Home > Denominations and Religions
This is a continuation of a four-part study. To start at the beginning of the study, click here.
When a person claims to be a prophet from God (such as Joseph Smith) or claims that a revelation is from God (such as the Book of Mormon), how do we determine whether these claims are true or false? How do we distinguish those who are truly inspired by God from those who are not?
Moroni 10:4,5 - The way to "know the truth of all things" (especially whether or not the records in the Book of Mormon are true) is to "ask God" and "he will manifest the truth of it unto you by the power of the Holy Spirit."
But what "manifestation" should people look for? How can people recognize when the Holy Spirit is telling them a teaching is true?
Doctrine and Covenants 9:8,9 - God says, "...you must study it out in your mind; then you must ask me if it be right, and if it is right I will cause that your bosom shall burn within you; therefore, you shall feel that it is right. But if it is not right you shall have no such feelings..."
Doctrine and Covenants 121:26 - "God shall give unto you knowledge by his Holy Spirit, yea, by the unspeakable gift of the Holy Ghost..."
They say to read the Book of Mormon ("study it out in your mind"), then pray about it ("ask God if it is right"), and God will manifest the truth by giving you a "burning in the bosom." Note that this is expressly called a "feeling" - you will feel a sense of assurance that the teaching is true. You should accept this as the power of the Holy Spirit manifesting the truth to you.
As a result, every Mormon believes that the Holy Spirit has given him a personal revelation that Mormonism is true. This is called "his own personal testimony." They repeatedly say, "I certainly know and testify to you that this is true." In other words, they had this feeling - a burning in the bosom - which they believe was the Holy Spirit giving them a personal revelation.
This explains why Mormons do not reject Mormonism, even when they are shown obvious contradictions between it and the Bible. As one Mormon "elder" said to me, "Evidence means nothing to me."
Although they claim to believe the Bible is from God, their faith is not based on the Bible. It is based on the belief that God has personally and directly revealed to them that Mormonism is true. So, if the Bible disagrees Mormonism, then something must be wrong with the Bible (or with their understanding). But they refuse to reject Mormonism, because they believe God has personally told them it is true.
But is this really the way that God has given for people to distinguish truth from error?
Matthew 7:15,21-23 - Beware of false prophets. They come in disguise. Many will claim to prophesy in Jesus' name, but He will reject them.
Matthew 24:4,5,11 - False prophets, even false Christs, will arise and deceive many.
Acts 20:29,30 - Savage wolves will come, speaking perverse things, to draw disciples away.
2 Corinthians 11:13-15 - False apostles work deceit, pretending to be apostles of Christ, when they are not.
2 Timothy 3:13 - Imposters will grow worse and worse, deceiving and being deceived.
2 Peter 2:1-3 - There will be false teachers today, as there were false prophets in the past. They speak deceptive words, so many will follow their destructive ways.
1 John 4:1 - Test the prophets, because many false prophets have gone into the world.
Revelation 2:2 - Jesus approved those who tested false apostles and found them liars.
Note carefully: The whole Mormon system depends on the validity of the method they use to recognize true prophets and revelation. But God's word warns us to put these concepts to the test. We must examine the assumptions upon which Mormon faith is based. If they have accepted a faulty means of identifying truth, then their faith cannot be true.
Can we really know that we have the truth, because we pray to God and receive a feeling in our bosom? If not, then every Mormon has been deceived, as these passages describe. And likewise, no investigator should accept the Mormon method of distinguishing truth from error, until he is sure it is valid. Otherwise, he too will be deceived, as in the passages above.
Mormons claim to believe the Bible is true. But the Bible warns about false prophets and says they often deceive and come in disguise. How do we see through their disguise and avoid deceit? Surely, the Bible will give us some way to distinguish true prophets and revelation from those who are fake.
The Bible describes many people who needed to recognize true prophets.
* Consider the Old Testament.
God sent prophets throughout the Old Testament beginning with Moses. Many false prophets also came with deception. The people continually needed to be able to distinguish true prophets from fakes. Can you name one example in which people were told to pray for God to send a burning in the bosom or any other feeling as a direct manifestation of the Holy Spirit to distinguish the true from the false?
* Consider Jesus' lifetime.
Jesus claimed to be directly guided by God to reveal an inspired message. Many Jews disputed His teaching and contradicted His claims. The people needed to know the truth. Where did Jesus or any man of God ever tell anyone to pray for a burning in the bosom or a feeling from the Holy Spirit to determine whether He was from God or not?
* Consider the book of Acts.
Acts records many examples of conversion. Apostles and prophets went everywhere claiming to preach a message revealed to them by God. They were often opposed and persecuted by those who denied their claims. How could the people know the truth? Where did any apostle or prophet tell anyone to pray for a burning in the bosom?
