"Stepped into a church I passed along the way
Well, I got down on my knees and I pretended to pray
You know the preacher likes the cold, he knows I'm gonna stay"
--Mamas and the Papas (song "California Dreaming")
This is a sort of continuation of a previous post.
One of the things which fascinates me most about the Book of Mormon story of Korihor and Alma is the rather ironic lesson in tricking yourself into believing falsehoods. You see, the Mormon Church teaches that if a person has a desire to believe in the Church but as of yet has not received the spiritual witness from the Holy Ghost testifying of the authenticity of the Book of Mormon, then that person can gain a testimony "through the bearing of it". That's right, the Church actually teaches that if you don't know the Church is true, just say you do in front of other people over and over again--eventually you will start to believe it.
Here are a couple of quotes from various Church authorities (source Mormon Think):
"A testimony is to be found in the bearing of it. Somewhere in your quest for spiritual knowledge, there is that 'leap of faith,' as the philosophers call it. It is the moment when you have gone to the edge of the light and step into the darkness to discover that the way is lighted ahead for just a footstep or two."
--Boyd K. Packer (Mormon Apostle)
"Another way to seek a testimony seems astonishing when compared with the methods of obtaining other knowledge. We gain or strengthen a testimony by bearing it. Someone even suggested that some testimonies are better gained on the feet bearing them than on the knees praying for them."
--Dallin H Oaks (Mormon Apostle)
The implication that these men are trying to convey to their members is that by saying one knows the Church, etc. is all true, one will finally receive the witness from the Holy Ghost. But, as I have asked before, how does one reliably discern between a genuine divinely-caused burning of the bosom and an emotionally-charged, self-induced sensation reflecting one's desire to believe (aka confirmation bias)?
Furthermore, Joseph Smith once told Hiram Page and Oliver Cowdery that he had received revelation through the same process he had used to allegedly translate the Book of Mormon (a seer stone in a hat) that they should go to Toronto, Canada to sell the copyright to the Book of Mormon, in order to expedite the publishing process and get the books made more quickly. Returning empty handed, Hiram Page and Oliver Cowdery inquired of Joseph why the Lord had seemingly given him a false revelation. Joseph received yet another revelation, again through the same process, that "Some revelations are of God: some revelations are of man: and some revelations are of the devil". This presents a perpetual problem for believers, as such potential sources of revelations are apparently indecipherable in their similarities--even to Joseph Smith:
"Be ever on guard lest you be deceived by inspiration from an unworthy source. You can be given false spiritual messages. There are counterfeit spirits just as there are counterfeit angels. Be careful lest you be deceived, for the devil may come disguised as an angel of light.
"The spiritual part of us and the emotional part of us are so closely linked that it is possible to mistake an emotional impulse for something spiritual. We occasionally find people who receive what they assume to be spiritual promptings from God, when those promptings are either centered in the emotions or are from the adversary."
--Boyd K. Packer
Now, to a true believer this is important information, although the Church has yet to offer a reliable way to discern between these "false spiritual messages" and genuinely divine messages. For someone such as myself who thinks all three options are of the same man-made origin, this apparent conundrum is very telling.
For those of you positing the possibility that Joseph Smith just made a one-time mistake, consider the fact that the same thing happened to the Muslim prophet Mohammad, which is the origin of the "Satanic Verses" in the Koran. If Joseph Smith was admittedly deceived by Satan once, is it not possible that it could have occurred more than once? Could it have happened every time? Is it only possible to tell if a revelation is true by it coming to pass? Is this method the least bit rational or reliable?
The Atheist Experience on faith: