Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who
asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have.
1 Peter 3:15
When I first began interacting with LDS missionaries, I was struck by their reasons as to why they believed Mormonism to be true. I started doing some research and was shocked by what Joseph Smith, their founder, claimed had happened. There was no historical evidence to back any of what he said, and yet Mormons believed him. When I approached two missionaries with this problem, they gave me their testimony. Here are a few of the things they said:
I know Joseph Smith did what he did because God called him to do that.
By studying and reading from the Book of Mormon daily, I have come to know that the book is true.
I believe the Book of Mormon to be Scripture just like the Bible because I asked God in prayer what to believe. He answered me and told me it was true through the power of the Holy Ghost.
The evidence I received was when I felt his love and forgiveness in my life and when I received answers to my prayers seeking his help.
I received a witness from God that the Book of Mormon is Scripture and that Joseph Smith is a prophet after seeking an answer and approaching God in prayer.
As a believer, would any of you be convinced that the Book of Mormon is true, or that Joseph Smith is a real prophet from God based on what these missionaries said? Of course not, especially if you have looked into or heard of various things they believe that differ from what Christians believe and the Bible teaches. Christianity and Mormonism are at odds. But many Christians provide similar type responses as to why Christianity is true. I remember hearing many times that a good way to witness is to give your testimony because no one can argue with what you say. They may not argue, but a testimony in and of itself is not evidence for the truth of Christianity. Experiences are subjective but can effectively supplement the truth.
Don't get me wrong, testimonies have an essential place in sharing the gospel, but if you can't back up what you say with any reasonable historical facts, your story remains subjective and based on emotion. It isn't enough. Christianity must have reasonable evidence, or it isn't any different than Mormonism.
One Mormon missionary told me his story of depression and doubting God. But then he was encouraged to read the book of Mormon in a month, and instead read it in three days, and also prayed to God to give him the answers to three questions:
1) Are You there?
2) Do You love me?
3) Is the Book of Mormon true?
God told him "yes" to all three questions, and that's when he felt an incredible peace.
Another missionary told me stories of specific prayers that were answered in his and others lives, and the peace they felt and the change in their lives. They often had a "burning in their bosom," an ecstatic spiritual experience talked about in Mormon faith. Having a "peace that passes all understanding," the transformation that took place, and the spiritual experiences were huge for these missionaries in determining that Mormonism was true. They relied on prayer and reading the Bible and the Book of Mormon daily. But their confirmation was always based on emotion.
My interactions with the missionaries shook me to the core. They had the same type of experiences I had; the same kind of encounters that convinced me of God's love. I knew I needed to have more than just my testimony to back up my belief in the Bible and Christianity. I knew God would not give these LDS missionaries the same experiences as evidence of the truth of Mormonism that He gave Christians because God isn't the God of both Mormonism and Christianity.
My time with LDS missionaries convinced me that having reasonable evidence in what you believe is vital. Experience is only part of faith and truth. People can have all kinds of experiences that aren't from God and don't reflect what is true. These experiences can even lead to peace and transformation, but still not come from God.
During my initial research into Mormonism, I found out that people and many of the places written about were fictional or at the very least had no supporting evidence they ever existed; people groups such as the Nephites and Lamanites, and places such as the city of Ammonihah and the land of Antionum. A Brief History in Time...in Advance had this to say:
In the book of Mormon, we find references to the following:
at least 46 cities
at least 11 different coin types
at least 11 unique land areas
at least 7 unique metals including steel for making swords
at least 8 unique animals
The list above shows 83 unique items for which archaeological evidence should be found. In fact, due to the unique nature of these items, archaeological evidence should have already been found (such as the evidence of horses being present in the pre-Columbian New World). However, not even one item has been found to validate the book of Mormon.
I couldn't believe that Mormons didn't question the historical aspect of the book. How could they overlook the fact that there was no evidence that the people, places, and events ever existed?
On the other hand, the historical evidence for the Bible is plenty. We have the Bible itself, and the many non-canonical ancient texts that refer to events and places and people in the Bible as real. Numerous places in the Bible are still in existence today. And various ancient historical texts talk about Jesus as a real person. J. Warner lists a variety of ancient stories written about Jesus. Anyone who knows anything about the history of the Bible knows archaeological finds have been abundant. Many places in the Bible still exist today, and the Jewish people are actual people.
So, the next time you are talking to an unbeliever about your faith, ask yourself if what you are about to say is also what a Mormon believer might say in defense of their faith. Are you only giving emotional responses, or do you also have some reasonable evidence to back up your claims?