Judging (and misjudging) the quality of revelation

July 24, 2005    By: Geoff J @ 6:31 pm   Category: Personal Revelation

There were some very interesting challenges and questions posed to me in the comments of my last post but since I was on vacation last week I did not have time to respond to them sufficiently. Now that we are back I thought the general subject was important enough to warrant its own set of posts. Jeffrey Giliam made the most provocative comments there and his comments are in line with other views he has expressed elsewhere. Our disagreement centers on how to judge the quality of revelation from God. Before I directly respond to those comments I thought it would be wise to lay a foundation for my responses. In this first post I will respond to a list Jeffrey published where he delineates what he sees as the differences between “revelation” and “inspiration” from God. Here is the hierarchy he presents ranked from least impressive to most impressive (he calls 1-3 inspiration and 4-7 revelation):

1. Come to a decision on a subject and pray for confirmation
2. Receive other promptings (solicited or not)
3. Revelatory dreams
4. “Next, we have the revealed word, meaning when a prophet is able to say or write, Thus saith the Lord…”
5. Hearing an audible voice
6. “Seeing a vision with ones actual eyes”
7. Actual physical contact

I believe this list is woefully misguided and I’ll try to explain why.

Physicality: the wrong measuring stick

As you can probably tell, Jeffrey believes that the more physical and concrete a manifestation from God is, the better it is. I suspect this is a fairly common belief, but it is a fallacy that is not in harmony with our scriptures. Here are a couple of examples to illustrate.

The translation of the Book of Mormon — The method by which the Book of Mormon was translated falls squarely into what Jeffrey calls the lowest forms of inspiration. Indeed, the scriptures we have giving instructions to study things out in our minds and then ask if they are right were specifically given to Oliver in order to allow him to translate the plates. Further we have these very telling verses in section eight:

2 Yea, behold, I will tell you in your mind and in your heart, by the Holy Ghost, which shall come upon you and which shall dwell in your heart.

3 Now, behold, this is the spirit of revelation; behold, this is the spirit by which Moses brought the children of Israel through the Red Sea on dry ground.
(D&C 8:2-3)

This scripture specifically calls these promptings we receive in our minds and our hearts “the spirit of revelation” and goes as far as to explain that it was this very form of revelation that guided Moses through one of the greatest miracles in scripture – the parting of the Red Sea. In short, while implying that the revelation we receive in our minds and hearts is a lower form of revelation might seem logical to the modern, scientifically trained mind, it is clearly contra-scriptural.

Clarity and content

So if level of physicality is the wrong axis to measure revelation, what should we measure it upon? I propose it should be measured on the clarity and content of the message. In other words, we should judge the quality of revelations first on how murky or clear the message from God is and next on how much information we receive. This puts much of the responsibility for quality in our laps because clarity and content are usually a function of our spiritual ears rather than a function of God’s voice/messages.

Why choose these as the criteria? — Mostly because this approach agrees with scripture best. In this model, if we study something out in our mind and ask God about it and receive a crystal clear “yes” or “no” on the subject we can know with absolute surety that God is sending us powerful revelation – the same type of revelation by which all the prophets have worked (including Joseph and Moses).

Of course much of the revelation we need in life requires more than a yes or no answer from God. My experience has been that the better we get at the getting high-clarity/low-content revelation, the easier it becomes to move to the next step of high-clarity/high-content revelation. Just like any other difficult skill, it requires a lot of practice and repetition in order to get better receiving high-clarity/high-content revelation. And just like any other earthly skill, some people are born more skilled at this than others (perhaps because of pre-earth practice). But with work, all can get better at this process in mortality.

The Physicality Fallacy

I think the premium most of us put on mortal physicality in revelation from God is a philosophy of men. And as such, it is no wonder that mingling it with scripture leads us to all sorts of improper expectations. In my next post I will look more deeply at the scriptures to determine how many times we can conclusively show that revelations were heard by physical ears or seen by physical eyes. We often assume based on our modern conditioning that many or most scriptural visitations could be seen and heard with physical eyes and heard with physical ears but I am not convinced any longer. As Paul said “whether in the body, I cannot tell; or whether out of the body, I cannot tell: God knoweth”. Stay tuned for the next installment…

32 Comments »

  1. Great post!
    I heartily agree with everything you said. Though, I wonder if Jeffrey’s list was only trying to illustrate it that way because the “most powerful” are so rare. If not then whatever:)
    You made me think of something I’d never thought of in respect to my post at nine moons and your previous one on this issue. Perhaps these more rare spritual experiences do not occur as much nowadays because the saints have learned to accept and seek after revelation in the manner you talk about–through study and also by faith.

    Comment by Bret — July 24, 2005 @ 11:43 pm

  2. Geoff,
    I squirmed when you insinuated Jeffrey was mingling scripture with the philosophies of men. It’s a pretty self-righteous judgement of another person’s sincere intentions. I’d watch out in making those kinds of accusations/comparisons/insinuations.

    Comment by Rusty — July 25, 2005 @ 5:49 am

  3. Ha! What, you don’t think we all do that every day Rusty? Mixing scripture and philosophies of men is one of all of our specialties here on earth — it’s just part of mortality I think. I’m as good at it as the next guy. The trick is to try to recognize it and slowly reduce it. In fact, that’s the point of digging into subjects like this.

    In other words, I intended no offense to Jeffrey. (I’m pretty sure Jeffrey knows that). And if it helps I actually did not single him out in that statement anyway — I said it was a doctrine that “most of us” go for.

    Comment by Geoff J — July 25, 2005 @ 7:55 am

  4. Geoff, my comment would just warn all of us to remember we don’t always get yes or no, or confirmation – stupor of thought answers to all our prayers.
    I think there are many times when God doesn’t care…it doesn’t matter what we choose. Sometimes He doesn’t care because what we ask is trivial…which brand of soap should I buy. Sometimes even on what we feel are big issues. This earth life is for experience. If He answered every prayer, everytime, then I think we become dependent robots, and what good is that.

    I do however completely agree with your post and Bret’s note about why we seem to have less of the visual – big deal spiritual experiences now days.

    Comment by don — July 25, 2005 @ 9:12 am

  5. As is to be expected, I disagree with much of your application of my ideas, especially that of the BoM translation, which I actually mentioned in the referenced essay. I really hope people actually read the essay rather than taking Geoff’s summary as being a complete account, for I don’t think he meant it to be.

    1) My list of seven forms of communication was not meant to be exaustive by any means. I left out speaking in tongues, the interpretation of them and I specifically considered but left out translation. I did this for a number of reasons. First, we simply don’t know that much about how the translation was done, thus making it a terrible illustration of anything. Second, I wasn’t sure where to put it on the scale. Third, it seems to involve more than one form of revelation.

    2) This is why if I were to put the BoM translation in one of the seven categories, which I specifically didn’t, it would be not only in the 1st, but in the 2nd as well as the 4th. I should also mention that there were physical plates, thus including the 6th and 7th forms as well. If we throw in Moroni’s visits, then we can include the 5th and probably the 3rd as well. In short, in the coming forth of the Bom we have all 7 forms. The translation process, however, mostly was the 4th form with the first form serving as a saftey gaurd against error as described in D&C 9:6-9.

    3) I also expressly said in my paper that the words “inspiration” and “revelation” should not, and usually would not, match up with the usage of these words by any church leader or scripture. These sources tend to treat those words as synonyms whereas I was trying to tease the two apart. Therefore the word “revelation” in section 8 actually has no bearing at all on the content of my paper. It should also be mentioned that I didn’t consider the witnessing of miracles such as healing in my paper either (this was intentional too). If we were to put the parting of the Red Sea in a category, however, it would definitely be 6 or 7 though the actual content of such manifestations is rather vague at best. (That’s why I didn’t even consider them, for I don’t really believe them to be communications per se.)

