Are Spiritual Experiences a Reliable Source of Truth?

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In this ongoing series, we attempt to answer questions from a searching Mormon.

Question #2: Why have I had so many spiritual experiences reading the Book of Mormon, Doctrine and Covenant and Pearl of Great Price?

A person can receive a variety of emotions when they read a meaningful book. Fear, intrigue, and exhilaration can accompany a good mystery novel. Inspiration can come from reading the biography of a famous explorer.

When reading a book that seeks to obtain answers to satisfy a spiritual hunger, people will turn to many types of sources. There have been a number of religious leaders throughout the centuries who have offered wisdom on how to live a happy, meaningful life or how to become closer to God.

When prompted by friends, relatives, or neighbors to seek spiritual truth from a particular source, a person will often point to feelings of peace, serenity or happiness as a means to validate its truths. In the LDS Church, members will encourage people to read the Book of Mormon while sincerely asking God to validate its truth. They will say a gentle whisper or an inner feeling brought on by the Holy Ghost will tell you whether the Book of Mormon is true and Joseph Smith is a true prophet.

But are feelings or spiritual experiences a valid source for determining truth?

Sometimes suggestions can have a powerful effect on the mind, body, and spirit, especially when someone promises experiences or feelings in association with reading books on spirituality. I'm not necessarily suggesting that this is always the case, but simply a warning that one needs to exercise caution when relying on spiritual experiences to validate truth.

This is especially true when uncovering truth about our eternal destiny. A reliable source is essential.

The Bible says to take God at His Word, that His promises are true, and that the completed work of Jesus Christ is the only way to receive the assurance of living eternally with Heavenly Father. By trusting in the promise of receiving Christ's perfect obedience by faith alone, a person can receive full confidence that his or her sins are forgiven right now. This status is not based on a feeling or a spiritual experience, but found solely on the promise of His Word. Faith alone receives this eternal benefit from Christ.

If the information received from spiritual experiences in reading LDS Scriptures is different from these promises, than I seriously question whether those experiences came from the God of the Bible. Rather, it could have come from but an entirely different source bent on tricking you.