Why the Mormons have to be on the right track regarding Jesus.

Who best knows what Jesus taught, or did or thought (or thinks)? 

To some, apparently Evangelicals included,  the answer is the Bible. . .

Jesus love me, yes I know, because the Bible tells me so.

To me this song was always a bit baffling.  If Jesus loves you, and he is alive. . and is GOD it seems that we would be able to find out from Him directly whether he loves you.  Depending on the Bible alone, and the teams of unbiased scholars it would take to approach an accurate exegisis of a 2000 year old document seems like a strange approach indeed.  When the bible text is limited and not completely clear, theology becomes a slave to scholarship and scholars, collectively, rarely agree on anything. 

Mormons take a different approach, we posit that Jesus must be speaking to some or all of his followers directly and try to find out the truth by listening and recognizing his voice.  We teach our kids: 

I know my Father lives, and loves me too, the Spirit whispers this to me and tells me it is true. 

Personal revelation as well as global revelation is the conceptual center of the Mormon faith. The Mormon mantra, is their testimony that God speaks to us today, Joseph Smith was a prophet and there is a living prophet on the earth today.  How do Mormons know this?  From the voice of God himself, by the voice of his Spirit. 

Joseph Smith, speaking for God, declared:

” For verily the avoice of the Lord is unto all men, and there is none to bescape; and there is no eye that shall not see, neither cear that shall not hear, neither dheart that shall not be penetrated.” Doctrine and Covenants 1:2

Speaking for himself he taught:

“God hath not revealed anything to Joseph, but what he will make known unto the Twelve, and even the least Saint may know all things as fast as he is able to bear them…”  –Discourses of the Prophet Joseph Smith, p. 150-151

Of course I know that non-mormon eyes start to roll at this point.  People who speak for God, or as God, are a dime a dozen and there are always a bunch of suckers ready to buy the story.   Any charismatic preacher with a egomaniacal bent can form a sect, cult, following, denomenation  (pick your term).  Joseph Smith, they say, was just one of a long list of self-proclaimed (false) prophets.   

I hear the argument loud and clear, and it is certainly compelling.  (Mormons think all those other people were false prophets too! )

However, even if I was convinced (as evangelicals are) that Joseph should be lumped in with the Mohommeds of the world and the Book of Mormon with the Urantia book, Its difficult to argue against the approach and reasoning: i.e. Go  first to God to find what God thinks and then listen to his answers.   If you want to know what Jesus really taught, why can’t we dial him up now, or least find some sort of spokesman.  Even the organizations devoted to Mammon have customer service representatives, how much more should God, our father who loves us, provide contemporary customer support?

As an attorney and a student of philosophy,  I have lost my faith in debate and analysis to untangle complicated events such as the life and ministry of Jesus.   In my experience, its nearly impossible to figure out with certaintywhat was said and done last year, let alone alone 2000 years ago. It seems that if that examination of the known facts and documents of historical christianity is our best path, then we are destined to be “Ever learning, and never able to come to theknowledge of the truth.”

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38 thoughts on “Why the Mormons have to be on the right track regarding Jesus.

  1. My question would be this:

    I pray about things and God tells me evangelical Christianity is true.

    My friend prays and God tells him/her Mormonism is true.

    Now what? How do we determine the secondary authority? Or do we just go our separate ways and be done with it?

  2. As a Mormon, I can live with that. (However, I have some faith that you could have similar experiences that would convince you that there is something to Mormonism, if you wanted them).

  3. Mmm… now, since I’m married to a Mormon and we can’t really go our own ways, just letting things be isn’t really good enough for me. I don’t bother him with conversion opportunities on a regular basis, but well, you can bet I’m watching to see if any chances to convince him will present themselves.

