Burning of the bosom - feelings from God

Anybody who has researched The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to even a small degree has encountered this promise from the Book of Mormon as found in Moroni 10:4:
"And when ye shall receive these things, I would exhort you that ye would ask God, the Eternal Father, in the name of Christ, if these things are not true; and if ye shall ask with a sincere heart, with real intent, having faith in Christ, he will manifest the truth of it unto you, by the power of the Holy Ghost."
Primary children are taught about this promise early in their youth. Investigators are presented with this challenge as part of their discussions with the missionaries. It is the subject of countless discourses in General Conference as well as lessons in Sunday School, Seminary and Institute.

The best online source to explain this promise that I have found is on lds.org. The church has done a wonderful job of expanding on how we can know for ourselves if the things that are taught by the missionaries and from official LDS sources like lds.org contain God's truth. To quote:

How we can know for ourselves

"Your Heavenly Father is the source of all truth. He loves you and wants to answer your questions. Therefore, He will help you recognize the truth as you sincerely seek it and ask Him for guidance. You can know if the things you are learning are true if you ask your Heavenly Father in prayer. He desires for you to know the truth, and you can receive an answer from Him through the Holy Ghost.

"As taught in the Bible, “The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, [and] temperance” (Galatians 5:22–23). These feelings from the Holy Ghost are personal revelation to you that the restored gospel of Jesus Christ is true. You will then need to choose whether you will live in harmony with the knowledge you have received.

"As the Savior taught in the Bible, Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you (Matthew 7:7). Feelings from the Holy Ghost are personal revelation to you that confirm the truth of the Book of Mormon and the gospel of Jesus Christ as restored through the Prophet Joseph Smith."

The opposing viewpoint

A simple Google search reveals dozens of sites you can visit that present persuasive arguments why this is not a good way to ascertain truth for yourself. They offer their opinion that, "It is not a good idea to rely on our feelings." Well, if you can't trust your feelings, what can you trust?

Their response is that we should only trust the Bible and they then go on to quote a few Old Testament scriptures in an attempt to prove that the heart of man is unreliable and should not be trusted. That's a very sad approach to life. I act upon my own feelings above anything else.

They also suggest that it is a bad idea to pray about the Book of Mormon by asking, "should you pray about robbing a bank or murdering someone?" They answer that you should not because it is just common sense that we don't do those things. Sorry, that's simply a bad analogy to me.

My personal experience

In the Fall of 1961 our family was introduced to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints through the example of a co-worker. My mother was a schoolteacher in Glendora, California and the school principal was a member of the LDS Church. He was not obnoxious about it.

When a little girl in her class sharing time told about dressing in white and being baptized into the Mormon Church, mother asked the only LDS person she knew, her principal Bob Walker. She trusted him because he had always been fair and honest in dealing with her on other issues.

He asked if the Stake Missionaries could visit us and explain more. Mother agreed. They taught us the lessons and most of the family were soon baptized members of the church. I had to wait a few years until I turned eight years old. I started attending Primary and Sunday School.

Reading from the Book of Mormon

As part of our family tradition, mother read to me or had me read to her every night at bedtime. I have fond memories of Peter Rabbit and many other children's books. About this time mother started reading the Book of Mormon in earnest and asked if I would like to read it with her.

Although I was only five years old in 1962, I remember reading the Book of Mormon with her every night for many months. We would alternate chapters. She would mark difficult words and the dates we read. I wish I still had that old copy of the Book of Mormon in the brown cover.

We would then have our nightly prayer together. I specifically remember the warm, sweet comfortable feelings I had as we read and prayed. Now you may say that I was just feeling the love of my mother, but I contest that it was the Spirit of the Lord that I was feeling.

Witnesses in my youth

We studied the Book of Mormon my first year in seminary during my High School years. I was the class president. The teacher challenged the students to put Moroni's challenge to the test. I remember thinking I did not have to because I already knew the Book of Mormon was true.

Nevertheless, I recall kneeling in prayer one night after finishing my reading assignment. I thanked Heavenly Father for my seminary teacher and told him about the challenge. I then asked, "Is the Book of Mormon true?" The answer was immediate, but then I already knew.

I had the same experience in later years at college which I have written about previously. This revelatory experience was much more powerful and long-lasting. It was coupled with a burning desire to know my standing before the Lord and to know his will for me in my life.

Personal revelation is real

I wish that Google searches revealed more personal stories of other members of the LDS Church who have shared how they have felt the burning of the bosom in their lives. The experience is not unusual and, in fact is very common. The Holy Ghost can be our constant companion.

