Of Anguish and Faith

The number one question we hear from faithful Latter-day Saint women when discussing any principle that is hard to swallow is: "If it was truly from God why does it FEEL so wrong?" We, as spiritual beings, of necessity must be able to distinguish between good and bad and we have been taught how to judge: a burning in the bosom, a quickening of the intellect, and feelings such as love, joy, peace and goodness reassure us that we are on the right path. But what if certain aspects of our theology stir up other, less positive emotions? Some of these aspects could be our never-officially-explained early beginnings of racial distinction, the waxing and waning of women's sanctioned ability to administer blessings of healing and comfort, and let's not forget plural marriage.

How can we trust our own spiritual moorings if what we feel is in direct conflict with the revealed word of the Lord? Let's see if we can reason this through. Is an up-front "it feels good" really a measure of whether a thing is true or right? Or do we only get that good feeling AFTER we have exerted a sincere effort to align ourselves with the mind and will of God on a matter? Paul told the Galatians that having the Holy Ghost often results in feelings of love, joy, peace, etc. (Galatians 5:22-24). He said those good feelings were the "fruit of the Spirit" (notice he did not say, "little green sprout of the Spirit"). The fruit is something that comes at the end of a lot of hard work. To ever see the fruits of something requires plenty of nurturing, pruning, and patiently waiting. It sounds like sometimes our initial feelings are not always an accurate indicator of whether or not a principle is from God. We harvest the fruit, in season, after we have done all the work of studying things out with an honest heart and praying and waiting upon the Lord. The Spirit then comes, in due time, as a seal of approval.

I have found, in the pursuit of understanding the more delicate doctrine, that there will be feelings that stem from the process of studying and learning that are natural, but will absolutely inhibit the ability to perceive deeper truths. The most stunting of all these outgrowths is anger. Anger needs to be pruned. Its cumbersome branches will block the sunlight, causing any fruit that makes it to harvest to be bitter. Likewise, beware the angry woman (or man). When studying delicate doctrine, warn yourself away from receiving the counsel of individuals who, themselves, harbor angry feelings. We have been told that those feelings do not come from God.

Remember that with the mysteries of godliness, in order to see you must first believe. Blessings come after the trial of your faith. John Taylor's remembrance of something the prophet Joseph said should give us perspective:

You will have all kinds of trials to pass through. And it is quite as necessary for you to be tried as it was for Abraham and other men of God, and (he said) God will feel after you, and He will take hold of you and wrench your very heart strings, and if you cannot stand it you will not be fit for an inheritance in the Celestial Kingdom of God.
— Journal of Discourses, 24:197

  When we hear the oft-expressed sentiment that something about our history or theology makes one feel anything less than elated, we cannot help but share that it is only due to the fact that we have not reached a proper understanding of it. But the good news is that we can, if we are willing to pay the price. "It feels good" was never the end-all be-all measure of truth or right. Just ask Abraham.

Listen to our discussion on this topic here