Mormons missionaries today go everywhere invariably telling investigators to pray for a personal message from the Holy Spirit - the burning in the bosom. If this method is correct, we should find it stated repeatedly throughout the Bible. Why is there no passage anywhere that describes people being told to use this approach?
Mormon Scriptures openly describe the way to recognize truth as a "burning in the bosom" and a "feeling." To deny this would be deceit - a characteristic of false teachers.
Many Scriptures warn that feelings are not how to distinguish truth from error.
Jeremiah 17:9 - The heart is deceitful above all things and is exceedingly corrupt. Who can know it? How could something so unreliable be the basis of faith? [Matt. 15:18-20; Prov. 4:23]
Jeremiah 10:23 - Proper guidance regarding right and wrong does not come from inside man. It comes from outside man. Nothing within man can indicate whether or not a message is from God. That would include feelings or a burning in the bosom.
Proverbs 14:12 - There is a way that seems right to man, but the end thereof are the ways of death. Since feelings come from within man, they cannot give assurance of truth.
Proverbs 28:26 - He who trusts in his own heart is a fool. Why? Because the urgings of the heart are unreliable and often lead to error!
Acts 26:9 - Saul of Tarsus really thought that he ought to do many things contrary to Jesus. He felt sure he was right. But he was really the chief of sinners (1 Timothy 1:12-15).
Everyone knows that Satan can inspire feelings like anger, hate, fear, etc. Acting under such emotions people commit adultery, murder, stealing, and all kinds of evil. Are these acts right, just because our emotions led us to do them? If Satan can use feelings to lead people to act immorally, why can't he likewise use feelings to lead them to accept false doctrines? (2 Cor. 11:3)
Emotions are neither good nor bad of themselves. Everyone has them. But they were not given to guide us or to indicate what is good or bad, true or false. To believe that we can know right from wrong by praying for a feeling is to pervert the purpose of feelings.
All kinds of false groups advocate using feelings to accept or reject teachings.
Emotional experiences convince some people they have been saved. Asked how they know they are saved, they say, "I just feel it in my heart." Asked to describe this feeling, they say, "it's better felt than told, but if you ever feel it, you'll know it."
Some hear rhythmic music, hypnotic preaching, clapping, and excitement, so they claim they "feel the Spirit working."
Other people claim that they "feel led by the Spirit" to do things or go places.
Pentecostals, Charismatics, Catholics, and all kinds of Protestants, as well as Mormons, offer such feelings as evidence for their faith. Even Mormon splinter groups, who deny that the Utah Mormons are the true church, will yet offer testimony and evidence, just like Utah Mormons. There is not a nickel's worth of difference in what they experienced. Yet, their doctrines are thoroughly contradictory. How can they all be right? How can they know they are right, simply because they had a feeling?
Following feelings inevitably promotes religious division, because feelings vary from person to person and from time to time. So following feelings leads to division, but God condemns division (1 Corinthians 1:10-13; 14:33; John 17:20,21; Ephesians 4:3-6; Galatians 5:19-21).
Surely, people do have "burnings in the bosom," but they can come from many sources. If one is convinced a thing is true, he may have a burning in the bosom, regardless of whether the thing is really true or not! The feeling may result from the belief (Luke 24:32; Acts 2:37; 7:54), but it is not proof that the belief is true.
Since Satan can send feelings, and since feelings can be deceptive, how can one know whether a feeling is from Satan, imagination, anger, fear, or other natural psychological phenomenon? In particular, feelings can come by the power of suggestion, because someone told us to expect it! The Bible repeatedly warns us that false prophets make converts by deception. But feelings can be inherently deceptive, so we should expect false prophets to appeal to feelings!
The fact is that feelings are not intended as a guide to reveal whether or not a prophet or revelation is from God. One of the main ways people are deceived is by following feelings or emotions. Therefore, God does not want us to follow our feelings in religion!
They sometimes suggest passages in which God promises to answer prayer (Matthew 7:7,8) and passages that say to pray for wisdom (James 1:5).
But God also commands us to pray in harmony with His will - 1 John 5:14; Matthew 26:39. We must not pray for just anything we want, and then demand that God answer in a way of our choosing. It is possible to pray amiss, asking for things we should not ask - James 4:3.
For example, the Bible teaches the existence of the one true God. Suppose a Buddhist tells me to pray to Buddha to ask whether or not Buddha is also a true god. Since the Bible reveals the true God, such a prayer would not harmonize with God's will, but would show a lack of faith and appreciation for the true God.
Likewise, the Bible teaches that us seek forgiveness by the sacrifice of Jesus (John 3:16; Romans 5:6-10). Suppose someone tells me to pray to know whether I could be saved by some other sacrifice. Since the Bible teaches salvation by Jesus' sacrifice, to pray for another sacrifice would be asking amiss and would show a lack of faith and lack of appreciation for the sacrifice of Jesus.
