Comments about ‘Challenging Issues, Keeping the Faith: Challenging Issues, Keeping the Faith: What critics don't understand about testimony’

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Published: Monday, March 28 2011 6:00 a.m. MDT

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Dietrich, ID

Vaughn J Featherstone told of a young women that at 11 months had burning in bosom to leave mission. It was confusing and he said since the Lord is no respector or persons he would give that feeling to anyone that wanted to go home early. Said Lords house is not house of confusing.

I worked with someone that had a burning in the bosom that his supervisors at work were doing things wrong. Felt it over other things too. He however was not living worthy to have the companionship of the spirit as he excused himself from meetings (because people picked on him). Didn't want to keep the commandments though. Felt it to start going back to church. Like he needed an answer.

Thing is you also cannot get revelation outside your stewardship like he claimed to recieve. Interesting situations.

Full-on double rainbow
Bluffdale, UT

While impractical, I don't have any problem with faith inside a vacuum. Nothing to disuade or lead you to believe. I could even stomach faith where there is only a small amount that leads you to disbelieve. However imo, the believe vs disbelieve ratio far favors the disbeleive, in Mormonism.

I do think the tone was a bit lighter than last week, and that's always nice.

Lehi, UT

Great article again.
Ive also noticed critics chant that evidence is the only way, truth and life. But, when given abundant evidences, they dismiss without reason, offer absolutely no evidence for their own faiths (Atheism, Agnosticism, Episcopalian, evangelical, Deity avoidance etc), and simply move on to another anti-Mormon concoction or misquote. And, when those are debunked, there are nearly 200 years of other anti-Mormons to quote, and when that fails, they insult, and make something new up, because, as we all know, they are here to tell the Mormons the truth about Mormonism, and twisting and lying about Mormonism is the only way to effectively save Mormons..from real truth something???

I agree that, of the mountains of evidence, the most important is the voice of God, the voice of reason. Sometimes I struggle in pondering. At crucial times, after trying, strengthening, preparatory faith (for by it all things are, and will be, done), He speaks, in my heart and mind, so powerfully, always reasonably, in light, truth, and very real, concrete love, above anything human mind is capable of, sometimes accurately giving important future details, impossible to know on my own.

Explain that my critical friends

Ogden, UT

Thanks, Michael.

Something that never ceases to amaze me is the amount amount and intensity of the critic's arrogance when it comes to obtaining a spiritual conviction.

Since they have never experienced anything like that, or have not ever given notice to it if it had ever come to them, they conclude that it does not exist.

Once I overheard a person testify as to her conviction concerning a spiritual experience and her sister who had never experienced anything like that said, "Well, then, if you have experienced what you say you have, why doesn't God give me any such experience?"

"Have you ever asked God for such an experience?" came the reply the reply.

"Well, no."

"There you have your answer, my dear sister. How can you expect God to give you something that you have never had interest in obtaining? He is never going to force anything upon you that you have no real interest in acquiring."

Critics seem to arrogantly believe that since they are not interested in any kind of spiritual awakening, then no one else should be so interested either.

Hillsboro, OR

This article is suggestive of epistemology, but does not address the topic directly. It would be useful if Br. Ash could cover the topic of epistemology and testimony in the next edition or a future edition. Some would say that epistemology (the study of the origin, nature, methods, and limits of human knowledge) and testimony don't fit together, but I think most LDS as well as probably most religious peoples would believe that they do.

When it comes to our testimonies, how do we know what we know? How reliable is our method of knowing? Does our method of knowing relate to other areas of inquiry, or only to religious investigation? Does testimony equate to knowing? If it does not, why do so many of us say that we "know"? How is the testimony method of coming to knowledge better than other methods of knowing?

Thank you for the article. I look forward to the next installation.

Miami Area, Fl

Many quotes in this article from D&C.

I am confused as to how people like Ash are fine with quoting D&C to support their positions, but disregard other D&C quotes when they are not in agreement.

D&C has specifically stated that the Great Battle took place in New York at THAT Hill Cumorah, yet he continues to look for other places.

How does one know which D&C passages are quotable and which can be discarded.

Can you really have it both ways?

Somewhere in Time, UT

Another excellent article. Thanks.

