Personal Revelation: Where to Start

May 9, 2005    By: Geoff J @ 3:15 pm   Category: Personal Revelation

Ok, so after I called the world out on the subject of personal revelation, Crystal called me out on details. She wisely noted:

For someone like me, who has almost an inability to pray, do you have any suggestions for where to start? It’s good to say that we all should be having this, but the hows are helpful to those of us who struggle.

That is a good point. It is one thing to tell everyone to start listening to what God has to say but another thing to explain how to do that. I’ll try my best in this post. But I recognize that there is a high likelihood that you know more about this subject than I do so please correct or amend or add to my attempt here.

First, I have come to the conclusion that hearing God is in fact easier for some people than others. In fact, one of my favorite recent posts, called Ears, is about that very subject. Just as some people are born with better musical ears than others; it appears some are born with better spiritual ears than others. But with work almost anyone can have a good musical ear and I firmly believe the same can be said for spiritual ears.

The Basics

Let’s try a few classic scriptures to lay a foundation. I’ll hyperlink to them as we go. First, what does God’s voice sound like? Well, it may not sound like anything to most of us. The better question is: what does it feel like? How does it feel when we are receiving communication from God? We know that God uses his Holy Postal Service to communicate with us. We call that service the Spirit or the Holy Ghost. So how does it feel when the Holy Ghost is communicating with us? Well the scriptures tell us that we feel comforted. We feel love, joy and peace. We feel pure knowledge and our souls expand. We feel edified and we rejoice. It feels sweet above all that is sweet. If we are feeling it during a sermon or reading we completely understand the message and deeply feel that it is right.

So where do we start?

One thing the scriptures make clear (to me at least) is that the easiest type of revelation to receive is a simple yes or no from God. Consider the clear instruction Oliver Cowdery received before the Church was even founded:

7 Behold, you have not understood; you have supposed that I would give it unto you, when you took no thought save it was to ask me.
8 But, behold, I say unto you, that you must study it out in your mind; then you must ask me if it be right, and if it is right I will cause that your bosom shall burn within you; therefore, you shall feel that it is right.
9 But if it be not right you shall have no such feelings, but you shall have a stupor of thought that shall cause you to forget the thing which is wrong;…(D&C 9:7-9)

So there we have a starting point. We should think of something we care about but cannot resolve with the resources available to us. We then study it out in our minds and come to a tentative conclusion. We next take it to God and ask Him with a sincere heart, with real intent, having faith in Christ, doing all we can to believe that we can receive an answer. Then we listen intensely. This is no small thing so we shouldn’t expect to get revelation without some strenuous spiritual effort. We try to sense either those feelings of the Spirit listed above or a “stupor of thought” as mentioned in the revelation to Oliver. With any luck we will be able to clearly identify a yes or no answer through the methods outlined here.

What if we can’t hear a thing?

If we still have no luck breaking through we must ask ourselves: Do we have more important things to do than to break through and hear directly from God? I understand that some things may be more urgent, but what in this mortal probation could be more important? Since it is that important the next step is to try fasting. Some difficult tasks cannot be accomplished without both prayer and fasting after all. But what if we try fasting a few times and it still leads to nothing? Well since we haven’t decided to throw in the towel yet and become and atheists we can at least be certain that we do love God! The next step seems to be pulling an Enos. Enos went to the wilderness to find solitude to pray and ponder all day and all night until he broke through and got the dialogue with God that he demanded. Similarly, Jacob wrestled with the Lord all night. If we are not willing to go to those lengths why on earth would we expect to be qualified to sit down with those prophets after this life?

Getting better at it

So once we get good at getting yes or no questions answered we start moving on to more complete dialogue with God it seems. That is how the writers of the Book of Mormon describe it and that has been my experience too. As a missionary I was often told where to go, who to call, what to say, and when and how to say it. Depending on my level of devotion to God since then I have continued to receive similar direction in my life. (Sometimes I have been able to break through and other times I haven’t. It requires constant vigilance and work I think — sort of like staying in shape after your 20’s.) I know lots of people who are better at this process than I am too. I keep working on getting better spiritual ears myself.

