Because I wrestled with contradictory information on what I should feel as a Mormon, I had one of the slowest exits out of the church that I know of. I felt feelings (described to me as the spirit) often when doing or seeing good things happen, yet never when specifically praying about the Book of Mormon or church. After years of trying to gain that elusive testimony experience, and while going through the temple on the way home from my mission, I had an experience that made me honestly fear that this church wasn’t God’s one true church (to help keep this letter as short as possible, you can read the details here).

Over the next 15 years I turned over every rock in an effort to find something that could prove the church at least intellectually correct. Along the way I became a wiki editor for FAIR Mormon to help provide apologetic answers to tough questions. I found that if I did enough mental gymnastics (see how horses in the Book of Mormon are explained away as a small pig-like animal), I could help provide plausible counter-explanations against evidence that showed the church to be false. Because there is no definitive proof for the church’s truth claims, in the end I discovered that most apologetic discussions of point and counter point come down to one final trump card, “Despite those logical arguments against the church, I know it is true because I feel the spirit confirm that it is!” So, this letter is an attempt to move beyond unverifiable arguments of horses and tapirs to dealing with the final trump card of spiritual feelings as a confirmation of truth claims.


Basically, no matter how many logical arguments convincingly show the Book of Mormon to be a nineteenth century document (See question C here) people will say the church has to be true because of some experience(s) they previously had. This method of truth finding actually has a technical name – Emotional Reasoning. It is this trump card, which is often used to override the intuitive feelings of a Mormon’s heart on things like the church’s policy toward children of gay parents, that I want to challenge today. I would like to show how using this trump card is illogical and not a legitimate indicator of truth. I’ve also not found an apologetic argument to counter the reasons against using emotional reasoning as an indicator of universal truth.



I’d like to request that Mormon apologists either show how I have a flaw in my logic or explain why they feel it is OK to use this trump card despite its flaws.

On the surface, the church’s oft-given explanation makes sense; God will make you feel positive emotions when you participate in various church activities such as singing hymns, participating in rituals like baptism, coming together as a community, meditating on books of scripture, or even praying, as a confirmation that He is there and what you have been taught is true. As it turns out, doing those things actually does cause one to feel positive feelings. I’m not disputing that at all. The problem arises when you evaluate the initial assumptions critically. If that premise (God gives you these feelings to indicate the truthfulness of something) and its conclusion (therefore the church is true) are correct, then other people should not feel those same feelings for doing the same activities in reference to a different church or book of scripture. If others do feel the same feelings for different religions or religious books, then using Emotional Reasoning as an indicator of universal truth is a logical fallacy and can not be used as a trump card to prove Mormonism is God’s One True Church.

This video is long, but here is a small collection of real life cases from 16 different religions bearing testimony of feelings coming from God to prove that their religion is God’s one true church or that is where God wants them to be. Many of them say that they felt things that were “different” from their regular emotions and things they’d experienced previously. Therefore, they knew they were from God and not just regular, positive emotions. I’ll get to that perceived difference later.

surveysurvey was conducted, asking people who believed in a god who answers prayers if they’d prayed and asked God which religion was the most correct. 82% said they had received an answer. Of those, 73% were “Very Sure” they received an answer. They came from 22 different religions. Therefore, there are a significant amount of people from different religions that use the same evidence (strong, spiritual feelings) to prove that God wants them in their religion and that their religion is the correct path to God. Knowing that many people use the same evidence to come to very different conclusions, it seems subjective and therefore illogical to use spiritual feelings as a confirmation of truth from God. How can you determine that your feelings are correct (or the “most correct”) while others’ are wrong?

As a side note, using your emotions to help determine what feels right for you and where you should go is something completely different than what I’m talking about here. If it makes you happy to read the Book of Mormon then do it, but don’t assume that it therefore must be true. You can’t use emotional reasoning to prove truth, like you would using the scientific method (getting reproducible, non-conflicting results). Emotional personal insight may be a better term for how to use your emotions.