Likewise, God has given us a complete revelation of His will in the Bible (John 16:13; 2 Timothy 3:16,17; 2 Peter 1:3). Suppose someone tells me to pray to receive further revelation in addition to the Bible. Since I already have a perfect revelation, to pray for another revelation would not harmonize with His will but would show a lack of faith and lack of appreciation for the revelation He has given.
Similarly, we will see that the Bible reveals a way whereby we can distinguish true prophets and revelations from those that are false. A Mormon may tell me to pray for a feeling and a burning in the bosom to know whether or not a prophet is true. But since the Bible reveals a different way to know whether or not a prophet is true, as with these other examples, such a prayer would not harmonize with God's will, but would show a lack of appreciation for the method God has revealed for distinguishing true prophets.
The Bible describes numerous examples of people who distinguished true prophets from false ones, but never were people told to do this by praying for the Holy Spirit to send them a direct revelation by means of a burning in the bosom or a feeling. When God has given us a way to distinguish prophets and revelations, it is wrong to pray or expect Him to give us a different way. We must find the method revealed in the Bible and follow that method.
The Bible repeatedly warns that false prophets obtain followers by disguise and deceit. Surely, it must provide some way for us to avoid the deceit and recognize true prophets. To meet this need, the Bible provides three tests:
Psalms 119:105 - God's word is a lamp to our feet and a light to our path. The Bible (not a burning in the bosom) shows to us the proper way to go. (Cf. Psalm 19:7-11.)
John 20:29-31 - The Scriptures provide the evidence people need in order to believe and be saved. We believe on the basis of the testimony in the written word, not feelings.
Acts 17:2,3; 18:28; 28:23 - How did the apostles convince people that Jesus and His message were really from God? Did they say to pray for a feeling or burning in the bosom? No. They reasoned with people from the Scriptures! (See also Acts 17:17; 18:4,19; 19:8,9; 24:25.)
Acts 17:11,12 - To know whether or not some teaching is true, we ought to search the Scriptures daily, not pray for a feeling or a burning in the bosom.
Romans 10:17 - Faith comes from hearing and hearing by the Word of God, not by feelings or by praying for emotional experiences.
Galatians 1:8,9 - Any man, even an angel, must teach the same gospel taught by inspired men. Any who teach different gospels are accursed, no matter how we feel about it.
2 Timothy 3:13-17 - How can we avoid being deceived by imposters? What we need is a knowledge of the Scriptures that teach, correct, instruct, and provide us to all good works.
1 Peter 3:15 - We should persuade people by giving reasons - evidence from God's word.
1 John 2:3-6 - We know whether we know God and are in fellowship with Him by whether or not we keep His commands. And the commands are recorded in the Scriptures - 1 Corinthians 14:37 (cf. 1 John 3:7-10).
1 John 4:1,6 - How do we test the many false prophets? We must compare their teachings to the teachings we know are from God.
2 John 9-11 - How do we know which teachers to accept? Not by feelings, but by comparing what they teach to the doctrine of Christ (which is found in the Bible).
When people rely on emotions, they often end up in error because they are relying on that which is fallible. The Scriptures, however, are infallible and can never be wrong (John 17:17; Psalm 119:128; 33:4; 19:8; Romans 3:4).
2 Timothy 2:15; Joshua 1:7,8; John 8:31,32; Psalm 1:1,2; 119:11,42-48,97-99. People go into error, not because they lack a feeling, but because they lack knowledge of the Scriptures (Matthew 22:29; Romans 10:1-3; Hos. 4:6). John 7:17 - If this study is accompanied by a sincere determination to do God's will, we can know whether a man speaks from God or speaks on his own authority.
Mormons agree that the Bible is from God. So, to know whether Joseph Smith, his writings, and modern Mormon prophets are from God, we should compare their teachings to the Bible. But we have already done this and have shown extensively that Mormon teaching contradicts the Bible. Therefore, this first Bible test proves that Mormonism is false.
[Acts 2:24ff; 3:18ff; 17:2-4; Romans 1:16; Ephesians 6:18; 1 Peter 1:22-25; Deut. 13:1-5]]
Only God can infallibly predict the future in detail without fail.
Proverbs 27:1 - People do not know what a day may bring forth.
James 4:14 - You do not know what will happen tomorrow.
Yet God claimed He can predict the future, and His ability to do so proves He is God - Isaiah 41:21-23; 42:8,9; 46:8-11. [Isaiah 44:6-8,24-28; 48:3]
The Bible contains hundreds of examples in which Bible prophets predicted the future in detail, and their predictions always came true. These include predictions about Israel and many other nations, the life of Christ, the gospel and the kingdom of Christ. For a list of many examples of prophecy, see our study on Biblical Evidences at /instruct.
