When a Person Changes their Perspective on Christ

What is a witness? What if someone flip flops? How do we know what is true?
come follow me
book of mormon

Thursday January 4, 2024

come follow me
book of mormon

The Book of Mormon had 12 witnesses of its divinity - the three spiritual testimonies by the Three Witnesses, the Eight Witnesses with a physical witness, and Joseph Smith, the one who translated it as prophet, seer, and revelator. Powerfully, all Three Witnesses left the church years later (1937/38) nearly 8-9 years after writing their testimony (1829), but never left their testimonies:

Despite differences with Joseph Smith that led each of the Three Witnesses to part ways individually with the Church (Cowdery and Harris later returned), they continued to affirm their testimony as witnesses throughout their lives. Witnesses of the Book of Mormon

When a loved one leaves their testimony

Let’s consider the world where these three denied their testimonies. (It’s easy to see that they “never doubted their own witness, therefore it must be true”.) But I think this is a sandy foundation because a thing should be true regardless of what three individuals say about it.

What if one had forsaken their testimony - would you still believe he saw it?

Those who believe in Christ hold strong beliefs in Him, and it must be a belief because they cannot see Him. They rely on the faith built on personal witness and also built by the testimony of others. But what do you do when a loved one abandons their testimony, or becomes an unbeliever? Do you doubt everything you learned from them? Perhaps.

Who do you trust - the “them” now that un-believes, or the “them” then that once believed?

Consider a hard-and-fast alternative: what if someone began doubting the existence of gravity? What if they were once your physics professor? Easy: you just go to the apple tree and demonstrate the principle by dropping an apple. “No, that’s magnetism”, the professor now claims.

You’re kind of stuck: well, if you think it’s magnetism, there’s not much I can do - this concept is called gravity. Similarly, people leave God’s path and believe the Hand of God that acts in their live is now, and always has been, just coincidence, luck, etc. what else could it be?

But what is coincidence? Luck? (I ponder these things often as a statistician. For another time…)

Putting a name on a Concept

There’s precedence for this - when Ammon appeared to the Lamanites, they thought he acted by the Great Spirit. Instead of telling them they were wrong, he instead clarified, “that great spirit is God”.

26 And then Ammon said: Believest thou that there is a Great Spirit? 27 And he said, Yea. 28 And Ammon said: This is God. And Ammon said unto him again: Believest thou that this Great Spirit, who is God, created all things which are in heaven and in the earth?
Alma 18.26–28

Likewise, when unbelievers doubt the Hand of God, or re-cast their old ways according to a new belief framework, perhaps they’re just labeling a concept in a different way. (It’s also really hard to know what someone once considered “God” vs not in their life, so take this point with a grain of salt.)

After all, when people leave God some claim they were under confirmation bias, the concept that you favor the evidence that supports your belief. Hyndman argues confirmation bias can go both ways, for believers and unbelievers, but does claim that evidence favors the skeptics because there should be evidence. I’d argue he relies solely on physical evidence. There is spiritual evidence to be considered. Spiritual evidence is what we believe in. It’s what the Three Witnesses relied on. It’s unprovable to anyone else, and only receivable by the Holy Ghost. If God exists, let Him reveal himself. Let Him prevail:

But whom say ye that I am? 16 And Simon Peter answered and said, Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God. 17 And Jesus answered and said unto him, Blessed art thou, Simon Bar-jona: for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven.
Matthew 16.15–17

The most powerful thing about being a Christian is that it cannot be proven Christ didn’t exist or walk the earth. Even if you falsify the entire bible, erase history, or discover that “Mary” was an invented concept by some creed or counsel bound to oppress us - there’s still a question: did the Man exist? We can debate it. Pharisees debated if He was That Messiah. Nobody now can know, except God reveals it to them.

