I was reading a post and some thoughtful comments at Mormanity, and some questions came up about the fallibility of seemingly spiritual promptings and the role of rationalism in establishing one’s testimony. I’d like to respond to some of those comments here.

Requesting a basis for religious conviction that is grounded in a purely rationalist perspective suggests an unfounded confidence in the ability of the scientific method to establish absolute truth. I’ve learned two related principles in my PhD program: 1) there is no such thing as unbiased, purely objective research, and 2) the understanding of the world that we establish using the scientific method inevitably changes over time.

Admittedly, it is challenging at times to differentiate between personal revelation from God, one’s own thoughts and emotions, or inspiration from any other source. In my own life, I believe that difficulty often stems from failure to adequately work for the answer. I believe firmly that the Lord expects us to study things out in our minds, to use the powers of reason with which he has endowed us. I also believe there’s no substitute for learning the truth of a principle or doctrine except for living it. I’ve prayed to know whether The Book of Mormon is true and have felt the Spirit confirming a witness in my mind and in my heart.

The answer I received to a given prayer, however isn’t what keeps my testimony intact. It’s the results, the fruits, I see in my life and the life of my children that come from studying the scriptures daily and in understanding the doctrines established in The Book of Mormon.  I go to Church every Sunday and take the sacrament and have repeatedly felt a sense of renewal, humility, forgiveness, love, and renewed commitment to follow the teachings of Jesus Christ. Just because I don’t have an overwhelming experience every Sunday doesn’t negate the reality of the experiences I’ve had.  My training as a behavioral researcher has taught me that outside of strictly controlled environments (i.e., in daily life) confounding factors often lead to results we don’t expect.  For example, my kids may be fidgety, or I may not have come to Church in a spirit of reverence and preparation. In such cases, my failure to have a spiritual experience during sacrament meeting does not bear on the reality of the Savior’s atonement nor of the divine authority held in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

If you want to know if The Book of Mormon is true, try it out. Don’t just read about it. Read it regularly, try to live by its teachings and see if you notice a difference in your life. It continues to bless my life and my family, and I know it can bless yours as well.

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I have many reasons for my testimony that The Book of Mormon is the word of God. Firstly, there is a promise contained in the book that I have applied multiple times: Moroni, the last prophet-historian to write his testimony of Jesus Christ in the book extends the following invitation to all who will receive this book:

3 Behold, I would exhort you that when ye shall read these things, if it be wisdom in God that ye should read them, that ye would remember how amerciful the Lord hath been unto the children of men, from the creation of Adam even down until the time that ye shall receive these things, and bponder it in your chearts.

 

4 And when ye shall receive these things, I would exhort you that ye would aask God, the Eternal Father, in the name of Christ, if these things are not btrue; and if ye shall ask with a csincere heart, with dreal intent, having efaith in Christ, he will fmanifest the gtruth of it unto you, by the power of the Holy Ghost.

 

5 And by the power of the Holy Ghost ye may aknow the btruth of all things.

(Moroni 10:3-5)

I have read the book multiple times. Each time, I’m increasingly aware of the glorious message of the infinite love and saving power of Christ that is contained in the book. And each time I have prayed to ask God if the book is true, I have felt the promptings of the Holy Ghost confirming its truthfulness to my heart and mind.

The witness of the Holy Ghost, which comes to me as feelings of peace, love, joy and as strokes of inspiration to my mind–a still small voice, also testifies of the truthfulness of the Book when I am reading it and trying to draw nearer to God through it.

Whenever I have encountered doubts, or questions have been proposed to me about my faith that I do not have answers to, I go back to reading the Book of Mormon, and I feel that same Spirit again and again and again, inviting me and enticing me to do good, and encouraging me to feast from the teachings of those ancient American prophets as well as the Biblical prophets and our modern-day prophets to come unto Christ and be perfected in him. I cannot deny or rationalize away what I feel and the power I get from reading the Book of Mormon. When I read the Book of Mormon, I feel stronger in overcoming my weaknesses and greater faith that in the strength of the Lord, I can do all things.

Another pillar of my testimony comes from the application of the words of Christ encountered in this book. These holy words give me greater appreciation and love for my Savior Jesus Christ and help me desire to serve him more fully. When I teach these things to my children and apply these teachings to our daily lives, I see the fruits of these teachings. I begin to understand the “blessed and happy of those that keep the commandments of God” (Mosiah 2:41). Applying the teachings found in this and other books of scripture blesses my life every day.

I am thankful for the blessing of the Book of Mormon in my life. I am grateful that I can read from its pages each day. Most importantly, I am thankful for the divine mission of my Savior whose life and teachings are clearly taught in this most precious book.