Led Out by the Spirit?

An interesting question was raised on a mailing list I was on. Can one be led out of the Church by the spirit?

Understandably that is a controversial question. After all, some see a danger that if the spirit might lead people out of the Church, how can we count on the spirit to direct us in a sure way? Isn’t the point of our view of the gospel that the church is true for everyone?

I think (and many on the list agreed) that we ought distinguish between the Church being true and what individuals need do at a certain point in their life. That is, we ought distinguish between what is right for a person now and what they must do in the long run. Eventually everyone must repent and be baptized by the proper authority, if they want to return to their Father. At this time, that authority is only found in the Church. But that doesn’t mean everyone is ready right now to do that.

Here’s how I thought about the issue in a fashion that perhaps renders it less controversial.

I think the best answer to whether the spirit would lead someone out of the church can be seen in our doctrine of excommunication. There the Stake President and High Council hopefully under the direction of the spirit frequently lead people out of the church. Some people are not ready for the responsibility the covenants of the gospel have. It is better for them to not be subject to them until they are ready.

Given that the spirit can through a Stake President (or Bishop) lead someone out of the church, I suspect He can in other ways as well.

Thoughts?

65 thoughts on “Led Out by the Spirit?

  1. Upon reflection: no, I don’t think so.

    Outside of the excommunication issue mentioned, there isn’t any kind of personal progression or spiritual growth that you could obtain outside of the Church, that you couldn’t also obtain inside–being a worthy and active member the whole time. Even if person X more fully understands the benefits and blessings of full Church membership and activity after being ‘away’ for a while, there’s many ways to obtain that same testimony from within Church activity–separation is never necessary for spiritual growth, although occassionally it does act as a catalyst.

    This is a somewhat dangerous philosophy, in my view: akin to the not-quite-uncommon view that ‘I need to sin more in order to more fully understand the blessings and power of the Atonement in my life…’

  2. In addition (tangent alert), I would view a married couple separating for a period of time in the same way. Couples may say a temporary separation helped them realize the value of staying together. I say, in the same vein, that any marriage problem the separation helped them overcome could have been overcome without the separation…

  3. I don’t think that people are excommunicated because they weren’t ready for the covenants they made, but because they willfully violate them. According to James, no temptation comes from God. According to Moroni, God will never tell you to do wrong. So I say, “No.”

  4. Clark,

    You’ve probably thought of this already, but those that are excommunicated are lead out of the church because of transgression. Some may argue foul play in certain cases, but I’m confident that, by and large, those that meet out such judgement do so under inspiration. So, if we use excommunication as a model for how one might be lead out by the Spirit, then we run into the problem of whether or not the Spirit is grieved in such instances. Because if it is, then the Spirit ain’t there to lead. In otherwords, if someone is worthy enough to have the Spirit, then they must have some measure of the testimony of the Savior which, I think, would lead them to continue in the covenant of the gospel as found in the church. If they are not worthy of the Spirit because of transgression, then someone else who is worthy of the Spirit and endowed with proper authority must determine their status before God and His church. Or, am I not thinking outside the box enough? Or is there really a box to be ‘thunk’ outside of when dealing with questions of the Spirit vs. Church?

  5. I can concieve of a scenerio where a Mormon feels the spirit when choosing to attend a different faith only to return at a later date. I cannot concieve of someone being prompted by the spirit to attend a different church to fight against Mormonism.

  6. Do Mormons believe only Mormons can feel the Spirit? Perhaps some people are better able to feel the Spirit during Catholic mass or a Protestant service, rather than in a Mormon Sacrament Meeting. Thus, these people would feel more spiritually fulfilled as members of another religion.

  7. The answer is no, otherwise God would utterly have contradicted himself on numerous occasions, like Arturo said, Moroni makes this point very clear. Incidentally he mentions Excommunication in the same writing (see Moroni 6: 6-8 and ch. 7).

  8. Tess, no, you can feel the spirit in other churches, other places, and you don’t have to be a Mormon to feel the spirit. However, you do have to be an active and participating member to have the constant companionship of the Holy Ghost. If I only felt the spirit on Sundays I would definitely feel gypped! The best way to feel the spirit is to live the gospel, and to truly do that you’d have to attend the church, participate in priesthood/relief society/primary and magnify your calling.

  9. I think the answer is: yes, of course that could happen.

    Try this scenario:

    A person is born under the covenant. His parents go completely inactive and he never has any real connection with the church. Later in life as a young man he has no religious training whatsoever, but is invited to a Christian church by a friend. He feels the spirit there and begins to study the Bible. He is ready to commit to Christ by joining this new church and and the Lord encourages him to do so via the Spirit.

