Manufacturing the Spirit

Everyone’s been complaining the last few years about how all of America’s manufacturing jobs have been shipped overseas. I’m here with good news: there’s one sector of manufacturing that’s alive and well in Utah. It’s Manufacturing the Spirit. Let me explain.

A few months ago I toured the St. George Visitors’ Center with my family.

I was amazed at the polish the place had in every aspect of its presentation, from the interactive technological displays to the shining white teeth at the center of the sisters’ smiles. The focal point of the presentation was an innovative video tour, where you pass through a corridor in stages, watching a video clip about family at each stage, progressing with them in their journey. The entire experience was extremely effective, and I felt a well of emotion in my chest as the message closed with furiously swelling strings and hugging relatives.

But I noticed something troubling as we walked out after the show. Where I had expected to feel the peace of the Spirit, I felt something else– something unsettled. As I inspected my emotions, I figured out what it was– I felt manipulated. This was not an intellectual response borne of cynicism. This was really my emotions speaking, telling me not to trust whatever weepy instincts had touched me in there.

That distrusting voice is not something I like to encourage, but it gained a lot of credibility a few weeks ago when we went to Disneyland. I stood with my son and watched a parade go by, composed of Mermaids, Lions, Witches, Princesses, and Wooden Puppets. The climax of the parade was a huge dance number with a bunch of beautiful fantasy couples (Belle and the effete-post-Beast, Cinderella and Charming, etc) singing some amazingly trite lyrics about “This is our festival! and best of all. . . we’re sharing it with you,” set to a swirling, catchy melody. The message was dim as could be, but the production values were positively radiant. And as they sang, I noticed something that I still shudder to acknowledge: yup, exact same tightening of the throat and rapid blinking of the eyes. Wow, I need to write a whole other post about how I’m really getting old.

But you probably see the point. I went to two very slick productions, one in which the eternal gospel was presented, and one in which the seven dwarfs welcomed me merrily to CommercialKitschHell, and had exactly the same response. Something’s wrong here.

The risk of manufacturing the spirit is not a challenge faced solely by the church’s communications arm. Youth programs often face this temptation as well, given their intense desire to find ways to touch kids that so often seem immune to thoughtful spiritual communication. You hear often of pioneer treks for youth that feature greatly diminished food and water supplies, presumably with the idea that the kids will be softened up and find spiritual enlightenment in their adversity. These treks are invariably reported to be spiritually profound experiences, and I do not doubt that for the most part they are.

But while the vehicle of imposed adversity may often be useful, it is obviously subject to mishandling. For example, many cite the deep spiritual experience of having women pull the handcarts while all males walk alongside, possibly with the hope that the men will feel some mix of guilt and respect, and that perhaps that vulnerability will give entrance to the spirit. I recently heard of a company that met a pre-planned insurmountable obstacle, were encouraged to pray, and were then miraculously rescued by a group of men from the ward, dressed all in white. This kind of contrived heavenly solution to self-imposed drama seems to me the very definition of manufacturing.

I emphasize that I have nothing about pioneer treks in general, nor the broad idea that sometimes we need to shake our youth up a little. But I think we need to guard against the temptation of seeing any emotionally poignant or bracing experience as spiritually nourishing. President Hunter warned against this in a speech to CES leaders:

Let me offer a word of caution on this subject. I think if we are not careful as professional teachers working in the classroom every day, we may begin to try to counterfeit the true influence of the Spirit of the Lord by unworthy and manipulative means. I get concerned when it appears that strong emotion or free-flowing tears are equated with the presence of the Spirit. Certainly the Spirit of the Lord can bring strong emotional feelings, including tears, but that outward manifestation ought not be confused with the presence of the Spirit itself. I have watched a great many of my brethren over the years and we have shared some rare and unspeakable spiritual experiences together. Those experiences have all been different, each special in its own way, and such sacred moments may or may not be accompanied by tears. Very often they are, but sometimes they are accompanied by total silence. Other times they are accompanied by joy. Always they are accompanied by a great manifestation of the truth, of revelation to the heart. Give your students gospel truth powerfully taught; that is the way to give them a spiritual experience. Let it come naturally and as it will, perhaps with the shedding of tears, but perhaps not. If what you say is the truth, and you say it purely and with honest conviction, those students will feel the spirit of the truth being taught to them and will recognize that inspiration and revelation has come into their hearts. That is how we build faith. That is how we strengthen testimonies–with the power of the word of God taught in purity and with conviction.

