Should I Pray About the Book of Mormon?

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An LDS friend has just asked you to read the Book of Mormon. “Pray,” he or she suggests, “for wisdom to know if it’s true. Then we can talk and see how it made you feel.” A quick-thinking LDS friend may even quote James 1:5, “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally.”

What a spiritual and biblical suggestion! Or is it? Perhaps the following story (with some details changed to make it as anonymous as possible) will clarify the issue.

Linda’s Flattery

Linda is a married mother of two in her late 20s who enjoys exercising at the local YMCA. One morning, while doing pull downs, her silicone wedding band breathed its last and tore from her finger. She didn’t think too much about it because she had other fish to fry, namely a long overdue coffee date with her pastor’s wife. When the barista delivered their caffeinated goodness, he had written on the sleeve of Linda’s cup his name, number, and the following message, “Would love to chat sometime!” Linda blushed, of course, and worried she had given the wrong impression. What’s worse, her pastor’s wife wasn’t about to let her live this one down anytime soon.

When the two wrapped up their encouraging conversation, Linda hopped in her minivan, made a beeline for the nearest athletic store to buy a new silicone ring, and tossed the cup, sleeve and all, into a waste bin where the barista would not be privy to its ignominious end.

An Alternative Ending

A story just like that truly happened. Now let’s imagine an alternative ending. Suppose Linda put the sleeve into her pocket. And instead of driving to purchase a new ring, she drove home, sandwiched the note between her folded hands, knelt by her bed, and prayed, “God, tell me whether I should call this man.”

If God answered that prayer at all, which I doubt, He would say “Read your Bible, for I have already spoken clearly on the matter: ‘You shall not commit adultery’ (Exodus 20:14).” Linda might protest that she doesn’t want to commit adultery – she just wants to talk. But Jesus says that to entertain adulterous thoughts is to commit the sin itself (Matthew 5:28).

Furthermore, God doesn’t change his mind on such matters as men do (Numbers 23:19) but makes laws that are true and righteous forever (Psalm 119:142). Linda’s pretentious prayer would merely coddle a fantasy that makes provision for the flesh (Romans 13:14) and paves the way for certain disaster (Proverbs 6:26-29). In this alternative ending, Jesus would command her to destroy the sleeve (Matthew 5:30) and never visit that particular coffee shop again (Proverbs 4:14). Sometimes, prayer is neither spiritual nor submissive, but demonic and subversive.

The Prophetic Test

Now that we have established that prayer is not always appropriate, let’s revisit your LDS friend’s request. Let me be as blunt as possible – you need not pray. God has already spoken clearly and definitively on the matter. When a person claims to speak for God (and people often do), God says, “test the spirits to see whether they are from God, for many false prophets have gone out into the world” (1 John 4:1).

Fortunately, God has given us a three-fold test: Conformity, Accuracy, and Character. Let’s take these three in order.

1. Conformity.

A prophet might add new revelation, but true prophets never contradict previous Scripture. For example, in Galatians 1:8-9, Paul says that his gospel is a test of orthodoxy. What is Paul’s gospel? “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not of your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works” (Ephesians 2:8-9). Joseph Smith’s gospel is this, “For we know that it is by grace that we are saved, after all we can do” (2 Nephi 25:23). Joseph Smith’s gospel stands in direct contradiction to the Bible’s; therefore, he cannot be a prophet come from God.

2. Accuracy.

If a prophet makes claims about the future, his (or her) predictions must be 100% accurate. No exceptions. Moses says in Deuteronomy 18:22, “when a prophet speaks in the name of the LORD, if the word does not come to pass or come true, that is a word that the LORD has not spoken.” In Doctrines and Covenants 87, Joseph Smith makes at least 10 different false prophecies regarding the Civil War. And this is just one example – many others can be found. Joseph Smith made false predictions about the future; therefore, he cannot be a prophet come from God.

3. Character.

We allow that every human prophet has feet of clay – even John the Baptist had his moments of doubt (Matthew 11:2-3). If you stare at a sinner long enough, you’ll be sure to find some faults. This prophetic qualification doesn’t demand perfection, but submission. True prophets fail, but immediately repent and turn to the Lord when confronted (see Psalm 51).

False prophets, however, not only persist in their sin, but use their position as prophet to further sins of blasphemy, sensuality, and covetousness (2 Peter 2:12-16). As Agur would say, these people eat, wipe their mouths, and say, “I have done no wrong” (Proverbs 30:20). To wit, Joseph Smith married a lot of women. How many? Nobody seems to know, but the bidding usually opens at 40, 11 of whom already had husbands. It’s hard to believe, but he married at least 21 women in 1843 alone. What’s more, he commanded others to do the same (see Doctrines and Covenants 132). His unrepentant polygamy and adultery stand in direct contradiction to the New Testament requirement of monogamous marriage (Ephesians 5:31; 1 Timothy 3:2; 3:12; 5:9); therefore, he cannot be a prophet come from God.

Conclusion

God does not want anybody to pray whether Joseph Smith is a true prophet, but to test his words by the Bible’s standard. Praying over the matter is neither spiritual nor submissive, but demonic and subversive. God has spoken clearly and succinctly. May He grant us the courage to follow His truth.