RE: Spiritual Watering Holes Part 1. Rational Faiths.

I was listening to a Rational Faiths podcast about spiritual watering holes, and one guest said she relates the last two lines of a poem by Emily Dickinson (full quote at end):

narcotics cannot still the tooth
that nibbles at the soul –


Once something is learned, it cannot be unlearned. Like grooves on a record, information is permanent. More information can be added to correct, to clarify, or to add information, but the original information will always be there. In the Faith Crisis Era, it seems like certain bits of Mormon history that get grooved into our records have a lot of sway over all the previous grooves. Whatever the issue, those experiencing a faith crisis feel that nibbling in their soul by the tooth of new information.

When reaching out to their TBM friends, the only help given in to “read scriptures, pray, fast, attend the temple.” As it is often the case, those experiencing a faith crisis are already doing those to an extent. This information is not new. However, Emily Dickinson exposes the reason WHY those activities have lost their efficacy: narcotics can’t silence the itch of the soul.

“Religion is the opium of the masses [or people, depending on your German]” said Karl Marx. Could it be that the daily to-do list is our daily dose of opium? But if so, how could a faith crisis make us immune to the effects of our daily opium intake? Does the new information learned during a faith crisis make one immune to it or do we inhibit our ability to feel the effects because of one’s loss of faith?

Whatever the reason, I feel that nibbling, and/but the opium isn’t cutting it anymore.

This World Is Not Conclusion

by Emily Dickinson

this world is not conclusion
a species stands beyond –
invisible, as music –
but positive as sound –

it beckons, and it baffles
philosophy – don’t know –
and through a riddle, at the last –
sagacity must go –

to guess it, puzzles scholars –
to gain it, men have borne
contempt of generations
and crucifixion, shown –

faith slips – and laughs, and rallies –
blushes, if any see –
plucks at a twig of evidence –
and asks a vane, the way –

much gesture, from the pulpit –
strong hallelujahs roll –
narcotics cannot still the tooth
that nibbles at the soul –



Sifting: Reason and Revelation

Revelation: It’s so vague it’s hard to say if I’ve experienced it. I can’t think of a single instance in receiving “a still, small voice” in reply to a question. I can think of a couple of journal entries during my mission where I had abnormal experiences. I’d argue then it was revelation, but now I’m not so sure. That’s what makes this topic difficult for me. Was my dabbling in receiving spiritual information an illusion created by the need to bridge my spiritual dissonance, or did I really experience what I said I experienced?

A friend of mine sent me a BYU-H devotional featuring Kerry Muhlestein, Associate Professor of Ancient Scripture, that had some interesting points:

We must sift our learning through the gospel rather than sift the gospel through our learning…Those who deride revelation do so because they have not had experience with it, and thus, it makes no sense to them. As Paul taught, “The natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned” (1 Corinthians 2:14). However, we cannot let the world’s views on the validity of our revelatory experiences cause us to abandon that most reliable way of learning and knowing. As Paul goes on to say, “But he that is spiritual judgeth all things, yet he himself is judged of no man” (1 Corinthians 2:15).

Sometimes I feel like because I have embraced my ‘natural man’ I have lost my ability to discern spiritual things, and now it has become foolishness to me. I feel like I am being cautioned against the very feeling I am having.

The devotional goes on to point out the validity of the source of where we put our trust: man or God:

Work hard to discern between man’s ideas and God’s. Trust in what you learn through revelation. If something you learn from the world seems to contradict what you have learned through revelation, carefully question all your assumptions, but never forget the validity of what God has taught you through revelation. Remember that “unto you it is given to know the mysteries of the kingdom, but unto the world it is not given to know them” (D&C 42:65).

This is fantastic, but I don’t feel like I am privy to revelation. Whether it’s my natural man or my naturally skeptic POV, it just doesn’t come. So as powerful as this statement is, what is its worth if it is out of my reach? Upon what source of truth do I depend? Others who receive it for me? If you’ve ever sat through a testimony meeting (nice YouTube parody), I trust someone else’s revelations as much as I trust a used car salesman.

But the invitation is still appealing. It’s a call for reason and revelation.

Go out and do everything you can to learn about them using every kind of ability you have, but when you do so, remember the limitations of your own mind and the limitations of the academic process, and contrast that with the trustworthy and unvarying nature of that God who speaks to you through the Holy Ghost. Because He does not vary, you can always trust what He tells you.

I like the content, but the phrasing, “limitations of your own mind” jumps out at me. I again refer to a typical testimony meeting. “Trustworthy” and “Unvarying” are not present when listening to a few Mormon whacks tell about how the received revelation to do something like call a friend who was depressed or how they felt the Holy Ghost so much during nursery. If I can’t trust everyone else’s interpretation of the Holy Ghost, how am I to trust mine? If I learn to trust mine, how can I minimize the promptings of others. It’l a lose-lose. UNLESS I acknowledge the all the crazies and their wacky revelations. I am too skeptical to accept that.

It boils down to “trust in your feelings as long as they correlate with what we’ve said is OK.”

How do you get revelation?