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I Felt A “Burning in my Bosom” When I Read The Book of Mormon!

June 5, 2017

When I read the Book of Mormon a number of years ago there were some beautiful passages I read about Jesus. My favorite verse was 2 Nephi 33:6 which says, “I glory in my Jesus, for he hath redeemed my soul from hell.” While reading some of these passages that align with the truth of God’s Word, I experienced a warm, “burning” sensation in my chest that felt familiar – it was a sensation I had experienced a few other times quite recently prior to this. Because of the close connection with the other times I had felt it (which had been during times of spiritual encouragement) I thought for a moment that perhaps this was the “burning in the bosom” experience that Mormons had told me about. They had said this was how the Holy Spirit would testify to my heart that the Book of Mormon was true.

However, as I continued to pray and ask the Lord about what I was experiencing, He impressed on my mind very clearly that this was a deception. Then He brought to my mind several specific reasons why this “burning in the bosom” test was not legitimate:

  1. Feelings/sensations are not a reliable source of knowledge. God has already revealed to us in His Word that feelings can be deceptive. “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?” (Jeremiah 17:9)
  2. He never commanded us to test anything in this way. The scriptures always point us to the scriptures as our source for spiritual knowledge. The Word of God, not our feelings, is to be “a lamp” and “a light” to our path (Psalm 119:105). We are instructed to be diligent to study the scriptures so that we can “rightly divide the word of truth” (2 Timothy 2 :15). (From my previous study of scripture, I knew of many contradictions between Mormonism and the Bible’s teaching.)
  3. There is no evidence in history or archaeology that any of the Book of Mormon peoples or places ever existed. A sensation in the bosom is not a legitimate reason to overturn these facts. We are commanded to love the Lord with our mind, as well as our heart, so we should not dismiss the mounting evidence that the Book of Mormon is a 19th century work of fiction.
  4. There is a mountain of evidence that Joseph Smith was a very sinful man who failed the biblical tests for a prophet (Deuteronomy 18:22, Matthew 7:16-17) and was biblically disqualified from a leadership position in the church based on the very clear command that leaders in the church could only have one wife (1 Timothy 3:2, Titus 1:6).
  5. The “burning in the bosom” test is a deception because The Book of Mormon does not even teach most of the unique, unbiblical doctrines of Mormonism.  So getting a positive test for the Book of Mormon is not a legitimate test for the entire religion of Mormonism.

(There are a lot of other reasons I think the Book of Mormon is not from God and I blogged about those previously here and here. I also wrote some rather lengthy reviews about my analysis of the Book of Mormon here and here and here.)

It’s been many years since I wrote those previous posts so I can’t remember for sure if I ever shared about the “burning in the bosom” experience I had. I certainly never wrote a provocative title like this one, drawing attention to it. To be honest, I was a little creeped out after the Lord impressed upon me that it was a deception.

I’m sure some people would say my experience was merely psychological (I was expecting to feel something because that’s what Mormons had told me would happen) or emotional (tons of familiar words/phrases and even huge direct quotations from the King James version of the Bible are woven throughout the Book of Mormon) or physical (maybe I had just eaten a spicy burrito). I acknowledge that any or all of these could be true (it’s been so many years I have no idea what I had for lunch).  But I also wondered how much my Mormon roots may have contributed.

My grandma was born into a large Mormon family (her grandparents were even personal friends of Brigham Young). She left the religion as a young girl and became a Bible-believing Christian. I have sometimes wondered if my ancestors’ spirituality made me more vulnerable to the same deceiving spirits.

Thankfully, Jesus has authority over all the spirits and they are all subject to Him!  The Bible says Satan can appear as an “angel of light” (2 Cor. 11:14) so just because something feels good or right doesn’t prove it’s from God. The following verse gives some of the Bible’s teaching on how to overcome deceiving spirits:

10 Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. 11 Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. 12 For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.13 Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm. 14 Stand therefore, having fastened on the belt of truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, 15 and, as shoes for your feet, having put on the readiness given by the gospel of peace. 16 In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one; 17 and take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God, 18 praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end, keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints… (Ephesians 6:10-18)

I highlighted a couple of words above which underscore the importance of having our foundation firmly planted in the truth of God’s Word.

I got to meet Micah Wilder recently, a former Mormon who now travels the country sharing the gospel of salvation that is found in Jesus Christ alone. He says that he discovered Mormonism was wrong after he went back and read through the New Testament like a little child – not reading it through the Mormon lenses, but from as unbiased a perspective as possible. My prayer for any Mormons reading this is that you will also take up this challenge of reading the New Testament cover-to-cover like a little child.  As you read, pray.  Ask Jesus to teach you His truth from His Word and to untangle any lies or deceptions you might be believing.

