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Mike

Questions on the nature of spiritual experiences

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(:P Whoops, I pressed enter accidently while playing with the title.)

Before I continue with one of my previous threads I would like to explain my intent and ask some questions.

My Intent:

I am investigating the theological claims of Joseph Smith. I am LDS (born and raised) but in complete honesty have never really believed in God's existence, let alone LDS doctrine. I am agnostic but lean more towards atheism than theism. I do not believe that Joseph Smith or the LDS church was/are correct in their theological claims. I personally have found the evidences of the Divine orgin and guidance of the LDS church unconvincing. I should say that I tentatively believe that the Holy Spirit is a misinterpretation of natural mental states produced by the human mind. That said, if I am wrong I would like to know. So, for the purpose of self education, I would like to ask a few questions about the Holy Spirit.

1 Can anyone help me understand what the experience of the Holy Spirit entails, especially in the context of recieving a witness that something (eg the BOM) is true/correct? (Yes I understand that it may be difficult or even immpossible to fully explian in words.)

2 How can a person, particularly someone who does not already believe in God, determine whether or not an experience is in from God and not from another source such as their own mind?

I am open to any insights, ideas, opinions, or experiences offered.

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1 Can anyone help me understand what the experience of the Holy Spirit entails, especially in the context of recieving a witness that something (eg the BOM) is true/correct? (Yes I understand that it may be difficult or even immpossible to fully explian in words.)

Feelings are actually a result (fruits of the Spirit) of experiencing the Holy Spirit. The 'meat' (for lack of a better word at the moment) part of such an experience is the transmission of assurance and or knowledge. It could be the still small voice, it could be a sudden realization of the answer to something, it could be the inspiration to do something or look somewhere.

The burning of the bosom mentioned in the Bible and the D&C is the confirmation that yes, this IS from God and the way to go. It's the same feeling you get as when knowing this is the right course of action and you're going to stay the course no matter what everyone else says.

2 How can a person, particularly someone who does not already believe in God, determine whether or not an experience is in from God and not from another source such as their own mind?

As I described above. It'll be up to you to decide if it's a bit of gravy or rancid meat (ala ****ens). I think the words of Jesus are best in this case:

If any man will do his will, he shall know of the doctrine, whether it be of God, or whether I speak of myself. John 7:17

And that is the stumbling block. You actually have to practice the doctrine first. This is confirmed in the Book of Mormon:

And now, I, Moroni, would speak somewhat concerning these things; I would show unto the world that faith is things which are hoped for and not seen; wherefore, dispute not because ye see not, for ye receive no witness until after the trial of your faith. Ether 12:6

It is quite true I think that some people need to have much greater trials than others before they get a witness.

Does this help? I was experiencing the Spirit (burning bosom) as I typed this (and dinner was well in the past...lol).

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2 How can a person, particularly someone who does not already believe in God, determine whether or not an experience is in from God and not from another source such as their own mind?

Just to add to this for the special case of a heavenly visitation. In that case, apply the 'handshake' test found in D&C 129. At first glance, it is seemingly humorous in nature, but it's really quite serious as per the case of Korihor in Alma 30:53.

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I would say that feelings are definately not the best route to go. Anyone can feel "good" about something, even say, watching Star Wars. Hey , that was a cool movie! It made me feel warm all over! Its got good/bad and the good wins out. The morals and principals are upright. It must be true!

And if you didnt have the facts that a woukies and ewoks are hollywood creations , you would have a fer-sure testimony that Star Wars is true!

So from this we can see that facts do indeed play a role in determining truth ar fallacy.

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2 How can a person, particularly someone who does not already believe in God, determine whether or not an experience is in from God and not from another source such as their own mind?

Just to add to this for the special case of a heavenly visitation. In that case, apply the 'handshake' test found in D&C 129. At first glance, it is seemingly humorous in nature, but it's really quite serious as per the case of Korihor in Alma 30:53.

When is the last time you have ever heard of this being done? Any faith-promoting stories from the presidents to tell?

