Weak Arguments #8: “I testify that Mormonism is false and Joseph Smith was a false prophet.”

Two Mormon Missionaries pray in their shared room. Mormon missionaries are instructed to "never be alone" and to always be within sight or earshot of each other, according to the Mormon Missionary Handbook. (Robinson Kuntz/Daily Republic)
Two Mormon Missionaries pray over Latter-day Saint scripture in their shared room.

An ongoing series of articles on some common and recurring weak arguments that Christians make against Mormonism.

by Clinton Wilcox
The Argument: “I testify that Mormonism is false and Joseph Smith was a false prophet.”

Why It’s Weak:
In short, it’s a weak argument because it is subjective and inconclusive. It doesn’t give any actual reasons for why Mormonism is false and orthodox Christianity is true. It’s a bad argument against Mormonism because it’s a bad argument, period – which makes it a bad argument even when the Mormon uses it.

1) Testimonies are subjective
The Mormon testimony usually goes something like this: “I know that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints is the true church. I know that it is Christ’s church…that Joseph Smith was a prophet of God and that he saw our Heavenly Father and our Savior Jesus Christ…”[1]

Testimonies are not inherently bad things. Testimonies are used in a court of law as evidence. But testimonies are given regarding a certain event that somebody witnessed. You can’t rely on your own subjective experiences to convince somebody else of the truth of your beliefs. The major problem is that in the Mormon’s testimony, they don’t give us any reason to believe Mormonism is true. A subjective experience may give you a reason to believe but it doesn’t give anyone else a reason to accept your beliefs as true. Arguing that it is the correct church doesn’t help. I need to know why it is the correct church.

2) This testimony is inconclusive
A related point, that this testimony doesn’t give us any reason to believe in the truth value of Mormonism. Eyewitness testimony was important for the Disciples because they actually witnessed Christ’s resurrection. A Mormon testifying to you that Joseph Smith is a true prophet, or you testifying to the Mormon that he was a false prophet, is not very compelling since neither one of you were there, nor did either of you know Joseph Smith, personally. This means that your testimony regarding Joseph Smith is inadmissible. We have reasons to believe that Joseph Smith was a false prophet, but a testimony regarding Joseph Smith is not one of them.

A young Mormon woman bearing her testimony
A young Mormon woman bearing her testimony

3) Giving the testimony as an argument rests on a bad interpretation of Scipture
Mormons often rely on Moroni 10 as a grounding for giving their testimony. Moroni 10:4, specifically, reads: “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.” This is, of course, a passage that an orthodox Christian wouldn’t accept. So they also use as justification (James 1:5), which reads: “But if any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all generously and without reproach, and it will be given to him.” (NASB)

But this is a bad interpretation of James 1:5. If we take the verse in the greater context of the surrounding passage, we’ll see that James was writing to the 12 tribes of Israel, so he was writing to Jewish believers (probably before 50 AD) in the context of encountering various trials. As Matt Slick wrote, “The context is about gaining wisdom through difficult trials and the testing of one’s faith – not about praying to see if a book is true.”[2]

4) The testimony can be turned right back around
Finally, this testimony can be turned right back around on the Mormon (or on you). You can just reply with, “I know that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints is a false church. I know that Joseph Smith was a false prophet,” etc. Then you’re left with the dilemma of whose testimony is correct, or even which is the more powerful testimony? This can be rhetorically effective, but it offers no grounding for the claim that your respective beliefs are true.

The Stronger Arguments:
There are certain testimonial arguments that can raise the truth claims of Christianity. For example, the Disciples’ eyewitness testimony to the risen Christ, or a modern person’s witnessing of a legitimate miracle. Instead, we should be focusing on the reasons for our faith, not the fact that we have it.

I only have one “stronger argument,” because really, all of the stronger arguments against Mormonism are contained under the umbrella of this point:

Give reasons, not testimony.

We do not have to pray to test truth claims. We have the Scriptures given to us so that if we come across a particular idea, we can test it against Scripture to see if it holds up (1 Thessalonians 5:21). All over Scripture we are told to use our faculties of reason. If Mormonism is false, it stands or falls on its teachings, not on whether or not I believe it to be true. And more generally, Christianity, itself, is a religion that is based on evidence, not “blind faith,” as atheists tend to allege. We are told to “love the Lord your God with…all your mind” (Matthew 22:37, NASB). God told the Israelites “Come, let us reason together” (Isaiah 1:18, ESV, emphasis mine). And as C.S. Lewis, in his book Mere Christianity, has observed, “God is no fonder of intellectual slackers than he is of any other slackers.”[3] The Christian life is one marked by reason and reflection. It is not based on feelings or emotion, which are not accurate guides for determining truth. We read in Scripture that “the heart is more deceitful than all else and is desperately sick. Who can understand it?” (Jeremiah 17:9, NASB).

