On Feb. 17, the Sons of the Utah Pioneers, Morgan Chapter, held its monthly meeting. Clyde J. Williams, formerly a professor of ancient scripture at Brigham Young University and current assistant managing director of the LDS Church Correlation Evaluation Department, was the invited guest speaker.
Williams’ topic, as requested by the SUP leadership, was “How should we react to questionable stories that are told in church meetings?”
In his current position, Williams sometimes responds to such accounts as they make their way through LDS church lore. He is familiar with many of these stories. “These stories,” he said, “are often told and repeated by church members who are well meaning. But they can have a detracting spirit when told out of context, or are simply not true. We are a believing people, and we want to hear good spiritual experiences.”
However, every story we re-tell should be carefully checked before we give it credence. Some stories should simply be avoided.
Williams recommended that one follow the counsel President Boyd K. Packer gave when he said: “I have come to believe also that it is not wise to continually talk of unusual spiritual experiences. They are to be guarded with care and shared only when the Spirit itself prompts you to use them to the blessing of others. (Boyd K. Packer, Ensign, Jan. 1983, p. 53).
President Joseph Fielding Smith said, “If a man comes among the Latter-day Saints, professing to have received a vision or a revelation or a remarkable dream, and the Lord has given him such, he should keep it to himself. It is all out of order, in this church, for somebody to invite him into a sacrament service to relate that to the church, because the Lord will give his revelations in the proper way, to the one who is appointed to receive and dispense the word of God to the members of the Church” (Joseph Fielding Smith, Doctrines of Salvation, 1:288).
“We encourage members of the Church to never teach or pass on such statements without verifying that they are from approved church sources, such as official statements, communications and publications. Any notes made when general authorities, area authority seventies, or other general church officers speak at regional and stake conferences or other meetings should not be distributed without the consent of the speaker. Personal notes are for individual use only.” (First Presidency Letter, Gordon B. Hinckley, Thomas S. Monson, James E. Faust, 13 May 2004).
Sharing legitimate spiritual experiences when directed by the Spirit can be a powerful part of our worship services. But members should be very careful to ensure that what they are relating is in harmony with the scriptures and what has been revealed through living prophets.