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Latter-day Saints believe in the concept of 'gaining a testimony'. I provide supporting quotes in my previous question How crucial is it for Christians in general (not only LDS) to “gain a testimony” validating the truth of their beliefs?. A quote worth reiterating here is the following:

This is the true, solid evidence of religious faith. Millions upon millions of Latter-Day Saints attest to the power of this principle: when you go to God in prayer, asking if this thing that purports to be from Him is true, he does answer. It is a distinctive and unmistakable experience, and once you have received a confirmation of the truth from God, any earthly evidence pales by comparison. People can make mistakes, but the witness of the Holy Ghost is powerful and absolute.

Source: According to Latter-day Saints, should every honest, rational, and well-informed individual be able to reach the conclusion that Mormonism is true?

A Latter-day Saint asserts to have received a clear confirmation from the Holy Ghost affirming the truth of their faith. They describe an experience purportedly bestowed by God, which holds significant epistemic weight as it grants them certainty in their decision to join The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Given the multitude of Latter-day Saints attesting to such personally revelatory encounters, it seems implausible that they must be all fabricating their stories. Surely, there must be genuine experiences underlying at least some of their testimonies.

How do Christians not affiliated with the LDS faith interpret these accounts?


Note: Additionally, I recently posed a more broadly formulated version of this question on Philosophy Stack Exchange: Can religious, mystical, or spiritual experiences reveal truth?. Since asking this question here would likely be deemed off-topic, I extend a cordial invitation to anyone interested in the broader inquiry to contribute their insights via the provided link.

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As a Christian who has never been part of the LDS faith, but who has personally heard some of them relate their experience of being convinced of that faith, I would offer this answer.

A recurring phrase used by most of them was experiencing "a burning in the bosom" when they prayerfully asked for confirmation that the Book of Mormon was true. They all attributed that to the Holy Ghost. That convinced them, and they went on to become baptised LDS members.

I had become a Christian before meeting those people, leaving an American religion that I'd been brought up in, to start following Jesus only, sticking to the Bible's gospel of Jesus Christ, and being baptised in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. My first encounter with LDS missionaries led to being given a copy of the Book of Mormon, which I began to compare with the Bible. I listened to the LDS gospel and compared that with the biblical gospel of Jesus Christ. What I discovered gives me grounds for answering this question, for by then I was so 'saturated' in the Bible, and in understanding just who the Jesus of the Bible is, I could see where the reported encounters of LDS people diverged from what the Bible said it should be.

My answer is simply this - the Bible warns against emotional 'feelings' and 'spiritual experiences' that are not utterly rooted in following the Jesus of the Bible. This means that knowing and believing just who the risen Christ is (according to what the Bible says about that) is foundational to Christianity. The Bible warns that false Christs (Mat. 7:15 & 24:24), and false gospels (Gal. 1:6-9 even if uttered by an angel from heaven!), and false apostles (2 Cor. 11:13), and false prophets (1 John 4:1) will increase, to deceive many. Jesus himself told us, about the end times and the basis for judgment:

"Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven. Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast our devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works? And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity." Matthew 7:21-23 K.J.V.

Therefore, I am a sceptic when it comes to people enthusing about an experience they had after prayer. Especially if it leads them to embrace a book that is not the Bible, as if it was the very word of God. Especially if it leads them to follow a man whose version of who Jesus Christ is does not square with what my Bible tells me Jesus Christ is.

That is how this Christian views the reported spiritual encounters of LDS people, who take their encounter to be that of God's Holy Spirit. And those are the reasons why I have to remain unconvinced. The testimony I gained of becoming a Christian took two years of studying the Bible to discover how John's gospel exposed as false the Jesus I'd been told to believe in from childhood. I have reason to believe that the Jesus of the LDS faith does not square with the Jesus of John's gospel. Therefore, what spirit is it that convinces millions of people to start believing in the Jesus of the LDS faith? I have to ask myself. Do LDS converts ever ask themselves that question, or do they just unquestioningly accept that the emotional 'burning in the bosom' (or whatever else it might be called nowadays) has to be God's Holy Spirit? Given all the warnings in the Bible about being deceived, would it not be helpful for people interested in the LDS faith to first thoroughly learn what the Bible says about that, and the Jesus to follow, before submitting to an subjective experience? Just asking, for that is what keeps me a sceptic on this matter.

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    2 Cor. 11:14 "And no marvel; for Satan himself is transformed into an angel of light." +1 Mar 22 at 22:01
  • the Bible warns against emotional 'feelings' and 'spiritual experiences' can you share more references for this, it feels like the other scriptures are ambiguous in that they can be addressed towards any denomination, and stray from OP
    – depperm
    Mar 28 at 11:21
  • @depperm Oh yes, many such scriptures are addressed to all and any individuals, irrespective of denomination. Lots of groups today are full of emotionalism, lovey-dovey sentimentality, and ruined by today's philosophy that "If it feels right to you, then it's right". Objectively sticking to God's commands in the Bible as his only Holy-Spirit-inspired word is either in the back corridor of many groups, or about to be chucked in the refuse bin along with Psalmody books and last decade's curtains. It is God's stated truth that must control all of us, not our feelings.
    – Anne
    Mar 28 at 13:59
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According to the "Book Of Mormon" at Moroni 10:4-5 it says, "And when ye shall receive these things, I would exhort you that ye would ask God the Eternal Father, in the name of Christ, if these things are not true; and if ye shall ask with a sincere heart, with real intent, having faith in Christ, he will manifest the truth of it unto you, by the power of the Holy Ghost, vs5, And by the power of the Holy Ghost ye may know the truth of all things."

Now, since the Book of Mormon claims to be an historical document it should be examined on that basis to determine its authenticity. Prayer can be used as a part of the process but it is not a sufficient guide. Our own desires and emotions could mislead us, (James 4:3). If prayer alone were sufficient to determine truth there would not be thousands of different religions.

Truth must be determined by something not so much apart from a personal subjective experience but in addition to it. That brings us to the realm of empirical evidence and rational thought. Orthodox Christianity easily withstands the highest standards with regard to history, logic and the basic reasoning skills that God gave to men. Mormonism does not. In fact it is refuted by an abundance of cold hard evidence against which claims of a "spiritual witness/Burning in the bosom." of some kind is not persuasive.

Unfortunately, the fact is that when compared to all of the available objective evidence, the Book of Mormon fails to pass the test for basic historic truth regarding the people, places and events it pretends to record.

What's also interesting, you have three high ranking Mormons telling us to test the Book Of Mormon. Dr. Hugh Nibley: "The Book of Mormon can and should be tested. It invites criticism." (An Approach to The Book of Mormon, 1957, p.13. Bringham Young: "Take up the Bible, compare the religion of the Latter-day Saints with it, and see if it will stand the test." (Journal of Discourses, Volume 16, p. 46, 1873). Orson Pratt: "Convince us of our errors of Doctrine, if we have any, by reason, by logical arguments, or by the Word of God and we will ever be grateful for the information and you will ever have the pleasing reflections that you have been instruments in the hands of God of redeeming your fellow beings." (The Seer, p.15.) This is exactly what I have been doing for the past 60 years in dealing with Mormons. In closing I quote the Apostle Paul at 1 Thessalonians 5:21, "Prove all things, hold fast that which is good."

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