Epistemology – The Mormon Testimony

I am sure the first question most reading this is, what is epistemology? Sounds like it could be a swear word in some countries.

Epistemology is how you come to believe the things that you believe. Or how do you know the things you know? It can be as simple as how do you know you love your family? You would know this maybe from the strong emotion you get when you see them or think about them, or how do you know you are married to your spouse? This could be again the emotional link but also as simple as the certificate you have which declares it to be so.

One of the big errors that can go on when it comes to religious discussion between any faiths, but I would say particularly between Born again Christians and Latter-day Saint members is the natural desire to discuss beliefs, but not how you come to this belief as there is a very significant difference in this between the two.

This is something the Mormon Missionaries will raise quite quickly when they ask you to

“Pray with all sincerity to see if the book of Mormon is true”.

This sounds very reasonable as what is wrong with praying, however this question goes very deep in showing how different we are in how we evaluate what is true.

Members of the Mormon church use as their main authority for the truthfulness of the Mormon church a personal internal witness, they refer to this as their testimony. This comes from Mormon church history stating that Joseph Smith was wondering which of the Christian churches were true, in reading the bible he came across James 1:5 which says:

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.

Joseph took this as to mean pray and ask which church is true, this led him to pray and thus came a vision of God saying all of the churches are wrong, dont join any of them, this paved the way for the restoration through the Latter-Day saint church.

This is also spelt out more clearly in the book of Mormon, Moroni 10:3-5 says this:

3 Behold, I would exhort you that when ye shall read these things, if it be wisdom in God that ye should read them, that ye would remember how merciful the Lord hath been unto the children of men, from the creation of Adam even down until the time that ye shall receive these things, and ponder it in your hearts.

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.

5 And by the power of the Holy Ghost ye may know the truth of all things.

Mormons today state that going on the direction of this verse they pray and ask if the Mormon church is true and most if not all members claim to have had a spiritual experience when doing this. For some it is a warm sensation in their heart known as “the burning in the bosom”, for some it is just a sense of being awakened to the truthfulness of the Mormon church but all claim this is the moment that they realized the church is true.

This is what LDS member Mark Alan says about it.

All of my ancestors for several generations back were Mormons, so I was raised a Mormon. But there came a time in my life (as there is in all peoples lives) when they start to question the things taught be their parents. I was a teenager and I enjoyed going to church, and doing all the activities that went along with that, but I wasn’t sure if everything I had been taught was true. Specifically, I wanted to know if the Book of Mormon really was from God, or if the book was made up by Joseph Smith. I knew it had to be one or the other. I decided I would read the book and pray about it. I had learned that the Book of Mormon has a promise in the last pages. In Moroni 10:3-5 I learned that if I read with real intent, and prayed about the book, I could learn the truth through the power of the Holy Ghost. I wasn’t quite sure what to expect. As I read the book, I started to feel a burning sensation in my heart. I felt peaceful and happy, and suddenly it all started to make sense. Later I realized that the Holy Ghost was testifying to my that what I was reading was true. (http://www.mormon.org/me/17HV-eng/MarkAlan)

So as we can see this is a very personal and very significant thing for Mormon church members, once a month they have a testimony meeting on a sunday morning where many will in turn and often emotionally bear their testimony, which is a declaration that they “know the church is true”.

What I want to look at is, is this thinking biblical, where does it come from, and what is the best Christian response?

Is the concept of the Mormon Testimony Biblical? And if not how should you respond when asked to pray about it?

To look at this I have to explore what is Christian Epistemology? Christians when they come to faith in Christ, giving themselves to Him in a prayer of faith are putting their trust in Him, this trust might have come from reading the bible, it might have come from hearing a preacher, hearing a life story, or it could even come from evidence for Christianity, and there are many many more things it could come from.

I was a 17 year old teenager living the same life as many other teenagers, hating college through the week, getting drunk at the weekend and just living a normal enough life for people around me(not that all teenagers do this). I had no interest or belief in God that I could speak of and was quite happy that way. For me personally I got invited along to an event called the Alpha course and I went just because it was something different with free food in a nice place. I expected to be told I waesn’t good enough and I would have to shape up to go to heaven.

In reality week by week I was presented with stories of lives changed by a living, active and loving God, week by week this got more of my interest but I still wasn’t ready to act on it. Then we looked at sin, of all the weeks I would have expected to feel bad on this one, but instead I was shown that as someone separate from God I was lost in my sin, and in my own strength by my own good works I was powerless to change that. Then the message of Christs sacrificial amazing grace filled love struck my heart more than ever before.  Then at that weekend, rather than getting drunk I was reading a booklet in my bedroom that talked about putting your faith in Christ, so I did it, I simply prayed a prayer of commitment. This didn’t lead to lightening bolts from the sky however I simply became aware of God and His love for me  and I saw the world from then on in a different way. My attitudes changed and church and the bible and prayer all became privileges rather than things I felt I should do, in a way that was my internal witness that God loved and accepted me.

