Are Your Feelings from the Holy Ghost or a Seducing Spirit?

This week’s Gospel Doctrine Lesson claims “revelation comes as the Holy Ghost communicates thoughts to our minds and feelings in our hearts.” In referencing Doctrine and Covenants 8 & 9 we are told that the Holy Ghost “uses a still, small voice to communicate to our minds and hearts” often by a “burning in the bosom”. Dallin Oaks clarifies that “the word ‘burning’ in this scripture signifies a feeling of comfort and serenity.”

When I was Mormon I wanted to receive a “burning in the bosom” verifying to me that the Book of Mormon was true. I spent close to twenty years praying for an answer to this promise in Moroni:

“And when ye shall receive these things, I would exhort you that ye would ask God, the Eternal Father, in the name of Christ, if these things are not true; and if ye shall ask with a sincere heart, with real intent, having faith in Christ, he will manifest the truth of it unto you, by the power of the Holy Ghost.”

I had a testimony that the Church was true, but I certainly didn’t have feelings of comfort and serenity. I thought I must not be asking “with a sincere heart” or “with real intent”. Many times I thought that I was just not worthy enough to have the Holy Ghost bear witness to me. At the temple I would sincerely seek the answer I so wanted to hear. I clung to the words of my prophets that if I just lived the gospel, the Holy Spirit would eventually reveal to me that the Book of Mormon was true.

During those years there were two very important things that I didn’t even realize about Moroni’s claim. First off, the promise allows for no result other than having the Book of Mormon’s truth manifested. The passage does not say to pray to God to see if it is true or not. The prayer is not asking God a question, it is actually asking God to confirm a forgone conclusion—that it is true.

Secondly, using this test to determine whether the Book of Mormon is true is a flawed method of discerning truth! The Holy Ghost is the Spirit of Truth who witnesses truth to us. But God’s Word never tells us to test truth through prayer and feelings! Doing what Moroni suggests leaves a person reliant on their feelings as the means to know truth.

When the Spirit reveals truth to us there will often be a “burning in the bosom” but that doesn’t mean a burning in the bosom always confirms truth. (If you go out in the rain you will get wet; but that does not mean being wet confirms that you’ve been out in the rain.) Feelings often will confirm falsehood as truth. This is one of Satan’s favorite tactics.

God’s Word tells us that in the Last Days people will give heed to seducing spirits. Many people are easily deceived because they rely on their feelings instead of on God’s revealed method of determining truth. Based on strong emotions, suicide bombers have accepted what they were told as truth and sacrificed their lives for a falsehood. One of my friends believes she is following truth and has had very strong emotional feelings to validate her path. She is a follower of “Mother Earth” and believes that Mother Earth is God—-a truth confirmed by her feelings.

The most alarming problem with using feelings or emotional responses as the means to discern God’s truth, is that it exposes you to false spirits. God’s Word tells us that there will be deceiving and false spirits and commands us to “test the spirits”. Heavenly Father revealed how to determine if something is true through the Apostle John:

“Beloved, believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God” (1 John 4:1-6). Test your feelings by testing the message that the spirit brings. Compare what the spirit has witnessed as truth to you with already revealed scripture. That’s the only way you can know for sure, whether or not your feelings are truly from the Holy Ghost.

Anyone who truly tests the message of the Book of Mormon and the Doctrine and Covenants will find out that the Holy Ghost is not their author. These books don’t agree with what the early Apostles claimed about forgiveness! We receive total forgiveness the very moment we believe in Christ.

“To wit, that God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them” (2 Corinthians 5:19). The prophesied Christ of the Old Testament has already reconciled man’s debt to sin. All your sins are forgiven! I know this to be true!

It has been revealed to me by the Holy Spirit and yes, this truth does give me a “burning in the bosom”. But that is not how I know this message is true. I have tested this witness with the rest of God’s scripture. Forgiveness has truly been won for you through Christ’s shed blood. It is His gift, freely offered to you. Please, don’t reject it!

“I marvel that ye are so soon removed from him that called you into the grace of Christ unto another gospel: Which is not another; but there be some that trouble you, and would pervert the gospel of Christ. But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed. As we said before, so say I now again, if any man preach any other gospel unto you than that ye have received, let him be accursed.” (Galatians 1:6-9)

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5 Comments

  1. royaltonmd said,

    February 4, 2009 at 12:24 am

    I find it interesting that all critics of the LDS church encourage members and non-members to NOT rely on the Holy Ghost as the primary means of learning truth. Instead, they encourage reliance on mental, or pseudo-intellectual reasoning.

    And what of those people who did not have scriptures to compare their promptings from the Holy Ghost with? Should not have Abraham refused to offer Isaac based on previous revelations? Wasn’t that contrary to everything God had commanded previous to this request?

    The Holy Ghost is THE most reliable, accurate, faithful conveyer of truth in the world. That will never be different. Read the words of Christ. They invite each person to listen to the still small voice and follow.

    In your article, you imply that all answers to our prayers concerning the truthfulness of the Book of Mormon are “feelings” and “emotions.” Who ever said that? The “burning of the bossom” reference applies to Oliver Cowdery attempting to translate the gold plates. But critics love to lump all personal revelation into this catch-phrase, which they mock.

