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Mike

Questions on the nature of spiritual experiences

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Maybe a relating a few personal experiences can help show my point of view.

Years ago when I was younger I became fascinated by the paranormal/supernatural and pretty much anything extraordinary. I looked into many different beliefs, ideas, and claims. Ranging from magic, psychic phenomena, auras, OBEs, aliens, teleknisis, faith/psychic healing, etc. Some extraordinary things I found were real in the sense that the literal interpretation was correct: hypnosis, meditation, and lucid dreams. While I never completely accepted any claim without varifing in some way I found myself hoping very much some were true. Were the people who believe they have psychic powers intentionally lying to me? I doubt it. Were they really psychic? probably not. Were they insane? no more then you or me. What then? I have come to believe they are simply misinterpreting their experiences. If there is one thing I learned from my investigations it is the power of suggestion/belief.

One day I was reading about how to induce an out of body experience. One interperation of this experience is that it literally happens.That a person literally leaves their body (aka astral projection). The key points of the method of induction were near exactly the same as a WILD (wake induced lucid dream) where one goes directly (or nearly so) into the R.E.M. dream cycle. (In a lucid dream you know you are dreaming, possess great degree of autonomy, and it generally feels/looks very real.) Now I could have still concluded that OBE's were literally real. But I had a very plausible explanation for OBE's being natural mental states rather then a supernatural reality. I would need compelling evidence that OBE's were in fact more/different that natural mental states.

You see, I have to at least check to see whether or not something simliar is going on with what are called spiritual experiences. I have to at least look at the possiblity that the label of Holy Spirit may in fact be a mislabeling. That is the purpose of my thread. :P

Mike

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Mike,

Please study this and then ask yourself, Have I asked? Have I knocked? Have I truly been seeking this knowledge or have I been afraid to accept the truth.

                                Matthew 7

7 Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you:

8 For every one that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened.

9 Or what man is there of you, whom if his son ask bread, will he give him a stone?

10 Or if he ask a fish, will he give him a serpent?

11 If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children, how much more shall your Father which is in heaven give good things to them that ask him?

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In the frontier days a common belief was that you were not saved simply because you believed Jesus Christ is the Messiah, but that you had to pray through to receive a sort of 'confirmation' that you were saved = Baptism of the Holy Spirit by fire, and that you had to have this testimony to be baptised and saved.

The test of the 'burning in the bossom' is a reflection of that misconception.

Jesus said 'whosoever', and didn't limit it to any special sign but to belief. Jesus said our work is to believe on Him. He gave us many reasons to, but primarily because He rose from the dead to declare the sanctification of those who believe in Him and look to Him for their healing and new life by faith in His work of truth and grace.

The point is that it takes more faith to be an athiest or agnostic than to believe Jesus is the Christ.

Do yourself a favor and read a good book on the topic:

Case for Christ, by Lee Strobel. You can pick it up at most large book stores or Christian book stores. He was also an atheist and set out to prove Christianity was just a fable so he could prove to his newly converted wife that it was a lie. From his legal and journalistict training he presents a powerful case that Jesus was real and that we have overwhelming reasons to believe what the Bible says is true.

The gospel of John was specificly written that we might believe upon Jesus Christ and I would highly recommend you study that book with non LDS study helps from a good study bible that gives the references to OT links of Jesus fulfilling prophecy. When you read Strobels book you will realize the importance of the fulfilment of prophecy as an extreemly powerful witness to His truth - the gospel.

Jesus said those who seek will find. He didn't condone faultfinding. I'm sorry you have had to endure a lifetime in which you are not pleased, so take the time to find what is true and I honestly believe you will know it when you see it if you are really looking for it.

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You see, I have to at least check to see whether or not something simliar is going on with what are called spiritual experiences. I have to at least look at the possiblity that the label of Holy Spirit may in fact be a mislabeling. That is the purpose of my thread.

Well, if you are serious about this, I don't see how you will get anywhere here in this forum. If you want scientific analysis of the alleged spiritual witness that many believers of the Book of Mormon lay claim to, you will have to perform scientific analysis. All the discussion in the cyberspace won't result in what you assert you are looking for. Go get some funding, acquire state of the art monitoring instruments that are (ideally) as stealth as possible (so test subjects won't feel like test subjects), design and build a test environment, then run a series of observations on two groups of test subjects that had never read (and ideally never even heard of) the Book of Mormon. For example, the first group could be given a routine of "normal activities" and the second group could be given a routine that added an hour each day devoted to "reading, pondering and praying about the truthfulness of the Book of Mormon."

