The Seer Stone

I guess a lot of people find something they want to really believe as being fantastic, and then reinforce those beliefs with actions and justifications. I have been pondering a lot on how there are certain ideas that appeal to us because they are warm and fuzzy. The prescience of the afterlife as being happy and peaceful is an idea that would appeal to anyone, much like the idea of being wealthy or living forever or having the power of flight. When you think about your desires, or envision yourself having them, you naturally feel good. The power of visualization is extremely potent, and can make us feel as if those things were happening to us or would happen to us in the future.
On the flipside, thinking that there is no afterlife, war and genocide, death, or monsters, have the same effect with different accompanying emotions. Visualization of these instances yield solemnity, melancholy, fear, and sadness to the same degree our desires yield more positive emotions.
So, we have established that certain ideas we think about can infuse us with certain emotions. What do our emotions tell us in these instances? They tell us what we like to think about and what we don’t. Do they provide insight to what is real and what isn’t? No, because we can feel good about flying but it doesn’t mean we can, and we feel bad about monsters but that doesn’t make them real. It also doesn’t show what is make-believe, since we feel good about being wealthy, (which is within reach via the requisite amount of effort), and we feel sad about genocide and war, which are both happening virulently throughout human civilization. Our emotions, being consistent for both true and fantastic situations both positive and negative, tells us nothing about either set of circumstances.
For this reason, it is difficult for me to understand how religions imbue communication from God with these types of emotions. It is a natural procession of thought and of human nature to want to believe in things that perpetuate or increase our happiness. It is natural to want to avoid the opposite. Couched in other terms, if I knew that there was no afterlife, I would still feel good thinking about one existing. Therefore, assigning the reality of a particular set of circumstances to the way one feels about them is irrational and frankly unfounded.
This does not mean that feeling good or bad about something that is unknown automatically means it isn’t true or is, it just means we have no reason to use our emotions as a truth-meter.
I understand that this is a controversial idea, and accept fully that I could (nay, probably) am wrong in supposing this (see my blog on C.S. Lewis’ convincing evidence that emotion IS the way god communicates).
Using an example from my own religion, early on in the church Hiram Page had a seer stone that he used to receive faux revelations from God. This led many people to follow him, including Oliver Cowdery and the Whitmer family. People obviously felt strong emotions that what was presented to them was in fact real. We know they couldn’t have felt bad or doubt about Hiram, since if they did they wouldn’t have believed him. Therefore they felt warm, good, and positive feelings that what he was telling them was from God. As the church history goes however, Joseph Smith corrected their mistake and they eventually acknowledged they had been misled. To me, this seems a prime example of emotions leading us astray.
It just seems wrong to me that emotions, being fuzzy, nebulous, sporadic, and unclear, are the primary way that a supreme being would communicate the most important truth to his subjects or creations. I just think there should be more than that.
Comments are welcome from any of my four faithful readers who trudge through my musings.

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10 thoughts on “The Seer Stone

  1. Cindroid says:

    i have three things to say (and excuse them for not being insightful or deep-that will be for my next comment when i’m more fully awake but I wanted to leave a comment to ensure your satisfaction) :1. your new background is kinda scary2. i love how you group being wealthy, living forever, and the power of flight together. i would probably pick flight if given a choice3. no monsters? i’d beg to differ (see facebook) 3a. i’m really just kidding

  2. D says:

    If you were a God, how would you communicate with your creations? You say using the spirit, or “emotion” isn’t enough. I’m just curious what alternatives would be acceptable. Excuse me if this sounds sarcastic, because it isn’t meant to be. I think the difficult nature of decifering the personal emotion from the spiritual is half the battle. I personally believe that if our communication with God was too easy, it would eliminate most of the work necessary on our part as well as the agency that it takes to be good people. I’m interested to hear your take.

  3. freedomlover says:

    2 points…a) Emotions encompass a wider array than pleasant vs. unpleasant. Communications from the spirit don’t fall within this simple scale. If pleasant emotion ie. thoughts of flying, afterlife etc. were meant to be an indication (or communication from) of God – then so would sex, drugs and the like. We know that emotions can also encompass communications that indicate evil vs. righteousness. ie.. A bad “feeling” when we are doing something that may be pleasurable while at the same time contrary to God’s will. b) Emotions can be tricky and can’t be used as solely as a basis for reality/fiction, good/bad. That is why God also communicates in other ways. 1. Through the prophets and scriptures. 1. Answers to prayers (miracles)2. Whisperings of the spirit into the mind. 3. Feelings that far surpass the plane of pleasurable vs. it’s opposite. Feelings that are indeed “Holy” and cannot be attributed to an internal origin.

