A Response to “Biblical” Criticism of Spiritual Witnesses

I hope you can excuse a quick catch-up before I dig into the meat of this post.

Once Upon a Time…

Once upon a time, a girl who read this blog emailed me to ask a question about the LDS perspective on something, and a conversation got started. Unfortunately, she turned out to be less interested in knowing the answers to her questions, and more interested in destroying my faith just by asking them (spoiler: it didn’t work). You can find our conversation thread in my post “An Apple Not Quite Ripe”.

Still, this initial conversation got me studying the question, “How can I come to know spiritual truth?” more deeply. I collected some of my own thoughts on the subject, which you can read in a more polished post, “Coming to Know Spiritual Truth – Come, Feel and See”. I also went to a friend of mine, a pastor in central California, to get his evangelical perspective on some of my questions. You can find our conversation thread in my post “More Discussion About Spiritual Truth”.

That was going to be the end of it.

Then I decided to go to Twitter. Every now and then, usually when I’m looking for something to write about on this blog, I will search “mormon” to see the tweets that come up.

I don’t know why I do this – I usually end up reading something written by some (hopefully) well-meaning Christian, but a Christian who says some really dumb things, and I get frustrated and lose faith in humanity.

As an indulgent side note, I have something to say to the evangelicals practicing pitiful scholarship and blatant hypocrisy. Stop it. Please, just stop already. Believe what you want to believe, but this whole ends-justifies-the-means type of response to Mormonism was old and tired decades ago. If you’re part of the problem, repent. And if you’re not, well, great! Help solve it from your end by encouraging others to repent.

Anyway, during my (masochistic) Twitter search, I happened upon a group that criticizes Latter-day Saints, the Trinity Baptist Church in Riverton, Utah (shortened hereafter as TBC). As it so happened, they offered an answer to the question, “Does a ‘testimony’ assure discovery of truth?”

Given my recent experiences with the subject, and because I have no reason to expect that their criticism isn’t as good a one as any, I decided to look into it. Hence this post.

Does A ‘Testimony’ Assure Discovery of Truth? – TBC

Click on the hyperlinked portions of this text to view an in-depth response to that specific point. It may not be academically exegetical, but the sincere reader will have no trouble following my logic to the conclusion at the end of this post.

Besides, that level of intensity might drive off the (few) readers I now enjoy! (Oh, I’m kidding myself. I know all my hits are from Google Images.)

‘Testimony’ is understood by some to be sure knowledge received by revelation accompanied by a warm feeling of calm unwavering certainty. It is granted by several who bear such a testimony that this is essentially an inner experience not given to explanation or based on reason or logic.

But does feeling something is true make it so? Does profound belief assure truthfulness? Can feelings be depended upon to be the witness of the Spirit? When, for example, two opposing religionists both “know” their respective viewpoints are “true” because of personal “revelation” or an inner warm glow, how can it be determined which, if either of them, is correct?

A basic Bible fact is Jeremiah 17:9. “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked. . .” Therefore, it may be concluded that even a burning conviction or “testimony” is totally untrustworthy. Tragically, even many “answers to prayer” fall under this description when based primarily on feelings.

Is there any absolute way to know the truth? Yes! The prophet Isaiah has said, “To the law and to the testimony: if they speak not according to this word, it is because there is no light in them” (Isaiah 8:20). Here the only reliable testimony is identified as the written Word of God. That certainly explains why the Apostle Paul commanded his readers to study the Bible, the Word of truth (2 Timothy 2:15). It is also highly informative to note that though Peter received direct revelation from both the Father and the Son, he emphatically declared the Bible to be “. . .a more sure word of prophecy. . .” (2 Peter 1:16-21).

The Apostle John reaffirms these principles by stating, “If we receive the witness of men, the witness of God is greater. . .” (1 John 5:9). He goes on to identify “the witness of God” to be that which he was writing, New Testament Scripture! The pressing importance of this discussion is also included in his narrative. It is only when feelings and predispositions give way to God’s objective written revelation, the Bible, that the truth about eternal life can be positively known.

