Discussions of Book of Mormon issues and evidences, plus other topics related to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Inspiration from God or Just Our Own Random Thoughts?

While we Latter-day Saints emphasize the reality of revelation and inspiration from God in the operation of the Church and recognize that we can receive inspiration from God in our own lives and in our stewardship in the Church, we would be wise to be cautious about making any claims to having received such. This is the theme of a noteworthy article by Orson Scott Card, "Be Careful Claiming Inspiration." I encourage you to read and ponder that article before weighing in.

Even Church leaders such as bishops, who may have keys entitling them to receive revelation for the work of their ministry, need to recognize that not every idea and thought, no matter how prayerfully obtained, is necessarily inspired. Decisions made while seeking prayer and revelation can still be bad decisions. I can say that because I've served in that role and can see that while there were many times when I have no doubt real inspiration was received, there were also times when I made poor decisions on my own.

But even those ideas that are inspired and obtained from revelation should be given caution in terms of what claims are made. Orson Scott Card makes the point that claiming an idea or thought is inspired tends to shut off discussion and close doors to further light and knowledge that may have come had others been allowed to treat it as a proposal for consideration and discussion. I think the same can apply to callings. A decision to issue a calling to someone may be inspired and often is, but there may also be good reasons why that person should not or cannot accept that calling. There are dangers in declaring that the Lord wants that person to serve in a calling before we learn that, for example, the person is moving away next week or has a major issue making them unable to serve.

The first calling I ever issued as a new counselor in a bishopric in Atlanta was one I prepared for and wanted to be a spiritual experience. When I issued the calling to the woman, tears came to her eyes. "Wow," I thought, "this is cool. A spiritual experience!" Then she blurted out, "I need to get out of this church." Yikes! I ran over to the bishop and had him meet with her in his office. This was a less-active woman who was struggling with major issues. It would have been unwise for me to proclaim that God wanted her to serve in that Relief Society calling at the time (I didn't say that, fortunately). My meeting with her led to her being able to come in and talk with the bishop and move forward in some way. I'm not sure where she ended up--the bishop kept that completely confidential. Accepting the calling would have been absolutely wrong, but perhaps the decision to invite her in to discuss a calling was an inspired catalyst, perhaps, though the calling was not right for her to accept.

Revelation is sacred and real, but it is not a faucet that can be turned on at will or one that drips continually. The influence of the Spirit in guiding us, when we are open to its influence, can be clear and direct at times, but most often is quiet and subtle, a still small voice, that can easily get shouted down by the obnoxiously loud voice of our own will. It's fair to always be a little hesitant in declaring that something that has entered into our head is necessarily revelation from God. I like the way Brother Card frames this complex issue.


Anonymous said...

I have read that prophets get their inspiration while in prayer and pondering.

When you pray and ponder in a sincere manner about a problem or question you are able to sort through mitigating factors and filter information.

If people would be able to do the above many bad decisions would/could be averted. These decisions can relate from anything from word of wisdom sins, dating, large purchases with ensuing debt.

Paul said...

Good thoughts, Jeff. I do feel like Card's article parses the difference between revelation and inspiration a bit too finely, but his general thought (and yours, too) is right on: we need to be cautious about declaring either revelation or inspiration, especially if we've received it "for" someone else.

I remember sitting to extend a release to a young single sister serving as a YW president. In the middle of the interview, she began to sense where we were headed and fell into a fit of uncontrollable sobbing. In that instant I had the impression I should reaffirm her calling, not release her, which is what I did.

Church leaders clearly need to be most careful in claiming inspiration, and need to be aware that others might assume inspiration where it has not occurred. (For some, any suggestion from a church leader is seen as "inspired counsel".)

That said, I've had enough personal experience to help me to know that revelation and inspiration are quite real and quite beneficial.

Anonymous said...

I think it is common to receive limited revelation (or inspiration; I won't distinguish here) and then claim expansive revelation. Your experience with the calling of the sister who then met with the bishop is a good example. It appears that your visit with her may well have been inspired, and that the inspiration was prompted by a particular calling. What you took to be inpiration that she should serve, however, may well have been merely inspiration that you should meet with her prepared to invite her to serve. Similarly, an auxiliary president may interpret inspiration to mean that a particular member should serve in a particular calling, when the inspiration was really just that the president should recommend that person for that calling - which may lead to a different calling, or even to no calling but to immediate attention from the bishopric, of the sort that occurred in your story.

(I hesitated for a moment to make this comment, for fear that someone from a bishopric will themselves minimize or reinterpret the insitration given an auxiliary leader. I would never suggest that bishiprics minimize such inspiration. Those leaders are, in my experience, often ahead of the bishopric with regard to particular members and particular callings - in part perhaps because they are closer to both the member and to the needs a calling will serve than is the bishopric.)

Papa D said...

I really liked that article when I first read it. Thanks for the follow-up post.

Einsamer Seaton said...

I really enjoyed this Post and thank you for sharing it.

NathanS said...

I have noticed experiences along these lines, myself. The topic of revelation has been dealt with very nicely here and elsewhere, each place relating or emphasizing different aspects of the issue. The opportunity to bless others' lives by putting inspiration/revelation into practice can be limitless.

Sometimes I have complied with insights or promptings and other times not. In the case of suicidal persons, it has gone both ways. While with me, the issue of following the Spirit has been a matter of others' life or death, in the ordinary story, the person whose life was at stake was the person who received the promptings.

I still have frequent challenges with matters of these sorts and am glad to read others' experiences and explanations.

Anyone want to throw up favorite links?

Openminded said...

Ha, well. I remember this one time when I went into a gas station to get a bottle of water, and after finding the cheapest bottle they sold (around 47 cents), I went to the cashier.

Before I could buy it, however, the lady in front of me told me that she felt like God wanted to pay for my gas and my drink.

After telling her I just had this really cheap bottle of water, she asked me if that's all I really had. She left with kind of a confused/disappointed look in her face, and even though I was a believer at the time, I laughed a little on the inside.

So how does Scott's article apply to the spiritual experience of praying to god for answers (Moroni's promise)? I don't see how this is a reliable way of doing things if you more or less just trick yourself into believing that a spiritual experience means, like in Scott's article, that a family should start doing scripture study for 10 minutes if they already do much more.

Jared said...

I think Orson Scott Card writes some fine articles for church members to read. But after reading his thoughts on "inspiration", I don't think he has much to offer members seeking to increase their receptivity to things of the Spirit.

I think his article made some good points for those who might think any thought that comes into their mind after praying is inspiration. Other than that, what did he contribute?

I think it is important to underscore something that we experience often: people differ in their abilities.

To illustrate, consider two unrelated activities; running a 5K race and taking an algebra class. Suppose there are 100 people participating in each endeavor. What would you expect to happen as the race and the math class progressed?

Based on my experience, I would expect there would be a range of abilities manifest in both efforts; fast and slow runners, fast and slow algebra students, with the majority being average.

I think it is safe to say that the same is true when it comes to things of the Spirit. I've learned that not everyone experiences things of the Spirit in exactly the same way. The Lord knows how to help each of us accomplish the purposes of our mortal experience. Most of us are going to have average experiences with the things of the Spirit, while some will have experiences that are unusual, and still others who say they've never had a spiritual experience.

Elder McConkie addressing this topic said:

"All men do not come into this world with the same inclination toward or receptiveness of spiritual things."

Regardless of where we are at on the continuum of our receptiveness to spiritual things, if we have desires to grow in our ability then we will, if we diligently seek the Lord. The Lord promises this time and time again in the scripture and by the mouths of the living prophets.

I suggest we look for words of inspiration from those sources.

NathanS said...

"I don't see how this is a reliable way of doing things if you more or less just trick yourself into believing that a spiritual experience means, like in Scott's article, that a family should start doing scripture study for 10 minutes if they already do much more."

You just restated half of the writer's point. One way is not reliable. Another way is. Our opportunity is to benefit from learning the difference. I've had it both ways. While I've been tricked into not taking the Spirit's guidance in two cases where deaths later came and were ruled suicides, in other cases I have followed the Spirit and contributed to recovery.

Just because you, I, and others, have wrongly interpreted the true voice or believed a wrong one, that is not any reason to suppose that there is no true voice, no means of improving on how we heed it, and that we cannot improve in discerning the difference between false voices and the true one.

I have a nephew who gave up on revelation. I asked if he'd ever told God that he'd give up all his sins to know Him. He said, "No."

There is a purpose for revelation. The best gifts are for the benefit of two classes of people listed in D&C 46. First classification: those who love God and keep all His commandments. Second classification: those who seek to be in the first classification.

Perhaps I'm never in the first and rarely in the second but I've been in the second enough to know that revelation is real - and sometimes life-saving for others - even if I often don't get it right for myself (or, tragically, for others).

One doesn't have to have the gift of knowledge to be exalted, according to the Lord in D&C 46. Just believe enough to be faithful to God "in case." There is no dishonor in not getting revelation and no dishonor in being honest about not getting it. But neither is there any honor in pretending that no one gets it.

Revelation is real. And it comes from a living and loving God.

NathanS said...

