The following are a couple of my favorite stories that always bring the spirit.
In 1937, there was a man named John Griffith. He had lost all he had in the stock market crash. He moved to Mississippi where he took a job as a drawbridge operator for a railroad trestle. At that time, a drawbridge keeper was needed to act as a ‘switchman’ for trains that crossed above large rivers.
During most of the day, the bridge was kept in a position to let ships pass freely in the water, but at certain times of day, trains also had to travel and cross the river, using the drawbridge. The switchman’s job was to make sure to extend the bridge for the train at certain times, then get the drawbridge back out of the way again so that water vehicles could travel as normal.
One day, John noted the approach of a train and began to operate the appropriate controls to lock the drawbridge into place. He watched the train headlights get closer, and double-checked the drawbridge, only to notice that the locking mechanisms weren’t locking like they should! If these were not locked properly when the train began to cross the river, it would jump the track and crash far down below, into the river.
He noted that, according to his schedule, the particular train in question happened to be a passenger train, and this further heightened his dilemna.
Luckily, John had been trained for emergency situations, so he knew he could dash from the control room to a control box nearby, to hold a lever into place and lock the drawbridge manually. He’d noticed the flawed lock in time, so he rushed outside to manually lock the drawbridge.
With the level held firm, the train neared and the rumbling of engine and wheels on the track grew, and John knew he should brace himself soon for the train.
Just then, he heard a sound which made his blood run cold.
“Daddy…Daddy where are you?”
It was his 5 year old son, Greg crossing part of the tracks to come find him.
“Run, son – RUN!!!” John shouted.
But the train was fast approaching and the father’s words were caught up in the thunder of the train’s noise.
He released the lever for a moment, in order to run and grab his son – but realized that the train was approaching with much greater speed than he had anticipated. He’d never be fast enough to run to grab his son, and make it back in time to hold the lever in place before the train reached the river crossing! If he did not hold the lever, all the passengers on the oncoming train would crash into the river.
Either the people on the train or his own son- must die.
He took but a moment to make his decision. With an agonizing cry, he grasped the lever as the train sped forward.
The train sped safely and swiftly on its way, and no one aboard was even aware of the tiny, broken body thrown mercilessly into the river by the on rushing train. Nobody ever heard the dreaded splash of the young body plunging into the river. Nor were they aware of the pitiful figure of the sobbing man, still clinging to the locking lever long after the train had passed.
They did not see this man as he walked home, more slowly than he had ever walked; to tell his wife how their son had brutally died.
Now if you can comprehend, at all, the emotions that went throught this man’s heart, you can begin to understand the feelings of Our Father in Heaven when he sacrificed His Son to bridge the gap between us and eternal life.
Can there be any wonder that He caused the earth to tremble and the skies to darken when His Son died? How does He feel when we speed along through life without giving a thought to what was done for us through Jesus Christ?
A favorite quote of mine that I heard when Gordon B. Hinkley was alive is as follows:
You were generals in the War in Heaven and one day when you are in the spirit world, you will be enthralled by those you are associated with. You will ask someone in which time period they lived and you might hear, “I was with Moses when he parted the Red Sea ,” or “I helped build the pyramids'” or “I fought with Captain Moroni.” And as you are standing there in amazement, someone will turn to you and ask you which of the prophets’ time did you live in? And when you say “Gordon B. Hinkley” a hush will fall over every hall and corridor in Heaven, and all in attendance will bow at your presence. You were held back six thousand years because you were the most talented, most obedient, most courageous, and most righteous.
Elder Boyd K. Packer
Another one of my favorite stories:
Many years ago, when I worked as a volunteer at Stanford Hospital, I got to know a little girl named Liza who was suffering from a rare and serious disease. Her only chance of recovery appeared to be a blood transfusion from her five-year-old brother, who had miraculously survived the same disease and had developed antibodies needed to combat the illness. The doctor explained the situation to her little brother, and asked the boy if he would be willing to give his blood to his sister. I saw him hesitate for only a moment before taking a deep breath and saying, “Yes, I’ll do it if it will save Liza.”
