Ye Receive No Witness Until…

April 19, 2008

We (on this website) have emphasized the role of prayer in learning truth from God, but I must admit we have been leaving something out.

Some may get the impression that if any question arises, a good Mormon will kneel, ask God, and then ‘pop!’ the answer appears in their heads. This approach does work sometimes:

I knew a guy named Seth that couldn’t for the life of him remember the name of an essay he was trying to explain to me. He was agonizing over it. You know the feeling — it’s on the tip of your tongue… I suggested he pray about it. At first he thought that was a silly idea. Then he went into another room and came out a few minutes later, beaming. “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God,” Seth said triumphantly, “I said a prayer and it just came to me.”

This process is very similar to the scientific method: identify a problem, devise a test (prayer), perform the test, document the results, and adjust your actions to fit your new knowledge. The issue is that sometimes God wants to see (or wants us to see) how well we will adjust our actions before he gives us the answer. For example, it makes little sense for Him to affirm that Jesus is the Christ if you don’t intend to ever become His disciple.

The Book of Mormon puts it like this, “…I would show unto the world that faith is things which are hoped for and not seen; wherefore, dispute not because ye see not, for ye receive no witness until after the trial of your faith.” Ether 12:6


Thus, the action comes before the answer. This is called a ‘leap of faith,’ and shows God a token amount of trust in Him and His messengers. Elder David A. Bednar, an Apostle in the Church, gave this illustration:

Recall how the Israelites came to the river Jordan and were promised the waters would part, and they would be able to cross over on dry ground. Interestingly, the waters did not part as the children of Israel stood on the banks of the river waiting for something to happen; rather, the soles of their feet were wet before the water parted. The faith of the Israelites was manifested in the fact that they walked into the water before it parted. They walked into the river Jordan with a future-facing assurance of things hoped for. As the Israelites moved forward, the water parted, and as they crossed over on dry land, they looked back and beheld the evidence of things not seen. In this episode, faith as assurance led to action and produced the evidence of things not seen that were true.  (Seek Learning by Faith, David A. Bednar)

So, when you ask God if the Book of Mormon is true, do it with real intent. Read it. Invest some time in it. Show the Lord that you are willing to step into the baptismal font if this really is His church. These are the prayers that receive mighty answers.

‘You must learn to walk to the edge of the light, and then a few steps into the darkness; then the light will appear and show the way before you’
– Harold B. Lee, 11th president and prophet of the LDS Church

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7 Responses to “Ye Receive No Witness Until…”

  1. Jeremy LaDuke

    This sounds good, but when it comes to the book of Mormon the conditions are a little skewed. For instance, if I want God to reveal the long-forgotten sermon title to me then all I need do is trust. Whether he does so or not is up to him. However, to find out the validity of the Book of Mormon you are saying that one has to be immersed in it. I am guessing you wouldn’t suggest someone do this with the Quran, the Satanic Bible, the Bhagavad Gita, or my child’s Curious George book, right??

    And if God has already shown someone through reason and His Spirit that another way is true why would he/she even think about asking about the Book of Mormon? Feeling the way that you do about your faith, would you read the Quran and ask “Allah” if it were true?

  2. Thaddeus

    I am not afraid of the truth.

    I know that God does not lie. I would encourage everyone to read all of the books you listed with prayerful attention. If there is truth in it, I want it.

    Joseph F. Smith, 6th Prophet of the Church once declared: “We believe in all truth, no matter to what subject it may refer. No sect or religious denomination [or, I may say, no searcher of truth] in the world possesses a single principle of truth that we do not accept or that we will reject. We are willing to receive all truth, from whatever source it may come; for truth will stand, truth will endure.”

  3. Bret

    It must be said that we don’t even believe that the Book of Mormon has a monopoly on the truth. It contains truth, to be sure, but there is truth everywhere. Anytime a person hears the truth of the Lord and asks God about it sincerely, an answer is given. The truth will stand out when prayerfully sought. Christ is the way, that is truth, and you can learn it for yourself through the Book of Mormon and the Bible.

    I, myself, bought a Qu’ran not too long ago and I hope to read and gather as much truth from it as I can so I can apply it in my life. The Bhagavad Gita and Curious George assuredly also contain lessons on their respective levels. From my brief research on the Satanic Bible, it supports selfishness and fulfilling one’s desires. I clearly see that this idea has led to untold suffering the world over. So in this example, I quickly assess what the source professes to contain and then I investigate more deeply. Should I fail to act to find the truth, it can be only to my detriment.

