What is the difference between a “good feeling” and the experience of “the Holy Ghost?”

By: shenpa warrior
June 15, 2011

What is the difference between a positive emotional experience, and “feeling the Spirit?”

I have had many positive emotional experiences in both religious and secular contexts… I have also had a handful of experiences with religion that were qualitatively different from that. A few have felt like what I can only imagine must be similar to what rocker Arthur ‘Killer’ Kane described as “an LSD trip from the Lord, like a drug trip without the drugs.”

I have also received very distinct directions on a few major decisions in my life, as well as moments of peace and comfort that seemed to be from outside of me. Sometimes they involved words. I’ve never had a near-death experience, or a vision, so I cannot speak for those experiences.

In a recent Mormon Stories episode, Dr. David Christian shared a mission experience where the mission president tried to convince all the sister missionaries that polygamy was coming back, and they all were to be his plural wives. Something like 10 out of the 12 sisters claimed to receive a spiritual witness that this was true. I don’t know how they described their experiences.

What do we make of this?

  1. It seems pretty reasonable to not rely on the spiritual “experiences” of others for personal decisions.
  2. Is there any objectivity as to what constitutes an experience of revelation or one that confirms truth?
  3. Ever since I realized in high school that I felt positive experiences during John Travolta movies (seriously), I decided that feeling “good” about something must not necessarily be the Spirit. Warm fuzzies may be just that. It seems to reason that the experience of the Holy Ghost MUST be different.
  4. Objectivity or not, what do YOU consider to be the experience of the Holy Ghost? How do you know? If you don’t know, what makes you believe the experience is different from just another positive emotion, a voice in your head, or a parapsychotic symptom*?

*Visual, auditory, olfactory etc. hallucinations are sometimes conceptualized as “parapsychotic symptoms” in the mental health field. One may have these experiences (especially in times of extreme stress or grief) without actually having a mental illness such as schizophrenia.

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98 Responses to What is the difference between a “good feeling” and the experience of “the Holy Ghost?”

  1. Kevin Christensen on June 15, 2011 at 6:48 AM

    Appendix A: Answers to Prayer in LDS Scripture
    Here are scriptures describing answer to prayer through the Spirit. Contexts usually refer to study, pondering, inquiry, musing, fasting, and reflecting on the subject of the prayer before and during the experience described or promised. You should study the scriptures in context. These verses should spur introspection in assessing personal experience, and in considering the claims of others. (Even skeptics should define what they do not believe in.) They are also a strong test for the claims of Joseph Smith. Consider them in light of my model and note how well they all hang together. The Spirit is a promised witness to the obedient (Acts 5:32; John 7:17, 8:31–32).
    Answer to Prayer Emphasizing Thinking
    1. Guides to truth (that is, to what is real; Jacob 4:13; John 16:13; Ephesians 5:9–10).
    2. Brings Christ’s words to remembrance (John 14:26).
    3. Eyes of understanding opened, that ye may know (Ephesians 1:16–19). “We began to have the scriptures laid open to our understandings, and the true meaning and intention . . . revealed to us in a manner we never could attain to previously, nor ever before thought of.” (Joseph Smith–History 1:74)
    4. “It is calm and serene; . . . a person may profit by noticing the first intimation of the spirit of revelation: for instance when you feel pure intelligence flowing into you, it may give you sudden strokes of ideas.”
    5. Expands your mind (Alma 32:34).
    6. Is this not real? What is true is discernible. “Whatsoever makes manifest is light”—truth is things as they really are (Alma 32:35; Jacob 4:13; Ephesians 5:13; D&C 52:14–19) “A pattern in all things” (D&C 52:14).
    7. Persuades to believe in Christ (Moroni 7:17).
    8. Judge righteously (D&C 11:12; Matthew 7; Luke 11:35).
    9. Enlightens your mind (D&C 11:13–14; Alma 32:34).
    10. You will know and bear record (Ether 4:11–15).
    11. “Still small voice,” “which whispereth through and pierceth all things often making my bones to quake,” “voice in mind,” “as of one crying in the wilderness . . . because you cannot see him” (Enos 1:10; 1 Kings 16:13; Isaiah 30:21; D&C 85:6; 88:66; see also 3 Nephi 11:37).
    12. I know that ye believe them . . . by the manifestation of the spirit, great is my joy. He that preacheth and he that receiveth, understand one another, and both are edified and rejoice together (Alma 7:17; D&C 50:10–25). It can be a shared experience that is witnessed and not self-induced.
    13. Experience a change of perception. “God has created man with a mind capable of instruction, and a faculty which may be enlarged in proportion to the heed and diligence given to the light communicated from heaven to the intellect; and that the nearer a man approaches perfection, the clearer are his views, and the greater his enjoyments, till he has overcome the evils of his life and lost every desire for sin; and . . . arrives at that point of faith where he is wrapped in the power and glory of his Maker and is caught up to dwell with Him. . . . This is a station to which no man ever arrived in a moment: he must have been instructed . . . by proper degrees, until his mind is capable in some measure of comprehending the propriety, justice, equality, and consistency of the same.”

    Answer to Prayer Emphasizing Feeling
    1. Heart burns within (Luke 24:32; Jeremiah 20:9;Psalms 39:2–3, 12; D&C 9).
    2. Enlarges soul (Alma 32:27: Moroni 10:3–6); cf. Enos for enlargement of soul, first praying for self, then his people, then his enemies (Enos 1–17).
    3. Word begins to be delicious to you (Alma 32:27); also tree of life (1 Nephi 8:10–16).
    4. Word grows in you (Alma 32:28–43) “As that subject seems to occupy my mind, and press itself upon my feelings the strongest” (D&C 128:1). “Never did any passage of scripture come with more power to the heart of man than this did at this time to mine. It seemed to enter with great force into every feeling of my heart. I reflected upon it again and again” (Joseph Smith–History 1:12).
    5. Invites to do good (Moroni 7:13); fruit of spirit is love, joy, peace, long-suffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance (Galatians 5:22–25).
    6. Invites to love God and to serve him (Moroni 7:13–19).
    7. Peace to mind concerning the matter (D&C 6:14–15, 22–23).
    8. Feel that it is right; stupor of thought if wrong (D&C 9:7–9).
    9. Leads you to walk humbly (D&C 11:12).
    10. Peace and power of spirit flow into you (D&C 111:8).
    11. Spirit teaches you that ye must pray (2 Nephi 32:8–9).
    12. Spirit fills with joy (D&C 11:13–14; Mosiah 4:3)
    13. Peace of conscience (Mosiah 4:3).
    14. Consolation, comfort, peace (Helaman 3:5; John 14:26–27)
    15. Guilty take truth hard, for it cuts to the center (Acts 2:37; 1 Nephi 16:2; 2 Nephi 32:2). Some harden hearts against it; others repent (see Alma 14, 15, and 36).
    16. Experience a change of heart (Alma 5:26). “The spirit of the Lord . . . will whisper peace and joy to their souls; it will take malice, hatred, strife and all evil from their hearts, . . . and their whole desire will be to do good, bring forth righteousness, and build up the kingdom of God.” “Law . . . written in hearts” (Jeremiah 31:33). “New heart, new spirit within you” (Ezekiel 11:19).
    Other Ways Prayers Are Answered.
    1. You receive help that you’ve prayed for (James 5:16–18). “The fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much” (James 5:16).
    2. Numinous Experience: awe and reverence, mystery and wonder, fascination and dread, a sense of otherness, confrontation and encounter; becoming aware of dependence, finitude, limitation, and contingency.
    3. Mystical Experience; sense of the unity of all things, joy, harmony, serenity, peace, loss of ego. “Eight central qualities of the mystical or transcendent experience” are:
     The “ego quality.” During the experience, the person may lose the sense of self, and feel absorbed in to something greater. (cf. He that ascended up on high, as also he descended below all things, in that he comprehended all things, that he might be in all and through all things, the light of truth; D&C 88:6; And it came to pass that the Lord spake unto Enoch, and told Enoch all the doings of the children of men; wherefore Enoch knew, and looked upon their wickedness, and their misery, and wept and stretched forth his arms, and his heart swelled wide as eternity; and his bowels yearned; and all eternity shook. Moses 7:41);
     The “unifying quality.” During the experience, the person may feel that “everything is one.” (cf. He comprehendeth all things, and all things are before him, and all things are round about him; and he is above all things, and in all things, and is through all things, and is round about all things; and all things are by him, and of him, even God, forever and ever. D&C 88:41),
     The “inner and subjective quality.” The person may feel that things possess consciousness which we don’t usually regard as being conscious, like trees, or the earth itself. (cf. And it came to pass that Enoch looked upon the earth; and he heard a voice from the bowels thereof, saying: Wo, wo is me, the mother of men; I am pained, I am weary, because of the wickedness of my children. When shall I rest, and be cleansed from the filthiness which is gone forth out of me? When will my Creator sanctify me, that I may rest, and righteousness for a season abide upon my face? Moses 7:48)
     The “temporal/spatial quality.” The person may experience time and space differently, and may even feel that the experience occurs outside the normal boundaries of space and time. (cf. And it came to pass, as the voice was still speaking, Moses cast his eyes and beheld the earth, yea, even all of it; and there was not a particle of it which he did not behold, discerning it by the spirit of God. And he beheld also the inhabitants thereof, and there was not a soul which he beheld not; and he discerned them by the Spirit of God; and their numbers were great, even numberless as the sand upon the sea shore. And he beheld many lands; and each land was called earth, and there were inhabitants on the face thereof. Moses 1:27–29. Compare also Black Elk’s vision.);
     The “noetic quality.” The person may feel that the experience is the source of true knowledge. (cf. And now, behold, is your knowledge perfect? Yea, your knowledge is perfect in that thing, and your faith is dormant; and this because you know, for ye know that the word hath swelled your souls, and ye also know that it hath sprouted up, that your understanding doth begin to be enlightened, and your mind doth begin to expand. O then, is not this real? I say unto you, Yea, because it is light; and whatsoever is light, is good, because it is discernible, therefore ye must know that it is good; …Alma 32:34-35 )
     The “ineffable quality.” The experience may be impossible to express in normal language. (cf. And behold, the heavens were opened, and they were caught up into heaven, and saw and heard unspeakable things. And it was forbidden them that they should utter; neither was it given unto them power that they could utter the things which they saw and heard; And whether they were in the body or out of the body, they could not tell; for it did seem unto them like a transfiguration of them, that they were changed from this body of flesh into an immortal state, that they could behold the things of God. 3 Nephi 28:13-15. Which he commanded us we should not write while we were yet in the Spirit, and are not lawful for man to utter; Neither is man capable to make them known, for they are only to be seen and understood by the power of the Holy Spirit, which God bestows on those who love him, and purify themselves before him; D&C 76:116-117)
     The “positive emotion quality.” (cf. He hath filled me with his love, even unto the consuming of my flesh. 2 Nephi 4:21. And oh, what joy, and what marvelous light I did behold; yea, my soul was filled with joy as exceeding as was my pain! Yea, I say unto you, my son, that there could be nothing so exquisite and so bitter as were my pains. Yea, and again I say unto you, my son, that on the other hand, there can be nothing so exquisite and sweet as was my joy. Alma 36:20-21).
     The “sacred quality.” The experience may seem to be intrinsically sacred. (But now mine own eyes have beheld God; but not my natural, but my spiritual eyes, for my natural eyes could not have beheld; for I should have withered and died in his presence; but his glory was upon me; and I beheld his face, for I was transfigured before him. Moses 1:11).