To those who doubt this post and paper's value, hopefully you have never needed the likes of them. In light of the "practical" side of the paper and post vs. the "doctrinal" side of most treaties on the topic, to some who encounter the type of confusion that the paper points out, this paper and post may contribute mightily to Spirit literature in Mormondom.

If these treaties help one soul in "enduring to the end" in their struggle to decode spiritual communications, I anticipate more lives being saved (as some have benefitted from my refusal to give up). How much better it might have been had I read papers and posts along this line in my youth!

Thank you, Jeff. Practical writers, Charge On!

Strong Man said...

Excellent thoughts on caution in interpreting inspiration and revelation. I love D&C 8 approach that reminds Oliver Cowdery that tremendous effort is involved in finding truth--even through revelation.

I also enjoy the thought about different people having different skills in this regard--the challenge is being self-aware enough to not get above your abilities. Usually this is learned through plenty of experience making mistakes.

I find the more regularly I read, think, and ponder scriptural and prophetic teachings, and act on them the more likely I am to make good decisions.

Openminded said...

"You just restated half of the writer's point. One way is not reliable. Another way is."

And what is, indeed, the difference? From the article, Jeff's post about it, and your comments as well, the only way to tell is after the fact. But this is only because there is no difference whatsoever in receiving an affirmation from the Spirit when it was wrong and when it was right. It's a bit like you're flipping a coin and acting on impulse if it lands on heads 'cause there's some sort of mystical affirmation every time it lands on heads instead of tails. That's definitely not the process, but that's how reliable it seems.

So when you say "Just because you, I, and others, have wrongly interpreted the true voice or believed a wrong one, that is not any reason to suppose that there is no true voice, no means of improving on how we heed it, and that we cannot improve in discerning the difference between false voices and the true one. "

I agree that there's no reason to suppose there isn't one. There's just no evidence that the means Mormonism gives are any more reliable than just going with your gut. And so I see no reason to believe that prayerful affirmations, like the one promised by Moroni, are reliable.

It all sounds very speculative. Like blind faith in God, only this time, in prayer. It has no power to guide someone through the many different religions out there and into your definition of the full truth, and all you can say about it is the same thing everyone else says: he's not in tune with the spirit because of this, this, and that.

NathanS said...

"And what is, indeed, the difference? From the article, Jeff's post about it, and your comments as well, the only way to tell is after the fact. But this is only because there is no difference whatsoever in receiving an affirmation from the Spirit when it was wrong and when it was right."

Sometimes I can tell long before there are any results by which to judge. And so do many others.

For some, learning to recognize and understand the Spirit is like learning to recognize someone’s voice. For others, such as myself, it is more like learning a language. Over many years, I’ve learned to speak Spanish fluently but with a severely limited vocabulary. One Sunday I visited with someone in Spanish and we communicated fairly well for quite a while until he changed the topic of conversation. Then I understood nothing. As far as I could tell, he could have been speaking a different language. The same with the Holy Spirit.

We cannot be expected to have the same confidence in what we hear from the Spirit in every communication. Sometimes we will be sure. Sometimes unsure. But the surety that sometimes comes may only come after repeated experience with the influence of the Spirit as if it were another language.

Papa D said...

openminded, I think the point that Brother Card and Jeff are making (at least one of them) is similar to your question in *most* instances for *most* people. I know I often cannot distinguish between my own thoughts and inspiration - and I'm not sure there is a distinction in many cases, especially given our belief in the Gift of the Holy Ghost. That aspect of our theology muddies the water incredibly, imo.

However, there have been a few times in my life when the FACT that I was receiving inspiration / revelation was unmistakable *in the moment*. There literally is no other explanation that makes any sense, given the exact nature of what occurred.

Having said that, I agree totally that there is a difference in how each of us should act in relation to what we think is inspiration in most cases - especially if it involves others in some way. "Personal revelation" is one thing; promptings that affect others are something else entirely.

The best example of this, perhaps, is the silly example of a young man who believes he has received revelation / an answer to a prayer / whatever that he should marry a young woman. Fine. Accurate or not, that "revelation" is his alone and has NO bearing on anyone else - unless he then communicates that experience with the young woman in question and attempts to use it to bring pressure to her to accept it as actual revelation.

The proper response on the part of the young woman (an actual response I heard from a friend who was told that by a young man) is something like:

"Great. When the Lord wants me to accept that, He will give me a similar revelation. I'll get back to you if that happens."

If she has no natural inclination to want his experience to be real revelation, she has no obligation to seek for confirmation - none at all. If it really is divine revelation, I have no doubt the Lord will tell her so - but in most cases, I think it's nothing more than the strong desire of one person being interpreted as revelation. The case of Mary and Joseph is a good one - albeit at the extreme. The angel Gabriel visited BOTH of them, and they BOTH had to accept it as a "real" divine revelation.

Openminded said...

"We cannot be expected to have the same confidence in what we hear from the Spirit in every communication"

This is mostly where I'm getting at. You both have your own experiences with the spirit and attribute it to some degree of truth, but there are still those times when the spirit was wrong, and so it was probably just some function of our human brain. You cite times in your life when the revelation was "unmistakable", but that could just as easily be a combination of confirmation bias and, in your own words, "nothing more than the strong desire of one person being interpreted as revelation."

And it feels obvious to me that you want the spirit to be about revelation. I can't blame you either, your entire religion sits on top of this seemingly unreliable idea of spiritual revelation.

I mean, and I ask this partly in an attempt to understand your position better, what are some of the ways that you've learned the Spirit is not what's giving you your revelations? Are there any signs that the feeling you're getting is not from the spirit?

mkprr said...

Thanks, I think this is an important topic. Bruce R McConkie wrote about what he called “Spiritual Hobbies” It is the practice of focusing on one gospel principle above all others. It is a dangerous habit that leads to fault finding, and it can lead to one losing their faith as well.
There is no question, revelation is very important. It is why we have a church. But also, as Card pointed out, God specifically stated that he won’t command in all things. We see that part of the purpose of us coming here, is so that we can take responsibility and do good with the skills and talents God has given us.

I’ll seek revelation continually, take revelation when I can get it, otherwise I’ll turn to the Lord in prayer and then be content to use whatever understanding, skills and talents He has given me and trust that although mistakes will be made, it is part of what we expected before we came here.

mkprr said...

To Openminded: you mentioned Moroni’s promise not seeming to be of any use. It took me a while to notice this but those verses really only apply to someone who already has some faith in Jesus Christ. Alma 32 together with Moroni 10 might be more applicable for an agnostic. I’m sure you’ll still find objections to the measurability of the proposed outcomes of the experiment in Alma but I have definitely benefitted from those chapters working together. You complain that when results aren’t as expected a one will say “he's not in tune with the spirit because of this, this, and that.” Is this really such a silly statement?

If I want to show my kids the interesting reaction that vinegar and baking soda make when mixed together, but I accidentally use baking powder instead, we know it won’t work. And we wouldn’t find it to be inappropriate if someone pointed to the problem so we could make corrective action. Why then is it so absurd when someone who cares about you makes the same comment to you about why you might not be receiving the spiritual results they have received?

Openminded said...

I am agnostic now, but I tried out Moroni's promise when I was a very strong and active believer in Christ. I tried multiple times and frequently consulted a missionary about my lack of a yes.

"You complain that when results aren’t as expected one will say “he's not in tune with the spirit because of this, this, and that.” Is this really such a silly statement?"

Yes, because it has no reliable power to guide someone to the full truth. It's not always silly, but when it comes to the point where the people are on essentially the same level of faith as each other but reach different spiritual conclusions (my no back when I was an Evvie vs. your or other peoples' yes), then it becomes obvious that the real reason we're reaching different conclusions is because the method we're using to reach them is inconsistent, unreliable, and useless at discerning truth because of its inconsistent and unreliable nature.

Papa D said...

om, it's much easier for me to focus on those times when I really did have undeniable revelation - and it wasn't confirmation bias or my own desires or anything else. It has happened very rarely for me, and I have NO idea whatsoever why it happened those times for me and it doesn't happen for others (and I do believe it doesn't happen for some who are every bit as sincere and believing as I am, if not more so). If it really were the formulaic, universal equation many people (including Mormons) believe it to be, the practical results in the real world would be very different. (and I personally think it's unconsciously arrogant to say that it works for me but not for someone else because I'm more sincere / righteous / in tune / whatever than that other person)

The best examples in my own life of undeniable revelation are two instances where I said very specific things in blessings about which I absolutely did not know, that I didn't intend to say and that were spot-on - and I understood that to be "true" once immediately and once years later in hindsight, although I believed it was revelation at the time based on the nature of what was said. (When I say there was NO way to know about what I spoke, I mean that completely. It wasn't a long buried or forgotten memory or anything like that. One concerned a condition about which I had no idea, and the other literally was a prophecy of the future that has been fulfilled in ways that have nothing to do with confirmation bias.)

I have shared the details elsewhere, though rarely, but I'm not going to do so here - since the details really aren't relevant to the point that sometimes, rarely for me but sometimes, the heavens have opened and God has spoken using me as the conduit. There really is no other logical conclusion, so I choose to accept the illogical conclusion I want to accept.

Every other time is open to interpretation and evaluation, but those very rare times are not.

Anonymous said...