Why? Because to claim God doesn’t exist, or the plates weren’t real, you’d also have to have evidence. Counter-evidence isn’t evidence. Lack of evidence likewise. Don’t we continually find new fossils? New animals in the wild? Lack of evidence doesn’t mean they don’t exist.1

To prove the Abrahamic God doesn’t exist people just say “well I found all this stuff about the bible, about church leaders, etc” was wrong or misconstrued. So? First, we have to make sure the “new stuff” learned is actually true (could be a lie), but if it is true (that something you once believed is a lie or misunderstanding) we must find out how this fits into Christ’s bigger picture.2

You can’t claim that Joseph Smith didn’t see God and that the Three Witnesses didn’t see the plates at some point. Because you weren’t there in 1829. Even if they had later denied, from reading Killers of the Flower Moon: the Osage Murders and the Birth of the FBI, it’s quite clear how people can be manipulated in the courts of law, influenced by money, influenced by their own delusions, etc. Since delusions go both ways, relying on people at all isn’t how we learn the existence of a Divine. Peter learned of Christ’s divinity the way we all must (quote above). Show me the evidence, says the scientist in me: the spiritual evidence. # Flip Floppers on Both Sides

Floppers flip both ways. The quote above said another way: who’s witness do you trust - the you of today, the you of yesterday, or the you of tomorrow? We can all come and go with our testimonies. This is life. We must have an unalterable way to learn truth, one independent of our path.

We’ve got the Paul’s of the world who were once Christian persecutors who flip to believers, and we’ve got those who claimed Joseph Smith was a fallen prophet after being in vision with him.

We’re all more like Laman and Lemuel than we realize. We see things that make us believe, we come to God, and then we forget and wonder if they never happened.

We’re all flip floppers. Let us not seek truth alone from others, or even rely solely on the Prophet. Our testimonies must be on Christ, and learning truth by the Holy Ghost, who will then guide us to understand the words of prophets and imperfect leaders. It’s good science.

In coming days, it will not be possible to survive spiritually without the guiding, directing, comforting, and constant influence of the Holy Ghost.
“Revelation for the Church, Revelation for Our Lives”, Russell M. Nelson

I’m glad the Three Witnesses never denied their testimonies, but I’m glad there’s a way to know the Book of Mormon is true without them. After all, those dudes didn’t answer my prayer about the book’s truth. Heavenly Father did.

  1. The other side may say (as Hyndman) does), I might as well believe in the Tooth Fairy, or Santa, because I don’t have evidence they don’t exist. Fair. Then belief is a choice, and must follow the principle of “by their fruits ye shall know them”. Did Baal call down Fire? No, only Elijah’s God. “Was that story of the Bible invented?” Perhaps. If so, explain why living Christ’s gospel brings me joy? “Because they’re good principles”, well, what is good, if not God? “Well then why not Zeus, or Baal to be your God?”, because I believe in the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob - not the God of Baal. I believe the scriptures because they teach good things. “What about the misogyny, racism, war and killing in the Bible etc etc etc”, well, perhaps some was commanded by God for reasons and context we don’t have. Perhaps some of the Bible isn’t truely written. “If some isn’t true it’s all not true because parts of it say it’s all true”. Well, what’s true is true, what’s not isn’t. “Who’s to say what God inspired?” Well, who’s to say what’s not inspired? Only God. “We’re not getting anywhere”. Ahh, but we are. Because I believe in God, and after believing Him I exercised faith in His son to pray on His name and open myself to trying to follow His ways. I’m far from perfect, but once I did this, I received spiritual knowledge, and having seen more of the Hand of God in my life, I can say there are miracles of events I can’t explain by chance or delusion alone. Miracles only a loving God could produce. This is my knowledge, which follows faith. Alma 32.34–36 And we also have the Book of Mormon, which is a powerful second witness of Christ that brought reality to the truth in the Bible, and continually helps me feel the fruits of the Spirit, which is the Holy Ghost telling me it’s true.↩︎

  2. my whole life until 21 I had no idea Joseph Smith had so many (up to 42) wives. “Some say he was a womanizer, pimp, etc”. Perhaps. But perhaps he was a prophet commanded to do so. Were we there? God at one point commanded Abraham to raise seed and have many wives. “Maybe Abraham was a philanderer too.” Okay, but does that definition of chastity and virtue not depend on the very construction of marriage as ordained by God who married Adam and Eve as husband and wife? If it’s from God, it’s His law, and He chose the rules. “But Joseph altered the rules and made stuff up so he could get with women and teenagers.” Perhaps. That assumes we know him, he told us that, and he believed it to be true. So we’ll leave it as an opinion. In my opinion he followed a commandment from an Angel, despite me not understanding it entirely or being comfortable with the idea. Let the man speak for himself.↩︎


Bryan lives somewhere at the intersection of faith, fatherhood, and futurism and writes about tech, books, Christianity, gratitude, and whatever’s on his mind. If you liked reading, perhaps you’ll also like subscribing: