At the end of a debate on creationism between Bill Nye and Ken Ham, both were asked what it would take for them to change their mind. Ken Ham said, “no one’s ever going to convince me that the word of God is not true”. Bill Nye said, “We would just need one piece of evidence”. One of these guys has an open mind, the other is Ken Ham.
Frequently, when ex/former/post Mormons discuss how to get believing Mormons to question their assumptions about the church, they propose the questions, “If the church wasn’t true, would you want to know?” and “How would you know?”. In other words, what would it take for them to change their mind?
I’d like to flip those questions around. If the church was true, would I want to know? How would I know?
There would need to be evidence that a series of things are true in order for me to believe the church was true. In order:
- There would need to be evidence that God exists. I’m not talking about feelings or emotions, but actual evidence. For starters, a repeatable method that works for everyone. It would need to work for unbelievers as well as believers.
- There would need to be verifiable evidence that Joseph Smith saw and talked with God. Contradictory accounts that were written 12 to 18 years later are not credible given the way memory works.
- There would need to be verifiable evidence of the existence of the gold plates. Seeing the plates in your mind is not evidence.
- There would need to be evidence that the events described in the Book of Mormon actually took place. Such evidence would be archaeological, linguistic, or DNA. Can we find any items left from the BoM population? Can we find any linguistic evidence showing a Semitic influence? Can we find any DNA markers from a Middle-eastern migration around 2000-3000 BCE, or around 600 BCE?
- There would need to be verifiable evidence that the priesthood restoration events actually occurred.
- There would need to be verifiable evidence that the succession crisis was resolved according to God’s will, that Brigham Young was God’s new prophet as well as all of the prophets up to Monson. This evidence would necessarily exclude the other Mormon churches that also started up during this time period. Given the LDS church’s claims, they cannot be also be “true” if the LDS church is “true”.
This is certainly not everything I would need to have answered before I believed the church was true, but it is a start. For now, I’ll ignore the Book of Abraham, polygamy, the Kinderhook plates, the Greek Psalter, Zelph, plagiarism of masonic ceremonies, Adam & Eve, the flood, the tower of Babel, the exodus, Deutero-Isaiah, the Kirkland Anti-Banking Society, etc, etc. We can go there eventually, but let’s just start with these six items.
The church, starting with Joseph Smith and continuing all the way to Thomas Monson, has made the claim that the Book of Mormon is true (historically, not just metaphorically), and that this is God’s one true church. The onus is on them to provide credible evidence for their claim. It really doesn’t matter what evidence I can bring against their claim if they can’t first provide credible evidence that supports their claim. It would be irrational to believe such a claim.
I’d like to believe that I am open minded, as I value that trait. If you can provide evidence that supports your claim, I am open to changing my mind. Until that time, don’t be surprised if I roll my eyes when you bear your testimony. I’ll try not to, but I’m making no promises.