How do you feel the Spirit?

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How do you feel the Spirit?

Post by MisterCurie » 14 Sep 2009, 21:43

Throughout my life I have associated the influence of the spirit as the "burning in the bosom." I get a warmth deep inside my chest that then expands to encompass my whole torso. I have often equated it to being hugged by my Heavenly Father. This feeling is often accompanied with a profound, deep peace, happiness, and joy. While feeling this feeling, my mind suddenly seems to comprehend what path I should go and life is suddenly clear to me. Many of my most spiritual experiences have been accompanied by this feeling and this is not a feeling that I have been able to produce myself.

However, with my newfound disaffection, my comprehension of this feeling has been turned upside down. After months of just going through the motions and not really feeling much of the spirit in my life, now that I am having struggles with the church, I am having these feelings several times/day. I am confused, is this God trying to strengthen my lagging testimony, or is this God trying to get me to progress onto a new faith journey, or is this feeling something coming from just inside me?

I prayed about JS to again know if he was a Prophet. I felt the Spirit. Then I prayed about the new information I have learned about JS. I felt the Spirit. I prayed to know if JS was not ever a Prophet. I felt the Spirit. I prayed if the FV never happened. I felt the Spirit. I prayed if the Church was false. I felt the Spirit. I am now receiving answers from the Spirit contradicting everything I previously received answers about. To me, this appears that either God is/was lying, or these feelings must be coming from myself. I don't really want to believe that God is a liar, but it is also hard for me to believe that I have been supplying my own answers all of this time.

Perhaps most disturbing, I was contemplating human evolution and this quote by President Joseph Fielding Smith:
for, according to this theory, death had always been in the world. If, therefore, there was no fall, there was no need of an atonement, hence the coming into the world of the Son of God as the Savior of the world is a contradiction, a thing impossible. Are you prepared to believe such a thing as that?
I questioned whether Jesus Christ was really needed in this world. I gave up long ago that Adam and Eve are a literal story, but I had failed to make the connection with Christ being needed to save us from the fall that never could have happened if Adam and Eve had never existed. I felt my mind open with clarity, my bosom filled with fire, and I was filled with the Spirit. I felt such light within me and joy spread throughout my body. I felt so good that I could not help but laugh aloud. I felt such freedom as the Spirit testified that there was no Christ. (Frighteningly, even as I type this the Spirit returns to me).

Now, to be clear, I don't take this to mean that God is telling me there is no Christ. I am not ready to abandon my Christian beliefs. Rather, I believe these feelings (as awesome and spectacular as they have been) must have been generated by myself and not have come from God. But this leaves me in the difficult predictament of no longer knowing how to receive spiritual manifestations. I have been guided by these "promptings of the Spirit" for my entire life, and now I cannot trust them to lead me to truth. I feel lost and without a compass to guide me. My spiritual compass is broken.

So my question is: how do you receive spiritual direction? Has it changed since you became disaffected with the Church? Is there anything more concrete I can use in my life than these feelings that I have been taught throughout my life are the spirit?

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Re: How do you feel the Spirit?

Post by Curt Sunshine » 14 Sep 2009, 21:53

Have you considered the possibility that God is telling you He loves you no matter how you end up reconciling these things - that this "outpouring" might be His way of saying, "Peace be unto thy soul. Thine afflictions will be but a small moment. You choose and do your best to follow what you choose; it will all be ok in the end."
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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Re: How do you feel the Spirit?

Post by mormonheretic » 14 Sep 2009, 22:53

Mister Curie,

I've never really felt the "burning in the bosom" as an answer to prayer. Frankly, I think God talks to us all in our own unique way. I don't bedrudge others for their burning in the bosom, but I think God answers us all differently. I guess I would describe my answers to prayer as either intuition, or often a bit of nothingness. When I feel nothingness, it seems to me that God is telling me to "study it out in my mind." At that point, I just try to study it out and come to the best conclusion I can. In these cases, I just try to view the results as whether God thinks I made the right decision. I must say that I haven't been disappointed with the "study" approach. If my study turns out wrong, then I just go with the other option. Sometimes I wish I had a "burning" feeling, but I have just come to accept that God just doesn't speak to me that way.

Last year, I had a job I wasn't really happy with, but was stable. Another job came along with a big (50%) raise. When I prayed, I felt nothing. My wife and a few friends advised me against the new job, but I took it anyway. After 4 months, I realized I made a mistake, so I quit and had another job lined up. This 3rd job was for less money than my original job (25% less), but it was very flexible with my grad school schedule, and I gained some valuable experience in my field (statistics.) That job ended in May (when school was out), and I was out of a job altogether for about 8 weeks. However, the 4 month job qualified me to collect a larger unemployment check than my paycheck for the grad school job. Ironically, while I was unemployed, I was actually better off financially than I was while working at my student job. Finally, I got a great job 2 months ago, due in large part to the good experience/low paying student job.