It is important to note that the actual internal witness for me came after conversion, yes my heart was struck by the words that were said however it was the words of the gospel that I responded to, and not any emotion or feeling inside me. This ties in with the bible which does absolutely teach there there is an internal change or witness, however this occurs after we give ourselves to God.

Romans 8:16 The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God:

This happened to me, however as I said this feeling did not cause me to become a Christian it came after. Why is that important? Because we respond to the word of God not an internal feeling for true conversion.

Romans 10:17 So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.

The bible does not say you can “know” anything is true from an internal witness it says that you respond by faith towards Christ and He then steps towards you.

Going on to what the bible says about how to measure what is true, the bible says that God’s word is the measure of what is true.

In the book of Act’s we see a story of Paul preaching to the berean’s, when presented with a message that was clearly different to what they believed they did what Christians should do to measure what is true.

Acts 17:11 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.

They searched the Scriptures, and the bible here even calls them noble also, they did not pray about it to maybe see how they felt about it, they searched the scriptures to see of what they were hearing measured up to that.

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

Scripture is where you go as it is profitable for doctrine, reproof, correction and righteousness that is where you go, I have always said to Mormon Missionaries that if they can show me in the bible that what they believe is true then I will seriously consider my position. In the end time and time again when it has been clearly shown this is not the case then I get told “Well Bobby I know the church is true”. This is in the face of biblical as well as other evidences and is sadly not biblical, the bible never says pray to see what is true as the reality is these good feelings you feel are not necessarily of God.

As a side note James 1:5 is actually misquoted when used as a way to measure truth. Firstly it is wrote to Christians so therefore it is wrote to people who have already found faith anyway and I heavily doubt James was trying to move them on to other beliefs. Secondly wisdom is not truth, wisdom is asking God in your day to day live to help you live in a Godly way, it is not asking God in your day to day life what is true.

So when you have a Mormon Missionary in your living room asking you to pray about these things there are two reasons why you should not do it.

1. The bible clearly shows the measure of truth is the scripture you already have, so what Mormonism says should be measured against the bible. Missionaries have said to me in the past that what they believe is biblical. After a few challenges to this one missionary said to me “Well bobby your destroying my faith in the bible”. I wasn’t quite sure what to do with that.

2. This is in reality a psychological trap. This may sound a bit harsh but lets take away all this bible talk for a minute, think about this. A Mormon missionary says to you “pray with all sincerity this is true”. What happens if you pray that the book of Mormon is true and actually feel nothing, that must mean its not true right? Or depending how post modern you are it might mean its not true for you. So you may do this and think that’s a relief don’t need to change my faith, its not true anyway. So you go back to the Mormon missionaries and say sorry guys I felt nothing so I guess this isn’t for me.

Hey wait a second they will say, you just haven’t prayed with enough sincerity you need to pray again! And thats where the circular reasoning comes in as what they are saying is this is true! You just need to keep praying until you feel it is! And sometimes people will meet up with the Missionaries for weeks or months, they will like them, like their church and want to be part of a community like that, however they will be told you have to have your own testimony, so they will pray week after week waiting for that feeling, and the reality is, they will get a feeling. Or imagine someone brought up in a Mormon family, maybe a male expected to go on a mission and their whole culture is surrounded by Mormonism, maybe a male expected to go on a mission, however it is expected they have to have a testimony as that is the basis they are expected to have, I can’t imagine after 18 years of Mormonism they are not going to get a feeling its true.

Proverbs 8:26 says: He that trusteth in his own heart is a fool: but whoso walketh wisely, he shall be delivered.

Many may understandably quote Luke 24:32 this says: 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?

This verse underlines the danger of my post, which is simply saying that emotions and feelings are never useful, they are! However they have to be alined with scripture, it cannot work the other way around.

You cannot trust your feelings to determine what is true, there has to be something external. The sad reality is that many LDS scholars have admitted that the book of Mormon has no external archaeological evidence, and the gospel the Mormon church teaches is contrary to the bible this sadly means its members are left alone with an internal feeling and sadly not the gift of righteousness by faith alone in Christ.

So as a born again Christian meeting up with Mormon Missionaries please do not agree to pray about the book of Mormon but rather ask them to show you if what they are saying is biblical and see if the Jesus and salvation that they are talking about even remotely resembles the one you know.

Where does the concept of Mormon Testimony come from?

