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Do Latter-day Saints Only Trust in their feelings and ignore facts and common sense?

Why do Mormons put their trust in a "burning in their bosoms" while real Christians put their trust in the Bible?

Do Latter-day Saints Only Trust in their feelings and ignore facts and common sense?

W. John Walsh
Stephen R. Gibson

by W. John Walsh

Latter-day Saints believe that God lives and reveals himself to those who diligently seek him.  The Holy Bible teaches:

"By faith Enoch was translated, that he should not see death, and was not found, because God had translated him; for before his translation he had this testimony, that he pleased God; but without faith, it is impossible to please Him, for he that cometh to God must believe that He is, and that He is a revealer to those who diligently seek Him." (Hebrews 11:5-6.)

We encourage people to seek answers from God because an answer from the Lord has the most validity and is sure to be true.  An intelligent, educated man can often convince a person something is true even though it is not by manipulating his audience, either intentionally or unintentionally, through his superior intelligence and learning.   Let me give you an example: 

Several years ago, I had a conversation with a group of friends concerning the creation of the earth.  One of the members of the discussion, whom I will call Robert, remarked, "You know, science has proved that the earth is millions of years old and therefore the scriptural accounts of the creation have been proven false."   I listened as this person proceeded to produce the evidence he had accumulated in his science classes.  Afterwards, most people in the discussion seemed to be persuaded to this view point.  Robert had skillfully presented his case and certainly backed it up with an incredible amount of data. 

At this point I asked him a couple of questions, "Robert, you seem to have things sown up rather well.  Tell me.  Don't your conclusions depend upon certain assumptions?"  Robert frowned and said, "What do you mean?"   Well, for example, you have used carbon dating as one of your many evidences, right?  Doesn't carbon dating assume that the same physical laws have been constantly in effect?"  Robert thought for a moment and said, "Yes, that's true.   We backdate under the assumption that laws of nature have always worked the same way.  That's a good scientific principle" 

I continued, "As I understand the gospel, as taught by the prophets and apostles, they teach that there was a fall of man.  Right now, we are living in what we call a telestial state.  Before the fall, the world was in a terrestrial state.  There was no death and it's safe to assume that many other physical laws operated differently.  Therefore, how can the carbon dating of a fossil place the age of the earth?  If the test is valid only as long as a certain set of parameters are maintained, and we believe those parameters, were changed, then the test doesn't really mean anything does it? And doesn't this apply to all of your other examples as well?  For example, if a test is only valid if the temperature is maintained between 0 and 100 degrees, and we believe the temperature is actually 105 degrees, then doesn't that invalidate any conclusions or at least bring them into question?"  Robert thought for a moment and agreed.  I continued, "Well, your proofs of the creation depend upon these principles don't they?  And yet, the prophets have taught that the physical laws before the fall were totally different.  Therefore, your scientific results don't necessarily prove the gospel is false do they?"

I hope the reader will understand the purpose of this example.  It should be noted that Latter-day Saints highly prize education.  We are counseled to obtain enough of it as possible.  Our acceptance of the teachings of the prophets is not a suspension of rational thought (See Reason and Revelation).   Instead, we have learned to be very discriminating about what we accept as true. For example, last week a new monkey fossil was found.  Media sources across the country trumpeted, "This may cause scientists to reformulate their theories about how man came to be!"  I could not help but chuckle and think to myself, "But wait!  Didn't these guys have it all figured out already?  At least that is what my high school science teacher assured me."  I have noticed that every few years something like this comes out. 

The theories of men are constantly changing and being refined.  Yet does the real truth ever change?  Of course not.  Since this is the case, then how should man go about learning what is true and what is false?  Well, we do the best that we can.  I have a lot of respect for science and scientists.   However, I also recognize their limitations.  On the other hand, I know that God will never lead us astray.  I also know that he has all knowledge. (See Teachings About the Godhead home page)   Therefore, while he doesn't tell us everything, when he does speak, I do listen.