    4) It should also be mentioned that I actually did use Geoff’s scale for revelations in my paper as well. I did not limit myself to “physical-ness” by any means. Here is a better list of my “scales”:

    a) acceptability: how well is it accepted by those who professedly reject revelation, at least modern day versions of it. Other churches accept 1,2 and 3 so clearly they don’t believe those to be revelation.
    b) factuality/context: was it an event or more of a process? Can you describe how, where or when it was received?
    c) source ambiguity: did it come from God, you, Satan, other men/spirits or a combination of any of these?
    d) majesty: were you expecting it or were you suprised by the reception of something which clearly originated from outside of you?
    e) clarity: how much interpretation is needed to render it meaningful? Since the interpretation is almost exclusively provided by you and not God this is important and is the reason why feelings are rather low on my list.
    f) content: how much of it is there? Can you even say what it is? Again, feelings aren’t really content.
    g) reliability: the more human factor there is, the less reliable the content will be.
    h) authoritativeness: with more God-given content comes more authority to speak for Him. One will be more willing to actually say what seem to be absurd things and actually attribute them to God.
    i) arrogance: the more we exaggerate our more vague communications the more chance arrogance is playing a role. Revelation keeps us in our place.
    j) desirability: obviously we want more information and less amibuity. However, sometimes more ambiguity can also be a good thing.

    Thus I certainly speak more of mere “physical-ness” though one can easily see, as Geoff certainly saw, that more physical-ness does help in pretty much all of these catergories, including Geoff’s clarity and content.

    In the 19th century there were lots of instances of 4,5,6 and even 7. Now it is almost all 1 and 2, categories which the entire christian world accepts. The chance cries out for explanation and really should make us worry a little bit.

    Upon reading JS’s revelations and teaching one can’t help but worry that inasmuch as we moved “down” my scale we are moving away from Joseph’s intentions. He would give revelations on how to identify whether an angelic visitor (number 5,6 and 7) is from God or not. Now we ask how to indentify whether some vague feelings or hunch is from God or not. I’ve got a suggestion: ask for an angelic visitor to come and clarify. Problem solved. But unfortunately this doesn’t seem to be happening.

    Comment by Jeffrey Giliam — July 25, 2005 @ 9:23 am

  6. BTW Geoff,

    I don’t think I will ever forgive you for accusing me of mingling philosphies of men with scriptures. Our virtual friendship is OVER! ;-)

    Comment by Jeffrey Giliam — July 25, 2005 @ 9:25 am

  7. Jeffrey,
    “Again, feelings aren’t really content.”
    Feelings is a notoriously ambiguous word. If you mean emotions, I’m probably with you. If you mean intelligence that isn’t reducable to particular words, or intelligence unmediated by words (an odd thing, I know for an English professor to profess belief in) then I think you discount too quickly what we call “feeling the spirit.”
    “One will be more willing to actually say what seem to be absurd things and actually attribute them to God.”
    I’ve done some absurd things based on the “feelings” of the spirit, and I’m more than willing to attribute those “feelings” to God. I moved my family to the middle of the Pacific to take a job that keeps us away from our extended family based on a feeling with content. That is, the feeling allowed me to know not only what to do but how things would work out, to some extent, and gave me some idea of the influence for good I could be in this place if I was faithful. That wasn’t a hunch or a vague feeling. I would have felt no more sure of my decision if an angel had come down and told me what to do. As far as I am concerned, it was revelation, and it was 100% reliable. And yet, you would relegate that to a very low level, it would seem, and question it’s reliability. (I think I would have been freaked out by the angel, personally, and I might have had more questions than I had in recieving what I felt was pure intelligence on the matter. All the angel could give me, without further HG confirmation of his words, would be words. What I had was a member of the godhead communicating to me, rather than an angel. As the Lord asked Oliver, “what greater witness can you have than from God?”
    It seems as if personal revelation doesn’t rate well in your view.

    Comment by Steve H — July 25, 2005 @ 12:43 pm

  8. Very well put, Steve. It seems you and I are very much in agreement on this subject.

    What real use would an angelic visit be without the Holy Ghost searing the truth of his words into our souls? It would be of little use at all other than to freak us out or to make us question our own sanity. Angels speak by the power of the Holy Ghost. That is why their messages are (usually but not always) so influential on their hearers. And yet you and I can also speak by the power of the Holy Ghost. So whether it is an angel or a home teacher, the important part happens somewhere in the parts Jeffrey places rather dismissively in his categories 1 and 2.

    Comment by Geoff J — July 25, 2005 @ 1:01 pm

  9. Good response to my post Jeffrey. I think it helps tease out the parts where we are actually not agreeing. As you note, there were lots of parts of your overall essay that I did agree with. Perhaps this discussion will get others to put the time in to read it and decide what they think for themselves.

    Now on to the problems I see with your last stated positions.

    if I were to put the BoM translation in one of the seven categories, which I specifically didn’t, it would be not only in the 1st, but in the 2nd as well as the 4th.

    I think there is no such thing as the separate category you have as #4. It is simply a combination of 1 and 2 instead. If not, what form do you think the revelation comes? Just because the prophet is confident enough to say “thus saith the Lord” is no reason to assume that the delivery method is any different than what you call 1 and 2. Indeed, the scriptures indicate that numbers 1 and 2 are the Lord’s main method of communicating His will to his prophets.

    I should also mention that there were physical plates, thus including the 6th and 7th forms as well.

    How does the reality of physical plates make them some form of revelation? They were indeed physical, but they are no more “revelation” than any other ancient artifact like the Dead Sea scrolls, etc.

    I will deal with the physicality/physicalness issue (ie what you call 5-7) in my post tonight.

    (BTW — I looked the words physicality and physicalness and it appears both are acceptable and mean the same thing, so I am sticking with calling it physicality for now even though others might prefer “physicalness.)

    Comment by Geoff J — July 25, 2005 @ 1:19 pm

  10. Good comments Steve,

    Geoff & I have debated this issue for some time now so I imagine that both of us are taking some things for granted in what we say to one another. It’s always good for somebody who just joined the conversation to speak up and give everybody else who is just joining a chance to figure out what in the world we are talking about.

    By feelings I did mean emotions. I’m glad that we can agree that emotion don’t convey any content, but rather express a reaction to it. I should also note that I am also assuming that the “higher” forms pretty much always involve these feelings that are felt in the “lower” forms. Just as one can both see and hear something, they can also feel it at the same time.

    Now I also accept a certain degree of ineffability, however, I am prone to find it more acceptable within the confines of revelation. Describing sounds which are not words, sights one has never seen before and textures can be very difficult indeed. Obviously this will also apply to feelings and emotions. HOWEVER, we shouldn’t mistake these feelings and emotions as being the actual content. In the guess and check method almost all content is supplied by the asker, the answerer only responding yes or no, if even that.

    If intelligence can’t be put into words, not even a little bit, then I have serious doubts about how much content was actually received. If a person can’t describe the content, then they probably don’t understand the content, which only means that very little content was actually communicated at all.

    One can feel “sure” about something, but again, these are feelings that might or might not be confirming the content which was supplied by the asker. If we want real informations we are going to need propositions, as Roasted Tomatoes has recently said. If the “content” can’t be confirmed or falsified, not only practically but logically, then I simply don’t regard it as content at all. This may sound fairly harsh, but I’m so tired of people in the church “spiritualizing” everything to the point where it means absolutely nothing.

