Friday, December 22, 2017

Ask, Seek, Knock, Part 5: Ponderables


The shepherd guards the entry, and his sheep respond to his voice. He calls his sheep by name and leads them up. He leads his sheep by his example and asks them to follow in his path, and they follow because they trust his words. His sheep will not follow another, but will flee from a stranger. They do not recognize the stranger’s voice. Jesus told this parable to them, but they could not understand what he meant by the parable.
—Testimony of St. John, Chapter 7



Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5 | Part 6 | Part 7

Here are a few not-quite-random, somewhat-related thoughts I’ve been pondering lately. They bear on current events, and they likewise lay important groundwork for the remaining posts in this series.

1. God is not the author of confusion.

2. The test is always the same: Can you discern the Lord’s voice from all others? 

He came as He comes now. It is a test. It has always been a test. The test is no different now than it was then. Do you hear Him? Do you listen to Him? His voice resonates in the words of His true disciples. They do not resonate in the words of the pretenders and the faithless. His voice cannot be faked. The voice of inspiration cannot be breathed into the lifeless words of a false or faithless or disobedient disciple.
The Second Comforter: Conversing with the Lord through the Veil, Chapter 11

3. Whenever truth is presented in its purity, imitators offer counterfeits, also containing much truth, but also enough falsehood to mislead. This is always the case, and is part of the necessary balance that must be preserved. The difference is hard to detect unless you are filled with adequate light. Discernment is difficult and rare, despite the fact that most of us think we are good at it.

4. I recently read these interesting facts:
  • Humans are irrational by nature, and nearly always make important decisions based on emotion alone. 
  • When asked to explain our decisions, we will attempt to use reason and logic to justify our decisions, rather than recognize the emotion upon which the decision was based. 
  • If shown facts that contradict our conclusions, rather than changing our conclusions to align with the facts, we most often double down on our errors. No amount of proof will change a mind that’s made up.
All these are universal parts of human nature; this is how we ALL operate, though most of us don’t even realize we do, and will, in fact, claim we don’t. We actually believe we make decisions based on reason and logic. We always tend to believe we are right. Effective salespeople utilize this situation to great advantage.

5. A great exception to the tendency to invent rational explanations for our decisions is in the realm of religion, and particularly in Mormonism, where we’ve been handed a false tradition that “feeling the spirit” is the correct basis for making decisions. This unbelief elevates emotion above reason, knowledge, understanding, or rational thought, and leads to a great deal of error. The Holy Ghost is a revelator, not a feeling. Period. I hope to write more on this topic soon. 


6. The adversary appeals to our emotions, selling destruction through polished presentation. But a well-expressed falsehood is still a falsehood. Flattering language and appealing ideas deceive the uninformed, as the Book of Mormon goes to some trouble to point out. The Lord does not offer flattery or ease. 

7. Part of the legacy we inherit as Mormons includes a lack of critical thinking skills. This results not only from the “feeling the spirit” deception, but also from a lifetime of conditioning to do as we’re told, never think or question, and actually fear any idea that does not agree with what we already believe. The result is that we struggle to think rationally and often fear to investigate information that could be important and useful to us. This bears directly on the need to hear and heed the Lord’s voice from among all others. 

8. Truth matters. Only correct knowledge has power to bring us to salvation and lead us in its path. It is unkind to mingle truth with falsehood, and thus deceive the uninformed. It is unwise to claim Christ is the author of anything deceptive. Hence the need for extreme care when invoking Christ’s name or claiming to deliver His words. 

9. Both fools and sociopaths are attracted to truth, but for different reasons. Ultimately, truth retains neither of them. There is middle ground between these extremes—something Moroni called having “a firm mind in every form of godliness.” Standing on that ground requires you to be able to discern and obey truth. This is where faith originates. 
But let him ask in faith, nothing wavering; for he that wavereth is like a wave of the sea driven with the wind and tossed. For let not that man think that he shall receive anything of the Lord. A double-minded man is unstable in all his ways. (James 1:2 RE)
10. Becoming godly requires that you first be capable of self-examination and course correction. And that’s why it’s such a struggle. We have many disadvantages to overcome, as I’ve pointed out here. The Holy Ghost, properly understood and utilized, is key to gaining the light by which we can discern the Lord’s voice, our own error and bias, and the firm pathway of truth. But obtaining the gift of the Holy Ghost is neither automatic nor easy. If it were, more people would do it.

As it is, many still believe the Holy Ghost consists of their feelings, providing a self-perpetuating loop of confirmation bias that their thoughts and decisions are always correct. The only way to break this cycle is to be snatched from it by One who is more intelligent than us all. But this requires abject humility and recognition of our own weak, ignorant state. You have to first know you lack truth before you can obtain it. You have to first recognize you are wrong before you can embrace what is right. 

Well, that’s a lot to ponder. I’ve written on a fair number of these topics already, but they remain at the forefront of my attention. With these ideas in place, I hope to move ahead and finish this series soon.

Have a Wonderful Christmas! (And His name shall be called...)

When I am the Spirit of Truth, I can then reveal to you the record of heaven and knowledge will be poured into you. The spirit is the means to communicate my words, and my words will lead you on the upward path. The knowledge poured in to you will come from me. I will depart, but only briefly because when I ascend back to the Head of the Household of Heaven, I will also be by your side to guide you by my voice from heaven.
—Testimony of St. John, Chapter 10

2 comments:

  1. This is very timely, indeed. Very important points, relevant to all of us.

    Of particular interest to me is the recognition of imitators among us (usually with good intent and in no way desiring to lead people wrong), attempting to "rise-up", and in zeal, receiving spiritual experiences that they declare confidently to be authentically originating from God. Such "revelations" are particularly effective among a body of people who are seeking such experiences for righteous reasons, and simultaneously think they are better at discerning than they really are. We become particularly vulnerable to false revelations of others when that body of believers are leery (almost hypersensitive) of appearing judgmental of others' experiences and claims.

    Anyway, I'm beginning to think that the next test we really have as a body is being able to discern between more and more claims to revelation among us that may or may not be authentic. If we cannot take the Holy Spirit truly as our Guide (D&C 45) then we will not be found among the wise virgins at the wedding feast.

    Great post, and looking forward to reading the rest of what you have to say on this topic.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Karen, I second your comment. Well put. The "next" test you spoke of is highly likely. Which should prompt all of us to ask the next obvious question. Which is of course "how do I discern"?

    If I may add this, I think it's right on this same thread, and very pertinent.

    "The authenticity of God's message is not proven by the means of delivery. Even if what seems to you to be an angel comes there are false angels who can and will mislead you. The only way to
    distinguish between what is, and what is not of God, is through the medium of sacrifice, because when you do this, the vessel is clean—you are clean. And when the vessel is clean before God, then even pretenders coming as an angel of light cannot mislead you. What such false spirits offer is darkness, and you will be able to tell it, because they have not the power to mislead. Everyone can be misled unless the course in life that they pursue is according to God's will." (40 years in Mormonism, Talk 2 on faith, Denver Snuffer)

    ReplyDelete

Hey everyone,

It's been brought to my attention that comments from mobile phones might not come through in some situations. If you commented and it hasn't appeared, try sending from a computer or other device, or use the "Contact Me" tool to reach out to me personally. Sorry for the problems!