June 8, 2009

Emotional Motivation

Earlier this year someone explained a testimony to me like this: "It's like being in love. No one needs to explain to you if you're in love: you just know it."

Certainly this is true regarding love. I'm not very old (ignoring how I feel sometimes), but I've had a few experiences with love in my life. I first fell in love in junior high. I felt things for an attractive young woman that I had never before experienced. I would have done anything to win her approval. But I was painfully shy. Long story short, I loved her from a distance until finally tracking her down in the later years of high school after I had gained some confidence and feelings of self-worth. We went on one date, and I just wasn't really interested in her much after that. I suppose I had built her up in my mind to be the perfect woman based on what I had seen and known of her. Although I sat next to her every single day in junior high, that date was the first time I had actually had a conversation with her. With just a little investigation, I quickly learned that she was not all I had made her up to be.

The thing is, I know I was in love with her before. I knew it at the time with so much conviction that I can't possibly deny it now either. I loved her. That was completely true all through junior high, and a good chunk of high school. But it was no longer true after that first date.

What is it that a feeling tells us? Did loving that girl tell me that we were meant to be together? Of course not. I sure wished it did at the time, but it didn't realistically tell me anything beyond that I loved her. That feeling of love did not mean she was the perfect young woman, that she would be a wonderful mother, that she would listen to me and respect me, that she cared more for others than herself, that she shared my same values and interests, and so on. All that feeling told me was that I felt very strongly for her.

Using this example in regards to the topic of this blog, what is it that an emotional conviction tells us about the truth of the Church? When feeling an answer to prayer, does this really tell us that the Church is true, or does it tell us that what we know so far sounds attractive? Does it really tell us that Joseph Smith saw God and Jesus Christ and dozens of other heavenly beings, or does it tell us that such a message gives us hope?

In other words, the feeling of love for that girl did not mean much on a realistic level. That wasn't enough to make us truly compatible. A feeling that Joseph Smith was a prophet does not mean that he literally held golden plates and translated them. Learning more about the girl caused me to feel something different about her. Maybe understanding more about Joseph Smith and the kind of man he was can cause someone to feel different about him and his claims.

Here's the real issue, though, I think; it was not fun to fall out of love with this young woman. It was an amazing feeling, and it motivated me very much. It was a wonderful feeling to have pumping through me. But it would not have been useful or healthy to still feel that even though we were truly incompatible and a marriage would not have worked. Similarly, why would one want to lose that spiritual high that comes with the belief of being among the elite chosen of God, who hold the power to act in His name, who have communication directly from Him? But that feeling of comfort and bliss does not confirm that, in reality, paying your tithing month after month is going to keep you from getting burned (D&C 64:23). It may be that Joseph Smith's doctrine and actions are heading in a different direction than you want or thought you were.

In brief, love alone does not mean two people are meant to be together. Feelings of peace about the First Vision alone do not mean that marrying other men's wives is okay.

12 comments:

Kathy said...

You are very wise. If only those who needed to hear this would listen.

ctrburns said...

There is a very real difference that needs to be understood between feelings and receiving guidence from the Holy Ghost. Depending on the person (as each recoginizes his influence differently) impressions from the HG take practise to determine what is a feeling...and what is actual guidence. Hence some members saw they have a feeling of peace in their hearts or a realization of truth in their minds. Learning to distuingsh between your own thougts and those of the HG take praticse and study. Knowing that there is not a soul mate for each person on earth can then know that we can fall in love with different people. However when trying to decern truth we must seek the guidence of the spirit or be left to our own natural selves.

Eli said...

Response to ctrburns: That leads me to a question I've asked before on this blog; if the Holy Ghost leads God's children toward the truth, but it is truly different than mere emotion, why are there millions of Catholics, 7th Day Adventists, Baptists, and so forth who can't seem to tell the difference? Are LDS the only people on Earth who can tell the difference? It seems that Holy Ghost is extremely unpredictable and inconsistent in His communication.

Eli said...

2nd Response to ctrburns: Another way to consider what you say is this; do LDS slowly learn to differentiate between the Holy Ghost and mere emotion, or do they slowly invent an emotion that they consider separate. In other words, are LDS experiencing the Holy Ghost, or creating Him? If every individual experiences Him differently, it sounds more like the latter to me.

ctrburns said...