Many LDS may or may not know this but Joseph Smith’s religious background is Methodist, history records that Smith applied for membership in the Methodist church in 1828, interestingly 8 years after the revelation that all other churches were false. (http://utlm.org/newsletters/no95.htm#Smith%20and%20the%20Methodists)

However why this is relevant is that the founder of the Methodist church John Wesley said this in his journal about his conversion:

‘In the evening I went very unwillingly to a society in Aldersgate Street, where one was reading Luther’s preface to the Epistle to the Romans. About a quarter before nine, while he was describing the change which God works in the heart through faith in Christ, I felt my heart strangely warmed. I felt I did trust in Christ, Christ alone, for salvation: and an assurance was given me, that He had taken away my sins, even mine, and saved me from the law of sin and death.’ (http://www.e-n.org.uk/p-2194-%27Strangely-warmed%27.htm)

This is now a very key part of Methodist thinking, on the official methodist website under the heading of assurance of salvation Wesley is quoted here as this being his assurance. (http://www.methodist.org.uk/index.cfm?fuseaction=opentogod.content&cmid=1496)

Interestingly both the Methodist and the Mormon witness have both had the title “Burning in the bosom” used to describe them. In the very least it is an interesting comparison and could account for where Joseph Smith got this thinking from.

So thank you for reading please leave a comment with any of your thoughts or comments.


36 thoughts on “Epistemology – The Mormon Testimony”

  1. You seem not to have considered a key biblical account, that of Cleopas and co. on the road to Emaus.
    An incognito Christ used writings of the Old Testament to prove the necessity of his crucifixion to Cleopas and friend who not only did not believe it, but were in a state of despair. They felt their bosoms on fire as Christ expounded the scriptures. Are you saying that the truth of what he was saying had nothing whatsoever to do with this?
    Are you saying that Joseph Smith’s actions in the grove do not match with your pathetically narrow and arbitrary definition of wisdom?
    As to your Proverbs prooftext, did you realise that in the ancient world the heart was the seat of thought? You are damning your own approach, really.
    And to top it all off, you are instructing people NOT to turn to God, but to trust in themselves and other men. Try leaning on a shattered reed, then you might appreciate Isaiah’s apt metaphor.
    On closing, by ‘unbiblical’ you seem to imply ‘un-born-again-interpretations-of-the-Bible’.

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  2. Jesus on the road to Emaus. Luke 24:32 tells us that the hearts of the two disciples were burning while Jesus talked to them and while be opened the scriptures to them. Notice that it was the Second Person of the Trinity who was dealing with them primarily, and not the Third Person (namely the Holy Ghost). Also note that it was an experience that was in conjunction with the scriptures, that is, with the exposition of the scriptures, and not something apart from them.

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  3. The ‘burning in the bosom’ is a very powerful experience. It is your own personal miracle. How can you deny it? If you find the Bible disagrees or other people tell you it is wrong, why should you listen to them?

    In my case it took 18 years before I was finally able to consider what the Bible had to say. Our feelings are so fickle. If I wake up one morning feeling very low, no ‘burning in the bosom’, no trust in God, does that mean I’m not saved? The answer is ‘no’ because my salvation is guaranteed in writing, in the Bible, and does not depend on how I am feeling.

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  4. Hi Allen sure I will address that, I have added a tiny but about it in the post but that’s since our discussions.

    The verse you talk about is this I believe.

    Luke 24:32 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?

    That is very common when people hear the gospel message their hearts can burn with excitement. However the problem is that I am sure when Muslims hear their message their hearts burn with excitement, when a thief steals something that soe some will be exciting, going out to pubs and drinking taking drugs etc will all bring with it varied feelings of excitement or a burning within, not always but this will happen.

    So my point is where feelings of burning within are a great thing however they cannot be the judge of what is true they should be judged by what is true. I know that if I am in a situation where my feelings say do something and I know its wrong because of the bible I know not to do it. If we go on our feelings alone to determine what is true then we have a problem.

    Going back to the verse you quoted again its a great thing that their hearts were burning but NOWHERE in the bible does it say this is the way of knowing what is true. please show me otherwise if I am wrong.

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    1. I think I maybe see it a different way to what you do, the bible shows the we hear the gospel message and respond with faith to Gods word. Not that we get a nice feeling and realize it must be true on the basis of that feeling.

      Romans 10:17 So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.

      Faith is a step someone takes after hearing the gospel, absolutely a strong feeling may come with that for some but by no means for all, the important thing is hearing truth and responding by faith to Gods word which is living and active.

      Hebrews 4:12 For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any twoedged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.

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  5. “I think I maybe see it a different way to what you do, the bible shows the we hear the gospel message and respond with faith to Gods word. Not that we get a nice feeling and realize it must be true on the basis of that feeling.”

    Was what Cleopas felt a “nice feeling”, or are only Mormons fair game for belittlement? You are dancing around that biblical account. You don’t have to accept LDS beliefs, but you certainly have little grounds for declaring this one unbiblical.
    Your verses cited are irrellevant to the issue at hand, nor do they talk about the Bible as such. You see, whatever one takes the word of God for (and from a linguistic context at the time it meant a commandment, not the words of a book), none of this precludes recieving an answer from God, or the burning in the bosom.

