Saturday, October 1, 2016

How to Receive God’s Word

And again, he that receiveth the word of truth, doth he receive it by the Spirit of truth or some other way?

—D&C 50:19

In my last post, we discussed the preparation process behind the talks presented at LDS General Conference. (Does the phrase “laws and sausages” come to mind?) We then contrasted that process with the way God intends for His word to be delivered. In this post we’ll take the next step by discussing how to receive God’s word.

Feeling the Spirit

The common Mormon expectation, as taught by the LDS church is that you recognize God’s word because you “feel the spirit” when truth is being taught. This feeling may take the form of chills, tears, emotion, warmth, or a myriad of other positive feelings meant to convince you what you’re hearing is true because you feel good about it.

Contrastingly, if you feel doubt, fear, darkness, sorrow, anger, or any other negative emotion, this is perceived as a sign that what you are hearing is false.

The above notions are, unfortunately, lies. Your feelings are NOT the way to distinguish truth, and attempting to do so will lead you down the path of deception. I wrote at length about this previously, but thought it worth mentioning again. If you haven’t read that previous piece, I highly recommend it. It’s one of the most important things I’ve written. Here’s the link, if you need it.

Emotion as a Substitute for Truth

The purpose of the Lord’s Spirit is to enlighten and teach; to give you new knowledge; to provide “sudden strokes of ideas;” to bring truth to your remembrance, and to help you overcome your profound ignorance of the things of God. The Holy Spirit is the source of light and truth, not chills and tears.

An authentic message from God will most often call you to repentance. You may be convicted in your heart. You will likely feel distress, fear, or even anger when a true message convinces you of your need to repent.

Ask yourself: Did Samuel’s message bring good feelings? What about Nephi’s? Or the other Nephi’s? Abinadi? Elijah? John the Baptist? Jonah? Alma? Paul? Do you think the listeners commented afterwards about how good the message made them feel?

“Boy, wasn’t that a great talk ol’ Abinadi gave? What, about how King Noah is wicked and we’re all about to be destroyed and everything? The spirit was SO strong! I just loved it! I bet we’ll be hearing that again in stake conference!

Sell it with the Heart

The LDS church is, of course, very aware of the confusion between emotion and truth, and actively promotes this confusion. This is because emotions are easily manipulated. In fact, Bonneville International, the church’s communications arm that produces and broadcasts General Conference, once developed and marketed a whole process of emotional-manipulation-based advertising called “HeartSell.” Here’s the description from their website:

Affecting Change by Reaching the Hearts and Minds of our Audiences 
At Bonneville Communications, our ability to touch the hearts and minds of audiences makes us an essential resource for organizations with vital messages. 
For more than 30 years, our creative professionals have designed public service and direct response messages for national nonprofit organizations such as the Huntsman Cancer Institute, Boy Scouts of America, National Hospice Foundation, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and The Salvation Army. 
Our unique strength is the ability to touch the hearts and minds of our audiences, evoking first feeling, then thought and, finally, action. We call this uniquely powerful brand of creative “HeartSell”® - strategic emotional advertising that stimulates response. 
Our people not only create effective messages; we get them out effectively. We maintain an ongoing public service relationship with more than 11,000 radio and TV stations and networks, and cable networks and systems in North America alone. We distribute public service and paid media campaigns directly from our offices in Salt Lake City. 
We provide all pre-production, production, and post-production services, as well as state-of-the-art special effects and post-production facilities, closed captioning, electronic tagging, and video and audio duplication.
Think about it. The old Mormon TV spots. The 1990’s smarmy church videos. The current online, feel-good video offerings. The new temple endowment films. The orchestrated PR events. General Conference. Are they not all designed to “evoke first feeling?” And will the church then eagerly tell you that you’ve “felt the spirit” as a result of what you were shown? It’s highly effective manipulation, honed over the last 30 years by experts in the craft. And good grief, they’ve laid it all out right there! Don’t be fooled. 

Well, the marketing industry has moved on, and HeartSell is no longer a current buzzword, or even listed any more on the Bonneville website. So it has been quietly retired. You won’t even find it in internet archives of their site. But despite the jargon moving on, the practice yet continues, and the church still employs “Strategic Emotional Advertising That Stimulates Response.”