Yes, I know there are those members of the church who say they have never felt the burning of the bosom. Some of them have written about it extensively on the ex-Mormon sites. I do not doubt that some of their testimonies are real to them. Mine is real to me. I have felt it.

Sometimes we forget about the rest of the promise as found in Moroni 10:5 - "And by the power of the Holy Ghost, ye may know the truth of all things." I find that to be one of the best parts of the promise. We can ask God to confirm any truth to us, not just the Book of Mormon.

Summary and conclusion

To Babs, who wrote in the comments on my post on Multiple versions of the First Vision, "...you better be finding something more than a 'burning in the bosom' on which to hang your trust," I say, sorry. I trust this burning in the bosom more than I trust anything else in my life.

The Holy Ghost is a wonderful guide. I am so grateful for this marvelous gift of the Holy Ghost that is promised to those who are baptized members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. This gift helps me to walk in the light, even in this sometimes cold and dark world.

I know the burning of the bosom is real. I have felt it many times. It is more than just a feeling. It is often accompanied by enlightenment and illumination. There is no doubt in my mind that God's promises are real. This one as found in Moroni 10:4 is one of the best and sweetest.


Rocky said…
In 1970, at the age of 17, I wanted to know which church was right. The 1960's were troubling to me, and I needed answers. I had asked God the year before to show me the way to truth, and what He wanted of me in my life. I found a Book of Mormon on my parents' bookshelf and read some from it. Someone gave me Elder LeGrand Richards' book "A Marvelous Work and A Wonder". I wanted to find out what the Mormons believed, and find the flaws. While reading that book one day, somewhere in the middle of it, I had that wonderful rush of feeling with a definite warmth in the area of my heart. I wanted to climb up on the roof and shout that I had found the truth! I did not know what had happened to me until many months later, all I knew was that in that moment my outlook had completely changed and I experienced the most incredible joy. I could not have contrived the experience or anticipated it, because I had never heard of it before. But it was the pivotal moment in my life.
When I have heard others tell about their own such experience, the same key elements are involved:
the rush, the warmth, the exquisite joy, the commitment that carries over a lifetime. Those features in common tell me that the experience is real and from God.
evangelical said…
The fruit of the Spirit is not a matter of feeling but a matter of action. Love is not a feeling. Longsuffering is not a feeling. Peace is, I suppose, a feeling. But the fruit in general are not feelings. There is nothing in this biblical quotation which says feelings are a revelation from God of the truth of propositional truth. And if you know whether a sect is Christian or not by looking at its fruit then the LDS quite frankly, fail. Polygamy, for example. Jehovah's Witnesses, Bhuddists, Muslims, atheists, etc. all do good works, should we accept that as evidence they are believe aright. Lastly, Galatians is the very book (or letter) which says that an angel (say, named Moroni) preaching a different gospel than the one Paul preached (which is grace alone) should be accursed.

All truth can be ascertained by prayer? I suppose this is true in theory. However, I would hesitate very strongly about having brain surgery performed on me by someone who prayed and felt their medical education into existence.

To seek propositional truth by feeling would normally be considered ludicrous. If I feel depressed that is not God telling me I should commit suicide. Feelings are a very powerful source in our lives and they do have their place. However, to live primarily on the basis of feeling, in isolation from reason, is precisely what is wrong with the world today. We cannot trust our feelings because feelings come and go. It is biological. It is not real (i.e. our feelings don't always match the objective world-compare clinical depression).

The usual intention of the bank analogy is to say that we don't need to pray about the Book of Mormon because we already know, independant of feeling, that it is false. There are many ways we know this but I'll leave that for a later post.

You speak of truth for you and truth for me. Well, there is only truth. Robbing a bank a bad analogy without qualification? Why?

People of every faith pray and feel their religion is true. That is subjective. What one really needs to establish the truth of their worldview is objective evidence. Christianity has that while Mormonism does not.

Next, I did pray about the Book of Mormon and the more I prayed about it the less certain I was of its truthfulness. And what about all those who apostatise from the Mormon faith or are excommunicated? Didn't they have the same 'burning in the bosom' as faithful Mormons and yet they have come to reject its truth claims.

Finally, to trust in the burning in the bosom more than all else is to isolate oneself from all rationality. It is impossible to have a rational discussion with a person in such a bubble. We may as well not even be talking right now. But I am convinced of better things of you. You are an intelligent man. Please don't close yourself off from reality. If you will be reasonable, not in your life in general but in your religious life in particular, you will eventually come to a knowledge of the truth.

Thank you.

