Episode 81: Moroni 10 (the FINAL chapter)

May 25, 2015

Episodes

Click to Listen: Episode 81: Moroni 10 (the FINAL chapter)

Well, this is it, we finally close the book on the Book of Mormon. But before we do, Moroni makes a bunch of questionable claims, and even gives us the famous “Moroni Promise”. We also learn about a little trick for how to render god completely powerless, and you’ll never guess how simple it is. Then it’s all done, and I decide to pray. Yes, that’s right, I pray…

But before all that John Dehlin joins me to talk about the new partnership for the Taylor Scholarship with the Open Stories Foundation. And you’ll also hear about my upcoming trip to Salt Lake City, Utah!

“Drink” Count – 4 (6 if you include the Dehlin drinks)

Just the one beer (or is it champagne?)

champagne2

If you’d like to directly donate to the “new and improved” Taylor Scholarship, you can do so by clicking here

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25 Comments on “Episode 81: Moroni 10 (the FINAL chapter)”

  1. colddodger2015 Says:

    First Post. Don’t worry, Duke, I’ll leave the meat of this one to you like usual.

    Moroni’s promise or challenge (either, or) is the selling point of the whole book. Mormon missionaries are trained at the Missionary Training Center or MTC in Provo, Utah with this goal in mind: You gotta testify of the Book of Mormon and get them to get a witness from God that it is true, and then the rest is just dominos. For, the missionaries are taught, if the Book of Mormon is true, Joseph Smith Jr. was a prophet of God, and if he’s a prophet of God, then we can trust everything else he ever claimed or did in the name of the Lord as being literally true and authoritative from the Lord.

    A lot of the Mymo guys here have served missions, and they can add their critique to your prayer. My reaction is that it was sappy. It was the kind of sappiness that drips with sincerity, which is good. Verse 4 says you need “a sincere heart, real intent, and faith in Christ” to get an answer. This is where all the believers will reject your “no”-answer. Maybe you had a sincere heart and real intent, but by your own admission you did not ask with faith in Christ; therefore, the reasoning goes, that is why you didn’t get an answer.

    You can probably see the obvious criticism here: there’s no way to convince a true believing Mormon that you actually got “no” for answer or that you met all the criteria and should have got an answer, but didn’t. All they need retort is “you didn’t pray with a sincere heart, real intent, or with faith. Do it again.”

    How many times do you do it? As many as it takes until you get an answer that satisfies you or until you lower your standard of evidence because you want to be convinced. Literally, this is a proposition that doesn’t take no for an answer.

    But it is not fair to the believers to say that the concept of Moroni’s promise is without merit or without power. Many have said they received very moving witnesses. These witnesses are almost always subjective, and so no one can take it out of their heart and show it to you, they can only talk about it, or testify of it. People who sometimes don’t even feel spiritually inclined will be struck like a bolt from the blue with a belief that God has miraculously answered their prayers. These experiences vary, but I can share mine with you.

    When I was almost 16 I finished the Book of Mormon cover to cover in about a few months. Now, I come from a line of believers going back at least 4 generations on every line. Almost everyone I know and have ever cared about is Mormon: all my aunts and uncles and cousins and grandparents and many of my friends, etc. I adored my parents’ “testimonies,” or convictions, of the “restored gospel,” and I wanted my own testimony.

    When I finished verse 34, I kneeled down next to my bed and offered my prayer to God something like this: Heavenly Father, I just finished the Book of Mormon, and I just want to know… is the Book of Mormon true?

    It seemed immediately there was a tingling that ran down my spine, followed by a comfortable warmth that seemed to start at the top of my head and gently waft down my body. When the warmth reached my heart, it literally felt swollen and warm. It was a great feeling, though, because I was bursting in tears and doing cartwheels in my mind because of the incredible joy I was feeling. The Book of Mormon is true, I thought to myself! God is real! I had never been so happy in all my life up to that point.