So, was I inspired to take the 4 month job? I don't know, but it does seem like I might have been. I can't say the 4 month job was a complete mistake, and I did get some benefits out of it, even though I was unhappy with the working environment. I'd definitely chalk it up as a good learning experience, and I did meet many people outside my comfort zone, and the job gave me a new understanding of people with mental health problems--I worked in a mental health facility, which I promise never to do again--no matter the pay. I remember someone in a job interview asked me to describe a mistake I was glad I made, and I told him about this particular 4 month job.

I've got a great job now. All I can say is that if this was God's answer to my prayer, God works in mysterious ways. I never felt a burning in the bosom. However, I think the bad paying student job is the job which helped me get my current job, so overall, I think I did what God wanted me to do, even though I felt like the 4 month job was a mistake originally. I never would have taken a pay cut with my stable job, but I was willing to take a cut with a high paying crappy job. I think God knew this, knew it would all work out in the end, so that's why he didn't seem to care whether I took the 4 month job or not. Honestly, without the student job, I don't think I would have the good job I have now.

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Re: How do you feel the Spirit?

Post by hawkgrrrl » 14 Sep 2009, 23:15

What do we use "the Spirit" for exactly? There are many examples people share at church: to gain direction, to determine the truth of the BOM or other church teachings, to feel closer to God, etc. Personally, I experience it as a feeling of joy like butterflies being released from my chest. I don't consider maudlin or sentimental feelings of sadness to be the Spirit (the majority of what people share at church leads to this, IME). I think that's just feeling sad because someone shared a touching story. But that's just how I view it.

I am not totally sure what "feeling the spirit" means. I've begun to feel that it just means that I'm experiencing a moment of enlightenment, closeness to God, or getting in touch with my own seeds of godliness within, my source of inspiration. Sometimes I feel like I'm connecting to humanity in a new way, like I can see someone with spiritual or at least fresh eyes. At this point in life, I'm not interested in trying to prove things to myself or others or to try to use the spirit like a Magic 8 Ball to find my car keys or figure out which restaurant to go to. I'm more interested in personal growth, having my own spiritual path, and making decisions that will lead to my long-term happiness. That's plenty for me at this point, and it's not just up to the "spirit"; I have to bring my own insights and reflections to the table for that to work.

Just some thoughts at my current stage of life.

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Re: How do you feel the Spirit?

Post by swimordie » 15 Sep 2009, 01:16

I'm with Ray on this one. Have you considered the possibility that all of those "feelings" are valid? Even the "contradictory" ones?

We've had some interesting threads on paradox. I can totally see how seemingly contradictory concepts can both be "true".

For me, those moments of clarity and epiphany are the most valuable experiences that I would chalk up to "divinity". I know that my heart is "good" and my intentions are "pure" so I trust that my thoughts and feelings are coming from the "divine". And, when I try them out or test them, they generally prove out. On the occasion they don't, I am able to examine my own emotional well-being in the moment of epiphany and determine where the flaw was in my thinking/feeling.

In the paradigm of recovery from codependency, this is an extremely fruitful measure of emotional health as well as joyous living. As hawk said.
Perfectionism hasn't served me. I think I am done with it. -Poppyseed

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Re: How do you feel the Spirit?

Post by Orson » 15 Sep 2009, 11:37

Hi MisterC,

My short answer: All of the above!

I was thinking in a similar vein as Swim, look deeper. Just because things don't mean exactly what you thought they meant doesn't mean they aren't deeply meaningful in a different way. (That was a mouth full.)

I know a paradigm shift is disorienting for a while - take it easy until the dizziness subsides! ;)
My avatar - both physical and spiritual.

I first found faith, and thought I had all truth. I then discovered doubt, and claimed a more accurate truth. Now I’ve greeted paradox and a deeper truth than I have ever known.

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Re: How do you feel the Spirit?

Post by Heber13 » 15 Sep 2009, 12:52

I have stopped trying to definitively decide what is the Spirit of God and what is just my conscience and what is the Light of Christ within me. They all run together for me. I've had experiences I know were from God, and other times no answers and felt alone.

I have recently started seeking God in prayer again and feel better when I do that then trying to tell myself to figure it out.

Bottom line, I seek for the good feeling, and when I feel it...I seek for the meaning of it, but even when I don't understand it, I just like the feeling whenever I can get it. It usually helps me feel peaceful, and then I can think clearer. Many times I know that I really know the answers within me, and so I seek confirming feelings, but in the end have to make the best choices I can and believe I'll be the one living with the consequences of my actions.

I think Ray's words are good to ponder. What can you learn from your experience beyond what the questions are you're asking? I think God is more interested in that process.
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: How do you feel the Spirit?