Come to think of it, there’s a pretty good acronym there: SEATS Response. As in, if you want to keep butts in seats on Sundays, you better keep serving up the emotional fuzzies and calling it the Spirit. It’s the creative, professional substitute for truth—that you can buy for money!

The more current trend is now market research. Polling, testing, focus groups, market surveys—these are the tools those calling themselves prophets employ to craft God’s message and resonate with audiences. Rather than seeking God’s word by revelation, they seek success through popularity. The church does a massive amount of this sort of market research—far more than typical corporations. I suppose when the only product you sell is your message, you spare no expense or effort to make it popular. 

What to Look For

Let’s get back to conference now, and discard the emotions, the costumes, the lights, the teleprompters, and the other distractions accompanying the messages. Instead, let’s focus on the messages themselves. If these are God’s words, how are we to tell?

We’ll start with the most complete statement on the process anywhere in scripture. In D&C 50, we find the following:

Verily I say unto you, he that is ordained of me and sent forth to preach the word of truth by the Comforter, in the Spirit of truth, doth he preach it by the Spirit of truth or some other way? And if it be by some other way it is not of God. 
And again, he that receiveth the word of truth, doth he receive it by the Spirit of truth or some other way? If it be some other way it is not of God. 
Therefore, why is it that ye cannot understand and know, that he that receiveth the word by the Spirit of truth receiveth it as it is preached by the Spirit of truth? Wherefore, he that preacheth and he that receiveth, understand one another, and both are edified and rejoice together. 
And that which doth not edify is not of God, and is darkness.  
That which is of God is light; and he that receiveth light, and continueth in God, receiveth more light; and that light groweth brighter and brighter until the perfect day. (D&C 50:17-24)
So God’s word must be both preached and received by the spirit of truth, not by emotion. And what is the spirit of truth?
But when the Comforter is come, whom I will send unto you from the Father, even the Spirit of truth, which proceedeth from the Father, he shall testify of me: (John 15:26)
And truth is knowledge of things as they are, and as they were, and as they are to come; And whatsoever is more or less than this is the spirit of that wicked one who was a liar from the beginning. The Spirit of truth is of God. I am the Spirit of truth, and John bore record of me, saying: He received a fulness of truth, yea, even of all truth; (D&C 93:24-26)
So we should be looking for “knowledge of things as they are, and as they were, and as they are to come.” Anything beyond that, including attempts at emotional manipulation, are the spirit of that wicked one.

The glory of God is intelligence, or, in other words, light and truth. (D&C 93:36). Any authentic message from God will always impart light and truth. This means you will know, understand, comprehend, or remember something you didn’t a few moments before you received the message. You will be more informed, and therefore more intelligent as a result.

Note also the requirement that God’s word will edify you. To edify means to instruct and improve the mind in knowledge generally, and particularly in moral and religious knowledge, in faith and holiness.

Does the message make you more faithful and holy? Do you find yourself more perfectly instructed and your mind improved in the things of God? Are you more filled with light, truth and intelligence as a result of the message? Or are you only somewhat entertained but ultimately no different?

Wake Up!

God’s word is lively and interesting. It is stimulating, challenging, exciting, and even surprising. It’s not easy to sleep through. It is food to the starving soul. It may cause you despair as you realize your awful, unredeemed situation. But it will always lead to greater understanding of, and reliance upon, Christ. It will lead you to new insights about God and yourself. It will change you.

Sadly, most are not comfortable with authentic messages. In fact, this is almost always the case because authentic messages are seldom comfortable. So adjustments are made, talks are endlessly rewritten, and the message is reworked until it’s only positive platitudes mingled with scripture. We wouldn’t want to offend or sound negative.

I vividly recall watching an incident from the October, 1990 General Conference, while I was on my mission. Hartman Rector delivered a rousing call to repentance in his talk, pointing out specific behaviors and commanding the guilty to repent. As soon as he finished, Gordon Hinckley, who was conducting the meeting, stood and said words to the effect of, “You’ll have to forgive Elder Rector. He’s from Missouri, and that’s how they talk back there.” The comment got a few laughs and the tension of God’s word dissipated as the choir sang yet another hymn. Nothing to see here. Go back to sleep. (Interestingly, that particular comment never appeared in the official conference report. Because, you know, it was just an offhand joke, right?)

Well, like Hartman Rector, I’m also from Missouri, and I was shocked when Hinckley cut off the call to repent right at the knees. I thought it was a good talk, and a great reminder. Was Hinckley actually apologizing for it?

Either way, the problem has been solved. Now, such a talk would simply not be allowed. Positive messages only, please.

Finding Light with Light

From above: That which is of God is light; and he that receiveth light, and continueth in God, receiveth more light; and that light groweth brighter and brighter until the perfect day.

Remember, your ability to recognize and assimilate light and truth is dependent upon the light and truth already in you. Therefore, it’s imperative that your prayer, scripture study, and efforts to know the Lord be sincere, continuous, and effective. Do you cry out to Him? Do you ask, seek and knock? Do you search the scriptures, or merely read them? Are you familiar enough with them to use them as your standard for whatever you hear? Is it your quest to be redeemed, or are you too busy to bother? Do those who preach to you teach you to look to them, or to find the Lord for yourself?

Behold, that which you hear is as the voice of one crying in the wilderness—in the wilderness, because you cannot see him—my voice, because my voice is Spirit; my Spirit is truth; truth abideth and hath no end; and if it be in you it shall abound. And if your eye be single to my glory, your whole bodies shall be filled with light, and there shall be no darkness in you; and that body which is filled with light comprehendeth all things. (D&C 88:66-67)
If you have sufficient light, you can comprehend the truth of all things, including God. If you don’t, you can and will be deceived, and led away to destruction by false traditions and pretenders. Whether by HeartSell or Arts of Hell, it is the same.

If you watch the LDS General Conference, you’ll hear stories and analogies, poetry and prose, philosophy and platitudes. Snippets of scripture will be mingled in but not expounded, and it will all be done in accordance with long-standing traditions, right down to the monotone cadence. When it’s over, you should ask yourself if you’ve become more godly in your understanding, more fortified in knowledge of the gospel, more convinced of your sins, and more determined to see the face of Christ. Don’t bother asking yourself how you feel. Ask what you know.

And that wicked one cometh and taketh away light and truth, through disobedience, from the children of men, and because of the tradition of their fathers.

—D&C 93:39


  1. You nailed it! As I tell my children the Spirit of the Lord is NOT all warm fuzzies but can be the exact opposite especially if there is unbelief and false traditions that need to be corrected.

  2. Interesting you should mention the talk by Hartman Rector jr... Because that was one my husband and I took note of and were angry at how it was dismissed at the time. For years I have festered at each conference because of the lack of Christ and the false teachings which told us we couldn't be perfected in Christ in this life time. Moroni 10 was totally ignored. "I can't be perfect" became the knew doctrine of the church. Anyway... it is so nice to hear truth these days from real servants of the Lord. Thanks Adrian for feeding and warning the sheep.

  3. So what is it in some conference talks that might cause you to want to recommit to being a better disciple of Christ? I think you bring up great points, but is it all a waste?

  4. Milo, I think we can find good and embrace it in many arenas. The thirteenth article of faith tells us that "If there is anything virtuous, lovely, or of good report or praiseworthy, we seek after these things."

  5. It's interesting - and depressing - looking through the #ldsconf hashtag on twitter. Lots and lots and lots of memes and "inspirational quotes" superimposed over pretty pictures, but nothing of substance. The glorious Gospel of Jesus Christ - the supreme power and beauty of the universe - has been reduced to feel-good sentimentalism.

  6. I liked Hartman Rector. But he taught a Nehorian idea in that Oct 1990 talk:

    "The Holy Ghost is received by the laying on of hands of an elder of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints at the same time we are received into the Church and become “born again”—sons and daughters of Jesus Christ."

    We don't automatically receive the Holy Ghost then and neither do we automatically become "born again" and neither do we become automatically sons or daughters of Christ.

    This automatic punch-your-ticket-into-heaven precept was taught by Nehor and has got to be the most frequent false doctrine taught so casually in the church today at all levels. It permeates the Church.

    A quick story...

    Back in 1992, or it may have been 1990, I used to go to the same ward with one of the sons of Hartman Rector Jr. I remember one thing very clearly that he told me. He said he learned from his father that the brethren are ALL fallible men and he warned me against putting them up on a pedestal because they are fallible like everyone else.

