LDS members and Apostles need to stop bearing false witness by being dishonest concerning their witness of Jesus Christ, God and the truth of the church.
The purpose and calling of an Apostle was, and is, to be a special witness of the Resurrected Lord Jesus Christ to all the earth. In the case of our present “apostles”, if that witness is a first hand visual witness as was the case for the early Apostles they need to proclaim that witness clearly and honestly.
If their visionary witness of Christ is from vision as it was with Joseph Smith and Paul they should say so. But if their witness is simply a powerful witness given by the Holy Ghost (as many modern LDS apostles have admitted) they need to proclaim that clearly without secrecy, guile or misrepresentation. No more of this mysterious and deceptive language. When God calls someone as witness of Him, he NEVER then swears them to secrecy or tells them to speak in hushed muted terms concerning the experience. That’s not a witness. It is an absolute contradiction to call oneself a witness of Christ and then not proclaim the specifics of that witness while pretending that somehow the experience was too sacred to talk about or that you are sworn to secrecy after “being called” to be a witness! The current practices of LDS apostles in this regard tend toward evil and need to be reformed to accord with complete openness and honesty.
The same goes for the testimonies of church members. We have developed a cultural tendency of saying we “know” this or that when in fact we actually only believe or have faith in it. This actually causes a lot of guilt, shame, confusion and contempt. It is dishonest of us to redefine the word know to mean believe. It is also unscriptural. Alma says Alma 32:21 “faith is not to have a perfect knowledge of things; therefore if ye have faith ye hope for things which are not seen, which are true”. If you have not seen God, you should not stand up in front of the congregation and say “I know god lives”, that is a lie, you should say “I have faith and hope that god lives for such and such reasons. The Brother of Jared in the Book of Mormon teaches us how we should differentiate faith and knowledge.
19 And because of the knowledge of this man he could not be kept from beholding within the veil; and he saw the finger of Jesus, which, when he saw, he fell with fear; for he knew that it was the finger of the Lord; and he had faith no longer, for he knew, nothing doubting.
20 Wherefore, having this perfect knowledge of God, he could not be kept from within the veil; therefore he saw Jesus; and he did minister unto him. (Ether 3:19–20)
By saying we “know” God lives or we “know” the church is true, we are effectually saying by the definitions in our own scripture that we no longer need faith because we are redeemed from the veil. This is a flat out lie, and it’s time we as a church stop promoting it as a cultural practice of both leadership and members. It’s a cult practice and it has many negative consequences that cultural Mormons seem to be blind to.
Note: The New Testament specified that apostles were to vote for replacements to apostolic vacancies ONLY from among “these men which have companied with us all the time that the Lord Jesus went in and out among us. Beginning from the baptism of John, unto that same day that he was taken up from us…to be a witness with us of his resurrection” (Acts 1:21–22). This led both the Catholic and other Christian churches to conclude that the office of “apostle” and the “travelling twelve witnesses” was only a temporary quorum not intended to be indefinitely maintained. This sentiment is not shared by the Doctrine and Covenants, but one would still posit that election to that quorum should only be made from among those who have shown to the body of the church that they already posses a special witness of Christ! This current business of the 12 secretly picking some member of the church elite on account of some needed temporal life skill and business prowess and then ambiguously suggesting to the church that once chosen he has suddenly received “a special witness of Christ” which when pressed about, he then essentially answers, I can’t discuss it… its too special, is manipulative, dishonest and unscriptural. (Not to mention the fact that all “temporal affairs” of the church are mandated by scripture to be handled by the presiding bishopric, whereas the quorum of the twelve is only to preside over strictly spiritual matters)
Stop manipulating people into thinking every church related spiritual experience or emotional reaction to spirituality is proof that “the LDS church is true”.
This narrow and manipulative understanding of spirituality often backfires. The “burning heart” or awakening mind is experienced by members of every religion on earth. These experiences typical yield good fruits but can easily be use to manipulate people into cults. When we use manipulation techniques to suggest to youth that these spiritual emotions prove the Mormon church is the only true one, these individuals will likely be bitter when they find people of all religions experience them. (see this youtube video for many such examples) Many ancient and modern religions promote better systems to explain the phenomena of spiritualism in terms of activated endocrine glands or spiritual centers attached to the human nervous system. (see this wikipedia article on kundalini) If we wish to align ourselves with “The one true church”, we as a church need to do a better job of helping people understand the differing levels of the kundalini or “burning heart” experience and the relationship between biology and spirituality.
Our current system of gaining a “testimony” is incredibly manipulative. If members or investigators “feel the spirit” during a discussion of Joseph Smith or while reading the book of Mormon, we ask them to accept this as proof that Mormonism is the only true church. If they “feel the spirit” while listening to a general conference address, we ask them to accept this as proof that these men are called of god and essentially everything any of them say is the word of god. This is synonymous with asking people to kiss someone or hold a baby or view a sunset and then asking them to accept these good feelings as testimony that the LDS church is God’s only true church and thus all its tenets are true. We need to stop manipulating people into drawing man-made conclusions which aren’t necessarily true, from their very personal spiritual experiences. Doing so is actually a form of idolatry—as it entails creating a god in our own image. See ‘Is The LDS Church the Only True Church? Understanding Religion and Truth‘, for a detailed exegesis on how religious truth relates to religious pluralism and real truth.
Watch the following video to see how impossible and dangerous it is to believe that spiritual emotional confirmation can serve as the sole basis for testimony.