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    1. The issue is authority, is the authority Gods word, for us its the bible back then it was spoken as they had Jesus there.
      Is the authority Gods word or your own inner feelings, which is subject to which? If you can honestly say your feelings come second to Gods word then fair enough, however if its the other way around then their is nothing more dangerous. Yes the bible talks about peoples hearts burning etc but it never claims that’s the authority for what is true.

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  6. “The issue is authority, is the authority Gods word”

    Or is it God?
    Are you saying that God can’t communicate directly with man? It has to be through the Bible?

    “for us its the bible”

    Who decided that and what was their authority?

    ” back then it was spoken as they had Jesus there.”

    And before he was on the earth and after he was on the earth. In fact, the vast majority of the Bible falls into those two periods. That seriously hurts your premise of the Bible being God’s word (rather than containing a partial record of it), and of it being the ultimate authority.

    “Is the authority Gods word or your own inner feelings, which is subject to which? If you can honestly say your feelings come second to Gods word then fair enough, however if its the other way around then their is nothing more dangerous.”

    In attempting to belittle Mormon testimonies as nothing more than foolish emotionalism, you have asked the wrong question. The question should be where do the emotions come from, what caused them. This brings us back to Emaus. See below.

    “Yes the bible talks about peoples hearts burning etc but it never claims that’s the authority for what is true.”

    Yet Luke 24:32 clearly states that the way the two knew that what Christ was teaching was true is due to their bosoms burning within them.

    All in all you have failed to state why your attitude of mental decision making is less fallible than the LDS witness from God.

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    1. Luke 24:32 certainly does not clearly say what you are saying it does, you are looking at the bible through Mormon eyes and ultimately seeing Mormon concepts.

      What I am probably not making clear enough is that I absolutely do believe God supernaturally speaks to people, stirs peoples hearts in a way that certainly stirs emotions and He generally deals with people how he likes. However the measure for truth can not be found in these things as you might find yourself led in the wrong direction in which case its not God, its your own emotions or worse, without a basis for authority you could be led anywhere, this is the bible. Or to be fair it could be any authoratative document. My point being recently with some missionaries we were talking about some of Joseph Smiths statements about black people, regardless of what those statements are he said “well I have prayed about it and I feel that Joseph Smith was not a racist”. Basically saying in light of any evidence I just know!!!!

      This I see as problematic, however the concept of God speaking to people, I certainly do not.

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  7. “Luke 24:32 certainly does not clearly say what you are saying it does, you are looking at the bible through Mormon eyes and ultimately seeing Mormon concepts.”

    I am perfectly capable of reading a New (or Old) Testament verse other than homiletically. I’m a native-born Israeli, have lived there all my life, a passion of mine is history, particularly late antiquity, and am fairly well-read. You really ought to substantiate your point. Please show how, according to the scripture, Cleopas and friend knew that what Christ taught them was true. Gainsaying is child’s play. I think you are capable of more than that.

    “However the measure for truth can not be found in these things as you might find yourself led in the wrong direction in which case its not God, its your own emotions or worse, without a basis for authority you could be led anywhere, this is the bible. ”

    It is incredibly easy to interpret the scriptures however you like, especially if you live in a time and place far removed from them. Are you arguing that one can’t be led astray by one’s own mental progress, but only by emotions?

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  8. Ok Luke 24:30-35

    30And it came to pass, as he sat at meat with them, he took bread, and blessed it, and brake, and gave to them.
    31And their eyes were opened, and they knew him; and he vanished out of their sight.
    32And 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?
    33And they rose up the same hour, and returned to Jerusalem, and found the eleven gathered together, and them that were with them,
    34Saying, The Lord is risen indeed, and hath appeared to Simon.
    35And they told what things were done in the way, and how he was known of them in breaking of bread.

    It says their eyes were opened to the fact that they were sat eating with Him, yes their hearts burned but I would imagine the fact that they actually saw Him and then He disappeared would play a large part in it too.

    Your point that some can be led astray by scripture too is fair enough however many people say the bible is open to interpretation etc however if you read it for what it says without anything else to influence it I find on the key points you will mostly come to agreement.

    For example the Jehovahs’s Witness church (which I know is not you at all) has openly said that if you read the bible without their documents you will find yourself believing the same heretical things that Christendom does.

    As well relating it to yourself you will find reading the bible that God is the only God and always has been God, you really could come to any other conclusion, however reading the bible in light of LDS scriptures and teaching would very easily lead you to other conclusions.

    And the fact remains that the bible itself teaches of God’s word being the measure for what is true, again as I past quoted the noble bereans searching the scriptures to see if what Paul says is so. (Acts 17:11)

    But going back to Luke 24 in context I would have to say that the fact they saw Him and heard what He had to say would for me be the main factor that led to believing. However I would say that the discussion they had after he left would probably be the same thing I would say if I felt it.

