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

Sunday, March 27, 2005

"Casting Pearls Before Swine": When to Be Quiet about Spiritual Experiences

I've always struggled somewhat with understanding the meaning of Christ's warning not not cast one's pearl's before swine. Clearly there are sacred things that He meant for His followers to not share too freely, and I often assumed this referred to details of Temple worship and other particularly sacred or sensitive topics, without feeling terribly clear on this topic. But a recent exchange with a good friend added a possible new dimension to this area.

We recently had a very successful Stake musical that involved much sacrifice from many people, and brought reports of many tender spiritual experiences. On the night we attended, there was a big snow storm, and some cast members traveling from over an hour away faced genuine risk, but were able too get to the performance safely and return safely. That same night, three wonderful young people from my town (not LDS) were killed on the same highway that many cast members had to use. A casual remark from one person about how cast members were blessed and protected stirred some painful questions in one faithful LDS friend who asked how we can talk about divine intervention to get people safely to a play when three precious young people died in the same storm - does it mean that God cared less about them?

We discussed this from several angles with many of "the usual" lines of analysis about God's love and mercy, his timing for our lives, the need to be grateful for whatever blessing we receive and not to make unwarranted assumptions about those who are on a different timetable in God's eyes, etc., but finally concluded that sometimes we - myself especially included - are too quick to share events and experiences that may show God's intervention or blessings. Sometimes by casting our pearls of spiritual experiences about freely, we may actually be acting like swine ourselves and splash spiritual mud on others who may be troubled by the implications of our experience.

I remember on this blog when I shared what I thought was a touching case of divine intervention to help my family in a trying moment, there were some sarcastic comments from some upset people who couldn't believe that God would help me with my little problems while over a hundred people in South America died in a terrible fire that week - were they less important? That negative response shows that sharing spiritual experiences can really perturb others, which is not our intent.

I am not advocating silence, but am wondering about finding the right balance. On a public blog like this, how can one share spiritual experiences without "casting pearls before swine" - no offense intended to those who are on different wavelengths - perhaps I should say "without acting like swine."

8 comments:

NFlanders said...

Very interesting post. I had never thought of the scripture that way.

Mark said...

I don't know if it is just blogging. Your experience was in the offline world. Mine too. I was at a store here in Utah like Salvation Army (Deseret Industries). I am an avid LDS book collector. I admit I was praying to find certain books. I had only a small amount of money. I had found the books I was looking for at a used bookstore and was on my way there. I had an impression to stop at DI before going to the store. It was amazing. Every book I was going to buy was there and for considerably less. I felt it was an answer to prayer. As I stood in line the checker commented on the books. I said, “They are an answer to prayer.” She derided me, saying essentially “Yeah right.” Then she caught herself. "Well, I guess it could be an answer to prayer if you really needed the books." I just smiled in reply. It was an interesting experience. I like to think that my comment caused her to reflect on God's power in our lives even over small things.

I do not know if I cast my pearls before swine. I don’t think so. It seems like there are two concerns: (1) "lest they trample them under their feet" and (2) "and turn again and rend you." It would seem that to a Jew in Christ's time swine would be a metaphor for someone who was unclean or not of the covenant, who neither appreciated spiritual things nor regarded the welfare of those who were spiritual. Hmm, interesting thoughts.

I also was thinking about your friend who was struggling with the loss of those three kids. I turn to President Kimball's address, Tragedy or Destiny (a chapter from the book Faith Precedes the Miracle). President Kimball does an outstanding job of describing how to deal situations like this. Good luck.

Mark
Virtual Theology

cayblood said...

Jeff, some people may criticize, but I have been greatly uplifted by your comments, especially those in which you share personal experiences. Though I think my opinion differs slightly regarding the Terri Schiavo case, I can't expect to agree with you in every particular, but I think I can say that all of the material of yours that I have read has been just about exactly the right answer to a particular issue. Many times I have wished I could also have researched and answered things as well as you have. Please continue your valuable service.

Charles said...

Personal spiritual experiences that strengthen our testimonies should be shared. I think the problem for some is that the following premise is not always understood, and is an entirely different discussion in itself. But once a person understands it, it seems pretty clear that we are not being piggish in our bearing of testimonies.

Does prayer or spiritual interference mean that one person is higher in the sight of God than others? Simply put, no. Many of the tragedies in our lives are of our own creation, or at least the creation of our fellow citizens on this Earth.

We may find it spiritual when we feel prompted to do something that another person did not. In other words maybe they were not in tune with the spirit or didn't listen to it when we did. This doesn't make us higher or lower. We've all been there at some point.

Another thing to consider is that God has set up the physical laws of our world. He would loose credibility on grounds of non-interference or agency if he were to twist the physical laws he set in motion to protect others.

Geoff J said...

I do think we ought to be careful about how and where we share the information on the miracles we have been granted. Far too often it such stories are met with envy more than anything else. "Why did you get that blessing and I or so-and-so didn't?" There are often good answers to those questions -- like "I actually fasted and prayed for it" etc. -- but that doesn't particularly comfort the one who didn't get the blessing.

Geost said...

Also important to consider: Alma 12:9. We ought to say so much less than we do. I think it is interesting that we will assume to know God's will. If we have a personal experience it is best to keep it to ourselves. The danger is in the telling. An expression that we are grateful, or have so much to be grateful for is adequate.

Mormanity said...

Thanks so much for the comments! One thing I really enjoy about blogging is the valuable and rapid feedback that one can obtain. Sometimes I am inspired and strengthened by the comments of others, and many other times I learn something valuable that I had not considered before. Thank you for the comments!

I think one key to dealing with the challenge of sharing spiritual experiences is simply following the Spirit, and, of course, having the right desires in our actions. It is possible to share a powerful experience with a tinge of pride or boasting (see Alma 26:10, where Aaron worried that Alma's joy in their miraculous missionary service was leading him to boasting - an incorrect concern in that case). But if our purpose is to glorify God and help others, and we are sensitive to their state and to the whisperings of the Spirit, we should be OK. It seems more difficult when it comes to writing a blog or a book, where there is little information about the audience. Caution is needed. But the authors of the scriptures have shared many sacred experiences for all the world to read - and in some cases, for much of the world to mock. Following the Spirit must be the ultimate key.

Zera Pulsipher said...

The answer to this question is a lot more simple then it may seem. Though harder than it sounds. I have found, through experience, that if you have a doubt on wether or not to share a sacred experience with someone else. That you should say a quick prayer in your heart on what you should say, if anything at all. There have been times where I had doubts and did not do this, as a result something promised to me did not happen because I shared this experience with the wrong person, who then shared it with others whom I didn't wish to know it.I have since learned my lesson and have not had a bad sharing experience since I began to pray before I say. Swine to me is someone who will not hold that experience on the same level as you do. Like Boyd K Packer,there are things that I have experienced which I have not even shared with my wife. Simply because the Lord has told me not to. Some of those things he has had me share with others, and some none know save myself and the Lord. So when in doubt pray, I know the lord will help all as he has helped me. As for you Jeff I cannot begin to thank and praise you for the effort and work you put forth in everything you do. I've read your work since you started posting it on mormons.org, before the church bought the site. You have truly been the city set on the hill for all to see, and truly let your light shine. Keep up the good work.