Two topics that are often misunderstood in Latter-day Saint circles are those of folklore and what is sometimes termed “folk magic.” When we hear those words, as a people we tend to think of something negative or spiritually dangerous. We might think of examples such as Ouija boards or tarot cards. But the actual definitions are a lot more benign than that.
Folklore, for instance, is simply pieces of knowledge or stories that are passed down from one person to the next over the generations. Santa Claus; the Tooth Fairy; the Easter Bunny; vampires and werewolves; George Washington and the cherry tree; the seagulls eating the crickets in the Salt Lake Valley; the family stories you tell over and over again about how your brother microwaved a fork and fried the appliance or how your sister used to eat a single bite out of the center of a piece of bologna and discard the rest; or perhaps the oft-told story of how your friend once bit into an apple and found half a worm; these are all examples of folklore.
Folk magic is a little different. As Greg Smith points out, “folk” means “of the common people.” It was something the educated class looked down on, but that the common people engaged in. They often mixed these practices with Christianity, believing they were gifts and knowledge from God. Yes, Ouija boards and tarot cards fall under this umbrella. So does energy healing. Voodoo might also be considered an extreme example that falls under this category.
But it can also be equally as innocent as folklore. Examples can include your grandmother’s home remedy for colds; your co-worker’s favorite hangover cure; hanging mistletoe at Christmas to draw kisses; drinking sugar water to get rid of hiccups; the old man in your ward who can use his bad knee to predict the weather; singing to your plants while gardening to make them grow; using essential oils on your menstrual cramps; drinking ginger ale for an upset stomach; people who listen to their “gut instinct” or “mother’s intuition”; etc. Even things as innocent as painting Easter eggs or decorating Christmas trees can fall under this category.
Examples of divinely sanctioned “folk magic” also abound in the scriptures: Joseph of Egypt’s divining cup; Jacob’s rod of poplars that he used to make sheep bear more of the types of lambs Laban had given him; Moses’s staff; the ephod or Urim and Thummim the Levite priests used; the Ark of the Covenant; Oliver Cowdery’s divining rod; the lots the Apostles cast; the Liahona; the glowing stones that guided the Jaredites; Abraham’s Urim and Thummim; Christ spitting in the dirt to make clay to cure blindness; the words the Savior used to raise Jairus’s daughter from the dead being similar to a magic spell of the day; the use of consecrated oil; the brass serpent; and, of course, the Nephite interpreters.
We don’t think of those things as being “magic” or “occultish” or anything spiritually dangerous, because they’re not. The word “magic” in this sense is incorrect. Heavenly Father has a long history of using physical objects as well as the knowledge and beliefs of His followers to teach them lessons and help them receive revelation. If someone believes in the power of casting lots to receive direction from God, for example, He will sometimes give them direction through that means.
“Magic” doesn’t inherently equal “bad” or “wrong.” It just depends on how the word is being used. When it’s sanctioned by God, it’s an effective teaching tool. It’s simply a means to achieving His goals. That’s an important concept to understand before we dive into what the Letter For My Wife has to say about the topic.
President Oaks once clarified this difference:
It should be recognized that such tools as the Urim and Thummim, the Liahona, seer stones, and other articles have been used appropriately in biblical, Book of Mormon, and modern times by those who have the gift and authority to obtain revelation from God in connection with their use. At the same time, scriptural accounts and personal experience show that unauthorized though perhaps well-meaning persons have made inappropriate use of tangible objects while seeking or claiming to receive spiritual guidance. Those who define folk magic to include any use of tangible objects to aid in obtaining spiritual guidance confound the real with the counterfeit. They mislead themselves and their readers.
The use of these physical objects or unusual means has to be sanctioned by God, or it’s not appropriate. But when it is appropriate, there’s nothing wrong with it. It might be a little weird to us in our day and age to think about, for sure. It’s not common in our society, so it’s not something we’re used to. But “different” doesn’t mean “bad.” Remember, God works in mysterious ways, and those ways are not always our ways.
