Why does God allow Mormons to have false burning bosoms?

Questions about God, the Bible and the Christian culture

(Click here to read Monday Musings ... the place where I discuss the thinking that went into this article.)

Question: Why does God let people who believe in Him with subjective illusions?

For example, I’ve read this on the internet: "I once asked a young Mormon missionary, “How do you know the Book of Mormon is true?” He answered, with a contagious zeal, “I just know, that I know, that I know! I prayed about it and felt God’s peace — a peace that Satan cannot imitate — and I knew that God was telling me that the Book of Mormon was true!”

We know that the book of Mormon is false but I ask: Why does God let people who believe in Him with such subjective illusions? This guy prayed to God but God let him with these subjective illusions.

Answer: Greetings friend. Thank you for touching down with us at Mainsail Ministries. Your question is complex, so I will have to address three separate but related issues: free will, logic and false religious phenomena. So let me start with a few words about the free will of human beings.

God created us human beings with free will. (The theological term for this is “libertarian free will.”) Simply put, “letting” us do what we choose to do is part of that package. Even God cannot create a being who is a “free moral agent”... and not let him choose freely... or force him into certain choices as if they were a puppet. That’s what you are contemplating... a God that won’t actually let people do what they want... but will make them feel like they are making choices for themselves.

Why would God even make people like that? What would that prove? That God could make stuff? He knows that, and we know that. The only people who could care about that in the right way are the people who could choose to ignore it (Romans 1:18-25)… but don’t.

Now, God certainly limited our choices through the circumstances of our births. We have no control over where, when and to whom we were born — and that determines a lot about how our lives will play out. But within our world, we start making choices based on our environment immediately, and once we reach adulthood, we can easily change our location.

But beyond those limits of birth and our physical limits — like not being able to go back in time or fly — we choose our own paths. It is the nature of human beings to be able to do this. We are moral agents (Romans 2:14-15); that is our essence. That is what human beings are ontologically.

You see, if God were to thwart our ability to choose our paths and suffer the consequences of bad choices, that would turn the most precious commodity in creation — beings who can choose to love and obey God by their own volition — into meat puppets... created entities that had no genuine ability to reject God... and “genuine” means that God must let us ruin our lives if we choose to do so... even though this means we are consigning ourselves to hell.

To say free will is important to God is to understate the case drastically. Creation would be senseless without the free will of human beings.

As to your question, the option to reject God — and reject all of God’s truth — cannot be removed from humanity. We cannot be “forced” (— and “forced” includes being created in a way where our choices are not genuine choices like we understand choices to be —) to believe anything and still be free moral agents. Such an entity would be illogical... so creating such a being is one of the many things that God cannot do.

People find it shocking that there are things that even an “omnipotent” God cannot do. He cannot do anything illogical. This means that he cannot make a square circle or a married bachelor. Under the same rules, God cannot create a free being who cannot freely choose to reject him or commit heinous acts like murder. In this, we have a hint why he lets things like the Book of Mormon persist.

If God were to stop people from doing wrong things, I suspect he would make stopping murder a priority... and stopping people from believing in the Book of Mormon would be way down the list... maybe number 1247 or something. I get it that ideas have consequences — and the Book of Mormon contains a lot of anti-God ideas. But its threats do not cause immediate harm. Murder does.

Your question is also built upon another shocking truth: God “lets” evil have its way in this age (Isaiah 45:7)… but we should not be upset about this in the wrong way. That’s part of God’s plan. The world fell into sin, and it needs to be redeemed. But part of God’s letting sin have its season was giving Satan permission to the run of the place. In my opinion, Satan had a direct hand in “watering down” what people think of holy books by creating a lot of them... the Book of Mormon, the Quran and the Bhagavad Gita among them.

That ends our discussion of free will per se. Let’s turn to one item of logic before we continue. That is, a proposition stands on its own merit as either true or false. If the Bible is inspired by God and inerrant (as we believe it to be at Mainsail Ministries), then the Book of Mormon — which militates against the Bible in more ways than we can mention in this answer — is like any other book. It is not a book of God. It claims to be one. But if the Bible is plenarily true, it can’t be.