    4. Dreams and Visions; compare Nephi and Lehi, Daniel, Peter, and John, etc.
    5. Personal Dialogue; you feel yourself addressed through events, and answer through your actions.

    From my essay “A Model of Mormon Spiritual Experience.”

    Kevin Christensen
    Bethel Park PA

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  2. SilverRain on June 15, 2011 at 7:50 AM

    I know it is a Spiritual prompting when it is consistent and persistent.

    I know it is Spiritual confirmation because it is more than just feeling good, it is always accompanied with a sense of enlightenment. It is as if my whole self is filled with light and love for myself and everyone around me.

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  3. Justin on June 15, 2011 at 8:04 AM

    Actual manifestations of the Holy Ghost are hard to confuse with gut feelings.

    I thought of two examples right of the bat…

    The Baptism of Fire and the Holy Ghost:
    To serve as a witness to the church that the covenant the recently baptized has made with God is accepted — the baptism of fire and of the Holy Ghost must be a visual sign. The medium used is not physical fire that we are generally familiar with, but discharging plasma in the appearance of fire.

    Depending upon where one is located in relation to the plasma display, it may look like the flame of fire, like a living light, like lightning, like a pillar or column, cloven tongues, or just as immense glory or brightness.

    Specifically, the baptism of fire consists of twin plasma filaments, rapidly rotating around a central axis, creating a plasma tube or column. When viewed from the outside, it appears to be “a pillar of fire.” When viewed from within the tube, the fire aspects may or may not be discerned, but its bright light or glory is apparent.

    Thus we have the various accounts of Joseph Smith’s First Vision, which was a baptism of fire, that use the words “fire,” “flame,” “light,” “brightness” and “glory” to describe the discharging plasma he was witnessing.

    The Power of the Holy Ghost:
    When 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.

    He was not giving some unique promise that only applied only to the words he was writing. This was the standard practice among the Nephites. The Nephite preachers would teach those listening to their words to ask God, in the name of Christ, for a witness by the power of the Holy Ghost that the words they were saying, [which were communicated to the preacher by an angel], were true.

    They taught the people to obtain the very same testimony that the preachers had received. They taught them to ask God to confirm the word they had received by sending an angel to them and declaring the word of Christ to them, just as was done to the preacher. In this way, both preacher and hearer would see eye to eye.

    When Moroni wrote that “he will manifest the truth of it unto you, by the power of the Holy Ghost,” he was speaking as a Nephite, with the understanding and learning of a Nephite. Among the Nephites, it was known:

    Do ye not remember that I said unto you that after ye had received the Holy Ghost ye could speak with the tongue of angels? And now, how could ye speak with the tongue of angels save it were by the Holy Ghost? Angels speak by the power of the Holy Ghost; wherefore, they speak the words of Christ. Wherefore, I said unto you, feast upon the words of Christ; for behold, the words of Christ will tell you all things what ye should do.

    So Moroni had in mind that God would manifest the truth of all things by sending an angel to declare the word of Christ b/c all Nephite preachers understood that angels spoke by the power of the Holy Ghost and that this was how the Father fulfilled His covenants.

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  4. Paul on June 15, 2011 at 8:16 AM

    My sister and I talked a great deal about this when she was in the MTC and I was teaching there (I taught German; she learned Spanish — we “talked” in letters). She is not of the “emotional” school of spiritual experiences, but her two companions had the flood gates set on open all the time.

    I tend to be emotional at spiritual things and also at non-spiritual things (I used to weep at the AT&T commercials they played on my Northwest flights from Detroit to Japan years ago…), and have had to work to understand other qualifiers.

    For me: There is more than emotion, but there may also be emotion. There is also a sense of knowledge or understanding. The emotion is often preceded or followed (not always instantly) with clarity of thought — ‘peace to the mind’ so to speak. There is consistency over time, as well with multiple promptings, almost never just one isolated incident (or perhaps better said, I tend to discount the one isolated incident).

    Often there will be corroborating evidence, as well. My wife may get a similar impression. I will find scripture that guides me within a short time before or after the prompting. A part of my gospel study or a talk in church may speak to the concern I’m weighing at the time.

    I also have found consistency in Joseph Smith’s counsel that often the first impression is the inspired one. I had a rather significant set of experiences as a new bishop years ago that taught me that lesson.

    Justin, interesting point of view. Not one I share, but interesting still.

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  5. Justin on June 15, 2011 at 8:26 AM

    Justin, interesting point of view. Not one I share, but interesting still.

    Paul, I appreciate the complement. Not really a complement, but I appreciate it still.

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  6. Will on June 15, 2011 at 8:49 AM

    The Holy Ghost is a preacher of truth. which is positive at times. Other times the truth can be hard. It can be uncomfortable. If sure Nephi was uncomfortable when he was commanded to chop of Laban’s head.

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  7. hawkgrrrl on June 15, 2011 at 9:06 AM

    I think the only time you can be sure is if it literally contradicts your own stream of thoughts, coming in seemingly from the blue (not just a nagging doubt about something either, which is a natural feeling stemming from one’s own intuition). I have had this happen several times, usually in the case of something that seems random (e.g. which traffic route to take or other deviations from one’s natural routine).

    My rule of thumb is to go with my own instincts unless I feel a persistent prompting to do something that contradicts them. Of course that means sometimes I ignore the prompting and only later realize that I should have followed it.

    There is another kind of HG inspiration that I can only describe as feeling filled with light and enlightenment (as SilverRain says). That is generally in response to something I’m specifically seeking, and the feeling differs from emotion in that it fills my whole body, whereas emotion follows a specific course up through my esophagus into my throat and then to my eyes. Emotion is not the HG. As human beings, emotion just means we are connected to the rest of the human race in powerful ways.

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  8. Paul 2 on June 15, 2011 at 9:35 AM

    The portion of promptings or teachings that are related to future events show that it is different from intuition. Some of these experiences are “garden variety” and some are not. I know of many other examples related to people, myself, and yes, the church hierarchy. One sister in our ward has the gift of prophecy and is batting 100%. It is a good idea to listen if she says something.

    I don’t think a skeptical view of these things is the right way to go, it is more consistent with the evidence to believe that God is involved in the details of people’s lives and sends real knowledge to help us work with the future.

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  9. jmb275 on June 15, 2011 at 9:40 AM

    I gotta confess, I’m pretty skeptical of claims that spiritual experiences are prompted by an external being. I have yet to hear anyone provide a sufficiently detailed explanation of the differences between experiences that arise from the brain and environment and the influence from the HG. I don’t think that discounts spiritual experiences, but for me, it means I can’t easily differentiate between my own intuitions and spiritual promptings and it changes how I perceive my experiences (they are personal, not indications of objective truth). And it means that in answer to #2, no, I don’t think there is any objectivity involved in identifying what constitutes a prompting by the HG.

    Hawkgrrrl mentions it should contradict my own stream of thoughts. That’s fair, and I’ve had that happen. But why on earth would I conclude that that means it’s coming from an external entity like the HG? Such experiences can and do happen to people of all faiths, and even no faith. What doth it profit me to believe it comes from an external entity like the HG, and how would I verify, or falsify that claim?

    I do like the mention of enlightenment, and I think that’s the best objective measurement of spiritual influence in our lives. However, I still don’t know why I have to ascribe this to an external entity. My experience is that mindfulness and meditation gives me that enlightenment almost on demand (at least when I’m well practiced in doing it).

    Maybe all my spiritual experiences, random thoughts, and enlightenment do stem from the HG. But I have no idea how I would know that except as a confirmation of what I’ve always been taught.

    For me, this doesn’t cheapen or lessen the importance of such experiences and that is the key for me. Those experiences are still profoundly important in my life, but I no longer believe that they indicate to me the objective truthfulness of the church or what I believe. In fact, quite the opposite, they teach me precisely why I’m wrong and what I should correct in my life.

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  10. Paul on June 15, 2011 at 9:49 AM

    #8: “I have yet to hear anyone provide a sufficiently detailed explanation of the differences between experiences that arise from the brain and environment and the influence from the HG.”

    I’m interested in this response. Does it mean, ‘because I can also document brain activity, I assume the influence is not external or spiritual?’ If so, why?

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  11. jmb275 on June 15, 2011 at 9:52 AM

    Re Paul

    The portion of promptings or teachings that are related to future events show that it is different from intuition.

