Mormon Missionary: Brother Blake, I testify to you that Joseph Smith was a Prophet of God, that he translated the Book of Mormon from the records of the ancient Americans—
Me: Wait, wait. How do you know that?
Missionary: I studied the Book of Mormon, and I asked God in prayer whether it was true. Heavenly Father answered my prayers through the Holy Ghost. I felt a great peace that assured me that the Book of Mormon was true.
Me: How do you know that your feelings of peace were God telling you about the Book of Mormon?
Me: How do you know that those verses are telling you the truth, that feelings of peace and elevation are the Holy Spirit communicating with you?
Missionary: Well, I prayed about it and—
Me: You’re going in circles.
Missionary: I just know that what I’m teaching you is true. If you pray as I did, you can know, too.
Me: You’re avoiding my question. How do you know? If it’s just a matter of feeling that something is true, then how do you know that your feelings are more reliable than another person’s feelings? If I too feel that I know the truth, how do you know that I’m wrong?
Missionary: The Holy Spirit may testify of the portion of the truth that you have. If someone honestly listens to the Gospel’s message and the Spirit testifies to them, they will know that Mormonism contains the full truth, not just a portion of the truth. When the Holy Spirit testified to me, it removed all of my doubts. I am certain that the Gospel as restored by Joseph Smith is true.
Me: You’re still just saying that you know something because you feel like it’s true, and you’re still avoiding the question. How do you know that others’ religious experiences which lead them to follow Islam or Buddhism are less valid than yours?
Missionary: The Gospel is a matter of faith. You have to place your trust in God and he will tell you the truth.
Me: So you don’t really know then. You have faith. You have a belief, a belief that isn’t fully justified by objective evidence. Your belief is based on a wholly private, subjective experience. Why don’t you just say that you believe then? Wouldn’t that be more honest? Stop saying that you know something when you don’t.
Missionary: If you take the leap of faith, then you can later come to have knowledge of the Gospel’s truth. It wouldn’t be faith anymore.
Me: How would I know? Feelings?