What It’s Like to Know Spiritual Stuff

How can anyone know spiritual information? How can anyone really say they know there is a God? Haven’t we been told from the time we learned about the five senses in 3rd grade that if you can’t see, hear, touch, taste, or smell something it can’t be known? Yet, I bet you know people who claim such knowledge. I’m sure you know someone who is convinced God is real and that Jesus Christ lives. If you know a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormons) then you probably know someone who says all those things and adds that they know the Book of Mormon is true. I am one of those people. I would like to tell you how I can say that I know God is real, that Jesus Christ lives, and that the Book of Mormon really is Holy Scripture that testifies of those things. My knowledge comes from outside the basic five senses. I know because of another sense: the sense of the Holy Ghost.

Reality of non-physical things
The five senses aren’t the only gauges of reality in life. Think about the way we experience profound events in our lives. If you are a mother or father, think for a moment about the birth of your own child. Did you experience something wonderful as you held your newborn infant in your arms for the first time? Were you filled with an indescribable sense of awe and love that began somewhere deep inside your soul and pressed out through your entire frame in an unexpected emotional rush? Wasn’t the feeling so large that you almost couldn’t contain it? Did the feelings spill out of you in the form of tears, soft whispers, or adoring facial expressions because no words could ever be adequate? This was a feeling you will never forget. This was real. For the first time in your life, you felt a love that you had never known to exist before that moment. It is something you experienced. It is something you know. And no one can ever tell you that you only believe you love your child. No one can ever tell you that you only believed your life would never be the same, because this precious tiny being was suddenly your entire reason for living. For you, this is knowledge.

Learning to identify feelings
Spiritual knowledge has come to me in a similar way. It is something I feel. I feel it in the core of my soul. Because of the real, tangible, emotions I have felt, I would have to say I know some spiritual stuff. My earliest memory of feeling the Holy Ghost was when I was a young girl. I still remember the feeling that came over me while I was singing a beautiful hymn in church one day. As I sang words about the amazing love Jesus has for me, a powerful wave of love swept over my entire body. I have never forgotten how I felt that day. It was as if my Savior had told me how much he loved me. Me, personally. That feeling was real. To this day, I know Jesus loves me.

Over the years, I have identified a unique feeling associated to hearing, reading, or learning spiritual things that are true. It is very similar to the one I felt when I was singing that hymn. At some point, I began to recognize that those feelings were how the Holy Ghost taught me truth. I think the first time I became cognizant of this was when my mother and I had a discussion with a pastor from another church. He claimed that he had once been Mormon and wanted to set us straight about what we really believed. My mother, who was a convert to the church, had been raised in the same religion this pastor represented. At one point in the conversation, my mother explained to the pastor why she had been converted to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. With honest sincerity, she explained to him that whenever she read anything that Joseph Smith had written, she was filled with love. She also said that everything she read that was written against him was loaded with so much hate that you could literally feel it frothing off the pages. She bore her testimony that because of this experience, she knew that the Book of Mormon was true. While my mother shared these words from the depth of her heart, an energy permeated the room and I literally felt the truth of her words.

Then the pastor spoke one small sentence. With a dismissive tone he remarked, “I’ve heard Muslims and Buddhists share similar testimonies.” Those few words forced a dramatic change in the atmosphere. The warm, genuine feelings of love that emanated from my mother’s words were supplanted with cold, stark, nothing. The dichotomy of the sensations I experienced that day made a lasting impression on me. I had witnessed for myself what it felt like to have the Spirit testify of truth, and the emptiness of its silence when there was no truth to be testified of.

What the scriptures teach about spiritual knowledge
There are scriptures from both the Bible and the Book of Mormon that validate the method the Holy Ghost uses to teach us of spiritual things. Luke 1: 41-42 describes how Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Ghost before she testified that her cousin, Mary, was the mother of Christ. From her words, you can see that Elizabeth knew it. She knew it because she had felt it by the power of the Holy Ghost.

When Christ’s disciples were despondent after he had been crucified, they didn’t recognize the stranger who taught them from scripture the meaning of all the things they were experiencing. It wasn’t until Jesus opened their eyes, revealed himself to them, and disappeared that they realized the stranger was none other than their Savior. It was only after he left that they realized what they had been feeling. They said “Did not our heart burn within us, while he talked with us by the way, and while he opened to us the scriptures?” (Luke 24:32) They had felt the truth in what Jesus had taught them. The Holy Ghost had helped them feel the presence of the Savior, even when their eyes couldn’t see him for who he was. Then, as they reflected on the experience, they could understand what their feelings meant.