As quoted by Robert Millet in “Bearing Pure Testimony,” Religious Educator vol. 1, no. 1 (2000), pp. 25-46.
(Thanks, Ben, for that quote)

Let’s focus on that last line– “taught with purity and conviction.” I hope we can do a little better at testifying with purity– which I take to mean delivering gospel principles unalloyed with slick packaging or emotionally jolting accompaniment. Is there a way to find a happy medium between the aging style of simple testimony, and the new-age mode of glossy emotion? How can we bring the spirit quickly and effectively, without smoke and mirrors? There must be a better way.

31 thoughts on “Manufacturing the Spirit

  1. I’ll have to let my friends in Disneyland entertainment know they got to you. ^_^ The song is from “Brother Bear,” in case you were wondering, and it’s even more effective in its non-parade version. Thank Phil Collins.

    Overall, I tend to agree with your point. I was the skeptical, rational kid that frankly found all such constructed emotional experiences unpersuasive and alarming, to the point that I avoided experiencing them (which was easy to do, since you knew generally when people were going to spring them on you.) And when I got older, I found it disturbingly difficult to differentiate between all of those “see, this is where you need to be crying” moments and times where I found it likely that you were actually supposed to feel the Spirit for real (the announcement of the Columbus, OH temple comes to mind.) I don’t think it does anyone a service to confuse this issue, but young people I think are more likely to view all spiritual experiences as manipulated events by adults and authority figures if you aren’t careful.

  2. Great post, Ryan. Not sure how to respond, but I am sure most of us have been in situations where we felt pressured to say something or act in a certain way because of “spiritual manipulation”. My most vivid memories of YW Girls’ Camp are of the testimony meetings where every single girl would stand up and give a tearful testimony, pretty much just repeating what everyone else was saying. But I guess one person’s manufactured experience could spark another person’s authentic spiritual experience – I’m not sure I have much to offer in the way of advice as to how to make sure we discourage the first and encourage the latter. Millet’s quote is instructive, though.

  3. I don’t like being manipulated at all. You should hear me go on and on about bad movies that try to manipulate your feelings (I absolutely hated “Dead Poet’s Society,” for example, and drove my wife crazy telling her how much I hated it). So, I’m against manipulation. But I think we should be open to the possibility that people have different spiritual stimulae. I love hearing young people give their testimonies, even if they are just repeating the words of others. I am very apt to feel the Spirit if I see others being moved by testimonies, for example. I still cry like a baby every time I see certain Church movies. Let’s not get too jaded about this. Sometimes people respond very positively to what others believe to be manipulation.

  4. I agree Ryan. I remember as a kid feeling the tears come when the old man was reunited with his wife in Man’s Search for Happiness. But that was in the bad old days, before all the Homefront ads and the Morning in America election campaign and that horrid missionary movie (was it called Called to Serve? No words, just a lot of smiling missionaries.)

    I just don’t watch church videos anymore. (How Rare a Possession is a wonderful exception to the rule, imho.)

  5. Regardless of whether or not the content of your post is very familiar to the bloggernackers, I think this is a great post. Parts of Trek, Youth Conference, EFY, Jubilee, and combined mutual activities seem determined to force the youth to have a spiritual experience.

    I work with the teachers in my ward and I frequently worry about attempts to manufacture the spirit. It reminds me of churches that put on rock concerts to enable the youth to feel God’s power. President Hunter’s word of caution is right on.

  6. This is a “trend” in the Church that has been going on for quite some time now—it’s stretching into the decades. I find it quite disturbing. I find it especially pronounced in many Church videos, and it is rampant among the full-time missionaries.

