Is feeling the Spirit dependent on obedience?

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DarkJedi
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Is feeling the Spirit dependent on obedience?

Post by DarkJedi » 05 Jul 2015, 21:12

The title sums it up. The background to this question is a discussion I had with my young adult son who agrees with me that feeling the Spirit or influence of the Holy Ghost is not necessarily dependent on obedience but is available to all (including non-members) who avail themselves to it. We recognize that this goes against a very common church teaching which is often repeated in General Conference. Part of our discussion had to do with guilt (associated with those teachings) actually being the preventer of one not feeling the Spirit as opposed to the sin itself.

Also by way of background I will add that the Holy Ghost and I have a complicated relationship - but that I do have influences that I believe are the Spirit and in all other ways fit the prescription (persuades to do good, etc.). Sometimes these influences come in a church setting (I felt what I believe to be the Spirit today in SS but not in F&TM or PH) and sometimes randomly - but they don't seem to be related to my own obedience or willingness to obey.

I'm interested in the perspective and experiences of others, including those more orthodox. (You understand that I can't actually ask a live orthodox person, of course, because they tend to be parrots and not be able to think outside the groupthink.)
In the absence of knowledge or faith there is always hope.

Once there was a gentile...who came before Hillel. He said "Convert me on the condition that you teach me the whole Torah while I stand on one foot." Hillel converted him, saying: That which is despicable to you, do not do to your fellow, this is the whole Torah, and the rest is commentary, go and learn it."

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greenapples
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Re: Is feeling the Spirit dependent on obedience?

Post by greenapples » 05 Jul 2015, 23:33

I always personally disagreed with the idea that only worthy people can feel the spirit.

Honestly I am not totally sure I believe in a literal Holy Ghost or at least not in the Mormon sense.

If there is such a thing my relationship with the Holy Ghost sure is complicated too.

I feel so strongly inspired to pursue a certain career field and it doesn't work out. If the Holy Ghost is real it sure does like to point me into dead ends.

I feel like I need to walk my Journey without looking for a magical feeling to appear.

I wish you the best of luck on your personal Journey with or without this Holy Ghost.

May the Force Be With You.
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Cnsl1
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Re: Is feeling the Spirit dependent on obedience?

Post by Cnsl1 » 06 Jul 2015, 01:53

I think this is an excellent question and is something I figured out a number of years ago while still a TBM (albeit a more liberal and open-minded one, probably). I can't remember the exact epiphany moment, but I do remember realizing that the process of seeking and earning/learning spiritual guidance did not appear related to obedience and sacrifice to the degree I'd been taught. Some of my most illuminating spiritual moments came after periods of "sin" rather than periods of long fasting and prayer. I remember thinking that my previous behavior in search of spirituality almost seemed a little crazy.

I've since learned/discovered that tapping into "the Spirit" is more akin to finding a universal energy flow that exists all around us irrespective of religion, race, SES, gender, or sexual orientation. Accessing this flow or source is less about obedience to any particular set of rules, but rather about calming, balancing, opening, and loving.

I kind of sound like a Buddhist, but ... I'm a Mormon.

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Re: Is feeling the Spirit dependent on obedience?

Post by Old-Timer » 06 Jul 2015, 04:54

No, and our scriptures are proof of that. I have heard many conversations in church where we admit openly that obedience is not tied to feeling the spirit.

We have another thread in our archives about this exact same question, but I can't look it up right now. I suggest trying to find it and reading those responses, as well.
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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DarkJedi
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Re: Is feeling the Spirit dependent on obedience?

Post by DarkJedi » 06 Jul 2015, 05:42

I'm not sure if this is the one you're referring to, Ray: viewtopic.php?f=5&t=5775&p=79186&hilit= ... rit#p79186 It is a short thread with a slightly different bent and the topic could certainly be expanded upon. My own thinking and realization have evolved since that time as well.

I don't know that I've had any kind of conversation in church specifically about the subject, but I have been involved with conversations about the church not having a monopoly on the Spirit and that people outside the church have spiritual experiences as well (although these conversations have sometimes been tempered by the superiority many believe we have with the GotHG - something I am not convinced of).
In the absence of knowledge or faith there is always hope.