    That is an example of the Spirit leading someone out of the church isn’t it? Even if the kid grew up in the church but was never converted to Christ, why wouldn’t the Lord go for the next best thing — membership in a church with a less truth? Would God want the person to have all truth or no truth? Of course not.

    This concept President Hinckley likes to repeat about “making bad men good and good men better” is an eternal principle I think. The church has the full truth (available currently) and is not for everyone… yet. God will use whatever tools he can to make people better — even if it is another church without as much truth as this one.

  10. Tess, I think the issue of where the spirit would lead someone and whether other churches have inspiration are quite different issues. I believe all churches have some inspiration. However I believe it would be best for people to join our church. That’s simply because we have the priesthood and the restored temple and other such blessings.

    I like Kevin’s analogy, although let me take it a different way than he did. Sometimes given who a person is at a given time, a couple ought to break up. That might make it easier for them later. In a perfect world where we didn’t have instincts, habits, misconceptions and all the other characteristics of being a person here and now, we could simply choose something independent of any other considerations. But we aren’t. To stick with the couple analogy, they might have to break up so that say the guy can truly know that he ought be married. If they didn’t, being the fallen person he was, he might doubt it the rest of the relationship, thereby undermining the strength of the relationship. God thus might tell someone to break up, knowing that it is right for them to marry at a future time.

    I think the same is true in the gospel.

    Consider an extreme situation. Someone was sexually abused as a kid. Because of that psychological trauma they become very sexually promiscuous and have all sorts of emotional and sexual problems. Now they are Mormon but obviously will not, because of the trauma, be likely to live the law of chastity. This leads them to have all sorts of issues with the church and so forth.

    Now according to Kevin’s initial point, they always could choose not to be like this. And I fully agree. It is possible. But, given their character, it is highly unlikely.

    Now let’s continue with the hypothetical.

    God, knowing their character, realizes that the best way to bring them around to repentance is to inspire them to go to a more “liberal” religion. They do this and for various reasons start to understand the gospel better in a way they simply weren’t able to at Church. Later, they are more at harmony with themselves, and come back to the Church, accepting the covenants.

    Would God be wrong to do this? Should he instead have only inspired them to go to church, knowing that this would simply lead them further away from him?

  11. Yes.

    First, perhaps the Lord knows that remaining in the church would create a testimony-destroying crisis for a person, far better to get them out, if briefly.

    For example, say that there’s a married person in the church who has an attraction to another ward member. The Lord sees that if they remain in proximity, they will eventually sin. This might lead to broken marriage, or pregnancy, or abortion, or whatever. And he knows that, for whatever reason, these two people are at a point in their life where they are weak and would give in to temptation.

    At that point, he allows one of them to waver in their church attendance for a while. Better to avert the crisis through some temporary inactivity, than to see it explode.

    Is this using sin to advance the Lord’s aim? Of course it is.

    Does He have a history of using sin to advance His aim? See, e.g., the Garden of Eden . . .

  12. In addition, there may be better resource fits.

    For example, imagine a family living in a city with a very minimal LDS presence. There is a tiny branch, no member support, sporadic missionary support. And they’ve got a big problem — let’s say the husband is an alcoholic, they’ve got attendant financial problems, and so forth.

    One day, they decide to join a church. Either the LDS church, or the pentecostal church down the road. And they pray to ask God which one they should join.

    They’re a high-risk, high-maintenance family, needing constant support from fellow church members to get out of their current crisis. The local LDS church can’t really offer much support. The local pentecostals have a strong network of people to visit and keep the husband out of his alcohol problem.

    They pray. Which church does God tell them to go to? I wouldn’t be surprised at all if it’s the pentecostals.

  13. I think Kaimi hit the nail on the head with my views. The church can take you places no other organization can. From this, though it does not follow that some destinations aren’t more easily attainable through other means. if one truly wants to limit themselves (in an eternal sense), perhpas other venues may be more efficient.

    Of course I also wonder if there won’t always be a nagging feeling about the church. Perhaps it really does take a lot to turn against it. Perhaps this is why some people become so vehemently opposed to it. To go another path does take a lot of effort. The natural consequence of this extra effort seems to be well expressed on internet ex-mo support groups.

  14. Here are two real-life occurrences.

    1) Roger Keller was born into the Church, left it, and became a Protestant preacher. He later reconverted to the Church. He’s a powerful speaker and teacher. He has said that he felt the Spirit directing him to become a preacher and later directing him to reconvert to the Church. I believe him. I also believe that without his experiences outside the Church, he would lack that depth and power.

    2) I know of one person directly told by President Benson NOT to get baptized, though he had a testimony. This person can have a much much greater influence for good as a non-member, given his situation. Though not the Spirit per se, I assume that if the President of the Church can do this, why can’t the spirit?

