How Reliable is the Spirit?
CES Letter Core Question
How can people trust the Spirit when they've been wrong sometimes?
How Reliable is the Spirit?
There are many members who share their testimonies that the Spirit told them that they were to marry this person or go to this school or move to this location or start up this business or invest in this investment. They rely on this Spirit in making critical life decisions. When the decision turns out to be not only incorrect but disastrous, the fault lies on the individual and never on the Spirit. The individual didn’t have the discernment or it was the individual’s hormones talking or it was the individual’s greed talking or the individual wasn’t worthy at the time.
This poses a profound flaw and dilemma: if individuals can be so convinced that they’re being led by the Spirit but yet be so wrong about what the Spirit tells them, how can they be sure of the reliability of this same exact process and method in telling them that Mormonism is true?
How are faith and feelings reliable pathways to truth? Is there anything one couldn’t believe based on faith and feelings?
If faith and feelings can lead one to believe and accept the truth claims of any one of the hundreds of thousands of contradictory religions and thousands of contradictory gods... how then are faith and feelings reliable pathways to truth?
CES Letter, Page 79
If they are not careful, people can embrace spiritual darkness as easily and simply as spiritual light is embraced.
The author of The CES Letter does not mention the millions of people who have received genuine answers to their prayers, which is why they keep believing. While individuals can be deceived by their own feelings and by false spirits, we must not forget that the Spirit can and will lead us into trials so we can be tested. The Holy Ghost does not guide us to instant joy, but to eternal joy.
Receiving light brings great blessings: “That which is of God is light; and he that receiveth light, and continueth in God, receiveth more light; and that light groweth brighter and brighter until the perfect day” (D&C 50:24). “And if your eye be single to my glory, your whole bodies shall be filled with light, and there shall be no darkness in you; and that body which is filled with light comprehendeth all things” (D&C 88:67).
John Taylor instructed: “When the light that is in heaven communicates with the light within us, when the Spirit that dwells in the bosom of the Almighty dwells in ours, and an intercourse is opened between heaven and us, we are then placed in a position to understand that which it would be impossible to comprehend upon any natural principle known to us” (The Gospel Kingdom, 45).
Nephi explained: “When a man speaketh by the power of the Holy Ghost the power of the Holy Ghost carrieth it unto the hearts of the children of men. But behold, there are many that harden their hearts against the Holy Spirit, that it hath no place in them; wherefore, they cast many things away which are written and esteem them as things of naught” (2 Nephi 33:1-2).
Moses easily distinguished between spiritual light and darkness. He viewed the premortal Christ who, though a spirit being, possessed glory and was even then “like God” (Abr. 3:24). He also saw Satan’s darkened spirit: “For behold, I could not look upon God, except his glory should come upon me, and I were transfigured before him. But I can look upon thee [Satan] in the natural man.... or else where is thy glory, for it is darkness unto me? And I can judge between thee and God (Moses 1:13-15; italics added).
When people encounter and entertain falsehoods, a spirit of darkness whispers to their hearts bearing a deceptive witness of the validity of that darkness. Satan is the source and he “telleth them there is no hell; and he saith unto them: I am no devil, for there is none--and thus he whispereth in their ears, until he grasps them with his awful chains, from whence there is no deliverance” (2 Nephi 28:22).
Many are deceived, leaving the Spirit, light, and truth, to become immersed in spiritual darkness until they can no longer remember or comprehend the light: “The light shineth in darkness, and the darkness comprehendeth it not” (D&C 88:49). These are they who are "past feeling” (Ephesians 4:19; 1 Nephi 17:45).
Brigham Young explained: “[I]gnorance covers them as with a mantle, shuts out the light of truth from them, and keeps them in darkness; and if the light were to shine upon them, as it does now and as it did in the days of the Apostles, would they receive it? No, they would not. Light has come into the world, but the wicked choose darkness rather than light. Why? It was told in days of old that their deeds were evil. That is the fact today—‘They choose darkness rather than light, because their deeds are evil,’ and their hearts are fully set in them to do evil.” (Discourses of Brigham Young, 79).