If you believe the Mormon church to be false, you need to point out which doctrines are false and explain why they are false. If you believe Joseph Smith to be a false prophet, point out reasons why you believe so. Show some prophecies which have failed to take place (the Bible in Deuteronomy 18:22 says that if even one prediction fails, that person is not a prophet of the Lord). The bottom line is, if you want to be able to convince a Mormon of the truth of orthodox Christianity, you need to give arguments for it.

Summary and Conclusion
All things taken into consideration, we are never exhorted in Scripture to “ask God” whether or not a various belief is true. God has given us minds to reason. If we encounter any view or belief, we don’t have to ask God whether or not it is true. We can compare it to Scripture to test whether or not it is true. Whether coming from the lips of a Mormon missionary or an orthodox Christian, this argument just doesn’t do the work of supporting any truth claim that we make.

quote-if-we-did-not-have-rational-souls-we-would-not-be-able-to-believe-saint-augustine-8606

NOTES
[1]  I have personally heard this testimony when I spent a few months in conversations with two Mormon missionaries. I found a transcript of the archetypical Mormon testimony at the Mormon411 website in the article entitled, “An Actual Mormon Testimony”.

[2] The information in this paragraph is paraphrased (and quoted) from the CARM (Christian Apologetics & Research Ministry) webpage article, “James 1:5 and praying about the Book of Mormon” by Matt Slick

[3] C.S. Lewis, “Mere Christianity (C.S. Lewis Signature Classics)”, (p. 78, Kindle position 1071). HarperCollins. Kindle Edition.

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13 thoughts on “Weak Arguments #8: “I testify that Mormonism is false and Joseph Smith was a false prophet.””

  1. “I testify that Mormonism is false and Joseph Smith was a false prophet.”

    With this one I think you are way off the mark, as the premise of the whole article proceeds from a false concept.

    “I testify that Mormonism is false and Joseph Smith was a false prophet.” Is not an argument it is a conclusion.
    Such a statement is the result of study and meditation not the start of it, excepting in the case of a one person hearing it from another and beginning an investigation as to why they have said it.
    This is a case of the knowledge of an effect, preceding cause in a second party.

    All believers have a testimony of the truth of their faith, faith is an absolute necessity of religion generally because ultimately there can be no proof of the truth of a faith, for faith with proof is not faith it is factual knowledge, that much is axiomatic.

    Given that premise any Christian stating, “I testify that Mormonism is false and Joseph Smith was a false prophet.” Is in effect proclaiming an act of faith which cannot be countered by a Mormon with anything other than an automatic gainsaying of the opposite, rendering both equally ineffective and thus forcing the conversation either to end or to move on to more productive and evidenced based discussion.

    Comparison of a testimony in a court of law and a religious testimony is a fallacy since, as in so many academic disciplines a word may have a different (though superficially similar) definition; within the given contexts of Law and Theology this the case with the word Testimony.
    For example the four version of the empty cave after the resurrection would not stand as testimony in the legal sense since they are so vastly different as evidential witness statements but do stand as theological testimony in that the all have the same underlying statement of a witness to the empty tomb.

    A better and more often used argument to back up Moroni 10 is often Matthew 7:7 to 9 this cannot be seen as out of context, as it is Jesus lecturing on prayer.

    Speaking of out of context the use of Jeremiah 17:9 is not I would venture to say a wise choice to back up your arguments when taken in the context of it’s surrounding verses especially since in Jeremiah 17: 5-10 the prophet is exhorting the people not to trust in man but in the justice and wisdom of God simply because it is what you should do to avoid God’s curse.
    Though this an appeal to the mind rather than the heart, it is still like the Mormon claim to expect a “burning in the bosom” an appeal to blind faith “without” evidence.

    In the interesting series of “Weak Arguments” against Mormonism this is ironically the weakest addition, since following it’s advice in effect stymies discussion at source and prevents the planting of a seed of curiosity.

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    1. Mr. Hazell, I will confess to using this weak argument. However, I use it as a form of rhetorical argument: My intention isn’t to prove that my testimony trumps theirs, my intention is to prove that NEITHER testimony proves anything. And that the same is true of the testimony of a Muslim, Buddhist, Hindu, whatever, or whoever. As Clinton Wilcox says well in the article, “It’s a bad argument against Mormonism because it’s a bad argument, period – which makes it a bad argument even when the Mormon uses it.”