And because there was some confusion on Reddit over what I am trying to say, I am not defining “folk magic” as “the use of all tangible objects to aid in obtaining spiritual guidance” the way that President Oaks told us not to do. I am saying that some people define it that way. Some people consider things like crystal balls or tarot cards, or perhaps people who claim to be psychic, as gifts from God. They conflate those things with spiritual gifts and mix the pagan with the divine. They use the same umbrella term of “folk magic” regardless of whether it was a spiritual gift or not.
The Church does not define it that way and states that only sanctioned use of physical objects to channel faith is legitimate and appropriate. In those cases, the common umbrella term of “folk magic” is incorrect. Because it’s confusing to use such a broad term to discuss such nebulous concepts, there is now a trend away from this term in religious scholarship. Even Joseph Smith separated his ability to use a seer stone for the mundane (like finding lost objects) and for the holy (like translating ancient records by the power of God) as being two different things. My intention was to show what was being implied by the “folk magic” label vs. what the reality actually is when it comes to divinely sanctioned objects and gifts. I hope that clarifies what I’m trying to say here.
So, with that said, what does Thomas Faulk think about all of this?
- Folk Magic
Could Joseph Smith’s experiences actually be products of his family’s practice of local folk magic? BYU Studies Quarterly describes the Smith family culture when it stated, “In frontier America, seer stones or ‘peep stones’ were commonly used by lost object finders, people engaged in the widespread practice of lost treasure digging.” (BYU Studies Quarterly, Vol.55, No.1, 2016)
It took me a moment to hunt this paper down, since Faulk didn’t name it or link to it. I was pleasantly surprised when I did, though. I’d never read it before, but I found it fascinating and very helpful in explaining some things I’d had questions about.
Faulk positions this quote as though it’s casting doubt on Joseph’s prophetic calling, but in context, it’s not. The author, Eric Eliason, instead spends his time defending the use of seer stones against claims of “weirdness” or of its being “a troubling problem” in our Church’s history. Faulk actually cuts the quote off mid-sentence, again without any indication that the quote has been edited down. I still maintain that using a partial quote made to look like a full quote is dishonest behavior.
The actual quote, in context, reads:
In frontier America, seer stones or “peep stones” were commonly used by lost object finders, people engaged in the widespread practice of lost treasure digging, and sometimes by people seeking to uncover the kind of truths we might call a private or police detective for today. It is unclear how much of this kind of activity Joseph Smith was involved in, except for water divining and treasure digging, which are widely attested. The “seer” in seer stone is a biblically literate early American culture’s reference to the biblical term seer explained in 1 Samuel 9:9 as an earlier term for a prophet—more specifically one who saw visions, dreams, or scenes in the mind’s eye, or even with the natural eyes. Moreover, God gives the seer insight into the meaning of his or her visions (2 Sam. 24:11; 2 Chr. 9:29; Jer. 1:11–18). All of this fits quite nicely with how Joseph Smith saw himself.
To Bible scholars, the Urim and Thummim is one of several items similar to the ephod and lots used to determine the will of God or seek information from him. (The Liahona in the Book of Mormon follows this pattern.) It seems that early Mormons began to use the terms seer stone and Urim and Thummim interchangeably, with the latter convention winning the day. But both terms emerge from biblical practices and understandings.
As you can see, his point was actually that Joseph using a seer stone was perfectly in line with the Biblical patterns of “seers,” something that Joseph was specifically called to be.
In fact, there is a late, thirdhand account of the First Vision in which Joseph is described as saying that the Father touched Joseph’s eyes, which allowed him to see the Savior. Joseph apparently physically touched his eyes to show how this was done as he recounted the vision. (This account can be found in full at the link by scrolling to pages 755-756. It can also be found in Paul Cheesman’s infamous thesis, as well as in many of the following links.)