Bible prophets made these predictions to provide evidence that they were sent from God.
Deuteronomy 18:21,22 - If a man attempts to predict the future and fails, we can know that the Lord did not speak through Him. [1 Kings 22:28]
Jeremiah 28:9 - When a prophet predicts the future and the prediction comes true, this is evidence that the Lord sent him.
John 13:19 - Jesus predicted future events (in this case His betrayal by Judas) so that, when the predictions were fulfilled, people would believe in Him.
John 14:29 - He said things before they happened so that, when they came to pass, people would believe. [John 16:4]
Since mere men cannot infallibly predict the future, if Bible prophets could repeatedly and accurately predict the future in detail, this would confirm their claims to speak for God.
[See also John 16:13; Numbers 16:28-30; 1 Kings 16:27,28; Isaiah 44:24-45:1.]
If Smith was a true prophet, he too should have repeatedly predicted the future, and His predictions should always come true. If his predictions ever failed, this would prove He was not a true prophet and we should not follow him - Deuteronomy 18:20-22.
Here are some examples of Smith's predictions that failed.
The Civil War
Smith predicted the Civil War on 12/25/1832 (Doctrine and Covenants 87:1-6; 130:12,13), one month after South Carolina had passed a law on 11/19/1832 threatening to secede. The whole country feared war, not just Smith. However:
Smith said war would be "poured out on all nations" (87:2,3), yet no other nations participated in the Civil War. He said the war would result in a "full end of all nations" (87:6), but no nation at all ended. And he said the war would occur "previous to the coming of the Son of Man (130:12). The war ended in 1865, but Jesus still has not returned. Joseph Smith and Mormon Scripture fail the test of fulfilled prophecy.
The coming of the Lord
In 1835 Smith said "... the coming of the Lord, which was nigh - even fifty-six years should wind up the scene" (History of the Church, Vol. II, p 182). Yet, the world still stands today.
Prophecies regarding Mormon apostles
Smith made predictions about Mormon apostles (History of the Church, Vol. II, pp. 188ff):
* Lyman Johnson - Smith said, "no power of the enemy shall prevent him from going forth and doing his work ... he shall see the Savior come and stand upon the earth with power and great glory" (p 188). Johnson apostatized (1836), was disfellowshiped (1837), and drowned (1856).
* William M'Lellin - Smith said, "The tempter shall not overcome him ... His days may be prolonged until the coming of the Son of Man" (p 190). He was excommunicated that same year (1835) and was later part of mob action against the church (Historical Record, Vol. 5, pp. 38f).
* John Boynton - Smith said, "Thou shalt overcome all the evils that are in the world ... [and] shall see the face of thy redeemer in the flesh" (p 191). But he apostatized and never returned.
* William Smith - Smith said, "He shall be preserved and remain on the earth, until Christ shall come" (p 191).
Did Smith's predictions all come true, or is Smith a false prophet?
[Above facts confirmed by two sources: Mormonism, Ken Green, p 15; and Mormonism - Shadow or Reality, Tanner and Tanner, 1972 Ed., pp. 187,188]
Mormon temple in Jackson County, Missouri
In 1832, Smith wrote Mormon Scripture designating a specific plot of land in Jackson County, MO. He stated three times that a temple would be built there. "For verily this generation shall not pass away until an house shall be built unto the Lord..." (Doctrine and Covenants 84:2-5,31). To this day, no temple has been built there (a Mormon splinter group owns the land and refuses to sell). This is admitted in Marvelous Work and a Wonder, p 180. (Cf. Doctrine and Covenants 124:49ff.)
The Book of Abraham
The "Book of Abraham" (BofA) is part of Mormon Scripture in the "Pearl of Great Price" (Pearl of Great Price). The book's introduction says Smith translated it from a papyrus using the same methods by which he translated the Book of Mormon. Smith said it was written in Egypt by Abraham in Abraham's own handwriting. Included were three drawing called "facsimiles" that Smith also interpreted. Then the original text was lost and thought to be destroyed.
But, in 1967 portions of the text were found. We know it is the same text, because Smith's translation notes have been preserved and include the same symbols, identical in form and sequence. Also identical are the three "facsimile" pictures. So we now have the original text, so modern translators can check out Smith's "inspired translation" of the BofA!
In Smith's day, ancient Egyptian could not be translated. Since then, more information, especially the Rosetta Stone, has made translation possible. Several recognized authorities in Egyptology have studied and translated Smith's BofA text. The results:
Three Egyptologists separately translated the papyrus. They agree well with one another, but all totally disagree with Smith's translation! The papyrus is dated about the time of Christ, so could not possibly have been written by Abraham in his own handwriting! It has nothing whatever to do with Abraham. Its real meaning is not even close to the Book of Abraham.