    I think this is an important point when limited to the difference between promptings and intuition. Nevertheless, I have engineering intuitions that things will or won’t work all the time that get validated. I can’t always explain these intuitions, but I don’t believe they’re prophetic in nature or that they come from the HG.

    It is interesting to also note the prophetic abilities of the HG vs. science. Science makes near perfect predictions about future events all the time based on good physics, chemistry, etc. We take those for granted every day. However, we certainly don’t view that as magical or from the HG, but based on sound principles, and reasoning. But when it’s an event close to our lives, and our finite minds cannot comprehend the idea of coincidence, or from whence a thought came, we are ready to assign it to the supernatural. To me, it just means that we can’t account for all the variables in the universe that contribute to daily events as they unfold.

    I don’t think a skeptical view of these things is the right way to go, it is more consistent with the evidence to believe that God is involved in the details of people’s lives and sends real knowledge to help us work with the future.

    I’m fascinated by how people can come to such differing points of view. Some people seem to think it obvious that God plays a role in our lives, and other people think it’s obvious He doesn’t. In any case, I think your POV is beneficial to you, but can be harmful to someone else. For the person who seems to get no knowledge for help with the future, he/she must ask why. How does one answer this to satisfaction with a traditional Mormon worldview, especially if this person is an otherwise believing and practicing Mormon?

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  12. jmb275 on June 15, 2011 at 10:01 AM

    Re Paul

    I’m interested in this response. Does it mean, ‘because I can also document brain activity, I assume the influence is not external or spiritual?’ If so, why?

    Let me first answer with another question. The world used to believe that demons caused disease. Because we can document the spread of germs, the treatment with antibiotics, and otherwise explain disease, does that mean the cause isn’t ultimately demonic possession? Yet you likely don’t believe that do you?

    For me it’s a game of probabilities. There is always the possibility that anything could happen. But 99.99999% of the time the events in our world can be accounted for by naturalistic explanations that better explain the events we observe. Why, when I can’t explain or otherwise understand how my intuitions, promptings, etc. occur, would I all of a sudden chalk that up to the supernatural when so much of the world is explained naturally? For me, I default to assuming the world behaves in a natural way without supernatural influence because I think that explanation captures most of the evidence I see. In the few cases where this assumption doesn’t seem to hold I remain open to the possibility it is supernatural (or perhaps quantum mechanics) but don’t necessarily think that’s the case.

    It’s not that I’m belittling the HG, or casting doubt on the experiences. I think the experiences are extremely profound and sacred. I just don’t think my experiences give me an indication of objective, real-world, identifiable, absolute truths.

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  13. Jared on June 15, 2011 at 10:09 AM

    What is the difference between a “good feeling” and the experience of “the Holy Ghost?”

    My experience with things of the Spirit has taught me that the Holy Ghost is manifest in a variety of ways.

    Having “good feelings” is certainly an indication of the presence of the Spirit, but “good feelings” can also be experienced from non-spiritual sources: a movie, music, romance, success, and so forth.

    I’ve learned to rely on manifestations of the Spirit in the form of promptings, serendipitous occurrences, dreams, and ministering of angels.

    I’ll share an example of a prompting.

    All of our children played soccer as they grew up. The games were on Saturday. We usually had at least two games to attend on Saturdays.

    One Saturday I had a 9:00 appointment and my son had a game at 8:00. I told him I wouldn’t be able to go to his game. He was disappointed, but understood.

    As I was preparing to go to my appointment a thought came into my mind to go to my sons game. I put it off. I had two people waiting to see me. I needed to be to my office early to prepare for the appointment.

    When I started the car and was backing out of the garage the prompting came more clearly, telling me to go to my sons game. I now recognized it as the voice of the Spirit. I said I would, but I could only stay for a few minutes.

    As I drove to the game, I asked why I was going there. The impression came, “he is going to make a soccer goal”.

    When I arrived at the game, my son was standing mid-field, all alone. The ball was in play near his teams goal line. I waved to him and told him to be ready. He gave me a big smile and waved back.

    Within a minute or two the ball came down field to where he was. A team mate kicked the ball to him and he made a goal. His first goal!

    It was a big deal for him, and the fact that I was there meant a lot to him. It was a special experience; a gift from God. I can’t think about it without a good feeling swelling up in my heart.

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  14. SteveS on June 15, 2011 at 10:10 AM

    This is a question with which I have struggled over the years. I’ve had a number of emotional responses–some very powerful–to certain experiences that would be classified “religious” or “spiritual” (i.e., singing a hymn in a choir, speaking in sacrament meeting on a particular topic, contemplating my relationship with my wife and children, etc.)

    But as I’ve sought the “witness” of the HG to confirm the “truth” of the BoM, the restored Church, etc., I struggle to be able to provide any memory wherein I can affirm such an experience. Indeed, the closest I’ve come to a spiritual sensation about those things is a moment of enlightenment/epiphany in which I had a “confirmation” that the Church was in fact not “true” for me, that the Book of Mormon is the product of one man or a group of men writing in the 19th century with no historicity, and that I could finally give myself permission to get out from under the weight of trying to hold up all the doctrines and practices of the institutional LDS Church when my sense of logic, ethics, and morals cried out against them. The closest I’ve come to feeling peace about my spiritual path has come as I’ve decided that its up to ME to decide that I believe and how I act, and that I don’t need to rely on the Church or my bishop or other ward members to decide that for me. Is that the Holy Ghost?

    I’ve also had cathartic, spiritual experiences connected to non-religious experiences like finishing my first marathon, reading philosophy, viewing/contemplating the beauty and sublimity of nature, etc. Such experiences communicated truth to my soul, and enlightened my understanding, and increased my joy. Some of them were in direct opposition to official LDS doctrine. Are these the Holy Ghost?

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  15. Paul on June 15, 2011 at 10:21 AM

    11 jmb: Thanks for that thoughtful response. You’re right about the disease issue; certainly in the New Testament many of the devils cast out seem to manifest themselves in ways we now would recognize as various diseases.

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  16. allquieton on June 15, 2011 at 10:31 AM

    According to the Book of Mormon, the Holy Ghost is not an emotion. But it can be associated with emotions.

    I think the HG can manifest in many ways, but when it specifically testifies of truth, I suspect it is always a “burning in the bosom.” The scriptures seem to say this, and also, this is my own experience. There is no emotion that to me feels like the burning.

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  17. SteveS on June 15, 2011 at 10:40 AM

    allquieton: I appreciate your perspective, and I’m glad it works for you. But doesn’t it narrow the omnipotence of God to claim that God speaks to us in only one way? What about all the other ways that men and women claim to feel God’s presence and direction in their lives, in and out of the LDS tradition? What of other accounts of spiritual communication or operation as recorded in the scriptures? What of the gifts of the Spirit listed by Paul? What of the myriad GC talks wherein the speaker, perhaps in an effort to reach out to people like me who don’t claim to have truth witnesses in the fashion described most commonly as a “burning in the bosom”, states very clearly that the HG works in different ways with different people?

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  18. Jared on June 15, 2011 at 10:45 AM

    #13 SteveS

    I have friends and family who relate similar feelings and experiences.

    Over the years, I tried to understand why some people are more sensitive to Spiritual things, while others struggle.

    The scriptures provide help with this issue. The general authorities talk about it. I like the following explanation:

    A friend of mine once told me about his experience in coming to know and understand the gift of the Holy Ghost. He had prayed often and longed to know the truth of the gospel.

    Although he felt at peace with his beliefs, he had never received the certain knowledge for which he hungered. He had reconciled himself to the fact that he might be one of those who would have to walk through this life relying upon the faith of others.

    One morning, while pondering the scriptures, he felt something surge through his body from the top of his head to the bottom of his feet. “I was immersed in a feeling of such intense love and pure joy,” he explained. “I cannot describe the measure of what I felt at that time other than to say I was enveloped in joy so profound there was no room in me for any other sensation.”

    Even as he felt this outpouring of the Holy Ghost, he wondered if possibly he was just imagining what was happening. “The more I wondered,” he said, “the more intense the feelings became until it was all I could do to tearfully say, ‘It is enough.’”

    The Unspeakable Gift, Joseph B. Wirthlin, April 2003 General Conference

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  19. Bishop Rick on June 15, 2011 at 10:50 AM

    I saw a documentary on the Discover channel about a place in the brain that can be stimulated with simple magnetic forces. This stimulation creates the illusion of spiritual experiences from manifestations of the spirit, to visions.

    This can easily be replicated in a lab setting.

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  20. Jared on June 15, 2011 at 11:00 AM

    #18 Bishop Rick

    I saw the same thing. It may be that the brain is part of the source of sensitivity to things of the Spirit. When that part of the brain is stimulated by researchers then it produces “spiritual feelings”.

    But that doesn’t explain how people learn of things that are going to happen, as I did with my boy making a soccer goal (see #12).

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  21. shenpa warrior on June 15, 2011 at 11:03 AM

    Thanks for all the comments so far. I hope to address many of them soon. This is exactly the discussion I was hoping to have, with various viewpoints and questions.

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  22. Kullervo on June 15, 2011 at 11:10 AM

    Nothing you precieve–empirical, emotional or spiritual–is objective, ever.

    So how can you be sure that what you are feeling is the Holy Ghost and not something else. You can’t. Proceed therefore always with caution.

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  23. Mike S on June 15, 2011 at 11:11 AM

    I think there is a lot of overlap between a “good feeling” and the “Holy Ghost”, as understood in our church. And perhaps it is semantics.

    I am a very logical person. My career is in the sciences, and I base my treatments on what studies have shown “work best” as opposed to what “seems like it will work best”. I also understand that scientists are discovering areas of the brain that light up with activity with what people experience as religious experiences.

    At the same time, I do think there is something more. I believe that there is something “inside” us that resonates when we hear truth. And I think it is universal.

    In the LDS Church, we may experience these “feelings” when we read the Book of Mormon or hear an inspiring talk. We teach that this is the Holy Ghost testifying of truth. Our missionaries use these feelings to help investigators recognize truth and eventually join the Church. There are experiences people have described above that go along with us.