Up to this point I’ve discussed the the small spiritual experiences.  These experiences are the “burning in the bosom” feelings you get when doing or seeing something altruistic which has a technical name and is called the Elevation Effect. I’d like to move to the life changing spiritual experiences that are much larger.  This also is further evidence against using these feelings as proof of communication from God and can be found in the DMT (N,N-Dimethyltryptamine) studies done by Dr. Rick Strassman. DMT is a neurotransmitter formed in all our brains. He gave 400 doses of it to 60 volunteers and their experiences EXACTLY mimic the descriptions I’ve heard my entire life about the Mormon spiritual experience upon which the trump card relies. These are powerful feelings described by the DMT volunteers as:

  • A feeling of undeniable certainty that the experience was “more real than real”
  • A sense of wonder or awe and at times a separation of spirit from the body
  • Miraculous, long-term, positive changes in a person’s life because of the experience
  • Profound spiritual insights during experience
  • Extraordinary joy and a sense of timelessness, a feeling of eternity
  • Increased positive emotions, powerfully moved to tears
  • Impressions of bright white lights and encounters with angelic entities
  • Visions of a tree of life (none of the volunteers were Mormon)

The participants that came from a religious background said that the DMT feelings were either identical to or more real than the spiritual feelings they had felt previously. This begs the question, “Are spiritual experiences just the results of DMT being released in our brains?”


That brings us to the point of my open letter. If you can’t tell the difference between chemically-induced feelings and spiritual feelings, how can you use them as an indicator of truth? If I gave you an injection of DMT after reading Harry Potter, and you felt powerful spiritual feelings, would that mean the book is God’s one true book? In other words, are these chemically-induced feelings just powerful biological emotions or are they actual spiritual experiences? If it’s the former, then this is further evidence that we can’t use emotional reasoning to prove religious truth claims since we can manufacture those same feelings. If it’s the latter, then we have to conclude that God doesn’t care which religion you join, he/she/it just wants you to have chemically-induced experiences that motivate you to come closer to him/her/it and the path you choose doesn’t necessarily matter. Like hundreds of various religious beliefs in the past, this seems to become one more earthquake closing the chasm between science and religion in the God of the Gaps divide.

Now that you are aware of this evidence, if you weren’t already, it must be accounted for when making claims about spiritual experiences. You must explain 1) Why your conclusions using emotional reasoning are correct and those of other faiths are not, and 2) How you can say those feelings are from God when we can artificially induce the exact same feelings by administering DMT to people. Not doing so is dishonest at worst, and unethical at best.

If you have another conclusion or see problems with mine, I’d be more than happy to hear your logical argument. I am always open to new evidence, even if it means coming to a potentially new conclusion based on more sound reasoning. Please avoid fallacious defenses like Ad Hominem attack or Poisoning the Well by trying to make me look bad instead of showing how my argument is incorrect. Don’t Move the Goal Posts either, just argue why my conclusion (that people feel the same emotions for different and/or completely contrasting religious beliefs, emotions which can be induced by chemicals, so cannot be used as indicators of truth) is incorrect or faulty.

For everyone else, if reading this open letter and also learning of the many verifiable problems with basic church statements doesn’t make you want to reconsider your assumptions and conclusions, what would it take to make you critically evaluate them? For example, what would you tell a Jehovah’s Witness that uses your exact same arguments to prove that “they know” their church is true? This information is admittedly uncomfortable, but it is incumbent upon anyone that seeks truth over immediate personal comfort to push through those difficult, initial feelings and see where the evidence points to. Similar to leaving the house after high school, it may have been scary and uncomfortable, but the knowledge and growth has enabled you to live a much better life than comfortably staying home forever would have.

Hebrews 11:1 says, “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” Therefore, faith is hope for things you CAN’T currently know and knowledge is the understanding of things you CAN currently know. If you believe the truth will set you free (John 8:32) and the truth has nothing to fear from investigation, then don’t fear getting more information or processing it, even if it goes against your current beliefs.

Emotional reasoning has been proven to make people think they know things that are not correct. Therefore, it should not be used as evidence of ultimate truth claims. Let’s move forward with logic and critical thinking toward knowing what we can know, while having faith that the things we hope for can one day be known, and remaining open to being wrong. Let’s not continue to have faith in things that have been proven wrong (or ignore evidence indicating that something may be wrong) because it makes us feel better. Having faith that your church is true, despite many evidences to the contrary, solely because of the trump card of emotional feelings is not an honest way to seek for truth. If evidence shows us that the something isn’t true, we shouldn’t override that with emotional reasoning to continue in a false hope that it is. We need to use tests that give reproducible results, even in matters of faith, or else our conclusions will expose us as choosing comfort over truth.

Black Pete
Black Pete
Early African American convert often described as "a chief" because of his assumed frequent psychedelic substance use and ensuing “visionary” experiences where he was chased by a ball in the air, fancied he could fly and occasionally pantomimed with Joseph Smith acts of scalping each other, ripping open bowels and making unearthly screams. They would often both receive inspiration from God after boxing, wrestling and running with invisible devils. For fun, sometimes they would wield pretend Swords of Laban until they fell to the floor and writhed like serpents which they called, “sailing in the boat to the Lamanites.”1, 2 1-Restoration and the Sacred Mushroom Did Joseph Smith use Psychedelic Substances to Facilitate Visionary Experiences? Presented at the Sunstone Symposium, August 2007 by Robert T. Beckstead 2-A Divided Mormon Zion: Northeastern Ohio Or Western Missouri?” by By John Hammond, pp. 97-98
  • Darcey

    This exactly has been my experience in the LDS church. And it’s a good thing you asked for no fallacious defenses because that’s all I’ve ever gotten from TBMs when trying to make points such as this!

    • Carson

      Thanks Darcey! I’m super interested to see how they respond with my explicit request to avoid the most commonly used logical fallacies.

      • jvanvliet

        I really like this post. It mirrors a lot of my thinking (I know, confirmation bias at it’s best!).My experience is that they will ignore your request and continue with the trump card. In conversations with friends and relatives that are still active (TBM) results in one of two outcomes: 1) They cannot refute the logic and resort to “well the church does good, it makes me feel good, so I’m not looking any further”, or 2) some variation of “but we have the priesthood, and that is what makes the difference”. It took me a long time to extricate myself from this thinking, and I believe a person will only approach these questions honestly when sometime forces them to confront difficult decisions.

        • Carson

          True, sometimes the cognitive dissonance is so strong they refuse to process what you share.

  • Sterling C

    DMT… Just listen to Terrence mckenna talks on youtube for an hour or two and you’ll get the idea. Here is one on clearing one’s cultural operating system ; great ideas for recovering Mormon’s.

  • meow

    Love the new post by Carson! Will we get to hear from Marissa too?

  • Martin Harris Luther

    I noticed that your survey link does list Mormonism as one of the religions people identified as being the most correct or one of the most correct, but your article says “none of which were Mormons.” In fact, Mormonism was the most common religion listed with 22 responses. I don’t think this in any way undermines your argument, but I wanted you to be aware of it.

    It probably indicates that Mormons are more likely than people from other religions to have gone through the process of praying about which church is true and believing that they have received an answer. Not surprising, given that all members are encouraged to do just that.

    • Carson

      You’re right! Thanks for pointing that out. I’ll update it with an edit comment in the post. That does diminish the benefit of that survey since so many of the respondents are Mormon, but still proves the overall point.

    • SaintApollonia

      I have Mormon friends and I have studied Mormonism quite extensively on my own, and have “investigated” it with missionaries. To me it’s pretty obvious that the subjective feelings that come from praying about the Book of Mormon and the LDS church being true, are largely due to the power of suggestion (especially since it is heavily suggested that you will receive a confirming answer). They pressure the “investigator” quite a bit to read, pray, and receive the experiences that the rest of them have had, and have shared in their testimonies. The LDS church has a pretty effective formula of setting the stage for an expected and psychologically induced “spiritual” experience through power of suggestion… and many people fall for it. They don’t think much about the fact that similar emotional and/or spiritual experiences exist outside of Mormonism and are experienced by people in many differing faiths.
      Faith and reason should be complementary to each other, but in Mormonism they don’t really work together because Mormonism just doesn’t hold up to scrutiny. Mormons seem to learn to compartmentalize the two. I’ve even attended an LDS women’s function where they were touting the quote “doubt your doubts, not your faith.” Mormon apologists have very hard work cut out for them. I have read a lot of Mormon apologetics, and it involves an enormous amount of spinning, twisting, pulling, and stretching to fit square pegs in round holes. I don’t think apologetics of the “one true faith” should require such manipulation and mental gymnastics.

  • Martin Harris Luther

    By the way, I really enjoyed your post. Realizing that “The Spirit” is flawed was a painful pill to swallow, but was certainly one of the most important things I have ever learned. It was this idea, (not polygamy, DNA, or tapirs), that finally and permanently knocked down all of the fences I had constructed in my mind. And though it has been painful, nothing can compare with the exhilarating freedom of a fenceless mind.

    • Carson

      Thanks! That freedom to do what feels right and not feel obligated to follow things the brethren do or church culture even is so nice. I don’t have to make arguments for how the new policy is good to children when my heart says it isn’t.

  • exmormonsunite

    This may be nitpicky, but as a neuroscientist who studies emotional memory I was wondering, why is the circle for the emotional part of the brain around the cerebellum as opposed to the more limbic areas? Also, Elizabeth Loftus’ work on false memories is applicable as well:

    • Carson

      Great point! I actually didn’t look very closely at that image and just added it because it pointed to prefrontal cortex and somewhere around the top of the brain stem in a hurry to get some images into the post after it already had gone live!