Now, this account was recorded in 1893 in the journal of a man named Charles Lowell Walker. Walker heard it from John Alger, the brother of Fanny Alger, who heard it from Joseph. The Algers were obviously quite close to Joseph, and this account was apparently given in an intimate gathering in Joseph Sr.’s home. This sets it apart from other second- and thirdhand accounts. However, it came very late and it is a thirdhand account, so we do need to treat it with the proper caution.
Scholars such as Matthew Brown and Dan Peterson don’t believe this was a literal, physical touch if the account is accurate, but a metaphorical one.
Conversely, historian Don Bradley argued passionately for its literalness in both a FAIR presentation and a paper published in the Journal of Mormon History, which can be downloaded here for free. A prominent reason he gives for taking the account literally is that it follows scriptural pattern. Isaiah describes his mouth being touched by a seraphim, allowing him to speak on the Lord’s behalf. The Savior cures one blind man by anointing his eyes with clay, and two more by simply touching their eyes. In the Book of Abraham, the Lord touched Abraham’s eyes, letting him see all of creation. In the Book of Moses, the Lord also had Enoch anoint his own eyes with clay, letting him see things that were not visible to the normal eye and calling him as a seer. And the Brother of Jared saw the Lord’s finger touching the stones to light the barges, as well as the interpreters given to him for the record he would later write.
Greg Smith also covered some of this in a fantastic fireside, seeming to agree with Bradley that it was a literal touch.
However, regardless of where we come down on the physical touch vs metaphorical touch issue, Bradley lays out some strong supporting evidence. In that light, I do think we need to at least consider the possibility that this thirdhand account is accurate. Again, it should be viewed skeptically, but I think there’s enough there to grant it hesitant legitimacy.
If true, it’s an absolutely beautiful detail that I wish was preserved in other accounts. Whether a literal touch or not, it follows the Lord’s pattern. And the Lord does love patterns. In each of those scriptural instances, the touch was a manifestation of the prophet’s call to see and to speak. When it was the Savior Himself doing the touching, it was as a manifestation of His own divine role. It would stand to reason, then, that Joseph also received a manifestation of his calling as a prophet, seer, and revelator.
Next in the letter comes a series of quotes. The first is a lengthy one from Ronald W. Walker:
- Director of Center for Western Studies at BYU and president of the Mormon History Association, Ronald W. Walker, put the Smith family’s activities in historical context.
“From Colonial times to at least the age of Jackson [1776-1837] Americans dug for magical treasure. There were hundreds and probably thousands of these money diggers all seeking troves of fabled coins, mines, jewels and other valued prizes.
“The money diggers placed faith in conjuring elemental spirits, thrice spoken dreams, seeric gifts and enchanted treasure.”
“Clearly the ideas of hidden but guarded treasure with their secondary and accompanying motifs of ancient texts, animals, boxes, devils, caves, gold, incantations, mountains and even the ratifying number three, were an ancient bequest.”
“A treasure-finding device used by adepts was the “peep” or “seer” stone, whose acclaimed gifts excelled even those of the divining rod. Such stones seemed to be everywhere and were of every possible description. Joseph Smith’s various stones reportedly included a smooth, grey, egg-shaped rock found in a neighbor’s well, a second which he reportedly dug up near Lake Erie after espying it in his neighbor’s stone, and still others collected from the Mississippi River sands near Nauvoo, Illinois.”
“With most village seers requiring that the light be secluded, this stone-in-the-hat procedure was standard. By this method, an adept could see within the stone crystal a helpful spirit or the precise locality of the underground treasure.”
“While finding the right moment to dig was important, the need to circumvent the treasure’s guardian was crucial. Like its Old World antecedents, the American treasure keeper might be demonic or divine. Or it could be a cat, dog, snake or some other protecting animal. But generally the American treasure guardian was a murdered youth or man whose body had been left with the buried valuables to ensure their protection. Guardian Indians were a frequent motif while a murdered pirate protected Captain Kidd’s troves.”
