Spiritual Guidance: A GC Talk Review

Hawkgrrrl Mormon 30 Comments

I wanted to try a new feature – going through some of the previous GC talks to discuss some of the ideas put forth.  I decided to start with E. Scott’s talk from the Oct 2009 GC session:  To Acquire Spiritual Guidance.  This was a talk I enjoyed when it was first given, although the last 3rd got a little repetitious on the whole porn thing (Did you notice that porn has now gone mainstream?  New motto:  Porn, it’s not just for Priesthood session anymore.)

Here’s the talk in a nutshell:

  1. Why we need the spirit.
    • “Throughout the ages, many have obtained guidance helpful to resolve challenges in their lives by following the example of respected individuals who resolved similar problems. Today, world conditions change so rapidly that such a course of action is often not available to us.”  I think E. Scott just admitted that old folks haven’t necessarily “been there, done that.”  It’s kind of a radical thing for an octogenarian to say.  Frankly, I’m not sure all 80-somethings would admit that.  Kudos, E. Scott!
    • “Personally, I rejoice in that reality because it creates a condition where we, of necessity, are more dependent upon the Spirit to guide us through the vicissitudes of life. Therefore, we are led to seek personal inspiration in life’s important decisions.”  So, he’s saying we shouldn’t do things just because of tradition or what others who are older tell us to do, but we should find out for ourselves the best course.  Personal accountability–one, blind obedience to authority–zero!
    • “Spirituality yields two fruits. The first is inspiration to know what to do. The second is power, or the capacity to do it. These two capacities come together.”  Features & benefits of the Spirit.
  2. How to get the Spirit.
    • “I am convinced that there is no simple formula or technique that would immediately allow you to master the ability to be guided by the voice of the Spirit.”  Decrying a formulaic approach to spirituality.  Down with checklists!  Spirituality is personal and subjective.
    • “Our Father expects you to learn how to obtain that divine help by exercising faith in Him and His Holy Son, Jesus Christ. Were you to receive inspired guidance just for the asking, you would become weak and ever more dependent on Them. They know that essential personal growth will come as you struggle to learn how to be led by the Spirit.”  I love the notion that we are supposed to live up to our potential, not just let others make decisions for us.
    • “Your confidence in the direction you receive from the Holy Ghost will also become stronger. I witness that as you gain experience and success in being guided by the Spirit, your confidence in the impressions you feel can become more certain than your dependence on what you see or hear.”  There’s a little bit of implied confirmation bias here, but by the same token, it’s how we develop decision-making ability and intuition:  through experience.  We learn what works and what doesn’t.
    • E. Scott shares 2 contrasting teacher styles and how each resulted in inspiration for him.  While the contrasting examples seem designed to reinforce the correlation committee’s guidelines (the first teacher stuck to the materials and the second one used archane and unusual references), both lessons resulted in personal spiritual guidance for E. Scott.  Of the second experience, E. Scott shared:  “I received such an outpouring of impressions that were so personal that I felt it was not appropriate to record them in the midst of a Sunday School class. I sought a more private location, where I continued to write the feelings that flooded into my mind and heart as faithfully as possible.”  I’m pretty sure he just admitted to ditching Sunday School to write in his journal.
    • “Impressions of the Spirit can come in response to urgent prayer or unsolicited when needed.”  I think it’s hard to chalk it up to the Spirit when it could be confirmation bias – unsolicited one-off ideas are more easily attributable to the Spirit, IMO.
    • “However, the Lord will not force you to learn. You must exercise your agency to authorize the Spirit to teach you. As you make this a practice in your life, you will be more perceptive to the feelings that come with spiritual guidance. Then, when that guidance comes, sometimes when you least expect it, you will recognize it more easily.”  Part of this does strike me as confirmation bias; however, I have experienced an unexpected idea to do something that if I followed it worked out, and sometime I have not and it didn’t work out.  To me, that’s the spirit.
  3.  What prevents us from getting the Spirit.
    • “The inspiring influence of the Holy Spirit can be overcome or masked by strong emotions, such as anger, hate, passion, fear, or pride. When such influences are present, it is like trying to savor the delicate flavor of a grape while eating a jalapeño pepper. Both flavors are present, but one completely overpowers the other. In like manner, strong emotions overcome the delicate promptings of the Holy Spirit.”  I like the analogy.  The idea sounds true enough.
    • “Sin is spiritually corrosive. Unrestrained it becomes all-consuming. It is overcome by repentance and righteousness.  Satan is extremely good at blocking spiritual communication by inducing individuals, through temptation, to violate the laws upon which spiritual communication is founded.”  So, sin is bad then . . . right?
    • “With some, he is able to convince them that they are not able to receive such guidance from the Lord.”  I think this is a real issue for people.  I think many have these high-falutin notions of what constitutes “the Spirit” and anything short of meeting JC on the road to Damascus isn’t cutting it.  I think that’s a misunderstanding.  If you re-read E. Scott’s talk and substitute the word “instinct” or “inspiration” for “the Spirit,” you can get a real sense for how commonplace these experiences are.
    • “Satan has become a master at using the addictive power of pornography to limit individual capacity to be led by the Spirit.”  Let’s not make this a porn post, shall we?  But the rest of the talk is basically about how porn makes it impossible to recognize the Spirit.  Personally, I’m no fan of porn, and I think the point is valid.  Porn’s blocking of spiritual guidance is not the worst of its influence in society.  On the subject, E. Scott waxes eloquent.  Anyway, ’nuff said on porn.  Moving on.  Nothing to see here.