  7. Great post, Ryan. This is an important point, one on which we are frequently taken to task by our critics. They accuse us of basing our testimonies on emotional experiences, and trot out Paul Dunn’s moving fireside tales of professional baseball and World War II battlefields to show how we’re all duped.

    What they (and a good number of the saints themselves) fail to understand is the difference between the witness of the Spirit and the effects of the Spirit. We know that the fruit of the Spirit includes love, joy, and peace (Gal 5:22), so it’s normal to feel those emotions when the Spirit is working within us, as well as sometimes when it’s not. But there is a deeper witness that comes when the Spirit tells us in our mind and in our heart that a certain principle is true (D&C 8:2). This is a much more subtle experience, and one that is hard to describe. All I can say is that I know it when it happens.

    So just because you got choked up at Disneyland doesn’t mean that Walt Disney was a prophet and that Disneyland is the only true and living theme park on the face of the whole earth. The effects may be similar, but the witness (or lack thereof) is totally different.

  8. This is a much more subtle experience, and one that is hard to describe. All I can say is that I know it when it happens.

    Great comment, Mike. Thanks.

  9. I couldn’t agree enough. We do our youth a tremendous disservice by engaging in such activities. We need to teach them to use spirituality in the context of real life. And in real life men in white don’t usually come to one’s aid (unless I’m missing something).

  10. I had the opportunity to go to Girls Camp for 3 years (the other years I did not have the opportunity, so the word really is being used legitimately) I remember that first year when every single girl “bore her testimony” under what I now assume to be the tear inducing effect of firelight…..everyone but me.
    I think my mother wondered why I chose not to when all other girls had, but most weren’t in fact testimonies. I’m not exactly sure what problems each girl had in life that a few days up in the mountains had caused such emotional upheaval and epiphany.
    What was I going to say? If it were a testimony I could only say I’m still kinda figuring out what my testimony is and its kinda personal so I don’t really want to advertise my feelings since I am unsure of them myself.
    But if I’d joined the camp was special type of speech I guess I could have said I think camp was ok and pretty, except for the hiking which I didn’t like, and the snipe hunt was lame and some of you girls and leaders are kinda nice.
    I certainly don’t blame the leaders for trying to “manufacture” anything. The girls turned it into what it was, each and every time.

  11. I went on Trek. When just the girls pushed the handcart, I assumed it was done so everyone could hear me whine and complain about what the heck was going on.
    Or, maybe, it was for people like my brother (according to what my mother said about his experience) to realize that they hadn’t been doing the work all by themselves.
    I see the point of this post in some ways. Everyone talked about Trek like it had changed their life.
    I think it was a great experience to push yourself physically, put yourself in another’s person shoes for a little while to learn a little about history and life. Maybe you’ll learn something about the gospel or about yourself….just as everyday you have chances for spiritual growth.
    A couple years ago we had a Trek sacrement meetings. There had been a lot of crying and spiritual epiphanies, especially about a certain juvenile delinquent in our ward. Yet, after Trek he was still a juvenile delinquent. My husband and I just had a hard time believing that even though he helped someone with their handcart, he hadn’t necessarily repented of selling drugs.

  12. Thank you so much for this post, Ryan. The Spirit Manufacturing phenomenon really bothers me.

    A friend of mine once told me that she was inclined to discount every single experience she had classified as “spiritual” while in her teens, because she felt that her leaders put her in situations that encouraged her to confuse the spiritual with the purely emotional.

    In my case, I started wondering after awhile why certain church settings, movies, etc. seemed so intent on manipulation. Did they want me to confuse my emotions with the Spirit? Why should truth need slick production to communicate itself to me? Were all the music and drama and tears just a distraction from something that wasn’t really there, a Mormon emperor’s new clothes?

    I’m sure nearly all the problems in my spiritual development stem from my own failures, but I don’t think spiritual manipulation has ever done me any favors either.

