What is the Spirit?

For the discussion of spirituality -- from LDS and non-LDS sources
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West
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What is the Spirit?

Post by West » 09 May 2016, 11:21

I realize there are some existing threads with much the same idea, so sorry if this is too similar. Also sorry if I ramble. It's fall down here, and everyone has a cold or flu, including me.

There's a big emphasis on the correlation of obedience and being guided by the Spirit. And so I wonder often about what exactly is the Spirit and why percievingly higher levels of obedience to Mormon guidelines help some people seem to be more in tune to it. On my mission, I've paid closer attention to stories people tell me about recieving that guidance so as to see if there is a logical explanation I can come up with -- the stories are always about how the Spirit told them when to talk and what to say to certain people; how promptings led them to somehow be exactly where they needed to be; how it helped keep them out of danger by avoiding certain paths.

But what is the Spirit? Assuming it isn't some body-less manifestation of a personage in the God head, could it be an innate ability or sense built into us that we just don't understand yet? Or is it truly something more supernatural?

Currently, I'm toying with several ideas that go something like this:

-A side effect of obedience to something spiritual is focusing and fine tuning one's ability to better recognize and act on an innate sense that we call the Spirit. And because it's an innate ability, some people will of course be better at it than others. The "something spiritual" is not inherent to the LDS church, but as all my experiences pertain to said church, I can't personally speak for certain.

-Or perhaps, on a more supernatural sense, it's something God, whoever God is, built into us so that we might be able to better help ourselves without divine intervention. The ability is also affected by other skills like how well you can "read" people and situations.

What do you all believe or currently understand about the Spirit? How do you, post-FC, reconcile any past experiences with the Spirit with your current beliefs?
Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid. -Albert Einstein

And God said 'Love Your Enemy,' and I obeyed him and loved myself. -Kahlil Gibran

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Cadence
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Re: What is the Spirit?

Post by Cadence » 09 May 2016, 11:40

The human brain is a marvelous creation. It would not be out of bounds to propose that your brain is constantly working analyzing and planning to keep you safe as possible. So perhaps there is an outside force or a billion years of evolution.


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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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LookingHard
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Re: What is the Spirit?

Post by LookingHard » 09 May 2016, 13:06

Just like Cadence, I am amazed at the human mind. I have studied a bit on the "God gene" theory, stories of "average" folks getting bonked on their heads and suddenly becoming extremely spiritually focused, and quite a bit of "how the mind works" (I love the "Your not so smart podcast").

But at the same time, I don't think it can be all explained away just as an interesting organ inside our scull.

I have had an experience that seems like it couldn't have been my mind at work. I was "told" something that was totally unexpected and I had zero doubts once I was told. It is probably what kept me in the church so long even though I have always had doubts. I look at it now and I see it a bit different. I don't think it was God telling me the church was true, he was telling me he was pleased.

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Heber13
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Re: What is the Spirit?

Post by Heber13 » 09 May 2016, 14:13

Many times the "spirit" is used in folklore and story telling...
West wrote:how the Spirit told them when to talk and what to say to certain people; how promptings led them to somehow be exactly where they needed to be; how it helped keep them out of danger by avoiding certain paths.
...for every situation like this, there will be other times they got it wrong and thought they were following the spirit but nothing right happened. Sometimes it becomes a catch-all to express a feeling of divine intervention...whether that was what happened or not...it becomes an expression of faith on how they choose to see things in their life, and how they choose to express it in stories of what happened.

I think that many times we have the moral teachings and things we've learned since being little, and when something we hear matches up with what we know in our brains, or what we have learned through experience, I think our conscience sends us a signal that it feels right, a gut-check, a premonition, a hunch. I agree with Malcolm Gladwell's book Blink, that there are things that happen in our brains that help us to know something before we are consciously thinking through why we think that...we just see it in a blink and can know some things by our prior experiences and expertise.

In addition to these things, I believe we have been taught that there is a Holy Ghost, the 3rd member of the Godhead. This spiritual being can teach people truth through speaking to our spirits. Like most things God does, we dont understand how this works, but we have experience that it is there from time to time, if that is a power like the sun that radiates to all that can pick up the radio frequencies, or if that is more personal whisperings (which seems more impractical to me when there are billions of spirits on the earth at a time).

I think because of these 3 things...we sometimes mix things up, and can't exactly know which is which. It takes some faith. Some things have nothing to do with God and are just stories of how people talk about things and are an expression of belief and hope as a story. Some things are inside us, our brain and emotions, happening without any outside influence or power. Somethings are divinely inspired as an outside influence or power.

Of those 3, I believe the 3rd is the most infrequent of events I have experienced in my life. I have greatly reduced the first one, although I listen to and appreciate others full of faith that express their faith in this way. I mostly see the 2nd one as what is mostly going on as the spirit for me. When I can find truth and reality in the world around me, I bring my will into the will of the universe around me and feel good and right for going with the flow of things.
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."