In fact, the papyrus is a fairly common ancient Egyptian book called the Book of Breathings. It has to do with the burial of mummies, and is totally pagan and heathen. It is thoroughly incompatible with Mormon teaching!
Here are some Egyptologists' comments:
"The Egyptologist interprets it differently [from Smith's translation]." - Klaus Baer
"...this ancient document deals with pagan gods and pagan beliefs without mentioning Abraham or anything even remotely related to him ... [its contents] are as pagan as can be and flaunt religious practices which were most abhorrent to Abraham" - Dee Jay Nelson. Nelson was a Mormon elder till he translated the papyrus. His findings led him to leave the Mormon Church.
"...the writer [Smith] could not possibly have understood ancient Egyptian. [His translation] simply [does] not deserve serious study" - I.E.S. Edwards.
"These [Smith's work], I have to say, are simple imaginations and no scholar at all can ever approve anything in these documents of the Mormons ... I have to tell you as an Egyptologist, that their claim to understand hieroglyphics is mere imagination" - Dr. Labachi Habachi.
So, Joseph Smith's statements in the Mormon Scriptures have been proved to be frauds. And the means by which Smith claimed to translate the Book of Mormon has been proved to be fraudulent. Therefore, Smith was a false prophet and the Mormon Scriptures are frauds (Deut. 18:20ff).
[All information regarding the BofA is from Mormonism - Shadow or Reality, Tanner and Tanner, 1972 Ed., pp 295-369.]
The third Biblical standard for testing prophets is the test of miracles. However, just as Satan sends false prophets disguised as true prophets, so he also leads men to perform false miracles disguised as true miracles (Acts 8:5-13; 2 Thessalonians 2:9-12; Exodus 8:17-19; 1 Kings 18:20-40; Acts 19:11-17). To use miracles as a test of a prophet, one must be able to recognize the characteristics of true miracles, so as to distinguish them from false miracles.
The characteristics of true miracles are as follows (additional examples exist for each point):
* The occurrence of the event was unmistakably evident to observers.
Examples include: Lazarus (John 11:17,38,39,43-45), the blind man (John 9:1,7,18-20,21,25), the woman bowed together (Luke 13:11,13,16), the lame man (Acts 3:2,7,8,10; 4:22), the son of the widow of Nain (Luke 7:11-17), and Elymas (Acts 13:6-12).
* True miracles occurred at a specific point in time.
The event did not require days, months, or years to gradually develop, but occurred exactly when the man of God said it would happen. See Acts 3:7; Luke 13:11-13; Mark 2:10-12; 5:25-29; 5:35-42; etc.
* True miracles were always successful.
Neither Jesus nor His apostles (after they received Holy Spirit baptism) ever attempted to do a miracle and failed. There was no kind of disease they were unable to heal. See Matthew 4:23,24; 14:34-36; Acts 5:12,15,16.
They healed people born blind (John 9:1), born lame (Acts 3:2; 4:22), lepers (Mark 1:40-45), raised the dead (John 11; Luke 7:11-17; Acts 9:36-42), replaced missing or withered body parts (Luke 22:49-51; Mark 3:1-5), turned water to wine (John 2:1ff), walked on water (Matt. 14:25-33), calmed storms (Mark 4:35-41), and fed thousands with a few loaves & fishes and had more left over than they started with (Matthew 14:13-21; 15:32-38). (See also Matthew 8:16,17; 10:1; 9:35; 12:15; Mark 7:32-37; 16:17,18.)
* True miracles were complete & perfect.
They always completely accomplished what the inspired man said they would and always completely satisfied the need. In healings, people returned immediately to complete and normal health. Every symptom of the disease was removed. Examples: Matthew 12:10,13; Mark 1:40-45; Acts 3:8; Mark 2:10-12.
These characteristics demonstrate that true miracles cannot possibly happen by natural law or human ability. Therefore, false prophets may claim to do miracles, but they are unable to duplicate true Bible miracles; their works lack the necessary characteristics. People can know they are false prophets by comparing their "miracles" to the characteristics of Bible miracles (see Acts 8:5-13; Acts 13:6-12; Exodus 8:17-19; 1 Kings 18:20-40; Daniel 2; Acts 19:11-17 and note examples listed below). So, when a man claimed to be a prophet and could do true Bible miracles, people could recognize that the power of God was working through him. In this way, miracles serve the purpose of confirming the word preached (see the next point).
For further specific evidence about the nature of miracles, see our studies about Biblical Evidences and about miracles and direct revelation for today on our Bible Instruction web site at /instruct/.
Since false prophets cannot duplicate true miracles, if a man had power to accomplish acts that had the characteristics of true miracles, people would know God was working through him; so they ought to believe his message. Many Bible examples exist:
Exodus 4:1-9,(29-31) - When Moses wanted evidence to convince the people that God had really sent Him, God empowered him with miraculous signs.
