I always have to laugh when people claim we Mormons (or even believers in general) make our decisions based on “feelings.” What they don’t realize, is EVERYONE makes EVERY decision, at least in part (and often mostly) due to their feelings. Without emotions, we are literally not capable of making decisions. No amount of logical thinking, reasoning, or studying can lead to actual decisions without the influence of emotion: “Cut off from our feelings, the most banal decisions become impossible. A brain that can’t feel can’t make up its mind.”
Emotions are not “irrational.” I think (and feel, haha!) they work hand-in-hand with reason, for better or for worse.
When someone accuses you of making a decision based on your feelings, go ahead and say, “Of course dummy! My decision also involved cognition, but emotion is what ultimately helped me make the decision.”
This is also part of the reason why I think some people can have very similar experiences in the church and end up staying OR leaving it, continuing to believe, or not. We can all think and study and debate endlessly about this or that point, but that will only take us so far. Emotion must be used to actually make our decisions.
This makes me think of the process some experience with the Spirit. They study something out “in their minds” and then ask God if their decision is correct. Then, God willing, they may receive a confirmation of their decision, and they make their choice. Whether you believe spiritual experiences are communication from Deity or just the effects of a frenzied mind (or somewhere on the spectrum), you have to agree, these experiences do come in the form of “feelings” for many people.
Ultimately, it’s emotion that causes something to “sink in” or resonate with us. Ultimately, we must rely on emotion to make a decision, whether it’s a “I don’t believe because it doesn’t add up” or “the gospel impresses me, and my own use of reason suggests that it may or may not be true, and it also is the source of (positive/useful experience, etc.) so I choose to exercise faith in it.”
Let’s put “feelings” on the pedestal they belong, right next to “thought” or “logic.” May we be more aware of our tendencies to favor one over the other, and be open to the fact that we make no decision without both. No decision is based entirely on logic or reason. Let us not succumb to the tyranny of rationality, nor let our decisions be swept up in waves of emotion.
Definitely Related Post: Andrew S on “Argument from Experience and Emotion.“