When I was fourteen years old, I received my patriarchal blessing. Among other things, I was promised, “You will be able to feel the warmth of the companionship of the Holy Ghost. You will have the capability to listen to the Voice of the Lord that comes through the Holy Spirit.” These sounded like beautiful blessings, but quite honestly, they intimidated me. I thought that upon receiving my patriarchal blessing I should suddenly have these abilities, and I quickly realized that I didn’t. I didn’t understand that listening to the Holy Ghost was a life-long journey and a skill that needed to be developed line upon line. Here are some of the things I have learned in the 21 years since I was given that blessing.
Heavenly Father knows your heart
As a young college student I felt like I had a really big decision to make regarding where I should live and attend school. I prayed regularly but received no recognizable answer. I asked for blessings, I read scriptures, and I fasted. But no answer seemed to be forthcoming. Eventually I began to question the existence of Heavenly Father. I had been trying so hard to reach out to him and was getting nothing in response. My prayers became really shaky and I began to ask the most fundamental of questions: “Are you really there?” Softly and quietly I began to feel confident that I was doing my part. I felt that I was planting my “seed of faith”. I explained to Heavenly Father that I was earnestly seeking His will, and that He knew my abilities and limitations in receiving and recognizing answers. I continued to feel uncertain and unguided, but eventually I was able to settle on a course that I felt comfortable with. Never in that process did I realize the Spirit was guiding me. In retrospect the promptings of the Holy Ghost are unmistakable.
Pay attention in the temple
The most profound concept I was taught during my temple preparation course was that the feeling of the Spirit will ALWAYS be at the temple. I was told that if I did nothing else during my first temple experience, I should pay attention to how I felt while I was there. Being aware of the unfiltered, calm, peaceful feelings at the temple has helped me learn to recognize that same feeling even while I am in the midst of the distractions of life.
One day I had taken my husbands car to run some errands. He enjoys listening to audio books and had been listening to a compilation of works by Sherrie Dew. I remember sitting in the shopping center parking lot, not willing to turn off the car as I listened to her words. She taught that learning to listen to the Holy Ghost is like learning a foreign language. And just as missionaries, who were once fluent in their mission language will get rusty without practice, so will we if we don’t consistently use our “language”. The other principle she taught with this “foreign language” example was that we start simply with the most basic of phrases and sentences, but that over time our vocabulary can expand and our communication abilities will increase. It is from her that I really began to understand that those words in my patriarchal blessing weren’t a sudden bestowal of an ability, but a promise that I would be able to develop and cultivate certain skills in regards to listening to the Holy Spirit.
Read and memorize scriptures
One of my favorite scripture verses is 2 Nephi 32:3 which states: “Angels speak by the power of the Holy Ghost; wherefore they teach 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.” Connecting the ideas that angels speak the words of Christ and that we have access to READ the words of Christ in the scriptures was powerful to me. As Sherrie Dew taught, reading the scriptures helps us become familiar with the Lord’s “vernacular”. In other words, we begin to be very comfortable with language of our Savior and Heavenly Father when we read the scriptures.
I served my mission in the bible belt during a time where “new age” versions of the bible were coming out in abundance. Perhaps that is why I have always been so impressed by the teaching of Elder Richard G. Scott, who said, “When scriptures are used as the Lord has caused them to be recorded, they have intrinsic power that is not communicated when paraphrased.” This is why it is important to not only be familiar with the ideas in the scriptures, but to actually memorize key versus that are especially significant to you.
Reading and knowing the scriptures will help the “word’s of Christ” come quickly and readily to your mind as you seek answers from the Holy Ghost.
Act on the promptings you receive
Elder Scott has given many amazing and insightful talks on the topic of personal revelation. One important principle he talked about is the need to follow through on the impressions we do receive. Until we do our part with the answers we already have, there is no reason for Heavenly Father to give us more. Elder Scott shares his own personal method of writing promptings down, praying about them, and meticulously following up between himself and Heavenly Father as he hones his understanding of the revelation he received, reports back to Heavenly Father in how he has followed the instruction, and a key aspect of this teaching was to always ask the question, “Is there more?”
I can recall a time where I was desperately seeking an answer to a very important question. I knew that my heart and mind were so fully entrenched in what I wanted the answers to be that I needed to know with a certainty that my answer came from God. During the same time period, I had begun to notice a subtle prompting to reach out to a specific person. The questions to which I was seeking a clear answer, and the prompting to act were two completely unrelated experiences. Still, I finally got to a point where I could not ignore the prompting any longer, and I very uncomfortably and anxiously followed it. That simple experience surprisingly led to the unfolding of my answer that DID come in a blatant way that was clearly accompanied by the Spirit. When Heavenly Father speaks to us, it is important that we listen, and follow His instructions. If we do, the blessings will follow.
I hope this post helped grow your desire to teach yourself about the Gift of the Holy Ghost. No matter how much you already “know the language” there is always more to learn and experience. On the flip side, no matter how inadequate you feel like you are your ability to receive and recognize revelation, you are right where you need to be if you are earnestly seeking answers from our Heavenly Father. He will guide you.
“Each of us must stay in condition to respond to inspiration and the promptings of the Holy Ghost. The Lord has a way of pouring pure intelligence into our minds to prompt us, to guide us, to teach us, and to warn us. Each son or daughter of God can know the things they need to know instantly. Learn to receive and act on inspiration and revelation.”
What has helped you as you strive to make the Holy Ghost your constant companion?