Matt Slick of CARM leads the battle charge against the LDS notion of the spiritual experience as a basis for belief and commitment. Slick says the following on his website:
Mormons believe that if you read the Book of Mormon and then pray and ask God whether or not it is true, you will receive a testimony from the Holy Spirit verifying its truth. If it is true, then Joseph Smith is true and so is Mormonism. Many Mormons claim to have this testimony.
First of all, God never says to pray about truth. He says to search the Scriptures to find truth (Acts 17:11; 2 Tim. 3:16).
So, what the Mormon is doing is unbiblical.
Second, it doesn’t matter what you feel. If what you feel contradicts the Bible, then what you feel is wrong.
Now, Latter-day Saints are certainly interested in understanding the scriptures. We dig through them constantly, being continually urged on by our leaders to read the scriptures every day. If something we believe seems to contradict the bible, we don’t throw our hands in the air and simply claim that our personal spiritual experience trumps it. We work on ways to resolve the issue, and sometimes our personal experiences can be wrong if they contradict the scriptures, including the bible.
By reading Slick’s words above one would think that Slick puts no stock at all in the impressions and feelings that one feels when he is in communication with the Spirit. It is unambiguously declared that “it doesn’t matter what you feel.” Strangely enough, however, Slick himself declares elsewhere that his “testimony” is based on an experience that he had with God that sounds quite different from the sentiment that he expressed above:
As I concluded my prayer, I became aware that someone “other” was there. Someone else was in the room with us and His attention was focused on me. This someone was not a member of that congregation. But I felt His presence dawning like a sunrise. This person was making Himself known to me in my heart. I somehow knew it was God. It was the Holy Spirit. He came to me slowly, gently, and then in a sudden movement, His Holiness overshadowed me with greatness and I became incapacitated. It was indescribable. He permeated my heart, mind, and soul. He washed over me in a burst of holiness and I was utterly undone. His incredibly deep purity shone upon my soul and I was instantaneously made aware of my utter sinfulness before a Holy and Righteous God. It was a supernatural experience of profound and utter depth. It wasn’t emotionalism. It wasn’t being psyched-out. It was God. I was in the presence of God Himself. I was in the presence of Perfect Holiness….and I knew it!!!
…It was wonderful and I felt my heart enveloped and lifted by Him.
I don’t post this excerpt of Slick’s testimony in an attempt to belittle his spiritual experiences. I only wish to point out that what Slick believes and what he says might not square up. I respect his spiritual experience, and I think it is a sound basis for belief and commitment. Unfortunately, Slick and his evangelical colleagues don’t offer the same respect for LDS testimonies.
Note that Slick describes his experience with phrases like “I felt”, “like a sunrise”, “I somehow knew”, “my heart, mind, and soul”, “made aware”, “supernatural experience”, and finally “I knew it!!!” These attempts to describe the indescribable sound very similar to the struggle that LDS have in describing their own experiences. We use very similar phrases, including the familiar “burning in the bosom” expression. Later in the account Slick seems to unquestioningly accept the event as being a true experience, one that guided the course of his life from then on. There is no talk of searching the bible to see if what he experienced was biblical. One wonders if Slick would have abandoned his belief in the experience had he later been persuaded that the Church he was attending taught falsehoods.
One more thing needs to be mentioned about this account. Slick is aware that what he is describing might actually sound a bit strange to the ears of his disciples who so often hear him denounce the LDS testimony experience. He tries to make up for this peculiarity by claiming, “It wasn’t emotionalism. It wasn’t being psyched-out. It was God.” But, we are tempted to ask the obvious questions. How does he know that he wasn’t “psyched-out?” How does he know that it wasn’t “emotionalism?” I don’t demand any answer to that, although Slick and his colleagues demand it of us.
Again, I respect Slick’s spiritual experience. But then again, one is tempted to give Slick a dose of his own medicine…
“…it doesn’t matter what you feel.” -Matt Slick, founder of CARM