The power that leads people to convert to Mormonism is the Holy Ghost. This power is so compelling to the sincere seeker of truth, that he will endure and overcome all obstacles to unite himself with the latter-day kingdom of God. He will endure criticism, scorn, ridicule, ostracism by friends, and even rejection by his own kin. The power that is in Mormonism comes from that witness of the Holy Ghost which comes by personal revelation. Some 300,000 people a year experience this power and convert to the Church.
In Mormonism, we refer to the receiving of a personal, spiritual witness of truth through the Holy Spirit as a “testimony.” A testimony comes according to the faith and diligence of the believer and is granted by God’s grace. Through study of the Book of Mormon, sincere prayer with real intent, a person can obtain a direct personal knowledge through revelation that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is the restored church of first century Christianity. Because that spiritual witness is so powerful and life-altering, the adversary of Christ and his kingdom seeks to deter God’s children from seeking the Holy Ghost’s testimony.
Our missionaries go out into the world as witnesses, not theologians. They are not sent to debate, but to bear testimony of their own knowledge of the truth and explain to others how they can obtain this witness for themselves. They invite people to read the Book of Mormon and then go directly to God for an answer concerning its veracity. They don’t go out to “prove” anything. They simply invite people to learn something new and ask God about it.
Early American Patriot Thomas Paine, who rejected organized religion and adhered to Deism as a philosophy, wrote a very astute observation about revelation and a person’s obligation to believe in a religion.
As it is necessary to affix right ideas to words, I will, before I proceed further into the subject, offer some other observations on the word revelation. Revelation, when applied to religion, means something communicated immediately from God to man.
No one will deny or dispute the power of the Almighty to make such a communication, if he pleases. But admitting, for the sake of a case, that something has been revealed to a certain person, and not revealed to any other person, it is revelation to that person only. When he tells it to a second person, a second to a third, a third to a fourth, and so on, it ceases to be a revelation to all those persons. It is revelation to the first person only, and hearsay to every other, and consequently they are not obliged to believe it (Paine).
Paine rightly describes the plight of those who sought truth in his day, where all Christian sects taught that the heavens were sealed and that no new scripture, no angelic visitations, no visions, etc. would ever occur again. In fact the Westminster Confession tells us outright that, if such events were to begin anew, they were to be rejected. Paine correctly assesses that, without direct personal revelation from God, no man can truly know of his existence or whether any particular doctrine is true or not. From the time the last living revelator ministered among men in the apostolic era until the time that God the Father and Jesus Christ appeared to Joseph Smith, the creeds of sectarian Christianity were based on hearsay.
Herein lies the distinction between Mormonism and all other Christian denominations. We believe that God still speaks, not just to prophets, but also to individuals. We are his children. He is our Eternal Father. He loves us and wants us to walk in the light of truth, not in darkness. Thus his promise has always been that he will reveal himself. The most common way this occurs is by the Holy Ghost.
Why didn’t man reach out past this “hearsay gospel” and reach out for God before the time of Joseph Smith? I’m sure that many people tried to, but they were limited by their own creeds. Christians had drawn up certain boundaries of orthodoxy that stated that it was heretical for man to claim inspiration beyond that which is already contained in the Bible. As Isaiah said, they “draw near me with their mouth, and with their lips do honour me, but have removed their heart far from me, and their fear toward me is taught by the precept of men….” (Isaiah 29:13).
There have always been wonderful Christians who had great faith. However profoundly they felt the invitation of the Holy Ghost to come directly to God for wisdom, their fear of doing so was taught and enforced by the creeds of their religions. Heresy was a capital offense. Many Christian mystics were tortured, imprisoned, and martyred in gruesome ways during the centuries of apostasy that followed the rejection of the apostles of Jesus.
When Mormon missionaries ask someone to pray about the Book of Mormon and go directly to God, it cuts out the “middle man.” We trust in God. James 1:5-6 tells us, if we lack wisdom, we can ask God. He promises to give it to us if we ask in faith, “nothing wavering.” It’s a very simple, direct way. A sincere person who does this will receive a personal confirmation– a personal revelation from God. You are no longer dependent upon hearsay. You become a witness yourself.
How does that answer come? Will you hear something? See something? Have some sudden flash of inspiration? It can include those and many other experiences. Most often, it comes as a feeling. The scriptures refer to it as the “still, small voice” (1 Kings 19:12). Another Bible passage speaks of a “burning” in the heart (Luke 24:32). In Galatians 5:22, Paul describes the “fruit of the Spirit” as emotions and feelings such as love, joy, and peace.
The really ironic thing is that anti-Mormons among the ranks of sectarian Christians feel that they have to stop this from happening. Why should any Christian object to your praying to God for an answer? What spirit teaches a person not to pray? Nevertheless, they do. In particular, they try to stop you from seeking the “burning” in the heart and the peaceful feelings that are present when the Holy Ghost bears witness of truth.
One anti-Mormon named Dan Corner at the Evangelical Outreach web site wrote a whole article telling you not to pray about the Book of Mormon. I cite here a couple of paragraphs from his article under provisions of the fair use provision of copyright law. The reference to the original is provided for your further use, if desired.