    If we (think we) already know what the the Spirit will always say, then what use is it in directing us?

  15. Ben, I’d be really interested to hear more about the circumsances of the person in your situation number 2– whatever you can share. And please don’t tell me it’s Jim McMahon.

  16. Ben, that’s a rather good point. Who are we to tell the spirit what to say?

  17. He’s not American and not Christian. He has political and religious connections in the country he lives in, and if he converted, his influence would be severely weakened. Also, when I say influence, I don’t mean influence on behalf of the Church, though that’s a part of it. I don’t know the whole story, but what I’ve related is accurate.

  18. Kaimi: Does He have a history of using sin to advance His aim? See, e.g., the Garden of Eden…

    Actually, no. The partaking of the fruit in the garden transgressed a law, but it was not a sin (cf. Article of Faith #2 and the carefully chosen word transgression). Before Adam and Eve partook of the fruit, there was (by hypothesis) no knowledge of good and evil, and therefore no accountability, and therefore no sin.

    At any rate, God doesn’t make choose between the lesser of two evils, because he does not tolerate the least amount of uncleanliness. Nor will God make someone inactive so that they won’t commit adultery. The ways to avoid temptation are myriad. Fasting and prayer won’t lead the spirit to prompt you to stop attending church. It may, however, give you the strength to avoid temptation.

  19. “At this time, that authority (baptism for salvation)is only found in the Church.”

    How many billions (apparently unsaved) on the planet? How many Mormons?

    With an activity rate in the 25-35% range (per Cumorah.com), more people have been led out of the church than remain in.

  20. Ben Spackman: If we (think we) already know what the the Spirit will always say, then what use is it in directing us?

    Surely this is a straw man. There are a number of things that we can be absolutely certain the spirit won’t tell us; for example, the spirit will not tell you to threaten to blow up Howard W. Hunter in order to ensure that you’re the next prophet. It’s always easier to say what isn’t the case than what is, and nobody here is pretending to know the Spirit’s every move. Nor is anyone trying to constrain His actions.

  21. Can the Spirit tell us to kill someone? Can the Spirit tell us to lie, cheat, or steal? Can the Spirit tell us to have sex with someone other than our spouse? Well, according to the scriptures, yes, the Spirit can tell us to do any ‘ol thing–except, of course, leave the church. I haven’t been able to find that one in the scriptures.

  22. Yes, Jack, but unless you’re of the stature of Nephi or Abraham, you’ll do best to ignore promptings to lie, steal, and kill. I don’t think “constrained by the spirit” works well as a defense in a church court.

  23. Diana, why do you think it is the spirit leading people out? While I think the spirit can do this, I think it is likely rather rare that he does. I suspect most people leave the church simply for social reasons.

  24. Arturo,

    If the Spirit is what directs Church courts, then why can’t “constrained by the sprit” be a good defense in a church court and it be understood.
    Somewhere along the line, though, I think we have lost a marble or two. When someone feels motivated to leave the Church, where do you think that impulse comes from? We can make all the arguments about it being a stepping stone to coming back into the Church but we negate some fundamental principles.
    1)Were Alma’s and the sons of Mosiah’s actions motivated by the spirit so that they could come back and do a great missionary work. If so, would that establish a pattern whereby we could call General Authorities, or others?
    2)When we know that the Lord will extend every effort to save one of His children, why would He compound the problem by taking them out of the Church instead of leading someone to them to help them?
    3)What ever happened to agency, where someone just chooses to leave because it makes them feel good, perhaps because someone at Church made them feel bad? Could they interpret the emotion they feel as being directed by the Spirit simply because it feels good?
    The purpose of the Holy Ghost, once one is a member, is totally different than his role before one becomes a member. We deny the efficacy of his power and influence if we entertain the idea that he can lead us away from the Church, only to lead us back at some future date. If we walk away from the Church, we do so under some other influence, but not that of the Spirit. The covenants of baptism etc. are too powerful eternally to ever invite someone to leave except through excommunication because of serious transgression, and that accompanied by a plea for repentance and return.

  25. Larry: If the Spirit is what directs Church courts, then why can’t “constrained by the sprit” be a good defense in a church court and it be understood.

    Because each of us has a stewardship within which to receive inspiration and exercise authority. The Spirit will not constrain us to do things that are outside the bounds of this stewardship.

    Larry: 1) Were Alma’s and the sons of Mosiah’s actions motivated by the spirit so that they could come back and do a great missionary work.

    They went about trying to destroy the church of God and other such wickedness. Moroni is quite clear that God will never tell anyone to do wickedness.