      And we certainly DO see Mormons using their testimony as “evidence” of the veracity of their truth claims don’t we? One need only point to Latter-day Saint Greg Trimble’s December 14th, 2014 blog to see this clearly (see http://www.gregtrimble.com/the-book-of-mormon-is-true/ ) The comment section is like an open mic at a Ward Hall Fast & Testimony meeting in it’s response to the evidence produced by Mormon critics. You will also notice that this followed Mr. Trimble bearing his testimony in the main body of the article.

      Therefore, Mormons do in fact use testimony bearing as a form of argument. I would say for that reason alone, responding in kind is appropriate – however it should come in the form of evidence and reason not more empty rhetoric like counter testimony bearing.

      I must also take issue with your wood shedding of the author over alleged misinterpretations of scripture. For example, the Jeremiah passage is essentially an indictment of trusting solely on men, himself, and “the heart”. Further, it is a rather strong divine endorsement of the heart and the mind working together to produce reasonable faith – see verse 10 in particular:

      Jeremiah 17 (NKJV)
      5 Thus says the Lord:

      “Cursed is the man who trusts in man
      And makes flesh his strength,
      Whose heart departs from the Lord.
      6 For he shall be like a shrub in the desert,
      And shall not see when good comes,
      But shall inhabit the parched places in the wilderness,
      In a salt land which is not inhabited.

      7 “Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord,
      And whose hope is the Lord.
      8 For he shall be like a tree planted by the waters,
      Which spreads out its roots by the river,
      And will not fear when heat comes;
      But its leaf will be green,
      And will not be anxious in the year of drought,
      Nor will cease from yielding fruit.

      9 “The heart is deceitful above all things,
      And desperately wicked;
      Who can know it?
      10 I, the Lord, search the heart,
      I test the mind,
      Even to give every man according to his ways,
      According to the fruit of his doings.

      Nor do I see the equivalent of the Moroni 10 formula in Matthew 7:7-9 because it says NOTHING about asking God if the Bible, Christ, or anything else for that matter is true or not. In fact, just a few verses later Christ gives a criteria for determining whether an alleged prophet is a false prophet that says NOTHING about prayer and everything about a careful consideration of evidence:

      Matthew 7 (NKJV)
      7 “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. 8 For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened. 9 Or what man is there among you who, if his son asks for bread, will give him a stone? 10 Or if he asks for a fish, will he give him a serpent? 11 If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask Him! 12 Therefore, whatever you want men to do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets.

      13 “Enter by the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who go in by it. 14 Because narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it.

      15 “Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravenous wolves. 16 You will know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes from thornbushes or figs from thistles? 17 Even so, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. 18 A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a bad tree bear good fruit. 19 Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. 20 Therefore by their fruits you will know them.

      Therefore, I think that the author Clinton Wilcox was very correct in his conclusion when he stated:

      “We do not have to pray to test truth claims. We have the Scriptures given to us so that if we come across a particular idea, we can test it against Scripture to see if it holds up (1 Thessalonians 5:21). All over Scripture we are told to use our faculties of reason. If Mormonism is false, it stands or falls on its teachings, not on whether or not I believe it to be true. And more generally, Christianity, itself, is a religion that is based on evidence, not “blind faith,”’

      Thank you.

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      1. Mr. Anson
        I reiterate that neither “I testify that Mormonism is false and Joseph Smith was a false prophet.” or “I testify that the LDS is the one true church and that Joseph Smith was a prophet of God” are arguments. I am afraid Mr. Wilcox is simply mistaken.
        They are both statements as you say. A statement is not an argument, to be so it would have to be followed by “Because …” and then a presentation of evidence.
        Many LDS members do mistakenly use the latter as “evidence” when testifying to non-Mormons, so called Anti-Mormons and potential converts it is not evidence and they are only showing their inability to function outside of the LDS enclosed environment when the have faith that it is a proof of anything.
        Invariably when an LDS states their testimony to me, the only argument they can subsequently give is either Because I have a testimony (which is a simple tautology) or “because he was called of God” another statement for which they can offer no proof or evidence other then the word of Joseph Smith himself.
        When I deny the truth of Joseph Smith having been a prophet it is always with an argument to back up the statement such as he was a convicted con man, he was a proven liar, philanderer or he was incapable of accurately translating the so called book of Abraham, for example.