  • Jeffrey R. Hollandaise

    With regard to the referenced DMT study, I would just say that we have known for ages that there are natural and synthetic substances that can produce religious-type experiences in the human brain. It would be an overextension of scientific reasoning, however, to definitively conclude that such substances are the only way to experience religious emotion.

    If the Strassman study (I won’t pretend to be familiar) proves that measured DMT doses can produce feelings of spiritual certainty, what it cannot prove is that all feelings of spiritual certainty are the result of DMT. We at least know that there are countless reports of individuals who have had such experiences without having been administered DMT. Whether these experiences are the result of a natural DMT process in the brain, or a separate, as of yet unidentified function is something we do not know. (To suggest we do know would be disingenuous/irresponsible.)

    The theologian’s rebuttal to this suggestion would be that we are merely gaining insight into a natural function of a divinely-designed brain. The ability to chemically induce said functioning (akin to checking your reflexes with a hammer) does nothing to explain God’s role in these processes as they occur naturally. Of course, the logical thinker must consent that such an explanation can neither be proved nor disproved by current scientific methods. Thus, whether you conclude spiritual confirmations are the manifestation of divine influence, or simply the random firings of an outdated biological function is, ultimately, an act of faith.

    Personally, I would say that each individual must assume the burden of evaluating their own spiritual experiences (and would do well not to extend their judgements beyond that purview). I would add that true Mormonism should not be an attempt to convince anyone of the reality of anyone else’s personal spiritual witness; but rather an invitation for each individual to have such experiences for themselves; and then determine what significance they deem fit to assign to the same.

    • Carson

      True, it doesn’t prove all spiritual feelings are from DMT, but if we can’t tell the difference then we can’t use spiritual feelings as evidence of universal truth from God. Even if the spirit makes our brain feel these chemicals and we can induce our brain to feel them from external DMT or even from rituals, the fact remains, since we can’t tell what is from ritual (and irrelevant of the eternal/universal truthfulness of the ritual) or from God, we can’t use it as an indicator of universal truth.

      I agree with your last paragraph, unfortunately the church doesn’t and thus the motivation for my essay.

      • Jeffrey R. Hollandaise

        I think a lot of confusion becomes possible when we overlap the roles of science and religion in the human experience. For example, a Christian who uses a literal reading of the Bible to gain scientific understanding about the physical development of the earth will find unnecessary conflict. Not only will he have trouble reconciling his understanding with scientific data, he will also likely be overlooking the spiritual lessons which the Biblical narrative exists to convey. Similarly, while science allows us to understand empirically verifiable data, appeals to it as the ultimate authority on religion, philosophy, or spirituality lead to a false expectation of spiritual knowledge as well as a skewed understanding of the limitations of science. Science, for example, can’t verify or disprove Plato’s tripartite soul, nor Kant’s morality; yet this inability should not be seen as a rejection of these philosophies any more than of science itself.

        To say, then, that religious experiences can’t be accepted as leading to truth simply because science cannot provide a means for verifying their veracity is to dismiss countless ages of human spiritual and philosophical wisdom to the contrary; and the richness of the mortal experience this wisdom offers. Of course, I don’t condemn any individual who chooses to look only to science for spiritual answers. However, because science as we understand it is incapable of proving or disproving the existence of God, the choice to accept or reject spiritual promptings as divine influence must ultimately be a faith-based decision. As I see it, we are all looking beyond the limits of science to answer difficult questions- some carrying their science with them into the metaphysical, others abandoning it where it can take them no further.

        Lastly, while I have seen among certain groups and individuals the Mormonism you allude to above, it is not Mormonism as I understand or have experienced it. Spiritual confirmations exist for the individual; and as such, each individual is invited to seek such confirmation for themselves. Trying to prove my spiritual conversion to anyone else serves no purpose I can think of, as spiritual knowledge must be experienced to be fully understood. I can only share my faith with others as an invitation to consider those things I have felt personally inspired to accept.

        • Carson

          You’re changing my goal post. I’m not saying science proves the church true or not. I’m saying science shows us that we can’t use these feelings as proof of divine communication of universal truths.

          Your last paragraph is again attempting to change another goal post. This essay was written towards the church and what it says. You can say all day long that we need to let individuals come to their own conclusions, but the church says, “Read this, pray and when you feel these positive feelings it is God telling you that it is correct, Joseph was God’s prophet and therefore we are his ONLY authorized representatives and this is the ONLY path to get back to him.”

          Please stop changing the goal posts

          • Jaasiel Rodriguez

            Thanks for being so adamant about this Carson. Keeping the goal where it belongs is the only way to address the issues in the Mormon super-community (that’s tbm to exmos) overall.

            It’s like when someone says “you can’t prove god doesn’t exist to me”. Yeah, just because there is God, it doesn’t mean it’s your god.

