Are Spiritual Witnesses Valid?

For the discussion of spirituality -- from LDS and non-LDS sources
ldsmaverick7
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Re: Are Spiritual Witnesses Valid?

Post by ldsmaverick7 » 19 Mar 2010, 17:57

I have often said that no one will ever be able to prove the church or God true or false. It is an arrogant attitude to say that because I haven't had a witness that nobody else has either. I don't know that I have the faith to follow "spiritual witnesses" anymore for reasons that others have touched on in their posts. I believe Euhemerus mentioned that Muslims have faith too, so what's the difference. In fact, the Bible mentions that Jesus himself said that even the demons believe in God, but not to their salvation.
This year has been a rough one on my testimony. I have stripped my testimony down to the most solid base of beliefs that I can sincerely put effort behind in following. On top of this foundation I will build my testimony anew. I won't build off of warm fuzzy stories that my mom emails to me about people paying tithing instead of eating and finding a sack of groceries on their porch in the morning. That wouldn't be wise. I won't likely ever find a sack of groceries on my front porch just for paying my tithing. But what I put my faith in is not the ritual acts of the church, but even more fundamental than that. I believe there is something greater than myself that flows throughout the universe. That is my God. Whether or not this God will judge me after I die, I don't know.
When I die, if I spend my life doing good, and helping instead of hurting, then I will leave this world a better place for my having been there, and should I find a God that holds judgement on me, then I will be confident in living according to my faith that it is better to help than to hurt. I will have lived according to the knowledge that I have been given up to this point in my life and I can expect an eternity of my own glory independent of the glories of anybody else's. If God is going to expect more of me, then He'd better teach me line upon line, precept upon precept, here a little and there a little between now and my death.
I'm intrigued by science, but sometimes I think they have the same problems as most Christians when it comes to what I shall refer to as the "religion of science". The Christians read the Bible, and accept it as truth. The scientist on the other hand goes to universities and is taught from Darwin's Origin of Species, and accepts it as truth with equal zeal. I'm not so naive as to think this is the only book scientists refer to, but if you like, substitute any textbook or scientific writing for Darwin's Origin of Species and I still maintain my point.
No one KNOWS how the earth was created or when it was created. No one was there, no one saw it, no one KNOWS! Lately I've seen a lot of evidence leading away from evolutionary uniformitarianism, but I don't know that everyone else has. So if a person needs to hold on to their beliefs in science to convince them to do good, then I won't rob them of that. If, on the other hand, someone needs to hold on to their beliefs in God to convince them to do good, then I will not rob them of that faith either.
The D&C says to "seek learning by study and also by faith". Faith does play a role in our learning, but how big of a role is yet to be determined. I guess we gather all the facts we can, and then use our faith to grow from there. Perhaps faith is like a bandage that is there to hold our thoughts together while study grows in underneath and fills in the gaps of our reasoning.
If I live a life of goodness and kindness toward my fellow man, and I die, and find there is no God, then my soul can rest in peace knowing that I made this world a better place for my having been here. The only gamble would be to live my life in ways that only serve me and lead to the destruction of others. If I live that way, and find that there is a God, then I have much to answer for, and the world will be glad of my riddance rather than mourning my passing.

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Cadence
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Re: Are Spiritual Witnesses Valid?

Post by Cadence » 20 Mar 2010, 07:40

Heber13 wrote:
Cadence: You say it is something you don't know yet, if it is "all made up emotions we use to confirm our biases". How do you think you can test for yourself the validity of spiritual witnesses? Have you decided on an approach for testing that or even if you want to? What do you think about your prior spiritual witnesses that were really poignant for you?

I'm keenly interested in how others approach this because I'm still working on my faith in this matter, and while reconstructing it, can benefit from your thinking and experience. :?
How can you test a spiritual witness? I am not sure you can. Maybe that is why they call it faith, but that is the dilemma. I in no way dismiss the validity of a spiritual witness in others but for myself I have more evidence that mine tend to be more emotion than substance. So what do I do? First of all I have stopped trying to force a spiritual witness or experience. I believe for me seeking for a spiritual witness so diligently created a bias in my mind that it just confirmed whatever I was seeking. Now I just ask one question. God are you there. Even that has proved difficult. But stripping all the added on stuff like, is the church true, or is the BOM history, or are there latter day prophets has alleviated me of a great burden of knowing every detail definitively. I am much better at the macro look at spirituality. and I avoid the details. Sure I want to know as much as possible that is why I study so much and come to this forum. So maybe my spirituality is more grounded in facts and intellectual reasoning than most, but I think that is OK. God gave me a brain for a reason. But like I said others may find spirituality in a different way and more through emotion and that is OK to.
Faith, as well intentioned as it may be, must be built on facts, not fiction--faith in fiction is a damnable false hope. Thomas A. Edison

“The good thing about science is that it's true whether or not you believe in it.” Neil deGrasse Tyson

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Heber13
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Re: Are Spiritual Witnesses Valid?