  13. Hmmm –
    totally off topic, but I recall one lady on my mission who, when we knocked on her door, regaled us with a conspiracy theory about how the LDS church manufactured “spirit juice” that we used to help people “feel the spirit” by spiking their drinks with it.

    As to the main point of the thread – I don’t particularly care for the type of presentations Ryan brings up, but at the same time I recognize they do reach some people – and who am I to denounce something that works? I think the problem in the church isn’t that they do this sort of thing, but that there is so little variety – i.e. what they do will reach a certain segment of the population and work very well, but there are other segments it won’t reach at all.

  14. Thanks for that link Jared, it really made my day.

    I think one of the main problems is the equating of crying with the Spirit. When I first joined the church I thought my testimony wasn’t good enough if it didn’t make me get all choked up. There are definitely times when bearing my testimony does make me cry, but I used to almost make myself do it, and now I let it happen spontaneously. I think we need to emphasize how the Spirit feel differently for everyone.

    Has anyone else listened to someone who is just sobbing while bearing their testimony and yet you feel no Spirit whatsoever? It is such a strange feeling.

  15. Nice post, Ryan. I had the same impression when going through the new and improved St. George temple visitor’s center. An additional thing I noticed was the overdone “Joseph and Emma in Love” artwork on the walls. I mentally composed captions to accompany some of them: “Joseph Smith, the Great Monogamist of the 19th Century,” or perhaps “Emma Smith, Before She Learned About the Other Wives.”

  16. I am a seventeen year old High School Senior and using Homestar (# 10) to teach a gospel lesson was amazing. Here is a link to the Lil’ Brudder sequel.
    [Editor’s Note: Fixed Link]

    But on a more serious note; this summer for seven weeks I worked at Boy Scout Camp for less than minimum wage. My last week at Scout Camp was the week my stake went to youth conference. From the Youth Conferences I have attended; I can truthfully say that they are full of drama and emotion to try to create “spiritual moments”. That Sunday I listened to the talks about how going to Palmyra for the pageant was so spiritually uplifting and comparing it with last years pioneer trek. I thought the Pioneer Trek was fun, but only because I like camping. The Pony Express delivered us really sappy letters from our parents and had us go out into the woods with our scriptures and journals to read the letters. The leaders had us do all kinds of dumb things to get us emotional. At the end we had a big testimony meeting where we all talked about how spiritual we all felt, the only things I felt were hunger pains. I know I am not alone in not finding youth conference spiritual and life changing. Of the youth who went on the trip who spoke on Sunday; most of them said it was amazingly spiritual, but one kid said he didn’t feel anything but it was fun. Though I do admit I learned a lot of church history and had a good time on the two I have been on.

    This year at summer camp I probably had more real spiritual experiences than I would have if I went to youth conference. I know this because I had more spiritual experiences than I did on the trek last year. I was constantly talking about the church with other people. An Irish Catholic kid I shared a tent with even asked if he could read parts of my Book of Mormon. I had a really deep conversation with a Protestant kid on why Christ was so big on mercy in the New Testament, but God is so cruel in the Old Testament. These conversations and others probably taught me many things that will help me on my mission.
    I think that if you live your life as close to the Gospel of Christ as you can and allow those who know you to know that you are a member of the church, but not have it written on a T-Shirt, you will have all the real spiritual experiences that you need.

  17. Ryan, this is a tough issue for me. As you know, I’m familiar with the trek scenario you wrote about. I wasn’t there, but it was my ward. When I heard about it I thought “Wow, that sounds really neat” but at the same time it made me uncomfortable. I wasn’t sure why, until reading your post. Is it okay to faciliate some powerful/emotional situations as long as we are not saying “This is the Spirit you’re feeling!”?

    Is it possible that at Disneyland you were feeling the spirit because you were with your sweet kids who were genuinely delighted and therefore you felt great joy?