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I would say that feelings are definately not the best route to go. Anyone can feel "good" about something, even say, watching Star Wars. Hey , that was a cool movie! It made me feel warm all over! Its got good/bad and the good wins out. The morals and principals are upright. It must be true!

I agree which is why I said in my first post that feelings are the fruits of spiritual experiences, not the meat of what is actually happening.

When is the last time you have ever heard of this being done? Any faith-promoting stories from the presidents to tell?

Nope. None that I know of. I don't pay much attention to 'faith promoting' stories anyway. For me it's just pure doctrine and the testimony of the Holy Spirit. Now if Korihor had only known about that principle in D&C 129..... cool.gif

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BCSpace, thanks for responding. You wrote:

Feelings are actually a result (fruits of the Spirit) of experiencing the Holy Spirit. The 'meat' (for lack of a better word at the moment) part of such an experience is the transmission of assurance and or knowledge. It could be the still small voice, it could be a sudden realization of the answer to something, it could be the inspiration to do something or look somewhere.

There are times when I have epiphanies. These experiences are usually accompanied by an emotion (for example awe, happiness, or excitement). I have had them in many different contexts but I concider them to be natrual. I don't see why I should assume this is from a divine source. Is it different from the epiphanies I normally get?

The burning of the bosom mentioned in the Bible and the D&C is the confirmation that yes, this IS from God and the way to go. It's the same feeling you get as when knowing this is the right course of action and you're going to stay the course no matter what everyone else says.

Joseph Smith claims that God says that the burning of the bosom is from God. As far as I can tell the Bible says nothing about using the burning in the bosom as a guide to truth. (however I do not necessarily believe the claims of the Bible either) As for the feeling of stubbornly (in a good way) doing what you belief to be right no matter what, I have had this outside a religious context.

As I described above. It'll be up to you to decide if it's a bit of gravy or rancid meat (ala ****ens). I think the words of Jesus are best in this case:

If any man will do his will, he shall know of the doctrine, whether it be of God, or whether I speak of myself. John 7:17

And that is the stumbling block. You actually have to practice the doctrine first. This is confirmed in the Book of Mormon:

And now, I, Moroni, would speak somewhat concerning these things; I would show unto the world that faith is things which are hoped for and not seen; wherefore, dispute not because ye see not, for ye receive no witness until after the trial of your faith. Ether 12:6

Well not to be arrogant, but I would concider myself to be a pretty good guy. I'm temple worthy if that's of any concern. Though I am torn on the tithing issue, I don't think I should be giving money to support a cause I don't really believe in. Lately I have been thinking I should give it to charity instead.

It is quite true I think that some people need to have much greater trials than others before they get a witness.

Fine, but it would be foolish of me to wait around forever. Is an answer of silence mean "not yet" or "no one's home"?

Does this help? I was experiencing the Spirit (burning bosom) as I typed this (and dinner was well in the past...lol).

Yes, it does help. This is a confusing issue for me. I'm under no illusions that what you have experienced is as trite as the indigestion explaination.

Sorry if I seem overly skeptical. It's just God does't seem to fit in my world view and is at best superfluous.

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There are times when I have epiphanies. These experiences are usually accompanied by an emotion (for example awe, happiness, or excitement). I have had them in many different contexts but I concider them to be natrual. I don't see why I should assume this is from a divine source. Is it different from the epiphanies I normally get?

Another way to identify if an 'epiphany' is from God is if it leads you to believe in Christ as per the Book of Mormon.

As far as I can tell the Bible says nothing about using the burning in the bosom as a guide to truth.

In Luke 24, Jesus appeared to the disciples after his resurrection and they did not recognize him though they traveled together for some time while Jesus expounded the scriptures and broke bread with them. Then they finally realized who he was and knew that they should have recognized him earlier because their 'hearts burned within them' (Luke 24:32).

Now why would they realize this if it had not been taught to them before?

Also, why would they not easily recognize him in the first place? It would seem that they might have experienced a trial of their faith (Luke 24:16).

As for the feeling of stubbornly (in a good way) doing what you belief to be right no matter what, I have had this outside a religious context.

If it leads you to Christ, then it might be the Spirit. And by leading you to Christ, I mean that you also believe the all things he taught.

