“I felt the Spirit watching ‘Saving Private Ryan’ and the ‘Schindler’s List.’ Both R-rated and horribly violent movies. I also felt the Spirit watching ‘Forrest Gump’ and the ‘Lion King.’… Does this mean that Lion King is true? That Mufasa is real and true?” (CES Letter)
Life Is R-Rated – The scriptures are R-rated and violent as well. Why should something be untrue or unimportant because it contains violence? Violence is something that happens. We are advised by prophets to avoid R-Rated movies because they so often tend to glorify violence and deliver evil messages and themes. The fact that violence exists in stories is not the problem. The message they deliver is what matters.
Fiction Can Teach Truth – Feeling that a message is right or true does not mean you know the story truly happened. The Lion King is a great movie about how to realize one’s divine potential and overcome the temptations of evil which drag us down. Obviously, the story is fiction, but that doesn’t mean the moral principles that was feel enlightened by aren’t true. Any time there is a correct principle or moral truth being portrayed and the audience is open to receiving it, the Holy Ghost will gladly confirm it to their spirits.
The church does not have a monopoly on the Holy Ghost. We don’t have a monopoly on truth.
The problem with R-rated movies is they tend to bring an evil spirit because they teach principles and morality that is perverse and degrading. It is like alcohol; we are counseled not to drinking alcohol because it tends degrade our lives and make us victims of corporations. This doesn’t mean it is impossible to drink alcohol and be alright, but almost always it is a bad idea today so we are commanded not to.
The Holy Ghost doesn’t affect us just to know historical events happened. Confirmation of historical truth is just one function of the Holy Ghost. Did you pray to know if Lion King is real and then you received a prompting while watching the movie that it is true? If so, you could argue that it is an unreliable messenger. If not, why would you think a warm feeling about the moral principle is confirmation that the story happened? If the purpose of the Holy Ghost was all about revealing truth, then God would just tell us everything from the start.
Take Some Personal Responsibility – Movies evoke plenty of emotion, and it can be tricky to discern what is divine truth and what is human sensationalism. As we excercise self-control and tune ourselves to the Spirit of God, this ability to discern makes us humble and willing to accept truth that we maybe don’t want to hear.
Skeptics would want to use the Holy Ghost as some oracle or Magic 8 ball. But the whole point is to just get some help along the way as we increase in personal excellence.
Thrills Of The Damned – CES Letter goes on:
“After I lost my testimony, I attended a conference where former Mormons shared their stories. The same Spirit I felt telling me that Mormonism is true and that Joseph Smith was a true prophet is the same Spirit I felt in all of the above experiences.” (CES Letter)
Book of Mormon witness David Whitmer had the same kind of experience. He felt confirmation that Joseph Smith was a prophet, and then he went on to apostatize and tell demonstrable lies about Joseph Smith–lies which CES Letter perpetuates. Did the same Spirit tell David Whitmer to tell those lies? Did the same Spirit tell CES Letter in that conference to tell lies? Does the Spirit tell them to spread dehumanizing propaganda about Mormons?
This reveals a remarkable inconsistency from CES Letter: Why would they trust the spirit they felt at that anti-Mormon conference if it was the same spirit that had told them the church was true? If they thought it was just their emotions, why would they trust the emotional affirmation they felt at the conference if it was the same emotion they had felt about the church? Why would they trust the prompting to turn against the church if it is the same kind of prompting that had given them a testimony of the church?
So just from CES Letter‘s narrative we know that it wasn’t the same spirit. They act like there is only one spirit in the universe communicating to people and telling them something is true, but we know the temptations of Satan can camouflage themselves as divine promptings. We know the way to discern between the two spirits is through the faith process. Faith is confirmed when we experiment upon the word and it either brings forth good fruit or doesn’t. We can know whether a spirit is good or evil based on its effects and which behavior it leads to.
The Holy Ghost is consistent, and the emotions anti-Mormons feel are the thrills of the damned. Like the thrill a child feels when he destroys his sibling’s toy or stomps on a well-made sand castle at the beach. Anti-Mormons feel an emotional high, particularly at the beginning of their apostasy process, by leading others astray and spreading their own misery.
One would think if CES Letter truly believed that the Spirit is nothing more than human emotion that they would consider their emotions untrustworthy, as they had led them to believing in those evil Mormons–but instead, they apparently follow these same emotions as they leave the church.
