Revelation through Feelings: A Blessing or a Problem?
“From your perspective, what is the biggest difference between Christianity and Mormonism?” I posed this question last week to a returned LDS missionary. His answer? Mormonism’s teaching of progressive revelation. He expanded by talking not only about Mormonism’s additional scriptures, but also about how worthy members can receive personal revelations from the Holy Ghost.
His answer was echoed that same day by a BYU professor in a different conversation.
Their answers reveal how highly Mormons value progressive revelation. I have had more than one Mormon sincerely feel sorry for me because all I have to rely on is the Bible.
But what I want to focus on now is the high value they place on receiving personal revelation. It is often described as “the promptings of the Spirit” which they receive through a “small, still voice”. The still small voice often takes the form of a warm feeling. The best-known example would be the “burning in the bosom” they claim people receive confirming that the Book of Mormon is true.
It’s no surprise Mormons value personal revelation so highly since it is regularly emphasized in Mormonism. The LDS manual, True to the Faith, goes into detail both about how to both receive and recognize the still small voice of the Holy Ghost. In the July 2016 issue of the monthly magazine, Ensign, a mother shares the way she teaches her children how to recognize these promptings. Mormons talk about it just as routinely as Christians mention the Bible. It is obvious Mormons consider personal revelation a tremendous blessing.
This often presents problems when Christians discuss spiritual issues with Mormons. They look to their feelings to confirm truth while we confirm truth through the lens of the Bible. This results in our being on completely different wavelengths.
For years I tried talking about the fickleness of feelings and how they can’t be relied on. No matter what examples I used, however, more often than not my words ran off them like water off a duck’s back. I just wasn’t connecting with them.
So I quit talking about feelings. I now focus on the fact that a Mormon must lead a worthy life to receive these revelations. I ask them how well they are keeping the commandments. I probe by asking them questions based on Jesus’ explanation of the commandments in his Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7). Even though they often don’t show it, I know these questions make them squirm inside. I know this because “the word of God is living and active. Sharper than a double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow” (Hebrews 4:12).
My prayer is that the more they see how much they break God’s commandments, the more they will hear the voice of their consciences condemning them. That is the inner voice they need to listen to.
Instead of the false “still, small voice” of LDS personal revelation, let’s encourage Mormons to listen to the voice of their consciences. Once they listen to it and have been convicted of their sinfulness, many will be eager to hear about Jesus who was worthy for them.