Fine, but it would be foolish of me to wait around forever.

I understand your possible anguish here. But consider; there was a priest in the temple at Jerusalem (I forget the exact reference right now) who had been promised he would see the Son of God before he died and he waited basically well into dotage before seeing the baby Jesus when his parents brought him in.

This is a confusing issue for me. I'm under no illusions that what you have experienced is as trite as the indigestion explaination.

I don't mean to be trite, but it's my nature to mix seriousness with humor and it provides (I thought in this case) an excellent and useful illustration.

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MIKE, nowhere in your initial self-revelation have you told us that you have actually read the Book of Mormon and tested the promise Moroni makes (Moroni 10:3-5). Challenging this test was my turning point. I came to know God and what it feels like to have the Holy Spirit witness to me. Me, a nobody, had a personal witness from a divine Father that this was good...this was THE WAY...and that HE cared enough about my eternal soul to reveal it to me.

If you really want answers to your questions, take the challenge, with a sincere desire to know. Set your pre-conceptions on the shelf (mind you, I did not say, set your brain or your intellect on the shelf). Open your mind for once and you will receive, if you are truly willing.

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Mike,

I feel that I can usnderstand where you're coming from. I've been struggling with many of the same thoughts and questions. I wonder sometimes if my expectations are too high, but I feel at this point I need a very clear and unmistakable confirmation in anything that I believe in and fully dedicate myself to.

Sometimes I think that I'm the one hindering communication with God, sometimes I think that I'm just not recognizing God's communications with me, and often I wonder if God exists. I can't bring myself to believe something supernatural(spiritual) without my own supernatural(spiritual) experience. Plenty of people appear to receive spiritual confirmations, and I feel that my effort has not been lacking.

I've come to the point where I think it's best for me to ease up on my searching though. I'm going to focus on the truths that I do have a "testimony" of, and just expect that in time, I will stumble upon more truths. I don't have a testimony of the existance of God, or the divinity of Christ. Maybe some day I will, but I'm tired of trying to force it.

I'm confident that this method will allow me to find all of the truths that I will need.

Good luck with your searching.

cacheman

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ur1drfl2,

Sorry, I completely forgot to explain my experience with the BOM. Yes I have read it completely and have studied, pondered, and prayed about it, with what seemed like sincerity. Admittedly the having faith in Christ part was/is more difficult for me. I did have some measure of faith that if there is a God and a Christ that they would answer my prayer. (I prayed to know whether or not the BOM was correct/word of God) So far as I can tell I recieved no witness of its correctness.

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BCSpace:

Another way to identify if an 'epiphany' is from God is if it leads you to believe in Christ as per the Book of Mormon.

Wouldn't that only be true if there is a God and a Christ/Saviour? I'm not sure if I am using the phrase correctly but wouldn't that be akin to begging the question?

I don't mean to be trite, but it's my nature to mix seriousness with humor and it provides (I thought in this case) an excellent and useful illustration.

I knew you were joking :P , I just get a little annoyed when some (not you) imply that a mormon's mystical experiences are less valid then their own.

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Open your mind for once and you will receive, if you are truly willing.

So what about those people who have read the book and have sincerely desired to know if it is true but have received no such witness? Are they not willing?

I was raised in an environment where nearly every Sunday and often during the week I was led to believe that everyone around me--and certainly everyone important to me--had received an overwhelming personal answer to prayer about the BofM and that I could know for myself that it was true just as they had.

There were only two possible outcomes presented as a result of Moroni's Promise: (1) No answer (stupor of thought, no special feeling, etc) would mean that something was lacking on my part, i.e. I lacked real intent or needed more patience or faith, etc.; or (2) I would have a confirming witness that it was true. Those were the only two options. So, yeah, by the time I got on my mission and had not received anything I considered a witness (despite spending years trying to get it) I was more than willing to equate an emotional experience with being a sure witness.