Exodus 14:30,31 - After the crossing of the Red Sea, the people believed the Lord and His servant Moses.
Joshua 3:7-17 - When Joshua led Israel across the Jordan on dry ground, God said this showed the people that He was with Joshua as He had been with Moses (v7).
1 Kings 18:36-39 - Elijah called down fire from heaven (which the prophets of Baal could not do), so people would know that Elijah was acting by God's authority.
Mark 16:20 - Jesus sent apostles to preach (vv 14,15). As they did so, He worked with them, confirming the word by the signs He gave them (vv 17,18).
John 20:30,31 - Jesus' signs give people reason to believe that He is God's Son, so we can have life in His name. [Cf. John 5:36; Acts 2:22; Matthew 9:6.]
Acts 14:3 - As prophets taught, God bore witness to the word, granting signs and wonders to be done by their hands.
Hebrews 2:3,4 - God bore witness to the message of salvation by signs, wonders, etc.
2 Corinthians 12:11,12 - Signs, wonders, and miracles were specifically given as signs to confirm a man's claim to be an apostle. Every New Testament apostle, without exception, had the power to do true miracles (cf. Matthew 10:1-4). It necessarily follows that, if the Mormon Church has true apostles, they should do the signs of an apostle. If their "apostles" do not do the signs of an apostle, then they are false apostles.
Miracles often gave other blessings to people (such as healing); but this effect was a secondary purpose, as shown by the fact that some miracles actually brought punishment on people. But the purpose of confirming God and His revelation was always present in every miracle.
For further specific evidence about the purpose of miracles, see our studies about Biblical Evidences and about miracles and direct revelation for today on our Bible Instruction web site at /instruct/.
[Exodus 7:1-5,17; 8:10; 9:14-16; 10:1,2; Num. 16:28-35; chap. 17; 1 Kings 17:24; 2 Kings 1; Matthew 11:1-6; 14:32,33; Mark 2:3-12; Luke 7:16; John 1:47-51; 2:11,23; 3:1,2; 4:48; 6:14; 9:16,25-38; 10:37,38; 11:4,15,40-48; 12:9-11; 14:10,11; Acts 1:3; 9:1-19,33-42; 10:1-11:18; Romans 1:4; 2 Peter 1:16-21]
True prophets were not afraid to do miracles in the presence of people who doubted, denied, or even openly opposed their teaching. As a result, even their opponents often admitted, either directly or tacitly, that the miracles really occurred; or at least they failed completely in efforts to disprove the miracles. Examples include:
* Pharaoh's magicians - Exodus 8:17-19.
Moses did miracles in the presence of Pharaoh and his magicians. The magicians opposed Moses and tried to duplicate his miracles, but eventually they admitted Moses did miracles by the power of God.
* The Egyptian Army - Exodus 14:15-18,21-23,26-29.
Pharaoh and his army witnessed the parting of the Red Sea. They fact they entered the Sea demonstrates that they recognized it had really been parted and that Israel had passed through it. The drowning of the entire army confirms the miracle.
* Israel and prophets of Baal - 1 Kings 18:20-40.
Elijah's claim to represent the true God was doubted by the Israelites and denied by the prophets of Baal. In the presence of them all, Elijah called down fire from heaven, which the false prophets had failed to do. As a result, the people admitted that God did the miracle through Elijah, and the false prophets were killed.
* Nebuchadnezzar and his advisors - Daniel 3.
These men were idolaters, but they witnessed how God protected Daniel's three friends in the fiery furnace. As a result, Nebuchadnezzar decreed that no other god could deliver like this (vv 24-30).
* People of Nazareth - Mark 6:2,3.
The people of Jesus' own hometown rejected Him, because they could not believe that such a great man could come from their own midst. Nevertheless, they admitted that "mighty works" were performed by His hands.
* Pharisees - Matthew 12:22-24.
The Pharisees said Jesus cast out demons by the power of Satan. But in so doing, they admitted that Jesus really had cast out the demon. (Jesus then refuted their claim that the power was from Satan.)
* Pharisees - John 9:13-41.
Pharisees denied that Jesus had miraculously healed the blind man, but they completely failed in their efforts to disprove it.
* Council of chief priests and Pharisees - John 11:47,48.
After Jesus raised Lazarus, even His enemies admitted He did many miracles.
* Malchus - Luke 22:50,51.
In the presence of the very men who were arresting Him, Jesus restored an ear that had been cut off one of the men arresting Him!
* The Jewish Sanhedrin council - Acts 4:10,14-16.
After Peter & John healed the lame man at the temple gate (3:1-10), the Jewish opponents admitted everyone knew it was a great miracle.
* Simon the Sorcerer - Acts 8:5-13.
Simon falsely claimed to do works from God, but Philip did true miracles in his presence. Simon was so amazed by the contrast that he was converted.