This reminds me of an event reported in someone's near-death experience. The recently-deceased person, in the spirit, was watching some (not dead) guy who needed to leave for the airport to catch a plane for something important, but had forgotten about it. Another spirit sidled up to him and whispered to him that he needed to catch a plane. The guy, who couldn't see the spirits involved and had no idea they were present, suddenly smacked his head and said, "Holy cow, I just remembered - I need to catch an airplane!" And off he went.

Openminded said...

Alright, so you have some very rare times that you don't feel could be explained away to coincidence or the fact that it had a few years to play out. Would've happened if you wanted it to be revelation or not, etc. Were those times any different from the revelations that haven't come true or spiritual affirmations that failed you?

I don't mean to beat a dead horse, I'd just like to know what qualifies as a likely revelation vs. human impulse

Jared said...


Many members of the church have experiences that leave no room for doubt. In other words, there is a continuum of experiences the Lord manifest. On the lower end are experiences that are open to intreputation, then there are those like a dream that comes to pass--more certain, then their are visitations--these are certain.

Openminded said...

Visitations? Describe these, some have been recreated in a lab.

Jared said...


I watched the video. Interesting stuff. I first heard about this research a few years. Thanks for the link.

OK, let's put this idea to work on the following miraculous experience given to Amanda Smith when her son Alma's hip was shot out at Haun's Mill.

Amanda received instructions from the Lord on how to treat the wound. Alma's hip was healed, and medical doctors marveled over it for decades.

Here's the link:


Jared said...

Following is part of an account from Andrew Jenson's Biographical Encyclopedia Volume 2, Amanda Smith, p. 792.

But to return to Alma, and how the Lord helped me to save his life. I removed the wounded boy to a house, some distance off, the next day, and dressed his hip; the Lord directing me as before. I was reminded that in my husband's trunk there was a bottle of balsam. This I poured into the wound, greatly soothing Alma's pain. 'Alma, my child,' I said, 'you believe that the Lord made your hip?' 'Yes, mother.' 'Well, the Lord can make something there in the place of your hip, don't you believe he can, Alma?' 'Do you think that the Lord can, mother?' inquired the child, in his simplicity. 'Yes, my son,' I replied, 'he has showed it all to me in a vision.' Then I laid him comfortably on his face and said: 'Now you lay like that, and don't move, and the Lord will make you another hip.' So Alma laid on his face for five weeks, until he was entirely recovered-a flexible gristle having grown in place of the missing joint and socket, which remains to this day a marvel to physicians. On the day that he walked again I was out of the house fetching a bucket of water, when I heard screams from the children. Running back, in affright, I entered, and there was Alma on the floor, dancing around, and the children screaming in astonishment and joy. It is now nearly forty years ago, but Alma has never been the least crippled during his life, and he has traveled quite a long period of the time as a missionary of the gospel and a living miracle of the power of God. I cannot leave the tragic story without relating some incidents of those five weeks when I was a prisoner with my wounded boy in Missouri, near the scene of the massacre, unable to obey the order of extermination. All the Mormons in the neighborhood had fled out of the State, excepting a few families of the bereaved women and children who had gathered at the house of Brother David Evans, two miles from the scene of the massacre. To this house Alma had been carried after that fatal night. In our utter desolation, what could we women do but pray? Prayer was our only source of comfort; our Heavenly Father our only helper. None but he could save and deliver us. One day a mobber came from the mill with the captain's fiat: 'The captain says if you women don't stop your d--d prayer he will send down a posse and kill every d--d one of you!' And he might as well have done it, as to stop us poor women praying in that hour of our great calamity. Our prayers were hushed in terror. We dared not let our voices be heard in the house in supplication. I could pray in my bed or in silence, but I could not live thus long. This godless silence was more intolerable than had been that night of the massacre. I could bear it no longer. I pined to hear once more my own voice in petition to my Heaven Father. I stole down to a corn field, and crawled into a stalk of corn.' It was as the temple of the Lord to me at that moment. I prayed aloud and most fervently. When I emerged from the corn a voice spoke to me. It was a voice as plain as I ever hear one. It was no silent, strong impression of the spirit, but a voice, repeating a verse of the Saint's hymn:

That soul who on Jesus hath leaned for repose,
I cannot, I will not, desert to its foes;
That soul, though all hell should endeavor to shake,
I'll never, no never, no never forsake!

From that moment I had no more fear.

Papa D said...

"Were those times any different from the revelations that haven't come true or spiritual affirmations that failed you?"

Yes - absolutely. Not even close.

Jeff Lindsay said...

In acknowledging the difficulty of sometimes discerning where an idea came from, even inspired ones, I should have clarified what I hope would already be understood:

The difficulty in identifying the source of detailed information in our heads is quite a different matter than recognizing that prayers are heard and that God answers them. The person that prays will often have many inspiring experiences that show over and over the reality of God and His love. The person who prays sincerely will find something, I believe, and will become a better person than before. Miracles may be experienced without necessarily being able to figure out who should be called to which calling or which of several good choices is the best one, and though we are left to our own devices many times, we learn that we are never alone. God is real and prayer works, even if it rarely works the way we want.

NathanS said...

In response to "...that is not any reason to suppose that there is no true voice..."

Openminded writes
"I agree that there's no reason to suppose there isn't one. There's just no evidence that the means Mormonism gives are any more reliable than just going with your gut."

I suspect that in many cases, LDS instructions are simply different words for "go with your gut." While probably each set of instructions is very clear to many people, neither are clear enough for me. In LDS doctrine, the Spirit enlightens all people. So when gut feelings lead to good results, someone has followed the Spirit.

Has anyone ever followed a gut feeling and been wrong? I don't know. If so, there are two kinds of gut feelings: right and wrong. If right and wrong are gut feelings, at least some of them come a little differently; and with trial and error (reviewing results after acting on the feelings), one can get better at discerning the difference between truth and error before acting on the feeling.

So in many instances, LDS are essentially saying, "Follow your gut instincts; and if you are not in tune with your gut, there's a way to get progressively in tune; don't give up."

Of course LDS recognize God for providing a mechanism for "gut feelings."

You wrote:
"And so I see no reason to believe that prayerful affirmations, like the one promised by Moroni, are reliable."

Some very successful business persons attribute their success to going with prayerfully made decisions when their "intellectual meter" and "hunch/gut meter" align. (Quotes contain my wording, not theirs.)

Moroni 9:3 requires three means of informing the "intellectual meter" - read, remember, and ponder, before getting the profitable "gut feeling"/intellectual alignment.

Noting a list of ingredients (read, remember, ponder, pray) for cooking up a dish of desired “knowledge” we may accuse Moroni of neglecting to give us the portions. (For example: Read seven and a half minutes. Remember for six seconds. Ponder for eight minutes.) Lacking a detailed recipe, we may be left to speculation on how to put the ingredients together.

You wrote:
"It all sounds very speculative."

I’ve come close to being 100% with you on this matter but I had too much evidence of many people having a better rate of success at determining truth than what educated speculation could provide. I reluctantly concluded that there was no way I could honestly make my home in the "speculation" camp in light of the many evidences that I possessed. My personal experiences since then have confirmed what once was reluctant logic.

It doesn't help that the portions of each ingredient will be different from person to person and situation to situation. I suppose that in each situation, one must experiment on an apportionment of the ingredients. If the apportionment brings on appropriate clarity, success! If not, one may select one or more ingredients to go back to and repeat the process until appropriate clarity is achieved or until the time for action or inaction has arrived, whichever comes first.

Perhaps that is one reason that for some of us, learning to read hunches / gut feeling / the Spirit is like learning a new language. Getting truth from God may sometimes be very easy but other times inconvenient, even hard work.

But there is no reason to reduce Moroni's formula to "just a hunch" status because it is far more like (and in at least one case, a version of) the more inclusive and intellectual formula of some who are economically, highly successful.

Thank you, Openminded, Jeff, and Card, for prompting me to revisit Moroni 9:3.

Mateo said...

"If I want to show my kids the interesting reaction that vinegar and baking soda make when mixed together, but I accidentally use baking powder instead, we know it won’t work. And we wouldn’t find it to be inappropriate if someone pointed to the problem so we could make corrective action. Why then is it so absurd when someone who cares about you makes the same comment to you about why you might not be receiving the spiritual results they have received?"

So I would agree 100% that a person would be right in telling you in such a situation, "Hmm... you apparently aren't using the right ingredients." That would be sensible and he can show you (in a way that is inescapable for you and based on evidence you can accept and not just have to take his word for it) that he is correct in this by recreating, before your eyes, the experiment. At which point you can try and ignore what you've seen or accept that he is right.

When it comes to revelation and which church is right it no longer works this way. Now you have two people making contradictory claims with no way of showing the other in any repeatable fashion that one answer is 'correct' and the other is false.

Let's say that the LDS church is true and you believe it. You look at someone that prays and asks for an answer claiming that the answer was a negative one (the church is not true) or a neutral one (I don't receive any sort of recognizable answer) and you say, "well they're doing it wrong or they aren't being humble enough to let the lord work on his time or methods." You in this case would be correct but your method of 'knowing' isn't any better the the methods of the person that came away with a different answer.

