Yes, there is an Answer to that “Unanswerable Question”

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And they said to one another, “Were not our hearts burning within us while he was speaking with us on the road, while he was explaining the scriptures to us?
~Luke 24:32, LEB ~

Take a moment and clear your thoughts. It is a spring Morning, or maybe even a mid-afternoon. You and a friend of yours are walking from Emmaus to Jerusalem. The Sun is shining, and your thoughts and conversation is turning to those recent events that has happened. A man arrested, tortured, and convicted to the most horrific and gruesome death – Crucifixion. Unbeknownst to you and your traveling companion, you have not heard about the morning events that had transpired. Yet, your thoughts are captivated. Intrigued and curious.

Further imagine that as you and your traveling companion are walking a stranger happened to be traveling with you. The two of you know not whence he came. Yet, all three of you are conversing and he shared with you some insights into the scriptures you may have been discussing. The recent events the two of you were sharing privately.

As this stranger is sharing with the two of you – each one of you remark later how your heart swelled within you. Almost as if there was a sensation of it burning. Their very soul felt the pure divine love of Christ and the Father. And they reasoned in awe and reverence among one another after the stranger had left.

Whenever we encounter the nature of the Heart in Scripture, we do well to understand that it was not referring to the organ that pumps rhythmically to help blood circulated throughout our body. The term for Heart in scripture refers to the inner most being. The center of our mind, volition, and moral aspect. It is used over 800 times throughout the Old and New Testament figuratively.

And so, we have the elation of these two individuals being recorded by the Gospel of Luke as they had traveled and conversed with the Savior. I also love how Benson’s Commentary relays understanding of this passage:

And they said one to another, Did not our heart burn within us? — This reflection of the disciples, on this affair, is natural and beautiful. It is as if they had said, How strange it is that we should not have discovered him sooner, when we found his discourses have that effect upon us, which was peculiar to his teaching. For did not our very hearts glow within us, with love to God and our Divine Instructer, as well as to the truths which he made known to us by opening the Scriptures? They found the preaching powerful, even when they knew not the preacher; it not only made things of the greatest importance very plain and clear to them, but, together with a divine light, brought a divine warmth into their souls, and kindled therein a holy fire of pious and devout affections: and this they now notice for the confirming of their belief, that it was indeed Jesus himself who had been talking with them all the while. And they rose up the same hour — Not being able to conceal such good news, or to defer the publication of that which they believed would give their brethren such joy, as they felt in their own breasts; they therefore, late as it was, rose up from their unfinished meal, that very hour, and made all possible haste to Jerusalem, that they might declare to the other disciples the wonderful story, and give them full assurance of their Lord’s resurrection. They were, however, in some measure prevented: for, immediately upon their arrival, the apostles, with the women, accosted them with this declaration, The Lord is risen indeed, and hath appeared to Simon — Before he was seen of the other apostles, (1 Corinthians 15:5,) he had, in his wonderful condescension and grace, taken an opportunity on the former part of the day, (though where or in what manner is not recorded,) to show himself to Peter, that he might early relieve his distresses and fears, on account of his having so shamefully denied his Master. The generality of the apostles had given little credit to the reports of the women, supposing that they were occasioned more by imagination than reality. But when a person of Simon’s capacity and gravity declared that he had seen the Lord, they began to think he was risen indeed. And their belief was not a little confirmed by the arrival of these two disciples, who declared that the Lord had appeared to them also, and gave a circumstantial relation of all that had happened.

There is no questionable doubt that what the two individuals experienced that day was significant, profound, and inspiring. It bolstered their faith, increased their joy, and their desire to share such an experience all the more confirmed the reality of the Resurrection of Jesus Christ. It is this very divine joy that pierces like a two-edged sword and speaks directly to our own spirit. Speaks to us the truth and reveals to us the reality and validity of who Jesus Christ is and what he has done for all of humanity. Who would even consider questioning such an experience that brings someone a depth of understanding God’s divine love, the joy and assurance of coming to know who Jesus Christ is and receiving the forgiveness of their own sins?

Jesus Christ walks with the two men on the road from Emmaus to Jerusalem

Human Nature and Emotions

Before we answer the question. One aspect of human nature that I believe many Evangelicals appear to forget is that we are by nature emotional beings. Meaning, we feel things very deeply, and personally. And while such emotions impact us significantly – we all experience them at different times at different levels, and in different ways. When you experience the birth of a child for the first time – you have a very real deep and emotional experience that touches the very most inner part of you. When someone close to us passes away, we experience a very deep sense of loss, and grief. We mourn because of our deep love for them.

It is this reason that scripture calls us to bear one another’s burdens because we are to stand and mourn with those who mourn and rejoice with those who rejoice (Galatians 6:2, Romans 12:15, Mosiah 18:8-10); and we are to do well to experience our emotions for what they truly are. They are a part of our human experience.