Later in life as I realized after years of denial--and it came in a moment of sweet epiphany--that all of the many oddities, inconsistencies, and problems with church doctrine past and present could easily be reconciled by admitting to myself the obvious: namely, that Joseph Smith was not at all who the church claimed he was. I no longer had to wonder how it was that a loving God would command men to do such vile things as kill other tribes or cut off heads or practice polygamy. I didn't have to wonder why so many words of past prophets have had to be treated as opinion when they clearly were not being presented as such. I stopped having to treat skin color as a curse or the diversity of language as a Godly reprimand. In short, having faith in the nonsensical was no longer a necessary requirement for happiness! That realization brought a love for my fellow man and confirming emotions of inner peace and that were much, much stronger than I ever had when I was on my mission, during my endowment, during my temple marriage, etc.

I'm not saying the church is a cult but the way "Moroni's Promise" is presented to young church members is a cultish tactic, plain and simple.

--KY

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Wouldn't that only be true if there is a God and a Christ/Saviour? I'm not sure if I am using the phrase correctly but wouldn't that be akin to begging the question?

Of course! That's the key question. Does God exist? And if so, what is His Church if any?

Frankly, the only thing left (from a logical standpoint) if the LDS Church isn't true is Atheism.

The LDS view of Christianity is the only one that completely squares with scripture so if the LDS Church isn't true then all of Christianity is false.

All the other religions have gods that deserve rebellion instead of worship due in part to their 'alienness' (the trinity theory could be included here) or their view of human nature is against what science shows.

The LDS view of God is completely supported in Christian scripture and since we are the same type of being, He deserves at least our respect. And LDS doctrine in no way conflicts with science.

But all things LDS is vain anyway unless you have a spiritual testimony.

But did you not hear of that famous (in his own circles) atheist who decided (reported within the last month, I forget his name) that there really is a God because how the universe is set up?

That should be a 'faith promoting' story for you and might lead you to Christianity because of one of it's verses:

THE heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament sheweth his handywork. Psalms 19:1

Perhaps other religions have a similar verse, but if not, would not this atheist's conversion to a belief in God testify to you not only that He exists but that Christianity is more likely to have the answers?

And if Christianity is the way to go, then since only the LDS Church believes all of what the Bible says (a provable statement, but you'll have to specify which doctrines you think are contradictory since there are so many existing doctrines to begin with) and in addition has more of the word of God, would that not lead you back to the LDS Church?

Here the logical testimony rears it's head, but it's not ugly as many LDS seem to think it is. It simply leads to a spiritual testimony. I have both.

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The burning in the bosom was specifically to Oliver Cowdery. I never felt it myself. Dalli n H Oaks and mrke e peterson didnt either. The only thing the devil cant mimick is peace and God is not a God of confusion so you cant say one person will get a diffrent answer than another one on the book of mromon or Joseph Smith. As for giving tithing to charity. That is pretty charitable with another mans property. Its the lords and you dont give your neighbors money away why would you give his away.

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Here is my spiritual experiences, a few anyway. Bear in mind that I am excommunicated from the church and so believe me when I say I know the difference between my emotions and the Spirit. Just a note: I am a little older than some of you and have had a hard life. I have a gentle soul and have born my burdens in life, hopefully in the end with endurance. Emotions are not a thing that I abound in. My husband can cry at movies easier than I. I do not even get moved by that mass emotional movement people feel when a person cries while bearing their testamony. I am a critic.

About ten years ago, while reading the BoM, my prayer at that time was that I would comprehend both spiritually and deep with my soul whether these things were true, if they did indeed actually happen. I dont simply pray a generic request that I was trained to do. I have never had a burning in the bosom about anything. But let me tell you this. While I was reading Alma 14, I was so pulled into the events with alma and amulek that my mind literally opened up so that I was experiencing what they felt and my mind knew that it was absolute. I was so caught up in the experience that it caused me to sob and sob with so much sorrow for what they felt while they witnessed the followers, men/women and children being burned alive for their convictions. I was given an absolute knowledge that it was so and the consumption of my soul by the spirit was absolute as well. I cannot talk of the experience, even now I am tearing up at the memory of what I felt, without crying. I will never deny this truth. Well, after time I chose to follow an self indulging lifestyle that took me away from the spiritual path I was on. I am void of the spirit as a constant companion, and yes, that is real, too.