* Saul of Tarsus - Acts 9:1-9,18.
Saul was an opponent of truth who persecuted Christians, casting them into prison. Jesus appeared to Saul to convince him He had been raised from the dead. This enemy of the gospel then admitted the truth of Jesus' resurrection by being converted and then going everywhere preaching Jesus' gospel (1 Corinthians 15:1-9).
* Elymas - Acts 13:6-12.
When Elymas opposed the truth, Paul struck him blind. By seeking someone to guide him, Elymas acknowledged that he really had been struck blind.
* Idol worshipers in Lystra - Acts 14:8-18.
Paul and Barnabas healed a crippled man who had never walked. The result was so convincing that the idol-worshipers of the city wanted to worship them as gods.
* Masters of a demon-possessed girl - Acts 16:16-19.
Paul cast a demon from a fortuneteller, who had brought gain to her masters. They then persecuted Paul by dragging him before the magistrates. In doing this, the masters acknowledged that the demon was gone (if the girl had not lost her power, why would they be upset?).
By their very nature, true miracles demonstrated that an event impossible by natural means had occurred. Even when people denied or opposed the message of God's prophets, they could not successfully deny Bible miracles; and most of them directly or indirectly acknowledged the miracles. The result served the purpose of confirming that prophets were from God. This serves as a third test of true prophets.
[Num. 16:28-35 & chap. 17; 1 Kings 13:1-6; chap. 22; 2 Kings chap. 1; 6:8-23; Jer. 28; Daniel 2&5; Luke 5:17-26; 6:6-11; 13:10-17; Acts 2:22; 19:8-17]
Mormon apostles and prophets claim to be successors of Bible apostles and prophets. They claim to possess all the characteristics of Bible apostles and prophets, having the same message, authority, and power given directly to them by God.
If so, they ought to be able to meet all the tests of true apostles and prophets, including the power to do miracles possessing all the characteristics of Bible miracles. They should do these in the presence of those who doubt or deny that they are true prophets and even in the presence of false miracle workers, so people can see the difference.
Mormons do claim their apostles and prophets can do miracles, but they refuse to do them in the presence of unbelievers to prove that they are from God.
When pressed, Mormons may claim that miracles have occurred, but the apostles and prophets will not publicly do miracles in the presence of unbelievers to convince them to believe.
Remember that Moses did miracles to give evidence he was from God (see examples above). Mormons claim Smith fulfilled Moses' prophecy of a prophet like Moses himself - Deuteronomy 18:15-19. Yet, Smith refuses to give proof like Moses gave!
2 Corinthians 12:11,12 - Specifically, those who claim to be apostles must do the signs of apostles. All Bible apostles did so. But Mormon apostles refuse, therefore they are false apostles.
Mormons often deny that Bible prophets did miracles before unbelievers or that they did them for the purpose of giving evidence they were prophets.
We have already disproved such contentions by citing numerous examples in which Bible apostles and prophets did miracles in the presence of those who doubted or denied they were true prophets and even in the presence of false miracle workers. We have also cited many passages to prove that the purpose for miracles was to give honest people evidence that these men were true apostles or prophets. The evidence we have cited cannot be successfully contradicted.
But by denying these facts, Mormons prove that once again their beliefs contradict the Bible.
Further, such arguments prove beyond question that their apostles and prophets fail the test of miracles as evidence they are from God. If they were true apostles and prophets, instead of arguing against the use of miracles to confirm their message, they would simply do the miracles!
Mormons deny that miracles should be used to test prophets, because many false groups claim to do miracles.
Mormons sometimes point out that many churches today claim miracles, yet these groups contradict one another and teach error. So miracles cannot be used to prove who is from God.
These statements demonstrate that Mormons do not know what constitutes true miracles. As already discussed, Bible miracles possess defining characteristics, which false miracle workers cannot duplicate. The religious groups that claim to do miracles, as cited by the Mormons, do works that fail to possess the true characteristics of Bible miracles. By calling events "miracles," despite the fact that their "miracles" fall short of Bible miracles, they put themselves in the same category as false miracle workers in the Bible. The difference between their works and true miracles demonstrates them to be false teachers.
But when they claim that these groups are doing miracles, Mormons demonstrate that they too have no power to do true miracles. If they had that power, they would not claim that these other groups do miracles, and they would not deny that miracles give evidence that prophets are from God. Rather, like true apostles and prophets in the Bible, they would simply do true miracles, so people could see the difference between their miracles and the works of false teachers!
For evidence showing that no religious group today duplicates true Bible miracles, see our studies about miracles and direct revelation for today on our Bible Instruction web site at /instruct/.
Mormons claim that they refuse to do miracles like Jesus did, when He called those who wanted signs a "wicked and adulterous generation" (Matthew 12:38,39).
