I recently asked a Mormon for three evidences that would convince any fair-minded person that his religion is true. He said, “The same as Oliver Cowdery’s: ‘Did I not speak peace to your mind concerning the matter? What greater witness can you have than from God?’” That is a quote from Doctrine and Covenants 6:23. To clarify, I asked him if that meant his one proof was having a feeling of peace? “Yes,” he said, “that’s how the spirit speaks to me.”
Is feeling peace about a worldview good evidence that it is true? Is it good evidence that what a spirit tells you is true?
First of all, think about what it means for something to be true. A claim is true or false depending on whether or not it corresponds to reality. For example, the claim “The garage door is open” is true if, and only if, the garage door is open, and it is false if the door is closed. How you feel about the garage door—whether peace, anger, or anxiety—makes no difference to the reality of its being opened or closed, and so makes no difference to the truth of the claim. If you wanted evidence that a claim corresponds to reality, you would not appeal to emotion at all. You would appeal to things like a memory of closing it or calling a neighbor to check it for you.
The same standard of evidence applies to the Book of Mormon. It claims to be a book of history, but after two hundred years of archeology, not a single Book of Mormon city, civilization, or tribe has been identified. In short, it does not correspond to reality.
But think a little more about this Mormon standard of evidence, and ask yourself if you would apply it to any other important decision in your life?
Let’s say you felt sick and went to see a doctor, who, without examining you, said, “I feel at peace that this is brain cancer, and I’d like to operate right away. We’ll be removing half of your brain.” Would you consent to the operation, or would you ask for evidence to back up the claim that you need a hemispherectomy?
Or imagine if your car was having some trouble starting and you took it to a mechanic who, without examining it, said, “I feel at peace that you need to spend at least $9,000 replacing the engine, the A/C, the transmission, and other parts.” Would you accept that conclusion? Wouldn’t you take your car somewhere else to be tested?
Or what if, at business school, you were presented with the case study of a failing business, and the professor asked you to present a solution to their problem. Would you dare to offer any solution solely based on how you felt about the problem without referring to actual data?
So, if feeling at peace is a bad standard for deciding whether to get an operation or a car repair, or to develop a business plan, how much worse is it to decide the question of your eternal destiny (see John 3:16, 36; 5:24; Gal 2:16; Eph 2:8-9)? On the contrary, isn’t appealing to feelings to decide a question a recipe for spiritual disaster? Isn’t it an invitation to be deceived? The Bible says that Satan is actively working to prevent people from being eternally saved:
Those by the wayside are the ones who hear; then the devil comes and takes away the word out of their hearts, lest they should believe and be saved (Luke 8:12).
Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour (1 Pet 5:8).
If Satan is working to deceive the world (cf. 2 Cor 11:3, 14), wouldn’t he be going around wanting people to ignore the facts of God’s creation and trust their feelings instead?
The economist Thomas Sowell once lamented, “Emotions neither prove nor disprove facts. There was a time when any rational adult understood this.” Do you understand that?