I have never received a witness of JS. It has bothered me my whole life. But recently, I have been receiving answers to the things I ask for. I was promised in my Patr. Blessing that all the righeous things I ask for will be given. That is powerful. This year I have devoted my prayers to learning to love my God and in the process learn to love others like we are commanded to. Two weeks ago, while in this board, I was looking up in the bible. I came across the story of Christ when he was entering into a city and saw a women in a funeral procession for her child. Now, generally, Christ didnt go up to people with out some engagement by them. But when he saw this woman, he had so much compassion for her and her pain that he went up to her and told her it would be alright and caused her child to rise.

I was again so pulled into the love that he felt and was consumed by the comprehension of it. I again sobbed and sobbed and ended up not posting what I sarted to because I was caught up in the spirit of this experience. Several months ago, while finishing the bom and not getting anything out of the wartime stories, I read on to when the saviour came to the people and was blessing the children and the people. I have read this before, but this time i was pulled into the event and felt and comprehended spiritually so deeply again I broke down.

When I say spiritually, it is like your soul is opened outside its ordinary capacity and you feel beyond your own measure and the spirit floods your being with the peace and serenity that takes up a place in you.

I have come to know that I will not know of JS without first knowing of God and the love behind all things. I dont know if this helps anyone, but I am renewed in this by relating my experiences. May God bless you all

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BCSpace

Of course! That's the key question. Does God exist? And if so, what is His Church if any?

Frankly, the only thing left (from a logical standpoint) if the LDS Church isn't true is Atheism.

Oh I think that it is quite possible that another belief system could be correct. Deism, Buddhism, the Catholic Church, Taoism, Community of Christ, Hinduism, Islam, Wicca, none of the above, etc. I don't see why any religion or denomination can not possibly be correct. Its seems to be a matter of perspective.

The LDS view of Christianity is the only one that completely squares with scripture so if the LDS Church isn't true then all of Christianity is false.

Based on an LDS interperation of the Bible.

All the other religions have gods that deserve rebellion instead of worship due in part to their 'alienness' (the trinity theory could be included here) or their view of human nature is against what science shows.

I would have to disagree with you here. Man's ways are not God's ways after all.

The LDS view of God is completely supported in Christian scripture and since we are the same type of being, He deserves at least our respect. And LDS doctrine in no way conflicts with science.

There is a difference between possibility and plausibility.

But all things LDS is vain anyway unless you have a spiritual testimony.

I agree

But did you not hear of that famous (in his own circles) atheist who decided (reported within the last month, I forget his name) that there really is a God because how the universe is set up?

The philosopher Anthony Flew?

That should be a 'faith promoting' story for you and might lead you to Christianity because of one of it's verses:

THE heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament sheweth his handywork. Psalms 19:1

Well it didn't seem to help Mr. Flew much.

"I'm thinking of a God very different from the God of the Christian and far and away from the God of Islam, because both are depicted as omnipotent Oriental despots, cosmic Saddam Husseins" - Anthony Flew

Besides he seems to be arguing from the God of Gaps position. Arguments arising from ingnorance are not very convincing to me.

When I look at the heavens I don't wonder "who created all this" as much as "how did this come to be".

Perhaps other religions have a similar verse, but if not, would not this atheist's conversion to a belief in God testify to you not only that He exists but that Christianity is more likely to have the answers?

When a notable christian converts to athiesm should I follow suit?

And if Christianity is the way to go, then since only the LDS Church believes all of what the Bible says (a provable statement, but you'll have to specify which doctrines you think are contradictory since there are so many existing doctrines to begin with) and in addition has more of the word of God, would that not lead you back to the LDS Church?

No

Here the logical testimony rears it's head, but it's not ugly as many LDS seem to think it is. It simply leads to a spiritual testimony. I have both.

I respect that.

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grapevine said:

The burning in the bosom was specifically to Oliver Cowdery. I never felt it myself. Dalli n H Oaks and mrke e peterson didnt either. The only thing the devil cant mimick is peace and God is not a God of confusion so you cant say one person will get a diffrent answer than another one on the book of mromon or Joseph Smith. As for giving tithing to charity. That is pretty charitable with another mans property. Its the lords and you dont give your neighbors money away why would you give his away.

