On Following the Holy Spirit, and on Tidy, “Happily-Ever-After” Endings
By Ken K. Gourdin
Another poster at Mormon Dialogue and Discussion asks, essentially, what if someone follows a prompting that he perceives to be from the Holy Spirit, and doesn’t get a “happily-ever-after” ending? In response, I posted a slightly-altered excerpt from Morris Albert’s classic “Feelings” (Eunice Harper Higgins rendition, from the television show “Mama’s Family”): “Feeluns, nuthin’ more than feeluns, tryin’ to ferget mah feelins of the Spirit. Feeluns! Whoa, whoa, whoa! Feeluns! Whoa, whoa, whoa! Feeluns!”
Then I replied:
Frankly, I think the opening poster may have a point, to a point. I doubt I would have undertaken the educational and attempted/intended/hoped-for career path that I have undertaken to this point without receiving what I felt at the time (and still do, misadventures and detours notwithstanding) was inspiration from the Spirit to do so.
I’ve written many times of undergoing two failed operations and waiting on an operating table to be put to sleep for a third operation, all within a span of 27 months, and receiving an unmistakeable impression that, ample reason for caution (if not for pessimism) notwithstanding, when I awoke after this operation, it would be to the best possible outcome; and then of undergoing two more operations, the three later operations occurring within a span of about seventeen months, with similar results.
Why did the first two operations fail, setting me back physically, in some ways, permanently? Why couldn’t they have been successful? I dunno. Why was I more-or-less impelled along a certain career path, only to come full circle, now having had a job for about the last 20 months that is similar to the one I had for more than two years before I (after a couple of other detours) finally decided to try to escape by biting the bullet and applying to law school? I dunno.
It’s abundantly clear to me … since my last full-time job before starting law school, the job I got when I took a leave of absence from law school (because I still wasn’t sure about biting that bullet), and the job I have now have all involved answering phones, all day, every day (well, with respect to the job I have now, that’s mostly true: as much consternation as I might experience talking to customers, there’s another aspect of my job that involves mere transcription rather than two-way communication, and I like that even less) … that, sure, I could have avoided law school altogether (as long as I didn’t mind answering phones for the rest of my life. )
All of this, after having received what I perceived as fairly clear (not unmistakeable, but fairly clear) direction to pursue a law degree (not “direction” in a “lack of free will/agency” sense, but that’s another discussion for another day); then, attending the temple and doing initiatories for the first time since I had received my own endowment nearly 20 years previously and after my application to the Bar had been denied, and having a particular passage (which talks about wielding a certain instrument in defense of certain values; if you have a temple recommend and you wonder what I’m talking about, go do initiatories and then PM me) strike me with unusual force; then, shortly before quitting my other most recent full time job in order to escape the wrath of She Who Could Not Possibly Be Pleased Yet Still Must Be Obeyed, attending an endowment session and sitting in a waiting room on a hot day after perspiring on the short walk into the temple with the air conditioning running full blast and feeling a distinct warm feeling (no, it wasn’t about whether I should quit the job or not …)
The only things that I keep coming back to are: (1) “Ken, don’t forget how you felt on an operating table on January 24 and February 14, 1984, and on June 7, 1985, respectively”; and (2) Whether I am ever licensed or not, whether I ever practice law (or do something else besides answer phones) or not, I would rather have a law degree than not have one.
I don’t know why things didn’t work out differently on October 23, 1981 and on June 23, 1982: essentially, I was the same person then as I was before the later three operations. I don’t know why it seems I’m destined to answer phones, law degree notwithstanding.
Aren’t things supposed to work out better when one follows what he perceives to be the Spirit? Isn’t the end of the story supposed to be, “And it came to pass that he followed the prompting of the Holy Spirit, and he lived happily ever after”? Isn’t following the Spirit supposed to lead to less protracted stories with tidier endings? Well …
Apparently not. Ken, don’t forget how you felt on January 24 and February 14, 1984, and on June 7, 1985.