The Gospel of Star Wars tells us repeatedly of the importance of trusting your feelings. (If you don’t recognize my title quote, it’s what Obi-Wan says to Luke in A New Hope, when Luke is deciding whether to come to Alderaan). Qui-Gon instructs Anakin at one point, “Feel. Don’t think.” Even those on the Dark Side of the Force recognize feelings as a way of discerning truth; Vader tells Luke that if he will “search his feelings,” he will recognize the truth of what Vader is telling him about his parentage.
For those of you who may be unbelievers when it comes to Star Wars, numerous scriptures also tell us to pay attention to our feelings. Nephi rebukes Laman and Lemuel, “ye were past feeling, that ye could not feel his words.” (1 Nephi 17:45) According to the Doctrine & Covenants, if you ask God about something which is right, “you shall feel that it is right.” (D&C 9:8) And when people describe getting answers to prayers, they frequently use the language of feeling.
I’m one who tends to go with what I “feel right” about, both in terms of what I believe, and when it comes to making life decisions. Yet I can see some real limitations when it comes to trusting feelings.
For one thing, I think that it’s far too easy when encountering the unfamiliar, the strange, the unsettling, to mistake those feelings for “wrongness.” I think this might explain why some Mormons report feeling a “bad spirit” when visiting other churches, for example. And conversely, if something feels comfortable and familiar, it’s easy to assume that it must therefore be right.
When I was a teenager and first explicitly thinking about feminism, there was something that really bothered me. I noticed that I was personally uncomfortable with women in authority; it just “felt right” to have men in charge. The idea of ordained women was actually somewhat disturbing to me. However, my feelings about this have changed quite a bit as I’ve spent a lot of time around ordained women in other faiths, seen them leading congregations, etc. The question I have to ask, then, is what credence I should give to either my earlier sense that such a thing would be not quite right, or to my current sense that it’s not a bad thing to do.
I’ve been thinking about a comment that Jessawhy made on another thread here:
It doesn’t feel right.
In my heart, it doesn’t feel right that women are subjected to men. That God only reveals his will to men.
If that’s really it, why can’t he change our hearts so that it feels right? I’ve asked Him to, but it hasn’t happened.
Maybe I’ll get there someday, but not today.
I find myself in a similar situation. On a very basic level, I object to current Church teaching and practice regarding gender simply because it feels profoundly wrong to me. Yet I can’t help being aware that my feelings and perceptions have been shaped by a culture which deeply values egalitarianism, and I have to ask myself what role that might be playing in my views. (This isn’t just an issue of feminist convictions, of course; I find myself asking similar questions about many of my deeply held beliefs, including even my belief in God.)
To what extent should we trust what we feel?
- 1 December 2006