Thank you for hearing my heart and listening to my personal perspective and experience.



17 Comments leave one →
  1. Seth R. permalink
    June 5, 2017 6:14 pm

    Welcome back. Brings back memories seeing you post again.

    I would counter that I’ve never once felt a “burning in my bosom” about the LDS faith once in my entire life. And yet here I am in my forties – lifelong member and veteran of 10 years of debating with atheists, Evangelicals, ex-Mormons, and all-comers and still going strong.

    As you know, I’ve heard all the criticisms you’ve alluded to, and a lot that you didn’t allude to. But I’m still here and not going anywhere.

    I disagree with you on several points. For one thing – intellect is not more reliable than feelings actually.

    Smart people deceive themselves routinely and reason themselves into all sorts of false beliefs. Just about every conspiracy theory on the planet was derived through the use of reason and logic more than feelings. G. K. Chesterton, the famous Catholic wit and writer wrote extensively on this topic.

    I think when the Bible talks of deceit, and self-deception, it is talking about intellect as much as desires and feelings. But in any case, the Witness of the Holy Ghost is not simply feelings.

    One of my Mormon friends posted on this topic of feelings and witness. He created an imaginary dialogue between a Mormon and a non-believer. You might find it of interest:

    Steve: But what if God doesn’t answer my prayer for knowledge? What will you say then?

    Justin: Since we both know that the scriptures are true, I would have to conclude that you hadn’t fulfilled the requirements in James 1:6 for obtaining an answer.

    “6 But let him ask in faith, nothing wavering. For he that wavereth is like a wave of the sea driven with the wind and tossed.”

    Steve: You are trying to put yourself in a no-lose situation. If I pray about Mormon doctrine, for instance, and God doesn’t tell me that it’s true, then you’ll say that I did not ask with enough faith. You’ll always have some excuse.

    Justin: So what? Are you praying to impress me? Unless you are trying to use your experience to convince me that my answers to prayer are invalid – and you will never succeed at that – you shouldn’t care in the least what I think. But you’re right about what my response would be. If you were to tell me that you asked God if the Mormon claims are correct and that you received no answer, I will conclude that you did not ask in faith, because I have asked and gotten an answer. If you tell me that God has revealed to you that the Mormon Church is not true, I will know that you are lying, because I have asked, and God has told me that it is true. But what I know doesn’t matter. You are the one praying. Whether you asked in faith or not is a judgment you must make for yourself. My experience cannot substitute for yours and yours will never substitute for mine. Ask God in faith and see if he answers. Why is that so hard?

    Steve: Well, it all seems too loosey-goosey to me – not a reliable way to find truth. I’m aware of the Mormon reliance on “the spirit,” searching your feelings for all your doctrine. I wonder if you are aware of what the Bible says about relying on anything so unreliable. Let me read you Jeremiah 17:9.

    9 The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?

    Your emotions may tell you one thing one day and another, another. They will tell you what you want them to tell you. They will deceive.

    Justin: We do not rely on our emotions or our feelings, we rely on the spirit of the Lord.

    Steve: How is that any different?

    Justin: Pastor Steve, I fear I will offend you with this remark. I have no desire to do so, but I must say that if anyone can ask this question, it is because he has never felt the spirit of the Lord. It is not an emotion. I am an emotional man. I cry at passages of music; I am moved to tears of joy when I gather my family around me. I know what emotions feel like. The communication of the spirit of the Lord is not an emotion. It carries words or pure knowledge, and it always carries with it a miraculous sense of warmth and peace. It is not something from within. It is clearly a communication from another being.

  2. burrito34 permalink
    June 5, 2017 9:13 pm

    In Acts 17, the Jews of Berea, were described as “noble-minded” because they carefully examined the Gospel message of Paul and Silas in light of the already revealed word of God in the Old Testament. They believed and treasured the Scriptures and they also recognized that the message of Christ did not violate what they already knew. I’m sure that they rejoiced but the feelings followed knowledge of consistent truth. Feelings and convictions of truth must, if they are valid, be based on facts.