Post by Heber13 » 22 Mar 2010, 10:55

Cadence wrote:How can you test a spiritual witness? I am not sure you can. Maybe that is why they call it faith, but that is the dilemma. I in no way dismiss the validity of a spiritual witness in others but for myself I have more evidence that mine tend to be more emotion than substance.
For me, I am trying to understand these emotional signals more, and what is emotional (me) and what is spiritual revelation (Holy Ghost talking to my spirit inside of me). I love this thread you started, because it has been an important thing for me to study and understand...I've look at things going all the way back to what experiences did Joseph Smith have and how much was literal, what was seen "in the mind's eye", what were just feelings, or what was just made up to serve a purpose? I am still seeking answers, but I am sure it is not as clear as the church teaches it in the stories we hear weekly.

However, even if things are emotional-based...to me, it does not automatically invalidate them.

I guess to me, it is kind of like my eyes. I see things through my eyes. They are imperfect, and my lenses will translate them to something my brain can process. However, my eyes can play tricks and I can get mixed signals...so I must use other senses to "test" or validate what I'm seeing. I have learned that others can see it differently, and that is ok. As long as I can depend on my vision to see dangers, or to see beautiful things that enhance my life, or see my work that helps me earn a living...the purpose of seeing (even with imperfect eyes) is useful to me, and I can accept some imperfections in the process.

I am trying to test my spiritual eyes the same way. I think my spiritual witnesses do not come through my eyes or ears, but through my emotions (I've never had the audible witness as some claim to have had, nor seen visions). Even though my witnesses come through my emotions, I need to learn which emotions are just mine, and which are spiritual in nature...because the signal can get confusing sometimes...but I don't believe they are the same and I only get emotions and try to trick my brain into calling them spiritual witnesses. I think they are different things by the source, even if they come through the same channel, if that makes sense.

I am testing it by seeing if the outcome is good or valuable, or not. Does it enlighten my thinking? Does it fill me with love? Does it clear my vision of what I should do? Does it motivate me to act? Does it give me greater confidence to act even if I'm weak? I think it is a difficult thing, because it can't necessarily be proven by intellect, or physical scientific tools, or repeatability. It is in the spiritual realm, which makes it as difficult to understand through non-spiritual tools as using chemistry is difficult to explain the value of the colors in an artist's painting.

I read this article the other day (basic stuff...but the Dual Beings part struck me):
Personal Revelation by Pres Packer
“Personal Revelation: The Gift, the Test, and the Promise,” Ensign, Nov 1994, 59
http://www.lds.org/ldsorg/v/index.jsp?h ... footnote24

I also like Brother Bennion's writings, as I think there is something about our spiritual beings that make it difficult to explain through certain methods of truth seeking, just as it is difficult for my eyes to see certain types of light (untra-violet or others). The light is there, we just need the right tools to see it and understand it.
Luke: "Why didn't you tell me? You told me Vader betrayed and murdered my father."
Obi-Wan: "Your father... was seduced by the dark side of the Force. He ceased to be Anakin Skywalker and became Darth Vader. When that happened, the good man who was your father was destroyed. So what I told you was true... from a certain point of view."
Luke: "A certain point of view?"
Obi-Wan: "Luke, you're going to find that many of the truths we cling to...depend greatly on our point of view."

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Euhemerus
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Re: Are Spiritual Witnesses Valid?

