Are Spiritual Witnesses Valid?

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Euhemerus
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Re: Are Spiritual Witnesses Valid?

Post by Euhemerus » 16 Mar 2010, 05:48

Heber13 wrote:I know you have a greater appreciation for science than I do, since you work with it everyday. But I still think there are things out of the realm of science, and trying to cram those elements through a science shaped hole doesn't seem to fit, and therefore doesn't seem to me to produce the best answers or predictable outcomes for an individual situation.
Hmm, I don't think we are communicating clearly. You were talking about approaches to understanding reality, and mentioned that science is no better than philosophy, etc. etc. I am claiming that in the vein of understanding reality, the scientific method produces better answers than other methods. This is not to say that science produces predictable outcomes for each individual case. That's not true at all. Science is all about the average, the mean. Also, note that I was very careful to use the words "scientific method" rather than science. Science might be characterized as physics, chemistry, geology, etc. but that's not what I'm talking about. I'm talking about the method, which by design, produces repeatable outcomes, predictable outcomes, and adherence to observable reality.
Heber13 wrote:Perhaps that is a form of the scientific method, such as Alma 32 where you test things...but you do it through personal experience and some people benefit from spiritual guidance to move ahead without knowing the outcome for sure.
Of course it is. It doesn't matter whether it's on a personal basis or not, the method works. In fact, it is likely better on the individual basis (as long we don't always end up thinking we're the exception to the rule). The huge variable is that people's standards of evidence are vastly different. Yes, people move ahead without knowing the outcome for sure. But think about this - you're basically saying "we don't know the future." Of course we don't! If I walk across the Golden Gate bridge I have no idea if it's going to collapse, and I can't "prove" that it won't beforehand. In fact, the only completely reasonable thing I can say, after I crossed the bridge, is that this bridge, during this span of time, in this place, in this universe didn't collapse. Nevertheless, I have confidence that the engineers used proper techniques, that the bridge is inspected and cared for, and that there is a high probability that it will not collapse should I walk across it again. The big difference between this and "faith," as we are talking about it, is the standard, and kind of evidence. What I really think you're saying when you say "move ahead without knowing the outcome for sure" is that people have different standards of evidence for accepting risk.

This is why I think faith, as meant in this context, is not a very good definition. It presumes an arbitrary standard and level of evidence, and it is easy to judge another for not being faithful if their standard of evidence is different than yours.
Heber13 wrote:I think that is faith...confidence in something when you can't prove it...but you just have confidence it will be for the best for you, and when you have proven it, then you continue learning and having confidence in the next thing that is unproven. And so knowledge and faith coincide and feed off of each other.
Perhaps this is too off topic and we need a new thread on faith. I think your definition is kind of close, but lacking. What can be proven? I know of nothing that can be absolutely proven. After all, we could be in the "matrix." :shock:

What I think you're really saying is "faith is confidence in something when you're less confident in it than you might otherwise be." So, this means that walking across the bridge doesn't require faith because you have a high level of confidence in it not collapsing. I could almost buy into this definition were it not for the fact that most Mormons "know" the church is true? If you "know" or are very confident that God exists, have you diminished your faith just like in the bridge example? If Joseph was visited by God, and hence is extremely confident in his existence should we conclude that Joseph no longer had faith in God's existence? That doesn't seem quite right either.
Heber13 wrote:If we are talking my relationship to my wife...there is little scientific approach to how I develop love for her, IMO. She is so unpredictable...I have to try to move away from "If..then.." thinking, and turn to charity and feelings to establish a strong relationship. Even psychology can only go so far in helping, because the individual feelings are unique to the individual circumstance and person, and while there is value in studying psychology to help my relationship...it still comes down to my actions. There is no book to prove how to be a great husband, parent, or friend. My relationship to God is even more complex.
I could not agree more. I think we're on the same page, but talking past each other. I'm not advocating that science has the answers to all of life's problems. Far from it. As I've said before - it's a tool. I never said I thought spiritual witnesses were worthless. I have just stated that for me, I do not find them reliable in telling me about observable reality. Like Hawkgrrrl said, I believe they are intensely personal, and for individual consumption, and they are very valid in that context.
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Heber13
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Re: Are Spiritual Witnesses Valid?