  4. blakecgriffin says:

    I like it when I feel good!Now if you’ll just show me exactly where your glass trailer is…

  5. Magicman says:

    To answer to D, we are assuming that in order for God to test us, we must have no recollection of our former premortal existence and then we are given scriptures and prophets to follow based on faith. One common quip used by missionaries to explain why everything is based on faith is the seemingly obvious, “why would god test us on something if we had all the answers?” This is the most ridiculous reasoning, since in order to be tested we HAVE to be given the answers, and then we either recall the information and/or use it in critical analysis. We aren’t told a bunch of premises, told that some of them are true and that we should follow them and then left to our own devices. It makes no sense. An analogy would be if I were to ever become a doctor, I obviously would require years of training and specialization. The fact that I have witnessed all of the evidences and procedures doesn’t mean I would be a good doctor. I could choose to implement my own knowledge or not. Also, the fact that every human being is born into such unique circumstances means no guarantee that those circumstances will prepare any one individual to willingly accept such a plan. So, I would even put forth that the entire premise that a plan based on faith is requisite to prove that we love God is irrational (in this line of thinking. I don’t necessarily agree with any school of thought at this point. This is all speculation). In other words, there should be clear cut roadways we should follow. As is the case of the three and eight witnesses, even a surety of something’s truth doesn’t guarantee obedience, so God’s effort to test His children wouldn’t be frustrated like many imagine.

  6. Magicman says:

    Paul brings up a good point with his first bullet. Sometimes our emotions contradict our instincts. This is C.S. Lewis’ reasoning towards our emotions coming from something besides ourselves, which I alluded to at the end of my original post. Your second point, however, I think falls back into my original argument. Even though we have scriptures, prophets, teachings, etc. those things are all based on the supposition that they ARE in fact from GOD, and not man. We have at some point to bridge some gap with a belief that they are from god, and that by reading or following them, we are following God’s plan. The only thing we use as feedback are our emotions, and the only measuring stick for those are what we are taught by those same scriptures and teachings. An analogy would be that I am giving criteria to judge a book that I wrote on if it’s good or not. That wouldn’t be an accurate measuring stick. There needs to be some concrete, objective analysis. And I don’t feel it can be emotion.

  7. Magicman says:

    Also along the lines of miracles, I would never deny anyone who has experienced a miracle. If you have, amazing. I think, however, at least different experiences I have had, there are more than one way of explaining things. Lastly, pertaining to thoughts of the mind or inspiration, again I would say that we are recognizing that the way our mind works has to do with not only us, but also from communication with god. This is a teaching from scripture and prophets (see above rebuttal), and is only one interpretation of why our mind will all of the sudden retrieve a certain piece of information or come up with a new idea. To reiterate, I hope nobody takes these musings as anti-religion, anti-faith arguments, I only am trying to delve deeper in understanding, and these are the thoughts that come to mind.

  8. freedomlover says:

    In my life, I have observed that there are two ways to discover truth. The first is that way which is generally accepted by the world. It is when we observe something to be truth via our own eyes or when we put pieces of truth together in such away as to infer a logical conclusion. Call this what you may… scientific method or logical inference. This, I believe is a perfectly valid way to discover truth and is one in which I believe God intended for us to use.The second way is the spiritual way… the one that the prophets and scriptures teach of…the one that involves faith and includes, dare I say it… Yes… Magicman’s dreaded non-foundation for truth word… “emotion”. 🙂 For whatever reason – God intended for us to use both methods to arrive at truth. The 2nd method is the one that cannot be logically proven. Ironically, it is by the 2nd method that I have come to know some of the truths that to me are indisputible (spiritually speaking). You are correct in naming the most oft quoted reasoning for God not revealing himself with “concrete” proof (although I would assert here as did Alma…that ALL THINGS denote there is a God and concrete proof could be found of God’s existence in everything around us, in a sense). Many say – “We are to be tested”. I believe that there is much sense to this assertion. Life certainly is (according to the scriptures) a test of some sort. I understand your rebuttal to the statement – “How can we be tested on something if we already know the answers?”. I believe we can be tested on stuff whether we know the answers or not – so I agree and at the same time disagree (if that makes sense). For God to reveal himself to us as he did to the 3 witnessess may or may not have any dramatic affect on our test taking ability. One thing it would do for sure is drastically increase our level of accountability. This may be partly the reason for God’s not wanting to be so direct with proving himself to us by means of method #1. I can only speculate here.Bottom line – method #2 for finding truth exists for me and for countless people. Although we cannot prove it by means of method #1 – no body can disprove it to us by means of method #1. That’s part of the beauty in finding truth that way. It’s sort of like the lamp oil and the virgins. Some things God wants us to come to know within our hearts directly from him. He doesn’t want somebody using method #1 to prove it to us. It has to do with seeking on a personal level. Seeking and finding.