    My convictions were strong, as strong as anybody’s. As happy as that moment made me, living under the presumption that Mormonism is our reality did not. It took it’s toll on me until I felt like I was a broken mess that would never measure up to what I was being asked to live in the Book of Mormon. I wobbled to and fro between an uneasy truce with God and “cursing God and wish[ing] to die” (Mormon 2:14). At my lowest point, I thought I was as good as damned. I didn’t think I could challenge the great knowledge I felt I had been given. The Book of Mormon has a power on people for good or ill: it doesn’t let go easily, not while they are in the middle of Mormon culture that reverences the book and reinforces the idea that it is a reality in our lives. Like the Nephites, I thought I was about to be destroyed for my broken and sinful nature.

    Eventually I realized that I deserve to be happy too and worked up the courage to study my way out of belief. I mourned the loss of my faith in the Book of Mormon, though. Letting it go was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done, but I had to, because it wasn’t good for me. Listen to me, I must sound like I broke up with an seemingly amazing gal. But while I had faith in that book, it really did feel like God was so real there was no doubting his existence, and I had daily conversations with Him through prayer and reading the Book of Mormon for inspired answers to those prayers. Those feelings were so real, it is was exactly like breaking up with a codependent and abusive parter.

    Anyway, that’s the gist of my personal experience with Moroni’s Promise. I have some theories about what it was that actually happened to me that night. Because of the filial pressure, no was not an option. I was already looking to be convinced, and anything that had to the slightest intimation of being from God would have worked for me. Perhaps I took the chills as my answer and then the rest of it was a positive feedback loop of emotion where every new high made me higher? I don’t know.

    Something happened to me on my mission for the church that gave me the key I needed to criticize my experience: a girl explained the experience exactly like I had, but she took it as evidence that she needed to be some kind of nondenominational Unitarian. That’s when I realized that there were no actual words or symbols of communication in the experience that I could definitely say were from God. I injected meaning into my experience by interpreting it by its context. I couldn’t believe this girl could be so dumb as to have a Witness from God and not see that he was saying to stay in the church! But then, as my depression hit me later, I thought maybe I was just being too presumptuous and reading more into it than I could prove to myself was actually there.

    I still have a respect for spirituality, though. I know people can have experiences that make it near impossible to question the faith of their upbringing. I also know that these experiences are wild and unpredictable and not everyone who seeks such an experience gets one, so it may have more to do with personality type and emotional sensitivity and things like that, instead of something metaphysical, but… to each his own.

    David, thank you for doing this whole series. The My Book of Mormon podcast has been humor and insight and the warmth of community that all combined into a pristine type of mental floss that helped me when I needed it. Thank you for reaching out to me personally; it really meant a lot. But…

    It’s not the end. There is enough Mormonism out there for you to binge for years and still learn new things. You have no idea when you say you have no idea. I look forward to hearing your reactions on more Mormon scripture and participating in the Memo community.

    Yea, (Drink!) It’s been fun. Here’s to more!

    Reply

    • colddodger2015 Says:

      sorry for the typos, there’s no edit button

      Reply

    • Duke of Earl Grey Says:

      Oh, Colddodger, I could never begrudge missing out on the first comment to one as thoughtful as yours. (Now, any punks who just write, “FIRST POST!” and nothing else, that’s another story.) I have no meat to offer. This stuff is gospel milk, the very basics.

      The Moroni 10:4-5 verses are unquestionably the most widely read passage in the Book of Mormon. If the missionaries can get an appointment with someone to teach “the discussions”, as the missionary lessons are (or were) called, this is the capstone to Discussion 1, that the Holy Ghost testifies to people by making them feel, as Paul (the Apostle, not the Beatle) said to the Galatians, “love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance.” Then the missionaries read Moroni’s Promise with their hopefully still listening investigators, give them a chapter of reading homework, if they’ll take it, and ask them to pray. If the people feel any of those previously mentioned feelings, or any other feelings that could be described as good, then the missionaries will say that the clearing of this extremely low bar constitutes the answer from God that was promised. For anyone who accepts this simple description of the “fruits of the Spirit”, they find their prayers are frequently answered, and it’s very easy for them to feel good with their lives, that God is satisfied with them, because most everyone feels those feelings at least sometimes, and many feel them very often. Some people certainly do report very powerful spiritual experiences, but others will just take whatever they can get, and check off that box.