Post by Heber13 » 16 Mar 2010, 10:06

Euhemerus, thanks for your comments. I like your perspective because it helps me think deeply about what I think and believe. Perhaps we talk past each other slightly, while we agree on most of the subject, there is a little more emphasis from one side that you take, and I take a little more emphasis from another that I take.
Ehuemerus wrote:What I think you're really saying is "faith is confidence in something when you're less confident in it than you might otherwise be." So, this means that walking across the bridge doesn't require faith because you have a high level of confidence in it not collapsing.
No, actually, I don't think I'm trying to say that. I think we don't know the future, yet we take steps across the bridge. That requires faith. Believing the bridge is solid because I trust the engineers is only belief. When I take that step onto the bridge, it is faith because it is me acting even though I can't prove the future. We start to live life with accepting lots of things despite not proving them for sure, but proving them enough we can move day to day to get things done.

As you stated, perhaps this begins to start a new thread on faith...but truly, that is the basis of this thread...having confidence that spiritual witnesses are valid.

For me, I think I can take your bridge analogy and change some words and describe how I have confidence in spiritual witnesses. The difference is that science (if I'm using that term correctly) in engineering provides confidence I can cross the bridge daily. Engineering doesn't help me understand the spiritual witnesses I have, but religion can help me understand how to place just as much validity in spiritual witnesses as in science, just in different applications or personal situations. For me personally, when spiritual witnesses didn't produce what I expected...it caused doubt, but by working through those doubts, I think I've learned more... and so the faith in spiritual witnesses isn't just a predictable outcome of earthly circumstance, but a predictable outcome that my spirit and my heart will benefit from the experience I went through.

Let's say I needed guidance in my life and prayed, and received a spiritual witness that what I have decided to do in my life is the right thing for me. After the experience is over, and it turned out positive, I have confidence that spiritual witnesses can help me.

Therefore, I can alter your bridge analogy to my Spiritual Witness:
If I {receive a spiritual witness} I have no idea if it's going to {fail}, and I can't "prove" that it won't beforehand. In fact, the only completely reasonable thing I can say, after I {finished my experience}, is that this {spiritual witness}, during this span of time, in this place, in this universe {didn't fail for me and I can learn from that experience}. Nevertheless, I have confidence that the {spirit} used proper techniques, that the {spiritual witness is valid}, and that there is a high probability that it will not {fail} should I {receive a spiritual witness} again.
All I am saying is that it is possible that some people have that same confidence in spiritual witnesses as they do on other matters that can be proven by science. Perhaps the scientific method is still used, but it is used with spiritual witnesses individually, and therefore, just as valid as anything else the scientific method can be applied to (physics, chemistry, geology, etc).

Does that clarify more of my belief on validity of spiritual witnesses, or am I not really expressing myself clearly?
You may not agree with me and your personal experiences may be different, but I do not think you can prove me wrong that it is possible spiritual witnesses are just as valid in helping us make choices in life as engineering is to bridge crossing. Each individual must just develop their own level of confidence in spiritual witnesses and in science.
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 » 17 Mar 2010, 07:12