    Imagine I am with you, we see Jesus hear words He has to say however at this stage we do not know who He is however we do get a strong feeling inside us while He speaks, at this stage I would be thinking wow what does this mean. Then going by what it says my eyes are opened to who it actually is that I am speaking to and then He vanishes. I think what they are saying is “wow now I know who that was, that explains why my heart was burning as He spoke”.

    I would believe because my eyes were opened to what He said and the truth of it, that is not a feeling that is a softening of the heart internally by God causing me to believe what was said, this does not even have to be a feeling. However the feeling would be something to back it up but not base it on.

    Which is where I totally agree with you, strong inner feelings of joy, excitement, love are things I have felt many times at my closest to God and I personally love that feeling and I can feel safe when I feel it knowing that it is biblical. However internal feelings that I could be deceived into feeling for wrong things I know of biblical truth are not good and I ignore them (as best I can).

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  9. Hello, Bobby et al.

    Sorry I haven’t made any posts for the last few weeks; my chronic illnesses have been flaring up and causing me great difficulty in thinking on important topics like this. I don’t really need/want sympathy, but I do hope you understand (which is far better, in my opinion, anyway).

    I see a couple of problems that need addressing, with regard to this discussion, but I perceive that one of them must be addressed before any others will be at all resolvable:

    If this is to really be a discussion about “investigating” Mormonism, then let it be as much; adversarial speech, such as “I’m born-again, and you’re Mormon”–or vice versa–will simply not do as a way qualifying, proving, or disproving any argument or comment. In fact, if we are to see things as they really are (that is, apart from any biases we may hold), we must be willing to step outside of ourselves–outside of our preconceived notions–and be willing to consider that something that we have not previously believed may, in fact, be true. For simplicity, I will refer to this as an “agnostic viewpoint,” although it bears noting that in this sense, I am not using the term, “agnostic” to mean “without religion.” Rather, it means something along the lines of, “viewing all religious possibilities equally.” Therefore, let us not be adversarial in our opinions, but rather discuss the merits and flaws of each of them (even our own opinions!) with EQUAL WEIGHT. That means an end (inasmuch as it’s possible) to all forms of slanted (biased) writing. Please see the following topics on the pages provided:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_cognitive_biases
    -Bias Blind Spot
    -Choice-supportive bias
    -Confirmation bias
    -Congruence bias
    -Contrast effect (The part having to do with assuming one’s conclusions about previous observations are already proven correct, when they should, in fact, be brought into question.)
    -Distinction bias (As in finding two very similar ideas to be very different because a person disagrees with only a PART of one of them.)
    -Experimenter’s or Expectation bias
    -Focusing effect (As in “anchoring” on one scripture, or even one part of a scripture and conforming the meanings of all others to suit it.)
    -Framing effect
    -Impact bias (such as in the person who at one point feels the Holy Ghost, or feels saved, and assumes that he will continue to feel that way indefinitely.)
    -Information bias (Admitting to a previously disbelieved fact can make a person feel the need to act, and rightly so; thus a person chooses not to believe something that will cause him to change his behavior.)
    -Irrational escalation (Such as assuming that one’s previous course of action or inaction is correct or righteous; therefore any action that stems from the previous course must be correct or righteous as well, when in fact, the previous course of action was never correct; nevertheless the person uses “Choice-supportive bias” to avoid re-evaluating the merits and flaws of the original decision. This is fallacious thinking.)
    -Loss aversion (The tendency of a person to feel more loss at giving up an inferior thing, than gain in procuring a better thing instead; this “trade” is at the heart of the concept of “sacrifice.”)
    -Moral credential effect (“I was right before, therefore I will be right again.”)
    -Outcome bias (Some have cited this as a cause of some antisemitism arising from the Jews’ decision to crucify Christ, but failure of such antisemites to take into account (and bring into context) the knowledge and teachings that were prevalent and/or readily available at that time.)
    -Post-purchase rationalization (This is especially relevant to the topics being discussed here where one has made donations in favor of a religious belief or denomination.)
    -Restraint bias
    -Selective perception (Stemming from the assumption that one’s preconceived notions are already correct, with is typically unlikely due to the imperfections of our own thoughts and perceptions.)
    -Semmelweis reflex (Jesus Christ, Martin Luther, the early Apostles, and Joseph Smith all experienced much backlash from people succumbing to this bias.)
    -Status quo bias (Similar to the above.)
    -Wishful thinking (“I like the idea that everybody will go to heaven;” or more commonly, “I like the idea that I will go to heaven.”)
    -Zero-risk bias (“Do I want to risk believing in something else/additional? If I stick to what I know, the risk of straying from it is at or near 0%, but if I choose to believe something new, I run the risk of that thing being wrong.” This does not take into account that the risk of ignorance or stubborn adherence to a given belief can be more risky in terms of eternal salvation than can taking on a new, possibly true idea, that might prove valuable and important, but which might also be false.)
    -Anchoring effect
    -Authority bias (Given the many ways that a person can interpret any given passage of scripture, it is all too common to assume that a priest, pastor, preacher, church authority, etc. is an “authority” on the matter, simply because we agree with his interpretation, or because we heard his interpretation first. Similar to “Poisoning the well” and “Appeal to authority.”[see link below for logical fallacies])
    -Availability heuristic
    -Belief bias (This bias discounts the possibility that a conclusion may be correct, but its premises may be incorrect; thus a person who succumbs to this bias might believe another conclusion based on these false premises.)
    -Hindsight bias
    -Illusory correlation
    -Observer-expectancy effect
    -Optimism bias (Good indicators and actions do not always lead to good results. See also, “Wishful thinking.”)
    -Ostrich effect (IF, for example, the entire Church of Christ did fall away into apostasy, that would be quite unpleasant to thing about or believe; therefore it isn’t true.)
    -Overconfidence effect (As in a “testimony” or feeling of “being saved” that is not sufficiently supported by facts.)
    -Pareidolia (“It must be a sign.”)
    -Primacy effect (“The Old Testament is more relevant because it came first.”)
    -Recency effect (“The New Testament is more relevant because it came last.”)
    -Disregard of regression toward the mean (“People are/were so very righteous/unrighteous once, and they will always be that way.” Also, research the concept of the “swinging pendulum” of human behavior. This may also be called by different names.)
    -Stereotyping (“All Mormons/born-again Christians are ____________.”)
    -Subjective validation
    -Dunning–Kruger effect
    -Forer effect
    -False consensus effect
    -Fundamental attribution error (“He just believes that because that’s his personality.”)
    -Halo effect
    -Herd instinct
    -Illusion of asymmetric insight
    -Illusion of transparency
    -Illusory superiority (For example, according to some surveys done, most people think they are “above average” drivers.)
    -Ingroup bias
    -Just-world phenomenon
    -Outgroup homogeneity bias
    -Projection bias (“I/he/she will always be this way.”)
    -Self-serving bias
    -System justification (“Our current leaders CAN’T be corrupt!”)
    -Trait ascription bias