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To All,

I would look at one point the LDS are trying to make, the spiritual experience is very real to them. To call it just a "feeling" is insulting but most non-mormons really don't care if they insult us. This is communion with the Divine. I have never felt the "burning" and neither has my wife. I look to D&C 6:23 "Did I not speak peace to your mind...", this is the witness I look for. I know the difference between feeling good about Star Wars, crying because Old Yeller died, and being elated because I won a tough wrestling match. These are feelings. I know the difference. If one is educated in the economy of God one learns the difference. Mike, you stated you thought you were asking with enough faith. Guess what, it's not up to you. You need to be willing to do something about it. Are You? Maybe your prayer should be Help Thou My Unbelief. This is where you are from what I can tell. If you received an answer what would you do? Are you ready? I don't know but God does. This is mfdoeo.

Yours In Christ

Dr Fatguy

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drfatguy, I think the contention arises between those who say you have to have some special witness that Jesus nor His apostles said we have to have, and then that those who claim the need for such a witness would say those who do believe Jesus are not really Christians.

That is gnostisism at its finest to make such claims, isn't it? *that to belief, trust and obey is not enough.

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Elihu,

To believe and trust in whom or what or why. This doesn't make it gnostic belief system to have an epiphany. Saul did on the road to Damacus. Even the witnesses to the day of Pentecost were "... pricked in their hearts...". To have an experience with God is a normal process of conversion, as I read the scriptures. If you deem this gnostism, so be it. It is consistent with the experiences we read of in the books of the Bible. How could the gnostics make inroads into the early church if something of this nature wasn't expected. How do you know the Bible is the word of God? It doesn't say "The Bible is the word of God" anywhere in it's pages. How do you know Jesus is the Christ, the promised Messiah, The Holy One of Israel? I would like to understand how you can come to these conclusions? History doesn't conclusively bear this out. If it did, every historian would be a Christian, and they are not. Biblical scholars are still arguing the divinity of Christ. Man's ability to reason God into existence is feeble at best. The case for Christ is, and always has been, tried in the human heart.

Yours In Christ

Dr Fatguy

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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.

I have to ask, what do you expect will happen as a result of prayer? It sounds like you are looking for a mystical experience, and yet doubt the validity of mystical experiences. I would say that the Mormon method of, pray and suddenly you'll know the truth is misleading. Yes Jesus said that God will answer your prayers. But look at what the Apostles did to spread Christianity. When Paul was in Athens he debated with the Athenians. He didn't say pray about my words. In fact, if memory serves, I don't remember anywhere (outside the BoM) in scripture that asks one to do this. I'm not saying don't pray, but you must use your intelligence too. If you believe mystical experiences are spurious, don't look for them. God knows you and knows how to communicate with you. I've been in your place. Mormonism drove me to atheism, but after 13 years of it, God told me he is real, (in a non-mystical way). Now I'm much happier, and have found the truth.

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rtifs,

I am glad you found spiritual fulfillment. I believe James 1:5-6 tells us to ask God for wisdom. This experience is no different than asking about the truthfulness of the BoM. Paul used the information he had concerning the Athenians to preach the gospel to them. I doubt they were ready to find God through pray at that time.

Food For Thought

Dr Fatguy

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I would say that the Mormon method of, pray and suddenly you'll know the truth is misleading.

The LDS method doesn't stipulate "suddenly."

But look at what the Apostles did to spread Christianity. When Paul was in Athens he debated with the Athenians.  He didn't say pray about my words.

Paul apparently didn't write a lot of things. Paul also doesn't seem to have provided comprehensive lectures. He seems to have tried to address the subject(s) at hand according to what he perceived to be the need(s) and understanding of the audience(s) he was addressing.

In fact, if memory serves, I don't remember anywhere (outside the BoM) in scripture that asks one to do this.

RD just quoted one for you. James 1:5-6 also comes to mind. I am sure a close rereading of the Bible will turn up more.

I'm not saying don't pray, but you must use your intelligence too.

The LDS method includes the precept that the "Glory of God is intelligence."

Mormonism drove me to atheism

Are you certain that you had a correct understanding of the LDS paradigm? Perhaps you could create a thread under this title ("Mormonism drove me to atheism") and expand on how you feel the LDS paradigm "drove" you to atheism.

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Real Deal:

Mike,

Please study this and then ask yourself, Have I asked? Have I knocked? Have I truly been seeking this knowledge or have I been afraid to accept the truth.

Was I 100% sincere?

I don't know.

Have I tried my best to be?

yes.

Mike

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Elihu:

The point is that it takes more faith to be an athiest or agnostic than to believe Jesus is the Christ.

Do you make any athiest or agnostic or are you refering to strong athiests and agnostics?

If the former wouldn't that really depend on the person and their experiences? Doesn't it depend on what I understand and know from my personal experiences as to how much faith a particular belief requires?

