Saturday, August 1, 2015

Mythbuster: the Holy Ghost, truth and feelings (1 Ne. 16)

As I've grown older and more desirous to be in possession of truth, I've come to realize that Mormons believe many truths, and also many untruths. One of these untruths, a Mormon myth if you'd like, has the potential to cause a great deal of damage. It's the myth that "truth always feels good", or in other words, that if something doesn't feel good, it's not true.

I've seen many true believing Mormons avoid reading "anti-Mormon material", avoid hard questions and shutting others down when such questions are brought up, just because they didn't feel good about the topic at hand. Whether what they heard was true or not wasn't important and, since truth has to "feel good", the possibility of it being true was almost zero.

Tomorrow is testimony meeting.
What does the truth of God "feel" like?

God's truths are often conveyed by mortal messengers. By "the power of the Holy Ghost", these words are carried "unto the hearts of the children of men." (2 Ne. 33:1) Receiving truth are therefore linked to experiencing the Holy Ghost.

During my mission, I oftentimes used Pauls words to the Galatians to help an investigator recognize the Holy Ghost. Since the Holy Ghost testifies of truth (Moro. 10:5) and the person being taught needed to embrace the truth, this exercise was vital.

As missionaries, we were basically following the instructions for teachers of children.
Help the children identify manifestations of the Holy Ghost they may have experienced, such as those mentioned in Gal. 5:22–23.
Paul was talking about the fruits of the Spirit. Fruits oftentimes develop during a longer period of time. Fruit is rarely available for consumption as soon as it's visible on the tree. Instead, the fruit patiently takes its time to grow and develop into something sweet and edible.

The point is, when you experience the manifestations of the Holy Ghost/Spirit, you will by and by, by "your faith with great diligence, and with patience, looking forward to the fruit thereof" (Alma 32:41) become more loving, joyous, peaceful, longsuffering, gentle, good, faithful, meek and temperate. There is no quick fix to acquiring these godly traits just like fruit won't be rushed.

The truth of God, as confirmed by the Holy Ghost, can in its wake, bring feelings of "love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance". Nevertheless, these feelings shouldn't be confused with the truth nor with the Holy Ghost.

In the Book of Mormon we read the following examples of truth being taught and "received".
[My brethren] said unto me: Thou hast declared unto us hard things, more than we are able to bear. And it came to pass that I said unto them that I knew that I had spoken hard things against the wicked, according to the truth; and the righteous have I justified, and testified that they should be lifted up at the last day; wherefore, the guilty taketh the truth to be hard, for it cutteth them to the very center. (1 Ne. 16:1-2) 
And it came to pass that Zeezrom was astonished at the words which had been spoken; and he also knew concerning the blindness of the minds, which he had caused among the people by his lying words; and his soul began to be harrowed up under a consciousness of his own guilt; yea, he began to be encircled about by the pains of hell. (Alma 14:6) 
And the angel spake more things unto me, which were heard by my brethren, but I did not hear them; for when I heard the words—If thou wilt be destroyed of thyself, seek no more to destroy the church of God—I was struck with such great fear and amazement lest perhaps I should be destroyed, that I fell to the earth and I did hear no more. (Alma 36:11) 
When I speak the word of God with sharpness they tremble and anger against me; and when I use no sharpness they harden their hearts against it; wherefore, I fear lest the Spirit of the Lord hath ceased striving with them. (Moro. 9:4)
Cutting to the center, astonishment and harrowing up under a consciousness of guilt and pains of hell, great fear and amazement, trembling and anger - these are some of the feelings that can follow the exposure to the truth of God.

Peter at the day of Pentecost
The truth doesn't always have to feel this way, though. Nephi says that the guilty perceives the truth as hard, whereas Nephi justified the righteous, and "testified that they should be lifted up at the last day." Being guilty in this sense doesn't necessarily mean that you are unrighteous. Rather, it denotes a state of possessing untruth with the damning unwillingness to repent. And to be honest, I've been in that state just like, as I suppose, many others.
Now when they heard this, they were pricked in their heart, and said unto Peter and to the rest of the apostles, Men and brethren, what shall we do? (Acts 2:37)
The guiltless (that is, those willing to repent) responds to the pricking of the heart that the truth of God causes like the men of Judæa, and others that dwelled at Jerusalem did on the day of Pentecost. The truth was, for these men, inspiring, motivating and humbling.

Equating feelings with the Holy Ghost = DANGER!

The Lord will, by a still and small voice tell us in our mind and in our heart, by the Holy Ghost, about the truths of God. (D&C 8:2). This implies a transfer of information, of light and truth. Or in other words, about the glory of God. Joseph Smith shared the following truth about the Holy Ghost.
“No man can receive the Holy Ghost without receiving revelations. The Holy Ghost is a revelator.” (TPJS, p. 328.) 
When someone is being exposed to hard truths, they often reject it because it doesn't "feel good". Why doesn't it feel good? Because it's untrue?

As noted above, the feelings caused by truth has oftentimes very little to do with the truth itself, but almost everything to do with the state of the heart of the recipient. Truth will either confirm the truth you already have, or condemn the untruth you possess. The former thing is joyous. The latter, on the other hand, may be earth shattering and cause great distress and sadness. Let's face it - very few enjoys a good chastening and having confirmed that their world view is defect. On the other hand, we eagerly receive confirmation of our biases and having someone saying to us:
Do this, and there is no iniquity; do that and ye shall not suffer; […] Walk after the pride of your own hearts; yea, walk after the pride of your eyes, and do whatsoever your heart desireth, that all is well [and other] flattering words unto you. (Hel. 13:27-28)
When something you hear doesn't feel good, you are in a position the choose between figuring out why it doesn't feel good or running the risk of rejecting truth that might lead you to salvation. It's a tough choice, but someone's gotta make it.

1 comment:

  1. Very good read. I think the younger generation often (and incorrectly) perceives 'truth' as something that is always relative- that 'truth' is purely an individual concept. While this is a philosophical question as much as it is religious, I don't agree with that sentiment and believe it can lead to a negative pattern of though, spiritual or not. Just because we sometimes don't know or can't understand where or what truth is, doesn't mean that the answer isn't out there or that we should not strive to seek it.