    What’s interesting to me is that while evangelicals who dialogue with Mormons will often discount spiritual experiences as “proof” for the faith, we actually do consider the witness of the Holy Spirit a valid proof. See William Lane Craig, Reasonable Faith: Christian Truth and Apologetics 3rd edition p. 43-44:

    How do I know that Christianity is true?
    In answering this question, I have found it helpful to distinguish between knowing Christianity to be true and showing Christianity to be true. …

    I mean that the experience of the Holy Spirit is veridical and unmistakable (though not necessarily irresistible or indubitable) for him who has it; that such a person does not need supplementary arguments or evidence in order to know and to know with confidence that he is in fact experiencing the Spirit of God; that such an experience does not function in this case as a premise in any argument from religious experience to God, rather is the immediate experiencing of God himself; that in certain contexts the experience of the Holy Spirit will imply the apprehension of certain truths of the Christian religion, such as “God exists,” “I am condemned by God,” “I am reconciled to God,” “Christ lives in me,” and so forth; that such an experience provides one not only with a subjective assurance of Christianity’s truth, but with objective knowledge of that truth; and that arguments and evidence incompatible with that truth are overwhelmed by the experience of the Holy Spirit for him who attends fully to it.

    There was some discussion of this at MADB here.

    I dunno. I don’t discount the witness of the Spirit as a personal proof and a very powerful one at that, but I think that if you’re going to convince other people of your faith, just telling them to go talk to God themselves isn’t enough.

  4. I would venture to say that with most Evangelicals (and most religious people of all stripes) their own spiritual experiences are the primary reason for their faith.

  5. sorry to stop on your post Jared. I think we might have been posting at the same time.

    I agree that “Jesus Loves Me” may not have the best answer for how to discover that Jesus does in fact love me. That song was clearly written by someone who has substituted “the Bible” for the Holy Spirit as the third member of the Trinity.

    Go first to God to find what God thinks and then listen to his answers.

    That begs the question, how do we know how to go to God and what do we listen for? If you don’t have a universal answer for this, then we’re at the same place. Everyone is a crackpot according to everyone else.

    I’m fine with you saying that Moroni is the place to learn what to listen for. But first you’ve got to show me Moroni is the least bit credible. It appears to be the opposite based on outside standards.

  6. That begs the question, how do we know how to go to God and what do we listen for?If you don’t have a universal answer for this, then we’re at the same place. Everyone is a crackpot according to everyone else.

    Since we are talking specifically about Christianity here, lets assume the answer is to ask God in the name of Jesus and wait for guidance by the Spirit of God.

    Lets assume that there is something to the New Testament and then say that if we lack wisdom we can ask God and he is the type that will provide wisdom liberally when we ask with faith.

    If God gives consistent answers to these types of prayers wouldn’t you get some sort of recognizable pattern?

    You seem to believe that God’s answers to questions regarding theological subjects asked in faith will be as divergent as all other human opinions.

    Am I wrong?

  7. Jack ~ but I think that if you’re going to convince other people of your faith, just telling them to go talk to God themselves isn’t enough

    Surprisingly this is enough for hundreds of thousands each year.

  8. Surprisingly this is enough for hundreds of thousands each year.

    Bullshit. Now, if you could say that hundreds of thousands of people each year were led to Mormonism by their own personal prayers without ever meeting and speaking to missionaries or members, then I’d think you had something there.

    The Mormon belief in personal revelation is in theory pretty cool. But in practice, it has major problems. God “answers your prayers” and leads you to Mormonism only when you have missionaries eager to tell you that any positive feeling you have is a message from God that Mormonism is true. And if you get no such answers, you’re supposed to keep trying until you do get them. If God tells you (as is the case with Jack) that Mormonism is not true, then it wasn’t really God.

    Furthermore, experience seems to show that mystical experience really isn’t available on tap, but Mormonism promises that revelation from God is freely available. Thus the bar for personal revelation gets lowered to the point that absolutely anything is going to count, because otherwise Mormonism is lying.

    All said, the problem with Mormon mysticism is confirmation bias: you decide first that Mormonism is true, and then you pray until something happens that you’re willing to call spiritual confirmation. This is not a path to truth; it’s a classic path to self-indoctrination.