Response: The Holy Ghost is indeed real and from what we talked about you have even admited to feeling something that you felt was more then just feelings (If I heard you correctly). Why are there millions of Catholics and others? Because its natural in all of our souls to want to believe there is more to this life then a mere chain of events that created a perfect world that we by happen chance evolved. To understand the Holy Ghost he is consistant in his testifying of truth. He testifies of all truth and there is truth in all religions. The Lord shows compation for this children by not letting his children go through this life without any guidence just because there not Mormon...that would be unmerciful. So to show love the HG does have influence for all.

Eli said...

Response to ctrburns: Right. So is it possible that the LDS church has only some true principles, like every other church? Why do you think your feeling of the Holy Ghost means that you have all of the answers? Do you feel the Holy Ghost when you think about polygamy? Do you feel the HG when you think about Joseph Smith marrying other men's wives, or teenage daughters? I highly doubt it, and maybe that's a sign that your church also has only part of the truth.

ctrburns said...

Response: I have never prayed about those topics and asked to have a confirmation of the truthfulness of polygamy. Nor have i ventured forth to discover the situation about Joseph Smith and the situation you make reference. There is little factual information that we have in his decisions so I cannot say. What I can suffice is that we know that polygamy was praticed in the Old Testement, when done correctly and by direction from God it help to bring eternal blessings to rightouess woman. As we are not counceld to continue this practise I am suffice not to live this principle so if prayed upon to know if I should live this law it would tell me no. But I have prayed to know if this is the true church of Jesus Christ, I have felt the Holy Ghost bare its witness to me, I have received revelations and been given knowledge of things that I did knot know. I have prayed to know if we have a prophet of God on the earth and that the priesthood is real. For these reasons and witnesses, and the witnesses of others I can say that I know this is the true church of Jeses Christ.

Eli said...

Response to ctrburns: Do you think that a suicide bomber is less sure of what he believes than you, or more sure? Don't you think he is absolutely certain that he will gain salvation by blowing himself up around infidels? If he is so mistaken, why is it not possible that you are as well?

ctrburns said...

Reply: I guess that is the impass that we are in. Either you do not believe in the Holy Ghost as a witness of God, or that such a being does not exhist. As I am unable to prove him, nor was it my intention. I was mearly trying to explain LDS docterine to you so that you could at least understand our way of thinking. From your prospective anyone that belives in a higher power and receives in that persons eyes a witness from that being...than that person is delusional and made himself be falsy lead into pure emotional thinking. Sad to think that is the case and there is no help to find truth in this world, but left to our own devices.

Eli said...

Response to ctrburns: I'd appreciate it if you would not put words in my mouth. I have told you face to face that I believe in a higher power, and I don't think I'm delusional. The entire point of this blog is that common sense needs to have a place in spiritual matters, and that fuzzy feelings should not outweigh reason and common sense. For example, if a suicide bomber were to stop for a second and think about how stupid his reasons are for doing what he does, we would all be better off. Likewise, Mormons who ignore or edit their own history blatantly refuse to face the possibility that Joseph Smith, Jr. may have been a fraud. To put emotion above common sense is irresponsible and dangerous in the Mormon world just as it is in the world of a suicide bomber. My argument is that both must exist for spiritual well-being.

ctrburns said...

I am sorry if I put words into your mouth. I did not mean to do so at all. Common sense does indeed have a place in spiritual matters. In fact that is what lead me to believe so much about the church when I was younger. My point was point out who the Holy Ghost was. From my perspective he is a true entity and one that I have felt his presence many times and have received knowledge from him. I believe he testifies of truth, hence all in this world can be influenced by him, but in particular that he testifies that there is one faith, one religon, one baptism. Your take is that he does not exhist? and that any such feelings are pure emotional. Hence a suicide bomber and his convictions are no different from my emotions that I have when I claim to be inspirired? Im just trying to understand.

Eli said...

I believe God can and does give us wisdom, but I don't think it is only in the form of good feelings. I feel it is just as, if not more, probable that our conscience combined with the knowledge we gain can be divine wisdom. Maybe He comforts us when needed or gives us hope when all is lost, but didn't He also give us brains? Doesn't He expect us to learn everything we can in this life? Wouldn't His truth make logical sense as well as feel right? If it does only one of those things, I can't see how it could be true. As far as I can tell, there are parts of the LDS Church that make sense and feel great and there are other (major) parts that feel very wrong and do not make any sense. But we are not allowed the option from the Church to take a middle ground, we must decide whether J.S. was a prophet or a fraud. And so because of those two options, the rotten apples have spoiled the barrel for me.