        A Mormons (or any other religious person’s) testimony of the truth of their personal religion is a statement of faith nothing more.
        Whereas “I testify that Mormonism is false and Joseph Smith was a false prophet.” is a statement of justifiable belief (since there is considerably more evidence available proving that Joseph Smith was not a prophet than evidence proving he was).
        I made no claim that one testimony can “trump” another and I agree completely that to try to do such is a waste of time; since both statements alone prove nothing other than that an opinion is held by the respective interlocutor.
        The evidence that follows (if any) is what matters.
        All religions require a statement of faith, often mistakenly requiring these statements of faith to be called a Creed, Credo or declarations/statement of belief by adherents without any real (that is to say legally admissible) evidence.
        I do not intend to argue my philosophy against your religion here as this is not the place for it other than to say I disagree with you statement “Christianity, itself, is a religion that is based on evidence, not “blind faith,”’ since All Religions Christianity inclusive, is necessarily reliant on faith as I said previously and as is evidenced in all Holy books and major scriptures.
        I also “take Issue” with your accusation of “wood shedding” since all I did was point out that in my experience most Mormons would use Matthew 7 rather than James 1:5), to justify Moroni 10 and that in my opinion Jeremiah 17 was being used out of context.
        Thank you

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      2. I think you’re both arguing weak points alongside the author in claiming that scriptures insist on not communicating with God to find truth, but rather a perusal of the scriptures is all that’s needed. I’m also baffled when you read past the very simple instruction in Matthew 7 to Ask God, Seek God, Knock and open unto God, with the promise that such actions will be met in kind. Just as Moroni 10 calls for the believer to “take it up with God” (the only reliable source of truth without bias) so to does the Bible always insist that God is the true source for living water. I am LDS, and while Matthew 7 provides solid counsel I go to Proverbs 3:5-7 (the entire chapter focuses on the concept) which instructs on NOT leaning on your own understanding but to put your whole trust in the Lord.

        With regards to NOT putting your trust in the Lord directly, but rather through man’s interpretation of scripture (which I believe is advised against in Proverbs) one opens oneself to unnecessary bias and the torrent of convoluted beliefs from religions all evolving around the same book interpreted differently. How is one to choose the correct path when so many different paths have evolved from the same literary source? Why insist this is the better option over asking the author and creator of the path directly?

        Beyond the logic of asking the creator how things are rather than assuming you can “find the truth for yourself” I would submit 2 Nephi 32:8-9 as a further argument against that thinking:

        “8 And now, my beloved brethren, I perceive that ye ponder still in your hearts; and it grieveth me that I must speak concerning this thing. For if ye would hearken unto the Spirit which teacheth a man to pray, ye would know that ye must pray; for the evil spirit teacheth not a man to pray, but teacheth him that he must not pray.

        9 But behold, I say unto you that ye must pray always, and not faint; that ye must not perform any thing unto the Lord save in the first place ye shall pray unto the Father in the name of Christ, that he will consecrate thy performance unto thee, that thy performance may be for the welfare of thy soul.”

        Take this alongside Christ’s counsel given in Luke 21:36:
        “36 Watch ye therefore, and pray always, that ye may be accounted worthy to escape all these things that shall come to pass, and to stand before the Son of man.”

        It is through prayer (praying always) that we receive the continual guidance needed to “escape all things that shall come to pass”. Thus the invitation in Moroni 10 is profound as “take it up with God” is truly the only source for reliable guidance.

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      3. @Alan Cloward, I must respectfully disagree that the Mormon system of epistemology – which manifests itself in “I know” rather than “I believe” testimony bearing is biblical. I would counter the bible verses that you offered with these bible verses on proof and reason:

        “Come now, and let us reason together, saith the LORD…”
        — Isaiah 1:18 (JST)

        “Test all things and hold fast to that which is good”
        — 1 Thessalonians 5:21 (NKJV)

        “To you it was shown, that you might know that the Lord is God; there is no other besides him.”
        — Dueteronomy 4:35

        “After his suffering, he [Christ] showed himself to these men and gave many convincing proofs that he was alive.”
        — Acts 1:3 (NIV)

        “…since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities — his eternal power and divine nature — have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse.”
        — Romans 1:20 (NIV)

        “Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!” Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe.”
        — John 20:26-27 (NIV)

        “Jesus did many other miraculous signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not recorded in this book. But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.”
        — John 20:30-31 (NIV)

        And if Christ is not risen, then our preaching is empty and your faith is also empty. Yes, and we are found false witnesses of God, because we have testified of God that He raised up Christ, whom He did not raise up—if in fact the dead do not rise. For if thedead do not rise, then Christ is not risen. And if Christ is not risen, your faithis futile; you are still in your sins! Then also those who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men the most pitiable.
        — 1 Corinthians 15:14-19 (NKJV)

        “…if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed.”
        — Galatians 1:8

