HOFRS is one of the greatest acronyms the Church has ever come up with: Helping Others Feel and Recognize the Spirit, a great way to systematize something that is utterly unsystematic.
In any event, for purposes of my post I’m tweaking HOFRS, because I’m curious about Helping Ourselves Feel and Recognize the Spirit. As to helping ourselves feel the Spirit: Christ says in John, “The wind bloweth where it listeth, and thou hearest the sound thereof, but canst not tell whence it cometh, and whither it goeth: so is every one that is born of the Spirit.” How can we force the wind to blow our way? Admittedly, Sunday School Answers spring to mind, but I’m not sure that reading the Scriptures, or any other activity, is going to always do the trick for us as some sort of totemic invocation. What works for me is seizing random opportunities — I have the idea that by praying, or reading scriptures, etc. whenever I get the chance, I have as much likelihood of feeling the Spirit as I would at any other time. Unfortunately, this leads me to believe that on some level, getting a piece of the Spirit seems a matter of happenstance. Can this be right?
As to helping ourselves recognize the Spirit: this one is a mess. I don’t think we do a fantastic job in this Church of helping people realize when they’ve felt the Spirit, or helping them distinguish between the Spirit and “good feelings,” or for that matter helping people understand exactly what “the Spirit” is. For example, take the doctrinal notions of “Light of Christ,” “Gift of the Holy Ghost”, and “feeling inspired.” No one can explain what these mean, at least not in any definitive sense — and to be sure, all of our doctrinal explanations will overlap and at times conflict. Don’t get me going about the H.G. during Christ’s earthly ministry!
In my mind however, a doctrinal definition of roles for the Holy Ghost/Spirit isn’t as immediately important as trying to discern when you are feeling the Spirit, compared to when you’ve just watched “Beaches” or “Saving Private Ryan” and feel a catharsis brought on by good drama or melodrama. Can we feel the Spirit when it is artificially invoked through drama or film (that certainly seems the premise of LDS films)? How can we tell exactly what’s going on? It would seem to be an important distinction since everyday emotions don’t have the power to lead us to salvation the way the Spirit is supposed to. Equally difficult is the notion that the Spirit speaks through our own thoughts and emotions, thereby completely obscuring its nature as an external influence.
So, to sum up:
1. I don’t know how, exactly, to get myself feeling the Spirit; and
2. I wouldn’t really know it, exactly, if I were feeling the Spirit.
This can’t be as hopeless a scenario as it sounds — thousands feel the Spirit, and bear testimony to that effect. But I’d like to hear it from some of you.