2

In John 20:24-29 and Mark 16:14, Jesus seems to rebuke unbelief and the request for direct evidence when indirect testimonial evidence has already been provided:

14 Afterward he appeared to the eleven themselves as they were reclining at table, and he rebuked them for their unbelief and hardness of heart, because they had not believed those who saw him after he had risen. (Mark 16:14 ESV)

24 Now Thomas, one of the twelve, called the Twin, was not with them when Jesus came. 25 So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord.” But he said to them, “Unless I see in his hands the mark of the nails, and place my finger into the mark of the nails, and place my hand into his side, I will never believe.”

26 Eight days later, his disciples were inside again, and Thomas was with them. Although the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.” 27 Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here, and see my hands; and put out your hand, and place it in my side. Do not disbelieve, but believe.” 28 Thomas answered him, “My Lord and my God!” 29 Jesus said to him, “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.” (John 20:24-29 ESV)

However, Moroni 10:3-7 seems to encourage the search for direct evidence:

3 Behold, I would exhort you that when ye shall read these things, if it be wisdom in God that ye should read them, that ye would remember how merciful the Lord hath been unto the children of men, from the creation of Adam even down until the time that ye shall receive these things, and ponder it in your hearts.

4 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.

5 And by the power of the Holy Ghost ye may know the truth of all things.

6 And whatsoever thing is good is just and true; wherefore, nothing that is good denieth the Christ, but acknowledgeth that he is.

7 And ye may know that he is, by the power of the Holy Ghost; wherefore I would exhort you that ye deny not the power of God; for he worketh by power, according to the faith of the children of men, the same today and tomorrow, and forever.

Question

How do Latter-day Saints reconcile Moroni 10:3-7 with John 20:24-29 and Mark 16:14?

Is it okay to seek personal confirmation (Moroni 10:3-7), or should one just be content with what others have already witnessed and testified to (John 20:24-29, Mark 16:14)?

Note: It would be interesting to see a discussion on the epistemological value of testimonial evidence from the Latter-day Saint perspective. Should the testimony of the 3 & 8 witnesses be enough (testimonial) evidence to warrant belief in Mormonism (which would be consistent with the epistemological value that Jesus seems to place on the testimony of his witnesses in John 20:24-29 & Mark 16:14), and if so, wouldn't that be at odds with Moroni 10:3-7's exhortation to seek additional evidence? Is Moroni 10:3-7 offering an exceptional route to believe for those who are more skeptical and struggle to believe based on testimonial evidence only?


Related questions

4
  • 1
    My initial thought is that I responded to this in my answer to your linked question. I could copy-paste sections of that answer here, but I gather you are looking for something more? Commented Jun 26, 2022 at 3:14
  • @HoldToTheRod - Good observation. I added a note explaining that I'm particularly interested in the Latter-day Saint perspective on the value of testimonial evidence (from people other than oneself)
    – user50422
    Commented Jun 26, 2022 at 5:50
  • 1
    Related: churchofjesuschrist.org/study/scriptures/bofm/3-ne/… Commented Jun 27, 2022 at 2:25
  • Ok I think I see where you're going. I'll mull some thoughts on this one. +1 Commented Jun 30, 2022 at 2:37

2 Answers 2

2

Moroni 10:3-7 seems to encourage the search for direct evidence

No, it encourages seeking personal revelation, which can't really be considered evidence (IMO) as it is not tangible-more confirmation, personal witness/evidence (difference of being eyewitness vs holding video recording of an event-one is tangible and more easily shared). These scriptures have no contradictions. John and Mark say nothing about the apostles actions, but as they had limited experience with the Holy Ghost (its new for them) I'd think the possibilities are:

  • they didn't ask (had Jesus with them up to this point to confirm truth, still adjusting probably, see also below)
  • asked and didn't recognize the spirit(Holy Ghost just barely given to them, were otherwise distracted...Jesus just having been crucified)
  • they asked and didn't receive answer(most unlikely of options))

Having what others have witnessed and testified of is nice to have and discerning truth is great, but like what Moroni says, one needs to gain a personal witness for conversion.