Here are some points I think worth discussing from the talk:

  1. Does this jive with your experience feeling the Spirit or inspiration or whatever you kids are calling it these days?
  2. Do you like the idea that you can be equally inspired in a lesson regardless the instructor?  I found these examples fascinating; although ostensibly the “not as good” instructor was “out of policy,” it had no adverse impact on the spiritual guidance received.  Doesn’t that mean that maybe we can quit wringing our hands over this?  Does that make church a BYOS (Bring Your Own Spirit) institution?  I say yes.
  3. Have you ever felt the Spirit when in the throes of strong emotion?  If so, let’s have the deets!
  4. Overall, did you like the talk or not?  I am of the opinion that not all talks are for all people.  This one was one I happened to like, but that doesn’t mean everyone should.

Discuss.

Comments

comments

Comments 30

  1. I really liked this one as well, though I think you are taking a much more positive view than he did of the guy who was full of his own self-importance and arcane references. I guess a bad instructor is good in that you can ditch the lesson and obtain inspiration otherwise. 🙂

  2. Well, I do think it’s a bit harsh to call a person out like that, and to assume rather negative motives of the instructor – was this nameless instructor really a show off or just prepared? I’m sure everyone who has taught GD in his home ward is having a Martin Harris moment (Lord, is it I?).

  3. I figure any discussion of feeling the Spirit should start with these verse from Galatians:
    ” 1 O foolish Galatians, who hath bewitched you, that ye should not obey the truth, before whose eyes Jesus Christ hath been evidently set forth, crucified among you?
    2 This only would I learn of you, Received ye the Spirit by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith?
    3 Are ye so foolish? having begun in the Spirit, are ye now made perfect by the flesh?
    4 Have ye suffered so many things in vain? if it be yet in vain.
    5 He therefore that ministereth to you the Spirit, and worketh miracles among you, doeth he it by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith?”