“As Vermont’s early nineteenth century emigration swept into upstate New York the money digging frenzy came with it. Such superstition was frequent in the new settlements. The Palmyra Reflector labeled the New York money hunting mania, “Men and women without distinction of age or sex became marvelously wise in the occult sciences, many dreamed and others saw visions disclosing to them, deep in the bowels of the earth, rich and shining treasures (Palmyra Reflector, February 1, 1831).”
“Rumors constantly swirled about hunters’ smiling fortunes, which excited still others to further digging. Smith family reportedly found objects as a cannon ball, a cache of gold watches, and according to the viewpoint of some of their neighbors, the golden plates which produced the Book of Mormon. Indeed in ways that are yet to be explored, money digging may have influenced two of the nineteenth century’s major social and religious movements Mormonism and Spiritualism. Its touch on American society was not light.” (Ronald W. Walker, The Persistent Idea of Treasure Hunting in America. https://ojs.lib.byu.edu/spc/ index.php/BYUStudies/article/viewFile/5447/5097)
Before I dive into the actual quoted material, I do just want to point out that the paper in question begins with this caution, which Faulk appears to have ignored:
I wish to make another point explicit. Nothing in my study should be taken as suggesting that Joseph Smith was merely a product of his folk culture environment. No English or American village adept ever produced a Book of Mormon. None produced a Vision of Moses, the Olive Leaf, the Three Degrees of Glory, or such magisterial ideas as sections 93 and 98 of the Doctrine and Covenants. At every major point in his career, there were second and third witnesses for Joseph Smith’s work. And when he died, he left a church that dwarfed anything that might have been built by a run-of-the-mill village holy man. Some may see this success as simply the work of a “religious genius.” My own conviction is that Joseph was a religious genius because of an active and guiding Providence.
Walker also states that this paper was written in an academic, neutral tone and advises the reader not to be thrown off by that. He confirms that he does believe that Joseph Smith was a prophet guided by the Lord. This paper was also not written to cast doubt on Joseph’s calling. It was merely to research the history of “money digging” in New York and New England during the 1800s, and to see what kind of affect that may have had on Joseph’s family and upbringing.
And again, there are huge chunks of omitted text from this quoted portion. Multiple paragraphs and even full pages were removed and there are more partial sentences, all without any indication that they were edited. I know I keep stressing how shady this practice is, but there’s a reason for that. It truly is dishonest to imply that you’re quoting the full material when you aren’t. I don’t have the space to quote the full thing here, and I don’t begrudge Faulk for not quoting the entire thing either. But you have to show omission marks when printing an edited quote. Please, don’t accept these quotes at face value because they are not complete.
For one notable example, the line, “Such superstition was frequent in the new settlements,” is actually a line by a fictional character from a James Fenimore Cooper novel, not Walker’s own words. Faulk completely cut out the attribution, as well as the acknowledgment that it was a quoted passage.
Also missing are several passages describing those who engaged in this practice as upstanding and respectable citizens who were honest, hard-working Christians. These people were not acting under any demonic influences, nor were they lazy men and women unwilling to work. Though in certain places and times, the practice was looked down on, in other times and places, it was highly regarded. It was commonplace and a well-accepted practice in Vermont, where the Smith family was from, as well as in upstate New York, where they eventually moved. Joseph wasn’t even the only “village seer” in and around Palmyra. As recounted last week, he found his first seer stone by looking in the stone of another Palmyra seer, Sally Chase.
However, by the early 19th Century, these practices were starting to fall out of favor in the Americas. Parts of the country shunned the practices on religious grounds. And, as stated, in many places the educated class, which often included the clergy, looked down on these folk practices as either superstition and nonsense, or as something evil or dangerous. Joseph, in particular, became a target of this religious wrath after his First Vision became publicly known.
As Mark Ashurst-McGee explained, “Joseph wrote that because he had claimed to see a vision the local ministers united against him and spoke against him to their congregations, but they did not speak against his visions. As Joseph had claimed that Jesus told him all current churches were false, he posed a threat to the clergy. By denouncing Joseph’s treasure dowsing, the minsters could undercut his visionary claims to any who might have heard it without informing any of the flock who had not.”