Heber13 wrote:For me, I think I can take your bridge analogy and change some words and describe how I have confidence in spiritual witnesses. The difference is that science (if I'm using that term correctly) in engineering provides confidence I can cross the bridge daily. Engineering doesn't help me understand the spiritual witnesses I have, but religion can help me understand how to place just as much validity in spiritual witnesses as in science, just in different applications or personal situations.
Yes, I see this, and I think I can agree. However, there is one major difference here. Engineering principles (the same ones) and mathematical characterizations (the same ones) for earthy phenomena work for bridge building for all people in all centuries in the whole world. That is, it's very highly predictable, for everyone. In contrast, religion might be able to help you, Heber 13, but not me "Euhemerus." It is in that light that I claim that the scientific method provides "better" answers for observable reality. And this seems obvious since observable reality is not a highly individual experience. It is independent of whether or not we are here, dead, like it, dislike, etc.
Heber13 wrote:For me personally, when spiritual witnesses didn't produce what I expected...it caused doubt, but by working through those doubts, I think I've learned more... and so the faith in spiritual witnesses isn't just a predictable outcome of earthly circumstance, but a predictable outcome that my spirit and my heart will benefit from the experience I went through.
I completely understand, and agree, and do not think ill of anyone who believes this. My only question that I would pose to myself is "could I not say that about anything"? That is, I could take any experience that causes doubt, uncertainty, emotional turmoil, and work "through it" and benefit from it. This is what humans do. We overcome things, we work through things, and we bounce back from adversity.
Heber13 wrote:Let's say I needed guidance in my life and prayed, and received a spiritual witness that what I have decided to do in my life is the right thing for me. After the experience is over, and it turned out positive, I have confidence that spiritual witnesses can help me.
Agreed, 100%. Again, my question is what happens when the situation turns out negative? What happens if it turns out negative (or even if it just doesn't prove valid) 10% of the time, or 20%, or 50% or 90% of the time? By your own reasoning here, I would think that would decrease my confidence (which is exactly what happened to me). I know virtually all Mormons experience "promptings" which turn out invalid (I have heard many of them). In my experience, the tactic is to find a different way to see it, or to later change one's expectations so that the "witness" was valid from some perspective (turn it into a blessing). But modifying the hypothesis after the result is always valid, but doesn't change what the results proved about the initial hypothesis.

I liked your modification of my bridge example. Well done. Gave me something to think about.
Heber13 wrote:All I am saying is that it is possible that some people have that same confidence in spiritual witnesses as they do on other matters that can be proven by science.
Agreed 100%. This brings us full circle back to my original comment in this thread that, for me, I don't find I am able to have that kind of confidence in my spiritual witnesses sufficiently to tell me about the "one and only" truthfulness (in a very literal TBM way) of our church.
Heber13 wrote:Perhaps the scientific method is still used, but it is used with spiritual witnesses individually, and therefore, just as valid as anything else the scientific method can be applied to (physics, chemistry, geology, etc).
Again, I agree. You're absolutely right. Although, just looking at the evidence, when people get spiritual witnesses that collide with things that science (or any other major discipline) can reliably demonstrate, cognitive dissonance occurs, and this is (in part) exactly what leads to so many disaffections.
Heber13 wrote:You may not agree with me and your personal experiences may be different, but I do not think you can prove me wrong that it is possible spiritual witnesses are just as valid in helping us make choices in life as engineering is to bridge crossing. Each individual must just develop their own level of confidence in spiritual witnesses and in science.
No, you're right, I can't prove you wrong, and I'm not trying to. And if we're talking about how one ought to conduct their personal lives, I would say science has much less bearing on it. Spirituality (including witnesses) are more effective at that. By the same token, when talking about observable reality, science is more effective (tools in a tool box again).

Again, I don't dismiss spiritual witnesses as useless. I simply don't have confidence that they can reliably tell me about observable reality (or objective truth, or however you want to say it). I use my own spiritual witnesses to help me, but not to convince myself that something is absolutely true for all people in all place in all times.
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Re: Are Spiritual Witnesses Valid?

Post by Heber13 » 17 Mar 2010, 16:37

Great comments, Eu. I agree with you.

So.....

Going back to the OP, where Cadence asked:
Is it really possible to get a spiritual witness of anything?
Do you agree with me that one can get spiritual witnesses and that they ARE valid? Whether they are the most reliable is a little different of a discussion based on individual faith. Yes?
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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Re: Are Spiritual Witnesses Valid?