Why then do many Mormons claim the veridical experience of a “burning in the bosom” when they read the Book of Mormon? That’s an important question because that sounds suspiciously like what some Christians claim they feel from the indwelling Holy Spirit when engaging with Scripture. This is our final item for discussion, so let’s talk about this right now.

Christianity has a lot of “tells”... accouterments if you will... things that emit Christian vibes. Christians pray; they study their Bibles; they go to church, and they serve humanity. This means that Christians are more likely to memorize Scripture, give money to Christian causes and display Jesus’ brand through T-shirts and bumper stickers.

These are not harmful in themselves. The problem is, they do not prove anything. A Christian is identified by the indwelling Holy Spirit. The rest is window dressing... and the window dressing may or may not reflect what is inside the house. To see why the “burning in the bosom” issue is important, consider what Peter said in the following passages.

“We are witnesses of these things, and so is the Holy Spirit, whom God has given to those who obey him.” (Acts 5:32, NIV)

In Acts 5:32 (above), Peter understood that the apostles were in a unique position... having lived with Jesus and witnessed his signs and his resurrection firsthand. Indeed, this is one of the qualifications for being an apostle. But he doesn’t hold onto this. He says that the Holy Spirit — whom God has given to those who obey him — has the same value as those like him who were eyewitnesses.

This is an extraordinary statement about Christian epistemology... which explores what “right” we have to say we “know” the things we know. The indwelling Spirit gives us that right.

In Acts 15:7-8 (following), the indwelling Holy Spirit is the identifying mark of a Christian. All kinds of people claim to be Christians — and claim to be working for God (Matthew 7:21-23) — who are not doing anything like that. Mormons fall into that category. This is why we must differentiate between their “burning in the bosom” and any physiological phenomenon that we attribute to the Holy Spirit.

“After much discussion, Peter got up and addressed them: “Brothers, you know that some time ago God made a choice among you that the Gentiles might hear from my lips the message of the gospel and believe. God, who knows the heart, showed that he accepted them by giving the Holy Spirit to them, just as he did to us.” (Acts 15:7–8, NIV)

I’ve been a Christian for over 50 years, and I have grown used to the indwelling Holy Spirit. When I was a new Christian, I would often be overtaken by the spiritual butterflies that came with discovering something new in Scripture or some God-ordained truth about life. But think about this for a minute. These will come less often as discoveries become less frequent... which is typical of a Christian who has been growing for decades.

Now, I have experienced similar “burning in the bosoms”... if you will... when I thought very deeply about my wife or my children. I would also get these at the outset of new projects. Part of our nervous system connects to our gut. So, butterflies — or a “burning in the bosom” — can be expected when emotions overtake us... or when we concentrate on things we hold dear.

These feelings or burnings do not in themselves indicate that the objects of these burnings are true. They only indicate that we are emotionally invested in them. God set us up to be responsive to these signals. This ability is what becomes “calloused” when we ignore it too long (Psalms 73:7; Ephesians 4:19). God is constantly revealing things to us... through the spiritual world and the natural world. There is no lack of output or stimulus on his part.

So, the fact that there are “burnings in the bosom” over things like the Book of Mormon — which are against God and contain no legitimate revelation — does not prove that legitimate Holy Spirit-driven burnings do not exist. In this — as in all things — the Christian must sift through a lot of meaningless data to arrive at God’s truth. The fact that some high-profile conclusions about the data are false, does not mean that our conclusions about the data are not true.

The Holy Spirit does indeed help the Christian find the truth and persevere in the truth. The fact that there are false feelings and false claims about similar phenomena muddy the data. But they do not affect the propositional truth. The Holy Spirit testifies to the veracity of Scripture and our identity as God’s children (Galatians 4:6). I don’t know who is sponsoring the Mormons’ burnings... but it’s not the Father, the Son or the Holy Spirit.

I pray this helped. God bless you.

 

(Mainsail Ministries articles often have a preamble where I discuss the thinking that went into them. These are called Monday Musings — and if you haven’t read the one associated with this article — consider doing so at the following link: 20211220 Burning in the bosom and the Book of Mormon ).

(For comments, or to join the Monday Musings mailing list, contact us at mainsailep@gmail.com. To submit a question about God, the Bible or the Christian culture, click here.)