What exactly is a spiritual experience?

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LYN
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What exactly is a spiritual experience?

Post by LYN » 29 Oct 2008, 07:45

I will try keep this as brief as possible but I just want to give you an idea where I am coming from. When I was in my early 20's, before I even knew anything at all about the Mormon church, I was struggling with some difficulties in my life and was having a really hard time. I did not go to a church and really knew very little about God or even Bible stories but knew of course, that other people talked about God and some said they knew him and that he loved everyone and was there for each of us. I was desperate so I reached out to him in prayer and just said "If you are there, If you really exist and you have answered other people and you love us all the same, then I know that you will answer me too and just let me know that you are real". I prayed like this for days, each time becoming more and more heartfelt and sincere. I did get my answer. It was so strong and overpowering and ran right through my entire body affecting me both physically and mentally at the same time. It was a phenomenon that I have never experienced since and it has been 29 and a half years since that happened. I joined the church right after this experience.

We talk about the Holy Ghost and the Holy Spirit. According to our teachings this would have been the Holy Spirit. In all my years as a member I have prayed and prayed about various things and never did I feel inspiration. I could not identify any at all because to me, it all seemed to be more just my own thoughts. It was tough when for instance we were to pray about a person for a calling and stuff like that as I just did not receive answers so I knew there wasn't much point in even going through the motions. Besides, unless it was something that I REALLY wanted to know, like whether or not God exists, my heart wasn't in it anyway.

I think that this is a subject that people may be a little uncomfortable talking about but it is something that I could never discuss with anyone at church so I am hoping some of you will share. I understand that an ex mo might chalk my experience up to a psychological experience that I psyched myself into and I am open to hearing those kinds of things. Don't be afraid to say what you really think. There is one very important detail that I left out though and that is what has me puzzled. At the time that this answer came flowing into my body, I was not praying. I was in my kitchen doing dishes and not even thinking about it. It just happened.
What do you think of this?

Also, some people equate feeling the spirit with an emotional response. Like a "warm fuzzy" if you will. I have had those feelings but that is not at all anything like what I am talking about. This was extremely powerful and unforgettable. Comments?

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Orson
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Re: What exactly is a spiritual experience?

Post by Orson » 29 Oct 2008, 08:07

Hi LYN,

I think that is a very good question, and one that I personally don’t have a clearly defined answer to. I have heard others describe experiences similar to yours, and I think it’s wonderful that you have had such a powerful reference. Personally my greatest spiritual experience was more like the feeling of overwhelming love, I didn’t connect any physical sensation to it – but it did come at a time when I was not particularly looking for it.

Yes, people can ‘reduce’ any experience to an “emotional response” or “psychological event”, but that doesn’t make it any less real or less important to the person who experienced it. I do think it’s possible to misinterpret the meaning of some of our experiences, but that’s a different topic for a different thread. As far as I’m concerned spiritual experiences are to be cherished, and pondered on for possible meanings. I see the spiritual realm as being completely out of the physical sphere, so the fact that there is no physical explanation or proof of spiritual experiences simply adds to their personal worth.

I don’t know if I hit on anything that you were looking for, but thanks for the post!
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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Brian Johnston
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Re: What exactly is a spiritual experience?

Post by Brian Johnston » 29 Oct 2008, 08:50

There are many people out there who struggle with this dilema. You are not alone LYN. You asked great questions!

Some people never really get that overwhelming experience either, in addition to not getting the smaller answers to mundane prayers (like who to call to a position in Church). First let me say, I don't know why it is like this. I don't know why God doesn't interact the exact same way with every single person. It is my hope and assumption that He has His own reasons, and they are good reasons. I can make several guesses, but I really don't know the answer. That's ok for me. I don't believe it is completely a reward system. By that, I mean people don't only get answers because they are worthy, and they certainly don't because they are "better," special people.

Some people take the lack of answers and go a step further to interpret it to mean there is no God. If God doesn't do things the way they expect, then He doesn't exist. I have a lot of sympathy for that line of thinking, and I disagree. They could be right, but it isn't what my experience tells me.