    My biggest issue is that many members tend to feel that this ONLY occurs in the LDS Church. But there are millions of other Christians who have had the same feelings, impressions and conversion stories. There are Muslims who have felt the same. There are Hindus and Buddhists who have felt the same.

    In the LDS Church, we tend to use these experiences to form the basis of a “testimony”, yet we are quick to discount the same experiences in others who have had the same confirmation that their path is correct.

    Personally, I have felt these feelings reading the Book of Mormon. Using the terminology I was raised with, I would call that the Holy Ghost testifying of truth. But I have felt the exact same feeling reading the Qu’ran (as has my wife). I felt the exact same feeling reading a daily Buddhist message that was emailed to me this morning. So I think our spirit resonates with truth wherever it may be found.

    For an LDS member who has experienced this with the Book of Mormon, I would offer the same challenge we give to investigators. Read the Qu’ran. Read the Bhagavad Gita. Read the Dhammapada. See if you don’t experience the exact same feelings reading those. If we aren’t willing to at least experiment and read something else, why do we expect others to do the same with the Book of Mormon?

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  24. Mike S on June 15, 2011 at 11:15 AM

    So, overall, regarding feelings and the Holy Ghost:

    My experiences with the Holy Ghost ironically (from an LDS viewpoint) haven’t made me more sure that this is the “one true Church”, but have taught me that there are many beautiful belief systems that all have truth and that all lead people to be better people. My experiences have taught me that what kind of person you are is most important than what religion you follow.

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  25. Bishop Rick on June 15, 2011 at 11:15 AM


    What you are describing in #12 is a form of prophecy. I highly doubt that magnetic stimulation can produce accurate prophecy with regularity, so no it does not explain that type of experience.

    That said, do you think that a soccer goal warrants a heavenly prompting? Do you think that it could possibly be coincidence?

    Much bigger things than soccer goals have come and gone with no promptings.

    I get promptings every day about this or that. Sometimes the promptings are accurate, other times they are not.

    I don’t claim prophecy when the promptings are accurate.

    I think these things are just a natural function of the brain.
    Religious settings seem to amplify the experience.

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  26. Paul 2 on June 15, 2011 at 11:32 AM

    Hi jmb,

    I appreciate your thoughtful comments. I do quantum mechanics for a living, so I think I understand the athiest/agnostic arguments very well. My best friends are atheists.

    I do agree that my point of view is subjective, i.e. certain events happen and I interpret them in a certain way. I think that my interpretation best matches my experiences. So I do think that a belief in a theist God who is involved in people’s lives is the right way to go, i.e. it corresponds to reality and it is helpful too. If someone believes differently, they are welcome to their experiences and their beliefs.

    I think you make a welcome point about the need not expect that our personal experiences are universal. I don’t need to explain why it doesn’t work for you, and I also don’t need to expect that it will or should work for you. Naming these things gifts seems to be reasonable, as it implies we can be different in this respect and we won’t understand why. Well actually, a materialistic point of view probably compels you to explain my experiences and conclusions as psychological wish fulfillment and a lack of rigorous thinking, but a religious point of view doesn’t compel me to explain the difference.

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  27. Bishop Rick on June 15, 2011 at 12:14 PM

    If this stuff was real, wouldn’t it work the same for everyone?
    Why is it so subjective, so difficult to discern, so hit and miss? The only answer I can come up with is because it is not real.

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  28. Jared on June 15, 2011 at 12:19 PM

    #24 Bishop Rick–

    I can understand your skepticism.

    I gave an example of what seems to be a trivial reason for receiving a prompting from the Holy Ghost. But it wasn’t trivial for my son. It was an important thing, so much so, the Lord prompted me.

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  29. Paul on June 15, 2011 at 12:19 PM

    Bishop Rick, even in the canonical accounts it isn’t the same for everyone. Why would we expect it to be now?

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  30. FireTag on June 15, 2011 at 12:37 PM


    I think we’re at a point in our ability to “see” spiritually comparable to our remote evolutionary ancestors just beginning to develop the ability to see physical light. If the spiritual light, like the physical light, is present in the environment, the survival advantages of perception will amplify any brain mechanisms capable of detection through natural laws, and eventually, after many thousands of years, spiritual vision will become more reliable among our species.

    For now, though, it’s a pretty unreliable sense organ.

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  31. Mike S on June 15, 2011 at 12:42 PM


    I appreciate you sharing experiences like that. It shows a willingness to open yourself up to potentially negative comments. So thank you.

    Regarding “prophecy / blessings / etc”, I truly haven’t wrapped my head around them. My mind is perhaps too logical, and I expect a couple things: 1) clarity and 2) reproducibility.

    For clarity, there are many “prophecies” that we hear about formally and informally, that basically can’t fail. We hear JS told that if he lives to a certain age, he will see Christ. But because he died, it still “happened”. We hear of patriarchal blessings promising a mission or children to someone who dies too soon or can’t have children, and say it must mean in the next life. People are blessed with healing and full recovery, and die the next day. My issue with these is that it’s not really clear what is meant. If someone is blessed with children, but it doesn’t happen, what point did the prophecy have? If JS is promised something but God knew he was going to die before then anyway, what point did it mean? Etc. So a lot of prophecies are worded/interpreted in such a way such that if something happens, that is God’s will – but if it doesn’t happen, that is God’s will also. So I don’t understand the point.

    2) Reproducibility: Again, in the scientific world, doing the same thing under the same conditions should always produce the same results. This seems to be “looser” in this setting. Back to the example of the Book of Mormon above, some people pray about it and get an “answer”, others don’t. Or just about anything (and not just in the LDS faith).

    Because of this, I don’t really worry about “prophecy” too much. We haven’t had an official & canonized prophecy in the Church for decades if not longer. Like the Church as a whole, I just try to do my best. I pray for inspiration to stumble in at least the right direction. I try to be a good person. And that’s pretty much it.

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  32. Cowboy on June 15, 2011 at 1:39 PM

    This is where the rubber meets the runway. The problem here is that there is very little concensus (even here) on how the Holy Ghost is supposed to operate, and of course no means for validating that response. However, in the same vein as the topic on judging, there is a confidence element that is hard to avoid. This is the biggest challenge I have with spiritual witnesses, they often become a means for subjectively validating our personal predjudices and bias’s. Sure, there are some theological constraints – but overall our whims no longer recieve just the benefit of the doubt, but the absolute certainty from heaven. When we are confronted on our convictions we don’t have to offer cogent or logical arguments, we just have to cite a “spiritual witness”, safeguarded our worldview (or judgements of others) in unencroachable sacred ground. Even among the best theologians, when their well-thought out arguments run their course to a point of unwarranted speculation, they simply call it a “leap of faith”, citing a “spiritual experience”, and on they go.

    Most importantly – I have never understood why God would insist on mortal experiment for mankind where he intentionally seperates us from his presence, but then tries to lure us into his Church with these vague “impressions”? Why the treasure hunt? More importantly – if he insists on the treasure hunt, how about a better explanation of how the tools work?

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  33. allquieton on June 15, 2011 at 1:47 PM

    SteveS (#16)

    It sounds like you misread or misunderstood my post (#15). I didn’t say God speaks to us in only one way. In fact I said the opposite.

    I was only saying I do believe there is a specific way he testifies of truth.

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  34. SteveS on June 15, 2011 at 2:36 PM

    allquieton: sorry for the misunderstanding. Could you clarify for me, then? Are you saying that you believe that the burning in the bosom is the only “specific” way by which God will “always” testify of truth? Or are there other ways in which truth is corroborated by the HG?

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  35. Heber13 on June 15, 2011 at 4:05 PM

    I kind of think a lot like jmb … I don’t know anymore how we can really know about it personally or universally, and it seems often it is just up to the person to decide if they want to believe it is the Holy Ghost for them or not (call it faith, or call it guesswork…up to you).

    Having said that, I still cannot shake some of my strongest experiences I’ve had … which keep me thinking that it can be real for me (I keep wanting to believe that).

    However, it seems so difficult to detect all the different possible manifestations, and all the times I’ve experienced failure to interpret, and all the failed expectations from what I thought were spiritual experiences, that it leaves me believing that spiritual experiences are like fortune cookies. They can be real, sometimes very general and apply to almost everyone, sometimes confusing and thrown away, but sometimes very profound and meaningful to me specifically in a specific situation in a way that brings me comfort and peace.

    And so I seek that comfort and peace, and no longer put so much stock in it or an expectation there will be a Yes or No, or a a voice telling me to turn right or left. I appreciate the profound fortune when it is there to help me, but other times just eat the cookie and move on.

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  36. Paul Sunstone on June 15, 2011 at 4:09 PM

    I am curious whether or not anyone has had an experience of the Holy Ghost in which they and the Holy Ghost were One? I would greatly appreciate any help with that question.

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  37. Heber13 on June 15, 2011 at 4:22 PM

    #35 Paul.

    I have not. Your question sounds like what I used to yearn for … such spirituality that I could not be kept within the veil … and be one with God’s will or with the Holy Ghost.

    But I don’t think it works that way. To me, it is more like the Sun rays from a far away source, that I hope to feel a few here and there at times to make me feel warm inside, but not that I’m standing on the sun in the same place as the sun.

    Funny story though…I baptized my eight year old son a few months ago. There was a second boy baptized at the same time. After both their baptisms, we were changing into dry clothes, my son said to the other 8 yr old, “I wonder if the Holy Ghost is with you or with me right now. How do we tell where he is?” The other boy responded, “I think He just jumps back and forth between us”. They went on saying, “I think he’s with me”, “No, he’s with me” “No, He’s with me now” and we laughed pretty good at the goofballs standing in their wet undies guessing where the HG was.

    I’m not sure I understand it any better than my 8-yr old.

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  38. Jared on June 15, 2011 at 4:38 PM

    #30 Mike S

    As you’ve pointed out,human logic has proven to be a boon to mankind on many levels.