  9. Anonymous says:

    This is gonna be a long one!You know who I am. Cheesecake!!!And to be clear, I have not read any of the other comments or Ben's reactions b/c I had in mind what I wanted to say and I didn't want it to become just reactions to what everyone else had said. Words in caps aren't meant to be shouting- it just takes too long to use italics.The points I’d like to address are:1-That perhaps you, by having this view and being somewhat set on it, are doing the same thing you insinuate is a negative thing, which is to have a view and then find reasons to believe it.2- that in speaking about the “warm and fuzzy” feeling you are referring to the LDS doctrine of the Spirit of God, and that there is a difference in what the religion teaches and merely “nice” emotional feelings.3- That the one example that you give of people going astray based on warm, good feelings is not an accurate representation of people following the Spirit and then messing up their lives.4- that following the Spirit, or emotions, as you call it (when in reality those are two very different things) does actually create results that differ wildly from simply acting on an emotional impulse.5- that the Spirit is the only way that a supreme being WOULD be able to speak to us, because it is very easy for man to duplicate a logical truth out of things which are not true.I am going to mainly discuss the question with respect to the LDS religion and its followers since we all know that’s who you’re referring to by “most people” (in this particular case). If the people who were teaching us to live by the promptings of the Spirit (prophets in the Book of Mormon, latter-day prophets, Jesus Christ Himself) were bums on the street, or child abusers, unsuccessful in their worldly pursuits, people who had poor family relations and were continually committing crimes, I could see how one could think that there is something wrong or blind about following a force not seen, but felt. However as the case is, these prophets are strong, successful, highly goal-oriented, extremely successful in their marriages and family lives, and overall happy individuals. This is fact (brain). By claiming that they simply lived their lives by visualizing nice things, whether real or fake, and then blindly living their lives according to these fantasies, is utterly silly. The Spirit of the Lord is something far different than feelings of pleasure, warmth, and goodness. It is an actual being, a man just like any one of us before we obtained bodies, and he can speak to us. The difference is not HOW we are feeling something, it is WHAT he is saying to us through those feelings. Words are a tricky thing. We don’t have enough of them. If I were to describe to you chocolate, I might say that it is creamy, sweet, milky, fragrant, and melts in your mouth. BUT- there are many things that fit those exact criterion. Does that then mean that chocolate no longer is any of those things? Never. It simply means that although other things have the same qualities as chocolate, there is no substitute for real chocolate, and once someone gives you some to taste AND identifies it as chocolate, then you’ll know.The same applies to the Spirit. The scriptures will tell you several ways that the Spirit can feel. ONE of those ways is by having a burning in your bosom. But we all know we can experience a burning sensation while listening to a powerful song, reading an inspiring book, or watching a band-aid commercial . However: none of the aforementioned examples helps me out with any decisions I’ve been trying to make, answers a question I’ve been seeking, or brings me legitimate and long lasting comfort in a time of distress. Therefore, it is not HOW the Spirit tells you something, it is WHAT. As Shari Dew says (if you want the legit reference I can find it), the Spirit is a LANGUAGE that needs to be learned. We need to learn how to recognize it, but not only that- we need to learn WHAT it is saying to us. We need to learn in what WAY it tells us things. We need to learn WHEN it is most accessible. We need to learn the various forms it can take. These are no things we just need to be aware of knowing we need to know, but we actually have to consistently work on translating- until the point that in becomes fluent. Some of the most truly spiritual people are NOT Emotional (the word you use to describe it) at all when it comes to the Spirit. They do not cry in testimony meeting. They do not get goosebumps or any of the sensational feelings that someone less experienced would have. They just have a sure understanding that what they feel in their heart is of God, and that they can follow what it is telling them. It gives answers. That is fact- once you know how to speak the language. And I can give examples of concrete answers that it has given, as it is promised it will give them. I also have several examples of concrete answers from the Sprit that have literally saved lives- that were not simple feelings in one’s gut or heart. Ask me sometime.Next, the example of Hyrum Page. Simply put, he did not have the stewardship over anyone to give them the KNOWLEDGE that they could follow him and be safe. Through the power of a prophet, we have been assured that the prophet can never lead us astray. It is not the church’s fault if people decide to no longer listen to the SPIRIT, but instead choose to act on FUZZY (fuzzy infers vagueness) feelings of emotion and sensational advertising and manipulation. The whole key is in the sentence where you said that Joseph eventually corrected their mistake. The ONE person who we have been told we can count on would have let those less dedicated members know that they should not follow Page. I’m not discounting that they probably really did feel