The problem I believe that people have when it comes to personal inspiration is that you get tons of confirmation bias. Person prays, feels good about a particular decision and they take it. A result is encountered. If it's obviously positive then "hooray! God answered my prayer and led me to the correct answer!" if the result is negative then one of two things happens. The person questions if it REALLY came from god ("maybe I was mistaken? or not listening to the spirit correctly!") or the person will find some aspect of the result that they think they learned something from and the answer was taken as an opportunity to learn and grow.

The issue for me is that the person has already decided that the answer is from god even though they don't have a reliable way of actually knowing this because either the 'answer' is extremely vague, or the result can be interpreted in all sorts of different ways. It really seems like you need a preconceived bias or a strong desire for god to be answering you questions in order to conclude that he is, whereas you don't need either of those in order to be convinced that Baking powder and vinegar have no reaction.

Mateo said...

I should rephrase the previous statement. The person has already decided that god answers prayers, not just that their individual question was answered.

Openminded said...

Interesting story. I hate to do the following to it.

Researching the story came up with a bit of background, and it really started to sound like a faith-promoting rumor. For one, he's recounting events from when he was 11 years old but as a...? At this site, it says his daughter recounted this story as he was telling it to some friends of his. There was also some anachronistic ruminations about a "Father McBride" as you can see in the annotations, but uh...I don't know, what have you found?

Papa D,
I'll just have to take your word for it. But hang on, I remember going through a relevant experience (I mean, hearing about one) that, for a long time, kept me as a liberal before I reached agnosticism. In what ways, though, did it differ?

Openminded said...

I feel like anybody could pray often enough and "have many inspiring experiences that show over and over the reality of God and His love," just as I did back when I believed. But I feel like it's only because the people are trying to find the good in a good or bad situation and attribute it to God.

I mean, just listen to what Nathan had to say. "In LDS doctrine, the Spirit enlightens all people. So when gut feelings lead to good results, someone has followed the Spirit." This is a classic example of the association principle. You came up with the idea or concept while in a spiritual moment, so when something good happens to you resulting from that idea, god made it happen. It's complete speculation. There are simple and loving forms of this that are just fine, but they follow the exact same framework of speculation used by the pastor who claimed Haiti's earthquake was God's punishment. The bible shows God punishing sin with destruction, Haiti undergoes destruction, they must've been sinners and God was punishing them. Same concept, only we reject it because, aside from it being a completely natural earthquake, God wouldn't do such a thing. And you know there were people out there who believed God would do such a thing just because their belief system said that's how life works.

Openminded said...

(also, Jeff, please correct me if I took your words out of context)

I read a book written by Donald Trump one time and he recommended going with your gut. It's just that age-old concept of intuition. We can all Google search it, it wins some and loses some, just like it does in Mormonism. Only this time, it's put in a secular context where God, prayer, and the Spirit aren't even a consideration.

In all likelihood, your example of intelligent and economically successful people could've been just fine without the Spirit. Sure, their upbringing, network connections due to their religious affiliation, etc. may have played a significant role in how they go to where they were. But pointing to the Spirit as the reason for the gut feeling is pure, 100% speculation. I could counter by saying an invisible fairy tickled him in the stomach, and we'd both have just as much evidence as each other to support it.

Jared said...


Alma's shot away hip was healed by the power of God, or it wasn't!

All the evidence I have seen, including the link you provided, testifies it was miraculously healed.

If you don't have any evidence to the contrary I hope you will not dodge the power of this account.

How many people have their hip destroyed and then healed like Alma's.

Quoting from the link you provided she says:

When a girl of 18 years, I visited with my father at the home of my grandmother. On our last evening with her, she gathered her children and grandchildren about her and again related incidents connected with her wonderful life. Once more we heard the story of their combined sufferings at Haun’s Mill, and of the Divine help and support received during their awful experience. As a fitting climax, grandmother said, "Alma, for the benefit of these children, that it may be a living, burning testimony of God’s power, will you let them see your hip?" I shall never forget the electrical thrill of conviction than ran like fire through my entire system as I gazed upon the handiwork of God. A broad, thick, strong ligament or muscle had united the trunk of the body with the limb, constituting a joint or the necessary equivalent for perfect free use of the body.

Thanks for the link, faith promoting site.

Papa D said...

"I remember going through a relevant experience (I mean, hearing about one) that, for a long time, kept me as a liberal before I reached agnosticism. In what ways, though, did it differ?"

One was personal (mine); one was anecdotal (yours).

Fwiw, I tend to be MUCH more "lenient" toward Laman and Lemuel than most members when I read them saying, "God maketh no such things known unto us." I tend to think they probably were telling the truth - that they simply weren't "visionary men" like Lehi and Nephi. I think Lehi and Nephi probably figured, "If we can have these types of visions, surely everyone can - so Laman and Lemuel must be slackers for not having them." I think that type of assumption happens all the time in religion, relative to LOTS of things - and I think Moroni probably thought the same thing with regard to the Holy Ghost making the truth "known" to anyone who sincerely seeks. Of course, I also think that actually might occur for everyone - but in ways they don't attribute to the Holy Ghost, so I can't say for certain one way or the other. I just choose to come down on the side of charity toward those who don't seem to be able to have those types of experiences.

After all, our own scriptures in the D&C say that some have the gift of knowing, while others have the gift of believing those who know. I think there are others who have neither gift and simply have to work out what makes sense to them personally.

Openminded said...

my point is that the account is unreliable for the reasons that it is told with decades of time in between recounting, and then, it's actually written out by the guy's daughter who's trying to remember what her old grandmother said word-for-word. It's such an unreliable account that it has its own anachronisms; and he's 11 years old anyways, so how well can he remember such an old event with such accuracy? Anything could've happened to Alma, be it a blown hip, a partially blown hip, or maybe she was just shot in the hip. And with all the pain and stress Alma went through, it's likely she was told what happened to her anyways and built up the story from there.

You're welcome for the site, but just don't be so gullible. You seemed to take the account literally without considering the troubles of oral traditions that were written down multiple decades after the fact.

Papa D,
I really butchered my reply to you. I meant to ask what made your prophetical experience different from your false spiritual experiences, and later on, I meant to recount the story about how a person gave a eulogy about how God can take your life at any moment--and then he died when he sat back down.

but as for "our own scriptures in the D&C say that some have the gift of knowing, while others have the gift of believing those who know. I think there are others who have neither gift and simply have to work out what makes sense to them personally."

It's hard not to see this in the light of speculation again. It might be worth noting that some peoples' brains are more hardwired for spirituality, though sometimes due to exposure and practice of spirituality. The Magical World View, written by Dr. Quinn, makes strong note of how this was the culture of the 19th century. NPR had a good article about the neuroscience behind this as well.

Jared said...


I respect your choice not to believe the account about Alma's miraculous healing. Agency is a gift from God and I won't go into one of those back and forth exchanges to make you see my point of view. It always seem to lead to contention and is unproductive.

However, I will invite you to read my reasons for being a member of the LDS church by using the link below:


Openminded said...

Even if I believed it happened, I doubt it happened as it was laid out in the account.

Anyways, I'll visit your link and read your reasoning. Possibly post as well.

Mike S said...

I suppose my issue is the seemingly random nature of this. Perhaps I come at this from too rational of a background. In science, a similar experiment performed under similar conditions should always give the same result.

The scenarios, many of which I have seen in my field of medicine:

- I have seen prayers and blessings where things have been said which I can't explain any other way than they come from something bigger than me.
- I have seen other prayers and blessings where something was promised, good feelings and tears were present, and the exact OPPOSITE of what was promised happened, including dying the day after a full recovery was promised.
- I have seen non-religious people without a blessing have absolutely unexplainable results and be healed in a miraculous fashion
- I have seen people without blessings die.

So, it is perhaps the seemingly random nature of results that bothers me. We obviously fall back on "God's will" for these. If someone is blessed and gets "better", we look at that as fulfillment. If someone is bless and doesn't get better, we suggest that's God's will as well. Given that, what purpose did the blessing serve?

Mateo said...

@ Mike s,
This is exactly my confusion with this sort of thing. Apparently god decides to do things whether people were blessed or not. :/

I'm usually told that we are to be tested and tried in life so god doesn't give us all the answers. That feels like avoiding the question though. As Openminded has stated numerous times it all seems to be speculation. Nobody can point to any pattern and show that their belief is the correct one.

NathanS said...

Papa D, I'm with you 100%

It is interesting how people will deny that the sun, in a figurative sense, just because they live above some lattitude and don't get a daily dose. Where and who they live among is their choice. I should live among the prophets more, myself. Back to my reading of scriptures and Mormanity?

Papa D said...

Ironically, I agree that it all seems like speculation - and without those very few exceptional experiences, I would agree completely that it actually all boils down to speculation.

I do think it all boils down to individual perspective, which is why I simply refuse to belittle or demean or dismiss anyone else's disbelief in the miraculous and revelatory. It also is why I refuse to accept uncritically someone else's claims of the miraculous and revelatory. I just can't know for sure "what" and "why" in those cases - and I barely can know "what" in my own cases and rarely "why".

NathanS said...

Oops! bad grammar - should have omitted the word "that."