I know that’s straying a little far from the quoted sections Faulk cited, but I think it’s an important point to note. Joseph’s character and his practices of treasure hunting and using a seer stone were condemned while others engaging in the same practices in his town were not. A significant reason for this is because his claims threatened the beliefs and the livelihoods of the local clergy.
- “Like many other New Englanders, they were familiar with searches for lost treasure by supernatural means. Joseph Smith’s father was reputed to be one of these treasureseekers, and Joseph Smith himself had found a stone, called a seer stone, which reportedly enabled him to find lost objects. Treasure-seekers wanted to employ him to help with their searches. One, a man named Josiah Stowell, hired Joseph and his father in 1825 to dig for a supposed Spanish treasure near harmony, Pennsylvania. The effort came to nothing, and the Smiths returned home, but the neighbors continued to think of the Smiths as part of the treasure-seeking company.” (http://eom.byu.edu/index.php/Smith,Joseph)
Again, this is an edited quote and an incorrect URL. The paragraph in question is as follows:
The discovery of gold plates in a hillside resonated strangely with other experiences of the Smith family. Like many other New Englanders, they were familiar with searches for lost treasure by supernatural means. Joseph Smith’s father was reputed to be one of these treasure-seekers, and Joseph Smith himself had found a stone, called a seer stone, which reportedly enabled him to find lost objects. Treasure-seekers wanted to employ him to help with their searches. One, a man named Josiah Stowell (sometimes spelled Stoal), hired Joseph and his father in 1825 to dig for a supposed Spanish treasure near Harmony, Pennsylvania. The effort came to nothing, and the Smiths returned home, but the neighbors continued to think of the Smiths as part of the treasure-seeking company. Joseph Smith had to learn, in his four years of waiting, to appreciate the plates solely for their religious worth and not for their monetary value. The angel forbade Joseph to remove the plates on his first viewing because thoughts of their commercial worth had crossed his mind. Joseph had to learn to focus on the religious purpose of the plates and put aside considerations of their value as gold.
The point of the paragraph was not to highlight the weirdness of Joseph engaging in treasure-hunting. It was to show that he ironically found the buried treasure he was looking for, but couldn’t use it for financial gain. He wasn’t allowed to obtain it until he could put aside those desires for money and seek instead to glorify God and help build His kingdom.
- “By 1825, [19 yrs old – 5 years after the First Vision] young Joseph had a reputation in Manchester and Palmyra for his activities as a treasure seer, or someone who used a seer stone to locate gold or other valuable objects buried in the earth.” (Elder Steven E. Snow, Church Historian, Ensign, September 2015)
Yep. Putting this quote back in context, the article in question says:
Joseph Smith first arrived in Harmony in the autumn of 1825. Joseph’s mother, Lucy Mack Smith, wrote that earlier that year “a man by the name of Josiah Stoal [Stowell] came from Chenango County, New York, to get Joseph to assist him in digging for a silver mine. He came for Joseph from having heard, that [Joseph] was in possession of certain means, by which he could discern things, that could not be seen by the natural eye.”
Stowell was a prominent resident of South Bainbridge, New York, and for a man of his standing to be searching for buried treasure was not at all unusual, since it was a common folk practice of the time. By 1825, young Joseph had a reputation in Manchester and Palmyra for his activities as a treasure seer, or someone who used a seer stone to locate gold or other valuable objects buried in the earth. Thus, it was no surprise that Stowell specifically sought out Joseph’s services.
What this article doesn’t say is that, during Joseph’s 1826 trial for “glass-looking,” which we’ll discuss next week, Stowell testified on Joseph’s behalf. During that testimony, he explained that while he was considering hiring Joseph, he tested his seeing ability. Joseph looked into one of his seer stones and perfectly described Stowell’s farm and buildings, as well as a tree that had a man’s hand painted on it. This is what convinced Stowell that Joseph really could see things in his stone.
