I did a talk in church today, I thought I would put it on here as well:
Today I will be focusing on the question “How can I recognise the promptings of the holy ghost, and be more courageous in following them?”
We are creatures of habit and I always start off my talks with a couple of definitions to help us first of all understand what I’m going to be talking about. I’m going to speak about revelation as well as promptings because I feel the two go hand in hand.
So, a prompting is “the action of saying something to persuade, encourage, or remind someone to do or say something.”
Revelation is “something revealed or disclosed, especially a striking disclosure, as of something not before realised.”
And to follow means “to move behind someone or something and go where he, she, or it goes or, to do the same thing as someone else.”
Life is a lot like getting a new piece of tech and the Holy Ghost is a lot like the instruction manual. Some people are very good at following the instructions, some don’t understand them at all, some ignore the instructions completely and sometimes the tech comes with the wrong instructions or just without any. After switching on the product and setting it up, some people put the instructions in a drawer just in case, loose them, throw them away or read them regularly so they know how to care for the product. Eventually, the instructions have a way of coming back into your life one way or another. Whether it’s because you need to know something about the product so you go and find the manual, ask a friend or download a new one. Sometimes it’s after the product is broken and you find the manual in your cupboard. What I’m getting at is, everyone will have the opportunity to feel the Holy Ghost and act on promptings. The Holy ghost always finds a way.
I was actually really pleased to get this talk as I have had quite a lot of trouble receiving revelation and recognising promptings from the Holy ghost in the past and it’s something that is even in my patriarchal blessing. The main trouble I have is actually knowing when the Holy ghost is giving me a prompting. I used to ask loads of people and they always say the same thing “you just know.” And I thought: but I don’t! It was incredibly frustrating for me as I was thinking “well if I don’t know if it’s the holy ghost, according to the people I’ve asked, I’ve never actually received revelation.” I once actually thought “what if I haven’t? What if I’m just not good enough to receive revelation?”
Now I look back and realise how silly I was to think something like that. I had forgotten one of the main lessons in recognising the Holy Ghost. It can be found in the title of Hymn number 143 but I’m just going to read out the whole first verse.
“Let the Holy Spirit guide;
Let him teach us what is true.
He will testify of Christ,
Light our minds with heaven’s view.”
In fact, the first line of the next two verses share this vital piece of information as well
“Let the Spirit heal our hearts” and “Let the Holy Spirit guard”
If I didn’t let him in first, how on earth was I going to recognise if it’s Heavenly Father speaking to me or not? I had been so busy questioning why I didn’t ever receive revelation that I hadn’t noticed that I HAD been receiving it, I had just been completely ignoring it by saying to myself “well that’s not Heavenly Father, it’s just in your head.”
I was actually managing to convince myself that my prayers weren’t being answered by the huge amount of doubt clouding my mind. With this new information I was ready to start trying to recognise promptings. Here’s where the last line of the Hymn comes in
“IF we listen to his voice.”
I still didn’t know how to recognise revelation, I just knew that I had to be willing to listen. So with that in mind, I did an experiment; the next time I thought -in the slightest- that I had received revelation or a prompting I would immediately act on it, no matter how trivial. So I did. And it worked. I felt really good about almost all the things I did and in time I came to understand that the things I didn’t feel good about weren’t from the spirit. Through those experiences I then slowly started to recognise which promptings were real and which were in my head. As always, I have a Harry Potter quote that goes well with this when Harry is having trouble figuring out if something extraordinary that just happened to him is imaginary or real and Dumbledore said
“Of course it is happening inside your head, Harry, but why on earth should that mean that it is not real?”