The obvious answer is, there is no need to pray about anything that is not Biblical and is outside of God’s will, including all of those. Because these things are unbiblical, if God would answer that prayer, it would always be in accord with His written word. But to ask God in prayer something he has already spoken about can be testing God, which is also forbidden.
Remember also that Paul never asked any potential converts to pray about his message. What he taught was found in the Scriptures and they could verify it and join the group of wise people, if they would repent and submissively place their faith in Jesus Christ to follow him. See Acts 17:11,12 cf. Acts 20:21; etc.
Again, be on your guard. To pray about something like the Book of Mormon or bowing before a Mary statue can allow the devil to give you an experience that will deceive you. A burning in the bosom from such would not be the testimony of the Holy Spirit, as the LDS people like to say/think. This is very important to remember and tell others about (Corner).
As you see, Corner’s position is for you to simply trust in some man’s interpretation of what the Bible means. He wants you to be afraid to ask God, telling you that it is forbidden to ask. Returning to James, 1:5-6, we learn that God grants wisdom to those who ask and “upbraideth not.” The word “upbraiding” means to severely criticize, rebuke, chide, or reproach. Corner tells you to be afraid to ask God. God’s servants in the Bible say to ask God and he will not “upbraid” you for asking. He wants you to ask.
Some evangelicals have found an opportune quote in a sermon by a Baptist minister named Oswald Chambers (1874-1917). This quote is widely published among anti-Mormon web sites, such as “Life After Ministries.”
There are certain things in life that we need not pray about—moods, for instance. We will never get rid of moodiness by praying, but we will by kicking it out of our lives. Moods nearly always are rooted in some physical circumstance, not in our true inner self (Chambers).
I have confidence enough in you to know that you can discern the difference from being in good mood and receiving a personal revelation through the Holy Ghost. We are children of God. He created us to be receptive to his Spirit. You can tell the difference between your moods and the Spirit of the Lord. It is distinctive and very personal.
A Mormon is content for you to seek God and ask him if our message is true. It is between you and the Lord. We also trust that God is capable of helping you discern between his Spirit and any counterfeit that the adversary might employ. After all, who has more power, God or Satan? We would ask you to take note; however, and consider the motives of those individuals who wish to stop you from directly petitioning your Heavenly Father and getting your own answer. If they truly had faith, wouldn’t they trust him to guide you aright? What do they fear? We tell you to trust God. They tell you to trust some minister and his interpretation of the Bible. (Of course the minister just down the street will have a different interpretation, but don’t let that trouble you!)
Even more ironic is that the “burning in the heart” is a known and accepted part of Christian experience. Those who try to convince you otherwise are ignorant of their own heritage. A perfect example of this is Jonathan Edwards’ “Personal Narrative.” Edwards (1703-1758) was an American Puritan minister. His “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God” sermon is credited with starting the first “Great Awakening.” He was a fiery Calvinist preacher. Yet in his “Personal Narrative,” he turns almost mystical, speaking very candidly about his personal experiences with the Holy Spirit. He wrote:
The sense I had of divine things, would often of a sudden kindle up, as it were a sweet burning in my heart; an ardor of soul, that I know not how to express….
…[T]here came into my mind so sweet a sense of the glorious majesty and grace of God, that I know not how to express. I seemed to see them both in a sweet conjunction; majesty and meekness joined together; it was a gentle and holy majesty; and also a majestic meekness; a high, great, and holy gentleness (Edwards).
…[E}very word seemed to touch my heart. I felt a harmony between something in my heart and those sweet and powerful words….”
Somtimes, only mentioning a single word caused my heart to burn within me; or only seeing the name of Christ, or the name of some attribute of God” (Edwards).
These are the feelings that confirm the truth of all things. This is what you feel when the Holy Ghost touches your heart. The great Puritan preacher Jonathan Edwards felt it. Many others throughout history felt it. That Spirit invites you to draw nearer to God. Edwards lived and died before the Restoration of the gospel began in 1820. I’m sure he would have recognized the Holy Spirit’s voice from his own experiences. Perhaps you may recognize such experiences you’ve had in your own life when the Lord’s Spirit has touched you.
The Holy Ghost is a revealer of truth. It will bring to your remembrance those things that Jesus taught. You will feel the truth of the Book of Mormon as you read it. It is a test of your faith. Do you have the faith to go directly to God? Remember James 1:5-6. It doesn’t say, “If any of you lack wisdom, go ask your pastor.” It doesn’t say, “If any of you lack wisdom, look up an anti-Mormon web site on Google.” It says, “If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God….” I hope you will have the courage and faith to read the Book of Mormon and seek the witness of the Holy Spirit. What greater witness can you have?
Chambers, Oswald, cited in Burning in the Bosom. Life After Ministries, n.d. Web. 12 Nov. 2010. <www.lifeafter.org/burning.asp>.
Corner, Dan. Should You Pray about the Book of Mormon? Evangelical Outreach. n.d. Web. 12 Nov. 2010. <www.evangelicaloutreach.org/bom.htm>.
Edwards, Jonathan. Personal Narrative. A Puritan’s Mind, 1998-2010. Web. 12 Nov. 2010.
Paine, Thomas. The Age of Reason. USHistory.org, 1999-2010. Web. 12 Nov 2010. <www.ushistory.org/paine/reason/reason1.htm>.