It’s in the last chapter of the last book of the Book of Mormon, yet it’s the first thing you hear. Everybody who’s ever given the Mormon missionaries a minute of their time has heard at least this one verse. It doesn’t explain or mention the Mormon version of the “gospel”, or any Mormon theology for that matter, yet this single passage has built a church of millions of converts. The worst part is, there’s no logical reason why anybody should be convinced that Mormonism is true on this basis, but sadly, people are usually not logical.
This key verse is:
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.
Another time I’ll make a more thorough analysis of why Joseph Smith delivered this highly advanced example of psychological manipulation at the same time that he had decided to wrap up his book. For now we’ll just note that the Book of Mormon does indeed correspond to events in Joseph Smith’s life, and it’s clear he had determined he was ready to stop writing and start proselytizing. His own admitted writings in Doctrines & Covenants show him to be a very shrewd manipulator (ie: the “revelation” from Jesus Christ himself extorting money from Martin Harris to publish the first edition of the Book of Mormon), and this was no exception. He had devised a method to manufacture “spiritual” experiences from potential converts, and ever since Mormon missionaries have been asking people to pray about the Book of Mormon. As long as you’re sincere, the missionaries assure you ever so kindly, God will show you that the Book of Mormon is true (never mind that the verse says to ask if it’s not true).
If you decline, the missionaries are professionals in using the pressure of kindness to try to change your mind; if you’re persistent, then they conclude you’re just not sincere (and nobody likes to be thought of as insincere). Christians generally object over superstitious or faith-based reasons, but the reality is there’s no reason to even engage the Mormons in the arena of faith, which is only giving unmerited legitimacy to their claims.
The problem with this verse is that its premise is totally illogical. Having studied most of the sacred texts of the world’s religions, I’ve had books tell me to do all sorts of ridiculous things. But I don’t burn all non-Babi literature, fast during Ramadan, or chant “Hare Krishna”, simply because I don’t believe those religions. Asking me to try something because it’s written in a holy book, therefore, would already be assuming truth in that text. Odds are, if you do what somebody tells you to do, you already believe it on some level. It’s no wonder that those who are manipulated into praying about the Book of Mormon come to the conclusion that it’s true–because they already accepted it as truth when they did what it told them to do.
But the real heart of the matter is what precisely are converts putting their faith in? Mormonism hinges on this verse, yet there’s nothing distinctly Mormon about it. It’s not exactly a summary of the faith like John 3:16. The biggest problem with sacred texts that make such outlandish claims about their origins (ie: the Qur’an) is that the faith revolves more around the book than around the deity. Belief in the Book of Mormon is foundational to Mormonism, it takes precedence over belief in God or the death and resurrection of Christ. This view of scripture is essentially idolatrous by nature, which is why Mormons more often resort to atheism or agnosticism when their faith in the Book of Mormon is shaken.
Christians shouldn’t be so easily fooled by such trickery, and yet Christians are the leading converts to Mormonism. As mentioned already, most of them had already put one foot in the LDS Church when they took the Book of Mormon seriously enough to pray about it. I’ll also demonstrate later how many Christians are primed for Mormon conversion because they already hold in common the same inaccurate views of scripture that Mormons do.
The first (and also final) step in preventing these conversions from happening is to never listen to suggestions from any book in question, because doing so is textbook circular reasoning. It’s not suggesting any demonic or supernatural influence will occur if you do, and contrary to the pressure you will encounter from Mormon missionaries, it’s actually sane and logical not to obey their scriptures before you believe them. If they persist, they are not only proscribing illogical and irrational behavior, but also behavior to which they would never subscribe. Try as I might, I haven’t been able to convince the missionaries to try out any of the above recommendations from other religions, which is a double standard on their part. They might tell me they’ll pray about those books to find out if those are not true (they always remember to phrase this one in the negative), but none of those books are even asking them to do that. Clearly, they don’t really believe this “try it before you by it” test for any religion other than Mormonism.
A sacred text that requires belief in its divine inspiration before its claims can even be evaluated simply cannot be divine. This should be obvious to Mormons especially because such a claim is a radical departure from the accepted Christian canon, which they also claim to believe. Sadly, most Mormons will dismiss this blog purely because I refuse to listen to this one verse at the end of the book, and instead choose to logically and critically analyze the text starting from the beginning.