Salt Lake valley, UT

Thanks, Mike, for this article and for explaining that the ancients considered the heart as the source of both reason and emotion, thus leading to the concept that pondering in ones heart includes both reason and emotion. The critics who will respond to this article will likely claim that you've changed the meaning of the word "heart" and that pondering in ones heart only refers to emotions. These people don't seem to recognize that ancient people had different definitions to words than we have and that the LDS scriptures were often given within the context of ancient use not modern use.

The 1828 Webster Dictionary includes the following.

6. The seat of the understanding; as an understanding heart.
We read of men wise in heart, and slow of heart.

A clear reference given prior to the publishing of the BoM and the organization of the LDS church that the word "heart" refers to intellect. Of course, the 1828 Webster Dictionary also defines heart as we do today, the seat of emotions. So, how do we determine which definition should be used? By the context of other verses of scripture, as Ash brought out in his article.

Phoenix, AZ

How is what Mr. Ash is stating unique to Mormon believers, is it not the same for other devoted believers, Catholics, Jews, Protestants, FLDS, and even those totally consumed and dedicated to their favorite sports team, visitation by aliens; or other love of life. Mr. Ash proves nothing, most people realize that there are serious fanatics in this world that see, feel, believe and think they know things that others can not percieve the existense of. Maybe this is a subject best left to psychiatrists and not religious apologists.

Murray, UT

I wonder what the course of these articles is. It started out telling us some there was some evidence for the Book of Mormon, (The article on Nahom = NHM.), or at least there were some reasons why evidence no longer exsited. (The article on DNA.) These last two articles seem to be heading in a new direction.

Personally, I am an active member of the LDS faith, and I read the Book of Mormon daily. That has not prevented, and in some cases has led me, to the opion that it is a doctinal book, not a historical book. I feel fine with that solution even if others do not.

As a side note, if we look at the recent illustrated books and movies the church has produced about the Book of Mormon, they seem to indicate that the church feels a Central American location would be appropriate for the Book of Mormon.

Pickle Juice, The Key to a BCS
Clinton, UT

Ash states in his article that critics don't understand a testimony. I'm LDS and I don't understand either. Isn't a testimony a personal witness that you know something is true? You always hear many LDS saying "I know the church and BoM is true." If you have studied, prayed, and received a divine witness from God about a deity, why would you worry about losing it? It seems pretty ironclad right? Wrong! According to Church teachings, it can be lost at the drop of a hat. Here is a short list of the many ways you can lose the divine witness from a supreme being:

-skipping a few Sundays at church
-skipping a tithing payment
-reading too much unflattering history of the Church
-not reading your scriptures
-watching an "R" rated movie
-drinking coffee or tea
-not attending the temple regularly
-not bearing your testimony regularly

and so on and so on...

If skipping Church can cause someone to lose their testimony, then how valid of a testimony was it to begin with? How can you have such a supernatural witness and then forget about it? Or was it just a warm fuzzy feeling?

Searching . . .
Orem, UT

There are many ideas in this article that I agree with. Testimony should have basis in fact and reason, and truth can be found outside of the standard works. However, many critics, myself included, have been raised in the church and understand what testimony is. Testimony is based on faith and belief in Christ and is not a proof that Lehi ever lived in Mesoamerica.

It's interesting that Mr. Ash would address this topic before continuing with his proofs that Mesoamerica is the location of the BoM. It's as though he is taking our hand and stating that we need to trust our testimony as we delve into these facts. In reality, this discussion should not need testimony. As others have pointed out, the Church has taken no stand on the location, so spiritual witness should not be required. In fact, apologists have shot down Rod Meldrum's theories in part because he did receive spiritual witness (see the FARMS review). The proofs should be archaeologically evident and indisputable. Testimony may give one comfort and strength in difficult times, but it is not a proof and has no place in a discussion of archaeology in Central_America.

Provo, Ut

It is completely untrue, that "critics" describe Mormon testimonies as "feelings". The fact is, Mormons have done this! Just watch any Mormon try and explain what the experience of the Holy Ghost is like, from personal experience, and they will describe a litany of "peaceful" sensations and euphoria. Critics simply criticize this epistemological method.