    Larry: 2) When we know that the Lord will extend every effort to save one of His children, why would He compound the problem by taking them out of the Church instead of leading someone to them to help them?

    God will not expend every effort to save one of His children. That was what the war in heaven was about. Even so, your point the different avenues of support is a good one.

    Larry: We deny the efficacy of his power and influence if we entertain the idea that he can lead us away from the Church, only to lead us back at some future date. If we walk away from the Church, we do so under some other influence, but not that of the Spirit.

    I agree completely.

  26. Arturo,

    My intent was not to justify the possibility of being commanded to leave the church, but rather to point out (tongue in cheek) the fact that I can’t find any evidence to support it from the scriptures–regardless of how goofy some of the other examples may be. It just ain’t there.

    Also, RE. Larry’s point no. 1; I think he’s saying we should NOT assume that because Alma was a renegade previous to his conversion that, forsooth, it was God’s will that he move in circles outside of the church in order to gain the experience he needed to become a preacher of righteousness.

  27. Another example for consideration (“close to home” for me):

    10 years ago I was in a marriage where my wife had reached the point where she was just “going through the motions” in her church activities. She was serving as Primary President at the time, teaching the children every week to say their prayers, while not even saying her own personal prayers at home. I could seldom get her to arrange her schedule for family scripture study and eventually family night also went by the wayside. Next, our prayers together as a couple became routine and meaningless, became less frequent, and then altogether ceased.

    I was quite unhappy at this point – this was not the Celestial marriage we had both intended to create when we were sealed in the temple 15 years earlier. I had a general sense that my wife’s testimony would never grow any stronger than it was just before the “symptoms” began to appear; however, I didn’t want to admit this to myself and continued to be optimistic that things could change. Although I was unhappy, I never considered divorce as an option.

    Eventually my spouse became involved in a moral transgression with one of her college professors. She asked to be released from her church calling (has not been active since), and then she filed for divorce.

    When we went for professional counseling as a “final attempt”, our counselor asked if I could reduce my activity in the church to save the marriage. I said that I couldn’t do so with integrity. He asked my spouse the same question, if she could still do SOME church in order to save the marriage. She also replied “no”. The counselor (who was active LDS) then said, “Well, then all I can do is to help you get divorced”.

    One of the questions I struggled with for a long time was whether the Lord allowed my spouse to fall into transgression so that I might be freed from a marriage that would never become “Celestial”, when I would never have chosen divorce for myself.

    I am now happily married to a woman who has the same spiritual drive that I do, and it makes a huge difference.

    In reading this thread, I couldn’t help but think that my ex-spouse may have been “led out of the Church” although, as in some of the other examples cited, it was by withdrawal of the Spirit’s influence rather than by a positive “pull” from the Spirit.

    -Brent

  28. What’s interesting about the question is that there’s no way to determine the answer: the content of a personal revelation is completely opaque and unverifiable from the outside, so we have no way to know whether someone who felt the Spirit guide them out of the church was acting in good faith. As Arturo mentioned above, the principle of stewardship limits the potential chaos of opaque, unverifiable personal revelation within the institution–but for a decision like one’s membership in the church, which is clearly under the jurisdiction of one’s personal stewardship, there’s no way to regulate or verify the content of personal revelation.

  29. Dunno, Rosylande.

    I think it’s possible to discern when an individual is under the influence of a lying spirit. I think it’s possible for a faithful parent to discern the spiritual influences that their children struggle with. I think it’s possible that Isaac discerned Abraham’s intent when he was placed on the alter.

    I say that these things are ‘possible’. However, generally I agree that personal revelation is nobody’s business except the individual who receives it. And conversly, the individual is not held responsible for not trusting in someone else’s revelation unless they can verify it personally.

  30. But Jack and Rosalynde – I may be missing something, but I guess I don’t understand why the Spirit would ever lead anyone out of the Church. If someone were truly *feeling* the Spirit, why in the world would the Spirit tell them to leave the Church?

    So far, the only explanation is to avoid sin or to allow sin. Well, then by definition, these people probably aren’t feeling the Spirit because they are intent on sinning.

    I understand that there are many different ways to feel the Spirit, and that we can feel the Spirit while worshipping in non-Mormon churches, but I really don’t understand how we can believe that, once IN the Mormon church, the Spirit would ever lead someone OUT of the Church.

    I don’t understand this because we believe the Mormon Church is the only True Church. We also believe that the Spirit witnesses Truth to us. So, how can we say that the Spirit would tell someone that the Mormon Church is not True and prompt this person to leave?