Today, what the scriptures are calling for each of us to do is simply what we now know as emotional intelligence. The ability for us to manage our own personal emotions on a deep level while understanding the interpersonal connections we have with one another and are empathetic towards recognizing how others may appear to feel. Part of emotional intelligence involves one’s ability to … using emotions to promote thinking and cognitive activity. The reason for this is because emotions help prioritize what we pay attention and react to; we respond emotionally to things that garner our attention. This is exactly what we are reading in the account of Luke 24:32. The two individuals experienced a profound emotional sense of love and joy that cut to their innermost being. They paid specific attention to this experience and related to one another the cause of such a state of feeling – and being. It is an overwhelming sense.

As for our ability to learn how to manage our own emotions; this is not anything new. We find this exact understanding in quite a unique conversation in Genesis:

If you do well will I not accept you? But if you do not do well, sin is crouching at the door. And its desire is for you, but you must rule over it.”

Genesis 4:7, cf Genesis 3:-7, LEB

The application (not interpretation, for they are two different things) here is that Cain is angry and jealous. Yahweh engages in conversation with Cain and asks him if he does well, he shall find favor with the Lord. However, if he allows his emotions to grow – he will fall into sin and transgression. To which we discover when he murders his brother Abel. Our takeaway here is that if we allow our own personal emotions to manage us and drive us – we will fall into sin and transgression. However, if we learn to manage them, to take control of them and understand them, we are able to make better choices.

And such emotions are not evil, not negative, or even positive. They are just that – emotions. Which means, since we are emotional beings – we are driven by our emotions on a daily basis. This is the reason scripture calls our attention to taking captive our own thoughts (2 Corinthians 10:5) and to continue to transform and renew our minds (Romans 12:1-2).

We do this by the following reasons:

  • Take Responsibility for our own Thoughts: By learning how to manage our own thoughts, we are empowered to understand the reasons we experience certain emotions. Specifically, those emotions that appear overwhelming. Whether they are inspiring, deep sense of joy, love, and virtue; or significant grief and loss due to death, divorce, loss of employment or other situations where we are deeply moved and affected emotionally. As mentioned early, this is the admonition Yahweh gave Cain.
  • Our Mind and not just our Behavior needs to Change: How we think and feel coincides with the way we behave – and those consequences associated with behavior. It really comes down to a very simple formula: Thoughts –> Emotions/Feelings –> Actions/Behavior (Physiological Response and our choice in behavior) ==> Consequences. As Christians, we are called to change our mind daily when it comes to sinful behavior that does not honor Him. Instead of focusing on your outward behavior, work on disciplining your mind – from which the behaviors stem. And no – people do not have the power to cause you to become mad, sad, or glad. It is your own inner response and how you choose to respond that determines whether or not you feel mad, sad, or glad.
  • Discipline to become emotionally response rather than emotionally reactive: One of the most interesting aspects of understanding how emotions work; we discover that there really are two prominent ways our emotions influence us. We become reactive when experiencing emotions. For example, you go to the casino and win 1 million dollars, you are going to react out of that joy and elation. Jumping, hooting, hollering, and other such behavior. Similarly, if someone accidently bumps into you – one will react in different ways. Either shoving the person and getting into a physical altercation or apologize and being forgiving. A Christian who is mindful and disciplined will learn how to become emotionally responsive rather than emotionally reactive.

There are other reasons we are to practice a sense of Christian based mindfulness, following the wise counsel of scripture, and learning to become emotionally resilient. And to further understand this from a scriptural viewpoint:

Hebrews points to the example of Jesus as our model of perseverance (Hebrews 12:1-3). He endured the scorn and suffering of the cross, and opposition from sinners, and continued to fulfill his calling. Other resilience examples in Scripture include Joseph, who continued doing God’s will even when he was thrown in prison; Esther, who spoke up for the Jews even when it put her own life in danger; and Daniel, who prayed openly in defiance of the king’s laws.

Madison Fergerstrom – How to Develop Greater Emotional Resilience – Seattle Christian Counseling

With this information, we come to understand and know that our mortal and human experience includes having emotions. Experiencing them and learning to discipline ourselves in a manner to be respectful, responsive, and empowering because of those emotions. This also includes embracing them and accepting them and working through them when we experience tragedy, loss, and other significant upheavals in life.

So, what does this have to do with the question: Who would even consider questioning such an experience that brings someone a depth of understanding God’s divine love, the joy and assurance of coming to know who Jesus Christ is and receiving the forgiveness of their own sins?

It has everything to do with answering what one Christian blogger appears to insist is an unanswerable question.