Many biblical scriptures also encourage prayer to find truth (like Moroni):

  • Matt 7:7-11 "Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you:..."
  • Matt 26:41 "Watch and pray, that ye enter not into temptation: the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak."
  • John 15:7 "If ye abide in me, and my words abide in you, ye shall ask what ye will, and it shall be done unto you."
  • Philip 4:6 "...let your requests be made known unto God."
  • 1 Thess 5:17,21,25 "Pray without ceasing...Prove all things; hold fast that which is good...."
4
  • No, it encourages seeking personal revelation, which can't really be considered evidence (IMO) as it is not tangible-more confirmation, personal witness/evidence (difference of being eyewitness vs holding video recording of an event-one is tangible and more easily shared) - Under that stricter definition of evidence, we don't have evidence for the resurrection of Jesus either. We only have testimonies.
    – user50422
    Commented Jun 26, 2022 at 14:02
  • @SpiritRealmInvestigator yes most of Christianity's beliefs are based on faith (faith in the bible that the account of events/sermons are accurate, faith in the salvation offered by Jesus-when we die, faith that God hears our prayers, etc). Many of these do have evidence (to varying degrees (biblical evidence, answers to prayers)) but its not overwhelming conclusive (the majority of the world isn't Christian)- and I don't think God meant for belief in Him to be overwhelming, this earth life is meant to be a test
    – depperm
    Commented Jun 27, 2022 at 0:48
  • But doesn't Moroni 10:3-7's promise offer an alternative to be 100% certain of the reality of Christianity through personal revelation?
    – user50422
    Commented Jun 27, 2022 at 1:14
  • @SpiritRealmInvestigator yes, but it is about truth, so you need to ask the right questions with the right knowledge while being sincere
    – depperm
    Commented Jun 27, 2022 at 10:15
1

Let us consider a continuum stretching between "no trust whatsoever" and "complete and total trust". We are all progressing (or regressing) along that continuum.

God is interested in our progression towards complete and total trust in Him, but He is not saying "get to the other end of the spectrum by next Tuesday or we're through". I suggest it is fair to say that He is more concerned with the direction in which we are heading than He is in our location today.

God wants us to develop trust in Him, and He gives us the opportunity to do so "line upon line, precept upon precept, here a little and there a little".

--

Asking & Acting

Jesus' rebukes noted in the OP are not commands to never ask questions again, or to cease all learning, but reprimands for failing to trust commensurate with the evidence that had been given.

Thomas (and the other apostles) had been given reason to believe—he had felt the power of Jesus’ teachings, witnessed miracles, listened to the predictions of Jesus’ death & resurrection, received the promise of the Holy Ghost, and heard the testimony of trusted peers that Jesus had risen. Apparently God expects many people to believe—sufficiently to act—with less evidence than this.

But it in no way follows from this that acting in faith and asking in faith are mutually exclusive. We can and should do both all the time. Jesus commanded people "learn of me", "search the scriptures", "seek and ye shall find", and so on. He clearly wants people to learn and grow, not plateau.

(that rhyme was accidental but I kind of like it)

The reprimand was not for seeking additional knowledge; the reprimand was for doubting and failing to act upon what they already had good reason to believe. Faith, as James taught (see James 2:18-20), is not simply belief. It is believing enough to act.

--

Doubt

My read of the scriptures leads me to conclude that doubt is usually, if not always, a tool of the devil. It is the devil who wants us to believe we can never be what God intends us to be; it is the devil who wants us to question that what God offers could truly be better than what the world advertises.

And it is the devil who doubtless=) inspired doubt & fear in the disciples as they experienced the worst Friday of their lives. He wanted them to give up and, despite every evidence God had given them to the contrary, lose their faith in Jesus the Messiah.

