Mormonism’s Wobbly Foundation of Fickle Feelings
Mormons believe that Holy Spirit communicates through a person’s feelings. The latest issue of the Ensign (August, 2017) once again mentions this. It highlights a paragraph from a talk given by one of their apostles at the last General Conference. The snippet is titled, “How Can I Know if My Answer Is from the Spirit or Just Me?” After quoting from the Book of Mormon, Elder Ronald A. Rasband, said:
“We must be confident in our first promptings. Sometimes we rationalize; we wonder if we are feeling a spiritual impression or if it is just our own thoughts. When we begin to second-guess, even third-guess, our feelings – and we all have – we are dismissing the Spirit; we are questioning divine counsel. The Prophet Joseph Smith taught that if you will listen to the first promptings, you will get it right nine times out of ten.” (p. 9)
A couple of things caught my attention. The first is his admission that most Mormons, at times, wonder if the Spirit is really the source of their feelings. That they wonder doesn’t surprise me. But the fact he admitted it during General Conference surprised me.
The other thing which struck me was his last sentence where he quotes Joseph Smith. Their feelings will be right nine out of ten times? Really? Even accepting this ratio, I know that, if I was a Mormon, I would always be concerned about the tenth time. What happens if the tenth time is the one dealing with a very weighty matter?
I share this for a couple of reasons. First, it underscores what a sure foundation we have in the Spirit-inspired and Spirit-filled Word of God. When seeking guidance from God’s Word, we don’t have to worry about getting it right nine times out of time. Every passage is solid and correct.
My main reason, however, for pointing this out is to stress how Mormons and Christians approach things so differently. And if we want to communicate effectively with them, we need to be aware of these differences and work to mitigate them. Over the years, I have learned a couple of things which has helped. Years ago, I would talk about how fickle feelings are. But I found this wasn’t helpful because I demeaned something precious to them. Now I focus on the surety of God’s Word. I realize that I don’t have to compare this with relying on feelings. They often will make this comparison themselves. By doing this, not only am I not putting them on the defensive, I am also utilizing the power of God’s Word.
The other thing I have learned is the importance of not just sharing biblical truth with them, but going the next step and also talking about how biblical truth affects me emotionally. I find myself connecting with them so much quicker when I am on the “feeling” wavelength. I’m careful not to give any indication that I base my beliefs on my feelings, but I do want to show them how my beliefs affect my feelings: the joy and confidence I have of remaining worthy even when I sin because of Jesus; the assurance and eager anticipation I experience knowing I will live forever with Heavenly Father because of Jesus; my peace and relief knowing God has already drowned all my sins in the depths of the sea. I think you get the picture.
These might be subtle changes, but I have found them to be beneficial. This is just another small way we can become all things to all people.