        “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. For by it the elders obtained a good report. Through faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God, so that things which are seen were not made of things which do appear.”
        — Hebrews 11:1-3 (JST)

        “A simple man believes anything, but a prudent man gives thought to his steps.”
        — Proverbs 14:15 (ESV)

        “The heart of the discerning acquires knowledge; the ears of the wise seek it out.”
        — Proverbs 18:15 (NIV)

        “It is not good to have zeal without knowledge, nor to be hasty and miss the way.”
        — Proverbs 19:2 (NIV)

        Further, the Apostle Paul was clear that objective countering evidence trumps subjective feelings. Consider that Paul didn’t see Christ die nor did he see Him resurrected. The first is a historical fact that he could easily verify. The second he had to take on faith at least to some degree. And he ACKNOWLEDGES that if Christ wasn’t resurrected then Christianity is a fraud and a sham:

        1 Corinthians 15 (NKJV)
        14 And if Christ is not risen, then our preaching is empty and your faith is also empty. 15 Yes, and we are found false witnesses of God, because we have testified of God that He raised up Christ, whom He did not raise up—if in fact the dead do not rise. 16 For if thedead do not rise, then Christ is not risen. 17 And if Christ is not risen, your faithis futile; you are still in your sins! 18 Then also those who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. 19 If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men the most pitiable.

        But that FOLLOWS what he had previously said, look at the beginning of the chapter:

        1 Corinthians 15 (NKJV)
        1 Moreover, brethren, I declare to you the gospel which I preached to you, which also you received and in which you stand, 2 by which also you are saved, if you hold fast that word which I preached to you—unless you believed in vain.

        3 For I delivered to you first of all that which I also received: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, 4 and that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures, 5 and that He was seen by Cephas, then by the twelve. 6 After that He was seen by over five hundred brethren at once, of whom the greater part remain to the present, but some have fallen asleep. 7 After that He was seen by James, then by all the apostles.8 Then last of all He was seen by me also, as by one born out of due time.

        9 For I am the least of the apostles, who am not worthy to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. 10 But by the grace of God I am what I am, and His grace toward me was not in vain; but I labored more abundantly than they all, yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me. 11 Therefore, whether it was I or they, so we preach and so you believed.

        See that? Paul isn’t just saying that evidence is important, he’s encouraging his readers to seek out those who have evidence.

        So Paul was not only NOT afraid of evidence but he encouraged the early Christians to seek it out. So why is it that modern Mormonism tells it’s members to not only NOT seek it out but to avoid it?

        Therefore, the Christian faith doesn’t involve SOLELY evidence nor does it involve SOLELY faith – it involves BOTH. The passages that I cited to Mr. Hazell also support this thesis IMO.

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    2. Mr. Hazell, reading your last comment I’m beginning to believe that you and the author are actually in agreement: One reason why this weak argument is weak is because it’s not an argument at all.

      I concur with that stance myself.

      Never-the-less, I have seen both sides use their competing testimonies as arguments. It’s just as silly when Christians do it as when Mormons do. It’s just a bad argument, period.

      And I also agree that we must respectfully agree to disagree on the rest.

      Thank you for your time and consistently civil tone – it’s very much appreciated.

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    3. Hi, Len:

      “Such a statement is the result of study and meditation not the start of it, excepting in the case of a one person hearing it from another and beginning an investigation as to why they have said it. This is a case of the knowledge of an effect, preceding cause in a second party.”

      The problem, though, is if they expect me to believe that Mormonism is true based on their testimony, then it absolutely is being used as an argument.

      “All believers have a testimony of the truth of their faith, faith is an absolute necessity of religion generally because ultimately there can be no proof of the truth of a faith, for faith with proof is not faith it is factual knowledge, that much is axiomatic.”

      It is not axiomatic, since it is mistaken. Faith is not an epistemological claim. You place faith *in* something, you don’t know something *because of* faith. I place faith in God. Why? Because I trust him. A skydiver places faith in their parachute and their diving instructor because they trust the parachute not to fail and the skydiving instructor to be giving them important and true information. Similarly, I place faith *in* Christ because I believe he is God and that the words of the Scriptures (i.e. the Bible) are true. I don’t know they’re true because of faith, I have faith because I know they are true.

      There is a massive amount of evidence for the truth of orthodox Christianity (not Mormonism). Christianity is a religion grounded in history and grounded in evidence.

      “Given that premise any Christian stating, ‘I testify that Mormonism is false and Joseph Smith was a false prophet.’ Is in effect proclaiming an act of faith which cannot be countered by a Mormon with anything other than an automatic gainsaying of the opposite, rendering both equally ineffective and thus forcing the conversation either to end or to move on to more productive and evidenced based discussion.

