Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Mistakes I made by following what I thought was the "Spirit"

(Originally posted Nov. 18, 2006)

During my mission, I and some of my fellow missionaries felt strongly by the Spirit and as full of confidence and faith as I have ever been that the Lord desired to heal a recent convert of mine of her endometriosis. I knew that she also desired this blessing and had faith that the Lord could do it through us. We all fasted and prayed, and when time came for the blessing came, I felt strongly impressed to cast the illness away and declare her to be healed. We gave it some time, but it did not happen. I performed mental gymnastics trying to account for this experience. We were worthy, authorized priesthood holders, who had fasted and prayed, and had unshakable faith in our Redeemer. At the time I gave the blessing, I was absolutely positive that it was the will of the Lord to heal her, right then, but maybe I had read the Spirit wrong. But, if that were the case I no longer knew when I was reading it right or not. I eventually suspected that my convert lacked sufficient faith and suggested that as a possibility to her, which deeply hurt her feelings for she felt that she did have unwavering faith. That is one of those things I wish that I could take back. I was a young, inexperienced missionary. I have been rather embarrassed about the experience ever since and have not shared it with many others.

Another experience came when I was dating a young woman at the Y. It was during a time when I felt particularly close to the Lord. A couple of months into the relationship, I was praying in the Maser Building, not about our relationship, but I felt powerfully impressed that she and I would get married - not that we should get married, but that it would happen. I wisely, did not tell her about that revelation because I knew that I had no authority to receive revelation for her, she would have to receive her own.

Now, I had had a few other experiences growing up in which I felt by the "Spirit" that something would happen, even improbable things, and they did end up happening. For example, after my mom died, my dad and I went out to Utah (from Georgia) to visit a now single, old girlfriend of his and I got the spiritual impression that she would offer for me to come there to live with her, even though her relationship with my dad was uncertain and he would continue to live in Georgia, and a couple of weeks later she did. Through that and other experiences I had learned to trust those personal prophecies (or so I thought).

Well, after my girlfriend and I had been dating for a year, I graduated and was getting ready for grad school in another state, my girlfriend had not decided whether she would marry me or not, so we kind of had a long distance relationship. She grew more distant from me, and it was very painful. I did eventually tell her about the impression I got. We were well past the point of which I should have given up on her, and moved on, and start recovering from her, but I felt compelled to hang in there so that my revelation could be fulfilled. I second guessed my revelation many times and wondered if it had just been my desires and not the "Spirit," but I felt sure it had been the Spirit. My girlfriend would not break up with me and say it was over even when I encouraged her to if that was how she felt. So for many months, I tortured myself holding on to a dead relationship because the "Spirit" told me to. Eventually, I realized that it was not going to happen, so I officially ended our relationship. I struggled for a while to figure out why the revelation had not come true.

Over the course of my life, I have had both good and bad results from following the "Spirit" - some experiences were quite remarkable. But, there were times when I would have exercised better judgment and saved myself and others a lot of pain if I had not followed the "Spirit". Discovering that the BoA was not scripture is what convinced me that there was no such thing as the "Spirit". The experience is real, but it does not come from a member of the godhead. God cannot lie, yet the "Spirit" told me and countless others that the BoA was from God. The evidence conclusively rules out that possibility. Either every Mormon who has a testimony of the BoA has no clue how to recognize the "Spirit," or that feeling originates in us and is as prone to being wrong as everything else we think and feel.

After taking a new look at all of my spiritual experiences and the experiences of others with which I am familiar, I concluded that the "Spirit" is just a feeling we get that it natural in origins and is not a reliable source of truth or a tool of communication with any greater power. I wish I had realized that when I blessed my convert or hung on to a dead relationship.

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