I have had many profound spiritual experiences. I can't explain them. Other people do not have these experiences. I am *NOT* some great and special person, trust me on that :-) I also notice that they are not consistent. I have had them when I am not praying. I have had them when devout members might say I was not worthy and "able" to receive them. They still happened, and they were positive and spiritually enlightening. So I believe they were from a divine source.

My prayers have been answered. My prayers have not been answered. I used to get upset about it sometimes because it did not make sense. I think at some point I came to the conclusion that God was not consistent because He didn't do what *I* wanted. That's the wrong approach, in my opinion. I believe He is consistent according to what He wants. We can learn a lot from God when we accept what we experience, are patient and quiet, and watch what He does. For better or worse, we make mistakes and mess things up. I believe that's ok with God. He understands.

Orson provided great advice in my opinion. Cherish what you have. Ponder the meaning. I would add a reccomendation not to get overly attached to meanings though. Attach to the experience and believe what happened, but stay open to the possibilities of meanings. The more I learn, the less I seem to know for sure.

I rarely pray by kneeling and folding my arms. I often pray driving my car to work, or while I am at my desk working, or while I am doing just about anything else. The answers rarely come at the same time. I also have the feeling that He just leaves us to make a decision on our own most of the time, even if we make the wrong decisions. I really think that.

This is a great topic for discussion.

One last note. I think they greatest thing to pray for is "thy will be done." When I pray that way, sure enough, it always happens :-). I joke a little, but it is a very different perspective. We end up praying for the change in ourselves to happen, not for God to make the world the way we want it to be.
Last edited by Brian Johnston on 06 Nov 2008, 13:05, edited 1 time in total.
"It's strange to be here. The mystery never leaves you alone." -John O'Donohue, Anam Cara, speaking of experiencing life.

LYN
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Re: What exactly is a spiritual experience?

Post by LYN » 29 Oct 2008, 12:49

I really appreciate both of your opinions and advice. I think that if it were not for having this experience to remember, I would be a real mess right now. My apple cart has been totally flipped in regard to the church and apples are flying everywhere. I still find it hard to believe that I was so ignorant for so long and am still not sure how I can deal with it. YOUR SUPPORT REALLY HELPS.
The reason I mentioned that my answer was not at the time of prayer was because I know that people can reach psychological states that we are not very familiar with because they are out of the ordinary. An example of this kind of altered state that I am talking about would be hypnosis. I have also gone to my sister-in-law's baptism at another church and witnessed people fainting and falling to the floor when the preacher put his hand on their forehead. I do not believe in this instance that they were faking it. I believe they put theirselves into some sort of altered state without knowing it. The fact that the answer came later, when I was not even thinking of it , I believe discredits any such possible theory of this being the answer to what happened to me. Due to how I felt, I have to believe that this could not possibly have been from within me but had to have come from a higher power. I felt a strong unconditional love toward everyone for days afterward and it was a very euphoric experience. I just don't believe I could conjure that up myself in any way. That being said, I will always hear another persons perspective because I never am going to be closed minded thinking I have the answers to anything ever again. You are right Valoel, the more we know, the more we realize that we don't know. I may have not much else to hang on to right now, but I will always have that experience to come back to and I am grateful for that.
I hopeto get more input from others here yet. I am not sure how many members are in staylds. Maybe there are just a handful of us!

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Brian Johnston
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Re: What exactly is a spiritual experience?

Post by Brian Johnston » 29 Oct 2008, 19:53

LYN wrote:I hopeto get more input from others here yet. I am not sure how many members are in staylds. Maybe there are just a handful of us!
We're pretty new, and just getting started.

Keep the hope and faith alive!
Last edited by Brian Johnston on 07 Nov 2008, 08:00, edited 1 time in total.
"It's strange to be here. The mystery never leaves you alone." -John O'Donohue, Anam Cara, speaking of experiencing life.

Curt Sunshine
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Re: What exactly is a spiritual experience?

