Is Praying Over the Book of Mormon Circular Reasoning?

When missionaries are confronted with arguments against the Book of Mormon, they are taught to ignore the evidence and pray to see if the Book of Mormon is true.  If you have a Bible study with them, they will ask you to pray over the Book of Mormon.  Is this a valid method for testing truth?

I recently had a phone conversation with a Mormon Missionary.  She asked me to pray over the Book of Mormon.  Here is how the conversation went.

Me: How do I know if the Book of Mormon is true?

Mormon:  You need to pray about it.

Me: Where is that command taught?

Mormon:  In Moroni 10:4

Me:  Where is that found?

Mormon: In the Book of Mormon.

Me: How do I know if the Book of Mormon is true?

Mormon: You need to pray about it.

Me: Where is that command taught?

She laughed when I started again, realizing she was arguing in a circle.  She said praying over the Book of Mormon worked for her.  I found out she was a college student and I asked her, did you pray over your history class?  Did you study to discover historical facts or did you pray about them?  She said that was a good point; she'd never thought of it that way.  Are there problems with her reasoning?

To begin with this tactic commits the logical fallacy of circular reasoning.  The missionary was using the Book of Mormon (BOM) to confirm the truth of the BOM.    Here is what Moroni 10:4 says:

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.”

The author writes that if you pray the right way, the truth of whatever you are asking for will be revealed to you.  What is interesting is the truth of the BOM is determined by the attitude of the person who is praying.  If you pray with a sincere heart, real intent, faith in Christ the BOM says you will arrive at the fact it is true.  If you say it is false, then it’s because you didn’t have a sincere heart or real intent or faith in Christ.

In other words praying correctly, according to the BOM, the Holy Ghost will confirm the BOM is true.  This assumption is in place before you pray.  It is a beautifully constructed circular argument.  It is a great trap for those who are Mormons or those who are considering the religion. This is why it is the default or “go to” position in conversations when all the evidence is against the Book of Mormon.

Is truth determined by prayer?  What does the Bible teach about testing truth claims?

First, the Bible never teaches this method for determining truth.  Our faith is supported by evidence.  Hebrews 11:1 (KJV) “Now faith is the substance (or assurance) of things hoped for, the evidence (or conviction) of things not seen.”  Words like assurance, evidence, and conviction point to a confident dependence upon evidential knowledge.  Faith is not wishing or blind.

Second, what did the Apostle Paul teach us about confirming truth?  1 Thessalonians 5:21 (KJV) Prove (or test) all things; hold fast that which is good.”  We don’t pray to confirm truth, we test it.  We don’t pray to grow in knowledge, we study.  2 Timothy 2:15 (NASB), Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, accurately handling the word of truth.”  The road to spiritual maturity is to test all things and to study to find the truth.

Third, what did the Apostle John teach about recognizing false teachers.  1 John 4:1 (NASB) “Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world.”   Similar to Paul, John says we are to continually test what we read, hear, or see to find out if it is from God or the demonic world.  In verses 2-6 he then gives a couple of tests.  He says that a person of God must believe in the Apostles teachings (v6) and in the incarnation (God takes on human flesh) (v. 2, 3).  Neither Paul nor John promoted testing truth through prayer.

Fourth, when Jesus was questioned, He never asked anyone to pray over what He said to verify if it was true.  The majority of the time He either pointed to the evidence of His life or miracles.  When John the Baptist questioned His credentials what did Jesus do?  Luke 7:20-22 (NASB) When the men came to Him, they said, “John the Baptist has sent us to You, to ask, ‘Are You the Expected One, or do we look for someone else?'” 21 At that very time He cured many people of diseases and afflictions and evil spirits; and He gave sight to many who were blind. 22 And He answered and said to them, “Go and report to John what you have seen and heard: the BLIND RECEIVE SIGHT, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, and the deaf hear, the dead are raised up, the POOR HAVE THE GOSPEL PREACHED TO THEM.’”  Jesus didn’t tell John the Baptist to pray to see if He was the Messiah.  He said look at the miracles as evidence.

Finally, the LDS missionary likely only prays over the BOM for truth.  In her history class she looks for facts through study.  Praying over the BOM is simply a tactic of the LDS church to hide the evidence.  At the end of our conversation she said she would investigate the historical evidence when her mission is over.  I hope she does.