good about going along with the faux revelations. They loved Hyrum and they trusted him. But they forgot that he did not have stewardship over them. If you had used an example of Joseph Smith or Gordon B Hinkley leading people away I might listen. But it has never happened. That’s fact (brain). I love Mariah Carey and if she were to ask me to come to India because she had created a new invention and wanted me to be the one to help her with it, I would probably go. Because it’s not a BAD thing to do, it won’t get me killed, but if I were to pray to Heavenly Father with real intent and a real desire to know, and if I were to listen, I am guessing He would tell me it’s probably not the best route for me to take. I may or may not get this answer through a warmth in my heart- but I WOULD get the answer with an everlasting feeling of peace- peace, peace, peace. I could deny it though if I chose to- and still be able to go on my way and potentially “FEEL” good about it- emotionally and sensationally.And lastly (I think…) is that of course God would speak to us through a medium such as the Holy Spirit. It’s evident in your everyday life just how iffy logical “facts” are. You want to know how much sleep to get? You could read 100 different opinions, all with very real biological studies to back them up. You want to know how to lose weight? Various experts can tell you how… all the while they are contradicting themselves. You want to know the time table of evolution? Different researchers will tell you different things. BUT. Only a supreme being would be able to not only allow things to make sense in your brain, but to accompany those thoughts with a warmth, a feeling, a burning, a PEACE in your heart. How would you prefer that the supreme being gives answers, if not from a thought in your own mind as well as an unmatched feeling in your body? I understand that not every single time does something make sense in your mind. But that is where faith comes in, and what is a supreme being without faith? This is not to say that we need to blindly follow anything. But through learning to
    interpret the Spirit, trusting your own mind, and realizing that thoughts in your mind are part of how the Spirit, leads to being able to get real and factual answers. Going back to what I said in the beginning- these people who are truly living by the Spirit are achieving ACTUAL RESULTS. They HAVE careers. They have families. They are successful in those things. Perhaps there are things that could take longer than your 24 years to be able to gain answers to- but no one is saying you can’t keep asking. But isn’t is the most LOGICAL thing to do is to DO WHAT WORKS? The things that it is taught that the Spirit would lead you to do are things that yield real positive results. FACT. You tell me one thing that this “warm and fuzzy” church wants every person on earth to do, and you tell me how- if everyone truly followed it- it could yield poor results? The revelations of how to run the church (both as a business-a very successful one- and a religion) came through revelation by this Holy Spirit. We can debate all day long whether they got those answers through the Universe or whatever, but the fact remains that they got them through the very method that the Book of Mormon promises they would receive them. Therefore, the Book of Mormon would need to be considered as a source of truth if it has yielded such positive results.Bottom line is, the Gospel teaches that the Spirit will allow you to know the truth of all things through the power of the Holy Spirit. But if someone told you that you could know every truth in the world but they would tell you them in Spanish, no matter how true the words were, you would never get them if you didn’t speak the language. The same applies to the Spirit- it is a language to be learned, and whether or not we take the time to become fluent is our challenge. Even though other sources might have the QUALITIES of the feelings the Spirit might bring, they do not bring the answers and the direction that a companion of the Lord can bring. If thought of logically, the Spirit WOULD be the only way a supreme being would want to contact us because it is the only thing man cannot duplicate fully. The only other way for surety would be to show us with our eyes and allow us to feel with our hands, but we know historically that even people who had that opportunity to see and feel God Himself still did not believe Him. Still did not do what He said. So what is the point of us seeing something if we still need something else in order to believe it? Hence the Spirit. The greatest sin is that of denying the Holy Ghost. Did you know it is less of a sin to deny Jesus Christ? That is because the Spirit is manifest inside of you, something you cannot deny. Seeing Christ with our eyes and then denying Him is somehow more acceptable.I have much more to say but enough of sharing all of my thoughts with your whole blog audience But will you please read this as some back up for some of the things I’ve mentioned- mainly the idea that answers come through your MIND and your HEART, and both of those are coming from the Spirit- but we do need to do whatever we can to study things out for ourselves and make decisions ourselves- that is part of truly following your religion- by appreciating what God gave us and by using it, not just blindly following something without believing it.

  10. Magicman says:

    30 And it came to pass, when the king heard the words of the woman, that he rent his clothes; and he passed by upon the wall, and the people looked, and, behold, he had sackcloth within upon his flesh.I have been rebuked. Very impressive argument. I will respond in kind soon.

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