Real vs. Not Real

CES Letter Core Question

Why is the Spirit so unreliable and inconsistent?

Real vs. Not Real

I felt the Spirit watching Saving Private Ryan and Schindler’s List. Both R-rated and horribly violent movies. I also felt the Spirit watching Forrest Gump and the The Lion King. After learning these disturbing issues, I attended a conference where former Mormons shared their stories. The same Spirit I felt telling me that Mormonism is true and that Joseph Smith was a true prophet is the same Spirit I felt in all of the above experiences.

Does this mean that The Lion King is true? That Mufasa is real and true? Does this mean that Forrest Gump is real and the story happened in real life? Why did I feel the Spirit as I listened to the stories of “apostates” sharing how they discovered for themselves that Mormonism is not true? Why is this Spirit so unreliable and inconsistent? How can I trust such an inconsistent and contradictory Source for knowing that Mormonism is worth betting my life, time, money, heart, mind, and obedience to?


CES Letter, Page 79

The Holy Ghost is real but has always been doubted by those who do not experience it.

Inspirational and uplifting feelings can come from many sources. However, the Holy Spirit does much more. Joseph Smith taught: "No man can receive the Holy Ghost without receiving revelations. The Holy Ghost is a revelator." Elsewhere he explained that the Spirit leads us "to do good. . . to do justly, to walk humbly, [and] to judge righteously" (D&C 11:12-13). Warm feelings could be the Spirit, but its influence generally transcends those emotions.

The Apostle Paul described those who do not know the Holy Spirit: "But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned" (1 Cor. 2:14).  

Paul also described unbelievers as “being past feeling” (Ephesians 4:19) and "Having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof” (2 Tim. 3:5).

But Paul also promised that if we “should seek the Lord” and “feel after him,” then we will “find him” (Acts 17:27).

To Joseph Smith, God reiterated: “Behold, I, the Lord, will feel after them. . . they shall be converted, and I will heal them” (D&C 112:13).

The Prophet explained how revelation works: “All things that God sees fit to reveal to us in relation to us, reveals his commandments to our spirits. . . the same as though we had no Body” (Ehat & Cook, Words, 346).

Moroni wrote: “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” (Moroni 10:4).


Additional Resources:

FairMormon: “Is the "burning in the bosom" a reliable method of determining truth?”

Strengthening Faith and Testimony — Elder Robert D. Hales

David A. Bednar, "Seek Learning by Faith," Ensign (September 2007), 60–68 (from talk given to CES educators on 3 February 2006).

Allen R. Buskirk, "Science, Pseudoscience, and Religious Belief (Review of: The Demon-Haunted World: Science as a Candle in the Dark)," FARMS Review 17/1 (2005): 273–310. off-site

Daniel H. Ludlow, "I Have A Question: A friend of mine says he has prayed about the Book of Mormon but has not received a testimony of its truthfulness. Shouldn't Moroni's promise always work?," Ensign (March 1986), 49.

Dallin H. Oaks, "I Have A Question: How can I distinguish the difference between the promptings of the Holy Ghost and merely my own thoughts, preferences, or hunches?," Ensign (June 1983), 25.

Dilworth B. Parkinson, "We Have Received, and We Need No More," FARMS Review 17/1 (2005): 255–272.

Richard G. Scott, "Using the Supernal Gift of Prayer,Ensign (May 2007), 8–11.

Gregory L. Smith, "'Days of Miracle and Wonder': The Faith of Sam Harris and the End of Religion, a review of The End of Faith: Religion, Terror, and the Future of Reason by Sam Harris," FARMS Review 20/1 (2008): 147–174.

Richard N. Williams, "Faith, Reason, Knowledge, and Truth," FARMS Review 20/1 (2008): 99–112.

Dr. Wendy Ulrich, "'Believest thou…?': Faith, Cognitive Dissonance, and the Psychology of Religious Experience," Proceedings of the 2005 FAIR Conference (2005).

Spiritual Experiences as the Basis for Belief and Commitment by Blake Ostler

pt 1, Spiritual Experiences As The Basis For Belief And Commitment

pt 2,Spiritual Experiences As The Basis For Belief And Commitment

pt 3,Spiritual Experiences As The Basis For Belief And Commitment

pt 4, Spiritual Experiences As The Basis For Belief And Commitment

pt 5, Spiritual Experiences As The Basis For Belief And Commitment

pt 6, Spiritual Experiences As The Basis For Belief And Commitment 

Shaken Faith Syndrome

pt 1, Enlarging Ones Testimony with Answers and Evidences

pt 2, Enlarging Ones Testimony with Answers and Evidences

pt 3, Enlarging Ones Testimony with Answers and Evidences

How to Receive Answers to your Prayers – George Cobabe

Pt. 1, How to receive answers to your prayers

Pt. 2, How to receive answers to your prayers