    Now about saying absurd things, I should clarify. Anybody can show any amount of reliance in any amount of information if they choose to. This is obviously not what I am saying. What I am saying is that most people simply would not be willing to follow a man that says “give me 10% of all your income because I’ve felt a burning in the bosom.” Most people would require more than that. What I mean by authority is that all other things being equal, people will have less room for misunderstanding and interpretation (which invariably introduce corruption and dilution to the message) in the case of revelation, thus making them more “sure” of themselves. This will allow them to speak with greater boldness. Now people can speak with boldness about their feelings and the like, but even they will tend to be more sure of revelations than inspiration. In this case we must hold the people involved constant while varying only the form of communication. The amount of authority will be relative to both the manner of communication and the individual in real life. (This lead to questions about the amount of credulity in each person does it not?)

    Any person who holds any thing short of the “perfect knowledge” which is only granted by sight to be 100% reliable is abusing their inspiration. Revelation is not absolute since God’s foreknowledge is not absolute. Our interpretation of it will be even worse. The person who broke into the Manti temple so that his family would be translated would have definitely spoke of 100% reliability, but he was obviously wrong. Maybe we should be a little more humble in our own inspiration as well. Remember, only upon the reception of “perfect knolwedge” is it really 100%. Of course strong skeptics could argue even then that it’s not all the way to 100%.

    The problem with inspiration is that while God maybe talking to you, or a member of the Godhead, YOU are talking to yourself an awful lot as well. By way of supplying the question in the first place, as well as interpretation (which can be VERY ambiguous). Proper humility should be excercised.

    Besides, what is to stop the HG from talking to you with the angel? Wouldn’t TWO witnesses be better? With “feelings” (used in the broadest sense), sound, sight and touch involved how can we ever think for a second that LESS information is being relayed? Does this sound absurd to anybody else? More band width = more information = less ambiguity = less interpretation = more surety = more authority and so on.

    Personal revelation is very good, assuming that it is actually revelation. Inspiration is inspiration whether personal or not. True inspiration does come from God, just like revelation, it’s just that a lot more information comes from us, which corrupts the original intent.

    Comment by Jeffrey Giliam — July 25, 2005 @ 1:28 pm

  11. “an angelic visit be without the Holy Ghost”

    When did I ever say anything like that?
    What makes an angel better is 1) they can communicate with words, 2) they can communicate with gestures, 3) they can communicate with visuals 4) they are relaying a message which they did not merely invent using “inspiration”. They are saying exactly what God told them to say, using His words, gesture, and visuals. Since the HG comes along with this, how could this ever be considered less or even equal to some vague commication using no words, gestures or visuals? This seems absolutely absurd.

    Comment by Jeffrey Giliam — July 25, 2005 @ 1:32 pm

  12. “there is no such thing as the separate category you have as #4. It is simply a combination of 1 and 2 instead.”

    I disagree. My #4 is having actual words put into your head. #2 and #1 are vaguely defined notions. If somebody says “thus saith the lord..” the lord better actually being SAYING something which requires words. Numbers 1 and 2 have no words and are therefore different. There is a reason why humans can communicate far better than other animals, it was because they evolved language, the use of words. Without words, sound, visuals and even touch, good luck trying to communication anything to anybody. We can say that God is above humans in this aspect. Fine, but we humans are not above humans. Words are clearly a step forward in communication.

    Regarding the plates, if you have an angel pop out of nowhere and hands you some plates (Moroni did do this on occassion) then this is clearly different that Dead Sea scrolls. Of how about one that offers to shake your hand? Or eat fish and honey with you? I don’t think any thing more has to be said on that subject.

    “Physicality” or “physicalness” I actually wasn’t trying to correct you in any way. That was just the word that came to mind. You of all people no how prone I am to typos.

    Comment by Jeffrey Giliam — July 25, 2005 @ 1:40 pm

  13. Whoowhee! Now we’re cookin’.

    First, regarding my physicality/physicalness aside — feel free to just shake your head in pity when my quirky obsession with words occasionally pops up.

    But on to the subject at hand…

    What makes an angel better is 1) they can communicate with words, 2) they can communicate with gestures, 3) they can communicate with visuals 4) they are relaying a message which they did not merely invent using “inspiration”.

    My home teacher can provide all of those angelic benefits you list. Therefore, if he is teaching me something byt he power of the Holy Ghost and I am receiving the truth by that same spirit what is the difference? I would say that there is no important difference. The main (and not important) difference is that one of them is shiny and floating and the other is not.

    If a person can’t describe the content, then they probably don’t understand the content, which only means that very little content was actually communicated at all.

    Ah the old classic left-brain/right-brain conflict. The scientist says to the artist, “if you can’t describe in words how the art/music make you feel then it must not have any content”. I’ll have to deal with this one later in more detail.

    What I am saying is that most people simply would not be willing to follow a man that says “give me 10% of all your income because I’ve felt a burning in the bosom.”

    Sure they would — But only if they received that same burning in the bosom when they asked God about it. If they do not receive their own revelation then they would certainly not make that kind of commitment even if a man claims to have met with God face to face. Surely you learned this on your mission.

    Any person who holds any thing short of the “perfect knowledge” which is only granted by sight to be 100% reliable is abusing their inspiration.

    Uh, oh. I guess that means blind people can never know anything for sure… Tonight’s post will deal with this fallacy as well.

    My #4 is having actual words put into your head.

    This one is baffling. What do you base this assertion on?

    Comment by Geoff J — July 25, 2005 @ 2:14 pm

  14. As long as you over-looking my annoying habit of misspelling and even misusing words on occasion. ;-)

    1) The difference is that their message is still based in feelings and marginal content which was communicated without words. We are still in the same boat, or perhaps worse, because that is assuming that you understand your home teachers perfectly well. (Not likely.) Plus, and probably just as important, home teachers are not supernatural beings whom we are asked to have faith in their existence. An angel appearing gives us a perfect knowledge that angels actually do exist. No amount of home teaching will ever amount to that. For some reason you don’t think that THAT would contribute anything to one’s faith.

    2) I plead guilty to a rather scientific look at things. But I believe that I have good reason for this. Art is communicating truth according to the beholder, not absolute truth. In fact, artists reject the idea of absolute truth when it comes to art. There is something to be said for this, but this is not what we are talking about. We are talking about objective truth which is either true or false regardless of one’s perspective. If one only goes to church to feel “art” then by all means wallow in inspiration, but don’t make any kinds of claims to absolute truth.

    3) You would honestly back the decision of an investigator who, because they feel good along with their pastor, live to abject poverty to the point of starving their children? What about the man who goes to sacrifice his child because he “feels good?” To say that there is no difference here just blows my mind. Again, there is a difference between faith, a desire to believe and knowledge. Your account ignores this difference by claiming that there is none.

    4) I would like to hear one account of the Lord granting perfect knowledge to a blind guy, I really would. Using the language from the Ether 3 I would be very impressed by such an account.

    5) If they aren’t the words of the Lord then don’t claim them to be. Does this need any justification? Either the Lord is speaking in your mind with words or He isn’t really speaking is He? Granted the words might be communicated in your words, but this is my point: they are YOUR words and are subject to error.

    Do you honestly think that LESS information is better? This is what your position seems to amount to. Less sensory involvement means less information. Less information means more ambiguity and so on. I see no way around this at all.