Asking sincere questions isn't wrong, and we're told to expect results (see Matthew 7:7). Doubting what God has already revealed (e.g. Matt. 16:16-17), on the other hand, is a regression along the continuum.

When God gives us light, knowledge, truth, and abilities, He expects us to use them. And where more is given, more is expected (see Luke 12:47-48, Doctrine & Covenants 82:3). Clearly Jesus had high expectations of the apostles, and they were expected to not fall for the diabolical sermons of doubt hurled about by the chief priests (e.g. Matt. 27:42).

--

Specific Scriptural Applications

In Alma 32, Alma gives his great parable comparing the word to a seed, and proposes one of the more famous experiments of the Book of Mormon--how to know if the seed is good (see Alma 32:28-43). The similarities between this experiment and God's pronouncement through Malachi "prove me now..." are clear. God expects us to put His promises to the test.

In comparing the growth of our faith to the growth of a tree, Alma is clear that this is a process. And he points out that it is possible for one to have knowledge in one thing without having knowledge of all things. After one has demonstrated that the seed is good, he poses an interesting question:

34 And now, behold, is your knowledge perfect? Yea, your knowledge is perfect in that thing, and your faith is dormant; and this because you know, for ye know that the word hath swelled your souls, and ye also know that it hath sprouted up, that your understanding doth begin to be enlightened, and your mind doth begin to expand.

35 O then, is not this real? I say unto you, Yea, because it is light; and whatsoever is light, is good, because it is discernible, therefore ye must know that it is good; and now behold, after ye have tasted this light is your knowledge perfect?

36 Behold I say unto you, Nay; neither must ye lay aside your faith, for ye have only exercised your faith to plant the seed that ye might try the experiment to know if the seed was good.

We may have sure knowledge in one particular thing, but this in no way absolves us of the need to learn more, nor does it discount the importance of faith. God has much, much, much more in mind for us than just convincing us that He is real.

--

In Doctrine & Covenants 131:6 we read:

It is impossible for a man to be saved in ignorance.

The context is important and the theology in this section is deep, but for purposes of this post I'll just acknowledge one detail: knowledge of God is an essential part of the plan of salvation (I deliberately worded that sentence ambiguously enough to mean 2 different things, because both are true). See also John 17:3 for the importance God places on this knowledge.

We are expected to ask, learn, test, and so on. But we are also expected to act in accordance with what we've already been given.

  • It is good to believe based on evidence. It is good to put God’s promises to the test.
  • It is bad to tell God we don’t like the evidence He’s already given us.

--

Conclusion

The 3 & 8 witnesses to the Book of Mormon were cited in the OP. Their testimony does give a reason to believe the Book of Mormon...but it certainly isn't the only reason. If the testimony of the witnesses disarms our disbelief just enough to read the book and honestly consider its invitations, I would consider that an epistemological success.

Should Thomas' prior experiences, plus the testimonies of associates, been enough to disarm his disbelief? Probably...but I wasn't there and I'm not qualified to judge Thomas.

But the degree of personal conviction that will weather any storm, and ultimately lead one, prepared, to the throne of God, does not come solely from believing the words of Mary or of Martin Harris. The knowledge between here and eternal life, including what is described in John 17:3 and Doctrine & Covenants 131:6, is knowledge that comes from God.

Is it okay to seek personal confirmation (Moroni 10:3-7), or should one just be content with what others have already witnessed and testified to (John 20:24-29, Mark 16:14)?

I conclude that it’s okay to ask for more information, provided we are also willing to act on the information we already have, even if the requested information does not come as quickly as we want it to.

1
  • 1
    Feedback, as always, is welcome. Including feedback on whether the superscript smiley face works well (the parenthetical smiley is always a little awkward with the 2nd closing parenthesis, but even more awkward without it). Commented Jul 2, 2022 at 4:05

You must log in to answer this question.