    Logical fallacies: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_fallacies

    As you can see, there are a great many of these, and here I have ONLY listed biases (and fallacies) that I have actually seen used (even quite prominently) in conversations of religious significance within the scope of my observation. I have already seen a good many of the ones listed above come up in this very thread. I have tried to provide a brief, summarizing description of the more obscure-sounding ones, and I hope that my descriptions have remained agnostic and not offended anyone. Furthermore, I have found that it is certainly quite pointless to have such discussions unless everybody involved can agree on certain “rules” to follow. When this is not observed, people tend to get quite hurt and offended (as is happening here), and also tend to offend other people. Additionally, to cap it all off, in such a heated/contentious discussion, it is highly unlikely that ANYBODY will properly understand the positions of anybody else.

    Therefore, I propose that a set of “ground rules for discussions on this forum” be adopted. If it were my own forum/blog, I would be quite adamant about this, and be even vigilant in deleting (or appropriately editing) any and all posts that are presented in a fallacious and inflammatory manner. (The actual content of such posts is not terribly relevant when they serve the function of mere “trolls.”) Bobby, since this is your forum/blog, I must defer to your judgment on this. If you decide to work out some ground rules with the participants hereof, then I would be most happy to facilitate that discussion however I can (if you want me to do so). Unfortunately (or perhaps for the preservation of my own mental health), I cannot abide reading or participating in an ineffectual discussion wherein a significant portion of the comments made are both/either inflammatorily presented or full of flaws in reasoning and logic (such as the biases mentioned). It has been my observation that as soon as a person gets emotionally involved in any given topic, rational thought and expression is all but instantly and entirely “thrown out the window.” Hence, there is no further point to such a discussion.

    Bobby and others, will you join with me to make this a more productive and agnostic discussion? Will you work together (with or without me) to form some appropriate “ground rules?” I will forbear from posting further until this can be adequately addressed (which will be at Bobby’s discretion).

    Thanks for reading.

    –Dane

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    1. Hi Dane good to have you back, I am sorry about any of your posts.getting lost in the switch from blogspot to word press it won’t happen again.

      With regards to moderation that day will probably come as this blog gets more comments and I hope it does. For now I am happy with people coming here with strong views, whether that’s strong mormon disagreeing with me or a strong born again Christian agreeing, though I appreciate nothing is black and white and many have different views, on blogspot I had a strong atheist which was not a problem.

      The only time I have deleted posts and I think its only once was when someone was clearly not after a discussion and was just here to put down, however to be fair they still raised a fair point and I edited my post because of it. (I acknowldge not all teens in the uk get drunk if you are reading this) otherwise I don’t mine if people speak harshly or even are unhappy with what I say as long as they are happy to discuss.