  9. I have plenty of reasons to doubt Mormonism, but I stay because of plenty of reasons to believe. I feel I’m in good company—Joseph said he wouldn’t believe his own story if he hadn’t experienced it himself.

    I’ve prayed about many things and still not received an answer about them. That bugs me in a certain sense, but more importantly it makes me empathetic to those who, like Jack, feel they get a “different answer.” I can’t explain why that happens, but I’m not about to reject the personal witnesses I’ve received just because I can’t explain everything.

    If God tells you (as is the case with Jack) that Mormonism is not true, then it wasn’t really God.

    Of course you’d think it was an even bigger joke if the church allowed for different true/real answers from God.

    Jack:

    we actually do consider the witness of the Holy Spirit a valid proof.

    Please explain. And Tim, please weigh in on this, because I’ve gotten quite the opposite impression from you.

  10. Explain beyond the William Lane Craig quote I provided? Hmm, okay, I’ll try.

    Tonight I was talking with one of the women at my church about something along these lines, and she said, “Well, it’s a good thing we don’t rely on our feelings or else where would we be?” It’s a common enough sentiment in evangelical circles, and I think an unfortunate one. The witness of the Spirit is confused with mere feelings and mere feelings are subsequently discarded.

    Personally, I seek a balance between the witness of the Spirit and intellectual reasons for my faith–and sometimes when one seems to fail me, it’s the other that keeps me going. The witness of the Spirit certainly can be an emotion, but I’ve usually known it to be more than that. For example, when my mother came down with pancreatic cancer, she was given two months to live. God told me very specifically she would live to at least see my daughter’s 2nd birthday, ten months from the time she was diagnosed. She had several close calls in the hospital wherein the doctors told us to hurry up and see her, she wouldn’t live to the end of the week. And she kept bouncing back. She lived to my daughter’s birthday and then some, passing away a year and two weeks from the time she was diagnosed. What God told me went against what science and the doctors were saying, and it wasn’t a feeling, it was a fairly specific prediction.

    That’s a spiritual experience, one of many that I rely on to know God is real and the Spirit moves in my life. There are certainly people who come to faith mostly for intellectual reasons or mostly for spiritual ones, but I think that, for most people, faith has to be rooted in both or it doesn’t hold.

    I think Mormonism puts far more emphasis on obtaining a spiritual witness and putting that above all things, which, like Kullervo said, works in theory. Here’s my problem though: ever seen Memento? It’s one of my favorite movies, and the reason it’s one of my favorite movies is because I agree with its thesis. People lie to themselves to be happy. When your main reason for faith is a spiritual witness and you close your eyes to any evidence that might contradict that witness, it’s much easier to lie to yourself.

    I don’t know all the reasons why my spiritual testimony is so different than that of Mormons. I don’t do the insincerity charge that some Latter-day Saints have been fond of leveling at me. I believe Mormonism has a lot of truth in it, and I think part of it is that people confuse the Spirit’s witness of that truth with the church’s claims as a whole.

    Meh, I think I’ve rambled on long enough, I hope that helps.

  11. I think part of it is that people confuse the Spirit’s witness of that truth with the church’s claims as a whole.

    I think that this is very likely to be the case. I have a friend who was baptized into the Church some years ago, based on a spiritual experience that was clear and direct and that she still believes was valid and from God.

    Several years later, a similar experience directed her out of the Church.

    When she told the missionaries about it, they were fairly boggled. “How can God tell you to join the Church one year and then later tell you to leave it?” It didn’t even occur to them that the Church might have been the right place for my friend to be–where God wanted her to be even–for awhile, but that doesn’t necessarily mean it is TRUE or even that it will always be the right place for her, or where God wants her to be.

    I think Mormons are used to thinking about their faith as a kind of spiritual domino set or house of cards: if x is true, then y must be true also, and therefore z must be true, and thus the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints is the only true and living Church on the face of the earth. But this is usually a heaping helping of really bad logic.