    There is, however, only one true answer for every question, something I very much believe. Truth is not affected by perception or circumstance. Avoidance of truth or disregard of it never leads to anything good in the end.

    So I suppose the real question is: Was Joseph Smith a true prophet? If the Book of Mormon is an accurate book of history and scripture, then he must be. That is what every LDS missionary seeks to prove, not by wit, sheer logic or any other earthly means, but by faith and a simple prayer. Those people who join the church are not completely immersed in the Book of Mormon at the time of conversion in terms of knowledge. On the contrary, they know little about it. But when they read with a willing mind and heart, the sureness comes piece by piece.

  4. Jeremy LaDuke

    I think we are talking past each other…

    I should clarify… you would not be expected to pray to your deity, but rather to the deity of the book you are reading. Hence my question, “Would you read the Quran and ask Allah if it is true?” or read the Satanic Bible and ask Satan if it were true?

    Do you see the disconnect?

    I have prayed about the Book of Mormon, whether it is true or false and I get a big ‘False’. So, we have one of two options for discussion – end the discussion or offer up some objective reason why something is true, or rather – how it is not false (ie. refute substantial evidence that it is: no genetic link between native americans and semitic people, no language link, mention of things that did not exist in the Americas before the Europeans, and the fact that no non-Mormon archaeologist affirms the validity of the geography or anthropology set forth in the BOM).

    For me it is like this, I know that one plus one equals two. If you come and say, “no it really equals three… I prayed about it,” then I really can’t argue with you. And when I look at all the things the BOM affirms I keep seeing ‘one plus one equals three… ‘

    I really don’t mean to be pretentious with this, but I believe I have a legitimate issue that FAIR doesn’t give a solid answer to.

  5. Thaddeus

    Thank you for your comments, Jeremy.

    I would pray to the Father in the name of Jesus Christ to find the truth of such books, because this is the name I have come to trust to lead me into all truth.

    For those of other faiths reading the Book of Mormon, I would suggest they pray about the book in the name of Jesus Christ also. This could be to them a large enough ‘leap of faith’ for the Father to send His Spirit and provide an answer.

    You say you received the answer ‘false,’ but can you honestly say you would have dropped your own ministry and joined the Church of Jesus Christ of LDS if He had told you it was ‘true?’ I know that’s a big leap. I don’t want you to answer me on that question; answer the question quietly to yourself in your heart. That way you can be completely honest.

  6. Grandpa Paul

    It is true that one can come to know spiritually, the truthfulness of the Book of Mormon without reading it. Hundreds, even thousands early in church history heard only of its origin, and with a desire to know whether it be true, got what they felt was an answer to their prayers. So strong was their conviction that they abandoned everything (sometimes their childhood families) and came to what they were convinced was Zion.

    Having said that, one needs to study enough about the Book of Mormon’s origin and/or sample its contents to create the desire to want to know whether it has truth from a least a purely neutral intent. (As the book itself tells you.) If you bring with you an agenda to disprove it, that will likely be the result.

    As for the God to whom you pray, that which you study should lead you (along with your true search as to what kind of entity you should worship as your God)to a point where you feel you have found the one an only true God. So, if your study of the Quran leads you to believe that Allah is the one true God, then pray to that entity and see if you can say that you have received confirmation that you are in the right place. But, if you cannot say that after your search, then it seems to me you would want to search elsewhere.

    I think one should always ask themselves, “Does my religion answer my deepest questions to my satisfaction?” Does the doctrine, the more I study and observe, build on my faith and “fit” my ever changing world view. Is it internally consistent, and does it lead me to a life I believe with all my heart will lead me to the happiest life I can lead on this earth and to the highest eternal reward with my family that is possible hereafter? AND do I feel a deep and abiding spiritual conviction that cannot be impeached.

    This is the conviction that I have.

  7. As a Catholic I can say everything that grandpa paul said at the end of his post. But I don’t just have a feeling that my faith is true, I also have reason and history to prove it also. I have all that you have plus a lot more. I have the fulness of truth but you have a deception of feelings. Truth is objective not subjective.