Post by Euhemerus » 22 Mar 2010, 17:04

Cadence wrote:How can you test a spiritual witness? I am not sure you can. Maybe that is why they call it faith, but that is the dilemma.
I think you can, and I think most TBMs and other faithful individuals have done it. They aren't acting irrationally to them (even if it appears so to some of us).
Cadence wrote:I in no way dismiss the validity of a spiritual witness in others but for myself I have more evidence that mine tend to be more emotion than substance. So what do I do? First of all I have stopped trying to force a spiritual witness or experience. I believe for me seeking for a spiritual witness so diligently created a bias in my mind that it just confirmed whatever I was seeking. Now I just ask one question. God are you there. Even that has proved difficult. But stripping all the added on stuff like, is the church true, or is the BOM history, or are there latter day prophets has alleviated me of a great burden of knowing every detail definitively. I am much better at the macro look at spirituality. and I avoid the details. Sure I want to know as much as possible that is why I study so much and come to this forum. So maybe my spirituality is more grounded in facts and intellectual reasoning than most, but I think that is OK. God gave me a brain for a reason. But like I said others may find spirituality in a different way and more through emotion and that is OK to.
Cadence, you and I are on the same page here. I've been in, and am still in this same boat. For me, I think it was an emotional response. The really hard part, at least in Mormonism (I don't know about others) is deciding that you can still be a full participating member even if you don't have the spiritual witness. This is hard, but so far I'm making it work at some level.
Don't believe everything you think
- bumper sticker I saw one day

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Cadence
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Re: Are Spiritual Witnesses Valid?

Post by Cadence » 22 Mar 2010, 17:41

Heber13 wrote: For me, I am trying to understand these emotional signals more, and what is emotional (me) and what is spiritual revelation (Holy Ghost talking to my spirit inside of me). I
Yes this is the essence of the question. Which is it emotion or spirit? Which begs the question...Why is it so difficult to decipher? That is what leads me more to the emotion equation. Why would god make it so difficult. It must be me who is trying to make it something it is not.
Faith, as well intentioned as it may be, must be built on facts, not fiction--faith in fiction is a damnable false hope. Thomas A. Edison

“The good thing about science is that it's true whether or not you believe in it.” Neil deGrasse Tyson

Curt Sunshine
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Re: Are Spiritual Witnesses Valid?

Post by Curt Sunshine » 22 Mar 2010, 21:03

Fwiw, if we look at the ultimate objective of life within Mormon theology, it's to reach the point where we know strictly from within ourselves what we need to do - and then we do it. That is a different definition of Godhood, but I think it's a valid one - since "perfect" in the scriptural sense means "complete, whole, fully developed". Try pondering that for a bit.

That's worth considering, especially since Elder Holland actually said, "God is within you" multiple times in our Stake Conference a couple of weeks ago. He said it in a way that was totally Mormony, but he still said it in those exact words.
I see through my glass, darkly - as I play my saxophone in harmony with the other instruments in God's orchestra. (h/t Elder Joseph Wirthlin)

Even if people view many things differently, the core Gospel principles (LOVE; belief in the unseen but hoped; self-reflective change; symbolic cleansing; striving to recognize the will of the divine; never giving up) are universal.

"For every complex problem there is an answer that is clear, simple, and wrong." H. L. Mencken

AmyJ
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Re: Are Spiritual Witnesses Valid?

Post by AmyJ » 13 Feb 2018, 14:01

Curt Sunshine wrote:
19 Mar 2010, 06:25
My key is to accept myself and quit trying to be what I'm not - and to accept others and quit trying to make them be what I am.
I am seriously tempted to print this onto a piece of paper and frame it as rule/reminder for my household...

How many squabbles can I stop between the oldest and youngest with a 6 year age gap by a stern look and pointing to this paper?

[Thank you!]

AmyJ
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Re: Are Spiritual Witnesses Valid?

Post by AmyJ » 13 Feb 2018, 14:13

Curt Sunshine wrote:
22 Mar 2010, 21:03
It's to reach the point where we know strictly from within ourselves what we need to do - and then we do it.
I think this is also the goal/best practices of effective parenting.

Some parents are good at getting the principle of the clean house transferred, other parents might teach how to find a great job, or how to be a person who knows how to talk to people to make sure effective decisions are made. Some parents pass along valuable skills in car or home repair, raising animals, or tending for others.

I don't know what kind of parent I will be when I grow up (8 years into it and what I know is very little and heavily field tested). My children won't learn from me much more about household cleaning (other then keeping it more or less sanitary and minimal clutter), what not to do with non-verbal communication (and that you dear child are biologically inclined to miss most of it like your mother) and job interviews. I can handle the theory of many things, but the physical reality of most things baffles and dismays me (yes - I have burned water before).

But I want to be the type of parent that teaches cost-benefit analysis, that teaches surveying personal resources and making the best choices available under the circumstances for clear reasons. I want to be the type of parent that can switch from sustaining the child to counseling and consoling the adult in as seamless a transition as possible. That the bundle of joy we launch into society will be a relatively safe, decent human being <crosses fingers and goes to work>.

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