    Bottom line- any person on earth, no matter what level of education, no matter how rich or poor, how old or young, can know for themselves if the Book of Mormon is true. It requires humility, sincerity, desire, and faith. I kind of think the Lord designed it that way for a reason.

    royalton

  2. Darrell said,

    February 4, 2009 at 4:10 pm

    Royalton,

    What would you say to the Protestants, Muslims, and JW’s who say that the Holy Ghost has told them their faith is true and Mormonism is false? I have personally conversed with members of these faiths who have told me as much. If Mormonism is true than JW and Islam are false. If Islam is true the others are false. They are all very different faiths and cannot ALL be true. So who is listening to the REAL Holy Spirit? Who is listening to a false spirit? How are we to determine which spirit is from God and which spirit is from satan? The Holy Spirit cannot be telling all of them they are all true… if so, the Holy Spirit is telling lies to at least 3 of them.

    Darrell

  3. latterdaysaintwoman said,

    February 4, 2009 at 4:13 pm

    Royalton:
    You wrote: “I find it interesting that all critics of the LDS church encourage members and non-members to not rely on the Holy Ghost as the primary means of learning truth. Instead, they encourage reliance on mental, or pseudo-intellectual reasoning.”

    Once again, you have misunderstood my words. I agree with you that the Holy Ghost is the primary means of learning truth. However, my post focuses on the fact that since there are deceiving spirits, scripture is the primary means of testing a spirit, prophet or apostle:

    1) The Holy Ghost has revealed that He is not the only spirit. There are also deceiving spirits as well as false apostles and prophets: “For such are false apostles, deceitful workers, transforming themselves into the apostles of Christ. And no marvel; for Satan himself is transformed into an angel of light. Therefore it is no great thing if his ministers also be transformed as the ministers of righteousness” (2 Corinthians 11).
    2) The Holy Ghost has revealed that we must test any spirit, prophet or apostle to make sure we are not being deceived. By example and command, Jesus taught that to test spirits or prophets we must compare their message with the Holy Ghost’s already revealed scripture. The Holy Ghost is not going to contradict himself with what he has revealed in scripture and what he reveals to you.
    3) The Holy Ghost is God’s means for conveying truth. His mission was to inspire scripture, which reveals God’s truth. Where did I encourage a “reliance on mental or pseudo-intellectual reasoning”? Instead, I strongly encouraged a reliance on revelation from the Holy Ghost, which comes first from already revealed scripture, then anything else is tested with that.

    You wrote: “In your article, you imply that all answers to our prayers concerning the truthfulness of the Book of Mormon are “feelings” and “emotions.” Who ever said that? The “burning of the bossom” reference applies to Oliver Cowdery attempting to translate the gold plates. But critics love to lump all personal revelation into this catch-phrase, which they mock.”

    Your LDS Leaders and the Lesson said that! I was merely repeating what the Gospel Doctrine Lesson said about trusting your feelings, and a burning in the bosom as being from the Holy Ghost. Here are their exact words:

    Page 29: Understanding how the Holy Ghost communicates with us. Explain that revelation can come in many ways. Some of these include appearances by the Lord or His messengers, voices from the Lord or His messengers, visions, and dreams. Usually, however, revelation comes as the Holy Ghost communicates thoughts to our minds and feelings in our hearts.
    Page 30: “He uses a still, small voice to communicate to our minds and hearts…Most of the revelation that comes to leaders and members of the Church comes by the still, small voice or by a feeling rather than by a vision or a voice that speaks specific words we can hear…
    Elder Boyd K. Packer of the Quorum of the Twelve taught: “These delicate, refined spiritual communications are not seen with our eyes nor heard with our ears. And even though it is described as a voice, it is a voice that one feels more than one hears”…
    Invite class members to tell of experiences when the Holy Ghost has enlightened their minds with new ideas or insights, flashes of inspiration, or strong feelings or impressions.”
    Page 31: Doctrine and Covenants 9:7–8. (He may cause a burning in the bosom.) See also Luke 24:32.
    Point out that although the context of D&C 9 has to do with Oliver Cowdery’s attempt to translate the Book of Mormon, the principles also apply to personal revelation. Emphasize that a burning in the bosom is only one way the Holy Ghost can communicate with us. You may want to use the following quotations to help class members understand this way in which the Spirit communicates.
    President Boyd K. Packer explained: “This burning in the bosom is not purely a physical sensation. It is more like a warm light shining within your being” (in Conference Report, Oct. 1994, 77; or Ensign, Nov. 1994, 60).
    Elder Dallin H. Oaks said: “I have met persons who told me they have never had a witness from the Holy Ghost because they have never felt their bosom ‘burn within’ them. What does a ‘burning in the bosom’ mean? Does it need to be a feeling of caloric heat, like the burning produced by combustion? If that is the meaning, I have never had a burning in the bosom. Surely, the word ‘burning’ in this scripture signifies a feeling of comfort and serenity.”

  4. bangkokjaap said,

    April 18, 2009 at 1:16 pm

    Then how can you know the truth? Which Spirit is right? Which is wrong? If the Spirit that I feel compels me to do good, then how can it be evil?

  5. catzgalore said,

    April 20, 2009 at 1:37 am

    Read the Word, the BIBLE and no other; if you seek the TRUTH, you will find it.
    I like Brownlow North’s thoughts on it here:
    http://www.wicketgate.co.uk/issue48/e48_7.html

    Especially, “Never believe what you feel, if it contradicts God’s Word. Ask yourself, “Can what I feel be true if God’s Word is true”? And if BOTH cannot be true, believe God and make your own heart the liar. (Roms. 3:4. 1 John 5:10-11). “


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