      It’s not an act of faith. The Bible, itself, gives us a way to test the claims of prophets. If something they prophesy does not come to pass, they are not speaking from God. That’s a factual way to test whether someone is a true prophet.

      “Comparison of a testimony in a court of law and a religious testimony is a fallacy since, as in so many academic disciplines a word may have a different (though superficially similar) definition; within the given contexts of Law and Theology this the case with the word Testimony.”

      I think you’re committing a fallacy of your own, some sort of fallacy that religious claims can’t be in any way like scientific claims. But there is no reason at all to believe this. Religious testimonies are like testimonies in a court of law because in both cases you are giving an account of something you have witnessed personally.

      “For example the four version of the empty cave after the resurrection would not stand as testimony in the legal sense since they are so vastly different as evidential witness statements but do stand as theological testimony in that the all have the same underlying statement of a witness to the empty tomb.”

      Of course they would stand as testimony in a legal sense. If we were in a court of law, and the prosecutor asked me how I knew Jesus had risen, I would tell him that I saw him crucified on the cross, the Roman soldiers confirmed he was dead, and then the tomb was found empty on Sunday morning by a group of his female followers. That’s evidence for the Resurrection.

      I would encourage you to read Cold-Case Christianity by J. Warner Wallace. Jim Wallace was (he’s retired now) a cold case detective who was a staunch atheist who came to faith in Christ because he used his skills as a cold case detective to investigate the claims of the Scriptures, viewing them as a cold case, in themselves. It’s a fascinating read.

      “A better and more often used argument to back up Moroni 10 is often Matthew 7:7 to 9 this cannot be seen as out of context, as it is Jesus lecturing on prayer.”

      Matthew 7:7-9 doesn’t do the work you think it does. Jesus is not simply lecturing on prayer, there, he is talking about receiving good gifts from God. As even the worst of parents knows how to give good gifts to his own children, how much better will the gifts the Lord gives us be? There’s simply no Biblical justification for this idea that we should seek God to see if something is true. God has given us the Scriptures and minds to reason. There are numerous passages (of which Fred gave several) that support this.

      “Speaking of out of context the use of Jeremiah 17:9 is not I would venture to say a wise choice to back up your arguments when taken in the context of it’s [sic] surrounding verses especially since in Jeremiah 17: 5-10 the prophet is exhorting the people not to trust in man but in the justice and wisdom of God simply because it is what you should do to avoid God’s curse.”

      Technically, all verses that are given not with the surrounding context are pulled “out of context.” What matters is are you giving the verse *in* its context? In other words, when you take the verse out of context, are you using it to mean something different or something in line with the context of the surrounding passage (sometimes even the surrounding book)?

      The context of Jeremiah 17 is in trusting in man for salvation and not in God. This is not a passage that talks about determining truth, it is a passage that warns against trusting man’s way and turning your back on God. This is entirely consistent with the position that we can know and test things by searching the Scriptures and using our minds that God has given us to determine truth from error. We are to avoid error and seek after truth.

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      1. In regards to faith, you are making the same error as with the word testimony, you are arguing the dictionary definition as being the same as the theological one. In your example believing something will happen such as a parachute opening is based on prior knowledge and evidence. You do not have Faith your parachute will open you “trust” you have packed it correctly. Perfectly legitimate use of faith as a simile, but not applicable in epistemological or theological circumstance .
        Faith in the theological context requires only the prior knowledge to be a prior statement of faith in the existence of God and this constitutes sufficient “evidence”.
        “I know God will help me, because I know God exists”
        is easily proven fatuous, by replacing the word God with the word Zeus.
        “I know Zeus will help me, because I know Zeus exists”
        Some Christians (as you do later) will argue in such a case that the Bible is prior evidence
        So we have an appeal to authority
        “I know God will help me, because I know God exists for it say so in the Bible”
        can be treated the same way and we say
        “I know Zeus will help me, because I know Zeus exists it say so in The Theogony of Hesiod”
        You cannot call in holy scriptures as a valid argument unless you allow the same privilege to others, scripture is only an authority to those who acknowledge it’s authority over them, to others it is just historical writing with no other relevance

        “Christianity is a religion grounded in history and grounded in evidence.”

        Disputable to say the least, but this is not the place to discuss it off topic

        Finally “Of course they would stand as testimony in a legal sense”

        I am afraid not, If I called theses biblical accounts (Matthew 28, Mark 16, John 20, Luke 24) as witness statements a defense lawyer would have to ask
        Why do they all state different people and amounts of people were present?
        Why do they give different times of the day for the account?
        Why do they say different people entered the tomb (some giving specific names other saying those same people did not enter)
        Why do they say different people were present, or not present in the tomb, when it was entered
        Differing witness quotations of what was said in the tomb

        It would be laughed out of court and probably incur charges of contempt.

