The following is from a Facebook discussion on the page Civil Dialogue Between Evangelicals and Mormons of which I try to be an active participant of. I find the admin team to be fair and balanced and for the conversation to be constructive and meaningful as the more antagonistic participants from both sides are quickly booted out. I ask forgiveness on any poor grammar or syntax as my response was written from the means of a smart phone. This response was a brief one and there is boundless more to be said on the subject.
Here is the OP (original post). I have added external links to relevant source references.
<<Late last night, I read someone say that James White had already debated Daniel Peterson, and that Dr. white had lost that debate. I recalled having listened to that debate on YouTube a few years ago while scraping wallpaper. (Home improvement time is a great time to listen to podcasts and debates!) In any case, I don’t recall feeling that Dr. White lost that debate. I thought all three participants made good points (Dr. Hamblin was involved too). I decided to revisit that debate to see if what was said about Dr. White having lost was true.
One of the stronger points made by Dr. Peterson was a question about needing an extra-biblical (he said meta-biblical) authority to authenticate the Bible as the Word of God. The charge is that referring to 2 Timothy 3:16 is a case of the circular reasoning fallacy.
Having been LDS, I recognize what Dr. Peterson was doing. For LDS, the external authority needed to authenticate a writing as the Word of God is the Holy Ghost, based on the Moroni 10:3-5 model. When James White provided the Reformed position on the authenticity and authority of The Bible, and questioned Dr. Peterson about whether he was in fact appealing to the Mormon testimony (burning in the bosom) as the needed external authority, Dr. Peterson, rather than address that question, simply asserted that Dr. White’s response had not in any way responded to his own critique.
Here are my questions:
Do LDS accept the standard works simply because they have received them from an authoritative body (First Presidency and Quorum of the 12)?
If not, have the LDS prayed about books in their canon other than the BoM, or does the “if the BoM is true then Joseph was a prophet, and if Joseph was a prophet then all he did was true” line of reasoning make praying over the D&C or BoA unnecessary?
D&C 93 seems to be a record of Joseph speaking at Remus, Illinois. When read, it does not read as a written and revised sermon. In fact it reads as what it is, a contemporaneous record by a scribe taking notes of what Joseph said. It doesn’t have a logical flow, which seems to indicate that not all he said was captured. The Modern LDS Church does not consider what Joseph said at the funeral of King Follet to be authoritative or fully reliable because of concerns about scribal errors in recording his words. Why does not this same concern apply to D&C 93, where the concept of the Father being embodied is recorded? Have the LDS here prayed about the truthfulness of this section individually?
And here is the main questions I have–and as a former LDS, I have been wrestling with this question for a number of years–if the external authority is the Holy Ghost, why don’t Mormons pray to know if the Quran is true? Or do you? Is it only necessary to pray over the writings presented to the LDS membership for common consent? On what basis do LDS exclude the Quran and other religious writings from being authoritative for their life and faith? If you do reject them outright without consideration, doesn’t that put you in the same position as Protestants who trust that the early Church “got the canon right”? In other words, aren’t you just trusting that your “authoritative body” is getting it right?>>
Here is my personal response:
<<I will offer my thoughts on the issue [name excluded] as I too feel that it is relevant and needful of discussion. Know that I speak for myself and my own experiences in these matters:
1) I do not validate the Standard Works on the fact that they are given to me from the an authoritative body like the First Presidency or the Quorum of the Twelve. To do such alone would be committing an appeal to authority logical fallacy.
2) In my mind, both are important and have merit. Before I identified as Mormon, for a time I was a bit of a seeker; that is I didn’t identify really with any belief system or worldview and was actively seeking for one that I believed to be true. In that process I composed a list of essential questions that I felt were relevant to obtaining a worldview. By finding fulfilling answers to these questions it very much helped me to narrow down the possibilities. I began with basic and fundamentally important questions which I would then utilize to create the foundation of my worldview. As I would find answers I would move on to further questions. 1) Is there such thing as Absolute Truth?, 2) Is there such thing as a Higher Power or God?, 3) Who was Jesus Christ?, 4) What type of Church did he found? and finally 5) Is the Book of Mormon an authentic and divinely inspired historical text?.
Now this is quite an abridged process of the journey that took me many years to come to terms with but the process of validating what I was determining to be true was a reliance on faith and reason, of logical arguments and assertions and spiritual witnesses, of empirical evidence and personal spiritual experience. I would very strongly argue that this is the only and most basic method for analyzing truth that any human of any faith fundamentally undertakes.
As such I personally have both logically and spiritually poured over the Bible, the Book of Mormon, the Doctrine and Covenants and the Pearl of Great Price. I can speak honestly and say that I have had a deeper and richer experience for the Bible and the Book of Mormon then the latter two – though by no means does that entail none such experiences existing for them-.
If the Book of Mormon is indeed an authentic and divinely inspired historical sacred text like the Bible, I wouldn’t say that it automatically rules all of Joseph Smith’s future work, revelations and claims as true, but I would argue that it is significant and does bolster the plausibility for such claims.
3) With the King Follett Discourse, there are three or so separate scribal recording of it that do raise concern as to its validity. See here from William Clayton’s account of the sermon (Clayton served as Joseph Smith’s clerk and scribe):
“In order to understand the subject of the ded for the consolation of those who mourn for the loss of their friends necessary they should understand Going to tell you how God came to be God. We have imagined that God was God from all eternity—These are incomprehensible to some but are the first principle of the gospel.”
The following is the Thomas Bullock account of the sermon:
“I am going to tell you what sort of a being of God. for he was God from the begin of all Eternity & if I do not refute it—truth is the touchstone they are the simple and first princ: of truth to know for a certainty the char. of God”
Without touching more on the specifics of the KFD I can honestly say that I have not prayed specifically over D&C 93, nor have I for the majority of other singular sections or chapters in LDS canon (BoM and Bible included). Usually I have taken it more as a whole. There are some instances such as in Luke 23-24, 3rd Nephi 11, The First Vision Account in JS-H and others that I have sought an additional and more specific spiritual validation on.
4) In my own case I have read in entirety and prayed to know the truths contained in the Holy Qur’an. I can say that I have found many and greatly benefited from them but found no such validation in the claims it lays that Jesus Christ is not the Son of god, that there is no need for an Atonement and that Muhammad was a prophet on par with Moses, Abraham and Jesus. I believe that he was an inspired man of God who did much good for the surrounding populaces of ancient Arabia but that they received as much truth as they were ready to. As a Mormon I believe that the Church has no monopoly on Truth, that as a Mormon I have an ultimate goal of gathering all truth wherever I may find it and that I can look to other inspired works of ancient scripture (like the Qur’an, Bhagavad Gita, Dhammapada, Tao te Ching, Upanishads, and others for confirmations and additional witnesses of universal truths). As to their historic validity or the validity of their truth claims, that is something that I am devoting my whole life to analyzing and determining through that same method of faith and reason.
In the end, Truth is authoritative in my life (or I try to make such be) wherever it is found.
I do suggest the following reading. Hopefully I answered your questions in a satisfactory way. If elaboration or further questioning is needed I am happy to oblige.