They claim that, if we ask their apostles and prophets to show signs to prove they are from God, then we are like that wicked and adulterous generation that asked Jesus to do miracles. (Cf. Matthew 16:1f; John 2:18; 6:26-30; 1 Corinthians 1:22). However:
Jesus never condemned sincere people, because they believed that miracles would give them evidence that He was from God. On the contrary, we have cited many Scriptures showing that Jesus, his apostles, and true prophets often did miracles for that very purpose. The Mormon argument directly contradicts clear Bible statements about the purpose of miracles, once again proving that Mormonism contradicts the Bible.
Jesus refused to do miracles because these people had already seen many signs; yet instead of repenting, they attributed His miracles to the power of the prince of Demons and just demanded more signs (see Matthew 12:41,9-14,22-24; note Matthew chaps. 4-12 and the context of all similar passages). When a person has already received more than enough evidence to convince any honest person, yet he attributes that evidence to Satan and continues to demand more proof, that is one whom Jesus would rebuke as "wicked and adulterous." But that is not our case. In fact, Mormon apostles and prophets have yet to show us any miracles at all!
Yet, despite the obvious dishonesty of the people Jesus addressed, He still promised to give them one more sign! He promised them the sign of the resurrection from the dead! He would be in the earth three days and three nights like Jonah was in the great fish (vv 39,40). The resurrection declared Jesus to be the Son of God - Romans 1:4. Yes, Jesus did believe in giving miraculous proof of who He was. He gave the resurrection! Will Mormon apostles and prophets do this sign to prove they are from God?
In reality, Mormons can be compared to the "wicked and adulterous generation" who wanted more evidence after Jesus had given sufficient. God has completely revealed His will in the Bible, including abundant eyewitness testimony to Bible miracles. These are sufficient to cause any honest person to believe (2 Timothy 3:16,17; John 20:30,31). Yet, despite having this Bible revelation and evidence, Mormons claim we need more Scripture than the Bible, more apostles and prophets, and additional evidence besides the Bible to convince us to believe. That is the kind of conduct that Jesus rebuked as "wicked and adulterous"!
(In a related argument, Mormons claim that miracles should not be used to prove Jesus was from God, because He told people not to spread the news about His miracles;. But Jesus made such statements only during His lifetime, when He was still doing the work of teaching and giving miracles. He did not want His fame to spread so rapidly as to hinder His teaching work - Mark 1:40-45. But He plainly urged the apostles, after He arose from the dead, that they should spread the message of His works to the whole world! See Matthew 17:9; John 20:30,31; Mark 5:19,20; Acts 1:8,21,22; etc. We have cited many Scriptures showing that the primary purpose of miracles was to give evidence that men and their message was from God.)
We have shown that Mormon teaching about miracles misuses and contradicts Bible truth. This shows again that their views contradict the Bible.
But furthermore, the reason they make these arguments is to cover up the fact that their apostles and prophets fail the tests of true prophets. We have proved that true apostles and prophets did miracles, even in the presence of skeptics and false teachers, in order to give evidence that God had sent them. The reason Mormons argue that this is an improper use of miracles is that their apostles and prophets refuse to do miracles like true apostles and prophets did.
So the Mormon church claims to have men who are successors of the apostles and who have the characteristics of Bible prophets. Yet, they refuse to give the proof that the Bible says constitutes the test of apostles and prophets. This places them in the category of the false prophets and false apostles in the Bible, who claimed to be from God but could not duplicate Bible miracles.
Mormon arguments actually mean that Bible apostles and prophets should not have used miracles as they did. Mormons actually contradict and condemn Bible apostles and prophets!
The Mormon claim that they have apostles and prophets constitutes a basic foundation of their claim to be the true church. But since their apostles and prophets do not possess the characteristics of true apostles and prophets, then by the consequences of their own argument, the Mormon Church cannot be the true church.
Mormon apostles and prophets fail every Biblical test of apostles and prophets. Therefore, they are false teachers, and those who follow them are in error. No burning in the bosom or any such claim can successfully contradict these clear Biblical proofs.
To continue with the next part of this study of Mormonism, click here.
To start at the beginning of the study, click here.
Copyright 1998, 2007, David E. Pratte
Local churches and individuals may, within limits, distribute this Bible study guide for free, but not for sale. Web sites may link to this page but not reproduce it. For details click here for our copyright guidelines.
|Bible Courses, Commentaries, Class Books | Blog | Contact Us|
|Audio Bible study recordings | Bible Articles by Email|
Links from other web sites to this page or to our
home page are welcome and encouraged:
www.gospelway.com The Gospel Way: Free Bible Study Online Materials & Guides
Scripture quotations are generally from the New King James Version (NKJV), copyright 1982, 1988 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. used by permission. All rights reserved.