How would you define faith?
Latter-day Saints often use Hebrews 11:1 “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” They believe that faith is the first principle of the gospel.
I believe faith is the basis of Christianity. Christians believe we are saved by grace through faith. We are justified by faith.
Unfortunately, many people in the world have a wrong impression of faith. They think faith is something that is blind. They think those who have faith are those who believe in something that has no evidence.
Paul said, in 2 Corinthians 5:7 ”For we walk by faith, not by sight.”
Notice he did NOT say, “we walk by faith, not by evidence.” Because in Hebrews 11:1, it says that faith flows out of evidence.
And we are told as Christians to only believe something after it has been proven or evidenced.
To give you an example, let’s look at 1 John 4:1
“Beloved, believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God: because many false prophets are gone out of the world.”
1 Thessalonians 5:21
“Prove all things; hold fast that which is good.”
To illustrate how faith and evidence work together – though I haven’t seen Jesus with my eyes, my faith is not blind. It is based on the evidence of time, history, and inspiration.
The Bible has been proven through science, archaeology and other literary sources. In fact, when a person examines all of the evidence available, one is compelled to believe the Bible is undeniably true.
Latter-day Saints believe the same thing applies to the Book of Mormon. As members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, they believe the Book of Mormon is “Another Testament of Jesus Christ” inspired by the same God as the Bible. They are in harmony with each other.
The Bible passes the tests of time, history and inspiration. Isaiah 40:8 “The grass withereth, the flower fadeth: but the word of our God shall stand for ever.”
If the Book of Mormon is from God, then it should be able to pass the same tests.
We believe that true faith is also validated by a person’s feelings. M. Russell Ballard, a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles said, “Religious truth is always confirmed by what you feel.”
Latter-day Saints wouldn’t go so far as to say that seeking archaeological or scientific evidence for the Book of Mormon is contrary to faith. They do promise that if a person is willing to read the Book of Mormon and pray about it, he or she will receive a good feeling in their heart.
Should we accept it is true, despite what the evidence says? Don’t get me wrong – feelings are not bad in themselves. However, you have, to admit they can sometimes be deceptive.
That’s one way the Lord teaches us to trust Him, instead of our feelings. I want us to review what the Bible warns about trusting in the Lord in spite of our feelings.
Jeremiah 17:9 “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?”
And, Proverbs 28:26 “He that trusteth in his own heart is a fool: but whoso walketh wisely, he shall be delivered.”
The Bible says we should first take the time to examine and investigate; second, believe the truth that the evidence points to; third, feel confident that we have tested all things. And finally, hold fast to that which is good.
While the Book of Mormon says to trust in your feelings with all your heart, the Bible exhorts us to trust in the Lord with all your heart.
Latter-day Saint missionaries are trained to challenge people to read the Book of Mormon and then to ask God in prayer if, it is true. Moroni 10:4-5 “And when ye shall receive these things [the Book of Mormon], 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. And by the power of the Holy Ghost, ye may know the truth of all things.”
Another scripture used is from:
“But, behold, I say unto you, that you must study it out in your mind; then you must ask me if it be right, and if it is right I will cause that your bosom shall burn within you; therefore, you shall feel that it is right.”Doctrine and Covenants 9:8
I see some problems with those challenges.
First, of all there is no provision made in case the Book of Mormon is false.
What if I don’t get a supernatural witness of some kind?
Latter-day Saints believe it would probably be because you didn’t ask with a “sincere heart” or “real intent”, or you didn’t have “faith in Christ”?
In other words, there is something wrong with me, not the Book of Mormon? I was not being sincere with God?
LDS believers will argue that if you DO get a burning in the bosom or a special feeling when reading the Book of Mormon, that this feeling would confirm that the Book of Mormon is true?
Not necessarily. It could be that we were being influenced by deceitful spirits or demons. Paul warns of this deception in 2 Thessalonians 2:9. “Now the Spirit speaketh expressly, that in the latter times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils.”
1 John 4:1
“Beloved, believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God: Because many false prophets are gone out into the world.”
Is it wrong to trust in our heart that God is speaking to us.
God warns us about trusting our hearts. Deuteronomy 11:16
“Take head to yourselves, that your heart be not deceived, and ye turn aside, and serve other gods, and worship them.”
“The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?”
You see there are dangers when we rely on our hearts too much. Proverbs 14:12 “There is a way which seemeth right unto a man, but the end thereof are the ways of death.”
Our feelings and emotions that stem from our hearts can be very misleading – even though it seems that they are right.
So, how can we know for certain about anything then, if we can’t trust our, hearts?
When it comes to truth, The Bible gives us a great example of what one is to do when confronted with the possibility of whether a message is from God or not. In Acts 17:10-11 Paul taught the people of Berea in their synagogue.
But rather than rely on mere subjective feelings or what their hearts were telling them, those Bereans had the objective evidence of the Old Testament Scriptures by which to judge Paul’s words. Paul even compliments them “These were more noble than those in Thessalonica in that they received the word with all readiness of mind, and searched the scriptures daily, whether those things were so.”
It is good practice to check Scripture with Scripture.
It should be no different for us today – for it is our Bible that will keep us from being, as it says in Ephesians 4:14
“tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive.”
Rather than pray about the Book of Mormon and risk being deceived by my feelings – I will reconcile it with the proven Word of God – the Bible.