          • Carson

            Thanks. I’ve been shocked at how much effort I’ve had to put into that in other places discussing this.

          • Jeffrey R. Hollandaise

            Essentially, these claims are of the same category with relation to the original article. The method is in question, not the conclusion. Thus, germane to the original article, claiming to know Mormonisms claims are true through faith, prayer and emotion is no different than claiming to know God exists or that he loves you through the same means. The author is claiming truth cannot be determined through such means, so it doesn’t really matter what conclusion is in question, as long as we are talking about a faith-based approach for determining said conclusion.

          • Jeffrey R. Hollandaise

            Basically, if you accept the aurhor’s claim, you must accept that man cannot accept any knowledge about God’s nature, (including his very existence) not just claims of Mormon doctrine- that are not explicitly verifiable through the scientific method.

          • Carson

            You are stating something that I never did. Show me where I said that….

          • Jeffrey R. Hollandaise

            “Even if the spirit makes our brain feel these chemicals and we can induce our brain to feel them from external DMT or even from rituals, the fact remains, since we can’t tell what is from ritual (and irrelevant of the eternal/universal truthfulness of the ritual) or from God, we can’t use it as an indicator of universal truth.”

            Per you, emotions cannot be relied upon to make any conclusions of divine truth. That would include the existence of God, as it is not scientifically verifiable. I agree science can’t provide these answers, only disprove them. (Yes, I read the article.) Also, I make no claims as to the veracity of others’ beliefs. It’s an interesting conversation when both sides try to understand the other, but you’re either not understanding my point, or you’re trying to keep the subject matter too narrow- not sure which one. At this point, it’s starting to feel like we’re both spinning our wheels in the mud. Thanks anyway. Guess I’ll take my goal posts and play somewhere else. ;p

          • Jeffrey R. Hollandaise

            Oh, and before you feel the need to explain to me how I believe everyone else is false in their beliefs about God, you might find the explanation interesting/enlightening, but there doesn’t seem to be a lot of effort to understand here. Too bad for a poster who started by asking for help understanding the other side. Oh well…

          • Carson

            To me, those statements are different. I say we can’t use emotions WHEN everybody’s emotions contradict each other. I’ll throw you a bone and say that you are right I guess because that would be more or less the scientific method. If everybody’s (or at least a large majority of people’s) emotions all pointed towards similar ideas then you could start to use them as a potential indicator of divine truth. Since everybody’s feelings just match with what their religion/culture/etc. tell them then you can’t. IOW, I think there is a spectrum between hard scientific method use and this essays discussion of wildly conflicting ideas confirmed through emotional reasoning. I was pushing back against that binary.

            I’m still interested in hearing you state what you feel is a logical reason as to why you are right in what your emotional reasoning confirms to you when everyone else is wrong for feeling the same feelings for different religions and doctrines.

          • Carson

            As I stated above, I’m showing the logical fallacy. Please prove how it is not a logical fallacy. IOW, how you are right and everyone else is wrong?

          • Jeffrey R. Hollandaise

            Not moving the posts, just challenging your methods in looking for science to confirm or deny something that is beyond its limits. Through the entirety of human existence, science has failed to provide man with truth about the nature or existence of God. (Not an indictment of science- just a limitation.) Thus, “holding out” for scientific proof of claims you know are not scientifically verifiable is tantamount to rejecting them outright, even if you don’t claim so explicitly. Essentially, your choice not to believe without scientific proof is a “gut” decision of the ilk you criticize.

            To conclude that science proves we can’t rely on spiritual experiences to learn divine truth, you must reject the idea (without conclusive proof) that there is any truth which can’t be proven through the scientific method- you must come from a place of bias. To be fair, I am also coming from a position of bias. (I conclude only that science is an ineffective method for understanding divine truth.) However, I am at least open about my bias, and where I am making allowances for my beliefs. To be clear, I am not challenging your conclusion to accept only those things which are scientifically verifiable. I’m just saying you have made a different belief choice than I have in the face of inconclusive science, (I choose to use metaphysical means to determine divine truth) and that you can’t judge my method through the lens of yours any more that I can do the same to you.

            This was a well written article. You seemed to be legitimately wondering how people can justify using non-scientific means to draw conclusions of truth. (Ultimately, we both know that neither of us can empirically prove the other right or wrong, so the only legitimate goal for such a conversation can be improved mutual understanding.) I have tried to present that from my viewpoint, both believers and non-believers alike use non-scientific means to bridge the gap of scientific proof. Hopefully I have provided some insight in doing so. To the extent you claim I am changing your argument, I only feel I am expanding it to its broader implications to increase understanding.

