How do you now explain the spiritual experiences that you had as an Orthodox Mormon?
Confirmation bias. I wanted to believe so I interpreted my feelings to validate what I wanted to believe. I was taught how to do this from a young age. Feelings are not facts.
Humans are social. We rely on those around us for stimulation and protection. When we do something bad, we are punished by society. And when we do something good, we are rewarded by society. We are taught all this from infancy, and we are able to imagine hypothetical futures when making decisions.
Regardless of the context or culture, people can feel an upsurge of elation in response to a positive reward. We can even construct this reward ourselves without anyone else around. So when we behave the way we are taught, when we expect to feel a certain way because of the music or the words on a page, we may feel a burning in our bosom.
Every spiritual experience I can remember is possible to explain as an emotion arising because I met my family's expectations, or I was listening to powerful music, or because I was surrounded by other people telling me positive things.
And I've been able to feel that emotion outside of any spiritual context. And I've known other people who understand this emotion and its causes. This isn't a phenomenon unique to the church, which is what you would expect if it was the only true gospel.
Confirmation bias. I was told that the good feeling I was having could only come from “the spirit”. So I assumed everything was “spiritual”. But I’ve come to realize that I can get those same feelings from a great song, an inspiring movie, or just hanging out with good friends.
I totally think that our human brain is totally able to make us think we are led by an higher being. And I thing that everything is controlled by our enviroment and our personal thinking and feelings.
I think those experiences were either not spiritual or the same experiences are not exclusive to Mormons, but ones that can be experienced by all faiths.
I value and treasure the experiences I’ve had with other humans in the church. There was not a more fun scene to be in than my youth group. Human connection and relationships are powerful. I believe I was feeling the experiences and emotions that are part of being alive.
People in all religions have spiritual experiences. Mine convinced me that there is a being I identify as God and that this God loves us. While I was in the church I took these spiritual experiences as confirmation that the things I'd been praying about - the book of Mormon, gospel questions, etc. were also true. But looking back the only actual answer I got was that God loves me. It's like when I was a kid, proposing some crazy theory to my mom. She would listen, laugh, and then tell me how much she loved me. The response was true, but had nothing to do with the question asked.
I'm not sure what I believe about the nature of God. Honestly I'm a little exhausted trying to figure that out. But I do know, with more certainty than I ever felt to the contrary, that the answers are not found in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. And that the spiritual experiences I had aren't invalid because they occurred at a time when every spiritual question I asked was framed so that any response would further belief in the church.
I never had any that were real while I was alone, not that were positive any way.