    [quote]So, he’s saying we shouldn’t do things just because of tradition or what others who are older tell us to do, but we should find out for ourselves the best course. Personal accountability–one, blind obedience to authority–zero![/quote]
    E’ Scott might be saying that, but when the rubber meets the road it ain’t gonna happen. Church culture is just too ingrained: don’t challenge the status quo. Besides, your interpretation opens up the possibility that people ignore Prophetic counsel if it’s wrong ([/sarcasm] and it could never be wrong)

    1. Given the context of the verses I quoted from Galatians, feeling the Spirit is very much a function of our choices (ie. what we do). But paramount to that process is seeking God’s will and exercising faith in Christ (ie. recognizing that it is by His good will and pleasure). Yes, it is to those who draw near to God who feel the Spirit, but you can’t simply say “I followed all the steps and the Spirit isn’t here to answer my question, what gives?” It’s a relationship thing, not a to-do list thing.
    2. The reason I wring my hands is that all too often, even though I know the instruction is bad, few others do, if any. That is, after all, how misreading of scripture happens, and folk doctrine comes to supersede real doctrine.
    3. probably, or rather that they went together. Strong emotion may or may not coincide with feeling the Spirit. I do know that the Spirit speaks peace to the heart.
    4. It didn’t stand out to me personally. Not a bad talk, but not something that really spoke to me.

  4. “I think this is a real issue for people. I think many have these high-falutin notions of what constitutes “the Spirit” and anything short of meeting JC on the road to Damascus isn’t cutting it. I think that’s a misunderstanding. If you re-read E. Scott’s talk and substitute the word “instinct” or “inspiration” for “the Spirit,” you can get a real sense for how commonplace these experiences are.”

    High-falutin, perhaps? I don’t see it though this simply. If we are talking about recognizing spiritual impressions about personal growth or insights, recieved while listening to a lesson, etc, it would seem silly and unreasonable to expect a visit from Jesus. On the other hand, if we are being expected to put full faith, confidence, and allegiance, into a Church (as Paul was) that claims to be the only true Church – where leaders are placed in a nearly unimpeachable status – wanting a bit more than an “impression” seems justified. I would wager that this is the context that most people refuse to accept impressions from. Lastly, if you expect me to believe in the Bible and Book of Mormon, and you expect me to believe in the First Vision, how unreasonable is it to ask, well if Joseph Smith/Nephi/Paul/etc can be graced with a literal appearance – why not me? Why should I be expected to conform based on so little, when Joseph Smith (who is hardly credible anyways) claims to have been introduced to the gospel with so much? We claim to have the key’s for such things as ministering of angels etc, why shouldn’t those claims be accountable?

  5. #4

    “Lastly, if you expect me to believe in the Bible and Book of Mormon, and you expect me to believe in the First Vision, how unreasonable is it to ask, well if Joseph Smith/Nephi/Paul/etc can be graced with a literal appearance – why not me? Why should I be expected to conform based on so little, when Joseph Smith (who is hardly credible anyways) claims to have been introduced to the gospel with so much? We claim to have the key’s for such things as ministering of angels etc, why shouldn’t those claims be accountable?”

    It seems to me, and I may be wrong, that just about all new movements in Christianity, beginning with the time of the early church, go through a period of a high level of spititual manifestations and then a time of pulling back. With that there is preaching about lowering expectations, recognizing the spirit in different ways, etc.. It just seems to be the way it is. The whole restorationist movement in the early 1800s had as a theme the getting back of what was missing. Well, now it’s back and we’re in the same cycle again.

  6. In other words, it’s either time for another restoration, or time to break the cycle and find a new way out of this thing.

  7. HG, nice post. Personally, I think you’re a little hung up on confirmation bias. Presumably, as we learn how the spirit speaks to us, we can also receive answers to specific questions, else why would James suggest we ask?

    I think your observations about all of us needing to seek the spirit in our lives, to find unique solutions to today’s unique circumstances, and to having a personal approach to the gospel are correct, and I enjoyed hearing Elder Scott talk about those things.

    His example of having personal revelation even in a lesson that wasn’t quite what he had expected or hoped for or whatever was reminiscent of SWK’s suggestion that we get out of church as much was we put into it, and Pr Eyring’s story of his dad’s imagining a better talk in his head than the one being given (assuming the one being given was sub-par).

