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Monday, April 25, 2011

"that you may chase darkness from among you . . ."

John Blake in "My Faith: A reluctant churchgoer 'gets the Holy Ghost'"for CNN recounts his experience with religion, as a child and then as an adult.
Sunday worship at a black Baptist church wasn’t just long. It was scary. Elderly women who “got the Holy Ghost” during worship would thrash so violently in the pews that their wigs flew off. People shouted, wept and fainted.
This Sunday service started off no differently. But as the frenzy of the worship intensified, an invisible switch seemed to click on. A wave of heat rippled through the congregation as people beside me threw up their arms and shouted.
The scene Blake describes is not unusual, or unique, to this church or this time period. Similar experiences occurred in early L.D.S. (Mormon) congregations. This was a spiritual phenomena, our early Church leaders did not know how to interpret, or deal with. After divine inquiry, a revelation was received that is now D&C 50. From Church history:
The Lord began by acknowledging that there were many “false spirits, which have gone forth in the earth, deceiving the world” ( D&C 50:2–3 ) and that Satan was seeking to deceive the people that he might overthrow them. Therefore the Lord gave the brethren a key by which they could detect and deal with evil spirits:
“Wherefore, it shall come to pass, that if you behold a spirit manifested that you cannot understand, and you receive not that spirit, ye shall ask of the Father in the name of Jesus; and if he give not unto you that spirit, then you may know that it is not of God.
“And it shall be given unto you, power over that spirit; and you shall proclaim against that spirit with a loud voice that it is not of God” ( D&C 50:31–32 ).
It is disconcerting to think that spirits are either from God or the devil and we must determine the source. However, we have guidance, especially from D&C 50. In verse 23 it tells us:
And that which doth not edify is not of God, and is darkness.
A contrasting example can be found in Joseph Smith's First Vision where he was visited by God The Father and His Son Jesus Christ.


Blake later experienced a different spiritual phenomena, much more characteristic of a spiritual phenomena from God, that he also describes in his article:

One night after he had decided never to go back to church he had an unusual experience:
I bolted awake, tears streaming down my face. I was on my back, right arm over my closed eyes, but I squinted anyway because I felt as if I were looking directly into the sun.
I felt a presence within that light. I was crying because I had never felt so exposed. This light seemed to bore through me, revealing my most sordid deeds, my inadequacies and my fears. I felt like an insect.
Despite that feeling of shame, I felt something even more powerful: love. It seemed as though this presence, something as immense as the universe, was telling me that I was accepted.
What do you do with such an experience? Was it a dream, a breakdown, youthful foolishness? I don’t know. But that moment changed me. I couldn’t quit. I had encountered something else besides my aunt that wouldn’t abandon me.
For Mormons, a story such as this is better left to oneself or shared with a handful of trusted family or friends. Why? Because things such as this are sacred experiences of personal truth.


Blake took a big risk in sharing such a precious and personal story with a broad audience. It invites contempt, criticism and derision. He's getting all of this in the comments' section.


I can only applaud Blake for his honesty, his candor and his confidence. Ultimately, I hope he finds the deeper meaning he seeks.

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