Burning in the bosom

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Nihil turpius quam cognitioni assertionem praecurrere. [Cicero, Academica, i. 45. "Nothing is more shameful than to affirm before knowing."]

One of the foundations of Mormonism is its insistence that a person seek the truth by praying for a private, special revelation from the Holy Spirit [1]

"In answer to our prayers, the Holy Ghost will teach us through our feelings and thoughts... Heavenly Father will answer their prayers, typically through feelings of their hearts and thoughts in their minds." (Preach the Gospel, p. 39; this is the "2004 handbook utilized by the Mormon missionaries") [7]

What they receive is sometimes called a burning in the bosom as a confirmation of truth. Mormons frequently appeal to James 1:5 for this, especially given that their founder, Joseph Smith, claimed that this was the verse and method he used for finding the truth. This is often accompanied by the insistence that one suspend judgment of his or her religion (even in the face of its historical and theological problems) until he or she has read the Book of Mormon and received, by prayer, a special revelation from the Holy Spirit of its truthfulness.

Missionaries, for example, ask Temple Square visitors, "How do you feel when you are on Temple Square?" Missionaries are instructed to teach potential converts that certain feelings are from the Holy Spirit (any negative feelings about the religion are presupposed to be not of the Spirit). They are also discouraged from investigating Mormonism's history, doctrine, and the claims of its detractors. Supreme emphasis is put on the prayer and the subsequent "burning in the bosom". If one prays and does not receive the appropriate "testimony", one is encouraged to pray more sincerely. The absence of an emotional confirmation is seen not as a testimony against Mormonism, but rather against the sincerity of the one praying. Most missionaries of mainstream Mormonism usually will not discuss the more controversial or problematic doctrines of its organization until this "testimony" is acquired.

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[edit] "Internal testimony of the Holy Spirit"

The Mormon idea of the "internal testimony of the Holy Spirit" is such that a person feels new information and identifies it as the Spirit. Such an internal testimony over the truthfulness or the inspiration of scripture is essentially viewed as independent from the content of scripture itself. As an example, consider the words of H. Bryan Richards at the October 2004 conference:

I recall an experience with a zone leader in England who came to me during the lunch break at zone conference. He said, "We are teaching a lady who is blind and nearly deaf. She wants to know if the Book of Mormon is true. What shall we do?" I did not have an answer at that moment, but I said, "I will let you know after our conference." During the afternoon session I had the distinct impression come as to how to help her. After the meeting I said to the zone leader, "Have this sister hold her copy of the Book of Mormon and turn its pages very slowly. When she has done this, have her ask if it is true." Though she could not read nor hear the words, she felt the spirit and power of the Book of Mormon, and it changed her life.[2]

[edit] Criticism

"He who trusts in his own heart is a fool, but whoever walks wisely will be delivered." -Proverbs 28:26

Many critics of Mormonism and its relentless method of ensuring allegiance to the organization argue that this is nothing more than the pursuit of the euphoria of a self-induced emotional epiphany (or worse, that it, having shut the self off from objective truth, opens one up to a demon-induced euphoria), and that it distracts from a proper Biblical emphasis on examining the various sources of external testimony that point to the truthworthiness of God, the Bible, the gospel, and other objective reality (Luke 1:1-4; John 14:11; Acts 17:11; 1 Corinthians 15:5-9). The Holy Spirit's primary method of inwardly confirming and testifying to truth is the illumination of public revelation that God has provided. A Christian would encourage a person to investigate the various things that point to the trustworthiness of Christ, and to pray that the Holy Spirit would illuminate such (Psalm 119:18 "Open my eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of your law."), while the Mormon would often be content for a person to simply pray and receive a special euphoria. While Mormons emphasize subjective truth (truth discerned by mere feelings), it is important for Christians to help explain the nature of objective truth (something that often challenges our feelings).

Ironically, propping up an invincible faith is a way of telling God he is not trusted, and leaving our faith vulnerable is a way of trusting him that it won't be surprised with fatal information.

[edit] Quotes

John E. Clark, “The Final Battle for Cumorah” [review, Curtis, Christ in North America], Review of Books on the Book of Mormon 6/2 (1994): 80 (79-113). http://maxwellinstitute.byu.edu/publications/review/?vol=6&num=2&id=153

[edit] See also

[edit] References

  1. Examples: [1], [2], [3], [4], [5]
  2. H. Bryan Richards . "Remember the Teachings of Your Father". Available online here. See also "Conference Voices" in Salt Lake Tribune, Oct. 4, 2004.
  3. Part of the Q&A session following the presentation, "Archeology, Relics, and Book of Mormon Belief" [6]
  4. "Defending the Kingdom: Rethinking the Faith: How Apologetics is Reshaping Mormon Orthodoxy", by John-Charles Duffy. Sunstone, May 2004, 22-55. Available online here: http://www.sunstoneonline.com/magazine/issues/132/Defending_the_Kingdom.pdf
  5. http://theboard.byu.edu/index.php?area=viewall&id=36902

[edit] External links

[edit] Mormon

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