There is a real fear among the some faith­ful that ques­tion­ing the verac­i­ty of the church or the Book of Mor­mon is a sure way to lose your soul to the dev­il. I think this mind­set is at odds with the more cen­tral, key teach­ing of the LDS church, which is even taught as the dri­ver behind the foun­da­tion of the church. Joseph received his first vision after being struck by the promise of James:

James 1:5
If any of you lack wis­dom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men lib­er­al­ly, and upbraideth not; and it shall be giv­en him.

The Book of Mor­mon sim­i­lar­ly teaches:

Moroni 10:4–5
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. And by the pow­er of the Holy Ghost ye may know the truth of all things.

When Oliv­er Cow­dery want­ed to be able to trans­late, the Lord through Joseph Smith, Jr said:

D&C 9:8
But, behold, I say unto you, that 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.

In our church, we believe in per­son­al rev­e­la­tion. We believe that we can and should ques­tion any­thing and every­thing, and God will give us the wis­dom we lack. We clear­ly teach that in order to receive that answer, we must first do the leg­work — we “must study it out in [our] mind” and then bring our con­clu­sion to God for con­fir­ma­tion. I see no prob­lem, in fact I think it should be expect­ed for us to do the same with any doubt or ques­tion we have, espe­cial­ly con­cern­ing God and his church.

Inter­est­ing­ly, through­out time church lead­ers have pro­claimed that because the LDS church is the true church of God, that the church should with­stand any inves­ti­ga­tion or exam­i­na­tion into the truth claims. Here some of the sup­port­ing quotes (my empha­sis added):

The nature of the mes­sage in the Book of Mor­mon is such that, if true, no one can pos­si­bly be saved and reject it, if false, no one can pos­si­bly be saved and receive it. There­fore, every soul in all the world is equal­ly inter­est­ed in ascer­tain­ing its truth or fal­si­ty. In a mat­ter of such infi­nite impor­tance, no per­son should rest sat­is­fied with the con­jec­tures or opin­ions of oth­ers. He should use every exer­tion him­self to become acquaint­ed with the nature of the mes­sage; he should care­ful­ly exam­ine the evi­dences of which it is offered to the world; he should, with all patience and per­se­ver­ance, seek to acquire a cer­tain knowl­edge whether it be of God or not. If, after a rigid exam­i­na­tion, it be found an impo­si­tion, it should be exten­sive­ly pub­lished to the world as such. The evi­dence and argu­ments upon which the impos­ture was detect­ed should be clear­ly and log­i­cal­ly stat­ed, that those who have been sin­cere­ly, yet unfor­tu­nate­ly, deceived may per­ceive the nature of the decep­tion, and be reclaimed, and that those who con­tin­ue to pub­lish the delu­sion may be exposed and silenced.” Orson Pratt; 1850, Intro­duc­tion to Divine Authen­tic­i­ty of the Book of Mormon.

If faith will not bear to be inves­ti­gat­ed; if its preach­ers and pro­fes­sors are afraid to have it exam­ined, their foun­da­tion must be very weak.” — George A. Smith; 1871, Jour­nal of Dis­cours­es, Vol. 14, pg. 216

Mor­monism must stand or fall on the sto­ry of Joseph Smith. He was either a Prophet of God, divine­ly called, prop­er­ly appoint­ed and com­mis­sioned or he was one of the biggest frauds this world has ever seen. There is no mid­dle ground. If Joseph was a deceiv­er, who will­ful­ly attempt­ed to mis­lead peo­ple, then he should be exposed, his claims should be refut­ed, and his doc­trines shown to be false...” (Prophet Joseph Field­ing Smith, Doc­trines of Sal­va­tion (Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1954), vol. 1 pp 188–189)

If we have the truth, it can­not be harmed by inves­ti­ga­tion. If we have not the truth, it ought to be harmed.” — Apos­tle J. Reuben Clark, D. Michael Quinn, J. Reuben Clark: The Church Years. Pro­vo, Utah: Brigham Young Uni­ver­si­ty Press, 1983, p. 24.

Well, we have noth­ing to hide. Our his­to­ry is an open book. They may find what they are look­ing for, but the fact is the his­to­ry of the church is clear and open and leads to faith and strength and virtues.” — Prophet Gor­don B. Hinck­ley, Dec. 25, 2005 inter­view with The Asso­ci­at­ed Press

Well, it’s either true or false. If it’s false, we’re engaged in a great fraud. If it’s true, it’s the most impor­tant thing in the world. Now, that’s the whole pic­ture. It is either right or wrong, true or false, fraud­u­lent or true. And that’s exact­ly where we stand, with a con­vic­tion in our hearts that it is true: that Joseph went into the Grove; that he saw the Father and the Son; that he talked with them; that Moroni came; that the Book of Mor­mon was trans­lat­ed from the plates; that the priest­hood was restored by those who held it ancient­ly. That’s our claim. That’s where we stand, and that’s where we fall, if we fall. But we don’t. We just stand secure in that faith.” — Prophet Gor­don B. Hinck­ley, Inter­view “The Mor­mons”; PBS Doc­u­men­tary, April 2007

This book [The Book of Mor­mon] is enti­tled to the most thor­ough and impar­tial exam­i­na­tion. Not only does the Book of Mor­mon mer­it such con­sid­er­a­tion, its claims even demand the same.” — Apos­tle James E. Tal­mage, Arti­cles of Faith, pg. 273

So does a “most thor­ough and impar­tial exam­i­na­tion” mean we should read the Book of Mor­mon and see if it makes us feel good? That is any­thing but thor­ough or impar­tial. Still, if we do read it and pray and feel good about the book, does that mean that it is from God?

Series Nav­i­ga­tion: My Search for Truth — Wes Trexler« Why I No Longer BelieveNature of Spir­i­tu­al Confirmation »
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James Allred
February 24, 2016 7:29 am

Hel­lo Wes. I have read the Book of Mor­mon many times dur­ing my life. For the most part, I have read it in the way almost all mor­mons read it. As a rit­u­al. I hope I don’t offend any­one. But from my lived expe­ri­ence, that descrip­tions feels cor­rect to me. Dur­ing the past 5 years I have stud­ied the Book of Mor­mon 8 times cov­er to cov­er. Each time I have stud­ied it I have stud­ied it with a dif­fer­ent ques­tion, in order to tru­ly read it for the first time with a true intent to study as opposed to spend 20 min­utes a day in a ritual. The most recent time I stud­ied it, I did so to under­stand what exact­ly is the gospel of sal­va­tion taught in the Book of Mormon. This link is a quick sum­ma­ry of what it teaches: Their were two fas­ci­nat­ing find­ings to me from this study. 1)… Read more »

James Allred
Reply to  Wes T
February 28, 2016 5:34 am

In my ortho­dox days I pret­ty much either ignored this doc­tri­nal issue or just shelved it. If I did think about it, I assumed I was some­how miss­ing some­thing and it all need­ed to make sense to those who were smarter than me. Because clear­ly I knew it was true and I also knew what the plan of sal­va­tion looked like. So if there were any issues, they were mine. But after seri­ous study of being will­ing to just read the Book of Mor­mon for what it says, as opposed to what I thought it said, it was very clear. The plan of redemption/salvation taught in the book of mor­mon teach­es a lit­er­al hell after the res­ur­rec­tion and judg­ment. It is repeat­ed­ly and clear­ly taught. The kick­er for me was to read D&C 19 where God admits to hav­ing allowed this false doc­trine to be taught. He said he did to work upon… Read more »