Monday, October 13, 2008

My Spiritual Experiences are Uniquely Mine

In my various callings, I have told the full-time missionaries in my wards and stakes for the past 15 years to stop telling people exactly how they will receive an answer to a prayer or a testimony. I also have told everyone who will listen to stop telling people they can "know" whatever they want to know. Those two claims simply don't match our scriptures.

First, just like teachers tend to teach with their own learning modality, members and missionaries tend to think everyone will feel and experience the same way they do. To complicate it further, we tend to think if one person was told they will feel the Spirit in a certain way (e.g., Oliver Cowdery's burning in the bosom and stupor of thought), then everyone should be able to feel it in the same way. We need to recognize that the "fruits of the Spirit" are wide and varied, and any one of them can signal an answer to prayer or a spiritual impression. What makes it "real" to the askers is their own recognition of it, which is the tricky part.

Second, "To some it is given by the Holy Ghost to know that Jesus Christ is the Son of God, and that he was crucified for the sins of the world. To others it is given to believe on their words, that they also might have eternal life if they continue faithful." (D&C 46:13-14)

We really need to acknowledge this belief and not hold investigators to a standard to which God does not hold us even as baptized members of the Church.

8 comments:

Tony said...

Makes sense. I remember the Elders asking me how the things they taught made me feel. I didn't feel any special thing, but knew that I thought it was good. It was at baptism, once I took that step of faith, that I had it confirmed to me by the Holy Spirit that it was true.

SilverRain said...

We talked about this yesterday in Sunday School. I'm about to post on this very subject. Although what you say is true, it is balanced by the knowledge that some day, we will see God and Jesus and be ministered to by them. (Given the Second Comforter.) That is the end to which all the ordinances and principles point.

Howard said...

Good point Ray. Maybe we should offer these examples to newbies as examples, giving them some idea of what to expect.

Papa D said...

Thanks, everyone.

Tony, that experience is exactly what I am afraid we are denying to so many people when we insist they "know" - or that they feel in one specific way. Sometimes, a desire to believe really is enough for at least the initial step of faith - and if we take away that step of faith, we actually take away faith.

Tim Malone said...

Ray, you're the best at this. As many years as I have been reading your comments, you have always impressed me as being accepting and encouraging of diversity of the operations of the spirit in the gaining of a testimony and spiritual experiences. Yet, I have never read you claim that such manifestations are not real to those who do claim them. I love the scripture you quoted on the gifts of the spirit. Your last sentence should be read by all missionaries and more members.

Jami said...

We're all so different. I like to think that God speaks to each of us in a way that we can understand, in our own language, according to our own understanding.

Papa D said...

Thanks, Tim. I really appreciate that.

I agree completely, Jami. I hadn't thought of it this way, but I think that's why it bothers me so much when people try to limit or define how others can feel and understand God. Jesus is an acceptable mediator; nobody else is. When someone tells someone else how they can feel God, it seems too much like placing one's self in the position of being the mediator that Jesus is meant to be.

I know that sounds much harsher than I mean it to sound, since I realize that it is not a conscious, intentional action - but it just feels fundamentally wrong to me.

Jared said...

There is a spectrum of styles used by the Lord to inspire and guide us. If we seek to make the process too mechanical, we may deprive ourselves of guidance from God that comes in other ways, equally valid.

Elder Neal Maxwell, Wherefore, Ye Must Press Forward, p. 120