From the Pulpit: “A Mantic Celebration of the Holy Spirit”

February 6, 2005 | 5 comments
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“I wish to celebrate this morning the reality of the often ignored and too little heralded but very real outpouring of the Spirit of God upon the believing inhabitants of earth–right now, this morning, in the early evening of the last dispensation.” So begins Richard Cracroft’s 1993 BYU devotional speech, fully titled “‘We’ll Sing and We’ll Shout’: A Mantic Celebration of the Holy Spirit.” The text of the entire speech is available here, at the BYU website’s useful and usable Speeches area; the entire speech is worth a read.

Brother Cracroft told the inspiring story of a Swedish convert, Ingrid Olsen, who received a witness of the Spirit that changed her life and her children’s life irrevocably for good. He goes on to say:

Now, on hearing this account, sophic souls, those who limit their perception of reality to the five finite senses, will scoff; comment on Sister Olsen’s temporary insanity, wild imaginative powers, and complex psychology; and dismiss the whole matter as foolish self-delusion. You see, it is constitutionally impossible for the earthbound sophic to understand the things of the Spirit, which appear as foolishness to them.

On hearing this same account, sophic Mormons, those torn between the faith that sparked their own spirits in simpler times and the skepticism and doubt born of their worldly training–which teaches them to ground all truth in empirical evidence–will emit the groan of Goethe’s Faust, “Two souls alas! are dwelling in my breast,” and reach for a spiritual antacid. Then they will go on wearing out their lives attempting to balance the spiritual and the worldly, which are two “fundamentally antithetical ways of perceiving the world.”

Most Latter-day Saints, however, on hearing this account, will generally feel, depending on their spiritual equilibrium at the moment, the familiar thrill of spiritual recognition (you know what I mean–the shiver through the body, the cold chill across the back, the flash across the spirit, and, yes, the burning in the bosom), and he will nod his head affirmingly, or she will smile her knowing smile, and, adding Sister Olsen’s testimony to their store of such testimonies, they will ask if you have a moment to listen to an experience that just recently occurred in their lives–and, behold, we’re enjoying an impromptu testimony meeting.

For the Latter-day Saint, Ingrid Olsen’s experience is part and parcel of the nature of human life, something inherent in the warp and woof of mortality. The world will never understand these characteristics of the Mormon people, or of this university, but they are engraved in the souls of every Latter-day Saint. Despite having been raised, as Paul says, “in bondage under the elements of the world” (Galatians 4:3) and in thrall to materialism, the Latter-day Saints are a believing people who affirm President David O. McKay’s assertion that, “After all, the spiritual life is the true life of man.”

Rejecting the limited sophic view of the world, the Latter-day Saints are also a mantic people, which means they live their daily lives in conscious and constant awareness of the very real, infinite world beyond this shadow world of finite earth. Living in this world, but believing in the mantic world, the Latter-day Saints are, if you’ll allow it, a cockeyed people–with one eye cocked to the ultimate reality of infinity, the “out there,” while the other eye is cocked to the immediate daily realities of life, the here and now.

The Holy Spirit is the link between the two worlds, because the Latter-day Saints are also a charismatic people–those who consciously seek and cultivate the presence of the divine in their lives; who seek to “elevate the place of the Holy Spirit” in their lives, to center their lives in a dynamic theology of expectation of the divine; that is, the charismatic Mormons live their lives in confidence that the Father and his Son can and may and do intervene in human lives–and may do so at any moment, in order to assist us mortals in our individual and collective courses.

Mormonism maintains an ambitious confidence in its empirical truth-claims, claims that are exposed to the possibility of verification or falsification. So it’s instructive for me to remember that the gospel makes other sorts of truth-claims, as well, drawing on knowledge that flows though channels of intuition, emotion and conviction rather than rational inquiry–and, analyst that I am, it’s comforting to know that this kind of knowledge has been given the legitimacy of a name and category, as well. “Mantic knowledge” originates from the prophetic and the divine, a spiritual wisdom that the Spirit communicates in those always-surprising flashes across the spirit.

Brother Cracroft names three categories–the sophic, the mantic, and the charismatic–and suggests that the Spirit resides in the latter two. With respect to Brother Cracroft (and with full knowledge that I am mangling the philosophical terms, and with apologies for doing so), I’ve experienced the witness of the Spirit in each of the three modes. I occasionally glimpse a sudden solution to a problem or a question that troubles me, or, looking back, I recognize that I have been invisibly guided to questions and sources over the course of a sustained project: the sophic. I experience the overwhelming affirming emotional response to the witness of the Spirit, even in unexpected–even unconducive–contexts: the charismatic. And I enjoy daily the gentle easing of the Spirit, a river current that carries me through the difficult passages of my day, the subtle impulse of which is sorely missed when it departs: the mantic. The Spirit, like the wind, blows where it will; it’s a privilege, whatever the pitch of the windsong, to stand in its path.