Secondly, Ashe's article today strictly relies on scripture to make points that can't actually be satisfied in practical experience. Let's use D&C section 9, quoted in the article. While we commonly quote this verse "you must study it out in your mind...", but can anyone explain to me how Oliver Cowdrey was supposed to study the characters of an unknown and mysterious language, out in his mind? Yes, God wants us to study it out, and provides nonsensical narratives in scripture to prove this. I have studied this story out in my mind, and found it to be quite lacking, and by implication any arguments supported by this story to be suspect.

Salt Lake valley, UT

@JoeBlow "D&C has specifically stated that the Great Battle took place in New York at THAT Hill Cumorah, yet he continues to look for other places."

JoeBlow, would you please give the chapter(s) and verse(s) from the D&C that specifically state the Great Battle took place in New York at THAT Hill Cumorah. I would like to study the verses. Thanks in advance.

layton, Ut

Allen: Mike Ash said,In ancient times,they typically believed that the heart was home for both the soul as well as the origination of thoughts. Not Judaism.
Jesus replied: Love(*agapao) the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your MIND. 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. (Mt 22:37,38) Also see(Deut. 6:5 Greek Septuagint),The Apostles Bible.
*Not phileo(affection)but agapao commitment of devotion and can be commanded as a duty. The Greek should be preferred over Websters dictionary.

For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any two edged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts(mind) and intents of the heart. (Hebrews 4:12 KJV) Gods word penetrates the depth of ones total being.

Everybody Wang Chung Tonight
Riverton, Utah

Michael states that the Lord doesn't give evidence or proof because that would destroy our free agency. What?!

Let's not forget that people in scripture received lots and lots of evidence from God. The Apostle Thomas, all those Nephites, the seas suddenly parting, the sun stopping, the walking on water, the feeding of thousands with a single basket of fare, the immediate clearing of leprosy... on and on. Was their agency abridged?

So now that Mike Ash has claimed that evidence would destroy our agency, I hope he's not going to undercut that claim by trying to offer evidence for the Book of Mormon.

If he does, does that mean he was just kidding?

Scottsdale, AZ

I've shared on here before that I've had a spiritual experience which presented the falsehood of the LDS Church. My experience was mocked and simply passed off as doubtful. Something seems awfully inconsistent here. I haven't yet received an answer from a Mormon here (Mr. Ash or otherwise) to my point that there are many spirits in the world, and any one of these spirits can impart a feeling. The question is, how do you know that you have the right spirit? We cannot both be right -- one of us has been duped by a deceiving spirit concerning the LDS Church.

Mr. Ash has made the case this week for a rational component to a spiritual witness. I'm not sure that this will help his case, though. For instance, I've been pointing out all along that Big Bang Cosmology is highly supportive of the traditional Christian understanding of creation -- from nothing. I've also pointed out that a corporeal, once-man god cannot found the moral law. Such a deity must be capricious and arbitrary (a fact borne out well in the history of the LDS Church).

Eagle mountain, UT

This article reminds me of what a philosopher once told me, "circular reasoning is the best. Why? Because it is circular."

It always makes me laugh when the faithful claim that this burning in their bosom is confirmation of truth. Many people throughout history have used the same reasoning to justify some truly horrendous actions. Are their convictions not as valid as everyone else? If that is the standard for knowing truth, we are left with all kinds of contradictions and fallacious reasoning. There are mormons who believe they are part of the one true church, but so do the baptists and catholics and a good portion of religions. Both propositions can not be true. It is either the one true church or its not. This is why evidence, reason, rational thinking are important. Without them there is no objectively to our lives and every claim becomes equally valid.

Ogden, UT

It must be at least a little disheartening for Michael Ash to read all these doubters' intellectualizing spiritual experience.

It's sort of like the saying that you cannot argue with a fool. There is no reasoning, of course with a fool.

Not to say that the intellectualizers are fools, by any means at all.

It's just that there is no one so blind as the one who will not see and will not even consider that there is something beyond their own experience.

Sad to say the least.

Miami Area, Fl


My mistake. What I referred to was in Journal of Discourses. I never intentionally mislead, so my apologies.

""The great and last battle, in which several hundred thousand Nephites
perished was on the hill Cumorah, the same hill from which the plates
were taken by Joseph Smith, the boy about whom I spoke to you the other
evening." (Talk given by Apostle Orson Pratt, Feb. 11, 1872 Journal of
Discourses Vol. 14, pg. 331)

So, I will retract my original post, but pose the same questions concerning the J of D, as it is commonly quoted.

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