Post by bridget_night » 15 Sep 2009, 14:45


Wow!!! This must be so confusing and I can understand what a conflictling and lonely time this must be for you. Good thing you are posting here, rather than a fowlers stage 3 lds forum where many would love to tell you that all your 'doubting' and 'questioning' is causing these problems. That things are black and white and it should be clear to you. They would tell you to just believe like before, shape up, and live the gospel and everything will be fine. You seem to be in stage 5 faith and so it is natural that you can be confused and conflicted right now.

Believe me, I have been there to some degree. I also believe in a Satan and that he can be working on us as well even though that always seems so unfair to me when you are praying to God. Here are a few of my experiences and how I have dealt with them.

Before my mission, I had such a strong testimony and felt so sure of everything (of course you do at 19-21, right?) I had the same experiences of you with the burning boosm and spiritual highs. Then, I get put in a European mission, tracting 80 hours a week with little success and alot of negativity. I get challenged by investigators, doctors, scientists, lay people about my faith. The normal formula's I was taught to believe in about 'prayer, study, fast, go to church = church is true, lds gospel is true, did not seem to be working for me or my investigators. I became very depressed and did not want to be on this mission anymore. Before I left on my mission I was dating a non-member guy that I was madly in love with. I felt the 'spirit' had told me that he was the one and if I went on my mission God would convert him and we would get married in the temple afterwards. Well, none of that happened and I was really angry at God. I did not understand why the 'spirit' had told me he was the one! So, I left the church for awhile after my mission and hardly believed in God anymore. Only problem was, I was miserable, and I so much wanted to believe in God still. So, every once in a while I would still try to pray and give God a chance to 'redeemm' himself in my eyes! (See where my spiritual maturity level was then?). Years later, I came to realize that this guy was the right one for me for that time period.

Anyway, there have been plenty of times I have been confused and not understood God at I stopped even believing in God for awhile (read my post on "Does God Exist.). When I was pregnant with my first child, I tried to do everything right. I ate super healthy, excerized, went to Lamaze classes--I was prepared and asked God to bless my efforts and that childbirth would be a good experience for me. Well, the doctor did not want to hang around all night so he broke my water and I had a horrible dry birth and was in excruiating pain for 8 hours straight. The baby was colicky and cried all the time and I was passing out from adrealine exhaustion. It was a nightmare experience. I became so angry and bitter at God and shook my fist at the heavens on how this could have happened. Eventually, I made a decision that I could either become bitter at life and be constantly depressed or see what I could learn from these epxeriences that could help others in the future. So, now, no matter what happens, I look at everything as a learning experience.

When I had my 3rd child, a boy who turned out to be gay....I had another whole trial and lesson to learn. This child was so spiritual and grew up talking to God all the time. He would tell me so often, "Guess what God told me today mom." I just knew he was going to go on a mission and be a valiant leader for God. Instead, he discovers he has same-sex attraction and is praying his guts out for God to change him. He pays his titthing, fasts, even gets a priesthood blessing and nothing happenss. So, after alot of self-loathing he gets angry and decides that he has been fooled all his life about God and the church. He stops going to church, and will not go on a mission, and is so confused. He thought God had told him that the young man he had fallen in love with was supposed to be his eternal partner and the guy turns out not to be gay. The problem is that sometimes we just don't know how to interpret things or we make wrong interpretations. So, its like going through a dark tunnel and we hope there will eventually be a light at the end of the tunnel that will help us understand everything.

Do you remember that movie, "A beautiful mind" about John Nash with Russel Crowe? I love that movie. Anyway, he finally had to decide to ignore the imaginary people he kept seeing and ask people to help him know who was real or not. He just kept living his life and productive ways, helping other students. So, until you get some answers to your questions, just be the good person you are. Be kind and loving to others and forget yourself for awhile. Seems to work for me.


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Re: How do you feel the Spirit?

Post by MisterCurie » 15 Sep 2009, 16:50

Thanks to everyone for all of the thoughts. You have offered me some very deep advice to consider.

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Re: How do you feel the Spirit?

Post by Brian Johnston » 17 Sep 2009, 10:54

I am not a burning bosom type either. I interpret that sensation as emotion within me personally. Getting choked up is an emotional response to me, but I don't deny that it could be the Spirit to other people. I really avoid an absolute universal definition.

To me, when I feel the Spirit, it is more of a quickening. I like that word better. I feel like my mind expands out really far. Things seem to become clear and crisp. I feel surrounded in light, like I am swimming in a pool of light. Ideas feel like they are rushing through me and around me. I feel unconditionally loved and accepted, safe and at peace. I wish I could feel that way all the time. I meditate somewhat regularly to get into that state of mind/body/emotion.

I have a particular view on these experiences. I call it Divine Hedonism -- since it feels so good, and makes me want to be good, GO WITH IT! I don't see this state of consciousness really as a sign of truth (epistemological truth). I see it as an excellent state of consciousness to examine things though.

The feelings don't tell me something is true, but they allow me to see what might be useful and true within an idea.
"It's strange to be here. The mystery never leaves you alone." -John O'Donohue, Anam Cara, speaking of experiencing life.

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