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Clay Jones Supposed Unanswerable Question

A Christian Apologist by the name of Clay Jones published a recent article entitled: A Question Mormons Can’t Answer where he attempts to argue against the subjective nature and personal revelation one may receive regarding the Book of Mormon. His question is based on what he received from the well-known pioneers of early counter-cult ministries and Anti-Mormon proponents, the late Jerald Tanner and Sandra Tanner of Utah Lighthouse Ministries (UTLM). Pioneers meaning that Jerald and Sandra Tanner were the early forerunners in their antagonistic and demagogue of Anti-Mormon Rhetoric. He even states that he consulted with Sandra Tanner and based on what she provided – his so-called unanswerable question stems from her ministry and article entitled: How do we test a prophet? The problem with Sandra Tanner’s article, and subsequently with Clay Jones recent article is that there is a definitive sound and reasonable explanation that challenges their contention. Especially when we properly consider the passages in their proper context. First, let us look at the beginning paragraph of Sandra Tanner’s article.

Frequently a person will say to me that the Mormon (Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints) missionaries have challenged them to pray about Joseph Smith’s message and the Book of Mormon. But is this the proper way to determine if his message is truly from God? The Bible never says to test a prophet by prayer, but by his message. Deuteronomy 13 warns that a prophet must teach correctly about God. Chapter 18 tells us the prophet’s prophecies must come to pass. Paul tells us in Galatians 1:8-9 that even angels can appear with a wrong message. We are to compare the message with the teachings of the apostles. In Acts 17:10-12, when Paul went to Berea to proclaim Jesus as the Messiah to the Jews, we read “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. Therefore many of them believed…” Note, Paul did not tell them to go home and pray about it. They were praised for searching the scriptures, in other words, testing the message to see if it agreed with the prophecies of the Messiah.

Second, here is how Clay Jones appears to present his question that he claims is not answerable:

When the Mormons (also known as members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints) come to my door, I always ask them the same question because it’s a question Mormons can’t answer. I do this because this question is essential to their beliefs. …

The question I ask regards why Mormons believe Mormonism is true and they believe it to be true because they had a subjective personal inward witness of the truth of it.

The book of Moroni encourages seeking this inward witness (what follows is on the first page of one of my copies of the Book of Mormon):

“Behold, I would exhort you that when ye shall read these things…. 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. ” (Moroni 10:3-5)

This is also known as the “burning in the bosom.” In their Doctrine and Covenants which Mormons also consider to be inspired scripture it says,

“But, behold, I say unto you, that you must study it out in your mind; then you must ask me if it be right, and if it is right I will cause that your bosom shall burn within you; therefore, you shall feel that it is right.” (Doctrine and Covenants 9:8)

Now obviously if any person believes that they have received a personal revelation—directly from God—that something is true, then that can trump just about any other arguments about the truth of whatever they believe. Therefore, if a Christian chooses to argue with a Mormon about any other doctrine, it’s unlikely to change their minds because they have received what they believe is a subjective personal assurance directly from God that Mormonism is true. Therefore, my question concerns the trustworthiness of their subjective personal experience.

Emphasis mine

Addressing Deuteronomy 13, 18, and the Testing of a Prophet

It is not all too uncommon for a Latter-day Saint Christian to hear someone quote Deuteronomy 13 and 18. As Sandra Tanner pointed out in her article – this is the so-called test of a prophet. Let us consider the context of Deuteronomy 13:1-5:

“If a prophet stands up in your midst or a dreamer of dreams and he gives to you a sign or wonder, and the sign or the wonder comes about that he spoke to you, saying ‘Let us go after other gods (those whom you have not known), and let us serve them,’ you must not listen to the words of that prophet or to that dreamer, for Yahweh your God is testing you to know whether you love Yahweh your God with all of your heart and with all of your inner self. You shall go after Yahweh your God, and him you shall revere, and his commandment you shall keep, and to his voice you shall listen, and him you shall serve, and to him you shall hold fast. But that prophet or the dreamer of that dream shall be executed, for he spoke falsely about Yahweh your God, the one bringing you out from the land of Egypt and the one redeeming you from the house of slavery, in order to seduce you from the way that Yahweh your God commanded you to go in it; so in this way you shall purge the evil from your midst.

Deuteronomy 13:1-5, LEB

What we want to understand is that Deuteronomy 13 is part of a larger pericope on the nature of idolatry that Yahweh was warning Israel to avoid. And these special counsels we read stem from Deuteronomy 12:32. Thus, the very first counsel and warning against the seduction toward idolatry involves that of a so-called false Prophet.

As we read the actual context – it is not so much as to whether or not signs and wonders come to pass. It is that these are used to deceive people into moving toward idolatry – serving other Gods. One also notices a parallel to what Christ taught on the Sermon on the Mount, the giving of the two greatest commandments, and even the testing of one’s devotion, faith, and willingness to obey the commandments of God.

