Spiritual Role of Emotions

For the discussion of spirituality -- from LDS and non-LDS sources
User avatar
Mr. Sneelock
Posts: 23
Joined: 19 Sep 2017, 08:06

Spiritual Role of Emotions

Post by Mr. Sneelock » 30 Nov 2017, 10:46

I would be interested to hear others' perspectives on the interplay between emotions and the Spirit/revelation/impressions.

I recently went through a period of a couple of years where it seemed like I could not feel the Spirit like I used to. I would occasionally feel content at church or be awed by nature but it was not to the same extent as I had felt it before. A while ago I underwent a surgery and one of the results was that I stopped taking medication for depression because it is possible that the surgery helped in that regard. Since that time I have experienced much more intense emotions, both positive and negative. This is expected because the anti-depressants don't elevate mood, they just kind of stabilize and prevent the huge ups and downs. At the same time, I have also started feeling what I have always identified as the Spirit much more often and strongly. I now realized that the period of time when I couldn't really feel the Spirit pretty much coincided with the time I was on anti-depressants. I could be wrong, but it appears to me that having the full range of emotions (positive and negative) has allowed me to tap more into my spiritual side. Could it be possible that the Spirit and emotions are pretty much the same thing? That would explain why everybody seems to feel the Spirit differently; we all have unique emotional profiles.

Has anyone had a similar experience?
. . . beauty for ashes . . .

Posts: 1023
Joined: 27 Jul 2017, 05:50

Re: Spiritual Role of Emotions

Post by AmyJ » 30 Nov 2017, 12:37

Interesting experience/theory.

I think that the emotions act for a spiritual sense much the way that the tympanic membrane operates for our physical hearing. The tympanic membrane vibrates, and there are hairs in the cochlea that pick up on those vibrations and transmit them to the auditory nerve, which transmits them to the brain. Our emotions "vibrate" for lack of a better term to send a message to our spiritual cochlea which is then processed by our spirit. I think that the Spirit can also cause "vibrations" that resonate within our spirit.

Posts: 890
Joined: 25 Sep 2012, 15:17

Re: Spiritual Role of Emotions

Post by Roadrunner » 30 Nov 2017, 13:21

This doesn't answer your question directly but it may contribute to the discussion. I'm a musician so this "resonates" with me. :)

In music, emotions are usually stimulated when a dissonant note or is resolved. The singer Adele is really good at this - before she sings a note she'll sing a short off key note prior to the primary note, which resolves the musical conflict. I can still remember the first time I heard a particular hit that she sang and all the hairs on my arms and neck stood up. It moved me the first 50 times I heard it but now my body knows what to expect so I have to look for new songs to have the same effect.

Sometimes I wonder if our goal here on earth ought to be to learn to think scientifically instead of being guided by feelings or emotions. Science isn't perfect either (because we're still learning new truth every day) but sometimes I wonder if God is looking down on us and saying "just use the wonderful brain I gave you."

Using that paradigm would turn the way we teach in the church completely upside down.

User avatar
Posts: 4075
Joined: 02 Apr 2011, 14:11

Re: Spiritual Role of Emotions

Post by mom3 » 30 Nov 2017, 15:30

"just use the wonderful brain I gave you."
That is my husband's premise to a "T".
"I stayed because it was God and Jesus Christ that I wanted to follow and be like, not individual human beings." Chieko Okazaki Dialogue interview

"I am coming to envision a new persona for the Church as humble followers of Jesus Christ....Joseph and his early followers came forth with lots of triumphalist rhetoric, but I think we need a new voice, one of humility, friendship and service. We should teach people to believe in God because it will soften their hearts and make them more willing to serve." - Richard Bushman

Posts: 6420
Joined: 07 Oct 2010, 14:16
Location: Pacific Northwest

Re: Spiritual Role of Emotions

Post by Roy » 30 Nov 2017, 16:49

Mr. Sneelock wrote:
30 Nov 2017, 10:46
I now realized that the period of time when I couldn't really feel the Spirit pretty much coincided with the time I was on anti-depressants.
It is my understanding that this is normal. Many individuals on anti depressants have reported difficulty feeling the spirit.

I dug up some old threads that deal with this issue to varying degrees.


