CLAIM: James writes, “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all generously and without reproach, and it will be given to him” (Jas. 1:5). Mormon missionaries argue that this passage supports the notion that prospective converts should pray for direct, spiritual confirmation of the Book of Mormon. In fact, the Book of Mormon itself states, “And when you shall receive these things, I would exhort you that you would ask God, the Eternal Father, in the name of Christ, if these things are not true; and if you shall ask with a sincere heart, with real intent, having faith in Christ, he will manifest the truth of it to you, by the power of the Holy Ghost 5 And by the power of the Holy Ghost you may know the truth of all things” (Moroni 10:4-5). Should we interpret James 1:5 in this way?
RESPONSE: The context for this passage in James is trials and suffering—not evangelism. James is imploring his readers to ask God to reveal to them the meaning or purpose behind their suffering—not to ask for confirmation of the Christian message. In fact, James’ audience was a group of believers—not skeptics.
When Mormon missionaries claim that we should ask for wisdom regarding the truth of the Book of Mormon, we should retort that personal revelation should be subservient to biblical revelation. Would God ever give personal revelation to a person that contradicted his revealed Scripture? We think not, but more importantly, neither do Mormons!
Consider a possible scenario that one might offer a Mormon missionary: What if a Mormon missionary felt a “burning in his bosom” to commit adultery? What would a fellow Mormon missionary tell him? Of course, he would tell him that the man should judge his feelings by the previous spiritual revelation given in the Bible and/or the Book of Mormon (“You shall not commit adultery”). But what if the man said that he prayed for “wisdom” from God, as James 1:5 says, and God revealed to him that he could leave his wife and commit adultery? Of course, a Mormon would reject the notion that God had given the man special revelation that would contradict the clear commandments on adultery and fidelity in marriage. In the same way, Christian believers hold that we have no reason to pray for personal revelation regarding the truth of the Book of Mormon, because God has already revealed himself in the Bible concretely, and this rejects Mormon teaching (see also our earlier article “Mormonism”).