Roy
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Re: What is the Spirit?

Post by Roy » 09 May 2016, 14:51

West wrote:There's a big emphasis on the correlation of obedience and being guided by the Spirit. And so I wonder often about what exactly is the Spirit and why percievingly higher levels of obedience to Mormon guidelines help some people seem to be more in tune to it
On Own Now wrote:When I was a believer, God 'spoke' to me all the time. Now that I believe there is no God, he never 'speaks' to me. The question is this: did the real God stop speaking or did I stop hearing an imagined God?
“We speak, not in the words which man’s wisdom teacheth, but which the Holy Ghost teacheth; comparing spiritual things with spiritual.”

“But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.” (1 Cor. 2:13–14.)
Elder Packer wrote:The skeptic will say that to bear testimony when you may not know you possess one is to condition yourself; that the response is manufactured. Well, one thing for sure, the skeptic will never know, for he will not meet the requirement of faith, humility, and obedience to qualify him for the visitation of the Spirit.

Can you not see that that is where testimony is hidden, protected perfectly from the insincere, from the intellectual, from the mere experimenter, the arrogant, the faithless, the proud? It will not come to them.
My own theory is the "believing is seeing". We are wonderful and confirmation bias in constructing our personal narratives. My wife and I have had this conversation many times in regards to blessings. Ultimately, we feel that perception is what differentiates a blessing from a random fortunate occurrence. We then can interpret and deconstruct that "blessing" further to be the result of our righteous favored position of the Lord - the result of "tithing blessings" or "priesthood blessings."

Therefore, people that are exerting themselves to live the missionary guidelines tend to be the strongest believers and therefore will tend to be the same people that are most likely to interpret fortunate occurrences as promptings from the spirit.

I cannot and do not say that there is no such thing as the spirit or spiritual communication. However, I find spiritual communication to be highly subjective and therefore fraught with personal interpretation and confirmation bias. I very much believe that there are many "false positive" instances where individuals believe that the spirit has intervened in some way but it is in actuality a combination of wishful thinking and confirmation bias. This makes it very difficult to determine what (if any) genuine experiences with the spirit might exist.

I must interpret the world through my own lens and set of personal experiences and I do not begrudge anyone else from doing the same.
"It is not so much the pain and suffering of life which crushes the individual as it is its meaninglessness and hopelessness." C. A. Elwood

“It is not the function of religion to answer all the questions about God’s moral government of the universe, but to give one courage, through faith, to go on in the face of questions he never finds the answer to in his present status.” TPC: Harold B. Lee 223

"I struggle now with establishing my faith that God may always be there, but may not always need to intervene" Heber13

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LookingHard
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Re: What is the Spirit?

Post by LookingHard » 09 May 2016, 15:38

As a person that has a very scientific mind, it feels to me that confirmation bias is rampant. From listening to the "your not so smart" podcast, I would have to assume that I too am also guilt of this at times - since we all are. Our minds like to have everything in order and know the "why's".

I recall hearing a good friend that is a really good person deep down bear testimony that he was saved his house from burning down in a drought. He said that some kids were playing in the short (dry dead) weeds/grass that go up to his lawn and they lit a match and with a bit of a breeze the flames were out of their control really quickly. The kids were smart enough to knock on his door and warn him the flames were coming towards his house. He went outside just to see the flames come to the edge of his lawn and die out. He felt is was a miracle. Being a real pyromaniac, I could explain it really easily. He has a different kind of grass and a sprinkler system that waters it every morning for a few hours. You could pour a cup of gas on the lawn and the lawn would burn where the gas was, but not extend beyond that.

I of course didn't say anything to them, but after he gave it in his testimony many people were telling him how it was clear it was a miracle.

Then one time my mom was with the whole family. Someone mentioned that a young member of the church died because they were struck by a drunk driver. My mom said, "you see, if you keep the word of wisdom you will be protected." My brother looked at me and gave me a "are you going to tell mom she is going crazy or does she not realize the person keeping the wow died?" We just rolled our eyes a bit.

I am sure I am not too many more decades from being a few brick shy upstairs and my kids will be making fun of me! Who knows, maybe it has already started and I am just too senile to catch on that it is going on!

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Always Thinking
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Re: What is the Spirit?

Post by Always Thinking » 09 May 2016, 16:24

I know I've noticed the Spirit in places that are not LDS. And I truly believe non members can feel the spirit as well. I've seen some truly spiritual people who are not LDS and you can just tell they carry the Spirit with them. I sometimes wonder if the Spirit is just a good feeling that anyone can get from being in tune with a certain part of themselves. But then idk how to explain times when people were prompted to do things that saved their lives or led them to something that answered their prayers or something. I, for one, incorrectly interpreted what I thought was an answer to a prayer and it's been a huge part of my faith crisis since the way the answer came was similar to many other answers from the past that I was sure were right. It's made me question everything. And idk what to trust if I can't trust the Spirit since I have grown up trusting it and relying on its correctness for my entire life.