    (and for what it’s worth, Fundamentalists and some Evangelicals do the same kind of piss-poor reasoning to explain why every verse of the entire Bible must be literal truth)

  12. Jack: if that’s rambling, then ramble on!

    This is a timely discussion because yesterday and next week in Sunday School we are discussing D&C 6-11, which contains the “I will tell you in your mind and in your heart” verse (the lessons are focused on the topic of personal revelation). I agree so much with what you wrote that I may just quote you, or Craig, in class….

    Kullervo:

    Mormons are used to thinking about their faith as a kind of spiritual domino set or house of cards

    Yes, it is bad logic. But at some level it’s only practical. I don’t pray about and study out every verse in the scriptures to know that each one is true, just like I don’t test every glass of water that comes out of my tap to see if it’s clean. And if I one day get a stomach bug, my tap water is not going to be the first suspect.

  13. At some level sure, but not at this level. You’re turning me into an exaggerated straw man. I am not suggesting that you pray over the veracity of every verse and principle–somethings really do follow logically from other things. I am just saying that the chain of veracity that Mormons often claim and use as their primary proselytization tool is completely bogus, and is a gateway to a whole world of self-congratulatory flawed reasoning.

  14. I like these comments.

    Kullervo,

    Surprisingly this is enough for hundreds of thousands each year.

    I say this because Mormon missionaries generally tell people just what Jack was saying, by ” just telling them to go talk to God themselves”. You have to admit that most missionaries aren’t great teachers or debaters.

    I agree with you 100% that Mormons make too much out of a small number of spiritual experiences. I genuinely find it surprising that this method works as well as it does. however there are all kinds of ways of explaining the phenomena that exclude an acceptance of the truth of the Churches claims.

    People have spiritual experiences which could (should) be considered from God in almost all churches, I think that churches shut down pretty quickly if there were none. I don’t think that these make all churches true.

    I also think we have to remember that Mormons don’t believe that everyone needs or should be a Mormon in this life. Missionary work is about gathering an “elect” group. I think the “go ask God” method makes sense if you want to find this group.

    I think this is reinforced by the Church’s current policies toward convert baptisms. Mission presidents are encouraged to limit baptisms in some areas if the people are likely to quickly go inactive. I found this surprising, almost shocking, conceptually, but think that this says a lot about what the church is and how it views itself.

  15. Limiting baptisms makes a lot of sense actually. Most people have no idea how much a constant stream of new converts who quickly go inactive stresses the local membership.

    I had a guy on my mission in Japan who had 60 people on his Home Teaching assignment. The average for a Melchizedek Priesthood holder in Japan is about 10 to 20 households (at least, it was in the 1990s). That’s just ridiculous. There’s no way the local leaders can keep up. Burnout is a serious problem in Japan.

    It’s kind of like you dragging a puppy home to mommy that you found at school. You think he’s just “sooo cute.” But mom knows who is going to have to get the animal vaccinated, and who will have to feed and clean up after it.

    Same dynamic with foreign missionaries and local faithful members.

    At a certain point with proselyting, you have to start doing a practical cost-benefit analysis.

  16. Or maybe it’s because Mormonism is so laden with and embedded into Western/American conceptions of religion that it fails to translate well among the average people in other cultures.

  17. Nah Kullervo, you’re primarily talking about barriers to entry.

    I’m talking about people already in.

    Theological barriers pretty-much seemed irrelevant to most Japanese I encountered (they didn’t really care about theology one way or the other). Social and logistical barriers however – those were real problems.

  18. Brian ~ if that’s rambling, then ramble on! … I agree so much with what you wrote that I may just quote you, or Craig

    I could go off the tracks and around the corner with this topic, but it would probably bore everyone. And for heaven’s sakes, quoting me is probably a good way to have God smite you. Go with Craig.

    My beef with both Mormons and evangelicals is that I think this is an area where we all need to be a little more reserved and open-minded. Insincerity and “Satan told you that” are valid possibilities, but I think they should be used cautiously instead of being the rule.

