One of the first things I explained to them is that part of why I'm not committing to read the Book of Mormon at this point is because I think God can answer my prayers about it even if I'm not reading it, especially since I have read it before. They asked me a few questions about what I'd be willing to do if I decided that what they're teaching me is truth, and they were satisfied enough with my answers (I'll follow truth where it leads) to stop asking me to commit to reading.
They also asked me what I was expecting from the meetings, since I grew up in the church and they don't want to just be teaching me things I already know or even believe and not answer the questions I really have. I told them I pretty much just want them to go through their lessons and I'll ask questions, and that led to them suggesting that I go through the pamphlet (The Restoration) they gave me the first time they stopped by and write down all the questions that I have for them. I'm not sure they know how much they got themselves into, but it sounded like a great idea, so I agreed to it.
They suggested we start with one section today, and asked me to choose a section. I chose the section on the great apostasy, and we only got through the first paragraph. They didn't even try to answer any of the questions; they simply wrote them down and promised to get back to me at our next meeting.
Following the death of Jesus Christ, wicked people persecuted and killed many Church members. Other Church members drifted from the principles taught by Jesus Christ and His Apostles. The Apostles were killed, and priesthood authority--including the keys to direct and receive revelation for the Church--was taken from the earth. Because the Church was no longer led by priesthood authority, error crept into Church teachings. Good people and much truth remained, but the gospel as established by Jesus Christ was lost. This period is called the Great Apostasy.
The first two sentences weren't a problem for me. The third was where I started having questions for them.
One of the most basic questions I asked was if there was any historical proof of a great apostasy. I explained that the Bible, including the New Testament, has the most manuscript evidence of any ancient document, and that there are a lot of historical records from that time. I therefore wondered if there was anything that proved such a massive apostasy. I know the answer to that--there's no such proof--but I'm interested to see what they come back with on that one.
I asked if there was any reason that the authority wouldn't have been passed on. (I didn't want to get into their teachings on priesthood yet, since that's in another section.) I pointed out that there obviously were people other than the apostles who had authority in the early church, since many of the New Testament writers weren't part of the Twelve, and that the Apostles were alive through the writing of the New Testament.
We also talked a bit about the need for continuing revelation. I explained that I believe the Bible is a whole picture, beginning at the beginning of things and ending at the end times, and that it all points to Jesus. Jesus is the culmination or climax of the Old Testament, so prophets of the type in the Old Testament aren't needed anymore, and pointed out Luke 16:16 to support that. The New Testament then contains everything we need to understand the New Covenant through Jesus and to look forward to the end.
One of the sisters asked me if I'd ever considered if we needed a modern prophet and what that role would look like. I explained that I do believe that the gift of prophecy still exists as a spiritual gift, but that we don't need prophets in the Old Testament sense because their purpose was ultimately to point to Jesus. I had to explain the difference between the two types of prophets. I also explained that I believe that the Bible contains everything we need for salvation, so a prophet of the sort in the Old Testament is no longer necessary.
I then moved on to the assertion that error crept into church teachings. I had two questions about that. One was, again, if there was any historical evidence to support this. The second was what sort of error they believe crept in. I'm betting we'll be talking about the Council of Nicaea next week in answer to that one.
We decided that was enough questions to start with for one week, and didn't move on to the next paragraphs in that section.
At that point, seeking answers through prayer came up again, and I explained to them very clearly why I wasn't comfortable getting answers through feelings/impressions alone. I read a few verses to them, including Jeremiah 17:9 and 1 John 4:1, to explain why I feel that those aren't trustworthy on their own, as well as pointing out that sometimes truth doesn't always feel good and sometimes things feel good that aren't true.
They brought up how sometimes good things feel good and bad things feel bad, and I pointed out that people can still be deceived, giving the example of how a Jehovah's Witness is probably a fairly good person doing good things but still deceived, and they might be able to say their testimony is based on the same sort of feelings that they (the missionaries) have had.
I talked to them about other ways that we have been given to find truth, emphasizing my trust in God's Word in seeking truth and supporting that with Acts 17:11. I reminded them that Jesus said one of the ways we love God is with our mind, so truth should be reasonable and logical and provable, which I explained is a lot of why I'm wanting to ask them so many questions about their beliefs. I gave the Big Bang as an example of how evidence can support God's truths, so I seek evidence where it's reasonable to do so as well. They understood everything I said and couldn't contradict it, so they accepted it and even said I had some very good points.
I also gave them an example of how prayer can be answered through experiences. Recently, we were worrying about transportation as my husband is starting a new job, and a very good one. Attendance is pretty much the biggest thing that would cause him to lose this job, and his car is near the point of dying. He talked to the friend who helped him get that job (this friend attends our church), and the friend urged him to make sure he had reliable transportation. We were literally about to walk out the door to buy a car on a loan, which we had been hoping to avoid, when the friend called back and said, "My brother literally just called me to tell me he's giving away a vehicle and to ask if I know anyone who can use it." The vehicle has some maintenance needs, but not nearly as bad as my husband's current vehicle, so it was a blessing to receive it.
We concluded we me again committing to going through the pamphlet and writing down questions for them. They promised they'd get back to me next week with whatever answers they find for the questions I asked this week. It will be interesting to see how that goes.