    In Section 2.2., I’m not sure I agree with your conclusion. Elder Scott says (from what you’ve quoted) that we shouldn’t expect answers to come too easily and we ought to seek them and work for them. But he doesn’t say we should ignore counsel in the meantime. In fact, later when he talks about sin being an impediment to the spirit, he seems to infer that obedience is the better course of action when we are uncertain. I may be taking your comment farther than I should, and if so, I’m sorry for that.

    #4, Cowboy, I don’t know about you, but I know for me that nearly anyone could say, “I knew Joseph Smith/Nephi/Paul/etc. Joseph Smith/Nephi/Paul/etc were friends of mine. You’re no Joseph Smith/Nephi/Paul/etc.” All I mean to say is that although in theory I might have the same remarkable revelatory experience as those prophets, I doubt I have the faith required or the circumstances that require such a visitation.

  8. Paul –

    I don’t intend to come across adversarial, but I do challenge some of the premises behind Mormon revelation. Your comment is a common one, and yet it is often made as though we have any idea as to the relative faith of Joseph Smith and Paul at this time in their lives. It is merely supposition and a need to deify Church leaders and historical figures that causes us to assume that these men posed any kind spiritual superiority. I find the whole notion of quantifying faith in relationship to rewards a bit problematic anyhow, particularly in a Church that simultaneously stresses role of agency in relationship to rewards. How does one increase their faith? I can try and override my intellect by taking a position of belief in something that I don’t really believe in, by I really don’t think I can actually restructure my held beliefs without either increasing my understanding or undergoing some type of psychological conditioning. The belief that Joseph Smith had greater faith than the rest of us, assumes that the First Vision actually happened. In short if I contest that claim, then appealing to an assumption which depends on the claim under scrutiny does little to persuade me. Lastly, by deifying (even partially) these characters, we are setting a standard for ourselves that is yet again unattainable. If I’m no Joseph Smith, how can I expect to have my Sacred Grove. How can God hold me accountable for which club I join, if he doesn’t arm me properlly with the tools to find that club with certainty.

    Since Nephi depends on Joseph Smith, I don’t necessarilly see him as a good example to model in this scenario.

  9. Elder Scott’s delivery either knocks me out cold when I’m sleepy or makes me clench my jaw until my teeth hurt when I’m alert. It seems like he’s trying to lure people into some trance-like, suggestion-receptive state between attention and complete unconsciousness, and I can’t stop my natural defenses to manipulation from kicking in. His voice is so hypnotically personal, I sometimes even look down to see if he’s somehow managed to put his hand on my knee. Shudder.

    But, I guess he finally got me there this time, though, because I too really like the content of this talk.

    I agreed with Paul — you do seem to be hung up on confirmation bias. When we’re taught to ponder things in our minds, reach our own conclusions, and then bring them to the Lord in prayer, how can you ever be free of confirmation bias? It’s almost part of the prescribed process.

  10. Cowboy, I simply recopied the list you used. Hence Nephi’s in the group.

    We are in different places on this issue, and I respect that you are where you are. And I know you’re not alone. But I’m not there with you.

    I don’t deify Joseph or Paul (or Nephi, for that matter). But I acknowledge that it’s plausible that if Paul saw the Savior on the road to Damascus, it was for a specific purpose; in his case, Paul later became one of the apostles.

    I fully acknowledge that God can do whatever he likes and reveal himself to whomever he will, including me. But I don’t imagine that he will, unless it is to some particular purpose. That may be my lack of faith. It may be my lack of vision. Or it may be an acknowledgement that I doubt my mission in life will rise to the level of my namesake’s.

    If God appeared to Joseph to start this dispensation as Mormons claim, then he needed appear again to me (though he could if he wanted to, I suppose).

    It is therefore not faith alone (or perhaps not even faith at all) as the reason behind the appearance, but perhaps more the mission of the person who sees the appearance.