      Regarding the title mormonism investigated I appreciate I am writing that with an already strong opinion, however I am open to any discussion and am mostly meaning that born agains can come here to see a strong born again position on mormonism and mormons will always be welcomed if not encouraged to come here and have dialogue and on most issues (barring Christ and salvation and other key christian doctrines) certainly I am open to be shown with error. Anything I say should be checked out.

      Hope that helps, and welcome back 🙂

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      1. I may have been unclear or misunderstood with regard to the points I was trying to make.

        It is perfectly fine for anybody of any faith to have and speak free of their viewpoints. I certainly don’t object to being disagreed-with on what to believe; rather, I welcome a rational discussion of such things.

        The problem, as I see it, is that people all-too-often present their ideas in a very inflammatory, illogical, contentious, or otherwise unreasonable ways. You see, the content–the message–is not what I have a problem with; neither do I have issue with it being posted here, or on another discussion that I’m a part of–but rather with how it’s presented. I do not suggest, in any way, that you delete posts based on the content, or message thereof. I suggest, instead, that you lay down some ground rules–by consensus, if possible–so that people won’t be hurt or hurt others unnecessarily. Many very good discussions have devolved into flame wars because people simply didn’t put things nicely or think sufficiently before posting. I’m suggesting that you take some steps so that others who post here will be aware that, while they are free to express any opinions they want, they may NOT do it in a nasty way.

        Thank-you for clarifying the title for me. It’s perfectly OK to have a strong viewpoint on this, as well as other matters. I think it would have found it a bit dishonest to imply agnosticism, but not write accordingly. I think of it as being similar to the people who invite Mormon missionaries over to their homes for the express (although clandestine) purpose of wasting their time so that they can’t share their message with others who might be interested in it. I have actually known several pastors to incite their congregations to do this on a fairly grand scale (in Albuquerque, New Mexico, USA, roughly around the year 2000, for instance). I certainly don’t mind a lively discussion involving conflicting viewpoints, so long as it is not conducted under false pretenses. (I don’t think you were trying to do this; I’m just glad you clarified the title and your position.)

        Anyway, the main purpose of my writing was to advocate, as strongly as possible, a civilized, reasonable, open-minded discussion wherein people are not likely to attack each other (verbally), or in turn feel attacked. I personally feel quite out-of-place in such discussions, and tend to take my leave from them out of exasperation. If we really want to discuss the merits and flaws of various viewpoints, then I don’t see why we can’t or shouldn’t do so in a logical, reasonable, and civilized fashion. The reason I suggested some form of enforcement of this is because there will always be people who want to abuse this forum, as they do with so many others.

        I hope I have made myself more clear. Perhaps we can discuss (if you want to) ways of furthering such a good form of debate.

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      2. I think you make quite a good point, I will have a think about this and look at how some other blogs do it. I am going away next week (more on that soon) so there won’t be any rush but I will have a think.

        Out of interest do you run a blog or know of any blogs where this is handled well?

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      3. Thanks for your consideration, Bobby, and I hope your trip goes well.

        I don’t really know how this is handled on most blogs; I’m generally more inclined toward reading forums (most of them being of a technical nature). It seems that all the forums handle the issue somewhat differently, but the common thread of the ones that “work” is that they try very hard to accept and encourage on-topic posts of reasonable comments (agreeing or not), while enforcing some kind of removal/editing policy on those comments that are off-topic and/or obnoxious. The forum I have the most experience with is http://www.linuxquestions.org, but it’s quite different in nature to this blog (topics, including technical information), so I don’t know how well it would apply. Might be good to look at anyway, though, as it is quite well-run and has been around for about 10 years (or more). I’ve considered running a blog of my own, but it would seem that my illnesses prevent “due diligence” in maintaining online posts and such, so I don’t think it’s a wise thing for me to do right now.

        Have a good trip. (See you in the “fall…” hehe.)

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  10. “Your point that some can be led astray by scripture too is fair enough however many people say the bible is open to interpretation etc however if you read it for what it says without anything else to influence it I find on the key points you will mostly come to agreement.
    For example the Jehovahs’s Witness church (which I know is not you at all) has openly said that if you read the bible without their documents you will find yourself believing the same heretical things that Christendom does.
    As well relating it to yourself you will find reading the bible that God is the only God and always has been God, you really could come to any other conclusion, however reading the bible in light of LDS scriptures and teaching would very easily lead you to other conclusions.”

    Let us not pretend that you read scriptures in a vacuum. You were influenced by western, Protestant interpretation and read the scriptures in that light. Yes, I have been influenced by LDS interpretations, but I also grew up with Jewish, Catholic and Orthodox interpretations. I study a great deal of primary and secondary literature, so, as I said, I try to read it as it would read to someone back then.
    Honestly, when read as someone in the biblical era would have read them, propositions such as ‘God is the only God’ don’t have much of a leg to stand on.

