03278_000_011The following situations and responses from New Era readers are to provide perspective and insight. These suggestions are from youth and should not be considered counsel from the General Authorities or pronouncements of the Church.
Some friends of mine have been reading anti-Mormon literature and want me to read it too. They claim that if the Church is really true, no harm can come from looking into the opposite point of view, that the truth will stand no matter how fiercely it may be attacked, and that my beliefs will actually be strengthened by accepting and overcoming such challenges. I have a testimony of the gospel, but I’m not sure my understanding of all of the scriptures, doctrines, and teachings of the Church is great enough to see through false arguments or deliberately confusing statements. Would it be wise for me to read this material? One boy I know has quit attending seminary since reading it. What do you think?
“A few years ago when I was in junior high school, a lot of talk was going around about anti-Mormon literature, especially a certain account of Joseph Smith’s life. My mother, a convert to the Church, reads a great deal of Church literature and has a deep and sincere testimony of the gospel. I knew that she had purchased that particular book some time before and had read it at least in part.
“Convinced that absolutely nothing could shake my testimony, I asked her if I could read it too. She gave me a very final no. Indignantly I asked why. She then explained to me that my testimony and understanding of the gospel, although good, were not strong enough or great enough not to be shaken by that sort of literature. She told me that when I gained a greater knowledge and understanding of the gospel, I could read it and see the flaws in it, and that until then it would be better if I read pro-Church literature to build my knowledge so that when I was faced with anti-Mormon views I would have answers rather than questions.
“I followed her advice and have gained a far greater testimony than I thought possible then. I have now read part of that book along with other anti-Mormon literature, and I can see that a few years ago that sort of thing might have been very damaging to my tender and growing testimony. Perhaps not, but I am sincerely thankful I didn’t take that chance.
“When discussing this with my mother recently, she made this statement: ‘We never need to be afraid to read anything, but we need to be better prepared to read some things.’ Sometimes it’s astonishing what good counsel parents can give us.”
Toni Kuttler Pocatello, Idaho
“If you have doubts about reading these books, don’t read them. Build upon your testimony and strengthen it. Pray continually and with faith, and the Holy Ghost will help you. Your testimony will be a light to others and can help your friends who doubt.
“Remember Lehi’s dream? Hold to the rod, the word of God. Know the word of God. Build a firm foundation in truth by studying the scriptures. They come first in our reading. Remember those who lost their way and fell and ceased partaking of the fruit because of the laughs and scorns from the world. The gospel is true and can stand any test. The question is, can we? We can if we put the Lord and his words first.”
Shaunna Lynn Berrett Orem, Utah
“It is quite evident that there are many false and deceiving books printed about the Mormons. The question remains: should one read literature that tears down and opposes the Church, or would it be better to read something else?
“Study is good. If we study then we show ourselves ‘approved unto God.’ (2 Tim. 2:15.) Joseph Fielding Smith had some good advice on what to study. He said, ‘Let us search these scriptures. Let us know what the Lord has revealed. Let us put our lives in harmony with his truth. Then we will not be deceived. … Our minds will be quickened and we will be able to comprehend truth and segregate it from error.’ (Doctrines of Salvation, vol. 1, p. 301.)
“Another wonderful key to this subject is found in the Doctrine and Covenants, section 50, verse 23: ‘And that which doth not edify is not of God, and is darkness.’ [D&C 50:23] Will a person be edified in the diligent study of anti-Mormon literature, or will it cause doubt? As stated in the situation above, the result of this unfortunate seminary student’s study was one of doubt and darkness. This tends to show results that are not in favor of this particular study activity.”
John K. Skousen Rialto, California
“The Lord has commanded us to search the scriptures. His writings are the words of eternal life. We know what the Lord says is true. We have a prophet and inspired men to direct and counsel us. With so much light and truth available, how can we find time to read anti-Mormon literature? Was this literature written by holy and just men when moved upon by the Holy Ghost? Or is it the work of darkness? The Lord has never commanded us to study evil.
