Article

 



Are feelings your ultimate authority

Where does ‘burning in the bosom’ come from?

“People who have strong testimony will never leave the Church!!”

Understanding Mormon Culture

 

One of the difficulties that evangelical Christians face when witnessing to members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, commonly known as Mormons, is their subjective apologetics. The Mormon Church teaches their members to  have testimoniesor a ‘burning in the bosom’ to determine the spiritual truth. “Burning in the bosom” and “Bearing of testimonies” are two of a number of different ways Mormons rely on their feelings.1 Mormons often say, “ People who have a strong testimony will never leave the Church!!”  They often say that they “know” the Mormon Church is true and/or they “bear testimony” to it.  What does it mean?  Latayne Scott, a Christian with a Mormon background, says that Mormons are “not talking about the result of an empirical survey in which it was compared with all other churches, nor an evaluation of what truth means”, but are “speaking of knowledge that is the result of intuition, authority, and reason (in that order).”2 Having testimony is a kind of infallible knowledge Mormons believe they have received from the Holy Ghost.3

 

Mormon Missionaries persistently try to persuade investigators (prospective converts) to read Moroni 10:4 in the Book of Mormon and pray over the truthfulness of the Book of Mormon.

     

      Moroni 10:4-5  “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.”

 

God supposedly fulfils this promise of manifesting the truthfulness of the Book of Mormon through a “burning in the bosom.”  See the Doctrine & Covenant 9:8

 

      Doctrine & Covenant 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.”

 

 

Where do these feelings like “Bearing of testimonies” and “Burning in the bosom” come from?  Is it true that those who leave the Mormon Church have never had a strong Mormon testimony?  First we should clarify the difference between Mormon testimony and Christian testimony and then consider the issue of the burning bosom.

 

Mormon Testimony vs. Christian Testimony

 

Mormon Testimony

 

Mormon testimonies are frequently very similar.  “I bear you my testimony…” Then follows one of those sayings:  “I know the Book of Mormon is true,” “I know Joseph Smith was a prophet of God, ” or “I know that The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is true.”  In a Mormon household children are encouraged to repeat their testimony about Joseph Smith, the Book of Mormon and their church from the age of three.  They will repeat it all their lives.

 

When Mormons are challenged about their belief system, and they do not know how to answer, they bear their testimony to us. Their reason for doing so seems more to “protect” themselves than to “witness”.4  See what an official Mormon teaching teaches about this:

         

         “Our testimonies will sustain us throughout our lives when difficulties and trials come.  At such times, we cannot be sustained by the testimonies of others, but will have to stand on our own testimonies in order to endure our trials in faith.” (Duties and Blessings of the Priesthood A- an official Mormon teaching manual p.190)

 

Christian Testimony 

             

               Many Mormons are not aware of the difference between Mormon testimonies and Bible-believing Christians’ testimonies. Christians’ testimonies are Christ-centred.  Christians proclaim how our encounter with the risen Christ transformed our lives based on the finished work of the cross.  None of our testimonies are identical.  How we encounter Christ varies, but we proclaim the following points: 5

                     · What our lives were like before Christ saved us

                     · How we came to the point of belief and repentance

               ·  What our lives are like now, as followers of Christ

        

         The focus of Christian testimony is summed up in apostle Paul’s confession in Galatians 2:20,21.6

             

               Galatians 2:20, 2120I am crucified with Christ; nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me. 21 I do not frustrate the grace of God: for if righteousness come by the law, then Christ is dead in vain.”

        

               Note that in verse 21 if we receive righteousness by observing the law, there would be no need for grace, and Christ’s death on the cross would have been a waste. “Christ is dead in vain.”(Please read our article, Is salvation by grace or grace plus works at www.momsydney.org.au)

 

Is it only people who have not experienced the Mormon Testimony who leave the Mormon Church?

 

Mormons are taught that people with weak faith and weak in their testimony leave their church.  J.A.C. Redford, a Christian with a Mormon background, writes about Mormon Testimony. 7 When Redford and his wife decided to leave the Mormon Church some speculated that the Redfords never had real testimonies.  Redford writes his spiritual experiences as a Mormon in the following.

 

        “I have since learned that one cannot rely on overwhelming emotional sensations to determine what is ultimately true. I now know by sad experience how deceptive the heart can be.  To my young mind, however, things all seemed so marvellous and clear, and I lived for these ineffable moments of radiance, for each random sparks of seemingly divine favour.  

 

    With my testimony as a model and guide, I began to have more frequent and varied spiritual experiences. The following summer, while on vacation in Farmington, New Mexico, I was overcome with a sense of guilt for my sins - the usual teenage preoccupations with lust and lack of discipline. I hiked up onto a bluff overlooking my aunt’s house and prayed intensely, begging God to forgive me and set me back on the track. As I was praying, a cool and gentle wind began to caress my face and my Book of Mormon fell open to this passage.

