Sunday, April 06, 2014

Arguments Against Praying About the Book of Mormon

I read a post by Matt Slick on his website arguing against praying to know if the Book of Mormon is true.  I have heard this argument before.

It is mind-boggling to me to see how many of the critics of the Church preach that people should not pray about the Book of Mormon.  How do they come to this conclusion?  Where has the Bible ever told us to not pray?

I will detail Matt Slick's points from his web site on the subject here and give my thoughts on his assessment.

Ask If Is Not True?  Ha Ha Ha.
He first attacks and sneers at Moroni 10:4
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.

He states,
"It is not asking to see if these things ARE true.  So, when a Mormon prays about the Book Mormon to see if it is 'not' true and he receives a confirmation, then has it not been established that the book Mormon is not true?"

Is God some magic genie who, if you do not word your question just right, will give you something you didn't want?

A person can pray and ask whatever question they want in whatever way they want.  Both they and God know what they are asking and what He is answering.

Matt Slick is just using word games to ridicule the idea of praying about the Book of Mormon by trying to make it seem like the Mormons are trying to ask you to do something silly or ignorant.  This part of his post is aimed to shame someone for even considering praying about The Book of Mormon, does not present anything of substance or any proof to support his mocking.

The Bible Never Tells Us to Pray About Spiritual Truth?
He next proposes that the Bible never tells to pray to know truth.  

The first example I will cite is the Bible to show this is not true is a verse that Slick goes on later to disregard, James 1:5

5 If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him.

If you lack wisdom or do not know if something is true or false, then pray about it or in other words ask God.

Is it the word of God that teaches us to not pray?  What or who is it that teaches man to not pray?

Except Matthew 7:7-8 tells us to "Ask and it shall be given" and “For every one that asketh receiveth;”.

Why would one want to not go to God and instead go to a preacher or words on a page alone to tell them what is true?

Is It a Sin to Ask God When We Need to Know If Something Is True?
Matt Slick appears to be proposing that it is sin to do so and if you do ask God such a question the devil will answer you.

He says, “If God has told us to look at his word for truth (2 Tim. 3:16) and someone prays about the Book of Mormon in contradiction to that verse, then is he not violating the word of God?”

2 Timothy 3:16 says:
16 All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness:

It does not say that you do not pray to understand scripture.  It also does not define what scripture is.  I am at a loss as to how one can conclude fromt hat verse that it is a violation of God’s commandments to pray to know if something is true.

Where does it say that God has included everything he said to man or everything he was ever going to say to man?  The Bible is a collection of books of God’s word to Israel and later just to Judah.  What about the other tribes of Israel?  They are the chosen people too.  Is it out of the realm of possibility that God spoke to them as well?  If he did would not that be scripture as well?

The Bible that we have now was whittled down from a much larger collection of potentially prophetic and apostolic writing.  Who authorized the whittling?  What gives man the right to tell God the boundaries of His word?

James tells us God gives us knowledge and does not scold us for asking.  Archaeology is finding many ancient writings.  Are we to count them out because they aren’t in the pages of our current canon of scripture?  One would hope that when the books of the Bible were being selected for inclusion in the canon that those making the call would’ve prayed and asked which books were true and should be included as scripture.

Men’s Own Agendas
While it is true that you can convince yourself you received any answer or even have your heart set on evil when you ask and get the wrong answer.  If you are just going through the motions of asking God when your mind and heart are already set, then you can be deceived.  Going through the motions is not really prayer though, is it?

James did say in James 4:3
3 Ye ask, and receive not, because ye ask amiss, that ye may consume it upon your lusts.

It appears that the people were praying for things with a lustful heart and to have things they shouldn’t have.

One who is sincerely wanting to know God’s will is trying to put God’s will before their own.  Wanting to know God’s will is not a sin.  Even if the thing you are asking about is not God’s will, He will tell you if you are sincere.

Paul tells us in Philippians 4:6-7
6 Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God.
7 And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.
In everything we are to prayer to God.  We thankfully and sincerely make our request and he keeps our hearts and minds with Him, thus he overcomes our deceitful hearts.

Matthew 21:22
22 And all things, whatsoever ye shall ask in prayer, believing, ye shall receive.

No matter what you ask if you sincerely believe God and sincerely want His will, you will receive it.  If you do not know if something is of God or not, no matter what it is, if you are sincerely wanting to know if it is of God, he will tell you.

Reading the Scriptures to Know Truth
The basic Sunday school answers that the Church teaches over and over is that the way one receives revelation or answers is to study the scriptures and pray.  Every day.

It is true that sometimes scripture study leads us to pray and sometimes prayer leads us back to the word of God.  Sometimes it leads us back when we haven’t picked up the scriptures in a while.  Nonetheless, the two of them together are how we receive revelation from God.

Abusing James 1:5
Matt Slick concludes with dissecting James 1:5 and scolds the idea of Joseph Smith being inspired by it to pray to God for an answer to a very confusing question and a question that many have asked which I paraphrase, "Since so many Churches teach so many different things and interpret the doctrines in the Bible so many different ways, which is God's Church and what is His true doctrine?'

He has another post where he mentions praying about The Book of Mormon and how James 1:5 does not apply.  I will pull ideas from that post as well.

He starts the conclusion describing how James 1 is written to early Jewish believers and not to us.  He states, "The context is about gaining wisdom through difficult trials and the testing of one's faith, not about praying to see if a book is true."