“And this is the record, that God hath given to us eternal life, and this life is in
His Son. He that hath the Son hath life; and he that hath not the Son of God
hath not life. These things have I written unto you that believe on the name of
the Son of God; that ye may know that ye have eternal life. . .” (1 John 5:11-13).


If you followed all the hyperlinks above, you read nine other short posts:


What do we take from these nine posts?

Frankly, that TBC and others like them are either intentionally deceptive or ignorantly deceptive. In the case of the latter that makes them either incompetent, disinterested, or unintelligent, and in the case of the former it makes them outright evil.

None of those are great camps to be in.


12 thoughts on “A Response to “Biblical” Criticism of Spiritual Witnesses”

  1. The subject of religion is very fascinating to me. I enjoy discussing it with members and non-members alike.

    As a Mormon, I welcome a website that appeals to reason. Your blogs are interesting.

    However, I was disappointed to see such statements as the one that condemns the people at TBC as “deceptive,” “incompetent,” “unintelligent,” and “evil.” Such labelling drifts away from the realm of reason and into the realm of irrationality. I’ve been meeting with them regularly for several years and they do not fit those descriptions. We don’t agree on most issues, but we would get nowhere if we resorted to mockery and name-calling. Such an approach would leave us looking as if we are bereft of the fruits of the spirit.

    P.S. I have many references from the Bible which substantiate the importance of the witness of the spirit, but I do not rely on the spiritual dimension alone — only as a confirmation. I have followed D&C Section 9, which counsels us to study these things out in our minds. I have done so and have found over 1,000 solid, tangible evidences that the LDS Church is absolutely true.

    1. I can understand your concern, but hear me out.

      While my condemnations sound severe, God has much stronger condemnations for those that wrest the scriptures and lead His children from the truth. These men I condemn purport to teach the true gospel, but they are the blind leading the blind, and because of this both they and their students will fall into the ditch (Matthew 15:14). What a tragedy!

      I can understand when people have opinions or leanings of their own, and I can accept when people think differently than I do. What I cannot accept is when they, either deliberately or unintentionally, so blatantly twist the truth to fit their purposes. This isn’t about misunderstandings – this is about overt untruth from those who are supposed to be teaching God’s word, from those who know better.

      Further, there is nothing unreasonable or irrational about pointing out the errors in the arguments of others. You can sugarcoat what you wish – I will not. In fact, I feel I was appropriately tactful, and your accusation of mocking and name-calling is at best a stretch. If you want to play it soft, then that’s your choice. But the fruits of the spirit, including meekness and humility, do not prohibit strong words. There were occasions when the Savior, who perfectly exemplified these attributes, used very strong condemnations against hypocritical religious leaders of his day.

      Also, who you wish to meet with is not a concern of mine, and as a Latter-day Saint you certainly believe that there are many who are blinded by the subtle craftiness of men (see D&C 123:12, or D&C 76:75 for the fate of those who do not escape their blindness).

      And you’re right – being blinded does not necessarily make one deceptive, incompetent, unintelligent, or evil (I should have specified that those comments were directed at the authors and propagators of these materials). But these men and women who support these lies will not escape a similar condemnation from the master who said that religionists of today “draw near to me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me, they teach for doctrines the commandments of men, having a form of godliness, but they deny the power thereof.”

      P.S. If you had read any of the other sections of this post, you would see that I agree that, while the importance of the spirit is paramount – and I do mean paramount, for there is no other way to understand the words of scripture and modern prophets – there are other facets to each Latter-day Saint’s testimony. All the same, I’m glad you’ve found your evidence.

      For more on this attitude of “judge not”, see my post here: https://religiousreason.wordpress.com/2012/02/29/judging-a-hospital-for-sinners/

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