    His warning wasn't enough to break the spell of the mind conditioning I was under.

    I credit Denver Snuffer in late 2015 when I heard him for the first time for breaking me free from the idolatry I had been ensnared in.

    I only wish I had lived the last 25 years trusting in Christ instead of the arm of flesh (the Brethren).

    What a shame to have squandered two and a half decades of spiritual growth because I focused on learning from men instead of God.

    1. And now, the followers of Denver Snuffer are engaging in idolatry with him. What a difference!

  7. I read this post and then read through LDS conference summaries. First conference in a long time that I haven't watched. My eyes were opened!! Watering down, dumbing down, talking down to. I could be wrong but I saw programming agenda. Certain words placed in the same sentence that could send a subconscious message. It feels like I can read through the lines. I see little to no call to repentence. Oh except that you should read your scriptures even as little as 10 minutes a day. If the leadership truly feasted on the scriptures, that hunger would trickle down through the church. When I'm feasting on the scriptures, I wouldn't be able to insert only one or two scripture references in a talk. My whole talk would be about the amazing truths and connections I found in the scriptures. Because when I am truly studying the scriptures, my thoughts float around those meaty truths. The less important things become just that, less important things. I hope this isn't coming across as too negative. I'm just surprised at my view with open eyes.

    1. Matt Lohrke-

      You're going to judge the conference on twitter feeds?

      The conference was FULL of the Gospel of Jesus Christ!

    2. I was commenting on the way people react to conference on Twitter.

  8. Elder Bednar actually gave a great talk today. We can still be grateful and optimistic towards the small light they still share.

    1. It was "great" but only "small light"?

    2. His talk was great, but "they" as I said before, collectively have small light.

  9. Once I found out about HeartSell and SEATSResponce, I found it to often be a distraction and to diminish the effectiveness even of those messages that do contain edifying truth. My latest encounter, was with a Pro-Russian propadanda website ( that while being obviously pro-Russian, still had a lot more truth in it than the MSM propaganda of our western Gadianton war-mongers, but which still was using "HeartSell" techniques to try to enhance emotional response.

  10. My husband and I came away with an effect that would suggest subliminals. With all the other tools they used to get people to follow them, why not?

    It was interesting as we both separately struggled with 'the effect' all through the week end and into the week and finally spoke of it to each other last night.

    As we prayed about it together, the cloud lifted and again we felt free. I don't know any other explanation for our identical experiences except subliminal messaging.

    I am not saying they do... because I have only anecdotal evidence... but it really made me worry about the members.

  11. This comment has been removed by the author.

  12. I came to your website to read something uplifting and enlightening and all i found was a pounding of the lds faith.
    I think you could be much more effective if you spent time and effort teaching about christ period and building a relationship with him..forget wasting your time discounting something you no longer believe in..
    Move on and leave it alone...its old and exhausting listening to your rantng about the wrongs of a religion...we are all on our journey to christ and home of your followers said, we will all return home, our path may be diffrent but, we'll all get there.
    You have great influence, use it for good and positivity, drop the negativity...contention and fault finding is of the devil...there is no perfect person or instituion here on vehicle to return home may be different than yours, but I'm striving for understanding and enlightment, which is my job alone...not your job to save me, jesus has already done that..

    1. Truth is not welcome in this world. In this post, I teach important truths about how to receive communication from God. I contrast them with untruths that are commonly accepted and taught. I do so in an attempt to help those who are deceived recognize and overcome the deception. They cannot do so unless truth is taught.

      Teaching the truth about the LDS church is a necessary step to help some few recognize their predicament and awake and arise. Pointing out the faults in what is taught is most decidedly NOT of the devil; Christ did it quite vehemently in his day.

      Let's re-imagine your comment as if it were directed against the Lord in his day. "I came to the temple to hear something uplifting and enlightening, and all I found was a pounding of the Jewish faith!...forget wasting your time discounting something you no longer believe in...Move on and leave it's old and exhausting listening to your ranting about the wrongs of religion, Jesus. Drop the negativity and contention!"

      Teaching truth necessarily condemns falsehood. If you believe in a Jesus who would never do such a thing, and that you are already saved by such a being, then I suggest you rethink your position.


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