In conclusion, let me simply say I have seem a lot of attacks against Latter-day Saints for "letting their feelings overcome their common sense."   Some of these attacks come from scientists who are offended that we do not blindly accept their opinions.  Some of these attacks come from competing religions who are surprised that we accept Joseph Smith's story, especially concerning the origin of the Book of Mormon. As shown above, I will simply say that their "evidence" is not as conclusive as they would like people to believe.  

Furthermore, it is not our feelings that are at stake.  We believe that God lives and he sends out knowledge to the world through the Light of Christ and the Gift of the Holy Ghost.   This communication is just as real as email, telephone calls, written letters, television broadcasts, and a host of other communication devices.  A thousand years ago if you had told someone that he could take out a small device and speak to someone in another country, he would have been skeptical at best.   When you hear a Latter-day Saint say something like "How do you feel about this?" or "What does your heart tell you?", he is really trying to help a person recognize real spiritual manifestations, which are often subtle, and hard to identify for those unfamiliar with them.  To learn more about the process of personal revelation and how to obtain it for yourself, see the Prayer, Fasting, and Revelation home page

by Stephen R. Gibson

If a conviction of truth comes only through reading the Bible, one can't help but wonder why there are so many different Protestant and Catholic churches in the world today.

The Bible teaches that one cannot know that Jesus is the Lord without the Holy Ghost (1 Cor. 12:3), which works on the heart and guides us into all truth (John 16:13). For example, on the day of Pentecost, the three thousand who were led to Jesus, and who joined the Church and were baptized were not converted by reading the New Testament--it hadn't been written yet. They weren't converted by studying the writing of the ancient prophets either the Pharisees and Sadducees had been doing that for centuries, yet they didn't accept Christ.

The three thousand were converted because of a pouring out of the Spirit, which bore testimony to them. They were, as the Bible so aptly states, "pricked in their heart" (Acts 2:37). Once the conversion process begins, Paul tells us that God sends forth "the Spirit of his Son into your hearts" (Gal. 4:6). Does that mean if you do not feel of His Spirit in your heart that you aren't converted? The author believes it does.

Critics are mistaken if they think Latter-day Saints only put their trust in physical sensations in their chests. Perhaps we have focused too much on the earlier phrase of D & C 9:8 where the Lord tells Oliver Cowdery that his "bosom shall burn" within, and we sometimes miss the most important part of that sentence: "you shall feel that it is right."

We have been commanded to "trust in that Spirit which leadeth to do good--yea, to do justly, to walk humbly, to judge righteously; and this is my Spirit" (D & C 11:12). We know that the fruits of this same spirit are "love, joy, peace, long-suffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance" (Gal. 5:22, 23). It is this Spirit with his many "fruits" of good character that we strive and pray for, not just a "burning in the bosom."

Nevertheless, the Bible teaches that feelings of the Spirit are often experienced as a burning in the bosom. Two disciples who were on the road to Emmaus were visited by the resurrected Lord. They didn't recognize him with their eyes, nor because of their knowledge of the scriptures. They recognized him when "their eyes were opened" and they recalled: "Did not our heart burn within us, while he talked with us by the way, and while he opened to us the scriptures?" (Luke 24:32)

Alma teaches us that to be born again is a spiritual process that affects the heart and begins as we receive Christ. He asked members of the Church, "Have ye experienced this mighty change in your hearts?" (Alma 5:14). True conversion is an experience of the heart--it can't come solely from reading the Bible, since the Bible as we know it only came into being in the 4th century AD. Many early Christians died in the Roman Coliseum. Why were they willing to die? Because of a conviction of the heart. For centuries after the Bible canon was formed, Christians still did not have access to it. Many were actually forbidden to read it.

Detractors who are sometimes "past feeling" poke fun at the spiritual feelings of one's heart. They have even likened it to indigestion from too much pizza. Perhaps some have become so numb to feelings of the Spirit that they do not know what it is like to be "pricked in their heart." Instead they mock those who attempt to describe a spiritual event with common words.

Copyright by Horizon

(See Prayer, Fasting, and Revelation home page; Response to Criticism home page; Accusatory Questions home page)

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