Many of the highly-promoted interpretations of LDS doctrines are divisive, shame-inducing, and thought-stopping in nature, as I’ve described in my book, Recovering Agency.
But what if there is a more loving, inclusive, mind-freeing, self-actualizing way to interpret some of those same doctrines that increases free agency rather than restricts it? Wouldn’t such an interpretation be more in line with the overall message of Jesus?
I wasn’t asking this question when I returned to Church this month after 15 years as an exmormon. But because I can now think about the doctrine differently than I’d originally been taught, not only was this answered in the affirmative, but I felt the Spirit to confirm it.
Yes, an atheist felt the Spirit. Don’t worry; I’ll explain.
Let the Holy Spirit Guide
In my book, I tackle Mormon doctrines that manipulate the emotions of members and eliminate flexibility of thought. Through writing and study, I’ve seen behind the curtain at how the illusions are performed. I’ve unframed the frame set for me by the LDS leadership, which leaves me free to build my own frames and hear my inner voice.
The Spirit is an unseen “Holy Ghost,” a bodiless member of the Godhead who inspires baptized members of the LDS Church mostly via feelings, but also promptings, dreams, and visions. The feeling is described many ways – usually members are on the lookout for “warm and fuzzy,” “burning in the bosom,” “comfort,” or “peaceful.” The Spirit prompts people to be moral, do what is right, perform good works, follow the commandments, and keep their minds on the things of God.
(There’s also a thing called “The Light of Christ,” which is the feeling just like the Spirit that is given to those who are not baptized as Mormons. It’s a distinction without significant difference, so for the sake of this post, I’m going to just refer to both as “the Spirit” as if it’s all the same thing.)
Recovering Agency offers many examples of how everyday human emotions are reframed to be interpreted as the Spirit. These include:
- Love and affection
- Feeling loved or accepted
- Reverence or awe
- The sense of “doing the right thing” (integrity)
- Epiphany (the ah-ha of a powerful new idea)
- Cognitive consonance
- Sense of community
I’ve heard others describe their profound confusion when they felt the Spirit while watching action movies or reading novels. Just last Sunday in Church, one of the speakers said she doesn’t feel the Spirit when praying, but she does when meditating, hiking in the mountains, or working at her job in the arts field. And people who have never even heard of Mormonism or Jesus Christ describe experiencing these feelings as part of their own religion, or just for being alive.