As the transfusion progressed, he lay in bed next to his sister and smiled, as we all did, seeing the color returning to her cheeks. Then his face grew pale and his smile faded. He looked up at the doctor and asked with a trembling voice, “Will I start to die right away?”
Being young, the boy had misunderstood the doctor; he though he was going to have to give her all his blood.
In the last General Conference (October 2010), Prophet Thomas S. Monson said in his talk titled Till We Meet Again, “We could echo the words, found in the Book of Mormon, of those who heard the sermon of the great King Benjamin and “cried with one voice, saying: Yea, we believe all the words which thou hast spoken unto us; and also, we know of their surety and truth, because of the Spirit of the Lord Omnipotent.”
We are taught that the Spirit witnesses of truth. That when we feel the Spirit when we hear a talk or when we read the Book of Mormon that, that means it is true.
I felt the spirit very strong the first time I heard the stories and quotes above and if someone would have told me they were true I would have believed them because I felt the spirit so strong and especially if I trusted the person who told me they were true (like my parents or teachers).
However, according to snopes.com none of the stories or the quote is true. None of it really happened. The quote was never given by Boyd K. Packer, but that doesn’t mean that the spirit doesn’t come when you read these stories or hear them. That is because the spirit comes when we hear inspiring, heart-warming stories, not necessarily when we hear true stories. The spirit does not testify of true stories. It testifies that the story is heart-warming, inspiring, motivational, etc. not necessarily true.
Even if you knew these stories were false because you had heard them before you may think back to the first time you heard them, when you didn’t know if they were true or not and think about if you would have believed they were true if a trusted person told you they were and if feeling the spirit would have been a factor in your internal decision to believe that person or not.
I first understood this when I was very young because I said to my mom, “Why do I feel the spirit when I watch Hallmark card commercials? Are Hallmark cards true?”
My mom said, “No. Of course not. The spirit you feel in church is different.”
But it didn’t feel different to me.
I get the same warm fuzzy feeling that I might feel at a true story at an equally false story, especially if someone tells me that it is true.
This phenomenon then of feeling the spirit and attributing it to truth, is not real. Feel-good stories bring the spirit because they witness of goodness, not necessarily truth.
My second confusion about the spirit came when I attended a “Hearts at Home Conference”. This is a nondenominational christian conference for stay-at-home moms. The spirit was so overwhelmingly strong there. The speakers brought tears to my eyes. I felt an increase of love for everyone, but how could that be? How could that be if their churches were all false.
And how is it that all of my fellow stay-at-home moms at the conference were having a silent confirmation that they were on the right path, because weren’t they on the wrong path? Even my LDS friend who attended with me said, “You have to have a really strong testimony of the LDS gospel after attending something like that because the spirit was so strong, it makes you wonder.”
Why is it that everyone who feels so strongly about their faith, think they are right when they feel that warm feeling in their own church?
Another concern I had was that I never felt the spirit when I attended the LDS temple. I was so confused about this. I wondered what I was doing wrong. I went there when I was troubled or needed comfort and I never found any help. I think that is because there weren’t any of the usual inspiring words that we hear at church meetings. Intuitively I started manufacturing feel-good stories in my head while I was there, like imagining the person I was doing work for was in the room with me or sometimes I would think about Christ and His sacrifice. I had to create my own inspiration inside me in order to feel the spirit. Granted, it was easier then at other places because it is peaceful and quiet and everyone is nice around you, but without my internal stories it felt like an empty, meaningless ritual.
I notice also in testimony meetings, that it doesn’t matter so much what people say. They could be bearing their testimony about how they know that God told them acupunture was the only way to health and all conventional medicine was bad. It wouldn’t matter if that was true or not. What matters isn’t what they say, but how they say it. If they are passionate, crying and completely sincere the spirit will usually be there. If they are monotone or sarcastic or insincere it won’t be. So if someone was to decide on whether or not something was true based on the spirit, it is completely unreliable.
Further reading on this subject is here ( a website written by active mormons).
What do you think?