Is not being confused about which church to join a trial?  Is not being presented with a book that is not the Bible that they say is scripture a trial?  What if you had been taught that the Bible is all of God’s word and you started to wonder about the lost 10 tribes that were not at Jerusalem?  What if you began to wonder if the lost ten tribes had been given direction from God that he commanded them to write as scripture and if something someone had given you was some of that scripture?  Would that not be a trial of what you had been taught?  Should you not ask God what is true and what His will is?

None of the books of the Bible say that he had forgotten the lost tribes.  There are verses in Deuteronomy and Revelation that caution against man adding to the books.  Do we disregard everything written after Deuteronomy as not scripture?  What about Revelation?  The Bible was compiled well after The Revelation of John was written.  Additionally, books of the Bible were written after John finished writing Revelation.  Even John himself wrote books of the Bible after he closed Revelation.  Of course, at the time none of those books, Revelation, or anything else were in the Bible that was created centuries later.

I wonder how much of the Bible Matt Slick would see as needing to be discarded as he does with James 1, since they were initially written to someone else.

Would we throw out the Revelation of John since it was written to the seven churches?  Would we throw out the Old Testament, since it was written to the pre-Christian Jews?  All of the epistles because they were written to specific churches at specific times?

Matt Slick tries to dismiss James 1:5 for people in our day by stating that it was written to people in the past.  People who were already Christians.  Thus, he proposes, it should not be applied to people seeking to become Christians or understand what a Christian is or what church God would have them join.

The fact of the matter is, "If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God..." is good counsel.  It does not matter who you are or where you are from or when you lived.

Never Did Any Passage of Scripture
Mr. Slick then picks about Joseph Smith's words.  He accuses Joseph of boasting because he said, "Never did any passage of scripture come with more power to the heart of man than this did at this time to mine."  Clearly being in the 1800s Joseph did not have knowledge of everyone on the planet at all times and in all places.  Neither do we have that knowledge, but we do use hyperbole in our language today to express what an intense experience we had, even if our words are not literal.

Again, ridicule is being used to attempt to make Joseph Smith look like liar, when evidence is severely lacking.

A Feeling in His Heart
He then talks about Joseph Smith having a feeling in his heart as "not based on scripture".  Luke 24:32 describes the heart testifying of truth as the Lord walked and talked with them.
 32 And they said one to another, Did not our heart burn within us, while He talked with us by the way, and while he opened to us the scriptures?

Matt Slick includes his testimony on his web site.  He talks about how he came to Christ, that he prayed to know truth.  He says, “So, I quickly addressed a prayer to God (not knowing if He was there) and said, ‘God, if you're there, then I'll try and be sincere and accept you. If you're not there, it won't cost me anything.’”

He did not say that he found all the answers he need to answer his question in the Bible.  He says he prayed.  If he read the Bible before hand, it did not answer his question as to if God was real.

He then talks in several places about his heart.  He says, “I tried to manifest a sincere and honest heart.”  Even though he says in his post about praying about the Book of Mormon that, “the Bible tells us that our hearts are desperately wicked and deceitful (Jeremiah 17:9), and that we are to be very cautious about trusting it -- which is why praying about truth and getting a feeling is so dangerous.”

How could he have presented a sincere and honest heart, since it is desperately wicked and deceitful?  Yes, it says he only tried to present a sincere and honest heart, but based on Mr. Slick’s reasoning with regard to praying about The Book of Mormon, it was not possible for him to present a sincere and honest heart, so there was a good chance he was deceived.

He also states in his testimony, “This person was making Himself known to me in my heart.  I somehow knew it was God.  It was the Holy Spirit.”

How could he trust his “desperately wicked and deceitful” heart?  How was he able to trust his heart, but those looking into The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saint should not pray to know truth and should not trust their hearts?

He says more, “He permeated my heart, mind, and soul.”  “ It was wonderful and I felt my heart enveloped and lifted by Him.”  “Then, while I was kneeling there, utterly absorbed and drifting in the experience of His presence, He moved. He moved toward me and gently entered my heart.”  “My heart was overflowing with excitement, love, hope, intensity, and great joy.”

How does he know that it was God?  It could’ve been his “deceitful” heart.

He scoffs that anyone could or should have a similar experience with The Book of Mormon or other aspects of the church. Because he has judged it to not be of God, no one should attempt to find out for themselves.

As I stated, he talked of trying to have a sincere heart when talking to God.  That is exactly what the scripture in The Book of Mormon is telling people to do.  Be sincere and ask.  James then confirms that God will not scold you, if you are sincere.  He will not be mad at you for asking, but he will tell you the truth.

Not Being Able to Figure Out Which Church From the Bible
Matt Slick reads evil into Joseph Smith consulting the Bible for James 1:5 and then not feeling he had a good answer from the Bible about which church to join.  Joseph Smith was 14 years old.  He relied on religious leaders to guide him in what the Bible was saying.  Since many churches interpreted the Bible so differently and many preachers in his town were preaching that other preachers and churches in the town were not Christian churches, because of how they interpreted the Bible, he determined to ask God directly.

Joseph read the Bible a lot.  He did find the answer to his question in the Bible.  He found the answer on how to know which church was true in James 1:5.  Be sincere and ask God.

As Mr. Slick points out, much of the Bible was written at a different time to a different people.  Because of this, how could it answer such a question, as to what church to join for a boy in the 1800s or even people today, other than to tell us to ask God?

Additional Resources
Jeff Lindsay had some interesting things to say on the topic of critics teaching people to not pray about The Book of Mormon in the following posts: