What do you do when the ‘elders’ ask you to pray?

I always tend to take from this blog and put posts on the Cripplegate.  This post is going backwards; it was written for the Cripplegate and was originally posted here.

Many moons ago, in the comment thread of the first part of the Shack Up (on the Cripplegate), an LDS (or “Mormon”) commenter showed up and we had a little back-and-forth.  In the post, I claimed that no other world religion has writings that claim “to actually be written by God by means of people who were writing on behalf of, and empowered and guided by, the Spirit of God himself.”  The commenter suggested that the book of Mormon did indeed claim to be inspired, as according to the above definition.  I asked for citation, and he gave a series of references that I challenged as insufficient.  Not being swayed, he then proceeded to try to argue for adding to scripture.  Here’s a summary of his argument:

1. The people recorded in the Bible added to the Bible without violating the commands of the Bible.

2.  Men chose which books to include in the Canon of Scripture, but they learned which books were inspired because they prayed about it.

3.  You too can pray about it and discover whether other books (i.e. the Book of Mormon) are also inspired.

4.  Therefore, pray about the book of Mormon so that God can tell you whether or not it’s inspired.

If you’ve had any interaction with LDS folks (i.e. the nicely dressed young ‘elders’ that go out on mission), the you’re likely encountered some form of the first three arguments but you’ve certainly encountered the fourth.  Conversations with missionary ‘elders’ (or regular old 87 octane Mormons) often close in an exhortation to read the book of Mormon and pray that God would convict you regarding the truth of the book of Mormon.  I mean, how much could that hurt?

elders pray

Seeing that this question comes up from time to time in my life and I’ve never taken the time to actually write out a response to it, I’m going to do that for the benefit of both myself and you!

Responding to points 1-3

Question #1: Did the early church decide on which books of the bible were divine revelation by prayer (and can you copy their example)?

Now as for the nature of the Canon and adding to Scripture, our own Nathan Busenitz has already laid some heavy artillery against that issue here.  I agree with Nathan, but I’m going to address the issue from a slightly different angle.

The books that compose the Canon of Scripture (“Canon” loosely meaning “collection of inspired books”) weren’t ultimately regarded as canonical (“canonical” here meaning “inspired” or “part of the Canon”) due to any external criteria (authorship, popularity, doctrinal purity, the choice of any council).  The writings of the apostles and prophets were included in the Canon of Scripture because they were inspired writings, not because they were written by prophets or apostles.

Now it is true that apostles and prophets wrote canonical Scripture (as Christ affirmed they did and promised they would – John 14:25-26, 16:12-15), but apostolic/prophetic authorship was only one of the external criteria for evaluating the possibility of including a book in the Canon of Scripture (others being things like doctrinal accuracy, universal acceptance, prophetic accuracy, etc.  It’s worth remembering that 1 Corinthians wasn’t Paul’s first letter to the church at Corinth – 1 Cor. 5:9.  It was his first canonical letter.).

There is one over-riding internal criteria required for a prophetically-authored book to be included in the Canon of Scripture; inspiration. This is also known as the “self-authenticating nature of scripture” or the “internal testimony of the Holy Spirit” to Scripture.  The canon of Scripture (“canon” here meaning “the measure by which books were included in the Canon of Scripture” – note the slight difference in my usage of “Canon” and “canon”) was inspiration. That’s not something that could possibly be determined by men; there’s no concrete external measure of inspiration.


Inspiration is not determined by men, but only recognized by them.  Noted expert in the Canon, Michael J. Kruger, writes about this and says,

It’s one thing to believe the Scriptures are inspired, but it is another thing to know which books are Scripture. God does not leave us in the dark on this critical issue, but has given us the testimonium spiritus sancti internum, the internal testimony of the Holy Spirit. This “testimony” is not some private revelation given to believers, but an act of the Spirit by which He opens the eyes of sinful people to apprehend the divine qualities of Scripture.

Michael J. Kruger, “No Holy Spirit, No Scripture” n.p. [cited 29 January 2014].
Online: http://michaeljkruger.com/no-holy-spirit-no-scripture/.

Kruger also writes,

How do we know which books are from God, and which are not?  There are many answers to that question, some of which we have covered in prior posts. Certainly the apostolic origins of a book can help identify it as being from God (see post here). And, the church’s overall consensus on a book can be part of how we identity it as being from God (see post here).

“But, it is interesting to note that the early church fathers, while agreeing that apostolicity and church-reception are fundamentally important, also appealed to another factor that is often overlooked in modern studies. They appealed to the internal qualities of these books.

“In other words, they argued that these books bore certain attributes that distinguished them as being from God. They argued that they could hear the voice of their Lord in these particular books. In modern theological language, they believed that canonical books are self-authenticating.

Michael J. Kruger, “Ten Basic Facts about the NT Canon that Every Christian Should Memorize: #10: ‘Early Christians Believed that Canonical Books were Self-Authenticating.” n.p. [cited 29 January 2014]. Online: http://michaeljkruger.com/ten-basic-facts-about-the-nt-that-every-christian-should-memorize-early-christians-believed-that-canonical-books-were-self-authenticating/.

Quoting Ellen Flesseman-van Leer, well known theologian F.F. Bruce writes,

“apostolicity was the principal token of canonicity for the west, inspiration for the east’ – not indeed in the mutually exclusive sense, since ‘in the west apostolicity to a certain extent includes inspiration, whjile in the east apostolicity was an attendant feature of inspiration’. In Origen’s view, for example, “the crucial point…is not apostolicity but inspiration”

(Bruce, The Canon of Scripture, 263-264).

Quoting Ned B. Stonehouse, F.F. Bruce also writes,

If the writings of Mark and Luke are to be judged canonical…it must be because these evangelists were controlled by the Spirit of the Lord in such a manner that their writings, and not merely the apostolic message which they set forth, are divine. In other words, it is Mark’s inspiration (which, to be sure, is not to be isolated from his historical qualifications), and not Peter’s inspiration, which provides the finally indispensable ground for the acceptance of that work as canonical.

(Ibid, 266).

Question #2. Can I discover if other books are divine revelation by praying about them?


Given what was previously said about the “internal testimony of the Holy Spirit,” someone might want to suggest that I haven’t really helped at all.  I seem to have just authenticated the idea of asking for the internal testimony of the Holy Spirit regarding other writings that claim to be divine revelation (though I still stick with my point that no other writings actually claim that directly about themselves…). But here is where the external criteria do come into play.

LDS people submit the writings of Joseph Smith are suggested candidates for “evaluation by prayer”, but this evaluation falls apart a rather monumental reason:

Joseph Smith’s writings aren’t possible submissions to the Canon of scripture since he was a false prophet/teacher:

He was a demonstrable false prophet on multiple counts.

Those, along with his numerous false doctrines he peddled as well as his gross sexual immorality/adultery (and pedophilia), more than disqualify him from the list of “possible prophets.”

Joseph Smith’s life and teaching are like a living commentary on passages like 2 Pet. 2:10-22, 2 Tim. 3:1-9, etc.

In other words, Joseph Smith’s writing don’t come anywhere close to passing the demands of the external criteria for canonicity.  When coming up against the criteria of doctrinal purity and apostolic/prophetic authorship, Joseph Smith’s writings are less likely to qualify for inclusion in the canon of scripture than the manual for my car’s infotainment system.



Not only that, but passages like Jer. 23:16-17, 27:9-10, 14-17; Rom. 16:17-19; 1 Tim. 4:7; and 2 Tim. 2:16-18 suggest that instead of praying about false prophecies, you should ignore them.  If I prayed for the internal testimony of the Holy Spirit regarding the books of Joseph Smith, I’d be asking the Holy Spirit to contradict his own written revelation about false prophets and bless my disobedience.  That’s a prayer God will always answer, but the only answer you’ll ever get is “NO!”

So next time you’re discussing gospel issues with an LDS person and they ask you to “pray” about the book of Mormon, you can calmly tell them “well, that doesn’t seem wise.  God has already told me not to!”

Until Next Time,

Lyndon “Hope this helps” Unger


23 thoughts on “What do you do when the ‘elders’ ask you to pray?

  1. Pingback: Things I have read on the internet – 25 | clydeherrin

  2. Lyndon, thanks for your post. I have found your work, both on the Cripplegate and here, to be quite helpful. If I may appropriate the four-fold argumentation from your elders, is this an accurate way to summarize your response?
    1. A book’s Canonicity is the result of its divine inspiration, acknowledged by the church – not determined by the church.

    2. Only those books which pass the external criteria for Canonicity can rightly be considered as potentially inspired.

    3. Those books which pass the external criteria AND are divinely inspired will be confirmed as Canon by the internal testimony of the Holy Spirit.

    4. As the writings of Joseph Smith fail the external criteria it is both inappropriate, and ineffective, to see if they are ultimately confirmed as divinely inspired Canon.

  3. Excellent article.

    I just want to point out that Smith was not guilty of pedophilia. All those “girls” he had sex with were past puberty and of marriageable age. In the old days (150 years and earlier) children were raised to be adults by the time they reached puberty and were considered young men and young women, and a young woman was quite often married at 14 and 15.

    Today’s culture raises children to remain children until long after they graduate from college! They are immature emotionally and intellectually because they are raised that way. But GOD created our bodies to have our sexuality at its height from about 14 to about mid-20s, because that is when we are ready physically for marriage and child-bearing.

    So Smith seduced young women, not children.

    Nevertheless, having more than one wife violates the Scripture and he was a serial adulterer.

  4. Pingback: Late March 2016 Presuppositional Apologetics’ links | The Domain for Truth

  5. You know, most every charge leveled against Joseph Smith was used by the Jews to reject the Apostles. Your argument against praying amounts to this.
    If a person is already excepted as a prophet than we can consider their writings for scripture.
    If we reject them as a prophet than we don’t consider their writing.

    So, let me ask this. How do you judge the external criteria. Is that based on the judgement of men or the inspiration of God.

    Oh, and I know it is not the subject of this post, but since you bring it up I thought I would offer this as proof that the Book of Mormon does in fact claim divine inspiration.
    2 Nephi 25: 26 “And we talk of Christ, we rejoice in Christ, we preach of Christ, we prophesy of Christ, and we write according to our prophecies, that our children may know to what source they may look for a remission of their sins.”

    • Shemawater,

      Joseph Smith, all by himself, wrote the novel we know as the Book of Mormon, including hundreds of verses plagiarized from the KJV. He wrote such passages to give the BOM credence. ONE MAN. The Bible was written by many men inspired by God.

      I can prove irrefutably that Smith was a false prophet, which is why he was never accepted by a prophet by those outside the LDS. Since he can be — and has been by many, many researchers – proven to be a false prophet, then nothing he taught should ever be considered. Not only that, but the internal evidence of the BOM proves it to not be from God.

      • No one has ever proven Joseph Smith is a false prophet. Every attempt to prove this has boiled down to subjective reasoning as to the intended meaning of his words, which in general is based on twisted accounts. I have seen many lists and many arguments claiming this, and none have actually stood up to clear reasoning.

        As to the authors of the Book of Mormon, this is again an unproven assertion that is based only on subjective reasoning. It is a matter of faith. Anyone claiming proof of this has really lost credibility as to their logical reasoning.

        • Shemawater,

          Your statement is one of the biggest lies of all time. One my very own blog http://watchmanvlds.blogspot.com I have proven at least 40 prophecies Smith made failed to come true. I also have proven that the BOM is a fraud. These things have been done also by many researchers since the time the LDS was founded! People like you turn a blind eye to the facts, the truth of these matters but they are there nevertheless. To continue to claim as you do in your comment is nothing less than total denial of truth.

    • Every charge waged against Joseph Smith was used by the Jews to reject the apostles?

      No. That’s categorically not true. The Jews charged the apostles with lying because they claimed that the Jews were responsible for the death of Christ and also that Christ rose from the dead (Acts 5:27-32).

      I didn’t make that charge against Smith.

      I also didn’t make the other charges used by the Jews against the apostles in like fashion against Smith.

      Your second question doesn’t make sense:

      “How do you judge the external criteria. Is that based on the judgement of men or the inspiration of God.”

      We judge by external criteria on the basis of personal claims as contrasted with reality (namely orthodoxy in doctrine, prophetic accuracy, moral character, etc.). Only when a fellow qualifies as a prophet or apostle by all measures (which Smith doesn’t, by all measures), can their writings even be considered for the canon of Scripture. Inspiration doesn’t enter into the external criteria evaluation, nor can it. The very fact that you brought it up suggests that you’re confused when it comes to an articulate and robust Christian doctrine of scripture.

      Also, quoting 2 Nephi 25:26 also suggests you (and Joseph Smith) don’t understand the doctrine of inspiration. Inspiration is not “writing down prophecies”. The Bible doesn’t confuse prophesy with inscripturation. They’re separate acts.

  6. Glenn

    It is impossible to prove a matter of faith. So any claim to proof that you make is the lie because it is impossible. The best you can do is provide the evidence and reasoning for why you accept a certain explanation of the events.
    Now, your claims of proof will likely be accepted by everyone else who wants to make the same claim, but it causes you to loose credibility with anyone who is honest about the nature of proof and logical reasoning.

  7. Glenn

    2+2=4 is not a matter of faith. But when you claim that 2+2=4 is proof that God didn’t called Joseph Smith to be a prophet, then you are trying to prove a matter of faith and trying to disguising it with the fact.
    So, Joseph Smith said that 2+2=2, and that God told him this was true. Sounds wrong, until you consider that he said 2 men plus 2 women = 2 couples. Now it is shown that your use of the facts is in error and your proof falls apart. The statement that 2+2=2 is actually accurate, and you cannot prove who gave him the information, and thus it is a matter of faith.