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      2. @Len Hazell, you wrote, “It [the contradictory eyewitness accounts of the empty tomb in the gospel] would be laughed out of court and probably incur charges of contempt.”

        RESPONSE:
        Not so, according to J. Warner Wallace, an L. A. County homicide detective and former atheist:

        “Unless you’ve worked a lot with eyewitnesses and have become familiar with the nature of apparent contradictions in eyewitness accounts, it’s easy to assume that people are lying (or are mistaken) simply because they don’t agree on every detail or have ignored some facts in favor of others. If nothing else, we have to remember that an eyewitness account can be reliable in spite of apparent contradictions. While we might complain about two accounts that appear to differ in some way, we would be even more suspicious if there were absolutely no peculiarities or differences. If this were the case with the Gospels, I bet we would argue that they were the result of some elaborate collusion. As we examine the gospel accounts, we need to give the writers the same benefit of the doubt we would give other eyewitnesses. Human eyewitnesses produce human eyewitness accounts; they are often idiosyncratic and personal, but reliable nonetheless.”
        (p.86)

        “I learned many years ago the importance of separating witnesses. If eyewitnesses are quickly separated from one another, they are far more likely to provide an uninfluenced, pure account of what they saw. Yes, their accounts will inevitably differ from the accounts of others who witnessed the same event, but that is the natural result of a witness’s past experience, perspective, and worldview. I can deal with the inconsistencies; I expect them. But when witnesses are allowed to sit together (prior to being interviewed) and compare notes and observations, I’m likely to get one harmonized version of the event. Everyone will offer the same story. While this may be tidier, it will come at the sacrifice of some important detail that a witness is willing to forfeit in order to align his or her story with the other witnesses. I’m not willing to pay that price. I would far rather have three messy, apparently contradictory versions of the event than one harmonized version that has eliminated some important detail. I know in the end I’ll be able to determine the truth of the matter by examining all three stories. The apparent contradictions are usually easy to explain once I learn something about the witnesses and their perspectives (both visually and personally) at the time of the crime.”
        (p.75)

        “All four [Gospel] accounts are written from a different perspective and contain unique details that are specific to the eyewitnesses. There are, as a result, divergent (apparently contradictory) recollections that can be pieced together to get a complete picture of what occurred. All four accounts are highly personal, utilizing the distinctive language of each witness. Mark is far more passionate and active in his choice of adjectives, for example. Several of the accounts (Mark, Matthew, and Luke) contain blocks of identical (or nearly identical) descriptions. This may be the result of common agreement at particularly important points in the narrative, or (more likely) the result of later eyewitnesses saying, “The rest occurred just the way he said.” Finally, the last account (John’s gospel) clearly attempts to fill in the details that were not offered by the prior eyewitnesses. John, aware of what the earlier eyewitnesses had already written , appears to make little effort to cover the same ground. Even before examining the Gospels with the rigor we are going to apply in section 2, I recognized that they were consistent with what I would expect to see , given my experience as a detective.

        In the end, it all comes down to the reliability of these accounts. When I was a nonbeliever, I heard Christians talk about the inerrancy or infallibility of the Bible, at least as these terms are typically applied to the original manuscripts that were composed by the authors. I examined these concepts in depth in seminary many years later , but as I first read the accounts in the Gospels, I was far more interested in evaluating their reliability as eyewitness accounts than their inerrancy as divine communiqués. I knew from my experience as a detective that the best eyewitness accounts contained points of disagreement and that this did not automatically invalidate their reliability.

        Yes, the accounts are messy. They are filled with idiosyncrasies and personal perspectives along with common retellings of familiar stories. There are places where critics can argue that there appear to be contradictions, and there are places where each account focuses on something important to the author, while ignoring details of importance to other writers. But would we expect anything less from true, reliable eyewitness accounts? I certainly would not, based on what I’ve seen over the years. Surely these apparent “contradictions” and curious peculiarities were present in the early texts and obvious to the earliest of Christians. The oldest gospel manuscripts we have display this sort of eyewitness variability, and there is no reason to think the originals were any less unique or idiosyncratic. The early believers could have destroyed all but one of the accounts, changed the conflicting details, or simply harmonized the Gospels . But these diverse accounts were preserved (as they are) because they are true; they display all the earmarks we would expect in true eyewitness testimony. If the early church had eliminated the four eyewitness perspectives and limited us to one tidy version, we would inevitably have missed some significant detail.”
        (pp.81-82)