    Mike S as a physician understands the value of the scientific method and what it does for his patients. I had double hernia surgery a couple of years ago, so the value of competent medical treatment is still fresh on my mind.

    However, we need to be careful before we enshrine the power of human logic. If human logic were all-powerful, war and poverty would be nonexistent.

    Human logic, at some level, fails in possibility every endeavor humankind undertakes. If this weren’t true then humankind would have created a perfect society (no crime, war, or poverty). There wouldn’t be multiple political parties in America, there could only be one.

    Therefore, it appears even logic ultimately fails in: 1) clarity and 2) reproducibility.

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  39. Badger on June 15, 2011 at 4:41 PM

    All of us seem to be on our own in answering this question. I’ve heard the experience of the HG compared to the taste of salt, in the sense that it can’t be put into words. However, with salt, we can all actually taste it. There’s no way to know firsthand how our experience of it compares to another’s, but we do at least have a physical stimulus and a human nervous system in common.

    Because it’s not possible to share a religious experience in the same way, I have a lot of difficulty making a comparison between my good feeling and someone else’s experience of the HG, or vice versa. Mormon testimonies, St Theresa’s spiritual ecstasy, magnetically induced mental states, drug trips, love at home, “my, that’s a beautiful sunset”–how many separate phenomena are represented in the list? I sometimes hear it said that (believing) Mormons have an experience in common, of which others know nothing. I find it very hard to understand how anyone could have a basis to believe either half of that proposition with any confidence.

    It would help if we all had a common reference point. Perhaps, as shenpa warrior stated, we should all try LSD–OK, shepna, not in so many words, but I can read between the lines!

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  40. Cowboy on June 15, 2011 at 6:13 PM


    I completely agree with your observation of science and the imperfections of human logic/wisdom/whatever. Where you lose me is on the implied argument that religious wisdom/thinking performs better. These are the kinds of things that people arguing for the religious agenda state quite frequently. It is assumed that because they can lightly invalidate the absolute “authority” of science, that somehow automatically gives religious positions/arguments/worldview’s/whatever a superior standing – without ever having to demonstrate how or why. The genius behind the scientific method is that it provides a system for consistency that can be repeated, and in best cases reach near unanimous concensus. This is not an absolutely perfect epistemological method for certain, but it is very good. In religious epistemology one must forego any expectation on consistency or methodological reliability – or they must challenge the sincerity of other peoples intentions/actions, in light of the wide variance in outcomes. In other words we have to ignore the variance, or denigrate the unbelievers. If we try and explain the variance with “the Lord’s timetable not ours”, then one wonders why the Lord would so urgently insist we teach the whole world indiscriminately. It doesn’t make sense.


    The best answer I am aware of to the “taste of salt” argument, is to simply hand that person some salt and ask them to taste it. That would best answer their question as to what salt tastes like. We would assume that our sensory experience is relatively similar, but ultimately there is no way to know whether the sensation two different people recieve to the same stimuli is interpreted the same. Still, there would be little reasonable doubt that both parties would unanimously concur to the cause-and-effect nature of stimuli to sensation. With Mormonism, two people can Search, Ponder, Pray, and quantitatively register different results, ie, one “felt something”, and one didn’t. Because we are limited in what we can truly “know”, I have to operate on the assumption that God is above letting his system being defected with technical trivialities. In other words, I assume that if he really operated as Moroni 10:3-5 says he does, then there would be far less variance in peoples reported experiences.

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  41. Jared on June 15, 2011 at 6:51 PM


    I agree with you postion more than you think.

    I don’t believe religion has a superior standing over human logic. I believe both are needed.

    I believe in our day religion is treated with contempt. A prime example is found in the broadway production on the Book of Mormon.

    In centuries gone by the scientific method was treated with contempt (inqusitions).

    I think logic and faith can and should be companions in everyone soul.

    A mind all logic is like a knife all blade. It makes the hand bleed that uses it.
    Rabindranath Tagore

    I think all the facts before us fit the Book of Mormons defination of a “fallen world” perfectly.

    For those who question faith but who have it in there blood should follow the logic found in Pascal’s wager:

    “If you believe in God and turn out to be incorrect, you have lost nothing — but if you don’t believe in God and turn out to be incorrect, you will go to hell. Therefore it is foolish to be an atheist.” Paraphrase of Pascal’s Wager.

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  42. hawkgrrrl on June 15, 2011 at 7:50 PM

    “If this stuff was real, wouldn’t it work the same for everyone?
    Why is it so subjective, so difficult to discern, so hit and miss? The only answer I can come up with is because it is not real.” This doesn’t point to it not being real, but to there being variables that are behind the different results (to jmb’s point – perhaps indicating that it is internal, not external). I think the argument for internal is strong in most cases, but I can only say that I don’t believe it accounts for it all.

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  43. Bishop Rick on June 15, 2011 at 9:35 PM

    Jared #27:
    I wasn’t trivializing the experience. I don’t believe it was trivial at all at your son’s level or even on your level. My point was that your level is trivial when compared to the eternities. In other words, a soccer goal is insignificant when compared to the kid that picked up a soccer ball in Yemen and it exploded.

    Paul #28:
    You are correct. Consistency is absent from the canon as well. Doesn’t speak well for the canon.

    FT #29:
    We have already waited thousands of years. We don’t have thousands more if we are in the Latter Days. With that logic, the whole human experiment is a failure to date.

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  44. Bishop Rick on June 15, 2011 at 9:43 PM

    Jared #40:
    An all logic mind would be smart enough to avoid picking up the all blade knife.

    hawkgrrrl #41:
    You missed my point completely. Probably because I did a poor job of positioning it. Variability would not be a problem if all variables were discernible. The problem is this stuff is NOT discernible. The inconsistency and difficulty makes no sense. The fact that it makes no sense is what points to it not being real.

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  45. Cowboy on June 15, 2011 at 9:52 PM

    We could debate the particulars as to how well the Book of Mormon describes a fallen world – but even if we accept that premise, it is still logically incomplete as evidence of anything. After all, it was a 19th century product it would make sense that the author was just critiquing modern society and label it fallen. Much of what goes into that label requires selectively parsing “the world” for examples that satisfy the argument, while ignoring much of the good. Perspective is everything – afterall President Hinckley would often project a much more positive outlook on “the world” that would not fit the fallen world paradigm, outside of the doctrine of “the fall”

    As for Paschals Wager – the long standing critique has been that it fails to account for sectarianism. In other words, sure I’ll accept the wager – but that doesn’t get me one step closer to Mormonism. Incidentally the theological critique against the wager begs the question, can a person feign claim their faith simply on a principle of risk management. Does God simply require lip service? I think you would even disagree with that notion Jared.

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  46. Bishop Rick on June 15, 2011 at 10:29 PM

    The ironic thing about Pascal’s wager is that it is illogical.

    If I believe there is a God and I’m right, I go to heaven.
    If I don’t believe there is a God and I’m wrong, I go to hell.

    What a bit of rubbish.

    A just God would not judge someone according to what they believe.

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  47. shenpa warrior on June 15, 2011 at 10:38 PM

    BR – “Rubbish” maybe, but I’m curious about how it’s “illogical.”

    If God exists, and rewards believers, and I believe in God, then I go to heaven. Seems logical.

    If God does not exist, and therefore believers cannot be rewarded, and will not go anywhere. Still logical?

    I’m NOT an expert in logic but it seems logical to me.

    Thanks for humoring me. I don’t care about the utility of the wager so much as this idea that it is logical or not. :)

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  48. Duke of Earl Grey on June 15, 2011 at 10:43 PM

    I would often get a strong feeling on my mission while I was teaching a gospel discussion, and I could see the person was understanding and believing what I said. It wasn’t a confirmational feeling exactly, but a joyous feeling that choked me up a bit, and I attributed it to the Spirit.

    I was startled a few years later, when I began working as a tax auditor, that I would get that exact same choked up joyous feeling as I explained use tax accrual to a taxpayer and saw it click for them. Go figure.

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  49. Bishop Rick on June 15, 2011 at 11:33 PM

    shenpa – let me tell you about the parable of the 2 sons. Both were shipped off to different families at birth and had no knowledge of their father. The first was raised by an athiest family in athiest community. Atheism was all he ever knew. He died believing there was no God.

    The second brother was raised by an LDS family in LDS community. Mormonism was all he ever knew. He died believing there was a God and that he too could become a God.

    According to Pascal’s wager, the first son will go to Hell and the second will go to Heaven, all due to an accident of birth.

    Does this outcome seem logical to you?

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  50. shenpa warrior on June 15, 2011 at 11:36 PM

    The outcome does not seem “moral” but I don’t see how it is “illogical.”

    In fact, if this is based on the assumption that God, if he exists, punishes nonbelievers and rewards believers, then the story seems logical to me. The reasoning is sound I think. That says nothing about the morality of it though.

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  51. Badger on June 16, 2011 at 12:51 AM

    I don’t care about the utility of the wager so much as this idea that it is logical or not.

    Logical? Well, here’s the thing: the universe is out to get you, Mr. shepna warrior. And it knows all about you, your personality, your inclinations and tendencies–after all, you’re part of it.

    Through Pascal’s rose-colored glasses, it’s all a big cosmic casino, and if you bet on “God” you might just win big. But I’m here to tell you that this is reality, and the universe knew a long time ago that you were the type of person to bet on God, so it has arranged for there not to be one. You’ll be sitting through hours and hours of general conference, for no reward at all!

    Or maybe I have it wrong, and you’re wickeder than I imagined. If so, the universe is way ahead of you, and you’re looking at eternal damnation.

    It’s a case of damned if you do, bored if you don’t. But maybe you’re not helpless. You don’t seem averse to a little gambling. Here’s a plan: toss a coin (or some quantum thing, if the universe can predict coin tosses). If it comes up heads, you live righteously; tails, wickedly. Now the universe has no way to know which way you’ll go. What’s the worst it can do?