Shalom out.
Tim Malone said…

I would like to address your last point first. You wrote, “to trust in the burning in the bosom more than all else is to isolate oneself from all rationality. It is impossible to have a rational discussion with a person in such a bubble.” You have obviously never been immersed in the spirit and felt the calm assurance that comes from this sacred feeling.

I like the explanation given by one of our apostles when he was confronted with trying to explain the burning of the bosom. He simply asked his accuser what salt tasted like. His challenger tried but was unable to do so. He was able to say what it wasn’t like but could not define it even in basic terms. Why? Because there is nothing that can compare to it.

Millions of others have participated with me in this miracle of receiving a witness from God directly to our own spirits, which resonates in a manner that the Lord himself described as a burning of the bosom. It is a real phenomenon and I have felt it hundreds of times, especially when asking the Lord in prayer for help in making a correct decision.

Yes, you will find that having a discussion with someone who has received a witness of the spirit about something will be one-sided when you attempt to persuade them that they are wrong about the matter. For them to accept your arguments would be to deny what they have felt and had burned into their spirit by the enduring witness of the Holy Ghost.

Sometimes your heart tells you things that your head just doesn’t understand. The Lord speaks to us through our spirits and we most often feel these impressions rather than hear them. Some describe it as the still small voice. I can relate to that. There are many times in prayer where I have felt to just be still and receive the revelation as it flows into me.

It is a very personal and sacred feeling. In a manner of speaking, I and millions of others who believe as I do have tasted salt and you apparently, have not. I would have expected that a follower of Christ would be more inclined to seek after this most sacred gift that he promises to all those who diligently seek it. He offers it freely to all who are sincere.

Yes, the fruit of the spirit is indeed a feeling. If not, then why bother seeking after it? My faith, my religion and my efforts to follow Christ are, at the core, a desire to feel the love of God in my soul and to prepare me to return to his presence when this mortal life is over. The knowledge I gain is to help me receive those wonderful feelings of peace.

If you mock us for trying to share something so sacred and profound that it brings tears of joy to those who experience it, then you, my friend, have a hard heart. Do you not also desire the sweet assurance that comes from God as he responds to a humble prayer, asked in sincerity, with real intent, to know if what is taught in the Book of Mormon is true?

I have read accounts of others like you who have said that they have read the Book of Mormon and prayed about it. I met some on my mission. Invariably, upon questioning, they revealed that they had not really read much, and what little they read, they did so with a desire to disprove and find fault. They did not seek with real intent to know.

Religion, at its best is a subjective experience. That’s as it should be. It’s meant to be a personal, revelatory experience between you and the God that you worship. Everything else is external. I seek after those experiences that increase my ability to understand my God and his designs for me in this life and the next. My religion encourages this in me.

Feelings are different from emotions. An emotion is a physical reaction to a feeling. Feelings come to us from others, either seen or unseen individuals including mortals, those who are deceased, angels or Gods, specifically the Holy Ghost. I think you have confused feelings with emotions. Emotions are biological while feelings are spiritual.

It is sad to contemplate those who did not remain faithful to the witness of the spirit that they received from God when they prayed about the truthfulness of the Book of Mormon. But that is the purpose of life – to see if we will remain faithful to the things that God reveals to us. That’s why we have adversity – so we can solidify what we really believe.

Yes, I do feel that I am an intelligent man. Thank you very much for the complement. There are many smarter than I am in regards to the Bible and in regards to how to witness to Mormons. You, my friend, appear to be well trained in that area. I am grateful to my Heavenly Father for opening my eyes to reality through his sweet spirit of revelation.

I invite you to join me in my delusional bubble as you as called it. It is a peaceful place, a place where I am not alone. There are millions of others who inhabit this same world. Many of them have gone on to the spirit world that surrounds us. Sometimes I imagine that they are trying to communicate with me. I sit very still and listen very closely.

But that’s all subjective and ludicrous as you say, isn’t it? Well, maybe so, but I’m happy and think that others who enjoy this same sweet spirit of revelation are happy as well. In fact, we are so happy that we get together each Sunday to talk about it and to share some of those sacred, revelatory experiences that strengthen our feelings of love for our God.

I was surprised that you said that love is not a feeling. We measure love by the things that people do, but love itself is indeed a feeling. It comes from God and is something that we strengthen as we grow closer to him by obeying his commandments. Love can grow. It can increase and our ability to recognize it grows as we are taught by God.

We show our love by our actions, both in the things that we say and the things that we do. Christ showed his love for us by providing the perfect example in all things and by his great atoning sacrifice on our behalf. Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends. Christ did that as a ransom to pay the price of our sins.