    I hate these issues — it just makes me paranoid! 🙂

  18. great post. as someone who has studied pyschology, and grew up with a pyschologist as a father, i am pretty familiar with manipulation tactics. i get very unsettled when i see them used in our church settings. sometimes i get really tempted to call it out, just to make the interaction more honest. using these kinds of techniques can have positive results in some cases, but this is very often the reasoning for people to think of us as cult like. it just seems that in a church that teaches honesty, manipulation of any kind has no place at all.

    i don’t know if there is a good way to stop it. if a prophets counsel had little influence, i am not sure what will.

  19. “Manipulation” notwithstanding, I think we need to recognize the value of removing the youth from their “distracted” environment so they at least have a chance at feeling the spirit. Kids today turn on the TV automatically when they enter the family room, sometimes doing their homework while watching TV, then go from there to Instant Messenger to IPOD to GameBoy, and so forth.

    At least when persons are being “manipulated” at EFY or Trek or the Visitors’ Center, they are focusing on things of great value.

    Was Jesus being “manipulated” when He spent 40 days in the wilderness ?

  20. I have problems with the use of the word “manipulation” because we tend to use it when we feel someone has loaded the dice somewhat. However, we are all in the business of persuasion, and what may appear to be manipulation to you, may appear to be persuasion to me.

    The Spirit and emotion are not indivisible; but oftentimes we are only able to express the effects of the Spirit on us, by the emotions which it causes us to feel. I do not have a problem with someone being moved to tears, even when I am not; just because I cannot feel their emotion, does not necessarily make it counterfeit.

    Similarly, I do not have a problem with Church movies or programs, etc. They may affect me to a greater or lesser extent, but at some level they reach some people. I remember having a fierce argument with one of my literature professors at BYU about the use of poetry in Church meetings. He felt, (as you would imagine) that much of the poetry was of low value, worthless, doggerel, etc. My point was that if it had meaning to the one who used it, and meaning to some who heard it, it was not valueless. Even though I would refuse to recite it myself.

    Similarly, when I hear talk of “manipulation”, I wonder whether the person using the word is trying to indicate that he is too sophisticated to be taken in by artificially persuasive comments. Perhaps being sophisticated is what prevents us from becoming as a little child.

    “But when he was yet a long ways off, his father saw him, and ran to him, and fell on his neck and kissed him…”

    I am almost always moved to tears by that sentence…and I do not feel I have been manipulated.

  21. i think that there is a big difference between actual manipulation, or manufacturing, and creating an atmosphere that is conducive to the spirit. we know that there are settings in which the spirit can more freely be felt, and usually those settings are pretty simplistic. you really don’t need a lot of fanfare and such to feel the spirit.

    for me it’s not like i feel that i am too sophisticated to be taken in, it is because i enjoy the simpler things. i like when i am alone in the mountains and can feel the spirit testify that God exisits. i like when i feel the spirit in a conversation with a friend. these are the things that i find most powerful, the simple, unplanned moments that touch the heart. to me we need more of those kinds of simple moments instead of all the high production value ones.

  22. El Jefe,
    Great post. I agree with you.
    Everyone is going to feel the spirit a little differently, and certain things will “speak” to them depending on their own needs. An inspirational story may really inspire someone, but just be a story to someone else.
    I think that we shouldn’t assume that everyone “should” feel the spirit at certain times, and “shouldn’t” feel the spirit at other times.
    I think the original post has a point….artificially creating answers to prayers, for instance, but thinking that we should be above anything “sappy” or “emotional” leads us towards intellectualizing everything.

  23. I’m surprised no one has noted the coincidental timing of the manufactured spirit and the decline in converts.

  24. The word “spirit” has many meanings. It is very generic. They include:

    1. The actual person of the Holy Ghost.

    2. The influence or communications of the Holy Ghost.

    3. “My Spirit” as used by the Lord in scripture sometimes means _His_ personal spirit, or what we call the Light of Christ, the spiritual influence that radiates from him (His personal spirit) and “proceeds forth and fills the immensity of space” (DC 88:5-13).

    4. “My spirit” as used by the Lord in scripture sometimes means the Holy Ghost, or it is sometimes a dual-meaning scripture.

    5. Emotions, good/bad/indifferent are spirit with a small “s.” We talk about the spirit of love, or the spirit of contention.