    If it doesn’t arrange for a God, you have a 50% chance of the straight and narrow, and a 50% chance to eat, drink, and be merry. Expected payoff: one half hedonic-lifetime unit (HLU).

    If it installs a God, you’ll end up either in heaven or hell, but it’s a complete 50/50 tossup. On average, the two equal and opposite afterlife possibilities cancel each other out, and you’re left with the net earthly reward, which is 1/2 HLU just as in the atheistic case.

    Either way, you average a net 1/2 HLU, and nothing the universe does can prevent it! It can randomize its choice, too, but you’re covered either way. This is your reward for stepping back from Pascal’s Pollyana-ish assumptions, and choosing the correct optimal mixed strategy in the zero-sum two-person game of eternal life.

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  52. SteveS on June 16, 2011 at 1:27 AM

    My apologies ahead of time for the long comment to come:

    I think the weakness of Pascal’s wager is its focus on life in a hereafter about which we really know little to nothing, and upon a selfish focus on the individual. Unlike the 17th Century, unless you’re a politician in the U.S., or already a part of a close-knit religious and family community that values conformity, the gains that come from choosing to believe in God in the 21st century lie almost exclusively in the afterlife rewards that have been promised the faithful by the religions of the world. “Be good, because one day there will be a judgement”, “lay up treasures in heaven”, and “rewards in heaven” are Pascal’s primary motivations, but it was certainly a benefit for a philosopher and scientist to profess belief in God in his day for social and political reasons.

    What Pascal wager doesn’t accommodate is opportunity cost of belief. A person that has no evidence for the existence of God, no spiritual connection to the God of religion, and no social or political motivation to stay within the fold of believers gives up a life of freedom to explore other ideas, beliefs, and choices that cannot be embraced from with the context of belief. The opportunity cost of belief is what the individual stands to lose by choosing to wager that God exists, and consequently act accordingly. That choice might preclude the experience of much of what life has to offer. The opportunity cost rises if the individual in question has few or no social or political advantages gained from belief.

    fwiw, I’m personally more on the believing side of the coin, but certainly not because I worry about a possible judgment or anticipate any future rewards from my belief. I just wanted to point out why Pascal’s wager is a bit absurd from my perspective. It falls apart because it assumes that one has nothing to lose by betting on God’s existence, when that really isn’t the case (plus, if you believe in the Mormon theology of the afterlife, even if you don’t believe, you’ll not be condemned to eternal hell for your disbelief, so you really don’t have everything to lose by not choosing to believe).

    See how playing the game based solely upon a future that no one knows for sure is real is futile? Better to simply focus on the here and now, and allow one’s belief or non-belief in God assist them in their quest for the Good, the True, and the Beautiful, and to love and serve mankind. Along the way if that pleases a God that exists in reality, so much the better. What I’m willing to wager that if God exists, there’s probably a lot more moral atheists reaping the blessings of the kingdom than hypocritical “believers” who violate conscious and act with disregard toward others and the planet.

    Bringing it back to the OP, perhaps Jesus’ promise of the Holy Ghost is rhetorical way of getting people to focus their attention inward to their own moral compass, favoring it above the external legalisms, moralisms, or other forms of “right” action based on a pre-existant code of right and wrong. The Spirit reveals to the listener new perspectives, new interpretations, and new ideas, freed from the shackles of conformity to precedent and tradition. Perhaps becoming part of God’s Kingdom involves taking upon ourselves the responsibility to make constant effort to listen to that moral compass, and to have the courage to follow it.

    I mentioned earlier that I don’t have any strong spiritual witnesses to the truth claims of the LDS Church. I think considerations about orthodoxy of belief in terms of intellectual assent to a list of doctrines isn’t what the Spirit, or belief in general is really about. Rather, developing a stronger relationship with my own awareness of attraction to goodness, generosity, justice, peace, and love for others, while simultaneously learning to reject baser instincts that favor selfishness is more likely the workings of the Spirit within me, leading me in paths that are pleasing to God.

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  53. Paul Sunstone on June 16, 2011 at 3:59 AM

    #36 Heber 13:

    Thanks for the help! I appreciate it.

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  54. Nathan on June 16, 2011 at 5:39 AM

    I am saying that. To me it is pretty rare, distinct, powerful, and definitely not an emotion. I’d call it a sensation. I only feel it when I read scripture, sing hymns, or testify-not when I’m watching a movie our something. I think the scriptures describe it perfectly as a burning within the heart or bosom.

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  55. Nathan on June 16, 2011 at 5:50 AM

    I know it’s popular in the church to say the HG is subjective, and different for everyone but I don’t believe it. That’s not what the scriptures say. And it makes no sense. Since we can obviously feel emotion w/out the HG, emotion is not a useful indicator of the HG.

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  56. allquieton on June 16, 2011 at 5:55 AM

    Allquieton=nathan. (think I fixed this problem now.)

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  57. Pascal’s Wager « Irresistible (Dis)Grace on June 16, 2011 at 6:39 AM

    [...] being said, he usually says something that makes me cringe. After asserting the weaknesses in human logic (which, to be honest, I don’t have problem with…but with Jared, I was skeptical of [...]

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  58. shenpa warrior on June 16, 2011 at 8:09 AM

    Badger – um, what? I was only pointing out how I thought BR was incorrect that the wager was “illogical.” The reasoning seems fine. “Logic” however has nothing to do with “morality.” Did you understand that and you were just being silly with your comment? If so, great. :)

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  59. Jared on June 16, 2011 at 8:38 AM

    Wow, it looks like my effort to put human logic into perspective caused some to cringe.

    I believe human logic and revealed truth have proven to be a boon to humankind in spite of all the flaws and craziness both have produced along the way.

    The topic of this post is: What is the difference between a “good feeling” and the experience of “the Holy Ghost?”

    I have been blessed with many manifestations of the Holy Ghost. Based on my experiences, a “good feeling” can be part of the experience but doesn’t even come close to giving a comprehensive description.

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  60. Cowboy on June 16, 2011 at 9:07 AM

    I don’t know that there is a problem with the logic of Paschals Wager, as defined by Paschal. However, as many here and elsewhere have pointed out, the wager is highly simplistic in it’s assumptions. Rather, than disputing it’s logic, we can easily dispute it’s utility as a rational model for faith. First, the assumption is that if God exists, he punishes and rewards strictly on the premise of belief. So, it is not really a wager on the existence of God, but rather on the rules of salvation. So in effect, the wager has no applicability outside of the contexts of Christian grace. According to the Wiki article, Paschal acknowledges the argument that his wager fails to account for religious diversity – to which he pre-emptively argues that any person who fails to then devote their life to exploring religion enough to essentially agree with him, is just lazy. Inherent in his assumption is the idea that an unlazy person will arrive at some kind of “truth”. This then begs the question, why propose a “wager” of any sort? If it really is that simple, why not just deduce the correct religion? If however we take a broader approach to uncertainty as implied in any context of “wagering” then we have to account for more than just the existence of God (demonstrated by coin-toss and optimization argument) but all the possible things [a] God could require of us plus one, to accurately create the probabilities. In that case the probabilities become so low, that a person could not reasonably expect to peg the right action or behavior, making the opportunity costs substantially higher.

    In other words, we when adopt more appropriate assumptions, the idea of “wagering” on salvation at the expense of this life, yields a rational conclusion that it is far more wise to just eat, drink, and be merry!

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  61. shenpa warrior on June 16, 2011 at 9:13 AM

    “Rather, than disputing it’s logic, we can easily dispute its utility”

    THANK YOU Cowboy. I was starting to go a little batspit.

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  62. SteveS on June 16, 2011 at 9:23 AM

    @Nathan a.k.a. allquieton: Its funny that we have such differing perspectives on the same thing. I don’t have “burning in the bosom” experiences. I suspect a lot of other people do not, either. But I do have feelings that impel or encourage myself to choose selflessness instead of self interest, that prompt me to reach out to others in love and understanding instead of focus on my own needs, etc.

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  63. hm on June 16, 2011 at 9:44 AM

    To the man who watched his son’s soccer goal: What would it have meant to you, if you went to the game, but no goal was scored?

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  64. Irony on June 16, 2011 at 9:51 AM

    “Rather, than disputing it’s logic, we can easily dispute it’s utility as a rational model for faith. First, the assumption is that if God exists, he punishes and rewards strictly on the premise of belief. “

    Rather than get in a debate about the utility of the wager, I’d stop the discussion with this quote. Just because Mormonism or Paschal or anyone else suggests that God punishes us the way discussed previously, why don’t we take a step back and wonder whether our interpretations of God are even correct? Mormonism teaches + preaches a rather jealous God whose love is contingent on certain actions. Other religions teach varying degrees of this meme, but what if we’re all wrong?

    Maybe God isn’t as jealous as we presume him to be, maybe God isn’t as restrictive as we presume him to be (i.e. you have to be a Mormon to go to the C.K.), maybe God is a lot more lenient, a lot more loving and a lot more flexible than we are.

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  65. Jared on June 16, 2011 at 10:29 AM

    # 63 hm-

    Your question is loaded with meaning. I’ll answer it the best I can.

    If I would have gone to the game and he wouldn’t of scored I would have been required to step back and rethink the experience.

    First, I would review the initial reason for going to the game in the first place. I received two promptings to go to the game. My experience with the Spirit prompting me to do something that would have never entered my mind otherwise is reliable.

    In #7 hawkgrrrl said it well:

    “I think the only time you can be sure is if it literally contradicts your own stream of thoughts, coming in seemingly from the blue…”

    I’ve learned to pay attention to these kinds of experiences.

    Second, the second part of the experience was wondering why I was prompted to go to the game. I was stressed by this, I had an important appointment.

    What was the reason? When I asked the question the thought came to my mind he is going to score his first soccer goal.

    If it turned out I was incorrect and he didn’t make a soccer goal, I would later ask Heavenly Father to help me be more receptive to His Spirit. I would have fasted and prayed for help.

    On my blog (click my name) I’ve given a brief history of my experience with the Savior. This will help you understand more about my dealings with the workings of the Spirit.

