Our Church is wonderful for many reasons and it does many things well. I have not found teaching spirituality to be one of them. Developing our capacity to understand things of a spiritual nature is an important aspect of our growth as human beings both on Earth and eternally, yet it is not uncommon to find examples of very intelligent and capable people in the Church expressing difficulty in learning how. Certainly there are those in the Church who have learned very well how to interpret spiritual things. But I doubt their skill has very much to do with any instruction they’ve received in the Church.
After all, it seems like we have to say on the matter is about 5 cliches that we recycle over and over again until they become almost meaningless: “burning in the bosom”, “calm, peaceful feeling”, and so on. Our descriptions of learning to recognize the Spirit have become the epitome of the term “vain repetition.” Admittedly, communicating with the Spirit is nearly wholly an experiential sort of knowledge, by which I mean it can only be understood by experiencing it first hand. Still, I wish we had better means of helping guide others through the process of gaining that experience.
Feeling the Spirit is seems to be an extremely important of our Church. Missionaries ask their investigators to ask for the Spirit to confirm the truth of the Book of Mormon, and we’re told that we can receive a spiritual confirmation of the things our leaders tell us. I think it’s safe to say that we put a great deal of emphasis on following the Spirit. Yet so many of us don’t really seem to know how to do so as well as we could. Looking back at my own mission, I now realize that I barely had any concept of it at all, and although I used plenty of those tried and true cliches at the time, I’m quite certain that many of those I baptized had hardly any sort of grasp at all on what it means to listen to the Spirit.
Personally, I feel like I’ve actually had good instruction and guidance in learning about the Spirit since that time. But that guidance has come mostly from sources outside the curriculum, scriptures, and teachings of the Church. For me, I’ve been fortunate enough to have two things. One of them is a mother who is not only great at understanding spiritual things but is also a fantastic teacher (having devoted her entire professional career and a PhD to that end). She has taught me to understand how to interact with the world in a spiritual way and how to understand how God communicates with us.
Also, I have found Buddhist teachings to be of much more practical assistance than our own. For example, our Church teaches that a person’s soul consists of both the body and the Spirit. But what in the world does that mean? The only relevance of that statement I ever seem to hear in the Church is that therefore sexual sins, which involve our bodies, also affect our souls. There may be something to that, I suppose. But through Buddhist meditation and yoga practices I’ve been able to experience in a first hand way how our bodies and spirits are indeed connected, how we can help them be in harmony with each other, and how powerful and spiritual it can be when we do so.
I don’t mean to say that I’ve got this spirituality thing down pat; there’s way more I need to learn. I do feel like I’ve got some solid groundwork laid, even though it doesn’t have a whole lot to do with things I’ve learned in the Church. But my real point in bringing all this up is to ask about others’ experience with spirituality. Of what does Mormon spirituality consist? Do we have some particular take on it as a church? Is there helpful guidance out there that I just didn’t happen to receive? I’d like to think that there is a lot our church has to offer in this area, but my own experience has found this not to be the case. So help me out. Do we lack as a church in this area? If so, why might that be?