    As for having my own Sacred Grove or Enos Experience or Vision of the Tree of Life — I believe those things are possible to those who seek them, though they may come in forms we don’t initially expect, forms unique to those who seek them.

  11. Fair enough Paul –

    I was merely correcting my own insertion of Nephi into the group.

    By deify, I was responding to the notion that we are not comparable to “Joseph Smith/etc”. To me this implies a superiority of some kind, assumed to be had by these individuals. As for the bit about God appearing based on purpose, this is certainly possible, but only conjecture – after all his stated mission is our Eternal lives, and having a concrete revelatory process seems relevant to that goal. Regarding your last statement, I can agree with this. It’s so much that I need a revelatory experience in a form that expect, but in a form that I can recognize and distinguish as being undoubtedly from above. This requires that I be able to reasonably dismiss ambiguities like “are these my thoughts or revelations”, or “is the spirit or just a natural emotional response” or “was that just a dream, or was it a vision”. I’m not interested in trying to disprove God, or even Mormonism for that matter, but I am interested in deductively evaluating the variables in order to come to plauzible conclusions. For me the Mormon paradigm on revelation, as it is generally presented, is largely self-contained and co-dependant on the pro-Mormon conclusion. I’ve said enough, thank you for considering my thoughts.

  12. elder scott is not my favorite speaker, but he is one of my wife’s favorite speakers. to each his own.

    I remember listening to his talk and thinking, ‘wow, this guy seems to enjoy crappy teachers. no wonder the church is full of them.’ (i know, I need to repent.)

    there is this notion in the church that we have to have to cleanse ourselves from sin to feel the spirit. i am not advocating that god doesn’t want us to be righteous, but there isn’t this cause-effect relationship between clean living and spiritual experiences.

    on my mission, I remember hearing a testimony from a teen girl describing her spiritual experience performing baptisms for the dead in the temple. it was impressive. a few weeks later, the ward discovered she was pregnant, meaning she entered the temple unworthily. so was she lying about her experience? I don’t think so.

    joseph smith had many revelatory experiences with alcohol. yet we would disqualify our youth from spiritual experience if they ever partake of the stuff. furthermore, we are told to be honest in all our dealings, yet joseph clearly lied about polygamy.

    paul wasn’t living right as he killed christians, yet had a powerful spiritual experience. investigators generally don’t live the word of wisdom, yet have spiritual experiences to tell them to join. I know some of my best spiritual experiences have come when I am not as faithful as I should be. we also have ga’s tell us of times they struggle to receive inspiration, yet they should be the ones most worthy of it.

    so, it is not a license to sin, but it is not a guarantee of inspiration either. god grants inspiration whether we are worthy of it or not sometimes.

  13. mh-

    I tend to agree with you, but I also believe that the Lord expects more when we are given more information (how to have the Spirit, etc.) so the rules are different for members. For example, if I have learned that I need to keep the W of W to have the spirit to be with me, then I think the Lord requires that of me while he doesn’t of those who have not learned of this yet. I don’t think the “rules” are the same for all of us…where more is given, more is expected. If I know what is expected to have the Spirit, my blatant disregard of it may make it much harder for me than someone who is young and immature or not a member.

  14. mh–

    I agree with your thoughts on the nature of Spiritual experiences. Worthiness at times isn’t a factor. I would add though, even though the Spirit is manifest to many who lack worthiness, the Spirit won’t always strife with them. There comes a time when they need to respond to the Spirit or possibly lose it altogether.

    As a general rule, those who diligently seek the Spirit will receive it more abundantly.

  15. HG–

    In enjoyed your post and the comments.

    I feel it is important to underscore a fact that we experience everyday, people differ in their abilities. To illustrate this, consider two disparate 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 students-with the majority being average.

    I think it is safe to say that the same is true when it comes to our abilities to receive things of the Spirit. The point I want to make is that even though we may be at different places in our abilities to receive the Spirit, it is important to understand that we all have access to our Heavenly Father. We are promised that our prayers will be answered, but how, and when, they are answered can vary.