But much worse, my last post came off too glib. I owe appologies to Mateo and Mike S. And maybe to openminded as well. I nearly entered the doubting camp myself but I was unusually informed on too many matters. I suppose that had I received the standard fare at home and at Church, I couldn't have seen those patterns that are so clear to me either.

Blessings to all who care about knowing what is true!

Jared said...

Papa D (Ray) said:

"I refuse to accept uncritically someone else's claims of the miraculous and revelatory."

I uncritically ask you if you want to modify this statement? This statement says you have no faith. At least, that is how I read it.

I've just assumed you believed the testimonies of the prophets from Joseph Smith to this day. Last I heard, you have a responsible position in your stake leadership.

What you wrote sounds like a New Order Mormon, is that what you're saying?

"Faith is not to have a perfect knowledge of things..." Alma 32:21

"...I never hear of a man being damned for believing too much; but they are damned for unbelief.” Joseph Smith, History of the Church, 6:477.

When I first visited the bloggernacle nearly 4 years ago, I was astonished to see so many testimonies of unbelief being expressed by members of the church.

I decided to share some of my experiences with the Spirit to add balance to the discussions. I thought others would do the same. Once again, I was astonished that no one stepped forward. Instead, I was subjected to various kinds of insult. You were among them.

However, to your credit, you stopped being vocally critical and basically avoided me. So be it. Once again, I am not being critical. I'm interested in learning.

I'll say it again, I am not trying to be harsh or critical--I want to understand what you meant in the above quote.

Papa D said...

"This statement says you have no faith."

As carefully and lovingly as I can say this, Jared, that sentence is a prime example of why many people avoid getting into conversations with you. Honestly, I haven't tried to do that (seriously), but I understand why others do. My statement ABSOLUTELY does NOT say I have no faith; it simply means my faith is not BLIND.

Jared, "uncritically" means without thought and searching. From dictionary.com: "undiscriminating; not applying or not guided by the standards of analysis" - synonyms: "shallow, superficial, casual"

NOTHING about my faith is "shallow, superficial or casual". My comment means I don't accept others' accounts without prayer and contemplation. I have faith, but it's not a shallow, superficial or casal faith. It doesn't mean I reject all accoutns of the miraculous or revelatory - and NOTHING I've EVER said in the Bloggernacle even remotely implies that.

I hope you can understand that answer - and why your characterization of my comment would be incredibly offensive if I chose to take it that way. I don't, despite how this response might sound upon first read. I simply chose to word it forcefully in the hope that you might understand more fully - both what I actually meant and why many people avoid you on-line.

I've defended you numerous times behind the scenes as a good, sincere person of great faith - but this is a good example of why I've had to do that.

Jared said...

Papa D,

Thanks for your response to my honest and straight forward question.

However, I wish you wouldn't paint an unkind characterization of me. This has been your approach for a long time and is done in various ways.

I wouldn't be here if I didn't have a favorable impact on others.

My heart aches for those who are losing faith. My heart aches for those who attend church out of habit. My heart aches for those who feel that being called to high profile church callings is a substitute for receiving the gift of the Holy Ghost. My heart aches for those who confuse moral and ethical principles for the doctrine of Christ.

There are many other forms of looking beyond the mark that I see among church members that cause me heart ache.

I think you dislike my form of communication and mistake it for something I never intended. I never intend to be critical. I'm not in to putting others down.

I'm to the point and don't know how to be otherwise.

I have many visitors to my website, not so many comments, but enough comments and emails to confirm that their are many who find my message of concentrating on the first principles of the gospel, and to seek diligently for the gift of the Holy Ghost worthwhile.

Jared said...

Papa D,

Let's be friends, even when we disagree.

Openminded said...

Papa D,
I agree with you on your conclusion. I too can't think of a natural reason as being the more reasonable side for some of the truly miraculous experiences that occur--albeit they occur rarely. I can't rationalize the source of these experiences to any one supernatural being or religion (though plurality has been on my mind for some time), but I must admit, they throw me off the typical path of "no, that has a perfectly natural explanation."

Now I'm just stuck with Yes these experiences happen, but the source of the experience is what's speculative this time. I do not want to take the discussion any further, but I did have to fall back a step.

I posted a comment on your blog before understanding the nature of your blog. I try not to post in places that are meant purely to promote faith rather than discussion, unless I'm invited to discuss. I'm wondering, though, if you visited the link about sleep paralysis.

Openminded said...

Also, a word about critical thinking.

It's more about thinking things through logically than it is trying to throw dirt on someone else's position.

You can think critically about something and conclude that it's acceptable. If Papa D accepted spiritual claims uncritically, then he would have no problem accepting someone saying that they were the new prophet and X, Y, Z just changed because they had a strong spiritual experience and were Mormon.

Jared said...


Sleep paralysis is not what I experienced. I've never had the kind of experience discussed on the link you provided.

The title of this post, "Inspiration from God or Just Our Own Random Thoughts" addresses just one kind of communication from God. As you're aware, there are many ways He communicates. My experiences include other kinds, they create certainty. These kinds of communication from God are so compelling the receiptant is held accountable as described in 2 Nephi 31:14.

Papa D said...

Jared, I view you as a brother and a friend. I mean that sincerely. That's why I defend you behind the scenes and don't avoid communicating with you. I just think you don't see how condescending the way you write makes you appear to many people - and that's what I tried to address in my response.

You said:

"I never intend to be critical. I'm not in to putting others down."

However, in your previous comment you said that my wording means I have no faith. It didn't say anything like that, but it's a charge you have made about LOTS of people who really do have great faith - just not the exact same faith manifested in the exact same way as your own great faith. Whatever your intent, when you say insulting things, it comes across to them as putting them down. Thus, I have had to defend you multiple times to multiple people.

I've NEVER denied your writing helps lots of people; I know that, and I've never said otherwise. It's actually something I've said when I'm defending you to others. All I'm saying is that your writing also insults and offends lots of people - and MANY of them are insulted and offended because of the incorrect way your words characterize them and, in very real ways, put them down.

I'm going to try to explain my previous comment about not accepting things uncritically a bit differently, and I'm going to try to relate it to this post:

"Faith" is the substance of things "hoped for" - the evidence of things "not seen". When "faith" becomes "knowledge" it no longer is faith - at least in the mind and heart of the person who believes s/he "knows". Therefore, saying someone has no faith simply because they can't say they know something (not everything, just something) is, in my opinion, a misuse of the word "faith". In my opinion, someone who can't say they "know" but still holds to "belief" actually is exercising "faith" in the truest sense of the word - hoping in something based on unseen evidence.

So, if someone like David Koresh claims to have received revelation for what they are doing, I am left with three options:

1) Accept it "uncritically", simply because someone claimed it. In other words, employ "blind faith" by hoping that person is correct but not examining their claims in any way - or only shallowly and casually. I don't do that, as I said - and I know you don't do that, either - which means, if I don't have faith for that reason, you don't have faith for that same reason. Obviously, that's not accurate, so my statement does not mean I have no faith.

2) Accept it critically. That means I think and ponder and read and pray about it and come to believe it. I have done that regarding some revelatory claims, including at least one in which I was involved directly.

3) Examine it critically and not accept it. Same explanation as #2, but with the opposite result. I have done that regarding some revelatory claims, as well.

Papa D said...

Joseph Smith had his experiences largely because he refused to accept things uncritically - because he was willing to examine things critically. "If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God," is a directive to be "critical" in the purest sense of the word and in the way I use it. So is, "Seek ye out of the best books . . ." and, "receive . . . read . . . ponder . . . pray . . ." and, "plant . . . the seed . . . and . . . (observe its growth)."

I only can be sure of those experiences that happen to me - or to others for whom I have felt a prompting to accept them as revelators. In an important way, those experiences have "happened to me" if I have gone through the critical process of accepting the revelator as a legitimate revelator. That doesn't mean I have to believe everything they say is revelation, but it does mean it's much easier to accept revelation from them. The onus for that decision is on me - as an exercise of my faith - as something for which I am willing to hope with some degree of evidence in the absence of actual sight.

Does that help clarify what I meant?

Bookslinger said...

Sometimes it is proper to mention inspiration/revelation _after_ the event in order to give credit to the Lord.

The Ensign magazine regularly has faith promoting stories/articles about people who say they were prompted of the Spirit to check on the kids, and because of following the prompting, they saved the baby, or whoever.

Psalms 105:1 and Isaiah 12:4 state that making known the Lord's doings/deeds is a way of thanking and praising him. I think that revelation/inspiration is something that is done by the Lord, and therefore it qualifies as a "doing" or a "deed".

When someone tries to praise us for some we do, it may be appropriate to respond by giving the Lord credit for having inspired it in the first place.

In my book distribution efforts, I very rarely tell the persons whom I contact whether inspiration was involved. But when I blog about it, I usually mention it if there was, because I want to give the Lord the credit. And even if there was no obvious inspiration involved with an encounter, I still acknowledge (though not specifically in writing in each post) that the Lord has a hand in what seem to us to be "random" circumstances. He always has the power to arrange things behind the scenes, which leaves us wondering whether the Lord really meant for something to happen.

