Cognitive Dissonance vs. The Holy Ghost: a guide to understanding your burning bosom

Religion undeniably elicits a great number of emotions on those involved in any way with its tenets.
Happiness or sadness, hopefulness or despair, love or anger, tolerance or intolerance, materialize as we apply our understanding of spiritual teachings to our lives.

In the LDS Church, however, feelings are not only a consequence of spiritual experiences, but an important tool in understanding and confirming of belief, as taught from the very beginnings of conversion.

But, behold, I say unto you, that you must study it out in your mind; then you must ask me if it be right, and if it is right I will cause that your bosom shall burn within you; therefore, you shall feel that it is right. – D&C 9:8

LDS missionaries fail to see, among other things, the contradictory nature of the above statement when they freely advise their prospects to ponder and pray over the truth of the teachings they receive, for if one GENUINELY AND HONESTLY “studies” these teachings out in their minds, one is bound to uncover the thin layer of perceived holiness and perfection covering the beastly historical and controversial past of the LDS Church.
Most, however, will not heed the first part of this advice, and will only engage in the second part. Those who are conversion bound will receive, or at least perceive to receive, said physical confirmation by the well-known burning of one’s bosom, or something similar. I call them conversion bound for the simple fact that one would not engage in prayer directed to a god in which one did not already believe.

Cognitive dissonance is an uncomfortable feeling caused by holding two contradictory ideas simultaneously.

burning_bosomSo what to do if you find yourself kneeling in your closet, shamefully whispering supplications to an imaginary being, asking for confirmation of the truth about your preconceived belief in him and/or some church?

Here are some simple steps you can take prior to taking the plunge into supernatural belief and mythical thinking:

  1. The first thing I recommend you do is try to remember what you ate that day. It’s possible that you dipped that bean and cheese burrito one too many times in the sour cream and instead of the hand of the Lord massaging your innards, all you might really need is a good book (may I suggest something in the lines of critical thinking) and a few minutes on the porcelain throne.
  2. Try to remember a time when you were only a small child and had to sleep alone in your room (the older you are, the harder this exercise will be). You had just watched a scary movie on tv or your older sibling kept telling you scary tales about the abandoned house down the street, and as you lay there in the dark, you couldn’t take your eyes away from the dark, ghoulish shape hanging from the end of your bed. You could bet your entire weekly allowance on it being a ghost or a killer vampire. You shouted for your parents to come save you from the creature’s slow, deadly approach, only to find out the shape came from the damp towel you forgot to hang in the bathroom. This is a simple form of confirmation bias, but one which plays an important role in religious beliefs.
  3. As you’re speaking your prayer (speaking allegedly increases the strength of the signal), ask to receive your confirmation by a burning on somebody else’s bosom (your sleeping and un-forewarned spouse is a good victim). Immediately following your inquiry, unassumingly ask the person if they have had any unusual feelings in the last few minutes. Don’t be surprised if the answer to this question is yes, as you should know that people feel many things throughout the day. To control for this, you can pray several times for an extended period of time (say two weeks) at random intervals. However, it’s been observed that the main feeling this method generates is annoyance and/or anger.
  4. If your spouse is sick and tired of your asking him/her how they’re feeling, it may be time to move things to the next level. This next method may seem a bit radical, but we are talking about your eternal salvation here and I’m sure you would rather not leave anything to pure chance or “gut feeling.” Since God has not given us the option of how to receive confirmation, we’re pretty much bound to the burning of the bosom. But fortunately, like many scriptural things, he did leave it open for interpretation. As you’re finishing your prayer asking for confirmation, ask for a literal burning of your bosom. Outside of some small cases of spontaneous combustion, this may be a pretty good indication of divine intervention (especially if it can be repeated consistently). I would, however, strongly advise in specifying the size, length, and degree of the burn to avoid a trip to the ER every time.
  5. Lastly, if you do pray and you do indeed receive a (non-literal) burning of your bosom, you might want to consider the possibility that Satan is simply fucking with you.

5 comments to Cognitive Dissonance vs. The Holy Ghost: a guide to understanding your burning bosom

  • […] With Mormons has an amusing (in an odd way) post about dealing with Cognitive Dissonance vs. The Holy Ghost: a guide to understanding your burning bosom.  And has some sage advice: Lastly, if you do pray and you do indeed receive a (non-literal) […]

  • Bart v.d. M.

    Number four is kinda ironic because the main reason believers are scared about their god´s powers and possible existence is exactly that, only on a larger and more eternal scale. What I mean is if you don´t mind a little fire set to your body, why do you bother anyway?

  • Hi, I’m hoping you can help me with my first novel

    Here’s the set up:

    A Mormon missionary starts going crazy (schizophrenia) on his mission and mistakes the “voices” for the voice of God – which is just innocuous as first, but, eventually, the voices tell him to kill a person.

    I’m wondering if you’ve ever heard of any novels like this. I don’t want to do this if it’s already been done.

    Thanks for your help

    — john draper

  • admin

    Hi John,

    I’ve never heard of a novel like that, but I don’t read a lot of fiction books, so I don’t think I’d be a good judge. It sounds intriguing enough and unique, though.

    Good luck with your writing!


  • Morgan

    The “burning in your bosom” isn’t literally a “burn” It’s more of a mix of an excited/peaceful feeling. I would compare it to when you first start dating someone and you are cuddling. You feel peaceful/excited/happy. I think you feel this anytime something seems to be “right” in your life. If you find comfort in stories about God, or songs about God, you will probably feel this way.

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