You can always tell a well indoctrinated member of the Mormon Church if they say something along these lines,” I don’t care what evidence you have the Church isn’t true, because the Spirit has borne witness to me it is true.”
Members have been taught that a good, peaceful feeling is the Holy Ghost testifying to them the Church is true and all that goes along with that implication. In fact, members are told it is a more powerful witness than if you actually see God and Christ. It trumps scientific evidence that counters the feeling.
Is this good feeling called the Holy Ghost a solid barometer for detecting truth? To examine this, let me begin with two personal examples.
I grew up in a christian household where my parents were not affiliated with any particular Church. My mother would take my sister and I to a different Church each Sunday. She had a good friend who was Mormon and we visited her ward a few times. The Spirit never bore witness to my mother, sister, or I that we were on hallowed ground and this was the “only true church upon the face of the earth.” We were seekers of truth yet never received this witness of the Spirit.
A few years go by and a friend reintroduces me to the Church. We attend a meeting where an apostle is speaking. This man is only one of 15 people on the entire planet who holds special keys and authority to call himself a “special witness” of Christ. I felt nothing. My friend was disappointed and started blaming me. As I went to sacrament, baptisms, young adult activities, my friend had to teach me what the Holy Ghost was. The missionaries taught me and did the same thing. It went something like this:
“Did you have a good feeling when we taught you about Joseph Smith bringing forth the Book of Mormon?”
“I guess so.”
“That was the Spirit telling you the Church is true. How about getting baptized?”
The Spirit is a member of the Godhead and yet I had to be taught, guided, cajoled into understanding what it is by people in the Church. No independent confirmation from the Spirit itself in this matter. When I attended the Baptist Church, they told me the same thing about the Spirit, only it confirmed their Church was true. Now let’s look at a hypothetical situation:
We have a young man who lives in India whose family is Hindu. He has never heard of the Mormon Church and is happy with his religion. What are the odds the Spirit will whisper in his ear one day that he should go find a Book of Mormon and read it and that Joseph Smith is a true Prophet? The odds are somewhere between zero and none. It just does not happen. For some reason God is not able to whisper truth in peoples ears by the power of the Spirit. Just as in my case, this young man would need someone telling him what the Spirit is and they would be heavily influenced by their culture.
When I served a mission, not once did someone walk up to me or any missionary I knew and said, “The Spirit bore witness you are true messengers.” It just does not happen. Why not? If the Church truly is the restored gospel, you would think these kinds of experiences would be commonplace. Instead, what we see is people interpret what is called the Spirit according to their culture.
We see this all the time. We have countless examples of people from all faiths bearing testimony about the truth of their particular religion.
“I would frequently go out and ask the Lord to show me some marvelous thing, in order that I might receive a testimony. But the Lord withheld marvels from me, and showed me the truth, line upon line, precept upon precept, here a little and there a little, until he made me to know the truth from the crown of my head to the soles of my feet, and until doubt and fear had been absolutely purged from me. He did not have to send an angel from the heavens to do this, nor did he have to speak with the trump of an archangel. By the whisperings of the still small voice of the Spirit of the living God, he gave to me the testimony I possess.” This was from Joseph F. Smith. The sixth prophet of this dispensation. He knows the Church is true because of a feeling. Nothing more!
Here are testimonies from two other people. One a Catholic and the other Muslim. These are from the Mormon Challenge Document. Both describe the same exact thing a Mormon thinks is unique to his or her faith.
“Alexander embraced Islam and adopted his Muslim name, Hamza, after six years of search for the truth. It was the ‘adan,’ or the call to prayer, which he heard for the first time while he was in an African country that changed his life. ‘It inspired me to search for the truth. It gave me an inexplicable feeling that spread throughout my body and I stood astounded for a long time. I am very happy to have embraced the world’s great religion.”
“I remember feeling something physically different about being in a Catholic church than any other church I had ever been in. I remember feeling warmth, comfort, peace, and calm wash over me as I would sit silently.”
In both cases, they describe the same thing that a mormon would describe. The institutions these three belong to and bore witness of believe very different things.They can’t even agree on the nature of God. And yet, each thinks the Spirit is telling them their particular belief system is the true one.
Apologists for the Church try to get around this by saying the Spirit bears witness to these people(those who are not Mormon) of only the true things in their religion. The problem with that reasoning is that somehow the Spirit never leads these people on to some greater truth found in Mormonism.It never says ok, you just made it to second base, now let’s get to home base where the Mormon Church is. In fact, people in other faiths are quite resistant to someone coming along telling them their faith is incorrect. In spite of the polemic arguments by apologists, the Spirit does not seem to lead people to Mormonism. Instead, it leads people to whatever belief system their culture tells them is true.
A good, peaceful feeling is not an indicator or barometer of truth. It is an indicator of a persons culture where they were taught how to interpret a feeling and what that feeling means. When that person leaves their culture, they leave the interpretation of that feeling behind and can explore new meanings for it.
“Ye shall know the truth and the truth shall set you free”