Do yourself a favor and read a good book on the topic:

Case for Christ, by Lee Strobel. You can pick it up at most large book stores or Christian book stores. He was also an atheist and set out to prove Christianity was just a fable so he could prove to his newly converted wife that it was a lie. From his legal and journalistict training he presents a powerful case that Jesus was real and that we have overwhelming reasons to believe what the Bible says is true.

The gospel of John was specificly written that we might believe upon Jesus Christ and I would highly recommend you study that book with non LDS study helps from a good study bible that gives the references to OT links of Jesus fulfilling prophecy. When you read Strobels book you will realize the importance of the fulfilment of prophecy as an extreemly powerful witness to His truth - the gospel.

I'll check it out.

Jesus said those who seek will find. He didn't condone faultfinding. I'm sorry you have had to endure a lifetime in which you are not pleased, so take the time to find what is true and I honestly believe you will know it when you see it if you are really looking for it.

I'm not sure what you mean in the first part. I'm a pretty happy guy. Sure I have a few regrets, but I don't blame anyone else (including God), overall my life has been pretty great. I hope I haven't come across as complaining and miserable. Here I always thought optimist. Not trying to find fault, just what's real.

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drfatguy:

I would look at one point the LDS are trying to make, the spiritual experience is very real to them. To call it just a "feeling" is insulting but most non-mormons really don't care if they insult us. This is communion with the Divine. I have never felt the "burning" and neither has my wife. I look to D&C 6:23 "Did I not speak peace to your mind...", this is the witness I look for. I know the difference between feeling good about Star Wars, crying because Old Yeller died, and being elated because I won a tough wrestling match. These are feelings. I know the difference. If one is educated in the economy of God one learns the difference. Mike, you stated you thought you were asking with enough faith. Guess what, it's not up to you. You need to be willing to do something about it. Are You? Maybe your prayer should be Help Thou My Unbelief. This is where you are from what I can tell. If you received an answer what would you do? Are you ready? I don't know but God does. This is mfdoeo.

Yours In Christ

Dr Fatguy

I don't doubt that what is experienced transcends typical feelings.

Do something about it? Like charity or church callings? Do you mean more of a "if I get answer i'll act on it" type of attitude? Pray for faith? Yes, I have done these. I can always try it again though. What would I do? Well that would depend on the answer. Lets say for the sake of argument that God told me the LDS church was "true". I would continue to try to keep the commandments/help others, pray with greater confidence, go on a mission, get married in the temple, etc. If God told me another path/religion was correct I would follow it.

Mike

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Mike,

I had to repent, frequently and painfully. This was where I was 30 years ago so maybe we need to look at the experiences you are facing and determine what you need to do. I can't do this over a message board but I sure someone can help you. You may not need to repent. I hope I am not being judgemental. I am only telling you my experience.

Dr Fatguy

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Rtifs:

I have to ask, what do you expect will happen as a result of prayer?

Great question, honestly I have no idea. I know what usually happens for me when I pray. As far a what happens when God communicates back i'm not sure what to expect.

It sounds like you are looking for a mystical experience, and yet doubt the validity of mystical experiences.

I accept the reality of people having mystical experiences but I am not sure about the literal truth of some interpretations.

I would say that the Mormon method of, pray and suddenly you'll know the truth is misleading. Yes Jesus said that God will answer your prayers. But look at what the Apostles did to spread Christianity. When Paul was in Athens he debated with the Athenians. He didn't say pray about my words. In fact, if memory serves, I don't remember anywhere (outside the BoM) in scripture that asks one to do this. I'm not saying don't pray, but you must use your intelligence too. If you believe mystical experiences are spurious, don't look for them. God knows you and knows how to communicate with you. I've been in your place. Mormonism drove me to atheism, but after 13 years of it, God told me he is real, (in a non-mystical way). Now I'm much happier, and have found the truth.

I'm glad you found what you were looking for. :P

Mike

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pseudogratix:

Well, if you are serious about this, I don't see how you will get anywhere here in this forum. If you want scientific analysis of the alleged spiritual witness that many believers of the Book of Mormon lay claim to, you will have to perform scientific analysis. All the discussion in the cyberspace won't result in what you assert you are looking for. Go get some funding, acquire state of the art monitoring instruments that are (ideally) as stealth as possible (so test subjects won't feel like test subjects), design and build a test environment, then run a series of observations on two groups of test subjects that had never read (and ideally never even heard of) the Book of Mormon. For example, the first group could be given a routine of "normal activities" and the second group could be given a routine that added an hour each day devoted to "reading, pondering and praying about the truthfulness of the Book of Mormon."

I sorry, I don't seem to be explaining myself very well. I am not looking for a scientific analysis but simply good reason to believe the interperetation of divine orgin correct. I am simply asking others to help me see why spritual experiences are probably from a divine source rather than produced by the mind. Does that not seem at least somewhat reasonable?