  31. So far, the only explanation is to avoid sin or to allow sin.

    I didn’t make it explicit in #15, but in the case of Roger Keller, I believe that he was led out in order to have experiences and gain knowledge unavailable to Church members, that would later serve the Church when he came back to it.

  32. Brent wrote,

    “One of the questions I struggled with for a long time was whether the Lord allowed my spouse to fall into transgression so that I might be freed from a marriage that would never become “Celestial”, when I would never have chosen divorce for myself.”

    There’s a lot I find problematic with this statement.

    First, your comment assumes that God could have done something other than “allow” your spouse to “fall into transgression,” but this is not the case. God always allows us to do what we will. It is not just that He has promised us our agency, but that we have it by virtue of our very existence (D&C 93). Your statement assumes that God could have stopped your wife’s sin but didn’t, which seems to be contrary to doctrine.

    Second, for the sake of argument, let’s assume that God could have prevented your wife’s transgression, but chose not to for your benefit (“so that you could be freed”) as you suggest. Such a belief implies that God doesn’t care about your wife’s salvation or well-being, that He wouldn’t have done all is his power to protect her and turn her from sin. It suggests that God would “use” your wife instrumentally, leading her into sin thereby sacrificing (or at least risking) your wife’s eternal life to facilitate something for you. You seem to suggest that what was at stake was a “Celestial marriage” for yourself, but since we don’t know what the future may have held for you and your former spouse all we can be sure of is that it resulted in a more comfortable mortal life for you (one in which you have a wife that shares your orthodoxy). The suggestion that God would lead someone into sin in the way you imply is not only heterodox in my view, it is morally reprehensible and thus manifestly un-Godlike.

    Lastly, I don’t know the particulars of your situation and certainly don’t condemn divorce in all cases, but I think it is disappointing that your counselor recommended divorce simply because of differing levels of church activity. If trust was impossible to restore after her infidelity, that seems understandable. But, divorcing because of the reason your counselor stated seems hard to justify if you really loved each other.

  33. Melissa, I’ve spent the last thirty minutes debating whether to make precisely the same points you made! No need to pile on Brent, but I share your perspective entirely.

  34. Yes. I met one individual who told me she was led by the Spirit away from the Church; and the Spirit, for whatever reason, seemed to confirm that fact to me. The circumstances were not unique, but certainly not common. So…yes.

  35. This thread is an interesting exercise. I’ve been asking myself from time to time if there are is any action that is always right or always wrong. No matter what. When dealing with individual lives and unusual scenarios, it seems one can usually discover an exceptional situation that requires a justified exception to the absolute. I say “usually” because I believe one should be moderate in most things.

    Ben S., I think I know who you are talking about. And yes A.T., of course it was Kruschev.

  36. Rosalynde and Melissa,
    If the comment in question had been written by *Brenda* rather than *Brent* and the situation exactly reversed would your reaction have been the same?
    Be honest.

  37. In answer to Julie K—Absolutley. There’s no question. I’ve said similar things in conversations with many LDS women.

    I think it is natural to want to try to make sense out of our life experiences by imposing intention and therefore meaning onto events. It is difficult to live with unanswered questions (why did this happen to me?) and so we attempt to impose some sort of order onto troubling events to account for them, to weave them into the larger narrative of our lives. This is a fairly universal tendency. But, I think it can lead us to false conclusions (like Brent’s) and even encourage self-deception (which is another conversation).

  38. Whenever I see the phrase “great minds think alike” I have a knee-jerk mental response saying “great minds do not think alike.” Though maybe writing this is the signal of staleness — yes, its time to fix that and come up with something else, anything else.

  39. Jack wrote: You’ve probably thought of this already, but those that are excommunicated are lead out of the church because of transgression.

    What about scholars who have been excommunuicated because of their academic stances? Does this count as trangression? I say a scholar believes the church is true, but also believes, let’s say, that Heavenly Mother should be worshipped and writes a book about it. She is excommunicated, but could the Spirit have the led the person out by urging them to be true to all their convictions?

  40. Clark asks:

    “Diana, why do you think it is the spirit leading people out? While I think the spirit can do this, I think it is likely rather rare that he does. I suspect most people leave the church simply for social reasons.”

    I think most people exit by coming to certain historical and doctrinal realizations that don’t square with the “one true church” concept.

  41. Danithew,

    Not sure what you meant by the last part of your comment, but I agree that often great minds diverge considerably.

    I was just playfully acknowleding Rosalynde.

  42. Katie,

    What about my very next sentence which reads: “Some may argue foul play in certain cases, but I’m confident that, by and large, those that meet out such judgement do so under inspiration.”?

    I do imply that there’s a possibilty that some may have been misjudged (though I believe that such would be rare in the extreme).

