Ever heard this one?
Wait a second. Moroni 10:4 says to ask if these things are NOT true… That’s a negative. It tells the reader to to ask if these things are NOT true. So if the answer you got is, “yes” then by the wording of the scripture doesn’t that mean that the answer you got is that the Church isn’t true? (Yes, these things are not true).
This was posted in an anti-Mormon message board, but it is an argument that comes up from time to time. It is suggested that Moroni’s challenge, if followed, will lead to a “no” if the answer is “yes”. The argument is of course silly and untenable, but that hasn’t stopped anti-Mormons from using it (such reasons rarely do).
LDS scholar Ben Spackman addressed this issue in a scholarly manner through the pages of Insights, a publication of the Neal A. Maxwell Institute. Ben (an acquaintance who I greatly admire) points out that Moroni’s question is in fact a “negative rhetorical question”, a Hebraism that shows up not only in the Book of Mormon but also in the Bible.
This rhetorical device occurs in English, but it is stronger and more common in biblical Hebrew…In contrast to a “simple question, when the questioner is wholly uncertain as to the answer to be expected,” these negative questions, Hebrew scholars have pointed out, sometimes have an “exclamatory nuance” or “a special force of asseveration” (i.e., they are being used for rhetorical effect, conveying positive or even emphatic force)…Some critics have charged that a positive response about the Book of Mormon as a result of prayer indicates that the Book of Mormon is not true, because of the phrasing of the passage. This argument is strained and untenable given the nature of rhetorical negative questions. Moroni asks that “when ye shall receive these things, I would exhort you that ye would ask God, the Eternal Father, in the name of Christ, if these things are not true”—rather than “if these things are indeed true.” Though from a relatively late period in Nephite history, this example nevertheless seems valid since a form of “altered” Hebrew was still in use, at least for writing (see Mormon 9:33). Additional examples of negative questions may include 1 Nephi 15:12; 2 Nephi 31:7; Jacob 5:48; Mosiah 4:19; 7:23; 20:18; 27:15; and Alma 5:11; 27:18; 39:18; 39:19; 47:34.
So next time this funny little argument crops up you can point folks to the ancient Hebrew root of this question.