Once there was a gentile...who came before Hillel. He said "Convert me on the condition that you teach me the whole Torah while I stand on one foot." Hillel converted him, saying: That which is despicable to you, do not do to your fellow, this is the whole Torah, and the rest is commentary, go and learn it."

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nibbler
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Re: Is feeling the Spirit dependent on obedience?

Post by nibbler » 06 Jul 2015, 06:01

For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of god. If feeling the spirit is contingent on obedience how does anyone feel the spirit?

Saul on the road to Damascus and Alma the younger come immediately to mind. Those scriptures don't focus on feeling the spirit but they do approach the same subject. We tend to think of being visited by angels (or Jesus, feeling the spirit, etc.) as something that is reserved for the ultra righteous. Your testimony must be this tall to have a spiritual experience. Saul and Alma are two examples that go against that grain.

I've heard some valid criticism of the teaching that we must be obedient to enjoy the companionship of the spirit. Essentially, so the spirit decides to leave us in the precise moment when we need it the most. It's the definition of a bad friend, there for the good times, nowhere to be found for the bad times.

I've heard the spirit of the lord will not always strive with man brought up as a counterargument but I'm not so sure I agree with the traditional interpretation. The spirit may always strive with man but man may reach the point where he is no longer willing to strive to feel the spirit.

This is a difficult question for me. I don't even have definitions for the spirit or obedience nailed down.
Cure sometimes, treat often, comfort always.
— Hippocrates

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DarkJedi
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Re: Is feeling the Spirit dependent on obedience?

Post by DarkJedi » 06 Jul 2015, 07:15

nibbler wrote:For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of god. If feeling the spirit is contingent on obedience how does anyone feel the spirit?

Saul on the road to Damascus and Alma the younger come immediately to mind. Those scriptures don't focus on feeling the spirit but they do approach the same subject. We tend to think of being visited by angels (or Jesus, feeling the spirit, etc.) as something that is reserved for the ultra righteous. Your testimony must be this tall to have a spiritual experience. Saul and Alma are two examples that go against that grain.

I've heard some valid criticism of the teaching that we must be obedient to enjoy the companionship of the spirit. Essentially, so the spirit decides to leave us in the precise moment when we need it the most. It's the definition of a bad friend, there for the good times, nowhere to be found for the bad times.

I've heard the spirit of the lord will not always strive with man brought up as a counterargument but I'm not so sure I agree with the traditional interpretation. The spirit may always strive with man but man may reach the point where he is no longer willing to strive to feel the spirit.

This is a difficult question for me. I don't even have definitions for the spirit or obedience nailed down.
I'm with you about not necessarily knowing what obedience is is or what the Spirit is Nibbler. It's definitely a "see through glass darkly" thing for me. And I like the examples of Saul and Alma.

The highlighted portion was part of the conversation with my son. He believes, and I concur, that the influence of the Spirit is always present everywhere and it is us who "choose" not to feel it for whatever reason be that guilt, doubt, etc. (I am less certain about the influence being everywhere all the time than he is.) In my agnostic days, being more uncertain there was a God than I now am, I did purposely ignore the feelings that I had and do associate with the influence of the Spirit. I'm still pretty good at that because I still doubt and still can't usually tell what is Spirit and what is emotion.

A little case study: two of our missionaries are being transferred this week. I barely know them, and I'm not particularly fond of either of them (I generally don't form attachments to missionaries). They both "bore their testimonies" in F&TM yesterday and I looked around and recognized that several people in the congregation, obviously closer to them than I, were wiping away tears. I chalk it up to emotion that they are going to miss their friends - but if I were to ask them, I am willing to bet they would tell me how wonderful their testimonies were and how strongly they felt the Spirit in that meeting. As stated above, I didn't feel anything special in that meeting but I did in SS (no testimonies borne there). Were I to get into a deeper discussion with the more orthodox types who were present I would likely be judged as having been unworthy of the Spirit during F&TM, hence I didn't feel it like others did. I did take the sacrament, I read from John 18 and 19 during the passing (on my tablet - that's probably why I didn't feel the Spirit :P ), and I pondered on the hymn a bit (While of These Emblems We Partake). Any one of those things, combined with the testimonies, should have "invited the Spirit." I am quite willing to admit, however, that the reason I didn't really feel anything was because I wasn't open to doing so at the moment. On the other hand, I wasn't especially open in SS, either - it just happened.
In the absence of knowledge or faith there is always hope.