Another factor is that this is specific to the Children of Israel, due to the context of the Ancient Near East and the worship of Idols as Gods and Goddesses themselves. We find the evidence within the text itself because it is Yahweh that delivered the children of Israel from Egyptian Slavery and Bondage. And while the application reminds us of our due diligence in serving Christ, being devoted to Christ, faithfully walking in obedience to the teachings of Christ today; we do well to remember the proper exegesis of this passage is cultural and time specific to the Israelites themselves.

The reason for this being specific to the time and culture of Ancient Israel and within the context of the Ancient Near East? Because we find that many times throughout the Old Testament – individuals had visions and dreams. Some of these visions and dreams involve some form of a theophany experience. And since the Evangelical Christians always appeals to the argument that God is the same yesterday, today, and forever – and henceforth never changes, personal revelation may come as a vision or a dream to someone who is in tune with the Holy Spirit and faithfully walking in obedience to the counsel, wisdom, and will of God.

Thus, when one attempts to argue and reason from Deuteronomy 13, it is good to ask – so as a Christian, you challenge any possible revelation God may give you in a vision or a dream and declare it false? Because, if we are to take the eisegesis interpretation of someone like Sandra Tanner – yes, we have to question a person who claims to relate to us a manifestation of God through visions and dreams as a personal revelation.

And therein lies the problem for the evangelical Christian and apologist like Clay Jones – we have to question every emotional experience, vision, dream, or even theophany experience and deny it since our own propensity is that we are susceptible to deception. Of course, this is an irrational and illogical conclusion. That is the very point – dreams, visions, and even personal theophany experiences are subjective. And of course, we ought to test them properly to determine whether or not they truly line up with what God’s established word says. Because we may be easily deceived. And there are specific parameters our Heavenly Father has ensured us to where we are able to determine whether or not subjective personal revelations are from Him or not.

Now, let us turn our attention briefly to Deuteronomy 18:20-22 and the counsel of a prophet who speaks presumptively in the name of YHWH. bear in mind that a few verses before these two, Moses is declaring that there will be another prophet that will be raised up like unto him. This is a messianic reference being made to that of Jesus Christ:

“Yahweh your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from your midst, from your countrymen, and to him you shall listen. This is according to all that you asked from Yahweh your God at Horeb, on the day of the assembly, saying, ‘I do not want again to hear the voice of Yahweh my God, and I do not want to see again this great fire, so that I may not die!’ And Yahweh said to me, ‘They are right in what they have said. I will raise up a prophet for them from among their countrymenlike you, and I will place my words into his mouth, and he shall speak to them everything that I command him. And then the man that will not listen to my words that he shall speak in my name, I will hold accountable.

Deuteronomy 18:15-19, LEB

What is interesting is that one fails to pay attention to the smallest phrases in scripture. Here, the Lord states that those who are called forth as His Prophet to speak the words He puts in their mouth – and they do not listen and proclaim what is revealed unto them – He will hold them accountable (an example is that of Jonah and his failure to go to Nineveh and call the people unto repentance).

Not only is this a messianic prophecy about Christ. There is also another application – every prophet God has raised up; he has done so in a manner where he gave them what to say. We find this true when Christ counseled the disciples on how they are to respond when they are arrested and presented in the synagogues:

“Behold, I am sending you out like sheep in the midst of wolves. Therefore be wise as serpents and innocent as doves. But beware of people, because they will hand you over to councils, and they will flog you in their synagogues. And you will be brought before both governors and kings because of me, for a witness to them and to the Gentiles. But whenever they hand you over, do not be anxious how to speak or what you should say, for what you should say will be given to you at that hour. For you are not the ones who are speaking, but the Spirit of your Father who is speaking through you.

Matthew 10:16-20. LEB

And there is something when you speak with such authority, as moved upon by the Holy Spirit, in so much you experience a sense of energy, power, feeling of elation, and a deep emotional attachment to the reality of the truth being spoken forth.

Evangelical Apologists Problematic Eisegesis of Galatians 1:6-9:

Both, Sandra Tanner and Clay Jones, appeals to Galatians 1:6-9. There is a problem with this. First, when we consider the pericope of the Apostle Paul, many Evangelical Christian Apologist forget that Paul was defending his Apostolic Authority, and that the false gospel he referred to hold the idea that the Gentile Christian Converts needed to undergo the ritual of circumcision in order to be considered fully Christian under the Abrahamic Covenant. And in combating these two issues in his Epistle to the Galatians – he utilized hyperbolic language:

Paul uses hyperbolic language to exclude any source that might claim divine authority. There is no suggestion here that the Galatian agitators actually claimed to have received revelation from an angel. Paul uses conditional clauses in both 1:8–9, and he includes himself and angels, not because either was preaching a false gospel or alleged to do so, but to highlight the unchangeable nature of the gospel.