    Comment by Jeffrey Giliam — July 25, 2005 @ 3:41 pm

  15. What about the man who goes to sacrifice his child because he “feels good?”

    I think the real question here is whether we can trust a response by the spirit when we honestly pray about something. There are those who would say we are crazy to give tithing because we “feel good” about the prophet telling us to do so. What does it matter what intermediaries there are? We are still relying on our ability to recieve and reliably interperet spiritual impressions. It just so happens that God asks us to work through intermediaries in this life. That is, a big percentage of what we go on is the sense that he has appointed some men to recieve revelation for the residue of humanity. Thus questions like what happens if the spirit contradicts what the prophet has clearly told me to do–i.e., the spirit tells you to go gamble in Vegas. The answer is that it won’t. If the “feeling good” you are talking about is truly the spirit, then I say do it, 100% of the time. Of course, that does mean that we need to learn to recognise the spirit, beacause it is not just “feelings.” Sure, you can justify whatever you do by saying the spirit told you to do it, but that doesn’t mean it does. I think part of the problem is that we are so afraid that someone will justify their actions through an appeal to the spirit that we are afraid to grant it the status of revelation. We don’t want to look like extremist kooks.

    You are right to point out that this requires humility, but the humility is in recognizing that we can only have the spirit when we are seeking to do the Lord’s will and putting ourselves in tune with the spirit. I don’t think that humility precludes being absolutely certain that the spirit is speaking when the spirit is speaking and being absolutely certain we can follow those promptings when they are clear.

    As for the idea of putting words into our heads: 1. God has to use words we know, so the words are at least partly ours even if God chooses particular ones. 2. I think it would be exceedingly hard to point out at any instant if those words were planted by God specifically or if God lets our minds choose words to fit spiritual situations. For example, as Nephi hears the spirit as he confronts Laban, how are we to know if these are particular words God put into his head or if faced with the situation he is given a prompting which his mind then figures in terms of words, especially as he must give us words in order to be able to write something.

    Comment by Steve H — July 25, 2005 @ 4:53 pm

  16. “If the “feeling good” you are talking about is truly the spirit, then I say do it, 100% of the time. ”

    Well duh! Nobody’s calling that into question. Of course if it’s really God then I’ll do it, but that is the problem with inspiration: it’s hard to tell if it is God or us, or how much is God and how much is us. This is why inspiration is not as clear as revelation. When as angel comes down and says “god says to this” there isn’t much room left to wonder is there?

    I should again reiterate: inspiration is being assumed to be a valid form of communication between God and man. I’m not saying that inspiration doesn’t count and that we should ignore it. Please stop saying things that seem to assume this. My point is that there is a difference which the entire christian world sees between revelation and inspiration. The whole christian world claims to receive inspiration. We used to receive more, but not lately. Nowadays christians can come to our services and not witness anything which they would interpret to be modern day revelation. This is my point. We might still be receiving inspiration from God, just like every other church, but we as a church are no longer receiving revelation. This isn’t opinion, but verifiable fact based on my definitions.

    You want to claim that inspiration, as I have defined it, is as good as revelation? Fine, but don’t think for a second that our church’s exclusive claims to revelation are worth anything at all. So here is the question: Would you rather have a church which hasn’t received revelation to an exclusive degree in a while, or a church which never did have revelation to an exclusive degree. I choose the former personally.

    “Of course, that does mean that we need to learn to recognise the spirit, beacause it is not just “feelings.””

    This is what I am getting at: nobody ever bothers to define what it really is. All I ever hear is accounts of feelings and hunches, but nothing all that special. What else is there? I’m anxiously awaiting somebody to give an answer to that one. We can’t keep claiming that there is a special “other” category which will forever remain outside of description and analysis.

    Hunches and emotions, is that what Mormonism is reduced to? If so, then we aren’t guided by revelation to a degree any greater than any other christian sect. This was the main point of my paper, not “we don’t have revelation anymore.” My point was “let’s stop cheapening revelation by putting it on par with this other “warm fuzzy” stuff and start seeking the real thing.

    “I don’t think that humility precludes being absolutely certain that the spirit is speaking when the spirit is speaking and being absolutely certain we can follow those promptings when they are clear.”

    You can’t just keep saying that or some form of it over and over. My point is that it is rarely if ever perfectly clear. We can never be absolutely certain. The content (which we create ourselves mind you) can certainly be rejected, according to your reasoning, if it is against church doctrine, but what about when it does agree? How can we automatically say with 100% surety that it was from God? After all, aren’t MORE likely to supply information which is in accordance with what we are taught, and LESS likely to supply information which is against it? In fact, wouldn’t it being against what we were taught be a sign that it DIDN’T come from ourselves? 100% is surely an exaggeration of how much trust we can put in this process for it has failed people time and time again over the millennia.

    Now about words:
    (1) Is a straw man if there ever was one. Of course God is going to speak english to me, but that isn’t really saying anything at all. Who would ever defend themselves against charges of plagiarism by saying “but I already knew all of the words I used. They were, therefore, my words.” Utter rubbish.

    Now I do agree with (2) to a certain extent, like I said earlier. God lets us choose our words, but that’s just another way of saying that we are modifying and/or adjusting the content ourselves. This was my point! You can have it your way if you want, but you can’t claim that the scriptures are God’s words anymore then can you? Thus, #5 is better than #4 because God’s own words are actually being used. Again, my model holds up.

    Comment by Jeffrey Giliam — July 25, 2005 @ 5:19 pm

  17. Rephrasing my last point: you can move #4 closer to #5 if you want or closer to #2, but no matter which way you move it, it doesn’t make the difference which exists between #2 and #5 any smaller.

    Comment by Jeffrey Giliam — July 25, 2005 @ 5:22 pm

  18. Alright Jeff, here are lots of frank responses.

    … but that is the problem with inspiration: it’s hard to tell if it is God or us, or how much is God and how much is us… My point is that it is rarely if ever perfectly clear. We can never be absolutely certain. (#16)

    Speak for yourself. For me and lots of other saints it is usually not hard to tell if an impression is from God and it is often or usually perfectly clear.

    The problem here seems to be one of spiritual ears. (I have been trying to avoid saying this for fear of offending you, but I see no other good answer to your accusations.) Just because you might have trouble getting crystal clear answers from impressions does not mean everyone in the church is in the same boat.

    Let me illustrate what I mean when I talk about spiritual ears. (This is an extension of that post I put up). I don’t know if you are much of a musician or not, but what would happen if you were put in a room with a piano and told that you were to be given a listening test. The tester would play you the following chords and you had to properly identify each: G, G7, G-7, G7sus4, G+7, G-7flat5, GMaj7, Gdim7, G7flat9, G-(Maj7), and we’ll throw in a G-7sus4 for good measure. My guess is that unless you are a highly trained jazz musician, you probably couldn’t properly identify these chords if your life depended on it. Don’t feel bad though, there are very few people on the planet with proper ear training that could do so. But just because you or most people you know can’t discern well enough to properly identify these chords doesn’t mean no one can. The identifiers are there, one just needs the discernment to recognize and understand them. To some, with well trained ears, hearing which chord is which would be laughably easy.

    I suspect that you are seeing where I am going with this. The problem with those who don’t get clear information through your #s 1-2 is not with the broadcast from God — the problem is with the receiver. The person receiving has not trained their spiritual ears well enough to get the clarity you claim can only come from physically seeing or touching in revelations.

    This is what I am getting at: nobody ever bothers to define what it really is. All I ever hear is accounts of feelings and hunches, but nothing all that special. What else is there? I’m anxiously awaiting somebody to give an answer to that one. (#16)

    How am I supposed to tell you what a G7 sounds like (assuming you don’t know already)? I could blog until my fingers fall off and you probably still wouldn’t be able to tell the difference between a G-7sus4 and a G-7. But to my ear the difference is obvious. How would you learn? By hearing the chords played and getting used to the differences. You’d have to experience it.

