Thursday, January 17, 2008

Does a Happy Ending Define a Genuine Experience with the Spirit?

I was reading a series of comments to a post at Mormon Matters and ran into this comment. Essentially, it says that if an action ends happily, we can conclude that an action was prompted by the Holy Ghost. I'm not so sure this is true.

I seem to be at a 5-10 year period of my life wherein I try to follow the Spirit and receive confirmation to every careful request for direction but my decisions that seem to be Spirit-guided end badly. I have come to realize that the ending does not invalidate my Spiritual prompting. To give a fairly innocuous example, I felt a strong, Spiritual drive towards a geographical location after my mission. I had a choice to remain in Florida (not really an option for me, I hate the heat) to follow my parents to Washington and find a job there (an area of the country I have longed after) or to come back to Utah. I felt I should come back to Utah. There was no doubt in my heart, and every time I prayed in and out of the temple, I felt that same strong prompting. I came here only to find myself Spiritually stagnating in this environment, aggravated by the constant bickering between Mormons and ex-Mormons and non-Mormons. I have no real day-to-day friends in my life. A few experiences since my return have left me feeling rather alienated from the Church rather than integrated.

Does that mean my prompting was not real because its ending was not happy? You might argue that it hasn't ended yet, but I have other more personal examples which have to all practical purposes ended and left me feeling broken. Yet, I believe that I did follow actual promptings. I don't think the question of whether or not someone followed the Spirit can always be answered by the obvious results of their actions. I don't think that the Spirit always leads us to happy endings in this life.

As my favorite movie, the Last Unicorn concludes, "there are no happy endings, because nothing ends." Not in this life, anyways. I know, however, that after our lives are over if not before, we will have cause to thank the Lord and thank Him and thank Him, both for the joys in our lives and for the sorrows. I know by my own experience that if we do our best to follow the Spirit, even though our lives may seem dark and lonely for awhile, we will find that our path led us through the greatest joys in this life to the Greatest Joy of all eternity.


  1. This is an important question to pose. I guess we are on the same page on this issue, because you eloquently wrote about the two points that immediately came to my mind when I saw your title.

    1)In the short term, genuine spiritual promptings definitely don't always lead to what we would call a "happy ending."

    2)Our stories really don't end, at least in this life.

    It seems to me that we see enough "happy" consequences of following the Spirit to urge us to continue following. And there are also enough examples in the Scriptures of "unhappy" things happening to good people to warn us that mortal life will have plenty of pain even when we are obeying spiritual promptings.

    For me, it is finding a measure of inner peace--even in the midst of sorrow, loneliness, fear, torment, chaos, or any other kind of unhappiness--that sustains, and reaffirms the genuineness of a spiritual experience.

  2. I've been through similar periods in my life. All I can say is that I wish you well.

  3. Roann - I fully agree. The fruits of the Spirit are peace in this life and a happily ever after in the world to come. That is what makes developing a relationship with deity so vital here.

    Stephen - thank you for your well-wishes. The good thing is that knowing one has done one's best to follow Christ, despite mistakes, will see one through the worst of trials.


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