        Wallace, J. Warner, “Cold-Case Christianity: A Homicide Detective Investigates the Claims of the Gospels”, Kindle Edition; http://smile.amazon.com/Cold-Case-Christianity-Homicide-Detective-Investigates-ebook/dp/B00A71Y7I8

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      3. J. Warner Wallace is not a lawyer or theologian or biblical historian he is a retired policeman, with a personal bias toward Christianity who wrote a novelty book.
        He is therefore, though interesting and amusing, not a reliable or impartial authority.
        I am willing to discuss the original post further if you wish, but respectfully I ask that you cease trying to draw me on one minor example given as part of an overall argument, a point long since admitted even by theologians to be a point of contention, (especially given that there is an even older version of the story in the apocryphal Gospel of Peter that gives a different account again)

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      4. @Len Hazell you wrote, “J. Warner Wallace is not a lawyer or theologian or biblical historian he is a retired policeman, with a personal bias toward Christianity who wrote a novelty book. He is therefore, though interesting and amusing, not a reliable or impartial authority.”

        RESPONSE:
        Then you must know something that I don’t. As I recall he’s still working cold cases for the LAPD but not on a full-time basis like he once did. Further Mr. Hazell I would caution you against playing the “personal bias toward Christianity” card since your posts here and elsewhere show a personal bias against all forms of theism. He’s biased? So what? So are you and so am I. As your fellow atheist Dan Vogel said so well:

        ” I can care less about bias. I look at the evidence and arguments and decide for myself.”
        source = https://www.facebook.com/groups/themormonhub/permalink/543066052396723/

        That said, of the three (four if you count Clinton Wilcox too) of us his the only expert opinion of the bunch. For that reason alone it should carry some weight and not be subjected to “moving the goal post” fallacies or ad-hominems.

        YOU WROTE:
        I am willing to discuss the original post further if you wish, but respectfully I ask that you cease trying to draw me on one minor example given as part of an overall argument,

        RESPONSE:
        Then we’ll have to stop. Your responses tend to be long and complex and I don’t have the time or desire to address every point you make. That’s not disrespectful or uncivil, it’s reality. Further, I’m doing only what is done is formal debate settings. No one would sit through the long debates that require the type of point-by-point scrutiny you seem to be insisting on. However, if you find it distasteful we can stop the discussion here – like I said I don’t have the time (or candidly, desire) to address every point you make.

        Further, and in my own defense, as I saw it this was the key point of your argument which is why I focused my limited time on it alone. If I was mistaken then the fault is entirely mine.

        YOU WROTE:
        …a point long since admitted even by theologians to be a point of contention, (especially given that there is an even older version of the story in the apocryphal Gospel of Peter that gives a different account again)

        RESPONSE:
        Is it a point of contention? Yes. Is as vital or primary as you insist it is? It depends on which theologians you talk to. Maximalists would say, no. Minimalists would say, yes. This is hardly a conclusive point Mr. Hazell.

        Further, the gospel of Peter was never accepted as canonical by the entire body of Christ, nor was it widely cited by the Patristic Fathers or other early Christians. It contains heresies, blatant supernatural embellishment, and, perhaps most damning, is cleary pseudepigraphical. Further, Peter, it is widely conceding by theologians, gave his testimony via Mark’s gospel, making the pseudepigraphical Gospel of Peter a contradiction of what he had already said elsewhere. Using the analog of the gospel accounts as trial witnesses, were it given on the stand, it’s the one most likely to get discounted because it’s so extraordinarily different than the rest and of such dubious pedigree. A lawyer would be a fool to put this witness on the stand!

        (I would direct the interested reader to the Wikipedia article on the Gospel of Peter if they would like a primer or supporting evidences for my points. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gospel_of_Peter )

        Thank you for your time Mr. Hazell.

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  2. Bobby! Taylee Winder here, Russell and Susanne Case’s oldest daughter from Utah! Thank you for the article, it was affirming in the direction God has led our meetings with three Mormon missionaries for the past month. Today one of them (Elder Crow) said that our meetings have moved him in the direction to step-back and evaluate the foundation of his faith—Joseph Smith. Leading them to Deuteronomy, it was evident they had no concept of Biblical discernment toward the making of a true prophet.

    Please pray for Elder Crow. He is the missionary whom God is calling. Two meetings ago he said “If I am wrong then I have 20 years to deconstruct.” Our hearts broke and rejoiced at his humility.

    Thank you again for your heart toward the lost. We pray for you and your family and hope to see you again soon. Tell Vicki we all say hello too!

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