Things like recognising promptings are really tricky because it does happen in your head and sometimes we might think it’s not real because of this but where else would it happen? Heavenly Father isn’t going to descend from a cloud and have a conversation with us from wherever we happen to be at the time. There are rare individuals who might have amazing experiences but unfortunately for the rest of humanity, that is extremely uncommon. Sometimes I still have trouble with it and most likely always will but that’s what I like about the gospel, the fact that everyone is always learning and growing, no matter how old they are and no matter how long they’ve been in the church. Even when we live with Heavenly Father again, we need an eternity to learn all the things he has to teach us! Neil L. Anderson said
“This is at the very heart of our sacred work- to feel a spiritual impression and be willing to follow it.”
the experiment kind of forced me in a way, to be willing to follow the impressions I got. It was a very freeing experience for me and now I know that Heavenly Father actually speaks to me all the time, even when I haven’t asked a question, sometimes right after I’ve said “Dear Heavenly Father” he’ll answer my question before I ask it as if he can’t wait. Even when I feel like I don’t deserve it he will speak to me.
There’s a great puzzle game that I sometimes play called “Professor Layton” in which they solve mysteries and in it the Professor says this to his apprentice when they’re not being successful on a case: “The answer is always out there Luke, we just need to find it.” I feel like this applies to us when we’re finding receiving revelation or recognising promptings difficult. We get so discouraged when we’re not getting an answer, but we forget that Heavenly Father always has the answer, we just need to find it. In Doctrine & Covenants section 42 verse 61 it reads:
“If thou shalt ask, thou shalt receive revelation upon revelation, knowledge upon knowledge, that thou mayest know the mysteries and peaceable things- that which bringeth joy, that which bringeth life eternal.”
I’m going to review that first line again “If thou shalt ask, thou shalt receive revelation” You need only ask. I used to think that the Holy Ghost will give you revelation from Heavenly Father only when you’ve been “so good”. Like I had to fill a quota of goodness. Now, I know that he has to be able to reach you even in the darkest times, otherwise how will he be able to lift you back up again? How will he be able to guide you back to the path of righteousness? Now, this isn’t to be used as an excuse to step off the path of righteousness as I know we all are tempted to do sometimes but as a reassurance that if our mind is in the right place and we are willing to try, Heavenly Father will help us.
Sometimes Heavenly Father will reveal through the Holy ghost something for you to do that you feel you don’t need to do. But the things that seem trivial to us probably aren’t trivial at all. All the things that the Holy ghost reveals to us are from Heavenly Father and are important and relevant from “should I pick up this snail from the middle of the street and put it on a leaf?” to “should I make a life altering career change?”
On the lds.org site there’s a page devoted to explaining the Holy Ghost. One of the first things they explain is “The Holy Ghost works in perfect unity with Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ”. So if it does seem like the tiniest thing to us, it’s from Heavenly Father and we need to trust him no matter what we think.
A good story to illustrate this is one my Granddad told me a while ago. He was driving relatively fast down a lane without a care in the world and he suddenly had a prompting that he should slow down. He thought that this was silly, the weather conditions were perfect, there was no ice on the road, it was free of cars and he couldn’t hear anything out of the ordinary so he carried on at the same speed, the prompting came again and he ignored it. The last time the prompting came, it was just before a curve in the road and the prompting was so strong he slammed his foot on the break whilst turning the corner and stopped just in front of a big fallen tree on the other side of the corner that was previously out of his view. Heart racing, he was able to safely drive off the road on the grassy verge around the tree.
If my Granddad had listened a little sooner, it wouldn’t have been such a close shave. But if he hadn’t have listened at all, I wouldn’t have a granddad any more. Or at least, he wouldn’t be the same. Although it was a terrifying experience, my Granddad took something useful from it and was able to pass it onto others. Another thing I love about our Church is that we believe truth is truth wherever you find it and with that in mind, I’m going to quote Pope Francis, who said “The Holy spirit gives us joy! He is the author and creator of joy.” And I condone that sentiment with no doubts. Every time I act on a prompting, or ask for comfort, or advice, the first thing I feel is peace and joy.
I bear my testimony that the Holy Ghost is truly a gift from Heavenly Father, to be used, loved and trusted. And if we learn to follow his promptings and receive revelation through the many resources available to us, we will feel the blessings promised to us on a regular basis. I say these things in the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.