  16. I don’t disagree with jared or jen per se, but there can be more to the issue here. we all have times when we are living righteous, yet inspiration doesn’t come. we are told we can bind the lord, but it doesn’t always work that way. so far as we can tell, job was a righteous man, undeserving od the calamities that befell him, yet they came anyway. this can happen to all of us. it can be hard to maintain faith as job did, and frankly some are carried away in mists of darkness, despite holding fast to rughteousness and clean living. we need to be compassionate of those people that lose faith.

    I get where cowboy is coming from, precisely because spiritual experiences at times don’t seem to follow this cause effect relationship that people like elder scott seem to perpetuate in talks such as this. it isn’t always so simple as these talks make it sound. sometimes we face strong temptations to lose faith, and it can seem just as unfair to us as it did to job.

    i am not trying to be negative here, but I am not trying to make it too simplistic either.

  17. Let me say this another way. Jesus was accused of being a wine-bibber (aka “drunken bum”), a sabbath breaker, and a blasphemer by the pharisees. I think that often when we get legalistic about our cleanliness from sin, we became no different from the Pharisees and Sadduccees. We need to worry less about the letter of the law that killeth the spirit, and more concerned about the spirit of the Law that saveth. Frankly, we need to be less worried about appearances, just like the Savior, be less worried about “what people think”, and “avoiding the appearance of evil”, and be more concerned with the Samaritans (less desirables). I once heard a protestant preacher say that if Jesus were alive today, he would hang out in bars, because “the whole need no physician”, yet we wouldn’t be caught dead in a bar because of “the appearance of evil.”

    I say this because my brother used to hang out with a rougher crowd than I was comfortable with. When he died, I can’t tell you how many of these “Samaritans” came up to me and told me that my brother was like a brother to them. He was a good example. Yet inside our family, my brother was seen associating with Samaritans, and we were all a little uncomfortable. I hope that I can be more like my brother. He was the true Christian, not me.

  18. MH,

    Your last comment raises a terrific point, namely that WE probably aren’t in a position to judge another’s righteousness (and maybe not even our own). The Savior, as Author of the law, was in a far better position to determine if He was living it than the Pharisees or Saducees or others.

    In response to your earlier comment, I would only add that Nephi was more receptive to things of the spirit than his rebellious brothers; indeed they refused to even seek the influence of the spirit.

    I’m personally nervous (perhaps I have little faith) with phrases like “bind the Lord,” even though I recognize that phrase did not originate with you. Mhy personal view is I do the best I can and seek the Lord when I can, and welcome his influence as it comes.

    It sounds like your brother was a good man.

  19. mh–

    Your latest comment made me think about something Hugh Nibley wrote:

    The “worst sinners, according to Jesus, are…the religious leaders with their insistence on proper dress and grooming, their careful observance of all the rules, their precious concerns for status symbols, their strict legality, their pious patriotism.” (Hugh Nibley, Approaching Zion, 54)
    ———————–

    I agree with your general thoughts on the subject of judging others. We need to be careful or we can be guilty of unrighteous judgment. But there needs to be balance. The scripture tell us in one place not to judge and in other place to judge. This all leads to confusion for the student of the scriptures. Could it mean that the prophets are confused. I thought that at one time. Now I approach this contradiction with a different perspective. There is opposition in all things. When a prophet is discoursing on a subject he may only refer to one side of the opposition. Another prophet may be discussing the opposite side. For example, the Savior said:

    JUDGE not, that ye be not judged. Matthew 7:1

    But on another occasion he said:

    Judge not according to the appearance, but judge righteous judgment. John 7:2

    I’ve learned, that whenever I am discussing a subject to be sure to see both sides of the topic. I’m not always good at this, but it is a worthy goal.

    I’m with you, I wish Elder Scott, and other GA would touch on both sides of the subject when they discuss things like prayer. Obtaining answer to prayer is a fact, however, not obtaining answers to prayer is also a fact.

