Revelation and Mental Illness

I’ve mentioned before my colleague who regularly receives “revelations” and says she can sense “shifts in the universe.” She’s been diagnosed as bipolar, but she doesn’t take her medication. Needless to say, it’s interesting working in the same small area with her.

Today I was talking to a believing Mormon who told me that his mother-in-law had been having revelations about food storage and emergency preparedness and the imminent Second Coming of Jesus. She was adamant that the Holy Ghost was warning her of terrible things to come. At some point, she became convinced that enemies (apparently the government) were monitoring her movements, and to thwart them she got rid of her cell phones and credit cards and anything else that could be used to track her movements.

Thankfully, she got treatment and is doing a little better. I can relate.

Anyhow, her experience led me to wonder how one distinguishes between real revelation and delusional stuff like this. The folks who believe in the “tent city” movement or the Salem Relief Mine are convinced that they have had the truth revealed to them, whereas most of us think they’re just a tad off.

Extremes can be found, obviously, such as the infamous Lafferty brothers who killed their sister-in-law and her infant daughter because they were sure that God wanted them dead. But I wonder how you distinguish this from the episode in the Book of Mormon when Nephi kills an inebriated Laban in order to obtain the brass plates. Both the Laffertys and Nephi said that God guided them. Who is right? Or are they both right? Or both wrong?

Spiritual experience seems to be such a subjective experience, doesn’t it? I’ve known Catholics who told me that they had spiritual experiences leading them to the path they have taken, just as a Calvinist I know told me of a very powerful experience he had leading him to Calvinism. And most Mormons will tell you that they have received a “spiritual witness” to the truth of Mormonism.

It makes me wonder why God would tell us to pray for guidance if He is going to give us different answers.

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3 Responses to Revelation and Mental Illness

  1. Tim says:

    That’s why we need to look at things outside of our own experiences.

    Our feelings make excellent servants but terrible masters.

  2. jr says:

    I can agree the last two paragraphs. People from all walks of life and various religions testify to spiritual experiences leading them to their religions.
    I recently had an acquaintance tell of being molested by her father. She had been told that prayer will provide answers to all life’s problems. She prayed that her father would stop the molestation, believing that an all-knowing God would never allow it continue.
    The molestation did in fact continue for some time until her mother put a stop to it.
    Prayers and it’s answers are completely subjective. A large number of Mormons have claimed spiritual confirmation of ‘truth’ while a large number claim that none of their prayers in searching for truth have been answered.
    The last chapter in the life of my friend: Her father is currently a Stake High Councelman, he never ‘repented’ to his Bishop or Stake President and my friend is an atheist. So much for worthiness being a requirement for ‘callings’.

  3. gigidiaz says:

    Well maybe God speaks to each person how they need to spoken to. In the end all these revelations of which you speak tend to lead to the same place: a place of worship and guidance to living a clean, good life.

    You don’t talk to a teenager like you would to toddler if you were trying to get them both to pick something up from the floor. Maybe some of us are toddlers and others are teenagers and adults and “blondes” and Einsteins and God responds however it’s most effective.

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