    As to your point, I doubt it. Chances are, if we are cut off from the church because of our “convictions” than we probably need to take a good look at our loyalties.

  43. I tend to agree with Jack. I think that many make a conflict between convictions and religion that simply need not be there.

  44. I remember at one time feeling so dark and harboring the belief that I would be better off not being a member of the Church due to my problems. This was due to servere obsessive compulsive disorder where I felt and often still do feel that I am a potential risk to others. One day when I was seriously contemplating having my name completely removed from the records of the Church, I heard I talk that I felt was meant just for me. To isolate myself from others as this makes me think I have less potential to harm, I would often sit in the chairs in the overflow even if there was a curtain drawn. That Sunday I remember sitting there and hearing a talk about a notable person in the early Church history who had the seeds of apostasy in his heart. This person made a decision to stay in the true Church. I do not think I have ever told a soul this. I was one of those people who went to Church every Sunday and could not contemplate why someone would choose to be less active and not enjoy the full blessings of the Gospel. This was before my problems. I could never comprehend someone staying away because they felt slighted. People struggling to read their scriptures was also beyond me although I do have a problem with my mind wandering. Now, I struggle to make it to Church and have gone many years without even making it to one service. This has been so completley humbling. I used to hate teaching people on my mission who I felt that I was pulling them along with a rope. Now progression seems almost beyond me. I made it to Church a few times last year. This year, I have yet to make it once. The talk that Sunday and my duty and obligation to my ancestors really are what I believe have kept me in the Church even if it is just in the periphery. I frequent these LDS sites so much that I almost feel active. :) I am stronger now in many ways, but yet not well. Perhaps, only death will free me from the nightmare that is my life. I do not want to come across as one that does not recognize the blessings in their life or the hand of God that has sustained them. Feel free to delete or edit these comments. I will definately not be posting anything under bkay again. I do have some hope. “Hang fast to hope” is one of my favorite mottos. Sorry if I shared more than was prudent. Thank you all for stimulating articles that give me something to ponder.

  45. I just wanted to add that my ancestors or family are not members of the Church. That is why I feel a duty to them because I would not want to face them if their work is not done. Also, they lived hard lives and many were very pius. If it were just me alone and I had nobody else to concern myself with, I would have probably just left. I am the only member in my immediate family. I do want to add that my Bishop has done a lot to help me past a lot of the guilt that I manufacture. I have felt far more hopeful in the past three years than I ever belived possible about ten years ago. I may even be on the brink of being well and being able to be active, which would allow me to get my temple reccomend back.

  46. I haven’t read all of the posts in this thread, but there are some disconcerting ideas being tossed around.

    First, all of these scenarios assume A LOT! Just because someone becomes inactive, to then again become active in the church, doesn’t mean that the spirit lead them into inactivity. The Lord is the master of making lemonade out of lemons. But to say that because he made the best of the current situation then he must have caused the situation in the first place is flawed reasoning.

    This discussion is opening a can of worms for sure, because if the spirit can lead someone out of the church, then what can’t the spirit tell me to do? “I’m sorry bishop, I’ve stopped paying my tithing because the spirit told me not to.”

  47. Melissa, don’t read too much into that comment I wrote. It wasn’t all that serious and definitely wasn’t critical. I was being sort of playful and random and making more of an aside than a real comment on anything.

  48. Aaron, I think the point is that the Lord may inspire people in terms of the best way given their nature and the nature of the Mormons they encounter to improve themselves. We can agree that the gospel would be best for them. However sometimes particular communities of Mormons might not. As I said, in the abstract we can say they ought choose to live in the covenant, but the fact is that as weak individuals that may be difficult.

    In the LDS-Phil discussion there were several practical examples. One was someone who was an alcoholic. The way people in his ward looked at him and (he felt) judged him kept him from overcoming it. As soon as he went to a different faith that didn’t really care about it and thus didn’t judge him he was able to overcome it. An other example would be the victim of sexual abuse by say a church leader. How would that individual overcome the effects of that in the ward where those people lived?

    As I said, I suspect it is rare. However I think we have to keep in mind the words in the Book of Mormon where the wickedness of the chruch drove people out. i.e. look to the role we have in activity and helping people overcome their problems. That’s not to say the church in terms of God has problems. Far from it. But sometimes we as the members do and that affects the weak among us.

  49. Aaron Goodwin hits the nail on the head:

    “What can’t the spirit tell me to do?”

    Ah, the ten million dollar question. Anybody care to venture an answer? Arturo seems to have some ideas…

    But can (should?) we be confident enough in our understanding to absolutely rule out some things as coming from the Holy Spirit? (Note: this is a separate question from whether such promptings might be common or rare.)

