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On my mission, we taught an investigator who was golden. She felt the spirit when she prayed about the Book of Mormon, felt the spirit when she came to Church and felt the spirit during our visits. We were so excited for her to join the Church.

Then she talked to her pastor. The end. 

What concerned me the most about this woman is that she had felt the spirit. She had felt the spirit witness as to the truth of the restored gospel, and we all know that if you turn away from a witness of the spirit, it’s even worse than if you’d never felt the spirit at all. She was accountable for turning away from what she knew to be true! Her damnation was going to be more damning than if she’d never talked to us at all!

As missionaries and as Church members, we’re trained to tell people what their feelings mean, and what they need to do to act on their feelings. Did you feel good at Church? That’s the spirit testifying to you that the Church is true and you need to get baptized and obey all the commandments for the rest of your life. Did you feel a burning in your bosom when you prayed to know if the Book of Mormon was true? That’s the spirit testifying to you that the Book of Mormon is true and you need to get baptized and obey all the commandments for the rest of your life. Do you feel peace when you go to the temple? That’s the spirit testifying to you that this is the house of the Lord and you need to pay your tithing and follow the Brethren for the rest of your life.

Well. Maybe the reason she felt good when she went to Church is because everyone there was so nice to her. It’s also possible to feel good like that when you join a new club. Maybe the reason you feel peace when you go to the temple is because you’ve been trained to stop thinking about all your worries and just sit quietly in a beautiful building and think about how much God loves you. Meditating in the mountains might bring the same feelings of peace.

The point is that when someone has a good feeling, or a strong feeling, they should be the ones to decide what to do about their feelings. Maybe they want to take action as a result of a feeling. Maybe they just want to experience it and then move on. I’ve written before about how the Church instructs us how to feel. A big part of my post-Church adjustment has been reclaiming my feelings and my right to decide what my feelings mean, or if there’s not a deeper meaning at all. I no longer see my feelings as God’s way of playing “Hot and Cold” [fn 1] with spiritual guidance.


I had some thoughts about why I’ve written so often about feelings, and the way the Church instructs us to feel. Elisa wrote in her post yesterday that she’s had to work hard to unlearn the Church’s message that you’re never enough and you can always do more. That made me realize which topic I’ve had to deliberately unlearn. I’ve had to work hard to reclaim my feelings, and see them as just my feelings rather than messages from God that I must obey. 

Church talks and lessons about feelings aren’t as common as they used to be. We used to hear often about the joy of service, the peace of attending the temple, the blessings of having an attitude of gratitude, how the greatest joys are from family relationships, and how living the Gospel makes us happy. My perspective is that those messages have decreased, and been replaced with messages about obedience and the covenant path. Now it’s less about how you should feel about Church, and more about obeying Church.

I’m going to try and listen to at least one session of General Conference this weekend, and see if any of the talks focus on feelings. 

[fn 1] Hot and Cold is a children’s game commonly played during Primary. One child leaves the room. Another child hides an object in the room. When the first child returns, the other children guide him to the hidden object by calling out “hot” when he’s getting closer and “cold” when he’s getting further away.

  1. What teachings have you had to work hardest to unlearn? What messages sank in so deeply that you took them with you when you left and had to deliberately talk back to the Church leader in your head?
  2. Have you been able to tell the difference between a spiritual prompting and your own feelings? Is there a difference? Has your opinion changed over the course of your faith journey?
  3. Do you commonly tell people how to feel? (For example: You shouldn’t feel guilty! Don’t feel bad. Cheer up. You should be ashamed of yourself.) Why do you do that? 
  4. How do your feelings work into your decision-making process? Has the role of your feelings in making decisions changed much over the years?