"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

User avatar
Posts: 283
Joined: 21 Jan 2015, 23:30
Location: SoCal

Re: Spiritual Role of Emotions

Post by LDS_Scoutmaster » 30 Nov 2017, 21:14

In a recent talk I gave, I compared the spirit to differing emotions, the underlying idea was also that the spiritual, emotional, and intellect are all combined. I've always tried to differentiate between my own emotions and feeling the spirit, and I've had spiritual experiences that I felt that were not emotional. More often than not, my spiritual feelings and emotions are mixed together. I think it might be that way for most, if not all of us. I don't think that all of the feelings I have had are only feelings within myself and not originating from a higher power, or a combination of higher power/inherent power within.
viewtopic.php?f=6&t=6311&start=70#p121051 My last talk

We are all imperfect beings, dealing with other imperfect beings, and we're doing it imperfectly.

User avatar
Posts: 1443
Joined: 24 Jan 2016, 16:35
Location: Wherever there is danger

Re: Spiritual Role of Emotions

Post by dande48 » 01 Dec 2017, 05:26

I don't know if I'd claim emotions are the same thing as the Spirit, but I do think they deeply affect one another. Both are intricately connected with our physical body. It might not even be worth differentiating between mind/body/spirit, as they are all closely related.

The origin of the word "spirit", as in the strong liquor, comes from the exact same root as the religious spirit. The name stuck, largely because when our ancestors drank alcohol it would gramt them a "spiritual" experience. It's no coincidence that most Christian Churches use wine for their sacraments. Many religions have an strong ties to other mind altering substances as well, including psychadelics, tobacco, or marijuana, although alcohol is definitely the most prevelant.

It is also pretty apparent to me that the body generates certain states of mind on its own through chemical regulation. The brain chemistry can be effected by smells and sounds, and other external stimuli; also what you eat, how much rest you are getting, etc. My views on Spiritual experiences have drastically changed since I was a TBM. On the one hand, I love hearing about the Spiritual experiences of others. But on the other, I don't buy much into the "truth" they convey. The Church teaches that an extra-terrestial, extra-dimensional co-God is responsible for what we call "the Spirit", which as you noted is very different for most people. But it seems a lot more sound to attribute those sensations to the connection between our bodies and minds. Otherwise, Spiritual experience would be more consistant and reliable in "truth", and we couldn't so easily block, manipulate, control, and manufacture spiritual experiences.
Last edited by dande48 on 03 Dec 2017, 00:09, edited 1 time in total.
"The whole world is a comedy to those that think, a tragedy to those that feel." - Horace Walpole

"Even though there are no ways of knowing for sure, there are ways of knowing for pretty sure."
-Lemony Snicket

User avatar
Posts: 487
Joined: 04 Aug 2017, 18:38

Re: Spiritual Role of Emotions

Post by Beefster » 03 Dec 2017, 00:06

I'm really not sure where I stand on this. It's somewhat problematic that we associate something so important (spiritual confirmations) with something as inconsistent as emotions. True, logic and reason can only get us so far, and science isn't particularly apt at addressing deep questions of the soul, but that doesn't mean emotion has to step in.

Emotion is a key aspect to the human experience that gives us reason to seek meaning in our lives. I would say that emotion is particularly effective at indicating what we want. Pleasure and satisfaction are great feelings, among life's intrinsic rewards. But just because something makes you happy doesn't mean it's true.

Is it possible that God communicates with us through emotions? Sure. However, I've had enough experiences where the good feeling I thought was from God turned out to be wrong and it was just something I wanted to be true. This has led me to believe that it's best not to try to guess which feelings come from God, because you run the risk of coming to false conclusions. Same goes for "blessings."

Maybe the "burning in the bosom" isn't really a thing. Everyone experiences spirituality so differently, yet in the church, many assume that others are "feeling the spirit" just because they're at a fireside or whatever. It makes me wonder if the church has unintentionally become a club for people who experience spirituality a certain way. For Pete's sake, a lot of members I know raise an eyebrow at any form of spiritual meditation. Or other alternative spirituality practices, for that matter.