- “Yet on that visit there was an attempt to reconcile Joseph and his father-in-law, for an invitation was extended to Joseph and Emma to make their home in Harmony. Isaac, with evident paternal concern and with some compassion, indicated to Joseph that if he would move to Pennsylvania and work, giving up “his old practice of looking in the stone,” Isaac would assist him in getting into business. Isaac claims, “Smith stated to me he had given up what he called ‘glass-looking,’ and that he expected and was willing to work hard for a living.” (Isaac Hale, father of Emma Hale Smith, History of the Church, Vol.1. Ch.2)
This quote is not from The History of the Church, Volume 1, Chapter 2, as claimed. It’s from the notes of the Annotated History of the Church found at the Book of Abraham Project website. In turn, this footnote information was taken from Susan Easton Black’s chapter in Regional Studies in Latter-day Saint Church History: New York, “Isaac Hale: Antagonist of Joseph Smith.” The ultimate source of this information is from an article titled “Mormonism,” containing several affidavits of the Hale family and others from Harmony. This article was published in the Susquehanna Register on May 1, 1834. The Isaac Hale affidavit is dated March 20, 1834, and claims to be taken largely from a letter Hale wrote to D.P. Hurlbut in December, 1833. The affidavits collected by Hurlbut comprised some of the material used in the creation of E.D. Howe’s Mormonism Unvailed. Howe paraphrased some of Hale’s affidavit in the text.
There’s some slight controversy over whether or not this affidavit was fake. Apparently, there were accusations that Hale had gone blind in his old age—he was in his 70s by this time—and was incapable of signing his name to the affidavit or of knowing what it truly said as written. However, most historians do accept it as accurate, as there is no record of Hale ever disputing its contents.
The following information was taken from Susan Easton Black’s chapter cited above.
Hale was openly hostile to Joseph by this time, and blamed Joseph for stealing away his daughter. He personally had engaged in treasure-hunting with his brother, and allowed Joseph and the other diggers working with Josiah Stowell to live on his property while they searched for the treasure. Ultimately, he had soured on the practice after no treasure was found. He seemed to hold Joseph personally responsible for this failure and refused him permission to marry Emma. Later, they eloped, which caused a lot of strain with the Hale family.
However, for a time, Hale was willing to let Joseph and Emma live in a house on his property and to defend them against the neighbors’ persecutions. This only extended so far, unfortunately. When his brother-in-law, Nathaniel Lewis, a local Methodist preacher, ramped up his own vitriol against Joseph, Hale unfortunately followed suit. The last time Emma ever saw her parents was in 1830. Things had grown so hostile between them all that she never returned to visit. By 1834, Hale was quite bitter against Joseph, and it showed in his affidavit.
Of course, he made no mention of his own history of treasure-seeking, and used it instead as an attack against Joseph. And by the point in time that Joseph allegedly made that promise, he was done with “glass-looking” for profit. He hadn’t yet figured out how to translate the plates, and was actively looking for someone else to do it for him. Though he shortly began translating through the Interpreters and his own seer stones, I don’t believe that Joseph was lying when he gave that promise to Hale. If he did indeed make the promise, I think that he considered using his stones in his calling as a prophet to be entirely different from using his stones to seek treasure and other lost objects. That was a hobby; translating the plates was a calling.
Faulk wraps up this topic with one last sentence:
The Smith family’s use of seer stones to find buried gold treasure was a common folk magic practice in New England.
Yes, it was—but the treasure Joseph ultimately found was far from common.
At this stage of my life, my testimony is pretty unflappable. I’ve read most of this stuff many times before. I’ve spent years studying Church history as a hobby. I read a lot, and I’ve taken the time to sort through how I really feel about all of these topics. These things simply don’t bother me.
But they might bother you, and that’s okay. It really is okay to take the time to sort through your feelings and to pray and study the information. It’s why I source as much as I can, and why I try to link to as many online resources as possible. I want you all to be able to read it for yourselves. I want you to learn how to study this kind of thing with the Holy Ghost’s help. You can access the Spirit when you study secular things. You can do it when you study Church history, too.