    Kullervo ~ When she told the missionaries about it, they were fairly boggled. “How can God tell you to join the Church one year and then later tell you to leave it?” It didn’t even occur to them that the Church might have been the right place for my friend to be–where God wanted her to be even–for awhile, but that doesn’t necessarily mean it is TRUE or even that it will always be the right place for her, or where God wants her to be.

    You have no idea how much I agree that this scenario could happen, Kullervo.

    But there I go jumping the tracks.

  19. And I’m saying that that stuff doesn’t matter half as much to the members already in as the other stuff.

    And I’m saying that you might be right about the most obvious, active members, but not most of the people who have been baptized.

  20. Kullervo:

    At some level sure, but not at this level. You’re turning me into an exaggerated straw man.

    Ah, shoot! ’cause I was trying to do the opposite. Really, I was trying to agree with you that many Mormons take the extreme position (the domino logic), and contrast that with the other extreme (which I rightly assumed you would also see as extreme).

    I can distinctly remember two important experiences relevant to this topic:

    1) I was praying earnestly to know whether the Book of Mormon was true. This went on for a few weeks, and occupied most of my thoughts. Instead of receiving any kind of answer, I instead was told by God that Joseph Smith was his prophet—nothing about the sacred grove, or angel Moroni, and definitely nothing about the BoM. But I knew God had told me that Joseph was guided and directed by him.

    The game of dominoes began. “Since Joseph was a prophet,” I thought to myself, “then the D&C is true because he wrote it. And that means the BoM is true because….” And so on. (Again, these memories are vivid.)

    2) I remember telling a small group of people about my experience and relating the logical “proof” that followed. I felt the Spirit confirming what I was saying about my experience—my witness—about Joseph Smith. But as I remember that as I went on with the “domino portion,” I thought to myself, “No, that’s not right. Joseph could have been led in some things but messed up in others. Half of the D&C could be true and the other half rubbish.” And so on.

    The sum of these two experiences (one for the heart, the other for the mind) wasn’t the answer I was looking for, but I was sure grateful to have had them. In fact, I didn’t gain a “stand alone” testimony of the BoM until quite a while later. Still, knowing that Joseph was a prophet kept me interested in the BoM, whereas I might otherwise have ceased studying it altogether.

    Well, now I’m rambling on, but not nearly so astutely as Jack. Just someone please tell me they’ve got this in their head:

    Leaves are falling all around,
    Its time I was on my way.
    Thanks to you, I’m much obliged
    For such a pleasant stay….

  21. My most vivid memories of problems in the Church involved both old and new members.

    It was almost always performance guilt and feelings of social isolation. No matter whether you were new or established.

    Not saying that cultural divides didn’t have any play. I’m just saying that cold hard logistics mattered a heck of a lot more.

  22. Brian said:

    Jack:

    we actually do consider the witness of the Holy Spirit a valid proof.

    Please explain. And Tim, please weigh in on this, because I’ve gotten quite the opposite impression from you.

    I don’t at all disagree with Jack or the esteemed Dr. Craig. I whole-heartedly agree. My favorite author is coming out with a book entitled “Knowing Christ Today: Why We Can Trust Spiritual Knowledge“. But you shouldn’t overlook that the Craig quote comes form his book “Reasonable Faith” in which he outlines what he considers are the strongest evidences which can be investigated. Given the context of that book you need to fully understand that he doesn’t take that confirmation from the Holy Spirit on its own.

    I’ve had powerful spiritual experiences (even as intense as hearing the voice of God). I relish those moments. But whatever I think I might be hearing from God I cross-examine with the Bible and solid wisdom from other Christians. I’ve heard too many Christians claim wacky things like “God told me to divorce my wife” to know that the voice of God can be easily confused (particularly when its something a person would like to do rather than what they should do). Confirmation bias is more often the case than not for most people in my opinion.

    I have a friend who is desperate to see signs from God on every first date. She ALWAYS sees something that gives her goosebumps when she retells the story. Some of these guys have not even been Christians. As Kullervo points out, many people have jumped headlong into LDS baptism with far less an answer from the Holy Spirit than my friend gets on her dates.