  20. Jared,

    Good point. Actually, Elder Scott did address this issue of not receiving answers to prayer, but not in the talk we’re discussing. It was in April 2007, “Using the Superenal Gift of Prayer.” The whole talk is terrific, but I only quote a few lines here:

    “Some misunderstandings about prayer can be clarified by realizing that the scriptures define principles for effective prayer, but they do not assure when a response will be given. Actually, He will reply in one of three ways. First, you can feel the peace, comfort, and assurance that confirm that your decision is right. Or second, you can sense that unsettled feeling, the stupor of thought, indicating that your choice is wrong. Or third—and this is the difficult one—you can feel no response.

    “What do you do when you have prepared carefully, have prayed fervently, waited a reasonable time for a response, and still do not feel an answer? You may want to express thanks when that occurs, for it is an evidence of His trust. When you are living worthily and your choice is consistent with the Savior’s teachings and you need to act, proceed with trust. As you are sensitive to the promptings of the Spirit, one of two things will certainly occur at the appropriate time: either the stupor of thought will come, indicating an improper choice, or the peace or the burning in the bosom will be felt, confirming that your choice was correct. When you are living righteously and are acting with trust, God will not let you proceed too far without a warning impression if you have made the wrong decision.”

    The whole talk is at this link:

    http://www.lds.org/ldsorg/v/index.jsp?hideNav=1&locale=0&sourceId=6ad685aa6bf22110VgnVCM100000176f620a____&vgnextoid=f318118dd536c010VgnVCM1000004d82620aRCRD

  21. “What do you do when you have prepared carefully, have prayed fervently, waited a reasonable time for a response, and still do not feel an answer? You may want to express thanks when that occurs, for it is an evidence of His trust. When you are living worthily and your choice is consistent with the Savior’s teachings and you need to act, proceed with trust. As you are sensitive to the promptings of the Spirit, one of two things will certainly occur at the appropriate time: either the stupor of thought will come, indicating an improper choice, or the peace or the burning in the bosom will be felt, confirming that your choice was correct. When you are living righteously and are acting with trust, God will not let you proceed too far without a warning impression if you have made the wrong decision.”

    So, I pray about The Book of Mormon – to know whether the Church is true and if Joseph Smith was a Prophet, I will recieve one three possilbe answers 1) good ambiguous feelings – Church is true, Joseph was a Prophet; 2) stupor of thought – the choice (Church?) is wrong; 3) No response – Be grateful and give thanks for the fact that God trusts me. pursue a (Mormon?) worthy course of life and at the “appropriate time” I will be benefited with either option 1) or 2).

    This type of explanation is almost a straw-man, as it fails to anwer the big “no response” question. Sure this advice may seem theologically reasonable in the context of personal decision making for Mormons who already accept the premise of the restoration and revelation. It does not address questions however surrounding that big revelation that all members are supposed to be able to have.

  22. Nice post HG. I tend to agree with Cowboy in #4. If the “spirit” guiding us is viewed as mere inspiration, intuition, or the myriad other names to describe how some people get random ideas, then I think the advice is sound. In fact, I sincerely hope my doubts don’t prevent me from having the spirit in this way.

    OTOH, if we are in the business of persuading people of very grandiose claims about exclusivity and historical books translated from gold plates then this:

    Our Father expects you to learn how to obtain that divine help by exercising faith in Him and His Holy Son, Jesus Christ. Were you to receive inspired guidance just for the asking, you would become weak and ever more dependent on Them. They know that essential personal growth will come as you struggle to learn how to be led by the Spirit.

    feels like a major cop-out. BTW, why wouldn’t we want to be “more dependent on Them” I wonder? Are we not already completely dependent on them according to Mormon theology? I’m not getting this.

    The talks that really inspire me are the ones that emphasize how I can serve and love my fellows better, or how I can be more like Jesus. To me, these topic are the heart of the Gospel yet they are not directly related to the church or its leaders. In an organization in which we closely couple the church to the Gospel it is no wonder we cannot separate the topics.