I don't know that there is a God. I think it is very likely that spritual experiences are natural mental states produced by the brain/mind. This allows the possiblity of misinterperating natural mental states for something else. Concerning tithing: I am basically in the shoes of an investigator. I don't know that the LDS church is "True". Why should I not give to a lutheran or baptist church or a hindu congragation for that matter. I am face with the very real possiblity that giving tithing to the LDS church is giving to the wrong church. It seems dishonest to me. It would be like me telling others that the BOM is "true" without really believing it myself. If I give to charity I really can't do too much damage and I am helping others to boot.

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Oh yeah, another thing. According to Joseph f Smith , most of the people to come into the church at this time are of the tribe of Ephraim. This is their role in the organization of god, that they do the missionary work. It is part of the process of the gathering of the ten tribes, ephraim being first.

Does anyone know what it means to be from the tribe of Joseph? I am and aside from his getting a double portion of inheritance, from both ephraim and manasseh, I dont know exactly how it benefits me or relates to me?

Any ideas?

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Thanks val it does help some.

As for you last post I am not sure what the doctrine concerning the specific roles of the tribes is. sorry. :P

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pseudogratix:

Then the verse for you is Alma 22:18.

Yes, I have tried that.

I'm sorry maybe I need to explain where I am coming from better. I have prayed off and on for extended periods of time throughout my lifetime. I have prayed to know if there is a God, a correct religion, whether or not the BOM is what it claims to be, If the LDS church is God's church, etc. Now while I haven't quite given up on prayer quite yet. I do find it unlikely that I will be answered (based on personal experience). My main purpose for this thread is to learn how to know whether or not a mystical/spiritual experience is really better explain as coming from God then from some other source.

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I'm sorry maybe I need to explain where I am coming from better. I have prayed off and on for extended periods of time throughout my lifetime. I have prayed to know if there is a God....

Yes, but the focus in Alma 22 is on the willingness to repent of all of one's sins --- all of them --- even the little ones of omission and commission that no one but the individual (and presumably God) knows about. In other words the key is the willingness to put off the natural man to clear our spiritual senses to receive a spiritual witness. (1 Corinthians 2:9-14, Mosiah 3:19).

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Thanks val it does help some.

As for you last post I am not sure what the doctrine concerning the specific roles of the tribes is. sorry. :P

In the teachings of Joseph F Smith in his book PATHWAY TO PERFECTION pg 145-..., he tells us that in 3 nph 16:4-7 that the gospel will be given to the house of Isreal by the gentiles. He then goes on to explain that the tribe of Ephraim will be the first to recieve it, they being spread throughout the world and the seed mixed so that they are considered gentiles. In the last days they will set up the church, or the organization of the kingdom in preparation for the gathering of the 10 tribes in later times. The promises given to the gentiles on this land is for the building of zion and the temple...They will be the Priesthood that will prepare for the return of all Israel.

I am not sure at this moment the purpose of manasseh, but I do have to say that although I dont go to church, I associate with members in my return to it. I have noticed that I was the first and only one from the tribe of Joseph until recently and now quite a few new converts are from this tribe. It seems that some are called into the kingdom based on promises given to Ephraim, manasseh and joseph, as well as the rest of the tribes. I will have to find out if it is mentioned anywhere else about the other tribes. But ephraim is called at this time to build the kingdom, the gospel principles and ordinances to bring the gospel to the other tribes.

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pseudogratix:

Yes, but the focus in Alma 22 is on the willingness to repent of all of one's sins --- all of them --- even the little ones of omission and commission that no one but the individual (and presumably God) knows about. In other words the key is the willingness to put off the natural man to clear our spiritual senses to receive a spiritual witness. (1 Corinthians 2:9-14, Mosiah 3:19).

gotcha, it may seem like I keep saying "oh yeah, I tried that too" but I really have :P . But I guess It couldn't hurt to try this approach again.

Mike

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