Thomas Schreiner – What is the False Gospel in Galatians? – Zondervan Academic Blog, 2017

I provided a lengthy commentary on the Pericope of Paul and Galatians 1:6-9 as a response to the nature of the constant misuse of this passage to deny Joseph Smith’s prophetic call and authority. Suffice it to say – the issue of understanding the proper interpretation of Galatians 1:6-9 stems from whether one is using a critical examination as a means to derive their understanding from what the passage is saying. Or are they attempting to read into the text their own preconceived bias and prejudicial understanding? The latter is the common practice of modern Evangelical Apologists – while the former is not so much utilized by those same individuals. Point being – the understanding of Galatians 1:6-9 did not come about the late 80’s to early 1990’s when it was used to attack Joseph Smith and his prophetic calling (as we see in Clay Jones article).

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A Sound & Reasonable Rationale for a Subjective Personal Revelation

In Clay Jones article, he quotes from two Latter-day Saint sources. The first is known as Moroni’s challenge (Moroni 10:3-7):

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. 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. And by the power of the Holy Ghost ye may know the truth of all things. And whatsoever thing is good is just and true; wherefore, nothing that is good denieth the Christ, but acknowledgeth that he is. And ye may know that he is, by the power of the Holy Ghost; wherefore I would exhort you that ye deny not the power of God; for he worketh by power, according to the faith of the children of men, the same today and tomorrow, and forever.

And second is the Doctrine and Covenants Section 9:8

But, behold, I say unto you, that you must study it out in your mind; then you must ask me if it be right, and if it is right I will cause that your bosom shall burn within you; therefore, you shall feel that it is right.

Let us deal with Moroni 10:3-5 first and then address D&C 9:8.

Proper Context of Moroni 10:3-5

Most Evangelical Protestants, as it appears Clay Jones has done, is quote Moroni 10:3-5 and left out some important aspects of this passage. Here is how he quotes it:

Behold, I would exhort you that when ye shall read these things…. 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.

Notice what is left out:

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. And when ye shall receive these things, I would exhort you

It appears this is intentional because Jones attempts to force the context of the passage to say something it does not actually represent or even teach. First and foremost, Moroni writes that he seals up the records. In doing so, he is writing the final chapter that is full of exhortations, summations of thought, and doctrinal truths. And he prefaces this with that if it be wisdom in God that ye should read them – meaning the words contained in the Book of Mormon that each one of us are to:

  • 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
  • Ponder these things in your heart once you receive them.

Moroni is calling us to consider all of what our Heavenly Father has done. The Gospel being preached in the Old Testament and the messianic prophecies of Christ coming. The New Testament teachings of Christ, the Apostle Paul, and other Apostles as the primitive Church struggled amidst a time of chaos, sedition, and the eventual destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple thereof. The inspiration of men and women during turbulent times of persecution, the Early Church Father’s, the struggle of the Church within the first three centuries after the original apostles have fallen asleep. The Protestant reformation, the movement of the age of enlightenment, the period of the Rennaissance, and the discovery and colonization of the New World. The struggle of a young country, the rise of freedom and liberty against tyranny. The inspiration of the Declaration of the Independence, a new Constitution for a United States, and the beginning growing pains of a young nation.

Within this scope comes the calling of Joseph Smith to translate the Book of Mormon and publish it as part of the Restoration. Which laid the groundwork to the industrial revolution, the quickening growth of America, and the movement toward restoring the Nation of Israel. And eventually the preaching of the Gospel of Jesus Christ in the last dispensation of the fulness of times.

Secondly, Moroni asks each one of us to ponder on what the Book of Mormon is teaching. How we are to apply it into our lives. Here again, we have the term heart, and it is going back to that figurative usage where we are too deeply considered what we are reading. To meditate upon the words, the message, and what it means for us.

It is in v. 4 of Moroni 10 where we are then given the exhortation to ask of God. And it is here where our fellow Evangelical Christian Apologist appear to trip up in their contention against Moroni’s promise. For, if we are to go back to what Christ taught – we learn the following truth:

Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and it will be opened for you. For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened. Or what man is there among you, if his son will ask him for bread, will give him a stone? Or also if he will ask for a fish, will give him a snake? Therefore if you, although you are 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?

Matthew 7:7-11, LEB

As we consider this passage, we understand that Christ provides us with a three-fold assurance in which we shall receive answers. Especially since it relates to seeking knowledge, wisdom, and guidance:

The first of three commands in this verse. Jesus’ followers are to ask for what they need.

it will be given to you: In each of the three statements here, Jesus’ point is the same: When God’s people pursue something—by asking, seeking, knocking—He responds in faithfulness and generosity. This verse emphasizes the need for an authentic relationship with God.

seek: The Greek verb used here, zēteō, indicates looking for something or trying to find something.