Mr. or Mrs. Mormon, please don’t ask me to pray about the BOM.  Provide me with whatever physical evidence you have supporting it.  What are the historical, scientific and archeological truths that backup the existence of an ancient Jewish civilization found in the Book of Mormon?  Prayer doesn’t change facts!  What are the facts supporting your beliefs?

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{ 4 comments… add one }
  • Aaron Call December 13, 2016, 4:09 pm

    James 1:5 states, “If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, who giveth to all men liberally and upbraideth not.” Yes, the commandment or “invitation” to pray is found in the Bible. Heavenly Father answers the prayers of those who are honest seekers of truth. What a marvelous invitation we are given in this passage of scripture!

  • Steve Bruecker December 16, 2016, 2:57 pm

    Thanks for your comment. It seems you believe “wisdom” will give you knowledge that the Book of Mormon is true. The context of this passage is to ask for wisdom when you are experiencing trouble. Wisdom is not defined as knowledge. Wisdom is the right application of knowledge to make the best possible decision.

    The Bible teaches wisdom and knowledge are different. When God granted Solomon anything he wanted, what did he ask for? He asked for wisdom. God then gave him wisdom and knowledge. 2 Chronicles 1:12a “Wisdom and knowledge is granted unto thee.” Knowledge and wisdom are distinct. Knowledge is defined as justified true belief. We need evidence to justify a belief in something. Praying for wisdom won’t work; we need knowledge supported by evidence. Are you open to looking at evidence?

    In Acts 17 Paul taught a lesson and the Bereans searched the scriptures to check him out. The Bible commended them for looking for evidence. They didn’t pray over the teachings of Paul; they investigated. Are you willing to put the Book of Mormon to the test?


  • Nolan October 5, 2017, 9:47 pm

    this is how the dialogue would go with me.
    Questioner: How do I know if the Book of Mormon is true?
    me: you need to ask god if he exists, then see if he has anything to say to you.
    Questioner: but how do i know that the book of Mormon is true?
    me: you pray about it to god
    Questioner: where is that commandment taught?
    me: what makes you think it is a commandment? yes it does say in the book of mormon that IF you do this you will receive confirmation by the way of the holy spirit. that’s hardly a commandment now is it?
    Questioner: okay, so what? that doesn’t mean the book is true. that just means it’s not a commandment that you have to pray about it. where is the evidence FOR it?
    me: does not god speaking to you and telling you that the book is true hold up itself as evidence?
    Questioner: wha-he didn’t speak to me!
    me: well he spoke to me. and told me it’s true.
    Questioner: obviously your just practicing self-deception and are biased because you have put your time, money, and given your soul to the church.
    (and that’s about the point where it’s useless trying to talk to people. if they get to the point of discrediting your statements with unfalsifiable claims, you know you can no longer make any impact on the person with your words)
    i do have a problem with your article though, and that’s because it talks a bunch about circular reasoning, where there is no circular reasoning. or at least, there wasn’t.

    “When missionaries are confronted with arguments against the Book of Mormon, they are taught to ignore the evidence and pray to see if the Book of Mormon is true. If you have a Bible study with them, they will ask you to pray over the Book of Mormon. Is this a valid method for testing truth?”
    last time i checked, asking people/beings who know all and do not lie about things was perfectly
    valid and accurate. if you really debunk the way to determine the book of Mormon’s way of determining truth you really end up debunking god. or at least you debunk the idea that god does not lie to people. boy, if it’s false then ive been lied to by someone who i never would be able to beat in a fight of any kind
    tomorrow i will probably finish my comment here, but right now i am really tired and cant really finish this

  • Steve Bruecker October 8, 2017, 3:07 pm

    Nothing you said undoes the fact that 100% of the time I have presented clear evidence against the Book of Mormon (BOM), I have been asked to pray over it to see if it is true. And each time the conversation went like this: Me: How do I know if the Book of Mormon is true? Mormon: You need to pray about it. Me: Where is that command taught? Mormon: In Moroni 10:4 Me: Where is that found? Mormon: In the Book of Mormon. Me: How do I know if the Book of Mormon is true? Mormon: You need to pray about it. Me: Where is that command taught? All of the missionaries have laughed as soon as they realize they are arguing in a circle.

    In your reply you are assuming God is speaking to you when you ask. Could it be your own thoughts? Could it be Satan or his demons? How did you come to the conclusion it is God speaking to you?


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