The Problem/the Reward

The problem I have with talking God and hearing back from him is that it is a lot of hard work. It may be even harder than staying in shape and that is pretty dang hard. Also, when I do break through I always recognize that while he loves me, he is dissatisfied with me as I currently am. He wants me to change and be better. Dialogue with God always is humbling and sometimes painful because of that.

The great thing is that dialogue with God allows our confidence to wax strong in His presence. It allows God to guide our paths, to become a lamp unto our feet. It means we can walk through the valley of the shadow by a better light source that the lamp of our own conceit. It means we can constantly be filled with an underlying feeling of love, joy, and peace. It means that fear need not haunt our lives. Plus, extreme emergencies come up sometimes in life. When our confidence waxes strong in the presence of God we can know what to do to get the mighty miracle we desperately need. Take it from me, that last one alone is worth any and every effort.

25 Comments »

  1. Good instructions, Geoff.

    Comment by Arturo Toscanini — May 11, 2005 @ 3:18 pm

  2. Geoff, you are awesome. :)

    I definitely appreciate your insights — even enough to actually test them out.

    You’re right that it’s a lot of work, but in the end, it’s got to be worth it.

    Comment by Crystal — May 12, 2005 @ 1:54 pm

  3. Hey thanks AT and Crystal. This subject has been very much on my mind lately. I recently learned a longtime LDS friend of mine decided to leave his wife and family and become an atheist. I am still mourning the situation but I’ll probably post on the issue some time when the pain subsides. One thing that I kept thinking of was that this never would have happened if he had worked hard enough to get that dialogue with God he was entitled to…

    Comment by Geoff Johnston — May 12, 2005 @ 3:10 pm

  4. I think that a common problem may be that a lot of people think that everyone else around them is so in tune with the Spirit that they receive very easy, black and white answers.

    When the former do not recieve answers with the quickness they percieve others to have, they get frustrated and often despair. Those who don’t realise that struggle is part and parcel of the whole deal may give up.

    Comment by Crystal — May 12, 2005 @ 5:19 pm

  5. Very good post, Geoff. And I’m glad you asked the question to begin with, Crystal.

    I was recently reading Geoff’s post on dialetic prayers and I was thinking about my recent experiences in prayer along those lines.

    One thing I realized about prayer (which may be of help to Crystal or others even though it is 7 months later) is that while earnest sincere prayer is indeed a wrestle and hard work, it is also easier than we sometimes make it out to be.

    To explain, because we don’t see God in front of us, we think that in order to talk to him we need to do some mysterious thing to truly “broadcast” our prayers. And if we don’t get an immediate visual or audible answer, we start doubting our efforts. (Did this not work because I wasn’t on my knees at the time? I slipped and said “you” instead of “thou.” Am I praying for something I shouldn’t? I can’t pray while I’m driving, can I?) All these doubts dilute the simple process of speaking to God as one man speaks to another.

    I’ve always admired the faith of people I met on my mission who in their prayers would say thinks like “Heavenly Father, how are you today?” It made me smile, and I knew they were very sincere. This wasn’t lightminded goofing off in a middle of a prayer. They really believed they were talking to their Father, and so it was perfectly natural for them to wonder how he was doing.

    Did they hear a reply? I don’t know. I wouldn’t be surprised if in they felt a response along the lines of “I’m fine. How are you?”

    So, the more I’m learning about prayer the more I realize the hard work is in preparation, clearing my mind of worldliness, building my faith, working through my concerns so that I’ll know what plain things to say to my Father.

    Moving furniture is hard work, but it ain’t rocket science. And neither is prayer.

    Comment by britain — January 5, 2006 @ 12:00 pm

  6. Geoff,

    I’m very late to the game here, but since you referenced this in our ZD thread, I figured I should respond here.

    As I read through this, I recognize that you are building a very nice, indexically relevant argument upon a foundation of certain unchallenged faith-based assumptions. But I am wondering how this argument works for someone (like me, and maybe like Crystal) who can not quite get past those assumptions?

    For example, you build upon the D&C revelation given to Oliver Cowdry. This is built on the assumption that the voice of the text is truly the voice of the Lord. But it is very easy for me to imagine the possibility that maybe, just maybe, the voice of the text is Joseph Smith’s – that he is feeding Oliver a message to keep Oliver in line. Now I’m not saying that I believe that it is Joseph Smith or that I even want it to be Joseph Smith, but I can see how it could be. I do not have that absolute conviction that this really is the Lord’s voice. I guess you could say that my testimony of the D&C is not that strong in this area – and yet, there are certain sections of the D&C that are very near and dear to me where I would say my testimony is much stronger – it’s tricky.