John D. Barry et al., Faithlife Study Bible (Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press, 2012, 2016), Mt 7:7.

This is what Moroni is exhorting us to do – to ask, seek, and knock. Another way to look at this passage is from this perspective:

The resources God gives us (vv. 7–11). Why did our Lord discuss prayer at this point in His message? These verses seem to be an interruption, but they are not. You and I are human and fallible; we make mistakes. Only God can judge perfectly. Therefore, we must pray and seek His wisdom and direction. “If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God” (James 1:5).

Young King Solomon knew that he lacked the needed wisdom to judge Israel, so he prayed to God; and the Lord graciously answered (1 Kings 3:3ff). If we are to have spiritual discernment, we must keep on asking God, keep on seeking His will, keep on knocking at the door that leads to greater ministry. God meets the needs of His children.

Warren W. Wiersbe, The Bible Exposition Commentary, vol. 1 (Wheaton, IL: Victor Books, 1996), 30. – Emphasis Added

This falls in line with passages like Proverbs 3:5-6:

Trust Yahweh with all your heart; do not lean toward your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will straighten your paths.

And what Christ revealed to the Disciples:

And whatever you ask in my name, I will do this, in order that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If you ask me anything in my name, I will do it.

John 14:13, LEB

What is interesting about John 14:13 is that it is sandwiched between Christ’s farewell speech to the Disciples (John 14:1-12) and the promise of the Holy Spirit (John 14:14-31). The crux of these two different passages rests upon this statement: But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name—that one will teach you all things and will remind you of everything that I said to you (John 14:26).

Therefore, through the Holy Spirit – our Heavenly Father will reveal unto us the truth of all things – specifically those things pertaining to the truthfulness of the testimony of Christ, his ministry, his death, and resurrection. And the revelation given unto us through the Holy Spirit is personal and subjective. Yes – that is correct. We receive personal revelation that is subjective regarding the things of God through the Holy Spirit.

Not only do we receive personal revelation through the Holy Spirit, but we also come to know and understand who God, the Father is, and who Jesus Christ is as we grow and mature in our own personal faith and relationship. This happens when we are willing to submit ourselves over to His will and desire for our own lives, walk faithfully in obedience to the things of God. Notice that as Christ expounds on the coming Advocate, Spirit of Truth, and the Comforter (Holy Spirit) that he mentions several times that those who love Him will keep his commandments and teachings (John 14:21, 23-24).

Third, we come to know and understand that the Holy Spirit guides and directs us in how to walk faithfully and meaningfully as we grow and mature spiritually. This is done by leading us as we deny ourselves, take up our cross daily, and commit to following Christ (Matthew 16:24-26, Romans 8:14, Galatians 5:16-26). Not only this, but we are also able to feel the presence of our Heavenly Father because of the Holy Spirit.

And finally, we know that the power and influence of the Holy Spirit teaches and illuminates the truth to us. This includes the revelation of who Jesus Christ is (John 14:26 and 16:13-14). Furthermore, nothing is more evident to this truth than what we read in Ephesians 1:15-23:

Because of this I also, hearing of your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love for all the saints, do not cease giving thanks for you, making mention in my prayers, that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you a spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of him (the eyes of your hearts having been enlightened), so that you may know what is the hope of his calling, what are the riches of the glory of his inheritance among the saints, and what is the surpassing greatness of his power toward us who believe, according to the working of his mighty strength which he has worked in Christ, raising him from the dead and seating him at his right hand in the heavenly places, above all rule and authority and power and lordship and every name named, not only in this age but also in the coming one, and he subjected all things under his feet and gave him as head over all things to the church, which is his body, the fullness of the one who fills all things in every way.

Here, the Apostle Paul, himself, is praying for the Gentile Christians in Ephesus to receive spiritual insight, wisdom, knowledge and personal revelation regarding Jesus Christ. And it is in this sound, reasonable, and rationale understanding that we turn back to Moroni’s exhortation.

According to Moroni 10:4, the exhortation is laid out as follows:

  • To seek and ask God, the Father if these things (the teachings of the Book of Mormon) are true – after pondering and considering all that God has revealed down through the ages since creation – in the name of Christ
  • To do so with a sincere heart, real intent, and having faith in Jesus Christ: Meaning, we are to be genuine and honest in our approach to God when we are seeking out truth and confirmation. It also means that we are stretching ourselves in a way to where we are willing to exert ourselves in our request for wisdom, knowledge, and spiritual confirmation of truth. And the assurance in receiving an answer is based on our own personal faith in Jesus Christ.
  • Our Heavenly Father, through the Holy Spirit, will confirm within us the truthfulness of what we are seeking. This is the bold assurance Moroni gives us in his exhortation to ponder, seek, pray, and ask.