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5 Responses to From the Pulpit: “A Mantic Celebration of the Holy Spirit”

  1. CJ on February 6, 2005 at 1:20 pm

    Rosalynde,

    Thank you for that post. I think many of us–particularly those of us very much involved in continual “worldy training”–struggle with our two rather irreconcilable ways of viewing life and eternity. Everyday the battle rages in my head and heart, and it’s comforting to hear that I’m not the only one. Is anyone out there able to offer even more insight as to how this battle can be as infrequent and subdued as possible? How do we quiet the voice of our sophic selves when necessary, allowing the mantic and charistmatic to rule the day when dealing with our ultimate faith?

  2. Christian Cardall on February 6, 2005 at 4:45 pm

    Thanks, Rosalynde, hits home. Don’t know how many readers had the experience as a youth when, hearing the Bishop talk about standards, didn’t even want to swallow because you felt like the Bishop was talking right at you and everyone would know it if you so much as twitched?

    Interesting to claim even the sophic as part of the Spirit’s domain. Prophets have taught that even secular advances are given by God, even if their human discoverers don’t recognize or acknowledge it; but familiarity with this teaching didn’t inoculate me from surprise when you made the claim. I suppose I was expecting a `by study/by faith’ complementarity, perhaps set up by your preceding paragraph (if you were aiming at rhetorical surprise you succeeded). Or perhaps it was simply the guilty surprise of those caught red-handed: When it comes to their secular work, perhaps many believers are like the Lamanites who had received the Holy Ghost and didn’t know it, or have `failed to acknowledge the Lord’s hand in all things.’

    Regarding emotional responses to the charismatic—don’t exactly what you meant by `unconducive,’ but I’m reminded of the powerful response Alanis Morissette or Van Halen blasting through my Monsoon sound system generates in me. Or an R-rated movie that reaches me, like, say, ‘Memento’ or even ‘Phone Booth’. (Here I lay bare my cultural unsophistication).

    I don’t think this is what you’re doing, but is there a danger that if one sees the Spirit everywhere, it can’t be truly discerned anywhere? (When something is sufficiently generic to explain everything, in the end it doesn’t explain anything, because there’s no testability.) Maybe related, perhaps at the opposite extreme: in the sophic, human minds don’t merely respond to divine puppetstrings, they have some genuine innate faculties; in the charismatic, the sentimental, puerile, false, or even evil can pull at our heartstrings; and the mantic, well, it responds to lithium and various other things, both endogenous and external (both natural and (hu)man-made). Is it possible, necessary, or desirable to actually discern what if any truly comes from the Spirit? If so, what is the touchstone? And what is the extent to which such experience is the unique province of Latter-day Saints?

  3. Rosalynde Welch on February 6, 2005 at 6:39 pm

    CJ: Thanks for the response, and for the difficult (read: excellent!) questions. It’s my experience that knowledge about and from the Holy Spirit is singularly non-transferrable; that is, I’ve never been fully satisfied by other people’s ideas or techniques (which is to say that I’m not sure I have anything useful to say in response!). While I was in grad school, I found myself able to manage two different epistemological frameworks without too much psychic difficulty, and I think I was able to do this mostly because I *didn’t* try to reconcile them, at least not fully. I’ve heard people call this kind of thing “compartmentalization,” pejoratively, and maybe it is–but it worked for me. This is not to say that I didn’t allow myself to think critically or analytically about spiritual things; I just didn’t require myself to fully reconcile, say, Judith Butler’s critical gender theory with the Proclamation on the Family. I tried to understand each framework as fully as I was able, on its own terms, and didn’t worry too much about the conflicts between the two. I found that I was able to make most of my important life choices without such a full reconciliation. Of course, my understanding of each inevitably inflected my understanding of the other (just ask Adam Greenwood! :) ), and often the results were fruitful.

    Christian, thinking.

  4. Sheri Lynn on February 6, 2005 at 11:28 pm

    Obviously, everything coherent and good is a testimony of God. Being saved from a horrible shredding accident at 70 mph by a prompting is a testimony of a Heavenly Father. Glycolysis is a testimony of the Creator. There are people you tell about promptings, and there are people who’d think you’re crazy. I don’t see myself as cockeyed. I see much of the rest of the world as half-blind.

  5. Shannon Keeley on February 7, 2005 at 3:08 am

    Hi Rosalynde. This was interesting. Thanks. You rock.

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