    Lastly, the prompting I received to go to my sons game was a wonderful experience. But its possible to make a mistake because the communication is subtle, especially the second part.

    However, the Lord in His kindness to me has answered my prayers about crucial kind of things with answers that were not subject to error. The answers have come vocally, meaning I heard someone speak to me. I’ve understood these to be ministering of angels.

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  66. Badger on June 16, 2011 at 12:50 PM

    Badger – um, what?…were [you] just being silly with your comment?

    Mostly, but not entirely. Pascal’s Wager is silly to begin with, and my counterpoint was at least equally silly. I thought it would be more entertaining to embrace the silliness. However, I taking your question as an invitation to explore the Wager’s logic, here’s a more serious version, in which I’m probably about to display some ignorance of philosophy.

    If a righteous life is preferable to a wicked one even in earthly terms, the Wager is unnecessary. So assume wickedness is happiness.

    In the Wager we are playing a game. Is it (1) a game of chance, betting on the existence of God, or (2) a game of strategy, trying to beat the universe? The difference is that with (1) we’re confident the universe is impersonal and not hostile, while in (2) it’s a conscious opponent playing to make us lose. The first is more plausible, but we’re already way past plausibility with the Wager. Also, the hostile-universe assumption can be used as a basis for strategy without necessarily believing it. This is the game-theoretic minmax principle, and it seems to be implicit Pascal’s argument: righteousness is safer because its worst-case outcome is better.

    Looking again at version (1), a distinction would be made today between two different interpretations of probability: Epistemic, “I’m uncertain whether God exists”, and Aleatory, “whether God exists is a chance event, but I don’t know its probability”. The aleatory version subsumes the special case in which God’s existence is not a chance event: the probability of His existence would then be either zero or one, but we don’t know which.

    Given the time in which he lived, I don’t think Pascal would have had these distinctions clearly in mind. Let’s apply them to the Wager.

    (1, epistemic): Pascal: You, as a mere mortal, cannot be certain that God does not exist; therefore there is a nonzero chance that He does. In that case, betting on “God” has a better expected outcome. Former Skeptic: Logical!
    Outcome: righteousness.

    (1, aleatory): Pascal: Wager. Skeptic: if the probability of God’s existence is zero (in particular, if His existence is, as some argue, a logical impossibility), your advice is exactly wrong. As a mere mortal, you don’t know the relevant probability. The question has two possible answers but your knowledge is insufficient to determine which is right. Outcome: suspended judgment pending further data.

    (2, minmax): Pascal: righteous living has a better worst-case outcome. Game theorist: In this game, a mixed strategy dominates either of the pure strategies. If you skillfully introduce randomness on your own terms, your worst-case expected winnings are better than righteousness, by 1/2 HLU. Note that humanity as a whole is in fact playing a mixed strategy in this game, because some humans live righteously and others do not. Outcome: coin tossing for individuals; status quo for humanity in general.

    All of these are logical. The epistemic version is the most natural to someone encountering the Wager as a blank slate. It wouldn’t be unreasonable to narrow the definition of the Wager to exclude the other possibilities, but Pascal didn’t do that as far as I know, and it has not been part of the Wager in presentations I’ve seen.

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  67. Mike S on June 16, 2011 at 1:27 PM

    #63: hm To the man who watched his son’s soccer goal: What would it have meant to you, if you went to the game, but no goal was scored?

    This is fundamentally my issue.

    Assume I felt a prompting before each time he scored a goal, and when I didn’t feel a prompting he didn’t score a goal. And assume that this one time I felt the prompting but he DIDN’T score. Like Jared, I, too, would think that perhaps I “did/felt/interpreted” something wrong that single time but that the process was at least understandable.

    Now assume that sometimes I felt what I thought were promptings and other times I didn’t, and assume these seemed to have no correlation to whether he actually scored a goal or not (ie. I feel that he will score, but he doesn’t, or I don’t feel he will score but he does, or I feel he will score and he does, etc). In this situation, I would start to question myself and wonder what I was feeling.

    Now compare that simple situation to the complexity of life. I feel “good/spirit/Holy Ghost” when I read the Book of Mormon or during an uplifting talk. But I also feel the same way reading non-Mormon scripture, and even non-theistic scripture (ie. Dhammapada). In fact, at times, I have felt the exact same way listening to the second guitar solo in “Comfortably Numb”. And there are times the opposite happens. There are times I go to the temple and don’t really feel anything. I have followed Moroni’s promise and feel a stupor of thought. I have seen blessings promising blessings with the spirit present, and the exact opposite happens. After a while I lose the correlation between what I feel and what I think it is supposed to represent, as it doesn’t seem to correlate.

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  68. Bishop Rick on June 16, 2011 at 8:45 PM

    “Rather, than disputing it’s logic, we can easily dispute its utility”

    THANK YOU Cowboy. I was starting to go a little batspit.


    You do realize that you are the cause of your batspit don’t you?

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  69. shenpa on June 17, 2011 at 7:08 AM

    Totally. I definitely produce my own batspit from my own glands. There’ just seems to be more of it when people use words incorrectly over and over without admitting it. Really, I just wanted to win. ;)

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  70. shenpa on June 17, 2011 at 7:11 AM

    Maybe I’ll do a post sometime on what the word “logical” means.

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  71. Paul Sunstone on June 17, 2011 at 8:23 AM

    #70 Shenpa: “Maybe I’ll do a post sometime on what the word “logical” means.”

    That could turn out to be a fun post. I once tutored logic at the university level. A few of my students seemed deeply attached to their own unique and gutsy interpretations of what is or is not “logical”.

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  72. Badger on June 17, 2011 at 12:58 PM

    …what the word logical means.

    I’ve never seen “logical” used in a formal setting the way Mr Spock used it in Star Trek. It’s just the adjectival form of logic, and only in phrases such as “logical consequence” does it acquire a precise meaning.

    I understand shepna to mean that the argument in Pascal’s Wager is valid, but perhaps not sound, in the sense the terms are used in the Wikipedia article “Soundness” (under “of arguments”).

    I’ve argued above that the formulation may be ambiguous, and the ambiguities would prevent giving a single answer to “is the argument valid?” I think nailing it down precisely is harder than it first looks, and thought some of the ideas I mentioned might interest some readers.

    I agree with shepna in the sense that I can imagine it’s possible to fix up the formulation of the argument, but not that that the premises could be made acceptable.

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  73. Cowboy on June 17, 2011 at 1:33 PM

    I think that is the whole point – If you accept Paschals presmises or “assumptions”, then the argument is logical. However, as most people have noted, his assumptions were far from theologically comprehensive. In other words, if the extent of religious choice were limited to a) Believe in God, then God shall reward you; or b) refuse to believe in God, and God shall damn you; then yes Paschal has a valid point. Overly simplistic in my view, and fairly lacking in intelligence in spite of logical “soundness”. I find particularly unusual for Mormons to invoke Paschals Wager, given the fundemental rejection of strict grace salvation in our theology. It doesn’t account for works, including ordinances which are essential components to salvation in Mormon theology. So, I really don’t get why so many Mormons choose to cite this argument. I believe the little “black book” for missionaries, by Gilbert Scharffs, used this same logic – though he coined it “the unbeatable position”. Even on my mission when missionaries would talk about this I struggled to understand the argument. Interestingly that was long before I was ever aware of Paschals Wager.

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  74. [...] more likely to give the play greater doctrinal credence than they should.  (See this recent post here on the [...]

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  75. Bishop Rick on June 17, 2011 at 8:19 PM


    “There’ just seems to be more of it when people use words incorrectly over and over without admitting it. Really, I just wanted to win.”

    Are you really this much of an a$$?
    Is this how you normally monitor your posts, by ridiculing people over a word YOU don’t even fully understand?

    You do realize there is more than one definition for logical don’t you? A couple of definitions are sensible and valid. Pascal’s wager is neither.

    But the definition of logical isn’t even the point.
    The point is you knew exactly what I was saying but chose to nit pick over a word you THOUGHT you fully understood.

    You were wrong.
    You did not win.

    Get a life.

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  76. shenpa warrior on June 17, 2011 at 8:46 PM

    Whoa. Sorry man. Sorry I hit a nerve. Peace unto you and yours.

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  77. shenpa warrior on June 17, 2011 at 8:55 PM

    In my defense, I did use a smiley. :D

    Also, I wasn’t the one who disliked your comment.

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  78. Andrew S. on June 17, 2011 at 9:17 PM

    re 73:


    You don’t have to accept Pascal’s premises for the the wager to be logical or not. You have to show either that his inferences are fallacious or not.

    Most people aren’t doing that, however. They are simply disbelieving that the premises actually are true.

    For whatever it’s worth, I think most people don’t address the Wager beyond an extremely superficial manner. The Wager has complexities that both address some of the common complaints (but by no means establishes soundness of premises) and raise new issues.

    If we all could get over this fetish with logic (which really isn’t all that big of a deal), then who knows what would happen?

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  79. Mike S on June 17, 2011 at 9:39 PM

    To show one problem with Pascal’s Wager:

    Following the same logic, you should NOT be Mormon in this life, but should be a member of another denomination.

    If that denomination is correct and Mormonism is false, you are therefore better off. If that denomination is false and Mormonism is correct, you can still be saved and have your work done vicariously anyway.

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  80. Bishop Rick on June 17, 2011 at 9:45 PM


    Pascal’s wager has no more relevance to the OP than the term “logical”.

    Perhaps we should get over the fetish with the wager.

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  81. Andrew S on June 17, 2011 at 10:03 PM

    re 79,

    Mike S,

    That’s not a problem with Pascal’s Wager’s logic, however. But you’re absolutely right, and Seth R pointed out the distastefulness of taking the wager to its conclusion on my blog — you essentially pick the religion with the *worst* consequences for not believing it, and then commit to that one.

    re 80,

    Bishop Rick

    I completely agree. Indeed, I actually wanted people just to go to my blog and talk about it there. But I forgot the part in my comment to shamelessly self-promote the trackback link that can be found earlier in the thread.

