“By the Power of the Holy Ghost”

Alan C. Miner

In Moroni 10:4-5 we find the prophetic promise:

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.

Richard Holzapfel makes the following commentary:

I begin my religious education classes at the university with a statement something like this: "I want you to know that there is nothing wrong in saying 'I do not know the answer." I will try to answer your questions honestly and will, on occasion say, 'I do not know.' I have many questions myself about the glorious gospel we have received, but I have no doubts about the message of hope in Christ and the trust in the prophetic leadership of the Church."

I found a story in Camilla Eyring Kimball's biography that has been very useful to me in dealing with unanswered questions:

Camilla had a philosophy about religious problems that helped her children. She said that when things troubled her, she put them on the shelf; later when she looked at them again, some were answered, some seemed no longer important, and some needed to go back on the shelf for another time.

We cannot answer all the questions of life, let alone academic issues raised in the debate of the so-called marketplace of ideas. We must trust in the Lord with a mature faith that someday we will know the answers to the right questions. Yet, from time to time, we find an answer to a burning question that we may have put on the shelf earlier. These answers confirm our faith and our appreciation for the profound nature of the gospel. . . .

Some may question the need or even the desire to find external evidences for the Book of Mormon--especially using tentative academic tools such as archaeology . . . Yet readers of the Book of Mormon are exposed to the testimonies of witnesses printed in the front of the book, themselves external evidences. Interestingly enough, the two testimonies are essentially different from one another. The first, signed by three men, is a "spiritual" witness--the witnesses saw an angel and heard a heavenly voice declare the translation was correct. The second testimony, signed by eight men, is a physical witness. The men saw and hefted the plates--no divine voice and no angelic appearance, just the plates.

The New Testament has similar testimony contained in its pages. The witness of Jesus Christ is based on two separate and distinct experiences--the spiritual testimony and the physical testimony. Peter came to know who Jesus really was through the Spirit (see Matthew 16:16-17). The resurrected Lord stood before the disciples on several occasions and, by "infallible proofs," showed himself alive (see Acts 1:3). Some touched him and others saw him eat--physical evidences of the resurrection.

The fact that the Lord has provided both types of witnesses suggests that, in his eyes, we cannot make the choice between spiritual testimony and physical testimony an either/or proposition. Both are valid and essential to his divine purposes. [Richard Neitzel Holzapfel, "Questions, but No Doubts," in Susan E. Black ed. Expressions of Faith: Testimonies of Latter-Day Scholars, pp.186, 188-189]

He Will Manifest the Truth of It Unto You by the Power of the Holy Ghost

It is evident that the question of revelation constitutes another of the significant differences between Jews and Mormons. For Mormons, it is at our core; we believe in continuing revelation from God through modern prophets. For Jews, the idea of revelation as Mormons understand it appears so hypothetical as to be meaningless; the last recognized Jewish prophet was in the time of Ezra, who live more than four hundred years before the birth of Jesus. Thus, while God may send a Messiah in his own good time, He is not allowed by the Jews to send any more prophets--either to the Jews or anyone else. Therefore the Mormon might ask of the Jew," If God wished to send you a message, how would He get through to you?"

Rabbi Leffler's previous answer to this dilemma is very Jewish: "It is not a Jewish question."

It is also very Jewish to answer a question with another question. He asks of me, "How do you know that the message you say you are receiving from God is really from Him and not the product of human invention?"

This is a very fair question, but one that can also be answered--in the Jewish fashion--with another question: "How do Jews know that the words of those whom they did and still do recognize as prophets anciently were actually from God and not the product of human invention?" Why did Saul fear the prophet Samuel's warning that he had condemned himself for failing to follow the commands of the Lord? Why did David accept the condemnation of the prophet Nathan because of his adultery with Bathsheba and the murder of her husband? Although these men were kings, they recognized and bowed before the words of a prophet.

Rabbi Leffler's question also deserves a more direct answer. How do Mormons know, how can anyone truly know, that a man is a prophet, and that when he speaks as such, he speaks as the mouthpiece of he Lord? The answers are simple: (1) one must first have an open mind, (2) one must ask of God, that is, pray for an answer, (3) one must have faith that he will receive an answer, and (4) one must not be afraid to receive the answer. All spiritual knowledge comes through this step-by-step process [see Moroni 10:4-5].

God either is what He is independent of human reasoning, in which case there is only one true God, or else He is whatever men may imagine or desire Him to be, in which case there are many true Gods. There is either one true religion or else all religions are equally true (or false). Jesus of Nazareth was and is the divine Son of God, the Messiah, or He was not and is not. The Book of Mormon is either an ancient document translated by Joseph Smith or it is a nineteenth-century document written by him or some other, unknown author. It may also be "interesting religious literature," as Rabbi Leffler commented to me after reading it, but there is no third choice as to its historicity.

Rabbi takes issue with these Mormon either/ors because they conflict with the both/and of Judaism, which he explains as meaning that a passage of Scripture (or an ethical/moral question) can have both one meaning and another meaning that is in conflict with it, but that both can be acceptable. That may be in the case of biblical exegesis, but there is a point, as with the questions cited above, at which logic takes over and allows only an either/or conclusion. There is no way to answer any of these questions definitively unless God reveals the answers to us. Mormons affirm that He has done so.

Jews are dismayed and sometimes angered by these affirmations, including our perceived connection with the House of Israel, which they reject and which Rabbi Leffler regards as "traditional Mormon polemics regarding Judaism." Regrettably from the Mormon standpoint, most Jews will not read the Book of Mormon, or any other Mormon Scripture, and put it to their own personal test, in part because they reject it on a priori grounds. A priori in this case means to reject the Book of Mormon, or any other text, for prior reasons, such as Jewish traditions, unrelated to the text itself. By this form of reasoning the Book of Mormon is not true because it cannot be. And it cannot be true, in Jewish opinion, because it tells of the appearance of Jesus Christ to the ancient inhabitants of the Americas after His crucifixion in Jerusalem, thus confirming His divinity as the Son of God and as the prophesied Messiah. As Rabbi Leffler points out, the concept in many Jewish minds had changed form belief in a personal Messiah to belief in a messianic age when there will be universal peace and well-being. Although the question of the Messiah is not central to Jewish religious concerns, it lies at the heart of our differences. One might almost say that all the other differences between us are merely over details. [Frank J. Johnson and Rabbi William J. Leffler, Jews and Mormons: Two Houses of Israel, pp. 189-195]

Step by Step Through the Book of Mormon: A Cultural Commentary