 

“And if men come upon unto me I will show unto them their weakness. I give unto men weakness that they may be humble; and my grace is sufficient for all men that humble themselves before me; for if they humble themselves before me, and have faith in me, then will I make weak things become strong unto them” (Ether 12:27)

 

        I was overjoyed.  God had spoken and I was forgiven.  l was right with the world.”

 

Where did his feelings come from?  Before I quote J.A.C Redford’s observation of his experiences, we should deal with the issue of “ burning in the bosom.”

 

 

Burning in the bosom

          

A non-official Mormon source, Mormon Doctrine (p.99) says, “But the great and conclusive evidence of the divinity of the Book of Mormon is the testimony of the Spirit to the honest truth.  If the decision is right the Holy Ghost will confirm the decision by giving us a peaceful, reassuring feeling that our decision is right or we will get a burning in the bosom (Duties and Blessings of the Priesthood B, an official Mormon teaching manual, p.189). We should read Moroni 10:4-5 again.

           

          Moroni 10:4-5  “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.”

 

This passage assumes that the Book of Mormon is true and the prayer is asking the Holy Ghost to show that the claim that it is not true, is false.8   J. A. C. Redford says,  This method was guaranteed to work if investigators had a “sincere heart” and “real intent.” If they didn’t receive a confirming testimony, it was because they lacked a sincere desire or sufficient faith for God to reveal the truth to them.  The deck was stacked - if they failed, it was their own fault, not ours, and certainly not God’s.” 9

 

Where do the inner feelings come from?  The Bible tells us three sources. 10

[1]   God: all-powerful God can cause good feelings. The Lord God omnipotent reigneth”(Revelation 19:6).

[2]   Satan, he is the great deceiver and father of lies can cause good feelings. Satan with all power and signs and lying wonders (2 Thessalonians 2:9).  People can be hit by fiery darts of the wicked one (Ephesians 6:6).

[3]   Our own heart

       Our hearts can be wrong, see what the Bible says about our hearts

 

   Proverbs 28:26  He that trusteth in his own heart is a fool: but whoso walketh wisely, he shall be delivered”

 Jeremiah 17:9  “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked; who can know it?

 

From these verses those who trust their hearts only, and /or feelings only, can be lead into error. 11  Proverb 14:12 says that what might seem right is not necessarily so. 12

         

Proverbs 14:12  “There is a way which seemeth right unto a man, but the end thereof are the ways of death

      

Janis Hutchinson, a former Mormon, presently a Bible teacher says, “The problem is that many times we answer our own prayer.  Investigators, impressed with Mormon ethics, youth programs, clean-cut missionaries, Family Home evening, welfare programs, plus the biblical tone of the Book of Mormons, unconsciously influence their own praying. In other words, deep down they are hoping the Lord will say yes, and this is bound to have an effect.”13 Our heart is deceitful above all things.

 

We conclude that praying over the Book of Mormon opens the way to deceiving ourselves.  Some Mormons point to Luke 24:13-32 where the risen Christ appeared to the two men walking to the village of Emmaus.  Verse 32 says, “And they said one to another, Did not our heart burn within us, while he talked with us by the way, and while he opened to us the scriptures?”  Mormons use this verse to support the idea of burning in bosom in Doctrine and Covenants 9:8.  But Mormons seem to ignore Luke 24:27, “And beginning at Moses and all the prophets, he expounded unto them in all the scriptures the things concerning himself.” Jesus Christ instructed his disciples in all the Old Testament teachings about himself. 

John Farkas, a Christian apologist, says about these passages:

    

     “It was the truths found in what we now call the Old Testament that spoke to them and caused their hearts to burn. The burning of the heart was the result of the verses they heard, not the proof of the truths. They had become teachable, not hard hearted, and their hearts were evidence of this. The burning of their hearts was a by product, the evidence that they had become teachable.” 14

 

What does the Bible say when someone claims new revelation? Read Acts 17:11-12 .The Bereans searched the Scriptures (The Old Testament) to determine if what they were being told was scriptural and therefore true. We must check the Book of Mormon with older relation (OT and NT), as Paul warns about another Gospel in Galatians 1:6-8. Let us compare the Mormon gospel with the Biblical Gospel.

 

The Third Article of [Mormon] Faith [in The Pearl of Great Price] says “We believe that through the Atonement of Christ, all mankind may be saved, by obedience to the laws and ordinances of the Gospel.”  See the chart below for ‘the gospel’ in Mormonism.

 

2 Nephi 25:23 in the Book of Mormon is frequently quoted by many Mormons.  This shows a stark contrast with Ephesians 2:8-10.