    I think it’s reasonable to believe the Bible is trustworthy. When I have spiritual experiences I cast them against the Bible to see if they might be from God or a bad piece of pizza.

    LDS missionaries don’t ask people to measure their spiritual experiences against the Bible, they tell them to measure them against their own feelings (misquoting Galatians 5 as they do it). I’d say 98% of LDS investigators have their own reasons to already possess positive feelings about the LDS church, so of course they’re going to have positive feelings after they pray. Who wouldn’t feel good about a couple of smiling, clean cut boys from Utah.

    /domino tap

  23. I wonder if the problem isn’t that the current Mormon missionary model expects everyone to have the same spiritual gifts when Paul makes it clear that different people have different gifts.

  24. Seth ~ I wonder if the problem isn’t that the current Mormon missionary model expects everyone to have the same spiritual gifts when Paul makes it clear that different people have different gifts.

    I think I know what you mean, but can you elaborate on this?

  25. . . .different people have different gifts.

    1 Cor. 7:

    4 Now there are diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit.
    5 And there are differences of administrations, but the same Lord.
    6 And there are diversities of operations, but it is the same God which works h all in all.
    7 But the manifestation of the Spirit is given to every man to profit withal.

  26. Tim,

    I think I can see why I was surprised to read this from you. Whether it’s accurate or not, I have this image of you (on this blog) railing against personal experiences in favor of historical/logical proofs. Then you come along and say you actually value personal experiences.

    The way I reconcile this discrepancy is that you have always valued both personal experience and scholarship, but you view Mormonism as relying solely on personal experience. Thus, you take some swings at the “one good leg” we’ve got (according to you), trusting that you’ve got two good legs to stand on. It’s sort of like Mormons criticizing the Bible because it’s the “one good leg” of other Christians, and then people come away thinking Mormons reject the Bible.

    LDS missionaries don’t ask people to measure their spiritual experiences against the Bible

    Just curious, do Evangelical missionaries ask non-Christian investigators to measure their spiritual experiences against the Bible? Makes no sense if you don’t already believe the Bible. (I know, the whole “trustworthy historical fact of the Bible” argument….) But seriously, that’s not meant to be a barbed question; I’m really curious.

  27. I know what the Bible says about spiritual gifts, Jared. I was asking, are all LDS priesthood holders expected to be able to heal the sick, speak in tongues, prophesy (using the broad definition of that term), etc. when the Bible seems to indicate these go to different people? Is that what you guys see as a problem?

  28. The problem is that some Mormons forget this teaching and sometimes assume that everyone should be able to have any spiritual gift. (The same teaching is found in the BOM and the D&C regarding diversity of gifts)

  29. The way I reconcile this discrepancy is that you have always valued both personal experience and scholarship, but you view Mormonism as relying solely on personal experience. Thus, you take some swings at the “one good leg” we’ve got (according to you), trusting that you’ve got two good legs to stand on. It’s sort of like Mormons criticizing the Bible because it’s the “one good leg” of other Christians, and then people come away thinking Mormons reject the Bible.

    I think my thinking is that without the Bible to measure spiritual experiences against, none of us have a good leg to stand on. We’re no different than those that practice Transcendental Meditation or Scientology. All experiences count the same and it’s impossible to reconcile those experiences with their contradictory claims. The only LDS response that I’ve seen in come close to trying to answer this objection was a full blown relativist post-modern response. If it were followed to its logical conclusions it would leave Mormon authority claims with nothing but a wet noodle.

    For what it’s worth I’ve often prayed that the Holy Spirit would use powerful spiritual experiences to show the light about Joseph Smith to Mormons. It’s a regular suggestion to pray that Jesus would show himself in visions to Muslims (since they have a high cultural value on visions). Since I can’t control how the Holy Spirit decides to work, I point back to the Bible and highlight that in Galatians Paul recommends that we compare even a visit from an angel against his original message. Your scriptures themselves tell you not to trust spiritual experiences on their own.