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  82. Cowboy on June 17, 2011 at 10:50 PM


    I haven’t been debating the logic of Paschals Wager, just its usefulness. Perhaps most critiques only deal with the issue superficially because Paschals theological paradigm was too narrow to justify a more thoughtful consideration.

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  83. Bishop Rick on June 17, 2011 at 11:16 PM


    I went to your blog post about Pascal’s Wager.
    I must say that it disappoints me that you felt the need to begin by insulting someone. It was gratuitous nudity…added nothing to the plot.

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  84. Andrew S on June 18, 2011 at 4:50 AM

    re 82,


    Right. I’m just sniping on something I noticed herein (off-topic, of course, as has been noticed.

    re 83:

    Bishop Rick,

    And yet, I never have called anyone an a$$ or trolled on sites to tell people to get lives. (OK, maybe I’ve done that once or twice.) So maybe I’m still ahead of the game.

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  85. Bishop Rick on June 18, 2011 at 12:15 PM

    Please explain what trolling on a site is. I doubt you are using it correctly here.

    When people expose their posterior, the thought is that they wish it to be kicked.

    I am more than happy to oblige. Just doing my civic duty if you will.

    Re-read your post. I believe you will find it to be haughty and arrogant. You manage to insult and belittle half the people on this post, even calling some out by name. Why you think you should get a pass for that is beyond me. Shenpa feels he should get a pass for doing the same here.

    If you dish it out, you should be man enough to take it back. My diatribe was a response. Your post was unprovoked. Shenpa’s fetish with his narrow-minded view of logical was also unprovoked. See the difference?

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  86. shenpa warrior on June 18, 2011 at 12:24 PM

    No pass for me BR. I’m really sorry I provoked you – I only meant to play, which I obviously failed at… and you’re right – I just looked up “logical” in the dictionary, and one of the definitions IS indeed as you meant it: “natural or sensible given the circumstances.” So to call Pascal’s wager illogical because it damns atheists for never even having the chance to believe makes sense in that it’s not “sensible.” Sure, it’s not “Spock” logical, but that’s my own challenge, now isn’t it. :)

    I appreciate your passion. It’s terrific. Keep it up.

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  87. Andrew S on June 18, 2011 at 12:52 PM

    re 85:

    Your modus operandi is to traverse the internet, finding posteriors exposed (of course, you are the one who determines whether a posterior is exposed, of course) so you can kick them. You even call it your civic duty. It’s your pet project, if you will.

    …how is this not trolling? If you don’t even know what trolling is, how will you doubt whether I am using the term correctly?

    I can guess. It’s because you always must be right. Because you say so. And you feel the need to tell people that, so that everyone knows that’s the case (even when it’s not). It’s your civic duty, even, and you’re the hero in a society gone awry.

    I think the interesting part is that you clearly are incorrect on the definition of logic. And so you have to assert that instead, shenpa is being “narrow-minded” about it. What do words mean if we don’t insist upon being narrow-minded about their definitions, pray-tell?

    Perhaps if I am so haughty — as you think — it’s because I have to hear such fallacious (yes! illogical) arguments from people who would dare make “logic” their god. You feel attacked because people point out your error.

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  88. Bishop Rick on June 18, 2011 at 3:28 PM

    Shenpa #86

    I appreciate your last comment.
    NOW you have truly won and proven to be the bigger man.

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  89. shenpa warrior on June 18, 2011 at 3:34 PM

    *WINNING* (is that Charlie Sheen joke over now?)

    Thanks BR.

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  90. Bishop Rick on June 18, 2011 at 3:36 PM

    Andrew #87
    I have been commenting here since last year. I have very few blogs that I read and comment on. I am not a troll. If you go back and read this post, you will see that I was the original commenter using the term illogical.

    When I am proven wrong, I freely admit it.
    There are contributors to this blog that have known me for years and will back this up.

    I was wrong about Shenpa.
    I am not wrong about you.
    You are no better than me.
    We are both looking up to Shenpa right now.

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  91. Troth Everyman on June 18, 2011 at 3:54 PM

    It would be nice if voice tone and inflection could carry over the internet. Smileys are nice but just don’t always do the trick. I for one can say that shenpa wouldn’t purposefully ridicule anyone. Hopefully folks recognize it as playfulness… But then again “literal” can sometimes be mistaken as “logical” as well. Peace!

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  92. Andrew S on June 18, 2011 at 4:04 PM

    re 90:

    Bishop Rick,

    Having commented since last year does not absolve you. If anything, it allows us to understand your character — and trust me, the permas here know a teensy bit about some of the regular commenters.

    I fully acknowledge that you were the original commenter to use illogical, and you used it incorrectly. shenpa warrior questioned you on it. He was pretty gracious on it, coming from a position of *curiosity* You did not address his claims about the logic. And yet then YOU want to assert that *he* is the one who does not fully understand the word.

    What I know is that you do this frequently. You jump all over people over very little. I also know that shenpa warrior doesn’t like to get into fights. That’s ok, but I will admit that I am not so acquiescing.

    So go ahead and say what you will about me or shenpa or anyone else. It only proves my point. Everything’s a crusade, isn’t it?

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  93. Bishop Rick on June 18, 2011 at 5:19 PM

    Andrew, you crack me up. You actually can’t see that are doing everything you accuse me of. You can’t let go of the logic discussion and continue to declare me wrong when everyone else has moved on…sigh.

    Yes its true that I jump quicker than many, but perhaps that is because my background has schooled me to pick up on things others don’t catch.

    Where I come from it is common place to use nigger as a noun or nickname. No one is offended.

    “Nigger didn’t even wash his shirt before comin up in here!”

    Would it offend you if someone called you a nigger?
    Perhaps the term was used with no offense intended, perhaps offense was intended. As Troth mentioned, you can’t tell on the internet. Some people take insults as a joke, others take offense.

    What you don’t realize about yourself, is that YOU jump all over people for seemingly nothing…all the time.

    You just do it with subtle, smooth language, often hiding your real message.

    You don’t fool me.
    Get over yourself.

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  94. Andrew S on June 18, 2011 at 5:29 PM

    re 93:

    I’ve already let go of the logic discussion. As you note, no one is discussing the definition of it.

    This isn’t about everyone else. It’s all about you.

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  95. Allblack on June 19, 2011 at 5:49 AM

    “What is the difference between a positive emotional experience, and “feeling the Spirit?”

    For me, the Spirit is external to me and touches my spirit or heart from the outside in.

    An emotional experience is completely internal, there’s nothing external about it.

    ie ‘Spirit” = external fenomenom that touches our soul, and we know it’s comming from the outside; sometimes one can see that light reaching out to us

    Emotional = completely internal feelings and events

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  96. Shiz on June 19, 2011 at 10:35 AM

    To me they are the same thing, with experiences tied to religious activity being amplified by hope, thus giving the appearance of something stronger.

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  97. Brandon on July 29, 2011 at 9:28 PM

    I have been thinking about this topic (Holy Ghost vs emotion) a great deal lately, and have written a good 6 pages on the topic trying to understand it. So many of the phrases used in the comments on this post mirrored mine exactly, and it’s great to see I’m not the only one who has reached the conclusion that spiritual feelings can not be used to determine eternal truth; they are subjective and open to interpretation.

    One side of this topic that hasn’t been brought here is negative spiritual feelings. For example, being prompted not to go somewhere dangerous, or feeling guilty for doing something “wrong”? I’d be interested to hear your take on that. I think that guilt is dependent upon cultural upbringing and people will feel guilty for different things depending on what they are told is bad, and not necessarily because the light of Christ is warning them of committing a sin.

    We’re also told that sinners can’t feel the Holy Ghost (Hel 4:24), but many “sinners” by LDS standards do feel the Holy Ghost — otherwise many investigators wouldn’t be converted.

    If you want to read my document (which is actually part of my exit story out of Mormonism), you can check it out here:
    (Moderator: Feel free to delete this link and the above paragraph at your discretion – not sure how you feel about external links or exist stories) :)

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  98. JC on November 1, 2012 at 1:27 PM

    Why are spiritual experiences different for everyone? Because we have different genetics, different experiences, capacity to feel, capacity to think, capacity to understand and our spirits are not the same as well. It therefore seems logical to me that spiritual experiences may be interpreted/understood differently. Why isn’t easy to understand spiritual manifestations? For one, because we lack understanding. It’s like trying to understand calculus when our understanding is at the pre-algebra level. Second, it wouldn’t be much of a test if it were easy. From the beginning, it was intended that we walk by faith, until that faith becomes knowledge. Too many of us want knowledge before faith. According to scripture this is not what our Creator intended. (we need to lean on one more knowledgeable than ourselves until our understanding is increased). I can’t prove to someone else that God exists (although probability heavily favors such existence). It is up to that individual to reach out and experience the proof that no one but God can give. We are promised in the scriptures that God would send the Holy Ghost to teach, comfort and guide us. He communicates with us in many different ways, such as feelings, thoughts, promptings, dreams, impressions. This doesn’t mean all such feelings, thoughts, promptings, dreams, impressions are from him. We’re also told in the scriptures of a Deceiver, who has power to tempt and mislead. We also must deal with the functions of our own mind and nervous system that processes various stimuli from the environment and within ourselves. Like the account in Moses, we must learn to distinguish between the many influences in our lives and decide which give edification, light, understanding, peace, and joy. I would suggest establishing a baseline to work from. I will not pretend to fully understand the mind and will of God and I cannot promise what is not mine to promise, but I am quite confident that as a child reaches out to a loving parent, it is hard to imagine that the loving parent would refrain from reaching out to that child. Assuming that God is our loving Father in Heaven, father of our spirits and intimately connected to us, try this experiment of humbly and sincerely reaching out to your Father in Heaven, with no preconceptions. Ask if He is there. And ask if He loves you. Here is a baseline to compare all other experiences, and in a way measure future spiritual experiences.

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