FMA: "Describe the taste of salt!"

"Can you describe to me the taste of salt? Of course not. And having a testimony is like that - I can't describe it to you. You must experience it yourself."

     Mormons often use this analogy when asked to justify how they KNOW that Mormonism is true. It is a handy argument, since because I cannot describe in words the taste of salt, they are not required (they think) to describe the basis of their testimony. And since we all know that salt exists (even though we can't describe its taste), the implication is that the basis of their testimony also exists.

     The analogy, however, is false.

     First, although I may not be able to describe the taste of salt, I can take you into my kitchen and within two minutes I can demonstrate it to you and to anyone else with normal taste buds. A Mormon testimony, however, is not like that. Although the Mormons will claim to be able to provide you with the same experience that has given them their testimony, it is a long process, requiring the adjustment of one's mental state to become more susceptible to suggestion, preferably with fasting and prayer, and by no means does the process always has the intended result, or even any result at all.

     Second, a testimony should be based primarily on facts. In the legal system, that is the fundamental requirement of testimony. And facts should be subject to checking and verification. Even where the facts are personal events, they can at least be described. If a testimony is based on a vision, or a voice, or a visit from an angel, where no witnesses were present, that experience can be described in words. Joseph Smith certainly was able to describe in considerable detail many of his alleged visions and his heavenly messengers. He did not refuse to describe them by challenging others to describe the taste of salt.

     One must suspect that those who use the "salt" challenge are simply admitting that the basis of their testimony would not sound very convincing if it were described. It would appear to be simply a "feeling."

     This becomes even more apparent when Mormons use another favorite analogy: "Can you describe love? Of course not!" Love, of course, is an emotion, a feeling. Those who have never experienced it may have difficulty in understanding what it feels like, but when it happens to them, they will understand. "Well," say the Mormons, "that's just like my testimony!"

     That's all well and good, but there is a serious problem: feelings like love are certainly genuine, and perhaps indescribable, but they are just feelings. (They obviously overlook the implied admission that their testimony is also just a feeling.)      Feelings are not a reliable test of truth. One can have very strong feelings of love for someone who is actually a scoundrel, a no-good. And a feeling that a particular religion is true is no indication that the religion is not, in fact, false.

     One other analogy sometimes used by Mormons is the challenge, "Could you describe the color red to a person who has been born blind? Of course not!" This is also a false analogy, since such a blind person cannot possibly experience the color red, and any description would be meaningless anyway. But the Mormons are claiming that a testimony like theirs IS within the realm of possibility for any normal person.

     Any of these false analogies are simply attempts to avoid the admission that a testimony of Mormonism is rarely based on demonstrable facts, but is rather just a nice, warm feeling.

     A testimony that Mormonism is false, however, can be based on solid, reliable, verifiable facts.

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©  2005 Richard Packham    Permission granted to reproduce for non-commercial purposes, provided text is not changed and this copyright notice is included


"...if the salt have lost his savour, wherewith shall it be salted? it is thenceforth good for nothing, but to be cast out, and to be trodden under foot of men."

Matthew 5:13

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