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Mormons And The Burning In The Bosom (revised)

July 21, 2010

Mormons will point to their experience of the burning in the bosom to ultimately validate that their beliefs are true. Since scriptures, interpretations, and prophets can all contradict each other, then supposedly a final arbiter of truth is needed outside of the realm of people’s opinions. We need something verifiable. That “something” is a verifiable burning sensation in the heart to Mormons.

In The Book of Mormon (TBM), the Book of Moroni 10:4 states, “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.”

Then James 1:5 says, “If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally”. (KJV)

Doctrine & Covenants (D&C) 9:8 says, “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.”

These texts are commonly used by Mormons to Scripturally justify the burning in the bosom. Namely, that it should serve as an initial proof that they are in the truth.

Now I would like to simply point out the flaws, problems, and inconsistencies with all of this:

1. The D&C passage was written to Oliver Cowdery, someone who was already a Mormon. Why is someone who is already a Mormon needing to verify if the teachings of Mormonism are true? Mormon, were you honestly completely indifferent to Mormonism when you prayed your prayer, or were you in favor of  it when you asked for your burning in the bosom?

2. Further, the next verse, in verse 9,  says that “if the things are not true then you will have a stupor of thought and will forget about the false thing.” I testify to all Mormons that I have believed things to be true in my heart and LATER had a stupor about it. So how do you know that you will NEVER eventually have a stupor towards Mormonism? You can’t know for sure. Someday you might. If you’re going to assume D&C as authoritative, then you need to assume it is authoritative that you may someday have a stupor even towards Mormonism.

3. Someone could pray and ask if the Quran, or even the teachings of the FLDS or the RLDS (other Mormon sects which the LDS’s reject) were true and if one got the burning in the bosom we’d still have to conclude these are all just as correct too. But A and non-A can’t both be true. You’d then need to appeal to another standard to know which burning in the bosom about which teaching should be accepted.

4. The burning in the bosom is self-contradictory once you think about it for a while. The Mormon is assuming the authority of the TBM, or the authority of D&C in order to validate if TBM and D&C is authoritative. In other words, they’re assuming they should listen to it in order to find out if they should listen to it. And that is so backwards it doesn’t make any sense. One does not need to bother to find out if they should listen to it if they’re already going to listen to it anyways!

5. What if the Mormon wanted to validate whether their burning in the bosom was authentic. You know, just to make sure it wasn’t caused by indigestion. Would they validate it by another burning in the bosom? And what about authenticating that burning, and so on? They’d be caught in an infinite regress. This is the problem with using “empiricism” as an ultimate standard of truth.

6. Both the passage from the Book of Moroni and James never mention anything about an actual burning in the bosom. They speak of the Holy Spirit giving us right knowledge, not a burning in the heart to verify the knowledge. That is the unwarranted leap in interpretation. That is no where to be found in either text.

7. The book of James is written to people who are already believers, not people who are questioning whether or not God’s word is true and are needing to verify it! Further, the context of James 1:5-9 is that God will grant wisdom to those who have confident faith in Christ. Wisdom deals moreso with how to live rightly, not a burning in the heart to verify if doctrinal precepts are correct.

8. Even the book of Moroni, in verse 4, says that the truth will be revealed to those whom have faith in Christ. This means that those whom ask God to reveal the truth to them are already believers in Christ! So if one is already a believer in Christ, why are they still needing to verify claims they already have faith in with an initial burning in the heart?

9. Jeremiah 17:9 says, “The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it?” Just because one experiences a burning in the heart, doesn’t mean it should be trusted. Just because one sincerely believes they know the truth, doesn’t mean they really do.

10: Galatians 1:6-10 “I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting the one who called you by the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel— which is really no gospel at all. Evidently some people are throwing you into confusion and are trying to pervert the gospel of Christ. But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let him be eternally condemned! As we have already said, so now I say again: If anybody is preaching to you a gospel other than what you accepted, let him be eternally condemned!

Am I now trying to win the approval of men, or of God? Or am I trying to please men? If I were still trying to please men, I would not be a servant of Christ.”

Compare the gospel that the apostles teach and proclaim to that of the Mormon gospel. It’s as though this passage in the Bible was written directly to them so that they’d be without excuse for accepting another gospel, which is really no gospel according to the apostle Paul. Perhaps the angel Moroni did reveal a gospel to Joseph Smith. We are commanded to judge the gospel Joseph Smith was given with what the apostles revealed 2,000 years ago. The Mormons have a gospel of salvation by works. The apostles teach we are justified apart from works, so that no man may boast and so God would be all glorious. We are only saved by Christ’s works. He worked so we could be saved, and we’re saved so we can then work for Him as an act of love, not fear. We do good works not to earn salvation, but as a result of it just as a good tree bears good fruit.