“He has said, ‘By their fruits ye shall know them.’ Evil fruit comes from an evil tree. A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit. All that is good comes from our Father in heaven. We can easily see that the Church is a source of good. No other organization on the face of this earth has or can do more for the exaltation of man than The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Let us be prayerful, judge wisely, and be diligent in studying the scriptures. In this we have eternal life.”
Martin D. Cain Klamath Falls, Oregon
“Before making a choice either way, you should pray earnestly and then follow the still, small voice. If you do decide to read it, do it with a prayerful attitude and in the right spirit.”
Rebekah Morgan Kansas City, Kansas
“Can one understand the sweetness of ice cream by reading the description of one who does not enjoy its taste? So it is with the Church. One cannot grasp a knowledge of the gospel from a negative viewpoint. When we indulge in reading anti-Mormon literature, we are just extending an invitation to the adversary. One might suggest that not reading such literature is creating a shell around oneself, but I beg to differ; it is just acting sensibly in a relatively obvious situation.
“Our Heavenly Father admonishes us to ‘let your time be devoted to studying of the scriptures.’ (D&C 26:1.) I can assure you that the gospel is not something that is to be argued; instead it is something to be lived.”
William Dean Atlanta, Georgia
“Before reading anti-Mormon literature, a person should be absolutely sure that the Church is true and should have a definite understanding of what he believes. The scriptures provide the steps a person should follow to strengthen his testimony and gain an understanding of the gospel. James 1:5–6 states: ‘If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him. But let him ask in faith, nothing wavering. …’ Moroni 10:4–5 promises: ‘And when ye shall receive these things, I would exhort you that ye would ask God, the Eternal Father, in the name of Christ, if these things are not true … And by the power of the Holy Ghost ye may know the truth of all things.’ [Moro. 10:4–5]
“Before reading the literature he should read the scriptures, pray sincerely for God’s spirit to be with him, and make sure his testimony is strong. He should then take any questions concerning this material to his bishop or some other authority in the Church.”
Church History Class Brighton High School Seminary Salt Lake City, Utah
“It is true that truth will stand no matter how fiercely it may be attacked. People may not. None of us is so secure that he couldn’t possibly fall. Joseph Smith told us to avoid the very appearance of evil for that very reason.
“Anti-Mormon literature is a tool of the devil. It isn’t printed to strengthen one’s testimony of the truth but for the opposite reason. Leave it alone. Read and study the scriptures and other authorized Church publications, and pray about them. This is the real testimony builder.”
Ax Haderlie St. Charles, Idaho
“Speaking of the reason for the downfall of the Jewish race during one portion of their history, the great Book of Mormon prophet Jacob had this to say:
“‘But behold, the Jews were a stiffnecked people; and they despised the words of plainness, and killed the prophets, and sought for things that they could not understand. Wherefore, because of their blindness, which blindness came by looking beyond the mark, they must needs fall; for God hath taken away his plainness from them, and delivered unto them many things which they cannot understand, because they desired it. And because they desired it God hath done it, that they may stumble.’ (Jacob 4:14.)
“The Jews looked beyond the plain truths of the gospel and unrighteously desired points of doctrine they could not understand. Note that the Lord did not withhold these things from them, but granted these things according to their desires, knowing that it would be their eventual downfall.
“Those who search out anti-Mormon literature and delve into the mysteries that are so prevalent in such writings are making the same mistake that proved so devastating to the Jews. They place stumbling blocks in their path that are hard to overcome.
“In our own day in a revelation to Martin Harris through Joseph Smith, the Lord has said: ‘And of tenets thou shalt not talk, but thou shalt declare repentance and faith on the Savior, and remission of sins by baptism, and by fire, yea, even the Holy Ghost.’ (D&C 19:31.)
“Each of us as members of the Church should seek the inspiration of the Holy Ghost. We need to gain that knowledge and witness of the Spirit that will leave no desire or need to search out writings inspired by the adversary. I feel that it would not only be unwise but perhaps a severe hindrance to a person’s eternal progression to study such material.”
James D. Clark London, England