validity of God’s ability to answer prayer. Instead I question what some people determine as the voice of God.

    There are many self-deluded people who claim to being following what God specifically revealed to them to the great harm of themselves and others. If there is nothing outside of our own feelings on the matter, on what basis do we have to say “no, what you are doing is wrong”.

    There is a difference between conviction and knowledge.

  6. So my question is why is it an automatic assumption that when LDS look to God for the promised guidance of the Holy Ghost, that we are ONLY considering feelings?

    It is a false premise

  7. I agree that there are LDS who are not relying only on feelings. They are in my limited experience in the minority.

    I think the assumption mostly comes from what the missionaries teach. I’ve personally heard multiple sets of missionaries encourage me to pray Moroni’s prayer and then if I have any feelings that resemble the fruits of the Spirit, that’s all I need to know it’s true. (never mind that the context of Galatians is talking about actions and virtues not feelings) The missionaries teach a fidiestic epistimology. If you try to engage them in anything outside of that epistimology they protest that it is not their job to talk about it.

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