Feelings and Mormonism

Today, I was visiting a friend’s church who I went out of state to visit. The lesson today was on the Holy Spirit in Sunday School. I always get concerned when this topic comes up because people have so many misconceptions about the Holy Spirit and they come from an experiential basis. When we were told the Holy Spirit prompts us what to say and what things to do I wanted to raise my hand and say “Excuse me! Scripture for that?” I was a visitor though and being nice, but I did get to talk to the teacher some afterwards.

He had talked about how when you do something right, the Holy Spirit gives you a good feeling, and when you do something wrong, the Holy Spirit gives you a bad feeling. I think if this was really the case though, we’d all do good a whole lot more than we do and we’d all do evil a whole lot less. There are times we do good and feel miserable and times we do bad and feel great about it.

But when my time came to talk to him about that point in the last paragraph, I asked him if he thought the Book of Mormon was true. He told me he hadn’t read it so he didn’t know. A fair enough answer. However, I pointed out that in the end, they tell you to pray about it and if you get that burning in the bosom, well that’s the Holy Spirit telling you it’s true.

Never mind that Scripture never says anything like that. Never mind that Scripture says to ignore the signs and wonders and look to the message of truth for even a false prophet can have signs and wonders. Never mind that feelings are a terrible basis for believing something about the world external to you. If it feels good, it’s true!

I don’t think we can deny that something happens in the Mormon experience and it’s something powerful. However, that does not mean that it is something of God. We are told to test the spirits in Scripture. The test is not “Does it make me feel good?” or “Does it make my bosom burn?” The test is whether it agrees with what has already been revealed.

Many of us have all had times when we “felt” something for sure about the external world. How many of us have turned in a paper and felt for sure we would fail it only to realize we didn’t? How many of us have gone to the doctor feeling like we’ll be told we have Bubonic Plague only to be told we have a disease that’s easily treatable? How many of us have felt we’d get fired for a screw-up only to realize if anything, we received a mild reprimand?

When it comes to truth, we have to have more than feelings. When I doubt my faith, I don’t look to a feeling. I had good feelings when I converted. I don’t look to those at all. I look to the coherence of the Christian worldview. I look at the evidence of the veracity of Scriptures. I look to the reasons why I believe that God exists and Jesus is his only begotten Son and why I think he rose from the dead.

Yes. That is the foundation.

We can’t look at our worldview and say “Well, there’s no evidence for it and the worldview has necessary contradictions at its core, but I have a good feeling about it.” It has to be more than that! That’s what I see going on in Mormonism though. There is no evidence for the BOM and all evidence against it. There are necessary contradictions at the heart such as the doctrine of eternal progression. What will it be? The external world, or a feeling? Feelings are quite capable of lying to us. Facts are not. We can misinterpret them of course, but they are blunt, “in your face” realities.

Sadly, this is where Evangelicalism is going today with our emphasis on experience. I was describing to a professor here how we went to the Mormon church and simply heard an account of an experience in a testimony. He said “Not much different from many evangelical churches.” I sadly had been thinking the same thing myself and agreed.

If we base truth entirely on our experiences, then we are prone to be easily duped by any feeling that comes along. Experience is important. I don’t deny that. Experience is rooted in reality though. For a Christian, the Scriptures interpret the experience. The experience does not interpret the Scriptures. It’s time we put things in the right order.

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