CES Letter complains:
Why is this Spirit so unreliable and inconsistent? How can I trust such an inconsistent and contradictory Source for knowing that Mormonism is worth betting my life, time, money, heart, mind, and obedience to?” (CES Letter)
Skeptics like to think they are above following any spirit or any emotion, and that they use cold hard facts to make decisions. Sorry, but humans aren’t robots and neither are you. No person can be at peace until they know in their mind, heart, and spirit that they are on the right path. It is helpful to recognize each of these three things and feed them what they need: logical knowledge for the brain, emotional stability for the heart, and spiritual enlightenment for the soul. The Spirit of God touches the heart, and that affects the mind and heart, but it is fallacious to equate that enlightenment with emotion or intellect.
CES Letter Logical Fallacies
|Red Herring||Whether a movie is horribly violent or R-rated does not affect whether we feel the Holy Ghost from their messages.|
Who thinks everything they read in a book or saw in a movie actually happened and is true because it had a good message? If a good moral message pops up and we are receptive to it, the Holy Ghost will confirm it, even in a fictional story.
There is more than one spirit communicating to us. A prompting from an evil spirit is not the same as a prompting from a good spirit.
|Post hoc||Just because enlightenment from the Holy Ghost affects our emotional feelings doesn’t mean it is the same thing as feelings. The sky appears blue because of the sun, but that doesn’t mean sunlight is the same thing as the color blue. Other things besides the sun can turn things blue.|
|Strawman Fallacy||Mormons never claimed there was no truth in R-rated movies or anything that can teach good principles.|
|Tu Quoque||CES Letter says they don’t like “betting” everything on an inconsistent and contradictory source for knowledge. Isn’t that exactly what they are doing? If they consider the Spirit to be only emotion, isn’t emotion to be contradictory, and if there is no God, aren’t they just “betting” on whichever ideology they choose to follow? Mormons, on the other hand, are not betting.|
Skeptics reject the Holy Ghost and turn to their emotions to guide them, which are easily manipulated by Satan. Yet skeptics say it is the other way around, that they are rejecting their emotions and turning for guidance toward something greater. What is that? What are they turning to as a source for knowledge that is more reliable and consistent?
CES Letter says they don’t think emotion is worth betting everything on, and I agree. That’s why I’m not betting. Atheists think the universe happened by chance and that there is nothing directing our lives–no plan, no future after death. The point of spirituality is to discover life happened by choice, not chance, and to determine the purpose for life. Just as personal excellence is by choice, no chance. A happy life is by choice, not chance. Skeptics live in a dark world where choice doesn’t really exist, or if it does it doesn’t really matter because everything is chance anyway.
This argument is designed to cast further doubt on our ability to gain spiritual knowledge through revelation. Our direct line of communication to God becomes muddled because of Satan’s temptations, it is true. But what is the alternative?
It is like a father who forces his son to make all the choices he thinks is correct rather than the father who gives his son some direction but allows him to make choices for himself and learn from his mistakes. CES Letter complains that it is so difficult to know everything from the Spirit, but knowing all truth from the start isn’t always a good thing. Even the prophet isn’t immune from making mistakes.
So there are really two possible solutions to human fallibility isn’t there? Either we have everything forced upon us or we work to improve our worthiness of truth which is held back from us. God’s plan of personal agency and freedom of conscience are not very efficient, it’s true. Satan’s Plan is extremely efficient, where everybody is compelled to fall in line and believe the exact same thing, but Satan’s plan does not make people godly. This is a basic concept of Mormonism, the need for free agency in God’s plan versus Satan’s plan. Those who follow social justice and seek universal salvation follow Satan’s plan, a model where we don’t get a period of probation, we are not reliant on faith, we do not prove our integrity, everything is force-fed to us, and we follow a supreme ruler who does not actually give us any way to progress.
Everybody gets frustrated when their questions go unanswered, like a father who wants his son to learn for himself by trying things out, and we hate it when we try so hard and seem to go nowhere. We all feel like that sometimes. But opposition is the nature of life’s test. Muscles become strong by lifting heavy weights. Likewise, knowledge and wisdom are learned by striving through darkness.
Are some revelations of the devil? Yes. The devil can even appear as an “angel of life,” but we know that a “bitter tree cannot produce good fruit.” Satan will not give revelations that lead to truth and happiness.
What about our own biases, hearing what we want to hear? That certainly happens too. This is just a matter of listening. Be a better listener. Clear the biases from your ego and your personal desires, and test to see if they will lead to truth and happiness. The message might be one we do not want to hear. Still, we must discern if it is a divine message and persistently ask as long as we need to–as long as it hasn’t already been answered. This is not easy to accomplish, certainly, but it is what is necessary to build integrity.