    This analogy, by the way, is not very different than the “what does salt taste like” analogy Elder Packer famously used.

    Either the Lord is speaking in your mind with words or He isn’t really speaking is He? Granted the words might be communicated in your words, but this is my point: they are YOUR words and are subject to error. (#14)

    Our scriptures disagree with you on this. The Lord said to Enoch: Open thy mouth, and it shall be filled, and I will give thee utterance. In this dispensation he said to us: And whatsoever they shall speak when moved upon by the Holy Ghost shall be scripture, shall be the will of the Lord, shall be the mind of the Lord, shall be the word of the Lord, shall be the voice of the Lord, and the power of God unto salvation.

    Haven’t you ever given an inspired sermon or blessing when you open your mouth and it was literally filled? If not you are missing out. I completely agree with Marion G. Romney who said something to the effect of “I know when I have taught by the Spirit because I always learn something I never knew before.”

    I am convinced that this is the very experience that prophets go through when they say “thus saith the Lord”. It is the process Joseph went through when he wrote the revelations in the D&C. If you think it was something else I would very interested in seeing evidence of such.

    We are still in the same boat, or perhaps worse, because that is assuming that you understand your home teachers perfectly well.(#14)

    When my home teacher opens his mouth and God fills it, it is just as good as an angel doing it. The only added advantage of having an angel do it would be the first time one appeared to me so I could say I saw one. After that the only difference would be that one glowed more than the other. (And as my latest post points out, an angel would appear in a vision anyway.)

    Comment by Geoff J — July 26, 2005 @ 1:01 am

  19. “For me and lots of other saints it is usually not hard to tell if an impression is from God and it is often or usually perfectly clear.”
    This is what worries me because people shouldn’t be PERFECTLY sure. That’s when we get people braking into temple and sacrificing their children. We put our “inspiration” to certain tests (which I assume you do as well) but that is just another way of saying that you were not perfectly sure in the first place. An impression is just that, no more no less. (Don’t worry about offending me with the spiritual ears thing.) Now I’m not saying that you should never follow any inspiration at all. I’m simply saying that revelation is higher in almost every way to inspiration and this sense of surety is but one of the many reasons why.

    Now I agree with your analogy, however I should point out that these chords are being aubibly heard and can be compared, tested and calibrated among other things. What if you had to “sense” what certain chords were being played in another state? Now here I am just producing a bad analogy of what spiritual promptings are like, but it is no worse than yours was. This is according to my point that since these impressions are so removed from anything else we experience (except of course mere emotions and hunches) that we can’t be too sure about much of anything. With experience will come more accurate interpretations to be sure, BUT they will only be more accurate relative to your prior interpretations. There will never be any reason to believe that you are at 100%.

    This problem is not with the receiver or God. It is with the medium of communication. The receiver can get as good as he wants but this will never make this form of communication any less vague or ambiguous. It is still emotions and hunches which could in all reality be originating solely from within the individual. These are completely subjective experiences which, unlike sounds and sights, can never be calibrated or verified in any way. (I always thought the salt analogy was a cheap play on words in order to avoid a difficult question.)

    Yes, I have experienced those talks, but who says that the words are actually gods? True, the mouth will be filled with the speakers OWN words which are based upon the promptings (thoughts and hunches) which they are receiving among other things. Would you call Hitler’s speeches, which were absolutely mesmerizing, inspired? What about the orators which are actually trained to recognize and go with the hunches they feel in the emotional moment of delivery? Is all that inspired too? I think they are to a certain extent, but let’s not call it revelation.

    Again, you can put #4 in the same boat as #2 if you want, but this doesn’t make #2 any closer to #5 at all. One has the actual words of God, while the other are (despite the vague content originating from God) the words of the prophet.

    As to the home teacher you ignored my other differences which I pointed out. The angel wasn’t just inspired, he was relaying a message. Plus I think it would be absurd to claim that a HT would be able to deliver a message about heaven in as clear of detail as an angel could who actually came from heaven. The angel knows what he is talking about. The HT only believes what he is talking about.

    Again, you are reducing our claims of exclusive revelation to nothing. If your forms of communication are just as high as mine, then we are no better than any other christian church in this aspect. Does this not bother you?

    Comment by Jeffrey Giliam — July 26, 2005 @ 9:11 am

  20. Jeffrey: This is what worries me because people shouldn’t be PERFECTLY sure. That’s when we get people braking into temple and sacrificing their children.

    This is a red herring if ever I heard one. So because some people are deluded then all revelation through promptings and the still, small voice must be false? Come on, you can do better than that.

    A beginner must tentatively test promptings, but over time one’s spiritual ears (aka “ears of their understanding) become more and more reliable. Just like I could tell you the difference between a G7 and a G-7 chord 100% of the time, so a person with well trained spiritual ears can get the message being sent from God right 100% of the time. A person with poorly trained or deaf spiritual ears just has to go it alone.

    I should point out that these chords are being audibly heard and can be compared, tested and calibrated among other things.

    Not in the analogy they can’t. The point is that you have to hear it with your ears, not go buy some instrument to do your discerning for you. So it is with spiritual ears.

    What if you had to “sense” what certain chords were being played in another state?

    You do when you use your ears. That is why I believe it is such an apt analogy.

    With experience will come more accurate interpretations to be sure, BUT they will only be more accurate relative to your prior interpretations. There will never be any reason to believe that you are at 100%.

    I’m not sure how you can support this. Just as I can be 100% sure I am hearing a GMaj7 chord with practice I can also be 100% sure I am getting a yes or no at first, then more explicit directions and knowledge over time, and them even more explicit and content-rich knowledge after that (like open visions). It is all the same process and only differs by degree.

    This problem is not with the receiver or God. It is with the medium of communication… It is still emotions and hunches which could in all reality be originating solely from within the individual.

    This is only true for beginners. Those with more trained spiritual ears have moved well past solely relying on emotions and hunches and into pure knowledge being externally delivered to their minds.

    I always thought the salt analogy was a cheap play on words in order to avoid a difficult question.

    I suspect this is more of a reflection on your spiritual ear training than on Elder Packer’s analogy.

    Yes, I have experienced those talks, but who says that the words are actually gods?

    This may not be helpful but it seems to me that if you have to ask that question then you can rest assured that they were not God’s words. When I have experienced my mouth being filled by God there was absolutely no room for doubt in my mind that the words were guided by a Celestial source.

    Perhaps that sounds arrogant, and I’m sorry if it does. But fear of sounding arrogant is one of the reasons we don’t talk much about these things in the church and it seems that it is necessary for me to bring these things up in this conversation.

    Again, you can put #4 in the same boat as #2 if you want, but this doesn’t make #2 any closer to #5 at all
    .

    As you can probably tell from my latest post, I don’t believe there is any such thing as #5 (at least when it comes to physically audible voices) either. Sure there are “seemingly audible” voices that the saints hear all the time but those are very loud and clear impressions from the spirit that we hear with our spiritual ears or “the ears of our understanding”.

    Plus I think it would be absurd to claim that a HT would be able to deliver a message about heaven in as clear of detail as an angel could who actually came from heaven.

    I could not disagree more. I recommend you re-read section 50. When a person preaches by the Spirit and the receiver receives by the spirit, it is as if God himself were delivering the message. It makes no difference who the mouthpiece of that message is.

