I wanted to try a new feature – going through some of the previous GC talks to discuss some of the ideas put forth.  I decided to start with E. Scott’s talk from the Oct 2009 GC session:  To Acquire Spiritual Guidance.  This was a talk I enjoyed when it was first given, although the last 3rd got a little repetitious on the whole porn thing (Did you notice that porn has now gone mainstream?  New motto:  Porn, it’s not just for Priesthood session anymore.)

Here’s the talk in a nutshell:

  1. Why we need the spirit.
    • “Throughout the ages, many have obtained guidance helpful to resolve challenges in their lives by following the example of respected individuals who resolved similar problems. Today, world conditions change so rapidly that such a course of action is often not available to us.”  I think E. Scott just admitted that old folks haven’t necessarily “been there, done that.”  It’s kind of a radical thing for an octogenarian to say.  Frankly, I’m not sure all 80-somethings would admit that.  Kudos, E. Scott!
    • “Personally, I rejoice in that reality because it creates a condition where we, of necessity, are more dependent upon the Spirit to guide us through the vicissitudes of life. Therefore, we are led to seek personal inspiration in life’s important decisions.”  So, he’s saying we shouldn’t do things just because of tradition or what others who are older tell us to do, but we should find out for ourselves the best course.  Personal accountability–one, blind obedience to authority–zero!
    • “Spirituality yields two fruits. The first is inspiration to know what to do. The second is power, or the capacity to do it. These two capacities come together.”  Features & benefits of the Spirit.
  2. How to get the Spirit.
    • “I am convinced that there is no simple formula or technique that would immediately allow you to master the ability to be guided by the voice of the Spirit.”  Decrying a formulaic approach to spirituality.  Down with checklists!  Spirituality is personal and subjective.
    • “Our Father expects you to learn how to obtain that divine help by exercising faith in Him and His Holy Son, Jesus Christ. Were you to receive inspired guidance just for the asking, you would become weak and ever more dependent on Them. They know that essential personal growth will come as you struggle to learn how to be led by the Spirit.”  I love the notion that we are supposed to live up to our potential, not just let others make decisions for us.
    • “Your confidence in the direction you receive from the Holy Ghost will also become stronger. I witness that as you gain experience and success in being guided by the Spirit, your confidence in the impressions you feel can become more certain than your dependence on what you see or hear.”  There’s a little bit of implied confirmation bias here, but by the same token, it’s how we develop decision-making ability and intuition:  through experience.  We learn what works and what doesn’t.
    • E. Scott shares 2 contrasting teacher styles and how each resulted in inspiration for him.  While the contrasting examples seem designed to reinforce the correlation committee’s guidelines (the first teacher stuck to the materials and the second one used archane and unusual references), both lessons resulted in personal spiritual guidance for E. Scott.  Of the second experience, E. Scott shared:  “I received such an outpouring of impressions that were so personal that I felt it was not appropriate to record them in the midst of a Sunday School class. I sought a more private location, where I continued to write the feelings that flooded into my mind and heart as faithfully as possible.”  I’m pretty sure he just admitted to ditching Sunday School to write in his journal.
    • “Impressions of the Spirit can come in response to urgent prayer or unsolicited when needed.”  I think it’s hard to chalk it up to the Spirit when it could be confirmation bias – unsolicited one-off ideas are more easily attributable to the Spirit, IMO.
    • “However, the Lord will not force you to learn. You must exercise your agency to authorize the Spirit to teach you. As you make this a practice in your life, you will be more perceptive to the feelings that come with spiritual guidance. Then, when that guidance comes, sometimes when you least expect it, you will recognize it more easily.”  Part of this does strike me as confirmation bias; however, I have experienced an unexpected idea to do something that if I followed it worked out, and sometime I have not and it didn’t work out.  To me, that’s the spirit.
  3.  What prevents us from getting the Spirit.
    • “The inspiring influence of the Holy Spirit can be overcome or masked by strong emotions, such as anger, hate, passion, fear, or pride. When such influences are present, it is like trying to savor the delicate flavor of a grape while eating a jalapeño pepper. Both flavors are present, but one completely overpowers the other. In like manner, strong emotions overcome the delicate promptings of the Holy Spirit.”  I like the analogy.  The idea sounds true enough.
    • “Sin is spiritually corrosive. Unrestrained it becomes all-consuming. It is overcome by repentance and righteousness.  Satan is extremely good at blocking spiritual communication by inducing individuals, through temptation, to violate the laws upon which spiritual communication is founded.”  So, sin is bad then . . . right?
    • “With some, he is able to convince them that they are not able to receive such guidance from the Lord.”  I think this is a real issue for people.  I think many have these high-falutin notions of what constitutes “the Spirit” and anything short of meeting JC on the road to Damascus isn’t cutting it.  I think that’s a misunderstanding.  If you re-read E. Scott’s talk and substitute the word “instinct” or “inspiration” for “the Spirit,” you can get a real sense for how commonplace these experiences are.
    • “Satan has become a master at using the addictive power of pornography to limit individual capacity to be led by the Spirit.”  Let’s not make this a porn post, shall we?  But the rest of the talk is basically about how porn makes it impossible to recognize the Spirit.  Personally, I’m no fan of porn, and I think the point is valid.  Porn’s blocking of spiritual guidance is not the worst of its influence in society.  On the subject, E. Scott waxes eloquent.  Anyway, ’nuff said on porn.  Moving on.  Nothing to see here.

Here are some points I think worth discussing from the talk:

  1. Does this jive with your experience feeling the Spirit or inspiration or whatever you kids are calling it these days?
  2. Do you like the idea that you can be equally inspired in a lesson regardless the instructor?  I found these examples fascinating; although ostensibly the “not as good” instructor was “out of policy,” it had no adverse impact on the spiritual guidance received.  Doesn’t that mean that maybe we can quit wringing our hands over this?  Does that make church a BYOS (Bring Your Own Spirit) institution?  I say yes.
  3. Have you ever felt the Spirit when in the throes of strong emotion?  If so, let’s have the deets!
  4. Overall, did you like the talk or not?  I am of the opinion that not all talks are for all people.  This one was one I happened to like, but that doesn’t mean everyone should.

Discuss.