What Is the LDS Standard For Discerning Between Spirits?
I have recently been in conversation with some LDS bloggers on the topic of modern revelation. One of the bloggers expressed concern when I brought up the issue of demonic spirits having the ability to masquerade as deity or angels of light. He pointed out that if this were true how could anyone be sure that their personal revelations were of God?
He expressed precisely the concern that evangelicals have regarding the place of revelation in LDS theology. The contention of evangelicals has consistently been that modern revelation should not be exactly backwards from previous revelation. If it is, we believe it is coming from another source since the Bible warns us not to receive “another gospel” or “another Jesus” (Gal. 1:6-9, II Cor. 11:3) and we are told that Satan will try to counterfeit the true.
“Satan himself is transformed into an angel of light. Therefore it is no great thing if his ministers also be transformed as the ministers of righteousness; whose end shall be according to their works” (2 Corinthians 11:14-15).
Joseph Smith knew about revelations from another source. When a prophecy he made didn’t come true, he returned to his seer stone to seek another revelation and was told “Some revelations are of God: some revelations are of men: and some revelations are of the devil” (David Whitmer, An Address to All Believers in Christ, chapter 4). I happen to agree with this revelation (whatever source it came from) because it lines up with what we are taught in the Bible which is my standard for discerning truth from error / God from Satan.
The Bible says, “The heart is deceitful above all things and desperately wicked, who can know it?” (Jer. 17:9)
For this reason, I don’t rely on feelings for a standard of discerning truth since my heart can deceive me. I trust Christ’s promise that He would preserve His words and I take His example that He never questioned the reliability of the OT scriptures when He was on earth, but He treated them as true, factual history and authoritative. Some LDS have told me that they use the Bible for their standard or that they don’t see a contradiction between the Bible and modern revelations so I will list a few examples of what I am talking about here and hopefully get some responses from LDS on how they reconcile what appear to me as diametrically opposed theology.
For example, the Bible says, “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God; not of works, lest any man should boast” (Eph. 2:8-9)
BoM: “it is by grace that we are saved, after all we can do” (2 Nephi 25:23)
The Bible: “And He said unto me, ‘My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness.’ Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me” (2 Corinthians 12:9)
BoM: “Yea, come unto Christ, and be perfected in him, and deny yourselves of all ungodliness; and if ye shall deny yourselves of all ungodliness, and love God with all your might, mind and strength, then is his grace sufficient for you…” (Moroni 10:32)
The Bible: “But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8)
BoM: “And I say unto you again that he cannot save them in their sins; for I cannot deny his word, and he hath said that no unclean thing can inherit the kingdom of heaven; therefore, how can ye be saved, except ye inherit the kingdom of heaven? Therefore, ye cannot be saved in your sins” (Alma 11:37)
The Bible: “Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us…that being justified by His grace, we should be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life” (Titus 3:5)
Apostle Spencer Kimball: “However good a person’s works, he could not be saved had Jesus not died for his and everyone else’s sins. And however powerful the saving grace of Christ, it brings exaltation to no man who does not comply with the works of the gospel” (Miracle of Forgiveness, p. 207).
What are the “works of the gospel” according to Jesus?
“Then they said unto Him, ‘What shall we do, that we might work the works of God?’ Jesus answered and said unto them, ‘This is the work of God, that ye believe on Him whom He hath sent’” (John 6:29)
***Note: Before someone responds with James 2, I am not saying we can claim to have faith and then not manifest the works that should accompany true faith. James was written to address this specific problem as people were claiming the name of Christ, but in their works they denied Him.