    Since we believe God to be internally self-consistent, it follows that what He says to us in His word must also be consistent in all that He was revealed. This is not so in the Mormon message, a significant example of which is the contention that the Father had to progress from human to God when the consistent message of the Bible, OT to NT, is that God is the Self-Existent First Cause, who existed as God from eternity past. (Deuteronomy 4:35, 39; 32:39; 2 Samuel 7:22; 1 Kings 8:60; 2 Kings 19:15; Nehemiah 9:6; Isaiah 43:10,11; 44:6,8; 45:21; Mark 12:29-34; 1 Corinthians 8:4-6 ; James 2:19)

  3. Seth R. permalink
    June 5, 2017 9:28 pm

    Mormons believe God is eternal as well Burrito. We don’t believe anything created him.

    Nor is there anything in Mormon scripture, nor in Joseph Smith’s King Follett Sermon that requires God the Father to have ever been anything other than divine – other than God.

    Finally, the idea of a “self-existent First Cause” is purely an invention of Greek philosophy found nowhere in the Bible. Deuteronomy 4:35 simply says there is no other God than God – which is something Mormons believe as well. Just as much as Evangelicals do anyway. Ditto on verse 39 and 32:39. Samuel 7:22 is more of the same, saying there is none like the Lord God, which I already personally believe, and there is no God besides him. Which is quite true in Mormon theology. We worship no other God than God the Father found in the Bible. Case closed.

    The rest of the scriptures are saying the same thing, and the same explanation applies. Except Isaiah 43. For that it bears mind that we consider God the Father eternal in Mormonism, we don’t consider him created by anything, not a created being. We’re fine with this verse too. The rest of the verses you list don’t add anything extra to this that my comments haven’t addressed already.

  4. Seth R. permalink
    June 5, 2017 9:34 pm

    And the Bereans are neat and all – but where did they get their conviction of the Old Testament in the first place?

    Painting these guys as a bunch of First Century Mr. Spocks is quite a bit of a stretch. Nothing in that passage about them says that they purely arrived at testimony via intellect alone.

    Americans have a bit of a fetish with logic. It’s a bit of a national character defect. I’d be careful about projecting it too much onto the scriptures.

    Incidentally, the ancient Israelites believed the “heart” was where human thoughts came from. In this, they were similar to the ancient Egyptians who thought that rational thought came from the heart. Aristotle thought so too.

    So I’d be careful when you try to assert that the “heart” is described as being deceitful in the Bible. It actually undermines the argument you are making.

  5. Seth R. permalink
    June 5, 2017 9:37 pm

    And the word “brain” is never mentioned – even once – in the Bible.

  6. Seth R. permalink
    June 5, 2017 9:39 pm

    “the intent of man’s heart is evil” (Gen 8:21)
    “he will be glad in his heart” (Exodus 4:14)
    “harden his heart so that he will not let the people” (Exodus 4:21)
    “in the hearts of all who are skillful I have put skill” (Exodus 31:6)
    “not hate your fellow countryman in your heart” (Leviticus 19:17)
    “love the Lord your God with all your heart” (Deuteronomy 6:5)
    “your heart will become proud” (Deuteronomy 8:14)
    “had eaten and drunk and his heart was merry” (Ruth 3:7)
    “why is your heart sad?” (1 Samuel 1:8)
    “and she despised him in her heart.” (2 Samuel 6:16)
    “sinned and cursed God in their hearts” (Job 1:5)
    You have put gladness in my heart (Psalm 4:7)
    “boasts of his heart’s desire” (Psalm 10:3)
    “Having sorrow in my heart” (Psalm 13:2)
    “their heart’s delight” (Ezekiel 24:25)
    “And their heart will be glad as if from wine” (Zechariah 10:7)
    “does not doubt in his heart” (Mark 11:23)
    “love the lord with all your heart” (Matthew 22:37)
    “sorrow has filled your heart.” (John 16:6)
    “the intention of your heart” (Acts 8:22)
    “the lusts of their hearts” (Romans 1:24)
    “he has purposed in his heart” (2 Corinthians 9:7)
    “their foolish heart” (Romans 1:21)
    “making melody with your heart” (Ephesians 5:19)
    “singing with thankfulness in your hearts to God” (Colossians 3:16)
    “does not bridle his tongue but deceives his own heart” (James 1:26)
    “bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your heart” (James 3:14)

    Replace the word “heart” in all of those scriptures with “brain” and you’re probably closer to what the original authors meant.

  7. burrito34 permalink
    June 6, 2017 5:38 pm

    “Mormons believe God is eternal as well, Burrito. We don’t believe anything created him.”