      All of us prayed like this for ourselves, and not necessarily on just one occasion the first time we read this chapter. I happened to be one of those that didn’t feel anything different or special when I prayed. I couldn’t say how many times I read the entire Book of Mormon, probably at least half a dozen times before I became a missionary, several more times in those two years, and just as many times or more since. I prayed as sincerely as I could with as much faith as I could each time, wanting to get a spiritual witness, needing to get one. But no, God didn’t see fit to give me an answer, at any time. At least, I wasn’t going to accept the ridiculously low standard of “you felt good feelings, that means everything is true”, so the occasional warm fuzzies I had during churchy experiences were not going to be enough.

      But like Colddodger said, Moroni’s Promise has too many conditions you need to meet for any failure to be justified. It’s too easy to rationalize any failure to get an answer. No answer? Sorry, it’s a lack of faith. Or maybe you should have done like Enos and prayed all night long, bet you didn’t try that, you smart aleck! Or you don’t have enough “intent”. I personally defined the true intent part as meaning… well, let’s say I get an answer from God, will I be willing to then act in accordance with my new knowledge and do everything I’m commanded to do? And I’d look at myself, with all my failings, and doubt I could do everything the church would ask of me, and figure, “There you go, you lousy sinner. That’s why your prayers to get a testimony aren’t working.” It’s sad that for so many years I found the idea that I’m a horrible person, more sinful than all the people around me who claimed to have the Spirit with them, to be a more believable proposition than all the church’s ridiculous truth claims, but I did.

      (Oh yeah, and it’s masturbation. The non-specific sins and “failings” people allude to? That always means masturbation. )

      Reply

    • Emma Says:

      That feeling you describe is exactly what i felt as a teen, but while watching Star Trek. Nearly every episode I could contrive to watch (sneaking back to the tv room after bedtime usually) brought that happy happy tinglng warmth. I was an addict to that feeling and only felt it once in the church (during a reading about Jesus’ carrying the cross). I assumed from an early age that prohibitions against fun things like mainstream fiction were purely because the church knew it couldn’t stand the competition for getting that warm fuzzy attraction.

      Reply

  2. Duke of Earl Grey Says:

    Well, maybe a little gospel meat…

    “the quick and the dead” is a phrase from the New Testament, 1 Peter 4:5: “Who shall give account to him that is ready to judge the quick and the dead.” In this context, “quick” has an archaic usage, meaning “alive”. The verse in Peter, and the cribbing of that verse in Moroni, say that God will judge the living as well as the dead. “The Quick and the Dead” was also a 1995 western film starring Sharon Stone, Gene Hackman, Russell Crowe and Leonardo DiCaprio, but I honestly doubt Moroni was making any prophecies about that.

    Reply

    • St. Ralph Says:

      Oh, darn. I thought that meant we could expect a review of the movie in the Doctrine & Covenants.

      Reply

  3. Andrew Says:

    Very good prayer David and an excellent finish to the book. Well done and looking forward to the future.

    Reply

  4. Jake Says:

    Congratulations David!! Even though you discovered very early on that the Book of Mormon is very poorly written and j. smith was a lousy storyteller, you managed to power through that sucker anyway and for the most part kept it fun and entertaining. Great Job!

    Reply

  5. Tina Says:

    First off, kudos on finishing!