We cannot base truth on subjectivity. Even agnostics understand that objective truth must exist independent of ourselves, and our subjective opinions. We live like this is the case everyday. We do not invent that 1+1=2.

The Mormon, with their burning in the bosom testimony, is really only telling you that they accept the authority of the Mormon Church because they do. Scripture is not their authority. Consistent interpretation of the Quad is not their authority. Just the Church’s tradition and the Prophet’s say-so. They accept Mormonism to be true because they accept Mormonism to be true. I would submit that this is not safe.

NOW PLEASE TELL ME YOUR THOUGHTS!!!

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5 comments

  1. Christ said that “the things of God are foolishness unto man because they (the things of God) are spiritualy discerned”.

    People (even many within the church) misunderstand the burning in the bosom concept. I have had some experience with this.

    As a people, our minds are always searching through facts and evidence to understand what is true. With evidence based knowledge, there is always some doubt. For example, I can say that I know that the sun will rise tomorrow, but this is not completely true. All I know is what has happened in the past.

    On a few occasions, I have received a communication from God that is unmistakeable. One of these had to do with the Book of Mormon. I had a spiritual experience in which I know without any doubt that it is true.

    This kind of knowlege bypasses the usual evidence based processes and goes directly to the mind and heart. Joseph Smith called this “pure knowlege”. It is pure because there is no doubt. When we suddenly know without any doubt that there is a God, that knowlege brings with it a flood of peace and warmth that is described as a burning in the bosom.

    I know that God lives, that Jesus is the Christ and that Joseph Smith is a prophet because I know that the Book of Mormon is true. It becomes the key to knowing these things.

    If Christ suddenly appeared to you, you would not necessariy have this experience because it only comes through the power of the Holy Ghost which can speak directly to your mind and heart. If Christ appeared to you, this expereince would probably be accompnied by the Holy Ghost but it is the Holy Ghost that would leave the lasting impression.

    Because spiritual knowledge is more powerful that that knowledge that comes from man, a person with this knowledge cannot be swayed by what others have to say or the ever chaniging evidence that is presented.


  2. Peter,

    Thanks for replying. I have the testimony of the Holy Spirit impressing upon me that Jesus Christ is Yahweh, is God, is un-created, etc just as the apostles taught. Therefore, he is able to forever fulfill the order of Melchizedek (not Mormons), and be a high priest who completely saves his people as Hebrews teaches (our works are not needed).

    Since we both fully believe that the Holy Spirit has lead us into the truth, and we are both powerfully convinced in our hearts that we are each in the truth, there needs to be a secondary standard to judge truth. Because after all, A and non-A cannot both be true. Either one of us has a false gospel, or we both have false gospels. There’s no other options.

    The secondary standard to judge truth can be consistency. Christian theology is consistent with what the Scripture teaches, while Mormon theology contradicts even the KJV of the Bible (which is part of the quad).

    The impression on our heart should also be an impression which points to consistency in everything else. Since after all, God is sovereign over everything. As Augustine said, “all truth is God’s truth.” 🙂


  3. Cameron

    Your blog post shows that, at least with respect to this particular topic, your knowledge of our faith is not as great as you apparently think.

    1. First, a small anatomical quibble – as you can check on dictionary.com, “bosom” refers to the chest area, not the stomach. Significantly, the heart is located in the chest.

    2. You mistakenly state that Mormons rely exclusively, or at least primarily, upon Moroni and James as scriptural support for the occurrence of the burning in the bosom and then you state:

    “Both the passage from the Book of Moroni and James never mention anything about an actual burning in the bosom. They speak of the Holy Spirit giving us right knowledge, not a burning in the stomach to verify the knowledge. That is the unwarranted leap in interpretation. That is no where to be found in either text.”

    Actually, with respect to the burning in the bosom, Mormons usually rely upon Luke, Psalms and the Doctrine & Covenants:

    “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?”
    Luke 24:32

    “My heart was hot within me, while I was musing the fire burned: then spake I with my tongue.”
    Psalms 39:3

    “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.”
    D&C 9:8

    3. Contrary to the implications of your point 1, about a quadriplegic, the burning in the bosom is a spiritual experience rather than simply a physical sensation. As one of the Twelve Apostles put it:

    “What does a’burning in the bosom’ mean? Does it need to be a feeling of caloric heat, like the burning produced by combustion? If that is the meaning, I have never had a burning in the bosom. Surely, the word “burning” in this scripture signifies a feeling of comfort and serenity. That is the witness many receive. That is the way revelation works.”
    Elder Dalin H. Oaks

    I know that the burning in the bosom is real because I have experienced it. I know that Joseph Smith was a Prophet of God, that the Book of Mormon is what it says that it is, that there is a living Prophet on the earth today, and that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is God’s one true Church.