Mike

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drfatguy:

Mike,

I had to repent, frequently and painfully. This was where I was 30 years ago so maybe we need to look at the experiences you are facing and determine what you need to do. I can't do this over a message board but I sure someone can help you. You may not need to repent. I hope I am not being judgemental. I am only telling you my experience.

Dr Fatguy

I understand why you make think it possible that my sinfulness may be holding me back. You don't know me so my word may not mean much but: I am temple worthy (though I admit I am torn on what to do with my tithing, but I have paided in full for much of my working life). I have considered the possiblity of sin interfering with me finding out what I want to know. If anything I would thing I am a little too strict (eg. I don't even play video games if they are rated teen or above anymore) . But it is possible that I am overlooking something (though I doubt it could be a "major" sin). As far as you being judgemental, maybe a teeny bit. :P But really, I understand why you ask, no harm done. <_<

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

What did you intend to use as a title? I can edit it for you.

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pseudogratix:
Well, if you are serious about this, I don't see how you will get anywhere here in this forum. If you want scientific analysis of the alleged spiritual witness that many believers of the Book of Mormon lay claim to, you will have to perform scientific analysis. All the discussion in the cyberspace won't result in what you assert you are looking for. Go get some funding, acquire state of the art monitoring instruments that are (ideally) as stealth as possible (so test subjects won't feel like test subjects), design and build a test environment, then run a series of observations on two groups of test subjects that had never read (and ideally never even heard of) the Book of Mormon. For example, the first group could be given a routine of "normal activities" and the second group could be given a routine that added an hour each day devoted to "reading, pondering and praying about the truthfulness of the Book of Mormon."

I sorry, I don't seem to be explaining myself very well. I am not looking for a scientific analysis but simply good reason to believe the interperetation of divine orgin correct. I am simply asking others to help me see why spritual experiences are probably from a divine source rather than produced by the mind. Does that not seem at least somewhat reasonable?

Mike

It may help were you to give us some indication of what might qualify, to your mind, as a "good reason to believe" that spiritual experience are real and not just a product of the mind.

Likewise, it may help were you to give us some of the "good reasons" you have for not believing the same.

Thanks, -Wade Englund-

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Dunamis:

What did you intend to use as a title? I can edit it for you.

Thanks, its good to know the option is available. I think "Questions regarding the nature of spiritual experiences" while long might be appropriate. The title the I accidently ended up with was part of a brainstorming process for a decent title.

Mike

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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.)

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.

I have not read all the post - haven

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wenglund:

It may help were you to give us some indication of what might qualify, to your mind, as a "good reason to believe" that spiritual experience are real and not just a product of the mind.

Hmmm, good question. This is difficult as I don't know what the experience feels like. Some things off the top of my head that would increase the plausiblity of divine orgin:

Experience only occurs in relation to its interperatation.

Experience is not controllable/manipulable at will (induced, stopped, lengthened etc.)

Experience cannot be induced by non-divine means.

Specific personal experience varified by outside sources.

Experience always leads to truth/correct understanding.

I also suppose that one can somehow be completely convinced beyond a doubt by the Holy Ghost. If that ever happened to me I guess I wouldn't second guess it anyway.

Hopefully I put that right. I am sure there are other ways to show how an interperatation is correct.

Likewise, it may help were you to give us some of the "good reasons" you have for not believing the same.

Well for one, I haven't experienced anything that was undeniablely or even probably from God from my perspective. The experience of others is not convincing because I don't know how I would react/interpret the same experience they had. Through personal experience and study I have found that the mind can create powerful experiences based on belief that are not necessarily literally true. The OBE story I gave earlier is an example of this. I'll try to explain my point of view and my reasons for it. It's hard to put somethings into words.

Mike

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I am temple worthy...

Perhaps you already understand this, but for the sake of the lurkers, if you want to play by the rules of the LDS paradigm, then you need to be willing to accept that repentance isn't just about refraining from doing the so-called bad things. It is about being willing to reconcile oneself to "will of God" (2 Nephi 10:24, et al). It is about being willing to enter into the path of discipleship to Christ (Matthew 16:24, et al). It is about being willing to have Christ as one's Master (Mosiah 5:13), et al.

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The Traveler:

There is an Old native American saying that goes something like this:

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Sigh, I don't expect God to fix anything. The only thing I expect of him is that he some how make himself know to me (in His way, on His time). When I pray the only things I ask of God are forgivness, him to help those in need, to help my family, and to show me in a way I can understand that he exists. I also thank him. I rarely if every ask him to help me, most of the "problems" in my life are things I can take care of myself.

I don't think you should necessarily try harder, although it couldn't hurt. The main think is to open yourself up to him, have faith. Don't say whatever you tried didn't work, because there is nothing to say the effort is over. God has his own sense of timing, and it's been my experience that, although I may want something at a particular time, the time God chooses has always turned out to be better.

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