Mormons claim to know that the Book of Mormon is true, that Joseph Smith was a prophet, and that the LDS Church is the only church upon the earth with God’s authority through revelation, or direct communication with God. Anti-Mormons claim that Mormons are ignorant or have been misled by the devil. But how can one know? Who is to say who has been deceived? Anti-Mormons would say that if it conflicts with the Bible then it can’t be true, but who’s to say what many of the Bible passages really mean? There’s an old joke that if you get three Methodists together to discuss a particular scripture you’ll end up with at least five interpretations. It might be a joke, but if you attend a church you’ll know that there is plenty of debate within your own religion as to how certain scriptures should be interpreted. So is it any wonder that the Mormon interpretation of the Bible should differ from your own, and if so, how can you tell who is correct?
In order to correctly interpret one passage in the Bible one can find other related verses in the Bible and by so doing get a better idea of the truth. But even by this means all conflicts cannot be resolved. If people could easily interpret the Bible then there would be no argument about whether baptism needs to be by immersion or not, whether we are saved by faith, works, or a combination thereof, and there would indeed not be hundreds of Christian churches, there would only be one. The whole reason we have so many Christian churches is because of disagreements when it comes to interpreting the Bible.
Without something in addition to the Bible to act as a guide, there is no way to know for sure how to correctly interpret the words in it. But while the Book of Mormon and other LDS scriptures have been given to aid in correctly interpreting the Bible, they are not foolproof, since the Book of Mormon is also subject to men’s interpretations.
Ultimately, there is no 100% reliable method of knowing the truth other than to receive it from the source of all truth, which is God. This is logical and reasonable and I defy anyone to prove through logic that the pure truth can come from any other source.
Once we know that God is the only way to know the truth, the question becomes “How?” Thankfully the answer is just as brief, and it is “Ask.” How does one ask? The same way you’d ask a friend about something. You talk to them.
“But how will I know that it’s God talking to me and not the devil or just my mind making things up?”
Well, that does get a bit tougher, and if I had a foolproof answer I’d be more than happy to give it to you. While there are detailed lessons on the matter, my personal formula for recognizing whether something is true is the following:
1. Does it make sense? Not that this is 100% accurate, but I don’t believe we should entirely remove the intelligence God has given us from the equation.
2. What evidence can I consider? Again, turning it over to the scientific method is not the perfect way, but it can help.
3. Am I prepared? That is, do I have an open mind regarding the matter, am I sincere, humble, and teachable, or am I hoping the answer I get is in line with what I already want to believe? Is God going to give me an answer if I haven’t already decided to do his will, whatever that may be? Am I tricking myself into thinking I’m prepare or am I really prepared.
4. In praying about the matter, do I receive a feeling of peace and assurance or do I feel conflicted, hesitant, and confused?
5. Do things fall into place? I’ve found that most of the answers I get to prayer don’t come as I’m on my knees, rather they come in the days, weeks, months, and years afterwards as things happen which, in retrospect, are clearly answers to my questions.
For me, this is the reliable way to get the truth directly from God. But if you’ve got something to add I’d love to hear it.