2 Nephi 25:23  “… for we know that is by grace that we are saved, after all we can do”.

     

Ephesians 2:8-10 8 For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God:  9 Not of works, lest any man should boast.  10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.”

 

Mormon Church Teachings

 

Gospel (The)

All the teachings, laws, and ordinances of the LDS Church (Mormon Doctrine, p331).

The Bible

 

Gospel (The)

Message of death of Jesus and bodily resurrection for forgiveness of sins.

                         (1 Corinthians 15:1-5)

Grace

1.   Grace is God’s enabling power that allows people to “lay hold on eternal life and exaltation after they have expended their own efforts” (LDS Bible Dictionary p.697).       

                                See 2 Nephi 25:23

2.   “Grace is granted to men proportionately as they conform to the standards of personal righteousness.” (Mormon Doctrine p.339)

Grace

1. Grace is a gift, which is not earned or deserved.  (Ephesians 2:8-9)

 

 

2.  “Moreover, the law entered, that the offence might abound. But where sin abounded, grace did much more abound.”(Romans 5:20)

 

Therefore the Mormon gospel is different from the Biblical gospel. It does not pass the biblical test. To pray for an answer about it is to ignore what God has already said about it.

 

 

Earlier I quoted from Redford’s spiritual experience as a Mormon.  Redford observes his experiences as a Christian:

       

              “After many years spent in the search for peace, LeAnn and I finally found it in God’s redemptive   grace. We made a radical break with our past by becoming Christians, but we also recognize the patient unfolding of God’s sovereign purpose through our many diverse experiences over the years.  Rather than resenting or repudiating our life as Mormons, we are learning to understand it as part of the continuum of Gods overarching mercy, to see the strands of meaning that wind through it all. In emphasizing the difference between Mormonism and Christianity, I don’t want to lose sight of the consistency of God’s faithfulness in answering our deepest desire for Him.

 

             I believe that my spiritual experiences as a Mormon were predominantly the result of my intense yearning for God. Some of them were moments of genuine inspiration, threads of understanding that God graciously gave and patiently knit together as He drew me to Himself. Some may have been demonic.  I ran into problems with my spiritual experiences because I had not been taught to submit them to the judgement of Scripture. This left me vulnerable to deception. I was dead wrong to extrapolate the truth of Mormonism from these experiences, particularly when Mormon doctrine undermined my confidence in the unique authority of the Bible, taught me to worship a false god, and made my efforts the basis of my relationship with him. 15

 

    

Conclusion Mormons deceive themselves, heavily relying on their inner heart, to determine spiritual truth.  Our heart, a subjective source, is  “deceitful above all things.”  At times Mormon spiritual experience genuinely comes from God, but in most cases it is the product of their own hearts and/or deception.  The Holy Spirit is the “Spirit of truth” who “will guide you into all truth” (John 16:13).    All scripture is God-breathed and is useful, and is the standard, for correcting error (2 Timothy 3:16). Remember the Bereans who studied the older revelations (OT) to determine whether what they had learned, was true. We must check the teachings of the Book of Mormon against the older revelations (OT and NT). Teachings of the Book of Mormon, as we have seen, do not square with the truth in the Bible, therefore, we must conclude that those who put trust in the Mormon Church are not led by the Holy Spirit. (Please read our article, Should we pray about the truthfulness of the Book of Mormon?)

 

  

      

Notes

1. Mark J. Cares, Speaking the Truth in Love to Mormons (Milwaukee, Northwestern Publishing House, 1993) p.119

2. Latayne Scott, After Mormonism What? (Grand Rapids, Baker House, 1994) p.65 

3. John Bracht, Mormonism-Magnificient Illusion (Sydney, Self-published, 1998) p.33

4. Mark J. Cares, Speaking the Truth in Love to Mormons (Milwaukee, Northwestern Publishing House, 1993) p.119

               5. Bob Betts, “Understanding the Mormon Testimony” in “The Cross” (Mesa, AZ, Concerned Christians of Mesa, October-November 2004 issue of newsletter) p.4

          6. Bob Betts

          7. Welcome All Wonders: A Composer’s Journey (Grand Rapids, Baker House, 1997) pp. 45-46

          8. John Farkas, “HOW DO WE TEST FOR SPIRITUAL TRUTHS?”  ?”(www.bcmmin.org.truthtest

 9. J. A. C. Redford, pp. 45-46

10. Jerry and Dianna Benson, HOW TO WITNESS TO A MORMON (Chicago, The Moody Bible, Institute, 2000)

11. John Farkas

12. Ibid.

13. Janis Hutchinson, The Mormon Missionaries: AN Inside Look at Their Real Message and Methods (Grand Rapids, Kregel Resource, 1995) p.204

14.  John Farkas

15. J. A. C. Redford, pp. 208-209