Sunday, April 09, 2006

Inspired or Smart

Growing up Mormon I was taught to listen for the whisperings of the spirit. They seem like your own thoughts, but they just come to you, seemingly out of nowhere. If this inspired thought turns out good then we are taught that it was the Spirit of God or Holy Ghost teaching us and guiding us. The church teaches that this is a great gift that Mormons get when they are baptized and confirmed members of the church that no one else in the world has.

I got wondering this morning about what impact this has on members of the church and what effect it has had on me and my world view. I was thinking about an experience I had on my mission where I had to make a critical decision on the spot and I just seemed to know what to do. When I later discussed it with my mission president we both agreed that the Holy Ghost had guided me and I had handled the situation just as God would have wished. I felt very happy to have received that divine inspiration and proud that I had been worthy to receive it.

Looking back on it now I don't see that anything unusual happened. I was a smart kid and I pretty much adapted what I'd been taught my whole life to a situation that I'd never faced before. I don't feel any particular pride in that or feel a great sense of wonder. You might think that would make me feel bad. But it doesn't.

The church's definition of inspiration hijacks a commonplace experience and assigns it cosmic, divine attributes. When your intuition is wrong, then it is unworthiness or lack of sensitivity to the Holy Ghost on your part. But when you get it right, then God gets the credit.

Which is better for an individual? Under the church's world view a person has to deal with feelings of worthiness and guilt when they don't get the inspiration that they are led to expect and fail to get. When they do get inspiritation, they don't get to take credit beyond feeling a perhaps undeserved sense of righteousness. On my mission I was confused at times when I felt the Spirit strongly and yet knew I was not living all of the mission rules faithfully. How could the Spirit inspire me, an unworthy vessel? The church taught that that couldn't happen. Yet it did. Repeatedly.

Without the church I get to deal with reality. I get to take credit when my intuition is correct, but I also have to take responsibility when it is wrong. I think I am more calculated and reasoned in my decision making because I am under no illusions that perhaps God is magically influencing my thoughts. I've continue to listen to my intuition, but have learned that my feelings can and are manipulated by calculating people.

I like the way it is now. But I feel a sense of loss at the sense of wonder that comes from believing that God has spoken through you.

Maybe he does anyway, but through his creations using their God-given gifts and talents to travel through life as best as they can.


Sean Beall said...

I'm greatly enjoying your blog. I was in your mission as well, although I'm not sure we ever met...the whole thing is a blur to me now. Keep up the good work.

Cynthia E. Bagley said...

I have been smart in my life and I was happy that I could make my own decisions without interference from God or religion.

When I could not make my own decisions because of illness and treatment, I found that I could feel the hand of God in my relationships. He touched me. Now I am back to better health. I feel that I am not in his eye.. so to speak...

When you really are in his eye, it is very very scary. AND it feels nothing like what you are taught in the Mormon church. I think that you are right that one of the things stolen by the church is your natural abilities and talents.

Anonymous said...

I have felt the loving influence of the Holy Ghost many times in my life. When I have been prompted to do something that I would never normally do on my own...forgive and embrace someone who has deeply offended me for example, comes from God. This is pretty simple, but profound and true.