Another reason for claiming inspiration (after the fact) in the few instances where it occurs, is to illustrate that the vast majority of my encounters don't involved inspiration: they either happen on their own, or sometimes, I intentionally create an opportunity. To me, this illustrates the teaching that we shouldn't be commanded in all things, that we have the power to bring about good on our own without having to be told.

Jared said...

Papa D,

I read and reread your latest comment. Once again, thanks for taking the time to respond to my question.

I also, very much appreciate your words about being a brother and friendship, that means a great deal to me.

Additionally, thanks for standing up for me when you felt it necessary. That is friendship and brotherly love in action.

Regarding faith, all that you wrote about faith is the way I understand it. The only thing I would add is that there needs to be results when we apply our faith. If we're not getting results on a consistent basis when we approach Heavenly Father for help, then we need to ask ourselves why? Having said this, I don't experience help every time I ask, but the Lord responds much of the time.

I think faith can be defined for everyone using the same words, but the results can vary greatly when faith is individually applied.

For example, when Enos wrestled with God in mighty prayer for a remission of his sins, he didn't see God. But he did obtain the blessing he sought.

On the other hand, the brother of Jared prayed to God to obtain a certain blessing and received an answer, but on top of that, his faith was so exceedingly strong he couldn't be couldn't be kept from within the veil and saw the Savior.

I don't completely understand why faith can be so different from one individual to another. But that isn't the important thing to occupy our mind. The important work is to learn how to grow in faith from wherever we're at, to a greater dimension.

This is where my focus is. I desire to help others acquire more faith, and in so doing have my own increased.

There is much more that can be said, I just want you and others to know that I am searching to find ways to help others draw nearer to the Lord, especially those who are reaching out for help in various ways. There is a steady flow of them in the nacle.

Jared said...


Great comment. Thanks

Openminded said...

Your experience wasn't the exact same, but the not being able to breathe and speak part was dead on with what's basically a mind malfunction that happens when you wake up from your sleep cycle at a bad time, with your body still in a semi-dream state.

And hey, your faith thing is great, but people have different faiths for a reason: they all attribute it to something different. Results are fairly random coming from faith. Pretty much the same ups and downs as everyone else, believing or secular.

mkprr said...

Maybe this is a closer example than the viniger volcano test. I’ve been dealing with a bad cold. 3 days ago I went and bought some Nyquil. I slept amazing the first night, and I slept great the second night. Last night, even though I used it again (I should probably stop before I get too used to it!) I was up half the night with a relentless cough. Does it mean that the first two nights were nothing more than the placebo effect? My cold symptoms are different now than they were two days ago, also instead of using an actual tbl spoon to measure the dose, I just used a kitchen spoon and guestimated. There are many factors that may have affected the results. Someone with a lot of experience might be able to point out a few things to me to help me use it more effectively.

Alma 37:38-47 in conjunction with 1 Nephi 16 is another really good section on the subject of inspiration/revelation and what to expect from God. Alma (I think he is the one speaking) talks about the Liahona and compares it to the scriptures and the Holy Ghost. The Liahona was a huge benefit to Lehi when it worked properly. It was useless when it didn’t, and it worked according to their faith and diligence to heed it. It wasn’t just evil deeds that made the Liahona useless, all Lehi did was murmur and it stopped working. Obviously they were hungry and distraught at the time which means even when it was working, it didn’t always give them as much guidance as they would probably have liked to have had. Lehi was out there, keeping the commandments, he sacrificed everything to follow the Lord, but even so when he faltered the Liahona stopped working. Lehi didn’t die in the wilderness, Nephi was able to help him through it but the direct guidance from the liahona was gone.

The point I’m trying to make is, if you are losing/have lost faith because inspiration/revelation don’t feel any more reliable than a placebo does, try carefully searching the scriptures to reexamine what the Lord is willing to give and what he requires. Then test it out again. There may be something you have missed. Or maybe not but I think it's worth it.

Mateo said...

If I'm understanding right you're stating that revelations are like the nyquil? Is that correct? The problem is that, while there are statistical outliers we CAN independently verify that Nyquil has an effect. There are a ton of variables involved in what the effect will be for the vast majority of people the effects will be rather similar and repeatable. The FDA relies on this sort of testing (while it can be debated how good of a job they do with it or whether there are back room payouts for things to go a particular way. ;) The thing is it's verifiable and if you really wanted to go in depth with it you could study it further. Revelation does not work that way. There is no way for me to repeat what you did to get a testimony in the same way and get the same result. One person will claim they were visited by an angel another will claim they felt intense calm and another will say they felt nothing, or felt like what they were praying about was wrong. You can say that "well every person is different so the results won't be the same" Most of us aren't that horribly different. There should be at least some verifiable evidence that is repeatable if the phenomenon is actually real.

Most faith promoting stories I hear are either extremely vague or are very ancient stories where the actual witnesses of the event are often not even the ones that recorded it. On top of that sometimes these stories are not backed up by other historical records.

People of all different faiths claim to have spiritual confirmations of what they believe to be true. It seems odd that god is giving them confirmations of things that will lead them away from his true church or hinder they're joining it. Especially when he told Joseph that all other churchs were false and an abomination before his eyes. That simply doesn't make sense to me.

Papa D said...

"Especially when he told Joseph that all other churches were false and an abomination before his eyes."

He didn't say that.

JSH 1:19 says the "creeds" were an abomination, not the churches. That verse gets absolutely butchered by most people who talk about it, both LDS members and non-members. It drives me nuts sometimes, but usually I just sigh and shake my head.

If you are interested, I parsed that verse very carefully and exhaustively on Momron Matters almost 2 1/2 years ago. The link is:


It isn't a warm fuzzy for other religions by any stretch, but for most people it simply doesn't say what they think it says. Really, it's not even close to how most people summarize it.

mkprr said...


The point I was trying to make, and evidently did a bad job at, with the vinegar and Nyquil example was that you can test a true principle and get bad results if you do the experiment wrong, or expect unrealistic results.

According to the scriptures as I understand them, anyone who is fully ready to submit to God and test his word according to his terms laid out in scripture, will enjoy the fruits of the spirit without exception. After this they are still free to disregard the evidence provided by the Lord, but if they don’t and if they make room for it to grow, and let the influence of the spirit give them courage to continue testing the words of Christ the evidence will grow.

Alma promises the seed will sprout, a seedling isn’t solid, it is weak and flimsy, it will be a solid tree if allowed to grow but it’s not in the beginning.

If you expect solid evidence then you are expecting something the scriptures don’t promise until later in your spiritual life, and you won’t get what you are expecting. It is true that there are scriptural accounts of some people receiving solid evidence in the beginning, but solid irrefutable evidence isn’t promised to us at first anywhere that I know of.

Mateo said...

Thanks for the info.

I'm still rather confused as to how this is much different when he says this. And Smith claims (in this version of the first vision anyways) that he was asking which sect to join.
"they draw near to me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me, they teach for doctrines the commandments of men, having a form of godliness, but they deny the power thereof."

How is he not saying that these other churches are false?

"I was answered that I must join none of them, for they were all wrong; and the Personage who addressed me said that all their creeds were an abomination in his sight; that those professors were all corrupt; that: “they draw near to me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me, they teach for doctrines the commandments of men, having a form of godliness, but they deny the power thereof."

I still see no rational reason why an all knowing god that sees religions other then mormonism in this sort of a light is encouraging people to follow these various creeds and religious philosophies. People from these various creeds feel that they are just as correct as you feel about your own. If the religion one chooses isn't that important this sort of behavior would be more consistent but I have yet to see much scriptural evidence that god feels that way. The church today places a big emphasis on how mainstream it is and how similar it is to other christian churches but in the end the fact remains, that it sees itself as the only viable avenue to returning to god (whether it be in this life or the next).

Mateo said...

I understand how an experiment can yield bad results if it's not properly understood or copied.

The frustration with these gospel "tests" though is that all the answers are subjective as well as the timescale and types of answers received. I mean how can you really say that you're right about your convictions when there are others with the same level of conviction about their own religions? Religions that they have tested and put faith in and worked with all their lives, and also feel the same amount of conviction? Is god testifying to them that their non-LDS religions are the ones he wants them to be in or are they simply misreading the evidence? How can you know that you're actually right and not just going into things with with the assumption that you're probably correct and then using selective vision in how you categorize the evidences that your faith is correct?

Basically I'm not very convinced that Moroni's promise wouldn't work in a similar way for things like Scientology Judaism, or Muslim worship. Basically how do you avoid the prospect of false positives when you're absolutely surrounded by people that are highly convinced that their wildly divergent ideas on what god is are the correct ones?

Since there isn't a way to verify these sorts of truths it always leaves it up to speculation and seems a very poor way of ever really getting a very convincing answer.

Or are we assuming that what one wants to be true some how makes it true? I just am not getting how this is a satisfying answer for people.

Mateo said...

I reread through your blog post and I want to say that while your interpretation of the verse makes sense it still has the same sorts of problems. I agree that it doesn't mean all churchs are evil,or filled with horrible people.

The problem is that if the COJCOLDS is the one true church and it's ordinances are the only way to return to god then other churchs are fundamentally dangerous. Having the spirit present in them at all would only encourage their members to stop seeking for the correct church. Basically it's like having a serial killer that looks like a nice guy versus one that looks super creepy and menacing. The nice looking one is infinitely more dangerous as he's going to catch you off guard. The one that is how he looks is usually going to be avoided.

