The Fallacy of Trusting Your Heart in Religious Matters

red heart and man hanging drawing
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“I know in my heart that The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is true,” I have heard many Mormons say.

It sounds good and all, but is this a legitimate way of determining Truth? Is it possible to know something is true via our heart?

Mormons will tell you to read Moroni 10:3-5, and pray to know if the Book of Mormon is true. What verse 4 actually says to ask God “…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.”

So, one is to take them up on this, pray about it, and find out if the book is true. Interestingly enough, it says “not true” in the verse. So, the verse never says that you will come up with the conclusion that the book is true, but that the “truth of it” (being, the truth of it being untrue).

When non-Mormons will say to Mormons, “I prayed about it and God showed me it wasn’t true,” Mormons will likely respond with: “Well, then you didn’t really ask with a sincere heart, like the verse says…” or, “Maybe you didn’t ask by having faith in Christ.” This is a cop-out, as many have prayed about the book and came to the conclusion the book was not true.

So here you may have a Mormon saying, “I know in my heart that the book is true because I prayed about it!” And the Christian (or any non-member) may say, “I know in my heart that the book is not true because I prayed about it!” Both can have the same argument, yet end up on different sides.

Jehovah’s Witnesses will tell you that their New World Translation of the Bible is the correct Bible, Christian Science adherents will tell you that Mary Baker Eddy’s Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures is inspired, or Muslims will tell you that the Koran is inspired. All based on what their heart is telling them.

So can we come to know truth through our hearts?

A verse in Doctrine and Covenants can complicate things…

“But, behold, I say unto you, that you must study it out in your mind; then you must ask me if it be right, and if it is right I will cause that your bosom shall burn within you; therefore, you shall feel that it is right. But if it be not right you shall have no such feelings, but you shall have a stupor of thought that shall cause you to forget the thing which is wrong; therefore, you cannot write that which is sacred save it be given you from me.” (D&C 9:8-9)

The first part about studying it out sounds great! After all, 2 Timothy 2:15 says, “Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.”

However, the hermeneutic is very wrong in the D&C passage of Mormon scripture. It says that if something be right, that God will cause their heart to burn within them, and that “you shall feel that it is right.”

Look, we all know that feelings come and go. They switch, they go back and forth. Just look at a high majority of middle school or high school dating relationships.

The circular reasoning behind the D&C verse is when it refers to something being wrong. In other words, if you don’t “feel” that something is right, then you will forget that which is wrong. This is just wrong. Just because I feel like I should do something, doesn’t mean it is right. Oftentimes, what I should be doing or what is actually right is not what I feel!

So, what does God have to say about the heart? Let’s go to the Bible.

Jeremiah 17:9 says, “The heart is deceitful above all things and desperately wicked: who can know it?”

Proverbs 28:26 says, “He that trusteth in his own heart is a fool: but whoso walketh wisely he shall be delivered.”

Mark 7:20-23 says, “And he [Jesus] said, That which cometh out of the man, that defileth the man. For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed evil thoughts, adulteries, fornications, murders, Thefts, covetousness, wickedness, deceit, lasciviousness, an evil eye, blasphemy, pride, foolishness: All these evil things come from within, and defile the man.”

Clearly, we can trust what the Bible is saying. Solomon says in Proverbs that we are fools if we trust in our own hearts! I know this firsthand, because I myself used to believe in the Book of Mormon because I had good “feelings” and I based my testimony on that. That is not a way to base a testimony.

How can we know that a testimony of Jesus is true? Through the Bible, the Word of God.

Jesus prayed and said, “Sanctify them through thy truth: thy word is truth” (John 17:17).

Now, just because we cannot trust our feelings does not mean we should not pray, nor does it mean that our feelings don’t have a place in our relationship with God. We should have emotion, we should have feelings, yet we cannot base the Truth on emotions and feelings.

Where is the right place for our heart in all of this?

Rather than trusting in our heart, we need to “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding” (Proverbs 3:5). We need to allow God to try us and examine our hearts and minds, as the psalmist says in Psalm 26:2.

May we allow God to show us how we can truly trust in Him alone, but through His Word (the Bible), and not through our own hearts.

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