  50. The real danger, of course, is that for odd things the spirit appears to tell us we had better be sure that it is actually the spirit.

    My concern is less about how we judge the spirit than how we judge others.

  51. Christopher Bradford (Grasshopper): Aaron Goodwin hits the nail on the head: “What can’t the spirit tell me to do?”

    Christopher and Aaron, the Spirit cannot constrain a person to take actions which fall outside the scope of his divinely recognized stewardships; these include those created by general church covenants and ordinances, family roles, and properly ordained callings. For example, the spirit will not constrain me to ordain someone to the Aaronic priesthood without authorization from his bishop.

    As far as church activity: The Spirit will not prompt me to disobey commandments or break my baptismal, priesthood, or temple covenants. This means that it will not prompt me to stop paying tithing, stop wearing my garments, stop magnifying my calling, etc.

    As far as Nephi, he was given an assignment by his father, a prophet. I’m just glad that I don’t have to behead drunks in the course of magnifying my calling. Moreover, the 5th commandment is more properly rendered “you shall not murder.” The killing was not murder for reasons stated by Nephi (Laban had sought Nephi’s life and stolen his property) and Laban may well have posed a continuing threat to Lehi’s family if Nephi had not killed him. And the unforgivable sin is shedding innocent blood. Any student of church history should know that the innocent qualifier provides quite a lot of leeway.

  52. Some interesting points.

    Clark:

    In the LDS-Phil discussion there were several practical examples. One was someone who was an alcoholic. The way people in his ward looked at him and (he felt) judged him kept him from overcoming it. As soon as he went to a different faith that didn’t really care about it and thus didn’t judge him he was able to overcome it. An other example would be the victim of sexual abuse by say a church leader. How would that individual overcome the effects of that in the ward where those people lived?

    As I said, I suspect it is rare. However I think we have to keep in mind the words in the Book of Mormon where the wickedness of the chruch drove people out. i.e. look to the role we have in activity and helping people overcome their problems. That’s not to say the church in terms of God has problems. Far from it. But sometimes we as the members do and that affects the weak among us.

    I can understand these situations, and in the case of an alcoholic it’s sadly common. However just because it worked out in the end, doesn’t mean it was the spirit that prompted him to leave in the first place. Because it’s still possible for him to overcome his addiction in the church. It seems to me contradictory for the spirit to tell someone to leave the church in order to repent, when the priesthood is the ultimate “repentance aide.”

    As far as the example of sexual abuse, that is not revelation to leave the ward, not the church. This is absolutely fine, and makes a whole lot of sense. I don’t think it is the same as what’s being discussed.

    As far as leaving the church because the church apostatized, that is a valid point, just not in this dispensation.

    Arturo:

    As far as church activity: The Spirit will not prompt me to disobey commandments or break my baptismal, priesthood, or temple covenants. This means that it will not prompt me to stop paying tithing, stop wearing my garments, stop magnifying my calling, etc.

    I totally agree with you. I hope you didn’t misunderstand me.

  53. Brent said….

    “One of the questions I struggled with for a long time was whether the Lord allowed my spouse to fall into transgression so that I might be freed from a marriage that would never become “Celestial”, when I would never have chosen divorce for myself.”

    Melissa replied:

    “There’s a lot I find problematic with this statement.”

    I don’t want to spend a lot of words defending myself, but my intent was not to make a “statement”, but to throw the ideas out for comment and see what might come back. The feedback has been varied and thought-provoking. I never did come to a firm conclusion about this — I just wanted to share that the thoughts occurred to me more than once while I was “trying to make sense of my life” as Melissa discussed in her post # 40.

    More Melissa:

    “First, your comment assumes that God could have done something other than “allow” your spouse to “fall into transgression,” but this is not the case. God always allows us to do what we will. It is not just that He has promised us our agency, but that we have it by virtue of our very existence (D&C 93). Your statement assumes that God could have stopped your wife’s sin but didn’t, which seems to be contrary to doctrine.”

    Believe me, I had many, many prayers that God would intervene to help my wife make better decisions. Such thinking may seem to Melissa to be “off the mark”, but when a person is running out of options, hopes begin to focus on scriptural examples such as Paul and Alma the Younger.

    Melissa again:

    “Second, for the sake of argument, let’s assume that God could have prevented your wife’s transgression, but chose not to for your benefit (“so that you could be freed”) as you suggest. Such a belief implies that God doesn’t care about your wife’s salvation or well-being, that He wouldn’t have done all in his power to protect her and turn her from sin. It suggests that God would “use” your wife instrumentally, leading her into sin thereby sacrificing (or at least risking) your wife’s eternal life to facilitate something for you.”

