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Rather than providing evidence to support the Book of Mormon, Mormons often ask Christians to read the Book of Mormon and pray to see whether or not it is from God. As the Book of Mormon says,
Mormons also reference James 1:5 to support this practice:
Most Mormons claim they have received a "burning in the bosom"—a testimony of the Holy Spirit that the Book of Mormon is true.
But is this spirit the Holy Spirit? Is prayer a proper test for truth? How are we to test for truth? What about James 1:5? How do we test the spirits?
It is vitally important to know proper tests when assessing spiritual truth-claims. "There is a way that seems right unto man, but the end thereof is death (Proverbs 14:12)." Let me illustrate with a lighter matter.
While in Africa, a missionary friend was approached several times by ivory peddlers. Though he was not interested in buying ivory, he learned some tricks of the peddlers' trade. He would ask how one distinguishes ivory from polished bone. (He learned that polished bone was often sold as ivory.) Almost always, the answer came, "Light a match under it. If it is bone, the soot will not wipe away. But if the soot wipes away, it is ivory."
The problem with this test (for which many tourists fell) is that it isn't proper at all. Soot wipes off of both polished bone and ivory just the same! The moral of the story? You must use the proper test.
What my friend experienced is similar to the Mormon plea to pray about the Book of Mormon. Though we are called to pray always (1 Thessalonians 5:17), the Bible nowhere teaches that prayer is a test for truth.
What about James 1:5?
Well, in context, one finds reference to the testing of one's faith by trials and temptations (see verses 2-3, 12, and 13). We are exhorted, if we lack wisdom, to ask God for wisdom and understanding (not truth) when faced with trials and temptations so we may respond in a godly fashion.
The apostle Paul warned the believers in Galatia not to listen to anyone who teaches another gospel (Galatians 1:6-8). There are many false teachers who preach a “gospel” and a “Jesus,” and a spirit may accompany them. But we know that there are false gospels, false christs and unholy spirits (2 Corinthians 11:3-4, 13-14). Should we pray to find out which is which? How can we know?
The danger with praying to find truth is that spiritual testimonies are a dime a dozen, and those which are valid may be difficult to distinguish from those which are not. We cannot trust the feelings of our hearts (Proverbs 28:26; Jeremiah 17:9), nor can we trust every spiritual witness (1 John 4:1-6). Called to be like the Bereans of Acts 17:11, we need to "search the Scriptures daily" to see if what Mormonism teaches is true. The biblical test focuses on the Word of God as our standard for truth (2 Timothy 3:15-17); for the witness of the Holy Spirit will never contradict the Word he himself inspired—the Bible (2 Peter 1:21).
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Author: Kevin Bywater of Summit Ministries.
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