Discussions of Mormons and Mormon life, Book of Mormon issues and evidences, and other Latter-day Saint (LDS) topics.

Sunday, July 25, 2004

Testimony: It's Not Just Emotion

I'm intrigued by how often anti-Mormons deride the LDS concept of personal revelation and testimony, especially when the Bible teaches that "the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy" in Revelation 19:10.

Gaining a testimony of the Gospel of Jesus Christ is not just an expression of emotions. Doctrine and Covenants 8:2-3 indicates that revelation is given to the mind as well as the heart. However, the "burning in the bosom" phenomenon - one of many manifestations of the Spirit - is also not simply an emotional fantasy synonymous with indigestion or puppy love, nor is it an unbiblical concept as some of our critics say.

Don't forget what the disciples of Christ on the road to Emmaus experienced when Christ was teaching them from the scriptures, as reported in Luke 24:13-32. In verse 32, as they reflect on what they just experienced, they said, "Did not our heart burn within us, while he talked with us by the way, and while he opened to us the scriptures?" And on the Day on Pentecost, as reported in Acts 2:37-38, those who heard the preaching of Peter were "pricked in their heart" and asked what they should to (answer: repent, be baptized, and receive the gift of the Holy Ghost). There was more than logical reliance on the popularly approved teachings of learned scholars - they were having a spiritual experience that affected them in their hearts. Yes, that is a legitimate manifestation of revelation.

There are many ways in which a person can gain a testimony and experience the Spirit, just as the scriptures show God revealing knowledge to prophets and others in many ways. We should not be frustrated when our response to the Spirit differs from that of a friend or parent. Learning to discern the Spirit and recognize its voice or workings is an important and lifelong exercise, in my opinion. But there are some helpful factors to keep in mind, factors that will help us distinguish it from emotion or our own personal yearnings. A valuable article on this topic comes from Elder Gerald N. Lund, "Is It Revelation?," New Era, July 2004, pp. 44-48 (also available as http://tinyurl.com/4zpu3. The young people of my ward were given copies of this article to read on our recent trip to the Chicago Temple, and I would encourage others to read it as well.

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