The October 2014 Ensign magazine included a sidebar quote from President Ezra Taft Benson, the Mormon Church’s 13th President. The article in which the quote appeared was about how a testimony of the Mormon gospel is intertwined with a testimony of the truthfulness of the Book of Mormon. President Benson said,
“Just as the arch crumbles if the keystone is removed, so does the Church stand or fall with the truthfulness of the Book of Mormon… If the Book of Mormon be true – and millions have now testified that they have the witness of the Spirit that it is indeed true – then one must accept the claims of the Restoration and all that accompanies it.” (Ezra Taft Benson, Ensign, October 2014, 25. Ellipsis in the Ensign. Also quoted in Preach My Gospel, 104)
“The temptation to be popular may prioritize public opinion above the word of God. Political campaigns and marketing strategies widely employ public opinion polls to shape their plans. Results of those polls are informative. But they could hardly be used as grounds to justify disobedience to God’s commandments! Even if ‘everyone is doing it,’ wrong is never right. Evil, error, and darkness will never be truth, even if popular. A scriptural warning so declares: ‘Woe unto them that call evil good, and good evil; that put darkness for light, and light for darkness.’” (“Let Your Faith Show,” Russell M. Nelson, Ensign, May 2014, 31)
You may be wondering how President Benson’s comments are connected (in my mind) to LDS apostle Nelson’s. Mr. Nelson was making the point that popular opinion does not trump the Word of God (an idea that I whole-heartedly agree with!) while President Benson was using the (popular) opinion or testimony of “millions” as supporting evidence for his assertion that the Book of Mormon is true.
“Apples and oranges,” you might say. Yet I hear Mormons using an “appeal to the people” argument often enough that it is worth noting Mr. Nelson’s “inspired” counsel. Even if everyone were to accept the Book of Mormon as true, “wrong is never right. Evil, error, and darkness will never be truth.”
Joseph Smith claimed that God sent him to restore the one true church to the earth. He claimed to receive clarification of old doctrines and brilliant revelations of new/lost doctrines from God for a world “groveling in darkness.” Over fifteen million people today testify that Joseph Smith was a true prophet and that (nearly) all he taught is true. The temptation for some folks may be to prioritize this public opinion above the Word of God. Therefore, I urge you to “Take up the Bible, compare the religion of the Latter-day Saints with it and see if it will stand the test,” (Brigham Young, May 18, 1873, Journal of Discourses, vol. 16, p. 46). Be very careful in this for God says, “Woe unto them that call evil good, and good evil; that put darkness for light, and light for darkness” (Isaiah 5:20).
President Benson said, “millions have now testified that they have a witness of the Spirit that [the Book of Mormon] is indeed true.” But keep in mind what Mormon apostle Russell M. Nelson wisely explained: “Fifty million people can be wrong – totally wrong.”