    Again, you are reducing our claims of exclusive revelation to nothing. If your forms of communication are just as high as mine, then we are no better than any other Christian church in this aspect.

    The rest of the Christian world (and honestly most of us) are indeed wallowing at the beginner’s stage of revelation where it is only “hunches and feelings”. But because of authority and especially the restoration of the Gift of the Holy Ghost, many of the saints (but I agree with J and you that it is far too few) are far beyond the beginner’s phase. Many can hear and discern high-clarity/high-content messages through the eyes and ears of their understanding. Our challenge is to get ourselves to that point and then help others get there too.

    Comment by Geoff J — July 26, 2005 @ 10:58 am

  21. “So because some people are deluded then all revelation through promptings and the still, small voice must be false?”

    I might say that YOU can do better, because this is without doubt the biggest straw man I have ever seen. When did I say anything even approaching “all revelation … must be false?” My point was that some promptings given to people are obviously false, despite their 100% surety. What makes us think that we are any better than them? The mere fact that we have “tests” to figure out if a prompting really is from God shows that we cannot be 100% sure. These tests can help establish if something is NOT from God but they do absolutely nothing to establish that something IS from God. Similar to how various criterion of historical criticism can establish by using contextual credibility than something is NOT historically accurate, but this tool does absolutely nothing to establish that something IS historically accurate. Like Alma says, even with all these emotions and hunches (I will continue using this phrase until somebody can give me something else) you still do not know with a surety of the truth of something, only that it is “good” in some way.

    Again, I’m not saying that inspiration is altogether invalid or false, so stop arguing against that. Nobody is claiming that. I am claiming that visions are better because they will tend to be invalid or false less often than is inspiration.

    Yes, in the analogy they can. You know what all those chords are because YOU have played them many times. You have observed them being played by others. You have something to calibrate your experiences to. If you had never read any book or been told by anybody what chords were which, you would never be able to name a chord by sound. I’m not saying that your analogy doesn’t accomplish much of what you want it to. I am saying that the analogy works for 5,6 and 7 as well. Not only that, but the analogy is far closer to what is experienced in 5,6 and 7 than it is to 1 or 2. Thus your analogy doesn’t accomplish much of anything by way of showing that 1 and 2 are just as “high” or clear as 5,6 or 7. Somebody who is not blind can get really good at reading braile, but that doesn’t somehow make reading braile a better source of information than actually reading it. A person who can hear can learn how to sign, but that doesn’t make their signing more effective than simply speaking. No matter how good one gets at decoding their emotions and hunches, plain old english will always be better.

    Here is a way in which the analogy is different. You can distinguish between chords. Good. Lot’s of people can, that’s why they have the names they do. But when it comes to inspiration there are no names at all to show the difference. This is due to people being unable to verify, test and calibrate these feelings. Instead they keep wallowing in vague analogies, not just guitar chords, but with feelings such as burnings and voices when really there were no burnings or bushes. It was only “like” that. Well what was it really? How can you tell the difference between different messages? In the case of revelation, one hears different words and sentences, that is how it is differentiated. But when it comes to inspiration people can only use vague analogies. If inspiration really is as clear as revelation, then let’s abandon all analogies and analyse it on its own terms like we do with revelation. Unfortunately nobody has ever done this because they can’t. Instead all they can talk about is feeling good or bad which is interpreted as yes or no. Is this the best we can do? Reducing God to a magic 8 ball or sorts? Will anybody ever doubt that dialogic revelation is far better than mere confirmations, and in fact can never be accomplished through inspiration?

    The word game which is being played in the salt analogy has to do with our having defined “Salty” as things which taste like salt. That’s why he didn’t use sugar as an example, because we have a word, sweet, to describe its taste which does not have sugar in it. What does sugar taste like? Sugary! But we have a word for sugary, sweet. We could have just as easily had a word which could be used instead of salty, but quite frankily we don’t need one. Salty is only a problem when one is playing word games and that’s it. All adejectives, be they salty, sweet or blue, only make sense when referred to other things which possess that same attribute. How about this: salt tastes like sweat. Problem solved. Again, nothing to do with spiritual ears or spiritual taste either.

    If people can come up with the elaborate ways of describing and distinguishing wines from one another, then is it too much to ask the same thing of inspiration?

    Now when you have your mouth “filled” do you really know it was God, or do you have faith that it was? If you actually say “know” then I will confess that we will probably not be able to related to one another at all on this subject. How ever, most people, if they are being strictly honest, will be a bit more modest. They have “faith” that it is God. Thus we automatically have doubt, for faith in the same thing as knowledge only with a certain degree of doubt. Knowledge is to have faith without any doubt at all. See Ether 3 for details. Are you really claiming that inspiration, these vague promptings can give one a perfect knowledge? I should point out that the Bro. of Jared had actually had conversations with God, not to mention vague emotions and hunches, and had not yet achieved a perfect knowledge yet. Have you gone beyond him? If not, then there must be some doubt still left. There is a reason why convictions (emotions and hunches) are not allowed as testimony in court. Ther reason is that they are HIGHLY unreliable. Even if inspiration does involve something beyond mere emotions and hunches, it is still so intertwined with these things as to make this point highly relavent.

    The differences between #2 and #5 is whether actual words are used (who cares if they are REALLY aubible or not?). You might claim that #5 never or rarely happens, but this doesn’t some how erase the difference between the two categories. #6 does involve actual words and it clearly happens. Thus, you are left with the same challenge: you must somehow show, by some miracles, why words don’t help at all.

    I strongly disagree with your interpretation of sec. 50. Even if that’s what it says, it seems clear to me that it is not meant to be taken in the sense that you are using it. If it were as true as you mean it then we would have serious problems since church authority have said such contradictory things over the years. Is God confused or do they simply mix in their own limited knowledge with the actual content which has remained more or less constant? Most of the church leaders were very inspired to declare and accept the A/G doctrine as true and yet we have church leaders today who are “inspired” to preach against it. Did God somehow change His mind abou this own identity? Or did these leaders simply get confused in their inspiration?

    I find it very difficult to believe, finding such a notion to be arrogant and self-righteous in the extremem, that other christians who have been practicing their entire lives don’t get their prayers answered in their emotions and hunches just as well as we do. I met many God fearing christians who really were good people. They prayed to find out if the BoM was true and got an answer of “no.” What gives? Of course we can say that God has another purpose for them or something like that, but is it really that irreverent to suggest that they might have been influenced by their own emotions and hunches on the subject? Why wouldn’t this also apply to Mormons, even our leaders? To they not have emotions and hunches of their own which could confuse their reception of inspiration? To say that this is impossible is really far fetched in my opinion.

    Sorry about the really long comment. This is probably the longest one I have ever seen.

    Comment by Jeffrey Giliam — July 26, 2005 @ 12:15 pm

  22. Sorry about the really long comment. This is probably the longest one I have ever seen.

    Sweeeet. Heck yes it is!

    I get to reading it and respond this afternoon…

    Comment by Geoff J — July 26, 2005 @ 12:23 pm

  23. Alrightee then. Here goes. (BTW — it looks like we’ve scared everyone else off with our debate here… )

    Jeffrey: this is without doubt the biggest straw man I have ever seen.

    HAH! Classic. I’m flattered. Still I think it might be a case of me misjudging the intent of your previous comment rather than intentionally creating the biggest straw man you have ever seen…

    My point was that some promptings given to people are obviously false, despite their 100% surety. What makes us think that we are any better than them?

    When you say “given to people” what do you mean? If promptings are from God they are not false. If they are from the devil they are. If they are self-generated they are not “given” to them… So lots people make stuff up and mishear revelation. But other people’s bad spiritual ears are not really my problem. I think that I get my own revelation right because God tells me so. Don’t take my word for it though, go ask him yourself. If you don’t think he will answer you then we are at an impasse. All I can do is testify that he will answer you and that he does answer me.

    I am claiming that visions are better because they will tend to be invalid or false less often than is inspiration.

    Obviously you are not watching enough of the psychic network… As I said in the other post, visions are given in the same place prompting are given — in the mind’s eye or by the opening of the eyes of our understanding. If you have evidence to refute that I’ll look for it at that post.

    your analogy doesn’t accomplish much of anything by way of showing that 1 and 2 are just as “high” or clear as 5,6 or 7.

    Based on my “in the body post” it should be no surprise to you that I think your 4-6 as you have defined them are non-existent. (Your #7 is supported by scripture, of course). Your 1-3 are fine but everything beyond that would fall into the mind’s-eye or trance or waking dream category. The information is given directly to the mind by God through the Spirit. He does not have to go through the bottleneck of our mortal bodies (eyes, ears, etc) to communicate with us. He talks directly to our souls as if we had no body at all (TPJS p.355)

    The word game which is being played in the salt analogy

    Salty or sweet — the wordplay is irrelevant to the analogy. The point is that if one had never tasted anything sweet or sugary before, another person could not adequately describe the what it really tastes like. It must be experienced at least once first. So it is with revelation.

    Now when you have your mouth “filled” do you really know it was God, or do you have faith that it was?

    This “what you know” vs. faith thing is a pet peeve of mine. I posted on it some time ago. I recommend you check it out. I concluded that I know the things I learn from God better than I know who my parents are or siblings or better than I know my own name. Why? Because I could potentially be the victim of some giant conspiracy or cover up (no matter how ridiculous that is). God has never told me otherwise. But he has told me some things and those things are the things I know better than any other facts in this life.

    I strongly disagree with your interpretation of sec. 50. Even if that’s what it says…

    Ha! Uhhhh, ok… We can disagree on that point (even if that is what it says…) ;-)

    I find it very difficult to believe, finding such a notion to be arrogant and self-righteous in the extremem, that other christians who have been practicing their entire lives don’t get their prayers answered in their emotions and hunches just as well as we do.

    Oh good grief! If you find that arrogant, I have bad news for you. We have scriptures that say ours is the only true church and that the creeds of all those other churches are an abomination in the sight of God.

    They prayed to find out if the BoM was true and got an answer of “no.” What gives?

    God was not the source of that revelation, that’s what gives. But don’t take my word for it — go ask him about that yourself.

    Why wouldn’t this also apply to Mormons, even our leaders?

    It does. That is why we need constant revelatory dialogue with God to stay on the right paths personally.

    Comment by Geoff J — July 26, 2005 @ 4:19 pm

  24. You are probably right about the straw man thing. Sorry about the exaggeration. What I mean by “given to people” is “apparently received by people.” Or you could interpret this as a person giving themself (or worse yet, some other source) inspiration. This is my point, that these people couldn’t tell the difference, why should we think that we can with 100% accuracy?

    “I think that I get my own revelation right because God tells me so.”

    This doesn’t seem a little circular to you? How did God tell you? Through more inspiration that might be misinterpreted? Or was there revelation given to clear things up, thus proving my point? The fact is that I feel that I received lots of inspiration writing my Revelation vs. Inspiration paper. Imagine that, I interpret my inspiration as meaning that we can’t trust inspiration 100%! Nevertheless, church as well as world history would seem to validate this position. Either way, one of us has received or interpreted inspiration incorrectly. Again, this is according to my view of it, not yours. Are you really willing to say that everybody’s inspiration which doesn’t agree with your is wrong since you are 100% sure of yours? This seems a little arrogant.

    I agree with your views of the psychic network. Their communications are probably not divine in any meaningful sense. But wait! They are claiming their visions to be non-physical! Who’s position is that? The more “inward” an experience is the less reliable it is. The psychic network is proof of that. That said, I don’t claim actual physical visions to be invariably wrong either. The devil, we are told, can appear as an angel of light (hence sec. 129). Not only that, but people really to halucinate. My point is, however, that we can write off inward experiences which are not very compelling as being “placeboes” or figments of the imagination. The outward experiences reduce the possibilities by forcing us to grant supernatural intervention or flat out lunacy. I personally think the psychic network is part fraudulent, part lunacy and lots and lots of “placeboes.”

    I simply don’t see how you can accept 7 while rejecting 4,5 and 6. This seems a little determined. I should also mention that you again are ignoring the importance of words and sights. In 1 and 2 there are no words or sights received. In 5 and 6 there are. You can redefine these two however you want, but unless you are willing to discredit these words and sights altogether, they will forever separate thes two from 1 and 2. Words and sights help. Communication which don’t have them are less clear and therefore less reliable than those that do. That is the whole point of my paper. This is where you should aim your critiques, for if words and sights don’t help (and this would be VERY difficult to show) then you are right. If not, then I am.

    You may not be able to describe the experience itself (I did grant this in my paper) but they can certainly describe what it is like and how it was different from other experiences. If somebody had never tasted plain salt I could say that it tastes just like sweat although it is a quite a bit more intense than that. If somebody had never tasted sugar plain I could describe it as tasting like frosted flakes but without the grainy taste and texture that goes with it. It tastes a little like nutrisweet or really sweet fruit. Are we really willing to say that there are people who have never experienced inspiration of any kind? Thus everybody has experienced it to some degree and can therefore have it described to them.

    You might know God better than you know that your parents are you biological parents, but surely you know that they raised you more than you know that something was God.

    “I know better than any other facts in this life.”

    There are no degrees of knowing. There are of conviction, but not of knowing. And the scriptures, philosophers and common sense tell us that we have not received a perfect knowledge in the strictest sense without actual physical experience.

    I agree that sec. 50 does say what you use it to mean. However I interpret it as being a little exaggerated since it contradicts the plain facts of experience. Thus we can distrust our experiences (in which case everything is to the wind since we only know God through experience) or we can accept a modified version of that passage. I choose the latter.

    I have issues with the “one true church” claim, having concluded that it doesn’t really amount to a claim of anything at all. Truth with regards to churches is not a dichotomy. There are varying degrees of it. Some churches contain more errors than others, our, I believe, containing the fewest errors (though they are certainly there). Thus other churches are also true, just not as true. They are not as true because they have been guided by inspiration rather than revelation, inspiration not being good enough. This is also in my paper. This is also why I am so worried about the churches lack of modern revelation.

    “God was not the source of that revelation.”

    How can you ever say that about somebody else’s experience? “They are wrong while we are right”? That is what every church believes. Can’t we do better? Yes, we can by claims of revelation rather than mere inspiration.

    “Why wouldn’t this also apply to Mormons, even our leaders?

    It does.”

    So are you admitting that inspiration is not 100% sure after all?

    Comment by Jeffrey Giliam — July 26, 2005 @ 7:58 pm

  25. Jeffrey: This doesn’t seem a little circular to you?

    Yes it is very circular. That is why I fear we are reaching an impasse.

    How did God tell you?

    I have often heard and felt his voice in my mind and heart. I have felt the burning in the bosom. He has spoke peace to my mind. All of the classic scriptural definitions. You call those “excuses” but God apparently disagrees (else He would not have described them that way in scripture).

    Maybe I am proving your point because it is all revelation to me.

    Thus everybody has experienced it to some degree and can therefore have it described to them.

    Ok, I’ll grant that. So like salt tastes salty, true revelation feels “revelationy”

    Are you really willing to say that everybody’s inspiration which doesn’t agree with your is wrong since you are 100% sure of yours? This seems a little arrogant.

    Yeah, it does sound a little arrogant, huh? Oh well. Facts are facts. And I never said I am 100% sure of all of the promptings I have received — just some. I know the difference.

    I should remind you that such accusations of arrogance are one of the reasons most of us don’t openly talk about the fact that we receive revelation. (I mentioned this in my recent post)

    Regarding the placebo thing — I agree with you that lots of people mistake that for revelation. My only concern though is my revelation. I go to great lengths to receive the real thing. Perhaps you doubt I really get real revelation but all I can do is tell you about it and invite you to go get your own.

    unless you are willing to discredit these words and sights altogether, they will forever separate thes two from 1 and 2

    I am ready to discount words. I think God gives ideas and then we and prophets describe those truths and concepts in our own words. I would think you would agree with this considering your feelings about Blake’s modern expansion theory. If you insist that actual words are placed in the minds of prophets then your theory is not significantly different than the “tickertape across the seer stone” theory of translation of the BoM.

    I don’t discount sights because dreams and visions (in that waking-dream state) are, by definition, sights.

    surely you know that they raised you more than you know that something was God.

    Nope. But this discussion is happening over at that other post.

    “They are wrong while we are right”? That is what every church believes. Can’t we do better? Yes, we can by claims of revelation rather than mere inspiration.

    I am claiming revelation. I just think you misunderstand what revelation is.

    Comment by Geoff J — July 26, 2005 @ 9:58 pm

  26. “Yes it is very circular.”

    This is a big problem, because such reasoning protect everybody including the crazies. It is precisely because the reasoning is circular that we can’t be 100% sure.

    I’m not sure I would call those things “excuses.” (I hope I didn’t say that about all inspiration!)

    “true revelation feels “revelationy””

    Just feeling that you are receiving revelation isn’t enough. You need to be able to tell what the reevelation was. Like Joseph Smith said:
    “Hence the Methodists, Presbyterians, and others frequently possess a spirit that… they consider… to be the power of God, and a glorious manifestation from God-a manifestation of what? Is there any intelligence communicated? Are the curtains of heaven withdrawn, or the purposes of God developed? Have they seen and conversed with an angel-or have the glories of futurity burst upon their view? No! … All the intelligence that can be obtained from them when they arise, is a shout of “glory,” or “hallelujah,” or some incoherent expression; but they have had “the power.” (TPJS 203)

    This is the problem with inspiration. We don’t get much more out of it than this.

    “I would think you would agree with this considering your feelings about Blake’s modern expansion theory.”

    I would agree with this analysis with regards to #4 but not #5. Remember, we left #4 behind recognizing that it could be anywhere between #2 and #5 but not bringing those two any closer to one another. Unless you can somehow equate those two, then my point still stands.

    Comment by Jeffrey Giliam — July 27, 2005 @ 9:06 am

  27. It is pretty obvious that we starting to talk past each other on this thread. I reject the foundation of physicality that you are basing a lot of your assumptions on so until we can agree on a foundation these discussions of the superstructure will not be very productive.

    I completely agree that hunches and feelings are not sufficient. Where we part is the next step beyond that. I believe that hunches and feelings are the first tiny steps down the path that leads to open visions and visitations. There is, however, no line where suddenly we leave the inner communication path and jarringly shift into a purely physical realm of communication. I believe it is all further down the same path as the eyes and ears of our understanding see and hear more clearly and we receive actual detailed intelligence from on high.

    We can continue to debate this subject in the other thread though.

    Comment by Geoff J — July 27, 2005 @ 1:16 pm

  28. “I reject the foundation of physicality that you are basing a lot of your assumptions on so until we can agree on a foundation these discussions of the superstructure will not be very productive.”

    Which assumptions are you talking about? That visions are strictly physical has nothing to do with the conclusions which I reach. Indeed, I am perfectly confortable, though still not convinced, with a spiritual out of body sort of revelation as you advocate. Are there any other assumptions you are disagreeing with, because I’m just not seeing it? What is it about my paper that you disagree with specifically? So you disagree with the physicality? Fine, go without it since its not required. What else?

    “There is, however, no line where suddenly we leave the inner communication path and jarringly shift into a purely physical realm of communication.”

    I agree with this. The inner commuication never ceases, even in these physical events. With each higher level comes and added, not a substituted medium of communication. Perhaps it would be better if I re-wrote my list as follows:

    1) emotions.
    2) emotions and hunches.
    3) dreams.
    4) emotion, hunches and words in the mind.
    5) emotions, hunches and words in the ears.
    6) emotions, hunches, words in the ears and sights in the eyes.
    7) emotions, hunches, words in the ears, sights in the eyes and actual physical contact (even if its not really “physical” in your sense).

    Now either you hear words in your ears or you don’t. There is no grey area. Either you see something or you don’t with your eyes. Either you touch something or you don’t. There is lot’s of grey with regards to emotions and hunches, but these other mediums of communication are fairly black and white. THAT IS WHAT MAKES THEM SO GOOD. There is no wishy-washiness about it. Either you experienced it or you didn’t. This is how the placeboes and wishful thinking are cut out of the equation, by getting rid of all grey.

    Comment by Jeffrey Giliam — July 27, 2005 @ 3:18 pm

  29. I think we are aligning a little better now. You are right about the fundamental question about the seeming lack of these experiences (physical or not) still not being answered yet. I will address that subject at the other thread (or with my new post tonight).

    Your new list is an interesting one. I can agree that you either hear words or not idea too. The question is whether these experiences occur in a waking-dream/trance state or not. (But even in dream revelations you can hear words, see sights, and have physical contact.)

    So with that behind us we an get back to addressing some of the original questions. I’ll start by replying over at the other thread.

    Comment by Geoff J — July 27, 2005 @ 3:31 pm

  30. I should clarify that this list, though written differently, I the the same list as last time. I thought that the higher forms included but were not limited to the lower forms was too obvious to spell out until now.

    I’m still quite uncomfortable with how close you put dreams and visions together. Truman Madsen interprets Joseph Smith as making a clear distinction between the two when he (Joseph) said “the Lord showed me in broad day light…” TM commented on this by saying that it was not something which he conjured up in the dreams of the night. I agree with this. Dreams originate within myself and usually mean absolutely nothing, though it is very easy to attribute meaning to them. Visions come from a source which is obviously outside the prophet. It can be witnessed by two people at once, unlike a dream. There being two witnesses is a VERY important feature which virtually assures the source to be outside the recipient. Dreams simply do not allow for this.

    Comment by Jeffrey Giliam — July 27, 2005 @ 3:48 pm

  31. Dreams originate within myself and usually mean absolutely nothing, though it is very easy to attribute meaning to them.

    I agree this is true for the vast majority of dreams. However the scriptures make it clear that some dreams are indeed visions that are directly from God. I have posted on some of my own personal experiences with this form of revelation in the past. I will address it further in my post tonight.

    Comment by Geoff J — July 27, 2005 @ 3:57 pm

  32. I agree with you. Inspired dreams, which certainly do happen, are those dreams where I am asleep but the contents of the dreams, though originating from within myself, are guided to one degree on another by God. Alma 36 seems to be similar to this in that it is difficult, if not impossible, to tell what content is from God and what is from himself. It’s best to call it God “guiding” my own thought process. Calling such communication pristine wouldn’t be appropriate in my opinion.

    Comment by Jeffrey Giliam — July 27, 2005 @ 4:08 pm

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