Has your life been blessed because you followed the promptings of the Holy Ghost? Do you know how to receive and follow spiritual promptings? Do you understand how obedience to those promptings can help you receive more? Do you consider those promptings to be communications from your loving Father in Heaven?
Members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints believe that Jesus Christ is the Head of our Church. We believe that He inspires His servants in the things we should do, and we believe that He sends direct revelation to His servants when it is needed. We believe that the most frequent conduit for inspiration and revelation is through the Holy Ghost.
We believe that we can learn much about following the Spirit from the scriptures. The following scriptures teach us how inspiration and revelation come; they also teach the importance of following these promptings from God and how to recognize them as being from God.
The writer of Proverbs told us that God would help us if we would only trust Him. “Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding.
“In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths” (Proverbs 3:5-6). (Emphasis added.)
Nephi, an ancient American prophet, was given a difficult and dangerous mission; he quickly accepted this assignment because he knew God would help him. “And it came to pass that I, Nephi, said unto my father: I will go and do the things which the Lord hath commanded, for I know that the Lord giveth no commandments unto the children of men, save he shall prepare a way for them that they may accomplish the thing which he commandeth them” (Book of Mormon – Another Testament of Jesus Christ, 1 Nephi 3:7) (Emphasis added.)
Nephi later taught his people the importance of studying the scriptures and following the prompting of the Spirit. “Angels speak by the power of the Holy Ghost; wherefore, they speak the words of Christ. Wherefore, I said unto you, feast upon the words of Christ; for behold, the words of Christ will tell you all things what ye should do.
“Wherefore, now after I have spoken these words, if ye cannot understand them it will be because ye ask not, neither do ye knock; wherefore, ye are not brought into the light, but must perish in the dark.
“For behold, again I say unto you that if ye will enter in by the way, and receive the Holy Ghost, it will show unto you all things what ye should do” (2 Nephi 32:3-5) (Emphasis added.)
In a revelation given through the Prophet Joseph Smith to Oliver Cowdery, at Harmony, Pennsylvania, in April 1829, the Lord explained that revelation comes through thoughts in our mind and feelings in our heart. “Yea, behold, I will tell you in your mind and in your heart, by the Holy Ghost, which shall come upon you and which shall dwell in your heart.
“Now, behold, this is the spirit of revelation; behold, this is the spirit by which Moses brought the children of Israel through the Red Sea on dry ground” (Doctrine and Covenants 8:2-3) (Emphasis added.)
We can learn the following lessons from the above scriptures: 1) God will help us if we allow Him into our lives. 2) God will prepare a way for us to accomplish what He wants us to do. 3) We should study the scriptures because they will teach us what we should do. 4) We should listen for the promptings of the Holy Ghost in order to know what we should do. 5) Promptings come to us as thoughts and feelings.
We can learn much about following the Spirit from the scriptures, but we can also learn from the teachings of living apostles and prophets. President Thomas S. Monson is a man who has learned to listen to the Spirit and to follow the promptings that come to him. “Not a day has gone by that I have not communicated with my Father in Heaven through prayer. It is a relationship I cherish – one I would literally be lost without. If you do not now have such a relationship with your Father in Heaven, I urge you to work toward that goal. As you do so, you will be entitled to His inspiration and guidance in your life – necessities for each of us if we are to survive spiritually during our sojourn here on earth. Such inspiration and guidance are gifts He freely gives if we but seek them. What treasures they are! I am always humbled and grateful when my Heavenly Father communicates with me through His inspiration. I have learned to recognize it, to trust it, and to follow it” (“Stand in Holy Places,” Ensign, Nov. 2011, 84).
President Monson has been led by the promptings of the Holy Ghost many times. As he followed the promptings, he was able to help other people as well as to bless his own life. He shares many of his experiences, and he shared one such experience in the April 2007 general conference. President Monson mentioned that it had been nearly 44 years since he was called to be an Apostle and gave his first conference address; he said that he “had many spiritual experiences over the years as I have stood here [at the pulpit].” He then shared the following experience as evidence of what he had said.
“During the message I delivered at general conference in October 1975, I felt prompted to direct my remarks to a little girl with long, blonde hair, who was seated in the balcony of this building [the Tabernacle]. I called the attention of the audience to her and felt a freedom of expression which testified to me that this small girl needed the message I had in mind concerning the faith of another young lady.
“At the conclusion of the session, I returned to my office and found waiting for me a young child by the name of Misti White, together with her grandparents and an aunt. As I greeted them, I recognized Misti as the one in the balcony to whom I had directed my remarks. I learned that as her eighth birthday approached, she was in a quandary concerning whether or not to be baptized. She felt she would like to be baptized, but her less-active mother suggested she wait until she was 18 years of age to make the decision. Misti had told her grandparents, `If we go to conference in Salt Lake City, maybe Heavenly Father will let me know what I should do.’
