Psychology and other social sciences teach us that human beings interact in the world through three modes: affective, cognitive, and conative. These three ways of interaction are highly integrated, each one exerting an influence on the other two. Consistency between a person’s affect, cognitions, and conations creates an individual who is internally focused or disciplined and who may exhibit strength of character and consistency in action.
There is a fourth way or mode in which people interact with the world around them that is gaining recognition and acceptance in the social sciences. That is a person’s spiritual aspect. Spirituality also interacts with the individual’s affective, cognitive, and conative experience of the world, and consistency with those three elements increases personal focus, which in turn increases discipline, strength, and a sense of moral correctness in judgment and action.
It is very difficult to maintain internal consistency across all situations and across time. It is, however, important to recognize our spiritual nature as well as our emotional, intellectual, and intentional aspects. In the more secular literature spirituality becomes synonymous with intuition or insight. In reality it is a perception of or sensitivity to spiritual promptings that, when followed, brings insight, understanding, and intuition.
I have had direct experiences with the spirit as well as many prompting and subtle nudges that have moved me in paths I had not foreseen but have then provided great blessings, insights, and inspirations.
I will share one such experience.
In 1990, I had an opportunity to travel to Russia and teach workshops on entrepreneurship to Russians on a cruise ship on the Volga River. I actually spent six weeks on four different excursions on the good ship Zhukov going from Moscow to Nizhniy Novgorod and back, teaching free market principles to Russian passengers newly freed from Soviet Communism. Because the cruise company was operated by and employed members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, many of the Russians and other Americans on board were also members of the church.
The cruises lasted about ten days and inevitably went over a Sunday. This provided an opportunity for cruise passengers, both Americans and Russians, to meet together in a religious meeting. With permission from everyone who needed to give permission, each Sunday there was a testimony meeting (with translators) held on the ship.
On my second cruise from Moscow, Sunday fell about half way through the trip. About eighty members met in the ship’s theater on the top deck of the ship. I vividly recall sitting in the back of the salon as a young woman from St. Petersburg got up to bear her testimony of the Church and the Restored Gospel. She started off telling us her name and said that her family was the first, or one of the first, families to be baptized into the church in Russia. They were among the first converts in the entire country.
Immediately I had a flashback experience of a very spiritual nature. I remembered sitting in a Zone Conference in Uruguay in 1978. I don’t remember the exact date or location, but that didn’t matter. What I remember was our mission president, Gene R. Cook, standing up and telling us about his recent trip to general conference. I remembered very clearly the words he spoke.
President Cook said that he had been to general conference and that, as part of the conference, the Prophet, Spencer W. Kimball, met with all the General Authorities in the top room of the Salt Lake City Temple. Then President Cook quoted the Prophet as saying: “Brethren, the Spirit of the Lord is brooding over the continent of Africa and the countries behind the Iron Curtain, and it will not be long before the Gospel is preached in those countries.”
I remember being excited and thinking how wonderful it would be to have the church in Russia (I didn’t even think about Africa and what it would mean in terms of every worthy male member holding the priesthood). I returned from my mission, promptly forgetting the Zone Conference and the words of President Cook amid the activities of getting on with life.
At that time Russia was ruled by Brezhnev, a hard-line communist autocrat with no real prospects for any kind of meaningful reform. And later, I didn’t remember anything I had heard that day as the wall tumbled down, as the Soviet Union collapsed, as the Russian Republic was born on the rubble in front of the Russian White House.
I didn’t remember anything about that day in 1978 until that day in 1990 when a young woman stood before a group of American and Russian Saints and bore strong testimony of the Restored Gospel.
I received such a strong confirmation, not only of the truthfulness of her words but a strong, vivid recollection of the words of a Prophet of God through one of his designated authorities. It was an intellectual recollection accompanied by the joy the spirit brought to that young missionary in a Zone Conference in Uruguay in 1978. More important to me in 1990, it was a witness born by the Spirit of the literal fulfillment of a prophecy given to Spencer W. Kimball all those years before.
That same sweet spirit that touched me that day has occasionally touched me thereafter. When I think back to the salon on the top of the Zhukov I feel the spirit again, I remember what it looked like and how I felt when Our Heavenly Father blessed me with that experience.
Because of that experience in 1990 and many others I know God lives and loves his children. I know he takes an active role in the affairs of man. It was He who moved Russia from Brezhnev to democracy in 12 years with relatively little bloodshed.
Because of that experience I know God has sent Prophets in these latter days and I know Spencer W. Kimball was one. I have no doubt that those who have served in that position since him have also been Prophets. I have often received spiritual witnesses to that effect.
I know the Gospel has been restored and I receive witnesses of that restoration as the spirit confirms the testimonies of saints just like that young woman who testified on the aging ship Zhukov on the Volga.
I have felt the Spirit testify of many things over my life. It has confirmed the truthfulness of the Book of Mormon. It has witnessed to me of the prophetic mission of Joseph Smith. I have felt that spirit in countless church meeting and in sacred places such as the Temple or the hills above Adam-ondi-Ahman.
Each time I am left with a desire to remember the other experiences I have had, to feel the joy of those experiences, and to act in accordance with Gods plan for me.
I bear testimony of these things in the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.
Peter Robinson is the Morris Professor of Entrepreneurship at Utah Valley University, where he has taught since 2003. Prior to joining the faculty at UVU, he was director of research for the Center for Entrepreneurship and an assistant professor at Wichita State University (1987-1990), a tenured associate professor and department chair at the University of Calgary ( 1990-2003), and, in 1994 and 1996, a visiting professor of entrepreneurship at the State Academy of Management in Moscow, Russia. He received a bachelor’s degree in psychology and a Ph.D. in organizational psychology from Brigham Young University in 1982 and 1987, respectively. He is a Sam Walton Fellow and the recipient of a Fulbright Foreign Scholarship Award, and, in 2005, was named Entrepreneurship Theory and Practice Reviewer of the Year.
Posted July 2010