    Another basic assumptions – that you can pray to God and that he will really answer your prayers. I know that this should be easy to reconcile. It should be simple, right? I shouldn’t even be challenging this assumption. That just shows that I am weak. Well, maybe to some people it does. But again, it’s not something I am absolutely sure of, and if a person struggles with these basic assumptions (as I do, and as perhaps Crystal might), I wonder how helpful any of this “how to” advice really is.

    On that point I should let you know that I am sincerely touched and even inspired by your encouragement here. I have done the fasting and have tried the Enos thing many times before and have had nice results – very convincing, testimony building experiences. The problem is, when you get to a certain cynical/skeptical point, you question the validity of any divine answers that you may have received, and there you go questioning basic assumptions again.

    As I read your conclusion, I am wondering about what – in my eyes at least – seems like a possible contradiction (although my skeptic may just be reading it wrong to befuddle the believer in me). Earlier in your post you place the litmus test on how communication with God makes you feel:

    …we feel comforted. We feel love, joy and peace. We feel pure knowledge and our souls expand. We feel edified and we rejoice. It feels sweet above all that is sweet.

    And yet in your conclusion you say that when you do communicate with God, you always recognize that:

    “…he is dissatisfied with me as I currently am. He wants me to change and be better. Dialogue with God always is humbling and sometimes painful because of that.”

    I have heard people say – and I used to say this myself – that people who doubt and challenge and withdraw from God do so because they simply don’t want to change. I don’t know if that is your intention here or not, but it is the only way I can reconcile the seeming discrepancy between feeling sweetly comforted and feeling painfully humbled.

    Finally, I have to restate my current aversion towards absolute conviction. While I admire the sentiment behind you “wax confident in God” instead of walking by the “lamp of your own conceit” I think the real test of that is, as you state, underlying feelings of love, joy, and peace (and I would add to that tolerance and kindness towards others). Where I get tied up is when I see people who claim confidence in God but seem to lack that love, joy, peace, tolerance, kindness for others – and I have to rank myself in that group at times. Anyway, I think I have said what I need to say here. I hope it doesn’t come across as an attack against your ideals. I really do feel encouraged and inspired by the sentiment. I’ll include this in my prayers tonight.

    By the way — is Crystal still around the blogs? I’d be interested to hear, after two years or so, if this helped.

    Comment by Glenn — May 5, 2007 @ 10:42 pm

  7. Glenn,

    Thanks for the comments. I’ll try to respond.

    But I am wondering how this argument works for someone (like me, and maybe like Crystal) who can not quite get past those assumptions?

    It probably doesn’t work at all for someone who is skeptical of the assumptions. You would first need to figure out a few things for yourself I think:

    1. Is there really a God
    2. Can that God really answer our prayers
    3. Has that God ever really answered your prayers in the past.

    It sounds like you are a Mormon still and a returned missionary so it seems to me that you will need to sort out those basics for yourself before you move on to the next steps outlined in this post. And of course if and when you do break through to God to re-verify his existence and your standing before him, you can ask him about things like the veracity of the Oliver Cowdery sections in the D&C. (If you decide there is no God then the D&C questions will be moot anyway, right?)

    the seeming discrepancy between feeling sweetly comforted and feeling painfully humbled.

    When I get God on the line I feel some of both every time. I don’t think there is a discrepancy between these at all. They complement each other rather than compete. The Spirit of God makes me feel a deep peace and comfort and joy and confidence; but the presence of God also make me cognizant of the work I need to do to become more like him and that is humbling.

    I have to restate my current aversion towards absolute conviction

    Well the good news (?) is that if you are averse to it you won’t have to worry about obtaining it…

    I’ll include this in my prayers tonight.

    Cool.

    By the way — is Crystal still around the blogs? I’d be interested to hear, after two years or so, if this helped.

