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Does the formula for developing spirituality work for you?

Posted: 12 Jul 2020, 10:43
by SilentDawning
We all know the formula for developing spirituality -- read, pray, fast -- among other things. But focusing on the Read Pray and Fast formula -- do you find that you get more spiritual the more you do these things? Does it improve your testimony? If not, what does?

Re: Does the formula for developing spirituality work for you?

Posted: 12 Jul 2020, 18:37
by Arrakeen
No.

The formula kind of worked for me before my faith crisis, until suddenly it didn’t. The things that used to strengthen my testimony kind of helped destroy it. Reading the scriptures, now all I see are the problematic doctrines, unscientific beliefs, and historical inconsistencies. With prayer, now I only notice the silence. I’m not sure I ever really enjoyed fasting, but I used to think I could get specific blessings from it. Now it feels futile.

Basically, when I was a literal believer the formula worked for me. Once I started questioning the truth of the scriptures, the existence of God, and the efficacy of fasting, it just didn’t work anymore.

Now I find spirituality through things like pondering the vastness of the ocean or the night sky. Or appreciating good music and thoughtful works of fiction. I wouldn’t say any of these things strengthen my faith or give me any kind of testimony, but they do bring strong spiritual feelings.

Another thing is, now spirituality for me is less of a formula and more of an experience. Certain things can bring spiritual feelings, but I can’t intentionally make it happen whenever I want. It just happens sometimes.

Re: Does the formula for developing spirituality work for you?

Posted: 12 Jul 2020, 19:55
by Minyan Man
Arrakeen wrote:
12 Jul 2020, 18:37
No.

The formula kind of worked for me before my faith crisis, until suddenly it didn’t. The things that used to strengthen my testimony kind of helped destroy it.
I agree with Arrakeen. In another way, my testimony isn't destroyed as much as "damaged" or changed.

The things that help my testimony today is the four gospels of the NT. I especially like the parables. Anything that deals with the very basics of the
gospel & the life of JC. I also believe in the friendships I've developed over time. Some are in the church must are not. In the middle of a FC
we can easily blame ourselves for not being active. I'm beginning to believe that my FC was a blessing in some ways.

Re: Does the formula for developing spirituality work for you?

Posted: 13 Jul 2020, 05:23
by nibbler
I hate to go this route (again) but post FC I get tripped up on the following:
  1. What does more spiritual mean?
  2. Testimony of what?
  3. What does strengthen a testimony mean?
In my more orthodox days I would have answered that the testimony was about the church being the one True church with exclusive authority from god. A stronger testimony would translate to less likely to go inactive and more willing to sacrifice for the church, in short loyalty to the restored gospel (where gospel and church were near synonyms).

These days a one True church isn't on my list of needs, so I'd have to reevaluate what a stronger testimony meant.

Tangent: what would strengthening a testimony look like in a secular world? Say you witness a car accident. You don't really strengthen your testimony about what you saw, you just have your testimony. If someone were to say that they needed to "strengthen" a testimony in a secular environment it might sound like people getting together to make sure they got their stories straight before reporting to authorities.

I suppose you could strengthen a secular testimony by writing it down to make sure you don't forget details, but mostly the testimony is what it is.

I'm in a similar vein with spirituality. At church we like to talk about being more spiritual and having stronger testimonies but I feel like it can do more harm than good. If we focus too much on our quest for more then I think it's harder for us to find happiness. We're always looking for something we haven't got as opposed to finding contentment in what we've already got.

I know in my more orthodox days I fell into this particular trap. Why did I want to be more spiritual? I have to confess that I think most of the time it was related to gaining status in the community. I'm not speaking for everyone, just me. I'd hear thinks like, "Brother Fulano de Tal is so spiritual." and I think somewhere deep down I wanted people to say that about me.

Re: Does the formula for developing spirituality work for you?

Posted: 13 Jul 2020, 05:24
by DarkJedi
I think the formula can work and does work for some people. Many of us have experienced the orthodox leader's counsel to do these things as a result of seeking help from them. Many of us have also experienced it not helping. Do I sometimes feel the sweet peace the gospel brings while reading scriptures or praying? Yes. But it is more the exception than the rule, especially since I have learned to distinguish between emotional response and the true peace the gospel brings.