    Secondly, in my opinion, it’s hard to find a more spiritually damaging verse in LDS scripture than Moroni 10:22: “And if ye have no hope ye must needs be in despair; and despair cometh because of iniquity.” As you could probably imagine, many staunch LDS have interpreted this scripture to imply that depression and other mental health issues are a direct result of sin. To compound matters, when their loved one, in the course of therapy, decides to stop attending church in an effort to take charge of his/her own mental health, these people feel justified by this scripture to lecture the person that his/her depression is surely exacerbated by such apostasy. They remain convinced that if the person would just return to the fold then Christ would take away the depression. If I could remove any single verse in the BOM, this would be it.

    Interestingly, one of the Twelve Apostles recently spoke of his own bouts of depression and basically repudiated this line of thinking to the general Church membership. And younger generations aren’t very likely to subscribe to such thinking. Unfortunately, the toxic thinking is still pervasive among some older LDS members and is slow to change.

    As to the failure of any tangible witness to manifest itself during your test of “Moroni’s Promise,” you may need to familiarize yourself with the common LDS refrain “faith precedes the miracle.” You only get your witness *after* you already believe with all your heart that you will receive an answer (and usually it’s a confirmation of something you already believe or know to be true). Don’t ask me to explain it. It makes my head hurt.

    Reply

    • Tina Says:

      BTW, the idea that despair indicates weakness of faith was popular in 19th-century Protestantism. Much of LDS culture seems like it is still stuck in the 19th century and pre-WWI 20th century. (Hence the popularity of shows like “Little House on the Prairie” and “Anne of Green Gables” among LDS families.) I recently re-watched the latter and was struck by a line from the dour old maid, Marilla: “To despair is to turn your back on God.” Yep. Sounds familiar. Modern Mormonism is still trying shake off some of its 19th-century mindset. Again, the wheels of progress turn very slowly in Mormonism.

      Reply

  6. auntiecatherine Says:

    *The quick and the dead” just means, the living and the dead. It’s all part of Joe’s mock King James’ Version of the Bible, 17th century British English.

    Reply

  7. Deg Says:

    While I do enjoy your humorous podcasts, in my mind you played stupid way to many times throughout your podcasts pretending to not know the meaning of things, especially so in this episode.

    Constructing our own understanding, interpreting the meaning and intent of the author/speaker, and receiving personal revelation from the Holy Ghost is required when reading scriptures.

    Then again I guess God is being merciful with you but not allowing you to understand so you don’t have to be accountable before him (sometimes ignorance can be a bliss).

    I enjoy satire, but not getting the point of what you are reading and blaming it on the author speaks more about yourself than the message that was presented.

    That aside, congratulations on finishing the book of Mormon, I’ve had several very good laughs with you throughout the podcasts.

    Still a believer… God bless.

    Reply

    • Dave Says:

      Or maybe, just maybe, “God’s revealed word” in “the most correct book” is a bunch of confusing gibberish sometimes.

      Reply

      • Deg Says:

        In fairness, the prayer to me was sincere, and the door is left open for a response. When I got baptized almost twenty years ago, I didn’t feel any direct answer through prayer, but it was reading the book of Mormon that provided the answer that I was looking for.

        In fairness, Dave, you got what you desired, because you desired it to be not true since you didn’t want to have to deal with all the cognitive dissonance, but that you willing to do it if there was an answer convincing enough.

        Ultimately, what world do you propose that we live in if not the Christian/LDS perspective? I refuse to believe in the Atheist perspective, that is worse outcome than the view that a loving God provides. Remember that our time on earth is only a drop in the bucket compared with the eternities, so any misfortune including death is only temporary discipline and death itself a blessing where we can there after continue to progress eternally.

        God bless Dave, I love your spirit, your humor and look forward to hearing more of your podcasts. I wonder if the Holy Ghost might hit you one day with the understand and love that God has for you.

    • Emma Says:

      Honestly curious, where do you see a loving God in this book?

      Reply

    • john frum england Says:

      What exactly do you still believe in?
      The unfaithfull charlatan who took money for pretending to find treasure, who screwed every teenager that his wife took in to the home?