His help isn’t just for studying the scriptures or for asking questions about doctrine or leadership. He doesn’t just guide us to the truth of the Gospel. He guides us to the truth of all things. That means that, with His help, we can sort through the lies and distortions and come to an understanding of what really happened. We can pray for enlightenment and the ability to understand why things happened the way they did.
In closing out this post, I just wanted to touch briefly on the words of President Monson:
We live in a time of great trouble and wickedness. What will protect us from the sin and evil so prevalent in the world today? I maintain that a strong testimony of our Savior, Jesus Christ, and of His gospel will help see us through to safety. If you are not reading the Book of Mormon each day, please do so. If you will read it prayerfully and with a sincere desire to know the truth, the Holy Ghost will manifest its truth to you. If it is true—and I solemnly testify that it is—then Joseph Smith was a prophet who saw God the Father and His Son, Jesus Christ.
Because the Book of Mormon is true, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is the Lord’s Church on the earth, and the holy priesthood of God has been restored for the benefit and blessing of His children.
If you do not have a firm testimony of these things, do that which is necessary to obtain one. It is essential for you to have your own testimony in these difficult times, for the testimonies of others will carry you only so far.
When you study the history of Joseph Smith, you’re studying the history of the Restoration of the fulness of the Gospel. When you study the Book of Mormon, you’re studying the fruits of Joseph’s calling as a prophet. They go hand in hand.
While you study these topics and other events in Church history, do it with the scriptures and the Holy Ghost at your side. Don’t neglect those things for the sake of academic pursuit. They work together. Keep praying, and keep Heavenly Father apprised of your progress. Ask Him your questions. Lean on His Spirit to guide you to the truth. We all need to learn how to obtain and also maintain our testimonies. We all need to become as unflappable as possible. Otherwise, the prophets have warned that it won’t be possible to survive spiritually in the coming days. That’s a dire warning that we all need to take seriously. We need to learn to rely on the Holy Ghost, and that includes while we’re studying difficult or controversial topics. It’s the only way we’re going to see the truth.
Sarah Allen is relatively new in her affiliation with FAIR. By profession, she works in mortgage compliance and is a freelance copyeditor. An avid reader, she loves studying the Gospel and the history of the restored Church. After watching some of her friends lose their testimonies, she became interested in helping others through their faith crises. That’s when she began sharing what she’d learned through her studies. She’s grateful to those at FAIR who have given her the opportunity to share her testimony with a wider audience.
Lisa R says
Sarah, I have a comment that doesn’t really belong here, but the other page wasn’t accepting comments last I checked, and I do hope you get to see this.
One of your rebuttals to the CES Letter contained a real answer to my prayer that was only tangentially connected to Jeremy Runnels.
It was your 37th part, and you talked about how a witness of the Spirit is the greatest “proof” we can have. It was just what I needed to hear.
I had been wresting with a big question, and I had remembered a part of my patriarchal blessing that seemed to be the answer. When I had gone to look at my blessing, I had realized it was a tiny phrase that I had remembered, and there really wasn’t more on the subject. That made me worry that I hadn’t felt the Holy Ghost directing me.
But you reminded me that the witness I received was valid, even though it led me to just a phrase. Thank you! I really appreciate all the work you put into this, and it blessed me directly.
Sarah Allen says
Lisa, thanks for reaching out. I’m glad the post was helpful! I’ve had experiences just like yours, when I felt led to an answer only to then second-guess myself and doubt whether it really did come from God. We’ve probably all had similar experiences. The Adversary is very good at making us question ourselves sometimes.
But I do personally find it helpful to remember that the Lord Himself promised us that there is no greater witness than that of the Holy Ghost. If He believes that, it means I can believe it, too. It reminds me that I trust Him and His witness. So, I’m glad it was helpful to you, too!