Sunday, May 31, 2009

Discusion 2: Discerning of Spirits

Well, let's try this again. Last week's lesson ended up being a little bit boring. Thank you to those of you who threw some insight in there! I think this next one has a bit more potential...

A couple of weeks ago in Relief Society, we had lesson #33 from the Joseph Smith manual about gifts of the spirit.

At the end of the lesson, the teacher put considerable emphasis on the gift discerning of spirits, and the lesson talked about how many will not be able to discern messages from evil spirits as being evil and instead will think that they are in fact the Holy Ghost. As usual, my mind seemed to wonder if there are those around us in our ward and family that feel we are being lead astray by these evil spirits.

Here is the portion of the lesson on the subject:

The gift of discerning of spirits allows the faithful to distinguish between the influence of good and evil spirits.

In the early days of the restored Church, members of the Church, as well as members of other religious groups, sometimes acted upon influences from evil or false spirits, believing they were under the influence of the Holy Ghost. The Prophet Joseph Smith taught: “Recent occurrences that have transpired amongst us render it an imperative duty devolving upon me to say something in relation to the spirits by which men are actuated.

“It is evident from the Apostles’ writings [in the New Testament], that many false spirits existed in their day, and had ‘gone forth into the world,’ and that it needed intelligence which God alone could impart to detect false spirits, and to prove what spirits were of God [see 1 John 4:1–4]. The world in general have been grossly ignorant in regard to this one thing, and why should they be otherwise—‘for no man knows the things of God, but by the Spirit of God.’ [See 1 Corinthians 2:11.] …

“There always did, in every age, seem to be a lack of intelligence pertaining to this subject. Spirits of all kinds have been manifested, in every age, and almost amongst all people. … All have their spirits, all have a supernatural agency, and all contend that their spirits are of God. Who shall solve the mystery? ‘Try the spirits,’ says John [1 John 4:1], but who is to do it? The learned, the eloquent, the philosopher, the sage, the divine—all are ignorant. … Who can drag into daylight and develop the hidden mysteries of the false spirits that so frequently are made manifest among the Latter-day Saints? We answer that no man can do this without the Priesthood, and having a knowledge of the laws by which spirits are governed; for as ‘no man knows the things of God, but by the Spirit of God,’ so no man knows the spirit of the devil, and his power and influence, but by possessing intelligence which is more than human, and having unfolded through the medium of the Priesthood the mysterious operations of his devices. …

“A man must have the discerning of spirits before he can drag into daylight this hellish influence and unfold it unto the world in all its soul-destroying, diabolical, and horrid colors; for nothing is a greater injury to the children of men than to be under the influence of a false spirit when they think they have the Spirit of God. Thousands have felt the influence of its terrible power and baneful effects. …

“As we have noticed before, the great difficulty lies in the ignorance of the nature of spirits, of the laws by which they are governed, and the signs by which they may be known; if it requires the Spirit of God to know the things of God; and the spirit of the devil can only be unmasked through that medium, then it follows as a natural consequence that unless some person or persons have a communication, or revelation from God, unfolding to them the operation of the spirit, they must eternally remain ignorant of these principles; for I contend that if one man cannot understand these things but by the Spirit of God, ten thousand men cannot; it is alike out of the reach of the wisdom of the learned, the tongue of the eloquent, the power of the mighty. And we shall at last have to come to this conclusion, whatever we may think of revelation, that without it we can neither know nor understand anything of God, or the devil; and however unwilling the world may be to acknowledge this principle, it is evident from the multifarious creeds and notions concerning this matter that they understand nothing of this principle, and it is equally as plain that without a divine communication they must remain in ignorance. …

