Holy Ghost/"Feeling the spirit" while listening to ex-Mormon exit stories

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"Feeling the spirit" while listening to ex-Mormon "exit stories"

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Question: Can someone feel the spirit when listening to stories of apostasy?

The Spirit only testifies of things that come from God, and should not be confused with emotion

One critic of the Church, who believes that the "spirit" is simply an emotional manifestation, poses the question: "Why did I feel the Spirit as I listened to the stories of apostates sharing how they discovered for themselves that Mormonism is not true?" [1]

The Spirit does not confirm apostasy. This is simply an attempt to diminish the experience of those who have truly had the Spirit testify of Christ.

A more accurate way to phrase this would be: "Why did I feel good as I listened to the stories of apostates sharing how they discovered for themselves that Mormonism is not true?" After all, ex-Mormons have already concluded that the "Spirit" is unreliable and inconsistent. The likely answer, of course, is that the stories that the ex-Mormon is hearing support for the conclusion that they have already formed.

Alternative Interpretations

Moroni tells us that we have the ability to discern what comes from God and what doesn't even after receiving certain impressions (Moroni 7:14; See also D&C 8:2). Let's look at alternative interpretations of the experience:

  • The experience may be one of feeling the love of Christ for the members. Isn't such possible? Feeling the love of God for people who have gone through a loss of faith 2 Ne. 26:30? Such is possible and even desirable. The only objection then to the author of this criticism would be the deliberate reinterpretation and use of that experience to hurt member testimonies and cause confusion.
  • There may not have been a true spiritual experience "confirming truth". Since we believe that the body and spirit are intricately connected (D&C 88:15) it is not surprising that a thought, warm feeling or heart tremor can be over-interpreted as coming from a spiritual stimulus. This is what the scriptures might call having "foolish imaginations of the heart" (Hel. 16:22; 3 Ne. 2:2; Moses 8:22).
Concerning conflating emotion and thoughts with the spirit, President Howard W. Hunter said:
Let me offer a word of caution. . . . I think if we are not careful . . . , we may begin to try to counterfeit the true influence of the Spirit of the Lord by unworthy and manipulative means. I get concerned when it appears that strong emotion or free-flowing tears are equated with the presence of the Spirit. Certainly the Spirit of the Lord can bring strong emotional feelings, including tears, but that outward manifestation ought not to be confused with the presence of the Spirit itself.[2]
  • There may have been no spiritual impression or anything resembling it at all and this may be an intentional lie to try and hurt member's testimonies. This might be an example of "perverting" the Gospel (Alma 30:60).
  • The experience may be caused by the devil, see for example (Alma 30:53). Anything that entices us to worship him or to do evil is of him (Moroni 7:17)
  • The experience may have been caused by false spirits. D&C 50 was revealed for discerning spirits with D&C 50: 31-33 being the way to (following the counsel given in 1 John 4:1-2) test the spirits (See also D&C 52:15-19)
Consider what Joseph Smith told Brigham Young:
Tell the brethren to be humble and faithful and be sure to keep the Spirit of the Lord, that it will lead them aright. Be careful and not turn away the still, small voice; it will teach them what to do and where to go; it will yield the fruits of the kingdom. Tell the brethren to keep their heart open to conviction, so that when the Holy Ghost comes to them their hearts will be ready to receive it. They can tell the Spirit of the Lord from all other spirits—it will whisper peace and joy to their souls; it will take malice, hatred, strife and all evil from their hearts, and their whole desire will be to do good.[3]


"Recognizing the Voice of the Spirit" (Podcast): "How can I come to know that spiritual experience is not just a product of chemical processes in the brain?"

"FAIR Questions 2: Recognizing the Voice of the Spirit":

How do I find a way to not only discern the Spirit from emotion, but how can I become convinced that the Spirit is actually real? How can I come to know that spiritual experience is not just a product of chemical processes in the brain? I mean, I’ve prayed about the truth of the Book of Mormon and the gospel and I have gotten answers to my prayers, but how can I come to know whether or not this is from God, and not just either a part of my subconscious or a delusion.[4] —(Click here to continue)


Notes

  1. Jeremy Runnells, Letter to a CES Director (2013)
  2. Clyde J. Williams, ed., The Teachings of Howard W. Hunter (Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1997), 184.
  3. (quoted in Juvenile Instructor, 19 July 1873, 114)
  4. "FAIR Questions 2: Recognizing the Voice of the Spirit," FairMormon Blog (28 August 2011).