What is a Proof?
I think we need to examine the meaning of the term "to prove". Let me illustrate this by going through a mathematic proof. If we look at a number raised to the power of 1 we can see that that will be equal to the original number. But what about the power of zero?
It is not intuitively obvious that: 0 a = 1
If n a = a x a x a x a . . . x a (n times) then m a = a x a x a x a . . . x a (m times) and n a (n-m) ---- = a m a Now if n=m n a (n-n) 0 ---- = a = a n a But we also know that n a ---- = 1 n a
since any number divided by itself always gives the number one.
0 a = 1
What have I proved? absolutely nothing. If you think carefully over what has happened you will realize that I have not proved anything to you at all, it is you who have made the proof. All that I did was demonstrate to you the steps necessary for the proof, but the actual proof only comes when you think each step through for yourself, convincing yourself that each step is valid, until you come to the end and realize that the final result is a true statement. If you were unable, or unwilling, to follow the steps of the demonstration through to the end, then you did not see the proof; all that you saw was a column of mysterious, meaningless symbols. It was a proof to you because you accepted the properties that were used and agreed in there usage.
So in the final analysis no one can ever prove anything to you, you always have to do the proving for yourself. This principle is at the very heart of some of these discussions in net.religion. This, I think, is what Christ meant when he said,
"If any man will do his will he shall know of the doctrine, whether it be of God, or whether I speak of myself" (John 7:17).
This is not the associative, or distributive properties of a mathematical proof, but it is the required steps of a religious proof. It is not enough to stand on the outside and debate the merits. We must participate to know the truth. This is like the difference between an observer in a virtual reality fight or a participant in a real boxing match. We can have interesting intellectual discussions, but to know the truth requires a commitment of time and energy. Book of Mormon proofs might be able to be studied, but the possibility of it being an accurate book of ancient scripture must be part of the evaluation. The proofs can never give that assurance, that can only come through a spiritual proof where you are willing to take the necessary steps of prayer and study.