Moroni, in the Book of Mormon, promises that “by the power of the Holy Ghost ye may know the truth of all things.” (Moroni 10:5) How can you experience this power except by what you feel? One of the reasons I believe the Book of Mormon is the word of God is because I have honestly felt the power that I am speaking of. Those feelings are real. These scriptural examples of people being taught truth from the Holy Ghost in the Bible and the Book of Mormon make sense to me, because I have experienced it.

“So What?” you ask…
I have spent a lot of words to tell you what I know and I realize that doesn’t do you any good, because unless you experience it for yourself, it is not something you know. But that’s where the best part is! Since spiritual knowledge is something that has to be gained individually, each person has the opportunity to develop a personal relationship with Jesus Christ through the power of the Holy Ghost. You can learn what his love for you feels like. I invite you to take the time to search for your own knowledge of spiritual things. Pay attention to what you experience. When you receive thoughts, feelings, and inspiration that are meant just for you and your unique circumstances, things no one else could ever possibly know you need, then you will know that God is real. You will know he loves you! And no one will be able to tell you otherwise!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Religion vs. science

I want to speak to you from the heart for a minute about the age-old “religion vs. science” debate. It seems pretty bold to tackle such a big topic with a single blog post, but… well, here we go.

The great debate
As a believer, I feel like I’m constantly on trial when I interact with the more science-based crowd. I hear questions like “the Bible says the earth is only a few thousand years old, but science knows its millions of years old” or “There is no scientific record of a global flood, especially not in recent history” or “if Adam and Eve were the first man & woman, why do we have fossil records going back millions of years?” A lot of people seem to assume that as a believer I probably don’t ever ask myself these questions, but I do. The difference for me, however, is that I’ve also had some very real, powerful experiences with religion from which I have gained an immense amount of knowledge, so I’ve come to appreciate what spirituality can add to the search for truth.

To me, that’s what it’s really all about — the pursuit of truth. I love truth. I love what knowing truth does for us. The more we know, the more we can live according to that knowledge, which brings us happiness, peace and impact. Science and religion are both deeply concerned with truth, so I love them too.

True religion and true science will never be at odds
I believe strongly that, as Henry Eyring stated, “there can never be any genuine contradictions between true science and true religion.” Both efforts are centered around the pursuit of truth — religion is just a top down “here’s what God has revealed, let’s see how that explains what we’re seeing” approach versus science which is a bottom up “here are the facts as we know them, what conclusions can we draw from them?” approach. The problem, of course, is that we live in a world of bad religion and bad science.

The effects of bad religion are obvious. Countless wars have been waged in the name of God. Individuals, communities and nations have done (and continue to do) terrible things to each other under the belief that they are serving God. Lives have been lost because believers wouldn’t accept blood transfusions or take medicine because they believed that in so doing they would offend God. With religion, people act on faith, and bad things happen when our faith is misplaced.

The effects of bad science are a little less obvious, but still very real. Before columbus sailed, common knowledge held that the earth was flat. In early America, it was common practice to attach leaches to sick people to remove their poisonous blood. In today’s age, science is constantly discovering new drugs like Phen/Fen that are touted as miracle substances but turn out to have horrible side effects. When we act according to bad science, we’re in no better position than those who act according to bad religion.

Religion isn’t provable, but neither is science
Proponents of a “science only” approach often use the argument that science is repeatable and provable where faith isn’t. That seems logical at first glance, but in my experience, science is no more provable than religion. It’s not uncommon at all for a “conclusive” study to turn out to be flawed (in fact, 1 in 20 are, statistically speaking). It’s also not uncommon for a study to find its way into a peer review journal not based on merit but because of politics and “good ole boy’s club” dynamics. In science, just like in religion, you have to decide who and what you’re going to believe. Science is the new religion and that “scientists” are the new oracles, and there’s an entire generation of believers who are casting aside their traditional religions to embrace a new one.

My conclusion
I believe that God is only God because he’s the smartest, most powerful being in the universe, and that he acts in complete and perfect understanding of the physical world. I reject the idea that you have to choose whether to believe in faith or to believe in science — I have found both to be deeply valuable to me. I believe that as a society we’ll be better off with science, better off with religion, and BEST off when we use both of them together.