Why doesn’t Moroni’s Promise work for everyone?
It seems like a done deal. You get to try the product before you buy, and there’s a money-back guarantee if you buy. If you aren’t satisfied, then all money will be returned.
But, the last laugh seems to be for the seller. For he knows that the product will always satisfy. So, he never has to give any money back. He has the perfect product.
At least theoretically, the Book of Mormon is designed to operate in the same way. Read it; you’ll like it. Or so it goes. And yet…it doesn’t always work out. Moroni’s Promise…the famous section of the Book of Mormon present in Moroni 10: 3-5…invites us to ask God, after we have read the words in the Book of Mormon, if these words aren’t true. According to Moroni (and the church), the Holy Ghost will manifest the truth of the Book of Mormon to us.
Yet…this doesn’t always happen. So, the question is: Why doesn’t Moroni’s Promise work for everyone?
Now, I’m sure ex-mormons, nonMormons, and neverMormons have some particular answers for this question…but the other day, I was browsing LDS.net to see some faithful members’ responses. I was intrigued by the diversity of opinion.
The original poster of the topic that asked the question had her own proposed answer. She expressed it through a quotation of Orson F. Whitney (through Ezra Taft Benson…so apparently this quotation has relatively recent and relatively not-so-recent support):
“Perhaps the Lord needs such men on the outside of His Church to help it along. They are among its auxiliaries, and can do more good for the cause where the Lord has placed them, than anywhere else. … Hence, some are drawn into the fold and receive a testimony of the truth; while others remain unconverted … the beauties and glories of the gospel being veiled temporarily from their view, for a wise purpose. The Lord will open their eyes in His own due time. God is using more than one people for the accomplishment of His great and marvelous work. The Latter-day Saints cannot do it all. It is too vast, too arduous for any one people. … We have no quarrel with the Gentiles. They are our partners in a certain sense.”
So, in other words, some people aren’t convinced by the Book of Mormon because they aren’t meant to be. They have anothe role, another purpose. It’s All God’s Plan (TM). See also: The Jack Clause for this same idea with one of our favorite commenters, Jack.
The interesting thing about this answer is that it truly highlights God’s sovereignty. Now, I’m sure many believers talk about God’s sovereignty, but until recently (with my brush-ins with our Calvinist commenter, ChristianClarityReview), I hadn’t taken another look at how far it could go.
CCR’s contention was that free will was a hoax. An illusion. A deception. This obviously doesn’t work very well for Mormonism, which places free will highly in the plan of salvation and other theological frameworks.
So, how could this comment remind me of CCR?
Well, from reading more about calvinism, it seemed to me that most Calvinists (the non-CCR kind) have a view that could accept some kinds of free will…but not others. Humans have free will in the sense that we can choose actions. However, we don’t have free will in the sense that our choices are bound by our nature. Since our nature is depraved, fallen, and sinful, our actions and inclinations will be to sin. As a result, we cannot freely and neutrally choose to defy our nature…rather, we need something or someone to rewrite our nature so that we can make different choices.
That something or someone is God, the Calvinist would say.
Whitney’s quote expresses the same sentiments, but it masks the principal agent (that is, God) somewhat through passive voice. Whitney says that “some are drawn.” Who does the drawing? God. Others remain unconverted…why? God.
And who will unveil at the right time? Whitney explicitly states this one: it is the Lord. God is at the helm. Etc., etc.,
…so, mystery solved, right?
Well…you didn’t really think that would be the case, did you?
What was interesting was how others came and offered different explanations. Their explanations redirected the “blame” from God and moved it elsewhere…that is, to the individuals themselves.
Many of the others defended Moroni’s Promise, saying that God never fails on his part. However, the human part of the promise is a bit more involved than is commonly thought:
Because Moroni’s promise involves more than “read and pray about it”. That’s a gross simplification of the actual promise.
1- receive these things
2- ask God if these things are not true
3- in the name of Christ
4- ask with a sincere heart
5- with real intent
6- having faith in Christ
If you have all six of those things, then ‘he will manifest the truth of it unto you, by the power of the Holy Ghost’.
So, if you’ve done these 6 things, then it’s guaranteed. God will manifest the truth of the BoM to you.
Another poster raised an interesting point in interpretation:
The last one is probably the most difficult for many people. The BoM assumes that the reader is already a Christian. For anyone else, the promise isn’t a lot of use; it would be like telling a Christian he could get a testimony of the truth of the Koran by praying to Allah in the name of Mohammed, and having faith in Mohammed.
But even this was a relatively tame answer. Quickly, answers began to blame the individual (whether an individual was blaming his former self or a hypothetical other). For example,
I think you guys are right are about a the asking with real intent, meaning that you want to be forgiven of your sins and be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ by those with the proper authority and receive the Gift of the Holy Ghost. Some folks don’t want the Church to be true because then they will have to change their lives, others doubt their ability to be true to the Church and their intent falters.
In other words…this intent part…matters. And not only that, but it is the major human factor. People for whom we think Moroni’s promise has failed actually failed to utilize the promise correctly. Maybe they don’t want the church to be true. Maybe they doubt their ability to follow through. And so on.
This kind of answer, which reemphasizes human free will, can be appealing. It meshes better with LDS ideas about choice and agency, whereas the other answer can be offputting (one commenter suggested that such a view of God as “manipulating the well-intentioned seekers of truth” was “machiavellian.”)
At the same time, the free will response offers a more easily grasped answer. Instead of, “God works in mysterious ways,” someone can say, “You did it wrong.” And even if you think you’re “doing it right,” people can always say, “Well, you have to endure to the end!” Deferring to God’s ways means deferring to something we don’t necessarily have access to. Deferring to human free will, on the other hand, allows us to defer to something we have plenty of experience with.