Once there was a gentile...who came before Hillel. He said "Convert me on the condition that you teach me the whole Torah while I stand on one foot." Hillel converted him, saying: That which is despicable to you, do not do to your fellow, this is the whole Torah, and the rest is commentary, go and learn it."

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NonTraditionalMom
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Re: Is feeling the Spirit dependent on obedience?

Post by NonTraditionalMom » 06 Jul 2015, 11:05

I'm so glad you brought this up; I've been thinking along the same lines lately. I have been struggling to define what "feeling the Spirit" actually is. I understand the warm, peaceful feeling of confirmation that I equate with the ideas of resonating or ringing true, but it's the other functions of the Spirit, particularly the guiding or warning, that I am not sure about.

There are two very specific instances from my life where I really was being extremely obedient, but didn't receive the guidance from the spirit that I expected. In the first case, some abuse happened in my home to one of my children. I was very active and obedient at the time and, in fact, was attending the temple during one of the instances of abuse. I have often wondered where the warning was, or why neither my priesthood-holding DH nor myself ever had any idea that something like this was happening in our home until well after the fact. Where was that spirit of warning to protect our innocent child and us? When I look back on that time, I can honestly say that there was nothing in my life that would have prevented the spirit from helping us, even that we were actively seeking spiritual guidance in our lives. And while I don't think there is anyone in this crowd who believes that abuse could be warranted as some kind of lesson, please just don't go there.

The second instance happened a few years ago when DH and I were trying to decide whether or not to have another baby. I fasted and prayed on my own, and I felt an overwhelming surety that I was supposed to have another child. When DH and I went to the temple with the question, I felt what I would describe as a very strong sense of the spirit the whole time-- even the name of the person I was doing work for was a name we had discussed as one we liked for a daughter. I was absolutely sure that the answer was yes. After the session, however, my DH expressed a completely different experience. He was sure that our family was complete as it was, and his very clear answer was no. Ultimately, we decided not to have any more children, and although I can now see the wisdom in that decision, I am still confused at my experience in the temple. Did I just want to have another baby and sought confirmation where I could find it? Did I have a spiritual experience, but since DH is the priesthood holder, did his experience trump mine? Was the spirit just messing with me, or was that the spirit at all? Again, I was in the very obedient, TBM camp at the time.
DarkJedi wrote: I still doubt and still can't usually tell what is Spirit and what is emotion.
Exactly. I am especially frustrated with that very thin line between spiritual and emotional feelings. The last time I attended the temple, I left feeling so frustrated that there was so much emotion in one of the new videos, especially from Peter. It felt manipulative to me, like they were trying to get me to cry because then I'd think I felt the spirit.

I've heard someone talk about separating the two, and she said something to the effect of now that she can truly recognize the spirit, it is rarely an emotional experience.

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DarkJedi
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Re: Is feeling the Spirit dependent on obedience?

Post by DarkJedi » 06 Jul 2015, 11:35

NonTraditionalMom wrote:
DarkJedi wrote: I still doubt and still can't usually tell what is Spirit and what is emotion.
Exactly. I am especially frustrated with that very thin line between spiritual and emotional feelings. The last time I attended the temple, I left feeling so frustrated that there was so much emotion in one of the new videos, especially from Peter. It felt manipulative to me, like they were trying to get me to cry because then I'd think I felt the spirit.