    It apparently didn’t help enough. If I read her parting posts correctly I believe Crystal, a recent convert from Catholicism, decided that practicing Mormonism was too difficult and not for her and gave up on the whole thing within a year of this post.

    Comment by Geoff J — May 5, 2007 @ 11:21 pm

  8. Okay, I like this. I believe I can answer all of those questions in the affirmative:

    1. Is there really a God
    Yes, I don’t really doubt that. I feel that there is a God — the God I have come to understand through the LDS teachings — a God who’s work and glory is to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man — yes, I believe that.

    2. Can that God really answer our prayers
    Can he? Yes. Does he? Hmmmm… Not always. But even as I type that, I don’t feel all that great about that answer. I guess what I would ask here is whether or not every time I think he has answered my prayer, is it really His answer or is it mine? That I don’t know.

    This is one of those really tricky areas for me, because I don’t think that God is really all that actively involved in our lives in a micro-management kind of way. I used to believe that, but now I think he just kind of put us in this mortal labratory and gave all of us the light of christ as a barometer for goodness and gave some scriptures and a few other things as a guide, but pretty much leaves us to our own devices to make our way through the world.

    Some kinds of praying for blessings seems like attempts at magic to me — like we are asking God to change the elements for us(i.e. please bless that it won’t rain, please bless us with safety against harm, bless this McDonald’s hamburger that it will nourish and strengthen our bodies) — I’m not sure that those kinds of prayers are answered. But maybe you and I can get to a common ground here by saying that I believe that he hears all of our prayers and that he knows all of our thoughts.

    3. Has that God ever really answered your prayers in the past.
    Yes. Sometimes in very powerful, overwhelming ways.

    So, that was a helpful excersise. I liked thinking through my answers to those questions. Can you think of other questions to help bridge that gap between where I am here and where you are with the original steps in this post, because I still don’t think I’m there yet.

    And by “aversion towrds absolute conviction” I’m thinking of specific people I have known who have been absolutely sure that they were doing God’s work, but have been very unsympathetic towards others around them and completely unwilling to focus on anything other than whatever object they were trying to attain. I could get ridiculously extreme here by suggesting that terrorisits and Nazis embody this “absolute conviction” that I speak of, but really the examples I am thinking of are much more personal — much closer to home.

    Anyway, I will be anxious to see what additional questions you may have that can help towards the steps listed in this original post.

    Comment by Glenn — May 6, 2007 @ 12:04 am

  9. Alright — interesting responses Glenn. So it seems to me that this is where we are: You feel certain there really is a God because you have experienced undeniable interactions with God in the past.

    So it seems that the problem is that you haven’t received much (or any?) undeniable personal revelation in the recent past and thus the memories of those experiences is fading. That makes sense. I think much of the Ooomph of personal revelation has an expiration date. Our personal relationship with God is not unlike personal relationships with each other — if decades go by with no contact with an old friend the relationship pretty much fades into oblivion.

    It seems to me that your next step is to do whatever you can to duplicate the “powerful, overwhelming” dialogues you have experienced with God in the past. You know what not-revelation feels like already and you know what real revelation feels like so it seems that your task is to break through again and have a real dialogue again. I’m sure you know all the basics of how to prepare for that:

    1. Inventory your life and the covenants/promises you have made to God. The better you are keeping your contract that more “bound” God will be to respond loudly enough for you to hear and understand. Plus the more confidence you will have have in his presence.
    2. Do the standard things — pray fervently and of course fast as needed.
    3. The still small voice is, well, still small. So find quiet places in your life — places where you can quiet your mind enough to clearly hear that often subtle kind of discourse. (For instance, the temple is a quiet place in our noisy world. I find it especially quiet when I go alone rather than with friends or loved ones).

    Do you know of any reasons why you couldn’t duplicate those powerful, overwhelming, and undeniable conversations you have had with God in the past?

    Comment by Geoff J — May 6, 2007 @ 11:52 am

  10. For what it’s worth, I agree with Geoff about the “Ooomph” factor, and posted on that just a few months ago.

    Comment by Jacob J — May 6, 2007 @ 1:31 pm

  11. Glen, Your conversation with Geoff seems to be going well.

    I read your post yesterday and you were on my mind when Alma 32:27-30 was read in church today:

    27 But behold, if ye will awake and arouse your faculties, even to an experiment upon my words, and exercise a particle of faith, yea, even if ye can no more than desire to believe, let this desire work in you, even until ye believe in a manner that ye can give place for a portion of my words.