Moroni 10:5 merely confirms what Moroni 10:4 already establishes. It is when we get to Moroni 10:6-7 that we discover the reason for Moroni’s courage and boldness in assurance that our Heavenly Father will reveal unto each one of us the reality and truth of the Book of Mormon:

  • Anything that testifies of who Jesus Christ is just and true – for nothing of goodness or virtue is able to deny Christ – it only confirms who Christ is.
  • This revelation comes by the power of the Holy Spirit

Moroni gives another exhortation – this time not of seeking for genuine of truth with sincerity, real intent, and faith in Christ; but not to deny the power of God as He works in the hearts of men according to their faith. And this comes by way of feeling an overwhelming presence of divine love and outpouring of spiritual knowledge and wisdom. However, that is only one aspect in which a person may receive an answer to their prayer and taking the Moroni challenge.

This deep-rooted emotional response springs from our inner most sense of being. It presents us with comfort, serenity, and an overwhelming sense of joy. Many people share different stories related to their own personal revelation regarding the Book of Mormon and the confirmation from the Holy Spirit of its truthfulness. However, there is one thing that most people fail to connect (whether it is Latter-day Saints or Evangelical Christian Apologists) regarding Moroni 10:35 and that is the evidence of spiritual gifts as a form of an answer regarding the truthfulness of the Book of Mormon:

So what is the logical connection between Moroni’s promise and what immediately follows? Here Moroni may be teaching that we may know the truth of all things by the power of the Holy Ghost and that the Holy Ghost may manifest the truth of it unto us in many different ways. According to this reading, Moroni tells us that if we see good things come as a result of our reading of this book that we should know that “whatsoever thing is good is just and true” (Moroni 10:6). He exhorts us that if we see good gifts come as a result of our reading of the book that we should “deny not the power of God” (Moroni 10:7). Moroni tells us to “deny not the gifts of God, for they are many; and they come from the same God” (Moroni 10:8). He adds, “And all these gifts come by the Spirit of Christ; and they come unto every man severally, according as he will” (Moroni 10:17). Moroni may be telling us that if we see spiritual gifts flow into our lives as a result of our reading of the Book of Mormon, such as an increased ability to teach the gospel, to heal, to work miracles, to prophesy, or to speak in or interpret tongues, then the manifestation of these spiritual gifts are in themselves an answer to our prayer of the truthfulness of the Book of Mormon and we should not deny the power of God or the gifts of God. The Holy Ghost will choose one or more of many ways to answer our fervent prayers, and one of those ways might be by giving a spiritual gift. We must then recognize that these spiritual gifts come from the Holy Ghost as an answer to our prayers.

Alan Taylor Farnes, “Scripture Note: A Fresh Approach to Moroni’s Promise,” Religious Educator 20, no. 2 (2019): 150–159.

As we see in the remarks made by Farnes, not only does Moroni exhort us not to deny the power of God. We are also exhorted not to deny the spiritual gifts given unto those individuals by the power of the Holy Spirit as a means in answering their question. This provides the evidence Clay Jones appears to allude to as it relates to the testimony and validity of Christ’s Resurrection:

No, my faith is based on the objective evidence that Jesus was actually raised from the dead. It’s true that I also have had subjective experiences that encourage me that Christianity is true, but those experiences are absolutely not the foundation of my faith in Jesus. Again, my faith in Jesus is based on the historical fact that Jesus was raised from the dead. As Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 15:14, “If Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith.” So, if someone could prove that Jesus wasn’t raised from the dead then I would absolutely stop being a Christian.

As much as one, like Clay Jones, makes the case that his faith is based on objective evidence that Jesus was actually raised from the deadhe appears to fail to understand that one’s answer to their sincere, genuine intent in pondering and searching for wisdom, truth, and knowledge from what they have read within the Book of Mormon; how it testifies of Christ, his ministry, death, burial, and resurrection is just as objective evidence based on the spiritual gifts.

Proper Understanding of D&C 9:8

Now that we have an understanding of Moroni’s challenge and exhortation in Moroni 10:3-5, we turn our attention to understand the passage of Doctrine and Covenants section 9:8. It reads:

But, behold, I say unto you, that you must study it out in your mind; then you must ask me if it be right, and if it is right I will cause that your bosom shall burn within you; therefore, you shall feel that it is right.

The context centers around a revelation given to Joseph Smith regarding Oliver Cowdery:

Revelation given through Joseph Smith the Prophet to Oliver Cowdery, at Harmony, Pennsylvania, April 1829. Oliver is admonished to be patient and is urged to be content to write, for the time being, at the dictation of the translator, rather than to attempt to translate.