Tangent: I guess it's kind of like a pair of pants. The church insists on a one-size-fits all mass-produced pair of pants. If the pants don't fit you, there is something wrong with you. Maybe instead of getting a silly belt or trying to pack it in, it's time to get a new pair of pants. There is no one true pair of pants. Each pair has a function and a unique characteristic. We can wear many different kinds of pants- colors, fabrics, lengths, styles, fits, and sizes - and we shouldn't be expected to wear the same kind of pants as everyone else or even day to day. Spirituality is fluid. Truth is everywhere.

I see the role of emotion as a litmus test to see if your practice of spirituality makes you happy. That's all emotion really can do for you IMO, and it isn't even all that helpful there. There are days when being LDS makes me happy, but there are days when I just don't feel like being Mormon anymore.
Boys are governed by rules. Men are governed by principles.

Sometimes our journeys take us to unexpected places. That is a truly beautiful thing.

User avatar
Site Admin
Posts: 7226
Joined: 22 Apr 2009, 16:37
Location: In the Middle

Re: Spiritual Role of Emotions

Post by Heber13 » 03 Dec 2017, 14:47

I think Joseph Smith struggled with this...trying to find the will of God and bringing emotions in line with the spirit.

All of us do. That's how we forge our relationship with God and the spirit, as we determine this for ourselves what we are comfortable with and how to express it. It's an individual thing.

I think what helps me is to back up and look at the purpose of the spirit. It is to bring me closer to the truths I seek for myself.

Because of this...it doesn't matter if I call it my conscience, my emotions, my spirit, God's spirit....all of it ebbs and flows in my life. God mostly lets me figure it out.

All that matters is if I am growing in love towards others, myself, and God. Who I become is what is important, no matter how I get there or what I call it.

But it is important to pay attention to our experience of what works and what doesn't. There are no fool proof guarantees or formulas to rely on 100% of the time. God is likely less involved in my life than I thought when I was younger. The feelings may all be coming from inside of me.

I have to learn to deal with that. I might want more from God...but this is what I get. So I deal with it.

I think God knows we can figure most stuff out on our own. Call it whatever helps us along the way...but focus on love and growth and heading in the right direction.

We choose what we want to believe about it.
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."

Posts: 269
Joined: 22 Mar 2017, 12:13

Re: Spiritual Role of Emotions

Post by DoubtingTom » 05 Dec 2017, 18:17

I have a good friend who takes anti-depressants intermittently and he has told me this. When he's on his meds his emotions are so blunted that he doesn't often feel what he interprets as the spirit. It's definitely a real and palpable thing for him.

As for my own thoughts on the matter, I have stopped trying to figure out what's emotion vs spirit vs my own thoughts. For two reasons. The first is that I don't personally think there is a difference. Just different types of emotional experiences. I know many, including my wife, says there is a distinct difference between emotions and the spirit, but she can't describe it to me, nor can she reliably distinguish the two for herself. And I don't have the experiences she does that lead me to believe there is a difference. I'm ok with that.

The second reason is that I have found for myself the result of spiritual experiences is a suffusing of elation that fills me with a love of others, happiness, and a desire to reach out to others in a positive way. At least that's one type of experience that I value. But what do I care what the source is? The end result is the same - I feel good and feel motivated to be and do better. These experiences are to be sought after and I have begun to discover what allows these experiences into my life. Here's a secret! They don't have much to do with the church. Yes, I can have these experiences in a church setting, but many oher settings too. For me, to borrow from Jon Ogden, I have these experiences when I recognize beauty. Sometimes it's music that resonates with me, beautiful artwork, being engaged in service, a certain passage in scriptures or any literature that also resonates with me, singing a powerful hymn or song, playing music with others and being in sync (if you're a musician, you can appreciate this one), and many others. What resonates with each of us is vastly different and is influenced by our personal interests and personal experiences.

But by actively seeking these things that I find beauty in, I have many more spiritual experiences then I did when I was passively attending. But it doesn't matter to me anymore where it comes from. It makes my life more enriched either way. If I am crying while listening to the story of an orthodox Jew losing her faith, I find beauty in that. When I am serving along side others united in helping clear Houston flooding damage, I find beauty in that. I could go on, but my main point is that determining for myself that there is no difference allowed me to seek out more clearly what brings these things into my life and find more beauty because of it.

Post Reply