The truths of the gospel of Jesus Christ are confirmed to my soul by the witness of the Holy Spirit. That is the whole basis of my religion – personal revelation. I glory in this knowledge that God is willing and able to reach me and teach me as I go through this life through the gift of the Holy Ghost which I received through the laying on of hands.

God can and does reveal the truthfulness of his word through the Holy Ghost. He has not left us alone in this world to struggle for ourselves, wondering what is right and what is wrong. We can know and I am a witness that he does reveal himself to those who seek him humbly in prayer, with a sincere heart and real intent, wanting to know the truth.
That truly was a beautiful post and your response comment was stunning in particular. My experience was quite similar to Rocky's as I had a friend ( we were in a relationship for a while) that was a member and her certainty of her faith and the way in which it influenced her world view drove me crazy and I really wanted to be able to understand and respond to it. I sad down reading a book about the church and almost immedietly felt such a profound connection to the theology. Meeting with the missionaries and reading the book of mormon only confirmed the powerful promptings of the holy spirit. I finally decided that I wanted to convert when I was promted to visit the lds temple and felt the serene power of direct communication and revelation. It was a transformatory momment for me.
Unknown said…
I just want to say that I cannot deny the spiritual witness I received one day while reading the Book of Mormon. I felt a power like electricity enter the crown of my head and go down to my toes and then come back up my body and then swell in my heart. It was THE MOST AMAZING feeling I have ever had and I think I will ever have in this life. It came as a feeling of power, warmth, and love. I feel the Spirit imprinted its stamp on my heart. I cannot deny that experience. I had it and God knows I had it. I know the LDS church and the Book of Mormon are true. Even if I didn't want to believe it (which I do) I could not run from that witness. I don't know why God gave me that experience but the joy and peace and happiness stemming from it are real and it has been an anchor to me throughout my life. I know not everyone has this experience but for me, my Heavenly Father knew it was what I needed. It is more real to me that anything I know about reality or my own life. I thank God for that precious witness. My challenge is to now live up to that knowledge and to apply it in a real way that makes a positive difference.
Felisha said…
Wow Steve. That is amazing! I had a very similar experience and I haven't heard of anyone else having this type of experience. Although I am not LDS I am a baptized born-again believer. When I first felt the call to seek the Lord I was very confused as I had been brought up catholic and things just didn't make sense anymore. I was seeking the Lord but all the churches I visited were just not right. I felt a strong desire to keep looking. I visited a friend's church (apostolic) and questioned my faith even more than ever before.

One night I was crying all night because I was so confused about what I believed. I felt ashamed because I didn't believe God was really real. The very next day I went to church and went to the altar for prayer and I saw this long tunnel of light shine down on me. It was so powerful that the only thing I could compare it to is being struck by lightning. It happened for a reason. I will NEVER question whether God is real again but that experience was "out of this world" amazing! I just so happened to do an internet search for "burning in the bosom" and came across this post. I feel blessed to see I was not the only one to experience this.
Unknown said…
That is awesome Felisha! God is real and matters of faith are spiritually discerned for those who have eyes to see, ears to hear, and hearts to feel. I invite you to read the Book of Mormon for yourself to discover the truth of it as I did. Try lds.org if you are open to the wonderful life changing truths this book contains. Best wishes. Steve
MaryHelpUs said…
I have also experienced this "burning in the bosom" in a profound way. Whenever I speak to someone about Mormonism or drive by a Mormon church (I live in the Salt Lake area)I feel this spirit. It is definitely a "burning" and it is in my chest. However, I have also experienced the pure ecstasy of the real Holy Spirit. From my experience of both, I can tell you that Felisha's experience is different from Steve's and OP. I would HIGHLY recommend reading this post http://www.godandscience.org/cults/roxanne_johns.html
for a better understanding of what is truly happening. While I do not endorse her denomination, she is right on target with the burning of the bosom. A fallen angel can easily deceive us into thinking they are an angel of light... or even God. see Mat 24:24
Unknown said…
My experience was one of love and peace and only could have come from our Heavenly Father. I was not deceived by Adversary changing himself into an angel of light or artificially producing some counterfeit experience . We know it is by their "fruits" that we can know the Truth and the fruit of the Spirit is peace,love, and joy--precisely what I had (See Galatians for the fruits of the Spirit). The Book of Mormon is the Word of God---I know it is and it can bless our lives and along with the Bible lead us back to our Father's presence through our faith in Christ and the application of truth in our lives. Everyone can discover the truth for themselves as the Holy Ghost will lead us to all truth.

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