    “And the fact remains that the bible itself teaches of God’s word being the measure for what is true, again as I past quoted the noble bereans searching the scriptures to see if what Paul says is so. (Acts 17:11)”

    And on a certain discussion board you conceded RBoylan’s point that “As for Acts 17:11, it proves too much; after all, those at Berean accepted a then-unenscripturated revelation from Paul and placed such an oral teaching about the identity of the OT Messiah en par with enscripturated revelation (for a fuller exposition, see Sungenis’s essay, “Does the Bible teach Sola Scriptura?” in the 1997 book, Not By Scripture Alone [Queenship]).” What we see with the Emausian disciples is not at all dissimilar. Both groups interpreted written scripture in light of an oral teaching, not the other way round. Scripture here (and elsewhere) is shown as subordinate.

    “But going back to Luke 24 in context I would have to say that the fact they saw Him and heard what He had to say would for me be the main factor that led to believing. However I would say that the discussion they had after he left would probably be the same thing I would say if I felt it.”

    All well and good, but the text does not put it that way. When they heard what Christ said he was still incognito, yet their hearts burned within them before recognition of Christ.

    “However internal feelings that I could be deceived into feeling for wrong things I know of biblical truth are not good and I ignore them (as best I can).”

    In light of 2 Peter 3:16, your solution seems just as uncertain as trusting feelings.

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    1. I think at the risk of going in circles we may have to accept we are both bringing things to the table here. However as someone who has been a Christian for 10 years not brought up in a religious background and not bringing anything to the bible but the bible to interpret it (though I accept that wont be 100% the case I think its clear your focus on the feelings part of this verse bearing in mind they physically saw and heard Jesus which I would imagine most would take to be what changed them has to be your LDS preconceptions. However to be fair you are also the first LDS to ever use this verse with me in this way too.

      2 Peter 3:16 As also in all his epistles, speaking in them of these things; in which are some things hard to be understood, which they that are unlearned and unstable wrest, as they do also the other scriptures, unto their own destruction.

      They that are unlearned and unstable use them to their own distruction, ouch are you saying that’s me 🙂

      And I could well agree those that are seperate from God will use the scriptures in this way, however if you are born again in Christ then the Spirit will teach you the things of God.

      John 14:26 But the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you.

      I do accept in this case Jesus is talking to the people with Him, however I take it to mean this applies to Christians today being taught by the Spirit to properly interpret the bible, either way whether you accept that or not I would say if someone is born again and in Christ, alive to the things of God they will not be like the unlearned finding that the scriptures bring them to their own destruction.

      I am not sure if you were saying it does or if you did not see that this is reffering to the unlearned however if you are really saying that using the bible is as dangerous as using your own feelings to decide what to believe then you have a long way to go if you want to show the bible teaches that.

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  11. Furthermore, the Emausians accepted an interpretation of scripture which contradicted their former understanding. That shows that scripture is not portrayed here as the authority. Scripture is interpreted in light of truth, not truth in light of scripture.

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  12. “However as someone who has been a Christian for 10 years not brought up in a religious background and not bringing anything to the bible but the bible to interpret it”

    So you came across the Bible (without any protestant introductions or notes) entirely on your own, read it entirely on your own, did not discuss it with other protestants, never atttended a protestant church, etc.?

    ” They that are unlearned and unstable use them to their own distruction, ouch are you saying that’s me”

    Its not as if you haven’t condemned Mormons. Unlearned and unstable are insults. Would they have seen themselves as unlearned and unstable?

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  13. Interesting discussion – the bible is our source of truth – Jesus is our source of authority – Bobby am assuming you were once LDS?

    Did you ever have a testimony of the Mormon Church or any spiritual experiences as a Mormon?

    If so what have you done with your spiritual experiences as a Mormon of knowing God – Knowing Jesus – being led by the Spirit – of answered prayer – of inner witness?

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  14. Hey Mark, no I never was.

    However if I had I would have had to realise that my feelings no matter how strong they were, were not a reliable way to measure what is true. I have spoken to FLDS people before, certain of the truthfulness of their church due to this same “testimony”.

    People are capable of experiencing many emotions and feelings to confirm their desire to do something, far from just in religious circles. Its a tough thing to realise particularly from a Mormon background.

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  15. Thanks Bobby for response – it confirms my view that almost without exception those writing haven’t had any spiritual experiences in the Mormon church. Just read Mike Thomas’s interesting story and again his conversion out implied he didn’t know God as a Mormon.

    Reading Lynn Wilder’s story gives the same impression.

    What is often lacking in these ex-Mormon/anti-Mormon sites are people who have once had a testimony and spiritual experiences as a Mormon.

    If we are lovers of truth then we need to recognise this otherwise it becomes a rational critical analysis of Mormonism without understanding a key foundation in their theology and thinking ie the constant companionship of the Holy Spirit.

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  16. Thanks for that Mark, there are so many areas to cover but you are right thats a key area, hence this post.

    Are you able to make any of the Lynn Wilder sessions? I say that assuming your in the UK

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