            Respectfully, thank you for your thoughts.

          • Carson

            You are 100% moving the goal posts because you’re arguing something that I am not. I’ll repeat the thesis of my essay again…If different people feel the same feelings about different information, how can you logically say that you can use those feelings as indicators of truth? Also, if I can chemically induce those feelings by injecting a chemical into your body that your body naturally produces and it makes you feel those feelings that you say are the spirit, how do you know that it is the spirit and not just your body reacting to something that makes your brain release those chemicals? Notice, nothing saying that science disproves the church. Just pointing out that something is illogical and stating a conclusion about using that as evidence. Again, notice I didn’t make a conclusion on the church, just on using spiritual experiences.

            I’m starting to think you didn’t actually read the essay because how you could say science hasn’t provided any information on the existence of God. I think you skipped the god of the gaps part. Its proven so many things that people thought were god to actually not be god so it continues to disprove many things that people said were God. No, it hasn’t proven anything that is god, but science is about proving things wrong.

            I don’t conclude that science proves anything. I conclude that logically you can’t say spiritual experiences prove divine truth without showing how your personal experiences trump everyone else’s that feels the same thing. Please answer that question. How do you know that yours are right and everyone other non-Mormon person saying the same thing about the same feelings over conflicting “divine truths” is wrong? Seriously, how are you right and everyone be wrong? That is what I’m looking for and as I assumed, not a single person can give me that answer….

    • PathoNomadic

      Rick Strassman himself says much of the same thing as the theologian in Hollandaise’s comment, in Strassman’s own description of his book DMT and the Soul of Prophecy, where he refers to his:

      “… novel model of spiritual experience—either prophetic or psychedelic— that works from a top-down rather than bottom-up perspective. The bottom-up perspective is represented by neurotheology wherein changes in brain chemistry give the impression of communicating with the divine, whereas my new model, theoneurology, posits that God communicates with us via the agency of the brain.”

      I’m not making any point here. I definitely also think that objective proof can’t be obtained by one neurological state or another. I just thought it was interesting.

  • Invisible’s Cubit

    Wonderful post, Carson. However, you have consciously or unconsciously, left out super important elements. I’m going to answer your invitation/challenge to offer a rebuttle lacking any fallacious logic whatsoever. Here you go. Where is satan in your essay? Nowhere! Major blunder that no TBM would ever make. When someone is doubting, members recognize Lucifer’s influence being present. You also left out Alma’s definition of faith. The “hope” that you mention is only real faith if it is hope in something that is TRUE. The spirit only witnesses of true things. It’s the devil who masquerades as a good feeling to testify of the truthfulness of false things. The Mormon truth claims ARE true. As a result, the spirit can witness of their verity. All other religions contain falsehoods, even lies. Some are completely wrong, even abominations. As a result, by the very definition of faith, it is impossible to have true faith in the claims of these organizaitons. The ever clever adversary is there, burning bosoms with the counterfeit feeling of truth. Earlier this year, I had some doubts. I met with bishop to discuss. I expressed that in the past I had received great feelings about the church and interpreted them as a witness from God. However, with all the new information I was gleaning from THE essays and the internet, I was rethinking that interpretation. I recognized that I have had touching feelings in all kinds of situations. My bishop is so wise. He warned me about the devil. He told me that he CAN tell whether good feelings are just good feelings or or if they come from the Holy Ghost or if they originate from the evil imposter. When you boil it down to the core, it’s really pretty easy. If it’s true, it’s the spirit making you feel good. If it’s false, it’s satan. Now, I’d be glad to schedule a time for you to speak personally with the sage leader of my ward.

    • Carson

      Thanks for commenting. I think your talking tongue in cheek or channeling
      your inner TBM to play devil’s advocate. So, I’ll answer towards what
      you say, whichever way you mean it smile emoticon

      and Alma’s comments are a given. I’m going past those givens and
      asking you, even if there is a Satan and even if we have to start with a
      seed or hope, how can you know those feelings are from God? How can
      you say that the other people are being influenced by Satan and you are
      being influenced by God when you feel the exact same feelings over
      different doctrines? If you start with the assumption that the church
      is true then everything good confirming that is from God and everything
      bad is from Satan then you (your bishop in this case) are/is not being
      logical. I’m trying to step back past that initial conclusion to know
      how do we know the church is true if other people get the same answers
      over different things, but I take it you already know that. I wish I
      knew of a way to make people let go of that assumption and start out
      from a ground zero so that logic and reason can work, but its a hard
      thing to do.