  30. Thanks Tim. Now can you respond to:

    Just curious, do Evangelical missionaries ask non-Christian investigators to measure their spiritual experiences against the Bible? Makes no sense if you don’t already believe the Bible. (I know, the whole “trustworthy historical fact of the Bible” argument….) But seriously, that’s not meant to be a barbed question; I’m really curious.

    In other words, how do you get someone to trust the Bible as a measuring stick in the first place?

  31. Jack wrote:

    “I think I know what you mean, but can you elaborate on this?”

    Well, it’s just been something I’ve been thinking about recently.

    As I’ve said before, I’ve never had the proverbial “burning in the bosom” (which, by the way, sounds so embarrassing, I’m not sure I’d admit it if I did). Nor have I had any dramatic unmistakable emotional connections where I could unequivocally say “that was the Holy Spirit.”

    This used to bug me as a teenager and early in college. Since getting married however, I discovered Paul’s words about different spiritual gifts (which are echoed elsewhere in Mormon scripture). To some is given speaking in tongues, others to heal, others to prophesy, others to believe for themselves, and … here’s the kicker for me – others to believe on THEIR words.

    That last one struck me as being my gift. Suddenly I realized something – I just don’t seem to have the spiritual gift (yet) of believing of myself. Rather I have a gift for believing on the witness of others.

    It was a bit of relief to me to find a place for myself within the Body of Christ actually.

    But as I’ve thought about it, I’ve come to realize that the LDS missionary approach treats everyone as if they had the spiritual gift of believing “of themselves” that Jesus is the Christ. So what do you do with people who don’t have that gift?

    I was wondering if this isn’t part of the problem with LDS proselyting efforts. That’s all.

  32. Seth ~ That’s interesting. Thanks for explaining that. I suppose I’m the same way with my charismatic beliefs. I think miraculous things happen mostly based on what other people have told me, and not on what I’ve seen or felt for myself.

    I always found the phrase “burning in the bosom” embarrassing too, mostly because “bosom” sounds so silly in our day and age. However, I also think it’s silly for evangelicals to make fun of the Mormons for the idea—we believe in it, too! Steven Curtis Chapman even had a song called “Children of the Burning Heart” (that video sucks, I just linked to it for the song). The idea of spiritual confirmation being like a fire in your chest isn’t unique to Mormonism.

  33. Tim said: I think my thinking is that without the Bible to measure spiritual experiences against, none of us have a good leg to stand on. We’re no different than those that practice Transcendental Meditation or Scientology. All experiences count the same and it’s impossible to reconcile those experiences with their contradictory claims. The only LDS response that I’ve seen in come close to trying to answer this objection was a full blown relativist post-modern response. If it were followed to its logical conclusions it would leave Mormon authority claims with nothing but a wet noodle.”

    In this role the Bible appears completely arbitrary. You could just as easily insert the Koran or any other scripture as the measuring stick. Considering Biblically recorded spiritual experiences above other spiritual experiences is simply setting aside a select group of experiences and considering them the arbiters of all others. Its not like Evangelicals are taking some sort of generally acknowledged standard, like scientific inquiry and making it the standard. It seems if you truly think that all experiences are the same you should go with science and history as the yardstick rather than the bible. If you are going this route, doesn’t it more sense to trust scholars in general rather than biblical scholars?

    Also, how can we assume that all experiences count the same?

    The Mormon idea, whether it works in the Mormon church or not, of revelation that can be personally ratified by all faithful, seems to be the most consistent with a God who is present and in current communication with his children. It would also make sense that encounters with the Holy Spirit would have some sort of recognizable character without having to have a bible to compare them against. Mormon, in theory, are not required (or expected?) to believe revelation that is not confirmed by the holy spirit to themselves or those they trust.

  34. Now what? How do we determine the secondary authority? Or do we just go our separate ways and be done with it?

    BJM et al. I’ve tried to address this question and start a discussion of this point here.

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