Maybe I have a massive misunderstanding in all this stuff though. Is joining the true church in life not really all that important in the long run? If it is, it's hard to get around the idea that god is undermining his own goals by spiritually encouraging people to focus on alternative religions.

Papa D said...

"Is joining the true church in life not really all that important in the long run?"

According to the overall theology of Mormonism, it really isn't.

That sounds counter-intuitive and flat-out wrong to most members - and even to most non-members, but how else can work for the dead (including those who have been exposed to the LDS Church in this life - even married to active members) be explained?

Don't get me wrong. I love the "Restored Gospel" - and I have a deep "testimony" of what I call "pure Mormonism". I just don't think anyone will lose anything in the eternities by not joining the LDS Church - unless they received a spiritual witness of some kind telling them that they should do so and ignored it for some kind of "slefish" reason.

If they looked God in the eye and told Him to buzz off, so to speak, that's one thing; if they simply didn't receive that type of answer, for whatever reason, I believe they will "in no way lose their reward". That's bedrock Mormon dcotrine to me, and it's explained quite well, imo, in our 2nd Article of Faith (which I believe is not understood nearly well enough by the vast majority of members).

Ironically, the Atonement as taught in "pure Mormonism" is FAR more expansive than grace as taught in almost all the rest of Christianity - at least, in the way that I see it. I understand not all members see it that way, but I think it's crystal clear in our actual canonized scriptures.

Mateo said...

Your explanation sounds merciful, and it's definitely one that I'm familiar with. It still doesn't make a lot of rational sense to me though. You have god restoring a church to the earth that is severely undermined by the spiritual experiences he sends to people as they worship in their various religions. He goes through the trouble of restoring his "true and everlasting gospel" to the earth and to tell Joseph that all other sects are corrupt and that he should not join them, but... it's not really important to him if people join the true church or not.

This also has other issues as (unless I'm wrong on this which maybe I am) the LDS church teaches that without the saving ordinances of the gospel people can't return to their father in heaven. This seems to insinuate rather strongly that at some point all non mormons need to accept mormonism or they are deprived of the celesitial kingdom. Am I wrong?

If we retain the same outlooks and mental ideas and desires after death (which frankly seems really odd to me given how much of what we say, think, and do is ridiculously affected by our physiology, physical history, and cultural impacts) then people that were raised on spiritual experiences that pointed in the wrong direction are still going to have been hindered by them as these messages that came from god and didn't point towards his church will cause all sorts of heartache and confusion and would ultimately influence some to stick with what they've always known to be true and which god seemingly indicated to them WAS true.

Basically what you're proposing allows us to say, "well this life isn't the end. Non-mormons will have other chances to accept mormonism as the one true way to get to god and accept it's ordinances so it's not a big deal that god spiritually influences them in ways that make it difficult to accept the gospel." Sorry I shouldn't put words in your mouth but that's the thought that is coming to my own mind as I read your last post. I am gracious for the explanation though, please don't take this the wrong way.

Mateo said...

When you state that your description of it is "crystal clear" yet you recognize that many other members don't look at it that way, this comes back to the issue of this whole thread. Why is it not "crystal clear" to the others that read it? If it truly was crystal clear you'd have to make a conclusion that those that don't come to the same conclusion are "doing it wrong". On what basis can you really say this is the case though. I can almost guarantee that you will meet LDS members that are humble and fervent in their study of the scriptures that are coming away with a different interpretation of this idea. How can you be so sure that yours is the correct understanding, and that theirs is wrong? Because such issues lack an ability to analyze them from any outside perspective or in a repeatable verifiable way it becomes problematic to make those sorts of assumptions really. It goes back to Open-Minded's claim that it all seems like pure speculation with nobody really having much of a way to claim that their is the 'right' one. They can make an appeal to what the popular idea is on a given subject but this doesn't really show much (and if we went by this rule book LDS theology in general would be seen as "wrong" since it's a minority viewpoint in the world.)

Jared said...

Papa D & Mateo,

What happens if you factor in the following scriptures to your exchange?

My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me
(New Testament | John 10:27)

...I know my sheep, and they are numbered.

(Book of Mormon | 3 Nephi 18:31)

Openminded said...

I wasn't asked about those scriptures, but...

"My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me
(New Testament | John 10:27)

...I know my sheep, and they are numbered.

(Book of Mormon | 3 Nephi 18:31)"

says nothing because we wouldn't have any way of telling whether one religion is hearing Jesus or not.

Mateo said...

"My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me"

The problem is that there's no way to tell if the things that you say are 'his voice' really are, especially when what you say he says contradicts what others say he says and both of you are using the same technique to know what it's saying.

NathanS said...

LDS have an interesting way of going about knowing things. And some of it is fairly practical. Like Moroni's way: read, remember, ponder. That is good intellect. It sure beats the way many of us make decisions much of the time. I suppose our commenters don't have a lot of opposition to that.

Then there is "pray." I don't see much opposition to that in the comments either. Many successful people pray also. Several years ago I read what some multi-billionnaires were asked about their daily routines and what their answers were. Most read some number of hours a day. I'll bet they didn't do it for the purpose of forgetting what else they knew. Most also were prayerful. And I recall that duo of hunch/gut and intellect that I've mentioned before. If many of the multi-billionnaires are doing the Moroni advice, you sure can speculate on where they get their gut feelings from or where the genesis of their intellect originates but "practical" is a sure bet.

As I believe Openminded indicated, there does appear to be some cases where there is a source of information but the source can be subject to speculation. Fair enough. I have dealt with that challenge successfully in my own life but won't get into that in this comment.

Observations that the revelatory process can't be submitted to some of the scientific standards that are set for such things as trial studies on the safety of medications for FDA approval are correct but not damning. I doubt one needs to do double blind studies on the notion that a child asking for water from his mother is more likely to get some than one who does not. But double blind was not the issue. Abilities to duplicate experiments and get the same response at each instance is the issue. Even so, failure at constant repetition of results is not damning - if LDS say response comes from a Person rather than from Nature.

In LDS theology, God is NOT Nature, NOT anything like the god that some think of as without body parts, passion, form, space, etc. To LDS, God is a Person. LDS should expect individual responses from God that are fashioned for the individual, or denials of responses according to the individual who seeks it.

I have many times received responses but for many years I seemed not to. Over time, I've gained some understanding why.

For me, developing a discerning of revelation has not been all easy but it has definitely been worth it.

There also are reasons why it is important for the gospel and Church to be restored other than merely for each person's timing for entering into it. But those reasons are outside the scope of this thread. But even on the timing thing: if timing of entry into the Kingdom doesn't matter much to the individual "long term," many Saints are grateful to know what they know "now." Why should they be required to wait?

And what are the doubters' purposes in these comments? Are they to learn? To teach? If to teach, are they to teach us to have less hope? Less Happiness? Less good works? What is the purpose? Do you who seem to advocate doubt, do you know your purpose? If it is to learn, that is clearly good. If it is to tear down, is that good?

God will not judge you according to the effects of what you do or according to your testimony but according to your intentions in what you do. So if your intentions are good, then for your sakes, please keep at it.

But if your motive is the thrill of proving someone wrong, you will never prove us wrong. You will only prove whether you will be pursuaded. Is your purpose to prove that you can't be pursuaded?

Mateo said...

"And what are the doubters' purposes in these comments? Are they to learn? To teach? If to teach, are they to teach us to have less hope? Less Happiness? Less good works? What is the purpose? Do you who seem to advocate doubt, do you know your purpose? If it is to learn, that is clearly good. If it is to tear down, is that good?

God will not judge you according to the effects of what you do or according to your testimony but according to your intentions in what you do. So if your intentions are good, then for your sakes, please keep at it.

But if your motive is the thrill of proving someone wrong, you will never prove us wrong. You will only prove whether you will be pursuaded. Is your purpose to prove that you can't be pursuaded?"

I can't speak for anyone else but myself but my reason for commenting in this particular thread is the same reason I have for commenting in most other things in the blogosphere. Quite simply the subject is interesting. I grew up LDS and served a mission and all that so the church still hold quite a bit of interest to me (also many of my family are also members) so I'm interested in seeing if there's something I've missed.

I've mainly been making the statements I made not out of some hope to change anyone's mind (as you rightly stated that isn't very likely anyways) but because frankly some of these ideas seem irrational, dishonest or just misguided (not with any sort of bad intent on the part of the person mind you. I think they're honest mistakes that come about from being part of a religion and it's just as prevalent in any other large scale culture that dictates how one should order their life.

The thread was all about how one can tell true revelation from the random thoughts that are in their head. I'm not seeing a solution to this problem as there is no way to know with any absoluteness or surety what really is the case. In the LDS church typically the way this is dealt with is to say that you are to keep personal revelation to yourself or the things in your jurisdiction (for example bishops can be inspired on how to watch over their congregation but not to make accusations about how the GAs should be conducting the church affairs.) This works great for making things run smoother but when it comes down to it there isn't a very good way for a person to know if their 'revelation' is divine or internally generated. People have bandied about a lot of proposed methods on how to do so but there really isn't a sure fire way just as there isn't a sure fire answering method that god uses.

