I believe the church is testable (part 1)

As religions go, Mormonism is young. It’s less than 200 years old. Because of this, there is a deep supply of records available related to the origins of Mormonism. Also, historically the church has kept very good records and much of it is available to study. Between the records the church has kept and other available records, there is an abundance of sources available to study Mormonism.

But it’s not just the availability of sources that makes the church testable. The church also makes unique, testable claims that other churches don’t make.

To give you an example, let’s compare the Jehovah’s Witnesses to the Mormon church. These two churches are similar in many respects. Both churches began around the same time. Both were founded in the United States. Both churches have a strong focus on spreading their message door-to-door. Both churches have similar numbers of active members. Both churches claim to be the true church on earth.

Despite the similarities, there are some key differences. Doctrinally, the Jehovah’s Witness church is focused on their interpretation of the Bible. They claim their religion is true based on their belief in their superior interpretation of the Bible compared to other churches. When a claim is made based on the interpretation of the Bible, it can be difficult to test it because interpreting scripture can be a very subjective endeavor.

In Mormonism, the claims are not based only on a superior interpretation of scripture. The church claims that the Book of Mormon is a real record of real civilizations that existed in the Americas. This is not a spiritual claim. It is a physical one. Things that exist in the physical world can be tested.

The Book of Mormon tells us where the people came from (the Tower of Babel and Jerusalem), it describes the geography of the land they lived in, it describes the cities they built, it describes how they worshipped, it describes their technology (chariots, steel, silk, etc), it describes their money, it talks about animals (honeybees, sheep, horses, etc), it talks about plants (barley, wheat, etc), it tells us how many people died in battles, it describes their form of government, and so on.

The Bible also describes the area in which the events happened. The Bible talks about people, cities, plants, animals, how people worshipped, and so on. Not every person and event in the Bible can be authenticated with a high degree of certainty. But for the most part, the text of the Bible matches the society in which the Bible says it took place. The people, plants, animals, religion, cities, etc, that are mentioned in the Bible match the people, plants, animals, religion, cities, etc, that have been discovered in that area through historical and archaeological research.

If the Book of Mormon is a real record of real people, it can be tested by a study of history and archaeology just like we can study the Bible and every other ancient civilization on earth.

There is indisputable evidence that Vikings settled on the northeastern coasts of North America hundreds of years before Columbus reached America. The civilization that the Book of Mormon describes is far more extensive and lasted far longer than these Viking settlements. If there is indisputable evidence that Vikings reached the remote shores of North America, there should be evidence that the Book of Mormon civilizations were real.

Keep in mind that the church does not claim the Book of Mormon is an ordinary book. Joseph Smith stated, and the church has often repeated, that the Book of Mormon is the most correct book on earth. It should be held to the standard of what it claims to be.

Joseph Smith said Moroni, the last person in the Book of Mormon, appeared to him as an angel and led him to the Gold Plates that he (Moroni) put into the ground. If a real person named Moroni put real plates in the ground that contained a real record of real people and really appeared as an angel to Joseph Smith 1,400 years later to show him where these plates were buried, we are talking about the real world, not myths, metaphors, and symbols.

The Book of Abraham is also testable. The papyrus that Joseph Smith used to translate the Book of Abraham exists. The church owns it. It can (and has been) tested to see if it is what Joseph Smith claimed it to be.

Priesthood power is also testable. The church claims that it has exclusive access to God’s true Priesthood power. One of the ways the Priesthood is used is by the giving of blessings to comfort and heal. If the Priesthood is a real power that has access to a greater portion of God’s power than the rest of the world, this can be tested. If a Priesthood blessing can really help someone heal better than a normal prayer or better than doing nothing at all, this can be tested.

Due to the availability of records, many claims about church history can be tested. Did the church build a temple in Nauvoo? Yes. This is obvious based on historical records and the remodeled building is still there. Did Emma Smith remarry after Joseph Smith was murdered? Yes. The historical records make this clear.

Some scientific and historical information is challenging for some Mormons to accept because it conflicts with their beliefs about Mormonism. Often times, when Mormons are challenged with a piece of information, they will label it “anti-Mormon” and disregard it.

It should make no difference whether information is “anti-Mormon” or “pro-Mormon.” It shouldn’t matter if it is faith promoting or not. What should matter is this: is it true? Then, if it is true, what does it mean? Or, if the facts suggest the claim is a lie, it should be treated as such, regardless of whether it promotes faith in the church or not.

Sometimes the facts lead to only one plausible conclusion. If someone looked at the facts and still insisted Emma Smith didn’t remarry after Joseph Smith was killed, they’d just be wrong. There’s no reasonable interpretation of the facts that allow for the conclusion that she didn’t remarry.

Sometimes things are not so clear and people will look at the available facts and come to different conclusions. But even though interpretations vary, people can hopefully agree on the facts.

 

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