What exactly is a spiritual experience?

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Orson
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Re: What exactly is a spiritual experience?

Post by Orson » 11 Nov 2008, 13:48

SallyM wrote: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.
Hi Sally. I agree with Valoel that you probably haven't lost as much as you may think. I see the process as a maturing, it doesn't always feel comfortable, but I believe we become better off for it. Learning that leaders are human is an important part of understanding the true nature of their role, and our role of seeking our own personal confirmation/clarification. It's difficult when some members tend to teach tradition or culture as doctrine, but when we learn to separate what is truly of God from what is a particular man's (or group's) understanding then we personally grow that much closer to God. It has been difficult for me to learn that spiritual truths often cannot be verified physically, I didn't want to accept that when the tradition that I grew up with was contrary. Now I'm starting to see how something can be very true spiritually, even though it may not be in a purely physical sense.
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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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hawkgrrrl
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Re: What exactly is a spiritual experience?

Post by hawkgrrrl » 11 Nov 2008, 16:38

Sally M - welcome, and I loved your story. I guess I have a few observations about spiritual experiences.

What they are not (IMO):
- just normal emotional responses to touching stories or AT&T commercials, feelings of inadequacy or gratitude (80% of what passes for spiritual experiences in F&T mtg)
- God intervening in big ways in our lives (the hand of God or a voice telling you what to do). I'm not denying that people might experience these types from time to time, but I don't think everything good and bad that happens to us is God's will. I believe He intervenes less than some would have us believe.

What they are like (to me):
- getting in touch with the seed of God in me; almost like an internal spiritual alignment that gives me clarity or helps me see the bigger picture.
- little nudges from God (or from inside of me) that say "not that way; this way" or "a little less of this, a little more of that"
- sometimes dreams that clarify my perspective on my life

I did have a breathtaking answer to prayer about the Book of Mormon at a time when I did not believe and had left the church. What exactly does that mean? To me, it means this was important, good for me, not something to discard. It doesn't answer every question A to Z in polemic fashion, but it gave me direction that was meaningful.

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Orson
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Re: What exactly is a spiritual experience?

Post by Orson » 11 Nov 2008, 17:04

SallyM wrote: 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.
Sally, I was recently reading an essay by Eugene England that to me describes exactly why this experience you describe is a true prompting of God. It is not turning your back on your principles, it is in fact learning to live the true principles of the Gospel of love, peace, and mercy.

I think you'll find it an interesting read. "Healing and Making Peace" (if it opens in the middle scroll to page 1 of the .pdf)

https://www.sunstonemagazine.com/pdf/086-36-46.pdf
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.

Shederlaomach
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Re: What exactly is a spiritual experience?

Post by Shederlaomach » 14 Nov 2008, 03:20

This subject is one the intrigues me greatly. For whatever reason, I have been the recipient of several life-changing spiritual experiences--miracles, visions, and revelations. The most amazing thing to me about these experiences, however, was how quickly I managed to come back to the regular routine of my daily life after having these incredible spiritual moments. Almost as soon as I had some distance from these spiritual high points, I would begin to entertain doubts and the power of the experience would just fade into the background--not completely, of course, but much more than would seem possible so soon after a profound supernatural experience had occurred. The knowledge of having had such a moving, supernatural experience, thankfully, would remain and serve to form a large part of my core belief system. Of course, Oliver Cowdery and many others had been present at great supernatural experiences, and they still fell away. Brigham Young said, "Pray that you never see an angel." Initially, that seems like an odd thing to have a prophet say, but he explained that almost all of the people who had seen an angel apostatized. Sadly, I have known several people who had the most amazing spiritual experiences, but the challenges and drudgery of everyday life was too much for them to stay true to their faith. There is a lot to say for people who never have supernatural experiences but yet manage to develop great faith and continue to serve and endure.

Still, it seems like many of the most dedicated members I have known have had some kind of supernatural spiritual experience that has grounded them and served as an anchor to their testimonies and discipleships. I have even toyed with the idea of collecting many of these stories and compiling them into a book, as these stories are very powerful as is their effect on the people who experienced them. Ours is (and should be) a church founded on revelation and nourished by miracles and spiritual experiences. One of my greatest concerns is that in our correlated, "follow-the-rules-and-you'll-be-blessed" approach that is so common in the church today often seems to me to be very pedestrian, and, even worse, denies the very things that demonstrate to all that this is the restored church of Christ. I wonder if the lack of inspiring meetings, teaching only milk-and-no-meat doctrines, and looking only to the "brethren" as the sole source of spiritual experience has had the effect of making the church uninteresting to seekers of truth. Certainly there has to be some reason behind the flat baptism rate, the near stagnant growth of the church in North America and Europe, and the horrible rates of retention in Latin America.

I look forward to hearing your thoughts on this matter.

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hawkgrrrl
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Re: What exactly is a spiritual experience?

Post by hawkgrrrl » 14 Nov 2008, 10:54

I bought but haven't yet read the book Gerald Lund just did on personal revelation. I almost feel like I could write my own book on it. I love your idea of gathering those spiritual experiences you have heard about.

The key, IMO, is that regardless of your spiritual experiences, you can't "prove" anything religious. You can't prove God exists, much less that Jesus was the son of God or that the BOM was an ancient record. None of this is provable or disprovable. There's inconclusive evidence on both sides of any religious claim. Even spiritual experiences could be a brain anneurism or undiagnosed schizofrenia. Or they could be how God communicates with man. Richard Bushman said there are people who want to believe, and they do.

Maybe the most important thing is not whether it's true, but what we want to believe and how we want to live our life. The church is there to test us, not the other way around. Or at least that's what I think sometimes.

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Re: What exactly is a spiritual experience?

Post by Curt Sunshine » 14 Nov 2008, 20:39

Richard Bushman said there are people who want to believe, and they do. Maybe the most important thing is not whether it's true, but what we want to believe and how we want to live our life.


I have said elsewhere that I have made a conscious decision to pursue that which brings me joy. That is the Church and the Gospel.

I also realize that I can construct a reasonable intellectual argument for or against anything. I mean that fully. If I decide to construct an argument that casts the Church negatively, I can do so; if I want to cast the Church positively, no matter the issue, I can do so. Therefore, I have made a conscious decision to look actively and passionately for a way to reconcile difficulties and remain faithful.

In college, as part of my research on Manifest Destiny, I read just about every anti-Mormon writing of the 19th Century. I took some classes at the Harvard Divinity School - not exactly a bastion of extreme conservatism or champion of Mormonism. After graduation, I lived in the Deep South for a few years. I am probably as well-versed in anti-Mormon rhetoric as most, so my statement in the last paragraph is not stated carelessly. I also, however, understand that I can learn MUCH about the Gospel of Jesus Christ even from classic anti-Mormon preachers and denominations. Some of the most profound spiritual insights I have received have come by hearing something I already believed phrased differently by someone who believes I am headed straight for Hell and would dance in the streets if Mormonism was eliminated completely - simply hearing it from a different perspective I had never considered previously.

That, in my mind, is the key - truly internalizing and trying to live the Articles of Faith and the core principles of the Gospel, especially developing the characteristics of godliness outlined as the pathway to perfection in the Sermon on the Mount. I have had more truly spiritual experiences this year, as I have intentionally and purposefully pursued that objective, than I had in the previous twenty years of my life - including in the various leadership callings I have had in the Church.

What is a spiritual experience? It is an experience that makes my spirit grow - that brings me closer to the Father and the Son by making me more like them.
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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