    Murdock


  4. Murdock,

    First I want to apologize for this reply being so long. The reason is because I want to offer as much meaningful substance as I possibly can to your reply. I appreciate your reply and I believe it deserves a meaningful response, not a half-effort one.

    Thanks for clarifying. I’ll go back and change every word from “stomach” to “heart” now. I thought I heard a Mormon explain to me once that they felt it in their stomach so that’s probably where I got that.

    I also quoted James because that is ALWAYS the verse that Mormons use when they come to my door when justifying the burning in the bosom. So you’ll need to also take it up with THEM, not just me. I do appreciate you sharing the D&C verse with me. I’ll update my thread with that too.

    I do know that the bosom is the heart, however, just like how ‘hades’ is referred to as Abraham’s bosom which signifies a resting upon the same faith which Abraham had in his heart unto justification – a Scriptural matter which is completely contradictory to Mormon theology and teachings from LDS prophets. Mormons think they are good because of themselves, yet the true gospel is that all are bad, only Jesus is good, and he accepts us as fully good by his perfect life, and substitutionary death on our behalf. Then it is faith in him and his work which fully justifies. This is the gospel which makes all other gospels false, according to Paul in Gal. You have skipped over this issue in your reply and this issue is a matter of eternal destiny. Seems odd that you’d rather talk about how you’re so certain about the Mormon church and its prophets, when you haven’t even dealt with why you’re inconsistent on an eternal matter!

    Your correction all the more backs up point (8) in that the heart may be deceitful above all things.

    You’ve also skipped over my 2nd and 3rd points too. There are RLDS, and FLDS Mormon sects which claim the EXACT same things you’re claiming. Even JW’s and Catholics make similar claims. So the next thing you’ll need to do is ask “since all truth is God’s truth, then which beliefs are the most consistent?”

    You’re also assuming D&C is the truth before trying to determine if it’s the truth, since you assume it’s true that you should listen to it in order to know if you should listen to it! This is something which blows my mind that Mormons don’t think about when it comes to the burning in the bosom (as an initial proof of their faith via prayer).

    In regards to Luke 24, this refer to an on-going testimony of truth, not an initial proof of faith via prayer. Many Mormons view the burning in the bosom as an initial proof of their faith, from conversations I’ve had with them, not as something which is on-going or subtle. And your quote of Psa 39:3 is a bad proof text, namely, because it’s a proof text out of context, NOT in context. The context of the passage has nothing to do with verifying truth, but repentance of sin. 1. Mormons focus on how they’re “good”, not sinful, so they would do well to learn from this passage in hopes to come to true repentance in Jesus Christ. 2. It shows me that you are not akin to reading Scripture in context.

    Then also, the D&C passage was written to Oliver Cowdery, someone whom was already a Mormon. So why is someone whom is already a Mormon needing to verify if the teachings of Mormonism are true? Further, the next verse says that if the things are not true then you will have a stupor of thought and will forget about the false thing. I testify to you that I have believed things to be true in my heart and LATER had a stupor about it. So how do you know that you will NEVER eventually have a stupor towards Mormonism? You can’t know for sure. Someday you might. If you’re going to assume D&C as authoritative, then you need to assume it is authoritative that you may someday have a stupor towards Mormonism!!!

    Elder Dalin H. Oaks isn’t an apostle in the Biblical sense. They were apostles past tense. They lived about 2000 years ago. Nothing in Scripture tells of there being a continuation of their specific duties, especially now that we have the canon of Scripture. And in Gal 1, Paul says “if WE or an angel from heaven should preach another gospel other than the one we preached to you, let them be eternally accursed.” So even IF he were an apostle today, he would prove to be a false apostle and eternally accursed for preaching another gospel. Also, the Aaronic priesthood was fulfilled by Christ. Read Hebrews 8-10. And the Melchizedek priesthood was fulfilled by Christ. Read Hebrews 7. It is utterly silly, sad, and un-biblical to for Mormons to think THEY fulfill what Scripture clearly teaches Christ fulfilling forever!!!

    Lastly, like I’ve already stated, I feel a continuous burning in the bosom that Jesus Christ is the truth and that that truth also entails him being eternal, Yahweh, and the uncreated creator of all things (John 1, Col 1). And I know that the Mormon religion is false, that Scripture is true, and that only the gospel of Scripture is the one true gospel which eternally saves us from God’s wrath and our sin.

    Let’s say you believe (A) and I believe (B). Both (A) and (B) cannot be equally true. Either one is false or both are false. But since we both FEEL that we’re in the truth, here’s why the gospel of Jesus I’m advocating wins and why yours doesn’t. The gospel I’m advocating proves to be in the truth because my theology is more consistent with Scripture. Yours is not consistent with Scripture. And since all truth is God’s truth, we know that the truth will lead us to consistency.


  5. Great read and thank you for posting this.



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