“A man must have the discerning of spirits, as we before stated, to understand these things, and how is he to obtain this gift if there are no gifts of the Spirit? And how can these gifts be obtained without revelation? ‘Christ ascended into heaven, and gave gifts to men; and He gave some Apostles, and some Prophets, and some Evangelists, and some Pastors and Teachers’ [see Ephesians 4:8, 11]. And how were Apostles, Prophets, Pastors, Teachers and Evangelists chosen? By prophecy (revelation) and by laying on of hands:—by a divine communication, and a divinely appointed ordinance—through the medium of the Priesthood, organized according to the order of God, by divine appointment. The Apostles in ancient times held the keys of this Priesthood—of the mysteries of the kingdom of God, and consequently were enabled to unlock and unravel all things pertaining to the government of the Church, the welfare of society, the future destiny of men, and the agency, power and influence of spirits; for they could control them at pleasure, bid them depart in the name of Jesus, and detect their mischievous and mysterious operations when trying to palm themselves upon the Church in a religious garb, and militate against the interest of the Church and spread of truth. …

“… Our Savior, the Apostles, and even the members of the Church were endowed with this gift, for, says Paul, ‘To one is given the gift of tongues, to another the interpretation of tongues, to another the working of miracles, to another prophecy, to another the discerning of spirits.’ [See 1 Corinthians 12:10.] All these proceeded from the same Spirit of God, and were the gifts of God. … No man nor set of men without the regularly constituted authorities, the Priesthood and discerning of spirits, can tell true from false spirits.”

“Lying spirits are going forth in the earth. There will be great manifestations of spirits, both false and true. … Every spirit, or vision, or singing, is not of God. … The gift of discerning spirits will be given to the Presiding Elder. Pray for him that he may have this gift.”


What do you think about this quote? How can we truly recognize when a prompting is from God and when it is not? How can we make sure that we are not being lead astray?

Again, I would love to see a discussion on this in our virtual MoHo ward!

4 comments:

Frank Lee Scarlet said...

Very interesting! I have thought about this before as well--it's sometimes especially hard for me to differentiate between the Spirit's promptings and my own emotions. For me--and I hope I'm not oversimplifying this--I think of "by their fruits ye shall know them". I'm not sure how much that ties into the gift of the discerning of spirits (and I'm not saying there isn't more to this discernment), but it seems to be a useful measure for me. I ask, when trying to determine whether something is of God or not, Are the results love, peace, and joy, or hatred, contention, and strife?

On an side note, the New Era had an article on this that said one way to know the difference between the Spirit's guidance and other influences is that the Spirit will never instruct you to do something contrary to the Gospel. Yet I think of Abraham being commanded to sacrifice his son--in the face of "Thou shalt not kill." That seems like a pretty starkly black-and-white commandment, but there are exceptions--there are individual circumstances and personal revelations that must be taken into account, in my opinion.

Ron Schow said...

I believe Frank Lee has touched upon the key. "By their fruits ye shall know them." So when the Lesson material says...."“As we have noticed before, the great difficulty lies in the ignorance of the nature of spirits, of the laws by which they are governed, and the signs by which they may be known" One "sign" by which we may know a true thing is a peacful feeling. Someone experiencing gay feelings and who is in an MOM recently explained this to me. He said, "...as long as I was intent on changing my feelings I was always miserable trying to change and not really achieving it. Once I accepted my feelings and welcomed them as part of who I am, I was in a much better place and felt peaceful." I have heard a large number express this same sentiment and it involves a feeling of peace. Recent research in the Jan 2009 issue of Pediatrics has also shown that when parents and family accept the feelings of a gay family member, then the chances for suicide, depression and illegal drug use go down drastically from close to 70% down to near 20%.

Ron Schow said...

I should have noted above that this person who expressed the peaceful feeling also noted that he was very happy with and feeling really good about being in the MOM. So accepting the gay feelings IS compatible with being in an MOM for this person and his spouse. She was present when he said this and nodded agreement with his report. They say some family are puzzled by hearing that their straight marriage involving a gay person is going well, but this is the case. This may not be possible for some, but the key here (the sign), I think, is the peaceful feeling

HappyOrganist said...

Hi,
I just wandered in from the halls. What's the lesson on again?