Post by Curt Sunshine » 30 Oct 2008, 21:35

Everyone, I had an interesting insight a few years ago that relates to this in a unique way.

I feel for Laman and Lemuel, for many reasons. Of most relevance to the questions in this post, I was struck by a verse that commonly is used to show their lack of faith - but it hit me in a totally different way. Let me quote D&C 46:13-14 first:
To some it is given by the Holy Ghost to know that Jesus Christ is the Son of God, and that he was crucified for the sins of the world. To others it is given to believe on their words, that they also might have eternal life if they continue faithful.
Now, the statement from Laman and Lemuel in 1 Nephi 15:8-9:
And I said unto them: Have ye inquired of the Lord? And they said unto me: We have not; for the Lord maketh no such thing known unto us.
Again, we tend to read this in a pejorative way - that they simply are too wicked or lazy or cavalier to ask. However, what if they were being totally honest? What if they were NOT given the gift to know and have Lehi- or Nephi-like visions - and what if they were led to believe they should be able to have such experiences. Is it any wonder they ended up rebelling and rejecting their father and brother?

LYN, I think our scriptures leave it wide open for people to not have miraculous or indescribable spiritual experiences and not be doing anything wrong, necessarily. I believe some truly do not have "such thing(s) known unto (them)." That's where faith has to take over and abide - and I admire those who can abide and endure in faith even more than I admire those who have had amazing spiritual experiences. I mean that totally and sincerely.
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

LYN
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Re: What exactly is a spiritual experience?

Post by LYN » 31 Oct 2008, 06:57

Orson,
I know that a connection had to have been made with the spiritual realm that day, or rather ,the spiritual realm connected with me. Pondering it for meaning? Well, I attach the same meaning now as I did then, God must exist. He is probably amazed that I even write this as He is probably thinking "what do I have to do, hit her on the head with a hammer?"

Valoel,
Since this crisis in my faith, I have been very much attaching to this experience, and I am grateful that I have that to fall back on. I have to give it the meaning that God heard and answered my prayer.I totally understand what you are saying about how we can easily misinterpret meanings and so we should be careful not to put our own interpretation on things. Within 3 weeks of this happening ,the missionaries came knocking on my door and I figured it was a sign of this being the church He wanted me to join. Part of me still believes that this "MAY" have been the case (even in light of me recently learning of it's faults),because it did provide me with direction that I needed and put me on a straight and narrow path. Or, it could have just been a total coincidence that they showed up at that time. I am sure it will all be very intriguing after we die and see the big picture. I suspect it will all make a lot more sense than we can make of it now. I am in absolute agreeance that He leaves us to make our own decisions and I feel that He has a lot less to do with our everyday lives than a lot of people think.

Ray,
Interesting perspective. I always thought this to mean that each of us has either one or the other. Thanks for sharing, I appreciate it.

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Brian Johnston
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Re: What exactly is a spiritual experience?

Post by Brian Johnston » 31 Oct 2008, 09:08

LYN wrote:I have to give it the meaning that God heard and answered my prayer.I totally understand what you are saying about how we can easily misinterpret meanings and so we should be careful not to put our own interpretation on things.
We have to interpret and extract meaning. I don't want to come across too negative against that. What I have personally found helpful is not to become too attached to there being one and only one meaning to an experience. I'm avoiding the absolutes, and also accepting that I can be wrong.

It's a bit nuanced in the fine points and confusing I admit. *shrug* It's a tough subject.
"It's strange to be here. The mystery never leaves you alone." -John O'Donohue, Anam Cara, speaking of experiencing life.

SallyM
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Re: What exactly is a spiritual experience?

Post by SallyM » 10 Nov 2008, 17:00

Hi All,
Ive just discovered this site. I casually tried to see if mormonstories might be back on board and though I found out NO...I found this instead. Well done.

I am thankful for this discussion as it has been on my mind of late.