    I remember well the missionary lessons that I listened to in the mid-sixties, where I was informed, in a flannel graph presentation, of the Law of Eternal Progression. I was told by the missionaries, (presumably with the approval of their superiors, all the way up to First Presidency) that God, and all humans existed from eternity as formless “intelligences” who had to progress, first as spirit children, the second step in probationary mortal existence, who could then progress to the stage God now occupies. Your above statement, while correct on the surface, leaves a lot unsaid.

    “Nor is there anything in Mormon Scripture, nor in Joseph Smith’s King Follett Sermon requires God the Father to have ever been anything other than divine-other than God.”

    “God himself was once as we are now, and is an exalted man, and sits enthroned in yonder heavens!” – Joseph Smith.
    “If Abraham reasoned thus—If Jesus Christ was the Son of God, and John discovered that God the Father of Jesus Christ had a Father, you may suppose that He had a Father also. Where was there ever a son without a father? And where was there ever a father without first being a son?” – History of the Church, Volume 6.

    Succeeding leaders of the LDS church history consistently taught something different from what we are now being told.

    “Finally, the idea of a ‘self-existent First cause’ is purely an invention of Greek philosophy found nowhere in the Bible.”

    That you cannot see that this is inferred from the Scriptures I posted is your failure, not mine. I could add to them John 1:3:
    “All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made.” (ESV)

    I submit to you that Greek philosophy, if accurate about there being a self-existent first cause, it was the result of corruption of the knowledge of the true nature of God. They called it “logos”, an impersonal force that governs the universe. I think this is one reason why, the apostle John, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit chose that word. I think it very reasonable to conclude that he was revealing that Jesus is the true Logos, to correct the pagan culture that he lived in.

    “And the Bereans are neat and all-but where did they get their conviction of the Old Testament in the first place? Painting these guys is a bunch of First Century Mr. Spocks is quite a bit of a stretch. Nothing in that passage about them says that they purely arrived at testimony via intellect alone.”

    You misunderstand me if you think I’m saying that they believed the word of God through intellect alone. Godly, devout people even in the Old Testament recognized and treasured biblical truth. God’s people always have ears to hear. This had to be a work of God in their lives as it was in Cornelius’ household is recorded in Acts chapter 10. And now since Pentecost the indwelling Holy Spirit gives an internal witness of the truth to believers. This internal witness, since it is true, is shown to be so in objective facts. The same cannot be said of Book of Mormon claims.

    “So I’d be careful when you try to assert the “heart” is described as being deceitful in the Bible it actually undermines the argument you’re making.
    And the word “brain” is never mentioned-even once-in the Bible.”

    Actually, I never once referred to the word “heart” in my post; Jessica did. I know very well that when the word “heart” is used in the Bible it refers to not only the place of emotion but also the place of desire and volition (will). But I will agree with her that the Bible states that the “heart” in all it is, is tainted by sin and deceitful (Jeremiah 17:9).
    Also, the word “brain” is not mentioned in the Bible. But “mind” is, and the commandment of Christ is to love God all of one’s being (Mark 12:29) including the mind. I choose to do that.

  8. Seth R. permalink
    June 6, 2017 7:21 pm

    I mixed together responses to both you and Jessica and wasn’t always clear which of you I was responding to. Sorry.

  9. Seth R. permalink
    June 6, 2017 8:07 pm

    As to Joseph’s King Follett Sermon – yes, he does say that God was a man once.

    However, the details matter here. Joseph died soon after that sermon and never had a chance to explain and clarify what he meant.

    Also, the language of the Sermon – when he provides proof for his new ideas on the nature of God, he uses Christ telling people that he does what he does because he learned from the Father. Joseph then goes on to explain that this means that Christ learned how to fulfill his own divine mission as a god among men – by observing God the Father do some similar or the same.

    Which seems to imply that when Joseph Smith said God was once a mortal man – what he meant was that God experienced mortality the same way Jesus Christ did – as a fully divine and perfected being among mortals.

    As a result, quite a few Mormon scholars have been dropping the whole “chain-of-gods” idea that you allude to in favor of a model where God the Father was never at any time something other than a divine and perfected being.

  10. Seth R. permalink
    June 6, 2017 8:10 pm

    As for missionary stories – i never pay much attention to those. Missionaries say and do all kinds of things, I know – since I was one.

    That whole chain-of-gods thing is definitely a popular belief in Mormonism and still alive and well. I myself am undecided whether I prefer that model personally or not. But it’s never been a part of the approved missionary discussions – I can tell you that much.

    Basically, being a Mission President is like running a massive 2 year Boy Scout campout. Most of the time, you have no idea what shenanigans those young men are up to – and all you can do is pray that they come through the experience with a minimal amount of injuries and parasites.