I've heard someone talk about separating the two, and she said something to the effect of now that she can truly recognize the spirit, it is rarely an emotional experience.
Intriguing. I do sometimes think I feel the Spirit differently than before my FC (and note that an experience with the Holy Ghost contributed to my FC), but not markedly different. I am able to discount some stuff now as likely emotion and/or confirmation bias. The feeling I most often associate with the Spirit now is a calm/peaceful feeling (I suppose this is the Comforter) - but it's not really different than the pre-FC feeling. I would love to be able to separate the emotion and the Spirit more, but I do see the peaceful feeling as an emotion. Perhaps I have not truly felt the Spirit still? Or perhaps the speaker you mention doesn't consider the feeling a...er...feeling. :? If it's not a feeling, what is it?
In the absence of knowledge or faith there is always hope.

Once there was a gentile...who came before Hillel. He said "Convert me on the condition that you teach me the whole Torah while I stand on one foot." Hillel converted him, saying: That which is despicable to you, do not do to your fellow, this is the whole Torah, and the rest is commentary, go and learn it."

My Introduction

Roy
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Re: Is feeling the Spirit dependent on obedience?

Post by Roy » 06 Jul 2015, 11:51

NonTraditionalMom wrote:There are two very specific instances from my life where I really was being extremely obedient, but didn't receive the guidance from the spirit that I expected. In the first case, some abuse happened in my home to one of my children. I was very active and obedient at the time and, in fact, was attending the temple during one of the instances of abuse. I have often wondered where the warning was, or why neither my priesthood-holding DH nor myself ever had any idea that something like this was happening in our home until well after the fact. Where was that spirit of warning to protect our innocent child and us? When I look back on that time, I can honestly say that there was nothing in my life that would have prevented the spirit from helping us, even that we were actively seeking spiritual guidance in our lives. And while I don't think there is anyone in this crowd who believes that abuse could be warranted as some kind of lesson, please just don't go there.

The second instance happened a few years ago when DH and I were trying to decide whether or not to have another baby. I fasted and prayed on my own, and I felt an overwhelming surety that I was supposed to have another child. When DH and I went to the temple with the question, I felt what I would describe as a very strong sense of the spirit the whole time-- even the name of the person I was doing work for was a name we had discussed as one we liked for a daughter. I was absolutely sure that the answer was yes. After the session, however, my DH expressed a completely different experience. He was sure that our family was complete as it was, and his very clear answer was no. Ultimately, we decided not to have any more children, and although I can now see the wisdom in that decision, I am still confused at my experience in the temple. Did I just want to have another baby and sought confirmation where I could find it? Did I have a spiritual experience, but since DH is the priesthood holder, did his experience trump mine? Was the spirit just messing with me, or was that the spirit at all? Again, I was in the very obedient, TBM camp at the time.
My faith crisis was triggered by the stillbirth of our third child. She was full term just a few days from the scheduled delivery. Why did we (or our doctors, or priesthood leaders) not receive some sort of impression that she was in distress? I was serving as ward mission leader and my wife as primary president at the time.

I believe that this function of the holy spirit as warning giver to worthy LDS is largely a Mormonized version of the just world hypothesis. Good things (blessings) are supposed to happen to good people. Sometimes people that have been particularly struck with misfortune sacrifice their sense of self worth to maintain the just world view. IOW they may tell themselves that they must have been undeserving of God's favor.

As for the second instance - I read a book about a young female BYU student that went on a few dates with a guy. He asked her to marry him but she really wasn't into it. She told him to go home and pray about it. She knew that she did not want to marry him and therefore reasoned that the spirit would bear witness to this young man that the proposed marriage was not the correct course of action (she must have been hyper non-confrontational). Anyway he came back the next day with a sure witness from God that they should get married. At this point the young woman assumes that the young man holding the priesthood had a more direct link to the will of heaven and she MARRIES him!?!? BYU now specifically advises against trusting the spiritual promtings of others in the decision of who you should marry. I also read of an experiment along these lines. The experimenters found that when a person prayed to know if a particular course of action was supported by God, nearly always any impression received would confirm the individual's previous position and/or inclinations.

For my money, I confine the spirit to the role of comforter. I have no arguments with people feeling comfort in their time of need. I have felt this comfort myself.

OTOH I am generally skeptical (but withholding final judgement) of tales of other people's supernatural/miraculous experiences with the spirit.
"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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