I am LDS...was inactive as a teenager but at 19 decided it was how I wanted to live etc. I remember then starting to read, pray etc and yes my life improved. I then served a mission (but never had any of those "this is the door to knock on" experiences), married an RM etc. Ten years into our marriage my dh told me he didnt beleive anymore. We have struggled but I am now come full circle with him and we are now like newlyweds again. Ive recently joined faceseast and enjoy that reading as well.

I'll tell you in a sec while I am thinking I may be at the beginning of the end of my testimony...something I hope doesnt happen and why I am reading these forums etc.

Anyway re this topic....I absolutely think that spiritual experiences are all so unique, but I do think they are real and can take many different forms. Again I think this is inline with how we are taight in primary that Heavenly Father knows and loves us all...as individuals!

Personally I seem to have prayers answered but you know it usually isnt until I am in a state to accept God's will. I find usually I pray and pray and pray...then so much time passes and nothing. Then at some point I will alter my prayer a little bit and I must make it clearer or something to God as then I get a response! I remember at one point having the love of my life propose to me, I was Barbie and he was my Ken....but I had huge family opposition. I was constantly praying along the lines of "Is he the right one for me?"...nothing nothing nothing...then as the family stress continued....I changed to "Is he worth all of this?" I can tell you at this point I was ready to do whatever, I was ready to abondon my family, or him, I just wanted the angst to stop. Well that night I had such a clear dream, and then woke up actually verbally saying NO NO NO.

Well long story short...he was Mr Wrong. I still think he is a great guy but now the years have gone by and we have both married other people I can see that we would have struggled a bit as a couple.

Ok so now in my life it happened again. My dh and I have struggled so much the past couple of years due to his crisis in faith. Recently though we were losing all hope, and i think were very close to separating. Then my prayers changed again...I was open to any suggestion as I was so so sad. Then I had an experience that made me do a complete backflip. It was a prompting to say to my dh "Im okay with what you are doing, I want you to be free to live as you want". I kept pushing this out of my consciousness as I felt like I was backflipping on my principles etc...but again the prompting came back....about 10 times in one day.

I then late that night told my dh. He was totally shocked, and told me I was brave. I kind of figured it would either speed up the recovery or speed up the end!

Since then I have had many more prayers confirming to me that my dh still is the very fine person I married many years ago. I feel so calm and peaceful. So hopeful (not that he will want to be LDS again, but hopeful we have a good future together etc) and praying has given this to me. I think this is spiritual. It is to me anyway.

So why I need this site is because I feel that God has told me that my marriage/family is more valuable then the LDSness of married life. If my dh was on the way to a worse or destructive life why would I be prompted to hold this family together? Wouldnt a more logical way be for me to be prompted to prepare for change?

Then the whole Prop8 thing has happened and this has totally shaken my faith in modern day revelation. So basically now I am asking myself what I actually believe and what is it that I just do out of culture/expectations etc. Its been a bit confronting to say the least. So now I am so wanting to get back to a place where I wanted no other thing then to be LDS. All of a sudden it feels like I could take it or leave it. My kids are still very little so I guess I am motivated for them to go through primary etc as at least most of that program focusses on Christ.

Anyway sorry for this lengthy post.

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Brian Johnston
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Re: What exactly is a spiritual experience?

Post by Brian Johnston » 11 Nov 2008, 10:11

SallyM wrote:Since then I have had many more prayers confirming to me that my dh still is the very fine person I married many years ago. I feel so calm and peaceful. So hopeful (not that he will want to be LDS again, but hopeful we have a good future together etc) and praying has given this to me. I think this is spiritual. It is to me anyway.
Hi SallyM! I really like how you said that. I'm glad you believe your own experiences. They seem to be leading you in a good direction.

I'm over at FacesEast too. I recognize your name. Welcome to StayLDS! I bet you can contribute a lot here too. I like your new-found viewpoints. I know you've mentioned a feeling of losing your testimony, but then I also read your comments and think that you don't seem to be losing anything.

It seems to me like you are changing, and the new places your are going or better. It seems more like an exchange than a loss really.
"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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