Experience vs Opinion

In a recent Sunday School class a class member said ‘A person with an experience should never be hostage to a person with an opinion.’

This struck a chord with me. There are many people with widely different opinions about the Church and its doctrines but none of these opinions are as valuable as a personal experience.

Let me give you some examples.


The Book of Mormon

Faced with the fact of the Book of Mormon, there are a range of opinions about its origins:

  • it was based on a manuscript by Solomon Spaulding
  • it was plagiarised from Ethan Smith’s A View of the Hebrews
  • Sidney Rigdon wrote it
  • Joseph Smith wrote it during an epileptic fit
  • Joseph Smith was some sort of ‘naive genius’ and wrote it himself

While each of these opinions has been thoroughly squashed by subsequent research, what is more valuable than any or all of them is the reader’s personal experience of the Book of Mormon.

  • I have tested Moroni’s promise and received a spiritual witness that it is true
  • I have felt the spirit on innumerable occasions while reading the Book of Mormon
  • I have experienced the complexity of the narrative arc and the beauty of language and though
  • I have been able to distinguish for myself the varied authorial voices in the book
  • I have found answers to questions in the book
  • I have seen my life and the lives of countless others changed and blessed by its influence



Some will put forth the opinions that prayer:

  • is a meaningless talking to oneself
  • is nothing but an expression of wishes and desires
  • does not work

My personal experience is that:

  • prayers are answered
  • I have received inspiration and answers to questions through prayer
  • prayer allows me to communicate with my Heavenly Father
  • prayer has blessed my life
  • there is real power in prayer


Thomas S Monson

Opponents of the Church may express opinions that Thomas S Monson:

  • is a good but misguided man
  • is a fraud
  • is nothing but the President of a large corporation

My personal experience is that:

  • the spirit has confirmed to me on many occasions that President Monson is his Prophet on the earth today
  • As I listen to his words I receive spiritual confirmation that they are from the Lord
  • when I follow his counsel I am blessed and am happier
  • I have shaken his hand and looked into his eyes and know he is a prophet.

There is a lot of debate and discussion about faith and doubt. Let us not allow our personal experiences to be hostage to the opinions of others. Our experience of living the gospel is more valuable than unsubstantiated theories. In Hebrew 1:1 we read  ‘Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.’. These personal experiences are our real, vital and substantial evidence.



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