    Again, I never formed a firm opinion about this, so I’m not going to defend the point. However, for the sake of discussion, there are scriptural examples that imply that it’s part of the Lord’s plan for an individual to choose an “alternate” path at specific times to achieve certain purposes. One example would be Esau’s poor decisions leading to loss of his birthright. For another example, David’s transgression was very tragic but there are very few examples in the scriptures as graphic to show us just how far a person can fall when he at first only gives in to a “little” temptation. These are pretty “high-profile” examples, but they are the first that come to my mind to illustrate the concept. For sure I’m not trying to make a side-by-side comparisonm to my little situation.

    Melissa again:

    The suggestion that God would lead someone into sin in the way you imply is not only heterodox in my view, it is morally reprehensible and thus manifestly un-Godlike.

    I agree with you here (except for the reprehensible and un-Godlke part !)… I think the scriptures and guidance of the prophets are pretty clear that God doesn’t lead his children to sin or even into temptation. He can, however, place individuals by birth in certain situations where their choices will be influenced in certain directions by the surrounding individuals and circumstances.

    More Melissa:

    …I think it is disappointing that your counselor recommended divorce simply because of differing levels of church activity. If trust was impossible to restore after her infidelity, that seems understandable. But, divorcing because of the reason your counselor stated seems hard to justify if you really loved each other.

    This is more of a side issue, but you are correct in your feeling that there would have to be other factors to justify the divorce (I could have explained more fully but was trying to stick to the main point). There were other issues undermining the relationship that we only understood after talking to the counselor. The difference in Church activity was simply the “final straw”.

    I think there are cases such as Paul and Alma and Roger Keller where traveling the rough road (or “alternate path”) for a while results in much “value added” when true conversion finally takes place. However, such cases are few, and even fewer would be the cases (if any) where a person is led away from the Church by a “positive” pull from the Spirit. In cases where a person goes astray from loss of Spirit, it may be that God’s purposes are still being served, so it’s important to remember that “it ain’t over ’til it’s over”.

  54. Brent,
    IMHO, it’s probable that your recurring feelings and thoughts about the situation were indeed personal revelation of *knowledge of things as they were*.
    (D&C 93:23)

    #55 “What can’t the spirit tell me to do?”
    Anything that contradicts God’s will for me.
    It’s a very personal arrangement, often not comprehensible to outside scrutiny.

  55. I am suprised that no one is suggesting an alternate source for the promptings of the “spirit”. I have no doubt that some who leave the church feel that the “spirit” is leading them, my question would be “Which spirit?” I can’t speak for every case of apostacy, but I’m sure that most begin with some kind of transgression, even as simple as being critical of others at church. When the spirit of God leaves us, I am sure an evil spirit is happy to fill the void. Satan is a great imitator. I have no doubt what we sometimes take for the spirit is our own will, sometimes combined with Satan’s influence. I find it illogical to believe that the spirit of truth and light would or could ever lead us away from the true church.

    bkay,
    I hope you are receiving counseling (and perhaps medication) for your condition. I am glad you have a good bishop to help you through this. I have seen first hand what depression and anxiety has done to thwart the potential and happiness of my loved ones. Don’t give in!!!

  56. Heather, thanks! I changed my name as I said after that day I would not repost as bkay. Of course, I know divulging it now defeats the purpose lol. I will either reinvent myself again or just lurk her. It is far too interesting to just stay away. I am actually a lot happier than most people, in my opinion. I function on a pretty high level although I employ a lot of aversion to going places as a major coping mechanism. I will not go into personal details about therapy or medication that I am taking as I am sure people do not want to hear about my personal stuff. I appreciate your suggestion! Also, your point about which spirit is a person following seems to be a very balid point. I am going to change my name in a second because I think what I say will not look good with that addy.

  57. I will use that addy one time only. I hope what I say is relevant. I know that it has helped me. There was a very respected Elder in my mission who shared at one of our meetings what he taught investigators or new memmbers–not sure which at this point. He asked them to compare how they felt inside when they were introduced to anti-literature and compare that to the peaceful feelings that they had when they were taught the truths of the Gospel. I know that I have experienced both. I am grateful for the many witnesses that I have had of the Restored Gospel. With as blessed as I have been, it still has been a struggle not to fall away as I have also had evil seeds take root in my heart after being a member around five years. I am so glad that I am stronger and have a firmer testimony today. I remember hearing about someobody who had left the Church and did some damage and later returned. Joseph Smith welcomed them back and said something like a friend before is a friend again. I wish I were a scholar and could cite references. I heard it in a talk and believed it to be true. At any rate, I am grateful for everyone here who shares their talents and broadens my understanding.

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