Doctrine and Covenants Section 9; Heading Summary

In this context of Oliver Cowdery desiring to possess the gift of translation – he is admonished to fulfill the work he is already called to do. And to know of its truthfulness regarding the translation – the Lord stipulated that He (Oliver Cowdrey) is to study these things he is translating out in his mind – or ponder on these things and consider God’s grace from creation to present time. Then, when he is humble, sincere, and intent – having faith in Christ – God will cause his (Cowdrey’s) bosom to burn within him.

And so, what is this burning in the bosom? Well, as established – we are emotional beings. We are either motivated to react because of our emotions or we are learning to discipline ourselves to respond because of our emotions. In this way – the idea of experiencing a burning in the bosom is a figurative speech where we understand that there is a deep-rooted emotional response when the Holy Spirit testifies to our inner most being of the truthfulness. This brings us back to the two men on the road from Emmaus to Jerusalem and meeting the Savior. They recounted how their own hearts burned within them as Christ opened their spiritual heart and eyes to the truthfulness of the Scriptures as they testify to who He – Christ – is. This revelation caused them to swell with overwhelming joy, perplex curiosity, and willingness to probably hasten their journey to report what they have just experienced and heard.

Photo by Hanny Naibaho on Unsplash

Sufficient Answer to a Presumed Unanswerable Question

Like many critics of the Restored Gospel of Jesus Christ – Clay Jones attempts to reason against the subjective personal revelation of an individual regarding the Book of Mormon. And I have heard many former members (apostates) who have become Evangelical Christian Apologists claim that such an experience is not trustworthy enough, not scripture enough, and not based on reality, sound, or reasonable evidence. Along with fellow Evangelical Christian lay persons, ministers, pastors, and even well-educated Christian apologists making the same claim.

And to them – it is only presumed to be an unanswerable question because of several factors:

  • They lacked any genuine intent, sincerity, or true faith in asking God – most likely is because they already have their own minds convinced that the Book of Mormon is wrong and does not preach Christ, teach Christ, or testify of Christ.
  • They failed to understand what Moroni was actually exhorting us to do, and not do, and how the Holy Spirit may manifest the truthfulness of the Book of Mormon through the various spiritual gifts afforded to each individual.
  • They tend to pigeonhole themselves into a logical quandary because many times Evangelical Christians will proclaim an overwhelming sense of feeling the presence of God, the Holy Spirit, or receiving personal revelations, guidance, wisdom, and the like – yet they do not seem to question the validity of such experience in the same way they attempt to criticize and question the validity of one praying to determine for themselves the truthfulness of Christ as revealed and testified within the Book of Mormon

Along with this – many mistaken that one is to pray to determine of Joseph Smith is a true prophet of God and if the Book of Mormon is true. This is not what we are asked to do. The simple task is to:

  • Ponder in our hearts and consider the witness and teachings as they center on Jesus Christ, his ministry, death, burial, and resurrection – as it is revealed within the Book of Mormon
  • Having a deep-rooted faith in Christ knowing we shall receive an answer and that answer may come in a variety of ways by the power and authority of the Holy Spirit. Sometimes it is an overwhelming feeling of elation, joy, and sense of serenity. Others may include the manifestation of spiritual gifts.
  • Knowing that we are to seek, ask, and knock with the assurance and boldness that our Heavenly Father will give unto us an answer.
  • Not to deny the power of God as he manifests the knowledge, spiritual insight, and wisdom according to man’s faith; nor, deny the power and gifts of the spirit as they are manifested in our lives to help us grow in faith, spirit, and truth.

Yes, Clay Jones, the sufficient answer to your unanswerable question is this: Jesus is the Christ, son of the Living God who fulfilled his ministry, took upon himself the sins of the world, was crucified, buried, and rose the third day with a body of flesh and bones. This is the testimony of the Old Testament. The testimony of the New Testament. And it is the testimony of the Book of Mormon.

As the Book of Mormon declares (2 Nephi 25:26) we have this testimony:

And we talk of Christ, we rejoice in Christ, we preach of Christ, we prophesy of Christ, and we write according to our prophecies, that our children may know to what source they may look for a remission of their sins.

See, General Conference, October 2020 – Elder Neil L. Anderson: We Talk of Christ

Anything that testifies of Christ and denies Him not is not a false gospel. Nor does it lead people to worship other gods or idols. And because we receive a true confirmation of the Book of Mormon, we are then receiving divine knowledge and understanding that it was through Joseph Smith that our Heavenly Father thought it was wisdom for Him to reveal and bring forth the Book of Mormon for us today.

Specifically, during a time when people seem to be turning away from Christ, embracing a feel-good sense of Christianity, or a more liberal and progressive idea of Christianity. Further changing what He already revealed, spoke out against, and even taught.

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