  23. paul, jared, cowboy, and jmb. I agree with all of your comments. it is these paradoxes that we must wrestle with. i am getting more comfortable with living with paradox, but these paradoxes aren’t easily addressed in a conference talk.

  24. OP “Overall, did you like the talk or not? I am of the opinion that not all talks are for all people”

    Defintely liked it, as I do most of elder scott’s talks. But one thing is certain: it was a talk intended for a believing ordience. Seems many other non-active people just don’t hear the same message.

    Caowboy #21 “It does not address questions however surrounding that big revelation that all members are supposed to be able to have.”

    Respectfully, it is more involved than that. I’d suggest that it is more of a relationship that grows and develops over time more than that “big revelation” that many non-believers are expecting.

  25. “Respectfully, it is more involved than that. I’d suggest that it is more of a relationship that grows and develops over time more than that “big revelation” that many non-believers are expecting.”

    Carlos:

    This makes absolutely no sense to me whatsoever. It’s almost as if you are saying that revelation doesn’t exist in time. “Don’t expect a revelation to “occur” per se’, but just entrench and try to acculturate to Mormonism, and over time you’ll look back and realize that you know the Church is true.” Frankly it sort of sounds like a confession, and I have even heard leading Church authorities say more or less the same thing. If revelation isn’t an event, then what is it? If you can’t pin it down to an event, how can you say with any assurance that you “know” what your talking about? “Believe me, I’ve been a Mormon a long time, and developed a relationship with little substance or experience, so yeah, I know the Church is true”. Doesn’t work for me.

  26. “The inspiring influence of the Holy Spirit can be overcome or masked by strong emotions, such as anger, hate, passion, fear, or pride.”

    I wish more was taught in the Church about do deal with emotions of anger, hate, passion, fear, and pride. Buddhism has many helpful tools to help us deal with negative emotions, and perhaps Mormons could be a bit more mindful and experience the spirit more in their lives. I know it has helped me a lot.

  27. Carol – I agree about the benefits of Buddhism. By some accounts, Jesus struggled with anger and had difficulty controlling emotions. Earlier versions of the NT portrayed this, but scribes made changes assuming the original accounts couldn’t be consistent with Jesus’ teachings.

  28. “This makes absolutely no sense to me whatsoever. It’s almost as if you are saying that revelation doesn’t exist in time. “Don’t expect a revelation to “occur” per se’, but just entrench and try to acculturate to Mormonism, and over time you’ll look back and realize that you know the Church is true.” ”

    I’ve been thinking about this and to be honest I don’t think that your average worker bee member has had the spiritual experiences and revelations way back then or now that are ascribed to JS and BY or the other early leaders. I think most people just felt something that committed them to the church and to gathering or enduring hardship but I don’t recall reading much more than that in people’s life experiences. Wanting revelation with a capital “R” is likely not going to happen for a number or reasons. If a person really isn’t a believer then there’s no point in getting that kind of message. It worked with Paul on the road to Damascus but then we’re not Paul. If you are a believer, then why do you need the personal up front vision of the Saviour? And then of course there’s the third reason and that’s that there’s no one there anyway and it’s all in our head and wishful thinking. I think it comes down to the fact the if a person had that experience, would it change anything?

  29. Cowboy #25

    “This makes absolutely no sense to me whatsoever. It’s almost as if you are saying that revelation doesn’t exist in time. “Don’t expect a revelation to “occur” per se’, but just entrench and try to acculturate to Mormonism”

    I think we’ve gone off on a tangent somehow. What I was trying to say is that revelation isn’t a ‘big event’ necessarily, as the first vision. As they say its the still small voice (1 King 19:12), one that is hard to recognize at first when we start off in our relationship with God as teenagers or new converts, to the same still small voice that is easier to recognize after our relationship with God matures.

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