I've spoken with lots of different members about how they came to know the church is true and they run all over the place. The response to Moroni 3 doesn't produce the same results it's the same general sorts of reasons that people of all different faiths claim to know that their own respective faith is the correct one. As Open-minded put it, there's not a good way to determine what is divine and what is speculation.

Openminded said...

Many successful people do pray, as far as I know. But look at Bill Gates. Warren Buffet. Mark Zuckerburg. They don't believe in god, and yet they are some of the most wildly successful business people in the world. I don't know how much they've gone by their gut--though it is a common business practice to some. But if they have, then their human gut is just as successful--if not more successful--than the gut feeling of a religious person. Of course, it could then be that there's no god behind a gut feeling, and it's just a human emotion like any of the other ones we have. I'm not sure what you meant by "practical", so I'm sorry if I went off course.

"Even so, failure at constant repetition of results is not damning - if LDS say response comes from a Person rather than from Nature."
Then you're right when you say each response is fashioned for the individual. Whether they're Hindu, Muslim, Baptist, Mormon, potentially even agnostic, etc., it seems as though God fashions the spirit in them in whatever way fits them, but He has no preference as to what they hear. That is, assuming it's not all in the individual's head in the first place.

As for my motivation, mine's different coming from a never-mo background. I learned a lot from Mormonism though, so I feel like i can take part in discussions and enjoy them. I even find some arguments more compelling than others. But some people go around promoting these really uncritical thoughts, and it bugs me. I'm fine if they believe, but not if it blinds them (like Young Earth Creationists).

Anyways, I felt like adding that your thought about god condemning those with bad motivations is once again, highly speculative. Your only support for that view is the same as jackg's when he comes in and tells us about who worships the false Jesus and everything.

It's great to have your own views, but they just seem so...made up

mkprr said...

I don’t think it’s wrong for the Lord to bless those outside of the church with the Spirit. He’ll give them more of it if they follow him with all their hearts and he’ll open their eyes to the church if circumstances are right, but he is still doing them a service by blessing them before they have found the church. If my kids won’t eat certain veggies should I only feed them sugars and fats in the hope that they will begin to feel so sick and out of shape that they start eating a perfectly balanced meal? I think a loving parent will offer his children as much good as they will accept.

And yes, I am struggling to get my youngest boy to eat anything fresh or green. Apparently Goldfish crackers should not be introduced to anyone under the age of 2

Openminded said...

That's great, but the analogy is off. To the others, it's as though they are receiving the same "veggies" as you guys are.

When the child is fed one instead of the other and develops a taste for it, isn't it misleading when the other, exact same vegetable was the "Truer" one--with the exact same taste but better benefits--and the parent knew it all along?

And once again, your claims about god leading people to your church are entirely speculative and could apply to any religion (or lack of religion) out there.

And just to prevent any confusion, by "veggies", I was referring to the Spirit. And by eating, I mean following. And by exact same taste, I mean there is no difference in the spirituality of one experience over the other, as has been pointed out in the discussion above.

mkprr said...

Well maybe it’ll make more sense then not to have an analogy. I think a just and loving God can send His Spirit to a catholic to testify that Jesus is the promised Christ, and He can send His Spirit to an agnostic to encourage him to lift up his neighbor and love him as himself even if they reject some other aspects of the gospel. Apparently God chooses to reveal things line upon line.

Openminded said...

Line upon line, leading us to vastly different conclusions about whether Mormonism is a 19th century production or God's true religion.

Sounds like that's exactly how things work.

Papa D said...

"We believe all that God HAS revealed, all the he does NOW reveal, and we believe he will YET reveal many great and important things pertaining to the kingdom of God."

Many members might speak of the "Restoration of All Things" and the "Dispensation of the Fullness of Times" as if those things were events, but that interpretation simply isn't consistent with the overall, macro-level vision of how it actually was presented by Joseph Smith. I look at it as a process - a dispensation in which the fullness will be revealed by its end, and I believe that is fully consistent with what I believe is the core of what I call "pure Mormonism" (meaning what's left when all the cultural crap is removed that constantly accumulates because those pesky wild branches aren't ever completely removed by the periodic pruning).

Read Jacob 5 - especially verses 63-ish through 66-ish. (I'm too lazy to look right now.) It makes it crystal clear, imo, that there will be incorrect traditions of our own fathers, if you will, in the Church right up until the very end - and that it will disappear only as fast as the membership can handle it being removed.

That has direct relevance to this discussion, but I think the absolute best example of its accuracy is the other discussion on this blog about our racial history in the LDS Church - absolutely an example of elements of apostasy that we just can't clear away completely and, too often, come to embrace as doctrine instead of tainted culture or incorrect policy.

So, I have NO problem with the idea of learning line-upon-line and precept-upon-precept (even for prophets, and, perhaps, especially for them) - even as I really wish it wasn't necessary and we just could be adults and full Christians right from the start.

Papa D said...

Oh, I meant to add that I believe some of the greatest revelations / inspirations we get are a direct result of our screw-ups. Sure, it can be seen as (and often is) nothing more than the natural learning process - but I still think it's incredibly powerful to be open to the FACT that every one of us is a sinner who is going to make mistakes, that those who are at the top (of whatever) often make the most glaring and egregious mistakes, and that we need to recognize them as mistakes but be able to say, in essence, "Neither do I condemn thee (myself)." If we aren't open to inspiration / revelation / insight at our worst to average times, most of us will not be open to it very often - at least, no more than half the time.

After all, "with what judgment ye judge, so also shall ye be judged." (I'm NOT saying we need to excuse terrible mistakes, but I am saying we can separate recognition from condemnation in FAR more cases than it is required to combine them.)

Mateo said...

@ Papa D,
Your posts definitely seem to be confirming the hypothesis that what you deem "revelation" could indeed be human speculation. What you have previously described is the exact sort of tactic that a psychic will use with a crowd in order to win them over. Basically you shotgun lots of ideas out there until you get a "hit" and once that "hit" takes place you put a lot of focus on it and how miraculous it was. People that wish to believe in psychics (or desparate to commune with ancestors) are quick to dismiss the numerous misses and focus in on the hit. It's kind of a slight of hand sort of technique.

What you previously described rings very much of this. You're basically stating that when leaders say something that culture later on finds to be "immoral" then that was simply a miss and should be disregarded. Like the psychic is still human his intellect will sometimes get in the way of his ethereal powers at others.

It seems like this concept does create some cognitive dissonance for you though as you go on to point out the ways in which these misfires are not inherently bad because we learned something in the end. Bravo for us! Sure we may have been encouraging oppression by our actions for several decades but once society placed enough pressure that god revealed the error of our ways we learned to be even more awesome!

Now all of this is for nothing if the church really does turn out to be true. All I'm stating here is that, based on the sorts of testing tools we can apply to things of this nature, we don't really have a solid platform to stand on when stating something like, LDS revelation is obviously true, and psychics are obviously deceptive liars, because many of the excuses you are using and reasons for putting your faith in LDS theology work perfectly well on any other number of faiths, or supernatural claims. Many of which I'd imagine you don't buy for a second. Why is that the case?

Mateo said...

If I understand your veggie analogy correctly (it wasn't a horrible one and I get what you're trying to go for I think) you're stating that mormons simply know about a wider variety of healthy veggies then non-LDS do. Is this correct?

Where it breaks down a bit is that you have several religions whose basic premise will set them against accepting LDS theology as a possibility. Part of the reason other churches may see the LDS church as so threatening is how exclusive LDS theology really is. It's hard to get along with a fellow christian church that believes it's the only one that god is still talking directly to, or that it has all the correct ordinances (most of which none of your materials say anything about).

Anyways. You have all these CONTRADICTORY statements (made by those that are Jewish, or Muslim or Christian) and each of them is being supported (from the viewer's POV) as the correct method. I'm trying to make this fit with the veggie analogy but I can't see a good way to reconcile it.

Basically if the LDS church is the true church then other churches are false churches. Why does god influence people, via his holy ghost, to believe in things that will make them LESS likely to join his true church?

Papa D said...

Mateo, I've said all along that I agree with the central point of Card's article and this post. Each comment I've made has been in direct response to that article, Jeff's points and/or someone else's comment. That means I am "shotgunning" to see what sticks? Sorry, I don't buy it - not one bit.

Also, I've said all along that I believe many things we believe are inspiration really are just our best attempts to understand - and that this applies to everyone. That's kind of the point of the entire post, is it not?

Anonymous said...

Papa, Why do you say it is a "FACT" that every one of us is a sinner?
A am not sure you know the meaning of fact. It does not mean something is true just because a lot of people think it is.

Papa D said...

Yes, I agree. Next.

Anonymous said...

Oh OK, cause by what you said, you are not agreeing with yourself. Because you think it, does not make it a fact. And in the absence of any data showing that it is a fact, you are clearly stating an opinion but calling it a fact. Not sure if you were able to follow that logic. I am not sure how to make it more simple though.

Papa D said...

Take a swing at the other cheek. I am not going to respond in any other way. It just isn't worth it.