    28 Now, we will compare the word unto a seed. Now, if ye give place, that a seed may be planted in your heart, behold, if it be a true seed, or a good seed, if ye do not cast it out by your unbelief, that ye will resist the Spirit of the Lord, behold, it will begin to swell within your breasts; and when you feel these swelling motions, ye will begin to say within yourselves—It must needs be that this is a good seed, or that the word is good, for it beginneth to enlarge my soul; yea, it beginneth to enlighten my understanding, yea, it beginneth to be delicious to me.

    29 Now behold, would not this increase your faith? I say unto you, Yea; nevertheless it hath not grown up to a perfect knowledge.

    30 But behold, as the seed swelleth, and sprouteth, and beginneth to grow, then you must needs say that the seed is good; for behold it swelleth, and sprouteth, and beginneth to grow. And now, behold, will not this strengthen your faith? Yea, it will strengthen your faith: for ye will say I know that this is a good seed; for behold it sprouteth and beginneth to grow.

    Comment by Howard — May 6, 2007 @ 9:54 pm

  12. Thanks Howard (and Jacob and Geoff). This is one of my favorite passages. I’ll tell you the little circle that I run in it. I start from point A (“even if ye can no more than desire to believe”) and sprint up to point B (“if ye do not cast it out by your unbelief”), and I trip and fall and slide back to A. Sometimes I get past B, but the skeptic in me has a way of sticking out his foot just at the right moment. He’s gotten very good at it. And I often appreciate him for his efforts.

    In other words, I have the desire — that never wanes. I meet the checklist requirements for worthiness etc etc — I don’t really have any serious problems there (of course I can’t claim to have no problems, who can – but, in the immortal words of Bob Wiley, “ I’m doin’ the work, I’m baby-steppin”).

    My biggest hang-up is that I have seen too many people (some very close to me) use (and abuse) the claim of “personal revelation” as their ultimate trump to do or say whatever they want, even if it hurts other people, and that sickens me. And this is where it gets tricky, because in this model, in their minds, they also start with desire, even if it is a selfish desire, and they don’t cast it out by their disbelief (in themselves) because they are so sure that they are justified in doing what they want to do – and when their personal gratification is met — regardless of the cost — they imagine that their seed has in fact swelled and that it was in fact a good seed and so of course they must be good and justified as well. So I think that the seed analogy can (and, unfortunately, does) sometimes work against goodness when a person is defining goodness to meet their own personal desires.

    Despite this suspicion and cynicism, I still get powerful overwhelming feelings in small moments when I see the genuine kindness and love from one person to another, and those people are usually very considerate of others — they yield to others — they are tolerant of others — they may even believe that others might have a better understanding of things than they do. To me, absolute conviction is scary – terrorist scary – and is difficult to balance with humility, because “absolute” leaves no room to be wrong (difficult, but not impossible. Some people pull it off quite well. President Hinckley comes to mind).

    This may seem a little off topic, but a man who I greatly respect gave the opening prayer in sacrament meeting a few weeks ago. He said something like, “Lord, we thank thee that we are such a choice people, perhaps the most choice of all thy children upon this earth, and we are humbled to be here in thy presence this day.”

    Um… I don’t know. That just seems a little contradictory to me. I mean, I know what he is saying and what he is so immensely thankful for — it just sounds too ego/ethno-centric for a relativist like me to stomach without throwing up, at least a little, in my mouth — and that is what happens when I see the kind of absolute conviction that shines the light on “me and my relationship with God” and leaves other people, other perspectives, left out alone in the dark.

    This is the concern that keeps me from moving past point B in certain areas. I don’t think it keeps me from recognizing/feeling goodness and recognizing/feeling the spirit of God, but I have lived the life where I set myself on a pedestal because of my undeniable knowledge of the Truth. Certain events in my life have since knocked me off that pedestal — and while it has been difficult, I am very thankful for the new perspective that I have flat on my face in the dust, and I am in no big hurry to climb back up.

