Does It Pass God's 3-Question Test for Truth?

Mormon Test For Determining Truth

Mormonism teaches that the Bible, Book of Mormon, Doctrine and Covenants, and Pearl of Great Price are "inspired scriptures" (what they call "Standard Works"). The last three documents are accepted without qualification. However, the accuracy of the Bible translation is questioned.

Mormon "scripture" books (other than the Bible) list two fundamental ways for determining if a person or religion speaks for God. The first method prays for an answer. It is often presented as a valid test of Mormonism. The second method requires a handshake with the person who claims to speak for God. This method for determining truth is seldom mentioned.

Praying to know truth

The primary method taught by Mormonism for determining the truthfulness of someone who claims to speak for God is quoted often. For many Mormons, it is the most important evidence supporting their belief in Mormonism. The method instructs a person to pray and ask God if Mormonism is true. The following quote from the Book of Mormon outlines this method.

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 if ye shall ask with a sincere heart, with real intent, having faith in Christ, he will manifest the truth of it unto you, by the power of the Holy Ghost. And by the power of the Holy Ghost ye may know the truth of all things. (Book of Mormon, 1981, Moroni 10:4-5)

Many Mormons have prayed according to this method and received an answer which they believe proves that Mormonism is true. When a Mormon receives what he believes is a positive response to this prayer, he is said to have a "testimony" of the truth of Mormonism. From time to time, he may express this testimony with words similar to, "I bear you my testimony that I know that Joseph Smith was a true prophet of God and that The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is the only true church on the earth today."

On the surface, this method may sound like a valid way to determine truth. However, there are problems with this method. The most serious problem is that this test depends totally upon the subjective interpretation of the person who seeks the answer. How does a person know that the feeling he received was from God or just indigestion? This test has no provision for objectively measuring the answer received against a known standard of truth.

The contradictory answers received when following this method reveal the serious nature of this problem. When following this method, many people are convinced that God says that Mormonism is true. Many others are equally convinced that God says that Mormonism is false. Both answers cannot be true! This method for determining truth does not provide consistent answers. It is an unreliable method for determining truth.

Mormons sometimes attempt to discredit those who received the "wrong" answer by saying that they were not sincere. When This approach assumes that Mormonism is true and attempts to explain why wrong answers are received. That assumption can be dangerous! How can someone judge another person's sincerity? (This sounds similar to the story of "The Emperor's New Clothes." In that story, the emperor was tricked into wearing no clothes. However, people were afraid to say that they could not see the "clothes" because they were told that only people who were pure could see the clothes.)

The contradictory answers that are received when following this method for determining truth are cause for serious concern. This method for testing the truthfulness of Mormonism has some problems and is not reliable for something as important as your eternal life.

How can there be two opposite answers to the same prayer? Praying according to this Mormon method is asking God for a sign to prove that Mormonism is true. God warned us against seeking such signs since there will be many false signs in the last days (see the following Bible quotes). If you ignore the Bible warnings and use this method to ask for a sign, you may invite false signs meant to deceive those seeking to know the will of God.

Then certain of the scribes and of the Pharisees answered, saying, Master, we would see a sign from thee. But he answered and said unto them, An evil and adulterous generation seeketh after a sign; and there shall no sign be given to it, but the sign of the prophet Jonas: For as Jonas was three days and three nights in the whale's belly; so shall the Son of man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth. (Matthew 12:38-40)

For there shall arise false Christs, and false prophets, and shall shew great signs and wonders; insomuch that, if it were possible, they shall deceive the very elect. Behold, I have told you before. (Matthew 24:24-25)

For after that in the wisdom of God the world by wisdom knew not God, it pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe. For the Jews require a sign, and the Greeks seek after wisdom: But we preach Christ crucified, unto the Jews a stumblingblock, and unto the Greeks foolishness; But unto them which are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God, and the wisdom of God. (1 Corinthians 1:21-24)

Shaking hands to know truth

A second method for determining truth is listed in Mormonism's Standard Works. This method uses a handshake to determine if the person or religion are from God as described in the following quote.

When a messenger comes saying he has a message from God, offer him your hand and request him to shake hands with you. If he be an angel he will do so, and you will feel his hand. If he be the spirit of a just man made perfect he will come in his glory; for that is the only way he can appear - Ask him to shake hands with you, but he will not move, because it is contrary to the order of heaven for a just man to deceive; but he will still deliver his message. If it be the devil as an angel of light, when you ask him to shake hands he will offer you his hand, and you will not feel anything; you may therefore detect him. These are three grand keys whereby you may know whether any administration is from God. (Doctrine and Covenants, 1981, 129:4-9, emphasis added)

There are some serious problems with this method for determining if a person or religion truly speaks for God. First, suppose a lunatic says he is an angel with a message from God. Applying this test would lead to a false conclusion that he is what he claims. You would then be obligated to obey what the lunatic says.

Another problem in this method is its assumption that the devil is ignorant. If the devil can hear or read, then he is probably aware of this method for determining truth. He can refuse to shake hands when we wants to speak a lie to someone. Applying using method from Doctrines and Covenants would obtain a false conclusion that the devil is the "spirit of a just man made perfect" and that his message is truly from God.

The problem with this method make it totally unacceptable for determining if a person or religion is speaking for God. That is probably why Mormons do not often refer to this method.

If these were the only two methods for determining truth, it would be difficult to accurately know if Mormonism is true. We could never be confident of any answer we received. Fortunately, there are three more ways God gave us for determining the truthfulness of Mormonism.

Table of Contents



Mormonism, Does It Pass God's 3-Question Test for Truth?

Attention: The material in this book attempts to accurately describe official Mormon doctrine in certain important areas. Therefore, quotes are included from several authorized sources of Mormon doctrine. However, this book does not claim to be authorized by or endorsed by the Mormon Church.

Copyrights of quoted Mormon materials belong to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (the Mormon Church) or the copyrights are under their control.

Quotations from the Bible are from the King James Version.


This book by Sonny Bowman is used by permission. If you have questions or comments, please check the Frequently Asked Questions page or contact Sonny Bowman or check the links to Related Sites.

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