    6. We all have our own personal spirit, the ‘hand’ in the ‘glove’ of our body, that continues to exist after the body dies.

    7. We can project the influence of our spirit on others. Just as we project our voice, or our emotions, we can actually project the influence of our personal spirit. This is not always a positive thing. Watch/listen to some speeches by Hitler, and you can feel him projecting evil in a spiritual way.

    This is important to realize. Just because someone is projecting “spirit” doesn’t mean it’s good.

    8. Information, words and truth is spirit.

    9. Animals, inanimate objects, and places have spirit too. Every physical thing has a spirit component, good, bad, or indifferent. This physical world was created spiritually before it was created temporally (Pearl of Great Price).


    I’m still trying to figure out how to react to spiritual manipulation, and how to discern if it’s “bad” or “good”. Fortunately, I’ve encountered it very rarely.

    The way we are supposed to influence people, found in DC Section 121:42, is with patience, persuasion, gentleness, meekness, love unfeigned, long-suffering.

    And then it says specifically without hypocrisy and without guile.

    So when someone affects or imitates the voice/speech patterns of others when those others have the Spirit, I wonder how I’m supposed to take it. When I was at the MTC preparing for a foreign mission, the speakers at the weekly assemblies (usually the branch presidents) affected the voice patterns of the General Authorities, but the feeling just wasn’t the same. It was oogie. I knew what they were saying was true, because I had learned it back home, and previously received a testimony of it. But they were acting. It was a show.

    You could also tell they were over-playing the superior/subordinate psychology, turning into emotional/spiritual bullies towards the missionaries at the MTC. Not one weekly assembly went by when someone wasn’t talking down and berating the body of missionaries. Does that still happen?

    I was confused over that until I finally realized that a degree of heavy-handedness is often needed for keep willfull and high-spirited 19 year olds in line.

    I don’t know if saying true things with the wrong spirit is better or worse than saying nothing at all.

    But the Lord made it clear, if we don’t preach/teach with HIS Spirit, it’s NOT of him, regardless of the factual content of the words.

    I think I’ve been too judgemental of those who don’t have the Spirit or imitate the Spirit, or, imitate the voice patterns, tears, inflections, or “GA talk” or the accent of others who do have the Spirit.

    I’ve noticed it among some missionaries here in Indianapolis. Some tend to imitate the voice patterns of Utahans. Some affect a slow-and-sleepy voice pattern when giving lessons or discussing gospel subjects, and then immediately turn it off when the lesson or subject is done.

    Instead of letting the Spirit influence you’re words and voice, some people intentionally use certain words and voice patterns trying to force the Spirit to come to them. That sometimes creeps me out. But that’s a very personal choice of how to talk.

    I think the bottom line, is that we have to find our own independent confirmations of truth, and not rely on others. Yes, we should listen when others teach, preach, expound and exhort. But we all should take that information to the Lord in prayer and ask for confirmation of whether or not it is true. Then the Lord, through His Spirit, can confirm to us the truthfullness of what was said, regardless of the sincerity of the speaker.

    When both the speaker and the listener are edified, when there is _truth communicated_, that’s when you know both of you have the Spirit.

    If you weren’t edified, then one of you didn’t have the Spirit. And since there’s nothing you can control about other people having the Spirit or not, just work on getting and keeping the Spirit yourself.

  25. Thanks all for some great comments. I won’t spend much time with those who agree with me, but for those who don’t:

    Andrea, err, sorry about that. Because I hadn’t had an opportunity to express my discomfort about this situation when it came up, I felt underhanded bringing it up here without having forewarned you. Glad you don’t seem offended. Anyway, I agree that these issues are tricky.

    You ask the following question in the context of that specific trek we’ve discussed: “Is it okay to faciliate some powerful/emotional situations as long as we are not saying “This is the Spirit you’re feeling!”?