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West
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Re: What is the Spirit?

Post by West » 10 May 2016, 17:00

I'm glad I can come here and get such a great variety of viewpoints. Really, can't tell you all enough how grateful I am for this forum.

Most of the spiritual experiences I've had and have heard about seem easily explained by the complexity and wonder of the human brain. I've also felt the same sensation as the typical Spirit in a variety of locations, often with music or theater productions. And then there have been the very infrequent but strangely powerful and unexpected moments on which my belief in some sort of other source is built. And it sounds like we're all kind of balancing between those three, some less and more than others.
I think because of these 3 things...we sometimes mix things up, and can't exactly know which is which.
I think that kind of sums up where I am. I believe that the true communications with the Spirit, whatever it is, are rare and far in between. I guess that's why I can't bring myself to consider going full ex Mormon. And yet I can't bring myself to go full obedient to everything Mormon.

This middle road is tricky business.
Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid. -Albert Einstein

And God said 'Love Your Enemy,' and I obeyed him and loved myself. -Kahlil Gibran

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nibbler
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Re: What is the Spirit?

Post by nibbler » 10 May 2016, 18:53

West wrote:There's a big emphasis on the correlation of obedience and being guided by the Spirit. And so I wonder often about what exactly is the Spirit and why percievingly higher levels of obedience to Mormon guidelines help some people seem to be more in tune to it.
Interesting thought. I think it has something to do with confidence. A few scriptures come to mind:
Alma 12:14 wrote:For our words will condemn us, yea, all our works will condemn us; we shall not be found spotless; and our thoughts will also condemn us; and in this awful state we shall not dare to look up to our God; and we would fain be glad if we could command the rocks and the mountains to fall upon us to hide us from his presence.
In other words disobeying would make us want to hide from god.
Doctrine and Covenants 121:45 wrote:Let thy bowels also be full of charity towards all men, and to the household of faith, and let virtue garnish thy thoughts unceasingly; then shall thy confidence wax strong in the presence of God; and the doctrine of the priesthood shall distil upon thy soul as the dews from heaven.
This verse is more about charity but there's the concept of our confidence becoming stronger in the presence of god. If we feel more confident with where we currently stand in the eyes of god then we may feel more confident that god is speaking to us.
West wrote:What do you all believe or currently understand about the Spirit?
Shrugs.
West wrote:How do you, post-FC, reconcile any past experiences with the Spirit with your current beliefs?
It's hard to say; persistent feelings, nagging thoughts, aha moments, precisely what I needed at the time.
It is said an Eastern monarch once charged his wise men to invent him a sentence to be ever in view, and which should be true and appropriate in all times and situations. They presented him the words, "And this too, shall pass away." How much it expresses! How chastening in the hour of pride! How consoling in the depths of affliction!
― Abraham Lincoln

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SilentDawning
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Re: What is the Spirit?

Post by SilentDawning » 10 May 2016, 19:46

I don't know what it is. I am agnostic about it. I have DEFINITELY felt things that I do NOT attribute to self-manufacturing. But they are not exclusive to Mormonism, and at times, I am not even convinced they meant what I thought they did.

I am willing to act on strong spiritual impressions, nonetheless. Particularly in the absence of any clear evidence or other reasons for acting.

And there have been times when I think the Spirit is simply a spiritual name for "good judgment". I had a companion, a grandson of the prophet at the time that told me he considers the spirit acting on his brain when he is deciding what to do, and his mind "grabs" a certain thought/course of action.

I experience that regularly now, even in my so-called heathen, less active state. I think it is more the result of good judgment than the spirit.

I will add this -- I had a couple companions that had "edge". They would look at girls, speak critically and harshly of other people, including the missionaries they were leading, yet go into teaching situations and teach with the spirit. I personally have had times when I know that I am sinning, but then have gone into teaching situations and spoke with the Spirit. I had a non-TR holding period when I was barely ever at church, and then spoke a couple times in various meetings. The Bishop later told me he's not worried about me because "he always feels the Spirit when you [meaning "I", SD) speak". So, living true to the knowledge you have been given (in my case, temple-ready) was not a pre=requisite to carrying the spirit.

Now, I have felt completely void of the spirit at times in my life when I have just been angry, acted "violently" (like I yelled and threw something at the wall, when I was younger) but I really think the correlation between obedience and the spirit is a mere 20% in my experience, and typically, you lose it in periods of extreme disobedience, and generally have it as long as you are doing your best -- and that doesn't mean necessarily living the gospel as the LDS leaders would have you think.
"It doesn't have to be about the Church (church) all the time!" -- SD

"Stage 5 is where you no longer believe the gospel as its literally or traditionally taught. Nonetheless, you find your own way to be active and at peace within it". -- SD

The individual has always had to struggle to keep from being overwhelmed by the tribe. No price is too high to pay for the privilege of owning yourself."

My introduction: viewtopic.php?f=8&t=1576

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