    • You misunderstand. I’m saying that the truth of 2+2=4 is not a faith issue, nor is someone’s error of 2+2=5 a faith issue. Both are an issue of facts. The prophecies of Joseph Smith are recorded as facts that can be examined and proven to be wrong by their results (the “=”). The BOM is recorded as fact which can be proven wrong. Neither issue is a matter of faith, rather it is a matter of examining the claimed facts– the evidence– at hand. Smith claims “God” and “Christ” gave him information as truth, but upon examination of what Smith says we can conclusively prove that Joseph’s claims are false. Faith has nothing to do with it. Your example is a straw man, and not even a real example. My lists of so-called prophecies are real examples of factual claims — claims which can be proven to be false without the use of faith.

      So you need to get over your claims of it being a matter of faith.

      • What I said is exactly on point. The written words are fact, but their interpretation are not. I have looked at the first two links you give and it is already obvious that you do not understand what was said. As such your claims to facts are nothing more than a smoke screen to cover an argument of faith.

        For example, you list the all too common “Civil War Prophecy” and make the mistake of interpreting it to refer only to the Civil War. You ignore the fact that it speaks of the ‘wars’ that will be poured out and clearly describes a sequence of events that would begin with the Civil War and continue far into the future. So, while it is a fact that Joseph Smith gave this prophecy (said 2+2=2), your claim that it is proven false is based on a faulty understanding of his meaning (2 men + 2 women = 2 couples).

        Thus it is a matter of faith because our faith determines which interpretation we accept as correct.

        • Yeah, I know. Isn’t it just horrible when someone takes things in context of what the writer meant when he wrote them rather than as the revised history and exegesis by those trying to defend that which cannot be defended?

  8. mennoknight

    “No. That’s categorically not true…I didn’t make that charge against Smith.”

    This is a fallacious argument. I never once said that you accused Joseph Smith of everything that the Jews accused the apostles of. I said everything you accused Joseph Smith of the Jews accused the apostles of. In other words, everything on the first list (your accusations against Joseph Smith) are also on the second list (the Jews accusations against the apostles). This is not a claim that everything on the second list is also on the first.
    However, I will concede that I should have included the Romans in this as well. Some of the accusations come from the Jews, others from the Romans, but still, everything you accuse Joseph Smith of the apostles were also accused of.

    For instance: The Jews accused the apostles of teaching numerous false doctrines. The accused them of being false prophets. The Romans accused them of being sexually immoral (interpreting the Lord’s super as a religious orgy).
    Even your latest addition is even true. The apostles testified to what they had both seen and heard, and the Jews called them liars for it. Joseph Smith testified to what he had both seen and heard, and you are calling him a liar for it. Once again, we see the same accusations.
    (Oh, and you really need to learn the definition of pedophilia. I know it makes for great shock value, but like so many other you misuse the word.)

    “Inspiration doesn’t enter into the external criteria evaluation, nor can it.”

    In other words, you rely on the wisdom and learning of men to determine when you should seek the wisdom and learning of God. That has to be infallible, doesn’t it?

    “Inspiration is not “writing down prophecies”.

    No, inspiration is receiving divine communication, regardless of the nature of the communication. Scripture is the written record of that which was inspired by God. This is what Peter tells us, anyway.
    “Knowing this first, that no prophecy of the scripture is of any private interpretation. For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost.” (2 Peter 1: 20-21). Prophecy comes through inspiration, and when it is written it carries that same inspiration. To say otherwise is simply illogical.
    As such, the Book of Mormon, by making a claim to inspiration in prophecy is making a claim to inspiration in the writing of those prophecies.
    Beyond this are the several references that refer to the sacred records, meaning scriptures. These include Alma 37:2; 50:38; 3 Nephi 1:2; 4 Nephi 1:48; Mormon 6:6; Ether 15:11; and Moroni 9:24. Clearly the record testifies to the fact that it was inspired and held sacred by the people involved.
    If these are not sufficient, you can read Alma 18: 38, in which it states he expounded the scriptures from the time of Lehi to his own, clearly referring to the early portion of the Book of Mormon.
    You may also read 3 Nephi 23: 6-14, in which Christ clearly speaks of the record of the fulfillment of prophecy to be scripture, and commands the Nephites to write additional scripture, beyond that which they had already written.
    The Book of Mormon if full of claims that it is an inspired work of scripture. Whether you accept it as such does not change this fact. Your claim is wrong.

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