    Now, in the spirit of uncertainty, I must admit that I could be completely wrong and completely misreading the connections here. But this is where I am, and it is not a place of disobedience to covenants and promises, nor is it a place of neglect towards the standard things. Although I could be wrong, I feel like I have a good perspective – better and less narrow than I have had in the past. I feel like it is important to be able to empathize with people who are unsure and uncertain – even to the point where I become unsure and uncertain myself. For me, with my previous experiences on the pedestal, that is as close to humility as I have ever been able to come. And it is a place that makes me rely on faith and hope and desire rather than an absolute claim of knowledge. Boy am I long winded.

    Comment by Glenn — May 7, 2007 @ 7:00 pm

  13. My biggest hang-up is that I have seen too many people (some very close to me) use (and abuse) the claim of “personal revelation” as their ultimate trump to do or say whatever they want, even if it hurts other people, and that sickens me.

    Let me once again point out that never during the “trump card” discussions that were recently held did I say or even imply that personal revelation could ever be used to trump someone else in the sense of some kind of unrighteous dominion. I was not the one who even used the “trump card” terminology first — one of the ZD gals did and I just used their term in my responding post. My point in that post was pretty simple: If we have a question about our standing before God or about God’s nature, our personal revelation from God is what ought to win out for us in those personal questions. So for instance, if someone tells me that God is a sexist who thinks women are just glorified pets of their husbands, it is easy for me to not believe that claim in the least because it is utterly contrary to my personal experiences with God.

    One thing that always surprises me is how every time we start talking about personal revelation someone will bring up an example of someone they know who acted like an a-hole and claimed personal revelation is behind it. So some people are a-holes; how is that an indictment of the general concept of personal revelation? (The same technique is used to attack the concept of priesthood because some Mormon men act like jerks in the name of the priesthood. That is an indictment of the jerk, not of the priesthood.)

    This “I am averse to certainty” claim seems like a red herring to me as well. You are certain of some things just like we all are. I think it’s safe to assume you are certain that you exist, for instance. Descarte’s famous line comes to mind on that count. I’m sure you can say you are certain that you love your children, etc. So certainty is not what you are averse to.

    No, people only become averse to other people being certain of things they are not certain of. I can understand that to a degree. I am averse to some jihadist or zealot evangelical being certain that I am a pawn of Satan for instance. But if some guy feels certain about something that doesn’t pose a threat to anyone else then why should I care? If someone feels some certainty about some claimed personal revelation that is not a threat to others then I’ll let that person work that out with God at the last day. Why should you care if many Mormons feel absolutely certain that God is leading this church by inspiration or something? We all feel certain about some things so why not live and let live on that count? Why be averse to the certainty of others? If they are wrong they’ll find out sooner or later.

    Comment by Geoff J — May 7, 2007 @ 8:04 pm

  14. Glen,
    I have bolted from more than one meeting because of things that have been said and prayed from the pulpit.

    Now, I try to think of church as a framework to facilitate one’s personal relationship with Christ. This concept has helped me realize that each of us may be taking different routes to get there.

    Comment by Howard — May 7, 2007 @ 9:00 pm

  15. One thing that always surprises me is how every time we start talking about personal revelation someone will bring up an example of someone they know who acted like an a-hole and claimed personal revelation is behind it. So some people are a-holes; how is that an indictment of the general concept of personal revelation?

    Geoff,

    It is the absoluteness more than the certainty that ultimately concerns me, but in my case, I consider an aversion to be quite different from an indictment. I think of an aversion as a passive, step-backwards reaction and an indictment as an active step-forward accusation. As I said earlier in the ZD thread, I don’t think that personal revelation is bogus. But again (see dead horse – beat dead horse) because I have seen claims of personal revelation abused, I am suspicious, wary, perhaps too much so. Perhaps so much so that I am keeping myself — as you suggested — from having an absolute conviction that could bring me confidence and peace. It’s “certainly” a possibility, and one that I am not considering lightly.

    Maybe it would help in the future when this comes up – and you know it will – if we can empathize with the pain that people are reacting to – that it isn’t really an indictment against personal revelation, but indictment against abuse, and that is because they (or someone they love) has really been hurt by that abuse. Maybe in their pain they are being too hard on pure, genuine, non-abusive personal revelation. But you don’t want to throw out the baby with the bathwater in either direction. You have helped me to recognize that as one of my challenges at least.

