While I was at the Nauvoo Christian Visitors Center in Nauvoo, Illinois this past summer, a group of sixteen-year-old LDS girls entered. Colleen Ralson, a former Mormon and the director of the Center, began a conversation with the girls. They had been chatting for a few moments when, suddenly, one of the girls clutched her stomach and said, "I don't feel well."
Colleen offered the young woman a chair and asked if she would like a glass of water. The girl shook her head as she doubled over and began making her way to the door. Pulling on her friends to accompany her, she said with wide and fearful eyes, "I don't feel well because of this place. As soon as I walked through the door I felt the Spirit leave me. I have to get out of here!"
In her statement, this young woman expressed a common teaching of the LDS Church: That where there is anything antithetical to purity and righteousness, the Holy Spirit will withdraw.
According to Mormon doctrine, at the time of baptism every Latter-day Saint is given the gift of the Holy Spirit through the laying on of hands by priesthood authority. But if something is done that would grieve the Holy Spirit, that Spirit will depart for a time. LDS prophets and other Authorities have given many reasons for the departure of the Spirit from Church members,1 but Joseph Fielding Smith incorporated nearly all possibilities when he wrote that "unrepented sin always causes [the] Spirit to withdraw."2
However, the young woman who felt the Spirit leave her when she entered the Nauvoo Christian Visitors Center was most likely not reacting to any unrepented sin in her life. Rather, her feelings were due to the nature of the Center itself.
The Nauvoo Christian Visitors Center is a place dedicated to comparing and contrasting the doctrines of Mormonism with historical Christianity while proclaiming the truth of Christ. It is a place where Christians obey the Biblical command to "contend earnestly for the faith which was once delivered unto the saints."3 But LDS Scripture tells us contention is of the devil.4 Therefore, " where contention is, the Spirit of the Lord is not " "The Spirit of the Lord cannot dwell where there is bickering, judging, contention or any kind of bashing " "When there is contention, the Spirit of the Lord will depart, regardless of who is at fault."5
So, it was a mistake from the beginning for the young woman to even walk through the door of the Visitors Center. What she experienced was aptly described by LDS Apostle Francis M. Lyman: " the very moment we start out in the wrong direction and undertake to do something that is not pleasing in the sight of the Lord, we will feel rebuked by the withdrawal of that Spirit, and when it is withdrawn we feel unhappy and uncomfortable, The withdrawal of that Spirit is a certain indication that we are starting out in the wrong direction -- that we have said or done something that is not right; "6
I find these remarks very interesting in light of what the Bible tells us about the Holy Spirit.
Jesus promised that He and the Father would send "another Helper" to His disciples. This Helper, the Holy Spirit, was to be One like Himself, who would carry on the teaching and testimony that Jesus began. He would provide encouragement, counsel and strength. In addition to glorifying Christ by testifying of Jesus, the Spirit would enlighten, regenerate, sanctify, transform, and equip God's people with everything they need to serve Him well.7
The Holy Spirit which Jesus promised will not leave us; Jesus said He would send the Spirit and that Spirit would abide with us, and in us, forever.8
Further, we are told we will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon us. He is greater than the evil one. Scripture records that demons are cast out by the power of the Spirit of God, therefore, we are to resist the devil and the devil will flee.9
We are told that we are engaged in battle against Satan; we must take up the whole armor of God so that we will be able to stand firm for the truth. The only defensive weapon given us is the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. We are promised that the Holy Spirit will teach us what we ought to say to those who contend against us and will help us in our weaknesses.10
For those who believe in Christ, Jesus promised that out of our hearts "will flow rivers of living water," which He spoke concerning the Spirit. And Paul taught that we are sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise; He is given to us by God as a guarantee of our future inheritance of heaven.11
Try as I might, I am unable to reconcile the LDS statements about the Holy Spirit with the Biblical revelation.
In LDS thought, the companionship of the Holy Spirit is given to those who are worthy, and He is only present when the conditions are right.12 If there is contention, sin, dispute -- He flees.
However, the Biblical revelation of the Holy Spirit describes One who is our strength and power in times of need. He is with us always to guide and help us. He works continually in us to sanctify, cleanse, and give us life.13
The young woman at the Nauvoo Christian Visitors Center obviously felt something real, which she attributed to the Spirit withdrawing from her. I would not dispute her interpretation of what she experienced. However, based on what God has revealed in His Word, I would not hesitate to suggest that the spirit which withdrew from the LDS girl was what Paul has called "a different spirit,"14 for it most certainly was not the Spirit Jesus promised His people.
- Selfishness and putting faith in riches
(Joseph F. Smith, Gospel Doctrine, p. 51)
- Failing to set a good example or magnify callings
(John Taylor, Journal of Discourses, 20:24)
(Joseph Fielding Smith, Church History and Modern Revelation, 1:173)
- A diminished love for truth, honesty and virtue
(Francis M. Lyman, Collected Discourses, vol. 4)
(Church News, 4/11/92, p. 6)
- Using the priesthood unrighteously
(Harold B. Lee, Stand Ye In Holy Places, p.253-254)
- Speaking evil of the Lord's anointed
(George Q. Cannon, Gospel Truth, Vol. 1, p.278)
- Failure to write down decisions made in Church meetings
(Joseph Fielding Smith, Church History and Modern Revelation, Vol. 1, p.97)
- Breaking the Sabbath
(George Albert Smith, Journal of Discourses, 17:196 - p.197)
- Opposition to Joseph Smith's revelation on polygamy
(Orson Pratt, Journal of Discourses, 17:226)
- Failure to pay tithing
(George Q. Cannon, Conference Report, April 1900, p.58)