      • Invisible’s Cubit

        My comments were tongue-in-cheek. It seemed appropriate when addressing a dentist! However, the comments from my bishop are pretty accurate. I wish that I had read your essay before meeting with my him. At the time, my reevaluation of past spiritual witnesses was quite lame. I’m a few years behind you in my faith enlightenment journey. 1 1/2 years ago I was as TBM as they are made. Your podcasts and posts have been great. It’s a little sad to hear that we might not hear from you again. For the sake of kids and grandkids, I’m attempting to stay in church. Not an easy task. Thanks and Best Wishes.

    • Sterling C


      —The Holy spirit testifies of TRUE things with TRUE positive emotions.
      —Sometimes NEUTRAL positive emotions can happen
      —The Evil spirit testifies of FALSE things with both negative and UNTRUE positive emotions.

      Here’s the program:
      Accept all TRUE positive emotions and reject all other emotions = TRUE things.

      Very logical, I can see no problems! Just get tight with the TRUE positive emotions and you are golden. What’s wrong with the program?

      “This statement is False.” makes more recursive logical sense to me…

      • Invisible’s Cubit

        Recursive? Do you even know what that means? It’s kind of like pent, surrect, deem & member.
        Cursive=having a flowing, easy, impromptu character
        Recursive=flowing again & again
        Repent=penting again & again
        Resurrect=surrecting again & again
        Redeem=deeming again & again
        Remember=membering again & again
        This is straight forward writing(even though it’s not in cursive). Truth is not determind by logic To know truth the spirit must be recursive in you. For it to be recursive, you must repent. When you experience recursivision of spirit through repentance you will eventually receive redemption and resurrection.
        Oh remember, remember the 5 keys to your eternal salvation: Cursive, Pent, Surrect, Deem & Member. Not necessarily in that order. Good luck my friend. Now, on to my next great adventure. I’m off to find if there might be a different definition of RECURSIVE in some weird, alternate universe.

        • Sterling C


          Just to be clear, I was being sarcastic in the comment above.

          I like your commentary. English word games are games they are. The great part in language it is so maluable that you can say thousands of ideas with few words. “God is good” could mean ‘my people will kill you in our war’ to one guy and ‘we all love each other’ to the next guy.

          I wanted also to be less cryptic with my english and explain a bit more on “This statement is false.” It is a logic problem and/or parodox.
          ( it is indeed recursive (but not so cursive), because if it is ‘true’ then it is ‘false’; but then it is ‘true’ again… and a studering recursive paradoxal flow we go! If you program this logic into a computer it will flip back and forth endlessly; it is mathematically recursive.

          This is somewhat linked to the problem of “does a set of all sets contain itself?” Or russles parodox.

          You know, the world really is not so easy, truth does not just make sense, just because I feel it should.

          Thank again!

          • Jaasiel Rodriguez

            With respect to that paradox, I was reading a Russian book on topology once, and they pointed out that the questions doesn’t make sense, a rather wittgensteinian approach to the question. I can’t remember what their reasoning was, but it was pretty good. I should find that book.

    • therealjeaniebeanie

      Where Satan? He’s a fairy-tale figure. It embarrasses me to think I ever used to take that idea seriously, but I guess it’s always good to have a scapegoat handy.

  • Loran

    Not sure about “emotional reasoning,” but anonymous Internet coward and ex-FAIR Wiki editor “Black Pete” has demonstrated exactly nothing of the normative kind. You are hereby invited, “Black Pete” to my Facebook apologetics page (where you will encounter my real name, not a moniker) to debate/engage me on any subject or topic of your choice, in the which you may demonstrate your critical thinking and analytical skills. It will be a special debate, just between us, with no initial input from any other posters until the debate is completed. See you there.

    • Carson

      Wow, I take it you didn’t actually read my essay because in the very first paragraph there is a link to my story that tells you exactly who I am. I didn’t sign it by my name because that is the ZotS format. Also, look in the comments and see that I answer with my actual name. But, despite your lack of reading the essay thoroughly or the comments and fairly harsh comment yourself, I’ll check it out 🙂

  • Josh K

    All emotion is chemically created in the brain by reaction to stimuli. Does that mean we aren’t really ever in love? Are we ever really happy? Do we really feel hunger or thirst? Are these just biological tricks and processes that make these conditions subject to debate? and therefore how can they be true since we can’t account for why they can exist whether we place those chemicals in our brain or they come because of our physiology? I know we both agree that physiology is not always logical, but it does gives us hints at the truth.

