The following are lightly edited transcripts of a conversation I am having with an honest inquirer, who is also a friend of the JG.  He can out himself in the comments if he wishes.  Comments are welcome.  If you would like to have a private conversation with him, say so in the comments and the Club Committee will try to oblige, subject to the consent of the inquiring gentleman.


Do you know if there’s any precedent in Mormonism for the Holy Spirit communicating via dreams? Could it also communicate via nightmares? Or is demonic influence possible?

I have had at least two nightmares that involved spiritual communication (not from the nether regions).  They had some unusual features, though.

When the Holy Spirit confirms, is it with a sense of certainty? I’ve mostly seen the physical/emotional effects described, but I wonder if there is a sense in which one *knows* that it’s from God – or is one still left to wonder “was that from God? If so I better pay heed…” but still open to potential doubting, etc.?


No, not always with a sense of certainty.  Many, many Mormons complain a lot about how subtle the Spirit can be (sometimes it is very unsubtle, of course).  You ask questions that are important to you and get intimations that seem real but are just quiet enough to make you unsure.  Then you act on them as best as you can, with prudence, and in the aftermath you are usually able to better sort out what was genuinely the Spirit and what wasn’t.  In fact, sometimes those are the clearest answers, the ones you get afterwards helping you sort through what was the actual spiritual guidance you received.  I believe that it’s on purpose, because learning to discern the Spirit at the edge of your current spiritual sensitivity refines your spiritual sensitivity.


I wonder too if you think with dreams it included a sense of certainty, to know that it was *real*, and not a normal dream (or nightmare)?


On dreams: I’ve never wondered which dreams were revelatory and which weren’t.  It’s always been clear, for me.  My revelatory dreams are ones that I remember distinctly.  They have often had a different mental quality about them that I associate with the Spirit.  Or, when I was thinking about them afterwards,  I came up with interpretations that were confirmed by the Spirit.  All my revelatory dreams have been more coherent and less fragmentary than my normal dreams.  The revelatory nightmares were different from my regular nightmares in that I had volition in them and was even permitted to wind back the clock and run through part of the dream again when I realized that I had made a bad choice.  Also, at least some of these dreams have been obvious and unmistakable answers to questions that concerned me.



Then the follow-up, if one is uncertain I suppose it’s okay to keep asking – over and over (and over) if you’re unsure? I mean, this sounds childish, but is there any sense in LDS doctrine that one needs take heed of the first testimony and can’t expect more (like, hey, don’t want to annoy God).


I suppose the state of one asking could effect this sort of transmission quite a bit. That is, the missionaries were saying receiving the Holy Spirit at baptism provides an additional sense or awareness.


There is no problem with repeated questions either.  I prayed all through my teenage years to know if the Church was true.  I got enough of an answer to go forward, but nothing so certain enough that I stopped asking, until a remarkable experience I had at 19, when the question had become very pressing to me.  Yes, at that point I had the emotional/physical effects described, very much, but also pure and unmistakable direct spiritual communication.  If you repeat the question, one of the possible answers is ‘I already told you and you already know,’ but I wouldn’t let that deter you from repeating the question in the first place.  At the same time, if you feel impressed to act but aren’t sure, you probably won’t receive any further communication if you put off acting altogether.

The missionaries are quite right.  For most, though not all, the experience of baptism and confirmation removes their remaining hesitation.


I really appreciate your help and your long explanation.


I am definitely struggling with this. I’ve had some good feelings (sense of happiness or peace) while reading the BoM, but not of greater intensity than what I have felt sometimes while attending latin Mass.


However, the dreams/nightmares are – of course – harder to miss and tend to be clearer in message. If both are taken at face value (i.e. because they appear to be directly related to specific questions asked) the message is clear enough, but unexpected.


Thinking of this as a genuine possibility is new to me, and your framework for responding to it in the face of uncertainty is very helpful.


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