      Reply

  8. Pins and Needles Says:

    I don’t think this thread would be complete without Apostle Boyd K. Packer’s comment of “a testimony comes in the bearing of it” nonsense. In other words, David, Apostle Packer wants you to stand in front of a congregation and tell them you know that the Book of Mormon is true, even if you don’t. Once you do that, your chances of receiving a spiritual witness increase 10 fold.

    Reply

  9. Duke of Earl Grey Says:

    One last Book of Mormon painting, courtesy of Tom Lovell, not entitled “The Gold Plates and the Silver Fox”:

    Reply

  10. Ephima Morphew Says:

    Saint David,
    your splendid reading of the Book of Mormon has reached a new benchmark for Mormon Truths to be revealed, in order to cram that much redundancy scratched onto gold plates, there should have been a Reformed Egyptian rune for the ditto. With the use of the ditto the Book of Mormon would have been only a golden pamphlet. Thank you David for inclusion of all the hackneyed phrasing The Mormons so lovingly relish.
    The direct quotes from both Our Heavenly Father and Jesus the Christ is both heartwarming and terrifying. The BoM is a remarkable document, a missive of unabridged blather, a run-on sentence that was purposed make one exhausted, weary to the fear of God but for the Mormons.
    Thank you Saint David for exposing the Deep Thoughts of Mormondom.

    Ephima

    Reply

  11. Craig Says:

    All of your episodes were very entertaining, but the part in this one when you tested Moroni’s promise was beautiful. Thanks for all of this.

    I have one comment about something that caught my attention. In episode 79 when you were making the joke about Faith, Hope, and Charity being strippers, around 46:30 you called Charity the “Top Dog.” When you’re talking about strippers, I believe the correct term is “Bottom Bitch.” Kind of the opposite term

    Reply

  12. BOM 4man Says:

    Great episode. I was listening while riding my bike in the country after a rain storm. While waiting for god to answer all I could here was crickets. I guess I got my answer…

    Reply

  13. Nate Says:

    Honestly, one of the most sincere prayers I’ve ever heard! Even though the TBMs will argue that it doesn’t work unless you ask with perfect faith that you will get an answer, and that you should not “tempt” god by asking for a sign, your reading of the Book of Mormon has highlighted that that pattern doesn’t hold true for the God of the Book of Mormon — your invocation of the story of Alma the younger was a perfect example. Bravo for putting Moroni’s promise to the test. Loved it. Best segment of the show so far!

    Reply

  14. Ellie Says:

    I read the entire Book of Mormon and did have a beautiful and remarkable witness that it is true. This happened to me over 20 years ago and I still remember it very clearly. I love the Book of Mormon and I know that it is true. I listened to you, and heard you express that you didn’t want to know that there is a God and that the Book of Mormon is true. I believe you. Even if a person has a very small amount of faith, even though it be as small as a little mustard seed, the Lord does reach out to us. He did for me and He will do the same for all that have a genuine desire. I hope that one day you will want to know the truth that God is truly your Heavenly Father and He does love you. Jesus Christ is our Savior and he lived, died, and rose again. I am certain that when I see them again I will feel the overwhelming feeling of joy that came to me through the Holy Ghost after reading the book and arriving at Moroni 10:4. Truthfully, the Holy Ghost has always been there for me to guide me throughout my life. If you have not experienced it, you will not recognize it. There is nothing special about me. He is available to all men and women who desire to know him as he testifies to us of truth.

    Reply

  15. Jeremy Says:

    Hi, just finish listening, and I got to say I look forward to listening to the Pearl. Great Job.

    I know a million people have already replied, but I’m going to give you my two cents anyways. The problem is that one of the requirements of the challenge is to have faith in Jesus Christ, so I’m afraid your screwed. You have to believe in him for it to work, so on less you have already convinced yourself that he exists god will never prove himself until you do so. It’s a catch 22 I’m afraid.

    Reply

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