    I genuinely appreciate the questions you have asked and your encouragement towards what could be looked at as a reconnect with God. I freely admit that my concerns and skepticism keep me from feeling that connection the way that I used to. And honestly, there are times when I wonder if it is or ever was really real and the skeptic gets the upper hand and I think it is all just a bunch of self-manufactured emotion created to validate a valued belief. Of course, there are also times when the believer gets the upper hand – and that is usually a result of some unbidden emotional response to something still and peaceful and small — something that reminds me of sacred things.

    I value the role that both the skeptic and the believer play in my life, but it really is a struggle to keep them from ripping each other’s heads off. Sometimes that struggle spills over into other things (sometimes satirical and snarky) that I do, but it is certainly no indictment against my belief in God, and absolutely not an indictment against you.

    Comment by Glenn — May 7, 2007 @ 9:39 pm

  16. I try to think of church as a framework to facilitate one’s personal relationship with Christ. This concept has helped me realize that each of us may be taking different routes to get there.

    Howard,

    I appreciate that. I’ve only ever mentally bolted. I’m still learning how to navigate that framwork. I expect it will require me to be more charitable and empathetic to those around me.

    John Dehlin said something along these lines on one of his mormonstories podcasts — something about church (because of the difficulties for him) being the best laboratory for him to learn true Christlike patience and love. I find that approach inspiring, and realize that I still fall very short in that regard. It’s something to aspire to.

    Comment by Glenn — May 7, 2007 @ 9:45 pm

  17. Thanks for the exchange Glenn. Let me assure that my rather direct responses are in no way intended to be personal attacks against you. There are certainly ideas that I don’t mind attacking occasionally but I never intend to attack people. I wish you the very best of luck, Godspeed even, in your attempts at reinvigorating your personal relationship with God.

    Comment by Geoff J — May 7, 2007 @ 10:27 pm

  18. Geoff,
    “…the easiest type of revelation to receive is a simple yes or no from God.”

    Actually, one of the most common answers is “yes” or “no answer” rather than a clear “no”.

    This can be confusing and often requires you to turn the question around and re-ask it in the negative.
    This may cause some people to believe that they can’t get an answer.

    Comment by Howard — October 6, 2007 @ 10:15 pm

  19. Howard,

    I’ve argued in the past that no answer is just that — no answer. My opinion is that God may not ever actually give us the silent treatment. Rather I suspect that he may be quietly responding in one way or another but we can’t (or won’t) discern his answer as a result of our own (spiritual) hearing problems.

    Comment by Geoff J — October 6, 2007 @ 11:20 pm

  20. Geoff J: In my experience, no answer could also mean it is up to me, or that I need to wait for a different time.

    Comment by Matt W. — October 7, 2007 @ 7:29 am

  21. Matt,

    My argument that the message would not be silence in those cases but an impression that basically says “go figure this out yourself”. I don’t believe God gives his children the silent treatment.

    Comment by Geoff J — October 7, 2007 @ 9:20 am

  22. Geoff,
    “…no answer is just that — no answer.”
    Yes…but a “No” answer can often be teased out of “no answer”.

    My son and I enjoy rich, frequent personal revelation and often experience silence (no answer). By re-asking the question in the negative we then often receive a “Yes” answer to the 2nd question confirming a “No” answer to the 1st. Give it a try!

    As Matt points out, we have both received silence when it meant “…it is up to me, or that I need to wait for a different time.”

    Also, my questions concerning Heavenly Mother have been always been met with silence.

    Comment by Howard — October 7, 2007 @ 10:54 am

  23. I can buy that Howard. Binary answers are easiest to understand but I think you are right that God sometimes directs us to ask a different/better/more-precise question.

    Comment by Geoff J — October 7, 2007 @ 11:13 am

  24. recently learned a longtime LDS friend of mine decided to leave his wife and family and become an atheist. I am still mourning the situation but I’ll probably post on the issue some time when the pain subsides.

    Geoff, did you ever post on this?

    Comment by BHodges — December 17, 2008 @ 1:41 pm

  25. Yep, I posted on it three days after this post. See here.

    Comment by Geoff J — December 17, 2008 @ 6:25 pm

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