    I think that is a very important question. And I’m not sure how I feel. In the church context, I think it’s difficult to ever remove the suggestion that what one is feeling is the spirit. Further, I’m not ready to say I know for a fact that the feeling these kids felt wasn’t the spirit. Just that it appear contrived in a way that I feel uncomfortable with. But the general question of whether emotional/dramatic experiences may be relied upon in teaching youth in the church, without leading them to believe it’s the spirit is an interesting one. On the one hand, these are the kinds of things required to reach many kids. On the other hand, they are things that are used by everyone. Drug rehab camps and clinics, youth detention programs, every other church in the world with a youth program, and Hollywood all rely heavily on these tactics. That doesn’t make it a bad thing. It’s probably a good thing when used for the right purpose. But when seen as the main means of reaching youth in our church, I think it would become a problem. Yes, a trek or adventure outing is good when a jolt is needed, from time to time. But the emphasis must always remain on the teaching and testifying of gospel truths, particularly those relating to the savior. I think that’s the key factor for youth leaders to remember.

    Brent, I agree that emotional jolts are needed sometimes, given the distraction levels of our youth. Do you agree, however, that once jolted out of their distractions, kids will need much more substantive and meaty spiritual experiences in order to bring about long-term change?

    El Jefe, I think you are correct to point out that manipulation is a difficult concept. I’m trying to work out a precise definition in my mind. I think what it boils down to is the idea that we can induce feelings in a person by means of external, sometimes subconscious stimuli, which we should reasonably foresee that they might misinterpret. For example, the soundtrack of a church movie has a lot of emotional power, and is likely to create emotions in the hearer. But the hearer may be unaware that the emotions are being caused by the soundtrack. Would you agree that if the hearer interprets this influence as the pure witness of the spirit, there’s something manipulative going on? Is that a problem for you?

    As to your other point about how some are inspired by things others do not find inspiring, I agree. It would be arrogant of any of us to state that certain things simply do not aid in spiritual understanding. The Lord speaks to us all differently, and at different times. However, when it is us who are trying to create the spiritual experience, we are obliged to set a groundwork that will seek to maximize real spiritual input and minimize emotional/dramatic influences that do not represent the real voice of the spirit. That’s all I’m saying.

  26. Ryan wrote:

    Brent, I agree that emotional jolts are needed sometimes, given the distraction levels of our youth. Do you agree, however, that once jolted out of their distractions, kids will need much more substantive and meaty spiritual experiences in order to bring about long-term change?

    I would definitely agree with that. For the most part, our youth will not be solidly converted to the Gospel until SOMEONE inspires them enough to begin their own self-motivated religious/spiritual searching and observance. Ideally it would be their parents that motivate them to do so, but it might need to come from a Seminary or Sunday School teacher that really, really cares. EFY-type experiences can provide the “jolt”, but a “jolted” youth will still need some individualized follow-up attention from an adult (or possibly a peer) that is already “grounded”. Sometimes these caring “helpers” have been there all along, but it takes the “jolt” for the youth to finally take them seriously.

  27. I agree with the manufactured Spirit concept, although I am somewhat conflicted on a few aspects.

    I had Spriritual experiences on Trek, particularly during the women’s pull, that shaped how I view/treat women to this day. But I always viewed the contrived fireside testimony meetings as manipulative, as was the “solo” time in the woods. I compared it to vision quests for young native Americans. If you don’t come back and tell everyone you received your vision, what kind of brave are you?

    This is what bothers me so much about the story told here about the Trek where ward members in white assisted the youth overcome an obstacle after the youth prayed for assistance. The outcome was manufactured, and as such it invalidated the heartfelt prayers of the youth. And what’s more, it is false doctrine to teach the youth that prayers are immediately answered exactly as asked. What if the answer was to turn around and go back the other way, or go around rather than over, or to build a rocket ship to the moon and colonize it? The purpose of being in tune with the Spirit is to get what you NEED from the Lord, not always what you WANT.

    On a side note, the one place I have felt the same kind of feeling that is in the Temple is the Hockey Hall of Fame, in the room where the Stanley Cup sits under a stained glass dome in a converted bank vault.

    I’m dead serious.

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