“Misti and her grandparents and her aunt had traveled from California to Salt Lake City for conference and were able to obtain seats in the Tabernacle for the Saturday afternoon session. This was where they were seated when my attention was drawn to Misti and my decision made to speak to her.
“As we continued our visit after the session, Misti’s grandmother said to me, `I think Misti has something she would like to tell you.’ This sweet young girl said, `Brother Monson, while you were speaking in conference, you answered my question. I want to be baptized!’
“The family returned to California and Misti was baptized and confirmed a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Through all the years since, Misti has remained true and faithful to the gospel of Jesus Christ. Fourteen years ago, it was my privilege to perform her temple marriage to a fine young man, and together they are rearing five beautiful children, with another one on the way” (“Tabernacle Memories,” Ensign, May 2007, pp. 41-42).
President Monson told of another experience that happened in 1965 as he “was assigned to attend stake conferences and to hold other meetings throughout the South Pacific area. This was my first visit to that part of the world, and it was a time never to be forgotten. Much that was spiritual in nature occurred during this assignment as I met with leaders, members, and missionaries.
“On the weekend of Saturday and Sunday, February 20 and 21, we were in Brisbane, Australia, to hold regular conference sessions of the Brisbane Stake. During meetings on Saturday, I was introduced to the district president from an adjoining area. As I shook his hand, I had a strong impression that I needed to speak with him and to provide counsel, and so I asked him if he would accompany me to the Sunday morning session the following day so that this could be accomplished.
“Following the Sunday session, we had an opportunity to visit together. We talked of his many responsibilities as district president. As we did so, I felt impressed to offer him specific suggestions concerning missionary work and how he and his members could help the full-time missionaries in their labors in his area. I later learned that this man had been praying for guidance in this regard. To him our visit was a special witness that his prayers were heard and answered. This was a seemingly unremarkable meeting but one which I am convinced was guided by the Spirit and which made a difference in that district president’s life and administration, in the lives of his members, and in the success of the missionaries there” (“Consider the Blessings,” Ensign, November 2012, p. 86).
President Monson said that the Lord often accomplishes His purposes when we heed the guidance of the Holy Ghost. “I believe that the more we act upon the inspiration and impressions which come to us, the more the Lord will entrust to us His errands.” He said that he has learned to never postpone a prompting from the Lord.
“On one occasion, many years ago, I was swimming laps at the old Deseret Gym in Salt Lake City when I felt the inspiration to go to the University Hospital to visit a good friend of mine who had lost the use of his lower limbs because of a malignancy and the surgery which followed. I immediately left the pool, dressed, and was soon on my way to see this good man.
“When I arrived at his room, I found that it was empty. Upon inquiry I learned I would probably find him in the swimming pool area of the hospital, an area which was used for physical therapy. Such turned out to be the case. He had guided himself there in his wheelchair and was the only occupant of the room. He was on the far side of the pool, near the deep end. I called to him, and he maneuvered his wheelchair over to greet me. We had an enjoyable visit, and I accompanied him back to his hospital room, where I gave him a blessing.
“I learned later from my friend that he had been utterly despondent that day and had been contemplating taking his own life. He had prayed for relief but began to feel that his prayers had gone unanswered. He went to the pool with the thought that this would be a way to end his misery – by guiding his wheelchair into the deep end of the pool. I had arrived at a critical moment, in response to what I know was inspiration from on high.
“My friend was able to live many more years – years filled with happiness and gratitude. How pleased I am to have been an instrument in the Lord’s hands on that critical day at the swimming pool” (“Consider the Blessings,” Ensign, November 2012, p. 87).
Like President Monson, I am always humbled to receive promptings from God. Sometimes the promptings are very clear and specific as to what I should do and say; other times the promptings come more as general feelings; still others come as dreams. One such dream came in October 1995 when I dreamed that my father was dying. I awoke that morning with a clear idea of the tasks I needed to complete in order to prepare my home and family for my absence, and I spent the day doing those tasks. Early that evening I received a telephone call that my father had passed away. I immediately made arrangements for air travel and was on the airplane less than twelve hours later.
Another prompting from the Holy Ghost came to me early one Sunday morning just as I awoke. The thought came into my mind, “The Holy Ghost loves you.” I already knew that Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ love me, but I had never considered that the Holy Ghost loves me also. I was preparing to teach a lesson about the Holy Ghost to a group of six-year-old children, and I believe this prompting came so that I could testify to the children that the Holy Ghost loves them just as Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ do – as well as to make me aware of that love.
I know that our Heavenly Father is aware of each of us and that He is a loving Father. I know that He wants to help us succeed in our lives here on earth, and He sends messages through the Holy Ghost to help us in our journey. I am very grateful for the gift of the Holy Ghost and for the many messages that He brings from my Heavenly Father.