I am much like MM here. I don't get much from the BoM and D&C, but I love the four gospels and I'm far more likely to benefit from reading/studying/pondering them than I am any other canonized works. Hymns and "spiritual music" can also do more for me than prayer or fasting. None of it is every time though.

Re: Does the formula for developing spirituality work for you?

Posted: 13 Jul 2020, 05:30
by nibbler
I haven't really answered any of your questions. I'll try.

Defining spirituality as connecting with others.

Reading: I do think reading helps, even though reading is an activity I do alone I still think it helps me connect with others. Here I mean reading anything and everything. Scriptures, news, stories, forums, etc. I find reading about other people and their experiences helps me gain empathy.

Praying: I don't find much value in prayer.

Fasting: I haven't fasted in years. I guess I could give it another go to see if it's of any benefit.

What improves my testimony? Following my previous post I'd say that whatever my testimony is, it is; whatever my testimony is not, it is not. I could strengthen my testimony by witnessing more things. Being more cognizant of people's struggles. Getting into the trenches with others. Connecting with things outside of myself. In that sense it's less "strengthen" and more "expand".

Re: Does the formula for developing spirituality work for you?

Posted: 13 Jul 2020, 05:44
by LookingHard
To answer the first question for me - No, not really.

I feel it more when I really help someone in need, or I am able to spend some time in nature - especially alone.

In fact this issue is part of what was weighing my shelf down quite a bit - why is none of this working for me? Why do I feel absolutely nothing when I go to the temple (other than a bit freaked-out at the odd nature of the temple and how it seems to be disjointed with the rest of church service)? Even with that, I tried fasting before going, attending very regularly (almost weekly) for a few months and nothing changed - other than getting a feeling this was a waste of my time and was taking me away from my limited family time.

Re: Does the formula for developing spirituality work for you?

Posted: 13 Jul 2020, 11:21
by Roy
I agree with Nibbler that there a loads of unexamined assumptions in the question.

1) Read - I personally do not find much value in reading the scriptures. I do think that I would find a study of the parables enlightening because they are not to be taken literally. Many scriptures seem to me to be stories of miraculous happenings that "prove" that our God is real and an all-powerful interventionist god. "At noon Elijah began to taunt them. "Shout louder!" he said. "Surely he is a god! Perhaps he is deep in thought, or busy, or traveling. Maybe he is sleeping and must be awakened."" Ha Ha! Those silly priests of Baal, look at them make a fool of themselves speaking to a god that does not answer them! That sort of story does not currently align with my belief. If I was studying with another religion and they gave me a book filled with stories of miracles that their god performed ages ago then I would expect to be similarly unimpressed. It just doesn't feel relevant to my current situation.

2) Pray - I like to pray as a community vocalization of common will. I do not often pray alone but I can also see value in it as a self reflective and organize my thoughts manner. I also believe that frequent expressions of gratitude are good for quality of life.

3) Fast - I do not fast frequently but consider myself honored to take part in community fasts for specific purposes. I view them as community expressions of common will and I feel closer to my fellows by taking part.

I tend to speak more in terms of belief models than "testimony." This is probably disconcerting to members who are accustomed to more traditional vocabulary.

Re: Does the formula for developing spirituality work for you?

Posted: 14 Jul 2020, 06:20
by AmyJ
I have been trying to answer this question for the past 2 days in my head.... hopefully it is worth 2 days of thinking.

The biggest hurdle I have right now is that I am not trying to develop spirituality [waits for lightning to strike].

I know that I have spent some time defining personal spirituality for me based on what isn't meaningful for me for now (namely reading scriptures, praying) - but I do see non-divine analogs that are useful for my mental/emotional health that are similar patterns of behavior - reading/researching inspiring (non-scripture) literature, meditation (both practical and just sitting pondering), and balancing my resources between self-sufficiency and community. Right now, my husband and I are giving a lot of thought to what having an internal locus of control looks like (focusing on what I can do vs having a mindset of being a victim of circumstances) - which isn't always in line with learning to relinquish control to God.