    You say that the scientific method is concerned with getting non-conflicting results, but this isn’t true. You make it seem like all scientist do all day is confirm truth. The scientific method is about observing and testing. It’s methodology isn’t based on proof, but on failure. If you can’t observe the edge of truth you can’t define what is true. Science is concerned with identifying what is false and making assumptions on results as to what could be true. But it is never done observing for failure, otherwise it is not science. For example, If a scientist sees evidence for intelligent design, he must dismiss it because there’s no way to prove that it is false. In the case of faith and the knowledge we gain by it, this is the same. Faith is not logical. It is not something explained by logic. It’s not merely a collection of feelings that trump logical discussion. There are some kinds of knowledge that cannot be obtained by philosophical prowess and scientific logic. Faith is one of these things. It is experienced in the soul. In the spirit.

    To illustrate: Love is a phenomenon that can be described by scientific observations but not comprehended or fully understood. There’s no logic to it. There’s no edge that can be observed. There’s no way to prove it’s false. Is it therefore a lie? Is the evidence of our biology is not admissible as evidence, because it is illogical?

    I can’t explain or describe the connection I call love. I could probably cite evidence of that love and we could sit around debating whether or not that love is real, but as an observer, you won’t be able to believe in my feelings of love. No amount of debate or proof presented on your side could convince me that I don’t love when I really do. So why is it so hard to believe when someone says, I can’t prove why I have faith in this, but I know that it is true, that they really could feel it? It might, as love does, indicate a deeper truth to no one else but the one experiencing it. You wouldn’t have a way to comprehend it because the truth of it can only be experienced for yourself.

    Now you said you felt that a testimony is elusive and you are right. Doubt and faith cannot exist in the same space (speaking of our brains metaphorically, of course.) No one who has seriously considered faith could say that they’ve never doubted. Yes, I fully realize as Ebenezer Scrooge explained that the senses are unreliable and can be thrown off by a scrap of food. We humans are inconsistent, illogical, and fallible. But that is not a counter evidence to spiritual experience and faith. Faith is not as simple as a chemical reaction in our brain. Faith requires faithfulness. It requires hope and charity. If you deactivate your faith with skepticism and unfaithfulness it has no power. It prevents the power of faith from reaching it’s function and giving the light and knowledge associated with that power. These are things that like love cannot be explained or comprehended, but only felt. The work associated with feeling the power of faith can take a lifetime to obtain. I hope you feel like that answered your question.

    • James Lloyd

      Excellent response.

    • therealjeaniebeanie

      Emotions are real experiences, chemically mediated or not, but that still doesn’t make them a reliable way to discern factual truth about things that either happened or didn’t happen.

      • Josh K

        I did address that point in my response. To summarize, I stated: In the case of spiritual knowledge emotional reliability is certainly subjective. However, Observers may not see value in that factual evidence (meaning a real experience induced by emotions) for someone else, because spiritual knowledge can’t be transferred via the academic methods available to science. An observer’s validation also isn’t required to make it “true” for someone else. Elsewise your disbelief and associated perceptions are equally prone to dismissal under the same criteria. No amount of logic or observation can disprove a spiritual reality.

  • RCB

    In short: you cannot use your personal feelings to prove that something is true. Isn’t this is plainly obvious?

  • SkepticByTrade

    Just saw this post. Excellent points, overall. One inherrant problem with evaluating other people’s emotional experiences is that…we can’t. We can only evaluate our own and use language to best describe our own but we can never know or experience what someone else does, making it impossible to truly compare these things.

    One thing my wife tells me when I bring up this problem of using emotional experiences to confirm truths: she says using these emotional descriptive terms to describe her spiritual feelings is just her best attempt, but that they are different. More like learning to ride a bike – something that takes practice over time. How do you know you can ride a bike? You just know because you do it. But the description of how you know comes down to explaining things like balance and pedaling but putting them all together into a description is difficult to describe. She knows she can ride a bike because she can do it. She tells me she knows the difference between spiritual and purely emotional feelings because she has practiced over time and just knows. And who am I to say she is wrong? I only know what I feel and to me there is no difference but I can’t compare my experiences to hers directly. As the skeptic of the family, I don’t accept those experiences as evidence of truth. She does.

    Along the same lines, in this DHT study, the fact that these participants weren’t LDS or even particularly religious is a problem. In order to compare the experiences, the best model would be to take people who have had deeply religious experiences, either LDS or not, and have them compare these to the DHT experience. Maybe they are the same, but maybe they are of a different caliber of experience and could be distinguishable to those who are more practiced in their religious experiences. I still doubt it, but until the study is done or my wife tells me her DHT experience exactly mimics her religious ones, I will leave room for the remote possibility that maybe they are not the same thing.

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  • therealjeaniebeanie

    Excellent post. I’m convinced Joseph Smith was doing some kind of entheogens.

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