  11. June 6, 2017 10:18 pm

    “quite a few Mormon scholars have been dropping the whole “chain-of-gods” idea that you allude to in favor of a model where God the Father was never at any time something other than a divine and perfected being.”

    That’s great to hear! I’ve been out of the Mormon blogging loop for years so please forgive my ignorance, but are these Mormon scholars having any influence with the LDS Presidency and/or subsequent teaching manuals produced by the church? I was just having a conversation with a true believing Mormon a couple of weeks ago on this topic and he had absolutely no problem with the idea that God could have been a sinner during his mortal life on earth. He said that made it easier for him to relate to God as someone like himself.

    Nice to see you again, Seth.

  12. Seth R. permalink
    June 7, 2017 5:01 am

    Well, I think it’s worth not hiding the ball here. I too don’t have a particular problem with the idea of God being a mortal with sins at some point either.

    If you really believe in the Atonement, it’s not a problem, right?

    And if it is still a problem for you – why?

  13. June 7, 2017 2:10 pm

    Your passive, nonchalant position on this issue exposes the deep divide between our worldviews. It is ludicrous and blasphemous for me to conceive of God as anything other than the most holy, righteous, perfect Being who has eternally existed and has always been perfect and holy and who created everything else out of nothing and who alone is worthy of all of my love, worship, and adoration. It is likewise ludicrous and blasphemous for me to think of myself as anything other than the finite creation of this Being. My spirit is not co-eternal or co-equal with this incomprehensibly great Being (contra Joseph Smith’s ideas). He is so far above me in His perfection and beauty that His very essence woos my heart to bow down, and in that attitude of humble worship I am inspired to emulate Him. Sin in all its forms becomes abhorrent to me the longer I gaze at the perfection and beauty of my God.

    Idolatrous gods of men’s imaginations do not awe or inspire me. They do not cause me to tremble with holy reverence.

    Why is the atonement even necessary if God was once a sinner? How is the atonement even possible if God is not perfectly holy? How can a God who was imperfect in his mortal existence require perfection from me?

  14. Seth R. permalink
    June 7, 2017 5:38 pm

    Idolatrous gods don’t inspire me either.

    “He is so far above me in His perfection and beauty that His very essence woos my heart to bow down, and in that attitude of humble worship I am inspired to emulate Him. Sin in all its forms becomes abhorrent to me the longer I gaze at the perfection and beauty of my God.”

    Most of the people in my LDS ward could wholeheartedly agree with those statements. I don’t see why God being a different species is necessary for the sentiment however.

    “It is likewise ludicrous and blasphemous for me to think of myself as anything other than the finite creation of this Being.”

    I acknowledge that you feel this way – but I personally don’t see any reason for it.

    And if the Atonement makes perfect, then it makes perfect. Full stop.

  15. June 7, 2017 9:34 pm

    What “Atonement”? Who or what atoned for God? Your word choice implies some kind of abstract principle or impersonal law of the universe, rather than the “once-for-all” very personal atonement of Jesus Christ that the Bible speaks of.

  16. Seth R. permalink
    June 7, 2017 10:10 pm

    Well of course it’s an abstract discussion – since we have no idea from Joseph Smith’s statements whether God the Father was ever subject to an Atonement or not.

    I’m aware there is a strain of popular Mormon thought that posits some chain of gods going back into infinity. Where God the Father supposedly was a mortal subject to his own God the Father, who was subject to his own God the Father, and so on ad infinitum. Presumably, there would have to be an Atonement event at each stage to perfect these beings.

    That’s why I was hypothetically asking you whether the Atonement really has power to perfect or not. If it does, I don’t see why any being should be unworthy of being a god after being subject to it.

    Full disclosure – I’m not sure i believe in this whole chain-of-gods concept in popular Mormonism. But i also don’t automatically consider it a problem that would make me not want to worship MY God if I found he was part of it. I simply don’t have your repulsed feeling about it. But like I said, it’s far from clear that Mormon theology demands a chain-of-gods model anyway.

    So I file this one under the “things I don’t know much about” folder. Personally, I think most Mormons would do well to do likewise.

    Honestly, I think Evangelicals who focus on Mormon interaction think more about this chain-of-gods topic than most Mormons do.

  17. Seth R. permalink
    June 7, 2017 10:12 pm

    I do know however that I fully reject the idea of God being the “First and Final Cause” of everything. I see no evidence of that in the Bible or any other book of scripture I value. And I find the whole concept to be logically problematic.

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