Post by Euhemerus » 18 Mar 2010, 05:28

Heber13 wrote:
Is it really possible to get a spiritual witness of anything?
Do you agree with me that one can get spiritual witnesses and that they ARE valid? Whether they are the most reliable is a little different of a discussion based on individual faith. Yes?
Yes, one can get a spiritual witness and it is valid (I don't think I ever disagreed with this). However, I'm not sure what Cadence intended. I took her statement to mean a spiritual witness in such a way as many TBMs get their spiritual witness that the church is true (in the one and only true church sense for everyone on earth). While I agree that one can get a valid spiritual witness, I personally, as I said originally, don't take my spiritual witnesses in that light, and, on the whole, I am skeptical of their reliability in assuring truth in such a matter (which I suppose is another matter as you said). OTOH, I trust Ray when he gives his reasons for accepting them, and I believe that some people (like Joseph Smith) are much better at spiritual intuition, or witnesses than I am and can discern them better than me.

I have no idea if we've made progress in this discussion, or just rehashed what you and I have talked about on numerous other occasions. The only beef I took with your statement was the part about various mechanisms for "viewing reality" as being equally valid. I still stand by my claim when taken in the light of "viewing reality." If I modified your statement thusly
In that thinking, Science is not more valid than Philosophy just as Everyday Life is not better than Art...they just are different approaches to us viewing {life}.
I would not have said anything. Perhaps I am just being nitpicky. If so, I apologize for making a mountain out of a molehill.
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Re: Are Spiritual Witnesses Valid?

Post by Cadence » 18 Mar 2010, 05:46

Euhemerus wrote:
Heber13 wrote:
Is it really possible to get a spiritual witness of anything?
Do you agree with me that one can get spiritual witnesses and that they ARE valid? Whether they are the most reliable is a little different of a discussion based on individual faith. Yes?
Yes, one can get a spiritual witness and it is valid (I don't think I ever disagreed with this). However, I'm not sure what Cadence intended. I took her statement to mean a spiritual witness in such a way as many TBMs get their spiritual witness that the church is true (in the one and only true church sense for everyone on earth).
Cadence is a Guy thought my Spock avatar would define that :) . But what I meant was are spiritual witnesses valid at all, or are they all made up emotions we use to confirm our biases. This I do not know for sure.
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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Re: Are Spiritual Witnesses Valid?

Post by Euhemerus » 18 Mar 2010, 06:10

Cadence wrote:Cadence is a Guy thought my Spock avatar would define that :) . But what I meant was are spiritual witnesses valid at all, or are they all made up emotions we use to confirm our biases. This I do not know for sure.
Dang it!! I apologize for that. :oops: :oops: :oops: Yes, your Spock avatar should have been a huge clue. Sorry.

Okay, in answer to your question, for me, I think my witnesses are primarily functions of my mind and emotions. Can I say the same for everyone else? No, I can't, nor would I presume to even hazard a guess. And there are some mystics who do seem to be very good at discerning such things.
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Re: Are Spiritual Witnesses Valid?

Post by Heber13 » 18 Mar 2010, 08:50

Cadence/Mr Spock/John Wayne wrote:But what I meant was are spiritual witnesses valid at all, or are they all made up emotions we use to confirm our biases. This I do not know for sure.
Soooo...I've shared my thoughts on the subject. I believe they have some validity in certain situations (not all). I believe they come through my emotions or my thoughts but sometimes they come from outside my being (though I think this happens less seldom than in my TBM stage when I thought everything came from God to Heber directly). I've redefined prayer and look at spiritual witnesses different than I did before my crisis, and for a time I tried to discount them entirely, but I've come back to now believing it is valid for me if I understand it better and more responsibly.

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. :?
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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Re: Are Spiritual Witnesses Valid?

Post by Euhemerus » 19 Mar 2010, 05:05

Heber13 wrote: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. :?
@Heber. I'm also interested in your approach for "testing" your spiritual witnesses, or how you came to your conclusion. You have mentioned that you almost dismissed them, but what was your reasoning for hanging on to them? Did they just reach your internal level and standard of evidence, or was there something else?

I admit that spiritual witnesses were something I struggled with even as a TBM. Discerning and understanding spiritual witnesses has never been a strong suit for me. I'd like to hear how others accomplish these goals.
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Re: Are Spiritual Witnesses Valid?

Post by Curt Sunshine » 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 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

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